Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House Won't Say Why Omarosa is Still Getting a Paycheck; Sen. Graham: 70 Percent Chance Trump Attacks North Korea if Nuke Test. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired December 14, 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: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts rights now.
ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. Marco Rubio says he's a no on the tax bill and others tonight asking serious questions. Could Trump's big tax cut go down in defeat?
Plus, Omarosa out at the White House. Secret Service taking her credentials. Why are taxpayers though still on the hook for her salary? And a top Republican says there's a 70 percent chance that the U.S. will attack North Korea if Kim Jong-un contests another nuclear bomb.
My guest, a U.N. diplomat just back from meetings in Pyongyang. Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront this evening, the breaking news. President Trump's promised a Christmas present to Americans. What he says will be the greatest tax cut in U.S. history is in question tonight.
Senator Marco Rubio says he will vote no on the current plan unless the legislation makes the tax credit more generous. Senator Bob Corker who voted no on the latest version of the bill because it already costs too much won't say how he's voting but tells CNN I have all the same concerns that I have had.
Add to that, John McCain and Thad Cochran, two Republican senators dealing with health problems that could cheat them from voting. These are very serious questions tonight given the Senate razor-thin margin. Vice President Pence has delayed a plan trip to Egypt and Israel to be on hand in case he needs to cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary.
The Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about Rubio's demand today. She made it clear he should be happy with what he's got.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're extremely excited about the progress that we've already made to double the child tax credit. I think that's something important to note and something that we worked very closely with Senator Rubio on. And we think he should be very excited. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Except for he's not excited. And one big question tonight is how is the GOP going to pay for this tax plan? Which ultimately is this. A massive tax cut for corporations.
While the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, had long promised a study that would show the bill pays for itself and it would show how. He reportedly said that more than 100 people in Treasury are working around the clock on running scenarios for us.
Well, we've got it, it's one page. It's been widely panned by economists from both sides of the aisle, both for its basic simplicity and it's fuzzy math. Even the Former Budget Director, Douglas Holtz- Eakin, who is a supporter of the tax bill overall, came out and said it. He said this bill will not pay for itself. And he slammed Mnuchin's one-pager. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER BUDGET DIRECTOR: I thought it was just overpromising and certainly beneath the level of analysis the Treasury is capable of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A lot of questions tonight about this tax bill that Republicans are trying to rush to a vote as quickly as they can.
We begin with Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill. And Sunlen, let's start here with the razor-thin margin and they do not have all the votes. They've got to get there. Is Senator Rubio just posturing? Or is he serious that he could vote a no?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, he certainly is issuing a very strong threat to make, Erin. He knows he's in a position of power because he knows Republican leaders need his vote on this tax bill right now, so he's trying to exert a little leverage to make more things happen for him.
He has been very explicit in what he wants. He wants to see the child tax credit expanded more generous and he said, look, I'm not going to vote for this tax bill unless it is. And we know now that Senate leaders are right now working on ways to throw some more money at the child tax credit to potentially get him onboard, but this just underscores how precarious a situation this is for Republican leaders up here on Capitol Hill right now as they barrel towards potentially holding a vote early next week.
You had Rubio, who was always in the reliably yes column now making this score mess (ph) today. You have a very slim Republican majority which means that they have such a slim margin for error here, with Vice President Pence voting, and as you said he delayed his trip to potentially come up here and vote next week.
Losing three votes, Republican votes means that the bill would be sunk. Republican leaders cannot count on Bob Corker tonight. He said he still has the same concerns he's always had about this bill and there's wild cards that Senator Collins, Jeff Flake, Mike Lee tonight to add in the mix.
Also adding into the mix is a serious concerns over Senator McCain's health and if he's able and well enough to return to Capitol Hill next week to vote on this bill. So again, this just shows how precarious this is and many scenarios where Republican leaders could come up short.
BURNETT: Could come up short. And of course the American public, it is deeply unpopular with them so far too. Thank you, Sunlen.
And OutFront now, Kevin Hassett, he is the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He has been a leader in getting this bill through and designing this bill. Kevin, good to have you back.
KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMI ADVISERS CHAIRMAN: It's an honor to be back, thanks.
BURNETT: Senator Rubio says he's going to vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is expanded. Are you willing to make it even bigger to get his vote?
[19:05:06] HASSETT: You know, I think that's something that the people in the Senate are going to have to work out with Senator Rubio. You know, Senator Rubio had an amendment that went to the floor and was rejected the first time around. And, you know, he cares desperately about this issue and so he is trying one last time, I respect that. But I expect they'll work something out. I don't think anyone thinks that Rubio is going to hold up this bill.
