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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
DOP Leaders Calls For Independent Trump-Russia Investigation; Top Dems Warns Trump-Russia Probe May Be Compromised; Sources: Trump Signed Off On Searching Staffer's Phones; Trump Wants $54B More Defense, Plus $54B in Cuts; Interview with Congressman Mo Brooks; Senate Confirms Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 27, 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. Thank you for watching. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. The top republican doubling down calling for an investigation into Russia including alleged contacts between Trump associates and Russians. Plus one republican says the angry town halls could stop this party repealing Obamacare as the president himself tonight says nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated. Really? And witnesses say a man shouted, get out of my country before allegedly shooting three men in a bar. Killing one. Who is to blame? Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight. We begin with breaking news on this Monday evening. A top republican doubling down tonight calling for an independent investigation into Russia including alleged connections between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. Intelligence. Congressman Darrell Issa, a top trump supporter issued a statement today saying in part the American people need a clear eye view of the nefarious actions of the Russian government. Right now we have speculation and assumptions but not clarity in fact including questions about Russia's actions, what the FBI knew of the cyber breaches, what the Obama administration did in response, and potential actions of former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Look, this is a stunning statement from a republican, such a staunch supporter of the president. And it is in stark contrast to what the chairman of the house intelligence committee Devin Nunes told reporters earlier today. He says he has seen no evidence of regular contact between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. He said that any congressional investigation shouldn't even be looking at that. It should be looking at leaks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Major crimes have committed. And what I'm concerned about is this -- no one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here. We can't run a government like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The White House Spokesman, Sean Spicer also spoke out today. And his view, again and again, there is nothing to see here, people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You've had the intelligence community look at Russia's involvement in the election, you had the house and the senate, both do the same. And so what I'm trying to ascertain is at what point -- how many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there is nothing there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manu Raju is OutFront tonight on Capitol Hill. And Manu, a major fight brewing about what happened here, right? Democrats and republicans, they -- what -- I think really important to emphasize here is they've seen the same evidence and yet we are seeing starkly different conclusions.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. That's right. Actually, fundamental divide right now between democrats and republicans over this key question. Did the Russians have repeated contacts with Trump campaign officials during the presidential election? Now, republicans like Devin Nunes are saying, well, there was no evidence they have seen it yet. But other -- but some democrats are saying, this is an issue that still needs to be investigated.
And Erin, this all comes as new questions are emerging over this congressional investigation that's taking shape on Capitol Hill. Tonight, new questions over whether congressional investigations into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials have been compromised. This after the republican chairman of the house and senate intelligence committees privately discussed the matter with the White House. And agreed to rebut news accounts of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: If these press reports are really accurate, it is hard to see how the public will regard this as an impartial inquiry. A firewall between the investigative committee, the White House, the executive branch, you have a system that ensures that you can really have an objective inquiry.
RAJU: Republican Devin Nunes who chairs the house committee said he was only conveying the same information that he has said publicly.
Can you say categorically that there were no contacts whatsoever between any officials affiliated with the Russian government and the Trump campaign?
NUNES: Yes, not that I am aware of. We still have not seen any evidence of anyone that's -- from the Trump campaign or any other campaign for that matter that's communicated with the Russian government.
RAJU: Is it compromised in any way? The fact that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have already -- NUNES: How is it compromised if I'm trying to be transparent with the
RAJU: At the White House, Press secretary Sean Spicer strongly defended the administration's efforts to enlist the GOP Chairman in pushing back. And he said the FBI's Deputy Director told the White House a New York Times report about Russian contacts was "BS."
SPICER: I think we did a good job of saying, sure, we will share with reporters, other people who have come to the same conclusion.
RAJU: But democrats say such discussions between the FBI and the White House, about an ongoing inquiry, violate restrictions limiting contact between the two. And could undermine ongoing investigations.
ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I am concerned that the FBI engaging in conversations with the White House about an ongoing investigation or potentially ongoing investigation, if the CIA Director was brought on to push down news reports that threatens the integrity of what they're doing.
RAJU: And at least one republican says it may be time for a special prosecutor.
REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office to take not just to recuse, that's -- you can't just give it to your deputy, that's another political appointee. You do have to do that.
