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Three Trump Associates Indicted; Muller's Team Kept Secret of Investigation Details. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired October 30, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] TOM FOREMAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: ... who are headed up about by a man who is known for being relentless and following the clues relentlessly to the end. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Tom Foreman, I appreciate it. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, the biggest bombshell yet in the Russia investigation and the White House is hoping you'll believe there's nothing to see here. Just move along.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The Trump campaign's closest connection so far to Russian meddling in the election. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser pleading guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after he lied about his interactions during the campaign with a foreign contact who discussed dirt related to Hillary Clinton's e- mails.
That's not an accusation. That's not an allegation. It's fact. Papadopoulos admits it. Now the administration has been insisting all along there's no evidence of collusion with Russia. Papadopoulos, a nobody. Listen to Donald Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Let me say this. First of all, George Papadopoulos served on a committee. A lot -- as you know, campaigns have committees with various people on it. He was not a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now they have a significant problem on their hands because in order to believe that what Sekulow says, you'd have to ignore what Donald Trump himself said on March 21st, 2016 when he named the members of his foreign policy advisory team in an interview with the Washington Post.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want I can give you some of the names.
I would be delighted.
I wouldn't mind. Do you have that list so I can be more accurate with it. OK, ready?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm taking notes.
TRUMP: Walid Phares, who you probably know. Ph.D. advisory to the House of Representatives Caucus. He's a counterterrorism expert. Carter Page, Ph.D., George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Excellent guy. You'd also have to ignore what you see with your own eyes. This photo was taken on March 31st, 2016. Showing George Papadopoulos at a meeting with Trump, and then Senator Jeff Sessions, the head of the candidate national security advisory council.
And there's more. Listen to what Papadopoulos says in the legal document that lays out the offense to which he pleads guilty. It says, "On or about March 31, 2016, defendant Papadopoulos attended a national security meeting in Washington, D.C. with then candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the campaign. When defendant Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then candidate Trump and President Putin."
This is stunning. An offer to help arrange a meeting between Donald Trump himself and Vladimir Putin. And that's not all. There's also former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a former campaign official Rick -- and former campaign official Rick Gates under house arrest.
Manafort a $10 million bond. Gates $5 million. They're charged with conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to launder money among other related charge. Both pleaded not guilty today. The White House response?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two people who worked for the president are now under indictment. One has pleaded guilty and he promised to hire only the best people. Is this an example of the best people to hire?
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, again, this goes back to these were activities that took place outside of the scope of the campaign. I can't comment on thinking they did...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are these the best people to hire?
SANDERS: Look, the president hired Paul Manafort to handle the delegate process which he did and he was dismissed not too long after that. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Paul Manafort was the president's campaign chairman. He was the man responsible for making sure that Donald Trump emerged from that convention with the nomination and he did.
The charges Manafort was indicted on today while they do pertain to his personal business dealings range from 2006 to 2017. That's this year. Including the time he held a top job on the Trump campaign.
It is a pretty terrible day for the White House when your best defense that your campaign manager was a bad guy for a long time before you hired him allegedly.
Despite the public spin, a republican close to the administration is telling CNN that President Trump has been watching the news on large screen TVs at the White House and, quote, "seething."
So when members of the administration tell you this whole thing is a nothingburger, nothing to see here, just remember what you have heard with your own ears and seen with your own eyes. You can look it from the left or the right. It's still an apple.
[22:04:55] I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN's justice correspondent Evan Perez. Good evening to both of you, Thanks for joining us. Evan, you first. You just heard my take. Walk us through what today means in terms of the Trump campaign and the possible collusion with Russia.
EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, I think what you're seeing is perhaps the beginning of the outline of what Robert Mueller has and his team have been able to assemble over the last few months and also what the FBI was doing over the past more than a year that they've been investigating this alleged coordination between members of the Trump campaign associated with the campaign and the Russians.
And, look, the Papadopoulos indictment or the Papadopoulos information today that was released by the special counsel really outlines the scope of what the Russians were trying to do to try to insinuate themselves into the Trump campaign, to try to find inroads to be able to use people that they thought were amenable to their views, to try to improve relations with the United States.
