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Secret Service: No Record of Taping in Trump White House; Cabinet Members Take Turns Praising Trump in Bizarre Meeting; Friend: Trump is considering Terminating Mueller. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 12, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:07] ERIN BURNETT, CN ANCHOR: Out Front next breaking news. The Secret Service says it has no records of any tapings in the Trump White House. So are there tapes of Trump and Comey? Is the President the only person who knows?

And the next bomb shell testimony, new details about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and what he will and will not say under oath tomorrow?

Plus Trump himself vowing to speak under oath. We found one Trump deposition and it tells us a lot about his credibility. Let's go Out Front.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Out Front tonight, the breaking news. The Secret Service tonight says it has no copies or transcripts of any tapes recorded in the Trump White House. It comes after weeks of speculation about whether Trump himself has recordings of conversations between him and fired FBI director James Comey.

The Secret Service responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from the "The Wall Street Journal." and Secret Service says, it has no records of tapes or even recording system being installed in the White House since election. This is more information than we've gotten from the White House or the president himself who's the one that started all of this.

Earlier today Press Secretary Sean Spicer was evasive when he was repeatedly asked if and when tapes would be released.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President made clear in the Rose Garden last week that he would have an announcement shortly. I think the President made it clear what his intention is on Friday. I understand that and he said he would answer that question in due time.

I think the President made it very clear on Friday that he would get back as soon as possible on this and his position on that conversation. He's not waiting for anything. When he's ready to further discuss it he will.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Pretty incredible because the President's has been clear about absolutely nothing except for the fact that he isn't going to be clear and Spicer in fact was echoing the President's cryptic answer on this question from Friday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do tapes exist of your conversations with him?

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, I'll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future.


BURNETT: Let's be clear, Trump is the one who raised the issue of tapes. No one would ever even thought of it. He raised it one month ago today. That was three days after firing FBI Director Jim Comey when Trump tweeted, "James Comey better hope there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."

Now, just to be very clear on the breaking news tonight. Another government agency or Trump himself could have those tapes, right? We just know the Secret Service doesn't. The thing is we're not getting a simple yes or no from the White House which is frankly unacceptable and un-American and dishonest.

If the president himself has no tapes he should say so and he should never have tweeted about them to begin with. It's simply wrong and it comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions the highest ranking member of the Trump administration to testify so far is set to be sworn in before the Senate Intelligence Committee less than 24 hours from now.

Sara Murray is Out Front tonight the White House to begin our coverage and Sarah at least from the Secret Service's point of view, no tapes.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Secret Service's files were responding to a request originally put in by the "The Wall Street Journal." They were asked about whether any in sort of recording devices have been installed, whether there were any records or transcripts and the Secret Service essentially responded to that saying, look, we don't have anything to provide in response to this information request.

As you pointed out that doesn't mean there are no tapes that exist, it doesn't mean the President didn't make recordings of his own or there wasn't someone else who made those recordings but this is the first definitive, look, where the U.S. Secret Service we don't have any tapes of this that we've gotten and still as you pointed out no straight answer from this on the White House.

BURNETT: All right, Sara. You know you also I know have some new reporting about what the White House is expecting to see from the Attorney General's testimony tomorrow, which they will be watching every second of.

MURRAY: Well, sure. There have been a lot of questions about whether Sessions will invoke executive privilege and refuse to discuss his conversations with the President. I talked to a senior administration official earlier who said they kind of expect to play out similarly to happen when Dan Coats he's the Director of National Intelligence and Mike Rogers the NSA Chief were on the hill testifying.

Remember they were asked by senators whether the President encouraged them to downplay the Russia investigation and they refused to answer the question. They couldn't reply with any sort of legal standing from why that was the case. They wouldn't say the White House forced them to invoke executive privilege they just declined to respond and it's possible we could see something like that from Sessions.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Sara with that reporting. And now new questions tonight about Jeff Sessions' contact with Russian officials ahead of this crucial testimony.

Brianna Keilar is Out Front.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The President seen today with the Attorney General, Trump has been seething that Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation three months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an honor to be, able to serve you --

KEILAR (voice-over): Today's cabinet meeting is on the eve of what is expected to be a closed door congressional grilling of Sessions but it will now take place in full view of the cameras. Senators have pressing questions about the President's meeting with him and the former FBI Director.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), INTEL COMMITTEE: The President asked that the room be cleared.

