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NYT: Russian Promised Trump Jr. Damaging Info On Clinton; NYT: Trump Jr. Was Told In Email Of Russian Effort To Aid Campaign; Health Care Dominates GOP Sen. Joni Ernst Town Hall; Iraqi PM: Mosul Has Been Retaken From ISIS. Aired 9-10p Et

Aired July 10, 2017 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It really is thin veneer. It really is that fragile. Do you see it as fragile?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE", AUTHOR: Oh, absolutely. And if you've lived in the Middle East as I did for, you know, nearly a decade, you really see how fragile it is. You know, we talked in the past once, I quoted a friend of mine from Zimbabwe who said, you know, you Americans kick around this country like it's a football. It's actually not a football. It's a faberge egg. You could actually drop it, you could break it. And right now we're really just kicking around our country.

And the thing that people have to remember is that we are the world. I don't say that in a jingoistic way. I say that in a sense that -- we have led the world on sort of a more integrated, global order, rules based, since the end of World War II. It's had its imperfections. It's had its ups and downs, but all in all it's really been a period of great peace and prosperity for many Americans and many around the world. You take us out of the equation. You make us a greedy, selfish, American first nation and your kids won't just grow up in a different America, they'll grow up in a fundamentally different world. A world ordered by Russia or China or most likely nobody at all and that will not be a friendly place for America or American prosperity.

COOPER: And talking about China, I mean you wrote recently about the U.S. pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and one of the things you said about the Chinese is that essentially they have taken the temperature of Donald Trump and that for all the talk about him being a great negotiator and a tough guy, I mean you say, I mean you've just been traveling throughout Asia, is that Trump basically now is nicknamed chump in China.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, well I think that's my nickname for him because I think if you look at how Bibi manipulated him in Israel, how Putin just manipulated him at the G20, how the Chinese have played him. He's a chump. And the reason he's a chump is because he doesn't do his homework. He hasn't thought things through.

Let's look at TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, what was that? That was a 12-nation free trade zone that was created by the United States based on our values and our interests. It had more protections for workers environment. It was negotiated by Obama, a liberal, than any trade agreement in history. It was what Hillary Clinton said about it, the gold standard of trade agreements when she was before it before he was against it.

Now think about this Anderson. That trade agreement involved 40 percent of global GDP, 40 percent of the world economy. We would have been at the head of it. And the real story of TPP, Anderson, is we fleeced everybody. You know why we fleeced everybody? Because they wanted to give us concessions, and why did all these Asian pacific countries want to give us concessions? Because they didn't want to be left alone with China. We got rid of 18,000 tariffs or would be tariffs on American goods.

So imagine Trump. He could have been sitting down negotiating with Xi Jinping today and say let me introduce you to my 11 trading partners in a free trade zone all around your border that we control 40 percent of the economy. Imagine the leverage we have. Instead he threw it out the first day in office. I'm sure without reading it, having been properly briefed on it, knowing anything about it. And now we're trying to basically negotiate with the Chinese on Korea and on trade without that leverage. People don't understand, Anderson, our getting out of TPP was our brexit. It was our brexit from the Asian free trade zone. It will have vast consequences. More geopolitical than geoeconomic.

COOPER: Well, Thomas Friedman, it's good to talk to you. Thank you.

FRIEDMAN: You too.

COOPER: Much more now on tonight's breaking news. Donald Trump Jr.'s revelation that he met last year with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. There's that and there's Donald Trump Jr.'s changing story about it. There's also repercussions, more on all of it now from our Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House faces a new round of questions tonight over potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians during last year's election.

Fresh off President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin, it is another meeting in June of 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer that's drawing fresh scrutiny. The Russian lawyer, known for her opposition to U.S. sanctions against Russia over human rights, said she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The White House on the defensive again, insisting President Trump didn't know about the session in Trump Tower that came only two weeks after he clinched the Republican nomination. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president only learned about it in the last few days.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I would certainly say Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election. Our position is that no one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.

ZELENY (voice-over): But it's the meeting first reported by "The New York Times" is the first acknowledgement people in Trump's inner circle were willing to consider help from Russians. The question of whether they accepted any is the subject of a special counsel's investigation and inquiries on Capitol Hill.

[21:05:08] The president's oldest son said he, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, agreed to meet with the Russian lawyer to hear what she was offering up about the Clinton campaign. It turned out to be nothing, Trump said, telling CNN her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. The meeting was arranged by Rob Goldstone, a publicist for a Russian pop singer who worked with President Trump on the Miss Universe Pageant hosted in Moscow in 2013.

Trump is also seen in this music video.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's wrong with you? Then let's get with it.

ZELENY (voice-over): Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said Donald Trump Jr. should be called before Congress to testify.

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's also a continuing pattern that we've seen since the election of Trump campaign and Trump administration officials who have conveniently forgotten meetings with Russians, only when they are then presented with evidence they have to recant and acknowledge those kind of meetings. It is why we've got to continue this investigation.

ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight Donald Trump Jr. has retained a lawyer on the matter. On Twitter, he said he's happy to work with a committee to pass on what I know.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, he's likely to get that chance, Anderson. Senator Warner and other senators say they do want to hear from him so he could be talking to members of Congress as well as to the special counsel at the Justice Department.

Now, all of this is coming as the White House is trying to downplay any of this. They said the president did not know that any of this happened until this weekend. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders at that briefing today, Anderson, also could not say if there were any other meetings involved that would come up in the course of this investigation. That is the question here.

But later this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to start its inquiry, its interviews with Trump campaign officials. That is sure to bring up even more information about what happened or what didn't happen over the last year.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Earlier this evening, I spoke with someone who's obviously very interested in the Trump Jr. revelation. Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, this meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, when you found out about it I wonder what were your initial reaction, does it change anything for you and for the House Intelligence Committee's investigation?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Anderson, a lot of people said well, isn't this bizarre? But actually for me it fits the pattern. And when you look at who was involved, these are the senior principals of the campaign. When you look at what was being discussed, it was how they could damage Hillary Clinton, which was the goals of Russia's interference campaign. When you look at where it was being held, at Trump tower. And then when it was being held, right before the convention and right at the peak of Russia's interference campaign and just before we all learned about it.

COOPER: Is there anything, though, wrong with somebody from a campaign who's working on a campaign meeting with somebody who says that they have negative information about the other campaign?

SWALWELL: I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, Anderson, to receive damaging information from a representative of a foreign adversary, that's a betrayal of our country. This is not like somebody walks in and says, you know, I work in politics, I've got some information about your opponent. This is somebody who is from Russia, where very often Russian nationals are connected to the Russian intelligence services, especially around politics. And so, the fact that this wasn't passed along to the FBI or the department of state also very much concerns me.

COOPER: The idea that Donald Trump Jr. didn't know who the person was that he was meeting with in advance, do you buy that?

SWALWELL: I don't. You know, Donald Trump Jr. is a executive at a business. He's somebody who takes a lot of meetings all the time. Time is our most precious resource when you're at that level, Anderson, and you don't want to have your time wasted.

COOPER: The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee has said that he wants the committee now to interview Donald Trump Jr. I assume you would like that as well. Is there something in particular you would like to ask him?

SWALWELL: I certainly support our ranking member. We want to interview all relevant witnesses. And what we want to find out with any witness that was talking with Russians during the interference campaign is, what was the nature of the relationship? What information was passed? What was the intent of the Trump campaign to conduct these meetings?

And again, if they were all innocent, then the Trump team is owed that. But if this was a convergence of the interference campaign and the deep personal and political and financial ties that the Trump team had, then people should be held accountable.

COOPER: Kellyanne conway was on CNN this morning saying and I quote, there is no evidence of collusion. I mean at this point have you seen any evidence of collusion?

SWALWELL: Well, Anderson, the fact that we have an investigation and the FBI has an investigation shows that there is evidence of collusion.

Now, evidence is not a conclusion of guilt. There is evidence that needs to be tested and developed and that means bringing witnesses in and reviewing them. That's hopefully what we can do and report back to the American people very soon.

[21:10:05] COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Reaction now from former Trump advisor Jason Miller and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook. You'll recall Donald Trump Jr. was dismissive of the entire Russian hacking story when news it broke, and when Mook first raised the red flag. Here's Trump Jr.'s reaction to Democratic complaints at the time which would, just as a factual matter, turn out to be true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: It's disgusting. It's so phony. I watched them bump all through the interview. I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean. I can't think of bigger lies. But that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, nearly a year later, here we are, Robby Mook and Jason Miller join us now.

Sir Robby, you hear what Donald Trump Jr. said about you last year regardless of the bumbling through the interview, the content of what he was actually talking about. How do you view those comments given the information about the meeting that he had in Trump Tower, which we now know about.

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump administration are bumbling through their efforts to explain what happened here. And I think the biggest problem they have at this point is their credibility is just shot. I mean, you just saw right there.

I wasn't even suggesting that Donald Trump Jr. had met with Russians with opposition on Hillary Clinton. I was just saying that the Russians were getting involved in this election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, which obviously turned out to be true. He called me a liar for saying that.

I think now what's been revealed for the first time is potential real coordination between the Kremlin -- and associates of the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. And I think we need to prepare at this point to see more of this, and to potentially see more direct evidence.

