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Jared Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny in Russia Probe; Trump Attends G-7 Summit. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BERMAN: ... senior official and, perhaps most importantly, son-in-law of President Trump, Jared Kushner, is now under scrutiny for his role during the campaign and transition.

[07:00:12] We have this all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Ryan Young in Bozeman, Montana, where we have a new Congressman just elected there, Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. How tough is the question? What we saw here is sometimes it may lead to some physical kind of altercation. And of course, that didn't stop anything from happening. Twenty-four hours later, despite charges, there's a new Congressman in town. His name is Greg Gianforte.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GIANFORTE: Thank you, Montana.

YOUNG (voice-over): Just 24 hours after being charged with assaulting a reporter, Republican Greg Gianforte heading to Washington after winning a special election for Montana's open House seat.

Gianforte directly addressing the shocking incident at his victory rally.

GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!

YOUNG: Apologizing both to his supporters and to the reporter that he allegedly body-slammed.

GIANFORTE: 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 the way that I did. And for that I'm sorry.

I should not have treated that reporter that way. And for that, I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.

YOUNG: Gianforte's apology coming after fellow Republicans on the Hill remained largely silent about the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm not sure exactly what happened.

YOUNG: Showing an unwillingness to condemn Gianforte's behavior. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We didn't have a course on body-

slamming when I went to school. I missed that course.

YOUNG: Some even pointing a finger at Democrats.

REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: The left has precipitated this tense, confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months.

YOUNG: This despite audio evidence and eyewitness accounts from FOX News of the confrontation.

ALICIA ACUNA, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Grabbed him with both hands, top of the body, both sides of the neck. Pulled him and then slammed him to the ground, got on top of him and started punching him.

YOUNG: House Speaker Paul Ryan conceding that an apology was appropriate after being pressed by reporters.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no time where a physical altercation should occur.

YOUNG: On the ground in Montana, some of Gianforte's supporters also seemingly unfazed by the assault charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A guy does one thing, that doesn't mean he's that way all the time.

YOUNG: Some even leveling their own hostile threats to a CNN reporter covering the story.

BEN JACOBS, REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": A healthy democratic process requires journalism. That's why the First Amendment is there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: We spent our day talking to people in the area. I talked to one woman with her child right next to her, saying, "Hey, what are we teaching our children?" Here, back in campaign headquarters, we talked to people who said, "Look, don't judge the man by one action." But a judge will, because of course, on June 7 he'll have to be in court before then. So we'll have to see what happens next. He'll face some more questions before then-- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure he will. Ryan, thank you very much for being on the ground there for us.

The FBI probe into Russian election meddling is hitting close to home for President Trump. CNN has learned that investigators are now looking at the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with that part of the story. What's the development, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Jared Kushner has played many roles: the president's Mr. Fix-it, a

member of the first family, and now he's the first person currently inside the Trump White House to come under scrutiny, though it's not believed he's a target of the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's son-in-law and most trusted adviser...

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's very good at politics.

JOHNS: ... now a focus of the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Officials tell CNN the bureau is looking into a range of topics related to Kushner: a key campaign strategy, meetings held with Russian officials, and his relationship with now-ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. There's no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and no allegation of wrongdoing.

Of central interest, a data analytics operation supervised by Kushner that the Trump campaign used to micro-target voters in states that were critical to the president's victory. Investigators are examining whether Russian operatives were able to piggyback on that effort, with help from Trump associates, either wittingly or unwittingly, to help Russia's own alleged operation: to push information online aimed at helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.

Kushner is also one of four Trump associates and the only current White House staffer under scrutiny for having contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. During the transition, Kushner met with both Kislyak and the head of a Russian bank that is currently sanctioned by the U.S. and has close ties to Vladimir Putin.

[07:05:08] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition and the campaign where he was a conduit into -- to leaders.

JOHNS: Meetings Kushner prematurely left off filed security clearance forms, omissions he rectified a day later.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The fact he met with the banker, I think he needs to explain himself.

JOHNS: Kushner's lawyer, responding in a statement Wednesday, noting that Kushner "previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry."

Another point of inquiry, Kushner's relationship with Flynn. According to a source, Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, pushed the president to fire Flynn after the election. But a source close to Kushner disputes this account.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: It's not clear if the FBI plans to talk to Kushner, but investigators believe he would be able to help provide information to assist the probe. And the spokesperson said Kushner was unaware of the FBI's interest, and the bureau hasn't contacted him -- John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Thank you very much for all of that.

Let's discuss it. We want to bring in our political panel. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory; CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard.

