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White House Defends Trump Jr. Amid Russia Revelations; GOP health care bill is on the brink again; A Closer Look At Donald Trump Jr. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 11, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it really demonstrates that -- just how serious this is, just how real this story is.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

CUOMO: Timetable?

SCHIFF: I can't say. We are, at this point, still interviewing a lot of the lesser-significant witnesses and at the appropriate time, though, we're going to want them to come before the committee.

CUOMO: Congressman Adam Schiff, appreciate you being on the show. Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

CUOMO: It's good to have you -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, let's get the other side on these new reports about Don Trump Jr. One Republican congressman calls them a nothing-burger. Congressman Lee Zeldin here, next.


CAMEROTA: "The New York Times" is reporting that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian attorney offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The "Times" also says that an e-mail informed Don Jr. that the information came from the Russian government which was working to help his father get elected.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York. Congressman, thanks so much for being here. Great to have you in the studio.

[07:35:02] REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you. Great to be back with you.

CAMEROTA: You've called this whole story a, quote, "nothing-burger." What is a nothing-burger about a campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer?

ZELDIN: There is a lot of elements. It's not the Russian government colluding with the Trump campaign. I was asked about this yesterday and before this "New York Times" story which is now an allegation of maybe some condiment on this nothing-burger, but you still need a lot of other information to be able to put it together.

That particular lawyer not being armed with actual information given by the Russian government to provide to the Trump campaign, there are just -- there are key elements that are missing.

CAMEROTA: So, in other words, it's fine with you for a GOP campaign of any kind to meet with a hostile foreign power?

ZELDIN: Well, that -- it wasn't a meeting with a hostile foreign power this morning or last night when "The New York Times" story comes out. There's now an allegation being made that there is an e-mail that suggests otherwise.


ZELDIN: But as --

CAMEROTA: Why would that -- how would you feel about that if, in fact, the information did come from the Russian government that she was purporting to hand over?

ZELDIN: That would be -- I guess that would be that condiment that you're adding to the nothing-burger.

CAMEROTA: But is that just mustard on the burger or is that a gamechanger?

ZELDIN: Well, no. You need -- you need a lot of other information -- a lot of other components of this in order to actually state that this is -- you know, these are the elements of a -- of a crime. It's an interesting story.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's not even go to crime. Let's not even go to crime.

You're comfortable with any campaign -- let's, oh I don't know, use Chelsea Clinton and John Podesta and Robby Mook. If they went and met with a Russian lawyer who said that he had some damaging information about Donald Trump you're cool with that, too?

ZELDIN: If they -- OK, so now it's a different question from the last one. If they met with a Russian lawyer -- I don't think that Donald Jr. cares whether, you know, you are Russian, Spanish -- you know, black, white, Jewish, Christian.

CAMEROTA: I think he does care because the Russian lawyer, in his own words, was promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

ZELDIN: Right, but I don't think the fact that she was Russian -- that he took the meeting because she was Russian. Now, last night "The New York Time" story comes out making an allegation. I don't know if the three people they quote, you know, in that story -- who those three people are.

CAMEROTA: The allegation, in fact, she was connected and that the Russian government had a hand in this information, wanting it to be passed to the Trump campaign.

ZELDIN: That's what -- that's what "The New York Times" story is saying. I don't know -- you know, who these three people are today. Actually, is there -- does this e-mail actually exist? Did these three actually read the e-mail and what does that e-mail actually say?

CAMEROTA: I understand you have questions about it, I get it. But none of this -- but if this turns out to be true you are still fine with Don Jr. meeting with them?

ZELDIN: Any American campaign at any level, from President of the United States to the local level, we do not meet with foreign hostile governments to get information to damage our political opponents. It's just something we don't do.

CAMEROTA: So why did Don Jr. meet with her?

ZELDIN: Well, I -- because he was -- I would presume, based on the information that we've come in contact with, he was trying to get information to help his father win that campaign against Hillary Clinton.


ZELDIN: And understanding that, you know, he is -- the Trump campaign is running against the Clinton campaign and, you know, the Clintons have a history of tactics that would make Frank Underwood blush so there's -- you know, there's a history here on both sides.

