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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

House Speaker Pelosi Meets With Top Dems Vote On Impeachment Managers Is Next Step; Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) Discusses About The Republicans Who Support The Idea Of New WitnessesState Dept. Security Officials Weren't Notified Of Iran's "Imminent" Threat To Four U.S. Embassies; Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Is Interviewed About Senior Officials In Charge Of American Embassy Security Were Not Told Of Any Imminent Threat; Sources: U.S. Embassies Weren't Warned Of "Imminent" Threats. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 13, 2020 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Twenty-one Saudi trainees on U.S. bases were expelled today. I'm Brianna Keilar. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Pelosi's big move, meeting tonight with Democratic leaders about sending over the impeachment articles as more Republican senators tonight come forward to say they are open to hearing from new witnesses.

And more breaking news this hour, we are learning State Department officials were never told of any imminent threat to four embassies which completely undermines Trump's rationale for killing Iran's top general.

Plus, he's not ruling out spending at least a billion dollars of his own money to beat President Donald Trump. Trump is taking notice. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, a major move ahead on Trump's impeachment trial. Just moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrapping up a meeting with senior Democrats. A crucial meeting ahead of a vote to name the impeachment managers, which Majority Whip Hoyer says could be Wednesday.

So who will serve as impeachment managers is crucial. These are the prosecutors. They are the ones you will see there on television. Their job, to make the argument to the nation, to senators, that Trump needs to be removed from office for abusing the power of his office.

It comes as the number of Republicans who say they are open to new witnesses is growing. Senator Lamar Alexander telling CNN he is open to the idea, joining senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney who just moments ago said this to Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I'd like there to be witnesses and be able to hear from someone like John Bolton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, there it is, Romney wants to hear from John Bolton. Perhaps the most important witness when it comes to what President Trump did with Ukraine. And remember, Democrats just need four Republicans to join them to call new witnesses like John Bolton in order for that to happen.

Tonight's meeting of top Democratic House leaders is coming just before the full House votes on sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. We're here. It is now full speed ahead.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill tonight. Manu, what more you learning about what Pelosi and top Democrats are talking about in these closed door meetings and where we are at this hour tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect the senate trial to begin in just a matter of days because the House is in fact going to send over those articles of impeachment, imminently. According to Democratic leaders emerging from this meeting tonight, there's an expectation that a vote could occur on the House floor as soon as Wednesday to name those appeasement managers. And also that would lead to the sending the articles from the House over to the Senate.

The impeachment managers would read those articles aloud on the Senate floor and then the senators themselves would be sworn in. The Chief Justice John Roberts who would oversee the trial will be sworn in. And then those arguments would take place by next week.

Now, we could learn the names of those impeachment managers as soon as tomorrow morning. That's when Nancy Pelosi will meet behind closed doors with her caucus to discuss the next step of the trial. There are arguments that they plan to make in the days ahead.

Now, I just asked Nancy Pelosi about the criticism that she has been receiving from Republicans, namely Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, about her decision to delay transmitting those articles over amid concerns that Democrats had that the trial was not going to be fair. Mitch McConnell said earlier today that this is a strange gambit, in his words, and he said it achieved absolutely nothing.

And I asked her about that and she said flatly he's wrong, that she continued on forward. She did not reveal much about her precise thinking of the time frame of moving these articles over. We do expect it to be happening imminently. And then when we get into that trial phase, Erin, that's when the big questions are going to emerge about whether they will actually bring forward witnesses, whether or not there will be enough votes to compel witnesses to come forward because all it would require is four Republicans breaking ranks to join with Democrats.

But at the moment, Erin, while some Republicans are voicing interest in hearing from witnesses, there are not 51 votes at the moment, even as the White House is seeking to end this quickly, end the proceedings all together and they have support from the Republican leadership. The question is will they have enough support from the full Republican conference, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. They've got to have their full 51 to do that. All right. Thank you very much, Manu.

I want to go out front now to Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. And I appreciate your time, Senator. So I know you're anticipating that we're here, this is all going to begin very, very shortly in your chamber.

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): Yes.

BURNETT: Senators Romney, Alexander and Collins have all now said they're open to witnesses. Mitt Romney today explicitly saying John Bolton, he wants to hear from him. You need four Republicans to vote your way to get new witnesses to testify. Have any other Republicans told you that they support that idea?

