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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump: I'd Be "Honored" To Meet Kim Jong Un; Spicer: Conditions "Not There Right Now" For Trump/Kim Meeting; Trump Invites Philippines' Duterte To The White House; WH Defends Duterte Invite Despite Human Rights Concerns; Spicer Defends Trump's Warm Words For Strongmen; White House Defends Trump's Outreach To Strongmen; Trump Stands By False Claim That Obama Wiretapped Him; Commerce Secy.: Syria Airstrike Was "After-Dinner Entertainment"; Trump Targets 2 Of Michelle Obama's Kids' Programs; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 1, 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 REPORTER: Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett, OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN OUTFRONT ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, President Trump says he would be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un, just hours after inviting yet a brutal strongman to the oval office. And tonight Trump dredges up his charts that President Obama wiretapped his phone saying, it's been, quote, proven very strongly, by who? And the president cutting one of Michelle Obama's pet programs. Is this about personal payback? Let's go OutFront.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett, OutFront tonight, breaking news, the White House scrambling to defend the president. President Trump declaring he'd be, quote, honored to meet with the North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-un. In an interview today, Trump rolling out the red carpet for a man that he has previously called a maniac and a madman. Here is what he said, "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would be absolutely, I would be honored to do it." And this wasn't a one-off comment. Here is Trump in another new interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over from his father, when his father died. He is dealing with obviously very tough people in particular the generals and others. And at a very young age he was able to assume power, a lot of people I'm sure tried to take that power away whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously he's a pretty smart cookie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Let's just be clear who President Trump is calling a smart cookie that he'd be honored to talk to. Kim Jong-un routinely threatens to annihilate the United States in a nuclear inferno, literally threatening to burn the country to ashes, Kim Jong-un is believed to be a mass murderer, executing political opponents even widely suspected of having his own half-brother murdered, using one of the deadliest nerve agents ever created and known to mankind. And the U.N. says more than 100,000 North Koreans tonight are in Kim's forced labor camp. Millions, tens of millions of people starving in that country. It is a dark and ugly reality that even Trump's press secretary had trouble defending today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How could he be honored to meet Kim Jong-un?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president understands the threat that North Korea poses and he will do whatever it's necessary under the right circumstances to protect our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump's bizarre outreach to Kim Jong-un comes ours after he invited another brutal strongman to the White House. Michelle Kosinski's OutFront tonight at the State Department with that. Michelle?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Erin, yes, this is another one of those phone calls with world leaders that then immediately stops people in their tracks. This time it was President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, the populist profane headline generator who has said that he has personally killed people. For those reasons another is President Obama would not sit down with him. But now President Trump doesn't mind inviting him to the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: When it comes to unlikely friendships, Donald Trump may be unlike any other American president. Today, telling Bloomberg politics he would be honored to meet with the North Korean regime leader Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would be absolutely, I would be honored to do it.
KOSINSKI: This comes after President Trump extended an invite to the white house to President Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking profane street-wise former mayor of the most crime-ridden city in the Philippines. When it comes to jaw dropping comments, Duterte has Trump beats cursing the pope, cursing Obama, comparing himself to Hitler.
Saying he should have raped a murdered gang-raped victim, admitting he himself has shot and killed people and encouraging the killing of suspects in this war on drugs that has now claimed more than 7,000 lives and brought international condemnation. But the White House described this Saturday phone call between the two as very friendly. President Trump enjoyed the conversation.
RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: You choose Trump?
KOSINSKI: The invite to the White House was unexpected, even to the state department and some within the White House according to an official, and to many, stunning.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is one guy who really shouldn't grace the halls of the White House.
JOHN SIFTON, ASIA ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It's a terrible message to be sending to the world.
KOSINSKI: The White House defended the invitation.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That doesn't mean that human rights don't matter. But what it does mean is that the issues facing us, developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level but as many partners in the areas we can get.
KOSINSKI: But President Trump has repeatedly raised controversy reaching out to so call strong men. Praise of Russian President Putin, while Russia was hacking the U.S. Election. Congratulations to Turkish President Erdogan in the midst of a sweeping crackdown on decent. A warm welcome to Egyptian president el-Sisi, leader of a military coop banned from the Obama White House.
TRUMP: He has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.
KOSINSKI: The last time President-elect Trump spoke from Rodrigo Duterte in December, Duterte imitated him in what he said was Trump's appreciation for his bloody war on drugs.
