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Source: Mulvaney Urged Commerce Secy. Ross To "Fix" Issue After NOAA Tweet That Contradicted Trump On Hurricane; Biden, Warren To Face Off On Debate State For The First Time As Warren Narrows Gap In New CNN Poll; ; Dem Candidate Tom Steyer is Interviewed About Preparing for Debate Debut in October. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, forget the facts just fix it. CNN learning the President chief of staff ordered the Commerce Secretary to fix the problem after the nation's weather officials called out Trump's error on hurricane Dorian. How is this acceptable? Plus, it's the most important 2020 faceoff thus far, Biden versus Warren. And tonight, new poll numbers show why the stakes could not be higher for Joe Biden. And a major crackdown on e-cigarettes which have been linked to deaths across this country. Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the fix was in. A White House official telling CNN that Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to, quote, fix the problem after the nation's weather officials put out facts which contradicted Trump's claim that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

The, quote, fix the problem is what Mulvaney told Ross and the problem is speaking the truth to the American people about Dorian's projected path. So today, Trump was asked about this and he resorted to his rant about hoax and fake.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell your chief of staff to have NOAA disavow those forecasters who said that Alabama was not in the path of the storm.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I never did that. I never did that. That's a whole hoax by the fake news media when they talk about the hurricane and when they talk about Florida and they talk about Alabama, that's just fake news. It was right from the beginning was a fake story.


BURNETT: Well, the truth here, of course, is that Trump made what could have been chopped up as a mistake, a simple mistake 10 days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds

nd something more than that, it could be. This just came up, unfortunately.


BURNETT: Well, it didn't came up. I mean, that statement was made days after Alabama was ruled out by NOAA as a potential target for Dorian. Trump not only wouldn't just say he made a mistake, he actively kept tweeting inaccurate information, doubling, tripling and then quadrupling down, tweeting outdated maps and spaghetti models.

And then, of course, the big moment, that, holding up a forecast map that have been altered with a crude line drawn, the black sharpie, his black sharpie that made it look like Alabama was in Dorian's path. So, of course, he was ridiculed.

So somehow his chief of staff on his own, if you believe what Trump just said there when he said he didn't do anything about this. So apparently, Mick Mulvaney tell Secretary Ross on his own. Ross is the boss of NOAA which issues the hurricane forecasts to fix the problem.

And The New York Times reports Ross carried out this order to fix the problem by threatening to fire anyone who contradicted the President's inaccurate message. So the bottom line is that Trump made a mistake. He wouldn't admit it. It became a big lie, and then a bigger lie, and then a bigger lie and then he expected others to lie for him.

Kaitlan Collins is out front live outside the White House. So Kaitlan, this was a mistake and it could have just been a simple mistake that just moves on. But it has turned into a bigger problem for President Trump and his White House tonight.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're still talking about it, as you pointed out, 10 days after the President initially made that statement. And let me tell you, there are people inside this White House who wish the President would just move on from that fight, but it was something that President kept repeatedly and falsely claiming that, yes, when he made that statement, he said Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian. Which, of course, as you noted, those forecasts show otherwise.

But the new reporting tonight showing that Mulvaney was involved in this, the President's chief of staff and also involved is the Cabinet Secretary instructing NOAA, this weather agency, to issue a statement saying that the President wasn't wrong, which we should note NOAA did last Friday night, a statement that was not signed by any official of the agency, but essentially was backing off those are earlier forecast.

And what this all boils down to is the President didn't like being rebuked. He didn't like the fact that he was being criticized for saying they were in the path when they weren't and that is why it led to them issuing that statement. Because the President, I'm told, was irritated by seeing that tweet from the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, saying that the President was wrong. But they said they only issued that statement because they had

received a flood of calls from residents who were worried that they may be in the path of that storm after the President said as much. So what we've seen is this turn into a one day story into an 11 day, potentially, story. The President continues to talk about it noting that he instructed the chief of staff today to tell the Commerce Secretary to get NOAA to issue that statement.

But we should note in this White House, the President doesn't always have to issue these direct orders. Typically when he complains about something, aides will do them on their own.

BURNETT: Right. Right. All he has to say is, "You really should stay in my resort," and they do. "Fix the problem," and they do. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.


And out front now Politics Editor for The New York Times Patrick Healy, former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin and Rob Astorino who is a member of President Trump's 2020 Re-Elect Advisory Council.

