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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sessions Recuses Himself From Any Trump Campaign Probes; Trump Advisers Met With Russian Ambassador During GOP Convention. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 2, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN OUTFRONT ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next. Breaking news, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions fighting back, insisting he didn't lie about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador.
And more breaking news, we're learning about multiple contacts tonight between the Trump campaign and Russia's top diplomat to the United States. Who is this Russian Ambassador?
And an undocumented immigrant, a beloved member of his community, detained, almost deported. Why he doesn't blame Donald Trump. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news.
Sessions doubles down. The Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, speaking out just a short time ago, categorically denying that he lied about two meetings with the Russian Ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign. Sessions says there was no cover-up and that he'll recuse himself from investigations into Russia and the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFERSON SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear, I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But a growing course of democrats today are calling for much more than recusal. Some insisting that Sessions lied to Congress when he said he'd never met with the Russian official to discuss the election. They demand a criminal investigation and Sessions' resignation.
But the president is standing by his attorney general tonight. During a tour of the USS Gerald Ford, Trump said he has total confidence in Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, should Sessions recuse himself from investigations into your campaign and Russia?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so at all. I don't think so at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you first learn that Sessions spoke to the Russian Ambassador? Did you know during the campaign?
TRUMP: I don't think he should do that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When were you aware that he spoke to the Russian Ambassador?
TRUMP: I wasn't aware at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you find out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you think he should have spoken truthfully about whether he had spoken with the Ambassador?
TRUMP: He probably did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And in late breaking news, we are learning about more contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian Ambassador. These are contacts that span from the republican convention last summer all the way to Trump Tower itself in December. Contacts that include the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Jim Acosta begins our coverage with this breaking development at this hour. And Jim, we are learning now about the Russian Ambassador and many more interactions with the Trump campaign.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. We're talking to J.D. Gordon, who is a National Security Adviser for the Trump campaign before the election. He says that he and other National Security advisers to then candidate Trump, met with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland during the time of the republican convention last July. It was during these conversations, I'm told by J.D. Gordon, that they essentially talked about improving relations between the U.S. and Russia. But it was also during that time, Erin, that J.D. Gordon says he went to the convention, and was advocating on behalf of the campaign for language in the GOP platform that advocated against the arming of the Ukrainians in their fights against those pro-Russian rebels. That is something that the Trump campaign denied it was doing at the time. It denied at that time that it was advocating for that language in the GOP platform.
Now, flash forward to December. And according to a senior administration official, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner and the former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, both met with the Russian Ambassador at Trump tower at a previously -- during a previously undisclosed meeting. You recall, it was during the transition that the spokesman at the time, now the the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, talked about only two interactions between Michael Flynn and the Russian Ambassador. This meeting was not known and not disclosed to reporters at that time. And so that is new information as well.
Now we should point out, as for this information we got from J.D. Gordon, he does tell us, though, Erin, that he did not have any conversations with the Russian Ambassador about any sort of quid pro quo, any kind of colluding with the Russians to help the Trump campaign in the election. He says it was the kind of stuff that he said on T.V. as a National Security Analyst.
But interesting to note, Erin, that he had a conversation with a White House Spokeswoman here, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, about these contacts that he and other Trump campaign advisers had with the Russian Ambassador over the summer. So, it's clear that this White House is trying to get a handle on just how many of these Trump campaign associates, advisers and so on, have had conversations with the Russians. Erin?
BURNETT: I mean, very important, of course, Sean Spicer in his timeline of Michael Flynn. Interactions with the Russians did not include this meeting with the Russian Ambassador that we now know he had. That Sarah Huckabee Sanders, apparently, was briefed on. There are a lot of questions from this as we cover this breaking story this hour. Thank you, Jim Acosta.
Now, I want to get to the details here on the Attorney General. Jeff Sessions insisting tonight, that he did nothing wrong, after it was revealed that he met with the Russian Ambassador twice during the height of the presidential campaign.
Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.
[19:05:07] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Under mounting political pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stepped aside from any FBI inquiry into Russia and the Trump campaign.
SESSIONS: I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaign for president of the United States.
RAJU: The decision came after new revelations that Sessions met twice with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign season.
Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador is considered by U.S. Intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies and spy recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior U.S. officials. Russian officials dispute this characterization.
