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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Backing Off the May Meeting with Kim Jong-un?; Sam Nunberg Testifies Before the Robert Mueller Investigation; Trump's Personal Lawyer Says He Used His Own Home Equity Line to Pay $130,000 to Daniels. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:05] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Next, the White House backtracks, now insisting North Korea meet concrete actions before President Trump goes face-to-face with Kim Jong-un. Is the historic meeting in jeopardy? And breaking news, Sam Nunberg, the former Trump campaign adviser, testified before the Robert Mueller investigation for six hours today. This is the end of a very strange meet which began with him defying Mueller subpoena.

And Stormy Daniels, Trump's personal lawyer says he used his own home equity line to pay $130,000 to Daniels and we're still expected to believe that he wasn't reimbursement or expecting reimbursement. Let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight clean up at the White House. The dramatic announcement of a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un getting a dose of reality tonight. Remember Trump bursting into the Briefing Room for the first time since taking office, there he is, telling reporters to expect "major announcement" regarding North Korea.

Two hours later, the president, television producer sent the South Korean national security adviser out and he announced President Trump has accepted Kim Jong-un unbelievable historic invitation to meet in person by May. Even officials of the Pentagon and some of own -- Trump's own staff at the White House were caught off-guard by the announcement. Didn't know it was coming.

OK. This was just 24 hours ago. And within minutes the White House staff tried to pull it back a bit. They started by backing off the May deadline with statement saying the date of the meeting was to be determined. Try to take the May thing away. And today, Sanders made it clear today the May thing off the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the considerations that are under discussion for the location of this meeting between the president and then Kim Jong-un would take place?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, as we said last night, a time and place have not yet been determined. We'll certainly make those announcements more decision and more information available in that process. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it possible that could not happen?

SANDERS: I mean, there are a lot of things not possible. I'm not going to sit and walk through every hypothetical that could exist in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So, it's possible that it wouldn't happen and she then said there wouldn't be a meeting at all until North Korea takes concrete actions, those are the words, towards denuclearization. Here's Sarah Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: They've made promises to denuclearize. We won't going to have the meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and rhetoric of North Korea. We've accepted the invitation to talk based on them following through with concrete actions. This meeting won't take place without concrete actions. The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. Sarah Sanders is starting to sound a lot like someone Trump has been slamming repeatedly. Any time he gets a chance as a complete failure when it comes to North Korea. So, now you've heard Sarah Sanders. Listen to president Obama, back in 2015 when he talked about his administration meeting with North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: At the point where Pyongyang says we are interested in seeing relief from sanctions and improved relations, and we are prepared to have a serious conversation about denuclearization, I think it's fair to say we'll be right there at the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Denuclearization. OK, Ryan Nobles is out front live at the White House to begin this conversation. Ryan, I mean, it was a pretty incredible moment last night and then an incredible day today. So much confusion over this meeting and a lot of paying out reopen, right, the statement and then walk back, and then walk back, and now the White House trying to, well, clarify again or reclarify.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, confusion is a very appropriate way to describe exactly what the last 24 hours have been like here at the White House. And certainly the impression that we were giving today during the press briefing by Sarah Sanders was much different than the impression we were given last night about possibility of this historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. And even though Sarah Sanders seemed to put a number of qualifiers into her description about the potential of this event, later White House officials told many of the members of our White House staff that we should know that as of now the invitation has been extended and the invitation has been accepted in terms of a meeting.

But exactly what are these caveats, what exactly is the administration looking for before they will set a date, a concrete date for this meeting to take place? Perhaps we're getting some indication of that from the vice president Mike Pence who was speaking at event in Cleveland tonight. And Erin, this is what he said, a meeting is being planned, but the world should know this, North Korea should know this, all options are on the table, and we will continue to apply maximum pressure until North Korea abandons its nuclear program once and for all.

As you just pointed out, that isn't a whole heck of a lot different from the position that the Obama Administration had before Donald Trump took office.

[19:05:04] So even though last night it seemed like history was about to be made, it's pretty clear here tonight, Erin, that there is a whole number of things that have to happen before Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet face-to-face.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ryan. And now also breaking at this moment a second message delivered to President Trump from Kim Jong-un by South Korea. Will Ripley is out front with those breaking details from Seoul. And Will, what are you learning about this message?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I've just confirmed with South Korea Presidential Office that there was a second message that hasn't been publicly disclosed, in fact the contents of which are still being kept secret but it was a direct message from Kim Jong-un to President Trump. We're told it was not a request for easing of sanctions, it was not a request for compensation in exchange for talks, but it was an attempt to build trust between the North Korean leader and the President ahead of this summit, which the United States initially said or South Korean initially said it was going to happen by May, now that is up in the air.

