Return to Transcripts main page


Warner: Senate Intel Asking Kushner, Trump Jr. For Documents; New Republican Health Care Bill Again On The Brink; Senate Judiciary Leaders Want Trump Jr. To Testify; Trump Defends Son's Meeting With Russian Lawyer. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 21:00   ET


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: -- ask to put both Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner for more records, records about past meetings that may have occurred between Russian officials and themselves over the past several years and months.

[21:00:16] Now, this of course comes in the wake of Donald Trump Jr. revealing that he had that meeting with the Russian lawyer, a meeting that was told to him was something to get dirt on the Clinton campaign. It's part of an effort to help a Russian government both Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were in attendance in that meeting.

Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee raising concerns that Jared Kushner left off what he said were three meetings with Russian officials on his appropriate forms. That's one reason why they asked for more records from him. Now this comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, the Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley told me earlier today that he wants Donald Trump Jr. to testify before his committee, something that could happen as soon as next week. Grass is sending a letter to Donald Trump Jr. today or tomorrow. They are writing the letter today they hope to send it out before the end of the week in order to see if he could testify as early as next week.

Now some developments tonight, Anderson, on the House side of the Capitol, the House Intelligence Committee had planned to interview Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser, on July 24th, but abruptly canceled his testimony and he's no longer going to testify. Stone's camp telling me tonight that they got no explanation why, the committee was not ready to move forward. That's going to be delayed until the -- or after August recess, according to Stone's attorney, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, also what kind of reaction has, you know, there been on Capitol Hill just today over Donald Trump Jr.'s explanation over why he took the meeting?

RAJU: A lot of Republicans are pushing back and say -- actually the president's explanation, when the president said at his press conference today that it's standard for Donald Trump Jr. to take such a practice because that's what you do in politics. Some Republicans are saying, well, that's really just not the case, including Arizona's Jeff Flake. Listen to this.


RAJU: The president today said that anybody in politics would take a meeting that his son took with a Russian lawyer. What's your reaction?

SEN. JEFF FLAKES, (R) ARIZONA: It doesn't include me. I would never.


RAJU: It doesn't include me. And that's what a lot of Republicans are saying and Democrats of course are saying that's not standard in politics, to take a meeting like this especially one backed by apparently the Russian government, Anderson.

COOPER: Manu Raju, thank you. Manu thanks.

Now to Paris where the president enjoyed a gourmet meal, no surprise and earlier he did his best to defend his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer offering Kremlin dirt on Hillary Clinton, more now from our Jeff Zeleny in Paris.

So, the president is out of the country. It certainly has not stopped him from leading to defend his son.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, it hasn't stopped him at all, Anderson. In fact, it is, you know, just to raise the questions because the president did something today that he doesn't do very often. He held at least a brief press conference taking about four questions or so and, of course, one of them was about his son. One of them was about that meeting on June 9th, 2016, that marks the first time that someone from his inner circle actually had a meeting with a Russian government operative. And this is what the president said today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as my son is concerned, my son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast. Two other people were in the room. They -- I guess one of them left almost immediately and the other one was not really focused on the meeting. I do think this. I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent.


ZELENY: It's not called opposition research, Anderson. As Manu was just saying the reaction from Capitol Hill, from the people who run campaigns, this is not standard practice at all. And in terms of the president saying he was not a Russian government lawyer, in fact, that is exactly what Donald Trump Jr. thought the meeting was. That has been spelled out in the e-mails that he released himself, that there was a meeting with a Russian government lawyer. That's why he accepted a meeting. The president also didn't say who these two people were. You may get this sense they were just some, you know, some mid-level aides or so. That's not the case. There's the campaign manager Paul Manafort in that meeting as well as his son-in- law Jared Kushner also in that meeting. The high command of the Trump campaign meeting in Trump Tower at the same day that candidate Trump was in the building as well last June, Anderson.

COOPER: Just in terms of the trip, I mean President Trump and President Macron of France certainly made a big point today of emphasizing the relationship between our two countries.

[21:05:04] ZELENY: No doubt about it. They were definitely trying to emphasize, you know, the sources of agreement, the alignment between the two countries. And the large share of their private meeting, their bilateral meeting was actually on counterterrorism and Syria. There are two areas in which these two countries agree and, of course France is a major ally of the U.S. Yes, they've had many disagreements, you know, particularly on climate change, on the -- some free trade agreements and immigration, certainly.