So Patrick, this has now become lying to cover up a mistake, which turned into a lie over time.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. The President was wrong and it seems like a number of administration officials now decided to say, "To fix this, we're going to put out false information, basically, through weather forecasters." These are people who are in charge of the United States government that the population has supposed to have faith in that they're dealing and facts and an accurate weather forecasting who were being pressured from as high as the White House Chief of Staff to change their factual scientific base reports, basically, because the President had his facts wrong.

I mean, this is sort of an extraordinary involvement by a White House to go into science, directly into science and how storms like this are forecasted, basically, just to make the President it seems like feel better about his own guessing and predicting about Dorian's path.

BURNETT: Right. Especially when it could have been - I mean, look, it's unacceptable the President would have made a mistake like that about something this important. But he could have just said, "You know what? That was an original forecast. I misspoke, OK?" The story is done.

But Keith, that's not what happens and then maybe it would have just been a quick story and over, but he's not able to do that. He's not able to let it go, why?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, any normal sane person, Erin, would have just admitted he made a mistake and moved on. Trump is incapable of doing that, because that is part of his personality. It's a personality defect or disorder.

He couldn't admit for 40 years or 30 years now that he was wrong about the Central Park 5. It took him five and a half years to admit that he was wrong about Barack Obama's birth certificate and then when he did, he didn't acknowledge that he was lying about and didn't apologize for it.

He has a history of dishonesty, but when you come into office on your very first day and you say that there's no rain when people can see it's raining in your inauguration, and you send your Press Secretary out the following day to claim that it was the largest crowd in history and everyone can clearly see it's not, it's all downhill from there you can't get any worse.

BURNETT: So. OK. OK, so Keith - I mean, Rob, this is the problem, it does boil down in this point, Mick Mulvaney was doing what he thought the President wanted him to do. So President is upset about this ridiculous thing about that storm, OK? But we've seen it time and time again.

So Keith mentioned that issue with the crowd size, I mean, it was just the fact. You could see the pictures of his crowd, you could see another crowd. We all remember Sean Spicer, right?


BURNETT: In case anyone forgot, here is Sean Spicer.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.


BURNETT: So let me ask you, Rob, how do you otherwise respected and credible people, Sean Spicer was, Mick Mulvaney, how do they end up in a situation like this on a really simple thing? Do they ever look at him and go, "This is crazy."

ASTORINO: Well, everyone wants to protect their boss if they can.


ASTORINO: But on this - I think you're right, Erin, what you said before in that if a mistake was made, admit it and just kind of move on. And I think in the President's tweet when he said will hit Alabama could have been could hit Alabama. But the early forecasts, and look, I heard meteorologist on CNN and many other places say ...

BURNETT: But this was days later and he's the President of the United States. I mean, the facts had changed days before.

ASTORINO: No, but originally he was correct that it could because most people were saying that.

BURNETT: OK. But not when he said it, Rob. ASTORINO: But here's the story, even in The New York Times story

today, nobody is contesting the fact that the President never ordered or suggested Mulvaney or Ross or anybody to do what they did. So the President is even not part of this story with regard to somebody telling the NOAA to do something.

BURNETT: But they do it because they think he wants them to, they think he could be impressed, but they do. I mean, you know this, they do.

ASTORINO: But that's their judgment that they should ...

BURNETT: Why do they do this?

ASTORINO: ... not have made that judgment call. They should not have done that.

BOYKIN: Oh, come on, Rob. You know the reason why they did it is clearly because they have the impression that Trump wants this. Everybody in the White House is afraid to tell the emperor that he has no clothes.

Trump is walking around thinking that his S-H-I-T doesn't stink and we all know it does. And unfortunately we have too many sycophants there sitting up there refusing to tell him the truth.

BURNETT: So let me just - right now the President's tweet. He just tweeted and this is actually significant, Patrick, just in. "The BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!" OK? So let me just be clear what just happened here.

The Supreme Court is allowing Trump to go ahead to write - basically, block asylum for Central American migrants while these cases go through the court. So it's not a permanent ruling, but it is a ruling while it goes - they can't block it as lower courts tried to do.


That Patrick comes as they won in that special election last night in North Carolina with Trump's backing. It was close, much closer than it should have been but it was a win. These are two big wins for the President tonight.

