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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Campaign Aides Admit to Russia Meetings After Denials; Interview with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California; Cornyn: McCain "Trying" to Return to D.C. for Health Care Vote; Interview with Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired July 24, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, Attorney General Jeff Sessions heads to the White House for a meeting but not with the President. Is the President trying to force Sessions to resign?
Plus, an allegation of full-throated denial, then an admission. Is this the all-too familiar cycle of the Trump team? Plus, John McCain battling brain cancer. His Senate colleagues say he's trying to get back to D.C. to vote on the health care legislation. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on how risky that trip might be. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, pushing Jeff Sessions to the brick. Is the President trying to force his Attorney General to quit? Sessions, who has not spoken with the President since Trump slammed him publicly in the New York Times, was at the White House today but never met with Trump, we're told. So that's after the President began the day with the stunning tweet referring to his own Attorney General as beleaguered.
This how far has Sessions falling in the eyes of his boss. Watch Trump reaction when a reporter shouted out a question during a photo op with White House interns today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, should Jeff Sessions resign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: New Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci refused to say whether the President wants Sessions to resign but he told CNN, "They need to sit down face-to-face and have a reconciliation and a discussion of the future." But is reconciliation even possible?
The President on happiness with his Attorney General seems to run deep in March just days after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. CNN reported that Trump was hot and exacerbated by Sessions action, calling it overkill. Then came the attack on the New York Times last Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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)
TAPPER: After that, the President tweeted on Saturday, "So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes? 33,000 e-mails deleted?" Is President Trump who can't sing (ph) to say you're fired to Sessions just hoping he'll get the hint?
Jeff Zeleny is OutFront at the White House for us tonight. Jeff, what is the President's thinking right now with regards to his Attorney General who was the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse him?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, good evening. I mean, there's no question at all that the President is fuming and it's apparently got worse week by week, month by month. Since that March decision, the Attorney General made to recuse himself of the Russia investigation, it was simmering for a while, I'm told. Now it's something more of a full boil.
And what's so unusual about this, Jake, is we are seeing this play out in realtime tweet by tweet, statement by statement and this is someone who was once, as you said, his most loyal supporter. He was brought in as Attorney General. He took the oath of office in the Oval Office. This was one of the closest people to this President. But now, he's throwing him under the bus and is, you know, equating him with Hillary Clinton and other things. That's about as low as it goes in the Trump world.
And Jake, we're watching the President's speech to boy scouts before you came on the air there and he brought Eagle Scouts from his cabinet along with him. Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary, former Eagle Scout. Jeff Sessions was a decorated Eagle Scout as well. He did not get an invitation to join the President.
The reality is Jeff Sessions was at the White House in the West Wing holding routine meetings this afternoon. We're told he did not speak with the President. The President wants to talk about him. He does not want to talk to him, Jake.
TAPPER: Grim. And Jeff, the President also not getting the support he might have hoped for from one of his biggest campaign supporters, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when it comes to the issue of whether or not Sessions should have recused himself.
ZELENY: Jake, this was very interesting. As Rudy Giuliani was flying into Washington for some business meetings today. He told CNN that, look, I think Jeff Sessions made the right call to recuse himself under the rules of the Department of Justice. He said, look, he simply, you know, was doing the right thing. This is something that the President has not seemed to acknowledge, that Attorney General Sessions was following the legal advice of the Justice Department.
But it also, I think, might sort of tamp down one of the rumors that's been flying in Washington that Rudy Giuliani could replace Jeff Sessions. I don't think that's likely to happen and the mayor, the former mayor said today, Jake, there's no truth to that.
TAPPER: Yes. And he's made it very clear that the only job he would want in the administration is as Secretary of State. Jeff Zeleny at the white House, thank you very much.
OutFront tonight, Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, Abby Phillip, Washington Post national political report, and Richard Painter, he serves as White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. Thanks one and all for being here.
[19:05:03] Chris, I'll start with you. Attorney General Sessions was one of the biggest Trump supporters during the campaign. Now the President is giving him the silent treatment. Communications Director Scaramucci says they need to speak and determine what the future of the relationship looks like. Can there be a future here?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think there can be a future, Jake, but Scaramucci is right. I mean, you can't have this -- I was going to say passive/aggressive attitude by Donald Trump to Jeff Sessions but it's not even really passive/aggressive. It's aggressive/aggressive at this point.
