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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Caputo, Stone Admit New Contact with Russian Who Promised Dirt on Clinton During Campaign; Source: House GOP Move to Hold Rosenstein in Contempt of Congress; Chief Denies Family Separation Amounts to "Child Abuse"; Children Reportedly Heard Crying for Parents in a New Audio Obtained From Detention Center. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired June 18, 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] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. Homeland Security secretary under fire, questioned about the controversial immigration policy that's led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents. Kirstjen Nielsen on the stand today.

Plus, another meeting between team Trump and a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for millions of dollars. The man who set it up, Michael Caputo is OUTFRONT.

And a source tells CNN, Republicans could move to hold Rod Rosenstein in contempt in days.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. The White House tonight struggling to contain growing outrage over separating families at the U.S./Mexico border. After repeatedly delaying, the White House press briefing, first, it was one hour, then it was two, then another. And then it was four hours after the scheduled briefing time until it started. The Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen back from New Orleans and she was the one who started the question and answer session even before Sarah Sanders took the podium.

Nielsen was hit with the basics, questions about the well-being of children in detention centers, questions about what's happening inside those detention centers. Questions she should have been able to answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing, that just came out today?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I have not seen something that came out today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the government only releasing images of the boys who are being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

NIELSEN: I don't know. I'm not familiar with those particular images.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We had children in DHS care, both. But as you know, most of the children after 72 hours are transferred to HHS. So I don't know what pictures you're referencing, but I have to refer you to HHS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen the boys, but we just haven't seen any of the girls, any of the young toddlers. And you're saying that they are being well cared for. So how can you make that claim if you don't know where they are?

NIELSEN: It's not that I don't know where they are. I'm saying that the vast majority of children are held by Health and Human Services. We transfer them after 72 hours. I don't know what pictures you're speaking about but perhaps they're --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been released in public and they've been aired all over national television.

NIELSEN: OK. By DHS or by HHS?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By HHS.

NIELSEN: OK, so let's find out from HHS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And you know, kind of a basic thing, where are all the girls and the toddlers? And what about if they're siblings with the little boys? The reality of it is, of course is DHS is implementing the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy that has led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents. The separation of families is something even some Republicans are calling immoral, cruel, and traumatizing.

Our Jeff Zeleny asked Nielsen straight up, is this child abuse?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How could this not be child abuse, for the people who are taken from their parents? Not the ones who are sent here with their parents' blessing with the smugglers, the people who are taken from their parents?

NIELSEN: Unfortunately, I'm not in any position to deal with, you know, hearsay stories. If someone has a specific allegation, as I always do when I testify, I ask that they provide that information to the Department of Homeland Security. We will look into it. Of course we do not want any situation where a child is not completely adequately taken care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Again, not in any position to deal with hearsay. But even if she couldn't answer some of the simple questions that of course the Trump administration knew would come at this briefing, could Nielsen admit that the president could be using this issue as leverage in his immigration fight?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Madam secretary, can you definitively say, are the children being used as pawns for a border wall? Yes or no? Can you say yes or no to that?

NIELSEN: The children are not being used as a pawn. We are trying to protect the children which is I'm asking Congress to act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: A definitive answer there. The truth though in terms of Congress, well, it doesn't need to act for the government to stop splitting up families. The attorney general Jeff Sessions announced this zero tolerance policy back in April. And the president at any moment could order Sessions to stop.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT. And Kaitlan, you know, this briefing obviously, there was high drama, right, delay, delay, delay, delay. Hours went by. Kirstjen Nielsen finally to the podium. How is this briefing playing inside the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it doesn't seem frankly to be playing out well. Kirstjen Nielsen was brought out to that briefing room to answer questions on this and quiet a lot of the criticism that the Trump administration has faced in recent days, as these images have flashed across television screens and been printed on the front page of newspapers. That's precisely why the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said she wanted Nielsen out there on this, because she's the expert on all of this.

But if you watch that briefing, if you were a reporter in that room, she didn't do a lot to quiet that criticism or to really answer any questions. In fact, she contradicted some things that past administration officials have said, including that she didn't believe this was a policy meant to deter people from crossing illegally.

[19:05:07] Even though that's what her mentor John Kelly, the person who convinced the president to give Kirstjen Nielsen this job as Department of Homeland Security secretary replacing him after he became chief of staff, said just last March on CNN that it was his thinking that it would deter people from crossing the border illegally.

