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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Death Toll Numbers in Puerto Rico Higher Than Reported?; Interview With Carter Page; War Against ISIS; Trump Suggests Revenge Strikes Against ISIS for Attack. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 3, 2017 - 4:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The United States of America vs. former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. The judge has picked a proposed trial date.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Members of the Trump administration might not recall encounters about Russia, but others close to the inner circle sure do. I'm going to talk to former campaign adviser Carter Page in just minutes. What does he remember telling Attorney General Jeff Sessions about Russia? Plus, much more.
Plus, since the terrorist attack in New York earlier this week, President Trump says the U.S. military has hit ISIS much harder. Is that true? The Pentagon has the latest on the war against ISIS.
And something doesn't add up in Puerto Rico. Is the death toll much higher than the official count, and is the math fuzzy when it comes to the power situation? CNN investigates the numbers.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to start with the politics lead today. President Trump just about three hours away from landing in Hawaii on the first leg of his 12-day trip to Asia. The president leaves behind loads of political baggage and a Russia investigation that is seemingly moving ever closer to his inner circle.
This afternoon, a federal judge proposed a May 2018 start date for the trial of the president's former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates. They face several charges, including conspiracy against the United States.
Before leaving the White House today, President Trump was asked if he remembered the meeting with former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in March 2016. Papadopoulos asked candidate Trump if he wanted to meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Mr. Trump said he could not recall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. It took place a long time -- don't remember much about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Kind of an odd statement, considering how the president described his suburb memory just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There is no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: One of the great memories of all time.
The president might not recall the Papadopoulos offer, but another former adviser at that March 2016 meeting does. J.D. Gordon told CNN, not only did George Papadopoulos make this proposal of a meeting with Putin, but Mr. Trump heard him out.
Let's bring in CNN's Jim Sciutto right now.
Jim, it seems to be a case of White House amnesia.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you could say even worse, right? They're changing their stories.
Early on, Trump and his advisers denied any meetings of any kind with Russians. That turned out to be inaccurate. And since then, they denied any meetings or discussions toward any untoward subjects. That's turned out to be inaccurate, because we know that they have more than once discussed the possibility of sharing damaging information on Mr. Trump's political opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton.
And we know that this is a line of inquiry that is of great interest to the special counsel.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, a pressing question: Were President Trump and Attorney General Sessions misleading when they denied any knowledge of campaign contacts with Russians?
Here is Mr. Trump in February.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
TRUMP: Well, I told you General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that's one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.
QUESTION: During the election?
TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of. SCIUTTO: And here is Mr. Sessions in testimony just last month.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you're saying?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.
SCIUTTO: In fact, court filings unsealed this week show that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators, suggested at a March 2016 meeting that Trump meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
J.D. Gordon, a former national security adviser to the campaign, who was in the room for that meeting, tells CNN that Trump heard out Papadopoulos. And another source tells CNN that Sessions, a top campaign national security adviser and surrogate, rejected the idea.
The president responded today by saying he doesn't remember much of the meeting.
TRUMP: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. Took place for a long -- don't remember much about it.
SCIUTTO: Another former campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, tells CNN that he testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday that he informed Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, though he said that the trip was not tied to his role with the campaign.
Papadopoulos' account is placing another Trump adviser under scrutiny, Sam Clovis, who served as deputy campaign chairman. Court documents show that Papadopoulos contacted a campaign supervisor who "The Washington Post" has identified as Clovis about a potential trip to Russia to meet Russian officials. The supervisor responding, encouraging Papadopoulos to make the trip.
Papadopoulos' account was unsealed the same day as indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, in relation to their lobbying work for the Ukraine government.
In the indictments, the government alleges that they received tens of millions of dollars for their work and, to hide that income, laundered the money through -- quote -- "scores" of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.
Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which cover activities prior to Trump's presidential campaign.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: Now there is this proposed May 7 start for the trial of Gates and Manafort. And it's expected that that trial could last more than three weeks, Jake. And even if that date changes, that will very likely take the trial into the busy summer months of 2018, when there happens to be that fall, of course, a very important midterm election.
TAPPER: Midterm elections. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
Joining me now is former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Carter, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Thanks for having me, Jake.
TAPPER: So, CNN is reporting that you told then candidate Trump adviser and Jeff Sessions that you were going to Russia in July 2016, although it wasn't related to your campaign work.
Who else in the Trump campaign knew about this trip to Russia, other than Jeff Sessions?
PAGE: You know, I -- that mention, which was the big headline yesterday, was a brief comment as we were walking towards the elevator after having a dinner together.
