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Erin Burnett Outfront

Critics: Women's Day Protests An Excuse to Bash Trump; Trump, Obama Chiefs of Staff in Touch Since Wiretap Claim; Graham Threatens To Subpoena For Trump Wiretap Information; Pence Dodges Questions On Trump's Wiretapping Claim; Global Rallies, Marches For International Women's Day. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 08, 2017 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN WOLF AND THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Athena, thanks very much. That's it for me. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, doctors and hospitals across the nation slamming the GOP healthcare plan, as President Trump pulls out all the stops, inviting skeptics to go bowling. Does he have the votes?

And a top republican threatens to issue subpoenas tonight, demanding evidence to prove Trump's wiretap claims.

And a stunning new report this hour, tying a Trump Hotel to corruption and Iranian revolutionary guard. That's later this hour. Let's go OutFront.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, critically flawed. That is what the American Medical Association at this hour, it's the nation's largest organization of doctors, is calling the republican healthcare plan. The nation's major hospital groups in a joint statement declaring they, "cannot support the bill as currently written." Also, joining in, criticizing the AARP, saying the bill would, "put at risk the healthcare of millions."

Now, this makes it clear. President Trump is facing his biggest sales job yet, deploying the full power of his office. At this hour, the Trumps, together, both of them in Washington, having dinner with Senator Ted Cruz and his wife. Cruz said to be on the fence about the bill. And this is a crucial part of the big lobbying effort from the president, just before tonight's dinner with the Cruzes, Trump met with conservative groups, all of whom oppose the bill. Asked if Trump would be listening or selling, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer minced no words.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETAYR: But make no mistake, the president is very proud of the product that we have produced. We are out in full sell mode, all around the country, talking about how we think this is the best way to solve the problem that the American people face.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Trump even invited members of the house freedom caucus, who were full of republican opponents to the bill for bowling at the White House. And at a closed door meeting today, republican leaders challenging party members critical of the bill, posting photos of Nancy Pelosi and President Trump with the simple question, whose side are you on? Manu Raju is OutFront tonight on Capitol Hill to begin our coverage. And Manu, the big question here, the president has now come out, full court press, saying he supports this bill. He is in sell mode. Is he having an impact?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL We don't know that yet. But we do know it's a furious effort, ongoing by the White House and by republicans in congress to make sure that they do not lose enough support to prevent this bill from getting out of the house and then later, the senate. And there's not much margin for error. Remember, they only need to -- they need to make sure they don't lose more than 21 votes in the house to prevent this from actually not passing that chamber.

And there are roughly 40 members of that conservative house freedom caucus. Many of whom are outrightly very concerned about the bill or very -- or finally saying they're just not going to vote for it in its current form. And on the other side, you have concerns from some centrist republicans including Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, raising concerns about the provisions in the bill that would gut Medicaid. So there's a very difficult needle for them to thread. But one, they believe they can do by mounting this furious effort across the board.

But one thing, Erin, we have not seen the cost estimate of this bill yet, even as the committees today begin votes on this bill. We have not seen the full cost of it. We can probably see that estimate next week. And what will that do if a lot of members are concerned about how much this will actually cost and how many people it would actually cover, Erin.

All right. Manu, thank you, especially as they're trying to rush this through so quickly. Don't have a cost estimate as they're trying to get votes through. There is, of course, the human side to this political story. And it is the most important side. It's what this is all about. So tonight we speak to a Trump supporter who once hated Obamacare, but now needs it to survive. Miguel Marquez is OutFront with this story.

REP. MO BOOKS, (R) ALABAMA: This is the largest welfare program ever proposed by republicans.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some republicans outright rejecting the plan to replace Obamacare. Democrats, too.

REP. MICHAEL DOYLE, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: This is what you've come up with. This is a bad joke.

MARQUEZ: The bill under fire from both sides. Americans like Tiffany Taylor. You're a conservative republican?

TIFFANY KOEHLER, CANCER SURVIVOR: I am. MARQUEZ: Not your typical republican, caught in the middle.

MARQUEZ: Could you have afforded that chemotherapy without Medicaid? Without being on that program?


MARQUEZ: And it was only that expansion of Medicaid that allowed you to be on that program.


MARQUEZ: She doesn't like Obamacare's individual mandates, like many republicans, she'd prefer market solutions to healthcare. But --

KOEHLER: When we all want to thrive and make America great again, as he would say. You know, but we can't do that if we're struggling to pay bills.

MARQUEZ: Three years ago, she had employer-based insurance then lost her job. She went on Obamacare for $400 a month then decided to take a chance.

