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THE SITUATION ROOM
Omarosa Criticizes Trump; Paul Manafort Trial Continues; Interview With New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; Prosecutors In Manafort Trial Ask Judge To Make Another Correction; Wash Post: Omarosa Claims She Was Offered $15,000 A Month To Keep Silent About Her Time In White House; CNN Joins Navy Mission Over China's Disputed Man-Made Islands; State of Emergency as Wildfire Burns Out of Control. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 10, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Former "Apprentice" star Omarosa is firing back tonight with some explosive claims in her new book, calling the president racist and detailing an alleged attempt to silence her.
Avenatti 2020? Stormy Daniels' attorney pops up in Iowa and says he's considering running against President Trump, promising a decision in the coming weeks. Does he have what it takes to mount a credible campaign?
And burning up. A wildfire that's forced more than 21,000 people to evacuate intensifies amid soaring temperatures and gusty winds. Tonight, a state of emergency is in effect as the blaze burns out of control.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight, special counsel Robert Mueller is moving closer to President Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone.
At least three people tied to Stone have now been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, including Kristin Davis, also known as the Manhattan Madam, who was scheduled to testify today.
We will talk about, with more -- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by.
But, first, let's go to CNN national political reporter M.J. Lee. She's at the federal courthouse here in Washington.
M.J., what can you tell us?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we still don't know why Robert Mueller is interested in talking to Kristin Davis.
But she does appear to be one of several people close to Roger Stone that he is interested in talking to, even though Roger Stone says that, as of today, he himself has still not been contacted directly by Robert Mueller or his investigators.
LEE (voice-over): The woman known as Manhattan Madam, Kristin Davis, scheduled to testify today before grand jury in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Special counsel investigators could be interested in her ties to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone. She was interviewed by investigators last week. She and Stone have been close friends for a decade.
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Kristin Davis is a brilliant woman, a friend of mine, someone who has made mistakes and has paid her debt to society.
LEE: Davis once ran a high-end prostitution ring. She went to jail as part of a scandal surrounding then Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
ELIOT SPITZER (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The remorse I feel will always be with me.
LEE: She even unsuccessfully ran for New York governor in 2010, with Stone as her strategist.
KRISTIN DAVIS, FORMER MANHATTAN MADAM: I have redeemed myself and Americans believe in second chances.
LEE: Davis has also worked with Stone more recently. In late 2016, she helped him with clerical tasks and his Web site.
STONE: She knows of no Russian collusion or WikiLeaks collaboration or any other illegal activity on my part in connection with the presidential election or otherwise.
LEE: Mueller's team has been looking into possible contacts between Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign.
U.S. intelligence completed Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials and provided the stolen e- mails to WikiLeaks, all as part of Moscow's effort to meddle in the election. Assad denied the hacked documents came from the Russian government.
Stone once bragged about being in contact with Assange.
STONE: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation. But there's no telling what the October surprise may be.
LEE: But later walked it back.
STONE: Where is the proof? There is no proof.
LEE: But the circle is continuing to tighten around Stone, as Mueller has also subpoena Randy Credico to testify next month. The comedian and radio show host attorney telling CNN he intends to comply.
RANDY CREDICO, ATTORNEY: My name is now out there.
LEE: Stone claims Credico was his back channel to Assad's during the 2016 campaign, Stone telling CNN: "I now realize that Credico's source was a WikiLeaks lawyer and not Assange himself. At no time did Credico tell me what the source, content or scope of the WikiLeaks disclosures would be."
And while Davis appears to be cooperating with Mueller, another former aide of Stone's, Andrew Miller, did not appear for a scheduled grand jury hearing today and was held in contempt. His attorney telling reporters:
PAUL KAMENAR, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW MILLER: He supplied the all the documents that they wanted, so we had to have one thing that he was refusing to do, namely go before the grand jury, in order for us to get the contempt and to appeal.
LEE: Now, Rudy Giuliani has said that he wants this investigation to be wrapped up by September 1.
Seems pretty clear that is not going to happen. Randy Credico's lawyer tells CNN that he plans to testify before the grand jury on September 7 -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Looks like this is going to drag into the fall.
CNN's M.J. Lee, thank you very much.
We're also following explosive allegations in a new book by former White House aide and reality TV personality Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
CNN's White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, has details from New Jersey, where the president is at his Bedminster golf club.
