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GOP Reverses Plan To Gut Ethics Panel After Trump Tweets; Interview with Rep. Tom Cole; Tensions Rise After Trump Taunts North Korea; Interview with John Kirby; Ford Scraps Mexico Plans, Cites "Confidence" in Trump; Aide: Trump Won't Discuss Russian Hack Tomorrow, Despite Promise. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 3, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:04] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, bracing for war on Capitol Hill as Donald Trump scores a major victory against his own party.

Plus Trump shares the stage with a guy whose nickname is Joey No Socks. What's Trump's relationship to the convicted felon?

Does Vladimir Putin see himself in Donald Trump? A former top Putin adviser speaks OUTFRONT. Let's go up.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's power play, CNN learning that the President-elect Donald Trump spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan tonight after Trump slammed House Republicans on Twitter and Trump's slam worked.

He wanted his party to back down from gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics. That's the office that investigates members of Congress. Republicans then abruptly dropped the controversial plan just hours after Trump shamed them on Twitter with this tweet.

"With all the Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog as unfair as it is their number-one act in priority? Focus on tax reform, health care, and so many other things of importance."

Tonight, a senior House Republican aide tells CNN that Trump and Ryan spoke this afternoon after the Republicans reversed course and bagged their plan. The aide actually suggesting that the stunning Republican back down wasn't all thanks to Trump.

This aide said early this morning it became clear we would have a vote problem on the floor with this amendment. It's safe to say Trump's tweets probably added to that pressure, but it was already being heavily covered in the press. Interesting they don't seem to want to give him the credit.

The controversial plan to gut the ethic committee, of course, was a slap in the face to Trump's campaign promise to drain the swamp in Washington. It also comes on the same day that new members of the House were sworn in, both parties bracing for a major fight over the big policy issue, the first one, the repeal of Obamacare.

Manu Raju was OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill tonight. Manu, you know, Republicans in Capitol Hill are reversing course on one of their own proposals right out of the gate. This was what they wanted to do with this ethics watchdog. This was a self-inflicted wound on day one for them.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. No question about, Erin. In fact, House and Senate Republican leaders and the Trump transition team spent hours trying to meticulously lay out their plans to make sure they did not run into roadblocks in the opening days of the new Congress. As we know on Capitol Hill, plans could quickly become unraveled.


RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, House Republicans abruptly reversing course. Scrapping a plan to gut a key ethics watchdog. After an outpouring of criticism from voters and even Donald Trump.

The president-elect expressing his opposition on Twitter, writing, "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number-one act of priority? Focus on tax reform, health care, and so many other things of far greater importance. #drain the swamp."

Less than two hours later, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who would oppose weakening the watch dog, convening an emergency meeting where his conference changed course, unanimously voting to keep the ethics office intact. Republicans in top districts were concerned by the proposal.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: This was the wrong message to send at the start of the session, and I agree.

RAJU (on camera): I mean, optically how concerned are you about the way this makes the Republican Congress look?

COFFMAN: I'm very concerned. I think it's a terrible mistake.

RAJU (voice-over): The surprise move began Monday night when Congressman Bob Goodlatte proposed a change to House rules behind closed doors to rein in the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was created nearly a decade ago in the aftermath of the Jack Abramov lobbying scandal.

The proposal would have given the very House members who might be investigated greater control over the Office of Congressional Ethics. Critics of the panel say it has overreached in the pursuit of headlines and the GOP conference voted 119-74 to make the changes.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA: I support it because first of all I think it's duplicative, but at the least, in my view it requires greater oversight than it has.

RAJU: Yet the proposal put Republicans in an awkward spot with some refusing to say if they wanted to weaken the panel.

(on camera): Did you vote for that?

REPRESENTATIVE RANDY WEBER (R), TEXAS: That was a voice vote. It was not a recorded vote, but frankly, I sat there and observed.


RAJU: Now, Erin, I asked that congressman three times how he voted Monday night on that proposal. He would not say. The reason why he is able to not say is that was a private vote. Now the question moving forward to a public vote today, how would members vote that and they could endure backlash especially after the outcry that occurred when this issue became public -- Erin.

[19:05:06]BURNETT: Right. And of course, his seeming shame in wanting to tell you that says a lot about the perception of this in the public eye. Thank you so much, Manu.

Jeff Zeleny is also up on Capitol Hill tonight. Jeff, the president is going there tomorrow trying to defend Obamacare. The vice president-elect is there to find a way to get rid of Obamacare. Of course, they wasted no time today trying to get to repeal Obamacare despite this other ethics imbroglio.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the ethics situation in fact is easier to do than Obamacare. So it's one of the reasons that that was the first thing out of the gate. Of course, that didn't go so well.