KOEHLER: And I need your help.

MARQUEZ: She ran for office and lost. Then, some really bad news. Cancer, stage IV, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

KOEHLER: My prognosis was poor. I wasn't supposed to survive.

MARQUEZ: By that time, she couldn't afford insurance, qualifying for Medicaid. Wisconsin expanded its coverage under Obamacare, but rejected federal funds to pay for it. Was it difficult to go -- to rely on the government for healthcare?

KOEHLER: Well, not necessarily. I -- it was life or death for me.

MARQUEZ: The American Cancer Society estimates today there are some 1.5 million Americans with cancer on Medicaid.

DICK WOODRUFF, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Anyone who's in the Medicaid expansion, who are the really the lowest income Americans, and many of them are cancer patients, as well, including childhood cancer patients, are going to be losers.

MARQUEZ: The center on budget and policy priorities estimates the GOP plan will gut more than a half trillion in federal Medicaid spending over a decade. For people like Tiffany Koehler with a pre-existing condition, her healthcare costs already over $1 million.

KOEHLER: People have to be able to get to their doctors. People have to be able to get their medicine. And out of any country in the world, we should be doing it. We should be doing it right.

MARQUEZ: Now, the American Cancer Society has done some number crunchings on situations like Tiffany Koehler's, in specific. And they say that she would pay about $1,000, perhaps even more every month for health insurance. Under Obamacare, she was paying $400, so it would be much more even though at the end of the year, she would get that tax credit. It looks like under this current republican plan, it would cost her a lot more each month. Erin?

BURNETT: A lot more and far exceeding the proposed credits. Thank you very much, Miguel. OutFront now, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, a member of the house freedom caucus, obviously in the center of all of this. And many members in that caucus of course oppose the GOP Obamacare replacement plan. Good to have you with me, Congressman. I want to start with Tiffany's story that you just heard there because of course, the GOP house plan that we've seen does roll back the Medicaid expansion. And I know you don't think it quite does enough on that front. What do you say to Tiffany? I mean, she's a republican, but, you know, she wouldn't be alive, she wouldn't be here without that Medicaid expansion and Obamacare.

REP. RON DESANTIS, (R) HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Well, if you remember when Obamacare was enacted, there were millions of people who had their healthcare canceled. And so there are stories of people who had certain needs, cancer or whatnot who got pushed into policies that they didn't want, and then they didn't have the same coverage that they had because of the broken promise. So I think this law has really created a lot of different aspects.

I would say though, and people who supported Obamacare used to this point a lot before it passed, there really is no lack of healthcare. If people really need it, if they show up to the emergency room, they do get care, it just gets passed on --

BURNETT: But not -- I mean, she had $1 million in cancer treatments. You're not going to get that by showing up in an emergency room.

DESANTIS: Well, I would say this. The bottom line with Obamacare is, a lot of the folks who were qualifying on the policies on the exchanges, more people are leaving, insurers are leaving. So that's just not a sustainable system. You're not going to have that going on two, three, four years into the future if nothing is done. And so that's just the reality that we're dealing with here with this system.

BURNETT: So when -- I spoke to an expert from Standard & Poor's yesterday, and his view was the GOP would mean 6 to 10 million people on Medicaid would lose coverage under the GOP plan because of what it would do the Medicaid expansion. When you say you wanted to go further, which I know you have said in your statement. What do you mean? You want to get rid of it altogether? What is your view of what should happen?

DESANTIS: Well, so, for example, we said we were going to repeal Obamacare. We did do a bill in January that President Obama vetoed. This bill though, for some reason, even after it were to be signed into law, actually allows more able-bodied people to sign up for Medicare for several years into the future. I think Medicaid should be focused on folks who are truly needy, poor kids, people with disabilities, seniors. I don't think it's a really good option for able-bodied people who are able to work and get insurance elsewhere. And what happens is, fewer and fewer physicians will even accept Medicaid, so it's harder to get access to actual care because --

BURNETT: But what about someone again -- like someone Tiffany, right? She loses her job, he's able-bodied, but if it weren't for Medicaid, you know, she wouldn't have had the coverage when it turned out she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

DESANTIS: Well, I mean, I was not aware this was going to be on, so I don't know enough about her situation, I apologize. I heard part of her story. But I would say, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that Medicaid is given block grant to the states so that the government can experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we're finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and then now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on. Experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we're finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on.

