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Source: Trump Knew about Russia Contacts with Staff; GOP Bill Cuts Tax Rates & Popular Tax Breaks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2017 - 06:00   ET



JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump did not dismiss the idea of arranging a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Trump.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had nothing to do with Russia. No person that I deal with has.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sessions failed to tell Congress about the proposed Trump/Putin meeting during his confirmation hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His campaign was riddled with people with Russian connections. That's not normal.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is peeling away the layers of this onion, and somebody is going to end up crying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really about a DNC that lacked transparency.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you agree that it was rigged?


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're going to get this done. Why? Because the American people deserve this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The advertised effort on behalf of the middle class is simply not true.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, November 3, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me.

Happy Friday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here for you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. BERMAN: I just want you to know that.

CAMEROTA: I'll need you, because we have a lot of news. Here's our starting line.

We begin with several developments in the Russia investigation. Despite repeated denials from President Trump and the White House, we now have concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between one of his campaign advisers and Russia.

A former national security adviser, J.D. Gordon, says he was at this March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos made his pitch to set up a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. Gordon says Mr. Trump did not dismiss the idea.

Also, the president's son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner turning over documents to Robert Mueller's investigators. Sources tell CNN that Mueller could be building a case for obstruction of justice against the president for firing FBI Director James Comey.

Also, serious new questions this morning about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his memory or lack thereof. This after campaign advisor Carter Page testified to a House panel that he told Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Remember, Sessions was also in the room with George Papadopoulos when he made his pitch. Yet, Sessions has said he was not aware of any conversations between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats say they want to know what's going on here. All of this happening as President Trump leaves in just hours for a high-stakes 12-day trip to Asia. And the fate of the Republican tax plan hangs in the balance.

We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with the Russian development. CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.


That trip by the president expected to be his longest trip during this administration so far. But the focus on foreign policy is likely to be overshadowed by the Russia investigation.


JOHNS (voice-over): The latest bombshell in the Russia probe: President Trump did not dismiss the idea of a campaign adviser arranging a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Trump during a campaign meeting in 2016, according to a person in the room. It's the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between the campaign advisor and Russia, despite fierce denials.

TRUMP: I had nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

JOHNS: Court documents reveal that, during this March 2016 national security meeting, former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pitched the idea of a meeting between Putin and Trump. Rump campaign advisor J.D. Gordon seen here with then-candidate Trump, Jeff Sessions and Papadopoulos. Gordon says Mr. Trump listened to his idea, and he heard him out. The White House denying the president had any recollection of this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Papadopoulos suggesting that a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. Do you recall that?


ACOSTA: Attorney General Sessions rejecting the idea of a meeting with Putin, according to the source. But Sessions never disclosed the conversation during multiple congressional hearings when he was asked directly about communications in the Trump campaign.

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.

JOHNS: Now Senate Democrats want to question Sessions about those denials. The highly-anticipated testimony from former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page fueling even more questions about what Sessions knew regarding ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Testifying behind closed doors for more than six hours before a House panel, Page revealing that he told Sessions about a trip he was taking to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Though, Page said the trip was unconnected with the campaign. This is another conversation Sessions failed to mention during hearings.

FRANKEN: He seems to have problems telling the truth on this subject.

JOHNS: The attorney general forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after failing to disclose his own contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

SESSIONS: I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.

JOHNS: In the wake of indictments of three Trump foreign policy advisers, the president continues to insist that Hillary Clinton should be the one investigated.

TRUMP: The saddest thing is that, because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing, and I am very frustrated by it.


JOHNS: And a couple Twitter developments this morning, the president jumped all over a report -- actually excerpts from a new book by former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile, alleging the primary process in the election last year was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton. The president essentially calling for an investigation, asking where is our Justice Department?

But the big social media development overnight was when the president's Twitter feed went down for a number of minutes. Apparently, a disgruntled employee on his or her way out the door the last day on the job. Twitter says it's investigating.

[06:05:15] John, back to you.

BERMAN: That's one of the not funniest funny story of the morning. Joe, we'll look into that in a little bit. Thanks so much. Joe Johns at the White House.