But clearly this is part of Kim Jong-un attempt to get inside the mind of Donald Trump to find a way to connect. Obviously, he got Trump's attention with missile launches and nuclear tests over the last year and had the opposite effect, instead of engaging with the United States, Trump ratcheted up the pressure, sanctions, threatening military actions. So now Kim Jong-un is trying diplomacy and hoping he can pull something off that the two previous leaders we're not able to do which is to form some type of -- some of sort of a deal to normalize relations with the United States.

BURNETT: Yes, I mean, you've been in North Korea so many times. You're familiar with the leadership there. What do they make of all this confusion from the White House, you now, a dates put out, the president accepts it, but then all the sudden the dates taken off the table, then it's well have to have concrete steps to denuclearization, which is we just played on the face of it almost the same as Barack Obama's position. What do they make of what's happened today from the Trump Administration?

RIPLEY: Well, this really isn't anything new. I mean, remember when Secretary of State Tillerson said he would be willing to have talks about talks with the North Koreans, then President Trump tweeted don't waste your time. You know, even -- you know, now, the fact that the United States is saying concrete action needs to take place, that contradicts.

And so the North Koreans this is the whole point here, they have had a hard time figuring out what this U.S. administration is all about. What they want. What they are willing to give. And whereas the North Korean message has been pretty consistent. I mean I've been chatting for three years with North Korean officials who said that Kim Jong-un wanted to buildup his nuclear arsenal to the point that he feels if his sits down across the table with the president of the United States with the position of strength, with leverage and not from a position of weakness.

And that's essentially what he's hoping to achieve. But they still -- it's not really clear to them what the United States is going to bring. By the way, they still haven't told their own people, Erin, that this meeting is happening. It hasn't been reported inside North Korea.

BURNETT: That's amazing. So the North Korean people there's been no report whatsoever. So they are waiting. They're watching. That's fascinating. All right, thank you very much Will Ripley with of course that angle from North Korea that only Will can deliver.

And now the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, who has been to North Korea twice. OK. Is this meeting going to happen?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Your guess is as good as mine. I think I'm more confused now than when I first heard about it a few hours ago.

BURNETT: So, OK, that is the will question. Then what about whether you think it should. Should this meeting happen? Is this a good idea?

ENGEL: Look, I always think that talking is better than not talking. And I know with something that the North Koreans have wanted for a long time and I know it regard as be concession to the president to talk. But if we can make head way, why not. What worries me is that for weeks and months we have been seeing the State Department leaving, diplomats are leaving.

BURNETT: Vacancies.

ENGEL: Vacancies, people are just -- it's a whole mess. When you negotiate something of this magnitude, it usually starts with the diplomats and they sort of come to agreement. And as the discussions keep going on, as the weeks and months pass, at the very end if you think there's a good chance of a break through, then the big guns come. This is totally opposite. You have the president announce it right off the bat. Now you hear his people denying it today. So I don't really know what to think. I mean I just -- I know that we talked to the North Koreans under both the Bush and Clinton administrations. And we were lied to.

BURNETT: Right. I mean they promised before we'll shut down the main nuclear, stop the nuclear tests. And every time within a period of months to a year it has resumed and they have made progress during that time.

ENGEL: Right.

BURNETT: So why would it be different this time, other than perhaps Kim Jong-un has already reached a point of no return. He's already gotten to the point he needs to get?

ENGEL: Well, we hope, you know, we have slap down sanctions on North Korea. I was one of the sponsors of the bill. We have passed several pieces of legislation. They are hurting financially. We know they are. So this might be a right time to do it. But certainly not the way we have been seeing it. The story keeps changing moments by the minute.

[19:10:17] BURNETT: Whether they're going to talk or not talk?

ENGEL: Yes. And again I worry, you know, the diplomats, seasoned diplomats if they are all leaving in droefs, who will be the people to do the work. You know, we still don't have an ambassador to South Korea, lots of people who should be working along with the administration doing this. Tillerson just very short time before President Trump announced that he was going to meet with Kim said that we were far away from that kind of thing. That we weren't even close to it.

