Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Pulls Out Of Climate Deal; Senators Asked FBI To Probe Sessions For Possible Perjury. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:14] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Next breaking news. President Trump pulls out of the Paris climate deal. He wants to renegotiate. World leaders say no way. Plus did the attorney general lie to Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador? We have new breaking details tonight. And the date now set for the former FBI Director Jim Comey to testify. Could the president of the United States block him? Let's go out front.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. "Out Front" tonight, the breaking news, the United States out. President Trump appearing late today in the Rose Garden announcing he is withdrawing the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord. Trump almost giddy as he made it clear the United States will go its own way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The United States will withdraw, so we're getting out, we're out of the agreement. Our withdrawal from the agreement. Exiting the agreement protects the United States. It is time to exit the Paris accord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He couldn't say it enough. Trump insists that the deal would cost America "billions and billions of dollars," that's what he said today, billions and billions of dollars, along with, he says massive job losses and factory closings. But Trump, the businessman turned president has found himself with virtually zero allies among America's business leaders, the very people right who should be agreeing with him on those point. Well, right after this announcement, they slammed him.
The chairman of General Electric, obviously, massive manufacturer tweeted he was disappointed in the president adding that "industry must now lead and not depend on government." General Motors issue statement saying "We'll not avert from our commitment to the environment." The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, tweeting "Today's decision is a setback for the environment and the U.S. position in the world." And the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, the leading voice for clean energy who had sort of stuck by the president on some of these committees even amidst a lot of criticism, tonight says he is quitting the president's Business Advisory Council because of this decision. In fact, the president own secretary of state, the former CEO of ExxonMobil disagrees with the decision.
But here's the thing. Are you surprised? After all, the president of the United States is the same man who campaigned on this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not a believer in global warming. I'm not a believer in manmade global warming.
While the world is in turmoil and falling apart in so many different ways, especially with ISIS, our president is worried about global warming. What a ridiculous situation.
It's a hoax. I think the scientist having a lot of fun.
I mean some money making industry, OK? It's a hoax. A lot of it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: We begin our coverage with Sara Murray at the White House. And Sara, the president today as we were playing, giddy, couldn't say we were out of this deal more times than he did. He went into campaign mode.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely he did. We heard a lot of nationalist America first rhetoric that we heard from President Trump on the campaign trail. We didn't hear him flat out today that climate change is a hoax but since then, a number of senior administration officials have been unable to answer the question of whether the president believes in global warming and he contributed to it on a day when he made this monumental decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
TRUMP: The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.
MURRAY (voice-over): Today President Trump is putting a check mark next to one of his key campaign promises.
TRUMP: So we're getting out. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair and if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.
MURRAY: Trump announcing the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in the face of protests from business groups, world leaders and even Trump's own daughter, Ivanka. While critics have said backing out of the deal will put the U.S. at a disadvantage on the world stage. Trump insisted the Paris Agreement was bad for business and bad for the U.S. economy.
TRUMP: At what point does America get to mean -- at what point do they start laughing at us as a country. MURRAY: In the past Trump claimed the climate change is a hoax but
shifted his rhetoric on Thursday.
TRUMP: As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do --
MURRAY: Insisting his decision was driven by economic factors rather than his view of global warming.
TRUMP: This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.
MURRAY: Trump also left the door open to striking a new climate deal with the help of Democrats in Washington.
TRUMP: So if the obstructionists want to get together with me, let's make them nonobstructionists. We will all sit down and get back into the deal and we'll make it good and we won't be closing up our factories.
[19:05:11] MURRAY: The move to withdraw distances the United States from nearly every nation on the globe. Just two countries, Syria and Nicaragua refused to signed on to the 2015 global agreement to curb climate change. But it also scratches off another campaign trail promise, one that's sure to be cheered by Trump's conservative base.
TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
MURRAY: Now plenty of Democrats today have slammed President Trump's move. Among them, former President Obama. Remember it was under his administration that this agreement was negotiated. He won that this diminishes the world -- America's standing on the world stage and said that Trump is rejecting the future. He called on cities, states, businesses to step up and help protect for future generation the one planet we've got. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Sara, thank you and also breaking tonight the international response, the outrage swift, direct. Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is out front. Michelle, the president saying he's going to renegotiate a new deal, right? But that just might not happen.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DEPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: For years the U.S. has been twisting arms trying to get 195 countries on board with this deal. So for the rest of the world today to see the U.S. at least start the process of pulling out, the reaction was immediate. A mix of regret, deep disappointment and some snark.
France, Germany and Italy put out a joint statement saying that the Paris agreement is a vital instrument for the world and that it cannot be renegotiated. So, President Trump left that door open but they seem to be slamming it right back shut. The French president saying in English that it's everybody's responsibility to make the planet great again. We heard the president of the European Commission saying he doesn't think that President Trump fully understands how the deal works. The Vatican calling the U.S. pull out disaster for the planet. China calling it reckless, selfish and irresponsible.
