Return to Transcripts main page
More Trump Advisers Disclose Russia Meetings; Attorney General Recuses Himself from Campaign Process; Sessions Don't Recall Discussing Campaign With Envoy; Sessions Should Have Acknowledged Meeting Envoy; IOC Warns Tokyo Golf Club; F1 Tests Tires On Track; Pelosi: Trump-Russia Investigation Warranted; Sessions Recuses Himself From Russian Investigation; Sessions: Should Have Acknowledged Meeting Envoy. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired March 3, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Isha Sesay live in Los Angeles.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: And I'm John Vause, just gone 10:00 p.m. here on the West Coast. Great to have you all with us. And we begin with breaking news on the Trump campaign's meetings with Russia, during the 2016 presidential race. A top campaign advisers says he and two others, met with Russia's U.S. Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the Republican National Convention last July. J.D. Gordon says, they stressed they would like to improve relations with Russia but did not discuss anything inappropriate.
SESAY: Meanwhile, The Senior Trump administration official says, the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, also met with the Russian Ambassador at Trump tower back in December.
VAUSE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will not be investigating any of the campaign's ties to Russia. He recused himself on Thursday, after disclosing his own meetings with Ambassador Kislyak last year.
SESAY: President Trump is defending Sessions saying this: "he did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now, they have lost their grip on reality." Here's what Sessions had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I never had any conversations about or, you know, or with the Russians about this campaign and putting them assisting in the campaign or anything like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, for more on Sessions' decision to recuse himself, here's CNN's Pamela Brown.
SESSIONS: I have recused myself in the matters, that deal with the Trump campaign.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Just three weeks into his job as the nation's top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing he is taking himself off of any investigations.
SESSIONS: Support and defend.
BROWN: Regarding Russia, after revelations that he failed to disclose two meetings he had with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. A man considered by U.S. intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies.
SESSIONS: Let me be clear, I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. And the idea that I was part of a, "continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false."
BROWN: The two meetings between Sessions and the Russian Ambassador, took place last year. First in July on the sidelines of the Republican Convention, and then again, on September 8th. When the Russian Ambassador met then Senator Sessions in his office when he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. At the time, Sessions was also a leading Trump campaign surrogate. At Session's hearing on January 10th, he denied any contacts between Trump surrogates and Russia.
AL FRANKEN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two, in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russian. And I'm unable to comment on it.
BROWN: Sessions, defending his answer.
SESSIONS: I was taken aback a little bit about this brand-new information, this allegation that the surrogates - and I had been called a surrogate for Donald Trump. Had been meeting continuously with Russian officials, and that's what I focused my answer on. In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.
BROWN: Last night, when news of the meetings with Russia's Ambassador broke, Justice officials, first said Sessions did not remember the details of the meetings. Then his spokesperson said, Sessions met with multiple foreign ambassadors in his role as a Senator on the Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump campaign surrogate. But a Justice official also acknowledged superficial comments about the election, did come up in those talks. And then, late last night in a written statement, Sessions denied holding meetings specifically with the purpose of discussing the 2016 campaign with the Russians saying, "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false." Still, some Democratic leaders are calling on Sessions to resign.
CHUCK SCHUMER, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW YORK: It would be better for country if he'd resign.
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES CONGRESSWOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: He has proved that he is unqualified and unfit, to serve in that position of trust.
[01:04:56] BROWN: And for context, it's not unusual for Attorneys General to recuse themselves from investigations. In fact, past Attorneys General have recused themselves multiple times during their tenure including President Obama's Attorney General for a time, Eric Holder. Typically, what would happen, is the Deputy Attorney General or U.S. Attorney, would then oversee the investigation. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.
SESAY: Well, joining us here in L.A.: California Talk Radio Host Ethan Bearman, California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel.
VAUSE: Also with us, CNN Legal Analyst and Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin, and former Assistant Chief Deputy with the U.S. Justice Department, Ron Bamieh. Thank you all for being with us. Areva, first to you, the question a lot of people asking especially the Democrat, did Jeff Sessions commit perjury?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, you know that, this came up earlier John, when we were talking about this in the 9:00 hour, and I went back to look at the transcript, because as a lawyer, I wanted to make sure I was accurate. And the transcript that's been reported about the question and the answer, is pretty clear. Jeff Sessions said, "I did not have communications with the Russians."
