Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

GOP Tax Bill Facing Unexpected Problems Hours Before Vote; Source: White House Wanted Public Shaming Of Tillerson; Calls Grow For Conyers To Resign Over Sexual Harassment Claims; Interview with Eric Swalwell. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news, trouble on the Senate floor. The GOP tax bill facing last minute unexpected problems. Are they enough to derail it completely?

Plus public shaming. The White House leaks word of Rex Tillerson's ouster. Is the Secretary of State on borrowed time? And the mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent that Trump is using to promote the border wall. Is the President right or wrong on the facts? We investigate tonight. Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, 11th hour drama and it is drama. A trouble unfolding as we speak on the Senate floor. Lawmakers really supposedly just hours away right from this big vote on a tax reform bill that would completely change the American tax system as we know it for generation or more.

And now an unexpected serious and dramatic problem, senators rushing to negotiate final details. And moments ago, the Republican Senator Bob Corker there on the floor raising a major issue with the bill, specifically with the so-called trigger.

OK, what the trigger would do is basically raise taxes if the economy doesn't grow as quickly as the bill anticipates. So it's just an automatic thing. If the numbers don't come in right, guess what the taxes go back up.

Corker's Republican colleagues including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have become frustrated with Corker. This is all playing out on your screen. All of this undoubtedly a reaction to the analysis released just hours ago by the bipartisan joint committee on taxation.

This study shows that the bill would add a trillion dollars to the American deficit over 10 years. Trillion dollars is a huge blow to the Republicans and the Trump administration. Who, of course, promised again and again and again that this bill will pay for itself. Just listen to the Treasury Secretary. Steven Mnuchin talked about the President's tax plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Not only will this tax plan pay for itself but it will pay down debt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So pay for itself and then extra money to pay down the trillions of dollars in debt. So it's pretty shocking when all of the sudden it comes but it's actually going to cost a trillion dollars never mind one of those things. So what is Secretary Mnuchin talking about? It's hard to say.

The New York Times is reporting that Mnuchin's own treasury office of tax policy does not have a report to back the bosses claims up, which is pretty amazing. We're hours before the Senate could vote on legislation that will impact every single taxpayer in America and lawmakers do not have the report from treasury that backs up the most fundamental claim.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein tweeting, "We may vote on the Republican tax bill tonight. We don't have a final bill. We don't have a Treasury Department analysis. This is, in all caps OUTRAGEOUS."

Phil Mattingly is OutFront from Capitol Hill. And Phil, obviously, this is an 11th hour drama that is now playing out. Where does the debate stand?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's unexpected and it's very serious, Erin. You set the stage perfectly.

And just to provide some context here, why the senators were on the floor is to vote for a Democratic amendment that was largely considered pro forma. Republicans walk in, vote against it, walk out. It wasn't expected to be problematic at all. Instead, it turned into a major scene inside the well of the U.S. Senate.

And I'm told from several GOP aides that senators not named Bob Corker are furious right now. One that it happened so publicly, and two that is become so problematic to the bill.

Erin, you talked exclusively about what the trigger is. Here are the issues right now. First and foremost, the trigger won't fly with the budget rules that are required under the process the Republicans are working under. So that is now out the door.

The other is that JCT report. Right now, a lot of Republicans have dismissed it. Said the modelling is wrong. Said they don't agree with it. Say any number of different things. Bob corker has not. Several aids telling me that he seized on this issue.

Not only does he want tax increases, some type of tax increases to be in this bill, he now wants more money than he wanted when he was drafting the trigger in the first place. Here are the options right now. And I'm told there are several, Erin. One of them is possibly increasing the corporate tax rate, which they would bring down to 20 percent after six years. Stepping it up on a basis of .5 percentage point over the next couple of years.

The other option is perhaps reinstituting the AMT, the alternative minimum tax both on the corporate and the individual side. And there's another option too. Lose Bob Corker.

I think the big issue right now is there were three senators that withholding their votes on the floor. Three senators that have serious problems with this bill. Jeff Flake, also a deficit hawk was with Bob Corker on the trigger idea, and Ron Johnson. We've talked about before wants him more expanded tax cut for past through entities.

Problem is those two issues run head long into each other. If you want to address Senator Johnson's issues, you have to add more money. If you add more money, you have serious problems with Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

What Republican leaders are doing right now behind the scenes, drafting multiple options to see if there is a way forward. But I think the key point here, Erin, is Senate Republican leaders this morning were talking about the possibility of finishing this bill, a final vote, and get through the vote around everything by the end of the day.

