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U.S. Extracted Top Spy From Inside Russia In 2017 Amid Worry About Spy Being Exposed And Trump's Handling Of Intel; Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) Discuss The Greatest Threat To American National Security Due To Loss Of Asset In Russia; Trump Declares Talks With Taliban "Dead" As He Defends His Plans To Hold Summit With Group's Leaders At Camp David; Trump Denies Any Role In Pence Or Air Force Visits To His Properties, But Praises Pence's "Good Taste"; Trump Holds Rally In NC On Eve Of Special Election. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... were rescued early Sunday. Officials are trying to determine why the ship capsized, good news were rescued. Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump says he knows nothing about sharing classified information. CNN learning though that he is part of the reason that his own intelligence agency pulled a top spy from Putin's inner circle. Plus, profiting off the presidency, Trump insisting he never ordered his Vice President or the Air Force to stay at his resorts, but his explanation doesn't seem to add up. And Trump making a last minute push for a Republican in a must win special election. Tonight, will the President's presence there live this hour hurt his candidate or not? Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump stumped. The president who claims to know better than anyone else suddenly knows nothing about an incredibly damning allegation based on CNN's exclusive reporting. Here's Trump late today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you respond to reports today that say you have mishandled classified information to Russia?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I know nothing about it. I see the CIA responded perfectly. So whatever the CIA said is fine with me, but I heard they responded perfectly. I know nothing.


BURNETT: OK. The question refers to CNN's bombshell report that Trump's intelligence community, the CIA, extracted a crucial spy from Russia. In part because of fears that Trump, the President of the United States, Trump could expose the spy through his mishandling of classified information. According to administration officials, the decision to remove the spy

who, I want to be clear, was a crucial spy for a few reasons. One of which was that this person was at a very high level inside the Russian government and was considered vital to the United States.

Well, the extraction occurred soon after this 2017 meeting in the Oval Office. You may remember this picture because this is a meeting where Trump shared highly classified intelligence about ISIS with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

Now, at the time Trump defended himself by tweeting that he had the absolute right. "I have the absolute right to share U.S. intelligence." Well, that's true, of course, sharing it with an adversary of the United States would go counter to what people want that to be used for.

Well, the President's then National Security Advisor was enforced because the president defended himself to then twist himself in a pretzel to defend Trump. Remember this?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you denying that he revealed information that was given to the U.S. by intelligence partner?

HERBERT RAYMOND MCMASTER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: So what we don't do is discuss what is and isn't classified. What I will tell you, is in the context of that discussion, what the President discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate ...

BURNETT: Well, according to sources in both the intelligence agency and the Trump administration, the accurate words for Trump did were wholly inappropriate. But the true shocker about what Trump said today was the specific words about the reporting.


TRUMP: I see the CIA responded perfectly. So whatever the CIA said is fine with me, but I heard they responded perfectly.


BURNETT: Responded perfectly, fine with me, perfectly? This CIA? The one about which Trump has tweeted, "Perhaps intelligence should go back to school or the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran." That same CIA that he said this about.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you trust intelligence?

TRUMP: Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, they're perfect tonight. Boris Sanchez is out front at the White House. Boris, pretty amazing, nothing but bad things has to say about them and how dumb, and naive, and clueless and doesn't trust them except for when they say what he wants them to say. How is the administration responding to this bombshell report tonight?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, so far the response from the administration has been dismissive, even though five separate sources all who served in the Trump administration told our colleague, Jim Sciutto that President Trump's disclosures to these Russian officials ultimately had an impact on this top U.S. spy in Russia being extracted.

We should point out sources have indicated that at the time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the other top administration officials that there was too much information coming out about this spy. So Pompeo at the time clearly recognized the risks that this spy was facing. Pompeo now Secretary of State declined to comment for this story through his spokesperson.

A spokesperson for the CIA did put out a statement saying that CNN's narrative, the reporting here is inaccurate. Suggesting that it's the result of misguided speculation. The Press Secretary for the White House, Stephanie Grisham, put out a statement saying that CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.


Of course, you heard directly from President Trump, they're saying that he knows nothing about this story. It's really just another instance of the division and the divide between President Trump at officials in his intelligence community, Erin.

