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New Forecast: Dorian Could Approach Hurricane Strength As It Spins Toward Puerto Rico; Sources: President Trump Privately Clashed With G7 Leaders Over Reinviting Russia into Alliance; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed About Trump Clashing with G7 Leaders Over Reinviting Russia Into Alliance; Deutsche Bank Has Tax Returns But Doesn't Say If They are President Trump's. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A serious storm is moving right in American soil while the president is heading for old familiar territory.

Good evening. John Berman here, in for Anderson.

The location is Puerto Rico, the storm is called Dorian, and we'll talk more in a moment about what President Trump said about it today, the message he appeared to send and the lie he continues to tell.

We begin, though, with breaking news on the storm itself. The National Hurricane Center just came out with some new data on it, so let's go right to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

Jennifer, what's the latest?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, the latest, this storm has winds of 50 miles an hour. This is a tropical storm, gusts of 65 miles per hour, is moving to the west northwest at about 13 miles per hour. Still about 300 miles to go before it reaches the coast of Puerto Rico, but that track does take it really directly to Puerto Rico. It looks like it is going to have a direct path to the island.

So, dry air is all around this storm now. That's why it had trouble intensifying but this could be close to a hurricane by the time it reaches Puerto Rico, which what we're watching throughout the day today as well as tomorrow. That's why we have hurricane watches in place for Puerto Rico, as well as the Dominican Republic or at least the eastern shore of that, so as this continues to march on ward, John, we'll continue to watch it because there is room for strengthening before it reaches Puerto Rico.

BERMAN: What about that? If it is a direct hit on the island, what kind of winds and water can they expect?

GRAY: We're going to have near hurricane force winds and those are going to extend several miles from the center. And this is probability of tropical storm force winds, and by tomorrow, as it gets closer, this area shaded in red, were pretty much be right over the island and that's a 70 to 80 percent probability that we'll see tropical storm force winds. So, it's going to be a guarantee if this storm basically goes right

over the center of Puerto Rico and as far as rain is concerned, that's really ramped up in the last day or so as well as far as the forecast goes. We were looking at two to four inches of rain. Now, we're talking six to ten. Some areas more and that will produce quite a bit of flooding as well as some mudslides as we go through the next 24 to 48 hours.

BERMAN: Jennifer, what about the rest of the U.S. coastline? We can see that cone headed toward Florida.

GRAY: That's right. First, goes toward Puerto Rico and then once it gets on the north side of that, that's when all eyes will be on the storm, especially folks in the U.S. It's going to be very interesting because Puerto Rico will shred the storm a little bit, it will weaken it, but once it enters warm waters around the Bahamas, it will have less wind sheer, meaning the storm will be able to survive a little better.

It could intensify before reaching the southeast United States and so, that's where we really need to watch it. We're going into a holiday weekend where a lot of people head to the coast. So, this could strengthen to near hurricane, could be hurricane strength just to early to tell. We have to see what happens once it gets on the north side of Puerto Rico.

BERMAN: Jennifer, we're talking to Chad Myers this morning, the warm water off of Florida is what could lead to the intensity?

GRAY: Right, you have several factors. You have the warm water which is basically in the mid 80s around that area that's very, very warm that fuels these storms. You also have a lack of wind sheer, which will also help the storm survive. So, several factors in place that are steering this thing and helping it breathe new life.

We'll see what happens once we get on the north side. If it shreds enough, it may not be able to make it or intensify much. It's all going to determine what happens when it makes its interaction with Puerto Rico.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

The storm arrives alongside news the Trump administration plans to shift at least $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agencies' disaster relief fund to spending on boarder enhancement efforts.

And as we said at the top, the president also tweeted, I'm quoting now: Wow, yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico, will it ever end? Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year, an all- time record of its kind for anywhere.

Now, keeping them honest, it's not a record and it's not true -- $92 billion has neither been appropriated nor spent. Congress appropriated $42 billion and federal agencies spent $12.6. But beyond the lies in that tweet, there is also the question of just

what was the president saying to the people of Puerto Rico? Because it's simply not how presidents talk to people facing potential danger.

