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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
U.S. Drops "Mother Of All Bombs" In ISIS; Trump Won't Say If He Authorized "Mother Of All Bombs" Strike; U.S. Drops Its Largest Non-Nuclear Bomb On ISIS; "America First" President Drops "Mother Of All Bombs"; Trump: North Korea "Will Be Taken Care Of"; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 13, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: Brian Todd reporting. Thanks very much. That's it for me. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: Next, breaking news, the mother of all bombs. The U.S. dropping its biggest conventional bomb ever. Who authorized the attack? And more breaking news. New intelligence on Trump associates and Russians. The breaking tonight from British Intelligence. Plus, the first republican congress to call for Trump to fire Sean Spicer. He is my guest tonight. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news. The mother of all bombs. The U.S. Military dropping an enormous on ISIS forces in Afghanistan. It is the largest most powerful bomb used by the United States in combat since the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Just think about that for a second. It's an unprecedented show of force and the president is very proud of it. Here he is this afternoon in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are so proud of our military and it was another successful event.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you authorize it?
TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened, so -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they've done their job as usual. So we have given them total authorization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, that answer is actually raising a lot of questions tonight because he didn't answer the question about exactly who authorized this massive attack. And push came to shove. A senior administration official declined to tell CNN whether the president himself order the strike or approved it himself. The bomb used today is the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the American military arsenal. It weighs about weighing about 22,000 pounds and it is so massive that it has to be dropped off in the back of a cargo plane. It's then guided to a target by a GPS that can be dropped from about three miles in the air. As you can see when the explosion happens, it look -- looks much like a nuclear explosion. Today's strike apparently targeted this part of the president's campaign promise which was to bomb the hell out of ISIS. The exact target was Nangarhar Province in western Afghanistan which is near the Pakistani border and the area the military sees as the center of ISIS activity in Afghanistan. Barbara Starr broke the story. She's OutFront tonight at the Pentagon. And Barbara, what new details are you learning at this hour?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are learning, Erin, is that this strike had been planned by the military over the last couple of weeks as they saw ISIS move into this area in Eastern Afghanistan, quite close to the Pakistan border. They begin to -- they began to plan the strike to go after this ISIS tunnel and cave complex. They decided to use this weapon because they thought it was the right weapon for the target.
It has a punch that allows it to destroy targets over a widespread area and that's what they were dealing with here. They also felt it was such a remote area that they would not run the risk of civilian casualties. That said, U.S. Aircraft will be doing that post bomb damage assessment. They will be flying overhead looking to see how much damage was caused and whether it really met the expectations and to make sure that there were no civilian casualties.
You know, because it was the first time it was used in a combat environment after years of being tested, they want to make sure that it worked as planned and see what they can learn from it. This had been a bomb in the U.S. inventory for over a decade. They had never used it before because of so many concerns in places like Iraq about civilian casualties in populated areas. So, this was a place they thought was remote enough and they wanted to use it and it very much addressed one of of President Trump's stated priorities and that is to go after ISIS. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much. And as Barbara points out, it's the first time it's been used. George W. Bush didn't use it, Barack Obama didn't use it, both of them could have, they did not. How exactly does it work? Tom Foreman is OutFront with that.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The enormously powerful massive air blast bomb or MOAB went off more than an hour after sunset in eastern Afghanistan in the Nangarhar Province, an ISIS strong hold where U.S. Special Forces Soldier was killed less than a week ago. That was the target for the big bomb which was being used in combat for the first time. An ISIS camp in a remote area not from the border with Pakistan.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECETARY: We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.
FOREMAN: The region is home to the course on branch of ISIS known as ISIS-K, built in part by recruiting fighters from the Taliban which also remains a dangerous force. The purpose of the MOAB, take out the enemy in one swoop. Collapse tunnels and hit the terrorists even if they were hiding in caves.
JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, MAJOR GENERAL (RET.): It's a concussive blast. So everybody underneath that thing either obliterated, ears are -- ears are bleeding or they're completely destroyed.
FOREMAN: So how did it work? If I actually had a MOAB bomb here right now, it would be about this size, some 30 feet long, about 22,000 pounds. This is dropped out of the back of a C-130 transport plane, pulled out by a parachute and released to free fall to the ground being guided by GPS on the way down toward its target.