BURNETT: And, of course, Boris, it sounds like - look, there is five sources, it's clear what the reporting is here. When he doesn't like it, they just say it's all a bunch of lies. And, of course, the spokesperson that they have at the CIA - they love the CIA, so it's pretty incredible when you see all of that.

All right. Boris, thank you very much and I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel who is the Chairman on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. So this is right in the center of what you're dealing with, Chairman. So this is what we understand from the reporting, as Boris said, five sources, one of the U.S.' highest level covert sources inside the Russian government.

Just so people understand, Chairman. What does the loss of a spy at this level, of an asset at this level do to America's ability to counter one of the greatest threats that there is to American National Security?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): Well, it's terrible and it really strikes at the heart of it, because it's not only this asset, it's what comes down the tubes. So what other assets are we going to get if this is the way we treat someone that we have now? So it does tremendous damage, again, not only immediate damage but for the future as well.

BURNETT: Do you know anything about what the spy was providing to the United States or about why this person was considered to be so crucial?

ENGEL: Well, I don't know the specifics of it. But, obviously, Russia and the United States have spied against each other for many, many years during the Soviet Union time and now with Putin back. So we know that both countries have spies.

The question is how do we handle spies. And I don't know what it is with this administration and with this president. Everything seems to be fly by the seat of your pants, not thought out, just thrown out there amateurish. I just don't get it. I don't understand it and it's one after the other, after the other, after the other and when is it going to end.

BURNETT: Do you think that President Trump can be trusted with classified information? I mean, obviously, the reporting is here is that there was fear about that what he said would expose this spy. I presume, not necessarily by putting the spy's name out there to the Russians, but by sharing enough information that it became clear who was providing it.

ENGEL: Well, my god, if you can't trust the President of the United States, I mean, who can you trust? It's shocking to even think that we would be having this conversation and that it would be the realm of possibility that the President of the United States was in collusion with some unsavory characters that we don't even like to think about it.

I hope not. I hope not, but it keeps coming up again, and again and again. And you worry what is it with Putin that this president have a fixation with. I mean everything that Putin does that's not beneficial to the United States, the President of the United States seems to either look the other way or encourage it or not care about it.

It makes you to scratch your head. When would you ever have imagined that this kind of thing that would happen in the United States? I know I wouldn't have.

BURNETT: Chairman, I want to ask you also about Afghanistan. Over the weekend, the President revealed he wanted to host secret peace talks which included Taliban officials at Camp David and he says he cancelled them after a Taliban car bomb killed a U.S. soldier. Here is what he said today.


TRUMP: They're dead. They're dead. As far as I'm concerned, they're dead. They thought that they had to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position.


BURNETT: And, of course, he's talking about the talks being dead. Chairman, do you want to see these talks revived in any form?

ENGEL: Well, I don't want to see Taliban at Camp David, period. Who is the brilliant person that came up with that? I mean it's just absolutely outrageous.

BURNETT: Well, we've been reporting Vice President Pence was against holding the talks there. Do you have any sense as to why the President was pushing ahead with this right around the anniversary of 9/11 to have the Taliban at Camp David?

ENGEL: No, I have no sense of it at all. It makes me scratch my head. And, again, you was saying September 11th. I'm from New York City. It was my hometown that was attacked. I mean I can't think of anything more disgusting.

Camp David is sort of a revered place for Americans. I cannot imagine anything more disgusting than the Taliban being there.

BURNETT: Chairman, I want to ask you about one other important story tonight. You're, of course, an addition to Foreign Affairs on the Commerce Committee and Energy Committee.


The New York Times is reporting tonight that Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire people, top employees at NOAA if they didn't basically disavow a tweet from the Birmingham office. I don't know if you remember this tweet, it's the one that contradicted the President's false claim that Dorian was likely to hit Alabama.

The Commerce Department is saying, of course, this reporting is false. But this is a New York Times report, it's thoroughly vetted. Do you believe it and do you think that Secretary Ross needs to resign?

ENGEL: Well, I believe it because I think the New York Times is careful. It's certainly a reputable paper and it's certainly is careful in making sure that what it says is truthful. So I think it's shocking. Maybe it isn't so shocking. It's shocking.