BURNETT: All right. So what is your view of the plan, as it's out there right now? A lot of people in your caucus don't support it and the president is inviting some of you guys over to bowl to try to win you over. Will you vote for the GOP bill put out by leadership right now, as it stands?

DESANTIS: I'm still reviewing it. And this, you know, it was mentioned, one of the reports, we don't even know how much the bill costs. This thing was unveiled on Monday. It's already going to a markup today in some of these committees. And I've been reviewing it Monday night, Tuesday night, today. When you review it, it doesn't really make a lot of sense, because it's written in legislative jargon. So you got to do a lot of work to really understand what it's doing.

So I'm working through all that. I think the impressions I have right now, there are some good things in there, for sure. One is, it doesn't really fully repeal Obamacare which we promise for six years we promised we would do. And then two, I'm not seeing how it's going to really drive down the costs so people can afford this coverage. And maybe that's in there. There are some things like health savings accounts, which I agree with. So those are some of the things that I think we're going to have to work through. The votes aren't there now --

BURNETT: They're not there now, right? Because Paul Ryan says he's got them. You're saying they're not there now?

DESANTIS: They're not there in the house or senate. I know I want to get to yes so that we can end up achieve what we promised the American people we can do. But I think this thing -- these bills, healthcare is so complicated. You really need to be able to study this thing. And so I'm a little disappointed that it's being pushed through so quickly.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Congressman.


BURNETT: And OutFront next, breaking news, a top republican threatening subpoenas. Now asking intelligence agencies for evidence of Trump's wiretap claims. Where is the proof? We ask, yet again, another day. Where is it?

Plus, demonstrations around the nation on Women's Day. Some are asking, though, did it send the right message?

And this luxury hotel built by a man described as notoriously corrupt, with ties to the Iranian revolutionary guard. And the name emblazoned on the top of the building? Trump.


BURNETT: Breaking news. Two senators demanding answers from the FBI and the Justice Department on President Trump's wiretapping allegations. Senators Lindsey Graham, a republican, and democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, asking in a letter for copies of any relevant evidence. Graham also saying he's ready to subpoena intelligence agency ifs necessary, it's a big step and it comes as the White House says it has no reason to believe Trump himself is the subject of any investigation. Sara Murray is OutFront.

SARA MURRAY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It's been four days since President Trump's shocking claim that President Obama spied on him. And while there's still no evidence from the White House, today senators say they want proof.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The president has asked congress to look into whether or not his campaign was wiretapped by the Obama administration. I will take up that challenge.

MURRAY: In a Saturday morning tweet storm, Trump alleged that Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower, the home of then-candidate Trump and the location of his campaign headquarters. Today, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, penned a letter to the justice department and the FBI asking for copies of warrant applications or court orders related to wiretaps.

They wrote, we would take any use of wiretapping for political purposes very seriously. We would be equally alarmed to learn that a court founded up evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap of President Trump, the Trump campaign, or Trump Tower. Asked today if the president is the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, initially responded, that's what we need to find out, but later clarified his statement after receiving a note from one of his deputies. SPICER: There is no reason that we should -- that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation, whatsoever.

MURRAY: But Trump's claim inspiring other senators to ask for more details.

Sen. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: As far as the information from the president, I would like him to turn over any evidence that he has supporting his tweet from this weekend about surveillance. I think that would be helpful to our investigation.

MURRAY: The seemingly unfounded wiretapping allegation casting a shadow over Trump's other ambitions. At a healthcare markup today, one democrat called out his GOP colleagues for their silence on Trump's claims.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D) TEXAS: You would think we were asking someone to comment on whether or not President Obama was a criminal who wiretapped President Trump at Trump Tower because they've been silent on that. Indeed, every outrageous statement, every crazy tweet, they are silent on that.

MURRAY: As for the FBI Director, sources tell CNN that James Comey was, "incredulous" about Trump's Twitter allegations. At a cyber security conference today, Comey wouldn't address the issue head-on, but made it clear, he plans to serve out his term.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: You're stuck with me for about another 6 1/2 years. .

MURRAY: Now, in a local news interview tonight, Vice President Mike Pence was asked directly whether he agreed with President Trump. Whether he also believes that former President Obama was in fact wiretapping him. He dodged the question, just saying that he trusts house and senate intelligence committees on the hill to look into this issue. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Sara, thank you. And now, our Senior Political Analyst, Mark Preston and special correspondent Jamie Gangel, along with the founding director of the institute for national security and counterterrorism at Syracuse, bill banks. Thanks to all. Bill, let me just start with you, because you know a lot about this. This whole FISA situation which is what this comes down to. Whether a wiretap was requested. If President Trump was being wiretapped as a result of a FISA order, no matter who put it in, if that was what was happening, how many people would actually even know about it?