RAJU: Now, Erin, tonight a key member of the senate intelligence committee, republican Susan Collins of Maine telling me this about Richard Burr's contacts with the White House to push back on these reports. Saying I think all of us have to be careful to not create a perception that the White House has any role in this investigation. Now, she does not support an independent prosecutor as of yet. But perhaps, those calls could change and I just spoke to Richard Burr moments ago, he had no reaction. Slapped me on the shoulder and walked into his office. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Manu, thank you very much. And OutFront tonight, the top democrat on the house intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. And you just heard Manu reporting Senator Collins says she's not ready to support special prosecutor. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, the former chairman of House Oversight very clearly is. Do you have the support you need for a special prosecutor at this time?
SCHIFF: Well, I don't think so. But frankly I think the more important thing for us to do right now if we're going add another investigation is to have an independent investigation look into this. If we get to the point where there's a criminal referral, then yes, I think the attorney general has to recuse himself and I'd like to see an independent prosecutor. But first let's make sure that there is a fully independent commission set up.
And let's make sure that the house and senate intelligence committees are free to do their work unfettered by interference from the White House. I think that really has to be the most immediate priority.
BURNETT: Right, and obviously the White House had conversations with your republican colleagues. In fact the chair of your the committee, Devin Nunes obviously is one of them. He says though there is no evidence, Congressman, of regular contact between Russia and the Trump campaign. Theoretically you both have seen the same evidence. Have you seen anything he hasn't or would you agree with him that at this point, there is no evidence showing that?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, there is no evidence that's been even received by the committee. We are still in the process of gathering documents, examining documents at the intelligence community offices. We've had no witnesses issued, no subpoenas, it's the beginning of the investigation not the end. So we shouldn't be drawing any conclusions about what our investigation will show in terms of allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
BURNETT: So you're saying -- he's saying he hasn't seen any evidence showing that, it's actually misleading because as you're saying he hasn't seen any evidence at all.
SCHIFF: We haven't seen any evidence at all. In fact we haven't had the director come testify before a committee. We haven't had, agents doing the counter intelligence investigation appear. We haven't gotten the documents related to the work that they may or may not have done. And part of our responsibility is going to be to oversee what has the bureau looked at, what leads have they chased down, what leads have they not investigated. How complete has the review been, we are, we are far from reaching any conclusions on one of the core issues that we are meant to investigate.
And, in terms of Sean Spicer's comments today, I take very strong issue with this, this has not been investigated by the house or senate. The most you do, the most you have is a few intelligence, either officials or the deputy director of the FBI making statements that they should not be making at the beginning of this investigation.
BURNETT: He said -- he said, he said, actually, I think Russia's involvement activity has been investigated up and down. If there's nothing to further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate? That's what he exactly said. Do you find that offensive?
SCHIFF: Well, Erin, I have to say that is complete nonsense. That's as if saying, before you begin the investigation because you haven't started it yet, you should never start it because you don't have the evidence. That's nonsense. If we're going to do this in a thorough and objective and nonpartisan way, we need to follow the facts wherever they lead and not begin with the conclusion as the White House would look us to do.
And I think that to the degree, the deputy director of the FBI is having conversations with the White House, and their allegations of the CIA Director did as well. That is completely inappropriate and I think it not only threatens the investigation but threatens the integrity of those organizations and I think, they ought to call a halt to that. And I would encourage all members of the house and senate intelligence committees, including our chair and our ranking members, not to be talking about what we have found thus far and what we have not found thus far. Because the investigation is just beginning.
BURNETT: All right. Well I thank you very much, Congressman. Good to have you on. I appreciate your time.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: I want to go to the former attorney general under President George W. Bush, Michael Mukasey, he's very important in the story because he was attorney general when the justice department limited direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI. Judge Mukasey, thank you for being with me. And you just heard Congressman Schiff. His point of view is this conversations shouldn't have happened. When the FBI said the report is B.S. in their word and then Reince Priebus followed up, but the FBI said, why don't you talk to reporters about this background ? That would seem to violate your rule.
MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT BUSH: No, it doesn't. The rule is put in place to prevent the White House from calling up with regard to cases that were pending. Criminal investigations that were pending. And, saying, you know, what's going on with this case, why don't you bring it sooner, why don't you not bring it, so on. That was the -- that was the point of that of putting that in place.
What's going on here, apparently is a lot of folks are getting caught up in a lot of political fun and games. But I haven't heard anybody identify a crime that's been committed. Congressman Schiff inadvertently I think said we need to hear from the counter intelligence agents who are involved in this. When he mentioned the FBI, if that's the case, then it turns out it's the FBI and it's intelligence gathering function, not in its crime investigating function. They're always gathering intelligence.
BURNETT: But this investigation is pending, right? There is a pending investigation into connections between Russians known to U.S. Intelligence of the Trump campaign, in the house, in the senate, at the FBI right now?