[19:05:02] The Attorney General apparently hung back. I thought the Attorney General should've said something. This man works for me. I think I should be here too, Mr. President. But the FBI Director ended up alone and that's kind of where this began.

KEILAR (voice-over): Senators will also ask Sessions about this testimony during his confirmation in January.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- I didn't have -- and I have communications with the Russians and I'm unable to comment on it.

KEILAR (voice-over): It was later revealed that Sessions, in fact, had two meetings one of them a privacy audience in his congressional office with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and perhaps a third encounter at a Washington hotel. The Justice Department has denied the hotel meeting but will Sessions and the White House vague on weather it will exert executive privilege.

SPICER: It depends on the scope of the questions. I know the hype to get into a hypothetical at this point would be premature. KEILAR (voice-over): Meanwhile.


KEILAR (voice-over): The President's son seeming to back Comey's account of Trump controversial conversation with the Former FBI Chief, where Comey allege Trump directed him to stop investigating now ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Saying, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

TRUMP, J.R.: When he tells you to do something.


TRUMP, J.R: Guess what? There's no ambiguity in it. There's no, hey, I'm hoping. You and I are friends. I hope this happens but you go got to do your job. That what he tell Comey and for this guy as a politician it then go back and write a memo, he felt so threatened. He didn't do anything.

KEILAR (voice-over): The problem with this explanation, President Trump says that's not what he told Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did say under oath that you told him to let the Flynn -- you said you hope the Flynn investigation --

TRUMP: I didn't say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean I will tell you I didn't say that.


KEILAR (on-camera): And some new information just in to CNN, a U.S. district court judge has ordered the Department of Justice, the FBI and relevant agencies to produce documents by July 12th that are related to Attorney General Sessions contacts with Russian officials.

Erin, that is information from my colleague Evan Perez that he just got in and also communications between the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the FBI concerning the FBI's Russia probe. This is something that came about as a part of freedom information act lawsuit that was brought by a watch dog group.

BURNETT: All right. Brianna, thank you.

And Out Front now, one senator who will question the Attorney General tomorrow, Democratic Senator Jack Reed. Senator, thanks for being with me and I want to start with the breaking news that you just heard. The Secret Service says they don't have any tapes of White House conversations to turn over. Do you think the President could have a recording that the Secret Service doesn't know about? SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think if he had a recording and it exonerated him, he would've made it public very, very quickly. So I think logically it does not appear that he has the tapes. Now he continues to maintain that and he's the only one apparently that can demonstrate it so I would ask him, my colleagues on both side of isle and said please produce the tapes.

BURNETT: Now, if he does have a tape, obviously this would mean he could produce it or destroy it, right? Nobody would necessarily ever know if he chose to get rid of it, right?

REED: Well no. Again, it just seems so illogical if he has an actual recording that exonerates himself and by implication discredits Mr. Comey why would he just sit on it? I think he owes the American public if he has the tape, immediately not just himself but for the American public.

BURNETT: Now one person now who could force shed light on some of those, you know, that the background here of the Russia situation between Comey and the President is the Attorney General, the highest ranking Trump administration official to testify in the broad Russia probe. You're going to be asking questions of him tomorrow. What will you ask, senator?

REED: Well, I think important to establish why he was involved in the dismissal of Director Comey since he had recused himself from apparently all matters related to the Russian investigation, and the President himself has indicated that he indeed based his dismissal of Comey on the Russian investigation.

So, the attorney general's involvement is highly questionable to be blunt and I think those questions will be raised.

BURNETT: Now, there's also of course the issue that when it comes to the President, a core question is whether he obstructed justice by asking Comey to end the investigation and the general plan. And as we now know according to Comey's testimony, that conversation happened in the Oval Office after the President asked Sessions to leave the room.

Do you think that senator that Sessions will answer questions about that moment and any conversations that he had with the President about firing Comey?

[19:10:08] REED: I think he will be asked all those questions, why he left the room even though it appears that Director Comey had made it clear that it was inappropriate to have these discussions one on one with the President.

Then of course I think obviously the question is was he aware of the rational for the firing of Comey, if that was the case why didn't he communicate that it had something to do with the Russian investigation and why didn't he take himself out of the loop because he's recused himself.

