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CNN Projects Republican Gianforte Wins In Montana; Jared Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny In Russia Probe; Candidate Apologizes To Reporter He Attacked; Democratic Ad Slams Gianforte's Alleged Attack; Trump's Awkward Encounters At NATO Summit; Kushner Has Not Been Accused Of Wrongdoing; FBI Believes Kushner Has Relevant Info About Probe; Kushner's Attorney Says He's Willing To Testify; FBI Looking At Kushner's Meeting With Key Russians. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 26, 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] ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: And I'm John Vause. We're live in Los Angeles, it has just gone 10:00 o'clock here, Thursday night on the West Coast. Thank you for being with us.
SESAY: And we're following two major stories for you: that special election in the state of Montana, just one day after a Republican front-runner allegedly body-slammed a reporter.
VAUSE: The other major headline, the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now - a focus of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. A lot more of that major development this hour.
SESAY: But first, let's get to Montana, where CNN project Republican Greg Gianforte will win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gianforte with 50.4 percent of the vote; Democrat Rob Quist, with 43.8 percent - we have about 84 percent of the vote counted.
VAUSE: Gianforte was the unwitting favorite before his confrontation with a report from the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday. Gianforte apologized during his victory speech just a few moments ago, but the newly elected Congressman has actually been charged with a misdemeanor assault.
SESAY: Now, joining us here in L.A.: Senior Reporter for Media and Politics, Dylan Byers; and CNN Political Reporter, Maeve Reston.
VAUSE: Also a former Los Angeles City Councilwoman, Wendy Greuel; and CNN Political Commentator and Trump Supporter, John Phillips.
SESAY: And from Missoula, Montana: Gwen Florio, is the City Editor for the Missoulian; and finally Criminal Defense Attorney and a former Prosecutor Trace Layton is here in L.A. We have a very full house here. Let's get to - let's get to our guests there in Missoula, and get your reaction to this win. Are you surprised that Gianforte pulled it out of the bag? GWEN FLORIO, MISSOULIAN CITY EDITOR: Not particularly. He had been a
heavy favorite going into this. This just happened last night and by the time this happened, about half the people in Montana had already cast their votes by mail.
VAUSE: OK. Well, with that in mind, we did hear the apology from Gianforte. Let's listen to exactly what he said because, you know, it seemed very sincere, it seemed very heartfelt. Let's listen to Mr. Gianforte.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GREG GIANFORTE (R-MT), REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Last night, I made a mistake. And I took an action that I can't take back, and I'm not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in a way that I did. And for that I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're forgiven.
GIANFORTE: I should not have treated that reporter that way. And for that, I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Gwen, just very quickly. Back to you there in Montana, we heard someone yell out from the crowd, you are forgiven. Will he be forgiven?
FLORIO: It seems like to his constituents - he already is. That got the bigger cheer than what he was saying.
SESAY: Yes. John Phillips, to you - the Republican, he won the race. I mean, listen, he got the win, but let's look at the margins here. Was it as impressive as you expected it to be?
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, the last public poll showed him up by 14 points; that was a Gravis poll that we've in May. He ended up winning by what, 6 or 7 points as the tally stands right now. It's a state where Trump's popularity is actually higher than his. He had a lot of baggage going into this election but this was an election that the Democrats focused on; not just Democrats in Montana, but Democrats nationwide - dumped a ton of money into this race.
And they've been having these huge crowds show up at all of these events and these congressional districts when these congress members go back and they say look this - these rallies, look at the size of these audiences. They're going to clean their clocks as soon as they get to the ballot box. Well, we've had a race in Kansas, we've had in Louisiana, we've had a special election in Montana, and the Democrats haven't won one yet. At some point, they're going to have to show that they could win electorally otherwise it's just a lot of noise, and a lot of screaming, and a lot of being rude to Congressmen. VAUSE: I just want to say on the apology just for a moment - we'll
get back to the politics and what this all actually means. Maeve, to you, the apology for Gianforte, does that now mean this is all over?