MUKASEY: If this is an intelligence inquiry. The FBI is looking is always looking at the activities of our -- of our adversaries, they're looking at the Chinese, they're looking at the Russians, they're looking at our friends, looking at the Israelis. They look all the time. If this is intelligence inquiry, even if it's been moved up to an intelligence investigation it is not a criminal investigation. This is distinct.
BURNETT: So you're saying then it's OK because it's not criminal although of course you say it was found to be true because that's noncriminal.
MUKASEY: I'm not saying -- I'm not saying it's OK, it's certainly not Ok to leak it. It is perfectly natural when the deputy director of the FBI is at a meeting at the White House which happens all the time.
MUKASEY: And inadvertently says -- by the way the report -- the report in the New York Times today was B.S. as then asked by Reince Priebus, would you please repeat that up? That's an entirely national reaction.
BURNETT: And even when Reince Priebus followed up.
MUKASEY: Well, what happened --
BURNETT: He then called later and he said, you know, asked again would they do that, that's still OK?
MUKASEY: That's still OK.
BURNETT: And it's OK to go to the republican chairman of the committee who are investigating it to do that too?
MUKASEY: That's a whole different -- that's a whole different thing. And the republican chairs of the committees have their own -- have their own rules. And do -- and do their own thing. The point is, it's question of tamping down publicity about something that may or may not be happening. It is not attempting to interfere with the pending case.
BURNETT: So the, the Attorney General Sessions weighed in today about this. OK? It was off-camera but let me just read for you what he said. He said, the FBI and the DOJ have to remain independent but not every contact is -- but every contact is improper. I have not examined these in detail. It sounded from reading that like he's trying to give himself cover in case something improper did happen. I mean, this isn't a full-throated defense. This is -- every contact may not be improper, but I haven't look add these.
MUKASEY: That's what any person would say in his position. He hasn't looked at them. Nor should he waste his time looking at them.
BURNETT: So, should he recuse himself and do a special prosecutor --
BURNETT: -- as Darrell Issa is asking for?
MUKASEY: Special prosecutor of what? Where is the crime? We haven't even named a crime let alone suggested that charges are going to be brought?
BURNETT: So you're saying until congress comes out and says here is the proof that we now see that there was connections between Trump campaign and Russians known to U.S. Intelligence. If, and then and only then then you would say -- because that would be possibly a criminal act, right?
MUKASEY: No, it wouldn't. BURNETT: Even if they had regular contact, talking about working
together with Hillary Clinton?
MUKASEY: The only -- the only sense that I know that that considerably violates is the Logan Act which hasn't been prosecuted since 1793. And when they get to Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and Dennis --
BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) talking about future policy and I'm talking about collusion or would be great if you could find things on Hillary Clinton. Those sorts of conversations. That would be -- that would be treason, right?
BURNETT: You're fine with that?
MUKASEY: It's not a question of being fine, I'm not fine with it. But there's a difference between treason and what I'm fine with or not. And saying you ought to get stuff on Hillary Clinton, believe it or not, it's not a crime even if you are saying it to the Russians.
BURNETT: Wow, well, I will leave it there. Thank you very much.
And next, Press Secretary Sean Spicer is going to check his staff's cell phones during crackdown on White House leaks. He's blessing the president to do that. Plus president Trump says, "Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated. Really, nobody knew that?" And Jeanie Moos on Oscars' epic mistake. But for Miss Universe Host Steve Harvey who had his own snafu, it was something frankly to cheer about.
STEVE HARVEY, MISS UNIVERSE HOST: I can get Warren through this, call me, Warren Beatty.
BURNETT: New tonight. President Trump intensifying his crackdown on leaks from inside the White House. We are learning the president himself, the president himself gave the Press Secretary Sean Spicer the OK to search the government issued phones and personal phones also of his staff. This move was in response to the president's growing frustration with the press getting hold of inside information. Frankly, there is a big leak problem in the White House. Jeff Zeleny is OutFront.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESSPONDENT: The job of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer increasingly includes being president Trump's enforcer.
SPICER: We did our job. about --
ZELENY: He's leading a crackdown on leaks inside the White House. Going as far as launching a random check of staffer's phones during an emergency meeting last week to see if they were sharing information by text or e-mail, or using encrypted apps to do so. The White House counsel's office authorized these checks. And CNN has learned President Trump directly signed off on the move eager to send a signal across the administration that he is furious at leaks during his first five weeks in office. Spicer also had the president's blessing last week, CNN has learned from blocking reporters from several news organizations from a White House news briefing.
