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FBI Declines Congressional Request For Comey Memos; Trump Team Preps "War Room" To Defend Against Russia Probe; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront, tonight breaking news. Kushner's Russia connection. The Washington Post and NBC News reporting moments ago that FBI investigators are now focusing on President Trump's son-in- law Jared Kushner. And meetings he had with the Russian ambassador and the head of a Russian bank that is the subject of American sanctions. The Post report says Kushner is being investigated because of "the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians."

This is as big development and it comes just days after report said an unnamed senior White House official close to the president is the significant focus of the Russia investigation. Matt is the lead reporter on the post story. He's OutFront tonight. And Matt, this is a stunning new development. What more can you tell us about your reporting?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: It is. So last week we reported that a senior White House person was a significant person of interest in this investigation and today we can reveal that that person is Jared Kushner. That's really important, of course, because there's almost no one closer to the president in the White House than him. He's the president's son-in-law. He's kind of the key person on a lot of their interactions with foreign countries. So this is big news.

Now, I should sort of clarify that we don't - we're not saying that he is going to be charged with a crime. We're not saying he is the target of the investigation. They're certainly looking at Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn too but sort of put Jared Kushner up in that - in that class of people who they're interested in.

BURNETT: And to your point, now, this is -- this is somebody - as you're saying, they're not alleging wrongdoing at this point but they are looking closely not just to someone who's in the White House and in the president's inner circle but perhaps the person in that circle closest to the president.

ZAPOTOSKY: That's right. That's right. And that's why we think that this is so significant that if they can't allege specific wrongdoing, now it's important for the public to know this.

BURNETT: And at this time you are talking about meetings with the Russian ambassador, meetings with a Russian bank. What other developments do you know of at this time, links that Jared Kushner may have had with the Russians that they are looking at?

ZAPOTOSKY: Well, we know in April there was an event at the Mayflower that Jared Kushner was at and Sergey Kislyak who's the Russian ambassador was at. We don't know if they interacted at all though, that's certainly something I'm sure investigators are interested. And then what we understand their focused on in the series of meeting in December, so in early December --

BURNETT: And your - I just want to be clear, April 2016.

ZAPOTOSKY: April 2016, I'm sorry. Yes. Not -


BURNETT: Right. So in the heat of the campaign. I just want to be clear. OK. OK.

ZAPOTOSKY: That's right.

BURNETT: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. So then December 2016 is what they're really scrutinizing now. And that's a meeting that Jared Kushner has with Kislyak again the ambassador in early December. There's a follow-up meeting that doesn't involve Kusher himself but he sends a top deputy. And then later that month he meets with the head of a Russian bank. We don't know exactly what that's about. The White House in the past has characterized these as routine kind of diplomatic meetings, you know, Kushner at that point I guess you would call him the transition official but that's what investigators are looking at.

BURNETT: So Matt, when you say he's being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, what is the significance of that? Because to your point some of these meetings we have known about before. Kushner did not disclose them originally but then he did. But hey are now at this time knowing about them, investigating.

ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. That's right. I think the disclosure issues here are in important piece of this. They weren't disclosed in real time. They were disclosed later. Jared Kushner filled out a security clearance form and our friends at the New York Times reported that he did not list this December meetings and that his lawyer at the time suggested, well, this was an innocent oversight. He sought to clarify that but that speaks to the - sort of nature of these meetings.

And also, I mean, look, at the time in December, the law enforcement community, the intelligence community was aware of Russian meddling in our election. So there was talk of sanctions in the area and Jared Kushner is taking meetings with the Russians around then. That in and of itself is significant though as I said before. I mean, look, he's part of the incoming administration. He has a right to be a part of the new president's foreign policy.

BURNETT: All right. Matt, stay with me, please. I want to just bring in some others here to add to the discussion here about your breaking news. The former republican presidential candidate Senator Rick Santorum join me along with former senior adviser and communications director for President Obama, Dan Pfeiffer. Senator, let me give you a chance to react to this. Matt is here obviously with The Washington Post with his breaking news. Jared Kushner is now a focus in the Russia investigation.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. I guess my question is I don't understand necessarily why that would be the case. I mean, the Russian investigation is to look Russians influence in the election and the potential collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia. Meetings in December don't really fit that bill very well. And so that doesn't seem to resonate with me and the fact that someone in the Trump transition team is meeting with people from a foreign government, again, that's not an unusual thing and doesn't really raise eyebrows with me.

