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Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) Discusses About President Trump's Knowledge Of Whistleblower Before He Released Ukraine's Military Aid; NYT: Trump Briefed On Whistleblower Complaint Before Releasing Aid; Dem Clarifies Support For Impeachment After Saying "I Don't See The Value" In Removing Trump; Bolton Says National Security Priorities "Under Attack From Within;" Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment Probe; Warren: Bloomberg "Plans To Bypass Human Beings," Is Trying To "Buy The Nomination"; CNN On The Ground In Northern Syria After Trump Pulled Troops From The Region. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The men who are now in their early 50s, they say they're looking forward to Thanksgiving with their families. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, President Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint when he released the military aid to Ukraine. This is just breaking at this moment from "The New York Times." Plus, the President's former National Security Advisor John Bolton with a cryptic warning saying America's National Security is under attack from within. If he's so concerned, why won't he defend it? And a Trump biographer now a Senior Advisor to Mike Bloomberg's 2020 campaign is going to join us. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, President Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint when he released the military aid to Ukraine. This is a new report just crossing from The New York Times, which is reporting at this hour that Trump was briefed by White House lawyers about the whistleblower complaint in late August.

And the lawyers at that time told him they were trying to figure out if they had to give the whistleblower complaint to Congress, they were trying to avoid doing that. Of course, this is crucial. You're talking about late August, the President of the United States finds out about the whistleblower complaint. And remember, he then only released that military aid after Congress announced that it was opening investigation into his handling of that Ukrainian aid.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times broke this story. And, Maggie, literally for anyone reading through it, I don't think they've even had time to get through all of this as it's just crossing. The timing is very significant of what you are reporting tonight. What more can you tell us?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, Erin. So it's significant because this briefing by Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, and John Eisenberg, who is the main lawyer for the National Security Council took place at the end of August roughly two weeks before the freeze on that aid was lifted.

So we know that the President was aware that there had been this whistleblower complaint filed against him in connection with his actions regarding Ukraine, both in terms of this phone call that he had with President Zelensky of Ukraine on July 25th and the fact that the aid was frozen. Those are the key details in the whistleblower complaint and he was aware of it at the time when he reversed himself.

BURNETT: And he was aware of the whistleblower complaint and, of course, aware that they were trying to avoid this ever ending up with Congress which, of course, it did.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BURNETT: And then Maggie, obviously, we know the timeline here is that two days after, the President is aware Congress is opening an investigation into what happened. That's when he finally releases the aid. You also point out here that this is also very significant in terms of what the President was thinking at the time he told Gordon Sondland no quid pro quo. Explain what you mean.

HABERMAN: Sure. So into your point about Congress, this briefing took place at a moment when Cipollone and Eisenberg were arguing that they didn't think they had to share this whistleblower complaint with Congress. They felt that it was covered by executive privilege and they were seeking an opinion from the Justice Department's legal office about what to do.

The Justice Department then said they didn't have to share it and they didn't. But to your point, Congress ended up finding out any way. But he found out about this complaint existing prior to a conversation that Gordon Sondland testified to Congress that he had with the President about questions about this aid being withheld.

And the President said to Sondland, there's no quid pro quo. That's according to Sondland's testimony. That's very specific language and that was language that was not part of the public discussion around this aid being withheld at that time when they had this conversation at the beginning of September.

BURNETT: Very crucial though because as you point out, Maggie, now knowing that he knew about this whistleblower complaint, he knew that the entire heart, the entire concept of the entire thing was a quid pro quo. So the fact that he introduces it - go ahead.

HABERMAN: Or he knew someone was saying that. That's right. He knew somebody was saying that or he knew that that was, at least, part of our understanding of it, based on what he was briefed on was that that was part of the conversation. I should note here that the White House declined to comment on this briefing on the timing of it.

BURNETT: And what else, Maggie, do you think could be significant here? Obviously, what this means for what the President was thinking, his use of the word quid pro quo, the way he handled Gordon Sondland, all of that is very crucial. What else do you think could be the implications of now knowing what the President knew when he knew it?

HABERMAN: I think anything that we can pinpoint as to what the President's mindset was, Erin, when he decided to free up this aid, I think, is important. Again, I think we still don't know exactly what Pat Cipollone and what Eisenberg told the President about this eight and we may never know, because those are conversations at the White House is going to argue are protected by executive privilege.