BURNETT: But my point is, you're OK with that, if that might get bigger?
HASSETT: You know, the President had a list of non-negotiables that we talked about on your show a few times, right Erin.
HASSETT: And the child credit level, you know, it's very generous right now and I don't think it needs to be expanded. I don't think anyone in the White House does. But we respect, you know, Senator Rubio and the process.
BURNETT: So on this front, right, it's really important what the deficit numbers are. And again --
HASSETT: Sure, it is very important.
BURNETT: Right. And, look, I guess I can agree with you that I think whatever numbers are out there I think are made up because nobody knows what's actually going to happen. But a lot of Republicans as you know are saying this bill is going to pay for itself.
I want to play for you, though, what conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin who, as you know, came out and said he's a supporter of this bill. So he supports it. But here is what he said about this whole concept of it's going to pay for itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLTZ-EAKIN: I don't think these things pay for themselves. They never have. But I think the growth is really important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, that's a stunning admission. I don't think these things pay for themself, they never have.
HASSETT: Well, no. So what it is -- and Doug is a public finance economist. There was a time when we were professors at Columbia together long ago and I really respect him enormously. The fact is that some tax cuts can pay for themselves if you're cutting a tax on something that's really responsive to it and some things don't.
And there's a heck of a lot in this bill that doesn't change the marginal tax rate that is potentially really good policy, like the child credit that we were just talking about. But the growth effects of the child credit are probably not super enormous, right, because unless they affect fertility or something. Child credits are very good for distributional purposes but that's not a growth policy.
But the corporate tax cut, you know, could welcome close to paying for itself. I think that the bottom line, though, is that if we get growth in the 3 percent range over the next decade as supposed to the 2 percent that we've had, that there's going to be so much revenue that the extra deficit from, let's say even the joint tax committee's estimate is going to be dwarfed by the revenue --
BURNETT: That $1.5 trillion.
HASSETT: Yes. It's going to be dwarfed by the revenue we get from growth.
BURNETT: So on this paying for itself, the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, as you know has been saying for months that this bill will pay for itself. This week he finally under a lot of pressure, Chairman, put out this one-page memo -- I'm holding it up -- backing that assertion. It is one page.
And because of that, it has been widely panned by economists on both sides of the aisle because it's one page and it doesn't get into any depth and they said they were going to put out a whole study to paying the tax plan and put out one page. And because it uses a growth number that assumes a lot of things will happen that there's zero legislation for. Like welfare reform and infrastructure investments.
They assume those things are going to happen for this to pay for itself. Well, they're not in the bill. Do you stand by the Treasury Secretary's one-page analysis?
HASSETT: So what Secretary Mnuchin did, and of course I stand by Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin. What Secretary Mnuchin did is he said that if we get the growth numbers that came out in the President's budget last year that was released in the spring, then here are the revenue effects. And those revenue effects were estimated by the career professionals at Treasury.
Those growths effects, we've always said that the administration come from three things. They come from taxes, it looks like we're about to deliver on that. They come from deregulation and they come from infrastructure investment. The infrastructure program is something that will be visible in the next President's budget and the deregulation is something that we put a report out on today that shows how much progress we've made.
And sure enough if you look, we're probably about to have three quarters in a row of 3 percent growth. And so it's not a mystery that we think that that can continue because of these policies.
BURNETT: Right. But I'm just making a simple point that these policies don't exist right now. The President may want them but they're not in legislation and not out there.
HASSETT: No. The tax policy exists, the deregulation is visible. The tax reform exists and we're going to pursue through infrastructure and welfare reform the same process that we did that was so successful with tax reform. And so, very soon, Erin, on this show, we'll be talking about those things.
BURNETT: So the corporate tax rate is at the center of this bill and it's all about, you know, companies are, you know, you believe going to bring their money home for a lower U.S. tax rate. When they do that, though, how are you going to force them to spend it on rising wages instead of executive compensation and dividends? I mean --
BURNETT: -- there's got to be something to force them to do that or history shows a lot of them are not going to do it. How are you going to make them do it?
HASSETT: Right. Well, we can't make them do that. You know, it's a free economy and we're a democracy, but what we can do is give them the incentives to do the right thing. And what we've been right now is given them an incentive to locate factories here in the U.S.
And so, let's just say that you and I, Erin, were going to start a factory and something, I don't what we'd -- so maybe cold medication, right? And we're going to sell cold medication and we've got to build a factory to make the cold medication. Then what we would do is we'd look around the country, we try to find the spot where there are a lot of available workers, maybe a place to the high unemployment rate and we locate our factory there.
