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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Spicer Dodges Questions On Russia, Kushner; Spicer Won't Confirm Or Deny Kushner Secret Channel To Russia; Flynn Will Provide Some Documents To Senate; House Intel Committee Asking Former W.H. Official Boris Epshteyn For Information; W.H. Touts Trump's First Foreign Trip Despite Criticism; ; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 30, 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: -- starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, the White House shuts down questions about Jared Kushner as the FBI zeros in on Kushner and a Russian banker.

Plus, the world according to Sean Spicer. His description of the president's overseas trip, historic turning point, outstanding. And a long-time admirer of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster says the day has come for him to step down. That man is my guest tonight. Let's go OutFront. And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront this evening, dodging. Tonight the White House Press Secretary in his first press briefing in two weeks not answering reporters and repeatedly charging their questions are based on anonymous sources. Here is Sean Spicer responding to questions about the Russia investigation and Jared Kushner's communications with Russians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources. Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed. So again, I'm not going to get into confirming stuff. There's an ongoing investigation. I'm not going to dignify partisan accusations of anonymous sources and alleged unsubstantiated attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Anonymous sources. The thing is, it turns out that anonymous sources work just fine with this White House when they support the president's narrative. Earlier today President Trump fired back at a Washington Post story that charged Jared Kushner tried to set up back-channel communications with Russia. Trump's defense referred to a Fox News report using anonymous sources. The president's tweet actually included the Fox headline which reads, "Jared Kushner didn't suggest Russian communications channel in meeting, source says." Hmm, guess it all depends what source is saying. At today's press conference a reporter called out Spicer on the obvious hypocrisy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you said that first of all, that the article

was based on anonymous sources.

SPICER: Which it is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the Fox article that the president retweeted was also based on anonymous sources. Why are those sources or this source rather that they used more credible than the ones in the Washington Post article?

SPICER: Again, I don't - I don't think there's two issues at hand. One is the statement that Jared's attorney has provided. Second is, is whether or not the back -- the Dossier that is largely the basis of this was largely discredited in the first place. Most of the publications here refused to even publish it in the first place. So again, I'm not going to get into confirming stuff. There's an ongoing investigation. John.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Look, there's no good answer to that question as to why one anonymous source is acceptable and another isn't. This comes as tonight, yet another Trump associate is under congress' microscope and we are learning that the former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, will now provide some of the documents under subpoena to the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is according to multiple reports, a development just coming in just in the past couple of moments. Jim Sciutto is OutFront. And Jim, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Erin, CNN has spoken to a person close to retired General Michael Flynn, the fired national security advisor, and we are told as the Wall Street Journal and others first reported that General Flynn will provide some of the documents that have been requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Not all of them, but some of them. These documents relate to his businesses. This part of the investigation into Russia ties, funding, money that he received from Russia.

We're also learning of new Trump advisers that are being asked for information. One is Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer. He has refused senate requests for that kind of information. And a third person, Boris Epstein who advised Donald Trump during the campaign, he has now been asked for information. It's not clear yet what his answer to the committee will be.

BURNETT: Now, obviously, these are significant developments, all of them, Jim. And you also now at this hour have exclusive reporting about conversations Russian officials had about President Trump.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Two former senior intelligence officials and a congressional source tell myself, Pamela Brown and Dana Bash that Russians were intercepted -- communications between Russians intercepted during the campaign claiming that they had, "derogatory information about President Trump and some of his advisers." And going on to claim that that derogatory information might give them leverage in a potential Trump administration. We're told as well that some of this claimed derogatory information was financial in nature. I should caveat that U.S. intelligence sources telling us it's possible that these Russians were exaggerating the information they had. They might even have been making up the information they had. But what's key here is that they were speaking to each other claiming to have it and describing that as a way that they might influence the campaign.

This one piece of the larger Russia investigation that is going -- that is ongoing, open questions as you know, Erin, as to whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russian, Russian officials, others known to U.S. Intelligence. These still open questions explored not just by the FBI but both the senate and House Intelligence Committees.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. And -

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BURNETT: -- news of these discussions among Russian officials coming as the president's top adviser, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is under new scrutiny tonight for conversations he had with Russian officials. Diane Gallagher is OutFront.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Conversations picked up by U.S. intelligence suggest the Russians believed they had the ability to influence the administration with the information. Two former intelligence officials and a congressional source tells CNN. Former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said conversations they were monitoring raised a red flag and warranted investigation.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There were a series of communications and dialogues that we grew -- I say we. Members of the intelligence community that were aware of this were very concerned about.

