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Sources: First Arrest in Mueller Probe May Come Today; Trump Once Again Criticizes Russia Probe Calling it a 'Witch Hunt'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 30, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first arrest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation could happen as early as today.

[05:59:25] GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Anybody who's been advised that they're a target of the investigation should be concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just from press reporting, that it's likely to be either Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still don't have any evidence of collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president, in a series of tweets, fired up over what he calls a lack of investigations into Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's doing everything possible to distract. And now this undercurrent to get rid of the prosecutor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering firing Robert Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is still obviously obsessed with playing the Clinton card.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps there's something more going on here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, October 30, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And here is on our starting line. Will we see the first arrest in Special Counsel Bob Mueller's Russia investigation today? That's the question. It is possible in light of news that CNN was first to report.

A federal grand jury did return the first indictments in Mueller's probe on Friday. Now, at this point we don't know the nature or the target of any indictments. President Trump, though, seems vexed by this news, once again slamming the Russia investigation as a witch- hunt, insisting that Hillary Clinton and Democrats paying for oppositional research about Trump's ties in Russia is the real Russian collusion. The president's attorney implausibly says Mr. Trump's tweets are unrelated to the Mueller news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So all of this could overshadow a big week for President Trump. House Republicans are set to unveil their tax bill, but they are suffering a major setback ahead of the announcement. The president also expected to announce his pick for Federal Reserve chief before embarking on a five-nation trip to Asia.

Meanwhile, a Senate panel begins debating today the need for a new war authorization spurred by the deadly ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in the hot seat this afternoon.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live for us in Washington. Jessica, take us through it.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, all eyes are on district court in D.C. today. We expect to learn what charges have been approved by the grand jury as soon as today and who will be arrested and taken into custody.

Now right now the charges are still under -- under seal from orders from a federal judge. But we do know, as CNN first reported Friday, this is the first indictment in this months-long Russian probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The first arrest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation could happen as early as today.

CHRISTIE: I think anybody who's been advised by the special counsel's office that they're a target of the investigation, which I'm sure he has done to those people who are, should be concerned.

SCHNEIDER: As part of Mueller's Russia's five-month-long investigation on Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, including potential collusion with Trump campaign associates, multiple members of Trump's inner circle have come under scrutiny. Among them, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. FBI agents raided Manafort's Virginia home back in July. The investigation includes possible money laundering and Manafort's work lobbying for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We know that the Russian government, through intermediaries, was reaching out to the Trump campaign, reaching out to Paul Manafort and others and offering information on Hillary Clinton they thought would help the Trump campaign. SCHNEIDER: Manafort has denied being in contact with Russians known

to U.S. intelligence. Also coming under scrutiny, fired national security advisor Michael Flynn, who Trump ousted for failing to disclose his contacts with Russia.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We don't know who's being charged. We don't know what they're being charged for.

SCHNEIDER: House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy defending the probe as his Republican colleagues call for a stop to the investigation.

GOWDY: I would encourage my Republican friends: give a guy a chance to do his job.

SCHNEIDER: Mueller's investigation ramping up in recent weeks, his team grilling former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer earlier this month, all over the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey and a closed-door Oval Office meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Over the summer, investigators also meeting with Christopher Steele overseas. Steele is a former British spy whose now infamous dossier alleges Russian efforts to help the Trump campaign. Mueller expanded his inquiry to include possible obstruction of justice by the president for trying to impede the investigation by removing James Comey. Mueller's team also scrutinized Mr. Trump and his associates' financial ties to the Kremlin.

TRUMP: There was no collusion on my side. I can tell you that. Everybody knew it.

SCHNEIDER: Independent Senator Angus King questioning that claim.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: It's certainly not commonly agreed on our committee, and we're the ones that are doing the investigation. It's way premature to say that some kind of conclusion has been reached.

SCHNEIDER: Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff not saying for certain if President Trump himself is under investigation.

