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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Firestorm Erupts Over Education Department's Rape Comments; New Revelations Emerge in Trump-Russia Meeting; Pentagon: U.S. Kills ISIS Leader in Afghanistan. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 14, 2017 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian nesting doll reveals another.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: A new report says a man with alleged ties with Russian intelligence was also in the room with the president's son and son-in- law and campaign chair on the day they were expecting dirt on Hillary Clinton. What else do we not know?

Is an apology enough? A top official in the Department of Education under fire for flippantly stating, falsely, that 90 percent of college sexual assaults are because of drunk hookups or vengeful ex- girlfriends.

Plus, breaking news: another top terrorist taken out. The Pentagon says the ISIS leader in Afghanistan has been killed as forces close in on the terrorist group across the region.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The maxim for crisis management in Washington, D.C., is, when beset with a can scandal, get out all the information. Get it all out as soon as possible and get it out on your own terms.

Now, apparently, in keeping with its desire to do things differently, the Trump team seems determined to violate this sage advice in every possible way, though it seemed a few nights ago that they thought this latest ordeal might be all over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This was not everything.

We are still learning new facts about that meeting that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law and current senior adviser Jared Kushner had last June, 2016, with a woman billed as being a Russian government lawyer with incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, billed as part of a Russian government desire to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

Today, we learned more people were in that meeting than just the lawyer and the three members of the Trump team. The Associated Press reported that a Russian-American lobbyist with alleged ties to Russian intelligence was also at that meeting.

And CNN has learned about others. We will have more on that story in a second.

So much about the meeting remains murky. So many questions remain. Case in point, the e-mails indicate that, by June 7, 2016, the meeting had been scheduled. It's a meeting in which Trump Jr., at the very least, and Manafort and Kushner, if they read the e-mails they had been forwarded, expected to get a ton of dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Now, that night, candidate Trump said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into her private hedge fund. The Russians, the Saudis, the Chinese all gave money to Bill and Hillary and got favorable treatment in return.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But candidate Trump's major speech detailing allegations of corruption between Hillary Clinton and the governments of Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, it didn't happen. That major speech never materialized.

Question: Is there any relationship between the information Trump Jr. thought was coming about Clinton from the Russians that he now says did not come and this major speech Trump said was coming on Clinton and the Russians, among others, that also did not come?

I asked the White House that question. They did not respond.

Here's another question. In the e-mails, before any actual meeting was discussed, Donald Trump Jr. tried to arrange a phone call with Emin Agalarov. He's the son of the Russian oligarch through whom the Russian government, according to these e-mails, was reaching out to get this incriminating information about Clinton to the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. this week said that call never happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HANNITY: At any point were you told either in a phone conversation or otherwise what they might tell you, what they -- what Goldstone seemed to be implying you would receive?

DONALD TRUMP JR.: No. As I recall, it was all basically this e-mail coordination. Let's try to set up a meeting and see what happens and that it was going to be interesting information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But read the e-mails. On June 3, when Donald Trump Jr. says "I love it" about the idea of dirt on Clinton coming from the Russians, all that he and the go-between in this matter, Robert Goldstone, are discussing is setting up a phone call with Agalarov to get Trump Jr. the Russian information on Clinton.

On June 6, 3:03 p.m., Trump Jr. e-mails Goldstone about this phone call: "Rob, could we speak now?" At 3:37, Goldstone responds: "Let me track him down in Moscow. What number could he call?"

[16:05:00]

One minute later, Trump Jr. sends him his cell phone number. Five minutes pass. Goldstone writes: "OK, he's on stage in Moscow, but should be off within 20 minutes and sure can call."

Now, more than a hour passes. Then Trump Jr. writes: "Rob, thanks for the help."

The question, of course, did that call take place?

The next day, Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr.: "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you are aware of this meeting."

How would Donald Trump Jr. be aware of this meeting? There is no reference to it on the e-mail chain, unless, of course, there was a phone call.

Last night, Trump Jr.'s lawyer told us his client doesn't have any recollection of any call.

You know, when conservative Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the former head of the Benghazi committee, when he complained about the White House non-strategy of drip, drip, drip, this is what he was talking about.

So, what more do we know about who was in that Don Jr. meeting?

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another player has emerged in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, despite Donald Trump Jr.'s insistence he disclosed everything there was to know about the meeting with the release of several e-mails Tuesday.

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

DONALD TRUMP JR.: This is everything. This is everything.

SCHNEIDER: Today, news that Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin also in attendance.

Akhmetshin told the Associated Press he was in the room for the 20-to- 30 minute meeting with Trump's eldest son and Veselnitskaya that also included publicist Rob Goldstone, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now a top adviser to the president.

