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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Pompeo Admits ISIS is "More Powerful" in Some Areas Despite Repeated Claims of Victory by President Trump; Trump Brags About Log Cabin Republicans Endorsement, Says He's "Done Very Well" with LGBTQ Community. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Investigators think this was targeted killing and they are asking for the public's help in identifying that suspect. I'm Brianna Keilar. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, mixed messages. The President undermining his own argument and his own White House telling reporters he is considering a tax cut after multiple denials. Plus, breaking news, President Trump speaks with the NRA this afternoon. Is he completely backing down from background checks now? And President Trump claims ISIS has been defeated, but that is not what his Secretary of State is now saying. Let's go out front.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's recession fears exposed. The President revealing today he is considering new tax cuts as fears grow about a looming recession. Here he is from the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at various tax reductions, but I'm looking at that all of the time. Anyway, payroll tax is something that we think about and a lot of people would like to see that. I've been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So he has been thinking about payroll taxes a long time, so he says. It could have surprised a lot of folks, considering the White House has been putting out 24 hours of pushback on that very idea. Literally, about three hours before the president said that, his Deputy Press Secretary said the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is payroll tax cut being considered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... dawn this economic expansion. It's not being considered at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Got it. And that's on top of a statement from a White House official who told CNN yesterday something very similar that cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time. They must be weighing very specifically on the at this time element of that conversation.

Well, we now know that really is not true, but is this all now being discussed because of the warning signs in the economy? Here again is the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Whether or not we do it now or not is - it's not being done because of recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Really? That is some coincidental timing then, isn't it? I mean, if it's not about a looming recession, then what is it about? Tough to tell considering the President has said over and over and over again that the economy couldn't be doing any better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Last year for the first time in a decade the United States was ranked the most competitive economy anywhere in the world.

Yes, I've made the economy so strong that nothing is going to stop us.

We have the number one economy on earth.

Our country now has the hottest economy anywhere in the world.

Our economy is fantastic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So something of an admission from the President on the whole payroll tax talk. But wait, there is more, another admission about his trade war with China today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Whether it's good or bad, short-term, is irrelevant. We have to solve the problem with China because they're taking out $500 billion a year plus and that doesn't include intellectual property theft and other things and also National Security. So I am doing this whether it's good or bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Whether it's good or bad. Tariffs, he now says, could be good or bad for the economy. That may well be as close as President Trump is going to get to admitting the reality of the impact of the tariffs that they are impacting American consumers.

Pamela Brown out front live from the White House for us. Pamela, just how concerned is the President and his team behind the scenes about the economy right now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, despite this public-facing showing of confidence about the economy from administration officials, there are some concerns behind the scenes and discussions about ways to offset anxiety about an economic slowdown. The President acknowledged just this afternoon that payroll tax cuts are on the table. He said they have been for a long time, but he said it has nothing to do with recession fears. He even said recession is an inappropriate word.

And while the White House is focused on drawing attention to wage growth and low unemployment, some of Trump's aides have grown concerned that the trade war with China could hurt the economy and even hurt Trump's chances for a reelection, even though Trump himself may not share those exact concerns. President Trump today shrugging off fears as you just pointed out, Kate, of a short-term recession due to ongoing trade disputes with China telling reporters he is negotiating with China, whether it's good or bad in the short term.

But let's not forget, President Trump and his campaign are begging on a strong economy for reelection, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. All right. Pamela, thank you so much.

Out front now, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan, CNN Senior Political Analyst, Mark Preston and Washington Post Columnist, Catherine Rampell. Thanks guys for being here.

April, this is the latest example of White House aides running with one thing what they know to be true. I'm really not blaming them. And then the President contradicting them a moment later.

[19:05:03] Does that tell you anything though about how seriously the President actually is in considering a payroll tax cut here?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: What it tells me is that they're not managing the message well. And that's one thing that this administration has been having a problem with since the very beginning.

Basically, what this President is trying to do is trying to do two things. He's trying to assure Americans that they will have a decent economy. He wants to give them more money in their pockets, so they can push it out into the economy and spend, possibly with the tax cut, payroll tax cut. And also, he wants to fix the economy. He also wants to reassure his chances in the Oval Office for the second term.

BOLDUAN: Catherine, the president says the economy is going gangbusters. Then, the President says he admits that he's considering a payroll tax cut or another kind of tax cut in order to juice the economy. Can both of those things be true? How do you square those two things together?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is very challenging. You can either say the economy is the strongest it's ever been. You shouldn't worry. You shouldn't worry your pretty little face about a recession. Oh, don't worry.