Then, a short distance before it hits the earth, that's when about nine tons of explosives go often this thing. What are the immediate effects? First of all, shrapnel. The shrapnel from this is driven with such force, it can penetrate reinforced concrete, it can dig deep into the ground. Second, the blast wave. This would scour and scorch the earth for thousands of feet in all directions as it shot out. And then as it is sucked back into the vacuum, it does it again, obliterating almost everything. And lastly, many military leaders talk about the shock and awe of this whole thing.
For anybody who's not close enough to be hurt by it, if they witness it, a tremendous effect on how they see the battlefield and the capabilities of the U.S. So, now one of big missions for U.S. troops there is to get in to where this bomb was dropped to see if it lived up to expectations. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom. And of course, exactly who was killed, were there civilian casualties. OutFront now, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former commanding general for Europe in the seventh army, he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona who served in Iraq as well. Kimberly Dozier our global affairs analyst, she's made several trips to Afghanistan. And Dan Rather, host of AXS T.V's The Big Interview, he has been to Afghanistan 16 times.
All of you know so much about this, the context we all so much tonight. General Hertling, it is a massive bomb. We just heard a little bit about. 22,000 pounds. Can you give us a sense of what this means? We know this was targeted at a remote area. That was the point. But if it were dropped on a city, to give us a sense of how big this is, what would it do?
MARK HERTLING, FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY: Well, to a city, Erin, and that's why it hasn't been used over the last few years in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is because a lot of combat has been in the cities. In this particular case, this bomb was used against the position that General Nicholson, a very good combatant commander -- combat commander in Afghanistan said, I can destroy cave complex in a defensive area but most importantly, he can also get after the IEDs because the overpressure of this bomb.
It doesn't penetrate a cave wall, it doesn't dig deep into the ground but it does provide overpressure to knock things down and provide the IEDs with a means of exploding. So, you can clear an entire area. It will clean an area of about 15 to 20 football fields in radius. So it will be significant in terms of the area of the blast and the concussive device.
BURNETT: So in a city that would -- you would be talking about livening a huge part of the city and that would be -- it would be massive in terms of casualties.
HERTLING: Yes. Depending on the constructs of the buildings, yes, it could definitely devastate a city, knock buildings down, knock walls down and it would kill anybody in the city. But in this it was down in the middle of the countryside and it provided that overpressure to get rid of the IEDs which General Nicholson is worried about.
BURNETT: Kim, you saw a bomb exploded in Afghanistan that was about two-thirds of the size of this. So not even as big. What was it like?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, that was in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora. And the Bush Administration launched what's called a Daisy Cutter. Now, the time we were about two miles back from Tora Bora, from the front and even at that distance you got smacked in the chest, got the wind knocked out of you and it looked like a giant nuclear mushroom cloud going off.
So the next day when we went back up the mountainside, we could see that many of the caves systems had collapsed and a lot of the top of the mountain was sort of crispy from the effects. So it is a massively scary and effective bomb. My conversations with officials in Kabul, they've told me that General Nicholson had ordered this bomb during the Obama Administration for using the Afghan Fighting System because he knew what he would be up against, that ISIS and other groups had gotten riddled in these cave systems in remote areas and were building bombs.
BURNETT: So Dan, here's the thing. As Kim said, he ordered it, right? It was delivered earlier this year to the -- to the Afghan location.
DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV'S "THE BIG INTERVIEW": Right.
BURNETT: OK. But we've had it since with 2003, George W. Bush, it didn't -- it wasn't used under him, it was not used under Barack Obama. You heard the president, right? He's proud of it, he says it was successful. He was asked specifically whether he authorized it. I just want to play that part again for you.
RATHER: Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened, so -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they've done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Dan, we know the commanding general on the ground made the decision to strike, General Nicholson, right? We've heard about him. But we don't know if the president signed off in advance. They came -- I mean, this is a -- this is a big bomb that hasn't been used before. You would think, right? That they told him about it before that he could have stopped it if he wanted to. He did not.
RATHER: Well, I think that's the reason we know, as you say, we don't know whether he signed off or not but it's certainly would be strange if as commander-in-chief you're going to use this weapon, the decision makes it way up the chain of command. It's hard to imagine that the president of United States would not have been informed before the bomb was dropped but given the circumstances where they haven't said whether he authorized it or not, that's makes that an open question.
But two things. One, what President Trump said after the bomb dropped, tells you that the old Teddy Roosevelt line of walk softly but carry a big stick. The bomb was a big stick but there's no walking softly with this president in the wake of that but whether you like it or dislike it. Number two, as was the case with did cruise missiles in Syria, no dropping bombs, putting missiles out is a presidential decision. But that's the easy part.