DUTERTE: You're doing good. Go ahead. I had this problem on the border of Mexico and America. This goddamn shit guy -- oh, yes, when you come to Washington, D.C. or New York City, look me up and we'll have coffee. Maybe you can give me a suggestion, one or two how to solve this goddamn bullshit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: Critics say point out that it's not as if the Philippines has a whole lot to add to help the U.S. in countering North Korea, state department though says that it will continue to bring up human rights, the killings of drug suspects, the state department will continue to press for human rights in the Philippines. Duterte though has indicated today that he may not even come because he is just so busy. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Well, I guess the most shocking part about the whole story. Thank you very much, Michelle Kosinski. The White House -- here is the reality, they're struggling. Spicer, you saw Reince Priebus struggling, explained the president's comments on North Korea and on the Filipino leader. Jason Carroll, OutFront live at the White House. I mean, Jason, they are putting an incredibly difficult situation here. They got to defend their boss. What are they saying?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And what you do in a situation like this is you spin it, Erin, and that's exactly what's going on here. I mean, you look at this leader, this Philippine leader who has accused so many human rights violations. But the White House's take on this is basically look, this is someone who might be able to help at the end of the day when it comes to the conflict in North Korea.
Strategically the Philippines is important for a number of reasons in terms of military aspects, again, important for a number of reasons. But when the administration was pressed on this a little earlier today the real question was why these friendly be seemingly friendly outward gestures to whether it'd be the leader from the Philippines, the leader from Turkey or Kim Jong-un, and Sean Spicer asked about that a little earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Unfortunately, those are the neighbors and there are certain things -- those are the countries in the region, those are the countries that can be helpful as we move forward to try to prevent the threat that they -- that they pose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Also, the president for him, he has basically come out and basically said when it comes to the Philippine leader, he says this is a man who is popular in his country and enjoys -- at least he says enjoys good poll numbers in his country. The president has accepted as you know, Erin, an invitation to visit the Philippines in November for a regional summit. Erin?
BURNETT: That's right, interesting, of course that he would hone in on his popularity numbers, his approval readings, so near and dear to the president's heart. Thank you. OutFront now, David Gergen, former presidential adviser to four presidents, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, and retired U.S. Army Major General Spider Marks. General Marks, let me start with you. Let's start with North Korea, the President of the United States just said and we heard him say it, "I -- " he would be honored to meet a ruthless, murderous dictator. Honored.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Big mistake, the President of the United States needs to be quiet in terms of our relationship with North Korea. Look, for the past seven years while there's regimes as Kim regimes has been in place, the United States behavior has been immensely predictable. We've had a strong military, we've created a strong alliance in the region, we worked as best as we can with both China and Russia to try to contain North Korea and hopefully modify their behavior. Inarguably, none of that has worked. We have not modified North Korea's behavior.
BURNETT: Right. They've made a lot of progress, they have gotten the nuclear weapons.
MARKS: And North Korea's going to continue to march along in this path. The President of the United States should not be honored to meet Kim, not a single bit. What has to happen is there has to be at the lowest levels of diplomatic types of relationships, in military exchanges, we have to start building a foundation where there can be some trust and we have to be -- we have to be able to see that there is some behavior modification going on, we haven't seen that.
BURNETT: And, you know, it's not just Spider's pointing out. A flip- flop of 70 year of U.S. policy, although it's pointed out a lot of that policy has not worked. Is a flip-flop for Donald Trumps direct and specific, Mark? Here he is then, candidate Trump, and now, the honored Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly. Anad let me tell you people will say, "Oh --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you make it disappear in a second?
TRUMP: Let me just tell you, well, there are worse things frankly. I mean, we got this madman playing around with the nukes, and it has to end. This guy -- this -- I mean, he's like a maniac. Got this madman over there who probably would use it. And nobody talks to him. Well, I think it's a serious problem because he's probably on the wacky side. At a young age he was able to assume power, a lot of people I'm sure tried to take that power aways, whether it was his uncle or anybody else, and he was able to do it. So obviously he is a pretty smart cookie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he also said 72 hours ago that he wouldn't rule out military action against North Korea.
BURNETT: But he was joking about assassinating the guy, taking him out as many ways as he can. And now, all of a sudden, honored, smart cookie. Sympathetic somehow with his rise to power at a young age.
PRESTON: Well, the hundred plus days that we've sat at this table and we have discussed his presidency, we always come back to this one major theme, his words matter. He is the leader of the free world, when he says something it doesn't just get thrown in the wind and blown away, it get set in stone and I think that's what General Marks is saying at that point. He's got to be careful, he's got to keep his mouth shut and quite frankly, if you are an ally right now, if you are South Korea, what are you thinking right now about what Donald Trump is willing to do to protect you if there is an incident?
