Return to Transcripts main page
NYT: Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign; 16 Dead in U.S. Military Plane Crash in Mississippi. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 11, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- given Donald Trump Jr.'s own admission, this was an attempt at collusion.
[07:00:06] KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Let's focus on what did not happen in that meeting. No information provided that was meaningful, no action taken. Nothing.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER/CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via phone): Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an e-mail this information had come from a foreign adversary that was seeking to help Donald Trump become president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one particular meeting, it's not evidence that the Russian government was colluding with the Trump campaign.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: It is a disturbing pattern where the Trump administration conveniently forgot meetings with senior Russian officials.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If there's no "there" there, why aren't more of these people coming clean?
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
Up first, "The New York Times" is reporting that Donald Trump Jr. was told in an e-mail that a Russian lawyer that he met with last summer would offer him dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father win the election. This report is fueling new questions about the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the lawyer for the president's son says he has done nothing wrong. What we now know is that at least seven current or former Trump campaign team members have lied, changed their stories or simply not being forthcoming about contacts with Russia.
All this as congressional investigators plan to talk to Trump campaign officials this week. We're also tracking breaking news. A military plane has crashed in
rural Mississippi. Sixteen souls were on board. All were lost. Federal investigators are trying to figure out what brought down the plane. They're on the scene right now.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with Jason Carroll, live at the White House.
Good morning, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Chris.
You know, this is something that the White House simply wishes would go away. The White House now having to deal with what seems like daily reports about this meeting that Donald Trump Jr. took in June of 2016. The most recent report shedding new light on what he knew before that meeting took place.
CARROLL (voice-over): Another potential bombshell report from "The New York Times," alleging that Donald Trump Jr. received an e-mail informing him that the Russian government was trying to help his father's campaign. Before his June 2016 meeting with the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner; former campaign chairman Paul Manafort; and a Russian lawyer thought to have compromising information about Hillary Clinton.
Three unnamed sources tell "The Times" that the e-mail, sent by Rob Goldstone, a music publicist, who coordinated the meeting, indicated that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. Six weeks later, Trump Jr. slammed the Clinton campaign for suggesting that the Russians were involved in an effort to help then-candidate Trump.
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: 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.
It's disgusting. It's so phony.
CARROLL: Trump Jr.'s newly-hired lawyer insisting in a statement that his client did nothing wrong, noting, "Don Jr.'s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign, and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed."
The White House on the defensive.
CONWAY: Don Jr. has very explicitly stated he didn't even know the name of the person with whom he was meeting. There was no information given. There was no action taken. There was no follow-up.
SANDERS: The president's campaign did not collude in any way. CARROLL: Congressional investigators probing potential collusion
between the Trump campaign and Russia already expressing interest in speaking with Trump, who tweeted Monday that he would be "happy to pass on what I know."
WARNER: This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
CARROLL: Trump's legal team choosing to reiterate an earlier statement when asked about the new report, noting, "The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."
CARROLL: So to date, at least seven current or former members of team Trump are now under question -- question for what they did or did not say about their meetings with Russian officials. You see some of the notable names there, including Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, of course. A source telling CNN that members of the Senate Intel Committee should begin interviewing some of these members of team Trump as early as this week -- Chris, Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right, Jason. Appreciate the reporting. Thank you, my friend.
Let's discuss with our panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory; congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
David Gregory, Jason Carroll teed it up nicely there. He said this is a situation, referring to the Donald Jr. meeting, that they wish would go away. And isn't that part of the problem, that wanting to not legitimize the investigation keeps getting in the way of recognizing facts like what this meeting represents, even if Donald Jr. did nothing wrong. And that should certainly be the assumption at this point. It still shows that this investigation is very needed, because Russia was making attempts to infiltrate.
GREGORY: I think that's an essential point. I mean, we know from the conclusion of our intelligence agencies that there was an effort by the Russians to interfere in the election. No evidence that it actually swayed the election. But that effort was there. And now, you see in this episode, the probing, the probing of people close to the president to try to draw them into their orbit.
