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Marine Corps Plane Crashes in Mississippi Killing At Least 16; Analysts Examine Donald Trump Jr.'s Meeting with Russian Lawyer; U.S. Plans For Mosul After Victory Declares Over ISIS. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 11, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We are also following breaking news. A U.S. Marine Corps plane has crashed in rural, Mississippi, killing at least 16 service members. This is the biggest loss of life in the military since President Trump took office. Federal investigators are now trying to figure out what went wrong. So we have all of this covered for you.

Let's begin with CNN's Jason Carroll live at the White House for us. Good morning, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. The White House basically saying that there's no there, there, that the only thing that was inappropriate about that June 16th meeting was the person or persons who leaked information about it.

Having said that, the White House now having to deal with report after report about Trump Jr.'s meeting on June 16th. The latest report giving new insight into what he knew about the meeting before it took place.


CARROLL: 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 meet 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. Sis weeks later they 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 PRESIDENT TRUMP: It just goes to show you their exact moral compass. They'll say anything to be able to win this. 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.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: 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 Jr. who tweeted Monday that he would be happy to pass on what I know.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior level members of Trump campaign meeting with Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

CARROLL: President 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: And just on a side note, wanted to talk just briefly about that plane crash there in Mississippi. The vice president did tweet about that this morning. He issued the following statement, saying "Karen and I are praying for the families of the marines who lost their lives. These marines will be in our hearts." The president did tweet this morning about different subjects, still waiting to hear the White House response on that tragic Marine plane crash there in Mississippi. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Please let us know as soon as you get that, Jason. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in our political panel to discuss all of this. We have David Gregory, Karoun Demirjian, she's a Congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. He was Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Department of Justice. Great to have all of you this morning. David Gregory, just spell out for us how you see these developments this morning that "The New York Times" is reporting in terms of this meet with Don Jr.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's really significant if you consider the White House defense all along, which is that there was no collusion whatsoever despite Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election. And here this is undermined by the fact that the president's son, then the candidate's son, is meeting with someone who comes to him and other senior advisers with information potentially damaging about Hillary Clinton, someone that they don't know about, that they don't do due diligence on, and who they say in subsequent explanations, although those explanations have moved, didn't even have any worthwhile information but who was a Russian national. So it undercuts the argument that they were, you know, unwitting participants in any underhanded Russian interference, number one.

[08:05:00] And two, it gets to, you know, the issue of why you would do -- why would you meet with a Russian national seeking to pass on any information about the election when the pattern of Russian interference, the hacking of the DNC, what the Russians had done in Ukraine with regard to elections or trying to hack into their critical infrastructure, the understanding that Russia was up to no good for a long time, and certainly that Vladimir Putin had it in for Hillary Clinton.

CUOMO: Counselor Zeldin, in terms of this pushback on the Republican side that this is a nothing-burger, what are the legal issues and questions that are raised by what you know so far?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a good question, and it's not clear. Clearly, if this was a solicitation by Donald Trump Jr. of a foreign national for something of value, and it doesn't have to be money, it could be information, that's an FEC, Federal Election Commission law violation. And there may be, and there have been already complaints filed by Common Cause and others with respect to that.

Interesting to me as well is that Donald Trump Jr.'s first statement was this was a meeting about adoptions. Well, adoptions as we know and has been reported by "The New York Times" is really just another word for sanctions. So if Donald Trump Jr. was going into a meeting with Russian cutouts to talk about sanctions at a time just before the Republican convention and the platform debate about Ukraine and sanctions and arming opponents, then that becomes a very problematic issue where, like with Manafort -- rather, like with Flynn, where they are discussing sanctions, that's potentially a crime in and of itself.

With respect to the collusion aspect that David Gregory talked about, that's really a political question in some respects because there isn't, except an antitrust law, a crime of collusion. It would have to be conspiracy to do something. I'm not sure what the something yet is. So we have to see how that teases out a little bit from a pure legal standpoint.

CAMEROTA: Karoun, I know that it's hard sometimes for people following along at home to keep track of all of these different threads, particularly since there are a lot of people now who were connected to the Trump campaign that seem to have forgotten or for whatever reason did not disclose their meetings with Russians. We have a list of seven. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, J.D. Gordon, Jeff Sessions, now Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page. So I know that you're on Capitol Hill every day. You're a Congressional reporter. Is there a feeling among lawmakers that they tired of having to talk about this so often and that they wish that there were some sort of better answers coming out of the White House? KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I think

that there's probably -- there is that fatigue happening but not really in equal way on both sides of the aisle. Democrats are getting tired of the White House coming up with, well, we didn't know. This was just one sort of a meeting, it was just a casual meeting to discuss something that had not nothing -- it was not that important, wouldn't have violated the law, with somebody who happened to be Russian. They're getting sick of that line from this administration, saying this is a pattern. For some reason you're able to talk about meeting with other foreign nationals but when it comes up with whether you met with Russians you just have this big hole in your memory and it's a collective hole for everyone that seems to have been affiliated with the Trump campaign team and with the Trump transition team and now people that are still in the White House as well.