She couldn't answer basic questions about where the young girls are in these detention facilities. She said she has visited them but said she couldn't explain for that. She also refused to acknowledge it as a policy of the Trump administration, pretty much going every other way around it to avoid saying that it was a policy, even though it clearly is what their policy is. And we saw the attorney general Jeff Sessions say as much when he unveiled it just last month.

So several things there. She also was blaming Congress repeatedly. We've seen that from the administration several times in recent days. A lot of blame for Democrats here even though Republicans in Congress haven't gone that far.

But, basically the bottom line here, Erin, is that she left a lot of people questioning what exactly it was that she accomplished by coming out and speaking with reporters almost in an upbeat mood today, I should note, Erin, when she really didn't answer that many questions.

BURNETT: No, she didn't. All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan. And I want to go now to the national affairs correspondent for the Nation, Joan Walsh, co-founder and chair of the pro-Trump pac Women for Trump, Amy Kremer, and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan.

April, you were in the room, and obviously, you were asking a question about the children and whether they were being used as pawns, was your word. What was the vibe in that briefing room, after waiting for what, four hours? Secretary Nielsen comes to the podium and everyone just saw a little bit about how she answered questions.

RYAN: Yes. Well, Erin --

BURNETT: Yes.

RYAN: Yes, typically, when we are waiting for hours and they push it back, well -- you know, they push it back quite a bit. But when you start at 1:15 and then you go to 3:30, and then it's pushed back even further to 5 p.m., they're trying to make moves to fix something or they're bringing someone out. And that's indeed what happened.

This is a very hot topic. The mood in this room was very different. It was off. You know, prior to the briefing, we were watching that very riveting audio. We are watching and listening to that audio with the children crying at the border and being separated from their family.

And then later on, during the time where the secretary of Homeland Security was answering questions in the Q&A, a reporter who has identified herself on Twitter, Olivia Nuzzi, decided that she was going to play the audio so that the secretary would hear it. And I could hear it in the third row and she was way in the back of the room. And I could -- once I went back in my office here at the White House to do my job, to do my reports, I could clearly hear it on the audio.

So my question is, did the secretary -- did madam secretary, and did the White House press secretary hear it? It was loud enough. And the mood in the room --

BURNETT: Yes, you could hear it in the background listening to the conference. RYAN: Yes, so the mood in the room was, we wanted answers. Because this --I mean, when you have a president whose base is upset, who the religious right, when you have Franklin Graham, you have a lot of people, who are in his camp, and even his own wife who's not happy about this, and all the living first ladies, this is a big issue. And when you deal with children, the nation rises up even if they are not children of America. These are children nonetheless, no matter where they come from.

BURNETT: Right. And children of course as we all know are children no matter where they come from. All right, I'm going to play that audio in just a moment, but Joan, let me go to you here. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics was talking to Gayle King this morning, she said the practice of separating families and specifically young children from their parents is child abuse. Jeff Zeleny asked about it. I played a clip of that but let me just play Kirstjen Nielsen's response again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: How is this not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are indeed being separated from their parents?

NIELSEN: So, I want to be clear on a couple other things. The vast majority, vast, vast majority of children who are in the care of HHS right now, 10,000 of the 12,000, were sent here alone by their parents. That's when they were separated. We now care for them. We have high standards. We give them meals, we give them education. We give them medical care.

There's videos, there's T.Vs. I've visited the detention centers myself. That would be my answer to that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: She denies it's child abuse.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: It's child abuse.

BURNETT: Now, if you take her numbers and say whatever you want to say about the 10,000 whose parents had sent them here with other people --

WALSH: Right. But it's different category of the story.

BURNETT: -- but even by her math, that leaves 2,000 children who were separated from their parents.

WALSH: We know there were at least 2,000 that the Trump administration separated from their parents. It is absolutely child abuse.

[19:10:01] Erin, we're both moms. This is -- there's a long literature of what early maternal separation between parent and child does to the child long-term. Even if it's brief, it's scary especially if it's extended.

And I could not believe that she sat there and denied it. She knows nothing about conditions. Everything that she was asks specifically about conditions in those facilities, she couldn't tell us a thing. So how can she say they're well cared for?

We're hearing stories that children are not -- they can't be hugged by these professionals because it's kind of a jail atmosphere, not a daycare atmosphere. They literally can't be hugged or picked up when they're crying for their mom.

There's a story that a young teenager had to change the diaper of a toddler because the people in charge didn't feel like they were authorized to change diapers. They don't have the right people in place. They are not doing the right thing. They don't have the right facilities.

This is child abuse. And it's being done in our name and it's got to stop.

BURNETT: Amy?

