Return to Transcripts main page


Trump New Interview: I Didn't Know About Russia Meeting; Trump On The Way To France Amid Email Controversy; Trump: I Will Be Angry If Health Care Doesn't Get Done. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 12, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: That is the consistent, coherent narrative. I mean where you get into trouble with a thousand one is when you have all of these conflicting accounts. It broadens the investigation. It undermines other parties, including in this case, your own son.

And so, this could be very damaging in terms of the scope of the investigation and adding more questions for your son, who's -- or your son-in-law in this case, who's fast becoming a target.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Richard, I mean can you explain just -- I mean what kind of teeth Federal Ethics officials actually have. Because we saw the director of the office of government on ethics resign just I think it was last week, at least partly because of frustration with the current administration.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, yes. You've got to have a bar somewhat higher than what do you do to keep your clients out of jail. And we're spending a lot of time in the past couple of days in particular, talking about various criminal statutes and which you would charge under and which you wouldn't, whether you meet the burden of proof. And this is where the respect of very high-ranking people in an administration only six months into the administration.

Now, I personally can't believe that Donald Trump, when he was a candidate, wouldn't be aware if his son-in-law, his son, and Paul Manafort, all three, were meeting with a Russian lawyer who was told -- they were told an agent of the Russian government, that he would be unaware of that. Of course, he says he's unaware of that. He says a lot of things, but I'll believe that when I believe that President Obama was born in Kenya. I mean I've heard so much nonsense coming out of the White House, including the president --

COOPER: The other bigger thing that they learned in that e-mail or whether they learned it for the first time or they heard it before is that the Russian government, according to e-mail, was backing Donald Trump as a candidate. The idea that he wouldn't have been told that is -- I mean, it's possible, I suppose. But we've got to leave it there.

PAINTER: It's impossible! It makes no sense. COOPER: Thanks, everybody.

Coming up now, how confrontational was the president during Vladimir -- the meeting with Vladimir Putin? Does he really believe that Russia hacked the election? Answers tonight in a new interview.

Also, the latest on a White House under siege over the Donald Trump Jr. e-mail revelation, plus, Republican lawmakers grappling with how to react and struggling to pass the health care bill. Reporting for us tonight, CNN's Jessica Schneider at the White House, Manu Raju, and Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, Pamela Brown with some new exclusive video. We begin at the White House and Jessica Schneider. So the president addressing Donald Trump Jr. meeting in that interview with Reuters. What do you say?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the president saying he knew nothing about that June 26th meeting between his eldest son and that Russian lawyer. The president really, this is the first time he's spoken out about this, saying he didn't know anything about it. Of course, his lawyer and the deputy press secretary, this is the same message that they've been pushing for the past 24 to 48 hours.

The president telling Reuters this, saying, "I didn't know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this. I think many people would have had that meeting." Of course, that's the exact same sentiment, Anderson, that his son, Donald Trump Jr., issued in an interview last night. Donald trump Jr. saying that he was a political novice, a businessman. And as a businessman, he believed taking this meeting was OK. His father tonight, the president, issuing that same sort of sentiment, Anderson.

COOPER: As the president departs from France, I mean he hasn't had any public events since returning from Germany Saturday night. Did the White House address that today?

SCHNEIDER: Right, well, the president has been out of the public eye for four days now, really, a rare stretch for a sitting president. Today at the press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she addressed this. She said, just because the president isn't sitting behind a podium doesn't mean he's not communicating with the American public, she talked about the meetings he's been holding and she said this.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: There's nothing secret about having meetings, which I read off to you earlier with members of his staff and members of the administration. The president had an incredibly robust schedule overseas in both Poland and Germany and he's preparing to leave this afternoon, where he'll be spending quite a bit of time with a lot of those of you who are traveling and will be taking questions from you guys tomorrow.

(END AUDIO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: And of course the president on Air Force One right now, on his way to Paris. He will hold that press conference with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, tomorrow. Of course, Anderson, it's very likely that at that point, President Trump will face some of these questions about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with that Russian lawyer. And of course, those e-mails that came out just yesterday. Anderson.

COOPER: The irony, of course, to Sarah Huckabee Sanders' comments is that she's not saying them on camera they're not allowing cameras, videotape White House briefings.

SCHNEIDER: You got it.

COOPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks.

Coming up next, we got Manu Raju at Capitol Hill where the president's pick to head the FBI testified today. His name is Chris Wray. More than a few prominent Republican lawmakers have been speaking up and speaking out, even demanding answers. So what are you learning, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, and frustrated. A lot of members are concerned about this constant revelation, day after day, new controversies. And the inability of the White House to put it behind them and the failure in the words of people like Trey Gowdy, a conservative South Carolina Republican who heads the House Oversight Committee, saying, just disclose this information right away to investigators. Don't let this be a peer in the press. This is something other Republicans say is constantly undermining what they're trying to do up here, including Senator John McCain who told me earlier today that it's, quote, "sucking the oxygen out of the room," the issue about this Russia investigation and the failure of the White House to deal with it in an effective manner. That is one area.

