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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Tries to Spin Comments About "Shithole Countries"; Senator Confirms Trump's Remark About "Shithole Countries"; Republican Leaders Silent Over Trump's "Shithole" Slur. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: "OutFront next. The Trump denial that doesn't add up. The President trying to spin his racist comments, but is anyone buying it?

Plus, deafening silence. Where is the Republican leadership on Trump's vile comments? And breaking news this hour, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting a Trump lawyer paid $130,000 to a porn star to stop her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, something that White House and the woman are denying tonight. Let's go "OutFront."

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

"OutFront" tonight, the height of hypocrisy. President Trump honoring Martin Luther King Jr. today, less than 24 hours after his racist remarks on the Oval Office when he said a host of countries where black and Hispanic people live are "s-hole" countries. The President refusing to answer reporters questions about the comments, which has frankly rocked his presidency. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you refer to African nations, did you use the word "shithole" to refer to African nations?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you a racist?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It's incredible to think that that happened in real life.

Now, the President is trying to pretend that there's nothing to see here and I'm going to get to that in a second because today, people in the room confirmed what Trump said. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was in the room, told his fellow Republican Senator Tim Scott that the President's remarks as reports are "Basically accurate." Graham also confirming in a statement that he confronted the President about them saying, "I said my peace directly to him, the President, yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel."

And here is Democratic Senator Dick Durbin who was also at the meeting, (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: We've seen the comments in the press. I've not read one of them that's inaccurate. To know surprise, the President started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Yes. Senator Durbin says the President did get on Twitter 15 hours after the news first broke and frankly after spending the night trying to tweet about other completely unrelated things. We can expect on 15 hours later to try to muddy the water. Tweeting in part, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."

And then there was another tweet where he tried to say that he didn't really say all that about Haiti specifically. The operative line in this tweet, "Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings. Unfortunately, no trust."

Again, as we just pointed point, a Democrat and Republican in the room have both confirmed his statements and Republican Senator Jeff Flake shot down the President's assertion in the tweet that his language was tough, but no more by tweeting, "The words used by the President as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance were not tough. They were abhorrent and repulsive." Notice Flake says those in attendance, plural.

Now, sources telling Jake Tapper that Trump referred to people coming from Africa as coming from "s-hole" countries, but did not refer to Haiti specifically as a an "s-hole" country, That sources says Trump ask why the U.S. needs more Haitians and pushed to take them out of the immigration deal.

OK. When this is the best offense you can mount you have a problem. No matter how the story is spun, nothing changes the fact that Trump's comments were racist. His own spokesperson didn't deny anything that was reported, including the fact that s-hole countries included Haiti and El Salvador. But frankly, we don't need to rely on Dick Durbin or Lindsey Graham or anybody else. Because we know the President uses hateful disparaging and racist language that's why this is such a huge story. He does it so often and so consistently that it is now impossible to deny that there isn't a problem.

(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.

I think Islam hates us.

Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?

We're building a wall. He's a Mexican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.

You had some very bad people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people. On both sides.

Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, they say we want deal. You were here long before any of us were here. Although, we have the representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago they call her Pocahontas.

[19:05:03] Pocahontas.

Pocahontas.

Pocahontas.

Pocahontas.

Pocahontas.

I call her Pocahontas. So that's an insult to Pocahontas.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one but there's something on that birth -- maybe religion, maybe it says he's a Muslim.

APRIL RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congress --

TRUMP: Well I would. I'll tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no. I'm just a reporter

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting.

RYAN: I know some of them.

TRUMP: Maybe we say politically correct or not politically correct, they don't look like Indians to me and they don't look Indians to Indians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is out front tonight in Mar-a-Lago in Florida where the President landed just moments ago.

Jeff, what is the President's thinking on this controversy right now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. The President is beginning a three-day weekend here. And there's no question he will do as he usually does, talk to friends, talk to old friends and advisers throughout the weekend.

And so far we are told that the President was spending last night after this first broke, talking to friends to see how this was playing. He was not apologizing at all. In fact it wasn't until about 12 hours after it was first reported, a little bit more than that, he said he did not say those language, I said that word specifically, but it was certainly not a full-out denial. The White House has still not denied that he said those words, at least officially.

But, Erin, we do know that the President believes that this is playing just fine with his base. Never mind all the criticism from Republican Speaker Paul Ryan he called it very disappointing. Other rank and file Republicans in the House and Senate also said it was very disappointing.

And the reason that Paul Ryan, the speaker, said it's disappointing, Erin, the mid term election season already bruising for Republicans. Never mind the base. Yes, they will be with President Trump. The question is independent voters and others who simply are turned off by this kind of language.

