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Details In Hundreds Of Redacted E-Mails About Ukraine Revealed; Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) Reacts To New Unredacted E-mails Regarding Ukraine. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 2, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: He is 77-years-old. Our deepest condolences to his wonderful family and friends. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next. What is Trump trying to hide?

The details in hundreds of redacted e-mails about Ukraine revealed and they point the finger directly at the President.

Plus, Bernie Sanders emboldened after raising huge money, he is going after Joe Biden, like he has never before.

And how did a businessman worth tens -- hundreds of millions, who was about to go on trial manage to escape Japan? Just get out of the country. Was he smuggled out in a musical instrument case? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, what President Trump didn't want anyone to see. Hundreds of e-mails now seeing the light of day.

And tonight, we can read what the President and his attorney, Bill Barr didn't want you to ever read.

The website, Just Security reviewing the e-mails which Barr had heavily redacted. And when I say heavily, I mean heavily. I mean, look at this one. That is the "To" and the signature and there's the e-mail. The entire e-mail message is in black.

I mean, it's the same with this one. Some parts -- some addresses, the entire e-mail itself in black. And then look at this one, same thing.

It goes on and on. But now, Just Security has seen what is behind this sea of black redactions, and one of the things we are learning is that a top official e-mail, but the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine came straight from President Donald J. Trump, quote, "Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold," and that's what was written in one of these e-mails. That e-mail in fact was sent on August 30th, likely after Trump's own

Defense Secretary, National Security adviser and Secretary of State had personally and unsuccessfully lobbied Trump to release the aid according to "The New York Times."

In this hour, the two most powerful Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding they hear from witnesses after learning what's in the e-mails. Schumer calling the revelations a quote, " ... devastating blow to Senator McConnell's push to have a trial without the documents and witnesses."

But as of tonight, McConnell, who is just hours from breaking his nearly two weeks silence about Trump's impeachment trial, showing no sign that he is going to budge on calling witnesses.

McConnell standing by Trump protecting the President and his men, despite an influential member of his own party, even before news of these e-mails broke, said she is still open to the idea of witnesses.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I am open to witnesses.


BURNETT: That was Susan Collins and Manu Raju was OUTFRONT tonight live on Capitol Hill. And Manu, I know you have some new reporting on McConnell and what his plans are tonight.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these Democrats are demanding those documents to be produced as part of the Senate trial. Mitch McConnell, of course is saying, he will not agree to that upfront. Now, either documents or witnesses, that has to wait, he is making that case.

And I am told that he is prepared to move forward with the agenda that the Republicans are pushing, and as the President's trial is in limbo, including pushing forward the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, as well as confirming judicial nominees, as the debate over how to move forward on the impeachment trial continues, and as Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker withholds the Articles of Impeachment in the House, does not send them over to the Senate.

Now, I'm told that he is unlikely to go to the floor to try to begin the Senate trial if those articles are not sent over and Nancy Pelosi saying she won't send over those Articles until she understands what the Senate process is going to look like.

Now, the source who is familiar with the discussions that have occurred behind the scenes says, right at the moment, it seems doubtful that there was going to be a deal cut between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, which means that this partisan class could persist for some time, which means it could ultimately be up to Nancy Pelosi to decide when to send over those Articles of Impeachment if McConnell and Schumer can't cut a deal over what that trial should look like. But the big push from Democrats in the aftermath of this revelation

today is to see those documents and I just talked to one Republican senator, Joni Ernst, who is up for reelection in Iowa. And I asked her whether or not she needs to see documents as part of the Senate trial.

She sidestepped those questions. She would not answer directly. She said that she just wants to see when this trial will begin because she is planning herself a 99-county tour in Iowa and she is calling out Pelosi to send over those Articles, so they can plan the trial in the Senate.

And she also, Joni Ernst, would not say whether or not she wants to hear from witnesses like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton, throwing cold water on that idea, saying that was the House's job to pursue that.

But nevertheless, a lot of uncertainty still on Capitol Hill about when that trial will take place as Republicans plan to move forward on other matters, including their agenda, even as the President demanding his trial to happen immediately.

BURNETT: All right, Manu, thank you very much. I mean, the power lines are drawn and this is going to be epic.


BURNETT: Tonight, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel joins me and, you know, here's how they looked redacted.

And now we're learning a bit about what's in some of these e-mails, including one on August 30th from a senior administration official saying the aid was withheld under the clear direction from POTUS -- from the President of the United States.

