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NYT: Russian Promised Trump Jr. Damaging Info on Clinton; Donald Trump Jr. Hires Lawyer. Trump Walks Back Cybersecurity Idea. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 10, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with today's admission by Donald Trump, Jr., and what it does to his father's claims about Russia in the 2016 campaign. Now, remember, the argument from the White House has always been and continues to be no collusion.

Well, today we got the first suggestion of a Russian offer of help to the Trump campaign and the campaign's willingness at least to meet about it. In a tweet today in a "New York Times" story yesterday, the president's oldest son acknowledged meeting with a Russian attorney who was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Obviously, he tweeted, I'm the first person on the campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent. Went nowhere, but had to listen.

Now, keeping them honest before getting further into the meat of the story, there's ethics professionals, most notably Republicans in this case, who say, no, he didn't have to listen. From President George W. Bush's ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, who joins us later, who tweeted, when a Russian agent calls to offer dirt on a political opponent, a loyal American will call the FBI.

Now, to be completely accurate and fair, we don't know that the Russian lawyer Trump Jr. met with is a Russian agent, only that according to "The New York Times", she was on the FBI's radar and has ties to Vladimir Putin. CNN has not been able to independently verify that. She does represent Russians who want the sanctions against Russia lifted, which is also obviously a position that Kremlin holds.

As for the talking point you'll hear tonight that all campaigns do this, a number of former campaign managers say that isn't necessarily so. GOP strategists Stewart Stevens who we should point out no fan of Donald Trump today recounted an episode in the Bush-Gore race when someone sent the Gore people leaked info from the Bush campaign and the Gore people called the FBI.

In any case, Donald Trump, Jr. is responding to "New York Times" reporting that he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. What's more? It was an interesting enough proposition at the time that Trump Jr. asked two other top campaign insiders into the meeting. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is obviously now a top adviser and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

But Donald Trump Jr.'s explanations about the meeting changed since he was first approach just this weekend by "The New York Times." And that's important here, because it shows we weren't getting the full story from Donald Trump Jr. initially. And frankly, we still don't know if we are right now.

On Saturday, when the meeting itself was first reported, Trump Jr. said it was primarily about Americans adopting Russian orphans and volunteered nothing about Hillary Clinton. And just a day later on Sunday, when confronted or approached again by "The New York Times" with their new reports about the dirt on the Clinton campaign dangled in front of Trump, Jr., he changed his account, releasing a statement, saying, quote, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton.

He went to say, her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. He concludes, it quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.

Two days, two different statements. Now, you can make of that what you want. We'll talk more about it with the panel, whether it makes any sense on its own terms. What it represents is a contradiction of a line that everyone from his father on down have been saying about the campaign and Russia. Again, we don't know if this Russian attorney is an agent of the Kremlin. What is more important is what did the Trump campaign know about her when they agreed to meet.

Here is Kellyanne Conway in December on contact between campaign staffers and Russia.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it's a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it's dangerous. And it does undermine our democracy.


COOPER: And here's the vice president in January.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign? Chris, the -- this is all a distraction, and it's all a part of a narrative to delegitimize the election and to question the legitimacy of this presidency.


COOPER: Well, the president has also weighed in several times. Here's the Q&A from February.


REPORTER: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contact with Russia during the course of the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealings, so that's one person, as he should have been.

REPORTER: During the election?

TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of.

REPORTER: So, you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Look, how many times do I have to answer this question?

REPORTER: Can you say yes or no?

TRUMP: Russia is the ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with --


COOPER: Now, it's unclear if he includes in that definition, three top members of his campaigns, one time campaign manager and son in law and his oldest. Also again unclear just how much Donald Trump, Jr. knew about this Russian lawyer going into the meeting. He says he didn't even know her name. The meeting was June 9th at Trump Tower. We do know that several weeks later, in early July, having met with this woman, he did find time to belittle Clinton campaign charges of hacking.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, it just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they'll say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice, he won't say, well, I say this. We hear experts, you know, his house at cat once said that this is what's happening with the Russians. It's disgusting. It's so phony.


[20:05:01] COOPER: So, tonight, we know that several weeks before making that statement, he had the meeting with the Russian offering dirt on the opposition. We also know that this is just the latest in a string of Trump associates who have had contact with Russians and either lied about it, as did Michael Flynn, changed their story, withheld information about it or simply didn't disclose the contact at all or forget, they say.

Jared Kushner, as you know, has had to amend his security clearance forms. Donald Trump, Jr., has no security clearance and no forms to amend. What he does have is the distinction of being the first member of the campaign inner circle to directly and admittedly tie the campaign to a Russian national with "The Times" reports has ties to the Russian leadership.

Let's check in now with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, monitoring late reaction from the White House.

First of all, Jeff, the breaking news that Donald Trump, Jr. has now hired a lawyer, what have you learned about that?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He has indeed, Anderson. He's hired a New York lawyer to represent him in these matters here. The lawyer's name is Alan Futerfas, and he sent out a statement to CNN earlier today.

He says this: I'm representing him with respect to the ongoing matters in Washington, D.C. But to date, he's received no request from any government committee or agency.

However, Anderson, that could be about to change. Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN and other reporters not long ago this evening, that he absolutely wants to hear from the president's son. They plan to call him before the committee to ask them questions specifically about that meeting in June of 2016.