Boris, "The Washington Post" obtained excerpts of the book, and reports that Omarosa calls the president a racist, and claims the president and his family tried to buy her silence. What can you tell us?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, really appalling allegations coming from Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a former Trump aide, who is suggesting that the White House offered to pay her hush money to keep her from telling this story. As the White House also pushes back on the idea that the president is
a bigot, thousands of white nationalists are getting prepared to demonstrate just outside the White House this weekend.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the former "Apprentice" star who became a top White House aide, bringing more reality show drama with her new tell-all book, claiming she was offered $15,000 a month to stay silent after being fired, according to "The Washington Post," which obtained excerpts from "Unhinged."
According to "The Post," she says that President Trump's daughter-in- law, Laura Trump, called her offering a job doing diversity outreach for the campaign and a monthly contract in exchange for her silence regarding Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their families.
But she says in the book that she turned down the offer, which came via e-mail. It's not known, though, if that e-mail or the alleged agreement is contained in her book. Laura Trump, who's married to son Eric, refused to comment to CNN.
Known simply by her first name, Omarosa was one of the few prominent African-Americans in the Trump administration. She repeatedly praised the president.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.
SANCHEZ: And even defended him on issues of race.
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Donald Trump is racial. He is not a racist. Yes, I will acknowledge many of the exchanges, particularly in the last six months, have been racially charged. Do we then just stop and label him as a racist? No.
SANCHEZ: But now, after working at the White House, she says Trump is a -- quote -- "racist, misogynist, and bigot."
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tonight pushing back, saying -- quote -- "Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations. It's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks."
Many of the accusations Omarosa makes in her book are impossible to verify, but she claims to have recordings that "The Post" says they have listened to and match quotations in her book. The attacks from Omarosa come as the president started his day attacking NFL players who kneeled in protest at preseason games.
The president tweeting -- quote -- "Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your national anthem, or be suspended without pay."
And one of the presidents top supporters on FOX News is under scrutiny for echoing the message of white nationalists."
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people.
SANCHEZ: Laura Ingraham's comments immediately getting praise from white supremacists like David Duke, all setting the stage for a weekend where white supremacists are planning a march outside the White House to mark the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right Charlottesville riots, when one woman was killed by a neo-Nazi demonstrator.
Another reminder of how President Trump responded in the aftermath.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had some very people in that group, but you also people that were very fine people on both sides.
SANCHEZ: Jim, CNN has reached out to both officials on the Trump reelection campaign and in the vice president's office to get a comment on these claims about nondisclosure agreements coming from Omarosa. We have yet to hear back -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right.
CNN's Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.
Let's get more on all of this with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, let's start first with these developments surrounding Roger Stone. It looks like Robert Mueller is starting to focus on Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump. He's trying to talk to all these various people connected to Roger Stone.
Do you believe Stone is a key witness in all of this?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, it certainly appears so.
And what may be the case is that Roger Stone is the key to the triangular relationship that apparently existed between WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign, and Russian spies that resulted in hacked and leaked information being used to undermine the Clinton campaign, to the benefit of Donald Trump, all part of what appears to be a conspiracy to sell out our democracy and artificially place Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And it would come to no surprise -- as no surprise to anyone if Roger Stone was at the center of it all.
ACOSTA: And Roger Stone tells CNN, Congressman, he still has not been contacted by the Mueller team. What does that tell you? That doesn't necessarily mean that he's not a target.
JEFFRIES: He may be a subject, he may be a target, and the fact that he hasn't been contacted by the Mueller team may actually indicate that he is in serious jeopardy, because what often takes place, as you know, Jim, is that the individuals who are targets of an investigation are the last ones to be contacted, as the noose tightens around them.
And that apparently is the case here. This is all an example of the culture of corruption that we have seen invade Washington, D.C., since January 20 of 2017, the moment that Donald Trump was inaugurated. And it's a shame.
ACOSTA: And, Congressman, I want to move on to the -- it's been one year now since this white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, those terrible pictures that we're showing now that we all have burned into our consciousness.
At the time, President Trump said that there were very fine people on both sides. As you know, we all know that he said that at the time. Do you think that this president understands the threat posed by the white supremacist movement in this country?
