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Spicer Contradicts President On Trump Jr. Russia Meeting; New Details: Russian Family Scrutinized Over Trump Jr. Meeting; Poll: Trump 36 Percent Approval Rating Is Lowest In 70 years. Aiired 7-8p ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:06] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, Sean Spicer still insisting Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer was about adoption, even the president is not pushing back story anymore. Why can't the White House get its stories straight? And American outspoken ethic's chief resigned ripping Trump on his way out, why he says the U.S. is, "closed to a laughing stock" and the White House fights back. He's my guest tonight.

And Ann Coulter shames Delta Airlines and a fellow passenger on Twitter but Delta get the last laugh? Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, ignoring the proof. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today sticking with a talking point that defies evidence and logic. At issue is the meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney, a meeting that was set up with the promise of information from the Russian government that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.

When asked about that meeting today, Sean Spicer said this.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.


BURNETT: Of course what Spicer said it's true because that meeting was not never purported to be about adoption. How do we know that? Well, from the e-mail released by Donald Trump Jr. The e-mail to Donald Trump Jr. was very clear. It said that the meeting would, "Provide the Trump campaign with official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but as part as Russia and government's support for Mr. Trump."

In those e-mails, of course, you know, they said it was a Russian government lawyer that was going to be presenting this information to Donald Trump Jr. Spicer even contradicted today in his comment the president of the United States who actually went to Twitter to say this, and I, "President Trump, most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one that Don Junior attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics. "

To get info on an opponent. Well, even Donald Trump isn't saying his son's meeting was supposed to be about adoption. The president simply says this is politics as usual.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent.


BURNETT: Now that comment is troubling and perhaps as troubling as Sean Spicer because politicians in both parties and Trump's own FBI nominee say that no one should have taken that meeting. Not politics as usual, by any stretch of the imagination. Now here we are, it's been nine days since the story of the meeting first broke. The White House still is obviously giving conflicting answers on what happened inside that room at Trump Tower. Manu Raju begins our coverage out front today on Capitol Hill.

And obviously within the White House here, you got Sean Spicer and the president of the United States not on the same page. What's the reaction on Capitol Hill tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPOTER: Well, there's not much support for the president's defense of this meeting and not even from Republicans in the House and Senate side who have been muted in their response and very critical about what the president is saying.

A lot of members want to get more information about exactly what happened, including the leader of the key committees investigating this issue saying this is a matter that will be investigated further.

Now I did speak to one Republican who has taken a much tougher line on Russia than Donald Trump has. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. I started asking him about whether he believes Jared Kushner's security clearance is suspended but instead he pivoted and he criticizes the president's defense of that meeting that Donald Trump Jr. took with the Russians as well as Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Here's what Graham said.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: President Trump, in this regard, we should not be encouraging people to meet with foreign governments. It is not standard politics. As a matter of fact, there's no end to this. You know, in 2020, it will be here before you know it.


RAJU: Now, a group of Senate Democrats earlier today, Erin, wrote a letter to the White House asking that Jared Kushner's security clearance should be suspended because, in their words, he, "May pose a danger to our country" by accessing high-level intelligence after not reviewing some of these meetings with Russians and initially on the security clearance forms he's since amended them.

Not many Republicans are joining that Democratic call. However, including the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, who I asked directly, should Jared Kushner's security clearance be suspended? He said, well, maybe not. He said Jared Kushner has amended the forms and now he said "fairly accurate." Erin?

BURNETT: Fairly accurate. All right, Manu, thank you very much.

OutFront tonight, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He is on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And congressman, thank you for your time tonight.


BURNETT: Two former senior intelligence officers tell me that no entry level CIA analyst could get hired after doing what Jared Kushner did, right, change his security clearance form application multiple times, edit it, add, edit it, add. The question for you is, given that, should Jared Kushner have security clearance tonight?

[19:05:08] KINZINGER: Well, look, I'm going to leave that to right now to the administration makes that decision and then ultimately more information coming out, I think it's a big jump right now to say we demand this only because, as I've said, we need to get all of this information.

This meeting, however, and different things, whether it comes to social media that we're finding out is of interest to a lot of us and figuring out what exact role was being played. But again, I think, you have the two committees out here that are dealing with this, Mr. Mueller dealing with this and his investigation, I prefer to wait for that to jump to a conclusion. But I'll tell you, at no point should we ever accept as a nation, as a party, as anybody, anybody ever working with a foreign government to influence an election.

BURNETT: So let me ask you on the Jared Kushner point one more thing that that could be important here. Do you believe right now, I mean, you thinking this is the senior adviser to the president of the United States -- that these multiple edits and revisions to a security clearance form with this meeting, the one that we're talking about here with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer and others added at the end of June, do you think that was an honest mistake?

