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Robert Mueller Indicts Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort; Documents Indicate George Papadopoulos May have Worked for Government Officials Investigating Trump Campaign and Russia Connections; : Russian-Linked Pages on Facebook Served to 126 Million Americans. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired October 31, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have crossed a threshold. Bob Mueller is a tough and dedicated prosecutor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's evidence the campaign was being contacted by Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His case involves the core of what Mueller is investigating, which is possible collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president. The real collusion scandal has everything to do with the Clinton campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may have come up, but nothing major.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Manafort and Gates indictments are significant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this came long before they had any association with the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This idea that they had nothing to do with Russia is long gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, October 31st. Happy Halloween. It's 8:00 in the east.
We begin with the big news, the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Legal documents unsealed in federal court Monday lay out the clearest evidence yet that President Trump's campaign was eager to work with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton. These are now facts. They're no longer allegations because George Papadopoulos, he's a former campaign foreign policy adviser, he has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his meetings with Russian intermediaries. And another bombshell from prosecutors -- Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators for months.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Top Trump campaign officials knew about Papadopoulos' attempts to meet with Russia. We know that. It's not speculation. They have the e-mails. The investigators revealing a series of communications between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates discussing these potential meetings. There is no indication at this point that Manafort or Gates ever referred this solicitation attempt to authorities. Both of these gentlemen are now under house arrest. Their passports have been confiscated because they had to plead for indictments on their own behalf. They both pleaded not guilty to tax and money laundering charges as well as conspiracy counts. A source tells CNN President Trump is seething while the White House is trying to distance itself from all three of these men.
Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider live in The White House. One of the headlines playing off Halloween saying that the White House is spooked by what happened yesterday.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got it, Chris. This is a one, two, three punch of criminal charges. It is sending a shockwave through Washington, especially since court documents show prosecutors indicate this is the beginning. In fact, George Papadopoulos' guilty plea, it was kept under wraps for several weeks because prosecutors say they didn't want to dissuade witnesses from coming forward.
And of course while this plea deal made a big impact, prosecutors warned ominously it's just a small part of what is to come.
SCHNEIDER: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office unsealing documents that show former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos has been cooperating with investigators since his arrest in July. Papadopoulos pleading guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russia, including a meeting with a London professor who told him in April, 2016, that the Kremlin had obtained dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e-mail was hacked by Russians the month before.
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: Papadopoulos is direct evidence that someone with the campaign was being contacted by Russians.
SCHNEIDER: Papadopoulos's plea agreement describes his testimony as a roadmap to the ongoing investigation, noting that there is a large scale ongoing investigation of which Papadopoulos is a small part. The document describes Papadopoulos as a proactive cooperator, suggesting that for the last three months he may have provided the FBI with information about other Trump campaign associates or even wearing a wire.
The plea agreement outlines Papadopoulos' extensive effort to establishment a connection between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, informing then campaign chairman Paul Manafort in May that the Russians were interested in meeting with candidate Donald Trump. Manafort forwarded the email to his deputy Rick Gates, writing, "Let's discuss. We need someone to communicate that D.T. is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as to not send any signal."
In July Papadopoulos reached out to a foreign contract saying that a meeting has been approved from our side. Days later WikiLeaks began releasing these e-mails hacked from the DNC, and Trump made these infamous remarks.
[08:05:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. .
SCHNEIDER: The following month a Trump campaign supervisor identified by the "Washington Post" as former Trump campaign national co-chairman Sam Clovis, told Papadopoulos "I would encourage you and another foreign policy adviser to make the trip if it is feasible." Clovis' lawyer telling "The Post" that he actually opposed the trip and was just being polite.
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S LAWYER: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump colluded with the Russian government.
SCHNEIDER: Papadopoulos' interviews with federal investigator likely contributing to the charges brought against both Manafort and Gates who pleaded not guilty on 12 counts Monday, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign policy bank and financial accounts.
SCHNEIDER: And Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are now both under home confinement. They have been ordered to surrender their passports after they pleading not guilty, both men as part of that home confinement. They must check in daily with federal authorities by phone. They can only leave their homes for court appearances or medical appointments. Right now Paul Manafort is being held on $10 million secured bond, Rick Gates $5 million, and both men will appear in court again Thursday. Chris?
CUOMO: That was an eye-opening amount given how they were negotiated in terms of their surrender. Those were big dollar amounts for those bonds. Jessica, thank you very much.
Now there's a source close to the White House telling CNN that President Trump is seething over the indictment of three former campaign aides, and that White House is using several inconsistencies and spin techniques to try to distance themselves from these men. For that part of the story let's go to Joe Johns live at the White House with the latest. The word "volunteer" is now code for we don't know the guy. JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Chris. And a lot for
the White House to worry about this morning. The former campaign manager accused of being an unregistered foreign agent, but the surprise was George Papadopoulos sending the White House scrambling, trying to figure out how to explain both his contacts with the campaign and minimize them.