The other meeting that was mentioned and the discussion I just listened to was a meeting in April and we're not even sure that they did meet. So, I guess my question is I'm not too sure I see a whole lot of meat there. You know, obviously, the FBI is going to look into everything. But I don't see that necessarily as tying what the -- Jared Kushner in any kind of collusion with the Russians during the campaign.

BURNETT: Matt, let me give you a chance to respond because you're talking about multiple meetings that they are looking at including what you did mention in December are of high interest but also last year.

ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. That's right. And I want to be clear that I am not here alleging that Jared Kushner coordinated with the Russians with the FBI or the special counsel I guess now. He's able to prove that. What we're reporting is that this is a subject that they are interested in. And look, I think you would also have to look at this in context. I mean, looking at the pre-election meetings and the post-election meetings. What they're looking at was there something that carried over.

You know, was there coordination and maybe was there something else afterwards. So, it's not like the point at which Donald Trump is elected the investigation necessarily has to stop. Of course, they would be interested in things on the campaign. I mean, what we're talking about here --


ZAPOTOSKY: -- throughout the investigation is coordination to influence the election. But I would say it's not fair to say, well, they should just stop their work there and we know that they are not just stopping their work there.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, and that is -- I think, important, Senator, right? But I want to give a chance -- here just to give immediately the response from Jared Kushner's attorney Jamie Gorelick who's just come out with a response talking about some of these meetings that you're referring to, Matt, saying Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if is contacted in connection with any other inquiry. Dan, you've worked in the White House, you've been in inner circle, how significant is this news? Jared Kushner now a focus in the Russia investigation when we're talking here about the FBI.

DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look. We don't know as Matt pointed out what this means for what Jared Kushner actually did but it's been looked at and the closer the aide to the president who is under investigation, under scrutiny, the more debilitating the investigation is politically subsequently. We have to wait for the investigation to play out to see who did what. But the fact that they were zoning in on - the person who other than Ivanka is the closest to Donald Trump, they're just going to make them feel the heat even more. And I will -- these routines -- meetings may be routine. We don't know. But it is not routine that Jared Kushner failed to disclose them much like Attorney General Jeff Sessions build to disclose his meeting. So there is smoke there and it will be up to the FBI to figure out what actually happened.

BURNETT: I mean, Senator Santorum, I would imagine that you would concede that this is not good news.

SANTORUM: No, it's certainly not good news that somebody close to the president, obviously related to the president is under investigation. But again, looking at the substance of what they seem to be looking into doesn't necessarily concern me as much. I mean, if those meetings were taking place, you know, before the election I would be much more concerned about well, you know, what was discussed at that time point in time but again he had a role in the transition. And then, as you've seen, he has a very prominent role in national - in foreign affairs and national security. So, again, that doesn't really raise suspicion in my mind. Obviously, it does in the FBI mind. We'll figure out what it is.

BURNETT: So, Senator, I guess what I'm - what I'm curious, though, from your point of view and especially now that there's a special counsel on this. You know, originally it's looking at meddling in the Russian - meddling in the election by the Russians and possible collusion. It's clear that that's going to bleed into was there direct efforts that were allowed by close members - close members to Donald Trump that actually influenced U.S. policy and the transition and when he became president, right? So, in that context these meetings could be very important.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean -- again, I mean, the transition team is going to talk to other officials outside the government about a variety of different things and I'm sure the Russians made their case about, you know, the sanctions and maybe had a - had a year to do that. I don't necessarily see that as -- I mean, in two months they're going to be making those decisions. So hearing those discussions prior to being sworn in, I don't see as necessarily again. Unusual warrant of FBI investigation.

BURNETT: So, Matt, let ,me -- let me ask you though because obviously, you know, Jared Kushner had these meetings. We knew about that. But they are now telling you, you are now finding out from sources that he is a focus in the Russia investigation. So does that mean then that his basic explanation for why those happened which was routine and it was mundane that they're not satisfied with that? I mean, isn't that definitional?

ZAPOTOSKY: I think that's one thing that they have to scrutinize. I mean, Jamie Gorelick, his attorney, you brought up her statement earlier. He suggested he is willing to talk to them. He has not yet obviously, he is also willing to talk to senate investigators. He has not done that yet. But this is something that is scrutinizing. I would go back too to the context to this, I mean, this early December meeting with Kislyak also involves Mike Flynn.

Mike Flynn later has a conversation with Kislyak on the phone, discusses the sanctions, hides that fact from even the vice president. I mean, I think the FBI sees a lot of smoke there and wonders what is going on. And that's what we're reporting today that the FBI is interested in that. Yes. We knew about that before but I don't think that we knew the FBI was particularly were interested in that and particularly interested in Mr. Kushner.