The tough part comes as to what objective? And one of the puzzles about Afghanistan through the Bush Administration and Obama Administration and now is what is the strategy? Are we there just stay --what is the strategy and the same way with Syria. Shoot the cruise missiles, tomahawk missiles off but what is the strategy? It's unclear one, whether President Trump actually has a strategy in either place and number two, if he does, what is it?
For example, let me conclude by saying that the commander in Afghanistan has been begging for additional on the ground troops for some long time because he knows the reality. You can certainly damage Guerrilla warfare of the type that ISIS been carried on in Afghanistan with bombs but you cannot defeat this kind of Guerrilla force with bombs from the air.
BURNETT: And Colonel Francona, you know, the center of the war on ISIS as we all hear again and again, right? Iraq, Syria, Raqqa, Mosul, Right? Tonight, the biggest bomb used in combat is dropped on Afghanistan to fight ISIS. What does that tell you?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Exactly. Well, it tells me that that was the target for -- the right weapon for that target. If you look at Raqqa and Mosul, there is no way as General Hertling said you would drop this in a city because the civilian casualty toll would be just enormous. This weapon was designed for a specific purpose. It's a high -- it's an overpressure weapon, it sets off IEDs, it collapses tunnels and it penetrates -- the blast wave penetrates in the caves through the cave system.
It's meant for that purpose. You would never use this against either a hardened target or anywhere you have a civilian population or anywhere you have a lot of buildings. That's not what it's for. And the use of this weapon doesn't represent any change in strategy. This was just a tactical decision made by the commander on the ground for that purpose.
BURNETT: Although, Kim, I mean, I have to ask, you know, once you do something, just psychologically it often becomes easier to do it again, right? This has been around as you pointed out since 2003. It was not used before. I'm sure there's a lot of reasons for that. But now that has changed, right? The sale has been broken. Isn't that a change?
DOZIER: Well, its hasn't been used before. And officials -- multiple officials today from Tampa to the Pentagon to Kabul have all said that the General Nicholson had the authority to use this before. He could have used it last year. But General Nicholson isn't just a good tactician and strategist, he's also like any four-star general, a good politician, and I think he calculated that with this administration, should there be any blowback, that they would be much less likely to be upset about the use of this bomb and that they'd be more likely to embrace it.
BURNETT: All right. General, Colonel, Kim, Dan, thank you. Coming back with us in just a moment. The mother of all bombs today, 60 cruise missiles launched on Syria days ago. An armada as the president calls it coming to North Korea. Is this America first? Plus another North Korean nightmare. Could Kim Jong-Un have missiles loaded with Sarin? The same Sarin that Bashar al-Assad just used on his own people? We are live in Pyongyang tonight with new developments. And surprising new information on that United flight debacle. The airline now says that flight wasn't overbooked. Isn't that even worse?
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump touting the success of today's unprecedented bomb. The mother of all bombs is the biggest conventional bomb in America's arsenal. It comes as the administration takes aggressive military across the world striking Syria, deploying an armada to North Korea. Just look at this globe for a second. This is unprecedented when you see what is happening in all of these places at the same time.
Athena Jones is OutFront, she's at the White House tonight. And Athena, one of the things that is most stunning about what we are seeing is that this is something President Trump is clearly behind, he is proud of and it is a complete about-face from the man who ran for president.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. It absolutely is. Trump ran on an America first platform, this idea that America would no longer be the policemen of the world. It was a sentiment that attracted many of his supporters who were tired of years of wars from Afghanistan to Iraq. Even before running for president, Trump was against further action in Afghanistan. You look back to a tweet in 2012, he said it is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us.
It is not in our national interest. And in 2013, he tweeted, we have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out. With this latest action in Afghanistan targeting ISIS. He's singing a different tune. And of course, we heard this just last week. It was a week ago today that he ordered the launch of strikes against that air base in Syria. So it's very clear that in reality, the reality of Trump as president is shaping up to be very, very different from the campaign rhetoric we heard for a year and a half on the campaign trail. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you very much. And now, the former democratic congressman Steve Israel of New York joins us along with former republican senator Rick Santorum, Dan Rather is back with me. Senator Santorum, you know, you just heard Athena with a couple of the president's tweets. And by the way, I can give you a whole lot more of that where that came from, as you're well aware, right? I was -- I was very selective. This is a complete and utter change. This is a guy who just struck Syria, dropped the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan. What do you make of this complete 180?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't see either of those as a 180. And let me explain why. Number one, Donald Trump has been very, very clear that, you know, he wants to defeat ISIS. I mean, if there's anything he was clear about that he will be aggressive is -- in taking on ISIS and defeating is. And he's deferred to his military commanders who said this is the weapon of choice to actually degrade ISIS and their -- and their capabilities and he gave them the go ahead.