KINZINGER: Well, it's hard for me to tell. I don't know. I think it was highly improper. You think about the contacts and stuff that we have out here on a daily basis with whether they are diplomats or whatever, I could see how one would slip through the crack or something but, you know, depending on what was discussed in this meeting,

I think, you know, meeting with somebody that potentially was a KGB or SFB and now carve out, you know, the details that the Russian government has information. It's hard to me to imagine the case in which I would forget that contract and others. But again, I don't -- it's hard for me to put motives into the mind of somebody until I know more and that's what we're waiting to see.

BURNETT: And the, of course, this is the top story tonight, the reaction to the president's tweet, he came out defending his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer, that meeting the Jared Kushner was in and I want to read that tweet to you again, congressman. The president writes, "Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Junior attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics." Senator Graham tonight, congressman, criticizing the president's tweet on the Russian meeting saying that the president should not be encouraging meetings with foreign adversaries.

Look, you've been blunt about this. You said you would have gone straight to the FBI if you got a meeting request like the one Don Junior received even if it was from someone reporting to be from the Canadian government. What's your reaction to the president's tweet?

KINZINGER: I think it's wrong. I think, you know, people can ascribe bad motives to politicians all the time. They do. It's America's favorite past time. And in some cases, politicians have bad motives. But I don't know anybody out here on any side of the aisle, frankly, that would take a meeting with any Russian operative or anything from the Russian government or at least if they did, which I don't think they would, but if they did, they'd know they would be doing something wrong, something not right.

We cannot get to a point. We can never get to a point in this country where it is acceptable to take information from a foreign government to influence an election. And again that could be Russia, that could be Canada, it could be anybody.

The foreign -- any foreign government needs to stay out of our politics because what that does is it undermines people's faith in the institution of the government and their ability to have their vote heard or counted or voice heard. When people lose faith in government and institutions, that leads down the road to people feeling like they don't have a voice, which is serious instability. That's what we out here as politicians, as elected officials have to defend, is the integrity underpinning the entire system or underpinning the entire system.

BURNETT: There's breaking news at this hour, congressman. The Russian deputy foreign minister has just met with the U.S. official at the Department of State. He says he's, "Almost" that's his word, "at a deal" and that deal would get two seized mansions in United States back into Russian hands. And those compounds you know about them, our viewers have seen them. These are basically Russian spy compounds outside New York City and Washington, D.C., they were shut down, Russians sent out of the country by President Obama in response to Russian meddling in the election.

Now the words tonight, almost at a deal to get them back from the Trump Administration. Congressman, do you support giving those compounds back to Russia? KINZINGER: It depends what the deal is. If the deal was Russia

leaves Ukraine, Russia leaves Syria, Russia quits bombing innocent women and children and hospitals, then that's probably a good exchange. If the deal is, hey, we want to give these compounds back to you so you'd be nice to us or we can have a good relationship, that would be a very bad deal. So, I hope that this isn't just an effort to try to make the Russians happy to give them these compounds back. I hope this doesn't come fruition.

Any time a house being used for espionage activity is located, that belongs now to the United States government or whoever (INAUDIBLE) that stay that way. It should not be given back to the people that are perpetrating that spying in the very first place.

[19:10:02] BURNETT: Congressman Kinzinger, thank you for your time.

KINZINGER: Anytime. Take care.

BURNETT: And OutFront next, the billionaire Russian businessman who is behind the Donald Trump Jr. meeting. New details tonight about his connections to Putin and Trump.

Plus, John McCain undergoes serious surgeries on his skull. We have new details with close friend and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be here to talk about how significant this surgery is.

And Jeanne Moos on the ongoing feud between Delta Airlines and Ann Coulter.


BURNETT: Tonight, new details about the controversial meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr. agreed to have with Russians. He thought they were bringing damaging information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton. One of the men behind that meeting has clear connections to Vladimir Putin's Kremlin. Ivan Watson is out front with the new details from Moscow.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aras Agalarov is a billionaire real estate developer. Who built one of the biggest shopping and entertainment complexes in Moscow. His son, a Russian pop singer who goes by the stage name Emin.

Both father and son making headlines in the U.S. because according to e-mails published by Donald Trump Jr., they asked Emin's promoter to set off a June 2016 meeting in Trump's New York tower.

[19:15:05] According to an e-mail sent to Trump Junior, the purpose of the meeting was to deliver sensitive Russian government information to help Donald Trump's election campaign. Until these allegations of international political intrigue, the elder Agalarov was better known as one of the 200 richest business men in Russia, according to Forbes. His company Crocus Group runs shopping malls, luxury restaurants, concert halls and a convention center. BEN ARIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BNE INTELLINEWS: You and I could just turn

up the billion dollars and build the same complex. You have to be an insider, you have to have good, strong relationships with the authorities.

WATSON: In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Agalarov a medal of honor. Since then, the government awarded Crocus Group some big contracts, including a $129 million deal in 2015 to provide technical support to the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan and more than $500,000 to build two soccer stadiums for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup.

