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Firm Used by Trump Campaign Asked WikiLeaks for Access to Clinton E-mails. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This new revelation establishes the closest known link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

[07:00:32] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assange was almost like a mascot of the Trump campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Trump campaign at one point was touting this company. Now you have this distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There hasn't really been a smoking gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't pay for it like that. Over $5 million. If you don't believe in what they're doing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at what happened yesterday at the meeting, it was almost a love fest. There is great unity.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Everybody who is not living under a rock realizes that the Republican Party is going through a very hard time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a fight inside the Republican Party for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The civil war was the primary, and Trump won. He won on issues, and he united the party.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Up first, growing questions about possible connections between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Sources tell CNN that a data analytics company working for the Trump campaign contacted WikiLeaks, seeking access to e-mails connected to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, however, is spending his time slamming Hillary Clinton and the Democrats for denying they knew about an anti-Trump dossier. A source tells CNN Clinton didn't know about the dossier but says she was disappointed it wasn't made public before the election.

All of this as top Senate Republicans are asking why the Trump administration is holding up tough new sanctions on Russia. We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz on the WikiLeaks development. So what do we know? What matters?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we have here where the head of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by the Trump campaign, contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to see if he had e-mails connected to the Clinton campaign.

Now, Assange confirmed on Twitter that the chief executive, Alexander Nicks. This is the head guy of this company, reached out but said the request was rejected. Nicks then sent an e-mail to several people including for top Trump donor Rebecca Mercer, relaying that he had mailed Assange.

A source tells CNN that no one from the Trump campaign was copied on the e-mail, but the attempt is the closest known link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. You'll recall that WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing hacked e-mails from the DNC that U.S. intelligence had said were stoned by Russia and handed over to WikiLeaks through an intermediary.

The Trump campaign has responded to the report by distancing themselves from Cambridge Analytics, stating "Once President Trump secured the nomination in 2016, one of the most important decisions we made was to partner with the Republican National Committee on data analytics. We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from any other source played a role in the victory are false" -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: CNN, your reporting, has uncovered some facts that refute this?

PROKUPECZ: That's right. We looked at some of the FEC records and filings, and we found that just after Trump won the nomination, his campaign started a series of payments to the company totaling some $5.9 million. So it's clear that there was more of a relationship there than that was conveyed in that statement.

And Jared Kushner, who headed up one of the data operations, also told "Forbes" magazine, in an exclusive interview back in November, that after the president won the nomination, they kept both data operations going simultaneously and a lot shared between them. And by doing that we could scale to a pretty good operation.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that new reporting. So President Trump blasting Democrats after it was revealed that the

DNC and the Clinton campaign helped fund the research for that infamous dossier against him. The president calls it, quote, "a disgrace and a very sad commentary on the politics of this country." CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more.

Good morning, Joe.


It is a path we have seen before here. The White House this morning dealing with a new piece of information that appeared to reveal how far the Trump campaign would go to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president choosing to focus on how far the Hillary Clinton campaign would go to get dirt on him.



[07:05:02] TRUMP: Don't forget, Hillary Clinton totally denied this. She didn't know anything. She knew nothing. All of a sudden, it found out.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump on offense, attempting to shift the narrative away from the Russia investigation and onto Hillary Clinton. Blasting her campaign's involvement in helping to fund the now famous dossier of allegations about Trump and Russia.

TRUMP: Well, I think it's very sad what they've done with this fake dossier. It was made up. And I understand they paid a tremendous amount of money.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump insisting that the dossier is fake, despite the fact that parts of it have been corroborated by the intelligence community. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that Clinton was not personally aware of the dossier until BuzzFeed published the document earlier this year, adding that she was disappointed the research was not made public before she lost the election. The dossier was first bankrolled by Republican foes during the primaries.

TRUMP: Wonder who that might be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a --

TRUMP: I think I know. But, you know, I'll let them find out.

