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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Source: Trump Doesn't Want Immigrants from "****hole Countries"; Trump Hints at Having Contact with Kim Jong Un. Aired 7- 8pm ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: "Erin Burnett OutFront" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: "OutFront" next. Breaking news, vulgar, ugly, unacceptable, the President's own words about people of color.

Plus, more breaking news tonight. Trump, in a new interview released just moments ago, seems to hint at having a relationship with Kim Jong-un. What is he talking about? And mass confusion, how two Trump tweets sent Washington into a downward spiral today. Let's go "OutFront".

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett.

"OutFront" tonight, whites only. President Trump using an ugly, vulgar expression that he's racist. Trump during an Oval Office meeting on immigration late today with members of Congress, there were a lot of people in the room, was describing Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as, "s-holes." Obviously, he didn't say it the way I said it. He was unpresidential.

Let me read the full quote from the President of the United States, "Why are we having all these people from s-hole countries come here?" Now, this is according to a source briefed on the meeting between Trump and lawmakers, the account first reported by "The Washington Post".

And the source tells CNN that this is how it happened. CNN Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin was talking about the list of countries with temporary protected status for immigration. When Durbin got to Haiti, Trump asked why the U.S. wants people from Haiti in the United States.

And just to be perfectly clear about what he meant, Trump then added, the United States should get more people from Norway. That's right. Fewer people from Haiti, El Salvador, Africa and more from Norway. Enough said.

Outrage over Trump's remark has been swift and furious. In just one example, Democratic congressman, Elijah Cummings tweeting this, "I condemn this unforgivable statement and misdemeaning of the office of the Presidency. I will always fight for the vulnerable among us and against bigotry in all its forms." Congressman Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said the President's comments are, "Further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda."

And on the Republican side, one response from Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah, she's Haitian-American, tweeting, "The President's comments are unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values. This is behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation. My parents came from one of those countries. The President must apologize."

Sara Murray is "OutFront" tonight at the White House.

And, Sara, not only does it sound like no apology is coming. The White House has issued a statement and has not denied that the President said these words.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. And the statement certainly doesn't include an apology. But as you pointed out, it also doesn't include a denial. We haven't heard from anyone in the White House insisting that this didn't happen.

Now, Raj Shah, who is a spokesman here, did put out a lengthy statement. Here's a portion of what that statement says, "President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy, and assimilate into our great nation."

But one of the things White House staffers are talking about privately, one of the things my colleague, Caitlin Collins had been reporting out is the notion that staffers actually believe that the President's comments are going to resonate with his base, that they are going to play well with the base of supporters that elected him.

It is worth remembering now, Erin, that on election night, when President Trump was victorious, when he -- became clear that he was going to be the next president of the United States, he said in that acceptance speech that he wanted to be president for all people. He did not say for the base. Back to you.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Sara.

Now, I'm putting out Joan Walsh, she's The Nation's national affairs correspondent, editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry, Paris Dennard, former White House Black Outreach director for President George W. Bush. April Ryan is going to be joining us in just a moment, White House reporter for National Urban Radio Networks.

Paris, let me start with you. How do you defend this?

PARIS DENNARD, FORMER BLACK OUTREACH DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm not here to defend it. I think it's hard to defend something that is unsubstantiated and based off of --

BURNETT: OK. I got to jump in right here because that defense isn't going to work tonight, Paris. They're not denying it. And they denied everything else he said. They denied everything in the Michael Wolf book. They denied, you know, when he said Nigerians live in huts and all Haitians have AIDS. They denied those things. They're not denying this. There were a lot of people in the room. You can't hide behind that.

DENNARD: So thank you for your extended commentary, Erin. But if you allow me to speak, I would say that just like the Michael Wolf book, you have people who are not coming out and saying that -- who they are. If this is what you think the President said, come out and say it. These White House staffers who allegedly said that this will resonate with the base, I think that's offensive and I think that that is just like the White House staffers who said things in the Wolf book to say things to derail this presidency.

Because the underlying assumption is that this President is a racist. Your -- the narrative that you're leading with today is that the President is somehow racist and that the base is racist and the base will appreciate things that are racist. And I think that that's 100% false. And I would not have used those words if those words were used.

[19:05:09] But at the end of the day, the President is focused on getting a good deal for the American people.

BURNETT: OK. Stop there. I'm sorry. I want to just let April get a chance to get in here. April Ryan is with us.

April, I just want to make it clear because I'm going to keep making this clear.

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.

BURNETT: When he says he doesn't say something, they come out and deny it. They are not denying this.

RYAN: Right.

BURNETT: By the way, Paris, I agree with you. I'd like the person to come out by name. I'd like people who are in that room to come out by name. I agree with you. But the bottom line is, he said it and he's not denying he said it. April?

RYAN: And that's resounding for a president of the United States when he works with other countries to say things like this. Um, Paris, if you say it's not racist, there's a racial ting to it.

