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Source: Trump Knew about Russia Contacts with Staff; CNN: Kushner's Team Turns Over Documents to Mueller. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 3, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is a real problem. We've got to hold this party accountable.
[07:00:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our opportunity to make tax reform.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The bill is like a fish. It stays out in the sunlight too long, it stinks.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me. Great to have you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be here.
CAMEROTA: OK. So we begin with several developments in the Russia investigation. Despite repeated denials from the president and the White House, we now have concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between one of his campaign advisers and Russia.
Former Trump national security adviser J.D. Gordon was at this meeting in March 2016 where George Papadopoulos made his pitch to set up a meeting between Vladimir Putin and then-candidate Donald Trump. Gordon says that Mr. Trump heard Papadopoulos's pitch and did not dismiss the idea.
Also, the president's son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner turning over documents to Robert Mueller's investigators. Sources tell CNN that shows that Mueller is reaching Trump's inner circle and could be building a case for obstruction of justice against the president for firing FBI Director James Comey.
BERMAN: Also, serious new questions this morning about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his memory and his repeated lack thereof. This after campaign advisor Carter Page, he testified to a House panel that he told Sessions that he was traveling to Russia during the campaign.
Remember, Sessions was also in the room with Papadopoulos when he made his Russia pitch. Yet, the attorney general has said as recently as a week and a half ago that he was not aware of any conversations between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Democrats say they want to know more about what's going on here.
All of this is happening as the president leaves very, very shortly on a high-stakes 12-day trip to Asia. Miraculously, this morning his Twitter account is back and working. It was shut down for 11 minutes overnight. And in a Kafka-esque move, he's tweeting about Twitter this morning.
We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
That departure expected to come up in just a few minutes here from the White House. It's expected to be the president's longest foreign trip so far of his administration, though the focus on foreign policy continues to be overshadowed by the Russia investigation.
JOHNS (voice-over): The latest bombshell in the Russia probe: President Trump did not dismiss the idea of a campaign adviser arranging a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Trump during a campaign meeting in 2016, according to a person in the room. It's the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between the campaign advisor and Russia, despite fierce denials.
TRUMP: I had nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.
JOHNS: Court documents reveal that, during this March 2016 national security meeting, former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pitched the idea of a meeting between Putin and Trump. Trump campaign advisor J.D. Gordon, seen here with then-candidate Trump, Jeff Sessions and Papadopoulos. Gordon says Mr. Trump listened to his idea, and he heard him out. The White House denying the president had any recollection of this.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Papadopoulos suggesting that a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. Do you recall that?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. I don't believe he does.
ACOSTA: Attorney General Sessions rejecting the idea of a meeting with Putin, according to the source. But Sessions never disclosed the conversation during multiple congressional hearings when he was asked directly about communications in the Trump campaign.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you're saying?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not, and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.
JOHNS: Now Senate Democrats want to question Sessions about those denials. The highly-anticipated testimony from former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page fueling even more questions about what Sessions knew regarding ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Testifying behind closed doors for more than six hours before a House panel, Page revealing that he told Sessions about a trip he was taking to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Though, Page said the trip was unconnected with the campaign. This is another conversation Sessions failed to mention during hearings.
FRANKEN: He seems to have problems telling the truth on this subject.
JOHNS: The attorney general forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after failing to disclose his own contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.
SESSIONS: 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.
[07:05:04] JOHNS: In the wake of indictments of three Trump foreign policy advisers, the president continues to insist that Hillary Clinton should be the one investigated.
TRUMP: The saddest thing is that, because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing, and I am very frustrated by it.
JOHNS: Now to the overnight mini-sensation. On social media, the president's Twitter account overnight briefly taken down, apparently by a disgruntled employee on his or her way out the day out, last day on the job. The president tweeting about that this morning. "My Twitter account," he writes, "was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must finally be getting out and having an impact." Of course, John and Alisyn, I think he was referring to the public impact of this Twitter account. I think it's been felt long before now.
BERMAN: The words finally getting out the president has a Twitter account. Just now.
Joe Johns at the White House, thanks so much.
Sources tell CNN that the president's son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner has turned over documents to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Investigators are looking into what role he might have played into the firing of James Comey. So is the special counsel building a case for obstruction of justice against the president, maybe others? CNN's Shimon Prokupecz live in Washington with more. Shimon, talk to us about these documents.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. So sources tell us that Kushner voluntarily turned over these documents. These are documents he had from the campaign and some from the transition. And they're related to any contacts he may have had with Russia. These documents are similar to the ones Kushner gave to congressional investigator.
Now, this comes as investigators have begun asking witnesses questions about Kushner's role in the firing of the former FBI director.
CAMEROTA: So but Shimon, why do they think that Kushner had any role in the firing of Comey?