BALDWIN: Well, I certainly think that Republicans are hearing from their constituents. We all have a sense of what a trial involves. It involves evidence and witnesses. And it would be really very unusual for there to be an impeachment trial without witnesses and documents for us to review.

[19:05:04]

The American people want a full, fair and honest trial. And as they're talking to their elected senators, I think they're feeling the pressure that they shouldn't make a mockery out of this, but they should take it seriously. Now, we heard last week, Leader McConnell indicate that he had the vote wrapped up to prevent witnesses and documents.

It is unclear to me whether there might be a little bit of a presentation of the case and then another opportunity to vote on documents and witnesses.

BURNETT: Yes. So can I ask you a question on that. I just want to understand because it seems that the process here could be that the trial begins and you hear three days from one side of arguments, three days from the other, you senators get to submit your questions and then after all of that, you vote on witnesses. So we could be a solid eight days into this trial in front of the country before we even get resolution on this issue, correct?

BALDWIN: It could be and I think what's very frustrating about this is that Speaker Pelosi has said time and time again that her managers, her selection of managers might be based on whether they will be cross examining witnesses or whether they will simply be arguing the case. And so I still believe that it's important to show the American people that nobody is above the law, that presidents aren't above the law.

And when we have these two very important articles of impeachment abuse of power when President Trump basically used the power of his office to withhold congressionally-approved dollars to the Ukraine for personal and political benefit, the American public deserves a full fair and honest trial with witnesses and documents. BURNETT: So if you win this on allowing witnesses, now we heard Mitt

Romney, right he explicitly said John Bolton.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BURNETT: When Susan Collins approached this issue, a few days ago, she suggested witnesses from both sides. So in other words with Bolton may come Hunter Biden, would that be acceptable for you any world in which Hunter Biden appeared if John Bolton also did?

BALDWIN: Yes, let's talk about this. The four witnesses that were identified by Democrats in the Senate all have firsthand knowledge of what's exactly at the heart of this case, about the telephone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky. And the related activities of this president to withhold congressionally- approved aid to Ukraine.

We want to hear from witnesses who have direct knowledge. And it's very clear that Hunter Biden was not involved in monitoring this phone call or it has nothing to do. And so, I would welcome the President to submit a case to the Senate.

I fear that the fact that we're not hearing witnesses that the President wants to call that are relevant to the articles of impeachment, it gives me great concern that they're more about cover up than they are about getting to the truth. The American people want the truth.

BURNETT: So the President, you mentioned him, President Trump is going to be in your home state tomorrow.

BALDWIN: Yes, he is.

BURNETT: And he's going to be holding a campaign rally. Look, there are many who believe Wisconsin could be the most important state in the 2020 election. We'll see, but that is far from a farfetched point of view.

And a recent poll asked voters in your state, Senator, whether the Senate should vote to convict the president and remove him from office. It was close, but 48 percent said no and only 44 percent said yes. Does that have any bearing on how you'll vote?

BALDWIN: Absolutely not. I will take an oath to do impartial justice and that's what I intend to do. And a poll asking before a trial has occurred what the outcome should be is, in my mind, misleading. What we want is a full, fair and honest hearing and we want the American people to get to the truth just like we want to get to the truth.

So obviously, I think the question is premature. What I will tell you is that most people in Wisconsin think something wrong happened here, regardless of what they think the vote should be at the end. But I will tell you as the president comes to Wisconsin and tomorrow night, the very same time the Democrats will be debating each other in the primary debate, people in Wisconsin care about health care. They care about whether pre existing conditions are going to be covered. [19:10:02]

They care about whether a court is going to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

So President Trump has sabotaged health care. People in Wisconsin want to know they have champion in the next president.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, Senator Baldwin. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Rudy Giuliani is now pressing President Trump to make him part of the White House impeachment defense team in the Senate. Giuliani, he is at the center of the entire case. So is the Senate trial about to become a complete circus?

