Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Criticizes Clinton Campaign Involvement in Trump Dossier Research Funding; Interview with Representative Adam Schiff; U.S. Troops In Niger Collecting Intel on Terror Leader; Interview with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Nix then sent an email to several people including top Trump donor Rebekah Mercer, relaying that he had e-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. Now, you will recall that WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing hacked e-mails from the DNC that the U.S. intelligence has said were stolen by Russia and handed over to WikiLeaks through an intermediary.

The Trump campaign has responded to the report stating 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 key role in the victor are false.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so we see what is happening there. They are trying to say, if it's us, it's the RNC. Look at them as well. This matters for two reasons. One, Trump is president of the United States now, so we need to know. And two, digging up dirt, we all know, that happens. Working with someone who might be working with a hostile foreign agent on some level, very different, legally and ethically. So what do we know about how solid their story is?

PROKUPECZ: What we do know is that in reviewing some of the records, and some of the FEC filings, we found just after Trump won the nomination, his campaign started a series of payments to Cambridge Analytica totaling some $5.9 million. So it's clear there's 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 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. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Shimon, thank you very much. Thank you for sharing all of that new reporting with us. So President Trump, however, is blasting the Democrats after it was

revealed the DNC and the Clinton campaign helped to fund research for that dossier against him. The president calls that 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. What you have learned, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The White House dealing with a new piece of the puzzle suggesting how far the Trump campaign would go to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president choosing to turn it around, focusing on how far the Clinton campaign would go to get dirt on him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't forget, Hillary Clinton totally denied this, she didn't know anything. She knew nothing, all of a sudden they found out --

JOHNS: President Trump on offense, attempting to shift the narrative away from the Russia investigation and on to 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 have 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: I wonder who that might be? I think I know, but 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 uranium mining to Russia while Clinton was secretary of state.

TRUMP: 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: Russian 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 that Clinton was bribed, a claim that has not been substantiated and that Clinton calls boloney. The Justice Department has given a former FBI informant the green light to testify about the deal. 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. [08:05:00] TRUMP: I called it a love fest. It was almost a love

fest. Maybe it was a love fest. 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. People don't understand, I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I am 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, it says La David Johnson. So I called right from the beginning. There's no hesitation.


JOHNS: The White House did get some good news in the courts this week. A federal judge siding with the administration in a lawsuit filed by 18 states seeking to force the federal government to pay insurance subsidies to insurance companies. Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: So let's tick through some headlines here, shall we? This idea that the president's campaign may have been involved with an analytics company that reached out to WikiLeaks matters to you because?

SCHIFF: Because it's part of a pattern. We have the president urging the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails. You then have the Russians reaching out through intermediaries to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton. You have Republicans operatives like Peter Smith who are in touch with members of the Trump campaign like Mike Flynn, also reaching out to the dark web to people that we believe were Russians or those working with him believe were Russians. And then the leak that Julian Assange has referenced where the data analytic arm of the Trump campaign is reaching out to Assange, someone that our CIA director has said is essentially a foreign intelligence agency and linked to the Russians.

So yet another outreach by the campaign to an intermediary of the Russians publishing material stolen by the Russians. So yes, it's part of filling out the picture of this relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

CUOMO: The president is pushing back and saying if you want to get at money being spent to dig up dirt that's bad, look at Hillary Clinton and what her campaign did and didn't come out about soon enough in his estimation and the estimation of many others about their funding of the research that went into the dossier, and that because she was part of the funding it is proof that the dossier is bogus, which makes the investigation bogus.

SCHIFF: Here's the thing. CNN, you all reported in January that this dossier, or Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele beginning back when a Republican candidate or candidates hired this firm. It was later taken over by the Democratic Party. So this is not a particularly new revelation, although it is the first revelation of the Democratic Party's taking over this effort.

CUOMO: And Hillary Clinton.

SCHIFF: And Hillary Clinton. But look, here you have a Russian government, a hostile power intervening to help a U.S. presidential candidate, and you have the other campaign learning about it and wanting to find out is their opponent in league with the Russian government's illegal intervention in our election? I would certainly want to know that. I think everyone would want to know if their opponent is getting illegal assistance from the Russian government.

So I think doing that opposition research, finding out if indeed your opponent is violating the law by working with a hostile power is certainly something that you would want to undertake. Now, when the Clinton campaign acknowledged or didn't acknowledge its role in funding that, I can't speak to. But from the point of the view of the investigation, the key thing for us is how much of this dossier is true? And we have been able to corroborate parts of it.

