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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

U.S. F-16s Dodge Russian Fighter; Plots to Sell Nuclear Material to Terrorists Exposed; Trump Leads New Polls in Three Key Swing States; Trump Eyes Larger Campaign Role For Wife, Daughter. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired October 7, 2015 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, two major scares. A close call for U.S. fighters jets over Syria and nuclear material on sale to terrorists. Our special reports. Listen, new poll tonight showing Donald Trump leading in three key states. His campaign making big changes. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's campaign manager.

And the search for 28 Americans from the missing cargo ship called off at this hour. Investigators searching for answers on to why the ship lost power. We have new details on that. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, terrorist nukes. We are monitoring two major national security stories tonight. First, CNN has learned that smugglers got their hands on nuclear materials. Enough apparently build birth dirty bombs. And that they tried to sell them to terrorist groups.

Also, tonight a narrow missed to Americans F-16s diverted from their mission to bomb ISIS targets when a Russian fighter jet came too close, this as Russia rapidly escalates military strikes in Syria mostly against rebel groups are fighting the Assad regime. The U.S. supports some of those very groups. We're covering these important stories from every angle.

Pamela Brown has the latest on the frightening nuke sales but we begin with Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon. And Barbara, how close did those U.S. pilots get to the Russian jet?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Erin. It was two F-16s coming out of Turkey headed to an ISIS target in Eastern Syria. What happened is a Russian fighter jet came within 20 nautical miles of them. That sounds pretty far away, right? But now there are new flight rules for U.S. pilots. If the Russians come within that 20-mile limit, they must divert, they must turn their course. Why? Because right now there is no agreement, there is no technical military agreement with the Russians on how both country's pilots will operate in the skies over Syria if they encounter each other. The U.S. wants this agreement in place. But until it is in place, they are going to obey this new 20-mile rule. It's not that they think that Russians are about to shoot them down but the Russians are very aggressive flyers and there's a lot of concern about a mistake up in the skies -- Erin. BURNETT: And Barbara, you're talking about them being aggressive

flyers, a mistake. Obviously though, they're bombing groups that the U.S. has supported. I mean, this is a mess. If a U.S. and a Russian plane were to collide, if something were to happen, what would happen then? I mean, a lot of people would think that this could mean something very serious.

STARR: Well, it would be catastrophic in terms of the potential implications and this is why, of course, that the Pentagon, the Obama administration is pressing the Russians so hard to sit down and have a second round of talks about a technical agreement they had. One set of talks last week and come to some common understanding. I don't think there is any, as I said, any indication the Russians would plan some kind of catastrophic accident but if it were to happen, it means you have a Russian air crew down, you have a U.S. air crew down. That would just be a disaster. Nobody wants that to happen. So they are really looking to get these rules of the sky, if you will --

BURNETT: Yes.

STARR: -- set down so everybody knows what is they are doing.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much. And Barbara using words like disaster and catastrophe. Well, that brings us to our next story. Terrorist nukes. CNN has learned that smugglers obtained nuclear material with the intent of selling it to Islamic extremists group, possibly ISIS. According to the Associated Press, one of the criminals saying, quote, "I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans."

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the alleged plots had been carried out, the results could have been devastating. Terrorists buying a radioactive substance on the black market. That could be used to make a dirty bomb. Instead, police in the former soviet republic of Moldova say earlier this year, they broke up the operation and arrested this man, along with others, in a carefully orchestrated steam as dealers allegedly tried to sell radioactive cesium to men they believed were associated with terrorists. The video of the scene was first obtained by the Associated Press. Cesium is so dangerous because even a small amount could contaminate several city blocks and cost billions in cleanup.

ANDREW BIENIAWSKI, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: We have to be very concerned about this region of the world. It really is a transit and a gateway by which smugglers can transit material through Moldova to other regions.

BROWN: Tonight, Moldovan authorities tell CNN they worked with the American agents from the FBI to foil at least three plots to smuggle radioactive material since 2010.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The proliferation is smuggling, the movement of this material around obviously has grave consequences. We're going to continue to work internationally as this demonstrated to try to stem that.

