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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House: Trump is "Evaluating" Flynn Situation; Security Concerns Over Trump-Abe Dinner At Mar-a-Lago; White House Official: "Knives Are Out" For National Security Adviser; Senate Voting Now On Mnuchin For Treasury Secretary; UN Security Council Condemns North Korea Missile Test; US Officials: N Korea's Missile Launch Points to Advances; Top State Dept. Contender Speaks Out After Trump Rejection; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 13, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront tonight, breaking news. President Donald Trump, "evaluating the situation surrounding the National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as calls grow tonight for Flynn to go." And more breaking news. New details on what the White House could exclude -- include in a new executive order on immigration. Will Trump just rewrite the same travel ban?
Plus, my exclusive interview with Elliott Abrams, the man Trump rejected as the state department's number two after Trump learned that he criticized him. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news. Trump refuses to endorse his national security adviser. The White House tonight saying the president is "evaluating the situation about General Michael Flynn," it comes as a senior administration official reveals the knives are out and hit that person's words for Flynn, as evidence surfaces that Flynn spoke with the Russian Ambassador to the United States about sanctions before Trump took office.
A source close to the president says Trump and his team are particularly concerned about this, that Flynn may have lied about that conversation to Vice President Pence, saying it never happened when it did. In a statement tonight, Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying, the president is evaluating the situation, he's speaking to the vice president relative to the conversation the vice president had with General Flynn. Donald Trump saying, read that statement at his response to reporters when asked about Flynn earlier tonight.
CNN is also learning democratic lawmakers are already calling for an investigation into General Flynn. This as photos surface on Facebook. This is the President of the United States and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussing a North Korean missile launch at an open table in Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. It could be a major security breach since intelligence matters are only to be discussed in secure rooms no matter where the president is, you see him on the phone there and you'll see some more pictures of cell phone cameras, you can see it from their aids that they're using to read documents that are coming in on the launch. Sara Murray is OutFront tonight at the White House beginning our coverage. And Sara, you saw Donald Trump in the hallway in the White House just moments ago, what did he say?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it was really telling to see President Trump, he was caught by me and couple other reporters who asked whether he still had confidence in General Flynn. He was asked this repeatedly and all he would say is look at the statement, we're about to release a statement. A very different tone and when he was asked about another one of his top aides who has been catching heat lately.
Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus, when asked about Priebus, Donald Trump went out of his way to say that Priebus is not just doing a good job, he is doing a great job. Sort of leaving Flynn out in the ringer as there are questions about whether his job may be in jeopardy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: In a White House where staff turmoil is becoming the norm, today is Michael Flynn's turn in the hot seat. White House officials remain uneasy about whether Trump's National Security Adviser misled administration officials including the vice president about discussing sanctions with the Russian Ambassador. A source tell CNN Flynn apologized to Mike Pence but that doesn't appear to have appeared to have allayed the president's concerns.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president is evaluating the situation and that he's consulting with Pence over conversations Flynn had with the vice president. This as another top Trump aide sought to downplay of fallout.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence to the president.
MURRAY: A U.S. official tell CNN that Flynn did in fact discuss sanctions with the Russian Ambassador before Trump assumed office. Information that contradicts past statements from White House officials. Flynn endeared himself to Trump with his staunch support on the campaign trail.
MICHAEL FLYNN, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You know what the people want? The people want change.
MURRAY: But a source says the president privately expressed frustration with Flynn over the weekend, still his top national security aide was at his side in Florida over the weekend. As Trump's Mar-a-Lago patio served as a situation room to craft the response to North Korea's missile test. Trump huddled with the Japanese Minister as aides looked on. Illuminating documents with their phone flashlights. Administration officials said the documents were not sensitive material but rather legit for the hastily arrange statement with his Japanese counterpart.
It prompted a cutting response from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted, there is no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members like dinner theatre, #fireFlynn. Flynn isn't the only Trump aide catching flack. On Sunday, one of Trump's friends, the CEO of News Max told CNN that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus isn't not up to the job.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I think there's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff, I think Reince Priebus, good guy, well-intentioned but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work.
MURRAY: Now, Ruddy is watering down his critique saying the president doesn't necessarily share his concerns.
RUDDY: I am not speaking for him, I'm speaking for Chris Ruddy as I always have and will continue to do so.
MURRAY: Meanwhile, today Trump said Priebus is doing a great job, and multiple sources close to the president insist the chief of staff's job is secure.