And do you want to hear from him before these rallies get started this weekend to say that these folks should not be doing what they're doing?
JEFFRIES: We should absolutely here from the president of the United States of America. But I have no expectation that we will hear from someone who was appropriately characterized as the birther in chief, someone who has never hesitated to fan the flames of racial hatred in order to advance his own personal, political or professional ends.
This goes all the way back to the 1970s, when the Trump Organization was sued by the Nixon Justice Department for racially discriminating against black and Latino housing applicants. And then, of course, in the late 1980s, it was Donald Trump who led the lynch mob against the Central Park 5, individuals, black and Latino, who were wrongfully charged, wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime that they did not commit.
And Donald Trump continues to double and triple down on that malicious prosecution. And then, of course, the five years perpetrating the racist lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America.
And then it continued into his administration, particularly as it relates to the horrendous response to what took place in Charlottesville.
We continue our hearts to go out to the family of Heather Heyer as it relates to that tragedy. Moral leadership from the president would be nice, but, based on what we have seen throughout his entire life journey, I don't expect it.
ACOSTA: And let's turn to another topic which is getting a lot of attention during these next few months with the midterms right there on the horizon.
If the Democratic Party wins the majority in the House of Representatives this November, would you support Nancy Pelosi for another term as speaker of the House? Congressman, as you know, her face, her name is popping up in all of these campaign ads across the country.
Republicans were using her as sort of a weapon against their Democratic opponents in these races. Would you support Nancy Pelosi for another term?
JEFFRIES: Yes, I strongly support Nancy Pelosi and the leadership team that's currently in place.
And Nancy Pelosi led us into the majority, the promised land back in 2006, and I think she's on the cusp along with the entire House Democratic Caucus of doing that again.
The reason why the Republicans continue to run negative ads against Nancy Pelosi is because they have no affirmative agenda. Democrats stand for the people. They stand for the wealthy, the well-off, the mega-corporations, the special lobbyists, as evidenced by their Republican tax scam, where 83 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest 1 percent.
If you have no agenda, and the singular piece of legislation that you passed was actually have no benefit to everyday Americans, but helped to subsidize the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, then all you're going to do is go negative against Nancy Pelosi. It's not going to work in November.
ACOSTA: Congressman, did you see that President Trump just tweeted his support for Nancy Pelosi? Does that worry you?
This is the tweet up on the screen right now. He says: "Democrats, please do not distance yourself from Nancy Pelosi."
He thinks -- obviously, he thinks this hurt your party.
JEFFRIES: Well, it's possible, Jim, that he's actually watching the show right now, even though he claims not to watch CNN.
ACOSTA: That's probably true.
JEFFRIES: Because that is in direct response to my support and I think what will be significant support.
Listen, Nancy Pelosi is a legislative mastermind. She's done a tremendous job. We're going to be united and focused on delivering for the American people as we move forward lower health care costs, increased pay.
We're in the midst of wage stagnation right now. We don't have an unemployment problem. Thank you, Barack Obama. But we do have an underemployment problem, where too many Americans are working multiple jobs, often dead-end, not able to provide a comfortable living for their families.
We got a whole host of issues that we have to deal with. Democrats have an agenda for the people. Donald Trump is going to continue to try to distract us with his unnecessary attacks. We're not going to take the bait.
ACOSTA: And just quickly, Congressman, you have been mentioned as a possible contender to lead the House Democratic Caucus. Is that something you're going to pursue? Can you make some news here and tell us that you're going to be going for that position?
JEFFRIES: Well, we will see what happens post-November. But as I have indicated, I think now is not the time for us to engage in a leadership fight, a circular firing squad, when we're in the midst of an existential threat to our democracy in the singular figure of Donald Trump.
We have a reality show host running around the Oval Office masquerading as president of the United States.
ACOSTA: But wouldn't you like to see some younger -- some younger blood in the leadership ranks?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think that...
ACOSTA: Like yourself?
JEFFRIES: Well, Jim, well, I think there will be opportunity for fresher, younger, newer members of the caucus, so to speak, to continue to play a meaningful role in the House Democratic Caucus.
And, in fact, that opportunity was afforded to myself and several others, David Cicilline and Cheri Bustos. Ben Ray Lujan is doing a tremendous job and many others. And I think you will continue to see all of us who are new and recent arrivals to the United States Congress continue to contribute as best we can.