But Obamacare obviously is the most sacred piece of the Obama legacy that many Republicans want to dismantle immediately here. But the reality here is that this point you'll be taking things away from people.

So there is not yet a consistent approach, a unified approach to what Republicans should do. Republican leaders are leaning toward repealing it and then instituting a bit of a time lag so people have time to sort of get their plans in order, a delay, if you will.

But Rand Paul and others think that is not such a good idea because they believe that would create a vacuum. Tomorrow here on Capitol Hill, Mike Pence is going to be presenting the Republican plan to Republicans behind closed doors, giving them a way forward.

President Obama, of course, will be trying to defend his plan. But Erin, the reality here is his meeting is essentially for show up here. He is just 17 days, not even, left in office here. Few things Democrats can do. But Republicans know they want to take it away. It is much more difficult to figure out exactly how that will be done.

BURNETT: All right, obviously that is the crucial question. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

OUTFRONT now, let's go to Republican Congressman Tom Cole, on the Rules Budget Appropriations Committee. He is also a deputy whip. And Congressman, good to have you with me. Appreciate your time tonight.

So Republican leadership, including Paul Ryan, were against gutting the ethics committee in the way that was efforted today. Trump came out and tweeted within hours, GOP rank and file backed off, switched that stunning reversal. Do you give Donald Trump the credit for turning this around?

REP. TOM COLE (R), RULES, APPROPRIATIONS AND BUDGET COMMITTEES: I think he deserves a lot of the credit. Look, I think it's really the right to do. There's bipartisan concern that the outside ethics committee frankly has not worked very well and has incorrectly accused a lot of members of wrongdoing who were later exonerated.

But probably wasn't the right time to do it. That was the message that the speaker and the majority leader delivered last night. President-elect Trump reinforced that today and had a big impact.

BURNETT: Now, from where you stand, you know, how did you go on this? Did you support gutting the ethics committee the way that they suggested?

COLE: It doesn't gut the ethics committee. It reforms it and keeps it in place, but it lets you know who your accuser is and says you can't go public until the official ethics committee is actually going to make charges against you. Those are needed reforms and I certainly support those.

BURNETT: So you would support?

COLE: I certainly would support changing it and will continue to support changing it. Frankly, it's not gutting it. It's reforming it and strengthening it. But they can be done as our leadership pointed out and I think frankly as the president-elect suggested and a more appropriate time frame, more appropriate way.

I think that's what the conference decided to do. I think they made the right decision because the president-elect is right. Let's focus on the first things first, repeal of Obamacare, tax reform, regulatory relief, those are the big issues. We'll get to this one in due time.

BURNETT: So the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, came out. There was an outcry over this and why to do it now and obviously the appearance of gutting a committee and I understand, you know, you're saying there's nuance here, but the appearance of that did not play well. Josh Earnest had this to say about the proposal today.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that it is rather revealing that the first step taken by congressional Republicans in the new Congress was to vote in secret to gut ethics regulations.


BURNETT: So my question to you is, if the ethics committee situation is blatant, as you say, frustration is bipartisan, if it is dire, why do it in secret? Why only among Republicans? Why would you even start this fight?

COLE: Well, first of all, it wasn't only among Republicans. There would have been a vote on the floor. But frankly, this has been going on for six years. When this thing was created it was created by a single vote when Democrats had overwhelming majority because many of their members were opposed to it.

Having watched it operate, it simply is not fair. We had member after member get up who had been wrongly accused, covered in the press, and had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, then they get a little note from the outside ethics committee that says you're exonerated, you're right, and nobody covers that.

[19:10:00]So all they're asking for is due process, know who's accusing you. They're still under all the ethics rules, under legal obligation. Members have gone to jail. So I'm not saying this isn't something that needs to be done, but it needs to be done fairly.

BURNETT: But why not bipartisan? Why something that appeared to be in secret.

COLE: It wasn't in secret. Actually almost all of the reforms were from a bipartisan commission that had recommended them in the last Congress. With all due respect, this just isn't something that's covered every day and I think people overreacted to it.

I think our members were wise enough to see that and listened to leadership. Good point, we'll pull back and focus on these other things. It doesn't mean there basic case wasn't correct. Quite frankly it is and as we move forward, I think you'll see bipartisan support to change this. Not to get rid of it, but to reform it.

BURNETT: Congressman, I want to ask you about the big policy issue of the day, right, because, you know, to be honest, this is something we shouldn't have had to spend so much time talking about, right? I would imagine you would have rather talk about healthcare.

