Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump Tower Meeting Included Others Besides Russian Lawyer. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired July 14, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:33:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news at this moment, and breaking news involving that 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, involving Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort. We are learning there were more people in the room than those three top campaign officials and that Russian attorney.
Let's go to Washington now. Shimon Prokupecz is following this.
Shimon, who is this person?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE PRODUCER: That's right, Kate. We learned in the last few hours that we have been working through the story that more people were in the room at Trump Tower than initially revealed. A well-known Russian-American lobbyist, who lives here in Washington, D.C., told the Associated Press that he was in the room on behalf of the Russian attorney, who we have all been reporting about, who claimed she was going there possibly to give some information about the Hillary Clinton campaign. And then it turned out that she started talking about Russian sanctions. This other person, this lobbyist, who told the A.P. he was in the room, Rinat Akhmetshin, lives here in Washington, is well known within the Washington circle. He has, at times, registered as a lobbyist on behalf of the Russian government, something to do with sanctions. He has lobbied on behalf of the Russian government. And he is also connected to this Russian attorney through the Magnitsky Act, which she has been lobbying to have overturned. This has to do with sanctions against Russia. So he had connections to her. He did tell the Associated Press he was there, but, you know, the meeting sort of wasn't that big of a deal. You know, he thought it would be more serious. It turned into -- other issues were discussed. He basically is downplaying the meeting at this point.
[11:35:04] BOLDUAN: That would be no surprise. Are there any ties -- there is some reporting that Senator Chuck Grassley described him as having ties to Russian intelligence in the past. What is the reporting on that?
PROKUPECZ: There are court documents that have been filed that allege he has ties to the Russian government. Again, it depends on who you talk to. Some folks say he's not that big of a player. But he is a Washington guy. He does make a living lobbying. So, perhaps he could be that -- sort of his lobbying efforts could have been mixed up into some of his other connections to the Russian government. There's no doubt he has ties to the Russian government. But whether or not he's actually getting direction from the Russian government, we have not been able to confirm that.
BOLDUAN: Shimon, thank you for the reporting. Clearly, there's more to this story.
Oh, real quick, do we believe this is the full accounting of attendance or is there the possibility there could be more people?
PROKUPECZ: We've also been told there may have been -- a translator may have been in the room. It's not entirely clear. We are waiting to hear from the White House and Donald Trump Jr, who, ultimately organized the meeting.
Shimon, thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Let me bring in Michael Zeldin, who worked with Bob Mueller, now the special counsel investigating this matter. He worked with Bob Mueller at the Justice Department.
Michael, thank you for sticking around. I really appreciate it.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: What do you think of this news, Michael?
ZELDIN: It makes it seem like the meeting has a relationship between derogatory information on Hillary Clinton and the lifting of sanctions or some approach to sanctions. There's a duality here to the purpose of the meeting, which makes it more significant.
What else is significant -- and we have to verify this -- but I believe at this point in time, the Trump family had Secret Service protection. So, if they have Secret Service protection, that means for someone to get up into that tower, into their space, they need to be cleared by Secret Service. The argument they might not have known who the people are, to me, falls on deaf ears. When they know who the people are, and they know what their agenda is, it makes the meeting more significant, which may explain why Manafort and Kushner are invited in by Donald Jr, which undermines the stories he told Saturday and Sunday and still evolving stories. It has significance. And we have to see how it flushes out. It's not something that you can just dismiss as a translator or some other incidental person now present.
BOLDUAN: Michael, stick with me for a second.
Bob Baer, former CIA operative, is joining us on the phone.
Bob, this news of this person confirmed to have been in the meeting, a Russian-American lobbyist, which, as our reporting is, he has ties to the Russian government, of course. What do you say to that when you learn he is now in the meeting and no one knew before? BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): The
truth is trickling out slowly. I can tell you, from a counter intelligence perspective, this would alarm -- well, it is alarming people in the FBI and CIA. The Russian government, the KGB has spotters and assessors all over Washington. They are looking for targets for potential recruitment. They are not in touch with the KGB station in Washington. They fly back to Moscow and say, oh, I met an interesting guy or I met the president's son or the son-in-law. They go in for assessment. This is a very informal relationship. The FBI can't prove it, but is certainly aware of the connections. The fact there's a new person there with connections to the KGB and counterintelligence I find very alarming. Then, later on, Jared Kushner tries to set up a back channel to the Russian embassy. If Jared Kushner, if national security standards were applied to him, as any other government employee, he would have lost his security clearances weeks ago.