What we heard a lot of today with these expressions of unity around the deal without the United States. And, you know, there are foreign policy experts including ones who have felt in Republican administrations who feel that this decision now will have the greatest diminishing effect of U.S. influence around the world with other countries like China, France and Germany, more than willing to step in and fill that leadership void, especially on the environment. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Michelle. And tonight we're learning more about how this decision went down. Shortly after the president made this announcement, I had the chance to briefly speak the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. And here's what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: When it came down to the ultimate decision, was this the president's decision alone to leave this agreement?
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Well, it wasn't his decision alone. Scott Pruitt weighed in on it, I weighed in on it. Lots of people weighed in on it. One of the good things about this president is he encourages hearing all points of view aggressively before he makes his final decision. So I think it's a very, very healthy thing that he heard from both point of views, maybe more than two point of views prior to coming to what's a very big decision.
BURNETT: But he listened to Tex Tillerson and others who wanted the U.S. to stay in the Paris accord?
ROSS: Well, everybody had a different view. At the end of the day we are simply advisors to the president. Our job is to give him our opinions as to what's best for the country but he's the one the American public elected. He's the one who has to make the decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Up front David Gergen, former presidential advisor to four presidents, John Avlon, Editor Chief of the Daily Beast, and Jason Miller, former Senior Communications Advisor for the Trump campaign. David, this was a landmark global agreement, right? There were only two countries until today that were not privy to it Nicaragua and Bashar al-Assad, Syria. Now the United States joins that group. Is this an unprecedented decision?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Yes. And I'm sorry to say this, but Erin, listen, some 70 years ago, the United States entered an international agreement called the Marshall Plan we came to the aid of Europe. And I'm one of the noebelest (ph) acts in human history. Today we've walked away from the rest of the world and this one of the most shameless acts in our history. I think it'd be widely seen around the world as terrible, terrible setback for the planet. You know, we represent as a country 4 percent of the world's population, but we represent about a third of all the excess carbon dioxide just warming the planet. We're the largest contributor to carbon dioxide in the world.
[19:10:04] And for us to walk away as this carbon dioxide threatens the future of our grandchildren, for us to walk away from that is grotesquely irresponsible. It's also true that the nations that are going to pay the greatest price for global warming are the poor nations of the world, and yet they contributed the least to global warming.
GERGEN: We have contributed the most for us to walk away from that is immoral.
BURNETT: What do you say Jason Miller, grotesquely irresponsible, one of the most shameful acts in our history.
JASON MILLER, FMR. SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Erin, I see it in a different lens. First and foremost, I think it was great that the president up held another campaign promise. I love the messaging today, Pittsburgh, not Paris. I think, look, for all of the sky is falling rhetoric coming from the left, I mean, look, Al Gore's private jet is going to take off just fine tomorrow. While it may have been a binary choice whether to stay in the accord or leave, it's not a binary choice when it comes to fighting for improving the environment reducing carbon emissions, something that both the private sector and this administration are going to continue to do.
But Erin, there's one bigger thing that I haven't seen anyone talking about at all and that's political impact of this move today. I think that it was very remarkable the lack of outcry, the lack of advertising efforts and lack of a political push that we saw from the left and from the Democrats on this simply because their base is split --
BURNETT: OK. But --
MILLER: And the way the president --
BURNETT: Hold on for one second. I want to put politics aside. Politics, you know, important here. But John, let me ask you this question here because what I think is important and the point up tried to make at the top of our program is I almost don't care about the politics. The reality is he says it's going to save jobs and billions and billions of dollars. And CEO after CEO after CEO in this country or in these industries say that's just a lie. They say it's not true. They say the future is investing in green jobs. You see it from (INAUDIBLE), Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, now the second CEO to pull out the president economic council that happened just a couple of moments ago along with Elon Musk, the CEO of Goldman Sachs. I could go on and on and on. Watch the business networks. This is not a politics reality. It's a dollars and cents reality.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: To your core point, the President said this was about defending American jobs. He said it was about defending American business, but America's business leaders overwhelmingly disagreeing with them as well as scientist, as well as some poll show the majority of Americans.
So this is about playing politics inside the White House. It's about special interest, the nationalist wing of the White House hijacking it and the globalist being "defeated." But the argument the president made that this was somehow good for business --
AVLON: -- it's on face B.S. because it's not being back up by the CEOs.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, Jason, that do you say that it's not being back up by them. Let me just give you one number, I'm sure you have. But let me give you this. In United States solar, OK, 374,000 American jobs, coal barely 160,000 American jobs. This is the Department of Energy statistics. The growth, Jason, right now is in alternative energy.