CILLIZZA: I don't know that you can have that continue between the President and one of his most important cabinet members. I think they have to have some sort of meeting at which either Sessions resigns or leaves or Trump gives him a real vote of confidence and leaves off the haranguing him on Twitter and in public. You just can't -- you can't have this out there as a story line when you're talking about the nation's leading law enforcement official and the President of the United States who chose him for that job.
TAPPER: And Richard, the President and Sessions have not spoken, we're told, at least not since that interview with the New York Times. I want to remind everyone what the President said during that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Then today, of course, the presidential tweet calling his own Attorney General beleaguered. "So why aren't the committees and investigators and, of course, beleaguered A.G. looking into crooked- Hillary's crimes and Russia relations." Richard, is there anything legally stopping the President from just firing Sessions?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRES. GW BUSH: Well, if he does it for purposes of trying to fire Bob Mueller, he's going to end up getting himself impeached. People are getting tired of this. This isn't about Jeff Sessions. This is about the Russia investigation and President Trump's efforts through everything he possibly can to stop the Russia investigation.
He fired FBI Director Comey to stop the Russia investigation, told the Russia ambassador that in the Oval Office and has told the press that. And then, once we have Bob Mueller in place, he is trying to find someone who can replace Attorney General Sessions and turn around and fire Bob Mueller. The American people are not going to stand for this.
And, once again, it has nothing to do with the personal relationship between Jeff Sessions and the President. The President wanted Jeff Sessions not to recuse because he wanted Jeff Sessions to put a damper on the investigation to stop the investigation and that just isn't going to happen.
TAPPER: Abby, President Trump spoke tonight to a group of boy scouts in West Virginia. I want to play one thing that he said that caught our ears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As the scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal. We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: An interesting remark. Although, we should observe, Sessions was actually one of the most loyal supporters the President has had. The only issue is, in President Trump's eyes, that he recused himself from the Russia investigation.
ABBY PHILLIP, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, the loyalty thing is really, in some ways for this President, kind of a one way street. He wants people to be loyal to him but he is ready to throw them under the bus at any moment and with Sessions that it's so apparent that their relationship has deteriorated over something that essentially he had no choice but to do, recuse himself in this case.
I think, you know, Chris pointed out earlier that it's not good for Trump to have this relationship with his A.G., but I do think that it is possible for them to continue this way. I mean, one of the problems of firing Jeff Sessions is not just that Trump doesn't like actually firing people. He likes talking about firing people but has not actually fired very many people in his administration. But it's also that replacing Sessions is going to be extremely challenging.
If Trump does, in fact, want to have someone in that job who will intervene in this Russia investigation, that person is going to have an extraordinarily hard time being confirmed by the United States Senate. And it's for that reason and also because getting rid of your A.G. and having a kind of gap between your old A.G. and your new A.G. is not conducive to central part of Trump's governing philosophy, which has to do with immigration and enforcement and border security.
So, I think he's in a tough spot all around. And I'm not surprised that Sessions hasn't resigned in the face of all of this extraordinary pressure. It's because he knows that Trump has not actually been known to pull the trigger and fire people unless he seems like he has absolutely no other choice. And right now, the alternative to Sessions is not very good for this President.
TAPPER: Chris, one big Trump supporter, Congressman Steve King, a Republican of Iowa and an immigration hard liner, he tweeted today, "Real Donald Trump with Jeff Sessions at your side, you are best positioned to get your agenda and MAGA, Make America Great Again."
[19:10:10] One of my favorite conservative bloggers Allah Pandit (ph) suggested that firing Sessions or forcing him to resign could really risk putting the Trump coalition in something of a perilous situation given the fact that a lot of the nationalist movement is really behind Sessions and they were big supporters of his in the Senate. Steve King, obviously, a big supporter of his. These are the people who are real hard liners on immigration. Do you think the nationalists might actually side with Sessions over Trump?