JOHNS: The president also weighing in on the investigation launched by House Republicans this week into the Obama-era sale of a uranium mining company to Russia while Clinton was secretary of state.

TRUMP: Well, I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded with tremendous amounts of money being passed. I actually think that's Watergate, modern age.

JOHNS: Russia nuclear officials reportedly sent millions in donations to the Clinton Foundation around the same time as the deal, according to the Hill, prompting critics to allege Clinton was bribed, a claim that has not been substantiated and that Clinton calls "baloney."

The Justice Department has given a former FBI informant the green light to testify about the detail. Despite public criticism from a number of prominent Republicans. President Trump also insisting the party is united, citing his meeting with Senate Republicans earlier this week as proof.

TRUMP: I called it a love fest. It was almost a love fest. Maybe it was a love fest. But standing ovations. There is great unity.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump blaming the media for negative impressions people may have of him.

TRUMP: I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know, people don't understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person.

JOHNS: And, again, defending his phone call with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson.

TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, who I by the way, called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand, they put a chart in front, "La David." Says "La David Johnson." So I called right from the beginning. There was no hesitation.


JOHNS: In the midst of all of this news, the White House is celebrating a pretty big win in the federal courts this morning, a judge siding with the administration in a lawsuit filed by 18 states, seeking to force the White House and the federal government to pay subsidies to insurance companies -- Chris and Alisyn.

JOHNS: All right, Joe, appreciate it.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the "New York Times," Maggie Haberman. Two big headlines.

The first one, the potential ties between the Trump campaign analytics company and WikiLeaks. What matters here?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What matters here is that the ask was made, right? I mean, according to Julian Assange, he didn't respond.

But the top official at Cambridge Analytica reached out to him at some point and originally, a reporter of "The Daily Beast" saying, you know, we would like, essentially, some help or we would like to be able to access, in some way, the missing 33,000 e-mails from Hillary Clinton's server. And Julian Assange wrote back that he didn't -- he didn't want their help. They wanted to do it on their own.

We don't know why it is that Nicks, the person who was -- the person who runs the Cambridge Analytica thought that Julian Assange had it in the first place, other than there was sort of a rumor that they may have them. We know President Trump, then candidate Trump, openly called on Russia to release those e-mails on the assumption that they had been hacked. But again, it's not clear there was evidence.

But this is the closest link we know of between people who were -- it's not clear exactly when this happened. At some point Cambridge Analytica was behind Ted Cruz. That ended, obviously, when the Cruz campaign ended. We know that Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump campaign. We know that they have often overstated their role in the Trump campaign.

But there was some outrage. We don't know more than that. We don't know what else this means. But it is going to be yet another thread for investigators to pull.

CAMEROTA: So to remind people what was happening on the campaign trail during that time, in July 2016, the president talked about this on the campaign trail and, in fact, invited WikiLeaks to become involved. Listen to this moment.


TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


[07:10:10] CAMEROTA: OK. He invited Russia. There were other times he talked about WikiLeaks. There he --

HABERMAN: That was the during the convention.

CAMEROTA: So now what they're doing today, what the White House is doing today, is saying nothing to see here with our data analytics. But look over at this dossier that we now know that Hillary Clinton's campaign and the DNC paid for. Are these equivalent political dirt- digging operations equivalent?

HABERMAN: No, they're not equivalent. One is asking a foreign government with meddling in an election.

Look, the way that the Clinton folks and the DNC. And it's not broadly the Clinton folks. It is certain individuals. And it's the same with the DNC. But whatever their reason, whether it was, you know, client confidentiality, whatever the reason, they were not forthcoming about what was going on in terms of the dossier.

And the problem with that is when it becomes revealed later, it raises questions about motive.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: However, the basic question for the dossier is ultimately, is the information in it true or not true? And officials have said have substantiated some of it. Certainly not the most salacious stuff, which is always the stuff that has rankled the president.

