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Trump Administration Warns Iran Could Be The Next North Korea; Russian Bombers Fly Within Of U.S. For Second Day; North Korea Releases Video Of U.S. Engulfed In Flames; Syria Scrambles Jets To Major Syria-Russia Base; Pence: 'Can't Comment' On Whether U.S. Sabotaged North Korea Missile; Hayden: Trump's Rhetoric Might Be 'Stirring The Pot' With North Korea; Russian Bombers Fly Within Miles Of U.S. For Second Day; Trump Tweets "Win" In G.A. Election But Dem Got Highest Vote Tally; GOP Fears Anti-Trump Anger In Upcoming Races; Vote To Republicans Distancing Themselves For Trump; NYT Compares Photos Of Patriots W.H. Visit With Trump Vs. Obama; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 19:00   ET


April 19, 2017

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: -- not but certainly there will be more fallout. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news, the Trump administration taking on Iran tonight. A warning that Iran could become the next North Korea. Is Trump gearing up for the fight against the Islamic republic? Plus another Trump cabinet pick out of the running, setting conflicts of interest. So what about Ivanka and Jared? And former NFL Star Aaron Hernandez dead from apparent suicide.

Why would he kill himself just days after being acquitted of a double murder? Let's go OutFront. And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight. Breaking news, taking on Iran, the Trump administration tonight provoking yet another adversary. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying Iran could be the next North Korea. Tillerson charging the Islamic state exports terror and violence saying the United States is at this moment deciding how to deal with Tehran.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The evidence is clear. Iran's provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world. As I indicated at the beginning, the Trump administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our Iran policy. Once we have finalized our conclusions we will meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction.


BURNETT: This is the Trump administration is facing escalating tensions around the world. Two nuclear capable Russian bombers buzzing the U.S. coast line caught on radar right next to Alaska. This is the second incident like that in just 24 hours. Thousands of miles away, Syrian warplanes now huddled alongside Russian military aircraft, now all placed together at an air base in Western Syria in preparation for a potential U.S. strike.

And North Korea tonight unveiling a new video depicting a nuclear strike, decimating the United States. Showing is the lock video appears what may be more disturbing is the reaction to North Koreans wildly cheering as they watched. We are covering all these major breaking stories from every angle. I want to begin with Michelle Kosinski at the state department tonight because, Michelle, this is now another layer here in a rather terrifying map. The Trump administration now taking Iran on directly.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. This was the fourth full statement by the secretary of state, lifting a long string of all the ways that Iran is a bad actor in the world. Which no one would dispute. But he's relating them to the Iran nuclear deal. Even though those kind of activities were intentionally kept separate, treated separately so that Iran would join the nuclear deal in the first place. But for those reasons, those kinds of activities he's calling the deal a failure. Listen.


TILLERSON: The JCPLA fails to achieve the objective of a nonnuclear Iran. It only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state. This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face from North Korea.


KOSINKSI: So at the same time this administration is certifying to congress that Iran is living up to its end of the deal. They're also announcing a review of it, talking about the possibility of re- imposing sanctions which would end the deal and let Iran do whatever it wanted. So, it raises the question, what is this? A part of a broader strategy or is it rhetoric, a way of saying to the base, OK, Iran is doing what it's supposed to be doing but we still really, really hates this deal.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much, Michelle. And of course, up in the ante on yet another country. I want to go now to Barbara Starr, she is OutFront at the Pentagon. And Barbara, let's talk about Syria because now Bashar Al Assad scrambling his jets to a major base that happens to be where Russia keeps most of its air force. I mean, that's a pretty significant move.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Significant but, you know, there might be a strategy for Assad behind all that, Erin. Moving most of its aircraft to the space to be close to Russian air defenses, that puts him under the Russian military umbrella. You'll recall after the missile attack that the U.S. launched against this air base to launch the chemical attack against civilians, he lost about 20 percent of his operational aircraft. So clearly he wants to preserve what he has, moving them within the shelter, if you will, of the Russian military, their aircraft, their air defenses. But could he still launch a chemical attack while keeping those aircraft safe? Absolutely. He's got helicopters, artillery, and rockets that all can be filled with toxic material and he could launch another chemical attack pretty much anytime he decides to.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much. Pretty incredible what that would do. That would mean President Trump would have to have a barrage of cruise missiles and send them to that airbase at both Syrian and Russian forces.

Also tonight, the White House facing questions as to whether the U.S. sabotage Pyongyang's latest missile attempt. The speculation is that the U.S. may have used cyber-technology to bring down one of North Korea's most powerful missiles. Dana Bash is OutFront in Tokyo. Dana, now, you have been traveling in Asia with the Vice President Mike Pence and you asked him today directly if the U.S. sabotaged North Korea's missile test. What did he say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll play that for you right now. We did speak on the USS Ronald Reagan right here in Japan, tried to get an answer. I'll let you see how it went.


