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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
CNN Exclusive: U.S. Government Wiretapped Former Trump Campaign Chair; Clinton Opens Door To Questioning Legitimacy Of 2016 Election; NYT: Trump Lawyers Overheard Talking Russia Probe At Steakhouse. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 18, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, a CNN exclusive, breaking at this moment, sources say federal investigators wiretapped the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort before and after the election. What did they learn?
Plus, Trump's legal team talking details about the Russia investigation out loud at a popular Washington restaurant. As a nearby reporter took notes on that whole thing, that reporter is my guest.
And Hurricane Maria roaring across the Atlantic. Could the United States be about to be hit by another monster hurricane?
Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. OutFront tonight, breaking news, Manafort under surveillance. CNN has learned that investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court order both before and after the 2016 election.
And that surveillance continued into this year, including a period when Manafort wasn't working for the campaign, but was known to talk with President Donald Trump. Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, and Shimon Prokupecz broke the story and they are OutFront tonight. So much to ask all of you as this break so, Evan, let's just start off with the bottom line here. What are you learning tonight?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, sources tell us that the FBI got permission from the secretive Surveillance Court to monitor Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman before and after the election. Now, this is an extraordinary step for the FBI to do surveillance on a high ranking campaign official and of course Manafort is now at the center of the Russia meddling investigation.
We're told that there are intercepted communications that raised concerns about whether Manafort was encouraging the Russians to help with the campaign. Now, other sources told us that this intelligence was not conclusive enough. Robert -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team had been provided all of these communications, Erin.
BURNETT: So, Evan, when you say encouraging, Manafort encouraging Russians to help with the campaign. Obviously, the weight of everything is on that word encouraging. What do you mean by it?
PEREZ: Right. There's a lot we don't know about exactly what was said. And by the way, this is beyond just wiretaps, it's also surveillance of all kinds, including searches that the FBI is authorized to do. But we're told that the FBI has communications between suspected Russian operatives, relaying what they claimed were discussions with Manafort as well as communications involving Manafort. None of this has amounted to what people consider a smoking gun in this investigation.
There's still more work being done to determine whether there's a criminal violation here. We didn't get a comment from Paul Manafort's spokesman but Manafort has previously denied that he ever knowingly communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election. And he also denied helping Russia undermine the U.S. interest, Erin.
BURNETT: So Pamela, you're reporting here that Paul Manafort has been monitored not once but twice?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. So our team has told that the secret order began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation in 2014 many we previously reported that centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine's former ruling party, our sources say. And the surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence according to one of the sources. And then the FBI restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.
The sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Now, it's unclear when that new warrant started.
And as part of the FISA warrant, we've learned, Erin that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Paul Manafort. And as you'll recall this past July, under Robert Mueller's direction, the FBI raided his home in Virginia.
BURNETT: And of course we knew that but as part of what you're breaking tonight, that raid of the storage facility obviously new information. We didn't know he had a storage facility until this hour, and we didn't know that they had raided it. So that's also very significant.
Shimon, do you know though whether President Trump spoke to Manafort while he was under surveillance? That of course could be crucial here as well.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, exactly Erin, extremely crucial. But what we do know and what we've been told by sources is that the president and Manafort were still talking early this year, well after the campaign. And it is a time that we've learned the FBI was listening to Manafort's phone calls.
So, it is possible that those phone conversations were collected during that surveillance as they were listening to them. So that, we don't have a specific answer for, but it is possible, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, which is a crucial point. And, of course, the president had said vocally again and again that he was wiretapped and that he meant that to mean not just phones, but all kinds of surveillance, was he right?
PROKUPECZ: Well, not exactly. So we do know that, you know -- and the Justice Department has spoken out about this and they have deny that the president's own lines were wiretapped.
[19:10:02] But as we said, it is possible that he was picked up on Manafort's surveillance. We should know that Manafort does have a residence in Trump Tower. But it's not clear if the FBI did surveillance on Manafort at Trump Tower. Erin?
BURNETT: So, Pa, what does this mean, all of this for the Mueller investigation as you and Evan point out, he now is in possession of whatever came from this wiretap.