MILLER: Well the reason they call them green job is because they're so expensive to create. I mean many of these green jobs aren't self- sustainable. We have to continue putting money into them. But I want to go back to the point just a moment ago when I was talking about the political realities of this. When I was talking about the fact that the democratic base is split, and the fact that so many Democrats, union workers support the president's move today. That was the point that was heading to. This is where so many of the folks cell corridor and New York and Washington just don't get where the rest of the country is on this. I mean, look, if we went into this accord, we fought with both hands tied behind our back, we would lose millions of jobs over the next couple of decades. I mean it would -- the average household earning would drop by some 20,000 ---
BURNETT: Jason, please be quiet for second. Let him go. I will give your chance to respond. John, go ahead.
AVLON: The reason it's called an accord is it's not a binding treaty. Any administration can negotiate within the context of this. It is essentially optional to opt out of it is a political decision that flies in the face of not only the vast majority of Americans, yes, Republicans and Democrats check our stats, but also the business leaders who have (INAUDIBLE) insights in the statistical, in fact it is, than any preapproved spin being given out by the White House with service.
BURNETT: OK, Jason, please. MILLER: OK, John, I think it's absolutely shameful you would allow the Chinese to continue another 13 years without cutting carbon emissions and the U.S. would have to reduce 26 and 28 percent over the least eight years.
AVLON: You're using international leadership to that.
MILLER: China is not going to follow it. India's not going to follow it. What they're going to (INAUDIBLE) that the U.S. actually is a country that follows the rule of law, that we would have enforcement mechanisms if we put something in place whereas these other countries wouldn't do it.
[19:15:13] And so, look, you can talk -- try to talk louder, you can try to shout me down. But the fact to the matter is the stats are on our side, John.
AVLON: No they're not.
MARSHALL: And that's the reality.
BURNETT: So, David, let me give you a chance to -- David, I want to get you on this because there -- this is an argument that they're making, right? The China, as an example, is allowed to let its emissions go until 2030 at which point they would stop growing, right. Wilbur Ross described that to me as a feeble enforcement mechanism. Is there something to that, that this a feeble and a bad deal?
GERGEN: Listen, the enforcement mechanisms are feeble, that's why it's called accord to go to John Avlon's point.
GERGEN: But let's face the larger reality here and that is that the 20th century was the American century. The way we're acting now 21st century is going to become Chinese century. Because China is seizing the lead here on climate change, just as we seizing the lead on international trade and it's taking the leadership flag away from the United States.
We increasingly across the world, I will tell you, especially in Europe, there's a lot of people who are going to see this as the United States is now in the hands of a mad man of some sort.
GERGEN: And they don't get it.
GERGEN: They're upset about it. And they believe that China is the country that's going to benefit the most from United States pulling back.
MILLER: But today American workers will benefit and that's the difference. BURNETT: All right. We'll leave it there. Thank you all very much.
Next, did Attorney General Jeff Sessions commit perjury, live. That is the charge from top Democrats tonight. Plus the Russian officials who met with nearly every Trump associate named in the Russia investigation. What happen in those meetings? And Jeanne Moos does her best Sean Spicer.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, turn that off. No cameras. Audio only.
[19:20:39] BURNETT: New tonight CNN learning that two Democratic senators asked former FBI Director Comey and acting FBI Director McCabe to investigate if Attorney General Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearings. This is a congressional investigators try to find out if Sessions had a third and an third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newly released letter showed Democratic lawmakers called on the FBI to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to senators after it was revealed in March that Sessions had met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign despite that answer from Sessions during his confirmation hearing.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have communications with the Russians.
SCHNEIDER: Senators Al Franken and Patrick Leahy wrote to the FBI three times asking for an investigation into Attorney General Sessions' false testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and any undisclosed contacts he may have had with Russian officials.
A Senate source tells CNN Senator Franken and Leahy have not yet received any response to these three letters. The letters were released after CNN reported congressional investigators are looking at the possibility Sessions had a third undisclosed private meeting with Ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower hotel in Washington on April 27th, 2016.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: If it's true, it's extremely disturbing and I'd rather let it come out.
SCHNEIDER: The Department of Justice responded saying the facts haven't changed. But then senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee issued seven new subpoenas including three seeking details of the purported unmasking of U.S. residents by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. A congressional source says these subpoenas came directly from Chairman Devin Nunes despite his pledge to remove himself from the Russian investigation. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is what the White House wants to see happen. They're rather be talking about these issues.
SCHNEIDER: Chairman Nunes fired back on Twitter. Seeing a lot of fake news from media leads and others who have no interest in violations of American civil liberty via unmaskings. Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about President Trump at the St. Petersburg economic forum after stressing the two have never met.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): He is a straightforward sincere man. You can't really classify him as a traditional politician. He never worked in politics. So this is a person with a fresh view of things whether you like him or not, but this always very often brings something good.
SCHNEIDER: And the date is now set for fired FBI Director James Comey to speak out publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It will be next Thursday one week from today. Comey is expected to detail his conversations with the president including whether President Trump urged him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's ties to Russia. Erin, that's a move many experts believe could amount to obstruction of justice. Erin?
