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Jared Kushner Releases 11-Page Statement on Russia Meetings; Congress to Present Bill Increasing Sanctions on Russia to President Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 24, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:04] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And he offers his recollection of the controversial meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian lawyer. All this comes as the president raised whether he will sign a new Russian sanctions bill where Congress actually limits the president's ability to weaken those sanctions.
So let's begin our coverage with CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown live in Washington. She has read through Jared's statement. So Pamela, give us the headlines.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time, Chris and Alisyn, that President Trump's senior adviser and son-in- law, Jared Kushner, is sharing his side of the story publicly about Russian contacts. And he says point blank in this 11 page statement I did not collude nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.
And Kushner insists that he had no additional meetings with Russians other than the four contacts that have already been reported in the media, though he did provide fresh details about those meetings. He says besides a quick meet and greet with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last April at the Mayflower hotel, the only other Russian contact during the campaign was the now infamous meeting at Trump Tower with his brother-in-law, Don Jr. Kushner claiming he did not read down that e-mail chain whereby Don Jr. was told he would be receiving incriminating information from a Russia attorney about Hillary Clinton. He claimed that he would get hundreds of e-mails a day and he just couldn't read through each one of them.
And he also tried to emphasize in the statement how he viewed the meeting as meaningless, saying in a statement, quote, "Reviewing e- mails confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work I actually e-mailed my assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 minutes or so and wrote "Can you please call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting." He says he can only recall a discussion about adoption during that meeting and there was no follow- up and no documents being offered.
During the transition, he said he again met with Ambassador Kislyak who wanted to address U.S. policy in Syria and requested a secure line to conduct that conversation with people in Moscow. Kushner says he asked in response if it was possible to use communication channels at the Russian embassy, which he says didn't happen.
And after that at Kislyak's request he met with Sergei Gorkov, the head of the Russian state owned bank VEB who has a direct connection to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Kushner says that meeting lasted about 20 minutes and he claims it was only about relationship building and that no personal business was discussed. Important to point out that contradicts the statement from VEB that says the meeting was about Kushner's business.
But it is clear, Alisyn and Chris, in this 11-page statement that he is trying to downplay these contacts with Russians he had during the campaign and transition, saying that, really, they were insignificant, in his view. And it's also a defense of why he had these meetings in the first place. Of course, he will be peppered with questions when he goes behind closed doors on Capitol Hill later this morning.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that will be fascinating. Pamela, thanks so much for laying all that reporting out for us.
So the House and Senate reaching a deal on a new Russian sanctions bill. But it is not clear whether President Trump will sign it, given that it aims to limit his ability to ever weaken those sanctions.
CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What have you learned about their take on it there, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it wasn't long ago that the White House was opposed to key provisions in that bill to punish Russia for meddling in the last election. Now pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill to do something. The president finding himself in a tough spot, a no win situation if you will.
Meanwhile the newly minted White House communications team over the weekend is getting signals crossed trying to explain.
JOHNS: President Trump's new communication team offering muddled messaging about whether the president support a bill that will limit his ability to unilaterally lift sanctions on Moscow. Newly appointed press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders signaling the president is open to signing the legislation.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these in place, and we support where the legislation is now.
JOHNS: But incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci sounding more uncertain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is President Trump going to sign the Russia sanctions bill?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You've got to ask President Trump that. It's my second or third day on the job. My guess is that he's going to make that decision shortly. JOHNS: The new communications director also telling CNN that
President Trump still does not accept that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election.
SCARAMUCCI: He basically said to me, hey, maybe they did it, maybe they didn't do it.
JOHNS: A stark contrast to the unanimous and unwavering beliefs reiterated by President Trump's own intelligence officials in the last week.
[08:05:07] DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There's no dissent, and I have stated that publicly, and I stated that to the president.
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election as is the entire intelligence community.
MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: No doubt at all, and I stand by the intelligence community assessment that we produced.
JOHNS: With three of his inner circle scheduled this week to speak with Congressional investigators look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the president unleashing his anger at both political parties, once attain calling the investigation a phony witch hunt and excuse for a lost election, while attacking fellow Republicans for doing very little to protect their president.
The president raising eyebrows a day earlier by asserting he has the complete power to pardon, suggesting that might include his family, his aides, even possibly himself in relation to the Russia probe.
SCARAMUCCI: I'm in the Oval Office with the president last week. We're talking about that. He says he brought that up, he says, but he doesn't have to be pardoned. There's nobody around him that has to be pardoned.
JOHNS: One of President Trump's lawyers offering a contradictory message.
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: We have not and I've continued to not have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed and pardons are not on the table.
JOHNS: The House is expected to take up that sanctions bill as early as Tuesday. "The New York Times" reporting when they reached out to Scaramucci about the confusion over where the president stands on the bill, he said he was still new to the information. Chris and Alisyn?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's bring in the panel. Joe, thank you very much.
