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At Least 8 People Were At Trump Jr. Meeting; Trump Lawyer: President Was Not Aware of the Meeting. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 14, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with new developments, new information about the meeting Donald Trump Jr. held in Trump Tower with the Russian attorney he'd been told was a Russian government attorney with dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The Trump administration has not responded to the latest revelation, but we'll talk to one of Donald Trump's attorneys in just a moment. Trump legal team member Jay Sekulow joins us with reaction, we hope to this.

Today, we learned it was not just that Russian attorney that Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were meeting with. There were as many as eight people in that room. Now, this is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is yet again, the story that Donald Trump Jr. has publicly told continues to change. For days, the president has been praising his son's transparency.

Let's remember, on Tuesday night, after releasing several e-mails shortly after he had been told "The New York Times" was going to publish the contents, Donald Trump Jr. said he had come clean about everything in that meeting.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So, as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?

DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is everything. This is everything.


COOPER: Well, today we learned it was not. Let's just start back in March when "The New York Times" asked Donald Trump Jr. if he had ever had any campaign-related meetings with Russians. He said no.

Then, on Saturday, the "New York Times" reported a previously undisclosed meeting last year at Trump Tower between the president's son, son-in-law, campaign chairman, and a Russian attorney. "The Times" lead that day, quote, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin.

So, how did Donald Trump describe that meeting and the reason for to it "The Times" on Saturday?

Well, from the same article, he said we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children, nothing about thinking about who was meeting with a Russian attorney, nothing about dirt on Clinton, nothing about ending sanctions against Russian human rights abusers.

OK. Then on Sunday, we learned this meeting was indeed campaign related and Clinton related. By Tuesday, with "The Times" gearing up to publish the e-mails pertaining to it and asking Donald Trump Jr. to comment, Donald Trump Jr. Tweeted them out. He said he was doing it in the name of transparency.

But he still apparently wasn't coming fully clean. Plus -- and this is really something -- at the same time, he was being less than transparent, he was blaming others for the very things he had either been concealing or was still concealing.


TRUMP JR.: They're trying to drag out the story, Sean, in all fairness. They want to drip a little bit today, drip a little then. So, it's like, here it is. I'm more than happy to be transparent about it and I'm more than happy to cooperate with everyone.


COOPER: Well, the drip, drip of this story has nothing to do with reporters dragging it out. It has to do with how Donald Trump Jr. himself has needlessly and curiously dragged it out. For days, everyone from the president's other White House officials and Trump surrogates latched on to that word transparency and praised Donald Trump Jr. for showing it.


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT: Donald Trump Jr. put out the e- mails yesterday. He was transparent about putting them all out, all the entire chain.

SEBASTIAN GORKA, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: We are incredibly impressed by Don Jr.'s transparency.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The reason Don Jr. released his e-mails because he is completely transparent.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: How refreshing to have somebody take responsibility, be transparent.

SEKULOW: Donald Trump Jr. put it all out today.

GORKA: Donald Trump Jr. is transparent.


COOPER: So, listening to that, you're left with the impression that Donald Trump Jr. has been the very essence of transparency when he disclosed those e-mails that he had put it all out there, let it all hang out. Here he is again Tuesday night on FOX.


HANNITY: Did you ever meet with any other person from Russia that you know?

TRUMP JR.: I don't even know. I've probably met with other people from Russia. Certainly not in the context of actual formalized meeting or anything like that. Because why would I?


COOPER: Well, today, we learned that the June 2016 meeting that all this transparency is about was attended by at least eight people including, yes, another Russian, a Russian-American who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence, an allegation we should point out that he denies. We're going to have much more on him in a moment.

More as well on what this drumbeat of shoes dropping is doing to the administration's credibility, especially among Republicans. Here is Congressman Trey Gowdy on Tuesday.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Someone close to the president needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room and say from the time you saw Dr. Zhivago until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those, and we're going to turn them over to the special counsel, because this drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility of this administration.


COOPER: Well, Congressman Gowdy was speaking of course as a Republican, as a Trump supporter. He was also speaking as a representative of the American people and a citizen.

And with all the new information, we've learned the truth is tonight, there is still a lot we don't know about this meeting. We'll try to get more answers in the hours ahead.

In a moment, as I said, a member of the president's legal team joins us. We firmly believe in providing both sides, all sides of a controversial story. But, first, let's dig deeper into very developments.

Jim Sciutto joins us with that.

So, you've been digging into the details on this June 2016 meeting. What have you learned?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. Well, first, let's look at everybody who was in that room, eight people. [20:05:03] We were showing their names and face there before.

So, on the Trump side, you have the president's son, you have his son- in-law, Jared Kushner, you have Paul Manafort who at the time was his campaign manager.

On the Russian side, the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, the publicist Rob Goldstone, a translator, and now we know a representative of the Agalarov family.

Why is that important? You have a number of people there, Goldstone who set up the meeting promised you this information, saying that's what the Russian side was going to bring. And you have someone connecting back to the Agalarov family that we now know had a relationship of many years, including a business relationship with the Trump family.

So, what this does is it yet again contradicts the way Trump world has described this meeting. First of all that.

