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Report: Trump Jr. Releases Bombshell E-Mails About Russian Information; E-Mails Show Trump Jr. Met Russian Government Attorney to Get High Level Sensitive Clinton Dirt; President Applauds His Son's Transparency. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 11, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] BARRY BENNETT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: If anything, they were naive in trying to get information about Hillary Clinton.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Naive -- OK, from the Russian government.
BENNETT: Well, from this woman who claims that she was from the Russian government. I have no idea if she is.
COOPER: But Donald Trump Jr. Seemed to believe she was from the Russian government and that's why she got the meeting. That seems a willingness.
BENNETT: We need to back up a little bit here. We are now saying that everything in those e-mails, he believed or he knew. We don't even know if he read the e-mails. We've not really heard his testimony yet. We will. But we shouldn't assume all these things.
COOPER: All right. I'm just assuming based on his own responses to the e-mail. Carrie, how do you see these e-mails?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO U.S., ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: So, first of all, the e-mails reveal what everybody else who's been following the story knows but what the Trump administration and Trump campaign officials have refused to acknowledge, which is that the Russian government was conducting an intentional campaign to influence the 2016 election. So, it's clear, it's in the e-mails, that that is what they are doing. The other thing is that it shows, in the e-mails, that Donald Trump Jr. Apparently now, by receiving those, had knowledge that there was official Russian government involvement.
In other words, the e-mails talk about official information, sensitive information, the involvement of a Russian prosecutor in facilitating this information. And also, that there was support from the Russian government to the Trump campaign, and the casualness that that is described in those e-mails, it sort of begs the question as to whether or not there was other communications or other involvement or back and forth that Trump campaign officials had regarding whatever was the rest of that support.
BENNETT: First of all, in the e-mails, they were -- they call her a crown prosecutor, which, of course, doesn't even exist. So, this woman was using everything she could to get into the Trump -- to see a Trump member.
COOPER: How do you know that?
BENNETT: Well, obviously, she was saying that they had got Clinton information, they got all this stuff, and what she was trying to do was stop sanctions against an oligarch. I know what she said. She was interviewed this morning. We all saw it. We know her account of the story plus we know that Jared stayed for five or six minutes, Paul read his e-mails the whole time. It was a nothing-burger meeting. But the sin here is one of naivete and having the meeting in the first place but it is all smoke and no fire.
COOPER: What I don't get, Barry, is on the one hand you discount these e-mails and say you don't know if they're real, you don't know if he read them but then you're always making all these conclusions based on what you yourself have read in the e-mails and how you interpret it. No?
BENNETT: I'm making my conclusions on her interview this morning on "The Today Show" and "The New York Times" piece. Don Jr., I don't even -- if I was guilty of having to know everything that was e-mailed to me, good lord. That's not possible. So, we'll find out. He'll testify. We'll find out.
COOPER: Carrie, in terms of Don Jr.'s credibility, for his story to have shifted from, oh, this was a meeting about adoptions, to now, once "The New York Times" apparently has the actual e-mails and contacts him, letting him know they're going to release them, he then releases at least part of the e-mail chain. We don't know if it's the full e-mail chain, but releases the e-mail chain. Does he have credibility on this?
CORDERO: Well, it obviously damages his credibility, because he said one thing and then the e-mails show another. But this White House has a constant credibility problem. And the president has continued to say that he doesn't believe that there was Russian interference in the election, when here you have an e-mail that went to his senior campaign officials, and they actually did have the meeting with this individual that indicates that they did have knowledge that there was a Russian influenced campaign.
So, what I think these e-mails do is they shift what we describe in sort of the political terms of collusion to they open more avenues for potential investigation regarding cooperation with either intelligence gathering activities that the Russian government may have been involved in, potential issues with respect to interpretation of the campaign finance laws, and whether or not the Russian government was providing other things of value, or whether or not, what was the other types of support that is mentioned in the e-mails. What is that support? Was it simply opposition research or is there more to the story that perhaps involves other types of assistance or financial assistance.
COOPER: Barry, you know, just finally, yesterday, there were a lot of Trump surrogates who were saying this is a common thing, people often offer opposition research to campaigns, this happens all the time. There's nothing unusual about this meeting. Now that at least -- whether or not this woman worked for the Russian government or not, that she was at least presented as a Russian government lawyer and that this information came from the Russian government, is that common in campaigns?