BROWN: Right. It is in his position, it is in hid hands and the Paul Manafort investigation has been really the most visible investigation under Robert Mueller, the special council started in May. And we know that there is a raid on his storage facility before Robert Mueller took over, but then you have that raid this past July. It's unclear if those stemmed from any of the intelligence that was gathered under the FISA warrant, but it is clear that investigators are still very interested into Paul Manafort, under the direction of Robert Mueller, Erin.
BURNETT: And Evan, a couple of questions here. One, obviously, Manafort for some time, with all of this focus I'm sure has been careful in what he says and how he communicates. But do you know if this surveillance is still ongoing in any way and what is the significance that they were able to get this crucial FISA warrant to do it?
PEREZ: Well, we don't know exactly when the timeline of this surveillance whether it has ended, whether it is continuing to this day. But look, the fact that they were able to get a FISA warrant is a big deal. The fact is, this has to get approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI before agents can carry out this type of surveillance. It's considered so intrusive that you almost never find out that these FISA warrants are authorized, Erin.
And then, the other thing is that you have to present proof or suspicions that someone is acting as an agent of a foreign power. All of this goes into providing the paperwork that these judges then have to approve before allowing the FBI to do this type of surveillance. It's very intrusive work.
BURNETT: Very intrusive work and obviously very -- not easy to get. Really hard to get as you all point out. All right, thank you much Shimon, Evan, Pamela.
And OutFront now, Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, and Chris Swecker, former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division who served directly under Robert Mueller.
Gloria, let me just start with you. This is -- as Evan just said, this is a big thing. This is not an easy thing to get. To be able to do this on a U.S. citizen. What does this tell you about the investigation?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells you, first of all, that they believed that they had real reason to reinstitute surveillance of Paul Manafort, whether it was conversations about Paul Manafort, whatever they were hearing on their pre-existing surveillance, they thought it was important enough to go to a FISA Court to say, look, we need to start listening in to Paul Manafort's conversations again. So -- and they don't -- you know, as Evan was pointing out, this isn't done willy nilly here. This goes before a court, it has to be approved, there has to be a real good reason for them to believe that they need to do it.
The second thing that just sort of jumps out at me about this reporting is that, of course, now we have the possibility of the fact that the president of the United States, who continued to talk to Paul Manafort, I'm told until maybe until March, according to one of my sources, that his conversations may well have been recorded as president with Manafort, if Manafort was being surveilled at that moment. And that's something we really haven't considered up until this point.
And these could be, of course, completely innocent conversations about -- how is your day going. But this is the first time we've really heard about that.
BURNETT: So Chris, obviously, that is hugely significant, right? If this is going on before and after the election, somewhere, President Trump's going to be on it, that's going to be what we find. It could be innocuous but it's the first time we talked about somewhere we're going to hear we had to say, because you've been there though.
You're talking about how hard it is to get this, and I think it's important for people to understand, you don't just walk in with a sheet of paper, right, to a FISA Court and say, can I have this, right? This has to be signed off by who at the top level. And how much information, documentation would they have had needed to prove this.
CHRIS SWECKER, SERVED UNDER SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER: Well, I have seen FISA affidavits and criminal wiretap affidavits run into the hundreds of pages. It reflects an exten -- a good amount of investigation. There is a legal standard they have to meet before they can get a successful application. Then they go through review at the highest levels of the FBI and the Department of Justice.
They are signed by the director of the FBI and the attorney general. I'm not saying that they actually read them but in this case, if Paul Manafort was the unnamed interceptee and that's the question mark in my mind.
[19:10:01] Was he intercepted incidental to some other target or was he an actual named incterceptee? But if he was, I can pretty well guarantee you it went to the director level and the at least the deputy attorney general if not the attorney general level for review and approval.
BURNETT: OK, so this is actually really crucial what you just said. And the reason why it's really crucial is because of this, so everybody, give me a moment here, Mark to explain. First of all, the president came out about this, right?
We all remember those tweets on March 4th, let me just read them again for anyone who's forgotten. "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my, quote, wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."
He continued. "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon Watergate. Bad, open parenthesis, or sick guy."
He was derided for this. But Mark, is he somehow vindicated tonight?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think so. What we're seeing here is President Trump as we have seen on many other issues, he distorts the facts, he creates a smoke screen, he tries to twist the facts in a way that will only be beneficial to him.
