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New Russian Spy Controversy; State Of The Trump Economy?; Interview With Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); Trump Threatens To Release ISIS Detainees In Germany, France And Other Countries; Sarah Sanders Joining Fox News As A Contributor, Sean Spicer To Compete On "Dancing With The Stars;" Manhunt Underway For Sniper Who Shot L.A. Sheriff's Deputy; Police Thwart Mass Shooting At California Hotel; Thousands Of Fires Ravaging The Amazon Rain Forest. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 18:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Search for a sniper. The manhunt continues this hour, after an L.A. County sheriff's deputy was shot by someone in an apartment building across the street. CNN is on the scene.

And foiled. Police say they thwarted a mass shooting plot at a California hotel, where a disgruntled cook allegedly was planning to gun down guests and his co-workers. We will show you the powerful weapons that were seized.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, there's more reason for Americans to be concerned about a possible recession, as new indicators suggests a downturn may be on the horizon.

Jobs growth in U.S. manufacturing are slowing, as the federal deficit is on the rise, and a warning signal from the bond market is flashing. But the president seems to be ignoring all of that, arguing in a new tweet that the economy is doing really well.

His efforts to instill confidence may be undermined by new confusion about his economic policy, not to mention that wild rant that we saw him unleash on the White House lawn.

Also tonight, new controversy surrounding accused Russian agent and convicted prisoner Maria Butina. The CEO of has resigned after publicly revealing his romance with her.

This hour, I will talk with Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He is on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to the White House and White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, as recession fears are growing, the president seems to be getting more erratic.


And we're learning tonight that the jobs market wasn't as strong as we thought it was last year, with the Labor Department announcing today that they're revising that number of jobs added to a half-a-million fewer than previously believed to have been added to the payroll.

But when President Trump was asked about that change just a few moments ago, he said he's not concerned about it. He's still optimistic about the economy, even though our sources are telling us behind the scenes there is concern inside the West Wing.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, the job numbers have been really good. The economy has been really fantastic. If you look at the world economy, not so good. Thank you very much, everybody.

COLLINS (voice-over): As economic warning signs are flashing, tonight, President Trump is sending mixed messages on his game plan.

TRUMP: Not looking at a tax cut now. We don't need it. We have a strong economy.

COLLINS: Part of the confusion, whether or not the president is considering a payroll tax cut to ward off an economic downturn.

TRUMP: President Obama did that in order to artificially jack up the economy.

COLLINS: That's a reversal of what he said only days ago.

TRUMP: Payroll taxes, I have been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.

COLLINS: The president's flip-flop coming as congressional budget forecasters say more red ink is to come. The Congressional Budget Office now says the federal deficit will balloon to $960 billion this fiscal year and average $1.2 trillion for the next decade.

The president's most consistent economic message has been a contradictory one. Today, he insisted the economy is doing really well. But he spent the week calling for a big federal rate cut, a move typically made when an economic dip is on the horizon.

TRUMP: If he does it, you will see a rocket ship. You will see a -- well, if does if, we have a very strong economy.

COLLINS: The whiplash in the West Wing is widespread.

TRUMP: I have an appetite for background checks. We're going to be doing background checks.

COLLINS: Trump now says he will push for background checks and claims he never told the NRA he wouldn't, even though he spent the week repeating the gun group's talking points after a long phone call with the NRA chief.

QUESTION: That is an NRA talking point.

TRUMP: No, it's Trump talking point.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN White House aides are working on gun control proposals for when Congress returns to Capitol Hill. But what the president will support and whether or not that support will waiver remains to be seen.

As Trump bobs and weaves between controversies, two of his top advisers are noticeably missing in action. Following a weekend vacation in Wyoming, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have remained under the radar this week, staying publicly silent as the president digs in on his accusation that Jewish voters who support Democrats are being disloyal to Israel.

TRUMP: If you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people.

COLLINS: From skiing in Aspen as the administration's attempt to repeal Obamacare collapsed, to vacationing in Florida during the Christmas government shutdown, their absence in times of trouble has become a pattern of the Trump presidency.


COLLINS: Now, Brianna, even though the president said this week he was looking at a payroll tax cut and has been for a while, his top economic adviser just confirmed to reporters that they do not expect any near-term tax cuts to happen.