SCHIFF: I can't answer that one way or the other.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So while the who and what surrounding these charges are still publicly unknown, we do know that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would have been informed of these charges before they were taken to the grand jury for approval. Of course, Rosenstein has oversight over the Russia investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. So the mystery still surrounds this indictment. And we could find out, though, as early as today who exactly is charged -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jessica. Impressive that they've been able to keep it quiet all weekend long. I know it was despite my efforts. [06:05:03] All right. So President Trump trying to shift the focus of

the Russia investigation to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. You know, you have to kind of think it through stem by step from where the president's coming.

So let's start with a report by CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House with more. What's the word, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

The White House on edge this morning as the president, like everyone else, sits and waits for the special counsel charges. Now, this of course, is a president who often teases out details of coming events. Now having to wait on the sidelines as Robert Mueller makes his big reveal.

Over the weekend, of course, the president on Twitter, choosing not to talk specifically about the special counsel. Instead, focusing on Hillary Clinton, among other things here are the tweets, talking about collusion which doesn't exist. " The Democrats are using this terrible and bad for our country witch-hunt for evil politics. But the R's are now fighting back like never before. There's so much guilt by Democrats/Clinton and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING," he writes in caps.

"All of this Russia talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic tax cuts and reform. Is this coincidental? Not!"

And then the follow-up by his lawyer, Ty Cobb, "Contrary to what many have suggested, the president's comments are unrelated to the activities with the special counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate."

The only thing on the president's public schedule today points somewhat to the bitter timing of all of this. The president has a Halloween at the White House event scheduled this evening.

Chris and Alisyn, back to you.

CUOMO: The web so tangled on the rationale side of what's going on with the president and his tweets, we'll save it for its own block.

Let's deal first with what's going on with these indictments, what they could mean, what the strategic considerations are. We've got a great panel: CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN law enforcement analyst James Galiano.

So all right. We know that there were indictments. Even though it's all a secret process, not unusual that word would start to come out that something is going to happen. What is your early take on what we know so far?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Chris, this is a morning for using the three words you're never allowed to say on cable news which are "I don't know." I don't know who's charged. I don't know what the charges are. And, you know, that could make all the difference in how significant this morning's news is.

Obviously, it is not a good thing for the people under investigation that Mueller has indicted someone. I mean, you know, just to state the obvious. But who it is and what the charges are, it's just -- it's not clear.

CUOMO: The word came out of a sealed indictment. Are you shocked by that?

TOOBIN: I am surprised that it's a sealed indictment. Sealed indictments, the only reason for a sealed indictment, as far as I'm aware, is that you think, if you reveal the indictment, the person will flee.

CUOMO: Right.

TOOBIN: If you look at the people who are under scrutiny here, they are all public figures. The idea that they would somehow flee to Russia or somewhere else seems remote to me. But there must be some explanation for why Mueller has done this. And I suspect that is one of the many things we'll learn today, which is why this was a sealed indictment.

CUOMO: Why do you think it's today?

TOOBIN: Because--

CUOMO: I'm giving you a chance to choose your three words.

TOOBIN: I don't know. I don't know why it is today. You know, our colleagues reported this Friday that there was a charge.

CUOMO: Right.

TOOBIN: It's a very unusual situation where you report that a sealed indictment exists but that you don't know who or what. So I am sitting here with very elaborate ways of saying "I don't know."

CUOMO: You're doing a heck of a job.

TOOBIN: I appreciate that.

CAMEROTA: James, is it possible that whatever the charges are today, are not related to the Trump campaign but rather hypothetically, let's say Paul Manafort's worked in Ukraine, something shady happening there.

JAMES GALIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. Alisyn, we know there are three investigations going on. The House Intelligence Committee, is Senate Intelligence Committee, and then the special prosecutor.

I agree with Jeffrey in the sense that having worked for Robert Mueller, he was just the sixth director of the FBI. His hallmarks are secrecy when it pertains to a grand jury matter. The fact that this came out, that we are anticipating something dropping today, is surprising.

Could it relate to Manafort? Absolutely. When the special prosecutor starts to investigate something, if other things come up during the course of conduct of his investigation, they become fair play. So could it be a structure case. It could be something in his dealings with Turkey or Russia. Absolutely.