Health care is the central issue here. You want to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Senate took the first official step towards repealing it today. Is there an absolute plan, a clear plan, that you have with President-elect Trump on what to replace it with?

COLE: We haven't heard all of President-elect Trump's plans to be fair. There is a clear set of (inaudible) obviously he's tapped Tom Price, House member, to be the head of Health and Human Services. Tom has actually laid out his own piece of legislation on this as a general set of Republican principles.

But look, I think repealing it will be a Republicans only exercise. You won't get a lot of Democrats to help you in that. When it comes time to replace it, you'll have to work together across the line particularly in the United States Senate.

So we've certainly got a common set of ideas that will take some time to get it done, so I think what the Senate did today was the right and important first step. BURNETT: And before we go, though, when you say when it gets to the replacing, the Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Health Committee, of course, said it would be a mistake to repeal Obamacare before there is a replacement. Senator Rand Paul seconded that. He wrote, "If Congress fails to vote on a replacement at the same time as repeal, the repealers risk assuming the blame for the continued unraveling of Obamacare. Do you share that point of view?

COLE: It's a fair point in the sense this is a collapsing system. It has 9 million people fewer than it was supposed to, 7.5 million people paid fines rather than go into it last year. It's collapsing insurance people. So this was going to fail no matter who the next president --

BURNETT: But I'm talking about replacing at the time that you appeal.

COLE: Let's just see what happens. You know, I think probably the repeal will come with the time delay so the process will take a considerable period of time. It won't happen all in one fell swoop. You won't repeal and replace on exactly the same day. I just don't think that's possible.

BURNETT: All right. Probably repeal and delay. Thank you very much. Congressman Cole, appreciate your time tonight.

OUTFRONT next, bracing for North Korea's response to Donald Trump's threat. What's Kim Jong-Un's next move.

Plus, Trump side by side with a New Year's guest who goes by the name Joey No Socks. Who is he?

And a toddler saves his twin brother after a dresser falls on top of him.



BURNETT: New tonight, the growing dispute between the White House and Donald Trump over North Korea. The White House is downplaying the threat of an attack by Pyongyang after Donald Trump's tweeted, "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen."

Now the White House is trying to dispute that claim saying there's no evidence North Korea's nuclear capabilities have changed. Of course, the estimate would still be for them to have a weapon of that sort in a couple years or maybe three.

Jim Sciutto, our chief national correspondent is OUTFRONT. You know, Jim, a lot of concern tonight about North Korea's nuclear capability and how quickly they are moving.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question and there is no question they're making progress. U.S. intelligence view is that they have to assume that China has what they call an untested ability to put out a nuke on a warhead and shoot it possibly as far as the U.S.

They have to assume that because they don't know for sure and North Korea hasn't tested it, but that is definitely North Korea's ambition. Now the trouble is that short of that there's a lot of things that North Korea can do to threaten the U.S. and its allies, further missile tests, some aimed at South Korea and Japan or nearby.

Other ways to cause trouble, firing artillery, for instance, at South Korean islands that are very close to North Korea. So this is the concern now, something in that category. And keep in mind, North Korean defector recently having just left the country recently said that North Korea will try to take advantage of uncertainty during the transition here in the U.S. between Obama and Trump.

The question is, do they do that? If they do, Erin, how do they do that?

BURNETT: And now, you know, Trump came out and criticized China directly -- he said many times on the campaign trail, but in his tweet as president-elect, China, you're not doing enough. Period. Full stop. What's the reaction from China to this direct criticism from Trump?

SCIUTTO: The Foreign Ministry was asked about this today and they said in their words, I'm paraphrasing a little, they say that we don't pay attention to the features of foreign leaders communications. We pay attention to their policies.

In effect saying, we don't watch the tweets. We look to see what they do rather than what they say or tweet. But what's interesting about those comments, Erin, is that criticism of China is not confined to Donald Trump. He's not alone in that.

There's been a lot of frustration in the Obama administration that China didn't exert enough pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear program, the read being that China would rather have a nuclear North Korea than a collapsed or unified Korean Peninsula.

That's a pretty alarming thing. It's certainly something that neither Republican nor Democratic administrations are happy with.

BURNETT: Yes. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you.

OUTFRONT now, John Kirby, the spokesman for the State Department. Good to have you with me again, sir. When you see the president- elect's tweet, let me just read it to you again, "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!" Does Trump's threat do you think make it more likely that Kim Jong-Un will try to strike America?