GALLAGHER: The investigation into Russia's interference in the U.S. Election continues to swirl around those close to the U.S. President. His most trusted advisor, son-in-law Jared Kushner, is under intense scrutiny. A U.S. official says the FBI is looking into Kushner's contact with Russian officials during the transition as well as various explanations given for those meetings. On December 1st, Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump tower.

Later that month at Kislyak's urging Kushner met with Sergei Gorkov, the chairman of the U.S. sanction Russian bank, a close Putin associate and a former spy. In March, the White House insisted it was part of Kushner's official transition role. But the bank said it was only about business, a key contradiction the FBI is now focusing on. The meeting with Kislyak was initially left off of Kushner's security clearance disclosure forms but added the next day.

This month, sources told CNN Kushner discussed setting up a secret communications channel with Russia using their facilities as a way to bypass detection by U.S. Intelligence. But as an explanation said it was so he and then NSA nominee Flynn could discuss military strategy in Syria among other topics. The White House is pushing back, calling the reports false and unverified claims.

SPICER: I think Secretary Kelly and General McMaster have both discussed that in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.

GALLAGHER: And the president's son-in-law may be his top advisor, but Jared Kushner has plenty of other White House duties, including Middle East peace and streamlining government. Even with all that's going on dealing with the Russia investigation and extra scrutiny, a source familiar with Kushner's role says, Erin, that at this point he isn't giving up any part of that portfolio.

BURNETT: All right. Dianne, thank you very much. And OutFront now, member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. Good to have you with me again, Congressman. You know, you heard some of the breaking news here at the top of the hour.

ERIC SWALWELL, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Glad to see you again.

BURNETT: General Michael Flynn providing some of the documents, some that the senate had requested. From your point of view where you sit, is General Flynn now cooperating?

SWALWELL: Well, Erin, I'm not going to go into specifics with witnesses, but I'll say that we are seeking relevant witnesses to give us testimony about what they saw and documents that may help us understand what Russia did, who they worked with, if anyone in the United States. And then we want to tell the American people what we're going to do as guardians of this democracy to make sure that we're never in a mess like this again. We just want an honest investigation not obstructed by politics and certainly not obstructed by the White House.

BURNETT: So, sources are telling us, as you just heard, that Russian government officials discussed having potentially derogatory information about -- at the time it was presidential candidate Donald Trump. This comes from conversations intercepted by U.S. Intelligence. Do you believe at this time, Congressman, that the Russians actually have something on Trump himself?

SWALWELL: I can say - I can't yes or no to that. However, we did hear last week from former Director Brennan that, you know, part of the Russia way is to seek to influence people in the United States. And we heard also through Directors Comey and Rogers that they do this whether it's through financial entanglements or what they call comportment using what could be embarrassing or illegal behavior against somebody to get information.

At this point we just want to investigate whether that exists. And I hope that we're back on track as republicans and democrats on the house committee to do that.

BURNETT: So in terms of this meeting that Jared Kushner had, the White House has not denied it, right? They haven't denied that he had this meeting to try to establish a back channel to talk to the Russians. Do you think there is anything illegal about what Jared Kushner did or do you think perhaps it was just inept?

SWALWELL: Well, let's break down the who, when, where and how. Who are we talking about here? It's the Russians. They had just attacked our democracy with an interference campaign, so that's certainly would be bad judgment. The where what to do -- to have this conversation at their embassy and away from U.S. officials or at a U.S. facility is also unusual. Also the when. To have it before Jared Kushner is an official U.S. government person I think also would be unusual. And then finally, the how. To not use official means, that considering what Russia had done to us, and that to many looks like it's trying to circumvent monitoring that may exist.

BURNETT: And so obviously at the least you think poor judgment, but you're not going so far as to use the word illegal at this time.

SWALWELL: Too early to tell. And then certainly there's the what were they talking about.

BURNETT: So on this note, too early to tell, but at this time Jared Kushner perhaps the closest advisor to the president of the united states, should his security clearance be revoked as you get answers to those questions?

SWALWELL: You know, that's really the call of the FBI. And I hope that they are reviewing it. It was also reported a couple months back that he had failed to disclose on his SF-86, that's the form that you use to apply for security clearance, that he had failed to disclose prior contacts with the Russians and other foreign nationals. And so that I hope is being looked into as well.

BURNETT: If you were in charge of that decision, what would you do?

SWALWELL: I'd revoke it.