More big news this morning. Sources tell CNN that President Trump's son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, has turned over documents to special counsel Robert Mueller. Investigators looking into what role he may have played into James Comey's firing. Is the special counsel building a case for obstruction of justice against President Trump or others in the White House.

Shimon Prokupecz, live in Washington with more. Shimon, talk to me about these documents.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Sources tell us Kushner voluntarily turned over these documents. And now these are documents from the campaign and the transition. And they are related to any contacts he had with Russia. These documents are similar to the ones Kushner gave to congressional investigators. And now this comes as investigators have been asking witnesses about Kushner's role in the firing of the former FBI director, James Comey, John.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, Shimon, why is the special counsel interested in the role of that firing?

PROKUPECZ: Well, we're told that investigators have asked witnesses about Kushner's role in that firing. And we've heard different accounts from different sources. And now some say Kushner was the driver of the president's decision.

And others have simply said he didn't oppose it and that it was something that the president had wanted to do on his own all along and had made his mind up about it. But that Kushner was not sort of against it. Now, the White House has said that, based on what they know -- and we don't know how they would know this -- that Kushner is not a target of the investigation.

But this is a sign that Mueller could be building a case for obstruction against the president and perhaps others for the firing of the former FBI director.

BERMAN: They say Kushner is not a target here. Consider the source there. Very important. Shimon, so overall, how significant is this?

PROKUPECZ: This points to the fact that Mueller's team is now asking questions about Kushner and others. And it's reaching into the president's inner circle. And this has extended, you know, the investigation has extended beyond the 2016 campaign to actions taken at the White House by high-level officials. The White House -- the White House officials say Mueller's team's questions about Kushner are not a surprise and that Kushner would be among the list of people who investigators naturally would be asking about. A lawyer for Kushner did not comment. And we should add that the White House declined to comment -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that reporting. So we have a lot to discuss.

Let's bring in our esteemed panel. We have CNN legal analyst and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Justice Department Michael Zeldin; and CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory. Great to have all of you.

Michael, I want to just start with you, because we now have this court document that is public that we know more about this pivotal March 31 meeting, 2016 where George Papadopoulos apparently made the pitch to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. So let me read this from court documents now.

On or about March 31, 2016, defendant Papadopoulos attended a 'national security meeting' in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisors for the campaign. When defendant Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections and could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. After his trip to Washington, D.C., defendant Papadopoulos worked with the professor" -- that's the Russian source -- "and the female Russian national to arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. After his trip to Washington, D.C., defendant Papadopoulos worked with the professor and the female Russian national to arrange a meeting between the campaign and the Russian government, and took steps to advise the campaign of his progress."

There's the meeting. And this is the crux of the matter as to whether or not people in the campaign knew that there were efforts to arrange a meeting with Russians.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. But I don't know what it gets you in the end legally. When people lie about it, when they say the meeting didn't happen or it wasn't there or this wasn't said or then has legal relevance. But for the president to have just sat in and heard this guy out doesn't much amount to anything. It really is...

CAMEROTA: Not even if they're lying about it?

ZELDIN: Well, we're see whether they're lying about it. I think the significance of it is not that it was heard out, but what was said about it after the fact. When Jeff Sessions answered Franken's question about whether or not he knew of any meetings, and Sessions says no.

And when the president is act, though the president is not under oath, was there any talk of meetings, and he says, "Not that I'm aware of."

Those things are legally relevant. And so if the president were to be put under oath and repeat that; and Mueller then had the evidence that you've just described, then you may have a material misstatement, and that would be problematic.

[06:10:12] BERMAN: And it would be problematic for -- for his lawyers to allow him to face questions because of just that reason, right?

ZELDIN: I think that if you're Ty Cobb and Dowd, what you want to do is, one, if you can, avoid having the president testify under oath. But if he has to testify under oath, Mueller can compel him to do so. Have it be at the 11th hour so you've heard everybody else's story, and you can compose a linear narrative that's truthful.

BERMAN: Can we just play the Al Franken exchange with Jeff Sessions again, just so we can put a finer point on this. Let's play it right now.


FRANKEN: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you're saying?