TOOBIN: And we do know that he executed -- that Mueller's office executed a search warrant at Mueller's House--

CAMEROTA: Manafort's.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Yes, Manafort's.

CUOMO: That will come up. If the politics plays out the way it's looking right now.

TOOBIN: Manafort had his house searched. That is a very aggressive investigative step at someone that you are investigating. So obviously, he is a candidate for indictment here. But that does not guarantee that he will be indicted today or ever.

[06:10:06] CUOMO: So the fact that they are sealed is, in this context, probably a different calculus than it ordinarily is. When I was pounding the phones this weekend, trying to get a little bit of taste of what this might be. I kept using the fact, you know, Monday, I won't have anything to say. We're first up. And I kept getting waved off. Monday. Yes, it could be Monday. It could not be Monday. Don't be so worried about that.

But the strategic concern did seem to be suggestive of this is not -- this is not the big show. You know, that they've been presenting evidence since July. And that they see this, the quote was, as a building matter. Explain that in terms of prosecutorial strategy.

TOOBIN: I think that's a very important point. Is that, you know, we all want everything resolved yesterday.

This investigation started just in May. White-collar investigations often take many months. And an initial charge may be very different from where the investigation winds up.

The traditional way to build a case is to charge lesser players and try to get them to flip on higher-ups. This could be a case against a lesser player. Could be on an unrelated matter. But they're trying to get that person to flip even on other subjects. So yes, we will learn a lot once these charges are unsealed. But we will not learn everything about this case, and people should be aware of that.

GALIANO: And we have this image of, you know, two people in trench coats, Cold War era fedoras on, and there's an exchange of information and money. That's our impression.

This could be -- and I don't want to use the term "benign." This could be a small -- you talked, Chris, about low-hanging fruit, as failure to disclose on an FS-86. CUOMO: Which is what?

GALIANO: Which is the document that, if you're going to handle or come in contact with national security information, you're compelled--

CAMEROTA: Is that what Jared Kushner did?

GALIANO: It could be. Now, we do know that Jared Kushner failed to identify a number of meetings with different Russians on there. Now, the problem with that, and Jeffrey could speak to this, is you have to prove intent. So was it a mistake, an oversight, or was it something more nefarious?

CAMEROTA: OK. So hypothetically, let's say that some names that we've been talking about for months now, Paul Manafort. We know that maybe he had some shady deals in the Ukraine. Mike Flynn. If Mike Flynn were charged, would that necessarily be about the Trump campaign?

TOOBIN: Not at all. I mean, this is a wide-ranging investigation. Certainly, there are -- both Flynn and Manafort have been investigated in terms of their relationship with other countries. Michael Flynn was lobbying, involved with Turkey. There have been questions about whether his disclosures were appropriate regarding Turkey.

That, if the charges relate to that, that does not relate to the Russia investigation. However, the pressure used because of that case may get him to talk about Russia alternatively. Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort may have nothing to say about higher ups. I mean, you know, we talk about squeezing people to flip. Maybe they don't have incriminating information about other people. So I mean, we need to keep an open mind about this whole situation and not assume that there's nefarious illegal activities where there may not be.

CUOMO: Here's a nice thing. I'm relieved with the curiosity about who it is. Because I think the action, in and of itself, is a good play by the Mueller team, for two reasons.

So the people who are saying, "We want some action. What's been going on?" It's been a long time. Now you have the ball starting to roll. You have your first set of indictments. And in truth, it's not that long. You know, he started presenting it in July. For it to be now, just in the case of that covered, that's not that long.

Then on the other side of this pressure, it's got to end, it's got to end. So either way you're coming at this, this progress matters. And that's enough for me for right now.

Gentlemen, appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you both very much. So how will President Trump respond to all this news about the first charges in Mueller's probe today and why is the president pointing the finger at Hillary Clinton and the Democrats on Russian collusion? We discuss the politics next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:17:54] CAMEROTA: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation entering a new phase. Sources tell CNN the first arrests could come as early as today.

