Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump: "Disappointed In The Justice Department"; Trump: "I Don't Remember Much" About Papadopoulos Meeting; Trump: Hitting ISIS "Ten Times Harder" After NYC Attack; Trump's Tweetstorm Ahead of Departure for Marathon Five-Nation Asia Tour; Jared Kushner Hands Over Documents to Special Counsel. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He's been speaking to cameras on the way out. We're going to have our cameras there waiting. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow all alone today -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, thank you very much. Have a great weekend.

And as John rightly said, the president about to come out. And when he does, he often speaks to the press. So you should see that here in moments if he takes that opportunity.

Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Poppy Harlow. Let's get right to it.

Good Friday morning, everyone. A lot of news to get to. President Trump is about to take off for a huge, critically important five nation tour of Asia. There you see Air Force One. Not before, though, taking some parting shots at a litany of his favorite targets. A lot of tweets this morning, even by the president's standards on the Twitter account that was down for 11 minutes last night. Why? We'll get to that in a moment. Of course, the president mentioned that, too.

Not mentioned so far today, Russia, the multiple investigations that he is going to try to put in the rearview mirror for the next 11 days. But those do not go away. Today there are important new questions, especially about the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and one of the president's top advisers and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Let's go to our Dan Merica who brings us up to speed on all of this. There's a lot to get to. Let's begin, though, with these critical questions about Sessions and Russia.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I can tell you right now the president is about to leave the White House. We can hear the rotors of Marine One whirling behind me. And I'm told by the pool that he is speaking to reporters out on the South Lawn. So we'll have tape shortly about what he said.

You're exactly right. There is a lot of Russian news looming over this critical 12-day, five-country trip that the president is about to take. Now Jeff Sessions has come under fire recently and particularly because he did not disclose during testimony on Capitol Hill a meeting he had with President Trump and his foreign policy advisers, including the now famous George Papadopoulos, who at the time suggested a meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Now we have reported here at CNN that Trump didn't automatically dismiss that idea, but that Sessions later dismissed the idea on his own. Quickly. Sessions did not disclose that when he testified on Capitol Hill. And now some Democrats are asking for him to clarify why he didn't say that -- why he didn't disclose that conversation.

Now all of this will loom over the president's trip. And it's hard to really overstate how important this trip is for President Trump. He has made combating North Korea using bellicose rhetoric a key tenant of his time in the White House. And while he is over in Asia, particularly in Japan, South Korea, and China, North Korea will be a key focus.

National Security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters yesterday that he would not change his rhetoric. The president will not change his rhetoric and he would continue to be Trump while he was in the region.

Now I want to also read to you another focus of the president before he leaves for Asia and that is Hillary Clinton. He tweeted a number of things this morning, including asking his Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton.

Let me read to you what he said. He said, "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department and FBI isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems. New Donna B book said she paid for and stole the Dem primary. What about the deleted e-mails, uranium, Podesta, the server, plus, plus. People are angry. At some point the Justice Department and FBI must do what is right and proper. The American public deserve it."

Now President Trump is referring to a book by Donna Brazile, the interim Democratic chair who accused Hillary Clinton of controlling the DNC before she was the Democratic nominee -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We'll get to all of that. Dan, appreciate the reporting.

We're looking at Air Force One as the president is about to leave the White House. What will he say to reporters as he makes his way to Marine One, to Air Force One and then to Asia for this very important trip?

Another message from the president just coming in is the fight against ISIS. Let's go to the Pentagon and have Ryan Browne help us sort through this.

So two really telling tweets about ramping up the fight on ISIS over abroad -- abroad, I should say. What is the president talking about specifically? Do we know?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, the president taking to Twitter in kind of response to ISIS claims of the responsibility for the attacks, saying that the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in New York was a soldier of ISIS. And President Trump appearing to directly respond to that, taking to Twitter to say the -- you know, based on that claim of responsibility, the military has, quote, "hit ISIS much harder over the last two days."

And so, again, not clear exactly what he's referring to there. But, you know, the military campaign against ISIS has been ongoing for some time. You know, ISIS in Iraq is kind of down to its last few towns, some 96 percent of the country has been declared free of ISIS.

