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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; Trump Rips FBI and Justice Department Heads; O.J. Simpson Granted Parole, Says "I've Done My Time". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 20, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Subpoena threat. Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are facing a new deadline to agree to testify in the Russia investigation. The Senate Judiciary chairman says he's ready to use his subpoena power if he doesn't get a response within hours.
Chilling effect. President Trump's public bashing of his attorney general is causing alarm among some Republicans. Jeff Sessions says he won't resign, as the White House seems to dispute Mr. Trump's own words by claiming he has confidence in his A.G.
And Trump unplugged, the president on the attack trashing the Russia investigation, as well as members of his own administration. We are monitoring the shockwaves from his extraordinary and often angry interview.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: Breaking news tonight: the former defendant in the so-called trial of the century now preparing to walk free from prison. O.J. Simpson granted parole after serving almost nine years for a 2007 armed robbery in Las Vegas.
The former NFL star is expected to be released in October, two decades after his infamous acquittal in the killing of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
Also breaking, the White House says the president has confidence in Jeff Sessions just hours after Mr. Trump publicly trashed his attorney general in a jaw-dropping interview. Mr. Trump telling "The New York Times" that Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation was -- quote -- "extremely unfair" to him, as it ultimately helped lead to the appointment of a special counsel.
Sessions insists he's staying on the job. Tonight, a source says the president's angry rebuke of Sessions, one of his first and most loyal supporters, is having a chilling effect inside the West Wing.
And Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are facing a new deadline to agree to testify next week in the Senate's Russia investigation. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is threatening to subpoena the president's son and former campaign chairman if he doesn't get a response from them by tomorrow evening.
We are covering those stories and more with our guests, including Senator Amy Klobuchar. She is a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
We will have more on O.J. Simpson's parole ahead.
Right now, let's go to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, the White House claims Mr. Trump has confidence in Jeff Sessions, but the president's interview certainly tells a different story.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Brianna.
The White House put it this way at the briefing today. They said the president was disappointed in Sessions' decisions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, but that the president still has confidence in the attorney general.
Of course, it was quite a different tone than President Trump took inside the Oval Office for that "New York Times" article where he slammed Sessions and put his anger on the record.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeming to rebuff rumors he plans to resign as head of the Justice Department.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It's something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.
SCHNEIDER: This after being publicly rebuked by President Trump in a "New York Times" interview. The president expressing his ongoing ire that Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe back in March.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
SCHNEIDER: Sessions stepped aside from overseeing the Russia investigation on March 2 after revelations he had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential campaign.
SESSIONS: I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign. SCHNEIDER: But the Department of Justice has stressed Sessions began
considering recusal shortly after being sworn in on February 9, given his work as a surrogate for the Trump campaign and close relationship with Donald Trump throughout the election.
SESSIONS: Donald, welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama.
SCHNEIDER: Sessions was one of the president's earliest and most prominent supporters, but President Trump has since turned on his attorney general.
TRUMP: So, Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which -- which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job, and then recuse yourself?
SCHNEIDER: It was just last month that Vice President Pence publicly praised Sessions' work for him and the president.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jeff Sessions is a law and order attorney general, and I and the president are proud and honored to have him at our side.
SCHNEIDER: Senator Rand Paul, though, says he agrees with the president's sentiments.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: He was accused of meeting with the Russian ambassador. I don't think that's enough to recuse yourself. I wish he could have stuck in, dug his heels in and said, I haven't done anything wrong and I'm going to do my job.
SCHNEIDER: The president also criticized Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump suggesting Rosenstein wasn't sympathetic to the Republican cause because he is from Baltimore, a largely Democratic city.
The president also suggested there should be limits to the scope of Mueller's investigation.
QUESTION: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?
QUESTION: Well, that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.
By the way, I don't -- it's possible there's a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units. Somebody from Russia buys a condo. Who knows? I don't make money from Russia.
SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, Christopher Wray is another step closer to becoming FBI director. He received unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee today. SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Wray stated that the FBI
director must maintain strict independence, be committed to doing the job by the book and without any regard to partisan political influence.