Sessions failed to disclose those contacts with Kislyak during his confirmation hearings in January. In sworn testimony, Sessions was asked about Russia's meddling in the elections and the alleged ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. SESSIONS: I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians. And I'm unable to comment on it.
RAJU: Sessions insists he did not mislead the committee, saying that the two meetings with the Russian Ambassador were not tied to his role with the Trump campaign.
SESSIONS: I was taken aback a little bit about this brand-new information, this allegation that surrogates and I had been called a surrogate for Donald Trump, had been meeting continuously with Russian officials. And that's what struck me very hard and that's what I focused my answer on. And in retrospect, I should have slowed down.
RAJU: Democrats say that Sessions recusal is hardly enough. Demanding that he resign.
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES CONGRESSWOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: The fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the American people is grounds for him to resign.
RAJU: Senate democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, wouldn't say if Sessions committed perjury, but called for a special prosecutor.
CHUCK SCHUMER, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW YORK: It would be of Alice in Wonderland quality, if this administration were to sanction him to investigate himself.
RAJU: Yet republicans are resisting those calls.
If there really is nothing there on the whole Russia issue, why not just allow a special prosecutor to investigate --
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: First of all, we don't have that law. Because remember at the end of the day, we have to protect our intelligence assets. We do not want to compromise our sources and our methods of getting intelligence from any adversary, let alone Russia.
RAJU: And Erin, the FBI Director, James Comey was on the Hill today, making the rounds including with the briefing with House Intelligence Committee members. But after that briefing, democrats were not happy when the top democrat of that committee, Adam Schiff, who believed that Comey was not forthcoming on key details on the investigation into Russia and those contacts between Russian officials that allegedly happened with the Trump campaign associates, and because of Comey's refusal to give some confirmation. Schiff now calling for an independent prosecutor to look into this. But, Erin, republicans are not there yet including Devin Nunes, the chairman of that committee. I asked, "Do you agree with Schiff?" And he shook his head and said, "No." Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Manu.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.
Congressman, good to have you with me. I want to start with the breaking news at this moment.
LUIS GUTIERREZ, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN OF ILLINOIS: Thank you.
BURNETT: Right. A former Trump campaign adviser, saying that he met with the Russian Ambassador during the GOP convention, along with other senior Trump advisers including Carter Page. We now know that in December, that Russian Ambassador came to New York, went to Trump Tower, met with Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner. Of course we know about Jeff Sessions having two meetings, one of which was also alongside the convention out in Cleveland. How big of a deal is this?
GUTIERREZ: It's a big deal. So, I think as the day has moved on, Erin, it is clear the recusal is not enough. This is the top law enforcement officer of the nation. This is the largest law enforcement bureau in the country, over 100,000 strong. The integrity of the law enforcement and the judicial system is really at stake here.
Look, everybody's heard, right? Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? And he didn't. He withheld information. Today, I had various meetings as I had yesterday, the day before, and Erin, as you and I know, most members of Congress, whether in the house or in the senate, when we meet with somebody, there were staff people there. And then we now learned that Mr. Sessions -- Senator Sessions was not alone. He had two staff people in there.
BURNETT: That's what he said. Right.
[19:09:51] GUTIERREZ: Look, there is -- there is a statute. It's very, very clear. Mr. Sessions, for the good of the country, for the -- for our judicial system, for our law enforcement officers that are out there, for the integrity of the (INAUDIBLE) should simply resign, allow the deputy attorney general to pick and choose somebody with the consent of both the majority and minority party in the senate and select a special prosecutor. We all remember Ken Starr. We remember that Clinton didn't tell the truth, he lied, too. But in the end, we got to the truth that we need to get to the truth today. Look, our elections are at stake and sanctity of our elections and the integrity of our elections are at stake.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, you know, when we get to what really happened in the room, OK, as you point out, you said that there were a couple meetings one with more people, one with two staffers. The staffers in the room could be significant. Right? Because the attorney general has come out today. And said they categorically did not talk about the election. He says that's completely and utterly false. Here's what he said that he did talk about with the Russian Ambassador, here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SESSIONS: We talked about a little bit about terrorism, as I recall.