And also, you know, the top of their list is they wanted to get rid of the sanctions that are helping -- that are hurting Vladimir Putin and some of his cronies and really keeping them from some of the bank accounts, frozen some of their bank accounts around the world.
So, what you see here in the Papadopoulos document is a bit of an outline of what looks like collusion. I mean, again, we've talked so many times, Don, about the fact that collusion in itself is not a crime, but certainly illegal coordination with a foreign spy service would certainly add up to a crime.
And then with the Manafort and Gates indictment, what you see there, Don, is an effort by the Mueller team to uses whatever leverage they have and perhaps they feel that Manafort and Gates will be able to flip up, perhaps they believe that there is more information that they have that will lead to perhaps charges against someone higher than Manafort and Gates. And there are very far people who are above them in the hierarchy of that campaign.
LEMON: Let's bring Dana in. Dana, our colleague Jim Acosta pressed the White House on Papadopoulos. Watch this and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: How can you describe Mr. Papadopoulos as having a limited role when there's a photograph of Mr. Papadopoulos sitting at a table with then candidate Trump at a...
SANDERS: There's been thousands of photographs with millions of people.
ACOSTA: How is it not collusion when George Papadopoulos is in contact with various people who are promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, a series of events that closely mirrors what occurred with the president's own son?
SANDERS: This individual was on a naive.
ACOSTA: In pursuit of information that was damaging about the Clinton.
SANDERS: Finish your...
ACOSTA: How is all of that not collusion.
SANDERS: Look, this individual was the member of a volunteer advisory council that met one time over the course of a year, and he was part of a list that was read out in the Washington Post. I hardly call that some sort of regular adviser or as you want to, you know, push that he's like a senior member of the staff. He was not paid by the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Dana, the White House is minimizing Papadopoulos' role on the campaign and yet we have this photo showing Papadopoulos with the president. The president also mentioning him in a Washington Post interview. What's going on here?
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, look, let's just take the White House for what they're saying, that Papadopoulos wasn't a major player in the campaign, because he wasn't. But that's not relevant.
What is relevant is that he clearly had access to members of the president's campaign, senior members of the president's campaign because they responded to him. And they responded to him about a connection to and an attempt to help get information from the Russians who said that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
That's all that matters even if the guy walked in off the subway in New York, whether or not he worked for the campaign isn't really that relevant. And more importantly, as Evan was pointing out, this is somebody who had maybe not close relationships, we're not really sure, but at least relationships with people who are now working for the President of the United States.
And if he, Papadopoulos, did make a deal a few months ago, who knows what he could be trying to get from those now presidential aides or close to the president advisers for the feds as they go along in their investigation, Don.
LEMON: Yes, because he's been -- apparently he knew about this. He was arrested earlier in the summer.
LEMON: Right. Evan, so let's read -- let's read a portion, a piece of the court documents, OK? It's important to reference it was a July 26 -- a July 2016 e-mail from Papadopoulos proposing a meeting in London with himself and the national chairman and members of Putin's office. And here is the key line. The key line is, "It has been approved from our side." Is this an indication that Papadopoulos was acting with campaign approval?
[22:09:59] PEREZ: It certainly seems to indicate that he believed he was. And the government is trying to suggest that they believe that it did have some kind of approval.
Look, there's a lot here that is missing from this document, the Papadopoulos documents that were released by the special counsel today. We don't know, for instance, Don. You read a little bit about the meeting there, the meeting that was -- the picture there, the Instagram photo with him suggesting that he could help set up a meeting between Trump and Putin.
We don't know what the president responded or then candidate Trump responded or anybody else in that room. That is left out of the document. And I think it's done on purpose because I think the government is saving some of that information for use later on. They have obviously other witnesses that they have been able to talk to.
Keep in mind, Don, in the period since Papadopoulos was arrested in July and the time that he signed this plea agreement in October 3rd, there have been all these interviews done of people in the White House. And we didn't know that this Papadopoulos document existed.
So there's a lot of people who have now been able to provide interviews to the special counsel without the benefit of knowing what was in here.