That's a blanket denial. You can't parse that. You can't distort that. You can't spin it. That's a denial, and now we know that was a false statement. It was a false statement made under oath, and the question now is, was it a willful false statement? And that's what the investigation in this perjury - potential perjury case would be about. Determining whether he willfully made that false statement because we now know the statement is false.
SESAY: Ron, to you, the fact that it took the reporting of the Washington Post for the Attorney General to come out and disclose that he had these two meetings, leads some to question his intention when those statements in those confirmation hearings.
RON BAMIEH, FORMER ASSISTANT CHIEF DEPUTY WITH THE U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Well, first of all, I disagree with the last comment. The statement referred to, was a statement that was referred based on campaign official's involvement with Russian people. It wasn't just, I had no contact with the Russians. It was answered, not contacts. Second, what we have is partisans going after the Attorney General. And, you know, when you mix law and politics together, you get bad results. It's kind of when you mix beer and tequila, you know, you can have a good time for a while but eventually, you pay a hell of a price. And what the Democrats are doing, unfortunately, to themselves is eventually they're going to pay a hell of a price. The American people want their issues resolved.
They don't want to talk about some trove about the election being hacked or, about Jeff Sessions maybe running into a guy at a campaign event. They don't want that. They want people to deal with the issues. And this issue is a red herring - it has been from the beginning, and anybody who looks to the transcript carefully, as we're told, somebody just did - would realize the answer was as on the campaign are you talking to the Russians? And the answer was: no, I wasn't talking to the Russians on the campaign. That's the way you would interpret that answer. So, there's not going to be a perjury investigation, because there's no perjury to be had when you look at the transcript.
VAUSE: Shawn, Russia has been such a major issue for this administration, you know, for the better part of a year. Why wasn't Sessions better prepared for what seem to be a pretty obvious question?
SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: It seems like, it would have been an obvious question. Obviously, he's been a very busy Senator. Most Senators see a whole lot of Ambassadors. I happen to know, Senators go to a lot of Ambassador's off parties, and receptions and so, that's part of the Washington parlance. And think that's a fair question. And I'm not a fan of the Russians, never have been. I'm a cold war anti-communist. I don't trust them.
Some people say that half the Russians in the embassy are spies. I think, probably, you - to go you have to be a spy. It's probably close to 100 percent. But ultimately, it's really not a big deal because I think you are getting a lot of - the Democrats are losing credibility. When they keep trying to find anything to try to pierce the armor, and it goes nowhere. You're going the cry wolf only so many times before it becomes a caricature. If I see Nancy Pelosi on anything anymore, I just - my brain automatically turns off and I'm not alone.
ETHAN BEARMAN, CALIFORNIA TALK RADIO HOST: Yes. So, we have a pattern that is happening. It's not only General Flynn, it's not only Attorney General Sessions. We have a pattern going on with Russia. We don't have the tax returns to even know if President Trump has entanglements in Russia, he refuses to release those. So, we have an issue of accountability, we also need to understand if the top law person in the United States actually knew what he was doing meeting with the top spy of the Russians in the United States? How do you not remember meeting with the known top spy of the Russians?
VAUSE: To Areva, to you, the defense of Jeff Sessions is that he just kind of misunderstood this question from Senator Al Franken, and he gave an incorrect answer. How could a lawyer, you know, a man who is a Senator also, you know, actually at one point was considered to be a judge, how could he, under oath, be so imprecise with his words?
[01:09:44] MARTIN: Yes. That's what is so troubling about the story, John. And it's really troubling to me too, that GOP operatives, and members of the party, want to dismiss this. We're not talking about some low-level official, we're talking about the top cop of the United States of America. Who we all should be able to look to, to be a person of integrity, to be a person above reproach. And if he makes a false statement under oath to a Senate Confirmation Hearing, what does that speak to, as we say, to other people who'll become come before that Senate Confirmation Hearing?
I think he needs to be held accountable. He has called on other Attorney Generals to be held accountable. With respect to Loretta Lynch, we know he voted to convict former President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. So, he is not above the law, and he's not above reproach, and he should be held accountable in the same way that anyone else that goes before Senate Confirmation Hearing, and makes a blanket denial which turns out to be false.
SESAY: Ron, to that point, about the standing of the Attorney General, what are the long-term implications here, as you see it?