AMY KREMER, CO-FOUNDER AND CO-CHAIR, WOMEN FOR TRUMP: Well, I think it's horrific that we have to go through this, Erin. I mean, as a mom, I feel for these kids. I mean, my gosh, when I left Atlanta last night, I cried leaving my dog.

So America is compassionate. We do care, but the fact of the matter is, this is Congress's responsibility. I don't care if you say it's Republicans or Democrats. Fix the damn problem and fix it now. That's what we need to do and that's all we got to do.

BURNETT: And Amy, you know, you got a point in that Congress needs to change the law and we want to be additional laws. I get that.

KREMER: Yes.

BURNETT: But in the meantime, the president has complete, 100 percent jurisdiction on whether he goes go ahead and does this.

KREMER: This is not a law, this a policy.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: And this is up to their discretion.

BURNETT: Amy, why is he doing that?

KREMR: Erin, he tried to fix this problem back in the spring, earlier this year when he went to the Democrats. The Democrats don't want to fix this problem. They want this to be their issue going into the midterms because higher taxes and less jobs is not a winning proposition for them. They don't want to fix the problem opinion problem. That's the real issue here.

WALSH: This is a bipartisan bill. (CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Erin --

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: And the Trump administration refused to sign it. They made clear they wouldn't sign it.

BURNETT: April, are both sides using the children as pawns?

RYAN: Let me say this. This president could -- this president and the head of Homeland Security could easily reverse this.

WALSH: Tonight.

RYAN: And they could easily do it right now. But at the issue, Sarah Huckabee said -- when I asked the head of Homeland Security definitively, is this about children being used as pawns for a wall? She said no, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders came back when another reporter asked, you know, can you just do it on this piece if you work with Congress? She said it's all or nothing. So they want the wall included.

WALSH: That's right.

RYAN: So, I mean, if you have the issue right now --

KREMER: Do you have a problem with the wall, April? I mean, really --

RYAN: Excuse me!

KREMER: -- do you have a problem with it?

RYAN: I am a reporter, why are you coming at me about -- I could care less about a wall.

KREMER: Because we --

RYAN: Let me say this to you, I'm a reporter, I'm a -- don't put this on me. This is your president. Why don't you talk about the people back there, OK?

KREMER: Secure our borders.

RYAN: Don't accuse me, I'm a reporter, I'm asking questions, OK? Let's get that straight and it's not about politics. But the bottom line is, when you have children crying and you're hearing reports that these kids are being -- you don't know who's changing diapers, there's something wrong. I'm not weighing in one side or the other, but I'm saying there's something wrong and this president can fix it. He can easily fix it.

WALSH: They're using children as hostages to get their wall. They have taken these children hostages -- KREMER: That is not true, Joan.

WALSH: It's absolutely true.

KREMER: This president ran on securing the border.

WALSH: They're calling it a bargaining chip.

(CROSSTALK)

KREMERL: Erin, Erin, why --

(CROSSTALK)

KREMER: Why are you not concerned about this when the Obama administration was doing it? When you're showing --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: The Obama administration said they did not do this.

KREMER: Yes, they did. Yes they did.

RYAN: Well, give us the paper. Don't say it blindly. Give us the facts. Show me. Show me. Prove it.

KREMER: Give -- the press came out and was running pictures of what happened back in 2014. And then when they were called out on it, they backpedalled. Now here we are. Let's secure --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: This is a issue about humanity, not about politics. This is a issue of humanity -- Amy, this is a issue about humanity, not about politics. You even had Franklin Graham --

KREMER: You're right, it is about humanity. We're also a nation of laws and secure the damn border.

RYAN: You have Franklin Graham, whom the president loves --

WALSH: The border is not secure.

RYAN: -- who said this is about family and talking religion. I mean, come on, this is about humanity, about people. You talk about you have children and dogs. I mean, we all have children.

KREMER: You know what, I have a question for you. We all have children, right? And I want to know, would any of you send your -- any one of your children thousands of miles away without you, not knowing what's going to happen?

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: We're talking about toddlers that come with their parents.

[19:15:02] KREMER: This is a thing. Erin, let me tell you something.

WALSH: That's a totally different category.

KREMER: Erin, let me say something.

RYAN: No, you said -- let me respond to you. Since you brought me into this. Since you brought me into this. No, I would not do that to my child. I'm with my children as much as I can be.

But guess what, we don't have the circumstances that some of these people have. I am not living, trying to duck and run. So you don't know what people are going through, until you walk in someone else's shoes, don't say what you would do.

KREMER: I agree with you, but let me say something. If people are truly seeking asylum, then you go to a port of entry then --

RYAN: You don't know what these people are doing.