BOLDUAN: It's fantastic.

RAMPELL: It's fantastic. Everything is great. I mean, this is what he said his whole economics team on TV on a show force over the last few days saying that.

BOLDUAN: Right.

RAMPELL: And yet they're also simultaneously saying, "Economy is great, but we need to do all of the things that we last did when we were worried about another Great Depression." He's calling for the Fed to cut rates and not just once. Peter Navarro said that they should cut it by 75 basis points which is like, look, reasonable people can disagree about where Fed policy should go. But that's an enormous difference from where we are now.

They're calling for payroll tax cuts, which again, we last did in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. And by the way, Republicans were against it then, but for some reason when the economy is great, when unemployment is low, now they're saying it's time for that.

So look, it's a fool's errand to try to make sense or to try and find any sort of consistency from this White House.

BOLDUAN: Do you believe though at all, Catherine, that he would be - it's like a double negative that the President is talking about a payroll tax cut but it has nothing to do with the looming recession?

RAMPELL: Look, Republicans love tax cuts, whether the economy is good or whether the economy is bad.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point.

RAMPELL: Historically though they are not fans of payroll tax cuts, Democrats are. I mean these are tax cuts generally that, by definition, go to working people. They are on your payrolls. So in that sense, I guess it's possible but you have to also remember that Larry Kudlow is on the record. Larry Kudlow, his National Economic Council Director is on the record.

Lots of tweets. Search twitter for this. Saying that he thinks the payroll tax cut in 2009, 2010 somewhere around there, was wasteful, didn't do anything to stimulate the economy, what have you. So I don't know that this is something that his core economic team actually wants. I don't know that this is something they'll actually pursue.

One thing that is consistent maybe, maybe the only thing that's consistent in this, Mark, is that the President has insisted repeatedly that he is not worried about a recession. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the word recession is a word that's inappropriate. We're very far from a recession.

I don't see a recession. I don't think we're having a recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Look, being optimistic is one thing. When Larry Kudlow says, "Don't be afraid of being optimistic." I do hear that, but how politically troubling our recession fear is for President Trump and reelection?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that you have the President of the United States actually uttering the word recession and then pushing back against it, that in itself is a losing day for him because he's having to address something that he doesn't necessarily want to address. It doesn't have to be a recession for him to be hurt politically.

If you go back and look at the polls right now, his strongest attribute right now is what he does on the economy, but it's still below 50%. Now, could you imagine if the economy slows down a little bit and some of that support that he has, that soft Republican support that he has, people that are happy that they're able to put money in their pockets, that they have jobs and what have you, but they don't necessarily like him personally.

If you start to see an economic slowdown, that's when there's going to be issues. That's why you're seeing them talking about doing this type of tax cut right now. Why? Because it's a populace tax cut. People all want more money in their pockets.

But as everybody on the panel can tell you, when you take money out that way you are then taking money away from the likes of Social Security or you're also contributing to the debt right now, which is now staggering us.

RYAN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: There are no deficit hawks left in Washington. I just will say that every day until I am proven otherwise. April, this is far from the first time that the President has contradicted top aides publicly. We were just kind of taking a walk down memory lane and two examples kind of stuck out, why he fired James Comey as the FBI Director and, of course, then there is the travel ban, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This had nothing to do with Russia.

TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. I said, "You know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia a made up story."

[19:10:09] SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, it's not a travel ban. What it is, is to make sure that the people who are coming in are vetted properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It is not a travel ban, but then Trump tweets the following, "People, the lawyers and the courts can call whatever they want, but I'm calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN." I love a walk down memory lane because it makes a statement about where we are today. Is this a driving force behind why they are not holding any briefings anymore?

RYAN: Yes and I got a clue into some of this from a White House person who's in the communications department. I said, "Look, the President basically directs all of this." When Sarah was there, he would tell Sarah when she could or when she couldn't have a briefing. And they said that he would say on some of the worst days, he would say, "Have a briefing. We need to have a briefing."

But we're in some of the worst days and he's not having a briefing. It's been a long time. I've lost count. I don't even know how long it's been since we've had a briefing, but we need a briefing. This President feels that he is the messenger.

But we also need to hear these ideas that the President throws out with his knee jerk reactions. We need to hear them flushed out. That is one reason. He can say something or tweet something. We need to hear the reasoning behind it.

