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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sources: Federal Investigation of Rudy Giuliani's Business Dealings IN Ukraine Includes Counterintelligence Probe; Buttigieg, Biden Escalate Attacks on Warren After Debate. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired October 16, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Trump's meltdown. Democrats walking out of a meeting after the President rails against them. They say he called Pelosi a third grade politician. Plus, more witnesses speaking out behind closed doors in the impeachment probe and one person whose testimony could destroy the President hours away from an under oath appearance. And Trump's letter to the Turkish President, it reads like a farce but it is no laughing matter. Let's go up front.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a meltdown and a walkout. President Trump and Nancy Pelosi met late today and Democrats say Trump was in meltdown mode.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He was insulting, particularly to the Speaker. She kept her cool completely. But he called her a third rate politician. He said that there are communists involved and you guys might like that. I mean, this was not a dialogue. It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What we witnessed on the part of the President was a meltdown. Sad to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, both sides agree that Pelosi walked out of the meeting. And just moments ago, Trump tweeted his picture of the encounter saying Pelosi had an unhinged meltdown trying to use her own words and throw them back at her. If you look at their faces, though, here up close, they both look pretty angry, so who had a meltdown, the President or the top Democrat in the land?
Luckily, well, there were other people in the room, right, and another one who was there was asked, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He told reporters off camera of what happened. "I didn't make any observations in the meeting. I don't have any to make now."
"I didn't make any observations in the meeting." If that statement is the best events, the Republican leader has of Trump's performance in a meeting that all sides agree ended in someone walking out on the President of the United States, it sure does not make the President's version of things sound like the truth. The reality is that the meeting was about Syria. But Trump is feeling
the pressure on multiple fronts tonight. He called Pelosi a third grade politician, not just because of her position on Syria and the Kurds. After all, she is the one leading the impeachment investigation, an investigation that is threatening Trump's presidency tonight.
Today was another day, another testimony in the impeachment inquiry. This from Mike Pompeo's his former senior advisor. We are now only hours away from testimony from the man who could be the most damaging witness against Trump, Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador of the European Union.
That is going to be crucial as an understatement and we'll have much more on that later this hour. I want to begin now though with Manu Raju, out front live on Capitol Hill. Manu, what more are you learning about what happened inside that meeting today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it got off to a rocky start. At the very beginning, the President said the Democrats wanted the meeting. Democrats said, "Well, the President wanted that meeting."
The President went into a bit of a monologue according to the Democrat's account of the meeting and then at that one point during that monologue he said that there were communists in Syria and that Democrats could like that. Now, then, the Speaker later noted that the House today overwhelmingly supported by 354 to 60 vote, a measure that essentially condemn the President's actions in Syria and the President did not take that so well, according to the Speaker who said that she did not like that.
Then, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, read a quote from the former Defense Secretary, President Trump's former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. And the President apparently, according to Democrats, cut off Schumer and said General Mattis was the world's most overrated general, you know why he wasn't tough enough.
And according to the Democrats, Trump said, "I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month and the meeting continued to devolve where the President called Nancy Pelosi a third-grade politician. The Speaker got up, was about to leave. She ultimately left.
Schumer stayed back and the President later said to them, "I'll see you at the polls." And then when they came back to the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi says, "I now have to pray for the President's health." And when I asked the Speaker whether or not she's suggesting the President is mentally unwell, she says, "I'm not talking about mental health. I'm just talking about his ability to handle the truth." Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And I want to go now to the White House. Boris Sanchez is out front there. Boris, the President, obviously, now putting up this picture, trying to use the same words Nancy Pelosi is using and tell a very different story. BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Erin. The White
House is essentially projecting onto Nancy Pelosi, suggesting that she had a meltdown, using her own words about the President. Stephanie Grisham, the Press Secretary, put out a statement a short time ago suggesting that the President measured and factual.
Two words that we don't frequently use to describe this president and now he's on a roll on Twitter, tweeting out these photos, apparently taken at the meeting trying to troll Democrats. His focus clearly on his feud with them not on the substance of the meeting.
The President has not tweeted about this overwhelmingly bipartisan resolution that was passed today in the House nor about these sanctions. This package of sanctions against Turkey said to be introduced in Congress tomorrow, also bipartisan, also reportedly much harsher than the sanctions that the White House has enacted on Turkey. The President again focusing on this feud, calling Democrats unhinged.