[01:04:57] MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: No. No, I don't think so. I mean, you know, it certainly it was - it seemed heartfelt and sincere in the moment, and you know, I think what he was doing there was trying to move on so that he is not, you know, a pariah when he arrives in Washington. There was a discussion going on, you know, Paul Ryan for example, was asked repeatedly in his press conferences - whether or not Gianforte should be seated if he won tonight, so clearly, he's trying to get beyond that. It will be interesting to see what happened with the actual charges that we're discussing here: the misdemeanor assault charge. And whether the case, actually, goes forward and whether that's something that he has to deal with. But you know, we could very well be looking at a rematch again between these two guys. And it's just a very fluid situation right now. So, I don't think that that statement put it to bed by any stretch.
DYLAN BYERS, SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: I would respectfully disagree. I think that the - look, this issue will live on in a way, and certainly it will be tied to his reputation. There are a lot of Congressmen in Washington, he would be known as the guy who body-slammed a reporter. But that was a full-throated apology and it was comprehensive, he even said Ben Jacobs' name. That's big. Certainly, in terms of the sort of media firestorm that has existed around this issue for the last 24 hours, that puts it to bed. He won, he apologized. He's moving to Washington.
SESAY: But he still has to go to court.
BYERS: He still - right. And so, half disagree because he might still have to go to court. And now, at least in the sort of realm of public opinion - how this shapes out, the ball oddly enough might be in Ben Jacobs' court and the question is: do you continue to pursue charges? So, we'll have to wait and see what Ben-
PHILLIPS: And you know, everyone makes a mistake. Ben Jacobs himself threatened to punch a 16-year-old at SEA-PAC in writing on Twitter. So, if anyone knows that sometimes you can lose your temper and do, and say things that you regret later, it's him.
RESTON: I don't know-
BYERS: I would just respectfully - and I'm familiar of the tweet. I would say, there's a difference between an errant and irresponsible tweet, and actually grabbing a guy with two hands by the neck.
VAUSE: There obviously - there does to be a big gulf between those two.
WENDY GREUEL, FORMER LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCILWOMAN: And I don't think it is going to go away. I mean, again, he made major progress today by apologizing, but remember, Congress members run every two years and this, you know, this seat is going to be another one that the Democrats are going to continue to focus on. And they may not win that first time, but they'll win that second time. And when you look at the numbers, there is a good chance and the Democrats are organizing and getting people excited about taking back the house. What this guy did by hitting him the first time - doesn't say that he won, doesn't mean that Democrats are going to sit back, oh, we're not going to after; they're going to go after with a greater vengeance. Because they believe that's not the kind of person they want in Congress who uses physical violence, whether you apologized or not that is something that he did that caused that violence.
RESTON: And Wendy's point is so important because we are looking at, you know, a tapestry of races across the country in 2018, where you know, you are going to have 20 something seats that determine the control of the house, and the question is, you know, whether Republicans are going to have, you know, the firepower to deal with a candidate like this, you know, on the side when there's now questions about his temperament and, you know, going forward; things like that.
SESAY: So, that makes me ask the question when he gets to Washington, will he be embraced by fellow Republicans or will they keep him at arm's length given this history, John?
PHILLIPS: It depends on how he acts. There was the guy who shouted, you lie during President Obama's State of the Union, and he was kind of persona non grata for a little while. So, I think they're going to fill out and see what's going on. Now, I will say -- this is an open seat where you don't have an incumbent running for re-election. And a lot of the seats of the Democrats you're targeting, you're not going to find people who are unseasoned politicians, who are rookies, who are out there making these types of mistakes. Mimi Walters is going to do this. Dana Rohrabacher is not going to do this. It's going to be much harder to mount credible campaigns against those candidates than this guy and they lost here.
VAUSE: You know, within - you know, an hour of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte - the Democrats had already cut a campaign ad. They had it out on - let's listen to part of one of those ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday a recorder asked Greg Gianforte about the new health care bill in Congress, and Gianforte came unhinged.
GIANFORTE: The last time you came you did the same thing. Get the hell out here!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fox News Reporters who witnessed the attack say Gianforte grabbed the victim by the neck and slammed him to the ground. Hours later, the local sheriff charged Gianforte with assault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, Wendy, that's a very powerful ad. Was it just too late? Too many people had already voted? GREUEL: You know, when you saw that so many people had already voted.
