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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Exclusive: FBI Refused White House Request To Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories; Exclusive: White House Wants Intel Report To Help Justify Travel Ban; Live: Voters Confronting Republicans At Town Halls; Congressmen Face Angry Protesters At Town Halls; Gabby Giffords: "Have Some Courage Face Your Constituents"; Sen. Sanders Planning 130 Rallies; Sen. Cruz: Democratic Base is "Bat-Crap-Crazy"; Bannon Slams Media, Praises Trump in Rare Appearance; Boehner: Replacing Obamacare Not Going to Happen; Interview with Congressman Tom McClintock of California. Aired: 7-8p ET
Aired February 23, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next. Breaking news. Exclusive, CNN reporting the White House asked the FBI to knock down media reports. What was the FBI's response? Plus Senator Bernie Sanders ready to launch more than 100 rallies across the nation. He talks President Trump and the GOP town hall outrage. He's my guest tonight. And Trump's right-hand man Steve Bannon making a rare public appearance. The adviser once portrayed as the Grim Reaper, breaks his silence. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight. The breaking news. We have exclusive new reporting tonight that the White House asked the FBI to knock down media reports about contacts during the presidential campaign between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to U.S. Intelligence. Pamela Brown and Evan Perez broke this story along with Jim Sciutto, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju. Pamela and Evan are OutFront. And Pamela, let me start with you. What are you learning tonight?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, CNN is told that the FBI rejected a recent White House to publicly knock down media reports about communications during the 2016 presidential campaign, between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to U.S. Intelligence. Multiple U.S. Officials telling CNN that the White House sought the help of the bureaus and other agencies investigating the Russian matter, to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts whatsoever. You'll recall CNN and the New York Times first reported that just over a week ago, the reports about these contacts that were made during the campaign. And Erin, so far the White House has not commented.
BURNETT: Yes. And this was a very significant report. I mean, Evan, this is not a typical request. I mean, it's pretty stunning when you hear it on the face of it. How did it start?
EVAN PEREZ, Well, Erin, a U.S. Law Enforcement Official tells us that this began when the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting on the day after those stories were published. A White House official says that McCabe told Priebus that the New York Times story vastly overstated what the FBI knows about the contacts.
The White House official says that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to the FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. But a law enforcement official says that McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case, but we don't know exactly what McCabe told Priebus. And I should add that the FBI has declined to comment on the story.
BURNETT: So, Pamela, the White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, Evan, so I think about him, he denied the story. This is what he said on Fox News Sunday earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The New York Times last week put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, treasonous types accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you and I've been -- and I've been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it's grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there's nothing to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Pamela, is the investigation still going on?
BROWN: It is going on and the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, also several members of the house and senate intelligence committees tells CNN that congress is still investigating those alleged contacts. That has begun and they are starting to collect documents and records as well, Erin.
BURNETT: Which is obviously important. That's just going to determine what really happened here an answer all the questions so many have. Evan, this is not a typical back and forth though between a White House and the FBI. There may be disagreements, but this is not how it usually plays out, right?
PEREZ: That's right, Erin. The communication between the White House and the FBI is unusual because of a decade-old restriction on such contacts. The request of the White House is technically a violation of these procedures that were meant to limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations. Now, the Trump administration's efforts to Press Comey to run contrary to justice department procedure memos that were issued in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI. The FBI Director Comey rejected the request that came from the White House according to sources we talked to because the alleged communications are still the subject of an ongoing investigation, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
BROWN: Thank you. BURNETT: Also breaking tonight, CNN learning that the White House asked for an intelligence report to prove the security threat for the seven countries in Trump's travel ban is substantial. But some in the intelligence community are concerned. They're worried about what they're being asked to do to prove this. Jake Tapper broke the story. He's OutFront now. And Jake, what are you learning tonight?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this temporary travel ban is on individuals from seven Muslim majority countries, those countries being Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. A Senior White House Oofficel tells me that the Department of Homeland Security and justice department, "Are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate the security threat from these seven countries is substantial and that these seven countries have all been exporters of terrorism into the United States."
The situation has gotten more dangerous in recent years, the official says. And more broadly he says, the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism. Now, this report was requested in light of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals 's conclusion, you might remember, Erin, that the Trump administration, " Has pointed to no evidence, that any alien from any of these countries named any order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States." But CNN has also learned that, as you mentioned, some current intelligence officials are concerned about this assignment.