First of all, they didn't disclose it. When they did disclose it, they said it was inconsequential. In fact, we learned that on both sides, very consequential people from the Trump side and very consequential people from the Russian side of this. A lobbyist there well-known in Washington pushing for a major change to U.S. policy that punishes Russian leaders, a lawyer there lobbying for that same change, promising damaging information that will help the Trump campaign, and information that's part -- Rob Goldstone who, of course, set up the meeting, also present, said was part of a Russian effort to help Donald Trump.

So, again, not an inconsequential meeting. Not inconsequential people, in fact very much the opposite. So, all the details we're learning very much fighting the initial explanations for what this meeting meant and what this meeting was for.

COOPER: This Russian lobbyist, Russian-American lobbyist, he has given some interviews today. Has he offered any other details of the meeting?

SCIUTTO: Not details, but a characterization. He said that the meeting was not as substantive as he expected. He said it ended quicker than he expected. He did not think that it was going to be that big a deal.

It's interesting in that sense, he and the Trump team are on message there saying listen, it was nothing. It went more quickly. We were disappointed. They were disappointed.

But the fact is when you get all those people in the room, such senior people from the Trump side, people with apparently something to offer from the Russian side, but also looking for something in terms of a major change to U.S. policy, those facts tend to fight those descriptions. And that's where it not just journalists are looking into, but I spoke to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers today who said that the circumstances of this meeting require much more investigation.

COOPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, appreciate that.

Plenty to talk about with our next guest, Jay Sekulow, who's a member of the president's legal team. We're very happy to have him on tonight.

Thanks so much for being with us, Jay. Always good to have you.

There's been a number of --

SEKULOW: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: There's been a number of statements made about Donald Trump Jr., by the president, by others about the meeting. I just want to get as much clarity as possible tonight and also let you express how you see this meeting. The -- first of all, the president has repeatedly praised Donald Trump Jr.'s transparency. You said just the other day in an interview that Donald Trump Jr. put it all out there.

Given what we learned today, do you still say that he put it all out there?

SEKULOW: Well, yes, because the there was the e-mails that resulted in this meeting. And he put the entire chain of those e-mails out.

And, Anderson, I go back to something we've talked about before. And you look at the situation, and as the lawyer here, you look at the situation I'm saying, I understand that it's getting a lot of attention, obviously. But the question is what law has been violated heard or might be violated here?

And you've had a number of experts on CNN. I was on the other night with Jake Tapper who did that special and Jonathan Turley was on. I think even Jeff Toobin was on. And everybody agreed that there's not a legal violation with the meeting.

So, I go back to what I said initially. They left -- Donald Trump Jr. puts out the e-mail, the whole chain of e-mail events. And then the question still is the meeting takes place, no exchange of information, the Russian-American that you talked about, the lobbyist say that. Natalia in an interview she gave in Moscow said it. Donald Trump Jr. has said it.

So, the people that were there said it, that nothing transpired. So at the end of the day you always look what the statute. Sorry, don't mean to interrupt there. Go ahead.

COOPER: No, no, I get the legal argument, and you're a lawyer and I'm not. We've had, as you said, had a lot of legal people on. I mean, some had said maybe a stretch. But some lawyer could make it a legal argument. But most, as you're right, have said they don't think there is anything there. Based on what we know currently, who knows what we may learn down the road.

There is also just the ethical and kind of moral argument. Is it right to have had this meeting?

But back to the idea that Donald Trump Jr. has been transparent, you're saying when he said he put it all out there, you were talk about the emails. But when you say -- you know, the president says he has been completely transparent. Everyone is praising his transparency, why do we suddenly learn, oh, wait, actually, there were eight people in this meeting. It wasn't just this Russian lawyer.

SEKULOW: Well, one of the people at the meeting supposedly was the translator.

[20:10:01] COOPER: Right.

SEKULOW: Because evidently Natalia didn't speak English.

So, I think we're making a lot about something that it generally is not very significant.

COOPER: Right, but --

SEKULOW: Whether it was eight people or there -- no, go ahead, Anderson.

COOPER: But, I mean, you -- as an attorney, you had a client who was going to get on the witness stand, you would want to know all the information from your client before they make a statement.


COOPER: Even just from a public relations standpoint, if you want to get ahead of something, just put it all out there. Holding back, oh, actually this was a meeting of eight people, and there's this other Russian-American lobbyist who has -- you know, is fighting for the end of sanctions against human rights abusers. That would be kind of something you could toss in there as well.

SEKULOW: Well, but, look, the issue was the meeting itself. There was not a lot of concern, a lot of discussion about what other people may or may not have been there. We know, for instance, that Jared Kushner was in for a few minutes and left. And that's been confirmed by a number of the people that have been on your broadcast, and Jim's report just a few minutes ago.

So, people came in and out. It was short, much shorter than anybody anticipated. And the substance of that meeting resulted in nothing. So, again, who the individual was -- you know, I've asked this question.


COOPER: The whole it went nowhere, we only know that from Donald Trump Jr. and this Russian attorney. So, we have to rely on their credibility.

SEKULOW: Well, and from the person that Jim Acosta spoke to, the guy that was Russian-American -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- who is also linked to the Russian attorney. Yes.

