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Turmoil Awaiting President Trump When He Arrives Back Home; Three People On A Train In Portland Killing Two Of Them; Tragic Murder Turned Into A Conspiracy Theory Pushed By Right Wing Pundits And Even Members Of Congress; Kushner Is Also Facing Intense Scrutiny For Another December Meeting. Aired 7:00-8:00p ET
Aired May 27, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:07] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great you have to with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
We have breaking news on CNN right now. Turmoil awaiting President Trump when he arrives back home in just a few hours. It's the latest and potentially the most damaging development in the growing investigations of his administration's ties to Russia. This news involves the president's son-in-law and close advisor Jared Kushner. A source now confirms to CNN Kushner discussed a plan after Election Day to set up a secret communication channel for the White House to communicate with the Kremlin. This source tells us that Kushner talked about this idea with Russia's ambassador to the Unite Stated. A man regarded by current and former intelligence officials as one of Moscow's top spice.
That secret communication line, by the way, is never set up but the idea was this. Kushner and the soon to be named national security advisor, at the time, Michael Flynn would have been able to talk to Russian military officials directly, secretly and unmonitored through a channel set up at a Russian diplomat facility.
One other thing, Reuters is reporting Jared Kushner failed to disclose at least three contacts with Russia's ambassador between April and November of last year. Conversations that he should have included in this security clearance paperwork.
CNN Washington correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us now from Washington.
Ryan, air force 1 is set to touch down in a few more hours as the president returns to the United States. What are the administration officials saying in the meantime about these new development involving Jared Kushner?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They aren't saying anything, Ana. And this follows a pattern that we have seen with the president and his team as (INAUDIBLE) Trump overseas. The President has answered little to no questions from reporters. And his staff has briefed reporters but only very infrequently throughout this trip and they have not answered these pointed questions about Russia and in particular Jared Kushner. Now, this morning two of the President's top advisors, the national
security advisor H.R. McMaster and Gary Kohn who is one of the senior economic advisors, they held a goggle (ph) this morning. Now, this off camera but on the record and they were asked about Jared Kushner. Listen to what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY COHN, We are not going to comment on Jared. We are just not going to comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, generally speaking, general, would you be concerned that somebody on the national security council or in this administration were to receive a back channel communication system with the Russian embassy and with the Kremlin, would that generally concern you not to even address Kushner specifically but in general terms?
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I mean, we have back channel communications with a number of countries, so generally speaking about back channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discrete manner. So it doesn't predispose you to any sort of content of that conversation or anything. So no, I would not be concerned about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: So without specifically discussing exactly what Jared Kushner was up, H.R. McMaster trying to blunt some of the criticism about what Jared curb her was involved in.
But Ana, it's important to point out we have not heard from Kushner at all. He has not responded to questions about this report.
CABRERA: So they are defrosting or trying to, I guess, maybe not address directly this situation with Kushner but is the White House doing anything to prepare to con front this storm of controversy that's going to greet the President on his return to Washington?
NOBLES: Yes. It seems as though there is a bit of different posture at the White House, Ana. To a certain extent they have allowed things to happen to them as opposed to bluntly defending some of these attacks that have come. And it seems that they are going in a much different direction. They are establishing a war room inside the west wing that's going to be able to quickly respond to the some of the criticism that comes out as this Russia investigation goes along.
Now, the outside of the White House, the President's children are getting involved again. Donald Trump Jr. and Erick Trump is (INAUDIBLE). They have been in Washington for the past couple of days meeting with teams from the White House, from the RNC and from American priorities, which is a Pac that supports the President. They are trying to get everybody on the same page so that there's a consistent message, not just about responding to these attacks about Russia but also attempting to demonstrate the things that the they feel that the President has done well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. And then of course his own reelection bid in 2020.
CABRERA: All right. Ryan Nobles for us tonight. Thank you.
I want to take you to Moscow now with CNN's Clare Sebastian.