Plus, State Department officials say they were never told of imminent threats to American embassies. This is an incredible thing because how does President Trump explain this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Four embassies in an imminent threat that no one involved with embassy security knew about? And the fight for 2020 is getting personal between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It is nasty tonight. What happened to this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm always glad to be anywhere with Bernie.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elizabeth Warren has been a friend of mine for 25 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:14:52]

BURNETT: Breaking news, Rudy Giuliani wants in. So he says, White House official in two sources close to President Trump telling CNN that Giuliani who's actions in Ukraine, of course, as the President's personal emissary is the center of Trump's impeachment trial is lobbying Trump now. Giuliani lobbying Trump directly and personally, because Giuliani wants to defend Trump on the Senate floor. Can you imagine that? This is the White House push the Senate Majority Leader Mitch

McConnell to include the option of dismissing the charges against the President as soon as the opening statements are over.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House. Kaitlan, where this drama is unfolding, what are you hearing behind the scenes about Rudy Giuliani who is at the center of this wanting to actually go and defend Trump and be the face of this in the Senate?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Erin, I think if it was up to Rudy Giuliani, he would be there on the Senate floor arguing the President's case. And, of course, while the President does like Rudy Giuliani, that is why he is still his personal attorney on the outside. I think people inside the White House who have been working on this impeachment strategy say it's very unlikely that Rudy Giuliani is going to have any kind of a public facing role when it comes to the President's defense.

Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel has been working for weeks now on what the defense is going to look like. We know the President has pushed for Jay Sekulow to also have a public facing role in all of this. He wants to be able to hear from him on the Senate floor because he thinks he's really good in making arguments on television.

But people that we've spoken with today say the idea that Rudy Giuliani is going to actually join this team in a formal way is incredibly unlikely, not just because he's Rudy Giuliani and you've seen from his numerous television appearances where he often reveals things about the President and people find unflattering, but also because he's at the center of this scandal just right there with the President when it comes to Ukraine since he was the one going to Ukraine and even traveled there recently in recent weeks and said he was going to come back with all of this information that he has yet to divulge to reporters.

Now, the question about who could actually be on the defense team does have a few question marks left to it. And that includes Alan Dershowitz, who the President has been pushing to join his team. Though it's still unclear if he's going to.

Well, our latest sources have been telling us is that it's really up to Dershowitz if he wants to join, because the President has made clear he wants him on the team. Trey Gowdy is another name. He's a former South Carolina congressman who initially was going to join. He's been meeting with the President. Though he's more likely to join in an informal manner, maybe behind the scenes advising the President.

But Erin, still a lot of questions about which House members could potentially appear on the Senate floor arguing the President's case. Though, to be clear, Rudy Giuliani is not likely to be one of those people out there.

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

OUTFRONT now, former Special Counsel at the Defense Department and Editor of Just Security, Ryan Goodman and Joe Lockhart, who was President Clinton's Press Secretary during his impeachment investigation.

So Joe, Rudy Giuliani, I mean, either it's the gall of genius, because it makes it look like you have nothing to hide or it's insanity or something in between. But he actually apparently truly believes that it would be great if he were there.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. I have no doubt that he truly believes that. But I don't think there's any geniuses involved in this gall. Rudy is such a spectacle now. He's lucky he's not a prime witness for the House managers, given his central role in this. But I think they want to stay away from because it will turn it into a circus.

BURNETT: Oh, that's what he'll do.

LOCKHART: Yes.

BURNETT: I'm sure, in a perfect world if you were to come out and tell everything that he knew in an honest and forthright manner they want him.

LOCKHART: Yes.

BURNETT: They don't because he won't.

LOCKHART: But they don't want the circus and they think that John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney have better information, because they were more involved in the official acts of malfeasance. It's a terrible idea for the President, but this is Donald Trump. The normal standards of what people think are right and wrong, get turned upside down every day.

BURNETT: And here we are with these impeachment managers. And look, this is something now everyone in America needs to care deeply about, because it matters a whole lot. So Rudy Giuliani making his lobbying case and you've got Pat Cipollone and maybe Jay Sekulow, Alan Dershowitz would be an interesting one. That's on the President's side.

On the other side, Nancy Pelosi has to make this choice and we understand that it could happen as soon as tomorrow morning. And she's not going to have to make this choice not knowing whether those individuals are going to be just making a case or also having to cross examine, so which way does she go?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: It's a little bit hard because it is dynamic. We don't know yet whether there'll be any witnesses. And if there are witnesses, we don't know if some of them might include somebody like Hunter Biden, which could turn this into a bit of a circus or a theater.

So you have to pick people who are flexible, both who can prosecute the case, but also prepare themselves for what might be a very dynamic environment and that it turns in different directions.