BURNETT: Jake, when you say that, I mean, you know, when you're talking about that White House official, you said that person told you the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism. These are things they're asking intelligence officials to corroborate, right? To say this is true. What are the concerns from the intelligence community about doing so?
TAPPER: Well, first of all, some in the intelligence community disagree with the Trump White House position, sources telling CNN that the Department of Homeland Security's in-house intelligence agency, which is called the Office of Intelligence and Analysis or I&A, that they filed a report disagreeing with the Trump White House view that blocking immigration from these countries strategically makes sense. Some DHS officials have said they do not think nationality is the best indicator for potential terrorism.
Now, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed our report saying, "While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report in this issue, the document you're references was commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency vetting." And the Department of Homeland Security went onto -- on the record disparage its own intelligence division report.
It's quite remarkable saying, "The I&A report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete. Pointed internal discussions about the merits of various intelligence products and whether they have sufficient supporting data from the broader intelligence community is an integral part of developing any official DHS intelligence assessment."
BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty stunning, you know, intraagency sniping like this, public. I mean, that is --that is troubling on so many levels. You're also reporting, Jake, on concern within the intelligence community that the White House is going about this entire premise, right? The wrong way.
TAPPER: That's exactly right. The notion of the Trump White House seeking an intelligence report to fit its pre-existing policy instead of the other way around, is an issue for many in the intelligence community, sources are telling CNN. Sources also telling CNN's Pamela Brown there are those within the Department of Homeland Security who have concerns that intelligence at the department might be politicized.
But a department spokeswoman called that accusation absurd and not factually accurate. Now, according to the Senior White House official we should point out, the president and his team are determined no matter what to prove that the Ninth Circuit argument is wrong as are any of those in the media and democrats who have made the same argument. For instance, Congressman Jerrold Nadler who appeared on CNN last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FOR NEW YORK: The various people who have in fact committed terrorist acts in this country from 9/11 onward, none of them came from any of the seven countries that are the subject of the president's executive order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This is what the important thing is for the White House, the Senior White House official telling me that that argument is using the most narrow definition of the term committed a terrorist act that you can use. It means that the definition of a terrorist attack is only those attacks in which an innocent civilian has been killed. And for instance, that definition would not include, you might recall, the Ohio State attack last November when a Somali born student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, he arrived in the U.S. in 2014, he attempted to run over and stab 13 innocent people on campus. He did not succeed.
That would not fit in the definition of the Ninth Circuit or Congressman Nadler. But the White House hoping to bolster its case for the ban is using a broader definition which would include non- lethal failed terrorist attacks, investigations and convictions of any individual attempting to join or support terrorist groups.
BURNETT: All rightr. And certainly one that may convince many out there. Jake Tapper, thank you so much.
TAPPER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OutFront next, breaking news. You're looking at live pictures of town halls under way or about to start across this country. Protesters and angry constituents are lining up. What are they accomplishing? My next guest will answer that question, Senator Bernie Sanders is OutFront. Plus, deportation stoking fear in the immigrant community, now growing underground network of safe houses, basically an underground railroad. We're going to take you inside. And Steve Bannon, a top Trump adviser rarely heard from, speaking out today about the president.
STEVE BANNON, WHTE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: He's laid out an agenda with those speeches for the promises he made and he's man moniachly focused on that.
BURNETT: Breaking news. Protests at republican town halls across the nation tonight. Right now crowds lining up for a town hall in Pace, Florida, where Congressman Matt Gates is expected any moment. In Arizona, Congresswoman McSally is on stage right now. We're watching both of these events and more that are starting in the next few moments. Already today, nearly two dozen town halls across the country, more to come. The anger from many attendees is clear tonight. Ryan Young is OutFront.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You work for us.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anger erupting at political town halls across the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you afraid of?
YOUNG: In Covington, Kentucky, a packed room demanding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hear them out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, we're not protesting the election, we're protesting right to work. We're protesting losing our healthcare, we are protesting Russian interference in the White House, we are protesting the fact that to get in front of you we have to pay dollars. Why won't you hold a town hall with your constituents? We want to hear from you. We want to talk to you.