ACOSTA: OK, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, we had to try.
Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it. Good talking to you.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: Just ahead: President Trump's lawyers guest-host "Sean Hannity," his radio show, and Rudy Giuliani, who was one of those guest hosts, says what he would do if he were the attorney general. That actually happened today.
Plus, a mysterious five-hour delay in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
ACOSTA: In a remarkable move, President Trump's top media ally, Sean Hannity, turned over his three-hour radio show to the president's lawyers. That's right, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow.
And some of what they said was equally remarkable.
Let's dig deeper now with our correspondents and analysts.
Joey Jackson, I will start with you.
I assume they did not ask you to fill in for Sean Hannity.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They did not.
ACOSTA: You and Rudy Giuliani, I don't know, that could be quite a pairing.
Your thoughts on that. It makes for a most unusual case, this Mueller investigation, when the president's lawyers are on Sean Hannity's radio show.
JACKSON: Yes, there's no question about it.
But think about what the strategy is, though, right? There's a political strategy here, in addition to the legal strategy. And the political strategy continues to be -- and we see it from the president and the president's men, people -- and that is to deflect, divert, distract, and take everyone's attention off the eye of the prize.
And so when you host a show, you can talk about Comey and he's a liar and Strzok and the e-mails and the text messages, et cetera, because the narrative is to fire up the people who support the president and to otherwise divert it from the central issue.
The central issue, keeping our eyes on the prize, is whether or not there was this collusion and conspiracy, why the obstruction of justice, why the numerous guilty pleas as it relates to lying about contacts with Russia, why the interference, and what the United States is doing about it.
And so I think it provides a forum, as does FOX News, to fire up that base in keeping with Giuliani. We call him the personal lawyer. I call him the publicist of the president, because that's precisely what he's doing.
And so it's a political strategy designed to further the narrative and to further this whole conspiracy theory, they're out to get us, this is a witch-hunt. And that's what it was all about.
ACOSTA: And, Jackie Kucinich, let's listen to one of the today's guest hosts, Jay Sekulow, in his own words. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have a stake in most of the news these days.
I was making a joke the other day that sometimes you're making the news, sometimes you're in the news, and sometimes you're just talking about the news.
I will tell you these days I am doing both or all three. I am making the news, talking about the news and have been in the news.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: What do we make of that news?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think in -- I mean, showbiz, they call that a triple threat, right?
ACOSTA: I guess so, yes.
KUCINICH: It's very self aware, but this is the sort of legal team for the era that we're in, isn't it? I mean, they have their own show.
They're using it as a platform, as Joey said. And this is really -- in part, their strategy is taking a page out of Bill Clinton's legal team's playbook, when they -- they're tearing down Mueller, they're tearing down the investigation, they're making it unpopular with the public.
And they can use that should anything happen. What if -- down the line something is handed down that is not favorable to the president, they can say, well, look, we have been telling you all along and go back to whatever narrative they were selling that day.
So this very much -- it fits into the larger play that they have made.
ACOSTA: And, Sabrina Siddiqui, it sort of also feels like it's part of this, what we have seen from Rudy Giuliani for several weeks now, which is just throw things against the wall, see what sticks.
And today they co-hosted a radio show for Sean Hannity.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Yes, and this is an unmistakable display of partisan loyalty.
It's not surprising, given Sean Hannity is one of the president's biggest public cheerleaders and he has routinely use his own platform to try and discredit the investigation and often pushed unsubstantiated claims about the nature of the FBI's work.
But, of course, on the part of the president's legal team, they are trying to control the public narrative. And the fact that they are targeting conservatives speaks to wanting to keep the president's base intact and convince them, without evidence, of course, that this investigation is somehow tainted.
And they have been successful to some degree in doing that. But what it also does is, it doesn't just try to turn public opinion against the investigation. It also forces the hand of Republicans in Congress, if, in fact, Robert Mueller were to ultimately recommend charges against the president, by creating some sort of political risk that they would take if the party is overwhelmingly behind the president.
ACOSTA: And, Phil Mudd, I mean, this does seem like it could be taking more time than obviously the president's legal team would like to.
Giuliani is demanding that Mueller end the probe by September 1, but we learned today at least one potentially key witness, Randy Credico, is set to testify on September 7. This investigation is not going away anytime soon, it seems.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there's a couple aspects to this.