How it impacts the American public or impacts the world, we need to know what's going on. The President will give you a piece of it, but we need to know the rest. There is a need for the briefing, but the President, I guess he feels he's his own mouthpiece now and he is not managing the message well. He's going against his own administration officials. So they need to have a briefing to explain the explaining from the president.

BOLDUAN: I'd love to get from both of your perspective, Catherine and Mark, on kind of what sticks out to me. Because when contradictions abound, say one thing about the economy, contradict yourself on the economy, mixed messages all over the place, Mark. Does this matter? I shout once again into the vacuum though.

PRESTON: No, you're shouting into the vacuum. And honestly, right now, it doesn't matter and it really goes back to the first question we're talking about. If the economy continues to do well, then Donald Trump is in a good position to win reelection. I mean, that's the bottom line.

You go and talk to people out there outside of Washington, D.C. Guess what, they don't care about his moral feelings. They don't care about his lies. What they do care about is the fact that they have jobs and that they see an economy moving along right now.

BOLDUAN: Catherine.

RAMPELL: So I would say I think it absolutely matters if the economy goes south, because if we cannot trust anything coming out of this White House. We've been there, basically, since day one, when Sean Spicer went out there and lied about crowd size. But if we can't trust what the President is saying, if we can't trust

what his advisors are saying, whether they're trying to inspire confidence about the economy or telling us about what their solution is for dealing with it, that credibility is a major vulnerability. I mean, if you can't trust the White House to have competent personnel and coherent policy, then why should anybody have any trust that we would ever get out of the hole of a recession (inaudible) ...

BOLDUAN: It matters on a good day. It really matters.

RAMPELL: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: If we dip even short of a recession, if when we're in an economic downturn, that's a great point, Catherine. And thanks, guys, I really appreciate it. Out front for us next, we have some breaking news, President Trump and the NRA speaking this afternoon. Are universal background checks, expanded background checks completely off the table now? Plus, President Trump coming to Russia's defense as he pushes a new claim as to why Russia was pushed out of the G8.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in, so he wanted Russia out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: President Obama's former Defense Secretary will respond. And are you seeing double? You are not alone. Jeanne Moos, the woman who has everyone, including Elizabeth Warren doing double take.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:34] BOLDUAN: Breaking tonight, President Trump on the phone with the Head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre this afternoon. Trump's message, according to The Atlantic, "Universal background checks are off the table." Though some White House officials are pushing back on that.

The President publicly supported background checks and the expanded background checks in the days after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that killed 31 people. But tonight, CNN is learning folks in the White House from Capitol Hill and outside groups have all been pressuring the President to turn away. That may be exactly what is behind this change in tone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have very, very strong background checks right now, but we have sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle and we're looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem and I've said it a hundred times, it's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person that pulls the trigger.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Out right now Rob Astorino, member of President Trump's 2020

Re-Election Advisory Council and Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Commentator. Thank you guys for being here.

Rob, is the President caving to the NRA?

ROB ASTORINO, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: No. I think it's typical any president like President Obama would talk to Planned Parenthood when an abortion issue came up. This is advocacy. And there are 5 billion people that are members of the NRA, many more millions, 10s of millions who are gun owners who are not members of the NRA who have serious concerns about where we might go.

The slippery slope is a real issue. It's not even hidden anymore, because the Democrats just even a couple of years ago were saying, "No, we're not coming after your guns." Now they're outwardly. We have presidential candidates outwardly saying, "Yes, we're coming after your guns. We want mandatory buybacks," which is confiscation. And so there are some serious issues on the table.

BOLDUAN: What we're talking about right now is background checks though.

ASTORINO: Background checks would not have prevented just about 90 percent of these mass shootings.

BOLDUAN: Nothing prevents 50 percent of the time.

ASTORINO: Exactly. People screaming, "Do something."

BOLDUAN: And you know what I've heard from Republicans, some Republicans on Capitol Hill, that if it does something, it's a good thing after what they saw in El Paso and Dayton.

ASTORINO: We've had 20,000 or so gun laws right now, all common sense gun laws on the books. None of which have prevented these because they're isolated. They're done by deranged people. And when you have good Americans, which is 99.99 percent who are gun owners --

BOLDUAN: And that 99.99 percent would pass those background checks.

ASTORINO: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Aisha, what do you do with it?