SPICER: I'm not going to discuss what we did internally.
ZELENY: At his briefing today, Spicer would not directly say whether he asked the director of the CIA to help push back on news reports about alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives.
SPICER: Respectfully, I have -- I think it's interesting that I'm being asked what's appropriate when, what we are doing is actually urging reporters to engage with subject matter experts who can corroborate whether or not something is accurate or not.
ZELENY: But the White House did enlist the republican chairman of the house and senate intelligence committees to talk to reporters, urging them to speak out against news accounts of reported Russia links.
SPICER: I think we did our job very effectively. It was about the accuracy of the reporting and claims that were made in there.
ZELENY: The extraordinary moves have added tension to an already combustible environment in the west wing. From the moment he stepped into the briefing room on the second day of Trump's presidency, Spicer has been a lightning rod.
SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period.
ZELENY: He soon became an easy caricature on Saturday Night Live with comedian Melissa McCarthy amplifying Spicer's anger.
MELISSA MCCARTHY, AMERICAN ACTRESS, COMEDIAN, WRITER, FASHION DESIGNER AND PRODUCER: You know that was, we blowing away their dishonesty.
ZELENY: He's become one of the leading faces of the Trump White House which can be tricky terrain serving under a president who has long managed his own press. Republicans close to the White House say Spicer is trying to prove his loyalty to the president. The last republican in the White House, former President George W. Bush disagreed with that assessment during an interview today with NBC news.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive.
ZELENY: Now, Erin, tonight, Sean Spicer is telling us that the president did not sign off on that. He said that the president did not know that he was going to ask his staff members to look at text messages and those encrypted apps, but Erin, multiple sources tell us that he indeed fact know about this and he approved to this. The reality here is bottom line, I am told it was intended to send a message more than anything else. Not specifically looking after text messages to send a message across the government that he is serious about leaks. Erin.
BURNETT: And of course the fact he was serious about leaks, leaked out immediately after. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny. Look, all jokes aside. It is a serious issue. OutFront, Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser for President Obama and Alice Stewart, former communications director for four republican presidential campaigns. So, Alice, let me start with you. Did the president go too far? Right? We now know this one all the way up to the top. He said, OK, do it. Sean Spicer go ahead and do it. Take the personal phones, take the government issued phones, check them. Did he go too far?
ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR FOUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS: There's some concerns as to whether or not the POTUS signed off on this. But look, it doesn't matter whose decision it was. I think it's a little bit much to have to get to that point. But look, we're are not talking a drip here and a drip there. We're talking about a steady flow of confidential information leaving the administration.
And when we have that type of information drastic times call for drastic measures. And that's absolutely what happened here. And while this is unusual and it's not something that we often see very much. This has to be stopped. And look, there a lot of people in many administration who want to gain favor with the media or appear as though they have access to the top or they want to undermine their colleagues or they're just not loyal. That has to be stopped and this is one way or the other it has to be stopped.
BURNETT: Dan, what do you say? I mean, it is a pretty stunning move, right? To collect the cell phones, even if it's just to make a statement. And it also -- I mean, to be clear. It is significant that this went all the way up to the President of the United States?
DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it's a-- Alice is right, it goes too far, it is just dumb because it was guaranteed to leak which just leads to -- causes more problems. Makes the Trump White House look bad. It was just particularly dumb of Sean Spicer to do this. And the way you bill -- every White House deals with leaks. We certainly did. But the way you reduce leaks is you build a culture within the White House of people who trust each other, who are loyal to each other and that is something that is just absent in this White House but what -- the way they're handling this is only going to make the problem worse. Going to lead to more leaks not fewer.
BURNETT: I mean, because -- here's the thing though, Alice that I'm curious about. Donald Trump, you know, tweeted a little bit ago, the spotlight is finally been put on the low-life leakers, they will be caught. And that, you know, he is -- he is -- he is very, very angry. He's made this clear. And people are still leaking more than ever. So it's not even that they don't -- they don't trust each other. They're not scared of their boss which is something that should really, really make him angry.
SETWART: Sure. And this is a situation where it's kind of difficult to be putting the toothpaste back in the tube at this point. Truly, when I start off with any campaign as a communications director or an administration which I have done before, you lay this out from the very beginning with the entire staff. Not just those in the com shop, you say leaks will not be tolerated and when caught you will be terminated. Period. No questions asked.
