Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Sources: Russians Discussed Potentially "Derogatory" Information About Trump And Associates During Campaign; Source: Kushner Not Giving Up Duties Amid Russia Probe; McCain On Kushner's Russia Contacts: "I Don't Like It"; Why Did Kushner Meet Russian Banker With Putin Ties?; Police Report: Tiger Woods Passed Breathalyzer. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 30, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan.
New this morning, exclusive, new reporting on Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. Two former intelligence officials and a congressional source are telling CNN that Russian government officials discussed having potentially derogatory information about then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining me now with much more on all of this. So Jessica, lay it out for us.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you know those congressional and intelligence sources are telling CNN that the Russian government officials discussed having that potentially, quote, "derogatory information" about then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides.
Those were in conversations intercepted by U.S. intelligence during the 2016 election. Now, one source described the information as financial in nature and said the discussion centered around whether the Russians had leverage within Trump's inner circle.
The source does say the intercepted communications suggested to U.S. intelligence that Russians believed, quote, "They had the ability to influence the administration" through that derogatory information.
But the source is privy to the descriptions of the communications written by U.S. intelligence did caution that the Russian claims to each other could have been exaggerated or even made up.
Now, the details of the communication, it sheds some new light on information U.S. intelligence received about Russian claims of influence and the contents of the conversations made clear to U.S. officials that Russia was considering ways to influence the election, even if their claims did turn out to be false.
Now, as CNN first reported, the U.S. intercepted discussions of Russian officials, bragging about cultivating these relationships with Trump campaign aides, including Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, all to influence Trump.
And then following CNN's report, "The New York Times" said that Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was also discussed. All of this coming from intelligence and congressional sources -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Right. And so, do we know, Jessica, who the Russians were specifically talking about in terms of this derogatory information?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, none of the specific details, none of the sources would actually say which specific Trump aides were discussed, but one of the officials said that the intelligence report actually masked the American names.
And despite that, though, it was clear that conversations did revolve around the Trump campaign team in general, and another source, they wouldn't give specifics, citing the classified nature of the information.
Now, as for the White House, they are giving a comment today. They're telling CNN this. They say, "This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the president. The reality is, a review of the president's income from the last ten years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all.
There appears to be no limit to which the president's political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material."
They continue to say, "All this does is play into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk." As well, Kate, the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence and the FBI, they're not commenting. And of course, the president himself has insisted on multiple occasions that he has no financial dealings with Russia.
BOLDUAN: And it's clearly very tough to know, since this new investigation is kind of really getting its feet under it, but is this part of the current investigation now?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, this is all part of this. The FBI investigation is into the Russian meddling in the U.S. election. As we know, recently taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and it includes seeking answers as to whether there was any coordination with associates of Trump examining those alleged financial dealings of key Trump associates.
So this is all part of it, but the FBI would not comment on whether any of the claims discussed in those intercepts have, in fact, been verified. Now it's important to note, by the time Trump took office, questions about some of his aides' financial dealings with Russian entities, those were already under investigation -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: That's right. That's right. Jessica, great to see you. Thank you so much for laying it out for us. A lot more to come on this.
Joining me to discuss this new and very interesting information is CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza, and also former chief legal officer at the CIA, John Rizzo. He is also author of "Company Man" about his 34 years at the agency. Great to see you both. Thanks so much for being here.
John, let me ask you, just a gut check, if you will. Russian government officials discussing potentially derogatory information about then Presidential Candidate Trump and his top aides. As someone who spent a career dealing in intelligence, do you believe them?
JOHN RIZZO, FORMER CIA CHIEF LEGAL OFFICER: Do I believe the report's accurate?
BOLDUAN: No, the Russians. Do you believe the Russians in what they'd be discussing?
RIZZO: Not necessarily. I mean, as Jessica reported, this could have been, you know, one of three things -- one it was actually true and they did have derogatory information. Two, it was disinformation, they knew it was going to get to U.S. ears, and three, frankly, based on my experience, it could be a couple Russian operatives just sort of puffing to each other.