HEALY: Yes. There's no question. I mean, the North Carolina window was interesting because it showed a real divide still between Democrats and Republicans. With President Trump having a very hard time, the Republicans still having a very hard time in cities and in suburbs with those moderate suburban voters who reluctantly supported him in 2016.

And Erin, a lot of those voters have not liked the President's policies on immigration. They have not liked the photos of children in cages at the border. The family separation policy. They have not liked these.

So while the President and the administration and a lot of their allies do see these things as wins, this like a Supreme Court ruling is a winner, the --

BURNETT: That's interesting.

HEALY: .. tenor and the sense of how these policies affect real people still very much bothers people, including in key suburbs in Arizona, in Florida, in states that President Trump very much wants to win in 2020.

BURNETT: Rob, is that a double-edged sword then that they can go ahead with - I mean, a ruling like this does put more pictures like that back in circulation.

ASTORINO: No, it's upholding the law and act to these local judges, district judges.


ASTORINO: But the North Carolina win was a very big win and here's why.


ASTORINO: The Democrats were up - he was up, McCready, by 17 points. He had three years to campaign. He raised a ton of money, the so called dark money that Democrats hate, they had 12 million of it, outspent two to one. And what's interesting and I talked to some people in the campaign today for Bishop, they moved 19 points in three weeks, totally outspent.


ASTORINO: But they also had Democrats vote for them who were uneasy with the Pelosi agenda and that was a big factor. And once the President got involved because they weren't really putting the President in this base ...

BURNETT: Well, they weren't very confident that he would help them, but he did.

ASTORINO: He did. Actually, he did.

HEALY: But the flip side, Erin, around - the flip side is that this was a Republican gerrymandered districts that Republicans have never had any trouble winning big odds.

BURNETT: Right. Trump won it by 12 points, yes.

HEALY: But Bishop was behind three weeks ago.

ASTORINO: But also win from 900 win to 4,000.

HEALY: Yes. And this is one that the Democrats ...

BOYKIN: Democrats who have been very lucky to win that district.

HEALY: Yes. But that - I mean, that may be Dan Bishop's - a problematic candidate that is (inaudible) district.

BURNETT: So Keith, let me give you the final word on the Supreme Court ruling. Is this something that energizes Democrats and maybe some of those suburban swing voters or not? Obviously, we don't know how long but this isn't going to be a stay allowing Trump to block these asylums until this goes to the courts.

BOYKIN: Yes. I mean, I think the potential is that something like this could continue to keep that issue in the public's mind and particularly for Democrats and progressives. I don't know if it energizes Democrats anymore, because they're pretty much already energized. They're already upset about the kids in cages, they're already upset about the family separation policies, they're already upset about their reversal of DACA and the reversal of so many other Obama policies that were pro immigration.

So I don't know much more that what else could possibly happen to make Democrats more energized at this point?

BURNETT: Well, I guess, there's a question. OK. Thank you very much. Well, speaking of those Democrats, Joe Biden has a plan. The frontrunner planning to take Warren at her heart.



I got a lot of plans.

You may have heard I do plans.


BURNETT: He doesn't like those plans. Plus, the administration taking action against the habit that has hooked millions of children. Why did something so obvious to everyone takes so long? And a CNN exclusive tonight, we'll take you inside a camp where ISIS wives and widows are now grooming a new generation of fighters.



BURNETT: Tonight, the biggest showdown so far in the fight for 2020, Joe Biden versus Elizabeth Warren. The Democratic frontrunners face- to-face on the debate stage for the first time tomorrow night. This as our new CNN poll tonight shows Biden's lead over Warren shrinking dramatically.

OK. They're now six points apart. That was 15 points just one month ago, OK. That's dramatic. And so we are learning new details about Biden's plan of attack to change that narrative. According to one advisor, he's going straight for Warren and her plans. Jeff Zeleny is out front.





JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT(voice-over): Joe Biden is nothing if not resilient. Tonight, a new CNN poll shows Biden leading the field at 24% with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders locked in a tight race for second.

Biden's advantage comes from his strength among black voters. A group he leads with 42%.

This sets the stage for tomorrow's debate where Biden and Warren will be side by side for the first time. As the fall campaign begins, Warren's candidacy is rising. Her signature plans facing a new test.


WARREN: Well, I think that we start with the plan and then we get out there and fight for it. To me, that's what being president is all about.