COOPER: Jason, I want you to be able to respond to that. I mean that interview with Donald Trump Jr. we know, went after Robby for raising red flags about Russia that was after Trump Jr. met with the Russian lawyer who claimed to have information on Hillary Clinton. How do you square that?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Anderson, let's go back to the beginning when this meeting happened with Don Jr. So this was before any of this Russia news had popped up or there was any sort of narrative or any conversation at all about this point. Somebody reaches out to the campaign, says that they have information on the opponent, like every campaign in history, like I'm sure Robby's campaign received on a daily basis. They sat down with the person, immediately realized a few minutes in that they were making no sense and moved on to a policy topic that wasn't at all germane to the campaign. It was 20 minutes, they were done. That was the end of it.

And so, later, if Donald Jr. was asked the question about Russian interference, well, of course he hadn't sat down with some official representative or someone whose information they then went and acted on. I think it's very important to point out this fact, because so many of these -- so many of the folks on the other side of the aisle are trying to make it sound like this Russia news was already out there. And just they get this information that someone wants to sit down and talk to them, there's absolutely nothing there. Like it --

COOPER: Jason, why did Donald Trump Jr. initially say that this was a meeting about adoptions from Russia I mean, clearly it seems like it wasn't?

MILLER: When Don Jr.'s first answer he spoke to the substance of the meeting, which is more about Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky act than anything else.

COOPER: But he didn't say anything about the sanctions, he just talked about Russian -- about adoptions.

MILLER: Well, and then in his second answer, he added in the details about what the supposed premise of the meeting would be. It would have been clear to just go and combine the two. But again, I don't know the specific questions and the way they were phrased and put to him by the reporters.

COOPER: But is this standard operating procedure in a campaign, to get opposition research?

MOOK: It's not. No, it's not for two reasons. First of all, they were -- this meeting was set up by a Russian national who was very close to the Kremlin. Donald Trump Jr. claims that he didn't know who it was, he didn't get the name, and so how should he have known what was going on.

Well, when somebody -- when a foreign national from -- I would say a foreign aggressor contacts your campaign and wants a meeting, you sure as heck better find out who that person is. And I also never would have had high-ranking officials, the campaign chair, who later became the campaign manager, the president's son, the president's son-in-law, they shouldn't be meeting with somebody like this. This was a sketchy meeting. And they shouldn't it -- they either shouldn't have taken it or they should had somebody much lower on the food chain do it.

I will also point out that only a few days after this meeting was when that first dump of information came out from Guccifer 2 who is a front for Russian intelligence. But I want to pull back for a quick second and say why this is important. This gets to what Jason was saying. Donald Trump is the president, OK. He's held to a very special standard. And it is unclear right now who is driving our foreign policy, the interests of the Russians or the interests of the American people.

COOPER: I mean, I just don't understand the credibility of somebody who -- if you've got to release extra statements after your statement, I mean just from a public relations standpoint, that's not a good thing.

[21:15:05] MILLER: So here's -- specifically going to the point that you just brought up. A 20-minute throwaway meeting that made no sense, they didn't provide any information that anyone ever acted on or that contributed all to anything that the campaign was doing might not necessarily be front and center in people's minds. That might be something that they immediately discarded.

And so, to go -- I think what people on the left are trying to do or many that I've seen in these news reports today and many of the talking heads I've seen across a number of the networks, they're trying to allege collusion or coordination or something like that with some foreign entity based on the fact that there was a 20 meeting with no real information that was all shared. And that's where it's going entirely too far.

And look, President Trump just came off his most successful international trip since he's been president. He gave a fantastic speech in Poland. He stood up and addressed the election meddling issue with President Putin. And I think did a pretty darn good job in this overseas trip, so he's showing that he has the chops and can go toe to toe with any of these foreign leaders. And, look, I'd be remiss if I didn't say it seems like the timing of this seems to be an attempt to step all over that.

COOPER: Robby, I want to give you the final thought.

MOOK: Well, I obviously disagree completely. This was not a successful trip. This was a trip in which Donald Trump went to Vladimir Putin and talked about the things Vladimir Putin wanted to talk about. The president even suggested that we should work with the Russians on cyber security when it was the Russians who broke into the election.

So, I don't think the trip was a success. This came out of nowhere. And frankly, it wasn't a throw-away 20 minute meeting, or rather we don't know. First, there were no meeting, then there were some meetings, then there was this meeting with someone affiliated with the Kremlin.

My question is what do we not know? We also know completely separate from this, Roger Stone himself claimed that he was in touch with Julian Assange who is known to be a front for the Russians and put out John Podesta's e-mails.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Are you already moving away from Don Jr. and on to Julian Assange and Roger Stone? I mean it seems a little early to --

MOOK: I think there are a lot of dots here --

MILLER: I guess --

MOOK: I mean, is there are lot of dots here that are not connected. And the problem is, this is not anybody's problem but the Trump administration's. The story continues to change.

First there's nothing and then there's denials. Then there's something. And then there's something more. And I think we're going to see that. We're going to find out about more meetings and we're going to find out about more revelations related to those meetings.