I think that's completely consistent. On the other -- on the other -- and Syria, that's a little -- I think it's a little harder to make the case that that's consistent. Let me give it a try. I think there was a little bit of a change in Donald Trump when he came into the presidency and he saw that, you know, the United States, as he'd talked about has -- was no longer the leader on the world stage. We were leading from behind. And he sort of was OK with that but he wants America to be strong, he wants America to be a leader.
In this case, I think his advisors came to him and said, look, Mr. President, this isn't about Syria. This is about the United States standing up for the world community where no one else will and saying we are not going to allow the use of these types of unconventional weapons, gas on civilian populations and that's why you're doing this. Not because of Syria, not because of Assad per se or trying to change the regime but simply to standby this red line that must withdrawn since Barack Obama blurred it.
BURNETT: OK. Dan, as Senator is speaking, you're sort of chuckling.
RATHER: Well, I didn't mean to chuckle.
BURNETT: I mean, not him.
(CROSSTALK) RATHER: First of all, I have great respect for the Senator, for the
position you hold. But he himself acknowledges it's very hard to make the case he's trying to make about Syria. But viewed from 30,000 feet, Donald Trump has reversed himself on a long line of things. First during the campaign he said the U.S. Military was a disaster. Now he says -- he's praising it. Said during the campaign that the Chinese were tremendous manipulators of currency.
Now he says, well, not so much. He lambasted the head of the Federal Reserve. Now he says, you know, entertained keeping the head of this -- he's changed directions so many times. Now, unpredictability is something good for leadership but to appear to be dysfunctional in terms of policies is not. Now, what this raises is people overseas are going to begin to think wrongly, mind you, some of them is going to think, you know, this guy is flaky as well-baked pie crust.
He reverses himself every other day. This is not the tone, much less the substance of a consistent steady leadership. Now, as President Trump goes on, it may get better. But I'll say again that in Syria, by the way, that's not a place where he's reversed himself as the senator pretty much acknowledged, are we for Assad, against Assad and by the way, Syria is very complicated and you say, well, if ISIS is in Syria, ISIS is opposed to Assad. This is a very complicated situation.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, the president said today that he has had to act because the world dramatically changed in the past eight weeks. OK? Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what's happened over the last eight years, you'll see there's a tremendous difference, tremendous difference. So we have incredible leaders in the military and we have incredible military and we are very proud of them. And this was another very, very successful mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, the mission he's referring to is the massive -- the mother of all bombs, right? So, that's what he's specifically referring to. Congressman, do you agree with him, the world has changed dramatically? Tremendously? Sorry.
STEVE ISRAEL, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN: There are a lot of changes. I disagree with him that the world changed the minute he was elected or sworn in. But the fact is this, Erin, you know, things are changing. The enemies have changed. The fronts have changed. The weapons technologies have changed, as we saw with the dropping of this bomb.
BURNETT: So, do you support what he's done?
ISRAEL: The only thing that's the same -- well, the only thing that's the same -- the only thing that hasn't change is we are expanding our military footprint under the original use of force resolution passed by congress right after 9/11.
BURNETT: In 2011.
ISRAEL: In 2001 and I was part of that vote. I was on the floor of the House of Representative when we took that vote. That was before there was such a thing as ISIS, that was before were bombing airfields in Syria, that was before we were involved and engaged in Libya. And so, congress has engaged in my view in a dereliction of its duty by not passing a new authorization for the use of military force. The President of United States Donald Trump has changed the rules of engagement. He is giving his local -- his military leaders on the ground more flexibility.
ISRAEL: But that should not come with a blank check from the United States congress.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, the leader of North Korea summons CNN's reporter to a secret event. He wasn't allowed to take his phone or anything else. What happened? Who did he see? We're going to show you all of that next for the first time. And tonight, the first republican congressman to call for the White House Spokesman Sean Spicer to be fired. You head me right, republican, he's my guest.