You're an attorney for president. I mean, obviously, you're not Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney, and I hate to put you in that spot. You're the president's attorney.

Have you reviewed what e-mails Rhona Graff, then candidate Trump's personal assistant, may have received for Trump, from her son, or from Goldstone or the father and son Russians who knew him from the Miss Universe pageant? Do you me for a fact that there aren't more e-mails related to this meeting from him, from others in the campaign or from Manafort or Kushner?

SEKULOW: Yes. Well, you started with the right supposition, and that is -- I'm -- I represent the president. I'm one of the lawyers representing the president. So, I don't represent the Trump Organization. I don't represent the others.

But let me just say a couple of things on that. The president has stated very clearly that he was not aware of the meeting and did not attend the meeting. And that has been undisputed. No one disputed that. So, he was not aware of it, did not attend it.

With regard to the e-mail chain itself, I became aware of the e-mail chain about the time probably you did and what -- and actually saw the e-mails.

COOPER: So, you haven't reviewed other e-mails?

SEKULOW: No, I have not reviewed the e-mails. That is I have not reviewed any other documents until this issue came out. I saw the document probably when you did.

Here is the thing that is important. Remember this. The president was not aware of the meeting and didn't participate in the meeting. So, that is fundamentally what the issue is that I'm concerned with as one of the president's lawyers here.

COOPER: Although, actually, what you're saying is the president wasn't aware of the meeting. That's one thing. I guess my question is was the president made aware that other people were present in the room for the meeting prior to today? Did he know a man with what Senator Grassley describes as, you know, who has apparently ties to Russian intelligence in Senator Grassley's words was in this meeting prior to today? Did he just learn that?

SEKULOW: My knowledge is that the president as he said publicly recently became aware of the meeting. Let's not conflate --


COOPER: But did he know this other guy was in the room?

SEKULOW: No. The president wasn't there. He didn't participate. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But did he know prior to today?

SEKULOW: No, the president -- remember what Donald Trump Jr. said. He had not even mentioned this meeting to his father. And why would he? Nothing transpired at that meeting. So there is nothing to discuss. You got to remember something.

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.

SEKULOW: Hold on one second. This is in the middle of a campaign. You know how many meetings they were having a day? Every 15 or 20 minutes.

So, the president could -- for all I know, I haven't checked the schedule, the president was involved in campaign activity or he's out campaigning. So, trying to put this as the president's knowledge of it, the fact goes back to what I said in the beginning. The president was not aware, did not participate.


SEKULOW: He learned recently of the e-mails. He learned recently of the meetings. That was it. And there was no discussing with the president --


COOPER: Just so I'm clear, though, you're not sure or can't say whether or not the president prior to today knew that there were eight people in the meeting, one of them was this other Russian who Senator Grassley had made these comments about? You're not sure?

SEKULOW: Well, I can tell -- well, no, here is what I can tell you. Let me tell you what I'm sure of. The president was not aware of the meeting, did not know who the participants were, did not attend the meeting, and only recently became aware of that meeting when -- and his son said that. What transpired in the last 24 hours, I don't know. But I mean, and who would? But the fact is --

COOPER: Let me ask you about that.


COOPER: You've been very clear that the president you've been very clear that the president wasn't aware of the meeting.

Was the president at any point or the candidate at that point -- see, when I read those e-mails from Donald Trump Jr. and the exchange, to me one of the things that stands out is he is being told apparently for the first time, but he doesn't sound like he is all that surprised by it that the Russian government is backing his father.

[20:15:05] Now, I know you say nothing came out of the meeting. Donald Trump Jr. says that. So does the Russian attorney. But in that e-mail, that's pretty big information that the Russian

government is backing your father. Are you -- can you say with 100 percent certainty that the candidate Donald Trump either prior to the meeting taking place after this e-mail was received or after the meeting took place was never informed by Donald Trump Jr. or Paul Manafort or Kushner or somebody in that room that oh, you know what? The Russian government may be backing your campaign? Because that seems like a pretty big headline for a son not to tell his father.

SEKULOW: Donald Trump Jr. Stated publicly that he did not notify his father of the meeting and had not discussed the meeting with his father.

COOPER: But that's only -- we only know that from Donald Trump Jr.

SEKULOW: I'm going based on -- look. I understand the question you're asking. But let me give you the answer. Because I got to be really clear here, Anderson. The president was not aware of and did not participate of it. Only became aware of the meeting as -- when we all did.

So I think we're trying -- the meeting was not an issue until what? E-mails were released. And the e-mails were released by Donald Trump Jr. He stated he did not discuss wit his father. And I take him at his word for that because no one else has said that his father was aware of it.

COOPER: Right.

SEKULOW: The president of the United States. And the president said he was not.


COOPER: But not being aware of the meeting is different than not being told the Russian government is backing your campaign or that allegation has been made.

SEKULOW: He said he never had a discussion. The president said he has never had a discussion with his son about that. His son did not -- the son did not discuss the issue -- Donald Trump Jr. didn't discuss with the president --

COOPER: Right.

SEKULOW: -- when he was a nominee for president --


COOPER: It's just that a couple of -- you know, in March, his son said he never met any Russian as a representative of the campaign. And we now know that's not true. And based on what he said on Saturday, the credibility of his son is in question for some people.