And somehow, the subject of Ukraine came up. I had had the Ukrainian Ambassador in my office the day before, and to listen to him. Nothing that Russian -- Russia has done nothing that was wrong in any area and everybody else was wrong with regard to the Ukraine. It got to be a it got to be a little bit of a testy conversation at that point. In the wrap up, he said something about inviting me to have lunch. I did not accept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, look, he says the reason, congressman, that he didn't say all of this during the hearings under oath was because the election didn't come up, right? And that's what he thought he was being asked about. Did you talk about the election with Russian officials? He said no. So, when he said this today and laid out what he talked about, do you believe he's lying?
GUTIERREZ: I don't believe the Attorney General of the United States. I think most of the American public is just going to find it just not credible that the Attorney General -- look, he -- the FBI reports to the Attorney General, right? The Attorney General reports to the White House. What do we know thus far? We know that the White House is talking to the Deputy Attorney General, and asking him to kind of counter stories in the -- what they call the "fake media". We can't really count on the legislative branch of government because both the chairmen of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate and the House were asked by the White House and they - and they - and they followed suit by countering arguments against the media.
Look, what we need is a special prosecutor, an independent prosecutor. I think Mr. Sessions needs to resign immediately because otherwise here's what happens, Erin. He stays in his position then his deputy is supposed to now investigate him and investigate the son-in-law of the President of the United States. It just can't happen. Let's have an independent prosecutor.
BURNETT: OK. When you say I don't believe the Attorney General of the United States, all right, so you believe he's not telling the truth when he said that. I have to ask you about this, though, because it's important to understand whether this is partisan. Senator Claire McCaskill is on the same committee Sessions was on when he met with the Russian Ambassador. Today, she tweeted this, this morning. You probably saw it. We'll read it for anyone who didn't. "I've been on the Armed Services Committee for 10 years. No call or meeting with the Russian Ambassador, period. Ever, period. Ambassadors or members of Foreign Relations Committee. I figure that's not true. We were able to determine that was false based on her Twitter feed herself. She tweeted twice she'd met with the Russian Ambassador. She clarified one of the meetings was on a (INAUDIBLE) but how is that any different than Sessions who says when he was asked, he didn't bring it up, because it was about Ukraine.
GUTIERREZ: It's a very big difference. He said it after he said he would tell the truth, the whole truth -- the whole truth, Erin - and nothing but the truth. It's just not credible to believe that he would now all of a sudden - but why did he -
BURNETT: But isn't - but isn't each of these thing is a lie? One is lie, isn't the other a lie?
GUTIERREZ: But then why did - why did - why did - why did he wait? Why did he wait until yesterday when The Washington Post. We know what they do. They have an incredible -- they have this incredible inability to tell the truth. And when the truth comes forward, they only admit it after they are caught red handed.
Look, we need -- our election system is at stake here. No one should interfere in the election system of the United States of America. There are too many meetings that have gone undisclosed. You spoke about former General Flynn. They lie, they lie, they lie, until they could not lie anymore. And the only way, the difference between McCaskill is that he was under oath, and when you lie under oath, that's called perjury and you go to jail for doing that.
BURNETT: All right, Congressman Gutierrez, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
BURNETT: Next, we're going to talk about this Russian Ambassador. Who is he? U.S. officials believe he is also a top spy and a top recruiter of spies. Tonight, the Russians respond to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:15:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those U.S. officials that you -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My god, come on, stop, stop spreading lie and false news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is it false news? Well, we're going to go live to Moscow tonight. Plus, growing calls for Jeff Sessions to resign. You just heard the congressman there join that list. And Jeanne Moos on Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin's startling confession.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR AND IMPERSONATOR: And the moment the stage manager takes me to my mark for the first dress rehearsal 8:00, I had no idea what I was going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Breaking News, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubling down, saying he did nothing wrong by meeting with the Russian Ambassador twice, even though he didn't tell Congress about it when asked. And we're learning from a senior administration official of former adviser, that multiple members of Trump's inner circle met with that same ambassador the campaign and the transition, including the president's National Security Adviser at thetime and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
So, who is the Russian Ambassador? Senior U.S. government officials tells CNN they believe he is one of Putin's top spies and spy recruiters. Matthew Chance is out front in Moscow. In Moscow, what do we know about Ambassador Kislyak?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know he's a career diplomat, first of all. He's been the Russian Ambassador to United States since 2008, which is a pretty long time when you consider these diplomatic missions don't normally last that long. And he served two previous stints as a diplomat in the United States as well, back in the 1980s, during the Soviet Union days. He was at the embassy in Washington, he was also serving up here at the United Nations.