SESSIONS: I did not, and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.

FRANKEN: And you don't believe it happened now?

SESSIONS: I don't believe it happened.


BERMAN: This was October 18. This was two weeks ago, David Gregory. We now know Carter Page told the House Intel Commission yesterday that he told Jeff Sessions that he was meeting with the Russians. We have the picture of George Papadopoulos sitting next to Jeff Sessions, telling that meeting, telling that group -- I guess three people down from Sessions, telling that meeting that he's been, you know, talking to the Russians right now. This is a real problem.

GREGORY: It is a problem. And Jeff Sessions's former colleagues in the Senate are very unhappy with him, want to get him back in front of that committee and try to reconcile with the facts that we now know and really push him on why he is forgetting or whether he's deliberately not telling the truth.

I think there's two ways to look at this. There are these meetings that happened. There's the likes of Carter Page. There's the likes of George Papadopoulos. And maybe they just didn't register on the radar screen to be memorable. Or what we're getting at is the very beginning of an understanding of how deep these Russian ties actually go. Whether Papadopoulos, who may have been wearing a wire, who may have

had conversations with others, maybe General Flynn, is something we learned more about in terms of what his knowledge was, what his interactions were, the level of coordination with the Russians.

We may just be at the beginning of it. Or maybe it stayed at a really low level. I mean, I think that's where we're constrained a little bit in making too much interpretation about this, making too much judgment.

AVLON: But what we know is that everyone in the campaign, including the president seems to have, knowing that Russia was interfering in the election at the point where they're asked these questions kept saying, no, there was no contact. There was no contact of any kind.

And then we keep finding out new meetings. We keep finding out that at best, Jeff Sessions's memory seems to be seriously flawed. At worst, it's been a willful effort to obscure the constant outreach by Russians to a presidential campaign which, by the way, is not usually on the menu of normal in presidential campaigns. There are not multiple Russian entities trying to influence policy and make personal contacts.

So, at some point it starts looking like what it is. And I think that's what's making a lot of folks around the president nervous today. And that's why the Mueller inquiry is going from the campaign to the White House. However inevitable that might be with the questions of obstruction of justice and Comey, that's why they should be paying more attention.

GREGORY: And I think that's the important point. And I think that if -- if it stops where it is, that may be one thing. But it seems to me what Mueller is building is that, you know, the conversations may have started low, but he's going to go high. Because clearly, these conversations didn't just end there. If you believe that there was some coordination or some collusion that would have gone higher.

BERMAN: Michelle Obama's speech, calling me right now. And Melania Trump.

CAMEROTA: But the president, President Trump says that he's quite frustrated about some elements of this. Here's the part that he's most frustrated by.


TRUMP: The saddest thing is that, because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by that.


CAMEROTA: Is that the saddest point, Michael Zeldin? ZELDIN: Well, I think that he doesn't quite understand the role that

he has to play here. He can be involved in the Justice Department and the FBI at a policy level. He can set national law enforcement policy, and nothing will interfere with that.

What he can't do is interfere with ongoing criminal investigations and especially those that impact him and his family. So there's a bit of a disconnect. He can do what he wants to do as long as it's policy related. He can't do what he wants -- what he can't do, because it's a criminal violation.

GREGORY: Why is he so frustrated? He fired the FBI director, because he didn't like how the Russia investigation was going. So why is he so frustrated? He has interfered with what the FBI is doing.

AVLON: He'd like to do so much more.

ZELDIN: That didn't work out so well for him, the firings.

BERMAN: Jared Kushner, how do you think he slept last night? John.

[06:15:11] AVLON: I -- I'm not sure I'm qualified to speak on the sleep number of Jared Kushner. But I will say that if he's been handing over documents and the Manafort part of what Mueller's been doing is focused on finances. I think there are a lot of things for Jared -- that should keep Jared Kushner up at night.

From investigations into financing of, you know, real-estate entities of which his family has done, to questions about the advice he gave in the White House, particularly around the Comey firing.

ZELDIN: May I just add one thing?