BURNETT: Do you think he'll answer those questions or do you think they'll claim executive privilege but still try to get credit for testifying?

REED: I don't know, frankly. I would hope he answered the question because the point is to clarify all of this. I hope he'd be able to answer definitively my suspicion based upon observing others, other members of the administration including Deputy Attorney General is that they've been walked around the questions, they said they couldn't answer. They said it wasn't appropriate, et cetera.

They never denied any of the suggestions that the President directed them to interfere with the investigation, but they refused to affirmatively say that.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you this because this will come up tomorrow. You were in the closed door briefing with James Comey and in that meeting he said the FBI was investigating a possible third undisclosed meeting between Sessions and a Russian official which would of course be hugely significant because he had prior meetings that he did not disclose.

When those leak to the press, he finally disclosed them. This would be a third and still undisclosed meeting. From what you've heard do you think there was a third meeting?

REED: I can't comment on anything that was said behind closed doors. That would be inappropriate. There have been press reports of a possible meeting. I think those press reports might trigger questions but I will not comment on what took place behind closed doors.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about the broader picture here. Ivanka Trump was on television today. She defending her father and here's some of what she said, senator.


IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is hard and there's a level of viciousness that I was not expecting. I was not expecting the intensity of this experience but this isn't supposed to be easy. I think some of the distractions and some of the veracity was I was a little blindsided by on a personal level.


BURNETT: Viciousness and veracity the words she used. What do you think?

REED: Well, now first of all, you have to be sympathic to his daughter. It's her father who is the subject of all this criticism and comments, so I think she -- her statements seem very sincere, also appropriate for a daughter. But the context of going back months and months and months is President Trump did not refrain from being harsh, critical even insulting to people and, in fact, one could argue that he's lowered significantly about the level of discourse here in the United States and now to claim that he's just an innocent victim in all this is a little bit hard to sustain.

BURNETT: All right, senator we thank you. REED: Thank you.

BURNET: And next, the President's first full cabinet meeting today was frankly pretty bizarre. Nearly every person in the room heaped praise on the President on camera and you'll see it next.

And Trumps long time friend moments ago said the President is considering terminating Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.

[19:13:39] And more breaking news this hour, Dennis Rodman heading to North Korea tonight about to land any moment and we are live in Pyongyang.


BURNETT: New tonight President Trump meeting with his entire cabinet for the first time. Now, the sit-down was a chance for the President to hear about the changes his team says they are making but what caught the world's attention was actually a quick go around. And like I said (INAUDIBLE) we're going to show you part of it. Where nearly everybody praised the President to his face on camera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for the honor to serve to the country. It's a great privilege you've giving me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President honored to be on the team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again and also working again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't thank you enough for the privileges that you've given me and the leadership that you've shown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an honor to be able to be -- is able to serve you on behalf of the entire senior staff, around you Mr. President we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people.


BURNETT: Manu Raju, is Out Front live at Capitol Hill. Manu, even using the word blessing this go around is getting a lot of attention.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Indeed it is. Now Republicans actually feel OK about the President talking about their agenda, pointing to things that they believe have been positive about what the Trump administration has done.

Democrats on the other hand are having some fun with this including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who released this video just moments ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I want to thank everybody for coming. I just thought we'd go around the room. Lucy, how did you want the Sunday show yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your tone was perfect right on message.

SCHUMER: Michelle, how'd my hair look like coming out of the gym this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have great hair. Nobody have better hair than you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we go any further, I just want to have say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.

SCHUMER: That's great.


RAJU: Now Erin, Democrats also quickly pivoted off of that to try and focus on what it actually is happening here in the Senate which is the effort to pass the health care bill to actually try to repeal and replace the Obamacare legislation.

We do know that Republicans are trying to get that done this month and that's why the Democrats trying to focus on that even though they're having a little bit of fun with what President Trump did earlier today.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And of course there was fun made but it's also very serious that they would choose to do so. What is the significance of that?

Out Front now John Avlon, Editor-in-Chief of the "The Daily Beast," April Ryan White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and Mark Preston our Senior Political Analyst.

John, you're with me. Let me start with you. Obviously the Chuck Schumer bit whatever your politics are, one could get a chuckle at that.