CILLIZZA: Potentially, yes. Look, Jeff Sessions was a member of the immigration cause before Donald Trump, right? I mean, Donald trump is --
CILLIZZA: -- a relatively new believer in this. Jeff Sessions was a hard liner on immigration from way back in the way that Steve King has been. I just think it creates so many potential problems if he does it. Richard mentioned the Russia investigation, Jake. There are -- then as you point out, there are political and coalition issues that come with it.
And as Abby noted, who could get confirmed to this job? I think the best hope for Jeff Sessions is that Donald Trump leaves off openly attacking him, right? Donald trump, it is true, Donald Trump doesn't have to have a meeting and either fire or force Sessions to resign or make peace with him. He could just stop talking about Jeff Sessions entirely.
The problem is, in the last five days, it's gotten more public, more aggressive as it relates from Trump to Sessions, not less so.
TAPPER: Yes. It's all -- the leaks are coming from inside the House, right?
CILLIZZA: Yes. It feels like he's trying to provoke something out of Jeff Sessions. Maybe he'll stop. But that's not been our experience with Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Richard, one of the key problems of course is that if Sessions leaves, as Chris just noted, who replaces him? There was a report that some in the White House have dismissed, that raise a possibility of New York -- for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani replacing him. But as I said, some people in the White House say that's not true. Giuliani says that's not true.
I guess, another big question is, as Chris says, who could take the job? I mean, who could get confirmed?
PAINTER: Well, the big problem is that Jeff Sessions leaves, there would be an acting attorney general and Donald Trump could appoint someone else from the Justice Department to be acting attorney general. Rachel Brand or someone else and then try to pressure that person as acting attorney general, turn around and fire Bob Mueller. That's exactly what President Nixon did to try get rid of Archi Cox, his special prosecutor.
Cox got fired by the long-time and odd special prosecutor Leon Jaworski because of political pressure. And that's exactly what's going to happen here.
People are not going to tolerate this and the President insisting on loyalty and talking about loyalty at the boy scouts meeting today, that isn't going to solve the problem either. The boy scouts have on their uniform, honestly, an American flag, not a picture of Donald Trump.
And when we have people we're collaborating with an adversary in other states in order to get dirt on their opponent. And then they want to stop the investigation, we're not going to tolerate that from the President or anyone else.
TAPPER: All right. Richard, Chris, Abby, thanks so much. Appreciate it
OutFront next, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner telling Senate investigators he never colluded with the Russians. But did he toss his own brother-in-law under the bus at the same time. Plus, Senator John McCain battling brain cancer. Why is he, reportedly, trying to return to Capitol Hill tomorrow? Is it even safe to do so?
Plus, a Republican congressman using the shooting of a colleague in a campaign ad, is he crossing the line? Stay with us.
[19:17:33] TAPPER: Welcome back. Tonight the White House is saying that President Trump is very proud of his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner who said that he did nothing wrong when he held four meetings with high-profile Russians during the campaign. After meeting behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, Kushner made a rare appearance before the cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses. And I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's justice reporter Evan Perez is OutFront for us tonight. Evan, what did Kushner tell investigators behind close doors?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, he was meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors in a secure room for over two hours today. And we know a little bit of what he said because he released an 11-page statement essentially describing his four contacts that you just mentioned with Russian officials.
And a couple of them, obviously, have gotten a lot of attention, including the one from June of 2016 during the campaign -- the meeting organized by Donald Trump Jr. In which, as you pointed out, he sort of throws Don Jr. under the bus suggesting that he had no idea what this meeting was about. He essentially was invited to drop by which was apparently a practice during the campaign.
And he said that in the middle of the meeting, he sort of realized that he had no business being there because he was not interested in what was being discussed. And he asked his own assistant to send him an e-mail saying -- he send an e-mail to his assistant asking her to call him so that he could have an excuse to politely leave that meeting.
He also described, Jake, the meeting last December after Donald Trump had won the presidency. He met with Sergey Kislyak who is the Russian ambassador and he describes basically an effort for them to set up a bad channel to talk about Syria. But he says that there was nothing suspicious about that meeting. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.