President Trump taking to Twitter yesterday, insisting the scrutiny should be on Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Let's discuss with our panel. We have CNN political analysts John Avlon and Ron Brownstein. Gentlemen, great to have you here. For people who missed the president's tweets yesterday, let me recap. Here there are.

",Never seen such Republican anger and unity as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made fake dossier now $12 million." Don't know where he got that figure. "The Russia to" -- sorry "The uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted e-mails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia collusion which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible, and bad for our country, witch-hunt for evil politics. But the Republicans are now fighting back like never before. There is so much guilt by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. Do something!" Exclamation point. If there is an overdrive button on Twitter, hit it. John Avlon, so -- any thoughts on this?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, your reenactment was a great poetry slam version this morning. But look, this is a president desperately trying to deflect, because he's feeling a bit desperate. Twitter is his natural medium. These are the real thoughts of the president in real-time. And what he's trying to do is rally the base around him, because that's his greatest protection, while deflecting all the attention and anger at the Democrats. This goes back to that debate toward the end of the '16 campaign, where he says, "I'm no puppet. No puppet. You're the puppet."

This is his instinct on these issues. And that's what we're seeing right now, when the stakes are getting higher.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm less interested in how he reacts today than how Republicans react to how he reacts today.

You know, there are two parts.

CUOMO: What do you expect?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, there are two parts to the communications strategy. The first part has been, and this is broader than this investigation. You know, you rally the base by starting kind of a -- igniting a personal conflict with someone else, kind of a rotating cast of targets that he kind of cycles through. And now nine months in, Hillary Clinton and James Comey today, somebody else tomorrow.

[06:20:00] The other tweet you didn't read, though, it was one attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the special counsel, where he said, "Coincidence that this is coming while Republicans are trying--" CUOMO: Taxes.

BROWNSTEIN: "-- to gear up taxes?" As if Robert Mueller is -- is basing his timing on trying to undermine the Republican legislative agenda, as a lifelong Republican.

So you know, I think those are the two -- those are the two elements. Ignite personal crises, to confrontations, trying to undermine the institution of an -- try to undermine the credibility of any institution that he believes can threaten him.

The question is, Republicans earlier in the summer, as John and I were talking about, Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, Cory Booker, the Democrats, they were talking about protecting to reinforce the position of the special counsel. Are they willing to send clear signals to the president today and in the days to come that they do not want him to fire the special counsel under any circumstance. Because if they don't, they may be in a position--

CUOMO: Let's play what the president said himself on October 16 when asked about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You discussed the special counsel and the investigation. Are you considering firing Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: No. No, not at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: As of the 16th, on that day, you know, he was a firm no. We know that there can be a capriciousness to how he feels about things. We'll see as circumstances change. But in terms of the universe of what he's talking about, he's got one strong move, one weak move. The strong move is talk about Uranium One. Talk about the Clinton Foundation and money that Clinton got. That has nothing to do with just the mind of Trump.

Republicans have been on that for a long time. They believe that there was a lot there that was left to lie. So there, he's on strong ground. It's not just about him proffering something.

AVLON: Well, except it's largely irrelevant to the--

CUOMO: I'm saying in terms of getting political pushback that Ron was talking about. Don't expect Republicans to pick up the phone and say anything to the president about Uranium One. They like that--

AVLON: Sure. Because they benefit from the deflection, too. Because the conversation that's actually occurring behind closed doors is deeply embarrassing to them, politically. So that deflection is in their interests.

But look, when the president says, "No, shut it down," that contradicted a lot of floating commentary on the past. You know, we'll see." And it reflects his new legal team strategy, Ty Cobb and others. Which is that "We're working with the probe. We have nothing to hide. And Mr. President, please don't threaten to fire Mueller." That has decreased the threat level on Congress.

But I think that's a bit naive. Because those folks who were looking at bipartisan legislation to ensure the president couldn't fire the special prosecutor, which would set off a kind of constitutional crisis, that was actually responsible legislation, and it seems to be a fool's errand to believe the president's latest rhetoric on the advice of counsel.

