tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN June 1, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
trump's trade war hurt the committee? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in the situation. we're following breaking news on president trump and kim jong-un. pushing the restart button on their historic button in singapore a little over a week from now. mr. trump playing up the drama as he met with the north korean dictator's right hand man at the white house. while down playing expectations for any summit break throughs. this after cnn learned that north korea's blowing up its test tunnels appears to have
been propaganda. first, let's go to our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta. there's some reason at the same time to be skeptical? >> reporter: absolutely. it was on and off, and president trump was all smiles when he announced the summit was back on with kim jong-un. the question is is the president giving away too much? giving the north koreans what they want without delivering much of anything in return. top republican senate majority leader, mitch mcconnell is worried the president could be sno snookerred in singapore. >> after meeting more an an hour, president trump declared the singapore summit he cancelled last week is back on. >> getting to know you meeting
plus. june 12th we'll be in singapore. it'll be a beginning, i don't say it ever happens in one meeting. >> reporter: the president is making it clear he's not expecting to sign on to an agreement in singapore that guarantees north korea will give up its nuclear arsenal. >> i don't want to use the term maximum pressure anymore because we're getting along. it's not a question of maximum pressure. why would i do that when we're talking so nicely. >> reporter: there were conflicts words from the president who described the letter from kim jong-un as nice and interesting. >> a letter was given to me by kim jong-un, it was a very nice letter. would you like to see what was in the letter? pnch >> tell us what's in the letter? >> how much? >> give us a flavor what was in the letter. >> it was an interesting letter. >> then he revealed he hadn't
opened it. >> i didn't open it in front of the director. >> reporter: mitch mcconnell is urging caution. >> if you fall in love with the deal and it's too important for you to get it, and the details become less significant, you could get snookerred, and i think the president is fully aware of that, assuming this meeting occurs. >> reporter: still the upcoming summit has lowered tensions between the u.s. and north korea at least rhetorically. >> they will be met with fire and fury fury like the world has never seen. >> reporter: the name calling has stopped. but reaching an actual agreement will take more than talk. former president bill clinton chased a deal with north korea through the '90s but it didn't last. >> this agreement represents the
first step on the road to a nuclear free korean peninsula. it does not rely on trust. >> reporter: mr. trump left for camp david for the weekend without the first lady but with his children, who came under attack this weekend from comedian samantha bee. >> do something about your dad's immigration practices you [bleep]. >> reporter: the president turned on samantha bee, tweeting why aren't they firing the no talent samantha bee for her horrible language. before leaving for the weekend, the president offered to continue talking to the leaders of canada and mexico after slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports coming in from those countries. canada's prime minister all but described them as a betrayal.
>> they're an affront to the long standing relationship between canada and the united states. and in particular an affront to the canadians who have died alongside their brothers in arms. >> reporter: since the first lady's medical procedure last month she has largely been out of the public eye, that has been more than three weeks as of today. as for that letter the president told reporters he had not read, the white house did say later on this afternoon, the president did read the letter, before leaving the white house for the weekend. we don't know if the president was surprised by what he read in the letter. but the question is whether or not the president is going to get snookered. what is he going to get out of the summit? >> let's bring in our global
affairs correspondent. what are you hearing from behind the scenes? >> wolf, clearly the president and his aides realized that a deal was not going to be possible on june 12th, the kind of nuclear deal that the president wanted. but he obviously thought there was enough goodwill, enough willingness by the north koreans to try and develop some relationship and keep going. i mean, look, it doesn't mean that there won't be anything coming out of the summit, but i think they've clearly walked back their expectations and now they're hoping for some small deliverables such as the moratorium on testing, maybe access to testers into these sights but clearly that deal is not in the offering because the north koreans have not agreed to a time line for denuclearization. it's now an in-theory type of
idea. >> kim jong-un has been on the world stage as a reclusive leader but all of a sudden he's out there, meeting with world leaders. does this put new pressure on president trump? >> i think it definitely does. you see he's embraced as a world leader. he met twice with president xi jinping and he's meeting with the russians. and they're talking about what they would like to see in a nuclear deal step by step. it's hard to put the jenie back in a bottle because kim jong-un is now acting like the statesman that everyone hoped he would when he took over for his problem. the problem, wolf, is that the north koreans as you know, masters of brinksmanship and has kim jong-un made a choice to denuclearization or is he
stringing the president along? the president things he can get in a room, get to know him and start the process. it remains to be seen. >> we'll find out how the meeting in singapore goes. thanks very much. also more reason to question kim jong-un, whether or not he can be trusted to do what he says he will do. we're getting new information about north korean's claim that it destroyed nuclear test tunnels with journalists watching. let's go to barbara starr. you're getting new information, what are you learning? >> reporter: you remember the video several days ago showing the tunnels supposedly being blown up by north korean, there was their confidence building measure showing the world they were serious about denuclearization. can you trust that video? not so fast. what we are learning from u.s. officials and international arms controls experts there are several indicators on the video it's not what it seems.
