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Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued in Russia Probe; Trump Fires Up His Base Against Russia Probe; Interview with Representative Leonard Lance; Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 4, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[07:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake story that is demeaning to all of us.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I'm not just going to take the president at his word.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Federal investigators explore the potential financial ties of President Trump and associates to Russia.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: These types of endeavors end up being fishing expeditions.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The president saying that he won New Hampshire because it's a drug den.
SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: These words were disgusting. He should stop insulting people.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: To have people there that are leaking information, if there's even a thought that somebody is involved, get rid of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me in studio.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank goodness, because you obviously need the help this morning.
CAMEROTA: Can you take it from here?
BERMAN: All right.
CAMEROTA: All right. We begin with several major developments in the Russia investigation. CNN has learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is issuing grand jury subpoenas. His target? Everyone at that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump's son, Don Junior, top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer. BERMAN: CNN has also learned that federal investigators are crossing
what the president referred to as his red line, focusing on his possible financial ties to Russia. They believe the money trail could be a fertile ground for evidence.
The president, though, shrugging the whole thing off as a total fabrication concocted by Democrats who are still bitter about the election loss.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez live in Washington who broke so many details of this story.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The Special Counsel Robert Mueller is following the money as the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election enters its second year.
CNN has learned new details about what investigators are digging into. And that includes the finances of the president and his family.
PEREZ (voice-over): In a clear sign that the Russia investigation is advancing, CNN has learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to the June 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer and Trump campaign officials, seeking both documents and testimony from the people involved according to a source familiar with the matter. This as the probe widens with federal investigators exploring the potential financial ties of President Trump and associates to Russia.
Sources tell CNN that financial links could offer a more concrete path to any potential prosecution. Investigators are looking into possible financial crimes including some unconnected to the election. For the president that's going too far. He's warned that delving into his businesses is a, quote, "violation."
Trump has maintained there's no collusion and he has no financial ties to Russia.
TRUMP: And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.
PEREZ: Now, one year into this complex probe, the FBI has reviewed financial records related to the Trump Organization, the president himself as well as his family members and campaign associates.
CNN has told investigators have combed through the list of shell companies and buyers of Trump branded real estate properties. They've scrutinized the roster of tenants at Trump Tower in Manhattan reaching back several years. And officials familiar with the investigation tell CNN Mueller's team has examined the backgrounds of Russian business associates --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Moscow, it's Miss Universe --
PEREZ: -- connected to Trump, dating back to the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant that Trump hosted in Moscow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you to Aras Agalarov and the Focus Group for their amazing hospitality.
PEREZ: CNN could not determine whether the review has included Trump's tax returns. But even investigative leads that have nothing to do with Russia, but involve Trump associates are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.
Trump's team seeking to limit Mueller's investigation.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president's point is that he doesn't want the special counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission, and the president has been very clear, as have his accountants and team that he has no financial dealings with Russia. And so I think we've been extremely clear on that.
PEREZ: CNN has learned new details about how Mueller is running his special counsel team. More than three dozen attorneys, FBI agents and support staff, experts in investigating fraud and financial crimes broken into groups focused separately on collusion and obstruction of justice.
There is also a focus on key targets like Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, and General Michael Flynn, his fired National Security adviser.
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious of Manafort when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort to coordinate information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House according to U.S. officials.
In Flynn's case, the focus is now on his lobbying work for the Turkish government which he failed to initially disclose as required by law.
[07:05:07] While both men deny any wrongdoing, the approach to the Manafort and Flynn probes may offer a template for how the focus by investigations on financial crimes could help gain leverage and cooperation in the investigation.
PEREZ: And the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, told CNN in a statement that the president's outside legal team has not received any requests for documentation or information about this. Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment, we would object to -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Evan, thank you very much. So President Trump lashing out at the Russia investigation at this
West Virginia rally last night. The president calls the Russia story, quote, "a total fabrication" and wonders whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller can be fair.
CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House for us. Good morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The president beefing up his campaign-style rhetoric with campaign- style rally in Huntington, West Virginia, his second visit to the Mountain State in the space of just about 10 days, only this time the speech was not to an enormous group of Boy Scouts, rather it was to some of the president's most faithful supporters in a state he won by about 40 percentage points in the space of five minutes.
Within that speech the president railing against the Russia narrative, calling it, among other things, a total fabrication and suggesting to people in the audience that this was something being done to them by Democrats. Listen.
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TRUMP: The Russia story is a fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest lost in American political history.
Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn't win because of Russia, we won because of you. That I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: This is not some new substantive opposition to the special counsel apparently. The president's legal counsel putting out a statement just yesterday indicating that the White House is prepared to be fully cooperate with the special counsel. Also pointing out once again that the president was told by that now fired FBI director three times that he was not under investigation -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.
Let's bring back our panel. We have Evan Perez. We also want to bring in the rest, CNN political analyst John Avlon, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates and CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.
Great to have all of you.
John Avlon, so now there are these grand jury subpoenas and the scope appears to be, at least for our knowledge, widening in that Robert Mueller can look at all sorts of financial dealings that President Trump had even before the campaign.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. I mean, this gets real now. Gran jury involved. And Trump's self-described red line crossed. Looking into Trump financial dealings. And that's going to bring up a whole thicket of other information. The other significant thing that I think CNN is reporting and the
"Wall Street Journal" brought out, and Evan mentioned this back in the package, is that the -- sources in the FBI apparently saying that it was Mueller's comments caught in Russian intercepts --
AVLON: That's right. I apologize. Manafort's comments caught in Russian intercepts that drew their attention and that there were Russian agents or personnel talking about Manafort and his attempts to reach out and their attempts to influence the election on their behalf. That's a significant new piece of information.
AVLON: And it looks and sounds a lot like the definition of a collusion. That may not rise to the top levels of the campaign, but Manafort was the campaign chair manned and very close to Trump when he was.
BERMAN: Subpoena for information, documents, data, subpoenas for witnesses to come testify, and in Evan's phenomenal reporting about the fact this has expanded into the financial realm. This crosses what the president agreed was a red line into his past financial dealings.
Listen to what his personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who said a lot of things, some of which had proven not to be true. Listen to what Jay Sekulow said about it, also senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.
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CONWAY: The president has said that Jim Comey, the former FBI director, assured him on three separate occasions that he is not personally a target of any investigation. We know that these types of -- these types of endeavors end up being fishing expeditions. They are a very broadly cast net. And I would remind everybody that in terms of President Trump, he has said that he has no financial dealings with Russia whatsoever.
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: There's supposed to be an investigation as it relates to Russia interference with the election and whether they were working with the Trump campaign. That's kind of the general mandate here.
So to look at a real estate deal from 10 years ago, which is what some of these reports came out, I think from Bloomberg News or Business Insider or both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
[07:10:08] SEKULOW: It would be way outside the scope of the mandate and we would certainly object to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Outside of the scope of the mandate. Just to remind people what that mandate includes. This was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who basically hired Bob Mueller. When he did, he did so in a memo that explained that Robert Mueller could look into things having to do with Russia and any matters that arose or may arise directly from that investigation. That is number two right there.
Laura Coates, you are the attorney here. What exactly does that mean? How wide of a berth any matters that may arise directly from the investigation?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It essentially means that Mueller has the discretion to be able to pursue any of the leads that comes out at his criminal probe, and if there are leads that take him in different direction as opposed to what was originally noted perhaps in the press or his original directive, he's entitled to do so.
He can also seek an expansion of that mandate from Rod Rosenstein. But he doesn't really need to do so at this point talking about finances. Those particular financial endeavors and probes are not rabbit holes that are unconnected or tangential. They're actually related to whether or not you can prove intent or criminal activity or collusion or whether there was some motivation behind the president's or the campaign's dealings with different entities in Russia. And so they're all related.
CAMEROTA: But, Laura -- but just explain that to us because we just had Robert Ray, who was the special counsel for the Whitewater investigation. We all know that that scope expanded famously. So he disagrees with your assessment in that he says that the word that John just read, the number two, the operative word there is "may arise directly" from the investigation.