BURNETT: And Dan, what is the significance in the fact that there are sources now telling the Washington Post, Jared Kushner is now focused on in the Russia investigation, right? Specifically putting a name to it, not just someone close to the White House or as Matt pointing, he reported that a week ago. Now he's got a name.

PFEIFFER: Well, I think it's going to force the Trump administration to change their strategy. To date they have tried to push offer the other people who have been indicated, whether it's Carter Page, who they say had a very small role in the campaign or even Paul Manafort who Sean Spicer and the White House tried to suggest that only had a brief role who work for, you know, a period of time for the Trump campaign and even though he was running. And - but you can't run and hide from this.

And they are going to be forced to be answering these questions about the investigation into Kushner, what Kushner's role was, what were the substance of these meetings, are there other things he was involved in. What was his role and, you know, some of the questions are on obstruction of justice, about the firing Jim Comey, about asking Jim Comey to end the investigation to Flynn. All those questions are questions that are -- the White House is going have to face every day until this comes to an end and it doesn't seem like it's going to come to an end any time soon. So it's going to present a real challenge to - just their simple day-to-day governing of that White House.

BURNETT: And Matthew, do you have any understanding from your reporting as to the speed at which they are trying to move on this, given the significance of this development?

ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. We understand from our reporting last week that this investigation is really intensifying that they had planned in the coming weeks and they have already issued some subpoenas. We've reported on some of those related to Mike Flynn that they plan to possibly conduct interviews here. I would say that the special counsel, Robert Mueller just took this thing over and certainly I would expect that he's now going to set the tone on this. It's hugely important. And I think they recognize that and the speed at which the move will be sort of right in line with how important this is.

BURNETT: All right. Yes. Go ahead, Senator.

SANTORUM: Erin. One additional point and that's a question you previously asked which is, you know, what's the FBI doing here. And the FBI is leaking information, tying someone close to the president, not really tying anything specifically and even the reporter, you know, suggesting they really don't know what they're doing but they are doing something very deliberate here. They're leaking information about the president, someone very close to the president being under investigation.

And if you look at the series of leaks that's come out, they're very trying much target and try to destabilize this president. This clearly as you - we've heard reports, it will have an impact and it won't be a positive one. So - I mean, there is that question as to what the FBI is trying to do here and trying to impact this president.

BURNETT: So, it's a fair point to make, Senator, but I do - Matt, I want to give you a chance to respond as I do every time this comes up because the issue of leaks is serious but you as the reporter, you're getting this information from a source.

SANTORUM: It's not the reporter's fault.

BURNETT: No, no, no. I'm not saying you're saying that.

SANTORUM: It's not the reporter's fault.

BURNETT: I'm just trying to get -- Matt to say what is the motive of the person sharing this with you, right? The senator and others who support the president are saying it's to destabilize this president and his presidency and his administration. What is your source's motive?

ZAPOTOSKY: Well, look, I think the motive with a lot of these things is that the public deserves to know this, that the public should know if a top advisor to the president is the focus of an investigation. You know, I just think that is important. So, you can decry leaks, you can say, you know that continues to hang over 1600 pennsylvania avenue. The more we learn, the worse it get, these are really bad people but these are people who think the public deserves to know this and frankly so do I.

BURNETT: All right. Well, of course, I agree with you as well, I mean, as journalists. All right. Thank you all very much. And I want to go to the democratic congressman, Hakeem Jeffries. He's OutFront with me here in New York. Sir, what's your reaction to this - to Matt's report? Jared Kushner now focus in the Russia investigation.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, there's a cloud of corruption that continues to hang over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the more we learn the worse it gets for the president and for his administration. Clearly, there was something that was not right in terms of Russian's interference with our - with our election. That was an established fact and the possibility of collusion between high- level members of the Trump campaign and the Russians.

And the question really is what was there cooperation and what was exchange as a result of that cooperation? Russia clearly interfered with the election by hacking into the DNC - hacking into the Clinton campaign, releasing those e-mails, timing those release to a moment to maximize the impact, hurt the Clinton campaign, help Donald Trump get elected. Was there quid pro quo? Was there an exchange after the fact and did the Kushner meetings fall into that category?

BURNETT: And that is the big question because as Matt is saying, they aren't saying what they've discovered here. They're saying they are focusing on him and they want to know more. But what we know of course is we know about meetings with the Russian bank, we know about multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador. We know some of these things were not originally disclosed on forms and then later he came out and corrected that. They're not coming out and saying that there's some new smoking gun here. They're just saying they want know more. He is a focus. So when you take those two things together, what do you think the significance is of this tonight?