first seismic sensors did not record significant activity. the kind of shifting of rock, if there had been massive underground explosions of the tunnels. second, look at the dust shown on this video. experts are telling us that dust indicates the explosions were super official, perhaps only at the entrances. if this had been massive explosions, the reporters would have been further away, the north koreans knew they could have them close by and they would not get hurt. finally, u.s. intelligence determined that the north koreans removed instrew menation from the tunnels before the explosion, technical equipment that's very valuable to them that they can hold on to if they want to restart this site or dig a new underground test site for nuclear weapons in the future.
so what this is telling us is denuclearization, it's a great word, but it's very technical, very nuts and bolts, and the first indications from international agencies are not so fast. this video does not apparently show what the north koreans want the world to think it shows. >> they allowed international journalists including our own will ripley to observe the explosions but didn't allow arms experts to go and see. that was a clue from the beginning as well. barbara, thank you. joining us now congressman gerald connelly. congressman, thanks for joining us. >> great to be with you, wolf. >> what's your reaction to what the incredible video we've seen all day, the adviser for kim jong-un, meeting with president trump, shaking hands on the white house lawn, obviously this could have been done in a much more private manner.
did president trump send the right message by making this meeting so public? >> i'm bothered by the imagery, because this man, kim yong chol is the head of intelligence in north korean, is a sanctioned individual because of his involvement in what can only be called terrorist activity with respect to south korea, such that he needed special permission to come to washington at all, let alone be welcomed into the oval office. it's kind of a jarring and disturbing image one day after our allies had tariffs slapped on them. allies who stayed with us through thick and thicn. >> the images will almost certainly play heavily on north korean state television. is it worth handing a regime a propaganda victory of sorts if
it means getting a summit back on track and trying to achieve denuclearization of the korean peninsula through diplomacy? >> i want to wish for the best but what we've seen and heard today suggests to the ignorance of the president being exploited by north korean. all of a sudden we're no longer seeking in the summit speedy denuclearization. we are now seeking get to know each other session. that's alarming in and of itself, because it would suggest the united states is backing way off its original set of goals. and that isn't lost on north korea. so i would say from a p.r. point of view, from a stature point of view, from even a policy point of view, north korea had a big victory and president trump had a big loss. >> is the president setting the right expectations -- he's lower
expectations -- for what can be achieved at the first summit with the north korean leader. >> he's backing off the expectation he and his secretary of state, pompeo set. what do you mean the june 12th summit is going to be a get to know you session? what do you mean you didn't read the letter in the envelope you're characterizing as very interesting? all of that suggests lack of preparation, lack of focus, and you're dealing with one of the world's most dangerous dictators, you know, who has a brutal and repressive regime and is not afraid to use force on an individual basis against husband own relatives or a collective basis against his neighbor in the south. so i think there can be no elusions here and we can't afford the naivete and ignorance
that the president has exhibited. we've also seen enormous vacillations from his policies we've gone from fire and fury to characterizing kim jong-un as an honorable man. that would come to news to most north and south koreans that this is an honorable man we're dealing. >> do you give the president some credit for his tough talk, the fire and fury? the rocket man? they've had no nuclear tests, no missile tests, as you know that's significant, they released three american prisoners, as you know. even though u.s. military experts are skeptical about these demolitions about the tunnels, they did have a demonstration of destroying these types of capabilities. from your perspective,
congressman, are those positive steps? >> i think they're all p.r. image building than positive steps. i wish i could say they were positive steps. but we can't have amnesia about the past. there were three denuclearization agreements reached with north korean, all of which they breeched in 1994, 2004 and 2012, releasing hostages, they did that many times in the past. they did it under president obama, under bill clinton's and george bush's tenure. this is not a new phenomenon. as to blowing up the test site or allowing the press in to watch that, barbara's report before our interview makes it very clear there are serious doubts about the legitimacy of that video. if they're willing to lie about that, what confidence can we have in any assurance he gives in the june 12th summit. >> the fact they suspended their
nuclear and ballistic missile tests, is that a positive move? >> they've suspended the nuclear tests because i think they've got what they want. the ballistic missile tests i call that positive, as long as we can make it permanent. but maybe they have the technology they already need. we don't know that without inspections such as we had in the iran agreement. >> congressman connelly, thank you so much for joining us. >> my pleasure, wolf. just ahead, 11 days to go, are u.s. and north korean officials ready to make the summit happen? we're going live to the singapore site. and why roger stone said president trump's pardons were meant to send a message to key figures in the robert mueller investigation? and only 1 in 10,000 ever make it to market. but what if ai could find connections faster.