Well, he himself made several statements today that lead to questions about his grasp of reality over the facts, over the situation on the ground in Syria, suggesting that the Kurds are safer now the Turkish military has entered that territory that the Kurds may have released ISIS prisoners for political gain. The President also today returning to these false deep state conspiracies making accusations about the previous president, about other officials.
So he is not focused on cleaning up the mess that he created in the Mideast, but I'm driving home this fight that he has now with Democrats, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Boris. And by the way, when it comes to just stability, the letter here that the President wrote the President of Turkey, we're going to talk much more about that in a couple moments, because it's really important. But I want to go now to someone who was inside that meeting between the President and the Speaker, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith who's the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
So, Chairman, please tell me you're inside the meeting. You have the President trying to use Pelosi's words against her saying she was unhinged and having a meltdown. What happened inside the room?
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Well, the policy is actually really important here because we did mostly after the Speaker and the Majority Leader left and also the Minority Leader in the Senate. We did have a substantive discussion about what's the plan here, what are you going to try to do with Turkey, what are you going to try to do to protect us from ISIS.
I look, the President, the way he talks, particularly if he's talking to a rival is quite frankly insulting. I mean, I don't know if he fully grasp that. I would assume he does, but it's just the way he talks and that's how it started. And after a while, the speaker had kind of had enough and decided that she was going to try to correct him on a couple of those points and it evolved from there.
But look, I wasn't going to walk out of the meeting, because I think it really matters what our relationship is.
BURNETT: Are you disappointed that she did?
SMITH: No. I mean, I think the Speaker knows what she's doing. She wasn't the only one in the room. I was there as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Eliot Engel was there, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Menendez was there.
On the policy stuff, she didn't tell the rest of us to leave. So the substantive meeting was going to happen and I think she felt like her role at that point just didn't - given the President's reaction to her was not going to be productive.
BURNETT: So let me ask you a question, Chairman, the Senate Republican Leader, obviously, Mitch McConnell was there. And when he was asked by reporters what happened in the meeting, his response was, "I didn't make any observations in the meeting." I mean, what do you make of that? This is the Majority Leader in the Senate and this is what he's saying.
SMITH: Well, there were Republicans in that room who did challenge the President on the details of the Syria policy.
BURNETT: There were, OK.
SMITH: Congresswoman Cheney in particular. Politely and respectfully, but she's concerned that ISIS will be left unchecked in that part of the world, that what is the policy going forward. So there were questions raised by members there.
Mitch McConnell, I've been at the second meeting in the White House, he's not a very talkative guy. I think he can probably talk to the President whenever he wants to talk to the President. So in these meetings, he's not looking for that. The rest of us were looking to get genuine answers to important policy questions.
BURNETT: So you're saying he didn't take him on and perhaps that's because he could in other ways. But he's certainly not willing to call him out for his demeanor being insulting, which you're saying was just the point of fact as to how he behaved.
SMITH: Yes. I mean, it's a hard thing here, because look I've been in politics a long time. I work with who I have to work with.
SMITH: This is the President of the United States. Frankly, I've been insulted by many, many people throughout my life. It sort of comes with the territory. We've got work to do. I am not going to focus on that.
And I do think it is unfortunate that the President is as disrespectful to the Speaker of the House as he is. But we have work to do and answers to get, so we continue to pursue those for the rest of the meeting.
BURNETT: So today, the House approved a resolution opposing the President's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, right? That was a policy move that was made censoring the President and his actions. The vote was 354 to 60.
OK. So you can focus on the 60 but I want to focus on the 354, that means a whole lot of Republicans voted against this president. Something they are unwilling to do on a regular basis when it comes to other things in terms of his behavior. They did on this policy. Do you think that this moves any of them closer to impeachment or not?
SMITH: Probably not. I mean, this is a separate issue to be sure. I mean, there are connections you can make in terms of how the President conducts foreign policy. But I don't think the Republicans are moving towards impeachment. I think they feel passionately about protecting the Kurds, first of all. They were our partners in the region in containing ISIS.
They fought and died to protect us as well as themselves from these terrorist groups and to abandon them to the Turks is deeply disturbing to them. Now, it's a complicated region and certainly wasn't an easy problem. But the President did not present coherent political strategy for meeting U.S. interests there. So I think those are legitimate questions to be raised irrespective of impeachment.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Chairman, as always. Thank you.