That is very clearly not on the table right now. Instead, they're back to the drawing board on one of the most central pieces of their entire plan and they are actively considering raising taxes on Americans in a Republican proposal. That is something that would be an anathema (ph) to any Republican and yet right now that's at least one of the issues they're left with, Erin.

[19:05:13] BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank you very much, explaining the details.

So here's the thing. Everything -- it's hard to overstate how much this matters to the President. If he doesn't get this legislative victory, it is a massive failure. He needs it.

Sara Murray is OutFront at the White House. And Sara, now the President obviously seeing this drama play out. The White House says he's been working the phones. But this is unexpected for the President as well.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Erin. And I think that's part of the reason we were talking to senior White House aides earlier today. They said, look, the President feels good about this. We're feeling positive about the direction that things are going. We think we're going to get the votes.

But nobody's popping champagne corks in the west wing and that's because they have seen major pieces of legislation go down before. They remember the lessons of health care. They remember what it feels like to be close to a victory and have it snatched out from underneath you. And so that is exactly what they were afraid of happening when it comes to tax reform.

Now, we know the President has been a little upset lately. We have seen his twitter feed. We have seen him lashing out. We've seen him tweeting anti-Muslim videos, going after news executives.

He's getting some advice from his allies. They are saying, look, you need to calm down, you need to stay focused on tax reform. Most importantly, you need to not give anyone a reason to want to vote against you at this point. That is the advice he is getting.

So why is the President still towing (ph)? He feels like he's not getting credit for any of his accomplishments. You can check out his twitter feed to see him tweeting about the stock market, tweeting about the economy, trying to gin up more support and, of course, more applause for what he thinks he has done right. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sara. And I want to go now to Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, our Senior Political Commentator and Gene Sperling, former Director of the National Economic Council under President Obama and Clinton. They spent a whole lot of time also trying to make those calls random (ph) folks to these bills through.

So, let me start with you Senator Santorum. Now we're here, we have this drama. Oftentimes you would see these things and say, OK, they'll figure it out.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes.

BURNETT: But obviously, the track record thus far this year is that that their expense (ph) are pretty huge failures. So they're going to figure this out or not?

SANTORUM: Yes. There is -- I mean, obviously, there is legit drama. There are serious issues here. But there is no doubt in my mind that there will be 50 votes whether it's late tonight or whether it's tomorrow. There will be 50 votes to pass a bill out of the United States Senate.

And, you know, the one thing that I think you need to pay attention to is the two names and the people who are the most problematic right now, which is Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. Those are the two people the President has gone after and attacked. Now, you can say, well, that had nothing to do with the other, maybe it didn't. But neither of them feel a particular affinity to the President that they have to do something to help him. Both of them are now leaving office in part because of President Trump's opposition to them.

So, President Trump has to understand that there are consequences to some of the things he does, particularly within his own party in alienating people come these very crucial votes. Neither of these folks should be where they are right now. Whether they lose both of them or not, I don't know.

I think Ron Johnson will get back onboard. I think they'll have the 50 votes to do it. I know they're working both of those issues. BURNETT: Yes.

SANTORUM: But this is a problem that is in part created by this administration.

BURNETT: And, Gene, what is your take? I know certainly you would agree with the senator's analysis of that. Do you agree that this will get done? They've got the 50 votes. They'll get there?

GENE SPERLING, FMR. NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR UNDER OBAMA & CLINTON: Look, I think we're watching a fierce battle between desperation on one hand and incompetence and irresponsibility on the other side. And, you know, it's possible desperation might win. But it's nothing to be proud of.

I mean, Erin, let's just step back. You guys have all given great analysis so far. But let's just remember. They are, by design, increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion. No party, not when Rick Santorum and I were serving together, no one ever thought do that.

And then even in the face of that, they design a plan that would raise taxes or give no tax cut to virtually 80 percent of Americans by 2027 when it's fully implemented? I mean, this is fairly outrageous. And why are they in this situation? They are because they have built a tax plan, a tax strategy on a fundamental lie.

And that lie is if they give hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars, deficit increase to the major corporations that somehow that is going to lead to wage increases when over the last 16 years we've seen corporate profits go do near record levels, and the percentage of that money going to employee compensation --

BURNETT: Yes.

SPERLING: -- going to near record low levels.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about that, Senator, because that is the core of this, right? If you're going to say I don't believe the trillion dollar deficit number. You're going to --

SANTORUM: I don't.

[19:10:04] BURNETT: OK. Then you've got to be betting on --

SANTORUM: And, by the way, you know, President Obama put force a stimulus package, so it was close to $1 trillion. Nobody offset that. And that was added to the deficit. And then you heard Gene Sperling, and anybody else complaining about deficits at that point.