But he has hired a lawyer. And for Donald Trump Jr.'s part, for Donald Trump's part, he said, look, I'm happy to cooperate. I'm happy to work with Congress on this. But, Anderson, that is a change of tone from earlier in the day when he sent out a fairly flippant remark saying, surely, I'm not the only operative to ever discuss some opposition research with an opponent.

The difference here, of course, it was a Russian lawyer, not simply a rival.

COOPER: What did the White House say at the briefing today about all this?

ZELENY: Anderson, simply that there's nothing to see here. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was giving the press briefing. It was off camera, again as has become the practice here. She said, look, the president did not know about this until the last couple of days. He was not aware of this meeting at the time. He didn't learn about it until he was flying back from the U.S. to Germany when "The New York Times" story posted.

But she also said, look, there's no evidence of collusion here and she tried to, you know, simply again say this is a Democratic conspiracy, a hoax here. And it's standard practice and procedure to accept opposition research on your rival -- but did not draw a distinction at all that the rival may have been a hostile actor. It may have been an adversary.

And I talked to several campaign practitioners who worked on both sides of the aisle. And they say when you do receive something like this, you do call the FBI. That happens from time to time. But the White House presented it as business as usual here.

But the reality here tonight, Anderson, the White House thought they were trying to move beyond this. They wanted to talk about the forward relationship with Vladimir Putin going forward. They thought they had turned somewhat of a corner now. That was a controversial meeting last Friday, as well. But now, they're stuck again with what happened during the campaign.

I think it's important to point out, the reason this is different, this happened during the campaign two days after he clinched the nomination. And the president, as a candidate at that point, was in New York City on that day, was in Trump Tower. We don't know if he was involved in the meeting or not. We have no evidence to show he was, but he was in New York that day.

So, again, this is something this White House will have to answer. This will come out in those congressional testimonies.

COOPER: And, Jeff, just to be clear, I mean, during the campaign, Donald Trump, Jr. was a top adviser. Obviously, I mean, we've heard time and time again how Donald Trump's children are the ones he talks to several times a day. Those are the people he's closest to. It was also his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and also Jared Kushner, who is now a top adviser. So, three significant people in the campaign in on this meeting.

ZELENY: There are no three people who are closer to Mr. Trump than these three people, with the exception of Ivanka Trump. These are the closest people around him, working in the small confines of Trump Tower there. So, Donald Trump, Jr. was one of the biggest surrogates, one of the most active advisers there.

So, that was the moment there on June 9, 2016, two days after that California primary, Hillary Clinton had just accepted the Democratic nomination, as well. That's when the race was fully joined. So, if you go back to that period, difficult to believe they wouldn't have discussed it. We'll find that out in the days to come.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Joining me now in the panel tonight, David Chalian, Kirsten Powers, Ryan Lizza, Brian Fallon, Bryan Lanza, Matt Whitaker and Jason Miller.

David Chalian, how important is this news?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it's pretty significant, because I think we have moved to a different place now. Throughout the last six months when Donald Trump said no collusion, he had some sense that there was no data point out there that people could say, hey, during the campaign, x talked to y. This is connected to Russia and connected to trying to damage Hillary Clinton.

[20:10:03] Now, we have that. Now for the first time, we actually have those data points, and it is Donald Trump, Jr., as you were just discussing with Jeff, Anderson, nobody closer. I mean, this is something that was in senior strategy meetings, traveling the country as a surrogate. We know at that very time, around June 9 last year is when staff shakeups were happening inside the Trump orbit because of the children, the Trump children's involvement with that.

So, this is now central to the candidate, talking about damaging information to Hillary Clinton, which would be helpful to Donald Trump, from somebody who is a Russian national, or foreign adversary, who "The Times" is reporting has ties to the Kremlin.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, the pushback from obviously the White House look, and many Trump surrogates is, look, this is nothing unusual. People offer opposition research and you meet with them.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: OK. Well, I think it is a little unusual, actually. I mean, it certainly is what a lot of Republicans are pointing to Trump supporters are pointing to, that Ukraine offering information about Paul Manafort. And the problem here is that Ukraine and Russia are very different countries. We have very different relationships with them.

And so, you really can't put them in the same category, and the fact that Russia was interfering in our election, right? So, there's another layer to this that makes it more complicated. And then also just, the fact that he says that he met with this person not even knowing who she was.

I mean, so it's not even -- so he was clearly open to meeting with pretty much anybody. He wasn't looking for any assurances that she wasn't tied to the Russian government, right? I mean, he -- all he knew is that she's a Russian lawyer who I'm sorry probably does have ties to the Russian government. But he didn't even bother -- he didn't care one way or the other, or he would have asked.

COOPER: Ryan, I mean, it's also interesting if he didn't know who he's meeting with, why call Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, two key people on the campaign, to come in and sit in on the meeting?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, not just key people, the guy is running the campaign, and Kushner, who was sort of the de facto campaign manager in that campaign, two most important people.

I mean, we knew three things before this weekend. We knew that the Trump campaign, in 2016, had no problem taking advantage of the Russian hacking and dumping of the material from the DNC and John Podesta, right? Trump bragged about it. They talked about WikiLeaks all the time. Other campaigns might not have crossed that line.