JEFFRIES: Well, there's an ongoing criminal investigation and clearly there's a lot of smoke here. The FBI is going through the process of determining whether there was fire but there's no one who's closer to President Trump other than Ivanka and Jared Kushner, senior adviser. And this is part of a pattern. Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, all of these individuals are extremely close to the president. But in that group no one closer than Jared Kushner and the fact that he's a focus of the FBI and perhaps the special prosecutor's investigation is incredible significant.

BURNETT: I mean, because this is - as Matt pointed out, obviously the closest person to the president thus far and perhaps the closest person to the president of course other than his daughter in that White House. Matt also was reporting in that - in that interview that you all just saw that - he says there's been an intensification in the investigation, this is something we have been talking about. Is that something that you have also seen that you believe that it is actually intensifying at this time?

JEFFRIES: It does appear that things had been intensifying and perhaps that's one of the reason why the president has grown increasingly frustrated with the investigation. And that may have even led to his abrupt, inappropriate undemocratic and un-American dismissal of James Comey because he is feeling the pressure. This will only intensify it further and the hope is that we won't see evidence of abuse of presidential authority and obstruction of justice as there is reason to believe that may have already occurred with the termination of James Comey and others.

BURNETT: Do you think at this point that the president has tried to engage in obstruction of justice through what he did to Jim Comey in his firing and also of course asking him if Jim Comey says to stop the investigation to General Michael Flynn. Or is it possible that this is a president who is incredibly clueless about the way Washington works, felt that there was nothing to the investigation. It was bothering him but there's nothing there, so why don't you stop it? Is there any way that you would buy that explanation for what he did?

JEFFRIES: Well, I do think the president is generally clueless but he is the president of the United States of America. He's got experts all around him. He's got the White House council, he's got people to advise him. And it will be shocking for him not to conclude at terminating the FBI Director who was leading the investigation into his campaign that had taken on a criminal nature and was publicly disclosed to the American people would not be inappropriate. It was clearly an erratic action but it may an indication of the access of a desperate man.

BURNETT: And in terms of this information coming out that Jared Kushner is named as the focus in the Russia investigation. How significant do you think that is, that someone was willing to put that out there? Is that just someone who's angry or is this investigation hitting a whole new level?

JEFFRIES: Well, it may also indicate that there are law enforcement sources who are concerned that there may be an active effort to obstruct this investigation to block it, to limit the ability of the --

BURNETT: And that's why they're leaking.

JEFFRIES: -- American people to learn the fact - and that's why they're providing this information to the Fourth Estate to journalists who can then communicate that information to the American people.

BURNETT: Congressman Jeffries, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, more breaking news. The investigation now in congress. We have new developments with the Comey memos tonight. Plus, breaking news on the Manchester terrorists. We know more tonight about ISIS and how he was trained. And voters right now in Montana, do they care that the man they may send to congress allegedly body slammed a reporter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It didn't affect the way that I voted.


BURNETT: Breaking news. Investigations in jeopardy. The FBI tonight stonewalling congress' demand for the explosive Comey memos. Those memos court whether the president of the United States tried to obstruct justice and we know a few keywords, right? Including Comey says Trump asked him to "let this go," when talking about the investigation into General Michael Flynn. But those are just a few words. There are multiple memos and without them, the investigation in congress is under threat. Elise Labott is OutFront. ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Tonight the FBI is

refusing to share with congress former Director James Comey's private memos about his meetings with President Trump. In a letter to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz. The Department of Justice blames the new special counsel Robert Mueller as well as "other considerations." Tonight, Chaffetz who spoke this week with Comey has set a new deadline of June 8th for the FBI to turn over the memos. Saying in a letter, he hopes the bureau will "make the right decision."

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm skeptical and want to see them ourselves. But Director Comey was - he would not answer that question. He would not confirm where they are, what their presence -- if there is a presence of these documents. He would not say a word about that.

LABOTT: The FBI decision is the latest example of the Russian investigation stalling on Capitol Hill. Blamed in part on Mueller's new investigation.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think we have the exact same rights to proceed with Mueller as special counsel as we had with Rosenstein as acting attorney general and that we should take advantage of that. Clearly there are deconfliction issues that exist in either case.

LABOTT: The senate judiciary committee said it wants any audio recordings of President Trump's meetings with Comey. Trump raised the prospect following Comey's abrupt firing earlier this month when he tweeted "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press." CNN has learned the White House has yet to tell the senate committee if the tapes even exist. And witnesses including former national security advisor Michael Flynn have not turned over documents to the intelligence committees leading to threats of subpoenas.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We'll keep pushing quite frankly. We're going to continue to be able to work through the process, we work with our attorneys to be able to determine what are the parameters of where we can go and we're going to try use every tool that we can to be able get to the facts.