SMITH: Thanks for the chance.
BURNETT: And next President Trump's letter to the Turkish President. I referenced it and I referenced it because I don't want to just give you a quote, I want to read it to you, because you want to hear it and you need to hear it. Plus, sources tell CNN officials are now conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Rudy Giuliani and what he did in Ukraine. How much trouble is Giuliani is in and what does this mean for his boss? And more witnesses are telling Congress in the impeachment probe why did the White House Adviser think Trump's advisor to the EU was a National Security risk.
BURNETT: Breaking news, don't be a tough guy and don't be a fool. President Trump writing a bizarre letter to Turkey's President. OK. The date of this letter is October 9th, but he decided to leak it today amid widespread and bipartisan criticism over his sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Northern Syria.
Now, this is one of those things where you must hear for yourself, the whole letter and so I will read it to you. It comes on White House stationery. "Dear Mr. President," this is written to President Erdogan, "Let's
work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy - and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson."
Note, he's an American pastor who was held as a political prisoner for two years in Turkey, back to the President.
"I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they never would have made in the past." He's referring to a Kurdish general.
"I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received. History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever is the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later. Sincerely, Donald J. Trump."
Out front now former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama Juliette Kayyem, former Advisor to Four Presidents, David Gergen and New York Times Congressional Editor Julie Hirschfeld Davis.
David, look here's the thing about this, I don't want to laugh about it because this is a letter that was actually sent, at least he says it was, have you ever seen anything like this?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Well, Erin, many presidents write tough letters, nasty letters, angry letters, frustrated letters. The normal presidents then put them in a drawer, in a file called burn before sending.
This had such an adolescent quality to it. I must say when I read it I immediately called my research assistant and said, "See, if this is fake. I just can't believe the White House sent this out." Because it is unprecedented in the best of my knowledge and I do think it makes it tougher to work with Turkey which is a member of NATO and we need to figure out ways to get this stopped, hopefully short of much more violence.
BURNETT: I mean, Juliette, don't be a fool exclamation! I'll call you later and by the way I'll destroy the Turkish economy, I mean, he'd have to have a lot of people onboard for doing that. The United States is simply not one of Turkey's top trading partners, just on the facts of this. The threat lacks teeth without a hell of a lot of other people involved. What do you make of this letter?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, I mean, the most important thing is it was completely ignored. It arrives the day before the genocide begins, so it was unsuccessful. It showed a president who basically predicted the genocide would occur and only sent a letter like this to try to stop it. It also discloses that the President was willing to share information from our ally, the Kurds, to Turkey in a way that who knows what the Kurds actually wanted.
And I think fourth, the most important is what matters is what's happening today which is Donald Trump is repeating the talking points of both the Turks and the Russians about who the Kurds are that they're bad people or they're not good people. That's a talking point coming from the Turks.
So put in its totality there's only two explanations, one is the President can't do his job and he's ineffective and unsuccessful or he won't do his job for reasons related to Russia or Turkey or Syria that we can only surmise about at this stage.
BURNETT: Right, who are obviously all on this on one side. I mean, Julie, this comes as the House and I mentioned this with Chairman Smith, overwhelmingly approved a resolution opposing Trump's move to withdraw American forces from Syria. You had 354 to 60 in terms of the vote, so you had 60 Republicans siding with the President, 129 against him. How much is this mobilizing Trump's own party against him?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think it clearly has mobilized his party against him more than any other issue since he took office.
I mean that's two-thirds of the Republican conference in the House. It's all of the elected leadership among Republicans and he clearly is feeling very wronged by this vote and in Nancy Pelosi's words somewhat shaken by it. And he actually handed this letter out in this meeting that he had with the bipartisan congressional leadership shortly after the vote to, I think, show in his mind that he tried to be tough and he tried to head off what everyone has criticized him for green- lighting which is essentially this horrible result and I think that's clearly what's behind the release of this letter is his sort of effort to clean up what he is really getting criticized for even from his own party.
BURNETT: So David, I mean this is the thing, as Julie said, he's trying to put this out as clean up, but the date on it would indicate that the Turkish President received it and then did the opposite of what Trump wanted him to do. But Trump, David, obviously thinks that leaking this letter which he leaked to a Fox business reporter makes him look good, right? I mean he thinks this clearly.