We knew also that during the transition and subsequent to the campaign that many Trump advisers tried to hide and not disclose their contacts with Russians, right? And we knew that President Trump has gone to tremendous lengths to down play the intelligence assessment of Russia's interference in the election. What we didn't know until this weekend was any hard evidence of a senior Trump administration official saying -- sitting down with someone that seems to be going to bat for the Kremlin and inviting the proffering of negative information about Hillary Clinton.

So, I think that's why it is so substantial, because at the very least, it suggests that at the highest levels of the campaign, they were OK with sitting down with someone like that -- even if this meeting didn't get that kind of information.

CHALIAN: And, Anderson, you just said to Ryan, you said, well, he didn't know her name, but he invited Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner in a meeting. But what he did know, and this is what I think is so crucial, as you pointed out, by his own admission, he knew what the context of the meeting was. He has said he knew he was going into a meeting to get negative information about Hillary Clinton from this Russian.

So, also hauling Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner into the meeting, whether you know the name of her or not, you're calling them into a meeting that you know you're anticipating on getting thing information, according to his own words.

LIZZA: One quick point, Trump Tower is a highly secure place. By June, they had full-on Secret Service protection there. I don't see how you get a meeting with Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, Jr. At Trump Tower, that is the most secure building in the world at that point --

COOPER: Jason Miller, what about that? I mean --

LIZZA: -- without knowing who you're meeting with.

COOPER: Does it -- I mean, it does seem hard to imagine that somebody can get into Trump Tower without their name being -- I mean, I went there to do interviews. You've got to give your name in advance.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, to answer your most immediate question -- look, this was a period in the campaign. I think I joined two weeks later. I think Brian joined maybe a month later or so, where they had not yet ramped up and there wasn't the level of sophistication that you would expect at that point there would be for a general election candidate.

But I've got to take a step back here for a moment and there are a couple of important things with all, I guess, the hubbub surrounding this. Number one, if the time when Don, Jr. was approached here, there was zero narrative about any of this Russia talk. I mean, there wasn't even a peep of it. It wasn't even the slightest thing --

COOPER: This meeting was early June.

MILLER: Right. There wasn't the slightest thing.

The second thing is every single campaign since the beginning of campaigns has been approached by people saying, I have opposition research or dirt on your opponents. I'm sure the Clinton campaign was approached on a daily basis and they probably sat down with people on a daily basis who wanted to dish dirt on the president. [20:15:01] The third thing, and I think this is a very important point

here, Anderson, is immediately, or almost immediately, they realized that this person had nothing to offer. And let's talk about the lunacy of what they were talking about. This lawyer was saying that the Russians were somehow funding the DNC and Secretary Clinton's campaign, which is silly.

So, they didn't walk in with an oppo binder. That's what I think is so disingenuous from these previous campaign people to say, oh, you know, we called the FBI. This person walked in, this lawyer, and immediately spewing nonsense, they wrapped it up in 20 minutes, they never had a conversation ever again.

So, I think if you see today really where the fire and the intensity is coming from, it's from the political left and I think they're doing to try to step on the president who has had a pretty good run lately, particularly with this overseas trip.

COOPER: OK. Brian Fallon, you've worked on campaigns. I mean, is this standard procedure in a campaign?

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And Jason is making an argument I can't imagine he believes. There's a difference between going out and hiring opposition firms that work in the United States of America, and going on and soliciting information from a foreign national. In fact --

MILLER: They weren't soliciting. They weren't soliciting up.

FALLON: -- there's a reason, there's a reason why Donald Trump, Jr. is lawyering up today, it's because he has very real criminal exposure as a result of these reports that have emerged. There is a campaign finance statute that bars campaign operatives or people working in support of a candidate from accepting donations, campaign finance donations, but also other things of value that can be defined in nonmonetary terms, things --

COOPER: There's a little bit of a stretch to apply that federal statute --

FALLON: There's been plenty of legal --

MILLER: They weren't soliciting anything.

FALLON: -- there's been plenty of legal experts who have come forward today to say that goods and services that you would normally pay for, to seek them out and be provided from a foreign national may implicate this very statute. That's I suspect that reason why he's got a lawyer now.

COOPER: OK. I want to hear from the rest of the panel. We've got to take a quick break. We're going to talk more about this Russian story, as well as what went on with the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin and how sharply the president confronted him on Russian meddling or not sharply, ahead.


[20:20:50] COOPER: And we're back with the panel, talking about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian attorney last year in the heat of the campaign, with Russians already were attacking the DNC and John Podesta, though unknown at that point to Donald Trump, Jr. The question is how normal or abnormal that meeting was, and how it meshes with the Trump administration refrain that no one colluded with the Russians.

Back with the panel.

Jason Miller, just before the break, Brian Fallon was saying that the idea of meeting with the Russians promising opposition research is anything but normal. To that you say what?

MILLER: Well, I would say again that Don, Jr. as we've seen from what the statement he's put out, is he didn't know exactly who he was sitting down and meeting with. And when you're promised information, you don't know what someone is going to say. Usually, you want to bring someone else into the meeting. So, there's a witness --

COOPER: Is that really possible that he didn't know he was sitting down with and brings Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, all of whom I assume have a lot of stuff to do at this, this height of the campaign?

MILLER: Yes, absolutely, because you've got to think about it, Don, Jr. is someone who has been successful in business over the past 15 years or so. He's not someone who has been a traditional political operative. So, someone comes in and says that they have information about your opponent, of course, you're going to go and grab somebody else.