This isn't a partisan thing. All modern presidents, Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, Ford, you name them, at moments like these, they've all said something like this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people who are potentially affected. We are extraordinarily grateful for our first responders because they're going to be working 24/7 around the clock, nonstop.

[20:05:01] This is going to be a big storm. It's going to be a difficult storm. The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together.


BERMAN: Joining us now by phone is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz.

Mayor Cruz, thank you very much for being with us. I know you're busy.

I want to get your reaction what President Trump said in a moment. But first off, is your city, is your island ready for what could very well be a hurricane by the time it hits?

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (via telephone): Yes, it appears that it will be a hurricane category one, and that it is moving further and further inward towards Puerto Rico. So, couple of days ago, it was expected to dissolve. Now, it appears that won't be so.

Let me first tell you that yes, in San Juan, we are much better prepared than two years ago, for example, all of our municipal hospital and nine clinics, which provide, of course, a health services for all of our people from San Juan and outside of San Juan, all of them now have generators. Our hospital, as far as we know, is the only hospital in Puerto Rico that has not one but two sets of generators that will make it run flawlessly even if the power fails. That is something very, very good.

Our areas we have right now four shelters that we are opening for the people of San Juan. Those shelters are better equipped. We have one month of supplies of what is known as surgical equipment and a prescription drug, and anything that needs to be used in the hospital and in all of our clinics. And we have one month worth of food and water, not only for the municipality and but also for the people of San Juan.

Last time, we had to take care of 61 elderly folks. So, we are much better prepared for that, however, inward, towards the island of Puerto Rico, this is not the case. There is 30,000 people with blue tarps or blue room roofs on their homes. Eleven out of 16 power generators in Puerto Rico are off the grid. So, they are not providing so they are not producing any power whatsoever.

What is known as power delays (ph) which are blackouts in Puerto Rico have been common since hurricanes Irma and Maria. The bridges, any bridges in Puerto Rico are still not working appropriate.

We, you know, we say to the president of the United States will his lie end? Will that ever end? Will his racism and his vindictive behavior towards the people of Puerto Rico ever end?

As you have said, this is not how a president behaves. This is not how a human behaves in the face of adversity. But --

BERMAN: Let me ask you --

CRUZ: -- I have to thank the American people, because once again, they have stepped up to the plate.

BERMAN: Let me do ask you because you brought up the president and people should know, you have a past with him. You've been very critical. You called him vindictive before. You've called him vindictive right now.

You referred to Hurricane Maria as Trump's Katrina. Any reaction to the death toll from Maria? You said his administration, quote, killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect.

So, what is your exact reaction to his latest tweet where he keeps on saying $92 million -- $92 billion has been appropriated?

CRUZ: The president continues to express lies because the truth really does not suit him. As you said, it is not $92 billion. It's close to $42 billion. It's close between $12.6 billion and $14 billion that has come to Puerto Rico, and still, things have not worked appropriately.

Things continue to change. Different attitudes and different laws and restrictions are brought upon Puerto Rico which are different from any other jurisdiction.

However, I have to say it appears, it appears that FEMA has learned some of the lessons from the past from Irma and Maria, and I just got off the phone with Alejandro De La Campa, and it appears they have, you know, 3.2 million liters of water. They have five warehouses now in Puerto Rico. He told me they have around 200,000 blue roofs, blue tarps, sorry.

So, you know, it seems like some people have learned the lessons of the past or are willing to say that they didn't do right by us the first time and they are trying to do their best.

That is not the case with the president of the United States. We are not going to be concerned by frankly his behavior, his lack of understanding and it is ludicrous. [20:10:009] Three thousand Puerto Ricans did not open their eyes this

morning because this racist man did not have it within him to do his job. So get out of the way, President Trump, and let the people that can do the job get the job done.

BERMAN: Major Cruz, we know you're busy. Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us. Please stay in touch over the next several days and let us know what you need. We appreciate it, Mayor.