How are real estate deals from the 1980s in New York City directly related to the Russia investigation? Why would Mueller be looking at those real estate holdings of Trump's?
COATES: I did hear his commentary about that. And I think his argument was a little bit more nuanced. It wasn't that every single transaction that's in the past is somehow directly related. The idea is whether Mueller is entitled to pursue different leads that arise from his investigation. He's not going to ignore them and say, well, that's totally -- I limited a certain time, scope, certain place here. No.
The timing of this is what has led up to an actual campaign's potential involvement with a foreign entity trying to influence 2016 election. That could include prior real estate dealings. It could include the reasons they took certain meetings. It could include former relationship that started a long time ago. So it's not just that it has to be directly from 2016 on. If it's related, it's in his scope. Whether it leads to a charge is a very different story.
BERMAN: So you heard Kellyanne Conway note at the top of that statement right there that James Comey told the president three times he wasn't under investigation. One of the president's lawyers essentially said the same thing overnight. "Grand jury matters are typically secret. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Former FBI director James Comey said three times the president is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed."
One problem with that, Chris Cillizza, is that those statements from James Comey came before he was fired.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right.
BERMAN: Before there was this whole idea of an obstruction of justice investigation because that of course came from the firing and the president's admission later on at an NBC interview that it was because of Russia. It came before I believe any knowledge of this Don Junior meeting with the Russian lawyer.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
BERMAN: So that statement, is it still operative? Does it still matter what James Comey told the president in January?
CILLIZZA: I mean, I think it should always include -- James Comey told the president, fill in the date, three times that he wasn't under investigation. Things changed, particularly when there's an active investigation into this whole matter.
It is the thing that they are hanging their hat on because it's the best thing that they have in terms of spin. We don't know the inner workings of the investigation at this point. And it's important to note, John, as you do. It's accelerated considerably since January. Right? I mean, we know a lot -- we know a lot more, we're not privy to everything that Bob Mueller and his team know. But we know a lot more about where the investigation is.
We know about the Don Junior meeting, we know more about the e-mails in ways that we didn't before. So presumably things have changed. But that does not mean the president of the United States is under investigation for sure. Right? We don't know that. We don't know if it's changed. But it's hard to say, well, in January he wasn't under investigation. So we haven't heard anything else.
It's a little bit of burying your head in the sand. But I understand why they're doing it because it's their best argument to hang this on.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Evan, in terms of your reporting, we often hear from investigators, follow the money. That's what they do to sort of try to lead themselves to the bottom line.
Can you just remind everyone of what now the scope or what you've learned that Mueller is investigating? I believe we have a graphic to help people walk through it. So what is -- is there a way to tell what the primary thing is or are all of these things equal?
[07:15:03] PEREZ: Well, I think, look, I think they have not given up on the central question of whether or not anybody in the campaign, and that includes people inside the campaign up through the president and his family, did anything to coordinate with the Russian spy services to influence the election.
And if you can put the graphic back up again, and that includes all of those questions because you start in the middle and then you go to the periphery to see whether there's any money, whether there's anything that explains the collusion question, whether or not there's any obstruction of justice with the firing of James Comey or even in their explanations for that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Don Junior coordinated.
And also the question that focuses on Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Both of those people are under scrutiny for various financial dealings. Again, all of it ties back to the central question, and I think that, as Laura just pointed out, I mean, it doesn't really ever go away from the central charge that Bob Mueller is tasked with.
PEREZ: Which is trying to get to the bottom of what Russian influence played a role in, in this election.
CAMEROTA: OK. Quickly, button it up.
AVLON: Yes. Just look, the key may be Paul Manafort because he had history in working in Ukrainian politics and accepting moneys from entities who may have been connected with Russia. I think what's also significant is he was incredibly close with Trump at a pivotal point in the campaign. But, and this may end up being crucial, he was kicked to the curb. There was a conscious attempt to separate. We'll see how significant that is.
