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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Polls Closing In Georgia Special Election; Polls Closing In High-Stakes Special Election; WH Official: Trump Personally Invested In Georgia Election; Awaiting First Results In Georgia Special Election; Sources: FBI Used Trump Dossier To Help Get Secret Wiretap Warrant On Associate In Russia Investigation; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 18, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: Erin Burnett OutFront starts now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next. Breaking news. The referendum on President Trump post-closing in the closely watched special election in Georgia. Will the democrat win for the first time in nearly 40 years? Plus, more breaking news. New details about an explosive dossier about Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign. A CNN exclusive this hour. Also breaking, Bill O'Reilly, his network tonight not even confirming that he'll be back on the air ever. Let's go OutFront.
Good Evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news. The Trump referendum, most polls disclosing moments ago in the all- important congressional race the entire nation is watching. Voters in Georgia could decide and send a shocking message to the country and to President Trump. They could be electing a democrat for the first time in nearly 40 years. A White House official telling CNN that President Trump is personally invested in this race, and just moments ago, he fired the latest in the series of tweet about this election.
His sixth tweet in the past 48 hours. Democrats have been pouring money in, more than $8 million into the race. By the way, this is a seat that didn't even used to be contested by a democrat. A loss for the republicans will be devastating and it will be a verdict on Trump. We're just moments away from the first result. As I said, those polls closing this moment. Manu Raju is OutFront tonight in Atlanta. And Manu, this is -- it is fair to say the first full referendum in many ways on the Trump presidency.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL Yes. No question about it, Erin. A republican loss tonight would set off panic in GOP circles across the country. The party scrambles to keep control of the house majority and next year's midterms. They cannot lose more than 24 seats, if they lose 24 seats they'll lose the house majority but if democrats do not get that 50-plus one percent tonight, Erin, the chances of keep winning this seat will get increasingly difficult. Democrats are trying to send a message to President Trump by turning a house seat republicans in Georgia held for nearly 40 years blue.
JON OSSOFF, (D) GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is an opportunity for our community to show our true colors. RAJU: A victory by 30-year old democrat John Ossoff in the 6th
district, a seat once held by Newt Gingrich, and most recently by new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. It would amount to a major repudiation of Trump, and an early sign that democrats could pick up the 24 seats they need to take back control of the house in next year's midterms. One of the challenges republicans face, frustration that the party has not done more controlling all levels of government.
KAREN HANDEL, (R) GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: There is a little anxiety about congressional inaction, if you will. And, you know, this real desire for people to see the republicans in congress move from vocal opposition to actually governing.
RAJU: Despite the outpouring of national democratic support and the backing of Hollywood celebrities, Ossoff is trying to keep the race focussed on local issues.
OSSOFF: This race is about local economic issues here and values that unite people in the community in Georgia before it's about the national political circus. With bitter GOP infighting dominating a crowded field of 18 total candidates. 11 of them republicans, Ossoff has consolidated democratic support and is aiming for more than 50 percent of the vote tonight. But if he falls short, it will prompt a two-person run off in June.
A dynamic that could favor republican in the conservative leading district. The president won the district last year by just one point after Mitt Romney carried it by 23 points in 2012. Recognizing the high stakes, Trump tweeted republicans must vote today in Georgia 6. Force runoff and easy win. In recording this message to GOP voters in the suburban Atlanta district.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Only you can stop the super liberal democrats and Nancy Pelosi.
RAJU: And Erin, if this does go to a runoff, expect a flood of outside money to pour into this district. Something that we've actually seen to the course of this primary. More than $4 million in republican ads, lot of them attack ads against Jon Ossoff and Ossoff himself getting $8.2 million raising a lot from outside sources as national democrats try to pour money into this race and try to flip this seat for the first time in 37 years. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Manu. And, you know, the president now personally invested in this, taking a big risk. Jim Acosta is OutFront live at the White House. And Jim, this is a what you are hearing from sources, this is a personal thing for him.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPOONDENT: That's right, Erin. He is taking this personally. He is personally invested in this. I talked to a White House official about this earlier today who said, you know, the president have become such a big issue in this race and he "wanted to get out and motivate our guys," that's why you heard that robocall that Manu Raju played in that piece. He's been sending out tweets as you said over the last 48 hours. According to this White House official, you know, if John Ossoff were to pull off that big upset in that sixth district to Georgia congressional race they would be slammed over at the White House for not doing anything. So that's why they also felt like they had to pitch in and help in this race. But at the same time, Erin, I'm picking up on a note of concern over here at the White House. This one official did say to me, listen, special elections are unpredictable. Turnout can be unpredictable.
