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Victory at Hand in Mosul; Trump Jr. Meets with Russian Lawyer; Advocates Launch Health Care Repeal Ads. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 10, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:51] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning the prime minister of Iraq says that victory is at hand in Mosul. This was by far the biggest city in ISIS hands and the second largest city in all of Iraq.

HARLOW: Soldiers are now battling for the last few pockets of ISIS resistance there. ISIS fighters using civilians, we're hearing, as human shields and as many as 100 homes. The question now becomes, what happens next? Tony Blinken is with us. He's CNN's global affairs analyst and former deputy secretary of state. He also has a new op-ed about all of this in "The New York Times" this morning.

It's nice to have you here, Tony. And let's just begin with the significance. John mention how big Mosul is, the biggest Iraqi city behind Baghdad, the biggest to be held by ISIS since they took control in June 2014. So the significance of retaking it and what happens next?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Poppy, John's exactly right, this is very significant for three reasons. First, it really means that ISIS, the Islamic State, no longer has significant territory to control in Iraq. And that means that there's no place for foreign fighters to come to. There are no resources to exploit, like oil. But maybe even more significant, its entire narrative, which is building an actual state, is now in tatters. And that means that its brand around the world is going to start to decline. So this is significant.

[09:35:03] But the question is exactly the right, one, and the one you pose, which is, what next? How do we make sure that Daesh, or the Islamic State, once defeated stays defeated? That's the key question for the Trump administration.

BERMAN: So, answer it. You know, what's the right way to address this situation? What do you think happens with ISIS now that it has lost its biggest city?

BLINKEN: Well, two things need to be done that are critical. First there's the immediate challenge. All these cities that are liberated, they need to be secured. They need to be governed. Services need to be turned back on so that people can come home. And there's a plan in place to do that. And funds were raised through the United Nations with the 67 or 68 countries that are part of the counter ISIL coalition. So that's on track. It's going to be hard to do but it is doable.

There's a bigger problem, though, John, and it really comes down to this, it's the politics, because even when the Islamic State is defeated militarily, the political and economic conditions that, in effect, created an atmosphere in which it could take root in the first place, they are still there. There are about 25 million disaffected Sunni Arabs who live between Baghdad and Iraq and Damascus in Syria. If they can't be convinced that the state is going to look out for them and not persecute them, then Daesh 2.0, the Islamic State 2.0, is going to rise. It will find plenty of new recruitments, plenty of new adherents.

So the trick is the politics. How do you convince these millions of people that the state is looking out for them? And I think there's one way to do that. And basically it comes down to what we call federalism or decentralization. Bring power, authority, resources down to the local level so that people in these different parts of Iraq are basically governing their day-to-day lives. That's the trick.

HARLOW: Tony, the president, as you know, this is a big win for - look - look, for the United States, for those who have been terrorized. Of course it's a big win for the Trump administration. But the president called - you know, the beginning of his administration for a new plan to defeat ISIS from the generals. He gave them 30 days to do that. Now, as far as I understand it, this has been a carrying out of the Obama administration strategy to defeat ISIS. Is that right or did something change significantly?

BLINKEN: No, Poppy, that's exactly right. This is the culmination of a strategy put in place by President Obama to empower local forces to take the fight to the Islamic State. And now, with our significant assistance, and with the coalition that we built, again, now 67, 68 countries strong, they succeeded. They are winning the fight militarily. But, you know, back in the old days of the Clinton administration, they used to talk about it's the - it's the economy, stupid. Here it's really the politics. That is, we've got to get some kind of political accommodation to make sure the conditions that gave rise to the Islamic State in the first place don't stay in place. And that's what - why this federalism, this decentralization, giving people a chance to govern their own lives, that's really the way forward.

BERMAN: All right, Tony Blinken, great to have you here with us this morning. Thanks so much.

BLINKEN: Thanks, John. Thanks, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, Donald Trump Jr. says he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer because he was told she had information helpful to the Trump campaign. "The New York Times" says it was information promised damaging to Hillary Clinton. So, what does this mean for the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? We'll speak with a Republican representative, next.