SANTORUM: The bottom line is there's two different theories.

BURNETT: Well, how many wrongs make a right?

SANTORUM: Right. No, there's two different theories as to what -- wait a second.

SPERLING: That wasn't a wrong. That was a deep recession.

SANTORUM: And one suggested that's government spending and what Republicans are saying is, no, we need to unshackle this economy and we need to release the, you know --

BURNETT: OK. What are you going to --

SANTORUM: -- the capitalist justice (ph) that are out there.

BURNETT: OK. So the whole bet is that we're going to cut the corporate tax rate. That's the core of this. Every supporter --

SANTORUM: It is.

BURNETT: And then the money is going to come home because they're going to have a lower tax rate which is still higher than a lot of other countries, but still going to come home. And they're going to invest it in things like higher wages to the tune of $4,000 in average families. Remember, they keep doing well.

SANTORUM: Well, just --

BURNETT: Senator, why? Why would they do that?

SANTORUM: Well, you create -- if you are creating more economic growth and you are creating more jobs, you're in an economy that's already starting to see for the first time in 20 years as Gene pointed out, wages beginning to come up. Why? Because the President has actually done something about immigration. The President's actually been in a position where he is trying to say, look, we need labor markets that actually work for wage earners, not just the salary employees.

And I think this combination of trade and immigration and now more economic growth --

BURNETT: What does immigration and what he's had to do with immigration which is unskilled labor which had stopped anyway because of the slowdown? What it does have to do with any --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: You have unemployment rates at 3 percent.

BURNETT: Almost full employment?

SANTORUM: Right, almost full employment. And we've seen a dramatic reduction and illegal immigration come into this country which was soaking up a lot of these other jobs. And they are at low skilled workers.

That's why you see wages going up because we don't have as much of an influx of most government (ph) workers coming into this country.

BURNETT: Gene?

SPERLING: Well, first of all, the one thing Donald Trump has done right is follow Barack Obama, because he inherited a strong economy.

BURNETT: OK. What about the immigration point though, Gene? What about the -- I mean, do you give that to the senator or no?

SPERLING: I give him absolutely nothing. Wages were already going up. The idea -- you know what would help with wages is if you had more people who were undocumented right now feeling they had a path to citizenship, so they come out of the shadows. That would help wages go up. That's what would help.

But the real issue is that there is no connection here. I mean, it's got to be embarrassing for Rick Santorum to have to defend a plan that raises the deficit by $1.5 trillion that even after you have aggressive optimistic dynamic scoring still has the official score keepers as of tonight saying it's going to increase the deficit by $1 trillion. And, yet, it's still by a time it's fully implemented, raises taxes on most middle income Americans.

BURNETT: All right. I will leave it there since the Senator began the conversation. I know he would like to get a comment. But we'll go that way for fairness. Thanks to both.

And next, speaking of embarrassment, President Trump publicly shaming his Secretary of State on purpose. Is he trying to humiliate Rex Tillerson to quitting because he's afraid of firing him?

Plus, it's now confirmed. A former Senate investigation launch into Senator Al Franken's alleged sexual misconduct. There are five accusers, and the White House saying the President likely didn't know that he was retweeting a white nationalist group when he promoted three anti-Muslim videos. How many times do they have to give that same excuse? Fareed Zakaria is OutFront.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:12] BURNETT: Breaking news, the President trying to publicly shame his Secretary of State. A source telling CNN that the White House purposely circulated a story today that the President is considering replacing Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo to express the President's displeasure with Tillerson.

Now the President was asked directly about this today and well, here's his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want Rex Tillerson on the job, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's here. Rex is here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Michelle Kosinski is OutFront at the State Department. And Michelle, look, the President-Tillerson haven't had the most cozy relationship. Last month, Tillerson at a press conference to deny reports that he called Trump a moron. But, obviously, you would think if Trump had real problems or wanted to talk to him, you would do it in private. That is not how this President works. Will Tillerson now take the bait?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: No. I don't think that the White House feels that Tillerson deserved that. I mean, it is clear that they wanted to do this in this way because of those simmering tensions that clearly now did not go away. And Tillerson really doesn't have a choice now.

I feel like the only choice he really has is to either go quietly, we know he's been a man of few words. Or to go loudly and do something like give an interview where he publicly reacts to this. But a source close to the White House says that, yes, this was a narrative that was finally put out by the White House to express that extreme displeasure over Tillerson and his tight inner circle. They're not now considered to be staunch Trump supporters.