But at the end of the day, the main question is not where it came from. The question is its voracity. It did not begin with the Clinton folks. It was continued later by the FBI, as we know at least to some extent.

But it's not a great look to have it come out now that they were involved in paying for it. Not because there -- of at least involved in coordinating at some level, not because there's some wrongness there. There's nothing wrong with doing this research.

The problem is that they have claimed all along, understandably, that their concern was that Russia had ties to Trump and that there was some motivating factor in terms of these e-mails. And if you don't just claim -- say that outright.

CAMEROTA: And following the fact that you paid for some of it.

HABERMAN: Well, and saying, yes, you know what? We were looking for this because federal officials were not doing their jobs in our minds.

CUOMO: And look, obviously, that is what got Hillary Clinton in trouble during the campaign with the e-mails. Very often it's not, you know, the crime. It's how you cover it up, how you conceal what you talk about.


CUOMO: But there is a material distinction here that the president is waving away, and it's working with certain of his supporters.

HABERMAN: As it often does.

CUOMO: He is the president of the United States. Hillary Clinton is a failed presidential candidate, former secretary of state and senator. She is an important person. She ain't nowhere near as important as he is. And that's why there's so much more attention on him. There has been a false parody set up here. If you talk about leaks, WikiLeaks, you have to talk about the dossier because Clinton and Trump are equal in this.

HABERMAN: He does that, as you know. It's his way of equating. He's the most powerful person in the world.

CUOMO: It's not just him. He has a huge chunk of the media establishment helping him out, the pundit community.

HABERMAN: He has -- yes. But he creates that parallel when it is useful for him. It was useful for him to suggest that somebody else is on stage with him in equal fashion. He does do that. It's obviously not the case to your point. She is a failed candidate. That campaign is over.

But his folks, and this is the unfortunate thing about the whole campaign thing, it does not mean that what he and his folks are saying is correct. I had a lot of Republicans say isn't this a game changer? And I said I don't --

CAMEROTA: What part do they think is a game changer?

HABERMAN: That this is all fake and Mueller should be shut down. And that's quite a bouncing ball, because the Mueller investigation is not taking place because of the dossier. It's taking place because President Trump fired James Comey.



CAMEROTA: But I mean, the investigation -- did the investigation of James Comey predate the dossier? Or was the dossier --

HABERMAN: The dossier was certainly part of it, but the FBI was already investigating, and federal officials were already investigating the hacked e-mails that were leaked by WikiLeaks that had belonged to John Podesta. There is a lot of stuff going on here. And it is becoming very reductionist to just say, "Oh, it's about this dossier." That's just --

COMEY: Right. And you have to remember how Comey used and the intelligence community --

HABERMAN: That's right.

COMEY: -- used the dossier. They brought it to the president's attention, telling him, "It's out there."

HABERMAN: That's right.

COMEY: But they didn't act upon it. And they thought a lot of it in there wouldn't be actionable. And some of it has turned out not to be. And others they're still looking into.

HABERMAN: But it's an interesting window into the president's mind in terms of how he interpreted James Comey telling him about the presence of that dossier, because remember, that happened during a transition meeting at Trump Tower.

The president has later said -- he said it to my colleagues and me, that he at the times -- that he interpreted that, essentially, as Comey wanting to have leverage over him. I'm paraphrasing his words. But the idea was about Comey wanting to hang onto his job.

That is how the president hears everything. Everything is sort of zero sum and personal about him. He doesn't separate out that this is about something bigger, that this is about an influence game by a foreign power, potentially, on the presidency of the United States. He just hears it as all about him. It has stuck in his mind. As you both know he gets something in his head, and it's very hard to get it out.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much. [07:15:04] CUOMO: All right. So Congress, in a rare display of

bipartisanship, voted unanimously for new sanctions against Russia. They are not being enforced. Why? Republican senators put it at the feet of the president. We're going to talk to independent Senator Angus King about it. Next.