David Gregory, this is the first time we've learned that this federal investigation doesn't just cover the campaign and Donald Trump's then- campaign advisers. Now it reaches into the White House. What's the significance?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just that last point. It reaches into the White House. Jared Kushner has emerged as, arguably, the president's most important adviser who is also family, whose authority goes in multiple directions and who has business interests that raise real questions on behalf of the Trump family that could have made the campaign vulnerable to being compromised by the Russians.

And again, we don't know what all the facts are, so we'll wait for an investigation. And we know through Kushner's attorney that he's happy to talk to all investigators.

But I think we can make a broader point right now about the attitude of vulnerability, kind of cavalier attitude by the Trump campaign that, well, Russia is not going to do anything to us. Or there's something to be concerned about here. Obviously, there is. And Kushner appears to be the person who's had enough contact, had enough meetings or knows enough to be able to really help investigators. Or, though he's not a target, as far as we know right now, that can always change.

But he seems to be in a position to help investigators find out where some of the vulnerability was, particularly because he was responsible for a lot of the data and the analytics of the campaign, which is where breaches could have occurred.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, we can tell by the serious look on your face that you have been involved in investigations. Perhaps not quite like this but investigations. What does it mean that they're focusing on Jared Kushner, but he's not a target. And as of now, there are no allegations of wrongdoing in that last part that David Gregory just brought up, the fact that now we have learned that the data operation that he ran during the campaign could be one area where they want to question.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Let's take two pieces of this. The first piece is, look, there has been an investigation under way since last summer. Jared Kushner, obviously deeply involved with the campaign, close to the president, close to some of the people we've discussed about -- we've discussed for months, including General Flynn, and he's met with the Russians. The surprise here, John, would be if he was never of interest in the investigation.

So yes, this has come into the White House. But Kushner, obviously, is going to be questioned by -- at some point by the FBI. One other quick point on why he hasn't been questioned yet.

I've been questioned in investigations before. I've watched investigations. When the bureau walks into the room, they don't want to walk in without knowing the answers. They want to know where he traveled, where his money is from, what other people at the periphery of the investigation say about his involvement. Because when they walk in the door and ask him questions, half the time they're going to know the answer. He's not going to know what they know, and they want to see what he says. They want to box him. So I wouldn't expect to see him questioned early on, because they're collecting a ton of data about him before they walk through the door.

CAMEROTA: A.B., when I hear the term "data analytics," I fall right asleep. But this, it is very fascinating. If you dive into what Jared Kushner was able to accomplish during the election, he was instrumental in helping President Trump win. He figured out through, I guess, social media, and sales of Donald Trump merchandise, like the "Make America Great" caps, that there was a vulnerability in that Democrats' Great Blue Wall, and that it could crumble. And then he sent Donald Trump there to Michigan, as we know, and sure enough, it worked.

So explain how it's possible there was a nexus with the Russians' data program and that they might have piggybacked on what Jared Kushner was doing?

[07:10:03] A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST/ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. I think Jared and the team lucked into a way to use that data to realize that Wisconsin and Michigan, instead of becoming, you know, automatically becoming blue states on November 8, were fertile ground for Trump by seeing the number of hats and T-shirts and things they were selling. And they decided, wow, this is a place where we target our resources and our social media campaign to try to boost Trump and depress the Hillary vote.

And so in the end, it was very helpful, obviously, on the ground to the campaign, in addition to just sort of being a savvy operation. Where it comes into connection with a Russian data operation -- of course, we know the Russians were doing their own, you know, campaign across social media to -- to promote negative Hillary stories, positive Trump stories.

But, you know, whether or not the data analytics operation that Jared was helping run became a partner with the Russians and their data operation, willingly or unwillingly. Perhaps they were hacked into, and then it's sort of an unwilling collusion. You know, we're yet to find that out. That sounds -- it sounds, you know, obviously like a very dramatic question. But it is the thing that would be -- it makes sense in terms of the

question of collusion. You know, what was Michael Flynn doing with the Russians if people suspect him of collusion? The data operation seems to make the most sense if there's actual evidence of collusion.

BERMAN: Phil, very quickly, how can you be unwittingly influenced in a data operation. We keep hearing the word "unwittingly" influenced by the Russians. How could that be?

MUDD: Look, you're not going to walk through the front door to somebody and say, "Would you like to be someone that works for the Russian intelligence service?" You can ask them pretty simple questions. "Hey, this campaign process is really interesting. Help me understand what are the places," as A.B. was talking about, "where Hillary Clinton might be vulnerable." And obviously, that might influence the Russian campaign.