BURNETT: You'd revoke it. OK. I just want -- I just want to make sure I understand. The press secretary today, Sean Spicer was asked about whether the president knew about this, whether that Jared Kushner was trying to establish a back channel and he wouldn't directly answer the question. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I - do you think the president knew about this back channel at this -- when you hear that? I mean, he said he's not going to get into it. But do you think he knew?

SWALWELL: You know, it's too hard -- it's too early right now to tell, Erin. But we -- what we see though is a pattern of the president, as soon as the heat is turned up on individuals in this investigation, he starts to distance himself from them. If you listen to the president, he'd have you believe that Michael Flynn was just a campaign volunteer who made, you know, volunteer phone calls at a Timbuktu Campaign office. You know, and we know that that certainly was not the case. So he may tell us in short order that, you know, he hardly even knew Jared Kushner, who knows.

BURNETT: Of course as you point out as he --

SWALWELL: He's a friend of his daughter's.

BURNETT: -- before with others. All right. Congressman Devin Nunes, I don't know if you heard this before but of course obviously you know him well, chairman of House Intel Committee, your committee, has recused himself from this investigation. Obviously significant. He says that democrats are using the Russia investigation to justify Clinton's loss. And that's what this is all about. Here he is at a private fund-raiser. We actually have video which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times and I wanted to play it for you, Congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEVIN NUNES, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FOR CALIFORNIA: The democrats don't want an investigation on Russia, they want an independent commission. Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends and that's the only reason why he won because Hillary Clinton could have never lost on her own, so it had to be someone else's fault.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what do you say to Chairman Nunes?

SWALWELL: Well, I wrote the legislation with Elijah Cummings to have an independent commission. I did that because our sovereignty was violated by a foreign adversary and I think republicans and democrats because republicans are on my bill as well care about the future of our elections. And if we don't have free and fair elections, what do we have in this country? So I hope both parties can put aside politics and just get to the bottom of what happened.

And we've been attacked before, Erin, and the constant has always been that republicans and democrats have united to understand the vulnerabilities that allowed the attack to occur and then to make reforms to make sure that we were never expose like that again.

BURNETT: Congressman, are you -

SWALWELL: And we're feeling to see that right now.

BURNETT: Are you surprised that he would say, you know, you're trying to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends and that's the reason that he won because Hillary Clinton never would have lost on her own and it's someone else's fault and you're disappointed to hear that from Devin Nunes? SWALWELL: Well, it's not true. I'm disappointed because our

committee before this investigation had always worked very well together and we're going to have to work together on other non-Russia issues going forward. We still have challenges in Syria, North Korea and with Iran. And so I hope we can, you know, find our way again, because the American people are counting on us to protect this democracy and also fulfill our national security duties.

BURNETT: Congressman Swalwell, pleasure to have you back and thank you for your time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Erin.

BURNETT: And OutFront next, President Trump under fire said to be emotionally withdrawing, lonely and angry. Is a shake-up of the White House staff his next move?

Plus White House spin on steroids. You will hear next about what Sean Spicer had to say about Trump's big overseas trip and it's worth listening to.

And a man who is known and admire the national security advisor, H.R. McMaster for 20 years. Tonight calling for him to step down. Pulitzer prize-winning Tom Rick is OutFront.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, a tale of two trips by President Trump. U.S. allies questioning America's standing in the world after Trump's first foreign trip as president. But Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaking about the trip in glowing and it is fair to use those words, glowing, terms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: It was an unprecedented first trip extraordinary week for America, historic turning point. Historic economic development deals, outstanding success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is OutFront at the White House. Jeff, those are some superlatives.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, a lot of adjectives used to describe the trip. But interestingly on the other side of the pond, European leaders are not describing the trip like that at all. In fact the -- you know, the words from Angela Merkel, you know, basically the, you know, the leader of the European Union, the chancellor of Germany, of course, she, you know, gave that extraordinary speech at a campaign stop over the weekend basically saying because of the new leadership in the U.S., we have to take our fate in our own hands.

So the reality here, Erin, is that, yes, the White House calls the trip a success. We shouldn't be surprised by that. To the president, everything is always the best ever, the greatest ever, the biggest ever, but the reality here is the old alliances, the old NATO Alliances here who were need lectured to by this president. He started off his trip last week, I was there in Riyadh when he said we're not going to lecture to the Muslim world.

In fact he did lecture to, you know, the European leaders. And the reality is that they did not necessarily like what they heard. But, Erin, the proof is going to be in the climate change decision.