BURNETT: Breaking news. The world on edge as North Korea appears to be "primed and ready for nuclear tests." This has new evidence on the ground is making final -- a final preparations being made at one of Pyongyang's key nuclear testing sites. President Trump warning tonight that North Korea and that it will be taken care of in his words. Will Ripley is OutFront in Pyongyang.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the looming threat of a nuclear showdown, new images of Kim Jong-Un guiding a special forces operation. North Korean commandos jumping out of planes, their leader all smiles. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warns North Korea already may have the ability to deliver missiles equipped with deadly Sarin nerve gas. The security situation around our country is getting increasingly severe, Abe said. President Trump praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for turning away coal-carrying cargo ships for North Korea. Coal, a major source of revenue for Pyongyang, believed to have fund its missile and nuclear programs.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Xi wants to do the right thing. I think he wants to help us with North Korea.
RIPLEY: But Chinese customs officials say overall trade between China and North Korea jumped by nearly 40 percent in the first quarter of this year.
(on camera): We got the call before 5:00 a.m. We were told to dress up and leave our phones behind. We went through a couple hours of security. And now, we're here on this street. It's completely closed off. Tens of thousands of people are moving in here.
(voice-over): Raising questions about how far China is willing to go to rein in its unpredictable neighbor.
We saw North Korean leader making a rare public appearance in Pyongyang. Not military event but a ribbon cutting of a new high rise apartment complex, an attempt by the regime to show economic growth despite heavy sanctions over their nuclear program.
(on camera): The message from the North Koreans seems to be that they want to move forward with their military programs, but they also want to grow their economy peacefully. But the they say if they are provoked, they are not afraid to go to war.
(voice-over): North Korean officials tell CNN it's a touch and go situation that could escalate into an all-out conflict. Think tank 38 North says new satellite images show North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear site primed and ready for North Korea's sixth nuclear test, just days before North Korea's most important holiday of the year. Holidays are a time when Pyongyang has been known to project power through military force.
With tensions on the Korean peninsula at their highest in years, nobody knows what Kim Jong Un's next move will be.
RIPLEY: And you can probably hear the ominous music playing on loud speakers behind me. That happens several times a day here in Pyongyang. And adding to this tension, threatening to push it over the edge, this news out of Afghanistan that the U.S. dropped the mother of all bombs on ISIS tunnels, is this a veiled threat from North Korea given that they conduct their nuclear tests underground? And the big unknown tonight, Erin, how will Korean leader Kim Jong-un respond?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Will Ripley, as we said, live from Pyongyang, the only American journalist live there right now. And the music when it comes on is always very eerie when you hear it.
OUTFRONT now, the Republican Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, also a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
And, Congressman, I appreciate your time tonight.
I want to start with this issue of North Korea, right?
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R-CO), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Sure.
BURNETT: We have this anniversary, this birthday coming up in the next day. How confident are you that North Korea will carry out a nuclear test in the coming days?
COFFMAN: Well, there's certainly a tradition in North Korea of doing some aggressive act, you know, on this anniversary. And so, I think it's important for the United States to show its resolve in terms of countering that and putting pressure on China, who holds really all the cards on this.
BURNETT: So, when you say show our resolve in terms of countering it tonight -- I just want to show our viewers that some new satellite images that we have in tonight.
BURNETT: These are -- this is a site, a nuclear site. This is showing increased activity over the past about month, six weeks, at a key North Korean testing site. Experts say there's been new equipment arriving. There's been a surge of activity at the command center specifically.
If the United States has intelligence that North Korea is about to carry outs its sixth nuclear test, when you say show our resolve in countering that, should the United States launch a preemptive strike?
COFFMAN: No, not at this time. What I think we could do -- I mean, this is a test. We know it's a test. The test is important because it shows that they're moving the nuclear program forward, could be a threat to the United States, to be a threat to the region.
Where China's the largest -- China's probably the only ally that North Korea has, the only real ally that North Korea has. It is the economic lifeline for North Korea. They certainly have the capability of putting pressure on the North Korean government to cease this program.
And what President Trump needs to do and I believe what he will do is put pressure on China to end this relationship and put pressure on North Korea to stop this, and to end this nightmare.
BURNETT: Are you concerned -- you know, we've just seen the mother of all bombs used in Afghanistan. The other bomb equivalent, about, is the massive ordnance protocol bomb which is used to destroy bunkers, bunker busters, underground.