CNN has learned at least two others were in the room, a translator and a representative of the Agalarov family. Akhmetshin is a registered lobbyist for Veselnitskaya's organization that is focused on overturning the American sanctions against human rights abusers in Russia, according to lobbying records.

Akhmetshin's lobbying caught the attention of Senator Chuck Grassley, who described him a Russian immigrant acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests, apparently with ties to Russian intelligence. That was in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly requesting Akhmetshin's immigration history earlier this year.

Akhmetshin denied to "The Washington Post" that he served as a Russian intelligence agent, saying: "I never worked for the Russian government. I served as a soldier for two years. At no time have I ever worked for the Russian government or any of its agencies. I was not an intelligence officer, never."

The e-mail chain released Tuesday indicating there was another person at the meeting. The British publicist who arranged it, Rob Goldstone, wrote this to Donald Trump Jr. two days before: "I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.'

No names producing those names was ever released by Don Jr.

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.

SCHNEIDER: President Trump defended his son while speaking in Paris, but continues to insist he didn't know anything about the meeting until several days before Don Jr.'s e-mails were released.

This morning, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway seemed to suggest that more evidence was needed to prove collusion. KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Well, even the goalposts had

been moved. We were promised systemic -- hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion.

SCHNEIDER: The scramble to respond to the details trickling out may have exposed some White House aides to special counsel scrutiny. They could be called by Robert Mueller and his team to explain what they learned about this June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Sources close to Jared Kushner's legal team say White House aides and Kushner's lawyers began strategizing in late June how to manage any later disclosures of the e-mails Kushner's team discovered from Don Jr.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And several Democrats are now calling for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be revoked. The latest Democrat making that call, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

No official response from the White House tonight, but we have learned that top aides are aware of this changing story about that meeting in June 2016, and, of course, Jake, they are not pleased with the shifting details -- Jake.

TAPPER: Not helpful.

Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Just how damaging was it for the White House to help with the response to Trump Jr.'s meeting controversy? Stick around. We will talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:53]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're going to stick with politics and the breaking news today, the other Russian in the room in the meeting with the president's son and son-in-law and campaign chair last summer.

Let's bring in the panel to discuss this.

Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign adviser, I want to start with some really strong words from Charles Krauthammer, the conservative columnist who also appears on FOX.

He said today: "It turned out to be incompetent collusion, amateur collusion, comically failed collusion. That does not erase the fact that three top Trump campaign officials were ready to play. It may turn out that they did later collaborate more fruitfully. We don't know, but even if nothing else is found, the evidence is damning."

That is Charles Krauthammer, hardly a leader of the resistance. Your thoughts? TIM MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Dr. Krauthammer is

hardly a strong supporter of the president's.

But I think there is something that many folks who are strong supporters of the president would agree with. And that's this team has got to get on offense.

And I think, as we've seen, the drip, drip, drip of these small details over the past few days, what this is doing is this is hurting someone who I think, in Don Jr., is a very honorable and very admirable person, loves his father, loves the country.

[16:15:00] But when you don't get out ahead of stories like this, small details become big details. And I think Trey Gowdy made an important point this week that it doesn't matter if you've watched the movie Dr. Zhivago or if you've had a shot of vodka from someone from Russia, you need to get those details out, because here's what's going to happen -- now, I haven't seen anyone make this point yet -- the administrative state, whether that be folks in the administration, whether it be folks at the committee level, they're going to have all this information at a certain point, anyway.

So, unless you go and get it out on your terms, they're going to hold it, and whether it's on the presidential plane ride back or following a joint session speech in front of Congress, that information is going to come out and it's going to be presented in a light that's very detrimental to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's true, it makes it worse that they are being so untransparent, I think is the nicest way to put it. I mean, they're hiding information, right? So, I think that is obviously problematic.

But even if they had been completely transparent and just told us everything, it's still a bad situation, right? I mean, even if the story was all these people came in and I got an e-mail saying the Russian government supported my father's candidacy and they were going to come and give me all this dirt, and here's all the people who were here, and, oh, by the way, one of them was a Russian intelligence officer. I mean, even if they had been completely forthcoming, they would still have a problem, right? I mean --

TAPPER: Yes. Jackie, one of the things that's so interesting, every time there is a new administration, they all think -- I don't want to impugn everybody, but inevitably, there is somebody who doesn't take the advice Jason just dispensed, which is get all the information out, get it out immediately, get it out on your own terms and then try to move on. People always think they can hide when it comes to stories like this.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Especially because we know how Don Jr. initially said he was going to be transparent. We know how that happened. "The New York Times" already had the information and he got it out. He tried to beat them to it. And yet now there is more information.