And so they're not exactly clear where this is going to go. But they say the pressure is on Jon Ossoff. If he doesn't reach that threshold that Manu mentioned, 50 percent of the -- of the vote tonight, he is going to be in the runoff. And they're confident if he doesn't hit that threshold when the runoff happens because it's a traditionally republican district that the odds definitely favor their side and that they should eke out a win after all this. But no question about it, the White House taking what should normally be a given for republicans pretty seriously tonight. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim. OutFront now, our political director David Chalian, our senior political reporter Nia- Malika Henderson, editor in chief at the Daily Beast, John Avlon and senior congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner, David Drucker. David Chalian, you know, this is pretty incredible moment that we are looking at a race like this, right? Suburban Atlanta. A democrat who's 30 years old, former congressional aide. Nobody really thought the script would be going this way but yet we have the first true voter referendum on the Trump presidency tonight. These polls disclosing, we're moments away from getting results. What are you looking for?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You're absolutely right, Erin. This is the biggest electoral moment since Trump's victory in November in the country. And what I'm looking for is to see does a district like this with well-educated voters, exactly the kind of voters that had been reliably republican for many years, you know, Mitt Romney won this district by 23 points in 2012. It's the kind of voters where Hillary Clinton made real inroads in 2016.
Are we going to see that continue for the Democratic Party at large here in the Trump era? Is there enough sort of complacency and depression of turnout on the republican side to actually give Ossoff a chance here to clear the 50 percent hurdle. That will be seen if that happens as a bit of an earthquake inside the republican party.
BURNETT: Yes. What are the chances of 50-plus? And let's just be clear because we are talking about this. 50 percent plus one vote and he's got it. Not 50.1 or 50 percent plus one, it's 50 plus one single soul.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: That's it. One single soul. Every vote matters as we keep on learning in this country. Look, you know, this is a very tough road to hope for Ossoff. Look, it is a definite republican district, this is not a swing district, folks. This is a district --
TRUMP: But Trump only won it by 1 1/2 percent.
AVON: That's right. And with that says is it -- even the missed republican district, the suburban community outside Atlanta, the Trump brand isn't selling. He's the only republican presidential candidate who's had trouble covering this district. So Ossoff hasn't cleared 50 in any consistent polling. It is a very high bar. It would be -- it would be an absolute earthquake if he did. My guess is he gets close but clearing, that's going to be tough.
DAVID DRUCKER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, the democrats need to win 24 seats in order to win back the house majority. 23 seats that are held by republicans were held by -- were won by Hillary Clinton in November. And so this is the kind of district --
DRUCJKER: Forget the 50 percent mark for a minute here. I want to see how well John Ossoff does in terms of passing 40 percent and how deep into the 40 he gets.
BURNETT: So you're saying he doesn't have win for the earthquake to happen? He just has to be close?
DRUCKER: Well, I'm not -- no, I would agree with that. There's no earthquake if he doesn't win it out right but I'm saying that when you're looking ahead at the midterm elections that are a year and a half away, it's hard to get a lot from special elections except when you go below the top lines and see if democrats were able to connect, was their message able to connect with these kind of voters. Affluent educated voters. These are the ones that they need if they're going to claw back some ground next year.
BURNETT: But this is a crucial suburban Atlanta district. I mean, Nia, here's the thing. The president has not shied away from this, right? You might think that he would do that so that if it was lost -- it wasn't a referendum on me. I had nothing to do with it. Not the taste. You heard Jim Acosta. He says he's personally invested, he's tweeted six times about it since Sunday out of 19 tweets, and he's mentioning this guy Jon Ossoff by name again and again. I mean, that's pretty much putting his own credibility on the line.