And so it was such a nothing event. And, you know, as you correctly noted, I mentioned that I'm heading over there and totally unrelated to the campaign. So, it was -- I actually had -- it was a meeting that -- or a dinner that was set up sort of at the last minute.
And I ended up changing around my schedule, because I was just getting ready to go in a couple of days. So, I said it was the only time I ever met him. We had one dinner together. And I said--
PAGE: -- yes, "It was great to meet you. I'm glad I was able to meet this in before I head to Moscow."
I mean, it was totally in passing. It was nothing.
TAPPER: And is he the only one on the campaign that knew about the trip?
PAGE: I mentioned it to a few people.
TAPPER: Who else?
PAGE: It will come out. Things keep leaking in this -- from the--
TAPPER: Well, you seem to be one of the more transparent people in this entire affair.
TAPPER: Who else did you talk to?
PAGE: Jake, of anyone in the campaign, I had the most negative impact on the campaign, just given these -- the false, dodgy dossier attacks that came starting in September 2016, 45 days before the election, give or take.
And so, you know, I have already had so much of a negative impact, given these false allegations, you know, I would like to minimize bringing more people into it.
TAPPER: Let me ask you, do you know a guy named professor Joseph Mifsud?
And the reason I ask is because he's been named in the press as the professor in London who told your former fellow adviser George Papadopoulos that there were senior Russian government officials who had dirt on Hillary Clinton and thousands of e-mails. That was in April 2016.
Do you know him at all?
PAGE: I don't -- I don't -- I never met him, no.
TAPPER: You have never met him. Have you ever heard of him?
Well, it's -- I haven't heard of him or I hadn't remembered him until Tom Hamburger from "The Washington Post" called me in August, saying there is supposedly some e-mail. And he says, "Well, let me read you the text of this e-mail."
I stuck it into my inbox search. And I found -- I was one of many people on that e-mail chain. So, you know, that name, among hundreds of e-mails I get a day, was something I--
TAPPER: So professor Mifsud, he had e-mailed you? He had e-mailed you?
PAGE: No, this is the Papadopoulos e-mail.
TAPPER: Papadopoulos said that he met with Mifsud?
PAGE: Something along those lines. I can't even remember.
TAPPER: Did he mention that Mifsud had said that he had just met with senior Russian government officials, and they claim to have dirt on Hillary Clinton and thousands of e-mails? Was that in that e-mail? PAGE: I didn't see anything in terms of dirt, no, no.
TAPPER: Did he mention--
PAGE: Again, I haven't been following this. I have been following more important cases that are really getting to bottom of interference in the election next year.
So, I haven't really looked at the details. But I didn't see anything. I -- I believe someone mentioned, you know, looking through the details of that complaint that the dirt was in a subsequent e- mail. I just got one in March.
But just to -- I just want to make sure, because it's kind of important that Papadopoulos is saying that in April 2016, as a Trump campaign official, he was -- he had this encounter with this professor, Mifsud, who said he had just met with these Russian officials who had dirt on Hillary Clinton, or claimed they did, and thousands of e-mails.
And the question is, did Papadopoulos tell anyone else in the campaign? Did he?
PAGE: I never heard anything. I had a couple of brief conversations with him early on.
And, again, it was a large -- a group -- as then candidate Trump mentioned when he had "The Washington Post" editorial board, mentioning a few people who had volunteered for the campaign and was putting together this committee, it's a growing group.
PAGE: So, there were a lot of people that kind of joining over time.
And, again, he is someone I met and had a few brief conversations--
TAPPER: Did he ever mention about this meeting with Mifsud and the fact that the Russians claimed that they had e-mails and dirt on Hillary Clinton?
PAGE: I don't remember anything about that, no.
TAPPER: You don't remember anything about that. PAGE: No.
TAPPER: When you looked for Mifsud's name in your e-mail, what was it?
PAGE: That was the only -- the first e-mail.
TAPPER: Just that he had met with him?
PAGE: Just -- I believe that was the first one, yes.
The one -- whatever it says in the complaint, the March one, I believe that's the only thing I ever got. I only had a few e-mails in my inbox from him, so nothing.
TAPPER: In your time at the Trump campaign, did you ever hear of anyone saying the Russians have dirt on Hillary, the Russians have Hillary's e-mails?
PAGE: Not a word. Not a word.
TAPPER: Not a word? Never?
The only dirt I would hear is on the other side. People -- I learned that there were investigators in London putting together dirt on myself and others that were on--
TAPPER: Christopher Steele, the--
PAGE: You know, I don't know who it was--
PAGE: -- until it was revealed in January, but I got word in September, you know, before the dodgy dossier world premiere starts attacking me.
