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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Allies Worried Michael Cohen Could Flip At Any Moment; Trump Slams Media After Meeting With Dictator Kim Jong-un; Trump-Kim Agreement Doesn't Include Verification; Trump Praises Kim Jong-un, Again; Head: GOP's Corker: Republican Party "Becoming A Cultish Thing"; Interview with Congressman Luis Gutierrez; Two Political Operatives Close to Trump Campaign Now Face Probe for Russia Ties. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 13, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. Michael Cohen meeting with multiple potential new lawyers today, cutting ties with his own legal team. Is this a sign he's about to flip? Also breaking, the Secretary of State claiming the North Korea agreement including the word verifiable, what agreement is he looking at? And top Democrat accusing Jeff Sessions of wanting, quote, "Black people to be in the back of the bus again." Let's go "OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Good Evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, flipping at any moment. CNN learning that Trump's allies are afraid tonight that the President's long time attorney, Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation could be about to flip on his boss.
One man close to Trump says, Cohen is, quote, "facing the end of a barrel". Another person close to the President says he has, quote, "got to be extremely worried," adding quote, "who the bleep knows what Michael Cohen did all those years."
Adding to the fears about what Cohen actually knows and if he's about to turn on his long time boss and let it all spill out, Cohen has now cut ties with his legal team. The very team that has been by his side through the month-long criminal investigation including the FBI raid on Cohen's home and office.
According to our sources, one reason for this shake up is over money. Cohen apparently is running out of it and it doesn't want to spend his entire savings on legal fees. That's confusing though because this is the same man who's been staying at a luxury hotel where suites go for $1,000 a night. Right now, we understand he's in a three-room suite of some sort.
He's been staying at this hotel since at least April 9th. So you can do the math. So that's tens of thousands of dollars possibly since the FBI raided his home. So if money is an issue, well, you get point.
CNN is also learning Cohen met with multiple potential new lawyers today, one source telling us that Cohen would not be shocked to be indicted. But we were also told Cohen is not yet met with prosecutors to speak about potential deal to flip. And if he does ask for a deal in exchange for a lighter sentence, basically, he cooperates and gets a lighter sentence, he needs lawyers who know the people investigating him because the rest of his life is on the line.
After all, why Cohen has not been charged, his long time business partner has already flipped. The Russian immigrant nicknamed the Taxi King agreeing to cooperate in exchange for avoiding a possible 100 year prison sentence.
So what can Cohen offer on Trump? There are only a few people who actually know the answer and know what Cohen was doing on behalf of Trump and his family for years. One person who does know is Trump himself and while he sometime defense Cohen, he's also tried very clearly to distance himself from his long time fixer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Let me just tell you that Michael is in business. He's really a business man and fairly big business as I understand it. I don't know his business. But this doesn't have to do with me. Michael is a business man. He's got a business. He also practices law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by him?
TRUMP: Well, I guess a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fracture. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tiny, tiny little fraction. That's certainly not what Cohen has claimed. Of course, as we now know, negotiated with hush payment Stormy Daniels among other things.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington. And, Evan, and a lot of concern tonight from Trump that legal chance could signal Cohen is about to flip, some of them very worried.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Erin. That's certainly what we heard today from people that they weren't sure what exactly was at work here today. But at least, part of this appears to be that Michael Cohen and his legal team were facing a deadline on Friday, to complete the review of documents that were taken that FBI raid, just a couple of months ago.
And so, the end of that review is now on Friday, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents are have been reviewed by his legal team. And as you mentioned, that cost a lot of money. And it was an opportunity to change teams going forward.
Now, whether or not this means he's going to strike a deal, whether or not the prosecutors even want a deal with Michael Cohen, because from the legal papers, it's clear that they believe they have plenty of evidence against him. We don't know. But we'll see, certainly, in the coming days, whether that change in legal teams brings a deal or not.
BURNETT: So, Evan, you know, you've been reporting that and, you know, this news about Cohen, you know, is coming just as a euphoric post-Korea summit, Trump is working on the phones, calling his lawyers, plotting his next move when it comes to the Russia investigation. And you have some new reporting on that tonight from Trump's legal team.
PEREZ: That's right. So on his way back from Singapore, we're told that the President got on the phone with his legal team for the first time in quite a while, actually, because they had tried not to bother him before with the Korea summit. And he started plotting his next move.
[19:05:07] Now, as you know, Erin, the special counsel asked for voluntary interview with the President. The President seems inclined that he wants -- he keeps telling his lawyers that he wants to do it. They don't think it's such a great idea. So what we expect in the next couple of days, they are going to get together. They're going to try to figure out what is the way forward. And then, perhaps, meet with Special Counsel Mueller in a week or so to see whether or not they can make a deal.