NIA MALIKA-HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICALK REPORTER: Yes. He's in there. And he's got that robocall law as well where he calls him super liberal and essentially ties him to Nancy Pelosi's agenda. What's interesting about what might happen here and what it says about Jon Ossoff if he gets 50 percent even if he falls a little below it, what his kind of resume says about the kind of candidates democrats might want to run. He is essentially out of nowhere. He's a blank slate. It's very much hard to tie him to any political ideology, certainly not necessarily a super liberal one because he doesn't really have a record.
So, is this the kind of template that democrats will want to follow? I mean, it's one thing to kind of identify where they should run, these 23 or so districts where Hillary Clinton won, it's -- but what's harder is to find candidates that can run successfully in these races. We saw of course on 2016, it was like the blue dog democrat. What is the -- what is the version of that going forward in 2008?
BURNETT: And John, to me her point, John Ossoff, I mean, I don't know him, so I don't but these nobody's obvious pick of what your next generation democrat would be, a 30-year-old ex-congressional aide. I mean, maybe he does incredibly well. But I don't think anybody would says, this is the model.
AVLON: Right. It's a fresh face but I think the point that's fascinating is generic democrat may be the best candidate they have to run against Donald Trump. You know, it raises the question whether Hillary Clinton was a drag large although he was very competitive in this district that was once run by Newt Gingrich but this generic fresh-faced democrat is doing awfully well in a district that is drawn to favour republican.
DRUCKER: Right. But he's doing well in part because democrats are so hungry to oppose Trump and this is the only game in town.
BURNETT: And there are 18 people running, right? I mean --
DRUCKER: Well, the republicans are dividing up the vote. That's why Ossoff is going to come in first.
DRUCKER: He has raised -- probably end up raising about $10 million, and if he still can't crack 50, the other way to look at this is with all that money, with all that energy and activism, they still couldn't get it done. I think in 2018, democrats have to take a page out of what their party did in '06. They found established professionals without records like Ossoff but established professionals who better fit the district. They did a much better job of winning seats that republicans had held then and that's what they need to do next.
BURNETT: And to your point, David Chalian, look, Ossoff so sar, you're saying -- David it might be $10 million. So far, though, David Chalian, it's more than eight million just in the first calendar quarter (INAUDIBLE) had celebrities, Alyssa Milano, Samuel Jackson have come out. All for this little district in Georgia to make the point, this is of national import. Bernie Sanders has come out and talked about the race. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: What you're seeing in Georgia, I believe you're going to see it in Montana, I believe you're going to see it all over this country. It's the many so-called red states working people are going to wake up and say, wait a second. Republicans want to cut social security, Medicare, Medicaid and education and they want to give be hundreds of millions of dollars of tax breaks to the top one percent. No. That's not what we elected Trump to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: if they don't win, if he doesn't get 50 plus 1, David Chalian, is this a big blow for democrat's momentum? I mean, they put all the bi dogs out here.
CHALIAN: Yes. There's no doubt. They're all in on this. And it certainly will be a disappointment for them. I think it is true that this is a cleanest shot because of the very divided republican field, 11 candidates and because the democratic party has really coalesced around Ossoff, this is sort of the cleanest shot he can get. That being said, Erin, if this does go into a June 28 runoff, if nobody gets 50 percent and it's Ossoff versus the top republican, then I think you are going to see -- I do believe you're going to see a very competitive race all the way through more -- you know, we've already seen more than $14 million in T.V. ads. This is not a race that either party is going to abandon. They're going to fight for it all the way through to June.
HENDERSON: I think that's right. And we'll see who comes out. Who's going to be the number two candidate. Is it going to be someone like Karen Handel? Georgia hasn't ever elect a woman for a congressional seat. So that would be interesting. She's won before for congress and senate. So, we'll see who that number two is going to be in terms of the republican and what are the issues? Is it going to still be a referendum on Trump or sort of social issues going to be at play as well?