COOOPER: Jason miller, Robby Mook, thank you both. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, to Congressman Swalwell's earlier point, just how normal or abnormal was the Trump Jr. meeting? Was it merely hard ball that all campaigns play or something truly out of the ordinary? We'll hear from three attorneys with three different views next.

Also later, Senate Republicans getting ready for another try at replacing Obamacare. The question is, can they actually overcome Republican opposition to it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:21:34] COOPER: Now, there's breaking news to report now. Maggie Haberman reporting in "The New York Times" and it is really something. Here's the lead paragraph, "Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin- connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an e-mail that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy, this is according to three people with knowledge of the e-mail." Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" joins us now by phone.

Maggie, this is just breaking now. Explain what you know and all the details you can.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WH CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Sure. I mean there's a lot that we know and there's also a lot that we don't know. What we know is what you just described. We know that before this meeting that has been the subject of stories over the last few days was arranged, that Donald Trump Jr., who was ascendant in the campaign at that point was informed in an e-mail that there was some compromising information about Hillary Clinton and that it was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign.

The e-mail came from Rob Goldstone, who was this publicist, former tabloid reporter. He was essentially the intermediary on this meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.

The initial statement from Donald Trump said that this meeting was about adoptions. And a subsequent statement on Sunday, he said that it was indeed a presentation initially about information about Hillary Clinton and then it became clear as he was talking to this woman that she didn't information according to him.

But look, the fact that there is an e-mail chain where it was said and it's not clear whether Goldstone had direct knowledge of any of this, but the fact that there was an e-mail chain even discussing this makes it more complicated certainly and harder to say, you know, that there were no strings attached or no concerns potentially about this.

And, Anderson, as you and I both know that this was a campaign that was known for and I would say at times prided itself on not vetting people the way that typical campaigns did. They would hire in some cases staffers who would not have necessarily gotten hired on any other campaign and they often did not vet people who they were potentially meeting with. Donald Trump Jr. also had a pretty open- door policy meeting with almost anyone. But this is going to, I think, become complicating. And it also raises questions about the White House, which I believe, you know, was aware, at least elements of it, that this e-mail existed, has had a pretty slow response off the blocks about all of this.

COOPER: Yes, Maggie, I mean there's so much to talk about on this. But it would be hard to imagine Donald Trump Jr., who the president has said is one of his closest people in his life to him. They talked as he does with all his children numerous times a day and certainly did during the campaign and before, that the president would not have been informed either before or after this meeting had taken place that the -- that in this e-mail, that there was information that the Russian government itself was interested in helping Donald Trump. I mean that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner would keep that all to themselves. I mean it's an unknown.

HABERMAN: There's no way to know. It is conceivable that they did. It also, well, illegally.

[21:24:59] And I don't know that there is any legal exposure here. But in terms of the president and what he knew or didn't know, you know, that gets him removed, but certainly when you are the president and he ran for president, he campaigned on the promise of, you know, competence and leadership and there is a buck stops here component to the presidency. And so whether he knew it or not, I'm not sure how much that matters right now.

COOPER: Also, I mean Donald Trump Jr. has said he did not know the identity of the person he was about to meet with and met with, that it was all set up by this guy Goldstone, who had worked for -- or I guess at a company that had done some work for the Miss Universe pageant, and that, my understanding, is their connection, is that right?

HABERMAN: Right.

COOPER: So Donald --

HABERMAN: I mean that this was an acquaintance.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: This is why he took the meeting. And that is to my point about the fact that he had this pretty, you know, open-door approach that he basically took a meeting with anybody. You're talking about people who had never worked in a campaign before, had never worked in government before. But, you know, there are certain things that in a real-world context are red flags.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: And by last year, by June of 2016, even though the e-mail hacks were not made known yet, that was not on the public radar, the fact that Russia was considered an adversary in a post-Crimea invasion world was pretty well established.

COOPER: Well, also, it's hard to claim you had no idea about the identity or background of the person you're meeting with if the e-mail to set up the meeting says that this is part of a Russian government effort to aid your father's campaign and you should meet with this Russian attorney --

HABERMAN: Right.

COOPER: -- to discuss this and to argue then that --

HABERMAN: It's not. It's subtle.

COOPER: No. To argue then that you had no idea that this Russian attorney -- I mean according to "The New York Times", this Russian attorney has connections to the Kremlin. It certainly would seem to indicate if it's a Russian government effort to help your father's campaign and we want you to meet with this Russian attorney, it would seem like in anybody's mind, they would be linked. Accurately or not.

HABERMAN: It would. And again, without knowing the contents of the conversation, I think that to my point about the known unknowns, there is a lot that we don't know.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: You know, we know what both of these sides have said about this.

COOPER: Well, let's talk about what we don't know at this point.

HABERMAN: Well, look, we don't actually know what was said in this meeting.

COOPER: Right, Donald Trump Jr. is the only one who's given an account so far.