His phones were not tapped. We do not know if his conversations were picked up on the intercept with Paul Manafort. They really could have, but we do not know that yet. And if they were, they weren't directed at him specifically.
However, if there was discussion on those calls where President Trump actually acknowledged what Paul Manafort is alleged to have done, then he's in a lot of trouble there, Erin.
BURNETT: Right. So, I think you drew an important and fair distinction, Mark. But Chris, let me just -- let me ask you because this is what people are going to wonder about, right? You take those tweets from the president, and you take what you just said, right, that this would have been signed off on the highest levels of both the Department of Justice and the FBI.
Let just remember, then FBI Director Jim Comey was asked directly by Congress whether Trump's tweets were true. He said he had, quote, no information that supports those tweets. And then, just a couple weeks ago, on Friday, September 1st, the Justice Department submitted a court filing which reads in part, quote, both FBI and NSD confirmed which is part of the national security apparatus there, confirmed they have no records related to wiretaps as described but the March 4, 2017 tweets.
OK, so technically that may be true, but is it misleading if they knew that there was a wiretap of the campaign chairman for Donald Trump?
SWECKER: Yes, and this is an interesting question. I think most people and I think the president included, have a basic rudimentary understanding of the term wiretap, and it's a term of art. You have to name every possible interceptee in your affidavit and your application, whether it's a criminal wiretap or a FISA. So, it becomes an important distinction who is actually the target of the wiretap, and what device is the target of the wiretapper or the interception.
So -- I mean, you could generically say that the president was wiretapped if he was actually intercepted. I could see that -- you know, the basic citizen out there would look at it that way. But it's a very important distinction as to whether he was incidentally intercepted. That happens all the time.
BURNETT: Right. Now, Gloria that -- and Chris, again, drawing that important distinction. But yes, if this is what the president was referring to, he is going to claim victory.
BORGER: Well, you know, the president's phone wasn't tapped.
BURNETT: But his conversations were picked up.
BORGER: Well, we don't know. We can't get ahead of ourselves. We really -- you know, we don't know.
What we do know is that they -- the FBI felt strongly enough about Paul Manafort and his interactions vis-a-vis this Russia investigation, that they felt the need to reinstate a wiretap that they had ended a while ago. Because there was -- there were things that clearly came to their attention that they felt warranted a lot of investigation, as you're investigating the question of collusion. The Russia hack into the election and all the rest of it.
And I think what the story does is it makes Mr. Manafort look like more of a central figure in this. Again, you can't draw any conclusions, you don't know what they found but you do know they were interested.
BURNETT: Right, you do know they were interested, you do know this -- that the contents are in the possession of Robert Mueller. As Chris, as you point out, they would have had to have had an incredible amount of documentation to even get this. So it wasn't just based on a suspicion and things just smell funny. It was based on real bona fide information.
All right, thanks very much to all three of you.
And next, we continue our coverage here of this breaking news, and Donald Trump not the only one talking about the election still. Hillary Clinton now today, guess what? She says, she's opening to question -- I'm sorry, she's open to questioning the legitimacy of the election itself, to questioning the results.
[19:15:05] Plus, Trump's legal team in turmoil after his lawyers have a very public discussion about the Russia investigation. And guess what, who took this picture? A reporter sitting at the next table. He is my guest, he heard it all.
And breaking news, we're tracking a new and extremely dangerous category 4 storm, Hurricane Maria on an incredibly destructive path at this hour. And a storm expert will tell us what is so different about this one.
BURNETT: Welcome back to OutFront. As we're following the breaking news, sources confirming to CNN that Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman was wiretapped by U.S. investigators before and after the election. It happened under a secret court order and it continued into this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to the president.
Three sources say some of the intelligence collected includes communications that caused concern. That Manafort had encouraged Russians to help with the campaign. Two of those sources warned though the evidence is not conclusive.
OutFront now, Democratic senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Senator, I appreciate your time.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: You're welcome., thank you.
BURNETT: We know that Bob Mueller, the special counsel of course has details of these communications that were intercepted. By the way, this was phone communications, e-mails, any sort of communications that Paul Manafort would have had. How significant do you think this is?