BURNETT: And that obviously a very, very crucial turn to you. Jessica, thank you. I want to go now to our Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston, former CIA Analyst Nada Bakos and Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste.
So Richard, welcome to the CNN family, by the way. I know you're now part of our legal analysts. Look, we know that the attorney general they are looking into whether there was a third meeting with did Russian ambassador that was undisclosed. Senators are saying the attorney general could have purgered himself if it turns out that this meeting indeed occurred. Have you seen something like this? How significant is this tonight?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: We're looking into is different than showing that such a meeting occurred.
BEN-VENISTE: So, I would rather not jump to conclusions, let's see if there's any evidence that there was a private meeting.
BURNETT: Right. And if there was -- so if there wasn't, there's nothing there, there. If there was.
BEN-VENISTE: If there was it would add to the other information we already have that was serious enough to cause the attorney general to recuse himself from any further involvement in the investigation of the Russian interference with our elections. BURNETT: And the reason, Mark, that this, you know, would be very
significant and the fact that they are looking into this, the attorney general had to clarify, right, as we all know. He (INAUDIBLE) confirmation hearing. He was asked about meetings with Kislyak and he said that he didn't have any. And here's his explanation as to why he didn't disclose those meetings in those hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:25:05] SESSIONS: I did not respond by referring to the two meetings, one very brief after a speech and one with two of my senior staffers, professional staffers with the Russian ambassador, where no such things were discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Mark, right, first in the confirmation hearings when he was asked about meetings he said he had none. Then we found out there were two which he says were not about the campaign. If there is a third, how significant, how damaging is this -- would this be for the attorney general?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Erin, it would be incredibly significant and incredibly damaging. And in fact, you would probably see calls for a resignation. As Richard said, we don't know if in fact a meeting has happened which causes us to put a red flag up and say why re the senators or what do they know? Why don't they send letters to the DOJ asking for them to look into some thing.
If they are going on a fishing expedition at the time when there's a very serious investigation into the executive branch in ties to Russia, then that is political malpractice on the Democrats' part. However, if they actually do know something then they should come forward instead of trying to launder it, it appears, through the Department of Justice.
NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Well I think from a an intelligence perspective, even if Sessions hadn't scheduled this meeting, if he happened to run into Kislyak, this is still something you would document and talk about. He didn't just run into the prime minister of the U.K. It's an adversary we deal with very carefully and from that perspective, you're very careful about what you discuss let alone disclose.
BURNETT: And Richard, this all comes in the context of James Comey. As you heard Jessica report, going to testify next Thursday. That is going to be a crucial moment. Is it possible the president could invoke presidential privilege and stop that testimony?
BEN-VENISTE: I don't think so. I don't think so on a political basis and I don't think on a legal basis since the president has already commented on what happened in those meetings, three times you told me I wasn't the subject of the investigation.
BURNETT: That's -- because he's talking about it, he wouldn't be able to claim it.
BEN-VENISTE: Firstly going back to the Kislyak potential meeting, you know, one of the things that we have heard about is the over hear and perhaps Nada can throw more light on it and that is, did Kislyak or someone else in the orbit of Russian intelligence have a conversation with someone else that was overheard that suggested that there was this other contact. So that's another possibility and again it's rank speculation.
BEN-VENISTE: But one of the things that the Russians, in fact, Putin was arguably concerned about was loose talk by his people about their contacts with the Trump organization.
BURNETT: Yes. And Nada, you know, this comes as Putin today said that Russian hackers who were "patriotically minded may have meddled in the U.S. election." That's pretty big development, right. So far he said that was obviously nothing. He still saying not the Russian government but now he is saying patriotically minded Russians could have interfered in the U.S. election.
BAKOS: Right. Well, I think this is just his way to cover up State (ph) sanctions meddling in our election. It's hard to deny especially given the effort that they went to that they were involved. They put out fake news stories. They had social media bots spanning different accounts. We know that the amplified a lot of the anti-American rhetoric in addition to the Trump rhetoric. So, you can't really deny it at this point. I think this is his best cover story so far.
BURNETT: Interesting that he's starting to make up a cover story as if the iron is getting very hot. Thank you all very much. And Attorney General Sessions is not the only one in the Trump Administration who has contacts with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak who official say as a top Russian spy and spy recruiter are under intense scrutiny. Global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is out front. And Elise, how tangled is the Kislyak-Trump web?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's very tangled, Erin. And Ambassador Kislyak is so prominent here in Washington but now he is at the center of the investigation on Russia and really in the thick of the storm.
LABOTT (voice-over): Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is at the center of the investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. U.S. intelligence officials consider Moscow's envoy to Washington a spy and a spy recruit. A charge that Kremlin denies but he raised eyebrows when he appeared in photos with President Trump in the Oval Office in a meeting with Russian foreign minister. Kislyak has been in contact with several members of Trump's inner circle during the campaign and the transition. Secret meetings that were only disclosed after they leaked in the press.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in July and again in September at his Senate office. Secret talks that forced him to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
SESSIONS: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.
