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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Washington Post: At Least Four Countries Discussed Ways to Manipulate Kushner Based on Business Dealings; Sources: Jared Kushner Loses Top-Secret Security Clearance; CNN: Mueller Probes Trump's Russian Business Dealings Prior to 2016 Presidential Campaign; Hope Hicks Won't Answer Questions About Her Time in the White House. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired February 27, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
A very busy night ahead. Two big breaking items on senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. His security clearance was downgraded, almost certainly barring him from seeing highly classified intelligence and it should bar him from routinely seeing the president's daily brief.
Then came an item in "The Washington Post" sourced to former and current officials laying out a possible reason why.
We begin with "Washington Post" story which dovetails with some of our own reporting people familiar with the Mueller investigation telling us the special counsel's interest in Kushner now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition. "The Post" meantime details how that need for capital may have been exploited.
Shane Harris is one of four "Post" correspondents on the story. He joins us now.
So, Shane, you write that there are four countries that had looked into ways or discussed ways of manipulating Jared Kushner. Can you just talk about what countries they were and what they were hoping to use to manipulate him?
SHANE HARRIS, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure, the four countries that were identified in U.S. intelligence reports are Israel, China Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. And what they found was that they these officials were discussing among themselves that Jared Kushner might be vulnerable based on, first of all, his lack of experience in government and foreign policy, essentially seeing as someone they could persuade or shape his views. But also his business arrangements which are quite complex and involved foreign travel as well, but also the debt that they had incurred in the Kushner companies, specifically on real estate in New York and the building at 666 Fifth Avenue.
We know that the Kushner companies which Jared divested himself from have been looking for international investors to try and shore up some of that debt. And it is this area where foreign officials we understand worse at least discussing that he might be leverageable based on that.
COOPER: Right. I mean, there's a lot of money coming due he refinanced it I guess after the economic downturn. They paid a huge amount I think more than any office building had been paid for in New York I think if ever or a very long time, they refinance that at the downturn and that money is coming due, and they've been even during the transition Kushner was meeting with potential investors, correct?
HARRIS: That's right. During the transition, there was a there were meetings that he had also with a Russian banker. He has said that he was just there to discuss things in his business capacity. The Russians have said he wasn't there in the business capacity, so there's some discrepancy. It was no secret, of course, that this -- that he had this debt and it's important to remember that, you know, a normal person when they go through a process for trying to obtain a security clearance, your credit card debt is something that might get flagged. You know, other outstanding loans that you might have and the reason for that is, is because does that make you vulnerable to some kind of blackmail or perhaps a payoff by a foreign official. Those are routine matters.
In the case of Jared Kushner and his company, it was known there was a $1.2 billion note that was coming due in January 2019. So, in a way, it's not that surprising that foreign officials might identify that. But that becomes a red flag and a security clearance process.
COOPER: It's also remarkable because pretty much all of these countries are in the portfolio of things that Jared Kushner is allegedly working on for this administration. In Middle East peace, obviously, they're -- if Israel is a, you know, looking at ways to manipulate him, Mexico, he arranged I think the president as a candidate going down to -- going down to Mexico and obviously other things in the Middle East.
HARRIS: That's right. These are very much squarely in his portfolio of issues. There's also -- China was one of these countries we understand that was talking about him and he is been a leading contact for the administration with Chinese officials. There's also another element to this which is that Jared Kushner was also having his own conversations with foreign officials, with people in other countries and was not reporting those in the normal channels to White House officials.
And then the national security adviser H.R. McMaster discovered this in the spring of last year and was quite taken aback, we're told that Kushner, was effectively he thought maybe freelancing foreign policy and they had to kind of have a meeting of the minds where Jared would agree to inform the national security adviser about these conversations he was having. Those conversations we understand became an impediment to him getting a final security clearance. That's a very significant piece of what was going on in his more than year-long attempt to get that clearance.
COOPER: And I remember the reporting -- I think was last week or so and I can't remember was "Washington Post" or "New York Times" but that Kushner was meeting for instance with the Chinese ambassador one on one without having any other career diplomats or China experts on hand to even take notes.
HARRIS: Right. And there's been some excellent reporting on this in "The New Yorker" as well.
COOPER: That's where it was, yes.
HARRIS: Right. Yes, this case the Jared was essentially kind of having these meetings on his own without notifying people in proper channels.
[20:05:02] Now, look, it's perfectly customary for a senior adviser to the president to have these kinds of high-level meetings. What's very unusual though is for that person not to get some kind of briefing from experts and people in the intelligence community about the person that you're about to meet with and then to not debrief about what was said after that meeting.