You know, I mean, seeing the potential there and sort of blue-skying that, gee, you know, this is during the campaign, the controversy about Mr. Trump's taxes and Mr. Manafort and the others.
[11:05:13]You know, that was out there in the public domain, so it could have just been to Russian agents sort of, as I say, blue-skying it.
BOLDUAN: Blue-skying it, that's a good way of putting it, John. So, Chris, the White House responds to this. Jessica laid it out. They denied it, but also, what we have seen before, attacking the leak of the information. Add to that a curious tweet that came from the president this morning.
The president tweeting, "Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. and how a lame excuse for why the Democrats lost the election has taken over the fake news." We don't know exactly what element of the Russia story that the president is commenting on with this tweet.
But regardless, is he helping or hurting the White House response here? They had a very clear response that they put out, and then the president has this tweet.
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, the truth of the matter, Kate, is the White House response is what Donald Trump says the White House response is, right. You can put out a statement -- we saw this with why was Comey fired? The White House came up with a narrative and Donald Trump went rogue and said his own thing.
I would say broadly speaking, no, it's not helping for a couple reasons -- message confusion. What is it? What's happening specifically? How is the White House specifically reacting? Second, you know, I feel like a broken record and I just hate myself saying this over and over again, just play it, which is, you can debate the collusion aspect of it. That is clearly under investigation.
But the idea that this is a Democratic-led effort just is not borne out. This is a federal investigation, the FBI, special prosecutor, congressional committees led by Republicans who hold the majorities in Congress.
So, it can be fine, I guess, as a talking point, but it's just not factually accurate. It's not something -- it's something he said many times before and something he will say many times again. It doesn't make it true.
BOLDUAN: There are many other tweets that happened this morning we'll get to later in the show. But John, on this news today, if this derogatory information is true, does that necessarily mean that the president, then Presidential Candidate Trump was compromised?
RIZZO: Well, not necessarily. I mean, as I say, it could have just been largely aspirational chitchat. And I say, there was already stuff in the public domain during the campaign that questioned his finances, his failure to make public his tax return, all of that.
I tell you, what I find interesting about this, Kate, is apparently, during the campaign there were, according to your report, there were apparently Russian officials giving the possibility of Mr. Trump becoming president a lot more credence than a lot of people were in this country at the time.
BOLDUAN: Again, maybe aspirational. Maybe blue-skying it there as well, then it also came true. Chris, take this in the context of much more news over the weekend about Jared Kushner. You've got the FBI is interested in his meeting with a Russian banker with close ties to Vladimir Putin.
Also reports of Russian officials saying that Kushner during the transition sought to create a back channel with the kremlin. What does this mean for President Trump's first week back from this big overseas trip?
CILIZZA: Nothing good, because we're talking about it, right? Donald Trump viewed -- and you can debate this, but Donald Trump viewed that nine-day, five-country trip as an overwhelming success in his mind. And in terms of message discipline, it probably was.
He really avoided or was kept from tweeting terribly aggressively, and he did stay largely on the message they wanted. But what was the talk of the Sunday shows? What is the talk of today? Jared Kushner.
Typically, I would say, Kate, that when a staffer makes bad news for Donald Trump, that's bad news for that staffer. You don't remain a staffer for all that long, but this is Jared Kushner --
KEILAR: Yes, different. CILIZZA: -- who is also his son-in-law. And it's always the question as it relates to putting family in these positions, what do you do in circumstances where the family is doing something or saying something that either they shouldn't or doesn't look good?
Donald Trump usually jettisons them, if his three campaign managers is any indication. I don't think you can jettison Jared Kushner if you're Donald Trump, so the question is what else does he do?
Does someone else become collateral damage for his frustration at all the negative press that Jared Kushner has brought both on himself and on the Trump administration more broadly?
BOLDUAN: Stand by I guess for that. And John, reaction to this back- channel reporting I guess depends on who you talk to. Here's the secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, and also Republican Senator John Mccain. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I would just say that any line of communication to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My view of it is I don't like it. I just don't -- I know that some administration officials are saying, well, that's standard procedure. I don't think it's standard procedure prior to the inauguration of a president of the United States by someone who is not in an appointed position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:10:10]BOLDUAN: John, with your years of experience, which is it in your view?