So you see this countless times in the spy business. It's not just about recruiting people who know they're working for you. It's recruiting people who don't. And that's an easier path to get somebody to give you information that's important to an intelligence operation.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, from Russia to Montana. The candidate who was caught on audio tape and by eyewitnesses, assaulting a reporter, won in that election. He is now going to Congress. What are we to make of what happened with Greg Gianforte?

GREGORY: Well, it didn't have an impact. Now, whether that's because voters who showed up yesterday, weighed this and thought it wasn't important enough to -- to punish him and vote against him, or because of the absentee process where so many votes had already come in via absentee ballot that can't be changed that tilted it in his way. I don't think we can know ever for certain how that shakes out.

I thought Gianforte's apology was appropriate. I thought it was late. I'm surprised he waited until after the election. It has the appearance of looking like he just wanted to see how it went first and didn't want to hurt himself by apologizing, which I think is unfortunate.

But you know, he did the right thing. And he's still going to face a misdemeanor assault charge in court, as well, which is completely appropriate.

This is -- this is outrageous to attack a reporter asking a question. And it shows that he's not ready for primetime if he wants to be a Congressman who wants to be dealing with policy.

You know, you have the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who I think, spoke about this appropriately. He said this had never happened. Obviously. I mean, there are so many obvious points about this.

And I think it's just so unfortunate that you have people out there who want to rationalize it in some way or condone it in some way. Again, you know, this is not a man who should be judged by a big mistake that he made here for everybody to see. And that's why I think his apology is important, and people move on. But don't try to rationalize it or to suggest that the left has created some atmosphere. It's ridiculous.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Nice to see all of you.

So committees in Congress are widening their own Russian investigations, but are members happy with the progress? We hear from members on both sides coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:18:17] BERMAN: President Trump is attending his first G-7 summit. This is the day after really dressing down his NATO counterparts. Sara Murray joins us now from Sicily, where this summit is happening. Good morning, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, plenty of big issues on the agenda today as President Trump attends his first G-7 summit in Sicily. Among them is the Paris Climate Accord. A number of allies are trying to get a sense of whether the U.S. will remain in that accord and, of course, pressuring Trump to try to do that. He's hearing from not only his European allies but even heard from the pope earlier this week on that issue.

Now, you can also bet that there is going to be a robust discussion about terrorism in the wake of those horrific -- that horrific attack in Manchester. Now, we know that that attack has strained the U.S. and U.K. intelligence-sharing relationship. The U.K. feels like U.S. agencies are leaking information related to that investigation.

To that end, President Trump is slated to have a private pull-aside meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and walk through some of those issues at the sidelines of the summit today.

Now, one thing that we have not heard much from President Trump on at all on this trip is Russia. Remember, the G-7 used to be the G-8 not very long ago before Russia was booted from the group. And a number of these countries still eye Russia very warily, but we have not heard a critical word yet from President Trump. And in fact, last night one of his top advisors said currently, the U.S. has no position on whether he's going to maintain U.S. sanctions against Russia.

If one thing is clear from President Trump's debut on the world stage, it's that he's not afraid to offer sharp words to some of our allies. That was clear when he used his platform at NATO yesterday to criticize other countries for not spending enough on defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:20] MURRAY: Now, we are not expected to hear more, if anything, from President Trump today. In a very unusual move, he is not slated to hold a single press conference on this nine-day five- nation foreign trip -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: And that means you have a free day in Sicily, Sara. That is a great assignment. Thanks so much.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts Seth Moulton. He's on the Armed Services -- House Armed Services Committee.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: We have so much news to get to. So let's start with the latest of a Russia investigation. Now CNN has learned that federal investigators are looking into the president's top adviser and son-in- law, Jared Kushner.

Jared Kushner says he knows nothing of this investigation. He has not been contacted by the FBI or any other investigators. How big of a deal is this to you?

MOULTON: Well, of course, we don't know yet, but it seems like another day, another name. It's hard to find who in this administration is not being connected with suspicious ties to Russia.

And it just points out how important this investigation is, and we've got to get to the bottom of this for the American people and to make sure that it never happens again. Our greatest enemy of the last 65 years doesn't try again to influence our elections. That means Democrats and Republicans have got to come together. And it's why I've been calling for an independent bipartisan 9/11-style commission into what's going on.

CAMEROTA: Why doesn't -- why doesn't the appointment of Robert Mueller cut it for you?

MOULTON: Well, that is a good question. I mean, he is the special prosecutor. And there is a role for a special prosecutor here. But really, the role of the special prosecutor is to determine the punishments for what went on.