You know what's the most shocking of it that it isn't shocking anymore, that I'm almost numb. It's one thing after another, after another. And yes, I think he should consider resigning because I think it's a disgrace.

BURNETT: Chairman Engel, thank you very much for your time, sir.

ENGEL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump says he had nothing to do with the Air Force decision to stay at his properties because he's rich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I don't need to have somebody take a room overnight at a



BURNETT: Plus, 2020 contender Tim Ryan defending comments he made about Joe Biden declining.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not like I said something that a lot of people aren't thinking or he wouldn't have went on Colbert to talk about it.


BURNETT: Are Democrats really worried? And the President calling my next guest a joke, a laughingstock. So what is 2020 Republican contender for the White House Mark Sanford's response?



BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump denying he pushed the Air Force to stay at one of his resorts during the refueling stop in Scotland or Vice President in his resort in Ireland during an overseas trip.


TRUMP: I don't need to have somebody take a room overnight at a hotel. Mike Pence as an example, his family lives in Doonbeg, Ireland. He was in Ireland, so he said, "You know what I'll do? I'll see my family." I didn't know about that. But I can say he has good taste.


BURNETT: OK. Trump defending the controversial resort visits as the House Judiciary Committee plans to move forward this week with its impeachment investigation. Manu Raju is out front.

So Manu, this is now going to be a part of the impeachment probe and it's going to be important. And you now know also the timeline. So impeachment has gone from being vague to this is what we're talking about, this is specific from Chairman Nadler to now you know timing.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're expecting to get a result that they want to have a final decision by the end of the year about whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. And at that point, the House Judiciary Committee would presumably vote to impeach the President, then it could go to the full house.

And then after that, the Senate, two-thirds of the Senate would have to decide whether or not to convict the President and try to remove him from office. Something that'd be highly unlikely, given the Republican control of the Senate. But nevertheless, this is a significant escalation and what we have seen over the last several weeks here.

The Judiciary Committee on Thursday will be voting to formalize this process in considering how to deal with witnesses and investigations and hearings in the days and weeks ahead and essentially mirroring what the same committee, the House Judiciary Committee did in 1974 when it came to the Nixon impeachment proceedings.

Afterwards, we expect Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager for President Trump to come before this committee to be asked questions under the expectations. These are essentially impeachment proceedings. But Erin, I asked the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whether or not she agrees with Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee Chairman that they are in "formal impeachment proceedings." She would not say, instead that is only a possibility that they may ultimately impeach.

And just moments ago, the House Majority Leader, the number two, Steny Hoyer, who has been resistant, skeptical about moving forward the impeachment said all they're doing is continuation of the investigation that's been happening for months. So you're hearing a divide, Erin, still among Democrats about whether or not this is the way to go forward.

But at the moment the House Judiciary Committee Democrats is pushing ahead and some of that could lead to them recommending articles of impeachment later this year, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. They have made it very clear that this is a formal impeachment proceeding as they see it. All right. Manu, thank you.

Out front now, Political Editor for The New York Times, Patrick Healy and White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan.

So Patrick, I spoke to Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean on Friday. And we had all said this is going to be really important this time that they go home for a lot of issues; gun control and impeachment. She's on the Judiciary Committee. She said she had a whole lot of town halls and the issue that was resonating with people was corruption and Trump profiting from office.


BURNETT: Exactly what we're talking about here. Not so much Russia, but this. Is this now the way Democrats are going to get to impeachment?

HEALY: I mean, it's a real issue for Trump, because a lot of Democrats have said for some time, "We don't know how Russia is going to turn out. We don't know how obstruction of justice in the Mueller report is going to turn out. But corruption is sitting right there.

The reality is this president came into office owning a great many properties in Washington, D.C., around the world and there were questions about would there be conflicts of interest about government contract, government workers possibly staying at some of these places. And then we're seeing Vice President Mike Pence down to the Air Force to other parts, other branches of the government that are staying here.

I think that a lot of Americans got used to the sense that the government would be above even the perception of a conflict of interest.

BURNETT: Yes, not the case at all.