RIZZO: Well, Kate, maybe it's because I'm a lawyer, but I fall somewhere in the middle. The fact of setting up a private channel, establishing a private dialogue, a mechanism for doing that during the transition period, I don't find that offensive or alarming in and of itself.
What is concerning, of course, is the assertiveness of it, apparently. Mr. Kushner, I don't know whether he bothered to check, to get background information from the intel community about the two Russians he was going to be apparently talking to.
It would have been useful for him to do that. I don't know if it did. But as I say, the whole, sort of the secret cloak and dagger nature, you know, is worrisome.
BOLDUAN: Yes. John Rizzo, Chris Cilizza, great to see you. Thank you very much. Never worrisome when you guys are on. I really appreciate it.
Also new this morning, new details about where the president's head is right now since returning from the overseas trip. Why are sources saying that he's emotionally withdrawing?
Plus, brand-new details just in on the arrest of Tiger Woods. We're now learning how police found him and what happened when he took a breathalyzer.
And a Republican lawmaker says he called immigration enforcement to round up some protesters at the statehouse in Texas. Moments later, chaos breaks out in the statehouse. See what happened, next.
BOLDUAN: We have more new details this morning on the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, this according to "The New York Times." Investigators are raising new questions right now about what exactly the motive was for Jared Kushner's December meeting with Russian banking executive, Sergei Gorkov.
Scott Glover, he knows a couple things about this banker. He joins me now. He's CNN investigative reporter. Scott, you have dug very deeply into his bank, BV. You've dug deeply into Gorkov himself. Who is this banker now at the center of this new line of inquiry for federal investigators?
SCOTT GLOVER, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, Mr. Gorkov is chairman of VEB, and he was appointed to that post last year by Putin. He has the sort of pedigree that Putin would appreciate, having graduated from the Russian Academy of Services, the school that trains people to work in the intelligence and security services in Russia, and that is the sort of thing that Putin prizes.
BOLDUAN: How close is he to President Putin?
GLOVER: You know, I'm not an expert in that area, but based on the fact that he graduated from the security services and that the bank has bailed out some oligarchs who are in favor with Putin and funded one of Putin's pet projects, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, I think it would be fair to surmise that the two are fairly close.
BOLDUAN: And Scott, this is a man who, as you said, is chairman of a bank that is still under sanction by the United States. Why did the U.S. impose sanctions?
GLOVER: They imposed sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea. They were placed on the list in 2014 and the meeting that Kushner had, you know, is not a violation of those sanctions, but it is something I think that probably adds to the overall picture that investigators are curious about. And another thing is that the meeting was described differently by the White House and by the bank at the time.
BOLDUAN: That's right.
GLOVER: The White House said -- yes -- that Kushner was there, you know, as an adviser to Trump, and the bank said he was there as the head of Kushner Companies. So, there was sort of conflicting statements at that time, which I'm sure is something that investigators are interested in as well.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And now all of this coming back into the spotlight with news of -- with the reports of Kushner seeking a back channel with Russia. Who is involved with that, how that would go down, and now this is becoming a new spotlight and a new area of scrutiny for federal investigators. Scott, thanks so much for coming on. Appreciate it.
GLOVER: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, more on the breaking news. CNN reporting that Russian officials believe they had possible derogatory information on Candidate Trump and his campaign. Find out how Russia wanted to leverage that intelligence, if they had it.
Plus, Tiger Woods apologizes but says alcohol was not involved in his dui arrest. So what does this admission and what does his denial mean for the case against him? That's next.
BOLDUAN: Brand-new details just in on the dui arrest of Tiger Woods, once the world's greatest golfer. Police arrested him early Monday morning, finding him -- here are some of the new details -- finding him asleep at the wheel in the middle of a lane of traffic.