In 2013, the Agalarovs teamed up with Trump to host the Miss Universe contest in Moscow. The future U.S. president made a cameo in one of Emin's video.

TRUMP: What's wrong with you? You're fired.

WATSON: A Trump tweet from 2013 suggests the U.S. and Russian real estate moguls might have plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And there would be more contact. CNN has obtained exclusive footage of this 2013 party in Las Vegas when Trump met with Emin and his British publicist, Rob Goldstone.

Now the Agalarovs are under scrutiny for helping set up that controversial meeting in New York. It was attended by Donald Trump Jr. and two top Trump campaign officials as well as a Russian lawyer, A Russian-American lobbyist, Emin's British publicist and an unnamed representative of the Agalarovs.


WATSON: Erin, the Agalarovs confirmed to CNN that they did helped facilitate to set up that meeting but deny that they were working for the Russian government and deny that their intent was to try to meddle in U.S. politics but U.S. officials are not so sure.

Senior members of Congress, they say they'll investigate the controversial meeting as part of their broader probe into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Ivan, thank you very much for the new details. And let's go now to our editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, also former White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, Richard Painter joins me and former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd.

And Phil, you know, from Ivan's report there, the Agalarov's family, you've got a Moscow construction tycoon, pop star, they helped arrange this meeting. What this report I think makes clear is that when they say they have information from the senior levels of the Russian government, one would believe that because they're large, yes, and everything that they had because of their relationship with the Kremlin.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: That's exactly right. If you look at what Donald Trump Jr. is doing, he's getting a call to take a meeting with somebody he doesn't know.

When you work in Washington D.C. there's three things that corrupt people. One is money, two is sex, three is power. This is about access to power. If you want access to power, you need trust and credibility. The lawyer didn't have that trust, especially when she's promising to damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

But she comes with a stamp of approval not only with somebody that the Trump family knows but with someone who has access to the Kremlin. So he's looking at this, I guarantee you, and saying, I'd take this meeting not because she's coming to talk about adoptions but because she may have information about Clinton and she's got the stamp of approval from people who have Kremlin connections. Pretty simple.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, Chris, that seems pretty simply. I think this makes it clear. You're not somebody who is in the 200 riches people and building all of these buildings in Moscow unless you have the approval of the Kremlin.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPOTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Absolutely. Look, the reason that this e-mail was even listened to, I'm sure Donald Trump Jr. gets plenty of e-mails, Erin.


CILLIZZA: The reason that this one was listened to is because Rob Goldstone is someone he knew through this Russian family because of the Miss Universe pageant in Russia in 2013.

So, this was already all set. To the other point, Rob Goldstone, unless he was lying, Rob Goldstone is making exchange with Donald Trump Jr. (INAUDIBLE) this point is making clear this is highly sensitive information. He uses the word incriminating, his word about Hillary Clinton, this comes from a Russian government official.


CILLIZZA: You know, so it's all there and, again, Donald Trump Jr. takes this meeting because he views Goldstone and the Russian family, therefore, as credible sources looking out for Donald Trump's best interests.

[19:20:07] So yes, it's impossible --


CILLIZZA: -- extricate those two things from one another.

BURNETT: And Phil, on this point, about who is in this room, right, and this is what we're looking at now, right, the big mystery right now, Ivan points out there was eight person in that meeting and who was that person. We now is it was a representative of the Agalarov family. So they actually cared enough not just to have an intermediary set it up with these promises but to have a representative from the family in that room.

Do you, Phil, feel that there are a lot more details here that we're going to learn?

MUDD: Heck yes. Look at this from an investigative angle, Erin. We've seen a sliver that is one slice of e-mails from one person. As soon as I see the number of people in the room multiply, I'm looking at investigative avenues that will help us determine maybe whether Donald Junior is lying or not. That is every one of these people has a cell phone, they have an e-mail address and especially the Americans in the room, the people from the Trump campaign, they're going to be interviewed. With all of that data and interviews, they better be darn sure they don't make a mistake about what the facts are and what they said because if they do, some of the (INAUDIBLE) one of the other interviews is going to tell you they're lying.

BURNETT: And of course if they're Russians with links to the government or very wealthy Russians, at least from my experience, they're going to have several cell phones. Three, four, five.

MUDD: Yes.

BURNETT: And even maybe a lot of different avenues --

MUDD: Yes.

BURNETT: -- for a lot of different methods of communication. Richard, you know, last month the Trump re-election campaign we now know paid $50,000 to the law firm now representing Donald Trump Jr. Now that payment came on June 27th, this was just a few days after Jared Kushner amended his security clearance form for the third time to add the specific meeting. Is that timeline important, do you think?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: Well, I think it's quite obvious that this meeting involved collusion with the Russians with respect to the election. And so, of course, any controversies come out of this meeting, any lawyers fees are going to end up getting picked up by the trump campaign because he was working for the Trump campaign when he was doing it and it's very clear what was going on in this meeting.