MERKLEY: Well, of course, in the end result it's going to depend on what is on those intercepts. If those intercepts include the boss said, make sure the Russians weigh-in in a timely fashion, well, that's going to be a very big deal. If these intercepts are simply -- he's checking in with different folks, it may not have much impact at all.
[19:20:13] But here's the thing, we know that there was enough concern to get the first wiretap. We know there was enough concern to go back and get a second permission for a wiretap.
MERKLEY: We know that he FBI has broken into his home in appropriate legal fashion and taken all of the records. That indicates extreme interest and this now adds to it.
BURNETT: Right. And of course, the former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division just told us, it could have been hundreds of pages of evidence had to be presented. So it is no small thing. But let me --
MERKLEY: (INAUDIBLE) it's a very deal to intercept.
BURNETT: So, the president tweeted on March 4th, you remember Senator, "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."
Now, obviously the tap that we're finding out about is Paul Manafort who did have a residence in Trump Tower at that time. Jim Comey would have known about this, is our understanding, this FISA warrant. He testified to Congress he had no information that supports those tweets. The Department of Justice also, you would have had to have all the way (INAUDIBLE) someone signed off on this FISA request, they filed a court filing earlier this month saying that there had no records related to wiretaps as described by the president.
Do you think, Senator that the president in some way, had a point here in his original tweet?
MERKLEY: Well, not that we know of, and certainly have Jeff Sessions, his close member report to the public that there was nothing to this claim, nothing to these tweets. That's pretty conclusive information. I think if the president had been caught in an intercept, it's very likely Jeff Sessions would have had much more of a caveated description in weighing in on those tweets.
BURNETT: So, it's interesting what you're saying. If the president had been picked up, obviously, Paul Manafort being the one wiretapped but we know he had conversations with the president. So your interpretation and I know you're not saying this was null but your interpretation is that, given how definitively they said that tweet wasn't true, you do not believe that a president -- presidential conversation with Paul Manafort was picked up?
MERKLEY: Yes, yes, that's my interpretation. Is that Jeff Sessions would have absolutely weighed in.
BURNETT: Right, and if not, it doesn't really raise some serious questions. OK. Senator, you know, obviously, Donald Trump is obsessed with this election, and its legitimacy, and whether people all believed that he's legitimate.
Hillary Clinton also appears to be obsessed with it as well. She said something today that really shocked me and I wanted to ask you about it. She told NPR that she would not rule out contesting the election if Russian collusion is proven by Robert Mueller. Here's how she put it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TERRY GROSS, NPR: Would you completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now?
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, i would not. I would say --
GROSS: You're not going to rule it out?
CLINTON: No, I wouldn't rule it out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: So -- I mean, that's pretty incredible, right? I mean, that she would do that. Is that destabilizing in anyway? There are a lot of people in this country who are angry and could seize that. Is that worrying for you?
MERKLEY: Well, let me tell you, I'll out it this way. If it involves more Russian -- well, plotting and so forth, we already know how deeply involved they were. But if the information is about treasonous conduct at the highest levels of the Trump campaign, that does raise a whole different level of concern about the legitimacy of the election.
BURNETT: So you're saying treasonous activity but not just if the Russians themselves tried to interfere without links to the Trump campaign? In other words, if they did something that mess with the vote tally, that wouldn't be acceptable for her to question in your mind, but it would be if Trump campaign officials have colluded?
MERKLEY: That's correct.
BURNETT: All right, that's a clear distinction. And thank you so much, Senator, appreciate your time.
MERKLEY: You're so welcome. Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the president's lawyers talking about the Russia probe and complaining about the White House Council in public. I'm going to talk to a reporter who overheard that conversation.
And the breaking news this moment, Hurricane Maria just upgraded to a category 4. It is gaining significant strength, heading towards Puerto Rico. There are warnings at this hour, could it slam an area and possibly wipe it off of the map?
[19:27:44] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump's lawyers caught slamming their colleagues and dishing about the Russia investigation at a popular Washington restaurant. The New York Times reporter, Ken Vogel was there just a few feet away, having lunch with another source. Took this picture of White House Attorney Ty Cobb with Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd. And in a moment, I'm going to speak with Ken about this lunch.