Clare, how is Russia now reacting to this breaking news out of Washington?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this is another frustrating episode for the Russian government. They have been growing increasingly exasperate in recent weeks as the Russia related code of ethics (ph) has been gained momentum in Washington. And that was reflected in the response we got today from the foreign ministers, spokeswoman (INAUDIBLE) according to "the Washington Post" story quote "McCarthyism or simply internal political squabbles." McCarthyism reflecting the sense here in Moscow that whole Russia issue is being used by Trump's opponent to try to discredit him as their attack Russia's envoy. In Washington, the gate has yet to Kremlin did not respond to our request for comment.
Now, hopes for a reset in the relationship with the U.S. have been fading by the week here. Gary Cohn, Trump's economic advisor saying Friday that far from softening sanctions on Russia they might even consider toughening up. So very little in the way of good news coming out of Washington from Moscow -- Ana.
[19:05:35] CABRERA: All right, Clare Sebastian, thank you.
Let's get straight to our panel of security analysts joining me now. Former assistant secretary of homeland security, Juliette Kayyem and retired CIA chief of Russia operations Steve Hall.
So Juliette, a source tells CNN Kushner wanted to set up this secret line with Russia to talk about potential cooperation to end serious civil war. Does that reasoning make sense to you?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It doesn't make sense to me. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and then just say, well, his actions were, you know, naive, stupid, arrogant, all of the above, but ultimately think about it. Jared Kushner knew what was going on with the Russians during this time. They had certainly been briefed about what the Russians have done during the election. And he essentially had more confidence in the Russians in putting Russian spy than he did in America's national security apparatus.
So to me, whatever the motivation was, you just take the facts of it, it's, you know, we are at the shocking stage and you can - you know, you hear a lot of people saying he is young, he has never been in government before. You know, he could be five years old and he is still the senior advisor to the President of the United States. Like enough with this, you know, sort of Jared didn't know what was going on. Any rational 30-plus person would know this was a bad idea and therefore I think it's fair to question the motivation about Russia. CABRERA: He is a Harvard graduate. He has law degree. Now, earlier
I spoke with California congressman Ted Lieu, Democrat. Here is what he had to say about Kushner, guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: The issue is not having a back channel communication with another country. The issue is that Jared Kushner wanted this done with Russian equipment at a Russian embassy. The only reason he would want to do that is to hide those communications from U.S. it makes you wonder whose side is he on and what is he hiding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Steve, are there legitimate reasons where Kushner, the President's son-in-law, could have wanted to set up a secret communication line with the Kremlin?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: In a word, no. You know, Juliette is right on the first side of the two options that are there. The first option being, OK, you know the guy hasn't figured things out. You know, he is a Harvard grad and all that stuff but he doesn't understand how to deal with the Russians. That's the kindest possible interpretation that you can have.
The second one is a little darker which is what was alluded to in your last clip which is that remember this is at a time context is important. This is at a time when the President during his campaign was, you know, having some significantly disparaging remarks on the intelligence community, U.S. intelligence community calling them Nazis and things like that.
So is it possible then that what Kushner would want to do have some sort of special line of communication before the inauguration that would not be able to be monitored by the U.S. government.
You know, regardless of whether it's the first or the second, it is a bad situation one way or the other. And it's another one of those question marks that's out there. I mean, if this had only been the Kushner situation where he did this silliness or if it just been that one thing with Paul Manafort or just that one thing with, you know, with Flynn, you might say, OK. But when you ball them altogether, it's just too weird and it is too troubling because all it seems to gets back to Russia somehow. And that's why need to have the continuing investigation that we have and find out really what is going on here? Why are these people acting so crazy?
CABRERA: It is all that context. But Juliette, in all fairness, haven't past administration used back channels?
KAYYEM: I think - I'm so glad you ask that because I think we are using the term incorrectly. I said it last night. So back channel is authorize like overture authorize by the President, so I do wonder if Trump authorized it and authorized over sure mostly to a third party to begin discussions about changing policy with another country. So the best example of a back channel is, for example, we want to
start overtures with Cuba, and the Obama administration. That's hard to do. There are laws against it. So you begin - you go to the Pope, actually. This is public knowledge now. The Pope then sort of creates a situation in which the two countries can out speak as countries, not as son-in-law. Speak as countries and what their policies are to begin to change policy over time.