Okay, so that's in this e-mail, but obviously, there were other witnesses who said as much. Is what we're learning here different? Does it move the ball?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): Well, it moves the ball if you're someone who wants the truth. It doesn't move the ball if you want to cover up the truth. And that's the same pulling and tugging we've been watching now for weeks and months.

Senator McConnell ought to want to pull up the shades and let this fresh air and sunshine of blow in. But he is obstinate in terms of wanting to get to the truth.

I think what we have heard today just corroborates everything that we've known.

BURNETT: So is there anything in your mind when you -- I mean, the President of the United States or his Attorney General that these were redacted by the Department Justice, and is there anything that would justify this kind of --

ENGEL: No, and I think it's an insult to Congress, and I think it's an insult to the American people.

BURNETT: So would it be all right at this point if Nancy Pelosi says she is never going to send over the Articles of Impeachment if Mitch McConnell, as Manu Raju says he's going to do which is continue with business as usual, and refuse to entertain discussion of documents or witnesses?

ENGEL: Well, at some point, I think what Nancy has done has frankly, been brilliant, because otherwise it would just be business as usual, no matter what was done or not done, and that's certainly not beneficial for the American people.

Look, I think that Senator McConnell ought to realize that he is not a part of the defense trial, that he is -- he is a juror. And his collusion with the White House is something that should be alarming to everyone, and particularly when we're now getting all this feedback coming back, showing very clearly that the President knew about it. It was his decision to do it. And how much can you cover it up?

BURNETT: And of course, as we've said, you know, "The New York Times" has reported, you know, you had Pompeo, you had Bolton, they went to try to convince him to change his mind and he refused to do so in Bedminster in August in terms of the aid itself.

You did say recently, though, Chairman Engel, and I'm quoting you, "I don't think we want to hold it for too long." And you were referring to the Articles themselves. So this is a delicate act. Right? I mean, is it possible that Speaker Pelosi may be forced to give those Articles to the Senate and not get anything in terms of witnesses?

ENGEL: Well, I don't think we should hold it too long for holding its sake. I mean, we should hold it until we are convinced that there can be a free and fair trial.

The American people have a right to know, and these games really need to stop. I don't think holding it in itself is something that we wanted to see, but holding it in terms of trying to get a fair trial, which the American people are entitled to see, I think she is right on the money.

BURNETT: So today I don't know if you saw this, Josh Hawley, a Republican Senator, he tweeted, "Dems said impeachment was urgent. Now, they don't want to have a trial because they have no evidence. In the real world, if prosecution doesn't proceed with case, it gets dismissed. So on Monday, I will introduce measure to dismiss this bogus impeachment for lack of prosecution."

And obviously, they would need 51 votes to do so. McConnell has indicated he doesn't have those votes, but things could change. You could have people like Mitt Romney say, I don't need witnesses either, and they would have that. I mean, do you think this is a real risk that it gets dismissed?

ENGEL: Well, no, I think you can go to the other side as well. I mean, there's only four senators on the Republican side that are needed to join with the Democrats to continue the process. And I that's more likely to happen because if a Republican senator

knows that he or she is very vulnerable, I don't think they're going to want to voluntarily be part of a cover up.

BURNETT: So as all this has been going on, there have been some very significant international developments. When you look at what's happening in Baghdad, you look at North Korea. The President tweeted about this whole situation with the issues overseas and the impeachment.

Quote, "Despite all of the great success that our country has had over the last three years, it makes it much more difficult to deal with foreign leaders when I am having to constantly defend myself against the do-nothing Democrats and their bogus impeachment scam. Bad for the USA."

And now here he is, he had this relationship he said with Kim Jong-un who now says he wants to expand his nuclear arsenal and his nuclear force, another missile test could be in the offing. Is that partially the fault of impeachment?

ENGEL: Oh, no. Look, the President decided that Kim Jong-un was going to be his buddy and his friend.

BURNETT: The love letters as he used to say.


ENGEL: The love letters -- and all we've gotten back from it is nothing. I mean, you know, the one thing, if North Korea got rid of all its nuclear weapons, it would still know how to create new ones. So even that wouldn't be good, but at least it would show some kind of good faith on their part.

And we also have our allies, they are Japan and South Korea. So the President has gotten nothing out of Kim Jong-un. It's been back and it's been forth and it's been in and it's been out and nothing of concrete has happened.