BASH: Did the missile test that the North Koreans launched while you were on your plane heading to the region fail because the U.S. used any electronic or cyber technology to sabotage it?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really can't comment on the electronic or technical capabilities of our military, but we certainly -- we certainly recognize that that was a failed missile test, it failed almost immediately, just like another recent test.

BASH: But the U.S. didn't have anything to do with it?

PENCE: Well, I can't comment either way.


BASH: Now, Erin, during the Obama administration, while talks completely failed, the administration particularly focused on the Pentagon, tried to contain North Korea by doing just what I asked Vice President Pence about and that is to try to stop or at least dismantle some of its attempts to further their missile launches, further their program both with regard to regular missiles and nuclear missiles, using cyber warfare.

So that was why I asked him about that. Didn't comment on that, but the other thing that I asked him about is based on all of his really tough bellicose rhetoric that we heard day after day both in South Korea and here in Japan, whether or not there is any chance that that could end up with diplomatic talks bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea. He told me point blank, that is not on the table. Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Dana. Thank you very much. And OutFront now, the former CIA and NSA Director, Retired General Michael Hayden. General, great to have you with me.


BURNETT: So, look -- you look at the world map right and it's pretty scary. I mean, the Trump administration has bombed Syria, they have dropped the biggest bomb since World War II on Afghanistan. They're sending a carrier strike group to North Korea, and today the Secretary of State actually took on Iran. I mean, when you think about it and you put all this together, it is pretty terrifying. Here is Rex Stillerson.


TILLERSON: The evidence is clear. Iran's provocative actions threaten the United States an unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea.


BURNETT: Is President Trump smart to be dropping bombs, striking, talking tough against so many different regimes at the same time?

HAYDEN: So these are severable decisions, I think that - I think what happened in Syria, that was imposed on him. All right? And I still joined consensus that that was the right response at that time and handled quite well, thank you. The MOAB, the large weapon in Afghanistan, again, I think that's not a White House decision but it is a product of the White House deciding unlike the Obama administration to push decisions out to the edge. To push decisions down to the field commanders so they go ahead make these tactically solemn decisions about having to phone home every time they want to do that. The one part where I do think they might be stirring the pot a little too vigorously has to do with the rhetoric and perhaps even the president's rhetoric when it - when it comes to North Korea.

BURNETT: So, let me -- let me ask you about this. We just saw Korea's new threat to the United States in the video of flames, right?

HAYDEN: I've seen a video like that before.

BURNETT: Yes. And they've done that obviously during President Obama's term. This is on the heels though of the U.N. envoy from North Korea warning of possible thermonuclear war which Trump is now responding directly to the threat. Here he is.


CHARLES BENSON, AMERICAN TV REPORTER: How concerned and worried should Americans be about a thermonuclear war with North Korea?

TRUMP: Look, you always have to be concerned. You don`t know exactly who you`re dealing with. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Is the president right?

HAYDEN: Yes. I mean, that's just one of the best on a bad statement. He didn't tweet it out there voluntarily. It was a response to a direct question. But one of things going on here, Erin, is we're trying, I'm going to use the word destabilize but I mean that in the gentlest form of it. We're trying to create a disturbance in Northeast Asia. We're trying to make people there uncomfortable because well, frankly, our demand to keep people there comfortable has on a path where the North Koreans are going to be able to strike Seattle here in four or five years with a nuclear weapon if things don't change.

I understand why you want to make some people uncomfortable. I do think though that that the rhetoric, the vice president's visit, what the vice president said, the Vinson group if it ever gets into the E.C. I think that's messaging but I think the messaging is most intended not for the North Koreans, it's intended for Chinese.

BURNETT: For the Chinese, right.

HAYDEN: And we want to influence them to up the pressure on the north.

BURNETT: Is the President Trump increasing the risk of war with all this rhetoric talking about his armada?

HAYDEN: Yes. Look. here's how I - here's how I look at it, right. Within our current definition of acceptable risk, North Korea is going to be able to reach the pacific northwest in about a half a decade with the nuclear weapon. That's actually a pretty good reason to begin to recalibrate what constitutes acceptable risk. So, yes. It's creating a disturbance in the force there but it may not be unwise. Otherwise, we're stuck where we've been and we know where we're going if we don't change.

BURNETT: So it may not be unwise, I mean, the significant thing to say. Now, this comes as we're seeing what we're seeing in Syria. Syria scrambling its military aircraft, now the majority of them to a major base in Western Syria. Now, I will show you on a map because when you look at where they're putting those planes so our viewers can see it is actually at the exact same air base where Russia is keeping its air force in Syria. How big of a deal is that?