OutFront now, Van Jones, a former special adviser to President Obama, Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and Ron Rotunda who served a special counsel to Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
Van, I'll start with you. Kushner insists he did nothing wrong. And tight now, there appears nothing to prove he did do anything wrong. Is it possible there's more to come or is it possible this is, as has been said, a nothing burger?
[19:20:06] VAN JONES,CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what I think is that Kushner, in fact, become an even richer man because apparently he's been able to create a smoke machine, so there's always smoke but there's never a fire. I don't think we have enough information to know what is going on.
Every time these guys come before the camera, they say nothing is going on, they deny everything. And then a few months later, they admit to something they just denied before and they say but now we're done. And so, I think the problem is that if you're watching this carefully and you see this pattern of denial, deny this, didn't admit it but deny something else, you start to -- you just have to wait.
In a few more weeks or a few more months, no one would be shocked right now to turned out there was another Russian, there were four more Russians to turns out. In fact, they did talk about this. But the overall effect of it is to get the American people used to a level of insanity and drama in the White House which is bad for everybody.
TAPPER: Scott, Jared Kushner said he didn't read the full e-mail from Donald Trump Jr. that set up this meeting with what was sold as a Russian government official with dirt on Hillary Clinton. But the subject line of the e-mail was, quote, Russia/Clinton private and confidential. Do you find it credible what he said?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. GW BUSH: I do find it credible what he said. I think people in Jared Kushner's position in campaigns that frequently get stuff and skim through it, obviously he followed through today on what he said he wanted to do all along. From the first night, we started talking about Kushner and the Russians, he and his attorneys have said I want to answer questions, he wants to be transparent.
He followed through on that pledge today. I think he had a great day. It was handled beautifully. The 11-page statement was great. The meeting with the reporters at the White House afterwards, he was clear in what he had to say.
As you pointed out, Jake, there's nothing out there right now that says Jared Kushner did a thing in the world wrong and he followed through on transparency pledges today and I think it's a great day for this White House.
TAPPER: Ron, Kushner's given a statement to Senate investigators and he'll be doing that soon to House investigators. Tomorrow, he made the public statement. Is this legally risky, all of these public declarations about what he did or did not do?
RONALD ROTUNDA, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO KEN STARR WHO INVESTIGATED PRES. OBAMA: I don't think so. If you've got nothing to hide, you shouldn't act like you're hiding something. And he seems like he was very, very complete today. He explains these various things, that the send button was pressed accidentally.
Having done that myself, I do feel empathetic. We have had a mountain of innuendo but it seems to be built on a foundation of very loose sand. There was a meeting he didn't disclose. One of the meetings I think they called Sessions a liar on this. He didn't disclose the meeting.
What he did was he stepped from the podium after giving a speech and the Russian ambassador shook his hand and he moved on and Sessions forgot to disclose it. And this was supposed to be a big lie. That's not really very much, if you think about it.
So, I think we should wait until we get a lot more facts rather than jumping to conclusions about when are we going to indict and frog march him from the White House, which seems to be a narrative, a theme since the day after the election.
TAPPER: Van, today Jared Kushner implied that the investigations are undermining President Trump's victory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KUSHNER: Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And this comes the day after the President tweeted, "As the phony Russian witch-hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold Democrats and Russians." So there's this question out there about whether or not Democrats are trying to delegitimatize the President's victory.
JONES: Well, I think it's really unfair for Kushner to have said that. He actually speaks very seldomly. So people are going to take his words apart and take him very seriously. It seems that this is a view that the entire family may well hold. It's an unfair view.
You could essentially say that nobody changed their vote or it didn't affect anybody but that there was an attempt on the part of an enemy to hurt us and that there were people in that campaign including Donald Trump Jr. who said he was willing to collude. He was willing -- I want it down, give me your dirt.
You can't live in a world where that's off the table to discuss. You have to be able to talk about that. And it's really unfair for the Trumps to do this. They are basically saying, you can't have high standards. You can't ask tough questions because if you do, you're insulting American voters. And that's a false choice.
You can respect American voters, and I do, and also want more information about what's going on. And it's a false choice and it's the kind of thing you do. When you don't want to actually have an honest conversation, you throw out those kind of false choices.