PROKUPECZ: Well, the witnesses have been asked these questions and -- by the investigators. And we've heard different accounts from different sources. Some say Kushner was a driver in the president's decision. Others say he simply didn't oppose it and that it was something the president solely made the decision on. And sources close to the White House say that, based on what they know -- and this is important -- and that we don't know how they know this.
But they say Kushner is not the target of the investigation. But this is a sign that Mueller could be building a case for obstruction against the president for the firing of the former FBI director.
BERMAN: So Shimon, how significant do you think this is?
PROKUPECZ: Well, the Mueller's team's questions about Kushner, you know, show that it's a sign that investigators are reaching into the president's inner circle. And it shows that this extends beyond the 2016 campaign to the actions that have been going on, that have taken place at the White House by high-level officials.
A White House official says the Mueller's team's questions about Kushner are not a surprise and that Kushner would be among the list of people who investigators would be asking about.
A lawyer for Kushner did not comment. And we should add that the White House also declined comment -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Shimon, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Let's bring in our political panel to discuss it. We have CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza; CNN political analyst David Gregory; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Great to see all of you.
So Phil, let me start with you. So this -- we now have this picture of the March 2016 meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump. And you see the players in there. You see Jeff Sessions. You see George Papadopoulos. You see J.D. Gordon. This is the meeting where J.D. Gordon now says that George Papadopoulos made his pitch that he could arrange a meeting between Vladimir Putin and candidate Trump.
Is that a big deal? Does that change the investigation for you? And that Trump did not -- did not dismiss that he heard it?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It doesn't change the investigation for me. There's a couple of characteristics here I'd be thinking of. Meetings with the ambassador to me are significant. You're meeting a representative of a foreign power and you can't remember it?
CAMEROTA: Jeff Sessions.
MUDD: That's right. I'm talking about Jeff Sessions. A conversation, one of a thousand conversations a day with a chump change -- let's be clear -- adviser. And a year later, more than a year later, you don't remember that one?
If I were back in government and somebody said, you know, "Did you ever talk about X, Y, Z, you had a five-minute conversation with somebody 15 months ago" or whatever, give me a break. I'd write that off. The meeting with the ambassador, or the contacts with the ambassador, those are significant.
BERMAN: A chump change guy who is now a cooperative witness...
BERMAN: ... with the special counsel investigation which, I think, elevates him beyond the realm of chump change perhaps, in terms of the jeopardy he poses to some of the administration.
Let me read you from the court documents dealing with George Papadopoulos. "On or about March 31, 2016, defendant Papadopoulos attended a national security meeting in Washington, D.C., with then- candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the campaign. When defendant Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group, he stated in sum, in substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. After this trip to Washington, D.C., defendant Papadopoulos worked with the professor and a female Russian national to arrange a meeting between the campaign and the Russian government and took steps to advise the campaign of his progress."
We've seen the picture. Papadopoulos in the meeting. Two people down from Jeff Sessions in the room with President Trump. Jeff Sessions, Chris Cillizza has testified that he never was told by anyone in the campaign that they were meeting with or talking to Russia. Carter Page says he told Sessions. George Papadopoulos in that room told Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions met with the ambassador Kislyak.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. It's -- so you take any one of those, with the possible exceptions of the meeting with the ambassador. You take the conversation between Page, Papadopoulos and Sessions. And I -- in a vacuum, I'm with Phil, which is you talk to a lot of people. I understand that.
The problem is, is that context matters. Right? We know that under oath, Jeff Sessions said he had not had any contact with any Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. Well, we know he met with Sergey Kislyak on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention. And to me even more damning, in September 2016, he and Kislyak met in his Senate office.
Now, the way that Sessions gets around that right now is to say, well, that was in my capacity as a senator, not as a surrogate for Trump. I'm not sure how you draw that line. But it's -- I've been comparing it -- little kids so I compare it to my kid not bringing his homework home. Right? The kid forgets his homework the first time, honest mistake, you know. You've got a lot of stuff going on in school. You're playing with your friends, fine.
The kid forgets his homework the second time, you're like, "Well, you know, kind of got to get on that." It will be a little bit more than this.
The kid forgets his homework a third time, and you think, "You may not want to be doing your homework."
I mean, and so context and what's come before matters. And I think that's what's getting Jeff Sessions into trouble.
CAMEROTA: It sounds like Chris Cillizza wants to ground Jeff Sessions.
CILLIZZA: My kids are not getting their homework done. That's your basis.
CAMEROTA: We hear that cry for help. We hear that cry for help loudly.
David, how do you see it?
GREGORY: I start with where we are now. President Trump is, at the very least, totally indifferent to the impact that Russia had on our election, meddling in the election, an attack on our democracy.