But there was a heavy emphasize today with both of these new leaders and this is the youngest president in modern French history and the oldest president in U.S. history, you know, standing side by side, really giving each other hugs and pats on the back, trying to make a new start, a new relationship known here. That continues tomorrow at the Bastille Day parade which also coincides with the 100th year anniversary of the U.S. entering into World War I. That's why President Trump is here in Paris, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. I want to go to Pamela Brown. A new reporting of a time gap on Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mail chain and what might have filled it. What are you learning Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there are lingering questions about whether a phone call ever took place between Don Jr. and Emin Agalarov before the meeting as the e-mails might suggest if you read them during this exchange. Agalarov's publicist Rob Goldstone says, "Hi Don, let me know when you' are free to talk with Emin about by phone about this Hillary information" Don Jr. responds, "Rob could we speak now?" Goldstone writes, "Let me track him down in Moscow, what number should he call?" Don Jr. replies, "He can call his cell." And then Goldstone says, "OK, he's on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 minutes, so I'm sure he can call." That was at 3:43 p.m. on June 6th. Nearly an hour later, Don Jr. replies, "Rob, thanks for the help." Raising the question what happen with that timeframe.

Now around 24 hours later, Goldstone send another e-mail saying, "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney, I believe you are aware of that meeting." Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I mean I spoke to Agalarov's lawyer the other day about this very thing. He denied that there was any phone call that ever took place. I mean at first he said he had no knowledge of it. Then he said it never happened. And it wasn't clear to me if I asked him if he had actually asked his clients about it. He wouldn't go into any level of detail.

BROWN: That's right. And I've actually talked to him as well and also the attorney for Don Jr., both of them say that their clients have no recollection of any phone call that took place before or after this meeting. Here's what the Agalarov's attorney had to say.


SCOTT BALBER, ATTORNEY FOR EMIN AND ARAS AGALAROV: I really can't speak to what Rob Goldstone was thinking or what he wrote or why, but I'll tell you again that that call didn't happen. I don't know if there was someone else who spoke to Donald Trump Jr. about this prospective meeting but it wasn't my client. And again, I don't know where Mr. Goldstone got his information from but it's categorically incorrect.


BROWN: And so again, Don Jr.'s attorney, Alan Futerfas, also told me tonight that his client has no recollection but he did add, quote, we are continuing to do our typical factual examination of everything. So that means that they're going through e-mails, phone logs just to make sure that his recollection is accurate, Anderson.

COOPER: Pam, thanks. It's easy to forget that the investigation or not, lawmakers are also considering legislation that affects 1/6 to the economy, millions of lives, I'm talking about the Senate Republican health care bill. The latest version of it for that, let's go back to Capitol Hill, talks to CNN's Ryan Nobles.

So the health care debate, obviously, rages on -- you're on with that. What is the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have a new bill in place, Anderson, and it's really not dramatically different than the bill that senators initially revealed but it does have some significant changes. And it is a 172-page bill so these are just the top lines, but let's go through some of them.

It includes an option for people to buy cheaper plans that also have fewer benefits. These catastrophic plans, as they are called. But also would allow Americans to use their health savings accounts to pay their premiums without a tax penalty. There's $45 billion set aside for a substance abuse in opioid treatment. There's one provision here that has a lot of moderates nervous and is that -- it maintains those deep cuts to Medicaid that the original bill had in place, but moderates are happy with the fact that they took out a plan to repeal the Obamacare investment tax, which will be a tax break for wealthy Americans. There are tax breaks in this bill but that was the most significant one.

So at this point, these senators are just digesting this bill to try to figure out if they can support it. Most senators today, Anderson, telling us that they are still undecided. COOPER: But there are two known nos at this point, Susan Collins

and Rand Paul, right?

NOBLES: That's right. And that leaves Mitch McConnell no room for error. He needs 50 votes in order to pass this bill. He's already lost two Republican senators. There aren't any Republican senators left to lose. So we're keeping a close eye on many of the senators who had problems with the original bill. Probably the most prominent is Dean Heller of Nevada. He says he's going to talk it over with stakeholders back in his home state, that includes his governor, Brian Sandoval and Sandoval said today that he has major concerns with this bill.

[21:10:25] So right now there aren't too many people optimistic about this bill's prospect and, of course, Anderson, we still have to wait on that school from the Congressional budget office which is expected on Monday.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan Nobles, thanks very much. Thanks to all our reporters as the lead stories in this 9:00 p.m. hour.