SCHNEIDER: And the Wray nomination now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Meanwhile, the White House also today clarifying the president's comments on special counsel Mueller saying that the president wanted to make clear that the special counsel should not move outside the scope of the investigation. But, of course, Brianna, that scope is open to some interpretation.
KEILAR: That's right. Maybe not in his control either. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
Now to Capitol Hill, where the president's son is facing a new deadline and also a subpoena threat in the Russia investigation.
Let's go to CNN senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju.
Manu, the Senate judiciary chairman wants confirmation that Donald Trump Jr. and others are willing to testify next week.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, telling me earlier today that he's prepared to subpoena Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, as well as Glenn Simpson, who is the head of that firm Fusion GPS, which, of course, is tied to that British dossier that included unsubstantiated allegations about the president.
If those men do not agree to appear before his committee and he does not get an answer by tomorrow, there will be subpoenas, in the words of Chuck Grassley, even going this far, saying perhaps they would send federal marshals there to compel their appearance if they do not reply to the subpoena threat. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Have Don Jr. and Paul Manafort, have they accepted the committee's request?
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: We sent the letter. I don't know whether they have accepted, but we sent the letter and we asked them for voluntary appearance. And we also -- I think we have indicated to them that -- I don't know whether we said it in the letter or not, but we indicated to them -- at least publicly, I have indicated that we would subpoena if they don't come.
QUESTION: But is there a deadline associated with that? GRASSLEY: We are having a hearing next Wednesday, so obviously we
want to hear right away so we can get the subpoena. I hope they accept the subpoena voluntarily. If they don't, then you have to have a marshal give it and that takes a little more time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, a representative for Paul Manafort today saying that they're still waiting to respond. They have not responded yet, Brianna, but on Monday, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, expected to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staff in a classified setting.
Now, I asked the Republican chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, why this is not public. Burr declined to comment, but, Brianna, Jared Kushner was on Capitol Hill today meeting with Senator Lindsey Graham, and Graham said they did not talk about the Russia probe, but I asked Graham, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whether the Judiciary Committee wants to interview Jared Kushner and he said "maybe."
KEILAR: Maybe. All right.
And you got reaction, right, Manu, Republican reaction, to what's really been a jaw-dropping interview by President Trump with "The New York Times" where he takes shots at the special counsel and even a lot of people in his own administration.
RAJU: Yes, that's right. And a lot of Republicans were perplexed at his comments about Jeff Sessions, someone they served with for a long time in this body.
And they say that the attorney general should be independent of the White House and the president should not expect that the attorney general serves to protect him. So, these are some pretty strong comments from even some senior members of the Republican Conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I think the president makes a lot of statements off the cuff that sometimes come back to haunt him, and that's one of them.
I presume he probably wishes he could take that back.
RAJU: Do you have any concerns about that approach that he's taken with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general?
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: The independence of our judicial officials and Justice Department officials is highly critical to the functioning of our democracy.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about the president saying that Bob Mueller should not look into the finances of the Trumps?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, I haven't seen that specific thing, but Bob Mueller should look at anything that falls within the scope of the special counsel's mandate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And, Brianna, that last remark by Richard Burr in reference to the president saying that Bob Mueller should not look into the Trump family finances, clearly, Richard Burr saying there he should look into whatever is within the scope of his investigation.
And also Burr and other Republicans pushing back on the threat that continues to exist about the president trying to take steps to fire Bob Mueller, saying that he should not do that and they have confidence in him as a special counsel -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Manu Raju, thank you for that.
We're also learning about the negative reaction inside the White House to the president's hostility toward his attorney general, declared openly and on the record in that interview.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has more on that.
What are you hearing, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brianna.
This was not in the ordinary bit of criticism. This is something coming from one of the most loyal soldiers of the Trump campaign or the Trump world, and it had a chilling effect, in the word of one White House official, explaining the fallout and just the aftermath of this extraordinary interview yesterday with "The New York Times."
I mean, morale here is already fairly low, just given the six-month point of the presidency and the agenda is essentially on hold. The Russia investigation has taken over. But this interview about Jeff Sessions was really received in a different light.