BURNETT: Yes. I want to ask you about this. Because, you know, Tillerson talked about talking to North Korea before and the president is like don't waste your time. You know, cut him down on Twitter publicly. And as you say just hours before the announcement Tillerson who's traveling in Africa, the announcement made when he was asleep, said the U.S. is long way from direct talks exactly the words you just used. So Secretary of State didn't have any idea this was going on. We've reported that there were officials in the Pentagon, they didn't have any idea that this going on and certainly plenty of people in the White House who didn't have any idea that this is going on.

Sarah Sanders says that's all, just a load of baloney. Everyone who needed to know knew. Here she is on Rex Tillerson.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: And secretary of state's deputy was in the room at the time these conversations went on. So it's absurd to pretend like they weren't like part of this process and haven't been part of this process all along. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Is she right?

ENGEL: Well, no, it's a matter of not being a matter part of the process. What is the process? We keep hearing different things of the process. Nobody really knows what to believe. Is there an agreement to talk? Is there not an agreement to talk? Are we going to talk if they meet certain conditions? Or just going to talk regardless? I mean, I'm just confused as anybody. What we are hearing from the White House today is totally different than what we heard yesterday. I was briefed today and I really don't know what to think anymore.

BURNETT: So the briefing didn't clarify for you, answer your questions?

ENGEL: The briefing was essentially the announcement of yesterday. What has since happened with the press conference and everything else, they seem to be changing their tune.

BURNETT: And when the president says concrete actions towards denuclearization, do you think he understands how hard that is? Something President Obama certainly learned with Iran. One thing to say you're going to able to verify, you're going to be able do all these things. And then the reality comes you almost never really had, never fully to the level you want to be able to. Not going to happen in North Korea.

ENGEL: When you have a rogue regime who has no respect for anything they say or do, it's likely that it won't happen. But the question now, I think, is what do they really agree to? And how are they going to now move to implement some of these things?

Again, I'm not against talking, but, you know, you want to know that you are close to agreement. You don't want to have talks and then have them break down. And that's what diplomacy comes in and I just worry there's not enough of that in this agreement.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Of course what's also so fascinating about all of this, for everybody to know, South Koreans came out and said this has been agreed to happen by May and then the White House has contradicted that, so not just contradicted whatever (INAUDIBLE) the North Koreans, they're contracting what are allies, the South Koreans, it's not they were told and now we're made to look at least wrong. So that's a level to this. It's also pretty significant.

And next, Donald Trump is wheeling and dealing his way to interview with the special counsel. Will he do it? We have breaking new details tonight on those terms.

Plus breaking news, President Trump's personal attorney reveals where he got the money to pay off Stormy Daniels. And nearly 200 troops now helping in the investigation of a poisoned Russian double agent, nearly 200. And now the name of another spy under scrutiny tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:33] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's lawyers are considering the possibility of special counsel Bob Mueller sitting down with the president. Among negotiation points, according to the Wall Street Journal tonight, trying to force Mueller to end the Trump related portion of his investigation within 60 days of the interview.

OutFront now, the White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Peter Nicholas who broke the story and former assistant United States attorney and former associate independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation, Kim Wehle, thanks very much to both of you. So, Peter, you're breaking the story. What else are you hearing from your sources?

PETER NICHOLAS, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: This interview with Bob Mueller, the prospect of it becomes something a bargaining chip and what's happening is president's lawyers know that something Bob Mueller wants and then trying to see if there could be some concessions that they can get in return. One would be to see if they can get a quick end to this investigation. Maybe 60 days after the date of the interview.

The other would be possibly limiting the scope of the testimony. So the president wouldn't necessarily have to answer wide ranging questions that Bob Mueller might necessarily be interested in. But just answer some more general questions that might avoid a perjury trap, just focus on firing of former FBI director James Comey, see if they can just keep that -- those questioning limited as possible.

BURNETT: All right. And of course, you know, pretty impossible to think that could fully happen considering they don't know what Bob Mueller is looking at president's personal finances or whatever else it could be in addition to obstruction of justice. Do they though, Peter from your reporting, realistic believe that Bob Mueller is going to say, OK, sure, I'll agree to wrap up the investigation to you in 60 days. Do they really think that's realistic?