Here's the reality of the campaign at that juncture is there weren't a bunch of junior staffers or other people. So, he probably grabbed whoever the closest folks were to him or pulled them in. So, I think, the most honest answer is the most direct and straightforward.

COOPER: But it's not like he's in a McDonald's and someone just comes up and says, I got this information. And he goes, oh, hold on, let me grab some people. This was through a contact who worked on the Miss Universe pageant in Russia. So, there must have been an e-mail or phone conversations between Donald Trump, Jr. and this person that they knew who had worked in Russia with some sort of explanation of, like, oh, you know what, yes, there is this attorney from Russia you got to make with. I mean, he must have known to some degree, no?

MILLER: Well, to someone who has maybe worked on a number of campaigns and who's been a part of this, again, over the past 20 years of campaigns that I've done, I literally can't think of a single campaign where I didn't have someone approach the campaign and say, we have information on your opponent. And again, 90 percent of the time, they're crack pots. That's why you always bring someone else along to go and listen, to see what kind of crazy stuff they might say. So, I think it's very plausible.

COOPER: OK, Bryan Lanza, to counter that, though, I've seen quotes from Donald Trump, Jr., talking about the difficulty of doing business in Russia. And one of the problems is, you never know who you're meeting with and you never know their agenda. So, he's savvy enough to -- I mean, to Jason's point, but he's a savvy businessman, which is an arguable point, given some of his track record, but, he knew enough about Russia to know that it's kind of a murky area and you don't really know who you're meeting with.

BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIOS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: You know, listen, I don't think it's murky. What he had is he had a casual acquaintance say, there's somebody I want you to meet who's a lawyer, who happens to be Russian that might have some information of the campaign. That's all we do. We run this information. Ten times out of 10 times when somebody comes in that says I have information, we always run it down.

And Jason is right. It was a very small type campaign at that time. There were not a lot of junior staffer --

COOPER: And you don't believe he would say then to his dad at some point in their mini conversations which they said they had during the day, hey, you know, I had a meeting with someone, they said they had some opposition stuff, Russian lady, turned out nothing?

LANZA: Why waste his time? If there's nothing, there's nothing.

COOPER: All right. Matt Whitaker, I mean, from a legal standpoint, do you think Donald Trump, Jr. has any legal exposure here?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I don't, and here's why. Somebody mentioned the idea of a thing of value that was given here. This is what obviously happened is this Russian lawyer used a ruse or, you know, a pretext to get this meeting, saying, I had all this great dirt, gave worthless information. We would all agree on this panel that, you know, the Russians did not fund the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

So, she got the meeting and she talked about what she really wanted to talk about, which was this law that prevent ascertain human rights violators from coming into the United States and has been matched by the Russians with a ban on adoptions by U.S. citizens of Russian babies. So, I mean, I think what -- you know, there is no criminal exposure here if this is the story. Again, all the facts, I think we know now, because of Donald Trump, Jr. has issued two statements now --

COOPER: Wait a minute. You think because Donald Trump has issued two statements, one which -- I mean, when you issue a first statement and then you have to correct the statement with a second statement, you believe the credibility is iron clad there?

WHITAKER: I've read both statements and I don't see they're inconsistent.

[20:25:01] Certainly, the facts are additional in the second one about the opposition research that was being offered. COOPER: If I told you I had a meeting with someone about adoption in

Russia, and then it turns out it was actually about dirt on Hillary Clinton and sanctions, I mean, I --

WHITAKER: Listen, Anderson, I'm not suggesting this looks good. But again, everybody we heard from, we actually heard from -- we actually heard from the music producer who was in the meeting, as well. And he corroborates essentially the substance of the discussion.

COOPER: Every music producer --


COOPER: Yes, go ahead.

FALLON: Anderson, there's plenty of lawyers that disagree. The usefulness of the information that Donald Trump, Jr. was ultimately provided is somewhat beside the point as it pertains to the statute. It's merely the fact that you might be soliciting something that could potentially be of value that might trigger the statute.

MILLER: Brian, he wasn't soliciting.

FALLON: Donald Trump -- he accepted a meeting. No one forced him to show up at that meeting.

MILLER: What was the solicitation?

FALLON: He showed up at the meeting and asked for the information that he was told might be of benefit --

MILLER: No, that's -- now you're changing it. He didn't solicit anything.

FALLON: Showing up at the meeting and asking the Russian lawyer --

COOPER: How do we know? We have no actual fact. We do not know who solicited what. I mean, this is all from a statement of Donald Trump, Jr., right?

MILLER: Right. So, Brian can't say that he was soliciting, and therefore it was potentially breaking some law when he wasn't soliciting. None of us were there.

FALLON: Why was he at the meeting? By his own admission in the statement, he said he showed up at the meeting because he thought that the lawyer was going to proffer some information that could benefit the Trump campaign.

MILLER: And there was nothing, and that's -- I mean, people show up --


MILLER: You're sidestepping the point, Jason. He showed up because he thought he'd get something. He showed up because he had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, and he showed up in order to be in receipt of it, and not only that, he brought his brother-in-law and the chairman of the campaign because he thought the information might be so helpful.

MILLER: I mean, this is one who reached out and wanted to talk to him. I think this whole solicitation --

FALLON: This idea that he had no idea who the person was is also a smokescreen. We know that --

MILLER: How do you know that, Brian? How do you know that, Brian?