But he said the administration is looking at additional tax cuts, which Larry Kudlow called tax cuts 2.0, something he says they could unveil during the 2020 election. That is something that is news tonight from the president's top economic adviser.

And, of course, there are going to be questions because, in the Congressional Budget Office estimate, they talk about how the president's last round of tax cuts in 2017 helped contribute to that ballooning deficit.

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

And now to new intrigue involving accused Russian agent Maria Butina, even as she serves time in prison. The CEO of is calling it quits after publicly disclosing he had a romance with Butina.

Let's bring in CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

So we knew that Butina was involved with the GOP political operative. But what do we know about this relationship?


And it just tells you her reach, it goes beyond just what we now believe are political operatives in the Republican Party. It now seems that she in the private sector had tentacles into people. And when you think about just how bizarre this is, after this CEO reveals that he has this affair with her, the stock tumbles some 30 percent.

Shareholders clearly unhappy with this news. So that's just one part of this. And I think more and more will come out. She had a lot of relationships with different people. And it seems that more and more is coming out.

Their relationship started in 2015. They had an affair. It lasted until about 2018. Now, he says he went to the FBI, he went to investigators about their relationship, he cooperated in their investigation. And of course, he takes issue with how the investigation was conducted, saying it was unfair.

But let me read to you what he says in his statement about how this is all part of some deep state plot.

And in it, he says that he assisted in what are known as the Clinton investigation and the Russia investigation. "In fact, I am the notorious missing chapter one of the Russia investigation."

And then he says that it turned out to be less about law enforcement and more about political espionage conducted against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So he takes issue in some ways. It's a little bizarre, right? You're trying to figure out, what exactly does he mean by this? But, yes, obviously there has been a lot of espionage by the Russians into political campaigns, into the United States. We know about this.

We know what Maria Butina pled guilty to, saying that she admitted to being an agent of the Russians. So, yes, he's right. There is a lot of espionage.

But, of course, his whole view on this investigation is very different. But the fact that he had to reveal his relationship with her, significant, of course, for shareholders. And because it became such a distraction, he decided that it was best to resign.

KEILAR: Is this over for him, or do the feds want to know some things from Patrick Byrne?

PROKUPECZ: I think it's over for him for now. He cooperated. And there's no reason to believe that he didn't.

And his -- look, I think the FBI has always wanted to know more about her relationship with people, beyond what they can charge, beyond people who they can arrest or bring in. But they were very interested in how she went about building

relationships with people inside the NRA to people at the Republican Party, and now, obviously, personal relationships with CEOs of companies where, once they have revealed that they have this relationship, stocks tumble.

So the effect here is grand. And so we will see. Probably more will come out down the line.

KEILAR: The former CEO that we're talking about, Patrick Byrne, just gave an interview on FOX Business. We want to play some of it.

You mentioned how he's basically conspiratorial. You can see that from his statement.


KEILAR: Let's listen to him now.


PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER OVERSTOCK CEO: Political espionage. Here's the bottom line. There is a deep state, like a submarine, working just beneath the waves at periscope depth, watching our shipping lanes.

And a nuclear icebreaker named the USS Bill Barr has snuck up on them and is about to ram them amidships.



PROKUPECZ: It's very strange. And certainly, look, I think this relationship probably was very strange.

They met under interesting circumstances, obviously, at a political event in Las Vegas. She knew -- she was very good at penetrating organizations, penetrating groups, building relationships with people.

And we also know that, obviously, she was dating another person at the time as well, someone attached to the Republican Party. So this was her thing. She knew how to work her way around. And some people were susceptible to it.

For him, he still feels really bad about how the FBI treated her in this entire investigation. He wrote letters to the Department of Justice, to the inspector general saying how it was unfair in terms of how she was treated.

So he's still enamored with her, it seems, and still very much interested in what's going on in her life. She's in prison now serving an 18-month sentence. Eventually, she will go back to Russia when she's done serving her time.


KEILAR: Very interesting twist.

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.


KEILAR: Bizarre, indeed.

And joining me now is Senator Chris Coons. He is a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary and the Foreign Relations committees.

We have a lot to discuss.

But, first, you heard that report about Maria Butina and so, as Shimon put it, the tentacles she had even into the private sector here. What does this tell you about how Russia operates?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): This should warn all of us that Russia continues to be an active and an aggressive adversary that is seeking lots of different ways to penetrate our political system.