[19:35:01] It was designed to destroy nuclear sites, possibly in Iran, of course, possibly in North Korea. Is that something that should be on the table?
COFFMAN: Well, I think -- no. Not right now.
But I think it was important first of all, I think it did come up through the chain of command. I can't imagine that the president would not have signed off on it. It is appropriate for a hardened target like that.
But it also sends a message -- many of these fighters in that position were -- certainly where ISIS are former Taliban, and we need to send a message to Taliban (ph) that this is -- this war is, you know, at stalemate and the only way out is a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. And this sends a clear message to the Taliban that this new administration is serious. BURNETT: Congressman, you held a town hall yesterday. You were asked
about the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and his comments about comparing Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Adolf Hitler and saying Hitler was better.
Here's the exchange with one of your constituents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have on my phone a picture of my great grandparents who were killed at Auschwitz. What is your thoughts at this time of a president who has anti-Semitic people in his cabinet?
COFFMAN: Spicer made a terrible mistake yesterday and he admitted it. If you're not familiar with what he did -- he needs to go, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You said he needs to go. You heard the room erupting in cheers.
Look, Congressman, that was a big moment. You're the first Republican lawmaker to call for the resignation of Sean Spicer. Do you stand by what you said yesterday? He needs to go.
COFFMAN: You know, I really do. I don't think he's serving this president very well. I think when you have a spokesman or a press secretary that himself becomes the story more than once and deflects from what that job is about in terms of representing the White House, I think it is time for him to go. I think he's -- I just don't believe he's capable of doing the job at the level that it needs to be done. And again, he's not serving this president well.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Loud and clear and standing by your words. Congressman Coffman, thank you.
COFFMAN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news: British intelligence intercepting Trump associates communicating with Russians. We have breaking details on this next.
And the president says he is keeping his promises. Critics say he's not. Well, I'm going to ask a loyal supporter, a Trump associate and advisor. Anthony Scaramucci is my guest.
[19:41:42] BURNETT: Breaking news: Trump associates captured communicating with Russian officials. British and other European intelligence officials, we are learning, intercepted the conversations over several months and shared them with U.S. counterparts. Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned that British and European intelligence intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials and other Russians known to western intelligence, during the U.S. presidential campaign, and shared those communications with their U.S. counterparts, multiple U.S. and western officials tell CNN.
These sources stress that at no point did western intelligence, including Britain's GCHQ, which is responsible for communications surveillance, target these Trump associates. Instead their communications were picked up as incidental collection during routine surveillance of known Russian targets.
The U.S. and Britain are part of so-called Five Eyes agreement, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which calls for open-sharing among member nations of a broad range of intelligence.
This new information comes as former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, provides a confusing, even conflicting story about his contacts with Russian intelligence. He has denied that he was a foreign agent.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: This is -- it's just such a joke that it's beyond words.
SCIUTTO: Page told CNN's Jake Tapper that when he visited Russia last July, he never discussed easing sanctions on Russia related to the seizing of Crimea.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ever talk with anyone there about maybe President Trump, if he were elected, then candidate Trump, would be willing to get rid of the sanctions?
PAGE: Never any conversations such as that. I mean, look -- it's --
TAPPER: What do you mean direct -- I don't know what that means. Direct conversations.
PAGE: Well, I'm just saying -- no -- that was never said, no.
SCIUTTO: But interviewed on ABC News this morning, Page could not provide a clear answer.
PAGE: Something may have come up in a con -- I have no recollection and there's nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression, George.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: But you can't say without equivocation that you didn't discuss the easing of sanctions?
PAGE: Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. If it was, it was not something I was offering, or someone -- that someone was asking for.
BURNETT: And Jim is with me now. I mean, Jim, this is possibly very significant, right? When Trump came out and said that the British were spying on him, they completely scoffed on it. Now, we're finding out, sure, it was incidental collection but they did have surveillance.
SCIUTTO: Well, let's show what this is and that is not. It is not what Trump claimed which is that President Obama had the British spy on him. Not true. This is incidental collection. The British like many Western intelligence agencies are regularly monitoring Russians and officials from other adversary countries and sometimes when you do that, just as U.S. intelligence has done, there are Americans either mentioned or on the other end of the line.