CAMEROTA: Sure, but should -- the idea that she was a Russian lawyer, should they have vetted that? Would that raise red flags?

ZELDIN: Well, I mean, they don't necessarily -- they didn't have a team back then to vet. I remember that particular moment in time. There was -- there was no campaign team, there was just a few of them.

That was part of the story was that, you know, Hillary Clinton had several hundred people on her campaign and, you know, people were guessing does he have six people on his campaign, does he have seven, eight?

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes, I understand. But then -- I mean, if that's the truth then why did they take time -- why did the campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the president's -- the candidate's top adviser Jared Kushner, and his son Don Jr. all take time out of their crazy schedules to meet with this person?

ZELDIN: Because someone -- supposedly, from the information we've come in contact with, someone gave Donald Jr. information that at this table they were going to be given information that would help their father defeat Hillary Clinton.

There's a difference between someone telling Donald Jr. to meet with this Russian lawyer who has information to help the campaign and it being a meeting with the Russian government. And there's other things that we've learned since that meeting.

You know, I believe the Russians are an adversary to the United States. I also believe that the Russians meddled in last year's election and they were involved in the cybersecurity attacks.

I'm a Republican concerned about cybersecurity as it relates to -- you know, hacks of the DNC and the DCCC of John Podesta's e-mail account and I think we should all be united together as Americans on that particular front.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that President Trump pressed Vladimir Putin about that?

[07:40:00] ZELDIN: I do. I mean, all accounts are that he did press him leading off the meeting.

CAMEROTA: And what do you think came out of that?

ZELDIN: Well, I believe Vladimir Putin denied that. I'm not surprised that he would deny that.

CAMEROTA: And then, do you know if President Trump accepted that denial?

ZELDIN: I don't -- I don't believe he did. You know, Ambassador Haley made a -- you know, made statements afterwards to clarify that the president didn't accept it. The Russians give their account.

I would not be surprised to hear the Russians meddling about meddling. I mean, that conversation that took place -- I don't -- I wouldn't expect Vladimir Putin to come out of the meeting to be shooting straight and saying oh, you got me. Donald Trump pressed me on it and I admitted. So --

CAMEROTA: So do you think that President Trump should be partnering with Vladimir Putin on a cybersecurity task force?

ZELDIN: No. I believe that on cybersecurity that Russia is our adversary and that we should actually be preparing our capabilities to be able to do cyber offensive and defensive -- Russians, North Koreans, Iranians, Chinese. Not partnering with them butgoing after them.

CAMEROTA: But what makes you think that President Trump agrees with you?

ZELDIN: I don't think he does. He -- you know, it would be up to him to --

CAMEROTA: But you've not heard him say anything that he feels as strongly about Russian meddling as you do? ZELDIN: Oh, no, I thought you were talking about the cybersecurity piece.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that he -- did it seem to you that he did think he should partner with Russia on cybersecurity?

ZELDIN: Yes. He seemed to indicate clearly that they discussed this partnering on it. I don't know exactly what they discussed inside of that meeting. It seems like it's not as much of an effort as it was coming out of the meeting.

So, you know, you surround yourself with -- there are a lot of really good people. I mean, he gets beat up for, you know, some of these stories with some of the people that are around him but there's some really great people around him.

Even some of the people who get beat up on give him good advice and it's possible he sat back down at the White House, he was talking to his team and they said, you know, maybe this isn't such a good idea.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Lee Zeldin, thanks so much. Great to have you in studio.

ZELDIN: Great to be back with you.

CAMEROTA: Chris --

CUOMO: All right. On the policy side, it could be a critical week in the health care battle. Senate Republicans, today, are having lunch. They're trying to get together for a measure. What would they be able to pass right now, next.


[07:45:50] CAMEROTA: A new measure to repeal and replace Obamacare could be revealed as soon as tomorrow. Ten Republican senators, though, are against the current plan.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with the latest. How's it going up there?