BAMIEH: Well, I think the long-term implications are this: is there any proof that there was any involvement with the Trump campaign and the Russians? The reality is, we've seen zero. And unless that link is made, this means nothing. And in terms of people like - called the top spy of Russia, did you see a picture of that guy? Does he look like 007? The top spy? Where did that come from? We're taking these exaggerations and trying to make this link - to try to make link to this guy that doesn't exist. We're trying to make these links that, oh my God, he committed perjury. No, he didn't.
That's anybody who's ever prosecuted perjury or defended perjury knows he didn't commit perjury. Oh, wait, wait, wait, it's a top Russian spy. Well, there's no link to that. There's no proof of that. These are the type of statements that are going to get the Democrats and the country, frankly, in trouble. So, I don't think Attorney General Sessions has a problem here.
VAUSE: But when he released - well, if he doesn't have problem, why did he recuse himself from the investigation?
BAMIEH: Well, recusal is not an admission that you did anything wrong. You recuse yourself whether any appearance of impropriety. And so, if there's any appearance of impropriety, you take the cautious thing to do, the conservative thing to do is to recuse yourself. That's what any prosecutor who's ever had a case would do. And that's what he did, that's what he said he was advised to do. And that's something he's been thinking about he says now for, what, three weeks he said. MARTIN: Well, that's a very kind way to spin that. The reality is,
he recused himself because, John, because he was under tremendous pressure both from Democrats and members of his own party. Because once the story broke in contrary to what the panel has sustained about this is nonsense, nobody cares, we've been talking about this for 18 hours, pretty much on every network in the United States. People do care about this. People do care that intelligence information provided by our own United States intelligence is being ignored by the Trump administration. We're not calling the Ambassador a spy. That's information coming from our Intelligence Department, which the GOP party is look and completely ignoring because if they were to take it seriously, they'd have to answer questions about Russia, and the ties that this Trump administration has to Russian officials.
BAMIEH: The mistake you're making is just because somebody is screaming, doesn't mean anyone's listening. That's all is happening right now.
SESAY: Let me go to Ethan here. The very fact that we have been talking about this story for all these hours as a highlight. You're going to ask a question why wasn't the White House better prepared?
BEARMAN: Well, that's a great question. I think that they didn't know. I think we had the problem going back to the campaign of a President, who doesn't want to attend intelligence briefings. So, we have an issue here, the Intelligence Community knows this was going on. They're listening in on every single conversation involved with known or suspected spies in the first place. And here we had, the now Attorney General meeting, again, with what they called the top spy in the United States. They should have known, they should have been better prepared, and I would say that this is the issue of not listening to the Intelligence Community. This is the previous administrations having this problem, this administration is having this problem.
VAUSE: Shawn, there are 27 members, I think, on the Armed Services Committee of which Jeff Sessions was a member as a Senator. He was the only one to meet with the Russian Ambassador last year. Why was that?
STEEL: You know what, I haven't checked their schedules, but here's one this I do know -
VAUSE: Does that look little odd or suspicious?
STEEL: No, actually. It's a random fact. Which I have of President Obama, December 13th, made a clear statement - fully statement that the Russians had nothing to do with the general election getting Hillary, or hurting Hillary, or helping Trump. Now, he did this with the vast array of all the Intelligence Agencies that he's put his people in for the last eight years. He made a clear cut - the Democrats have completely forgotten that. If anybody had the intelligence, if anybody has the that there was a connection between the Russians and the Trump campaign, it would have been Obama. Now we see these leaks coming out from many of Obama's people. VAUSE: I think he's saying that there was a direct impact under the
out voting in the actually making of this sort of voting. But we'll leave it there. Time for a short break.
SESAY: Thank you so much, everyone.
VAUSE: Areva and Ron, thank you very much for being with us. Shawn and Ethan, we'll come back next break.
[01:14:34] SESAY: OK. Next on NEWSROOM L.A. The Russian envoy who spoke to Jeff Sessions is said to be a top Kremlin spy, you've heard that. How Moscow is reacting for the allegation, just ahead.
[01:16:24] PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Patrick Snell with your CNN WORLD SPORT headlines. The International Olympic Committee warning they will move the Tokyo 2020 Golf Tournament from the current venue if the club doesn't change its policy on female members. Kasumigaskei Country Club scheduled to host the competition but currently doesn't allow women to become full members. The club board members have yet to make a decision but changing the policy. IOC Vice President John Coates remains hopeful the event won't need to change venues but has warned time is running out for the decision to be made.