LABOTT: And Senate Intel Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking member Mark Warner now have blanket authority to issue subpoenas without the committee voting for them. Erin, this as lawmakers are really frustrated they're not receiving any of those documents they ask for since Robert Mueller was appointed and they're concerned his investigation will hamper their own probes.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Elise. And now, someone who's been breaking major stories on the Russia investigation, Matthew Rosenberg from the New York Times is OutFront. And Matthew, these Comey memos obviously really at the core here, they're going to be at the core of all these investigations. Will we ever see them?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NY TIMES: You know, I imagine we will. You know, information spreads pretty quickly here and if congress loudly -- says loudly if they want them, they will get them eventually. Will they get them directly through direct channels? I don't know. But, you know, this stuff eventually finds a way out. And I think to go to the point, Elise was saying about congress being worried that people are handing over information, that people - potential suspects, the targets of their investigation aren't complying.

You know, there's a real issue that I think congress is going to find in that if you're somebody who is being investigated both by a senate or a house committee and by the FBI, the FBI is the only one that can put you in jail and they're probably the first people you're going to deal with and worry about rather than a congressional committee which - is ultimately looking to make policy prescriptions and kind of get a bigger picture sense of what happened.

BURNETT: Now, we're also learning tonight, Matthew, that probably because the coming memos and everything else that's been happening, obviously now learning about Jared Kushner as a target of the investigation or focus of the investigation. Make sure I want to use that word focus, not target. The White House now has war room to deal with the Russia investigation. Will this make a difference? They have been, I think we have all seen and every one of our viewers have seen, incredibly slow and sclerotic at best at dealing with this onslaught of reporting.

ROSENBERG: I mean, it depends on what this war room does. The war room is about, you know, how to figure out and help the investigation and get to the bottom of it and kind of untangle all the different kind of web of all this stuff. And sure, that's a great thing. If the war room is what I suspect it is which is how to deal with managing the public relation in all of this, that's a, you know, that's putting a Band-Aid on something that's far bigger than that.

I guess it speaks one of the - one of the challenges that Trump White House has had which is treating things as public relations problems that are actually (INAUDIBLE) real issues and I think General Flynn is a great example of that. The former national security adviser. They knew for 18 days that the FBI and the justice department considered him a potential blackmail risk. Yet they only forced him out when it became public.

And there were new stories about it and if that's going to be a pattern at the palm, and it's also true, Jared Kushner as well, you know, they do not have everything, they told us, no, no, no, he's never met with anyone and then it turned out me and my colleagues in March found out that he had met with Russian ambassador and then met with a a Russian banker. And we've been talking about that banker on the show already.

You know, I think it's important to know that banker works for a bank that is incredibly close to the kremlin, that has deep ties to Russian intelligence. And the banker that Jared met with himself went to the Russian intelligence academy. So there are real questions that if you're the FBI you want to look at. BURNETT: Absolutely. I mean, and major questions there which of

course to your point too often dealt with as a P.R. issue as opposed to something of deep substance that this country needs answers to. All right. Matthew Rosenberg, thank you very much.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump muscling his way to the front during a tour of NATO headquarters. Why did he shove a prime minister? And breaking news from Montana. Could a man charged with assaulting a reporter just last night be elected to congress? Polls are about to - be -- about to close any moment now. Those results live.


[19:30:52] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Following the breaking news -- NBC and "The Washington Post" reporting Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, is now under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation. This comes just moments after Trump landed in Sicily as part of his foreign trip as president for the G7.

As the president earlier today scolded members of NATO and refused to reiterate his commitment to NATO's defense pledge.

Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT.



JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Trump, it was a day of shadowing the norms of global diplomacy. Moments after calling for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Manchester attack and a step up fight in the battle against terrorism --

TRUMP: All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these killers and extremists and yes, losers. They are losers.

ACOSTA: The president stuck it to NATO, chastising member countries that he insists aren't meeting their financial obligations to the alliance.

TRUMP: But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.

ACOSTA: The president was hardly feeling bashful throwing his weight around, pushing past the prime minister of Montenegro, and engaging in an extended power hand shake with France's next president, Emmanuel Macron.

But the president is also responding to serious complaints from one key U.S. ally, Great Britain, which is furious at American law enforcement officials over leaks coming out of the Manchester investigation.

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY, UNITED KINGDOM: I will be making clear to president Trump today the intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.