But first, Tom Foreman is OutFront with more on the president's attorneys and what is a questionable track record for them.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chatting about a sensitive case in a crowded restaurant might be risky for any lawyers. But when you represent the president and a New York Times reporter is close enough to listen and snap pictures, well, it's just another example of how President Trump's legal dream team is sometimes hijacking headlines and not in a good way.
The team is made up of big name players assembled to manage among other things, the congressional and special counsel probes into alleged Russian meddling in the elections or what the president calls --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news.
FOREMAN (voice-over): But there have been stumbles. Attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly denying for example that the president helped craft a statement from his son about a meeting with Russians.
JAY SEKULOW: No, that was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure in consultation with his lawyer.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Because the New York Time has reporting that the president okayed the statement?
SEKULOW: Well, they're incorrect.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The White House, however later contradicted Sekulow saying, yes, the president did weigh-in.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Attorney John Dowd according to the New York Times forwarded a message defending the president's statements about the violence between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The message said in part, the Black Lives Matter movement has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups. Attorney Ty Cobb sparred with a reporter from Business Insider who released an e-mail in which he asked if she was on drugs.
Attorney Marc Kasowitz has now left the Trump team, but this summer ProPublica published e-mail from a man who urged Kasowitz to resign and got this response. "F you, how dare you send me an e-mail like that. Watch your back, B." Kasowitz later apologized.
So perhaps that overheard meeting in the restaurant is not so surprising. But the former attorney general for Virginia says --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really, really below the standards of any lawyer. This should never have happened, and it's something we're talked to about and taught about as budding lawyers all the way back in law school.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: Does any of this mean these lawyers cannot effectively represent the president? No, of course not. But it does mean when presidential attorney Michael Cohen meets with members of the Senate tomorrow, he could face more thorny questions than he expects -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thank you, Tom.
OUTFRONT now, Ken Vogel, a reporter for "The New York Times" who heard President Trump's attorney publicly discussing the Russia investigation, and Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush.
So, Ken, let me start with you. I want to start first with this lunch. You know, you're at a steakhouse. I know with a source, BLT Steaks, a nice steakhouse.
Set the scene, did you see Ty Cobb and John Dowd before you sat down? Did they sit down next to you? How did this all play out?
KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. So, we actually -- my source and I were seated before Dowd and Cobb came in, we had probably been there for a half hour. My source kind of points over my shoulder and says, hey, isn't that that guy?
And sure enough, as you described, the guy has a big handlebar mustache. He's not the most inconspicuous fellow in the world. I turned around and noticed, yes, in fact, it is him. We sort of continued our lunch, wrapped it up and throughout the conversation with the source, I'm kind of half leaning in trying to hear the conversation at the table next to me. My source kindly sort of excused himself, I said, you know, I'm going to hang out here and have a few more iced tea's, I hung out for another half hour, to 45 minutes as Cobb and Dowd continued this conversation about very sensitive legal strategy.
BURNETT: A very sensitive legal strategy. OK, so you're sitting there, and at this point, you're sitting alone. You know, most of us, if someone is sitting alone, you know, you kind of have an awareness, is that person listening in on your conversation. They didn't seem to have that awareness.
And, you know, we've shown the picture that you sent out, you tweeted out, of them having lunch. And you obviously took that picture. I mean, were you trying to do it inconspicuously or they just were that oblivious?
VOGEL: I think it's probably a little bit of a combination of the two. I definitely was not looking at them. I was trying to keep my head buried in my phone on which I was taking notes.
VOGEL: But from their perspective, perhaps I was just surfing the Internet, as everyone wants to do, you know, these days. The photo, I kind of tilted the camera and try to touch the button to trigger it inconspicuously. But, yes. I mean, they showed no awareness, or if they have any kind
of suspicion that I was sitting there, doing anything other than surfing my phone. They certainly didn't adjust their behavior accordingly.
BURNETT: No. And they're sitting there, right. They're talking about internal disagreements and fights over what to do over the Russia investigation. Names are being thrown around, right? I mean, all of it.