Interestingly, Christopher Steele, this well-respected British former MI6 officer, may have recognized and known that the Russians were intervening on behalf of one of the U.S. presidential candidates before our own intelligence agencies. And I also want to underscore something that Jim Clapper just said a moment ago, and that is when the intelligence community concluded that the Russians had intervened in our election and compiled that unclassified assessment, they were not relying on the dossier to do that. So I think this is a bit of an effort to discredit Christopher Steele, discredit the dossier, ignore how much of it has been corroborated already, and ignore the fact that the intelligence community is operating from a broad array of sources as a way of basically calling this all a hoax. And it just doesn't add up to me.

[08:10:00] CUOMO: Those are almost the same words he used but in a very different context by the head of your committee, Devin Nunes, obviously a Republican here. Let's play what he has been saying about what he doesn't think adds up. I will just pause for dramatic effect. What he's talking about is that he believes that there's a lot of bogus nature going on here, and maybe it involves the FBI and using this dossier and unverified information to obtain warrants and open investigations against American citizens, including now the president of the United States perhaps. What do you make of his allegations?

SCHIFF: I think honestly this is more of carrying the message for the White House. That's the message the White House wants to convey. But the bottom line is did the Russians intervene in the election. And the answer is yes. Did they make outreach to the Trump campaign, and the answer is yes. Did the Trump campaign reach out to the Russians through intermediaries, and I think the answer very much looks like yes. Was there a quid pro quo, that is what we're trying to determine, was there an agreement to cooperate or collude? And whether this dossier was originally funded by Republicans or Democrats really doesn't matter. What really matters is what did the Russians do? What affect did it have on our election, and how do we protect ourselves in the future because the Russians continue to intervene in our democracy.

CUOMO: What do you know about any warrants that might have been obtained on the basis of the unverified information in the dossier?

SCHIFF: I can't speak to what warrants may or may not have been obtained. What I can tell you is that the key thing from an investigative point of view is not who began the dossier or what do we think about Christopher Steele, but rather what are we able to prove in terms of Russia's intervention. And on that score I think we've made a great deal of progress, and we learn more every day in terms of the Russians hacking and dumping operation, in terms of the Russia social media operation, and indeed the issue of the connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, and that's really what we need to get to the bottom of.

I think, Chris, at the end of the day, what this is about is a technique you see often in criminal cases where the facts are really bad for the defendant, there's an effort to put the government on trial. So I think Mr. Nunes and the president want to put the government on trial because they don't want to look at the facts implicating the White House --

CUOMO: That's problematic when the man that you're defining that way is in charge of the investigation, is the head of your committee. And it raises the question of when are we going to see what you guys have?

SCHIFF: It is problematic, Chris, because he had committed to stepping aside and recusing himself from the investigation but has not done that. And so that is a real problem that we have to grapple with every day.

CUOMO: When do you think we are going to see what you guys have?

SCHIFF: I can't say. You know, I think the investigations have a natural flow in the sense that in some points they are at an expansionary phase where you are learning more and witnesses are telling you more and you are gathering more documents. I think we are still in that phase. And then you begin to narrow the issues you are looking at and reach a conclusion. And we feel a real sense of urgency about this, the American people want to know and we want to be able to tell them, but we don't want to prematurely and on a political timetable say we will finish by x date. I think the White House would love that and indeed they are pressuring us to do that, but we can't give an incomplete report if they are to have any confidence in it.

CUOMO: My next question goes to something that I had assumed was already investigated. New life has been bumped into the Uranium One situation in light of some reporting about the timing of contributions by Russian contractors to the Clinton Foundation. Your committee has oversight into looking into that investigation. What are your questions?

SCHIFF: You know, here's the problem. This looks a lot to me like a redux of Benghazi. This investigation is starting again for political purposes. This is another investigation of Hillary Clinton, now she is no longer the presidential candidate, no longer the secretary of state. Apparently there's more interest in what happened seven years ago with Secretary Clinton than there is in the Russian investigation, and that's quite by design. I don't think we can do a good investigation if it's begun in bad faith the way this one has because this now three committee investigation or investigations the Republicans have launched with the acquiescence we have to imagine of the Speaker was done without any consultation with the minorities on any of these three committees.