And I talked to the NAACP, Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, who said when you look at the word racist, how it comes together, it's racial prejudice and power. And he said that begs the question of, was this a racist statement? Racial prejudice and power makes racism. That's what the NAACP says.

So for a president of the United States who deals with other countries, that he's look at as diplomatic, this was not diplomatic. This was ugly at its face. And it was just flat out wrong. We don't hear those kinds of things from that office, the highest office in the land.

BURNETT: Right. And that is the crucial point here, Rich. I also want to say, we talked about the condemnation. It is bipartisan. Although, I want to make the point, overwhelmingly, more Democrats have come out. So far, Mia Love and Orrin Hatch have come out. We have heard nothing from Republican leadership, so far.

But let's -- I want to give the due to Senator Hatch, "I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President's comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world regardless of their country of origin." And obviously, you heard Mia Love's powerful comments. Here, two Democrats who have also spoken out on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D) MARYLAND: He does things that I never thought I would see come from the president of the United States. But this is extremely damaging. And it is a very, very hurtful.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, (D) NEW YORK: We are traumatized, as a nation, by this president and how he behaves. He is certainly not behaving presidential.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: This is just beneath the presidency. But also suggests he doesn't quite get what it is that really makes America great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So that's three Democrats, we had two Republicans. We obviously have a lot more Democrats. Where is the Republican leadership?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, first of all, I have a worldwide exclusive for you tonight, Erin. My understanding on the base from a very good source, he didn't say s-hole, he said s-house. And people might have heard it as s-hole because s-house is less frequently used term. But this is a bolder way of --

BURNETT: And obviously just make the point, you're not trying to say there's any difference between those two things.

LOWRY: No. I'm not.

BURNETT: You say we don't want people from those s-houses, OK.

LOWRY: This is a vulgar way of speaking. We don't want the president of the United States to talk this way, especially if it's going to be repeated outside the room. But the level of freak out about this, I think, goes to just how the elite on both the right and left of this country has got so disconnected on common sense on immigration.

These countries you are referring to, they are basket cases. They are disaster areas. And the point he was making within the context of the immigration policy discussion is we're much better off with people of higher levels of education and skills coming here.

BURNETT: I want to get to that point because there's a socioeconomic point here, but if you're going to say that, you need to answer to then why he said I want more people from Norway unless he happens to know that there's a --

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: What happened this week that had something to do with Norway? The leader of Norway was here and they were talking about that in this meeting.

BURNETT: So the last white person in the room?

LOWRY: No, come on. Look, if we actually move to a system like they have in Canada and Australia, points based, merit based and skills based. They're not going to get people from Norway. People from Norway don't want to come here because that country is not a basket case. You'll get more south and East Asians.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: They did come here when they were a basket case and they moved to a big part of this country and the Midwest of this country and they have contributed greatly. And that is what happens.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: OK, that is what happens, people come from countries, they join this country and they make it greater, whatever their color.

LOWRY: So many people, they're stuck in nostalgia on immigration policy, where they think it's just the early 20th century forever. You can have a lot of low-skill people who want to work hard and they'll be fine because there's endless manufacturing jobs for them. That's not the way the American works.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: You're really contradicting what the administration has already said. They have said the reason that they're ending these protections for Haitians and for Salvadorians specifically is that those countries are no longer basket cases and they can go back. Now, so you can't really have it both ways.

LOWRY: Well, you're contradicting yourself then. So if you say they shouldn't go back because they're so dangerous and so violent --

WALSH: I'm saying --

LOWRY: -- which is left positions. You're saying they are basket cases --

WALSH: I don't have a left position. Both countries have a lot -- those countries have a lot of problems. And a lot of these people have lived here 10, 12, 17 years.

[19:10:01] They haven't caused trouble, they have jobs. So there's something really cruel about displacing them and there's something really racist. And I will say it, and the backdrop to this that we have to look at is Donald Trump is speaking to his base because he's been catching hell from his base for the two days.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: I didn't actually interrupt you. I don't know. I haven't been to either place. Why are you interrupting me?

LOWRY: You can't answer that question.

RYAN: Erin?

WALSH: It's none of your business, actually.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Hold on. April, I hear you trying to get in. Let met get in -- let me get you into the conversation.

RYAN: Yes. Let me say this, former head of the RNC, the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele said in the last couple of weeks, I talked to him, he said this White House is trying to control the browning of this nation. We are now actually seeing the majority of kids, babies being born in this nation that are brown and.

You know, to hear this, it goes right back to that point. Michael Steele, Republican former head of the RNC, and this plays to the base with the President said because the President, during his campaigning, he talked about the other in terms of us versus them. And this is going right back to that and you can play cultural politics with it all you want. This is definitely a dividing statement, a moment of division. And you also go back to Charlottesville. We heard this when the President was vacillating back and forth. Both sides are wrong. Both sides were not wrong.