Why is it that he is so indifferent? Is it just his own insecurity and narcissism that he doesn't want to believe that Vladimir Putin wanted him to be president and did things that were underhanded to achieve that? Or is it something worse?
On the face of it, we also know that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is beginning to reveal what his investigation shows thus far. And I cannot believe that the fruits of this investigation is to get George Papadopoulos maybe even wearing a wire as a cooperating witness, that he is starting low and that it has got to go higher in terms of what that coordination was.
We know from evidence that has been revealed publicly so far that the Trump campaign was open for business, to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from anyone who came, including the Russians. So where do you go from there? And I think that's what we should be focused on, is what we're learning so far and what it potentially leads to, rather than overinterpreting what these contacts alone tell us about whether there was any criminal activity.
BERMAN: So Phil, I've got to change the subject here and deal with something that developed overnight.
MUDD: Can we talk about Chris's parenting problems?
CAMEROTA: Do we have to take Jeff Session's iPod away?
CILLIZZA: Do we have the whole hour?
BERMAN: So Twitter, right. We know the president uses Twitter. For 11 minutes last night, if you're Paul Ryan, they were 11 glorious minutes. If you're Donald Trump, they are 11, you know, very, very troubling minutes. His Twitter account was down.
We learned this morning that it was a disgruntled employee. It says, "Through our investigation, we have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee's last day. We're conducting a full internal review."
And then the president tweeted about it this morning. You know, I've got to find it in the stream of Twitter. "My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must be finally getting out and having an impact."
It sounds sort of funny, and I made jokes about this. But what if this employee on the last day in customer support didn't take the account down but tweeted about North Korea? I mean, that's a serious concern.
MUDD: Well, we've already seen that concern in the public space. The president does that already.
When I look at a couple of issues, the president's use of Twitter and what he says when he uses it, I think the use of Twitter is revolutionary in politics. And I think -- I think the president is setting a precedent. Whether you like what he says or not, that's significant.
But what we've seen from him already is also revolutionary in foreign policy. You have a nuclear-capable state, and you have a president of the United States who wakes up and says, "Let me just throw something in the water and see what happens with the North Koreans."
CAMEROTA: So you're not worried about a national security hack? You're worried about the...
MUDD: I'm worried about the president himself saying things with a foreign power where we don't understand how that foreign power thinks. And remember, we don't understand how that foreign power perceives what the president says. Are they going to take what he says seriously?
[07:15:13] BERMAN: Sure, but what if Larry from customer support can do it? I mean, I don't know if his name is Larry. You know, Mickey. What if he wants to start a war with North Korea? He took the account down last night. MUDD: Well, I think if I'm at Twitter, I have a fundamental question.
When we have a capability by a single employee either to take down an account or to tweet, I think the question is, why doesn't somebody review that? Fair question.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for talking about all of this with us this morning.
Up next, former Trump adviser Carter Page told the House Intel Committee that he gave Attorney General Jeff Sessions a heads-up about a trip to Russia during the campaign. What else did Page tell the Congressmen? A member of that committee joins us next.
CAMEROTA: Now a CNN exclusive. Former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page He told a House panel yesterday that he told Jeff Sessions about a trip to Russia during the 2016 campaign. This raises new questions about Sessions's statements to Congress about the campaign contacts with Russia.
[07:20:14] Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is a member of the House Intel Committee, and that's where Carter Page was yesterday.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here. What did Carter Page tell you all yesterday, and what are your questions today?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning, Alisyn.
The way you report the story is correct. And you know, it's a little early to jump on that as a major scoop. By the way -- and as you know, we try to be a little careful about -- about discussing what happens in those rooms. But of course, Mr. Page himself talked about this.
He did say that, in passing, very quickly, he mentioned this to Jeff Sessions. Now, you know, Jeff Sessions may come before the Congress again. The Senate will have the opportunity to ask him in more detail about whether he remembers that.
Of course, Alisyn, in the context of what Bob Mueller did earlier this with week, with George Papadopoulos and a guilty plea in terms of hiding contacts with the Russians, I think this is pretty -- pretty small beer. But nonetheless, it does raise further questions for Attorney General Jeff Sessions who, as you know, as a result of the Papadopoulos guilty plea, the Senate has already said they would like to have another conversation with him.
CAMEROTA: Is it your impression, Congressman, that Jeff Sessions has a faulty memory or that he's hiding something?
HIMES: You know, I haven't been in a room with Jeff Sessions. He has talked exclusively today with the United States Senate. So I want to be a little careful about answering a question like that. What I would point out, Alisyn, is that sometimes we get so lost in
the details of this investigation that we forget that Jeff Sessions is not the only individual in the administration with seeming memory lapses around contacts with Russia. The first national security adviser, General Flynn, lost his job because he wasn't honest about -- about contacts with Russia. Jared Kushner in filling out his forms, did so forgetting all sorts of contacts. The list goes on and on and on.