[19:20:04] But that moment -- this is their first meeting all together. The cameras are there and that's what they say to the President. Significant?

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. I mean look, this is going to go down as the dear leader cabinet meeting and next time may be they should all get matching uniforms.

BURNETT: Referring to North Korea.

AVLON: Yes, this was objectively creepy. This is not the way we do things. And whether they were coached to say something positive or merely felt, you know, outdo the other to create favor, that's not the way we do things in this country.

I mean, they look like a hostage video at time. And so, this was something that you trouble anyone particular little our Republicans who would normally tear this apart for the obsequiousness (ph) of it.

BURNETT: What do you say April, I mean, you know, was the praise genuine or truly are they all sitting in a position where they think the only way to have the President like them or listen to them is to say something like that at the beginning?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Erin, I'm sure they were thankful to be in that position but at the same time you question, is this their version of the loyalty test to this President?

You know, we've seen Presidents come and go, and many administrations have had people who were supporters but also those who told them, you know, this may not be exactly what needs to be done. And the question is on the table now, is this -- are we seeing something like the emperor with the new clothes in this meeting today? It was a historic meeting. He has his full cabinet but that begs the question, and you also have to remember Erin.


RYAN: When there is service to this President, power means service to the people. So who is it, is it the people or this President? Total loyalty to this President or the people?

BURNETT: I mean, Mark, you know, to Aprils point, was this an emperor has no clothes moment?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No question about it. In fact, I spoke to a very close ally of President Trump shortly after we aired this on TV and said, listen, what did you think of this? And the person said to me, it was a great idea that went terribly awry.

Meaning, get the whole cabinets together, let's talk about big issues that we're tackling and then you have this. And I just want to say to John Avlon, you stole my criticism there because I literally when I watched it, I thought I was look, wow is this what happens in North Korea when Kim Jong-un sits down at the head of the table and surrounds himself, you know, by his generals or political advisors.

BURNETT: And by the way, we only played 33 seconds on it, it went on and on and on.


BURNETT: Yes. Right, I mean which is, you know, pretty stunning and unprecedented to what cameras in and invite them in. When you said this is a version of the loyalty pledge, that was you or john or April. Look, this is a President who has made it clear.

RYAN: It was April. BURNETT: OK, April it was you. So he has made it clear loyalty matters. And if this was a version of the loyalty pledge it fits with who he is and what we have seen, let me show you.


TRUMP: He's been loyal to Trump from day one.

And been very loyal to what we're doing and what we represent.

I also I want to thank some of our great people that are here tonight, Mayor Giuliani who is incredible and he's been loyal.

I'm a loyal person. When Glory (ph) had problem I was lil (ph) and I stock with him. I'm a loyal person. You got to be loyal to people if they do nothing wrong.


BURNETT: Is that fit with what you saw today, John?

AVLON: There's nothing wrong with loyalty in politics. That's a political virtue that was preached by the Kennedy and preached by Bushes. This is something different. This is about sort of, you know, debasing yourself in front of the cameras to pledge total loyalty to the person of the President not the office and one notable descent in that meeting by the way was James Mattis the Defense Secretary who said, I'm so honored to represent the men and women of the Defense Department.

He didn't pivot to say how bless he was to, you know, bring a thousand flowers out every time Donald Trump walked in the room. There was notable, that was honorable but there was a lot of self debasement this meeting today.

BURNETT: And do you think Mark that some of those in that meeting would admit in private that they wished they didn't do that or that they felt ashamed now looking back at that tape or anything?

PRESTON: But perhaps through their best friends and their spouses but beyond that I think it would be political suicide for them to do so.


PRESTON: Listen, everybody at that table, very successfully in their own right whether in business or politics and them to do that was just amazing.

BURNETT: So April, let me just play for you the CEO and President of conservative Newsmax just went on in an interview with PBS Christopher Ruddy and he told PBS, the President's considering firing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, which would be a bomb shell of epic portions if it actually happened.

Let me play what he said.


CHRIS RUDDY, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think he's considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel. I think he's weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear about one of his lawyers said on television recent. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.


BURNETT: Is there any way he would actually do it, April?

RYAN: Well, let me give you a little bit of insight from inside the west wing right now.