BURNETT: And I want to ask you about Justin Amash, Republican, was, became an independent because he decided to support articles of impeachment. Party want to know parts of him. Strict constitutionalist, was part of the most conservative members of Congress and here's what he told me about wanting to be an impeachment manager.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JUSTIN AMASH, (I-MI): It's something that I've told my Democratic colleagues who have asked me that I'd be happy to talk to the Speaker about, but I haven't had that discussion. If the speaker wants to have that discussion, of course, I'd be honored to have that conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:20:05]

BURNETT: And then the next day when I had one of the House leadership, Representative Kildee, he sort of pretty clearly dismissed that idea. Should he have?

GOODMAN: I don't think so. There have actually been some Democrats that have actually rallied behind this idea of having Justin Amash. He has a law degree from Michigan. He's practiced law and he's been ...

BURNETT: Yes, in years he practiced law. Yes.

GOODMAN: ... and he's been a very eloquent person. And the idea that this is about non-partisan, this is about putting the country first and it's a historical moment that calls for people like that. So I think it would be a brilliant stroke to include him as one of the managers, why not?

BURNETT: And Joe, as all of this comes, you do have Mitch McConnell sort of trying to get this. Could he just dismiss the whole trial even as you have now at least three Republican senators indicating not only do they not want to dismiss but they would want witnesses. Now, that's different than actually voting to have witnesses.

LOCKHART: Right.

BURNETT: But at least they're going out there and saying that they want witnesses. Mitt Romney explicitly saying like John Bolton.

LOCKHART: Yes.

BURNETT: So what about this 51 vote to end the trial?

LOCKHART: Well, there was a motion to dismiss in 1999 that Senator Robert Byrd put forward. It was after the first presentation. There's nothing outrageous about after the first phase of the trial looking to make a motion. This happens in trials all of the time.

But not in a trial that doesn't have any witnesses and I think the significance of the beginning of the more public talk from Republicans is a reflection of the polls. The President when they first, about a month ago, there was about 70 percent of the public who said they wanted witnesses.

The Republicans hit it hard. The President hit it hard, no witnesses. This is a hoax. It's still at 70 percent, including 40 percent Republicans.

So I think each of these vulnerable senators and a couple of them for institutional reasons, Lamar Alexander ..

BURNETT: Lamar Alexander.

LOCKHART: ... Mitt Romney ...

BURNETT: Sure.

LOCKHART: ... are looking at this and saying, I'm not sure it's in my interest to be part of something that is a sham.

BURNETT: And if Hunter Biden appears, then what, Ryan?

GOODMAN: So I think if Hunter Biden appears, it's kind of bizarre because he isn't really relevant to the direct case that's being put up about what the President's wrongdoing was or wasn't.

BURNETT: And his intent.

GOODMAN: That's right, and his intent behind it. On the other hand, I do think that it's maybe fair, give the other side who they want, if that's who they want, because it's not really relevant. It might even have an upside of bringing the American public in because it will be a bit of a spectacle. And therefore we might even have more public attention to what is a very important trial.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, Hunter Biden has already talked about mistakes that he's made and obviously has gone through many things. Thank you both very much.

And next, Trump doubling down, claiming his administration is on the same page when it comes to his claim that Iran was imminently targeting four American embassies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does the intelligence show?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think it's been totally consistent.

MARK ESPER, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I didn't see one with regard to the four embassies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And sources say Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren he does not think a woman can win in 2020. Sanders calling it a lie, so what is Warren saying tonight?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:27:12]

BURNETT: Tonight, breaking news, no warning. Two State Department officials telling CNN that officials involved in embassy security were not told the imminent threats to four American embassies and they did not issue any specific warnings. And this is bizarre and shocking, because the President has said repeatedly that multiple U.S. embassies were in danger specifically four and that that is why the United States had to kill Iran's top commander immediately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: If this is true, four embassies, and it was eminent and they knew about the plans then how is it possible that the people in charge of embassy security were not aware?

Kylie Atwood is OUTFRONT from the State Department breaking this development. And Kylie, what are these officials telling you?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. Well, sources are telling me that U.S. officials here at the State Department who work on U.S. embassy security were amazed. They were shocked to learn of the fact that President Trump had said that there were four U.S. embassies facing an imminent threat. And one senior State Department official described that justification to me as something that blindsided them.

Because the State Department officials didn't know about those specific threats that President Trump is alleging against four embassies, they did reach out to embassies in the Middle East and worldwide. And they did warn them of threats that could come due to increase escalation from Iran and Iranian proxies.