And this source acknowledged that this is a public shaming of Tillerson and the goal is to wait for limb to, quote, punch out and that clock is ticking. I did ask, you flow, isn't this maybe a sad way of doing things? And the response was, is it though and Tillerson should have seen the writing on the wall. So nobody wants to leave the State Department unmanned. And that's where it gets really tricky.

So, we could see Tillerson stay but how excruciating is this going to be through the end of the year at least, possibly longer. We know that current CIA Director Mike Pompeo is the White House's top six to replace Tillerson. But we're not so sure and not really sure if the White House is completely sure who will then replace Pompeo, Erin.

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

And, of course, there is always this possibility, right? Everybody you could say Rex Tillerson could say it's excruciating for me. But it is way more excruciating for him if I just sit here and force him to fire me. So, there is that.

OutFront now, Chris Cillizza, Editor-At-Large for CNN politics and Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst. And Gloria, I mean, it does come down to in a sense to that. Because this is a President who likes to say you're fired publicly. It's part of his brand. But he actually is pretty meek about doing it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. But the writing has been on the wall for this, for quite some time.

[19:20:02] I mean, we know that this is a Secretary of State who privately called the President a moron and then held a press conference to not disavow it. To a great degree.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: They disagreed on issues. The President has tweeted about, you know, Rex is wasting his time negotiating with North Korea. I was just told this evening by a very good source that there is a disagreement over moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

There is a, you know, so there's a lot of disagreement. I think that there has been trouble in terms of Tillerson and his reorganization of the State Department. And that there are a lot of complaining from diplomats that they can't get through to Rex Tillerson and that he doesn't speak for the President.

So if you put that all together in one box, you have a problem and, you know, Tillerson will be gone one way or another --

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: -- and not to decency (ph).

BURNETT: Certainly will and of course it doesn't help that he never got the rank and file of the State Department to actually support him. And I think we should all acknowledge they were willing to do so. There was a real willingness when he came in and maybe this would be a voice of reason.

BORGER: Yes.

BURNETT: And they, of course, did not seen it that way. Chris, I want to play what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said today when she was asked whether the President still has confidence in Tillerson. So first, here is her response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, as we've said many times before as many of you love to write these type of stories when the President loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they're in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And then, Chris, here's what she said when asked the same question about Reince Priebus who was the chief of staff. She answered the question this way on the day before Priebus was fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Look, I think I've addressed this question when it comes to staffing and personnel many times. That if the President doesn't, then he'll make that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Sounds a lot alike, Chris

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: And just adding to that, remember Reince Priebus was fired on a Friday. And guess what tomorrow is.

BURNETT: Right.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Look, I watched that briefing. Sarah Sanders had a number of opportunities to answer with a very specific yes or no. Does the President have confidence in Rex Tillerson? Yes or no. And that's the answer she repeatedly gave.

I'm with everything Gloria said that it seems untenable at this point that Tillerson can stay that much longer. The only thing I'll throw- in there as a little bit of a caveat is Jeff Sessions is still the Attorney General. Donald Trump called him beleaguered.

There was story after story that Trump wanted him to quit but wouldn't fire him. And yet here we are, Jeff Sessions, to your point, you know, just kind of said I'm going to stay here. You're going to have to come fire me. The question is, is Trump willing to do that with Tillerson?

This is not a new story but Trump to this point has not been willing to sort of tip over to that willingness to say yes. I'm not going to say the catch phrase. But you know it, you're fired.

BURNETT: You're right. Now, here's the thing that you point out that Tillerson and Trump have clashed publicly, OK? One of them as you point out was on North Korea when Rex Tillerson said we have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them.

In the next day, the President came out and said, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man. Save your energy, Rex. We'll do what has to be done."

And there's other examples, right, that Rex Tillerson comes out on the Qatar blockade and says Saudi Arabia should stop it. The President comes out and slams Qatar and obviously he continued to support Saudi Arabia.

So, the question I have for you here, though, Gloria is there are a lot of people in the diplomatic community who say thank God for Rex Tillerson. Somebody who actually doesn't want to up the rhetoric on war with North Korea, someone that acknowledges the situation in the Middle East is more complicated than just taking Saudi Arabia's side on every issue. Losing Rex Tillerson opens the door to someone coming in is a complete yes plan to Trump.

BORGER: That's right. And who is very political and comes from a political background. Don't forget Rex Tillerson was a CEO. He was a master of the universe. But he wasn't a master of the Congress.

And so Pompeo, if it is Pompeo, comes from Congress and he has established a relationship with Trump, has done Trump's bidding on occasion, has, you know, met with a conspiracy theorists because the President told him to. And so, I think, yes, there are a lot of people who would be very concerned about this.