Now, this is a day when the White House had hoped to be focused on diplomacy. President Trump welcomed his third world leader to the White House today, it was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but that visit in large part overshadowed by questions about Flynn's fate. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sara. And now let's go Manu Raju who's OutFront on Capitol Hill where senators are voting right now to confirm Steve Mnuchin for treasury. There's also increasing concern tonight, Manu where you are about those pictures. That dinner between Trump and Prime Minister Abe at Mar-a-Lago, where they were talking about North Korea. Patio essentially served as a situation room. Aides using lights on their cell phones to read documents about the missile launch. All the diners nearby were able of course to look on. What are you hearing from your sources?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Erin, tonight, democrats are jumping all over these revelations, believing that the president acted carelessly in dealing with sensitive classified information in his first real foreign policy test of his new administration. Now, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just told reporters said that Donald Trump talks about making America secure, security begins at home, he should have never had such a sensitive discussion in a public place and at the same time, Erin, two democrats in the Homeland Security Committee has sent a letter to General James Mattis, the defense secretary asking them to look into Donald Trump's use of a personal cell phone believing that cell phone may not be so secure.
But on the other side, Erin, republicans with a more muted reaction, Ron Johnson, he's the republican chairman of that Homeland Security to me telling our Wolf Blitzer earlier this evening that he's going to leave this to Donald Trump, he's not going to second guess the president. And I had a chance to talk to talk to the number two republican in the senate, John Cornyn, who said he doesn't want to comment on the situation. He don't have enough information. So we're seeing the reaction break down along party lines, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you. And OutFront now Major General James "Spider" Marks, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, Nia- Malika Henderson, David Gergen who served as adviser to four presidents and Jamie Gangel. General Marks, let me start with you. I want to look at those pictures again. The crowded dining room on the patio as we were saying at Mar-a-Lago, talking on the phone right around the North Korean missile launch and then aides, cell phone cameras even a little bit lower, as you can see those so that the prime minister and President Trump could see whatever it was they were working on. They of course then gave a joint press conference, what do you make of this?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, let's assume initially if the president's phone is lighting up, that you probably need to get yourself out of Mar-a-Lago dining facility and go some place in a private area. So, if nothing else, you don't disturb the other -- the other folks that are having dinner but let's assume that also that what you're looking at is highly classified even if it's not. He's got the president's attention, let's assume that it's sensitive in some way and it needs to be discussed.
I would also assume if it's going to the president that it would be accessible that there would be -- that the president would be able to show it to President Abe. Now, clearly, if the president wants to share somebody else with one of his counterparts he couldn't do that. I couldn't do that, I'd have to get permission if it was not releasable to that individual. So I would make the assumption that all of this is classified and that we need to go some place else, everybody breathe through your nose and let's go look at this thing in a private location.
BURNETT: David, how shocked were you? You know, you've been in these situations where presidents are getting highly sensitive information, you work with four presidents. When you see this, what goes to your mind?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think we're normalizing shock. You know, every day brings something else, you just don't -- you've never seen before, and listen, on this -- that picture is sort of -- is a symbol now of the rushed nature of government under the Trump team right now and sort of the chaos, I mean, there's sort of group chaos there. Of course they ought to be in if a secure location. I guess I'm -- my surprise is they don't have a secure room already. He's been to Mar-a-Lago twice since he's been inaugurated and he was there before, he needs a place where he can go that he can make secure phone calls. That is essential, that's why Camp David is so fortified.
BURNETT: All right. Although, General, of course they're making -- oh, I just want to say, you know, nothing -- oh, well, nothing in there was technically classified, he was briefed before but, you know, I mean, that sounds like a lot of trying to make up to the fact that these pictures got out. I mean, they're taking the phone call, they're using cell phone cameras. There's all these people clustered around them. I mean, at the least, it's inappropriate. MARKS: Well, you know, as David indicated, where the president goes,
there is an immediate access to the highly -- the highest level of classifications and classified communications right there adjacent on the president's shoulder available to him at any time. So, I would think that that would be the first place you would go, if it's not classified, fine. We can have an open conversation, we just don't want to raise it to a highest level -- to the highest level, if it does -- if we're not in a position to do that.
BURNETT: I mean, Mark, it is pretty stunning, you know, someone in the room told us that she could see all this happening, and it was "normal" for Trump, that was a word she used, normal. I mean, not normal for the President of the United States.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's certainly normal for Donald Trump holding court in Mar-a-Lago, you know, which he now calls the winter White House. I mean, we've seen him there twice already. We expect to see him there more and more but it is very bizarre to be sitting with another world leader, dealing with a world crisis. This isn't an isolated little incident. This is a world crisis but yet holding court, doing business when -- to everyone's point so far, you can get up and go to a secure area and get the business done.