And that needs to be laid out very firmly with not just the com shop there but the entire administration. And put an end to this. And unfortunately, soon, well, fortunately for the Trump administration, someone will be caught and an example will be made of them and hopefully for their sake they can plug up these leaks and focus on the things that are really important. Got a big speech tomorrow night and budget rollout this week. Those are what they need to be talking about, not the -- not the leaks that continue to come up.
BURNETT: And then, what's the reason do you think for all this leaking? And I know you say it's important, right? You have a White House that has to trust each other and work together, but what is the real reason that we're seeing this? Because as Alice points out, these people are risking their jobs now and whether they will be hired in the future in this line of work, right? And this is their career. They're risking that every single time they leak and they're leaking all day long.
PFEIFFER: I think it's paranoia. People in the Trump White House believe that people at the very top whether it's Reince Priebus or Steve Bannon or Jared Kushner are leaking and telling stories that improve their position in the eyes of their boss. And so, one that sends a signal to everyone further down the line that that's OK behavior. And then people feel a need to do it because they need to feel to correct themselves because Sean Spicer knows that someone in the White House is telling reporters terrible things about him, so he feels he needs to defend himself and that goes on and on and on.
That's the sort of culture of paranoia that Trump has created to what existed in his campaign, that's reported what existed in his businesses and terrible way to run a government. It's going to lead to continued problems. And even if they fire someone, this will still be a problem until they build a better culture and they will hire people who are loyal to each other.
STEWART: And Erin -- and let me just say one quick thing here. There's a difference in between a tip to a reporter and leak. Look, Sean is the boss there. Sean is in charge of how this goes down and new communications director. It's one thing for him to get together with the team and say as press secretary, I'm going to give a tip to this reporter about this story and it's coordinated and calculated pushing of a message out there.
But when you have people underneath him, pushing out leaks that are harmful to the administration, that is when you absolutely have to take measures to put an end to that.
BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you both very much.
SETWART: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And OutFront next, we are learning at this hour that the Pentagon now has a plan in place. They presented it to the president to defeat ISIS in 10 months. What's in it? Does it mean more American lives on the ground? And President Trump talking about the landmark healthcare law that took years to craft.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.
[19:30:34] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Trump getting ready to give his first address to Congress as some government agencies are bracing for major cuts. At this hour, the White House revealing that Trump will boost defense and security spending by $54 billion. That's his plan. And do it, he's going to slash funding for other agencies by $54 billion. He says he's going to have a lot more details in tomorrow night's speech.
Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is aiming to ratchet up U.S. defense spending as he prepares his first presidential budget.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This budget will be a public safety and national security budget. And it will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.
MURRAY: A budget official telling reporters today that Trump will ask for an additional $54 billion in defense spending. That's a 10 percent increase. And more than the total discretionary spending for the entire State Department and Environmental Protection Agency combined.
But so far, there are few details about how the administration would pay for the sharp increase in military spending. Most federal agencies will see their budget shrink, the budget officials said, and both the EPA and foreign aid are expected to face sharp cutbacks.
TRUMP: We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.
MURRAY: Trump's security focused budget sure to be a key topic in his address to Congress on Tuesday. But all eyes are on what Trump will say on repealing and replacing Obamacare and whether he'll finally serve up some specifics.
TRUMP: Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.
MURRAY: As Trump huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan today, the two GOP leaders plan to press him to publicly tout the House GOP plan on healthcare. The president regularly blasts Obamacare.
TRUMP: People hate it. But now, they see that the end is coming and they they're saying, oh, maybe we love it. There is nothing to love. It is a disaster, folks, OK?
MURRAY: But the political risks of the appeal and replace process appear to be weighing on him.
TRUMP: Let it implode. Politically, I think it would be a great solution, because as soon as we touch it, if we do the most minute thing, just a tiny little change, what's going to happen, they're going to say it's the Republican's problem.
MURRAY: His meeting with GOP leaders comes amid rising concern from Republicans on the Hill that Trump hasn't embraced the role of salesman in chief for health care overhaul, which could put plans to repeal Obamacare in jeopardy.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight right now.
MURRAY: After meeting with insurers, today, Trump joked if health care goes awry, he won't be the shouldering the blame.
TRUMP: If things don't work out, I'm blaming you anyhow, you know that, right?
MURRAY: Now, tonight, senior administration officials say the president is still fine-tuning this address he will deliver to a joint session of Congress tomorrow. It's expected to focus heavily on national security, as well as the creating economic opportunity. Of course, the big question is still how far he will delve into specifics not only on health care and time line for that repeal and replace process, but also on tax reform. That question still going unanswered at least for now -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Sara.
