Return to Transcripts main page
Kushner Meeting Attempt To Engage With Russia; Stalemate In House Intel Investigation On Russia; Questions About Credibility Of House Intel Chair; FBI Not On Anybody's Side Ever; How Will Health Care Failure Impact President Trump Agenda; Ivanka Trump Now An Official White House Employee. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 29, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:05] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, a source telling CNN that Jared Kushner's meetings with Russian officials, including with a head of a bank under U.S. sanctions were an attempt to find the right person to engage with on Russia, a back-channel to Vladimir Putin.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The source is saying the meetings were not about sanctions on Russia, meanwhile, we're now just hours away from the senate's first public hearing on Russia's meddling in the election. Top leaders of the senate intelligence committee outlining their bipartisan plan for the investigation saying they'll interview 20 witnesses, including Kushner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was one of the biggest investigations that the hill has seen in my tenure here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And the house investigation completes stalemate tonight, one glimmer of hope, Chairman Devin Nunes and ranking member Adam Schiff planning to talk tomorrow, finally. Can they get their investigation up and running again? I want to begin tonight with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Sally Quinn, the Washington Post Contributor and a founding editor of "on Faith," Political Analyst Kirsten Powers and Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer. Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on. Jeffrey I am going to start with you, because it seems like the grown-ups are officially in the room now. This House investigation is stalling the senate is making it clear that they are going to get to the bottom of this of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. It is now looking serious.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They are going to try. Remember, it's not just a matter of interviewing witnesses. It's a matter of getting access to documents. It's a matter of getting at some of the most classified material in all of the U.S. government. Because remember, we're talking about Russia, which is under national security agencies surveillance all the time. The NSA never wants to give out this material, especially if it might be made public. Yes, it certainly does seem like the senate committee is being run in a serious way, but that is a long way from saying that they're going to be able to get access to all of the facts which is not only going to be difficult but likely take a long time.
LEMON: There's so much focus on the dysfunction in the house investigation. We're going to talk about that. Let's talk about the senate first. Here's what we heard from the Chairman Richard Burr and the ranking Democrats Mark Warner. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: It's important for all of us here to remember to not lose sight about what this investigation is about. An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical Democratic process, the election of a president.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I am committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions, I would hope that that is what you would like us to do, as much as we'd like to share minute by minute, even the snapshots we get as a team going through it are not always accurate when we find the next piece of intelligence. So let us get a little deeper into this before you ask us to write the conclusions. That is clearly something we intend to do down the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What a difference between these two men and the chaos in the house. Are you confident the senate can handle this, Carl?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not particularly. But it's a hopeful sign, perhaps. Look, we are witnessing a cover-up. The intelligence community, the FBI, knows that the cover-up is going on to keep the American people from understanding what occurred in regards to the Trump campaign, Trump associates and the Russians. Now, whether that means there was criminal activity or not is a different story. But what we are seeing is a concerted effort by the White House, by the people in the campaign, by those in the Trump organization to keep us from understanding what their relationships are with Russians, semi-Russian government officials and the history of the business relationships between the Trump organization and the Russian EPNO nationals, et cetera, et cetera. We have seen one impediment after another thrown in the way of the investigator in the house, the FBI. That is got to end. Whether or not the senate is capable of doing that or not, given this road blocks that the White House is putting in front of them, very doubtful.
LEMON: We hope so. You said doubtful. We hope so. It seems to be playing out, the investigation in the media, for the most part. In that clip, Chairman Burr refuse to rule out any link between President Trump campaign and Russia, he wants to see where the investigation goes. What do you make of that?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST USA TODAY: Well, of course that is the way that it should go and I think we're all saying, look at the senate, they're the adults in the room as compared to what's happening in the house with Congressman Nunes. That is a pretty low bar. I'm not confident this will lead to a better result. I think this should be handled like a 9/11 commission-style inquiry, because even with Senator Burr saying all the right things, remember, he had gotten into some trouble earlier, because of the accusation about the relationship between the Trump team and Russia and he is somebody who was very close to President-Elect -- the nominee at the time, President Trump and served as a national security adviser on his campaign. So Devin Nunes, it's hard to remember but not that long ago, he was very well respected and trusted and expected to run a pretty good investigation. So I think we have to wait and see what happens.