It's potentially another make or break day for Senate Republicans because they're all back from the July recess and this gives them a chance, collectively, to assess and take the temperature of where this health care bill is.

And this comes after many senators faced angry constituents in those town halls over the July Fourth vacation and also just yesterday when we saw protestors throughout the buildings here of the Senate and the House, 13 different locations, at least 80 people who were actually arrested.

What we want to look for today is the GOP lunch. That is where the Vice President Mike Pence is going to be playing a critical role in trying to get over the finish line. But, notably, even the vice president has now said that another option is, perhaps, repeal and replace separately in two separate stages here, trying to mollify if you can or bring forward moderates and conservatives.

But even for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, she says look, that is not enough. It is time to start over and start working with the Democrats.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The one and only issue that came up no matter where I was, time and again, was health care. I do need a complete overhaul in order to get to yes.


MALVEAUX: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell realizing he doesn't have the support yet, is expected to roll out some sort of version of the bill on Thursday. A CBO score expected on Monday and then, potentially a vote mid-next week -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. The urgency here, it will be interesting whether or not that backfires. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

So, he has been an attack dog for the president and running the family business. Now he is in the center of a scandal. We're going to take a closer look at Donald Trump Jr., next.


[07:51:45] CUOMO: Donald Trump Jr. in the spotlight right now and not for a good reason, but he has been one of his father's biggest supporters. He has been an attack dog going after the media, blasting opponents of President Trump, and also helping to run the family business.

But he is now shrouded in controversy. "The New York Times" releases a story with details about what Donald Jr. might have known before meeting with an attorney last summer who said that they would have information about Hillary Clinton that would be hurtful.

Let's discuss who this young man is and what he means to the administration. We have reporter -- contributor for, William Cohan; and national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, Caitlin Huey-Burns. Both of you have covered the election, covered Donald Jr.

Caitlin, let me start with you in terms of what he has meant to the campaign and what he continues to mean now to the administration, although not part of it like his brother-in-law and his sister.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. Donald Trump Jr. is not officially part of this White House but he has kind of carved out a role for himself in this administration as kind of an attack dog of sorts. He's been prolific on Twitter, just like his father, but has been able

to really speak to a couple of different factions within the Republican Party. He's actually become -- kind of ingratiated himself with the Republican Party.

He's hosted fundraisers for local state parties. He's campaigned for some candidates. Remember, we saw him twice in Montana.

During the campaign he traveled around the country and became very involved. This was a smaller operation, of course, but he did play kind of an outsized role as the son of the candidate.

CUOMO: And he has a couple of irons in the fire there politically. He does work with the mainstream part of the party. He also seems to embrace parts of the fringe and part of that angry and attacking part of that base as well.

HUEY-BURNS: Sure, exactly. You can see that reflected in his tweets. He seems himself, according to the tweets, as a big defender of the president and able to say things that others in the White House may not be able to say publicly. And you see that reflected in the tweets.

He goes after the media, of course, very heavily. He also goes after Democrats and any opponent of his father. And you see that on social media and also kind of during the way in which he campaigns.

CUOMO: So, William, how do you view these latest developments about this meeting and why Donald Jr. would have gone to it? What he meant to the campaign apparatus and to the family in terms of his reach and authority?

WILLIAM COHAN, CONTRIBUTOR, DAILYBEAST.COM, AUTHOR, "THE PRICE OF SILENCE, FORMER M&A WALL STREET BANKER: Well, Chris, for starters, this is definitely not the nothing-burger that Reince Priebus and the Republicans would have us believe.

You know, Donald Jr. has always been a bit of thorn in his father's side despite, you know, what was just being described as how he's trying to connect with Republicans and trying to be a good party soldier.

I mean, he has -- he was not raised by Donald, he was raised by his mother. For the first 21 years of his life he rarely saw his father. Eventually, for a long time they didn't speak to each other.

Donald Sr., of course, always told his son not to -- not to drink, not to party. Donald did the exact opposite. He went off to Aspen for a year to be sort of like a ski bum. Didn't talk to his father for a year.

[07:55:08] More interestingly, recently, during the campaign -- I mean, he's done all those things that we were just talking about in terms of booster -- boosting his father's presidential ambitions.