NICHOLAS: Well, they think that they have some leverage here, Erin. And the leverage would be that they can -- if Bob Mueller would subpoena the president, they could try to quash the subpoena, they could go to court and set in motion legal process, that by some estimates could take a year or two ultimately wind up the Supreme Court. So Bob Mueller wants an interview and he wants it quickly, perhaps agree to some concessions. So that's a leverage that they have, the Trump people have, but as you -- we've also talked to some experts in this process who say look Bob Mueller is not necessarily going to agree, you know, let the subject of interview dictate terms. I mean he's got his own agenda.

BURNETT: Right. All right. So stay with me please. Kim, you know, if you were Bob Mueller, would you agree to conditions like these, whether it's limiting the scope so severely or to ending the investigation into the president within 60 days of the interview?

[19:20:02] KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: No. The second option to me borders on the absurd. I mean there's virtually no way I can imagine that a prosecutor would agree to arbitrarily and artificially end an investigation on a particular date. Now we saw this in the Whitewater investigation but that was then President Clinton was served with subpoena and agreed in exchange for withdrawing the subpoena and voluntarily appearing before the grand jury to some terms. But that was after a four-year investigation. And the circumstances were really different. It's hard to imagine that the Mueller team would be taking this seriously at this stage.

BURNETT: And I guess that's the question who's got more leverage. I mean, Kim, Trump's team is trying to move the goal post here again because, you know, as is reporting, you know, you now have this negotiation going on. But Trump himself obviously when he's given the chance has tried to act like I have no problem talking to Mueller and don't need any preconditions. I mean here he is just a few of the times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED SATES: 100%. I would love to do that and do that as soon as possible. So here's the story?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: do you have a date set?

TRUMP: No, I guess they are talking two or three weeks but I would love to do it. Again, I have to say subject to my lawyers and all of that but I would love to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Kim, do you think an interview ends up happening or not?

WEHLE: I think that an interview will end up happening, just because this is a very thorough team of investigators. Now, that being said, we have a president that is used to or has a pattern of flouting the rule of law or not following norms. So, there's no way to anticipate how much difficulty this process is going to take. I mean we also have this looming spectrum of potentially firing Mueller. We know that he suggested that to his White House counsel and that would throw the country into a major crisis. So I think that possibility is something the Mueller team has to take seriously that the Whitewater investigation team did not have to tink about.

BURNETT: Peter, what's your gut fro talking to, you know, to the sources that you have been talking to on the Trump side. Today, they believe that an interview will happen?

NICHOLAS: You now, they're divided. There are some lawyers on Trump team who really don't want to see an interview. I mean, they feel that this would set a dangerous precedent also for future presidents. If Trump agrees to interview, future presidents might be held to that same standard. So they're making that argument as well and they also understand they have a client who can be kind of chatty who doesn't have color between the lines, and that could be problematic in interview because they could present perhaps present perjury problems.

Mueller has shown that he's willing to bring perjury charges. But there are others on the Trump team who are more silent about that prospect of an interview and willing to do it and think that it's one way to shut down, close this investigation out early. If an interview with Trump is missing piece in the puzzle, why not provide it, give Mueller what he wants and then have him move away from Trump.

BURNETT: And of course that's been their hope whether that happens or not. I mean, Kim, today, there was a lot going on in Mueller land. The former campaign aide Sam Nunberg, he spent roughly six hours testifying before Mueller grand jury. Of course we know he had adamantly said he would do no such things. It would take 90 hours. Well it didn't. It just took six. Did not speak to the media afterwards. Was Mueller glad to have Nunberg there? Or did Nunberg makes it harder for himself after the debacle of earlier this week?

WEHLE: Well, what Nunberg did earlier this week was rather unprecedented. And I think most people watching understood that it was uncomfortable at best. So it's hard to say that it made it harder for Mueller. I mean they know what they are doing and they have a wide and broad investigation.

And I think it's important to keep in mind with respect to the president as well that Mueller has the cards here. Mueller has the power of the subpoena behind him and the grand jury. And so, even President Trump doesn't have a lot of cards to play in terms of stopping that. Sure, he can go to court. But I'm also a constitutional law professor there isn't an argument listen you can't put a president ultimately before a grand jury for any reason.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Kim, Peter, I appreciate your time.

And next Trump's personal attorney. We have a big development tonight has used his home equity line put his home on the line literally for Stormy Daniels. He took $130,000 from his HELOC to pay off the adult film star. Why would he go to such length to pay Daniels? Unless somebody was paying him back.

And then the me president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIEDMALE: To what do you owe this recent openness to talk?