BILL BANKS, DIRECTOR, SYRACUSE INSTITUTE FORNATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Very few. A few lawyers inside the justice department, including the head of the national security division of the justice department. And one of the judges of the FISA court. That's about it.

BURNETT: So, you're saying one hand? The amount of people on one hand or so?

BANKS: That's right.

BURNETT: All right. So that's not very many people that would actually know. Now, the former National Intelligence Director James Clapper was asked about this over the weekend. And for anyone who didn't see it, I want to play it. He said, he was not aware of any wiretap activity against Donald Trump and he was definitive about it. Here it is.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.


BURNETT: And of course, Bill, we know the FBI Director Comey was, "incredulous" over the allegation, so he didn't know about it. So that means the DNI didn't know about it, the head of the FBI didn't know about it. If neither of them knew about it, does that mean it did not happen?

BANKS: Notice that he -- that the DNI said that it was not directed at the candidate or at the president-elect. He did not say there was no surveillance going on at Trump Tower. If there was FISA surveillance going on that applied at Trump Tower, it would have been almost surely in pursuit of one or -- one or more of the Russians, who might have had communications with someone inside the Trump Tower or records that passed through the Trump Tower that could have been pursuing those. And could be that someone in the campaign or on the staff might have been on one end of a phone conversation or an electronic communication, but weren't the target of it, at all.

BURNETT: So Mark, that's interesting. So it could have -- it could have happened. It depends who the target was and that fewer than five or fewer people would even know about it. But here's what I know.

BANKS: That's right.

BURNETT: OK? What I know is that if Trump really believed this happened, whether he could fully declassify it or not, even if there's gray area, he could do this, FISA court, FISA judges, I ask you, put all the information you have out there. He could be really public in demanding it. Whether they can or can't. But he has not done that.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he hasn't done it. And one step easier, he could call up the attorney general who at the time had not even -- well, had recused himself a little bit earlier, but certainly, if the attorney general had known that his boss, the President of the United States had been wiretapped, surely Jeff Sessions would have told him so and as Bill says, there's only a handful of people that would know.

You would expect that Comey would know about this, but here's how we can find out, potentially, is that on March 20th, when there is a hearing in the house, James Comey is going to testify. Now, he's not allowed to directly answer any questions about an investigation but if you ask the question this way, do you have any reason to believe that Donald Trump's tweet is not true? That's one way of getting him to say it. Or another way to say it is, is there any reason to believe that James Clapper's statement that he knew nothing about it, you know, is that not true.

BURNETT: All right, so there's ways.

PRESTON: So there's ways of getting Comey to actually answer the question without having him have question.

BURNETT: Because, Jamie, part of the issue here is, of course, is that if all of this were to be released, if there is and is there, OK? If there is something to be released and the president calls for it to be released or the president calls for it to be released and someone obliges, then we would know what they were looking for.


BURNETT: Right? And so one has to raise the question, is he not asking because he does not want us to know what they were looking for?

GANGEL: That' certainly -- look. We've seen republicans distancing themselves from him on this. And the reason is, they are very frustrated because they think with one phone call, he could provide the proof and clarify it. But there's something else. And that is, they are very concerned about a credibility gap. Every time he does something like this, it erodes his credibility. It's sort of like the little boy who cries wolf, right?

If you do it over and over again and there's no proof, then what my republican sources are saying is that when we have a real national security crisis or something where it's very important that he be believed, are they going to believe him?

BURNETT: Has he eroded --

GANGEL: Right, no one's going to wrestle the Twitter account away from him but what they're hoping to do is send him a message, stop doing this. This is not what you should be doing in these situations.

BURNETT: And Bill, before we go, just to understand, so, in your view, when -- as Jamie is saying, a lot of republicans think it's as easy as a phone call. Is it as easy as a phone call that the President of the United States could make that would put all of these out in the open or is it not that easy?

BANKS: It's probably not that easy but it could be done. I think because congress is beginning an investigation of the Russian influences in the election and as you said, a few minutes ago, Comey and others will be testifying, they could simply ask for testimony regarding the surveillance that may or may not have occurred last year at Trump Tower.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all of you. I think the operative words there not that easy, but it could be done.

And next, President Obama publicly silent about Trump's wiretap accusations against him. What is he saying, though, behind closed doors? We have new reporting on that this hour.