(CROSSTALK) SEKULOW: OK. Look, I don't think that's fair. They had hundreds of meetings going on a weekly basis, OK? So, let's be realistic there. Hundreds of meetings going on. This was one meeting that had no results of any kind, zero.

COOPER: Well, we don't know that for a fact. We just know that based on Donald Trump and the Russian lawyer.

SEKULOW: Everybody that -- you know, the people that you put on the air have said that nothing has developed.

COOPER: We haven't put Donald Trump Jr. or the Russian lawyer. We did play an interview that the Russian attorney gave. But, of course, if she is linked to the Kremlin, she is going to deny it.

SEKULOW: Jim Acosta said they spoke to the -- I guess, they spoke to the Russian-American.

COOPER: Yes, right. The other guy.

SEKULOW: And he said nothing happened. Let me go back to the legal issue for just a moment because that's what -- I'm the lawyer. Here's the legal issue. What law was violated by that meeting? And your experts have said it too. Nothing.

And at the end of the day, that's what this is about.

COOPER: We've got to take a break. If you could just stick around, just got a couple more questions. I'd love to continue the conversation.


COOPER: We'll be right back.


[20:20:55] COOPER: We are at the end of the day and a week that saw our picture of the meeting between the president's son, son-in-law, campaign chairman, Russian lawyer expand to include a Russian-American lobbyist who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence, purportedly according to Senator Grassley.

Back now with one of the president's attorneys, Jay Sekulow.

Do you know, Jay, for a fact if there was or wasn't a phone conversation between Donald Trump Jr. and this Russian pop star prior to the meeting? Because from the e-mails it sure seems like there was, and it sure seems like that was important to Donald Trump Jr. Again, I know you're not his attorney. But --

SEKULOW: Yes, I have no knowledge.

COOPER: OK, because --

SEKULOW: No knowledge of that at all. COOPER: OK. To you, is that an important fact? Because the attorney

for the pop star and his dad told me that there was no phone call. But it certainly seems like from the e-mail that there was a phone call.

SEKULOW: Well, I don't think it would be legally significant. I mean, if you asked me the legal significance of a phone call or not a phone call, it wouldn't be legally significant. But, again, I don't represent Donald Trump Jr.

COOPER: Fair enough.

SEKULOW: I'm one of the lawyers for the president. So I would be really commenting on something I shouldn't be commenting on.


Both President Trump and you have said that the Russian attorney that Donald J. Trump -- that Donald Trump Jr. met with is not a Russian government attorney. I'm wondering how do you know that? How can you say that given that it was said in the e-mails that she was, there has been reporting by "The Times," and it even seems like the story that she is telling now is evolving?

SEKULOW: Well, there is a -- you raise actually an interesting issue. I'm trying to figure out if she was a Russian government prosecutor, how in the world did the Secret Service allow her into a meeting at that point that took place with campaign officials if she was actually a government operative? Why would the Secret Service have allowed that? How did she overstay her visa? That's another question.

COOPER: I can tell you that Jason Miller from the campaign --


COOPER: -- and others from the campaign that we had on the other night were making the argument that at that point it was sort of a busy, chaotic environment in Trump Tower, and people could get in. I found that hard to believe.

SEKULOW: It shouldn't be chaotic. Yeah, I find that -- the Secret Service, it shouldn't be chaotic. But there was meetings. A meeting took place, right? So, there was a series of -- they were in meetings all day, and for weeks during the campaign.

So, to isolate this and -- but I've raised the question how did Natalia, who got her under the -- you know, the interesting aspect of this is Natalia, how she got into the United States in the first place. She was initially denied a visa upon entry and got what's called a parole visa. And that is a visa because she was allegedly working on this particular case.

But it ended up that the entire event -- and she then took her activities from New York to Washington, D.C., and it was all in the Magnitsky Act. So, the reality is the entire setup to this was a false narrative.

Now, the Russian government ha said she was not a government attorney.

COOPER: Right.

SEKULOW: She said she was not a government attorney.

You know, I read the e-mail. I don't know if the individual that wrote the e-mail knew the difference between a Russian lawyer and a Russian government lawyer.

COOPER: But you really want to be going on the word --

SEKULOW: But at the end of the day --

COOPER: Do you really want to go on the word of the Russian government and this attorney? I mean --

SEKULOW: No, I don't want to go on the word. You know what word I want to go on? Here is what word I want to go on. What statute is being violated here? Because at the end of the day, I keep saying this, this is interesting, and I understand why you're covering it. But the fact is no legal violation for the meeting. The meeting itself is not a violation of the law.

COOPER: It's an important point. And you're a lawyer and that's what you've got to look at.

I mean, the whole notion that -- I agree, the notion that she could get into Trump Tower without giving her name in advance seems ludicrous to me. But that also undercuts what Donald Trump Jr. has said that he had no idea the identity of this person or the identity of anybody he was meeting with --


SEKULOW: I'm not blaming it on Donald Trump Jr., though. If this was -- if this was some -- you know, look, I mean, I think this whole thing, when you look at it, as a lawyer I look at the totality of the circumstances and the facts. This was a setup to do what? To really get in on the Magnitsky Act. That's what this was about.