[19:25:03] One of my sources reached out to me just before we went on air and they said there's mass hysteria in the west wing about this. We don't know if it's going to happen or if it won't happen but what we do know, if indeed the President does fire Mueller, it shows that he's impeding the process yet again. Some would even say it's obstruction of justice again.

This process has to play out, because of what he did with Comey and also calling for the investigation -- and there's a lot of smoke and there's a lot of alarm bells going off. Now the question is where's the fire? Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for this investigation for the process to continue and for this President, if he does decide to do that, it would be a big problem for him politically.

AVLON: Just to hammer home April's point. The fact that Chris Ruddy said that today on top of a lot the taking heads on spinning for the President is truly troubling. It would be a dark day for democracy if this was done. And yet, there's no rational reason to think that the President wouldn't do it.

He fired the FBI Director. You know, you didn't think that Bill Clinton wanted to do that when Louis Freeh was talking a look at him and obvious can start with independent counsel so he didn't have that possibility. But you don't do it because even if you're in trouble self inflected you have a sense of respect for the process and we haven't seen that from this President and so this is a dangerous thing to be trial polluting right now and it's happening folks.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all.

And next, Trump says he's ready to talk about his meeting with James Comey under oath. What could that mean for the President who coined the phrase, truthful hyperbole?

And another legal roadblock for Trump's travel ban. The White House says the ban is lawful and will be upheld in the Supreme Court.


[19:30:14] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House insisting President Trump meant what he said when he told reporters that he would be willing to speak under oath about his interactions with fired FBI Director Jim Comey. Now, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, though, stopped short of saying when that might take place, but as you're about to see, when under oath, the president is often called out for his exaggerations.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one case that gives clear insight into the president's rocky relationship with the truth. In 2007, Trump sued the author of this book, "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald", writing that Trump was not actually a billionaire.

But in a sworn deposition, he was repeatedly caught by lawyers having made past statements that were either exaggerated or demonstrably false. Thirty times according to the book's author Tim O'Brien who spoke with CNN's Brian Stelter.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR: On and on and on, issue after issue, and I was fortunate to have a great legal team that simply let him walk into that trap. He said ex-publicly and we prevented him with documents that were contrary to that.

MARQUARDT: There was the story of how much he was paid for a 2005 speech.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: True, I read, that in New York, you got a million dollars?


KING: For the Learning Annex.

TRUMP: Yes, that's true. It's actually more than that.

MARQUARDT: But under oath, Trump said it was actually less than half of that, $400,000.

In the book, Trump told O'Brien: I had zero borrowings from my father's estate, I give you my word.

But in a deposition: I think a small amount a long time ago, he said. Like in the $9 million range.

O'BRIEN: Back famously when "The Art of the Deal" first came out, he spoke about truthful hyperbole, his willingness to exaggerate about almost anything that came in to his realm. People he had met, how much money he had, how successful he was and he's never -- I mean, we had decades now of Trump frequently lying or exaggerating about a wide range of things.

MARQUARDT: Including about secretly recording conversations which he told O'Brien he did. But in the deposition Trump said, I'm not equipped to tape record. I figured the only way I could make him write what I was actually saying was to have him at least think that he was being tape recorded.

As for the boast that Trump has made most often --

TRUMP: So, I have a total net worth and now with the increase it'll be well over $10 billion.

MARQUARDT: -- how much is he worth? He was asked.

It goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings he responded. Even my own feelings but I try.


BURNETT: And Alex is here with me now.

And, Alex, so what happened to Trump's lawsuit against O'Brien?

Well, it was dismissed and then he appealed and it was thrown out again. Trump has admitted to "The Washington Post" that the goal of his suit was to hurt O'Brien, whom he called a low life sleaze. Trump said that he never actually read O'Brien's book but told his lawyers, quote, go sue him, it will cost him a lot of money.

Erin, we did reach out to the White House today for a comment. But they did not respond.

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

And now, let's go to Jonathan Turley, constitutional law scholar, and John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel. Reaction from both.