TRUMP: Me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:28:07] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen telling CNN that he used funds from his home equity line to make the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. This after e-mail showed he used his Trump Organization e-mail account to facilitate the payment to keep Daniels quiet with alleged a fair with Trump. It's payment the White House and Cohen say Trump doesn't know anything about it. Cohen says "The use of my company e-mail to communicate with the bank and Ms. Clifford's former counsel proves absolutely nothing."

Sara Sidner is out front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Stormy Daniels continues making big money appearances in strip clubs across the country, there is new potential evidence in her case. This message from a New York bank showing Donald Trump's personal lawyer was using his Trump Organization e-mail account to arrange $130,000 payoff to keep Daniels clients.

Until now Michael Cohen has maintained he facilitated the payment to the adult film star himself and that the president or the Trump Organization were not involved. It's thought the payment was to keep Stormy from talking in the days before the election about allegations she had a sexual affair with Trump. Stormy Daniels attorney had this to say.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Because we're going to be obtain discovery and documents and testimony that's going to show I am highly confident at all times Mr. Trump knew exactly what was going on.

SIDNER: The e-mail stream confirms money was transferred into a checking account apparently controlled by Cohen which he then forwarded Stormy Daniel's lawyer on October 26th at the time as proof that the payment was coming.

JESSICA DRAKE, ADULT FILM STAR: When we entered the room, he grabbed each of us titlely in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission.

SIDNER: The scandal surrounding the hush money agreement signed by Daniels has now bizarrely widened to include another porn star. Just a month before the 2016 presidential election, Jessica Drake accused then candidate Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. She claimed Trump harassed her in 2006 at the same Lake Tahoe Resort gold tournament where Daniels and Trump met and took this infamous photo.

[19:30:17] At the time Trump spokesperson fired back at Drake, saying Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in every knowing her.

But Drake has pictures of her and Trump showing they at least met. And Drake's legal name, Angel Ryan is listed on the non-disparagement agreement Trump's lawyer drafted to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, saying she was one of the four people with confidential information about Daniels, and the alleged sexual relationship with Trump which his team has denied. Adult film actress Alana Evans was also in Tahoe in 2006.

(on camera): How do you know that Donald Trump and Jessica Drake actually met in 2006.

ALANA EVANS, STORMY DANIELS' FRIEND: Stormy told me that day that I saw her in Tahoe. It was part of her story when Donald came to the booth, Jessica ran up to him, was gushing all over her, excited to see him, and that he was nice to her. But said that he wanted to meet Stormy and pointed right at her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: As for what Alana Evans has seen as far as any kind of emails or text or other photos, she says she hasn't seen any herself. But she will wait until Stormy is able to tell her story.

One more thing, when it comes to those emails that were sent by Michael Cohen from the Trump Organization, he says that he sends emails from that email account to lots of different people including family and friends. And he talked about the fact that he had already told everyone that he had paid from his own money into Stormy Daniels' attorney account. Those were his words.

Back to you, Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Sara.

Now, editor in chief of "The Daily Beast", John Avlon, and the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, Larry Noble.

All right, John, Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for the president, who was personal lawyer for a long time, says he used home equity line to pay off Stormy Daniels. Do you believe someone would do that, go to their home equity to do it without expecting reimbursement?

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Who among us, Erin, has not taken out a loan to pay off a stripper through a Delaware corporation days before an election? It's totally normal. And if you don't really care about being paid, you're definitely going to get dip into your equity line? I mean, this is just on its face absurd. It is self-evidently what it looks like. This appears to be a payoff days before an election to shush up somebody who could cause problems. I think it's an open question whether he's been paid back. But if he's using his home equity line, presumably, you know --

BURNETT: He was expecting it.

AVLON: He was expecting it and is owed it.

BURNETT: So, Larry, what's your take on this? You know, you follow the money. So, now, he's saying it's a home equity line? It should be pretty easy to find out that he used that home equity line, whether he was reimbursed or not? Or is it easier than it seems to hide say in the form of bearing the payback in something like a bonus? LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION:

Well, he could bury it. But if he wants to prove that he used the home equity line. He can do that. He can provide documentation and he can show where the money came from.

But I agree with John. Absolutely. I mean, this is kind of ridiculous story at this point. And it is also incredibly hard to believe that the president's lawyer and been business lawyer, personal lawyer, would do all of this without telling the president, without the president's knowledge. And if he did do it without the president's knowledge, he has some ethics issues about operating on behalf of his client without telling his client.