BURNETT: Is this one of those things where you can say one thing as a candidate and then completely switch as a president?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, he obviously -- I ought to do a lot of self-other thing and show much more discipline but I must say I'm contrary on the question of whether he ought to be willing to sit down with the North Korean leader. I -- in my judgment we are cutting more slack on that. You know, we have President Obama who said he was willing to sit down with the Iranians, you know, Kennedy --
BURNETT: And the North Korean leader -- GERGEN: And the North Korea -- yes.
BURNETT: -- until he realizes --
GERGEN: Kennedy famously said, "Better to jaw-jaw than war-war." It was an old Churchill line. And we sat down with the soviets, our mortal enemies, so time after time again to try to diffuse things. So I think the idea of meeting along is not out of the mainstream, but I think if he's very brave when he says, he'd be honored to do this. And then the Filipinos stuff, that's great -- that's nut. I mean, we should not be inviting the Philippine leader here in the circumstances.
MARK: You know, I think the United States is correct to establish some type of the presence, an increased presence, influence if you will, David, in Southeast Asia. Because inarguably we've lost that. But that is not the individual with whom or the country with whom we should establish that. I think we're missing a -- missing an opportunity in Indonesia for example.
BURNETT: And so in this issue with Duterte, OK, in an interview, he has killed about 7,000 people so far in his war on drugs, OK, President Duterte. In a new interview, Trump was asked specifically about that killings and his comment was, quote, he has been very, very tough on the drug problem but he has a massive drug problem, which of course comes off very clearly as excusing killing 7,000 people.
PRESTON: Yes, it doesn't mean you go out and assassinate. You know, the problem -- and Duterte has talked about killing even more people and he has bragged about it.
BURNETT: Talked about personally killing people.
PRESTON: Right. And he has bragged about it. You know, again, elevating a brutal dictator, a killer right now not necessarily the job of the commander-in-chief. I don't disagree with David says about some kind of diplomacy, perhaps, Trumping war. But I think that he does it so carelessly, that it's not strategic and that's my concern.
GERGEN: I agree but I think that Trump being is also he is much more dangerous, more likely to stumble into war to make a miscalculation. That's what worries me the most. If he wants to sit down with him, fine, it's much better than going to war with him.
BURNETT: And of course we should notice on the case of Duterte, State Department, National Security Council, none of Trump's advisers were even aware that he was going to do that before he did it. So far from them weighing in, they had no idea it was coming. Next, republicans pushing for another showdown on the health care bill. Are they short of the needed votes tonight? Two crucial votes. Plus, which top cabinet member describe the Syrian missile strike as Mar-a-Lago's, quote, after dinner entertainment today, you're going to hear exactly what was said and Jeanne Moos on Trump's long history with short goodbyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Do the interview with somebody else, really, you don't -- you
don't need this, do it with somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump once again rolling out his claim that President Obama wiretapped him during the election. The president resurrecting the issue in an interview earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think our side has been proven very strongly and everybody is talking about it. And frankly it should be discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No, Jessica Schneider is OutFront.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump signaling he is sticking by his wiretapping claims.
TRUMP: I think our side has been proven very strongly and everybody is talking about it.
SCHNEIDER: He sent these accusatory tweets two months ago, "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" And now in an interview with CBS, the president is not backing down.
TRUMP: Words are less important to me than deeds and you saw what happened with surveillance and everybody saw what happened with surveillance. I thought that, well, you saw what happened with surveillance and I think that was inappropriate.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS, FACE THE NATION HOST: What does that mean, sir?
TRUMP: You can figure it out yourself.
DICKERSON: Well, the reason I asked is you said you called him sick and bad.
TRUMP: Look, you can figure it out yourself. He was very nice to me with words but -- and when I was with him but after that there was no relationship.
DICKERSON: But you stand by that claim about him?
TRUMP: I don't stand by anything, I just -- you can take it the way you want to.
SCHNEIDER: When press to clarify, the president simply shut the interview down.
DICKERSON: You're the President of the United States, you said he was sick and bad because he attempted on --
TRUMP: You can take any way -- you can take it any way you want.
DICKERSON: But I'm asking you because you don't want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump.
TRUMP: You don't -- you don't have to ask me -- you don't have to ask me.
DICKERSON: Why not?
TRUMP: Because I have my own opinion and you can have your own opinions.
DICKERSON: But I want to know your opinion, you're the President of the United States.
TRUMP: Thank you. It's enough, thank you. Thank you very much.
SCHNEIDER: The existence of a wiretap has been repeatedly rejected by the two top republicans.
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: No such wiretap existed.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: There is no evidence of that. I've not heard of it before.