HEALY: And here there's none of that.

BURNETT: Right. And now we're getting justifications of distant, distant relatives of whatever, being the justification when you're going to meetings 200 miles away. I mean, it's silly.


April, is President Trump worried, ultimately is what this comes down to, about this focus on corruption when it comes to impeachment?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: When it comes to impeachment, this President is worried. He's pulling his hair out. Well, I'm not going to say that. Maybe he's putting more hairspray on his hair to hold it down.

But the bottom line when it comes to impeachment, the I word is an albatross around this President's neck. He is allergic to it and this is just yet another nail in the impeachment coffin. This is not just about good taste as the President says. This is about taxpayers' money being used to line the President's pockets, bottom line, by his vice president and by the military.

This is not good. This is worse than a conflict of interest. And Erin, when you see something like this, the American public gets this one. We may talk about Russia and if there was collusion or obstruction of justice, that's kind of heavy sometimes and cerebral. We have to ...


RYAN: ... bind, connect all of the dots.


RYAN: But this one, you can connect the dots. Everyone can connect this one.

BURNETT: Well, he said he was going to divest himself and he hasn't and he's still getting the profits. And I think we need to always be very clear about that ...

RYAN: That's right. BURNETT: ... when we do these stories. So the President today

tweeted about the visits by the Air Force and Pence. "I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing and an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up the fuel, with the crew staying overnight a Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME."

Then continued, "I had nothing to do with the decision of our great VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland."

April, let's just be clear, Pence's own chief of staff said Trump did want Pence to stay at the property. The quote from Marc Short was quoting the President, "You should stay at my place." OK. So the President says he knows nothing about it, so who's lying, Trump or Pence's chief of staff?

RYAN: Well, we know Marc and I believe Marc has more veracity and validity, unfortunately, than the President of the United States. We've caught the President saying untruths before, lies if you will. He said it on Air Force One, "I did not direct Michael Cohen." And then we heard tapes, he did direct Michael Cohen.


RYAN: So I think the President needs to be very careful in saying what he has not done, because someone or a tape will come up and say, "The President has no credibility when he denies something." But there's ultimately someone else comes out and says it and unfortunately we're believing other people other than the President.

BURNETT: So Patrick, when it came to the stays by the Air Force and Vice President Pence at this particular resort, Trump said, "Nothing to do with me. I know nothing." OK? Which when you hear that is an echo of something that he has said before about certain things like this.


TRUMP: I know nothing about David Duke.

I've nothing to do with Russia.

I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don't deal there. I have no businesses there.


BURNETT: OK. Just to be clear, the statements were false. He had done plenty of business in Russia and he had known about David Duke for decades. Here he is denying any knowledge about the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, OK, which, of course, subsequently turned out to be a complete lie. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.


BURNETT: OK. So he didn't know about it and he didn't know where he got it. But this is what Trump says about things when he seems to know a lot.

HEALY: Right.

BURNETT: He says he knows nothing.

HEALY: Right. And this is a go-to and this is a guy who feasted for years on sort of tabloid journalism calling up tabloid columns and basically planting stories either saying this is his inside information or he knew nothing. And he speaks in these vast sort of generalizations looking for kind of big headlines, "I know nothing about it. I know nothing about it."

Any expects - and look, the reality is 90 percent or so of the Republican Party gives him a high approval rating. The reality is says I know nothing and he sort of expects the American electorate to just go along with it, even when it's demonstrably proven false time after time after time.

BURNETT: Right. I mean why would Marc Short make that up? It's absurd. We all know what the truth is in that situation but the question is has he put us in a world where the truth doesn't matter.

RYAN: Yes. And you know what? Erin, you know what?


RYAN: And you know what, Erin, for the President to say that he knows nothing about it, that's fake news.

BURNETT: That's true. That's a fake fact, whatever that might be. Thank you both.

RYAN: Fake news.

BURNETT: And next testing Trump's clout, the President rallying supporters tonight just hours before crucial special election. So will he make a difference? Why is he there? Wait until you see who's with him.

Plus, the President's campaign predicting the Trumps will be a dynasty that lasts four decades and this is the word that has been used, a dynasty.