ZELENY(voice-over): Above all, Biden is still banking on his electability argument and selling himself as the strongest candidate to take on President Trump.


BIDEN: Everyone underestimated it the last time about President Trump. The place he's most comfortable is in the gutter arguing.


ZELENY(voice-over): A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Biden is leading Trump by 15 points, while Sanders has a nine point edge and Warren holds a seven point advantage in a hypothetical match with the President.

Biden staying power stands as a warning sign to his democratic rivals who have done their own campaigns little good in their attempts to dislodge him as the front runner.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America?


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not.


ZELENY(voice-over): But as voters like Maggie Willems begin paying closer attention to the race, they are weighing one question above all, what exactly makes a candidate the most electable?


MAGGIE WILLEMS, IOWA VOTER: I think that it would be fair to say that Biden is my head and Warren is my heart. But I also have to be fair and say I love Joe, so it's not - but it would be - Biden would be my pragmatic choice and Warren would be a bit of a leap of faith in my heart.



ZELENY: Now, that is a sentiment we hear from voters all the time, Erin, what exactly are they looking for in terms of electability? Are they going toward a progressive route or pragmatic route? Now, all of that debate will be going on onstage as Biden and Warren will be side by side for the first time.

And you're right, Biden advisors are telling us tonight they plan to raise some questions about some of Senator Warren's plans. Of course, there are some seven other candidates also on the stage in addition to Bernie Sanders there and so a lot of high stakes debating tomorrow night here in Houston, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny. And out front now former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, he supports Joe Biden. Joe Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation. Joan, you're with me, Biden is obviously going from 15-point lead to a six point lead. It's something that ...


BURNETT: ... that hits you in the gut. You got to figure out what you're going to do about it. They have not been on stage together in a debate ...

WALSH: Right.

BURNETT: ... which is why it's nice to have them all on one stage. You're going to see Warren and Biden together, so going after her plans, right move?

WALSH: I think it's a terrible move. I think he should be concentrating on getting things straight on taking up all of his time, on talking himself up. I think if he goes after Elizabeth Warren, first of all, people love her plans. That's what they love about her. That's why she's rising.

Second of all, she is not that aggressive. She hasn't been aggressive at all, actually, on the debate stage. If he goes after her, that opens the door for her to go after him which she would love to do on bankruptcy and on his closeness with credit card companies and banks. I think it's just a terrible idea for the Vice President.

BURNETT: I mean, Governor, like let's just say in case anyone has forgotten how much Warren talks about her plans, how central this is to her identity as a candidate. Just listen to her for a second.


WARREN: I got a plan for that.

I got a plan for that.

I got a lot of plans.

You may have heard I do plans.


BURNETT: We have all heard that she does plans and Biden, Governor, has previewed this line of attack on her plans to us. Here he is on CNN last week.


BIDEN: Plans are great but executing on those plans is very different thing.


BURNETT: So Governor, look, so far Joe Biden has tried to focus on Trump. He's tried to do that as the frontrunner. But when the gap is narrowing so quickly, is he smart to turn his sights on Warren?

FORMER GOVERNOR ED RENDELL (D-PA): No, I agree with Joan. I think it would be a mistake to go after. I mean, look, you can disagree with her, you can point out if there's a policy discussion, why do you think her plans is not workable. Like, for example, on health care, Elizabeth wants to do away with private insurance. Well, there are 160 million Americans who are in private insurance and at least a hundred million don't want to lose their plan and don't want to be forced into a government run plan.

So he's going to point out that that is not only the wrong choice, but it's a choice which would make her electability in the fall very difficult. But he has to do it in a tenor in which he says, "Look, I admire the senator, she's been a good senator. She has goals that I agree with, but we disagree on how to get there and here's why."

BURNETT: Right, so be specific on that.

RENDELL: And also Democratic voters have said to me they don't want Democrats to attack Democrats personally. They want to focus on Donald Trump. So I think there's a big risk if you go out as an aggressor and start attacking. BURNETT: So Joan, there are going to be two-tiers, OK? So as we talk

about, you're going to see Warren and Biden together for the first time, that's a big deal.

WALSH: Right.

BURNETT: But you're going to have two-tiers, right? You're going to have the top three and then you're going to have the rest, among the manager, Yang. His team promising something big. The Daily Beast, Sam Stein, says Andrew Yang's campaign manager said Yang will be doing something no presidential candidate has ever done before in history.