(CROSSTALK)

KREMER: We had 14 percent of --

RYAN: You cannot assume. You cannot assume.

KREMER: I'm not assuming anything.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Then why did you said, they had to walk across the border.

(CROSSTALK)

KREMER: Most of these children are being brought in by cartels and coyotes. That's who are bringing them in. Ten thousand of the 12,000 that are being detained right now have been brought in, they're not with their parents. We need to secure the border --

WALSH: We're not talking about them.

KREMER: We need to secure the border, fix the problem. And if anybody who's seeking asylum --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- we're talking about the 2,000 children who come with their parents and are then taken away from their parents. That's the group we're talking about. You keep mentioning the other children but we are talking specifically about that group.

WALSH: I challenge you to listen to this audio that came out today, Amy. You listen to it.

KREMER: Joan, I heard it.

WALSH: These are not smugglers, these are not coyotes. And Secretary Nielsen did something kind of evil tonight by introducing that new line of reasoning that, oh, these are smugglers, these are traffickers. No, you hear people calling for mommy, mommy, and daddy, daddy, these are not traffickers. This is a new lie. Every night there's a new lie, Amy.

KREMER: It's not a lie.

WALSH: Every night there's a new lie.

KREMER: It's not a lie. This is what the Democrats want to run on, because they can't run on --

WALSH: No, they don't. Oh, my God.

KREMER: -- higher taxes and less jobs.

BURNETT: Amy, Kirstjen Nielsen admit it that 2,000 of those children have been pulled from their parents. So if you're saying it's a lie, you're saying she's lying also.

KREMER: Let's close the loophole, Erin. Let's close the loophole.

RYAN: What about the issue now. What about the emergent issue now? What about the emergent issue now? What about the emergency of now?

KREMER: Right. Congress needs to fix it. They can fix it tonight.

RYAN: Fix this, but you want everything, you want a wall, you want everything. But what about the emergent issue?

WALSH: Only Donald Trump can fix it tonight, he can end this policy. It's not a law. He can do it himself.

BURNETT: So you want them taken care of, Amy, if you get a wall, that's what you're saying?

KREMER: I mean -- I want both of them. It doesn't have to be one or the other, Erin.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: But you're saying you're not going to help these kids unless you get the wall, right?

RYAN: They can remain in a bad situation and hurt until you get a wall. And that could be years, months, whatever down the road. But the hurt will continue, is that what you're saying?

KREMER: No, April, that's not what I'm saying. And don't try to put words in my mouth.

RYAN: Well -- no, that's what you just said. I'm not putting words into your mouth. You said it.

KREMER: We could have fixed it a long time ago. We could have fixed it a long time ago. BURNETT: All right, I'm going to leave it there. Thank you all very much.

And when we talk about what can happen in Congress, we -- I also want to play that shocking audio as we get ready to talk to Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley who's been at the front of this.

ProPublica published it. This is the audio from inside a facility where some of these children have been separated from their parents. Listen in.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't cry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want to go with my aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: Senator Jeff Merkley has been inside those detention centers, he's OUTFRONT, he's going to talk about that and answer Amy's question.

Plus, two Trump confidantes suddenly remembering a meeting with a Russian who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. How could they have forgotten? Well, one of them is going to come OUTFRONT and tell his side of the story.

Also breaking, the fight escalating between Republicans and Rod Rosenstein tonight. Are they going to hold the deputy attorney general in charge of the Russia investigation in contempt?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:22:33] BURNETT: Breaking news, the audio. The audio obtained by ProPublica from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, you will now hear it in full. Children crying for their parents. One 6-year-old girl pleading for someone to call her aunt. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): El Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Guatemala.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't cry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want to go with my aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dad!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm going to take you to speak to the person from your consulate, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dad!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She'll help you call your aunt, if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have her number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): OK, so she'll help you right now so you can talk to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dad!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BURNETT: CNN has not been able to independently verify the source of that tape, but you heard in full what we have tonight. And I want to go now to the Democratic senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, who's been speaking out. He's been down to the border, he saw a Texas immigration detention facility firsthand.

And Senator, you saw obviously what was happening in one detention center and now this audio is getting a lot of attention tonight. Obviously, the Homeland Security secretary was asked about it today, then it was played in the background of the entire briefing. Does what we just heard reflect what you witnessed and saw?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, what I saw at the processing center were children who had been assembled into a 30 by 30 chain linked fence space who had been, many of whom had been -- many of whom have been separated from their parents within the previous hours or previous day. They weren't sobbing while I was there. I did ask about these painful separations. They said it happens, some, yes, there. A lot of separations occur before people get there.

