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Interview with Kellyanne Conway; Clinton Involvement in Uranium One Deal Examined; Government Releases Documents Related to JFK Assassination; Trump Directs Agencies to Reassess Redactions within 180 Days; Interview with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired October 27, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So then why is he uncomfortable with the Uranium One deal?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Listen, you're saying the president is worried, the president is uncomfortable. He didn't make half a million-dollar speech in Russia.
CAMEROTA: Your White House has been talking about it a lot. I'm just trying to get the bottom of what it is that's bothering you about it? What bothers you about it.
CONWAY: Zero. What bothers me about it is that we can't get all of you who have been obsessed about Russia, Russia, Russia to cover now that the show is on other foot.
CAMEROTA: What part of it --
CONWAY: Uranium One was mentioned during the campaign. "Clinton Cash" was covered, Peter Schweizer wrote, the book "Clinton Cash" was a document that people -- had a movie about this. Uranium One was covered at length. I talked about it on CNN probably sitting across from you --
CAMEROTA: So you don't think that should have happened, is that the problem?
CONWAY: I think it's exactly what people hate about corruption and politicians and the swamp. I think they look at that and it's not difficult for people to connect the dots, that you have one spouse giving half a million-dollar speech, you have another one as the secretary of state, you have folks trying to get advantage while she's secretary of state, and then voila, 20 percent of the U.S. uranium rights go to a Russia interest. That's not difficult for people to understand. That's why the majority in CNN's polling last year, I know you got rid of your pollsters, but CNN's polling last year showed a majority did not trust and did not think Hillary Clinton was honest trustworthy is for reasons like this.
CAMEROTA: One last beat on this, just so that I understand, because there were these nine agencies, one of them was the State Department when Hillary Clinton was there, that did approve this Uranium One deal. I'll pull it up for you on the screen so that people can see it wasn't just Hillary Clinton, it was not just the State Department. So are you saying, Kellyanne, that all of these agencies somehow had some vested interested in enriching Hillary Clinton or the Clintons, that everybody was in on this, the Department of Defense, the Departmentof Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, and that's why they let the Uranium One deal go through?
CONWAY: I did not say that. I just think that we should continue those especially who have had such a vested in this in basically nine to 12 months should continue to look at it from this angle, and since you and I have been talking, two Americans have died of an drug overdose. I'd like to give up the rest of the interview to them since we didn't get to the --
CAMEROTA: Let's do that. Let's talk about that.
CONWAY: I'm come back.
CAMEROTA: Kellyanne, hold on. Let's talk about it for one second about the opioid crisis, because the president talked, and I know you have to go, but let's talk about this for one second. The president talked really personally about his own family's struggles with addiction and his brother and how it affected him so much, and so do you feel now that the federal government is giving enough money to try and fight this crisis?
CONWAY: So this president has already spent $1 billion this year. In addition through the Public Health Emergency American Act that he used yesterday as his vehicle to make good on his national emergency declaration, Alisyn, he's calling upon Congress to appropriate the money. That's who appropriates the money.
Do you know in the Senate health bill that never got a vote and where we couldn't get a single Democrat to support it, there was $45 billion especially just for opioids. So those who are asking for the money, I have to ask them, you have people in your state who are suffering, you have people in your state who will become addicted and who will misuse opioids and other drugs. Why did you turn a blind eye to that money, that $45 billion in the health bill, and lots of people didn't even know that because it doesn't get covered? But there has been another $81 million that the president talked about yesterday. People can pull up the remarks, they can pull up the information, I'd be happy to provide it to you and your viewers anytime.
This takes money, but it also takes a full effort on prevention and education on treatment and recovery and on interdiction and enforcement. Fentanyl is coming in from China mostly. The president yesterday committed to raising this with the president of China when he sits down with him in the next month, early next month on his Asia trip. We have heroin coming in through the southern border. We have for a lot of people in this country get hooked, it starts in mom and dad's medicine cabinet. And that little bottle has your local pharmacy and your family doctor on the label, so that was meant to help somebody at some point. But we have 175 Americans dying each day. Alisyn, if that were
happening through a terrorist action or, God forbid, planes falling from the sky, CNN would stop all of their coverage and we would all be talking about that, so let's start talking about that. And I really hope we can get a lot of Democrats on board with this as well, because people in their states and their communities are suffering as well.