[19:05:08] BROWN: Moldova's close proximity to Russia where vulnerable nuclear and radioactive material can be obtained, makes the selling of this material big business for a criminal organizations.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: A terrorist group has got billions is certainly willing to pay that for material that could terrorize or shut down a city.

BROWN: In 2014, seven people were arrested in Moldova for allegedly smuggling uranium but tonight counterterrorism experts say, the newly revealed sting operation show a potentially more dangerous vulnerability.

BIENIAWSKI: If ISIS were to acquire radiological material, then they could use it in the region, they could use it in the theater or they could use it for other purposes if they wanted to transport it and bring it here to the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And now that latest sting operation from February officials I spoke to said, the seller at the time said an ISIS fighter was trying to buy the materials but the FBI and other officials concluded the seller made that up in order to start a bidding war. And, Erin, there's no indication yet that ISIS has actually successfully bought any of these materials from Eastern Europe but again, that doesn't take away the fear that they could of course end up in the terrorist group's hands.

BURNETT: Yes. Certainly. All right. Thank you very much, Pamela. It's a frightening story.

And OUTFRONT now, former CIA case Officer Art Keller and former CIA operative Bob Baer. He was on the frontline stopping new deals like the ones we're talking about tonight. Let me start with you, Bob. You say ISIS could use this nuclear material to actually -- I mean, what would it be capable of doing? What could they do with it?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, Erin, let's take cesium. It's an isotope, it's radioactive. You could spread it in New York, close down 15 blocks to the car bomb. You could close down New York City for about five miles if you used a drone, finlay milled (ph). You know, that's basically closing down Manhattan with eight ounces. If you took eight ounces of plutonium finlay milled (ph) and spread it across Manhattan, you could close New York City for the foreseeable future which in the terms of the experts, as they told me today, is 12 to 15 years.

BURNETT: I mean, it's impossible to comprehend something like that, Art. It's almost as if it is out of some sort of horrific science fiction novel. I mean, is this, could this happen?

ART KELLER, FORMER CIA CASE OFFICER, COUNTER-PROLIFERATION DIVISION: I'm sorry. Was that for me?

BURNETT: Yes.

KELLER: Okay. Sorry about that, Erin. Yes, it could definitely happen. I mean, what is terrifying is that the FBI was working with the Moldovan authorities and it's great that they had the success. But, you know, this is the most corrupt area in the world. It's at the top of transparency international's most corrupt areas and Moldova is one small country there. So there's huge vulnerabilities in that area. You know, what is terrifying is what we don't know on this.

BURNETT: Yes. And on that front, Bob, the A.P. which reported this has talked about how they wanted to have plots to attack the United States. That was a part of this. One man saying, "I really want an Islamic buyer because I want them to bomb the Americans." I mentioned that line again. The ring leader of this particular deal Bob is still at large. So, is it possible ISIS could already have some of these materials now?

BAER: Absolutely, Erin. I mean, I obviously don't know whether they do or not or whether they have any true motivation for buying this stuff but today when this story came out, I asked an arms dealer who's dealt in plutonium before. And I say, let's just how, you know, in the '90s I understand, these facilities were open. People were stealing from, what about today? And he said, give me two months. And two to five million and I'll give you eight ounces of weaponized plutonium and this guy has bought it for the FBI before and I think he know what is he's talking about. And so there is this potential. And, you know, it's not just Moldova. It's all of Eastern Europe that this stuff can flow out. You know, this is the kind of doomsday scenario that hasn't happened yet but the potential is still there.

BURNETT: It's pretty terrifying. Because both of you sound like, I mean, when you have people who want to do it, you have people who have it available. I mean, Art, how much does this stuff cost? How difficult is it to deliver? I mean, those would be the things that would so far at least have prevented an attack like this from happening.

KELLER: I can't really address it. It's one of those things that it's what the market will bear, like any other commodity. You know, presumably any seller is going to have a fairly hefty surcharge realizing that if she delivers it into terrorist hands and they successfully carry out an attack, that person is going to be the most wanted smuggler on the face of the earth. So, I don't think it's going to be cheap. You know, I think Bob's figure two to $5 million is probably a valid figure.

BURNETT: Yes.

KELLER: So, you know, I can't really speak to price. But, you know, being able to transfer those kinds of funds, whether it's in cash or wire transfer, that won't make it a little difficult but it's not necessarily super easy to move around cash in the quantity of millions and leave no traces.