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think this is a regime in Pyongyang that it's proven it's willing to continue to pursue these kinds of capabilities in the face of growing and galvanizing international community pressure. So, look, we've seen no indication that they aren't serious about developing these programs despite what is already a lot of pressure on them not to do that.

That doesn't mean, however, that we can turn our blind eye to it or turn away from it and we'll continue to watch this very, very closely. I would say that the sanctions regime that's in place are the most aggressive that we've had in nearly two decades.

The international community continues to work to implement those and we'll see, sanctions take time. We'll see what effect that they have.

BURNETT: One of the big questions, of course, is what happens if North Korea does perfect this missile and what we've seen estimates out there, they could make progress this year, certainly within the four years of the Trump administration that they would have a nuclear weapon that would be capable of hitting the west coast of the mainland United States.

[19:20:10]Those are the forecasts out there. Obviously that's the sort of thing that would change the world and the game here. Tens of thousands of people on a city like Seattle. When I was in Korea with the defense secretary, the argument was there's a missile defense shield along the western coast of the United States and that that would protect us. Are we really prepared? Do we know that would work?

KIRBY: Well, there are multiple layers of missile defense capabilities that we have in that part of the world and so, yes, there are some that are based in the continental states, but we also have great missile defense capabilities at sea through U.S. Navy assets as well.

So there are multiple layers and levels here that we would use to defend against a continental ballistic missile that might be launched at the United States. Doesn't mean, however, that we can just rely on defense and not continue to try to pressure Pyongyang to do the right thing.

Sanctions take time. I understand that and I understand that the calendar is also challenging here as he continues to pursue these capabilities.

BURNETT: Do you think sanctions will work after all these years? I feel like we hear about sanctions after sanctions, whether it was George W. Bush or Barack Obama. Yet the one thing that's been constant is that North Korea has made more and more progress towards a nuclear weapon that could strike America.

KIRBY: Hard to predict. Obviously, sanctions have not had the desired effect to date, but again, I would remind this latest sanctions are the toughest in 20 years. Sanctions take time. So I think we have to work this out and watch how they are implemented. That's the real key here.

Sanctions alone mean nothing if they are not fully implemented and executed and we have seen commitments, public commitments particularly out of China that they will implement these sanctions. That will be the real key here.

But these are really tough sanctions and they can have a bite. Whether they'll change his mind and his calculus, I think we just have to watch and see.

BURNETT: So when you look at the options on the table, of course, one, sanctions have not worked. China has not been a part of them. China is obviously the lifeline (inaudible). Trump also tweeted about this. He said, "China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade but won't help with North Korea. Nice."

During the campaign, of course, Trump repeatedly suggested that China could solve this problem with North Korea. Here's a brief clip of what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.

(via telephone): China has total control, believe me. They say they don't. They have total control over North Korea and China should solve that problem.

(on camera): China has control, absolute control of North Korea. They don't say it, but they do. They should make that problem disappear. I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly. And let me tell you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you make it disappear in a sec?

TRUMP: Heard worse things, frankly.


BURNETT: What do you say there? Is the Obama administration partly to blame for not getting China to act here?

KIRBY: China has been acting and China has been supporting sanctions regime particularly this last one that had been in place. They voted for it. They said publicly that they would implement that. It is true, Erin, that in the past there has not been uniform enforcement of sanctions going forward.

And some of that has fallen on to China. We know that. We have said they will implement it, they will enforce that, and they have incredible influence in Pyongyang, more than probably any other country.

I think to say that they can control Pyongyang is not supported by the facts. The fact is that China itself has been and has said this themselves, that they have been frustrated by some of the actions of the North Korean dictator.

BURNETT: Thank you so much, John Kirby. Appreciate your time tonight.

KIRBY: My pleasure. Thank you.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, Trump one, Ford zero, Ford bags a billion- dollar plant in Mexico now promising to keep jobs in America. Ford's CEO speaks out tonight.

And then Donald Trump sharing the stage at Mar-a-Lago with a convicted felon. Our report on Trump's history with the man known as Joey No Socks.


TRUMP: I'd especially like to congratulate and thank, Joe (inaudible), the head of the academy, for the unbelievable job that he does.




BURNETT: New tonight, President-elect Donald Trump facing questions after sharing the stage on New Year's Eve with a convicted felon. Joseph Chinque was right next to Trump as Trump addressed guests at Mar-a-Lago. So how long did Trump and the man also known as Joey No Socks go back? Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joseph Chinque, a.k.a. Joey No Socks, convicted of a felony in 1989 for art theft, celebrating next to the president-elect on New Year's Eve.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. It's a great honor.

