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Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) Is Interviewed About His Thoughts On Firing Of John Bolton By President Trump; North Korea Says It Test Fired "Super-Large Multiple Rocket Launcher" On Same Day Bolton Was Forced Out; Elizabeth Warren Draws Big Crowd At Town Hall In Texas; Awaiting First Results in North Carolina Special Election; NYT: Trump Had Deal With Airport That Sent Flight Crews to His Scottish Resort. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... company Cobra acquisitions. The former President of Cobra as well as the second FEMA official who left the organization in 2018 were also charged. Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Bolton bites the dust. The President firing his National Security Advisor not because they openly disagreed on policy. No, this was actually because of a personal vendetta. Plus, the Trump slump, a new CNN poll revealing what could be great concern to the President and his re-election hopes. And polls about the closing of crucial special election that has national implications. Results expected to come in this hour. Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, it was personal. We are learning more this hour about the bitter breakup between Trump and Bolton. A source tells CNN that President Trump turned on his now former National Security Adviser, John Bolton because he thought Bolton made him look bad this week.

Trump wanted to humiliate Bolton in exchange. There's Bolton at the White House 8:44 am this morning work as usual. Taking a phone call outside. He then went in and led a meeting with top administration officials and then, boom, a tweet.

The operative part of that tweet, quote, I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. Well, that's not Bolton's version. Now, sources tell CNN Trump was livid that Bolton seems to be the source for a story about how Bolton told Trump that hosting the Taliban at Camp David was a bad idea.

Now, Trump, of course, was resoundingly slammed for that summit plan right around the 9/11 anniversary. He felt Bolton was the one who made him look bad. Tonight, Bolton is fighting back. Yes. So the president says he's the one who fired Bolton and he did it last night.

Bolton is saying no way he resigned, quote, I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow." Trump wanted public embarrassment for Bolton. He let him come to work and take that call and be on camera, a press release even came out saying Bolton was going to appear at a briefing with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who were also blindsided by Trump's move.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bolton was on the guidance to be here. So were you two blindsided by what occurred today that he's no longer with the administration? Was it news for you today because last night you were told that he would be here today.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. I'm never surprised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let me ask you ...

POMPEO: And I don't mean that on just this issue.


BURNETT: Now, think about what Trump thinks hearing that. I mean look at their faces again. Yes, decided to freeze it. They get it. They work for a person whose sudden rage and focused on personal slights means that nothing is normal and nothing can surprise them.

One source close to the administration telling CNN today after the President's, well, whatever word you'd like to use; resignation, firing, "It's a real snake pit (run by) an erratic president who is hard to manage and who brings out the worst sensibilities in people.

Kaitlan Collins is out front live outside the White House. So Kaitlan, what more are you learning about what went down here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we know there was this Oval Office meeting between President Trump and John Bolton yesterday which we are told turned into this bitter disagreement over that decision by the President to initially host leaders of the Taliban at Camp David, something that John Bolton strongly disagreed with.

But not only that, he also thought that the Taliban was getting too much leverage in those U.S.-Taliban peace talks. But the President was furious about the fact that he believed Bolton had made all too public how much he was pushing back on the President's plan to host them at Camp David. And it essentially turned into this fight which is what led to this today, where the President is insisting he fired John Bolton, John Bolton is insisting that he resigned.

But, of course, this was just the straw that broke the camel's back. It is not the only issue that lies with John Bolton in this West Wing. He was someone who was essentially isolated from President Trump, iced out by Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff and barely on speaking terms with the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

So essentially you saw this coming and one evidence of that was that at the G7 summit in France just a few weeks ago John Bolton was tentatively scheduled to go on the Sunday shows, defend the administration news of day. But we're told by sources that he said he was uncomfortable defending their position on Russia which had become a big topic during that summit.

And essentially his aides were only defending it by saying that they believed Larry Kudlow or Steven Mnuchin was better suited at defending their position on tariffs. But that essentially showed you that if you work in the Trump White House, you had to be willing to go on TV and defend the President's policies and that's something that John Bolton wasn't willing to do during that summit.

And now the President says he's going to announce his fourth National Security adviser next week. Until then, Bolton's deputy Charlie Kupperman is going to take over in the meanwhile, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. I'll emphasize this later, but he's had more National Security advisors in the past three years than the last two presidents had in their entire two terms. Out front now Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.