[22:05:43] LEMON: Well it's interesting, it doesn't seem like they are deflecting during the press. We never heard about masking or unmasking which many investigators have said that is just sort of a deflection. The focus was on meddling of the 2016 election. Did you notice that?
ANDRE BAUER, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA LT. GOVERNOR: I didn't notice that. But I'm glad you pointed it out, Don. A couple of things here, if there is in fact concern that the senate or the house aren't going to get it right, then I'm all for a special investigation. I think the American people deserve to know. The truth will set you free. We need to get past this as a country. But if they're going to investigate, it shouldn't just be on the Trump side. They should also look in to Podesta and what he was paid down in Panama. It should be the uranium deal, the Clinton foundation, how much they received from the Russians, the phone calls that Bill Clinton --
LEMON: What does that have to do with anything?
BAUER: Well, it has to do -- it's not just meddling on one side. Who knows what they were meddling.
LEMON: The Clinton uranium thing and every single fact check has pointed out it got four Pinocchio's from "The Washington Post." there's no truth to that at all.
BAUER: So we just should discount it and --
LEMON: It's already been investigated and looked into. There's no reason to look into something that is already been investigated.
BAUER: And we know the Clinton foundation received money from Russia. We know Hillary Clinton received --
LEMON: What does that have to do with anything? Hillary and Bill Clinton is not president of the United States. They are not the president.
BAUER: How do we know Russia didn't play both sides? The continual narrative is that Trump was somehow collaborating with the Russians.
POWERS: Then why didn't he release --
BAUER: Why didn't they release Hillary's e-mails? She bleached them. SALLY QUINN, WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR: The truth will come out at
some point. But I think clearly the house is dysfunctional. Nunes can't do this and I agree with Kirsten, I just don't think the senate can do it either. I think you've got to have an independent commission. When the story first broke in July, it was debated, hotly debated in the White House about whether or not Obama should have an investigation. They even talked about bringing in John (inaudible) as a former congressman, to do the investigation. This went on the debate, on and on and the president actually talked to Putin a number of times and just said, you know, this does not stand. We can't allow this to go on. But he decided against investigating because he thought that it would look like he was trying to interfere in the election. But I think that, given the fact that we don't know anything, the only way we're going to find out is to have a special commission which has subpoena powers so that, I mean, if Jared Kushner wants to go and be interviewed, that is fine. But I think that whoever has to go before the commission should be subpoenaed and should be put under oath and should be susceptible to perjury charges if they lied.
LEMON: Kirsten, I want you and Jeffrey to get in because, as Andre was saying, everything should be investigated but I don't understand what the Clinton foundation and any of that has to do, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: It's just like talk radio nonsense to try to distract attention from what's going on with the actual president of the United States as opposed to the candidate who lost. But look, apparently that is going to be the Republican talking point here. The key mystery here is you have acknowledged Russian attempt to sway the election to Trump. You have all these Trump campaign efforts to ingratiate themselves with Russia, whether it's Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions or Michael Flynn, all of them seem to be going out of their way to help one leader in the whole world. Vladimir Putin. The question, which is very much unanswered at this point, is whether those two stories connect in any way. Is, was this an attempt to get Russia, you know, to ingratiate ourselves with Russia related to Russia's attempt to defeat Hillary Clinton. I don't know. But certainly it seems worthy of investigation.
[22:10:08] LEMON: Carl, I want to talk to you about -- Gloria Borger has this new reporting out about Jared Kushner. He is planning to tell the senate intel committees about his meeting with Sergey Kislyak and later with the top banker. According to her source, Kushner and the transition team are looking for ways to establish a back channel with Putin. So the ambassador suggested that Kushner meet with the head of this bank. Even if they are just looking for the right point person, this seems different from what the White House originally said, saying nothing of substance was discussed, saying that the meeting with Kushner -- the businessman. That is who they were meeting with.