LEMON: Yes. All right. Thank you both. I appreciate it. I need to get to some more analysis now. I want to bring in now CNN contributor John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel, also Renato Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor, and John Flannery, former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York.
I'm so glad to have all of you great minds on this evening to talk about this. John Flannery, you first. Here is what the president tweeted out today. He said, "Sorry, but this is years ago before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign, but why aren't crooked Hillary and the dems the focus. Also, there is no collusion." No collusion in bold capital letters. He tweeted that before Papadopoulos, the plea of Papadopoulos came out.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER NEW YORK CITY FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right.
LEMON: Do you see any signs of collusion here?
FLANNERY: Well, first of all, it reminds me of Monti Python where he cuts off the arm of the knight and the blood comes pouring out and the answer he gives is, it's a flesh wound.
That's what I think you hear when Trump is doing this. He's beside himself. And he's trotting out old miss direction lines namely, Hillary, Hillary. I wonder if anybody on the hill with his 33 percent rating is going to help him.
But the significance of the indictment today -- and I heard you talking about Papadopoulos, but going to Manafort, I think the significance of it is in a criminal case we always say there are three parts. There's means, motive and opportunity.
These guys are the means. They were so connected to the Russians, to Putin, to the former head of the Ukraine government, to the Ukraine party and to the government itself that they were a natural connection to do exactly what we all believe happened by now, which is that they were the means.
The motive was the election and whatever the quid pro quo against sanctions and money. The and the third part which we've seen in abundance, despite the fact that Trump said there never was any meeting and there never was any getting together, we all know that that's true.
So we know they had the opportunity to cooperate and we all know and has been confirmed that the Russians put all this garbage into our election process that was untrue to affect the election. So, I think he's desperate. And Shakespeare said, "Guilt spills itself for fear of being spilt." He's excess now sort of proves that he's unhinged.
LEMON: Renato, I see you're in agreement there. I don't know, exuberantly so, it looks like. Why is that?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I do think that the president's comments this morning were, you know, almost comically at odds with what we saw in the court documents today. And, you know, I don't see how anyone could react in a serious way to these charges with anything other than concern if you're in the Trump camp. You know, if I was advising the president, I would advise him not to
say anything about this. But certainly I think he's trying to engage in some misdirection or trying to obfuscate and trying to draw attention away from this.
But look, what we have here is, you know, in terms of the Papadopoulos charging document, you have somebody who has agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller, somebody who has agreed to testify, agreed to, you know, potentially he has recorded conversations. You know, he is -- if you look at that document he was arrested back in July. Then he was charged on October 5th. We just learned about it today.
So Mueller's team has kept this a secret. Who knows what this guy had been doing. If I was in the Trump camp I would be trying to wonder, you know, who has Papadopoulos been in touch with. We saw reporting today that Sam Clovis is the supervisor that was referred to in that charging document.
Sam Clovis was co-chair of Trump's campaign. He's been nominated for undersecretary of agricultural. That could be, for example, somebody that Robert Mueller could target next.
[22:15:03] LEMON: Sam Clovis, who, I'm sure it's going to be like. He only worked here for a short amount of time. We don't really remember that guy that well because that's how it works.
But, you know, to both of your points when you mentioned the 33 percent, I doubt that Donald Trump will ever hear another side of the story except for his side what's he's putting out on Twitter and what they're watching and listening and reading from conservative media.
John Dean, you know, there was some expectation that we could see an indictment against Manafort. We discuss that when we heard about it on Friday. His name has been out there for some time. But then we get, you know, this guilty plea from Papadopoulos, new e-mails. Manafort - Manafort is spending all things we didn't know. Do you think today is the tip of the iceberg?
JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I do think it's the tip of the iceberg. First of all, I don't think anybody expected a tax and fraud case as massive as that that has been filed against Manafort and Gates.
LEMON: What does that mean?
DEAN: Well, it's big. And the other thing is no one expected to see what was in that plea agreement which shows a cooperating witness. And that reads to me like an outline of a chapter from a spy novel. It's just -- and it hints at so much more. It deliberately states this isn't all the facts we have, in essence that they have much more.
LEMON: This was a surprise, wasn't it, John?
DEAN: A big surprise, yes.