[19:25:11] TAPPER: Scott?
JENNINGS: I think we have to keep in mind here, there are two issues. There's the idea that the Russians meddled in the election and then there's these crazy allegations of collusion with the Russians of which there's no evidence right now. And we have Democrats, as you pointed out, Jake, making maybe too much of this. You've got people filing articles of impeachment already in the United States House of Representatives which I think is just ridiculous.
I think it may turn out here that there was no collusion but we do ultimately get to a final conclusion that the Russians meddled in the election. And the most important thing the Trump administration can do is to acknowledge it at some point and put together a presidential task force that gives the American people competence there won't be any meddling in the future.
But I would say, if we finally get to a place where we all agree there's meddling in the election by the Russians, it in no way delegitimatizes this presidency. All it means is we have to stop them in the future and that's what I want to see the Trump White House do, give the American people that confidence. TAPPER: Van, Scott, Ron, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
OutFront next, tomorrow's vote on the health care bill, it's being called the most important vote yet. So why is President Trump attacking some Republicans over it.
Plus, the death toll rising after people were smuggled across the southern border in a boiling hot tracker-trailer. Ahead, a special report on the changing and dangerous ways immigrants are getting into the United States. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back. Wash, rinse, repeat. President Trump's son- in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner admitting today he had four meetings with Russians, this after the Trump campaign previously insisted there had been no such contacts. Kushner denies any wrongdoing. But this does seem to be part of a pattern for the Trump team and initial denying of meetings with Russians.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twice in the campaign and twice in the transition, the president's son-in-law and White House adviser met with Russians. And Jared Kushner says it was always proper.
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.
FOREMAN: But for months, amid questions about Russian meddling in the election, President Trump has pushed a different story.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, OK?
FOREMAN: Dismissing claims anyone on his team even had contact with Russians.
TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody --
REPORTER: So, you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?
TRUMP: Look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question? I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.
FOREMAN: On Twitter, he has roared: Russia talk is fake news put out by the Dems and played up by the media. Such dishonesty. A total scam.
REPORTER: Did you or anyone in your campaign have any contact with Russia leading up to or during the campaign? Nothing at all?
FOREMAN: Vice President Mike Pence --
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS, FACE THE NATION: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course not.
FOREMAN: Yet we know well before those denials, Kushner joined then- campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. to meet with Russians after Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Now he says the meeting was a bust, not even about that subject. But the very next month, there he was ridiculing Democrats for suggesting the Russians were trying to meddle.
DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's disgusting. It's so phony.
FOREMAN: Paul Manafort also vehemently dismissed the idea.
PAUL MANAFORT, THEN-TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know anything about what you just said. You may know it. If you do, then you ought to expose it. But to say you know, I don't even know what you're talking about. It's crazy.
FOREMAN: And that talking point has been echoed repeatedly ever since.
DICKERSON: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened.
FOREMAN: As now Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this year, it's hard to make a comment on something that never happened.
FOREMAN: But here's the problem: now, as we noted, Jake, members of Trump's team are saying there were meetings with Russians despite all of those denials for months. And so, of course, some of the president's opponents are hoping that he might pay a real price for what he's called fake news for so long -- Jake.
TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman from California, Eric Swalwell. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, good to see you as always.
You saw President Trump's son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, today said, quote, I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Jake.
There is a lot of evidence that members of the team were working with Russians or seeking to work with Russians, and the goal of our investigation, though, is to understand the degree of that. So, I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow. I think it says a lot about where this investigation has gone. You have a ranking member in Adam Schiff, and the chair, Mike Conaway, working together to bring these witnesses in and hopefully we can answer that question for the American people in short order.
TAPPER: Well, you say there's a lot of evidence of people in the Trump team wanting to work with the Russians, or working with the Russians. We know, obviously, of Donald Trump Jr.'s willingness to hear the kompromat, the compromising material from what he thought would be a Russian government official.
Is there anything more than that? Because that, according to Trump Jr. and others, didn't result in much. And are there other incidents, other meetings that you can tell us about?