I mean, the kids don't know what's going on. They don't know where they're headed. They don't know how long they're going to be separated. They don't know when they'll see their parents again. And their parents don't know what's going on either.

Everybody who works with these kids is bringing forward how -- what type of irreparable harm is done in these separations.

[19:25:07] And it just rips your heart apart.

BURNETT: I mean, of course the chief of the American Association of Pediatrics said it was akin to child abuse. Reporters today asked Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary about whether the kids were being used as pawns, right, leverage basically to get you guys in Congress to pass an immigration bill that would include funding for the president's wall. Here's the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?

NIELSEN: I find that offensive. No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps as a deterrent.

NIELSEN: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Your response, Senator?

MERKLEY: She told a lot of whoppers at that press conference. She said there's no strategy of deterrence, yet that's exactly what John Kelly and Jeff Sessions argued was the purpose of this, was to send a message to families overseas not to come to America. She said this is about smugglers.

Clearly when children are safely in the United States, they're not as risk of smugglers. That was a whopper. She said this is not being used as a pawn for legislation. Yet that's exactly what the president said it was, that this was legislative leverage.

She did not -- she told a whopper of omission as well. And that's that she said people should just simply go to the ports of entry. But the ports of entry for those seeking asylum have been blocked. I went out there yesterday with a group of six other members of Congress. We saw the border guard standing there checking papers and only letting those across the bridge who already had visas to come into the United States, or American passports and so forth. They were blocking those who didn't have papers, who would be asserting themselves for asylum.

So they're essentially forcing people to cross the border illegally, or leave them stranded in these very dangerous Mexican side of the border.

BURNETT: So, you know, they keep making the point that, well, Congress, you guys could change this, via a law. And this is a nation that enforces its laws. There's a point. You want to be a nation that enforces law because you don't want to say, well, we enforce this one, but not that one because that's not what a democracy or the United States should do.

They're using that argument to say to apply to this and saying that it's on you. You all need to change the law. All they're doing is enforcing it. What do you say? MERKLEY: Well, they have a choice here of doing a civil infraction or a criminal infraction. They have close -- they have chosen to make it very difficult for people at ports of entry to assert asylum. So it's a big, coordinated strategy to result in tearing, well, children away from their parents to send a political message, or to create legislative leverage.

That is not acceptable under any moral code, to hurt children and parents in that fashion. Not acceptable in any religious tradition. And if she's going to tell whoppers like that and keep repeating them, she simply needs to step down. We need somebody there with integrity.

BURNETT: And do you think that's where we are now? Do you think she should resign as your colleague Senator Hirono and Senator Harris have called for?

MERKLEY: Absolutely. One hundred percent because she's not being honest with Americans, and it's so absolutely clear. I mean, she's contradicting her president. She's contradicting her chief of staff. She's contradicting the attorney general. And just making up these arguments as she goes. So, yes, absolutely.

BURNETT: All right, Senator Merkley, thank you so much for your time.

MERKLEY: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, the Trump campaign asked to fork over millions in exchange for dirt on Hillary Clinton. That offer coming from a man with a heavy Russian accent, but his team forgot about the Russian request until now? Well, one of the men involved, whose memory failed him, is going to come and answer our questions.

Plus, the Justice Department inspector general speaking out tonight about President Trump's claim that its recent report exonerates him. Does it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:32:43] BURNETT: New tonight, two more cases of Team Trump forgetting Russian contacts. The two are Roger Stone, President Trump's long-time associate, and Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign communications official.

Now, Stone now admits he met with a Russian who wanted $2 million in exchange for dirt on Hillary Clinton. And Stone says he failed to include this when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee. The person who set up the meeting for Stone, Michael Caputo, who also didn't mention the incident when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.

So, why are we just learning about this Russian offer and meeting now? Well, text messages in short.

According to a text thread obtained by "The Washington Post," Caputo asked Stone, quote: how crazy is the Russian? Wants big money for the info is and waste of time, says Stone. Caputo then texts, the Russian way, anything at all interesting? Stone, no.

This exchange, of course, in text is a far cry from what the two men said just a year ago. Here's Stone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I didn't talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And Caputo also made his position very clear. Here he is speaking to our Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Did you bring any Russians to that campaign? Did you talk about Russia, or the possible help the Russian government could give the campaign?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Never once. Never once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Definitive.

Well, Michael Caputo is here tonight, he wants to set the record straight and he is OUTFRONT.

Michael, good to have you back.