[21:05:37] The other area, is just to learn more about what's happening. This is really putting some new steam behind some of these investigations on Capitol Hill. A lot of members want to learn more about that meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had, Anderson.

COOPER: Right, I mean you mentioned the ongoing congressional investigations. Have any of the committees extended invitations to Donald Trump Jr. to appear before them?

RAJU: Well, they have expressed interest. Whether there's actually a formal invitation. That process is still being worked out. Chuck Grassley, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told me earlier today that he planned to have a phone call to help try to set up an impossible interview with Donald Trump Jr. His committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, also wants to hear from Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman of Donald Trump, who was at that meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer.

Manafort himself, of course, already of interest to investigators on Capitol Hill, given his long connections with Russia, his meetings with Russians. He, of course, has denied any collusion. But the interesting aspect of the Manafort news today is that Chuck Grassley wants him to do it in a public session next week. That is much quicker than a lot of people anticipated. He's even threatening to subpoena for Manafort's appearance. But he's trying to work that out with Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, to see if that will work out, Anderson.

COOPER: Manu Raju, thanks.

Late today, a video surfaced of three main figures in the Donald. Trump Jr. e-mail chain in the same room with another key figure namely then private citizen Donald J. Trump. CNN's justice correspondent, Pamela Brown joins us now with the exclusive pictures. Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, CNN has obtained this exclusive video from 2013 of Donald Trump meeting with the father and the son who last year allegedly promised to help pass along damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government to Donald Trump Jr. through an intermediary.

And this video intermediary, we should say, and the video really is a fresh look inside their relationship, apparently just as it was beginning.


BROWN (voice-over): The behind-the-scenes video, obtained exclusively by CNN, shows then businessman, Donald Trump, in Las Vegas in 2013. At several events during the weekend of the Miss USA Pageant, hanging out with the men now at the center of the newest development in the Russian controversy.


BROWN (voice-over): The men, Russian pop singer, Emin Agalarov, and his father, Aras, a real estate developer in Russia, were helping Donald Trump hold his Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow later that year.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the most powerful people in all of Russia, the richest men in Russia.

BROWN (voice-over): In the video, Trump is seen having dinner with the Agalarovs, along with their publicist, Rob Goldstone, seen here leaning over to talk with Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Trump's son, Donald Jr., released e-mails from Goldstone, pitching a meet between the president's son and a Russian lawyer, promising she would deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton provided by the Russian government.

According to the e-mails released by Trump Jr., Emin Agalarov seen here between Trump and Goldstone told Goldstone to set up the meeting. "Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

The exclusive footage provides a closer look at the friendship between the two families and could help explain Donald Trump Jr.'s willingness to take the meeting arranged by Goldstone. At dinner, Trump can be heard boasting to the men about his work on the Miss Universe Pageant.

TRUMP SR.: The women now are beautiful, I tell you when you see Miss Universe you won't even believe it.

BROWN (voice-over): The next day in front of reporters, Trump spoke grandly about the promise of taking Miss Universe to Russia.

TRUMP SR.: I think it's a great thing for both countries, and honestly they really wanted it in Russia, very badly, politically they wanted it.

BROWN (voice-over): Trump predicting his pageant could even bring Russia and the U.S. closer.

TRUMP SR.: It really is a great country. It's a very powerful country. It's a country that we have a relationship with, but I would say not a great relationship, and I think that this can certainly help that relationship.

BROWN (voice-over): Investigators plan to examine the Trump Tower meeting and the e-mails.

On Fox News Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr., who does not appear in the 2013 video, said he had limited knowledge of the Russian family.

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: I met Emin once or twice and, you know, maintained a casual relationship there, talked about some potential deals, and then to that -- the extent of it. They really didn't go anywhere.

BROWN (voice-over): But new video and others show the president's own connections.

[21:10:02] TRUMP SR.: What's wrong with you?

BROWN (voice-over): In 2013, Trump appeared in one of Emin's music videos.

TRUMP SR.: You're always late. You just don't have a pretty face. I'm really tired of you. You're fired.

BROWN (voice-over): And wished him happy birthday in a video posted on Emin's Instagram.

TRUMP SR.: Emin, I can't believe you're turning 35.

BROWN (voice-over): On CNN's "New Day," their lawyer said the e-mails don't add up.