VOGEL: Yes. I mean, the most interesting takeaway for me, other than the tension, which is maybe linked to the disagreement over the legal strategy. But it was the degree to which they really laid out the debate that they were having over document production and executive privilege and the degree to which they might be sort of at odds and laying out the way that Ty Cobb felt, which is that more document production and erring on the side of inclusion of these documents would potentially help Mueller shift the investigation or sort of guide Mueller in his investigation away from Trump, because Cobb feels that there's nothing in these documents to hide, versus Don McGahn's perspective, which Cobb laid out a little bit, what we also were able to flesh out more from our subsequent reporting, which is that these -- this document production should be done only after a very thorough review as to whether these documents should potentially be privileged. The executive privilege should be applied to these documents.
And that is something that McGahn, we understand, feels that Cobb is not taking into account, and that in so doing, he might potentially compromise the ability of the Trump White House in this investigation, in future legal dealings, and maybe even future presidencies, compromised future presidencies' ability to assert privilege when a prosecutor is seeking documents.
BURNETT: So, Richard, I mean, you hear what this conversation is about, and that's important. The circumstances, though, I think are really surprising, that they just were so oblivious for sitting there, talking and, Richard, even at one point talking about Jared Kushner, as Ken has reported.
And he's taking notes, he's sitting alone. He's avidly interested. He took their picture. They didn't notice.
Is this more than just gossip?
[19:35:01] RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, this is the guy that can't shoot straight. I think President Trump has had a series of second rate lawyers. You don't go into a restaurant and start talking about your client's business, particularly if your client is the president of the United States. And you're shooting your mouth off about a various people in the White House and the restaurant is right next to "The New York Times". I mean, this is crazy.
BURNETT: You know, as Tom Foreman just reported, right, the lawyers who are representing the president have made some questionable decisions, right? I mean, this is not the first, having the poor judgment at the least, to have a conversation like this in public would be just one of them, right?
Trashing the press, correcting the White House, we have seen this out of other lawyers as well. Is this the result of working for a president who plays it fast and loose, or is this because a lot of lawyers don't want to take on this job? Which is it?
PAINTER: Well, I wouldn't want President Trump as a client. I mean, he's almost a -- he came very close to confessing to obstruction of justice in front of the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. He tweets like crazy. If he put the Twitter away, that would help. But he won't do that.
He's a very difficult client to work for. And he's digging himself deeper and deeper on Russia. They just keep on yakking away.
BURNETT: I mean, Ken, as they literally in those words are yakking away next to you, right? Cobb speaks about another White House lawyer and refers to him as, I think he's like a McGahn spy. At one point, they referred to Jared, obviously, Jared Kushner, that's the only Jared that we all know that works in the White House. I mean, were you surprised, Ken, at the tone, the volume, and any of it?
VOGEL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I was certainly surprised that this conversation continued to get into more and more sensitive areas. I was surprised that they were having the conversation in a setting where they could be easily overheard. Not just by me.
I mean, this is in the sidewalk seating area of this restaurant. There are people walking by. It's literally, as Richard suggested, I mean, it's right next door to "The Times" D.C. bureau, like less than 200 feet. Not the best place to have this conversation.
And then, yes, I was also surprised by the degree to which some of these disputes over substantive issues, that you would imagine that lawyers in this type of situation would be debating, particularly lawyers who are representing clients who while they are on the same side ostensibly in this investigation might have competing imperatives and sort of conflicting interests. But I was surprised by how personal some of the disputes appeared to have gotten and the degree to which distrust and suspicion had seeped into their dealings.
BURNETT: Distrust and suspicion, which, of course, is the worst words you can use when you need to rely on each other and trust someone to have your back. Thank you both so very much.
PAINTER: Thank you, Erin.
VOGEL: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the breaking news: Hurricane Maria extremely dangerous, getting stronger, now taking aim at islands decimated by Irma days ago.
And Puerto Rico bracing. We're going to check with a storm chaser who was there with a big warning tonight.
[19:41:50] BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, a new major hurricane exploding into a dangerous category four storm, getting stronger by the minute. Hurricane Maria now heading straight for areas as you can see, the Caribbean and possibly the U.S. coast right now.
This is the eye of Maria. This is a new image just released by NASA. You can get a feel for the power of this storm. Right now, you're looking at 130 sustained miles an hour.
Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is OUTFRONT live in the weather center.