BOLDUAN: His security clearance, temporary security clearance, is under review.
Michael, the fact that -- I mean, as we long said, when there was a consideration of past meetings, right, between the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, described as a known operative to the Russian government, now an American-Russian lobbyist with ties to the Russian government. What does Bob Mueller and his team do with this?
[11:39:48] ZELDIN: The interesting possibility for Mueller is that given that these people were probably known to U.S. government authorities, the question would be whether there exists any recordings of any of these conversations, whether they were pickups by phone when they were talking about the setup of the meeting, any pickups by phone when they were talking about the outcome of the meeting. It may be the presence of the Soviet -- I keep saying Soviet -- Russian operatives may enhance the possibility there is actually communication that may have been intercepted that can be listened to so we can get content of the meeting, which is that we are not getting from participants of the meeting. We are learning that in a drip, drip, drip, form. If there's opportunity for Mueller to hear content or postmortems on the meetings, it could be significant legally.
BOLDUAN: Bob, Michael, if you could both stand by, we'd really appreciate it.
We are going to have much, much more on this breaking news. Again, there were more people in the meeting than previously known. Not only the Russian attorney, which was billed as being a Russian government attorney, not only three top officials with the Trump campaign, including the president's son and son-in-law, but now a Russian- American lobbyist with ties to the Russian government.
Coming up for us, we are going to ask, what does this mean for the investigation? Also, what does it mean for the credibility of Donald Trump Jr, as well as the White House as there continues to be an evolving story for the reasons for the meeting and who was in this meeting in June of 2016. We'll be right back.
[11:45:42] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BOLDUAN: The breaking news we are continuing to follow at this hour is there are now more people involved in that June, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower than previously disclosed. Of course, we know there was Don Jr, who met with the Russian attorney, and in e-mails that were disclosed, a Russian government attorney. Now, another person linked to the Russian government known to be in that meeting. A Russian- American lobbyist was joined in that meeting along with the top Trump campaign officials. What does this mean now? This drip, drip, drip continues.
Joining me to discuss, CNN political commentator, Trump campaign adviser, and a former congressman from Georgia, Jack Kingston is here. CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, is here as well.
Congressman, this was not previously disclosed. This was not part of the statement that came from Don Jr. Don Jr, on Sean Hannity's show, was asked: "As far as this is concerned, as far as you know, this is all of it?" Trump Jr: "This is everything."
This is everything. Clearly, not.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kate, let me say this. I think what Trey Gowdy said is accurate, if you drank Russian vodka, if you saw Dr. Zhivago, go ahead and report it and pull out everything you think might be irrelevant, make sure everybody knows about it. I think that's a mistake this campaign has not done. At the same time --
BOLDUAN: You think this person -- this person is irrelevant?
KINGSTON: I think that a meeting about adoptions in the face of a campaign --
BOLDUAN: It was not about adoptions. That is not how it was billed.
KINGSTON: Let me say this. A lot of people come in campaigns -- and anybody that's run for office, I don't care if it's dogcatcher or school board, somebody is going to say, I have stuff on your opponent. And you're going to listen to it.
BOLDUAN: Directly connected to the Russian government, like a Russian-American lobbyist?
KINGSTON: Let me say this. I heard the guy is, well known. Shimon just said that. I was in Washington 24 years. I was in Congress. I was on the Defense Committee. I was on the Foreign Operations Committee. We dealt with issues like sanctions and Russian adoptions. I've never heard of this guy. So if he's so well known. Furthermore, if the Secret Service was there, why did they not screen this guy out?
BOLDUAN: -- that important.
KINGSTON: Yes, well --
BOLDUAN: If he is well known, is that important to the fact that he -- being well known or not, is that relevant to the fact he is linked to the Russian government --
KINGSTON: I'm not --
BOLDUAN: -- and this meeting was billed as being part of the Russian government effort to help his campaign?