The Russians want a lifting of the sanctions that have been posed against Russia. The economic sanctions by the Obama Administration as the Russian billionaire of course who have the most at stake with respect to those sanctions --


PAINTER: -- and the adoption issues is just a side show there. And the Trump -- they wanted the damanging information on Hillary Clinton. It was a quid pro quo. It was a bribe or a deal. That was happening in that room in the Trump Tower.

BURNETT: And, you know, Chris, President Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, has now weighed in, he is saying, it's wrong, because anything questionable was taken place at this meeting. And one of his reasons of excuses was, if there was something wrong, the Secret Service would have done something about it, OK. Let me play his excuse right here.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point. That raised the question with me.


BURNETT: OK. After that comment, the Secret Service, Chris, has elaborated saying no, we would not have checked out the participants of the meeting because Donald Trump Jr. was not being protected by the Secret Service.


BURNETT: By the way, it's the FBI who is responsible for who they are allowing in the country or not allowing in the country, right? Why would Sekulow the say this? Why they give this excuse?

CILLIZZA: Distraction. This is a political spin, political sort of deception, all this time, both parties do it, sort of, hey, look over here at this thing because they don't want you to look over here. The reality of the situation is, Donald Trump should not lose sight of this. Donald Trump Jr., Erin, released an e-mail exchange between himself and the Agalarov's music publicist, this guy, Rob Goldstone, in which Rob Goldstone says flat out, we want to have this meeting. We have what we believe to be incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton. It comes as a result of Russia's effort to help aid Mr. Trump in the election and Don Junior says, "love it, hope that it's true. If so, we can use it later in the summer."

I don't know that it's more complicated than that. You can throw out all sorts of things, shiny objects as spin but that's not my word. That's not Phil Mudd. That's not Richard Painter. That's Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails that he released. So, I can't get beyond that. And I think we shouldn't get beyond that because that is remarkable.

BURNETT: Richard, let me give you the final word. Is this black and white in terms of its implication regardless of what actually happened in the meeting? Let's assume in the meeting it was a whole lot of nothing.

PAINTER: Well, yes. This is something that never should have happened. This is not the way politics is done in the United States. I do not know of any other examples of politicians going to foreign governments for opposition research for the dirt on the political opponents, no examples.

And here we have the top three people in the Trump campaign doing this and furthermore, Jared Kushner did not tell the truth about this that disclose these meetings on his security clearance forms.

[19:25:07] His security clearance should be revoked and Congress needs to investigate this. Find out what happened. Because this was clearly collusion with the Russian government and it was a quid pro quo. The Russian government wants release of the sanctions. They may get two buildings back very soon that's being negotiated. And other sanctions in return for the dirt on Hillary Clinton. And that's the kind of quid pro quo, the kind of a deal that the United States government does not do.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much. I appreciate your time.

And OutFront next, Trump's approval rating, the lowest at this point in 70 years. But the White House has a totally different set of numbers. Is Trump's base wavering or not?

And the man who just resigned from running the ethics office says America is "close to a laughing stock under Trump." He's my guest tonight.


BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump's approval ratings dropped of the rating after just six months in office was 36 percent. This is according to a new ABC News, Washington Post poll. This happens to be the lowest rating for any president in poll dating back 70 years. And that slide of support though is not coming from the president's core supporters. They are standing by their man. Miguel Marquez is out front.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In deep blue Massachusetts, President Trump voters keeping the faith.

RALPH LEDGER, TOLLAND, MASS., TRUMP VOTER: Four years from now I think it will be more politically savvy but it's going to be the same blunt talk, not giving in to anybody, not taking crap from anybody, that's what people want finally (ph).

MARQUEZ: They certainly wanted it in this rural corner of the state. All 14 counties here voted Clinton, but dig a little deeper, Massachusetts towns paint a different picture, increasingly conservative in the south and west.

[19:30:11] Tolland, population 496, had the state's highest percentage of Trump voters, 62 percent.

Ralph Ledger (ph), a retired Defense Department's civilian employee, spent his days building a 1960 Corvette.

RALPH LEDGER (ph), RETIRED GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE: I bought the quiet mufflers.

MARQUEZ: So far, he sees only a smooth ride for the president.

(on camera): Do you think the wall will be built?

LEDGER: Absolutely.

MARQUEZ: Do you think health care will be repealed or Obamacare will be repealed? LEDGER: Yes, it will. It's going to take a while to get, it seems,

to get the people in. Wouldn't it be nice instead of taking all of these vacations if they just stayed and got the work done? That would be great. I like to see that.

I think he would. I think he's the hardest working president, certainly in my memory. And he works seven days a week, but that's not the way it is down in Washington.

MARQUEZ: So whether he's in Florida or Bedminster or wherever else --

LEDGER: He's making phone calls, he's working, he's (INAUDIBLE).