She went right down to Washington, D.C., did the same thing in Washington. And the end result of that was nothing. So I think the whole thing was put-up to begin with.

COOPER: But, you know, every former intelligence officer I spoken with, former CIA officers who worked on Russia for decades say that the M.O. of intelligence services, many intelligence services, but particularly the Russians is to use cutouts, people not directly employed by the FSB, to make an early approach to gather information.

[20:25:07] You can't say for sure that wasn't what was happening here. I mean, nobody at this point can say for sure, correct?

SEKULOW: Well, all we know, all we know, all we know is the facts that we know. And the facts that we know are she came in to discuss what? The Magnitsky Act. So, basis upon what she was going to have opposition research, which in campaigns, opposition research is discussed all the time, that issue comes -- never comes into play. It was all about Magnitsky. Wait a minute.

COOPER: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: That's why people left the meeting in minutes. And everybody that was at the meeting that you have talked to said the same thing. It was very short, nonproductive, not what it was supposed to be about, and ended up being zero.

COOPER: But every intelligence official I talked to say you know what? That's how these initial contacts go. That somebody comes in, maybe they don't even know that they're being used by the Russian government, dangling some information, and there is a quid pro quo of we want movement, we want these sanctions ended. I've got some information. We're not going to hand over all the information right at the top. They're going to kind the susceptibility and the willingness of the other part to engage on this.

But again, it's an unknown --

SEKULOW: Makes for a fascinating novel and maybe a fascinating movie one day. But none of it violates the law.

COOPER: When did you and the other lawyers on the president's legal team, if you can say find out about the meeting? Because according to Michael Isikoff at Yahoo, your colleagues Marc Kasowitz and Alan Garten garden found out about it more than three weeks ago. Can you say when you were made aware?

SEKULOW: Well, I'm not going to -- look, I'm not going to give -- I can't give you conversations that we had as lawyers with each other regarding information because that's protected by attorney-client privilege.

But I can tell you this. The president was not aware of it as he said until very recently, that was right before it happened which was I guess last week. You tend to lose track of time these days, but just last week. And that's when the president was aware of it as the issue came out.

So, what conversations counsel has had amongst themselves and other co-counsel, that's not something I can discuss with you. You understand that. We're lawyers. We have to respect the attorney- client privilege. I appreciate you're respecting that.

COOPER: Jay Sekulow, I always enjoy talking to you. Thanks.

SEKULOW: Thanks, Anderson. Thank you. You, too.

COOPER: Lots to discuss with our panel tonight. Joining us, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, former Republican presidential candidate and senator, Rick Santorum, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, former CIA officer Bob Baer, and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker.

Jeff, what is your reaction to what Jay said?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's interesting is how the subject matter has changed. You know, for months, the president and everyone involved in the campaign was saying this whole subject is ridiculous. There were no contacts between our campaign and the Russians. It's just -- the whole thing is fake news, didn't happen.

Now, of course, we know this meeting took place.

COOPER: Now, it's no illegality.

TOOBIN: Exactly. Now, Jay is saying, quite properly as an attorney, saying there is no illegality. He may be right. He may be wrong. But they are moving the defense lines back.

We'll see if there is no illegality. It is true that it is not 100 percent clear that there is any illegality at this point. But the facts are going to determine whether there is any illegality.

COOPER: Senator, it's also tough -- obviously, Jay has a tough job in many ways. But when you have a client whether it's as an attorney or a public relations person who has not told you or has not revealed the full story right away, it is this drip, drip. And it has become a week-long story. I don't think it would have been necessarily if it hadn't been little pieces of information coming out.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Yes, that's like not the first time that's happened in a political scandal where you have information disclosed and everybody sort of clams up. And you think, well, I can hold on to this information. They're never going to find out.

COOPER: It's human nature.

SANTORUM: It's just human nature. I mean, you see it from your kids. You see it all the time.

And, unfortunately, if you're not schooled in politics and don't recognize that they will find out everything that you've done, you're going to make these mistakes. And they have.

You know, I understand what you're saying about the significance of this meeting, but if this is it, there isn't a whole lot here. The question is, is there more? That's where I believe Trey Gowdy is right.

If there is any more, get it out there. Get it out there now, because the next meeting if there is one or was one is going to be a huge story and you're -- and now, you're going to start connecting dots.

So, I just think it's very, very important that this administration realize that they've got some damage done here, and if there is anything else to be disclosed, it's the time. COOPER: I mean, Molly, if there was a phone conversation between

Donald Trump Jr. and this Russian pop star, and the Russian pop star, which is Donald Trump Jr. Is saying there had to be in order to have this meeting because he wanted to know what it was about, and that was intercepted somewhere and that comes out, the family for this pop star, the lawyer for this pop star has denied there was any phone conversation. So, that's one shoe that could drop.

MOLLY BALL, POLITICAL WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: There's all kinds of shoes --

COOPER: There could be more emails.

BALL: -- that could drop. There is potential e-mails and/or contact before this particular exchange that we know about, e-mails and/or contact following up afterwards. There's a lot of questions about these dozens of contacts that Jared Kushner has now allegedly disclosed. We don't -- we haven't seen that full list of contacts that led to this whole story coming out.