SCOTT BAIBER, ATTORNEY FOR EMIN AND ARAS AGALAROV: It's just fantasy world because the reality is, if there was something important that Mr. Agalarov wanted to communicate to the Trump campaign, I suspect he could have called Mr. Trump directly as opposed to having his son's pop music publicist be the intermediary.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Pamela, it's weird. I talked, actually, that attorney yesterday and he actually had a different answer on that. He said that they actually weren't that close and that's why they were using the intermediary. We heard from the father of the pop star today. What did he say?

BROWN: Well, yes, it is interesting you point that out because he was making the point in that interview that that he would have reach out directly to the Trumps, but in the interview he recently had with a Russian radio station, BFM, he tried to distance himself in the wake of the e-mail release that the father of this Russian pop star, Aras Agalarov. He said he didn't personally know Don Jr. And he said he doesn't really know Goldstone, either. And he said it was a, "Tall tale that Goldstone asked Trump Jr. to contact him about dirt on Hillary Clinton." So, really all sides here are trying to distance themselves from this. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Pam Brown. Pam, thanks. And thanks to all of our reporters.

Back to the Capitol now, to one of the items that Republicans, including the president himself, lament is getting lost in the fog of the Russia's story, health care namely passing a GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now with that.

So I understand the president had some strong words in support of this bill tonight. What did he say?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. He's made it very clear that he wants to see a bill to replace and repeal the Obamacare health care bill very soon. And he's really placing that responsibility on Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell. Listen to what he told the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview set to air tomorrow.


TRUMP SR.: It has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get together and get it done.

PAT ROBERTSON, CBN HOST: What will happen if they don't?

TRUMP SR.: Well, I don't want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad. I will be very angry about it. And a lot of people will be very upset. But I'm sitting waiting for that bill to come to my desk.

ROBERTSON: Mitch McConnell is a tactician of great skill.


ROBERTSON: Do you think he can pull it off his job?

TRUMP SR.: He's got to pull it off.

ROBERTSON: Yes. TRUMP SR.: Mitch has to pull it off. He's working very hard. He's got to pull it off.


NOBLES: And there's been some question about just how active the president has been in this process. Senators do say that he's been engaged in the debate. But he hasn't really used his bully pulpit to convince his supporters to get behind this bill. We'll see if that changes after this new bill is revealed tomorrow morning.

COOPER: Is there any sense that Republicans are making progress to getting the 50 votes they need to pass?

NOBLES: You know, there really isn't a whole lot of optimism up here, Anderson. There still seems to be a pretty big divide between the conservative and moderate wings of the party. We'll see when this bill comes out tomorrow and then the subsequent CBO score, which won't come out until the beginning of next week to see if that divide can be brought together in any way, shape or form. But right now, it seems like a tall task for Republicans to get this bill passed.

COOPER: All right, Ryan Nobles, thanks very much. We're going to return to the Russia story after the break. You'll hear from a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and we'll look closer at how all the pieces of a very intricate puzzle fit together. Not just this meeting but everything that happened in the weeks and months that follows.


[21:17:00] COOPER: British music promoter, a Russian singer, his oligarch father, a Russian lawyer peddling criminal intelligence on Hillary Clinton, add in the president's son, his son-in-law and campaign chairman, bring them all together at Trump Tower, documented all in a chain of e-mails, stir gently, wait a year, and you have the makings of a spy story and some believe a smoking gun on the Trump/Russia collusion saga.

Now, before we hear from one of the senators trying to unravel it all, let's just walk through it step by step. CNN's Tom Foreman has the timeline.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late spring, 2016. Hillary Clinton is on a roll. Polls have her far ahead of Donald Trump. A White House endorsement is just days away. Then, June 3rd, an intriguing e-mail arrives for Donald Trump Jr. from a music promoter for a Russian Azari pop star offering information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father, claiming to be part of a Russian government effort to help Trump win. "I love it," the candidate's son responds. June 7th, a meeting is set to discuss the matter with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Four hours later, a big announcement. TRUMP SR.: I am going to give a major speech on, probably, Monday of next week. And we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Two days later, June 9th at Trump Tower, Donald Jr., Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign official Paul Manafort have their meeting with Veselnitskaya for the promised dirt on Clinton. But Donald Jr. now says it was a waste of time.

TRUMP JR.: I think I wanted to hear her out. But really, it went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn't what the meeting was actually about.

FOREMAN (voice-over): His father who was also at Trump Tower that afternoon needles Clinton with a tweet that same day, where are your 33,000 e-mails that you deleted? June 15th, a cybersecurity firm announces a major hack of Democratic National Committee computers and blames the Russians. A week later, Trump finally rolls out that major speech he promises, once again talking about Clinton's e-mails, but offering no new information.

TRUMP SR.: While we may not know what's in those deleted e-mails, our enemies probably know every single one of them.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Mid-July, the Republican convention, Trump is now officially the nominee. His campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, dismissing all allegations of ties to Russia.

PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: No, there are not. It's absurd and, you know, there's no basis to it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): July 22nd, WikiLeaks posts nearly 20,000 e- mails from Democratic Committee computers, some embarrassing and damaging to the party and its candidate. Yet, on CNN's "State of the Union," Donald Jr. dismisses Democratic howls about Russian interference.

TRUMP JR.: Well, 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.

[21:20:04] FOREMAN: And a few days later, Donald Trump says this.

TRUMP SR.: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


FOREMAN: Investigators must now scrutinize this timeline and many more details with the Trump team insisting any appearance of working with the Russians is purely a coincidence and skeptic saying it looks a lot more like collusion. Anderson.

COOPER: Tom Foreman. Tom, thanks. We wanted to hear from a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee tonight to react to the Trump Jr. e-mails and other key developments. We invited them all. None agreed to come on the program this evening. However, Democrat Ron Wyden did. I spoke with the Oregon senator a short time ago.


COOPER: Senator, yesterday after Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails were released, you tweeted saying, "It is now incumbent on elected officials of both parties to stand up and do their duty, protect and defend the constitution." What did you mean by that?

SEN. RON WYDEN, MEMBER SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, I hope that this will lay to rest the argument that we hear in these corridors that there isn't any evidence of collusion, because there certainly is clear evidence that there was an attempt at collusion.

And what my colleagues have got to do and it's important to do this in a bipartisan way, is insist on strong oversight, ask the tough questions, make sure that there are plenty of open hearings, use the subpoena power, and go where the facts lead.

COOPER: Do you question at this point his credibility? I mean, as you said, all we know about what happened in the meeting is from Donald Trump Jr. and also the Russian attorney, who's given an interview to NBC. The president, this morning, tweeted praising his son for being open and transparent, and yet we know, Donald Trump Jr.'s story has changed multiple times.

WYDEN: That's really the key point, Anderson. I think we're now on the fourth change. You know, it started off, it was something about adoption, then it was sort of a generalized sense about a contact with Russian. Then it became clear that there was an e-mail, where it was going to be a session designed to advance Donald Trump's prospects for getting elected president. I think we're on the fourth version.

And that's why I, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we've got to make sure that if there are other versions and every time I think we've heard the last one, there has been another version.

COOPER: How big a cause for concern for you is it that Jared Kushner, not only was at this meeting, but also didn't initially disclose it on his security clearance form and had to, for a second time, amend his security clearance filing?

WYDEN: It's very troubling. And what it tells me is that he should not be involved now in handling sensitive security matters and materials.

COOPER: You think he should have his security clearance revoked?

WYDEN: I've taken the position that on the floor of the United States Senate we're not about making judgments about people's security clearance. You and I have talked about that on the show before. But I certainly feel given, what you described what is now being reported extensively. He should not be involved in handling sensitive security materials and matters.

COOPER: He's one of the president's top advisers. I mean that's a big statement.

WYDEN: Yes, it is.

COOPER: I understand that both Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner have agreed to testify in front of your committee. Senator Warner indicated on Monday he wants Donald Trump Jr. to testify as well. How important to you is that they all testify in public? How likely do you think that is?

WYDEN: It is absolutely essential that this get on the public record. And, Anderson, for a little bit of history, for your viewers, as you know, I started this effort back in January, we're asking Mr. Comey about matters he had looked into. That led to discussions between Richard Burr and Senator Warner about what the hearings were going to look like.

And at the top of my list, I insisted on open hearings. It's absolutely critical. It's where some of the most important matters have come out in recent years. It's where I asked James Clapper, whether the government had collected any type of data at all on millions or hundreds or millions of Americans and he lied. This hearing with those individuals has got to be on the public record, so that there can be accountability, both to the Congress and to the American people.

COOPER: Senator Wyden, appreciate your time. Thank you.

WYDEN: Thanks for having me, Anderson.


COOPER: All right, coming up, how the White House is trying to portray Donald Trump Jr. as a model of transparency. You'll hear from the White House insider on that next.


[21:28:44] COOPER: Well, at the top of the last hour, I spoke with Sebastian Gorka, the deputy assistant to President Trump. He told me that Donald Trump Jr. releasing his e-mails was him being transparent rather than completely backed into a corner. I asked him about that several times. Take a look.


COOPER: You're avoiding asking the question about Donald Trump's lack of transparency from the beginning --

SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Total transparency. COOPER: So him saying that this meeting was about adoption issues, about his concern for orphans, that was true?

GORKA: It was absolutely misrepresented. The individual who requested the meeting --

COOPER: But that's what he said the meeting was about on Saturday when he knew all along by Saturday that that's not what the meeting was about. So that's not being transparent, right?

GORKA: When he gave as much information is was necessary to be put out there after the collusion -

COOPER: It wasn't correct information.