JOHNS: President Trump was seething as he watched the news play out on TV about the Mueller investigation according to a source close to the White House. The source telling CNN that the president expected the indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates, but was surprised by the revelation that another aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with the authorities. Mr. Trump spent much of the day hunkered down with his legal team in the White House private residence, growing increasingly frustrated after seeing video of Manafort arriving at the FBI field office to turn himself in. Publicly the administration attempted to downplay the charges.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think the reaction of the administration is let the legal justice system work. Everyone is presumed innocent. And we will see where it goes.
JOHNS: The president's lawyer Ty Cobb telling CNN that Mr. Trump has not responded to the Papadopoulos news because he doesn't know him. But back in 2016 Mr. Trump touted him as part of his foreign policy team in an interview with "The Washington Post."
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Papadopoulos is an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.
JOHNS: And this photo from March, 2016, shows Papadopoulos sitting at the same table as then candidate Trump at a national security meeting. The White House press secretary attempted to distance the president from his former adviser.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was extremely limited. It was a volunteer position. And again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign.
JOHNS: Sanders falsely claiming that Mueller's charges are unrelated to Mr. Trump.
SANDERS: Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity.
JOHNS: A source familiar with former chief strategist Steve Bannon's thinking tells CNN says he is urging the president to fight back aggressively against Mueller with a massive public relations campaign by getting Congressional Republicans to engage and going to court over documents being requested. The president's aides insisting Mr. Trump has no plans to take action against the special counsel.
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president is not interfering with special counsel Mueller's position. He's not firing the special counsel. He's said that before.
JOHNS: And it is definitely premature to start talking about this, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if the president would consider pardoning Rick Gates or Paul Manafort, and she didn't rule it out. Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
[08:10:01] CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our panel to discuss all of this. We have CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti who is a candidate for Illinois attorney general, and Yale Law School associate dean and former FBI special Asha Rangappa. Great to have all of you. Asha, let me start with you. There's breaking news. Donald Trump is tweeting about this. "The fake news is working overtime as Paul Manafort's lawyer said there was no collusion and the events took place long before he" --
CUOMO: He is going to say long before he entered the campaign.
CAMEROTA: Well, case closed, I guess, in that case. But Asha, what I was going to ask you was, is this Papadopoulos guilty plea and all of the evidence now presented in court documents of him attempting to meet with Russians, get dirt from the Russians, set up a meeting with Donald Trump and the Russians, is that to your mind evidence of collusion?
ASHA RANGAPPA, ASSOCIATE DEAN, YALE LAW SCHOOL: It's not itself a smoking gun piece of evidence. But if you put it into the pattern of activity that is starting to take shape on what was happening in the campaign, what we see is repeated aggressive attempts by the Russians to approach people in the campaign. Papadopoulos is not the only one. There's the Trump Tower meeting. We also have these other contacts between Jared Kushner, between Jeff Sessions.
CAMEROTA: So why isn't that collusion? What you just laid out, doesn't that sound like collusion?
RANGAPPA: Right now what we have seen, I think, is really the beginning stages of what would have been an intelligence operation by the Russians. And what we need to see is what happened subsequently. What happened after that Trump meeting?
CAMEROTA: Like, if it worked?
RANGAPPA: If it worked, and what else were people saying? We have some these e-mails between Papadopoulos, but presumably there were other discussions going on, and we may find out more about that because we think that Papadopoulos might have even been wearing a wire.
CUOMO: Right, and often, also, Renato, I'm going to kick this to you, but just to take care of some of the low fruit here, there is no crime of collusion. Collusion would be a criminal aspect of a conspiracy charge. We saw that with Manafort and Gates, not on the subject of the Russian interference but on their own money laundering activities. So the question becomes why was Papadopoulos valuable enough for them to cut him this kind of deal? A Trump defender was on this morning dismissing him as a coffee boy and saying that all you could learn from working with him is what he negotiates with his barista, which I guess is a coffee maker, although what the guy needs is a barrister because he's needs a lawyer because he has had to cop a plea. But why do you think that the prosecutors are so interested in Papadopoulos if he's a nobody and a nothing?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the answer is, of course, that he's not a nobody or a nothing. If you look at that court document that was filed, the statement of the offense that lays out the e-mails, it talks about, for example, he's communicating with the supervisor in the Trump campaign, and there is reporting by Michael Isikoff yesterday that that is Sam Clovis who is co-chair of the Trump campaign who has been nominated recently by the president to be an undersecretary of agriculture.
