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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump's Top Economic Adviser Gary Cohn Is Resigning As President Says 'There Is No Chaos' In The White House; Trump's Chief Economist is Resigning, Source Says 'Of All Things That Will Cause The Most Trauma' Inside the White House; Stock Future Plummet Amid News Gary Cohn is Resigning; Source: Trump Emboldened Scaramucci to Trash Kelly; Nunberg Says He'll Comply with Subpoena One Day After Refusal; Witness With Ties to Emirates and Trump Cooperating with Mueller; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:05] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much. That's it for me. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: UPFRONT next breaking news, President Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn quit. U.S. stocks futures are plummeting on the news as the president denies there is chaos in his White House.
And more breaking news this hour, President Trump, himself, emboldening Anthony Scaramucci to attack his own chief of staff, John Kelly publicly on Television. And Sam Nunberg now says to cooperate with Bob Mueller. This is the so-called mentor and father figure, Roger Stone, this is him on live television today. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin breaking news, Gary Cohn quits. It is a major resignation tonight at the White House, the President's Chief Economist Gary Cohn leaving the west wing.
Cohn is a crucial voice when it comes to pushing back against the president. One source telling CNN, the talk of a trade war has left Gary Cohn furious. Cohn is a passionate defender of free trade, a believer in the president's tax dec. He strongly opposed -- almost using way too light of a word. Passionately, let's use the word again. Passionately opposed to the president's steel and aluminum tariffs. In fact, the source says Cohn was planning a meeting with this week between industry representatives in the president with the goal of talking Trump off what they see is alleged (ph) on tariffs.
A source close to the president tonight telling me, that Cohn was, "The only good guy left... all the things, this will cause the most trauma." That's how significant the Cohn departure is to some around this White House. And of course, this is talking about the White House itself. There is trauma tonight even beyond the walls of Trump's troubled White House.
Wall Street is not reacting on the Cohn's resignation. When you talk about trauma at this hour, U.S. stock futures is already plummeting 300 points on the news. You're getting into the realm here of what we saw with the actual tariffs themselves.
Keep in mind, this is not the first time Gary Cohn has com contemplated leaving. He is immoderate on this White House team and he was on the brink of resigning last August when the president said both sides were to blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think there is blame. Yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there is blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Cohn took that on directly and you're going to see that. You see him here. His exit comes just less than a week after Hope Hicks. So you see him with their departed. One of the president's top and trusted advisers also stepping down. And Cohn's resignation is coming. At the same time, President Trump is desperately trying to change the narrative that his White House has descended into chaos.
Today, he told reporters from around the world that everyone wants to work for him, despite the fact that Cohn's chair sat empty at the moment he said that during the press conference. You see his name there and of course he wasn't in the seat. The president tried to say he's inundated with applications. He said in fact he has 10 for every single job in his White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I read where, oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump. And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House and I'll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there. The White House has tremendous energy. It has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. It's just a great place to work. The White House has a tremendous energy and we have tremendous talent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tremendous was the word of the day. But of course, when you're looking at this White House, one thing we can say is that the White House does appear to be spending a tremendous amount of energy on back sniping and dealing with departures.
According to one study, more than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, twice the rate of George Bush's first year, triple the rate of President Obama's first year in office. Here's a look at the President swearing in his senior staff on January 2, 2017. You see Steve Bannon, Ryan Priebus, Hope Hicks, Omarosa. A year later, well, you can see for yourself, a lot of them are gone. Fired. Pushed out. Quit.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny begins our coverage tonight. Jeff, this is very significant departure. Gary Cohn, the moderate, the last one standing to some supporters of this president. You have been talking to your sources. What happened here?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODENT: Erin, it certainly is a significant departure. I mean staffers, and aides, and communication directors don't move markets. Chief economic advisers can indeed set policy and move markets. But talking to a lot of people here, it has become clear they had a good relationship of course for a long time, perhaps surprisingly so, frustratingly so to Steve Bannon and other populous and nationalists inside the White House.
[19:04:57] But it was the fight over the last week or so over steel, aluminum, or these tariffs that really caused a divide between the president and as top economic adviser. And it was not a pleasant situation I'm told.
Over the past 24 to 48 hours, it became untenable and it's one of the things, it's the fight. It was described to me as the last straw, the final straw, and of course he lost the fight. It's not the only reason of course things had been building. But as recently as a few weeks ago, Gary Cohn was still being mentioned as a possible candidate for chief of staff. So the president did have good rapport with him, but policy-wise speaking things just sort of came to an end here. But it was a very abrupt end.
The president of course saying everyone wants to work here. Now, Erin, that is going to be tested like never before, because republicans here in Washington and beyond are saying, look, we do not want to go into the White House. So who fills this position will be so important going forward here. And the markets, of course, we'll be watching. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. And it's really crucial when you talk about 10 people wanting the job. You got to find someone who supports the president on tariffs. And in the respective critical world of economists and CEOs, it's hard to find 10 of those.