On the other hand, as I was saying before, Rex Tillerson has not gone out of his way to endear himself to a whole bunch of constituencies --

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: -- including, you know, not only the Congress and not only the bureaucracy in the State Department which he wants to pair down, but also the President's family. I mean, he and Jared Kushner, as we all know, have been sparring over foreign policy turf since the day he arrived.

BURNETT: Yes. You're right. The meeting that Jared Kushner would have and not even include Rex Tillerson on that were actually --

BORGER: Exactly.

BURNETT: -- meetings that the Secretary of State should be having. OK, thanks to both.

[19:25:05] And next, Nancy Pelosi. After calling John Conyers an icon just days ago is now saying he should go. This is Conyers. He's hospitalized for stress amid major sexual harassment allegations.

And American embassies around the world now put on alert. Are President Trump's tweets from an anti-Muslim hate group putting Americans in danger? Because, yes, again, we're talking about video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight. Democratic Congressman John Conyers hospitalized for stress as calls grow for him to resign amid sexual harassment allegations. Congressman Jim Clyburn, he was the highest ranking African-American in the House says it is in Conyers' best interest to step down. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also now saying it's time for Conyers to go. Keep in mind this comes just days after she defended him and actually called him an icon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: The allegations against Congressman Conyers as we have learned more since Sunday are serious, disappointing and very credible. It's very sad. The brave women who came forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Now, Conyers attorney today adamant response. No one, not Nancy Pelosi or anyone else will tell Conyers what to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD REED, REP. JOHN CONYERS' ATTORNEY: It is not up to Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman. And she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave. He is not going to be pressured by Nancy Pelosi or anyone else to step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, OUTFRONT now, member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

And, Congressman, there's a lot I got to talk to you about. I know you had a major Russia investigation meeting today. I want to start with this, though, first, if I may. Is it time for your colleague, Congressman Conyers, to resign?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes. It is. The accounts are credible and by his own admission through the settlement, I think that shows the behavior occurred. I think what is for important, Erin, is what we do next. I think we should unseal the names of anyone who conducted themselves this way, to protect every woman who works on the Hill from working in one of these offices. So that they have notice and they're protected from that. And that we put more training and transparency in place.

BURNETT: Now, just a quick question I have to ask you because someone raised this point to me the other day. I thought it was an interesting one, on this issue of unsealing, right? At first, it makes complete sense.

But you might see a situation where if you thought that an agreement was going to be sealed and you were innocent you went ahead and settled, because you didn't want to go through the process of it becoming public, because you thought it would never be public, right? And then all of a sudden, now, we're going to unseal everybody's names. Are you are concerned about that at all?

SWALWELL: I'm very concerned and I've given a lot of thought to this. I would like to unseal the names of the perpetrators and do everything we can to protect the names of those making the accusations. Now, it's a small, you know, it's a small workplace. It's smaller than most people think. You know, most offices are eight to 10 people. So, by deduction, you know, the risk is that victims' names could be exposed.

But I also think about the hard-working women in my office. If they ever were to leave and go to work in another office, I would hope they had some notice as to which office has the type of agreements so that can you protect them. So, I think we have to find a way to do that.

BURNETT: So, you saw Pelosi. She said Conyers should resign. Obviously, you just made that point yourself. But a few days ago, of course, she was defending him when asked if he should resign. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused, and was it one accusation, is it two, I think there has to be. John Conyers is an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: One of your fellow Democrats Congressman Kathleen Rice was outraged by those remarks, Congressman. And she said, quote, I think her remarks on Sunday set women back and quite frankly our party back decades.

I'm not going to ask you to comment on women, obviously, but in terms of your party, did Congresswoman Pelosi by defending Conyers at that time set your party back decades?

SWALWELL: Well, Erin, I look at the full context of her remarks on Sunday, just I think hours later, she issued a statement, Leader Pelosi saying that no icon gets a pass. And I think she's correct. And she today again called that we pass the "me too" legislation. So, I think the actions are, you know, what we need to do in the House.

Again, I really worry about, you negotiation the future working environment on the Hill if we take no action and we leave women without knowing, you know, what type of environment they're working in.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you about the hearing today. Your committee met today as part of the Russia investigation with the former Blackwater founder Erik Prince. He, of course, had close links to the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon. He attended a controversial meeting at the Seychelles with the Russian businessman with close ties to Putin earlier this year. And Prince did so after meeting with Trump transition officials.

So, I can report, I know, that senior leaders from the United Arab Emirates delivered the Russian businessman to this meeting. The Russians believed Prince was going to set up a back channel to the Russians with the Trump campaign. Prince was seen as a conduit.