And that's what happened here. And what happened is that British intelligence saw that and they saw it with some frequency over a period of time and they then shared that with their U.S. ally. Not what Trump contended, but it does show you, Erin -- and this is key -- that multiple intelligence agencies were catching, in effect, Trump associates speaking with some frequency with Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
[19:45:06] BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. Significant reporting tonight.
And next, Donald Trump's flip-flops. Is it alienating -- are they alienating -- that there are many of them -- his base. Does the president care? One of his loyal supporters and close consultants, next.
And from victim to folk hero. How lawyers for the man dragged from United Airlines flight, believe he could change the airline industry, forever.
BURNETT: New tonight, the White House downplaying multiple apparent flip-flops by President Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying the president's views have not changed. Rather, the issues or other people are evolving towards his views.
Here is Sean Spicer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And if you look at what happens, it's those entities or individuals in some case or issues evolving towards the president's position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, a former member of President Trump's transition team, former economic and policy adviser of the Trump campaign, and, of course, speaks of him, spends a lot of time with him now -- Anthony Scaramucci.
So, Anthony, good to have you with me.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER MEMBRE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S TRANSITION TEAM: I want to defend Sean for 30 seconds, because I know the congressman said he had to go.
SCARAMUCCI: I think it's one of the hardest jobs in the world, Erin.
[19:50:00] You and I have been in the media a very long period of time, you get these lights on you, you got 50, 60 people hitting you -- he misspoke. It does happen.
He is a terrific guy. He's one of the hardest working people I know. So, I don't think he should go.
BURNETT: You don't agree with the Republican congressman.
SCARAMUCCI: I don't -- I don't agree.
BURNETT: He said he is not serving the president well. It's not the first time that, I mean --
SCARAMUCCI: I think that it's early in the administration. I think he is a super hard working person. And from my experience with the president, he is very supportive of his people that are super loyal to him. My guess is that Sean has his support. At least I hope he does, because Sean is a good guy.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you about Donald Trump and his flip-flops, because in many of these cases, it is -- it is very clear.
So, let's just start here with the chairman of the Federal Reserve. This is a crucial position in the United States, the most important economic power in this country and the most powerful economy in the world, Janet Yellen. "The Wall Street Journal" did this interview with Trump, as you know, yesterday, and they asked him if she was toast when her term was up. Trump said, "No, not toast", quote. And then he said he liked her, respected her -- which, of course, Anthony is a big change from what he said in the campaign.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is not a Republican. When her time is up, I would most likely replace her because of the fact that I think it would be appropriate.
We have a Fed that's doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed -- the Fed is doing political by keeping the interest rates at this level.
She is keeping them artificially low to get Obama retired. To a certain extent, I think she should be ashamed of herself.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: "She's political. She should be replaced. I would most likely replace her." Now, she's not toast, he likes and respects her.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I said during that campaign and during the debate, actually, that if the president got to know Chairwoman Yellen, I think he would like her. I think he would like her personally and I think you would get a viewpoint that may be a little different than when you're a candidate.
John Kennedy once said about the candidacy, he thought there was a missile gap. And when he was campaigning on the missile gap, and when he got more information, he realized that we were way ahead on the missiles.
And so, what sometimes happens is when you're a candidate and you're transitioning into the most powerful position in the world, and you're getting more information, you have to, as the facts and circumstances are changing, you have to change your point of view. We both know that smart people do that.
The other thing I want to say about the president --
BURNETT: So, you're saying that it's a good thing that he is flip- flopping on that one? You see that as a good thing?
SCARAMUCCI: See, you want to call it a flip-flop, and I understand why. But I don't really call it that. I call it more of an intellectual evolvement based on new facts and circumstances.
The other thing I would say about the president --
BURNETT: But what's new? What's a new fact and circumstance about Janet Yellen?
SCARAMUCCI: How about a meeting with Janet Yellen?
You know, they asked him about --
BURNETT: But that's him changing his views is all I'm saying.
SCARAMUCCI: They asked him about FBI Director Comey, and he said, "Let me get a meeting with him." And when he got the meeting with him, he decided that this was a man of integrity and that he was going to keep him.
I said six months ago that Chairwoman Yellen has done a very good job. Once President Trump gets the opportunity to meet her, my guess is he may like her. He said most likely in those clips. He's running for office, he's got enough information but not all the information he has now as president. Here's something that you guys are missing in the media -- and I mean
no offense. You're obviously a very good journalist. But what people are missing is that his core base voted for him because of his judgment and his temperament. And you guys may like that or you may not like that, but I love it. And I'll tell you why I love it.