All right, Jeff, stay with me. I want to also bring in to the conversation, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst.
Gloria, you're here with me tonight, which is wonderful. Look, another one bites the dust. I'm not saying that likely.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
BURNETT: And this is not just anyone.
BORGER: No. This is somebody who garnered a great deal of respect in the economic industry around the world and who really helped the president push through the tax cuts, worked very, very hard on that. And I think he had hopes at some point that he would function as kind after trade czar in a way. And of course, that didn't happen. And what he was trying to do before he abruptly quit or the president abruptly told him to quit, we are not sure. What he was trying to do was kind of moderate the president's stand on these tariffs. He was trying to have him meet with people from the auto industry and the bottling industry, for example, so they could talk to the president about the ramifications of these tariffs. The president apparently heard about it and got very upset about it. And that may have been the precipitating factor. I'm not quite sure yet. But I don't think the president likes to feel that people were trying to manipulate him out of this position that he had taken.
BURNETT: No. And of course, you see the market plunging 300 points now. April, we'll see, of course, what happens. You know, markets go up, markets go down.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.
BURNETT: But the issue here, April, is that Gary Cohn was perceived as to some the last moderate standing. He was widely respected. You heard the kind of take of one source saying this is a new trauma, perhaps the biggest yet for this president.
RYAN: Yes, it definitely is a new trauma. You know, many people are saying this is a White House, this is a president in a White House that really is not -- the republican White House is mostly of democrats supporting a democratic-turned republican president. But when it comes to Gary Cohn, this president loves to tout the economics of it all and how he has created this great economic atmosphere. But when you have a man with this kind of economic problems before you come into the White House from Wall Street and have a gladiator fight with him over tariffs. And sources are telling me that Gary Cohn actually feels that the U.S. will lose when it comes to a trade war. And the states that will be hurt will be places like West Virginia and Pennsylvania. And if the president is not listening, and he understands what happens with free trade and this president isn't listening, he felt it was time to go. And this is something this president stands on. And this is a president that some have said in the past, he's the emperor with the new clothes. Gary Cohn was the one who was telling him, look, you are naked. So now, who is the one that's going to tell him you're naked?
BURNETT: Well, I mean, that's a crucial question, Jeff, because you have Gary Cohn leaving, and the perception that he was sort of the last Goodman standing by moderates. Hope Hicks is gone. Rob Porter is gone, who at the least seems to be some sort of influence in terms of organization and what was happening when at the White House. Now you've got Cohn gone. Jared Kushner has been stripped of this top security clearance. Ivanka Trump is under -- in some of more of a business deal in Vancouver, is investigation when they're looking her security clearance. Who is left to tell the president stop this or don't do this? Is there anybody in there with the courage to do it? ZELENY: Well, that's a great question. I mean, of course, the Chief of Staff John Kelly remains in his position. It's sometimes a day-by- day proposition. There have been so many ups and downs for him. The reality here though, more than moderates, there were republicans in this town, conservatives in this town who thought Gary Cohn was an adult in the room.
[19:10:03] He was someone on tax reform, other things. I would argue that the tax reform bill, the biggest tax reform in three decades would not have happened if not Gary Cohn. So he had a lot of republican fans here in Washington in this building on Capitol Hill as well. So I think he was more the fact that he came from business experience. He had real-world experience. He was top-flight talent of any administration. That is the issue here. Who will come in and fill the seat? Who will want to come in to the White House here?
So the question is for the president, he's going to have to find someone. And, you know, you talk to people of someone who wants to come in in this caliber. It's difficult I think to find someone. So his words will be a test that 10 people want to come in. He doesn't need 10. He needs one. And one qualified one might be hard to find.
BURNETT: I mean, Gloria, that is crucial point here. Again, to the source close to the president, supporter of Cohn, also the president, understanding they are not on the same page on many things. But Cohn is the only good guy left. This is the president today knowing Gary Cohn wasn't sitting in the chair.
BURNETT: Let me presume knowing Gary Cohn without, said, "I have 10 people for every single job in this White House."
BORGER: That's not true.
BURNETT: OK. I'm just going to come out and say here, that I think I'm confident in saying there are not 10 excellent A-level Gary Cohn candidates for the Gary Cohn job, period.
BORGER: Right. I mean you may have 10 people, but they might not be as qualified as Gary Cohn --
BORGER: -- certain way.
BURNETT: That is the point.
BORGER: That is the point. And I know for a fact that as the president makes his multiple phone calls and sounded people out, for example, on becoming chief of staff, there were people who said no who won't go into that in any way, shape, or form. So we'll see who the president will get to replace Gary Cohn. Will he take Peter Navarro who is already inside the White House and is derided by the so-called globalists on Wall Street? What will the president do?