LEMON: Because I remember, well, today, as this was happening I was reading -- trying to read what information I had. DEAN: Artfully handled by the special counsel.
DEAN: He left the president hang himself out there and then came out with the released the plea agreement.
LEMON: But the Papadopoulos agreement or writings, I mean, that's what read like a novel, that was more surprising and more interesting than Paul Manafort.
DEAN: Yes. Absolutely.
FLANNERY: Yes. To quote a great American...
MARIOTTI: And you know, Don.
FLANNERY: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
MARIOTTI: No. That's fine. I was going to say, Don, one of the special counsel's lawyers said in court today that the Papadopoulos -- I read the transcript. One of the -- he said that the Papadopoulos case is a very small part of a much larger investigation of a very large scale investigation.
And so I agree exactly with what John said. You know, this is the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot of things he's looking at that have nothing to do with this whether it's obstruction or the Facebook warrant or other things. So there's more to come.
LEMON: Stick around guys. So, wherever -- there's hammering wherever somebody behind you. Tell them to stop the hammering. Stick around, everyone. When we come right back, George Papadopoulos was arrested in July, but he was kept under wraps until today. Did investigators keep the whole thing quiet to avoid tipping off someone else and was Papadopoulos wearing a wire?
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We have some breaking news about what's going on at the White House tonight. I want to bring CNN's Dana Bash, I bring her back. Dana, what can you tell us? What do you know?
BASH: Well, Don, I'm being told as some of our other colleagues have been told that the president is really angry and that people inside the White House are certainly kind of feeling the reverberations of what happened today.
And as part of that, because of that the president is hearing advice from his former top adviser Steve Bannon, who is saying that he wants people inside the White House to basically engage in a crash and burn strategy.
What he is saying, and I'm pulling up my notes here, this is from a source close to Steve Bannon, that he wants the White House to get republicans on Capitol Hill to cut funding for the special counsel, publicly debate Bob Mueller's mandate, slow document production, go to court and try to slow documents being requested there. Go on a massive P.R. campaign and try to get Capitol Hill to engage.
This is a very aggressive strategy and very different, Don, from what we have from inside the White House from the president himself for the past several months. You noticed that for a while he stopped tweeting about Robert Mueller.
Well, the source who I've been talking to says the Dowd Cobb strategy to play nice, Dowd and Cobb meaning to the president's lawyers inside the White House is an epic failure. I'm sure not everybody who has the president's ear is making this kind of radical -- giving him these radical ideas, but certainly Steve Bannon is and given the fact that we are told that the president has been seething today, he might be open to this very different 180 in strategy.
LEMON: It seems like they've been at least starting it the last week with all the Hillary Clinton stuff.
BASH: Yes. But Hillary Clinton is one thing. Going after the special counsel...
LEMON: Is another.
BASH: ... is a whole different thing.
BASH: And we'll see if they actually take him up on it.
LEMON: Great reporting. Thank you.
BASH: Thank you.
LEMON: Dana Bash in Washington for us this evening. I want to bring back in John Dean, Renato Mariotti, and also John Flannery. John, let's talk about -- guys, let's talk about the reporting there. Why are you so upset? Well, I was going to go to John first. But Renato, why are you so upset, is this obstruction?
MARIOTTI: Well, honestly, it concerns me...
FLANNERY: Who's John?
MARIOTTI: I'm so sorry.
LEMON: No. Go ahead, Renato. Go ahead.
MARIOTTI: I was going to say I'm just as an American citizen and as somebody who spent years in law enforcement, I am concerned about the future of this country if we have the president of the United States trying to work together with Congress to defund law enforcement. It's basically a statement that the president is above the law. I
think it's a very scary thing for our country. And I hope that people in Congress would not support that strategy, because it is frankly. A very dangerous thing for this country.
LEMON: John Dean?
DEAN: Don, that's a modified form of firing Archibald Cox cutting off funding to the special prosecutor -- the special counsel. I'm not sure it doesn't edge towards obstruction of justice and Bannon calling for let's all conspire and obstruct justice. That has that sense.
