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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

W.H.: Trump "Furious, Disgusted" Over Bannon's Bombshell Claims; CNN: Trump's Explosive Two Days Fueled By Russia Investigation, Anger Over Bannon Allegations; Book: Bannon Says Russia Probe Centers On "Money Laundering." Aired 7-8pm ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[19:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, Trump versus Bannon, the fight is on. The one-time allies now at war, Bannon making explosive charges against the Trump White House tonight.

And more breaking news, the story behind Trump's fury in the past 48 hours. What is really getting under his skin.

Plus, what steps would Trump have to take to launch a nuclear weapon? Let's go OutFront.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, furious and disgusted. President Trump ripping Steve Bannon tonight. Bannon just one of the many Trump insiders who are quoted in an explosive, new book that paints a personal portrait of an incapable, disinterested, distracted, paranoid, petty, petulant President of the United States.

Bannon's take was especially vicious, attacking the President's son and son-in-law on the record. Bannon attacking Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort over an infamous 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, calling their actions treasonous and unpatriotic. Trump responded today by saying Bannon has, quote, lost his mind. The book dominating today's White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he feel betrayed by Steve Bannon? Does he regret hiring him?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President's statement is extremely clear what his position on Mr. Bannon is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is there a sense of betrayal?

SANDERS: Once again, I think the President's statement fully addresses what his position and what his relationship with Mr. Bannon is. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been reported that he was furious when these reports first came out about Bannon was quoted as saying. Is that an accurate depiction?

SANDERS: I think furious, disgusted, would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims and completely false claims against the President, his administration, and his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The book "Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House" by journalist Michael Wolff, is filled with reporting, and we're going to share some of the details and stories with you in just a few minutes. By the way, it is already the number one best-seller on Amazon. It hasn't even technically been published yet.

And tonight, there is fire and fury in the White House in response. A source close to the White House telling CNN Bannon crossed a clear line by going after the President's family, saying, "Once Bannon got personal, the gloves were off. They are holding nothing back," the source tells CNN.

Bannon had a lot more to say though, insisting the Mueller investigation is focusing on money laundering by the Trump organization and suggesting that Trump Jr. and Kushner could eventually cooperate with investigators, saying, "They're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV." Trump put out an incredibly angry statement, not a tweet, an entire statement, dismissing Bannon, belittling him in his role, saying in part, "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job but lost his mind. Now that he's on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory."

And Melania Trump spokesperson had to -- came out and talked about the book today, saying, "The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section." And, of course, as I mentioned, that certainly is not the case.

Number one on Amazon, its publication schedule is being accelerated since it isn't even technically for sale yet. So, far from bargain basement.

Jeff Zeleny is OutFront tonight at the White House. Jeff, the President's angry response to Bannon, the statement form which it took is unprecedented.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it was unprecedented. Of course, this is the same Steve Bannon who the President, not too long ago, just a couple months ago referred to him as my longtime friend. Yes, he didn't fire him in August, but since then he's talked to him several times.

But I am told by talking to an administration official, Steve Bannon crossed two lines in the President's view. One, he tried to take, accept responsibility and credit for things that happened here that the President believes is his. Ego is on the line here, so the President has often been angry when someone else is trying to claim credit for something. And two, he went after his family, personally, directly. Ivanka, of course, Jared Kushner as well here. So those crossed two lines.

But, Erin, it was extraordinary that statement there. And it was dictated we are told in part by the President himself, in part by other advisers, but it's important to know the history here. There's bad blood between Steve Bannon and the children of the Trump family here. So a lot of that is underlying all of this.

The question here is this, will the President be able to not talk to him going forward? Of course, Steve Bannon has said he is going to play a central role in the midterm election campaign. As for now, one adviser here said he can't imagine him speaking to him again, but we'll see. They've tried so many times to quit each other. It hasn't happened yet, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And of course, I want to make the point here, Steve Bannon a crucial source for the book but far from the only source. And that's what makes it very significant, not leaving a very increasingly isolated President as so many around him appear to be speaking in an extremely negative way about him.

[19:05:01] OutFront now, David Smith, Washington Bureau Chief for The Guardian, which first reported excerpts from the book. I know, David, you obtained a copy ahead of the publication from a book seller in New England. And of course, as I point out, it's not even technically on the shelves yet, but it is the number one best-seller on Amazon as of this hour. You've read the book, David. What is your main takeaway?

DAVID SMITH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE GUARDIAN: Two things, really. I mean one in terms of headlines and what we first focused on was the Russia investigation, which is obviously ongoing, and just some extraordinary comments where Steve Bannon in particular referred to that notorious June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, used words like treasonous and unpatriotic. And said that, you know, it should have been immediately reported to the FBI, which we know Donald Trump Jr. failed to do.