HAYDEN: it's a very big deal. It takes a couple of options off the table for us. It will -- that's too strong a word that makes some options order to exercise because now you talk the Syrian aircraft, inside, underneath the Russian Air Defense umbrella. And the Russians aren't going to try to distinguish TLAM missiles heading in that direction whether or not they're intended. So Russian aircraft -

BURNETT: So we now have strike.

HAYDEN: -- or Syrian aircraft. We made it -- that move has made it much more difficult for us to do what it was we did two weeks ago with relative Impunity.

BURNETT: So you think was a one and done? That is it, one done show of force?

HAYDEN: Again, it will require an equally egregious step on the part of the Syrians, for us even to consider like action. Again, this was not about changing the Damascus regime.

BURNETT: Right. But if Donald Trump does go ahead and does something, right? But then involves Russian casualties or Russian jets being destroyed. Does the risk of an all-out confrontation that is much, much bigger than striking Syria, right? U.S. and Russia, that goes up. That has not happened, this has been a cold war half a century. That has not happened.

HAYDEN: It's exactly right. Let me - let me go to another scenario, all right? And maybe reason by analogy here. A while back we talked about safe zones, we call that no-fly zones in Syria to protect the civilian population. And an objection that was raised at that time because now the Russians are already there. Are you willing to risk a confrontation with Russian forces in order to carry out that policy? And my response to that is, well, if you're not, then you realize what you've just said. We will do nothing in the world that is in our self- interest, if it would risk a confrontation with the Russians. That's a losing hand. Now, that's not my advocating for going after the Syrian aircraft.

BURNETT: So the Europe needs to be willing to go to war with Russia --


HAYDEN: Going to war is a - is a big concept, all right? There are circumstances in which the risk that might be entailed by taking that action, given the total circumstances in which we find ourselves, might justify that kind of danger. No one wants to go to war with the Russians. Let me double down on another concept. The Russians really don't want to go to war with us. They are by far the weaker power.

BURNETT: Which is a very significant point to make. I think sometimes people threat me. They have - just in the 24-hour period this week, flown fighter jets in the U.S. territory off the coast of Alaska.

HAYDEN: Yes. I don't know what they were, 1950, early 60s, U95 bombers, you know, I get it. And we threw F-22 Raptors, one of our most modern aircraft out to intercept them. You know what that is a bit, Erin? That's a little pathetic. That used to be cool in the 1960s and if that's what the Russians can now mount as a way to tickle us, wow.

BURNETT: Wow. So your view of it, pathetic.

HAYDEN: Look. Great opportunity for training for our Alaskan air forces.

BURNETT: I want to ask you another question about North Korea, as we know they are seemingly ready for their sixth nuclear test. That would be very significant. Important point that they've not gone ahead with it yet, they didn't set a conventional test with their military parade, it was a missile with a range of about -- up to 2500 miles which would be enough to hit the U.S. island of Guam, that test failed along with about 95 percent of the other test of that missile in the past years. Is U.S. sabotage responsible for that?

HAYDEN: Well, number one, I can't answer that. Number two, being eight years out of government, I don't have the data that would allow me to answer in the first place. But there's one thing that makes that hard to calibrate. All right? I mean, if that were true and that's a giant if, all right? I have no operational knowledge about this. If that were true, what attempts to slow down adversary missile or or nuclear programs, by making it look like it was their fault, that it wasn't external forces that created it, that it was their own clumsiness, it was their own inefficiencies. And therefore, if you're from the outside looking in, the best covert action in the world would make it Impossible for you to know who done it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, General Hayden.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: I appreciate your time as always.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OutFront next, why is one of the most powerful republican in the house throwing in the towel? Does it have anything to do with Trump? Plus Bill O'Reilly gone. And tonight, speaking about his stunning fall. And the family of one-time NFL star Aaron Hernandez calling for an investigation into his death saying, it couldn't be suicide.


BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump claiming victory calling the special election in Georgia a big win, even though the candidate with the most votes was a democrat. The president tweeting, despite major otside money, fake media support and the 11 republican candidates, BIG R win with the runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help. The problem of course is republicans don't seem to want Trump's help right now. Sunlen Serfaty is OutFront.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Facing a grilling at town halls across the country. Some republicans are no longer holding back.

SEN. JONI ERNST, (R) IOWA: When I think Trump is right, I'll support him. When I don't, I won't.

SERFATY: Iowa Senator Joni Ernst who stood by the president as a candidate is now publicly calling him out.

ERNST: I think that we have a president that has a number of flaws.

SERFATY: Criticizing him for spending too much time at his Florida resort.

ERNST: I do wish that he would spend more time in Washington, D.C. That's what we have the White House for.