Keep in mind, obviously, that if he doesn't make a deal, the special counsel is still threatening to issue a subpoena.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Evan Perez, all that reporting. And OUTFRONT now, Harry Sandick, former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Laura Coates, former Federal Prosecutor and Patrick Healy, Political Editor for the New York Times Thanks to all.
Harry, you heard Evan's reporting. Trump allies are afraid Cohen could flip at any moment. Some of them are very afraid. One of them said we're looking at the end of a barrel. I mean, this could be imminent. Is there a deadline on him flipping?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: There's probably no deadline on him flipping, but there's a difference between whether you cooperate before indictments or after -- assuming that he is to be indicted. It's usually considered better to cooperate before indictment, not when you plead guilty to an information. It's a little less stressful than actually being indicted, having to be arraigned on that, coming to court and then hoping to cooperate after that.
So if we assume that the government had tremendous evidence to get the search warrant, we can also assume they had enough evidence to indict him.
BURNETT: And so, this is something that he would be then doing -- imminent would be fair.
SANDICK: Yes, conceivably, the next few week, four to six weeks maybe.
BURNETT: So where Cohen obviously, you know, is clearly afraid here, right? He's -- sources telling CNN he's fully aware. At this point, that he could be indicted. He expects it. When you're facing what he might be facing, there's reason, right, for team Trump to be worried he could flip, right?
I mean, the guy who is his long time partner is cooperating to avoid 100-year possible prison term if he had been convicted. I mean, we don't know what the situation could be for Cohen if he's charged. But there is real risk here, right, that he could flip.
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There is real risk, who he will flip on is the greatest question. He has a number of associates outside of Donald Trump. It may not be they're looking to have and flip on the president of United States or even with the time before then.
What's equally possible here as well is a stall tactic. Remember, he knows what's ahead of him, Erin. He knows that it takes a counsel time to get up to speed, nor to know what's in those documents and to advance some theories. Ask them a couple of days ago, they only be able to review a third of all those documents for attorney-client privilege.
If you were delay in terms of who his attorneys were, he'd have more time for that, and also more time perhaps to get the word out and wait for those smoke signals from the president of United States if he actually is in fear.
It's also equally possible here though, Erin, as my colleague just talked about that. The deadline he's worried against, his own finances may be an issue, but the government knows it's own resources are at stake here. And the less amount of money they have to spend, and spend to have a grand jury indictment process or other things, have that special prosecutor issues, they want to have an incentive for him to plea early. But it's not clear if the person who the ultimately target will be Donald Trump, it maybe somebody else.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, these are the big questions for Patrick. When it comes to Trump, Cohen of course has talked repeatedly about his loyalty to his boss. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability. And I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump. Obviously, very loyal and dedicated to Mr. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Look, here's the reality. People who talk to Cohen, he will flip to protect his family, if that's what it comes to, to save decades in prison, as I said before, almost anybody would. Trump's allies don't seem to know what Cohen knows about Trump. That seems to be the most fascinating thing here. Trump may know.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICAL EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Trump may have his own recollection of it, but as we know, that can be totally different than what's actually in Cohen's notes about the conversation.
BURNETT: Exactly. So we just don't know, I mean, and, you know, you heard the one quote of someone telling Sarah Murray today, who the bleep knows what Michael Cohen did all those years.
HEALY: Right, right.
BURNETT: Pretty scary when the people closest to the President literally are staring into what appears to be a black hole everybody that everybody Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in their own minds.
HEALY: This is a scary reality that campaign officials faced with Trump. That White House officials faced with Trump, and now lawyers and legal teams surrounded by Trump. All they have often to go on is what Trump tells him, his sort of version of the truth about what he did or didn't do in this case with Michael Cohen., what kind of business Michael Cohen handled, what Michael Cohen knew about any internationals sort of foreign business dealings that Mr. Trump may have had, you know, in his private business.
As we know, Robert Mueller is looking at some of the financial dimensions of President Trump's business dealings during the campaign, the transition afterward. Michael Cohen is good reasonably knows quite a bit about that.
[19:10:00] So between the actual dealings that Trump had and then, also just notes, as we know, Trump likes to call up a lot of people and ask for advice. What Michael Cohen may have taken down about things during the discussion we don't know.
BURNETT: Michael Cohen took maybe a note.
BURNETT: I mean, I think in conversations, many of us have, he's been very open about that. Well, for any of this, not in a threatening way, just, what he did right. He want to know what the boss wants and he just rattles things off. And, you know --
HEALY: But we don't know what's in those notes and I've been -- probably the legal team around President Trump knows that President Trump may not remember what he said to Michael Cohen.
BURNETT: And what do you make about this whole money thing, Harry. He's saying, you know, that the reason I want new lawyers is just some sort of, I don't want to spend all the savings, as the reporting.
BURNETT: Yet, he's staying at a hotel, and I guess we don't know he's paying for, at what rate he's getting, or, you know, I mean, there are unknowns. But it's one of the most expensive hotels in New York. It's $1,000 a night. He's been staying there since April 9th.