Coming up next, the interview, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee weighs in on what she wants to hear from Donald Trump Jr.


COOPER: Our breaking news tonight as Manu Raju reported, the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to ask for more documents from Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. in the wake of the news of their meeting with a Russian lawyer last year. The Senate Judiciary Committee also has concerns and wants to hear from Trump Jr. And a Senate Democrat Amy Klobuchar sits on that panel. I spoke to her earlier this evening.


COOPER: Senator, both the Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member of your committee have said they want Donald Trump Jr. to come testify. I wondering if you can say what questions you want answered by him? Or do you feel like at this point the full story is really known or what happened to that meeting?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINESOTA: Well, I don't think so. I think the first immediate question is what other contacts did he have with the Russians. As you note in the e-mail, it says that it's part of the work that was being done. So clearly we want to know what other work was being done by the Russians, what's his knowledge and then of course we want to hear from Manafort which both Chairman Grassley and Senator Feinstein are also requesting that he testify.

[21:15:20] And so there are so many questions relating to this. This is the only thing we know now is this e-mail in which, you know, here he is, you hear your dad is running for president, you get an e-mail about Russians looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton and instead of giving it to the lawyers or giving it to someone in charge, you actually say, I love it. Well, I actually hate it. I hate it because I think that this is a foreign entity that's trying to influence our Democracy. As Marco Rubio has said, this time it was one party and one presidential candidate and next time it will be the other party. So we have an obligation to get to the bottom of this and to allow the special counsel to do their job. But at the same time, Congress and especially the Senate should be holding hearings because those are in public so the public understands what's going on here.

COOPER: One of the other things that's really struck me in that e-mail exchange and, again, we don't know if that's the full e-mail exchange. But it wasn't just that they were pitching dirt. It was that the sentence where they say that the Russian government is backing Donald Trump or wants Donald Trump to win the election and there was no reaction from or apparently in those e-mails that we saw from Donald Trump Jr. of surprise. Because that seems to be a major headline for somebody in the midst of a campaign to discover and yet it seemed almost like a second reference or that this was sort of a known fact already.

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. And I think that kind of presumption makes anyone -- you don't have to be a lawyer or a prosecutor to think this, hey, wait a minute, if I got that e-mail, I'd say, whoa. And I would say that if I was the Trump administration. But instead, it seems like this is just a part of the general course of business and certainly opposite of what we've been being told throughout the campaign, that they had no relationship with the Russian government. And here you see a meeting with his son, his son-in-law and his campaign chairman directly with a high-powered lawyer who works directly with the Kremlin.

COOPER: In the e-mail chain again, we don't know if it's complete, Donald Trump Jr. ask, wants to have a phone call with the Russian oligarch's son who is a pop star in Russia who is apparently orchestrating setting -- or the conduit to set up this meeting through Goldstone and, you know, he sends his cell phone number, the guy responds, he's just be getting off stage, they'll talk in 20 minutes. But I talked to the attorney for the pop star and his father who denies that there ever was a phone call. But that's something certainly I imagine you would like very much to know the content of that phone call because if that was such an important thing, as a prerequisite for this meeting, to find out what was said in that phone call.

KLOBUCHAR: Right, I mean he clearly showed an eagerness with the discussion of the phone call. You also have the whole Miss Universe Pageant and the relationship to that and what he knows about that and what happened there. And just getting to the bottom of all of the business since he has, you know, been involved in the Trump business and those relationships with Russia.

So there are endless questions to ask. And I think it's really important that the special counsel do their job as they're looking into criminal aspects of this entire affair. But you can do that without hurting that investigation so long as you're not giving people immunity and you're not doing anything that would get in the way of that investigation.

COOPER: Would your committee have access to Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails, I mean not just the e-mail chain that was put out there but other e-mails?

KLOBUCHAR: Well that is something that I'm sure we are going to request and the Judiciary Committee has to assert some jurisdiction here. The FBI director was fired and we still haven't heard back from him. Senator and now Attorney General Sessions still hasn't come back before the Judiciary Committee, which is pretty outrageous. He went to the Intelligence Committee with a very singular focus. But he needs to come before the judiciary committee.

Let's face it, it's not just Russia. It's what's going on with immigration and the refugee order. It's what's happening with the voting rights and this commission that's been set up. We have a lot of questions to ask --


KLOBUCHAR: -- of Attorney General Sessions.