The first aspect is that we have seen steady indictments come out. We had the indictment in the winter of Russians. We had more indictments for the summer of Russians.
I think there's a prospect that we will see additional indictments before you might get a slowdown going into September. The likelihood, though, that Robert Mueller says let me match Rudy Giuliani's timeline for when this investigation should shut down, I would put in the zero level. That's just not going to happen.
And this announcement about further conversations that will be had with the special counsel tells me they're not going to be shut down by early September.
ACOSTA: And, John Kirby, I want to get your take on this coming up next.
This is something we want to dive into next. The money laundering and tax evasion trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort just recessed until Monday.
CNN's chief national security companies, Jim Sciutto, is at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jim, what happened there today?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, a few developments.
It started with a delay that was something of a mystery, a five-hour delay without explanation. And it's like reading tea leaves here. It appears that the judge made clear that any of those discussions be kept within the counsel involved here. They cannot comment on it publicly. But we can read into perhaps or learn some clues from what the judge instructed the jury after the end of that delay. One, he told them not to discuss the case among themselves before they go into deliberations. He also told them -- and I'm quoting here, Jim -- to keep an open mind.
Raises the question at least of what's been going on in the jury. Does the defense counsel object to that? You don't know. One possibility is that it could lead to a mistrial if there was behavior that the judge deems undo or not in keeping with the law on what juries can discuss, et cetera.
We don't know that. So you have to read into what the judge's instructions to the jury were after that delay. But we should also say that, after that delay, they go right back into the case. So it may be that those instructions are enough and you will -- you will dive right back into it.
It did delay the end of the prosecution's case. We will likely see them back up there on Monday before the defense has its say, Jim.
ACOSTA: And, Jim, there have been a lot of clashes between the judge and the prosecutors in this case, the latest today, prosecutors asking the judge to make another correction.
SCIUTTO: They did. That's right. This happened yesterday.
The judge has been something of a schoolteacher at times, particularly of the prosecution, telling them to look up when he's addressing him, dressing him down here and there.
Yesterday, the prosecution had to get the judge, in effect, to read the transcript, to show that he'd given them permission to bring a witness into that room the judge then took issue with. So, you had another case like that today.
But, Jim, I don't want to divert away from what is a very extensive trial regarding bank fraud and tax evasion. And we had a couple witnesses today that speak to that, one of them who was involved in Manafort's Yankees tickets, which cost him, season tickets, $200,000.
The importance of that was the show that Manafort was directing the payment for those tickets from one of those many accounts in Cyprus that he set up to avoid U.S. taxes, to get at this defense argument that Manafort was kind of a victim here and Rick Gates was arranging everything.
And another exchange, Jim, that was interesting, and that is testimony relating to the president of a bank -- the chairman, rather, of the Federal Savings Bank, which -- who overruled -- the chairman overruled the president to get Manafort a loan.
And then later, Manafort, lo and behold, tried to push this bank executive, Stephen Calk, for secretary of the Army. So, it raises an issue there of whether there was a quid pro quo, you
help me get that loan, I'm going to help you get a job in this government, and also, of course, raises issues of Paul Manafort's influence in the Trump administration even after he left his position as the chairman of the campaign.
[18:30:08] So, beyond the drama of the delay in the court, there's still a lot of substance in this case here in terms of the alleged wrongdoing by Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, fascinating development. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we're going to talk about more of all of these explosive allegations by the fired White House aide Omarosa. Does the reality TV personality star have credibility? Plus, breaking news, a live update on the unfolding fire disaster in Southern California that's forced 21,000 people to flee.
[18:35:23] ACOSTA: Tonight, The Washington Post is reporting explosive allegations by former White House aide and reality TV personality Omarosa Manigault Newman in her new book. Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and analyst. And John Kirby, one of the astonishing things about all of these is that apparently Omarosa said she has recordings of the President, perhaps, other people around the White House. Again, we're in a situation like with Michael Cohen, you have a potential national security problem here where the President of the United States is being reported. You know, he used to like to say that Barack Obama wire tapped him at Trump Tower, turns out it was some of his associates who were recording him.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Yes. And look it's very troubling. First of all, you're not supposed to have personal recording devices when you're in sensitive government spaces. And of course, the Oval Office in the White House is the most sensitive government space. So that's a violation.