BURNETT: They're good people. Right.

RYAN: Yes, yes.

BURNETT: Now, I want to just read part of the statement that came from the White House where they did not deny the comments. Because they say in part, "Like other nations that have merit-based immigration," that's referring to your point, Rich, "President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to your society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."

Now, if you combine that with, as you say, s-houses, they're basically saying if you're from an s-house, you cannot contribute to American society or grow the economy. That's what they're saying. I just want to make that clear. That's what they're saying. LOWRY: The level of education in this country, the level of skills is not high. Not through any fault of the people who live there, right? It's -- they have broken political systems, they have broken economic systems. They have political strife, they have civil war. That is not good for the people living there.

And like Canada and Australia, they emphasize merit. There's nothing racist in that policy. Again -- if you have a system like that, you have more South Asians and East Asians. Is that wrong? Is there anything wrong with South Asians or East Asians?

RYAN: Yes.

WALSH: I would agree -- I can hear April in my hear saying, yes, that is wrong. These are white nations and this is a rationally discriminatory approach the world. It's also wanting to cast out people who made homes here and it done very well here because they happen to be brown.

And finally, it's happening. Let's just face what he's dealing with today. Two days ago, he made the mistake of saying he wanted to craft a bill of love on immigration, he wanted -- he would sign anything that they brought to him. He's been getting hammered in the right wing media for the last two days. Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, they are going after him. This is him turning around. He's got the megaphone now and he's shouting to his base, these are s- house, hole countries, I hear you and I'm not going to --

BURNETT: And we're going to take a pause here. And I just want to make this point, to your point. The President knew full well when he said what he said in the room, in front of the people that he said it, that this is going to get out, OK? He knew that. It's not like he didn't think this was going to leak out.

Next, new reaction to the President's comments coming in live on Capitol Hill. So we're getting reactions and waiting for GOP leaderships.

Plus, more breaking news. Another bombshell, Trump's claiming tonight in an interview he has very a good relationship with Kim Jong-un. The person he spoke to, our guest, is going to give us the details there. And Trump's tweet, one contradicting the other today, almost sabotaging a national security policy's own administrations (INAUDIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:52] BURNETT: We are continuing to follow the breaking news, a new reaction tonight after the downright offensive comments, racist comments, from President Trump that has now thrust the White House in damage control.

A growing number of officials and lawmakers outraged and speaking out after President Trump, during a private Oval Office meeting with members of Congress, questioned why the United States allows people to come to the United States from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, nations he described as "s-hole or s-house" countries. This according to a source briefed on the meeting. The President added, the U.S. should get more people from countries like Norway.

One White House official predicting to CNN that the racist remark will resonate with the President's base. Sunlen Serfaty is "OutFront" live on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, were people are starting to react? What are some of the new responses that you are hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is swift reaction and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans tonight, Erin. First, this just in from former CIA Director John Brennan on this, he says, "Lady Liberty, our founding fathers, and generations of right-thinking Americans are all weeping tonight over the atrocious comments attributed to Donald Trump, who continues to demonstrate daily that he is a deeply flawed person." That from the former CIA director tonight.

Meantime, many Democrats up here on Capitol Hill equally are charged up over these comments. One Democrat calling it point-blank racism on the part of President Trump, other choice words from Democrats, an embarrassment, disgraceful, small minded on the part of President Trump.

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Cedric Richmond issuing a statement over Twitter saying the these comments are further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda.

And it's not just Democrats, Erin. Republicans are charged up about this as well. We heard from Congresswoman Mia Love, she's a Haitian- American, a Republican, and she says this, "The President's comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values. The behavior is unacceptable from the leader of the nation."

[19:20:00] And Mia Love is calling on the President Trump tonight to take back those comments, to apologize for those comments. And we're also hearing from Senator Hatch. He says that he looks forward to getting a more detailed description and explanation regarding the President's comments from him. Those are a lot of questions from -- among Republicans and some condemnation as well. Erin?

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

Our panel is back. Joan, the first Republican that we heard for at least publicly was Orrin Hatch and then Mia Love. Will we hear from Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy?

WALSH: I hope so. I hope we do. I hope we hear from Lindsey Graham, who was apparently in the meeting himself. You know, the other backdrop of the meeting was that Lindsey Graham and Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, ran into this meeting believing that they were going to have the Donald Trump that they had two days ago drafting the bill of law and, you know, wanting to do something in a bipartisan fashion. And when they got there, they found Senator Tom Cotton, Congressman Goodlatte, who are much more hard lined on immigration. So it was clear that the President had shifted. What they came to do was not going to get done and then to make the point about it, he used this lovely expletive. So it really does signal, Erin, a shift him wanting to make a very public shift from these kinds of things he said and got a lot of praise for two days ago.

