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Trump Campaign Aides in Touch with Russian Officials; White House on Two-State Solution; North Korea Takes on U.N. Threat; Trump Tweets about Clinton Campaign. Aired 8:30-9 ET

Aired February 15, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:32] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Multiple sources tell CNN that intercepted phone calls reveal associates of the president had repeated contact with Russian operatives during the presidential campaign. It's the latest in what has been a wild first four weeks of the Trump administration.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

Case in point, is that nefarious? Is that wrong? Is that illegal? We don't know to know is the box you would check on all three of those. But how the White House has mishandled it makes it a bigger deal, sloppy answers, not on the same page, fake answers. What's your take?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you're exactly right, Chris, we should stress, there has been no evidence put forward in any of these stories about these communications between Trump associates and Russian officials suggesting that it was coordination about the DNC hack or about Russia's clear desire to impact the American election. But then that begs the question that the White House, and quite frankly the president has to answer, which is why? Why were Trump associates in constant communication with Russian officials during the campaign? If it's not the worst case scenario, then answer the question to explain to the American people why that was the case. We know from our own reporting, you just had Jim Sciutto on, that President Trump was briefed on these constant communications. So answer the question as to why. But they have refused to do so thus far.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you just heard Phil Mudd, he took a stab at answering it. He says that with my FBI -- with his FBI background and his background in the intelligence agency, if he were in a political campaign, he, too, would have met with his counterparts in Russia, he, too, would have made overtures to them. I mean he -- he sort of dismissed -- he felt that we were, I think, it was more of a tempest in a teapot to him. He was saying, that is sort of standard operating practice. We don't know how often they met, but he was saying, we would have done that, too.

CUOMO: And yet it led to his resignation. So clearly the White House saw something in that. CAMEROTA: But that's because of the -- that he lied. I mean that -- what they keep saying is that he lied to the vice president, not because he talked to them.

CUOMO: He didn't lie. He didn't say he lied. He says -- he says that he misled some people with what he says. We don't even know -- I don't know that that's a lie.

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean we don't know all of the answers but it --

CHALIAN: But, Alisyn --


CHALIAN: Even if Phil Mudd's explanation is the explanation, shouldn't the White House and, quite frankly, the president deliver that explanation?

CAMEROTA: That would be helpful.

CHALIAN: I mean that's what -- that is what is confounding to me. I can understand that in a campaign you might have some associates who are preparing for a potential government should you win the election and making contact. But -- but if you are in constant communication with Russian officials -- as far as I know, there are no electoral votes available to a presidential candidate in Russia. So I don't --

[08:35:08] CAMEROTA: Well --

CHALIAN: There needs to be some stated explanation.

CUOMO: And, again, you know, in defense of the unknown, once again, we don't even know, except from investigators, that, yes, we were tracking these communications, yes it was a red flag to us. Why? Because of what was being discussed and how often there were discussions. So they went to the White House about it. But no connection to the hacking of the election. And yet the White House paralyzed with what to say about this, it seems to go to White House function as much as it does the substance of the allegations.

CHALIAN: Chris, I couldn't agree more. And now just step back for a moment. Look at the last four weeks. Other than the one day when they rolled out Judge Gorsuch, which was a pretty flawless Supreme Court nominee rollout, this White House has been consumed by these stories that are distracting from their core mission. I -- it is -- it is confounding to see just how ill prepared this White House is to be able to drive through its own message. It is -- it is besieged by controversy, by turmoil, both inside the West Wing and then in terms of the world events sort of placing itself on the president's desk. They can't seem to get out from under themselves.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, David. I mean I'm -- I'm heading off in about one minute to go in -- to Ohio to interview a panel of Trump supporters. We've had many of them here, dozens in our studio. So I can channel them somewhat. And they told me -- here's a quote -- it's like Christmas every day since he came into office. They feel that the things he's doing, the executive orders, the wall, the talking about immigration, all that stuff, they feel like he's -- it's working for them. I mean where you see chaos, they see that he's, you know, changing up the system.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt. People voted for disruption, they voted for an outsider, and I think there are two sides to that coin. But, Alisyn, the Trump White House and President Trump, as he himself said on election night, is not just supposed to be president for those that supported him. He's supposed to be president for the entire country.

CUOMO: True. And also I'm sure they didn't vote for the national security adviser to get thrown under the bus or resign in just a few weeks. I mean this is not helpful to anybody's reckoning of what progress was supposed to be here.

And that leads us into the next big event. You've got Bibi Netanyahu coming. The relationship with Israel is without parallel in U.S. foreign relations. Now word out of the White House that they may be moving away from two-state solution. That's been the line for America for decades. What's your take?