He also talks about the investigation just going on and on and getting more and more serious for the White House, which, you know, contradicts some of the reports suggesting that Trump's lawyers believe it could be wound up soon. But in fact, Bannon says, you know, it's not they're sitting on the beach facing a category 5 storm. And he thinks the real key will be money laundering, and there's that memorable line about how Donald Trump Jr. will be on television and broken like an egg.

BURNETT: Yes. It's pretty stunning when you think about it, and we're going to try to get through as much of it as we can tonight, because there are so many details and stories in here. And David, as you know, there are a lot of quotes in the book. Steve Bannon, of course, is a major source, an on-the-record source, but there are others in trump's orbit who are quoted directly, and none of what anybody has to say is positive or complimentary.

SMITH: No, it's a bleak portrait, indeed. And even some of Donald Trump's closest friends and confidants, even someone like Rupert Murdoch is quoted calling him an idiot at one point. And Thomas Barrack, a billionaire and longtime friend calls him stupid.

And an overall picture emerges of bitter divisions and factualism and infighting with people of each other's throats, a lot of palace intrigue. And also a lot of very damning little anecdotes about Trump himself, suggesting he's naive and inept and couldn't even sit and listen to the constitution being read to him.

BURNETT: And I want to get to all of that, so stay with me, David. I do just want to point out, of course, that one person who is denying what is quoted in the book is Tom Barrack, who is saying that he did not categorically say what he is alleged to have said in the book, sorry. So I do just want to make that point.

I want to bring in David Gergen who served as Adviser to four presidents, Nia-Malika Henderson, our Senior Political Reporter and Tim Naftali, Presidential Historian, former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library. OK. This is pretty incredible. The reporting, you know, David, saying in this excerpt, has some pretty powerful points. Let's start with the stunning thing.

How many people Wolff says described Trump as not interested, not smart, off balance? Rupert Murdoch, as David Smith just pointed out, "What an f'ing idiot", is the quote after a conversation with Trump on immigration. Former Campaign Adviser Sam Nunberg, who was apparently sent to explain the Constitution to Trump tells Wolff, on the record, "I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head." And the article goes on to say, Reince Priebus described his first meeting with Trump as when where Trump talked nonstop and constantly repeated himself. There are many more examples. It's nasty and consistent.

TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: And consistent, and it leads you to the conclusion that the worst thing that ever happened to Donald Trump was he got elected. Because the sense you have is that this is a man who didn't expect to be elected. He never wanted to take on the duties of President of the United States. It's too hard.

And you get a sense that he's very lazy, that he's not that interested in being President. So, this is a damning portrait, and it's a portrait that in one sense we can find entertaining, but it's also troubling. And this is a time for Congress to start talking about the real Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Well, and of course, that leads to a conversation about the constitution as well. Nia, one point, though, when you say about him being lazy. Bannon talks about how very early on Trump just wanted to get back to his regular schedule and his golf game.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, a lot of golfing. BURNETT: Yes.

HENDERSON: We, of course, see him golfing quite a bit over these last days when he was on vacation in Mar-a-Lago. They're kind of trying to shield the press from the images of him golfing. And you think about this President as someone who's so concerned about how he appears, how damaging this is going to be to his psyche to read all of this. If he reads it. He'll certainly hear about it on cable news. He apparently spends a lot of time watching cable news to hear these people who were his friends, who are in his inner circle with him.

[19:10:06] At one point, someone talks about him being semi-literate. What's also interesting is, as much as he can blame Bannon, apparently, Trump let Michael Wolff into the White House. He was there for 18 months. He essentially had, in this article, it says he took up semi-permanent residence in the west wing and talked to many people with no rules, really.

BURNETT: And of course, it's interesting, you know when you say people he described as his friends. You know, I've spoken to some people who are friends of Trump. I've known Trump for a long time, and it's pretty consistent. They don't think he has any real friends. Even people who he thinks are his friends, even if they're not speaking negatively about him, they don't feel the man has any true friends in a way a normal person defines it.

David Gergen, the book which Bannon saying the meeting between the Russians and Donald Trump Jr. was treasonous, right, as, you know, David Smith reporting. It quotes Bannon at a dinner with the former Fox News Chief Roger Ailes during the transition saying about now- President Trump -- and this is a crucial question -- "What has he gotten himself into with the Russians? Pressed Ailes. Mostly, said Bannon, he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin, but Putin couldn't give a hoot about him, so he's kept trying."