GORKA: It was. Absolutely.

COOPER: It was about this meeting, was about adoption, about orphans?

GORKA: All of it was true.

COOPER: This meeting --

GORKA: That somebody wanted to provide negative information that at the end of the meeting --

COOPER: He didn't say that.

GORKA: -- was under false pretenses, that any --

COOPER: He didn't say that.

GORKA: -- about adoption. And then -- do we -- do you really want to talk -- I thought we're going to talk about real issues, like what we're doing with our allies in France.


COOPER: We did talk about that later. With me now, Mary Katherine Ham, Errol Louis, Kirsten Powers, Scott Jennings, and Paul Begala.

Scott, I mean, can the White House really claim that this was transparency with a straight face? I mean --

[21:30:02] SCOT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In a crisis public relations situation, typically you want your first response to be, you know, what's the old saying, measure twice, cut once. You don't want to be coming back to the well. They did, however it took, arrive at a transparent moment of e-mail release. That was a choice they had to make. They need to follow through on that now. And he does need to testify. He's offered to do it. That's absolutely the correct public posture. One worry I have about this whole issue is that in some of the reporting, there are west wing staffers on Air Force One, helping craft the response for Donald Trump Jr. --

COOPER: -- reported that in "The New York Times."

JENNINGS: Yes, this is troubling, because you may have people who weren't in the meeting, who may be didn't even know anything about it until that moment, that are possibly now in the investigatory loop, when they otherwise might not have been.

And so, as someone who's lived through an investigation in a White House, Paul may want to talk about this, too, it absorbs time, attention, and resources that most west wing staffers just don't have.

And so, for them, I worry about that. A way forward for the White House here, though, is to follow through on these pledges of transparency. Because, remember, Kushner has also said he wants to talk. That is absolutely the correct public posture, but they need to get it going to give the public confidence they're going to follow through on it.

COOPER: Paul, I'm sure you're dying to relive the investigation you went through. But I mean do you agree with Scott? I mean --


COOPER: -- in terms of the -- it reminds me when John Edwards, it's a different level, but, you know, gave a mea culpa interview and a confessional interview and lied during that interview and had to later on correct it.

BEGALA: Yes, Scott's point about those staffers on Air Force One I really feel for, as well. Presumably, completely innocent, but they had to craft a statement. The statement was false. It was misleading. It was knowingly misleading. You said, as you pointed out in your interview, that the meeting that was about adoptions, it really wasn't.

COOPER: Even about adoptions, it's really about sanctions.

BEGALA: Of course, are trying to get around human rights sanctions that we, I think, rightly levied against the Russian regime. That's a problem. If I could decode that interview you had with --

COOPER: Please do. We're trying to figure out.

BEGALA: -- fascinating. First off, he is -- has very important job in counterterrorism. He's a deputy assistant to the president. That's one tier down from the top, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, those are assistance. So he's a second-tier person. Those people actually become the most important in a crisis, because they have to stay in their jobs. He is not staying in his jobs. He's supposed to be doing counterterrorism, that's really important work. Instead of doing that, instead of briefing the president, for example, on his trip to France, he's coming on and insulting you and trying to defend something he probably doesn't know anything about. So that's a really bad sign for the Trump White House. They need a legal strategy, a communications strategy, they need a management structure that keeps people in their jobs, so they actually can do the work for the American people. And these insults, though, by the way. If he had an answer, he would

have given it to you.

COOPER: Right.

BEGALA: The reason he insulted you is pause he can't answer the question. And my strong advice to him would be, well -- I don't know, maybe he's doing the right thing for his own career. There was reporting in April, in May, and June that he was on his way out. And yet here he is in July. My suspicion is because he gives interviews like that and insults us the way Donald Trump --

COOPER: The insult it's like Don Rickles, --


COOPER: -- on Rickles. I don't worry too much about it. But I just -- one interesting if this adds to the question and. When he did answer questions in an interview on CNN the other day, he said something which is actually incorrect. He said that this lawyer was completely independent and had nothing to do with the Kremlin. Now, he has no actual knowledge of whether or not this lawyer is connected to the Kremlin in any way. I mean there's a lot of reporting by "The New York Times" that she is, in fact, she denies it, Russian government denies it, but he doesn't know, and yet he's on television stating factually, she's independent.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes, I mean -- so it's interesting as Paul pointing out that it's him, and maybe there is nobody else who wants to do this, because this is very difficult to defend. And so it says a lot that this person who really has no connection to this is coming out and saying things and not really making any substantive argument. Even the things he was saying was the equivalent of me trying to convince you that this dress is yellow. I mean, it was -- he just kept saying that things -- that objectively happened didn't happen, and wasn't willing to engage on the substance. And I think he is trying to ingratiate himself to the president, because there's no other explanation for why anybody would do this.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I love you in yellow. Look, it was transparent in the actual e-mail chain is transparent about what's going on here, almost shockingly so to the point like, why would you write that down.