[19:10:22] BURNETT: So Bob, how worried should the U.S. be?

BAER: I think we should be very worried and I spoke to some Pentagon advisers today and they are extremely worried. I am worried but they are even more worried and they studied this every day. There's simply no good way to make absolutely 100 percent sure that one of these brokers doesn't get an isotope to the Islamic State. It's impossible to stop it completely.

BURNETT: It's a terrifying verdict. Thanks very much to both of you.

And OUTFRONT next, Donald Trump, the dominator. A new poll tonight giving them a commanding lead in three swing states beating his rivals in their own backyard.

Plus, the Trump women hitting the campaign trail. A special report. And new details on the faith of "El Faro." The missing cargo ship with 28 Americans on board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:14:26] BURNETT: Major new polls out tonight. Donald Trump dominating the latest Quinnipiac's state poll showed Trump ahead in two, three, I'm sorry crucial swing states. I'm talking about Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. There he trounces, native sons Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

Athena Jones is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump celebrating in Iowa today.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're way ahead of everybody.

JONES: As a new Quinnipiac poll shows him leading the republican field in three key states. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Delighted to be here.

JONES: Ben Carson coming in second but it was Trump's standing in Florida that really had him gloating today.

TRUMP: We're killing everybody. And don't forget, you have a sitting senator and an ex-governor in Florida.

JONES: He beat both Senator Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush by double digits in their home state. The same goes for Ohio Governor John Kasich.

TRUMP: We're beating the governor of Ohio, he's a nice guy, by the way. JONES: The new numbers come as Bush campaign down the road in

Iowa today trying to make headway into key early voting state where he is badly trailing the leaders. He downplayed the latest numbers.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last time who was winning in October four years ago?

JONES: Rubio campaigning in New Hampshire echoed his former mentor.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's going to matter is what voters are ready to do in early February and that's what we're aiming towards.

JONES: And while Carson is rising in the polls, he's also facing questions over his comments and the aftermath of last week's Community College shooting in Oregon.

CARSON: Not only would I probably not cooperate with them, I would not just stand there and let them shoot me. I would say, hey, guys, everyone attack him. He may shoot me but he can't get us off.

JONES: Today, he suggested that the media was trying to twist his remarks.

CARSON: We're living in a culture now where you have a group of people who just sit there. They don't try to listen to what you're saying. They are just trying to find a defect.

JONES: Despite Carson being on his heels in the polls, Trump is defending his rival.

TRUMP: I thought Ben Carson was treated -- frankly, I thought he was treated very unfairly.

JONES: Meanwhile, here in Iowa, where polls show that he's also on top, Trump told me he has a team ready to turn that support into a caucus victory.

TRUMP: We have a great team, we have a great ground game and I think we're going to do very well. I actually think we're going to do even better than the polls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: And as for organizing the folks to turn out for Trump on caucus night, Tana Goertz, the former "Apprentice" contestant who is now a state co-chair for Trump spent some time warming up the crowd here today by talking to them about what it will be like on caucus night. Part of an attempt to educate first time caucus goers -- Erin.

BURNETT: Athena, thank you very much. And now, our political commentator S.E. Cupp and the former Reagan White House Political Director Jeffrey Lord who is a Donald Trump supporter.

S.E., let me start with you. We have been hearing it for weeks. Right? It went from everyone saying Trump would go away. Then Trump rose in the polls, and then they said, oh no, he's dropped in the polls. The whole story is, he's peaked, it's done. Okay. Again, that talk, wrong.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I learned maybe more than a month ago not to make predictions about Trump. It just doesn't end well. He is outside of conventional politics. So, I mean, you do, you kind of have to plan for anything when it comes to Trump. But, you know, I will say, the same is true today as it was true a month ago. You know, 75 percent of Americans are not choosing Trump and Trump's unfavorables are still incredibly high. Not to mention, yes, he's doing very well in key states, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, but the first states he needs to address are Iowa and New Hampshire. He's doing well there, too. But he hasn't been growing in supporters over the past couple of weeks. He's really sort of tapped out, at least for now, at the 25 percent range. That could go up but it could also mean that he's reached every Trump supporter that's out there and there simply aren't any more to come.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, what do you say about that, that he has peaked?