[15:35:00] BENNETT: Not that I'm aware of, but, you know, every day, someone would come to me when I was running the Carson campaign, and they said they had information on, you know, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump or John Kasich, and you know, they all got the same response. You know, whatever. But let's go back to this alleged violation of campaign finance laws, which is kind of hilarious. At the same time, we know, by press accounts, that the Ukrainian government was working with the DNC, developing a dossier on Manafort. So, would that not also be, in the words of Tim Kaine, treason? And a violation of campaign finance laws. Of course not. That's ridiculous.
CORDERO: But it's not normal for a foreign government to be involved in American campaigns--
BENNETT: Abnormal is not illegal.
CORDERO: It's not normal for a foreign government to be involved in a campaign. That is not normal for an American campaign to accept --
BENNETT: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Teddy Kennedy lobbied Russia to get involved in the Reagan campaign. This has been going on for decades, if not hundreds of years.
COOPER: But you just said it's not normal to have this kind of meeting for campaigns backing this kind of meeting.
BENNETT: No. Typically, I mean a sophisticated campaign is going to refuse this meeting.
COOPER: Appreciate both your perspectives.
Coming up next, we'll speak live with Carl Bernstein and Jeffery Toobin for their reactions. Going to refuse this meeting.
[15: 40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: We continue to follow the breaking news, Donald Trump Jr. today releasing e-mails that led up to a meeting with a Russian lawyer. I want to focus on what else was going on the day of that meeting, looking back, June 9, 2016. The day begins with then- President Obama finally endorsing Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S, PRESIDENT: I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama's endorsement was followed at 10:50 by a Clinton tweet boasting that she had the president's support. Also, that morning, Donald Trump holds a fund-raising meeting at the Four Seasons in New York. Trump is seen here leaving that meeting, which was also attended by Paul Manafort, who was still the candidate's campaign manager. Now, if you move forward to 22 minutes after 2:00 p.m., Trump attacks Clinton in a tweet, saying, Obama just endorsed crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama but nobody else does.
Five minutes later, Clinton responded with a three-word tweet, delete your account. At 4:00 p.m., Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort, meeting with the attorney Donald Trump Jr. believed was a Russian government attorney. We learn that today in the newly released e-mails. 40 minutes after that meeting began at 4:40, Donald Trump responds to Clinton's delete your account tweet from earlier, with his own dig. He tweeted, how long did it take for your staff of 823 people to think that up and where are your 33,000 e-mails that you deleted. I want to bring in Jefferey Toobin CNN's senior legal analyst and Carl Bernstein CNN political commentator and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Jeff Toobin, just legally is Donald Trump Jr. in trouble?
JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He's certainly going to be under investigation. We don't want to conclude these matters based on one or two pieces of evidence. Obviously, all of the Trump campaign statements that there were no contacts with the Russian government are now false and no longer operative, as they used to say during Watergate. But that is not a crime. It's not a crime to lie to the American people, and even collusion is not a crime.
Certainly, the question that's raised by these e-mails in particular is whether there was a campaign finance violation, which is, did the Russian government give something of value to the Trump campaign, which would be illegal. Now, usually, that's the form of money. You know, foreign governments are not allowed to give money to political campaigns. Here, it might be information. That is something that Director Mueller will want to investigate.
Another issue, a person who may have even a bigger problem than Donald Jr., is Jared Kushner who was copied on these e-mails, who attended this meeting. It seems like it was a pretty big deal, this meeting. They're not -- I can't imagine there were a lot of meetings like this, and it may be that he left off this meeting on the form that he filed to get his security clearance. If that's the case, that is potentially a crime. So, I think Jared Kushner, who is, of course, a high government official now, unlike Donald Trump Jr., he has something to be concerned about in light of the disclosure of these e- mails.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, shifting stories from Donald Trump Jr. over the last several days, how do you see the e-mail release today?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what this is about is the son of the president of the United States and the candidate for the presidency showing a willingness to engage in subversion of the interests of the United States for the more parochial interests of his family and his father. And he also suggests this whole latest batch of e-mails suggests the extent to which the family of Donald Trump is being investigated, will be further investigated, and how much what we are looking at may be about a family affair.