COOPER: The chairman of your committee today, Senator Grassley, would not say whether or not he'd subpoena Donald Trump Jr. if he refused to testify voluntarily. Do you think he should be subpoenaed?

[21:20:00] KLOBUCHAR: Well, certainly at some point he's going to be subpoenaed. And again, this is a matter of timing, it's a matter of working with the intelligence committee, but also with the special counsel and making sure that whatever do, doesn't interfere with their investigation but I am fairly certain that we should be able to have hearings and move forward in a substantive way with many topics.

COOPER: Do you have a sense just of when you would get an answer of when they might testify?

KLOBUCHAR: No. I do know we're going to have a hearing. We're starting our efforts here with the hearing and the foreign agent statute, the fact that Manafort, actually the former chairman of the Trump campaign registered after the fact, --

COOPER: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: -- which is not how the statute works. And so we're going to look into that because the Justice Department over which we have jurisdiction has jurisdiction over that statute.

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

KLOBUCHAR: It was great to be on. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, when we come back, I'm going to dig into all the ties of major headlines with our panel. First, what the president said about the meeting between his campaign and a Russian lawyer when asked about it today in Paris today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:25:01] COOPER: As President Trump and Macron's Paris press conference, the only question from the American journalist focus on the topic dominating the news today, the Trump campaign's meeting with a Russian lawyer offering Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton or that's how it professed to be. The reporter asked whether the president disagreed with his own FBI nominee, Christopher Wray, who said just yesterday that it would be wise to call the FBI after getting an offer for a meeting like this. This is what the president had to say.


TRUMP: I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I've had many people, I've only been in politics for two years. I've had many people call up, oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary. That's very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard where they have information and you take the information.


COOPER: With me now, Michael D'Antonio and Steve Israel, A.B. Stoddard, Scott Jennings, Charles Blow and Jeffrey Lord.

Congressman Israel, you actually did opposition research when you were running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is this just standard operating procedure that a Russian --


COOPER: -- somebody saying they were a Russian lawyer for the Russian government?

ISRAEL: It is not standard operating practice for Democrats or Republicans who have any sense of responsibility. I chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. My job was to beat Republican candidates for Congress. Their job was to beat my candidates.

We would actually have candidate sessions and tell people that if you're going to do opposition research, hire an opposition research firm. There are companies that do this. They are trained researchers. They use publicly sourced materials and they do reports. But if you have any concerns at all with respect to the provenance of some materials or the source, you turn it over to the authorities immediately. We would say this at our candidate training sessions, we would say it one on one, we would do it in conference calls and I know that my Republican counterparts did the same.

When President Trump says that this is standard operating practice, maybe for him and his son-in-law and his son, but not for most people that I know. Hardly anybody I know would have taken a meeting like that.

COOPER: Scott, do you agree with that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, to say standard operating practice for the Trumps indicates that they had an operating practice, this is their first campaign. And I'm not making excuses because it's unusual to get these kinds of e-mails and they should have turned it over to a campaign lawyer. That's absolutely true. But there is something to be said here for not having the experience that you have or I have.

COOPER: Paul Manafort was in this meeting.

JENNINGS: Well, I think you guys are describing a level of presidential campaign experience to Manafort that may not be real. I'm not -- again, I'm not making excuses for it and even Donald Trump Jr. has said, look, I wish I handled it differently and he's offered to answer questions about it. But we've got Democrats in Washington right now and earlier tonight one said, hey, people go to jail for these things. This is treason. We have impeachment. We've gone well over the line here, I think, in how we're describing this meeting, particularly when Trump Jr. is offering to answer questions about it.

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Were you pointing to me when you said treason and impeachment because I did say that.

JENNINGS: No. You said jail.

BLOW: I said people have gone to jail for doing things even if they didn't know if it was right or wrong. So -- but don't point this way and say that I said treason and impeachment.

JENNINGS: No, but Senator Warner, Senator Cain, they have raised these issues.

BLOW: Yes. OK, point wherever they are sitting because I'm sitting on this.

COOPER: Jeffrey, you know, the president, though, today in Paris in front -- you know, standing next to the French president, said point blank this was not a Russian government. This was a private lawyer.

Now, first of all, he doesn't know if this -- I mean, he probably could know because he has the entire Intelligence Community behind him but, you know, "The New York Times" seems to have indicated that she's connected to the Kremlin. She claimed she's a private attorney so as to the Kremlin. Intelligence officials I've talked to, former ones, all say, look, the Russians used third-party cutouts all the time for this sort of thing. It wouldn't be unusual to use allegedly private attorney. Why would the president of the United States state emphatically she was a private attorney when, in fact, she was presented as being a government attorney?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes. I mean I think he thinks that. I think that she's been -- COOPER: But that's factually he cannot say that.