So, when you were in Russia for this -- for an academic reason -- is that right?
Did anyone ever approach you who may have thought you were with the Trump campaign in any way to try to get to the Trump campaign to try to communicate with them?
PAGE: No direct -- no requests for anything. You know, some people may have known, but it was nothing, yes.
TAPPER: Did anybody ever say to you anything about, hey, you know, here in Russia, we have some stuff that might help you?
PAGE: Absolutely not, no, not in that sense. No.
TAPPER: And when you got back from your trip to Russia, which was just academic in nature, you say, what did you tell people on the Trump team about your trip?
PAGE: I just mentioned that there was in general from people on the street and the things you would hear in the media enthusiasm for the possibility of a little bit of a warming in U.S.-Russia relations.
And so there was a little bit of a sense of optimism, after having 70 years of history of challenges between our two countries. That was my biggest takeaway, frankly, Jake.
TAPPER: Where you at that March 2016 meeting, that foreign policy meeting?
PAGE: No, I actually had a previously scheduled meeting with some top U.S. military officers thousands of miles away from Washington.
So I didn't even go to that. And that was the only time our informal committee actually got together with then candidate Trump, and I missed my one chance.
TAPPER: So, you say you only met with academics essentially when you were on your trip to Russia?
PAGE: And a few businesspeople who I had known for over a decade, yes.
TAPPER: Now, I'm not accusing you of anything, but we know that, in spy stagecraft, often, the FSB or the CIA, I'm sure also, uses academics, uses businesspeople as cutouts, as ways to get to people.
Is there anyone that you met that may have been a cutout, as far as you know?
My only experience with cutouts, as far as I definitively know, is the U.S. government's propaganda network, Radio Free Europe, sponsored by the federal agency Broadcasting Board of Governors right here in Washington putting out false propaganda about myself, you know, when the dodgy dossier was first released in late September, you know, a month-and-a-half before--
TAPPER: You keep bringing up these smears that I'm not -- that I have no intention of bringing up.
PAGE: Well, but it's funny, Jake. It was actually that -- on September 25, 2016, Kellyanne Conway, who I have never met, you were asking a bunch of questions about these totally false allegations, which were made up in the dodgy dossier.
And here she is. You know, you talk about sort of distractions and things being thrown at people. She -- you know, someone who I had never met who had joined the campaign not too recently is getting thrown this crazy question.
TAPPER: It wasn't -- I remember the question. And it wasn't about anything in the dossier. And I didn't even know the dossier existed at that time. It was about a newspaper report about you meeting with Russians.
PAGE: Yes, it was an online report, yes.
TAPPER: OK. Anyway, stick around.
TAPPER: I have got much more questions for you. I want to ask you, in fact, why, according to the congressional Intelligence Committees, you are declining to turn over documents--
PAGE: That's a good question. I have a lot to tell you about that.
TAPPER: -- investigating Russian interference.
We will get to that with Carter Page next. Stay with us.
[16:18:40] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's continue the conversation with former Trump campaign policy adviser -- foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Carter, you were interviewed by lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. After the interview, some of the lawmakers said you did not hand over documents that were requested for their probe into Russian interference in the election.
If you're so eager to cooperate, why not hand over these documents?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I've got a funny story related to that to tell you, Jake. In one of the breaks, one Democrat and one Republican, you know, when they're off the court reporter --
PAGE: -- you know, just between them, they, you know, they came back from voting and they said, how did Ma -- you know, they were referring to Manu Raju.
TAPPER: Our Capitol Hill reporter, yes.
PAGE: They're like, how did he find out about everything that was going on? They were back-and-forth that someone had already leaked, you know, before it even --
TAPPER: Manu's a great reporter.
PAGE: He got it first.
TAPPER: Why not turn --
PAGE: Well, I think it was your side and, and the other side. It was the back and forth. That gets to the point.
PAGE: You know, if these people -- if they're leaking the -- this kind of basic discussions in a conversation, and I'm handing them over thousands and thousands of e-mails after I was already hacked by all allegations CNN has reported and other newspapers, and et cetera, have talked about my crazy FISA warrant based on, you know, allegedly based on the dodgy dossier.
[16:20:07] So, I -- you know, I've already been hacked myself. And now, they're asking for thousands and thousands of e-mails.
TAPPER: You don't trust them? You think they'll leak it?