As a senior advisor to the president, he is supposed to be keeping everyone in the White House in the loop on these issues so that there is a unified policy, a unified response and so frankly the Jared Kushner knows that he's not getting played. I mean a lot of these briefings are done to tell people, here's what this officials going to try to tell you, but here's what we really know they're up to, and then maybe they're misleading you.
COOPER: Shane Harris, fascinating reporting for "The Washington Post" -- thanks very much.
COOPER: Plenty to talk about and a panel to match. Joining us is Carrie Cordero, Michael Zeldin, Phil Mudd and Carl Bernstein.
Phil, I mean, the downgrade of Kushner's security clearance coupled with the reporting for "The Washington Post", do you believe he is even qualified to have any security clearance at this point?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: There's technical issues and there's a broader issue that you raise. The technical issues, he can't see intercepted communications. That top -- that's top secret. He's now downgraded a secret.
He can't see the most secret CIA information about their informants. A lot of CIA information is secret. The most sensitive stuff is top secret.
Let me be even clearer, Anderson, he can't see some of the stuff our Western allies see. They see top-secret stuff he can't.
Let me give you what the final question. When you walk into a meeting in the West Wing in the Situation Room and the national security adviser, the vice president, the president and the chair and you're having a conversation, what are you supposed to say if you're the CIA or the NSA director or the secretary of state? You've got to leave the room when the conversation goes top secret? I don't know how you conduct a conversation in the West Wing with
somebody who doesn't have a top secret clearance when you have to ask a question every time the conversation turns to something that's really sensitive.
COOPER: Carrie, I mean, our Pamela Brown was reporting earlier that the FBI expects to have the investigation to Kushner's background wrapped up in about a month. So, I mean, is there any chance this downgrade is just temporary, that once the FBI finishes its work, the president can just say, look, I've received the FBI report, I'm still giving Jared cushion the highest clearance? I mean, it's basically up to the president, up to the White House, no?
CARRIE CORDERO, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It is. It's up to the president and there's sort of two outcomes, so either the FBI can complete its investigation and I think they're giving a timetable because Chief of Staff Kelly is requiring a timetable for when these will be completed. So either they could complete it and the recommendation is negative, their recommendation is based on the information that they've developed in their background investigation, they don't recommend a clearance and then the decision that gets to the White House, the president -- Chief of Staff Kelly and, ultimately, the president whether or not to grant it, or they come back and they say, you know, we've completed our investigation and now we're comfortable with it.
Given the time that has gone on and given particularly the financial entanglements that they have -- that he has in the foreign interest, I tend to think that if they were going to clear him by now that the FBI would have. And so, I tend to think that another few weeks of investigation is not necessarily going to provide the answer that the White House wants.
COOPER: Carl, it's not like the president hasn't disregarded the FBI before. They didn't want the Nunes memo out there. He overruled them. I mean, he could very well just hand Jared Kushner, the president's daily brief every single day if you wanted to.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITCAL ANALYST: Absolutely. He has the right to and he might well. There's a subtext though to all these stories coming together at once, and that is as is known to the president of the United States and to officials throughout the White House, Jared Kushner is in the crosshairs of special prosecutor Mueller's investigation which is focused in part on Jared Kushner like a laser.
And there is every expectation in the White House and among lawyers who are representing other people in Mueller's investigation that Jared Kushner has many, many strikes lining up against him in the Mueller investigation. And the subtext here is that part of the things that have led to the rejection of his being eligible for a security clearance are also part of Mueller's investigation, particular aspects -- particularly aspects that have to do with perhaps monetizing his position in the White House during the transition, trying to shore up his failing business enterprises while at the same time doing business on behalf of the Trump administration.
This is serious business and Mueller and a task force in Mueller's operation is looking at just those questions.
COOPER: So, Michael, I mean, how worried should Jared Kushner be about where the Mueller investigation is going with this?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT DOJ: Well, as Carl says, he really is in the epicenter of a lot of the issues that Mueller seems to have under investigation with respect to the so-called collusion investigation. Jarrett was in the June 9th Trump Tower meeting with respect to these conflicts of interest, the private business versus the state business.
[20:10:01] Remember the meeting that Jared held with VEB Bank back in December of 2017. This raised the same issues that "The Washington Post" is reporting. VEB Bank, remember, said Jared met with us on private business.
Jarrett and the White House said, no, no, it was official business. So, we're getting this blurring of behavior by Jared Kushner in his private and public roles.
So, I think that that's something that Mueller has to look at in the context of his counterintelligence investigations.
There are a couple of streams here that Jarrett is in the center of. That's not to say he did anything wrong by any means. I'm not -- I'm not suggesting that, but I'm just saying as a person of interest to Mueller, he arises in a lot of these particularly important issues.