And across the country, women urged to take off work and join a one- day strike. But a lot of people don't think it's a good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why you working today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To get my pay check.


BURNETT: Tonight, women across the country protesting to mark International Women's Day. Marchers filling the streets, women taking the day off work. Even forcing some schools to close down for the day. Strike organizers are calling it A Day Without A Woman. Kyung Lah is OutFront.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing?


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A crowd in red to symbolize action from Washington, D.C.

AMERICAN PEOPLE: Women united will never be divided.

LAH: to San Francisco where women were out in force for the day without a woman march. In New York City, police detained the key organizers for blocking traffic outside Trump International Hotel and Tower.


LAH: As women march in honor of International Women's Day, from (INAUDIBLE) to Mexico City that the American President loomed large. The movement asking women to flex their economic and political power by not showing up for work, paid or unpaid. In North Carolina and Virginia, schools shut down, after teachers said they wouldn't show up for work, drawing mild criticism from the White House.

SPICER: Obviously, as I mentioned, people have a right to express themselves under our first amendment. As the president is doing today by making sure that we have appropriately salute the contributions that women make to this country. But there's clearly an impact in the case of schools.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's over 180 marches happening just today in the United States, raising awareness. Women are walking out of work. And it's just showing that, again, how much women play a role in not only our economy, our society, everything.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To get my paycheck. I live -- I pay my own rent. So, I need to work every day.

LAH (voice-over): Bonnie Dupree (ph) says she'd march if she could, but doesn't have the luxury of not working.

Same story for Katie Orphan (ph). She supports women's rights, but says a day without a woman ignores a woman like her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The luxury to take the day off as a stance are people who make more, who have a bigger cushion, who can, you know, afford to not do that.

LAH: In Los Angeles, we spoke to women who say, yes, they have the financial ability to be here. But others, like these assistants at a Hollywood talent agency, straddled need to work with need to protest, asking their bosses for the time off, so they could join the movement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think oftentimes, people limit feminism to, you know, white, privileged women. And it's more than that. It's more inclusive. It's all-encompassing.


LAH: Now, very certainly, an awareness of that criticism here at this L.A. rally. One of the first mentions from the podium is that these women that you see behind me represent women who had to work, who could not come out here to protest.

Now, President Trump also recognized International Women's Day. He recognized it in a tweet, writing, "I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy". Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Kyung, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, and Sally Kohn, columnist for "The Daily Beast."

So, Sally, protesters were carrying a banner that said "Resist Trump." another set of protesters here in New York, shirts that said "Nasty Women," signs that said "Nasty Women," signs with Trump's face right on at the center of them. They were, of course, here, outside Trump Tower.

Was this Women's Day or just women who don't like Trump day?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no. Look, it is International Women's Day. And the marches, the protests the wearing red, the demonstrations, the boycotts were to focus on the laws, the culture, the work we have still yet to do in this country, to ensure that women are, who make up more than 51 percent of the country, are 100 percent equal in every way, shape, or form in our country. That's simple.

And, yes, some of the messaging, some of the articulation, some of the protests in the face of those demands are going to be against those denying that equal right, are going to be against oh, I don't know, the president who has condoned and bragged about sexual assault, who has restricted abortion rights, who is rolling back some of the things we've already won and want to keep moving forward on. So, yes, of course, they go hand in hand.

But there's a negative side. There's also the positives of where these women, all of us women want to move the country forward.

BURNETT: All right. Bt when you say, they do go happened in hand, Penny, how does that make you feel? It goes hand in hand?


BURNETT: You want Trump and Women's Day?

NANCE: Well, first off, there's things we can all come together on. International Women's Day should be about the idea that there should be no child brides, there should not be women sold into slavery in ISIS. I looked at the unifying documents and, you know, I even found a couple of things on there that I could agree with, the idea of restorative justice, the idea of alternative sentencing. But then you lost me on the issue of abortion.

Unfortunately, it's a mishmash of messaging. I'm not really sure what they want. I would suspect there's a whole group of women, though, that feel like they're disqualified from taking part in this, just like they were disqualified from being part of the women's march, because we're pro-life, we weren't welcome. So you know, I would suggest, there are ways that we can come together --

BURNETT: But does the Trump part bother you? The Trump t-shirts, the Trump pictures, the Trump signs?

NANCE: Listen, I believe in the First Amendment. They are welcome. I stood in front of President Obama's house and said things against him when he was president and I welcome others to do the same with this president.

I believe that -- I strongly believe that we have a right to speak up and petition our government and that's all part of what democracy -- this is what democracy looks like.