[19:20:01] AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Precisely. What we have is a situation where thousands of people, thousands of people have been murdered at the hands of gun violence and we're having a conversation right now where the President is literally caring more about the $54 million or so to the NRA spent on his campaign that he hopes that they're going to spend again for his reelection. And getting into bed with them and hugging guns as opposed to hugging people. I think this entire conversation is really a testament to the

character of this clown that's in the White House, who literally does not care about lives and does not care about people and cares more about this "advocacy," but this lobby - that's frankly a lobby of death at this point. Because when you cannot see clearly that just doing something - many Republicans are saying, "Let's do something to at least try to mitigate lives lost. Let's do that. Let's try to mitigate lives loss."

And the President is like, "Well, we already got some policies on the books." To me, it just goes to at this point, a conversation we should be having about the moral fabric, moral compass of this White House, which is just completely lacking.

BOLDUAN: Specifically, I'm very curious though what changed. Because just days ago, we heard from Donald Trump that - here's one quote, "I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had them before. I think Mitch McConnell is onboard with them. I think we can do something about it." The President said that.

How else are people supposed to see this other than he speaks with the NRA a bunch of times and now he's changed his position. The landscape has not changed. This is the only thing that we've seen changed.

ASTORINO: Well, the landscape in 2009 when the --

BOLDUAN: No, no, no, I'm talking about right now.

ASTORINO: No.

BOLDUAN: Talk about right now, stay here.

MILLS: Today we're talking about.

ASTORINO: No. No, because you just said ...

MILLS: Today is what we're talking about.

ASTORINO: ... it's a death lobby and Republicans are gripping.

BOLDUAN: That is inflammatory as well.

ASTORINO: Yes.

BOLDUAN: There are a lot of people that do ...

ASTORINO: And when the Democrats controlled, in 2009, the White House, the Senate and Congress with a filibuster proof, why didn't they do all of these things? Why didn't they?

MILLS: The question is - we're talking about today.

BOLDUAN: No. Again ...

ASTORINO: No, no, no ...

MILLS: So now we have an opportunity to have some motion and so ...

ASTORINO: We have mass shootings back then too, so why didn't they do anything when they had the votes?

BOLDUAN: Missed opportunities. But answer my question.

ASTORINO: People say, "Do something." Do something that will work. We know this will not work.

BOLDUAN: You do not know that.

MILLS: Let's go back to the question about ...

BOLDUAN: You do not know that.

ASTORINO: All of these would have passed their background checks, what does that tell you?

MILLS: Let's go back to the question at hand which is why the President is flip flopping. The fact to the matter is that every time there's been a shooting, the President of the United States has claimed that, "Oh, yes, background checks." Mind you, he came into office and essentially rescinded the background checks that the Obama administration had tried to move forward, but again --

BOLDUAN: That would have put more restrictions on people with mental illness.

MILLS: Right. He actually dialed that back in executive order. So again, every time there's a shooting, the President says one thing, "Oh, yes, we're going to do something." He gets on the phone with the NRA and flip flop. So the question becomes and we just watch the President say, "Oh, it's a mental issue."

Is it a mental issues when I leave something ...

ASTORINO: Is it not?

MILLS: ... one day and then you decide the next day to change your tune over and over and over again? I think we need to get to the heart of the matter of why Donald Trump can't seem to form an opinion and keep it, especially when it comes down to the well being of the American people.

ASTORINO: OK. Is it not a mental issue?

MILLS: He's flip flopping.

ASTORINO: No. Every time it's brought up right now that it's not a mental health issue ...

BOLDUAN: No. That gets to the red flag.

ASTORINO: No. And I think and most people are in favor of red flags if it's done correctly and there's also slippery slope on that.

BOLDUAN: Lots of states have done it. Lots of states have done it already. They sure are doing it effectively.

MILLS: You're making up slippery slopes and caveats as a way to do nothing and that is where we are.

ASTORINO: Oh, really just like abortion?

MILLS: That is where we are.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you. This is the President's position now that universal background checks are off the table. Without his support, do you think that this effort is dead before it even began when they get back to Congress effort?

MILLS: Mitch McConnell has proven that he doesn't really want to move much. But honestly, I think that there's a ground swell in America right now. I think that the American people are tired of the doublespeak. I think they're tired of the cowing to these powerful lobbies and I think that the American people want to see some movement.

To me what's going to happen when folks get back is they're going to be looking at the Senate landscape and elections and they're going to be looking at what's happening on the ground. And I think that Republicans at this point are tired of people dying. They're tired of people dying who are in their districts, who are close to their districts, and they feel an urge to do something.

Now the question becomes what is this something, right?

ASTORINO: Right, exactly.

MILLS: But I do think that people are feeling some motivation, which is why it's quite infuriating that the White House is not exercising any leadership here.

ASTORINO: Well, we also had over 312 people so far this year in Chicago die by gun homicides.