But the bigger point on all of this tonight, Erin, as we end a very, again, tumultuous week at the White House, Republicans and Democrats appeared to reaching a deal on Dreamers. That of course it was something that is expected to keep the government open, pass the deadline next week. That deal, in peril tonight because of the President's language in the Oval Office. So when he returns to Washington on Monday, they have to get back to work on this deal. We'll see if it can be repaired. That is the biggest consequence of it all, Erin.

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

And "OutFront" tonight, the President and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson.

And, Derrick, I appreciate your time tonight. You heard Jeff Zeleny, the President, you know, having those conversations last night, not apologizing at all as he describes it. Another source is telling CNN the President loves the controversy over the s-hole remark. And you heard Zeff Zeleny, the President believes and the White House believes these comments are going to play just fine with the Trump base. What's your reaction?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, the Trump base is not enough to win elections. For African-Americans, it is unfortunate to hear this type of language. It is the language of the '50s and '60s. It's the language of a Ross Barnett and a George Wallace but it's also the language that's going to energize the base for these midterm elections. Unfortunately, much of what he's doing is also serving as a distraction to some of the administrative policies that he's advancing, the nominees to the federal court.

So we have to be careful not to get so caught up in his words. We know he's a racist. He demonstrated that, just like the package you just showed previously. Now the real question is, how do we stop some of the bad policy that's coming down the line and how do we energize our base to get out to vote this cycle?

BURNETT: Now, I want to be clear. You just said we know he's a racist. But I just want to make sure I give you a chance to be very clear on this that the President, as you know, Derrick, had said so many times he's the "Least racist person." You know, today, he ran away when asked him the question twice, if he's a racist. But he said he is the least racist person. I just want to play a clip from an interview that he did with our Don Lemon during the campaign period.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Are you racist?

TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.

LEMON: Are you bigoted in any way?

TRUMP: I don't think so. No. I don't think so.

LEMON: Islamaphobe?

TRUMP: I'm the person -- no, not at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Derrick, you just told me we know he's a racist. What's your reaction when you hear that? The least racist person that you've ever met.

JOHNSON: Earlier this week, we've just seen Donald Trump sit in a meeting with legislators, talking about DACA. And in that meeting, he changed positions five times or more. I don't think he knows his statement from minute to minute. He's a racist both in his actions and his words. The real question we have as American citizens, what are we going to do about it? How we're going to make sure we minimize the impact of his policy decisions and how are we going to show up doing this midterm elections to ensure that his beliefs are not implemented in public policy.

[19:10:05] BURNETT: Part of the issue, though, is that there are people out there who are not saying what you were saying. And some of them -- let me just play one of them for you. Martin Luther King Jr.'s nephew, he was actually at the White House today for the event honoring MLK. He met with the President. Here's what he told our Jim Acosta right afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ISAAC NEWTON FARIS, JR, NEPHEW OF MLK JR. ATTENDED WHITE HOUSE EVENT TODAY: I don't think that President Trump is a racist in the traditional sense as we know in this country. I think President Trump is racially ignorant or racially uninformed. But I don't think that he's a racist in the traditional sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Is this part of the problem? I mean, comments like that, which come off as excusing or explaining what he is saying?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, every citizen, there -- we're all entitled to our opinions.

BURNETT: Yes.

JOHNSON: I don't understand what it means to be not being racist in the traditional sense. A racist is a racist in all sense of the word. And how one displays their racism is a problem no matter what. The real fact here is we are facing a midterm elections, African-Americans will be energized to make a difference.

But it's not about Donald Trump at this juncture. We know who he is. It's all about the individuals who are silent around this issue, who refuse to say what he is doing is wrong, and stand up against this.

BURNETT: So let me talk about a few of those people because I know you just heard -- we've shown multiple people in the meeting by name are confirming what the President said. Yet, there are two other Republicans who were also there, Senator Tom Cotton and Senator David Purdue, and they're punting. They, in fact, have issued a statement there. And it says, in part, "We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically." We do not recall.

Well, first of all, that seems absurd on its phase, OK? But my point to you is, why are they silent, why are they seemingly scared of the President?

JOHNSON: Well, many in the Republican Party, they're using this opportunity to advance a policy agenda that's much more conservative, is redistribution of the wealth to high income individuals. And President Trump served as the perfect distraction in terms of the policy positions that they are supporting. So I'm not surprised that they are saying this.

But the real issue here is all individual with name will be on the ballot in November, and doing a primary election, what's going to happen to them? It is our goal as associates to make sure that African-Americans and many others turn out and vote and really display their opinion about what's taking place in this country.

BURNETT: Derrick Johnson, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: Derrick Johnson, the CEO of NAACP And next, Republican leadership, virtually silent on Trump's racist comments. Mitch McConnell, where are you?

Plus, we know who President Trump doesn't want in the United States. So who should be allowed into this country? At the heart of this is a really crucial policy question.