How does Trump's Republican critics feel about that?



BURNETT: Tonight, a major political test for President Trump ahead of 2020 and you are looking at live pictures. The President in North Carolina. He's stumping for the Republican, Dan bishop, on the eve of a big special election. The race is incredibly close between Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready. And the President is now trying to downplay expectations for his guy.


TRUMP: No, I don't see it as a bellwether. They always ask that question. The '18 election, the big thing was I was not running.


People will say, "Oh, it was a referendum on Trump." It wasn't. I'm not running. People are running.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT now, Rob Astorino, a member of President Trump's 2020 re-election advisory counsel and Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation."

Rob, Vice President Mike Pence is back from Doonbeg.


BURNETT: Donald Trump Jr. is also -- they are both with the president tonight, OK? He's going to a rally for this guy, Bishop, which I mean -- why would you go to this rally and have all of these people there if you didn't think it was important. Clearly, he thinks it's important.

ROB ASTORINO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, it's important. There's no question about it, it's important. Trump is not on the ballot, but he is on the ballot. And the midterms did not go well. That kind of was a referendum on him. At least that's what the Democrats portrayed.

And look, the Democrats have been out of their minds excited since Election Day, to get him out of there. And they did well in the midterms, but this is a special election that is, you know, has a lot of different complications in it.


ASTORINO: The third is going to be won by the Republicans, the third district. That's coastal Carolina and the outer banks. That's a strong Republican. This, I've listened and I talked to people today n the Bishop

campaign. Their internal polling is much better than people think. The early voting was strong against him, but they've recovered. And it's really now who can get their base vote out. And Trump's rally tonight is a big part of that, because it's in the eastern part of the district.

BURNETT: And in doing this rally, he's admitting that it's a referendum on him. OK? He can say whatever he wants to say, but the facts are the facts. I mean, Joan, it is clearly a referendum on him. He's got a lot at stake.

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he won that district by 12 points in 2016. So, the fact that it slid so far that it's even in doubt is crazy.

And so, you know, you're sending all of those people there, but it's not a bellwether. I think the other, you know, wild card, I would not call this race, I think it's too close. But the other wild card is the president being there, yes, it revs up his base, but it also revs up the Democratic base, who they're forgetting -- people could forget that there's a special election on a Tuesday in September. And they already voted for this guy, who only -- you know, it's just been such a long, crazy ride. But it could help goose Democratic turnout.


BURNETT: What is it that there's a fight going on? I understand there's complexity and nuance in any local election. Well, you know, state election, fair. But he won it by 12 points. These things shouldn't but up for discussion, and yet they are. So, how significant is that?

ASTORINO: Politics is cyclical. And we're in a time right now.

The big question, I think, is we know Democrats are really excited about voting over the last two years going in.


ASTORINO: Republics have kind of sleepwalked over the last two years, and that's why they lost some close races. They didn't get out their vote. I think that's starting to change now. They're waking up. They're seeing what Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats stand for, what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stand for.

And this is almost a referendum on Speaker Pelosi and Ilhan Omar and AOC as it is --

BURNETT: Trump is trying to make it.

So, at this point, Joan, let me ask you, you talk about warren and Sanders and obviously, she's been rising in the polls. Biden is still by far the front-runner, but has been dropping and you can combine Warren and Sanders and get a number of a lot more than Joe Biden's.

WALSH: Sure, sure.

BURNETT: So, Tim Ryan, OK --


BURNETT: -- is a guy who's running for president.

WALSH: I have heard.

BURNETT: He's come out and said something that a lot of people won't say, but some people are talking about, OK? He told Bloomberg that he thinks Biden is, quote, declining.

WALSH: And not in the polls.

BURNETT: And not in the polls, all right?

So, he came out and said this and then he explained those comments to CNN. Here's what he said.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not like I said something that a lot of people aren't thinking, or he wouldn't have went on Colbert to talk about it. So this is an issue, we have to be honest with each other. There's so much at stake in this election.


BURNETT: OK. There's the fact that he said it, which --

WALSH: Right.

BURNETT: -- you know, perhaps is not right or inappropriate. But is he right that this is what people are really thinking and this is important?