And the thinking went something like this. If this could happen to Jeff Sessions, it could perhaps happen to any of us. So it certainly was a different moment here once the interview was processed.
Now, it's also interesting, the president and the attorney general have not spoken in at least 24 hours, probably longer than that. The attorney general knew the president has been upset with him for a long time. He's been a bit frozen out here because of that recusal.
The president is just furious that the attorney general recused himself, but that was four months ago. So, Brianna, so interesting that it still is on his mind, but the president would not talk about it today here at the White House. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, does Jeff Sessions still have your full support?
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, a lot of questions from reporters including, our own Sara Murray, who was in the room trying to get the president to elaborate on this.
But the White House is saying this evening that they do not expect the attorney general to resign. They said if the president would have wanted that, he would have asked for that specifically.
But on a separate matter, the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, so interesting also in "The New York Times" report, the White House deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a briefing this afternoon, she said, look, the president has no intentions of firing him.
Of course, this relates to him potentially expanding his inquiry into the Trump family finances. She also added, if he wanted to, though, he certainly is within his rights to do that.
But, Brianna, as you know, that question is very much an unsettled one if the president has the authority to do that. But, as of now, they said he has no plans of doing so -- Brianna.
KEILAR: We will see. Jeff Zeleny, thank you for that report.
And let's talk about all of this with Senator Amy Klobuchar. She is a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, a very important committee doing its own Russia investigation.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: You heard Jeff's report there, and while we have the spokeswoman for the White House saying that he has no intention, the president has no intention of firing the special counsel, Robert Mueller, at this time -- that's the quote -- it's certainly within his rights to do that.
And we just heard strong words from President Trump taking aim at the special counsel. Do you think that he might fire Robert Mueller?
KLOBUCHAR: You know, some days, I think that it seems like he thinks he's still doing "The Apprentice" and every day fire someone else, say they're going to fire someone else.
Let's look at this in context. In fact, the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, was fired. The FBI director, Jim Comey, was fired. The national security adviser resigned. And you have a number of U.S. attorneys, including a very important one in New York City, that were fired. And so this is serious stuff. And I was glad the White House dialed
it back today, because you don't just start talking about firing the attorney general of the United States, who has a constitutional duty, and the special counsel.
And, in fact, the special counsel, I think the president was implying there should be some lines drawn. And I was looking at the letter that appointed him and it says, in fact, he is to investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign, also any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.
KEILAR: And that's what happens sometimes with these special counsels. We saw that certainly in the Clinton administration, much to the chagrin of Bill and Hillary Clinton, because there can be this kind of wherever it takes you with the special counsel.
You said you're glad the White House dialed it back on this talk of what to do with Robert Mueller, but at the same time, it's a spokeswoman who dialed it back.
KEILAR: And if you will remember, when Jim Comey was fired, that wasn't something that even the press folks were really in on, on the decision-making. So, what do you think about that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, again, you take the president at his word.
And I would say one more thing about Bob Mueller, and that is that the president can't fire Bob Mueller. Rod Rosenstein would have to do that or someone within the Justice Department. And not only that. If, in fact, Mueller is not allowed to proceed with the investigation as he wants, the Justice Department has to come to the Senate, to Congress, and report that under the law.
So he has some free rein here. And I think it's very important for the American people that we get to the bottom of what happened, so then we can move on to 2018 and other elections, and know what the facts are, so we can protect our elect system.
KEILAR: Rod Rosenstein, the person who would be, as you say, responsible for any termination, was pressed by Congress about that very issue, and he made it clear that the buck stops with him.
Of course, he could be dismissed. But did you feel like the assurances that Congress received from Rosenstein was enough to feel that this special counsel will not be in danger?
KLOBUCHAR: I do. I think so.
And then we also heard from Christopher Wray, who did an excellent job at his hearing, the newly nominated FBI director, and he made it very clear that his obligation was to the law and that he was independent of the White House.
KEILAR: One of your former colleagues, Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, you hear what's going on in this interview and the president for some time has been very upset at him for recusing himself. The president said it was unfair. What's your reaction to that?