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Oh, definitely he's not peaked. I mean, this is a stunning poll if you're Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and John Kasich. And John Kasich who is a lovely guy is the sitting governor of Ohio and a popular one. And of course, the other two, Senator Rubio is the sitting senator from Florida, very well liked as Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. I mean, they are losing by double digits here. I mean, there is a message here. And I noticed that Governor Bush tried to say, oh, well, this is like Herman Cain four years ago. This is not about Herman Cain. This is about a movement out here of outsiders. When you add Ben Carson to it, these are stunning numbers.

[19:19:16] BURNETT: They are stunning numbers. And S.E., I have to think on one level, you know, if it were Jeb Bush that we were talking about that had these leads in all of these states, given the money that he had, given that everyone said he would be the presumptive nominee, everybody would be saying, game over. A lot of people would be saying that. They'd be talking about who is VP, who was going to be. And who would be in his cabinet. That would be the discussion we're having. But with Trump, people are still saying, is it real?

LORD: That's right.

CUPP: Well, right. Because nothing about Trump is explainable. Right? Any number of things that he has said would be disqualifying for practically any other candidate. He doesn't have a war chest because he doesn't need one. He's got his own money, right? You know, he doesn't need the media to prop up his campaign and pay him attention. He gets that no matter what. So the traditional things that would cut off a candidate's campaign, lack of money, lack of press, he doesn't have to worry about that. So, it's so hard to play the guessing game with Trump based on, you know, past knowledge and history. He really is running a totally different campaign. Now, that

said, you can sort of read the electorate. And like I said earlier, 75 percent of Republicans are choosing someone else right now. Now, he doesn't have to win them all. He can still be sort of the minority pick but have the most votes and win the nomination but he's going to have to get past some guy who are inevitably going to rise.

BURNETT: All right. Let me just say though one thing that S.E. is saying. A little bit, take my joke here, S.E., that when people say, hey, 95 percent of Americans who are employed don't look at the unemployment rate. Look at the employment rate. I mean, anybody who is in the lead at this point would have most people not supporting them, right? I mean, are you trying a little too hard?

CUPP: No. Look, like I said --

LORD: Yes.

CUPP: Like I said, like I said, you know, I'll be honest, I did not think Trump was going to get as far as he had. I don't particularly enjoy the campaign that he's running. I think it's one of subtraction and not addition and I care deeply about growing the Republican Party but you cannot -- you know, you have to admit that he has outlasted a lot of people who thought he was going to be a flash in the pan and he's got some pretty impressive scalps in Rick Perry and Scott Walker. I'm sure there are plenty more to come. So, I mean, I'm completely honest about Trump's success but I have to believe that the American people and especially conservative voters, are going to start asking more of their candidates than I believe they have asked thus far from Donald Trump.

BURNETT: So, Jeff, to the point S.E. just made about the scalps, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, according to same Quinnipiac poll, they say they basically trotting waters. They're not getting anywhere at this point. Rand Paul also. Scott Walker, as S.E. pointed out, is out, Rick Perry is out. Who do you think will be out next and will it be soon?

LORD: Well, I look and, you know, I like my former senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum. He's a good guy. But I look at this and, you know, like the others he's not able to carry his own state here against Donald Trump. Yes. This does get to be a matter of money after a while and an organization. And if you don't have the money fueling these campaigns, very candidly, it then becomes quite difficultly, as Governor Perry and Governor Walker found out. I think -- I frankly think that Governor Bush is on the verge of finding this out. Even though he's got what I called kryptonite money in the bank. A lot of it coming from lobbyists. He has got some money but at some point here, you know, his donors are already starting to get skittish, very skittish, and this isn't going to help.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of your time, as always.

And next, Trump 2.0. He's entering a new phase in his campaign and apparently what it means as whole lot more of a glorious woman named Ivanka. Trump's campaign manager is next.

And Joe Biden sounding more and more like a presidential candidate. Wait until you hear what he said about Hillary Clinton tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:27:06] BURNETT: Tonight, a new campaign phase for Donald Trump and a new more visible role for the two men women in his life. His wife Melania and daughter Ivanka. Trump also planning to roll out a big new ad campaign.