In F1 news, Thursday seeing Lewis Hamilton and his team call an early end to the day in the final day of testing for F1 drivers. The Brit, failing to get on the track in the morning after an apparent electrical problem. Drivers who did make it out on the track testing out the new Pirelli into medium compound ties off the track was artificially down. Contrary, Kimi Raikkonnen, for the record, for the best time of the day.
And finally, with the ever increasing drama surrounded the race for this seasons Primeira Liga crown in Spain, third place Sevilla, looking to keep pace with Barcelona and Real Madrid on Thursday and they would do just that hosting Bilbao. Vicente Iborra striking in the 14th minute of the game. That is all they would need, winning 1- 0. They close really putting up the pressure on the leaders. By the way, it's Barcelona who have a one-point advantage right now over Real Madrid last (INAUDIBLE) and the defending Champs. That's a look at your WORLD SPORTS Headlines, I'm Patrick Snell.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. The Russian Ambassador at the center of the Jeff Sessions controversy is seen as a top Russian spy by U.S. intelligence. This according to the current and former Senior U.S. officials.
SESAY: Russia has been pushing back after that allegation. Here's what a Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman said earlier to CNN's Matthew Chance.
MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: I mean, Mr. Kislyak is a well-known, I mean, world-class diplomat who was a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia, who has communicated with his American colleagues for decades on different fields. And CNN accused him on being a Russian spy - a recruiting spy. Oh my, God.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was U.S. officials.
ZAKHAROVA: Come on. Stop, stop spreading lie and false news. This is a good advice for CNN.
CHANCE: Are you concerned that the investigations into Russia are going to turn up more secret meetings?
ZAKHAROVA: Please, stop spreading lie and false news.
SESAY: Well, for more on Russia's reaction, International Diplomat Editor, Nic Robertson joins us now from Moscow. Nic clearly, outrage from that Russian official there. But there's a bigger issue. Where does all of this leave any attempts by this current administration to reset relations with Russia?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMAT EDITOR: Well, if anything, this is going to look like a reset, isn't it? Because there's so much going on in Washington at the moment that involves Russia in a negative way. And this is what Dmitry Peskov, the President Putin Spokesman here allotted to yesterday. He said it's an emotionally charged atmosphere that we can't judge the situation until it settles down, until it sort of normalizes. But the reality is that the window of opportunity, that sort of window of a -- of a bigger change in the relationship between the White House and the Kremlin that Trump and both Putin had sort of created a space for. That, that window is closing.
The Russians are not saying it's closed. They are saying that they will work with the United States where there are areas of common interest. This is something that President Trump has said as well. But the reality is this sort of way that Russia is getting in the headlines in the United States is very negative. That it's not going to help either side reach across the divide.
You know, the relationship has been described at the moment as the worst since the Cold War and absent of a meeting between Putin and President Trump. Then it seems hard to imagine how to reset that. And the political mood, the political will even, at the moment, just really seems to be on hold. I don't think we should rule it out. That's the Kremlin's view not to rule it out.
But at the moment, everything about the Russian Ambassador, every conversation he had with anyone close to the Trump campaign, close to the Trump Administration during that period prior to the inauguration, so much scrutiny and it doesn't -- and it seems as if we're not over yet. And certainly, the frustration, we're frightened by the Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova.
[01:21:05] SESAY: Indeed. They're from CNN International Diplomatic Editor, joining us there from Moscow. Appreciate it, thank you.
VAUSE: Well, joining us once again here in Los Angeles. California Talk Radio Host, Ethan Berman.
SESAY: Also California Republican National Committeeman, Shawn Steel and Attorney Sara Azari.
VAUSE: Thanks again for being with us. We have more than 100 Congressional Democrats, Jeff Sessions actually step down. I'm sorry Shawn but you are going to have to listen to Nancy Pelosi tomorrow in the house. This is what she said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE MINORITY LEADER: An investigation will take us to the next place, but an investigation of those charges -- of those actions is definitely warranted. Definitely warranted. I remind you that this Congress impeached a President for something so far less having nothing to do with his duties as President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So Sara, to you, is Nancy Pelosi right? What are the differences here between Bill Clinton lying under oath and Jeff Sessions lying under oath?
SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, look, lying under oath is the crime of perjury. It doesn't matter what you're lying about. But the issue is that this man, Jeff Sessions, was the same person who at the time Bill Clinton came before the Senate in 1999 for, you know, sexual misconduct involving Monica Lewinsky, this same individual said that he's lying, it's perjury, he needs to be removed from office and he needs to be prosecuted.