Congressman, look, OK, let's be honest. You didn't like John Bolton. You recently questioned if anyone would be surprised if he got the United States into a war with Iran over very, very questionable intelligence in your words. So are you bottom-line happy that all this has happened?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I'm never fully happy with anything this president does. Sure, I'm glad John Bolton is gone. One of the chief architects of the Iraq war. The military first option, the unilateral action option using questionable intelligence. Sure, I'm glad he's gone.

About, obviously, two main concerns. First, it's hard to believe his successor won't be in the same cloth and second, you mentioned this is the fourth National Security Advisor, second Secretary of State, third chief of staff. It's a foreign policy in shambles anyway, but the lack of continuity certainly hurts.

BURNETT: The thing about it is though Bolton did fight the President strenuously on this whole idea of bringing the Taliban to Camp David, which the President was resoundingly criticized for on both sides of the aisle. Could it be that Trump is actually worse off without Bolton? And I know you disagreed with Bolton on a lot of things, but is it possible that having him gone is worse?

QUIGLEY: Well, it could be but only in one sense and that is the overriding problem whether it's Bolton or not is the president doesn't want anyone who's just going to say yes or agree or show him great adulation, so that's the bigger concern. It isn't that it's John, it's that he doesn't want anybody who's going to disagree with him.

Foreign policy especially now is a difficult task enough as it is without these internal problems. The President of the United States should be surrounding himself with a team of rivals who are going to disagree with him. And then at the very end using all that advice, good and bad, the President hopefully makes the right decision.

BURNETT: So I want to play for you the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who obviously personally is no fan of Boltons, we all know that, oil and water, policy-wise as well. But he was asked whether he knew Bolton's departure was coming. And I just want to play that exchange again because I have to say, he doesn't usually crack in terms of his reaction but this was telling. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bolton was on the guidance to be here. So were you two blindsided by what occurred today that he's no longer with the administration? Was it news for you today because last night you were told that he would be here today.

POMPEO: Yes. I'm never surprised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let me ask you ...

POMPEO: And I don't mean that on just this issue.


BURNETT: Never surprised not just on this issue as he's laughing. What do you make of that?

QUIGLEY: It's the second half of the problem of the Trump administration's foreign policy. Our allies are constantly surprised. They don't know what to expect. If anything they want certainty and a number of things that have taken place in the last several months had given them no assurance that they can trust us, they can count on us or know what the President is going to do next.

BURNETT: I understand what you're saying. I'm just saying Secretary Pompeo, of course, has been - he's been loyal but he's very respected. Was he standing up to the President there?

QUIGLEY: In his own mild way, yes. That's about as much as anyone can stand up to the President at this point.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you about one other major story tonight. Multiple senior officials, Congressman, who served under Trump are telling us that the President has repeatedly expressed opposition to using basically spies, covert sources of people who are not American to get information. He doesn't trust them and he thinks it will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, because the United States is using spies from those countries. Do you think that he has a point?

QUIGLEY: I think the President has no clue what he's thinking about or talking about when he says that. The fact of the matter is our country is safer because other countries share critical information with us. If anyone thinks our intelligence service can get all the information in the world, it is a big complicated world.

In some of those countries, in Eastern Europe, for example, they don't have the military might and maybe they don't spend enough of their percentage of GDP on the military. But I can tell you my third term on the Intelligence Committee, they keep us safe. Our allies share critical information that saves Americans lives.

And when the President does something to denigrate them as he denigrates our own Intel service, we are less safe.

BURNETT: So this comes after we learn that the United States extracted one of the highest level sources that the U.S. had inside the Russian government, senior source that the United States had cultivated for years, a source who was central to the crucial conclusion, right, to knowing that Vladimir Putin himself directed Russian intervention in the United States election.


This is as important and significant and long-standing of a source in the Russian government as we have. The reason the United States did this and pulled this person out of Moscow was fear that Trump could expose this person. Do you think that President Trump would purposefully have given that information to the Russians or would it just have been out of cluelessness?