The first lady being involved on prevention education, I had the privilege of going to West Virginia with her two weeks ago and watched her meet the folks at the Center, Lily's Place, which administers care, physical care and elsewise to these newborns who are born physically dependent. This is everybody's problem. We want everybody to be part of the solution, and I thank you for giving it a little bit of time and space today.
CAMEROTA: We're going to do more than that, Kellyanne. We're going to have Chris Christie on, who of course is the head of the opioid commission. So we're going to be talking all about it all with him, because as you point it, it hits virtually every family in this country, my own included. So Kellyanne Conway, thank you very much for going through all of this with us.
CONWAY: Thank you, Alisyn.
[08:05:07] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fascinating interview. Let's welcome our viewers, by the way. It's after 8:00 now, Alisyn Camerota speaking to Kellyanne Conway there. Joining us now, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and chief political correspondent Dana Bash. I don't know where to begin. I will say --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Neither do I.
BERMAN: -- what's fascinating to me, they covered a lot of ground there, there's an incredible double standard right now from this White House and Kellyanne Conway on a range of issues when it has to do with the Russian investigation, Dana. What you heard there is Alisyn pressing her on the CNN reporting about Cambridge Analytica, these people who worked for the Trump campaign and reaching out to WikiLeaks. But you heard Kellyanne with that doesn't matter. That's not important there.
However, if anything the Clinton did with opposition research, oh, that matters a lot. She says the Clinton campaign shouldn't be reaching out to a foreign agent. But when Donald Trump Jr. is having a meeting with people promising dirt from Russia, that's not a problem. That's opposition research. Really interesting double standard.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think what she's trying to do is kind of flip the way you just described it by saying you guys are so focused on Russia when it comes to us, but if you care that much let's focus on now what we know that the Democrats were involved with, which was paying for the dossier in the first place.
This is not an easy topic. And she is probably, as you have learned over the interviews that you have done with her, both of you, masterful at turning it around. I think at the end of the day, though, she did make clear if you can kind of read through some of the spin that she clearly -- well, here's my read. She was uncomfortable with this. And I have spoken to other people on the campaign --
CAMEROTA: She said she didn't know about it.
BASH: And that doesn't surprise me. If it turns out she's not telling the truth, she's in big trouble. But it doesn't surprise me because I have spoken with other people who should have known it but who didn't.
CAMEROTA: That's her superpower is flipping the switch and saying, oh, but look over here. But we had to make a rule there, as you heard, not to talk about Hillary Clinton, because that's their automatic default.
TOOBIN: Which she promptly broke. But remember, this whole uranium thing comes from FOX News. This is a closed investigation that came up in Peter Schweizer's book "Clinton Cash" in 2015. It was discredited then.
CAMEROTA: It's from 2010, by the way.
TOOBIN: The book came out in 2015. It was one of the accusations. It has been discredited. Two years later, FOX News and Republicans in Congress and Republicans in the White House start raising it simply as a way to wave Russia back at the Democrats. There's nothing new, no new information here. You have the president of the United States, apparently, according to CNN reporting, intervening with the Justice Department, saying get us more witnesses on this. This is precisely why in the post Nixon era there were rules in place to get the White House out of criminal investigations. They are not supposed to be involved in making those sorts of decisions. But this White House is changing the rules.
BERMAN: She did not deny that he weighed in. She tried to say Chuck Grassley pushed for it, which may be true. She tried to say the Justice Department made the ultimate decision, which may be true also, but she did not deny for a second that the president weighed in there with what you're saying is inappropriate.
BASH: And by the way, I've spoken to Democrats on that committee who say, you know what, if there is a new piece of information, let's hear it. If this FBI informant/whistleblower wants to talk about something, let's hear it. But that doesn't mean that this is where are the story is.
CAMEROTA: The problem also, just in terms of what you were saying about the double standard, the Department of Justice also did crack down on two top FBI agents who -- or officials who wanted to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Comey firing. So they are not free to go and talk about that to the same committee, but they want to lift the gag order on the FBI informant.