On the Republican side they're getting, it's becoming more difficult for them to explain these things away. Republicans, remember, by and large do not believe that Trump actually colluded with the Kremlin and they have been saying, most of them have been saying this whole time let this investigation proceed because it will likely exonerate you, Mr. President.

Situations like this where you have what seems to be the closest thing to evidence pointing towards at least potentially intent or comfort level with collusion than anything we've seen yet, puts them in a very tight spot of trying to stick to what they believe, which is that the president may have done things that were not common to and not typical of a United States president but they don't believe it actually got to the point of bordering on wrong. Things like this make it much more difficult to explain.

But you do have -- both parties are looking at this as, it's kind of unleashed Democrats in a way who have been talking about there being potential evidence there and now that this is public, they are able to point to it and say, see, this is what we were talking about, this is why we think that there's something here and why we don't buy these excuses anymore.

CUOMO: This is, if anything, David Gregory, this has to be a big blow to the president's the probe is a hoax notion. We know that he's gotten caught up on that with the Putin meeting having it both ways, put him in a tight spot politically there. But practically the more he embraces the overall Russian interference probe, the better it would be for him because all of this could be OK if it were a function of, yes, look what the Russians were doing. They were coming to us. They came to at least seven guys, they kept trying to come to us. Yes, they were. We didn't know why at the time, but now we do know.

[08:10:12] The more that he put his hands around that investigation, the better. Do you think there's still a chance that he could do that?

GREGORY: Just based on his pattern, I don't see how. There has been a willful denial of what's right in front of them, and that was an attack on the country by the Russians that creates a responsibility for any president to protect our elections and to protect the institution of the presidency. Instead, Donald Trump and people around him have at least shown reckless disregard for how vulnerable they could have been to this kind of interference in the course of the campaign, or worse, because of their relationships in Russia or relationship with Putin himself.

And if you look at the foreign policy team around him during the campaign, whether it's Michael Flynn, whether it's Paul Manafort, these are people who had relationships in Russia, where there are serious questions about what role they played, and they certainly didn't say what they should have said to the candidate, to his son, to any of these other advisers, which is back away and be careful who you're dealing with here because they play for keeps in Russia. Ask any grown-up who has been involved in the United States government, they'll tell you that. You don't play around with this or with any foreign national trying to interfere in our election. But they just blew it off, and they still do.

That's what we have to get around to. The president of the United States in a meeting with Vladimir Putin apparently accepted his denial that he wasn't involved. He should be talking less and doing more to protect our elections and to protect the institution.

CAMEROTA: Michael, Phil Mudd, our frequent guest, often reminds us whatever we're talking about here, whatever we're see here in the press is the tip of the iceberg of what investigators, who have lots more, obviously, powers to compel people to give up information, are dealing with. And so while we talk about these sort of dribs and drabs that come out, obviously, Bob Mueller is continuing the investigation apace. Do you have any sense of where the investigation is? You hear the Trump supporters say, nine months to a year and nothing. See, there's nothing there. But, of course, he's just beginning his investigation.

ZELDIN: That's right. He is at month two. He has assembled a dream team if you will, of lawyers, very experienced in corruption, in money laundering, and the types of investigative work streams that will befall him in this investigation. He's got a lot of different work streams separate and apart from the counterintelligence stuff. He's got an individual work stream for Manafort. He's got an individual work stream for Flynn. He's got Carter Page. Now he's got Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner. So he's got a lot to get up and running. I don't know whether he's convened a grand jury yet but we don't know what documents he's received from the Hill or elsewhere. Really, he's in the early stages of this investigation, and I wouldn't expect to hear much from his operation for another month or two as they get their sea legs and they get grounded in what they are going to do and who is going to do it and what the prioritization of those tasks are.

So for someone to say we're nine months in is really not an accurate reflection of where we are with respect to Mueller and the special counsel's office.

CUOMO: Sounds good, though.

ZELDIN: Sounds good, but it's not true. GREGORY: I just want -- you guys are going to be talking to Sebastian

Gorka later. And I just don't want us to forget, let us just remember to substitute the name Hillary Clinton here for Donald Trump. And if the Clinton team had had these kind of contacts with the Russians, what they would be saying. What would Sebastian Gorka be saying this morning about those contacts and about their conduct thus far? And that should be -- that should always be in people's minds as they listen.

CAMEROTA: David, I'll just answer because I already know what Sebastian Gorka is going to say because I've been listening to him. They're going to say, the Clinton campaign, look what the Democrats did with Ukraine. They had lots of contacts with Ukraine. That's what I believe --

CUOMO: And the uranium deal.