They're playing with fire here and I think people who sign on to this have to be very careful. This investigation is now progressing very rapidly and if they try to impair it, that's what that statute deals with.
LEMON: John Flannery, I want to get your take.
[22:24:54] FLANNERY: Yes. Hell has no fury like a man child with his hand caught in the cookie jar. You know, all this nonsense about the, it's OK and it doesn't involve us, well now we get the truth. Now we see that we're closer than ever to this guy giving up the ghost.
And if he tries to do what he's done and to overrule the rule of law, and this investigation was within the four corners of the authority of the special counsel statute and the warranty was given, then they should be forcing his impeachment, his resignation, even his indictment under obstruction. This is outrageous. But it's not a surprise.
This guy has long histories of bullying people and doing whatever he wants. Well, that's not what America and that's not what the presidency is supposed to be about. To quote a great American, a cancer is growing on this presidency.
LEMON: Wow. John Dean, I have to ask you because, you know, having dealt with the Nixon administration and Watergate and so on, let's look at the timing of this because Papadopoulos was arrested in July. Right. And then he pleaded gill of the charges in October.
It's all been kept secret. People were saying, well, this investigation, there are leaks. Well, no one heard about this. No one knew whose name was sealed in the indictment. But Jeffrey Toobin is suggesting this that all along he has probably been wearing a wire or may have been wearing a wire. What do you think?
DEAN: It's very potential. That's one of the first things that the prosecutors asked me to do when I agreed to work with them. I was -- I had one foot in the White House and one foot out. I was telling my colleagues I was going to the prosecutors. The prosecutors suggested I wear a wire. I said I just can't do that. I didn't know that Nixon was already wiring everybody. So, it was irrelevant.
LEMON: Can ask that the -- I'll ask you, Renato, just quickly because I have to go. Proactive cooperator. What does that mean? That's how this Papadopoulos is described in these papers.
MARIOTTI: Well, that means that somebody who is doing recordings, whether it was wearing a wire or making recorded phone calls. It's somebody who is actively going out and trying to get evidence.
LEMON: And John Flannery, they should be concerned, the White House about this.
FLANNERY: Absolutely. And there's another thing. We overlook the fact that there was a wiretap under the FISA for Paul Manafort. And no one knows what they got or didn't get in that. There have been some outlines of it. And there were two versions of it. And one overlapped when the president was in the White House.
LEMON: Yes. John, John, and Renato, thank you. I appreciate it.
MARIOTTI: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, two former CIA operatives will join me. I'm going to ask them how the Russians operate in situations like these. Who might have been involved in Moscow and what they were after.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Two former top officials of Donald Trump's campaign under house arrest tonight following their indictment in the ongoing Russia investigation. And a former campaign foreign policy adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Let's discuss now. CNN national security analysts Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst is here, and Steve Hall, as well, retired CIA chief of CIA Russian operations. It's so good to have you on. So let's talk about this.
Steve, you first. You say today's indictment lays out a story that has all the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation. How so?
STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Yes, Don. John Dean in your earlier segment was talking about how the whole Papadopoulos affair sort of, sounds like a spy novel. In fact, it's no novel. This operation does bear a lot of the hallmarks of what I suspect would be an SPR operation, which is a Russia external intelligence service.
If you break it down, so we start with this professor character who is a cut out. He's not a Russian government official so that makes it easier for a young guy like Papadopoulos to be comfortable talking with somebody like that. Then you've got the professor who identifies the access that Papadopoulos has. He's on the Trump campaign. So that's great stuff for the Russians. They want more information.
And then you've got a discussion of, well, we're not going to really do anything wrong or spy stuff. What we're just going to talk about is foreign affairs. What's it going to be like if Trump is elected and how is it going to go with Russia and the United States and the relation. And then finally it extend from that to meetings in Moscow about some
sort of dirt that the Russians claim that they have on Hillary Clinton.
So you start at the very top of that slippery slope with very, you know, mundane stuff and you end up all the way down at the other end where you've got, you know, the Russian government essentially saying, you know, we can talk to the Trump campaign about derogatory information on their opposition.
LEMON: So they were trying whatever way that they could -- whatever end they could do, whatever angle they could work they were trying to get at.