Now, David obviously on 60 Minutes, Bannon said Russian collusion was a farce. So this is different than what he had said publicly before. Do you believe what he is saying here to Michael Wolff?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, what I do think is striking, Erin, something you suggested earlier, and that is what we haven't heard from Steve Bannon saying that any of this is wrong, that he's been misquoted, that he's been misunderstood. He's been silent today, and that silence is deafening. Just as every other, and there are many other named sources who have remained silent. The only one, Tom Barrack, as you mentioned, has come forward saying, no, I've been misquoted.

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: That really lends weight to the book.

BURNETT: I mean, it is pretty incredible, I think, David Smith. To make the point, person after person is quoted, or if not quoted, their belief about a situation is very clearly written about, and we have not heard anyone come out and dispute, other than Tom. SMITH: Yes.

GERGEN: Right, exactly.

BURNETT: Sorry, go ahead, David Smith. I'm sorry.

SMITH: Yes, it's very thorough reporting, it seems. And, you know, Michael Wolff has a long career. He's worked for us at The Guardian among many publications. He's written a biography of Rupert Murdoch, clearly has access there.

And, you know, as expected, the White House did push back, and they claimed that several sources are arguing they were misquoted. But as you say, names actually for that seem scarce. And certainly, you know, Bannon as the predominant voice in the book, it rings very, very true. And as has been noted, we've heard very little from him. And indeed, Trump himself seems to accept that Bannon was quoted accurately.

BURNETT: Yes, I mean, certainly from what he's saying. I mean, Nia, another thing that I find completely consistent with the Trump that I've known over a long time and others have known, is his desire to talk about everybody he knows and everybody around him. And at one point, the quote here from the article, by the way, in one case touching what I would call the untouchable, Jared Kushner.

This is the quote, "When he got on the phone after dinner, he'd speculate on the flaws and weaknesses of each member of his staff. Bannon was disloyal," not to mention he always looks like, S-H-I-T, "Priebus was weak," not to he was short, a midget. "Kushner was a suck-up. Sean Spicer was stupid and looks terrible, too. Jared and Ivanka should never have come to Washington." I mean, it's incredible how nasty about every single person.

HENDERSON: Yes, how nasty Trump is --

BURNETT: But Jared Kushner, the beloved, the amazing, the -- I'm in charge and everything is a suck-up who should never have come to Washington.

HENDERSON: Yes. And Ivanka should never have come to Washington. These are some of the things he says about those other folks, not necessarily surprising. He says, for instance, that Bannon was disloyal? Well, we're sort of seeing that --

BURNETT: Well, that doesn't accurate.

HENDERSON: -- how that's certainly accurate. But the picture of him, you know, held up or hold up in his room, retiring to his room at 6:30, 7:00, with a cheeseburger and making calls to various friends and really trashing people in his inner circle. I mean, it's this image of him, you know, almost like home alone in this very small circle of people and a very different portrait I think of most presidents.

BURNETT: Saying all these things, one of the calls reportedly 26 minutes --

HENDERSON: Right.

BURNETT: -- to people who clearly had no allegiance to him. They were very happy to share what he said and make him exposed to what he said, better word.

NAFTALI: There are two things we got to keep in mind. One is the tweets are the man. That's what this shows. The anger in the tweets, the ranting, it's not a show. It's not strategy. It's the man.

The second thing that's really important to keep in mind, the White House's statement, that's the most damning thing to come out today. The White House could have said this is fiction.

[19:15:02] The President issues a statement basically saying this is true. It's disloyal, but it's true. That is completely unprecedented.

BURNETT: And it's an incredible thing. We have so many more things later in this book. All of you going to stay around. We're going to talk about this, including something that Ivanka Trump had said about her own father, which is pretty stunning. Because when you think about what he's going to think when he reads that.

Next, more breaking news, new reporting coming in about what is fueling the President's latest two-day fury, including those, well, it's a 17 tweets yesterday. And more stunning details from the book. And that includes Ivanka's plan to run for president and be the first female president.

Plus, snow in Florida, freezing temperatures in all 50 states. The winter bomb cyclone. That is the technical term. It's about to slam the east coast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news, new details behind President Trump's last two days of fury and erratic behavior. Multiple sources familiar with Trump's mind-set telling CNN his anger was fueled in part by the Russia investigation, in particular frustration with his own legal team shifting timelines on when Robert Mueller's probe is going to be done. The Bannon charges in the Michael Wolff book only enraged the President even more.