[09:42:25] HARLOW: Donald Trump Jr. offering two remarkably different accounts about a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer last year. A previously undisclosed meeting and a meeting other key players in the campaign attended.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

First, again, just your reaction - your first reaction to reading this story, that Donald Trump Jr. admits - flat out admits in a statement that had a meeting with this woman who's a Russian lawyer because she might have information helpful to the campaign.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Well, my first reaction was to get all of my facts, to make sure that I am not with the wrong judgment on what exactly happened. And, you know, now we've - we've learned a little bit more about the meeting itself. It appears, just taking from what we've come in contact with as being accurate, that someone had mentioned to Donald Trump Jr. that he should meet with this particular person who would have this information. And it appears that that lawyer didn't actually have any dirt on Hillary Clinton to share and had a different agenda to be able to - to talk about adoption and some other issues. So, I mean, really, honestly, my first reaction for all of us, and myself included, to be able to get all of our facts, to be able to form the right judgment as to what exactly it is and what it means.

HARLOW: So what's really helpful, representative, in this is that we have facts straight from the source. Two times in his second statement when he changed it markedly, Donald Trump Jr. said, I went into this meeting because I was told by this person that they would have information helpful to the campaign. Does this then rise to any level of collusion to you, questions about collusion? Does it give you any more pause?

ZELDIN: Well, I'm not sure it's evidence - it's not evidence of collusion because the person didn't actually have any type of information to provide to help with the campaign. It also doesn't appear to be something that, you know, is being directed from the Russian government to have a meeting to provide information, to help the Trump campaign. So it's - you know, perception wise, with everything else that's going on and being discussed as it relates to last year's election and Russia, from the perception standpoint, it certainly raises eyebrows. But, you know, I think it would mean something entirely different if the person actually had information to provide and that person was doing that -

[09:45:01] BERMAN: Why? Why?


BERMAN: Why, why, why because - because - because he took the meeting because he was told she had information and it shouldn't matter whether -

HARLOW: On his part, isn't the - it's the intent?

BERMAN: Yes, whether or not she delivers is a totally different issue than if he went there thinking he was going to get dirt from a Russian lawyer?

ZELDIN: Well, no, I mean I - I'll absolutely take him at his word, that that is the reason why he sat down with that lawyer. I'm just saying that it's a completely different narrative if that person actually had information to provide and that person was being sent there by the Russian government. So the perception that is being taken - the additional conclusions and assumptions are being made, you know, that this is somehow proving that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign and it's missing some important links, even though you establish, obviously, taking Donald Trump Jr. at his word, that that is the reason why he sat down with this particular person.

HARLOW: So - and it wasn't just him, right? It was Jared Kushner, really key in the campaign and now key in the White House, and Paul Manafort, then the chairman of the campaign.

Here is what Donald Trump Jr., who has been very vocal in his criticism of anyone who draws any ties between Russia and the campaign, here is what he said in March. Let me quote. "Did I meet with people that were Russian? I sure did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form." Based on what he has now said, was that dishonest?

ZELDIN: No, I don't think so because he's not meeting with someone with the Russian government or someone being sent on behalf of the Russian government, as far as we know, of the information we're been provided so far. He met with a Russian.

HARLOW: But, congressman, he says, "none that I was representing the campaign." He said he never met with Russians when he was at all part of the campaign, and that is not true.

ZELDIN: Yes. Well, you know, again, it would be - it would be a different assessment if the person he met with was - you know, other than just being Russian, the person actually had information - there's no clear evidence that this person wouldn't be sent there on behalf of the Russian government to collude with the campaign and provide information. And the fact that this person had no information to provide at all and the whole theory is -


ZELDIN: And I believe Russia meddled in last year's election and I believe that they were involved in the cyberattacks. So, at that time, the Russian government would be in possession of information that would be damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign. So if there was a connection between the -

BERMAN: So, congressman - ZELDIN: Yes, sir?

BERMAN: I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt. It's just, you know, she was, in fact, Russian. We know she was, in fact, Russian. We know, in fact, that Donald Trump Jr. did meet with her and we now know, because he said it on Twitter this morning, that he met with her as part of the campaign. So that, you know, that disproves what he said in March.

And just our last question to you is this. Should this now be part of the special counsel's investigation? Would you like - do you think it's prudent at this point for Robert Mueller to look into this?

ZELDIN: You know, I would defer to Mr. Mueller on that one. I mean if there is additional facts available, then, you know, that might add a different angle, an insight to that particular meeting. But the fact that, you know, under the theory of - and which I believe that the Russians meddled in the campaign, the Russian government would have had information to provide. So if this person was sent there on behalf of the Russian government to collude and provide information, it wouldn't have been that, you know, nothing-burger with no information to provide as it relates to the campaign. So, in a way, this particular meeting, as far as the evidence we've been provided with of what actually happened at the table, it's actually evidence that it's not evidence of collusion.


ZELDIN: Because if it was, she would have had some information to be - to be providing on behalf of the Russian government.

