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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Senate Wants Answers From Trump Jr. On Russia Meeting; W.H.: Trump Jr. "Did Not Collude With Anybody"; Trump Backtracks On Cyber Unit With Russia After Ridicule; Kremlin Denies Connection to Lawyer Who Met with Trump Jr.; Kids Confront Lawmakers About Health Care Bill. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 10, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OutFront next, the breaking news, Senate investigators demanding answers from Donald Trump Jr. Does his meeting with the Russian lawyer points to collusion with the Russian government? And who is the lawyer allegedly claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton? A man who knows her well is my guess out front.
Plus, Donald Trump and Chelsea Clinton dueling on Twitter over Ivanka who got the upper hand. Let's go out front.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, investigators want Donald Trump Jr., the top Democrat in the Senate Intelligence Committee says he wants answers from the president's son. Senator Mark Warner calling Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign the first, "clear evidence" that members of the Trump campaign met with Russians with the specific goal of hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Now, Donald Trump Jr. was joined by Paul Manafort who of course was then Trump's campaign chairman and Jared Kushner, the president's son- in-law and top adviser in that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's also a continuing pattern that we've seen since the election of Trump campaign and Trump Administration officials who have conveniently forgotten meetings with Russians only when they are then presented with evidence they have to recant and acknowledge those kinds of meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So what pattern is Warner talking about? Well, perhaps this. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six but seven Trump associates. All of whom did not reveal meetings they had with Russians until the meetings were reported in the media. Score one, for leakers.
Trump Jr. along with Kushner and Manafort met with Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016. Now when confronted by the New York Times about the meeting, Trump Jr. first said that the meeting was about 20 to 30 minutes and it was primarily about banned program for Americans who wanted to adopt Russian children. A day later, though, Trump Jr. changed his story admitting "The woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Miss Clinton." Now, that's a big admission, right, admitting that she said she had dirt and they wanted to hear the dirt and yet Trump Jr. stands by this.
He says he took the meeting without even knowing the name of the person with whom he was to meet. This is the -- at that time, the nominee of the president -- for the president of the United States was Donald Trump, his son and campaign manager and son-in-law were taking a meeting with someone who had dirt on the Clintons and they didn't even know her name? Consider the context.
It's a pretty stunning thing. Donald Trump Jr. had clinched the number of delegates that he needed at this time. So why would three of his closest advisers agree to do this, to meet with an individual supposedly with damaging information about Hillary Clinton and why would they spend half an hour talking to her then about something else? These explanations don't make sense and the meeting itself calls into questions these statements made by the president and the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DICKERSON, HOST, FACE THE NATION: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, of course not. I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manu Raju begins our coverage "OutFront" on Capitol Hill. And Manu, you asked Senator Warner today about his requests that he wants to speak with Donald Trump Jr. What more did he tell you?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he actually wants to hear from Donald Trump Jr. in the classified session before the Senate Intelligence Committee saying absolutely does he want to talk to Donald Trump Jr. This comes when the intelligence committee is now moving into a new phase of the investigation, Erin, talking to Trump officials, Trump campaign officials who may have knowledge about these meetings that occurred between Russian officials and Trump associates during the campaign season.
Now, one question that Mark Warner has for some of these Trump campaign associates is why didn't they come clean earlier? This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARNER: For a campaign and now a president who continues to say there's no "there" there, yet virtually every week or two there's more stories of meetings, undisclosed meetings with Russian officials that beg the question if there's no "there" there, why aren't more of these people coming clean on a more regular fashion?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Public evidence of any effort between Trump associates, Trump campaign officials and Russian officials to coordinate about the campaign to go after Hillary Clinton but he did not say if it's the first private evidence that he has seen. I've asked him that directly. He said he would not comment on that.
Other Republicans, however, are not going as far as Mark Warner, to Richard Burr, the Republican chair of the committee said he doesn't want to comment on Don Jr. because he may come before the committee.
[19:05:12] John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip who sits on the committee, says he's willing to talk to Don Jr. but does not see the evidence yet that Mark Warner does. But clearly, Erin, a new focus for this investigation which is starting to ramp up looking into possible areas -
RAJU: -- of coordinations and discussions that may have occurred between Trump officials and Russian officials during the campaign season.
BURNETT: And obviously this could be very crucial in terms of that possible connection. Thank you, Manu. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House. And Jeff, look, the White House is trying to distance themselves, just as the president, that is, from this particular meeting with three of the people closest to him were all in attendance. They are just saying he just found out about it now even though, of course, it happened in Trump Tower.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin, that is what they're saying. They say the president just learned about this reading the news reports as soon as actually flying back from Germany when that story first broke in the "New York Times" on a Saturday afternoon.