QUIGLEY: Well, the President can do any number of things wittingly or unwittingly. I can't comment on merits of that extraordinarily sensitive story. What I'll say is this, the mere fact that the reports are out there, not just of this incidence but the meeting in the Oval Office with the Russians. The satellite photos involving the Iranians. The fact that the media reports are out there are enough to discourage our allies from sharing critical information because they don't think that information will be kept safe and obviously that will impact their sources and methods making them less safe.

BURNETT: And just so that we understand, I know it's highly sensitive but can you tell me whether your committee has been briefed about this spy and what happened, the extraction and the merits.

QUIGLEY: Yes. Just doing my job right, I can't comment on that. I apologize.

BURNETT: All right. Well, that's OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Congressman.

QUIGLEY: Any time. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next breaking news, North Korea now saying it has a quote super large multiple rocket launcher, coming on the same day that hawk, John Bolton is cut loose. Is North Korea emboldened? Plus, Elizabeth Warren about to speak to another big crowd in Texas. What does the enthusiasm tell us about her campaign. And the breaking news, polls just about to close in that crucial special election that could set the stage for 2020.


[19:16:04] BURNETT: Breaking news, Kim Jong-un overseeing a major weapons test.

North Korea announcing tonight they fired a quote super large multiple rocket launcher. The news coming just hours after long time North Korea hawk, John Bolton's tenure as Trump's top national security adviser ended in a complete breakdown with Trump.

Out front now Former Adviser to Four Presidents David Gergen, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and Atlantic Staff Writer Graeme Wood who wrote an article last year titled John Bolton May Save Us All.

David Gergen, there is obviously no love lost between North Korea and John Bolton. The country has called him a human scum and a defective human product, quote, before. Could Bolton's abrupt and nasty departure emboldened Kim?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Absolutely. I think it's going to embolden some other countries. Initially, they're going to wait. They're going to try to poke and see if they can cause some mischief as a mayhem and see how we'll snap back realizing that the National Security team under the President is not complete.

Now, we have yet another acting person coming into the NSC. The NSC staff very loyal to Bolton, they don't know where they're going. So this is a good time for our ally or our rivals to experiment.

With that said, I think that most people in the foreign policy community especially in the Democrats foreign policy are very relieved that Bolton is going in one sense.


GERGEN: And that is it makes it less likely we'll go to war.

BURNETT: Is it a 'be careful what you wish for' for them? Tonight, Gloria, I mean, look Bolton took him on, right?


BURNETT: And that is in stark contrast to Trump who at least publicly has acquiesced to almost every one of Kim's requests, even ending U.S. military drills, even as Kim has ramped up missile tests. So the contrast between Bolton's long-standing views on Korea and Trump's position could not be more stark, lest anyone forget here they are.


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We can overthrow Kim Jong-un's regime.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a funny guy. He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people.

BOLTON: The way you eliminate the North Korea nuclear program is to eliminate North Korea.

TRUMP: A lot of friendships has been made and this has been in particular a great friendship.

BOLTON: The fact is we've failed for 25 years because of diplomatic efforts to chitchat North Korea out of nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letter. We fell in love.


BURNETT: Well, now the love narrative, Gloria, wins out.

BORGER: Right. And it makes you wonder. I mean just looking through all of those clips, it makes you wonder why Donald Trump hired Bolton in the first place. They disagree on just about everything, particularly something like North Korea and he could have just Googled the guy's name and found out exactly what he thought.

So it's really no surprise in the end that over the Taliban going to Camp David and the question of who leaked disagreement within the administration and Trump pointing the finger at Bolton, it's no surprise that in the end it all fell apart.

BURNETT: It all fell apart.


BURNETT: But, of course - and it should be no surprise it didn't fall apart for any substantive reason but because of personal vendettas and issues. I mean, Graeme, a senior member of the Trump administration, remember that scathing op-ed in The New York Times, quote in part, many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. We fully recognize what is happening and we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't.

You say and you know him very well that Bolton was the last adult in the room.

GRAEME WOOD, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. Bolton was the last person in the Trump National Security establishment who actually had some experience in a properly functioning White House, so he was an important person just because he brought some experience to the table.

What he might have been, however, is a crazy or bellicose adult in the room but he was an adult in the room, so he was important at least in that regard.


BURNETT: And when you say that he could be the one that saves Donald Trump, I mean I know you weren't referring to this specific moment, but you're making a bigger point here which is that even if you don't like what he thought, he provided a value.