BERNSTEIN: They've changed their story. It goes to bigger question. Donald Trump was going to drain the swamp. Instead, what we are seeing is a sewer overflowing in terms of business conflicts of interests between members of the Trump family, the Trump organization, Trump properties. The president of the United States who has refused to put his properties into a proper kind of trust or to disperse his investments, get out of the business that he is in and be the president of the United States instead of the head of his company with his family. It's a disgraceful situation. And there are so many tentacles to what is going on about Russian interference that we need answers to and that includes all of the business relationships that Donald Trump, his family, in-laws, et cetera, et cetera have with ethno Russians, from Russian banks perhaps. We need all of this information and what we know so far from the investigator is that the Trump White House has put every impediment in their way that they possibly can. Why is that? That is so mystifying if we're going to drain the swamp.
LEMON: Kirsten, everybody, stay with me. The investigation by the house intelligence committee at a complete standstill tonight and there are growing questions about the credibility of chairman Devin Nunes.
[22:15:50] LEMON: Tonight, the FBI contradicting House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes on the Russia investigation. So who's telling the truth? I am back now with my panel. Sally, you first, let's talk about Chairman Nunes and the House investigation. FBI Director James Comey testified before the committee, he dropped a bombshell about the investigation about possible collusion and then Nunes decided to focus on the leaks and the unmasking. Here's what Ryan Lizza is reporting. The White House signal reporting, the White House signal that would happen. Does Nunes have any credibility left?
POWERS: Well, here's -- no. To that question, he has no credibility.
LEMON: I'm going to ask it and get back to you.
TOOBIN: Nunes is clueless, he is corrupt or he is both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are the only three possibilities.
LEMON: Carl, does he have any credibility left?
LEMON: Kirsten Powers?
BERNSTEIN: Republicans should stop supporting him. That is the thing.
LEMON: Kirsten? I don't know how anybody can look at the way that he is behaved and conducting an investigation.
POWERS: I agree, I don't know how anybody can look at the way that he is behaving and David is the person conducting the investigation.
LEMON: Andre Bauer?
BAUER: Clearly the arrows have been shot at him to discredit him.
LEMON: But does he have any credibility left?
BAUER: Say what? He is got credibility left. I know y'all are going to hammer on him and --
QUINN: With whom? With whom?
BAUER: Not everybody in America is asphyxiated as y'all are on all this Russian stuff and the meddling and the chaos and everything they've caused although we still don't know everything they've done in the election. If you look at the poll from a year ago to now, twice as many American voters think the country is headed in the right direction and they are not paying attention to this stuff. I know we're fixated on it in the media but they are not. The average hard worker is glad to see the country moving forward and --
LEMON: I don't know what that has to do with the truth of an investigation, because people are not fixated --
BERNSTEIN: When you do talking points --
LEMON: This is supposed to be Sally's turn.
QUINN: I want to say something.
LEMON: Go ahead, Sally, because it's really important here.
QUINN: Ok. When you're talking about Johnny lunch bucket, I mean, for the first year of Watergate, nobody -- no other news organizations were picking it up. They were just basically letting "The Washington Post" out there hang themselves, because they didn't want -- they didn't think it was important. They didn't think that people out there cared, that nobody believed it. And so "the post" kept going at it and at it and finally what happened is that Walter Cronkite put it on air and that is when Johnny lunch bucket decided that it was a story. So it takes a while for this to happen. People are worried about their jobs. It's going to take a while.
LEMON: Go ahead, Carl.
BERNSTEIN: I think we need to talk about right and wrong for a minute and I don't want to sound like a moralist here, but polls are not what truth about exactly. It is not important, there's no truth here.