So I just think the whole thing is an embarrassment. And we want to let Kim Jong-un understand that we're not going to just continence to his nonsense.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Chairman Engel. Thanks so much. Good to see you tonight.

ENGEL: Thank you. Good to see you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT, next, President Trump wining and dining with his friends at Mar-a-Lago. So what are his friends telling him about the impeachment trial because what they say matters so much to him?

Plus, Joe Biden announcing his biggest fundraising haul to date, but still trailing by millions and millions -- two major competitors just weeks before those crucial Iowa caucuses.

And President Trump spending one in five days at his golf courses last year. Tonight, his allies respond.


BURNETT: Tonight, awaiting a response from the White House or the Justice Department to damaging e-mails on Ukraine that have just been unredacted and reviewed by the website, Just Security.

It's these e-mails that I was referring to. One e-mail shows a top Budget official saying that withholding American aid to Ukraine was a quote, "clear direction from POTUS."

Now that line was redacted. It was one of these many lines put in black, well, why? Why?


BURNETT: Well it was redacted by the Justice Department and the Attorney General Bill Barr. Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT. I mean, Kaitlan, look, the Democrats are seizing on these new e-mails. There is incredible amount of black across all of them. That among other things, that could be very important were put in black where no one could see them.

Is the White House concerned at all now about the reaction to what Bill Barr and President Trump wanted no one to see?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, Erin, from the people we've been speaking with, we haven't heard a lot of concern about these redactions and what the response is going to be because we know in the past, the White House has said pretty conclusively that they feel they have a lot of leeway when it comes to what they're redacting in these documents.

But you're already hearing from not just Democrats, but also constitutional law experts and other experts on these matters about these redactions about why it is that the White House or the Trump administration rather is redacting these documents amid this congressional oversight, this Impeachment Inquiry that you saw playing out over the last several months.

Now, what these documents show is that there were repeated warnings from the Pentagon about the hold on this aid made pretty clearly and repeatedly to the White House, and when you read that e-mail from Michael Duffy, that Budget office aide, a political appointee, we should note not only saying this aid is going to continue to be withheld, also that it was at the clear direction of the President and that he wanted it that way. That is really what your officials and Democrats are going to be looking at over the next several days.

Now, Erin, what's also interesting about this is that e-mail, the same day that it was sent, the President had a meeting with the Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo about the hold on that aid and that was when it was about roughly two months into the hold and how long that had been going on.

So what you're seeing is just despite the fact that there were these repeated warnings from the Pentagon, that didn't change the White House's mind, more specifically the President's mind even though we know based on other reporting, reporting from "The New York Times," there were times when there were meetings with the President, Pompeo, several officials trying to convince them it's in America's best interest to release this aid.

Yet, the President held firm in his belief that he did not want to release that money. So it's just only going to raise new questions from here -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan, reporting, of course, from Mar-a-Lago where the President still is on his break.

OUTFRONT now, former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean; congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Rachael Bade, and Joe Lockhart who was President Clinton's Press Secretary during his impeachment investigation.

JohnDean, let me start with you. Can you think of any good reason let's just start with the facts here, in terms of how this was handled by Attorney General Bill Barr, any good reason for him to redact all these e-mails? And I just want to make it clear to people because I am kind of showing the ones at the top of my pile. This goes on, right, for hundreds of pages. Any good reason for Barr to do that?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Your redaction demo speaks for itself. It's way beyond the norm. And Erin, the criteria for what can be redacted under Freedom of Information Act request is well defined, and I hope that they'll go back into court and try to press the Department of Justice on this abuse of power that we're seeing here.

BURNETT: Joe, what do you think? Is this what you would have tried to do or is it clear that Bill Barr would have known that this could be abuse of power.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- no, I listen, I think it shows how corrupt the Justice Department has become under Bill Barr. There's no way, you know, on this planet that Janet Reno would have done this to protect Bill Clinton or I think any other Attorney General.

So this is deep corruption. Again, you know, there is executive privilege, but that doesn't apply to people, you know, in O.M.B., talking to someone in DoD. It applies to the President and his most senior advisers.

So, you know, there is no other reason to do this except for to cover up a crime.

BURNETT: I mean, Rachael, you know, you just heard Chairman Engel saying, you know that he thinks this is significant. I will say you have this O.M.B. official saying this is at the clear direction of POTUS. Okay. That's damning.

It does, though, corroborate what we already heard from the congressional trial, right, where there was, you know, some sort of a video conference and someone from O.M.B. said, we're holding this up at the direction, the explicit direction of the Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, which of course makes it clear it came at the behest of the President.

