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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

President's Attorney General Says He Won't Be Bullied By Trump; Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) Reacts To William Barr's Public Statement Regarding Roger Stone's Sentencing; Bloomberg Overwhelms Democrats With Massive Spending; Trump Claims Ex-Chief of Staff Kelly Was in "Way Over His Head"; CDC: Coronavirus Can Be Spread By People Without Symptoms. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 13, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Right here on CNN. Thanks very much for watching. I am Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room."

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

[19:00:13]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next. Breaking news, the President's Attorney General says he won't be bullied by Trump, speaking out after intervening in Roger Stone's sentencing. But is he really taking a stand against the President?

Plus Trump taking on his former Chief of Staff after John Kelly publicly slammed him.

And Michael Bloomberg building what could be a billion dollar juggernaut. It's already bigger than President Obama's 2008 full campaign. Is it working? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight. The breaking news. Barr speaks out against Trump's tweets. The President's Attorney General, in pretty blunt terms tonight, saying Trump is making it impossible for Barr to do his job. Think about that?

Now Barr is defending his decision to intervene in the sentencing of Trump's longtime friend and convicted felon, Roger Stone.

He tells ABC News tonight that he was going to break with prosecutors. He was planning to do that. He was planning to push for a lighter sentence than the one that they publicly recommended.

But then Trump got involved tweeting that the prosecutor's recommended sentence for Stone was horrible, very unfair, a miscarriage of justice -- all of that in a tweet.

So Barr looked like a patsy. He looked like he was just doing Trump's bidding. And Barr said that Trump forced him into an untenable situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Once the tweet occurred, the question is well, now what do I do? And do go forward with what you think is the right decision, or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.

QUESTION: So you're saying you have a problem with tweets?

BARR: Yes. Well, I have a problem with some of the tweets. I'm happy to say that in fact, the President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.

However, to have public statements and tweets made about the Department, about people in the Department, our men and women here about cases pending in the Department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the Department that we're doing our work with integrity.

QUESTION: Mr. Barr, the President does not like to be told what to do. He may not like what you're saying. Are you prepared for those ramifications?

BARR: Of course. As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as Attorney General. I am responsible for everything that happens in the Department.

But the thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision, and I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.

And I said at the time, whether it's Congress, newspaper, editorial boards, or the President. I'm going to do what I think is right.

And, you know, I think the -- I cannot do my job here at the Department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.

QUESTION: So just to be clear here. Did you talk to the President at all about your decision regarding the recommendations?

BARR: The recommendations on this case? Never.

QUESTION: Anybody from the White House call you to try to influence you?

BARR No. No. I have not discussed the Roger Stone case at the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So Barr says he never talked about the Stone case with Trump. Barr just happened, he says to want the exact same thing that Trump wanted, which is true on many issues for Barr from Trump's wish for investigation into the Bidens to the Mueller report.

What Trump wants from Barr, he has tended to get and Trump knows it. He talked about it today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, TALK SHOW HOST: Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had picked William Barr instead of Jeff Sessions when you took office?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, my life would have been a lot easier.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, there you have it from his mouth. Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live outside the White House. Now Kaitlan, the thing is, as far as saying I agree, I wanted to do the same thing.

But he got involved with a tweet and it makes it impossible for me to do my job. And basically he needs to -- I'm trying to find a polite way to put it -- he needs to stop tweeting. How is the President reacting to Barr's comments?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he is saying by the President tweeting that it looks like the Attorney General was taking directions from the President, which was the criticism that was prompted by that tweet from the President.

Now, tonight, the White House was caught off guard by this interview based on several officials we spoke with, but they have put out a statement saying that the President has full confidence in his Attorney General to continue to do his job and that he is free to air his opinions publicly, as he so chooses.

[19:05:15]

COLLINS: But, Erin, we also know, this is a President who doesn't like to be criticized, certainly not publicly challenged by one of his favorite Cabinet members.

So really what the President's thinking on all of this is, it is likely to play out in the next several hours because often, the way he views an event is shaped by the coverage of it.