You know, if you're running out of money, that's not money you'd be spending on a hotel room. It doesn't seem.
SANDICK: No, absolutely not. Although it is true that lawyers at this high level are expensive, and it's also true just to be sort of crass about it. But it costs less in legal fees if you plead guilty and cooperate, than it does to go through discovery and then face a lengthy, complicated trial.
BURNETT: Just because of the time.
SANDICK: Just because of the time. It shouldn't drive a decision, but occasionally, it's a factor that a person has to think about. Do I really want to press this to trial, what would that do to my family, what are the risks in my sentence later on. These are the kind of things that animate the decision to cooperate.
BURNETT: Laura, there's also the question here that whether trump will testify before Mueller as Evan was reporting, right? They started to have the conversation with them they had in a while, all right. Let's go there again.
Our Dana Bash spoke with Rudy Giuliani tonight. And I look where he changes what he has to say sometimes, but here's what he's saying tonight. Quote, "I think he would like to testify in a situation in which we tell him it's fair. And he's going to be received objectively." Continued to say he wants to carve out a way in which he can testify. Is there any situation under which Trump's legal team is going to tell him in advance, Laura, that this is going to be fair given what Trump himself has said about Mueller?
COATES: And he can tell him that, but certainly won't satiate the president of the United States, who's had a campaign as the president of United States undermine the credibility and call this a witch hunt, the entire FBI investigation, and totally call out Robert Mueller.
But again, what you're seeing here is all these caveats and contingency plans. We'd like to talk to you if only you can make guarantees to us. Guarantee that no other defendant or subjects, target or witness will ever get.
You have the same essential rights as everybody else. Either you're above the law or you're not. If you're above the law, you ask for things like guarantees that nobody else gets. It's unfair. It's hypothetical and it's a fantasy that he'll get that.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, breaking news. President Trump confronts at about why he's praising accused killer Kim Jong-un and he just answered the question this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, he's still had done some really bad things. Yes. But so a lot of other people done some really bad things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, why a prominent Republican now says the GOP is starting to resemble a cult. And only OUTFRONT, two political operatives with ties to Trump's campaign now facing serious questions over their ties to Russia. Who are they?
[19:16:48] BURNETT: Breaking news. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a statement between North Korea's Kim Jong-un and President Trump, I've got it here, did include verification of denuclearization. OK. I want to read the exchange between the secretary and reporters. So you can hear exactly what he's saying for yourself because it's important.
So the first question. Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you about verifiable and irreversible. You said -- the day before you said it's our only objective, it's clear we want that. It's not in the statement. Why is it not in the statement? And the president said the reporter continues, Secretary Pompeo then interjects, it is in the statement. It's in the statement. You're just wrong about that.
Question. How is it in the statement? And the exchange goes back and forth. Concluding with the secretary saying, you're just because complete encompasses verifiable and irreversible. It's just, I suppose you could argue semantics, but let me assure you, it's in that document.
He goes on to say, I find the question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous. I just have to be honest with you. It's a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this. Of course, we all agree with that.
So let's just be clear here on the fact. This is the statement. The word verification is not in it. It simply is not there. That's a fact. If you look at it, you can zoom in, you can see it, check it yourself online. It is not there. When you were talking about getting a country to give up nuclear weapons, a country that has promised to do so before and has broken that promise repeatedly, it is not a matter of semantics and does one general word actually include something extremely specific.
Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT. He was the television reporter for the Trump- Kim meeting. And, Jim, Pompeo is insulted. He says he's insulted. It's ludicrous to be asked why verification is not part of this signed agreement. You witnessed the summit firsthand. What do you make of what Pompeo said?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I think that the Secretary of State is sensitive about this because they signed on to an agreement that essentially means they're going the make it up as they go along, that this is a work in progress. This is the beginning and not the end and we got a sense of that yesterday or a couple of days ago, whatever day it was earlier this week when the President had that press conference and when he signed the agreement with Kim Jong-n. They, obviously, understand inside the White House that they have a big risk that they're taking here. The President's putting his credibility on the line and that's why he said he may come back in six months and say this didn't work out. But I think Secretary Pompeo himself admitted that this is going to take two to two and a half years to fully denuclearize North Korea. So this is a work in progress.
Now, the President tweeted this morning that the biggest enemy of the United States is actually not something like a regime with nuclear weapons that has promised to annihilate the United States. Not something in that realm. He said the press is the biggest enemy. Tweeting, "So funny to watch the fake new, especially NBC and CNN, they're fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago, they would have begged for this deal, looked like war would break out. Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news so easily promulgated by fools."
Now, you yourself, Jim, when you were in Singapore, came under fire by Trump allies for asking questions to Trump and Kim, and at one point you and other reporters were asking questions during the signing of the statement.