KLOBUCHAR: Jeff Sessions did what he had to do. He realized, due to the meeting that he had with the ambassador of Russia right after, by the way, President Obama had met with Vladimir Putin and announced to the world that he wasn't rolling back the sanctions, suddenly, you have Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador.
We still don't really know what happened at that meeting, and we would like him to come to the Judiciary Committee because we haven't seen him since the confirmation hearing.
KEILAR: When he said he didn't have meetings, right? That was before your committee.
KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. That was our last word.
And so we would like him to come back. And I'm glad that Senator Grassley and Senator Feinstein and all of us on the Judiciary Committee are stepping it up here and moving forward with the hearing that we would like to see next week about the meeting that occurred with Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr..
KEILAR: Have you heard from Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr.? Where does that stand?
KLOBUCHAR: We are awaiting word. And Chuck Grassley, you don't mess with a tough guy like him from Iowa. He's been very clear that if they don't come, he's going to issue a subpoena.
KEILAR: So, if it gets to that point and a subpoena is issued, then you would have Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort making a decision, right, as we saw ultimately that Michael Flynn made, which is do they come and testify, as they have been compelled to do, or do they take the Fifth Amendment, right? Is that how we see this play out?
KLOBUCHAR: That will be their decision to make, and I have no idea what decision they will make.
I just think it's very important that while this investigation is going on, that Congress does its duty. We have a duty of oversight and we also have a duty to follow through to protect our election system; 21 states had their election equipment attempts at hacking it. We know that now. We didn't know that six months ago.
And so we have obligation even beyond whatever happened with the Trump campaign to protect our election system, so that Americans can vote, and that is -- our whole democracy is founded on this simple principle that everyone has a vote in this country. KEILAR: What do you want to hear from Mr. Manafort and Mr. Trump Jr.?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I would like to know how this meeting came about, who they talked to about it before they went, why they went to it. All we have right now is this e-mail where Donald Trump Jr. was told that he would be able to get dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign and dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians, and instead of calling the FBI or calling law enforcement, he wrote back, "I love it."
And then the meeting was scheduled. So, of course, there's going to be questions about what their intentions were and what happened at the meeting. We keep finding new Russians that were at the meeting. It's like a clown car of people that keeps showing up. We now have a developer that was there with -- that was Russian that was there that has worked on a number of these deals with shell corporations.
KEILAR: All right, Senator Klobuchar, stay with me.
Of course, we have a whole lot more to discuss with you.
And we will be back in just a moment with Senator Amy Klobuchar.
KEILAR: We're back now with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar talking about President Trump's rather stunning public criticism of his attorney general and also other Justice Department officials past and present.
Where do we start? There were so many people that he took aim at, but he said also that he believes that the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States. Those are his words.
That suggests that he believes that the FBI director should report directly to him, not the Justice Department. There's a very important, not just tradition, but this position of independence with the FBI and the Justice Department. What's your concern there?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I'm a former prosecutor.
I had that job for eight years. And when you talk to any line district attorney, anyone in the U.S. attorney's office, FBI, law enforcement, it is so important that they do their job without fear or favor, that they not be beholden to anyone in politics, because their job is justice and to be basically on the front line making sure and guaranteeing justice and protecting the innocent, convicting the guilty.
And when he said that, again, I thought, well, he does nominate the FBI director, right? And as we have seen, he has the ability to fire the FBI director. But the key point here from the Jim Comey story is that Jim Comey had made clear that he was going to be independent, that he didn't answer those questions the right way, as far as we could see, and then the next thing you know, the president, who later said I fired him because of that Russia investigation.
KEILAR: Do you think part of it is just his going back to his businessman perspective, where, if you hire someone, you can fire someone? Or maybe...
KLOBUCHAR: That is one way to think of it, but when you're the president of the United States, you take an oath to the Constitution, and the Constitution says all kinds of things, including that we don't have foreign interference in our democracy.
And the Constitution talks about the independent judiciary. And we have a system in which these law enforcement people are -- they are beholden to the law.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about one of your colleagues, Senator John McCain, who has just been, as we learned and everyone was so surprised to learn, he's had a brain tumor removed and he will be undergoing treatment.