COOEPR: Yes, it's a very busy night. We've got a lot to get to including White House reaction to Jared Kushner security downgrade.
And later, another member of the inner circle, Hope Hicks, and her testimony today before the House Intelligence Committee. What she talks about and perhaps more importantly, what she refused to. We have to -- the take of a congressman on the committee ahead on 360.
COOPER: At the White House tonight, more turmoil with the disclosure the President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is not going to receive a top security clearance, a top secret security clearance.
Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is there.
[20:15:02] What's the White House said and what they -- what haven't they said about the security clearance?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they've been very secretive about this. We've heard a number of spokespersons over here at the White House say that they're not going to get into the security clearance issue and just how all of this went down. But, Anderson, I just spoke with a senior administration official in the last several minutes who essentially broke this down in terms of how White House officials were notified.
We should point out, it's not just Jared Kushner who is being impacted in 2all of this and seeing his security clearance status downgraded over here at the White House. I'm told by the senior administration official that the word went out to employees on Friday individually employee by employee if that individual was in a situation where their security clearance needed to be downgraded from top secret to secret.
And according to this senior administration official, if somebody is in a sensitive area, it could be more impactful. Meaning, if people were working in the National Security Council's office for example and had their security clearance downgraded from top secret to secret, that that could have a major impact on the ability for that person to do their job.
And so, Anderson, you know, while it's important and critical that the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner who's obviously involved in some important things over here at the White House, like Middle East peace, obviously, there's an impact there when it comes to Jared Kushner. But I'm told by the senior administration official that there is a number of employees over here at the White House, this person couldn't put a number on it, who were told were told on Friday individually, person-by-person, that their security clearance was being downgraded and that is going to have an impact on some jobs over here.
COOPER: Do we know -- I mean do some of the White House consider this a win for Chief of Staff Kelly?
ACOSTA: I am hearing from some sources that that is the case. I talked to one source close to the White House earlier today who described this as humiliating for Jared Kushner, that he is not going to have access to a lot of important meetings over here and as, you know, Anderson, access is power, access is influence over here at the White House, even when you are the president's son-in-law.
And there was another source close to the White House who I spoke with earlier today who said that General Kelly essentially undercut Jared Kushner's ability to do his job in that job being essentially an envoy to the Middle East peace process. This person was raising the question -- well, you know how could Jared Kushner be involved in top secret meetings, received top-secret information about that process if he doesn't have the clearance to do so -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Back now with our panel.
Phil, based on what we know about the president's past treatment of the FBI, do you believe he'll accept their final recommendation on Kushner's security clearance?
MUDD: That is one of the most interesting questions here. Let's break that down in two ways, he could tomorrow say, look, when we have conversations in the Oval Office, I want Jared Kushner there, I don't care whether it's top secret or not.
Here's the risk, if you get a call from the White House and we know this happen, if you get a call from the White House -- to the White House from the deputy attorney general who says we cannot close out the clearance, that deputy attorney general not only knows what's going on with the clearance process, he presumably, that's Rod Rosenstein has some insight into the -- into the Mueller investigation.
What he's telling the White House is, we've got a significant problem here. My point is, if they -- if the president allows Kushner to remain in some of these briefings, he risks a month, two months, three months down the road the special counsel coming in and saying, by the way, we now have an indictment on Jared Kushner and you guys allowed him to maintain clearance and meetings at the same time that we warned you we had problems. That's the risk here, Anderson.
COOPER: Look -- I mean, Carrie, can Kushner even do his job if he doesn't have the highest level security clearance? I mean, he's supposed to be the president's point man you know a Middle East, China, other things.
CORDERO: When it comes to things like negotiating with foreign partners and your international counterparts, I really don't see how he could do an effective job without being able to receive top-secret briefings. The fact of the matter is that anybody working in the national security space who is working with the intelligence community, which somebody who is conducting diplomatic activities is doing because they would need to be briefed by the intelligence community in order to inform their work, they have to have access to top-secret information.
And there's no way that at that high level of government that you can conduct meetings by bifurcating secret level information and top- secret level information. And the bigger point, Anderson, is that the reason that his clearance matters and the reason whether the foundation for his clearance not being granted has to do with financial issues is whether or not when he's in those meetings with foreign counterparts, he's conducting activities on behalf of the United States, in the United States' interest, versus in some private financial personal family or business reason.
[20:20:00] COOPER: You know, Carl, I think back to the election and to the campaign and two of the things that all Trump talked about so much was, you know, I always hired the best people, the most qualified people, the smartest people, and also his huge attack against Hillary Clinton was that she had, you know, mishandled classified information on emails using a private server. He's got now a White House full of people including in his inner circle who can't get a top secret, you know, code word security clearance.