BAUER: Can we finish for a moment, please? Look, we are trying -- what we want to know is, what is the truth? That is why we need real investigation. What we do know is that from the point of view of all of the United States intelligence community, the Russians attempted to hijack our election. This is a huge piece of business.
BERNSTEIN: How? Did they get into the machines? What did they do?
BAUER: That is part of the reason that we're having this --
BERNSTEIN: Oh, come on. LEMON: How about hacking e-mails with the DNC and John Podesta?
BAUER: Exactly. That is the point. There's a huge record already out there from the NSA and --
BERNSTEIN: For the -- incidentally, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, has said, yes, the Russians tried to interfere in the election. So drop that talking point, please. But what's important here --
[22:20:04] BAUER: Well, Mr. Podesta was paid tens and millions of dollars from the Russian government. We need to investigate him, then.
POWERS: This is an investigation about the president.
BERNSTEIN: Just a moment. There are many lobbyists who have been paid all kinds of money and -- look, we have investigations about lobbyists all the time. This is not about trying to make it about Republicans or Democrats. It's about trying to find out what the hell happened to our election and we have a president and the people around him and, unfortunately, a Republican Party on the hill that seems not the least bit interested in the truth here. There are some members, yes, but increasingly in the house especially, they seem to be --
LEMON: It all seems to come down to partisanship. I think that many people believe it's like the fairness doctrine, if you prosecute a Republican, you must prosecute a Democrat.
LEMON: That is not actually how it works. The great talking point and speaking to that, James Comey was in Washington tonight at the intelligence security alliance defending the FBI as nonpartisan. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The last year -- it's been almost a year now -- has been both difficult and easier than you might think and I'll tell you, I've never been prouder of the FBI. What makes it easy is, we're not on anybody's side, ever. We're not considering whose ox will be gored by this action or that action. We just don't care and we can't care. We only ask, what are the facts? What's the law, what's the right thing to do here? Most people see the world differently than we do. Most people wearing glasses that filter the world according to size. And this is a challenge I faced when I testified in front of congress. It's not a criticism of congress. It's, they see facts as to how it will affect my side. How does that argument affect my side? When they encounter people, and I'm just one of 37,000 people at the FBI, who never consider a side, it's confusing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOOBIN: What a bunch of sanctimonious nonsense. You know, there's a guy who beat Hillary Clinton in this election by breaking justice department policy and announcing investigations of Hillary Clinton on the eve of the election. The idea that he is somehow is unaware -- he is so unaware of the political implications of his work. What a bunch of nonsense that was.
POWERS: Yeah, well, look, I think a lot of Democrats would definitely disagree with what he said and see that he really used a different standard. It's not just that he came out in Democrats' eyes and probably helped Donald Trump win. I'm not saying that was his motive but that was the outcome as a lot of Democrats believe it but then he didn't hold Donald Trump to the same standard. He didn't mention that the other candidate was also investigation. And so this idea that he is somehow just above it all I don't think is really connected to the truth.
LEMON: At the time of the election, there was only one candidate under investigation and that was --
POWERS: No. He had said that they had started looking at Donald Trump during the election.
LEMON: In July, in July?
LEMON: But at the point he sent the letter out he said he was done and had concluded nothing about Hillary Clinton.
LEMON: Before the election. So it was the Trump folks who --
POWERS: Who was actually under investigation?
POWERS: People were left with the impression that Hillary was under investigation even though it had been formally closed, but he certainly let everyone believe that she was being looked at by the FBI without mentioning Donald Trump.
LEMON: What do you think of what Comey said?
BAUER: And Republicans feel like she was given a pass.
LEMON: Why is that?
BAUER: Well, she met on a Saturday, a Saturday of a holiday, when does the FBI meet with somebody on a Saturday, met for a very brief time. It's announced the day after the holiday so they knew immediately what the results were. On Sunday, did they take all of that information they got from her in a short period of time and say she is done nothing wrong and a few days before bill Clinton sits down with the attorney general and the whole thing looks bad, not just to Republicans but to Democrats, too. A lot of people feel like she got a pass when it really wasn't cutting the mustard as to what most people had to deal with the FBI.