SERFATY: While another GOP Senator, Oklahoma's James Lankford is calling on the president to release his tax returns, telling his constituents on Tuesday, he promised he would. He should keep his promise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to side with Trump or are you going to keep your promise and stand with your constituents?

SERFATY: Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman is taking the president on directly over policy. Saying Trump shouldn't let Obamacare implode.

SEN. MIKE COFFMAN, (R) COLORADO: I don't think that's right. And somehow he thinks that the democrats need to come around. If it implodes, I think we need to fix it and I think we need fix it now.

SERFATY: The concerns being expressed by members of his own party comes as the president faces low approval rating and sets up a predicament for some republicans who will be facing tough races across the country like Karen Handel who emerged as the republican candidate out of last night's special election contest in Georgia. After keeping Trump at arm's length during her campaign, Handel didn't mention Trump once during her speech last night even after he weighed into the race at the 11th hour.


SERFATY: Handel faces an even more difficult balancing act in the June runoff against Jon Ossoff.

JON OSSOFF, DEMOCRAT IN GEORGIA'S SIXTH DISTRICT: You all ready to flip the sixth?

SERFATY: To embrace the president or keep him at Bay.

Are you certain that he will be an asset for you in the district?

HANDEL: Again, it is all Republicans all hands on deck. So we are going to be united.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAYS CO-HOST: Are you certain he will be an asset for you in the district?

HANDEL: Again, it is all republicans, all hands on deck. So we are going to be united.

SERFATY: And Karen Hand el did receive a congratulatory phone call from the president this morning. Asked if she wants the president to campaign for her, she said she hopes so but nothing more than that. Certainly, this is a race that is being watched very closely by other republicans, really seen as a test of the president's popularity, carrying major implications going forward for them. How they could run their own races and how they embrace the president as well. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Sunlen. Thank you. And OutFront now Chris Cillizza, reporter and editor at large for CNN politics, Symone Sanders who served as national press secretary for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and David Urban who served as strategist for the Trump campaign. So, David, let me start with you. You saw this congresswoman getting shouted down at these town halls. Some of them responding by distancing themselves from this president. Is President Trump a problem for republicans running for office?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: No. Not at all, Erin. I mean, the president's numbers are very, very strong amongst the base. The president's numbers are strong across many congressional districts and many states. Yesterday in the special election in Georgia, you saw republicans emerge with 51 percent of the vote roughly and Ossoff with about 49 percent, he didn't - he didn't outperform Secretary Clinton's numbers.

BURNETT: The republic of district.

URBAN: Yes. But he did not perform Secretary Clinton's numbers, so there is - there was no - there was no story there, I don't know - everybody got spun up, there are bunch of, you know, numerous, numerous republicans in. Jon Ossoff, lone democrat, lots of support nationally and didn't really improve -- I mean, just nudged above what Secretary Clinton did in the race with all - with all her support as well. So, I don't think there's a great deal of concern amongst anybody in the - in the party or the White House or in the party right now.

BURNETT: Simone, you're chuckling.

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: I'm chuckling. You know what, David is doing his job. But the fact of the matter is this is a district that is held by republicans for 37 years. Everybody from Newt Gingrich to Tom Price to Johnny Isaacson have a sat in this seat. And yesterday Jon Ossoff ran away with the - ran away with the turkey. He came in and garnered 48 percent of the vote, something no one thought he could do. And so now, you got Karen Handel who barely got 20 percent of the vote. It was 19.8 or leading like that.

BURNETT: The leading republican. Yes.

SANDERS: The leading republican. And that's what she's facing off again. So, I think what we're seeing here is that it's going to be very, very tough for republicans across the board, come this year and next year.

BURNETT: Let me bring in -- let me bring you in U.N. here then, Chris, because the Press Secretary Sean Spicer making the cases - same cases, David, saying this is a clear loss for democrats. Here's how he put it.


Tuesday night with over 50 percent. They came up short of their goal. They put all of the money they had in there, they put all their firepower and they came up short. So it's a loss.


BURNETT: So, what is it, Chris? Democrats came pretty close to 50 percent threshold in a republican district but David points out, oh, it's the same margin as Hillary Clinton. Is this a loss or a win?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, Sean is right, Erin, that democrats thought in the week leading up to this that they might be able to get Ossoff over 50 percent. So the fact they didn't, is yes, it is a defeat in its way. That said, I don't think we should write Ossoff chances off when it comes to the June 20th runoff. It is harder I think. This is -- the problem here is that Karen Handel is in OK candidate but not a Trump republican, probably a better fit for this district.

One of the reasons Donald Trump ran behind Mitt Romney by about 22 points between 2012 and 2016 is because he's just not a fit for suburban Atlanta. I've said it's more Waldorf Astoria than Walmart. Karen Handel is a pretty decent fit there. When it's a one-on-one race, the question is can republicans get republican voters to put on their party jersey and vote? And if they can, they will likely win.