Before becoming the U.S. Ambassador in 2008, the Russian Ambassador to U.S., he was Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister. And he had a number of pretty important jobs in the Russian foreign ministry. He was the Ambassador to NATO and to the Kingdom of Belgium at one point as well. And so, this is a figure who is very well known in diplomatic circles and has been sort of central to the Russian diplomatic efforts over the past couple of decades.
[19:20:01] And as such, he's very respected here in Russia, and he's respected amongst other diplomats as well. He's also, Erin, obviously, now finds himself as the central figure in this controversy in U.S. politics, all of these individuals, Michael Flynn, the resigned National Security Adviser, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump have all been in contact with him during this crucial period.
BURNETT: And, you know, of course, CNN also reporting from U.S. government officials, that they believe he is a top spy and a top spy recruiter for Vladimir Putin. That's a significant thing to say. You asked Russian's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman about this today and she was aggressive in her reply. Here she is.
MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMA: Mr. Kislyak is a - is a well-known, I mean, world class diplomat who was a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia, who was communicated with his American colleagues for decades on different fields. And CNN accused him on being a Russian spy, recruiting --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it was - it was U.S. officials that accused him of that.
ZAKHAROVA: Come on. Stop. Stop spreading lie and false news.
(END OF VIDEOCLIP)
BURNETT: That was perhaps an uncharacteristic anger there.
CHANCE: Yes, yes, lies and false news. It's a refrain with her and elsewhere and now we are hearing a lot from Kremlin officials as well. But you're right, they want to get rid of this. They are worried that this escalating crisis in the United States is going to have an impact on future relations between the United States and Russia, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance. And OUTFRONT now, our Intelligence and Security Analyst, Former CIA Operative, Bob Baer and a Former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod. David, the bottom line, U.S. intelligence believes the Russian ambassadors, one of Putin's top spies and recruiter, that is what they tell us. Tonight, we're learning that he met with people in Trump's inner circle, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, multiple meetings over months and months from their republican convention all the way until December. Is this troubling?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, even if you don't connect these two facts, whatever role Kislyak plays in terms of espionage, and his role as a diplomat, what is true is we know there's an on- going investigation about Russian hacking into the election and about potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
And in that environment, it's very, very curious and it raises suspicion when central figures in the Trump world are secretive and unrevealing about their conversations with Kislyak. And we've now seen it with Flynn, apparently with Jared Kushner, who both of whom met with him in December. You would think with all that was swirling around General Flynn that fact would have been divulged before now.
And of course, General Sessions sitting before the senate got a chance to answer this question. And he's very well aware of the senate procedures. So at any time after that, he could have corrected it and he, today, had a fairly specific recollections of that conversation but --
BURNETT: Very specific.
AXELROD: couldn't come up with the fact within two weeks, two or three or four weeks after his testimony, he never corrected it, so all of this just adds to an atmosphere of suspicion. And I don't think it serves the administration well to have these stories keep cropping up.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, he went on about how they talked about religion. I mean, we played the part that they talked about Ukraine and terror, but he also talked about personal things. He remembered all of it. Bob, you know, we are talking about what U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN as a top Russian spy and recruiter.
What do you then think of all these meetings between Ambassador Kislyak and now, it turns out, you know, we just put up a screen here to show everybody, we're talking about Jared Kushner, we're talking about Michael Flynn, we're talking about Jeff Sessions and then multiple other members of the national security team also involved in meetings with this ambassador.
BOB BAER, INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST AND FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: You know, frankly, Erin, if I had been in the CIA and met Russian officials and not reported it in writing, I would've been fired immediately, same with FBI, senate staffers and the rest of it. This is just - this is really, truly crossed the line. And I don't really care that he's ambassador. All these ambassadors are co-opted Russian ambassadors by the KGB. They operated (INAUDIBLE) and they do recruit.