But, I mean, the fact that, you know, Trump has been incredibly reluctant, bending over backwards to support Flynn even after he was fired for lying to Vice President Pence and has been incredibly reluctant to criticize Vladimir Putin in almost any context which is unusual for any politician, let alone a president. That's where the smoke is.
But I think as both the scope of the investigation widens within the grand jury and the targets become more clear, there's a really troubling pattern that's going to be tough for the White House to spin its way out of.
BERMAN: All right. Guys, thanks so much. Stick around.
Coming up in our next hour we're going to have an interesting conversation with Ken Starr, the independent counsel, of course, who investigated President Clinton.
CAMEROTA: I also think our panel should stick around for this just to listen to it because we have not seen the last of the Mooch. Ousted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci did cancel his online event that was scheduled for today, I believe. However, his alter ego Mario Cantone did make a cameo appearance on Comedy Central's "The President's Show." It turns out the Mooch never actually left the Oval Office.
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ANTHONY ATAMANUIK, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE PRESIDENT'S SHOW": We've lost a lot of friends around here lately, including the only man I ever love --
MARIO CANTONE, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE PRESIDENT'S SHOW": I freaking love you, Mr. President.
ATAMANUIK: The Mooch. The Mooch. Wow, it's the Mooch.
CANTONE: It's me. The only (EXPLETIVE DELETED) guy in the White House.
ATAMANUIK: You slept in there.
CANTONE: Yes, I did. There's an old Italian expression my mother used to use. You messed up, you jag bag, now get in the couch.
ATAMANUIK: Welcome back. Welcome back.
JOHN GEMBERLING, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE PRESIDENT'S SHOW": Anthony, I heard what you said about me and what I like to do to myself.
CANTONE: Yes, so what?
GEMBERLING: So thanks. Probably one of the nicest things anyone ever said about me, including your mother.
PETER GROSZ, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE PRESIDENT'S SHOW": Whoa, whoa, no fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Oh, my god.
BERMAN: This is exactly what General Kelly we're told is cleaning up.
CAMEROTA: Inside the White House. The love fest continuing later in the show. Trump and the Smooch sharing a smooch at the end of the episode.
Our produce is telling us to react right now. I'm not sure how to react.
CAMEROTA: I don't know that needs a reaction.
BERMAN: Maybe the president will react if he holds a press conference today before going on vacation. Maybe someone will play him the clip and say, is this how things went down?
AVLON: That's excellent.
CAMEROTA: We hope that Mario can somehow figure out legs to this story and continue his impersonation.
BERMAN: All right. Lawmakers ready to go on recess with no breakthroughs on health care or any other major legislation. The president, he's not happy about it, but should they be more worried about angered constituents?
GOP Congressman Leonard Lance, he killed a town hall last night. He joins us next.
[07:23:27] CAMEROTA: Members of Congress heading back to their home districts to face angry constituents over no breakthrough on health care, the economy, and they were hearing some pressure to stand up to the president. So watch how Republican lawmaker Leonard Lance did this last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I promise you that I will continue to vote my conscience, and where I disagree with the president, I will indicate that publicly. We all should be civil with each other and he certainly has not been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Republican Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey.
So you had an interesting town hall last night. And what was the response when you said that you didn't think the president had been civil?
LANCE: I think the crowd agreed with that. This is the fifth town hall meeting I've had this year, Alisyn. And I think it's an important part of my responsibilities to meet with constituents including in the town hall setting.
CAMEROTA: OK. And I want to get more to about what happened at your town hall last night. But first I want to talk about all of the developments this morning and our top stories, and that is that the Russian investigation appears to have widened under Robert Mueller. He is now looking at the finances of President Trump even before the campaign, even before the 2016 campaign. He can look at finances from his real estate holdings and go back in time. We've also learned that there is a grand jury that is now issuing subpoenas.
Are you comfortable with the scope of this?
LANCE: I think the investigation should lead where it leads. And the empanelling of a grand jury does not necessarily mean there will be an indictment. It could be simply for subpoenas. I'm a lawyer, I'm not a criminal lawyer, but obviously I think that it should lead where it does, and the president's counsel indicated that the president would cooperate fully in the investigation.