KOHN: And we agree on that.

BURNETT: So, Sally, a parent posted -- so, you know, some of the schools were closed and there were mixed reactions to that. One parent on Facebook saying, "You support depriving students to their right of education and placing hardship on working parents with very short notice." Another one, "And this last-minute decision does a disservice to anyone in a family where both parents work full-time."

What about this question about this just being something that white people -- rich white people can afford to do --

[19:35:00] KOHN: Yes.

BURNETT: -- and then have the nerve to actually think they're speaking on behalf of people who don't have that benefit?

KOHN: Yes. I mean, look, as a rich white person myself, I sent my kid to public school today and was darned glad it was open. So, I want to be clear, like, this stuff is complicated, right? There's no one way -- just like there's no one way to be a woman, there's no one right way to protest, right?

So, I think what's also important to remember is that we have a profound and important history of these kinds of protests, protests in general, but strikes and boycotts in our country. You know, when Samuel Adams in the early revolutionaries threw 342 barrels of tea into the Boston Harbor, I'm sure it was inconvenient for tea drinkers, too, but we look back on that moment and are thankful that it led to the freedoms that we now enjoy. So, these moments of inconvenience -- and that's what they are -- are meant to serve as symbolic and important mobilizing moments to remind our country of what's at stake.

BURNETT: So, Penny, does it do that, because in your op-ed, you wrote, "Women don't make it to the boardroom by pouting. We reach these elusive roles by being the best and one becomes the best by showing up."

NANCE: And let me say, on the point of the schools closing, I mean, that is exactly the wrong message for young women. They need to be asked to compete and contend and to work hard. And that's how the second wave feminists cracked the glass ceiling.

I really feel like -- and the second point is on education, it's a politicization of the school system. It's the very thing that drives parents like me. And by the way, my daughter attended two years of Alexandria City Schools, and it was this kind of stuff that sent us to private school.

I wanted to attend that school, but it wasn't a place that was inclusive and welcoming to us. And it's just a shame. It plays right into the hands of the idea of school choice --

BURNETT: And you found private school less liberal than public school? I'm sort of shock.

NANCE: Trinity Christian Schools are a very conservative place. You're welcome to --


KOHN: I mean, look. The larger issue here is that we -- you know, look, all women can't afford to take off and watch their kids on a day where there's no school, if their kids are sick.


KOHN: That's a larger issue. That's not about one day of protests. That's about the fact that we are the only industrialized nation in this world that doesn't have paid family leave. Policies, by the way, that Republicans and conservatives have opposed. So, yes, you're right, show up and compete but -- (CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Although, I will end only on this note to say, Donald Trump is on your side.

KOHN: I know and that is --

BURNETT: OK? So, there we go.

KOHN: And that is surprising, but it would be nice if we also started talking about equal pay, ending sexual assault, you know, rights for LBGT women, racial justice. I mean, there's a whole -- let's move forward.

BURNETT: Thank you both.

And OUTFRONT next, what President Obama is saying about Trump's wiretapping accusation and a provocative new report linking a Trump hotel to a corrupt family with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. You'll be amazed when you see how involved the Trump family is.


[19:41:50] BURNETT: Breaking thing news from the White House. Sources telling our Jeff Zeleny that President Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and President Obama's former chief of staff, Denis McDonough, have spoken since Trump made his wiretap claims.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.

And, Jeff, what more can you tell us about that conversation? I mean, that's pretty stunning they have talked now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, indeed, Erin. And this is coming after Saturday, of course, when that explosive comment came out of this administration. And President Obama saw it like everyone else did. He saw it online on social media.

But I am told after that happened, the sides began to have conversations, including the chiefs of staff, as you said, Denis McDonough, who worked for President Obama for a long time, he reached out to Reince Priebus, I'm told, the chief of staff of the Trump administration. We do not know exactly what they talked about, but we do know that they had a conversation, as well as other advisers, also, from the Obama administration, have been in touch with advisers from the Trump administration.

Now, this is not entirely unusual. It's a frequent happenstance and occurrence for advisers from one administration to talk to another administration. But in the wake of this explosive charge, it is certainly all that more, more interesting. Interestingly, the presidents have not yet spoken. We don't know if this will lead to that, but their advisers have, Erin.

BURNETT: So, Jeff, you know, obviously, the accusation here, against President Obama, is a very serious one.

ZELENY: Right.

BURNETT: I mean, at the top of the list, right? If true, you would be looking at something like a Watergate, as some have said. The president -- President Obama, that is, is said to be -- the words used, "irked" and "exasperated" by what he says and everyone has said so far are baseless allegations.

