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Kushner Talks to Senate Investigators on Russia Probe; Trump Snipes at GOP Over Senate Stalled Health Care Bill; U.S. Marine Facing New Challenges in Afghanistan; Pop Star Linked to Trump Jr. Meeting Refuses to Comment; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 24, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:23] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Happening now, Jared Kushner, behind closed doors answering questions from investigators in the Senate Intelligence Committee.

You're looking at live pictures right now of the stakeout outside that room. Jared Kushner walked by, oh, about 30 minutes ago, went into that meeting. He went in with his legal team speaking to about four to six investigations, looking in to allegations to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. But before walking into this private, behind-closed-doors meeting, he released a statement, a long, 11-page statement, and part of it read, "I am not a person who has sought the spotlight."

That is very true. He's given barely any interview.

Let's talk about this to two people who have covered him, reported on him extensively. David Freedlander, a senior political correspondent with Newsweek and the "Daily Beast." He also worked as a political reporter when Jared Kushner owned and ran the "New York Observer." And Emily Jane Fox, a CNN contributor and writer for "Vanity Fair," who covers all things Ivanka and Jared.

Nice to have you both here.

And Emily, let me begin with you. In a recent piece that you wrote about them, you wrote, the, quote, "have perfect timing when it comes to avoiding the heat and the spotlight gets too bright."

Now he can't escape it. He came out all smiles this morning, didn't answer any reporter questions at any point in time. What do you make of what we should expect from him and the statement?

EMILY JANE FOX, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what I found that's most striking in a statement today was his continued assertion that he was so busy throughout the campaign, so overwhelmed, such a political novice, that he didn't know that any of these things were wrong, that he didn't have the time to read through e-mails even ones that have the subject line "Russia, Hillary Clinton." This is someone who is a senior adviser to the president of the United

States who has such a broad slate in the White House making gigantic decisions on anything from infrastructure to Middle East peace to staffing decisions in the left wing. If he couldn't handle these things in a transition or a campaign, how is he handling these things in the White House?

BERMAN: It's a fair question. What experience -- what more experience did he have on Mideast peace before taking on that role that he did in campaign work before he went in there? It's a valid point.

You know, David, we saw Jared Kushner -- you could see him walking in there right now, looking relaxed. You know, you note that maybe the public view of Jared Kushner is different than his behavior and his demeanor and his forcefulness behind closed doors.

You know, look, this is a guy who was pushing for the president to fire James Comey.

DAVID FREEDLANDER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEWSWEEK: Yes. I mean, he's someone who we think of as being sort of this behind the scenes, soft spoken, massager of Donald Trump and the presidency. But, you know, he really comes out in many ways as this hard headed New Jersey real estate circles. He came -- you know, he was sort of birthed at politically and scandalous father -- fell into a scandal. He's had to rebuild a family name. And now here he is sort of playing some of that scandal playbook out himself here in Washington.

HARLOW: Emily, you also have written that in his first six months, Kushner has not only proved to be less moderate in moderating than his defenders once believed. I mean, that is true. Many thought that he would be more sort of the Democrat, if you will, to bring his father more -- his father, the former Democrat, more to the center.

What has surprised you most in these first six months for things he has pushed for?

FOX: Well, what's interesting is there have been a number of sources who have described him as a secure line that people in his circle, who he ran with before he joined the campaign and now the White House thought of him as someone who would come in and be a voice of reason, someone who would moderate some of the more extreme things that his father-in-law pushed on the campaign.

And as we just talked, he was in full support of the president firing James Comey. He was in support of the ban that would ban Muslim immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries. These are things that are not necessarily moderate things that people in his circles would have expected him to support and has thrown his full support behind the president.

BERMAN: You know, David, again, he is behind closed doors right now. How has his training, growing up in New Jersey and New York real estate, and whatever legal battles, you know, his father had, how do you think that has prepared him for this moment? How do you think he'll be before the Senate investigators?