The issue here, though, is the president has said repeatedly that he has no knowledge of any meetings with the Russian officials. He said in a press conference after his election, he said at several other times, the question, though, is Trump Tower is a fairly small place. The Trump campaign was much, much smaller than most campaigns. We know that Donald Trump was in New York City that day. He was meeting with Republican officials, Republican donors and this was the same week that the presidential campaign basically ended.
The California primary was earlier that week. This was the day after that his top rival when Hillary Clinton had the big speech in Brooklyn where she accepted her nomination as well. So Hillary Clinton was on the minds of everyone in Trump Tower that day. So he may not have known about it, the White House is saying, look, he did not have any idea that the meeting was happening there but this for the first time is a suggestion that there was a meeting during the campaign.
And Erin, it's causing some concernation here at the White House because they thought they had turned -
ZELENY: -- the corner and the investigation was going to -- they could focus on their agenda. That is not what is happening. Again, these questions are dominating the White House. And the question is, has anyone called for a full accounting of all of the meetings. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not know if anyone had asked for more meetings besides this one. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Jeff Zeleny. Of course, it depends on what investigators know but you would think if there was absolutely nothing to hide and in any case everybody should have come forward and volunteered all of the meetings that they had or were a part of so this information wouldn't be coming via leaks to the press which could make it seem more sinister. OutFront tonight, the Democratic Senator, Ron Wyden, who's the member of the intelligence committee. So senator, let me ask you, this meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and an incredibly well connected Russian lawyer, what do you make of it?
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We don't know, Erin, what was said at the meeting. But given Donald Trump Jr.'s own admissions, this was an attempt at collusion so this is going to be very important to get to the bottom of and clearly we have to talk to all of the parties but while there is some discussion about whether he knew the name of the particular individual, this was a Russian who is trying to help Donald Trump get elected.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about this issue of collusion. You raised that word. The Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about exactly that whether this was collusion. In an audio-only press briefing this afternoon. Here's how she answered that question.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would certainly say Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you believe her?
WYDEN: Again, we don't know what was said. But when I look at somebody's own words, that was an admission that he was getting together with somebody who was going to get him information of value, a Russian giving him information of value that would help Donald Trump get elected.
BURNETT: Now, he's saying that the meeting was 20 to 30 minutes. And that she started it off with a few vague items that did not deliver upon the promise of delivering anything on Hillary Clinton and then moved to talk about an adoption bill for Russians children by Americans. Does it make sense to you that a meeting that had a few vague things about Hillary Clinton then went on for 20 to 30 minutes with a campaign chairman, son-in-law and the son of what at that point was known to be the upcoming Republican nominee for president?
WYDEN: My first reaction, Erin, we've already heard two versions of what happened. Let's see if we hear a third version. And no, it doesn't make any sense to me what you've described.
BURNETT: So Don Jr. has been tweeting in response to critics today and says "Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a hearing to hear a meeting about an opponent but had to listen."
[19:10:06] Does he have a point here? I'm just, you know, campaigns do opposition research all the time. They want to get it from whomever they could get it from. Could this just fall into that category?
WYDEN: There is a really big difference here between a normal campaign and talking with a foreign hostile power who is trying to influence an American election. Look, this is not about getting information from a previous city council race where somebody cast a vote and it wasn't recorded or videotaped. This is about somebody who is involved with the Russians. We've heard about potential ways in which this meeting was arranged. The more you learn about this, the more trouble you get.
BURNETT: Do you believe that this lawyer was endorsed by/directly connected to the Kremlin?
WYDEN: There certainly can't be any judgments made about that this evening but certainly the facts here continue to pile up and, you know, we have listened to one official in this administration after another have to change their story and this looks like one of the worst cases.
BURNETT: So Washington, D.C., lawyer confirmed late today, senator, that he's representing Don Jr. on all things Washington. He says that today, and this is what he said and actually surprising me, someone asked you about it, Donald Trump Jr. has received no requests of any kind from any government committee or agency. Those are his words. Is it true that your committee, after months of investigating, hasn't until tonight when Senator Warner at least said that he wanted to hear from Don Jr., requested anything from the president's son who plays such essential role in the campaign?
WYDEN: Erin, under the rule, you're not allowed to talk about committee deliberations but to me what is nonnegotiable here is we've got to talk to all of the parties and find out what was said.
BURNETT: So before we go, senator, I want to ask you one question here about health care, this crucial bill. Republican Senator John McCain said the proposal is, "probably going to be dead." Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't given up. Senator Cornyn says he wants a vote next week. Is there any chance that this passes, from where you stand?