So, for example, if Mr. Papadopoulos is communicating over email with someone like Sam Clovis and is talking with him, you know, he can interpret those e-mails for Mueller, and he can say, look, this is the context of my conversation with Mr. Clovis. Here's what I meant. Here's what I understood him to mean when he was e-mailing me, here are the conversations we had around that time, so that Mueller can build a case against Mr. Clovis or whoever Papadopoulos was on e-mail.
And whatever his position on the Trump campaign, whatever spin the people want to have now, he's certainly somebody based on the court document filed -- he's somebody who had access to senior members of the Trump campaign.
CUOMO: One quick thing, Reneto has a thread on Twitter where he has gone through all of his different findings on these things. It's a must read for people out there who want to get a deeper understanding of this.
CAMEROTA: I will have you do a dramatic reading of that in a moment. First, George Papadopoulos is not a household name --
CUOMO: He is now.
CAMEROTA: Correct. He wasn't yesterday at this time, today he is. So it is helpful to look back at what he was doing in the campaign and how President Trump, then candidate Trump, saw him and saw his role. So this is an interesting audio from -- well, here's a timeline of all the things he did. But we also have interesting audio from "The Washington Post" from March of 2016 with Trump explaining who his foreign policy team, candidate Trump, is. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:15:01] DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you have that list? I'll be a little more accurate with it. OK, you ready?
REPORTER: Taking notes. TRUMP: Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House
of Representatives caucus, and counterterrorism expert. Carter page, PhD, George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So, Chris, listen. He did not have that committed to memory. I mean, it's possible he didn't know George Papadopoulos, because he's reading off of a paper there.
So, what are we to make of this?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS, REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think you are right. This is not somebody not that familiar with Trump. But, but, he was one of I think people that Trump named there in that audio with "The Post" where Trump is using those people, and you see, he's talking about PhDs, the high profile. He's using it to make clear of "The Post" that he has serious people around him as it relates to foreign policy, because the concern, of course, was this is a businessman who really has never dealt in this sphere.
So, whether he was told to say this or did it, Papadopoulos is one of the people he presented in that case. Let me just 150,000 foot point here, Alisyn. You have a campaign chairman and a deputy of his indicted. You have a foreign policy adviser -- we can debate how -- I don't think he was just the coffee guy, but we can debate that, who has plead guilty for lying to the FBI about the timeline, and sub out Donald Trump's name for Hillary Clinton's name and imagine what that would be like.
The campaign chairman has been indicted. Yes, Donald Trump is right, it did not happen, we are talking about money laundering. We're not talking about collusion in that regard, but we're talking about a foreign policy adviser --
CILLIZZA: -- and lying about his relationships or timing of his relationships with Russia. I mean, it would be a -- conservatives who are bending over backward to say there's no there there, imagine if this was Hillary Clinton. My guess is the response is now somewhat different.
CUOMO: Well, look, let's read part two of the president's tweet this morning. We had not heard about him about this, which was probably advisable, according to his attorneys.
Here's part one. Fake news is working over time. Paul Manafort's lawyer said there was no collusion and the events mentioned took place before he took part in the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteered named George who has already proven to be a liar. Check the Dems.
CILLIZZA: Chris, can I just quickly, though -- I'm sorry, I don't want to interrupt you, but the volunteer thing is a total red herring, right? I mean, lots of campaign people work --
CUOMO: Bannon, Kushner, Manafort?
CILLIZZA: Right. The idea that George Papadopoulos walked into a campaign office in Ames, Iowa, and said, hey, I'd like to -- can I stuff envelopes? That's not the kind of volunteer we are talking about. Again, you can debate how close the inner circle Papadopoulos, but this is not a guy that is putting lawn signs in yards.
CUOMO: Hold on. One thing here that is relevant from the president's tweets, OK, the continuing problem politically here is the president refuses to separate what Russia did to our election from what it might mean for him, right? We all get that at this point.
But that's why this is so important, what we learned yesterday. This is the clearest evidence yet that they were open for business in his campaign, not him necessarily, but people around him, and just as importantly, that the Russians were coming at them early and often. That part is eye-opening as well.
There's now no question this is not a hoax, and they were coming after his guys, trying to get in, in this case with Papadopoulos with the fruit of illegal hacking of Hillary Clinton.
ASHA RANGAPPA, ASSOCIATE DEAN, YALE LAW SCHOOL: Absolutely. So, not only are they coming with something that they believe is going to entice the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign is being responsive and then lying about it. So, in the FBI, we call this a clue.