WOOD: Yes. He had seen process work. He'd seen a normal White House working. And because of that, he knew how processes worked and it just turned out that those processes didn't matter that much because all that really matters is staying in the good graces of Donald Trump, which John Bolton was not able to do.

BURNETT: Right. And David that is what it comes down to, right, that it wasn't these disagreements on policy which were known as Gloria points out well before John Bolton ever took the job. It was personal bitterness and acrimony and then Trump choosing to do it in a humiliating way this morning.

David, the bottom line is there's been four National Security advisors for Trump in less than three years which is more than the last three presidents had in their entire two terms combined. So is this hurting United States security?

GERGEN: I think it does weaken the United States security and one fundamental way, I think, the Graeme was talking about, John Bolton was the adult in the room or the more experienced person in the room. And when you're in to your fourth person in three years, you're really reaching down into the second or third string.

You just don't get the kind of confidence and particularly knowing if you go to work now with this president, you're not going to last. He's going to turn on you at some point. He's going to be bitter towards you. There's no class in a way you're going to be dumped at the door.

And I just think we don't get the kind of high quality people that you want to get and you need to have around the president, whoever he is.

BURNETT: So Graeme, you've spent a lot of time around John Bolton. You've written about him in depth. So he's now come out and contradicted the President, the President is, "Make it clear, I fired you." And he comes out and says, "No. Make it clear I resigned." Do you think Bolton is going to do what a lot of others haven't done?

WOOD: I think he's already started with that.

BURNETT: Tell all, fight back.

WOOD: Yes. The President's tweet was an undignified way to dismiss a National Security adviser. It was not the type of missive that would send someone off with appreciation. So John Bolton is a very prideful man. He is someone who does not let vendettas just disappear. He holds grudges. He's best known in Washington for doing that.

So I would be surprised if those grudges were not coming to you within a matter of hours, not days.

BURNETT: Gloria.

BORGER: And Erin, let me just add something here because I heard from a senior Democratic foreign policy maven, if you will, unsolicited today and he made the point to me about how we all ought to be thinking about the National Security operation inside the White House which he called completely dysfunctional. And he said, "Look, it's important to reflect on the fact that Mike

Pompeo is now the last person standing. Everyone else. McMaster, Mattis, Coats, Tillerson, Kelly (ph), Kirstjen Nielsen found it impossible he said to work with Trump and they come away very bitter about their experience." So will he talk about it? I bet he will.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, David Gergen it does put so much pressure on Mike Pompeo. I do emphasize it is not in his normal way to sort of make a joke about how - you never know what you're going to get from that guy who works two doors down today. He laughed at the President.

GERGEN: Yes. But listen this is a big victory for Pompeo.


BURNETT: Yes. Right, he didn't like Bolton.

GERGEN: He gets a man out the door as if they went into a speaking terms and he's got the whole agenda. I think it is going to make it tougher for him to accept these invitations to come out and run for the Senate, because he is the last man standing. I would think he's going to be under heavy pressure to stay in.

But still you can't do, you can't run this government with one strong person out in the State Department. You need a team of people, first- class people to do it and that's what's missing here.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, a new CNN poll could spell trouble for Trump in 2020 or could it. Plus, breaking news, we are just minutes away from polls closing in a crucial special election. The first results are about to come in. So, of course, we are going to go to the wall and John King.



BURNETT: Right now, Elizabeth Warren getting ready to speak to a big crowd in Texas. You see that live there. It is a red state that she wants to put into play. And when you look at all those people gathering, she's not yet on stage, it does bring to mind something interesting. Some of her crowds lately have even exceeded some of Trump's bragged about crowd sizes.

So he's bragged about crowds recently and then she's pulled a crowd even bigger. Out front now Keith Boykin, former Clinton White House aide and Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.

So Keith, as we look at that crowd here, we'll put them back up, they're waiting for her. She's rising in the polls. Her crowd tonight, wherever she is, by far her crowds overall are the biggest in the Democratic field and as I point out rivaling Trump's in some cases. Is this a sign you should be worried? KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I

don't know if a sign that Trump should be worried, but it is an indication the Democrats are enthusiastic about her candidacy and about Democrats in general. We saw this momentum from the 2018 midterm elections.