FREEDLANDER: I don't think anything can prepare you for what he's preparing now. I mean, the stakes are getting high here. This is some serious stuff these guys are getting into. We're behind closed doors with the Senate, behind closed doors with the House tomorrow. Comey is investigating -- excuse me, Mueller is investigating.

I mean, this is serious stuff. What we know about Kushner, we saw in that statement, he is not giving an inch on this stuff at all.


FREEDLANDER: It's kind of like the Trump playbook. Brand the media fake news, call everything a lie, I'm totally innocent, and give not an inch as we approach.

FOX: Well, it's interesting, he's also willing to cast blame on people who are pretty close to him. He pretty much said that Don Jr. was the one -- you know, reiterated again that Don Junior was the one behind this.

[10:35:06] He brings up his assistant several times in this as someone who made the mistake in filing his security clearance early. And so if you take him at his word, this may be good defense for him, but it also shows that he's really willing to throw people under the bus.

HARLOW: Yes .there's no we really throughout this statement. Right, David? There's a lot of I's. But we asked Dana Bash about that earlier and she did point out that sort of what was asked of him and what this is, is his story, the defense of him.

Do you take it as that or do you see a growing divide because the son, Don Junior, and the son-in-law, Jared Kushner in this?

FREEDLANDER: I mean, I think we have to see how this all plays out. But certainly the fissure seems to be growing there. I mean, that was -- that was a heck of a statement, you know, that this was not my meeting. I merely got in, I saw that it was -- and it was part of. Talk to my assistant because they know all about this and they filled out the forms wrong. He's implicating other people here. You know, a lot of times people get tripped up, right, on obstruction of justice or perjury or misleading in these witness interviews and these closed- door sessions. I mean, I wonder if that's what we're going to be -- the road would be heading down.

BERMAN: All right. Fascinating to watch. David and Emily, thanks so much for being with us.

HARLOW: Thank you both.

BERMAN: Appreciate your time on this.

The president has a lot on his plate. He is attacking members of his own party for not doing enough to get his back. We think on the Russia investigation, but also possibly on policy, on health care. Will that help the president get the votes he wants? Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:40:49] HARLOW: The president has been vocal on Twitter, but today, we are going to hear from him, what he has to say about Senate GOP health care bill that remains on the brink. He's said to give a statement a little bit later today after he just wrote this, "Republicans have a last chance to do the right thing on repeal and replace after years of talking and campaigning on it."

BERMAN: All right. CNN's MJ Lee joins us now live from Capitol Hill.

MJ, as the president is trying to win votes from Republicans, he is attacking Republicans in some ways.


BERMAN: Where is the vote count as we sit here now?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, first of all, John and Poppy, I realize I have said this before, a couple of times, but there may be a health care vote this week after weeks of delays and failed attempts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisting that there is going to be a vote this week on a motion to proceed.

But what is amazing right now is that nobody actually seems to know what it is that the Republicans are trying to vote on. And this is because there have been so many different strategies so far coming from leadership.

Remember that Mitch McConnell first wanted to do a repeal and replace bill but that didn't give enough votes. And then he said that Republicans would vote on the repeal only and delay bill. But that also got a lot of concerns out of the Senate Republican conference. And then President Trump weighed in and he insisted that they could not do a repeal only, they have to do a repeal and replace at the same time.

So there's a lot of hesitation and a lot of questions right now among Senate Republicans on what exactly it is that they are trying to vote on. And regardless, Poppy and John, of what strategy they try to pursue the reality remains, like, getting the 50 votes on that first motion to proceed procedural vote is going to be very difficult.

Remember, even just on the repeal and replace strategy that McConnell was pursuing from weeks ago, someone like Susan Collins said that she was a no. Someone like Rand Paul said that he was a no because he only wants to vote on the -- of repeal only bill.

