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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Kellyane Conway: Russia Probe A "Fishing Expedition"; Trump Aide Calls Russia Probe "Fishing Expedition" After Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas; FBI Tracked Anti-Clinton "Fake News" Spreading On Election Day; Sessions Targets Leaks As They Expose WH's Trouble With Truth
Aired August 4, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Watching Erin Burnett, OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, fishing expedition. That's what the Trump White House calls the Russia probe as Special Counsel Bob Mueller going out-of-bounds? Plus, the attorney general vowing to crack down on leaks, but if it weren't for leaks, Michael Flynn could still be National Security Advisor. And how is American dream Week going for the Trump White House? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, fishing expedition. That's what president Trump, aid Kellyanne Conway as calling Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, a probe that is now seizing on Trump's financial ties to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: These types of endeavors end up being fishing expedition. They're a broadly cast net. And I would remind everybody that in terms of president Trump, he has said that he has no financial dealings with Russia whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Conway sounding wow a whole lot like former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated Bill Clinton. Here is Starr speaking to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, BILL CLINTON PRESIDENCY: That's a serious matter because we do not want investigators and prosecutors out on a fishing expedition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A fishing expedition. Never mind the irony of Ken Starr calling an investigation a fishing expedition. I mean remember Whitewater, Independent Counsel Ken Starr started by investigating Bill Clinton about a failed real estate deal in 1994.
Four years and $40 million later, the impeachable crime discovered with Clinton's live about having sex with Monica Lewinsky. Now, obtaining by Starr, that of course, resulted in the second impeachment trial in American history. Back then, democrats argued valently that star completely overstepped his bounds. Sound familiar? Well, it's what Trump is now accusing Mueller's investigation of doing.
Trump in a recent interview said, if Mueller pursued an investigation of his finances, that would cross a red line. Trump saying, "I think that's a violation. Look, this is about Russia." The problem is Trump's wrong. It isn't a violation for Mueller to delve into his finances. Here's a letter from then acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Mueller and spelling out the scope of his investigation.
And then Mueller is given authority for investigation into, "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump." Any links. Those words are crucial. Links, of course, can be financial. And legal experts tell us it is fair and square for Mueller to be looking at Trump's finances.
CNN, of course, is reporting exclusively tonight that CNN is not just a focussed on Trump and his family, his associate's finances but also on possible financial crimes. So this question then should be asked. Are any possible financial crimes on the table?
Again, let's go to Mueller's order. It says that he could investigate in, "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation, and any other matters within the scope of the investigation." So if looking at Trump's finances unearths a crime unrelated to Russia, it seems to be completely on the table.
Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT tonight near the presidents New Jersey, the occasion site. And Jason, new developments in the Russia investigation clearly something front and center for Trump as he is about or he has just begun his vacation.
JASON CAROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. New developments and a lot of folks wondering what the president thinks of these developments. But as, you know, Erin, number of questions were shouted at the president as he left Washington and headed for New Jersey. Those questions went unanswered and there was no press conference before he headed for New Jersey.
Typically in the past when a president is left with a summer break from the White House, we have seen a press conference here and there, not in this particular case. But it's also very clear that this is a president that has very strong opinions about this Russia investigation.
We heard some of those opinions last night at that rally in West Virginia. Statements that we've heard before talking about, you know, basically saying that the story is a total fabrication, blaming it in part on the democrats. And he says, have sour grapes over losing the election.
What's also clear about this, Erin, is that those who are advising this president feel very strongly at this point they just simply do not want him answering direct questions from the press. It's okay for him to hold a rally, speak to his base or even tweet every now and then, although, there's been a lot of controversy about that. But we haven't seen him tweet about it this week as well.
That's certainly good news to a number of GOP lawmakers who feel as though they don't want him talking about this Russia investigation. They want him focussed more on the economy and jobs. The administration is calling this a working vacation, if you will. That he's going to be working through this.
His son-in-law and his daughter Ivanka will be here as well as his newly appointed chief of staff. Erin.
[19:05:01] BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Jason. And OUTFRONT now, democratic senator from new -- from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal. He sits on the senate Judiciary Committee. And Senator, I appreciate your time.