So that is really going to be the question going forward here because when officials have an much lighter ways, disagreed with the president before on the record, he has pushed back pretty strongly.

So that's really the question going forward here and what the President does then, because Barr was saying he felt like he was put in an untenable position by the President's tweet and by what he wanted to do.

But the President himself here also seems to be and what many see as an impossible situation because Barr of course, is one of his favorite Cabinet members. He is carrying out the agenda the President wants, but he is publicly challenging him in a pretty defiant way.

So I think we have to wait to see exactly how the President himself weighs in on all of this.

BURNETT: That's a really fair point, Kaitlan, because as you say, Barr making it very clear, a right to have public statements and tweets makes it impossible for me to do my job. It could not be more of a direct in your face than that.

Kaitlan, thank you. And I want to go OUTFRONT Now to Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings. She's on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and of course, she served as a House Impeachment Manager.

You saw her there in the Senate day after day making the case. Congresswoman, let me ask you. What do you think about just the way this is happening? Why is Barr choosing to speak out in this way in a public national interview, instead of privately?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, Erin, it is good to be back with you and let me say this. It is interesting listening to Attorney General Barr talk about what he said during his confirmation hearing. He certainly said all of the right things in his hearing.

But you know, someone once said, don't listen to what I say, look at what I do. And if we look at what Attorney General Barr has done, there has been no daylight between him and the White House.

Attorney General Barr, as you remember miscategorized the conclusions of the Mueller report, basically misleading the American people.

The Attorney General then helped President Trump obstruct Congress's ability to provide oversight and to investigate the President's wrongdoing.

I have no faith or confidence in what William Barr has said. I think that this situation involving Roger stone has turned up the heat a bit. The President who has been impeached and just went through a trial really can't take that.

And I think I would not be surprised Erin, if the Attorney General and the President were not in cahoots, in terms of Barr making a public statement to the American people.

BURNETT: So okay, so when Barr comes out and tells Trump to stop tweeting, let me just play that part for you again, to the point you just made. I just want to play that again quickly. Here it is, Congresswoman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: ... to have public statements and tweets made about the Department, about our people in the Department, our men and women hear about cases pending in the Department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the Department that we're doing our work with integrity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So this is interesting Congresswoman, are you hearing there

then this isn't about the tweets. That's the fig leaf. What this is really about his Barr saying, I wanted a more lenient sentence for Roger Stone. Yes, the President and I were in agreement. I wanted all of that.

What I want you to take away from this is I wanted that separate from him. Geez, if that guy would just stop tweeting, all the problems would go away. So the tweet is the fig leaf?

DEMINGS: I think that is absolutely correct, Erin. And look, I'm not falling for it. I hope the American people are not falling for it.

We know the President, he loves to boast. He loves to be out front. He wants people to know that he is in total control.

But I do think when the President and his Attorney General has a plan that they think can work, when the President tweets about it, it does call complications for the Attorney General, but not in terms of doing the right thing, but in terms of doing the wrong thing, and really undermining the Department of Justice that we have in this country.

BURNETT: So you -- as I mentioned, Congressman, one of the House Managers, you were making the case to remove this President from office due to his actions in with the Ukrainian President.

And a point that you made repeatedly was that if Trump gets away with pressuring Ukrainian President Zelensky, he will do it again.

So I wanted to be sure that you heard what Trump said today about future calls -- phone calls -- with world leaders. Here he is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you call a foreign leader, people listen, I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.

[19:10:03]

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: You're on the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, what do you say to that?

DEMINGS: I say, first of all that I am not surprised, but I certainly hope the senators who voted to acquit the President hear it loud and clearly what the President has said.

And let me also remind you that in our case, we tried to make it quite clear through documents and evidence that was presented to the Senate, that the President would not only abuse his power to influence or get government or foreign powers involved, that he could use his powers in a domestic way to withhold money and funds to coerce people into basically doing what he wanted them to.

So it doesn't surprise me, the President has no intentions on stopping his wrongdoing. He just wants to continue to cover it up and would look to people like William Barr, others in the Senate and others in the House who have turned a complete blind eye and deaf ear to his wrongdoing.