LABOTT: Kislyak was front and center at then candidate Trump's first major policy address at the Mayflower Hotel.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An easing of tensions, an improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible.
LABOTT: CNN first reported that now, congressional investigators believe Sessions and Kislyak may have met on the sidelines of that speech as well. But the Justice Department denies any private talks there.
Trump's son-in-law and closest advisor Jared Kushner also met Kislyak during the transition, including on September 1st at Trump Tower where sources say he proposed a secret communications channel which "The Washington Post" says would have relied on Russia diplomatic facilities.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Backchannels are appropriate part of diplomacy.
LABOTT: Now, according to "Reuters", Kushner and the ambassador held at least two secret phone calls before the November election, though his attorney said Kushner, quote, has no recollection of the calls as described.
Another point of contact, President Trump's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, ultimately fired over lying ability his communications with Kislyak. And two campaign advisors, Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, also met with Kislyak last summer on the sidelines of the Republican convention.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Meeting is a technical term. I said hello to him a couple times.
LABOTT: And Kislyak's powerful network in Washington made him one of the most powerful ambassadors here, and he's been here for nearly a decade and has served over some of the most difficult periods in U.S.- Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, Erin. He's expected to end his post by the end of the year and is reportedly up for a top job in the United Nations.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Elise.
And OUTFRONT now, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
And, great to have you with us. I appreciate. When you look at this, of course, Congressman, not a single meeting
between the Trump associates and ambassador was disclosed. Not in national security clearance forms, not to Congress, not until the meetings leaked to the press.
Could they have avoided all of this if they had just disclosed these meetings, if they are so insubstantial in nature?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, they weren't substantial in nature. You're putting sinister words out there to make it sound like something sinister is happening. Somebody meets somebody in passing, that's considered a meeting.
One guy -- oh, Attorney General Sessions didn't remember that he had a third conversation with this man instead of two. How sinister is that? Come on! This is --
BURNETT: I mean, but you say --
ROHRABACHER: This is much to do about nothing.
ROHRABACHER: That is just incredible.
BURNETT: But the reason --
ROHRABACHER: Go ahead.
BURNETT: -- that I raise this question is you could say these meetings were also insubstantial, they don't matter. That is possible that that's the case. But --
ROHRABACHER: How many meetings did the Democrats have at that time?
BURNETT: Not single, but these were members of the Trump campaign. Trump associates, right?
ROHRABACHER: OK. How many people --
BURNETT: Not a single one of these meetings was disclosed by anyone.
ROHRABACHER: OK. Wait a minute. I'm going to ask you right now. If you think they should know that, how many meetings did Hillary Clinton and her people have, especially in trying to set up these type of contributions to the Clinton Foundation and the speeches that her husband would be giving and receiving money from Russians. How many --
BURNETT: And, Congressman, I would say, that would be relevant if she was the president of the United States but she's not. Donald Trump is. ROHRABACHER: Oh, Donald Trump was not -- oh, holt on, hold on!
BURNETT: Arguably much more significant right now.
ROHRABACHER: No, no, no, no! Half of what you're talking ability is when he was running. Ok. When he was running for president but you don't know that about Hillary because you haven't looked into millions of dollars from Soviet or Russian oligarchs going in there.
Instead, you're trying to make this look like Attorney General Sessions is doing something sinister because he forget that he'd had one extra conversation with the Russian ambassador who is supposed to have all kinds of meetings with people. Come on.
BURNETT: What I'm asking you is if it wasn't --
BURNETT: -- sinister, why didn't they tell us about I would? We don't know if it was sinister or not.
ROHRABACHER: Well --
BURNETT: All we know is that there was a failure to disclose meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting.
ROHRABACHER: No, it wasn't meeting after meeting. Attorney General Sessions had three inner tie -- I don't know how long the conversation lasted. He had three of them over a long period of time and during that time, he had thousands of meetings and thousands of conversations.
You're trying to make it look sinister that he only remembered two of them. Come on! Get real! This is no news.
BURNETT: Again, I've made a point of what I think the fair question is, which is why they were not disclosed.
ROHRABACHER: OK. Yes.
BURNETT: That is a crucial question.
BURNETT: Because you're giving your side of this congressman, I want to ask you something --
ROHRABACHER: Right. Thank you.
BURNETT: -- your knowledge of Russia. OK? You have a lot of contact with Russians. This is something that you have been very open about. Back in the 1990s, you met then-deputy mayor, Vladimir Putin. You said I arm wrestled him in a bar. That's a lighter one. But, of course, last year, you met privately with the Russian
confidante blacklisted by the Treasury Department. In April, you met with an alleged former Soviet spy. You've been vocal in your opposition to sanctions on Russia.