[09:05:04] And the military has called this town of al-Qaim on the Syria border ISIS' last stronghold. And the battle for that is raging in Syria. ISIS has had some setbacks. But as their territory has shrunk, the number of air strikes against ISIS has also decreased as the number of targets has gone down. So not quite clear what President Trump is referring to in this tweet about a ramped up military action against the terror group.

HARLOW: OK, Ryan Browne, let us know when you learn more from the Pentagon. Thank you.

Also this morning, more fast-moving developments in the Russia investigation. Let's get to Jessica Schneider with the latest.

And, Jess, Dan, you know, warmed us up in terms of this controversy over Sessions. So a little bit more from you on that. But also Jared Kushner.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So two things on the Russia front. But first, Poppy, we'll start with those new revelations from Carter Page that he told Jeff Sessions that he was traveling to Russia at the height of the campaign. Now this came out because Page was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee yesterday for more than six hours. And in that closed door session, he disclosed that he informed Sessions of his trip during a group dinner in Washington in 2016.

Now Carter Page saying he mentioned it in passing, and Congressman Conaway, the Republican who heads the committee, he has downplayed the significance of Page's disclosure but it really is raising some questions now about all the time that Jeff Sessions has been asked since becoming attorney general about whether he knew of anyone on the campaign was communicating with Russia.

Now it was just last month that Jeff Sessions said he did not communicate with Russia and that he was not aware of anyone else who did, saying in fact he didn't believe that it happened. Well, now a Senate aide now says Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees they want Attorney General Jeff Sessions to now clarify his testimony in the wake of Carter Page's revelations. So that's the first thing.

Now in the meantime here, we've learned that Jared Kushner has voluntarily handed over documents that he had from the campaign and the transition. Anything that he had related as well to contacts with Russia. He's handed all of those documents over to the special counsel's office as part of their investigation.

Now we know from other witnesses who have been interviewed by the special counsel that Mueller is digging in right now to Kushner's role in the firing of FBI director James Comey. And, really, it's the latest sign that investigators are reaching into the president's inner circle and that the probe has expanded beyond just what happened during the campaign to actually what's happened over the past 11 months inside the White House.

And Poppy, that really goes to the fact that this Mueller investigation now not just about the Russian meddling or any possible collusion with the Trump campaign, but also, you know, into any inquiries as to any obstruction of justice by the president as it relates to this firing of FBI director James Comey -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Broader. Broader.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

HARLOW: Being the word. Thank you, Jess. We appreciate all the reporting on all those fronts this morning.

Again you're looking at the bottom of your screen, Air Force One, the president getting ready to head out of the White House and head to Asia on this big 12-day trip.

Let's go to Shimon Prokupecz as we wait for the president.

And Shimon, you've been part of this reporting all week and the team breaking this news. You know, these are yet more signs and evidence that Jeff Sessions was aware of some really important discussions at the least about Russia and about potential trips there by people on the Trump team, foreign policy advisers to him.

Let's just step back a moment and let's listen to multiple times that he was asked by members of Congress about Russia and his responses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. 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.

I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. Further I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.

FRANKEN: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you're saying? SESSIONS: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I

don't believe it happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Shimon, that last statement almost the most telling in the context of what we know this morning, saying I'm not aware of anyone else who had conversations with the Russians. I mean, he was in the room when Papadopoulos said I've been talking to the Russians and they want to set up a meeting with Putin.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. But, I mean, we don't know that he actually knew that he did this.

[09:10:02] Look, I think if you talk to -- in talking to some people close to Sessions, some of the folks here, and Evan Perez, our other colleague here on the justice beat, they do downplay a lot of this, saying, you know, there's this notion of a private dinner. You know, this was in a room where Papadopoulos was in, where other national security people were in, you know, Carter Page. And really -- you know, it's not even clear that Sessions really understood who Carter Page was at the time.