And a State Department spokesperson clarified to me that there were even calls that followed up on that worldwide security warning to embassies in the region. And they asked them if they needed any additional reinforcement in terms of security.

But the bottom line here is that there were not four U.S. embassies that folks here at the State Department knew about that were facing this imminent threat. And so what our reporting demonstrates is that there are some challenging here with regard to President Trump and what he's saying again today that everyone was totally consistent on the same page with regard to this intelligence, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kylie, thank you very much with those developments.

I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Denny Heck, member of the House Intelligence Committee. And Congressman, I appreciate your time. What's your reaction to Kylie's reporting that the senior people in charge of American embassy security were not told of any imminent threats?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Well, because there were no imminent threats, Erin. I think it's as obvious as the nose on our face and if you doubted it before, you shouldn't doubt it today after members of the administration have indicated no really this strategy was deterrence, not in fact to preempt an imminent threat.

In order to have eminence, Erin, you have to have certain elements. You have to have a target, you have to have time and you have to have some approval from the upper authorities to actually execute the plan.

[19:30:06]

None of those elements were present here. So there were ...

HERE

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): -- time and you have to have some approval from the upper authorities to actually execute the plan.

[19:30:06]

None of those elements were present here. So, there were no imminent threats per se.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, you point out some Trump administration officials now sort of indicating what you're saying and it is true, Congressman, that some of them were not able to confirm the president's claims there were plots, specific plots to attack four U.S. embassies.

Here are a couple of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Look, it's always difficult even when the exquisite intelligence we have to know exactly what the targets are.

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEENSE: He didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying there wasn't one?

ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: OK. You have the secretary of defense. He didn't know -- didn't see any threat regarding four embassies. Our national security adviser did not know what targets are.

From what you understand -- do you believe that General Soleimani posed an imminent threat to four American embassies or not?

HECK: I do not. I believe that General Soleimani represented a continuing threat of bad behavior in the Mideast. That he's a bad -- he was a bad guy and he was doing bad things. That's a separate question from whether or not there was an imminent threat, and whether or not the president possessed the constitutional authority or the legal authority to actually do this.

Look, Erin, at the end of the day, an action like this, set aside the fact of whether or not it was legal or even illegal, at the end of this day, this ought to be about furtherance of American policy objectives. And the administration has helped us out here.

They said what our objectives are in region. Number one, keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. Number two, keep them from getting a intercontinental ballistic missile which could deliver a nuclear bomb, and number three, deter bad behavior in the region. So, take them one at a time.

Number one, they have lifted the lid the uranium enrichment. Number two, they're continuing to make the R&D investments to develop an ICBM, and number three, Hezbollah has now announced we're targeting all U.S. bases in the region. So, strike one, strike two, strike three.

BURNETT: Secretary of Defense Esper went further, though, Congressman, with what appeared to be a new standard, because you're talking about the standard of imminent threat to have a legal strike. There as a new standard he seemed to be putting forth for launching lethal attacks against someone who wished ill will against America.

Listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ESPER: My expectation was they were going the go after our embassies. The embassy is the most prominent display of American presence in a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, that's a statement of fact. If the expectation that people who wish Americans harm will target embassies because they are the most prominent display of American power, if that's now the standard. How many people does this add to America's kill list?

HECK: I'm sorry, I don't understand the question, Erin.

BURNETT: If we're going to say that someone wants to go after an American embassy because it's the most prominent display --

HECK: Oh, right, right.

BURNETT: -- of American power, anybody who has that as their goal is now fair to strike. How long does the kill list get?

HECK: Infinite. I mean, if the standard is we're going after all bad actors who do bad things, then we probably would be in the business of dropping a whole lot more bombs than we already are. But the fact of the matter is, there were no imminent threats, per se and there is no evidence to suggest the embassies were targeted. The absolute proof of that is as you said at top of the conversation, if the embassies were not notified this way (ph).

BURNETT: I want to get your take, if I may, Congressman, of something. I don't know if you've seen but it just crossed a few moments ago. Breaking story, it's in "The New York Times". They're reporting that Russian military hackers targeted Burisma which is the Ukrainian gas company, which Hunter board serve -- Hunter Biden served on the board of, and experts are saying the timing of this hacking was sort of as all this story was breaking about Hunter Biden, right? So, this is happening over the past few months.