BASH: That is true. The other thing, and you and I tried not to let out an audible gasp,
but that really struck me is when Kellyanne Conway said I was the campaign manager, I can't be bothered with any of that. Now, for those of us who cover campaigns, we understand what she's saying. I was worried about the big picture. I was trying to get us elected into the White House, and I am not worried about some guy from Cambridge Analytica trying to get in touch with Julian Assange. OK, that might be true, but then you have to accept the fact that on the Democratic side, John Podesta, who was also the campaign chair, also didn't know his campaign was paying for this dossier. If you believe that and that's how you run a campaign, you have to accept that's the truth for the other side.
[08:10:11] BERMAN: This is the same exact argument that you can expect Podesta to make going forward about the fact that he didn't know. She in a way inoculated him or gave him a way out of this for all the Republicans that say how could you not know.
TOOBIN: John Podesta was the campaign chairman. He was not the campaign manager. The campaign chairman does a lot of fundraising. Robby Mook was the campaign manager, and he would be the one who would be expected to know about how opposition research was paid for. So I think it's much more important that we find out what Robby Mook knew about this rather than John Podesta, and certainly Debbie Wasserman Schultz was clearly on the outs on everything. It was very unlikely she would know about this.
CAMEROTA: One of the big issues to me is just what we talked about, Kellyanne and I at the end there, is Russia bad or good? Let's pick a side. Are they bad or good? If they are helpful and real world partners in solving world peace, as President Trump has said, then why are we so exercised about the Uranium One in the White House?
TOOBIN: Because it's a chance to criticize Hillary Clinton.
CAMEROTA: I know that.
BASH: It's a chance to criticize Hillary Clinton. The people who are obsessed with this don't want to believe that there was not pay for play, because that's what it's all about, that Hillary Clinton didn't somehow involve herself in accepting this deal in order to enrich herself or her husband, and it was all kind of a back flap to a donor who would have made money. Now, the Clinton campaign says that they went through this, that there was actually no way that this guy could have made money, and I am not going to get into the details of that.
But regardless, let's just take a step back and look at the politics. Republicans are trying to get their sea legs here. They have been -- from the perspective of a lot of conservatives, letting the Democrats run the show on the Russia investigation, and that's why you see FOX and other conservative outlets saying, come on guys, we have some quivers here that we can start to shoot, and let's start doing it.
TOOBIN: But I do think the merits are important on this uranium deal. The whole hypothesis is that Hillary Clinton rewarded this donor to the Clinton Foundation by giving this contract. First of all, there were nine agencies involved, and he had sold his interests in the company by the time the contract was awarded. So the idea that there was pay for play here is not credible.
BASH: And we will see. If the Republicans can't get anything more than what you just said out of the informant, then they just closed their own case.
TOOBIN: But they have gotten us talking about it, which is a victory.
CAMEROTA: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, Dana Bash, thank you very much. Great to see you guys.
So President Trump tweeting about the U.S. government releasing most but not all of the classified documents on the President John F. Kennedy's assassination. The files breathing new life into some conspiracy theories, but not all the files on JFK's assassination were released, as we said, so what is missing? CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Washington with what we've learned. Hi, Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi here. What's missing, Alisyn, thousands of documents. And the president did just tweet. He said "JFK files are being carefully released. In the end there will be great transparency. It is my hope to get just about everything to public." So while these 2,800 records that we are now seeing, they are very interesting but they are disappointingly incomplete.
KEILAR: For decades conspiracy theories questioned whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy in Dallas nearly 54 years ago. In a newly released memo, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover expressed concern that Americans would not believe he was the lone gunman. "The thing I am concerned about, and so is deputy attorney Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." The declassified documents shedding new light on Oswald's contacts with Russia and Cuba. One document reveals the CIA intercepted a call Oswald made to a KGB officer at the Russian embassy in Mexico less than two months before Oswald shot Kennedy. The memo's author says Oswald spoke in broken Russian. The FBI documenting a separate conversation about Oswald between two Cubans, one man saying Oswald, quote, "must have been a good shot." A Cuban intelligence officer replying "Oh, he was quite good." Asked why he said that, the officer replied "I knew him."
PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": The CIA and the FBI in particular had a lot of information before the assassination to suggest that this man, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a danger.
KEILAR: Another suspenseful cliffhanger, whether Oswald worked for the CIA. In a 1975 deposition, Richard Helms, the deputy CIA director under Kennedy, was asked if Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent before the document suddenly ends without an answer.
Even Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, is said to have entertainment another theory to explain the association. According to Helms, Johnson claimed that Kennedy was killed for payback for the assassination of Vietnam's president, and this was justice, even though Helms said there was no evidence of this claim in records, but a memo from Hoover three years after Kennedy was killed details reaction inside the Soviet Union including conspiracy theories of their own, namely Johnson himself was behind Kennedy's death, the source saying the USSR believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the ultra right in the United States to affect a coup.
The documents also revealed, the FBI received a direct warning, before Oswald's own murder during a jail transfer just days after Kennedy's assassination. A day before Oswald was killed, Hoover says the FBI office in Dallas received a phone call from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald and shared that information with the Dallas police chief who assured us adequate protection would be given, however this was not done.
Oswald's killer, Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby maintained he acted alone and denied making the call.
And more maybe coming -- a White House official telling CNN the president was unhappy of the level of redactions requested by intelligence agencies, saying they were not meeting the spirit of the law.
Trump writing in a memo, I have no choice today, but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation's security.
KEILAR: But here is what is head-scratching about this. The intelligence agencies have had 25 years to comply with the 1992 law that governs the release of these documents and yet they missed the deadline and were sending request for redactions even late yesterday. President Trump has given them 180 more days to, again, look at their reasons, to review the reasons for requesting information be withheld so that more documents may see the light, John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Brianna. Six months until the really juicy stuff. But still, some pretty juicy stuff overnight.
KEILAR: It's pretty interesting.
BERMAN: Brianna Keilar, thanks so much. Great to see you.
I want to break in Farris Rookstool III, a JFK historian and former FBI analyst who was involved in the assassination investigation and the custodian for the record of the investigation. And Philip Shenon, author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.
Farris, I want to start with you here. First, big pictures since you've been so deeply involved with this for so long. What was revealed overnight that we should focus on the most? FARRIS ROOKSTOOL III, FORMER FBI, JFK ASSASSINATION EXPERT: Well, I
think the overreaching conclusion that I came to yesterday is that the government delivered a very poor response to a 1992 law. I mean, if everybody wants to believe the government was behind killing president Kennedy, yesterday's action on the document production was exhibit a on poorly they executed that.
In the files themselves, one of the things that I think will shock most people is that the central intelligence agency had more information on Oswald than they let the warren commission and the FBI know, as well as the American people. Most people are completely surprised that the CIA had, as an expensive investigation on Lee Harvey Oswald as they did.
BERMAN: Let's break that down into two parts. We learned some more about what Oswald was doing in Mexico City in the weeks prior to the assassination, which, Phil Shenon, it's one of the periods most interesting in the plot. He made a phone call to the Soviet Embassy there.
Let me read you what the files told us overnight. According to an intercepted phone call in Mexico City, Oswald called the Soviet embassy on 1 October, identifying himself by name and speaking in broken Russian stating above and asking whether there was anything new concerning the telegram to Washington. To Farris' point, Bill, you know, this is a guy that intelligence agencies knew stuff about before the 22nd.
PHILIP SHENON, CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICO: Absolutely. After the assassination, the CIA and the FBI were desperate to suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone wolf and nobody could have stopped him because nobody knew what was happening. It looks like Oswald may have told other people that he was going to kill the president. There's intelligence that suggests he did that during this Mexico City.
And the question is, didn't the CIA have an inkling of that and why didn't the CIA share that with Washington?
BERMAN: And then, of course, there is the issue of how much or if the CIA was actually working in some capacity with Lee Harvey Oswald.
[08:20:07] And, Farris, to your point, that maybe they created more questions than they answered last night. Let me read an excerpt of an interview with Richard Helms who was a CIA director during the 1970s. He was asked about this directly. He said, is there information involved in the assassination of President Kennedy that shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way an CIA agent or an agent, dot, dot, dot. And the files released overnight bears no answer. We are left with the question wondering what the former CIA director said.