MARQUEZ: Chinque's current lawyer insists the art was legally owned by him, but the New York Supreme Court says Joey No Socks pled guilty and his conviction still stands. He was given a conditional discharge and served no jail time. Trump and Chinque go way back. In 2008, they shared a stage at the Miss Universe contest, Trump calling him Joe.

TRUMP: By the way, Joe is probably one of the most important men in the hotel industry.

MARQUEZ: In 2009, Trump was given an award by Chinque, one of many bestowed on Trump and his properties by Chinque over a decade.

TRUMP: I'd especially like to congratulate and thank Joe Chinque, the head of the academy, for the unbelievable job that he does.

MARQUEZ: And last year at Trump's Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve celebration.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Joe.

MARQUEZ: Again, Joey No Socks front and center with Donald Trump. Last May Trump told the "Associated Press" he didn't know him well and wasn't aware of his conviction.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": Let's assume Donald Trump doesn't know who this guy is. Wow. Donald Trump is so unaware and doesn't have people around him to warn him that you're standing next to a convicted felon?

MARQUEZ: David K. Johnston for 30 years covered Trump's rough and tumble rise mostly for "The New York Times." His new book "The Making Of Donald Trump" pulls no punches.

KINGSTON: I was absolutely shocked that Donald Trump, president- elect, would stand at a public forum next to a convicted felon, who claimed to be connected with John Gotti, credibly enough that the New York City prosecutor's office thought that that was a real connection.

[19:30:06] MARQUEZ: The U.S. Secret Service declined to comment on the matter, referring CNN to the Trump transition team, which also refused to comment on the relationship between Trump and Cinque. Several Mar-a-Lago members and guests who attended the party tell CNN there was no Secret Service background check prior to it but they did go through metal detectors.

JOHNSTON: Here's in my mind the most fundamental aspect of this -- you've been elected to the most powerful office in the world. All sorts of people want to cozy up to you and there are all sorts of opportunities for people to make money off of some relationship with you. Why would you connect yourself in public with a convicted felon?

MARQUEZ: The Trump/Joey No Socks connection rooted in the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, an organization that over the years Trump has been listed as ambassador extraordinaire.

JOHNSTON: Donald Trump proudly hangs at least 19 awards. You'll notice they're signed not just by Joey No Socks, they're also signed Donald J. Trump as chairman of the board.

MARQUEZ: Trump's signature is on some of the award. It's like Trump giving himself an award.


MARQUEZ: Now, the Secret Service says they only protect physically the president-elect and the president. They don't control the guest list for these sort of events, and they referred us over to the transition team which did not want to go into detail about the relationship between Joey No Socks Cinque and Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Miguel, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now, let's go straight to it. Former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord, and former Clinton White House aide, Keith Boykin. This is a guy who claims a relationship to Gotti, convicted felon.

You know, you saw the whole thing.

Why is Trump hanging around with this guy?


BURNETT: Even though he said a few months ago he doesn't. He clearly does. Yes.

LORD: I mean, there we are.

Donald Trump, first of all, if he meets you for ten minutes, he's going to be a pretty loyal guy to you, number one. But number two, I mean, I do think with all due respect, this is overplayed. This guy has some problem in his past. The gentleman we just said here said that why would the president-elect will next to somebody?

I mean, a convicted drug smuggler was there in the Clinton White House posing for a Christmas party picture with Hillary Clinton shortly after he paid money to Al Gore for the 2000 race. We can get well into the CIA and (INAUDIBLE) sharing a mistress with the president of the United States. This isn't even close to this kind of thing. This isn't even close to this kind of thing.


LORD: And let's go with Barack Obama, I mean, this is just --

BURNETT: Because they're all hanging out with convicted felons.

KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: We just had an election in November where a certain guy named Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, that he was going to get rid of the shady business dealings, and now your excuse is everybody does this, it's not a problem.

LORD: No, no, no.


BURNETT: Those were politicians he was talking about.

BOYKIN: Of course, it's OK when a billionaire does it.

LORD: I don't know anything about the guy, but I just think that --

BURNETT: Joey No Socks.

LORD: Joey No Socks.

BOYKIN: But Donald Trump does, and that's the problem. You know, Donald Trump is surrounding himself with yes people. He needs better people to give him advice because somebody should tell him don't neat with convicted felons on New Year's Eve. Don't tweet every day. Somebody needs to tell him not to suck up to Russian dictators and CEOs who want to curry his favor because somebody says something nice about him.