Prince told me, though, I spoke to him, that he couldn't remember the name of the Russian he met with and that the meeting had nothing to do with Trump or his team. I wanted to play the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Who did you meet?

ERIK PRINCE, BLACKWATER FOUNDER: That's pretty thin.

Some fund manager. I can't even remember his name.

BURNETT: A fund manager. But you don't remember his name?

PRINCE: I don't remember his name. We didn't exchange cards.

BURNETT: How long was it? The meeting? Do you remember?

PRINCE: It probably lasts about -- as long as one beer.

[19:35:00] BURNETT: So it was a casual setting?

PRINCE: Absolutely.

BURNETT: So over beers.

No one was aware --

PRINCE: It was private business. It had nothing to do with the U.S. government. It had nothing to do with the Trump team or the transition team or anything else.

BURNETT: And what was the meeting about then?

PRINCE: Future business. It's about the Russian was some the Emiratis had done business with and maybe someone useful for you to know.

BURNETT: And that was pretty much the extent of it.

PRINCE: That's it.

BURNETT: And in terms of when you say people talk about whether there was a possible backchannel or anybody, all that you're saying, no, off the table.

PRINCE: Complete hogwash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Complete hog wash. He said he couldn't remember the fund manager's name. Of course, a few hours after that I asked whether it was Kirill Dmitriev, who, of course, it was, he didn't have a comment. I know, obviously, we know that's who it was.

Were you satisfied with his answers to you today?

SWALWELL: No. Erin, not at all. Actually, he chose to end the interview early.

Now, a transcript is forthcoming. That was something that the majority desired to do. But I can just say through the public reporting that, you know, here again we have an individual who had made contributions to the campaign, had a relationship with the campaign manager who was traveling over to a foreign land during the transition period and meeting with Russians, a sanctioned Russian. Just as Jared Kushner had met with Sergey Gorkov in the United States during the transition period, a sanctioned Russian banker.

So, it fits into a pattern -- a constellation of contacts with Russians from people affiliated with the campaign.

BURNETT: And just a quick follow up to you. He is released a statement, Erik Prince about Congressman Schiff, of course, your ranking member, saying that he should apologize for wasting American taxpayer money and a pointless fishing expedition that has no merit whatsoever.

That's his comment about your meeting today. What do you say to that? SWALWELL: Well, I hope my Republican colleagues, you know, from the information we were able to glean that there is a lot there and he should come back now under subpoena as every witness. There construct we have of allowing witnesses to come in on a voluntary basis and turn over what they think is relevant is not working. It's a take them at their word investigation and that's not going to be sufficient if we're going to understand what the Russians did and who they worked with.

BURNETT: Congressman Swalwell, thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, worldwide fallout for Trump for sharing those anti-Muslim videos. Now, the White House says Trump did not likely even know that he was retweeting a hate group, and stunning beliefs from U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. He reportedly does not think that women should be members of Congress or hold any elective office. This is one of the questionable things he apparently believes. Our report, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:27] BURNETT: New tonight, fallout from President Trump's retweets of anti-Muslim videos. American embassies are now on alert after the concern that the tweets which are -- you know, include videos that show Muslims purportedly engaging in violent acts could lead to violence against Americans. Of course, we all remember video in Benghazi in the same sentence.

This as the White House continues to defend Trump's actions despite admitting that president probably didn't realize he was retweeting the leader of a far right Islamophobic group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did the president when he retweeted Jayda Fransen know who she was?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I don't believe so. Again, I think he knew what the issues are. And that is that we have a real threat of extreme violence and terrorism not just in this country but across the globe, particularly in Europe and that was the point he was making.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Fareed Zakaria, host of our "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS".

So, the White House is defending the tweets, right? They're saying -- first of all, it doesn't matter if the videos are true or not, that's what they said yesterday. It's just that there's a problem. So, that they're raising awareness of that.

How damaging are these videos? You know, I mean, is this embassy alert going up related to this?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Well, first, pause for a minute and think about what Sarah Sanders said. It doesn't matter if this is true, the threat is real. In other words, we can make up stuff. We can -- we can promote false narratives. We can use misleading videos and do whatever we want as long as we're talking about an issue that's real.

I mean, that is almost a definition of a kind of Orwellian attitude towards news, where you say, you know, it doesn't matter if it's all fake, it's all false, as long as the cause, you know, is real --

BURNETT: The means don't matter.

ZAKARIA: The means justify the end -- the end justifies the means completely.