You saw Trump for instance tweet about illegal immigration, and crime, and raising taxes and at some point do people actually want him there in that -- in that state? So far, he has shown an interest, but let's face it. I mean, he's essentially just sort of dipping a toe into this race because so far, his brand in that district, which is about 70 percent white, about 30 percent non-white, his brand is pretty toxic.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. Of course we're waiting here any moments for results to start coming out with our team. We have more breaking news coming up though. We have exclusive reporting at this hour on the dossier, that explosive dossier. Well, you're going to hear what we have new information after this. Plus the president said he was sending an armada to the Korean peninsula. Why isn't it there yet? And Jeanne Moos on Late Night Comics with a special request for our president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the FBI use the now infamous dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign to get a warrant to secretly monitor a Trump associate. We've learned just days ago that the FBI got a FISA warrant to survey Carter Page who you may know was named as the foreign policy advisor on the Trump campaign. And tonight, we know how they got that warrant. It goes back to that explosive dossier. Evan Perez is breaking the story. He's OutFront. And Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, U.S. officials tells CNN that last year the FBI used the dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to get approval to secretly monitor Trump associate Carter Page. FBI Director James Comey has sited the dossier in some of the briefings to members of congress in recent weeks as one of the sources of information that the bureau used to bolster its investigation.
Now, this includes approval from the secret court that oversees the foreign intelligence surveillance act known as FISA to monitor Page's communications. Now, to obtain that court permission to target page, the FBI and the justice department would have had to present probable cause that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power, including possibly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering for a foreign government. Comey and other justice department officials would have had to sign off on this request. Last year Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an advisor on national security matters, though they have since said that he had limited interactions with the campaign as a volunteer. Erin?
BURNETT: So, Evan, you know, I mean, obviously, as this reporting has built, I mean, this is surprising in many ways, rights? That they actually did this?
PEREZ: Well, it is. It is surprising because, you know, in Comey's briefings to lawmakers, you know, it stands in contrast to efforts in recent months by the FBI and by U.S. Intelligence Agency to -- agencies to try to distance themselves from that dossier. U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have said repeatedly that U.S. Investigators did their own work separate from the dossier to support their findings that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Now Comey hasn't mentioned the dossier in all of the lawmakers briefings, Erin.
BURNETT: Right. Not in all but as you're saying, certainly in some. I mean --
BURNETT: Now, here's the question. If they got the FISA warrant and they are using the dossier as their justification to do so and they get this warrant to wiretap Carter Page. Evan, would Carter Page at any point have been aware that this was happening or that anyone was monitoring him?
PEREZ: Not at the time. But you're right, you know, you recall that Page has been scrutinized before in the 2013 investigation of Russian spy ring that included this fictions of interactions that he have with one of the alleged spies. Page has denied that he knew that these guys were Russian agents. He also gave a speech in Russia last summer that drew the attention of the FBI in part because of those early allegations. Now, Page said that he took that trip independently and he says he expressed his own views. And overall he has disputed that anything was illegal in his interactions with Russian. He gave us a statement that leads in part, "I look forward to the privacy act of 1974 lawsuit that I plan to file in response to the civil rights violations by Obama Administration appointee of last year, the discovery process will be a great value to the United States as our nation hears testimony from them under oath and we receive disclosure of the documents which show what exactly was done in 2016, Erin. The bottom line here, he says that the Obama administration is behind all these -- all these allegations which he says are simply untrue.
BURNETT: All right. So, Evan, please stay with me. I want to bring in former CIA Operative Bob Bear, Paul Callan, legal analyst. So, Paul let me start with you on this issue of the FISA warrant. OK. The bottom line here from what Evan is reporting is that the FBI got a FISA warrant to wiretap, a person who was at the time a Trump advisor, Carter Page, based on the explosive 32-page dossier. OK?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: yes.
BURNETT: Based on that explosive dossier. Did the FBI have to prove to anyone that anything in that dossier was true to get this warrant?
CALLAN: Well, yes. They have to convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that the search that they're seeking to do or the surveillance that they're seeking to do will yield evidence of a crime. So whatever is in that dossier that they use had to persuade a federal judge that there's adequate grounds here to conduct the surveillance of an American citizen.