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Investigations into the Trump campaign and Russia, a little more than a sideshow.

(on camera): There's so much on Russia that's out there. There are several investigations --


LEDGER: No. You guys talking about it. There's nothing. There's zero. Nothing.

MARQUEZ: But there's several investigations going on.

LEDGER: There's all kinds of -- so what these investigations going on? There should be investigations about Hillary.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Just down the road, Russell, once home to several paper mills. Today, they are all shut. It flipped. Obama narrowly won here in 2012. Trump won it big by more than 20 points.

(on camera): We are seven months into it.


MARQUEZ How's he doing?

MESSENGER: I think he's doing OK. I'd like to see a lot more done.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Shelley Messenger, a retired cafe worker and avid gardener, worries the broadening investigations will keep the president from fulfilling his campaign promises.

MESSENGER: I think a lot of it is being held up with all of these investigations and I wish they would let up on some of them so that they would give him a chance to maybe get some things done, like, you know, more with jobs, with the health care.

MARQUEZ: The president's agenda imperiled by investigation. His supporters standing firm.


MARQUEZ: Now, two things really stuck out to me while covering this story. One is, many of his supporters will accept absolutely zero criticism of the president. Even using the word tumultuous and describing his administration so far in conversation can invite an argument. The other thing that was shocking is politics are clearly driving this country apart at the tiniest towns out there, literally. Republicans and Democrats in many cases are just not talking to each other anymore -- Erin.

BURNETT: A real tragedy, I think, for everyone. Hopefully, and anybody can acknowledge from an objective point of view. Thank you very much.

And let's go to Jason Miller now, former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign. Symone Sanders is former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders, campaign communications consultant for Priorities USA.

So, Symone, let me start with you because you look at those top level approval ratings, OK, but as I think Miguel just fantastically reported, you could drill down the state of Massachusetts, you could find a town of 500 people or 62 percent of them voted for Trump, they are not budging. They defend their president. They believe in their president.

What is it about the Democrats' message that is just failing, frankly failing to resonate with this block of voters?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, these are voters that, look, Donald Trump was extremely unpopular when he first got elected and he was doing a lot of the same things that he's doing right now. He was unconventional. So, folks voted for him for a couple of reasons.

Look, Priorities USA has done a lot of different polling, a lot of different focus groups, with these folks, a lot of these Obama/Trump voters, some of these persuadable voters, and even some Republican voters and what they are saying is, look, a lot of them voted for Trump because of what he said about the economy, the promises he made about Medicare and Medicaid, and doing something about Obamacare.

And so, they have yet to see him deliver or not deliver on that front, and so, that's why the support has yet to waiver. That's why this health care bill is extremely, extremely important.

BURNETT: OK. So, Jason, the ABC/"Washington Post" poll, the overall number there was 36 percent of Americans approve of President Trump's job performance which, as I pointed out, was the lowest in 70 years by those polls. Bloomberg poll, his approval rating was at 40 percent. A Monmouth University poll puts it at 39 percent, down from 43 percent in March but flat from May.

Look, how big of an issue is this, right? They can say, whatever, we don't believe the polls, the polls can be wrong. Is that enough here? Just dismiss it?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's an issue at all. I mean, I think a lot of times, these first six months snapshots are wildly inaccurate. If you take a look at, say, President Carter's first six months versus President Clinton's first six months, President Carter was a whopping 40 points ahead of President Clinton, and I think even the most objective person would say President Clinton was a far more effective president and Carter may have been one of the most least effective, at least in modern history.

But I think one of the points that Symone did not mention during her opportunity was when the folks were asked about the Democratic Party, that 37 percent said that the Democratic Party actually stood for something, and 52 percent said the only thing that the Democratic Party stood for was to oppose President Trump.

[19:35:11] And I think that's really an existential moment for the Democratic Party is they've lost any sense of messaging at this point.

BURNETT: OK. And, Symone, on this point, I talked to a White House source who actually was talking to me about how they are conducting their own internal polling, OK? They're doing it in 15 must-win states, all right, right now. Trump support there is just shy of 50 percent.

So that's about 10 points higher than in any of those other polls. They say these are the states that matter. By the way, they might be completely right about that, right?

SANDERS: They could be right. But, you know, I'm hesitant to touch anything coming out of this White House. Look, it's a fact that, yes --

BURNETT: Wouldn't you admit, though, that on polling, they would want to really get that right, right? Nobody can afford to get that wrong.

SANDERS: I would hope they'd want to get that right, but these are the same folks who work in the White House that are bringing Donald Trump things and articles that are favorable to him so that he feels good. So, I think what's important here are real, raw numbers and real people.

If you go out there and talk to real people, people want to know what the Democratic Party stands for, which is why it's important for Democrats, yes, to keep the pressure up on Russia, but more importantly, to talk specifically about health care, about what Democrats are going to do for people and what the Democratic Party's plans are. And that's how we're going to win in 2018. Not just saying that these folks are really bad.