Dana Bash has the new reporting on this. And, Dana, you've got new reporting on the President's mind-set as he is obviously in an incredible storm of anger over this book, and as we see with his almost 20 tweets in the past day or so.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And obviously, the tweets came first, and they were so over the top, Erin, so disruptive on several sensitive national security fronts that I and my colleagues, including and especially White House Producer Kevin Liptak set out this morning to find out whether there was something that set the President off. [19:20:04] And what sources familiar with the President's thinking told us is largely what has been driving the President's behavior is his anger about the Russia investigation. The fact that his legal team told him the Special Counsel investigation was going to be over likely by the end of the year, then it was soon. And here he is back at the White House starting 2018 with the Russia cloud still very much hanging over him. And that was exacerbated by the fact that he was coming off a trip to Florida over the holidays where by all accounts he was relaxed, obviously golfing and in his happy place with his family.

And you mentioned this also, but I should note that as we were doing our reporting about the tweets, the news came out about the book, quoting among other things, Steve Bannon saying some pretty harsh things about Donald Trump Jr. and others about the Russia investigation. That very raw nerve the President was already upset about.

BURNETT: Right. And, you know -- I mean, saying money laundering, obviously, his finances, his -- the red line the President is seemingly obsessed with.

BASH: Exactly.

BURNETT: Now, on these tweets though, Dana, look, the one about the nuclear button was absurd and upsetting to many. That was just one of the tweets that he put out there. How is his team managing this? I mean, did anyone have any clue that he was going to come out and say that mine is bigger than yours?

BASH: No, I don't think that that was something that was the product of sitting around the cabinet table talking about the best way to reach Kim Jong-un. I was actually told the White House aides have reached out to some who might have influence with the President, especially on national security, to try to convince him that those tweets are just not good for american policy, that they crossed a line that really make him look unstable.

Now, I don't know, Erin, if those messages were actually delivered to the President yet today, so that is unclear. But I also, and this is not going to surprise you, I did not talk to anybody who suggested that the President will ever be convinced to stop tweeting, not at all.

BURNETT: No, no. All right. Well, Dana, thank you very much.

The panel's back with me. David, you know, it's interesting what Dana says, right, that people are trying to convince him that those tweets could have made, you know, made him look unstable, right? And then within a few hours, you get these book excerpts come out. The words I used to describe how the book makes Donald Trump look are incapable, disinterest, distracted, paranoid, petty, and petulant. You add unstable to it, it's a pretty bad list.

You've been in the White House with four different presidents. Do you recall anything like what we have seen over the past 48 hours for this President, when you have all of these people in his inner circle speaking out so negatively and you have, of course, that North Korea tweet?

GERGEN: No. I don't recall anything like this ever before. And I'll just tell you this, if Donald Trump were the head of any other major institution in this country, he would be gone by now. The board would not tolerate this kind of behavior, this dangerous kind of behavior.

To think that last night, as Dana's report reads, that he was sitting there watching Fox News, he heard this report about North Korea. Within 12 minutes he typed out, dictated this response on Twitter that was taunting back and was provocative and really rattled the national security community, because that's exactly the way you can get into a conflict. When there's childish behavior on both sides. Then 24 hours later, this book comes out and he then dictates this horrible statement that's so unbecoming to a president.

I've known presidents to get angry. What they normally do is write out something really angry, they take that statement and they put it in a desk and that's it, it's done, it's gone. They don't go public. It rattles people. And no board of any major institution would allow this to go on and on and on.

BURNETT: And Tim, to Dana's reporting, it comes back to the Russia investigation --

NAFTALI: Yes.

BURNETT: -- which had him as livid as it had him yesterday. And now today in this book, Steve Bannon saying treason, unpatriotic, money laundering, all of that now thrown on top of the fire.

NAFTALI: Well, let's step back. And, you know, we thought it might be Michael Flynn who would give us the inside information that would turn things upside down. How interesting that it is Steve Bannon on the record. He didn't even have to testify for it to come out.

I'm interested in his motives, very interesting. Why is Steve Bannon turning against the Trump family and the President in this way? I'm not saying that Steve Bannon is lying. But it's interesting. His motives are interesting.

You know, we haven't seen this kind of turning against a figure from the inside since John Dean testified against Nixon, when John Dean said that Nixon was part of the cover-up. Bannon, by saying that nothing Don Jr. would do without daddy getting involved, Bannon was saying the same thing.

[19:25:03] Bannon is saying that President Trump participated in the discussion with the Russians. So, we haven't seen anything like this for a long time, and Bannon's motives are interesting.