[19:10:03] When we do that, there will going to be a lot of people that didn't have a job that get a job. And when that --
BURNETT: Why would a company do that? It's still going to be a lot cheaper to do stuff like that in places like China or other countries. I mean, it's just this. Wages are going to be cheaper.
Wages in this country are higher and that's part of what makes this country great. But you're not solving the wage issue. You're actually saying they're going to pay them even more than they're paying them right now.
HASSETT: Well, right now there are a lot of factors, right, that encourage people to locate stuff here or there. Like if you want to sell it in the U.S., they're not having to ship it across the ocean is really a big deal. It costs about $1,500 to ship a car across the ocean.
And so, people right now, though, have really decided to move a heck of a lot of stuff offshore because the tax rate of the U.S. is so high. So at the margin, they're really going to want to move stuff here. But you're right, there were other factors and we're not going to get every little bit of economic activity by U.S. multinationals to locate in the U.S.
But there's going to be a heck of a lot more of it. And I think that the 15 percent reduction and the cost of capital should lead ultimately to about a 15 percent capital increase in capital formation here in the U.S. And that's a heck of a lot of GDP.
BURNETT: Chairman, before you go, the President made a promise about this bill. He made it again and again and again. I remember in an interview I did with him when he first even talked about a tax policy during the campaign. Here is his promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, many of your friends, they're hedge fund guys and you have the carried interest deduction. You have a lot of other deductions that frankly, it's a joke. It's tremendous amounts of money and it's money that they really don't need. They want it because they're used to paying no taxes.
I would take carried interest out and I would let people that are making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay some tax because right now they're paying very little tax.
We are, as an example, getting rid of carried interest, which is the darling of Wall Street. We're getting rid of carried interest provisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This bill, Chairman, still has a carried interest loophole. It is, obviously, a benefit to a very few specific people while the private equity managers, including Steve Schwarzman who co-founded Blackstone was a funder of the inauguration, worth more than $12 billion, hosted a fund-raiser for the President a couple of weeks ago. The President promised to close this. Why is he breaking that promise? HASSETT: I don't think the President is breaking his promise but, you know, this is not a dictatorship, it's a democracy. There are a lot of things that we in the White House would have liked to have seen in the bill that we understand in the Democratic process we can't have exactly our way, like the 15 percent rate. But, you know, what's going to happen is that carried interest and --
BURNETT: And this only benefits a few people, right? Very specific people. He could have said this was a deal breaker but he didn't. He is willing to let it stay in there.
HASSETT: Right. And, again, this is something that's negotiated with the Senate and with the House. And you're watching, you know, Erin, if you look up now, you even still wonder a little bit after all of this, is this going to pass the Senate, don't you?
And so the fact is that navigating this through this process is something that's a historic accomplishment. If this tax bill passes, you would have to concede. It's one of the biggest moments in economic policy in the last 50 years. And so of course there are going to be times when you don't get everything you want. That's the democratic process.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Chairman Hassett, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, sir.
HASSETT: Thanks. You've been very generous with me, thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Roy Moore still refusing to concede. Even as the White House, as Trump, quote, likes Doug Jones. Plus Trump aide Omarosa, so why are taxpayers still paying her salary for another five weeks.
And President Trump talks to Vladimir Putin. Tonight, we're just getting the details of that conversation this hour.
[19:17:08] BURNETT: New tonight, Roy Moore standing alone. He is still refusing to concede. It has been 48 hours or just about, 45 hours since he lost to the Democrat, Doug Jones. Here is what he said today in his first public appearance since election night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you plan to concede?
ROY MOORE, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA: No. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No? What about a recount?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for your question, ma'am. I don't think he's --
MOORE: It's in the -- we put out a statement. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw your video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The statement he's referring to of course said that his campaign is waiting for the ballots to be certified. The earliest that would happen is the day after Christmas. So that would be no concession until, what, a week from this coming Tuesday? OK.
Meanwhile the President, who so loudly, vehemently backed the accused child molester, Roy Moore, is now changing his tune now saying the White House says the President likes Doug Jones. He had originally, of course, said Doug Jones would be a disaster for the country. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: I think the President's position is pretty clear in his outreach to Doug Jones directly. He called and they spoke yesterday. They had a great conversation, a very positive conversation. He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OutFront now, editor-at-large for The Weekly, Senator Bill Kristol and he's also the former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle. And former state GOP Chairman for the Missouri Republican Party, Ed Martin, who is also the author of "The Conservative Case for Trump."
So, Ed, the President couldn't have been more clear. Roy Moore -- I mean, I'm trying to imitate his tone the other day (INAUDIBLE), just do it. Do it. Vote for Roy Moore. Now he says he likes Doug Jones. Really?