And breaking news, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting on an alleged payment to a porn star by President Trump's lawyer. Was it intended to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with the President? The White House and the porn star denying the report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:01] BURNETT: Republican leadership silence. It is now more than 24 hours since we learned President Trump question why the United States should allow people to come to the country from "s-hole" countries, during the meeting by the immigrants, including those from Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador.

And yet, with every passing hour, Republican leaders have remained silent. No outrage, no condemnation. Instead, we've got a rather loop form response from the man who is third in line to be president, House Speaker Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: I read those comments later last night. So first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Unfortunate, unhelpful. We're beyond that. But here's the thing, I guess at least he said that because it's a whole lot more than Senator Mitch McConnell, who has not said a single word, or the second most powerful Republican in the House, the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he was actually at the meeting, silence.

"OutFront", now, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, Pastor Mark Burns, a member of Donald Trump's Evangelical Council, and Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist.

Kirsten, you heard Paul Ryan, unfortunate and unhelpful. And that's the only response we've got from Republican leadership.

KIERSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Yes, it's a little underwhelming. It seems like the kind of thing you would be much more outraged about. It was clearly -- look, I think there are times when people may cry racism, as Republicans like to say, over things that aren't necessarily racist. This is not one of those times.

And I think if you look at what the President said in the total context of, if you're talking about these countries which are -- were African countries, Haiti, El Salvador and then African countries, generally, and contrasted that with, you know, wanting to have people who were coming from Norway, which is obviously overwhelmingly white.

BURNETT: Right. He's just contradicting -- you know, he reportedly said why can't we have more people from Norway?

POWERS: Right.

BURNETT: Sorry, go ahead.

POWERS: And when you look at the entire context, it's hard to see it any other way when you contrast what's the difference between those groups of countries, black and brown people, white people.

BURNETT: April, why are they silent? I mean, you know, this is, you know, where to point here, an opportunity for them to take a stand. And yet silence.

RYAN: They're silent because it's all about the numbers. It's a numbers game right now in 2018. This does not help the party. If they're going to try to lessen the blow by, you know, slapping the hand with at least Ryan, not McConnell, but slapping the hand but not too hard.

BURNETT: But McConnell is not even doing that.

RYAN: The issue is -- right. Right. But as I said, Ryan. But, you know, the issue we've heard from some, you know, there are some Republicans who are stepping out. Senator Lankford and Tim Scott, writing statements doing op-eds, and these two, and they're a very interesting pair. They have these Sunday conversations trying to heal issues of the racial divide, with mixed communities coming together in someone's home.

[19:20:05] The big question for these Sunday conversations for this pair, the senatorial pair is that, you know, would you have someone from your -- from another race in your home? And what they do is they practice these Sunday conversations issue. And I mean, they have been coming out. But the leadership -- I mean, and Tim Scott is a leader. He was one of the core four when it came to tax reform, but should need the leadership to say something.

If Donald Trump, no matter if he is -- as the NAACP says, he's racist or what have you, he is the president of all America. And he says he's the president of all America, not his base, not Trump land, not white America, not rural America, not just the forgotten man, but all America, who is black, brown, Jew, Gentile, Protestant and Catholic.

So the question now is what will be done to leverage like the NAACP president just said. What will be done to leverage to make sure that all the leaders, not just the President, but those on Capitol Hill make sure they understand that the black and brown community are to be looked at, to be helped? Because the black and brown community still have the highest numbers of negatives in almost every category in this nation.

BURNETT: And, Pastor Burns, it is clear not only is there no apology coming but the President, as is his usual way, is trying to muddy the water and fight back.

PASTOR MARK BURNS, MEMBER OF DONALD TRUMP'S EVANGELICAL COUNCIL: Well, you know, first of all, I think we should, you know, understand who all is in the room. You know, the President has already said he did not say it. And let me just be clear. You know, I don't use the language, nor would I, you know, would be, you know, pushing anyone, supporting anyone that would speak derogatory of a country.

And I like to know which African country he has to be called it an asshole -- supposedly, called an asshole. But the thing is, we weren't in the room. We're only using the information based off the people that are in the room.

BURNETT: Right, people in the room.

BURNS: There would other two in Republican --

BURNETT: Democrat, Republican in the room.

BURNS: And there were two Republicans that are in the room who --

BURNETT: White House hasn't denied it.

BURNS: Right. And there were two other Republicans that was in the room that clearly stated that they don't recall at all the President saying that.

BURNETT: Oh, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: So you have to admit, that's pretty pathetic. You either you recall or you don't recall that happening. I'm sorry that --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS: They're denying that the President said it. They mean to say that they are denying. They clearly are denying it that the President said that.

BURNETT: No, they're not. Then they should come out and deny it.

(Crosstalk)

BURNETT: The only reason they're not denying it, is that they would be liars and they're not willing to go that far, Pastor.

BURNS: That they clearly said -- that they've clearly stated that they -- I'm sure, if the President would have said assholes, but the fact of the matter is who is focusing on the fact that he allegedly said asshole about some countries. And in my mind they --

BURNETT: Erin, can I add something.

