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Kushner under Scrutiny in Russia Probe; Trump Scolds Allies; Trump on Montana Race; GOP Candidate Wins Montana Race. Aired 8:30- 9:00a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:39] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana's special House election 24 hours after being charged with assaulting a reporter. During his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to that reporter.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI's Russia meddling probe is putting the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, under the microscope. Investigators are studying his interactions with Moscow during the campaign and transition. Kushner's attorney says he is willing to cooperate. Kushner, we are told, is not a target of the probe.

CAMEROTA: A federal appeals court upholding the block on President Trump's travel ban citing his comments during the campaign. The administration says it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: President Trump is in Sicily this morning, wrapping up his first foreign trip with a two-day G-7 meeting of world leaders. After discussions of global issues, the president, he will head home.

CAMEROTA: Officials say the Manchester suicide bomber spoke to his brother in Libya 15 minutes before the deadly attack. And a source tells CNN that ISIS likely trained the terrorists in Syria in the months before the bombing.

BERMAN: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the very latest.

Well, the FBI's Russia meddling probe appears to be knocking on the front door of the White House. Investigators are looking into the president's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

CNN's Randi Kaye with more on the man known as the secretary of everything.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wherever the president goes, his trusted son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is never far behind.


KAYE: As senior advisor to the president, Kushner sits in on meetings in the Oval Office and was even in the war room when the U.S. struck Syria in response to a chemical attack. Kushner, who is married to the president's daughter Ivanka, is also helping shape the president's agenda on matters related to U.S./China relations, trade with Mexico, criminal justice reform and overhauling the government. An incredible amount of influence for the 36-year-old Kushner, who until the 2016 campaign, had no political experience. He and his father, like Trump, are real estate developers. But his lack of expertise in all things Washington has hardly stopped President Trump from making Kushner the point person on just about anything, even peace in the Middle East.

TRUMP: He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK? I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.

KAYE: Kushner, an orthodox Jew who supports Israel, just this week met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife. In April, he represented the Trump administration on a swing through Iraq, alongside the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared's going to specifically express the commitment of U.S. - of the United States to the government of Iraq, meet with U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign.

KAYE: Kushner has been called the secretary of everything, a title which has riled up some Democrats.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: He doesn't have experience in any of these areas and he's acting as a super secretary of state.

KAYE: When asked about Kushner's growing influence and role in international deal making, the White House explained it this way.

SPICER: There's a lot of relationships that Jared's made over time with different leaders, Mexico being one of them you mentioned, that they're going to continue to have conversations with him.

KAYE: And what about Kushner's relationship with Russia? During the transition, turns out Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower. The White House says he was acting as a conduit to world leaders. Also at Kislyak's suggestion, Kushner met with a Russian banker who owns a bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration. Kushner has offered to testify before Congress about both of these meetings.

[08:35:16] LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The fact that he met with the banker, I think he needs to explain himself.

KAYE (on camera): His dealings with Saudi Arabia may also need some explaining. Just two weeks before the president's visit to Saudi Arabia, Kushner personally called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to cut a deal for a sophisticated missile detention system. Kushner asked the CEO to cut the price so they could finalize the arms deal, a weapons package that in the end cost about $110 billion for tanks, fighter jets, combat ships and more.

KAYE (voice-over): For a Trump White House built on unconventional choices, it goes without saying Jared Kushner is just that.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Randi for that.

Let's bring in former Congresswoman Jane Harman. She's the director, president and CEO of the Wilson Center. And former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. He's the president of Hoekstra Global Strategies. We should note they served as the chair and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee after the September 11th attacks and they both say they worked very well together, so bipartisanship can thrive in Congress.

Congresswoman, let me start with you.

Jared Kushner, we now learn, is the focus of part of the FBI investigation into the Russia, you know, Trump campaign probe. One of the things that we've been told that they're looking at is whether people were wittingly or unwittingly under the influence of Russian intelligence. Unwitting influence. What does that mean?

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT & CEO, WILSON CENTER: Well, it means that Russian operatives had relationships with them, which they may not have been aware of. Not aware that the people talking to them were Russian operatives. We don't know the facts yet and my view is that Bob Mueller, who's very capable, who is the special counsel, needs to finish his investigation in a highly professional way and then we'll know what we know. It is also important that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Pete and I know a lot about this, are working together on a bipartisan basis. And I ran into the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee yesterday who assures me that he and the ranking member, same relationship Pete and I had, are doing that.