So is it fair, in your view, if this investigation ends up with some conclusion, something, but something, that has nothing to do with either the election or with Russia.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The question is, Erin, what would have nothing to do if it's related to financial crimes, money laundering, illegal bribery, relating to Russia and involving a member of the Trump campaign. Certainly, it's within the bounds of the mandate that Robert Mueller has as Special Counsel. He is investigating precisely those kinds of dealings.
BURNETT: Right, what about though in the lines of Ken Starr right, who was looking at a failed real estate deal and found sex with an intern. What about if they're looking at financials and they find a financial crime, but it is not related to the election or to Russia? It's related to who knows what? Some kind of tax fraud or something else, is that fair game as it was for President Clinton?
BLUMENTHAL: For the special counsel that we pursuing financial crimes or dealing that may lead him to charge others like Michael Flynn with financial crimes. And then, for Michael Flynn to provide evidence that's relevant to collusion and conspiracy between that Trump campaign and the Russians also is well within the mandate of the special counsel.
BURNETT: But my question, it sounds like there -- I don't know if you're avoiding it or you're answering it implicitly. It sounds like you're saying it's not fair if they find some crime that is not related to the election or to Russia.
BLUMENTHAL: Any kind of crime is fair for the special prosecutor to pursue. If the special prosecutor finds a violation of law, he can pursue it himself or he can turn it over to another prosecutor.
BLUMENTHAL: The grand jury now, very important to understand, Erin, and this point I think has been neglected, is an arm of the court. It's not only an investigative tool, they can be used by Robert Mueller special counsel. It is an arm of the court.
So for any of these folks to be saying, well, it's a witch hunt, it is a fishing expedition. The point here is that the grand jury gives this investigation a permanent and a degree of protection that gives it independence and integrity.
Now there is an effort and I'm part of it. I'm co-sponsor of the legislation to give another layer of protection to the special counsel by requiring judicial review if Donald Trump seeks in a wholly unprecedented, extreme way to fire this special counsel, Bob Mueller. But, remember, that he -- Donald Trump cannot fire a grand jury or a district court judge.
BURNETT: Right, which is an important point. Now, the president, as you know, senator has repeatedly mocked the Russian investigation. He's called it a hoax and his supports cheer him on when he does so. Here he is last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The reason why democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda, and no vision. The Russia story is a total fabrication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Blaming democrats, calling it a fabrication sounds a lot like, well, Hillary Clinton, 19 years ago talking about Ken Starr's investigation of her husband. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, 67TH UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I do believe that this is a battle. The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you think he'll be successful in framing this as a political witch hunt? Obviously, sounds like he's doing exactly what she tried to do.
BLUMENTHAL: He's already been unsuccessful to a failure in framing it as a witch hunt because four major intelligence agencies, all of the intelligence community, including his own appointees have said that there was Russian interference. That point is beyond dispute.
What's under investigation is Trump campaign conspiracy with the Russian meddling and possible obstruction of justice. Those three points are what are under investigation by the special counsel and that is not a vast left wing conspiracy or a conspiracy by anyone. It is proven fact.
BURNETT: So before we go, I want to ask you one thing about on where this is going. Congresswoman Maxine Waters today went on the view. She was asked if she was going to run for president and here's how she answered the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I am not running for anything except the impeachment of Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, she's not the only one pushing impeachment.
[19:10:01] Congressman Al Green, Brad Sherman have filed articles of impeachment obviously. When you hear her words, does that make you wince? I mean is that appropriate?
BLUMENTHAL: What is appropriate is for this investigation to pursue all the facts, all the evidence, wherever it leads. That's what Robert Mueller is doing.
BURNETT: But you have been careful with that word. I can't see you going out and making a comment like that and laughing.
BLUMENTHAL: I am not talking about indictments or any other remedies that may be pursued here, Erin, because I truly believe as a former prosecutor, as well as now a member of the judiciary committee which has its own investigation into the firing of Jim Comey as possible obstruction of justice that we need to follow facts without leaping ahead to the remedies and relief that may be pursued, indictments or anything else.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, and I noticed you used the word indictment and not used the word impeachment. Obviously very careful there, and I appreciate your time, Senator. Thank you.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the FBI on election night, their worst fears realized. CNN with exclusive reporting tonight on how investigators knew Russia was meddling as votes were being test (ph). Plus, the Trump administration gets tough on leakers. Is that because some leakers are exposing their lies? And American Dream Week has come and gone. Did the White House kill its own message?
