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Mueller Probe Lays out Evidence; Trump's Fed Chairman Pick; Manafort's Ties to Ukraine; Trump Officials Implicated. Aired 8:30- 9a ET
Aired October 31, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:32:51] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump commenting on the charges against three of his former campaign officials. He just tweeted, the fake news is working overtime. As Paul Manafort's lawyer said, there was no collusion. And events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign. Few people new the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the Dems.
E-mails unsealed by Mueller's investigators lay out the clearest evidence yet though that President Trump's campaign was eager to work with the Russians to hurt Hillary Clinton. Does that amount to collusion?
Let's debate it with CNN's senior political commentator and former senator, Rick Santorum, and CNN political commentator and former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki.
Great to see both of you.
JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Jen, to your mind, has -- is this evidence that was revealed yesterday, is it collusion?
PSAKI: Well, I think the most significant development yesterday, Alisyn, was the Papadopoulos announcement because he is somebody -- this is the first time we have learned when the Trump orbit may have known about Russia's intentions. And it shows us that Mueller and his team are going to go at this seriously. That's no surprise. But it also shows that they know a lot more than we know. So I expect this is the tip of the iceberg.
It doesn't matter that he was a junior staffer. What matters -- or a junior volunteer. What matters is he was somebody who was an outside adviser to the campaign, who was in touch with the Russians. The Russians appealed to him. We don't know yet who he told, but we do know that it is entirely possible someone senior in the Trump orbit knew about Russia's intentions months before the election.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Rick, let me show you and the viewers the timeline that Jen was referring to. In March -- March 21, 2016, that's when candidate Trump introduced Papadopoulos as one of his foreign policy advisers. March 31st, Papadopoulos actually meets with Trump and the national security team. April 26th, Papadopoulos is told by Russia that Russia has thousands of Clinton e-mails. May 21st, Papadopoulos e-mails Manafort about a request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump. June 9th, that's the Don Jr. meeting at Trump Tower where he meets with the lawyer offering dirt on Clinton. Then this year, July 27th, the FBI arrest Papadopoulos. October 5th he pleads guilty.
[08:35:05] So do you see it as collusion?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he pleaded guilty to getting a date wrong. He said that he --
CAMEROTA: Lying to the FBI.
SANTORUM: Well, yes, but he got the date wrong. That's what he, quote, lied about. He said he meet with them in March when he -- when he had a conversation in April. That's -- that's the end -- that's the plea agreement that is -- either his memory was faulty or maybe for some reason he deliberately, you know, withheld information. We don't know and we don't know what's the significance of it.
SANTORUM: But it's certainly not a -- it's not a horrible damning conviction to say that he got the date wrong.
CAMEROTA: OK, but just to be clear. Hold on, senator. Just to be clear, he -- there were 11 times that he e-mailed the campaign about wanting to try to set something up with Russia. And, I mean, you say that he got the date wrong. It's called lying to federal -- you know, he pleaded guilty to it, lying to federal officers.
SANTORUM: No, look, I understand. I'm not suggesting lying to federal officers is good. But let's just understand the context of the lie, and understand that it doesn't -- it doesn't show anything that there was, quote, any collusion.
You saw, as Jen mentioned, a volunteer, someone who -- obviously not particularly close, or certainly not in the inner circle of the Trump campaign, made some overtures or received some overtures from the Russians. If we're going to -- if we're going to suggest that somehow now the Russians did -- don't try to influence our campaigns, they've been trying to influence our campaigns back from -- you know, I'm sure from the beginning of, you know, of modern political campaigns.
And, by the way, we try to influence other countries' political campaigns. So the question is here of whether -- whether there's really any collusion. And I don't see it from this.
CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE). OK, but I'm going to stop you right there because I've heard the two sides here. So -- so U.S. -- America, Russia, we all do the same thing. It's all the same to you. Because I keep hearing people say that who support Donald Trump. So --
SANTORUM: It's not the same. It's the question --
SANTORUM: But it's a reality. The reality is we -- that the Russians have and continue -- and will continue to try to influence our campaigns. The question is -- and it's a legit question -- did anybody in the Trump campaign actually try and do and work with them to do it? And was that something that was orchestrated within the campaign.