And OUTFRONT now, the Republican Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama.
Congressman, good to have you back.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: My pleasure.
BURNETT: Obamacare, you know, approval right now, at a record, really. It's pretty popular. The latest Pew poll shows it with a 54 percent approval rating. But, of course, it's the highest yet.
Are you concerned at this point about a backlash if Obamacare is repealed?
BROOKS: No, none whatsoever. People who are informed on the issue know that what the Republicans are undertaking is a rescue effort of a leaky boat. This ship, Obamacare, is sinking. It's going to take a lot of people with it. It's going to degrade the quality of health care in the United States of America.
And it's already costing regular working men and women of our country thousands of additional dollars in premium costs that they were told by the previous president would be a $2,500 cost savings. So, as people understand more and more as to the bad shape that Obamacare is in, more and more they're going to understand why a rescue effort is necessary.
BURNETT: The thing is, it is really complicated, right? Which I know you know, right? You know it's not simple. If it were really simple, this would have been done a long time ago.
[19:35:00] Here's what the president said today and I want to play it again for you, Congressman. Here is President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now, I have to till you, it is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated. What's your reaction to that from the president of the United States? Surely, you knew health care is complicated.
BROOKS: Well, my reaction is that we ought to simplify it. Any time you create an enormous federal government program, or sets of programs dealing with health care or any other segment of the American economy, you can naturally anticipate it is going to get more and more complicated as thousands upon thousands of pages of regulation are imposed on the ordinary day-to-day transactions between in this case, doctors and patients, and insurance companies.
We need to simplify it. The best way to simplify it is to get the federal government out of the business and let it be more patient/doctor-centered. Let states play a larger role in this process instead of this one-size-shoe-fits-all huge bureaucracy that we're creating in Washington D.C. and quite frankly, it's hurting our country.
So, the best simplification: repeal Obamacare, send it to the states, let the 50 states do it as they wish. If a state like New York or Ohio or Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, if they want Obamacare, fine. They can pass it.
But states like mine in Alabama, we don't have to and we won't.
BURNETT: So, the reality, though, of course, is that in terms of the votes, right? You may not have the votes to do this. OK? The Democratic Senate leader Schumer said today that the GOP probably doesn't have the votes. I know you have blamed your GOP colleagues, saying a few days ago some are scared by town hall protests. In your words, you said they have weak spines.
Why are they caving, right? Because it sounds like they're the ones who aren't going to give you the votes to go ahead and get this whole repeal.
BROOKS: Well, I think you are focused on the true crux of the problem. If we had 218 House members who were truly committed to repeal of Obamacare, we would have voted long ago to repeal Obamacare. If we had 51 Republican senators truly committed to the repeal of Obamacare, that 51 can repeal Obamacare.
The first step would be to eliminate the filibuster rules impact on a vote on Obamacare. Then, the second step would be to actually repeal it. And so, it is going to be up to the American citizenry to provide counterbalance to the very strong effort that is being put forth by liberals' part of our society in the town hall meetings and elsewhere, where they are trying to convince some of our less, I'm trying to thing of a polite way of saying it -- those of us that have strong backbone, we're going to stick to our principles.
But there are some who are being swayed by the vigorousness of the left's arguments in these town hall meetings and elsewhere and that's very unfortunate.
BURNETT: But again, we just go back to the Pew poll rating, because that's what we have, and it's 54 percent of Americans approve of Obamacare. Of the people who don't approve of Obamacare, 25 percent want it modified, only 17 percent want it fully repealed. Maybe that's what the GOP --
BROOKS: I don't believe these numbers.
BURNETT: OK, you may not believe them. But does the president believe them? He is saying health care is complicated. Do you think he is really committed to what you want, which is a full repeal? Because, frankly, it doesn't sound as if he totally is. He'd be fine with maybe some adjustments, he's already said he likes a lot of things in it.
BROOKS: You are asking me to read the mind of Donald Trump. Quite frankly, I don't think I have that capability.
I wish I did. I'm sure there are plenty of people in the country that wish they did. Typically, with an elected official, what I do is look at their track record, to get an idea as to where they're going. In this instance, Donald Trump's track record, as an elected official is little over one-month-old.
BROOKS: It will take some time to establish a track record where we can decide with some degree of confidence that he is going this way, this way, or that way. Right now, I don't know which way he is going with respect to Obamacare. And time will answer that.
BURNETT: Congressman, before we go. You mentioned, we were talking about the town halls. Obviously, you haven't held them yourself in person, right? I know you had one on the phone. You told Alabama media you were concerned about violence.