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENIOR UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY: Yes. Was somebody else invited to speak? I kind of --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please come face-to-face with your constituents and stop pay-to-play.
MCCONNELL: Anyway --
YOUNG: In Charles City, Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley came face-to- face with his constituents, this tiny courthouse filled to capacity, getting an earful on issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you vote to jeopardize Iowa's quality of education and how is Betsy DeVos a qualified candidate for your vote? CHUCK GRASSLEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM IOWA: A president gets
elected and has to carry out the responsibilities of which he was elected, that that person ought to have the team that they need to get the job done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But don't you believe that the team should be qualified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
GRASSLEY: Well then, we would not have Tillerson being Secretary of State.
YOUNG: In some cases angry voters across the country holding empty chair town halls for lawmakers reluctant to show, voicing the displeasure by posting missing congressman notices on milk cartons. Marco Rubio's constituents printing a life size cutout and hiding his face in Where's Waldo puzzles seeking them out during his daily routine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you were in Europe. I saw all these missing child posters all over town. Are you going to host a town hall?
MARCO RUBIO, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM FLORIDA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you're okay. Are you going to host the town hall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a constituent town hall today. We need to hear from you, Senator. Senator, we need to hear from you, your constituents. Are you going to host the town hall?
YOUNG: Some lawmakers defending their absence citing concerns for their safety. Congressman Louie Gohmert telling his constituents in a letter, the house sergeant of arms advised us after former Congressman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harm of being harmed or killed just as happened there."
Giffords responded today saying, I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this, have some courage, face your constituents, hold town halls.
So much passion here today. We heard over and over from people they want to see more done in small towns. And Erin, we talked to Senator Grassley after this and he said, look, this is what he -- this was even worse than what happened during the Tea Party meetings back in 2009. He said he won't skip any meetings. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
And next, independent senator and 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. Senator, good to have you back. You know, you just saw Gabby Giffords there at the end of Ryan's piece saying, I quote her, "Have some courage, face your constituents, hold town halls." But you also, they've been told they have a chance of being killed. Do you understand why some of them are wary up holding these town holds, doing it by teleconference or not showing up?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I -- no, I honestly don't and I don't accept it for a minute. If you don't have the guts to face your constituents then you shouldn't be in the United States congress. And if you need police at the meetings, that's fine, have police at the meetings, have security at the meetings. But don't use that as an excuse to run away from your constituents after you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, throwing 20 million people off of health insurance, doing away with pre-existing conditions, if you're going to do all those things, answer the questions that your constituents have.
BURNETT: So today when Marco Rubio was I guess seen -- he wasn't at a town hall, people showed out, there he is on a milk carton, they're saying where is Marco Rubio not holding a town hall. He should be holding one?
SANDERS: Well, I think that every member of the United States congress, and that's what you're elected to do. That's what a democracy is about. You know, I have probably held more town meetings in the State of Vermont than any public official in the history of our state. Now I enjoy doing that. That's what my job is. I got to hear from people, I got to explain what I'm trying to do. People agree, people disagree. That's called democracy. Now, I hope every member of congress, every member of the senate adheres to that principle.
BURNETT: So when they're holding these town halls, those of them that are, obviously they have -- they have faced an onslaught, right? And there's lines of people, people are coming in, people are frustrated. Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, Senator said that, in his words, there's a quote, "bit of a professional protester manufactured base showing up at these town halls." And I know you recently said that the difference between this movement and the Tea Party is that the Tea Party was funded. And I just wanted to play for our viewers what you said a couple weeks ago. Here you are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: It's not a Tea Party because the Tea Party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the White House, Senator saying the exact same thing about this movement, I mean, the exact same thing. Here is Sean Spicer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that we need to call it what it is. It's not these organic uprising that we've seen through the last several decades. You know, the Tea Party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid Astroturf-type movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Can you say, Senator, with absolute certainty that this -- what he just said is not true?
SANDERS: Look, I hope I do not shock your viewers by telling you that White House occasionally lies and that's just another lie. What is going on now is that people all over this country are beginning to rise up. They demand -- they're demanding answers to what happens. Erin, if you throw 20 million people off of health insurance, thousands of people are going to die. If you do away with pre- existing conditions, then people are not going to be able to get health insurance who have cancer or have diabetes, people want to ask their republican representatives what happens, why are you doing this?