And also keep in mind that Senator John McCain still remains out of the Senate, that he is in Arizona right now getting treatment for his brain cancer diagnosis. So a lot of, you know, problems and challenges still remain for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump, of course, we are going to be hearing from him this afternoon. And he has been as you said pretty vocal on Twitter as well. He said last night, "If Republicans don't repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand."

Though I am willing to bet that a lot of these senators do very well understand the repercussions of not voting on a repeal deal and that is actually weighing very heavily on them as they head into this week -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Indeed. MJ Lee, thank you very much on Capitol Hill for us.

Maybe, maybe, maybe, there will be a vote this week.

Ahead for us, it is one of the most violent times in recent history in Afghanistan. In the middle of all of it, 300 U.S. Marines. We're going to take you inside.


[10:47:43] HARLOW: The United States -- the U.N. Security Council, rather, has called an emergency meeting for today to address some of the worst violence in Jerusalem in years between Israelis and Palestinians.

BERMAN: At the same time a senior official tells CNN the White House has been working with Israelis, Palestinians and the Jordanians in an effort to diffuse the tensions there.

The clashes started after new security features were installed at a key holy site after two Israeli police officers were killed in an attack there. Now the Arab League has postponed an emergency meeting on the conflict so that more leaders can attend.

HARLOW: Meantime in Afghanistan, a deadly Taliban attack this morning. A car bomb exploded in Kabul. At least 29 were killed, dozens more were injured. And the terror group says it was targeting a bus carrying Afghan intelligence staff.

BERMAN: You know, the battle clearly rages in what is America's longest war. U.S. Marines, they are still on the front lines there.

Joining us now live from Kabul, CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

And Nick, you've really had a very up close account of all this.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, interestingly, as the violence rages here in Kabul, and I should point out that the people killed in that bus explosion, the Taliban say they're intelligence officials but the government says they were simply civilians working for the Ministry of Mining.

The violence rages here in the capital, increasingly penetrating its ring of steels by the Taliban. The most volatile province in Helmand. Well, it's got now 300 Marines who basically went in there to try and stop the whole place falling to the insurgency. They have made some different but they face an uphill challenge, they're pretty exposed, given how few of them there are, and their experience, as we saw, represents so many of the challenges that the U.S. face here, days away potentially before the Trump White House announce their the new strategy for Afghanistan. Here is what we saw.


WALSH (voice-over): Here we are again, but it's been going on so long these guys have left. And then come back. Afghanistan's Helmand and America's Marines. When does it end?

A year ago, the Taliban were at the gates of this key city of Lashkar Gah. Now it's not good, but it's better because the Marines, even though there's only 300 of them, have brought huge firepower with them.

Afghan troops just now retook one district. The Marines, not at the front but advising on base instead, and congratulating them in doors.

[10:50:05] But nothing lasts forever here except maybe the war and the triumph soon fades. A rocket has just hit, landing about 20 meters from us outside. A total of three, indiscriminate. An 8-year-old boy wounded in the attack.

President Trump is now weighing his first move in a war that for men like Colonel Reid, whose birthday is September 11th, is absolutely nothing new. It was last here seven years ago but then with thousands of Marines. So fewer now.

COL. MATTHEW REID, DEPUTY COMMANDER, TASK FORCE SOUTHWEST, U.S. MARINES: We have around 300 still. Those are the troops that ran the chow hall.

WALSH: Now they have to do it all over again.

REID: It's discouraging, right. I mean, a lot of blood on the ground.

WALSH (on camera): You feel like an extra sense of heaviness when you try and take it on again?

REID: There is a definite feeling of a sense of obligation to get this right because of those that have gone before us, for sure.

WALSH: So how many friends did you lose here?

REID: I don't think I've ever bothered to count. So too many?


REID: Between here and Iraq.

WALSH (voice-over): Some Marines advise near the front, where you can just make out the Taliban's white flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all Taliban country, all of it. So there's Taliban that come through here on a daily basis.