Maria Butina was using classic Russian spy techniques of seduction and engagement with folks who were significant figures in business and in advocacy organizations. As your reporter just mentioned, one of her principal targets was the NRA.

And as we saw this week, as President Trump reversed himself on his earlier strong position in favor of advancing background checks, the NRA continues to be one of the most influential advocacy organizations in the Trump administration.

So this isn't just a curiosity, a story about Maria Butina, who's now serving jail time for being an unregistered Russian agent, having a personal affair. This is a reminder that Russia has been, is and will be our adversary seeking to influence our elections and our government at the highest levels.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the economy, because the deficit is now expected to reach a trillion dollars next year. Jobs numbers have just been revised downward for the year.

How concerned are you about the president's ability to handle an economic downturn?

COONS: I'm very concerned that we have taken off the table some of the critical resources that our government has typically had in hand if there's a sharp downturn.

We had brought our deficits significantly lower over the last four years of the Obama administration. Following the massive $1.5 trillion tax cut that was passed by Republicans last year, that deficit is now soaring back up again, and it's approaching a trillion dollars, and is projected to be over a trillion dollars for the next decade.

That makes it harder for us. We're running these record deficits at a time of record unemployment and where our economy continues to be relatively strong.

If we have a recession, this makes it even more difficult for the federal government to make investments to help us get out of a recession. So I'm concerned.

I'm also concerned, frankly, about the president's frequent reversals. This last week, we saw him make a fantastical offer to purchase Greenland from Denmark, but also on-again/off-again proposals about a potential payroll tax cut that his own administration was unaware he was seriously considering, until he overrode them publicly and said, no, no, I am thinking about that.

So it's unclear to me what his policy proposals will be to either reduce our deficits or to continue to strengthen our economy.

And, Brianna, I will remind you last, President Trump has repeatedly attacked Jay Powell and the independence of the Federal Reserve, something that I think is a very unwise move, indeed, in terms of economic policy.

KEILAR: The president is leaving for the G7 summit tomorrow. What should he be trying to achieve when he's on this trip?

COONS: He should be trying to strengthen our alliances.

Over the last seven decades, since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been made more secure and more prosperous by a global network of critical alliances in NATO, in Europe, and in countries like Japan and South Korea and the Asia Pacific.

Our rising adversaries China and Russia do not have networks of close alliances. China has nervous neighbors and customers and client states, but they don't have a network of alliances like we do.

And if President Trump is going to be successful in his tariff war with China, for which millions of Americans are paying dearly right now, he ought to be restrengthening and reinvigorating our alliances of common purpose against Chinese economic aggression.

Instead, I'm afraid we will see a repeat of last year, where he, frankly, threatened or challenged or shook up a lot of our alliances, and left the G7 with all of them wondering exactly what direction he's heading in.

KEILAR: He's calling for Russia to rejoin the group, at the same time as he's snubbing the Danish government by rescheduling his visit there.

What is the message that sends to NATO allies?

COONS: I think a negative one.

I will tell you, Brianna, the last time that I went to Denmark, it was with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, and the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A bipartisan group of us went to four countries in Northern Europe. Denmark is a trusted and vital NATO ally that was among the first to come to our defense after 9/11.


They have lost more than 40 Danish troops in combat, standing shoulder to shoulder with American troops in Afghanistan. And for our president to be advocating for Russia and for their return to the G7, when they have done nothing to step back from their aggression against Ukraine or their constant undermining of democracies in the West, and to also snub Denmark at the same time, I think shows a frighteningly off-balance set of priorities.

Our president ran as an unconventional president. He is overperforming in that category, and I think is puzzling or actively distancing our most important European allies. I hope he will reverse that trend at this G7 meeting.

KEILAR: Let's turn to the prospect of tougher gun laws, which appears to be in danger at this point in time.

The president has denied reports that he told the head of the NRA that background checks are off the table. That completely flies in the face of what our sources are telling us.

Why do you think in the Senate that the majority leader will not take this up?

COONS: Well, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, endorsed by the NRA, has relied very heavily on them for funding and for volunteers to help him remain the majority leader in the Senate.