What's even more shocking or at least surprising, is that he went to a wedding reception afterwards and gave remarks which that's kind of bizarre as well.
BURNETT: Right. To stop by another -- I mean, this is a big club, another random room he went in, did that. But Jamie, it is -- it is stunning and it all comes of course as tonight as he's saying, he's evaluating the situation with General Flynn. He had stood behind General Flynn when Sara Murray talk to him in the hall, he said I refer you to the statement of Sean Spicer which is evaluating the situation. Translation?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Not good. Not good on so many levels. It's not good because this story is going on and on. And we're finding out more, it that does not seem to be good. It's not good because on a communications level, you have one hour, Kellyanne Conway saying that he has the support of the president, and then Sean Spicer, you know, more chaos and more confusion.
BURNETT: Good thing. Evaluating the situation, that was one hour apart. I'm going to play what she said in a moment. But go ahead.
GANGEL: And let's not forget, it's not good because of the ongoing question about the Trump White House and President Trump's feelings about Russia and Putin, right? This was a conversation with the Russian Ambassador. What is going on here? Why did it happen? And, you know, what did he say? Are we going to see these transcripts?
BURNETT: We don't know that yet. I do want to say that because you just referred to this, Kellyanne Conway came out and she said that the -- General Flynn had the full support of the -- of the President of the United States. She said that an hour before Sean Spicer essentially said the complete opposite. Here's what Kellyanne Conway said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWEAY: General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sean Spicer then saying an hour later, Nia, that the president's evaluating the situation. The president referring to that statement, I mean, Kellyanne Conway seems out of the loop tonight.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: She does seem to be out of the loop but what we don't know is what happened in that hour. Is the president getting more information that its contributing to a different stance of this White House? She may have been reflecting the president's feelings at the moment about 4:00, when she said that and perhaps the president got more information later on. What is sort of striking about this whole situation is that it has taken so long.
You imagine on Friday when a lot of this stuff broke in the Washington Post, that the president could have gotten to the bottom of it fairly quickly, right? His first response to this was that he didn't know anything about it. He was in some way probably pretending to be out of the loop in that situation, so the fact that it's taking so long, I mean, we're four days into this story and it seems to be a rolling crisis at this point.
And again, speaking to the chaos I think of this White House that they haven't been able to get a handle on it, get to the bottom of it and make a decision and move on. It's about national security, right? I mean, he talks about for instance of this court case in wanting to be urgent around this travel ban because of this urgent threat in terms of national security. We're talking about the national security adviser here who may have actually lied to the president or possibly forgot information or a conversation that he had with the Russian ambassador.
GERGEN: What's been surprising me here is a -- he not only lied to the vice president. He not only lied to the president.
BURNETT: Right. General Flynn said he didn't have that conversation when he did.
GERGEN: And he lied to the country. He lied to the country. And when you're the national security adviser and you blatantly lie to the country as well as your vice president. That really reduce you credibility and diminishes your influence. And so you got -- they got to move right away. They can't let this continue.
BURNETT: But Jamie --
GANGEL: And he's very controversial to be begin with, right? So this is just -- BURNETT: HE is. I mean, certainly many things he said but I do think there's the -- either who knows what's going on, Kellyanne's trying to cover up for not being in the loop or everyone is making things up It's about the president does seem to change his mind. It's quite possible he told Kellyanne or who's lying, it's not even about that. It's about the president does seem to change his mind. It's completely possible he told Kellyanne everything was fine and then he told Sean Spicer everything wasn't, right?
GANGEL: That is absolutely true with Donald Trump. You never know from minute to minute, we've seen him pivot, you know, on a dime with these things. But there's another concern here and that is there are these competing, you know, there is -- there is palace intrigue going on here and there all of these competing camps and you -- the other thing that might be, is that it wasn't Donald Trump but it was different people putting out different messages from --
BURNETT: Right. Which they're all clearly trying to do now in the press. And you can see that. I mean, a different thing each time -- each -- all right. Thanks very much to all of you. And next, the top pick for the number two job at the state department. That is until the president learned that he criticized him during the campaign. Elliott Abrams speaks out in an exclusive OutFront interview.
And more breaking news. President Trump could be issuing a new travel ban, what's it going to say. Well, we have breaking details for you this hour. Plus Trump offering his hand to Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau today. When Trump offers you his hand you're right to look at it that way because you don't know how long he's going to hold it for. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Breaking news at this hour, the United Nations Security Council condemning North Korea's missile launch as the Pentagon says North Korea's missile flew farther than any North Korean missile test so far. And that the test shows Pyongyang is more capable than the United States previously thought. Two very significant developments. Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Star breaking that news tonight. And Barbara, you're learning some more specifics that are pretty frightening?