BURNS: -- he is talking about. Let me finish, April. In my mind's view, he's talking about if he said asshole, which I don't -- I can't say he did or didn't, but others in the room --

BURNETT: OK.

BURNS: -- and I have it on high authority that he did not. But if he said asshole, he is talking about countries that is clearly --

BURNETT: Why wouldn't the White House has even denying it. The President --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS: Let me finish --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS: -- let me finish my point.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS: Let me finish my point, because I can't get to the next part, let me finish my point. If he said asshole, then he was talking about countries that are clearly those governments, they are the clearly are not taking care of their own people. There are people who are suffering in Haiti. There are people --

BURNETT: No, no, no.

BURNS: There are governments that are corrupt in those areas. And yet they want to come over here and no, no, we want a policy that's going to allow immigrants to come here to actually offer something that's given to America.

BURNETT: And you have unable to make the point. April, please respond.

RYAN: Erin? OK. First of all, I have two questions. One, as a pastor, the least of these, for that to even be in the air as a pastor, do you find offense to that? And two, when you talk about, yes, Haiti is the poorest western nation -- western hemisphere nation, but at the same time, what about some of these African countries? All of the continent of Africa is not devastated.

Now, let's look at sub-Saharan Africa. Let's look at South Africa. You can't just say all the countries on the continent of Africa are derelict.

BURNS: I would agree.

RYAN: Or don't have --

BURNS: I would agree.

RYAN: -- any kind of democracy. So your statement is wrong there.

BURNS: No. No. No. I didn't say all of Africa. I said which countries he called that. Now, I know Nigeria. Nigeria is one of my favorite countries. They are not are not dessolent. There are some dessolent people there, but they're not dessolent.

And now, as a pastor, let me ask you a question. The Bible says because you're talking my lane now. The Bible clearly says, in 1st Timothy Chapter 5 Verse 8 --

RYAN: And I have grown up in church. So let's be clear.

BURNS: -- praise God, praise God. The Bible says in 1st Timothy, you know, I'm happy that you grew up in church. The Bible says in 1st Timothy Chapter 5 Verse 8, that a man that does not take care of his own home, his own home, their own people, is worse than an infidel. We have somehow forgotten that in America --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I got something better.

(CROSSTALK)

[19:25:07] BURNETT: Pastor, please. Kirsten.

POWERS: I'm trying to remember what I was going to say. But I think you're talking about the government. That what you just were quoting was about the government. We're talking about the people that are coming over.

So what you're basically saying is that if you come from an asshole country, that you're an asshole person. That's not correct. Even if we -- this country is filled with people who came from terrible countries with terrible governments --

BURNS: Right.

POWERS: -- and they fled here and they came here. Those are the exact kind of people I would think a pastor would be saying we would want them to come to the country and they've been major contributors to this country.

BURNS: As a pastor, my job is to shepherd, yes. Feed the homeless, yes. Feed the poor, yes. Help them raise themselves up. But the thing is it is --

BURNETT: But don't welcome them into your home.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: The Bible does not quantify --

BURNS: -- to be the country are the whole entire world. It is our job to empower those leaders --

BURNETT: Pastor Burns?

BURNS: -- to raise their own people up. Now, what you said that President Trump has clearly stated --

BURNETT: Pastor Burns?

BURNS: Let me finish, though. President Trump has clearly ran on a make America great again principles, make America. There are black people in America that are suffering. There are minorities in America that are -- that has a low interest rate home.

RYAN: You're right. You're right.

BURNS: So we are talking about, we should be focusing on --

BURNETT: OK, hold on one second --

BURNS: -- the unemployment rate in African-American communities that at an all-time high in the history of unemployment.

BURNETT: April, I want to play an interaction with the President today, because I think it's important in light of what Derrick Johnson just said --

RYAN: Yes.

BURNETT: -- saying it's very clear, he's a racist. You asked him these questions after the MLK speech. Here is your exchange. Well, here's the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Mr. President, will you make an apology for the statement yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you refer to African nations, did you use the word "shithole" to refer to African nations?

RYAN: Mr. President, are you racist?

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about your statement?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And he did not respond. And, April, I will make a point, he loves to respond. Today, no.

RYAN: Yes, he does. Yes. The silence was deafening. He had a chance to say something, to come out and smack me down and say, how dare you or something. He chose not to. His silence was deafening.

And, once again, it's in the air. And maybe like Gloria Borger has been reporting that he likes this. But what does it do for the African nations? What does it do for the descendants of Africa, who are here? What does it do for diplomacy? What does it do?

And I'm going to go back to Pastor Burns really quick. You know, the Bible also says, love thy neighbor as thyself. BURNS: Yes.

RYAN: It doesn't quantify or qualify my next door neighbor or in Africa or in El Salvador. It doesn't quantify, love they neighbor as thyself.