So generally, a back channel is authorized. It utilizes United States apparatus. It doesn't go to the Russians or the Cubans and it involves a third party. So I actually think, remember today H.R. McMaster said, back channels are happening tall time. He was being like too cute because of course back channels are being used all the time. This was not a backchannel. This was a covert overture to avoid the U.S. apparatus.
[19:10:29] CABRERA: Steve, there was no actual communication channel established. But let's say that this idea is real. I mean, would there be significant risk? Should they have communicated on some Russia-established device?
HALL: Well with I mean, again, this is like talking about Alice in wonderland. I mean, first of all, the Russians are never going to let an American, especially like a guy like Jared Kushner, you know, into their (INAUDIBLE) center, you know, in their embassy and say here's the encrypted communication or here is a special thing we have set up for or you can take a look at it, you know, and go ahead and use it. That's just not go to happen. That's silliness.
And again, as Juliette correctly pointed out, we don't really need a back channel to Russia. I mean, (INAUDIBLE) director Brennan mentioned last week in his testimony that he had reached out directly to Russian intelligence. He does that all the time because that is part of the job. National security advisors, people on the national security team. The President himself can simply reach out and have secure communications with the Russian government. There's no reason to do anything, you know, weird or bizarre like this. And again, you got to wonder, you know, what's going through people's minds? Why are they doing this stuff?
CABRERA: So Juliette, Michael Flynn apparently was at this meeting according to the "Washington Post" reporting. I want to play for you something Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said this week about Flynn. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: And there is at least a reasonable hypothesis that Mike Flynn is already cooperating with the department of justice investigation and perhaps even has been for some time. And if that's the case, then having congressional committees drag him in front of Congress could be a significant interference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Juliette, how like is that Flynn maybe be cooperating with the FBI?
KAYYEM: I would say it's not an impossibility. Now, when I saw to Sen. Whitehouse say and heard him say that to a reporter. It was a ding-ding-ding-ding. Because all of a sudden things started to make sense. It explains why Flynn's lawyers are not being cooperate active with the Senate and house. It also may explain why we are starting to hear stories about the Kushner-Flynn relationship. We did learn from Reuters yesterday that Kushner had more than a dozen meetings with Russians that - look, they are not just government officials. He is meeting with bankers. Well, that can't be about Syria. So there is - all of this -- I don't, you know, I'm just putting the pieces together here. I would say I would not be shocked to learn that Flynn is trying to get a deal with the FBI and that that along with everything else that Steve and I have been talk about will be very, very bad for Kushner, but also of course for the President. Because we are at the door of the oval office now. We are no longer, you know, Carter Page. You know, those sort of people that were just sorts of hangers on. We are in the White House now.
CABRERA: Steve, I see you are nodding your head. You agree?
HALL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, one of the things that struck me was, yes, you are no longer talking about guys the administration could say, yes, you know, Manafort was with us but it was briefly. You start talking about guys like Flynn. And then you know, family members, Kushner, these are not people who are going to be fired. These are people you would imagine, especially with regard to Kushner, the President's son-in-law that he's going to want to defend, you know, as a family member. He wasn't b willing to do that with Flynn. I think he's probably the number one place the Russians who have been looking to try to actually get something out of it, to try to get a (INAUDIBLE). So he might be deeply cooperating because, you know, he has the most to lose. But yes, the direction this is going, this very interesting and not in a good way.
CABRERA: He talk about his loyalty and yet -- with Flynn, in fact, the President still continues to defend him.
Steve Hall, Juliette Kayyem, thank you both.
Coming up, another bombshell report concerning Jared Kushner and b additional meetings he had with the Russians. Juliette alluded to one of those (INAUDIBLE).