ACOSTA: The president warned he'll get to the bottom of the leak saying in a statement: I'm asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


ACOSTA: And perhaps just as unsettling to NATO partners, earlier this afternoon, we should say, on the way down here to Sicily where the G7 summit will be taking place after that NATO meeting, one of the president's top advisors Gary Cohn told the president on Air Force One that the president is now looking into whether to drop the sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Erin, that is at odds with what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said repeatedly that those sanctions are going to remain in place. That has the potential to ruffle feathers inside of NATO, just as much as pushing past the prime minister of Montenegro -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Acosta.

And, of course, in the context of this latest reporting from "The Washington Post", Jared Kushner now a focus of the Russia investigation. Any consideration of dropping those sanctions from the president of the United States under even more intense scrutiny.

OUTFRONT now, the former Republican presidential candidate and senator, Rick Santorum, former senior adviser and communications director for President Obama, Dan Pfeiffer.

Dan, let me give you a chance to respond to that, as Jim is saying. You know, the president indicating maybe those sanctions could go away. Obviously, now, we have this breaking news this hour that Jared Kushner is now a focus in the Russia investigation.

Tough timing for this president.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I think -- we don't know what the Russian investigation is going to find. What we do know that the policy positions advocated by Trump in the last couple of days of this trip are ones that make Vladimir Putin very happy. The sort of threatening NATO, saying you're not going to back up Article 5, the provision where we agree to defend each other, browbeating NATO, our closest allies, publicly, and then raising the possibility of lifting the sanction are the exact things that Vladimir Putin wants the United States to do. So, he is a big winner in all of this. BURNETT: Senator Santorum, should the president have raised the

prospects of raising -- of lifting those sanctions against Russia in any way?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't agree with that. And I wish he would not do that, and I hope he doesn't do that. I hope that Secretary Tillerson prevails on that.

On the issue of browbeating our allies, that was something that he was very clear about during the campaign, since the campaign and is going to continue to be very clear about, that everyone has to -- if an alliance is to be an alliance, then people have to ante up and do their share to add to the collective security of the region.

[19:35:15] And I don't think that's a negative thing. I know it's not popular. I'm not too sure the Russians necessarily are pleased if Donald Trump accomplishes what he wants, which is to get more security dollars to be spent in the region. So, I think that's actually -- I think that counters the Russians more effectively than actually hurts them -- than helps them, excuse me.

BURNETT: Part of this trip, though, is as you both snow well, right, it's not so much about what he says. It's a lot about what he does and how he acts, right? That's part of what makes the president a president, and America, the greatest country in the world.

On that note, Senator Santorum, let me play the video of you again of the president pushing past the president of Montenegro. You see that. Then he pushes him to get in front of the picture, something like that, and then adjusts his jacket.

Senator, what's your reaction to that?

SANTORUM: I mean, I don't know what the situation is. Maybe he was told that he's supposed to be up in front. So, he was told to get in the front so he moved to the front. I don't think we know what happened there. I mean, I know we see what happened there. But there may be another story behind that that we just don't know. I don't think it's a big deal, in short.

BURNETT: OK, we saw what happened. We may not know why he did the push but he did a push. But, Dan, is there context -- could that make a difference here? I mean --

SANTORUM: Context should be made a difference. If he's told he's supposed to be in front of the picture, he has to get to the front of the picture.

BURNETT: But the push --

PFEIFFER: Right, I guess maybe the most dangerous place in Brussels today was sitting between Donald Trump and a camera. Look, I -- Donald Trump outrages me ten times a day with incompetence and malevolence. This actually doesn't make the list. I'm not overly concerned about this.

It seems rude. Maybe there's a reason for it. But we have bigger fish to fry here.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I'll leave it on that note of agreement. Thank you.

And OUTFRONT next, Montana voters deciding who they will send to Congress. Will they elect the man charged with assault, less than 24 hours ago for body slamming, punching a reporter?

And breaking news from Manchester: ISIS. New details about the terror attack tonight.


[19:41:10] BURNETT: Breaking news, the polls about to close in Montana. Voters there deciding whether a Republican accused of body slamming a journalist should be elected to Congress. Greg Gianforte has been charged with assault after a reporter from "The Guardian" says Gianforte went after him for asking about the latest version of the Republican health care plan.



BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: But, you got to --

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus!

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here!


BURNETT: The assault has some Republicans rethinking their choice and many others not rethinking it.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT in Montana.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As election day dons in Missoula, Montana, calls into the county board of elections office.

A trickle of voters says the county elections administrator asking if they can legally change their vote after shocking audio surfaced of GOP candidate Gianforte allegedly body slamming a reporter.