CAMEROTA: Yes, and Papadopoulos has admitted he did.
SANTORUM: And that question hasn't been answered yet.
CAMEROTA: Well, he plead -- he pleaded guilty to it.
Go ahead, Jen.
PSAKI: I was going to say, what we keep learning is more and more information about Russia's intentions of getting their claws into the Trump campaign. And the fact is, we keep learning about meetings that the Trump team has agreed to and then they lie about it.
So there's obviously more to come. This is not the end of Mueller's investigation. This is likely the beginning. And the fact that Papadopoulos has been participating or working with the FBI since July tells us there's probably more that we are going to learn about who he told and what he knew.
So this is the first real evidence that there's possible collusion here. And I think it's hard for anybody to argue, who's a Trump supporter, that this is just nothing to see here because we learned a lot more yesterday than we knew the day before.
CAMEROTA: Also, Rick, we think that he also denied the fact that he played a role in the Trump campaign to federal investigators, that that was another part of the lie. It's not just, woops, he screwed up a date.
SANTORUM: Well, look, I mean he didn't deny that he had communications -- at least from what the indictment -- what the plea agreement said. He didn't deny that he had these meetings. He just had -- you know the -- he was charged and plead guilty to saying he did it at one time when it was another time.
So, look, I mean I don't think there was -- at least from, again, the plea agreement, that's all we know --
SANTORUM: It doesn't mean that he was covering up the meetings. He was just -- he just said that the dates were different. So --
CAMEROTA: Yes. OK, here's what I'm wondering. On a scale of one to ten in terms of how bad yesterday was for President Trump with three of his advisers, including the campaign chairman, surrendering and being charged and one of them we now know pleading guilty, what do you rate it? SANTORUM: Well, look, it obviously wasn't a good day, but I would say
it's more -- more on the down toward the lower end than the upper end. I mean the two -- the two indictments of the two senior people, the two, you know, major people in this and -- that were indicted had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. I mean they were all actions taken well before his -- it shows bad judgment on the part of the Trump campaign. It shows that maybe they should have done a better job vetting Paul Manafort. Maybe if the FBI, you know, would have said to the campaign, hey, you know, you have -- we have someone that's not -- you might want to reconsider or maybe not --
CAMEROTA: Yes. Do you think that that shows some sort of bad judgment call?
PSAKI: Look, I think, Alisyn, any presidency, over eight years, that has the indictment of the campaign manager, the deputy campaign manager and a foreign policy adviser pleading guilty to lying to the FBI would be a tough presidency. And that happened in one morning yesterday.
There are big questions. Yes, Manafort's -- what was included yesterday in the indictment was about past businesses. Business work. But the questions that are out there that haven't been answered yet, and I'm sure Mueller's team is looking into, is why on earth was he on the Trump campaign as the campaign manager. He didn't take payment. What was he getting out of it?
[08:40:00] PSAKI: So we don't know a lot of those answers that could tell us more about his role. And I don't think that's story's done yet.
SANTORUM: It's speculation. I mean we -- obviously we don't know anything. That's the whole point. I mean, you know, we've been at this now for about a year and a half and we are really no closer to any kind of, quote, collusion than -- than we were a year and a half ago.
CAMEROTA: You didn't think that yesterday was a different day than at -- than the rest of the year and a half? You don't think that yesterday seemed to put some markers in the ground in terms of --
SANTORUM: No. I mean what -- what evidence do we have from yesterday that there was any collusion? I mean we had -- we have one -- one person who plead guilty to some -- to getting the date wrong about something he admitted to where the Russians were reaching out. Again, I'll stipulate that the Russians reached out, I'm sure, to the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, to provide information. Obviously we have the entire Steele dossier that -- that obviously the Russians were providing information to the Clinton camp that was damaging to Trump. I mean this is what the Russians do. So the question is whether the campaigns were complicit in that.
SANTORUM: And I don't think anything yesterday added to that. CAMEROTA: Jen, last word.
PSAKI: I think here's the question, Alisyn, that people are going to have to answer for themselves at home. If a foreign government that is an adversary is reaching out to one campaign and saying, we're going to help you win the election, and they say, great, let's meet, is that collusion? I think we're going to learn over the next couple of months that it sure sounds pretty close to me.