HALL: Sure. And they identified -- they identified the right guy and we see that from the e-mails that Papadopoulos was sending back. And he was offering all of these up. You know, I can do meetings for you.
My suspicion is they probably also assessed that Papadopoulos was the kind of guy who saw himself as an up and comer in the Trump administration or in a future administration and said, hey, if we offer him up important meetings in Moscow that he can relate back to the campaign that would make him look good and that's good for everybody. It's good for Papadopoulos and it would be good for the Russians to have somebody like that on the inside of the Trump campaign. It makes a lot of sense.
LEMON: Nada, George Papadopoulos says that he met with a female Russian, a national, a Russian national, he described as Putin's niece. What do you think that means? Who do you think this woman was?
NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: That's a good question. I think we saw a little bit later in the day that she possibly was just connected to the ministry of foreign affairs. Either way she clearly has some kind of connection to the Kremlin.
And to go back a little bit to what Steve was talking about, you know, I was a targeting officer at the CIA. When I look at Manafort and Papadopoulos, you know, I would feed those targets to somebody like Steve where he would go out and recruit them.
And look at Manafort. He's inside Ukraine. He's working with a pro- Kremlin party. It's like working in a fish bowl. I could have his communications, cover his e-mails, his phones. I would know everything about all of his vulnerabilities. He's just, he's like the perfect target at that point.
Same thing with Papadopoulos. He's new to what he's doing. He doesn't have foreign policy experience. So he's malleable.
BAKOS: And I think for obviously for the Russian intelligence services, they're good at this. They've been doing this for a very long time. This isn't their first rodeo. As a targeting officer I would look at these two people and think these are excellent. I would serve this up to Steve on a platter.
[22:35:09] LEMON: Yes. Interesting. Steve, do you see any parallels between what we see in these documents and what we know about Donald Trump, Jr. Meeting at Trump Tower where the campaign expected to get some incriminating information about Hillary Clinton?
HALL: Yes. I mean, it's really interesting that you mention that, Don, because there are some commonalities. So once again you have the use of cutouts. So you don't have any official Russian, you know, government person going to Trump Tower, because that would be way too high profile.
So they pick somebody like the lawyer Veselnitskaya, who it turns out does have pretty robust connections to the Kremlin, but they send her in, and that all lends itself to one other element of this which the Russians are just so good at which is simply deniability.
So if Ms. Zakharova in the ministry of foreign over in Russia has not already said this, she will be soon. You'll start hearing words out of Moscow like American Russophobes. You'll hear things like cold war approach. You will hear things like fantasy.
This is -- you know, the Russians will look at all this and say this is all completely made up. There's no proof here whatsoever regardless whether it's the Trump Junior meeting or whether it's new thing with Papadopoulos.
So they've got this deniability which they know plays very well in western countries like the United States where we all kind of say well, we do need to hear both sides of the argument. I mean, let's give everybody the shot the benefit of the doubt here we're not sure what happened. They take that to the bank every single time and they're really good at it.
LEMON: We have that deniability coming from the White House, Nada.
BAKOS: True. But I mean, we've seen the evidence today. We've seen the statements from Papadopoulos. We've read the indictments. I think it's hard at this point to deny that they add least had the interest and attempted to get information from the Russians and were willing participants in that conversation.
Papadopoulos himself has actually admitted to it. So I don't think it's something that you can deny at this point necessarily from our perspective in the United States. I agree with Steve. It doesn't help Russia to, of course, admit any guilt on their part. And they don't need to at this point. There's not an intelligence organization around the world that would admit to an operation.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate your expertise. When we come back, sources say the president is seething at Mueller's indictment while his press secretary insists the charges announced today have nothing to do with the president or his campaign. We're going to go inside the White House response to Mueller's investigation. That's next. [22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight a source telling CNN that President Trump is seething that the Russia investigation has led to indictments of two former campaign officials and a guilty plea by former campaign adviser.
I want to bring in now CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama. Good evening, David. Thank you so much for joining us.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Hi, Don. Sure. Thanks.