And the problem though is how do you determine how this fits into the 2020 cycle and that's something nobody can really figure out at this early stage. I'm really skeptical of reading too much into the polls at this point. But I do think it's a good sign for Elizabeth Warren.

Remember, back in December on New Year's Eve when she announced her candidacy, a lot of people thought she was dead in the water.

BURNETT: Oh, yes.

BOYKIN: And here she is, she's joined with 10s of thousands of people in some of her crowds.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And this is, you know, obviously, in the context of the whole Pocahontas thing in putting whatever she did with putting, you know, Native American an ancestry, and they already know it.


BURNETT: They knew it. As Trump already said, they knew already knew. He's already used it. He's got to find something else because they clearly don't care.

Scott, these crowds are getting the attention of President Trump and they are, and they're irking him.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have crowds that are many times what her crowds are. Nobody ever talks about them. Nobody wants to talk about them.

With her the other day, they say she had 15. If you really count them up, it looked like about eight or nine, and the biggest story was her crowds. That's like a small crowd for me.


BURNETT: You know, Scott, you want to hear something like that I want to laugh and then I realize this is the reality of the world we live in. OK.

Is he underestimating here as a challenger and is actually his sort of obsession there as strange as that was proof that he is not underestimating her? SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's

probably -- he watches more news coverage of the primary than any of the three of us sitting here. And so, when he sees news coverage that says somebody is getting big crowds, obviously, that perks up his ears.

Look, I think they're going to run against her if she's the nominee the same way they run against any of them. You know, they're all basically coming out for the same kind of programming across, you know, economic, immigration, national security issues. And so, I think they'll end up treating her the exact same way, and try to make it a real choice instead of a referendum on him.

Do you want a more left-leaning socialist country or do you want more free-market type of programming that I'm offering? So, I don't know that --

BURNETT: Well, you strategist types may try to do that, but he's going to be yelling about Pocahontas and crowds.

JENNINGS: Oh, sure. That will be part of the matrix, as well. And, by the way, you know, he'll be running again in a campaign environment where he's almost certain to have his own image will probably be worst, at least at the outset than the Democratic nominee and he'll have to figure out again how to win in that environment and he did in 2016 and he'll have to do it again in 2020.

BURNETT: So, Keith, here's the thing -- you know, this comes perhaps to what you are alluding to, Scott. A new poll shows tonight shows 60 percent of Americans say that President Trump does not deserve a second term. His approval rating now is 39 percent, OK, which is the lowest for him in I believe nine months.

Obama, though, was only at 43 percent at this point in the first term. Clinton was only at 44.

BOYKIN: Right.

BURNETT: They both won. Now, I know in the world of political polls, you can say 39 versus 43, big difference. But, you know, it doesn't sound like a big difference. Does this low approval really matter?

BOYKIN: Well, yes and no. I don't think the five-point spread between Obama and Trump is statistically significant in terms of where Trump stands. What's more important is the larger trend, and the fact that for the entirety of his administration, he's never once been above 50 percent in the public opinion poll averages.

That's never happened in modern polling before. We've never seen anything president in modern history who has been so despised. And not only that, we've also never seen a president who has made no attempt whatsoever to reach beyond his base, to try to expand the electorate so he can actually get independents to vote for him, possibly even Democrats to vote for him. He's running entirely on getting out his base and he has no intention of trying to convince anybody else. BURNETT: Scott?

JENNINGS: Yes, in this CNN poll, I was looking back on the polling on him in the last two weeks of the campaign in 2016.


JENNINGS: His favorable and unfavorable was about 39 to 58, at the end of the election.

BURNETT: Pretty darn close to now.

JENNING: And Hillary was about 10 points better than that.

So, he's pretty much frankly about where he and was he figured out how to win an election when he was a little bit more unpopular than his opponent. So what does that mean? It means you're going to try to define your opponent. In a vacuum, you can say, I don't want to re- elect Trump, but elections aren't vacuums, they're choices, and so, you try to get those people that are uneasy about you and say the other choice is that much worse.

And so, again, I think that's why you're going to see him run against all these Democrats virtually the same which is that they're all running on the same program, which would take us in the wrong direction.