Look, you and I have spoken before. You've been a straight shooter when we've talked about these things. Your testimony before Bob Mueller, as just an example. The context here, of course, is forgetting Russia links is something we've seen a lot, right?

Jeff Sessions forgot about meetings with the Russian ambassador. Jared Kushner forgot about the infamous Trump Tower meeting on his FBI security clearance forms. Michael Flynn forgot about contacts with the Russian ambassador and, of course, ended up pleading guilty to perjury because of it. Do you understand why people are suspicious of your saying you forgot?

CAPUTO: No doubt. I know it isn't a good look for me, but it just happens also to be a fact. You know, by updating my testimony from July 2017, I fulfilled my obligation to the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

[19:35:12] This was something that I didn't remember, an answer to a question where I should have responded to this, I said, not that I recall. This I do recall now, when I was -- I recalled it when I was preparing for my testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Mueller team on May 1st and 2nd, and -- just last month. I started preparing in mid April, and through a process that my attorney put me through in preparation, kind of a moot practice, it's something he said, you know, that I recalled during that process.

And he said, well, listen, you got to amend your testimony to the House investigation. It's closed now, but you got to do it. You also have to reveal this to the Senate if they ask and the Mueller team if they ask. So, I prepared to do both of those things. On the first, at the Senate, nobody asked me something to where this would be responsive. And remember, still, to this point, I thought this was just some guy who called me and I passed him off to Roger Stone. It was about two minutes of my life, and I still thought at that point that it was nothing.

And then I went to Mueller on May 2nd -- go ahead.

BURNETT: I was curious, because from your timeline is you recalled it preparing for testimony to the Senate and to Mueller, not during either of those.

CAPUTO: Right, right. No, no, not at all.

BURNETT: What made you recall? What made it come to mind?

CAPUTO: I have a great attorney, Dennis Vacco was U.S. attorney in western New York, and New York attorney general. He has a pretty rigorous process to prepare somebody for this kind of an event, and it was during that process that I recalled it. You know, to me, it was just one call from some guy and it just went on from there.

So when I went to the Senate, like I said, they didn't ask. I went to Mueller, and the Mueller team asked me the exact same question that was in my House hearing. I mean, as far as I could tell, word for word. Did any Russian ever offer you information about the Hillary Clinton --

BURNETT: Did they have the proof basically?

CAPUTO: You know, they did. But when they asked me that question, I said yes. I was approached by a guy named Henry Greenberg. I think he was of Russian descent, but an American citizen. And he offered information, I bounced him over to Roger Stone. And Roger Stone met with him and figured out that he was a crack pot and he moved along.

You know, when I answered that way, I could tell that the lawyer who was questioning me, his face just fell. It was clear at that moment that they just avoided a perjury trap because they thought that if I didn't answer it with the House correctly, that I wasn't going to answer it correctly with them. But since I had been through the exercise with my attorney, I recalled it when they asked. And I realized they knew more about this meeting than I did.

BURNETT: Right, because I know you're saying, you weren't at the meeting. We have the text messages afterwards, when stone told you he wants big money for the info. Waste of time.

Did your lawyer get these messages? I'm curious what would make you remember if it was so insignificant, suddenly you remembered it? CAPUTO: Well, it was more along the lines of anything insignificant

is important now, Michael. It was that kind of a question. It was such a minutia that, you know, I guess over a process of a couple of weeks, I realized it was something I had to disclose.

But in fact, when they asked me when it happened, when Mueller team asked me when it happened, I said I thought it was in late June. I didn't know quite when. That's when they presented the text messages which confirmed that had happened right before may 29th, the date of the text messages.

BURNETT: So I'm curious, because you say that this guy calls you, that you presume to be of Russian descent. Of course it turns out he's Russian, not of Russian descent. "The Washington Post" is talking about him having a thick Russian accent.

Why at the time did this not trigger anything in your mind? Someone with a trick Russian accent calling, offering dirt on Hillary Clinton for money, right? That would be illegal. Nothing triggered a red flag that you would have remembered it when you testified in front of the House?

CAPUTO: Well, remember, if you look at the timing of when the FBI informant contacted me, it was in May when nobody was talking about Russia at well. If I had been contacted by a French Canadian, I would have still bounced him over to Roger Stone. We weren't -- our antenna weren't up for Russia contacts at all in, in the media, in the Hillary Clinton campaign or in the Trump campaign.

BURNETT: Were you open, I guess, I'm trying to understand, Michael, were you open to then somebody from any place, friend or foe, American or non-American providing information for money? Yes, that was on the able, you were open to it? I don't understand any other way to interpret this.