BARBARA STAR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. Good evening. The military hardware involved in this test really appears to be quite unique. Pentagon officials are saying that this missile did fly farther than any previous test launched from North Korea's western coastline, flying across the country and landing 300 miles out in the Sea of Japan. This was a missile that had never been tested as far as the U.S. determined from a land-based launch pad.
It had always been tested from a submarine, so that again, a new military capability by the North Koreans launching it from a fixed site on land. And perhaps most significantly, it was solid fuel, not liquid fuel, that means it's much more difficult for U.S. intelligence to get the early signals that a missile is being fueled up for a launch. Erin? BURNETT: All right. Barbara Star, thank you very much. A very
sobering details there and very significant when experts say obviously we could be just a few years away within the Trump administration of a full intercontinental ballistic missile, nuclear enabled warhead from North Korea. That is the top issue right now for the new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson who is the first secretary serving without military or government experience in U.S. history is still desperately searching for a number two who knows government well.
And he found that person, and then Donald Trump rejected him. That man is Elliott Abrams and he's OutFront tonight. He served as the deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. And I appreciate you taking the time. Good to have you with me tonight, Elliott.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, CONSIDERED FOR DEPUTY SECY. OF STATE UNDER PRES. TRUMP: Good to be here.
BURNETT: All right. So I want to find out exactly what happened here because what you went through is something Americans need to understand, when we try to understand who is -- who is leading this country, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson picked you, he wanted you, you went in for a meeting on Friday with Donald Trump. According to our sources, it was a good meeting. And we thought just that it was a good meeting. What happened?
ABRAMS: Meeting was fine. That evening -- the meeting was actually Tuesday and the president didn't discuss any of this stuff, that is he didn't say, why did you say those mean things about me?
ABRAMS: We talked foreign policy.
BURNETT: You had -- you had criticized him and I'm going to get to that in a moment.
ABRAMS: Yes. So --
BURNETT: In the meeting you talked foreign policies.
ABRAMS: We did. And so, it wasn't an interview in a sense, it was more of a laying on of hands. Rex wants you, that's fine but I got to meet you. When the meeting was over, we all thought, we're done, Somebody I think put in front of the president some of the things I said last year and perhaps riled him up and, you know, got him to say, I'm not going to tolerate this, so we're not going to do this.
BURNETT: OK. So a bunch of questions come from that. First of all, in the meeting, was he smart, was he informed, did he ask you the right questions, did he -- did he listen? Just -- what was the meeting like?
ABRAMS: The meeting was an hour long meeting. And most of the talking was done by Secretary Tillerson and it was a foreign policy meeting. So, again, it wasn't inquisition of me, it wasn't an interview with me. It was as if I had been invited to a Tillerson/Trump meeting and there was a lot of discussion. The Abe that was about to happen. There was discussion of the phone call with Xi Jinping that was about to happen. So it's a very business-like meeting and the president was very much focused on all of those questions.
BURNETT: So he was focused and he was asking smart questions was the takeaway?
ABRAMS: Yes. But --
BURNETT: OK. But what?
ABRAMS: But not of me.
BURNETT: But not of you. OK. So now let me get to the next point. Here's what you wrote, OK? It was last May, you criticized the president, in the first line you're referring back to the Nixon era and which you wrote, the party has nominated someone who cannot win and should not be President of the United States. You then continued to make the analogy to Donald Trump in which you said, do not allow the republican convention to be a coronation wherein Trump -- and Trump is a more unchallenged, Trump needs to be reminded of how many in the party oppose and even fear his nomination. Those were your words. So that -- did anything in the meeting that you had with him change that impression?
ABRAMS: No, I mean -- other people in the White House has certainly read all this stuff and their feeling was, hey, people have said a lot worse than that and been hired by the administration. I was prepared to address it, but, you know, frankly, my view is, we had a really rough, tough, primary season. And the president gave as good as he got. So it's a little bit surprising to find out in 2017 that all this is coming back.
BURNETT: So, he wasn't aware of it as far as you know?
ABRAMS: I guess not.
BURNETT: So who do you think put it in front of him afterwards? Who came in after your meeting and said, Mr. President?
ABRAMS: The only person on the White House staff that I know who was opposed to my being hired was Steve Bannon. So that's my guess. That's a guess.
BURNETT: That it was Steve Bannon. OK. So you did not -- there was -- so that's part a letter you wrote, right? There was a letter that more than 50 --
ABRAMS: I did not sign that letter.