So we saw with Benghazi, when you lead an investigation for a partisan reason, it leads to a partisan conclusion. This deal was known about at the time. It was controversial at the time. I am not sure why we are re-litigating it all over again. But I suspect it's much like the situation with Benghazi, and that is the goal was to prove that Hillary Clinton intervened to decrease the security in Benghazi, and we could never prove that because it was not true. Now, there's an effort to show Hillary Clinton intervene in the CFIUS process to approve this deal when there's no evidence of that, but we're going to once a gain relitigate this I think for very political reasons.

CUOMO: Well, look, there's no question that there's political stink all over these investigations, and that's why so many people are wondering how much clarity will come from any of it. We are out of time, but I don't care, because I need to hear you on the record say that you are in favor of opening debate on an authorization for the use of military force.

SCHIFF: Chris, I appreciate the focus you're putting on this because for five or six or seven years now, I have been introducing AUMF after AUMF. I introduced one this year as well, and I think it's a real dereliction of our duty in Congress, and we didn't pass one in the Obama administration, and now, I think we rue the day because now a different commander-in-chief that we have little confidence will exercise appropriate judgment on questions of war and peace.

CUOMO: You also have dead troops because of an advise and assist situation that all of you guys seem to condone in terms of being benign when they are not, and we keep hearing everybody is onboard with doing this, as you just stated, so do me a favor. Tell me who isn't in favor? Do it off camera, get it on the phone so we know who to chase down because it's not happening for a reason.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, Chris, I'll tell you who is not in favor, the speaker of the house is not in favor because he could make the decision tomorrow, we are going to bring the authorization to use force tomorrow to the floor, and it's as simple as that. But he doesn't. He has the power to do it. The chairmen of the relevant committees have the power to do it.

So, you know, they are making an effort to point fingers in the opposite directions but at the end of the day the speaker has to take responsibility because the speaker can say next week we are voting on authorization, but he has been unwilling to bring that to the floor.

CUOMO: Well, we'll start there.

Adam Schiff, Congressman, thank you very much for being with us, as always.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Speaker Ryan, you heard what the congressman said, what's your response? Why no AUMF?


CAMEROTA: And he can hear you.

We are following breaking news right now because CNN learned the Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham will take the stand today in defense of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. Menendez is facing federal bribery charges.

Prosecutors say Menendez accepted free rides on private jets from a wealthy Florida doctor but failed to report the rides on his Senate disclosure form in an effort to conceal the bribery for years.

CUOMO: Former President George H.W. Bush is responding to allegations by an actress accusing him of sexual assault. Heather Lind describes an incident during a photo op where the nation's 41st president allegedly, quote, touched her inappropriately from his wheelchair.

A spokesman for President Bush issuing a second statement, which reads: At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years. His arms fall on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pressure. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke, and on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.

Some have seen it as innocent. Others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.

Lind has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

CAMEROTA: Man, this conversation just continues. Here's more sexual harassment news. Veteran journalist and political analyst Mark Halperin is leaving NBC News after CNN uncovered accusations of sexual harassment by five women. The women say the incidents happened during his time as political director at ABC News. NBC releasing a statement saying: We find the stories and allegations very troubling. Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.

Halperin issued an apology, in which he admitted to pursuing relationships with female staffers, even those that some that were his juniors and he says he now understands his behavior was inappropriate.

I mean, this conversation continues. Every day there's some sort of revelation and people having to respond to it.

CUOMO: Not all allegations are equal, though.


CUOMO: And that's why we got to parse them when we can.

CAMEROTA: All true.

CUOMO: NAACP warning African-American travelers to exercise caution when flying with American Airlines. Why? Well, the organization is issuing an adversary citing four examples of black passengers who say they were forced to give up their seats or were removed from flights. The CEO of American Airlines says he's disappointed about the NAACP warning and reached out to set up a meeting.

CAMEROTA: So, we are learning more about what happened in the hours leading up to the deadly ambush in Niger that left four soldiers dead. Why did some parts of their mission change? We have a live report for you from Niger, next.


[08:23:40] CUOMO: There are new details emerging about the mission in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and injured others. The troops were gathering intelligence. We know that. We now know that it was intelligence on a suspected top-level terrorist who had a codename, Naylor Road. That won't mean anything to any of us. But it is important that it gives us an understanding of why they were there and that's when they were ambushed.

CNN's David McKenzie is live in Niger. CNN is the first network on the ground there.

Very important to have you there, David. What you have learned?