What are your plans for the future? So I think you are seeing people organizing effectively, but unlike the Tea Party, this is not being funded by the billionaire class.
BURNETT: The Tea Party, though was real, right? When it came time to vote, they voted, and they swept, right? I mean, it was real. So anyone who tried to dismiss it by just saying it was funded or paid was wrong, right? I mean, that's the reality of the situation.
SANDERS: Well, the reality is that Donald Trump won. He lost popular vote by almost three million votes, but he did win the election. But there are people all over this country now and -- by the way, it's not just democrats. There are republicans who are looking at Trump and the White House, they're saying, Hey, you told us, Mr. President, that you were not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
You sent out a million tweets promising us you wouldn't do it. And now you have brought into your administration people whose whole career is based on cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. You told us, Mr. President when you campaigned that you were going to stand up to Wall Street. Or you brought half of Wall Street into your administration. What's going on? Those are some of the questions I think that people want answered.
BURNETT: So, Senator, some of the staffers who worked on your campaign, I don't know if you're aware of this, they have a new project called #wewillreplaceyou. And they want your support. They're threatening other democrats. So, according to their website and I'm going to quote what these group says. Democrats must know there is a price for collaborating with Trump. Any democrats who would give legitimacy or support to Trump do not represent us and must be replaced. Do you support that strategy? Tell other democrats that you better say no to Trump every single time or we're going to boot you out. SANDERS: No. Look. It's a free country and people can do what they
want to do. But I don't know even though what that means, say no to Trump every single time. I voted for two of Trump's nominees because I thought they were within the mainstream of political life in America and I voted against all the others because I think you had a bunch of right wing extremists. I think what good politics is about from a progressive perspective is taking a hard look at the totality of what members of congress and other candidates are saying and doing and supporting or not supporting them on that basis.
Right now in my view we need a mass movement of people, and I think we need members of congress actively involved in that movement, to tell President Trump that we are not going to give tax breaks to billionaires, that we're not going to throw millions of people who lived in this country sometimes for decades out of this country, that we're going to -- not going to have a foreign policy which is destroying alliances that we have had for decades, that we're not going to do those things. And that's what I think the politics of the moment is about.
BURNETT: Do you support though this concept of being primary, that's what it's about, right? Democrats turning on democrats. So, if you work with Trump too much, we're going to -- we're going to take you out, we're going to put in somebody --
SANDERS: But I don't know -- you see, I don't know --
BURNETT: They talk about this as the Bernie Sandersization of the democratic party.
SANDERS: Look, you're asking me -- you're asking -- you're asking me about a small group of people who do a very good job getting publicity. I don't know what that means. And again, I think what you have to do is look at the totality of what a candidate does. If you don't like that candidate, fine, don't support them. Can they do what you want? But I think right now what the goal is -- my goal is and by the way, this coming Saturday, I think the republicans have not seen anything yet.
They're worried about the protests, they'll see -- they're going to see more. This coming Saturday we believe there will be well over 100 protests, most of them in republican offices around the country, district offices, demanding that republican members of congress meet with their constituents and answer the questions that their constituents have.
BURNETT: I know you've got at least 130 rallies already planned right now. You do get some disdain from some of in the republican party, including someone that you know very well, you've debated not long ago on Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz. Here is what he had to say about democrats today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: There's a technical term for their base. Moscow. I was going a different direction which was bat crap crazy. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to Senator Cruz? You got 130 rallies this weekend and he's sitting there making a joke calling democrats bat crap crazy.
SANDERS: Well, you know -- you know, I think that Senator Cruz and many of his colleagues, a whole lot of them who received substantial campaign contributions from some of the healthiest people in this country. In Senator Cruz's case, a number of billionaires have supported his campaign for president, I think that they are living in an alternative universe and I don't think they know what's happening to working families, to the elderly people.
Just one example, Erin. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed tomorrow, you are a senior citizen out there who already cannot afford the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs, you're going to have to pay $2,000 a year or more for your prescription drugs. How can you do that if you're trying to get by on $15,000 a year Social Security. If you are 23 years of age and right now you're on your parents' health insurance program, you're going to lose that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
And what is most frightening, if you have diabetes, you have cancer, you have a pre-existing condition, you're one of tens of millions of people in that position, what happens to you? Maybe Senator Cruz should start answering those questions, talking to his constituents about those issues rather than making fun or disparaging others.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Sanders, thank you very much.