John Dean, you just saw -- and, look, the record speaks for itself as Alex is reporting. The president at least exaggerated facts about payments or how many people worked for him. We just heard it. He now says he's going to 100 percent testify under oath about his privacy conversations with Jim Comey. Do you think he'd tell the truth under oath?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think he's truth challenged at this point. I know an attorney, I met an attorney in July of 2015 who had done a number of depositions with Donald and said that -- he had -- he could never tell the truth. He couldn't get through a deposition without distorting and misrepresenting and dissembling and lying.

So, I don't think he can get through a deposition or a grand jury without it. He's at high risk because of his propensity for hyperbole.

BURNETT: Jonathan, do you think he should testify under oath, that he would tell the truth?

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, I look at these things like a criminal defense attorney. We tend not to want our clients to go under oath unless they have to if they are potential target. The greatest danger people in Washington is generally a violation of a statute called 18 USC 1001, and it's when you make a false statement to a federal investigator.

That's what trips up people in Washington, particularly because we have a city filled with apersonality types who try to create narratives. He's -- Trump's not the only one. And there is no exception for truthful hyperbole. It's the type of thing that can get you a criminal charge. It's a much more available tool than something like obstruction because it's a very simple crime to prove and that's what trips people up in Washington.

BURNETT: Now, the person obviously investigating who's telling the truth here on this crucial moment of Jim Comey and Donald Trump on a loyalty pledge, on the General Flynn investigation is going to be Bob Mueller, and we just heard a friend of the president's, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, just come out and say that the president in his view is considering firing the special counsel.

Let me just replay that moment.


CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear by one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.


BURNETT: John Dean, do you think he'd do it?

DEAN: I don't know. If he thinks the Republicans will stay with him, he might just try it and see how far he can push it. If he can keep knocking out investigators and people who might cause him a problem, then he can stay there without any threat to his presidency.

Right now, he's under dire threat and knows it. It would clearly be an act of obstruction, but a sitting president under current policy at the Department of Justice is not subject to indictment. Impeachment is the only remedy for that kind of action.

BURNETT: So, Jonathan Turley, let me ask you about this because, obviously, you heard Chris Ruddy saying that's his opinion. And then he cited recent comment by one of Trump's lawyers on television. But you just heard April Ryan from American Urban Radio Networks who covers the White House. She just said that her -- a source just called her and said there is mass hysteria in the White House tonight about this, about whether or if the president would actually fire Bob Mueller.

TURLEY: Well, I would be surprised if he did that and had many friends even among the Republicans on Capitol Hill. You know, it would be a disastrous move. My guess is that Congress would respond quickly by moving forward to renew the Independent Counsel Act, which many of us suggested might have been the best approach all along. That is an act that guarantees that you don't have situations like this, but it would be an incredibly self-destructive act. I can't imagine any person, a logical person, a rational person taking that step.

BURNETT: So, John Dean, you know, you've been in a White House going through this, right, when you look at the Nixon White House. When you think of that reporting that April saying, sources telling her that there's mass hysteria, those were the words she used to describe the feeling in the White House tonight about whether the president would do this, what is the significance of that, when you have that sort of feeling in a White House?

DEAN: Well, this White House never did set up any effort to wall off and protect the staff at wide from -- at large from these kind of repercussions from what the president's doing. They have no war room. They really don't have any defense mechanisms working. It's sort of ad hoc from event to event.

What's happening is the White House is not getting its work done. You can see that in its failure to fill empty slots that the president has appointees. They're not getting any legislation out in front of the Congress. They're really doing very little at this point other than being on the defensive.

BURNETT: All right. Jonathan, John, thank you both.

And OUTFRONT next, more breaking news. A travel ban fail for the president tonight. A new development on this. We have that after this.

And then CNN exclusive reporting: Dennis Rodman about to land in North Korea. What is he doing there this time? Does it have anything to do with the president?

We've got the breaking news live from Pyongyang this hour.


[19:42:27] BURNETT: Breaking news: Attorney General Jeff Sessions defending Trump's travel ban in the face of another defeat today. Sessions just releasing a statement citing, quote: Recent attacks as evidence of, quote, the immediate and real threat to the United States.

Now, this is after a federal court ruling today against the ban. The fight now headed to the Supreme Court.

Xavier Becerra is California's attorney general, one of the loudest voices against the travel ban and he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Attorney General, thanks very much for your time.

Look, the attorney general says that there have been recent attacks, referring it would seem obviously to Manchester as one example, to London as another. You still think they don't have a point.