BURNETT: And what's also interesting, Nia, is that putting aside what the White House said, that this book should be in the bargain basement trash bin or whatever they said, it's a best-seller and people want to read it. HENDERSON: People want to read it. It comes out in a week or so. You imagine that there's going to be more and more press about it. There are more excerpts coming out I think next week.

BURNETT: Yes. So that's a pretty stunning things in them, I believe. Yes.

HENDERSON: Exactly, because that's what you want to put on in a book, you want to put out the most stunning substances. This is what the President over the next many days is going to be looking at when he tunes into Fox News or CNN or whatever he likes to watch. This is what he is going to be hearing, Bannon ripping him.

BURNETT: And I want to point out, there is, as we talk about this on the Russia investigation, Paul Manafort is suing Bob Mueller today, trying to counter sue saying you violated the law in appointing Mueller Special Counsel, whatever, you know, convoluted legal argument it is. Tim, does that have any chance of going anywhere, other than just clouding the waters?

NAFTALI: Well, I'm not a lawyer. I don't know. It sounds like clouding of the waters. I mean, Mueller and his people are very seasoned at their job. They wouldn't overreach. I find it hard to believe they would overreach.

BURNETT: And Nia, before we go to more on the book, which we're going to have, there is more breaking news. I just want to share this. This is really important for anybody following this President and this nation at this moment. The White House has now announced it has dissolved President Trump's commission on voter fraud.

HENDERSON: Yes, this is big.

BURNETT: By the way, dissolved it, and there was no voter fraud. Remember he said there were millions of voters -- OK, it's gone, it's dissolved, it's over. Guess what, no fraud.

HENDERSON: Yes. They're still claiming, right, in their statement that, you know, there was this voter fraud, but because of these lawsuits. And none of the states were really cooperating with him because there was nothing to cooperate with.

BURNETT: Republican secretaries of state had no evidence of it.

BURNETT: Exactly, they had no evidence of voter fraud. But, yes, it is a pretty stunning turnaround in terms of this -- I mean, let's face it, this commission never should have been formed to begin with. This was a sort of paranoid fantasy by the White House and Trump, and then they formed this committee to look into something that didn't exist.

BURNETT: And speak -- I'm just going to hit pause here, because speaking of paranoid fantasies, we are going to talk more about what's in this book. And the President strips his own bed. He has a deep fear of being poisoned. We're going to tell you exactly what that means about what he eats and what he does.

And who's more mentally fit to lead, President Trump or North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? Yes, someone is asking that question tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:26]ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, Donald Trump never thought he would become President Trump. The book by Michael Wolff revealing that neither Trump himself, his family or his top campaign aides ever thought he'd win.

Wolff writing that on election night, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, quote, looked like he'd seen a ghost when results started to suggest he could win. And Wolff adds, quote, there was in a space of more than an hour in Steve Bannon's not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation. Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be and was wholly capable of being the president of the United States.

My guests are back with me. Also joining us, the former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter.

David Gergen, you know, this obviously is counter to what the president says but consistent with what any of us who were texting and talking to anybody who was with Trump that night knows, they had no clue that he was going to win and were as shocked as anybody else. The night of the election, though, I thought these words were interesting.

According to Steve Bannon, David Gergen, he was befuddled, disbelieving, horrified, and then completely sure he was the guy.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, once again, it is important that we haven't heard from Steve Bannon contradicted any of these quotes that have been attributed to him, so we have to assume that this is what he said. Given that, I think it's very consistent with what we saw with Melania Trump on the day of the inauguration. She did not look like a happy woman. You know, there were a lot of people who thought they saw in her just a real reluctance to go forward with this.

And, by the way, that's not a totally inhuman reaction. I've done a lot of presidential couples who it's like the weight of the stars falling on you when you become president, and you're troubled about whether you can do it. So -- but I do think that there was a part of Donald Trump that liked his private life, that this was, you know, the whole thing was built, whole campaign was built to enhance his brand, to increase his riches, to make him a more powerful man around the world, and who would have believed?

None of us believed, he included, it would now appear, believed he would actually make it.

BURNETT: And, Richard, that's I think one of the key takeaways here, is that he didn't want it and didn't think he was going to get it and was positioning himself, that I believe what was the reporting in the book? That a six-point loss was actually a win because it was better than anybody thought he could do. GERGEN: Yes.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, yes. The problem here is that I don't think he has the mentality, the state of mind to be an effective president, or as we saw with these tweets about North Korea and nuclear weapons, to be a safe president.

He does not control his impulses. Everything is about himself and his own image and his own ego, and that's the way he's led his whole life. He's never even been head of a public company. It's always been a private company that he owned where he could be the sole dictator and he could call all the shots.