LEMON: Let's talk about some of the reporting. Tonight the Washington Post is reporting that the president woke up before dawn to watch the news to see who would be indicted. They're also reporting that things are not calm at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and they're saying that Trump is agitated.
The walls are closing in said one senior republican who in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. Everyone is freaking out. Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller's probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.
And also you have our reporting from Dana Bash which matches that and says that he may even tried to get Congress to slow walk this thing or at least try to have some influence over it on a government level, on a political level. If these walls could talk, right?
AXELROD: Yes. Well, you know, what's interesting is the picture that -- the official picture that the White House is trying to project is one of kind of enthusiast this thing is going to be over shortly. We're cooperating fully. This doesn't have anything to do with the president.
And that's in stark contrast to the portrait that we're hearing from many, many sources. You know, the Washington Post story said I think they spoke to 20 sources close to the president. And I'm sure Dana talked to as many.
So, you know, clearly there is a sense of unease there and should be a sense of unease. I think the president woke up this morning expecting that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates might be indicted. I don't think he expected the second indictment, which really does go much more directly to the question of collusion.
And I do think that one of the strategies that may be in play here, and you can see it in the conservative sort of right wing media, is that this whole thing is a contrivance aimed at him and that Mueller is a tool of this. And I think you're going to hear more of this as this investigation becomes more and more serious.
LEMON: Let's talk about more -- about the White House response. Here is what the president tweeted this morning. David, he said, "Sorry, but this is years ago before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't crooked Hillary and the democrats the focus? Also, there is no collusion."
So, David, because Mueller went back 11 years and did the work the campaign didn't somehow, it makes it better for the administration.
AXELROD: Well, I mean, look, I don't know what Trump knew about Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort's reputation and his involvement with Ukraine was fairly well-known, at least in the political community. And I suspect Trump knew a lot about him.
I found that tweet odd because it seemed to be saying, you know, this guy was a crook long before I hired him.
AXELROD: This has nothing to do with me. So then why did you hire him? And then he said no collusion. And then the next shoe dropped and of course, that goes directly to collusion. And then we didn't hear from the president for the rest of the day.
[22:44:55] You know he had strong feelings about what happened, but clearly his lawyers persuaded him that it was best to put the phone down and move away from the table and not communicate through Twitter for the rest of the day.
But, Don, look, this is clearly the beginning of a process, not the end of the process. And that's what's making everyone nervous at the White House. And they should be nervous. This is a serious, serious matter.
LEMON: Yes. More response from the White House. Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed the indictments today. She said today's announcement had nothing to do with the president. And then you tweeted imagine having to say stuff like this with a straight face. Tell us what you really think, David.
AXELROD: Well, look, I mean, I think that's the toughest job on the planet right now is being a spokesman for Donald Trump. And she went out there and she said what I think she was told to say.
But plainly after the events of today it's hard to argue that this has nothing to do with the president. And particularly that second indictment that went right to the campaign. Now, the fact that your campaign chair, the first time since Watergate that a campaign chairman has been indicted certainly is something that is of interest.
But the second indictment even more so. But again, their counter narrative. I saw one of his prominent supporters saying tonight that anybody who thinks this was bad for the president lives on -- must live on another planet. I can't imagine how anybody would view this as anything but bad for the president.
You know, to have people as close to his campaign indicted, to have this young man turn -- apparently turn for the prosecutors and presenting them with information for months that could lead elsewhere. It's a -- this is bad news for the president regardless of what Sarah says, regardless of what his amen corner in the Right Wing media say.
LEMON: And regardless of what he said before, that he was going to hire only the best people and you remember that whole extreme vetting. But a lot of peple I guess he didn't vet them so extremely. Thank you, David. I appreciate it.
AXELROD: All right. Good to see you, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, another member of the Trump campaign charged today with one pleading guilty and cooperating in the investigation. But the president insists Hillary Clinton is the one who should be investigated.
Well, she has responded tonight and we're going to play that for you next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Hillary Clinton speaking out tonight about the Russian investigation and how a certain network is covering the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All the networks except Fox are reporting about what's really going on.
And Fox is pedaling these stories about me, and, you know, I said the other day, I spoke at the human rights campaign. I said, you know...