It sounds - it could be a stunt, but how do you break through if you are not in the top three; the Warren, Sanders, Biden (inaudible) ...

WALSH: Well, I create the top tier a little bit differently. I would say that there's a top six. The people who are above 5 percent, that's pathetic. But the people who are above 5 percent, so that adds in Harris at 8 percent, Buttigieg at six, and I think Beto is now back at five. Beto is climbing a tiny bit.

BURNETT: OK. But not Booker, not Castro ...

WALSH: But not Booker.

BURNETT: ... not Yang, not Klobuchar.

WALSH: I'm going to put Yang in a category by himself. He's got the YangGang. He's got a really ...

BURNETT: A lot of buzz.

WALSH: ... a lot of buzz, so let's see what he does. But I'm very worried about Amy Klobuchar.


She has dropped in this last CNN poll. Anybody who dropped in that poll and we're talking about people dropping from 2 percent to 1 percent, so it's bad. I don't know how you continue. I don't know how you raise money. I don't know how you attract top flight staff, if you're not moving.

BURNETT: All right. Governor, a quick final question to you. Does everyone stay in after this then? I mean, they've all made the cut for the next debate but if you know you're not going anywhere in terms of getting to the finish line, do you stay in anyway?

RENDELL: This time, I think, everyone will stay in and they'll be joined by Tom Steyer who will qualify for the next round.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And Tom Steyer will be out front in just a few minutes. Next, President Trump about to target a new and dangerous epidemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: People are dying with vaping, so we're looking at it very



BURNETT: So they got a plan tonight, does it go far enough? Plus, he spent millions of his own money on his campaign, Tom Steyer. What does he say to critics who say that he has bought his way onto the debate stage? He'll answer them out front.



BURNETT: Tonight, the White House moving to ban all flavored e- cigarettes. The move comes amid a rising number of illnesses and now deaths related to vaping. The HHS warning there is a surge in children getting their hands on these products. They're especially drawn to the fruit and mint flavors.

The secretary of the HHS, Alex Azar, saying an entire generation of children is at risk to becoming addicted.

OUTFRONT now, chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the former FDA commissioner, Dr. David Kessler.

I appreciate both of your time tonight.

So, Sanjay, you know, I guess here's where I start. What exactly is the Trump administration going to do and can they just do it by edict?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like they can. I mean, the way that this typically works is before you sell a product like that, you've got to get a pre-market approval. You have to basically say here's what we're trying to do and get approval to actually market it and sell it this way.

The FDA has been kicking the can down the road on this issue for some time saying, we'll get to it, we'll get to it. We'll get to it in 2020 was the latest that we heard and they're basically saying, no, we're going to enforce this and it sounds like if someone applies for approval for these flavored -- you know, these flavorings, they're not going to get it.

So, in effect, that would be clearing the flavoring.

BURNETT: So, Dr. Kessler, to some it seemed so obvious and it's a huge problem and everyone at this point knows about it, right? They see it, and I don't know, at least for me everyone knows you don't make fruit-flavored, you know, e-cigarettes unless you're trying to market to young people, right, to kids. Why the heck did this take so long?

DR. DAVID KESSLER, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: It's a very good question. These products have been illegal since 2016 and it's taken, in essence, a crisis, 450 illnesses and six deaths and a generation of young people who have become addicted. I think the administration was trying to recognize that for some smokers, there may be value in these products, but what happened was we saw that the industry just couldn't be trusted here.

They marketed to children. These products aren't safe and the FDA and the administration in essence is chasing the horse after it's out of the barn.

BURNETT: I mean, you know, Sanjay, and some would trust the tobacco companies. It seems like an oxymoron, and I know it's a skeptical way of looking at it, but look, they sell what they sell, they make money how they make money.

When you look at the death toll here, six now, CDC now reporting 450 suspected cases and we're just barely in. I mean, how bad could this get?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think it's really interesting. You know, Dr. Kessler brings up this point that this could potentially create a new generation of smokers, that was even before we started talking about the deaths, right?


GUPTA: And now you have the situation where people are vaping something. We don't actually know what it is that's causing these illnesses or these deaths, it could be in a particular ingredient in the flavorings or it could be something else entirely. So, we don't know the answer to that.