BURNS: Absolutely.

RYAN: So he is the moral leader. He has the moral. He sets the tone. And if a president of the United States just disregards that serious question -- and it was very hard for me to ask that question of a U.S. president today, when he was doing this proclamation --

BURNS: Sure.

RYAN: -- but I had to ask and I stand by it.

BURNETT: All right.

RYAN: But you have to remember, he sets the tone.

BURNS: Yes.

RYAN: And I hear what you're saying about taking care of home. But it's also love thy neighbor as thyself.

BURNS: Absolutely.

BURNETT: All right.

BURNS: And if engage would not the thing is, we -- the ongoing support of countries like Haiti from America is a clear indication that the United States government and President Trump desires to help thy neighbor.

RYAN: He's trying to send them back.

BURNS: That we are helping thy neighbor.

BURNETT: I don't know how he is sending them back.

RYAN: He is trying to send them back.

BURNS: Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish. We're talking about empowering -- you're trying to get people fish. President Trump is trying to teach you how to fish. It is not the responsibility of the American government. I would understand you if we would leave those people in the desert to die. No. We are giving aid. We are giving support. We are trying to -- but it's their job. They are not Americans. They are Haitians. It is the president of the United State's job to lift up the people of the United States of America and not the whole entire world.

So, yes, love thy neighbor. Give them help. Don't leave them to die in the wind. But it ain't our job to make everybody well. They're trying to become part of the American dream. BURNETT: Thank you.

BURNS: It's not our job.

BURNTETT: Thank you. Thank you, all.

And next, amid the outrage over Trump's racist comments, the President still pushing for immigration reform. This the crucial question here, who does Trump want coming into the United States other than people from Norway, the policy?

And the "Wall Street Journal" reporting that Trump lawyer paid $130,000 dollars to a porn star to stop her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with the President. It's a story the woman in the White House are denying tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:32] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump calling for a merit- based system of immigration as he faces widespread condemnation for describing certain nations where black and Hispanic people live as s- hole countries. And that was in a meeting about the possible immigration deal with lawmakers. Now, contents, I need to emphasize, lawmakers in the room have confirmed he said.

Trump tweeting in part, quote, the so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented to myself was a big step backward. Wall was not properly funded, chain and lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly. I want merit-based system and people who will help take our country to the next level.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in California, Kevin De Leon, who's also a California Senate leader, and former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign, Steve Moore.

Senator De Leon, let me start with you on this basic question. What do you say to President Trump's call for a merit-based immigration system? By the way, one that many countries that America admires already have, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom among them?

KEVIN DE LEON (D), CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE LEADER: Well, Erin, what I have to say is that the Statue of Liberty doesn't say send me your richest, your smartest, as well as your whitest people. That's not what America is all about.

I can tell you this, as the youngest child of a single immigrant mother with a third grade education, my mother who worked her fingers to the bone and who contributed greatly to this country by cleaning other people's homes and taking care of the wealthiest. How do we have a merit-based exclusive program in place back in that day? I can tell you this. I would never become the leader of the California state senate. That's what's magical about this country and about America. We are a great country because of our diversity not in spite of it.

BURNETT: Steve, what's your response to that?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I agree entirely with that. I mean, I think our diversity and our immigration heritage has been one of the reasons that we're the greatest nation on this earth. Immigrants make gigantic contributions to this country.

BURNETT: So you're not for a switch to merit based?

MOORE: Sorry?

BURNETT: So, are you for the president's merit-based immigration?

MOORE: Yes, I am. Most economists are. I think, Erin, you would be, too. By the way, we're not talking about eliminating family-based immigration system, we will still have a system where, you know, people can bring in their children and so on. That's always been the basis for our immigration system.

But I think we should also move toward a system where we want -- we get the best and the brightest and the hardest working people all over the world. That will benefit Americans --

BURNETT: We already do.

MOORE: Pardon?

BURNETT: They already come here. I mean, look at our tech companies. Look at people like Kevin De Leon. We get the best and brightest people in this country already.

MOORE: Exactly. They do. Look, I'm pro -- but, Erin, the question is, we are a sovereign nation. We get to decide who comes into this country. We're not going to admit everyone who wants to come.

Why not have a system where we take people with special skills, talents, whether it's in technology, whether it's in business and finance, entertainment, sports? I mean, this is what makes America a powerful nation, is that we do have an opportunity to take the Albert Einsteins. That doesn't mean we're not going to take people who are maybe refugees or people who have family connections.

BURNETT: So --

MOORE: By the way, I have to say this. I think it is somewhat racist to say that the only people who have talents, special skills and are great in technology are white from Europe.

[19:35:04] I've been -- I've been to Silicon Valley. I've seen people working in those laboratories. They're Mexicans, they're El Salvadorans, they're Chinese, they're Taiwanese. It's -- just because you have a merit-based system doesn't mean it's racist.