So the whole defense that there was no collusion, that they were never witting participants with any effort on the part of the Russians to undermine the election, does seem to be eroding when you hear about meetings like this.
The second point is, whatever happened in the meeting -- and there's lots of questions. I mean, particularly when Don Jr. says it was clear she had no meaningful information. Well, what if she had? What would they have done with it then? But why take the meeting in the first place? And the fact that he
does is significant. Because once you know that it's a Russian national who wants a meeting, if you have a clue, you recognize when you are the son of the candidate or a top adviser, like the campaign manager or another senior adviser, who's the president's son-in-law, that you've got to step back from this. Why? Because grown-ups in this field will tell you the Russians play a long game. They're going to attempt to infiltrate. We know from the historical record that Putin hated Hillary Clinton and wanted to interfere.
And so the stunning incompetence or naivete or arrogance that they displayed to say, "Oh, well, you know, we don't have to worry about anything with regard to Russia." Well, maybe there's more. Maybe it's because of their relationships, financial relationships between the Trump business and Russia. For whatever reasons, the fact that they took so unseriously the idea of Russian interference is a huge issue.
CAMEROTA: Well, Karoun, let's look at it from their point of view. OK? Because they say that this was just opposition research. All campaigns engage in opposition research. And if you look at it from Don Jr.'s point of view, he had had good experiences in Russia with his father.
Is it Miss Universe?
CAMEROTA: Miss Universe pageant, this is where he supposedly met the person that was the intermediary. So to them, I mean, I've heard some of the president's supporters yesterday on other channels describe this as a Keystone Kops moments. This is them being wildly naive. They don't know all of this background about Russia and how pernicious some of this could be. They had good relationships with Russia. So of course, you're going to take an opposition research meeting.
What's your take?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Naivete has been an excuse that's been raised at several -- several junctures when trying to explain decisions the president has made, decisions his team has made, especially regarding these swirling allegations of potential collusion with the Russian government but just in general. And at a certain point, you wonder, you know, how much is naivete a valid excuse for things? I mean, it's not really in a legal context. This is not a legal context; it's a political one.
But you do have to wonder about does that -- does that explanation kind of exhaust itself at a certain point when it is time after time after time after time that you're seeing this pattern happen?
If it's naivete, then that also doesn't explain why it was kept such a big secret. As many of the Democrats you have played clips of said yesterday, the day before, that this is a pattern now of several times that they've tried to -- the team has tried to obfuscate or, you know, mislead or directly lie about what sorts of contacts they had with the Russians, which again, suggests that they didn't know that there wasn't anything. They didn't think that there wasn't anything wrong there, anything that didn't need to be covered up.
And then finally, I mean, you also have this all happening with a president who has, to date, not been really willing to say that, "Yes, Russia was trying to interfere in the election." And this -- examples like this seem to suggest that there is at least evidence that was people very close to him were privy to that suggests that yes, maybe they did play a role. And yet, several months, even after his inauguration, we still don't have a straight line from the president on that point.
So it's an excuse, but it's an excuse that does not exist in a vacuum. And the context in which it exists suggests that maybe it's not the best one.
CUOMO: Phil, Alisyn tees up the right point. That is the starting point for the defense here. And I mean that in a colloquial sense. Putting this in the legal context is ridiculously premature. But it's that we didn't know that Russia was up to anything like this. We had no reason to suspect the collusion hadn't been put out there yet. This was before July; this was in June. OK.
Then they have their "even if" argument, which is even if Donald Jr. should have known that you don't sit down with Russians who say they have bad information about your opponent, "Nothing came from it anyway. The woman lawyer had nothing. I did nothing afterwards. There was no follow-up. So it doesn't matter."
[07:10:14] That's their secondary defense. Do you buy that defense?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I can't buy that, especially in the context of -- context of what we witnessed over the last year, including the Sessions testimony, where he forgot his meetings. The clear inappropriate conversations between General Flynn and the Russians.