We're told his speech was slurred. He had trouble walking and had trouble keeping his eyes open. He did, however, pass a breathalyzer test, which backs up part of the statement that Woods put out.
Here it is, quote, "I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened," Woods says, "was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn't realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly."
Joining me now to discuss is CNN legal analyst and senior trial counsel at Callan Legal, Paul Callan. So Paul, it is clear that he wanted to make clear in that statement that he wasn't drunk, did pass a Breathalyzer test. Does that matter legally, under the influence of alcohol, under the influence, versus prescription drugs?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, under Florida law, you're committing the same crime if you're under the influence of prescription drugs or you blow more than 0.08 on a breathalyzer test. Now, it's harder for the police to prove that you're operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs because there's no breathalyzer test for drugs.
CALLAN: You have to draw a urine and you have to draw a blood, and they're difficult cases to prove, so I'm a little surprised here by his public statement, because he's in essence confessed guilt to the crime, whereas if he went into court and the records weren't so good, maybe he could win the case, but obviously, he's decided his public image is more important.
BOLDUAN: Well, and that's what I wanted to ask you, because one would assume that Tiger Woods has good legal -- has access to good legal advice, considering what he makes every year. And he's not, you would assume, putting -- he's not going to be putting out a statement without the advice of counsel.
So what does the fact that, well, he says he wasn't under the influence of alcohol, but this admission that you're talking about, what does that mean? Does that give you any clue of a legal strategy that they're moving with?
[11:25:01]CALLAN: Well, assuming he's consulted with counsel on this, I would say they're looking at an admission of guilt. This is a first-time arrest for him, and usually in a first time arrest, you get community service of some kind and a fine. You're not looking at incarceration. He will lose his license for 180 days.
And also, I think it's a recognition that probably he was taking some kind of pain-killing medication, and he shouldn't have been taking that medication and driving a vehicle, and it's a recognition that the police would be able to prove that.
BOLDUAN: And thankfully, no one was hurt, and our reporting is that no one was in the car with him. I think that was in the police citation. How does that impact what happens to him?
CALLAN: I think it gives the court an opportunity to be far more lenient in the sentence. And I also think the court's going to look at his immediate acceptance of responsibility for what he did wrong as something favorable.
You know, a lot of times people fight this, and they're proven guilty in the end, and that backfires in court. Here he's accepting responsibility immediately, and I assume he'll be contrite in court and he'll hope for a very light sentence.
BOLDUAN: But putting out this statement so quickly like he did, would you have advised a client of yours to do that?
CALLAN: You know, it's a very close call, because I do know that proving chemical or drug intoxication is very, very difficult. And he might have a legitimate claim here that he didn't even realize that mixing drug "a" with drug "b" would have caused this reaction, and that might have given him a better defense. Now, by publicly stating that he was using drugs and driving, he's really eliminated the possibility of defending the case.
BOLDUAN: I've also seen some reports that dash cam video could be released at some point today. What would you be watching? I mean, it seems like there's not a lot hidden in this, there doesn't seem to be a lot of question marks left with what's being put out with the police reports that are coming out. What would you be watching for in dash cam video, if it came out?
CALLAN: Well, the field sobriety test that he would have been asked to take, that's going to demonstrate the level of his intoxication. And if, obviously, one of the most talented athletes in the world is having trouble walking a straight line, that's a solid indication that you've got a real problem in court and maybe you should be looking not to litigate this but to plead guilty and hope for the mercy of the court or a lesser sentence.
BOLDUAN: We'll see where that goes. He does have a court date for an appearance, so we will see. Great to see you. Thanks you much. Paul, great to see you.
Emotionally withdrawn, moody, gaining weight, that's not just someone commenting about me on Twitter, that is how a source close to President Trump is describing the president today. The stunning, new report, ahead.
Plus, we're going to show you this. These, friends, are elected officials in Texas, and they're not really doing their job. They're scuffling, if you want to use the word, on the statehouse floor. One of these lawmakers is even accusing a colleague of threatening to put a bullet in his head. What is going on here? Honestly. The crazy details, ahead.