KINGSTON: What I'm saying is these were minor players. That is important. It was irrelevant information by irrelevant people. In the view of the campaign, it was one more group, one more set of meetings of people who did everything. Do you really think -- ask yourselves this, do you think they would put anything in writing and this would have a huge red flag if they thought, oh, gosh, we have to cover this up? If this was a significant meeting, they would have erased those e-mails. They would have said let's come out with a statement on this. This would have been done several months ago.
Whatever you people believe about Paul Manafort, he is a serious player. He is the adult in the room in this situation. He would have said, if you did any e-mailing on this, erase it. Because it was an irrelevant meeting with irrelevant information, I'm sure they shrugged it off and said, one more set of con men and women coming in and having some angel that we are going to dismiss and move on.
BOLDUAN: Ana, you are nodding your head, I think, to the question he posed. It is rhetorical? Go.
[11:49:22] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITIAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you can collude and be stupid at the same time. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. It was stupid to put it in e-mail form. Then again, the Trump's get away with stuff and they think they can get away with stuff. They have been doing it their entire life. They have been pushing the envelope. They have been on the edge of the law their entire life, father and son. I almost don't fault Don Trump Jr. It's hereditary. It's a hereditary condition to push the law, to cheat and to lie.
The problem here, with what Donald Trump Jr said to Hannity the other day is we already know this kid has been lying for the last year. He has been lying publicly. He has been lying emphatically. He has been lying with indignation. He has been lying, plain and simple. I don't know how this has any credibility. To me, the only thing with credibility is what we saw in black and white. That he took this meeting under the pretense he was meeting with a Russian government attorney.
So whether she was insane or sane, whether she was a clown or not, whether she was a Russian government attorney or whether she was playing one on TV, he took that meeting under the pretense that he was going to get negative information on his father's opponent from a Russian government attorney. And whether you want to argue if it's legal or not, that's fine. What I don't understand is, people who I know to be decent, people who I know to be smart, bending themselves into pretzel shapes and not condemning what is clearly wrong, unethical, and lacking moral compass and patriotism.
KINGSTON: But --
BOLDUAN: Congressman, do you think, at this point, the fact there's so much attention on a meeting they did not disclose now, do you think that it helps Don Jr, it helps this White House at all that they didn't disclose there more people in the meeting than they were forced to disclose?
KINGSTON: I don't think it will make a huge difference. But I agree with you. Getting back to Trey Gowdy saying anything Russian, anything statement you've made, even if it's ordering a white Russian drink, report it. If the word "Russian" is in it, get it out of the way.
KINGSTON: Let me say this.
BOLDUAN: Can you not downplay it to that level that you ordered a white Russian?
BOLDUAN: It's like Sean Spicer saying if he put Russian dressing on his salad folks will talk about it.
KINGSTON: But, but, Kate -
BOLDUAN: We're not talking about Russian dressing or white Russians. We're talking about Russians promising --
KINGSTON: Well -- listen --
BOLDUAN: -- to give them information that would help the campaign in the middle of the campaign. It's not nothing.
KINGSTON: Well, Kate, I was underscoring your point in terms of disclosure. But let me say this. This is what we absolutely do know, is that whatever interference there was, any meddling did not affect the outcome. That is something that there is an absolute, positive consensus about it. We also know, on November 20th, Barack Obama said we're over that. When asked directly about Russian meddling, he said, we're over that, it's behind us. We also know Donald Trump dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria on Russian-backed territories. And he's continued sanctions. He's also selling Patriot missiles to Poland against Russia's wishes. And we also know he's expanding NATO and telling NATO countries up the ante on your defense spending. So, I mean, if Russia --
BOLDUAN: I hear you, words and actions.
NAVARRO: By the way, what he just said -
NAVARRO: Let me say something.
NAVARRO: -- what Jack just said.
BOLDUAN: OK. No one can't hear anybody and I have to make everyone stop talking.
Ana, go ahead.