BURNETT: So then, what that does, Bob, it would seem, you tell me, does it open the door to that explosive 32-page dossier being true?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Erin, first of all, I mean, look, this warrant wasn't based -- the FISA wasn't based on the explosive dossier alone. I've seen enough of these. You need more than that. They have may presented it to the judge but he was a Trump campaign advisor. It's a higher threshold. And I'm willing to bet there's other intelligence out there that points to the possibility to Page was in connection with Russian intelligence and in some sort of agent role. A lot of times, the CIA and the National Security Agency will go to a FISA court, will have a piece of intelligence. They don't want to leave it behind but they'll slow it to the judge and say we believe this dossier, the explosive dossier is correct and here's why. We have these intercepts, so we have agent reporting from Moscow --
BURNETT: And then they bring in other information. OK. But, Bob, I mean --
BAER: Yes. To get a FISA -- it's really, really hard. I mean, especially on somebody working in a presidential campaign. I mean, the FBI dreads going to the court with a piece of, you know, going after somebody like this an advisor. And so, I -- there is more evidence out there but it also tells me that they had faith in the explosive dossier. BURNETT: So on that front, I mean, Evan is also reporting that the
FBI Director -- that Comey is actually citing the dossier in some of his briefings to congress now as a legitimate source of information. And obviously before they had basically distanced themselves from it and said they hadn't confirmed anything in it. But now, obviously he's using it in some briefings. That in and of itself probably a big development, right?
BAER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, you look at this thing and the fact that they are pushing it out there and the fact that this man was retired from MI6, that they were in direct touch with his sources, they have other evidence to make them believe that this dossier is accurate in many -- in many respects, so I put a lot more credence in this dossier than I did initially and the fact that they based the FISA partially on it. That's explosive in itself.
CALLAN: It doesn't mean though that everything in the dossier is true.
BURNETT: No, no. Right. So on that point, Evan, look, the dossier overall makes the case that the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Russians during the campaign. There are some salacious things in it. we have reported those specifically that the intelligence committee -- community has confirmed that some conversations between Russian nationals in that dossier have but we don't know which ones but that they have confirmed that specific -- something there in that specifically. Are they, Evan, to your knowledge still working to confirm whether other parts of the dossier are true?
PEREZ: Well, yes. They still are. And the truth is that there are some parts of the dossier that they probably will never will able to verify but we know that they do believe that at least some of these allegations have been borne out by other intelligence, as Bob points out, you know, the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, they have their own sources, they have intelligence from human sources as well that they believe helped bolster at least some of the points of this.
But on the point of collusion that you mentioned, look, we -- Donald Trump was out there publicly encouraging the Russians to release some of the stolen e-mails, right? So the problem for the FBI is trying to prove whether there's any illegal coordination that took place.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all three very much. And of course we are waiting any moment those Georgia results, as I said, those polls closing right at the top of our hour. Any moment we're going to get those results. As we do, I'm going to them to you. And next is a U.S. armada on the way to Korean peninsula or not, the Trump administration in the hot seat tonight about possibly misleading. And breaking news on the fate of Fox's Bill O'Reilly. We'll be right back.
[19:30:13] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: New tonight, the Trump administration under fire after suggesting that a U.S. battleship was on its way to the Korean Peninsula as a show of force against North Korea. We now know the USS Vinson was actually headed in the opposite direction, about 3,500 miles away.
Here's what Defense Secretary Mattis and President Trump both said last week about the USS Vinson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As far as the movement of the Vinson, she's stationed there in the western Pacific for a reason. She operates freely up and down the Pacific and she's just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: As Trump and Mattis said those words the Vinson was in the Sunda Strait, off the coast of Indonesia. And we know that because of this picture posted from the Navy on April 15th the day of North Korea's military exercises and their big parade. Administration officials are scrambling to explain.
And Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT at the Pentagon.
Barbara, what are they saying?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you know, this was certainly a message, a show of force to North Korea. And when you message, sometimes that message goes a little bit awry. The carrier was always, in fact, going to stop along the way and do some naval exercises with Australian forces, not something that the Pentagon clarified until a couple of days after the original announcement.
But now those exercises done, the whole strike group headed back up North and likely to arrive in the original area it was intended to go to by the end of the month, if not in the next couple of days -- Erin.
BURNETT: You know, Barbara, I mean, you know, obviously, people thought that the strike group was going to North Korea. They thought that in China and around the world. People made a big deal of that and, of course, it wasn't there.
STARR: That's right. And I think it's important to keep emphasizing, this strike group was a message. It wasn't ever going to strike anything in North Korea. An aircraft carrier doesn't have that kind of offensive capability. It has a couple of missile ships with it that have missile defense if North Korea wants something, they could potentially shoot it down.