CRUZ: And thank you very much to everyone that has been calling today, showing their appreciation for life and letting us know that we matter.

BERMAN: Mayor Cruz, thank you very much.

Next, having seen the public version, you're about to hear new details on the arm twisting that President Trump did on Vladimir Putin's behalf behind the scenes at the G7 Summit.

And later, new reporting on how Attorney General William Barr, the nation's top law enforcement official, will end up putting $30,000 into Trump family pockets with his choice of venue for a holiday party. Of all the joints in all the places and all the ethical questions, ahead on 360.


[20:15:20] BERMAN: There is new reporting tonight on President Trump's knack for taking Vladimir Putin side even if it clashes with long-standing American allies. We've got a substantial taste of it in his public statements at the G7 Summit, and now, we know it wasn't even the half of it.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us with the new details on what the president said and how hard he argued Russia's case behind closed doors.

So, Kaitlan, what are you learning about these private clashes at the G7?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is one of the most heated moments we're told of the entire summit, a summit that we should make clear was filled with tensions between President Trump and other world leaders. But I was during this dinner that the president was making his case why Russia should be invited back to the G7.

Of course, they were expelled because they illegally annexed Crimea, but the president was saying that Russia is so big and so important that they should be here and he made the argument if world leaders want to confront Vladimir Putin, that they should do it in person, because they spend so much time talking about Russia behind the scenes anyway.

The world leaders did not agree with the president, several of them pushing back with what we're told was fierce resistance, telling the president that unless they change the ways in a very obvious pattern that they cannot invite Vladimir Putin back because they fear it would give him too much legitimacy, and they argued that since Russia was expelled from the group since then have grown more anti-democratic.

So, they disagreed with the president even though we're told one person did agree with the president, President Trump, that was the Italian prime minister who we should note resigned in recent days but other people including Germany Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, they pushed back against President Trump hard during this dinner and we're told at one point, the French president had to intervene to essentially keep this from becoming too heated.

BERMAN: So, Kaitlan, publicly, the president talks about this summit being a wild success. What are your White House sources telling you behind the scenes? Did they consider it successful?

COLLINS: And the president is maintaining, saying he got along great with the world leaders even though publicly they disagreed with a lot of the things that the president said. They drew clear distinctions not only Russia but Iran and climate change and several aspects.

And while there are treasury officials who will say they do not think it went well from the stance of trade, where the president continued to flip-flop, contradict himself several times on whether or not he even spoke to the Chinese, whether he got things were moving forward at a good pace or to slow pace, they don't think it went great. But there are people close to the president who were saying, John, it could have been much worse than it went.

BERMAN: Interesting standard there. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much for your reporting on this.

Joining us now, California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna who serves on the House Oversight Committee and we should also note is co-chair of Sanders -- Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign.

Congressman Khanna, thank you for being with us right now.

It now seems like the only thing the president was clear and consistent about in the G7 was his public and as we just learned, his private push to bring Russia back into the fold. Your reaction?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, the standards for this president are so low that if he just manages to finish a dinner without insulting a foreign leader, we breathe a sigh of relief. But the reality is that it's very concerning when he was advocating for Russia. Everyone believes in the civilized world of democracies that we should not allow Russia back into the G7 unless two conditions are met.

First, they need to get out of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. And second, they need to stop interfering not just in our election, but in elections across the world. And this president didn't even mention either of those two issues.

BERMAN: I will note, not everybody, apparently the prime minister of Italy agreed with President Trump. KHANNA: Fair enough.

BERMAN: And one of his arguments was it's better to have Russia back in the fold so you can bring up your problems with them to their face and directly. Is there any validity to that argument?

KHANNA: I don't think anyone believes that Russia isn't aware of their problems. We have been bringing this up for the past six, seven years. They need to get out of Crimea, they need to make a commitment not to interfere in our elections. If they do that, then they will be brought in the table.

You know, one of the things that the president said that was so offensive is this claim that Putin outsmarted President Obama. The reality is. President Obama negotiated one of the most successful arms control agreements with Russia, the new START agreement and it's President Trump who hasn't gotten anywhere, who's withdrawing from the INF and was actually made the relationship much worse.