GERGEN: Oh, I think that's right and he's trying to send a message, look, I'm tougher than you think, and it was the same message he was giving to the congressional leaders today when he trashed General Mattis. And he said basically he's the most overrated general in the world, but he also said, "Mattis told me it would take two years to capture ISIS. I captured ISIS in one month," says the President.
And he's trying to show his muscles and his will, but I think the quality of the letter is demeaning to everybody.
BURNETT: Well, I mean certainly the way it's written, Juliette, is at best adolescent. I guess, Juliette, my other question for you is it's not well written and it's adolescent in its tone, but yet it went which means that does anyone in there say, "Hey, maybe this isn't OK." Nobody even tries anymore.
KAYYEM: Yes, maybe they did and he ignores everyone at this stage. I mean, all that matters is the President by constitutional design is the Commander-in-Chief. The United States speaks in one voice through his to the outside world and the outside world is not just Turkey.
Imagine if you are an ally reading this, I have teenage boys and when they're in trouble I say, I'll call you, just to keep them holding for a while. And this is one of those letters where you're sort of thinking, does he actually think that the President of Turkey is going to be impacted by a strangely threatening letter.
But the audience, of course, is our allies as well who see this and wonder the same things we wonder about his capability to do the job that he needs to do to protect the American interests not just the Trump empire interest.
BURNETT: I mean if you want someone to do something that you want, I will call you later written like that is, I mean, I don't know. If I received it, it'd be likely for me to do the opposite. I mean, I think for most people that would be the feeling, that would be the emotional gut reaction.
Julie, here's the thing, when you look at what's happening on Capitol Hill, which you cover, you've got Lindsey Graham who parroted all of the President's talking points when it comes to Ukraine, even in defiance of the facts and yet on this issue, Syria, he has had incredibly strong words, a public war of words actually today and here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He will have American blood on his hands if he abandons Kurds, because ISIS will come back. And if any American is killed anywhere because of resurgent ISIS, it will fall on Trump administration like it did Obama.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years, with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people's wars. I want to get out of the Middle East. I think Lindsey should focus right now on judiciary.
GRAHAM: Your oath to office as the commander-in-chief is to protect us against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So clearly it means President Trump has learned almost nothing from Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Julie, I guess the question is does this mean that Lindsey Graham will start to take the President on, on any other issue or do we just expect to get complete whiplash and have him parrot the President's talking points on everything else? DAVIS: Well, this has been really a singular issue, not just for
Lindsey Graham but for a lot of Republicans and we don't generally see the kind of rebuke that we saw on the House floor of President Trump by Republicans today. And I wouldn't expect to see this sort of cross issues. This is something, I think, that Senator Graham and others in the party think is really a singular thing and something that they don't want to be associated with.
And they're afraid that now that this genie is out of the bottle so to speak that they're not going to be able to do anything sanctions or otherwise to sort of mitigate against what's happened here and the violence on the ground that's happening and that they really hold President Trump responsible for.
So I don't know that this really crosses over to any other issue, but I do think that we're going to continue to see harsh criticism and it'll be interesting to see if they actually take any legislative action beyond sanctions to try to do something about it and try to roll back what is clearly what they see as a disastrous result.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, we now know investigators have launched a counterintelligence probe into Rudy Giuliani. So does this put his boss, the President, at risk? Plus, Elizabeth Warren gets the frontrunner treatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate Elizabeth's work. But, again, the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: New tonight, the federal investigation into President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani includes a counterintelligence probe. That's according to sources familiar with the matter and it's just days after authorities brought charges against four of Giuliani's associates. Sources telling CNN it is clear there could be more charges in the investigation.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.
So, Evan, look, you're now talking a counterintelligence investigation into the president of the United States' personal attorney. I think sometimes it's worthwhile to put the simple facts in, and let me take a deep breath here of the significance. What else do you know about the investigation tonight?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is something that the counterintelligence agents have to look at simply because of the idea if Rudy Giuliani is involving wittingly or unwittingly with what is a foreign influence operation targeting the White House, that is very important for the FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan to understand.
We know that this began or at least part of it was being handled by public corruption investigators and FBI agents in New York, in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office and they're the same ones, by the way, that did the Michael Cohen case. And so, we've seen just glimpses of what they have including in the indictment against these four associates and by the way, the last one of which his name David Correia was arrested in New York when he landed in JFK, he turned himself in. And so, we'll see how that proceeds.