But first we are also learning more about the man accused of stabbing three people on a train in Portland killing two of them. The disturbing details about that situation next.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:18:43] CABRERA: We are learning more tonight about the two men who were stabbed to death on a Portland, Oregon commuter train trying to calm a man who is allegedly yelling anti-Muslim insults. One of the man killed was 53-years-old, the other just 23. And CNN's Dan Lieberman has the details of this disturbing attack.
DAN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Portland, Oregon police are now identifying the suspect in a brutal stubbing. 35-year- old Jeremy Joseph Christian was booked on murder charges and is being held without bail after allegedly stabbing three people on a commuter train during rush hour yesterday. Two of those victims died.
SGT. PETE SIMPOON, SPOKESMAN, PORTLAND POLICE: It is horrific. And there is no other words to describe what happened.
LIEBERMANN: Video show Christian at a rally shouting racist slurs and making Nazi salutes just weeks ago. Witnesses say that's what he was doing on Friday, shouting anti-Muslim and other hateful slurs like --
EVELIN HERNANDEZ, WITNESS: Get out of the country. Plus do and pay taxes in here. He doesn't like Muslims because they are like - they are criminals.
LIEBERMANN: Authorities believe the comments were directed towards two female passengers, one wearing a hijab. Other passengers intervene. And that's when the violence broke out.
CHARLIE ROBINSON, WITNESS: I go to reach out to start putting people apart. And then I see that there's just blood everywhere. Again, it happened so fast but it looked like every punch that I say was actually a stab.
[19:20:05] LIEBERMANN: Two men were killed and police say the suspect fled the train. He was later arrested in a nearby neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he got off the train, I saw he was holding a night and he said don't follow me.
LIEBERMANN: First responders tried to say one victim's life but he died on the scene. The other victim died at the hospital. The other passenger who was stabbed is expected to survive. Two others were also injured.
Oregon senator Jeff Markley responded on twitter saying quote "terrible tragedy on Portland's mac's train. Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil."
Dan Liebermann, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: This deadly attack in Portland comes as Muslims around the world mark the holy month of Ramadan. And for some it's meant to be a time for celebration. But for some, it is now filled with fear and apprehension.
Joining me to discuss is CNN.com opinion contributor and host the "Dean Obadallah"s show in Sirius SX. Dean Obedallah. Hey, Dean. Thanks for being with us.
DEAN OBEDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Sure.
CABRERA: So I know you have said Muslims are on edge. As a Muslim yourself does this year's Ramadan time feel different that in year's past to you?
OBEDALLAH: It does. I wrote an article in the daily beast before this came out interviewing various Muslim leaders. Who are vocalizing that. You know, they are not going to be intimidated by bigots. Nut there is a concern they have issue they haven't had before. And in our view, the words of Donald Trump have ginned up fear. We saw a spike and hate crimes have been quantified by the FBI like a 47 percent increase. You saw this year alone, CNN has documented between January and March, 35 mosques have been targeted from vandalism to threats to five mosques burned down a suspicious circumstances.
So even before this incident, our community has been really concerned about what we will see during this Ramadan and will it result in more hate crimes against our community. And that is not something in American 2017 no should fear. Because of their religion, they are going to be attacked or their family be attacked or their place of worship burned down or attack. That should not be a concern in America today. Yet it is for the Muslim-American community.
CABRERA: Let me read you what the President wrote as he addressed the time of Ramadan. We mentioned the recent terror attack in Manchester, England as well as Egypt, something others have avoided mentioning terror attack.
And so he writes this year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of a barbaric terrorist attack in the United Kingdom and Egypt acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan.
Dean, does it bother you that the President mentioned the terror acts or does that point help kind of separate the two?
OBEDALLAH: This was supposed to be a message to the American Muslim community Ramadan, right. It's an important month. It is a month of social activity with your family. It's the idea of spiritual renewal. It's not about the worst extremes percentage of your community.
CABRERA: So, it doesn't offend you?
OBEDALLAH: I don't get offend. It's more troubling that Donald Trump again tying Islam - main steam Islam with terrorist. George W. Bush put out a statement short after 9/11 for Ramadan, never mentioned terrorists. Last year President Obama's state which I read again before coming on today, talked about the contribution of American- Muslims to our country. How long they have been here?