But if we want to get the full answers, have a full accounting of this for the American people and for Congress, we need to have an independent commission. That's why we had an independent commission after 9/11. And it's why we've had an independent commission in other instances like this, where really, our national security and our democracy are under assault.

CAMEROTA: So to be clear, you don't think that the congressional investigations, the committees that are happening right now or Robert Mueller are going to be able to get to the bottom of this? MOULTON: Well, they each have a role. It's important to understand

that -- what those roles are. You know, the congressional committees are all controlled by Republicans. And the Intelligence Committees, a lot of their findings will be classified. So they won't necessarily be disclosed to the American people.

But you know, the sad thing about all of this is that the more we talk about these illicit ties between the Trump administration and Russia, we're not talking about all the things that Donald Trump promised to do for the American people, including a lot of things that Democrats agree with, like investing in our infrastructure.

You know, last week was infrastructure week. We never talked about that, because we were just talking about who the next name to fall was in this investigation on ties to Russia. So it's time that we get back to the work of the American people and do the things that -- that the people actually elected Donald Trump to do.

CAMEROTA: I want to read a tweet that you sent a week ago and get you to clarify or explain what it means. You said, "Just came out of the House briefing by the deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein. It renewed my confidence that we should have no confidence in the administration."

What did Rosenstein say in there that made you tweet that?

MOULTON: Well, actually, it was what he didn't say. He hardly answered any questions. He didn't give us any confidence in the investigation.

Look, this is a deputy attorney general who appointed Robert Mueller to be a special prosecutor. So he's trying to do the right thing here, but we were very disappointed with the fact that he wasn't forthright with us when we had a closed session. It was behind closed doors. We were asking questions in a confidential setting, and frankly, we expected honest answers.

But the most important questions, he just refused to answer at all. And, you know, that's not -- that doesn't give you confidence that the administration doesn't have something to hide.

I mean, I think that's the biggest thing about this investigation, is that it's really hard at this point to believe that there's not something going on when the administration is trying so hard to cover it up.

CAMEROTA: Well, what questions wouldn't he answer?

MOULTON: Well, it was a closed session. I'm actually going to respect that. But you know, you can imagine what our questions were about regarding the memo that he wrote, regarding the firing of the FBI director Comey and what the motivations were behind him writing that memo.

So I'll be respectful of the fact that it was a closed session. But that's why I wrote the tweet. Because we went in there to have an honest conversation with the deputy attorney general in, you know, the idea -- with the idea that he would set our minds at ease and he would give us confidence that they are going to get to the bottom of what's going on here. Instead, his refusal to answer questions just left us with more questions and more uncertainty.

[07:25:06] CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the president's foreign trip. What did you think of his words and tone with NATO, where he was telling NATO allies that they need to pay their fair share of fees?

MOULTON: You know, when I was serving under -- in Iraq under then commanding General Mattis, James Mattis, who of course is now our secretary of defense, we had a motto in the 1st Marine Division. It was called, "No better friend, no worse enemy." It meant that Marines will fight you tooth and nail if you're our enemy. You'll find literally no other -- no worse enemy in the world. But we're also going to stand by our allies.

And NATO has been our most important alliance of the last 50 years. I mean, these are the folks who came together to oppose communism, to stand together in front of the iron curtain. And the fact that our president does not respect those allies, actually shows more warmth to Putin and his cronies, more warmth to the Saudis, where of course, the 9/11 terrorists came from, that's really disturbing. It's exactly the opposite of "no better friend, no worse enemy." It's saying that we're going to cozy up to our enemies, and we're going to abandon our friends. That's not a good foreign policy. It's not a smart foreign policy. And it's certainly not a strong foreign policy for the United States.

CAMEROTA: OK, and very quickly, do you have any advice for your new House colleague, Greg Gianforte, who's just won in Montana?

MOULTON: Yes. If you're -- if you can't handle tough questions from a reporter, then you're going to have a real tough time handling tough questions for -- from constituents. You know, his job is to be an elected representative in our democracy.

And there's no more important bedrock principle in democracy than a free press. And there's no more important principle when it comes to doing his job than listening to and representing his constituents.

This is why I'm working so hard to recruit a lot of veterans to run for office. People who have faced much tougher challenges in their lives than answering a tough question from a reporter.

I'm working on that to get some people to Washington who will put the country first over politics and not be afraid of tough questions in the course of doing their jobs.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Seth Moulton, we appreciate you being on NEW DAY. Thanks so much.

MOULTON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John. BERMAN: All right, Alisyn. You're talking about it right there.

Montana sends a new Republican to Washington with an assault charge hanging over him. How will fellow Republican members treat him? We're going to ask next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)