So do these e-mails move the ball? Does this help Democrats at all do you think from your reporting get Republicans on board with meeting witnesses?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Democrats I'm talking to on the Hill basically feel this really is going to strengthen their demand that McConnell allow certain witnesses from the White House to come forward to be summoned in the Senate trial. I mean, these documents show again that President Trump was very much the mastermind behind the decision to hold up this aid, as they were asking for these investigations of Joe Biden in Ukraine.

And not only that, the e-mails also show that there was a concern about the legality of what was going on. And you saw top Pentagon officials saying, have you guys consulted with the lawyers on this? Are the lawyers in on this? What's going on? What's the legal justification?

And it was basically told by top -- these people were told by top O.M.B. officials, Budget officials to keep quiet and traditionally, Congress in the Constitution has the authority to appropriate money, and the Executive is supposed to merely carry that out.

This money was appropriated, and so those Pentagon officials were really concerned about the legality of this. I think this once again, just as more evidence and more examples of a lot of further questions that Democrats want to get to the bottom of in the Senate trial whether or not Mitch McConnell is going to let them is a whole another issue.

BURNETT: I mean, John Dean, there's concern about the legality from the get-go and it is expressed among multiple people, and then you have Bolton and Pompeo and Esper they go to Bedminster where the President is vacationing, and they try to get him to release this aid. They do everything they can.

The Defense Department has already done all their tests and studies and said, it needs to be released. Is there any doubt that the President of the United States did not know that there was a wide belief that what he was doing was illegal?

DEAN: I cannot envision him not knowing. Who knows what goes in his mind and what he listens to? But it's very -- he was certainly told, he was certainly informed, and it was certainly illegal.

This is something that happened back during the Nixon years. They established the law then that you could not withhold spending by Congress. So it's well-known publicly.

I mean, I can't imagine a man would become President not know that. So there's just no justification for this. BURNETT: So Joe, this comes as the President obviously has been at

Mar-a-Lago where we just saw Kaitlan, right, he's still there. He's been there for about two weeks. And he has been ranting about impeachment and the Democrats, more than 60 tweets or retweets about this topic.

And people that have been visiting him there that he's been apparently spending a lot of time with are people who have said -- are central to this -- Rudy Giuliani on that list. And then, of course, Alan Dershowitz who has been advising him in some sort of unofficial capacity, as well as friends in the media that he has. What does this tell you about what he is going to do? His defense strategy?

LOCKHART: Well, it tells you that there really aren't any adults left around. I mean, I know and I'm sure John had the same experience and we worked pretty hard about making sure who got access to the President, and who we didn't -- and who didn't.

And both Rudy Giuliani and Alan Dershowitz have big legal problems right now. Rudy is being investigated by FDNY. Dershowitz has been sued. He is involved in two lawsuits about sexual assault of minors.

I think in any other White House, these people wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the President. But it's one of the reasons why we are where we are.

The President likes people who tell him how great he is. He likes people who like to live in his glow, and he gets really bad advice.

BURNETT: So, Rachael, what are you hearing in terms of the bottom line here for the Senate? I mean, we played a few moments ago, Susan Collins, a few days ago, right, saying she's open to witnesses.

You heard Chairman Engel say, well, you know, he's trying to flip the coin on this and say, well, look, we just need four Republicans on board and we could force witnesses, right, as opposed to saying that Republicans could dismiss this.

Are you hearing that any Republicans in the Senate are willing to go out on a limb here, take on McConnell when they come back tomorrow and say, we want witnesses?

BADE: Well, Erin, I think that that's still an open question. One, we're probably not going to learn the answer to this week. I think you're hearing from moderate Republicans like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, who are open to witnesses and who are obviously upset that Mitch McConnell was saying that he is coordinating with the White House. They want to be seen as objective jurors who are independent and thinking free of White House influence.

But the problem is, next week, what you're going to see is all these Republicans latching on to this notion that Nancy Pelosi still has the Articles of Impeachment, and both moderate Republicans who have said they're potentially open to witnesses have also expressed concern about the process that the Democrats are going through. And so, you know, in a way, Democrats might be undercutting their own,

you know, strongest argument for bringing witnesses forward, because by holding the Articles of Impeachment in the House, they've also sort of enabled this Republican talking point that they're playing politics and trying to keep Trump from being acquitted.