BURNETT: All right. I want to show you all one other thing here before we go. This is actually very interesting. And David, I want to give you a chance to respond to it. This was posted on the New York Times website today, it's a picture comparing the Patriots turnout for President Obama in 2015. You can see that. And then you see the turnout of the Patriots, they were actually with President Trump today. Do you read anything into those two pictures, David?

URBAN: No. Not at all, Erin. I think it's silly. It's a silly comparison to make.


URBAN: It's just -- because it's silly. Who does it matter who the members of the Patriots like or don't like for president. I mean, they're entitled to their opinions, I mean, so what does that matter? I think it's completely -- it's a silly analogy, silly comparison.

BURNETT: Quick final words, Symone.

SANDERS: Look, I think it matters that folks are not even wanting to show up at the White House to stand next to the president.

URBAN: They're football - they're football players, Symone.


SANDERS: No. I think there are lots of other folks that haven't them - that have not wanted to kind of stand next to Donald Trump because he's toxic, he's toxic for GOP, congressional republicans and apparently he's toxic with the Patriots, Erin. Chris, I'll give you the final word as the arbiter of this. Do

BURNETT: And you know what - and you know, Chris, I will - I'll give you the final word then as the arbiter of this. Do you think that photo is significant, fair to post?

CILLIZZA: Not really. But I did want Rob Gronkowski to speak there but he didn't, unfortunately. I would have - I would have traded Bob Kraft and Gronkowski and let him - let him give a little rip on --

SANDERS: Donald Trump lost Tom Brady today, he lost them.

URBAN: No. You saw - you saw - you saw Gronkowski breaking into the White House press shop there for the - for the Spicer briefing. Clearly, they're fans. The team likes the president. The team likes this administration. I won't read anything into it.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to all three of you. I appreciate it. And next Bill O'Reilly gone. What finally forced Fox News to pull the plug on its biggest stars in history? Plus one of Jared Kushner's duties bringing peace to the Middle East. And coming up, someone wants essential to those peace talks, say Jared Kushner just might succeeds.


[19:30:52] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: Bill O'Reilly is out at FOX News, effectively fired, gone from the flagship show after two decades on top. This after 50-plus companies stopped running ads on his show amid news of settlements with women for alleged sexual harassment or verbal abuse.

Ironically, O'Reilly today was with none other than Pope Francis at the Vatican, perhaps seeking the ultimate absolution for his alleged sins. Publicly, though, he says it was all just a witch hunt, saying, quote, "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims."

Meanwhile, FOX News released a statement saying in part, "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the FOX News Channel."

OUTFRONT now, senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, our senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, and CNN political commentator, Margaret Hoover.

And, all of you, of course, know Margaret. She used to, though, regularly appear on FOX News, including Bill O'Reilly's show for years.

So, Brian, let me just start with you with the very latest. This went down very quickly. What can you tell us? BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for 20 years,

Bill O'Reilly was FOX and FOX was Bill O'Reilly. But it turns out, even O'Reilly is not too big to fire. Two weeks ago, after "The New York Times" wrote about secret settlements between O'Reilly and accusers, the Murdochs, started an investigation with a law firm. We don't know exactly what the law firm found but clearly, we know the Murdochs made a decision based on the results from that law firm.

By the way, that's the same way Roger Ailes left. Ailes was the founding CEO. He's the one who hired O'Reilly 20 years ago. From two weeks, from an investigation of Ailes, to his recognition, now, the same situation with O'Reilly.

BURNETT: And so quickly.

I mean, Dylan, here's the thing, to all people who are going to wonder, we all know he was bringing in more than $100 million-a-year revenue. He was recently signed a contract extension with FOX News which, of course, was going to be worth many tens of millions of dollars.

That matters a lot, right? I mean, how much money is he possibly getting now effectively fired? Is he going to be paid tens of millions of dollars to do it?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN POLITICS & MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That contract renegotiation does matter a lot. That took place earlier this year. He gets paid somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million a year. The average contract, two, maybe three years.

You're starting to get to about $40 million, $60 million, more even than Roger Ailes walked away with it. That might due to him from the company and certainly the case that his lawyers will make -- or the case they've perhaps already have made is, look, when Bill O'Reilly paid out the settlements, a lot of those were paid by the company itself. There's no way that the company can justifiably say that it wasn't aware of the accusations against him, of the settlements against him.

So, yes, it's very hard to see a scenario where O'Reilly does not walk away from FOX News with tens of millions of dollars. No doubt that will unsettle some of his accusers. And one more thing, you point out that he says the claims are completely unfounded.