I mean, the great Ames, the mole inside the CIA was run by a ministry of foreign affairs official in Washington, D.C. So we shouldn't really get confused about that. What we should be confused about is, why these contacts were not reported in writing with potential foreign intelligence services like the Russians or the KGB because these people are not our friends. And this thing is just - is getting out of control very quick.
And we do need a special prosecutor, the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House cannot handle this, it is too hot. And I agree that Sessions deputy shouldn't be handling this either.
[19:25:09] BURNETT: Yes. So, David, I'm curious to know when Jeff Sessions did take a few questions today, to his credit, from the press, he knew they were going to be hostile. He answered the questions. And look, one of the question was, what do you think the -- at the time, and what did - what did you think the motives of the Russian Ambassador was for wanting this meeting? And he basically said, "Well, I didn't think about it." Do you think that's possible, that he didn't think about it? I mean, he was -- he was a top surrogate for the Trump campaign, and he didn't think about why the Russian Ambassador suddenly want a meeting?
AXELROD: Well, I'll just say, United States Senators are not solo practioners walking around with a cellphone making these decisions on their own. They have staffs, they have experts who are there to advise them on these things. So, I'm sure that Kislyak didn't just - well, I shouldn't say I'm sure, I'm not sure of anything anymore. But I suspect he didn't just call over there and say, "Jeff, I'd love to come over to chat with you," and Sessions didn't mention it to anybody.
If that were the case, that would be even more disturbing. So that doesn't - that doesn't wash - look, at the bottom line, you have this story that is unresolved about what was, if there was a level of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, Sessions was deeply involved in that campaign. And now, he is, as has been mentioned today, he's an object of suspicion in this investigation. And so, there really needs to be some independent authority that can oversee this investigation, not the Attorney General's department.
BURNETT: You're both in agreement on that. Quickly, Bob Baer, before we go, top spy and top recruiter, do you believe that? That, of course, is what intelligence officials are telling us tonight.
BAER: I'd have to see his 201 file, but that's what I'm hearing, he's an operative for the Kremlin. The fact that he's ambassador doesn't matter. And this needs to all come out in an investigation. You know, this is -- this is very disturbing, these whole connections with Russia for the next intelligence officer. I can tell you that.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And next, President Trump saying he has total confidence in Jeff Sessions tonight, standing by what truly was one of his earliest and most loyal supporters.
And an undocumented immigrant called a pillar of his community, detained and almost deported to Mexico. But he does not blame Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's working for the American people. He is not working for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:31:30] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: More on the breaking news tonight. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any investigations involving the Trump campaign as he doubles down and says he did not lie. This coming just hours after President Trump told CNN he had full faith in Sessions, amid questions over whether Sessions did purposely mislead lawmakers about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Trump said he didn't believe Sessions should recuse himself. A show of loyalty for one of his earliest supporters.
Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a defiant Donald Trump is standing by one of his closest allies, insisting Attorney General Jeff Sessions has his full support.
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in the attorney general, sir?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Total.
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you think he should have spoken truthfully about whether he'd spoken to the ambassador?
TRUMP: I think he probably did.
MURRAY: The president saying he believes his attorney general testified truthfully during his confirmation hearings, even though Sessions failed to disclose two meetings with the Russian ambassador, meetings the White House learned about through media reports according to a senior administration official.
REPORTER: When were you aware that he spoke to the Russian ambassador?
TRUMP: I wasn't aware at all.
MURRAY: While Trump said it wasn't necessary for Sessions to recuse himself from inquiries into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Sessions did just that.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I have a role in.
MURRAY: For Trump and Sessions, the well of affection runs deep. Sessions was the first senator to endorse the long-shot presidential candidate in February, 2016.
SESSIONS: I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.
MURRAY: At a time when many in the GOP still eyed Trump, Sessions became one of Trump's biggest boosters on the campaign trail.
SESSIONS: There's one man with a strength, a courage, the determination, the guts, the challenge, the things that are going wrong in this country and put us on the right track. And that's Donald J. Trump.
MURRAY: And he was a close adviser, even flying to Indiana to huddle with Trump as he wrestled with who to choose as his running mate.
Trump repaying that loyalty soon after he won the election, naming Sessions to serve as attorney general.
TRUMP: Jeff understands that the job of attorney general is to serve and protect the people of the United States and that is exactly what he will do and do better than anybody else can.