So many concerns, I think, for him up on Capitol Hill, and you just spoke to him today.
KLOBUCHAR: I did. I actually called Cindy, his wife, and she said he wants to talk. And he was just...
KEILAR: It's a great sign.
KLOBUCHAR: He was incredible. He was the same John McCain, teasing me about all kinds of political things, as he always does.
And you could just tell he's a fighter. He's resilient. It's a very serious diagnosis. He knows that. He clearly knows that. But he's very focused on what he's going to do next in the Mayo Clinic and the kind of good health care that he's getting there. Of course, that's a Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, but they have a big presence in Arizona, where he will be receiving treatment.
And, mostly, I just love the words of his daughter, Meghan, and she talked about what a shock it was to their whole family, including his mom, who is over 100 years old. And there's such a history of people living to very old years in the McCain family. So I think this is part of why it was such a shock to them.
But, mostly, just John's resilience, you don't sit in a cell as a POW for over five years, make a decision to allow others to be released before you -- he did that -- that is courage and bravery -- and not have this incredible ability to get through things. And that's what I heard today when I talked to him.
KEILAR: And as his daughter said, he's the one who's the calmest. So, certainly, as you are, we as well are thinking of him and his family.
Thank you, Senator Amy Klobuchar. KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
KEILAR: And just ahead, more on the president publicly venting his anger at Jeff Sessions. Is Mr. Trump laying groundwork to possibly fire the special counsel?
And O.J. Simpson gets his parole, despite a long, strange statement that seemed to ignore parts of his past, as well as reality, including his infamous 1995 murder trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, INMATE: I have always thought I have been pretty good with people, and I basically have spent a conflict-free life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: We're following breaking news. The White House says President Trump does have confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite the president saying he regrets appointing the former senator and early Trump supporter to the nation's top law enforcement post.
[18:33:18] Let's get more now with our expert analysts. We have Rebecca Berg, David Swerdlick, John Kirby and David Chalian with us.
All right. David Chalian, we -- this -- I mean, this interview was something. Right? Let's listen to what the president told "The New York Times" about his attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job he recuses himself.
PETER BAKER, "NEW YORK TIMES" CORRESPONDENT: Is that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: In a different administration, you would see the resignation of the A.G. follow, wouldn't you, or at least the consideration of this?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I don't think you get a stronger vote of "no confidence" in someone than that. I mean, the president just throwing his attorney general completely under the bus like that, expressing his frustration, which we had known about, but now hearing in his words, his frustration being very real.
What I find so remarkable about what the president is saying there, he seems to have no belief that the attorney general or, for that matter, the other people he sort of talks about in there -- Bob Mueller or the acting FBI director or the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein -- he has no belief that they are independent from him in some way or should be operating independently of him in some way.
He simply focuses on the fact that they serve at his pleasure, and he takes that to mean, therefore, all of their work product and everything according should be how he thinks it should go. He doesn't seem to appreciate that, actually in the design of the system, is built in some independence.
KEILAR: He doesn't, David Swerdlick, seem to appreciate that, but clearly, he knows that that's the way the system is. And yet he still seems to be chafing against it and just not accepting that reality.
[18:35:14] DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, because the reality of being president and the reality of being whatever he was before in life, the head of his own privately-held company, don't mesh well together and I think he's still trying to use strategies and a management approach to that. That doesn't work, to David's point.
BLITZER: Let's listen to what the president said about the special counsel, Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE SCHMIDT, "NEW YORK TIMES" CORRESPONDENT: If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family's finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes. By the way, I would say I don't -- I don't -- I mean, it's possible there's a condo or something. I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo. Who knows? I don't make money from Russia.
In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don't make -- from one of the most highly-respected law firms and accounting firms. I don't have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don't. They said I made money from Russia. It's not my thing. I don't -- I don't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Is that appropriate, Rebecca, for President Trump to weigh in on what Mueller should and should not investigate when he's got a pretty wide area that he is allowed to roam in?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly has the right to weigh in, Brianna, but I'm not sure it's exactly what his legal counsel would recommend for him at this time. And we know from some reports that President Trump did not check in with his legal counsel prior to this interview, did not go over what he should or should not be saying.