BURNETT: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Look at the fallout just in Britain. Remember, Britain is the strongest ally of the United States. This is a conservative government in Britain. It is in fact a populist conservative government. This is the government in Britain that we got because of Brexit. Theresa May is not a shrinking liberal.

BURNETT: So, let me play -- let me play because I want to play what she said and get your reaction. Here is Prime Minister May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The fact that we work together does not mean that we're afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong. And to be very clear with them and I'm very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: As you point out, she is going ahead with Brexit, right? This isn't someone that is I had logically opposed to the concept that started this whole Britain First thing. Very loud and clear.

ZAKARIA: You know, I think the tragedy here is also that, you know, can you see how compromised Theresa May feels. American allies feel compromised. You can imagine what the Jordanians and the Saudis who have been trying to make reforms in their religion now feel, because all the radicals are going to say we told you. The president of the United States hates the Muslims, is anti-Muslim. Look at what he does. And you rob them of any defense.

So, all the guys that Trump is going around saying he loves the king of Saudi Arabia. He loves the king of Jordan. He loves all those moderate allies. Well, you just made their lives much more difficult.

BURNETT: Yes.

ZAKARIA: And it's coming at a time when actually the threat against radical Islam is waning. I mean, ISIS is being destroyed. Al Qaeda has not been able to revive itself. There is for the first time in years, a 13 percent decline in deaths as a -- you know, by violent -- by radical Islamic groups this year. And, you know, you already said, Saudi Arabia is talking about reforming.

[19:45:05] In this moment to, you know, to kind of roil (ph) again is very sad.

BURNETT: And yet, and yet, two officials today talked about the severity to the United States and they said it is worse as bad or worse than it was on 9/11. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The terror threat in our country equals and in many way exceeds the period around 9/11. We are seeing a surge in terrorist activity because the fundamentals of terrorism have changed.

NICHOLAS RASMUSSEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: Terrorists have shown themselves to be persistent, out of the box thinkers with respect to aviation. Aviation-related threats have long been and remain at near or at the top of the things that demand our focused attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do things like the tweets have any link to that or is that a step too far?

ZAKARIA: No, it actually does. I mean, look, I tend to think that is a slightly more ominous picture than I would paint. But everybody agrees that real threats we now face are these lone wolf attacks, self radicalized people, not, you know, ISIS being able to command it or what radicalizes these people. What enrages them? The sense that the West, the world is against them? The sense that the president of the United States is, you know, spewing anti-Muslim bigotry?

That is -- if you're looking for things that radicalize people on the street, a lone person through videos and things like that, certainly the tweets don't help.

BURNETT: All right. Fareed, thank you very much. As I said, Fareed, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS".

And next, President Trump not campaigning with Roy Moore technically. He will be holding a rally 25 miles away from Alabama just days before that crucial election.

And, also, border patrol agent's death. It is still an official mystery. Trump, though, is saying that it was an attack and it's the reason to build his wall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump to hold a campaign style rally a few miles from Alabama, just days before that very controversial Senate election.

[19:50:02] He's going to hold the rally on Friday, in Pensacola. It's 25 miles away. And part of the Mobile, Alabama, television market.

So, while the White House says Trump would not go to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore, he's in Alabama's backyard and will be seen and covered by Alabama media. It comes as women may decide whether Moore wins or loses this race, because yes, this is in so many ways about that.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there's any middle ground left in this race, anyone still on the fence, it is quickly disappearing, in the wake of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore, particularly it seems among women.

Kim Dowdle is a lifelong Republican who has never voted for Democrat, now he's not just voting but actively campaigning against the Republican.

KIM DOWDLE, REPUBLICAN NOW SUPPORTING DOUG JONES: I've never questioned the allegations.

MARQUARDT (on camera): When you heard them, you knew right away they were true? Or you thought it right away?

DOWDLE: Yes, because it's hard for a woman to say that. It's hard anywhere in the country but especially in the South.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Dowdle says she was raped at 16. So, when the allegations came out, she couldn't bring herself to keep supporting Moore.

DOWDLE: And that surprised me. I was very big -- I like the guys who go against the grain, I really like the guys who go against the grain but there's a limit. And when you abuse your power in the way he abused his power, you can't continue to support that.

MARQUARDT: Now, as she goes door-to-door with her signs, Doug Jones is hoping many more Kim Dowdles out there.

He seized on the allegations, putting on an ad quoting President Trump's daughter Ivanka saying there's a special place in hell for people who prey on children.

Moore has denied the allegations, calling them absolutely false and dirty politics.

President Trump himself is standing by the former judge and so are many if not most of his female supporters.

Cindy Skarda just moved to Birmingham and for her, like so many of Moore supporters, allegations with no hard evidence aren't enough.