SCHNEIDER: FBI Director James Comey issued a definitive denial at a house intelligence committee hearing March 20th.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.
SCHNEIDER: When House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes revealed, the intelligence community picked up the communications of Trump associates and perhaps even the president himself an incidental collection. President Trump said he felt vindicated.
TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must -- you somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.
SCHNEIDER: The FBI did monitor Trump's former campaign adviser Carter Page. After Page gave a speech in Moscow and the FBI secured FISA Court warrant. And former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced out after his calls with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak were picked up by U.S intelligence during routine monitoring of Kislyak. There is still no confirmation that President Trump was directly surveilled or wiretapped but the president continues to press his unfounded concerns.
TRUMP: I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. I think that's a very big topic and it's a topic that should be number one and we should find out what the hell is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Now, the president has offered no evidence to back up his claims. And in addition to prominent republicans who have rebuffed his accusations, former President Obama issued a statement back in March saying neither he nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on a U.S. citizen.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Jessica. And OutFront now, Maria Cardona, democratic strategist, Andre Bauer, republican former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, and Jackie Kucinich, the Washington Bureau Chief of The Daily Beast. So Jackie, let me start with you. You heard Trump say to John Dickerson there, it was quote, proven very strongly. Obviously, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the two top republicans in congress say there has been no evidence to back this up. Incidentally, yes. People like Carter Page who by the way Trump said he never spoke with. So if he was caught up in that incidental there is an issue there. Why is Trump bringing this up again?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: He can't let it go. This is a president who doesn't like to let things go eve -- especially if he feels slight but the fact that he brought it up and then seemed to get upset that they were talking about it. This also goes back to the Russian hacking. He looks at that through his reason. He doesn't look at it as an attack on the United States, he look at -- he looks at it as a democratic attack on his presidency. And until he can get past that we're going to keep on replaying these conspiracy theories, frankly. That he -- this one just seems like it was made up out of whole cloth.
BURNETT: And Andre, you know, he said proven strongly which of course as we say that from the reporting that we have done, what others have said in the intelligence community and congress is not true but when he was given the chance to answer that question directly, you saw him. He just walked off and ended the interview.
ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LT. GOVERNOR, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I'm not sure why he did that. We know there was surveillance going on. We know Evelyn Farquas even talked about it, bragged on it MSNBC. Susan Rice admitted it. She knew about the masking only after she said she had nothing to do with it. So I think the American people no matter what side you're on would like to have more information. I wish the president had actually elaboratedon what he knew and filled us in because there are a lot of folks that are, kind of, wondering what really did happened here. Who ordered it, why was there a FISA warrant order in the first place, what was it based on, who leaked it to the media and why.
BURNETT: And Maria, no answers from the president again. And by the way I just want to make it clear to everybody, John Dickerson didn't ask him about this. Does this make this very clear? Donald Trump brought it up and then when asked further questions the president did not want to answer them. MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, not only that, Erin but the issue that my friend Andre just brought up is a completely different issue than what President Trump accused President Obama of doing. Trump accused Obama of wiretapping his phones, which is completely illegal. And that have -- has absolutely not been proven whatsoever by anybody. His own -- Trump's own republican colleagues have had to come out and say they don't see any evidence of it.
The whole surveillance incidental capturing of other Americans on surveillance is a completely different issue. And frankly, related, but doesn't really have anything to do with the outright lie that Trump continues to say happened. And it is demeaning to him, demeaning to the country, demeaning to the Office of the President of the United States.
BURNETT: Andre, because to the point that I was making with Jackie there, you know, we know there was a FISA warrant for Carter Page, and if that was the incidental collection in which Donald Trump was picked up, if Donald Trump himself was picked up in any incidental collection himself, right? But as he alleges it was picked up that would mean he was talking to Carter Page which of course he said he never did. I mean, this is a tough one for him to find a way out of at this point.
BAUER: Well, I do think that when he said wiretapping, he used it as an overall broad term of some type of surveillance. They don't do wiretapping for what I'm un -- understanding any more. It's really more electronic surveillance because of new technology and we are talking about someone that's, you know, a little bit older and would use that as a broad term. But Evelyn Farquas got on MS -- MSNBC and said, "Look, we try to get all the information we could. We had ways to doing it. We were keeping up with the Trump team." I'm paraphrasing of course but she bragged about it and she said, "We were going to get all we could before we left office."
BURNETT: So -- OK. Go ahead, Maria, quickly.
CARDONA: I was going to say, again, that does not answer the question whatsoever. We know that our government does surveillance of foreign operatives. And in that surveillance, some Americans were picked up like Carter Page. We understand that. It is possible that we will find out. This is why there are four investigations going on that at some point Donald Trump or other of his campaign associates will be picked up as well.