BURNETT: So, let me -- OK, let me make a point here then, Senator De Leon on this. The president made it clear, right, that he wants to shift it, right? He wants more merit and less family, less chain, I guess. He doesn't want to eliminate it, but he wants a lot less, right?

MOORE: Yes.

BURNETT: Chain migration just so viewers understand, that's families and extended families coming to the United States. Here is the president.

DE LEON: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to, as quickly as possible, get rid of chain migration and go to a merit- based system.

Chain migration is a disaster for this country and it's going to end.

Chain migration is a total disaster, which threatens our security, and our economy and provides a gateway for terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. From what he said there, I think it's pretty clear and I want to make sure I clarify what I said. He wants to get rid of it completely.

This is important, Senator, because if you look at the numbers in 2015, this is according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, 1 million permanent residents were admitted in the United States in that year, just over a million. Of that number, 14 percent ended on job-based visas, that's sort of the H-1B. I guess that's your best proxy for merit.

When you add it together, 65 percent came from chain migration. So, you got two-thirds of the people coming into this country coming because of who their families are. Are you OK with that or do you think that that maybe is too high?

DE LEON: Well, let me say the following. We talk about, quote, unquote, chain migration, that's a euphemism for separating families. This country is based on the ideals of democracy, and that's the very best we have to offer for the entire world. We're talking about family reunification, bringing spouses together as well as their children.

I agree with Steve in the point that if you come to the most diverse state in the country, which is California --

BURNETT: It does get quite a bit broader than that, though. I mean, just to make a point on chain migration. It's not just immediate family.

DE LEON: It's not just immediate family. We're talking about grandparents --

BURNETT: Daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, aunts and uncles. (CROSSTALK)

DE LEON: Let me just finish, we're talking about grandparents, siblings. We're talking about keeping families together.

But let me be very clear, there's no question that if you go to Silicon Valley, you have folks from Europe, you have folks from Asia, you have folks along western hemisphere. We have a beautiful mosaic, a rich tapestry of so many different ethnicities from the world.

That's our diversity. That is our strength as a nation. The president's comments, disgusting comments yesterday are further proof that, in fact, he has a deep resentment towards people of color and immigrants from specific countries throughout of the world.

He has, in fact, put Americans, our own military in danger, quite frankly, in developing nations throughout the world, either covert or overt operations, where these types of incendiary comments, they actually have jeopardized our status even more so globally.

BURNETT: So, Steve, let me -- let me give you a chance to respond to what the president said. He didn't say he wanted to adjust the numbers. He said he wanted to get rid of it. It's horrible. It's a disaster.

Would you go that far? We're going to end it so no families can come in? Because that's what the president said repeatedly in that sound bite.

MOORE: No, no, no.

BURNETT: But that's what he said. So, you're not for that?

MOORE: That's not -- when people talk about chain migration, they're not -- look, everyone agrees that you should be able to bring in children or you should be able to bring in, you know, people who are immediate family members. But there are certain categories that should be eliminated.

For example, it doesn't make sense for the United States to allow immigrants to bring in elderly parents. They're not going to be working. They're probably going to cost the American taxpayer rather than benefit. By the way --

DE LEON: That's actually inaccurate, Steve.

MOORE: No. What sense does it make to allow somebody, you know, to bring in a 70-year-old parent to the United States?

BURNETT: I guess that's a point of humanity. Steve, the point is, you're saying everybody agrees. And maybe the president does and didn't say what he thinks. But he does usually say what he thinks, as we all know. If he understands what it is --

MOORE: No, no.

BURNETT: -- he wants to end it. That's what he said.

MOORE: I've talked to Donald Trump about this. He doesn't want to end the family immigration system. He wants to make sure you can't bring an uncle or an aunt or a cousin or something like that. By the way, the tradition --

BURNETT: He didn't say what he means here or didn't talk to you yet?

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Pardon me?

BURNETT: I said he either didn't say what he meant in those sound bites or hadn't talked to you when he said it.

MOORE: Well, look, Donald Trump sometimes, you know, says things -- I always said you have to look at what Donald Trump is doing, not what he says, which is why -- I have to say I'm frustrated with CNN throughout the whole day coverage of all these people calling Donald Trump a racist.

How many people have mentioned on this station in the last 24 hours that the black unemployment rate and the Hispanic unemployment rate are at record lows, thanks to Donald Trump's policies? How many people have mentioned that Donald Trump's policies have created twice as many jobs per month as Barack Obama's policies have? How many people have mentioned that he wants to give vouchers to 5 million black and Hispanic children so they can go to good schools?

So --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I will end this simply pointing out that whether he is responsible for those things or not is a topic of an entirely different debate.

MOORE: Well, the numbers are awfully good for black Americans right now and the economy.

BURNETT: I'm simply saying in terms of responsibility, that is another debate.