We've seen executive privilege play out repeatedly in discussions that the President had with the previous White House Counsel Don McGahn. So I don't expect this to be any different, but it again just underscores that the President was aware of what was going on. We're not saying that he knew the whistleblower's name at the time.

None of our reporting has indicated that he was told who it was. But he was just told that this complaint existed and the fact that he knew of that as he took actions related to people learning about this matter going forward is crucial. It's also again vital.

We've known this but it's worth underscoring the efforts the White House took to try to keep Congress from finding out about this is going to be a key part of this inquiry as it goes forward.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Certainly, adding into the questions. They have an obstruction. All right. Maggie, thank you very much. As I said, Maggie, breaking the story. Let's go now to Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence who sits on the House Oversight Committee. Congresswoman, I appreciate your time and you heard Maggie going through some of the reporting there.

Does this change anything now that you know when the President became aware of the whistleblower complaint, that it was prior to that conversation with Gordon Sondland it appears in which he said no quid pro quo? Certainly, it was prior to his decision to release the aid.

REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): What has been so magical about the proceedings for impeachment and the hearing is that it's - someone says it's like an onion, you just keep peeling away layer after layer. And this is just solidifying that the President of the United States is not a truthful person, that the President of the United States was manipulating his office and manipulating aid to another country.

And it was only until he felt that he was being exposed that he actually stepped up and actually release the funds. This is very incriminating and this is a time for us to understand that history must reflect that we held this president accountable.

BURNETT: So in terms of what this means for Congress, Maggie just alluded to, obviously, the point here, the context in which the President found out was White House lawyers were trying to prevent this whistleblower report from ever getting in the hands of Congress. That's what they were trying to do.

Do you think that in and of itself adds to the possibility of obstruction?

LAWRENCE: And that's obstruction. Absolutely, it's obstruction and it is one of the articles of impeachment that will be on the table. And the President has - from denying his staff to speak and thank goodness we have judges who are true interpreters of the law, the President is not a king, the President cannot have subjects are loyal citizens that serve only him that every government employees serve the people.

And so this is just - it just keeps piling on and this is very troubling, because so often people will say that the President is not very smart. It shows that he was manipulating, he was strategic in his obstruction and that he just blatantly lies and use that as a base for his deflections of what he does.

BURNETT: Now, you do talk about this as a moment of history, Congresswoman, and you did make some comments that are getting a lot of attention about this issue of impeachment and what to do here. Here is a part of what you said about President Trump. Let me just play it so viewers can hear it.


LAWRENCE: We are so close to an election. I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is, I don't see the value of taking him out of office. But I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.


LAWRENCE: I want him censured. I want it on the record that the House of Representatives get their job.


BURNETT: You say there, "I want him censured," and you don't see the value of taking him out of office, referring to President Trump. What exactly do you mean by this, Congresswoman?

LAWRENCE: So I was asked about the Senate and what is the senate going to do after we vote for impeachment. I have been on the record since 2017. I was one of the first to sign on to Representative Green's resolution for impeachment. I have not wavered from that.

But the discussion was, will the Republicans in the Senate go through and impeach the President, there seems to be no giving in that.



LAWRENCE: But the thing that keeps me awake and troubles me and what I was talking about is that there is actually a movement to resolve the President of any wrongdoing. We cannot afford that to happen. We cannot have the Republican Party to do that. BURNETT: So you're saying you want the House to impeach and you

support that, but in the Senate, instead of possibly absolving him, you rather they not vote on remove or not remove.


BURNETT: That they vote to censure him in the Senate. I mean is that what you're saying?

LAWRENCE: Yes. Privately, the Republicans are saying, "Yes, it's not right. He's done something wrong, but it's just not impeachable." We have to put a marker down, so I'm going to do my job in the House.

And when it gets to the Senate, I was putting out there that this is the way for history to reflect that this president and president from now on, this is unacceptable and that we will not tolerate it and that we will say as the checks and balances in our government, that we did our job, and that was my call to the Republicans in the Senate.

BURNETT: All right. Well, certainly I think you made it clear here and I appreciate your time. Congresswoman, thanks as always.

LAWRENCE: Thank you so much.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, breaking news, Democrats are now releasing two new impeachment transcripts we've never seen before and we're finding out tonight that before anyone in Congress or the American public knew anything about all of this, somebody actually resigned because they thought what they were being asked to do was wrong.