It's -- you're absolutely right but in the case of Kushner, it's clear that he has violated security protocols. He has failed to tell the director of national -- of national security about his secret meetings with foreign leaders. That's one of the reasons that McMaster became so upset.
We have a situation here really with a rogue son-in-law of the president of the United States that nobody except perhaps the special prosecutor and perhaps the president of the United States knows really what the hell he has been up to. And one of the reasons that I am told by numerous people in the White House and lawyers involved in the case that President Trump is in such a rage and continues to rail that he wants to fire Rosenstein, fire Mueller, fire the special prosecutor, shut this investigation down, keep saying and reason is that his family and his own finances are under investigation.
And at the heart of part of what Mueller is looking at and Mueller according to people who had been questioned by Mueller's task forces is his prosecutors are indicating some real serious problems with the Trump Organization and the Trump family's financial disclosures.
COOPER: Yes. Michael, I mean, "The Washington Post" broke a story last April that read in part, the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel on a communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.
Are you suspicious about any UAE connection here?
ZELDIN: Well, I think that you have to look at all of the countries that have interests in Trump and cushion of properties and how they may be looking to leverage that need for financing. Remember, VEB Bank, which we talked about in the last segment helped fund one of the Trump properties in Toronto. That's the bank that Kushner met with and also wanted to have back-channel conversations with.
So, there's a lot of stuff there. Carl alludes to it. He's further along than I am in my -- in my -- you know, thinking about whether or not there is a conspiracy and a collusive relationship. But there are certain -- some many things with Qatar and UAE and Russia and Israel, remember with respect to Israel in December 22, December 29th, Flynn and Kushner were talking to the Israelis and the Egyptians about U.N. votes and Palestinian territory settlements.
So, there's a lot of stuff that's going on here that you just can't sort out simply and that's why in some sense, we're lucky to have Mueller to sort it out because Congress surely isn't going to.
COOPER: Yes, we got to take another break --
BERNSTEIN: Anderson, let me just add here for a quick second.
COOPER: OK, Carl, go ahead.
BERNSTEIN: We I don't know what Mueller -- we don't know what Mueller has and I don't know what Mueller has. But what we do know is that these areas are under serious investigation by him and it's why it is believed by those who are watching this so closely that his investigation needs to go on unfettered.
I've got to take a quick break.
All right. We're learning more about what appears to be a very big step in the Russia probe and it could directly affect the president. You'll only see it here, next.
[20:27:14] COOPER: Right now, a story you won't see anywhere else. A CNN exclusive on what and on whom special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be showing a strong interest in, namely, candidate Trump and his prior business dealings in Russia. The reporting which is going on right up until the air time involves a team of CNN professionals including our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, both of whom join us now.
So, Jim, what have you learned?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, Gloria, myself, Pamela Brown and Kara Scannell, we have been told that investigators for Robert Mueller been asking questions of witnesses about business activities of Donald Trump in Russia prior to the 2016 campaign, at a time when Mr. Trump was considering a run for the president. This is significant because it shows that Mueller's team is reaching beyond the campaign and checking into, at least exploring whether Russia was looking to influence Donald Trump in any way, at a time when he was both exploring business interests in Russia and considering this presidential run.
Now, to be clear, Robert Mueller's investigation is to focus on meddling in the election, as well as though we should note ties -- potential ties between Trump campaign associates and Russians and by remit and the other lines of inquiry that may come up as that investigation continues. Though as you know, Anderson, President Trump has claimed that anything that goes into Donald Trump's business dealings, his family's personal finances, et cetera, that he would consider as crossing out of the remit of the Mueller investigation.
COOPER: Gloria, in terms the kinds of questions that Mueller and his team are asking witnesses, do we know?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, these are very lengthy, wide-ranging interviews, but we've been told from sources who have been interviewed by Mueller that they were asking among other things when exactly Donald Trump decided to run for the presidency, how the Miss Universe pageant was financed, and also why two potential deals to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through.
We even spoke with one source who said that -- the source said that he was asked whether there were Russians hanging around the offices at Trump Tower, and the source said, no, there weren't any.
But it's very clear that the special counsel is sort of trying to figure out where Trump fits in his relationship with the Russians and how far back it goes and whether in fact they could have any leverage over him in any way, shape or form.
COOPER: Jim, I mean, I mean, are some of these questions sort of related to that the dossier at all in terms of some of the details that they were asking about, about trips to trips to Russia and also just because, I mean, I think it's important to make clear, just because they're asking questions about something doesn't mean they necessarily have information about it, they could just be sort of, you know, making sure they're there checking all the boxes.