MILLER: Well, and I'd say in polls like this, whether it be "The Washington Post"/ABC, whether it'd be the Bloomberg, or a number of other new outlets that have had polls, rather than asking five, six, seven questions about trying to figure out how terrible, in their view, President Trump is, let's go through the positive accomplishments he's had. Whether it's decreasing illegal border crossings, whether it's getting us out of TPP, something that I think Symone and I probably both agree on, this president has done a lot of positive things.

And, look, we know this is a president that is trying to tip over the apple cart here in Washington. He's a change agent. That's not going to happen overnight. But Trump supporters are in for the long haul here.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both.

SANDERS: Look, Erin --

BURNETT: OK, quick final word, Symone.

SANDERS: He just hadn't any -- this president has not had any real legislative wins and legislative win is what matters. So, I would just ask the president to put some wins up on the board.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And, of course, that is why health care is so important. I know you both agree on that.

Next, according to an expert, Donald Trump is an ethics disaster for America. That expert has served under three presidents of different parties. He is my guest.

And Senator John McCain's medical condition tonight, it is a crucial story for the legislation in this country and it is more serious now than first thought as surgeons cut through his skull.

The president wishing McCain well tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a crusty voice in Washington and plus we need his vote.



[19:41:21] BURNETT: Breaking news, our Pamela Brown just spoke to Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney about the eighth man at the Trump Tower meeting.

And, Pamela, obviously, a lot of questions about who this person was. What did he tell you?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And there are still questions but what we've learned from Don Jr.'s attorney Alan Futerfas, is he spoke by the phone with this eighth person recently, was in the past couple of weeks. This person was the room and he was a representative of the Agalarov family, the family that helped orchestrate or really was behind this meeting, according to the email exchanges released by Don Jr.

So, he was at that meeting at Trump Tower in June. CNN reported last week that the individual was there on behalf of the Agalarovs, but the mystery remains about why he was there. And according to Futerfas, he spoke to him on the phone. This person

claimed to be a U.S. citizen and he also said that he was not at that meeting on behalf of the Russian government, that he was not working for the Russian government when he was at that meeting. This is what he told Futerfas over the phone.

And now a caution here, we don't have his name. Don Jr.'s name nor the Agalarov's attorney will name this person. And so, it does remain a bit of a mystery in terms of who he is but he claimed to the attorney, Alan Futerfas, that he's a U.S. citizen, that he was not there on behalf of the Russian government. He was there representing the Agalarov family.

And the attorney also told me that he was also there to kind of help the Russian attorney, the female Russian attorney to get to the meeting and make sure she got there OK. And so, this is sort of putting the pieces of the puzzle together as we try to figure out who was in the meeting at Trump Tower and why.

Futerfas also said, because what he's trying to do here is make sure all of the stories line up and he said that this mystery eighth person, this representative of the Agalarov family, also what he said was consistent with what others have said went on in this meeting, that there were pleasantries exchanged and the Russian attorney talked about this alleged derogatory information showing Russians donating to the DNC, and to Hillary Clinton and they moved on to the topic of adoptions.

What's also interesting and worth mentioning here is, the Russian attorney in an interview I believe with NBC had mentioned that she left behind documents in this meeting.


BROWN: The attorney, though, says no one he has spoken to, including his client Don Jr., including this representative for the Agalarov family, has any recollection of any documents that were left behind.

BURNETT: Now, there's also, of course, the importance here of the timeline, Pamela, in terms of, you know, Jared Kushner and his third revision of the security clearance form, adding this meeting towards the end of June when the president of the United States found out about this meeting. Obviously, we now know that the Trump re-election campaign paid $50,000 to the lawyer you're talking about, Alan Futerfas.

What did you just learn about that payment and the timing?

BROWN: Yes. That's right. So, this was a payment of $50,000 in late June paid on behalf of the Trump re-election campaign to Alan Futerfas for his work on behalf of Don Jr. And it's worth noting, this is the same day my colleague Evan Perez called Jared Kushner's team about the meeting. He found out through a source about this meeting that no one had reported on yet so on that day apparently, that is when that lawyer was hired to represent Don Jr.


BROWN: Just quickly, I also found this interesting. He released a statement talking about the fact that he and his client were going to provide more information about the meeting initially before "The New York Times" article. He said Don Junior and his counsel were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to publish or make a statement that was fulsome statement about the nature of the meeting, what led to the meeting, what the conversation was and the meeting.

[19:45:03] And so, so sort of insinuating there perhaps, although he didn't explicitly say that, that he was not fully involved in the initial statement that came out.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much.

Now, today about this meeting, President Trump tweeting, quote, Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics.

Of course, you heard a GOP congressman say he would have done no such thing earlier this hour. President George W. Bush's ethics czar saying that earlier this hour. The president's own nominee for FBI director says that nobody should take such meeting.