BYERS: Clearly, that is not the conclusion FOX News came to, because in their statement, they cite the comprehensive report about the accusations that convinced them to finally fire him.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, you know, pretty stunning, because, you know, all of these, as you point out, many settlements were over months and months over the past years, right? Then they re-signed a contract extension.

BYERS: More than a decade. BURNETT: So, they clearly, they knew and they didn't care, Margaret,

until it became front page news. You were there. You were on O'Reilly show all the time. Are you surprised?

MARGARET HOOVER, APPEARED REGULARLY ON BILL O'REILLY'S SHOW: Look it, I have told people this privately. I've never said it publicly. Bill O'Reilly never hit on me. Bill O'Reilly e never sexually harassed me.

I will say, though, as a young woman, many of us have experiences that are uncomfortable in the workplace. And I have some experiences where are uncomfortable enough for me to know, never to put myself in a position where I was alone with Bill or alone with people that made me feel uncomfortable.

And so, when I heard -- first read Gretchen's complaint and when -- Gretchen Carlson's complaint who is really the hero, and the unsung hero of all this story, because she is the one woman who stood up in the face of a culture that was condoning bad behavior for years and years and years, it was ultimately believable because there was a field of interacting at times that was deeply uncomfortable and it was easy for me to extrapolate that if I hadn't been doing this to protect myself, that I might have ended up in a position where I could have been vulnerable.

[19:35:04] BURNETT: So, even during those early years when you were on O'Reilly's show with her, even though it didn't happen to you, you got a vibe, you got a feeling from him?

HOOVER: You could -- there were moments that were uncomfortable.

BURNETT: I mean -- and this is what's stunning is now, you know, we're hearing Margaret saying this, others are saying this, that there are so many people who experienced this. And yet the company did absolutely nothing.

STELTER: There was silence.

BURNETT: Until it ended on the front page of "The New York Times".

STELTER: Literally front page of "The New York Times". Why did "The Times" investigate? Because Gretchen Carlson sued Roger Ailes. It was the domino effect from all of that.

HOOVER: It was. And, by the way, what Gretchen did was an incredibly difficult thing to do, because an environment like that as we know, constitutionally, it created, it fostered and it protected people who behaved badly in the workplace. It is very difficult to feel comfortable speaking up for yourself in an environment like that, which is why what Gretchen did was so heroic.

STELTER: Maybe ripple effects, not just in television news rooms but across corporate America. If even FOX knows in 2017, you can't keep it silent anymore, I hope that has impacts across the country.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to all of you.

And next, another Trump pick for high level post drops out of the running. Can anyone other than family make the cut?

And why did NFL star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez kill himself in prison? Tonight, his family is saying it might not be suicide.


[19:40:12] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary withdrawing. Todd Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, a billionaire, was one of Trump's earliest picks actually. A source says he, quote, "wanted to serve but couldn't untangle all the finances."

This is the third high profile pick to drop out, though, because of conflict of interest issues.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with tonight's number.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looked like a solid hit, taking a board member from the world champion Chicago Cubs organization to be the deputy commerce secretary, billionaire Todd Rickets.

The president said, "The incredible job he and the Ricketts family did in the purchase and turnaround of the Chicago Cubs is what I want representing our people."

But Ricketts could not untangle his business connections enough to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics and he withdrew. So did President Trump's pick for secretary of the Army, others billionaire businessman.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vincent Viola, everybody likes Vincent.

FOREMAN: The president's choice for secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden?

PHILIP BILDEN: Existing portfolios are experiencing significant declines in value.

FOREMAN: Same story. Too many business ties to take the political post.

Trump's choice for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, flamed out after his business practices came under fire, including his hiring of an undocumented immigrant and many of those confirmed to the White House team have raised sharp concerns among ethicists over their deep business connections and possible conflicts.

The president's head of the Transportation Security Administration could now help approve purchases which might help his former employer. The president's special infrastructure policy could see his former firm benefit from a big infrastructure. People with strong ties to the very industries they might influence

are now in the Labor Department, in Health and Human Services, in the Food and Drug Administration, even the president's family is involved.

IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: White diamonds, flanking stone on either side.

FOREMAN: His daughter-in-law Ivanka and son-in-law Jared are steeped in international trade especially with China, and yet there they were in their roles as presidential advisors sharing dinner with the Chinese president.


FOREMAN: Critics warned about this repeatedly during the transition and the president's team insisted there would be no problem. But clearly, the potential for conflicts of interest has government watchdogs on high alert -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Tom, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now, Matthew Dowd, who was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, now star ABC News analyst and special correspondent and the author of the new book, "A New Way: Embracing the Paradox as We Lead and Serve", which is exactly about what we're seeing in Washington right now.