WYDEN: I hope not. I can just tell you. I had eight town hall meetings in Oregon, five in counties, won by Donald Trump, three in counties won by Hillary Clinton. This proposal by Mitch McConnell is a loser, everywhere. I hope we can kill this proposal and then come back in a bipartisan way and work together. I've got ideas that I think would be attractive to both sides.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Wyden, I appreciate your time and thank you tonight.
WYDEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, talk about meeting with the Russian lawyer. I asked Paul Manafort about the possibility that Russians were trying to help the campaign. And here's part of how he answered my question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't know anything about what you just said. You may know it. And if you do, you ought to expose it. I like to say you know, I don't even know what you're talking about. It's crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's crazy. That was weeks after he met with that Russian lawyer. Much more on what he said about Russia's meddling in the election. Plus, President Trump ridiculed for partnering up Putin on cyber security after abandoning the idea, is it now back on the table tonight?
And Jeanne Moos with a tale of two hats and two presidents.
[19:17:10] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House is trying to downplay Donald Trump Jr.'s arranged meeting with a Russian lawyer. At the audio-only White House press briefing today, the Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it's absolutely normal for campaigns to have meetings like the one Donald Trump Jr. had. But what about the past denials that any such meetings took place?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thos original questions were not about collusions, Sarah, they were just about contacts.
SANDERS: Actually, they were originally about that. That's the whole premise of what you're asking the question, is whether or not the campaign colluded with Russia. That's the premise of the entire scope of your questioning and the point we've tried to makeover and over again and will continue to make is that there wasn't.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: But here's the reality. The questions were not always about collusion. A lot of them were just about whether there were meetings. Now, weeks after Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended that meeting with the Russian lawyer, right, we didn't know about the meeting at the time but weeks after that I actually interviewed Paul Manafort. Let me play you an exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Russian government hackers did brake in to DNC servers last month. We know that. We know that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have said very positive things about each other. You personally, of course, Paul, advise the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine. Why is it so far-fetched to blame the Russians and say that the motive was to help you?
MANAFORT: It's just absurd. I mean Donald Trump is running for president of the United States. Donald Trump is talking about the failed leadership of the Obama Administration. I don't know anything what you just said. You may know it. And if you do, then you ought to expose it. I like to say you know. I don't know what you're talking about. It's crazy. The fact that we're having this conversation is the wrong conversation. The conversation we should be having is what does Russia have from Hillary Clinton's server. That's the bigger issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Mark Preston is OutFront, senior political analyst, Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for DHS and Paul Callan, our senior legal analyst.
So Mark,. I asked Paul Manafort why it's so far-fetched to blame the Russians and say the motive is to help you. Again, weeks after he met with the Russian lawyer who proposed to help them and he said it's absurd. I don't know anything you just said. If you do, you ought to expose it. It's crazy. Look, he knew about the meeting. I didn't at the time. No one else did but he sure knew, Mark.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, do doubt. He was almost like tempting you or trying to tease you to say do you know what is going on right now and partly thinking himself it would never ever be exposed but as we always knew in politics, there really are no secrets. But this is seem to be a running theme though, Erin, of associates of President Trump of advisers of President Trump in their memory. Their lack out of memory that is, you know.
[19:20:00] We saw Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions who failed to disclose two meetings with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak during his confirmation hearings at the United States Senate to be attorney general. We also saw Jared Kushner on his top secret security clearances forget to put in his meetings with Kislyak and a Russian banker as well as this meeting we're discussing right now. We also saw Michael Flynn be very cagey about his meetings as well with Russian officials as well as Ambassador Kislyak.
So, this really seems to be a running theme for these advisers and forget them (INAUDIBLE) these meetings.
BURNETT: Right. And Juliette, again, you know, they are saying Donald Trump Jr. in his second explanation did say, well, they said that they had damaging information on Hillary Clinton and illegal donations or something from the Russians but that she didn't bring the goods and then proceed to talk about adoptions for 20 to 30-minute meeting with three of the most important people in Donald Trump's orbit. Do you buy that?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, no. I mean in a sense that Donald Trump Jr.'s story has changed in 24 hours, the only reason we believed that information wasn't past was because of Donald Trump Jr.'s statements. So, you know, we will wait for an investigation.
I want to be clear here. The lines about the meetings bother me a lot less than the taking of the meetings. In other words, the idea -- everyone talks about chess in politics, right. I'm going to talk about poker. Any (INAUDIBLE) is hard to tell, right. You know, ware you -- do you bling, do drink a glass of water when you're playing the game?