MILLS: Stop trying to make it seem like a lot of people are killing each other which is why we should have this conversation. That's what's you're doing.

ASTORINO: No, no, no, last weekend in Philadelphia, they went wild and they had gun deaths all over the place. You know, no, like, last weekend in Philadelphia, they went wild and I had gun deaths all over the place. Why aren't we talking about that? Why aren't we having vigils there? Why aren't we ...

BOLDUAN: Yes, there's a lot ...

MILLS: We're talking about all of it. It's all of it.

ASTORINO: No, it's ...

BOLDUAN: I got to tell you, guys. I get super tired.

ASTORINO: Would that have prevent it? Would that have prevent it?

BOLDUAN: We can debate a million things.

ASTORINO: But would that have prevent it?

BOLDUAN: I would like to say - stop asking me questions.

ASTORINO: Seriously.

BOLDUAN: Well, I'm going to ask the question, I get really tired when I ask a question and you guys keep trying to change it to another topic. We can talk about Chicago tomorrow. Right now I'm talking about how President Trump is backed down from something that he promised.

ASTORINO: He didn't promised.

BOLDUAN: And something that he wanted.

ASTORINO: He suggested.

[19:25:06] BOLDUAN: Not even close to suggested, we can get it and he says Mitch McConnell wanted it. If he was making that up, maybe. But that's why I'm asking right now if he's changing his position why he's doing it instead of talking about Chicago.

ASTORINO: No.

BOLDUAN: That's what I want to ask.

ASTORINO: Because it's all tied in. It's all tied in. If you have universal background checks, would 312 people not be dead in Chicago this year because gangbangers are going to look up on (inaudible) ...

BOLDUAN: Saving one life because of background check would keep someone from getting a gun, that doesn't matter?

ASTORINO: It does but that also would be then why don't we just take everyone's gun away because that would cure the problem, right?

BOLDUAN: Rob, that is not what I'm saying right now.

ASTORINO: One death would be saved.

BOLDUAN: It's not what I'm saying right now. Fine ...

ASTORINO: One death would be saved, we took away every gun.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLS: NRA is paying you well, because you guys ...

ASTORINO: They're not paying me at all.

MILLS: ... these talking points.

ASTORINO: They're not paying me at all.

MILLS: And the reality is, is that I haven't heard you once express any empathy for the people who are victims of gun violence.

ASTORINO: Of course, I do. I just brought up people in Chicago and Philadelphia.

MILLS: Not once.

ASTORINO: And of course --

MILLS: No once suggesting that we should do anything to figure out ...

ASTORINO: We should. We should.

MILLS: ... how to stop violence in America.

ASTORINO: But Every time mental illness is brought up, the left goes, "Oh, no, no, no."

MILLS: That's not true.

ASTORINO: Oh, absolutely.

MILLS: It was absolutely the left that has talked so much about mental illness.

ASTORINO: American Psychological Association come out against it. Don't know because now we are putting a bad reputation on people with mental illness. That's now the new ...

MILLS: Why is your President a flip flopper? I mean, I think that that's really the question. What does he believe? What is he going to do?

BOLDUAN: Again, we didn't get it anywhere in there tonight. OUTFRONT next, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying ISIS is now getting power. So what does that mean for all of the President's claim the terror group has been defeated? Plus, her Republican group just endorsed President Trump, so she quit. She joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:37] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, mission not accomplished. A sobering new assessment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledging that ISIS is resurging.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOST: Is it gaining strength in your opinion?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's complicated. There are certainly places with ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago. But the caliphate is gone. And their capacity to conduct external attacks has been made much more

difficult. We've taken down significant risk. Not all of it but a significant amount.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: More powerful than they were three or four years ago. That certainly is a stark contrast from what you heard from President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and we have beaten them badly.

When I was elected president two years ago ISIS was all over Syria and all over Iraq. We have wiped out ISIS in Iraq. We have wiped out ISIS --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOILDUAN: Wiped out ISIS. The caliphate maybe. The ideology, definitely not.

According to this new report -- and it's a lengthy report, the Pentagon independent watchdog, ISIS has estimated 15,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria now. A resurgence. That is how the inspector general puts it, including targeted assassinations, ambushes, suicide bombs.

Like this attack at a wedding in Kabul, Afghanistan, over the weekend. A suicide bomber killing 63 people, men, women, children, injuring nearly 200 more.