MURRAY: Now, just three weeks after leaving the Senate and being sworn in as attorney general, one of Trump's top officials is already facing calls from some to resign.
SESSIONS: In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, but I did meet one Russian official a couple times. That would be the ambassador.
MURRAY: Now, the Sessions matter may be settled in the eyes of the president, but just this evening, we've learned about even more contacts that happened during the presidential campaign around the convention, then again in December with members of Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian ambassador.
Erin, it's an indication the Russia story certainly isn't going away anytime soon and continues to cast the shadow over the White House. BURNETT: That's for sure, especially with the late breaking news
tonight of more contacts between the Russian ambassador and the Trump inner circle.
OUTFRONT now, CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan, and criminal defense attorney, Bradford Cohen, also a former contestant on "The Apprentice", a supporter of Donald Trump.
Let me start for both of you, because this is what it comes down to when it comes to Attorney General Sessions.
[19:35:03] What he said during his confirmation hearing when he was asked what he would do if evidence existed that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the campaign. That was the question. Here's how it went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign. And I did not have communications with the Russians. I'm unable to comment on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Now, here is the attorney general today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: Let me be clear, I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. My reply to the question of Senator Franken was honest and correct as I understood it at the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Paul, do you buy his explanation today or did he lie to Senator Franken?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm really kind of stunned by it because he said today that the reason he made the mistake is because he was asked about a continuing exchange with the Russians but Franken didn't ask him about that.
CALLAN: And, in fact, his words were, I did not have communications with the Russians. It almost sounds like that statement that was made by President Clinton, I didn't have sexual relations with that woman. And, you know, Sessions called for his impeachment when the president made --
BURNETT: Bill Clinton's, right.
CALLAN: -- made that inaccurate statement.
So, it's really astonishing in this press conference, he mischaracterizes his own statement.
CALLAN: I think it's close to the line, but not over the line. I think it's misconduct. I think it's arguably unethical, but I think it would be a hard perjury prosecution.
BURNETT: Misconduct, unethical, not true. What do you say, Brad?
BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: I think that his excuse and his reasoning for the answer he gave was very credible. What we saw in that Al Franken exchange is he mentioned if you look at the whole exchange and not just the snippet, he did mention continuing conversations between Russian operatives and people from the Trump campaign. And if you see the whole exchange, if you see it in its totality, he's talking about hacking, he's talking different things about individuals speaking with the Trump campaign.
I can see where that answer makes sense. He's, you know, as his job, in the committee of the Armed Services Committee, in his role, he has contact with ambassadors. This is something that he didn't think of, because it's not something that had to do with the campaign.
CALLAN: You know, Brad, Brad, if I could just ask you this, because in his job as attorney general, he prosecutes perjury cases. And he fills out --
COHEN: This is not perjury.
CALLAN: He fills out his application for the attorney general job and he lies in the application. Doesn't that strike you as being misconduct at the beginning?
COHEN: Paul, no. Paul, this is not --
CALLAN: You were on "The Celebrity Apprentice", correct?
COHEN: I was on the regular "Apprentice." I appreciate you calling me a celebrity. Just a regular "Apprentice".
CALLAN: Donald Trump fired you toward the end of the show. Don't you think he would have fired you sooner if you lied on your application for the show?
COHEN: Listen, the fact is, he did not lie. This is not a lie. If Al Franken followed up with a question, sir, did you have -- did you personally have contact with Russian operatives, Russian ambassador in your role as a senator and/or for the Trump campaign? That's the question.
(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: He said did you have with Russian officials -- Brad, I mean, the thing is, if you were honest, wouldn't you say I did, but it was my role as armed services. I'll be happy to tell you what I talked about. Clearly, today, he remembered it all.
By omitting it and acting like it didn't happen at all, it raises questions. I mean, wouldn't you acknowledge that, Brad?
COHEN: I don't think so. I really don't. If you look at the totality of it, look in its whole, not just a snippet of what he said about the exchange between Franken and Sessions, you could see where this answer makes a lot of sense.
He is talking about surrogate that had contact, continuing contact with Russian ambassadors or Russian individuals or operatives. And he would not think of this because --
CALLAN: He says I did not have communications with the Russians. Is there something you don't understand about that?