Islam has been here since the time of slavery because 10 to 15 percent of the African were Muslims. So Islam was part of the creation of the United States and let it part of the creation of the United States of America. He doesn't mention that. He again ties us with terrorism and that's troubling. It's just as bad as the holocaust. They didn't mention Jews as they put out early in this administration. It's toned depth. It's part of the worst narrative. And at a time without community is concern, just like the attack last night. And those people who stood up, they represent the best of America.
CABRERA: They being stood up and people lost their lives in the process.
I got to get this in. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson in a new reporting today saying that they do not plan to have a reception at the state department during this holy month.
CABRERA: What's your reaction? I mean, this breaks with past tradition?
OBEDALLAH: It does. I mean, since 1996, there has been a White House (INAUDIBLE) which is a dinner at the end of sunset during Ramadan, each night (INAUDIBLE). Since 1996 they have made it an annual tradition in the White House. It is stunning. And it sends a scary message to our fellow Americans. You know, we don't view Islam as part of the fabric of this nation. I think if anyone needs to say something like that, it is Donald Trump who said Islam hates us, who has demonized our community joins campaign. Come out now and embrace American Muslims. It won't make up for having (INAUDIBLE) but it at least takes a little step in the rights direction.
CABRERA: What can he say that will help back on?
OBEDALLAH: I think one, frankly, is apologizing saying look, I made some wrong statements. Thousands of Muslims did not cheer in the 9/11. Because even Rudy Giuliani said they did not cheer. Saying Islam hates us, saying look, I was caught up the campaign. That was a mistake. I have gone to Saudi. I have talked to Muslim leaders. I understand I was incorrect about. Let's work together review as fellow Americans. We're not -- you're not better or worse because of your faith. This is America. We are all viewed as equals. So let's work together to a common good of the best of America. I think that would make a big difference if Republicans say that statement. I'm not sure -- it's symbolic, it's a gesture. I don't even know how many Muslims would go to it at this point. But he needs first apologize. I think perhaps he can make inroads.
We are Americans. We are proud to be Americans. We are proud to be Muslim. In this beautiful country, you can be both. You don't have to choose one or the other. It is a point President Obama made as mosque was last year. This is what America. Many in one.
CABRERA: So let me ask you this. What is the proper greeting for this holiday for you?
OBEDALLAH: Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak which is basically happy Ramadan? Just say happy Ramadan.
CABRERA: Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak or --.
OBEDALLAH: Ramadan Kareem and that's in the 30 days of fasting with family purity, connecting with God, charity, doing work in that regard is important.
CABRERA: Thanks for sharing.
OBEDALLAH: Thank you very much.
CABRERA: And coming up, let's talk more about a tragic murder turned into a conspiracy theory pushed by right wing pundits and even members of Congress. We will explain.
[19:30:03] CABRERA: It's an unsolved, very real murder that has become fake news. For months right wing media outlets have floated on proven claims said a young DNC staffer who was murder last yeas leaked thousands of DNC emails and his murder was retribution. Now, there is zero evidence but the reports haven't stopped the story spread.
Tom Foreman report on the anatomy of a conspiracy theory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard two gunshots the other night.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): D.C. police have spent months investigating the murder of 26-year-old Seth Rich. And they believe it was a botched robbery that happened as he walked home late at night. The unsuccessful hunt for his killer a frustration for them and the victim's family.
MARY RICH, MOTHER OF SETH RICH: We will find his murder.
FOREMAN: But former Republican speaker of the House Newt Gingrich claimed over the weekend with no evidence that the case may be about something more sinister.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This young man who worked for Democrats National Committee who apparently was assassinated at 4:00 in the morning having giving WikiLeaks something like 23,000 - I'm sorry, 53,000 emails.