BERMAN: He kept on bringing up President Obama, I think it was 15 or 16 times by name.

Do you think the desire to bring Russia back into the G7, making it the G8 is just to try to yet again reverse something that President Obama did?

[20:20:07] KHANNA: You know, I have not been able to make sense of president Trump's foreign policy doctrine and then someone explained it to me. It's just reverse Obama. There is no coherence to it. If Obama does one thing, even if it's good, he wants to reverse it.

And I think that's really what is motivating his policy. There is no other explanation for why you would want Russia into the G7 when they have continued to violate Ukraine sovereignty, when they are by their own admission interfering in liberal democracies elections.

BERMAN: President Trump said a number of things on this trip that weren't true. Some of them seemed to be small lies or lies about small things like suggesting the first lady got to know Kim Jong-un even though they never met.

Why do you think he does this and what impact do you think it has?

KHANNA: I think it's the consequence of someone who never held elective office. You know, when you're in private business and if you're a billionaire and a real estate developer, you can probably get away with shading the truth here and there, and you've got a battalion of lawyers and people who are there to serve your ends. When you're president of the United States, leader of the free world, every word you say matters, and I just don't think the president has grasped that.

I mean, he made a causal statement about the situation with India and Pakistan that led to India taking action because of the misinterpretation. And he's just not grown into the role. BERMAN: Lastly, we should net that Congress comes back from its

August recess next week and talk of impeachment I think back on the table. More House members have come forward saying they support an impeachment inquiry. You support an impeachment inquiry on the president.

Do you think the prospect of it actually happening, though, is growing, or does it dwindle as we get deeper into the 2020 election?

KHANNA: Well, John, I think we need to have very aggressive inquiry in the fall and I'm confident that Chairman Nadler will do that and then he's going to present the evidence to the House. I do think ultimately, it's going to be Speaker Pelosi's call about whether to bring it for a vote in the House.

But the way I see it is there is growing sentiment in the House that something needs to be done to hold this president accountable and there needs to be an aggressive investigation before the end of the year.

BERMAN: You want to place odds on whether Speaker Pelosi allows a vote on impeachment?

KHANNA: I have never been one to bet correctly on the speaker. I think you've got to have her on and it wouldn't be wise for me to be trying to guess what she's going to do.

BERMAN: Congressman Ro Khanna, we appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The bank that loaned Donald Trump millions of dollars today opened the door just a tiny bit to the mystery of the president's tax returns. What we're learning, just ahead.


[20:26:54] BERMAN: Deutsche Bank, which loaned Donald Trump millions as a private citizen, indicated today that it does have records that would comply with a subpoena from the House of Representatives seeking to obtain the president's tax returns. But in the bank's very carefully worded letter to a federal appeals court, it did not mention President Trump by name or members of his family. The House is seeking financial records from Deutsche Bank not only from the president, but also from his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.

Here now to discuss, Sue Craig of "The New York Times", one of the reporters on the investigation published into Donald Trump's tax schemes in the 1990s.

And just to be clear about something, which isn't it all clear, Deutsche Bank basically confirmed that they have the president or his family's tax returns without directly confirming they have the president or his family's tax returns, correct? SUSANNE CRAIG, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's right. The names were redacted in a letter that they sent to the court today, but the case is about Donald Trump and it was pretty clear. I mean, you're not making a big leap.

BERMAN: They have them. There is every reason they think they have them.

CRAIG: They have them. We've reported that previously that they have them but today in a court filing, they confirmed that they have -- we don't know what years. We don't know what entities. We don't know if it's personal or business ones or a combination of both, but we know that they have tax returns in house.

BERMAN: Why when we're talking about Deutsche Bank does it matter that they have the president's tax returns? What is it about their relationship that's potentially of interest?

CRAIG: Well, they have been the main banker for the president in recent years. So they have been lending him a lot of money and we're going to -- it could provide, the fact they have them is just -- I mean, a lot of the modern tax returns haven't come out so they have gone into them and finally at least now in court confirmed that they have them.