ED MARTIN, FORMER STATE GOP CHAIRMAN, MISSOURI REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I mean, you know, he first went with Luther Strange and then Roy Moore. And as, you know, sometimes --
BURNETT: Third time's a charm?
MARTIN: Yes. I mean, look, President Trump likes to do this. I mean, he's going to try to lay on the charm offensive. I think what he may be betting on is maybe Senator-elect Jones has some issues because Alabama is so conservative that he could meet in the middle on. But it is interesting to watch. We'll see what happens.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm looking forward to when Roy Moore does concede. He'll ride the horse, won't he, into the state Capitol where the ballots are being certified? That would be good. I like that horse, Sassy the horse. I feel bad for Sassy horse. BURNETT: I mean --
KRISTOL: Roy Moore does not seem very good at riding him or her.
KRISTOL: That horse was the highlight -- the highlight of Election Day was Doug Jones winning. But the second highlight was the horse, I got to say.
BURNETT: And, I mean, look, there's a lot of blame about this being passed around right now among Republicans, right? I mean, the people like, though, were very honest. They did not -- you were very passionate about it, you were hoping that he would lose, and he did. Luther Strange, the senator who Moore beat in that runoff, says, though, a lot of the blame rests on Steve Bannon. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:20:01] SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: I've never seen him accomplish anything. He has accomplished one thing that I don't think anybody in America thought was possible and that's getting a Democrat elected in the state of Alabama.
BURNETT: Well said, Senator Strange? What do you say, Ed?
MARTIN: Well, look -- I mean, we've talked about this and I've talked about it on CNN. I blame two people, Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell pulled the money out of the NRSC. I mean, you know, the primaries are a race where the fight in the primary can be amongst candidates. Luther strange was backed by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. Once he lost -- and by the way, they spent a lot of money to beat Mo Brooks because he was a strong candidate. Once he lost, they should have backed Roy Moore.
And when the attacks came, shot (ph) in the beginning.
BURNETT: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
MARTIN: Well, the tax when they came I said --
BURNETT: So you're in the camp where you're OK with a child molester in the Senate?
MARTIN: Well, no. I mean, I think you want to say alleged child molester, Erin. I mean, I think what I said was five weeks before an election, Bill Kristol knows from campaigns and everybody else does that they throw everything they have at a guy. And what I said was get through the election and back the Republican and then go and do the Ethics Committee and find out -- I don't have any reason to know if the women were telling the truth.
KRISTOL: Come on, come on, all these women made this up? I mean --
BURNETT: Sir, there were 30 people who corroborated their stories. It's absurd. I really question about it. It was excellent reporting and it's true. Anyway, the voters spoke and the voters said what they were going to say.
MARTIN: That's right, the voters -- yes, that's right. The voters spoke but the guy who stopped to competing was Mitch McConnell.
BURNETT: But you're saying he would have won if they didn't pull the funding. By the way, RNC put the funding back in.
MARTIN: No. RNC put $170,000 in. Bill Kristol knows. In election, it takes millions of dollars. Just the outside money from Obama's groups was about $3 million or some millions of dollars to get out the vote.
KRISTOL: You know, I have a higher regard for the Republicans in Alabama who did vote for Jones or who stayed home or cast that 1.5 percent of the absentee ballots. They knew what they were doing. They wouldn't have been persuaded by more money, right, to make some votes for Roy Moore. To their credit enough of them didn't want to vote for Roy Moore that he lost.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, look, here's a big question to you. When you talk about what the future of the Republican Party, which I think is clearly what we're all talking about here coming on the midterms.
BURNETT: Close friends of Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, when you talk about leadership, McConnell and Ryan, friends of Ryan are telling CNN he is soul searching, talking about his future. It's possible he could leave Congress --
BURNETT: -- after the midterms if not sooner. Look that is a huge thing to say. Some of them even saying Ryan could be suffering from Trump exhaustion, that he's just sick of the President. What do you say to that, Ed?
MARTIN: Well, Paul Ryan -- the vision Paul Ryan has on some key issues, including amnesty for illegals and, you know, kind of the way he views a bunch of issues, trade issues, are not the ones that are rising in the Republican Party. So I think he may be tired.
Look, I told -- Erin, I've said before until the $17 million that was paid out to abusers and harassment charges has been disclosed by Paul Ryan, we're going to have every congressman under a cloud. And I think Paul Ryan may be getting tired of it. It's a tough thing to do. I don't envy him.
BURNETT: What are you hearing about Paul Ryan's future?
KRISTOL: I think he's unhappy at the prospect of the next year. I was told late this afternoon that, there's nothing to it, he's not quitting at least not until the end of the year.