This is a very delicate situation legally for the president, for his top advisers, the top campaign advisers and some who are now in the White House like Jared Kushner.
And we now know, according to reports today, that Mueller is looking into Donald Trump's business empire, his business network, his finances. And so you wonder, now that Donald Trump has sort of drawn this line in the sand, which comes next? Obviously, Republicans and his team, I think, would recommend that he does not try to fire Mueller, but now that's a question mark.
KEILAR: Yes, and just to note, that is a Bloomberg report that you mentioned, that they're looking into the finances. CNN has not confirmed that at this point.
The president talked about what he talked to President Vladimir Putin about in a second, previously undisclosed meeting at the G-20. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there, I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation. but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.
HABERMAN: You did?
TRUMP: Russian adoption, yes. I've always found that interesting, because you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting, because that was a part of the conversation that Don had in the meeting that I think, as I said, most of the people -- you know when they call up and they say, "By the way, we have information on your opponent," I think most politicians -- I was just with a lot of people, and they said who wouldn't have taken a meeting like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: John Kirby is a former State Department spokesperson, official. What jumps out at you?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you don't talk about adoption for an hour, pleasantries for an hour.
KEILAR: He said it was 15 minutes, but a White House official says it was an hour.
KIRBY: Right. And I've never seen any conversation with Vladimir Putin go only 15 minutes. I mean, just translation alone takes -- takes up half of the conversation.
He tried to pass this off, I think, as just a casual pull-aside; and I'm not in a position to dispute that. But the question is the wisdom of trying to have a meeting with Putin like that, which obviously lasted some measure of time, about issues without any staff there, without any translator there, without a note taker, without going in there with some kind of strategy. It doesn't surprise me if Putin brought up adoption, but remember what this is about. This is about the Magnitsky Act. This is about sanctions that President Obama levied against 18 Russian entities back in 2008, and he, Putin, retaliated with this violation of U.S. adoption of Russian children.
KEILAR: It's never just adoption. It is adoption/sanctions together.
All right. Thank you so much, David Chalian, John Kirby, David Swerdlick and Rebecca Berg.
We have breaking news continuing next. O.J. Simpson asks for freedom, and he wins parole.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I've done my time, you know. I've done it as well and as respectfully as I think anybody can. I think if you talk to the wardens, they'll tell you, I've been -- I gave them my word. I believe in the jury system. I've honored their verdict. I have not complained for nine years. All I've done is try to be helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:44:32] KEILAR: There's more breaking news tonight. Former NFL star O.J. Simpson has been granted parole after serving nine years for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping conviction.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with the latest.
Brian, this is unrelated to the murder trial...
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
KEILAR: ... where he was acquitted.
TODD: That's right, Brianna.
KEILAR: In 1995.
TODD: And it was interesting today, on one hand, O.J. Simpson made a very convincing rational case for his release, talking about how sorry he was for his crime he committed, about his good deeds in prison. But he also made some almost laughable attempts to rationalize his past behavior with statements that clearly contradicted the facts.
TODD (voice-over): America's best known inmate turns another corner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible, and that will conclude this hearing.
TODD: It took the Nevada board of parole commissioners about 27 minutes to decide to free O.J. Simpson after nearly nine years in prison.
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL STAR: I've done my time. You know, I've done it as well and as respectfully as I think anybody can. I think if you talk to the wardens, they'll tell you I gave them my word.
TODD: The parole board set Simpson met all of their guidelines for this decision.
BERNARD GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's what they should have done because the next guy to come before that board that would commit the same crimes, he would get parole if he had the same factors that Simpson had.
TODD: Simpson, clearly having lost weight made a dramatic appearance before the board.
SUSAN JACKSON, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE COMMISSIONERS: Are you humbled by this incarceration?
SIMPSON: Oh, yes, for sure. As I said, I wish it would have never happened.