QUINN: I think Comey has not covered himself with glory all along and I think that from here on out, he is unfireable, because he has -- he has been against the Republicans and against the Democrats. But I don't think that Donald Trump could ever get rid of him because of that. And so I think he is golden.
[22:25:06] LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.
Coming up, some say congressman Nunes has delegitimized the house probe on Russia. My next guest says that may be a good thing. I'm going to ask him why.
LEMON: Major questions tonight about the credibility of the house intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes. Here to discuss, Frank Rich, writer at large from New York Magazine and an executive producer of Veep on HBO, so good to have you, great to see you.
We're going to talk more about your column that you wrote about this probe and the credibility of it, but you also wrote something about doing news by -- whether people care about it or not. We're here to get the truth. We should be getting the truth and whether one group cares about what's important about the news, I mean, does that matter?
FRANK RICH, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HBO'S VEEP: No. Because the whole point of journalism is find out what isn't known and something it's important stuff that is buried under official laws or bureaucracy or business secrets or whatever. Whether it is the Enron Corporation or the Pentagon papers or what is going on in terms of collusion between Russia and the Trump administration, you have to keep going.
[20:30:10] LEMON: You think Sally is right when she said about Watergate and people not caring?
RICH: At the very beginning, she is absolutely right and she was there. Carl Bernstein, also your guest tonight and Bob Woodward, were regarded as lowly police reporters pursuing a third-rate robbery and they were demeaned by the president of the United States and all his men and then they stuck with it. Other journalistic organizations, including "The New York Times" were asleep on it and look what happened.
LEMON: You say people will start to care more about this depending
RICH: Yes, particularly so far there's no evidence. There could be nothing there.
There could be nothing there, but on the other hand they are behaving as though there is a cover-up as witness Nunes running around and playing inspector who sows.
LEMON: I want to ask you, your latest New York magazine article says Devin Nunes has delegitimized the house's Russia probe that might be a good thing. I mean why is that a good thing?
RICH: It is a good thing, because I think this guy who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, things that he is protecting from gives every sign of protecting Trump and instead he is stepping in it and revealing that there's something off there, because if he were conducting his investigation in a serious way, he wouldn't be doing this. He makes you feel that there is something going on and that there's something hiding or wants to hide from the White House.
LEMON: Here's what Michael Isikoff said. At some point the people who think that there's something to this Russia scandal has to show their cards or come up with something otherwise that is going to start to look like one big my ass, those were his words. Do you agree with that?
RICH: I'm not sure what he is saying. He says people suspicious of the scandal?
LEMON: He said, I'll read it again. That at some point the people who think that there's something to this Russia scandal will have to show their cards.
RICH: Yeah. I think basically we have two serious investigations that we'll find out whether something is there or not, the FBI and the senate, not the house, however.
LEMON: So what do you -- so the house seems -- I said to my panel before, it seems like the adults are in the room now, because the house is taking it seriously and the leaders of, I mean the --
RICH: The senate is taking it seriously.
LEMON: And the leaders are saying we don't know what is there, we All right are not making a judgment about, we want to get to the bottom of it rather than going at it -- one saying we don't believe there is something there or there is something there.
RICH: That is exactly right way to go about it. We assume that with the FBI has been doing for months too. You've got to gather your evidence and figure out whether there's a case or not a case. I think because of Nunes' behavior, Richard Burr and Marc (inaudible) who are running the senate committee or the great position to set themselves up as judicious authorities.
LEMON: I want to get to the lightning round. Just a couple of topics, you saw what happened with the repealing and replacing Obamacare last week and it was a big flop. Do you think his is more of a sign that there's something wrong with the president's deal making or dysfunctional congress or a combination?