PAGE: Well, look at the experience. Manu's a good guy, but, you know, to have all of your -- all of your information which has already been hacked by the U.S. government and more people are asking to have, you know, those same documents, I think you would probably feel a little bit concerned about that, too. Again, I'm trying to help as much as I can and I'm taking steps, you know. I always give the people the benefit of the doubt. So, let's see. Hopefully they act better than they had yesterday.
TAPPER: So you sat down for several interviews with the FBI in March of this year. Have you had any contact with the FBI or the Mueller team since then?
PAGE: You know, what's interesting is, again, given those leaks, the Mueller team has been very professional in terms of not leaking --
TAPPER: So you have met with them?
PAGE: I have no comment. They have not talked -- they don't talk about ongoing investigations.
TAPPER: But you wouldn't say they've been professional unless --
PAGE: I wouldn't even talk --
TAPPER: -- unless you know of something that they didn't leak.
PAGE: I'm saying they're very professional in the sense that they're not leaking out all the time, like, you know, as I'm walking out at 5:00 p.m., all of the information is already out on the street.
TAPPER: You have met with them and they didn't leak it is what I'm saying? You have met with the Mueller team? PAGE: I have no comment. Again, I had no comment about my March meetings with the FBI until "Washington Post" published that in June, right? So, you know, somebody from the government already leaked that. So --
TAPPER: If you look at the timeline, Carter, after the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta, there is this period where people are clearly trying to convey to the Trump team we have these e-mails, Don Jr. and then George Papadopoulos we learned.
And there is also a period of time people in the Trump team are trying to get this information, whether it's President Trump saying, then candidate Trump saying, Russia, if you have the e-mails, give them over, or the meeting that Don Jr., Manafort, and Kushner had, or people with Cambridge Analytica reaching out to Julian Assange, et cetera. There is a clearly hacked, then Russian saying to Trump people, we have them, Trump people saying to Russians, we want them, and then they come out in September.
Can you understand why that looks fishy?
PAGE: I think people are conflating a lot of details and sort of jumping to conclusions. The thing that looks fishy to me, Jake, is there are now -- it's now been reported that Perkins Coie, you know, the lawmaker --
TAPPER: The law firm.
PAGE: -- that's paid for the dodgy dossier just so happens to be the same firm that paid for Crowdstrike, the people that are doing the analysis of the DNC's server, which -- in which all of this happened in terms of the hack.
So, it's interesting that a big law firm here in D.C. is coordinating with both of those, you know, the dodgy dossier producer as well as the one group that the U.S. intelligence community, FBI and all, you know, no U.S. government agency was allowed to do an analysis of that DNC server. So --
TAPPER: Carter Page, it's always good to see you. Thanks so much for your time.
PAGE: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: Appreciate your answering my questions as it were.
The Wi-Fi on Air Force One seems to be working well today. President Trump is tweeting a long list of grievances, as he begins his trip to Asia.
Plus, is there a new strategy against ISIS? We're going to take a look at that next. Stay with us.
[16:27:40] TAPPER: Welcome back.
President Trump tweeting today that he is hitting ISIS even harder after the attack in New York City. He wrote, quote, ISIS just claimed the degenerate animal who killed and so badly wounded the wonderful people on the West Side was there a soldier. Based on that, the military has hit ISIS, quote, much harder, unquote, over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the president is going to land shortly in his Asia trip.
Ryan, does the U.S. military say they have hit ISIS even harder in response to the New York City attack?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, they haven't, Jake. Ands the Pentagon at this point doesn't seem comfortable with equating any of their military exercises with this terror attack in New York City.
This is a statement from the Pentagon and it's pretty general. It says, quote, we have and we will continue to strike ISIS hard and quite often, along with al Qaeda or other affiliated or likeminded extremist organizations wherever they are globally. It says nothing about that terror attack in New York City.
Now, we do know that there was a strike against an ISIS target in Somalia on Friday. And that is the first of its kind in that country. But there is no evidence that there has been an uptick against ISIS targets since the terror attack in New York City, at least in the publicly available information that we have from the Pentagon.
Now, there is the possibility that there are some secret Special Forces operations that are underway in that region that we don't know about, but at this point the Pentagon does not seem comfortable revealing that information.
So, at this point, we really don't know what POTUS means when he says that the Pentagon and the military are hitting ISIS much harder. All of the available information that we have seems to indicate that operations are continuing as they did before the terrorist attack in New York City -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles in Hawaii for us -- thanks so much.
He's the president of the United States, whose words speak volumes. Are his comments and tweets about the FBI and the justice system and verdicts, do they cross a line? We'll discuss, next.