WALSH: Some people are, but, you know, I don't know that the Democratic base voters are paying that much attention. I think it's a terrible thing for him to do. I think he looks really desperate. He's at about 1 percent in the polls.

It looks a little cruel. It's not going to work for him. Maybe it opens this door to other candidates.

But I think right now, people are going to be very loathed to challenge Biden in that kind of personal way. He's a very well- respected figure in the party. And I think it hurts anybody who goes there.

BURNETT: Will Trump go there? I mean, they're, what? Two and a half, three years apart in age?

WALSH: Trump is going there.

BURNETT: I mean, Trump goes there with Sleepy Joe, but he does go there, but he --

ASTORINO: But you know what? Trump says things that people realize have at least a kernel of truth to or points out the obvious. People are saying that Biden is slipping mentally. I mean -- and it's not the Republicans who started that. Democrats are doing it because they've got a lot at stake.

Now, look, Tim Ryan's not going anywhere. He's certainly not going to be a cabinet secretary now if Biden wins. But you know what?


The Democrats, for Warren and Biden -- for Buttigieg and Harris and Warren, they want that dialogue out there. There's no question.

BURNETT: Right. Is that fair to say, Joan?

WALSH: Probably.

BURNETT: That they're glad Tim Ryan said this? Because they don't want to say it, but they want --

WALSH: Probably. And, you know, he needs to be tested, even though, you know, he's as old as he is, can he withstand the rigors of this campaign? It's tough. He's got a lot of competitors.

BURNETT: And yet, he has withstood two debates. First, not a great performance. Second was better.

WALSH: Was better.

BURNETT: And this week, another important debate.

ASTORINO: Yes, but since then he's -- I mean, I don't think he did very well on the climate change town hall.

BURNETT: The town hall.

WALSH: I didn't either.

ASTORINO: I think, you know, his whole story about the soldier and all of this stuff and Parkland students, when he was vice president, I mean, so he's really -- he's made some not gaffes, but he's made some really big errors.

WALSH: The interesting thing, though, I mean, I kind of feel like the Biden campaign's way of handling these gaffes, so to speak, you know, is to say, well, it's essentially true. To borrow -- you know, you don't hold Trump to account, right? You know, Trump lies all the time, so we're just going to -- we're going to dig in. I gave a medal to a guy who didn't want it, it was very sad. That part's true.

I'm not defending this, but this is what they look to be doing.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both.

And next, Trump slamming his 2020 Republican challengers.


TRUMP: The three people are a total joke. They're a joke. They're a laughingstock.


BURNETT: Well, one of them, Mark Sanford, responds.

And we'll take you to one of the most majestic places in the United States. What is happening there could impact everyone on earth for generations to come.



BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump ruling out debates with the three Republicans challenging him for 2020.


TRUMP: Are you willing to debate the Republicans who are running against you?

TRUMP: I don't know them. I would say this, they're all at less than 1 percent. It's a -- I guess it's a publicity stunt.

To be honest, I'm not looking to give them any credibility. They have no credibility.

The three people are a total joke. They're a joke. They're a laughingstock.


BURNETT: All right. Well, OUTFRONT now is one of those Republicans, the latest entry into the 2020 race, former Republican congressman and governor from South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

Governor, good to have you back.

So, I just look at the numbers here, putting aside the way he says things, 84 percent approval rating among Republicans is what he has right now. Now, Republicans are only about a quarter of registered voters, but in Republican primaries, they're the ones who matter.

So his words may be completely and utterly inappropriate, but is his point right?

MARK SANFORD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, no at two different levels. One, to your first point, everybody is a joke compared to Donald Trump. The sun, moon, and stars are aligned around him. And so, Rex Tillerson, who happened to run ExxonMobil, and you can be for him or against him, but is an awfully credible guy and a former secretary of state was a joke. Paul Ryan, who was the author of the tax plan that the president has now claimed, was somehow a joke.

I could go down a litany of different folks where everybody is considered a joke if you're not Donald Trump. As to your second point on the 84 percent, I think that what's most telling about those polls is that it suggests that his support is a mile wide and perhaps an inch deep. Because about half of those folks consistently, in the polls that I've heard, have said that they would like to see the president challenged, that they would like to have a debate on where we go next as a Republican Party.