Joe Johns is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shifting gears, Donald Trump in Iowa today entering what some are calling a new face in his campaign.

(CROWD CHANTING)

Ivanka! Ivanka!

JOHNS: There will be a book release, a campaign manifesto, standard fair for presidential candidates.

TRUMP: We're going to call it crippled America. It's going to come out in three or four weeks. I'm so proud of it. I worked so hard on. With everything else, I'm writing books.

JOHNS: And while Trump repeatedly boasts that he is self-funding his campaign, today it was revealed the billionaire businessman is being relatively frugal, so far, spending a paltry for him, $2 million.

TRUMP: They said, it's brilliant because he's leading and he spent less than anybody. To me, it's also maybe being a businessman. Actually, not less than anyone but Trump has spent less than most of the other top contenders and many find that $2 million number hard to believe, considering the cost of his flying transportation alone. Still, a look at campaign headquarters in Trump tower, a little more than 50 floors below his gold-plated penthouse, seems to back him up. A dozen staffer share folding tables and sit on plastic chairs. For decorations, there's a wall of shame. Pictures of dejected dropouts, Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Compare that to the democratic front- runner. Clinton's campaign is staffed by hundreds. Her war chest in excess of $70 million. The campaign spending $14 million so far.

JOHNS: Another change for Trump. Less reliance on free media. His campaign manager saying, he'll soon be rolling out a big ad campaign spending, quote, "whatever is necessary to be successful." And then there's the woman some call his secret weapon.

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: It is my pleasure to introduce to you today, a man who I have loved and respected my entire life, my father, Donald J. Trump.

JOHNS: Ivanka has, in the past, acted as her father's envoy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His daughter told my daughter that he had tried to call me and I didn't get the message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I simply called him back.

JOHNS: Now the savvy businesswoman is expected to bolster a perceived Trump's weakness, the gender gap. Ivanka will handle women's issues even though polls have shown steady support for Trump among republican women voters.

TRUMP: I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Many of the plans for the so-called Trump's second act were first reported by "The Washington Post." One of the biggest challenges for a candidate hoping to go all the way at this stage is trying to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and the Trump organization says, it is working on that now -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's campaign manager. Corey, thank you for being with us. You know, Ivanka introduced her father when he announced his candidacy. He said, she is an important adviser. We haven't heard very much from his wife Melania, though. I mean, is that going to change? Are we going to hear more from Melania? A lot more from Ivanka?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes. You know, Ivanka has had the opportunity to be in New Hampshire, opened up our New Hampshire office up there. It's great to have her on the trail with us when she has the availability. Obviously, she has her own responsibilities, but she's been a good, intricate part of the campaign. Mrs. Trump will be joining the campaign out in the trail as well. And so, we're excited to have both of them and continue to grow our team on the campaign.

BURNETT: So, we're going to be seeing more of them and more of Melania Trump. I mean, these two women, Corey, let's be honest. I mean, we see their pictures on the screen. They are glamorous, they are gorgeous, they are wealthy, they are women who live lives far different than voters.

Why do you believe they are going to be assets to Donald Trump?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, if you look at both of them, they are both exceptionally successful in their own right, exceptionally intelligent. You know, in Ivanka's case, she's built her own business, has her

own line of shoes, has her own products that she's involved with. She's really someone who many younger women aspire to be, look up to as a role model. She's a person who balances a difficult work life and has her own children to take care of, including being pregnant with her third child expected. So, you know, she has a full plate, but she also understands the importance of what her brother is doing and wants to be helpful there in any way she can be.

So, she's really a true role model for many women in America and want to make sure that they can do the work balance and have the family that everyone so hopes to have.

BURNETT: So, Corey, Donald Trump says he doesn't need to change his style on the trail. When I sat down with him last week, though, you were in the room and he admitted that he had been childish at times. Will there be a new, kinder, gentler Donald Trump that is not on Twitter trading barbs?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I think what you know about Mr. Trump is that if someone attacks him, he's a counterpuncher. And so, when you have these candidates who are running for office, these politicians that are all talk and no action, when they decide Mr. Trump for anything to be appropriate, he responds in kind times ten and we've seen the success that has had as candidates that have attacked him most viciously.