LORD: But I just think any time you're in government or in high- level politics and you meet a Russian, be careful.

COOPER: Right. But why -- I mean does it not concern you that the president of United States -- not just here at home but on the international stage is just saying stuff which is just demonstrably not true?

LORD: You just said she presents herself as a private lawyer, right?

COOPER: Right. Well, if the president is taking her word for it and state the fact, that's a problem.

LORD: I'm just saying that's it's iffy (ph) here in terms of who is telling him what.

Look, I think Scott has hit this exactly right in terms of Donald Trump Jr. I mean, he's admitted that if he probably, you know, he had it to redo. But these are not people who -- I mean people like Scott and myself and Congressman Israel have come up through the political system and been involved in these things over and over and over and over again and it gives you a level of experience by the time you get to a presidential stage. This is not so with the Trump organization.

[21:30:07] I mean the candidate himself, the people around him --

COOPER: Charles, is that a justification?

BLOW: This makes me think, because they want you on one-hand brag that he has this amazing victory. You know, in other hands, we don't know anything or anything about politics. We won. We won. We won. My victories were amazing. These people turn out to me in amazing ways and we don't know anything.

If everything goes wrong, we don't know anything. We're naive. We're young. Well, he's not young, but most of us are young. We've just been in for two years. And anything that we do wrong, you have to ascribe to naivety. Lies, wrong, no we don't.

You should know that this is wrong. You should know that if someone contacts you and says, whether it is true or not, that the Russian government wants to help your dad, that there's a person coming to meet with you and they described her -- how did she described herself? I don't know. They described her as a Russian attorney. You should know. There should be a moral compass in you that says, "This is not something I should take." I don't know we have -- I may not know where to give it to and who to alert about it. But this is not something I should do.


BLOW: I should be able to beat her without this. COOPER: It's interesting you used the word moral though, because I mean again it doesn't sound like we're talking about something that is illegal or a law was broken.

BLOW: No. We don't know that.

COOPER: All though we don't know. Well, we don't know what was in these full e-mails. We haven't seen all of the evidence so. But, you know, many people have looked at it thus far, quibble about it, but say, look, there may be no illegality here. But morally, I mean is it right? Is it just sleazy?

LORD: Look, in reading the Podesta e-mails, there's a section in there where somebody from the Clinton campaign is coming to me and saying that the Chinese ambassador wants to meet with us, et cetera, et cetera. I don't know whether they did, that they went back and forth about doing this. I'm just saying to you that this kind of thing is much more common.

COOPER: The irony is we know more about the Podesta e-mails than we know about Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails, because we've only seen a screen-grab of what Donald Trump Jr. has --

LORD: What we know more about Donald Trump's emails than we know about Hillary Clinton's missing 33,000.

COOPER: I don't know. I'm not sure about that. I mean we certainly don't know more about Donald Trump's finances and business relationships than we do about the Clintons. But this, we can go back and forth.

Michael, I mean do you think it's strange? I mean you know Donald Trump well. Obviously you don't think it's strange that he's saying something which is not the case and he's saying it emphatically.

D'ANTONIO: Well, it's not at all unusual for him. But, you know, I'd like to step back a second. The most interesting thing that was said so far is, I want to help your dad. You mentioned that, Charles. This is the big problem, is that we had a campaign where someone could go to the candidate's dad and the dad was 30 seconds away upstairs. If you think for a moment that Donald Trump didn't know this was going on, there's a bridge I want to sell you.

COOPER: You believe Donald Trump Jr. told his father?

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely. Look, one of those two people did, you know. It was automatic in the Trump organization to go upstairs to the boss with everything.

COOPER: The other thing that doesn't seem to get as much focus in these e-mails, though I find it fascinating is, when the person, Goldstone, says the Russian government is support -- you know, is backing your father, it's no -- it doesn't sound like a first-time reference. It's almost like a second reference. It didn't sound like it's -- there's no reaction from Donald Trump Jr. as if -- I mean if I was getting that e-mail, I'd be like, "Wait a many, this is the first time I'm hearing about this and this is huge."

D'ANTONIO: And the thing that should have happened is the thing that Jeffrey said happened with Podesta and those e-mails is there would be a back-and-forth communication, you'd contact lawyers.