RICH: Both. First of all, obviously the president didn't even know what was in the bill or sell it properly and then we have a congress that is used to saying no, a Republican congress that doesn't know how to legislate. Someone pointed out, Paul Ryan's been there since 1999 and in his entire history in the house, only three bills he is sponsored have made it to law. So they don't know how to govern. LEMON: Another story that we're -- well, do you think on this issue,
can it redeem itself?
RICH: Health care or --
LEMON: The administration and the House? Because now they are saying, well maybe we can work it with Democrats at least the president is saying that. Democrats say if repealing is on the table --
RICH: I don't think -- maybe pigs can fly and something will happen but I think that basically they're going to careen from one failed bill and flop to another, the way things look now.
LEMON: Let's talk about "The Washington Post" reporting that the Trump organization is seeking to open a second hotel in Washington, D.C. Are they thinking about separating the family business and presidency at this point of saying like, you know?
RICH: Who knows how long this administration is going to be in place. Let's get while the getting is good, seems to be the attitude.
LEMON: Do you think they understand it looks like grifting.
RICH: It possibly is grifting. Obviously they don't care about appearances. One embarrassment after another, they say, it's Donald being Donald and they don't care either.
LEMON: We got word that now officially the president's daughter Ivanka is going to take on official status as a government employee serving as an unpaid adviser to her father. Now she is going to have to deal with all the ethics rules and what have you. There's a lot of family going on and that is concerning to some people.
[22:35:00] RICH: As it should. I mean, frankly, they're just flouting all the ethics rules including Jared Kushner, who is the real estate business, her husband, and the Trump son. So why shouldn't Ivanka not get her share of the art of the deal of cashing in on this presidency?
LEMON: Anti-nepotism rule went into effect. Do you think that it matters to them? If they are breaking that rule, but there are a lot of Trump --
RICH: They'll say the Kennedys did it because Bobby Kennedy was attorney general.
LEMON: That is why the anti-nepotism rule was put in place.
RICH: I think Trump's attitude is essentially above the law and rules don't apply to them and he can defy political gravity as well. They'll just shrug it off until some calamity happens and the apocalypse strikes.
LEMON: In your estimation.
RICH: My light-hearted estimation.
LEMON: Thank you Frank Rich, always a pleasure.
RICH: Thank you.
LEMON: Coming up, what we can expect as the senate opens its first hearing tomorrow on Russia's meddling in the election.
LEMON: The senate intelligence committee holding its first public hearing tomorrow on Russia's meddling in the election. To discuss that, Steve Hall is here. He is retired chief of CIA Russian operations. Juliette Kayyem former Department of Homeland Security Officials and Jonathan Sanders, he is a professor Stony Brook University School of Journalism and author of "The Russians emerge. So glad to have all of you on, hello, Steve, you first, senators Warner and Burr say they are in the process of interviewing 20 people. What do you think of that?
STEVE HALL, RETIRED CHIEF OF CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: Well, you know, compared to what's happened in the house, I suppose it's a piece of good news that the senate is now -- is becoming involved. But I have to say, remember, not too many weeks ago things were looking pretty good on the house side. You had people standing behind podiums pledging cooperation, transparency and following the intelligence and facts wherever they lead which is what we're hearing in the senate right now as well. I'm still skeptical, largely because I still think the politics is simply too baked in to these proceedings and to these oversight committees for us to be able to have anything like a real investigation. I think it's going to have to be something independent. I don't know what that would look like, a special prosecutor or whatever, but I don't think the Intelligence oversight committees are going to be able to pull it off.
LEMON: You think it's too big for them? Let me ask you, because they say they're opened to issuing subpoenas to obtain certain documents but it's difficult to do internationally. Do you think this is too big for the house and the senate?
HALL: Yeah, I do. I just think -- look, you've got arguably the most partisan problem that you can think of. What's going on with the presidency of the United States and his potential collaboration or cooperation with the foreign hostile power? That is an inherently partisan -- you can't get the politics out of that. So anytime you've got that level of politics in any of the oversight committees, I just don't see how it's going to work.