I think what is shocking about this case is it's incredible we got to the fact we had to have Deutsche Bank under court order say simply that they had the returns, not actually oh, what's in the return, simply they required a court order simply to answer the simple question of they have the returns. Like that to me was the headline.

BERMAN: Weeks and weeks.

CRAIG: Yes, we've reported that they have the returns. I mean, they went through weeks and weeks of legal wrangling and have the court order to say that they are in position.

BERMAN: And I think you and I agree that this is the biggest take away today, which is that every inch on the battle of tax returns is going to be litigated and going to take time.

CRAIG: Yes, and time is exactly the thing that they are waiting for. They just will keep going and this is going to be a death by thousand cuts, to take us long as possible to litigate, not just this case but all of the cases are going to be just, you know, minute by minute doing these things and litigating like the silliest points in a way.

I think this is why this came to ahead today was one of the judges on Friday when this all came to a head in a courtroom was asking a simple question, do you even have the tax returns? They wouldn't answer it. Really simple question and took a broad approach to the law about their climate agreement with Donald Trump that not only can they not talk about it, they can't even say what they have.

BERMAN: All right. You've done more work than just about anybody on the president's financials over the decades. If Congress ever does get them, what are the types of things they might learn?

CRAIG: We're going to learn a lot. I mean, if we got the modern tax returns, we're going to see not only just, you know, is he -- has he been profitable in recent years. In the last 10 years we've done a lot of work that shows he's lost a lot of money. We've gotten tax returns from, you know, previous years, from 1995 and so on and the decades following that, but we haven't seen sort of from 2005 on, so that's a base level. It's just sort of how are his business is doing.

You know, it depends if you get, you know, both his personal tax returns and his business tax returns, but we're going to be able to drill into that. But you're also going to be able to see really interesting, like sources of income, who he's in business with, and who is paying him.

I mean, when we step back and we say why do you want to see Donald Trump's tax returns? He is an elected official. He is in the White House. We don't know his sources of income. We don't know the pressure that is coming to bear on him as president, and then the decision that he is making because we don't know who is paying him. I mean, it's really -- these are the sort of things that we're going to be enlightened by potentially if we see his tax returns.

BERMAN: And we don't know if that's why he's so reluctant to release them or it could simply be that they show what he's actually worth, which may or may not be what he is claiming.

CRAIG: I don't think we're actually going to see what he's worth. Tax returns are simply going to show if he's, you know, telling the IRS if he's going to loss or not and why he's declaring a loss. We're not going to see worth, but we're going to actually see who is paying him and I think that's hugely important. And we're also going to see potentially who his business partners are.

And then the other thing that I think is really important is we're going to see what he has said to the IRS and then what he has said in federal filings as president in terms of his holdings and we're going to be able to compare them and there's penalties if he has lied on public forms and they don't match. There's going to be a lot of questions and there's jeopardy there for him. So there's a lot to be seen and talks with that (ph).

BERMAN: And you've done a lot of work about the history there of him playing games with all of that. Susanne Craig, thanks so much for coming in and helping us understand this. Really appreciate it.

CRAIG: Thanks.

BERMAN: Coming up, a new campaign ad from Joe Biden and what it means as a Democratic presidential campaign seems to tighten.


[20:35:51] BERMAN: Joe Biden released a new television commercial in Iowa today that emphasizes his support for the Affordable Care Act. They address heavily on Biden's personal experience after the death of his wife and children in a car accident back in 1972, and his son Beau's battle with brain cancer. Here is an excerpt.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My son Beau was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. I can't fathom what would have happened if the insurance company has said for the last six months of his life, you're on your own. The fact of the matter is health care is personally made. Obamacare is personal to me.


BERMAN: Now, Biden supporter say the ad is important because many of his opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination favor a Medicare for All approach that would do away with Obamacare and private insurance. And one of those supporters is Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. I spoke with her shortly before air time.