The other perilous part of this is they've got people going out and defending them with a set of facts given to them by Don Jr. and the White House that keep changing.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUCINICH: So, we've already seen Lee Zeldin, the congressman, comes to mind, said one thing when he had one set of facts and then got another set of facts and said, oh, gosh, this doesn't look good.

TAPPER: Within 24 hours, yes.

KUCINICH: Within 24 hours. That's when the problem gets even bigger, because then the people that are defending you, their confidence is eroding. And so, who do you have left if you're hanging these people out to dry that are trying to defend the White House?

TAPPER: That's a great point, because, Jason, as she just pointed out, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican from New York, saying after I think the second or third "New York Times" story had been reported, you know, I'm a fan of Donald Jr., I just don't believe this. Then the e-mails came out and they're worse than anybody could have imagined.

MILLER: Well, to that note, Trump supporters like myself, like Lee Zeldin, do believe that since the beginning of this administration, that this has been, as the president described it, a witch hunt, that this has been an unfair cloud hanging over his head. But when details come out in the fashion that they did, then that leads credence to the people who are leveling these charges or leveling these attacks.

Trump supporters fundamentally believe these are completely overblown, it was a 20-minute meeting, and that was an oppo dump, and that's the end of the story. But again, the process becomes a much bigger deal and they have to get on offense. That was always a big hallmark of the Trump campaign, we are always on offense. And that was whether it would be the surrogates, whether it'd be the now president himself. And I feel like we've lost a little of that mojo.

TAPPER: Kirsten?

POWERS: I just -- I think Charles Krauthammer, it's true, he's not a huge supporter, but he is a stalwart conservative. He is somebody who has defended the president at times.

TAPPER: He is an intellectual honest man.

POWERS: He is really the leader of the conservative movement. I mean, there is no conservative who has more influence on the right than Charles Krauthammer. And the fact that he has come out and said that this is unethical behavior. I mean, that was the bottom line of his column. It was -- even if you, you know, are kind of a bumbling colluder, nobody with any real ethics takes a meeting like this. It's just -- it's just not done.

And so, I think this kind of idea that it's a witch hunt, it's not, you know --

KUCINICH: If they found some pointy hats and some pointy shoes at this point, maybe some striped socks. I mean, that, we haven't seen the witch maybe.

TAPPER: Don't forget the broom.

KUCINICH: Yes, don't forget the brom.

TAPPER: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Another top terrorist: an ISIS leader killed. What the Pentagon is saying about how the U.S. got him. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:36] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In our world lead: moments ago, the Pentagon announced that U.S. forces have killed the leader of the ISIS affiliate, or emir, in Afghanistan.

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne.

Ryan, we're just learning more about this. It's kind of a breaking story, this ISIS emir who has been killed. His name was Abu Sayed. What do we know about him, what do we know about how he was killed?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Jake, we're learning some new additional details from U.S. military forces in Afghanistan about the strike that killed Abut Sayed, ISIS's leader there in Afghanistan. Now, it was a drone strike conducted in KUnr President, and that's in the eastern most part of the country, kind of that in that remote area that borders Pakistan. And this is kind of there and the neighboring Nangarhar province is kind of where ISIS K, the local affiliate of ISIS, is kind of established itself and conducted a series of terrorist attacks and insurgents against the Afghan government.

Now, the U.S. has undertaken an aggressive counterterrorism offensive since March against this terror group, along with Afghan forces, and this is actually the third ISIS they've killed in the last year who was only recently kind of assumed his position in April after a U.S.- Afghan special forces raid killed his predecessor. So, the U.S. has enjoyed some success targeting ISIS's leader in Afghanistan.

Now, again, this is all coming as the U.S. is weighing its position in the region, making decisions on whether to send more troops, potentially kind of coming up with a new strategy for neighboring areas like Pakistan.

[16:25:04] Secretary Mattis telling reporters today that this was a victory against ISIS in Afghanistan, but that the overall Afghanistan is still to come.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Browne at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much. In critical condition, can Senate Republicans keep their new version

of the health care alive, long enough to actually debate it? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And we're back with the national lead today.

The next few days could make or break the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Let's do some of the math here for the Senate. There are 52 Senate Republicans, two of them have already said they're going to vote no on the proposal that was just unveiled yesterday. With Democrats and independents all already voting no, and Vice President Pence as the tiebreaker, just one more Republican senator opposed to the bill would essentially kill it.

Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles who is live on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, the White House says President Trump himself is working the phones, but is there still room for negotiation if a wavering senator wants something?