President Trump is also someone who is endorsed by the NRA and very strongly supported by them. This flies in the face of what their constituents want. Poll after poll shows that 90 percent of Americans support stronger background checks as a way of keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.

This enjoys significant support from Republicans, from gun owners, and from, as I said, Americans as a whole. So I think this is going to be a real issue in the upcoming election. And President Trump should seize this moment to show some real leadership and to get background checks, universal background checks, a vote on the floor in the Senate, and get them signed into law.

He could do this, if he chose to stand up to the NRA. It would be an important moment, and it would help secure our public safety. But I'm afraid we're going to see a repeat of what he's done the last three times there was a major mass casualty shooting incident, where, initially, he comes out making very strong statements about his courage and his willingness to stand up and make us safer as a country, and then, within a matter of days, reverses course and slinks away in the face of a real challenge from the NRA.

KEILAR: Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much for joining us. COONS: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Just ahead, after nearly 1,000 volatile days in office, why are some former Trump aides suddenly worried about the president's behavior now?

And we will go live to California for the latest on the search for a suspected sniper who shot a sheriff's deputy.



KEILAR: There is reportedly growing concern about recent erratic behavior by President Trump.

Let's dig deeper now with our experts and our analysts.

So, Rachael Bade, to you first.

We're hearing that there's a -- we have heard a lot of troubling comments from the president this week. And "The New York Times" actually reports that they're hearing some former administration officials are increasingly worried about the president's behavior.

Why are they worried more now vs. other times?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, so the president has always been pretty unpredictable.

I mean, we know that from covering him for the past few years, but the past week has really made people's heads spin. I mean, just to start it off with canceling a state visit because Denmark wouldn't sell him Greenland. This was an idea they thought was absurd, or the leader of Denmark said was absurd.

And a lot of people did. But he just totally up and canceled that meeting, retweeting a conspiracy theorist who said he was like the king of Israel, and then attacking Jewish voters for voting Democrat, saying that, if they do that, they are disloyal.

I mean, these are headlines that the White House doesn't want. And the president is getting ready to go into a very difficult reelection in 2020. And they need him on message. And these are not, again, the types of stories that they need. These are not the types of stories that will help them.

So they're worried.

KEILAR: And they think the reason is the economy, right? Because we're seeing these indicators that have economists thinking that a recession is around the corner. How far around the corner, we don't know exactly at this point in time.

But the question remains, as the president's having this behavior, are there any adults in the room there at the White House there or key agencies right now, do you think, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know the adults matter anymore, because of all the -- no, we put a lot of stock in the adults in the room, and then they leave, and they say I'm the one who saved everything.

But, at the end of the day, the president does what the president wants to do. He's unscripted. Even if a plan is carefully put together, he's still going to take his own path, if that's what he decides to do.

So, right. So they have actually been pretty on message this week about the economy. He's talked about this rosy picture of the economy, whether or not that is reflected by reality. But, again, it could take a turn tomorrow.

So it really -- while, yes, there probably are some adults, I just don't know that at the end of the day their opinion really matters.


Jeffrey, so "The Times" is reporting that, at one point last year, according to a former official who heard him, he even joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland.

How -- you have discussed this, this idea of, it's not really a joke, but how can aides know the difference?


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: One of the strange things about President Trump is that no one has ever seen him laugh, like a full laugh, on camera. Think about it. You just never see it.

And this notion of explaining crazy things he says as jokes is not -- that's just not true. He doesn't joke. When he said, Russia, I want you to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and, WikiLeaks, find Hillary Clinton's e-mails, they tried to explain that as a joke. It wasn't a joke. And Russia went right to work trying to find Hillary's e-mails.

KEILAR: Well, let me ask you about that.

Maybe not a joke, but is it possible it's just about provocation? Maybe it's not about actually making a joke. But is it truly serious, do you think?


I mean, I think -- when he looks up at the sky and says "I'm the chosen one," I think what he meant was, "I'm the chosen one." I mean, this messianic, narcissistic approach to life, this is the way he's always been.

And the idea that we can just sort of explain it right away as, oh, he's just joking, no, he's not joking. This is what he thinks. This is how he behaves. And this idea that somehow it's going to change or there are going to be adults in the room, it's all crazy.

I mean, this is -- he is who he is, and efforts to explain that he's not really the way he is, I think, are increasingly futile.