The suggestion is that Russia is looking for information on this story and dirt on Joe Biden. What do you make on that?

HECK: Well, if they're not looking for it, they'll make it up. Look, Erin, throughout the entire Mueller report and investigation, whenever I went home, the most frequently asked question I would get is do you think the Russians will be back in next election and, of course, my response was back. They've never left.

This is standard operating procedure for Vladimir Putin's Russia to use cyber warfare weapons in other words to further advance their objectives. And this doesn't surprise me in the slightest and moreover, I wouldn't trust a thing they shared or revealed as a consequence of their illegal hacking of that company in the Ukraine.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, Congressman Heck. Thank you, tonight.

HECK: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, the gloves are off. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it is now punches to the face.

Sanders accusing -- accused, I'm sorry, of telling Warren that a woman can't win. So, what does this mean? Weeks before Iowa when they are about to stuck in Washington in an impeachment trial?

Plus, Mike Bloomberg asking a growing question, why should Democrats be spending all their time in Iowa when President Trump is actually campaigning in swing states that Democrats have to win to win the election?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:39:01]

BURNETT: Breaking news. Elizabeth Warren tonight is fighting back. A woman can't win is the bottom line of what she said Bernie Sanders told her at a private meeting.

She said it summarized this way. I thought a woman could win, he disagreed. In a private they had at the end of 2018, talking about running for president. So, she said that he said that. Earlier today when the story broke, Bernie Sanders said it's a lie. He never said it. But now, she is saying among the topics that came up in this private meeting is what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win. He disagreed. Now again, he's come out point-blank and said this is a lie today.

OUTFRONT now, Karen Dunn, former communications director for Hillary Clinton and Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee and former Democratic candidate for Florida governor.

All right. Look, this is a fascinating story because it goes at the heart of what Democrats have been talking about now for four years, right, which is whether a woman can win. And it goes at the heart of a deeply personal friendship between two people who are calling each other liars.

[19:40:01]

I mean, Karen, it's incredible. Elizabeth Warren says that's what happened behind closed doors in this private. Bernie Sanders came out point-blank and said it's a lie.

What happened?

KAREN DUNN, PREPARED PRES. OBAMA AND HILLARY CLINTON FOR POLTIICAL DEBATES: Well, we're going to find that out tomorrow night. This was a private meeting with two people in it and both of those people are going to be on the debate stage tomorrow night. So far, Bernie Sanders come out very forcefully denying this happened. And Elizabeth Warren is not commenting for the story. Her campaign is silent which suggests either it's true or she thinks it's to her advantage for people to think it's true headed into tomorrow's debate.

So, I think all eyes will be on the he said, she said that will happen on the stage tomorrow.

BURNETT: I mean and they are setting stage for that tonight as she's coming out.

So, Mayor Gillum, the story leaked about this closed door meeting after the Sanders campaign put out a script to volunteers. So, basically, now, they give them a script so when they are making phone calls or going door to door, they have talking points. And one of those was Elizabeth Warren is only able to attract highly educated, more affluent people. In others words, she can't win, right? A pretty nasty slam from your good friend, old pal, Bernie Sanders.

So, now, team Warren comes out with this, you know, it appeared pretty clearly the leak came from team Warren about this. But this is now unleashing the floodgates, Mayor. It is deeply personal between two people who claim to be good friends.

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Erin. First off, happy New Year.

And, secondly, I just -- I really hate to say us going down this road at this time. It's been practically a year of a campaign, a Democratic primary campaign largely focused on the issues in putting people, the voters, at the center of the conversation. And now, as things are heating up, we're in the final couple of weeks of this Iowa caucus, things are getting little tough. I really hate to see that.

I think both of these candidates and quite frankly all of them on the stage tomorrow night will be well-advised to try to keep voters at the center of the debate. If we go down these rabbit holes which frankly, do nothing to improve the lives of every day Americans, I think neither of them will be advantaged by that. And, in fact, they may be throwing the opportunity for someone like Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden to be able to pick up what trails from them due to this kind of a spat.

BURNETT: Well, you raised that point.

I mean, Karen, here's the thing -- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are, you know, no matter what Bernie Sanders may say about her supporters, in many ways are trying to go after some of the same voters, right, the same progressive voter bloc. They're going to be stuck in Washington for the next few weeks in the Senate impeachment trial, while Buttigieg and Biden are in Iowa.