BURNETT: And, April, that's an important point to make here is that he knew this was a public forum. It's members of Congress. What happens in that room does not stay in that room.

RYAN: Right, right. He wanted it to trickle out again to shore up his base. His poll numbers, depending upon who's giving the poll, 32%, 35%, maybe 40%. I mean, he wants to shore up that base because this book did not do anything for his image, it made it worse.

But I'm going to say something. I want to go back to your guest, the gentleman there who talked about the education of immigrants. I want to read something from the Center for American Progress. December 20th, 2012, five facts about black immigrants and the United States. And go down to fact number three because I want you to follow this with me.

It says number three, "Black immigrants are one of the most educated immigrant groups. Black immigrants have more college education and higher rates of degree attainment than any other immigrant group in the United States of America." This is not feeling. This is fact from the Center for American Progress.

So, the problem is, a lot of times we get into these discussions and we start talking what I feel, what I feel. People need to start dealing with fact before they go out there. And it's unfortunate that the American president, who sets the tone, who is the moral leader is starting this discussion and it's going the wrong way.

And unfortunately, we have people on the panel speaking who are speaking ill informed about things, about a group that he seems not to understand. There are a large portion of people who hail from or descendents from these countries. I'm five generations removed from the last known slave in my family.

And you know, African-Americans or Africans who are enslaved in America helped build this beautiful building that's the backdrop behind me, helped build a large portion of this country. And this is a slap in the face to minority America. That's why you're hearing from Cedric Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Elijah Cummings, a very instinct senior congressional leader. Mia love from Haiti. I mean this is a very, very serious statement from the president of the United States of America.

BURNETT: Rich, what do you make of that when you look at that fact about college education? Again, putting in context but not only to the President say he didn't want people from those countries, but he also added he wanted more from Norway.

LOWRY: Well, again, I think he probably said Norway because in a meeting --

BURNETT: OK. I know you keep saying that, but if he had someone from Nigeria in the White House yesterday, you really think he would have said I want more people from Nigeria?

LOWRY: We want immigrants with higher levels of education. And the fact is, we have a lot of immigration from Mexico and other Central American countries. But these people are hard working, but a lot of them don't have high school degrees.

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY: It's just very hard for them to succeed in a 21st century economy. And, April, I'm happy to --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Back up your statements with facts, not what you feel.

LOWRY: That is a fact. I'm happy -- we can e-mail about it afterwards.

RYAN: No, no. I don't want an e-mail. Tell me where you got it from. I don't want an e-mail.

LOWRY: Let's talk about Mexico. You think most immigrants from Mexico have college degrees?

RYAN: We're not talking Mexico.

BURNETT: She specifically said black.

LOWRY: But this -- the point is --

RYAN: We're not talking Mexico.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Paris, you said that the President would have been happy to say that because Nigerians -- hold on, hold on. Let me ask you this question.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: He was specifically referencing Black and Hispanic countries, those are the ones that were specifically referenced, Paris, firstly.

[19:25:01] Secondly, I was referring to April when she was referring to black education. But I want to ask about something you said. Because you said the President would have happily said I want more Nigerians if that was the president who happen to be in the Oval Office yesterday, instead of the president of Norway.

I just want to remind you that the President reportedly said, Nigerian immigrants would never go back to their huts in Africa. That's a report from "The New York Times." He denies it. But there were two sources in the room, they said he said it. Are you still sure he would have said I want more Nigerians?

DENNARD: If the President denied it and he said he didn't say that that's what I have to go on. But to this point, going back to April's issue about facts, what we're doing here, we have to be careful. April went into this diatribe about all of the African countries. That is not what this alleged incident was about. The President allegedly responded to them asking about certain African countries. We don't -- we don't -- we don't know what -- we don't --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: And you work for educational institution, of higher education. You should be able to throw facts back too, but you're not.

DENNARD: April, if you would be quiet and allow me to speak like I allowed you to speak, I would be able to do that.

RYAN: Paris, God bless you.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: OK. I want to play one thing the President said.

DENNARD: Why I am on the show if you won't let me to speak?

BURNETT: Paris, you have had a chance to speak, you have had plenty of chance to speak.

DENNARD: No, you cut me off most of the time. But keep going on.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I want to play something, Paris, that goes to the point you're making and give you a chance to use it if you can. This is the President talking about Indian students, who also happen to be brown and why he wants them to come to the United States. Here he is, this is March, 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- go to Harvard, they're first in their class and they're from India. They go back to India and they set up companies and they make a fortune and they employ lots of people and all of that. Many people want to stay in this country and they want to do that. I think somebody that goes through years of college in this country, we shouldn't kick them out the day they graduate, which we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Joan, so the point that Rich and Paris are trying to make, is it possible he's making a socioeconomic today?