... it appears they don't know I'm not president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining me now CNN political commentators, Peter Beinart, Ana Navarro, and Mike Shields.
I mean, what -- a pretty historic day. But to her point if you watch conservative media you would think that Hillary Clinton is the president of the United States and nothing else happened with an indictment or anything like that. Ana.
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: True. And look, I get what Hillary Clinton is coming from. I get that she wants to get up and do a happy dance today. You know, she feels vindicated. She feels that part of the reason she lost this election was because of the Russian collusion and the Russian involvement. I get all that.
She has got to resist the desire to go out and do that. Not now. Look, the Trump world, Trump and his cronies are going to try to throw out Hillary Clinton as a shiny object to try and distract us every time they can. We need to focus on this Mueller investigation. We need to stay focus on Trump and collusion and Russia, Russia, Russia. So I would say to Hillary Clinton, resist the urge to do this.
NAVARRO: You might be entitled -- look, you've got to just postpone your indictment party until the very end. Do not allow yourself to become a distraction.
NAVARRO: Resist the urge to see.
LEMON: OK. In the interest of time, Mike, I want to get to you. So, former Trump advisor Carter Page was asked about interactions with George Papadopoulos on BNC tonight. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you guys on e-mail chains together?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Look, there's a lot of e- mails all over the place when you're in the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. But, yes or no, like were you in e-mail chains with Papadopoulos?
PAGE: Probably a few, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you in e-mail chains with him about Russia?
PAGE: It may have come up from time to time. Again, you know, there's nothing major. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean nothing major, it was enough for him to lie to federal investigators and then plead guilty to that he was having an intermediary come to him and say you should come to London and talk to someone who's got Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
PAGE: Listen, I've been focused on other things today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He admits he communicated with Papadopoulos about Russia, but then he says he was focused about other things on today of all days. Should Carter Page be more worried that he's letting onto, Mike?
MIKE SHIELDS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes, look, I don't understand that. I don't understand Carter Page. I tell you this. All I can tell you sort from my perspective is I've worked in politics over 20 years. I've never heard of either one of him Carter Page or Papadopoulos until all this stuff came out. And so, the one thing that I would ask people to...
LEMON: How they end up on the campaign then? SHIELDS: Great question. And so my point is, let's look at, let's
compare these two campaigns. One of them was a professionally run campaign that actually had a hierarchy that looked like the campaigns that I've worked on, that hired a firm that hid from the FEC that they were doing research that round up in Russia. That's the organized campaign.
The other campaign clearly did not have hierarchy, did not have institutional control, went through three campaign managers. And it looks like they were sitting ducks for someone who is trying to get involved in American politics but were too clumsy to even what...
LEMON: You're making -- it sounds like you're making excuses for bad behavior there.
SHIELDS: No, look, if they did something wrong and illegal they should be indicted and thrown in jail. The Russians tried to meddle in our elections and people should be prosecuted for it.
[22:55:02] LEMON: I got to had Peter respond.
SHIELDS: But I don't think we should compare the two campaigns.
PETER BEINART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Right. They weren't only sitting ducks, they were very willing ducks, right? We know from Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting and now from Papadopoulos that every time the Russians offered them something that at least some member of the Trump campaign rather than saying I'm going to the FBI, they said, please, yes, let's pursue this, right? So, they were not innocents here. They seem to have been quite interested in this kind of collusion from what we've known so far.
LEMON: I want to -- I've got 30 seconds, but real quickly here, John Kelly was on Fox tonight saying basically that the American people don't care about this story and that insinuating it doesn't matter so much.
BEINART: You know what, it doesn't actually matter whether the American people care. We don't make government by public opinion. What matters is whether the president violated the law and threatened to American national security. Even if you could find a public opinion poll which shows that Americans care more about something else, it doesn't matter.
LEMON: I've got to go.
NAVARRO: Don, Donald Trump is between 33 percent and 38 percent approval rating, hell, yes, the American people care.
LEMON: Thank you all. That's it for us tonight. Thanks so much for watching. I'll see right back here tomorrow night.
Our special report here, CNN special report, the Russian investigation with Jake Tapper starts next. See you tomorrow.
[23:05:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)