And, Allison, here we are, I can't believe it -- another week, another storm. What do you know about Maria?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Erin, your words just a minute ago, getting stronger by the minute could not be more accurate. We look at each individual loop of this storm, as it goes through. The eye wall is getting clearer and larger.
The purple that you see here, that's very high convection. That is starting to expand. All of these signs of strengthening in the storm, as if a category 4 wasn't bad enough.
Winds right now, 130 miles per hour. We expect them to intensify even more as it pushes to the northwest. Land fall is expected on or very close to Dominica in just the next two to three hours from now. It will then cross back out over open water, potentially likely to intensify even more before making its way towards the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and eventually the Dominican Republic.
In the short term, all of the models are in very good agreement up to Puerto Rico. It's after that where they start to split.
The blue is the European model. See it goes well out over the open Atlantic. The red is the GFS, the American model. It now pushes it a little closer towards the U.S.
So, why? Why is there such discrepancy between the two?
It all comes back to this high pressure. The European model is banking on this not moving. That would cause Maria to steer in a clockwise motion around it. The American model assumes that the high is going to shift west, forcing Maria to also shift west, potentially impacting the U.S.
We talked about comparisons with Irma. The yellow line is Irma's track, the red is Maria's. So, you can see, it's going to start off a little further south, but eventually end up a little bit further north. And this is what we talk about where they're similar, but they're going to have big differences.
We also talk -- Erin, we've been talking about being hit one after another after another with so many storms this season. The question is, is it rare? Kind of, OK? So, let's take a look. Average to date, we would have only had eight
named storms by right now. We've already had 13. There's only been six other years where we've had this many named storms by this point.
So, the season's not over yet, but we're not really on a good track to finish out the rest of the season.
BURNETT: Well, yes. I mean, we're hoping here, trying to look at the dates here, get to the end of October, and there's a long way to go.
All right. Thank you so much, Allison.
I want to go straight to Michael Holmes, who is OUTFRONT in Antigua, where the rain and winds are starting to pick up tonight.
Michael, I can't believe it, that we're talking about this, happening again where you are. What are conditions like?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, we've hardly finished covering the last one, which we were covering in Florida and then out here in the Caribbean as well.
Erin, you know, it's interesting listening to Alison. There we're 110 miles or so from Dominica where it is expected to make landfall in about two hours or so from now.
[19:45:08] And yet, you can see the conditions behind me. We're already getting whipped by wind and rain. It stopped now. But the ocean behind me was roiling earlier before the sun went down.
So, even 100-plus miles away from the eye of this storm, we are getting fierce conditions here in Antigua. And this is a place that has been battening down. It didn't get hit badly by Irma.
What's interesting with the track is places like Dominica and some of the others islands are on this track by Maria, a more hilly, they're volcanic, they're more prone to mudslides by some of the islands hit hard by Irma. So, it could have a completely different effect. They're on high alert here in Antigua.
And we're up in Anguilla earlier, which was hit badly by Irma. They are battening down.
A lot of these places, of course, are still cleaning up. They're still patching up from Irma, and then Maria comes through. It could be disastrous for a lot of these places that still have buildings that are not secure from Irma. This is the last thing they need, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Michael. Certainly is the last thing they need. As you pointed out, those mudslides can be so devastating, with significant loss of life.
All right. Next, we're going to go live to Puerto Rico with a meteorologist and storm chaser who has survived so many storms, been through Irma, been through Harvey and now, Hurricane Maria, coming towards Puerto Rico as perhaps the biggest hit in a century. And what is President Trump's favorite response to so many questions? Well, Jeanne Moos has our answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see what happens.
And we'll see what happens.
So, we'll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:50:40] BURNETT: Breaking news: right now, Hurricane Maria has been upgraded. It is now a category 5. As Allison was reporting, strengthening by the minute. And now, you can see that. It was a 4 a couple minutes ago. It is now a category 5.
So, you're now talking about sustained winds in 150-155-mile-an-hour range, and it is right now heading for the Caribbean, and possibly the East Coast.
Brett Adair is OUTFRONT. He is live in Puerto Rico, a meteorologist who has been tracking some of the strongest hurricanes and tornadoes ever, including Irma.