BURNETT: So when it comes to issues like trade there, you know, I mean, I used to work at CNBC, with Peter Navarro on.
BORGER: Yes, sure.
BURNETT: He is very passionate about his point of view and he made an effective argument. There was Peter Navarro for a certain point of view. There wasn't anybody else. There wasn't available. There wasn't anybody else, OK.
BORGER: Right, there wasn't anybody else. Right.
BURNETT: So the other day when we're saying, let's do discussion on trade, well, there's Peter Navarro, he works at the White House. There's no one else to flood in there.
BORGER: No. And there need to be -- the president says he likes people to argue but Gary Cohn was one of the ones arguing. And so now, it's Peter Navarro. And we'll see who else and who the president can gather. Does he promote him? And so what you have is a president effectively home alone here with maybe Jared and Ivanka for a while and Don McGahn, the White House Counsel for a while. But it won't take that long for the president to really see a complete change over there.
BURNETT: Which is prettying stunning. I mean, April, the president, again, today, when he's talking about having 10 people for every job, 10 best people. You said the White House has tremendous energy, there's tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. You are there day in and day out. You talk to the people who work there.
BURNETT: April, is that fair? Is that what you see from the staff, tremendous energy, and spirit, great place to be working, is that how they feel?
RYAN: Well, the White House, you know, no matter what administration is the White House, and it does have its own energy. But each administration brings another piece of that energy. And there is a lot of concern within the White House. There's a lot of concern. People are really trying to help this president. And I think about other administrations, and Gloria and Jeff can sure agree on this, that when you have people who are working on a cause or an issue or a policy, you have different factions. But it normally is not a gladiator fight for the entertainment of the President of the United States. It's about working for the good of the people.
And so that's one piece right there, then you have people who are concerned about their credibility when they leave the administration. And also if they counter with the president, will he tweet about them? So the energy, there is an energy, but it may not necessarily be the energy that this president is talking about. BURNETT: Right. It may be tremendous, but positive may not be the other adjective.
ZELENY: From a policy perspective, the reality is the infrastructure that was a discussion, that was one of the reasons that Gary Cohn was sticking around, that is not going to happen. It probably wasn't going to anyway. But the reality is no new policy this year, the tax reform bill that he passed last year, that's very much up in the air now in terms of its effect because of the tariffs. This has big policy effects tonight. Well beyond all the drama here.
BURNETT: Right. And that's obviously what's so crucial. Thanks very much to all of you. I knew April talks about a gladiator fight. Well, this is a president who loves that.
The next breaking news this hour, the president, himself, emboldening Anthony Scaramucci to go out on television and publicly trash the president's right-hand man, his Chief of Staff John Kelly.
[19:15:02] Is this really happening? Is that how you run anything? Plus Trump (inaudible) Roger Stone, giving no cover tonight to his loyal, loyal mentee, Sam Nunberg and Nunberg's rants about the president in the Mueller probe. And Trump dismissing Russia's election interference America yet again. He does say though America has a back up plan if it happens in the midterm elections. Wait until you hear what it is.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump emboldened Anthony Scaramucci to go out and trash his own chief of staff John Kelly. This is according to our White Reporter Kaitlan Collins reporting this tonight. Scaramucci, of course you may remember, criticized Kelly in interviews as Trump insisted he had faith in his chief of staff. So Trump probably said one thing and then Scaramucci was out saying, well, diametrically, the opposite. Here's some of what Scaramucci said in those interviewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCRAMUCCI, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE: I know General Kelly is trying to bring order to the White House but he's actually creating chaos.
The morale is terrible. The reason why the morale is terrible is that the rule by fear and intimidation does not work in a civilian environment. These guys are snagging up their wives and he is trying to figure out a way to keep them inside the White House. So it's very dishonest to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. That's about as nasty as you could get. And in an interview with Bloomberg, Scaramucci continued saying, "Does the president want to lose everybody because of General Jackass?"
[19:20:05] You know, I love this new era that we live in, where you're stuck in position as television anchor of like, OK, do I try to find a way around saying the words that people think or something seemingly fine to say these days publicly anyway?
Right now, a friend of Donald Trump for over 15 years, Rob Astorino, joins me also, former Republican Governor for New York and former Special Advisor of President Obama, and host of CNN's "VAN JONES'S SHOW", Van Jones.
Rob, John Kelly is the president's Chief of Staff, OK, until he's fired or he quits, that his job. And the president's interest is in maintaining his credibility and legitimacy in holding that job, we've seen.
How long could he be saying to Scaramucci, "Go out and trash the guy on cable television"?
ROB ASTORINO, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR OVER 15 YEARS: Well, we don't know if he actually is saying this. Scaramucci was there. Scaramucci was there at the beginning. Not necessarily at the beginning but --
BURNETT: We know Scaramucci and Kelly have no love lost.
BURNETT: Right? Kelly hated Scaramucci and got him out. We know that.