FOREMAN: It was an explosive charge, a conspiracy involving WikiLeaks, the Democratic national Committee and assassination. One big problem, though, it's not true. In fact the whole crazy theory had already been debunked by CNN and other news organization when Gingrich made the claim. But Gingrich wasn't alone. He would only joined the flood of right wing conspiracy theorists pushing the notion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a possibility this is a guy who provided to WikiLeaks all those DNC emails.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then he was shot in the back. FOREMAN: And with no proof they even suggested the young murder
victim may be to blame claiming he was so angry at his own party for some reason that he handed over the emails to get even.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If it was true that Seth Rich gave WikiLeaks the DNC email, wouldn't that blow whole Russia collusion narrative that the media's been pushing out of the water?
FOREMAN: Where do these wild theories come from? From bailed hints from fugitive WikiLeaks Julian Assange.
From a FOX News.com story citing an unnamed alleged farewell source. And from this private detective who says he has never seen the emails, never seen Rich's computer.
ROD WHEELER, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: Yet it's very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think well perhaps there were some email communications between Seth and WikiLeaks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. government invests a lot of money in spy clouds.
FOREMAN: And yet another bizarre twist, the notorious hacker know as kim.com seen here in an interview with Russian state TV claims he has the evidence. Why won't he produce it? He is fighting extradition to the U.S. for conspiracy, racketeering band money laundering.
But in a statement on his website said if my evidence is required to be given, I would need a guarantee from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back.
Seth Rich's family sent a cease and decease letter to the private detective. And yesterday, pleading in a statement to Sean Hannity that read in part, it is a travesty that you would prompt false conspiracy theories and other people's agendas rather that work with the family to learn the truth. With that, the story seemed to finally lose one of its biggest champions.
HANNITY: Out of respect for the family's wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.
FOREMAN: Even so, today the story lives on.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: There's still some question as to whether the intrusion at the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The insider job, what are you referring to here? Because I hope it's not this information that FOX News is reporting.
FARENTHOLD: Again, there are stuff circulating on the internet.
FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CABRERA: Thank you, Tom.
Now tonight, I have to report three prominent men from three different walks of life have died in the past 24 hours but legends all in their own right. Former U.S. national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday at age 89. He served under President Carter who tweeted his condolences calling Brzezinski quote "a superb public servant."
Also on Friday, Jim Bunning died. The hall of fame pitcher played 17 major leagues seasons, threw a no-hitter (ph) in 1968 and a perfect game six years later. Bunning served six terms in the House and two terms in the Senate as a Republican from Kentucky. Jim Bunning was 85.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
CABRERA: And confirmation just a couple of hours ago that rock and blues icon Greg Allman died today at his home in Georgia. Greg Allman, half of the legendary Allman Brothers, was 69 years old.
Up next, we will return to our breaking news this hour. Jared Kushner under FBI scrutiny. We are learning yet another meeting he had with a Russian official. Why it's raising concern next.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:39:25] CABRERA: We are following breaking news. Reports that President Trump's son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret communication channel with the Kremlin. In addition to the discussing a secret channel with Russia, Kushner is also facing intense scrutiny for another December meeting, this one with a Russian banker who has close ties to Vladimir Putin.
CNN's Randi Kaye has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the man Jared Kushner met with in December of 2016 just a month after Kushner's father-in-law, Donald Trump, was elected President. His name is Sergey Gorkov. He is a Russian banker, the chairman of DEB bank. He also has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who appointed him to head the bank. Gorkov graduated a Russian academy that trained people to work in Russia's intelligence and security forces.
Here's how the White House explained the nature of Kushner's meeting with the banker.
[19:40:19] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition in the campaign where he was a conduit to leaders. He wants to make sure that he was very clear about the role he play that we talked to and that's it. KAYE: That may be true. But it doesn't square with what the bank
itself has said about the meeting. In a statement, the bank said its executives met with Kushner not as a representative of the White House but as head of Kushner company. The bank said its leaders met with numerous global financial executive as it developed a new strategy for the bank.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's interesting that the Russians seem to contradict what Jared Kushner said when he said that he was acting as the liaison between the campaign and foreign governments. So I'm sure that that will be an issue that we will try to clarify.