BURNETT: There's something else at the heart of it which is how Trump has handled the attention on Joey No Socks, OK? He said in May he did not know Joey No Socks very well, OK?

Obviously, that piece would show that to not be the case on the surface level. He appeared in a tribute video for him. Let me play what Trump said about Joey No Socks.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'd especially like to congratulate and thank Joey Cinque, the head of the academy, for the unbelievable job that he does. There's nobody like him. He's a special guy. There's just nobody close.


LORD: Erin --

BURNETT: Either he speaks that glowingly of somebody he doesn't know at all, which is its own issue, or he knows him.

LORD: News flash, I personally have spent decades going to events where some political figure will stand up and say glowing things about somebody they hardly know.

BURNETT: A special guy.

LORD: Yes, indeed. Not only that, they have speechwriters that do this for them.

I just don't even think -- I mean, we're dealing with ISIS, we're dealing with Obamacare, we're dealing -- I mean, I just don't think this is anywhere on the radar.


BURNETT: Fundamental honesty matter of whether you ask, do you know somebody and you say, I don't know them that well when again and again you're seen with him?

LORD: He may not know about this guy, I mean, that's entirely possible.

BOYKIN: Jeffrey, that's not possible. It's not even plausible. This is why it matters. It's not just Joey No Socks. It's Don King, who's also a convicted felon. It's the Russian immigrant who was another convicted felon who's involved in the Trump Soho project.

Trump has a history of dealing with shady people and he says he hires and will surround himself with the best people. There's no evidence of that. We see is evidence of corruption and pay to play and crookedness, the same stuff he accused other people of engaging in, he's doing that now.

LORD: I don't see that at all.

BOYKIN: People see more when the hearings happen because there's plenty of evidence. Look, for example, at General Michael Flynn, a conspiracy theorist who's been appointed --

LORD: Are you saying General Flynn is a crook?

BOYKIN: I'm saying he's a conspiracy theorist and Trump doesn't pick the best people. He doesn't surround himself with the best people. This is another indication.

Why is he meeting with Don King and Joey No Socks and not having intelligence briefings? He doesn't have time for intelligence briefings. He has time to tweet every day.

LORD: That's not so.

BOYKIN: His lack of seriousness of the job of president.

LORD: All I can say is we litigated all this kind of stuff in the campaign. It's over, my friend, and I know it's a new year and there's a new president-elect.

BOYKIN: Not acting like a president of the United States.

LORD: As you think the president should behave.

BOYKIN: You think the president should be associated with the criminals?

LORD: Of course not.

BOYKIN: Then it's not just --

LORD: Of course not.

BOYKIN: We agree.

LORD: Unless he's about to become attorney general of the United States, I don't think you have to worry.

BOYKIN: If you held the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to the same standard, I would feel comfortable about that. Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp and there's every evidence he's not doing it.

LORD: I mean, the drain the swamp is about lobbyists and consultants in Washington, not about --

BOYKIN: Not about criminals? Convicted criminals?


LORD: I never heard of him. I don't think he's player in Washington. (CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Thank you both.

Next, Ford scrapping plans to build a plant in Mexico. Ford says it's good business but Trump is getting all the credit.

And Trump's pal Putin has a strange habit of appearing in public half dressed. Is there a method to his seeming madness? Well, tonight, Putin's onetime top aide speaks out.


[19:40:50] BURNETT: New tonight, Donald Trump taunting Ford's decision to reverse course on a plant in Mexico, instead upgrade a facility in Michigan. Now, the CEO of Ford, Mark Fields, says Trump's policies are crucial to the decision, but it wasn't because Trump said he had to do it, nothing because of that. That's the Ford view.

The announcement comes on the same day Trump took another carmaker to task, General Motors, saying GM should not be building one of its models in Mexico. Trump tweets, "General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers, tax-free across border, make in the USA or pay a big border tax."

And Poppy Harlow is at a Ford plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, tonight.

Poppy, you sat down with Ford's CEO. So they're going to cancel this Mexican plant. Plans for this. Why?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's a huge cancellation, a $1.6 billion plant. It is in part political and it is in part, they say, driven by the business environment right now.

I should note, Erin, when you look at all of this, there has been no love lost between the president-elect and Ford. They have quite a long history trading barbs back and forth. At one point, the president-elect even said Ford was going to fire all of its workers in the United States. That is just not true.

So, I asked Mark Fields today, are you making this change because of Trump?


MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: This makes sense for our business and we look at all factor, including what we view as a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump and it's literally a vote of confidence around some of the pro- growth policies that he has been outlining.