BURNETT: Right.

ZELENY: When President Trump makes that decision this week, all signs point to him wanting to pull the U.S. out of that. That is going to change the U.S. position around the world particularly with European leaders here. So Sean Spicer's words today may not hold up after that climate change decision. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Jeff. And now our senior political analyst, Mark Preston, former White House communications director for President Obama, Jen Psaki and former communications adviser director for the Trump campaign and communications director for Trump transition team Jason Miller. So, Jason, you just heard Sean Spicer, superlative after superlative in a row. He was laying them all - laying them out pretty thick. It truly does sound like he believes this was the most consequential trip by an American president in history.

JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It was definitely an important trip. I think President Trump did a fantastic job with his speech in Saudi Arabia and I think after eight years where I believe we had weak leadership at the helm of the United States, finally we had a strong, tough, confident leader who was helping to restore America's standing in the rest of the world. I think in particular I was happy to see that President Trump was willing to stand up and deliver some tough words to our allies in the E.U.

I think as many Trump supporters around the country, people who voted for him this past November who think we have been pushed around far too long and other allies haven't been paying their fair share, we were glad to see that.

BURNETT: Jen, unprecedented, extraordinary, historic, outstanding.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have no idea what trip he is referring to. Obviously President Trump didn't speak a lot during this trip, didn't do a lot of press conferences, but the most problematic part of the trip was certainly his trip to NATO. And the fact is all of these European countries committed to giving two percent of their GDP in 2014 when Obama was president by 2024. Germany is paying 15 percent of the operating budget to NATO.

The United States pays 22 percent. We can keep raising that, that's fine, but the reality is that European leaders around the world today, in Germany and Italy were questioning whether the United States would still be a global power and questioning our alliance on very specific issues. Climate change being one of them. Also providing arms in a conflict and the travel ban. And those are specific areas that President Trump is going to need to change if he wants to renew these alliances and these important relationships.

BURNETT: Mark, in this press conference, Sean Spicer didn't want to answer reporter questions really on much of anything. He was very terse, seemed almost angry today. But on this issue he was explosive and -- with his rhetoric, right? With these words that we just said. You say actually he doesn't care what reporters think or anybody else thinks, there was an audience of just one.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, look who talks that way. President Trump himself is known to use words like that to describe himself, to describe his policies, to describe the campaign, to describe his administration, to describe his vision, so when you see a spokesperson go out there and in this case Sean Spicer and of course we saw this with Sean's deputy as well, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, they go out there, they're talking to a room of reporters, but really their audience is the person who is behind the door behind them and that's President Trump.

Because to walk off of that stage and to go through that door and to then encounter President Trump in the west wing, if he doesn't like what you said, he doesn't think you did a very good job in defending him, you know, that is the last audience that you want to have to deal with.

BURNETT: And Jason, you know, the Washington Post, you know, it's interesting it's not just Sean Spicer doing this, it's Hope Hicks. And look, you've been in this position where I'm sure you, you know, you felt the eyes of the president on you. The Washington Post recently ran a story titled Snubs And Slights Are Part Of The Job In Trump's White House, referring to, of course, from the president. And the White House is pushing back on it.

Hope hicks, spokeswoman, responded that in part, "President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy which is infectious to those around him. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor, and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than they even thought possible. The former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor tweeted in resppnse, "Hope Hicks does a hilarious impression of North Korean propaganda.

There were some who obviously found that funny. Let me ask you though, Jason, how big of a problem, you know, does he have a point? I mean, when you're out talking about magnetic personality, exuding positive energy, is that you doth protest too much?

MILLER: I think hope got a lot closer to the pin as far as folks like myself who worked for the president would view him. I worked for the president about seven or eight months or so and during that stretch I found him to be very supportive.

BURNETT: Yes, MILLER: Someone who is very encouraging to his team. I definitely enjoyed working with him. And so a lot of these criticisms that we've seen from whether the Washington Post or even the partisan adversaries I think are really a sad reflection on politics today. I mean, Erin, there's a frustration from Trump supporters out there who see these anonymous stories come out. Again, I know that's something they harp on all the time but they come out and say, you know, the president wants these many scoops of ice cream with dinner or they want to attack the president on, you know, someone in the administration says this. And it's so detached -

BURNETT: OK.

MILLER: -- from reality. I mean I was chatting with the folks at the White House today and they said the president is in a great mood, he's fired up, he's ready to go drive this agenda, they've said that June is going to be their big jobs month that they're diving into and have all these great things mapped out for the next four weeks. It's a completely different world than what you're reading in some of these newspapers.