CHALIAN: Both parties, as you said, for decades, Republican and Democratic administrations. Again, this is one of those things, disrupt. Try something different. It hasn't been working. Put an outsider in there. I can get the appeal to that.

But, first of all, let's just note how astonishing it is that we -- we are talking about Netanyahu at the very end of this. That would normally be a lead story. But again, this white House is clearly distracted by other headlines.

But if you are now leaning into -- or leaning away from, I should say, a two-state solution, you are throwing out just years and years of American policy as it relates to the Mideast. As you know, Donald Trump said Jared Kushner is the one that is going to be able to get a Mideast peace deal if anybody can. If it is no longer about a two- state solution, they're basically going to have to start over about how they're going to create peace in the Middle East if that is no longer the policy.

CAMEROTA: It will be very interesting to watch what happens at noon today during that press conference.

David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: All right, President Trump is tweeting. That's no surprise. But he's saying something that's interesting, that reports about his campaign adviser's communication with Russian operatives is simply a cover-up for Hillary Clinton's campaign mistakes. Does that have any basis in fact or reason? We're going to put the questions to one of her top campaign aides. Is this all about her and the hangover, next.


[08:43:06] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Multiple sources telling CNN, top Trump advisers for the president repeatedly contacted Russian operatives during the presidential campaign. Sources say the aides included then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and ousted former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The question of why is still unanswered.

President Trump will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time today at the White House. The Trump administration now saying it will no longer insist on a two-state solution for Mideast peace.

A man who thought he was protected by the Dream Act arrested near Seattle by immigration officials. The man brought to America when he was seven is now threatened with deportation. Authorities accuse him of being in a gang. His lawyers deny that.

The FAA now investigating actor Harrison Ford's near miss at an airport in southern California. His small plane cleared to land on a runway Monday, but he landed on a parallel taxiway, flying dangerously over a passenger jet. Luckily, no one hurt.

A German shepherd winning best in show at the Westminster Dog Show. Rumor finished runner up last year and defeated nearly 3,000 other dogs last night to take home top honors. I believe it's only the second time the popular breed has won.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest. That's what we have on that.

Now, President Trump calling Russia ties, quote, "nonsense," slamming Hillary Clinton's campaign on Twitter. Is that just a distraction, or is there a connection? A Clinton top aide responds, next.


[08:48:24] CUOMO: All right, we have new details for you emerging about North Korea's ballistic missile launch over the weekend as government officials take on threats from the United Nations. CNN's Will Ripley is in North Korea. He filed this report.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in North Korea, people are celebrating this country's latest successful missile launch. This new kind of missile that North Korea says will dramatically improve their ability to launch a surprise attack, as opposed to previous missiles that were able to be detected from spy satellites. The key difference here is that this missile is -- it uses solid fuel, so it can be hidden under ground, loaded onto a mobile missile launcher and then launched relatively quickly without detection.

Now, this -- this -- the missile itself is actually similar in design to a submarine launched ballistic missile that North Korea successfully tested around six months ago. At that time we're told that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered scientists to take that submarine launched ballistic missile and convert it into something that they could use on land, and that is what we have now seen happen. Apparently, according to government officials who I've met with here, technicians and scientists have been working around the clock for the last six months to make this happen.

And when I ask them about the threat from the United Nations of heightened sanctions and continued international condemnation as a result of this with even China weighing in condemning this launch, along with Japan, the United States, South Korea and many other countries, the response is, this is a country that has lived under heavy sanctions for many years, especially since 2006 after this country's first nuclear test. There have now been five nuclear tests, three of them ordered by Kim Jong-un, two of them just in the last year alone, along with more than 20 missile launches.

[08:50:12] And when I asked people if they feel the isolation of their country is worth it, the fact that there is no access to outside Internet, no way to make phone calls outside of the country, most people can't travel outside of North Korea unless they are particularly privileged individuals in this society, they answer that the sacrifices are worth it. They say that they would rather go hungry than risk what they feel is an invasion, the imminent threat of invasion from the United States. That's what their government tells them. That's why their government justifies spending a tremendous amount of its limited resources on continuing to develop these weapons.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CUOMO: A scary situation when propaganda is the only message being given to the people there.

All right, so, President Trump's been tweeting this morning. That's not unusual. But he's making an interesting connection for all of you. "The Russian connection nonsense is merely an attempt to cover up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."

Joining us now, former press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Brian Fallon.

A slap to the nose is what you get from the president of the United States. The implication is clear that friendlies from the left are going after him because they're sore that he whooped your butt. What do you make of that allegation?

BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR HILLARY CLINTON: It's nonsense. It's an attempt to distract, Chris, from very serious allegations that are just the latest shoe to drop in what is becoming an unraveling narrative for the Trump campaign that really threatens the legitimacy of his election. And, look, I think that back during the fall, when we were trying to raise the alarm bells about this, we were constantly sort of scoffed at. Initially we said when the DNC was hacked and John Podesta was hacked, well, this looks to be the work of the Russians. And people suggested that that was probably an exaggeration. And then it took 17 U.S. intelligence agencies coming out and unanimously saying it was the Russians.

Then you heard Trump partisans try to say, well, this was just an attempt to sew confusion. It probably wasn't trying to tip the scales for Donald Trump. And then it came out after the election that it was the judgement of the U.S. intelligence agencies that it was indeed to help Trump. And then they said, well, but that doesn't prove that there was any coordination because there's no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. And Donald Trump himself, in January, said that no one from his campaign ever spoke to them. And now we learn that, yes, there was steady contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. And so now they're trying to say, well, we don't know yet that they were actually talking about the hacks. Well, maybe that will be the next shoe to drop in a couple days or so.

CUOMO: All right, Look, you are not wrong to dangle what's going on with the Trump administration and Russia because, in fact, point of fact, we do not know. And those are some of the big questions that are fueling curiosity about Mike Flynn's resignation --

FALLON: Right.

CUOMO: Or was it a political move on him. There's no question about that. But, one, the intelligence communities thus far have been consistent in saying, we have drawn no connection between anything that the Trump people were doing or saying and those hacks. They -- they are -- they make it intentional to let us know that, that they don't have any connection yet. And, second, does Trump have a political point where you guys are concerned, that you couldn't be a strong voice against him when it came to the integrity and this kind of stuff because you were compromised by the server and your own misleading statements and the own investigations into you and abroad, money and foreign donations into the foundation and all that other stuff?

FALLON: Well, look, I think that you raised a lot of issues that got a lot of attention during the campaign. And our complaint is that there wasn't equal attention on these far more serious allegations as they pertain to Donald Trump.

But, look, I'm not interested in trying to re-litigate the campaign. Donald Trump is president today and every day we're living with the consequences of that. I think we need to focus on what we do going forward. And there are two high-profile investigations afoot right now into the Trump connections with Russia. One is being mounted by the FBI. That's where this information is coming out of. But who sits atop the Justice Department? It's Jeff Sessions, who was a partisan in favor of Donald Trump, an adviser to his campaign. He needs to recuse himself for us to have any confidence that that investigation is going to be truly independent. Secondly, on Capitol Hill, we need a special committee, a select committee, that will hold open hearings, bring Michael Flynn in and let him testify in public and answer questions before the American people.

CUOMO: Doesn't look like that's going to happen. They want -- FALLON: We need it to.

CUOMO: They want to keep it with the intelligence community. You know, there was an interesting point made by Robby Mook, former campaign manager for Clinton, obviously, and he said, "I'd like the FBI to explain why they sent a letter about Clinton but not this."

Now, the simple answer to that question is that Comey had been brought before the Congress and had promised that he would update them on it, and that was his cover for doing so. But what is the larger point that you're -- that Robby Mook is making?

FALLON: Well, I think he's trying to make the point that, look, you had Democrats consistently speaking out and asking for more information about these allegations that were just starting to trickle out about Donald Trump and they were stonewalled. Harry Reid famously wrote a letter to Jim Comey saying, I've been briefed, I know that you have explosive information that would link Donald Trump to Russia, please come forward and speak out about it in the same way that you're speaking out about Hillary Clinton. Jim Comey, of course, didn't do that.

[08:55:21] But, look, the reason that we can't take -- give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt with all this is because all these contacts between representatives of his campaign and the Russian government were happening while Trump was displaying a troubling pattern of speaking out on Putin's behalf on any number of issues that are completely out of alignment with U.S. foreign policy. And also, if there was nothing to these interactions, if they were completely innocent and benign, why did the Trump campaign lie about them? Donald Trump was briefed about these contacts apparently by the FBI several weeks ago, and yet he came out and said that there weren't any contacts between his campaign and the Russians. And Sean Spicer reiterated that yesterday, just like they lied about the nature of Michael Flynn's conversations in late December with the Russian ambassador. So if these are all benign and can easily be explained, why are they covering them up?

CUOMO: Well, it is no small irony that Donald Trump is now being haunted by the same types of suggestions he made about Hillary Clinton and your campaign. We'll follow the facts, as always, see where they lead.

Brian Fallon, thank you for racing into the chair this morning to do this interview.

FALLON: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

FALLON: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman begins right after this short break.