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that's what revived talks between the u.s. and north korea. remember the north koreans never showed up here, they weren't returning phone calls, they weren't talking to the united states. they were angry about comments made by the vice president and the national security advisor. but when president trump wrote that carefully crafted, polite, respectful letter, the north koreans responded in a matter of hours and they have a team on the ground in singapore working with the united states to work out logistics, security, the venue, timing and everything they have to do over the next 11 days to make it happen. >> we just got pictures from the white house, there you can see kim yong chol delivering the letter from the north korean leader to the president of the united states. they are in the oval office. you can see the pictures that have just been posted, will. the u.s. clearly was looking for a big gesture.
did north korea tell the u.s. what it needed to hear right now in order to get this summit back on track? >> reporter: well, apparently president trump hadn't actually red the letter when he made the announcement that the summit was back. but it sounds as if he had very positi positive conversations with kim yong chol. they told me here that the discussions between pompeo and kim yong chol went very well. so u.s. officials, at least in the face-to-face meetings have had positive reports back. but when you get down to talking about denuclearization here in singapore that's a more difficult and complex matter and obviously the president was eluding to that earlier today. >> kim yong chol delivered this
letter to the president. it's obviously a very large envelope over there which was delivered, a fancy package. is that the normal way an international letter of this sort would be delivered by the north korean regime? >> reporter: in north korean culture, e-mails don't cut it. when it comes to actually wanting to send a message straight to the top you do it in a letter form. we have delivered letters in the past to north korean leaders kim jong-un, or his representatives, to deliver a letter, i have to put on a suit, the letter is in a formal binder, you hand it over in a ceremonial way, so for the north koreans there's no higher form of communication than a letter. there's been a letter of letters exchanged with the north koreans. kim jong-un's sister delivered a letter to moon jae-in.
and this letter at the white house. so in terms of the level of communication, it doesn't get any higher in terms of sending a message to someone as sending a letter to the north koreans. but the big deal is the face-to-face meeting that's going to be happening in singapore in about a week and a half. >> about 11 days from now. you're in singapore. how are the preparations going? i know a u.s. advance team has been there, a north korean advance team has been there, they need to find a venue, work out security, logistics, lots needs to be done. what are you hearing? >> reporter: it's fascinating walking around here because you hear maybe the north koreans are staying at this hotel or that hotel. we've been trying to scout and see where everybody is. you have to sometimes spot faces in the crowd. but we know they're trying to finalize the location at this point. that's very important for security reasons. singapore is used to holding tricky summits. they had if meeting between the chinese president and the taiwan
leader in 2016, the first time the two leaders had a meeting like that since the civil war in 1949 in china. they control demonstrations, don't allow large protests which is attractive to president trump and kim jong-un. in terms of actually hammering out where this is going to be held, how it's going to work in terms of security clearance we're waiting to learn the details on the ground here. >> when you get the details let us know. will ripley, thanks for joining us. will is in singapore right now and june 12th that's where the summit will take place. roger stone said the president's latest pardon is a reminder about mr. trump's awesome power. we'll talk about that. as president trump confirms he will meet with kim jong-un, he's eager to keep the suspension going especially when it comes to the mysterious message he received from the dictator. >> very nice letter.