BERMAN: One of the thing we heard is concerns, congressman, from members that perhaps this - with this special counsel investigation they don't know how far it will go. They don't know where the lines are here. How important is it to draw a distinction between what's happening in Congress and what the special counsel is doing?

PETE HOEKSTRA, PRESIDENT, HOEKSTRA GLOBAL STRATEGIES: It's always important to draw that line. You don't want to have overlap. You don't want to have congressional investigations impede what potentially, you know, could end up being a criminal investigation. And so there will - I think - you know, I did this in the '90s. I led an investigation into the teamsters and it was a parallel track going on in the Justice Department. I think the committees on The Hill are going to end up being frustrated because they're going to get pushback from Mueller, who's a great guy, but the Justice Department will push back and say, you know, Congress, don't go there. You're stepping on some of the stuff that we're working on and hold back.

BERMAN: Congressman, just quickly, I want your take on the fact that Jared Kushner is now a focus of this investigation. Someone obviously very close to the president. Not just because he's his son-in-law, but because he's basically the senior advisor on just about everything. How important is that, that this crucial person is now under investigation?

HOEKSTRA: Well, number one (ph), let's be careful here in terms of exactly what we say. You know, he's a focus and they're going to take a look at the meetings. He's not under investigation. He's not a target. If Mueller is going to do a thorough investigation of Russian influence or attempted influence in this election, they're going to touch a lot of people in the Trump campaign. They may touch some people in the Clinton campaign. That's what an investigation is all about. So I think you're going to see lots of names tossed around and we shouldn't jump to conclusions that these people are then implicated for having done something wrong.

BERMAN: And to be clear, we have not have any allegations of wrongdoing yet on the part of Jared Kushner.


BERMAN: If I can shift gears. The president in Europe right now, congresswoman. Yesterday he spoke before NATO. And before the NATO alliance, there was no defense, no reaffirmation of Article Five, collective security.

HARMAN: Right.

BERMAN: And this followed a trip to Saudi Arabia where he went there and said specifically, we are not here to lecture you. So, he didn't lecture the Saudis, yet he went before NATO, some of America's greatest allies, didn't reaffirm Article Five and did lecture them on NATO payments.

HARMAN: Rich irony. He was in Saudi Arabia. I thought it was a pretty successful visit. But the country has been at least accused of massive human rights violations. Certainly Wahhabism, which is the extreme form of Islam, was born there and arguably they continue to export it by funding terror activities outside of Saudi Arabia. Not so productively, I would say, but at any rate. Then he comes to Europe, our allies, and doesn't mention Article Five. His aides went in behind him and said, yes, he supports Article Five.

[08:40:10] But at a time when these ISIS fighters are squeezing out of the Middle East, coming to Europe and attacking soft targets in Europe, don't we want Europe to have our back? And let's talk about intelligence cooperation, too, because although Manchester has now revived the cooperation between our police departments, I was last night at Madison Square Garden with two of my grandkids and their friends. A rich, soft target for 20,000 people watching a Billy Joel concert and wouldn't we want to know every single clue about a soft target, just like the Manchester target, that the Manchester Police know. And it just seems to me intelligence officials in Europe may now edit what they tell us and that would be a tragedy.

BERMAN: Yes, the president made clear yesterday that he wants to investigate whatever leaks were happening inside U.S. intelligence providing pictures.

HARMAN: And we should. We should.

BERMAN: And I think there is wide agreement that those leaks should not necessarily have happened that way.

Congressman, one of the things, in addition to not defending Article Five, not talking about collective security along with NATO allies, the president had one line in passing about Russia and European leaders, NATO leaders, members of the G-7 who were there also, they're waiting for some kind of firm statement from the president about Russian aggression there. Does he need to be more clear about how he feels about Russian sanctions, for instance?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I think he has to be clear about a number of issues. And I think on this trip he has been very clear about his expectations. He went to Saudi Arabia. He met, you know, and addressed the Muslim leader - or the leaders of many Muslim countries and said, what, we need to have you involved. You're a key ally. We want you to be a key ally in defeating the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda and these types of organizations.