CINDY SKARDA, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: I just really suspect that these allegations would come out 40 years later after man has run for office six to eight times. So, I don't -- I wouldn't call it a conspiracy. It just makes me question.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Ws there a moment when you questioned your support for Roy Moore?

SKARDA: No, no. I'm very much aligned with his values and his principles and his policies that he talks about. A secure border, lower government, repeal of Obamacare.

MARQUARDT: The Moore campaign has put its female supporters front and center in his own ad and on the campaign trail, including Ann Eubank, who told us it was a different time when these allegations took place and even if they're true, there are bigger priorities.

ANN EUBANK, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: Roy Moore, we know, will stand on conservative principles, and Doug Jones is far left liberal Democrat who will vote like the Democrats tell him to vote, and we do not want that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: And, Erin, latest controversy to swirl around Roy Moore is around a course that he co-wrote. It came out in 2011. This was reported by Think Progress. And essentially what it said is that women should not be allowed to run for office and it encourages people, saying they have a moral obligation not to vote for women.

As you can imagine, the Doug Jones campaign pounced on this, releasing a statement earlier today, saying that this is part of a larger and disturbing pattern against women. Everyday brings more examples of how Roy Moore's extreme and divisive agenda would make Washington worse and why he should not represent Alabama in the Senate.

Erin, we have reached out to Roy Moore's campaign several times today. They have so far not responded -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Obviously, extremely -- extremely problematic.

OUTFRONT next, Homeland Security admitting they still don't know why a U.S. border patrol agent died. President Trump, though, is saying he was attacked. Why?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUNETT: New tonight, the Trump administration now admitting the death of a border patrol agent in Texas is a mystery. Acting secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, saying it is unclear what led to the death, stark contrast to what the president has said.

Here's Ed Lavandera with an OUTFRONT investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whatever happened in this far-flung corner of West Texas nearly two weeks remains a mystery.

Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez was found with severe head injuries and broken bones. He died after being airlifted to an El Paso hospital. Another Border Patrol agent was also injured but survived.

CNN has confirmed identity of the second agent but Customs and Border Protection citing security concerns requested that CNN hold off on reporting details for now. The agent was released from the hospital last week. FBI officials have only said they're investigating this as a potential assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have full picture yet as to what transpired.

LAVANDERA: After the incident, President Trump, along with Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz quickly claimed the agents were attacked or ambushed by migrants or drug smugglers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We lost a border patrol office yesterday, and another was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. We talk about the wall. We're going to have the wall. It's part of what we're doing. We need it.

LAVANDERA: But facts so far don't appear to point to an attack. The FBI hasn't named any suspects or provided any evidence of an attack. The FBI has said that at scene, it's looking at all possible scenarios, which includes some kind of accident.

This is the culvert where the border patrol agents were found. It sits a few feet after Interstate 10, trucks and cars flying by at high rates of speed. If they fell off into the culvert, it's ten foot drop with a hard cement bottom.

Local sheriff in Van Horn, Texas, who responded to the scene that night, tells CNN he didn't see any signs of ambush or an attack. Another source says the agents' gear, like radios and weapons, were left intact. And border patrol official says the night the agents were found, there weren't enough details to issue a "be on the lookout" bulletin to other law enforcement agencies in the area.

And the Border Patrol agent who spoke with surviving agent's wife tell CNN that the second agent called home night of the incident and was disoriented and unsure of where he was. The lack of clarity about what happened is concerning for the agent's family, says a friend of Rogelio Martinez.

ISRAEL VELASQUEZ, AGENT'S FRIEND: I hope the FBI comes out with a statement soon. It does look weird, and what I've heard, it's weird.

LAVANDERA: Israel Velasquez was Rogelio Martinez's best friend. He says Martinez had a wickedly sarcastic and witty personality and says his death has been painful for his family and friends. He says Martinez loved working as border patrol agent and was unfazed by dangers of the job.

VELASQUEZ: But for me, he's gone. So, you know, that's -- that's all I know, is that I'm not going to be able to talk to him.

LAVANDERA: At first, officials said Martinez and second agent were responding to suspicious activist around the culvert, but Border Patrol now says it believes Martinez was on routine patrol of the culverts around Interstate 10 where smugglers often hide loads of drugs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: A spokesperson for the Border Patrol Union says the group remains convinced the agents were attacked, but the sheriff in Van Horn, Texas, says that based on what he saw at the scene that night, it would be very premature to make that conclusion, but that hasn't stopped many political leaders from calling it an attack despite there being no real proof at this point -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Eddie. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.