WALSH: I don't think so with these particular statements. I know that he said that in the past about Indian immigrants. I think that there -- we could have a long discussion about race in America. But there has been a kind of special cargo for Indian-Americans and Asians more generally. They'll face racism but when we have these discussions on immigration, they are perceived as bringing something to the party whereas other groups. Nigerians, Haitians are not.

But I also come at this as someone who is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. And we -- Ireland was once considered a s-hole, house, whatever country. Irish were told they need not to apply. And so our ideas about people, they can start out cruel and they can change. What this President has done is really pull us backwards, not toward the Irish, but toward a mentality of looking at certain people as having little or no intrinsic worth and putting us against each other. And these words today are ugly and racist.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Don't worry, we're going to come back. We're going to come back, all of you. I just want to hit pause for a moment. Much more on the breaking news ahead, plus another breaking story, President Trump hinting at having contact with Kim Jong-un in a new interview. What, specifically, is he talking about? And the White House denying a huge problem today, chaos created by the President's confusing tweets among his own party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:42] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. My panel is back.

Rich, let me start with you. We have a new comment here breaking just coming in from Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma about the president saying, quote, if these comments are accurate, they are disappointing. I would not talk nations like this because I believe the people of those countries are made in the image of God and have worth in human dignity.

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, I think you'll hear more of that. You'll hear Paul Ryan say something similar, probably Mitch McConnell.

But we have been through so many controversies like this. They are all consuming for 36 hours. No one can talk about anything else. Republicans condemn them. Everyone is like, how can you escape from this one? It's always on to the next thing.

And I have to say, Erin, it could be played from him talking about Indians I think it would be a pretty conclusive evidence that what he is talking about is emphasizing skills. I don't know how it's racist possibly to say Indian college graduates should come here and stay here. And if you have a point system, no one is suggesting there'd be a racial element to the point system.

If you are a college graduate from Haiti, you're going to have a good chance of coming in. If you are a college graduate from India, you're going to have a good chance from coming in. BURNETT: Are you, though, questioning what is a basic premise of the

United States, which is no matter who you are, you can come here and become great, no matter how small you are, no matter how little you have in an intellectual background or anything, that you can become great. If we suddenly say, you know what, if you are from a country that wasn't able to give you that, forget you.

Is that American?

LOWRY: We've never been a country that is one that had totally open borders. And if you got a history --

BURNETT: We're not talking about truly open borders. We're talking about allowing some people from certain countries to come here.

LOWRY: If you look at the history of immigration policy, it's ebbs and flows. There had been times very high levels, there had been times very low levels. And we have been at fairly high levels for a very long time now. And the system was basically created in the mid- 20s century. We're in a different time now.

So, I think it behooves us to look at the successful systems, places like Canada and Australia, which aren't racist, closed societies, but emphasize skills to have people come into their country and succeed. And that's what -- it doesn't mean we should have refugee programs and some element of family reunification. Those are people who won't necessarily have skills and more tired --

BURNETT: Although, of course, the president said he's against chain migration, which is what you are referring to.

LOWRY: You are still going to have some, no matter what.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, April, this goes to the point of whether the president is defeating any point that could be in the message by the way that he is saying it, OK? The conversation started with Dick Durbin and people with temporary protected status, OK? Certain countries get designated this because of a natural disaster or world war, and it enables them to easier to come to the United States, OK?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BURNETT: So, they are talking about whether some of that needs to be reconsidered. As an example, I will pick out of the hat, Nicaragua designated in 1999 because of a hurricane. Hurricane Mitch devastated the country. The government is saying homes have been rebuilt, conditions have been stabilized. That was 1999. That was a long time ago.

You could look at that and say, maybe there is an argument that we need to reconsider some of these things.

But does the president lose any high ground that he had having that conversation by saying what he said today?

RYAN: Yes, he does, because when this conversation began, he said he was going to do this in love. You know, you have so many immigrant people, immigrant families here who are scared of the pain when this president was elected because they knew that he could possibly start sending some of their family members back home. So, if I was called on a couple days ago, I was going to ask, talk about the love.

But, right now, the love seems to be missing. It seems to be more division. But I'm going to go back to a point you made, and I think about the immigrants from Haiti versus the immigrants from Cuba. There's always been a different scenario in this nation when it comes to Haitian immigrants, how they're sitting back when others are allowed to stay.

Now, Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. Now, at the same time, when you think of this, they suffered a devastating earthquake several years during the Obama administration. And now, this president is --

BURNETT: The anniversary I believe is tomorrow, 2010, the earthquake.

RYAN: Now, they are talking about sending them back, you know? And they are still trying to rebuild. And then, also, tomorrow, this White House is going to celebrate MLK Day? It's interesting, MLK Day is Monday.

I just think about the inconsistencies of what this president says, the love, and then you also think, with immigration and you think about the Muslim ban that was mostly Muslim nations.