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official at the white house today who hand delivered a large letter from kim jong-un himself. listen to this. >> we'll be meeting on june 12th in singapore. went very well. it's really a get to know you kind of a situation. a letter was given to me by kim jong-un and that letter was a very nice letter. oh, would you like to see what was in the letter. >> can you tell us what was in the letter? >> how much? how much? it was a very interesting letter. at some point it may be appropriate. i'll be able to give it to you maybe. you'll be able to see it. i haven't seen the letter yet. i didn't open the letter. i didn't open it in front of the director. i said, would you want me to open it? he said, you can read it later. i may be in for a big surprise, folks. i don't want to use the term maximum pressure anymore, i don't want to use that term. you see the relationship, we're getting along. it's not a question of maximum
pressure. it's staying the way it is. >> do you believe kim is committed to denuclearization? >> i do. he wants to be careful, he wants to be -- he's not going to run and do things, but i told him, to be honest with you, we have sanctions on, they're very powerful sanctions, we would not take sanctions off unless they do that. the sanctions are powerful, you'll see how powerful sanctions are when it comes to iran. see what that's doing to iran. so we have sanctions on. and at a certain point -- i tell you what, i look forward to the day when i can take the sanctions off of naurks north korea. i have a lot of good relations, as you know with chairman chi, he's a good guy, loves china, wants to be what's best for china. i think china and president xi would like to see something happen here. i didn't like the russian
meeting yesterday, i said what's the purpose of that? but it could be positive. if it's a positive meeting, i love it. remember what i say, we will see what we will see. let's bring in our political and security experts. what stood out to you? >> i wish we could turn back time because what the president said today, the expectations he set for the meeting on june 12th, i wish that would have been what he said in march when he set the meeting. he right-sized expectations. i was struck by what he didn't say, that is there would be some time limits on the negotiations. we have seen this before, we've kicked off processes with the north koreans several times and donald trump has criticized his predecessors for the time line, the six party talks and he's saying the same thing, he's
going to start negotiations and they're open ended. >> he had a strong demonstration of comradery, so openly at the white house, giving him an hour, maybe an hour in a half in the oval office, saying nice things, not raising the issue of human rights. what stood out to you? >> this is the carrot in the carrot and stick approach. we saw the carrot in the letter canceling the meeting. now we see he thinks the relation is better. so this is the carrot, giving the north koreans the welcome they would like at the white house. wh the credibility you get by being welcomed at the white house. and not being too harsh on them on issues that might cause them withdraw, like human rights. there are going to be critics of the president who say he should take moral leadership on that issue even as he's negotiating
with this with north korea. he doesn't want to scare them away right now, things are going well. >> how did you see it, ron? >> first to rebecca's point. in essence on north korea, he's doing what he complained about from the obama administration on iran. he's saying here's this core problem we have to deal with and i'm not going to put everything on the cart at the risk of driving it off the road. which he said the iran deal should be torn up to be this global all-encompassing agreeme agreement. i was struck by the change in tone. the controlling dynamic of the president's approach to diplomacy is volatility. we've been on rocket man to awe fore ya to the deal is off, the meeting is off, to here we are meeting back. i think the real lesson of the
runup to this meeting it's a real guide to what is likely to follow out of the meeting. the idea they're going to walk out of a room in singapore and we are going to have a smooth path toward denuclearization and better relationships without the same kinds of ups and downs i think is very misguided. i think the past is a very good prologue of what we can expect, moments of euphoria and moments everything is coming apart again. >> mitch mcconnell had advice for the president. listen to this. >> you can anticipate the north koreans making every effort they can to get sanctions and other relief and give up as little as possible. it's going to be quite a challen challenge. and i think for these situations to work you have to not want the deal too much. if you fall in love with the deal, and it's too important for you to get it and the details