And that's not the way it is when you're president of the United States. Maybe in some other countries, maybe in Russia and some other countries, you can be a dictator, but not here.

BURNETT: No.

PAINTER: And we have now seen that it may be a very dangerous situation to have him as president, and many of us are very worried about that.

BURNETT: And in this book, Nia, there are many, many amazing stories, but among them is Donald Trump's own daughter saying something about his personal appearance. He cares about nothing more, OK, than appearance? You see him when he's talking about everybody else, whether they're short or ugly or whatever it might be.

OK, according to the book, Ivanka Trump made fun of his comb-over, OK? And people can laugh at home, but this is no laughing matter for him, this is deeply serious for him. In the book, it says, quote: She often described the mechanics behind it to friends, an absolutely clean pate --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

BURNETT: A contained island after scalp-reduction surgery surrounded by a furry circle of hair from the sides and front from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by stiffening spray. The color she would point out to comical effect was from product called Just for Men. Remember those ads?

HENDERSON: Yes.

BURNETT: The longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump's orange-blond hair color.

This is his daughter and comically playing it up and explaining the whole thing. It's deeply humiliating from anyone, his own daughter.

[19:35:01] HENDERSON: His own daughter.

BURNETT: That precious girl that she is to him. HENDERSON: Yes, and for him to read this, to see that his daughter is

making fun of him, something that is really important to him, as you say, appearance. And, of course, you know, sometimes we all make fun of our parents in ways as they do funny things, but here, something so central to him, what he looks like. And we know he is sensitive, particularly about his hair, which when you see it in person is this kind of odd halo of hair around his head there.

And so, yes, I mean, we talk about Donald Trump, obviously, as a political figure, as president, but here I thought about him as a dad and as a human and how hurtful it might be for him to read this coming from his daughter, who --

BURNETT: Deeply hurtful to him, from someone who values loyalty so much, but also from the one person he's seen to be loyal to.

TIM NAFTALI, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: His favorite child in a way.

BURNETT: His favorite child.

NAFTALI: And no one has ever said Donald Trump has a sense of humor, so he's not able to laugh it off. And loyalty matters so much to him. So, I'm sure that in the White House there are discussions, there are family discussions going on right now. I wouldn't doubt it.

BURNETT: And, David, another excerpt goes like this.

He apparently reprimanded the housekeeping staff at the White House for picking up his shirt off the floor, and Wolff writes and I quote, if my shirt is on the floor, it's because I want it on the floor. Then he imposed a new set of rules, nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. By the way, I think everybody would agree with that. He had a longtime fear of being poisoned.

One reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's, nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade. Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done and he would strip his own bed.

What do you make of that, David, and that longtime fear of being poisoned?

GERGEN: Well, it's saddening in many ways, isn't it? I mean, I'm not a clinical psychologist, but from a layman's point of view, it sounds deeply paranoid, that people are after you, they're trying to poison you, there may be something in my bed and by the way, they may put something on my toothbrush, and you know, he doesn't like to be touched in some ways. He's very, very sensitive about that.

I think it goes to these larger issues of his personality and whether he's suited, whether he's suitable for the office. You know, I do think we need to have a serious national discussion

about this, because I do think in a major institution, a board would act. And by the way, I think the Republican Party bears some responsibility here. You know, he's there, he's first and foremost head of the party, at least in political terms.

And that's -- you know, so these peculiarities, some of them are just odd and you go along with that, but when they stray into the danger zone for the republic, then we ought to be deeply concerned.

BURNETT: Richard, which is a point you have made again and again in recent days. What do you make of the paranoia reporting in the book?

PAINTER: Well, I think that just reinforces what we've already known about President Trump from his tweets and public statements. He's very paranoid. He is paranoid about Robert Mueller and the investigation. He is paranoid about the press and thinks the press is out to get him.

This is a very dangerous situation, where you have a man with as much power as the president of the United States who is paranoid and who could seek to use that power in very destructive ways, at least with respect to the press and going after political enemies, putting political enemies in jail and so forth. You have judges and others who would stop it, but when it comes to nuclear war, he could move unilaterally very, very quickly. And that's why I've turned up the heat on this.

BURNETT: Thank you all very much, and that's an important note to end this conversation on, because we're going to talk about exactly that. The White House tonight forced to defend the president's mental state after that nuclear button tweet. And we are going to show you exactly how that works, how he would order a nuclear strike.

And an historic winter storm assaulting the East Coast, bringing a new phrase into our lexicon, bomb cyclone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:28] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House defending the president's mental state after his nuclear button tweet, insisting Americans should fear North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's mental fitness.