MARTIN: Yes. KRISTOL: But it's -- I still -- think of this, I think President Trump wants to fire Bob Mueller. I think the House Republicans signaled that, that they're going to defend him and they are laying the groundwork for it and their behavior in that hearing --
BURNETT: And then the President against Mueller.
KRISTOL: The House Republicans have a very coordinated effort to legitimatize the firing of Mueller. I don't think that's Paul Ryan is. I don't think Paul Ryan wants to be the leader of a conference that is defending the President of the United States firing the former FBI Director, Bob Mueller.
So I think that issue might be one way he would say, look, if the conference wants to go defend Donald Trump, I guess I can't stop them. But I'm not going to lead a Republican Party that's going to defend Donald Trump trying to cover up the Russian investigation.
BURNETT: So an American judge -- the women harassers, banning (INAUDIBLE), all of those were straws but the one that would break the camel's back would be firing Mueller?
KRISTOL: It might be because that would be an actionable thing. There are things that Congress could do to stop them or they could work harder to fire Mueller or to react to it.
But for Paul Ryan, he will not I think defend Trump's doing that. They will have a conference that wants to defend Trump doing that. And that might be the one scenario why Ryan could say enough is enough.
BURNETT: Ryan will have to have a line that cannot be crossed somewhere. Thank you, both.
And next, Senator Lindsey Graham says if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, there's a 70 percent chance of a U.S. attack. And what was Omarosa hinting about when she said this about her time at the White House?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS, OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIAISON: I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:28:13] BURNETT: New tonight, Omarosa's mysterious exit. The three-time "Apprentice" star turned White House aide is now pushing back against reports she was fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: John Kelly and I had a very straightforward discussion about concerns that I had, issues that I raised, and as a result I resigned and it will be taking place January the 20th when I leave this very interesting administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the Secret Service says they have deactivated Omarosa's pass that gives her access to the White House, but she's still being paid for another five weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she's resigned but you said she will stay on, Omarosa, will stay on through January 20th. Why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she's no longer here at the White House?
SANDERS: As I just said, I'm not going to weigh in any further. As we often do and is the practice, we're not going to get deeper into personnel matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?
SANDERS: Look, there's a lot of different protocols that take place in the government. That's part of the process. If you want to reach out to H.R., they might be able to walk you through that in a more detailed way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Omarosa was paid the maximum salary for a staff member at the White House, $179,000 a year. So taxpayers still paying that until January 20th as of now.
Abby Phillip is OutFront live at the White House. And Abby, I mean, to that exchange, you know, you were there at the White House really struggling to explain why Omarosa is still getting paid.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. It's not clear why she would be on the payroll until January 20th. I had asked the White House this afternoon if Omarosa would continue to be coming in until that time and they won't say, they haven't been able to say.
She was here at the White House today, and the White House is pointing us to legal issues that could explain this difference between her apparent end date, which was earlier this week, and when she's off the payroll. It could be severance, it could be sick leave or something else, but they won't say definitively. They're pointing us to this H.R. department which, you know, none of us are really that familiar with here at the White House given that all of them are political appointees.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Right. So, that's strange. Now, what about this, Abby, Omarosa was one of the most visible African-Americans in the White House. Now she's gone. So who's left? Are there any other senior African-American aides in this White House?
PHILLIP: As far as we know in the West Wing, Omarosa was the one and only senior African-American in the West Wing. Now, there's Ben Carson, who's the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the cabinet, but of the more than three dozen senior staff members and cabinet officials in this Trump administration, there are very few and now there is only one left, Ben Carson.
So, the White House asked about this earlier today was not able to explain who else is in the senior ranks of this administration. They point to diversity in other areas, specifically in the press shop, which is majority women. But again, the number of African-Americans is very small and they haven't been able to explain more than that.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. Of course diversity comes in all different ways. And when you don't have diversity in one area, it doesn't count that you have it in another.
OUTFRONT now, Chris Cillizza, the editor at large for CNN politics and April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
April, let me start with you. Look, you were the one breaking this news about Omarosa's abrupt and let's say explosive departure in your reporting. You were in the briefing room today.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I understand.
BURNETT: Why is there so much confusion over what happened here?
RYAN: You know, this whole situation is something that's very unexpected and shocking, the allegations of her departure. Yes, we're hearing that she did sign a resignation letter that would allow her to leave January 20th, but we also understand there was this very bombastic exit after she tried to get into the residence.
So the White House, if you listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she was clearly asked specifically about vulgarities, the actions by Manigault, she said I don't want to get into the weeds. She did not deny it but she did not want to get into the weeds.
You know, this president today said she's a good woman. He's a friend to Omarosa. He's been a friend for many years. He brought her into the White House.