BURNETT: It's not even the nicotine which we know is --


BURNETT: We know what that does, right?

GUPTA: Right.

BURNETT: I mean, you're talking about all other kinds of toxins and carcinogens.

GUPTA: Look, if the goal is to say we have to stop these deaths, it's a little bit of a blind shot right now because you'd have to say, look, if we don't know what's causing these deaths, should we just stop this altogether? If you vaporize something, a synthetic and you inhale it into your lungs and it congeals again, causing this huge inflammatory reaction possibly leading to death, how do you stop that? Just -- is vaping itself the problem?

I'm not saying it is, but that's going to be the question. Is this flavoring ban going to really address the problem that they're trying to address?


And, Dr. Kessler, right, to be clear, they're not banning the tobacco- flavored ones, and I suppose they're not doing that because they're not banning cigarettes themselves. And you know, I guess that would be inconsistent even though obviously we know cigarettes kill people, as well.

I want to get to the heart of one thing, Dr. Kessler, on that point, though. You wrote an op-ed recently saying e-cigarettes would provide a less risky option for some people. Do you think that that is still possible? I presume you are talking about heavy smokers who are trying to somehow dial back the nicotine consumption?

KESSLER: There may be, and I underline maybe the reason to make -- to have these products available for people who smoke. The evidence is not there, but that doesn't mean you market these products widely. I think this is a beginning of a reset, but I think where this is headed is these products are not safe as they're currently marketed.

Maybe we have to consider these products as a prescription drug or some kind of restricted access.

GUPTA: Right.

KESSLER: So that those who smoke could have access if the evidence supports that.


But again, these products are illegal. They shouldn't be on the market. The companies have to show they're safe, and the administration has to do its job.

BURNETT: All right. Well, you know. I have to say, Sanjay, it does amaze me that you've got people running these companies, you always remember this too, the opioids as well, people running them.


BURNETT: They know they're marketing this to kids. They know it's bad and they did it anyway.

GUPTA: And it's a playbook that we've seen before as you pointed out. I mean, this was what big tobacco did. Big tobacco is involved with the vaping industry.


GUPTA: People may not realize that, but it's part and parcel the same thing.

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

And next, he spent millions of his own money to make it to the debate stage. So, how much more is Tom Steyer willing to spend? He's OUTFRONT.

And it's called a ticking time bomb. CNN tonight will take you inside a refugee camp where ISIS brutal ideology at this hour is spreading. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, 10 Democratic candidates for 2020, getting ready to take the stage in Houston, but there is one more who has just made the cut for the next debate and that is Tom Steyer. He is OUTFRONT with me tonight.

Good to talk to you, as always, Tom.

So, all right, you've got 10 of your rivals on stage tomorrow night. They have been slugging it out at these debates since June, right? They had June, they have July, they have this one.

OK. You weren't there. Does this give you an advantage or disadvantage when you're up there?


TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Erin, I think that the point of everybody running to get the Democratic nomination is the same. Do you have a message that resonates with Democratic voters? Is it a different message? Is it true and are you a believable messenger?

So I think any time you get the chance to make that presentation, it's good, that's what I've been doing for weeks, is trying to get out directly to the American people and talk to them.

BURNETT: OK. So you've been doing that by being on the trail. You've also been doing that via social media, which has been a place that you've been incredibly strong. So, since the start of 2019 according to numbers we got today the estimate is you spent $6.5 million for ads on Facebook and Google, which is more than any other Democrat running.

Does this prove, Tom, that any of the criticism you face from your rivals who say, oh, you're buying your way on to the debate stage by buying all these ads. Does it prove that any of that is fair or not?

STEYER: Erin, honestly, I think that the truth is if your message resonates then people will respond to it. If you don't have anything to say, it doesn't matter where you go or how hard you try. What I've seen is that when I get a chance to get in front of people and get my message out, I've only been out for eight weeks, some people have been out for eight months.

BURNETT: Yes. Fair.

STEYER: When I get a chance to get in front of the American people and explain to them that we have a broken government, that corporations have bought it and that we need to take back the government and make it of, by and for the people, restore the democracy and I've been doing that as an outsider for 10 years, people respond.

BURNETT: So, let's take New Hampshire where the estimate again for this that came out today was $124,000 spent there in the state on online Facebook ads by you, nearly double Elizabeth Warren.