BURNETT: All right, Congresswoman Demings, I appreciate your time tonight and I thank you.

And next, now, you hear Barr rejecting criticism that he is carrying the President's water. So is he his own man or not? Right? That's the big question.

You heard Congresswoman Demings questioning that. More Bill Barr in his own words, coming up next.

And Trump lashing out at his former Chief of Staff. Why did John Kelly's criticism -- the four-star general -- bother Trump so much? The President's longtime friend, Chris Ruddy is OUTFRONT.

And the C.D.C. giving a dire warning. The coronavirus can spread from people who have no symptoms. This coming, as the number of cases spikes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:12]

BURNETT: Tonight, Attorney General Bill Barr defending himself against accusations that he is acting like President Trump's personal attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: We are in a very polarized situation. And, so in that kind of situation, I expect a lot of low blows and there are a lot of low blows. But I don't respond to that, as you say.

But I do think that in the current situation, as I've said, you know, the fact that the tweets are out there correspond to things we're doing at the Department, sort of give grist to the mill and that's why I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Evan Perez, CNN senior justice correspondent; Nia-Malika Henderson, senior political reporter and Paul Rosensweig, former senior counsel to Ken Starr for his investigation of President Bill Clinton.

You know, Evan, you know, Bill Barr coming out and doing this instead of -- I mean, if the whole point was, I agree with everything you said on substance, Mr. President, but you're making it impossible for me to do my job by making it look like a patsy by putting out tweets.

Why does he need an interview to do that? Why does he need -- why can't that be done in another way? Does this add up? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, that is

actually one of the surprising things here because it does lend itself to interpretations. Right?

And I think Erin, in the end, everyone knows that the President is a voracious consumer of media. You know, frankly, you can have conversations with him in the Oval Office, and it sort of just doesn't resonate.

But if it gets covered in the press, and he gets you know, this TiVo, you know, he catches up with his TiVo later in the evening and early in the morning, that's when he actually sinks in what is being said.

So I think that might be the strategy here. Also, actually, the other part of this is to give it some consumption for people at the Justice Department who I do think in the last couple of days have been very shaken by the events that, you know, that the Attorney General set into place, and that the President's tweets have also kind of called into question.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, because Paul, you know, Barr is trying to say I came to the same conclusion. I thought the sentence was too aggressive. He is saying he was surprised that these four respected career prosecutors all chose to vote with their feet and say that was unacceptable and to leave the case.

And tonight, he says in this interview, it's a low blow. It feels like a low blow for anybody to say he is the President's personal attorney.

PEREZ: But here is the deal. The Attorney General is to blame for some of that perception because he has used some of the rhetoric, some of the charged rhetoric that the President has used.

And, he has chosen to do that. He didn't have to do -- say some of the things that he said about the Mueller investigation, about the Russia investigation. He has chosen to do some of those things.

And so that's part of the reason why there is that perception.

So I know that he is sort of like now reinventing history and sort of saying, look, I have no idea why people think of me that way. But you know, he is the cause of that.

BURNETT: So Paul, let me just explain to people who don't realize why he is the cause of that. It isn't just that he says, oh, I wanted -- I thought Roger Stone's sentence was egregious.

And so I was going to move to have it cut back and I'm not doing the President's bidding. I'm not a patsy.

It's things like this: On the issues of immigration, on the issues of national emergency and on an issue of spying on the President's campaign, which was proven to be false. Here is the Attorney General and the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: My administration is finalizing a plan to end the rampant

abuse of our asylum system.

BARR: People are abusing the asylum system.

TRUMP: I'm going to be signing a national emergency, and it's been signed many times before.

BARR: Your declaration of an emergency on the southern border was clearly authorized under the law. And consistently, it has precedent.

TRUMP: They spied on me. They spied on our campaign.

BARR: I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. I think there was -- spying did occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Just to be clear, Paul, of course, the President's own F.B.I. Chief said that it didn't -- it was the wrong word to use and was very clear about that multiple times under oath.