Matt, I want to talk with Tom's piece. Three top nominees forced to drop out. Why? Because of conflicts of interest. But Ivanka and Jared Kushner, that doesn't seem to matter to them. The majority of Americans say it's inappropriate for either of them to have roles in the White House. Trump doesn't care.

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY 2004 CAMPAIGN: Well, it's family, right? And so, I think what you see in life anyway, when there are stresses and people go inward, right, and they circle around themselves people who are loyal to them. The presidency is the most stressful job. And so, I think what you're seeing is Donald Trump in the initial stages of it was reaching out, but now, he's going further and further and creating a shell. And inside the shell seems to be family and friends.

BURNETT: Completely immune. I mean, so, you know, he said a lot of things. Jared Kushner's basically going to run foreign policy --

DOWD: Do everything.

BURNETT: He's doing everything, right? And peace in the Middle East is on the list and a lot of people have openly scoffed at that, had been very critical.

What I really was interested, though, and yesterday I was talking to General John Allen, retired general, of course, who led the Mideast peace talks for more than a year. He actually said people shouldn't discount Kushner. Here he is.


GEN. JOHN ALLEN, RETIRED FOUR STAR MARINE GENERAL: I don't dismiss anyone, Erin, who has the confidence of the president of the United States. My guess would be that Mr. Kushner has given his business backgrounder and given the success as he's had as a businessman, my guess would be that he's going to surround himself with a lot of talent.


BURNETT: That's not what others are saying. But he's been in the middle of the peace talks.

DOWD: Well, first, I think anybody being able to fix the Middle East and bring peace, the chances are slim. But you have to say, we've had 50 years or more of people that have experienced people in the State Department, people with all kinds of education, experts, all that, they haven't been able to do it. So, maybe somebody that's completely new, completely brand-new in this maybe can look at it differently, talk to people differently. He's not going to do any worse than anybody else has done for 50 years.

BURNETT: Right. All he can do is fail and everybody else --

DOWD: And maybe a new look at it will be the first time we actually can do something.

BURNETT: So, you know, when you look at history and see the Kennedy family or the youth and inexperience of the Clinton administration. I mean, you see it rife in American history. Is this any different with Jared and Ivanka, or is this a whole new low?

[19:45:04] DOWD: Well, I don't have a problem with his level of experience was because I think bringing to Washington is something else. I don't have a problem with the fact that he hasn't held office.

My problem is who are they loyal to? In the end, when they have to make a decision, when you're sitting in the Oval Office, are you loyal to the president because he's your father or father-in-law or are you loyal to what the country needs? At some point, there are many times, you have to make a decision between those. And that's a difficult spot for a daughter or son in law to be in.

BURNETT: Oh, it is. Trump is at, we're almost 100 days, 10 days away. He says he has done more than any other presidents so far in his administration. Here he is.


TRUMP: No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days that includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement -- we love our law enforcement -- and on government reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Fact or wishful thinking?

DOWD: Shocking that he's prone to exaggeration.


DOWD: I think that one number you can look at that tells you how successful he's been, which I don't think it has been, is the fact that since the day after inauguration, his job approval number has been negative number, has been over 50 percent. So, if he was doing such a fabulous job, the American public isn't aware of it.

BURNETT: And this is something you talk about in your book, the need to put country over political party. And what you're talking about with Jared and Ivanka, can you put your country ahead of your family or political party. This is not happening in America right now. It's just not.

DOWD: No. The problem is that I think there are good people who go into politics, because of the way of the system is, it's like a sick building, right? It's like a building with mold or lead pipes. And good people go in but they get sick.

And our current system does not allow a place where you can come to common good. We don't even have a common set of facts, which is a huge problem in this country today.

And so, I think -- I criticize both sides of it, the deep red and deep blue of this country, that their inability to come together and reach a consensus. And when you do that, when you become a tribalized culture, which we're moving towards, you're basically have a nonfunctional democracy, and that's big part of what I talked about in the book. Not only that politics, but in all areas of our life, our inability to come together as a country.

BURNETT: Yes, which is a great risk to being the greatest country in the world, as you said I think maybe so poignantly there. We don't even have a common set of facts.

Thank you, Matt. Great to see you.

DOWD: You too.

BURNETT: And next, the violent life and death of an NFL star. His family's attorney tonight demanding an investigation into Aaron Hernandez's apparent suicide.

And Smoky Robinson OUTFRONT on the impact of his songs during a very difficult time in this nation's history.


SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: The music gave people of all races a common love.


[19:51:35] BURNETT: New tonight, the family of New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez wants answers. The convicted murderer was found dead in his jail cell. Massachusetts officials say Hernandez was found hanged in his cell this morning. But the Hernandez family attorney says he doesn't believe the 37-year-old would take his own life.

Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT.



DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five days after being acquitted of a double murder, disgraced New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was found early this morning, hanging in his cell in a maximum security prison.