CAMEROTA: Rick Santorum, Jen Psaki, thank you for the debate.
Let's get to Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts. Get the supporting affidavit, OK, that one of the FBI agents put out in this situation. It's online. You can get it. Look at -- look through the whole thing. You should read the whole thing. All of you should read all of the documentation on this. It's the only way you'll know what's going on because Rick Santorum was just spinning you.
Read paragraph seven, eight and nine. It's not just about a date. You don't get a date wrong and get charged with a felony, OK. That's called a mistake. He said the 17th, it was the 16th. Oh, I'm sorry. It's not that simple. Read the paragraphs. There are many material misrepresentations of fact. That's why he was charged with a felony. Know what's going on here. Read the affidavit.
President Trump's former campaign chairman allegedly raking in millions for his work on behalf of a Russian backed party in Ukraine. The question is, how deep were Manafort's ties to Russians and Russian operatives, next.
[08:45:35] CAMEROTA: Time for "CNN Money Now."
President Trump will reveal his pick for Fed Reserve chair on Thursday. Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is in our Money Center with more.
What do you know, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Well, leading the U.S. central bank is one of the most powerful jobs in the world. The current frontrunner, Fed Governor Jerome Powell. That's what a White House official tells CNN, but warns the president could change his mind.
Powell is a former investment banker and he's been on the Federal Reserve's board since 2012. He would be the first Fed chief in more than 40 years who is not an economist.
Current head Janet Yellen's term is up in February. Powell has supported her agenda. So there won't be a huge shift in monetary policy if he gets the job. More interest rate hikes are likely down the road. Those affect browsing costs for credit cards, auto loans and mortgages.
But regulation could be another story here. He is less tough on banks than Yellen. While Powell largely supports Dodd-Frank, those sweeping reforms put in place after the financial crisis, he has opposed parts of the law, specifically those that prevent banks from making those risky bets with taxpayer money. So look for regulation to be the change there if he gets that job, Chris.
CUOMO: Important stuff. Thanks for keeping us ahead on this, Christine. Appreciate it.
Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his associate, Rick Gates, both pleading not guilty to 12 criminal counts, including money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy against the United States of America. All of it linked to work they did on behalf of a Kremlin- backed political party in Ukraine.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is live in Kiev, Ukraine, with more.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that's right, really at the heart of this indictment it's all about one man, Viktor Yanukovych. This is the Ukrainian ex-president who worked very closely with Manafort and Gates for nearly a decade. According to that indictment, Manafort and Gates made tens of millions of dollars out of this relationship. Manafort, according to the indictment, had regular communication both in person and in writing with Yanukovych.
And so the question becomes, why is this significant beyond the scope of the criminal charges that are outlined in the indictment? And the answer, Chris, that many are looking to is, quite simply, you don't get much closer to the Kremlin than Viktor Yanukovych.
When he was president here in Ukraine, he was seen as a hand-picked Kremlin candidate. He has even said on television that he believes President Vladimir Putin personally saved his life when he granted him asylum in Russia after Yanukovych was forced to flee political protests that broke out here in Kiev in 2014.
Beyond that he has been dogged by allegations of corruption, embezzling millions and millions of dollars out of Ukraine, imprisoning political opponents. Also accused of ordering riot police to shoot on pro-western demonstrators during those political protests back in 2014. So for a whole host of reasons, a lot of people wondering, why Manafort would be so deeply embedded with this man and why the Trump campaign would choose to hire Manafort knowing about the depths of his relationship with this unsavory and, frankly, by anyone's measure controversial character.
CAMEROTA: OK, thanks so much, Clarissa. Thanks so much for all of that reporting there. So Washington holding its breath for what may still be coming in the Mueller investigation. We'll get "The Bottom Line" for you, next.
[08:50:59] CUOMO: So, at latest count, three of President Trump's campaign advisers have been hit with charges by special prosecutor Bob Mueller. President Trump tweeting, calling former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos a liar.
Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.