OUTFRONT, the outspoken Office of Government Ethics chief who just stepped down, Walter Shaub.

And, Walter, I appreciate you taking the time. So, the president says most politicians would have taken that meeting. That's politics. Anybody who has defended this that I have heard have said, well, wouldn't that just be opposition research. Does the president have a point?


That's really outside the scope of the things OGE looks at. I think the thing to remember is that all of this is part of a bigger picture of breaking with ethical norms and traditions at the executive branch. We've seen it with the decision not to divest his financial interests to visit his property and basically give them free advertisements and to bring his own children into the White House.

So, I think it's in that context that you have to view this kind of thing and if others have not behaved that way in the past, there was a reason they didn't do it.

BURNETT: Now, you raise a point of children in the White House and obviously the president's children, you're referring to. After we found out about this meeting with Donald Trump Jr., one Republican Congressman told the president that it is time to get his family members out of the White House.

Here's Congressman Bill Flores.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. BILL FLORES (R), TEXAS: I'm going out on a limb here, but I would say I think it would be in the president's best interests if he removed all of his children from the White House, not only Donald Trump, but Ivanka and Jared Kushner.


BURNETT: Of course, no such thing has happened. Do you agree with Representative Flores?

SHAUB: I think it was very good advice. I hope he takes that advice. The Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice issued an opinion on the first day of this administration, reversing its long- standing position on nepotism in the White House. I think that's part of what we're seeing, is that the traditions of the executive branch are slipping away.

These things weren't thought up in an ivory tower somewhere. They are the product of years of experience with the goal of instilling confidence on the part of public and the integrity of the government's operations.

BURNETT: When you say they're slipping away, let me ask you this, though, because I know you've had the honor of serving in three different administrations, Democrat and Republican, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and, of course, Donald Trump. When Barack Obama was president, Donald Trump claimed he was the least transparent president in history. Here he is in his own words.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama is the least transparent president in the history of this country. There's never been anything like it.

I'd like to have him be transparent. We know nothing about our president.

There's a total lack of transparency. Some day, those papers will come out and people will say, you know what, Donald Trump was right. This is a very, very sad day for the United States of America.


BURNETT: Walter, look, President Obama and the Obama administration only posted its visitor logs of who went to the White House online, after they were sued twice by a non-profit that sought the log. That is not transparent. Does Trump have a point?

SHAUB: Well, I mean, when you make statements like anybody's the most anything, I think you're going out on a limb there. But my goal really isn't to defend one administration or another.

What I can tell you is that in the past two administrations, one Democrat, one Republican, I felt an incredible level of support for the government ethics program and OGE depended on that support. We could always call the Bush White House or the Obama White House and say that we were into an issue with an agency or with a particular appointee and pretty much by the next morning, we'd have a phone call by somebody, either the person in question or somebody who works for them saying what can we do for you?

And it was that level of commitment that helped set a tone from the top and in government ethics, tone from the top is everything. The people below you are going to follow your example and at a minimum, you ought to hold yourself to the exact same standard that you're holding them to.

BURNETT: So, the White House has been critical of you and your comments, right, when you referred to how our country can be a laughingstock now. They released a statement actually yesterday. It said in part, quote: The truth is, Mr. Shaub is not interested in advising the executive branch on ethics. He's interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds.

You're resigning from your position tomorrow. What's your response? I want to give you a chance to respond to their statements.

SHAUB: Well, sure. I mean, the playbook of this administration has been to paint anybody who disagrees with them as partisan.

[19:50:03] But I can point to two objective facts. I wouldn't be quitting this job if I wanted to continue sticking around and grandstanding as they're putting it.

And I can show you objective numbers that we posted on OGE's Twitter page and I retweeted so I could try to get more people to see it, that we've actually been moving their nominees faster than President Obama's nominees by about a week, compared to the last presidential transition. I and my staff have had our sleeves rolled up and we're working hard to support them moving those nominees faster than the last administration. It's quite an accomplishment because they are considerably wealthier on average and have much more complex financial holdings, which would normally slow the process down.

And, frankly, some of them, not all, but some have followed the tone set from the top and pushed back with a level of intensity we just haven't seen before. I can't count the number of times I see members of my hard working staff come out rubbing their forehead saying, why does everything have to be a fight? Because they're fighting us tooth and nail on efforts to help them resolve their conflicts of interest.

And we often say we're not the ones who are going to be coming for you. We're the prevention mechanism. So, work with us so we can resolve your conflicts of interest.

BURNETT: All right. Walter, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

SHAUB: Yes, thank you.

BURNETT: And we're following more breaking news tonight on the condition of Senator John McCain who's now recovering from a surprise craniotomy. Doctors have cut through the skull of Senator McCain to remove a blood clot above his eye.