ROHRABACHER: Wait a minute. When did I meet with an alleged Soviet spy?
BURNETT: That was in April.
ROHRABACHER: No, no. That was ten years ago. It's OK.
ROHRABACHER: That was ten years ago I was warned by the FBI that one of the guys it talk to was a Soviet intelligence guy and I treat everybody from the Russian embassy, everybody from all the other embassies --
BURNETT: Our reporting is that it was in April of 2017. I can just go on our reporting.
ROHRABACHER: No. Not if you reported it. It happened ten years before that.
BURNETT: OK. In -- the "New York Times" is reporting that the FBI warned you. As you pointed out, they're saying the FBI warned you in 2012 --
BURNETT: -- that Russian spies were trying to recruit you specifically, Congressman. You've obviously strongly denied spying for Russia.
ROHRABACHER: That was one five years ago and one ten years ago as well.
BURNETT: So, were you, Congressman Rohrabacher aware that they tried to recruit you?
ROHRABACHER: I was aware that when people -- whatever embassy is talking to me, especially the Russian embassy, they are trying to do the job of their government, which is intelligence -- and you assume they are intelligence people. All of us do that. That's why there is so many meetings and you're ignoring all the meetings that Hillary and all the other guys went through, even when there's money being transferred and now you want to focus on that. OK.
Yes, the answer is I'm always aware that anybody from the Russian embassy is probably involved in intelligence.
BURNETT: And I would imagine part of the reason you're aware of that is because you are a sophisticated Washington player. You've worked there for a long time. You worked for Reagan. You've been in Congress for nearly 30 years, Congressman, right? So, you understand --
ROHRABACHER: I was a special assistant to the president. I actually fought Russians in Afghanistan. I've been engaged in the fight against Soviet aggression all my life.
BURNETT: So --
ROHRABACHER: From the time I was a teenager.
BURNETT: Right. And I'm saying you're a sophisticated player.
ROHRABACHER: Yes, I am.
BURNETT: So, you may know how to avoid becoming an unwitting spy, right? And you're obviously aware that in his testimony, the former CIA Director John Brennan recently said people can become witting or unwitting spies for Russia. So, you're aware of the risks when you had all these meetings.
Do you think, Congressman Rohrabacher, that Jared Kushner who had zero government experience tried to end around the system to talk to Putin confidants, have the ability that you have to avoid become an unwitting Russian asset?
ROHRABACHER: Sure, he did, because I'm sure that when he got back to the White House and his inner circle he works with, he was able to accurately portray to them what he'd been talking about. Of course, he's surrounded by experts.
BURNETT: So you have no concerns --
ROHRABACHER: That's what they have in the White House. He's a senior --
BURNETT: -- about his meetings whether it be with Sergey Kislyak or, of course, with the chairman of VEB Bank.
ROHRABACHER: Well, first of all, an ambassador is supposed to see all these people, that's number one. This Russian ambassador is supposed to see -- and again, whether this young man had the experience enough to understand everything that was being said and the maneuvers that were going on, when he got back to the White House, I'm sure he talked to the people he works with. He was surrounded by them. And --
BURNETT: Which congressman brings me back to the question --
ROHRABACHER: -- in the beginning.
BURNETT: OK. If we take your point as a fair one, then when he was filling out his national security form, why would he have not included this meeting? If it was important enough for him to know that it was important to talk to people around him, wouldn't it be important enough to disclose on your national security clearance form? ROHRABACHER: Well, you know, I just have to tell you, I don't see
anything serious about people who make paperwork mistakes, and sometimes when they've had thousands of conversations, to forget they had an extra one, instead of one. You can make that sound sinister, but nowhere near as sinister as what you're ignoring with Hillary's people taking millions of dollars from Russian oligarchs.
BURNETT: I understand your point, I'm simply saying you're trying on the one hand to say that they were so insignificant, they didn't remember them. And then the other, they knew how significant they were. So, they tried to tell people around them which seems obviously be contradictory.
ROHRABACHER: No, no. No it's not a contradictory statement. When someone meets you because they happen to be someone who works for the Russian embassy, maybe they wanted to talk about how we could have space cooperation, you know, or something like that.
There are a lot of areas we can cooperate with the Russians. That's what I'm all about. I think we should -- instead of talking about Russia as in it's still the Soviet Union.
[19:40:01] We should find ways we can use them to defeat radical Islamic terrorists, work in space. There's cooperation rather than hostility towards the Russians I believe is best for America. I've been called a Soviet dupe for that.
BURNETT: Yes, you have. Yes, you have. And I want to ask you about that before we go.
BURNETT: Because "The Washington Post", as you know, Congressman Rohrabacher, recently obtained a recording of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and in that, he was talking about you and Trump and Putin, OK? And here's what he said, quote: There's two people I think Putin pays. Rohrabacher and Trump.