OUTFRONT now is former defense secretary and CIA director under President Obama, Leon Panetta.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's good to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

So, roughly, an estimated 15,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria now. Secretary Pompeo saying in some ways stronger than it was three or four years ago. How big of a concern should this news be for Americans?

PANETTA: It should be a very serious concern for the president of the United States and for our country, because his first responsibility is to protect our country. And we learned from 9/11 the fact that these terrorists have one fundamental aim, which is to attack the United States and attack countries in the west.

And now, what we are hearing is that ISIS is clearly remobilizing to the tune of almost 15,000 to 18,000 that are mobilizing into secret cells, that are mobilizing into attack teams. They're conducting not only attacks but kidnappings and assassinations and bombings as we saw in Afghanistan.

So, this is in the end a national security threat that the United States cannot simply stand back and pretend is not there.

BOLDUAN: That's why I'm curious. I mean, I recall very clearly -- I mean, you were even critical of President Obama's handling of the Syria crisis, you know, saying that the withdrawal from Iraq allowed for a vacuum, that ISIS could fill and flourish in. If President Trump does nothing here, what will happen?

PANETTA: Well, history is pretty clear. You know, we should have learned that lesson when we withdrew all of our forces from Iraq. And into that vacuum, ISIS created the caliphate that was the size of Great Britain and controlled almost 12 million lives.

We had to then he deploy our forces to both Syria and Iraq in order to get rid of the caliphate. If we simply withdraw forces and pretend that ISIS and the remnants of al Qaeda are no longer a threat, make no mistake about it, it's an open invitation to terrorists to establish the kind of base from which they can conduct attacks against the United States. We can't let that happen again.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, that's a terrifying proposition because that's under consideration, that's a real conversation that's happening now is, will troops be leaving Syria? How long will troops be in Afghanistan where ISIS is now very clearly becoming a threat there now as well?

[19:35:05] PANETTA: I think the -- I think the president has to be very careful here about just going ahead and promising that somehow we're going to pull back all of our troops from that region without having any assurances that ultimately this problem will be dealt with. He says let others deal with the problem, that we've got -- we're 7,000 miles away.

But that has always been a false promise by isolationists. They use that argument in the 1930s that said because of our oceans, we didn't have to worry about Nazi Germany. And today, we're saying that somehow we can withdraw and be able to be protected.

We are not protected. A global world with a global threat from ISIS and from terrorism, we have to worry that ultimately if they mobilize any will -- their next target will be an attack on the United States.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, President Trump said today -- he was asked about the tensions in the South China Sea. I would like to play for you what was said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: On China, there is a new study out of Australia that suggests with the current Chinese military posture in the South China Sea, Indo-Pacific region, it could wipe out most U.S. bases within a number of hours. Is that something that keeps you up at night? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, nothing keeps me

up at night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Honestly, set aside the South China Sea right now, should something keep the president up at night?

PANETTA: Well, let me put it this way. I think most presidents would be kept awake by the concern that our national security could be threatened. And, you know, it just -- I think the indication that this doesn't represent a threat to our country is something that we shouldn't be hearing from the president.

Look, we live in a dangerous world. I think it's more dangerous than ever today. It's not only the threat from China and Russia. It's the threat from ISIS. It's the threat from Iran, it's threat from those conducting cyber-attacks again our own country.

There are a lot of flash points in the world that ought to frankly keep this president awake and concerned.

BURNETT: You mentioned Russia. Russia seems to be receiving welcome news today. The president offering his endorsement of bringing Russia back into the G-7 which would be then the G-8. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in. So, he wanted Russia out. But I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in. If somebody would make that motion I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I just want to give you an opportunity to respond to the president what he said there about President Obama.

PANETTA: You know, I -- I would say to the president that at least President Obama was aware of the threat that Russia constituted to this country. I do not get the impression that this president is aware that Russia is an adversary.

And before he starts inviting Russia to join the G-8, ought we not to get something back from Russia? Ought we not to know that Russia is for the going to attack our election system in 2020? Shouldn't we know that Russia is not going to continue to be aggressive in the Ukraine, in Syria, in the Middle East and elsewhere? Shouldn't we get something back with regards to the nuclear threat that Russia constitutes today?

I don't know what the president is saying in the sense that he is basically saying he is inviting Russia to be a part of the G-8 and is getting nothing in return as far as I can see.

BOLDUAN: Yes, especially since Russia was kicked because of the annexation of Crimea. We see how that's going right now.

Secretary, thank you so much for your time.

PANETTA: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, one woman cuts ties -- one Republican cuts ties with an organization after it backed President Trump saying she won be able to look her kids in the eye. She is my guest.