For somebody who has been a U.S. Attorney before, I think it was the US Attorney of Alabama, that's a very heavy thing to say about the President. That means he's going to be prosecuted criminally and there's going to be a trial, he might be found guilty and then he gets to go to prison for up to five years. So, this person set that standard. So, it doesn't matter what you're lying about. And if I may, the misconduct we're talking about here is treason.
It has to do with National Security. It's extremely serious. It has nothing to do with oral copulation and somebody's personal life.
SESAY: Ethan, to bring you in. The Democrats clearly seeing an opening here. Are they overplaying their hand?
BEARMAN: I don't think they are overplaying their hand. I mean, there is a legitimate problem that has transpired here. We have a sitting Attorney General, who during his confirmation hearing under oath at the Senate Judiciary Committee, said two things that are lies. They're factually untrue. That is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. And I don't care. The party label next to it, for the Democrats have every right to take advantage of it just like the Republicans would if it was a Democrat.
VAUSE: Hold now, Shawn. This is how Jeff Sessions defended his incorrect answer to Al Franken, the Senator, during that confirmation hearing about his contact with Russian officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: My reply to the question of Senator Franken, was honest and correct as I understood it at that time. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: As I understood it at that time. So, Shawn, if you're saying to parse your words like that, does that mean you are in some big league trouble?
STEEL: Actually, no big league trouble. Because the whole thing is a big nothing. What's truly ironic is that the Democrats for 60 years, have really never been particularly tough on Russia. And to see them in this new glorious enterprise of theirs, the rebirth of understanding how bad the Russian machine and the state and basically Russians during inconvenience, actually gladdening to the heart. But it's all nasty, low level, stupid, embarrassing politics and this whole entire experience. It's going to be quickly forgotten.
BEARMAN: For an Attorney General?
STEEL: In 30 days - no.
BEARMAN: Under oath, saying something that wasn't factually true.
STELL: No, it was hours of questions. And he forgot that he had a meeting with an Ambassador in his office.
AZARI: How do you forget something like that?
STEEL: Next time, I want you to be with the Senator, see what they go through on a daily basis. They have all -- could've have
BEARMAN: The Ambassador of maybe our number two.
AZARI: How can he forget Shawn?
STEEL: The Ambassador from England. That's a -- that's -
BEARMAN: With our number two potential adversary, if you want to look at him in that way and the world -
STEEL: Actually, Russia's a (INAUDIBLE) jurist. If anything, what is said is this created a real problem for the Russians which act -- I don't mind at all because they have some nasty players and Putin's a nasty man. And if anything this is really backfired. If this was Russian plan to try and get close to Trump, it's really gone badly. And I predict in the Russian Secret Service had to roll.
[01:25:25] SESAY: Sara, how long will the President stand by Jeff Sessions?
AZARI: I'm sorry, say it again. I didn't hear you.
SESAY: How long will the President stand by Jeff Sessions?
AZARI: Well, I think as long -- I think everything right now is going as long as it possibly can, much like I think, Jeff Sessions waited a while before he recused himself. I think he's going to stand by him until, you know, we can prove that he absolutely, willfully perjured himself under oath. But you know, I think Senator Franken has asked for a written explanation from Jeff Sessions explaining what he -- why he misstated. What is the misunderstanding here? Because that's essentially what Jeff Sessions' saying. So, it will be interesting to see how he's going to explain this and I think depending on what that explanation is, then we'll probably hear from President Trump about this.
VAUSE: OK, and Sara, thank you for being with us. Ethan and Shawn as well. Good discussion. I appreciate it, guys. We'll take a short break. When we come back, Republicans hammered Hillary Clinton for her private e-mails. And now, the Vice President, one of her biggest critics, may actually caught up in his own private e-mail scandal.
[01:30:18] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Los Angeles, where it is 10:30 on Thursday night.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay.
We are following breaking news for you.
SESAY: And then there's this. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly used a private e-mail account to conduct official business as governor of Indiana.
VAUSE: Joining us now, Seema Mehta, a political writer for the "Los Angeles Times" and "Variety" senior editor, Ted Johnson.
SESAY: And Trump supporter, Gina Loudoun, is in San Diego; and Democratic strategist, Matthew Littman, is here in Los Angeles.
Welcome to you all.