[15:45:00] And how they were engaged in the campaign as well as other surrogates, but the focus right now, and we know that Mueller and we know that the congressional committees will now be focused on Jared Kushner, on Donald Trump Jr., on the president of the United States, so very much about the family, and this is also a family that is accustomed to acting somewhat with impunity.
COOPER: Jeff, if in fact the president -- I mean, he's now the president. You know, as candidate, Donald Trump was informed by his son or somebody else that the Russian government wanted him to win, and in this case, you know, that there was a -- what he believed to be a Russian government attorney who was going to be coming, does that -- I mean, obviously the president and the White House has denied that the president had any knowledge of this meeting whatsoever until just recently, but if, in fact, his son, at some point, before or after the meeting informed his father that, you know what, the Russian government wants you to win and they're, you know, going to give some information, is that -- does that change anything?
TOOBIN: Well, I think it changes the politics a lot. I mean, you know, Donald Trump has said over and over again that there -- he knew of no Russian effort for him to win the election. He didn't participate in any effort. His campaign didn't participate with the Russian government. If Donald Jr. told his father about this overture, copied him on these e-mails, it's a very big political problem, I think. It is not, I think, a legal problem. Even if this contact between the Russian government -- or Russian government officials and the Trump campaign is unlawful, and it's not clear that it is unlawful, but even if it is unlawful, simply knowing about it on behalf of the president, I can't imagine that would be seen as a crime.
But you know, it's important to remember that as important as these, you know, e-mails are that were released today, we all know that e- mails travel in chains, and lots of people are copied, and lots of people have access to e-mails. And there were probably other e-mails about this meeting. All of which Director Mueller will have access to, and we, at this point, don't have access to. So, you know, we have an important part of the story today, but it's only part of the story, and I think that's important to keep in mind as, you know, people go make dramatic conclusions about what is or is not a crime.
COOPER: Carl, to that idea, that we only have part of the story, which is obviously very accurate and important to keep in mind, it is interesting in the e-mail chain that we do have that there's no real surprise voiced by Donald Trump Jr. by the idea that the Russian government wants his father to win. Did that stand out to you?
BERNSTEIN: It certainly is very conspicuous and what all of this suggests is that why we need Mueller and a really complete investigation by the special prosecutor as well as by the congressional committees, and no more interference and demeaning and undermining of their investigations by the president of the United States and enabling the president of the United States to undermine these investigations by Republicans on Capitol Hill. I think that what today's e-mails show is that it is time for Republicans to say, we want this all investigated. We will stop defending blindly the president of the United States and what he says in his tweets and what his surrogates go out there and misrepresent on television. We want to get to the bottom of this.
This is not about the Republican party. This is about Donald Trump, perhaps his family, his campaign. It's not about us, but we want a vigorous investigation and learn the truth, Mr. President. This is a line of demarcation, I believe, today, where Republicans may have to start saying to themselves, all right, enough of defending this president in the way that we have. Let's move these investigations forward, because there is this suggestion of a willingness to subvert the greater interests of the United States, subversion by members of the Trump family here, and that's what's going to be investigated as well as clearly the finances of the Trump family.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.
Coming up next, Jake Tapper joins me and what Donald Trump Jr. told him last summer around the time of this meeting.
[ 15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Welcome back. More on our breaking news. We'll bring in chief Washington correspondent and host of "The Lead," Jake Tapper. So, Jake, you spoke with Donald Trump Jr. at the time he met with the Russian attorney?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's right about three weeks or so later and specifically I talked to him on the Sunday right before the Democratic National Convention. It was right after the person that U.S, intelligence says is a Russian hacker, or at least affiliated with Russian intelligence, released or gave the e-mails to be released to some other group of the Democratic National Committee hack. At that point, I had interviewed the chairman of the Clinton campaign, Robbie Mook, and he had said, and remember this before we had any information from the U.S, intelligence community, he said experts had been telling the Clinton campaign that this was done by the Russians.