[07:25:11] CAMEROTA: But the president also indicated to "The New York Times" that that would cross a red line for him. It would cross a red line if Robert Mueller began to dig around in any sort of financial dealings that were -- that happened prior to the 2016 campaign. That's now happening.
LANCE: I'm not sure we should investigate what happened in the 1980s. And a guest, Mr. Ray, indicated that that might go back too far. But Ty Cobb has indicated that the White House will cooperate with the investigation.
CAMEROTA: So you are not worried that though the president himself said yes, that would cross a red line for him, do you think that that red line -- I mean, he didn't specify what happens if the red line is crossed. Do you think that he gets a feeling to fire Robert Mueller?
LANCE: I certainly would recommend that he not discharge Mr. Mueller. And one wonders who would actually do that. I don't think that the acting attorney general -- it would have to be Mr. Rosenstein because the attorney general has recused himself in these matters -- would have to do it. And I don't imagine he would do it. And so I don't think that that is good policy. And I'm sure that the president's advisers are recommending that he not do that.
CAMEROTA: Are you sure? Because Kellyanne Conway last night was on CNN saying basically that she likened this to a fishing expedition.
LANCE: I think that the facts should go where they go. I'm not sure we should go back to the 1980s, but certainly we should cover the 2016 election.
CAMEROTA: Also today, there are leaked documents, transcripts from President Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders. I want to read you one of his exchange with the Mexican President Pena Nieto. This is about the border wall. So Pena Nieto says my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall. President Trump says but you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.
In other words, the president telling the Mexican president not to tell the truth there.
LANCE: It was a back-and-forth between two presidents and their positions on this issue. I think it's unfortunate that the matter was leaked because I think these conversations should remain private.
But last week we in the House passed a major legislation including in part $1.6 million for funding improvements at the border, not necessarily building a wall across the entire border. And I would expect the president would sign that into law.
CAMEROTA: But are you comfortable with footing the bill for what the president said Mexico would pay for?
LANCE: I'm comfortable in securing our border. And I think that should be a high priority for us in Congress. And I want as secure a border as possible because I think that's a way forward on the larger immigration issue.
CAMEROTA: So if not a real wall, what is it? A virtual wall?
LANCE: No, there is some fencing and some secondary fencing and other matters. But it's not a wall across the entire southern border.
CAMEROTA: OK. Let's get to your town hall. So were people angry?
LANCE: I think there was a healthy discussion. But I would not call it anger. But there was certainly a discussion on the health care issue. I'm a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, and we discussed that matter. And that's a bipartisan way forward, at least in part of the health care issue. And there was also a discussion on other issues as well. I mentioned, of course, the Russia sanctions bill that includes Iran and North Korea as well, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: But when you said there -- when your response was that you were calling for civility and that the president has not lived up to that and he has not been civil, what are you referring to?
LANCE: I think some of his statements have not been civil, but I also think that there have been some on the left who have not been civil as well. And I want civility for all of us in Washington, and I think that there's a new tenor at the White House under the leadership of General Kelly as chief of staff. I think it was an excellent appointment by the president. And I detect a new feeling here in the nation's capital --
CAMEROTA: How do you detect that? What's the manifestation of that new feeling?
LANCE: I think that General Kelly is trying to bring order to the White House and I think that's a good idea. And I was pleased with the statement by Ty Cobb regarding cooperation with the special counsel.
CAMEROTA: In terms of the president being more civil, would you like him to retire his Twitter habit?
LANCE: I don't think he should retire it. I think that he should discuss major public policy. It is the way for the president to interact directly with the American people.
CAMEROTA: And you like that. You think that's a good idea for him to interact?
LANCE: I do. I certainly don't like all of what he has tweeted. But yes, I think it's important for the president and other leaders to interact directly with constituents.
CAMEROTA: Well, we appreciate you coming on here, Congressman Leonard Lance. Thanks so much for your perspective.
LANCE: Thank you, Alisyn.
BERMAN: All right, thanks, Alisyn.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller following the money and crossing President Trump's red line. We will get reaction from a Democratic senator next.