FALLON: Because, Jason, give me a second and I'll explain. We know a lot about the person that actually reached out to him and tried to set up the meeting, as Anderson referred, the person, his top client is a pop star in Russia, whose father is a billionaire and close Putin ally and it was on his behalf that Donald Trump strangely made an appearance on his music video in Moscow.

MILLER: Don Jr. didn't know this person's background.

FALLON: This is -- the idea that this is a mystery who this person was is fake. The idea that Donald Trump, Sr. couldn't have known about what happened at this meeting is also bogus when you consider he was at Trump Tower the day of the meeting.

MILLER: Brian, you're entitled to your opinion, but you're not entitled to your own set of the facts. I mean, the fact of the matter is, Don, Jr. did not know who this person was. He showed up, immediately she started spewing this nonsense about the DNC, and then went in to talking about --

COOPER: We haven't seen any e-mails. I mean, that's obviously one of the things congressional investigators --

LIZZA: I want to ask Jason something. Jason, because you know this, you worked at Trump Tower, right, Jason?

MILLER: Yes, of course.

LIZZA: Can you get into Trump Tower without showing an identification?


LIZZA: You can just walk up to the offices of the Trump Organization with no ID and not revealing who you are?

MILLER: Not anymore. But again --

LIZZA: But as of June of 2016 when that place was locked down by the Secret Service, you could walk in there without showing ID?

MILLER: There's plenty of times I entered without an ID. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wait a minute, Jason. I mean, the Secret Service in June, when he's the candidate would allow a random stranger to come to the office?

MILLER: Well, if you're escorted by someone. But again, this was an acquaintance that made the introduction, who said this is someone who might have some interesting information and he sat down with them, it was a 20-minute meeting.

COOPER: All right.

MILLER: And it was a throwaway. I mean, it's -- I don't understand how, Brian, how you're trying to get away with making stuff up --

FALLON: Just answer Ryan's question. You can't even answer the question.

LIZZA: I just -- the thing that struck me about this whole story is it doesn't make sense. You -- when it's a building like Trump Tower, it was one of the most secure buildings in America as of June in 2016. So, the idea that this woman could walk in there without identifying herself to the person she was meeting with doesn't pass the smell test. You worked there. You're telling people routinely got into that building without identifying themselves?

MILLER: I'm saying I don't remember when I would show the ID but again --

LIZZA: Do you ever remember anyone you met with bringing that person up and that person didn't have to show identification if they were going to a meeting with you?


MILLER: Ryan, I don't understand the point that you were trying to get here.

LIZZA: The point is that he said he didn't know the person's identification and I'm trying to understand how that's possible. How could --

MILLER: So, OK, let me go down your rabbit hole, Brian.

LIZZA: It's not a rabbit hole, Jason. It's just a fundamental fact that is --


MILLER: No, it's an absolute rabbit hole, Ryan. So, here's the deal, so say somebody showed an ID when they're coming into Trump Tower. I'm playing your game for a moment, so let's go ahead and play it.

LIZZA: It's not a game. It's just a question. MILLER: Say, you go and check the ID, they don't go and check it at

the door and the elevator. That's not like a five-step ID check. That's just the reality of it.

Maybe there was at Brooklyn, maybe at Brian's campaign, there was a different setup. At Trump Tower, there's not as again, at that point in June or so after the president had captured the nomination, there wasn't as I guess structured a setup.

COOPER: But the Secret Service didn't ask for names or social security numbers of people who are going to be coming to the office?

MILLER: I can't speak to the exact background of every single -- the way that the Secret Service did this on every single time. But, again, I think it's a little bit ironic that you guys are trying to make this big issue about, you know, where exactly you're going to show I.D. at no point in that was Don Jr. checking somebody's I.D.

The fact to the matter is he had an acquaintance that said, "Hey, I want to chat with you." They come in. They sit down. They're talking absolutely nonsense. Twenty minutes later, they're gone.

COOPER: All right. We have to take a break. We'll ponder all of that. Up next, what we know about the Russian attorney who met with the president's son-in-law and campaign chair and son last summer.


COOPER: Donald Trump Jr.'s story about his meeting with a Russian attorney in June of last year has changed a number of times. In the latest version, he said the meeting came about because someone he knew from Miss Universe pageant said the lawyer might have the information that could help the campaign, and he wasn't told the lawyer's name before the meeting. Now, we all know her name now and a few other things about her. Randi Kaye has details.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Russian lawyer Donald Trump Jr. says he met with in June 2016 at Trump Tower. Her name is Natalia Veselnitskaya. And this was her on Russian T.V. back in 2014.

[20:35:07] She doesn't appear to have any official links to the Kremlin, but is a managing partner at the Russia based law firm, Camerton Consultant. Years ago, one of her client's companies had been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, after another Russian lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky linked her client's company to a massive corruption scandal. Magnitsky died a mysterious death in a Moscow prison back in 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course, I am proud of him because he was brave enough to talk about it. But, of course, it's painful that it cost him his life.

KAYE: The official cause of death was untreated health problems, though human rights activist say he was badly beaten and deliberately denied medical treatment. Following his death, the U.S. in 2012 passed the Magnitsky Act, which allows the United States to withhold visas of Russians believed to have violated human rights.