CNN political analyst David Drucker, "Washington Post" Congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst Rear Admiral John Kirby. So, Mr. Drucker, when you see this 11-page statement, Kushner is saying here is the truth from my perspective. I was overwhelmed, I may have been naive, but I wasn't dirty. He seems to be leveraging you want to criticize me politically, go ahead, but I wasn't doing anything dirty. What do you think of it?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he has finally put some meat on the bones. And I think so much of the problems that they have had in terms of this Russia issue and all of the drip, drip, drip that we've seen in news reports over the past six, seven months, is that they haven't disclosed so many of their contacts and so many of their meetings, particularly with Russian individuals and Russian officials, such that it made it appear as though they were trying to hide things. General Flynn, the national security adviser, was fired because he wasn't truthful with his boss. He left the vice president hung out to dry.
I think one thing that they should get away from is this naivety about, look, we were high-powered, very successful, intelligent business people running all sorts of operations but we weren't smart enough to get this political thing. By the time the particular Russian meeting happened in June of 2016, they had been running for president for a year. They had Don McGahn on staff from the very beginning. He's now the White House counsel, but he was the campaign counsel. He's one of the smartest, most effective Republican election lawyers in Washington.
CAMEROTA: So why didn't he tell them this protocol?
DRUCKER: Who knows whether they did or not. My point is they had his available to them the expertise. And I've covered a lot of businessmen turned politicians. Granted, rules for president is a little bit different than running for the United States Senate or running for governor, but there are rules for running for governor in particular states, there are rules in running for Senate. And I've seen these businesspeople hire people that know politics, as Mr. Trump did, and then they start to rely on their expertise so that they do everything according to federal law.
And so I think they like to play the naivety card when it's convenient for them, but It doesn't help their case, number one, and it doesn't add up if that's what they're going to rely on.
CAMEROTA: John Kirby, it's not just naivety. He also pleads just being overwhelmed and busy, that he was getting over 200 e-mails a day. He couldn't read through all of them. He certainly couldn't read through all of the threads. So this meeting, in other words, was in his schedule, the meeting with the Russian attorney that Don Jr.'s e-mails were about, was in Jared's schedule as "Don Jr. meeting." That's it. That's what he thought -- he didn't know what he was walking into, as depicted by his statement here. So in terms of how the Russians were approaching this team, what do you see in here?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: One of the thing that leapt off the pages of the this statement to me was if you take it at face value is the frenetic, almost enthusiastic aggressiveness by the Russians to get in on the ground floor here with this campaign and after they won certainly as a transition team. You keep seeing Kislyak repeatedly calling to get meetings on the schedule and really reaching out. So one of the big takeaways is this confirms what we knew was a very active Russian effort to get involved with Trump campaign and post-election activities.
[08:10:06] The other thing I wanted to add to what David was saying was, don't forget, the State Department, and I was part of the State Department during the transition. We repeatedly reached out to the Trump transition team and offered assistance and advice and counsel and background materials for any and all foreign contacts that they were having, and we were rebuffed at every turn. So this statement is pretty much him giving the Heisman to knowing anything about how to deal with foreign governments, but we were there. We were ready to support them and they continually turned us down.
CUOMO: You have ignorance and then you have what they call willful ignorance which is where because you didn't want to deal with John Kirby, or the Obama administration or the existing institutions you wound up walking blindly into situations, at best, by the way. That would still be the best reckoning.
So Karoun, that is going to put the challenge now on the investigators. This is what Kushner wants them to believe. What do you think the questions are that come out of this statement?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the statement addresses and confirms many of the facts that we had reported earlier and that we knew that the investigators were going to want to talk about, about the existence of certain meetings, about the fact that he did have contacts with Russians that did not initially show up on his disclosure form.
But the question is going to be now one of motivation and one of takeaways and everything else that went around outside of where there's a paper trail and documented meetings and phone calls. Why did Kushner agree to have these meetings in the first place? What was he seeking to get out of them? What was the follow-up?
The way it's presented in this statement makes seems a lot like it was just kind of bumbling. But is that actually the case, and that's what investigators are going to be drilling down into, because, OK, you can establish when certain meetings happened but, really, was there nothing except for this forwarded e-mail chain between Don Jr. and Kushner that led to the June, 2016, meeting? Was there really absolutely no follow-up that wasn't in a paper form between other members of the campaign potentially and Kushner about what happened in certain ones of these meetings?