Here's the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Should Americans be concerned about the president's mental fitness, that he appears to be speaking so lightly about threats regarding the nuclear button?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president and the people of this country should be concerned about the mental fitness of the leader of North Korea. REPORTER: You just said that people should question the mental

fitness of Kim Jong-un. Isn't it dangerous for the president to be taunting him on Twitter?

SANDERS: I don't think that it's taunting to stand up for the people of this country.

REPORTER: It's a taunting tweet to say that he has a larger nuclear button.

SANDERS: I think it's just a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And, Senator, I appreciate your time.

First, I want you to give you a chance to respond to the tweet itself where the president says in part, of course, I, too, have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works.

Your response?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, this type of dialogue, my button is bigger than yours, on such a serious topic really undermines our dialogue with the world in taking on the challenges that North Korea presents. The world is already aware that the president doesn't delve deeply into topics, doesn't absorb much complexity and considers him to be something of a buffoon.

But on something as serious as nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons, to be -- to treat in such a glib fashion really undermines the foundation for cooperation with other states.

BURNETT: So, the questions about mental fitness that were asked repeatedly by several reporters, where do you stand on that? Is that a fair question right now?

MERKLEY: Well, I'm very concerned about his mental state because the decision-making role of the president in terms of nuclear war is extremely significant. Unless a military commander reverses or refuses to obey a command, the president can order a nuclear strike. This is one of the reasons we held a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, because of the growing concern over the president's ability to perform this role.

BURNETT: So, I want to ask you, because, you know, when it comes to North Korea, obviously, the tweet was extremely disturbing, and anybody, you know, so many in the foreign policy community felt that way. However, your Republican colleague, Senator John Barrasso, was asked about this, whether the president's tweet is helpful.

And he told CNN, and I quote Senator Barrasso: We finally have a president who is actually dealing with the problem at hand instead of what we've seen previously, which is ignoring the problem.

[19:45:09] And, look, over Democrats and Republicans, we saw North Korea go from not having nuclear weapons to having nuclear weapons. Now, Trump is out there saying all these things that seem so absurd, and yet, South Korea is embracing the North's offer for direct talks, North and South are establishing contact on a hotline that's been dormant for two years. Perhaps all of this is thanks to President Trump.

MERKLEY: Well, certainly, President Trump has made an issue of North Korea, as have the previous presidents. The program has continued, despite his opposition, as it has under former presidents.

The challenge here is that everything that President Trump has undermined the ability to create a concerted international response and pressure on North Korea. His withdrawal from Paris, his rejection of the certification of the Iran nuclear deal has led other nations to feel that they do not have a leader in the United States that they can partner with. He has undermined his secretary repeatedly when the secretary of state has tried to establish channels of dialogue.

So, it's been a very ineffective, uncoordinated go left one day and right the next day --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: But is it possible that when it comes to North Korea, that he is getting it right, that he is getting Kim Jong-un right?

MERKLEY: Well, if right means bringing the world together to stop and freeze North Korea's program, clearly, he's not getting it right yet, and I don't think with international cooperation, we're going to be able to create that freeze. It's -- the potential is absolutely there. There are many pressure points on North Korea.

When I was at the DMZ back in August and then meeting with folks who have left North Korea and escaped to the South, met with experts in China and Japan, there are many ways to apply pressure to North Korea, but it takes a concerted international response, and that means respect for the president of the United States, which unfortunately, the world doesn't have and the president keeps undermining with comments like his statement on nuclear buttons.

BURNETT: Senator, quickly before we go, in Michael Wolff's book, Steve Bannon refers to the meeting in Trump Tower, the now-infamous meeting, as treasonous and unpatriotic. Do you agree with those words?

MERKLEY: I agree that if the campaign cooperated and collaborated with the Russians, it's treasonous. I don't think that all the details have been locked down yet. That's why we have an investigation ongoing. The president clearly hates that investigation, which leads one to suspect that there is still a lot more to come.

But cooperation with the Russians to undermine the integrity of an American election, absolutely treasonous.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Merkley. Appreciate your time.

MERKLEY: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, launching a nuclear strike. So, how exactly would President Trump do it? We're going to show you exactly, from his mouth to the launch.

And three words of warning about frigid weather menacing the entire east coast, winter bomb cyclone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, the White House insisting President Trump understands America's nuclear capabilities, despite tweeting his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: The president knows that there's no actual one nuclear button. You're saying it is actually bigger. But the reality is --

SANDERS: The president's very well aware of how the process works, and what the capacity of the United States is, and I could tell you that it is greater than that of North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, what are Americas nuclear capabilities.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

And, Tom, what have you learned?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, there are just under 1,400 warheads in the U.S. arsenal ready to be dropped by planes, fired from submarines or launched from silos in the ground out west, but it's a lot more complicated that just pushing a button.