Plus, the President's former National Security Advisor John Bolton warning America's National Security is under attack from within. So why isn't he defending it? He doesn't work for the President anymore, why won't he speak out? And President Trump likes to claim this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just did a great thing in Syria.

The great thing that happened in Syria.


BURNETT: So what really happened in Syria on the ground? Well, we're there and a story you will see only OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Breaking news, The New York Times reporting that President Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint when he finally released the aid to Ukraine. This also means from the timeline of when he learned about the whistleblower complaint, which was late August, that when he told his EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that there was no quid pro quo, he already knew that there was a whistleblower complaint which was accusing him of doing exactly that.

OUTFRONT now Nia-Malika Henderson, our Senior Political Reporter, and Ryan Goodman, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Defense Department.

So Ryan, how significant is this? Obviously, we knew there was a congressional investigation that was underway two days before the aid was released. That's public. We know that and that was very damning. But this puts the President of the United States knowing about the whistleblower complaint in late August, weeks before.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: Right. So it's very significant and easily could explain why he decides to restore the aid because of these being discovered, essentially. So the whistleblower complaint in its allegations included the fact that the aid had been suspended and then raised this question, is that related?

So then when President Trump restores the aid, you might think that is because he's been discovered.

BURNETT: And as Maggie Haberman was saying, he found out about it from his lawyers in the context of they were trying to prevent Congress from finding out about it. So he knows there's this complaint, but when he has this conversation with Gordon Sondland in which he says no quid pro quo, he knows about the complaint, but he still thinks he might be able to keep the complaint quiet.

GOODMAN: That's right. It's also interesting that The New York Times report identifies one of the two white house lawyers as John Eisenberg, because The New York Times also had previously reported that mid August, August 14th, he is on the phone with the CIA General Counsel calling the Justice Department.

But basically what the CIA General Counsel thought was a criminal referral on the basis of the allegations that had been raised, that's middle August and that was "The New York Times" before and they've updated that story tonight. So if that same lawyer knew that and was on the phone with the Justice Department in middle August and now we know he actually did alert the President in late August of the whistleblower complaint, it raises even another specter, which is, did the President know that as well that a referral had been made to the Justice Department.

That would be another reason why he would want to restore the aid until Ambassador Sondland no quid pro quo.

BURNETT: And try to make the whole thing go away. And Nia, obviously, when you hear the name of that lawyer, obviously, this is also the lawyer that Vindman had approached twice with concerns about the President's dealings with Ukraine. So in other words, this lawyer had been aware since late June, right, at least, that there were serious issues here and concerns. He knew as much as anyone. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I think

that's right. And what you get when you put all of the testimony together and you put this piece of the puzzle in from The New York Times is that people in real time knew about this and were complaining about it and concerned about it.

Bolton, of course, telling Fiona Hill to raise her concerns about some of this to Eisenberg. And Eisenberg, obviously, knowing hearing complaints both from Vindman as well as another witness whose name escapes me right now, but that's what you get.

And I think if you're a Democrat, you know that this is going to happen that there's going to be more information that comes out about what was going on from reporters, from people just digging into this. You don't necessarily have to wait on John Bolton who sort of likes to flirt on Twitter on this. But you're going to get some more information as this thing keeps going on as we saw from Maggie's reporting in The New York Times.

BURNETT: And, Ryan, here's the thing, the context here as I think Nia just perfectly pointed out, people knew about this in real time. That Vindman, Fiona Hill knew about we're talking to the lawyers. John Bolton told people to talk to the lawyers.


We're finding out tonight in these transcripts just released. Mark Sandy, the top White House Budget official, the OMB was obviously who holds the aid and would release the aid. Somebody asked him behind closed doors in the Intelligence Committee, "Are you aware of any individual in the legal division resigning or leaving OMB - at least in part because of Ukraine's security assistance?" The answer, "Oh, yes, I am."


BURNETT: At least, one person resigned over this.

GOODMAN: So it sounds like all of the alarm bells were going off and it wasn't just people speaking to their other like policy colleagues. They were speaking to the lawyers. They knew that this was a serious legal problem and it's very notable that the person who resigned in the OMB is in the legal division.

And according to Sandy, it's because they were concerned about the Impoundment Act, which basically said you need to spend the money. And the Defense Department had said, "We actually broke through one of the deadlines." The White House broke through one of the deadlines to spend the money.