BURNETT: So, look, he has no problem getting in the mud and getting nasty, OK? Against anyone and everyone. So, when it comes to you, he talks about, you know, when you were not -- missing as governor because you were having an extramarital affair. He loves to bring it up.

Here's what he said today.


TRUMP: The third one, Mr. Tallahassee trail or Appalachian Trail, he's the Appalachian Trail, right? The Tallahassee trail is nice, too. But I think he was the Appalachian Trail. But he wasn't on the Appalachian Trail, he was in Argentina.


BURNETT: I don't know anything about the Tallahassee trail.

But, look, what we both know, Governor, is that this is what he lives for. He's going to just keep throwing stuff like this at you. Are you ready for it, for the months of this that you are going to endure?

SANFORD: I am, because I've got four sons that love me and that's what counts. I've got a God above that I know loves me. And again, you get those things right with a couple of friends and everything else is gravy.

I think that his worldview is entirely misguided, because it's all about him. At the end of the day, politics ought to be about the very people that we represent and attempt to represent. And so, he can blow me up for something that I did ten years ago that I've apologized for profusely, that I've been on the journey of repentance and renewal and a second chance, which I believe is part and parcel of the Christian faith.

And most importantly, the people who knew me best gave me a second chance. After that, they sent me back to the United States Congress to represent them in Washington, D.C.


SANFORD: So, again, he's going to do what he's going to do, but I think what's important is to go back to, how is it that what we're talking about impacts your life? How does it improve the lives and the opportunities for your kids and your grandkids?

And so, I find it really perplexing that he can go on with attacks ad nauseam, but not talk about, for instance, the debt and the deficit and government spending that's spiraled under his watch.

BURNETT: And it has.

SANFORD: Though he said he would do the opposite when he ran for office.

BURNETT: And he did. And you and I have talked about that, he did directly promise that and he has done the opposite. That's the facts.

You have said fiscal responsibility is one of the key reasons you're running, right? That you are running for a reason, for a cause, a specific policy cause. OK.

So I want to just understand, Governor, where you stand. Because you said that the president is taking us down a dangerous road financially and that you believe that we are heading toward the most significant financial storm since the Great Depression. That's what you said since you got in the race yesterday. You've been very clear, you have not minced words.

Last month, though, you said you would vote for Donald Trump over a Democrat, because he would be the Republican nominee.


Is that still the case? I mean, is it -- would you end up voting for a guy who's going to put us into the most significant financial storm since the Great Depression?

SANFORD: No, no, but let me be clear and explain where I stand on that.

I'm an issues guy. And as you've correctly pointed out, the center focus of my one-day-old campaign is indeed on where we're going as a country financially and I believe issues on trade, I believe issues on civility, I believe issues on institutions and a lot of others, but we'll come back to that.

As it relates to this issue of could I vote for him? Well, the question is, compared to who? So the talk that I hear amongst Democratic friends is Elizabeth Warren is on the rise, or Bernie Sanders is on the rise. That camp is on the rise.

And my simple point would be, I will make that decision at the time, if I get there, based on who's closest to me on the debt/deficit, and spending issues. I think that the president's destructive, but to this larger point, I think that some of the policies that have been proposed on the Democratic side have been even worse with and I would make that judgment call based on what I saw at that time.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so very much, Governor. I appreciate talking to you again, sir. SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

BURNETT: And next, we take you to one of the most beautiful places in America, where scientists have made an alarming discovery.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on what could be a presidential campaign first.



BURNETT: Tonight, the House set to vote this week to block offshore drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And our Bill Weir discovered that there are already dramatic environmental changes impacting Alaska as I speak.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a trip across Alaska this summer, from the iceless north to the smoky south, and you'll see that when it comes to alarming changes, the last frontier feels like the first in line.


WEIR: Fire season used to end on August 1st, like rainy clockwork, but it is so hot and dry, the swan lake fire has been burning for three months. And the most populous part of the state is swallowing more smoke than ever before.