[19:20:16] Let me just play that clip briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Did you agree to denuclearize?
TRUMP: Starting that process very quickly, very, very quickly. Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, 100 percent denuclearize?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You then asked Trump and Kim questions when they were on the balcony across from you and I'll play a clip for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Mr. President, how's it going so far, sir? What do you think?
TRUMP: Very good. Very, very good, excellent relationship. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kim, when will you be denuclearize?
TRUMP: Mr. Kim, will you give your nuclear weapons, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Right again you're there, so are others. That's how it goes. By the way, the President addressed you both times, but others close to him are slamming you. You know, saying you're the worst guy. You don't even deserve to be a reporter. You're being singled out. What's your response to that?
ACOSTA: My goodness, you know, there was a dictator just, you know, a few feet away from me at that times. How could I not ask this man if he was going to give up his nuclear weapons? How can I ask -- not ask the President in those situations are you making sure that this man was is giving up his nuclear weapons.
And so, I think I was just simply trying to do what a reporter should do in those situations. And, Erin, you know, that's not my way to shout questions or try to get a question in. And that's not your way. That's not CNN's way. It's American way.
And what I would say to the President's advisers and people who were going to hurl these kinds of insults at us, and even the President himself is that, you know, attacking the press is not the American way. You know, asking dictators hard questions about nuclear weapons, that is the American way and I'll to it again if I have the chance.
BURNETT: Right. And as you point out, it is the American way and it is moments like that when you had all of those I don't want to use word reporters, right, but people who work for the state media in North Korea. They're looking at you to see how you do your jobs, to see how you stand up to authority.
It's a moment where our country can show part of what makes it so great. And it is pretty shocking that it is being slammed by those in the highest places in this land. Thank you so much, Jim.
ACOSTA: You got it. Thank you, Erin. Appreciate it.
BURNETT: And OUFRONT now, Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" and former army commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
Gordon, you're with me, let me start with you. The Secretary of State says it's insulting, ludicrous and ridiculous that anybody would ask about verification being in the statement because it's there. But it's not there.
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR: It's not there and the Secretary of State's words really just show the state of mind how defensive he's become. You know, Pompeo is usually very open, very charismatic. And this time --
BURNETT: Yes, very affable frankly.
CHANG: And affable. And he's won applause for the way he's dealt with, not only foreign leaders but also everybody else. And this is just so striking. You know, this phrase is CVID. You know, the C is complete and he says it's complete. The V is verifiable, but C is not V and he should know that.
BURNETT: All right. I mean, it's a pretty basic thing, Mark. And yet, defensive at the least would be the word. I mean, he's saying it's insulting that anyone would even ask why the word isn't there. LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY, INTELLIGENCE AND TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, I don't understand it either, Erin. I mean, this is the kind of rigor and discipline that goes into these statements. And also should be transparent to let people know what actually happen. And to have the disconnect between the what Secretary of State said versus what is actually in the document, and also what the president is saying, is somewhat disconcerting.
BURNETT: It is disconcerting. And I want to play something else that just happened to get your reaction to it, both of you. The President just spoke to Bret Baier on Fox News. Literally, just played and I just want to play the clip here. We have about what he said on North Korea. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: You know, you call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He's executing people.
TRUMP: Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people. And you take it over from your father, I don't care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have, if you can do that at 27 years old, I mean, that's one in 10,000 that could do that. So he's a very smart guy. It's a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.
BURNETT: But he's still had done some really bad things.
TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people had done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Just to be clear here, the UN says you have 125,000 North Koreans in political prisons, Gordon, in 2014. Starvation rate, torture Kim himself has personally ordered the execution of 240,000 people, including his own half brother by poisoning in the Malaysia airport.
[19:25:03] We can go on and on, antiaircraft machine guns use to kill people. The UN actually, you know, I'll just read the exact quote here.
When they talked about North Korea, this issue of other bad operators, the quote was, "North Korean human rights violations do not have any parallel in the contemporary world and yet Trump is saying, well, a lot of other people have done bad things too. And he's a good guy. He loves his people.
CHANG: You know, that he loves his people is just incomprehensible.
BURNETT: Which is what he said at the press conference.
CHANG: At the press conference, Tuesday. And this is again, a very difficult thing for people to accept what Trump has said. And the other thing that is so perplexing to me is that during the state of the union message, Trump emphasized North Korean human rights. He brought the escapee who had been run over by the train.
You know, he had done more of that North Korea rights than any of his predecessors, and yet he said something like that to Bret Baier. That just to me, it doesn't come pure. And I don't understand it. And the United States should be standing for human rights all the time and we should not be giving excuses to people like Kim or anybody else.
BURNETT: All right. I mean, General, it's pretty stunning, right? And the President saying he loves his people, he loves his people at the press conference. We all remember Otto Warmbier, right, who came back essentially brain dead. President Trump, you know, making big comments about that at the time. But now, it's there's other bad guys out there.