You look at Rick Perry who decided to attack Mr. Trump, he didn't stay in the race. When you look at Scott Walker, he decided to attack. When you look at the other candidates, their poll numbers continue to go down and Mr. Trump's poll numbers continue to go up.

So, the lesson should be, don't attack Mr. Trump, because if you do, he will respond in kind times ten.

BURNETT: Times ten, OK. The numbers that came out, Corey, you said you've only spent $2 million so far. I wanted to know what cost you're factoring into that. It would seem that just the plane trips that Donald Trump has taken so far this campaign season would top $2 million.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I just want to be clear on this. What we've said is the FEC report is going to be available on October 14th when it's publicly required to be disclosed. We'll disclose that.

What Mr. Trump has said is that surround the total investment he's made into the campaign so far. So, look, we've been privileged to have a number of people who have been unsolicited, had given money into the campaign obviously. People go on DonaldJTrump.com and they buy products whether it's hat or shorts and they want to support the campaign.

We also receive thousands upon thousands of unsolicited donations from 20 cents to $20 or $50, because people want to be part of what we call the silent majority, to make America great again that. Is all being accounted for and that will all be reported on October 15th. BURNETT: All right. So your boss loves to talk about the polls.

It's one of his favorite things and always knows which one he's winning, right? I'm sure he corrects you whenever you get anything remotely wrong. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I'm reading every poll. I'm reading every state. I'm not going anywhere, OK?

I'm leading everything. Right now, I love polls because I'm winning everything. I'm even winning -- we've just gone on in Florida. I'm killing the governor in Florida and the senator from Florida. I mean, it's been amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, I'm curious, the latest polls, your boss Donald Trump is ahead, 23 percent. Let's take the state of Pennsylvania. Ben Carson is nipping at his heels everywhere, rising, rising, rising. Donald Trump has been defending Ben Carson.

Why? Why not go a little tougher on him if he's threatening him?

And it looks like we literally just lost our shot. I should everyone know, Corey Lewandowski is joining me from Las Vegas from a very high floor in a hotel, there for a campaign event tomorrow. So I apologize. We lost that shot before I could get that answer.

OUTFRONT next, Joe Biden looking very much like a candidate today. He took a swipe at Hillary Clinton, a pretty funny one. We're going to show it to you. Let you hear it yourself. Would candidate Biden be too late to join the game?

And company record show that the cargo ship that went down during hurricane Joaquin didn't have a history of engine failure but we have new details tonight on what happened to that ship as the president of the United States comes out to talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:38:57] BURNETT: Tonight, Vice President Joe Biden sounding like a presidential candidate because he took a swipe at the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. You've got to hear it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if I don't move, I'll be demoted to secretary of state or something like that. That's a joke. That's a joke. That's a joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Yes. You know, it's those jokes that aren't jokes but Clinton was not joking today at all when she broke ranks with her former boss, the president.

Brianna Keilar is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton breaking from her former boss and breaking big, opposing his signature trade agreement that she once heralded.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar that I have set.

KEILAR: Added to the list, where Clinton has taken a position against Obama, the no-fly zone in Syria and the announcement she's against the Keystone XL pipeline before Obama announces his decision.

Clinton's Democratic rivals weighed in on her trade reversal, Bernie Sanders saying this --

[19:40:02] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad that she reached that conclusion. This is the conclusion that I reached from day one.

KEILAR: A new poll shows Clinton well ahead of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But her trade deal switch comes as Sanders challenges her in Iowa and New Hampshire and the possible Biden run threatens to siphon off some of her supporters.

A Biden spokesperson reiterated his backing of trade pact as he considers a bid, sounding a lot like a candidate at a Latino event slamming Republicans.

BIDEN: People are depressed and the message I have for you guys is, these guys don't remotely speak for American.

KEILAR: As he weighs a candidacy, the Draft Biden Super PAC is out with a new TV ad.

BIDEN: Things can change in a heartbeat. I know. Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever.

KEILAR: Josh Alcorn is a senior adviser to the PAC.