KAYE: What exactly was discussed between Kushner and the banker remains a mystery. Though Jared Kushner has offered to answer the Senate intelligence committee's questions about not only this meeting but another meeting he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that same month. It was Kislyak who had suggested Kushner meet with the Russian banker.
The fact that Kushner didn't mention either of these meetings on his White House security clearance forms may also be topic of inquiry. So he did rectify that the day after the omission.
There's also the concern that the Russian bank has been under U.S. sanction since July of 2014. And when Kushner met with Gorkov, he was still CEO of Kushner company. And critics question whether he was looking for financing for a pricey Manhattan real estate project.
The meeting itself didn't violate a U.S. sanctions. But investigators will want to know what was said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a feeling that it related to financial issues since it involved a Russian bank. But to his credit, he is willing to testify on that issue. And I hope that the committee really thoroughly looks at what the reasons were why he engaged in that conversation.
KAYE: Seems that Jared Kushner in who barely speaks beyond a whisper in the President's ear may soon be called upon to do a whole lot of talking.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: In just a few hours President Trump will land at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland from his first foreign trip abroad. And "Time" magazine contributor Jay Newton-Small joining us now to discuss. He is also author of the book "Broad Influence, how women are changing the way America works". And former Clinton administration director of production Josh King is with us as well. He's the author of "Off Script, an advancement guide to White House stage press campaign spectacle and political suicide."
Jay, you first. I want to get your take on the President's first trip abroad. What did he do well? Where could he have improved?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Certainly, I think the early part of trip we saw him much more on script which was the first I think. He didn't have that many bombastic tweets. He was very much, you know, did as he was expected to do, didn't have that many prizes. He very much impressed Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of them were hoping to hear from him, that he will distance himself from Iran. And he need to deliver that message and they were - both countries came away incredibly pleased by that.
It went off a little script - off script towards the end. Certainly in Europe, the European leaders did not come away nearly as happy. In fact most of them were pretty upset with his, you know, failure to pledge strongly his support for NATO and to call for them to basically pay up and contribute more money. And the meetings were clearly much more acromonium as you had this very white knuckle handshake between him and French president Emanuel Macron. You had some tense other moments in the trip. And so there are certainly Europe seemed a lot more tense, a lot more stylistically difficult and at the same time he has had this investigation back home heating up which potentially was linked.
CABRERA: So I want to push forward because that will be the big topic greeting the President as he arrived.
Josh you work for the Clinton White House. Of course, there were scandals and investigations in that time as well. How can the Trump administration retake control of the narrative coming out of the White House when it comes to the Russia probe?
JOSH KING, FORMER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION: Well, Ana, what happened in January, 1998 was that the Monica Lewinsky scandal exploded across the headlines. Mike McCurry, Joe Locker, the press secretaries at the time, they were on the podium and has to deflect the media's questions to came in.
But before long, the White House got smart, taking compartmentalized. They had (INAUDIBLE) later Jim Kennedy to set up really a separate press office in the old executive office building and be the recipient of all the calls and inquiries and back and forth that related to the investigation. While at the same time President Clinton and his staff and the press secretary and the press office went about their job of being President and traveled around the country, traveled around the world. And they had an opportunity when these questions came in to simply deflect them and to refer them to the office that was handling them directly. I don't think that the President, Jared Kushner, the current west wing staff could do better than have this separate apparatus that they can refer questions to. That's the best way to handle it. We may not like it. We may not like the idea that press briefings be curtailed or that we will have less access. But the fact is that that's the scenario that the White House will play best if they can only get -- the one thing they should start doing as of Tuesday morning, be boring.
CABRERA: All right.
KING: Stop tweeting, stop reacting. Stop taking these things head on from the press office. Compartmentalize it. Put it somewhere else.
CABRERA: OK. So it does seems like there's been a little bit of a shift, Jay. The President has not answered any questions from journalists on his foreign trip. CNN now learning the White House has canceled a rally in Iowa that was scheduled for next week. Should the President speak to the American people of the public about the growing Russia controversy or is it in his best interest to be silent?