BURNETT: Right. The 50 people --
ABRAMS: I never signed any of those letters.
BURNETT: Right, they signed it. It was all the reasons they didn't think Trump could be president. You did not sign.
ABRAMS: I did not sign.
BURNETT: You did sign the letter. But you're now under the impression obviously that when the president finds anyone who signed a letter, wrote a letter said anything bad about him, no matter what your experience maybe, no matter how much Rex Tillerson, his guys said he need you, forget it.
ABRAMS: And it's a huge mistake for the president. You have literally hundreds of qualified experienced republicans ready, willing, and able to serve. And he's saying, stay out. So it's going to be really hard to govern. It's really -- you know, these huge bureaucracies out there, how do you get a handle on them when people don't know what they're doing? And he's saying to literally hundreds of republicans, we don't need you in this administration because you criticized me last year.
BURNETT: What made you willing to work for him?
ABRAMS: Well --
BURNETT: I mean, did you mean what you wrote or did he just change you so much in this meeting or was it loyalty to Rex or what was it?
ABRAMS: I'm an American, I want the president to succeed, I'm a big fan of Secretary Tillerson. I want him to succeed as secretary of state. I thought I could help, Secretary Tillerson thought I could help, so I was willing to give it a try.
BURNETT: So, Secretary Tillerson as I say, first secretary of state in American history not to have government or military experience, very deep experience corporate experience knows world leaders but he doesn't have government experience. He's now running the most important government division. Many would argue. He was promised he would get to pick his people.
ABRAMS: Well, not exactly. Look, his position --
BURNETT: He's number two? I mean -- I mean --
ABRAMS: There's always --
BURNETT: Is he going to stay if he can't -- if he says he wants you and Trump says forget about it. Does Rex Tillerson thinks right?
ABRAMS: There's always a presidential detail, these are presidential appointments. I got a lot of these certificates on my wall from Reagan, from Bush. The President of the United States hereby. A president always has to veto power. You can't take that away. You can't cram names down, you shouldn't, the cabinet members throat. The president is always has veto power. I just think it's really destructive for the president to go back to the primary season and say, people who said tough things about me can't come in to the administration. He's hurting himself. BURNETT: There were some who did not support you, most did, there were some who didn't, right? Years ago of course you pled guilty to charges of withholding information from congress. That was (INAUDIBLE)
BURNETT: Michael Flynn, General Flynn right now of course is being accuses of maybe lying, maybe withholding information, it's unclear but that's just the direction we're going very clearly. And certainly lying to the vice president about conversations he had with the Russians. Do you think he needs to be fired?
ABRAMS: I don't -- you know, I don't believe in human sacrifice and I'm very reluctant to say in a situation like this, he needs to be fired. I'm struck by one part of this. He's an intelligence guy. How could he not know that every word he said to the Russian Ambassador is being taped and is going to turn up. That's what mystifies me that you could say I didn't say something when you know it's all being written down some place., presumably by the FBI.
BURNETT: And before you go, one final thing. When you said, someone who should not be President of the United States, do you now think Donald Trump -- well, I mean he is, obviously, but should be President of the United States, do you have the belief that he --
ABRAMS: You know --
BURNETT: He just said you can have the job but do you think he can succeed and do a good job?
ABRAMS: Sure he can succeed. I think he is going to succeed a lot better if he has good people around him and he ought to stop worrying about what people said during the primaries and start worrying about what they can do to help the government.
BURNETT: All right. Elliott Abrams. Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: You're welcome.
BURNETT: I appreciate your time tonight. And next, the breaking news, is the White House rewriting the travel ban, actually, the breaking news may be that they're not really rewriting it at all. But it's coming back out there. And a top government official calling Trump out, demanding proof of the voting fraud that he keeps talking about. That official , my guess tonight.
[19:32:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: a major blow tonight to President Trump's travel ban. The Washington judge who first up a temporary halt on the ban just now rejecting the administration's request to postpone further proceedings on the ban in his court. The administration had wanted to delay further proceedings until a large panel of judges on another court. That's the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had decided whether they wanted to hear the case.
All this comes with this crucial information. CNN learning the administration is considering a new option to save the executive order. Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT with the breaking news.
And, Pamela, first, what's going to be in this new executive order is crucial. But I want to make sure that we understand first. Judge James Robart in Washington denying the administration's request for a delay. What was his reason?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hoping to learn more about his reasoning and the written order that should be filed soon. But this is certainly another twist in this ongoing legal drama over President Trump's executive order. This Judge Robart in the district court in Seattle, initially halted the travel ban as we know, about a week and a half ago, denying the request from the Trump administration today to postpone any further proceedings in the court. While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether to rehear the case before a larger panel of judges, as you said.