Thank you both so very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, global fallout tonight from Trump's vulgar remarks about immigrants. The world is saying a lot about Trump.

And breaking news. A report just out the lawyer for the president allegedly arranged a big money payment to a former porn star right before the election. Why? Tonight, the White House and the porn star are denying the report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Shocking and shameful, racist, completely unacceptable. That's just some of the international response after President Trump used the word s-hole, referring to some countries where black and Hispanic people live. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: It is completely unacceptable. It is surreal at this juncture to imagine that this was said by the president.

SAUM RAMADHAN, UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI STUDENT: It is not fair to describe Africa as shitty. That is absolutely wrong.

RUPERT COLVILLE, SPOKESPERON, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: These are shocking and shameful comments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, what impacts will Trump's remarks have?

Former U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, Ambassador Nick Burns, is OUTFRONT.

Ambassador, I appreciate your time.

That was reaction from the governor of Puerto Rico, U.N. spokesperson for human rights. What is the effect of the president's words? Is this something people can shrug off and say, oh, that's just him? Or is this different?

AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Erin, I don't think we can exaggerate the damage that president Trump has done with these statements.

[19:45:01] If you think of when he called Mexicans at the beginning of the campaign, his moral cowardice after the Charlottesville events, the fact that he's gone after African-American athletes and now these statements.

There's been a persistent pattern here where the leader of the free world, the most powerful person in the world is exhibiting clear, racist behavior. It's shocking to people around the world. They haven't heard an American president in a century engage in such talk.

So, it's affected his credibility. He's not going to be as effective in leading people and coalition around the world because they won't believe in him. And I think the biggest damage here is to the idea of America, the immigrant-based nature of our society, the refugee based nature of our society that were multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

I've lived in seven countries around the world over the last four decades. And the thing that people in Africa, in the Middle East, in Europe, that they really admire about us is that we are democratic to our core but we're multiethnic and multi-religious.

And he is contradicting, President Trump, that very basis of our society. BURNETT: Haiti and Botswana both summoned the top American diplomats,

the ambassadors there to discuss Trump's remarks. You know, Botswana put out that statement very early, you know, demanding to say, hey, Mr. President, are we an s-hole? Right? That they wanted to know and they called the ambassador in.

How difficult is this situation for the U.S. diplomats around the world, who are now summoned in to answer that question, to represent their president?

BURNS: It's the most -- it's the most difficult day that any of these ambassadors will have. You can imagine what it was like today.

Our ambassadors are the personal representatives of the president of the United States to the countries to which they are accredited. And their job is to support and defend our government, and our country, but also our president.

I think today, especially our career ambassadors, who know what they're doing, who know what the oath of office is, I think they had to go into those governments to say this is not what Americans believe. This is not who we are. We don't believe these vile things and vituperative things that the president has said.

It's difficult to do that. But you have to represent our country, and the ethics of our country, as well. And I hope and believe that's what a lot of our ambassadors did today.

BURNETT: So, you know, we learned today that the U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, who is a career diplomat, is retiring. And he's doing so, Ambassador, after only having been there two years. So, obviously, he wasn't -- that's very unusual, right? Not what you would expect to happen.

Now, I want to take a point. He submitted his resignation before Trump's comments, however, the undersecretary of state confirmed the reason was differences with the administration and I just want to quote the comment. It was: Everyone has a line they don't want to cross and we respect that. We're sorry to see him go.

How significant is this departure?

BURNS: Well, it's unusual for an American ambassador to resign in protest against our country's policies. It's happened before. It's happened with lower-level diplomats.

And I think, you know, when we serve overseas, we have an obligation to serve the president faithfully, loyally. If you think you can't do that and if you are opposed to what the president or the government is doing on ethical grounds or moral grounds, then you resign. We had people resign over the Vietnam War, over the Iraq war in 2003, over the Balkan wars.

But for an American ambassador, it's unusual. You saw at the very beginning of the administration, just about a year ago, more than 1,000 Foreign Service officers took part in a protest. It was inside the government, but a protest against the president's Muslim ban.

So, this president is defying the basic foreign policy that we've had over the last 70 years in terms of how we treat people, whether we believe in immigration, and refugees or not. You know, Erin, there's the greatest refugee crisis in the world right now since 1945.

BURNETT: Yes.

BURNS: Sixty-three million displaced people. And president doesn't want to take a single Syrian refugee. He wants to cut immigration in half. He wants to zero out all refugees in 2000. He did in 2017.

We haven't had a president like this. So, he has challenged all the people to serve him and I know people are trying to serve him faithfully, our career diplomats.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Ambassador Burns.