The Trump organization is crawling with lawyers. You know, there are plenty of people to consult about whether this is a good idea. And who takes a call from a former tabloid reporter who is a rock-and-roll promoter on a matter like this and then acts on it immediately?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I mean, you know, it would be one thing the way that Jeffrey is talking about whether or not Donald Trump Jr. was too naive to understand the concept of the use of cutouts and third-party emissaries, that seemed to be disconnected from the Puin government but turns out that they are.

But, unfortunately, in the e-mail, Goldstone is promising that this is part of the effort. She's not going to be an emissary on behalf of the Russian government that's trying to help your dad, to which as you point out, he doesn't express any surprise.

The legal team, now, the well-paid, well-staffed legal team brought in to help with these different investigations, representing different Trumps, Jared and even Mike Pence and everybody, the president is -- you know, is now -- other now, Don Jr., they were left out completely from the knowledge. It turns out that their knowledge of the e-mails goes back to June, several weeks ago, that Donald Trump knew about these e-mails, that they had sort of P.R. brainstorming sessions without their legal team, and then decided over the weekend to first say it was an adoption story and then let it drip out. And so, the legal team --

[21:35:12] COOPER: Which the president by the way repeated the adoption thing again today.

STODDARD: And that's why the legal team has been in hysterics. They can't actually change the facts but they're trying to help with the credibility of these people going forward as they're investigated and called in to testify and they are trying to mitigate the damage to their reputations and now nothing that they say about Russia is believable.

COOPER: Yes. We got more of this conversation when we come back. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Back now with the panel talking about the Donald Trump Jr. e- mail chain, the meeting with the Russian lawyer, who knew what about the e-mails when and could it be true that Donald Trump, then a candidate, did not know, was not told by Donald Trump Jr. about this meeting either before or after.

(INAUDIBLE) from Michael D'Antonio says he doesn't think so. He's on the panel along with all the others. Michael, why do you believe that Donald Trump as a candidate must have known?

[21:39:59] D'ANTONIO: Well, there are a number of reasons. One is that this is a very hands-on executive Donald Trump, the president. He had to know everything that was going on in those offices. It's a very small space, actually. We're talking about two floors that are connected by an interior stairwell. There's constant flow in and out of his office with people reporting to him and competing for his approval.

COOPER: Even among the kids?

D'ANTONIO: Even among the kids and that's sort of the more Shakespearean element of this is that, this is the son who was a bit wayward and who had wrangled with his father for many years.

COOPER: He didn't talk to his father for a while.


COOPER: In college, he was the wild child and there was nothing worse in Donald Trump Sr.'s eyes than to be a person with an alcohol or drug problem. Donald Trump Jr. was very engaged with the party scene at his university.

So I think he's been trying to make up for it ever since and so he's been tougher than everybody else. He's been -- during the campaign, he was a bulldog. And I think he did a service to the president on many occasions. But it made him vulnerable. If you were to dangle something in front of him, that is the key to your father's chances, it would be very hard for him to resist.

COOPER: It's interesting. It's one of the things that I talked to Steve Hall who spent, you know, decades in the CIA as a CIA Officer focusing on Russia issues. And one of the thing he said is that, it is standard operating procedure of Russian intelligence to -- whether through a cutout or directly, to try to probe, in this case, a campaign and sort of -- even if they're not offering up information in that meeting, to try to get a meeting and just learn about who the characters are and try to probe any potential source down the road of weakness or even learning how the infrastructure is set up.

D'ANTONIO: And this is a family. How vulnerable must the Trumps be? And again, you should have some empathy for them. This is a group of people, really brought into this world by Donald Trump who wanted to be president but none of them had the experience to deal with this. They weren't a political family. And so what experience could they bring to it other than their business experience. And in Trump world, the business and the family are the same thing. It's a very fraught situation.

COOPER: Do you guys believe that Donald Trump would have been told about whether anything came out of this meeting or just the fact that the Russian government was backing his campaign?

LORD: I mean I relate this, you may be surprised, to President Reagan, right? This is the kind of thing that nobody would every -- I was doing that for Charles's sake. This is the kind of thing that no one in the campaign would ever have brought to President Reagan. I mean you just wouldn't have gone there.

COOPER: Right. But Donald Trump's leadership style was supposedly hands-on executive, as Michael said, a pretty small operation.