And so you know, it's really going to be next week who can sort of make their point loudest, but I think the question of whether four moderate Republicans will join with Democrats, that's not going to come until after the opening statements are read and the opening arguments are made and at that point, I think we could potentially see some. It's too early to tell.

BURNETT: Which is pretty fascinating because, of course, if you get to that point, as you were saying with the opening arguments and the Articles have been handed over without there being a deal, which is just fascinating to imagine how all this is going to play out.


BURNETT: Thanks very much to all of you. And by the way, if Mitt Romney was ever looking for a moment where it is his moment to stand up in front of the country and be the person everybody looks to, this is it.

OUTFRONT next, Bernie Sanders announcing a massive fundraising haul now going after Joe Biden and man, this is personal and harsh, and a multimillionaire -- hundreds of millions of dollars escaping -- literally escaping Japan just before his trial.

Tonight the mystery over how he did it, and there are developments in interrogations at this hour. We'll be back.


BURNETT: New tonight and nasty, Bernie Sanders going after Joe Biden like never before. This interview was just published in "The Washington Post" and in it, Sanders says quote, "It's just a lot of baggage that Joe takes into a campaign which isn't going to create energy and excitement. He brings into this campaign a record which is just so weak that it cannot create the kind of excitement and energy that is going to be needed to defeat Donald Trump."



Well, it comes after Sanders, and his campaign announced today that he raised $34.5 million last quarter. It sounds huge and it is. It is a record amount raised so far from donors this election.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live. He's outside a Sanders event in Muscatine, Iowa, where Sanders has been holding several today.

Jeff, look, this is -- this is -- as I said, it's aggressive. It's a nasty, nasty going straight at him. Sanders feeling emboldened now that he is coming into the Iowa caucuses with all of this money?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, there's no question he's feeling emboldened and you can see behind me here, Bernie Sanders' bus is going to be driving up, parking here on main street Muscatine, we're just a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River.

Bernie Sanders is intentionally holding a bunch of smaller rallies, smaller town hall events to meet these voters one-on-one, but those words in "The Washington Post" interview are sharper than anything he's said to date publicly. We'll see if he repeats those words as he campaigns across Iowa.

More importantly, we'll see if he puts money behind him and makes television commercials and ads. That's why this money is so important, $34.5 million. He, A, can go to his donors again and again and again. Average contribution some $18 or so. That's different from a lot of the other candidates.

Joe Biden today also turned a pretty impressive fund-raising number, nearly $23 million, doubling his online fund-raising. Money was never going to be an issue for these candidates. It shows that this race is going to go the long haul. It is going to go the distance.

Bernie Sanders is in this race as long as he wants to be. He certainly is emboldened by his grassroots support.

But, Erin, those words so striking. We did not hear him say that during one of the many presidential debates. He is saving that message for right now, increasingly talking about the Iraq war, about NAFTA, other votes in Joe Biden's record.

So, you can feel the intensity here now, one month and one day before the Iowa caucuses, things are going to start escalating here in terms of the rhetoric.

So far, no comment from Joe Biden and we'll see if he says anything as we are with him tomorrow -- Erin.

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

I want to go to now to Astead Herndon, national political reporter for "The New York Times" and a political analyst for us, and Abdul El- Sayed, former Democratic candidate for governor of Michigan who supports Bernie Sanders.

So, Astead, OK, look, obviously, huge money for Bernie Sanders. But I mean, you know, look, in politics, this is -- this is -- this is being nasty. I mean, he's going straight for it.

He's got baggage. Doesn't have energy and excitement and his record is so weak and can't create energy? I mean, wow.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a direct attack from Senator Sanders and I think it means a couple of things. One, he's making that closing argument in Iowa, as we see the last month approach before votes and he's going after the front-runner and trying to hit him and the areas that he sees as beneficial, particularly NAFTA, as you mentioned, the Iraq war, some of the votes in Joe Biden's past.


HERNDON: But I also think it signals what Senator Sanders thinks about the rest of the field. He is looking up at Joe Biden and saying, I don't have to look behind me at Senator Warren. I don't have to look behind me at Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend. I think that's an interesting window into the Sanders' strategy.

Buttigieg and Warren are folks who think they're strong in Iowa. What Bernie Sanders seems to be trying to do is nationalize this race and make it between him versus Joe Biden.

BURNETT: I mean, Abdul, what's fascinating about all of this -- I mean, there are many things that are fascinating about all of it, but among them, this fund-raising number is coming from the same corner where Bernie Sanders had a heart attack, right, which left Sanders himself questioning what kind of campaign he would be able to run. I don't know if remember this particular moment. Here he is.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.