So, what we learned is that the high-level target they were after wasn't in that specific area at the time, but they were gathering that intelligence. It appears based on our sources that it came from a group linked to ISIS, a group that broke away from the militant groups in this area, pledging allegiance to ISIS some years ago, and it really points to the complexity of the conflict going in the Sahel region. Where I am standing, a few hours to the border region, anybody you speak to here in the capital Niamey will say that that's an intense area, that there have been multiple attacks on Nigerien forces in that area.

And so, it does lead to the question why was this gauged as a low- threat operation of these Green Berets and other special forces.

Chris, also getting word from the French Defense Ministry that several years ago, there was a mirage and on the ground assault on al Qaeda- linked militants in northern Mali, killing 15 suspected terrorists. While that isn't directly linked to this ambush, it does show the terror threat in this region and the difficulty that Western forces have in helping the African counterparts stamp it out -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, David McKenzie, it's so helpful to have you in Niger for us doing that reporting. Thank you.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Air National Guard and he served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Air Force.

Congressman, good morning.


CAMEROTA: I'm doing well.

So, what are your questions today about what went wrong in Niger?

KINZINGER: We want to know the details of what happened. I think that's going to be information that comes out. The military is being smart to say let's get all the information before the report comes out.

What I think we have to be careful of -- as a military guy, I can say this, too. We like to jump to conclusions sometimes. We like to say, well, why weren't there fighter jets supporting Green Beret? Why didn't we have M1 Abrams tanks and Humvees and all this?

What people need to understand, special forces, specifically Green Berets, the reason they are so good at what they do and the reason they have so much train something because their job is to go into a place unsupported and to help native troops of that country be a strong partner in terms of fighting al Qaeda, or they have done it in South America in terms of fighting drug lords and everything else. They are specifically used in tough areas unsupported to do this good work.

So, I think while we do need answers, that's 100 percent sure, we need to be -- we need to quickly understand, though, this is their job, to do very difficult things and it's unfortunate we think about them when something like this happens.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, I want to play for you what President Trump said yesterday about this mission and whether or not he authorized it. So, listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's dangerous business I have to say. It's a dangerous business. So what?

REPORTER: Did you authorize the mission?

TRUMP: No, I didn't. Not specifically.

But I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters. These are warriors. And I gave them authority to do what's right so that we win. That's the authority they have. I want to win.


CAMEROTA: So, I am interested on your take, President Trump said all along he wants the generals to have more autonomy. He doesn't want them to feel hamstrung by the chain of command, having to wait for permission for things. But should the commander-in-chief take responsibility for missions like this?

KINZINGER: Well, I think it's one thing to say the buck stops here from that perspective. So, yes, ultimately every decision really rests with the president.

I think the president, though, was technically correct in saying he didn't authorize the mission, not that he didn't want the mission to go, not that he was passing blame to other generals, but, look, if a president has to authorize every mission in the microcosm, by every military unit everywhere in the world, he'd never be able to do anything else and would frankly never get around to authorizing all the missions that need authorizes.

This war on terror is worldwide. I've actually that this is in essence a low-grade World War III. It's happening everywhere, and, frankly, that's what happens when you have a group and a cancer like ISIS or al Qaeda. And so, while that's technically correct, yes, there's maybe an inarticulate way of saying it, like, yes, ultimately, everything rest with me on that responsibility.

But frankly and as a military guy, look, when you have decisions closer to the battlefield, so basically the lower they have to crawl up the chain of command, the more effective those decisions are and more timely they are.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's move on to a different topic, and that's Russia sanctions. As you well know, Congress passed legislation about this. The president signed it, somewhat begrudgingly. It was reported. But the deadline for these to go into effect was October 1st, and now it's the 26th.

So, what's the hold up?

KINZINGER: So, this is over the last couple of days something I found out wasn't happening. I always just assumed that was going through. So, this is kind of like breaking news to me a little bit. We are going to do a lot of enquiring into this. I think a lot of folks are. This will get done. I think there should be no doubt when the will of

Congress, the House and the Senate says we must sanction Russia for their involvement in attempting to change our election or influence our election of us and any Western countries, this must get done, and there should be no doubt in the administration that we'll compel this. We don't know the details. Maybe there's a technical reason, but, look, this will get done, have no doubt.

CAMEROTA: Is it up to the White House to implement it?

KINZINGER: Yes. And, you know, look, I mean, when you pass something it may take time for that to happen, and maybe our deadline was too short. I don't know the answers. I'm just going to be very clear -- this will happen. You cannot violate the will of the House and the Senate. This will happen.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, Republican unity on a scale of one of 10, what do you rate it?

KINZINGER: Oh, it's a 10. I mean, it's just wonderful.