I don't disagree with that. I think especially we learned from the Manafort investigation and indictment that the financial dealings of these guys -- Trump, Cohen, Kushner -- they're all on Mueller's table. They're not -- there is no "New York Times" red line that personal financial dealings is off the table.

I don't know that there's much to be said about Kushner and his role in the firing of Comey. I think that, if Kushner is not sleeping soundly, it's financial and it's the data analytics relationship to the Facebook/social media thing. Because those things parallel one another. It could be completely coincidental or there could be a connection. And if there's a connection, that's not good for one's sleep.

BERMAN: He may have slept better last night knowing the president was off Twitter for 11 minutes. But that's a subject we will discuss, coming up.

Meanwhile, guys, House Republicans are rolling out their tax plan. The question is who wins and who loses? We'll dig through the bill next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:20:27] CAMEROTA: House Republicans rolling out their tax reform plan. President Trump wants a bill by the end of the year, calling the measure a big, beautiful Christmas present for the American people.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to crunch the numbers. Who wins, who loses, Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Merry Christmas, I guess. This tax reform package is branded as a tax cut for the middle class. So let's start there with what this means for average Americans. It's going to shrink all of these tax brackets from 7 down to 4.

Couples making up to $90,000 a juror or individuals making up to 45 grand will pay 12 percent rate, then 25 percent, 35 percent. And the plan keeps a top rate of 39.6 percent for families making more than a million bucks.

The bill also nearly doubles the standard deduction, $12,000 for single filers, 24 grand for couples. The idea: fewer people will itemize claiming fewer deductions. But it also eliminates personal exemptions.

That could hurt families, all of us here with three kids or more. There's some goodies for the middle class in this bill, by the way, aside from the lower tax rates. The plan would increase the child tax credit to $1,600. And there's also a $300 tax credit for dependents and each spouse. Hopefully, you have one spouse. And your spouse.

And 401(k) plans will be left alone. So who are the winners and who are the losers? Corporations are the big winners. The big winners here, this is about corporate tax cuts. It lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. The ultra-rich are also big winners. This bill repeals the estate tax by the year 2024 and doubles the exemption to about $10 million before that.

The bill also repeals the AMT. That's another plus for really upper middle class and wealthy taxpayers. Although not everyone who pays the AMT is super rich any more.

As for the losers, the people who live in high-tax states, no more state and local tax deductions for income or for sales tax. And they can only deduct property taxes up to 10 grand. And home builders, realtors, those stocks tanked yesterday. New home purchases, the mortgage interest deduction, you guys, is cut in half to 500 grand.

There are a lot of other changes to popular deductions that could help or hurt taxpayers. Bottom line, it depends where you live, how much you make, how many kids you have. And the administration says that, you guys, will boost growth.

BERMAN: Our chief business correspondent and chief "Big Love" correspondent, apparently. Christine Romans, thank you very, very much for that.

I want to bring back our panel, David Gregory and John Avlon. And I want to play some of how the president is describing this tax plan, because I think it's highly pertinent. Listen.


TRUMP: We will provide a tax cut for American families. We will make the tax code simpler and fair. I really believe we will have it done before Christmas. I consider that to be one of the great Christmas presents.


BERMAN: It's after Halloween so it is OK to talk about Christmas.

David Gregory, it's interesting. The administration, Republicans in Congress selling this as a tax plan for families and the middle class. But is it really what this plan is about?

GREGORY: You know, this -- there's going to be a rush that's already begun on Capitol Hill for people who are both trying to define what this is and what it isn't. But also trying to change the ultimate form. There are elements of simplicity to this. As Christine was just saying, there are aspects of this that are helpful to the middle class in terms of simplicity. More of an individual deduction.

But you can also be hurt in other ways because of the effect on your ability to deduct mortgage interest. Even if you have a lot of health care costs, you can't deduct the payments on a medical device, for example. It could hurt you if you have a lot of health care costs.

Very good for big business. On the individual side, it's messier. This right now is classic big tax legislation. There is going to be a rush to define what it is and what it isn't.

There should be an advantage here for Republicans who would likely be able to hold their ranks on a bill like this. We know there will be tremendous pressure from leadership and the White House to get this done.