[19:35:07] Again, it goes back to the other, which he rose to this office with his base from. So, it's racially tinged. You know, if the president doesn't see that something is wrong, the empathy is not there with this president.

BURNETT: Paris, the president now to the point that April just raised about what he had said before about Muslims, has said things before about blacks, about Muslims, about Mexicans, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You vote for me or you don't vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion. I'm running to represent Haitian-Americans and African-Americans and Asian-Americans and everyone who lawfully resides in our borders --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I'm going to play that sound byte in a moment, Paris. I'm sorry, somebody hit pause on that. Joan, let me --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: -- their best. They're bringing drugs --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, sorry.

Go ahead, Joan. Does that change what he said or does it show that he didn't mean what he said today either? I mean a lot of Haitians he said there.

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Another thing -- part of the reason he loves Haitians, he shows it. He's got Haitians working at all of his properties, particularly at Mar-a-Lago. They're -- "The Washington Post" has done reporting on the number of Haitians and the number of all the foreign workers that he -- that he has and that he advocates to have rather than employ American or make America great again by employing native workers. He has a lot of foreign workers.

I don't know if he loves or he hates Haitians. But I think, you know, to get back to Rich's point, there's a difference between our immigration policy going forward, and that's -- we can debate. I'm not saying we would agree on a lot, but we would agree on some things.

What's happening here with the Haitians and with the El Salvadorans is that we are talking -- he is talking about shipping people out of this country where they have lived for a decade or more, and that --

BURNETT: Under protective status. I mean, they're here legally.

WALSH: We're not talking about people who can continue to come in from a Haitian earthquake that was whatever years ago, that that they want to start sending people home who've made their lives here it strikes people with particularly cruel and then we also notice they are black and brown.

BURNETT: So, let me ask, Paris, the point to you that I want to play and we started to play there played again now, what the president has said before right his track record on blacks, on Muslims, on Mexicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some I assume are good people.

Look at my African American over here. Look at him.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Paris, it is a pattern.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know what you heard that was negative or derogatory towards the black community in any of the clips that you just aired, but I will go back to one of the clips that you aired, when the president talked about Haitian- Americans specifically, and he ended it by saying that are here in this country legally. He was talking about Haitian-Americans. And that's what he was referring to, and I think that's the champion he wants to be for.

Back to the point I was trying to make with April. First, let me say, April, I apologize for as telling you or asking you to be quiet, it's just frustrating when you don't get a chance to speak on a program and you often get allowed a chance to speak. But my point that I was trying to make is nobody knows exactly what countries that the senators were talking about when they were referring to African countries because they did specifically name some countries specifically, but we don't know which ones they are.

There is a fact, April is right. There are many African countries who do send over the best and the brightest, who are very intelligent, who get into all the Ivy League schools and who get into very good HBCUs. But we do not know what African countries they were referred to because there are some unfortunately that are not at the standard as others. And I think that's important.

The last point I'm going to make is this, when you look at President Obama and many people called him the deporter-in-chief because of the millions that he deported from this country and many of them were brown.

Now, point is simply this, no one got on the national news and said he was racist for doing that, and I think for having a strong tough emigration stance on illegal immigration or sending back people who many of those that the president sent back were committing crimes, I think 90-some-odd percent, he was never labeled racist for doing so.

RYAN: But if Barack Obama said shithole, if Barack Obama said that, he would have been called out. If Barack Obama had said that, Paris, you know that. He would have been called out, not only by the media, by the right, by the left, by everyone.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: We have never heard this. There was no evidence of racism in Barack Obama's past toward Latino people.

[19:40:02] The reason you know the terms of deporter-in-chief is that plenty of Latinos complained about it.

DENNARD: But no one labeled him a racist.

LOWRY: He also, he was really deporter-in-chief, that's another issue.

I will say, I think the position that I try to enunciate policy-wise on skills-based immigration system would be a 70-30 issue that's presented in a reasonable way. And one of the practical problems with the president's rhetoric is he makes it a 30-70 the other way, because everyone's convinced that he's, you know, this hugely -- just divisive figure who's interested in dividing us rather than instituting an actual rational immigration policy that takes account of the circumstances of the country today.

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

Paris, enjoy having you. I do find it greatly ironic you use your talk time to complain about how you weren't able to talk.

Thanks to all.

Next, more breaking news, Trump -- you are all done. Trump is making some stunning claims about his relationship with Kim Jong Un. Does he really have a relationship with the dictator, a personal one? It's a crucial question.

And is President Trump's national security policy coming from Fox News?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump says he has, quote, very good relationship with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Remember, this is the same person Trump has called a maniac, bad dude, little rocket man.

But in a new interview with "The Wall Street Journal," Trump says, quote, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.

[19:45:00] When asked if he had spoken with Kim directly, Trump answered and I quote, I don't want to comment on it. I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment.

OUTFRONT now, "The Wall Street Journal" White House reporter who interviewed the president today, Peter Nicholas.