BURNETT: So, it's an interesting point you make, right, Keith, that people -- he won with a pretty despising set of numbers, so he won. And now, here he is, one of the things and I don't know if this is directly linked to approval, but I will note, his approval rating has dipped in the economy below 50 percent for the first time since January, that had been something really holding him up. That has now dipped below.

And another new poll from ABC News and "Washington Post" say the majority of voters expect a recession within the year. OK. Now, if there is not a recession which we should all hope there is not, could Trump's numbers surge? Because maybe part of the reason people are expecting something bad will happen to them and it doesn't.

BOYKIN: Well, I don't think the recession or not really matters because his numbers have been low despite that the public has for a long time assumed that the economy is actually strong.


BOYKIN: I didn't give him any credit for that, but the public assumed that. If you think of the catastrophes that has happened since he's taken office, though, after the tax cuts even, when you see his appointment of Jerome Powell, and he's criticizing the Fed for not lowering interest rates, you see the president launching his trade wars and he has to bail out the farmers.


You see the deficit is rising to almost a trillion dollars --


BOYKIN: The debt has increased by $2 trillion, and we have a president who seems to be completely unaware of all of this because he's just telling everybody the economy is great and don't pay attention to all of the indicators that are telling you that you should be alarmed.

BURNETT: Scott? Final word.

JENNINGS: Yes, I think macro indicators mean less to voters than micro indicators. Is my own paycheck going up? Do I feel secure in my own job? Those are the kinds of things that if you're an incumbent presidential campaign, you're more worried about.

So, to the extent that, say, you know, white-collar workers in the suburbs that stuck with Trump to some degree in 2016 are feeling worse on those indicators, those personal indicators in 2020, that is a red flashing light for them, and they've got to get the president focused on talking to them about, A, how he's working to shore up those indicators and, B, presenting the Democrats as a riskier alternative.

So if you're a little worried about the future today, imagine how bad it can get if say Elizabeth Warren shows up and raises your taxes, and so on and so forth.

BURNETT: Well, that's --

JENNINGS: So, the macro indicators fascinate the media, but it's the micro indicators. Is my own paycheck and my own job, my own 529 account for my kids, does that stuff feel good to me?

BOYKIN: Well --

BURNETT: And crowd size, perhaps, is the derivative indicator of how people feel. You're not going to show up at something unless you're passionate about somebody. It takes a lot of time to do that.

All right. Thank you both.

And next, we're standing by for the first results of a special election that could alter the race for 2020. John King is at the magic wall.

Plus, a new investigation uncovering the number of taxpayer-funded stays at Trump resorts is surging and the president is benefiting. So what will be done?



BURNETT: Breaking news: polls just closing in a crucial special election. An election the president is watching extremely closely. It's North Carolina's 9th congressional district. Democrat Dan McCready versus Republican Dan Bishop.

So, Trump actually went to the state last night, hosted a big rally for Bishop, Pence came, Don Jr. came, he cares.

OUTFRONT now, CNN's chief national correspondent and the host of "INSIDE POLITICS", John King, who also cares about this one because it matters, John.

I mean, Trump won the district by 12 points. This, though, is incredibly close. So, why does it matter so much to Trump?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It matters so much, Erin, because he's trying to see the climate into 2020. He knows even just tonight, the new CNN poll, six in 10 Americans say they want a new president.

The president wants to prove all that wrong as he tries to re-create this. This is the 2016 map. No, the president does not like to be reminded he lost the popular vote, but he does like to look at this map and say, I won the Electoral College.

And, of course, North Carolina was a big part of that. A very competitive state, but the president won over Hillary Clinton there by a pretty decent margin, so what about North Carolina 9?

Let's take a look here. I'm going to bring this up. This is the district at play tonight, North Carolina 9.

You mentioned, the president won it by a healthy margin. Let me get straight into the district here, we come forward here. And we look at the district. The president won the district by 12 points.

So, why are we talking about this tonight? Why isn't this a lock for the Republicans? Because of what happened in 2018. Republicans got hammered in the suburbs, a revolt against the president of the United States that made Nancy Pelosi speaker and cost the House Republicans their majority.

So, in both parties, they want to know, is that carrying over? As we from 2019 close to 2020, is it carrying over?