They have -- they're kindred spirits. So, he's trying to respect her and to allow her to have an exit that is commensurate with who he feels she is. As the nation, many people are -- if you view Twitter and listening to the groans and grumbles happening around the country, his feelings are totally different than a large segment of society. They're ready for her to leave.
BURNETT: Now, Chris, Omarosa told ABC news this morning she did an interview with Michael Strahan. She said she's going to have a lot to say once she's no longer employed, so I guess that's at the end of next month. Here's how she put it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, WHITE HOUSE AIDE: As the only African- American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell me story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Chris, that sounds like a pretty incredible threat.
CHRIS CILLIZZA: Again, this is someone who is still on the payroll through January 20th, at least as far as we know. It's remarkable. It's essentially saying as an African-American -- I was at the top salary level. Right, I was in a position where I felt uncomfortable and I have a lot of stories to tell that I will tell as soon as they stop paying me on January 20th.
It's a remarkable thing. That said, April made the point, the reason that Omarosa is in the White House is because Donald Trump likes her. Donald Trump feels sort of a shared spirit with Omarosa.
You know what you're getting there. You knew -- Omarosa became famous and well known because she was a reality television star. So, I can't -- we can't be surprised, I don't think, that she, like Donald Trump, in her television appearance there is sort of a, well, wait for this cliff hanger to come up next. Wait until I can really tell the story. Stay tuned for my book or my special.
[19:35:00] BURNETT: Yes.
CILLIZZA: It's sort of -- that's par for the course.
BURNETT: Something the president can appreciate.
BURNETT: I remember a conversation with the president at "The Apprentice." And he sort of was asking a question as he was off to get advice when he had a point of view. He said should I bring Omarosa back? And I remember when he to me, he goes, I like her, man, people hate her and that is so good for ratings.
BURNETT: You know, and he genuinely liked her but he was kind of like, you know what, if people hate you, that's good.
But here's the thing. He let John Kelly take care of this. And here's -- when he was pushed about Omarosa, here's what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did Omarosa share her concerns with you, Mr. President? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Omarosa.
Omarosa is a good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So what do you think, April? Is that going to be enough for her not to come out and deliver on what appears to be a threat to talk about racist things that happened in the White House?
RYAN: I'm going to say this. I don't believe the story is -- the chapter is closed or the book is closed yet. The story is still being written. This is not over.
This did not sit well, you know, those words about her uncomfortability and things that she saw and hurt her deeply and concerned her. That didn't sit well with many people in the White House. So, I mean this is still very fresh. It's still unfolding.
So I don't think that it's going to be just that easy. She may be starting to put pen to paper and looking for a new job, you know, to land in, but I don't think the White House is finished yet. You know, I want to watch the back and forth because she gives as good as she gets and so does this White House. And General Kelly doesn't play.
So this story has not been finished yet. I mean, seriously, she really laid out something very heavy today, and the White House I don't believe, especially this White House, I don't think they're going to take it that easy.
BURNETT: Well, Omarosa, Chris, this president may have met his match.
CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, look, what's fascinating is I think even in those comments, it shows to your point, Erin, he has sort of a personal admiration and affection for her, even -- I'm sure it didn't sit well with a lot of folks in the White House, but when Donald Trump looks in the mirror, the personality traits that drew him to Omarosa are because he sees those things in himself. Provocative, not politically correct, willing -- not only OK with being hated but sort of thriving in some way, gaining energy from that.
So, I think -- I don't know if he's met his match but he recognizes an equal in terms of his personality in her. And he admires that even if he is not -- even if she is not doing things that will help his White House.
BURNETT: Yes, and I do remember that conversation. Should I bring her back? And then he answers his own question. Yes, I'm going to bring her back. And, of course, he brought her all the way to the White House until today.
Thank you both so very much.
CILLIZZA: Thank you
BURNETT: And next, the suspect who's accused of driving through the crowd in Charlottesville protests killing a woman actually in court today. Outside that courthouse, protesters squaring off with white supremacists.
And President Trump speaking to President Putin on the phone late today. We're just getting word of what they talked about. We'll be back.
[19:42:10] BURNETT: Just in, President Trump speaking tonight with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House saying the two men talked about the North Korean nuclear crisis. It follows a chilling warning by Senator Lindsey Graham who says he believes there's a 70 percent chance President Trump attacks North Korea if Kim tests another nuclear bomb.
Graham telling "The Atlantic" magazine, quote: we're not to the tipping point yet, but if they test another nuclear weapon, then all bets are off.
OUTFRONT now, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who just returned from North Korea where he met with senior leaders.
Ambassador, thank you so much for your time. Did you walk away with a similar feeling to that of Senator Graham?