And number two, there's the content of it. What is on those recordings? And did she take them out of the building with a private cellphone? I mean, that's a violation. And so I think it does -- not only does it breed mistrust in the inner sanctum of the President's circle, but there are real national security implications in terms of what was recorded and where that information, where that digital information is right now.
ACOSTA: And Jackie, I mean, what about just the ugliness of this situation in that here you have another tell all book, this time it's Omarosa, the woman who said, you know, before the President came into office that his critics and detractors would have to bow or kneel before Trump and now she has turned against him and is saying some pretty nasty stuff. The White House is firing back, but this is obviously yet another reality TV show like distraction for this administration. JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, who could have seen this happening? I mean -- no, but seriously, I mean, he brought in someone like Omarosa crew (ph). I tell you a little about her, she's a survivor. She -- different reality show, I'm sorry, but she is someone who really has -- I mean, she got back in the President's good graces, she got herself back into the White House, she beat back a lot of people to get into the White House by re-earning the President's trust.
So, the fact that she left in the way she did, you have to take some of this a lot of it with a grain of salt, because she was a disgruntled employee. How was she was allegedly pulled from the White house was trying to storm up the stairs, whatnot. The whole thing is the reality TV --
ACOSTA: Yes. It's the season one or season two? We're going to --
KUCINICH: Well no, no, it's true. So we have to look at this through a certain lens, but, yes, I don't think it's any surprise that she would want to sell her story.
ACOSTA: And Sabrina, let me read Sarah Sanders statement. This just goes to show you that, I mean, it does indicate they are worried about some of these. This is Sarah Sanders, "Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations", Sarah says. "It's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media", she blames the media, "would now giver her a platform after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration". There is a lot unpack here, Sabrina.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, there's no question as Jackie point out that we have to take Omarosa with a grain of salt. She claims in the book, for example, that the President during her time at "The Apprentice" used racial slurs. The obvious question is why would you then go and work for him?
But the fact of the matter is that the responsibility lies with the Trump administration. They are the ones who put her in this position of prominence. She drew a six-figure taxpayer funded salary during her time as a senior advisor in this White House. And now they want to turn around and say that she lacks credibility and that she is somehow irrelevant. And so, this is a problem of their own making. And frankly, we've seen this happen with other former White House or campaign aides before where they have encountered some sort of controversy and then the White House tries to distance themselves from those people, though, they had no role in bringing them on in the first place.
ACOSTA: And Joey Jackson, we don't have any proof yet to corroborate with what Omarosa is saying. But if Omarosa is saying, that the President has made some racist comments or racially insensitive comments in the past, I mean, we already know he's done that. How credible is Omarosa to you, do you think? JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, you know, this is how we deal with this in my business, right? What happens is a witness takes the stand and if you want to denigrate the witness, you can denigrate them. You can call them all types of names and tell juries, don't believe a word they say. So it comes to something else, Jim, and you hit on it. Corroboration, right?
If you have support for things the witness is saying, you could say that the jury take it with a grain of salt, you could say to the jury they're not credible, you could say to the jury, they're the worst human being that have existed. But it's not only what they are saying, it's what the actor was doing that gives right credibility to the witness that you're trying to denigrate.
[18:40:10] And so look, let's look at the issue of race. Every -- right, look at what the President says, it's horrific, right? Don Lemon, the stupidest person on TV making LeBron James look better. Are you serious Mr. President? Are you really going to go there and talk about such vile, ridiculous things that are absolutely not true? You talk about Maxine Waters low IQ, everybody African-American low IQ, the things that it relates to women. Should I talk about? Do we have another hour to discuss the things that he did with women?
ACOSTA: We don't, yes.
JACKSON: So say what you want about Omarosa. I'm not looking at her credibility, I'm looking at the actor she's talking about and how what she says is buttressed by what he did. And so we could attack her all day, all night, like her, not like her. I'm saying what this witness says to that jury are facts.
ACOSTA: Well said. All right, Joey Jackson, everybody, thank you very much. Lively discussion good for a Friday evening, we appreciate it.
Just ahead, China's extraordinary land grab. CNN joins a navy reconnaissance mission over disputed manmade islands. It's a CNN exclusive. Plus, breaking news, a state of emergency in Southern California where an out of control wild fire is spreading tonight.