But here, we're getting a little bit more of an idea that this is a broader investigation than we first thought and certainly have been going on much longer than we knew. This lawyer by the name of Kenneth McCallion in New York said he was talked to by the FBI, by FBI counterintelligence agents back in February or March, and that's the questions they had, they had questions about Giuliani and about these two people that Parnas and Igor Fruman who were indicted in that case and they raised questions of counterintelligence concerns that the FBI had.
So, again, we're just getting a little glimpse into what appears to be a much broader investigation than we realized.
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much.
I want to go now to former New Jersey attorney general, Anne Milgram, and impeachment expert and constitutional law professor at Brown University, Corey Brettschneider.
Thanks very much for both of you.
So, Anne, how worried -- let's start with Rudy Giuliani himself. Again, the president's personal attorney and this is relating to counterintelligence in Ukraine linked to the whole Joe Biden situation, possibly. How worried should Giuliani be?
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Rudy Giuliani should be enormously worried. It started as a counterintelligence investigation because he had all these contacts with Ukrainians and individuals on the ground. It is now what has been reported a criminal investigation and so, it's important to note that the FBI can be doing both things and it is being run in a way where it's been publicly reported that their inquiries into his financial ties with the two individuals who have been charged, one of whom Parnas who has paid Giuliani half a million dollars. There's inquiries into his interaction with the Ukrainian -- the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and a host of other things.
And so, there's financial questions. There's political questions and then there's this broader counterintelligence question of whether the Ukrainians were using him to influence a U.S. government in a way that harms the national security. BURNETT: So, Corey, now you have this, and the criminal and
counterintelligence on Rudy Giuliani. What does this mean possibly for the president himself? Again, this is his personal lawyer who we know was trying to go ahead and put whatever word one would use, further the president's goals in Ukraine.
COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER, IMPEACHMENT EXPERT & CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: It confirms what we already know from the phone call. If you read the readout of the phone call, it's very clear that he's trying to solicit a favor in an American election from a foreign leader. He keeps saying there is no quid pro quo, but if you look at the phone call, it's clear he's offering a trade.
You give me this information and you give me dirt on my political opponent and his son and I'll help your economy. We'll give you arms. And that's both illegal, and for the purposes of impeachment, it's certainly a high crime and misdemeanor because the requirement that the framers gave us is not a criminal office, but it's abuse of power and degradation of the office. And there's really nothing more --
BURNETT: You're saying we could be in a situation where a criminal situation is going in the courts --
BURNETT: -- but that possibly really would force Congress' hand, right? Because then you take away the subjectivity of a high crime and misdemeanor away, right? If you get a criminal conviction of Rudy Giuliani?
BRETTSCHNEIDER: Absolutely. I think it's clear that it's not just that the Congress can impeach and that the Senate can remove and they're obligated to do so because we have a crime, crime, and we certainly have a high crime and misdemeanor within the meaning of the Constitution. The president's abused power in the worst possible way and the Framers using foreign powers in a way that would be dangerous within American soil.
BURNETT: So, Anne, this -- you were talking about quid pro quo. So, this comes hours ahead of Gordon Sondland's testimony. Now, he is at the heart of the quid pro quo conversation.
So there's what's in the transcript which is in black and white for everyone to see. For those that want more, there are all these interviews and depositions going on.
His text messages are at the center of the impeachment investigation. So, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine texts Sondland, as I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help of the political campaign.
Sondland replies in this eerily formal and not text like way, Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intensions. The president has been crystal clear. No quid pro quos of any kind. Sounds weird. It turns out it is weird, according to "The Washington
Post", no quid pro quos of any kind, apparently was dictated by Trump to Sondland on how to respond to that text. How damning could that be?
MILGRAM: So, I think Sondland has two problems. One is there's this gap after he gets, and this is the second text message that he gets from that American ambassador and it's the second one nine days later which essentially says the same thing which, if there is a quid pro quo, that's not OK, it's crazy. And Sondland pauses, it's hours later that he responds with this formal thing that he's now going to say that Trump told him.
BURNETT: Which we know there's -- we now know, according to "The Washington Post", there is a phone call with the president that transpired with those hours.