OK. You're the top Democratic spender there. So the big picture question here is, Tom, you come to this with the ability to be an outsider in part because of your own, you know, financial fortune. How much of your own money are you willing to spend all in on this race? Have you even in your head put a number around it?

STEYER: You know, honestly, Erin, I've been running grassroots campaigns for ten years in the United States against corporations and winning. And I know that when you go into a campaign, things happen that you never expect. So, no, that's not how I think about it.

The question to me really is the one that I put to you earlier, which is this, do you have something important to say? If I didn't believe with all my heart that I have something critical to say, that I have a different vision for America than everybody else running and that I'm a different person with a different background, an outsider and not from the beltway, someone who's been taking on the corporations from the outside, I wouldn't run.

I'm doing this because I think there's something really important that needs to be said, that I believe I have the history of creating grassroots organizations that enabled democracy, broad democracy, and that I have a history of beating corporations, and that's what I think is necessary in 2020.

BURNETT: I need to ask you one more thing if I can, Tom. I don't know if you saw it today because I know you've been busy, and you've been out on trail. But President Trump's administration says they'll ban e-cigarettes, but only the flavored ones which, you know, as I said it's absurd it has taken this long by many across the country who have failed the country on this.

But tobacco-flavored cigarettes would still be allowed. Would you ban all of them or would you allow tobacco-flavored cigarettes? E- cigarettes, I'm sorry.

STEYER: Well, I don't know if you know this, Erin --


STEYER: -- but in 2016 in California, along with my partners in the labor movement, we took on the tobacco companies and we specifically added a $2 a pack tax to every carton, to every pack and gave the money to Medi-Cal. The health system for low income Californians.

BURNETT: And that's for straight cigarettes. Right.

STEYER: And we included e-cigarettes and the reason we included them was because when people said to us, no, those are smoking cessation devices, I said, if they're smoking cessation devices, why did they flavor them with bubble gum and put them in the kids section?

I think what people have been trying to do, what tobacco companies have been doing with these flavored e-cigarettes is to try to hook young people intentionally with the flavors they like in the part of this store where they shop and I think that's wrong, so I think that should be stopped.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom Steyer. I appreciate your time.

And next, a CNN exclusive. We'll take you inside a sprawling camp that's being called an academy for the next generation of ISIS fighters.

And then on a much lighter note tonight, Jeanne Moos on two candidates getting quite a surprise on their way to the make-or-break debate.



BURNETT: Tonight, the nation pausing to mark the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. You see there live the pictures of the tribute in light that show where those Twin Towers once stood. This as ISIS is regaining strength in a forgotten Syrian refugee camp, a new wave of young fighters being groomed by their mothers.

Arwa Damon has a rare look inside the camp.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called Al-Hol (ph), a camp that sprung from nowhere, now the size of a small town. The wind and sand mercilessly blow through the tents, in the baking heat of the Syrian summer.

But it's the anger, the seething hostility that strikes you. To step into this camp is to witness a strange mutation of the caliphate kept alive by the widows and wives of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are cells there, they are organized.

DAMON: A spirit of vengeance seeps into the next generation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tell them your father was killed by the infidels.

DAMON: Hatred and enmity is magnified by the wretched conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See, you think it's a camp, but it's a prison.

DAMON: It's a place in limbo like no other refugee camp on earth shunned by the international community.


Kurdish forces say this place is a ticking time bomb, an ISIS academy where its brutal ideology is incubated.

They don't have the resources to keep control. Many of the women here don't know where their husbands and teenage sons are. They tell us quite openly they're teaching their children to hate the infidels, who imprisoned and killed their fathers and brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the prisoners aren't released, the hatred will grow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The biggest ISIS cell will be the women. If the men aren't released, I will go crazy!

DAMON: The camp's population swelled while ISIS was making its last stand, not from Al-Hol (ph). Many of the new arrivals have direct ties to ISIS. They were organized and quickly established their version of the moral police, terrorizing those who refused to wear the full veil.

Beneath the black uniformity, some women want nothing more than to leave.

I don't care if it's the Kurds or even the Americans who control my town, this woman pleads.

But there is no reintegration program. This is an open-air prison.

(on camera): What do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home.

DAMON: Are you scared from us?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just asking. A lot of people, that's why they're talking in our countries to take us back.