CAMEROTA: Do any Democrats get on board?

AVLON: I could see some red state Democrats getting on board, particularly if it's -- you know, the loss of the state and local deduction is going to be very bad for folks from California, from New York, from high-taxed, traditionally Democrat leaning coastal states. That could be -- really offset whatever gains families get.

But the fact that this does simplify, which is something we need in the tax code, Families making of a million dollars are seeing the top rate in tax. I think that's a step towards not simply making it a gift to the rich.

[06:25:04] But the elimination, the proposed elimination of the estate tax after six years, this is an optic problem for the president in particular. Because it looks like a giant gift to people in his unusual billionaire bracket.


AVLON: It will exacerbate income inequality. I have no problem with doubling, by the way, the threshold. I think that's probably a good idea. But eliminating it after six years, that's a political optic problem, and it's unclear.

BERMAN: You can argue the moral justification of the estate tax. You cannot argue that it primarily benefits the rich. There are 80 small farms and businesses that are affected by it. That's what Republicans typically use to sell it as. But it is mostly the wealthy who will benefit from it.

And David Gregory, I think that what's interesting about it here, you talk about how complicated it is. It's extremely complicated. It's top level, but it's a big tax cut for corporations, which may be necessary. Which a lot of people will argue is necessary.

But that's mostly what's going on here. That's the easiest thing to say. Everything else is murky. You win some, you lose some here. And as to the blue states, if you're in California, in New Jersey, and New York, I don't think it's intentional that these states, blue states are targeted but it might make it an easier sell in Congress. That it's not red states suffering for some change.

GREGORY: Right. And they had to get to a certain number where they had to eliminate some of the perks in the tax code to offset the fact that they're losing revenue in other places. They left alone one's ability to invest in a 401(k) and have that be tax deferred, which was important to a lot of people, including the president.

But the business aspect of this is really important, because I go back to how ultimately this is going to get sold. In order to deal with the deficit-busting, the deficit-growing parts of losing all of this revenue through the tax cut, the argument is there's going to be more economic growth. And it's true that taking on some of this money that's -- that is not repatriated that corporations keep offshore to avoid taxes, I do think is important. It would provide businesses an opportunity to use that capital, perhaps spend more of it, job creation, growing the businesses. All of that could have an impact on growth. And that's going to be a big part of how they sell the plan.

AVLON: If -- if that money actually goes back into the economy. And that's a significant "if." You know, one of the things that has been discussed was the repatriation money, some portion of it will go to fund infrastructure reform, right? That isn't being done. The other cheap thing is America on the surface has a corporate tax rate. The effective rate is much, much lower.

So are any of the loopholes going to be changed that have been baked into the cake by lobbyists over a period of decades, or not? And if not, then this really does look like simply -- simply a giveaway.

GREGORY: And the corporations have done so well. Right? So do they deserve this kind of gift? I will say, let's remember that the Obama administration was looking at some relief here, as well. And it just wasn't able to come back.

AVLON: The deficit and the debt also balloons under this plan. So Republicans giving away fiscal conservative credentials, at least when it comes to deficit and debt.

CAMEROTA: Let's very quickly talk about the president's big trip. Starts today. Going to Asia. We'll put up the map, all the places that he's going and the days. So you can see Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Manila. What are you expecting, David Gregory?

GREGORY: Look, this is the president on the world stage in an incredibly important region. We are in a moment of crisis in Asia, both in our relationship with China in terms of any leverage they have with North Korea and of course, North Korea itself.

All of these relationships are so important. What the president says, what he does is going to matter a great deal. Not just in terms of what the North ends up doing with the nuclear program but how South Korea and Japan respond. The question of the nuclear umbrella, whether it will hold, whether they want to develop nukes on their own. And the role of China and negotiating all this, this is so important. Not just right now but for a long time.

AVLON: Yes. It just -- this is about a coalition to try to contain North Korea, also contain China simultaneously. This is a diplomatic high-wire act. We'll see what the president says.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, David Gregory, thank you both very much.

So ISIS claiming responsibility for that terror attack here in New York City. We have the latest on the investigation and the city' plan to keep pedestrians safe.