In this case to tell (ph) by Donald Trump Jr. was taking the meeting. That's all the Russians needed to know, was the Trump campaign receptive to this information, was it receptive to Russia's help, were they going to tell on the Russians? And so I think, you know, what line is bothersome about the meetings themselves, he took the meeting and one only can suspect that the Russians left that meeting saying they're game, right? We don't have to know all of the details but they took the meeting.
BURNETT: So Paul, you know, the meeting raises the question as to is it illegal or not, right? Was it treason or wasn't not? Was it collusion? Richard Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. He says treason is a word to start talking about. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: We do not get our opposition research from spies. We do not collaborate with Russian spies unless we need to be accused of treason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not treason. A treason is when the Rosenberg steal atomic secrets when you're trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton even it's from a Russian. That's not treason. And getting dirt on Hillary Clinton would put a lot of people in jail otherwise
BURNETT: Now, just to ask something as a point of clarification, would it be treason? There are some out there who alleged using agent of the Kremlin, very clearly. We have not confirmed any such thing. We don't know if that's to be the case. If that is the case, does that change it? If she's an agent of the Russian government.
CALLAN: The treason statute, which by the way is punishable by - it can be punishable by death, requires you to aid and abet and aid and comfort an enemy of the United States in some affirmative way. Now, asking if you have any dirt on Hillary Clinton alone I don't think makes out treason.
Now, you know, we you talk about collusion, yes, it's not even collusion but it could be the beginning of a collusion or conspiracy case if other evidence develops. But right now, we're looking at an act of dishonesty of political stupidity but not criminality.
KAYYEM: I don't know if we're looking at criminality or not because the only thing we know about what happened the content of the meeting is from Donald Trump Jr. who has, as I said, changed stories in a 24- hour period.
KAYYEM: So, I'm going to reserve judgment, as I often do, about what the legal standards will be. But I think any rationale person looking at the data points about the acceptance of the meeting, who is the room the timing of the releases and the days and subsequent weeks later, the come hither by Donald Trump himself about urging the hacking and release -
KAYYEM: -- of e-mails, all of that is context. It's not a smoking gun. It's context.
BURNETT: And again, Mark, I go back to that interview with Paul Manafort. At the least, what he was doing there was completely misleading and some might use the word lying, right? He was directly asked, is it too far-fetched to imagine the Russians trying to help you against Hillary Clinton. And he laughed it off like it was absurd when he knew full well that at least this woman that he met with who was Russian was trying to do exactly that.
PRESTON: Yes, no doubt. I mean, and I'll go with you on the word lying because there's no way that he forgot that meeting that occurred just two weeks earlier. This came at a time during the campaign, if we all remember, Paul Manafort had a massive incredible amount of power, President Trump was looking at him to run the convention, which he did and did a good job of it. When Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in the meeting with the son of the presidential, soon to be presidential nominee, I mean that's pretty dumb.
BURNETT: In the small confines of Trump Tower. Thank you all very much.
[19:25:00] And next, President Trump walks back his plan of creating a cyber security unit with the Russians after some serious backlash from members of his own party. But tonight, could it still happen?
And Donald Trump Jr.'s controversial meeting. How it all began, right. There was a pop star, miss universe pageant was involved and a whole lot of well-connected Russians.
BURNETT: New tonight, the White House struggling to explain the president's own contradiction on forming a cybersecurity unit with Russia. The idea due bipartisan ridicule. And hours later the (INAUDIBLE). But tonight, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seems to be suggesting that the idea is still alive. Michelle Kosinski is OutFront.
TRUMP: It's an honor to be with you. Thank you. Thank you.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first Trump/Putin face-to-face was the meeting watched around the world. What exactly was said inside the private marathon two-hour plus discussion, though, remains under serious debate. Even parentally by the president himself.
In tweets, on Sunday, this. "Putin and I discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit so that election hacking and many other negative things will be guarded and safe", sparking an immediate backlash.
ASH CARTER, FORMER SECRTARY OF DEFENSE: This is like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary.
KOSINSKI: From Republicans as well. Senator Ben Sass called it inexplicably bizzare. Some weighed heavily on the morning shows.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), NORTH CAROLINA: It's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard but it's pretty close. He is literally the only person I know of who has any doubt about what Russia attacked our election in 2016.
[ 19:30:07] KOSINSKI: But even though Trump's administration defended the idea of a joint U.S.-Russia cyber security unit, Sunday night saw a complete Trump about-face, now tweeting: The fact that President Putin and I discussed a cybersecurity unit doesn't mean I think it could happen. It can't.
And today, the White House again shunning cameras at its public briefing, downplayed the idea.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We recognize that Russia is a cyber threat, but we also recognize the need to have conversations with our adversaries, discussions may still take place but that's as far as it is right now.