But tonight, Paul, Barr says he is his own man, and he is insulted if anyone says anything else. What do you say?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL TO KEN STARR FOR HIS INVESTIGATION OF PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I don't see any reason to credit him at all. Given the history that you've just played for us, it seems pretty clear that he has already internalized what the President wants.

Even if it's true that the President didn't call him to ask for a lighter sentence for Stone, it's precisely because he knew that Barr already knew what it was that the President wanted.

[19:20:10]

ROSENZWEIG: But I think even more importantly, in order to achieve what the President wanted, Barr himself overrode not just four career prosecutors, but the sentencing guidelines, which are put in place to make sure that defendants who are sentenced are all sentenced like for like across the country.

The sentencing recommendation for Stone was exactly the recommendation that would have been made for any other person who is similarly situated.

The problem here for Barr is that Stone was President Trump's friend, and he knew he had to act and that's what reveals him not as his own man, but rather as the President's enabler.

BURNETT: And yeah, this comes on the same day that the President said this to Geraldo Rivera, let me play it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RIVERA: Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had picked William Barr instead of Jeff Sessions when you took office?

TRUMP: Yes, my life would have been a lot easier.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: It sort of says it all in the end, doesn't it?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it does. Listen, I think those clips that were played and in that comment there goes to why people do think that the Justice Department under Barr isn't as independent as it was under Sessions, as it was, under previous Presidents.

I think, in the coming weeks of this Justice Department, there's the investigation into Russian interference. And I think you see that this Attorney General is trying to gain some credibility, I think in advance of this investigation that the President wanted into Russian interference.

And he of course, has made claims that this was a bias investigation, the whole idea of spying. So I think in some ways, it has to be looked at in that light.

He is trying to emerge as his own man. So whatever report that the Justice Department releases, will have some credibility and won't look like this is just the President ordering something from the Justice Department to confirm some of his conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation. So I think that's part of what's going on here.

But listen, I mean, as Evan said, the American public has every reason to believe that the President has been in influencing Barr's language and his approach to justice.

BURNETT: I mean, what do you make, Paul of why he did this interview? I mean, is it just to tap so Justice Department employees will believe him that he's a person of integrity because he had an issue with the President's tweets. He could have just told him?

ROSENZWEIG: I think there's two reasons. First, is, as we've already said, I think there was a revolution going on inside the Department of Justice. He's trying to calm those waters.

The second audience, of course, is the Republicans in the House and Senate who now have their talking points. They can say, Barr said he wasn't influenced. He was going to do it already.

And even though it's strange credulity to believe that that's true, they now have a hook to hang their ignoring of this problem.

And so I think that that was the other audience that was out there.

BURNETT: All right, I thank you all very much.

And next, Michael Bloomberg. Why is he getting under President Trump's skin? Well, Trump's longtime friend Chris Ruddy, is my guest. Plus, is China telling the truth about how bad the coronavirus is? Why

won't they let American health officials into the country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:27:20]

BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump versus Mayor Mike Bloomberg. It is getting ugly.

Trump mocking Bloomberg's height for the third time this week tweeting this morning his preferred nickname now for Bloomberg, Mini Mike" and Bloomberg responding, "@realDonaldTrump, we know many of the same people in New York, behind your back they laugh at you and call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune and squandered it was stupid deals and incompetence. I have the record and the resources to defeat you and I will."

This is Bloomberg. He is building a massive operation to take on Trump reportedly willing to spend a billion dollars in his fight against the President and to not mince words, Jeff Zeleny is out front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not afraid of Donald Trump and he knows it.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Michael Bloomberg is taking delight in suddenly being the center of attention in the Democratic presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: That's why he keeps tweeting about me. Thank you, Donald, keep sending it in. I love it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY (voice over): He's trying to win the nomination as it's never been done before, writing new rules fueled by a multibillion dollar personal fortune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: Now you don't see many presidential candidates here in Greensboro. They're spending all their time in South Carolina but I think the voters here in North Carolina deserve just as much attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY (voice over): The former New York City Mayor didn't just happen to be in the neighborhood. He breezed through North Carolina today as early voting opened for the primary on March 3rd, also known as Super Tuesday when he finally plunges into a race he is already reshaping. The first true test of Bloomberg candidacy comes that day when voters

in 14 states, coast to coast weigh in.