BURNETT: New tonight, CNN learning exclusive new details from inside the FBI about the crucial moments leading up to President Trump's victory on Election Day. The agency we now know launching a large scale operation to monitor information that was believed to be coming from Russia, literally as the votes were coming in. [19:15:09] Our Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz broke this story and they're out front tonight. You guys have had a very busy week with so many breaking stories from both of you. Shimon, let me start with you. You're learning some FBI analysts spent Election Day literally scrolling through Facebook, why?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's right, Erin. And, you know, it was a day on Election Day, and, you know, by that point, a fake news had become very prevalent, and the counter intelligence analysts and investigators were huddled in a room here in Washington, D.C. at FBI headquarters monitoring social media.
And what they could see was streams of fake news, negative stories being posted about Hillary Clinton, some having to do with her health according to multiple sources. They were able to identify suspected Russian links to the accounts that appeared to be pushing the fake stories.
And interesting here, Erin, that the conversation on Facebook, on social media because of the fake news was starting to change people's views of Hillary Clinton. It was clearly affecting their views of Hillary Clinton.
BURNETT: All right Pamela, was the FBI team coordinating with the White House on this Election Day monitoring or not?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was coordination, but it was more focussed on whether the vote was being tampered with. So you had teams at the FBI, the Homeland Security, Office of the Director of National Intelligence holding conference calls every three hours with the team at THE SITUATION ROOM in the White House to discuss any possible problems.
And while there were some minor issues that popped up across the country from Alaska to Georgia, there were no major incidents or disruptions of the actual vote. We should point out the FBI declined to comment for the story, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. So, Shimon, is this new ground for the FBI to monitor the news that Americans, we, I mean, trying to get an understanding of how different it was in the 2016 election than it may have been before.
PROKUPECZ: Well, quite different. You know, normally the FBI is monitoring for terrorist threats, you know, during big events, during nights where there may be a lot of coverage, there may be a lot of activity. They -- it's not uncommon for them to set up situation rooms, their own kind of situation rooms and monitor this.
You know, certainly this was an uncomfortable territory for the FBI given the first amendment free speech, protections even for fake news stories. A one law enforcement official we'd spoke said quote, we were right on the edge of constitutional legality. The official said we were monitoring the news.
But nonetheless, Erin, this is still part of the counter intelligence investigation that the FBI has been conducting into Russia meddling in the election.
BURNETT: All right. So, Pamela, we know a lot of the, you know, fake news that we're talking about here was specifically intended to spread false and negative information, and some of it that they found obviously, this was related to Hillary Clinton. So, when Donald Trump won, what was the reaction?
BROWN: Well, at the time overall, there is a big concern that the vote will be tampered with in similar, there will be a hack. And so, initially there was a lot of celebrations. Officials were really relieved. They exchanged congratulations with one another because there were no major problems.
But we spoke to one official in the Obama White House who had the opposite reaction. In fact, that night as everyone was celebrating, this official had the reaction of, are you kidding me? What they did work meaning what the Russians did work. And this official said that the government's response to the election was a, quote, failure of imagination.
Now, of course, Erin, we'll never know if the Russian disinformation campaign had any impact on the outcome of the election. But I think in the view of these officials what the Russians were trying to do and push out with the fake news, they accomplished
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And now, former Republican Congressman Nan Hayworth from New York joins me along with Brian Fallon, former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
So, Brian, as you hear this report, I know you were with the campaign as the votes were coming in. What's your reaction to what you just heard about this Command Center, this war room, and what happened there?
BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, 2016 CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, in one sentence, it's not surprising. We did know obviously for many weeks sitting up to Election Day about the phenomenon of fake news. We saw spikes of it.
For instance, you recall that Hillary Clinton had a fainting episode around the time of 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York. And for weeks thereafter, we saw articles popping up suggesting that there were medical reports proving she had Parkinson's disease.
And then, you saw another spike October 28th when Jim Comey's letter came out where you saw all these fake news articles suggesting that, and this was the equivalent of an indictment and that Hillary Clinton was going to be, if she was elected she would've served out her term because an indictment was eminent.
So we've saw these reports. What we didn't know, and I've only learned it since the election, Erin, is the nature of the sponsorship of these. How much it was state sponsored by the Russian government, and also, the sophistication of it in terms of the very sophisticated targeting method. They literally had precinct level data and knowing what types of voters would respond in Donald Trump's favor to these types of reports.