[19:40:01] CAPUTO: This gentleman presented himself as an individual, not a person from the government of Russia. And then if you read "The Washington Post" article, he was offering private information from a former employee of the Clinton Foundation. This isn't an approach from a government at all. Except, it's an approach from the United States government by an FBI informant who was working for the FBI for 17 years. That's an important point.

BURNETT: What is your evidence of that? I guess I'm torn, because it doesn't in a sense matter if the person is an informant or not. What would matter was your intent and belief when you talk that phone call, all right? At the time, you didn't think it was informant, right --

CAPUTO: Well, I think it does matter.

BURNETT: OK, why do you think it matters?

CAPUTO: It matters because right now we're going with the fallacy, this whole investigation started in late July. This is late May. It's two months earlier. So, it would matter if an FBI informant contacted me, and indeed he did. So, as far as I'm concerned -- BURNETT: What evidence do you have that this person was an FBI

informant at that time? That's a very specific question.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO: I don't have evidence. That wouldn't be available -- that wouldn't be available to me. The reason I know he was an FBI informant for the 17 years prior is because he's sworn affidavit out in California court to try to get another visa from the FBI.

I mean, and then he always included, which is on my Website, DemocratDossier.org, where I have my stuff posted, DemocratDossier.org, there are at least 17 informant visas get granted by the FBI in that dossier. As far as I'm concerned, he was -- and as far as a sworn affidavit under oath is concerned, he was an FBI informant for 17 years.

The matter of whether or not he took, after that long career as an informant, if he took his day off and came to meet Roger Stone, I guess maybe he did. But now, the onus is on the FBI to prove that he was not an FBI informant at the time he approached the Trump campaign.

BURNETT: So, you know, Michael, Hope Hicks, back in November of 2016, she told the "Associated Press" at the time, of course, spokesperson for the president, she said there was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign. The president himself, as you know, has echoed that sentiment again and again. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Back to this fundamental point, Michael, 14 Trump associates we now know had contacts with Russians during the campaign or during the transition. Does this concern you? I mean, I still find it hard to understand how, if a meeting was so insignificant, you then remembered it later? Did you not, I guess prepare at all for the House testimony? Is that the best way to explain it?

CAPUTO: No, not at all. I prepared for the house testimony the same way I prepared for the Senate and the Mueller testimony. But, you know, it's a two-minute conversation, two years before. So, I know it's not a good look, but at the end of the day, I met my obligation for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and I have no legal exposure here.

In fact, this is an interaction that amounted to nothing. It's not even germane. The only thing we're talking about is whether I misrepresented myself at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, when in fact what we should be talking about is why the Comey FBI decided to send a violent Russian, criminal, illegal alien, under their watch into a white collar investigation? I don't understand it.

I think we need to find out -- we got to get to the bottom of that. This guy was convicted of a gun crime in California, spent ten years in prison in Russia. And yet he's working for the FBI.

BURNETT: We're talking about Henry Greenberg. And again just to make the point that, obviously, you don't know at the time whether he was working or not. But the assumption you're making --

CAPUTO: We need to know.

BURNETT: We do not know. Michael Caputo, thanks so much. I appreciate your time tonight.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Erin. Appreciate it.

BURNETT: And next, CNN just learning Republicans could hold the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt. What are Republicans asking for tonight?

Plus, the breaking news, the Trump administration defending its policy of separating children from parents at the border. Tonight, you'll meet a family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:11] BURNETT: Breaking news contempt, a source telling CNN tonight that Congress could move within days to hold the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt if he doesn't turn over documents related to the Russia investigation and Clinton email probe. Rosenstein's refusal to hand over all the documents is outraging Republicans who have now given him a deadline.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.

And, Manu, the House GOP wants these documents as they'll define as that term maybe right now. What's their strategy?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have been demanding documents for some time. This relates to a subpoena that the House Judiciary Committee chairman issued in March, demanding a whole range of things from what records were regarding the Clinton e-mail investigation, the Clinton Foundation itself, as well as the Russia investigation about any records dealing surveillance of Carter Page, that former Trump associate, as well as anyone else who was surveilled under FISA.

There are thousands and thousands of documents that they have been demanding. They've been getting a lot of them, Erin, but they are asking for a whole lot more. I am told there is a closed door meeting on Friday between the House Speaker Paul Ryan, Trey Gowdy, Bob Goodlatte and Devin Nunes, three committee chairman, they all said they need this information by this coming Friday. If not, they are warning of, quote, consequences for Rod Rosenstein.