ASTORINO: That's right. So some of that probably is --
BURNETT: But the reporting here, as Trump said, "Go ahead."
ASTORINO: Yes. But I don't know if that's true. I mean, I would hope that the president is a little busier than calling Scaramucci, hey, would you mind trashing my Chief of Staff? I hope that's not going on here. Scaramucci is a personality. And by the way, he cares about what the country is going. He cares about the people in the White House. I think he's just going to say what he feels is true.
VAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: You've got a funny of showing you care. I would say that like that, like Jackass. Like, you know --
BURNETT: General Jackass.
JONES: General Jackass is not the most loving way you can show your concern. But this is terrible. This is terrible. Even if it's not true, the idea that someone like Scaramucci who is clearly trying to carry water for Trump thinks this is okay. If Trump thought it was terrible, Trump would call him and tell him to stop, trust me. And so you are in a situation where this is worse than romper room stuff. I mean, this is like, there are middle schools where every one of these kids sent home for a week and yet they are running our government. BURNETT: I mean, that's the thing, Rob. And as I say, I mean, I suppose I said it somewhat lovingly laughingly, but I really didn't mean it. I mean, they have to say these things and this is now said and it's common. This is people talking about other people they work with. In White House, forget what kind of horrible example this is for children. An issue the president talks about regularly, Rob, you know this because you've known him for a long time, loyalty, right? It's all he cares about. It's all he cares about, period.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIO)
TRUMP: I'm a loyal person. When Glory (ph) had a problem, I was little, I stuck with him. I'm a loyal person, OK? I'm a loyal person. You got to be loyal to people if they do nothing wrong.
As the scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal -- we could use some more loyalty I will tell you that.
I want somebody that's loyal from the beginning, not somebody that's loyal because they are afraid or because they are this or because they're that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: If that's how he really feels, that's not who he is getting now.
ASTORINO: Well, you know what, the loyalty needs go in one direction. When you go to the White House, no matter what president you work for, you have to be loyal to the president. And so, Gary Cohn resigning today, and I don't know if it was in the works or if it was because he didn't get his hone way on a policy issue. Remember George Bush, I'm the decider in chief. Well, there is only one decider. And Gary Cohn doesn't make policy. He can recommend policy. But to take his rattle and leave the White House like a baby, if that's the case, then that is wrong.
JONES: I disagree with you on that. Here's the deal, if you go through the normal process in the White House and there's a process setup for a reason, it's very important I think to be vetted well. There are so many different ramifications throughout the government, throughout society, throughout the world. If you go through the process and you lose, then you should stick it out. When the process gets thrown in the garbage can and you are eating your weeds, minding your own business, and look up on television, and the president is announcing a global trade war, it might be time to leave. When would you leave if you don't leave them?
ASTORINO: You stick through it.
JONES: With no process? No professionalism? No fairness?
ASTORINO: Yes, because it's not his decision to -- it's not Gary Cohn decision to make.
BURNETT: But even he didn't tell you that he was going to do it? ASTORINO: He doesn't have to.
BURNETT: And you're the Chief of National Economic Council?
ASTORINO: Look, it's certainly not my style when I was county executive. This is not the way I --
JONES: I wish you're my employee, because I would treat you really badly (inaudible).
ASTORINO: No, no, no.
JONES: I got to stick out.
ASTORINO: But ultimately, they work for the president. Not the other way around. And so if they don't get their way on policy, well, are they going to leave?
JONES: I guess so.
BURNETT: Rob, your point -- and I understand. Your point is that maybe this reporting isn't true. OK. Maybe that's your hope.
ASTORINO: That I this I is true.
BURNETT: But the reporting is there, right? We are standing by it. If this is what happened, what do you say?
ASTORINO: Well, obviously, if the president is calling somebody and saying make fun of my chief of staff, that is ridiculous.
BURNETT: Go ahead, take him down.
JONES: I got a whole new name for him, General Jackass. Try that.
ASTORINO: And he didn't say it with all due respect.
JONES: It's not good.
JONES: And let me just say something else. It's somebody who worked in that building, however, briefly, you're not just working for the president. You are working for the American people. That institution stands there for like long-term. And I'll agree with you if you can't be loyal to the president you shouldn't be in the building.
ASTORINO: Right. [19:24:59] JONES: But you have other things to worry about. And what you don't want to do is lend your credibility to process that is completely erratic. You lose more fights than you win in the White House just because it doesn't use the gut in the world. But if you've got very strong people who are pushing for what they want, but the process has got to be fair and rational, and this is not.
BURNETT: How many people in this White House, Rob? Obviously, I know the president would put Gary Cohn in his category. So I'm going to say, how many people are there trying to help the American people and protect them from the president? Because I know that's a fear that he had.
He thinks there are some people that's what they are trying to do and he doesn't want those people in there.
ASTORINO: Yes. I don't know.