ROOKSTOOL: Well, that's the biggest problem. If you don't read the entirety of the files -- I mean, it took me over nine years to read 500,000 records which we had in the core investigative files. So, if you are having to go and take in a piecemeal fashion a bit of information from one file and a bit of information from another file, you are going to come away from all of this completely overwhelmed, confused, and at best completely exasperated.
When you have a question going unanswered, I mean, the Chinese Philosopher once said, if the answer seems impossible think of it as a question posed in the wrong way. We have a gigantic picture puzzle box and the cover and we are getting pieces after pieces without the ability to look at the picture box to make sense of all the records.
BERMAN: Phil, do you think we reframe the way we look at any of the figures here during that timeframe. J. Edgar Hoover, for instance, who is much maligned over, you know, a multi-decade career, there are moments where he appears concerned about specific things. He was concerned -- he admitted the fact that the Dallas Police Department was warned by the FBI that Oswald might be killed when he was in custody. Ultimately, he was murdered by Jack Ruby.
And then we also hear this about his major concern about the public relations on Oswald on November 24th. He goes, the thing I am most concerned about, so is the deputy attorney general, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin here. Hoover is very concerned with the public perception, Phil.
SHENON: Well, Hoover was concerned about the survival of the FBI, and we see that from previously declassified files. You know, after the assassination, he seemed to have been desperate to prove that Oswald was the lone wolf and there was no way for anybody to stop him, when it looks like the CIA and the FBI had a lot of information that suggested that Oswald should be rounded up before President Kennedy got to Dallas.
BERMAN: All right. Farris Rookstool, Phil Shenon, thanks so much for being with us, and honestly, I hope you come back in six months, because we will talk about what we are learning then and then, hopefully not, what we are not learning. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John. President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a public emergency. Does that go far enough to fight the epidemic? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the head of the president's drug abuse commission, is here next.
[08:27:10] CAMEROTA: President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national public health agency but not committing new funds to battle the epidemic. Congress will have to do that.
Joining us now is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He is the chairman of the president's commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis.
Governor, great to have you here.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Thanks, Alisyn. CAMEROTA: So, the president called it a public health emergency. Was that what you wanted? Did this go far enough for you?
CHRISTIE: It was. I mean, if you look at our interim reporter, we said two options, to declare a national emergency under the Public Health Safety Act or the Stafford Act. Now, Stafford is usually used for things like hurricanes Sandy and other hurricanes, we said you could us either one. He chose the first one. We believe it's a health crisis and Health and Human Services has to be the agency that's coordinating the response.
So, the president did exactly what we asked him to do yesterday and now, it's up to Congress to step up and put funds into the emergency fund which will give the president the maximum flexibility to distribute these funds to the states and get them on the ground to start fighting the fight.
BERMAN: There are plenty of Democrats and Republicans who think they go into public emergency was better than the national emergency. But there is a small difference that does matter, right?
I would have allowed the government, a national emergency, to use FEMA funds.
BERMAN: But it would have allowed that and it would have needed the 90-day review, put it up for some on a higher pedestal in terms of how concern the government is.
CHRISTIE: I would disagree on that last point. I don't think it could be on a higher pedestal than what the president did yesterday. An East Room ceremony with the president of the United States really speaking from the heart about how this crisis not only affects families around the country but how it's affected his family. And I think it's the first time you'd seen President Trump speak personally in that kind of way.
CAMEROTA: We have that example, so let's play it for everybody who missed pi missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a brother Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine. But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol.
And he would tell me, don't drink. Don't drink. He was substantially older, and I listened to him and I respected. But he would constantly tell me don't drink. He would also add don't smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So, Governor, for all of us, like the president, like all of us, who have loved ones who struggle with the opioid crisis or addiction, what changes today?
CHRISTIE: What changes is a few things. One of the big things it has not been covered about, is the president said he is ordering the HHS secretary to waive some of these older Medicaid rules that right now are leaving thousands of treatment beds that have already established, Alisyn, empty because federal Medicaid won't match the state funds because it does back to an old rule about psychiatric hospitals. I can't tell you what a ground shift this is going to be.