Is he really just irked? I mean, it seems like a tame word.

ZELENY: You know, we have to think of the no-drama Obama White House, Erin. That is the kind of response he would normally have. Of course, he was not thrilled by this. But I am told by people close to him, we reported this earlier today, that he was irked and exasperated. He was not furious, we are told, because he simply did not take it seriously.

Now, this is a president who has spent years weathering attacks from Donald Trump about his citizenship, about, you know, a whole number of things. So he simply, you know, said it wasn't true. His adviser, his spokesman released a statement on Saturday saying, look, it's simply false.

So, I am told the words properly to use are irked and exasperated. And with that, the president -- former President Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, went to the museum on Sunday -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Living like normal citizens, going to the museum. OK, Jeff, thank you.

Now, former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen.

I mean, David, it's unprecedented in modern history for a president to accuse his predecessor of something like this.


BURNETT: A felony, it's stunning. And Obama himself has not responded. Now we know there's this conversation. But it is shocking in the sense of, when the travel ban first came out, he did put out a statement. And people said, my gosh, no one's ever responded so quickly to a new president. But now with these allegations -- silent.

GERGEN: Well, I actually think he's smart to stay silent, try to stay above the fray a little bit.

But there's no question this rift goes very deep right now. And that is Donald Trump and the people around him, many of them, think that the Obama team is trying to sabotage them.

[19:45:05] Outside the administration, but the holdover sure filling up positions that are not yet filled by Trump people, they feel they're leaking things massively and all the rest. They've accused him of that. And at the same time, now we have Trump accusing Obama of a felony,

and, you know, saying the worst thing that could possibly be said by a former president with no proof. And I think it's right that President Obama feels exasperated. It's broken the rules of the club.


GERGEN: The fraternity of a former president, you know, it's totally broken the rules. And I think it's going to do this. I don't think Obama's going to change what he does publicly for the next few months. I think he'll try to stay above the fray, but I think his aides, people around him --

BURNETT: Like the conversation we just heard, McDonough.

GERGEN: Yes, Denis McDonough, by the way, is a classy guy. So, he probably tried to reach out to quell this thing, to say, what the hell are you doing.

But nonetheless, I do think they're going to unleash awful more. And I think come the off-year elections of 2018, if it looks close, I think you'll see Obama much more on the trail and a new set of people in Washington.

BURNETT: All right. David Gergen, thank you very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, this luxury hotel -- take a look at it. A joint project between the Trump organization and a family accused of massive corruption. The Trump family was incredibly involved. What did they know?

And Jeanne Moos on Melania Trump rising in the polls, still taking fire from late-night comics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at -- look at her eyes. You can see in her eyes, she's like, you guys don't know what he's capable of.



[19:50:08] BURNETT: Tonight, the Trump Tower you see on your screen is empty. It's a five-star hotel. It never opened but a whole lot of work was done on it.

It's in Azerbaijan. You may have heard it. But it is one of the most corrupt nations on earth and it is the subject of a new article in "The New Yorker" titled, "Donald Trump's Worst Deal". The magazine suggesting that the hotel may have been a corrupt operation, engineered by oligarchs and connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

OUTFRONT now, the article -- the author of that article, staff writer for "The New Yorker", Adam Davidson.

And, Adam, you know, you spent a lot of time in Baku, in Azerbaijan, to do this reporting. We see that big five-star tower. You were there many times. How involved was the Trump family with that tower?

ADAM DAVIDSON, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: So, of the Trump family, Ivanka was extremely involved. And what the folks in Azerbaijan told me, she went over every detail. Not just design things, but how many elevators would be in the building, what the business plan of the hotel would be, how big the banquet halls are, every detail. And at least --

MADDOW: We see pictures of her there. She posted pictures of herself on Facebook.

DAVIDSON: Yes, she traveled there once. Her staff, though, traveled constantly, once to twice a month, traveled to Turkey to look at furniture. I mean, they were extremely involved. The Azerbaijanis came to New York to get all their plans approved by the Trumps.

BURNETT: All right. So, extremely involved, is not -- is not that common in projects like this. So, that's one thing as you reported.

DAVIDSON: Very intense.

BURNETT: Very intense. OK.

So, their partner there, you can't do business in a corrupt country like Azerbaijan without a really connected partner. And I used the word connected loosely here. Corrupt is probably the more appropriate word. There was a billionaire family referred to as the Corleones of the Caspian.

How corrupt was this family, the Mammadov family?