I mean, General, the president also described the military exercises between North Korea, I mean, sorry, South Korea and the United States that have been going on for years as provocations and war games that are going to end and save a lot of money.
Now, just to be clear, war games and provocations are not word that the United States or its allies use to describe those, the words exercises. Those are the words Kim Jong-un uses to describe them. What do you make of that?
HERTLING: Well, you can't by definition call something that's a defensive exercise. Which is preparing for any kind of attack by North Korea into South Korea, which is the very, it describes the various war plans that we have on the books. It's a defensive deterrent.
That's not provocation. If anyone has been provocative, it is in fact been Kim Jong-un since he's been in power on multiple occasions, as well as his father and as well as his grandfather. They have done multiple things that have provoked South Korea killing people, killing Americans, killing South Koreans, invading their territory, downing ships, downing airplanes. So all of these things just seem strange but it's also a word that has been used by other countries.
Provocative, Russia, China and North Korea, have all used that term in suggesting that we should stop defensive deterrent exercises in South Korea, which we always tell them we're going to do. There are always notifications long in advance. We state exactly what the exercise objectives are.
BURNETT: Right. They're like clock work. And of course, the president's words were I wanted to stop the war games. I thought they were very provocative. It's a stunning statement from the president of the United States.
Thank you both so very much and next, one Republican calling out his own party when it comes to Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And a top Democrat with some shocking words about Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Sessions, he just love, you know, for black people to be in the back of the bus again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that fair or going way too far. Congressman Gutierrez is OUTFRONT tonight.
[19:31:45] BURNETT: Tonight, a cult. That's what a top Republican senator is calling his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: We're in a strange place. I mean, it's almost, you know, I've been a -- it's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it? It's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult- like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of -- purportedly of the same party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Purportedly of the same party. Trump the cult leader.
It comes as a top Trump critic in the GOP, Congressman Mark Sanford, who has won six races never had an issue lost in the primaries last night to a Trump supporter.
OUTFRONT now, editor of TheResurgent.com, Erick Erickson, and our political commentator, Ben Ferguson, and radio host.
Thanks to both.
Erick, the Republican Party, a bit of a cultist thing, led by President Trump, purportedly the leader of the party, according to Corker.
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR, THERESURGENT.COM: Yes, listen, there is a -- this is what Republicans said about Democrats back from 2009 to 2013 with Barack Obama, or 2017, that there could be no criticism anyone who criticized him from within the party was challenged.
I've been a Republican for a long time. I was critical of George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, even going back to Bob Dole, and never have seen the party turn on people critical. I mean, take Mark Sanford, for example. He left his wife and
children, abandoned them to go to Argentina to take up with his mistress, came back and publicly apologized, left the governor's mansion, got elected to Congress. The voters kept electing him, he voted against Barack Obama, he voted against George W. Bush, he voted against Donald Trump.
But then he began criticizing Donald Trump and is out of a job for criticizing him. All those other things --
BURNETT: So, cult is fair to you, Erick?
ERICKSON: I think the Republican Party is headed that way where they can't abide criticism of leadership.
BURNETT: Ben, cult?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Erick, I love you, but come on. Cult, really? I mean, this is absurd.
Bob Corker got more fired up yesterday as he was talking about his fellow Republicans and chastising them than he did during the entire eight years when Obama was present. I've never heard Corker's voice get that high for that long when he's ever been running for office, and he's a bitter old man that the people of Tennessee said, we're going to vote you out of office because you didn't do what you said you were going to do.
This actually is not that much to do with Donald Trump. Corker and others need to understand the reason why they're being drained out of the swamp is because they didn't do it they said they're going to do. Corker say he's going to repeat and replace Obamacare --
BURNETT: But, Ben, everything is Lindsey Graham is saying to do with Donald Trump, right? Because Corker isn't running, running for re- election for whatever reason, I take you what you're saying at face value, it doesn't even matter. He's not running.
So, now, he can come out and say what he really thinks.
But here's the thing this is the part about Corker where he's just a flat-out fraud. I mean, this is a guy who -- he's going to lose, so he doesn't run again, and he's a fraud because he didn't ever fight this hard when he actually had the power to make a difference and do change.
So, the voters said, we are done with you, and now, he's acting like and he's angry because he's losing power. I mean, this is the demise of a guy who had a lot of power in Washington and had a lot of influence --
(CROSSTALK) [19:35:01] BURNETT: But hold on, fraud would imply that you think he doesn't mean what he says. I -- it seems pretty clear to me he does mean what he says.
Erick, do you think he means what he says?
FERGUSON: I don't think he does.
ERICKSON: Well, first, let's back up. I agree with everything that Ben just said about Bob Corker. He's absolutely right about Bob Corker. No love for Bob Corker there.