[19:20:10] BURNETT: Nan, you're shaking your head the entire time Brian's talking.
NAN HAYWORTH (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: Well, sure, Erin, because if we want to look at the roots of some of the problems that we've had with Russians, and surely Russia is an adversary, surely Russia in this method that had an institute as written very eloquently.
But, hey look, Russia seeks to disrupt democracy throughout the world. We're the world's most powerful and most formidable democracy. So, it wouldn't be surprising that the Russians might try to influence the process in some way. But the amazing thing is this, that enormous blind spot that James Crutio (ph) just wrote about a couple of days in Politico.
It was feckless supine in craven policy pursued by the Obama administration including conspicuously Secretary Clinton that lynch a certain amount of potency to Russia that it should not have had.
HAYWORTH: So, it's hardly surprising that the Russians would endeavor to maximize their --
BURNETT: That's the interesting point but sort of separate and a little bit of different than what we're talking about right now. But Brian, let me just make to the point to you, though, because you said, you know, that you felt stories about whether her health had swayed voters, right?
Hillary Clinton has spoken about these fake news stories and their impact on the election. Here is part of what she has said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news -- news items posted were fake. They were connected to, as we now know, the 1000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Brian, the question for you, and this is a really important one because as Pamela said, we still don't know whether any of these actually affected the impact of the outcome of the election, right?
It's this, can you point to a fake news story that would have swayed a vote or when this fake news stories being circulated among people who already had a pretty strong point of view and didn't like her?
FALLON: It's hard to say Erin. It may very well just be that. But we have her testimony in a month since the election from FBI counter intelligence officials that have talked about the sophistication with which the Russians mounted this campaign.
In other words, they didn't just write this fake news stories. They don't have a very sophisticated army of twitter bots and other adopted personas online that disguised himself, for instance, as midwestern blue collar voters, so that voters would be more susceptible to sharing it and believing it because of the sort of avatars that you would think it was your neighbor on the street that was promoting the article when it was really somebody operating out of Eastern Europe in behalf of the Russian government.
So, we --
BURNETT: So, Congresswoman, why do you shake your head at this stuff? He's right. This did happen and they post, by the way it happened on the Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton primary, but it did happen. Why shake your head at this? Why can't the president just admit? Yes, they tried to help me, so why?
HAYWORTH: No, because there is no evidence that the president endeavored to engage Russians in helping him.
BURNETT: So that's why, that's what the point.
BURNETT: He still doesn't admit that they tried to help him.
HAYWORTH: I just find it -- if anybody should understand fake news, I will give Brian and Secretary Clinton credit because if anybody should understand fake news, it would be Secretary Clinton because she -- first, she purveyed fake news after Benghazi. Claiming, it was the --
BURNETT: OK. Again, you're changing the conversation.
FALLON: We're getting far to field here.
BURNETT: I don't want to talk to that right now. I'm not saying, look here, by the way, I did a whole hour long documentary about Benghazi explaining.
HAYWORTH: It's -- Erin, I know.
BURNETT: Believe me, I think it's there, it's not relevant tonight.
HAYWORTH: It's just outrageous to why fake news --
BURNETT: But the question I ask is -- OK.
HAYWORTH: -- when she herself utilized fake news to try to advance her cause as Secretary of State.
BURNETT: OK, but --
FALLON: But Nan, what's the matter with just focusing on this issue? No one's -- I'm freely willing to admit that I can't say that this change the result of the election. But even that didn't, it's still problem that Republicans and Democrats should be able to come together and solve. Marco Rubio said during the campaign that in the next campaign, it could be the Republicans better to target of other Russians government or another in government.
HAYWORTH: Right. And -- Brian, I --
FALLON: So why not, let's mutually resolve to get to the bottom of this and stop these point attempts to meddle with the Democratic process.
HAYWORTH: -- I agree with you. I agree with you that we should have the most robust defense possible --
BURNETT: But how can you talk about --
HAYWORTH: --against meddling, Erin.
BURNETT: -- between our government or our free election process? OK.
BURNETT: But if you're not going (ph) what the problem was Congresswoman. If you're not admitting that they meddle to help Donald Trump, how can you say you support a solution?
HAYWORTH: Because they --
BURNETT: You're solving a problem you don't admit you have.