Peter, thank you for your time.

Were you surprised by these comments?

PETER NICHOLAS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I have to say I was. I mean, the United States does not have diplomatic relationships with North Korea. So, it was kind of surprising to hear that President Trump has any kind of relationship at all with Kim Jong-un, much less a good relationship, which is what he told us during our interview.

So, it was pretty surprising. We followed up with him and we asked, I mean, have you talked to Kim Jong-un and he said, he wouldn't answer the question. But it seemed clear, that there was something in his head that he was thinking about. There was something concrete that he had in mind. He was open to a diplomatic track. Because some of his tweets about North Korea have been quite bombastic, he's talked fire and fury, using arsenal against North Korea. But much more placated in our interview.

BURNETT: Interesting that you say he had something concrete in mind that he was trying to convey. And --

NICHOLAS: Yes. BURNETT: Obviously, as you point out, in diplomatic relations, a

pretty incredible thing to open the door and there was a conversation, although, very much in line with what he likes to do, right, open the door and not answer the question.

NICHOLAS: Right.

BURNETT: But, you know, Trump called Kim a maniac, a bad dude, as we pointed out. Kim has called Trump mentally deranged, a dotard. The president, though, told you that the name-calling is part of his strategy?

NICHOLAS: Yes, he told us that this was essentially a tactic he uses. It's not personal. It's not -- it's just something he does and doesn't necessarily mean this person is forever in the doghouse with him. It's something that he's doing with strategic purpose in mind. He talked about this and other contacts, too. He talked a little bit about Steve Bannon, how he might be able to have some sort of rapprochement with Steve Bannon as well.

So, it's kind of the way he operates saying nothing is permanent with him, it's -- everything is kind of a negotiation. Things are tactical and transactional.

BURNETT: Which is pretty incredible, right, opening the door to rapprochement with Steve Bannon. And I think the quote to you was, referring to the combative tweets with Kim Jong-un, you will see that a lot with me, then suddenly, they are my best friend?

NICHOLAS: Right. Yes.

BURNETT. I could give you 20 examples, you could give me 30.

NICHOLAS: Yes, it's hard to imagine how you come back from calling the leader of North Korea short and fat, which he's done, or little rocket man, as you pointed out. But he is saying this is not done cavalierly. It's done with a strategic purpose. But we'll have to see how it plays out.

Also, it's an open question how Kim Jong-un reads the tweets and reads his messages. I mean, does he understand what's in Trump's head? That this might just be part of a larger strategy?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much for giving us details on that, Peter.

And now, I want to go to former CIA director, General Michael Hayden, also the former director of the NSA.

Let me start with you, Director Hayden, on this -- what the president was trying to say to Peter that he is -- these tweets are not done cavalierly and done with strategic purpose. Do you buy it?

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER NSA DIRECTOR & FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I do think there was a bit of strategy behind them. I don't think they were artfully done, frankly. I think his advisers would oppose some of the language that the president uses.

But as Peter suggests, there are only two off-ramps to this crisis with North Korea. One is fire and fury over here. The other one is negotiations over here. And right now, the president's language is over here with negotiations. And I view that as a positive development.

BURNETT: Now, obviously, there's no diplomatic relations between the two countries. We know there's backdoor conversations. However, the president opening the door to possibly having direct talks with Kim Jong-un himself. Not confirming it, but opening that door.

Is there any way, Director, that the president of the United States has a direct relationship, has had a phone call or anything with the North Korean dictator? Is that possible?

HAYDEN: I really seriously doubt it and I also seriously doubt whether the president has any real relationship with Kim Jong-un. I think that was just put out there. Again, I think it was inartful. But again, that's more positive from my point of view than fire and fury and total annihilation.

BURNETT: So, the president also talked to Peter about the talks going on between North and South Korea. He acknowledged that Kim maybe trying to separate Seoul and Washington. And his quote was, to Peter, quote, if I were them, I would try. The difference is, I'm president, other people aren't. And I know more about wedges than any other human being that's lived.

General, you ran the National Security Agency, CIA, is he actually right on this? He knows more about driving wedges between people than any human being that's ever lived?

HAYDEN: I have no idea about the president's personal knowledge about driving wedges, but he's quite correct that the North Koreans are trying to create some space between ourselves and our South Korean allies. It's a natural step on their part.

[19:50:00] And frankly, although we want to isolate the North Koreans and keep pressure on them, the North has cleverly used this opening with the South in the upcoming Olympic Games to get a bit of a breather, to get a little bit of dialogue with someone else.

I understand why the North did it. I actually understand why the South did it.

BURNETT: Yes.

HAYDEN: There are limits with regard to how far the South can go though because of their dependence upon the American alliance.