HARLOW: But this is a trend we've seen. The president-elect calls out Carrier, he gets jobs to stay here. He calls out Boeing, he gets a cheaper Air Force One. He calls out Lockheed Martin, and they say we're going to work with you. There is a concern among some, Mark, that this is in essence a form of

crony capitalism, that it's dangerous to American democracy, that the president can cut deals with companies and then they expect favors from the administration in return.

FIELDS: Well, first off, we didn't cut a deal with the president- elect. We did what's right for our business, first and foremost. That's what drives us in every business decision we make. We look at a lot of factors, Poppy, and one that we see is this more positive U.S. environment for manufacturing and investment here.


BURNETT: It's interesting, Poppy, when you pushed him, he said we didn't cut a deal with the president-elect. But as you point out to him, you asked him the question, you said it would be 40 percent cheaper for you to make those cars in Mexico, 40 percent cheaper. It's hard to imagine they would go ahead and reverse a decision like that if not because of Donald Trump's specifically and his threats.

HARLOW: It is indeed, Erin. You know, this is a $1.6 billion plant that they're just not moving forward with. On top of the fact that it costs them so much less to make cars in Mexico.

He never said that Trump was not part of the decision. He just said Trump wasn't the full driver of the decision. An outstanding question is, will it cost Americans more now to buy their cars that are made here because labor cost is so much higher?


HARLOW: That's certainly a question. At the same point in time, remember, Erin, they're not spending $1.6 billion in Mexico. What they're spending that the plant in Michigan is $700 million. So, there is a cost savings there as well. He said demand for small cars is not where it was before, so that's another driver for this. But everything in this environment is political.

BURNETT: All right. Poppy, thank you so much.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, does Vladimir Putin see himself in Donald Trump? Well, a Putin insider speaks out OUTFRONT for the first time.

And Jeanne Moos on how a 2-year-old saves the day teaching all parents an important lesson.


[19:48:30] BURNETT: Breaking news: a Trump transition official telling CNN the president-elect is not scheduled tomorrow to comment about the Russian hacking investigation, which contradicts Trump over the weekend, because he said he would have more to say on it, quote, "Tuesday or Wednesday". This comes as Trump faces questions about his ties to Vladimir Putin. Frederik Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.


TRUMP: It would be nice if we got along. If we don't, we don't, but it would be nice.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Donald Trump, then a candidate hoping for warmer ties with Vladimir Putin. Now, it appears his wish is coming true.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He is a brilliant, intelligent person without a doubt.

PLEITGEN: As President Obama all but accuses Vladimir Putin himself of election-related hacking in the U.S., Trump is finding an admirer in Putin.

GLEB PAVLOVSKI, FORMER PUTIN ADVISER (through translator): Putin was very excited about Trump's election. I think he even had a brief moment of euphoria.

PLEITGEN: Gleb Pavlovski was a top Putin adviser for ten years until he says he was dismissed in 2011 for opposing Putin's controversial third term in office. He says Putin has high expectations for Donald Trump.

PAVLOVSKI: Putin is expecting an acceptance of Russia's agenda from the new President Trump.

PLEITGEN: That could include less criticism of Russia's controversial intervention in Syria and more importantly, a possible easing of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe over the crisis in Ukraine.

[19:50:00] The Russian president even seeing a reflection of himself in Donald Trump, Pavlovski says.

PAVLOVSKI: He just likes a strong man, a winner in a situation where no one believed in his victory because that's how it had been with Putin himself.

PLEITGEN: Since his election, Trump has been careful not to criticize Russia or its leader, while blasting China for what he calls one-sided trade relations with the U.S. and a lack of support pressuring North Korea on its nuke program. That China bashing even helps Putin, Pavlovski says.

PAVLOVSKI: We don't want to find ourselves in one bed with China and Trump could help us find a middle way.

PLEITGEN: Both Putin and Trump have a way of playing to the cameras. Trump with his reality TV career, Putin with photos like these showing him braving the outdoors, wrestling tiger, and riding shirtless on a horse.

PAVLOVSKI: Putin's character, style, habits are those of a middle- class bourgeois. He's prone to comfort. He absolutely didn't want to be the man who works 10 to 20 hours a day.


PLEITGEN: And, Erin, Pavlovski also tells me that he believes right now, the Kremlin is anxiously waiting to see whether Donald Trump will follow up on a lot of the positive things he's been saying about Vladimir Putin once he takes office -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. No doubt. Fred, thank you very much.

And I want to go straight now to our military analyst, Retired Major General Spider Marks.

General, thanks for being with me.