And the reason I say this, Karen, is that there a personal level to this that is quite compelling which is here is how they have talked about each other for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm always glad to be anywhere with Bernie.

Bernie and I have friend for a long, long time, and long before I got into politics.

I just have enormous respect for Bernie.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren. No one is going to be attacking Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Warren has been a friend of mine for 25 years.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURENTT: Karen, it is words like that which makes this so compelling to people. And that it is now a he said/she said, who's a liar about what happened in this private meeting about whether a woman could actually win.

DUNN: Well, I think it's fair to say, Erin, that the non-aggression pact is dead. And, frankly, non-aggression pacts are usually something we all watch to wait until they fall apart. And that's what's happening now.

But I agree that this is an opportunity while Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are asked directly on the stage what happened at that meeting for Joe Biden to come in and make a very positive comment about women running for and winning the presidency and for Amy Klobuchar who's made this point in past debates very effectively, to come in and make her point, because you have to remember, that the way that the Iowa caucuses work is every one is playing to be second favorite.

So, if you're a Bernie supporter, your second favorite might be Joe Biden, or might Amy Klobuchar. And so, everybody is trying to get to be the second favorite.

BURNETT: Final word to you, Mayor Gillum.

GILLUM: Well, I mean, first of all, I don't think it benefits the two people who are engaged in it. That's for sure. We should draw that conclusively.

The other thing is, is Hillary Clinton has already shown us that a woman can get 3 million more votes than a man. Now what they have to do is put together to calculus to ensure votes are coming and the states make the difference in the Electoral College. But I think it's a ridiculous suggestion, a woman absolutely can compete, can win, can earn more votes and can be president of the United States of America. And if Elizabeth Warren is the nominee, I know I will be out there along with many others doing everything we can to see that she wins. I don't believe that a debate like this advantages either of the two of them.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

[19:45:01]

And don't miss tomorrow night's Democratic presidential debate right here on CNN at 9:00 Eastern.

And next, President Trump taking on Mayor Mike Bloomberg after reports Bloomberg is ready to shell out a billion dollars. And, by the way, we don't even notice if he spent that. He could spend a whole lot more to win.

And what was the White House thinking tweeting out this image? What was the thought here? It was 70 degrees that day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg not ruling out spending $1 billion on this election cycle either to win the presidency himself or ensure Donald Trump's defeat. This is according to "The New York Times".

Now, Bloomberg has already spent $200 million on advertising, it's only been two months. And President Trump is taking notice, tweeting on the latest Bloomberg ad, quote: Mini Mike Bloomberg is spending a lot of money on false advertising.

OUTFRONT now, Kevin Sheekey, campaign manager for the Bloomberg campaign and longtime political strategist to Bloomberg. You have known him for decades.

So, President Trump is now calling Mayor Bloomberg "Mini Mike", a famous nickname that he has used before. Obviously, it shows this is getting under his skin that he chose to respond today. Is that what you want to hear?

KEVIN SHEEKEY, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BLOOMBERG 2020: Yes, listen, I mean, I think Trump wants to be everything that Mike is, right? He wants to be a real leader. He wants to be someone that has actually delivered on healthcare, that Mike has. He wants to be someone who's actually created a real business. He wants to be a real billionaire.

You know, Mike has led the city in ways that brought people together and Trump tears people apart. I mean, Bloomberg in many ways is the antithesis of everything that Trump tries to pretend that he is.

BURNETT: So, Bloomberg's strategy has a lot of people obsessed, OK, what he's doing. He argues in an op-ed today on CNN, the primary process is undemocratic and politically harmful to the nominee.

His argument: The Democratic Party reflects America's incredible diversity. But the first two voting states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are among the most homogenous in the nation. The problem is compounded by the fact that the two early voting states are unlikely to be consequential in the general election, which is a fair point, except for he also said this about the nominee process just five days ago.

Kevin, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we've got a tradition here of four states, two with caucuses, two with elections. They have worked very hard. They love the attention. The system has gotten used to it and I guess the Democratic Party probably shouldn't take it away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: How can he think both of those things at the same time, let it stay the way it is and it's inconsequential and not the right thing?

SHEEKEY: Well, it's a little bit of cutoff. I was there, we were up in Akron, Ohio. The part that got cut off is that the rules don't really make any sense. And Mike thought about it and he wrote an op-ed which is submitted to you here at CNN --

BURNETT: Yes.