TODD: He had been convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon for a 2007 incident in a Las Vegas hotel room. Simpson seemingly tried to relitigate the case, saying he was misled into going into the hotel room with associates who were armed and simply wanted to reclaim personal family heirlooms that had been stolen.
SIMPSON: I had no weapon. They didn't feel threaten by me and from what you said, that I didn't threaten them. It was the other two security guys that did that. I'm not -- I haven't made any excuses in the nine years that I've been here and I'm not trying to make an excuse now. They were there because of me, you know, but in no way, shape or form did I wish them any harm.
TODD: But at one moment, Simpson appeared angry when pressed.
TONY CORDA, NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE COMMISSIONERS: So you believed that the property was yours?
SIMPSON: It's been ruled legally by the state of California that it was my property and they've given it to me.
TODD: Simpson discussed his reputation as a model prisoner at the Lovelock Correctional Center, how he helped prevent violence between inmates and counseled other prisoners, but he also made some eye- popping statements.
SIMPSON: I am not a guy who lived the criminal life. You know, I'm a pretty straight shooter. TODD: The man who was accused and acquitted of the brutal stabbing
deaths of his ex-wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman said this to the parole board.
SIMPSON: Nobody has ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them.
TODD: And Simpson, who once pleaded no contest to spousal battery, whose wife badly beaten face was shown repeatedly at his murder trial, had this to say.
SIMPSON: I always thought I've been pretty good with people and I basically spent a conflict-free life, you know.
GRIMM: His life has been nothing but tumult. Once he got charged with this crime, we heard all about these beatings, all about how abusive and what a bully he was and how nasty he was towards women.
SIMPSON: Tonight, as O.J. Simpson prepares to reenter society, one veteran trial attorney doubts the country will ever completely turn the page from the trial that so bitterly divided America.
J. WYNDAL GORDON, TRIAL ATTORNEY: The mere mention of his name brings angst and anxiety to a lot of people. So, I don't think -- it will probably reignite the hate that was kind of percolating under the surface, and people will continue to consider him one of America's most luckiest murderers to date.
TODD: O.J. Simpson could be released as early as October. He says he plans to live in Florida with his children. Legal analysts say Florida's bankruptcy laws will make it possible for Simpson to protect his pensions and other financial assets from the reaches of the Brown and Goldman families -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A $300,000 pension.
TODD: That's right.
KEILAR: Three hundred thousand dollars per year. He does have conditions of parole though.
TODD: That's right. Now, if he doesn't meet regularly with his parole officer, if he doesn't get permission to travel, if he does not submit to searches of his person, of his car, of his home, any of that could violate parole and he could be sent back to prison.
KEILAR: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
And we have a great panel to dig deeper on this with us. Our legal experts, Danny Cevallos, Jeffrey Toobin and Joey Jackson. We're going to be back with them after a quick break.
[18:53:41] KEILAR: More now on the breaking news. Former football star O.J. Simpson granted parole after serving nine
years for armed robbery and kidnapping.
We're back now with our legal experts to talk about this.
So, Jeffrey Toobin, was this what you expected?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it was. Based on my understanding of Nevada law, he was virtually certain to get parole. And it was also what I expected. And it was a nauseating, self- pitying, and self-glorifying performance by O.J. Simpson where he mouthed the words I'm sorry but then made clear he thought he had never done anything wrong, not during the incident that landed him in jail and not before, not when he beat up his wife repeatedly. This was self-righteousness on display and O.J. Simpson's character on display.
KEILAR: Because, Joey Jackson, let us not forget. This is someone who pled no contest to spousal abuse, to a charge of that. The police were called time after time to his house for incidents of domestic violence. And, of course, many people think he was wrongfully acquitted in 1995.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They certainly do. And, of course, as to the spousal abuse issues, it's remote. It happened a long time ago, but just backing up one minute, Brianna.
Look, if you evaluate this, I think the parole board acted in good faith.
[18:55:03] O.J. Simpson, make no mistake about it, got released not because of what he said, but in spite of what he said. To Jeffrey Toobin's point, when you prep a client, you tell them keep it simple stupid, but don't be stupid.