JOSHUA ALCORN, DRAFT BIDEN SENIOR ADVISER: The point is to tell a story of Joe Biden that people outside of Delaware may not know. It's a story of his overcoming personal tragedy, gaining this enormous empathy for people who've suffered. And then it offers his hopeful vision, optimistic vision for America.

KEILAR: One source close to the vice president says there will be a family conversation this weekend that could determine whether he gets in the race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And that was Brianna Keilar reporting.

OUTFRONT now, our politics executive editor Mark Preston here on the set with me.

OK. So, let's start with this. Joe Biden, if he got in now, he doesn't have a lot of time. He's the vice president and knows everybody, he's very well connected. But he doesn't have enough time, does he, to get the ground game in place?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, interestingly, he's well positioned as the vice president to build something very quickly. He's already run for president twice. And as we see from the polls right now, Bernie Sanders, while he's losing nationally to Hillary Clinton, he's winning in the state of New Hampshire and he's very close in Iowa right now.

So, Joe Biden has got to look at that himself and say, I can get in, I'm doing OK in the polls and haven't even announced that I'm running.

BURNETT: Could he get the money? Hillary Clinton has, what, 60 fundraisers, $100 million. She's the juggernaut. Can he get the money to have a staying power?

PRESTON: I think so. I think so.

I think in this day and age, you don't need $100 million. Look for Jeb Bush is right. Look where he is in the polls. Now, he has a lot of money to try to save himself when it comes January.

BURNETT: But it's hardly delivering him as a front-runner.

PRESTON: Certainly not at this point.

BURNETT: All right. So, Joe Biden, he has a number of weaknesses, weaknesses though that many of us love, you, I'm sure, included -- including his tendency to put his foot in his mouth, like this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Isn't that a bitch. I mean -- excuse me. The vice president thing.

This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.

You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.

The first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Does that kill him or in the era where we say it's authentic, it's un-PC Biden surges. PRESTON: It hasn't killed him yet and he's the vice president of

the United States. I mean, that's all you have to say.

Joe Biden is beloved, even by Republicans. I had a Republican who is very well-known in the strategic game and he says, you know what, I really don't want Joe Biden to run because I really like him and we're going to try and kill him.

All you have to do is keep showing it over and over again. I just wonder, Erin -- does the American people really care?

BURNETT: No. In fact, they see them and smile and laugh and he's endearing. However, when you are not running, you can be endearing and wonderful and then when you run, all of a sudden, spite and anger comes out from your competitors and from voters, even for Joe Biden.

PRESTON: And your approval rating will start to drop. When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was in the high 60s and 70s. Now, she is ticking down at a furious rate.

Joe Biden is about 16, 20 percent, depending on what poll you look at. Once he declares, if we expect he does, will he drop, will he drop to 10 percent, will he drop to 8 percent, will he drop to 9 percent?

BURNETT: And what voters does he peel away from, more from Hillary or more from Bernie Sanders?

PRESTON: He peels more away from Hillary Clinton. They certainly don't want to see Joe Biden get into the race.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Mark Preston, as we said, our executive political director.

And the first Democratic debate next week right here on CNN. Be sure to watch. It is Tuesday night, in Vegas.

And OUTFRONT next, new details on the mystery of El Faro. Why that ship went silent. This as we learn the final words the ship sent to shore.

And Jeanne Moos on Donald Trump's hat. It's favorable much more than the man who wears it. It has spawned a hat rack of imitators for special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:39] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Obama offering his condolences tonight to the crew, including 28 Americans. They were all on board a cargo ship that disappeared in a category 4 hurricane. The president saying in a moving statement, quote, "May God bless the men and women of the El Faro and may he watch over and protect all of those who serve at sea on behalf of us all."

Also at this hour, the search shifting from rescue to recovery. Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT.

And, Martin, what are officials saying about why they finally called this search off?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Coast Guard officials are talking about that and they'll tell you that every search and rescue operations is unique but the decision is always the toughest decision of all and a lot goes into the equation.

First of all, how long have the victims potentially been in the water and in this case it's been since Thursday morning when it's believed that that's when the vessel sank. What were the weather conditions like, what's the sea temperature like, and then you add in, how many aircraft, how many ships have been looking and the high technology they've been using and scanning that search over and over and over again and not finding any sign of survivors.