SHEEKEY: -- to say, these all don't make any sense.

I think the big issue that's missing for a lot of people is that Donald Trump today is winning this election. And it's a really hard thing to hear, it's a tougher thing to believe. But a general election is only fought in six states. It's fought in this year, used to be 10 or 14, this year, it will be six. It's Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. That's it, those there competitive states.

Democrats have spent a year, my party, investing in the state of Iowa, knocking on every door, seeing every available --

BURNETT: Ninety-nine counties.

SHEEKEY: Ninety-nine counties, raising every nickel we can from every Democratic donor around the country and investing in Iowa. Democrat, Republican pollsters agree on one thing. Donald Trump is going to win Iowa this year.

So, we spent a year and every nickel we can raise on a state we're going to lose. And what Mike has said, if I was president of the United States and had the honor of running in the Democratic Party, I would change that and the first state would be Wisconsin, the second state would be Michigan, the third would be Pennsylvania, the fourth would be North Carolina. Imagine what would happen now if CNN was headed to Wisconsin tomorrow to host a debate.

BURNETT: Totally different conversation.

SHEEKEY: Totally different conversation. And we would as Democrats be on the road to winning Wisconsin. Whereas, right now, we're on the road to lose a state that Donald Trump won by a mere 23,000 votes in the last election.

BURNETT: And he'll be there tomorrow night when the Democrats are in Iowa.

SHEEKEY: And he'll be there tomorrow. And he's stronger now than he was the day he won.

BURNETT: OK. So, Bloomberg has not ruled out spending $1 billion. It's a lot of money by any stretch of the imagination. However, I think relative comparisons always matter. That's 1.7 percent of his net worth, according to "Forbes," just so people know. That's $58.4 billion by their running total.

Is there a limit on what he's willing to spend? I know he stayed out of this for a while. You guys did the math. You felt that there was a return on that investment that you could get. Is there a limit?

SHEEKEY: Yes, listen, I think that Mike didn't use the term billion dollars. "The New York Times" said, would you spend a billion dollars and Mike didn't answer in the positive or the negative, and that's the headline that they wrote. Mike has spent an awful amount of money on this election so far.

And what he has said, with great clarity is, I will spend whatever it takes to remove Donald Trump from office. He has said, I will -- I didn't want to sit on the sidelines. I got in this campaign because I think I have a role to play.

And I think I -- if I'm the nominee, I can put together the most diverse, the strongest campaign to defeat the president. And if I'm not the nominee, then I will support whoever the nominee is, with my money to make sure that we can fight in those battleground states I mentioned.

BURNETT: And just to be clear, if President Trump spent that amount of money, which he wouldn't, because he'll use other people's money, donors and RNC, it will be a third of his fortune according to "Forbes" versus 1.7 percent.

Thank you very much.

And next, Jeanne Moos on the White House tweet that was met with a flurry of replies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:12]

BURNETT: Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First snow of the year read this White House tweet Sunday. Snow or snow job. What are they on?

Temperatures in Washington Sunday reached a high of around 70. First snow?

The response was frightful. People were wearing shorts today in Baltimore. My son asked if we could put on the AC.

At the time, the White House snow tweet was posted, it's 54 degrees. Is there anything you don't lie about?

Actually, the snow fell almost a week earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe we'll see some wet snow.

MOOS: That day, the White House first posted its snow shot on Flickr, but when they tweeted it on a Sunday so warm it generated fog, the tweet got roasted.

The last time the weather man in chief got slammed was when "The Washington Post" reported he used a sharpie to doctor a hurricane map.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one right here.

MOOS: Even his description of the weather at his inauguration got cold water poured on it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But God looked down and he said, we're not going to let it rain on your speech.

JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: No, he didn't! First, it did rain while you were speaking. That's why your wife was holding up an umbrella and people behind you were wearing ponchos.

MOOS: Already, critics are calling the snow tweet early entry for stupidest Trump lie of 2020.

(on camera): Our forecast is that they're saying maybe a 70 percent chance that the White House tweet was posted accidentally.

(voice-over): Maybe someone tweeted an earlier draft. The GOP's rapid response director suggested that hostilities with Iran meant there were more important things to communicate, so the White House just saved the tweet. Or maybe were just looking at it wrong.

What you're actually seeing is the ashes of the Constitution.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.