NAVARRO: What Jack just said is not true. In is no evidence there were any votes turned. There was no evidence there was any hacking of the actual ballot boxes of the election systems. That much is true. But whether there was influence that influenced how a human being, how an American voter issued their vote, that, we don't know. Frankly, it's probably an impossible thing to measure accurately. We don't know how many people were affected and influenced by fake news, and that affected how they finally cast their vote and for whom. We just don't know that. People probably don't know how much of what they were reading was fake news still.
KINGSTON: OK --
NAVARRO: So were votes cheating and cast and changed? No. Were people's minds influenced? We don't know.
BOLDUAN: Believing the word of what is coming out and believing the statements as they have evolved, that is a big part of this. What can you believe when can you take someone's word as credible? You don't have to ask me. Conservative voices are saying that, Congressman. Prominent conservative voice, Charles Krauthammer, "Washington Post," wrote this column today. And here's part of it, "You don't need a lawyer to see the Trump defense - collusion, as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election -- is now officially dead."
Do you agree with that? KINGSTON: No, I don't. Let me say this. I think the world of Dr.
Krauthammer but he is a doctor, not a lawyer. Just because he wants to change the definition --
BOLDUAN: To be clear, to be very clear, Congressman, in his column, he leaves open the possibility he is not talking about the legal side of this. He is talking about credibility.
KINGSTON: Well I think in terms of the politics of it, the politics of it is bad. We all know that. I'm just saying that I don't think he's in a position to say, here's where collusion was.
Frankly, let me say this -- if Donald Trump received information that was damaging to the United States government, and he sat on it or he used it against Hillary Clinton, I think there's an issue of collusion at that point. But that's not what happened. And based on the facts, as we know it, that's not what happened.
Let me say this.
[11:55:19] BOLDUAN: But once Don Jr said, "I love it, I'm in." That's the point Krauthammer makes. Once you said, "I'm in," it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, the intermediary brought no goods.
KINGSTON: Well --
BOLDUAN: What matters is what Don Jr thought going into the meeting. You disagree?
KINGSTON: Kate, I guess that's one step away from a thought crime, "Hey, I love it." What if he --
BOLDUAN: I'm not saying crime. We're not going with crime.
KINGSTON: That's right. There's not a crime here. And what we have is a lot of people who are very, very mad about Donald Trump and this is the best thing that's happened to them in over a year now of looking for proof --
BOLDUAN: So the fact there's no crime, you're totally comfortable how this whole thing played out?
KINGSTON: No. He should have reported that.
KINGSTON: I'm not comfortable with that. But at the same time, there's still no evidence of collusion.
KINGSTON: And there's an agreement that it did not affect the outcome of the election.
BOLDUAN: I cut you off.
BOLDUAN: Go ahead.
NAVARRO: This much we know. It seems that daily we have shoes dropping on this issue. If there more evidence that will amount to a crime, the likelihood is it will come out. I, personally, as a Republican, commend and thank Charles Krauthammer for being able to prove you can be supportive of some items of Donald Trump's agenda, of some of the things he has done and the ways he is working with Republican Congress, you can be supportive of the judges he is naming to the Supreme Court and other judgeships.
BOLDUAN: Let me say this.
NAVARRO: At the same time, that does not mean you have to give up your morals, your principles, your convictions, your sense of right and wrong, your logic and your brain, and defend the indefensible.
NAVARRO: What Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort did here was dead wrong.
BOLDUAN: Ana Navarro, thank you so much.
Congressman Kingsman, always a pleasure when you come on. Thank you so much.
KINGSTON: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Our coverage of this breaking news continues in just one moment.
[11:59:24] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right. Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John Berman, in today for John King.
We begin this busy hour with breaking news. A source familiar with Donald Trump Jr's meeting last June with a Russian lawyer says that others were present besides the group that has widely been reported. The Associated Press reports that a Russian-American lobbyist was there. Really, not just any Russian-American lobbyist. One with a lot of alleged connections.
I want to bring in my CNN colleagues, Shimon Prokupecz and Jeff Zeleny, with these intriguing details.
Shimon, who is this person exactly and how specific is it to the investigation?
PROKUPECZ: What we've learned is there were other people in this room besides -- this all began with this Russian attorney, this woman who was meeting there with --