BURNETT: But isn't that a disbarable thing in New York state, actually?

NOBLE: Yes.

BURNETT: To be disbarred for having done that, without telling the client?

NOBLE: I mean, generally, lawyers were under an obligation to tell the clients everything that they do on behalf of their client. He prepared an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement that was supposed to be signed by Trump and supposed to be watching out for Trump's interests and reflects Trump's interest, and yet he's expecting us to believe Trump didn't know anything about it? And took money out of his home equity line to pay Stormy Daniels without telling Trump? It doesn't just fly.

AVLON: The world's most selfless friend.

BURNETT: Look, it does seem absurd.

And, Larry, obviously, we learned Michael Cohen used the Trump Organization email to communicate with Stormy's lawyer about the pay off. He says, I use that email for all sorts of personal things. Does that matter? Or is this evidence that this was an illegal campaign contribution? Because after all, that is why the story matters, is whether it was a violation of the law, a crime.

NOBLE: Correct. And the question about whether it's an illegal campaign contribution, I think it is, really revolves around one point. Why did they do this? Did they do this because it was right before the election and they were afraid that this was going to hurt the election campaign, and therefore, they paid the money to stop her from hurting the election campaign?

Now, the idea at this point that about the email account, you know, at its worst for them, what it means is that the Trump Organization may have been involved in this.

[19:35:07] Was he doing this on Trump organization time? If so, then they may have made an illegal contribution.

But even taking at word that they used it for other things, that it really shouldn't be significant, it is significant in another way, which is we are dealing with a family business. And it's an insular business and use of the Trump Organization email for his personal business, the idea that he's being represented by a lawyer right now that did work for the Trump campaign.

BURNETT: Yes.

NOBLE: All of this shows really insular family business. And from everything we understand about the way Trump runs, and impossible to believe he doesn't know what's going on something this important.

So I think the email is important in terms of questions about what the organization's involvement was. But also is evidence of just how they work at the Trump Organization.

BURNETT: It certainly defies belief that the president wouldn't have known. I mean, you know, who knows? You can think of scenarios under which you would have known, some of them are damming. Such as this happened all the time with so many people that he didn't know, and I know that's not where they want this to go.

I mean, John, the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is facing a lot of questions about Stormy Daniels because the breaking the law and whether crime was committed is important. And she has dodged, and she has dodged every time by saying they have addressed it extensively. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did President Trump win? Did President Trump after that photo see Stormy Daniels? Did he text? Email? Do you have any other information?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't. We've addressed this extensively. And I don't have anything else to add.

REPORTER: You said from the podium, you acknowledge the president -- to follow up on April's question, knows about the arbitration involving Stormy Daniels? So, does he remember speaking with his lawyer about that, does he remember meeting Daniels back --

SANDERS: I've addressed this extensively. I don't have anything else to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Of course, they have not addressed this extensively. In fact, they're barely addressing it at all except for talk to the lawyers. And to admit there was actually arbitration between Trump and Daniels, which is admitting something to arbitrate about, and that there was some kind of a connection between the two.

Can the White House get away with ignoring this?

AVLON: I mean, look, Sarah Sanders is trying to play a bad hand as best as she can. But the fact she's saying we have addressed it extensively, the same language, is that this is the go-to talking points, not denying it. Not denying it.

BURNETT: No, they're not denying it.

AVLON: Not deny it, but they're also trying to sort of classic tool. This is old news. May not be fake news. They can't say that. But they can say it's old news. And therefore pretend it's not an issue.

But it's not going to go away. This has real implications. It's going to keep attention and there's more uncomfortable facts going to emerge. You can't spin your way out of this one.

BURNETT: And, of course, Stormy Daniels suit moves ahead, if the nondisclosure thrown out, there is text, there's emails, there's pictures, god forbid.

All right. Thank you both very much.

In the next hour on CNN, the attorney for Stormy Daniels will join Anderson to discuss these new developments. That is at 8:00, coming up next.

And next this hour, Donald Trump has bragged about his Ivy League education, his IQ, and his ability to do what nobody else can. Is he vindicated on his bragging about North Korea?