BURNETT: I mean, he was visibly subdued after his heart scare, but things have completely changed now, Abdul, in a campaign where age has been a discussion for him and, of course, Joe Biden as well, is this now age and health completely a non-issue for Sanders. Is this what this money says?

ABDUL EL-SAYED, FORMER MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATIONAL CANDIDATE: Anybody who's been watching the debates knows that Senator Sanders is as vigorous as they come. He has been stomping up and down Iowa, California, all over the country.

What I think is astounding, though, is the fact that this $34.5 million comes from people like teachers, people who are in the armed forces, people who are nurses, people who are the folks who we want to come out and vote. That's what I think is so critical here.

What he's shown is you don't have to go to billionaire fundraisers and ask folks to max out to you. What you can do is have a strong, solid message that brings people together. His message has always been not me, us, and that us comprises of the very folks who we need to come out and vote. Who did not come out in 2016, which gave us Donald Trump who have to come out in 2020 if Democrats are going to win, and he's closing in on that message that says, that it is about what it is that you envision after Trump if you want to beat Trump. BURNETT: So, Astead, in eschewing big donors, right, he joins

Elizabeth Warren.


And sure, she ruled out money from her Senate campaign, which had come from those sorts of donors, but that's how she has run her presidential campaign. She has not put out her numbers yet. OK?

We know she's surged in the polls, right? A lot of people were saying, look, she's got it. Sanders is -- you know, especially with his health, he's going to accede to her. Not only has that not happened, she has come down sharply in the polls.

So, how big of a threat is she to Sanders now?

HERNDON: It remains to be seen. I think one of the key moments that you're talking about is the early October period where Senator Warren was surging in the polls, actually crossing Joe Biden in some national polls.


HERNDON: And it seemed for some as if she was going to be the progressive challenger and maybe overtake Senator Sanders and his base. That's also around the time in which he suffered that heart attack.

What we have seen since then has been a real reversal of fortune. Not only has the grassroots progressive base rallied around Senator Sanders.


HERNDON: We have seen Senator Warren take some incoming particularly on health care and on kind of rounding out that progressive message that was that important October debate, the CNN "New York Times" debate in October where she was getting repeated questions about whether she was going to be able to pay for it. She released that plan later. But she's never recovered in the polls since that point.

I think there's still a month to go. We know Iowa breaks late. By no means is anyone saying that Senator Warren is done.


HERNDON: But what we do know is that Sanders has come out looking -- come out this year looking stronger and it actually brought us back to the point that we started this year at, where it's Biden at the top and Sanders looks like the top challenge.

BURNETT: And, Abdul, I mean, it's amazing, because you have this -- what Sanders is saying about Biden, right, saying he doesn't have energy and excitement and a weak record, right, I mean, being incredibly aggressive. We do have the Biden fund-raising numbers, $23 million, his biggest fund-raising quarter so far, but $10 million behind Bernie Sanders, but he's still at the top of the polls.

How frustrating is that to you, right? He doesn't have the same money and certainly he spent more, so his money in the bank is even less, right? Which could be very significant.

Is that going to be relevant in the polls or not?

EL-SAYED: Look, I think voters are just now starting to really take a keen look and what we found in this race over the course of the past year, to be frank, is that folks kind of are interested in who they know about. And Joe Biden has been vice president of the United States for eight years previous. Until people know who he is and that's just an ID issue.

But I think when people start to look into the candidates, that's where you're going to start to see the separation. Also, the fact that the front-runner who's been the frontrunner for the entire past year is raising more than $10 million less than Senator Sanders says something about the kind of surge that Senator Sanders has left in him.

I also want to make a point. I thought Astead wrote a fantastic article in "The Times" about Medicare-for-All, and the fact that Senator Warren is not talking about it. I love Senator Warren, but to be fair, she sort of tried to split the middle on Medicare-for-All.

A lot of folks are trying to argue that Medicare-for-All is a loser. It's clearly not. And what Sanders has tried to do is zeroed in on it and you're seeing the surge that's coming out of it.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate both of your time very much. Thank you.

And next, Pete Buttigieg, huge fund-raising numbers as well, and unapologetic when he comes to who he is running elbows with.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to bring together all of the resources that we can.