The president also noting it has submarines. They can do some shoot- down capability, but largely, this is a massive show of force by the U.S. military. They always knew exactly day by day where their carrier was going to be. They just left out some of the details originally -- Erin. BURNETT: All right, Barbara. Thank you.
OUTFRONT now, General John Allen, a four-star general. He was the commander of the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and a presidential envoy to the coalition to combat ISIS. During his career, he was also involved in the Six Party Talks with North Korea.
And I appreciate your time tonight, General. Thank you so much.
The USS Carl Vinson and its strike group, its nuclear strike group, were not heading to the Korean Peninsula last week, despite what the president, the defense secretary and the head of U.S. Pacific Command suggested. Does that concern you at all?
GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. & COALITION FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: No. I don't want to get into ship movements, but it's not uncommon at all for our ships to be repositioned or be diverted from port visits, et cetera. And, of course, Western Pacific is a big area. How we redirect or how we direct the Carl Vinson to achieve potentially a political outcome is going to be a decision of our national leadership.
So, my guess is they knew exactly where it was, but my sense is that redirecting it from a port visit is not uncommon at all in an environment like this.
BURNETT: Do you think that they perceived a benefit to saying it was going at that time, even though they knew it wasn't quite going at that time because it would raise the square factor on North Korea or on China? I mean, was there a benefit in how they did this?
ALLEN: No. I'd be very careful about implying that our leadership misled the media or misled the American people or anyone this regard. I think it's important to recognize that ship movements, one of the great advantages of the United States Navy and its capacity to move ships and naval units at the behest of the commander-in-chief is that we have that kind of flexibility.
So, I don't think that there was an intent to deceive here. I think that the benefit of being able to say we're repositioning or diverting a warship or a carrier strike grew up in this case to achieve a political outcome, that's not uncommon at all.
BURNETT: Now, President Trump, of course, as you know, is quick to boast of American military might.
[19:35:00] And when he was talking about the USS Vinson and the carrier strike group and he gave a very good example of it, let me just play again for you what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Does talk like this help or hurt his credibility?
ALLEN: Well, I think what would -- what would certainly help right now is for the administration to demonstrate that it has a coherent policy for the region, a policy on Northeast Asia, policy on North Korea, a policy on China, all of them linked. It's on opportunity for the president to demonstrate and the administration to demonstrate a grasp of grand strategy. This is what I think is needed right now, consultation with our allies, conversation with the Chinese, to ensure that everyone is very clear.
The United States military capability is unquestioned and it's unambiguous. And I think that the context that the president uses about the capacity to employ military force needs to be nested in the larger grand strategy and nuanced policy that's necessary for this very dangerous region, actually.
BURNETT: Now, in just about two weeks, President Trump has struck a Syrian air base with Tomahawk missiles, used the so-called "mother of all bombs", the largest nonnuclear bomb deployed since World War II. That just happened in Afghanistan.
BURNETT: What is his strategy with all this firepower? Do you see one?
ALLEN: The employment of military force absent a clear policy construct is a -- can be a dangerous thing. And I think we're all watching and we're all listening carefully for the enunciation of that policy which puts this use of military force in Syria into a larger context.
And I know lots of our allies were watching this strike in Syria. Many of our partners were watching this strike. And, certainly, many of our potential competitors, opponents and enemies that were watching this strike.
ALLEN: What the president needs to do is to ensure that no one comes away thinking that this is a one-off, single use of military force. He needs to help us all understand what his grand strategy is, and his overarching policy intent is for the employment of force.
BURNETT: Did you mean that the U.S. intends to strike again? And if so, are you concerned about the risks that that carries of a broader conflict with Russia?
ALLEN: I doubt that the Russians will go to war with United States if the United States administers military force in the aftermath of a nerve agent attack upon innocent civilians. Vladimir Putin has got interests elsewhere that can also be threatened. I'm not proposing at all that the use of military force should in some way push towards a military conflict with the Russians. BURNETT: Just to give our viewers some context, you know, you did
support Hillary Clinton during the campaign. After -- in fact, you even spoke at the DNC, right, last summer?
ALLEN: I did, uh-huh.
BURNETT: And after that, Donald Trump said something about you and I just want to play that for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: General Allen, he went out and he's ranting and raving. And then I read a report. He was in there for a number of months and he failed with ISIS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You got a chance to respond to that. I mean, you said he has no credibility to say those things at all. But you haven't responded in kind?