WALSH : But the Marines aren't meant to fight them. The Afghans are. And they aren't as many here as there's supposed to be. Listen to how these 45 Marines almost double what's meant to be a 500-

strong Afghan unit here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only about 200 that are assigned right now.

WALSH (on camera): By assigned, you mean that actually exist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That actually exist.

WALSH: Some people, they have 500, but they have --


WALSH: They have 200.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of those 200, there's about 100 of them that aren't even here.

WALSH (voice-over): Some on operations or on patrol, say 50 to 100 Afghans actually here. This Marine unit pulls back after a week.

(On camera): The Marines are leaving, but this is only supposed to be a short mission. They come, they go, they come back again. Each time, hoping the Afghan Security Forces they leave behind them will be able to do their job, to hold the Taliban back. The question is, with only 300 of them here, Marines this time, what has changed?


WALSH: The question is, what really can President Trump try that's new? They have tried in the past more troops. They've tried talking to Taliban. That seems unlikely. Now the Taliban feel like they are winning. Maybe we'll see more of the same special forces, trainers, to help the Afghan Security Forces get together. But the idea of peace in the long term still seems far away -- John.

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh for us in Kabul. The question, what would be different this time? Thanks so much, Nick. Appreciate it.

All right. Jared Kushner is behind closed doors as we speak answering questions from Senate investigators. No doubt, it will include the meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. Wait until you see what happens when CNN tries to talk to one of the men who set up that meeting. That's next.


[10:57:10] HARLOW: So right now, senior White House adviser and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is on Capitol Hill. He's meeting with Senate investigators.

BERMAN: Now in a statement this morning Kushner is downplaying the importance of last summer's meeting that he attended, the meeting that was set up by Donald Trump Jr. with a lawyer and several other people with Russian connections. CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance caught up with

the pop star whose family helped arrange that meeting. Matthew joins us live from Latvia where this gentleman is performing.

So, Matt, you got, you know, a concert and a confrontation.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes. We got the whole package, that's right. Look, I mean, this is an incredibly important meeting because it's the strongest indication that we've had that the Trump campaign team, as they were there, may have been open to the possibility of colluding with, you know, Russian officials. That's what Donald Trump Jr. in his e-mails that he's released said that he was prepared to do. "I love it," remember when he said that these -- when he heard that these were people that potentially had damaging information about the Clinton campaign.

Emin Agalarov is the pop star. He's refused to give us a proper statement, a proper sit-down interview, refused to give his accounts of why he helped set up that meeting. So I came all the way here Latvia, tracked him down and put some of those important questions to him.


CHANCE (on camera): Why did you arrange that meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer?

EMIN AGALAROV, AZERBAIJAN SINGER/SONGWRITER: Come join me for the show tonight.

CHANCE: Yes, we will, definitely. Did the Russian authorities give your family information to pass on to the Trump administration?

AGALAROV: Talk to my lawyer.

CHANCE: I went to talk to him, he said you wouldn't comment.

AGALAROV: So I wouldn't comment.

CHANCE: Come on, these are questions that you're not going to be able to not comment on at some point.


CHANCE: You're going to have to answer --

AGALAROV: I am here to perform. So enjoy the show. And I'm not going to answer any questions. You're not going to get a comment. Am I clear? You're not going to get a comment.


CHANCE: Right. So Emin Agalarov, that pop star, being pretty adamant with me that he didn't want to elaborate further on the answer he gave. The no comment he gave. But, you know, I said to him, you know, these are questions that are not going to go away. They are going to be raised again, of course, at this hearing with Jared Kushner to the congressional investigative committees later on today, it's happening right now in fact. And so this issue will, eventually, I expect be addressed.

HARLOW: Matthew Chance, you got the sunglasses off and I would say that persistence is not your weakness, my friend.

BERMAN: That was awesome. Come to the concert, oh I plan to.

HARLOW: Oh, I'll be there.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance, great to see you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much for that reporting.

HARLOW: And thank you all for joining us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan.

The breaking news right now, Jared Kushner on the record.