XAVIER BECERRA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, they don't because in the United States of America, we do everything we can to make sure that anyone who wishes to come into the country goes through a vetting process, and so far, as we've seen, the vetting process has worked.

BURNETT: And when, you know, you hear Sean Spicer which he said today, he said that they're confident the executive order by the president, the revised one, of course, is lawful. They believe it will be upheld by the Supreme Court.

You, of course, are joining the lawsuit from prevent that from happening. When do you think we will know the Supreme Court's verdict?

BECERRA: We'll know pretty soon, Erin, because the Supreme Court has to make a decision as to whether or not it will accept the case. And when that ruling comes out, it should come out before the end of this year. But I'm not sure why Sean Spicer is confident given that every court that has had a chance to look at this has ruled against the Trump administration because it acted unconstitutionally.

BURNETT: Now, of course, as the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, that just put that statement out, the breaking news we had at the top of this interview. He, of course, is going to be the highest ranking member of the Trump administration to testify in front of Congress. That will happen tomorrow. It comes on the heels of James Comey's bombshell testimony last week.

Do you think at this point, Attorney General Becerra, that there is a case for obstruction of justice to be made against this president?

BECERRA: Erin, we're certainly in the territory of obstruction of justice. We certainly need to see more facts to be able to make a strong case, but there's no doubt that the elements of abuse of authority and obstruction of justice are beginning to pile up, and how you make a case in what form you make a case, it really does depend if you're in a court of law. It's different from an impeachment form in the Congress of what the standard would be.


BECERRA: But there's no doubt that the elements of obstruction of justice and abuse of power are now before us.

BURNETT: Now, there's also, of course, one of the -- Newsmax Chris Ruddy, you may know his name.

[19:45:04] Of course, President Trump -- a friend of the president's. He is saying that the president could be considering firing Mueller, special counsel Mueller. Of course, he's basing that on a television interview by one of Trump's attorney.

So, I want to be clear. It's not based on anything he says the president told him himself. But if the president were to do that, even if there is no crime, even if the president never did anything wrong but he's fired the FBI director and he fires the special counsel, would that in your view be obstruction of justice if there is no underlying crime?

BECERRA: Erin, that would be a chilling development too reminiscent of Watergate. All of that, again, would add up to whether there's a strong case to be made of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, but I think it goes beyond that. It goes to the issue of can the American people trust the person in the White House if he is firing the person whose supposed to independently and objectively investigate the matter? There you have to start asking, what is the president so desperate to hide from the American people?

BURNETT: Before we go, the attorneys of Maryland and Washington today filed a lawsuit. They claim the president is profiting from his office. They say he's violated the Constitution by accepting foreign money through the Trump Organization for hosting things -- things like hosting parties of his hotels. Now, I know the Trump Organization has property in California.

Are you going to sue?

BECERRA: We're looking closely at that, because we have to do everything we must to protect the people of California. The consequences of the president's action reverberate throughout the country and certainly in California. So, we want to make sure that anything that would harm the people of California, we do whatever we can to stop that.

BURNETT: All right. Attorney General Becerra, thanks for your time tonight.

BECERRA: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next: breaking news, Dennis Rodman on his way to North Korea right now. Why does this have anything to do with President Donald Trump?

And a CNN exclusive: inside the secret missions of two Navy SEALs killed fighting terrorists on the front line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big tragedy we lost both of those men because they were outstanding heroes for our nation.



[19:51:01] BURNETT: Breaking news, Dennis Rodman is on his way to North Korea right now. Our cameras exclusively caught the former NBA player at the Beijing report on his way to the secretive country. He's expected to arrive there within the next three hours.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT live from Pyongyang.

And, Will, you know, it's a pretty stunning moment. Rodman is one of the very few Americans to have met Kim Jong-un. He's called him a friend for life. Rodman also knows Donald Trump. Does this have anything to do with President Trump? WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet,

Erin, but this is really surreal. I was first tipped off about this last week and couldn't believe that Dennis Rodman is returning back to North Korea after that infamous trip in 2014 that was captured in a film described as a train wreck where he was drunk, out of control.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un canceled a meeting that was planned between the two of them, near the end of the trip, because of Rodman's out of control behavior. And yet, here we have him again returning to the North Korean capital in the coming hours.