BURNETT: Right. So I just want to make two points because you do have a fair point. I will say on the two scoops of ice cream and I'm not even trying to be light about this, I'm saying that was actually from a time reporter in his own words. He actually saw it. So I know it's funny, but I am just saying that wasn't based on an anonymous source. Jen, what's your response though? Do you think that there - that people are missing the broader story, as Jason points out?

PSAKI: Look, it's the job of every spokesperson, which Hope is one, to defend their boss. But I think you cross a problematic line when it no longer sounds and feels credible based on what's happening out there. It's hard to look at what's happening from this administration without any successes legislatively, with a very problematic foreign trip, with talks of staff shake-ups and think everything is going swimmingly. There are points in many administrations where things are down, and you have to find a way to defend your boss and defend your team while still being credible. And that's a problem, I think, right now.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you -

MILLER: But Jen, respectively speaking, this is where for Trump supporters and I think a lot more than even just Trump supporters, we saw this trip this past week as being a big success. He had the great arms deal with Saudi Arabia. We're glad to see him stand strong on the international stage in Europe. I mean, this was a big success. And I think obviously we're looking at two completely different lenses but to go --

PSAKI: But I don't - what I'm -- what the criticism is, Jason, is not from me as a democrat. There's criticism from global leaders. And I think that's a problem for any president, whether you're a democrat or a republican.

MILLER: Because -- I think because they're used to having a pushover in the White House, and so now finally we don't have a pushover, we have someone showing some strong leadership. And that might feel - that might feel a little bit of culture -

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I don't think there's a single national security expert of either party who would say that's the case.

MILLER: Well, it might be a little bit of a culture shock but you know what, we think that President Trump is really restoring our standing on the international stage and we're glad that he's doing it.

BURNETT: All right. I will leave it there. Thank you all. Next, a source telling CNN that when it comes to the White House right now, President Trump is lonely, angry and is lacking people he trusts. So what is the president's next move? And my next guest is a two-time pulitzer prize winner who has called H.R. McMaster one of America's most thoughtful generals. Tonight he is calling for him to step aside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:03] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: New tonight, a key communications advisor calling it quits for President Trump. His resignation could be the first sign of a long rumored shake-up at the White House. It comes as the administration is trying to contain a growing number of questions about Russia.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the Trump administration struggles to find its footing amid a cloud of controversy, a senior official is stepping aside.

Communications director Mike Dubke submitted his resignation May 18th, though it's unclear when he'll serve his last day in the White House. His upcoming departure comes as speculation about a broader staff shake-up reaches a fever pitch.

Former campaign aides like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie met with Trump Monday in the West Wing and Bossie is playing coy about whether he may soon be heading to the White House.

DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm not going to say there's something sitting on the table for me to pick. It's an ongoing conversation.

MURRAY: Even former aides like David Urban, who hasn't been spotted in the West Wing recently but ran Trump's successful campaign in Pennsylvania are dodging questions about whether they're joining the administration.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you talking to the White House?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: No comment on that.

MURRAY: As Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, faces scrutiny in the FBI's Russia probe, sources tell CNN he isn't going anywhere and that for now, Sean Spicer's job is also safe. The press secretary re-emerged in front of the camera for the daily briefing today, his first since mid-May, and insisted the president's priorities are on track.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's legislative agenda is in full swing.

MURRAY: But in the chaotic West Wing, crisis management is putting the brakes on the agenda. Trump, venting on Twitter Tuesday, said: The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes immediately and get health care and tax cuts approved fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt.

But both of those issues are slated to move through a process that only requires 51 votes. The biggest problem has been getting Republicans on the same page.

Meanwhile, the president isn't making key decisions that lie within his control. He hasn't named a new FBI director, though he's interviewing two candidates today. He hasn't made a decision about whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan. And he hasn't announced whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate accord.

Fresh on the heels of a trip to NATO and the G7 where Trump privately criticized German officials, Trump took his goal in public Tuesday, tweeting: We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, the president may have had some tough talk for Germany, but German officials have had plenty of sharp words to say about the United States and President Trump. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently suggested that the U.S. is not the leader it once was and that Germans need to take their fate into their own hands.

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

And OUTFRONT now, the retired U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden, also former director of the CIA and the NSA.

Thanks for being with me, General.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Hey, Erin.

BURNETT: So, you know, you heard Sara that Angela Merkel's takeaway from the president's trip is that the United States is not the leader it used to be. Your reaction?