So, let's take a closer look at the district and stretch it out. Here, Mecklenburg County, near Charlotte, this is the biggest part of the district. If you go back to 2016 to invoke these days to draw on map, Erin, this is the entire county, this is the entire county, Hillary Clinton --

BURNETT: You got the exact shape, too.

KING: Yes, Hillary Clinton won Mecklenburg County back in 2016. She won the entire county, but the parts of the county that are in the ninth district, the president carried, not but a huge margin, though. Why is this important? Charlotte, suburbs and the beginning of the excerpts, this is an area that's been trending from the Republicans to the Democrats and does it continue tonight. Did the president's visit turn out Republicans or does it turn out suburbanites and people in the close exurbs who are tired of the president? That's one of the things we're going to learn. Not only in that end of the district, but the other end of the district, over here in Cumberland County.

Again, Fayetteville right here, anywhere in America, find an urban area, it's likely to be blue. If you move away, the close in suburbs are blue. This is the area farther out, the Republicans have been protecting -- these are a lot of votes in this district right here. Does this stay tonight as we get the votes?

We're told we get the votes, we're told we get the voters in about 30 minutes or so. So, it's one district in North Carolina.

Look how close Cumberland County was in the presidential race. Can the Democrats turn out enough people? Can the Republicans fire things up? Both parties are in testing technology in this race as they go into 2020, as well. So, just one district, but it could be important.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, John King.

And OUTFRONT now, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson.

OK. So, look, the bottom line, it's clear. Trump cares a lot about this.


BURNETT: And he is watching this one incredibly closely.

HENDERSON: Yes, and everyone. I mean, Republicans and Democrats are both watching this. A lot of money poured into this race, $11 million of the outside committee for Republicans poured a lot of money and a lot of ads on the air because they know this is going to tell them something about Trump's strength.

If you think about Dan Bishop, he's the Republican and he is running on Trump basically. He has said it's all about Trump.


HENDERSON: He has said, it's all about Trump. He would be essentially a foot soldier in Trump's culture war, if you will. He's run a campaign against the Democrat there, Dan McCready, basically calling him a socialist, right? I mean, that, too, is the Republican playbook and it's Trump's playbook, as well.

So, yes, a lot of eyeballs on this race. Listen, we might not know by the end of the night if you think about the last race that was tossed out, and that was only about, you know, a thousand votes or so. Of course, as I said, it got tossed out.


HENDERSON: So, we could be here a long night. All of the people I've talked to on both sides say this will be tight, tight, tight.

BURNETT: Which is amazing because, you know, to the point John is making, right, Nia, so Trump wins this district by nine points. So, OK, and there's if the Democrats win, fine, we all get the message, but what if Republicans win, but by substantially less?

HENDERSON: You know that shows that the trend that John King is talking about, this idea that folks, Republicans, who are white and college-educated, these are sort of suburban Republicans who are traditionally a part of the Republican tent, it will tell us something about how they're feeling about the Republican brand, about obviously, the --


BURNETT: Right, if it's a GOP, but by three, that still -- it's a big deal --

HENDERSON: It still shows that Republicans are losing a bit of their edge with this population of voters. And remember, this is also the population of voters that Biden thinks that he can get, right? These are Republican voters who are disaffected with the party, the direction that the president is going in terms of any number of issues and also the tone and the chaos which again, he is underscored by what happened today with John Bolton.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Nia.


BURNETT: And next, Democrats with a new game plan tonight to get to the bottom of why the Air Force has been staying at Trump's resort.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on the president returning to the trail to nowhere.


TRUMP: Mr. Tallahassee trail, or the Appalachian Trail. He's the Appalachian Trail, right? The Tallahassee trail is nice, too.




BURNETT: New tonight, the House Oversight Committee threatening to subpoena the Department of Defense for documents related to President Trump's golf resort in Scotland. The committee investigating Air Force crews staying at the president's resort.

The top House Republican dismissing concerns.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president's resorts are hotels that he owns. People are traveling. It's just like any other hotel. Is it different that if I go and stay or eat at a Marriott here or eat at the Trump? The president isn't asking me too. It's -- he's competing in a private enterprise.