He spent nearly $130 million on Super Tuesday ads, and $381 million overall, trying to make the point he is the strongest candidate to challenge President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: By an angry out of control President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY (voice over): No matter where you live in America, Bloomberg is inescapable, at least on television. That has allowed him to shape his own narrative until now.

He is suddenly on the defensive over the controversial stop and frisk policing policy in New York after an audio clip of the 2015 speech came to light where Bloomberg argued one way to reduce violence was to throw minority kids up against the walls and frisk them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: I don't think those words reflect how I led the most diverse city in the nation. And I apologize for the practice and the pain that it caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY (voice over): In three stops across North Carolina today, he did not address it.

Several voters we talked to who admire Bloomberg say they wished he would have and believe he must.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVIA SWAYZE, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: It's really an issue and if he resolves it, then we can move on and get my vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:30:01]

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days before he jumped into the race last year, Bloomberg rejected his long embrace of the discriminatory stop and frisk policy.

MIKE BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I realized back then I was wrong. And I'm sorry.

ZELENY: But he's rarely addressed it since, hoping to move beyond through a series of high profile endorsements from African-American members of Congress and big city mayors. One way is through an ad featuring Barack Obama's praise for Bloomberg years ago during his time as mayor.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here.

ZELENY: After only declaring his candidacy less than three months ago, Bloomberg is building a massive campaign battleship, 2,400 employees and growing. It's a general election size operation bigger than Obama's was at the end of his first run in 2008.

It's all part of the Bloomberg plan to overwhelm his Democratic rivals in hopes of showing signs of strength against a man he's aching to run against.

BLOOMBERG: Let me just be clear: I am running to defeat Donald Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So, as Democratic candidates are scrambling to raise money, Mike Bloomberg is racing to spend money. Of course, he has an unlimited fortune and he's putting that to use.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes.

ZELENY: It is through those television ads he has shaped his own narrative. But certainly, we are entering a new phase of the campaign here. We saw Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and others saying they want to inspect the Bloomberg record as well. That could happen as early as next week if he qualifies for the debate -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now, Patty Solis Doyle. She's a former political campaign manager to Hillary Clinton and a political commentator here at CNN.

So, Patty, when you see this -- look, Mike Bloomberg is bringing it to Donald Trump in a way no one else has and people have tried every single path. He's doing it in a slightly different way and Trump is responding, aggressively so.

How worried should he be about Michael Bloomberg?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think one of two things. Michael Bloomberg is either going to win the nomination and he will be crowned the -- you know, biggest political genius of our generation --

BURNETT: Yes.

DOYLE: -- or he's going to lose the nomination but still put a billion or maybe $2 billion towards defeating Donald Trump. So, regardless of the outcome I think Donald Trump should be very worried about Michael Bloomberg.

BURNETT: It's interesting, Jeff Weaver, senior adviser for Bernie Sanders said they wouldn't take a dollar of Michael Bloomberg's money. I wonder if that's really the case, although, certainly, they'd benefit from it, whether they take it directly or not. Patti, you are featured in CNN's new season of "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE." It premiers this Sunday, and I just want to play a quick clip for viewers. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOYLE: Barack Obama wasn't on our radar as a candidate in early 2006. I think the general feeling was he just got to the Senate. There's no way he's going to run for president. That would be pretty, you know, audacious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That word, and, of course, we're seeing a lot of candidates who aren't waiting their turn. Why should they, right?

DOYLE: Right.

BURNETT: In Congress, you see AOC, you see Pete Buttigieg on the Democratic side not waiting his turn for the nomination.

President Trump, of course, had no political experience. Did Obama forever change American expectations for a presidential candidate? In other words, you don't need to have a resume?