BURNETT: Just how did a CEO worth $120 plus million under 24-hour surveillance possibly going to go to prison slip out of Japan, escape and avoid trial with no one knowing about it? Did he really get in a musical instrument case?



BURNETT: Tonight, Mayor Pete is no longer a mayor. After eight years as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he is out of office and he is not stopping his momentum, though, when it comes to his race for the White House. Abby Philip is OUTFRONT.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pete Buttigieg kicking off the final sprint to the Iowa caucuses with a massive $24.7 million raised in the last three months. But some of his rivals are taking aim at how he raised that cash with the help of wealthy, well-connected donors.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to define my campaign by who we exclude or who we reject. This is a moment where we've got to bring together all of the resources that we can.

PHILLIP: So far, the top tier candidates say they've posted their best fund-raising numbers yet, but two of the biggest fund-raiser, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders say they don't need the rich.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not sell access to my time. I don't do call time with millionaires and billionaires.

PHILLIP: Sanders' campaign manager taking the fight to Buttigieg.

FAIZ SHAKIR, BERNIE SANDERS 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: So if you have Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden telling you they need to kowtow at the altar of the rich to fundraise in the general election, they are wrong. We are upending those notions. You can fund this totally in a grassroots way.

PHILLIP: Warren hammering the former the South Bend mayor over his fundraising, including this one recently held at an opulent wine cave.

WARREN: Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.

PHILLIP: Some of the most well-connected celebrity donors and fundraisers that backed the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the past are now backing Buttigieg, like actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore, comedian Ellen DeGeneres and DreamWorks co- founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Actor Kevin Costner even campaigning recently in Iowa.

KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: I see Pete as a man of this moment.

PHILLIP: Buttigieg arguing that every dollar available should be used to beat Donald Trump in 2016.

BUTTIGIEG: What I'm saying is that we can't go into this fight against Donald Trump with one hand tied behind our back.

PHILLIP: Other Democrats say it's time to change the way campaigns are funded. They point to emails like this one from a Buttigieg fund- raiser obtained by "Axios". The fund-raiser H.K. Park writing: If you want to get on the campaign's radar now before he's flooded with donations after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, you can use the link below for donations.

A Buttigieg spokesman said the campaign did not authorize the language, but called it ridiculous to read the pitch as anything more than asking potential supporters who may be interested in Pete to join our campaign before caucusing and voting begins.

Buttigieg firing back at his critics.

BUTTIGIEG: According to "Forbes Magazine", I am the -- literally the only person on the stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire.


PHILLIP: Now, Erin, out here on the campaign trail, we typically hear this issue of campaign done eggs and where they come from, from young voters.


But Pete Buttigieg's supporters tend to be a little bit older, which could explain why there are no signs that there is going to be any slowdown in these types of fundraisers, particularly as we are just a few weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary -- Erin.

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

And next, authorities now questioning pilots in connection with Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan. New pictures emerging of the powerful businessman partying on New Year's Eve while on the run.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on Amy Klobuchar calling out Trump for breaking a key promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There won't be time to go golfing all of the time.



BURNETT: New tonight, pilots held for questioning. Pilots suspected of helping Carlos Ghosn escape are being detained in Turkey and on French TV tonight, a photo of the fugitive partying on New Year's Eve in Beirut appeared there with his wife and friends, wine, having a grand old time after he fled. He escaped house arrest in Japan.

Ghosn, the former head of Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault was under 24- hour surveillance without a passport. No passport. Somehow, though he managed to escape Japan. Fly around the world with stops and is now flaunting his escape.

It is an incredible tale and Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


CARLOS GHOSN, FORMER HEAD OF NISSAN: This kind of opportunities --

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How can Ghosn be gone? That is the mystery rocking the world as investigators dig through the House where Japan supposedly had the country's most famously accused man under strict surveillance.

The multimillionaire fugitive allegedly slipped out of that house and out of Japan right under their eyes, flying into Turkey and on the Lebanon where he issued a defiant statement.

I have not fled justice, I have escaped injustice and political persecution.


Ghosn was the visionary leader of Nissan and Mitsubishi, then he was charged with massive financial crimes, which he has denied. His three passports were taken. His use of phones and computers was heavily restricted. International travel was forbidden, and Japan's immigration system is state-of-the-art.

So how did he vanish?

The speculation, like Ghosn, is running wild.

Lebanese reports say he was smuggled out in a huge musical instrument case like the kind for a double bass following a private performance by an ensemble at his home.