And pro-Kremlin media are gloating today as the poisoning of a former Russian double agent, is a major mystery. Will Moscow get away with it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:50] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump, the me-president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you believe that North Korea's recent willingness to talk is sincere, or is it an effort to buy time for their nuclear program, and to what do you owe this recent openness to talk?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Me. No, I think that -- nobody got that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: OK. And he also says he alone is responsible for a lot of good things. It's not new for him. Here he is on the economy, the deficit, and what of course he calls the rigged system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm the only one, believe me, I know them all, I'm the only one that knows how to fix it. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, former Republican candidate for New York governor and friend of President Trump, Rob Astorino, and national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", Joan Walsh.

OK, thanks to both.

Joan, you are closer so gets the first question. He loves the words I and me.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: I, me.

BURNETT: OK. But all jokes aside, because no matter what your political persuasion, you have to be able to laugh when you hear someone talk like that. Could he be right? Could he be the savior here?

WALSH: He could. Let me start by saying I think Democrats, independent, Republican, if these two countries are closer to talking, farther away from war, this is a good thing. I root for this initiative.

However, it is very early to give him credit for anything. I mean, it's true, presidents going back to Bill Clinton have gone from tying to negotiate tougher sanctions, Obama and the U.N. imposed tougher sanctions before he left office, and then Trump did even more sanctions. But this is a long process. I don't see -- I'm not ready to give him credit. If in the end he brokers a denuclearization deal, you'll have me back and he alone could fix it.

BURNETT: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: But way too early for that.

BURNETT: You have denuclearization deals of some form from Clinton, Bush and Obama and obviously, they violated all them. So, you got a broker one and then you got to give it time.

WALSH: And they cheated every time.

BURNETT: Almost a separate issue. But I mean, Rob, he does love the words I and me.

ROB ASTORINO, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: You know, I'm thinking of the "Godfather" and there was a great few lines in there. First of all, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That's what we're kind of doing here.

But then Fredo, remember Fredo? Fredo said, I'm smart, I can do things and that's what he's leading to here. He could get it done, watch me, I can try to do it. It didn't end well for Fredo, by the way.

But, you know -- WALSH: Terrible.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: That's terrible analogy. That's something I might say.

ASTORINO: But I do think, look, as Joan mentioned, there have been so many failures by conventional ways that the country has stepped forward to try to deal with North Korea. Clinton failed, Bush failed, Obama failed for all different ways, axis of evil, olive branches, you know, a bomb here, a bomb there. Nothing worked.

I think Kim Jong-on and his father, well, Kim Jong-on actually thinks that this guy Trump is crazier than he is, meaning I don't know what to do -- I don't know what to expect anymore from this country. I might be better off just sitting down actually talking and doing something here.

[19:45:04] WALSH: We'll see if that happens. I mean to really -- to make it happen, you know, we do not have an ambassador to South Korea. We don't have the kinds of people --

BURNETT: Trump doesn't care because he wouldn't let the guy do anything or gals do anything. He's put this right at the top.

WALSH: And he picks someone who then rejected because the guy was too much into negotiation. He wanted to talk. He thought it was time to talk. And so, you know, he got put out an ice flow.

So, you know, this is the thing -- he hasn't been able to build the policy strength, the personnel strength, the knowledge to carry through it yet. Maybe he'll surprise me. I would love to be surprised.

BURNETT: All right. So, the president has just tweeted about North Korea.

WALSH: OK.

BURNETT: He's done a few times say but this one's just coming out now. He says the deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be if completed a very good one for the world time and place to be determined.

OK. Let's just keep that up for a second.

WALSH: So that's interesting.

BURNETT: Now, look, Rob, here's the thing, you want talks and even Congressman Engel who was here earlier says he wants talks. No one wants to say you don't want talks.

What's interesting about this is how much it sounds like Obama, a deal is in the making, right, we're going to work, we're going to work on it. If it's completed, it will be a good one time and place to be determined. Everybody comes in a sense from the same place on this. WALSH: Right.

ASTORINO: But conventionally as I said, Obama had eight years and didn't do anything and Kim Jong-un actually just played us like a fiddle, played Clinton like a fiddle, Bush and Obama, right? And eventually he went from --

WALSH: Well, the father to the son.

ASTORINO: Yes, that's right, that's why I started saying il.

But he started with, we've got nothing and then they started testing. They were getting sanctions. You know, everyone was screaming at each other and then, all of a sudden, they have the bomb now.

WALSH: Right.

ASTORINO: So, now, we're in a much worse situation, and there are limited options now. So, I think for the president just actually sit down with them is a good thing. But I think the chaos in this respect is also working to our advantage.