HAYDEN: Well, it's a sadness for anybody of my background, but I'd have to point out, Erin, that what President Trump did in Europe was very consistent with his language in the campaign and, frankly, consistent with that tweet that you just read. He viewed and talked about this during the campaign, but American alliances were not a strategic advantage for the United States, but a strategic burden and he seemed to act out that judgment in his time in Europe with our NATO allies.

BURNETT: So, you're not surprised, but obviously you still believe him to be wrong in that belief?

HAYDEN: Well, I think he's terribly wrong. Look, line us up with major adversaries around the world. List the good friends of China who are good friends and important. List the good friends of Russia who are good friends and important.

[19:35:02] And you pretty much get the null set for both countries.

We have a lot of good friends who are important. They are a strategic advantage. They give us long-term strength. And I fear we are doing damage to those relationships.

BURNETT: You just heard when we're talking about the potential staff changes at the White House that Jared Kushner is safe in his job right now. The White House press secretary was pressed as to whether President Trump approved of Kushner going ahead with that secret backchannel with the Russians today in that press conference.

Here's how Sean Spicer responded, General.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Secretary Kelly and General McMaster have both discussed that in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Is that true? Secret back channels, important part of diplomacy.

HAYDEN: Just the way Sean Spicer said it is absolutely true. Both Secretary Kelly and H.R. McMaster said that.

BURNETT: Yes.

HAYDEN: In general, backchannels are an important part of diplomacy.

This wasn't in general. This was specific. And I wouldn't have even called it a backchannel -- at least in the way that governments use back channels.

I've been a backchannel. I've taken messages from President Bush to foreign leaders below the radar so they would not attract news, so that the conversation could be discreet. But this was a transition team. This was an administration in waiting trying to establish secret communications, not secret from the Russians, secret from the Americans while the government in power, President Obama's administration, was facing and making decisions of a very serious nature with regard to the Russian Federation.

I wouldn't call this a back channel at all, and I know that Secretary Kelly and General McMaster were very careful in their language. They were talking in general, just the way Mr. Spicer said.

BURNETT: What would you call this if not a backchannel? What's the word you would use, General?

HAYDEN: Well, I mean, a backchannel actually has a legitimate place in diplomacy. Backchannels are not conducted by nongovernments, and the Trump transition team wasn't a government. And so, I would not give it that label, which gives it some sense of legitimacy.

BURNETT: So, sources tell CNN that Russian government officials discussed having what they say could have been derogatory information. Those are their words, on Trump. One source saying it could be financial in nature. What do you make of this? Do you think they have it or not?

HAYDEN: Well, a couple of observations. This former director of CIA and NSA is uncomfortable when stories begin with according to intercepted communications between two Russian officials.

BURNETT: Yes.

HAYDEN: So, that's actually quite destructive and a sadness. Now, with regard to the intercept, the alleged intercept, former head of NSA, Erin, even I know one has to be careful with intercepts. They're a great source of intelligence, but they can also be intentionally misleading.

BURNETT: Right.

HAYDEN: And finally, you could actually be getting conversations between two people who just don't know what they're talking about.

BURNETT: Right. So, this is a big question, because here's the thing, General -- President Trump has insisted recently multiple times when we talk about this issue of whether there's something financially derogatory that they have over him, he said he had no business dealings with Russia. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia.

I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.

I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever. I don't have property in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, this is all very recently, general. But here he is on David Letterman in 2013 saying something completely

the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've done a lot of business with the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: "USA Today" reports his companies have been linked to ten former wealthy Soviet businessmen or Russian businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations, money laundering. I mean what do you think is the truth here? The man who's saying I have no dealings with Russia, I have no deals, I have no investments, nothing, nothing, nothing, or the guy who said I've done a lot of business with the Russians?

HAYDEN: Well, President Trump and prior to that private citizen Trump seemed to say things that were useful for him in the moment, in the eternal now, without any regard to history, without regard to consequences. And now that he's president, people are keeping book on the kinds of things he's saying, has said, and they are contradictory.

Now, Erin, I have no idea what the truth is, but that's why we've got these multiple investigations on. The criminal one over at the FBI, but frankly the one that might be more important for the welfare of America are the investigations in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees --

BURNETT: Interesting.

HAYDEN: -- because they're going to paint the whole picture. You know, some things might be very important to this story that don't reach the level of crimes, but still need to be known by the American people.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. An important endorsement, I think, to explain to people why those investigations are important now that we do have a special prosecutor.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Thank you, General Hayden.