You were there. You were there with Harvey. So, Brett, we are now in the past few minutes, literally, perhaps moment here, reporting the storm has been upgraded to a category 5. That's going to be the strongest storm in more than 85 years to hit where you are right now.
What is your biggest fear?
BRETT ADAIR, STORM CHASER: We're very concerned for the entire area. As you can see in the shot behind me, there's a lot of people here. We are in the district of San Juan right now and there are a lot of people that are still out tonight.
We're hoping that people are going to really heed this evacuation order and really get their preparations finalized before this thing, you know, comes, blows, beginning late tomorrow night into the day on Wednesday. Category 5 is an unfathomable storm. We just saw what a category 5 will do to an island.
We saw Barbuda. We saw St. Martin. We saw St. Thomas. Those areas were absolutely devastated by Irma. Maria is going to pack the same punch across Puerto Rico unfortunately.
BURNETT: Which is, look, really terrifying. We talked about the crisis in Puerto Rico with infrastructure, and I can tell you now, Bret, we say category 5 right now. The winds are 165 miles an hour. So, that's what's coming at Puerto Rico tomorrow. There's really nothing to slow it down. You know, if you look at progression of storm eye just today, you know, it starts off a little vague and now, it is stark, it is clear and it is swirling. How is this storm? How is Irma different than other hurricanes you have been through before?
ADAIR: This storm is all about what we call rapid intensification. Twenty-four hours ago, we had a minimal hurricane. Now, we have one of the strongest hurricanes on the scale, at the top of the scale, category 5. So, this is nothing to play with.
Irma did the same thing. This area of the Atlantic in the Caribbean is prime for hurricane development this year. We've seen these hurricanes spin up over the last four weeks and just go absolutely nuts in terms of intensification and strength. And there absolutely is nothing to slow it down.
You have perfect steering for Puerto Rico to be in the line of fire. You have warm sea surface temperatures and you have no sheer. Those are all critical ingredients for a hurricane to either maintain strength or strengthen as it moves for Puerto Rico.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Brett, thank you very much. We hope everyone does heed those warnings and everybody does get out.
Obviously, Senator Nelson of Florida, saying, airlines don't charge any extra here. Just help everybody get out and we hope that they heed him. Thank you very much to Brett.
And next, Jeanne Moos on a much lighter note. Donald Trump's go-to line when he needs an answer, we'll see what he says.
[19:58:07] BURNETT: New questions for President Trump tonight and Jeanne Moos has the answer.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When in doubt --
TRUMP: We'll see what happens. And we'll see what happens. So, we'll see what happens --
MOOS: It is the president's favorite answer. And on Monday, he deployed it at the U.N.
TRUMP: As far as North Korea's concern, I think most of you know how I feel. We'll see what happens.
MOOS: From Korea to Russia --
TRUMP: But we're going to see what happens.
MOOS: From hurricanes --
TRUMP: We'll see what happens.
MOOS: -- to healthcare --
TRUMP: We'll see what happens. No particular rush.
MOOS: It's perfect to fill time when the president's in no particular rush to answer or maybe he wants to build suspense.
TRUMP: Yes. Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We'll see what happens.
MOOS: As one critic tweeted, it's like he thinks every question is a chance for a teaser heading into every commercial break.
The phrase is so beloved by the president that he's used it three times in a mere five-second answer. Again, on the subject of North Korea.
TRUMP: We'll see what happens, we'll see what happens. Certainly that's not our first choice but we will see what happens.
MOOS (on camera): Now, in a few cases, we've actually seen what happened.
TRUMP: We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.
MOOS (voice-over): Three days later, Mr. Bannon went bye-bye.
As for then-FBI Director James Comey.
TRUMP: I have confidence in him. We'll see what happens.
MOOS: Comey was fired less than a month later. So, when the president mention seeing what happens --
TRUMP: Very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens.
MOOS: Beware, your job could be eclipsed.
Jeanne Moss, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Guess we kind of did see -- saw what happened there, right? Jeff Sessions actually tendered his resignation and aides of the president said he couldn't accept it because it will make him look bad. We'll see what happens.
Thanks for joining us. Don't forget. You can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. Just go to CNN Go.
Anderson starts now.