HABERMAN: The adoption lawyer or the lawyer who supposedly was interested in the adoption issue, which really is a pretext frankly for sanctions on human rights abuses, that's what it relates to, but I believe that she put out a statement saying that that was all that it was. But again, I mean this is -- you know, Donald Trump argued on Twitter today that his statement didn't change, but the problem is if you don't deliver the entire thing in the first go-around, it does create a credibility problem.

COOPER: It's fascinating reporting. I mean, again, this is an e-mail -- there is e-mail evidence that I think I just was just able to skim the article. This is based on three sources, is that correct?

HABERMAN: Correct.

COOPER: According to the article.

HABERMAN: Correct. And look, I mean this is emerging slowly, so to my point that there's stuff that we don't know, you know, I don't know what other discussions there were. I don't know -- we don't know specifically what was said in this meeting. All that we know is what these three accounts, I guess, if you include Goldstone have said. They have maintained that there was nothing nefarious. There was some suggestion by the president's lawyer or the legal team over the weekend that this was some kind of a democratic setup. That becomes a little harder to follow. But I think that there is still -- there is a lot that we don't know, but this is a pretty concrete and crystal thing to look at.

: It's a pretty stunning development. Maggie Haberman, if you could stay with us, I also want to bring in David Chalian and David Axelrod. They may have some other questions or comments. David Chalian, come in.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Maggie, my first question for you is you spoke with or Goldstone gave "The Times" a statement and said here that the e-mail suggested that the people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in her dealings with Russia, this also seems to be the first we're learning about possibly what the content of that meeting was going to be about. Do you know any more about the alleged wrongdoing that Hillary Clinton may have done with Russia that this lawyer was going to come in and sort of sell, if you will, to Donald Trump Jr.?

HABERMAN: We don't, David. And that piggybacks on to the statement that came out from the president's own legal team over the weekend. If you recall, there was a statement that went out that was really sharply at odds with what Don Jr. had said on Saturday. I think it was right after our initial story posted on the fact of this meeting.

[21:30:01] But, no, we don't know any more so far about what types of damaging information it supposedly was.

COOPER: And David Axelrod, a lot we've heard from Trump surrogates who say, look, this is just what happens in campaigns, people have meetings with all sorts of people who are offering up opposition research.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I've been involved in four presidential campaigns. And trust me, we were never approached by agents for Russia offering up information about our opponent. I mean that was highly, highly unusual. So I would dismiss that.

You know, the thing that's interesting to me about this is e-mail. E- mail is something that's discoverable. E-mail is something that prosecutors can go after. And so they have got a big piece of yarn here that they can tug on.

And meanwhile, we've gotten conflicting stories. We've gotten several versions from Donald Trump Jr., conflicting story from this Russian lawyer about what was discussed at this meeting. This really does elevate the story in a significant way. It doesn't mean -- I'm tempted to say we shouldn't jump to collusions.

It doesn't mean that we know what happened in that meeting, as Maggie said, or whether this proves a link to the things that had been under investigation, meaning WikiLeaks, the hacking of the DNC computer. We don't know if those links can be made. But it's certainly another piece of the puzzle and it's going to up the ante.

COOPER: It's also interesting, Maggie Haberman, because we just played and we'll try to que it up again, a soundbite from Donald Trump Jr. in July who was attacking Robby Mook for suggesting that Russia was trying to help elect Donald Trump.

In fact let's play this, because this soundbite that we're about to play, this comes weeks after, according to your reporting, I mean he not only had this meeting but had an e-mail saying that this was part of a Russian government effort. So let's just play this bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN, SON OF U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's disgusting. It's so phony. I watched them bumble through the interview. I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean I can't think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There he go, Maggie, he was talking about Robby Mook who had just done an interview, who had just said that talking about Russian interference. HABERMAN: Right. I mean, look, I think that we are aware that there have been multiple statements from Donald Trump Jr., from the vice president, from the president, from the president's spokes people saying that there was no evidence of collusion. I don't know that I consider that interview to be an outlier. It's focused specifically on Robby Mook.

And again, I do think it's important to point out that there's a lot we don't know. We know that this e-mail was sent, but we don't know what was said. We don't know what he thought was going to be in there. We don't know what the contents were. So it's really important not to rush, I think, into the breach as this is, therefore, evidence of.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: This is another piece of the puzzle that we're looking at. I don't think it necessarily answers all your questions.

COOPER: You could also make the argument, and Donald Trump Jr. could make the argument, that, look, I had this meeting, this person turned out to be selling or sort of pitching something that was so ludicrous so that the whole idea of Russian government involvement seemed ludicrous along with the credibility of this person.

HABERMAN: No. I think that's correct. I mean I think, look, you can -- again, I hate to keep coming back to this and this will sound like an excuse making and it's not. But the Trump campaign was not typical. It did not do things in the way that we are used to.