And as noted, made mention earlier, people went to try and change their vote and were told they couldn't do that in Montana. So, I think it was late. But they're setting the groundwork for what's going to happen in 2018 to be able to run against this guy again. Because if it has happened - if it happened before; it could happen again. And if you can't handle a reporter asking you questions, how can you handle your congress member next to you, your colleague who's going to take you on certain issues they feel very passionate about. How are you going to deal with constituents who will yell at you? I mean, this is something that, you know, is very serious.
[01:10:31] SESAY: OK. And we're standing by for Rob Quist. The speech you're seeing on the screen there. In fact, let's listen then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB QUIST, POLITICAL CANDIDATE IN MONTANA: You know, we had - I think, just today, we set some amazing records. There were -- today alone, there were 1123 people knocking on doors, the state of Montana. You know, I think one thing we can say is that your voices were definitely heard in this election. You know, it's been just a great honor to be running for your representative in this race. And you know, I know we came up short, but the energy in the state and the grassroots movement in this state goes on. It goes on.
I've called Greg Gianforte and congratulated him on his victory. And I - and I talked to him about how important it is to continue to reach out to all Montana and still listen to their comments, and I know that Montanan's will hold Mr. Gianforte accountable. You know, traveling across the state, I have seen - I have seen such great energy and enthusiasm, like never before in this state. It's been such a great thing to see and you know, to all of Montanan's and the people across this country who took the time to volunteer and to make calls and to engage for the very first time in this election, don't be discouraged. Be determined.
You know, I've met so many of you along the way who've never been involved in politics before, and stepped up for the very first time. And so, I'm just saying that you must continue to be involved. You must continue. And in the coming months, there will be critical legislation that's going to be passed that will affect thousands-
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Rob Quist there, giving a - I guess, effectively concession speech there. He's already called Greg Gianforte to congratulate him for his win in that special election there in Montana, but you know, he seems to be taking it in good stead. You know, thanking all those who participated, and talking about the energy that was unleashed from this race. But also, interestingly enough saying, if you're pinning your hopes on him - you know, it obviously didn't work out: don't be discouraged, be determined. That's his message to those who will be disappointed on this evening with the Republican winning that race in Montana.
VAUSE: And Dylan, to you, "don't be discouraged, be determined." That's going to wear a little thin for a while, isn't it?
BYERS: It is going to wear a little thin. And to go back sort of to, you know, what happens two years from now - two years is a very long time. I would never underestimate the sort of attention deficit disorder of the news cycle. You know, he won after having - Gianforte won after having assaulted a reporter. Obviously, it was in the last minute that might've affected a thing.
Again, I really think that this is in the past; now it's a question of how he proves himself in Washington. Those are going to - what he does in Washington, those will be the campaign ads, obviously, if he assaults another reporter in Washington we've got new campaign ads to run. But again, I think this issue is put to bed now. I think the onus is on the Democrats to think about what kind of candidates they want to put forward. Quist, judging by that, seems like a very nice guy. Looks like a nice guys finish last.
RESTON: But I mean, not necessarily the strongest candidate that they could have had and I think that-
GREUEL: They didn't think they could win it either. I mean-
RESTON: Right. Right, but I think that you know, when thinking about this issue going forward, what will be interesting to see is whether or not, you know, the argument that Nancy Pelosi tried to make that this was a Trump-like candidate. That you know, the Trump movement has spawned all of these kinds of, you know, chess something candidates who might tackle a reporter and whether or not that's the kind of representation people want in Washington? That's a Nancy Pelosi argument, but if Democrats are successful in making that argument, that will have an impact in the midterms next year.
[01:14:52] VAUSE: OK. We'll take a short break. And of course, we should note that Gianforte won this election despite President Trump's record low approval numbers and all of these investigations which are currently ongoing into his campaign's collusion with Russia. Yes, but you know, these were issues that the Democrats were hoping they would play into this special election but they did not. But there has been a significant development in the Russia investigation. Donald Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, now being looked at by the FBI as it looks at Russia's involvement in the Presidential election. A lot more on those details after the break.