We know that Rodman is the only American to have spent considerable amount of time with Kim Jong-un, who is a basketball fan. We also know that Rodman has appeared twice on "Celebrity Apprentice", President Trump's former reality show, so they know each other well.

And Rodman did say back in March, Erin, that he would be willing to come here to North Korea to negotiate on behalf of President Trump if he was asked to do so.

BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty stunning, right, and these things don't just happen by chance, it's fair to say. He knows the president. He's friendly with the president. And, obviously, friendly with Kim Jong-un.

Is the State Department giving any comment about this, Will?

RIPLEY: When we checked with the State Department, they said they are aware that Rodman is coming here, but they stress this is not an official visit. But, of course, it's not official visit. He's not a diplomat.

However, it would be difficult to imagine that there was in some kind of communication, especially given the fact that this is a very tense time. North Korea has intended to launch 16 missiles just this year, on track to be their busiest year ever in terms of launching missiles.

And there are currently four Americans being detained here. Two professors at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a University of Virginia student, Otto Warmbier, and also a naturalized U.S. citizen Kim Dong Chul.

And so, will he be negotiating on behalf of these four detained Americans? We don't know, but we hope to find out and we ask him at the airport later today, Erin.

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

And a pretty stunning development here, a lot of questions we need answers to from the White House about Dennis Rodman tonight, tonight we'll keep following that.

Next, we have extraordinary new details about two Navy SEALs risked their lives and died serving the United States of America while fighting terrorism. It's a CNN exclusive.


[19:55:47] BURNETT: New exclusive details tonight about how two Navy SEALs lost their lives in secret missions fighting terror.

Barbara Starr has the details only on CNN. She's OUTFRONT.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, 36, killed in action in January in Yemen during a nighttime raid targeting al Qaeda operatives. It's one of the most dangerous missions that Special Operations Forces are called upon to carry out.

Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, 38, also killed but in Somalia last month, also during a raid while serving as a military adviser to Somali forces.

Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEALs sniper, knew them.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: It's a big tragedy that we lost both of those men, because they were outstanding heroes for our nation.

STARR: CNN has obtained the battlefield citations for both Owens and Milliken, both of whom served for years on high risk classified combat missions, new details now revealed of their extraordinary service.

Owens was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest medal for valor, in a never disclosed battle against 400 al Qaeda militants in 2015. U.S. officials say it all happened deep inside war-torn Somalia. This secret battle raged for three days in July of 2015. Owens leading a 12-man team alongside African forces targeting 400 enemy militants, constantly ambushed and attacked with small arms, machine-guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and improvised explosive devices, according to his citation.

Owens repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire. On earlier tours, he helped rescue buddies who were pinned down and wounded and guided in medevac choppers under fire.

TAYLOR: From everything I know about him, he's a great, great guy, highly committed, highly talented.

STARR: From Somalia to Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, it's largely fallen on special operations forces to wage battle against ISIS, al Qaeda and their affiliates, and they are increasingly paying with their lives. Five killed in action in 2017, 22 since June 2014, when the war against ISIS began.

Taylor, like so many who served on the front lines, rejects the controversial Pentagon view that when troops are military advisors, they must stay out of the direct line of fire.

TAYLOR: There's no boots on the ground. They're just advisors. Well, we know that's B.S. Of course, they're all boots on the ground. STARR: On Milliken's final, he was an advisor to Somali forces,

alongside them in the line of fire.

TAYLOR: You certainly can't blame the operator for wanting to get into the fight. They're there on the ground with the force that they're helping.

STARR: Milliken also had years of combat. In 2017 alone, 48 combat missions in Iraq. On the one mission, he helped evacuate three wounded SEALs under fire.

There was one clue on how secret their work was. In 2015, Milliken was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for developing ground-breaking procedures for future national mission taskings. In the world of Special Operations, national missions are the most classified, requiring presidential approval and remaining secret for decades.


STARR: And in a final testament to their service to the nation, after both men were killed, the Pentagon did quietly acknowledged that both had served with SEAL Team 6, of course, the secretive unit that killed Osama bin Laden -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

And worth remembering all those Special Forces are there. Boots on the ground or not, their lives are on the line.

Thanks so much to all of you for joining us.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.