And what I am told separately from a source is that means the House can move as soon as next week to hold Rosenstein in contempt, some conservatives want to go further and hold and actually impeach Rod Rosenstein and tonight, Erin, Democrats concerned that it's all part of an effort to undercut Rosenstein. Of course, in charge of the Mueller investigation and presumably use his pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein if Donald Trump were to choose to do that, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Manu.

I want to go straight now to Carrie Cordero who's the former counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for national security.

And, Carrie, great to have you. What are the implications for contempt?

[19:50:01] If that were to happen, they go ahead, then what?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, what they would do is if the House -- first, the House would have to actually vote, if the House passes the ruling on contempt, then the House would actually have to go to court to enforce it. And so, well, first of all, if they voted, that potentially could talk the Justice Department sort persuade them into complying, the threat of contempt. But if they voted, then they would have to go to federal court, ask a judge to consider. In theory, the judge could have Rod Rosenstein fined. In theory, se or she could hold him, and threaten jail.

So, there is sort of potentially harsh consequences. The more likely scenario is that the judge would negotiate some type of agreement in terms of what documents would actually be provided.

BURNETT: So, obviously, the repercussions, obviously, the threat that could be hanging over him if they are successful to be able to move ahead with this would be significant. You know, Trump said the inspector general report in the Clinton email investigation totally exonerates him, Carrie. As you know, he said there was no collusion. He is totally exonerated. He's talked about Russia.

So, today in the hearing, the man who wrote the report, the Department of Justice's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, was specifically asked whether Trump was exonerated and here is the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: There is nothing in the report that says it exonerates the president from any question of the collusion with the Russians. It says nothing one way or the other. Is that correct?

MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL, DOJ: We did not look into collusion questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Pretty clear, Carrie, right? He is saying they did not look into collusion, but Trump is saying he is totally exonerated and obviously saying it loudly and widely. Does the president have a leg to stand on with that claim?

CORDERO: No, he doesn't. Erin, I read the report. This report and this inspector general's investigation was about the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. It had nothing to do with the inquiry into Russian interference in the election or anything related to the Trump campaign.

It's not true. That's his talking point, but it's not what this report is about.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, very much. Carrie, I appreciate it. Good to see you.

CORDERO: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news, the White House standing by, defending its policy of separating young children from their parents at the border. Tonight, see what the personal effect this policy is having.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:56:15] CUOMO: Breaking news, Senator John McCain speaking out about the administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the border. He is tweeting, quote, the administration's current policy separation policy is an affront to the decency of American people and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now.

This from a Republican, coming as one father is desperately trying to stay connected to his wife and children who were split up across the country. They sought asylum in the United States just last month.

Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what family separation looks like. A father taking sanctuary in a Tijuana, Mexico church, clinging to a spotty Internet signal that connects him to his family.

Ignacio Villatoro is desperate. His wife and four children detained and held in three different detention centers in three different U.S. states. The family asked for asylum at the border last month and now their future together looks grim.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions limited asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence. Protections Ignacio's family was counting on when they left their native Guatemala. He can hardly contain his emotions, every time he dials his three youngest kids 3,000 miles away at a New York detention center.

After several unsuccessful tries, his video finally connects, but it's only his 13-year-old who pops up on the screen. His two youngest boys ages two and six don't want to talk to their dad.

A therapist tell him over video chat his kids feel abandoned and blame him for their misery.

Before his perilous journey north, Villatoro tried to clean up his increasingly dangerous neighborhood in Guatemala, leading a small civil police patrol of about a dozen men.

Arming themselves with clubs and machetes. But protecting his community put him and his family in the crosshair of gangs.

(on camera): I am asking if he protected his identities.

(voice-over): They received a threat so menacing, the once thriving bakery owner packed a few things and joined the migrant caravan with plans of seeking asylum in the U.S. His 20-year-old was sent to a detention center in San Diego. His wife Maria ended up in a detention center in Texas with her three youngest boys, ages two, six and 13. Only to be split again when the boys were sent to a New York detention center two weeks later.

ICE says she has a criminal record for lying about being a U.S. citizen in 1999, spending 25 days in a federal prison.

Villatoro's voice breaks as he says goodbye to his 13-year-old son.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: Now, if you are wondering why this dad stayed in a Mexico church, he says that he made the heart wrenching decision to stay behind because he got deported seven years ago and he said that he couldn't walk up to U.S. officials and ask for asylum, so he decided to allow his wife and his kids to do, hoping that U.S. asylum laws would protect them -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Rosa, thank you very much from the border.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.