BURNETT: I do think that there are some people that that's what they're trying to do and he doesn't want those people in there.
ASTORINO: No. The people who are working for the president are there working because they want to make a difference. They were asked by the President of the United States. Somebody asked me today, since I didn't agree with President Obama, would I have worked for the president if he had asked me, President Obama? I said, yes, depending on what the situation was. If I could help him and I believed in him, yes, I would have.
And I think the people who are working there are for the most part good people with a job to do. They are not going to agree on everything that the president stands for or how he says it or does it. But ultimately, they want to move the ball. And I think as nasty as it was with the taxes, they all agree that's would have been done, and it got done.
BURNETT: Yes. Your point, though, is that whether there was an explicit conversation or Anthony Scaramucci felt that this was the best way to impress the president and get back in his good graces. And he sensed the outcome is the same.
BURNETT: He thinks what the president wanted to hear them say about his number one guy.
JONES: And I can't tell you how important this is for chief of staff. You can't get anything done as a president because you have a 1,000 things coming at you a second. It is a chief of staff who has to be supportive to make you successful.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And next, Sam Nunberg says he was trying to protect Roger Stone. You heard him passionately make that case here and in his interviewers yesterday. Protect him from what? Well, Roger Stone is coming out and speaking out tonight.
And breaking news, Middle Eastern businessman with ties to the Trump campaign, now cooperating with Bob Mueller.
[19:30:24] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, former Trump adviser Roger Stone distancing himself from former campaign aide Sam Nunberg after Nunberg's television appearances, including one here OUTFRONT last evening. Nunberg who now says he will cooperate with special counsel Bob Mueller's Russia probe vehemently defended Stone to me last night, calling him a surrogate father.
Nunberg at the time saying he would not comply with Mueller subpoena, in part, and very specifically and explicitly he said to protect Stone.
Well, then, tonight, Stone has decided to come out and talk and give a totally different story.
Here's Roger Stone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CMAPAIGN ADVISOR: He does not work for me and I do not in any way control his thought process or what he says. He is a very much his own man. And he marches to his own drummer. I would certainly not have advised him to ignore a subpoena. And I was delighted to read this morning that he's changed his mind about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So what exactly is the relationship between Nunberg and Stone?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: What I'm not going to have is to help Mueller's team target Roger Stone.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as Sam Nunberg ricocheted between interviews, railing at the Russia investigation, he dismissed all claims Roger Stone worked with WikiLeaks to secretly hurt the Democrats. Stone himself says he had no advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' hacked emails.
NUNBERG: Yes, they think that Roger colluded with Julian Assange. I can tell you, Roger did not collude with Julian Assange.
FOREMAN: Nunberg stirs loyalty to Stone is hard to explain. Sure, Donald Trump's on and off ties to Stone go back almost two decades.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He loves the game. He has fun with it, and he's very good at it. FOREMAN: And Stone has been seen as Nunberg chief connection to the
Trump campaign. But Trump twice fired Nunberg over a negative news article and over racist comments linked to Nunberg. Trump even sued him once although it was later settled. And while Nunberg has presented himself as a protege of Stone --
NUNBERG: Roger is my mentor. Roger is like a surrogate father to me.
FOREMAN: Stone has not always returned the compliment nor offered Nunberg professional cover, once telling Yahoo News he comes on a bit strong. I mean, within a week of my meeting him, he was going around telling people I was his mentor.
STONE: I rebel in your hatred, because if I weren't effective, you wouldn't hate me.
FOREMAN: Some political insiders mindful of Stone's long history of dirty tricks are suggesting the two may yet have a secret deal. That Stone set up Nunberg's rants to keep the Russian investigation from turning his way. If you didn't smell Roger Stone all over that prank, I can't help you, wrote one.
Stone says, nope.
STONE: Well, Sam Nunberg is a very talented writer and researcher but he marches to his own drummer and he is not speaking at my behest or my direction.
FOREMAN: But in a notable echo of all Nunberg's ravings, he told MSNBC --
STONE: The idea that Trump needed help from the Russians to beat Hillary Clinton is an excuse. It's a canard, a fairy tale. I don't believe it ever happened.
FOREMAN: So we are back at the start. Why did Nunberg go on this elaborate tear, risking his own legal security to defend Roger Stone? Maybe he truly believes Stone is innocent. Maybe it's just another line of defense for team Trump against this steady grind of the Russian probe. And maybe like so much else, Erin, we won't really know until the investigation is done.
BURNETT: So many questions. Thank you very much, Tom.
FOREMAN: You're welcome.
BURNETT: And now, former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, Carrie Cordero, and former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter.
Carrie, you know, Sam Nunberg was adamant that he wasn't going to comply with the subpoena. Obviously, he has changed his mind on that. But the reason he gave on this show last night was that Roger Stone was he felt going to be somehow implicated or that was the goal of the whole thing was about Roger Stone and he didn't want to share his communications with Roger Stone because he was like a father to him.