And at one point during the proceedings, Robart actually referred to President Trump's tweet, reacting to the Ninth Circuit decision last week, denying the government's stay request. Judge Robart during the proceedings today said, "I'm a little surprised since the president said he wanted to see you in court, that you're making this argument to postpone proceedings here in my court. Are you confident that's the argument you want to make?" he asks the Department of Justice lawyer.
The lawyer said, yes, that is. But after he -- as we know, he said, no, this could not be postponed. And what this means is that the challenge to the travel ban by the state, Washington and Minnesota, will proceed on the merits in front of Judge Robart -- Erin.
BURNETT: So, Pamela, you're also learning new details at this hour about what the administration is thinking about, to try to do a new executive order or save the executive order?
BROWN: That's right. So, people within the Trump administration are huddling now, thinking about next steps after that stinging rebuke from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week. And one option that lawyers are looking at is clarifying or supplementing the executive order to abide by what the appeals court laid out about the due process rights afforded to legal permanent residents and valid visa holders. And the administration, we're told through our sources, wants to continue the find into what they see as an overbroad restraining order and could consider issuing more than one executive order, splitting up the various classes of immigrants, as one source told me.
So, there's a lot of lawyering going on. One official said to me today. We'll have to see what happens -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much.
OUTFRONT now, Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School. And Laura Coates, our legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.
Alan, let's just start with the breaking news in the federal district court. Judge Robart in Seattle saying the challenge to President Trump's travel ban will proceed. The administration, of course, had wanted a delay. I think there's no question where Judge Robart stood on this, given his original ruling on the temporary restraining order. But this obviously is not what the administration wanted.
[19:35:02] And it adds to the precedent against this order.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it doesn't add much it's to be expected that a judge will say, let's continue.
DERSHOWITZ: The real question is, if there are enough votes for rehearing en banc, will the Ninth Circuit rescind the stay that the three judge panel affirmed or will it keep the stay in effect until such time the argument can be had on the merits in front of the 11 judges. In any event, we know it's going to be a period of time now until this order can come into effect.
So, the president has no choice but to issue a new order. His two choices are as follows. He can rescind the old order and thereby moot the case and basically take it away from Judge Robart and take it away from the Ninth Circuit, and issue a new order and maybe immediately going into a court, seeking a declaration that the order is constitutional, so that they can get a more sympathetic court, say the Fifth Circuit or 11th Circuit, which are much more pro-government. That's one option.
But the good thing from the Trump point of view is they're finally getting some good legal advice. There seem to be good lawyers now working on realistic lawyer-like options and we'll wait and see what conclusions they come to.
BURNETT: So, Laura, when you hear about these new executive orders -- I use the plural because you heard Pamela talked about the strategy and they may put out a whole flurry of them. But one of them really comes to this, they're going to double down, they're going to stick with the ban. They're going to stick with the seven countries. All of those things may remain unchanged.
The difference is, is that they will include what they clarified was their intent after writing the first one -- legal permanent residents, green cardholders, are not -- they have due process rights. They're not included under the order.
BURNETT: They said the other order didn't include that. But obviously, it wasn't written on the order itself.
Laura, is that a distinction without a difference? Legally, I know it's a big difference. But in terms of the order and what it means, is it a change at all?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a change in a sense that they are following the road map that's been laid out by the Ninth Circuit. It's not a change if the goal is simply to put out multiple orders trying to throw them against the wall hoping one sticks. The goal in any administration, every executive order, has got to be making an executive order that is comprehensive, not one that is a piecemeal approach to constitutionality.
But the reason they have focused on trying to isolate particular groups that are covered under this order or would be documented -- hurt under the order is because the court essentially said, listen, we find that there are issues with people who are, you know, people who are unlawful aliens in this country who also have due process rights. They're trying to figure out a way to split the baby.
But remember, the Ninth Circuit already said they didn't want to do that. And one of the reasons is, because the executive order until now was very clear on the language. But then you had the administration offering an alternative view they're trying to make it seem palatable. And so, they're trying to make it seem palatable legally speaking as well, which is going to be a difficult, you know, burden for them.
DERSHOWITZ: I don't think it will be so difficult. I think if they have one executive order which says that the seven countries do still remain on this list and that nobody from any of those countries who have no contact with the United States, who don't have a visa, don't have a green card, who have never been here, who have no status, will be excluded during the period of time when the president reconsiders everything.