The White House also was very quick today to point out to a politico story back from January, 2017, about Ukrainian government officials trying to help the Clinton campaign, with sort of draw a road map toward damaging information potentially about Donald Trump and about people who had worked for his campaign.

So, that I think, again, I don't want to say that more than was actually in the story.

COOPER: Sure.

HABERMAN: We just know what we are looking at.

COOPER: As you should. Maggie Haberman, thank you very much. David Chalian, David Axelrod, stay right there. We're going to take a quick bleak and pick this up when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:38:16] COOPER: We're covering a story that just broke in "The New York Times" by CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a very careful reporter and said before the break that she did not want to get ahead of what she and others reported. So I just want to re-read her lead, "Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an e-mail that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the e-mail."

Back now with David Chalian and David Axelrod. David Chalian, Maggie is very wise and fair to be very cautious and say, look, there's a lot that is not known. But certainly the narrative that Donald Trump Jr. has told from the beginning about it initially being a meeting about adoption and then he changes that story and talks about dirt on Hillary Clinton, many people pointed to the idea that he didn't know who he was meeting with, which is what he has claimed.

If there is in fact an e-mail saying that this is part of a Russian government effort and we want you to meet this Russian attorney, it does certainly raise questions about did he make the assumption or did he acknowledged that this Russian attorney had some sort of backing of the Russian government or connection to, which is what "The New York Times" has reported, CNN has not independently verified that she is Kremlin-connected.

CHALIAN: And if that's in an e-mail now, Donald Trump's account may be irrelevant because we'll see what --

COOPER: Donald Trump Jr.

CHALIAN: Sorry, Donald Trump Jr.'s account may be irrelevant because we'll see in the e-mail what was sent to him. We'll have a better understanding what his knowledge was going into this meeting.

I think these are the two important things to sort of underline from this story is that, A, there's an e-mail.

[21:39:59] So now it sort of can make a little more sense if Donald Trump Jr. and his legal team is aware of the e-mail, why they updated their statement and why he wanted to get out there and explain everything he knew about this meeting, or if not everything at least the pretext as he called it, going into the meeting that he -- that it was for anti-Hillary Clinton information that could be helpful to the Trump campaign.

The other thing that is very important on the line, as you noticed that if in that e-mail it says, hey Donald Trump Jr., we're setting up this meeting so you can get this information from this person from the Russian government. That is the information that has been passed along from the Russian government, that's a whole new ball of wax then. And maybe Donald Trump Jr. will have to yet update again his account and understanding.

As you heard Jason Miller earlier on the program say that none of this Russia stuff as of June 9th was really in the ether and there was no narrative about there about Russian hacking yet and Jason Miller is right about that. But if Donald Trump Jr. has an e-mail that says, hey --

COOPER: There's a Russian government.

CHALIAN: -- they want you to meet this because the Russian government wants to get some information to you that's negative on Hillary Clinton to help your dad's campaign. It doesn't matter whether there was a public narrative about it. His understanding then would be that the Russian government wants to play in the campaign.

COOPER: With you, David Axelrod, I mean would be potentially very damaging if he believed it and, you know, if after meeting with this person he continued to believe it.

AXELROD: You know, what's really interesting to me, nobody understands the sort of gestalt of the Trump organization better than Maggie Haberman. She's been covering Donald Trump for a couple of decades and she covered that campaign as assiduously as anyone.

And when she said, it was -- it isn't -- it wasn't a normal campaign, you know, what I was hearing between the lines is what I believe which is they fundamentally believe that anything that you needed to do or could do to win was all within the parameters of fair play. That winning was what it was all about. And it wouldn't be shocking if someone sent them an e-mail like that to Donald Trump Jr. and he said, well, let's have a meeting.

Now, we don't know what was said in that meeting. We don't know what information was offered, but based on what we know about how that campaign operated and how little experience there was, at least among the Trump family, it's not shocking that such a thing could happen. It's also not proof of the collusion that has been alleged.

COOPER: Joining us also by phone is former U.S. Attorney, Matthew Whitaker. Matthew, I'm just wondering what you make of this reporting by "The New York Times." Does it change anything?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY (via telephone): No, well, I read the article very carefully, and it's, you know, based on three people with knowledge of the e-mail and I think David is right. I think it's very dangerous to speculate as to what the facts are or not. But I will say, I mean it is concerning that, you know, heading into that meeting if he did know this was regarding information that had been created, you know, allegedly by the Russian government.

I think that, you know, that's concerning but at the same time, you know, David points out a really key piece which it still is not evidence that there was any crime committed and I still don't think it's enough to suggest there's some conspiracy or otherwise to, you know, to violate either election laws or espionage laws.