HAYWORTH: -- there is no evidence that --
HAYWORTH: -- President Trump had anything to do with the --
BURNETT: That's not the point. It's not collusion.
FALLON: Even if he didn't. Nan, even if he didn't have anything to do with.
HAYWORTH: Let's bring in something else. Let's bring in something else because we do know --
BURNETT: No, no, no. Let you answer the question that I just asked. Why can't he admit, why can't you admit they tried to help him? It's not about what the collusion is a separate issue.
HAYWORTH: It is evidence that the Russian's endeavor to meddle in our democracy as they have endeavor to do --
BURNETT: When they attempt of helping Hillary Clinton with the intelligent assessment of the -- HAYWORTH: Wrong. Wrong. Who was the source --
BURNETT: -- Intelligence community -- agencies of the United States of America. It's not refutable.
HAYWORTH: -- Erin, with all due respect, Fusion GPS had relationships with the Russians.
[19:25:07] They were funded by the Russians and then by the Democrats in producing the Christopher Steele dossier against that candidate.
[19:31:23] BURNETT: Tonight, embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions taking up an issue that infuriates his boss, these leaks to the media, and Sessions is vowing to crack down on them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have this message for our friends in the intelligence community. The Department of Justice is open for business and I have this warning for would-be leakers: don't do it. The department will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who would abuse the public trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sessions now saying the number of active leak investigations has more than tripled and, yes, leaks can be dangerous. He has a point. Some should be condemned, but others have exposed misleading statements and outright lies from Donald Trump's White House.
Without leaks, we wouldn't know that this statement from Donald Trump's lawyer is not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president didn't sign off on anything. He was coming back from the G20. The statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. And I'm sure in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn't involved in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, that's Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, denying what "The Washington Post" later exposed, that the president dictated the statement from Donald Trump Jr. defending his meeting with the Russian lawyer by saying it was about adoption. Of course, the premise of the meeting was dirt from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton.
And then there is this leak -- in May, "The Washington Post" reporting Trump revealed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister and ambassador. Trump's national security advisor went out to deny the story on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump himself, though, then inadvertently confirmed "The Washington Post" report and actually added more information that "The Post" had declined to print.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And then don't forget this, General Mike Flynn losing his job over a leak. The former national security advisor fired after "The Washington Post" revealed he has discussed sanctions with a Russian ambassador and lied about it.
OUTFRONT, Matt Rosenberg, national security correspondent for "The New York Times", April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Mark Preston, our CNN senior political analyst.
And thanks very much to all of you.
Matt, you have had major scoops from leaks that have impacted the public's knowledge of the Russia investigation, things we would know about that are important that we know about thanks to your reporting and your sources. You first reported Trump told Russian officials that firing James Comey relieved great pressure on him, as just one example.
So, my question to you, Matt, is what is the motivation behind why people are choosing to share this information, to leak this information with you?
MATT ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I'll also note that in that meeting where Trump talked about the great pressure being relieved by firing Comey, he also called Comey a nutjob to the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador. He actually kind of denigrated his own FBI director.
Why are people telling us this? You know, look, leaks have all kinds of motivations. I think in the popular imagination, it's like one political rival leaking against the other and that is certainly true.
But in these cases, when we are hearing things about these sensitive meetings and clearly sensitive information, very often it is people who see things that are going wrong on the inside and feel that either the corrective mechanisms on the inside aren't working, whether they're not being listened to and that by leaking, they're going to draw attention to something and get it fixed.
[19:35:06] They're leaking basically in good faith. And look, they may be right or wrong and I'm not going to judge this, but their certainly -- their intentions are keeping in line with I think what the framers of our Constitution have in mind when they had a free press, which is we are a check. We're one of the last resorts. When nothing on the inside is working, have somebody on the outside give some attention and it might just get fixed.
BURNETT: Now, April, Anthony Scaramucci in his brief tenor as communications director told CNN that the leakers are White House staffers who are essentially just trying to derail President Trump's presidency itself. Here he is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. OK, that is not their job.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: April, when you talk to your sources, is that any of their goal?
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: You just heard it, leaking in good faith and for some, it would be considered whistle blowing. You have a lot of people very concerned with the newness of this administration and the novice approach that many of these inner circle Trump officials are taking to include the president.