DOYLE: Well, look, first of all, I was -- I'm lucky enough to have been able to see the docu-series yesterday, and it is very good. So, I encourage your viewers to please watch it because I think, you know, not because I was in it but the 2008 campaign was really such a historic campaign. We had these political power houses running for president. You know, icons, really.

You had the first African-American president of the United States running against the first woman ever to win a party's nomination. And then after the primary season, Barack Obama running against a war hero and then, of course, enter Sarah Palin as the VP nominee.

So, yes, absolutely. I think Barack Obama -- and that campaign in general really changed the way people practice politics. It was an incredible battle. But what I really -- as I watched it last night, what really struck me was you can fight to the bitter end and really get, you know, sort of roll up your sleeves and battle it out.

But in the end, these people all came together, you know? Barack Obama chose Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state. So, I think 2008 really changed politics for the better. But it's also -- it's a good sign of what could come.

BURNETT: And we shall see, of course.

And don't miss a new season of "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE," Patti and others, that exciting series. It starts Sunday night at 9:00, only on CNN.

But next, President Trump, he's lashing out at his former chief of staff, the four-star general, John Kelly. [19:35:03]

Why did John Kelly's criticism coming out today bother Trump so much? Trump's long-time friend Chris Ruddy is my guest right after this.

Plus, Trump's national security adviser refusing to rule out the idea that the coronavirus may have originated as a biological weapon. Why?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, war of words. President Trump slamming his former Chief of Staff John Kelly, tweeting, quote, when I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn't do fast enough, we knew full well he was way over his head. Being chief of staff just wasn't for him. He came out with a bang, went out with a whimper.

The comments after "The Atlantic" reported that Kelly criticized Trump and also said that Colonel Vindman did the right thing by raising concerns about Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president. And he said, quote: He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave. We teach them, don't follow an illegal order. And if you're given one, you'll raise to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order and tell your boss.

OUTFRONT now, Newsmax president and CEO, Chris Ruddy, also a close friend of President Trump.

[19:40:04]

And, Chris, I'm glad to have you on. Chris, you see this, obviously, Kelly has stood by Vindman and said he did the right thing. You heard the president's response. Obviously, Kelly is a four-star general, a very respected general. Is this a fight Trump should be having?

CHRIS RUDDY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NEWSMAX: Erin, this is a president that likes to have fights. He enjoys the jousting and likes telling people what he thinks. I'm always amazed by people who are shocked by what the president says when I think the rest of the country is getting used to the fact he likes to speak his mind, and he does that often.

I think General Kelly misses the point here, which is Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. General Kelly was an appointed official, aide, chief of staff. The chief of staff doesn't run the country. And it's not that consequential what his views are because he was not elected by the president.

And you can see by the tone of the language he used that that really -- that graded on him. And I think, you know, I actually agree with some of the things that General Kelly said. I think migrants are good people. I think Vindman basically was following procedures by what he did and so forth.

But at the end of the day, the president decides if he doesn't like Vindman, those people work at the pleasure of the president. He's the chief executive officer and he's not breaking the law by firing any of these people.

BURNETT: And yet you say these things, that you know, you think that Vindman did the right thing or that the call with Zelensky was not perfect. The president doesn't come out and castigate you. Chris, I'm just wondering when General Kelly was his chief of staff, Trump was very proud.

Go ahead and respond to what I'm saying. You can criticize him and he doesn't come out and say you're a horrible, pathetic piece -- person.

RUDDY: I'm one of those, I always joke with him. I'm an enemy of the people that actually supports him. I'm a member of the press. I will give it and share my views just like he shares his views.

I'm not employed with him. If I was working with him, I would not be out publicly disputing him. And I think some people feel they have almost like a duty to criticize him.

You know, a lot of his positions are quite popular. When he criticized the sentence of roger stone for seven or nine years, most Americans think for lying to Congress, you know, most members of Congress, some people argue they lie all the time. He's getting seven to nine years in prison for that?

In the beltway, they're all shocked that somehow he criticized prosecutors on this. This is a president that cares about people. I know that's taboo to say on the CNN.