(on camera): In retaliation for that law, Russian President Vladamir Putin banned all U.S. adoptions of Russian children and that's where Natalia Veselnitskaya enters the picture. She was working to have the Magnitsky Act overturned, meeting with anyone in the U.S. who might listen, perhaps thinking that could be Donald Trump Jr.

(voice-over): Natalia Veselnitskaya was once married to a former Russian Deputy Transportation Minister, postings on her Facebook page show she does have an interest in American politics.

At least one posting is anti-President Obama. Others are against former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who refused to support President Trump's travel ban. And another post is critical of the women's march.

Meanwhile, "The New York Times" citing an anonymous source, reports her activities and those she associated with have caught the attention of the FBI, though CNN has not confirmed that.

It's unclear where Natalia Veselnitskaya is right now, though she said in a statement to "The New York Times" that "Nothing at all about the presidential campaign was discussed at the Trump Tower meeting." She said she had never acted on behalf of the Russian government.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: All right. Let's talk to two experts on all things Russia, CNN National Security Analyst and former CIA Senior Officer Steve Hall joins us and former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty.

Steve, so a Kremlin spokesman says they can't be expected to track Russian lawyers and their movements overseas. They have no idea. They don't know who this person is. "The New York Times" is saying this person is connected to the Kremlin. You know, people watching this would say, "Well, look, why would the U.S. government be able to track every American lawyer overseas?" Is it different in Russia?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely, it's different, Anderson. And this is one of the big problems with trying to transpose, you know, how things work in the west with how things work in Russia, specifically in Moscow.

Ms. Veselnitskaya is somebody that almost certainly would have, you know, would have been somebody who would have been usable by Putin and by the Kremlin if they wanted to do that. And the way I look at this whole situation is, you know, if I were the Russian intelligence officer who was tasked with trying to figure out whether the Trump campaign was interested in cooperating with this.

And, of course, we already know that the Putin -- that Putin's position was, we need to try to, you know, arrange this American election so that Trump wins. I would tell my guys, "Look, we're going to cast a wide net. Let's see who's willing to talk to us." And then I think I would be reporting back to the Kremlin.

We've had someone of an embarrassment of plenty. We've had guys like, you know, Donald Trump Jr. We've had guys like Michael Flynn. We have had folks like Kushner who have agreed to meetings. And that's the approach that I would be taking as the Russian government.

So, in using somebody like Ms. Veselnitskaya is consistent with how the Russian intelligence services would do this sort of thing.

COOPER: Jill, do you agree with that? Is that essentially that she could be sort of a -- I mean, if she is an agent of the Kremlin in some capacity that this was sort of a probe into the Trump campaign just to see what the structure is, who is dealable as one option?

JILL DOUGHERTY: FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: You know, I think that I would be a little bit more conservative. That certainly is an operative theory, but I think it is very clear if you just take it on the face of what she was trying to do.

Sanctions the Magnitsky Bill is something that the Kremlin truly hates, because it put on a blacklist Russians who were accused of human rights violations. And that is why Vladamir Putin decided to have the ban on adoptions.

So, it sounds kind of innocent adoptions, children, et cetera. It is highly political. And it is highly personal with President Putin. So even the mere fact that she wanted to talk about that is quite -- I would argue, a political issue. So it's not -- I don't think it's, you know, as simple as it seems.

COOPER: Steve, to that point, a political issue of interest to the Kremlin.

HALL: Absolutely. Jill is absolutely right. I mean, the Magnitsky Act was a big deal, you know.

[20:40:03] This is exactly the kind of thing that gets Vladamir Putin going. It's, you know, he sees this as unilateral meddling, you know, on --


COOPER: Right. And that's why he canceled the foreign adoptions because anger over the act.

HALL: Yes. Yes, exactly. But I think the thing that makes this one a little bit different, if I understand the reporting correctly, is that the topic of having information on the opposition campaign, in this case Hillary Clinton, was one of the reasons for the meeting.

And if you accept the meeting or you know that that's going to come up or that does come up in the context of the meeting, that's different from the meetings that we've seen between, you know, Kushner and Kislyak or Flynn and Kislyak, or Kushner and the VEB bank (INAUDIBLE). That's a little bit -- it's a little bit different because the topic is different and it's critical the topic is.

COOPER: Right. And, Jill, I mean, that is according to the reporting by "The New York Times," what the pitch to get the meeting was, although Donald Trump Jr. initially said, "No, it was about adoption."

Now it seems based on his comments and "The New York Times" reporting, the initial pitch was dirt on Hillary Clinton. That gets you in the door. And then she changed the topic to sanctions and through the idea of adoptions.

DOUGHERTY: Exactly. And you know, the thing that I keep thinking about is, all right, she was Russian. And even at that point in the campaign, Russia was kind of an issue.

I mean, we already know that Donald Trump Jr. had experience before, as you pointed out. He was kind of wary of what the Russians do when they get into negotiations, et cetera. I think it's totally legitimate to say why didn't a red flag go up at that point?

And then you add to that the fact that they obviously were interested in getting something, as the Russians would call it (INAUDIBLE), on Hillary Clinton. So those two are worrisome and I think notable things.

Also, look at some of her clients. You know, one of her clients, as was pointed out in the piece that kind of set this up, one of her clients was involved in real estate -- using real estate, reportedly, and he settled on this, but to launder money.