BURNETT: And the bigger problem for Sondland in my view, who's supposed to testify tomorrow is this, Fiona Hill, who was on the National Security Council, she worked in the White House. She was in charge of the Russia desk, she has testified it's been reported that Sondland was in a meeting that happened weeks before these conversations back and forth with Taylor, the American ambassador to Ukraine, in which Sondland was there and was there to raise the issue of the Ukrainian investigations into Biden with Ukrainians in the White House.
And so, Sondland's problem in my view is he wanted to say it wasn't me, it was Donald Trump. I didn't know anything about this --
BURNETT: But he was doing it.
MILGRAM: Exactly. And so, I don't see how he gets out of this tomorrow without serious damage.
BURNETT: So, Corey, the thing is if Sondland appears tomorrow it's under oath. They told him, look, it's under oath, OK? The guy donated a million dollars to president Trump, sure, but it's under oath, I don't think he's going to want to go to jail for lying tomorrow or prison.
So, the big line of Trump's defense has come down to those three words. I mean, here's the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland who is highly respected was there's no quid pro quo. He said that.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
No quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: So, if Gordon Sondland says, yes, he told me to write that, does that decimate Trump saying there's no quid pro quo?
BRETTSCHNEIDER: Yes. I mean, I think it's a bizarre argument to begin with, just because somebody says somewhere that there is no quid pro quo. We have the transcript. We know what happened. There was a quid pro quo.
And also, I think, it's clear that the ambassador must have known what was going and he shows consciousness of guilt. The fact that he feels so defensive to say these things suggests to me that he knew something was wrong and common sense would tell anyone in America that if a foreign government is involved in a -- a deal to trade arms for help in our own election, that's certainly wrong and likely criminal.
BURNETT: Yes, I think from a common sense perspective it is the most important source of arms to have against their largest adversary.
Thank you both so very much.
And next, Democrats say the president called his former Defense Secretary James Mattis the world's most overrated general. Former NATO supreme allied commander who has known General Mattis for 20 years calls him a mentor and he's OUTFRONT next.
Plus, it keeps coming. 2020 Democrats are stepping up their attacks on Elizabeth Warren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was more specific and forthcoming about the number of selfies she's taken than about how this plan is going to be funded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump defiant on pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria, despite withering criticism from his own party, ISIS militants being released from jail and tens of thousands of children losing their homes as the battle began, Trump said it is not his problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: They have a problem in a border. It's not our border.
We're not a police force. Two countries that fight over that has nothing to do with us.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander. He's out with a new book, "Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character".
It is great to see you. It's good to have you back.
ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Good to see you, Erin.
BURNETT: So, I guess I want to start with your reaction first, with what the president repeatedly says that this conflict in northern Syria has nothing to do with us.
STAVRIDIS: Yes, I -- I get it on the Middle East fatigue in the country, but a couple of quick points. One is this has an enormous amount to do with us. Look who the winners are here. It's the Islamic State which will come back, and threaten us. It's Iran, with whom we are locked in a conflict in this region, whether we like it or not. It's Russia as Vladimir Putin pops these strings and it's a war criminal dictator Assad who uses chemical weapons against his people. For all those reasons, we need to be engaged.
And I'll close, Erin, by saying let's look at history in this regard and say Korean peninsula 1950s, when things got tough on the peninsula did we say, you know, those Koreans weren't with us at Normandy. They weren't with us in World War II. We ought to just kind of get out of here.
Well, if we had done that we would not have the 14th largest economy in the world in South Korea. We would not have a staunch ally in that region, and we would have sent a terrible message.
This is an analogous situation. We ought to stay engaged and it's a small number of troops any these are 2,000 or 3,000 as opposed to, say, the 150,000 troops that were in Afghanistan when I was supreme allied commander.
BURNETT: And perhaps many don't realize, the presence in Asia, how the region rife with war has become a region known for peace and in no small part, perhaps fully due to American involvement.
I mean, I want to ask you about something else, admiral that happened today because you've known the former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for years. He recently warned that ISIS would have a resurgence if the United States doesn't have a troop presence in Syria.
President Trump was asked about that warning today during the meeting with Democrats and Republicans. McConnell was there that we were covering. We are told from a source the president responded that Mattis was,
quote, the world's most overrated general. You know why? He wasn't tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.