From a government perspective, the leader sets the tone. The president of the United States -- in that case the candidate -- sets a tone that says contacts with the Russians are appropriate. The context here is important, Chris. It's not only a single meeting where some met with the Russians and said, "I didn't really know it was inappropriate to accept information." It's a series of meetings with dozens of people, or at least several people over time where they obfuscate what the -- what the purpose of the meeting was and even sometimes deny there was a meeting.
When you put those together and add this on top of it, you start to say, when the president set a tone, the people in his candidacy adopted that tone.
One other quick comment, Chris, about the tip of the iceberg. We have one e-mail about one meeting with three people. You think about a year or two that this investigation will take when you're talking about dozens of people who will be in the microscope, millions of documents, including e-mails, phone messages, financial documents. And you start to say, are you sure that this is the only time in those millions of documents, potentially, and hundreds of interviews that somebody did something like this? And I'm going to say that's a stretch.
GREGORY: Can I also just add here...
CAMEROTA: David, let's look at the seven -- to Phil's point, let's look at the seven Trump associates who we know did not disclose their meetings with Russians until they had to, basically, until their hand was forced by the press.
Michael Flynn. You have Jeff Sessions. You have Jared Kushner. You have Paul Manafort. You have Don -- now Don Jr. You have Carter Page. You have J.D. Gordon. So, you know, they all have bad memories, I guess, or they didn't think that this rose to the level of disclosure.
GREGORY: Look, when you're a candidate running for the presidency, among your advisers is somebody who is beginning to tutor you on foreign affairs. OK? When it was President George W. Bush as governor of Texas, it was Condoleezza Rice, who knew a thing or two about the Soviet Union and Russia.
In this context, who are his foreign policy advisers? He's got General Flynn, and we look at, now, his relationships with Russia. Who is the campaign manager? Paul Manafort, who has these ties to Ukraine. And by the way, just look at the short history of Ukraine. What have the Russians done in Ukraine, other than try to annex portions of it? They have infiltrated their election system and their critical infrastructure. There is a template of what the Russians do.
And there were people close to Trump who knew about what the Russians were up to. And the son of the president is blase about taking some meeting with a Russian national who might have information about his opponent? And he thinks, "Oh, well, everybody does that"? I mean, that goes beyond naivete. It's either stunning arrogance to think that you're invulnerable to that kind of penetration from the Russians, or it's something worse.
And again, if the argument is, "Oh, there was no collusion. There's nothing to see here," then why are all these facts starting to stack up of at least irresponsibility?
And look, it may be that the biggest offense here by the Trump folks was arrogance and the unwillingness to believe that they could be so vulnerable.
And now the president, who says to Vladimir Putin, "Well, you say you didn't do this. I guess we should move on." That is dereliction of duty. That is a failure to protect the presidency.
CUOMO: And even if you take all that off the board: Donald Jr. did nothing wrong. None of those seven people did anything wrong. The president knew nothing about any of this. OK, it's a mistake to think that's what the analysis is. Because then, it still shows that what really matters here in a large way to our democracy is what the Russians were trying to do. They clearly were trying to do something, based on this reporting. So it still matters. You know, they're parallel considerations here, and that's why we're trying to get to both of them.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. So coming up in the next hour, the White House has a very different take on the significance of these developments. We have the deputy assistant to the president, Sebastian Gorka, coming on to be tested.
CAMEROTA: We're also following some breaking news. At least 16 people killed after a U.S. military plane crashes in Mississippi. The FBI is now at the scene. They are trying to figure out what went so tragically wrong here.
CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with all the breaking details. What have you learned, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
A short time ago, the Marine Corps issuing a statement saying all 16 souls lost on board this aircraft were military members. They are working now to try and reach, of course, the next of kin to notify them; and then after that, their names will be made public.
[07:15:07] We are also learning that it was FAA, air traffic control, that contacted the Marine Corps late yesterday when this military aircraft disappeared from radar over Mississippi, where you see the video there. Tragically it crashed, apparently, into a field.
In the immediate aftermath, the weather looks good. We have no information that the pilot made any distress call or there was any indication the plane was in trouble. All of this under investigation.