For example, if North Korea launched some sort of attack and the president wanted to consider a nuclear response, the first step could be a quick conference with advisers, both military and civilian. Some would probably be where he was. Others might be -- securely connected in from around the world. They would help him reach his decision.

If he did want to proceed, he would then reach for the football. That is what this satchel is called.

Every hour of every day, this is close by him. Inside are details about his possibilities for a nuclear strike and something called the biscuit. The biscuit is a plastic card with code on it so when he gives the orders to the Pentagon, he could read that code to prove to them it's really the president, not some sort of imposter trying to do this. Once that happens at the Pentagon, they have to convert all of this

into an actual attack plan with actual targets. They have to then encode or encrypt that and then transmit it out to the missile bases where other codes out there, which are kept in safes, are compared to make sure it is the Pentagon actually sending the message and then the targeting information is put into the missiles themselves.

At that point, to actually launch them, five keys in five different locations, need to be turned at the same time. That's done so that no one person could launch a missile in an unauthorized way, a terrorist or something like that.

But at the same time, not all five are actionable. Only two will do the trick. That keeps anyone from stopping it if they just didn't want this to happen. That's how the missiles are then fired -- Erin.

BURNETT: If three people have a crisis of conscious, you only need two.

FOREMAN: Exactly.

BURNETT: But, look, ultimately, Tom, in terms of the order, the president has the sole authority to call for a launch. So, can anyone stop him from doing it?

FOREMAN: Once the process begins, probably not, because we're talking about something that would take 15 minutes or less just in the ballpark. Could it be even faster than that.

Also, the nature of military commands suggests that people are not going to then start standing up and saying, I won't do my duty. However, in that deliberative phase, if there were people who thought that he was doing something illegal, that might be a war crime or just really ill advised, they could speak up very loudly and say, let's not do it because once those missiles start flying, not even the president could call them back, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

And next, get used to the words with the winter bomb cyclone over the next day or so because 40 million of you are about to get hit by one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:53] BURNETT: Breaking news, a winter bomb cyclone as it is called bearing down on 40 million people in America, dumping snow across 1400 miles. Just to give you a sense of how big it is, this is the view from space. It's pretty incredible. It could be as powerful as Superstorm Sandy and shattering records.

Tallahassee, Florida, in fact, has its first measurable snow for the first time in nearly 30 years, 28 years. Charleston is going to get its largest snowfall in about three decades and the storm just gearing up.

Meteorologist Tom Sater is OUTFRONT. And, Tom, this is a serious storm and a huge storm when you look at the pressure, a terrifying one.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it started off a joyful snowfall. I mean, a whole generation of kids never really gotten to seeing it snow like this. But it's happening tonight. The intensification, the strengthening, overnight tonight and through the day tomorrow, Erin.

This is the snowfall starting to come down in Raleigh right now. But by the time it makes its way to Norfolk, Southeast Virginia, you get into lower Maryland, making its up, of course, to the jersey shore, this storm system is going to rapidly intensify like a hurricane will. Warnings in affect for 1,400 miles up the entire East Coast.

In orange are blizzard warnings. Here is Norfolk, this is when the winds will create white-out conditions. We could see hurricane force gusts. That's, you know, almost 74 miles per hour. But most of the hurricane winds we believe is going to stay off shore.

But if you look some of these winds, Boston now is included in the blizzard warning. They weren't earlier, 7.7 million in blizzard warnings. But as the storm starts to crank up, we measure the pressure in millibars, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.

When we see a 24 millibar drop in 24 hours, that's what we call bombing out. We're going to see twice that amount. This storm by tomorrow morning could have a low pressure equivalent strength that of Superstorm Sandy. Now, it's not going to create Sandy damage. It's not going to make landfall. But take the snow out of the equation. The winds alone, Erin, I think could knock out power, tropical storm force winds, 40, 60 miles per hour, to possibly tens of thousands.

You add in the heavy snowfall and you're talking over 100,000. And now, we're going to be looking at behind the snow, the coldest air of the season. I know we've endured 11 days of this. But it's going to get extremely cold and in the northeast back behind the storm system. Single-digit, high temperatures.

BURNETT: Single-digit, of course, before you even look at wind chill, which is perhaps the most terrifying part of all.

Tom, thank you so very much.

Thanks to all of you.

And Anderson is next.