COHEN: If you see his whole statement, Paul, if you see his whole statement, he says, "I was called a surrogate, once." Meaning, in his role as a surrogate for Trump, that is my understanding of it.
CALLAN: You are a trial lawyer, right? You cross examine people. Would you use that --
COHEN: I cross examine everybody.
CALLAN: Would you use that statement in a court of law to impeach a witness on the witness stand?
COHEN: Would I use it --
CALLAN: Would you use it against Sessions if he was on the witness stand in a case you were trying?
[19:40:00] COHEN: Well, that's the whole point. Franken should have followed up. Paul, I would have used it for a follow up question.
And my follow up question would have been, are you saying you did not have any contact with the Russians either in your official role or anything else? That would have been the question.
You know, Al Franken during this exchange says, sir, I'm not an attorney. It's very apparent he's not an attorney because his questions were horrible. His question wasn't exact. His question was answered. And I think that at the time he answered that question, he answered in
the best way he could.
CALLAN: Because he wasn't paying attention to the question.
BURNETT: All right. We are going to leave it there. Obviously, a lot for everyone to think about. What you would do in that situation.
Next, an undocumented immigrant and a pillar of his community now deported to Mexico. Wait until you hear what he had to say about Trump's immigration policy, because it isn't what you think you are going to hear.
And American farmers who back Trump on Election Day, many now worry the policies could hurt their business with special report.
BURNETT: Tonight, the House Speaker Paul Ryan defending the crackdown on non-violent immigrants, saying, sometimes they, quote, "slip through the cracks", which is exactly what happened in one small town that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
[19:45:05] Residents woke up to find a respective business leader arrested for being in the country illegally.
Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT.
JUAN CARLOS HERNANDEZ-PACHECO, DETAINED FOR 20 DAYS: He's working for the American people. He is not working for me, obviously, because I'm not an American.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surprising words about Donald Trump from Juan Carlos Hernandez-Pacheco, an undocumented immigrant who just spent 20 days in an immigration detention center.
(on camera): Do you feel that his policies targeted individuals like yourself?
HERNANDEZ-PACHECO: That wasn't his policy. I don't consider it his policy. I consider it more like the law.
FLORES (voice-over): The 38-year-old says he agrees with some of Trump's policies like border security, terrorism and even hard line immigration.
And he's not alone, saying some of his cell mates, also undocumented think favorably of President Trump. Why?
HERNANDEZ-PACHECO: Donald Trump was the first president that promise and deliver it.
FLORES: Hernandez-Pacheco, a husband and father of three U.S. citizens has been in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. He was picked up by ICE, even though he was not the intended target, just days before his son's 8th birthday.
HERNANDEZ-PACHECO: You can imagine spending the little one's birthday far away from him.
FLORES: In his adopted hometown of West Frankfort, Illinois, he's known as Carlos, the former manager of a popular Mexican restaurant in town. More than 70 percent of votes in this county went for Donald Trump, including those cast by Carlos' best friends.
(on camera): Are you guys Donald Trump supporters?
TIM GRIGSBY, CARLOS' FRIEND: Yes. I mean, we both voted for Trump.
FLORES (voice-over): But when immigration agents detained their friend, pointing to two of his DUIs from nearly a decade ago, his friends stood by Carlos.
GRIGSBY: No politician has a platform you are going to agree with 100 percent. The immigration stance that he has, we didn't -- we didn't agree with that.
FLORES: Dozens of people in the small town of about 8,000, including the mayor, the police and fire chiefs, wrote letters of support for Carlos, asking the judge to have clemency.
HERNANDEZ-PACHECO: If you knew my friends, you should respect.
FLORES: It's tough to find someone in this town who doesn't support Carlos. But one did tell CNN, "The man had plenty of time I think to get his citizenship, you know?" A point Carlos agrees with.
HERNANDEZ-PACHECO: Yes, I wanted to be legal for ten years. I have been trying and trying but the system is broke.
FLORES: Now that he is no longer in custody, he is vowing to remain with his family, making this promise to his son.
HERNANDEZ: I told him I was here to stay. I'm not going nowhere.
FLORES: Now, Carlos is out on bond and waiting for his immigration court date, something his attorney says could take years because of the backlog in immigration courts right now.