HARLOW: Congressman, we have to leave it there, but it is important to remember the intent. Why did he take the meeting? And he's explicitly, Donald Trump Jr., now said twice why he took the meeting and that it was clear to him, partway in, that he wasn't getting what he wanted from the meeting.

ZELDIN: No doubt.

HARLOW: We'll have you back. Thank you for being with us.

ZELDIN: Yes, take him at his word there.

BERMAN: That's an interesting - but, congressman, that's an interesting - I'm sorry.

HARLOW: He's gone.

BERMAN: That is -

HARLOW: That's the key point.

BERMAN: Is it a nothing-burger if it was - if he was looking to get information, is it incriminating or not that he left because he was upset he wasn't getting the information? That it was Donald Trump Jr. who was upset that the information from this Russian lawyer wasn't better. HARLOW: Was actually about adoption and not something helpful to the campaign?

BERMAN: Congressman?

ZELDIN: Yes. Listen, I mean I think it's - I think it's entirely significant. I take him - take Donald Trump, Jr. at his word and you're recapping what he says that he sat there for that purpose. I mean that is why he went to the meeting. But, yes, I'm just - I'm just pointing out that the rest of the pieces here of the story of saying that this is evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russian government to be - where the Russian government hacked into - if they were involved in hacks into the DCCC, the DNC, John Podesta's e-mail and obtain information, the evidence would be - the additional pieces would be that at that meeting that this Russian lawyer would be providing that to the campaign, to help the campaign so that they could use it to damage Hillary Clinton. This whole story line is missing some very important points.

[09:50:22] BERMAN: All right -

ZELDIN: But I don't want to take anything away from, you know, taking Donald Trump Jr. at his word as to why he sat down at that table.


HARLOW: And, again, the storyline is not collusion, the storyline is reporting the facts.

BERMAN: Right.

HARLOW: And we have the facts directly from the source, Donald Trump Jr.

We appreciate you sticking around for our additional questions. Thank you, congressman.


HARLOW: President Trump has a message for lawmakers who say health care reform is dead. He says he can't imagine that they would leave D.C. without a plan for repeal and replace in place, next.


BERMAN: All right, members of Congress back on Capitol Hill this morning and back at work on trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, even as some senators, Republican senators, are casting doubt if their version of this can be saved.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My view is it's probably going to be dead, but I am - I've been wrong. I thought I'd be president of the United States.


HARLOW: I mean that was a pretty great line, he thought he would be president of the United States. Meantime, President Trump putting on the pressure this morning writing, "I can't imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautifully new health care bill fully approved and ready go.

CNN political reporter MJ Lee joins us with the beautiful details here.



HARLOW: Beautiful, and fully approved. What does that mean, unanimous?

LEE: Yes, don't know what President Trump is talking about, but obviously he is putting the pressure on Senate Republicans as it is becoming clearly more difficult for them to get to the 50 "yes" votes. And this is exactly why Mitch McConnell did not want to delay this vote until after July 4th. He knew that members would go home, back to their home states, and face protesters, constituents and attack ads.

Just an example of one attack ad that Senator Lisa Murkowski is facing, watch this from one progressive group. This is an ad that's running in Alaska.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Senator Murkowski promised to protect our health care.

[09:55:02] SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I will not support a reckless repeal process that leaves people hanging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now Washington politicians are pressuring Murkowski to support their secret, back room deals.


LEE: Now, I should note that this same group is running ads for Dean Heller, Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito - or against, I should say. And this coming week is going to be really critical. We are waiting to get updated scores from the CBO on an amendment from Senator Ted Cruz. This is an amendment that could potentially win over more conservatives. But, obviously, the question there is then does Mitch McConnell end up losing moderates? And again, a lot of pressure coming from the White House, from President Trump. He wants a big win before the summer. It's just not clear that he's going to get that win.

BERMAN: Yes, in any measure for win one, takes away votes from another. Givith and taketh away.

LEE: Right.

BERMAN: MJ Lee, great to have you here with us.

LEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you very, very much.

All right, Donald Trump Jr., the son of the president of the United States, admits he took a meeting last year during the campaign with a Russian lawyer because he was told she had information that would be helpful to his father's campaign. "The New York Times" says it was dirt on Hillary Clinton. What does this all mean? New developments this morning. Stay with us.


[09:59:56] BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. 10:00 a.m. Eastern this morning.

An admission from president's son that some in the Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian help. Donald Trump Jr. now says in the summer of 2016, he met with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have information helpful to his father's campaign.