SANDERS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OutFront next. A rare public appearance by the man at Trump's right hand. Did we see the real Steve Bannon today? And our special report on private citizens looking to hide immigrants of the shadows in safe houses. We'll be back.
[19:30:32] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, rare public comments from one of the men closest to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon. Bannon, who almost never appears in public, is a crucial voice in Trump's ear. Today, at a conservative conference, he attacked the media and praised his boss as maniacally focused.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: He laid out an agenda with those speeches with the promises he made. And our job every day is just to execute on that, is to simply get a path to how those get executed. And he is maniacally focused on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BANNON: I want to thank you for finally inviting me to CPAC.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The West Wing operator typically behind the scenes making a rare public appearance.
BANNON: It's not only not going to get better, it's going to get worse every day for the media.
SERFATY: Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon making it crystal clear --
BANNON: Every day, it is going to be a fight.
SERFATY: He's not backing down from his fire brand style.
BANNON: They're corporatist, globalist media, that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.
SERFATY: Taunting press today in his trademark role as the media's top antagonist.
BANNON: If you look at the opposition party and how they portrayed the campaign, how they portrayed the transition and now they're portraying the administration -- it's always wrong.
SERFATY: And displaying his storied loyalty to the president.
BANNON: Every day in the Oval Office, he tells Reince and I, "I committed this to the American people, I promised on this when I ran, and I'm going to deliver on this."
SERFATY: Bannon joined on stage by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I cherish his friendship.
SERFATY: The two competing power centers in the West Wing holding a public kumbaya moment, brushing aside any reports of a power struggle inside the Trump White House.
PRIEBUS: In regard to us two, I think the biggest misconception is everything that you're reading.
SERFATY: Presenting themselves as the yin to the other's yang.
BANNON: I can run a little hot on occasions, and Reince is indefatigable. I mean, it's low key but his determination, the thing I respect most. And the only way this works is Reince is always kind of steady.
SERFATY: But that harmony wasn't an organic one.
BANNON: The reason Reince and I are good partners is that we can disagree.
SERFATY: The two come from polar ends of the conservative movement.
PRIEBUS: We're different but we're very similar.
SERFATY: Reince Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee, representing the establishment wing of the party. Steve Bannon, the former chief of the far right Breitbart News which frequently targeted the GOP establishment. In November, Trump named both top advisers, sending up an unusual power sharing agreement between the two men with such different views of the world as equals in the White House.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The White House is running so smoothly, so smoothly.
SERFATY: The White House now taking pains to squash any talk of discord.
BANNON: We're a coalition. You know, a lot of people think, you know, I have strong beliefs about different things, but we understand that you can come together to win.
SERFATY: And the optics of that joint appearance so important today, the White House in putting out Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, essentially trying to send the message there's nothing to see here.
We'll see, though, Erin, if this harmony really continues, especially since they're such vastly different men with vastly different policy prescriptions and approaches -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you so much.
OUTFRONT now, Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany, who is in the room for the Priebus-Bannon appearance today, and the former senior adviser to President Obama, Dan Pfeiffer.
So, Dan, let me start with you. Look, we never see Steve Bannon -- actually that's not true. We see the back of his head or a side eye, because he's in every single meeting, but he never talks, OK? What was your impression of him on stage?
DAN PFEIFFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, I think this whole thing was performance art, two Trump supporters being -- two Trump staffers interviewed by a Trump supporter about how awesome Trump is. It felt like they were protesting too much, right? No, no, we like each other, there's no dissension.
So, it's hard to see the real Steve Bannon up there. I think if you want the see the real Steve Bannon, you should go back and look at the speech he gave and I think 2014 that was behind closed doors in Europe, read some of the things, Breitbart has written about him. I think that's where you'll see the real Steve Bannon. I'm not sure we learned a lot today about him. BURNETT: Kayleigh, you were there. What was the reaction in the
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I can tell you, people started looking to each other and saying to each other, wow, Steve Bannon is really good. And all the way from the ballroom, all the way out to the taxi stand, I heard, Steve Bannon, Steve Bannon, Steve Bannon.