CARDONA: If that happens it will be because something happened untoward. So that remains to be seen.
BURNETT: Jackie I want to ask you about something else that happened today. The Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross spoke at a conference about the president strike on Syria. We don't get audio of this but I'm going to tell everyone what he said because it's important. He said, "Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi," of course the President of China, "he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria. It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment. The thing was, it didn't cost the president anything to have that enter -- after-dinner entertainment." What do you say, Jackie? He's trying to make -- and by the way, that was was met with laughter at this Michael Miller conference that Wilbur Ross is at -- in California today.
KUCINICH: You know, you don't want to just be too serious and be -- and, you know, cast all levity aside. This is a -- this is a serious matter and it raises all of the security issues with having President Trump at Mar-a-Lago who was hearing this conversation. Were they in a skiff? Were -- that is more the issue than this kind of insensitive seemingly sort of Mr. Burn's-ish comments that Wilbur Ross made.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you, all, three, I appreciate it. And next, President Trump killing a program Michelle Obama championed. Is this all about revenge? And another Trump aide said to be on his way out. Our special report on Sebastin Gorka.
BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump targeting two of former First Lady Michelle Obama's top initiatives. Trump immediately discontinuing the Let Girls Learn program which focus on young girls in developing countries and going after Michelle Obama's nutrition program for public school lunch. Joining us now, former Reagan White House Political Director, Jeffrey Lord and former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye, and Jeffrey, all of the things that the president has on his plate right now, health care talks, tax reform, North Korea, Syria, Russia, right? I can go on and on, why are these programs even remotely on the president's radar?
JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, the budget is on his radar. And I have to say this brings back very old memories when I was a young congressional staff for congressman on the House Budget Committee and Ronald Reagan was the new president. He was cutting programs left and right. This is always the same argument. The liberals and others want to go to the substance of the program and say why are you doing x? This terrible thing, this is a wonderful program.
And it's on ideological argument. Conservatives say, "We're in debt. We've got to cut the budget. We've got to cut spending and they do this across the board".
BURNETT: No matter how small the item --
LORD: I'm sorry?
BURNETT: No matter how small the item is what you're saying?
LORD: Correct, correct. I mean, and this is what presidents have to do, as it were, walk and chew gum at the same time. This is an ongoing thing that will be ongoing in any administration, one administration may want to add things, another may want to take things -- you know, take things off. But this battle goes on constantly.
BURNETT: Is that what this is about, Angela?
ANGELA RYE, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: I don't think so. I think, in fact, Jeffrey, this actually flies in the face of your argument as it relates to the Let Girls Learn program, which is paid for. This is a program that was just separately branded and it's something that's been in place for more than 56 years. That means it was in place when you worked in the administration, Jeffrey.
So, I think that argument doesn't really fly here.
RYE: No, I'm not saying it was 56 years ago, but I'm saying you did work in the administration when this program existed. So, that doesn't really work. I think the real challenge is, one thing that Congressman Cleaver says often, one of my former bosses on Capitol Hill, and that is, when you are able to look at a country's budget, you're able to identify what their priorities are.
And here's the real truth. The real truth is this has never been a priority for Donald Trump. This is why -- I almost called her Melania, because that's her role. Ivanka got booed last week. This is the reason why he's not a fighter for families. He's not a fighter for women's rights.
She says she wants to shore up women's entrepreneur, she is not going to be able to do that when this is a slap in the face of growth all over the world.
BURNETT: So, Jeffrey, you know, this brings me to -- I think what's a fair question, which is what is this really about. Michelle Obama went after Donald Trump during and after the election. She did not mince any words, OK? So, let me just remind everybody of what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high. I can't believe that I'm saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.
See, now we're feeling what not having hope feels like. You know?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: Is this simply payback, Jeffrey?
LORD: No, I don't think so. I think this is very ideological. This is the kind of sentiment that is shot through the entire conservative movement and the Republican Party. If President Trump were not in the White House, but another Republican, let's say Ted Cruz, I'm sure you would have found the same results here. BURNETT: So, Angela, I just -- I paused for a second here, that was a
pause, we just got an e-mail from the White House. I want to tell you what it says and get your reaction.
BURNETT: You know, they sent this memo out, right? And the memo said the education secretary position would not be maintained. They're now coming out and saying, Kelly Love, a White House spokeswoman, there have been no changes to the program. They're going to change the brand, basically, the name.
Do you buy this? I mean, obviously, there is a lot more to figure out here. Do you buy that they're now coming out and saying that?