But during the campaign he also had a major foible down in Charleston, South Carolina -- something called Titan Atlas Manufacturing, which was a business he started with some colleagues that did not do well.

It eventually folded but there was a $3.5 million loan from Deutsche Bank that he couldn't pay back. His father bought the loan, assumed that liability.

Then there came a lawsuit against -- from Saint-Gobain, a big French company that put some supplies and inventory in the warehouse that was left over from Titan Atlas. And now, there's a big lawsuit between Saint-Gobain and Donald Trump, actually, still going on in South Carolina.

And so, you know, he's never really -- he's always been a little bit off the map in doing things that his father wishes he wouldn't do and creating messes that his father has to clean up, and here's a perfect example of another one.

CUOMO: And so, how do you think this plays in terms of the family dynamic?

COHAN: Well, I think that it creates a lot of -- it's got to be creating a lot of tension in the family.

And I'm sorry, I do not believe that a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, his -- you know, the son-in-law -- is not something -- with a Russian operative who was going to supposedly bring serious information against Hillary Clinton that would be useful in the campaign -- he did not know about.

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump do not do anything without their father knowing and so, this idea that he somehow didn't know, I find ridiculous.

And I also feel like it's probably some sort of deflection away from Jared Kushner who, of course, is in the administration and is a senior adviser to Donald Trump, and that's why they're trying to blame it on Donald Jr. who is, of course, not in the administration.

CUOMO: Well, and obviously, we have to proceed on the basis of facts, not feelings. But your insight is noted --

COHAN: Right.

CUOMO: -- from your understanding of this. But for investigative purposes we'll go on what we can develop and what we know.

So, let's end on this. Caitlin, in terms of no matter how this comes out --


CUOMO: -- do you think this affects his role in the family and in the administration -- larger sense, obviously? He's not a member of it officially.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. Well, interestingly enough, we haven't seen yet, as of before 8:00 a.m., the president tweet in support of his son. Remember, we saw him go in favor of Ivanka, supporting her against allegations. We also saw Donald Trump Jr. do that. We haven't seen him come out and talk about his son.

But we have also seen Donald Trump Jr. kind of continue his tweeting in kind of that sarcastic manner. Remember him saying --

CUOMO: Since he lawyered up yesterday, has he tweeted since then?

HUEY-BURNS: He has retweeted -- he has been retweeting stories that are calling this -- these allegations --

CUOMO: So he's still active online. Do you think that's going to end? Do you think that they will be able to -- can they control him, by the way? In terms of your understanding of the family dynamic, if somebody says enough, does that work?

HUEY-BURNS: Perhaps, but we've also seen him really step up in ways that -- when his father has not been able to.

Remember during the Comey hearing, for example. When Donald Trump was advised to stay away from Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. came in and kind of filled that role and he has coordinated with the RNC on these kinds of messaging ideas, but we'll see whether that stops with the lawyers.

CUOMO: Caitlin, William, thank you very much. Appreciate the perspective.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, there's a lot of news for you this morning. We also have a live interview with a top White House official in just minutes. We're going to get the inside scoop on how this is all viewed by the White House. Let's get after it.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's campaign did not collude in any way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an e-mail compromising information about Hillary Clinton. It was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign.

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: That's opposition research and you're always looking to get the upper hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's been revealed for the first time is potential real coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Rest assured Donald Trump Jr. will be somebody that we want to talk to.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: There was no information given, there was no action taken. He learned nothing from that meeting.

CUOMO: It doesn't matter what he learned, it matters why he took the meeting.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July 11th, 8:00 in the East.

And we do begin with the White House pushing back hard against "The New York Times." They have a report that says Donald Trump Jr. knew that a Russian lawyer he was meeting with last summer would offer him dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father win the election.

We now know of at least seven current or former Trump campaign team members that have lied, changed their stories, or not been forthcoming about contacts with Russia.

Now, what does the White House think about all of this? We have one of the top officials there that's going to come on in just moments and make the case.

CAMEROTA: We are also following breaking news.