become less significant, you could get snook erred. i think the president is fully aware of that. >> does that sound like good advice? >> it does. i think the president looks too thirsty here. accepting this invitation in march maybe him look too thirsty from the get-go. but we doubt the north koreans are coming to the table in good faith, remember the north koreans are thinking the same thing about us. they're wondering if donald trump can be taken seriously. kim yong chol has seen three leaders. so we have a credibility gap on both sides here. >> do you think the president is listening to the advise he received from mitch mcconnell. >> he hasn't in the past, and i don't think he would in this case. the president fancies himself a capable negotiator and probably
much more than he thinks mitch mcconnell is a good, capable negotiator. because the president would look at his business record and say i've made millions of dollars and mitch mcconnell is just the leader of the senate. so that comparison, i think, would give the president a little bit of pause when he's listening to mitch mcconnell's advice. however, i think to sam's comment that the president is thirsty, he is thirsty because it's essential that he reach a deal that there not be nuclear capabilities on the korean peninsula. and he has a political imperative to bring home a win heading into 2020. >> with the summit in singapore, and the president lowering expectations, but they exemerge and say we're going to establish diplomatic relations. the north koreans will have something in washington, the united states will have
something in north korea, would that be seen as a significant development? >> sure. any president conducting these negotiations with north korea, we would be heading into a volatile period of one step toward, two steps back. there's no simple path toward untangling these knots that extend back six decades. but especially with this president who views unpredictability and volatility as an aim, as part of his arsenal of how he advances his goals on a wide variety of fronts, i think all the evidence suggests that whatever happens in june is really just page 7 of a novel. there are going to be many twists back and forth here. it's unrealistic, i think, to expect that it will proceed smoothly and you will have, i think, a lot of questioning of the kind that mitch mcconnell made about whether we are getting as much as we are promised as we go each down down the serp tune road.
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trump/kim summit as well as developments in the russia investigation. tonight a key ally is openly confirming suspicions about a pardon by president trump. listen to what roger stone, a long-time friend and ally of the president said involving these pardons. it has to be a signal to michael flynn and paul manafort and even robert s. mueller iii, indict people for crimes that don't pertain to russian collusion and this is what could happen. the special counsel has awesome powers but the president has more awesome powers. what's your analysis? >> i cannot disagree with that at all. i believe the president's pardoning is a signaling to his enemies as his friends. let's look at the last pardon. you're looking at a southern district prosecution. who's being evaluated by the
southern district, michael cohen. sending a signal to the southern district. in the nature of the prosecution, who was the fbi director, the former prosecutor of the southern district, james comey. so clearly there's a parallel. what was the crime? illegal campaign donation. what in stormy daniels, as it relates to michael cohen, certainly there are other things they're looking at, but that's one of them, so it's a signal, yes, you can do what you do southern district or any other district but i'm the president. it signals a disdain for institutions. in doing his pardons he's violating the process there, you wait five years, get recommendations from the department of justice, no i will pardon who i went, when i want, in the conditions which i want. so it's clear he's showing he's the president and punishing his enemies and telling his friends, you stay the course, do what you need to do, no question about it, i control the cards, i'm the president, the constitution
gives me the authority to pardon you. >> go ahead. >> it's not only a legal signal, there's a political signal. dinesh d'souza, like joe arpaio have a record of actions that are racially divisive. comments by dinesh d'souza, an entire legacy by arpaio, coming at the same time that he chose this week to not criticize roseann barr but to, inessence, criticize abc for a double standard getting rid of her. all of this continues the drum beat of signaling that he is sending to portions of american associate that are most uneasy about the demographic change that we are living through. that is no coincidence as well as he go around the process -- in a way it's more personal, more revealing, because he is doing this solely on his own.