LORD: Right. I mean I honestly don't know. But, you know, one of the things that I find fascinating here is we're discussing all of these relationships as if this Russian lawyer had some relationship with somebody who had a relationship I believe with this, what's it, Fusion GPS firm. I mean, that was connected to the Trump, right?

COOPER: Yes, that ended doing the --

LORD: Right, right. Why aren't we looking more at that? I mean I'm not saying don't look at this, but look at that and find out what the connections are here. Was this a partisan deal? I don't know. Was it a setup? I don't know. But I think if we're going to go down this road --

COOPER: Do you think it's possible that the person who was allegedly friends with Don Jr. through the Miss Universe Pageant from years before and these Russian oligarchs were actually trying to set up Don Jr.?

LORD: That thought has crossed my mind. I have no idea. But, yes, that thought has crossed my mind.

COOPER: But if they were trying to -- OK.

ISRAEL: I just want to make this point. Look, you can make the argument and give them the benefit of the doubt that they were inexperienced and there's a family dynamic and maybe Donald Trump knew and maybe he didn't know. But remember, let's step back and remember the timeline here.

This meeting occurs in June. Only a few weeks after that, it becomes public knowledge that the Russians are hacking and dumping. At that point at least, when the Trump campaign, the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC and others know that this is part of an act of espionage against the United States government, at that point at least, the Trump campaign should have alerted the FBI.

So there was an opportunity for them. At that point, they knew what was going on, they knew that they were being perhaps bated by somebody representing themselves as close to the Kremlin. At that point, they had the opportunity to say, you know what, something happened a couple of weeks ago, we need to disclose it. And they still didn't. And that needs to be look in.

COOPER: Do you think if then candidate Obama in 2008 had someone, you know, had his wife or -- I mean his kids were too young at that point, but somebody incredibly close to him on his campaign who had his ear multiple times on a daily basis, who took a meeting from somebody from Russia claiming that they were a Russian government attorney and then, candidate Trump says to Mitt Romney, "Russia isn't our greatest enemy. Russia is not the biggest threat." Are you telling me that Republicans would not --

[21:45:16] LORD: Sure. They had --

COOPER: -- pounce on that?

BLOW: If Obama had ever eaten caviar in the box, then he would not have been president. I mean, anything Russian he would have been disqualified. This idea - the staggering double-standard here being applied the leeway that he's being given is to me a shocking development that we are kind of closing our -- well, not everybody, but people are closing their eyes to what is clear and factual and true about what is happening. This is inappropriate.

Whether or not it's illegal, I don't know and that's what other people to figure out. It is incredibly inappropriate on every possible level and when you know that they know that it's inappropriate is that they never said anything about it. If it was not a big deal, they would have said something about it.

If it was not a big deal, Jared Kushner would have put it on his forms when he was getting his clearance. If it was not a big deal, Eric -- I mean, Don Jr. would not have come up months after that and said, "This is preposterous that you would even suggest that the Russians are engaged --"


COOPER: To his point, if he didn't believe it was inappropriate on Saturday when contacts with "The New York Times" would the first story he gave be -- this was a meeting about orphans, and then, oh, well, you know, adoptions, and then only once -- well, we have the e-mails, you know, that he learns from "The New York Times," does he then release them?

LORD: Right.

COOPER: I mean, the whole ...

LORD: I mean, he did the right thing in releasing. But, Anderson --

COOPER: Well, it took three days and multiple stories.

LORD: Well, yes, but we still haven't those 33,000 from Hillary. But wait, wait, wait.


COOPER: You can't --

LORD: Wait. The bottom line here -- Anderson, the bottom line here when we talk about collusion and all of this. I want somebody to come to me and say where in the lower precinct that this (INAUDIBLE) town shipping Cumberland County, Pennsylvania that voted for Donald Trump was affected by all of this. That any of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania that voted on Election Day and 56 --

COOPER: So you're not concerned about Russian interference in the U.S. election?

LORD: I don't think that it affected the election at all.

STODDARD: That is not what the intelligence committee has --

LORD: Come to my precinct and show me.

STODDARD: No, that's not there. They've never said that any of the ballots were hacked. What they've said was that the Russians successfully targeted 22 state systems. They hacked into three states voter registration databases and managed to steal voter information that they have the ability -- you can read into this. They have the ability now and next time.

They're perfecting their active measures so that they can reach the ballot box next time and that they used things like fake social media accounts across the Midwest that looked like Jack from Michigan, you know, and this is what's important to me, where they were able to move fake news around. That is known. Everyone can look that up.