KOSINSKI: The White House couldn't answer whether Trump trusts Putin. And in that meeting, Russia insists Trump, quote, accepted Putin's statement that Russia didn't meddle at all in the U.S. election.
The administration pushing back.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin.
KOSINSKI: Though in a tweet, the president himself left things more vague. I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.
His opinion only one day before meeting with Putin was this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could very well have been Russia but I think it could well have been other countries. Nobody really knows.
KOSINSKI: There's also a big question here about sanctions. Secretary of State Tillerson said in order to show how serious the issue is, Trump brought up with Putin the fact that this bill has passed the Senate that would impose more sanctions on Russia, specifically for meddling in the U.S. election and would prevent the White House from lifting those sanctions. That's a bill, though, that the White House opposes. Later, Trump tweeted that he didn't discuss sanctions with Putin although today the White House spokesperson said there was some discussion.
So, what we know is that this administration has emphasized that the sanctions that are already on Russia for its taking over part of Ukraine will stay in place unless Russia changes its behavior, but we don't know how if in any way this administration will punish Putin for meddling in the election. We've heard Republicans too now say that they fear that the administration will forgive and forget and let Putin get away with this without paying any price -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Michelle, thank you very much.
Paul Begala is former counselor to President Clinton, and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, also, of course, GOP candidate with me as well.
Senator, let's talk about the cybersecurity unit that the president said was going to happen and then he said it isn't going to happen and now, who knows if it's going to happen.
What do you make of this back and forth backtracking?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's not good messaging on the part of the president, that's for darn sure. Look, the idea of working together with the Russians on cybersecurity
is a nonstarter. The Russians are a tremendous threat. They are -- not just the Russian government but the Russian business network and all of these other groups within Russia that constantly are attacking both our government as well as private enterprises, and to think that we would collaborate with them in any way doesn't make a lot of sense.
So, I hope that this issue goes off on the ashbin of history of a thought that maybe was prematurely tweeted and we can move on to other things.
BURNETT: Well, premature tweeting wouldn't be the first sign of that happening.
But joke aside, Paul, I'm sure you agree with the senator that this should go down in the ashbin of history. But what do you make of the fact that it's proposed then it's dead and then it's maybe back?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. This isn't about reckless tweeting. This was a planned meeting. This was in the summit meeting with President Putin, the man who hacked our election, who attacked our democracy.
There is a cyber war going on, Russia against America. Right now, it's been very one-sided. The Obama administration was very tepid in response to this attack and even some of his former aides told "The Washington Post" that they choked, right?
BURNETT: Been very critical, yes. Yes.
BEGALA: But now, we're not only being tepid, we're being helpful. He -- Mr. Trump knows what he's doing. This is a tremendously stupid idea. Why would a smart man -- Trump has street smarts like I've never seen -- propose something like that. Not because he's stupid, because he's smart. He's setting the bar at a joint cyber strike force which he knows he can't get, but he's going to get some sort of cooperation where he brings Russia in.
This could be catastrophic. I'm not kidding. This could open the door to Russia actually having access to all that voter data that Trump is trying to collect from all of the secretaries of state. Most of them are turning him down.
But if you have all of that information on voter rolls collected together and then you have this cyber strike force, the Russians would have open access to our democracy.
[19:35:01] They've already hacked it once with very little penalty. Now, they look like we're inviting them to do it a second time.
BURNETT: Well, Senator, right, this comes as we have this news of the meeting between Manafort, Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, right, where the Russian lawyer promised dirt on Hillary Clinton and yet the president's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who as you know has been spotted at the White House now several times, has this to say about President Trump's meeting with Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This is a type of president that takes a problem, delivers it directly to the person who has the solution for it and pressed him very tough to find out if Russia had anything to do with the outcome of the U.S. election and from what Vladimir Putin has said, the answer is no. The president has taken this issue directly to the president of Russia and raised it. So, now, I think the issue is officially dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's pretty frightening, Senator.
SANTORUM: Well, that's Corey Lewandowski, that's not the president speaking. Obviously, to expect the Russians to admit to anything is a little bit of a fairy tale.
So, look, I think that the fact is, the president did bring it up to him. Vladimir Putin didn't tell the truth. I'm not surprised at that. And that this issue is an issue that needs to be investigated.
Look, to Paul's point, the idea that the president is going to go ahead and open up our cyber defenses or any kind of cyber activity to the Russians, you know, one thing that the president has done that I've been very impressed with is he listens to his -- to the people who are experts in the field and has done a tremendous job in learning from that and in many cases changing some of his opinions based upon the evidence that he gets presented.
He has a great team around him on the national security front. I think they are going to make sure that our country is safe and I know this president will listen to them and make sure that that's the case.