CAMEROTA: Trey Gowdy said let Mueller do his job this weekend. So you guys know that I love a good body language segment. So here is another thing that happened. Yes, because you're about to analyze for me Adam Schiff's not really body language and not really words, because he didn't say anything. More his furtive side glances. Here's Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: The idea that the president is not under investigation, is that your conclusion?

SCHIFF: I can't comment on that, George. I can't answer that one way or the other.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One way or the -- you wouldn't know whether Robert Mueller is investigating the president?

SCHIFF: I can't -- I can't comment on that at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWNSTEIN: Robert Mueller has -- Robert Mueller has interviewed White House officials as part of his investigation. Now some of them were involved in the campaign. But you're interviewing Reince Priebus, and Sean Spicer and others. That would certainly imply you are looking at actions that were taken in office which would imply that the president is at least in the broad scope of the investigation. And so I don't know. Adam Schiff may have been looking to the left, looking to the right, but I think if he looks straight ahead at what the special counsel has been doing, it tells you that he is looking at the president.

CUOMO: He also may not know. I mean, there's no reason for Bob Mueller to pick up the phone and tell anything to his--

AVLON: Look, to be clear, these are separate investigations.

CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: But there may be some communication between the committees. But look, I mean, there was that sort of, you know, cat ate the canary glance. But that also could be just a lovely Washington game of wanting to seem to appear more than you know -- know more than you actually do. CUOMO: So you have -- so you have the president pushing Uranium One.

All the money. The disclosure that came out that the government was aware that there was all this money going into the Clinton Foundation.

BROWNSTEIN: Two owners ago. Two owners ago.

CUOMO: But there's fertile ground for speculation.

On the dossier, I don't get it. Help me with this. You've got the stronger minds. How is Hillary Clinton guilty, or any word you want to put, responsible for collusion, which of course, the president's right, doesn't exist in the law but would exist for a high crime or a misdemeanor. How does she get it by being a victim of the interference? Right? Because they hacked her e-mails. And doing oppo research where the guy went to his Russian sources? How is that advancing the Russian agenda of interference?

CAMEROTA: I mean, because they're saying that she also cooperated with a foreign national. If you don't like the Trump campaign--

CUOMO: But he's an ally.

CAMEROTA: -- work with a foreign national--

[06:25:04] CUOMO: It's got to be a hostile foreign power. Hostile.

CAMEROTA: They do eliminate that word.

AVLON: This is -- this is full-on deflection. What's dangerous about this is it's being, some of these talking points are being parroted by pretty influential sources.

CUOMO: Yes. That's what I'm talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: -- editorial board, to its great dishonor. But that is just a pure attempt to deflect and say, "I'm not a puppet. You're the puppet. I didn't collude. You colluded."

BROWNSTEIN: People do opposition research in American politics, right? I mean, you may like it; you may dislike it. People do opposition research.

The charge of colluding with a foreign government that was attempting to undermine the election is not something that an American politician -- It's a very different order of magnitude. And, you know, what happened here is they're trying to kind of fuzz the line in the sand. But I think most people recognize the difference between column A and column B.

AVLON: And the first round of the dossier, we know definitively, was funded by Republicans against Trump.

CUOMO: Well, hold on a second. You've got to define -- I know they're going to say, "We've got to go," but this actually matters. The dossier, if you're talking about Steele, then the Republicans didn't have anything to do with it. And in fact, you could argue that the Democrat money, the Democrat money went into Fusion GPS, according to Fusion GPS, before they brought in Steele. So, yes, the Democrat money went to fuel the dossier, Steele's work. But they were even in before he was there.

But again, I don't get the second line of this argument. Please, make it to us. What is the argument for Clinton colluding on the basis of the dossier?

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you.

CUOMO: That's typing that you here.

CAMEROTA: That is the typing I hear. Furious typing.

CUOMO: Angry thoughts.

CAMEROTA: All caps.

A new poll has the president's approval hitting a new low. What do the numbers say about his base? We discuss all that next.

CUOMO: It says they're busy typing to me right now. "I'll tell you."