It is not that they hacked votes, Jeffrey. They've maintained this all along that it is a meddling technique that they're perfecting and next time they want to take it further. Do you know how many states Hillary lost by, three. Mitt Romney only lost by four in 2012. The Russians can figure out what those states are.

COOPER: Also, the unknown in this is the release of all those e- mails, how did that influence things? I'm not saying ballot boxes were ever hacked. I don't think anyone is making that allegation. But the amount of time we spent covering, you know, e-mails, we spent every night for a long, long time doing it, did that, you know, influence things? We've got to take a break. We'll have more with the panel in just a moment.

This is -- one moment left, some people are scratching their heads, others said not a big deal. What the president said to the French first lady and more when we come back.


[21:52:46] COOPER: Back now with the panel talking about the Donald Trump Jr. e-mails and also whether any of this has had an effect on the election.

A.B., you were making the point before the break, and a lot during the break, that this is about the next election as much as it is about the last election.

STODDARD: Right. So, as the Russians, you know, take advantage of this internal domestic fight where everyone's fighting about whether or not we really had meddling in the election between the two parties and because Trump continues to deny it even though his Intelligence Community and all the Republicans on Capitol Hill insist that it's real and it's a real threat, and everyone from his Intelligence Community when asked in testimony on Capitol Hill, do you have any doubt that it's the Russians all said, it's the Russians.

What we're dealing with now is in reaction to his refusal to accept it, what Republicans are going to do and particularly after the Don Jr. e-mail turn of events this weekend, is they're going to double down on this policy about whether or not Donald Trump can try to water down the sanctions bill that passed the Senate 9072 and is now waiting in the House and the House wants to send it over to him without any of the waivers that the White House wants to use to weaken it.

This is in retaliation for the meddling. They do not want the two compounds that Obama evacuated in December where the Russians, you knows, get to stay here and spy on us to be given back to the Russians and the administration. Sebastian Gorka admitted today to Jake Tapper wants to give the compounds back to them.

So this is -- because the Trump administration doesn't take the meddling seriously and President Trump won't concede that it happened, Republicans in Congress are left to put this pressure on him with this policy to try to punish the Russians.

COOPER: Do you understand, Jeff, why even today -- or Scott, why even today the president was saying or on the plane, the president was saying, well, we wouldn't know if it was Russia. It could have been China. You know, in the past he's --


LORD: I think he believes that.

COOPER: Right. But why would he believe that when his entire Intelligence Community, his, not President Obama's --

LORD: I do think he has some skepticism. I think he likes the Intelligence Community. But as he, himself, said just the other week, you know, he cited Iraq and --

COOPER: But for a guy who's tough on pretty much every other country, it does seem like Russia has a special place.

LORD: Well, one of the things that I think -- to pick up from A.B., then what you're saying here, A.B. is that the voter fraud commission that all the secretaries of state around the country should cooperated so that we can find out what's going on with those system and then do the cyber security to protect them.


[21:55:11] COOPER: Well, no, but that voter fraud is not about cyber security.


LORD: Meddling in an election is voter fraud, is it not?



COOPER: That commission was set up. That commission was set up by Donald Trump after -- because Donald Trump claimed that 3 million to 4 million illegal immigrants voted -- and that's what made Hillary Clinton --

LORD: But if Russians are manipulating the vote, is that not illegal?

COOPER: No one is saying that Russians manipulated the ballot boxes.

LORD: What everybody is saying is if all of this --

COOPER: But that's not what the commission is set to up to do. That's not what --

LORD: But then, let's expand it, Anderson. Let's --

COOPER: Well, I don't have control over that. I mean, that's what they are saying that --

BLOW: Look, it's not just about the next election, which I think is really important. But, it is also about faith in a Democratic system. Democracies are built on faith. That's the only thing that -- that's the only way they operate. You have to believe that you are, you know, that you are part of the system, that the system is fair and that it works for you.

LORD: And there's no vote stealing in Chicago.

BLOW: Right. And there's no people intentionally trying to pass laws --

COOPER: All right.

BLOW: -- to make sure that black people can't vote. Like that.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. I got to take a quick break. I'll have more. We'll be right back.


[22:00:05] COOPER: Quick programming note, tomorrow night at 9:00, a CNN Special Report, "The First Son, The Life of Donald Trump Jr." time now to hand things over to Don Lemon in "CNN TONIGHT."