But for 20 years, the Democrats started these laws that put millions, largely African-Americans, minorities in jail, incarcerated them. The first guy that do anything about it was Donald Trump. And he actually cared about that, and I know because I talked to him for years about it.

BURNETT: Van Jones has talked a lot -- I'm just talking about criminal justice reform which is certainly impossible to argue that is his biggest bipartisan thing that he's done.

But what I'm trying to understand is why he behaves the way he behaves personally. I understand you're making a point, Chris, that it may not matter. People may not care. People may be over it, sort of, hey, why are you guys keep talking about this? He does these horrible ridiculous tweets, but who cares? I get your point.

But I'm trying to understand why he hates criticism so much, right? Bill Barr, he doesn't tolerate perceived disloyalty. He lives for Twitter. I don't know if you heard today -- you probably did because obviously you're in news business as well, but Bill Barr today said that the president's tweet about Roger Stone's sentence, but the president's tweet about it was not OK.

I just want to play again what Barr said and I'll give you a chance to respond.

RUDDY: Sure, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS: You're saying you have a problem with the tweets?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes -- well, I have a problem with some of the tweets. You have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What do you think the president's going to do about that, just ignore it, let Bill Barr say that publicly?

RUDDY: Well, the president and I spoke this afternoon. It's interesting we were talking about some of the background on this, not that issue directly.

But, you know, the president said to me they spent, the DNC and the Hillary campaign, they spent a lot of money on that dossier. It turned out to be completely baseless, $15 million of public funds was spent investigating it, on what basis? All the FISA investigations that were found without basis.

And he suffered for two years, so I understand his angst.

[19:45:02]

So, when the attorney general says I have a problem with the president's tweets, I think the president's view is, you know, I have a problem with a justice system that puts me under the gun for two years, finds nothing, and starting incarcerating people for almost a decade for no underlying crime. And I think he's got a view this is highly political.

I think, you know, there's a basis to that. I think he should try to work with his attorney general. I think the tweets would be better if he did a lot less tweeting.

But, you know, he's a guy that likes to tell it like it is.

BURNETT: Or as he see it.

RUDDY: And at the end of the day people are going to judge him -- all right. People are going to judge him by his record.

You know, Michael Bloomberg might have $50 billion, but Donald Trump has something worth -- Donald Trump has something worth $100 billion, which is an incredible track record. As you know, the economy is the best in 50 years. Ninety percent of Americans --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Yes, 63 percent. RUDDY: They're saying they're living the most happiest best lives. If

you watch networks like CNN, you would think somehow this country was in turmoil and on the edge of revolution, and we're seeing, if anything, the Democratic Party is on the edge of revolution. They just picked a candidate twice now in two primaries that said he's happy to be described as a Marxist.

BURNETT: Well, socialist, Democratic socialist.

All right. Thank you very much.

RUDDY: No, he said he was happy being called a communist.

BURNETT: Yes.

RUDDY: I mea, the choice is pretty clear here.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time. Of course I want to talk to you about Michael Bloomberg because that gets complicated and you're a friend, the president, is obsessed of him as well. But I appreciate your time, Chris. I hope you'll come back, thanks.

And next, the CDC with chilling development about the coronavirus and who can spread it.

Plus, one of Trump's fiercest, Congressman Jim Jordan, facing disturbing accusations that he tried to cover up sexual abuse allegations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:53]

BURNETT: Tonight, the coronavirus can spread from people who aren't showing symptoms. The seriously troubling information coming tonight from the CDC, which is also saying tonight it still has not been allowed into China, raising big questions about the truth of what is happening there.

OUTFRONT now, Gordon Chang, China analyst and columnist at "The Daily Beast".

So, Gordon, one-day increase of 15,000 for coronavirus cases. Unclear why suddenly they miscounted or whatever the case may be. Total now 60,000. Huge questions, though, what it really is. Death toll more than 1,300.