I just wanted to play for you what Senator Bernie Sanders said about GOP Congress people who made the same decision as you. Here is Senator Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If you don't he 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Are you running away? He is saying if you don't have the guts to meet face to face, you shouldn't be in your jobs?
BROOKS: Well, Bernie Sanders has absolutely no idea what high have done in my district. Just this past week, I had 20-something meetings with constituents. I went to a number of public meetings, interacted with constituents. I also had what some people call a town hall, and others would not call a town hall. One at Huntsville High School, another one at Lasertel (ph), a business and research park in Huntsville, Alabama, where I interacted with constituents, I gave Washington update remarks, and then they grilled me with whatever questions they want to ask of me.
[19:40:01] So, we can get into how it is best to interact with people in their districts, I would submit to you that the fact that I won these last few elections with 65 percent or more, indicates that the people in my congressional district are very satisfied with my interaction with them. I would add that I have never turned away a meeting with any constituent who wants to meet with me in my district offices in Huntsville, Alabama, Decatur, Alabama, or Florence, Alabama.
Over the past six years, we have 100 percent success rate in meeting with constituents who want to meet with me in the confines of an office, where we can have a candid discussion on any public policy issue or concern that they may have.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Congressman.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news on Capitol Hill. We're going to take you right there after the break.
And the Pentagon giving President Trump a plan to obliterate ISIS. They say it can be done in months. What's in it? And a man allegedly shoots three people, killing one. Witnesses say he shouted, "Get out of my country." This was in Kansas.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the Senate just confirming billionaire Wilbur Ross as the next commerce secretary. The vote, 72-27.
[19:45:02] The vote comes nearly three months after the president first tapped the famed investor for his cabinet. Ross was a key economic adviser during President Trump's campaign and he is expected to be a powerful figure in the Trump administration.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Ross pushed for taking a tough stance on China. He's also expected to lead administration efforts to renegotiate NAFTA and trade deals. Obviously, going to be central to this administration.
Well, new at this hour, how to destroy ISIS in just months. According to a U.S. official, that is in the plan that the Pentagon delivered to President Trump's desk today.
Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pentagon plan, according to a senior U.S. official, lays out how to rapidly destroy ISIS in less than ten months.
TRUMP: I have also directed the defense community to develop a plan to totally obliterate ISIS.
STARR: Part of the 30-day review: significantly increasing the U.S. military presence and risk to U.S. troops inside Syria. Options being explored include sending U.S. artillery units into Syria for long- range support for local units moving on the city of Raqqa and putting U.S. spotters near the front lines to look for ISIS targets.
It's already happening inside Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we go ahead and bring out the smoke for 40 mike-mike (ph), they can take it now, move up and try to mark the location.
STARR: The plan also includes diplomatic and financial options. But the Pentagon leaves stepping up the military campaign, something President Trump has long advocated.
TRUMP: I know more about the ISIS than the generals do, believe me. I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.
STARR: But top U.S. generals warn, even with more than 50,000 ISIS operatives killed, the international reach of the threat is a worry.
GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We estimate probably over 100, 120 countries have provided 45,000 foreign fighters just to Syria and Iraq alone. So, that's one element that makes it a trans-regional threat.
STARR: National security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, breaking with his boss, cautioning the term "radical Islamic terrorism" isn't helpful for U.S. goals.
President Trump, seemingly, with a vote of no confidence so far on the military campaign.
TRUMP: Everybody used to say we never lost a war. We never lost a war. You remember. Some of you are right there with me, and you remember, we never lost a war. America never lost.
And now, we never win a war. We never win. And we don't fight to win.
STARR: The coalition has liberated about 60 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and is pushing to get ISIS out of its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.
STARR: Putting more troops into the fight will be costly, and risky. But no one can yet say just how costly and how much risk there may be for U.S. troops -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much.
Incredible detail there in a ten-month plan.
And next, witnesses say a man shouted "get out of my country" before allegedly shooting three men in a Kansas bar, killing one. Why?
And on a much lighter note, Jeanne Moos with Hollywood celebrities at a loss as Oscar saved frankly what was the only watchable thing for the act (ph).
[19:51:13] BURNETT: Tonight, a possible hate crime, a man accused of shooting three men, one fatally at a bar in Kansas makes his first court appearance. Witnesses say Adam Purinton yelled, quote, "Get out of my country" at two men, tech workers from India, before opening fire.