Plus, if the economy is slows will Trump voters stick by the president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you vote differently?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not necessarily, because I think the economy is always up and down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:43:21] BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Trump honored or at least he says he is honored having received the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ advocacy group.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was very honored to receive it. No, I have done very well with that community. Some of my biggest supporters are of that community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But one member of the group's board is not supporting the president, and is protesting the endorsement.

Jennifer Horn writing in her resignation letter the following: In order to maintain favor with this unprincipled, unscrupulous president, too many in our party fast abandoning the moral high ground. I could never endorse him for president of the United States and still look my children in the eye.

OUTFRONT now is Jennifer Horn. She is also a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and recently served as campaign manager for Bill Weld's primary challenge against President Trump.

Jennifer, thank you for being here.

JENNIFER HORN, RESIGNED: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. Thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Were you surprised when you heard that from President Trump today?

HORN: Not particularly. In fact, that statement is exactly -- goes to the heart of what is the problem with this endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans to begin with. Of course, the president is taking it and using it to advance his own political and personal agenda without ever having earned it. And that's my problem with this endorsement is that this president has not earned the support of an esteemed organization that has spent 40 years fighting for equality and including for all Americans.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people on this board, for the people that I was privileged to work with. But this endorsement was given without any sort of earning on the part of the president and I think it's a big mistake.

[19:45:06] BOLDUAN: You were clear why you were stepping down. Was there one - was it one thing, Jennifer, in particular that you just could not stand behind?

HORN: No, it really wasn't any one thing, frankly. You know, folks who know me know that I have been speaking up against this president, honestly since 2011. I wrote my first op-ed when he came to New Hampshire to kind of dip his toes in the water of the 2012 race and scared off by Mitt Romney at that time and didn't decide to run.

You know, Donald Trump is not an advocate for equality. He is not an advocate for inclusion for the LGBTQ community frankly or anyone else. He is a terrible example for children. He stands for everything that my husband and I taught our children to fight against.

There is no world where I could possibly endorse Donald Trump or have my name be associated with an organization that does.

BOLDUAN: In announcing the endorsement, the heads of the organization in an opinion piece -- at the very end, they wrote something that I found striking and I wanted to ask you about. They wrote, to be treated equally, fairly and justly under the law is our goal.

And we know that "inclusion wins" is a mantra we share with the president. That's what they write. But --

HORN: Right.

BOLDUAN: Does the entire board agree other than you?

(CROSSTALK)

HORN: The entire board doesn't agree. And we went through a process under our bylaws when it came to the endorsement. There were a number of us, a handful of us who voted against it.

I'm not the only one who has resigned. I'm the only one who kind of came forward to discuss it publicly. The entire board does not agree with that.

And I think unfortunately that was an unfortunate line to use in that, because it's so obviously untrue. When you hear this president talk about women, when he talks about Muslims, when he talks about any -- any individual or group of individuals, immigrants, you know, folks at the border, the children of these families who are trying to come across the border, the president does not talk about an inclusive America. He does not talk about an America where everyone is treated equally under the law.

BOLDUAN: Jennifer, just real quick.

HORN: So I think that was -- I think that was a bad line unfortunately.

BOLDUAN: Just real quick, Rick Grinnell is a member of the Log Cabin Republicans. He's the president's ambassador to Germany.

HORN: Right.

BOLDUAN: He says the highest ranking gay member of the president's administration. His position, Rick being there, does that meet with your criticism.

HORN: Right. I'm sorry, does that what?

I think Rick Grinnell is doing a great job. I think he's qualified for the job. I think that when you advance the best person for the job, that's kind of the lowest bar that we expect the president to meet.

And certainly, the president deserves credit for having, you know, stayed with Rick when they were trying to slow roll his -- I think when the Democrats were trying to slow roll his confirmation. He is the right guy for that job.

But this president has been so wrong on so many other issues. When you look at trying to roll back protections for transgender students, for transgender people in-housing, the transgender military ban -- there are so many times this president has been wrong.

And let's not forget, by the way, that when he was our nominee in 2016, he chose not to try to remove the language in our party's platform that targets the LGBTQ community.

BOLDUAN: Well, Jennifer, thank you so much.

HORN: I would have much --

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

HORN: Thank you very much I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Sorry seems to be a delay. Thank you for coming on I appreciate it

OUTFRONT for us next, as recession fears loom, will voters still back the president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a high right now. If we go belly up I think it's going to be a big difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And Jeanne Moos on Elizabeth Warren running into her twin in the Twin Cities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:51] BOLDUAN: Tonight, 200 steel workers in Michigan are being laid off. It comes one week after President Trump toted a rally that the steel industry is, quote, thriving.

Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to the sitcom "The Office", the birthplace of Joe Biden, in a state where white working class voters helped propel Donald Trump to victory.

And if he hopes to win again, Trump's chances may hinge on those same voters and the economy. So I'm here asking people how is the economy? And I'm getting two very different answers.

COLLEEN DEAN, BARTENDER: Yes, I think things are definitely good. There is more jobs in the area. The stock market is really high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're on the verge of a recession.

SAVIDGE: I quickly pick up on a theme.

(on camera): How are you feeling about the economy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm feeling optimistic.

SAVIDGE: So, if I ask you, how is the economy, you say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have some concerns.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): How people view the economy is directly related how they see the president.

Jessica Statsman owns Diskin's Saloon and she's a huge Trump fan.

(on camera): Did you like the fact he was a businessman?

JESSICA STATSMAN, OWNER OF DISKIN'S SALOON: Yes. That was one of the biggest things. I feel the country has become like a business.

SAVIDGE: Criminal defense attorney Paul Walker is definitely not for Trump and he sees trouble ahead.

PAUL WALKER, ATTORNEY: And if this economy turns like I think it's going to, then it's going to turn on him.

SAVIDGE: Scranton is a factory town. Nationally, manufacturing jobs numbers are the highest in a decade according to the Department of Labor, but there are signs hiring and production are slowing. Bad news from manufacturing workers, a key part of the president's base.

People like Trump voter Douglas Waltrop, an electrician, economic forecast suggests dark clouds but he sees only sunshine where he works.

DOUGLAS WALTROP, ELECTRICIAN: We got more work than we know what to do with.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Really?

WALTROP: Yes.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): I ask another key question: would voters stick with the president if the economy turns negative.

Union rep Joe Laboranti, a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, doesn't think so.

JOE LABORANTI, UNITED AUTO WORKERS PRESIDENT, LOCAL 1193: We're on a high and if we go belly up, I think it's going to be a big -- a big difference.

[19:55:04] SAVIDGE: While Trump voters say even if the economy turns bad, they would still back the president.

WALTROP: Right now, yes.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Would you vote differently?

DEAN: Not necessarily because I think the economy is always up and down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Another question that I asked these voters was, is there any Democrat they might possibly consider believing they would say Joe Biden, after all he is from here. Nope, wouldn't bite. In fact, they say Joe Biden is too progressive -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Wow, statement of where we are right now. Great stuff, Martin, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, can you tell who is the real Elizabeth Warren?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It may be hard to keep track of all the Democratic candidates out there especially when there are duplicates. Here is Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meeting her doppelgangers is one thing that Elizabeth Warren didn't have a plan for.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is just like being here with family.

MOOS: Yes, your twin.

Stephanie Oyen has dressed up as Elizabeth Warren for Halloween, so when she got ready to attend Warren's Minnesota rally.

STEPHANIE OYEN, ELIZABETH WARREN DOPPELGANGER: I thought I would put on the blazer, go to the rally and get a couple giggles.

MOOS: But instead of giggles.

OYEN: People started turning, oh my god, it's warren, it's warren. It was really touching to see the number of people with tears in their eyes and said things like you're my hero. I felt terrible having to tell them I wasn't the girl before them.

MOOS: She herself is a huge Warren supporter.

CROWD: Warren! Warren! Warren!

OYEN: I talk with my hands, so I'm sitting there going I'm not her. I'm not her and, of course, I look exactly like her.

MOOS (on camera): Let's see you transform back into Stephanie.

(voice-over): She takes off her prescription glasses, ditches the blue blazer.

OYEN: I will also add, I'm 20 years younger than Elizabeth Warren but maybe that doesn't show.

MOOS: When Warren finished her speech, Stephanie got in line for the meet and greet, selfie taking time.

(on camera): What happens when you meet the real Elizabeth Warren?

OYEN: She looked at me and kind of look at me up and down and said, she pointed at me and said, we need to talk.

MOOS (voice-over): And that was it. No discussion of their resemblance though Stephanie was called back for a second photo for the senator's staff.

(on camera): Can you put Elizabeth Warren back on?

(voice-over): Must be nice to be able to transform yourself into one of your own.

(on camera): This is like watching Clark Kent.

(voice-over): Super heroes.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: They really do look a lot alike.

Thanks, everybody, for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.