You know, just hearing this, this is a man who had worked for Putin for a long, long time. He still lives in Russia, all right? So, he's not saying anything negative about Vladimir Putin but his description of how Vladimir Putin feels about Donald Trump, very excited he won, he had a brief moment of euphoria. He's expecting an acceptance of Russia's agenda.

Does this concern you?

MAJ. GEN. SPIDER MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it does. A little bit dangerous, frankly, if the expectation is, is that the United States with the new president is going to fully embrace Vladimir Putin and what he wants, pew tip, to achieve.

It's a good thing that our president-elect wants to try to have a better relationship with Russia. But let's be frank, this is the third administration that's tried to do that. And for a whole bunch of reasons, primarily our focus and deep engagement in the Middle East, we've been diverted by putting resources and real attention to this. But Bush 43 and President Obama and now President-elect Donald Trump would love to try to improve that relationship.

I'm concerned that there's going to be an embrace here and we need to -- the only way that you improve this relationship is to trust building measures that are very, very measured and very precise.

BURNETT: And, of course, we'll see whether that happens. I mean, you know, President Obama started with a wonderful new relationship with Vladimir Putin and we see where that ended.

But then this former adviser talking to Fred said that Putin sees a lot of himself in Donald Trump. Now, Vladimir Putin loves propaganda pictures of himself. One year, I know he sent everybody in the country a DVD of himself playing judo or something like that.

MARKS: With Medvedev, yes.

BURNETT: Yes, that's right. And now, you know, Donald Trump obviously also has that showmanship about him. Obviously, I don't think we'll ever see Donald Trump putting up a picture of himself without his shirt on. MARKS: Please.

BURNETT: However, Vladimir Putin saying that Trump, that he likes a strong man, he likes a winner, he sees himself in Donald Trump. Will that flattery blind Trump to the truth of Putin?

MARKS: Well, I think President-elect Trump is a bright guy. I mean, let's give him credit for that. He is a bright -- I would say very, very intuitive guy.

I don't think he's going to be blinded by that. But I think what you see is you see these two personalities that might in fact conflate in that they both have excessive, what I would call excessive confidence. And when you act on that confidence, you tend to dismiss what might be contrarian views that are coming in, those whispers in your ear that are absolutely essential to good, solid leadership.

You need to have somebody that's telling you routinely, hey, president, put your shirt back on. Hey, president-elect, let's not try to embrace Putin too much.

BURNETT: Nobody tells Putin to put his shirt back on.

MARKS: Probably not.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, General Marks.

MARKS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moos with a story of the 2-year-old who's being called a mini superman after saving his twin.


[19:57:53] BURNETT: A dresser falls over, a 2-year-old saves the day, brother of the year. Already?

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Kayli Shoff reviewed the video of a chest falling on her twin sons, she felt it in her chest.

KAYLI SHOFF, MOTHER: My heart sank. I didn't know what to do. I felt like the worst mom.

MOOS: But the worst did not happen. Two and a half-year-old Bowdy got right up while his twin brother Brock remained pinned.

SHOFF: This one's Bowdy and this one's Brock, and they're super rambunctious.

MOOS: It was around 8:30 in the morning, the boys and their parents were in separate bedrooms in their Orem, Utah home.

SHOFF: We usually hear everything. We didn't hear a cry or a big thud.

MOOS: For two minutes, Bowdy tried to free his twin, first by pushing then trying to move the dresser from the other side, then trying to lift it in vain. But finally, Bodie managed to push the chest far enough for Brock to squirm out from under it. Both boys were fine.

SHOFF: No bumps or bruises.

MOOS: Online commenters asked, "And the parents were where? Mom? Dad? Hello?"

But the Shoffs heard nothing and we saw in the security monitor that the dresser had fallen after the kids were both safe. They risked online criticism posting the video to demonstrate the dangers of unfastened furniture.

The chest of drawers is now bolted to the wall.

Of course, we in the media are falling all over Bowdy. How could we not?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giving a whole new meaning to the term brotherly love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many are now calling him a real life mini super kid.

MOOS: Bodie did take time off from saving his brother to play with an electric bottle warmer and even follow the cord. Wrote one commenter, "Love the way he first clambers over the chest of drawers, further crushing his brother.

But someday, Bowdy will puff out his chest, curling about the chest he lifted to rescue his twin bro.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: There is something, of course, in all this that isn't incredible. Obviously, a wonderful ending there, but to make sure you bolt things. It can be so scary when you realize it can happen with young kids.

Thanks for joining us. Don't forget you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. Go to CNN Go.

Anderson is next.