[19:35:03] Why isn't he out on Sunday talk shows?
He was a hit. People thought that he was direct, he was smart. He just had very pointed thoughts. And I fully agree with the other folks in the room, he should be out more in a public forum.
BURNETT: Of course, that would go against his whole M.O. which is that the media is evil.
Dan, speaking of the word "evil", opponents of Steve Bannon paint him as exactly that, right? They accuse him of being a white supremacist, a white nationalist. You see these again and again at various headlines, quoting people like Nancy Pelosi to other critics.
What we heard from Bannon, though, today about what he's most proud of so far in the Trump White House did not fit with that narrative at all. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: I think one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history was his immediate withdrawal from TPP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: TPP, I mean, for those who haven't paid attention in a few weeks, it's a trade deal. I mean, that's what Steve Bannon said was number one.
PFEIFFER: Well, I think that's probably -- look, I think, I actually agree with Kayleigh that I think Steve Bannon is actually smart. I mean, I don't know whether he'd be on TV or not, but he's certainly sharper than a lot of people going on TV for Trump these days.
He -- I think his answer here is the politically smart answer, which is where Trump is going to be most politically successful is when he's doing economic populism, when he inserts himself into trade wars, into culture wars, when he is getting involved in some of the theatrics of the Trump presidency or doing the things that can be viewed by many, myself included, as being biased towards immigrants or taking advantage or attacking refugees, all those things, that is -- that is worse for him.
If he is going core to a working class economic populist message, then that's probably the best place for him. I disagree with Steve Bannon and Trump on the substance of this, and many Republicans do as well.
PFEIFFER: But from a political point of view, it's probably the right thing to do.
BURNETT: All right. So, Kayleigh, back to why he doesn't appear on the talk shows. You know, I met him and found him to be very personable in person. Others expected him to be something very different had described a similar thing when meeting him.
But he slams the media constantly and he did so today, and he called it the opposition. But a new Quinnipiac poll with bad news with Steve Bannon. Voters trust the media more than Trump, 52 to 37 percent.
That's not great for us, but it's really bad to the president of the United States -- 37 percent of the people trust him to tell the truth about important issues. That's not good for Steve Bannon. He was preaching to the choir in that room. That's not the nation.
MCENANY: Sure, but six days ago, there was a FOX poll, also a scientific poll that had Trump being trusted more than the media, although it was almost tied. You know, he can attack the media. I actually think it's a smart strategy. It plays into this elite versus common man kind of stem that Trump wove through the campaign.
But ultimately, it's going to come down to results because attacking the media is great for conservatives. Conservatives buy into that. But if the economy is not soaring, if Obamacare isn't replaced in a robust form, then there will be issues, because you can't just attack the media and an eight-year president.
BURNETT: Quickly before we go, Dan, you talked about it as great theater today. They really said they love each other. I mean, it was sort of shocking because it goes against a lot of reporting that's out there. But here they are talking about each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRIEBUS: We share an office suite together. We're basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night.
BANNON: I have a little thing called the war room. He has a fireplace with nice sofas.
PRIEBUS: A very dear friend, a very dear friend and someone that we've -- that I work with every second of the day, and actually, we cherish -- I cherish his friendship.
BANNON: The thing I respect most and the only way this works is Reince is always kind of steady. His job is by far one of the toughest jobs I've ever seen in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you buy it, Dan?
PFEIFFER: Look, I think it is possible they don't hate each other as much as media reports would have you say, but it is clear they have their -- there are different factions of the White House. There's a Bannon faction and Priebus faction and they spend a lot of time telling reporters how dumb the other one is. And that is problematic for the White House, whether they get along personally or not.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate both of your time.
And next, undocumented immigrants who fear of deportation may find safe houses through an underground railroad. Our special report is next.
And Jeanne Moos with the lighter side of Steve Bannon, just weeks into the new administration, and he's already a legend to some.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: Send in Steve Bannon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:43:29] BURNETT: Tonight, the president calling recent immigration raids a, quote, "military operation".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're getting really bad dudes out of this country. And at a rate that nobody has ever seen before. They're the bad ones. And it's a military operation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That is not, though, how the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly described the raids while in Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Listen to this: No, repeat, no use of military force in immigration operations, none.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, obviously those two statements seem to be very much at odds with each other. Despite Secretary Kelly's comments, it is Trump's rhetoric fueling real fear among immigrants, that is driving many to build an underground network of safe houses. Tonight, we take you outside this web of shelters.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pounding, sanding, laying the groundwork at this secret home in Los Angeles. (on camera): How many families would be --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There would be about three families that we can host here.