CUOMO: Sources tell CNN that data analytics company that was working for the Trump campaign did contact WikiLeaks seeking access to e-mails connected to the Clinton campaign. For more on this and the latest on the Russia investigation, joining us is independent senator from Maine, Angus King. He serves on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees.

Sir, always a pleasure.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So let's just go step by step during these -- through these different headlines. And you tell me what matters to you and why.

The Clinton campaign helped fund the research that wound up going into Mr. Steele's dossier. Does that mean to you that the Russia investigation is founded on a hoax, because the dossier is the basis for everything you're asking about?

[07:20:04] KING: No. The dossier has very little to do with what we're asking about. There are some questions about what parts of it are true, what parts aren't. That's a part of the investigation.

But it's certainly not a central part. And my understanding all along has been it was originally funded by Republican sources during the primaries after the primaries and Mr. Trump became the nominee. And then it was funded by some part of the Democratic establishment. I don't think that's a great surprise. But it's certainly not a central part of the investigation that we're engaged in.

CUOMO: There is insistence that Clinton's role in funding it and not coming forward is proof that that's what this is all about. What do you say to people who believe that?

KING: I don't know how to respond to that. I think that's a separate question. Should she have come forward sooner? Perhaps. I just don't know. She claims she didn't even know about it. Wished they had and would have made it public. I don't know the answer to that.

But that really gets beyond the real point here, which is that Russia committed an egregious attack on our democracy and on our civil society, and they're still at it. And they haven't paid any price for that. And so that's where -- that's where the focus really needs to be.

All the focus on the political part of it and everything else is obscuring what I think is the real story. And that is what the Russians did, what they're continuing to do, and how do we prevent it from continuing to happen.

CUOMO: All right. Headline No. 2. Trump money, almost $6 million, went to a data analytics firm that reached out to WikiLeaks and is asked them for access to some of the e-mails that were stolen from Hillary Clinton. Does that matter?

KING: Well, it matters only insofar as those we now are reasonably certain that those leaked -- whatever WikiLeaks had in the way of leaked e-mails came courtesy of the Russians and courtesy of their hacking here in Washington.

But, again, that was an attempt to do kind of opposition research, which unfortunately, happens in virtually every political campaign these days.

CUOMO: So is it different than what Clinton's campaign did with Fusion?

KING: No. I think it was an attempt to get -- to get some dirt on the other side. And as I say, unfortunately, that's pretty much part of every -- every political campaign. You'll see a line item in the budget for opposition research.

CUOMO: No question, and it is always a couple layers of separation. So you can have plausible deniability when someone tries to hit you over the head with the fact that you were digging up dirt on your opponent. But that's a discussion for another day.

There is pushback here that, no, this is the closest tie we've seen of the Trump campaign to efforts to expose themselves to those who were trying to interfere in the election, that it takes you down the collusion road. Do you accept that premise?

KING: Well, you know, I think it's one of the pieces of evidence that has to be considered. But you go back to the famous meeting with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., where they were told, "We have dirt on Hillary Clinton." And I think the comment in the e-mail from Donald Trump Jr. was, "Love it." They went ahead and took the meeting. So clearly, there was some outreach. Whether there has been kind of collusion or cooperation is still uncertain. That's one of the subjects that our committee is working on daily.

CUOMO: Right. And reasonably, you'd have a hyper focus on what the Trump campaign does, because he's now president of the United States. And as president, you guys passed these sanctions. The White House needs to put them into effect. It hasn't happened. The deadline passed. Things going past deadline is not usual where you work. But this has drawn scrutiny even from Republican senators. Why?

KING: Well, because these sanctions were passed virtually unanimously last summer. And as I mentioned earlier, we had this attack on our country by the Russians. And there's been no price paid. There's been no response, essentially. And we know they're still at it. And they're at it around the world. They were -- I learned recently they were involved in the business in

Spain about the separation of Catalonia. They set up shop in Scotland talking about the separation of Scotland from England.