And I think, you know, to Jeff's point about the moving of the goalpost, every time they have made this argument that, you know, this is all there is and this didn't happen, it has been an attempt to cut off further investigation. To say there's nothing to see here so stop looking. And every time there has been more as we have kept looking, and that means we have to keep looking until we get to the bottom of it.

COOPER: Bob Baer, just from an intelligence standpoint, you were a CIA officer for a long time, it is totally beyond the pale of thought that the Russian government would use an attorney from Moscow who has had connections who now says in an interview today that she had in fact met with the top prosecutor in Russia to discuss things and actually now it's been revealed actually he did do work for this Russian oligarch, even though the Russian oligarch's attorney told me several days ago that she was just an acquaintance of the son and had never worked for them. Is that kind of standard operating procedure for Russian intelligence?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it is, Anderson. The way I look at it is this is what's called the soft pitch. They got some dirt on Hillary. It was the hacking that had been done the year before. They wanted to know if the Trump team would cooperate with them. They use their contacts and they went in. And not bringing any information would be pretty typical at the first meeting. They just want to see the reaction, to see if the Trump team would pick it up, Donald Jr. And once they say this is a great idea, the question is was this contact passed to somebody else like Roger Stone, Carter Page, any of these other people that met with the Russians. But this is a classic KGB recruitment, you know. Keep it plausible deniability, soft pitch, and see what happens. And if it's accepted, then hit it some place else and establish that. But what really disturbs me --

COOPER: By the way Bob, part of that to see whether -- and again, I'm not saying that's what happened in this. But in the soft pitch, is part of it to see whether the target then reports it? And if they don't report it, then that is telling them something?

BAER: Exactly. If they don't report it either to Donald Trump or to the FBI, you know you got a willing subject here. Like if a Russian approached me while I was in the CIA, the standard answer is I'm going to report this to my bosses. It's going the FBI. You walk away. They clearly didn't. They were very receptive to working with the Russians.

And for the Russians, that was a green light to keep going at this. And the question is we don't know what contacts occurred afterwards. But again, to go back to Jared, the fact that later on in December he proposes setting up channel through Russian communications to the Russians because he doesn't trust the NSA, the National Security Agency. I find that particularly disturbing.

COOPER: So Matt, just as your legal experience, when -- if you had a client who says one thing on a Saturday. Doesn't give the full story of what the meeting was, and then sort of gradually the story changes, is that transparency to you?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's really concerning as a lawyer because as you see Jay trying to explain the facts as he currently knows them, I think he is a little worry on shifting sand. I mean, I respect Jay a lot. I think he is doing a great job in this circumstance, but as anybody who has been in those similar circumstances can tell you that, if you haven't got the full story from your client, you're very worried. And I think Jeff's point is very true that they have moved the goalpost. And now to say that, yes, there is not any evidence that a crime has been committed, and you can't prove a case. But there is nobody this arguing now that Bob Mueller doesn't have legitimacy to investigate these facts and circumstances.

COOPER: We have to take a quick break. We have more with the panel ahead. Later President Trump and Macron of France tried the Guinness Book of Records for world's longest handshake. We'll take a look at how it seems flattery will get you everywhere. We'll talk about that ahead.


[20:37:53] COOPER: We're talking tonight about the evolving story, the previously undisclosed meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort. And we learned today at least two Russian, not one. Earlier tonight I asked a member of the President's legal team about it and whether it puts a dent in the notion that Donald Trump Jr. has really shown transparency in this situation.


COOPER: The President has repeatedly praised Donald Trump Jr.'s transparency. You said just the other day in an interview that Donald Trump Jr. put it all out there. Given what we learned today, do you still say that he put it all out there?

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, yes. Because the there was the e-mails that resulted in this meeting. And he put the entire chain of those e-mails out. And you know, Anderson, I go back to something we've talked about before. And you look at the situation. And as the lawyer here, you look at the situation. I'm saying I understand it's getting a lot of attention, obviously. But the question is what law has been violated here or might be violated here.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. I mean, he raises the important point of, you know, is this against the law. Legally speaking, Jeff, does this damage the White House? I mean, does this put --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think this is an evolving story. So it doesn't really matter whether today he is more -- anyone is more under criminal scrutiny than they were a day ago. What matters is Mueller is now at a fact finding moment. He is now going to learn about this meeting. But the larger question to this investigation --

COOPER: Has it grown the -- has it sort of enlarged the range of that investigation? Because now, I mean, Rhona Graff, the candidate's assistant, she was mentioned. Goldstone said I can just e-mail, you know, the candidate through Rhona. Should I do that?

TOOBIN: Of course, and, you know, what's significant about all investigations today is e-mails don't go between one and two people. They go in chains. So once you have a group of e-mails about this meeting, and obviously, we only have those four pages of e-mail. There clearly have to be others. Mueller is going to want to talk to everyone who was involved and everyone who was mentioned in those e- mails, including Rhona, the then candidate, now President's Assistant.

So this is a lot to investigate. And it's just one part of his investigation. And there really is no reason to conclude one way or another now whether some illegality took place because it's a moving target.