Now, he's later tried to say he was joking. What do you say though?
BURNETT: The majority leader would even say that about you?
ROHRABACHER: Well, let me ask you this. Did you hear the tape?
BURNETT: We have not heard the tape. "The Washington Post" has it. It was played to them.
ROHRABACHER: No. It's been played over and over again. It's been played over and over again. You didn't hear the tape. I can tell you what's on the tape. Laughter! There's laughter in the tape.
BURNETT: He said he was joking but I'm asking you why do you think he would even say that about you as a joke? ROHRABACHER: That's why he said it and that's why -- why? Because I
am someone who speaks his mind. I am someone who is advocating something that a lot of other people afraid to advocate because they'll be called names and be made fun of.
I think it is so serious that with the radical Islamic terrorist movement that are murdering both Russians and Americans, it is imperative that we work with the Russian instead of treating them like a hostile power. I'm going to get --
BURNETT: -- on this point, Congressman, because you're saying that we need to work with them with it comes to radical Islamic terror. John McCain actually disagrees on this.
ROHRABACHER: And others things, too.
BURNETT: He says said that Vladimir Putin is a greater threat to the United States than ISIS. Let me play you what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think he's the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is he right or wrong?
ROHRABACHER: John McCain, the guy who wants to go to war everywhere in the world, OK, that's fine. McCain is a war hero and we know that.
But the fact is that does not make him right on this at all. His -- the fact is, use your common sense when radical Islamic terrorists are murdering our people all over the world, trying to shake the courage of the West and cower us away and we need to work with Russia to defeat that force.
And those people who don't think so and are always trying to find some negative thing and Russia has lots of negative things to bring up, and you got to try to find those areas that you can work on, and otherwise it's harmful to our security not to do that.
BURNETT: Congressman --
ROHRABACHER: I got all sorts of personal criticism and people making jokes about it. But I'm going to keep it up saying the truth because that's what's good. Donald Trump has that same kind of courage, I might add.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Rohrabacher, I appreciate your time. I enjoyed our conversation. Thank you.
ROHRABACHER: Thank you. God bless.
BURNETT: And next, Hillary Clinton sounding off again on her election loss. Is she taking any responsibility for it?
And we're going to Wyoming coal country where miners support Trump and the clean environment. Can they have it both ways?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're coal miners but we care about this planet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:46:41] BURNETT: Breaking news: Moments ago, Hillary Clinton taking the stage in New York City talking about losing to President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've won races, I've lost races, I've never felt the way I feel about this. We're living in such an abnormal time when we look at the way that this White House is behaving about some of the biggest challenges we face, the dishonesty and fabrication, and whether you call it fake news or lies, pick your choice. It is deeply troubling. And it is also worrisome that it could cause lasting damage to our institutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.
And, Chairman, thank you very much for being with me tonight.
TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Erin, good to be with you.
BURNETT: You know, Clinton has been speaking this week. You know, she also spoke yesterday about why she lost. I wanted to play just a brief clip of that for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Look, I take responsibility for every decision I make but that's not why I lost. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean nothing?
CLINTON: I mean, it was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. She calls your organization mediocre to poor. Is the DNC the real reason she lost? PEREZ: Well, you know, my focus, Erin, has not simply been on 2016
and what happened there, but the fact that we lost over 900 seats in state legislative races over the last eight years. We lost Senate seats, governor seats, and what it reflects is that we have to up our game at the DNC.
We've got to -- I have great respect for our staff, but when you have a size 7 budget and a size 14 need, that's not enough. And that's why we're investing in the basics, including technological innovation.
I'm very excited about the tech team that we've put together. I'm very excited about our investments in our grassroots organizing, including the resistant summer that we're undertaking. Getting back to basics.
When you don't invest in organizing, when you don't invest in the training of candidates, when you don't invest in technology to the extent that you need to, then you're not investing in that basic infrastructure, and that's a big part of how we lost a lot of elections over the last eight years, and that's what we're trying to change.
BURNETT: All right. So, it sounds like you're saying -- I mean, obviously, you weren't there at the time at the DNC. I want to make that clear. Part of what she's saying is true.
But the other thing she said there, as you heard, Chairman, was -- I take responsibility for every decision I made but that's not why I lost. She went on then to blame Jim Comey and the media, among other things for her loss.
President Trump saw this and responded in a tweet as he is oft to do saying, quote: Crooked Hillary Clinton now blames everybody but herself. Refuses to say she was a terrible candidate, hits Facebook and even Dems and the DNC.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also said about Hillary Clinton and I quote: I never thought she was a great candidate.
Are you disappointed that she still seems to be failing to recognize her own flaws?
PEREZ: You know what? We're totally focused on the future at the DNC. You know, you remember Barack Obama I think correctly said that she's one of the most qualified candidates in American history.
[19:50:05] We did not win that election. There are a lot of reasons for not winning that election.