That will be upheld as constitutional. If they just limit it to that, I think they will win in court. I know there are people who say it's unconstitutional. Reasonable people could disagree about that. But I strongly believe that if it's limited to those seven countries and to people who have never been in the country, the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court will find it constitutional.
BURNETT: Hard to gain standing for those who have never set foot here or tried to. Thank you both.
And right now, breaking news: the Senate has just confirmed Steve Mnuchin as treasury secretary of the United States. The vote, 53-47. Mostly obviously, but not all along party line. Senator Joe Manchin was the Democrat -- the only Democrat who voted yes. But you see him there. The new secretary treasury for the United States.
OUTFRONT next, Minnesota voters getting ready to head to the polls for one of the country's first special elections since Trump was inaugurated. And this election is crucial, we're going to show you exactly why. And the president and a top aide charging massive voter broad in New
Hampshire. Tonight, a top federal election official is demanding proof. She's the only one speaking out. And she's my guest tonight.
[19:43:24] BURNETT: A new claim of mass voter fraud from the Trump administration tonight. This time, the claim centers on a specific state, New Hampshire. The president senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, insisting to ABC News, the president could have won New Hampshire if not for the voters bussed in from Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of bussing voters in to New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who's worked in New Hampshire politics, it's very real. It's very serious. This morning, on this show, is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, one of the top Republicans in the Granite State, the National RNC Committee man from New Hampshire, says he doesn't see any evidence. He retweeted this quote, "There is no voter fraud in New Hampshire. None. Zip. Nada."
OUTFRONT, the Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub. She's calling on President Trump to immediately hand over evidence of these allegations of voter fraud.
So, Commissioner, let me just start off here. In these times we live in, important to say you are a Democrat, but you were appointed by a Republican President George W. Bush. Has President Trump responded to your request for evidence?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB, FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSIONER: No, not yet.
BURNETT: OK. So, nothing from them yet. So, let's get to the heart of this matter, Trump's former campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, of course, we all know is from New Hampshire. The state's new governor, Chris Sununu, was a Trump supporter. Both of them warned of -- during the election, that Democrats may bus in voters to New Hampshire.
Is it possible that they know something, anything that maybe you don't know about this?
WEINTRAUB: Of course, it's possible, and that's why I've asked for the evidence.
[19:45:00] I think the American people would like to know about that as well.
Since I made my request on Friday, I heard from thousands of American citizens, from voters, particularly from people from New Hampshire. And they have echoed my concerns and thanked me for speaking out and said they too would like to see if there is any evidence of this massive conspiracy, which would be a huge criminal conspiracy. They'd like to see it. I'd like to see it.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, let's just say -- you know, you are allowed to register on the same day in New Hampshire, right? So, theoretically, they could have bussed all those people in, theoretically. Except for there's a lot of problems with that, including this -- when you go to vote in the state of New Hampshire, you have to show proof of your age, of your citizenship and of your domicile. In other words, you have to show proof that you live in the state of New Hampshire.
So, this whole thing about people being bussed in from Massachusetts on the face of it certainly doesn't add up.
WEINTRAUB: And the only evidence that people have come forward with when asked about it goes to an entirely different problem, which is irregularities in the voter registration database. Now, everybody knows about that. And, in fact, people high up in the administration and the president's own family have been reportedly -- it's been reported they are registered in more than one state.
WEINTRAUB: Including the newly confirmed secretary of the treasury, Steve Mnuchin. And as I said, several members of the Trump family.
Now, I don't think anybody thinks that those people are guilty of voter fraud because they happen to be registered in more than one state. These are problems with the database that need to be fixed. But that is not the same thing as voter fraud.
And the real problem is, that these kinds of allegations of massive voter fraud have been used in the past to enact restrictions that are preventing thousands of legitimate American citizens from exercising their right to vote. And that is the real fraud that we should be worried about.
BURNETT: Now, the national association of secretaries of state, that's 42 state election officials around the country, they all sign a letter. They said they are not aware of any evidence that supports voter fraud allegations. We've done reports on this, reports on this, our Drew Griffin, we have found absolutely nothing. On the face of it, these seem completely absurd and not grounded in fact.
But you sit on the Federal Election Commission. You're charged with overseeing the public funding of presidential elections. But you're the only one speaking out publicly about this. Are your colleagues on the same page as you are? Should we read anything into their silence?
WEINTRAUB: I haven't talked to my colleagues. When I heard this, I thought it was an astonishing story and if true, really requires serious action and attention, that I felt the need to speak out. And as I've said, I've heard from a lot of people who out on the country who agreed that evidence is required and the president should be asked to produce this evidence.
BURNETT: And, of course, he has, as you say, as of tonight, produced none.