RYE: Yes, I think it was consistent as what was said earlier. I think that the challenge is, the reason why it was branded in a certain way is this is a notion that was rejected all over the world. What is the real issue here?
For someone who has bragged about, as Michelle Obama just said, sexually assaulting women, he needs to do whatever he can do to strengthen platforms for young girls, whether it is in STEM fields, whether it's in higher education, whether it's on entrepreneurship, he doesn't need to take anything away from these kids.
And then when you think about, again, this proposal by Sonny Perdue, to loosen the restrictions on school, lunch and breakfast programs that impacts 31 millions kids, this is messaging that this White House can ill afford to have attached to it.
BURNETT: Jeffrey, because there's one thing here, the president, when it comes to Michelle Obama and spending his time on this, he has not minced words on what he feels about getting revenge, no matter how small the issue maybe. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, there are a lot of bad people out there. And you really have to go, if you have a problem with someone, you have to go after them. And it's not necessarily to teach that person a lesson. It's to teach all the person that are watching a lesson that you don't take crap.
Anybody that hits me, we're going to hit them 10 times harder.
I love getting even with people but I will --
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: You love getting even?
TRUMP: Oh, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:35:00] BURNETT: Now, Jeffrey, you really do believe, I know, that this is about the substance, and more efficient governments? LORD: I mean, Erin, if I had not seen this for years, for decades on the Republican side of the aisle, I might believe differently. But I have seen it and I know, you know, there are people there believe this to their core. So, I just think this is the latest example of it.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I thank you both very much. And we'll continue to follow examples on this story.
LORD: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: The rebranding, or how they're restructuring it, what exactly they're doing.
And next, a top Trump adviser may be out of his way of the White House. Why was he wearing a medal that some associate with Nazi Germany? Our special report.
And breaking health care news. The new bill in serious jeopardy tonight, two votes away from failure. The president said he would be angry at certain members of Congress if it doesn't go through. What's about to happen. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Tonight, new turmoil swirling around President Trump's White House circle. Sebastian Gorka is a controversial top national security aide to the president and he may be on the way out. He'd be the latest in a series of high profile departures.
The White House today refusing to rule out Gorka's departure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:01] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no personnel announcement at the time. I have no belief that he is currently leaving the White House. So, there is nothing to update you on with respect to that and we would not comment on personal matters at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the mid-2000s, Sebastian Gorka was a failed politician in Hungary, losing the mayoral race in a small Hungarian town, appearing on TV with a radical ultra-nationalist leader to announce a new political party that never went anywhere -- which is why what has happened in the past ten years in his life is nothing short of amazing.
Sebastian Gorka's most recent jobs were national security editor for "Breitbart News", and a FOX News contributor. CNN talked with a half dozen international security experts who either weren't familiar with his work until he made it to the White House or thought he was unqualified for such a powerful position.
And yet, Sebastian Gorka became part of the newly formed Strategic Initiatives Group, advising President Trump on matters of national security, as he told CNN in February.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, TRUMP AIDE: We are charged with doing long-range initiatives of real import to the president, and it's a number of task forces.
America is the greatest nation --
GRIFFIN: Armed with a distinctive and distinguished speaking style, impeccable dress --
GORKA: I am a strategist.
GRIFFIN: -- he looks and plays the part of one of the foremost experts on radical Islamic terrorism.
GORKA: We will defeat ISIS.
GRIFFIN: He is a favorite speaker among conservative groups who agree with his message.
The root of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism is a fanatical religious belief that can't be negotiated.
GORKA: The only thing you can negotiate with a jihadi with, or about, is how you will be killed.
GRIFFIN: With a PhD in political science from Corvinus University in Budapest, he moved to the U.S. and started teaching. He has taught at the FBI, consulted in the Boston bombing federal terror case, was named an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. A meteoric rise just since his failure as a Hungarian politician just 10 years earlier.
Counterterrorism experts CNN talked with called Gorka's actual credentials thin.
Former FBI agent Clint Watts says at the very least, Gorka lacks the experience to make him an expert on anything in the Arab world.
CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI AGENT: I would expect someone who is going to talk so feverishly about radical Islam to have a PhD in the Middle East history, with Arabic language experience, have lived and worked and studied in multiple Arabic speaking countries, to have participated or studied ground military campaigns, law enforcement, intel operations.
GRIFFIN: But what has haunted him the most is the so far unproven allegations he is hiding a past that includes anti-Semitism.
CNN has found no evidence that Gorka is or ever was anti-Semitic. Most of the claims stem from Gorka wearing a medal awarded to his father, by a group called the Vitezi Rend, which at one time the U.S. State Department said was under the direction of the Nazi government, though the current head of the group tells CNN they were never involved with the Nazis.