So this is -- I think there are a lot of very important aspects of this that really are very unclear and should be clarified.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, again, a lot of -- all we know really is from "The New York Times" reporting and then also now Donald Trump's revised statement. Jill Dougherty, thanks, Steve Hall, as well.

Up next, in the matter of 13 hours President Trump announced a cyber security initiative with Vladamir Putin and then shuttered the idea after intense opposition. More on that ahead.


[20:45:27] COOPER: All right. Two days after his meeting G-20 meeting with Vladamir Putin, President Trump announced his intention to work with the Russians on cyber security. That's despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agency say Russia launched a cyber attack against the U.S. during the election.

The president tweeted, "Putin and I discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit so that election hacking and many other negative things will be guarded." The president faced a pretty swift, even incredulous backlash from members of both parties.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am sure that Vladamir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he is doing the hacking.


COOPER: Others took to Twitter. Republican Senator Ben Sasse, "This obviously should not happen and obviously will not happen. Why the President of the United States will tweet it is inexplicably bizarre."

Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, "Partnering with Putin on a cyber security unit is akin to partnering with Assad on a chemical weapons unit."

Well after the criticism, about 13 hours later, President Trump walked back the idea with a tweet that also refers to the Syrian cease-fire, "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a cyber security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't. But a cease-fire can and did."

I want to bring back our panel now with one new face, Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center and also a Russian expert.

Jason, why did the president believe that a cyber security unit with Russia was a good idea to begin with, when it was Russia who meddled in the U.S. election, does it makes sense to you?

MILLER: Well, Anderson, I like where the president ended up on this answer, and that's the fact that I don't think we're really going to be able to put something, a task force like this together with the Russians.

I was not a fan of whether president's initial position on this was, but I'm glad he got to the right spot and I'm also glad that he did bring up the election meddling issue with Vladamir Putin in person. And I think this also does speak to the fact that we do need to have some kind of international body or some form where we can go and address these cyber security issues.

I mean, this isn't just specific to the Russians. There are all sorts of hacking and different things going on with all around the entire world. And so this is a very serious issue. It's growing and it's scary. But, look, I'm glad where the president ended up on this answer.

COOPER: Do you think the White House would still be standing by the idea if the backlash hadn't been so severe, Jason. I mean, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended the whole cyber security partnership on Sunday calling it a very significant accomplishment for President Trump before President Trump himself backed away from the idea.

MILLER: So I can't speak to internal White House thinking on this particular matter. Again, I'm glad where the president ended up. But I do think the spirit of where the president is on this, having sat down with Vladimir Putin and addressed the election meddling, but then also going into places where I think he was able to get some more constructive agreements as we talk about the Syrian cease-fire.

I think there is a desire from the president trying to find some areas where he can work together with the Russians. But on the cyber security issue, I don't think that's going to be one of them.

COOPER: Matthew, does it make any sense to you that the U.S. would want to work together with Russia on cyber security of all things? And do you see President Trump's meeting with Putin as the president standing up on the issue of hacking?

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, DIRECTOR, KENNAN INSTITUTE AT THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: So I think the problem, Anderson, with this general term of cyber security is it lumps two things together. One is attacks that happened to use cyber mechanisms on critical infrastructure.

You could count in that our electoral mechanisms, but you could also account the power grid, our financial infrastructure, even for example military systems that now depend on, you know, networked capabilities. And the other thing is essentially constant cyber probing, espionage, gathering of illicit information, which isn't per se an attack.

When it comes to the former, direct attacks on critical infrastructure, there's not really a kind of beat the Russians at their own game solution. This is something where at the end of the day, and we've known this for decades going back into the Cold War, nuclear arms race, nuclear (INAUDIBLE) disruption, you've got to have basic rules of the game.

Look, if you guys do this, we're going to do this back to you and then you're going to do it back to us. And so we're going to deter one another and we're going to have rules about what's acceptable and not acceptable.

When it comes to the other, this is a new reality. This is simply a new technology, with which we're going to have to live and we're going to have to deal. We're going to have to defend ourselves. So these two terms often I think get lump together.

Russian attacks, Russian cyber probing is going to keep going whether we can deter the Russians from attacking our critical infrastructure. That's a question of what kind of defenses and what kind of punishment we're willing to go out and I think the president, you know, inched in that direction but definitely suggesting that we're going to cooperate with the Russians to defend ourselves from them is probably not going to work.

[20:50:11] COOPER: David, I mean the backlash was pretty loud and pretty quick. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there's no doubt about it. And as you said, he flipped on this. But, remember the context of how it started.

Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State was sent from that meeting with Putin into the briefing room with reporters in Hamburg and this was the thing he was touting in response to a question about consequences.

This was the thing that he went and said, "Look, we're going to start this dialogue and engage in this constructive ability for Russia and the U.S. to work together to stop this kind of cyber attack."

I mean, it wasn't just a presidential tweet out of somewhere. This was the deliverable that they went in with to tout and he threw Rex Tillerson under the bus as soon as he tweeted out and faced all that backlash. He didn't mind that his Secretary of State was out there sort of touting this --


KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it is (INAUDIBLE), you don't have to be a foreign policy expert to see right away that this is a bad idea. So you do wonder how it ever got to the point that anyone ever thought this was a good idea, let alone the president comes out and touts it.