An expert told us recently that's what they do. They take a crack into our society and turn it into a chasm. And they're trying to foment dissent. And we passed these sanctions because of what they did. There's no doubt that they did it. And the administration, so far anyway, has taken no action to implement those sanctions.

Now, as you mentioned, deadlines do sometimes come and go around here. It's been about a month since this was supposed to be in place. The real question is, is this bureaucratic delay, or has there been a conscious decision to lay off these sanctions, for example, until the president meets with Mr. Putin later this fall? I don't know the answer to that.

[07:25:00] If the president and the White House are consciously and deliberately delaying an action that's been mandated by Congress on something this important, that's pretty disturbing. And I know Bob Corker and John McCain are -- are going to get to the bottom of it.

CUOMO: All right. Last topic, arguably most important. All over this world right now, we have U.S. men and women who are engaged in various different types of operations, much of which the American people don't know. Some for good reason, some for bad reason. Congress has authorized none of those uses of military force.

KING: Right.

CUOMO: They are often put under the label of advise and assist, which I submit is a deceptive, dangerously deceptive term as we just saw in Niger. If you are down on the ground where war is going on, there is no benign activity, and you will be exposed to lethality. And as we saw, we just lost U.S. blood because of that.

Isn't it time that you all down there fulfill your constitutional duty and hold hearings, get a case from the president and military advisers, and vote on an authorization of use of military force?

KING: Unequivocally, absolutely, and certainly yes is the answer to that question.

CUOMO: Then why doesn't it happen, my handsome friend from Maine?

KING: Well, thank you for the compliment. I'll pass it on to my wife.

In any case, why doesn't it happen? I -- to be honest, Chris, I think it's because the people around here don't want to take that kind of responsibility. They don't want to have their fingerprints on something that could go wrong.

CUOMO: But how do those words not get stuck in your throat, Senator? Why wouldn't this become a cause, especially because what we just saw, because God forbid, I don't want this to be true. But we know there there is a chance that this will keep happening in other places, because we have all of these men and women at risk. Why isn't anybody jumping up and down like the way we just saw Senator Flake, talking about how he feels about the president, and saying we've got to do this? They're going to die. We've got to do this?

KING: Tim Kaine has been jumping up and down for about four years. I've been jumping up and down next to him. He's on the Foreign Relations Committee, the foreign policy committee.

And here's the good news. Bob Corker has agreed to hearings on this very subject starting this coming Monday late in the day. So there is some motion on this. I think there's a realization that we owe it to the American people to have this kind of discussion and debate. And the Congress owes it to the Constitution to hold up its end of the constitutional bargain.

This is not a case, Chris, in my view where the president, whether it's Trump, Obama, Clinton, whoever, has usurped power. But Congress has abdicated its power. And we -- I was talking to Tim Kaine about this yesterday. And here's what really troubles me.

Historically, there have been three constraints on the executive unilaterally going to war and committing American troops. One was the Constitution. Congress is supposed to declare war, no the president. No. 2, until 30, 40 years ago, we had the draft. That was a kind of political constraint. The third was the cost. All three of those have been removed. We now do wars on the credit card. The draft is gone. And -- and the constitutional provision is -- has not been observed in 60, 70 years.

So all of those things created a very disturbing situation where the president essentially has the sole war power. That's wrong as a matter of policy. It's wrong as a matter of the Constitution. And if we don't do something about it, we're going to severely regret it.

CUOMO: Well, I've never heard you say anything that's more true than that, Senator. Do what you can to make it happen. I mean, what you decide to authorize, it's up to you. It's the subject of debate.

KING: Right.

CUOMO: But that's a process that should be held if you're going to show respect to the sacrifice of these troops. Thank you for being on the show, as always, Senator Angus King -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Well, President Trump insists there is great unity in the GOP after being blasted by several Republican senators, at least these two. Can the party rally around a tax plan? Republican Senator Ron Johnson here next.