BURNETT: So, Paul, when the president tweeted after his meeting with Putin, quote, it is time to move forward and work constructively with Russia, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the two presidents rightly focused on how do we move forward, do they have a point?
BURNETT: You know, I mean, there was a lot of scoffing at that, right? How can you move forward when the Russians are preparing the battlefield for more attacks, but at the same time you have to work with Russia on Syria and other things, North Korea?
BEGALA: They must -- they must be punished.
Stalin said, I stab until I hit steel and then I withdraw. Putin is a Stalinist character. He understands strength and only strength. I think as I said earlier, it's a fair criticism of Obama administration, my own party, I helped reelect President Trump, that they did not punish Putin for this. Now, we are not even punishing him, we're rewarding him. There has to
be retribution and it has to be strong and the Senate, as you know, 98-2, passed tougher sanctions on Russia and the White House is complaining about them and the House so far has been stalling them.
We have got to respond to this. It is not over. This was not a one- off deal.
This was the Pearl Harbor. Now the war begins and they are going to come after our elections again and again. This last time it was my party. Next time, Rick, it could be your party.
BEGALA: We've got to stay united against this threat.
BURNETT: So, Senator, before we go, I just want to ask you about the other controversy out there, which may seem small but it isn't, right, because we're a democracy and we have elected leaders in these positions that President Trump, you know, put Ivanka Trump into his seat in the G20 when he left the room, right? There was a lot of brouhaha about that.
And President Trump responded to the criticism saying if Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother as her mother gave our country away, the fake news would Chelsea for president. Chelsea Clinton then responded, saying it never would have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me.
What do you think, Senator? Was it smart for Donald Trump to weigh in, not only on a controversy about his daughter sitting in the seat but to bring Hillary Clinton into it? Chelsea Clinton, I'm sorry.
SANTORUM: No, I think he's saying that the media is treating him different than they would another and I think they are. And the reality is, that she was part of the delegation, this is customary, even heard Chancellor Merkel say that this was nothing out of the ordinary. She was part of the official delegation and when the president gets up to have a meeting off -- you know, as this happens all the time, they have bilateral meetings during these types of summits and the entire team goes to this bilateral meeting, including the secretary of state and other senior members, you have someone who's junior sit in and take notes and represent the United States.
I don't think it's a big deal and the fact that the media is making a big deal makes Donald Trump's point.
BURNETT: Well, I have to say, I thought it was pretty shocking.
Paul, I also have to say it would not surprise me at all if Clinton senior asked Chelsea Clinton to sit in the chair, if the roles were reversed.
BEGALA: Oh, there's not a chance.
BURNETT: Not a chance? BEGALA: I've known that family for 25 years. By the way, Chelsea has
a PhD in international relations from Oxford, and there's not a chance in the world. Hillary Clinton never did it when she was secretary of state. She went to a lot of big meeting. She didn't step aside and let her daughter step in.
Look, the president was very successful in running a tightly held family business. But the United States government is not a tightly held family business.
[19:40:01] And I know it's a tight family and I do admire that. The problem is, if you're so tight with your family, now you want us to believe that when your son met with the Russians, he didn't tell you about it? You know, there's -- you can't have it both ways. You can't be so tight with your family that your daughter can sit in for the president of the United States, but your namesake son meets with the Russians and said, oh, I didn't know anything about it. Baloney.
BURNETT: All right. We'll leave it there. Thank you both very much.
And next, the Kremlin tonight saying it doesn't even know the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. My next guest knows her and says the Russians are lying.
And protests on Capitol Hill over health care tonight. Some risking arrests, maybe even their lives to be heard.
BURNETT: Tonight, the Kremlin says it knows nothing about Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and her meeting with Donald Trump Jr. Now, this is despite the fact that she has spent years of fighting a law that Vladimir Putin opposes.
Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an introduction from a music agent that put lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya across the table from the future president's son and top campaign officials.
The agent, Rob Goldstone, was in the meeting and said in a statement today that Veselnitskaya, quote, had apparently stated that she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important.
[19:45:01] At the meeting, the Russian attorney presented a few very general remarks regarding campaign funding and then quickly turned the topic to that of the Magnitsky Act and the banned U.S. adoption of Russian children, at which point the meeting was halted by Don Jr. and we left.
Veselnitskaya was in the U.S. at the time of the meeting as part of her dogged campaign to fight the American Magnitsky Act, which now backlists dozens of suspected Russian human rights abusers. It was named for a Russian lawyer who died mysteriously in prison after uncovering $230 million of fraud by Russian officials.
American businessman Bill Browder was Magnitsky's boss.