BERMAN: So, Mayor Bottoms, this new ad from the Biden campaign is very personal obviously for the vice president. Why do you think he decided to release it now?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA: I think it's important that people know who Joe Biden is. We know Joe. We know what his policies are, but it's important that people understand why he cares and why this is so important to him. And that it really explains so much about who he is.

It talks about obviously the history of his children and the tragedies that he's faced and just any small comfort that he was able to ascertain just by having health insurance. And I think it's something that people across this nation can connect with in so many ways. And so I'm glad he released it and I think that it took an enormous amount of courage to tell his story in that way.

BERMAN: Two things that you brought up, the personal story and health care. I want to address each. First, the personal story, he's been in public office since 1972. You don't think that most people are aware of the very compelling story of Joe Biden?

BOTTOMS: Well, I was born in 1970. And so I think that there are many facets of Joe Biden that some of us know better than others. And I think that it's always a good time to remind people of who you are. And my best memories of Joe Biden are his eight years working alongside President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act.

And I think that's important for a segment of the population. I think for some others it may be his time as a senator. But I think the most important part is that he has an expansive history of working towards public service and the Affordable Care Act and health insurance for all is something that he has talked about for decades.

BERMAN: Now on health care, the ad says something very specific. There's a very specific comparison here. The ad says that when he sees the President try to tear down Obamacare or sees others propose to replace it and start over, that it's personal to him.

So he's got the President, but he's comparing the President with obviously his primary opponents like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who want to introduce Medicare for All. Why is he making that comparison?

BOTTOMS: Well, I think it's important that he explains to voters where he stands and how he compares not only with those who are also vying to become President of the United States, but also with the President of the United States.

Obamacare has been life changing for millions of Americans, and I think that people somehow have forgotten how difficult it was for us to achieve all that we did with Obamacare.

BERMAN: Do you think that Senator Warren and Senator Sanders forget how difficult it was as you're saying?

BOTTOMS: I can't speak for them. But what I do know is that there are millions of Americans who don't want to give up their private health insurance. Someone on my team has a father who is retired from GM, 30 years, and he said that he doesn't want anybody touching his health insurance.

[20:40:00] He said that he gave up so many things in terms of salary and negotiations so that he could have his health -- his private health insurance for the remainder of his life. And I think that speaks to the sentiment of so many people, especially in this important rough belt states that we made to win to win the presidency in 2020.

BERMAN: Do you think that distinction you just brought up there will be central to Joe Biden going forward as he tries to differentiate himself from his primary opponents?

BOTTOMS: I think it's an important distinction certainly for those who care about health insurance, for those who want to maintain their private health insurance, and for those who want to expand on the Affordable Care Act.

The notion that where we are right now in this country and with all of the issues that we are facing to think that we have to start over on health care and add that to the many challenges that we have, I think really is unsettling to a lot of people. We have the Affordable Care Act and what better person to help repair the damage that's been done than the person who helped to create it.

BERMAN: So, there are those who look at this timing, the timing over the release of this ad and says, you know what, it has to do with the polls getting tighter. Do you see this race closing?

BOTTOMS: No, I don't. What I see is an out liar with a poll. There will be hundreds of polls that will be done between now in the Election Day and I think that you have to look at them as a totality. This is one poll out of many that will be done that shows him a little down. I don't think that it's an accurate poll, but what I do believe is that there are many Americans across this country who continue to stand with Joe Biden and won't be swayed by one poll. I think that we have to look at them all. There were even others that came out today that still shows him with a compelling lead.

BERMAN: What people ought to do is look at all the polls and average them. That's the safest place to be. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you for coming in and having this discussion. I appreciate it.

BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: And up next, new reporting on Attorney General William Barr's big dollar holiday party and the big dollar beneficiaries from it named Trump.


[20:46:25] BERMAN: New tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Attorney General William Barr has booked a December family holiday party for about 200 people at President Trump's Washington hotel and it will deliver a whole lot of money for the Trump business and, yes, it does raise ethical questions.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us now with more. Jessica, what are you learning here?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, in fact, the attorney general is planning to hold that private holiday party at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. Notably, that's a property where the President's sons run the day to day but the President still benefits financially. And according to that contract for the party that was obtained by "The Washington Post", it could cost more than $30,000. That's the contract minimum for about 200 guests.