You say the truth could be much different?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, certainly. We've been seeing reports over weeks that suggest that this is many more infections, many more deaths. The thing that's really troubling, Erin, is that especially since January 26 or so, the Communist Party has put much more effort into suppressing information. And because of that, there's got to be a concern that these numbers do not adequately reflect the severity of the situation. BURNETT: So, Senator Tom Cotton has raised the idea that the

coronavirus originated in a Chinese government lab. He pointed out that Wuhan has the only level 4 super lab in China which deals with deadly pathogens. When asked about the possibility of bio terror, Trump's adviser would not dismiss it, would not say that was -- wouldn't rule it out.

Is this credible or a full-on conspiracy?

CHANG: Well, we can't rule anything out right now. Most people say this started from the wet market in Wuhan, but if you look at the January 24 article in "The Lancet", which is the authoritative British --

BURNETT: Yes, I read that article.

CHANG: So, most of the people who have initial symptoms had no connection with the wet market. We also know that yesterday, Chisum (ph) which some people called "The Wall Street Journal" of China also posted an article which said SARS in 2002 started naturally but was fueled by releases from a bio lab. So who knows what's going on?

BURNETT: Wow, it's pretty scary when you think about it, because the CDC, just to be clear, is not allowed into China at this point. So, they are not allowing the CDC in.

CHANG: And the WHO, which has a delegation there, has not been allowed near the scene of this. So they're just cooling their heels. And that shows that China does not want an investigation of the origin of this disease. That fuels speculations that we've heard.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Gordon Chang.

And next, Congressman Jim Jordan facing serious accusations of trying to cover up sexual abuse allegations against an Ohio State University doctor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:12]

BURNETT: Tonight, one of president Trump's top allies, Congressman Jim Jordan facing new accusations of covering up sexual abuse allegations against an Ohio State University doctor. These are accusations that Jordan has denied.

Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, all smiles at a dinner with President Trump the day after one of his former wrestling captains slammed him.

ADAM DISABATO, EX-WRESTLER: He's a coward. GINGRAS: Adam DiSabato providing allegations of widespread cover-up

of decades-old sexual abuse of athletes at Ohio State University. Adam is directing much of his anger at Jordan, a former assistant coach of the team for eight years, claiming Jordan knew about the abuse athletes suffered at the hands of a former team doctor and turned a blind eye.

DISABATO: That's the kind of cover-ups that's going on there.

GINGRAS: It's not the first time Jordan's faced criticism connected to the scandal. In 2018, DiSabato's brother Mike exposed the alleged abuse he endured at the hands of Dr. Richard Strauss when Mike was on OSU's wrestling team in the late '80s. At the time, Jordan denied knowing.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had, we would have reported it.

GINGRAS: Fast forward to this week when Adam DiSabato told a room of Ohio lawmakers that Jordan not only knew, but the congressman took ate step further in 2018, asking him to contradict his brother's explosive account.

DISABATO: Jim Jordan called me crying, begging me to go against my brother.

GINGRAS: At the state hearing for a bill which could give abuse victims the right to sue universities, DiSabato also testified he told Jordan about the alleged abuse, and in turn Jordan said his superiors told him to keep his mouth shut.

A spokesperson for Jordan says the new claims are, quote, another lie, adding Congressman Jordan would never ask anyone to do anything but tell the truth.

JORDAN: What you heard did not happen.

GINGRAS: It's another black eye for the man who the president saw as a shining star while he served on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment inquiry. On the day after the Senate acquitted Trump, he thanked Jordan by oddly calling attention to his athleticism.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is the NCAA meeting a couple of years ago when he was in college wrestling champion. That means in all of college, he is a champ. You're the best.

GINGRAS: Jordan took part in an independent investigation of the university last year, which concluded university personnel at the highest level had knowledge of complaints about Strauss and failed to act meaningfully. It didn't mention Jordan.

Strauss died more than a decade before the allegations surfaced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: And last week a GOP source says that Jordan will be the next top Republican in the House Judiciary Committee. That still needs to be approved. We'll see if this has any impact on that. Unlikely, Erin, if you remember back in 2018 when the accusations came out, there was hardly any political blowback.

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

And thanks very much for joining us.

Anderson starts now.

END