VAUSE: Let's start with newest controversy to hit the administration. It involves Vice President Mike Pence and the fact he used a private e-mail account when he was governor of Indiana, according to the "Indy Star" report. The story is there are concerns his e-mail account may have been hacked. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY COOK, REPORTER, INDY STAR: The vice president's office sent us a statement saying that Pence didn't break any laws and that's he complied with all Indiana laws regarding these records and, you know, they've also said that any comparison to Clinton is absurd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Gina to you, what is your response given how Pence was relentless over Hillary Clinton's private e-mails server and she didn't break any laws either.
GINA LOUDOUN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, he should have been relentless. There was an FBI investigation. 30,000 e-mails disappeared from what was an illegal server, a secret server. There's no comparison. Comparing what Hillary did to what Vice President Pence did is like comparing Watergate to a white picket fence or something. Hillary had an illegal server and she had been dealing with classified information. Mike Pence used an e-mail and wasn't dealing with classified information. You don't, as governor of Indiana. And so there really is no comparison here. This is a non-story. And I think it was just put out there sort of distract from the very high approval ratings. Your numbers are 57 percent across the board of the president's speech. I think that is what this is a reaction to.
SESAY: Matt, here's how the Brian Fallon, the former Clinton campaign spokesman, summed this up. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN FALLON, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Mike Pence used a personal e-mail for work purposes. He didn't hand over any of these personal e-mails until after he left the governor's office, according to the report today. He used his own personal attorneys to review and decide which was government related and which wasn't. Those are the exact same circumstances as Hillary Clinton's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Matt, do you agree? Is that how you see it?
MATT LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Of course, there is hypocrisy here. Government officials use private e-mails all the time when they should use their public e-mails. And Mike Pence is no different. The problem is, for Mike Pence, one, you are supposed to be keeping a record of official business. And, two, it's easier to hack from your AOL account. Let's hope nobody hacked into his MySpace page. But it's easier to hack into his AOL account than it is their government e-mail. That's part of the problem here. Of course, there is hypocrisy.
VAUSE: OK. So you know, this is one of the long list of problems that the administration has been dealing with. We're not even at the end of week six. The national security adviser has resigned, the attorney general has recused himself, Kellyanne Conway was censured for inappropriate behavior. The list goes on and on and on. And then the travel ban. This seems to be a White House in chaos in many ways.
SEEMA MEHTA, POLITICAL REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Any transition there is some level of chaos. But thinking back the last several presidents, I don't recall this level of chaos or leaking. On a funny side, Tom Hanks sent the White House press corps an espresso machine today. In terms of investigations, leaking stories, leaks, it has been nonstop from Election Day through this morning, today.
SESAY: Why does this White House seem to struggle when it comes to getting control of the message in moments of crisis?
TED JOHNSON, SENIOR EDITOR, VARIETY: It could have to do with Donald Trump is the first person with no government experience, no military experience to be the commander-in-chief. That may be one of the troubles when a CEO or a business person takes over any government job is they probably is this perception that you can apply those types of efficiencies to a government role and I think it's kind of a rude awakening. You realize that it's not the same, perhaps, as running a business bureaucracy. You're running this vast government bureaucracy. It's maybe growing pains is the term that you can apply to it right now.
[01:35:32] VAUSE: Gina, as a Trump supporter when you voted for Donald Trump and he threatened to shake up Washington and drain the swamp and all that, did you expect so much upheaval and chaos in the first couple weeks that we've seen?
LOUDOUN: I guess it's fodder for news people. But I have to tell you, the world that I live in, I don't see any real chaos. I know that I talked to President Trump last week. He was very relaxed and at ease. He is having a great time. I don't expect there to be no hiccups. It would be ridiculous to think any administration wouldn't have rough edges to polish off. He's done an outstanding job. And his approval in his speech the other night was outstanding across the board, between Republicans and Democrats. And this is all the while there is a hornet's nest across town where the president has set up camp in a $5 million castle that has 8,000 square feet, with Valerie Jarrett just to sit in fire division at the White House. So to think how well he's survived the constant influx of misinformation, disinformation throughout the beginning of his presidency, I would call it a resounding triumph. I think most of America sees it that way.
SESAY: Matt, what is your response to what Gina had to say there? The reframing this as something being sown by the Democrats just to be partisan and troublesome?