(on camera): If there's no confrontation with this reporter, how many calls do you think you'd be getting about changing your vote?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably not. Voters are fairly decisive unless things changed and we had that last-minute change last night with new information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy cow, somebody was that aggressive.

LAH (voice-over): Voters at an event for Democratic candidate Rob Quist did not hold back their outrage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's wrong. I think it shows his true human nature and we need to say no.

LAH (on camera): Do you think it's going to make a difference this late?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope it does. I think it's going to take people who are on the fence. I think it's going to change their votes.

LAH (voice-over): But that may be wishful thinking in this reliably red state, as we heard from Gianforte supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of have compassion on the guy. I know you're a nice reporter but not all of them are nice.

LAH (on camera): Aren't you worried about your congressman hitting somebody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. I mean, a guy does one thing, that doesn't mean he's that way all the time, right?

LAH (voice-over): We spoke to roughly 75 people in two polling places in Missoula. Most of them Republican voters, the bulk who agree.

At this local church doubling as a polling place, one man had no sympathy for the press yelling at me and my team: you're lucky someone doesn't pop one of you.

Gianforte is charged with assaulting "Guardian" reporter Ben Jacobs who says he was body slammed after asking the candidate about the health care bill.

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last time who came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus!

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

LAH: A statement from Gianforte accuses Jacobs of aggressive behavior, asking badgering questions, then calls him a liberal journalist. The statement also says Jacobs was told to lower his recorder, but the audio does not match that claim.

The incident reverberated to Capitol Hill, with many wondering how it will impact an already hotly contested special election. House Speaker Paul Ryan --

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings. So, that is wrong and it should not have happened.


LAH: Gianforte is facing a misdemeanor assault charge. He's due in court sometime between now and June 7th.

As far as his Democratic challenger, we're here at his election watch party. Rob Quist has refrained from directly commenting about this, saying that this is in the hands of law enforcement. His campaign says he is waiting with his family, Erin, as the polls close. His supporters crossing their fingers that this is going to boost Democratic turnout.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank very much.

I want to go to the Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast", Jackie Kucinich, now.

[19:45:02] Jackie, you know, look. Interesting a lot of voters is there saying they're fine with it. No issue, right? I mean, it's not suddenly as if this cause a sea change at the last moment.

Republican lawmakers mixed today of joking evasion and condemnation. Here's a quick clip.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: You know, we didn't handle course somebody slamming when we went to school.

REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: The left has precipitated this tense confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months.

RYAN: There is no time where a physical altercation should occur. Yes, I think he should apologize.


BURNETT: Sort of all over the map there, Jackie. One person completely defending and saying it's the left's fault. Paul Ryan, he should apologize. Someone else trying to make a joke.

No one is saying that he should step aside and not be coming to Congress.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Paul Ryan probably went the furthest in condemning it and saying that he should apologize. You saw other members of Congress sort of trickle in and follow suit throughout the day.

But you're right. You didn't see anyone calling him to step aside. In fact, the NRCC chairman, Steve Stivers, said everyone makes mistake. It's obviously more than a mistake. He didn't, you know, forget -- he didn't spell his name wrong on the ballot or something. He assaulted a reporter.

BURNETT: I mean, but everyone makes mistakes. I mean, Jackie, this is not something that happens.


BURNETT: This is not something that happens. And I think people need to understand this. You can think whatever you want to think about the media, you do not like reporters.

This is not what should happen in this country.

KUCINICH: Well, the things is it has started happening and that's a huge problem. A couple of weeks ago here in D.C., we had a reporter from "Congressional Quarterly", which is a trade publication here in town get pushed against the wall by FCC cops. So, this is something that we're seeing over and over again.

It's not OK. The rhetoric needs to come down. It's up to elected representatives to help do that. They're there to be leaders and it's time for them to lead.

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

And next, breaking news, ISIS, the Manchester suicide bomber, breaking details on his training and a larger network.

And Trump's new budget, truly a job killer or not?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By one study, we would lose 20,000 jobs in the fifth congressional district.



[19:51:31] BURNETT: Breaking news: Officials telling CNN the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, is believed to have received training from ISIS terrorists. This preparation taking place in Syria just months before Abedi blew himself up outside an Ariana Grande concert in England.

Tonight, fears growing a second attack could be imminent. Armed officers now patrolling trains in the U.K. for the first time ever.

Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT live in Manchester.