SWALWELL: Well, sure, Jake. Just to put in perspective, you know, this summer was quite a busy time for the Trump campaign and their contacts with Russia. You had Carter Page, who was a senior foreign policy adviser with permission of the campaign, he went over to Russia in July. So, just a month after the meeting at Trump Tower that Don Jr. hosted.
And then, of course, you have Roger Stone who was talking with Russians who had hacked into John Podesta's e-mail and he had sent out a tweet that was very, very, I would say, hard to read or hard to tell what he was talking about at the time that John Podesta is going to spend his time in the barrel. And, of course, six weeks later, the Podesta e-mails are released.
So, we have to understand what all of this means, how they are all connected or maybe they're not connected, and it's a thousand coincidences.
[19:35:00] But I am encouraged that we're making progress now.
TAPPER: But when you say evidence, do you mean beyond circumstantial evidence because what you laid out isn't necessarily anything new and isn't necessarily anything hard?
SWALWELL: Yes. And, Jake, evidence to me is not a conclusion. You know, evidence has to be tested and developed, corroborated or repudiated. And so, there is certainly -- there is -- you know, there's circumstantial evidence and there's direct evidence. The Don Jr. e-mail to me made everything quite clear as far as what this constellation of contacts was, that the Trump campaign kept saying were innocent explanations. If you look at the president's own tone on this, he has gone from no
Russia, no collusion to saying essentially that's politics. So what? Who wouldn't have taken the meeting? And I think that's an acknowledgement, frankly, of the overwhelming evidence because of our investigations and of free press that they've had to deal with.
TAPPER: You'll be there tomorrow when Jared Kushner meets with your committee behind closed doors.
SWALWELL: I will.
TAPPER: What questions -- what questions do you have for him?
SWALWELL: Jake, I don't want Mr. Kushner to know the questions before he goes there. There's, you know, a lot of questions about the campaign's contacts with Russia, why they would meet with Russia more than any other country and, you know, I don't think he's a novice at all. He seems like he knew exactly what he was doing and this was a campaign for the presidency of the United States and the campaign spent an extraordinary amount of time talking to a foreign adversary or representatives for a foreign adversary. It's just quite puzzling.
TAPPER: President Trump called out the top Democrat on your committee, ranking member Adam Schiff, tweeting, quote, sleazy Adam Schiff, the totally biased congressman looking into Russia, spends all of his time on television pushing the Dem loss excuse.
Your response, sir?
SWALWELL: That's a tribute to just how hard Adam Schiff has been working that he has earned a nickname.
TAPPER: Congressman Swalwell, thank you so much. I'm sure you're looking forward to one yourself.
SWALWELL: No, that -- it would -- mine would certainly be overrated, I'm sure.
TAPPER: OUTFRONT next, Senator John McCain may be trying to make it back to D.C. for a health care vote as President Trump rips members of his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So far, Senate Republicans members have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And 10 people dead, immigrants packed inside a sweltering truck. Tonight, a special report on just how dangerous the trip across the border is changing under President Trump.
[19:41:13] TAPPER: Breaking news tonight, Senator John McCain of Arizona who has just been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer may be coming to Washington, D.C. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas now says McCain is, quote, trying to get approval for his travel arrangements, unquote, to return to D.C. tomorrow for that big health care legislation vote.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent is OUTFRONT with more.
Sanjay, you've spoken with McCain's doctors, of course, with the permission of Senator McCain. What do you think about his travel to D.C.? Is that safe?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, I don't think there's absolute rules on when somebody can travel, is what you'll hear most doctors say, you know, seven to 10 days or so after a brain operation like this. But, you know, he's been -- I will say that he's had a pretty quick recovery. You and I talked about this before, Jake. Even the day after his surgery, he was home.
I talked to his doctors, as you mentioned. They told Senator McCain has been up and about, and, you know, going back and forth between his house to the hospital and all of that. So, it's not surprising at all that he's talking about this. He's sort of at the outer window, though, of being able to do this sort of thing. His doctors probably would not initially recommend it, but they probably wouldn't stand his way.
TAPPER: He had a craniotomy. Is there any concern that something like getting on a plane, dealing with the altitude could affect his condition?