He has gone to Europe and has said, we want intelligence cooperation, we need you to step up your funding and we need you involved in the fight against ISIS. I think - you know, so he has clearly signaled what he wants and needs them to do. Our actions in Europe right now speak very, very clearly that we support article five. There is no doubt and there shouldn't be any doubt about our position on that. And I think on Russia, on sanctions, you know, yes -

BERMAN: You still think he -

HOEKSTRA: Very concerned about their aggression in Europe, but we also maybe have to work with them in the Middle East, especially in a place like Syria and perhaps even Libya.

HARMAN: I think by not emphatically saying that he supports Article Five, he's giving Vladimir Putin a hall pass to continue his aggression in Ukraine and to threaten the Baltics and I think it's a mistake in terms of U.S. interest. It was a missed opportunity. And I agree with Pete that he took some opportunities in the Middle East. That part was more successful than the European part.

BERMAN: Congresswoman, congressman, thanks so much for this mini, you know, 2003 intelligence reunion. Appreciate you both being here.


CAMEROTA: OK, John, another big story, 39 people were shot in Chicago last weekend. It is a staggering number. And this week's CNN Hero is trying to keep children out of the crossfire and to give them back their childhood. Meet Jennifer Maddox. She is the officer - she's the CNN Hero. To learn more about Officer Maddox, you can go to And while you're there, you can nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN hero. You can find out more about her story there.

BERMAN: All right, we know President Trump, he loves to win. Why four words he just said to reporters at the G-7 Summit matter. That's next in "The Bottom Line."


[08:47:23] CAMEROTA: President Trump may be in Sicily at this hour, but he had Montana's special election on his mind this morning. Listen.




CAMEROTA: Now, that was apropos of nothing. As far as we know, no one asked a question about that race. And those are the president's first comments about the race. He did not speak out to condemn Greg Gianforte's alleged assault of a reporter.

So joining us now with "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

Dave - great to see you, David.


CAMEROTA: How do you interpret the president weighing in, in that way, great win in Montana?

AXELROD: I mean, is it - it's not terribly surprising. You know, he loves winning. And I don't think he cares that much about the manhandling of a reporter. And he understood that if the GOP had lost this seat, which they have held for 20 years, and in a district he had won by more than 20 points, there would have been an earthquake in Washington and in the cloak room of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate.

So they dodged a bullet in this race. They won. They won by a much narrower margin than a Republican probably should in that district, but a win is a win and Democrats have to contemplate that as well because, you know, close only is good in horseshoes. It doesn't really work in politics. And, so, Democrats keep narrowing the margins in some of these districts, but in June, when there's a special in Georgia, they're really hoping to win a race, which is going to be important. And they're going to have to do more than they did in Montana, where the Democratic candidate, who wasn't a great candidate, a good guy, not a great candidate, didn't get a whole lot of support from outside groups while the Republican did.

BERMAN: No more participation ribbons when the Georgia special election happens in June for Democrats.

AXELROD: Yes, absolutely.

BERMAN: David, you know, Paul Ryan congratulated Greg Gianforte, said he'd be an important conservative voice. The president there said great win. You know, what - what do Republicans need to say now about this? We have Scott Taylor from Virginia, Tom Cole from Oklahoma who condemned the alleged assault but both said, you know, look, you know, he won the Montana race so we're going to respect him as a colleague. Do they need to say more about this?

AXELROD: Well, they should say - they should separate out their relief about winning the seat from his actions, and they should talk - speak to his actions. But I think what's going to happen, John, is they're going to talk to him about quickly pleading to what he did. He apologized from the platform last night.

BERMAN: Right.

AXELROD: They're going to try and make this go away as quickly as possible because it is an embarrassment to them. They're also probably going to tell him no body slamming when you get out here.

[08:50:08] CAMEROTA: That would be good advice.

Let's talk about the latest in the Russia investigation. We now know from CNN reporting that Jared Kushner is being looked at by federal investigators, not surprising. Obviously Jared Kushner has also had contacts with Russians. But this is the closest person thus far to the president. How do you see this investigation?

AXELROD: Well, look, as you say, it's not surprising, not just because he had contacts with Russians, but because he was such an integral part of both the campaign and the post campaign period. Jared Kushner was central to the operations of that campaign. Now we learn they're looking at the data operations and could the Russians have had access in some way to the data operations, which would be very important if you were trying to target swing voters with misinformation, as has been suggested.