The other thing here is Papadopoulos is sort of the game changer here. Once it was revealed that he was arrested and that he was cooperating, look at sort of the domino effects of all that. You have Sessions back in the spotlight, you know, Clovis. You have other people at the White House now.

And the issue for Sessions in all this really is, is that he was heading this national security team, this foreign policy team, at a time when there was -- it seems some people on that team were communicating with Russians or seeking the help of Russians.

So yes, for Sessions because, you know, it could be said that he was in charge of this team, he was a senior person on this team. That, perhaps, is where the issue is. And you know, maybe it is, you know, that he just doesn't recall it. Recall having these conversations. That seems to be the issue right now. Whether or not he actually had conversations with people, we really don't know. People are saying they spoke to him about this, but Sessions himself keeps saying, I don't remember this.

HARLOW: Right. I mean, look, you do have some Republicans like John Cornyn, the number two ranking -- you know, Republican in leadership saying this is a legitimate area of questions to explore further.

Senator Al Franken on the Democratic side saying, Shimon, that he would like Sessions to come once again in front of the committees to re-answer some of these questions. Do you have any intel on whether or not that's likely to happen?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, I mean, we haven't been told. I assume, you know, they would want to be, you know, Sessions' people would want to be as transparent as possible. And perhaps all he's going to say, you know, is that he does not recall. You know, keep in mind, these are, you know, Carter Page, quite the

colorful person. He has said a lot, he has talked to the FBI. So, you know, his credibility, you know, we don't know what he remembers.

HARLOW: Yes.

PROKUPECZ: And what Sessions remembers, perhaps are two different things. And I think that's kind of the issues in some ways -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It is. Shimon, thank you very much for that. We appreciate it.

On the other side of your screen, everyone, you are looking at Marine One that is just landing at Joint Base Andrews. We are about to hear what we call tape turn in the industry of the president as he came out before he headed on this trip. Let's listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're about to begin a long trip. I know some of you are coming with us. We look forward to it. We're actually staying an extra day in the Philippines, we have a big conference, a second conference. And I think we're going to have great success. We'll be talking about trade. We'll be talking about obviously North Korea. We'll be enlisting the help of a lot of people and countries. We'll see what happens but I think we're going to have a very successful trip. There's a lot of good will.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. Took place a long time. Don't remember much about it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: All I can tell you is this. There was no collusion, there was no nothing. It's a disgrace, frankly, that they continue. You want to look at Hillary Clinton and you want to look at the new book that was just put out by Donna Brazile where she basically bought the DNC and she stole the election from Bernie. So that's what you ought to take a look at.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: What we're doing is every time we're attacked from this point forward, and it took place yesterday, we are hitting them 10 times harder. So when we have an animal doing an attack like he did the other day on the west side of Manhattan, we are hitting them 10 times harder. They claimed him as a soldier, good luck. Every time they hit us, we know it's ISIS, we hit them like you folks won't believe.

Thank you. I will see you -- I will see you in Pearl Harbor. We're going to Pearl Harbor.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I don't know. I'm really not involved with the Justice Department. I'd like to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things, and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.

Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. A lot of news there from the president as he lands there, Marine One, about to get on Air Force One on this 12-day trip to Asia, but big headlines out of that. One of the key things is the last thing the president just said, which is that he is disappointed in his own Justice Department for not further investigating the Democrats, the Uranium One deal, John Podesta, you name it. There's a lot to get through.

He also said about ISIS after this ISIS-related terrorist struck New York City this week in this attack that we, the U.S. is hitting ISIS ten times harder. Talked about collusion, no collusion, he said, it's a disgrace.

We're going to get to it all now with our panel, CNN political analyst, John Avlon is here. CNN political commentators are also with us, Margaret Hoover and Alex Burns with "The New York Times." Thank you all for being here very much. John, you're shaking your head this morning, why?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot of people disappointed in the Justice Department including me. Around 45 seconds after he says, well, I don't have much to do with the Justice Department and then tries to say they shouldn't be looking at the ongoing investigation involving his campaign and the Comey firing and the Mueller folks.