The first question by a parole commissioner is what were you thinking? The answer should be, I wasn't thinking. And that's why I'm here. I'm so sorry.
He instead, Brianna, goes and launches into this justifiable explanation. It was incredible to watch. And I think, though, what balanced against that were three things, in my view.
Number one, it has been nine years. And by any measure, people who have looked at this, have evaluated for taking your own memorabilia, was it a crime? Absolutely. But it was a crime of ignorance and stupidity, more so than a venom. No one thought he would kill anybody when he was in there. so, they look at nine years.
Another thing is what they did, the commissioners, was they viewed it by the numbers. There's an assessment level and you get assessed based upon your age, how did you behave in prison. What programs did you attend? Were you in any gangs, et cetera? Do you do drugs, alcohol?
You could have scored a 22. He got a two. So, they factored that and said, you know what? Yes, he scores low.
JACKSON: And the final thing, thank goodness for his elder daughter Arnelle who articulated it so clearly.
KEILAR: That's right.
JACKSON: It was a mistake. My dad made bad choices. And, finally, Fromong, usually victim testified to bury you. He said O.J. is my friend. Let him go.
KEILAR: That's right. That was pretty stunning. A lot of pleasant exchanges, in fact, between O.J. Simpson and Bruce Fromong.
So, Danny, what did you think? Because it was as if O.J. Simpson was litigating this case all over again instead of just explaining what he was thinking.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I totally agree. I respectfully disagree with Jeff Toobin on just one areas, and it's this. It was not a foregone conclusion. This was, in my opinion, a close call. And we may never know one way or the other.
But if you look at the Nevada guidelines, yes, his risk factors are very, very low. I had him at a one. They had him at a two out of 22, just to give you an idea. But that's not the end of the inquiry.
Also significant is the severity of his offense, and that was at the highest level. And because what he did was considered to egregious, the parole guidelines didn't call for automatic parole. They called for the board to consider the factors. And that's why those questions became so critical.
So, once the questions to O.J. became to critical, you ask how did he acquit himself. How did he described or explain what he did. And Joey pointed it out and so did Jeff. He did a terrible job. And you beg your clients. You beg them. You show them the right way to talk to a judge, a parole board.
CEVALLOS: And sometimes they hear you, they nod their head, and they go do whatever they want.
KEILAR: And, Jeffrey, in this case, I mean, there was just one detail that struck me, speaking to what Danny said there, going through the risk assessment, the parole board said one of the things that puts you at risk is that we consider you to have a substance abuse problem because so many of -- basically alcohol has been an issue in some of your incidents, right?
He then contested that. I mean, He didn't defer to them, as I'm sure his lawyer would have wanted him to do.
TOOBIN: He didn't admit to anything. He sort of grudgingly acknowledged that he was present at the robbery and kidnapping, but he said his conduct was completely justified. He said he was a model prisoner, which I think he was, by all accounts. And he said he had no -- he said he had no alcohol problem.
To me, one of the most revealing things about the whole proceeding is that one of the four parole board officers, the equivalent of judges, was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs tie.
KEILAR: That's right.
TOOBIN: Which, you know, O.J. didn't play for the Kansas City Chiefs, but -- I mean, it certainly speaks to a certain football fandom. I thought maybe he could have picked a different tie for today's proceedings.
KEILAR: Jeffrey, I want to ask you, just really quickly, because we have about 40 seconds. It -- and you've known -- followed O.J. for so long. He seems still to be -- he's always trying to put the shine on something, right? He said basically that he was kind of cajoled into going. He said that about so many things in his life.
TOOBIN: Right. And, you know, he'll continue doing it. And he will live quietly in Florida. You know, remember, he was out from 1995 to 2007, living off his pension, selling autographs, selling memorabilia. He will play a lot of golf and remain the pariah he's been since the day he was acquitted.
KEILAR: And the Goldman's certainly have the intention to get some money from him. We'll see if they have any success in that.
Thank you, gentlemen, so much.
KEILAR: Unlikely as Jeff Toobin says there.
I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.