LEMON: Quickly, what might they be looking for internationally? What kind of documents are they trying to access?
HALL: They are going to try to get a hold as much as they possibly can. I would hope that they would be looking at some of our liaison relationships. It's going to be difficult because you can't subpoena a foreign government or legally take action against folks not in the United States. That is going to be difficult. There are a lot of questions that can be answered internally, too.
LEMON: Jonathan, this is according to the White House Jared Kushner volunteered to talk, knowing that with the Russian ambassador, a bank with close ties with Vladimir Putin, Gory Borger has a source. The source is saying that Kushner's meeting where relationship meetings and meetings with the ambassador, the sources that Kushner asked him to identify someone who would be a good intermediary as they were trying to figure out who would be the right person to engage with on Russia and the ambassador suggested the bank executive and the transition team, specifically Kushner, said that they were looking for ways to establish a back channel to Putin. That isn't what the Trump administration initially said that these meetings were about and that is also not what the bank said.
JONATHAN SANDERS, PROFESSOR STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Well, it's certainly not what the bank said but I think it's a great idea that we're talking to Russians. I think Russians need to have a sense of what's going on with somebody who is as mysterious to them as he is to us. What are we going to expect of somebody named Donald Trump who's never run for a job before and who isn't saying bad things about Russia, which is the currency in Washington, the cold war currency. And I think, by the way, Don, we have to be careful. What we're talking about, we're far enough from the cold war in Washington that we shouldn't have our ethics of journalism frozen out, alleged Russian involvement in an attempt to influence the American election and we don't know whether they had any success. The success is all now when you and I talk about it.
LEMON: I think what the intelligence committee said, Juliette, is that they did influence the election. What they are not sure about is the collusion or how much impacted the election or if there is collusion between the Trump people and Russian officials.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIALS: Right, I mean, Jeff Toobin said it the best in the previous segment, which is that you have one known piece, Russia's involvement with the election and you have evidence and admission about Trump contacts with the Russians of various levels from the ambassador down to a bank president. Some of them are admitted to. Some are admitted to only after the media finds them and the question is, is there that collusion. From the press conference today, I'm slightly more optimistic about this, the Senate Intel hearing, for a variety of reasons, including the attitude today, I thought it was important that even Senator Burr said it's premature to take collusion off the table. I think that is important.
And I think, also, we have to admit to ourselves, there's not going to be an independent investigation, at least not until another -- the midterm election. I just can't see any way in which this congress would authorize an outside commission as they did on 9/11, several years after 9/11 to review something that is so political. So I think the senate, at least from the looks of it so far, we should be slightly more optimistic. Don't forget, of course, there's the FBI investigation that is ongoing.
[22:45:40] LEMON: And it is possible, though, that the White House, Juliette, could be correct when they say nothing of significance was discussed, or is it, because they don't know exactly what it is that the bank would find significant or what information they could be gathering even from a simple meeting.
KAYYEM: Right. The content of it is that is why you -- is not known. That is why you want the witnesses to come in, preferably under oath, so what they say might be used against them if it ends up not being true. That is why we want people under oath, because you cannot perjure yourself. We don't know the content of it. So what we do know, while there's still a lot of questions, a series of meetings that occurred, some of them admitted to, some only admitted to later on, discussions amongst -- not the people in the White House now but the Trump associates during the campaign with various Russians and we just simply don't know what the links are. I'm much more comfortable, though, being in a position where we're searching for the truth than sitting here saying, well, since they haven't proved it yet, it can't be true. Nobody's done these investigations believes that there's going to be this ah-ha moment. This could take months.
LEMON: And Jonathan says it's possible. Steve Hall is agreeing with you. We'll hear from them on the other side of the break. We'll be right back.
[22:50:50] LEMON: Ok back now with my panel. So this is another key part of Senator Warner said today listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WARNER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: Some of the techniques that Russia used in this election as we find more and more I think would send a chill down anyone who believes in a Democratic process in this country or around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Jonathan, the White House is presenting questions about Russia as a partisan witch hunt. Doesn't this transcend politics next time they could decide to influence the election in favor of the Democrats or an Independent or could be in favor of a party in another nation that would be hostile to the United States?