WILLIAM BROWDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT CEO: She has effectively become the proxy for the Russian government in the United States for trying to repeal a piece of legislation, sanctions legislation which Putin finds probably the most personally offensive of anything that's come out of the West in the last 10 years.
MARQUARDT: The Kremlin was so outraged, it banned adoptions of Russian children by Americans. It has denied any association with Veselnitskaya, President Putin's spokesman telling CNN, we don't know who that is and obviously, we can't monitor all meetings Russian lawyers hold both in Russia and abroad.
Veselnitskaya got the meeting through the music agent, Rob Goldstone, who's been involved with the Trump's Miss Universe pageant, famously held in Moscow in 2013. It was one of Goldstone's clients, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov who requested the meeting on behalf of Veselnitskaya. Agalarov has hung out with President Trump who once wished him a happy birthday.
TRUMP: Happy 35th birthday.
MARQUARDT: And even appeared in one of his music videos.
TRUMP: I'm really tired of you. You're fired!
MARQUARDT: And a lawyer of Veselnitskaya has responded since the news of this meeting broke. She said in a statement to "The New York Times" that nothing at all about the presidential campaign was discussed, that she never acted on behalf of the Russian government or discussed any of these matters with him.
Now, Erin, whatever her ties are to the Kremlin, though, it's clear that through her efforts to destroy the Magnitsky Act, that their interests are certainly aligned -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex.
And I want to go now to William Browder. You just saw him briefly in Alex's piece, a long-time Russia critic, has been declared a threat to Russia's national security by authorities there. As you saw, he was Sergey Magnitsky's boss.
Good to talk to you again, Bill.
Let me just ask you this, the Kremlin denies knowing Veselnitskaya. CNN hasn't confirmed she has any links to the Kremlin. You just heard, of course, she denies any links.
What makes you believe that she was acting as a proxy for Vladimir Putin and the Russian government?
BROWDER: Well, first of all, any time the Kremlin denies something, you should always assume that they are lying because they do so on a regular basis.
But in her case, we have all sorts of evidence that she was acting on behalf of the Russian government. Starting with the fact that the general prosecutor of Russia wrote a huge long editorial in the Russian newspaper, "Kommersant", specifically talking about all of the activities of Veselnitskaya in the United States and talking about how important they were in terms of their policies. On top of that, when Veselnitskaya was out in Washington and in Brussels promoting the anti-Magnitsky platform, she had television crews from all of the Russian government television stations following her around.
This is not some random individual person who had a position on a foreign issue. This is a person who was acting as a proxy for the Russian government, for Vladimir Putin, in a -- on an issue that Vladimir Putin feels very strongly about.
BURNETT: Now, OK, so there's your reasoning there. Now, let me just say, Donald Trump Jr., as you know, has changed his story twice about what this meeting entailed. But in the most recent explanation, he says of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee in supporting Ms. Clinton, right? So, that's what he thought he was going to get out of this meeting.
He says she failed to deliver on that. She has said nothing of the campaign was discussed at all, which obviously isn't even consistent with what he said. Do you think that if Donald Trump Jr. thought she was going to deliver this information, that she did deliver it and that they're being dishonest now, or do you think it's possible that she lied to get the meeting?
BROWDER: Well, what I can say for sure is that the Russians are very practical people and they would have thought in advance about a quid pro quo, that they wouldn't have shown up saying, if your father becomes president, can you remove the Magnitsky Act, without offering something in return. What they're offering in return may have been what some -- has been stated, it may have been something else.
[19:50:02] Maybe they changed their mind.
But I can absolutely assure you that she went in with a deal. What her deal was, we may never know. But she went in --
BURNETT: But there was something. You're saying she just didn't go in and talk about Russian adoption with some vague something at the top of the meeting, she had something?
BROWDER: She didn't go in to talk about Russian adoptions at all. She went and talked about -- to talk about removing American sanctions against Russian human rights violators. And she's a highly sophisticated person representing the Russian security services and the Russian government. She would have been in there talking with some deal, because these people understand that there's no -- the Americans aren't just going to remove sanctions unless there's something being offered in return.
And so, what that was being offered, I don't know. Whether it's been properly represented by her or the other side, probably not. But surely, she was offering something in return.
BURNETT: All right. Bill Browder, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Very clear as a man obviously who has dealt with this situation for many years in the very center of it, saying there was for sure a deal and a quid pro quo.
Our other top story in Washington tonight is health care. Capitol police say they have arrested 80 demonstrators after protesting GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Take a look at this man. He was removed from Senator Ted Cruz's office and the protesters are among many voices going to Washington over the Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen followed a group of families, many of whom have seriously ill children, as they traveled to Washington to make their voices heard.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a difficult journey for Jessica, Michelle and Angela Lorio.