[18:45:59] JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Now, a CNN exclusive, an up close look at China's extraordinary and provocative land grab in the South China Sea.
CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson joins us live from Okinawa, Japan.
The U.S. military is keeping a close eye on China's disputed man-made islands, what can you tell us?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, CNN was the only news organization invited by the U.S. Navy on this surveillance flight that it routinely performs through the South China Sea. Now, why does this matter? Chinas has claimed virtually all of this body of water for itself, despite about a half dozen other countries that also have claims to it. And this is important, because this is a shipping route which is important because some 30 percent of the world's shipping passes through.
WATSON (voice-over): This is what China's attempt to conquer the South China Sea looks like, small cities springing up on manmade islands in the middle of the Pacific, filmed by a CNN journalist aboard a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane.
(on camera): Here's the thing: this is originally a Boeing 737, so that's the kind of plane that you typically associate with civilian commercial travel, but it's been outfitted, modified by the military and now it's got the kind of equipment that allows it to conduct missions involving surveillance and reconnaissance.
(voice-over): It takes more than an hour to reach the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest trade routes, China claims almost all of this body of water for itself, dismissing competing claims from countries like the Philippines and Vietnam.
(on camera): The powerful cameras on board this plane demonstrate how China staked its territorial claims, it's simply built entire islands that didn't exist a decade ago.
(voice-over): The Chinese took coral reefs and atolls like this and embarked on a massive land reclamation project.
In 2015, CNN flew with the U.S. Navy over Fiery Cross Reef which was already a man-made island. And this is what it looks like today, airstrips, radar towers, four and five story concrete buildings.
Lieutenant Lauren Callen is the commander of this flight crew.
LT. LAUREN CALLEN, U.S. NAVY: It was very surprising to see just essentially buildings out in the middle of the ocean.
WATSON (on camera): You're also scrutinizing these man-made islands, what are you looking for?
CALLEN: We're really just trying to see the change that has occurred over the last several years, observing any new buildings that might be coming up.
WATSON (voice-over): At least six times during our flight, the Chinese military radios the plane, making it clear the U.S. Navy is not welcome here.
CHINESE MILITARY: U.S. military aircraft, this is Chinese military. China has a sovereignty of the Nansha islands, including the reef and its adjacent waters. Leave immediately and keep off to avoid any misunderstanding. U.S. NAVY: United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military
activity beyond the national airspace of any coastal states and exercising these rights guaranteed by international law. I am operating with due regards to the right of duties of all states.
WATSON: The U.S. continues to challenge Beijing's territorial claims by routinely sending warships and planes through the South China Sea. But that's done little to stop China's extraordinary land grab. On Friday, the Navy counted at least 85 ships in the man-made harbor of Subi Reef.
(on camera): It doesn't look like anybody's leaving any time soon.
CALLEN: Probably not.
WATSON: China's man-made archipelago appears to be here to stay.
WATSON: And, Jim, you know, the tensions are mounting here. The Pentagon has accused China of militarizing these islands, parking surface to air missile batteries on them, putting warplanes on them. China in turn has responded and accused the U.S. of militarizing the South China Sea by ending more warships and warplanes closer to its manmade islands.
[18:50:10] I have to say, one observation, despite this massive island building project and all the infrastructure we saw there, through the incredibly powerful cameras of the reconnaissance plane, we saw, remarkably, very little activity on the islands themselves, perhaps only about a half dozen people walking around. Some vehicles moving around.
And this fact one of the navy sailors said they looked like Potemkin villages. But if China wants to lay claim to possible energy deposits below the sea, they're poised to be in a good position to do that, despite competing claims from other countries in the region like the Philippines, like Vietnam, Jim.
ACOSTA: Fascinating to see China expand their sphere of influence and even creating their own sphere of influence in some places.
Ivan Watson, thank you very much.
Let's bring back CNN military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby.
John, it does not look like they're giving up this manmade creation of theirs any time soon.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: No, not at all. You said it really well, Jim. Sphere of influence, they have created that. They have intention of giving up on that. It's economic for them.