Now, the Justice Department of course is responding to all of this, stressing that this is not an official Justice Department event and that it will be paid exclusively out of William Barr's pocket.

But still, you know, the optics are raising some serious questions here, especially since the Justice Department with Bill Barr at the helm has defended the President after he was sued by the attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. on the basis of the emoluments clause. They were questioning Trump's ability to receive payments that come from foreign guest to stay at the hotel. Again, the Justice Department has defended in that lawsuit.

And in addition, John, ethics experts, they're also raising eyebrows saying it really looks like the attorney general is trying to curry favor with the President here by having his own private holiday party at the President's hotel.

Now, the Justice Department says this is not so. The attorney general tried the other big hotels in D.C., like the Willard and the May Flower but, John, those were booked so they say that, you know, William Barr had no choice here but to go with the Trump International in downtown Washington.

BERMAN: Has William Barr himself responded to the criticism?

SCHNEIDER: So we have not heard from the attorney general directly tonight, but the Justice Department official that we spoke with earlier, they say that the attorney general has in fact consulted with career ethics officials at the DOJ and a determination there was that ethics rules do not prohibit him from hosting the event at the Trump hotel. But again, John, really, the optics here aren't looking so good and really being called into question by a lot of ethics experts tonight.

BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

Time now to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. First, Chris, $30,000, that's a lot of pigs in a blanket. Second of all, what's going on, on your show tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You would get an F in any law school ethics class. Not you, you're very smart. But if you provided the analysis that this administration is providing about the A.G., I mean, this is disgraceful and they know it, there is no other hotel.

The ethical standard you learn is semblance of impropriety, which means if someone is going to asks whether or not this made sense, you shouldn't do it. This administration plays by a different rule or no rules at all. Tonight, we're going to look at that a few different ways.

One, we're going to be taking on an emotional thing, though, as well. Sean Duffy is leaving the Congress and I hate what it's all about. I mean, I love that he respects his family. He's making the right move. But I hate that he and his wife have to deal with this. We're both parent. You know, they have eight beautiful kids, now they're going to have nine, but there are challenges. We're going to talk to him about it and remind people that it ain't just about politics.

We also have Bill Nye coming on to talk about this none sense with the head of Brazil wanting an apology from France before he'll accept the help. I mean, what the hell is going on with leaders in this world today. So we're going to take that on.

And then, the closing argument, John, is going to be a look at what this election is about through the prism of the most recent Trump administration moves on immigrants.

[20:50:10] BERMAN: Terrific show ahead. Chris, thank you very much. See you in a few minutes.

Up next, the 2020 Republican challenger of President Trump and the attack he just leveled at them.


BERMAN: Two Republicans, Joe Walsh and William Weld, have already entered the Republican primary race. And former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford could make it three. Tonight, President Trump took notice.

Remind you, a lot of his advisers were hoping he would resist saying anything about any of them but he couldn't resists. He writes, "Can you believe it? I'm at 94 percent approval in the Republican Party and have Three Stooges running against me. One is Mr. Appalachian Trail who is actually in Argentina. Another is a one-time bad congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio. The third is a man who couldn't stand up strait while receiving an award. I should be able to take them."

Perspective now from 2016 Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich who is a CNN Senior Political Analyst, also political consultant and writer, Stuart Stevens, an adviser to America United, a pro-Weld Super PAC.

So, Governor Kasich, simple questions. Do you think more Republicans should enter the race at this point and challenge President Trump even if it could potentially be career suicide?

[20:55:00] JOHN KASICH CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know what career suicide means, John. I mean, if people want to get in and they want to express themselves, good for them. I mean, that's -- it's, you know, people -- this is America. If you want to run for public office, you can do it.