STAVRIDIS: It's just so unbelievable. I mean, having known Secretary Mattis, General Mattis who has been a mentor to me. He's seven years older than I am.
He is an individual of sterling quality and reputation, and for the president of the United States to even remotely impugn his reputation is truly shocking.
And lastly, this comment that I defeated ISIS is just beyond the pale. ISIS was defeated by the work of the Obama administration to begin with and them the Trump administration. But above all, it was the work of our allies, partners and friends in that region. It was the Kurds from whom we are now walking away.
So it is correct to say this is a tactical failure of U.S. policy. It's also a significant strategic failure.
BURNETT: So we have this letter which I mean, I literally, David Gergen said he had to have someone check to see if it was real and I had the same sentiment and no doubt you did, as well. He sent it to President Erdogan last week before Erdogan starts with his attack and the sign off is don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool, exclamation point. I will call you letter after he threatens to destroy the Turkish economy.
Your new book "Sailing True orth" is about character traits and good leadership and talking to people that you know well who have exhibited that throughout your life. When you see a letter like this from the president of the United States and you try to square that with what you just wrote about --
BURNETT: -- do you see -- what do you see here?
STAVRIDIS: I can't imagine a single admiral that I looked at in history writing a letter like this. And let's contrast here, Chester Nimitz, Fleet Admiral Nimitz who takes command of the Pacific fleet days after Pearl Harbor. He's looking at the smoke hulks of the ships in Pearl Harbor.
He squares his shoulders without any big display of emotion, no self- centeredness, he builds a team and he defeats the Japanese Empire. It takes four years. That's the kind of calm and resilient leader we need.
Leadership, Erin, is about the influence we exert on others. Character is how we lead ourselves. That inner voyage of character, I would argue, is much more difficult. The big door of leadership swings on the small hinge of character. That is the lesson of the book. BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Admiral, and it is
great to see you.
STAVRIDIS: Great seeing you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, a surprising admission from Team Biden about how little cash he has on hand. Should he be worried?
BURNETT: Tonight, Democrats escalating their attacks on Elizabeth Warren as she struggles to explain how she plans to pay for Medicare for All without raising taxes on the middle class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: She was more specific and forthcoming about the number of selfies she's taken than about how this plan is going to be funded.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's going to have to tell the truth, or the question will be raised about whether or not she's going to be candid and honest with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And this all started at last night's debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate Elizabeth's work, but again, the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.
BUTTIGIEG: Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this.
BURNETT: Do you think a wealth tax is the best way to address income inequality? Your response.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's part of the solution, but I think we need to be focused on lifting people up. Sometimes I think that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Join me in saying that his Twitter account should be shut down.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's figure out --
WARREN: -- why it is that we have had laws on the books for antitrust. BIDEN: And I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" and CNN political commentator, and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell who supports Joe Biden.
Joan, you heard many Democrats calling out Warren for failing to explain how she'll pay for Medicare for All without raising taxes on the middle class.
JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
BURNETT: A real issue for her considering the Bernie Sanders' plan is the one she supports and he says he's going to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it. So, she supports the same plan and refuses to acknowledge that tax issue.
Did this really reveal her weakness as a candidate or not?
WALSH: Look, she's had an amazing run and she has run the race on her terms, and I admire that and we must all admire that. Last night, she found out it's not always going to be on her terms. And yes, she's going to have to explain how she pays for it.
I don't think -- as someone who actually supports Medicare for All, I think you have to lay out how you do it. I think you have to lay out what it's going to cost.
Senator Gillibrand, Kirsten Gillibrand, she's gone from the race, she wanted to do it through payroll taxes and be very explicit about that that way. That's a way. Other people have other ways.
But you can't keep dodging. You look dodgy if you keep not answering the question.
BURNETT: And she was refusing to do that again and again.
Governor, did the attacks on warren help Vice President Biden last night?
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, look, it's hard to tell who's the beneficiary when a candidate stumbles. And Senator Warren certainly -- this was the second debate in a row where she refused to answer the question and she was asked explicitly, first by George Stephanopoulos last month and by the fellow from "The New York times," will your plan cause a tax increase?
And she wouldn't answer the question.
You can't get away with that running for president of the United States. You have to be honest with the American people. Senator Sanders, I don't think his math adds up but at least he's
honest. He says taxes are going to have to go up but it will be offset by the reduction in costs of premiums and co-pays.