So It makes complete sense that at a certain point, people have their breaking points as well and a lawyer would say, "I can't pay for that."

BURNETT: Which to be clear, the reason these are laws is because Congress controls the purse, Congress authorize the money. You can't just not spend it, because you're the president and you don't want to. It's not the way this country works, that'd be a constitutional violation, right?

GOODMAN: Yes. It's illegal and it's a violation of separation of powers.

BURNETT: Nia, but it is incredible now what we're learning is just the sheer number of people who knew. And I understand that we've been sort of hit with this point before. There's a whistleblower complaint where multiple people spoke to the whistleblower.

But this new reporting here from the New York Times makes it even clear that one of the counsel here, White House counsel for National Security was well aware that this was a tsunami about to hit.

HENDERSON: That's right. And you see from the White House's notion of maybe they can get in front of the tsunami. Maybe they can even prevent this whistleblower complaint from going to Congress, because it's so damning and then you have the president telling Gordon Sondland, "Listen, there's no quid pro quo."

He's trying himself to get in front of this story and people were always sort of wondering, well, why would he just offer this information no quid pro quo, just automatically on this phone call. Now I think we know why because he was aware of some of the contents, possibly, of this whistleblower complaint. He certainly was aware of the complaint, aware probably of some of the connections that this whistleblower was making.

So listen, more and more information coming out drip, drip, drip, drip, drip for this White House.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And next, the Secretary of State playing games when it comes to testifying in the impeachment probe.


MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: When the time is right, all good things happen.


BURNETT: And a Trump biographer now working for Michael Bloomberg. Why does he think that that is the best bet to beat Trump?



BURNETT: New tonight, the President's former National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the most anticipated impeachment witnesses had this to say today on Twitter. "It probably goes without saying, that our country's commitment to our National Security priorities is under attack from within. America is distracted. Our enemies are not. We need to make U.S. National Security a priority." Now, it's a pretty stunning statement from the former National

Security Advisor of the United States, in part because it matches what the President's former top Russia advisor Fiona Hill said under oath when she said the President had a quid pro quo on Ukraine. Here she is.


FIONA HILL, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER: When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.


BURNETT: Hill said that on camera. Bolton though, of course, is still hiding behind Twitter and still technically doing the President's bidding because he's refusing to testify on the impeachment investigation. And to be very clear on two big points here, one, Bolton has a lot to say about what Trump did and what Trump knew and when he knew it. Bolton was in the know and you don't need to take it from me.


BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: Dr. Hill said that Ambassador Bolton referred to this deal as - this as a drug deal.

HILL: Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.

DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE: I heard Ambassador Bolton expressed to Ambassador Taylor and National Security Council Senior Director Tim Morrison his frustration about Mr. Giuliani's influence with the President, making clear there's nothing you could do about it.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: Did you tell Ambassador Bolton about this conversation as well?

TIM MORRISON, WHITE HOUSE TOP ADVISER TO RUSSIA AND EUROPE: I reached out to him as well and requested his availability for a secure phone call.

GOLDMAN: And what was his response when you explain to him what Ambassador Sondland had said?

MORRISON: Tell the lawyers.


BURNETT: So Bolton knows a lot and he's out there tweeting about things and teasing the American public, instead of actually talking and telling everything he know. As we remember, the other day when he tweeted, quote, "Stay tuned." The reality of the situation at this point is that if John Bolton wants to actually do the right thing and protect American National Security, instead of getting on a Twitter high horse, he should testify. That's the right answer for him.

He doesn't work for Trump anymore and that's the other big thing. He could stand up and stand up and speak and defy the president as nearly a dozen others have chosen to do and testify publicly. OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And I appreciate your time today, Senator. Thank you so very much. What is your reaction to John Bolton weighing in on Twitter, talking about National Security at risk and under attack from within and tweeting stay tuned, but so far refusing to testify.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Uh-huh. This is serious business, and Twitter doesn't do it. So, as you say, he should step forward as the other courageous testifiers have stepped forward to tell the American public and Congress the truth of what the president did.

BURNETT: Do you believe he will eventually testify? And will that happen in front of you in the Senate? It doesn't look like it's going to happen in the House, obviously.

HIRONO: One can only hope that these people will finally figure out that they should think about America and national security and not loyalty to a lying president who only cares about himself.