ALLEN: Well, I don't need to get into some kind of tit-for-tat with the president of the United States with respect to his opinions on any particular issue. I clearly disagree with his opinion of me and my performance. I know that won't surprise you.
But if you listen to me closely, what I'm saying is the use of force is relatively simple. The use or the formulation and the explanation of a coherent strategy and a coherent policy within which force has a meaning, that's much more difficult. And that really is a challenge for this administration.
This is what we're listening for and I think that this administration has an obligation to get that out pretty soon.
BURNETT: President Trump called Turkish President Erdogan, as you know, overnight, to congratulate him on winning the referendum, which allows him to remain in power for another 13 years. International election monitors have said that referendum did not meet international standards. When confronted with that today by reporters, Erdogan said first, know your place.
This is a man whose government as we know has jailed more than 80 journalists just last year alone, arrested more than 40,000 people after that failed coups last year. Fired or suspended more than 125,000 government employees, including thousands of judges and prosecutors.
Should President Trump be congratulating Erdogan?
ALLEN: I think President Trump can certainly do what he wants to do on this issue. But my hope would be that there's a second phone call, one that doesn't require a lot of public airing where he's unambiguous as president of the U.S. on his concerns over human rights, on freedom of the press, on the rights of women, on freedom of religion, and the rule of law and all of the necessary actions to preserve the democratic institutions of Turkey.
[19:40:19] Now, we've been friends with Turkey for a long time. It's a NATO ally. And this referendum has accumulated authorities and prerogatives in the person of the president of Turkey that we've not seen before. And I think history tells us that when you accumulate that much authority in one single person, it often doesn't go very well.
BURNETT: All right, General. I appreciate your time so very much. Thank you.
ALLEN: Pleasure to be with you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next election results just coming in from Georgia. As we get those for you, we also have new developments on Bill O'Reilly. Is he out? New details about his fate tonight. We will be right back.
Also, the president's never-ending tax audit. Jeanne Moos with the best of the takedowns.
[19:45:04] BURNETT: Breaking news, Bill O'Reilly and FOX News talking about an exit. The network refusing to confirm if O'Reilly will return next week. He's on vacation. This after dozens of companies pulled ads from the show after news broke of settlements with multiple women for sexual harassment or verbal abuse.
And Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.
Brian, this story, obviously, moving incredibly quickly and you've got new info.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we just posted a story on CNN Money, saying that a well-placed source says exit talks have now started between FOX News and O'Reilly's camp. Now, people in O'Reilly's camp denied that. They say, we're not talking about an exit. As far as we know, at this point, he'll still be back at work on Monday.
But the reality is, Erin, no one knows for sure if he'll be back on his program as scheduled on Monday. Furthermore, there's a very important board meeting on Thursday.
STELTER: The company confirming there's a Monday board meeting, excuse me, a Thursday board meeting for Rupert Murdoch and his sons. They're the ultimate men who make the decision about whether O'Reilly stays or goes. That board will meet on Thursday and perhaps we'll hear a decision by the end of the week.
BURNETT: And, obviously, the network had said this is a preplanned vacation, right? He was going to the Vatican, I believe. And it was over Easter actually. STELTER: Yes, he's going to Italy today.
BURNETT: Sort of it does add up to me, a map, that he would plan this and that he would be returning. That was the second part of it.
So, what's changed that all out, now, all of a sudden, they're talking exit?
STELTER: Number one, Fox will no longer confirm that he's actually coming back on Monday. There's a silence -- a bubble of silence around Fox. Gabriel Sherman of "The New York Magazine" reported earlier today that the sons James and Lachlan are now aligned against O'Reilly, that maybe Rupert Murdoch is still trying to support O'Reilly. But there's a clear division in the family against O'Reilly.
Even a source close O'Reilly said to me today, they don't believe he will be back on the show. It was a dramatic turn of events, all because of that "New York Times" story about the settlements and the prospect of other women coming forward.
BURNETT: Right, even though, of course, we knew that some of those settlements we had known about, right?
STELTER: For years.