Ryan Young is OUTFRONT.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI is assessing whether this man should be charged with a hate crime after allegedly shooting three people in a Kansas City area bar. Adam Purinton appearing in court remotely charged with one count of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. The 51-year-old appeared calm, only briefly talking and tell a judge
he wasn't able to afford an attorney. Police say Purinton was arrested after he walked into a restaurant, 70 miles away, and told the bartender he shot two Iranian people.
The victims were in fact two Indian men who were grabbing a drink after work. Puritan became agitated at the bar and started taunting them.
Witnesses tell CNN he shouted "Get out of my country." He was then asked to leave.
Purinton did leave but return later, opening fire.
IAN GRILLOT, SHOOTING VICTIM: I got under the fire when he started firing.
YOUNG: Thirty-two-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed. Alok Madasani was injured, along with Ian Grillot, who was shot in the arm and chest trying to stop the shooting.
GRILLOT: I got up and proceed to chase him down, tried to subdue him, so in the way the police can come in and do a thing they can do.
YOUNG: Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant, worked as an engineer for GPS company Garmin. The incident highlighting concerns about the hostility toward immigrants in the United States, a fear echoed by the victim's widow.
SUNAYANA DUMALA, KUCHIBHOTLA'S WIDOW: I told him many times should we think about going back? Should we think about going to a different country? He said no.
YOUNG: Indian officials are demanding a thorough and speedy investigation. Kuchibhotla's widow wants to know how she's supposed to comfort for his grieving parents.
DUMALA: I need an answer from the government. I need an answer for everyone of dead.
YOUNG: The White House has strongly rejected the notion that there might be any connection between the shooting and the Trump administration's sharp language about immigration.
For Alok Madasani, the shooting is deeply troubling. But he still has hope for his community.
ALOK MADASANI, SHOOTING VICTIM: It was rage and malice in an individual's heart that killed my friend, killed our friend. We are to ask all of you for tolerance of our diversity.
YOUNG: The community support here growing. In fact, there was a large candlelight vigil here last night where people were trying to remember the victims of this. Meanwhile, today in court, the accused shooter had a suicide prevention vest on during that court appearance. We're told his next court date is March 9th -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Ryan, thank you very much. Just horrific.
And next on a much lighter note, Jeanne Moos on how Bonnie and Clyde stole the show at the Oscars.
[19:57:29] BURNETT: President Trump weighs in on the Oscars, saying the show was sad because the show was too focused on him. But actually, the biggest story of the night had nothing to do with him.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Warren Beatty --
WARREN BEATTY, ACTOR: And the Academy Award --
MOOS: -- paused for five seconds, it was a give away that the Oscar --
BEATTY: -- for Best Picture --
MOOS: -- would go to the wrong picture.
FAYE DUNAWAY, ACTRESS: "La La Land."
MOOS: Soon the staffer wearing a headset crashed the stage checking the envelope.
There was head shaking and mouths gaping.
Meryl Streep didn't even have to act to look like this. Cue the tweets. For instance, "We rob Oscars" with a still from Bonnie and Clyde.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a mistake. "Moonlight," you guys won Best Picture.
MOOS: Which got Billy Crystal tweeting, "Amazing ending, wish that had happened on Election Day."
Someone else asked, "Is there an envelope somewhere that reads Hillary Clinton?"
And when "La La Land's" producer held up the correct winner --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Moonlight", Best Picture.
MOOS: -- the name swapping began, featuring everything from Hillary's popular vote tally to the fast food chain, What a Burger, promoting itself.
One of President Trump's executive orders was rechristened "La La Moon."
There were jokes how Warren Beatty just handed the grenade to Faye Dunaway.
He knew something was amiss, even looked inside the envelope for another card before letting Faye proclaim --
DUNAWAY: "La La Land."
MOOS: Some invoked Steve Harvey --
STEVE HARVEY: Please don't hold it against the ladies.
MOOS: -- since he mistakenly named Miss Colombia as Miss Universe and then they had to snatch the crown off her head.
HARVEY: I can get Warren through this. Call me, Warren Beatty.
MOOS: The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers apologized for the Oscar fiasco saying the presenters mistakenly had been given the wrong category envelope.
Right before the fateful mistake was consummated, the presenter's eyes met.
DONAWAY: You're impossible.
MOOS: Eerily similar to the last moments of Bonnie and Clyde.
MOOS: No point in shooting the messenger.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Well, thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go. We'll see you back here tomorrow night, getting ready for the president's equivalent of the State of the Union. It will be a crucial night for President Trump tomorrow night. We'll see you then.
"AC360" starts now.