CAMEROTA: And Uranium One, David, that's what they're going to say.

GREGORY: Fair enough. So let them explore that further. But that doesn't answer how -- I mean, it makes the point really. They're saying any kind of contact like that is inappropriate. So is the defense, well, they were doing it, too, so everybody's doing it, so I guess it's OK.

CUOMO: The Russians call that what about-ism, that when you are attacked on one level, point out the same error in someone else. Panel, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: So we are following some breaking news we want to get to right now. At least 16 Marines have been killed after a U.S. military plane crashes in Mississippi. The FBI is now on the scene trying to determine what went wrong.

[08:15:00] CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with all the breaking details. What have you learned, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. President Trump just a short time ago tweeting his condolences on this situation. And let me just read that for everyone here. The president saying, marine plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all. That from President Trump a short time ago. What we are learning is this crash occurred about 4:00 yesterday in Mississippi. The plane taking off, originating out of Cherry Point, North Carolina. A U.S. Marine Corps, KC-130. 16 souls on board lost. No survivors. You can see the site afterwards. Obviously, just utter devastation there.

We are told by the Marine Corps that it was the FAA that called them when they realized the plane had disappeared from FAA radar. Then they contacted the Marine Corps very quickly. All of it was determined whose plane this was and who was on board. All 16 members of the United States military. Now what is happening is they are reaching out across the country to all 16 families trying to notify the next of kin. And when that notification is completed, then the names of the fallen will be made public. Chris? CUOMO: All right, Barbara. Thank you very much. Please let us know

what you get on that story so we can tell everybody the sad news. All right. We now know that at least seven current or former Trump campaign team members who have either not been forthcoming about their contacts or have to redraw the diagram of their meetings with Russians. How does the White House explain those developments and the latest ones about Don Jr.? We're going to ask the deputy assistant to the vice president, Sebastian Gorka, next.


[08:20:20] CAMEROTA: Victory declared in Mosul after months of brutal fighting to retake the city from ISIS control. The city is now in ruins or at least parts of it are. Amnesty International calls it a civilian catastrophe. So what will the U.S. do next? Joining us now, Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump. Good morning, Mr. Gorka.


CAMEROTA: I know you want to start by talking about this watershed moment in Mosul and we do too. So, what does this mean to the White House and what are the plans for Mosul and beyond next in the fight against ISIS?

GORKA: Well, what it means for the White House is the defeat ISIS plan is working. Thanks to the great offices of Secretary Mattis, General H.R. McMaster. In just 24 weeks, we've managed to crush ISIS at the heart of its center gravity. Remember, thanks to the Obama withdrawal in 2011, there was a so-called Caliphate created in Mosul in June of 2014. And in less than six months, with the leadership of Prime Minister Abadi, we've destroyed that Caliphate. It's amazing first step, it's just the beginning because we have to route ISIS from all of Iraq but it shows you what you can do when you want to win.

CAMEROTA: Let me ask you about that because the battle for Mosul began nine months ago. And even before that, the Iraqi forces were being trained by the U.S.-led operators. So that was three months before President Trump even took office. So does he deserve all of the credit for getting rid of ISIS in Mosul?

GORKA: I think if you look at how we changed strategic objectives and actually our policies, absolutely. This is what the Obama -

CAMEROTA: And tell us about that. Yes. I am interested in hear --

GORKA: Can I finish my sentence?

CAMEROTA: Yes, please.

GORKA: Can I finish my sentence?


GORKA: So under the Obama administration, it was deliberately a war of attrition. It was the death of a thousand cuts. We don't do that, when you have an organization that's deadly as ISIS that is having slave markets that is burning people alive in cages, we said it's about obliteration. A president stood before congress and said we will obliterate, we will eradicate ISIS. And that's why General Mattis, Secretary Mattis went from a policy of attrition to one of annihilation. That's a very, very big difference.

CAMEROTA: And just explain that to me. What does that mean? How did the rules of engagement change?

GORKA: Well, the rules of engagement themselves haven't changed but we're actually enforcing them. Under the Obama administration you had unbelievable amounts of micromanagement. In some cases, you have unclassified reports of people in theater not being allowed to engage unless a senior official back here in D.C. gave them the green light. That's crazy. That's called the 8,000-mile screwdriver. We tried that in Vietnam and it was a disaster in Vietnam.

When we came in, January 20th, from the very beginning we said we trust you to our military. We said, you can make local decisions that you are empowered and trained to do and execute those missions. So it's really having faith in our military, having faith in our field commanders and saying do the job, you were trained to do and that we trust you to do. That's a reassertion of original ROEs, rules of engagement and no more micromanagement from the White House.