Thank you very much, Ellen Weintraub. Appreciate your time tonight.
WEINTRAUB: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moos on this presidential handshake that lasted a full 19 seconds. And then there was another one today with Justin Trudeau. Why can't Trump just let a hand go?
And one of the first elections since Trump's inauguration -- could a county that overwhelmingly voted for Trump be turning so suddenly blue?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of buyers remorse since the election on November 8th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:51:44] BURNETT: Democrats are keeping a close eye on one of the first elections since the inauguration, and this is an important one. It's a special election for a statehouse seat in Minnesota. But here's what's the key -- it's in a district which voted heavily for Trump.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in Minneapolis. And, Miguel, it's a local election, but it is getting a lot of national attention.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Democrats everywhere are watching this election closely because it is such a conservative district where it is being held. They feel if they can win here, then they can build more momentum with other special elections across the country and build the momentum of wave into the 2018 midterms.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Democrats in this deeply red district of Minnesota feeling confident, as special elections to fill house seats, a possible early indication of an energized Democratic base and a potential backlash to President Donald Trump.
LAURIE WARNER, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR MINN. STATE HOUSE: The support we're getting across the whole United States is amazing.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's great to be back in Minnesota today.
MARQUEZ: Trump stomped Clinton in this rural county by 30 points, a Republican loss unthinkable. But in a Valentine's Day special election -- ANNE NEU, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR MINN. STATE HOUSE: This is all
about who shows up to vote. After November, the Democrats are looking for some redemption.
MARQUEZ: The race attracting outside attention and help from around the country as Democrats smell opportunity.
KEN MARTIN, MINNESOTA DEMOCRATIC FARMER LABOR CHAIR: There's a lot of buyers' remorse since the election November 8th. People are extremely frustrated with the direction of this country.
MARQUEZ: Trump supporters say they still have the votes and their fire is still burning brightly.
(on camera): You'd be surprised if a Democrat won here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd be shocked, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laurie Warner --
WARNER: Nice to meet you.
MARQUEZ: Democrats feeling an advantage, the Trump presidency powerful motivation.
DEB HERMEL, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: With the state of our country right now, it's kind of a scary time.
MARQUEZ: Republicans disagree, saying Trump has awoken something deeper.
REP. TOM EMMER (R), MINNESOTA: You've got an administration, regardless of how they communicate, they're speaking to the forgotten men and women all across this country and that applies to Minnesota as well.
MARQUEZ: So, this is a tiny, tiny race -- 25,000 voters total for 32B, the House seat here, 1,800 absentee ballots have already been filed. They expect 5,000, 6,000 to maybe 7,000 voters total in this thing, so a few hundred votes could make a huge difference and send a giant signal -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you.
Also tonight, opposites attract or do they? So, President Trump 's meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, definitely opposites in practically every single way. But it began today with a closely watched handshake.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not since this hot mess of a three- way has a handshake gotten so much attention clocked at almost 19 seconds. This became the handshake that left the Japanese prime minister shaken.
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Start the car!
JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: Just watch his expression at the end.
I feel you.
MOOS: For a guy who once called the handshake barbaric --
TRUMP: I'm also very much of a germaphobe.
MOOS: Donald Trump has been risking germs galore with his over the top handshakes, many of which include a yank.
[19:55:02] Yet his Supreme Court nominee or his VP.
Call it what you will, the pull in, the tug, the yank and pull, the grab and jerk.
When he did it to a winner of "The Apprentice", it seemed like a tug of war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump can't shake hands right.
MOOS: The more he likes you, the more he tugs and shakes. Body language expert Chris Ulrich says President Trump starts with a submissive gesture.
CHRIS ULRICH, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: His hand is open, almost putting his own hand like a beggar's pose, giving the other person the upper hand.
MOOS: But then he reasserts his dominance.
ULRICH: He literally pulls people off their feet, off their balance for a moment.
MOOS: And he often seals his alpha handshake with a pat, a hand hug. But when "SNL's" Trump shook with Vladimir Putin, it was Putin who tugged and patted Trump. At least a long handshake gives photographers time to get their shots. When the president asked about the Japanese photogs --
TRUMP: What did they say?
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER: Please, look at me.
MOOS: Instead of turning to the photogs are requested, the president gazed at the prime minister. On Monday, Canada's leader shook President Trump's hand, but he held his own resisting any tugging and inspiring headlines like Trudeau one-ups Trump with the handshake game. With Trump yanking at a rate of two or three times in ten seconds, you almost need a hand to hold you up.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And we will be right back.
BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us. Anderson is next.