You add that up, the grim equation gives you a kind of finish line and, unfortunately, they crossed it about 45 minutes ago when this search and rescue effort officially ended on the part of the Coast Guard.

BURNETT: Martin, so many questions about what happened here. We know the last words we understand at that point from the ship, "We are now sailing into it. We are in the middle of it."

[19:50:07] And the question is, why? Why were they? The ship's owner refusing to answer crucial questions about why the ship was there in the first place.

What more are you learning about the captain and the company that owns the ship?

SAVIDGE: Yes, TOTE Marine is the company that owns this vessel. We were over there for that press conference. Well, it was not a press conference. It was a statement. They refused to take any questions from reporters despite us asking a lot of them and many to be had.

Some former crew members talked about some issues of age with the vessel, there was leaks when it rained and problems with some of the equipment but none of that adds up to dangerous issues. TOTE rather will say it's a U.S. flagged ship, that means the standards they had to meet are very high, and they claim they met every standard and passed every inspection.

The real issue is going to be what was going on in the minds of the captain. For instance, did he feel pressure to sail into that hurricane to keep his schedule? Or was he pressured by the company to keep the schedule.

NTSB will be looking specifically at that. They have what's called a human performance team. Those are difficult and dangerous questions they are experts at trying to decipher.

So, really, what we know is the search for survivors is over tonight but the search for answers -- that is just getting started, Erin.

BURNETT: It is and those families deserve them. Martin Savidge, thank you very much. Just incredible rare to see ship like that go down. It's important to emphasize that, almost 800 feet long.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the hat that covers America's most famous head of hair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:16] BURENTT: Ever since Donald Trump tossed his proverbial hat into the ring, his actual "Make America Great" campaign hat has taken on a life of it own.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Donald Trump starts giving away his famous hats.

TRUMP: Who wants it?

MOOS: His people all want it, but some want a different slogan instead of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make America great again.

MOOS: How about make cheese great again or make America crepes again? Or make America British again?

You, too, can make your own Donald Trump hat thanks to this guy, "Washington Post" political writer Philip Bump.

PHILIP BUMP, POLITICAL WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: We're just called that Donald Trump hat generator.

MOOS: Though one of Bump's colleagues suggested.

BUMP: We should have been called, who wants to be a milliner?

MOOS: A milliner, a hat maker. All you have to do is type in your preferred slogan, say, make America joke again, and presto chango, you got yourself a Trump hat.

Phillip Bump got the idea when he saw New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio showing off his new headwear.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I think this hat says it all.

MOOS: De Blasio's progressive slogan, "Make America fair again."

What a thrill to wear an original Trump hat while generating new hat slogans. One guy opted for the Donald's own favorite word.

TRUMP: They're losers. They are just losers.

MOOS: Even the Hillary campaign jumped on the band wagon generating slogans they said every Republican candidate can wear.

BUMP: It's nice when you have something that short of is bizarre and weird and kind of blows up.

MOOS: The slogans range from crafts but catch ki to reflections upon the hat itself. This hat is blue and black and refers to the old is this dress white and gold or blue and black flap.

Some suggestions didn't fit. Let Bill Clinton date again exceeded the 14 character per line limit, but for both the Donald and the media, this hat fits.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Tonight on CNN, Lisa Ling has an outstanding show. You get to go inside with America's toughest out laws. That's the Mongol Nation biker group.

Here's a sneak peek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA LING, THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING: Drew is president of the Santa Fe chapter, and owner of No Regrets tattoo shop.

Why is it important for bikers clubs to have at the tattoos identifying them with their club?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it's pride and love for my nation and for the club.

LING: Are you surprised that law enforcement might call you a gang because you kind of look the part?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can see why even other bike clubs would call us, you know, cholos on wheels, gangster bikers.

LING: What is the difference between you-all and a gang is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be a breadwinner to be in this club. That's one of the first questions we ask is, do you have a job? You know. I have my business right here. His family own street sweeping and graffiti removal. You know, you can't just be a dead beat and join this club. It ain't going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN. It's pretty incredible. With the news about biker clubs, you definitely don't want to miss that. That's coming up at 9:00. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow night. Be sure

to set your DVR, please, to record OUTFRONT so you can watch us at anytime.

"AC360" starts right now.