They should be instead going after his political opponents who he already beat in the 2016 election. An obsession with trying to deflect and refocus things back on Hillary Clinton. It's disjointed. It's outside normal presidential traditions, although, that itself is no longer newsworthy.

He has been obsessing about the Justice Department and trying to insert himself in that process rhetorically or otherwise since day one. That's disturbing. Citizens should be paying close attention to that.

HARLOW: Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look, Jeff Sessions may have nine lives. Truthfully, but he should start looking because he's probably on seven or eight right now. If the president is mentioning his Justice Department and you should look at it. Here's one thing as we talk about these Instagram pictures of Papadopoulos in them with Trump, he has to put into context how that campaign operated. It was not a traditional campaign apparatus, almost anybody could walk in Trump Tower if they had the right escort and get an audience with Donald Trump.

Which makes it susceptible to anybody with other agendas to come up, including agendas that maybe helped foreign adversaries and not this country. That is clearly what happened with Papadopoulos.

And, you know, you can understand -- look, if you wanted to be very generous with Jeff Sessions, forgetting the fact that he hasn't been forthcoming, hasn't had a lot of candor about his interactions with Russians, you can also understand how Jeff Sessions had never seen this guy before, no idea where he came from because he had no connection.

HARLOW: As we look at the president and the first lady boarding Air Force One, they're about to take off on the longest international trip, the third of which the president has taken thus far in his presidency.

He will be going, as he said first to Pearl Harbor. He's going to Japan. He'll meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a lot ahead for this president on a critical trip that I should note, H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, saying he will not temper his language on this trip. Let's tick through all of this.

You hear Margaret's point on the president saying I don't remember much about that March 31st meeting where we see the picture of Papadopoulos, the president, Jeff Sessions. Then he went on to do what he often does and say the Justice Department should be looking at Hillary Clinton.

And he talked about Donna Brazile's new book saying that she worked, her campaign with the DNC to essentially make the DNC work for her before she was the nominee, a serious allegation.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. It happens not to be terribly serious legal allegation. That is a very serious political issue.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, Elizabeth Warren said to Jake Tapper that it makes it look rigged.

BURNS: Sure. And it absolutely validates the real sense on the left and at the base and activist level the Democratic Party that the fix was in, in the 2016 primaries. None of that is necessarily criminal and Democrats are going to need to unpack that internal conversation for themselves.

I think that it actually makes it harder for critics -- internal critics of the Democratic Party to take on sort of an extended Clinton alumni association when you have President Trump getting involved like this. Nothing discredits a complain on the left faster than having it associated with President Trump. People do see it as a matter of deflecting from Russia.

HARLOW: But are there not actually some legitimate questions here, John?

AVLON: Look, they are very real concerns from an intra-Democratic Party standpoint. How much of this was known? Was it simply that they thought Hillary Clinton was the inevitable nominee? Can there be a more level playing field? What reforms can be put in place forward so this doesn't replicate?

But those are Democratic Party internal issues. Those are not legal national security or almost constitutional arguments we're having about ongoing investigation against the president of the United States and his campaign. They are deflections. They are Democratic Party matters. They do not rise to the same level as the Mueller investigation.

HARLOW: OK, let's talk about Jeff Sessions, because you have Senator Franken last night, coming out and saying this is a guy, our attorney general, who has problems telling the truth. We heard moments ago all the times that sessions answered in ways that are clearly not totally factual from these meetings. Does he have a point?

[09:20:13] HOOVER: Well, let's also keep in mind that some of the individuals we quote here are the most polarizing and partisan individuals as well. When you ask Chuck Grassley, who is a Republican, in charge of the committee that's overseeing it, he says we're going to look into whether we're going to investigate.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: They're not saying he's lying. That's different from saying this guy is lying. So, what we do know is was there intent to collude with the Trump campaign on behalf of other -- of the Russians, absolutely. Did Jeff Sessions come out and lie? That's a bit of an overstatement. Has he not been forthcoming and candid, that's fair.

AVLON: Does he have the worst memory in the American politics?

BURNS: There is a real sense sort of disappointment and sadness among Republicans in Washington about how Jeff Sessions has handled things. That he is somebody who is generally liked on a personal level by his former colleagues and made them feel like they have gone out and taken a pretty hard line in defense of him.