Because when facts and circumstances present themselves, this is a very strong and very decisive leader. This is a person that will look at the facts and circumstances, and say, OK, we are morally outraged at chemical weapons being used on children. And that is a red line for us and we are going to act.
BURNETT: OK, I hear you on your point.
SCARAMUCCI: We're going to --
BURNETT: They voted for him for his leadership and his temperament. But they also voted for him, Anthony, because of his promises. I mean, I don't think you can deny that, right? I mean, let's just take China. He said --
SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's go over some of the other ones, because Janet Yellen, I think -- to me, I think he wants a stable currency and he wants a growing economy.
SCARAMUCCI: And if she is the best person to help him get there, my guess is he's going to keep her.
BURNETT: Well, I will simply say it's ironic that he said, you know, she is keeping interest rates low because of Obama, but now, she's helping him. I mean, I view that as a flip-flop. I see your point of view.
Let me ask you about the next one, China, because I think promises matter.
SCARAMUCCI: Go ahead.
BURNETT: And when he promised to his core base, I am going to take on China, I'm going to bring jobs back. One of the core things he said was, "I'm going to label China a currency manipulator." You and I both know that's a very serious thing. Most economists and people like probably never thought it was not a good idea for him to ever say any such things. But he said it.
BURNETT: OK? He said it many times. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If I'm going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, which should have been done years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He had it on his contract with his voters, the first 100 days, he was going to do exactly that. He meets with President Xi, tells "The Wall Street Journal" this week, China not a currency manipulator.
[19:55:03] SCARAMUCCI: OK. So, again, we got to draw some context, OK?
When China was introduced into the World Trade Organization in late 1999, 2000, they were, in fact, manipulating their currency. They were growing at 10 percent or 11 percent.
SCARAMUCCI: They linked their currency to the U.S. dollar. The dollar was depreciating at a time when China was having super growth and a rising economy. So, that pegged to the U.S. dollar, OK, was currency manipulation along the lines of what the president was suggesting while he was a candidate.
I think the facts and circumstances, what they are on the table now, after meeting with President Xi, looking at the whole array of things that he needs to get done in that bilateral relationship, whether it's North Korea or other things, he's looking at the fact that that currency now is actually risen.
BURNETT: That is fair.
SCARAMUCCI: China has allowed it to float a little more. And I think what he's looking -- he is a phenomenal negotiator. He sent out a tweet which I read a couple of times. This is exactly how I see the president. He basically said, very warm greeting, very warm friendship getting started with President Xi, we'll see how things go on trade.
I don't think there's any break in a promise there. In fact, if anything, I think it's a big message to his core base that China needs to even up and play fairly in the international trade.
BURNETT: All right. Anthony Scaramucci, thank you very much.
And next, United Airlines changing its story again about why Dr. David Dao was dragged from their plane.
BURNETT: Tonight, United Airlines has a new explanation about why Dr. Dao was dragged off his plane, not enough seats.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At a press conference carried live --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under no circumstances --
MOOS: -- the high-powered personal injury attorney shared the screen with his client being dragged --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- like Dr. Dao was treated.
MOOS: How should Dr. Dao be treated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us.
MOOS: A hero for the huddled masses of weary travelers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the guy to stand up for travelers. It's us against them.
MOOS: Among the us, one of Dr. Dao's daughters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Completely horrified and shocked.
MOOS: In the words of one tweet, "Dr. Dao will be what I yell out when I get bad customer service at an airport."
Attorney Tom Demetrio (ph) said it won't be a class action suit, but maybe it will scare airlines into classier service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to just continue to be treated like cattle?
MOOS: Some noted the doctor will likely be treated to a payout. Dr. Dao looking at his future, a golden future, the skies are likely to become a lot friendlier for Dr. Dao, his attorney said he had no idea yet how much a lawsuit may be worth.
And with what appeared to be a slight roll of the eyes, the attorney brought up a guy who never has to fly coach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, even our president last night said that was horrible.
MOOS: The lawyer even made a reference to the comedy, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", in which Steve Martin goes through travel hell.
STEVE MARTIN: I want a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) car, right (EXPLETIVE DELETED) now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I see your rental agreement?
MARTIN: I threw it away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: The moral of the story?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it should be service with a smile.
MOOS: Instead of service that left Dr. Dao with his smile missing two teeth.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us.
Anderson is next.