But there's something else that weighs heavy on his shoulders now. Now that he is out of the shadows, he is also out of a job. But you probably guessed it, there's been an outpouring of support, now globally for Carlos. Erin, there's a GoFundMe page that's been established. A lot of people are clicking on that page from around the world -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Rosa. Certainly one of the most memorable and powerful stories that we have seen on this, and not what you expect in terms of his views on Trump. OUTFRONT next, loyal Trump supporters with growing concerns tonight
that the president may cost them their livelihood. They're an important part of his base and we are on the ground next in Iowa.
[19:52:14] BURNETT: Today, President Trump touting the American workforce while touring the USS Gerald Ford. Some Trump supporters though are concerned his policies could be bad for business.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.
KEN PRUISMANNOZEMAN, ROCK RIVER FEEDERS: See that irrigation, that will be all corn this summer.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every ounce of land here used.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Ken Pruismann born into farming in Sioux County, Iowa. His specialties: cattle, hogs and corn.
PRUISMANN: Today, corn trade represents 300 hours per animal.
MARQUEZ (on camera): One animal?
PRUISMANN: Yes. So, if that goes away, that will have impact on profitability.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Iowa imports more than $13 billion in goods, an enormous piece of the bottom line.
TRUMP: Are horrible and unfair trade deals.
MARQUEZ: Pruismann is a lifelong Republican, but Trump's tough talk on trade sends a shiver.
(on camera): What's the level of uncertainty here on the farm right now?
PRUISMANN: I would say it's higher -- if we want to rate it, it's higher than 50 percent.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): From his office/command center, he monitors everything from commodity prices to his thousands of cattle and hogs. Immigrants integral to keeping his 500-acre farm running.
PRUISMANN: There's two or three of them here every morning to make sure the cattle get fed. That's their job.
MARQUEZ: The need for labor here so great, immigrants, their work ethic and emphasis on family welcomed with open arms.
CARLOS BAHENA, BAR K CATTLE LLC: My first time was 2003. And you could see absolutely no Mexicans. Ten years after that, you see 35 percent of the school population is Latinos in the elementary schools.
TRUMP: We are getting really bad dudes out of this country.
MARQUEZ: Carlos Bahena, now a U.S. citizen, has a master's degree and married into a farm family. Trump's immigration stance sends fear through the immigrant community.
BAHENA: They are concerned that they are going to take away their parents or that they stop by their place of work and just take them way.
MARQUEZ: Trade and immigrant labor cornerstones of the economy, where more than 80 percent voted for Donald Trump. Ken Pruismann has a simple message for the businessmen.
PRUISMANN: Ninety-some percent of the world population or our market lies outside the borders of the United States. So, trade is a huge deal for agriculture.
MARQUEZ: Now, Republicans here in Sioux County say there are a lot of reasons they voted for Trump, but immigration and trade are very, very important to them. They also say since his address to Congress on Tuesday night, they feel he is becoming a bit more traditional in terms of Republicanism and that he won't follow through on some of those tough trade talks and chasing immigrants or arresting immigrants and throwing them out of the country quite as hard as he said -- Erin.
[19:55:06] BURNETT: Thank you very much, Miguel.
And we do have breaking news at this moment. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, released a statement about the attorney general. I want to read it to you in full.
"Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win.
The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!"
That is a statement from the president of the United States, breaking literally at his second.
David Axelrod is back with me.
David, what's your reaction? The president coming out to slam Democrats, but acknowledging that he could have stated his response more accurately, talking about his attorney general's testimony to Congress. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's
important to point out given the statement that there were more than a few Republicans on Capitol Hill today who called for General Sessions to recuse himself. And there are more than a few Republicans who are participating in these intelligence committee reviews who said they take it quite seriously.
So, I understand the strategy, which is to contain the thing and turn it into kind of a partisan issue. But I think it's gotten beyond that now. And the president is going to need a different strategy moving forward and he might start with being open and honest with people about exactly what happened or didn't happen.
BURNETT: All right. As you point out, even in the time line of Flynn from Spicer didn't include a meeting with the Russian ambassador at Trump Tower.
BURNETT: Thank you, David. And we'll be right back.
BURNETT: And thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. Just go to CNN Go.
John Berman is in for Anderson Cooper tonight. And "AC360" begins right now.