JEFFREY FELTMAN, U.N. UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: You know, I can't characterize what the results of my meetings will be because I think only time will tell. This is a typical diplomatic discussion where we had the time and opportunity to make lots of points, to present ideas, alternative approaches, to demand the compliance with Security Council resolutions and express the concern of the international community.
They had their points to make. And I believe that both sides need to reflect on what we heard and then to see the impact going forward.
BURNETT: Was it a real conversation?
FELTMAN: That's actually what surprised me a bit, because it was a very interactive, serious exchange. I'm not saying that they were flexible on their positions per se because they had certain policy positions in which they were operating, but they wanted to hear us out. They gave us the time to present the concerns of the international community. They quizzed us on some of the points that we made. They asked for more information. I got the sense that they seriously wanted to understand why we were saying what we were saying and get more details, presumably to prepare reports for the broader leadership.
BURNETT: So on this point of what's going to happen, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United States is ready to talk to North Korea without preconditions. That's a significant thing to say, because obviously, the White House and State Department have tried to pull that back saying the United States is not ready to begin talks with North Korea. As you know, the president of the United States' position is that Kim must give up his nuclear weapons. Is there any situation under which Kim would give up nuclear weapons
from the conversations you just had in Pyongyang?
FELTMAN: I mean, keep in mind, it's not just President Trump that says he has to give up the nuclear weapons. It is the international community as reflected in unanimous Security Council resolutions. When we were talking about Pyongyang, I think there was an acceptance of that goal, as a long term aspirational goal, peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
But the question is, what would it take to get there? And I think that the timelines that Pyongyang were -- was considering are far longer than what the Security Council has in mind. The Security Council sees the need to move quickly.
[19:45:02] And I think that the DPRK officials, as presented to me at least, were looking for a longer period of deterrence leading to trying to rebuild trust, eventually moving there. I don't think we have that much time.
I think that there's a risk of an accidental conflict given the lack of trust, the lack of any kind of real ongoing diplomatic channels and the fact that there's continued defiance of those Security Council resolutions.
BURNETT: President Trump and Kim Jong-un, as you know, ambassador, have been personal in their attacks. Kim has called Trump a dotard and, of course, here's President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Rocket man should have been handled a long time ago. Rocket man is on a suicide mission. Little rocket man, he is a sick puppy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Just last month, of course, the ambassador to the president tweeted in part, you know the operative line, why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me old when I would never call him short and fat. Is this smart strategy by President Trump? Do you think it's working?
FELTMAN: I don't really want to comment on what member states say, member states of the organization I represent say, except I will say those Security Council resolutions do call for de-escalation of tensions as well. Including the resolution that the United States voted for, along with all the other Security Council members on September 11th, Resolution 2375.
BURNETT: So, this does help deescalate --
FELTMAN: It calls for de-escalation, so we would encourage all sides to look for ways to move away from fiery rhetoric and back toward the goal of some kind of peaceful diplomatic political comprehensive solution to the security issues on the Korean peninsula. But, of course, the obligation is with the DPRK to abide by those resolutions just as the rest of the world, to abide by the parts that apply to them, the de-escalation, the sanctions and so forth.
BURNETT: All right. Ambassador Feltman, thank you so much for your time.
FELTMAN: Thank you for having me.
BURNETT: And next, the man accused of murder during the Charlottesville protest last summer in court today. Outside, KKK members were clashing with protesters.
And Jeanne Moos on Omarosa's White House departure. Her angle, is she suffering a flashback to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Omarosa, go out and sell paintings or whatever the hell you're doing. You're fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:51:12] BURNETT: And tonight, heated emotions again in Charlottesville, Virginia. Protesters clashing with members of the Ku Klux Klan today outside the courthouse. Four men facing a judge in connection to the August white supremacist rally. One of those men, James Alex Fields Jr., now facing a charge of first degree murder for allegedly ramming his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at that rally. He killed a woman, Heather Heyer.
Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT. And we want to warn you, some of the information in this piece is graphic and may be disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Do for the come into our city and try to rewrite history.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Charlottesville, emotions are raw, tensions still high.
SINDER: Four months after hate turned into homicide here, members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up and were confronted outside court. They're here to support a member of the Klan who did this.
Also in court, James Fields, the man accused of driving his car into a crowd, killing young protester Heather Heyer in August, and the man who brought the white nationalist unite the right rally to Charlottesville.
But in the midst of those trying to scream down hate, a rare occurrence. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, how are you doing?
SIDNER: Daryl Davis, a blues musician, and an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan agreed to meet and come to common grounds.
DARYL DAVIS, BLUES MUSICIAN: As Americans, your confederate history is as much a part of my history, as my black history is a part of yours.