DAVIDSON: The Mammadov family is -- they're corrupt in a way that we don't have in America or Europe. They're openly, nakedly, not in any way hiding the fact that they're corrupt. The center of the family, the patriarch, is this guy Ziya Mammadov, until a couple of weeks ago was the transportation minister.

He made hundreds of millions, billions of dollars out of corrupt deals under his ministry and he had front companies, one owned by his brother, one owned by his son, one owned by his former driver that had contracts with the government and they funneled this money into things like the Trump Tower project. And it was so naked, their corruption. You ask any Azerbaijani, they know about it.

But it's a total mystery how -- why the Trump organization would be in a business with a guy like this.

BURNETT: And they tell you, they just didn't know about it.

DAVIDSON: They say that they did all appropriate due diligence and it raised no red flags. And what everyone else I've talked to who does due diligence says, doing business in Azerbaijan at all is a red flag. Doing business with a government minister is a red flag.


DAVIDSON: Doing business with the most corrupt minister in the most corrupt country who has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, there's no bigger red flag in the world.

BURNETT: So you report that contracts are paid in cash. They would go there, they would get duffel bags full of money. Inspectors, tax officials would show up, envelopes full of cash would change hands, bribes.

And around the time all this was passed, we actually found Trump on CNBC basically saying, this is how you do business. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP: Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do. It's a horrible law and it should be changed. And there is one answer. Go to your room, close to door, go to sleep and don't do any deals. That's the only way you're going to do it, is the other way.


BURNETT: He's talking about a law banning basically bribes overseas and saying that's the only way to do business. Other American businessmen have gone to jail for violating this law. Could Trump?

DAVIDSON: It's very unlikely that Donald Trump himself would go to jail. He was not directly involved in this deal, as far as we know. He only met with the developer maybe for ten minutes, once.

I would say it's highly unlikely, but it's not inconceivable that Ivanka Trump would be prosecuted. Obviously, there's a whole process involved. It seems to me there's a very strong case to be made against the Trump Organization and some of the staff and Ivanka.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. It's an incredible report. It's in "The New Yorker" and it reads like a novel. I would recommend everyone to read it.

Adam, great to see you again.

DAVIDSON: Thank you so much.

BURNETT: And I do want to point out, we reached out to the Trump Organization for a comment on Adam's story. The executive vice president and chief legal officer responded with this, quote, "The company has at all times acted in strict conformity with all applicable legal requirements including the FCPA, which is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and any suggestions to the contrary is completely unfounded."

All right. Next, Jeanne Moos on Melania Trump's rise from third wife to first lady. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:39] BURNETT: A new poll shows First Lady Melania Trump's star is rising. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hail to the chief. Hail to the chief's wife.


MOOS: She's doing better than the chief in the polls. Of course, she's less visible. Though she hosted an International Women's Day luncheon, the White House wouldn't let the press stay for her speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This way, guys.



MELANIA TRUMP: Your Excellency's, esteemed to represent --

MOOS: Melania Trump is now held in high esteem by 52 percent of those polled by CNN/ORC. That's compared to only 36 percent before the inauguration. Tweeted one fan, "She has given class, elegance, and a reverence for God back to this country."

Grumbled a critic, "Easy to have that great approval rating when no one ever sees you or hears you speak."

MELANIA TRUMP: Our Father, who art in heaven.

MOOS: Though we've heard her pray and read Dr. Seuss to kids at a New York hospital.

MELANIA TRUMP: Your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet.

MOOS: We hear a lot about shoes full of Melania's feet. As a former model, she's under a fashion microscope. Oh, no, she didn't. Melania Trump wears one dress, two days in a row. Even her body language with her husband is micro-analyzed, leading to calls to free Melania, blink twice if you want us to save you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who I always look at for the truth. Not Melania, but I look at her eyes. Look at her eyes. You can see in her eyes, she's likes, "You guys don't know what he's capable of."

MOOS: Comedians take their shots, so do cartoonists. "I will now be the first lady instead of the third wife."

But her approval still jumped 16 points. Turns out men favor her more than women, 58 to 46 percent. Tweeted one guy, "This just in: old white Republicans dudes approve of ex-model wives." But Melania's climbing in the polls. (MUSIC)

MOOS: -- her way.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And Friday night at 9:00, be sure to catch the CNN special report, "Melania Trump: The Making of a First Lady." And Trevor Noah, you just saw him briefly there, he's going to be on "THE MESSY TRUTH" with Van Jones, that's tonight at 9:00. You don't want to mess it.

Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.