>> how does paul manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, who's facing potentially years and years in prison see all this unfolding? >> you have to believe, and it's hard to get in anyone's head and know what they're thinking but you have to believe the federal government in charging you with crimes can do what they want, charge me with more, but i have a close friend, he lives at pennsylvania avenue, i used to manage his campaign, i was only there for a day, two days, a week, at the end of the day, come at me with all your might but the president can pardon me. so mr. manafort be quiet we have your back. there's more we're watching, including an uber driver in jail after the shooting death of a passenger. this after we have more than a
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an uber driver is jailed in denver under investigation for first-degree murder. michael hancock is charged with fatally shooting a passenger while grifrg the company. questions are being raised about background checks conducted by uber after a cnn investigation found scores of drivers accused of sexually assaulting and
abusing passengers. cnn's senior investigative correspondent drew griffin broke that story for us and he's continuing to look at uber's practices and whether your ride home is safe. drew, what more are you learning? >> uber's background check system is failing and in thousands of cases, criminals are behind the wheel driving for uber. when colorado's public safety commissioner heard about a man who was allegedly assaulted by an uber driver, he demanded a list from uber of all its drivers with disqualifying records. >> frankly, we were shocked by what we found. >> reporter: the list he got from uber included 12 uber drivers convicted of felonies and others with duis or driving on suspended licenses. >> what does that tell you about the background process? >> the background process as it is in law right now doesn't work. >> reporter: according to uber, the policy disqualifies drivers convicted of felonies, violent
crimes and sexual offenses, as well as major driving violations. yet in case after case, convicted felons have been approved to drive anyway. in maryland, california and massachusetts, government agencies did additional screening and found what add up to thousands of drivers with disqualifying criminal records, even sexual offenders, approved to work for uber. in texas, approved uber drivers included a murderer on parole and a convicted felon once accused, though not convicted of seeking to smuggle rocket launchers into the middle east. he is now sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting a passenger. uber's sexual assault victims like this woman say uber must improve how it screens drivers. >> if they really want to put themselves out there as the safe ride home, they should really make sure that they are putting these people out there that are going to get you home safely. >> reporter: uber's response to the problems and its background checks is that the company has
made significant investments and improvements and will continue to work with state and local governments to get it right in the future. to conduct its background checks, uber and lyft both use a company called checker which uses a potential driver's name and social security number to search federal, state and local courts and other databases for disqualifying records. regulators tell cnn that is not enough. and that government-run background checks that include fingerprinting potential drivers would go further in discovering histories of violence. but uber says fingerprints don't offer a complete picture of arrests and convictions. and uber has gone to great lengths to fight any government-run background checks. >> that's their game plan in every city and state. we'll get a law passed that's just for us. it's their own special law for uber and lyft. >> reporter: a cnn investigation tallied more than 400 lobbyists across the country hired by uber. mostly to fight stricter
oversight in many states, even writing the laws. cnn's investigation reviewed all 43 states that have laws or rules on driver background checks, and they are strikingly similar. all but massachusetts leave background checks up to uber. in 31 states, the laws passed reflect uber's recommended wording on driver screening in some cases almost word for word. this e-mail from an uber lobbyist to a wyoming lawmaker shows how influential uber can be. the uber lobbyist says they have two major issues with a draft of the bill, including the criminal background check provision. the lobbyist tells the lawmaker, change it back to the model language. it was, three former uber employees who worked on policy tell cnn uber wants to control its screening process to get drivers on the road as soon as possible. georgia legislator alan powell says uber's attitude is states have no business screening its
drivers. >> we're above the government. we run our own background checks. >> reporter: in response to its lobbying efforts, uber says everybody lobbies and we're proud to work with elected officials to develop common sense regulations for a new industry. wolf, what uber has yet to explain is why so many of its drivers whose criminal backgrounds should disqualify them from driving are still on the road. wolf? >> excellent reporting once again, drew. thank you so much for that report. and finally tonight, a bittersweet farewell to one of our fabulous producers, elizabeth hartfield. after four years with our team, she's moving to new york city to be with her new wife megan. luckily for us and for cnn, she's staying with the network working out of our new york bureau. elizabeth has been an mvp in "the situation room" taking on all sorts of jobs and doing them extremely well. she certainly will be sorely missed but she'll always be part of our "situation room" family.
elizabeth, we want to wish you nothing but the very, very best. thanks for all your terrific work. glad you'll be back with megan very, very soon. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. outfront next, breaking news. president trump says his meet with kim jong-un is officially back on. he's welcome north korea's former top spy to the oval office. so why is he embracing a brutal dictator and alienating america's closest ally? plus, trump breaking decades of protocol with a single tweet ahead of the jobs report. is he giving his wealthy friends a heads-up about the markets. and michael avenatti facing new questions about his own financial dealings, including his work with a convicted felon. it's an outfront exclusive report tonight. let's go "outfront." good evening. i'm erin