BURNETT: So, Joan, you know, the president said this, I went to an Ivy School, I have an IQ better than them I guarantee my IQ is much higher. OK, says all these things that people laugh.

But my question is, is it possible that a seemingly comic confidence that is so easily laughed off or discarded is actually allowing him to succeed where others have failed, because people don't take him seriously?

ASTORINO: The bar is low.

WALSH: The bar is very low.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: And then maybe you underestimated him.

WALSH: Oh, come on, the three of us can agree -- the truly smart people we know, they don't go around saying I'm smart. Yes, I'm the smartest. So, that kind of disqualifies him.

I also would point out that that's that that tweet is a little bit again backtracking. We saw Sarah Sanders today backtracking and say, there are going to be conditions. There are going to be, we want to see concrete action. He has just said time and place TBD which means, May, it's not me anymore, it was May last night, then Sarah Sanders said, no, maybe not May, no, yes it was May, now May is not in the tweet.

BURNETT: Right. Now time and place to be determined, you know, continuing to back off at least what he authorized the air -- when he told the South Koreans --

(CROSSTALK)( BURNETT: -- meeting by May.

All right. Thank you both very much.

ASTORINO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the poisoned Russian spy and his daughter are alive tonight clinging to life but the mystery is deepening significantly with a major development.

And 11 years ago today, Bob Levinson, retired FBI agent, vanished in Iran. Could he still be alive?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:18] BURNETT: Breaking news, the mysterious case of a poisoned Russian agent getting even stranger tonight. Nearly 200 British troops have been called in to help police with the investigation. The agent and his daughter are clinging to life. Many, many others impacted by that agent.

And Fred Pleitgen is out front in Moscow tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): British soldiers in hazmat suits search for possible contamination in the area where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter where found after being attack with a nerve agent. While Russia says they don't know who was behind the attack, pro-Kremlin media are gloating, no empathy calling Skripal a traitor.

The traitor's profession is one of the most dangerous in the world, the anchor says. Those who choose it rarely live in peace and tranquility to a venerable old age.

Skripal was a colonel in Russia's military intelligence. He was arrested and convicted of spying for Britain in the mid-2000s. The Russians say he was linked to a specific Brit named Pablo Miller (ph), officially a diplomat but who Moscow said was a spy.

CNN has obtained documents from the FSB, Russia successor to the KGB, claiming that at the time, he was quote in fact a staff member of MI6, Pablo Miller, who worked in Tallinn in 1999 under the cover of the post of the first secretary of the British embassy.

A man named Pablo Miller shares biographical details with the alleged spy recruiter and also has an address in Salisbury, England, according to his LinkedIn account, the same town where Sergei Skripal lives and where he was poisoned.

CNN has not been able to reach Pablo Miller of Salisbury for comment or confirm that he is the same man the Russians have alleged to be a former MI6 agent.

The MI6 is the same intelligence agency that Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump dossier, also worked for before becoming an intelligence consultant.

Skripal is not the first former Russian spy to be poisoned in Britain. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko died a painful death after being poisoned in London with the radioactive isotope polonium 2010.

The Brits blamed the Russians. Moscow denies the accusations to this day, while Sergei Skripal out seems to be leading a low-key life, the Russians say they consider him an MI6 agent, even as they deny any involvement in his poisoning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Erin, expert that we spoke to said that if the Russians indeed were behind this poisoning, that it might have been a message to others Russians working in Russian intelligence, that if they're thinking about working with the Brits or the U.S., for instance looking to disclose information on election hacking, to think again because Russia can get to them no matter where they are and no one could protect them, Erin.

[19:55:12] BURNETT: It's unclear the Brits are probably -- what they're actually doing about it.

Thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen.

And next, a retired FBI agent disappearing years ago today in Iran and tonight, his family hoping.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, the FBI calling for the return of retired agent Robert Levinson who disappeared 11 years ago in Iran. According to the FBI, Levinson was in Iran working as a private investigator when he we want missing. A CNN source says he was there working for the CIA.

Levinson's family received haunting proof of life photos, the ones you see here in 2011. The exact identity of his captors and his whereabouts, though, remains a mystery.

Today, Levinson's family releasing a statement that reads in part: Eleven years later, no one has been able to help us. How is this possible? We will never stop doing whatever it takes to get Bob home.

"AC360" starts now.