DAMON: If they gave you an option, let's say, of creating another caliphate for you --




DAMON: You're done?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of women, they think the same.

DAMON (voice-over): But few countries are repatriating their nationals. The living conditions are horrendous. It's filthy.

There's little access to medical care. Clean water is scarce. Food is rationed.

A Telegram chat group has turned this place into a cause for ISIS, referring to it as the Al-Hol death camp, alleging atrocities by the pig enemies of Islam.

(on camera): There's a lot of propaganda here, a lot of promoting of the ISIS ideology. But then they're also using this platform to send messages.

(voice-over): It's where they posted this video, the ISIS flag being raised inside the camp.

That happened here in a part of the camp for Syrians.

It's a reaction to the psychological pressure on us, one woman says. They should know that more can be done than the raising of a flag.

And more has been done. Foreign women here are no longer allowed to leave their annex and go to the market after two incidents when Kurdish guards were stabbed. The more radicalized women threaten and terrorize those less devoted to ISIS.

One woman says her tent was burnt down. Another, that she's so afraid of being stabbed, she barely sleeps at night.

Outside the camp, we get access to a prison, a surreal scene. Former ISIS fighters painting and crafting papier-mache models.

This man says ISIS held his family hostage to coerce him to join.

ISIS gave me the bombs, he tells us, and then showed me on WhatsApp how to plant them. He's serving 20 years, the maximum sentence.

In the crowded cells, some men say they never supported ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My cousin turned us in, he said we were ISIS. But he is an ISIS spy!

DAMON: Others accept their fate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I raised my hand, I said I am ISIS. I'm not scared, I'm here, I will pay the price.

DAMON: The Kurds are doing their best to separate the true believers from the rest.

In this rehabilitation center, there are scores of teenage boys.

This 15-year-old was an ISIS fighter. His first mission, to plant explosives at a U.S. base. He describes how they were given the bombs, weapons, and suicide vests.

We covered everything with the women's black niqab, he says, so the jets in the sky would not target us.

The operation failed, and he ended up in prison. But even there, ISIS ruled, he says. But at the rehab center, things are different.

I've left ISIS behind, he tells us. It was a mistake. I learned from it.

But the center barely reaches a fraction of the children indoctrinated. There just aren't enough resources. If the situation stays like this and nations don't help, ISIS will

come back, Musa'ab Khalaf, an administrator here, tells us. We hear about it, the sleeper cells. They take advantage of the children, trying to recruit them.

And the children are so vulnerable. They know nothing but conflict, destruction, and grief.


Some have no parents like this little boy.

(on camera): He's just visiting his friends here. His tent is somewhere else, and he says that his mom was killed. His dad has been detained, and it's just him and his siblings, the oldest of which is 16.

(voice-over): Children pay the price for the sins of their parents but in turn are preyed upon. There's only so much Kurdish officials can do to contain the situation, and there is a shocking lack of international involvement here. The place is forgotten, the legacy of yesterday's war, and that makes it uniquely dangerous because if allowed to fester, the sprawling camp contains the seeds of the next war and ISIS' revenge generation.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Al-Hol Camp, Syria.


BURNETT: Phenomenal report.

And on a much lighter note, Jeanne is next.


BURNETT: Two 2020 candidates not only sharing the stage, sharing a flight.

Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This may be the plane every Democratic presidential candidate dreams of flying on, but for the moment, they're flying mostly commercial. And guess who's in the next row?

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar found themselves a row apart on a United flight headed for Houston, scene of Thursday's debate. At least they didn't behave like this commander in chief.

UNIDENTIFIE MALE: Get off my plane.

MOOS: Klobuchar and Buttigieg were all smiles. Very funny at United, tweeted Buttigieg.

And the debate begins. Good sitting behind you, tweeted Klobuchar.

At least one passenger couldn't resist selfies with both candidates.

(on camera): Note the seating pattern. Democratic candidates sitting over the left wing.

(voice-over): Same goes for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren when a journalist spotted them back in June and imagined Bernie wondering, is she going to kick my chair?

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller once shared a departure date with Don Jr., and the week after Ted Cruz beat Beto O'Rourke, the two shook hands and posed with passengers at an airport gate.

Forget snakes on a plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had it with these mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) snakes on this mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) plane.

MOOS: These days, the planes are calling with candidates.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.