SCIUTTO: That's a fair caveat. It's included in our story, that asking questions does not mean that the special counsel has or neared conclusions on these lines of inquiry. But they're align of inquiry because multiple sources tell us that a number of witnesses who've been asked questions along these lines.
And I should know beyond what Gloria mentioned, questions about business dealings, Trump Tower, et cetera. We know the witnesses have also been asked about the possibility or what they know about Russian claims to have compromising information on Donald Trump. But as you note, Anderson, that was one of the things mentioned in the Steele dossier which of course we should note that much of the information in there remains uncollaborated.
BORGER: And, you know, Anderson, to just add a little bit to what Jim is saying. These attorneys are not giving a way any secrets in these interviews. You know, the people we've spoken to are saying, you know, we're not sure where they are headed but some of them found it really interesting that they were asking these kinds of questions and they came to the conclusion that what the special counsel office is trying to do is just really figure out where this relationship between Donald Trump and the Russians is/or if there is one at all.
COOPER: It would also be interesting to know, Jim, how far back, you know, I mean you're saying the time frame on this is sort of around when Donald Trump was thinking about running for president business dealings around then. What would be interesting and also to know is how far back Mueller's interest in business dealings with Donald Trump go?
SCIUTTO: That's a fair question as well. To our knowledge these relate to events as far back as 2013, and 2014. The Ms. Universe pageant is one thing, Gloria mentioned including the story that's in 2013, 2014 there were still dealings attempt to the deal on a Trump Tower project in Moscow. So that carries you into area before the President had publicly announced or launched his campaign, but where sources tell us that the President was considering a presidential run.
COOPER: Yes. Jim, Gloria, thanks very much. I appreciate the reporting.
Back now with our panel. Phil, you heard that -- Phil, I'm wondering does it surprise you at all? How significant do you think it could be?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It doesn't surprise me. Look at the basics we've seen so far. We have a Mueller team including some of his subordinate lawyers who specialty is chasing money. We have initial indictment to Manafort and Gates that revolves around money including from Eastern Europe. We have an investigation into Jared Kushner that has to do with where his money connections and did he had money connections with people from the Middle East and elsewhere that left him vulnerable.
It seems almost inevitable that the Mueller teams says, OK, just key player here also a key real estate developer have money questions that are -- money relationships that are questionable. Let me cut to the chase, Anderson. This is not about whether somebody is a spy. This is not about whether somebody colluded with the Russians. This is about whether when somebody from Russia, for example, from that beauty pageant picks up the phone and calls and says, I want you to meet one of my friends do you take the call or not. And if you take the call is it because you have dirty money. That's what is going on here Anderson.
COOPER: Well, Phil, let me ask you because, you know, a lot of Trump supporters will say, we had one on -- seeing more last night on the program and who said, look, if Mueller is going back in the old business dealings he thinks that that's going back too far. And certainly the President has said that that would be a red line. So what do you say to those people? I mean, why would old business dealings play a potential role in collusion, if there is any or any kind of shady, you know, compromising position that Russia may have over somebody?
MUDD: Well, let me flip the question and this is not very complicated, if you walk into a room and you're investigating a burglary and you see a murder, and you're the FBI, what do you suppose to do and say we are suppose to investigate the burglary. In this the mandate as you've seen in the documentation initially that setup the Mueller campaign, the mandate was very broad. If they're investigating contacts with the Russians and they find financial irregularities Anderson, what are they supposed to say?
That's a federal legal violation and we choose to ignore it? They see something that's illegal violation, what are they suppose to do? I'd say investigate it, if it violates the law.
COOPER: Carl, the elephant in the room obviously in not just what Mueller might have on the President but what the Russians might have on the President. Again, we don't know, but Robert Mueller certainly would be eager to find that out.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He would be. But also as you just said, we don't know. But these same attorneys that Gloria and others, myself have talked about, some of them now have concluded that what Mueller is doing among other things is he is going to present a vast narrative, a report of the Trump family.
Donald Trump, President Trump, the Trump organization, Russia and the business dealings of the family, the organization, and the internecine dealings of those people Russians, ethno-Russians and how American policy, presidential policy might have been affected or might not be affected.
[20:35:19] Indeed, if it's Donald Trump keeps saying there is no there, there that there is no "collusion," meaning a conspiracy with Russians to undermine our electoral system, then Mueller will say so in such a vast narrative. But so far the indications we have from President Trump who keeps talking about a witch hunt and as we saw with his NSA director today saying that he hasn't been empowered to really go back with the Russians with cyber tools, the President of the United States seems absolutely oblivious to the danger here. And this is part of the narrative. It's all --
BERNSTEIN: -- fitting together in what Mueller is trying to do. But the extent of criminality we don't know.