"Reuters" and "The Financial Times" say he was whisked away by a private security firm. Indeed, a flight tracking company did spot a private plane hopping along his alleged escape route. And authorities in Turkey have detained airport worker, including several pilots.

Japanese media say he used a spare French passport to escape. French officials say they don't like to get involved in such matters, but also, they won't extradite him if he shows up there. Bottom line --

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Armed with motivation to escape and backed by personal fortune, even the most high profile suspect can avoid justice by paying the right people.

FOREMAN: There is speculation that Ghosn' wife plotted his escape for months, but he says no, I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever. However he slipped away, for now Ghosn is now believed to be in this house in Lebanon where authorities say they won't extradite him either, that is if he's really there at all.


FOREMAN: This is a huge embarrassment for Japan, of course, and it could get worse. Ghosn has said all along that he is not only innocent, but he is the target of a corrupt government plot to not just take his freedom, but also his money. And we're probably going to hear more of that now that he no longer seems to have a trial on his agenda this year -- Erin.

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

I want to go to former CIA operative Bob Baer.

I mean, Bob, this is an incredible story. When you're talking, as Tom said, Japan's immigration system is state-of-the-art. He is under 24 hours surveillance. He has not passports. They're monitoring every single one of his phone calls. No one can come and go without their say so.

I mean, how do you think he escaped?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, Erin, I think it's pretty clear, he came out in a box of some sort, out of the house through Osaka Airport. I've done this enough, that's the only way to really get somebody out.

You don't send him through immigrations, through any airport. You don't risk an alias passport. This man is well-known in Japan. No way.

You have to conceal him, first in the car, and then a box, put him on a private plane, send him as cargo, let him get out of the box once he is in the airplane and it's in the air, and then just move him to Lebanon. It's very easy to get into Lebanon. I think that's the only plausible explanation.

BURNETT: And it's pretty incredible. Double bass case is about 6 feet. He is just shy of 5'6". So he could get in there and have a little room. It's got a couple of holes in it. I mean, I think it's incredible, but I suppose you could see it happening.

I mean, one question, if this is Israel instead of Japan that had been wronged. That would get him back, right? Somebody would pose as something to get him back, right? Kind of take as much time as it took to infiltrate him, get him to trust them and somehow get him back?

BAER: Yes. The Japanese are never going to do it. They can't operate in Lebanon. They're not going kidnap him. They're just absolutely astounded that this even happened, that someone could get away with it.

But, you know, I think going back to somebody professional did this, knew what they were doing, practiced, knew the Japanese system, and got him out on a private plane. The CIA's done it enough. So has the KGB. You can do it if you know what you're doing.

BURNETT: And obviously we still need to know who arranged for it and who those ex-special forces as reported possibly were who executed it, from which country.

Thank you so very much, Bob.

And next, Jeanne Moos on the attack that is sure to tee off Trump.



BURNETT: Tonight, Amy Klobuchar takes on Trump for golfing, and then things got nasty.

Here is Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through the waving palms, he appears, the familiar presidential silhouette glimpsed through a gap in the shrubbery. It's Donald Trump on vacation, or perhaps Donald Trump working.

Either way, it's par for the course that he's on his own golf course, even if as a candidate he proclaimed --

TRUMP: There won't be time to go golfing all the time.

Because I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.

MOOS: Yes, well, he is also working on his swing.

Remember how he used to bash President Obama?

TRUMP: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

Golf, golf, golf, golf. More, more.

MOOS: But guess who does it more, more, more often?

Trump spent one of every five days in 2019 at a golf club, inspiring Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar to tweet: For the record, I spent zero days on the golf course in 2019.

(on camera): Trump supporters used a comb rather than a club to clobber Klobuchar.

For the record, I've eaten zero salads with a comb, a dig at Klobuchar for getting mad at an aide who misplaced her fork on a plane, prompting her to use a comb to eat her salad.

But back to the greens you golf on.

Pity the poor photographer whose duty it is to capture images of the president golfing. It's a cat and mouse game that the White House doesn't really want us to see.

KHALIL ABDALLAH, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: It's like going fishing. If you don't catch a fish, you know, it's not as exciting, right?

MOOS: But CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah caught the big one the other day while Trump was playing at his West Palm Beach course.

Back in the early days, they even used a box truck to block the view.

And once --

ABDALLAH: A few extra trees appeared magically.

MOOS: New trees were planted as a barrier.

To a photographer capturing the number one guy through a hole is like a hole in one.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: He's not going to like that video.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.