LITTMAN: I'm not going the respond to that, because it's ridiculous. But let's remind everybody that Trump's approval ratings are the lowest of any president of all time, number one. Number two, the bigger problem is that Trump is not filling the jobs in his administration. His cabinet secretaries are trying to hire people and the Trump political appointees are saying no. Part of the reason you're seeing this incompetence so far is because there are no people in these jobs. People aren't filling the jobs. That's a big problem. There are 600 appointments they need to get through Congress that they haven't nominated anyone for.
(CROSSTALK) LOUDOUN: Maybe the Democrats could stop being so divisive and distracting. I think if you look at President Trump and what he's accomplished so far, in terms of jobs, it's outstanding we've never seen growth like this. And so you can't --
LITTMAN: I don't know if --
LOUDOUN: We saw those -- we saw the same line of reasoning throughout the entire campaign and he won. If I were Democrats I would want to focus on a unified message, not more division.
LITTMAN: I would not. I agree. I would not be focusing on a unified message. Donald Trump said he would do immigration reform. Tax reform, haven't seen. Infrastructure, haven't seen it. Affordable Care Act, we haven't seen it. Part of the reason for that is because the administration is so poorly run. They don't have the people in the jobs to do the jobs. That is up to Donald Trump. And he hasn't been able to do it so far.
VAUSE: Gina --
VAUSE: OK. Gina, hold that thought.
But this conversation going on between Matt and Gina right now, that is representative of what is happening across the United States, isn't it? The Trump supporters see it one way and the non-Trump supporters see it another.
As a reporter, how do you two about dealing with this?
MEHTA: It's been interesting to watch. As much as we are talking about the feeling of all this chaos, he is doing what he said he would do on the campaign trail. He said he would try to deal -- they'd build a wall and deal with Obamacare and deal with some people from Muslim majority countries.
VAUSE: The travel ban.
MEHTA: So he's doing -- some of the efforts have been less than successful, but he is doing what he said he would do. And if you talk to his base, they're thrilled. But he has had some rough patches, like the travel ban in the courts. If he can't fulfill his promises, will they stay with him?
JOHNSON: I think are these enough distractions to kind of kick the can on some of these issues, like health care, tax reform, infrastructure? It would seem to me that the danger is the longer you spend on, you know, the machinations about the travel ban and get a new order going, the further you're delaying some of these other questions. And it seems to me the dangerous of, for example, health care, is delaying it into next year, which is an election year when a lot of the Congress gets skittish.
[01:40:10] MEHTA: Most of the Congress has gotten along with the president and agreed on most issues. But when he starts talking about infrastructure projects that are very costly, if he can't find a way to fund it, that could run into problems. When they talk to entitlement reform, he's promised something to the people that's different from what congressional Republicans --
VAUSE: Back to Gina, how long are you prepared to give the president to make good on what he promised you in the campaign?
LOUDOUN: I think he's been relentless on those issues and accomplished more especially if you look at jobs which is his primary campaign promise he has made leaps and bounds above any president ever. The money he has brought back to the American economy is going to pay off en masse as we go forward and that will pay far lot of the things that people are concerned about. I'm a conservative and don't love spending either. But I have never seen a president work as hard as it seems this president is work and as your other guests said stick to the promises he made in the election and not back way or shy away on those.
SESAY: Matt, last word to you.
LITTMAN: Well, when we say relentless, let's remember, he hasn't put forth any plans on any of the big issues that he needs to get --
LOUDOUN: That's not true.
LITTMAN: -- to get Congress with him for. Infrastructure, no plan. Tax reform, no plan. Affordable Care Act, Congress keeps saying --
LOUDOUN: That's not true.
LITTMAN: And part of the reason he's not doing it is because he is dealing with these self-created mini scandals.
VAUSE: And that's where we will leave it.
VAUSE: Gina, Gina Loudon, Trump supporter. Thank you to you both.
And Seema Mehta.
SESAY: Thank you so much.
LITTMAN: Thank you.
VAUSE: And we will take a short break. When we come back, the commander-in-chief pledging to cut billions from U.S. programs to pay for more of the military. We'll talk to a retired Army general, next.
[01:45:30] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. 10:45 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
And President Trump is promising a great rebuilding of the U.S. military with an $84 billion increase in defense spending over the next few years.
SESAY: Mr. Trump spoke Thursday to U.S. Navy sailors on the aircraft carrier "USS Gerald R. Ford." He is promising American ships sailing the seas, American planes in the skies, and American workers building the fleets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history. And by eliminating the sequester and the uncertainty it creates, we will make it easier for the Navy to plan for the future, and thus to control costs and get the best deals for the taxpayer, which, of course, is very important, right? Got to get a good deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Joining us here now, retired Major General Mark MacCauley.