And his story has not held up over time and this is just one more round where Sessions may have to walk back what he has previously said. And other Republicans --

AVLON: The entire Trump team story on Russia hasn't held up. Let's keep in mind, we knew because of an intelligence assessment that was partially released in October '16 that the Russians were actively trying to meddle in the election.

So, that would rise to raise awareness of, well, hold on, have the Russians really been involving themselves in our campaign in unusual ways? That would create a logical opportunity to self-assess, reassess and to be thoughtful about what you say when you're asked questions in front of Congress. If you're trying to deny that's because you're trying to hide something.

HOOVER: No. No.

HARLOW: We have to get a break in. You're not going anywhere. John Avlon, Alex Burns, Margaret Hoover, stick with us. A lot of headlines out of the president as he departs for Asia. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:26:12 HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. You're looking at live pictures of Joint Base Andrews. Air Force One just set to take off on the 12-day trip to Asia. The president made a lot of news as he was departing the White House this morning. We just debated some of it.

Also, a really critical message from the president on U.S. action and military action against ISIS. Listen to what the president just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What we're doing is every time we're attacked from this point forward and it took place yesterday, we are hitting them ten times harder. So, when we have an animal do an attack like he did the other day on the westside of Manhattan, we are hitting them ten times harder. They claimed him as a soldier, good luck. Every time they hit us, we know it's ISIS. We hit them like you folks won't believe. Thank you. I will see you in Pearl Harbor. We're going to Pearl Harbor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Let's go straight to the Pentagon. Our Ryan Browne is there with our reporting in a publicly released data that we know so far. The president says since this horrific attack Wednesday on New York City, eight people killed, a dozen injured. That the U.S. military has stepped up, really ramped up aggressively the fight against ISIS overseas, ten times, his words. What facts do we have that bear that out, or do we?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Poppy, there's -- it's not quite clear what the president was referring to. I think the public data on air strikes against ISIS and Iraq and Syria, for example, has shown no marked increase in recent days.

In fact, as ISIS has lost a lot of territory in Iraq and Syria recently, down to a few small towns in the border regions, the air strikes have actually gone down because there are fewer ISIS targets to hit.

So, again, not clear what he's referring to there, because the public data on airstrikes, not exactly showing any increase. But there are always special operations missions, covert, clandestine operations the public isn't initially made aware of. It's possible he may be referring to something along those lines. No clear public signal, despite the recent military successes against ISIS, there's been no observable dramatic increase to kind of track with what the president was talking about.

HARLOW: Ryan Browne at the Pentagon, thank you very much for that. Let's bring back in our panel. Let's talk about the big trip ahead for the president to Asia. This is very significant. First to these ISIS claims, Alex Burns, what do you make of it? Ryan Browne says it's not the publicly available data. The number of ISIS targets is down. But the president says ten times harder. What do you think?

BURNS: Well, look, we do know the fight against ISIS has escalated in a number of ways over the course of his administration, if not, over the last 48 hours. I think that we tend to spend a lot of time taking the things that the president says off the cuff and trying to unpack how maybe they might line up with the objective facts around him.

And the reality is he's often stating goals or sort of big picture -- I'm not saying it's not important to fact check him. Of course, it's important to fact check him. With a statement like that, I don't know that you can necessarily anticipate that he's going to be describing things that are happening in concrete terms.

HARLOW: It just couldn't be more clear what he said. I mean, every time we are attacked, we are hitting them ten times harder. I'm just literally interpreting it, his words.

HOOVER: And right, one would assume the president is telling the truth. I would encourage us to sort of think back, this is actually a -- when somebody hits you, you hit them back ten times harder is actually a tick that Donald Trump uses all the time.

When Melania was asked about what happens to her husband, somebody hits him, she said when somebody hits my husband, he hits back ten times harder. That's a basic sort of template response that Donald Trump uses, regularly in his rhetoric with people. So, there's no reason to believe that it's correlated to direct policy there. This is just the president melding off.