Their sons, John, Paul, and Gabe, have serious disabilities and depend on Medicaid. So, Angela, a Trump supporter, and Jessica, a Clinton supporter, are driving with several other families from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Washington, D.C. to confront Congress over the proposed health care bill.
(on camera): What do you worry would happen if the Medicaid cuts went through?
JESSICA MICHOT, TRACH MOMMAS OF LOUISIANA: For my son, point blank, he would die. Medicaid pays for his ventilator and pays for his life support.
COHEN (voice-over): Lillian (ph), Marcus, and Rocky are also headed to Washington. They too depend on Medicaid.
(on camera): Let me introduce you to Chesley (ph). She's 13 months old and she has a genetic birth defect. She's the most fragile child on this bus.
This machine here, it breathes for her. That machine over there, it feeds her. They both have to keep working for the entire length of the trip. (voice-over): That's nearly 24 hours. And it's very risky. Less
than three hours into the drive, John Paul has trouble breathing.
ANGELA LORIO, TRACH MOMMAS OF LOUISIANA: He's got oxygen close by. Let me see the backpack. You all right?
COHEN: He finally proves through.
Angela says she doesn't regret bringing him. She says she has no choice. She says her senator, Bill Cassidy, ignored her at a town hall meeting.
A spokesman for the senator said he can't always get to everyone in the limited time available.
LORIO: They need to see the faces of who are going to be hurt.
COHEN: As they drive through the night, Gabe's blood oxygen levels plummet, and Chesley's (ph) temperature spikes. As dawn breaks and they prepared to arrive in Washington, Jessica is exhausted.
(on camera): You've sat on this bus and watched three children, three little sick children have some serious episodes. Still worth it?
MICHOT: It's worth it. To not have to bury Gabe is worth it. To not have to bury anyone else on this bus is worth it.
COHEN: Less than 24 hours after arriving in D.C., Chesley (ph) gets a fever again on Monday morning, 102.5 degrees. Her mother tearfully decides to pull out of the trip and takes her daughter to a nearby hospital.
PROSTESERS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, Medicaid cuts have got to go!
COHEN: The rest of the group heads to the Republican National Committee headquarters.
LORIO: If these cuts happen, if a cap is put on, kids and adults with disabilities will die.
COHEN: But the RNC keeps its doors locked and refuses to let them inside.
MICHOT: It's extremely insulting and just -- it's almost like a slap in the face, because we're scared.
COHEN: The families met with staffers for their senator, Senator Cassidy, and they're still hoping for a meeting with if senator himself. Now, we reached out to the RNC, of course. The families were in front of their building today and a spokeswoman said Republicans continue to work to ensure that every American has affordable and accessible health care.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Very emotional and thank you, Elizabeth.
And Jeanne Moos is next.
[19:57:37] BURNETT: Some say if the cap fits, wear it. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not since a 3-year-old stole the pope's skull cap has there been such a high profile hat snatching return.
In the latest case, a marine's hat known as a cover got blown off and was retrieved by President Trump. Even he couldn't kept it from flying off again. The marine kept his poker smile, while conservatives cracked a smile, drawing comparisons.
It's quite a contrast to President Latte, a reference to the time President Obama saluted a marine while holding a coffee.
But when it comes to a hat winning hearts, that happened when President Obama ran into 6-month-old Giselle at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska.
JOLENE JACKINSKY, MOM: I saw him and I thought that guy looked a lot like Obama. He said, who is this pretty girl?
MOOS: Giselle's mother tells us they bought the hat for 5 bucks at a secondhand clothing store. Mom's favorite tweet so far: always keep a spare church hat in case you meet Obama.
(on camera): Except for baseball style caps, politicians tend to go out of their way to avoid all contact with hats.
(voice-over): Notice how President Obama admired the football helmet navy gave him.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Pretty sharp, huh?
MOOS: But declined to put it on.
OBAMA: Here's a general rule, you don't put stuff on your head if you're president.
MOOS: Except that one time at a summit with tribal leaders. The hat lasted a mere ten seconds before Obama tipped it off.
And who can say no to girl scouts? The president ended up wearing a tiara, and there was that poncho former President Bush got tangled up in?
ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: For first sometime?
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Yes. It looks like it, that's for sure.
MOOS: So, Ellen got him a new one with a presidential seal. Sometimes a president just can't pass the hat.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Those ponchos are some of the most amusing moments of the inauguration.
All right. Thanks so much for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time, anywhere. You just have to go to CNN Go. Have a good night. See you tomorrow.
"AC360" starts right now.