Here's what Sam Nunberg told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: What I'm not going to have is to help Mueller's team target Roger Stone. Roger is my mentor. Roger is like a surrogate father to me and I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Carrie, what is Sam saying there, I mean, Roger Stone saying I have nothing to hide. Nothing to see here on WikiLeaks. Sam Nunberg obviously thinks otherwise somehow.
[19:35:03] CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, we don't know what Nunberg motivation was for his circus of media appearances yesterday. What I can tell you is we really shouldn't under estimate the stress that can be caused by somebody coming under the glare of a really intense federal investigation.
And so, one possible theory is that he really was upset, unsettled, scared, you know, you name the word, by receiving this subpoena, by his experience in being interviewed by the special counsel's office recently, and it just sort of set him into a spin. And if that's what happened, then it would make sense that perhaps over the next few days, he will obtain some legal counsel and reconsider his approach in working with the special counsel.
It's also possible that his initial reaction was that he was trying to shield somebody who he has professional relationship with, a friendship, warm feelings for, in a professional context. And so, he was scared for that person's legal jeopardy. But, you know, we don't know exactly his motivation, but it could any of those things.
BURNETT: Although it's interesting, Richard Painter, Roger Stone did not defend Sam Nunberg at all today, as you just heard. I mean, far from it. So, Sam Nunberg loyal to Roger Stone, we certainly didn't hear the same thing from Roger Stone.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, these types of people usually are not loyal to each other. But I think Robert Mueller ought to be having some very long conversations with both Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone, both of them. They both seem to be very much associated with dirty tricks -- Roger Stone going back to the Nixon administration.
I don't know whether rumor is true he's got a Nixon tattoo on his back but he was associated with dirty tricks back then. He had heads up about the allegations against Al Franken out here in Minnesota. He's tweeted about it before anybody else knew about it. We want to know what's going on. We didn't -- gotten an investigation of that.
And now, he's in the middle of this Russia thing. He's got Russian connections big time. So, Bob Mueller is going to be having a chat with those two guys and we're going to have to get to the bottom of what's been going on. We've had enough of these dirty tricks, enough of these kind of people associating with the White House and with political campaigns.
BURNETT: And I want to ask more about the status of Stone because it is confusing.
Carrie, first, though, I want to play something else Sam Nunberg said, which is, you know, he made it very clear that he thinks that Mueller has something on Trump. And what he told me is that that something is related to Trump's business dealings, he thinks not collusion per se, but business dealings, whether with Russia or elsewhere. That's what he thinks it is.
He also thinks that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting. He was very, very clear about that, even though Nunberg did not work with Trump at the time. Here's how he explained it last night to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: I don't know why he couldn't just admit that he knew about this meeting if indeed -- I believe he did -- if he did. I don't think -- now, remember, you're talking to somebody who doesn't think there is anything wrong with that meeting. So, you're sitting here talking to somebody --
BURNETT: So you are saying he knew, you don't personally think that's collusion, because you've said you don't think he colluded. But you believe he knew about that meeting.
NUNBERG: I think he knew -- look, I think he probably knew in advance.
BURNETT: In advance?
NUNBERG: Yes. I think, if I had to guess, Don informed him about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Carrie, do you think that is part of what Mueller wants to talk to Sam Nunberg about? Obviously he didn't work for Trump at the time but did work for him from 2011 to 2015, a time during which Nunberg told me Trump was running for president the whole time.
CORDERO: Well, the special counsel's office is, they are looking at many individuals who were in the campaign who had knowledge of what was going on in the campaign. The subpoena that now has been published wanted Mr. Nunberg's communications with variety of individuals all on the campaign.
And so, his statement right there, he actually says he guesses that perhaps Trump knew. So, it's unclear based on that statement and some of his other interviews that he actually has personal knowledge of.
BURNETT: Right. CORDERO: His communications on the other hands, the documents that
the special counsel's office was trying to get would show direct communications with others who may have been more in a position of access.
BURNETT: And what do you make, Richard, because you said the special counsel should be talking to both Nunberg and Mueller, so he's already talked to Nunberg, right, FBI investigators have. And now, Nunberg is going to appear before the grand jury on Friday.
Stone said today, I have not received a subpoena nor a request for interview. Does that amaze you, Mueller hasn't asked for investigators to meet with him, never mind a subpoena for grand jury?
PAINTER: Bob Mueller knows what least getting. He'll get to Roger Stone. Both of these guys are a bunch of sleaze balls, they'll probably try to lie.
[19:40:03] But they're going to be under oath and he's going to talk -- Bob Mueller is going to talk to them on due course on his own schedule.