[20:40:13] COOPER: Senator, just politically, you know, I get the frustration of Trump supporters out there who, A, are frustrated that there is so much coverage of this because they don't think it's important. But just in terms of the President's agenda on Capitol Hill, moving it forward, I mean you serve in the Senate. How much does it -- I think John McCain says it sucks all the oxygen out of the room. Is that true?

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Yes and no. I mean there -- I could make the argument that this doesn't necessarily hurt him at all. It might even healthy and disrespect that there's not a whole lot getting done right now up on Capitol Hill. And the President's agenda has sort of been stuck. They're still trying to work through a health care bill which, you know, Mitch McConnell says they're going to bring up next week. Right now they don't have the votes. That's pretty clear. That's what would be the talk right now.

I mean, they would be pounded away how bad Donald Trump is doing, how he can't leave the country. And nobody is talking about any of that. In fact, they're having a pretty good time keeping under the radar on all these things.

COOPER: But if, you know, at the next election, if he hasn't -- if there's not like two signature accomplishments or three --

SANTORUM: I get that. But it's not like there's been this long drumbeat of how --

COOPER: Right.

SANTORUM: -- ineffective the President is and how feckless his administration is in putting his agenda forward. And if he does pull a rabbit out of the hat, which I think is actually possible next week in the Senate that they actually do pass a health care bill. All of the sudden it's going to look like Donald Trump has been -- while this noise is going on, he's been effective and has been able to get things done. And see, the media has been wrong. They've been focused on something that's not real news and the real news is he's been doing his job. So, it actually could work in his favor.

BALL: Well, there's always a possibility of a (INAUDIBLE) but the way things are right now, Republicans and Congress are really frustrated. I was speaking just a couple of hours ago to a Republican member of Congress who said that there is this dissatisfaction. He said on the one hand, yes. Republican divisions existed long before Donald Trump came along, before Donald Trump was elected president. There was going to be, you know, clashes between and within Republicans in the House and the Senate.

On the other hand, the one thing that could unite the clans is clear and consistent and focused presidential leadership. A president who had won this election for the sake of the whole party and was dedicated to focused on bringing the factions together around legislation that it was clear that he believed in. And that is not what Republicans on the Hill feel like they're getting.

COOPER: Matt, do you think the -- did the President create more problems for himself or his administration by not remaining silent about this? I mean he talked about it -- I mean he was asked about it directly in France. He, obviously, tweeted about it but he gave a very lengthy answer, you know, making a number of statements in France about it.

WHITAKER: Yes. I think the risk right now is everyone's talking about what they know. And, you know, I watched the Hannity interview with Don Jr. And, you know, obviously, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place where there was a political situation that he had to respond and he had to answer all the questions. But if I was his lawyer, I'd be very nervous about that, because he's locking in a story that as Jeff points out is evolving as we sit here today. And I think the same situation that the President finds himself in. Oftentimes he has his lawyers sort of saying what he did know and when he knew it. But I think it's a little concerning, you know, for anybody that is under this kind of scrutiny to lock in any story at this point in time as these things continue to come out. I hope that they know what the true story is, but it's a little worrying as I watch it.

COOPER: Yes. Thanks everybody on the panel. Coming up, a White House in crisis some are calling it. Have a west wing staff that's handling these revelations and what it needs to be doing to go forward.


[20:47:27] COOPER: The drip, drip of details about the Russian meeting keep dripping out, the White House faces a big challenge if they think it's all just going to go away. With us now is CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod. You can see a new episode of the show "The Axe Files" tonight, and Senior Political Analyst David Gergen.

So David Axelrod, I mean here we are a week after the story was first published by "The New York Times." Do you get the sense that the White House in any way has their arms around how to deal with this at this point?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that must be a rhetorical question, Anderson, plainly not. I mean, the fact is I'm not even sure that the White House has its arms around what the story is completely. I'm not sure that, for example, the communications staff at the White House knows exactly the parameters of this story. Obviously, Sarah Sanders went out earlier in the week and issued a denial, called the stories ridiculous and so on. And within hours was proven wrong. And so that's a very bad place for a White House staff to be in.

And so my question is do they actually know what the full story is. And, you know, you have to bifurcate. They've got a political crisis in terms of the story that's unfolding publicly. And they've got legal concerns that engulf not just the President but Jared and major players around them. So this is -- this is a very difficult time for the White House and a very difficult time to do any other kind of work.

COOPER: We've heard, David Gergen, you know, a lot about the need for compartmentalization in the White House, especially at a time like this. You've worked in White Houses that have been in crisis. Obviously this is a very different White House than really probably anyone we've seen in a long, long time. What is it like to actually, you know, be there when all this is happening?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a -- it can be shattering to individual. Yet, most of the people that go into White House is untrue, this is the case with Donald Trump's White House, most of them are honest individuals. They come in. They want to serve the country. They may not agree with what you and I believe, but they're honestly trying to serve their country. And then they're drawn into this vortex, and we don't know, of course, whether this meeting brought violations of the law.

But we do know in the aftermath there has been a pattern, a very clear pattern of dishonest, misleading statements that -- and that represents stupidity as well, because clearly more was going to come out. And for them to issue a statement that made it all look very innocent about adoption of children. And we've had now three versions and disturbingly, you know, "The New York Times" has reported CNN has pointed out, that Donald Trump himself apparently approved at least two of these misleading statements, and had been blown out the water.