COOPER: Carrie, I mean there's nothing inherently wrong or illegal for businessmen to be discussing potential deals in Russia and contemplating a run for the U.S. presidency at the same time. I mean legally where would this be problematic?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the issue is whether or not these business dealings have compromised him and whether or not his financial dealings in the past and whether he is in debt or whether he was saved from being in debt years ago whether that is influencing his role as president today.
So in other words, what Carl is talking about is the fact that it is now a fact that the Russians intended to influence the election. We know it from the intelligence committee reporting and we know it from the indictment that's been launched by the special counsel's office.
President of the United States refuses to acknowledge that fact that the Russians deliberately tried to influence the election and he is not directed any activity to counter that threat. That is a national security threat that he is not in my view conducting his actual role as president by ignoring it and not bringing the whole of government response to address it.
CORDERO: And so part of what the special counsel is trying to get at is why the President, A, tried to shut down this investigation multiple times. So part of it speaks to the potential obstruction angle. And, B, why from a foreign policy and national security perspective he continues to not address that issue and what is it about potentially prior financial dealings that might inform those decisions and his view.
COOPER: You know, Michael, I mean the whole idea that the President's family finances are beyond some red line, that seems to be moot, right? I mean clearly it seems Mueller is looking at the Trump organization dealings in Russians and the Trump organization is essentially the Trump family?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right. And I think what we saw when Rosenstein testified long ago was that Rosenstein said, he is in contact with Mueller and with respect to the mandate that says matters that may arise or a reason out of Mueller and Rosenstein talk and Mueller gets further clarification from Rosenstein about what to investigate and I've always thought we'd talk about it on air multiple times at this "money laundering, financial crimes" aspect of Trump's business is going to be on his plate, Mueller's plate. And I think in this reporting there are two things that are important to note.
One, in the dossier, Michael Cohen is referenced by Steele as having dealings with Trump Tower in Moscow. That's a source of contention that has to be investigated.
Secondly, with respect to the June 9th meeting those who sort of promoted the meeting are the Agalarovs. The Agalarovs and Trump go back to the Miss Universe -- the go back to the Miss Universe contest. And so you've got two connections right there that relate directly to Mueller's investigation.
ZELDIN: So he has to investigate these things.
COOPER: OK. I wan to thank everybody on the panel.
Hope Hicks one of the President's closes aides, it's been a along time on Capitol Hill today testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. The questions is, did she answer questions? We look into that, ahead.
[20:42:57] COOPER: Hope Hicks, one of the President's longest serving aides both during the campaign and of course at the White House spent a long day testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. There was a lot she did not say.
Joining me is Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the committee, who was there when Ms. Hicks testified.
Congressman, what can you tell us about what Hope Hicks said and what she didn't say?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today Anderson more bricks were put into the wall between a congressional investigation and what happened with the Trump campaign and Russia. We saw from Ms. Hicks a new assertion of privilege that we have never seen before and we also saw selective testimony and a refusal to answer a number of questions particularly that go to the credibility of the President and candidate Trump.
COOPER: You say new assertion of privilege that you haven't heard before, can you say what kind?
SWALWELL: Well, Ms. Hicks told us that the White House had told her that she was not allowed to talk about anything that has happened since the Election Day and that there's a limited amount of the transition that she would be allowed to talk about.
SWALWELL: None of this was helpful toward many other questions about the June 9th, 2016 meeting that took place at Trump Tower. And Ms. Hicks involvement and working with the President and his son in drafting the misleading statements that went out to public.
COOPER: So, I know Democrats requested the Republican issue, a subpoena for Hicks on the spot today but they decline. Did the Republican explain why they wouldn't grant the subpoena?
SWALWELL: No. We asked a number of times, Ranking Member Schiff asked and I asked during my questioning that Ms. Hicks just be threaded the same way that Mr. Bannon was threaded, which was ones he refused to answer questions. He was actually within an hour presented with the subpoena and then also brought back for additional questioning. That willingness was not shown, which I'm afraid to say, means that it was more likely that Republicans just wanted to punish a perceived political enemy of theirs and Mr. Bannon and not remain consistent with any witness in our investigation who doesn't want to be forthcoming.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, is there any appetite from the Republicans to issue a subpoena now and without a subpoena, I mean is there any way to compel her to answer questions?
[20:45:02] SWALWELL: None was shown today. And there's other witnesses who have, you know, invoked similar, you know, privileges that do not exist. Like Don Junior with the father son privilege that, because he told his father something he doesn't have to tell us or Attorney General Sessions, who was invoke a Department of Justice doesn't talk about what they say to the President privilege.