LAH (voice-over): Pastor Ada Valiante (ph) walks us through one safe house for the undocumented running from immigration officers, an underground network.
(on camera): Essentially what you're doing is trying to hide people. Is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we need to do as a community.
LAH (voice-over): On the other side of L.A., another safe house in this man's home. We're not naming him or telling you where he lives because of what's at stake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard as a Jew not to think about all the people who did open the doors and their homes and took risks to safeguard Jews in moments when they were really vulnerable.
[19:45:06] As well as those that didn't. We'd like to be the people who did.
LAH: This is beyond sanctuary churches. We've already seen at this Colorado church offering refuge for an undocumented woman. Federal agents don't enter religious houses without approval under a policy put in place during Obama's presidency.
TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear --
LAH: But faith leaders believe that will change under President Trump. Private homes fall under Fourth Amendment protection and need a warrant before authorities can enter.
REVEREND ZACH HOOVER, LA VOICE: Something sort of like this.
LAH: Reverend Zach Hoover says faith groups across Los Angeles County could hide 100 undocumented immigrants today. And that number could soon be in the thousands.
HOOVER: People will be moving into a place so ICE can't find them, so they can stay with their families, so they can be with their husbands, so they can avoid being detained and deported.
LAH: The idea comes from leaders across all faiths in Los Angeles. Just days after the election, pledging opposition to Trump's immigration orders.
HOOVER: Not going to stop until we get to the place that God is calling us to.
LAH (on camera): People who may not agree with you would look at what you're doing and saying you're simply aiding and abetting the violation of federal laws. HOOVER: Look, I'll speak for myself. I feel really convicted that I
answer to God at the end of the day. That's who I'm going to see when I die. And I hope we can live up to our -- I hope we can live up to who we are.
LAH (voice-over): Pastor Valiante is clear eyed about the risk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're trusting to God that he would guide us to make the right decision.
LAH: It doesn't mean there's an easy choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some element that we're entering into territory that I don't really know exactly what the consequences are, but I think that the moral consequences for me if we don't act, like this isn't a moment to be standing idly by.
BURNETT: It's pretty incredible all those people you were able to find and that man and his story as a Jew and how he feels about doing this. When you were talking to that pastor, how likely is it that they will go after these religious leaders?
LAH: No, it's possible, right?
LAH: Technically, under the law, it is possible. Let's look at reality. If you look back into newspaper reports or into court records when the last time that the federal government decided to go after somebody of the cloth who might be offering sanctuary to someone, you have to go back all the way to the early 1980s.
So, the optics here when we talk to people about the reality of it, the optics do not look good for the federal government to go in and put a pastor in handcuffs for this, especially when they are convicted and trying to follow their faith.
BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT next, breaking news: former House Speaker John Boehner, speaking out, saying Republicans won't be repealing and replacing Obamacare. Is he right?
And he's cultivated a mysterious, tough guy persona. So ,who is the real Steve Bannon? Jeanne Moos is next.
[19:51:27] BURNETT: Breaking news: former House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans will not repeal and replace Obamacare -- obviously, a hugely significant statement from the former speaker. This is something President Trump has promised to do with Republican blessing.
But at a conference today, "Politico" reports that Boehner said and I'll quote him, "They'll fix Obamacare. I shouldn't call it repeal and replace because that's not what is going to happen. They're basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it."
By the way, isn't it what President Obama wanted to do?
OUTFRONT now, the Republican Congressman Tom McClintock of California.
And, Congressman, let me just ask you. I mean, President Obama had always said, if you can come up with a way to fix the problems, which nobody can deny we're there, he would sign on, right? Is former house Speaker Boehner right that President Trump's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare is not going to happen? It's just going to be tweaks?
REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I don't know. Unlike John Boehner, I can't read minds and I can't tell fortunes.