And, I mean, I think back to Watergate. I was a kid when it happened. Was that, you know, a problem? Things changed because of whistle blowing, because of the leaks.
You know, major issues were found out and brought out to the public. Deep Throat was really considered a hero and he was outed how many years later and he was viewed as a hero.
RYAN: Then you also have the issue of -- you also have the issue of this whole -- this whole piece going to the press. I talked to the National Press Club head, Jeff Ballou, today. He is very upset. He hates this idea that the First Amendment is being attacked -- a veiled attack on the First Amendment and also the fact that it's an attempt to undermine the freedom of the press.
BURNETT: So, what -- speaking of freedom of the press, Mark, what about what they're now saying. The attorney general said he's going to not just go after the leakers but he's going to go after the leak recipients, the journalists. He's going to be issuing subpoenas to media outlets that publish leaked information.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's going to play well with Donald Trump's base, but that's not going to play well with the rest of America. I think that what is key tonight is leaking in good faith. And we should just let's pull the curtain back a little bit here. We should explain to all our viewers that there is sensitive information that is passed along to news organizations every day. And in many cases, I would say most cases, when information could lead to death, when it could lead to putting U.S. troops in harm's way, that there is a deal cut where information is held back so that doesn't happen.
BURNETT: By the way, one of those instances was one of the ones we reported from "The Washington Post", right? They didn't report Israel was the country that shared the information because that could put an Israeli agent's life at risk, there with ISIS, right? So, they didn't publish that information. But then the president obviously did put it out there when he was with the Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Matthew, look, the president has spoken about the leaks, OK? And in this one very memorable line, here is how he has characterized the whole situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, as we all pointed out at the time, that doesn't make any sense. But if it weren't for the leaks, we would not know many of the mistruths coming from administration, Matt. I think that's the crucial point here that people need to understand. We have given some examples. There is others like that second meeting with Vladimir Putin. We could go on and on.
ROSENBERG: I mean, there are literally dozens at this point. And, look, if the administration doesn't want leaks, I would advice it I guess to not get into meetings with the Russian foreign minister and call the fired FBI director a nut job, to not get on the phone with the ambassador right after the Obama administration has imposed sanctions and try to say, don't worry about it. We're going to work it out. It's going to be great once we're in office.
You know, there are a number of -- I mean, there are so many examples here. And in every single one of these cases, these leaks have resulted in changes in a number -- not every single, but a lot of these cases. So I think they're almost making the case for themselves there.
And I think it is important what April said about the word whistleblower. We used the word leaks. But these people could be viewed, in many cases, viewed as whistleblowers. And that's a really important distinction and I think it's something we need to start saying more of and to shift that term. We're not talking about people like, oh, I don't like Kellyanne Conway, I don't like so and so, so I'm just going to leak on them. It's not about that.
BURNETT: Well, Matt -- April, the big leaker on that front, of course, was Anthony Scaramucci who as he was condemning all leakers was leaking diary of the mouth and nasty comments about his colleagues, right? I mean, the great irony, the ultimate leaker of all time.
You know, the thing is, though, Mark, that there is a flip side here. And I guess this is a big question as American citizens we should all care about, right?
[19:40:01] Someone leaked President Trump's phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia, the actual transcripts, right? And they were pretty shocking. They were pretty shocking reading, OK? But these were private phone calls between two world leaders and I asked James Clapper, the former head -- director of national intelligence, about this particular pair of leaks, and here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think it's a terrible thing that these got leaked. It's certainly during -- my experience with him and I got to read such transcripts of such conversations during my time as DNI and they were treated as very, very sensitive documents. This is not a good thing. It is really bad and it just shouldn't happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Mark, where do we draw the line? Because it's hard to take the moral high ground about some leaks and have others that many would acknowledge, and by the way, Tommy Vietor, obviously the Obama administration, concurred that no matter what was said on these calls, the leak is not good.
PRESTON: Well, I would say a couple things. One is there's no national security information that put people at risk that came out of those phone calls. In fact, what came out of those phone calls and out of those transcripts is that we found out the president yet lied again, specifically when you get to the point of building the wall and basically groveling to the Mexican president to not talk about it anymore.
The second thing is I would say I was pulled aside by a gentleman less than a week ago who grew up in communist Hungary and he said, thank you, thank you so much. He said, why are you thanking me? He said, because you are fighting for a free press. I grew up in a country without a free press. It was oppressive and it was awful.