And then Roger Stone, of course, has refused to come back and tell us about conversations that he had with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. So there's a number of privileges that do not really relate to the law but really just -- are, you know, Trump family and organization privileges.
COOPER: Can you say if she said anything of interest or value to your investigation?
SWALWELL: Certainly. We learned a number of -- I think new pieces of evidence today that helped fill in the picture of what relationships were with the Trump campaign and Russia or people in Russia who were reaching out to the campaign.
But again, there is a lot of questions about what actions the President took after many of this was made public and whether you know, he sought to mislead the public in the statements that were put forward and she refused to give us any information on that on the grounds that the White House told her plainly she can't answer.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, obviously that's a critical meetings you already references. Just lastly, earlier today, you said that Jared Kushner should be sidelines to the White House but not fired. Now on the light of the Washington Post reporting, do you still think he should remain at the White House?
SWALWELL: Well, I think it's the President's prerogative to have anyone he wishes on his staff. Now, it's a difference though when that person has access to classify in information. So I think he should be sidelined from having access to any classified information. But I -- you know, I still believe, Anderson, I'm a purist when it comes to, you know, the different branches of government. If the President wants to be incompetent, unqualified people on his staff, that's his priority. I just don't think they should be allowed to test classified information until investigations have result.
COOPER: And even of foreign governments according to post including Israel and others are talking about ways to try to manipulate Kushner or, you know, use his business entanglements to their advantage.
SWALWELL: Well, again, it says more about the President and his judgments than anything else. I just -- You know, I don't believe that Mr. Kushner should go anywhere near classified information. I don't think the President should be involved in any decision that would allow him to have access to classify information.
COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, thanks. I appreciate it.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
COOPER: We'll going to have much more ahead, including conversation with the former independent counsel who President Trump is now siding to make his no collusion case. We'll talk to Ken Starr, next.
COOPER: Tonight's breaking news on Robert Mueller's apparent focus on Donald Trump's pre-campaign business dealings in Russia. Plus, all the Jared Kushner news today all appeared to signal what could be serious and substantial movement in the Mueller investigation.
At the same time, after a brief lull in which he went completely silent, President Trump came roaring back on Twitter today. Witch- hunt, he tweeted this morning, all caps, and sort of digital primal scream. And a familiar refrain, former Clinton Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr appeared Sunday on Fox News. And the President also tweeted out a passage from the interview "Judge Starr."
[20:50:16] The President tweeted, "We've seen no evidence of collusion. I've seen nothing. The firing of James Comey and all the aftermath that suggests the President has obstructed justice because he's exercising his power as the President of the U.S. I just don't see it."
Judge Starr joins us momentarily along with Jeff Toobin. Just briefly though, keep them honest, it is worth pointing out, we have not yet seen evidence of collusion or obstruction from Special Counsel Mueller for a very simple reason. A, there may not be any. But he is also not released anything on that and he is not talking.
He speaks through indictments and guilty pleas and there have been plenty, some for allegedly or admittedly lying to investigators about contacts with Russians. Thirteen alleging tampering by Russians in the campaign to help candidate Trump and/or just cause chaos. The Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein went after his way after that one to strongly suggest that these would not be the last indictments. And some of the language does as well. So to pick up on the President's notion, there have been a lot of real witches or allegedly real ones already and perhaps more to come. We're pleased that Judge Starr is with us as well as Jeffrey Toobin.
Can you definitively say you -- and what you've said, is I've seen no collusion, no evidence of collusion.
KEN STARR, LED INDEPENDENT COUNSEL INVESTIGATION ON PRESIDENT CLINTON: Right.
COOPER: Because the investigation is ongoing --
COOPER: -- even if there is, you would not have seen any evidence.
STARR: We don't know. We do not know what Bob Mueller knows. What we have seen thus far suggests to me an absence. And in fact, I think that the indictment that you mentioned, Anderson, of the 13 Russians and the three Russian companies is actually at this stage, at this stage, a contraindication, because this was a huge operation, lavishly financed, organized out of St. Petersburg, Russia. Very close to Vladimir Putin. It was organized by one of the oligarchs.
And I think this is essentially a shadow indictment of Vladimir Putin, who had a huge operation with -- there's no evidence of any collusion with any American campaign. There is some unwitting participation. I think that's an important word. The unwitting participation, which again suggests to me it's a contraindication that this was some kind of conspiracy with Trump Tower. But we'll see.
COOPER: But if in terms of building an investigation, there's no reason why Robert Mueller would show all his evidence and again, we don't know if there is or not, but would show everything at once. And he seems to be methodically building a case.