So I think Elizabeth probably stumbled. How big a stumble, hard to tell. But cumulatively she's going to have to come to grips with that question. I don't think you can be -- I don't think you can be for ending private insurance and be elected president.
BURNETT: Look, there were others on the stage that agreed with that sentiment and made it loud and clear last night. Klobuchar, Buttigieg and others among them.
Joan, it's interesting what the governor says. He said it's hard to tell who benefits when a candidate stumbles.
BURNETT: OK? So, there's that issue but there's the other issue, which is Joe Biden's performance on its own.
BURNETT: Separate from her being attacked. And he had a lot of energy last night. Here's a few of the exchanges I had with him last night right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I'm going to say something that is probably going to offend some people here, but I'm the only one on the stage that's only gotten anything really big done.
BURNETT: Former President Jimmy Carter said he could not undertake the duties of the presidency at 80 years old. Why are you so sure that you can?
BIDEN: Because I've watched it. I know what the job is. I've been engaged.
Look, one of the reasons that I'm running is because of my age and my experience. With it comes wisdom.
We have to unite the country because, folks, it's time we stopped walking around with our heads down. We are better positioned than any country in the world to own the 21st century. So, for God's sake, get up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: OK. Joe got up. He's got his energy. Yes, I think he had the best night.
I do think that that last exchange with Elizabeth Warren when she refused to give him any credit for lobbying for the CPFB, I thought he seemed a little nasty. She should have been more gracious in my humble opinion, but --
BURNETT: He came at her and I didn't know if it was possible for her to up the ante on nastiness, but she did. It was not a nice exchange on either side.
WALSH: It was not a nice exchange. So there were times when he seemed a little bit too ready, a little too fortified and that was one of them. But I would say it was his best night so far.
BURNETT: And, Governor, I'm sure you would agree with that. I mean, look, there's also the context here. He has that night where he brings the energy and some are saying this is the best debate he had. And then we're finding out that, Governor, that Biden campaign says it has a lot less cash on hand than others in the top five. Obviously, he's still the frontrunner according to most polls.
And so, he defended his campaign today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We've been in the process of having about a third of the time that many people have had and we're doing fine. Our fund-raising is building. We feel confident we're going to be ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Governor, Bernie Sanders is more than three times as much money as Biden. Are you concerned at all that Biden's campaign is burning through cash so quickly?
RENDELL: No, I'm not. I was on the phone today talking with people about some upcoming Pennsylvania fund-raisers and people were enthusiastic. I asked one man for the maximum of $2,800 and he said of course, but I'm going to bring my wife and she's going to max out too. So, he gave double what I asked for, which means I'm a pretty lousy fundraiser.
But the enthusiasm for the vice president is out there. He's going to have more than enough money to run a good, effective communication strategy.
Look, for president the person that raises the most money doesn't always win. Jeb Bush learned that and Hillary Clinton outspent and outraised Donald Trump 2-1. Because there's so much free media coverage, it dilutes the effect of money that dominates a governor's race or senator's race. So, I think Joe Biden will have more than enough money to go all the way through Super Tuesday. And if he does as well as I expect on Super Tuesday, he'll have plenty of money flowing into his coffers after that.
WALSH: But it does force him to spend more time raising money and it raises a problem that he has with at least the progressive base, which is that he's taking a lot of corporate dollars. And so, it highlights, he's not doing as well as he needs to do. He's going to do more and some of our voters are not that keen on the way he's raising money. So, it's not a good thing.
BURNETT: Governor, Bernie Sanders --
RENDELL: Well, let me just respond to that.
BURNETT: Yes, go ahead, governor.
RENDELL: No, you go ahead, Erin. I was just going to --
BURNETT: I was just going to ask about -- OK, yes, I'm sorry, you go ahead.
RENDELL: About Bernie, no you go ahead.
BURNETT: I was just going to ask you about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She's going to endorse Bernie Sanders. Do you think that that is significant in this race at this time?
RENDELL: I think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren need to expand their base, but their bases are the same, progressive voters, far left progressive voters. And yes, Cortez and Ocasio have a following, there's no question about that and that will takes votes from Elizabeth, but there's plenty of endorsements down the road.
BURNETT: There's a lot of time still to come.
Thanks very much to both of you, always appreciate it.
And thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" with Anderson starts now.