BURNS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, breaking news, did Donald Trump's attorney arrange a large payment to a porn star one month before the election? A new report just out in "The Wall Street Journal" says yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:59] BURNETT: Breaking news: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight that Donald Trump's personal lawyer arranged a payment to a porn star just a month before the presidential election. The $130,000 payment reportedly to prevent her from talking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the president.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

Tom, what are you learning?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is the big new claim in the "Wall Street Journal," that this woman was paid $130,000 a month before the election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Donald Trump. According to "The Journal," Trump had this encounter with an adult film star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament. "The Journal" says this new report of hush money comes from people familiar with the matter.

But the president's long-time lawyer Michael Cohen is hitting back hard saying these rumors have circulated time and again since 2011, President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence, as has Ms. Daniels, although we'll note that he did not directly address the idea of a payment, just the occurrence or non-occurrence, as he would state it, of this event.

BURNETT: OK. So has the porn star responded to the claims of either the alleged sexual encounter itself or the payment?

FOREMAN: Well, not to us directly. Cohen gave CNN a statement. He says is from Stormy Daniels, saying, my involvement with Donald Trump was limited to a few public appearances and nothing more. When I met Donald Trump, he was gracious, professional, and a complete gentleman to me and everyone in my presence. Rumors that I've received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false.

If indeed I had a relationship with Donald Trump, trust me you wouldn't be reading about it in the news, you would be reading about it in my book. But the fact of the matter is, these stories are not true.

Again, CNN has reached out to try to get her to independently confirm that. We've not spoken to her yet, and Trump's lawyer Cohen has not provided a contact for her information so we can reach her directly.

BURNETT: I want to make a point here. You made it loud and clear. But I want to make it loud and clear. So, the woman here at the center of this is being represented in terms of statements by Trump's attorney. Just making it clear.

FOREMAN: Yes, yes. And if this alleged event did nonetheless take place, if it did happen, it would have occurred the year after he married now First Lady Melania Trump and the White House is weighing in there too saying this is all old recycled news, Erin, strongly denied, prior to the election.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Tom Foreman.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, the growing controversy over big game hunting. Is it a sport that actually helps animals or something more sinister?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, a controversial topic we have not shied away from on this show, the world of trophy hunting. A new CNN film "Trophy" explores a seemingly contradictory idea, big game hunting as a way of conserving wildlife. Yes, conserving it.

A once sprawling Texas ranch, species native to Africa room freely until, well, they don't.

Ed Lavandera has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jason Molitor manages the herds of roughly 60 different species spread across 18,000 acres of land on the Ox Ranch. At every turn you come across not just native white tail deer but a dizzying array of African species. Hunters shell out big money for a guided excursion to hunt down prized trophies on this land, choosing from a menu of animals to hunt, paying anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $35,000.

And they say they're doing it not just for the thrill of the hunt but in the name of conservation.

JASON MOLITOR, OX RANCH CEO: I know it sounds contradictory, but hunters love animals.

LAVANDERA: Hunters pay to hunt the oldest males that are past breeding age. The number of animals killed is controlled. It's essentially, they argue, sacrificing a few animals from a herd to grow the population of a species.

MOLITOR: Just because a guy comes in here and says I've got some money, I want to shoot this, I'm not going to shoot it if it's not something that benefits me and my management program to take that animal out.

PRASHANT KHETAN, BORN FREE USA: Today, trophy hunting is a sport, and it is a horror show.

LAVANDERA: Prashant Khetan is with an animal advocacy group called Born Free. He says the idea that the money paid to kill one animal to help save the species is a myth.

KHETAN: There's no benefit to trophy hunting. It really just lines the pockets of an elite few and it's a practice that's done by a very small percent of the population to put the trophies up in their house to show off that they've killed off another animal.

LAVANDERA: But hunters like Corey Knowlton say that's unfair and that trophy hunters shell out millions every year because that money goes back into managing and growing the populations of endangered species. Knowlton received death threats when he paid $350,000 to hunt a black rhino in Namibia. CNN followed him on that hunt in 2015.

Knowlton still feels confident the money he paid is protecting the endangered black rhino from poachers. He says animals need to have a value to ensure their survival.

COREY KNOWLTON, HUNTER: We can't make an individual animal live forever but we can preserve a species for as long as we can, as long as humanly possible, as long as we have an environment through the sustainable use.

LAVANDERA: Trophy hunters like to say that they spend more money than anyone to help protect animals around the world. But critics question whether countries that promote trophy hunts manage that money properly.

KHETAN: It benefits governments, and I think it benefits the companies that put on these hunts. But that's it. It doesn't benefit the people. It certainly doesn't benefit the animals that they're killing.

LAVANDERA: Back on the Ox Ranch, Jason Molitor says for him the issue is simple.

MOLITOR: Everybody can sit in their high-rise apartment in the middle of the city and say you shouldn't hunt this animal. But what are they doing to save that animal?

LAVANDERA: But for the critics, trophy hunting remains a barbaric blood sport.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Uvalde County, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And don't miss the new film "Trophy." It's on this weekend on CNN, Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Have a great weekend.

"AC360" begins right now.