But I can tell you there is a very strong consensus in the House that the Obamacare is collapsing on the American people. We're hearing the complaints constantly about that. More people are opting now to pay the tax penalty than to purchase a plan on the Obamacare exchanges. That tells you a lot right there.
But as we repeal it, we have got to be certain that we have fixed the problems that gave rise to Obamacare. And I think that the deliberations in the House are moving very rapidly in that direction.
BURNETT: So, these town halls, a lot of the frustration that has been at these town halls has been about Obamacare, right?
BURNETT: You yourself have held a few town halls. At one of them things got so heated that you had to be escorted out of the building. It was that tense of a moment. You still held other town halls after that. But that's not the case with some of your fellow Republicans.
Earlier today, Senator Marco Rubio was confronted about this at a hospital. He hasn't held a town hall. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw these missing child posters all over town. Are you going to host a town hall? I'm glad you're OK. But are you going to host a town hall.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Good to see you, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A town hall today? We need to hear from you, Senator. Senator, we need to hear from you. We're your constituents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman, what do you say to fellow Republicans who are not holding town halls and talking to their constituents? MCCLINTOCK: Well, I wouldn't second guess any of the decisions of my
colleagues with respect to their constituencies. I can tell you I find them very useful in exchanging ideas and listening to the concerns. I mean, there are legitimate concerns that people have that we need to address.
After all, we're going to be judged by the health plan that we put in place. And there is no way to spin that. You can't use talking points on something like that. People know fundamentally what's going on in their own lives.
And any politician or pundit who tries to convince them otherwise is going to look foolish. So, we've got to get this right.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, Senator Sanders, I just had him on, he actually reacts to this. He had a very different view. He said you're elected to hear what people have to say.
By the way, I want to make the point. You've held the town halls. You've done it under pressure. It's others who haven't. But you're cutting them a break.
Here is what Senator Sanders said. He is not cutting them a break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I don't. No, I honestly don't. And I don't accept it for a minute.
If you don't have the guts to face your constituent, then you shouldn't be this the United States Congress. And if you need police at the meetings, that's fine. Have police at the meetings. Have security at the meetings.
But don't use that as an excuse to run away from your constituents after you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, throwing 20 million people off of health insurance, doing away with preexisting conditions.
[19:55:02] If you're going to do all of those things, answer the questions that your constituents have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. And we just lost the shot for Congressman McClintock. So I'm sorry than. If we can get him back to get his reaction, we'll do that for you.
We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.
BURNETT: Tonight, the man who has been called President Trump's brain, who is he? Well, Jeanne Moos knows.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The man "SNL" portrayed as the Grim Reaper wasn't so grim as he made a rare public appearance.
BANNON: You know, I can run a little hot on occasions.
MOOS: You may never have heard his voice before, but you've probably seen cartoons of him holding President Trump on his lap, whispering in the president's ear, being a master puppeteer.
Steve Bannon has an announcement. Just a second, the strings are tangled.
BILL MAHER, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: And that's how we wound up with President Bannon and his Dummy Danny.
MOOS: President Bannon has his own parody Twitter account, tweeting comments like, "Day 33, Donald Trump still believes he is the president."
There are "Impeach President Bannon" t-shirts. And even a "New York Times" editorial called him president?
"The Late Show" showed Bannon tucking in President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Night-night. Don't let the bedbugs bite.
MOOS: But in person, the only thing Bannon flicked was the press.
BANNON: The mainstream media don't get this. It's that the opposition party --
MOOS: Does the actual president mind all the talk of President Bannon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe Bannon is calling all the shots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that wasn't true, then a certain cable news fan wouldn't have felt the need less than an hour later to tweet "I call my own shots".
MOOS: Former Obama adviser David Axelrod compared Bannon and Reince Priebus to a song and dance team as they got touchy-feely.
PRIEBUS: A very dear friend.
MOOS: Perhaps to dispel rumors of turf battles. This was like Bannon's coming out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Steve, you're a really likable guy. You should do this more often.
MOOS: Get out a little more from under that mask "SNL" put you under.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have my desk back?
BALDWIN: Yes, of course, Mr. President. I'll go sit at my desk. MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And somehow we all know that Steve Bannon finds all of that very humorous as well.
By the way, our apologies to Congressman McClintock. We couldn't get his shot back in time. We'll have him back again soon.
"AC360" starts now.