Now, it may not mean that people have been alleging is possible, that the Trump campaign openly colluded with the Russian government in this giant global conspiracy to sway an American election, but this is the president's son in his own words saying to an allied lawyer of the Russian government, bring it on. Bring it to me. I would enjoy that information. And the distinction about whether it is legal or illegal matters and Robert Mueller will be dealing with that. But also the standard just as with the Clinton campaign and some of the e-mail stuff, the standard should not be if it's illegal, if it's not illegal then it's totally OK. And too many people are running to that conclusion. [21:35:08] POWERS: Yes, and it's also what we've talked about before, is that even if she wasn't connected to the Russian government, which it seems pretty clear she is, he thought she was.

COOPER: Right, that's what matters Errol. Not --


COOPER: -- what actually -- whether or not she actually had information, which she keeps pointing out, oh, she the didn't have any, which we don't know if that's true or not, but he believed she was connected to the Russian government or at least that's what was indicated in the e-mail, and that she had information coming from the Russian government.

LOUIS: Well, that's the key point. Is that the e-mail says, this is information from the Russian government, as part of their campaign or as part of their effort to help Donald Trump, which, of course, raises additional questions. Well, gee, what else, is this the first, is this the last?

COOPER: Right. It did not sound like the first time.

LOUIS: It did not sound like the first time. It's only under close questioning, presumably under oath. I think that we're going to get to the bottom of this. Hopefully in open session so the American people can find this out, but certainly Mueller and the special counsel will want to know more this as well.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to have more with panel after quick break on the involving answers from the White House and the question of collusion with Russia.


[21:40:02] COOPER: Members of the president's inner circle, time and time again, have denied any connection whatsoever between their campaign and their administration and Russia.


JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you, or your campaign and Putin and his regime?


DICKERSON: Did anyone involve in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?


CHRISTOPHER WALLACE, AMERICAN TELEVISION ANCHOR AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So no collusion whatsoever between anybody involved with Trump and anybody involved with Russia in the 2016 campaign?

JEFF SESSIONS, AMERICAN POLITICIAN AND LAWYER: No! I have been called a surrogate at a time or two and I did not have communications with the Russians.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We don't know of any, any contacts with Russian agents.

CONWAY: This conversation never happened.

TRUMP JR.: And this is was time and time again, lie after lie.

MICHAEL FLYNN, RETIRED UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT GENERAL: I didn't take any money from Russia, if that's what you're asking me.

TRUMP JR.: It's disgusting, it's so phony.

WALLACE: Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?

TRUMP JR.: I can't think of bigger lies.


COOPER: Donald Trump Jr. himself told "The New York Times" back in March, "Did I meet with people that were Russian? I'm sure, I'm sure I did." He said, " But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form."

Of course now we prove in black and white that he did meet with a Russian lawyer during the campaign in a meeting that was set up to get dirt on Hillary Clinton extensively from the Russian government and extensively with a Russian government attorney.

Back now with the panel. You know, Paul, earlier today the president tweeted, I want to get what he tweeted, "Why aren't the same standards placed on the Democrats. Look what Hillary Clinton may have gotten away with. Disgraceful!" Has there to your knowledge, ever been a time in history where the current or the sitting president of the United States who has won if, you know, in a completely a legitimate election was so focused on the person who didn't win this far into his administration?

BEGALA: You know, I have to say, in defense of Donald Trump which not somebody -- very often presidents blame their predecessors. He's actually blaming his opponent which is a little more unusual but, you know, Franklin Roosevelt attacked Herbert Hoover for 12 years. You know, we do tend to do that.

COOPER: President Obama went after George W. Bush for --

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: -- and this president attacks. I don't think that's so terrible. He's going to try to drag Hillary into it. That's not, as a Hillary supporter, that's not a concern that I have. It's more this -- its Kirsten point saying that, a red dress is yellow, right. This is -- there's a Monty Python sketch where Graham Chapman says, there is no cannibalism in the British navy. And by none, I mean, there's a certain amount.

You know, so first, right, there was absolutely no -- Russia didn't hack. It was a 400-pound guy on his bed, right? Then, well, Russia hacked but we had no contacts. We saw them saying that. Then, well, OK, there were meeting, contacts, but no collusion. Now, there's evidence of collusion in this meeting with Donald Trump and their message is, CNN sucks, not -- here's what we're doing to protect America.

POWERS: And the president says, actually, anybody would take this meeting.

BEGALA: Right.


POWERS: So now, we just watched all these people say, what? The shock and horror that you would ever suggest that we would meet with anybody connected to Russia and then the president says, I think many people would take this meeting.