General, thank you for coming in.
Trump likes to talk big and talk things up. Some may accuse him of exaggerating. But the increase for the military is 3 percent more than what President Obama requested for this year. Many people are not happy about that, particularly John McCain, saying this is way short of what is need. What's your take?
MAJ. GEN. MARK MACCAULEY, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: When you get down to the math we're looking at 3 percent. We could go through the numbers. At the outset, any increase in defense spending is the right thing at this time. You know, if you believe and when you rack and stack the U.S. priorities that national security, global security, is the number-one priority, then of course this expenditure that makes some small advances toward modernization of the armed services, in terms of providing and maintaining a quality force of men and women within the armed forces that's a positive. That's a good. Was it $54 billion spent in one year? No. It's exactly as you describe. It's 3 percent over the budget which as you know consists of the operation contingency, part of the budget for overseas operations as well as the base budget. So it's 3 percent, $18 billion.
SESAY: But has the president got the balance right between defense spending and the diplomatic portion of the federal budget, which he's planning on making cuts to?
MACCAULEY: He's -- that's the challenge that he and his budgeteers are going to have to work through. At this point, from our perspective -- I can only speak for myself -- from a national security perspective, this $18 billion is the right thing. If he has to go forward and pick and choose amongst a variety of programs with the discretionary budget, that is going to be the hard decision that he can discuss but, at the end of the day, that decision is made by Congress.
SESAY: This big issue here is does this president understand the value of that kind of diplomacy and -- soft power? That's the question here?
MACCAULEY: Having spent time overseas in conflicted situations, the combination of soft power, in terms of reaching out to those within Iraq and Afghanistan, that truly appropriate counterinsurgency type of effort that combines soft power and kinetic power, which is the bang- bang, with soft power, that's the right thing to do.
VAUSE: Donald Trump was impressed with the aircraft carrier, the "USS Gerald R. Ford." It cost $13 billion. This is what Mr. Trump had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMPY: This great aircraft carrier provides essential capabilities to keep us safe from terrorism and take the fight to the enemy for many years in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: General, is that right, aircraft carriers are an essential element for fighting terrorism?
MACCAULEY: For those watching, I'm a soldier, not a sailor.
MACCAULEY: In fact, I could be, in some way, conflicted. But is a platform such as the "Gerald Ford" a useful tool in a war against ISIS, ISIL? It's a platform. It has aircraft. We've used those platforms whether it's "Gerald Ford" or the "Ronald Reagan," which I spent a little bit of time during the Iraqi war. That was useful for launching the close air support that assisted our soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq. As we see the operation going on in Mosul, those are land-based aircraft, and in those periods of time, we have a carrier in the Persian Gulf that is a launch platform. So in reality, is it a useful addition to the U.S. arsenal? Yes. Can it be helpful in counterinsurgency operations? Yes. Is it absolutely essential? No.
[01:50:42] VAUSE: Good to speak with you. Thank you.
SESAY: Thank you.
Next on NEWSROOM L.A., a Russian spy, a man about town in Washington? Or both? Coming up, what we know about the Russian ambassador in the midst of a U.S. political controversy.
SESAY: The Russian ambassador at the heart of a U.S. political firestorm isn't new to Washington.
VAUSE: Sergey Kislyak has spent years living and working as a diplomat in the United States.
Matthew Chance has more on his background and the controversy swirling around him.
[01:55:03] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergey Kislyak is the Russian ambassador at the center of damaging allegations about a Trump administration contacts with Moscow. He's been Russia's man in Washington since 2008. Before which, he held a series of key diplomatic posts, including ambassador to NATO and the Russian deputy foreign minister.
Kislyak was also instrumental in working out a complex arms reduction treaty between Russia and the United States agreed during the Obama presidency.
More recently, Ambassador Kislyak has been actively engaging the Trump team. Remember, it was conversations between the ambassador and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, that led to General Flynn's resignation after just 24 days in the post after it emerged that U.S. sanctions on Russia had been discussed.
Current and former senior U.S. government officials tell CNN that they suspect Ambassador Kislyak is one of Russia's top spies and spy recruiters. But Russia's foreign ministry has pushed back strongly on that allegation.
SESAY: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
That was Matthew Chance reporting.
I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: And I'm John Vause.
Please stay with us. A lot more news after this.
[02:00:10] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.