And next, H.R. McMaster should stop enabling Trump and quit to save face.

[19:40:01] That's what a military expert and my next guest is saying about a man he has known for decades.

And breaking news, a shocking outburst in court. A man accused of killing two heroes after allegedly yelling anti-Muslim slurs on a train making new threats just moments ago in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death to the enemies of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, one of the nation's top experts on the military and national security urging H.R. McMaster to step down as national security advisor for President Trump.

Writing in an op-ed for "Politico", quote: I worry that having people like McMaster around Trump simply enables Trump. So I think McMaster should step down, not just for his own good but for the good of the country.

OUTFRONT now, the author of that piece, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks who's covered the U.S. military for more than 35 years and is also the author of the brand new book, "Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom."

And, Tom, you know, you don't say this lightly. You have known General McMaster since he was a major, more than two decades ago that you have known him. You say he is one of the nation's most thoughtful generals. Obviously, he's led troops in combat in two different wars in Iraq.

Why do you think he should step down?

THOMAS RICKS, HAS KNOWN GEN. MCMASTER FOR OVER 20 YEARS: Well, when he came in and other people were coming into the Trump administration, I thought it was a good thing. There was a sort of sense of having some adults in the room would be a good thing.

[19:45:00] But these people are matured, seasoned national security experts.

But I haven't seen McMaster improve Trump's foreign policy. Rather, I have seen Trump degrade McMaster.

So, I've now come to think that the saving grace of Donald Trump is his extraordinary incompetence and we should not be having people in there to help him look better. This president is a disaster.

That foreign trip undercut NATO, which is the organization that has kept peace in Europe for 65 years. That's the longest spell of peace that Europe has had in the modern era since the French Revolution. We should not attack NATO lightly. We shouldn't attack NATO at all.

So, I think that McMaster is not doing any good and, in fact, all he's doing is putting a little bit of lipstick on the pig of a presidency.

BURNETT: So, what he's done is defend President Trump on a couple of his big controversies, right? When Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister and then Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, when he sought a secret communications channel with Moscow.

Here is how H.R. McMaster came out and defended the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The premise of that article is false, that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security.

We have backchannel communications with a number of countries. What that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner, so it doesn't predispose you toward any sort of content of that conversation or anything. So, no, I would not be concerned about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNET: You say what's happening there is that McMaster is the one being degraded?

MCMASTER: Yes. And I think he is making a crazy situation with this White House look better. He adds an air of rationality to it. McMaster is a very intelligent, well-respected general. And now, he is lending his reputation and uniform to this real disaster of a presidency.

I say step away from the abyss, let Trump and the people around him stew in their own incompetence. The less Trump does, the less effective he is, the better.

The analogy would be would you rather have a mafia family run by Michael Corleone or one run by his weakling brother, Fredo. Obviously, the Michael Corleone mafia would be more dangerous to American society. So, I say let Donald be Donald. He's a Fredo.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, though, because obviously -- look, your politics are very clear, Tom. But even if one accepts your politics, right, isn't it possible to believe that the right thing to do for this country is to do the best thing you can for whomever is in the Oval Office? Is it perhaps the more patriotic thing for H.R. McMaster to stay?

RICKS: It is absolutely possible. I'm saying, in fact, I believed it until recently. But watching H.R. McMaster the last couple of weeks, I've rather come to think the opposite, that it's not good for the country or for H.R. McMaster. That the less effect Donald Trump has as president, the better.

So, we have the rest of the government kind of chugging along by its own. I think it's a good idea to have General Mattis at the Pentagon and the rest of the federal government seems to do well. I'm saying that we don't really have a president right now. We have one who plays one on TV and on Twitter. And that's fine, just let him do that and let the rest of the government run itself.

BURNETT: All right, Tom. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

And you can read Tom's full op-ed in "Politico".

RICKS: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, the man who will steer the president through the snowballing Russia investigation. Who is power attorney Mark Kasowitz?

And breaking news from a chaotic Portland courtroom. The man accused of knifing two men to death on a train went on a verbal rampage moments ago. We have that for you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:10] BURNETT: Spotted at the White House, Ivanka Trump next to the man advising the president on all things Russia. He's a high powered private attorney who some are hoping will be the Trump whisperer.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At $1,500 an hour, Marc Kasowitz is widely acknowledged in the legal profession as a powerhouse attorney, the toughest of tough guys. And hew will be enlisted by the president to beef up his legal team after a special counsel was chosen to lead the Justice Department's probe into Russian meddling into the U.S. election. And after a former CIA director talked about --

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign.