BURNETT: All of a sudden, when it got public on "The New York Times" --
STELTER: Sort of a critical mass in a different era, with sponsors pulling out. Remember, most advertisers have abandoned his show. And there's one other element here. Lisa Bloom, attorney, no fan of O'Reilly's, spoke about another woman today coming forward, calling Fox for the complaint. There's language in O'Reilly's contract specifying that if there's more of this comes out, if there's more of this issue that it may make it easier for Fox to pull the plug.
BURNETT: And Paul Callan is back with us.
Paul, just -- I mean, you know, what are the chances at this point? If he negotiates an exit settlement, I mean, it just would be massive amounts of money for Bill O'Reilly? Or how did you see this playing out? I mean, he brings, what, nearly the $200 million a year for the Fox News Network via his show.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's really astonishing. He's such a profit maker for Fox. This is a huge decision by the network. But I think you'd have to look at the departure of Roger Ailes to see how the network would handle it.
Remember, there were denials all around that anything was happening to Ailes and then, he was gone. And we heard, of course, of reports of a $40 million settlement with him.
My bet is that the deal with O'Reilly will remain largely secret. There will be a confidentiality clause, which will enable him to move on, to do other things, although I find it hard to believe he'd be land at another, one of the large networks, if sexual harassment is the reason for his departure.
BURNETT: And yet, it's stunning, Brian, because if this happens, you now have in the space of a few months, the entire primetime lineup, except for Sean Hannity, departing FOX News.
STELTER: Right. Ailes resigns last summer. Megyn Kelly leaves in January, partly because she was unhappy with the way FOX handled this culture of sexual harassment and now, O'Reilly on the brink of leaving. Listen, nothing is done until it's done. But even folks inside the network now are already talking about who might take over for Bill O'Reilly.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian and Paul.
And next, who would have thought Donald Trump's taxes are funny. Well, if anybody could find humor in it, it would be Jeanne Moos and she has.
[19:52:41] BURNETT: Happy Tax Day. Will any amount of shaming make Donald Trump release his returns?
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why won't President Trump release his taxes? His critics goad him by calling him chicken, using chicken masks, even a chicken dance.
As Tax Day comes and goes, what isn't going away is all the poking at the president.
STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.
MOOS: Stephen Colbert threw Mardi Gras beads because they're often thrown to get women to reveal their assets.
The president is being goaded by Democrats like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who released his own 2016 taxes, tweeting, "See, President Trump? It's not that hard."
He's being going goaded by impersonators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's release them, boys. Release the taxes. There we go. There we go.
MOOS: The president's least favorite impersonator, Alec Baldwin, once taunted the president, "Release your tax returns and I'll stop impersonating you."
Even Easter was used to egg on the president. JAMES CORDEN, THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN: Apparently, the
Easter egg hunt is still going on, because Trump hid those Easter eggs as well as he hides his tax returns.
MOOS: And Sean Spicer reading to kids --
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Supersonic ears.
MOOS: -- was photoshopped into Spicer reading a book titled, "My Taxes by Donald T., I paid them."
But what critics like most to use against the president are his own words.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: How many clips did you get here? He would reveal them after this, he would reveal them after that.
TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns absolutely.
I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns.
Well, I'm thinking about it.
We're working on it right now and at the appropriate time, you'll be very satisfied.
I don't mind releasing. I'm under a routine audit, and it will be released, and as soon as the audit is finished, it will be released.
MOOS: But even for Trump supporters, that audit line has become taxing.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And this week on CNN, the songs that define history, here's a look at the brand new history called "Soundtracks" that premiers right here on CNN Thursday night at 10:00.
[19:55:04] Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Music is an explosive expression of humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every movement has to have a song.
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.
DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR: The music will always remind us that it is possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One small step for man.
RANDY JACKSON, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: That is what anthems are made of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about standing up for your rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were killing our own children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought, what the hell are we going to do that for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a cultural political statement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Music is a vehicle for revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That king of courage changed how I viewed human beings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aftermath of 9/11, everybody was in it together.
JACKSON: Somebody has got to put this into words and emotions for everyone to hear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is how we remember history.
ANNOUNCER: "Soundtracks: Songs that Define History" premiers Thursday at 10:00 on CNN.
BURNETT: And thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime anywhere. You just need to go to CNN Go.
"AC360" with Anderson begins right now.