BURNETT: Now, it's not just John Bolton, obviously, who is obeying the president. Bolton doesn't even work for him anymore so he can really step up at any time.


BURNETT: He's not the only one, right? There's Mick Mulvaney and there's the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also not speaking out. And here's Mike Pompeo today when he was asked about testifying.

He played coy and sort of made a joke of it. Here he is.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: When the time is right, all good things happen.


BURNETT: I don't know if you could see, Senator, there, his little smile and as the audience there and as reporters were chuckling back at him. What do you think he means by that?

HIRONO: Who knows? And at this point, he's very deeply involved and all of these, what I would call these shenanigans that the president put everybody up to, and so, he's not coming clean and so what else is new with Pompeo?

BURNETT: So Republicans -- (CROSSTALK)

HIRONO: You know, everybody -- I'm sorry. The people that come close to the president they enter what I call the moral dead zone and it takes a lot for them to break out of the dead zone, and come clean and tell the truth.

BURNETT: So, Republicans are seizing on comments made by Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. You know, she -- she has said censuring Trump in the Senate instead of trying to remove him from office, it's the right thing to do because she doesn't think that the Senate will vote to do that because, obviously, you've got majority Republicans. Here's how she explained her thinking on this show just a few moments ago, Senator.


REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): Privately, the Republicans are saying, yes, it's not right. He's done something wrong, but it's just not impeachable.

We have to put a marker down. So I'm going to do my job in the House and when it gets to the Senate, I was putting out there that this is a way for history to reflect that this president and any president from now on, this is unacceptable.


BURNETT: Do you think a vote to censure the president is the way to go in the Senate, that Republicans will onboard with that when they will not vote to remove him from office?

HIRONO: I don't know what the Republicans will get onboard with and that's why it's very important for this impeachment process in the House to continue and, you know, we shall see, but the expectation is that the Judiciary Committee will also engage in a process, and they will either come up with articles of impeachment or not. But I suspect they will come up with articles of impeachment and that's what we're supposed to do and that is our job under the Constitution.

And it is not for us to say, well, you know the Senate's never going to convict and we shouldn't do it. So, I obviously have a different viewpoint as to what should happen. I think we should proceed with what is the appropriate thing to do.

BURNETT: And therefore, have your -- have your trial on removal or not. You know, I want to --

HIRONO: If the articles of impeachment come to us? Yes.

BURNETT: OK. So, some of your colleagues, you know, I've spoken to recently, a couple of them, the Democratic colleagues in the Senate, and they have been pretty down on their private versus public conversations with Republican senators. Here are two of your colleagues.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): What they say privately is very different from what they're doing publicly and saying publicly.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I have a number of friends in the Republican caucus in the Senate and when I try to bring up the subject of the testimony of this week, the striking developments in the House, all of them have either changed the subject or simply said they'd really rather not talk about it.


BURNETT: Senator, does that reflect your conversations with Republicans, your colleagues right now as well?

HIRONO: It certainly reflects what the Republicans are doing and, frankly, what does it matter what they're saying in private if it doesn't comfort with what they're saying in public. And so, there is a huge chasm between what they really think and what they're saying in public.

So this is why, until the Republican senators pay attention to what the president did which was to shake down the president of another country for his own political purposes using taxpayer money as leverage. They don't want to face that. And so, they just engage in all kinds of what-about-this or what-about-that.


Well, we should be focused on is on the president's actions and they're not able to do that.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Hirono, I appreciate your time.

HIRONO: Not yet.

BURNETT: Thank you so very much.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.

BURNETT: And next, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they have set their sights on a new target.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Michael Bloomberg plans to bypass human beings.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All he has to do is take out his checkbook.


BURNETT: Bypass human beings. Bloomberg's adviser responds.

Plus, President Trump claimed victory in Syria. So, OUTFRONT traveled to the region and found the situation on the ground tells a much different story. Our Clarissa Ward will be OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Tonight, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making his pitch for the White House. He filed for the Democratic primary in Arizona and defended his decision to skip the early caucus and primary states.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Arizona, as you know, is a crucial battleground state, but you don't often see presidential candidates around here and the fact is President Trump is about the only one spending any money here and in some of the other swing states around the country, and that's a big problem for a party, and I am determined to change exactly that.



BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Tim O'Brien, he's a strategic adviser for Mike Bloomberg's 2020 campaign.

And, look, Tim, Mayor Bloomberg has a point. Arizona, though, doesn't hold its primary until March 17th and that's the post Super Tuesday, and it's post the Tuesday after Super Tuesday.


BURNETT: And, obviously, post those first four crucial states. So, you are doing something with no precedent of success in American history. Why do you think it can work?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, a very small percentage of the delegates are at stake in these four states. Mike's not only going to be in Arizona. We're going to have a national campaign. We are campaigning now already like it's a general election.

So, Arizona is just an example of where he is, but we're gong to be in every swing state out of the gate starting next week. We will have a presence in every one of the swing states. Donald Trump already has a campaign there. No other Democrats have a robust campaign in place in those states to take it to Trump's backyard, and we plan to.

BURNETT: Because obviously, they're focused on the early states.

O'BRIEN: Because they need to.

BURNETT: Right, right, no, I understand your point and we can all agree the system has serious issues with it at this point. But, obviously, what you're doing is at the least unexpected, right?

So, you wrote a book about Donald Trump --

O'BRIEN: I did.

BURNETT: -- when he was in business. You know the guy.

How much of your work is going to be focused on advising Mayor Bloomberg who obviously knows Donald Trump and the campaign about getting in Trump's head?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, Mike Bloomberg and I are also both New Yorkers. So, you know, New Yorkers, as you know, watched Donald Trump's acts for a very long time. I think Mike Bloomberg recognizes that Trump has been a long time grifter and con man, and I think Trump knows that about himself.

And one of the things that Trump puts out into the world is that he's a very successful businessman, one of the many ways he hasn't but he's unbelievably wealthy when in many ways he's not, that he delivers success after success after success, and lo and behold, the person who has actually done all of those things is Michael Bloomberg.

You know, this idea that he's a billionaire, that's the first thing that keeps coming out in discussions about him, but Mike Bloomberg is also a wildly successful three-term mayor of New York. He's one of the most generous philanthropists in U.S. history, and before all of that, he was a parking lot attendant who put himself through college. All of those things make what Mike Bloomberg someone who is competent and principled in a way Donald Trump is not.

BURNETT: So, you bring up the billionaire point, and you're right to provide all that context, OK? But that billionaire point actually is coming from Democrats that now Mike Bloomberg is running. It's his own party. They're the ones who are slamming him and using billionaire like it's a four-letter swear word.

Here's Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.


WARREN: Michael Bloomberg plans to bypass human beings. He thinks that he can be the Democratic nominee for president by having a lot of money. Not by actually getting out and meeting people.

SANDERS: He doesn't have to go to Iowa. He doesn't have to go to Nevada. He doesn't have to go to South Carolina. All he has to do is take out his checkbook and write hundreds of millions of dollars in ads all over this country.


BURNETT: OK. What he said was -- was pretty damning. What she said was pretty personally nasty. Michael Bloomberg plans to bypass human beings.

O'BRIEN: Right. So, neither one of those things happens to be true. If Mike Bloomberg was interested in bypassing human beings, he wouldn't have spent $10 billion of his own dollars supporting public health initiatives, breaking -- trying to break the back of the NRA, funding education initiatives that have transformed lives. The last thing Michael Bloomberg has ever done in all of his years of being a public servant and a philanthropist is bypass people. And both Senator Warren and Senator Sanders know that.

Mike Bloomberg is a capable, successful and strategic politician who's going to bring this battle to Donald Trump's doorstep.

BURNETT: All right. Stay tuned. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump has praised his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. So is it as successful as he says? Well, we're going to take you to Syria after this.

And then Jeanne Moos on a much lighter note -- political candidates dancing around the issues.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump has heralded his decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, but the Kurds who call that region home see it very differently.

Our Clarissa Ward is on the ground in Syria in a story you will see only here.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Class should be in session now, but here in Hasakah, the school has become a temporary shelter for displaced people.

In one classroom, we met Ibrahim Hassan, the Kurdish father of five tells us he was forced to flee his home with his children when the Turkish military operation began.

This is what remains of his house. Ibrahim says it is one of his Kurdish neighborhood that was deliberately ransacked by Turkish-backed forces.

IBRAHIM HASSAN, DISPLACED SYRIAN KURD (through translator): They took everything, and after they took all our belongings, they set it on fire and burned it all.