And, Clarissa, what more are you learning about Abedi's connections to ISIS?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting some mixed messages, Erin, because a U.S. official has told CNN that they believe that it is likely that Abedi spent time in Syria training with ISIS in the months leading up to the attack. On the other hand, Turkish officials are saying that while he passed through the Istanbul airport, he never left the transit area, he never actually entered Turkey, and, of course, Turkey is pretty much the only way to get into ISIS-controlled parts of Syria.

So, there's still some confusion about that. And meanwhile, also in Libya, we're hearing from a Libyan militia that arrested the brother and father of the bomber, that the brother confessed that both of them were ISIS members.

BURNETT: And, you know, we saw pictures of those armed officers patrolling a train. As you have been pointing out, Clarissa, something that has never happened before in the United Kingdom. How concerned are they of another strike?

WARD: I think there's a definite sense of real concern. As you know, the threat level here has been elevated to critical. It has not been at critical for nearly a decade. We have seen soldiers patrolling the streets in European capitals. We have seen soldiers on trains in European countries as well, but we haven't seen anything like that in the United Kingdom.

The main reason that there is cause for concern, Erin, is simply put authorities want to find out who help the bomber make that bomb. According to an explosives expert CNN has spoken to, it was above rudimentary level, much more sophisticated that you would expect someone just doing a DIY job from something they read online would be able to put together. And until authorities really have a good sense of how that bomb was made, who made it and where that bomb maker may be, you are going to see an increased security presence, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Clarissa, thank you very much.

And tonight we're continuing to learn more names of those killed in the attack and we want to tell you a little bit more about them.

Elaine McIver was an off-duty police officer and a much loved daughter, sister, auntie, friend and colleague.

Courtney Boyle, 19. Her boyfriend said she was like no other.

Philip Tron, his mother says, that he could light up the darkest room.

Wendy Fawell was a mother, and she has left friends as they tell us heartbroken beyond belief.

Fourteen-year-old Sorrell Leczkowski, she had big dreams and her grandfather says he is absolutely heartbroken.

Eilidh MacLeod was also 14, vivacious and full of fun, as her friends describe her.

And Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19. They were together and their family said they wanted to be together forever. And now they are.

We'll be right back.


[19:57:17] BURNETT: New tonight, the president's budget director insisting Republicans, quote, care about poor people, as criticism builds over the administration's budget. That's because it could result in millions losing health care benefits and thousands losing jobs.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


DR. ANTHONY YONTS, QUANTUM HEALTHCARE: Open up for me and say ahh.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Anthony Yonts at Hazards Quantum Healthcare in constant motion. Today, he employs 50 people. His practice, expanding.

YONTS: I would say 70 percent of our economy is driven by health care.

MARQUEZ (on camera): You think 70 percent of the economy, that's just you living here that's what you see?

YONTS: Yes, that's just looking at it and giving it the eyeball test. Health care is the driving economic force in our area right now.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid and created its own insurance exchange under Obamacare has seen both patients and the health care workers who serve them skyrocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes a big team to run -- to run a clinic like this.

MARQUEZ: Dr. Jonathan Piercy at University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health in Hazard trains future doctors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen a lot of clinics open lately. We've seen some new clinics that come around. We've just built a huge new wing on the hospital.

MARQUEZ: All of that comes with jobs. Jobs now at risk if the Obamacare Medicaid expansion is eliminated by 20, as Congress is now considering.

Since 2014, as states expanded Medicaid, some 1.1 million jobs were created nationwide. Eastern Kentucky, coal country. The fifth congressional district stands to lose more jobs than any other district in the entire country.

JASON BAILEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KENTUCKY CTR. FOR ECONOMIC POLICY: By one study, we would lose 20,000 jobs in the fifth congressional district. MARQUEZ (on camera): Twenty thousand jobs?

BAILEY: Twenty thousand jobs, which is about double the number of jobs we've lost in the coal industry. So it would be the other shoe to drop on the economy of eastern Kentucky.

MARQUEZ: How good is it to be a nurse in eastern Kentucky right now?

JANET NOBLE, LPN, LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE: I mean, if you love taking care of people and that kind of environment, it's really good. I mean, there's no -- like I say, there's not a shortage of jobs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nurses in high demand here and well-paid, evidence of a thriving health care industry everywhere. This mall, once a Walmart, now a supersized medical center.


MARQUEZ: Kentucky River Community Care now has 70 facilities, has hired more than 150 employees in the last few years, and can't expand fast enough.

(on camera): How big a piece of that is the fact that they can pay for it with Medicaid?

MEADE-MCKENZIE: Eighty percent. I mean, because, you know, for our programs, we have to look at revenue to expand.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Health care jobs on the rise here. Ending the Medicaid expansion, another devastating blow.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Hazard, Kentucky.


BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" begins now.