KEILAR: Let's talk about the G7. This is very substantive, or it should be. Maybe it's not going to be. But the president is heading there this weekend.

He's supposed to be strengthening alliances for the U.S. Instead, he's calling for Russia to rejoin the group to make it the G8. And he's insulted Denmark, right?

Listen to Russian state TV and its response to the president.


KEILAR: That is -- he's being applauded on Russian state television. What does that tell you?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: It tells me that Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater would be rolling over in their graves, first of all.

I mean, the contrast could not be worse if you think about the span of just very recent history. The president is in a war of words with Denmark, a NATO ally who lost dozens of its soldiers or its troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside us. Its pilots flew missions in Libya when we were fighting there.

Meanwhile, Russia was kicked out of the G8, turning it into the G7, because they invaded and annexed Crimea. President Obama, in 2014, rallied Europeans, like Germany, like Denmark, like the U.K., to put sanctions on Russia and kick them out.

And now President Trump says, oh, let's let them in just for sort of unspecified reasons of he somehow has this affinity, this bromance, this crush on Vladimir Putin that, to this day, three years in, is not fully explained.


TOOBIN: Brianna, just, like, I'm old enough to remember the Mueller report.



TOOBIN: The Mueller report was all about how Russia tried to help Donald Trump get elected, and how Donald Trump's campaign was encouraging that.


TOOBIN: I mean, and now this is payback to Vladimir Putin. Why does it has to be more complicated than that? KEILAR: All right, you guys, stand by. We have a lot to talk about,

from the economy, to which former Trump administration official is going to be joining "Dancing With the Stars."

That's ahead.



KEILAR: And we are back now with our experts and our analysts. And let's talk about what is ahead for the president, because he's heading to the G7. This is going to be critical. But he issued this warning to Europe yesterday. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now and Europe has to take them. And if Europe does not take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places.


KEILAR: Germany and France will be at this meeting. So, you know, when I go to a party, I like to threaten the people who will be there that I will release terrorists, that he's going to a gathering, David Swerdlick, of countries where he is threatening to release terrorists into their country, which he cannot do that but it's very provocative.

SWERDLICK: Right. And a charitable explanation of what I think is going on with the president's mind all the way through his presidency, he has thought of these things as offers, right. I offer something outlandish. Maybe the other side, in this case, our closest allies, France and Germany, come back with something that's a little closer to the position I want them to be in and then we work something out.

The problem is that, number one, in this case, it's a preposterous offer and, number two, everybody in the world is on to President Trump's, you know, art of the deal negotiating tactics at this point. So the two choices are either they are to just ignore him or to rebuff him, as the Danish prime minister did, and say preposterous. You get a few Tweets thrown at you and then it moves on, and he goes back to strike a deal with Kim Jong-un.

TOOBIN: But what is he even talking about? I mean, where are these thousands of prisoners? I mean, there are 40 people in Guantanamo. Where are these thousands of prisoners? I mean, I just didn't even know what he was talking about. Am I wrong? Is this an obvious answer?

BADE: No, I don't have answers.

SWERDLICK: Yes, I don't know the numbers but I think he thinks that -- [18:35:01]

KEILAR: He is talking about Syria, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: But they are not our prisoners in Syria. We're not -- I just think that we ought to like have a little handle on the crazy. I mean, I just didn't know what he's talking about.

KEILAR: He is talking about the concept of fighters who have gone to join ISIS, who have come from these countries.

SWERDLICK: The through line in all of this is that the United States is doing too much of the dirty work in the world and paying for too much of the dirty work in the world. It is of a piece with this idea that not enough NATO countries are ponying up the 2 percent of GDP that they're supposed to spend on defense, even though that's a target, not an ante.

But the point is the president is trying to force action among our allies, that they realize now they can't be forced.

KEILAR: These countries have also taken in way more refugees. I mean it's not as if they have not played a role, really, to the detriment of the political positions of their leaders as well.

BADE: I just think the whole statement -- I mean, just take it at face value. You have the president of the United States threatening to release terrorists into allies' countries. I mean, that in and of itself is just --

KEILAR: It's a threat of violence.