CNN obtained the Hungarian secret police files on Gorka's father from the '50s. And though the communist government did refer to the elder Gorka as a "very right-wing person", the historian tells CNN anyone opposed to the communist regime at the time was labeled the same.
GRIFFIN: And, Erin, while at the White House, Sebastian Gorka's role seems to be going to right leaning media outlets defending President Trump's more controversial proposals, like the travel ban. He's also been somewhat of a presidential cheerleader for military strikes on Syria and Afghanistan.
He has not been so willing to talk to CNN about his credentials or questions concerning his past. We have been reaching out to both him and the White House now for weeks. Neither the White House nor Gorka would answer our questions. Now, he appears to be leaving -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Drew. Appreciate that very much.
OUTFRONT now, the Republican congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
I appreciate your time.
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ), KNOWS TRMP AIDE SEBASTIAN GORKA: Thank you.
BURNETT: Congressman, I know you supported Sebastian Gorka. You called him an American patriot. You said his national security credentials were unimpeachable. But you, of course, just saw this report, a former FBI agent, international security experts, counterterror experts, have never heard of him until he entered the White House or say he is unqualified. Does that give you pause?
FRANKS: No, what it does is just reconfirm that all of this is just the left wing echo chamber.
[19:45:00] There's all kinds of attacks. And even your own reports now that some of the people who have talked to folks that knew Sebastian Gorka in Hungary have found it appalling that anyone would suggest that he's anti-Semitic. Now, he keeps the medal because it reminds me of what happened to his father who did join the anti- communist resistance.
Sebastian Gorka is a great man, I know him very well personally. I talked to him just today and I chair the Israeli allies caucus here in the Congress. And I would be very, very cautious about supporting anyone that I thought was the least bit anti-Semitic. And this man is as far away from being anti-Semitic as a person can be. His own faith is very clear in that he is a very pro-Israel, very pro-Jewish --
BURNETT: So -- FRANKS: Go ahead.
BURNETT: Congressman, I just want to interrupt you, you said he spoke with him today.
FRANKS: I did.
BURNETT: Did he say he is leaving the White House or anything like that?
FRANKS: No, there's no substantiation of that whatever. Everyone I talked to says that that's simply not even in consideration right now. No one knows the future and I certainly am not going to get myself in a position where I predict the future.
But I will say this, it's just all part of the echo chamber. The left has funded a very intense anti -- just against the man's character. Their real target is not Sebastian Gorka, their real target is the president.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Congressman --
FRANKS: And Sebastian knows that and that helps a lot.
BURNETT: OK. So, but you bring up the medal. All right, at the core of the Gorka imbroglio right now are questions about links to Nazi beliefs, right? We showed a picture of him wearing that medal. It's from a group that U.S. State Department linked with Nazi Germany in World War II.
The question I have for you since you seem to have such a strong view on his views on the Jewish faith, why wear a medal that represents anti-Semitism or Nazi Germany to (INAUDIBLE)
FRANKS: It doesn't represent that to Gorka at all. It represents some memory of his father who was a noble person that was later betrayed and fought in the Budapest time that -- I'm just suggesting to you that all of this is just pure speculation and nonsense made up deliberately. There has been more than 40 articles on the left. None of them can bring up one quote that he ever wrote, or one thing that he ever said that is the least bit anti-Semitic.
I know this man's heart. And it's a disgrace the way they're doing it. The left is going to have a lot of egg on their face, because as you really get down to the base, you see that this is just a nonsensical attack.
BURNETT: So, it doesn't bother you though that there are some people -- you know, descendants of people who died in the Holocaust, who were killed, who say, look, this group was associated, was supporting Nazi Germany, that to wear that medal --
BURNETT: -- no matter what it may mean because of his father, would be at the very least distasteful if not signaling anti-Semitism to some?
FRANKS: But you're -- if you that -- if you take that tack, you know, anyone with a German background here is somehow endangered of being labeled anti-Semitic. I mean, the notion --
BURNETT: Oh, no, this was a medal that was linked to Nazi Germany. That's --
FRANKS: But the bottom line is you measure the man for what he says and what he does and what he stands for, and if the media will look at that clearly, they will find that Sebastian Gorka is a strong supporter of Israel. And to suggest otherwise is a deliberate, ugly character assassination that does not behoove in media in any way.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Franks, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, sir.
FRANKS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news, Republicans on the verge of losing their second try to health care bill. Two votes shy of defeat. The president himself saying he'll be angry if it fails. Can it be saved?