And what we're doing at the DNC is we're focused on the future. And what we have to do is number one, change our mission. That's what we've done. We're here to elect school board candidates.
PEREZ: And that's why we've been working -- we've got a dozen people down in Georgia helping John Ossoff and I think he's going to win that race. We've invested in state and local races and we're going to win that.
I'm totally focused on making sure we build that infrastructure for success. Organizing --
PEREZ: -- training, technology and that's how we succeed.
BURNETT: And, Chairman, I know you think you're going to win that special election in Georgia, which is going to be hotly contested, obviously. We're going to get that in a couple of weeks.
But you talk about the future, I want to ask you about Joe Biden. The former vice president has launched a PAC, a political action committee. Obviously, some seeing that as a sign he's interested in pursuing a run again in 2020. He will be 78 on inauguration day the next time around.
Is he a candidate for the future as you see it?
PEREZ: Well, I have profound respect for the vice president, for what he stands for, for what he has always stood for, and what he has done for this nation, distinguished career of public service dating back, you know, almost 50 years. That's a decision that he'll make and that's a decision that other potential candidates for president will make. And my job at the DNC is make sure that we have a fair and transparent process, that everybody is treated fairly and equally, and I am focused like a laser on making sure that we do that.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Chairman Perez, I appreciate your time. And thank you for coming OUTFRONT, sir.
PEREZ: It's always a pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, coal miners who believe in global warming. Where do they stand on Trump's Paris pullout?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not a climate change denier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:55:52] BURNETT: Breaking news: the backlash building after President Trump announced he's pulling the United States out of the climate deal. This from America's biggest key allies to America's biggest corporations, a reaction across the board of outrage. In fact, the cover of "The New York Daily News", which, of course, is very critical of the president, they've come out with: "Trump to World: Drop Dead." It fits with politics, but it fits with a lot of what we're seeing from business leaders as well. And the president says his reasoning is to protect American
businesses. Specifically, he talked about coal. He said it's going to put coal miners back to work. But in coal country, there are mixed feelings tonight.
Here's Martin Savidge with a story you'll see only OUTFRONT.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In most of America, coal used to be king.
In Wyoming, it still is. Wyoming accounts for 40 percent of America's coal production and a significant number of coal miners here are women.
JODI SAUNDERS, SHOVEL OPERATOR: You start for the obvious reasons, the money and benefits and security. Then it turns into something you eventually you don't know anything else, you just -- you start to love it.
SAVIDGE: They work in an industry that's demanding, deadly, and dominated by men.
LAURA DILLEY, SAFETY COORDINATOR: It gives you strength when you know you can go out there and compete and do what everyone else does, like she said, as good if not better than they do.
SAVIDGE: Strength isn't the only thing they have in common.
(on camera): Who voted for President Trump?
FALLON HOVERSON, EQUIPMENT OPERATOR: I had a little bit reservations of him as a person and the way that he is, but voting-wise, no.
SAVIDGE: Do you think he's being treated fairly?
SAUNDERS: No. I think it's awful.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): What about all those campaign promises Trump made to bring coal mining jobs back.
(on camera): Have you seen that?
DILLEY: Yes. There has been more jobs in the base open up, there has been. They're hiring now.
SAVIDGE: Thousands of jobs?
DILLEY: I wouldn't say thousands.
STACEY MULLER, SHOVEL OPERATOR: I know 250 have been re-hired, within the base and within the 10 or 12 mines that we have here.
SAVIDGE: Jodi, that's not the numbers that he promised?
SAUNDERS: I think it's a process.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): And part of that process, they say, is easing environmental restrictions on coal, something Trump did by taking America out of the Paris climate agreement.
But it's here, these coal miners split.
DILLEY: I wish he hadn't just because it makes us seem as though we're not in with the rest of the world in combating climate change.
MULLER: We're coal miners but we care about this planet. I mean, that's also our -- it's our responsibility to take care.
SAUNDERS: I was in favor of him pulling out. I think the United States itself is responsible for the United States.
HOVERSON: I think that we need to focus on the United States first and foremost in making us great again.
SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you believe climate change is a real thing?
HOVERSON: No. Not really.
MULLER: I am not a climate change denier, but I do believe that we certainly have an impact, but I think we can lessen that in a responsible way that doesn't -- that doesn't put entire groups of people out of work.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): For many of these miners, there were only two issues that mattered last November: jobs and energy. Nothing has changed.
(on camera): Show of hands who would vote the same?
SAVIDGE: Here in Wyoming, it's home to some of the largest coal pit mines in the world. And even as the coal miners are split, so are the coal companies. Peabody Coal known as Peabody Energy say there's OK pulling out of that Paris accord. Cloud Peak Energy, very big here in the state, wishes that the United States had remained in.
The impact on this state is still divided because they have also invested heavily in alternative energy.
BURNETT: All right. Martin, thank you very much.
Of course, we all need to understand the story.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.