So, I want you to watch this clip but keep in mind when you watch this clip this was several weeks after Donald Trump Jr. had been told that the Russian government wanted to help his father, e-mails from his associate, Rob Goldstone that he seemed, at least based on the e-mails, he seemed to believe and he took the
meeting. So, think of that as you watch this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR. SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean they'll say anything to be able to win this. This is time after time again, lie after lie. You notice he won't say, well he'll say this, we hear experts. You know, his house cat at home once said this is what's happening with the Russians. It's disgusting. It's so phony.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So, a very strong rejection in July 2016 by Donald Trump Jr. of the Clinton campaign saying that experts were telling them the Russians were behind the DNC hack which, of course, the U.S, intelligence community went on to say is the case. It's quite a lot of indignance from Donald Trump Jr. when you read these e-mails from June 2016 in which he is being told that the Russians want to help his father's campaign.
COOPER: And we don't know if that's the first time he was told that because he doesn't much of a reaction to this bombshell e-mail chain that's been released. Jake is going to prepare for "The Lead" which starts in about four minutes now. Jake, thanks very much.
TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: I want to David Chalian here with me. David, there is so much we don't know, and I think it's important to continue to say that. But again, the notion that Donald Trump Jr. is being told for the first time that the Russian government wants his father to win and his meeting with the Russian attorney doesn't seem to provoke much of a response from him. Other than, yes, let's have the meeting, let's do it.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This to me is what underscores how significant the development is in terms of the response to this story right now. We are not hearing from President Trump, the typical, it's fake news, it's a complete fabrication, this is just the Democrats trying to create something. Whatever it is, every excuse in the book we hear on every development. Not this one. Republican allies on Capitol Hill who usually will go out and say things like, oh, you're just hyper ventilating on all this, wait for the facts to come out. We're not hearing that. The absence of that reaction from the White House, the president and his allies in the Republican party on Capitol Hill suggests to me that they're all aware of the significance of this development as well.
COOPER: Even the vice president of the United States now putting out a statement to say, the vice president is working every day on an agenda which is what the American people sent us here to do. The vice president was not aware of the meeting. He's not stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticker. It's not about embracing the president there.
CHALIAN: Not at all. There is nothing in there pushing back on the notion that there may have been some collusion or potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia. No push that there. You're just not getting it anywhere in the way that we have in almost every other development in this story.
COOPER: The Russian attorney has given an interview to NBC. I just want to play part of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the purpose of that meeting? NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN ATTORNEY WHO MET WITH DONALD TRUMP JR.
(through translator): I never knew who else would be attending the meeting. All I knew that Mr. Donald Trump Jr. was willing to meet with me. I could recognize the young gentleman who was only present in the meeting for probably the first 7 to 10 minutes, and then he stood up and left the room. It was Mr. Jared Kushner, and he never came back, by the way. And the other individual who was at the same meeting was always looking at his phone. He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had the impression, it appears, that they were going to be told some information that you had about the DNC. How did they get that impression?
VESELNITSKAYA: It's quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information. They wanted it so badly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She seems to be denying the idea that she was presenting herself as somebody who had information or that's how the whole meeting was set up. The idea that Donald Trump Jr. just wanted to meet with a random Russian lawyer to talk about adoption, which is what his initial story was, is not borne out by these e-mails.
CHALIAN: I did not see adoption mentioned in these e-mails, and to your point earlier, Anderson, it's almost immaterial about what she says with her connections. The issue here is that Donald Trump Jr. accepted that meeting and walked into that meeting and got his brother-in-law and the campaign chairman into that meeting, because he believed this was somebody who was involved in the Russian government's effort to help his dad's campaign.
[16:00:00] COOPER: The other unknown to us, the president knew nothing about this meeting, only just recently learned about it. Is it possible Donald Trump Jr. did not inform his father that he's just learned that the Russian government is backing his campaign or at some point later on informed his father of that?
CHALIAN: I guess it's possible, but it seems to me that question is not going to die down anytime soon.
COOPER: The White House clearly not making much news today in responding, essentially Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, there's nothing new here, I'm not going to comment, and pushing it to all to Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer.
CHALIAN: Right. And just putting up the statement from the president to back his son. COOPER: A lot more ahead. Special coverage obviously continues. This is a major development, bombshell, into this investigation. We'll continue coverage throughout the day. I will have it on AC360 tonight starting at 8 p.m. Special coverage continues right now with Jake Tapper in "The Lead".