And, you know, what I would say is an incumbent who at this point has -- is commanding a very high Republican support, you know, they don't want to see these folks in the race. I mean, they become pesky and you have to pay attention a little bit to them. But if other people want to get in, you know, it's America, they can go ahead and get in.

BERMAN: So, Stuart, some of the candidates in there right now, it's Joe Walsh, it's William Weld who you've been supportive of, and I'm not trying to diminish either of them, but there's a big stature gap between those two candidates and say someone like Mitt Romney whom you've worked for also, who isn't getting in right now. Why do you think people with higher stature who may not be publicly supportive of the President are hesitant to jump in?

STUART STEVENS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND WRITE: Well, look, it's a tough thing being an incumbent president. You have to be willing strap that on and think it's really an uphill battle all the way.

You know, in face value, Governor Weld is much more of a sort of person that Republican Party would nominate. A former Reagan appointed U.S. attorney, big state governor who won historic upset, got reelected with the largest margin in the history of Massachusetts. I mean, that's a lot more likely a person who would be a Republican nominee than a guy who was in the casino business and donated to Anthony Weiner. So, listen, we just have to -- all you can do is get out there and fight and see how the fight goes and be glad you're in the fight. And I think Governor Weld is very glad that he's in this fight.

BERMAN: Governor Kasich, you've been asked, you know, almost every day since 2016 if you would run against President Trump. I guess my question to you, and you usually answer you don't see a path right now or you haven't decided. I want to know what a path would look like. If you did see a path, have you thought about what that path would be?

KASICH: Well, look, John, I've been in a lot of elections, OK? I ran for the State Senate when I was 25 years old. Nobody thought I could win. I thought I could, and I ran and I won. I ran for Congress in a year when not one single Republican, other than me, defeated an incumbent Democrat. I thought I could do it.

I ran for governor without ever having run statewide before, I think it's the first time it's happened where a non-statewide candidate beat an incumbent governor. I thought I could win. And I ran in 2016, and nobody thought I could, you know, go as far as I did, and I did. But I look at this, and I don't see the path right now.

So that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a path down the road, but right now I don't see it. And it's a -- that's a complicated long answer. And if we were in political science class, John, I could answer it for you, but it's not something I could answer in a few seconds.

But look, I'm very pleased to be doing what I'm doing. I've been sounding an alarm since the convention in 2016 and I'm doing the best that I can do. And so this is just a matter of judgment on my part and what I think I'm called to do, because the Lord has given me a lot of skills and a lot of opportunity. We just have to see. Right now, I don't see it.

BERMAN: So, Stuart, both Anthony Scaramucci and Joe Walsh have told me over the last few weeks that they talk to Republicans, including Republicans on Capitol Hill, who privately agree with them. They won't tell me the names. And that in and of itself may be indicative of what's going on here. So if these people do exists, why are they staying silent?

STEVENS: Well, you know, going against an incumbent President of the United States, a member of your own party is a tough thing. I mean, the reality is if you're a United States senator or congressman, you can do a better job if you get along with the president.

I mean, if Bernie Sanders was President of the United States, Senator Cotton would be a better senator if he got along with the White House. I mean, that's just the reality of how our system works and I understand that. That's often why I take an outsider like Governor Weld who's willing to step up and take on this fight.

BERMAN: Governor Kasich, I detected a slight smile, yes.

KASICH: John, I have a slightly different take.

BERMAN: Go for it.

KASICH: I have a slightly different take on why people don't want to speak out, because they don't want hassles. They don't want to have people race and came with them in their district, and they don't want to have a primary, you know.

I mean, there's a lot of choices that people in public office have to make. When you get into a race for president, that's a whole other matter. See, to me, you got to believe you can win. If you can't see that you can win then, you know, you're putting your friends, your family, everybody else out there.

But that doesn't mean I'm not being heard in the public arena. I'm being heard in the public arena loud and clear, and I'll continue to be heard. But the fact that people don't want to speak out because it's not good for their state, I don't buy that. I think its more self-interest.

BERMAN: Stuart Stevens, John Kasich, I appreciate you being with me and I appreciate your honesty.

The news continues, so I'll hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time."