[01:15:25] SESAY: Plus, President Trump meets his NATO allies and the results are peculiar, and uncomfortable in nature. The summit, later this hour.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT HEADLINES ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Patrick Snell with your CNN WORLD SPORT Headlines. Manchester United and Manchester City join in pledging one million pounds to an emergency funds set up to support the victims of Monday's terror attack in the city. United who won the Europa League final on Wednesday night have now teamed up with their great rivals. It is right that we present a united response to this tragedy, the words of United's Executive Vice Chairman, Ed Woodward. Meantime, City Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak saying we've been humbled by the strength and solidarity shown by Manchester.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, with an impressive pace in the second practice of the Monaco Grand Prix, was more. The German clocking the fastest lap ever round the famed streets circuit in Thursday practice. The four-time world champion topping the time sheet for the fastest of a minute, 12.720 seconds.
And as the countdown continues of the French Open which starts on Sunday, everyone surely in the worldwide tennis community, fervently hoping we'll get to see Petra Kvitova's return to the sport. It's more than half a year after that horrific night attack she suffered in her very own home. 26-year-old underwent several hours of surgery. As a result, Kvitova, she's a two-time Wimbledon champion and is due to host a press conference with what looks like it's a last minute decision being taken on whether she will or won't compete.
That's a look at your WORLD SPORT Headlines. I'm Patrick Snell.
VAUSE: 19 minutes past 10 here in Los Angeles. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. Just 24 hours ago he was being charged with assault for allegedly body-slamming a reporter. Now Republican Greg Gianforte is projected to win the vacant U.S. House seat from Montana.
VAUSE: Let's take a look at the latest. Gianforte has 50.4 percent of the vote. Democrat Rob Quist, 53.8 percent. Eighty-four percent of the vote has now been counted.
SESAY: All right, so another big story for you. U.S. officials tells CNN that Jared Kushner, a Senior Advisor to President Trump is under scrutiny with the FBI.
VAUSE: That means the investigation into Russian election meddling has now reached into the President's inner circle. Kushner is Mr. Trunmp's son-in-law and it's important to know that Jared Kushner not been accused of any wrongdoing. For more on this, we're joined once again by CNN's Senior Reporter for Media and Politics, Dylan Byers, CNN Political Reporter, Maeve Reston.
We also have criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, Troy Slaten standing by. Troy, thank you for staying with us. Maeve, let's just look at some of the details of what exactly what the FBI is looking at here. Why are they particularly interested in Kushner?
[01:20:20] RESTON: Well, we've known for some time about these two meetings that he had with Russian officials earlier on but what we are learning today is that the focus has expanded where they're looking at Kushner's role in the Trump campaign data analytics operation which ran out of Texas, and his relationship with former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and also his contacts with Russia generally. As you said at the beginning, obviously, he is not at the moment, that we know of, a target of the investigation. There's been no allegation of wrongdoing here, but these are the
things that the FBI is looking at and it puts the White House in a very difficult position because Jared Kushner, not only is he one of the closest people to the President, but he has a huge portfolio in the White House just as he did during the campaign and it's going to be a huge distraction going forward. I mean, he is one of the people - he's overseeing the office of strategic innovations that they have.
A lot of their big policy initiatives that they're excited about, Trump had tapped Kushner to lead and so it really is just another cloud over a family member for Trump, which is just going to make him, you know, more angry about this investigation which he believes is a hook.
SESAY: Yes. Let's go to Troy. Troy, legally speaking, how problematic is this for Jared Kushner?
TROY SLATEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think it is very problematic, Isha. And here's the reason why. I fall in the same school as Alan Dershowitz who here on CNN explained that as a civil libertarian, we have to look at federal investigations, federal prosecutions, FBI probes. Now the investigation by the special counsel Bob Mueller as something looking into violations of federal law. Now, even if Jared Kushner was -- or other members of the Trump campaign, transition team or administration were talking to Russians, even coordinating with the Russians with regard to potential release of information, release of e-mails that were hacked into by a WikiLeaks or the Russians or released by WikiLeaks, even if that's true, there's no federal crime. There's no federal law that prescribes that type of activity. It may look bad politically, we may want sunlight to be a good sanitizer on letting everyone know that that was going on, but it's not a crime.
VAUSE: We also -