FOREMAN: Kasowitz was seen with first daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump over the weekend, even as reports swirled about her husband's Russian contacts. Jared Kushner is a presidential adviser, too.

Kasowitz's firm has represented some big names, former FOX News host Bill O'Reilly, actors Robert De Niro and Mia Farrow, and for about 15 years, Donald Trump.

When journalists wanted to see records of Trump's divorce from his first wife Ivana, Kasowitz kept them sealed. He handled the lawsuit over the author of a book on Trump, financial battles over Trump's Atlantic City casinos, disputes about Trump University and when "The New York Times" wrote a story about two women who said Trump touched them improperly, Kasowitz demanded a detraction. He did not get one, but for a president who prizes loyalty, Kasowitz is a proven ally with a difference.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's a perception that many of the President Trump's employees are kept around because they tell the president what he wants to hear. That's not the case with Attorney Marc Kasowitz. This is a top-notch attorney who will tell president Trump the way things are, whether or not the president wants to hear it or not.

FOREMAN: One potential issue, Kasowitz also represents a Russian bank as well as a company controlled by a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin. In a previous statement, Kasowitz's firm says it has never relayed information or facilitated communication between that client and the Trump team.

But for a White House being scrutinized over every brush with Russia, the political optics are not good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Unlike the White House counsel, which is primarily tasked with protecting the office of the presidency, Kasowitz will be looking after the personal interests of Donald Trump, the individual, in a probe that could go on for a very long time -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Tom. Thank you very much. We'll be hearing a lot more about Marc Kasowitz.

And next, breaking news from Portland. The suspect in two shocking murders on a plane had an outburst in court moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave this country if you hate our freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news: chaos in the courtroom. The man accused of killing two people who tried to defend two Muslim women making his first court appearance. And within moments of stepping before the judge, the man who police believe targeted the woman because they were Muslims starting making new threats.

Dan Simon is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY CHRISTIAN, STABBING SUSPECT: Free speech or die, Portland.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-five-year-old Jeremy Christian launching into a verbal tirade in what was supposed to be a routine court hearing in Portland. He didn't specifically acknowledge the stabbings but the message was clear. No remorse.

CHRISTIAN: Death to the enemies of America. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. Do you hear me? Die!

SIMON: It was Friday night at the height of rush hour when Christian begun yelling anti-Muslim epithets at two women, including one wearing a hijab.

DESTINEE MAGUM, VICTIM: He told us to back to Saudi Arabia and he told us that we shouldn't be here and to get out of his country.

SIMON: Fifty-three-year-old Ricky Best and 23-year-old Taliesin Namkai-Meche confronted the hate spewing assailant. That's when Christian pulled out a knife.

MAGUM: He just started stabbing people and there was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives.

SIMON: Best, a father of four and Army veteran, and Meche, a recent college graduate, were both killed. A third victim, 21-year-old Micah Fletcher survived and is being treated for series injuries.

On a train the very night before, a woman was so alarmed by Christian's behavior, she began recording on her cell phone.

CHRISTIAN: Oh, it looks like we have a Christian or a Muslim (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bus driver, I'll stab you, too (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

SIMON: Christian's Facebook page also shows a fondness for Nazism and white supremacy.

President Trump condemned the attacks yesterday on Twitter, notably from the official White House account, not his personal one. The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are with them.

To his critics, it came two days too late who note the president had time to tweet about fake news before weighing in on the stabbings.

MAYOR TED WHEELER, PORTLAND, OREGON: It's not my job here as the mayor of Portland to wordsmith for the president, but I will tell you this, the country needs his leadership on these issues.

SIMON: Portland's mayor is also concerned about an upcoming, quote, Trump free speech rally. With the community still reeling, he's urging organizers to cancel the event, saying these kinds of rallies have the potential for bloodshed like past events in Portland and Berkeley when groups from the far right and far left violently clashed.

WHEELER: We are just trying to keep a lid on this. We want everything to be as safe as possible for everybody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: And it appears that this rally is still going to take place this weekend. And, Erin, let me explain why people are concerned about this. What we've seen at these rallies is they tend to attract people from the alt-right and some people have begun to associate the suspect with the alt-right. Now, throw in some left-wing anarchists and you have a potential for a very toxic atmosphere -- Erin.

BURNETT: Toxic. Thank you very much, Dan.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. Anderson is next.