BURNETT: You also heard -- there's no way you haven't -- that the president met with members of Congress about immigration today. And he said, quote: Why are we having all these people from S-hole countries coming here? I want to be clear, the White House has not denied any of this, General, and the president continued to say the U.S. should bring in more people from countries like Norway.

Your reaction?

HAYDEN: Yes. I think we all collectively should be a bit embarrassed. I think we all collectively should be a bit ashamed and, frankly, Erin, I think we all collectively should be a little bit frightened. I mean, that's the president of the United States and he's not appealing to the better angels of our nature or our nation's values.

BURNETT: Do you believe, from your perspective, General, that what he said was racist?

HAYDEN: You know, I don't want to make a personal judgment on the president. I think it was totally inappropriate. I don't know of any other example in recent American history, anyway, because we do have a mottled past, of recent American history where a president would say such a thing and do it in an environment, as you already suggested, that he knew it would become public.

BURNETT: General, you ran the National Security Agency and you know FISA, the law on spying on Americans and foreign nationals on American soil better than anyone else out there. All right?

So, today, the president tweeted just after 7:30 this morning and I quote: House votes on controversial FISA act today. This is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by previous administration and others.

Now, the part of FISA they were voting on today, of course, does not allow for direct surveillance of U.S. citizens and all members of the Trump campaign were U.S. citizens. So, the tweet obviously had factual inaccuracy, but he was out there advocating to vote no and he got a phone call from Speaker Ryan after that tweet and then about two hours later, he seemed to correct it, going back on Twitter to say: With that said, I have personally directed the fix to unmasking process since taking office. Today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it. Get smart.

General, he didn't understand this crucial program which was set up to target terrorists plotting against America?

HAYDEN: I think -- I think, two key points. Number one, the original accusation is incorrect and President Trump's FBI and NSA has said that it's incorrect. So, that's one.

Number two, what he said there was incoherent in terms of what was being voted on by American Congress today. It had nothing to do with any targeting of Americans. So, I fear it betrayed a real lack of understanding on the part of the president as to what this issue really was. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, General Hayden. As always,

I appreciate your time.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, breaking news: reaction worldwide to Trump's comments about s-hole countries.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:26] BURNETT: And returning to our breaking news and President Trump's racist comment. The president referring to immigrants from places like Africa, Haiti and El Salvador as being from S-hole countries, saying he -- wishes for more immigrants from places like Norway.

Tonight, the condemnation growing, not just from the United States. Now, we have a comment from Mexico, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who, of course, is no fan to this president and has a history of using profanity in that regard. Donald Trump your mouth is the foulest s-hole in the world. With what authority do you proclaim who's welcomed in America and who's not? America's greatness is built on diversity. Have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?

Former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen, is OUTFRONT.

David, obviously, I'm not going to sit here and defend at all the way Vicente Fox put this, but obviously, the crucial point he makes is, America's greatness is build on diversity.

What is your reaction to the comments from the president, from President Trump?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're extremely unfortunate. You'll see how you can come to any other conclusion, Erin. The message that people all over the world are getting from President Trump sadly, and that's his message is, if you're not white, you're not welcome.

We've never had that message before. Lady Liberty has sailed (ph) there in the harbor of New York, and it's such a sad day. But from the beginning he insulted Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. He then went after Haitians, you know, they all have AIDS. Nigeria, they don't want to go back to their huts. He went after a lot of African nation today, with this comment about the S-holes. He's gone after Muslims.

And in one case after another, these black or brown people, and the message is crystal clear. Whether you call it racist or not is beside the point. It is message to the world that if you're not white, you're not welcome.

BURNETT: Jim Acosta just reporting, we have some breaking news here. Source familiar with the Oval Office meeting saying that the president specifically referring to temporary protected status for Haitians who came during the earthquake said, quote, why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.

That's a new comment that came in addition to what he said about S- holes.

GERGEN: Why do we need more Haitians, take them out. As if we ought to get rid of all of Haitians, who are here, whether they're here legally or illegally, and a lot of people, of course, came over in crises, which is permitted by American law.

I just can't tell you how offensive that is to so many people who are proud to come to America, who -- this has always been -- Ronald Reagan used to say, we aspired to be that city on the Hill. And now, to be sending these kind of messages to the world is not only a retreat from leadership that we've all talked about, but it's really sending a chilling message about what kind of America Donald Trump has come to represent and what he aspires to.

BURNETT: Only if you're educated, and only if you're wealthy, and only if -- you know, only if you're all those things, at very least that's what he's saying.

GERGEN: Absolutely and it is. The American people are better than this. I don't think the majority believe this. Yes, we have some latent racism in the country and sometimes it's overt.

But I think Americans, we have been a much more generous people in that this is a country that after World War II, you know, we restored the health of worst enemies, really worked with them and welcomed to this country.

I think that -- I don't think we've lost that America. I think a lot of Americans are going to rebel against what the president is saying and say, we want to go back to who we really were, a great people.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, David Gergen.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.