Just days before the offensive began, Ibrahim's children had posed smiling with U.S. troops patrolling the area. He says America's presence gave him a false sense of security and then suddenly they were gone.

HASSAN: Since America betrayed us, every time I look at these photos of my children with the Americans, I want to erase them.

WARD (on camera): Do you feel that you trust the Americans still?


HASSAN: Now we hear and we see on television America saying that they're only here for the oil. Why did Trump do this? You've betrayed all the people.

WARD (voice-over): It's a sentiment we found shared by many here.


Nearly 200,000 people have been displaced by Turkey's offensive. Hundreds of their homes have been damaged or looted. Local authorities are now trying to move them out of the schools so that class can start again and into hastily built camps like this one. Conditions are bleak and resources are scarce.

Because of the security situation, international aid agencies have had to pull out, leaving the Kurds with no one to rely on but themselves.

So she is saying it's really difficult here because it's very cold, especially at night. They don't have enough food. They don't have electricity and the water is not good.

Camp organizers say there are 3,000 people living here now, with more arriving every day.

(on camera): Almost everyone in this camp is from the town of Ras al- Ain, and Ras al-Ain used to be about around 75 percent Kurdish. Now, though, we're told there are just a handful of Kurds left. And the people here believe the ultimate goal of this Turkish offensive is to essentially push the Kurds out of this area completely and change the ethnic makeup of it forever.

(voice-over): Turkey has done little to alleviate their fears, as the Kurds have poured out of these areas, Arabs have been bussed in. Syrian refugees who Turkish authorities claim are originally from the areas.

After more than 8 years of civil war, this part of Syria is full of stories of people forcibly displaced. In the Christian village of Tel Nasri, we find more families from Ras al-Ain sheltering in the ruins of a destroyed church.

Will you try to go home, I ask these women. There is no home to go to, they reply.

ISIS cleansed this area of Christians when it was in control. They have yet to return. Now, the village provides refuge for another people, forced from their homes with no sense of a possible return.


BURNETT: And Clarissa joins me now. She's in northern Syria.

So, Clarissa from what you learned, do the Kurds want American troops to come back?

WARD: I mean, I think, Erin, certainly, the Kurds recognize that they need U.S. troops here on the ground for some measure of protection. But when it comes to the announcement the U.S. is doing patrols again, doing these anti-ISIS operations again with Kurdish forces, there is also a sense that it's a little bit a day late and a dollar short.

And more broadly, as I think you heard from the story from the man Ibrahim who we talked to, there is a sense they don't feel really they can any longer rely on the U.S. in the long-term, Erin.

BURNETT: And so, you know, Clarissa, obviously, you are in northern Syria and dealing with all the risks that entails. What is the situation security like on the ground where you are?

WARD: I think that's part of the irony of this situation, Erin, is that the stated goal of turkey's military offensive was to create this so-called buffer own or a safe-zone, a 20-mile deep area along the border. But when you're here it doesn't feel like this is a safe zone. There are regular infractions of the cease fire but also regular car bombings. Just this afternoon, a car bombing in the town of Ras al-Ain where most of the people we interviewed for our story came from, at least 17 people killed in the attack, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Clarissa, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next on a much lighter note, Jeanne Moos on a different kind of political move.



BURNETT: Ever notice how politicians dance around the issues.

Jeanne Moos has.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know how Bernie Sanders could get a little grouchy.

SANDERS: If we could keep that down a little bit.

MOOS: Well, now, you can't keep him down. This is the story of Bernie's night as a not quite two months after his heart attack. The sound of the temptations lured him on the dance floor.

And Bernie invited woman after woman to take a spin. Even if this one shyly resisted his attempt to twirl and even when he tried to stop, one after another they kept cutting. Flashing popping as they scored dancing selfies.

(on camera): Would Bernie have been tempted to get down the temptations before he had his heart attack?

(voice-over): Those who cover him say he is a more light-hearted, humorous man after the health scare.

Sure, he's not the only one burning up the dance floor. Mayor Buttigieg supporters have gone viral with a panic at the disco dance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all part of Mayor Pete's strategy to get a negative percentage of the black vote.

MOOS: Nothing strategic about Bernie's dancing. He was bounced on by 23 women. And one guy as the four tops put it, neither could Bernie.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.

"ANDERSON" starts now.