COOPER: I mean, Scott, you've worked on -- would anybody take this meeting?

JENNINGS: No. No. I mean some people might have -- most people probably would have called the White House or the campaign's lawyer or general counsel and say, what am I supposed to do this and then they would make a decision.

COOPER: Which is what Chris Wray, the FBI nominee said today, --


COOPER: -- well, I suggest, you know, you would want to talk to some counsel about that.

JENNINGS: Exactly.

COOPER: And then he said they'll call the FBI.

JENNINGS: Let me translate from red America. Here's what hacks off the Trump people about Clinton even to this day. We had this issue that pops out and immediately we go from zero to treason and impeachment in 2.7 seconds which is ridiculous.

And all the while, these Clinton people lecture us about, oh, if we had gotten this information here is how we would have handled it. We would have handled it ethically. When the Trump people know that Hillary Clinton was literally handing out hammers to people to destroy 13 phones and five iPads, who did they call when that happened? The answer is, they called no one.

And so, to translate, these people did things that were, they didn't call anybody and now they're lecturing Republicans about, oh, this is how you should have handled it? Spare us the lectures. That's the translation. That's why the obsession, as some people have called it, exists today because of the lectures they're getting on the ethics of information.

BEGALA: Surely, first off, Hillary was investigated four months about that and was clear.


JENNINGS: I agree, I agree.

BEGALA: You smeared, my friend.

JENNINGS: I agree, I agree.

BEGALA: Let me defend her. She was cleared by the FBI, Mr. Comey even said, no reasonable prosecutor, so that's been thoroughly investigated. This Trump stuff has not been thoroughly investigated yet. It will be now because of Director Mueller but it has not been investigated. And the charge is much, much worse. If true, they subverted the Democratic process of picking a president and tainted Mr. Trump's election.

[21:45:00] COOPER: But let me push back on that. I think it's based on something that Mary Katherine wrote, I think, in the federalist, if I read this correctly which is very well and I'm not a very good reader, so maybe I didn't. But that, you know, that the Clinton people made the argument, well, there was no legal wrongdoing. But that's not necessarily the same standard that the Trump people are being held to. I mean I think the Trump people can argue that maybe there's no legal wrongdoing but like, morally, you know, was it right for Hillary Clinton to have, you know, destroyed machinery or had people --

BEGALA: Right, my point is, that story was covered and she paid a political price for it. Six hundred days in a row we covered Hillary's emails which, by that way, was not a very important story to tell you the truth. It wasn't, it was overplayed, overhyped, over blown by the media rising to the bait from Donald Trump.

Now, the Trump/Russia story, at the time, a lot of people were saying, oh, that's conspiracy theory. Remember Robby Mook came on our air and said, I'm told by experts that the Russians hacked. People say, oh, he's a conspiracy buff. Turned out to be true. And so now it's the government. Now our country has been attacked and we are not responding. That's what I want to know.

COOPER: There is now an active FBI investigation into this. I mean this is not a manufactured this is not --

HAM: Right.

COOPER: -- those are real investigation.

HAM: I think the translation is correct. That is what some people angry about it. And they're angry about the fact it does seem like rules are not evenly applied. And I think that can be a valid argument and complain. It doesn't help coming from the president's Twitter account all the time. And you have the problem on both sides which is, yes, doing something that's not technically illegal does not mean that it's ethical and good for the potential leader or leader of the country. And you get that too much from both sides. It happens a lot. And we shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back for not technically illegal. Hillary or Trump.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break, more with the panel. We're going to continue the conversation. We'll dig into Jared Kushner's role in all of this. The one, Jared Kushner, the one person in that meeting who got a security clearance and now works in the west wing.


[21:50:41] COOPER: Before the break, we were talking about the focus during the campaign on Hillary Clinton where some are calling double standard when it comes to Trump administration, back now with panel. You actually take issue with the idea of --

POWERS: Yes. And I think I'm glad that Scott brought it up because I think you're right, this is something a lot of conservatives feel. I just don't think it's what accurately reflects what happened. So with Hillary Clinton, first of all, that story was broken by "The New York Times."

COOPER: The private server.

POWERS: The private server story was broken by "The New York Times." And the Clinton campaign still angry at "The New York Times" for how much they covered that issue. You don't see that happening Breitbart or Fox News or whatever. They're not breaking news necessarily, you know, trying to go after Donald Trump. So I think that that's different.

Secondly, liberals, Democrats, were extremely critical of Hillary Clinton. I was very critical of Hillary Clinton and people felt just even having the server was a mistake. Let alone the stuff that you were talking about. So she was held accountable and then she was investigated. So it's not sure she was held accountable in the media. It was -- the Clinton campaign, you get anyone on here, they will complain about how the media excessively covered her and the media did. So I don't think that's a fair comparison.