BRIAN BRETTSCHNEIDER, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA: If you look at the actual observations, we have had more than twice as many smoky hours in 2019 than any other season. And in fact, almost as many as all other years combined.

WEIR: And when Anchorage is hotter than Key West on the Fourth of July, it can turn the steady drip of a glacier into something much more dramatic.

That was a calving event last month at the Spencer glacier, just one of dozens of melting red flags.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: This whole lake was -- there was no lake in early 1950s.

WEIR (on camera): Really? So the ice went all the way down to the --

BRETTSCHNEIDER: To the end of the lake.

WEIR: End of the lake down there.


WEIR (voice-over): A recent study finds that since the '60s, melting Alaskan glaciers have contributed more to sea level rise than Greenland, Antarctica or any other part of the world.

(on camera): Since every one of these molecules that goes into the ocean goes everywhere, this is not just a changing Alaskan landscape story, this is a Miami story. This is a Charleston and San Francisco Bay story.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: You know, once this water melts off and goes into the ocean, you know, as long as we have all of this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it's not coming back here.

WEIR (voice-over): Health scientists like Michael Hahn (ph) are equally worried about changes harder to see, like new kinds of ticks bringing new kinds of disease north.

And when Dr. Jeffrey Demain studied insect bite trends since the '90s, he found that way up in the Arctic Circle stings from yellow jacket wasps jumped over 600 percent in five years.

DR. JEFFREY G. DEMAIN, MD, CLINICAL PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: So, the queens are now in snow pack without a severe weather and they're surviving. So, more queens, the more colonies. The more colonies, the more yellow jackets.

WEIR: And then there are the fish so vital to this economy. While Bristol Bay saw another epic salmon run, more and more streams are just too hot for the fish to spawn.

SUE MAUGER, SCIENCE DIRECTOR, COOK INLETKEEPER: The temperatures we saw this summer are what we expected for 2069.

WEIR (on camera): Really?

MAUGER: We're 50 years ahead of where we thought we would be for stream temperatures. So that's very alarming.

WEIR (voice-over): Meanwhile, out at sea, this research team from NOAA is spending the summer measuring all kinds of arctic change, including those at the bottom of the food chain.

MAUGER: We are looking at harmful algae blooms, though.

WEIR (on camera): OK.

MAUGER: So they're taking sample for toxins in the water from harmful algae.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's warmer if they're coming up farther north, right?

EISNER: And sooner, maybe. So, that's a big concern for the communities. That's food safety.

WEIR (voice-over): This state is such a gorgeous reminder of how earth's goldilocks climate held so many forms of life together in harmony. But in a too-hot future, with more fire than ice, what comes next is anyone's guess. Bill Weir, CNN, Anchorage.


BURNETT: Incredible story.

And next, Jeannie, on the Yang Gang and Andrew Yang at new heights.



BURNETT: Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It used to be that dancing or the inability to distance was the measure of a politician's hip factor.

But now, the bar has been lifted, much higher, thanks to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang's crowd surfing.


MOOS: Oops, don't drop him! Haven't crowd surfed in a while, Yang tweeted. Supporters chimed in, may I say you are officially cooler than Barack Obama? The hashtag, Yang surfing surfaced.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.

MOOS: Supporters wear hats saying: MATH, Make America Think Harder.

But some didn't think much of Yang's crowd surfing, calling it Yang's Howard Dean moment.


MOOS: The overenthusiastic Dean scream was often blamed for bringing his presidential campaign to a screeching halt.

DEAN: And then we're going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House! Yeah!

MOOS: Will Andrew Yang some day regret his crowd surfing? Actually, he wasn't the first. Almost 20 years ago, conservative presidential candidate Alan Keyes lowered himself into a mosh pit, egged on by Michael Moore.

(on camera): You know, there are easier ways for candidates to evaluate themselves.

(voice-over): Remember Beto O'Rourke's penchant for jumping on counters and even minivans? BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for allowing me

to stand on your counter.

MOOS: And now, we have Andrew Yang to thank for political crowd surfing on the very same day dog surfing took place in Delmar Beach, California. One big difference, when Yang got done surfing, he didn't shake.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thanks for watching. Anderson starts now.