You know, when people are repeatedly lying about what they have done, that probably means that they believe they have something to hide. Innocent people don't need to do that. And so, that pattern of deception suggests to me that there might be more communication that is going on with a potential quid pro quo, because we also know there are outward facts. The Republican platform of Ukraine being tweaked, the call-out at the debate for Russia to release the hacked e-mails. These things don't make sense unless you put them in the timeline of these approaches and what was being offered to the campaign.
CAMEROTA: All right. Asha, Reynaldo, Chris Cillizza, thank you all very much for helping us sort through this.
[08:20:04] CUOMO: All right. So, we're learning more about what we call collusion here. How people from the Trump campaign were dealing with these solicitations by Russians and Russian operatives.
Facebook was part of Russia's M.O. here as well. What do we know about their efforts from what they did on that platform, just how many of you were exposed to influence from Kremlin-backed troll farms, and you may not even know it, next.
CUOMO: All right. So, right now, we know that 126 million Americans -- think about that number for a second. It doesn't matter what I am about to say next, that's a huge amount of the population. Now, in this context, that number, 126 million may have been exposed
to content on Facebook that was generated by a Russian government- linked troll farm. This comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing to question Facebook, Twitter and Google today about how their platforms were used to meddle in U.S. politics.
Joining us now is CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd, who served in the Obama administration in several National Security Council roles.
OK. Let's break this down because people say, one, we don't really think it happened. Two, you don't know it could be Russian trolls, it could have been anybody, as the president now infamously said, a 400- pound fat guy sitting on his bed.
[08:25:06] And three, it didn't have any effect.
What's your take on those?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Chris, this is 21st century information warfare. Putin is engaging in digital psy-ops, or psychological operations. He's using misinformation to try to sow divisions in the United States.
His view is, the more divided we are here at home, the weaker we're going to be. Now, Facebook, Google, Twitter and maybe others are platforms for misinformation. The problem is, because we contain so much content online, there's a lot of room for Russia or other bad actors to continue to exploit the digital space.
CAMEROTA: Russian troll farm, what does that mean?
VINOGRAD: It means that again, President Putin knows how to manipulate information, through distribution platforms. Facebook, Google and Twitter have come forward. I think this maybe the tip of the iceberg. These troll farms are manipulating information in places that President Putin knows Americans go to get information.
CUOMO: And troll farm is what? Does it require a lot of people? Is it about just setting up numerous accounts and putting things out in a specific way?
VINOGRAD: Troll farms can involve a lot of people or not a lot of people. The issue is we are hearing 126 million people may have been impacted. I think this may continue to grow.
And the problem is, as this number gets higher, the Russian operation looks more successful, and the Russian government looks more powerful. And these companies testifying later today they could share information on how the Russians enter their systems, which may shed light on vulnerabilities in their systems before they had opportunities to address them.
CUOMO: What is your take on what to do about it? You know, they're going to have these platforms come out today. You know, Twitter will have a platform, it will be interesting to see what they say. But the whole deal is they give you a space to say whatever you want,
and we have their own parameters. We saw that Roger Stone got shut down and it created pushback. Not that that was a bad decision per se, but -- well, who else are you letting talking? I mean, my thread is filled with ugly harassing things and people calling for others to do things that are harassing.
How do you balance that?
VINOGRAD: I think there's two key conclusions from this. One is, neither the private sector nor the government can go it alone when it comes to these digital psy-ops, that's point number one.
My second point is we have to take actions to hold the Russian government accountable. At this point, we haven't taken steps to say, hey, guys, there will be costs and this, by the way, is really going to affect Trump's trip to Asia where he may encounter the Russians. What leverage does he have to change Russian behavior at this point if he hasn't even come up and said if you continue these attacks whether in the digital space or otherwise, there are going to be real costs.
CUOMO: And the idea of impact. Because it's a little ephemeral here, it's nebulous what happens and what that means to me if I read it, what is your take on that in terms of how we should look at the impact this had?
VINGORAD: I don't think this is nebulous. I think the Russians launched a multi-pronged attack on the United States. One avenue of the attack was in the digital space and we need to hold them accountable.
CUOMO: But did it matter? That's what you hear is pushback, it didn't -- they didn't change any of the votes or the ballots. What's your take on that?
VINOGRAD: I think it certainly mattered. I think that we've now seen that the Russians can attack the United States and can launch successful misinformation campaigns. They infiltrated all these distribution platforms, and again, these three companies came forward and I wonder how many companies are going to follow.
CUOMO: And it would be interested to see what changes. You will get into a really wicked First Amendment argument.
CUOMO: So, we'll see. Very helpful. Samantha, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris.
President Trump commenting for the first time since the news broke that one of his former foreign policy advisers pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meetings with Russians. Are his e-mails with the campaign proof of collusion? We debate that next.