A third of global maritime traffic goes through the South China Sea, and something like two-thirds of Chinese traffic goes through there. And it's security. They very much want a create a sphere of influence, a ring of defensible bases around the South China Sea to protect what they believe is their own sovereignty, and their own territorial security, at the expense of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of many nations that border the South China Sea.
ACOSTA: OK. It's a problem -- a vexing problem for this administration to deal with.
KIRBY: It is indeed.
ACOSTA: John Kirby, thank you very much.
Breaking news, next, the southern California wildfire that's forced more than 21,000 people to flee.
[18:55:37] ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight. A state of emergency declared in southern California where a wildfire threatening thousands of homes has grown to more than 18,000 acres.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is there for us tonight.
Stephanie, this fire continues to burn out of control. A very worrying situation there.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Jim. And as you can probably see behind me, these winds are really picking up, making this fight so much more difficult.
We've been out here watching as these winds have picked up. Firefighters fighting this fight from the sky, dropping fire retardant and water. But as you can see, there's still a lot of smoke there, there's still a lot of fire, and this is what they're seeing across the country.
ELAM (voice-over): Tonight, the raging wildfires in southern California spreading from these remote cliffs to the edges of hillside communities.
The Holy Fire forcing more than 21,000 people to evacuate, while some make a last ditch effort to save their homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody else in the house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, nobody's here.
ELAM: Long Beach Police Officer Josh Castro captured these images of the Holy Fire, burning just beyond his yard.
Tricky wind patterns creating the so-called Elsinore Front, racing uphill one moment, downhill the next. Pushing flames within feet of these homes. Firefighters here taking a
last-minute stand and winning. And this firefight, it's hard to believe, none of these homes were lost. Firefighters containing the flames.
STEPHEN GALLINA, LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT: My heart was pounding and I was screaming for joy that they're here, just doing that for us here.
ELAM: Authorities say this fire was intentional, allegedly started by Forrest Gordon Clark, who's now under arrest and charged with felony arson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bail set at $1 million.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid for that immediately. I can have $1 million now, easily.
ELAM: Clark appeared before an Orange County judge today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Clark is charged in several counts involving arson, aggravated arson --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- criminal threats. These are just allegations, sir.
ELAM: Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan has known Clark for decades and even showed us a message he says Clark texted him just two weeks ago. It's all going to burn just like you planned, it read.
Milligan has lived here for 50 years and says Clark's home was one of the only ones in the community that didn't burn to the ground.
(on camera): I know going up there is hard for you.
MIKE MILLIGAN, HOLY JIM VOLUNTEER FIRE CHIEF: Yes, sure it is.
ELAM: Why is it so hard?
MILLIGAN: I know these people. I know these families. I know what has happened here. And so, you know, turning your friends, lose their home, that has an effect on everybody.
ELAM: The Holy Fire is just one of 15 major fires responders are actively battling across California. So far, these fires have charred more than 670,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 structures. And with hot and dry conditions favoring the fires, it could be another month before these fires are contained.
ELAM: And it is really dry out here. It is hot. It's about 100 degrees out here, Jim, as well.
And keep in mind, this fire started on the other side of this hillside that you're seeing. In between there, you've got brush that hasn't burned in some 30 years or so. It's dry. It's thick, and because of that, that's why you're seeing these fires spread. And with these winds, it just makes it ripe for wildfires to not only continue to grow, but also for new ones to sprout up here in California.
ACOSTA: And, Stephanie, what does the forecast look like for the weekend, will these firefighters be able to make any progress? They need help from Mother Nature, right?
ELAM: They do. And they're not expected to get any help coming into this weekend. This fire here the Holy Fire, is only 5 percent contained. And that is because these conditions are just so difficult.
Same thing that we were seeing up north at the Mendocino Fire, which is now the largest fire in California history. You're seeing it very hard to fight these dry conditions. Also the fact there's no rain in sight and these winds have picked up in the afternoon and just make their job so much harder.
ACOSTA: And just very quickly, do you think the officials out there need more help from Washington for example?
ELAM: I think, you know, the governor here just said it was a state of emergency to deal with this. This was something we see her in the summer. But one thing they do tell me all along is that they have plenty of water and it's more about just getting out there and spreading across the state. But they have a very good system of doing that here in California.
ACOSTA: All right. CNN's Stephanie Elam, we hope all the best for those folks out there in California braving those wildfires. We appreciate it.
I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.