In terms of his contacts with Russians, I think the focus could be that not so much the contact with Kislyak, but the contact with that Russian banker and what was discussed from a bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration at a very sensitive time. That was an odd meeting. Lindsey Graham spoke to that. Others have spoken to that. I think there will be great interest in what was - exactly what was said in that meeting.

BERMAN: So interesting that you, as, you know, a former political consultant there, picked up on the data operation because that was really one of the new pieces from the CNN reporting here that the FBI is looking on that. You know, we don't know whether or not there was a connection between the Russia hacking and the Trump data operation, which Jared Kushner took responsible for and really steered towards some ingenious decisions during the election there. But how could, in theory, David, you know, Russian data help with that type of thing? AXELROD: Well, understand what data analytics is. They - that is the

process of identifying those voters who have a propensity to be on the bubble and could come your way or voters who haven't been active who you might want to activate. You know, it is a way of micro targeting voters. So if you had a list of voters who were targets in key states and you concentrated your efforts on them in terms of the information flow they were getting on social media, that would be a very valuable piece of information.

And, John, one thing I'd point out is, I was - it left me wondering, could the Russians have access to Democratic analytics through their hack of the DNC. I hadn't heard that. But that would be another thing that I would look at if I were investigating this because Democrats also did analytics and also identified swing voters in these key states.



BERMAN: We do know the DCCC did have some -

AXELROD: But it would be very, very valuable to have.

BERMAN: The DCCC did have some of their analytics hacked. And there's some reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" about that playing in Florida there.


BERMAN: So that is a possibility.

CAMEROTA: All right, David, let's talk about handshake politics. There is some fascinating body language happening here between President Trump and the president of France, Emmanuel Macron. Neither one is going to stop that handshake first. They are in a death grip handshake. And look at this one. This is a handshake turned into an arm wrestle. What - what's - I mean there's something behind this, right? What's going on here?

AXELROD: Well, I wonder - you know, you read that foreign leaders have been doing intensive study of Donald Trump in preparation for the meetings. You wonder if Macron had some handshaking exercises in advance of this meeting.

But, look, everybody keeps saying, we want the president to get a grip. We want President Trump to get a grip. Well, he got a grip here. We should all celebrate that.

BERMAN: Wow. Obviously David Axelrod was getting ready for that comment as well.

Thanks so much, David. Great to have you with us.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Have a good weekend.

AXELROD: All right. Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: "The Good Stuff" is next.


[08:57:52] BERMAN: All right, time now for "The Good Stuff." You're about to meet a father with an appetite to help the less fortunate. Jeffrey Lou (ph), father of three, makes a decent living. So when he heard kids across the nation were being kicked off lunch lines at school because they didn't have enough cash, he felt compelled to do something.


JEFFREY LOU: Kids can think differently of this friend saying, hey, he has no money again.


BERMAN: Lou set up a Go Fund Me page. In the end, he and donors helped raise more than $23,000, enough money to eliminate lunch debt in 90 plus schools in Washington state.


LOU: No child should go hungry due to not having any money.


BERMAN: That's right. And it's so important for these kids not to have to ask, you know, friends and whatnot. So that's wonderful.

CAMEROTA: That is wonderful. Why do their school lunches look so much better than mine do?

BERMAN: I'm very hungry right now.


Now, time for late night laughs. The material, President Trump's NATO trip and the Montana congressional race. Enjoy.


SETH MEYERS, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": During a NATO meeting today, President Trump was seen pushing aside the prime minister of Montenegro in order to move to the front of the group. Take a look. Look at this guy. Wow! You're a world leader, a world leader at a meeting of dignitaries, and you act like they just called your number at KFC.

JIMMY FALLON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": He was like, I learned that move from Melania. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

MEYERS: The Republican congressional candidate for a special election in Montana yesterday reportedly body slammed a journalist after he asked a question about the Republican health care plan. Now, to be fair, that basically is the Republican health care plan.

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Now, that happened the night before the election. It's got to be pretty damaging. I just don't know how anyone could vote for a candidate who body slams people.

You've never seen Donald Trump quite like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this! Look at this! Donald Trump. Oh, my God.

COLBERT: I forgot. Nothing matters.


BERMAN: There are almost no jokes there. There was almost just a reading of the news.

[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: They write themselves.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

All right, time now for CNN "Newsroom" today with Poppy Harlow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well said, Alisyn. Well said this Friday morning.

You guys have a good early start to your weekend. We've got a lot ahead.

CAMEROTA: You too.