But when a party --
ERICKSON: -- can't abide criticism, they can't abide Mark Sanford voting against the president, they just can't abide him speaking up critical of the president -- I mean, the president, you mentioned this comment that he made to Bret Baier just a few minutes ago that praising Kim Jong-un despite being a mass murderer and genocidal maniac --
ERICKSON: -- no one in the party wants to speak up about that.
BURNETT: No, I mean Bret Baier called him out. There have been a few people have tried to call him out about that, but there's been incredible silence on it. But -- that, along with the "Access Hollywood" tape, along with a lot of other things, Ben, there is clearly a fear among Republicans to speak out against the president.
FERGUSON: Let's deal with Kim Jong-un, right? A perfect example. Why is the president not going in there like he was a year ago when he was talking -- remember, a year ago, we were sitting here and people were saying Donald Trump's going to get us into world war three because of his rhetoric on North Korea.
BURNETT: But why were we saying that? Because why, because Donald Trump was talking about fire and fury and like of which the world has never before seen. That's why people were talking about this.
ERICKSON: I'm not allowed to criticize the president.
FERGUSON: Let's be clear though. You had a year ago where the president realized that that rhetoric was not working and was not going to get us to peace, so he did a 180 on that and now people are criticizing him for being nice to a guy that he's trying to get him to denuclearize. You're never going to get a deal with anyone like Kim Jong-un if
you're out there trashing him on all of these issues. It doesn't mean --
BURNETT: -- a guy who murders his own people and has done things not seen in the contemporary world on evil and human rights is somehow loves his people, OK? There's a line and then there's crossing it. So --
FERGUSON: If you have to, here's a thing about Donald Trump and this is the part about Sanford and others that lost yesterday, they don't understand. Sometimes people look for leadership and realize that sometimes leadership means having to work with people you don't necessarily like and getting along with them.
And Corker and Sanford and others, they might want to take a message from Donald Trump that you may not like the president, but it's better to work with him than --
BURNETT: Erick, I want to give you the last word. Erick, can I just play some of what Sanford said about Trump, which, by the way, he says he doesn't regret and he'd say it all again, he doesn't care that he lost because of it. But here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It doesn't make anybody's day when the president states says I want to take you out, but what I would say is, I don't work for him.
When the president says to somebody in the audience, I wish I could hit you in the face, if not, why don't you do it now pay your legal fees, we ought to call it for what it is, that's a problem.
I think a lot of people would say, OK, the guy said something stupid, I think a lot of people, you know, we're disappointed with the way he said it, what did what he said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Erick, does this mean even fewer people are going to criticize the president?
ERICKSON: Oh, I think so, until we get to a lame-duck Congress after November, then you may see Republicans temporarily grow a spine for a few months. And you know, this is the problem.
Listen, I think you should be able to criticize within your own party and I remember that many of the Republicans now praising President Trump for going and reaching out to Kim Jong-un were just two years ago attacking Barack Obama for reaching out to the Cuban president. In fact, Mercedes Schlapp, the communication leader in the White House --
BURNETT: Yes, I saw that.
ERICKSON: -- tweeted out at the time that what's next, he's going to --
FERGUSON: Cuba didn't have nuclear weapons. Cuba didn't have nuclear weapons.
ERICKSON: You know, but, Ben, listen, this doesn't matter.
FERGUSON: It's different.
ERICKSON: Can you not criticize the president of the United States as a Republican? No, I don't think you can. I agree with much of what you say about it. But listen, if the problem here, Ben, is that Republicans in the United States have a president of the United States who's coddling a dictator who ruthlessly murders his own people.
And he goes on national television on Fox, by the way, where again you're not allowed to abide criticism of dear leader, much like in North Korea often times, and he goes on and he says that this guy -- he took over from his father. Of course, he's going to be like this. He doesn't want to take criticism of the people, from the Republican.
FERGUSON: Erick, Sanford lost because he didn't listen to his own constituents.
ERICKSON: Yes, you're absolutely right and what did he not listen to?
FERGUSON: They lost because they were weak leaders.
ERICKSON: He didn't listen to people who can't abide criticism of the Republican president and that's the problem.
BURNETT: All right. I will hit pause. I know there's going to be a whole lot more of this conversation coming as, of course, we've got runoffs and Roby and all that everything else.
ERICKSON: Oh, yes.
BURNETT: Thanks to you both as always.
And next, one congressman saying Jeff Sessions would like for, quote, black people to be in the back of the bus again. Is that over the line? He's my guest next.
Plus, Michael Cohen's life after the FBI raid. Who's he talking to, what's he doing?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:43:21] BURNETT: New tonight, one Democratic congressman claiming attorney general Jeff Sessions wants blacks in the back of the bus again, and women in the kitchen. Here's Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Sessions, he just loves, you know, for black people to be in the back of the bus again. Yes, he loves for women to be in the kitchen. He loves for gay people to be in the closet again.