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, certainly, I think everyone in Capitol Hill, every Republican that I have spoken to has said that the twitting is the problem. And that he really needs to put down the twitter and step away from, you know, from his phone and not tweet so much. Or at least if he tweets, keep the tweets, as Josh was saying, to something boring.
The last time he addressed this investigation he called it a witch hunt and I don't know that those allegations or that kind of language really helps him here. Certainly, the White House has said he has engaged counsel. That he is lawyering up and you don't see him tweeting, for example, in response to all the stories about his son in-law Jared Kushner and becoming a sort of person of interest as part of this investigation, which normally that would be, you know, his first reaction is you would defend somebody certainly in times pass as Jeff Session as they gear with others. Michael Flynn has been those who had been targeted by the investigation. He has protected them and defended them on twitter in the past. So the fact that he is so silent with somebody so close to him, is being involved means somebody is really saying to him to step away from twitter especially on Russia.
CABRERA: And he's going to establish a war room with some of his most trusted advisors to come up with a more focused strategy on how to deal with the Russia probe. That's what we are hearing.
Jay Newton-Small and John King, thank you both.
Now, when a rookie cop encountered a shoplifter he decided not to punish her. Instead, this officer drove the girl home. And what happened next just might bring tears to your eyes.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:52:16] CABRERA: This is your feel good story of the night. You have to stick around for it. A rookie cop met a sobbing 12-year-old girl who is caught stealing shoes, but he didn't write her up. He helped. He drove this girl home. He bought pizza for the entire family. It turns out pizza was just the beginning of this officer's compassion.
CNN's Kayleigh Harpton (ph) has this week's "beyond the call of duty."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll be in touch. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, OK, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officer Che Milton didn't know he would be changing (INAUDIBLE) life when he responded to a routine 911 call.
OFFICER CHE MILTON, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Dispatched to a shoplifter corner at the family dollar. We get there. We go inside and 12-year-old girl. She's crying, bawling tears everywhere, you know. She's upset she's been caught stealing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That 12-year-old girl, the oldest child of six was caught stealing a cheap pair of shoes.
MILTON: She thought she was going to jail. She has said that was trying to steal the shoes for her 5-year-old sister. It is like me being me, officer discretion, I can't put her in the system for that. So I would rather just take her home and see what's going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officer Milton drove her a half mile back home.
MILTON: That's when I saw the conditions. It was very rough for her. So I just pulled on my heart strings and I saw there was no food in the house, not much furniture. They didn't have any beds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From a law enforcement family and only four days on the job with the Atlanta police department, Officer Milton returned to the Staples' house that night with dinner for the whole family paid for with his own money.
MILTON: The mom got teary-eyed. Me, I get emotional as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Milton then got a call from his supervisor with a commendation. Officer of the month in his first month on the job. As word of his generosity spread throughout the community more support for the staples family followed.
What has Officer Milton come to mean to your family?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's did he definitely been a blessing, like a prayer was answered and it was through him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for her sixth grade daughter back at school this turned into a positive learning experience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wants to volunteer somewhere. We have stuff that's too little for us that we could give away. She wants to give away things. So it was like a trickle effect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was Officer Milton's fourth trip to deliver donations, and he says it won't be his last.
(INAUDIBLE) CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.
CABRERA: Thank you, Kayleigh. Thank you, Officer Milton. We'll be right back.
[19:58:59] CABRERA: We honor the brave this Memorial Day weekend. And new tonight, the Pentagon has identified a soldier who died in northern Syria. Specialist Edi Murphy who told Murphy was killed in a vehicle roll over. He was just 22 years old. Earlier today President Trump visited a naval air station in Sicily and reaffirmed his support for our troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are the men and women who make up the most powerful military in the world. And under my administration, as you know, you've seen it, right, under my administration stronger and stronger every single day. I also know that the single greatest strength of our armed forces is you, you, all of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: This Memorial Day weekend as you spend time with your friend, your family, we hope you will remember service members like specialist Murphy who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Up next here on CNN, a marathon of the '80s and I will be back tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m. eastern live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Thanks for being here. Have a great night.