Of course, it was a Marine Corps KC-130 out of Cherry Point, North Carolina. This is an aircraft that is a workhorse of the U.S. military. It conducts refueling. It's a tanker. It fills other planes with gas mid-air. It can also carry cargo. It can carry troops. It has a relatively good reliability factor. Not a lot of crashes over the years. It's all under investigation to try and find out what happened -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Barbara. We're going to stay on that story. Let us know what you learn.
Also, breaking this morning. Federal agents and police are investigating an explosion outside an Air Force recruiter in Bixby, Oklahoma. Witnesses say that someone on a motorcycle threw a backpack at the recruiting center, and the backpack blew up. The doors of the center -- take a look at your screen -- blown open. The good news: no injuries.
CAMEROTA: So up next, the ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee says the latest reports about Don Trump Jr. are, quote, "a very serious development" in the Russia probes. That Congressman, Adam Schiff, joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[07:20:39] CUOMO: All right. So there are new and very important questions and developments surrounding this meeting that Donald Trump Jr. decided to take. "The New York Times" reports that the president's eldest son was told in an e-mail before the meeting -- OK? -- that he was going to meet with a lawyer who he had met previously, and she was going to offer him dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father win the election.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
It is good to have you on set.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's good to be here.
CUOMO: Thank you for being here, Congressman.
So the facts, as known, if true, mean what to you?
SCHIFF: Here's what's really significant to me. That e-mail purportedly says, "The Russian government is trying to help elect your father, and they have damaging information on Hillary Clinton."
We know that that actually is true at this time, because the Russians had already hacked the DNC. They already did have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. And we would learn later that they would use that in a deliberate effort to help Donald Trump get elected. So the contents of that e-mail are quite accurate.
This also, though, if it's true, puts the lie to the whole idea, "We have no idea whether the Russians are trying to help us. We have no idea whether this came from the Russians." If that e-mail is accurate, the description is accurate, it means that, among the very first people, if not the first people of the public who would learn that the Russians were trying to help elect Donald Trump were the Trump family itself.
CUOMO: In terms of priority, in terms of "big deal" factor, where is this development for you?
SCHIFF: It's a very big deal. It's the first time publicly you see the potential evidence of that inner circle of the Trump family, of the Trump campaign having direct contacts with the Russians, promising them damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
And here they're talking, apparently, about a form of sanctions, the Magnitsky Act that places sanctions on individuals, Russian individuals who violate human rights, something Putin hated and wanted to do away with. This meeting takes place in June. They want to get rid of this. We don't know what is said about the Trump campaign's willingness, if he's elected, to do away with this bill.
But what we do know is the very next month, the Russians start dumping damaging information about Hillary Clinton. So did the Russians make a decision to do that directly through Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks and indirectly through WikiLeaks, rather than give it to Donald Jr.? Was that a decision the Russians made for whatever reason? There's a lot, obviously, we don't know about this meeting that we have to find out.
CUOMO: Congressman, in your estimate, two things. One, evidentiary. Will you have an ability to get this e-mail, assuming it exists?
SCHIFF: Absolutely. We need to bring in, I think, everyone who was present in that meeting, anyone who had a role in setting up that meeting. And this e-mail must exist if the reporting is accurate. That means it must be in the possession of either the sender or the receiver or some other third party who received it.
CUOMO: And you intend to subpoena that kind of information?
SCHIFF: We always try to get this information voluntarily, but when people say no, then we do issue subpoenas.
CUOMO: The solicitation on its face. Forget about what came out of the meeting and whether it was good information or bad; whether this lawyer was legit or not. Accepting the offer of the meeting on behalf of Donald Jr., what does that mean to you?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, the administration has tried to put this off by saying, "Well, this is really no big deal. After all, in many campaigns you get an offer of damaging information about your opponent."
This isn't just any offer by any party. This is an offer by the Russian government to help interfere in an American election against one of the presidential candidates. That is not the same as getting a call from, you know, your friend in this state or that state who thinks they have found something or whatnot or an opp research firm. This is a hostile foreign power offering to intervene to help elect someone president of the United States. Hard to imagine something more serious than that.