COOPER: Matthew, is there some obligation that a member of a campaign -- I mean if you are approached by an entity from a foreign government, which, you know, obviously we all know the history between the United States and Russia. Is there some legal obligation to report that to others? I mean if a foreign actor, if you get information, whether you believe it or not, that a foreign power is actively interested in one of the candidates in election and has been for -- is pushing information, is that something, there some legal obligation for informing somebody the FBI about?

WHITAKER: I mean certainly there, you know, there are laws that require you if you have, you know, essentially in the (INAUDIBLE) of some ways, first one that comes to mind for me, you know, it's a crime that suggests that, you know, not only know of a crime, but take a positive act to either, you know, hide it or do something to advance it.

It's one of the prosecutor's favorite tools when they can't really prove any other case, but they know that somebody has participated in a crime. But, you know, otherwise, I don't -- there's no direct obligation under these facts as we know them that he should have done it. But I will tell you, and I've heard today on CNN, many people say that they have been involved in campaigns where this type of information or similar information has come about and that they did report this to the FBI or to the appropriate authorities.

So I mean I certainly think it is a best practice that this information, you know, if it is again, we have three people that have seen this e-mail. I have not seen this e-mail. I don't think it's generally available.

[21:45:03] Certainly Bob Mueller can be very interested in getting his hands not only on this e-mail but a lot of other e-mails and communications. So I mean I just think, you know, it's just hard, as a former prosecutor, you know, I always want to know exactly what the Ironclad evidence is. And it's always a little dangerous when, you know --

AXELROD: True.

WHITAKER: -- there's just, you know, three unnamed sources that are also claiming this thing exists.

COOPER: Right. Although, we should point out "The New York Times" reporting on this, you know, seems to have been accurate to the point that Donald Trump Jr. has changed his initial account of the reason for this meeting from being a meeting about adoption to a meeting on there on Hillary Clinton.

WHITAKER: And you're right --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITAKER: "The New York Times" report.

COOPER: -- but your point is certainly well taken. And we should view everything skeptically and cautiously and fairly. David Axelrod just in terms of responsibility of -- I mean that we've heard from, I think Stuart Stevens has talked earlier on Twitter and elsewhere about -- I can't even remember which campaign it was. I think --

AXELROD: Bush-Gore.

COOPER: Which one?

AXELROD: Bush-Gore.

COOPER: Bush-Gore about turning. There was some sort of briefing book giving out some information.

AXELROD: Yes. COOPER: And the other campaign went to the FBI, saying, look we've receive this, this information. Is there that -- I mean what would you do in that circumstance?

AXELROD: Well, yes. But I understand that was a debate briefing book. That wasn't a message from someone. And we don't know all the facts here, but that wasn't a message from someone saying I've got information from the Russian government that might be disqualifying. I've never heard of that. It may just be that the candidates that I worked for weren't favored by the Russian government. I don't know. But I think it's pretty unusual to get a message like that. And it's pretty irresponsible to act on it. And probably you should have reported such a message.

But again, I don't think that they -- that even crossed the radar screen over there. So I -- you know, I have real doubts --

COOPER: Yes.

AXELROD: -- about whether they thought that there was something, you know, illegal, wrong, unethical about it.

COOPER: We'll see where this story develops over the next couple of hours and days. David Axelrod, thank you, David Chalian and Matthew Whitaker as well.

When we come back, lawmakers are back in Washington after recess fighting to pass a Senate health care bill in a matter of weeks, but angry and concerned constituents are making sure their voices are heard as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Republican Senate leaders are returning to Washington this week for the clear agenda, trying to save their battered health care plan that's not getting easier after lawmakers spent the fourth of July holiday back in their home districts.

[21:50:07] Lawmakers are hearing and often tense in angry terms from constituents. Some of whom are deeply concerned about what may change in their health care and then their lives. The topic came up many times in Republican senator Joni Ernst's Town Hall meeting in Iowa this morning. Gary Tuchman was there with us in more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the tiny town of Harlan, Iowa, County seat of Shelby County, Joni, U.S. Senator from Iowa faced citizens at a Town Hall.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: We've got to get back to common sense, common sense.

TUCHMAN: Republican senator Joni Ernst was talking about environmental regulations, but got the term, common sense, thrown back at her. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think common sense would say that Trump is not a fit person to be our president. And I think that it's time that you and the rest of the Republicans stand up and actually say that, don't pretend like sometimes he has good ideas because he doesn't. Don't pretend like he tells the truth because he doesn't. Don't pretend like he should be there, because he shouldn't.

ERNST: Well, I would say that a lot of folks, and I think Shelby County as well, elected Trump into office. And he is our president. So, many folks disagree with many presidents through the years, but he is our president.

TUCHMAN: There was a lot of unhappiness directed toward the senator who had hoped to see Obamacare repealed and replaced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you justify the additional 50,000 people who are going to die every year under Trumpcare because of lack of insurance or lack of access to insurance?

ERNST: I don't know that that's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is true.