Where do we begin?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Oh, Chris, we begin on how significant of a day yesterday was. No doubt these developments hit the White House pretty hard. And don't take my word for it, take John Kelly, the White House chief of staff's word for it when he said, of course the president gets distracted by this, like anybody under investigation would. I don't know what more you need to hear from than the chief of staff, that that clearly is impacting this cloud that hangs over the White House, is impacting their ability to focus on all the policy agenda items they want to get done.
And the other big development yesterday, I think, Chris, is that the White House line on this doesn't hold water anymore. The notion that the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, can say from the podium that nothing revealed yesterday by Mueller and his team had anything to do with the campaign or campaign activity. Well, when a foreign adviser on the campaign is setting e-mails to set up meetings with top campaign advisers and Russians and those meetings are getting approved internally to move forward, that's campaign activity.
CAMEROTA: So Republicans are trying to figure out what their response to this was. Obviously they want to turn to their agenda of tax plans and everything. Here was Speaker Paul Ryan when asked about it yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: It is big news. It's actually -- it's big news, but this is what you get from a special counsel. They've made an indictment. I really have nothing to add because I haven't even read it. So I'm not going to speculate on something I haven't read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: How about that? Is that good enough, David?
CHALIAN: You know, it's not going to last that way forever, right? At some point, as all the pieces of the puzzle here become revealed, and the Mueller investigation unfolds before our eyes, clearly there's going to be more pressure on the Republican leadership on The Hill to actually weigh in with their thoughts about what happened here and what we're learning about Russia's interference with the 2016 election and the potential connection with the Trump campaign.
But what you hear there from Paul Ryan, this is like the joke he said, right, at the Al Smith dinner. I wake up in the morning to look at which tweets I'm going to avoid having -- acknowledging having read or talk about to reporters. They want all of this stuff to somehow be put in a box, and that becomes very difficult because it is all-consuming and, of course, they want to stick to their mission of trying to get the votes across the finish line for tax reform.
CUOMO: Well, look, there's no question, this is a tough spot for Republicans to be in, but it's a test of leadership. Yes, taxes matter. Yes, the whole panoply of issues that faces the president when he goes abroad to Asia in this five nation trip matter. But so does this. And that's why we call out Paul Ryan for saying he hasn't read it. We had Senator Grassley, who seemed to like duck out of the press conference.
CAMEROTA: We had a little bit of fun with this video of Senator Grassley, who is -- as you'll see his head in the back of this in a moment, him trying to --
CUOMO: See Orrin Hatch? Orrin Hatch moves. You see the flag moving? That's Senator Grassley leaving. Now, his office has a different take on this. What do they say?
CAMEROTA: So we said that he was going out a side door to avoid questions on this, but his office just got in touch with us and said, no, in fact, he had a previously scheduled appointment and he wasn't trying to duck any questions. And, in fact, he had talked to two CNN correspondents before that.
CAMEROTA: And that he had put a lengthy statement out on his website that is free for everybody to look at.
CUOMO: Right. But people wanted to talk to him right then, and he had this previously scheduled apartment. So, he ducked out.
CHALIAN: And you notice who wasn't there for the questions and answers, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.
CHALIAN: He left before the question and answer portion began from that event.
CUOMO: Right. So the question is, do you duck it? You know, and, look, this has a lot of different tentacles that are coming out of it. As everyone keeps saying, this is probably the end of the beginning. People keep talking about collusion. They should read the affidavit and all the supporting documents that came out with these indictments. The word is coordination, David, not collusion. That's not a prosecutorial term.
[08:55:03] Coordination is a very different context. Coordination is Papadopoulos wanted to make these meetings happen. Coordination is Manafort knowing about them and not calling the FBI, not calling them about Papadopoulos. You know, not exposing it. That's a different level of scrutiny.
CHALIAN: And coordination is also the willingness to accept quote/unquote dirt on Hillary Clinton and thousands of e-mails in Papadopoulos' case from Russian sources, and in Donald Trump, Jr.'s case, in setting up that infamous meeting now at Trump Tower in June of 2016.
CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."
CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.
CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.
CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman will pick up after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.
CUOMO: Happy Halloween.
CAMEROTA: Oh, indeed
CUOMO: I like your news --