PRESTON: And he goes, thank you for doing it.
So, look, we will make mistakes in the media. We understand that. But the onus is on us to make sure that we do the right thing.
BURNETT: Right, because, April --
ROSENBERG: Can I jump in, for second?
BURNETT: If you're going to leak one call, you're going to leak another call. And then, all of a sudden, with another president. Then, all of a sudden, the president can't be honest with a world leader. These would be things that could threaten national security.
ROSENBERG: Well, don't get on the phone call and -- sorry. Sorry, April.
RYAN: Go ahead. No problem. No, I mean. I'm thinking about that call with the head of Australia where the president it was supposed to be a great call, correct, and it wound up being one of the worst calls. Very angry.
You know, it's important that we know the truth. If the president is saying that these calls are great because if something happens between the United States and Australia, we're saying, wait a minute, one minute the call was great. What happened?
There needs to be some kind of real transparency, honest transparency. And when we don't have it, that's when these whistle blowers come out and give "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" or whomever, or American Urban Radio Networks, transcripts to say, this is not what happened. And I believe it is more whistle blowing right now than just I don't like this person, I don't like that person, just crazy leaking.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate all of you taking the time, obviously, impassioned perfectives. Thank you.
And next, the president beginning his 17-day vacation. His supporters in a crucial state say the clock is ticking, though. They want a legislative win.
And it's American Dream Week at the White House. But, of course, you may not have known that based on the news this week.
[19:47:03] BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, President Trump riding high on a strong jobs report, tweeting, quote: Excellent jobs numbers just released and I have only just begun. Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA.
But as his approval rate drops, is this economic news enough for the president to maintain his support in Michigan, a state he won by the slimmest of margins, a crucial state to his future?
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John and Brenda Skantze, skipper and first mate of the Mis B'Haven now retired, a self-described moderate Republicans voted for and still support the president. But --
JOHN SKANTZE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think he put up a wall around him and he's only letting a select few enter that wall.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Is that a mistake?
J. SKANTZE: It's a mistake because a manager appoints people that he should be listening to.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Skantze, a manager in the automotive industry for 46 years, says the president must listen more, tweet less and adapt his business skills to politics.
(on camera): Does he have a credibility issue and are some of those self-made?
J. SKANTZE: Some are self-made, yes. Maybe his ego is getting into the way of how he used to run a company in New York.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Brenda, a lifelong Republican says the president should get out of campaign mode.
BRENDA SKANTZE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He needs to listen to his cabinet members who he hired. He can't run the show by himself. And I think he needs to lose a little of his ego and get a little tough skin. The election is over.
MARQUEZ: Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes. Macomb County just north of Detroit helped hand him the victory. Trump won it big time by more than 48,000 votes.
Brian Pannebecker, an auto worker for 32 years, met candidate Trump. Then helped bring him to Macomb County.
BRIAN PANNEBECKER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I'm probably one of the biggest Trump supporters in Macomb County.
MARQUEZ: He says the president needs a big legislative win by year's end to prove he has the right stuff.
(on camera): If you had one thing to tell him to do right now to turn it around, what would it be?
PANNEBECKER: Focus like a laser beam on your legislative agenda. Get with the leaders in Congress in the Senate to move your legislation forward.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Gun rights brought voters like Kristine Walsh, a paralegal and avid shooter, out for candidate Trump.
(on camera): He made very big promises here in Macomb county. Is he keeping them?
KRISTINE WALSH, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it's work in progress.
MARQUEZ: How long do you give him before he gets up and goes?
WALSH: At least after of his first term.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): As summer fades, the president's supporters sticking by him, but looking, hoping for a win.
[19:50:03] BURNETT: Hoping for a win, and pointing out they want a legislative one. Why do think they there's not been a legislative win so far?
MARQUEZ: Well, all of his big promises, whether it's immigration or health care, the health care thing has struck them very deeply. They're angry at the media. They're angry at the deep state over that, and over all the problems. They are most angry at centrist Republicans.
And if things continue along this line, I think that fight within the Republican Party will intensify.
BURNETT: And that obviously could spell big problems for the party overall.
All right. Miguel, thank you very much.
And now, J.D. Vance, CNN contributor and author of "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis", of course, the bestseller. If you haven't read it, you should.