GUPTA: Yes, that's the big concern is when you depressure -- when the cabin is pressurized, still at the lower pressure than the ground, you know, if there's air, for example, whether it's brain surgery or surgery in a joint, air can expand and that can cause problems, that cause pain.
In this sort of situation, one of the things that doctors will do certainly and his doctors again talked to me about this, is that they will make sure he has no excessive air and that it would be safer to travel as a result. But again, I think they would like a couple weeks before he'd do that.
TAPPER: All right. Dr. Gupta, thanks so much. We appreciate it.
OUTFRONT now is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and is a former Navy SEAL.
Good to see you, Congressman, as always.
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R-VA), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Good to see you, Jake.
TAPPER: If Senator McCain comes back, it would be for that health care vote. Republicans in the Senate are struggling to get the votes needed to proceed. The president said today that Republicans are not doing their jobs if they don't repeal and replace Obamacare. He tweeted over the weekend, quote: It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back do very little to protect their president, unquote.
What do you make of that?
TAYLOR: Well, first, let me say, let's -- you know, let's wish for a speedy recovery from Senator McCain. I know everybody out there is concerned.
TAYLOR: Look, I think it's important that the Senate put something on the table. They hash it out. They work through that process and they get something back on their back over to us so we can negotiate in the president's desk. A lot of us, including many senators, if not just about all of them, certainly ran on repeal and replace.
And if they can't hash it out, if the two wings can't come together, then just put a straight repeal in there, which would force, and with enough time, obviously, not to hurt people, but that maybe would force everyone to come to the table, bipartisan, to actually do something and work for the American people.
TAPPER: Are you frustrated with the Senate?
TAYLOR: I think that's traditional, right, they're a little slower than the House, of course. But, listen, I've legislated here, of course, in the House of Delegates in Virginia, the legislative process is not super quick. There are tensions. There are diverging interests all the time. The sausage is being made. This is -- you know, this is the legislative process and I'd like to see it through, of course, and I like to see them make something happen.
TAPPER: Yes, what's that old saying about a Republican in the House saying the Democrats are opponents but the Senate is the enemy?
TAPPER: President Trump's not the only Republican expressing frustration at Republican senators, of course. Your colleague in the House, Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas, said this in a radio interview. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: The fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that everyone in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me.
[19:45:04] Some of the people that are opposed to this, some female senators from the Northeast -- if it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and said settle this Aaron Burr-style.
(END AUDIO CLIP) TAPPER: He's referring it would seem to be, Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, and possibly, maybe Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, depending on his sense of geography. What do you make of those comments?
TAYLOR: Well, it's not something that, of course, that I would say. I think they're slightly aggressive, of course.
TAYLOR: But that being said, there's no question that even when the Democrats were trying to pass the ACA a while ago, they got tremendous pressure as well too, just like we're getting. That was to be expected.
There's no time -- this is not the time to be weak in the knees. It's time for clarity and chaos and I think that they need to move forward with what they promised the American people.
TAPPER: I do want to ask you about the issue of Russian meddling. President Trump himself still expressed doubts. His newly minted communication director told me just yesterday this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Somebody said to me yesterday, I won't tell you who, that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they are super confident in their deception skills in hacking.
That was the president, Jake.
TAPPER: OK, it's the consensus of the intelligence community.
SCARAMUCCI: I talked to him yesterday, he called me. He called me from Air Force One.
SCARAMUCCI: And he basically said to me, hey, you know, this is -- maybe they did it, maybe they didn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: How concerning is it to you that our commander-in-chief still does not seem to accept the findings of his own intelligence community?
TAYLOR: Well, there's no question that the Russians are very sophisticated. They are our near peers, of course, in cyber. I think -- I think the White House understands that they did make an effort to hack into our elections. Not only the Russians, quite frankly, there are other folks that are looking there as well, too. And they will be back and they will be more sophisticated. So, I think it's important quite frankly that the White House, the
executive branch and Congress put aside some of this partisan rhetoric, of course, and come with a policy that says to the world that you will not hack our elections. You will not mess with the integrity of our elections moving forward. That's something that has to happen for the protection of our elections in our American people and that's the White House, the executive branch and Congress need to come together to make that happen.