CUOMO: Now, a big part of the defense is, "But the lawyer had nothing." So we've been hearing about this lawyer, and she keeps getting tattooed by being called a Russian lawyer. There's nothing wrong with being a Russian ethnic. It's whether or not you're connected to the Kremlin and trying to do something nefarious.
[07:25:07] We heard from her for the first time this morning. So here is an excerpt of this lawyer from Russia, who met with Donald Jr. Here's what she has to say about that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, LAWYER (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 gentlemen, who was only present in the meeting for probably the first 7-10 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. Well, she puts -- she puts people at the meeting. OK? She puts nothing on herself in terms of having any bad information or having any connection to the Kremlin. Is that helpful to you in any way?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it certainly corroborates that the meeting took place, and it took place among those parties and, of course, in the context in which the Trump campaign denies any of these meetings ever happened and then whether they are forced to acknowledge they did happen gives an explanation for the meeting that we find out is not accurate either. In this case, it was just about adoptions; it was not about the campaign.
But of course, he invites the campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to be there.
What I find really revealing, even about the Trump Organization's own self-serving explanations, is they admit being disappointed in what they got at the meeting. They were hoping for more goods. Maybe this is why they went on their phones or left the meeting. They didn't get anything really good at the meeting, according to the Trump people. That would come later. That would come the following month in the form of all these dumped e-mails.
But the fact that they went there in the hopes of getting damaging information, were willing to take it from a hostile power, that's pretty serious stuff.
CUOMO: Now, even if you cannot find any proof of wrongdoing on behalf of Donald Jr. or any of the people at this meeting or any of these seven known campaign staffers or associates that you guys are looking at, the notion that the probe, itself, is a hoax, because the Russian interference was either un -- uneffective -- ineffective or completely bogus, doesn't this prove that they were doing something, the Russians, whether or not it was congratulated by the Trump staff; whether or not they helped in those efforts? The efforts themselves seem very real.
SCHIFF: It's certainly clear that, if this report is accurate, that the Trump campaign was more than put on notice that the Russian government intended to try to help get Donald Trump elected president. And that they had damaging information. So when we learned the following month that, in fact, the Russians do
have damaging information in the form of these stolen e-mails, and they do take action to try to help the Trump campaign, the Trump people are already aware of this e-mail and this representation.
CUOMO: After the fact. You could give Donald Jr. and the members of this particular meeting plausible deniability, because at the time in June, we didn't know anything about Russian interference and meddling. They would learn about it after the fact.
And when this meeting did bear no fruit, it is reasonable to argue that they would say, "Well, I don't know who this lady was. But she didn't have anything about Clinton anyway." So that when we learned about collusion later on, it does give some plausible defense to whether or not the Trump campaign was trying to motivate this negative Russian activity?
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly don't know, for example, what representations were made in the meeting about the Trump willingness to do away with the Magnitsky Act. Was this the motivation for what the Russians would later do?
CUOMO: Don Jr. says that he brushed that aside and said, "My father is not a public servant. He's a private citizen. You know, maybe if he wins, then you can talk to him then."
SCHIFF: Well, of course, he also said it wasn't about the campaign, when in fact, it was clearly -- the whole point was about the campaign and getting help from the Russians about the campaign. That's why the meeting was taken.
So we can't rely on these evolving accounts by the Trump administration. We do need to get to the bottom of it. But I do think, again, for the president to dismiss this, to say this is a fake story, when apparently, the family itself knew before just about anyone else, apart from the Russians, that the Russian government intended to help him during the campaign, and we later see that materialize, in the form of these published stolen e-mails, I think it really demonstrates that -- just how serious this is, just how real this story is.
CUOMO: Are you going to call Don Jr.? And would that happen soon?
SCHIFF: We're going to want him to come into the committee. We're going to want, frankly, everyone who was in that meeting or anyone who had a role in setting it up to come before our committee.