The 27-year-old but serving a life sentence without parole for murder. According to the Massachusetts Corrections Department, a bed sheet was found around his neck, attached to the other end to his cell window. And Hernandez had tried to bar access to his cell by jamming various items against the inside of his door. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

His death ends the meteoric rise and tragic fall of a $40 million NFL star. Once cheered by adoring fans, he died alone, the same day some of his former teammates and current Super Bowl champions were honored at the White House.

Despite being found not guilty last week of killing two men in a driveway shooting outside a Boston nightclub, Hernandez remained in prison for the 2013 murder of his friend Odin Lloyd. In a high profile trial, Hernandez was found guilty of shooting Lloyd seven times in an industrial park less than a mile from his Massachusetts home.

A key piece of evidence, this surveillance video showing Hernandez holding what appears to be a gun, prosecutors say it was the same night Lloyd was killed.

News of the disgraced football player's alleged suicide rocked his family, friends, and legal team.

ROBERT PROCTOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR AARON HERNANDEZ: It's very hard for me to accept the fact that he may have committed suicide. We are keeping an open mind.

FEYERICK: In addition to winning an acquittal for the double murder last week, attorney Jose Baez was appealing the Odin Lloyd guilty verdict and now says he will help the Hernandez family investigate the suicide.

A spokesman for the Worcester district attorney says, quote, "It remains under investigation but there's nothing to indicate this was anything but an apparent suicide."

Towards the end of his last trial, as Hernandez was led out of court and back to his solitary prison cell, one of his last acts was to blow a kiss to his fiancee and their 4-year-old daughter.


BURNETT: It starts to have some sort of Shakespearean tragedy ring about it, as we see what has happened.

What do they really expect to find in the investigation into what happened?

FEYERICK: Well, they've got to do an investigation because whenever there's an unintended death, that's what they have to do. So, the district attorney is involved, the Massachusetts state police, detectives are involved. They're going to do toxicology tests to see whether, in fact, maybe he had drugs in his system.

You know, his whole life really was plagued by drugs even from the very beginning. His rise and fall was so short, he essentially signed that contract and almost immediately thereafter, he was caught up in this string of murders, drugs and all that stuff.

So, it was tragic, because he had all the promise ahead of him and his father had passed away and people think that maybe that was the trigger, that he didn't have that strong force in his life. But he's not a well-liked man, so especially not in Boston.

BURNETT: And only 27 years old.

All right. Thank you very much, Deborah Feyerick.

And OUTFRONT next, "Soundtracks". Our guest, the iconic Smokey Robinson.


[19:56:56] BURNETT: This week, we are premiering a new original series called "Soundtracks", which looks at music's role in defining history and I have a chance to speak with music legend Smokey Robinson about his impact on the civil rights movement.

First, a quick look at our new series.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The early '60s, you have the hands of unity and black change, once the black power movement comes along, the hymns fade and are replaced by much more militant sentiments of the music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You couldn't see people that had big fros and fist bumps ssaying, we shall overcome, it just seemed incongruous.

KATHY SLEDGE: And all of a sudden, there was a sense of identity through style and music. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, singer, songwriter, Grammy Award-winning artist, Smokey Robinson, also featured in our original series, "Soundtracks: Songs that Define History".

Smokey, it's a great pleasure to have you on the show. You know, as we watch that clip, you know, you have spoken about the difficulties of performing in the '60s. I mean, things that are hard for some now to imagine, not being able to stay at certain hotels. Not being able to use the bathrooms even at the venues where you were a performer. How does it mean to you now, to know that your music played a role in the struggle for equal rights in this country?

SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: Well, this is very satisfying to know that the music had that kind of an impact on the people and on the country really because the music was bridging gaps that they were trying to legislate, that they were trying to force people into integration by many different methods, you know? But the music was just automatically doing it, which was so great. The music gave people of all races a common love.

BURNETT: And, you know, as part of the Motown Record Dynasty, you broke down so many barriers. I mean, hits like "I Second That Emotion," "My Girl", "Tears of a Clown" -- I mean your friend Diana Ross once said about you, Smokey, I'm quoting her, "If a great writer is a poet and a great poet is a genius, then Smokey Robinson is a miracle."

What do you think it was about your music and those songs as we hear the clips, that inspired such change in this country?

ROBINSON: I always try to write positive, if possible. You know, I read a lot about love, because I think love is the most poignant emotion that we feel as people. I think love is the most powerful emotion that we feel as people.


ROBINSON: So I try to keep that in the forefront of my writing if possible. I have always written about love, but basically, I do, and I hope that that is probably what has the effect on people that it does have.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Smokey, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

ROBINSON: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And "Soundtracks" airs tomorrow night at 10:00, you won't want to miss it.

Anderson is next.