BILLY SNUFFER, IMPERIAL WIZARD, REBEL BRIGADE OF KKK: Sure it is.
DAVIS: And it's time we got to know one another.
SNUFFER: You're exactly right.
DAVIS: So how do we convince these people to say, hey, look, we can spend all night arguing or we can move forward?
SNUFFER: You know as well as I do, my organization has a bad history.
SIDNER: But their meeting wasn't welcomed by some.
DAVIS: Let me ask you a question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, do not ask me a question about racists.
DAVIS: Well, then, you have no solution then.
SIDNER: Davis says he does and has the KKK robes to prove it.
(on camera): How many robes have you gotten handed to you from Klan members?
DAVIS: I have about maybe 44, 45.
SIDNER: How many robes have you gotten from the Klansmen?
DAVIS: About 44, 45. And Klanswomen.
SIDNER: And Klanswomen?
SIDNER: Who have said what?
DAVIS: They are done as a result of meeting me and having these conversations. Not overnight, but over time.
SIDNER (voice-over): For more than 30 years, Davis has been on a mission to change minds, especially of those who would rather see him dead. He was drawn to Charlottesville in part because he says the unite the right rally was not about saving Confederate statues.
DAVIS: The reason they were there was to initiate the first steps of a race war.
SIDNER: Surprisingly, the Klan leader Billy Snuffer agreed wholeheartedly.
DAVIS: A lot of them were not here for the statue.
SNUFFER: No. They were here to cause trouble.
DAVIS: They were here to cause a race war.
SNUFFER: That's exactly right.
SIDNER: A descendent of slaves trying to make inroads with the Virginia Klan leader, a sense of change they know will be a long road.
DAVIS: Do you understand what her concern is at all? Do you see anything?
SNUFFER: Yes. Slavery was wrong.
DAVIS: Slavery was wrong?
SNUFFER: It was wrong regardless. But there were white slaves, too. You don't ever hear about that. You don't ever hear about the white slaves.
SIDNER: And with that last sentence, imperial wizard Snuffer used a tactic that is used by racists who try to equate hundreds of years of institutionalized slavery gets blacks here in America to what happened to Irish that came to America and were forced into indentured servitude.
[19:55:05] But it doesn't faze Daryl Davis. He says, when the conversation ends, well, that's when there is fertile ground for violence -- Erin.
BURNETT: Really fascinating and such a powerful report. Sara, thank you so much for sharing that.
Next, a lighter note. Jeanne Moos on the question that so many have about Omarosa. What exactly did she do at the White House?
BURNETT: Tonight's White House mystery, just what did Omarosa do there?
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good thing Omarosa already sent out her Christmas tweet because she won't be dreaming of a White House Christmas next year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye, girl. Good-bye. Good riddance. Good-bye. MOOS: Her departure was displayed on a mocked executive order. "The Daily Show" asked, who will be the next to go on the celebrity appresident.
But as she leaves her $180,000 a year White House job, many are left wondering --
JAMES CORDEN, COMEDIAN: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is Omarosa doing in the White House?
I typed in what is Omarosa doing in the White House. The first result is an article that says: no one knows what Omarosa is doing in the White House. Even Omarosa.
MOOS: Reports that she caused a scene leaving, reports Omarosa denied, left anchors agog.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To get her out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: What? That's awesome!
MOOS: Omarosa implied she'd spill the beans in a book.
MANIGUALT: And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story, that I know the world will want to hear.
MOOS: ABC's Robin Roberts couldn't resist.
ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC ANCHOR: She said she has a story to tell, I'm sure she'll be selling that story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see.
ROBERTS: Bye Felicia.
MOOS: Bye Felicia is based on the dismissive kiss off delivered by the rapper Ice Cube in the movie "Friday."
ICE CUBE, RAPPER: Bye, Felicia.
ROBERTS: Bye Felicia.
MOOS: Omarosa fired back at Roberts in a text message to "Inside Edition".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was petty. It's a black woman civil war.
MOOS: Let's take a moment as Omarosa bows out to recall her comments about bowing down.
MANIGUALT: Every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.
MOOS: Omarosa had to bow down.
TRUMP: You're fired.
MOOS: The three previous times she got the boot on "The Apprentice" and "celebrity apprentice".
TRUMP: I've always been an Omarosa fan, but Omarosa, you're fired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
MOOS: Some pretended to be morose about Omarosa, but when Omarosa is gone, who will do all of the nothing?
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
TRUMP: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: Well, thanks so much for joining us. And don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time, anywhere. You just have to go to CNN. See you back here tomorrow night.
"AC360" begins right now.