But these guys have a reputation for dirty tricks. And I've got to say, they make James Carville and Karl Rove, the people before look like choir boys. This is really -- these people are not honest. But Bob Mueller is going to be dealing with them.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
And next, we have breaking news this hour, this, a Middle East expert specialist with ties to Donald Trump team, a man of mystery apparently, cooperating with the Mueller probe. So, what does he know? And what is he telling Mueller?
And former double agent from Russia believed to be poisoned found on a bench along with his daughter. Who wanted them dead?
BURNETT: Breaking news in the Russia investigation. We are learning that a powerful businessman with ties to both Trump's inner circle and Middle East is now cooperating with special counsel Bob Mueller. The Middle East specialist is named George Nader. You see him there.
During the presidential transition, he was actually in the room when Trump's team met with officials from the United Arab Emirates at Trump Tower, a meeting Team Obama did not even know about, even though it involved the head of state, Mohammed bin Zayed, the acting head of state of the UAE.;
OUTFRONT now, Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell. Thanks very much to both of you.
Shimon, what more can you tell us about Mueller's interest in the meeting and meetings that there were between Trump associates and this man that we are learning about, George Nader. [19:45:07] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes,
Erin. You know, certainly, George Nader is this mystery man. We had learned that he'd been stopped by FBI agents after returning from overseas trip in January, FBI agents started talking to him and pulled him into a room at Dulles Airport and started asking him questions. They've been wanting to question him. He finally returned to this country.
And they started asking questions about meetings that they had believed he attended with some of the associates of the president, and also a meeting that he had attended in the Seychelles, with Erik Prince, who was a Trump supporter and associate. In particular, there was one meeting in New York where Michael Flynn was present, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and as you said, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and also the ambassador for United Emirates here in D.C. who traveled to New York for this meeting, and this was a meeting that took place in December of 2016.
Now, the next month, there was a meeting in the Seychelles and a lot of questions have been raised about that meeting. As you know, Erin, Erik Prince was at that meeting. George Nader, we've learned, this is the first time that we're learning he was at that meeting. And specifically, there was a Russian that the FBI and Bob Mueller are particularly interested in what he was doing there and some of the meetings going on, including the fact that Erik Prince had met with this Russian at a bar in the Seychelles.
BURNETT: Yes, and I know Erik Prince has talked about the length of time of one beer. And, of course, that's a long way to go to have a beer.
2I mean, Kara, look, I understand the Emiratis thought they were responsible for delivering the Russians to that meeting. They thought that Erik Prince is going to deliver a backdoor to the Trump campaign, perhaps to Jared Kushner directly. What does all of this tell us about Mueller's investigation and how it is expanding beyond just Russia specifically?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, when you think about that meeting in the Seychelles, a lot of the initial interest was who was this Russian that Erik Prince was meeting with, and now that we know that Mueller's team is having the cooperation of George Nader, someone who is very close to the Emiratis, he's worked with them for a while, he was involved in that December Shimon was just discussing, that was the prelude to the Seychelles meeting.
Now, we're really seeing that this investigation is going beyond Russia, looking at and scrutinizing the role of Emiratis here which we had previously not really known that they were focused. "The Washington Post" reported that other day that, you know, Mueller's investigation is looking at the role of four different countries that were trying to influence the Trump administration, including the Emiratis.
So when we see these two meetings and the role of George Nader, who doesn't appear to have any Russian connections, he is a real ally of the Emiratis, we understand that he's starting to look further in the role that they were playing here.
BURNETT: Right. And, Shimon, of course, this comes as, you know, "The Washington Post," as Kara points out, has reported that Mexico, the Emirates, Israel and China were trying to manipulate Jared Kushner, again back to Jared Kushner perhaps for political in experience and because of his financial duress of his company.
I mean, what more can you tell us about this George Nader and his role?
PROKUPECZ: Right. So, George Nader has been off the radar for quite some time. He has been associated with the Emirates, with some of their folks and perhaps doing some work for them here in the U.S., here in Washington, D.C. He does have an apartment here in Washington, D.C.
Very little is known about him. But he's one of these guys who works behind the scenes that we know exists in Washington, D.C. where they try to influence policy. What's interesting about George Nader is that he was present at this New York meeting. We know have another person cooperating with Bob Mueller present for a meeting. We know that he's been providing, George Nader has been information to a grand jury about these meetings.
And, again, this is another person, like George Papadopoulos, like Michael Flynn who has some insight into some of these meetings who's now cooperating with the special counsel and providing information to a grand jury.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Shimon and Kara for your reporting.
And let's go now to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a member of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees and he's OUTFRONT.
Senator, you hear the breaking news, George Nader cooperating with special counsel Bob Mueller and obviously showing widening perhaps in this probe of exactly where they are looking.
How significant is this?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It is a very significant story by "The New York Times" because as important as the Emiratis at that meeting and George Nader cooperating is the fact that the Russians were represented at these meetings. The investment banker, Kirill Dmitriev, at the Seychelles meeting is directly tied to Vladimir Putin. He runs an investment fund for him.