[20:50:20] You know, this may go down in history as one of the most incompetent cover-ups we ever had.

COOPER: You really believe that? David Gergen, you believe that? I mean one of the most incompetent cover-ups?

GERGEN: Yes. Absolutely. Listen, you know, let's take with regard to this particular meeting. They have been trying to hide what happened at this meeting. They have covered it up. They have attempted to cover it up but they have done it with enormous incompetence. You know, they could have come up straight out of. You know, there is nothing there. Why not say, here's where we met. Here's who was in the room. We didn't find anything. But instead they come out with, with a statement, which is completely an act like a completely innocent. Then the next statement says, no, actually did want to find out about Hillary's, you know, some dirt on Hillary. So we met with this people. Now, we learned that there was a former soviet counterintelligence spy there in the meeting and they had never disclosed this.

COOPER: You should point out he denies that.


GERGEN: -- lawyer, people like this. Even -- yes, he denies it. But, what he, you know, he denies being counterintelligence spy but do we believe that? I don't think it is possible to believe what they said about the outcome of the meeting. How do we know it all ended with nothing? You know they're pieces of paper turned over. All I'm saying is, in this particular instance there was a clear attempt at a cover-up. It was incompetently done. The President and his team were going to paying a fearful price for it. I think David Axelrod is absolutely right about both for politics and the law. And I just, you know, I am distracted by the whole thing.

COOPER: David Axelrod, Senator Santorum earlier may be a sort of floated the idea that they may be this could actually work in Donald Trump's favor that -- or President Trump's favor that -- because there is so much focus on this. People aren't focusing on, you know, health care not moving forward or other things being stalled on Capitol Hill.

AXELROD: Yes. I think that would go down as the glass is half full interpretation on Rick's part and I admired the effort. And there is something to it. I mean I noted today that there was a report out from the CBO that the Trump administration had overestimated growth by several trillion dollars. And it was a damning report that will get absolutely no attention but I am not sure the way you want to bury bad news is by having worse news. That doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me. So, I don't think anybody in the White House is saying thank God we have this Russian spy scandal because, the fact that health care is frozen is not getting, as much attention. I don't think that at all. I think they would, like not to be in the situation. I quite agree with David, you know, the fundamental essence of crisis communications is figure out where the story is going and get there first. Don't let it drip out. And the fact is they violated those rules. And I think they violated them because they weren't being honest with each other about where this was all going.

COOPER: David Axelrod, David Gergen. Thanks very much. Again, you've seen new episode at David Axerold show "The Axe Files" with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis that's tonight at 10:00.

Up next, President Trump treated to spectacular show pomp and circumstance in Paris this morning. Why that might just be the most effective strategy for winning over this particular President. We'll take a look at the President's trip, plus this moment, very, very lengthy handshake. We'll be right back.


[20:57:13] COOPER: President Trump and President Macron's public appearances got off to, like as you could see firms start this morning the Bastille Day parade. President Macron going to gets things started with a first grip and then a pat on the back. Then Trump counters with a hand pat and then his trademark tug and lifting Macron's right leg off the ground. Yes, we are analyzing this. But two mens square up, chest to chest. This is kind of awkward sometimes to watch. And now it gets interesting. The two are still shaking hands but Trump also now brings in Macron's wife into it with a kiss on the cheek. The whole thing goes on for few more awkward seconds before finally ending after 29 seconds and then the real show began enormous parade filled with pomp and circumstance. Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Bastille Day parade in France this week U.S. President Donald Trump was the guest of honor. Marching bands, jet fly overs and American flag rolled out before him. Earlier, the French President accompanied Mr. Trump on a tour of Napoleon's private tomb. And arranged for a lavish dinner at the Eiffel Tower's, Jules Vern Restaurant where they dined on filet of beef and potato souffle with truffle sauce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be a dinner between France.

KAYE: Flattering, for sure. It's the pomp and circumstance showered upon all presidents and all part of a larger plan it seems to woo the leader of the free world.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for the tour of some of the most incredible buildings anywhere in the world. It was very, very beautiful thing to see. KAYE: No question, Donald Trump enjoys being the center of attention. His biographers say the more adulation people heap on him the more likely they are to get a better response. When President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia in May for his first foreign trip, he was treated to a sword dance. His image even projected on the wall of his hotel where he walked a red carpet. He left with a gold chain necklace from the kingdom.

TRUMP: Words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place. And the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.

KAYE: Poland did its best to curry favor with Trump as well, busing in a crowd of people to cheer in support of President Trump as he delivered his foreign policy speech.

TRUMP: It is a majestic nation. It really is. It is a, spectacular place, some of the most beautiful sights.

KAYE (on camera): Perhaps it was the Japanese Prime Minister who led the way on how best to ingratiate himself with President Trump. Even before Inauguration Day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed up at Trump Tower with a golf driver that was plated in gold. Ever since, his relationship with President Trump has been on solid ground.

[21:00:06] KAYE (voice-over): And while Germany's Angela Merkel was once quote "striking a cool stands" in an awkward photo with President Trump. She is showering him with flattery in other ways.