JENNINGS: I don't hear people today or conservatives complaining about a lack of coverage of Clinton. I think everybody acknowledges, she was covered, it was investigated, everybody acknowledges that. And by the way, most Republicans I know acknowledge this meeting that we're talking about is a PR disaster.

COOPER: But that is what the White House is saying and Gorka tonight is saying nobody is covering, you know, Ukraine story, nobody is covering --


COOPER: -- the Bill Clinton made speeches in Russia.

JENNINGS: Most Republicans I know understand. This meeting is a PR problem, not everybody believes laws were broken. It certainly isn't treasonous, that's ridiculous. But we are now enduring lectures from Democrats some connected to Clinton, some not about, oh, here's how we would've done it. Hindsight is 20/20. Of course, everybody gets it right a year later. But in the moment, in the moment, conservatives -- mistakes can be made and mistakes were made by people who are criticizing them today. That's how they feel.

BEGALA: Every patriotic American should subvert an election with a hostile foreign power. That is what Donald Trump Jr. agreed to do with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Manafort in the meeting.

We were and are under attack by a hostile foreign power and they seem to be abetting that hostile foreign power. We should be debating how many sanctions we should place on Russia or whether we should blow up the KGBO or GSU or GRU. I mean we should be retaliating massively. Because, by the way, if I was Trump supporter I would want to retaliate massively because --


BEGALA: -- it has tainted his victory. But right now the Senate has passed pretty good sanctions, I'd still want more. The Houses bottle them up, Senate pass them 98 to two, every set of Republican had two vote against -- almost everybody in both parties in the Senate was for this. But the House is bottling it up. The White House is opposing it. Why aren't we moving that direction to punish Putin for what he did?

POWERS: Scott, also I mean I think you're right where you're saying that people are feeling, you know, Democrats are being holier than thou about this. But the truth is, I know Paul is close to Hillary and he is defending her and you're probably not going to like what I'm about to say. I think most a lot of Democrats felt what Hillary did was actually not normal. It's not normal to set up a private server. It's not normal to do a lot of these things. I don't think that a lot of people were arguing, that like, oh, everybody does this, everybody sets a private sever that's not --


POWERS: -- yes and she was extremely criticized for it.

LOUIS: Sanders punished her throughout the campaign for that. I mean it wasn't, you know, even what he said was sick of hearing about your damn emails, it was really sort of disgust and dismissive saying that this is not what the Democratic Party should be about, you've tainted not only your own party but the Democratic Party in general. So I mean, but I think --

COOPER: He also said that knowing -- I was moderating that, he knew we were going to continue asking --


COOPER: -- so he actually got the benefit of saying, we don't care about your emails --


COOPER: -- because he knew we were going to continue that.

LOUIS: Exactly right. And then, you know, there is something else, though, that really has to be said which is that Donald Trump Jr., I think is the focus of a lot of the attention because he release the e- mail and he seems to have set up the meeting and he is the one who said he loved it and all this stuff. Some of the more cautious members of that same meeting and I'm talking about Jared Kushner's especially Paul Manafort who said, oh, I didn't read until the end of the email which is transparently probably not true.

These are people who know the laws very well. They know exactly what lines they're not supposed to cross. They have a lot of answers that we need to hear about what was going on and why it was going on and how far it all went. And so, to that extent, this can't just be dismissed as, well, everybody does this and this can't be dismissed as, well, it's just a naive kid --


[21:55:11] COOPER: Mary Katherine, that Donald Trump Jr. given that, he's now under, you know, this is now part of the investigation. More e-mail -- had of those e-mails, I assume, we're going to be looked at by investigators. He goes on television, does an interview last night in which he says contradictory things in which is, no, this happens all time the time, oh no, this never happened before.

HAM: Well, and one is that because he's given more free rank because he's a child of Trump's which is perhaps going probe a weakness for this White House. Two, because he's not technically part of the White House so they're letting him do the talking, because I think one thing that there's tons of coverage of Trump Jr. for good reason, but Jared Kushner was in on this and he has the security clearance and he's actually in the administration.

As media coverage of different figures, I do think you're on to something with the zero to 60 idea where many conservatives feel like, OK, under the Obama administration, there were, like people further is like the scandal for the Obama administration. They're worse handle than there was -- I think more responsible coverage of investigations with a lot of caution about, OK, well, let's wait and see where this takes us. And it seems under the Trump administration there is an anxiousness to get to that conclusion and for it to be a certain thing.

COOPER: We got to take a break. I want to thank everybody in the panel. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Sadly that's all the time we have. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon at "CNN Tonight." I'll see you tomorrow.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The president likes to call the Russia investigation fake news. Well, Mr. President, there's nothing fake about this. Exclusive video obtain by CNN --