BADE: Yes. It's, I mean, remarkable. And perhaps it has something to do with him being upset with Denmark. And maybe he is looping Denmark in with them in general. He was -- obviously, ranted about NATO and people not paying enough. But, again, it's just sort of a reality check of how much he up-ended the world order where our allies are our foes and our foes are being courted by the White House.

KEILAR: Let's take this a lighter, a little more -- a little lighter direction here, right?

Okay. So there are former administration officials who are getting T.V. jobs, different jobs. You have former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. She is joining Fox News as a contributor and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is going to be a contestant on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

David Swerdlick, what does that say if you are in this administration and then that is your option for professional employment?

SWERDLICK: You know, the last time I saw Sean Spicer was in a shopping mall. I shook his hand and congratulated him on getting the White House Press Secretary job. And then he -- unlike Rachael, I don't cover the White House on a day-to-day basis. I'm not on my jockey. I sit in an office and watched him on T.V. disintegrate before our very eyes. I don't know why anybody would want to hire him for anything like this at this point.

KUCINICH: But actually, I think this sets him up to be the next Secretary of Energy. Because let's not forget --


KEILAR: He was not too great either, was he?

KUCINICH: No. But like he joins a lot of politicians who have ended up on that show, like Tom DeLay also comes to mind and got their --

SWERDLICK: Tucker Carlson comes to mind. Yes.

KEILAR: Go ahead.

TOOBIN: What's wrong with having Sean Spicer on Dancing with the Stars? Is that like a threat to our national security?

SWERDLICK: I don't want to see him in a pirate shirt, Jeffrey. I don't want to see him in a puffy Seinfeld pirate shirt.

KEILAR: There is backlash. There's backlash within ABC. Even the host of the show is not thrilled about him being on Dancing with the Stars.

BADE: Yes. But on a serious note here, I can tell you, I've talked to many Hill Republicans who have, over the past two years, had a chance to either work in the White House or for the campaign. And they have turned them down because their worries about post-Trump employment and ever being hired by Google or Facebook or going on to lobby, people not hiring. That has been a real concern.

Plus, you have the concern of just the here and now. I mean, nobody speaks for Trump except Trump. I mean, this week alone, he has flip- flopped on the payroll taxes. The White House said that that was not a real thing. They weren't considering that. Well, Trump came out and confirm it for reporters right there.

And then you had gun control, he flip flops on that. I mean, that's just a really tough job. Who would ever want to be his --

KEILAR: It is a tough job. You know, I think people are going to tune in to watch. I think that there are some people who are saying they are not happy about it. I don't think people are going to want to see Sean Spicer dance and that's going to be the final word about that.

You guys, thank you so much. This was a wonderful discussion.

Just ahead, a suspected sniper is on the loose in the Los Angeles area tonight. We'll have the latest on the manhunt.


[18:40:00] KEILAR: We're following an urgent manhunt in the Los Angeles area for a possible sniper who shot a deputy outside the Sheriff's Department. The shooter apparently opened fire from a nearby apartment building has been on the loose for about 24 hours.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is at the scene in Lancaster, California. And, Stephanie, tell us if authorities have any leads tonight.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's just the thing right now I want to show you first off, Brianna. If you take look behind me, you can see this gate, you can see there're cars behind that, those are the personal vehicles of the deputies that work beyond here. Beyond that is the apartment complex where they believe that those shots were fired from. That is the focus of this investigation right now.


MAYOR R. REX PARRIS, LANCASTER, CALIFORNIA: We don't have race, we don't have gender, we don't have age, we don't have anything.

ELAM: Tonight a manhunt is underway for a possible sniper after a Los Angeles county deputy was ambushed in a Sheriff's Department parking lot.

[18:45:00] REINOSA: I have taken shots from the north of the Lancaster helipad. I think I am hit in the right shoulder.

It might have one through but from the apartment complex north. I heard two shots go off.

ELAM (voice-over): Just before 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, Deputy Angel Reinosa was on his way to the car when shots were fired. The deputy was hit in the chest but his bullet proof vest saved him deflecting the bullet into his shoulder.

DISPATCH: Was any vehicle description?

REINOSA: I think it's from the apartment window. There's multiple windows open. I don't know where the shots came from.

ELAM: The deputy was hit in the chest. But his bullet proof vest saved him. Deflecting the bullet into his shoulder.