SANDERS: Well, don, look, part of this is we are in a very new era where people have to have something we might call news literacy. They have to be able to take a source that they read, let's say it's the lemon times, on the internet, do we know its Don Lemon's Lemon times?
LEMON: Thanks for the idea.
SANDERS: Maybe put up by somebody else who wants to undo selling lemons, part of what we know is that there are people are creating websites feeding what really is fake information. What we need is training new young people how to tell fake from real. There are new rules in the game. One of the things we need to do is talk to our Russian friends about what is responsible to do and what is not responsible to do. In this new cold war the worst thing we could do is just blame them for everything and not talk to them.
LEMON: Yeah. Hey Steve, thank you. I understand Steve had to go there's a fire alarm in Steve's studio. We'll continue.
SANDERS: My goodness.
LEMON: Yeah there was fire alarm going off.
SANDERS: We could blame the Russians for that couldn't we.
LEMON: We didn't drop Steve.
KAYYEM: They're really good.
LEMON: They're good, huh. So Juliette, Senator Warner said we've seen report that is Russian trolls were generating fake news targeted to specific areas, like battle ground states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, can you tell us more about this threat.
KAYYEM: I thought this was one of the most interesting moments during the press conference that had a chance of getting lost essentially what is discussing what might be called micro targeting, micro advertising that there was some evidence, not just taking up his words and in the particular swing states Michigan, Wisconsin, that these Russian trolls were essentially invading various platforms, Facebook and elsewhere for information against Hillary Clinton. And I think his point. I think there's two points to take away from this. One is I think the notion that Russia was out to muddle this whole thing is ridiculous. Clearly if you're against Hillary you're for Trump so I think we need to put that argument aside. Other interesting thing some of us had notion that Russia through a lot of things at the wall and my goodness they stuck, this as Mark Warner said shows a much more sophisticated cyber attack campaign instead of a firing squad was more like a targeted kill. They actually were picking states that they knew might be influences so I'm taking only Mark Warner's public statements today is I'm looking forward to hearing more from the public hearing.
LEMON: You want to respond more to that Jonathan.
SANDERS: All I can say is that Russian computer abilities are a two- edged sword, the same kind of very creative Russian users of computers organized last Sunday demonstrations between 82 and 99 different cities across the country in the face of tremendous opposition to talk about the regime in the Kremlin, particularly (inaudible) as corrupt and a bunch of crooks. We need to ask the question, why they are so good at computers and why are we not so good in the digital era of computers. Some of it is really scary. Reason may be they are better at math and have better math education than we do. That is a big problem that we're not facing while talking about all this hysteria about that the Russians are coming doing these horrible things.
[22:55:18] LEMON: Russians are here.
SANDERS: And we're paying the price. They are. LEMON: So Republican Charlie Den said the house is paralyzed on this
thing and that is a quote from him and the only way to move forward is for the senate to take the lead on this Russia probe. Do you think that is the right move first, Jonathan and Juliette?
SANDERS: The other day Don, you and I were talking about adults and grownups. It seems at least from the statement we heard today we're not going to make any announcements until we do our investigation today we're today we're not going to make any announcements until we do our investigation. I think it's a better approach but I think we need to follow the evidence. Maybe somebody else who is doing the advising, maybe the money comes from Chinese banks let's not automatically assume it's the Russians.
LEMON: I need to get Juliette and final thought, do you agree Julian?
KAYYEM: I think unfortunately and I blame Nunes squarely what looked like optimistic moment of an investigation I don't know how you redeem it at this stage because part of what these investigations are about are about public confidence in the investigation and I don't think Nunes can get it back.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. I have a program note for you in Special Report. ISIS behind the mask airs Friday night at 10:00 right here on CNN. We'll be right back.