TAPPER: Congressman Taylor, always good to see you. Thank you so much for being here.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: OUTFRONT next, 10 dead, many more injured in one of the most deadliest cases of human trafficking in recent history in United States. Tonight, a special report on how Donald Trump's policies are impacting immigration in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the new president in the United States, many people forget about the American dream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:51:31] TAPPER: New tonight, the driver of that sweltering tractor trailer that resulted in the deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants and perhaps more to come, has been charged and is facing life in prison or death, if convicted. And while overall crossings from the border are down, this is one of many dangers facing those still trying to enter the United States illegally.
Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT with this special report.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day, hundreds cross this river. No questions asked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very easy.
SANTIAGO: This is the other border affecting U.S. immigration policy, Mexico's southern border. It's so easy to cross here, we found people from Guatemala openly crossing to buy cheaper groceries in Mexico. What we didn't find -- the flood of migrants that once crossed here fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. The reason?
ANGEL MORGE, TAPACHULA MIGRANT OFFICE: After the new president in the United States, many people forget about American Dream. They don't want to go all the way up there, because they know they're going to have problems.
SANTIAGO: For years, migrants across the river came here, about three hours north. This was just two years ago -- migrants on their way to the U.S., packing a freight train known as La Bestia, The Beast.
JOSE MARCHADO, MIGRATING FROM HONDURAS: The only way the immigrants got to get to America.
SANTIAGO (on camera): Standing on top of the train today, it's empty. But months ago, we would have seen hundreds of immigrants filling the tops of these train cars. So, what's changed? You ask anyone, they'll tell you part of it is Trump talk. The other part, Mexico is cracking down on immigration coming in from the south.
(voice-over): The Mexican government now patrols train stations, forcing smugglers to find new routes, though smugglers are also charging more money.
MARCHADO: As soon as Donald Trump, being the president, he -- they raised the price up to like 7,000.
SANTIAGO (on camera): But before President Trump, how much was it?
MARCHADO: It was 3,000.
SANTIAGO: So, it has more than doubled with President Trump?
MARCHADO: Yes, right, right.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Riding La Bestia costs Amarelis Mendoza (ph) much more. The 13-year-old from Guatemala lost her leg when she fell off the train in January. Her dream was to one day make it to the United States. She's given up on that not because of her injury, but -- because she's heard the U.S. is deporting everyone. Her family now symbolizes migration in the Trump era, many choosing to make Mexico their final destination.
(on camera): So then his talk is working?
MORGE: Yes, it's working.
SANTIAGO: And it's impacting Mexico?
MORGE: Yes. And now the problem is here instead of in the United States.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Mexico has seen a 150 percent increase in asylum applications since Trump was elected. But many here don't consider his tough talk to be lasting policy, believing the flow of migrants will soon return.
For Jose Marchado, that time is now.
MARCHADO: It's how I beg for money here to keep traveling to America.
SANTIAGO: He begs for money to get to Tennessee, where the 2-month- old daughter he has yet to meet is waiting.
MARCHADO: They can lock me up. I'm going to try to see my family.
SANTIAGO: Family ties for some, make it worth risking the odds, that Trump's tough talk will not turn into action.
[19:55:06] SANTIAGO: And when we last checked in with Jose, he survived La Bestia. He made it to the U.S.-Mexico border, but he's been stuck there for about a month. And this is why so many, like those who died in San Antonio, take those risks. They've become so desperate at some point in their journey, that they then turn to smugglers -- Jake.
TAPPER: Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.
We'll be right back.
TAPPER: A personal note before we go tonight. My friend and colleague Erin Burnett will be back in this anchor chair tomorrow. Her beloved mother, Esther Margaret Burnett, died unexpectedly, but peacefully last Thursday.
A passionate reader, Esther loved poetry. She was an artist. She loved her roses, her gardens, her pets. And most of all, of course, she loved her family. She loved her husband, King, her daughters Mara, Laurie and Erin, and her nine grandchildren.
Esther and King met at a summer cookout on Long Island where they fell in love. They were married for 53 years. Esther Burnett was 79 years old.
And, Erin, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. We are looking forward to seeing you back here in this seat where you belong tomorrow night.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.