And for me, not to have a microphone to be able to speak to anybody. We're not going to allow that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman Gutierrez is with me now.
Congressman, welcome back to the program. I appreciate your time.
Blacks in the back of the bus again, those are your words. Do you really believe that?
GUTIERREZ: Oh, Erin, absolutely. I mean, this is a man when he came before the Senate to try to become a federal judge, Coretta Scott King came forward, right? I mean, they were all kinds of testimonies about him calling black men boys.
This is a man who was trying to strip black people as a U.S. senator from their voting rights and diminish their voting rights. This is a man that works for Donald Trump and we know what happened there with Charlottesville. We know where he's at.
And when it comes to the Violence Against Women's Act, he voted against it. When did you ever see him stand up for women? He's never stood up for women and he's never stood up.
This man that protects Donald Trump when down Trump says the transgender people in the military should be banished.
So, yes, I believe every last thing and there is a --
BURNETT: And you stand by it.
GUTIERREZ: Oh, for everything I say. Absolutely.
BURNETT: The thing, of course, though, is, Congressman, I mean, you, know blacks in the back of the bus, it's such a -- it's -- look, it's a historically loaded term in this country/
[19:45:07] And I just want to ask you because, according to the former district attorney in Mobile, Alabama, Sessions when he was the attorney -- state U.S. attorney there was personally responsible for the resources -- getting the resources that led to the conviction and death penalty for the head of the state's Ku Klux Klan.
Does that contradict your view of Sessions, that he took this on?
GUTIERREZ: Look, I look at the man today, the man today is trying to undermine voting rights. Voting rights in which black people in this country sacrificed their life, so that we could have a Voting Rights Act, a Civil Rights Act. When he came before the Senate, and this is just back, there were people who came forward.
So, look, sometimes people do one good thing, but that's not really their record or their history of who they are. Look at who Jeff Sessions is today. I mean, Violence Against Women's Act? You can't support women against being murdered and raped and abused?
Well, you're a U.S. senator and then you work for a man that we all know what he thinks about women.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you because you have used a very strong language and very articulately to talk about issues that you're passionate about, you're mentioning two of them tonight. I just wanted to play a few of the things congressman that you have said about this president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: We now know that we have in the White House someone who could lead the Ku Klux Klan in the United States of America.
If this president is not racist, then I don't know who is.
Trump's immigration approach is pretty simple: if you're white, you're all right. If you're brown, no, you're a little lower down. And if you're black, just go back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I know you mean everything that you said there.
BURNETT: I want to know, Congressman, you know when you -- you criticize the other side for dividing, attempting to divide this nation, when you say things like that, are you adding to those divisions or not?
GUTIERREZ: Actually, I am clarifying and amplifying the positions of the extremists which I think is very, very important, because when you don't do that, you allow for the creation of a fascist society. You need to speak out and denounce prejudice, racism, all forms of bigotry. And I will continue to do that in the Congress of the United States.
Look, this president of the United States is the one that has made a moral equivalency between protesters who are out there marching for common sense and common dignity in this country, and the KKK -- I mean, if the KKK goes wild,. and all the white supremacists go wild with -- just check them on the Internet.
So, yes, there is a connection between Donald Trump -- he is the one that called Mexicans murderers, rapists --
GUTIERREZ: -- and drug dealers, who said that a federal judge who was born an American could not be what they say fair because he's a Mexican, that's racism because what he has done is said that he's not qualified because of his national origin, his ethnicity.
And like Martin Luther King said, people should be judged, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Gutierrez. I appreciate your time tonight.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, new details about Michael Cohen and his life after the FBI raid. So, what's he been doing? Well, people who see him on a near-daily basis are speaking out.
And two men with ties to the president's campaign facing new questions over their ties to Russia. What do we know about these two people? It's an OUTFRONT explosive.
BURNETT: Breaking news: Michael Cohen ditching his legal team amid mounting legal pressure. The move raising the possibility he could flip and the question of whether Cohen turns on Trump has been top of mind since the FBI raided his home, hotel room and office that was 65 days ago.
So, what has every day been like since?
Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the FBI raided his home, hotel room and office in April, Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer has continued to stay at this luxury hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where suites cost nearly a thousand dollars a night.
According to a source at the Lowe's Regency Hotel Cohen has been occupying three adjoining rooms and he can often be seen dining with friends and family in the hotel's restaurant. That same source tells CNN, Cohen is always friendly with the staff but lately, he's been looking tired.
This amid the news that Cohen is expected to split from his legal team with the goal of hiring a legal team more experienced in handling the Southern District of New York according to a CNN source.
Since the April raid, a source says Cohen has developed a routine. He leaves the hotel in the morning to go to his lawyer's office and usually returns later at night. He has appeared twice in federal court and during another hearing, he was seen outside of the Lowe's spending time with friends.