J.D., you just heard the couple talk about you need to check your ego, self-described biggest supporter in Macomb County for President Trump say, well, you know, you got to get a legislative victory. Is President Trump's base holding firm, or when you hear this, is it at risk?
J.D. VANCE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's a little of both, like some of the folks you talk to said he has a long leash, right? Folks aren't going to abandon him in six months. They're going to give him a little time to accomplish his agenda.
But what you hear, I think you hear from a lot of different people if you're on the ground in these areas talking to people is a broad recognition that things aren't going fantastically well right now. And whether going well comes in the form of a big legislative win, whether it means another big victory that Trump can sort of pin his hat on, there is a recognition that folks think that the president could do a little better. And if that persists over the next couple of years, and I do think he will lose not all of his base, but he'll lose some people. And in a state like Michigan, where he won by 11,000 votes, losing some could be the difference between re-election and not. BURNETT: It certainly could. There's a new Quinnipiac poll, and
look, I know what this White House thinks about polls.
But this poll has shown a very dramatic move, as you're aware, right? Trump taking a major drop in particular with non-college educated white voters, all right? His job approval among that group is 43 percent. Look, it's a dramatic plummet when you look from month to month. It was 71 percent just before he took office.
What accounts for this sharp decline?
VANCE: Well, there are a couple of things. The first is that even if the economy is going broadly well, obviously that economy doing well doesn't reach across all sectors of the country. And so, even though you see unemployment numbers doing reasonably well, what's happening in places like the industrial Midwest, in Michigan and Ohio, is that the economic recovery still hasn't fully set in. A bigger problem, I think, is the feeling that the big pushes that the president has really made on health care, on some of these other issues, haven't really materialized.
And so, when people see the president really going after a major health care reform effort, and then failing, and when people are still obviously frustrated about the way the health care system is working right now, that leads to this sense that the president just isn't able to deliver. Now, again, that isn't a permanent sense, but it is this sort of thing where if it persists, people are going to get pretty upset.
BURNETT: All right. J.D., thank you very much for your perspective as always. Good to see you.
VANCE: Nice to see you.
BURNETT: And next, it's American Dream Week at the White House. So, was it a bad week to support slashing legal immigration or not?
[19:57:12] BURNETT: You may not have known it, but it was American Dream Week at the White House. That makes the number of themed weeks held by this administration seven. But somehow they seem to trounce on their own messaging.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT to break it down.
So, Tom, what did the White House want to highlight this week and what did we get instead?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They wanted American Dream Week, Erin, to highlight the fact that they are doing things to help the economy, they believe. For example, cutting regulation and red tape, working on better trade deals, maybe finding a way to help small businesses, rewrite the tax code. And through it all, hopefully create millions of jobs for normal people. But they derailed it by their own actions. Monday, the news was all
about how Anthony Scaramucci had been fired after ten tumultuous days as a communications director. Tuesday, the story was about how the president had, in fact, helped Donald Trump, Jr. draft a statement about that meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower, something the White House had denied.
Wednesday, they rolled out their immigration plan which immediately had critics saying, this doesn't sound like the American dream to us. Thursday was about the phone calls between President Trump and the president of Mexico and the president of Australia and all the uproar over that. And now, of course, we're talking all about Robert Mueller issuing subpoenas for a grand jury out there, and the Russia probe maybe looking at the president's finances, which the president would be a red line.
And all of that, Erin, has pushed American Dream Week way back into the shadows.
BURNETT: And it's not the first week that ended up in the shadows, at least the way the White House wanted it, right? I mean, they've been using these theme weeks for quite some time.
FOREMAN: They've been trying over and over again. Look at all the different themes that they dropped down here and tried to push.
And yet each time -- look what happened: Infrastructure Week over here. When they tried to do that, that was a week that James Comey was in front of Congress testifying how the president fired him as FBI director.
What about Energy Week? That was the week that the president went after those MSNBC hosts on Twitter, creating a huge uproar, even in his own party.
And what about Made in America Week? The Trump family businesses immediately came under fire for their own foreign suppliers and the things that they rely on foreign markets for.
Bottom line is: the White House has tried to set the agenda. They tried to control the discussion over and over again. And over and over again, they have pushed their own story line aside with their own problems and actions -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
And thanks to all of you for joining us. Hope that you have a great weekend. Enjoy it. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. Just go to CNN Go.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.