CAMEROTA: We talk all the time to military experts here on our program about the fight against ISIS and what the generals tell us is that there is not just -- there cannot just be a military solution. So what is the White House's plan to fight ISIS in terms of cyber and in terms of, you know, snapping out the ideology?

GORKA: Oh, that's a great question. So absolutely. We have a great cyber team here. The National Security Counsel, Tom Bossert, the Homeland Security advisor. The president has a background especially in cyber. So he's pioneering our efforts. We don't talk about what that is on open channels on the T.V. But your second question, massively important. You can only use -- do so much with kinetics, with physical force. At the end of the day, our objective is to destroy as the president said, the evil ideology that drives groups like ISIS.

So, what we're going to do is have a massive counterpropaganda pushback like we had during the Cold War to delegitimize the ideology of Jihadism. We're not going to deny what it is. We're not going to say religion is irrelevant and you aren't allowed to words like -- use words like Jihad. That was the insanity of the last eight years. With our Muslim partners in theaters, especially countries like Egypt and Jordan and local actors in Iraq, we're going to push back on the ideology so at the end of the day, the black flag of ISIS is as disgusting to people around the world as the swastika of the Nazis and people just don't want to become Jihadist because it's not body bags. That's a good metric of victory, and so at the end of the day when young men and women around the world don't want to join groups like ISIS, that's when we and our Muslim partners will have won.

[15:25:48] CAMEROTA: Let's talk about our global partners and what came out of the G20. We know that obviously President Trump had that big sit-down with President Putin. What did President Trump get out of Vladimir Putin in terms of election meddling beyond what's been reported which is Putin's denial?

GORKA: Well, what we got out of it was an opportunity to finally address this issue head of state to head of state to push more than once on the question of meddling. There was nothing -- there was no massive smoking gun that was unveiled there as anyone could rightly expect. But what we got out of it which is far more important than anything to do with accusations of meddling in elections, is a chance to save lives in Syria. More than 400,000 people murdered in the last six years. And thanks to that meeting, just days ago, we have managed to put in place the ceasefire agreement for the first time with Israel and Jordan. That perhaps with Russia's assistance can put an end to the bloodshed in Syria. So, that's the massive take-home from that meeting, and we should thank the good lord that that is something that looks at the moment to be working.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Obviously, stopping the bloodshed in Syria is vitally important. But just in terms, because there's been confusion about this, did President Trump accept Vladimir Putin's denial that he didn't meddle?

GORKA: No, of course not. There's no - there's no acceptance involved. We pressed. The president pressed. There was a denial. At that point you have to move on because we're there to save lives.

CAMEROTA: But did the president say, don't do it again or here's what will happen to you if you do it again or knock it off or anything to that degree?

GORKA: Look, you can tell that the president is a very forceful character. And he sent a very clear message. This is not a court of law. We're not there to prosecute another head of state. But the message was sent. And that was the most important thing that you can do at a protocol event. Remember, this is a protocol event, this is the G20. Not a court of law. We're not there to create conflict with Russia. Remember, this is one of the most powerful nuclear nations in the world. We are there are to do what Secretary Tillerson said.

Secretary Tillerson said just before the meeting. The two most powerful nuclear nations in the world really should have better relations than we do. We went there in good faith. We pushed them on the issue of the election. They denied it. We have to move on because there are more pressing issues of life and death, and that's what we did. So that's the priority of this administration has. National security comes first.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Gorka, I want to ask you about something that's been in the news for the past two days. And that's Don Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer who seemed to be offering up some sort of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Was it a good idea for Don Jr. to meet with this Russian lawyer?

GORKA: Was it a good idea for the DNC to send its operatives to the Ukrainian embassy? CAMEROTA: I'm not sure that answers my question.

GORKA: That opposition -- no, I - you know, if there's a meeting that was wholly appropriate but which led to nothing, let's compare that to the DNC sending its people to the Ukrainian embassy to coordinate OPO attacks against our candidate. I mean, if you want to see collusion, it's in the DNC. I mean it is up to their necks.


CAMEROTA: So just let me follow your line of logic. You're saying it's inappropriate for the democrats to meet with a foreign country, Ukraine. But it's not inappropriate for your campaign, for Donald Trump, to meet with the Russians of hostile --


GORKA: What do you mean the Russians? Who did this woman work for at the time? Do you know?

CAMEROTA: Well, this is the question, Mr. Gorka.

GORKA: Because she did not work for the Russian government.

CAMEROTA: I mean, this is what investigators are trying to --

GORKA: I'm answering it.

CAMEROTA: What is the answer? Who -- what is her connection to the kremlin?

GORKA: There was no connection. She was a private lawyer who had an interest with regard to the Russian adoption program and used a pretext to get a meeting with the campaign which the campaign representatives almost immediately realized was not done in good faith. That she had another agenda -


CAMEROTA: What's funny, Mr. Gorka, is that they wanted the --