And Donald Trump takes a hike. Jeanne Moos on the art of ending an uncomfortable interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I want to know your opinion, you're the president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's enough. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:52:14] BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House making a desperate attempt to sell its new health care plan, which is in trouble again. Just a short time ago, Vice President Mike Pence just left the Capitol, went there to lobby for it, meeting with skeptical Republicans. He refused to answer on his way out whether he's got the votes to pass the Republican plan.
Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT, live on Capitol Hill tonight.
And, Sunlen, how confident is the administration at this hour?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the White House, Erin, notably spent the better portion of the day today really trying to project confidence, trying to project optimism. We heard from the top economic advisor earlier this morning, saying he believes this is going to be a great week, that the bill will get to the House floor and they believe that they do have the votes there. But that confidence is certainly standing in stark contrast to the reality of the moment up here on Capitol Hill. First, here's the latest from President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Health care, we're going to get that passed?
TRUMP: Doing the best I can. The one mistake I made with health care, you know, we have one plan that's been going through. It's been getting better, and better, and better. We either going to have a great plan or I'm not signing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And perhaps the Vice President Pence who I noted just left Capitol Hill said it best, when he was leaving, he did say to reporters just two words when he was asked whether they have the votes right now, and he said stay tuned, which really speaks to the fluidity of the situation up here on Capitol Hill, especially because we saw a slew of new members come out today in opposition of this bell.
BURNETT: So, Sunlen, where do things stand on the vote count? This all comes down to the tally. Where are we?
SERFATY: That's right. The tally is not turning in the right direction in terms of the White House's view. We saw House Republican after House Republican today stand up and say that they're now against this bill. CNN's latest vote count has 21 House Republicans saying they are against this bill. That's important because that means that they lose just two more Republican votes and it goes to a House vote, that this bill would potential fail -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. So, it's all down to those two votes, which side is going to get them? Can they pull this out or not?
Thank you so much, Sunlen.
And OUTFRONT next, Jenny Moos on how when the questions get tough, sometimes Donald Trump finds a way to vamoose.
[19:57:37] BURNETT: President Trump talks and sometimes then walks.
Jeanne Moos has the last word.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What really made it more than enough --
TRUMP: That's enough.
MOOS: -- was the dismissive wave, interview over.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: I want to know your opinion. You're the president of the United States.
TRUMP: That's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.
MOOS: CBS's John Dickerson was thank youed right out the door. Twenty-seven years earlier, it was Donald Trump who walked out --
INTERVIEWER: There's nothing that we didn't discuss on the phone, Donald.
MOOS: -- after tough questions from CNN about the financial health of his casinos.
TRUMP: Back to the negative.
INTERVIEWER: Back to the negative.
TRUMP: Back to the negative.
INTERVIEWER: Back to the negative.
TRUMP: You know what? Do this interview with somebody else.
INTERVIEWER: We talked about this yesterday on the phone.
TRUMP: Do the interview with somebody else, really. You don't need this. Do it with somebody else. Have a good time.
MOOS: Instead of thank you, it was good luck.
TRUMP: I think it's very unfair reporting. Good luck.
INTERVIEWER: Sorry you feel that way.
MOOS: Actually, Trump's walkouts are rare when you consider how many hundreds, even thousands of interviews he's done over the years, he's never come close to terminating me. Though as a presidential candidate, President Trump walked off on two Ohio TV reporters on a single day.
REPORTER: Nineteen days out from the election, you have been labeled a racist, you've been called a sexist. How --
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
REPORTER: How do you respond to that?
TRUMP: I am the least racist person you've ever met.
MOOS: This after a woman came out accusing Trump of touching her.
REPORTER: I know the woman came out today (INAUDIBLE)
Can you answer allegations about that?
TRUMP: I know nothing about that.
REPORTER: About the (INAUDIBLE) allegations?
TRUMP: I know nothing.
MOOS: Trump clearly knew nothing about fake rapper Ali G when he sat down with Sacha Baron Cohen's character, who asked him to invest in --
SASHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN: This ice cream gloves --
MOOS: Trump declined to invest, did it without taking off the gloves.
TRUMP: Good luck, folks. It's been nice seeing you. You take care of yourselves, OK?
COHEN: Are you going to be in on that?
TRUMP: Well, it sounds like an interesting --
MOOS: Donald Trump tends to be harder on the microphone --
TRUMP: Do it with somebody else.
MOOS: -- than the interviewer.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
TRUMP: That's enough.
MOOS: -- New York.
MOOS: All right. And thanks so much as always for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow night, Tuesday. Don't forget you can watch OUTFRONT any time anywhere. You just have to go to CNN Go. Have a great night.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.