BURNETT: Government investment firm, yes.
BLUMENTHAL: Exactly. And so, it is about the Russians and it's about follow the money. That's exactly what Bob Mueller is doing.
BURNETT: And we understand that Nader was, as you were reporting, right, meeting in December at Trump Tower, which Mohammed bin Zayed attended, along with the Emirati ambassador.
[19:50:02] And, of course, also this "Washington Post" report, right, that officials from four countries which include the UAE talked about ways to manipulate Jared Kushner, used his business arrangements, lack of experience, his financial duress to manipulate him.
Do you think there is a connection here?
BLUMENTHAL: There is very definitely a potential connection. In fact, I asked the director of national security today at the hearing of the Armed Services Committee about the connections between the reports about manipulating Jared Kushner, about the connections to his investments, about his potential vulnerability to pressure and whether it constituted a threat to national security.
What we have here is, in fact, Jared Kushner continuing in a role very significant one of negotiating and representing the administration, without access to the information that he needs to do it because he is denied classified information. And at the same time, privy to confident and sensitive information that could be compromised.
And so, you are absolutely right. That's the clear questions, are the Russians continuing their influence and maybe that's the reason that the president of the United States seems very uninterested in countering the continuing Russian meddling in our democracy.
BURNETT: How far do you think this goes? You know, my reporting of this meeting in the Seychelles was that, you know, the Emirates delivered the Russian Kirill Dmitriev, as you point out, who is significant and important connected to Putin, Erik Prince was going to provide the other side of it, the back door entrance into the Trump campaign. The feeling was after that that he failed to do that.
So, do you think any more happened or was this actually the UAE and the Russians made a mistake -- they felt this was their way to get in and actually didn't know how to get in, so they kind of failed?
BLUMENTHAL: Your reporting certainly reflects serious light on the motive here and that is as important as the outcome. The motive in a criminal prosecution is clearly important particularly if it's corrupt motive, if it involves compromising, confidential information or a position of trust. And so, the grand jury ought to be interested in what George Nader has to do about the substance of that conversation at that meeting and others involving him in other parts of the world. And the special counsel probably knows, not probably but certainly knows a lot more than we do and that meeting was significant.
BURNETT: On the issue of Jared Kushner, you pressed the director of national intelligence today, Dan Coats, on Jared Kushner's security clearance specifically and whether it is a threat for him to have the top level security clearance. And here's how he answered your question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't believe it's a threat to our national security, no, I don't, because -- he now has under General Kelly's direction had a temporary access to some types of information, but not to highly classified information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Were you satisfied with that answer? Do you think that was the full story from Director Coats?
BLUMENTHAL: I was underwhelmed by that answer, and unimpressed and unsatisfied because Jared Kushner continues to occupy a position of profoundly significant trust. In any other administration, he'd be out of that job and he should be out of that job in this administration. He is potentially a continuing threat to our national security because he has possible access to very sensitive and secret information even if it is not the most highly classified.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks, sir.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, you come to a fork in the road. Do you take the Donald Trump highway or the Stormy Daniels ramp way?
[19:57:51] BURNETT: Tonight, Utah at a crossroads. There are dueling proposals to name a highway, and for Trump and a rampway after Stormy Daniels. This is the real America we live in.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is one way to say hail to the chief, and here is another, renaming a 600-mile stretch of Utah highway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a little touch of heaven right here on earth and to name it after Donald Trump.
MOOS: What if Donald J. Trump Highway intersected with --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stormy Daniels Rampway.
MOOS: Yes, that Stormy Daniels. The adult film star linked to Trump.
The highway name game got started after the president downsized two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, potentially opening wide areas to mining and development.
Republican State Representative Mike Noel thought it was nice to rename the highway that runs through the parks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like it was an opportunity to thank the president. MOOS: But Democratic State Senator Jim Dabakis plans a counterattack
with a mocking amendment, to rename a service road Stormy Daniels Rampway, beating competitors like --
SEN. JIM DABAKIS (D), UTAH: Combover crescent, indictment intersection, Russian collusion clover leaf.
MOOS: And even if there's no service road available, the Democratic gadfly would settle for --
DABAKIS: Stormy Daniels emergency lane.
MOOS: Dabakis just doesn't think it's right to post Trump's name on what he says is the most beautiful scenic byway in America.
DABAKIS: It's preposterous.
MOOS: But do you think you can stop it?
MOOS: It's estimated the new Donald J. Trump Highway signage would cost around $124,000.
Truth be told, Stormy Daniels Rampway is a dead end. The Democrats are outnumbered in the state Senate, so don't expect Stormy to go from a hashtag to a road sign.
Anyway, he doesn't seem stuck on names.
STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: Yes, I will call whatever you want me to call you, baby.
MOOS: How about Stormy's ears?
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.
Anderson starts now.