STARR: Bob Mueller is a total professional and one of the key things I think is for us to allow Bob Mueller to do his job, to get it done as promptly as he can, and he's moving with great efficiency, and I think he's moving with integrity.
COOPER: Do you believe that the President, because of his role, cannot be accused of -- cannot obstruct justice, that anything the President does is not obstruction of justice?
STARR: No, no. He could exercise his power such as in firing James Comey and so forth, and here I just have a different perspective than some of the people who say, oh, this is evidence of obstruction. I just disagree with it. And I disagree with it based upon Supreme Court precedent.
The Supreme Court has warned. Don't think everything is obstruction of justice. You can impede an investigation. You can say, I think I'm going to impede this investigation. I'm going to tell someone not to testify. And the Supreme Court has been absolutely clear with federal prosecutors, you're going too far.
And one of the prosecutors, who was still, he was going too far is Anthony Weissman on Bob Mueller's staff. That was yesteryear, but that is still the law of the land. And by the way, that was a unanimous Supreme Court saying, prosecutors, not everything is an obstruction of justice.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I want you to weigh in on what the Judge is saying.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I certainly agree that not everything is an obstruction of justice. But the idea that the President has the absolute power to fire the director of the FBI for any reason, for no reason, for a corrupt reason, if, for example, the -- someone deposited a suitcase full of cash on the direct -- on the Oval Office desk and said, please fire the FBI director because I don't want to be prosecuted. And then he fired the FBI director, would that be permissible too, Judge?
STARR: Absolutely not. Now, that is corruption and that's the key. That is the key word that everyone is bandying around. It is corrupt. It is a corrupt effort to interfere with the obstruction of justice. The -- and so exactly. I've been saying that all along. If there's any evidence of a payment or some sort of conspiracy with, let's say, Russians, we don't like this investigation, and we're going to enter into this business deal -- I'm speaking hypothetically. We're going to enter into this business deal, but you've got to get rid of Bob Mueller.
Then obviously, that is a corrupt motive to interfere. But the President has been so amazingly transparent, I don't like the investigation. I think it's hurting the country. It's deflecting attention and so forth. That doesn't sound to me like corruption.
[20:55:09] TOOBIN: But --
COOPER: Do you think -- go ahead, Jeff.
TOOBIN: But I mean, you testified famously and brilliantly, although I disagreed with it, that President Clinton could be impeached for obstruction of justice. But if the President -- if this President of the United States fires the FBI director because the FBI director is investigating him, that's not corruption like Bill Clinton engaged in corruption for lying in the grand jury or for telling Betty Currie to lie? Why aren't they both corrupt?
STARR: No. You're talking now about a very different venue. You're talking about impeachment. I'm talking about the crime of obstruction of justice, which is thus far being bandied about. It's not Bob Mueller's prerogative to determine what an impeachable offense is. I did have that responsibility as the independent counsel.
And so what we did was to bring the information to Congress's attention and we didn't say it's a crime. We said there's substantial and credible information. So the quarrel I have is, is this a courthouse activity? And I don't think it is, that is, I don't think there are crimes have been committed. Or is it something that for Congress to consider? And obviously, Congress has broad powers.
COOPER: -- because you praised Robert Mueller and you said you think the investigation should run its course.
COOPER: If, you know, the reporting we have tonight is that he is looking at financial dealings of then-candidate Trump and even citizen Trump when he was thinking about running for president. Is that -- do you believe that's fair in his purview because the President seems to think that's the red line?
STARR: Well, I don't know whether it's fair or not, but I do know this. Under the Special Counsel regulations under which Bob Mueller was reporter, there is a check and balance. Those were the criticisms in the independent counsel law. The view was there are not enough checks and balances. There's no accountability on the part of the independent counsel. Here there's a lots of accountability and that's the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, can in fact step it under the regulations and say you're not going to go there. I'm the one who is the deputy attorney general says this is a red line.
So the very fact, by the way, that the indictment against the Russians was announced by Rod Rosenstein, I think, is very powerful symbolically. It is reminding the country that he is the head of the Justice Department purpose of this investigation is in charge.
COOPER: Do you believe that this a witch -- do you believe that as President does, it's a witch hunt?
COOPER: You think it's a legitimate investigation?
STARR: These are -- Bob Mueller is a professional and I have great confidence in his integrity.
COOPER: Judge Ken Starr, I appreciate it. Thanks for being with us. Jeff Toobin as well.
STARR: You're welcome.
COOPER: A great deal ahead, the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner will not receive a top security clearance which may imperil his work at the White House. That and a lot more when we come back.