And then -- then the next question is, OK, so the president raised the issue with Putin. I mean, he didn't raise it as well as he could have. He said it was Americans who were upset about it, not him. And this was the solution to the problem, right?

So if this isn't it, then what is he doing? What is he doing to hold them accountable because this was a bad idea? He recognized that it was a bad idea, but what's he doing instead?

COOPER: I want thank everybody. When we come back, more in tonight's big news, how and why the president son met with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign. "New York Times" Columnist Tom Friedman weighs on that and has a lot to say about where he thinks the president is taking the country.


COOPER: Well, the Russia story and all the day-by-day revelations that go with it are unfolding against a backdrop that our next guest pays a lot of attention to.

"New York Times" Columnist Tom Friedman likes to look at the grand sweep of history, backdrop and all. His "New York Times" best selling author, "Thank You for Being Late." It's always good to have him on the broadcast.

Tom, what do you make the story of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort meeting with this Russian lawyer and obviously the story that Donald Trump Jr. has told now has shifted. TOM FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, I think there is -- the big message for me in that story, Anderson, is that from the very beginning the Russians have tried to impact this election and they try to do it through a number of ways, obviously, in sending a probe to the Trump campaign.

[20:55:08] And more specifically, as our intelligence agencies have reported by actually hacking the e-mail of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta. Why did they do that? I think for two reasons and one was revealed in the Trump meeting.

They are under sanctions because of their invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea and they want to get those sanctions lifted and they believed they would have a much better chance of that happening if Donald Trump were president.

And number two, Putin wants to fracture the west and he believed, I think, are rightly if Donald Trump were president, he would be a chaos candidate and he would no longer be able to lead the western alliance in a coherent way around Russia and, therefore, they wanted to tilt the election his way and I would say that was a pretty good bet.

You know, when you think about it, Anderson, to say one other thing --


FRIEDMAN: -- that for less than the cost of a MiG-29 fighter jet, look what Putin bought.

COOPER: The president talking about sort of aligning with Russia on some sort of cyber initiative and then now clearly back tracking from that because the reaction to it has been, you know, understandably people are saying it's ludicrous. Does it surprise you that the president at this stage would suggest something like that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I think that really Senator Lindsey Graham got it best. If that isn't the dumbest idea that I've ever heard of, it's surely right up there in the top three.

And the notion that the President of the United States would talk about collaborating on a kind of somehow cyber security unit with a country that just hacked our democratic election which, you know, use a secret agents to poke a poison umbrellas into people, which in its own country does not operate free and fair elections, just even mentioning it in anything other than a joking way is ridiculous and really this sort of question once again the judgment of the President of the United States.

COOPER: You've written in the past -- recently in the past about the president and I think at one point -- I'm not sure if the term was pathological liar, but you pointed out a number of the inconsistencies that have come from this president.

Just, you know, one of the things that came out of this meeting with Putin, Secretary of State Tillerson on Friday says sanctions had come up in the conversation. Then you have the president tweeting yesterday that sanctions were not discussed in the conversation. Then this afternoon Sarah Huckabee Sanders contradicted the president saying sanctions did come up.

FRIEDMAN: You know, it's would be funny if it weren't about our own country, Anderson. You know, the president -- I don't know what to say, I'm not a doctor. But, he doesn't behave as an adult let alone as a president.

And this kind of loose back and forth about what happened in a meeting, there were no note takers, they are just Tillerson and the Russian foreign minister and two translators. And so, here we had a meeting between two world leaders, an extremely important meeting, and even the American side can't agree what happened.

COOPER: You know, one of the things you said recently in a column really has stuck in my mind. And it sort of relates to this because I think people now on different sides of the aisle or different parts of the country, you know, have different truths. And one of the things you wrote, you said, "Sectarianism that has destroyed nation states in the Middle East is now infecting us." Comparing it essentially Democrats versus Republicans to Sunni versus Shia, I met that terrifying prospect.

FRIEDMAN: It is a terrifying prospect if you lived as I did through the Lebanese Civil War, but that is what's happening. You know, you hear people literally saying, "I wouldn't want my kids to marry one of them." And them they're referring to is not someone of a different race or religion, bad enough, but now it's on a different party.

In Washington, you hear people say, "Well, I hope none of them, you know, are going to be at the meeting, or the dinner, or the conference." And what was so terrifying about it is that, you know, it's the doing we do together, Anderson, that matters most.

We have so many big heart challenges before us, infrastructure, taxes, education, health care. And these are big hard problems and big hard problems can only be done together. And right now, we are simply incapable of doing anything together.

Let's think of health care. What would a rational Donald Trump have done? Hey, you come in -- we would come into office and said to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, "You know, Chuck, you send your top three health care experts up to Camp David. I'll send my top three. We'll tell them they can't come down until they forge a compromise. They'll come down, we'll announce it together. I'll get more credit because I'll tweet you and the country will be better off."

The notion that Republicans on their own are going to come up with a solution on this problem, a good solution, a rational solution, not just a win for the president is ludicrous, but that's how we're facing every problem.

COOPER: You know, I had General Michael Hayden on a couple -- I don't know, play (ph) a couple months.

[21:00:02] Now, one of the things he said has also struck with me, which -- stuck with me, which is that -- he talked about the thin veneer civilization and how we like to think it sort of seven stone, but then it's really not. It really is this thin veneer. It really is that fragile. Do you see it as fragile?