So I can't speak to Jeff Sessions in this instance, in particular, but one of the reasons this investigation continues to be important is because of this pattern of either forgetting or very simply lying about contacts with Russia from people in the administration.
CAMEROTA: So with the George Papadopoulos guilty plea, with the Paul Manafort arrest and surrendering to the FBI, do you feel that the Russia investigation is sort of reaching some kind of boiling point, or are these just more incremental steps? How should the American public see what's happening this week?
HIMES: yes, I'm not sure I would use the term "boiling point." What is interesting is that before this Monday in the Congress, a fairly significant and coordinated effort to do two things was impinging on the investigations.
Many of my Republican colleagues were saying, "Gosh, we're almost done. We're pretty close." A lot of them were saying, "Haven't seen any evidence of the president's involvement." And of course, part two of that was "Don't look over here. Look over there at uranium and the Clintons and the DNC." Well, the first leg of that stool, the idea that there's nothing there, went away in dramatic fashion on Monday because of the Papadopoulos guilty plea. And of course, the questions about what Manafort will be telling Mueller practically as we speak.
So we're left with the president, who has, you know, just an hour ago or two hours ago, now that there is absolutely no question that there is more to be learned with respect to the Russia investigation, the president out there. Many of my colleagues on the Republican side have more shame than this. But the president this morning is saying, "DNC, Donna Brazile, Hillary Clinton." That's got to tell the American people something.
CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that, because Donna Brazile, who was the, you know, interim chair of DNC, she has come out with a big revelation. I mean, she is -- she's written a book. The previews of this book do have some pretty stunning tidbits of information in there.
One of the things that she says is that the DNC was much more cash- strapped than we knew, that President Obama had left the DNC in financial dire straits to the tune of millions of dollars of debt. And that Hillary Clinton's campaign basically helped them pay off the debt by kind of refunneling campaign contributions to the DNC. And that, in exchange, she exerted control over the DNC, and all of that was to Bernie Sanders's detriment. Your thoughts on this? HIMES: Yes, well, I've only read the summary, I guess, that was out
in the press yesterday about what she learned. And the accusations are pretty significant. And particularly for Democrats like myself. If we had that kind of rot within one of our critical organizations, if in fact, the playing field was tilted. And again, you know, we've got to wait for the book to come out and read all of the allegations. Democrats like myself have got to take that very, very seriously. It looks like a serious problem.
That does not, in any way, shape or form, relate to the Russian attack on our elections.
CAMEROTA: I know. But I mean...
[07:25:06] HIMES: More on the question of whether the Trump administration was involved.
CAMEROTA: We pivoted to this, but do you think that the campaign, the primary, was rigged against Bernie Sanders?
HIMES: Well, you know, again, I've read exactly one Politico article on this. If Donna Brazile's accusations are accurate -- and I don't have any reason to believe that she would make them up -- we've got yet another chapter in the Democratic self-reckoning to do. No question about that.
CAMEROTA: OK. As you say, President Trump has fastened upon this, this morning. He's tweeting, "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department and FBI is not looking into all the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems. New Donna Brazile book says she paid for and stole the Democratic primary. What about the deleted e- mails, uranium, Podesta, the server?" Plus, "People are angry. At some point, the Justice Department and the FBI must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it."
So as you point out, deflection is one of the devices that the White House does use. But in terms of looking into this and what Donna Brazile claims, what would you call for?
HIMES: Well, let's be very clear. I mean, if Donna Brazile's accusations -- and again, I think we're all reading about them for the first time -- are true, that's an internal problem. That's a management problem within the DNC.
The president would have you believe that there is illegality. I've seen or heard nothing to suggest there was any illegality.
Let's remember: the uranium one deal, you need to read about that for about five minutes to know that there is absolutely nothing there.
And let's also remember about Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal, which you know, went on for years and tarnished her name. Again, absolutely zero evidence that there was a violation of law there or that there was any harm suffered.
So what the president is trying to do is he's trying to say, look at these -- this conviction of George Papadopoulos, the indictment of Manafort, people who are, you know, a serious law enforcement issue, raising the question quite frankly, and it's a question. It has not yet been answered, but raising the question of possible treason, that that is somehow equivalent on the other side with the Clintons to possible mismanagement at the DNC or to suboptimal e-mail practices.
I mean, come on. That's just -- that's just ludicrous on the face of it.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Jim Himes, we appreciate your perspective. Thanks for being with us.
HIMES: Thank you, Alisyn.
BERMAN: President Trump is calling it a big, beautiful Christmas present. He's not talking about the Red Rider carbide action air rifle. He's talking about the tax plan from the Republicans here. Will it really be a gift to the middle class? We'll discuss next.