BURNETT: Of course, the president has said he would not be in private enterprise because he is the president, and he has broken that promise. And, you know, this isn't like any hotel. It's owned by the president of the United States, who is personally profiting from taxpayer money being spent there.

OUTFRONT now, "New York Times" investigative reporter, Eric Lipton.

You know, Eric, look, we know that the president told Mike Pence to stay at his resort in Ireland, that Pence's chief of staff said that that's what happened. And now we've got the Air Force apparently staying at a Trump resort because they were refueling at an airport.

Trump tweeted: I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport which I don't own and have nothing to do with near Turnberry resort, which I do own in Scotland, filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry. They have good taste. Nothing to do with me.

Just to make it clear, Eric, he tweet is false because you report Trump does have something to do with that airport. What did you find?

ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I mean, this is sort of an unprecedented situation in modern United States history to have a president who is, you know, essentially the beneficial owner of a chain of hotels and golf courses at the same time he's the commander in chief.

And what we know is that in 2014, when the Trump family first bought this property, they immediately began negotiations with the local airport there to try to increase airport traffic, to look for ways to boost an airport that's struggling financially. In addition to talking about ways to increase airport traffic, they had negotiations with the airport management about potentially referring air crews that were landing at the airport to their hotel. And they discussed what rates they would charge and tried to get on a list, which they ended up getting on such a list.

So, now, they're one of a dozen hotels that the airport refers air crews that are arriving to, and that's why the Air Force crews are heading to the Trump Turnberry along with other hotels in that area, because when they land and they ask where should we go, they --

BURNETT: OK, what's interesting, I'm just making the point he has nothing to do with it, well, that's not true because you've done the reporting, and they've negotiated, the Trump Organization, a very specific thing here. You also found the result of that, Eric. The number of stops by Air Force planes, again, taxpayer-funded, at this airport rose from 180 in 2017, Trump's first year in office, to 257 last year, 259 already this year and we're at the beginning of September.

So we know Trump has not divested from the Trump Organization, right? He is clearly benefiting from this surge, and this is taxpayer money.

LIPTON: Yes, and this is, you know, be it the Mar-a-Lago, the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., the Bedminster in New Jersey or any of the other -- there are millions of dollars that are going into the Trump businesses that are coming from candidates spending there, lobbyists, evangelical groups, and also from the U.S. military from the State Department. It's a very unusual situation that creates all kinds of ethical questions.

BURNETT: Well, it certainly does and certainly he is profiting from his role as president. I guess we know that there is some investigating whether it's inappropriate or illegal or not.

Eric, thank you.

LIPTON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moos on the hunt for Trump's Tallahassee trail.


TRUMP: Tallahassee trail. The Tallahassee trail. Do they have a Tallahassee trail in Argentina?




BURNETT: President Trump can't get his attacks on rival Mark Sanford quite right.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Trump flings mud at his latest primary challenger for having an affair -- well, no wonder someone responded, let him who hath not had an extramarital affair cast the first tweet. But not only does the president keep casting, he keeps taking the wrong trail.

TRUMP: Mr. Tallahassee trail or Appalachian Trail. He's the Appalachian Trail, right? The Tallahassee trail is nice too.

MOOS: The Appalachian trail is where Mark Sanford's aides said he was hiking when the then-South Carolina governor was actually in Argentina with his mistress. But President Trump keeps getting lost.

TRUMP: On the Tallahassee trail, but he was actually in Argentina.

The Tallahassee trail. Must be a beautiful place.

Do they have a Tallahassee trail in Argentina? I don't think, right? No?

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Here's a shocker. There is no Tallahassee trail.

TRUMP: Well, actually there is. The Tallahassee-St. Marks Rail Trail, but it had nothing to do with Mark Sanford's saga.


President Trump didn't just get his trails crossed. He called Sanford's lover his flaming dancer friend.

(on camera): Flaming dancer? This calls for some Trump translation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we think he meant to type flamingo dancers.

MOOS (voice-over): But unless you mean dancing flamingos, the correct word is flamenco dancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which also would have been wrong because there is no evidence Sanford's mistress had ever been a flamenco dancer.

MOOS: But the Trumpian flaming dancer caught fire on the Internet. People kept changing the lyrics to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer". Hold me closer flaming dancer --


MOOS: Even if she's not a flamenco dancer.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.