I think investigators are going to try to drill down to everything that happened surrounding what we now know there's a fairly agreed upon record of having taken place, and that's really going to drive what sorts of conclusions they arrive at, if they agree with Kushner that it is just all a series of errors, or if they think there's something more nefarious there. CAMEROTA: David, Jared reveals in this 11-page statement that about
that meeting with the Russian attorney about Don Jr.'s e-mails, he found that meeting so irrelevant, so superfluous to anything that was happening in their daily lives, that he staged a diversion with his assistant, texted her, get me out of here -- I'm paraphrasing. Call me. I want to get out of this meeting. So he arrived late and left early from this meeting with what he claims was about adoption. There's no sense, of course, that the Russians might have been playing them, I mean, no sense of what the Russians wanted. They thought it was adoption, which, of course, now we believe is synonymous with sanctions relief.
DRUCKER: Right. Look, they've talked about this meeting being about adoption, but at least for the organizer of the meeting, Don Jr., he knew there was more to it than that.
CUOMO: Or should have known.
CAMEROTA: The heading of the e-mail suggested there was more to it.
CUOMO: He says I didn't know.
DRUCKER: No. Right, Kushner didn't know.
CUOMO: So does Don Jr. That is his ostensible dense, which is I just went in there. It was a friend who had a meeting. You know what I mean. He should have known.
CAMEROTA: Right, but he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CUOMO: Right. Should have known.
DRUCKER: I think that it's all very plausible that you're running a presidential campaign, you're running from meeting to meeting. You don't ask a lot of questions. I suppose that's possible. I could see that happening because this is Don Jr. This is not some random campaign flack saying please jump into a meeting. So you do it without asking.
I think the important thing to understand here is right now, and this is very smart of Jared Kushner, we're all talking about the facts he has provided in a statement he has written. The members of the Senate Intelligence Committee know a lot more -- at least more than we know, to some extent, same with maybe possibly members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. So they're going to asked very pointed questions probably based on facts we don't know, and I think that that could have a large effect as to whether this statement generally is the last word on this or not.
CUOMO: It's going to be in private so we'll have to see what comes out about it. He made this public, which is a smart move.
John Kirby, let me ask you about something else. The sanctions bill that the Senate seems to hold in pretty bipartisan fashion, 98 to two on the vote, the president, now we know again from Anthony Scaramucci, we don't have to speculate about it, the president hears Russian interference. In his mind it says illegitimacy. That's the way he takes it. That's why he won't accept the intel on it. He doesn't like it. That's why he calls this all a witch hunt and a hoax, even though it seemed pretty clear from the email chain that his son put out that the Russians wanted to have meetings and see what they could get done. So all that have leads to this sanctions bill. As Alisyn saying earlier, sanctions is what the Russians are worried about. If he goes along with this sanctions bill, which his party wants to do. They may override his veto in this first piece of major legislation that reach his desk. If he doesn't sign it, what does it box him into if he signs it?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: If he signs it, it's basically (inaudible) that he agrees that the Russian government had meddled in the election because the sanctions are designed to punish them for exactly that offense.
So, look, I think it's silly and small that he won't admit that the Russians meddled in the election when everybody else in the universe seems to understand this. I agree with you, Chris, I think it's really just about ego.
What I'm more concerned about is his actions going forward, A, in terms of holding them to account and hopefully signing this bill and, B, don't forget, what actions is the government taking to protect our 2018 elections and 2021s after that? Those are really the more important issues.
But I agree, if he signs this thing without a fight, that's (inaudible) admission that he agrees.
CUOMO: Puts his supporters in a box also because even this morning, supporters are saying you don't know that for sure. Scaramucci talked to him and that's what he said. If I'm one of his supporters I take that rationale, I still think this is about my legitimacy as president so I'm not going along with it until I see absolute proof.
I'll take that over the alternative because what's the alternative. If he's not ignoring what is known about the interference because he thinks it's politically damaging, then why isn't he admitting it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last time we saw a president faced with whether or not to sign a sanctions bill was President Obama, and it was the Congress, Democrats and Republicans, pushing him on Iran sanctions.
This isn't unprecedented, but this is very early in Donald Trump's presidency. It would be a major rebuke if he'd veto and it was overridden.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, panel, thank you so much. It will be interesting to see how all that plays out this week.
President Trump still not convinced that Russia meddled in the U.S. election, despite what his own intel officials say. So, we have a Republican congressman on next to explain how that works.
CUOMO: All right. Jared Kushner released an 11-page statement, which really outlines what he wants the Senate Intel Committee to hear today when he meets with them later this morning.
The president's son-in-law and senior adviser basically blames any problems with disclosure on being overwhelmed, some miscommunication or, at worst, being naive. He says that big meeting with Don Jr. that he saw that that lawyer in that meeting was just a waste of time.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Congressman, always a pleasure. Did you get a chance to see Kushner's 11-page release? What did you think of it, if you did?
REPRESENTATIVE SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Transparency is a good thing. If it didn't happen when it should have been disclosed when it happened it did now. We need to and want to see all the meetings that the Trump campaign had with Russians and we want to see all the meetings that the Clinton campaign had with Russians. So, we can get a full picture of what the Russians were trying to do in our election.