CAPT. TODD WEBER, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Deputies in station immediately responded, out to where he was at. Located him and evacuated him out of the parking lot and got him medical treatment. Thankfully the wound was minor. We expect he will be fine, full recovery.

ELAM: Other deputies rushed to assist Reinosa and were also fired on, but no one else was hit, the sheriff department says.

The apartment building where officials believe the shots came from was put on lockdown and was a nearby school. All students and staff were safely evacuated. By helicopter and on the ground, tactical teams searched for the

shooter, immediately sweeping the apartment complex and detaining two adults for being uncooperative.

But still, no one arrested for the shooting. The mayor believes the apartment building shouldn't be where it is, overlooking the sheriff's department parking lot.

MAYOR R. REX PARRIS, LANCASTER, CALIFORNIA: It's a building filled with people that are being treated for mental illness. Of course, it's a concern. Of course it is insanity to allow such a facility to exist in that particular location.

He can't say it because the sheriff department has to be really politically correct about this stuff. Let's be realistic. It is outrageous to have that population in that location, and thank God we're not talking about a funeral as a result of it.


ELAM: And some new information from the sheriffs department this evening, they said the wound that the deputy has is superficial. The bullet did not actually penetrate the skin but scraped along the top of it. Also today, while they were going through the apartment complex, they found a pellet gun they sent to the forensic lab to see if that was it. But at this point, Brianna, they do believe that this was an isolated incident.

KEILAR: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much from Lancaster, California.

And just ahead, another suspected mass shooting plot thwarted. Tonight, new details of the man police say was targeting a California hotel. This is the latest of more than two dozen shooting plots averted just this month. What's behind this rise in these attempted attacks?


[18:52:23] KEILAR: There are new details ton of alleged plot of a mass shooting at a Long Beach, California, hotel. The latest of more two dozen suspected plots averted just this month.

CNN's Nick Watt is working the story for us.

And, Nick, you're learning more about this chilling case. Tell us.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, within the past hour, the suspect made his first appearance in court. He is charged with two felony counts of making criminal threats, one count of dissuading a witness by force or threat, and one count of possessing an assault weapon. He pleaded not guilty to everything.


WATT (voice-over): High-powered rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 38 illegal high-capacity magazines, and tactical gear, all found at Rodolfo Montoya's home.

CHIEF ROBERT LUNA, LONG BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Suspect Montoya had clear plans, intent and the means to carry out an act of violence that may have resulted in a mass character incident.

WATT: The 37-year-old was a cook at this Marriott Hotel near the airport in Long Beach, California.

LUNA: He was upset about workplace activity, having to do with HR.

WATT: And allegedly confided in a colleague his plan.

LUNA: He was going to shoot up employees and people coming into the hotel. So, he had a plan of shooting everybody that he saw in the hotel.

WATT: That colleague reported Montoya's alleged threat to hotel management Monday night. Police were called, and he was arrested at his home in nearby Huntington Beach within 24 hours.

LUNA: Because this was reported, I firmly believe many lives were saved.

WATT: More than two dozen people are being arrested across the country for alleging plotting or threatening mass casualty attacks since that spate of shootings in early August that killed 34, at a Garlic Festival in California, in Dayton, Ohio, and in El Paso, Texas.

Security sources tell CNN that FBI Director Chris Wray has ordered field offices to conduct new threat assessments to stifle future attacks. This alleged Long Beach plotter currently held on a half million dollar bond had no previous criminal history that would have raised a flag on a background check.

MAYOR ROBERT GARCIA (D), LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA: We are certainly living in dangerous times I think in our country and our community. Incidents where folks that should not have access to weapons and to certainly illegal weapons are facing our departments and our police departments across the country.


WATT: Montoya said just two words in court, yes to confirm his name.

[18:55:04] Yes to confirm his date of birth. He remains in custody. And, Brianna, the preliminary hearing now set for two weeks from now.

KEILAR: All right. Nick Watt, thank you so much.

We have more news in just a moment.


KEILAR: We are following an environmental disaster that is unfolding in the Amazon tonight -- thousands of fires ravaging the rainforest. And environmentalists call the destruction unprecedented, and the peak of the dry season doesn't hit until next month. Smoke from the fires has covered nearly half of Brazil and they're spilling over into neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.