ERNST: I don't know that that's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a -- from a study by the AMA.

ERNST: OK and --

TUCHMAN: For the record, the AMA has come out strongly against the Republican health care bill but has not cited numbers of people who could die. Either way, many here have thought, the senator sounds conciliatory when she said this.

ERNST: An all-out repeal of Obamacare takes 60 votes. We obviously don't have 60 votes.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Donald Trump supporters were clearly in the minority at the senator's Town Hall, but the president has plenty of supports on the streets of Harlan in Shelby County winning this county on Election Day with almost 70 percent of the vote.

(voice-over) At the Sandwich Bowl, a popular lunch spot.

(on camera) Who would you vote for, for president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump.

TUCHMAN: What do you think the job he's doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fantastic, doing a great job, better than anybody has done in a long time.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But many here who want Obamacare repealed now unhappy and concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need better health care in this country, but I'm not sure what the solution is.

TUCHMAN: During the campaign, president Trump had no bigger applause line in saying he would repeal, replace Obamacare if he became president and that it would be easy and that it would be done quickly. Was he, and were you, were Republicans, naive about this?

ERNST: I wouldn't say naive.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The senator indicated zealousness has become a big part of the equation.

ERNST: The issue is that there were so many different ideas, even within our own Republican conference that trying to bring those ideas together has been difficult and I remain optimistic that we will find a way forward.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it remains quite unclear what that way forward would be. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Harlan, Iowa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up, a victory is declared in the fight against ISIS. Iraq's Prime Minister announces the city of Mosul has been liberated after a nine-month operation. Our Nick Paton Walsh was there today. A city left in ruins, still under threat. You'll see what he saw, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:55:59] COOPER: Well, there were celebrations in the streets of Iraq today after the prime minister announced the City of Mosul had been recaptured from ISIS. The U.S. commander of the coalition fighting ISIS congratulated Iraqi troops in what he called a historic victory. He warned that the fight isn't over. And even as the announcement came, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh saw firsthand that the fighting actually is continuing in small pockets in Mosul. He joins me with the latest.

Nick, you just got back from Mosul. What's the latest on the ground there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The fighting is still ongoing, Anderson. We heard that this morning to see pockets of resistance of ISIS dug in to basically thousands of houses now still holding out despite the announcement of victory from the Iraqi Prime Minister, that's what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): Here, the streets are still being ground to rubble.

And the last hundred yards of ISIS. The group that once held slaves of Iraq and Syria down here to their last bullets were told.

(on-camera) There it is, the river that runs through the heart of Mosul that marks the end of ISIS territory in Iraq, really. But between these Iraqi Special Forces and that body of water that marks victory are still just dozens of ISIS fighters still holding out.

(voice-over) American air strikes hammer them.

(on camera) That's the intensity and proximity of the fighting here. With air strikes are called in right next to Iraqi forces. They even feel the rubble landing in their faces.

(voice-over) Perhaps because this really is the end, some of them appear to give themselves up. A sniper still there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's announcements of victory here does trying to draw a line under the eight month brutal fight for the City of Mosul and potentially also really in the chapter of ISIS having its caliphate here in Iraq.

Yes, they have many towns around the country still potentially under that control but a big population center of Mosul that was kind of heart of that ideology they had is now fallen. And I think there are many Iraqis who have been celebrating on the streets here who feel, frankly, enlightens because of it.

COOPER: So Nick, if Mosul is still the last big population center for ISIS in Iraq, how does this fit into the larger fight against ISIS?

WALSH: Well, some sort of warning signs. We're hearing various official say, now don't think simply because this victory occurred ISIS have done. I don't know if that's true to some degree, but they are scattered in their presence now.

They're in Tal Afar (INAUDIBLE) smaller towns. They will be the focus of further Iraqi military operations, the coalition supports. But more, if you look at how ISIS is always been an ideology built on its own sense of self. The fact that they had to accept loosing their capital in the center bank caliphate in Iraq, that they announced the caliphate, Mosul in such a key city to them, now that's gone. They're taking a huge dent in their image and they're also now across the border facing their own declared capital of Raqqah deeply under siege, reduced down there to a matter of 1.5 miles across about 3 miles deep, when I saw a map there just recently, so they're massively under pressure.

The broader issue though is they now will face a low-level insurgency across both Syria and Iraq, more specifically in Iraq, as they use car bombs, suicide bombings, to make the presence felt, continue to exacerbate military intention between the Sunni and the group of Shia.

The Shia will now dominate government and military and the Sunni who felt disenfranchised, the job on the government has bridge that divide, but that is a very, very difficult task. We've got 15 years of internal conflict almost here in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell. And frankly, I think there's a very steep task in rebuilding fast enough to be sure we don't see some nasty version of ISIS 2.0 emerging in the years ahead, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot of danger remains. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon, CNN TONIGHT starts right now.