Cohen has not been charged with a crime but prosecutors have zeroed in on his personal financial dealings, including the payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf before the election.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: It is clear from today's proceedings that Mr. Cohen and his attorneys are hell-bent on continuing to hide the truth from the American people.
GINGRAS: Daniels alleges that she had an affair with Trump and Cohen admits to borrowing money from his home equity credit line in 2016 to make a $130,000 hush payment to her, which the president initially denied knowing about but later said that Cohen was reimbursed through a retainer.
REPORTER: Do you think the president still has your back?
GINGRAS: President Trump has distanced himself from his so called fixer in the months since the raid occurred.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.
GINRGRAS: And a source says rising costs is one of the reasons why Cohen may be splitting with his legal team. Again, though, this says well for the past few months he's been living in three rooms at this hotel on one of the top floors while his apartment go undergoes renovations from a paper sting. But it's important to know, Erin, it's not clear where that money is coming from at this point -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brynn.
And next, two more political operatives known to the Trump campaign now being questioned about their ties to Russia. Who are they? This is a story you'll see only OUTFRONT.
[19:55:47] BURNETT: Tonight, two political operatives who became familiar faces of President Trump's 2016 campaign. They are now new names being probed for their ties to Russia. The two men went with Trump at Trump Tower in the days after he was elected, before he even sat down with major world leaders. Who are they?
CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT with this exclusive.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Arron Banks, the largest political donor to the U.K.'s Brexit campaign, became a familiar face on the Trump presidential campaign. He cheered on Donald Trump in Mississippi at a political rally, attended a campaign event in St. Louis, a debate in Las Vegas, even went to Trump's inauguration and has since spent time at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
He bragged in an email viewed by CNN that we've been working all summer helping the campaign.
And just four days after Donald Trump was elected, Banks along with fellow Brexit supporters Nigel Farage and Andy Wigmore met for more than an hour with the new president-elect, even before Trump had met Britain's prime minister. They say that meeting was unplanned.
What hasn't been known until now is Arron Banks was at the same time regularly meeting and communicating with Russia's ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko. Just days after their Trump Tower meeting, Banks and Wigmore had lunch again with the ambassador. Nigel Farage asked them about it on his British radio show just this week.
NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER U.K. INDEPENDENCE PARTY LEADER: Three days after we met president or President-elect Trump as he was, you met the Russian ambassador.
ARRON BANKS, BREXIT CAMPAIGN DONOR: Yes.
FARAGE: And people would say, well, were you reporting back?
BANKS: Well, not really. We had had a very pleasant lunch with him that lasted six hours and, of course, he saw a picture of us and the golden yellow doors of Trump's apartment and, of course, he got in touch with him.
GRIFFIN: The first Trump event attended by Banks was August 24th, 2016, just five days after a lunch was scheduled at the Russian embassy, according to an email viewed by CNN.
Wigmore has denied the lunch happened, but it is one of dozens of communications, invitations and discussions between Wigmore, Banks and Russian embassy officials.
DAMIAN COLLINS, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: There's nothing illegal with meeting with Russian diplomats or of doing business deals in Russia, as long as you're not breaking any of the sanctions against Russia. But I think we want to understand more about the nature of these meetings, the nature of this contact, and what was being discussed and to what extent our Arron Banks profited from his relationship with the Russian embassy.
GRIFFIN: In testimony before an investigative committee in parliament Wednesday, Banks denied giving the Russians anything sensitive, but did admit to handing over one piece of information after that Trump Tower meeting, how to get in touch with the president-elect.
BANKS: The only thing we gave in the second meeting was the telephone numbers or telephone number of the transition team.
GRIFFIN: Banks who also has a Russian wife has been trying to deny reports and innuendo from British press and politicians that he is acting is a potential Russian agent.
Banks does admit during one of his visits to the Russian embassy, he was offered involvement in a $3 billion deal to consolidate six Russian gold mines. CNN has learned the company was partially owned by Vladimir Putin's former deputy chief of staff. Banks says that deal never went through.
His story is confusing because he admitted, sometimes he lies or allows his sidekick Andy Wigmore to lie on his behalf.
ANDY WIGMORE, BREXIT CAMPAIGNER: I would be guilty of being provocative, a natural provocateur, slight exaggerating in the message quite often, and I'm guilty of doing that, absolutely.
GRIFFIN: Erin, Banks and Wigmore say it should be no surprise the U.S. authorities that they had ties to Russia, claiming they voluntarily turned that information over to U.S. officials. We have not been able to confirm that. There is also no evidence, at least so far, Erin, that anyone in Donald Trump's campaign knew Aaron Banks and Andy Wigmore, their two friends from Britain, were also lunch buddies with a Russian ambassador -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Drew. Thank you very much.
With that development on this, that exclusive from Drew, and thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.