Here's what McCain's good friend, Lindsey Graham, is now telling CNN.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: John had not been feeling good. You know, he had been traveling a lot. We wrote it off to being tired, but he was getting forgetful and, you know, he just wore himself out traveling around the world. I'm glad they found out what I think was the cause.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You think this was the cause, whatever --

GRAHAM: Yes, I think it's the cause. After talking to him, I talked to him Sunday. Just like the old John McCain. Much more engaged in conversation.


BURNETT: Now, after CNN aired this exclusive interview, Graham told us he shouldn't have used the world forgettable. But there's a lot to talk about here. Senator McCain, of course, a hero in this country and a crucial member of the Senate.

OUTFRONT now, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, look, McCain's office is saying this procedure came about following a routine annual physical. He'd be recovering at home for just about a week. How serious it this though?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a brain operation. You know, I think when you read the first reports, first descriptions, it said, look, he had an incision around his eyebrow. They removed a blood clot.

As you pointed out, Erin, let me just show you again, I guess it's sort of obvious, but the bone that we're talking about is right in this area up here. That's if you feel your eyebrow that bone back there, your frontal bone. That was removed in the senator's case to basically gain access to his brain.

The bone was put back eventually but the goal was to get to this part of brain and remove a blood collection, and it was not a small blood collection. It was about five centimeters in size, which is about two inches. So, from here, my finger to the end of the ruler.

So, you know, pretty good size blood collection. We don't know exactly what caused that blood collection. So, it sounds like he went home quickly. It sounds like he's recovering well.

But this -- you know, it's a brain operation. It's general anesthesia. He's 80 years old. These things have to be taken quite seriously.

BURNETT: And, look, Sanjay, we all know the truth. There were a lot of eyebrows raised in June when McCain directed a very confusing line of questioning towards the former FBI Director Jim Comey. Let me just play a part of it for people.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: In the case of Mr. Comey, you -- President Comey --


MCCAIN: Excuse me, case of President Trump, you have an ongoing investigation.

You're going to have to help me out here. In other words, we're completed the investigation of anything that former Secretary Clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don't have to worry about it anymore?

COMEY: With respect to Secretary -- I'm not -- I'm little confused, Senator.


BURNETT: Look, his remarks were confusing. It was I think jarring for anyone listening to it. You know, he then had to issue a statement even, Sanjay. You know, remember, he said, I get the sense from Twitter my line of questioning went over people's heads. Maybe going forward, I shouldn't stay up watching the Diamondbacks night games. Sort of trying to diffuse the whole thing with humor.

But was his behavior a red flag?

GUPTA: Well, it was concerning certainly. But it could be related today what we were talking about here with this blood collection. But more likely not. You know, when someone has difficulty with memory or they have difficulty finding words, those can be certainly caused by different areas of brain being affected.

But with this particular area of the brain, again right in the front to left frontal lobe, more likely trouble you have troubles with judgment, you may have headaches, which you may have suffered, he may have just stayed up late, as he said, watching that baseball game.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sanjay.

[19:55:01] And OUTFRONT next: turbulence for Ann Coulter and Delta Airlines. Jeanne Moos takes off the Twitter war between them.


BURNETT: Tonight, an incident aboard a Delta flight shows never underestimate the power of extra leg room.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ann Coulter sure knows how to stir up turbulence for her long legs. She booked an aisle seat on an exit row, and when Delta put someone else on the seat --


MOOS: -- Ann went ballistic on Twitter. Just when you think it's safe to fly them again, the worst airline in America is still Delta.

COULTER: The gate agent just snatches my ticket out of hand and hands me a little slip saying, your seat has been changed. And I said why. She said emergency.

MOOS: Delta tweeted back, we're sorry you did not receive the preferred seat you paid for, and we'll refund your $30. Additionally, your insults about other customers and employees are unacceptable and unnecessary.

Ann had called airline staff, nurse ratchets. And she referred to the passenger who got her seat as the dachshund-legged woman.

COULTER: It's not comparing her with dogs. It's not calling her dog face. It's referring to her short legs.

MOOS: The story sure has legs.

(on camera): Ann's Twitter rant kept going and going and going, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

(voice-over): She embellished a Delta plane with the caption, we suck, leaving a critic of the conservative author to wonder, was your broom stick in the shop? Adding a witch cartoon.

As for the $30 refund, Ann tweeted it cost $10,000 of her time to preselect the seat, calculated by using her hourly rate.

COULTER: And you just have to lie back and take it unless you want to be dragged off the plane like that other customer.

MOOS: Though at the time of the United Airlines incident, he wasn't so sympathetic, suggesting he should be deported.

She slammed Delta for bungling her seat reservation by quoting Seinfeld.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know how to take the reservation, you just know how to hold the reservation.

MOOS: But when it came to the dachshund-legged woman who got her seat.

COULTER: You compared her to a dog. Dachshunds are adorable.

MOOS: At least one critic agreed adding, I would sit next to one over year any day.

This turned into a real aerial dog fight.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" begins right now.