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Sessions to Testify Next Week on Russia Contacts; Reports Michael Flynn Will Be Indicted; Trump Praises Saudi Princes Purge of Own Family; Red Flags Missed on Texas Killer. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 7, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The attorney general will appear for an oversight hearing next week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The appearance follows a host of new revelations about his knowledge of contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Here with us, our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, all of the attorney general's past denials will come up. How does he clean this up?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: His previous testimony had been that he had absolutely no connection during the Trump campaign with anyone from Russia and he didn't know about any contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russia. He has since had to correct his testimony once, where he has acknowledged that he spoke to the Russian ambassador, he says, in passing. Now, with the guilty plea, there is another occasion where he's apparently been told of contacts between Russia and the campaign. Presumably, he will say with such a minor and passing comment he didn't notice it, but it is never good to have to correct your testimony once much less twice.
BLITZER: He went through the six hours of testimony. The transcript was just released by the committee. And he says he went to Moscow and he shared information specific information with senior Trump campaign officials, most of whom don't remember. It was so insignificant, once again, clearly, they believe it wasn't all that important.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I read the transcript, too. What you need to understand about Carter Page is what a deeply eccentric figure he is. He took the fifth regarding documents but agreed to testify. He doesn't have a lawyer. His testimony is all over the place. But again, it's a similar situation with people with the Trump campaign. At first, they say there were no contacts with Russia. Now he acknowledges speaking to this very high level official deputy prime minister. It should be pointed out that Page is very insistent he wasn't aware of any e-mails that were hacked. He certainly says he didn't engage in anything improper. But again, it's another story of someone involved in the Trump campaign initially denying contacts with the Russian government. And later admitting some contacts but nothing he says untoward.
BLITZER: As you know, last week, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, indicted two former top campaign officials, Trump campaign officials. A third campaign official pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Now there are reports out there that the president's former national security adviser Michael Flynn might be indicted by Mueller as well. What do you think?
TOOBIN: It certainly would be even more significant than the Paul Manafort indictment.
BLITZER: He was the campaign chairman.
TOOBIN: He was the campaign chairman. But Michael Flynn was closer to Candidate Trump. He was a really intimate adviser for months and became the national security adviser, and was briefly one of the most important people working in the White House. If he's indicted, that would bring the net a lot closer to the president and to people in the very most inner circle in the White House. As bad as the Paul Manafort indictment was, and having your campaign chairman is not a good thing -- having your campaign chair indicted, but having Michael Flynn indicted would be an even more serious blow.
BLITZER: Yes. His first national security adviser in the White House, only lasted about a month or so. Still, that would be a major development.
BLITZER: Jeffery, thank you very much. Jeffrey Toobin helping us.
More on the breaking news of the investigation of the church massacre in Texas. CNN is learning the pastor knew the gunman, wanted him out of the church. Stand by for new information.
[13:38:07] BLITZER: Intrigue to the nth degree. We're seeing a truly historic upheaval unfolding inside one of the United States most important Middle Eastern allies. Mass arrests of Saudi Arabia's royal family, all in the name of corruption control. And this man, one of the world's richest men, a business rival to President Trump, I should say, now in prison in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh Saudi Arabia.
This reaction from President Trump. While visiting Asia, he tweeted, "I have great confidence in King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. They know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been milking their country for years."
Let's bring in our own Aaron David Miller, a CNN global affairs analyst, vice president, distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International center here in Washington.
This is a major development right now. But give us first of all some historic perspective. Aaron, you studied the Middle East for a long time, worked in the State Department for years on the Middle East. How big of a deal is this?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's huge. I've watched the Saudis for four years and both with respect to what Mohammad bin Salman, alias MBS, is doing inside the kingdom, and his risk readiness outside in Lebanon, against Qatar and Iran and Yemen, is virtually unprecedented. Middle Eastern leaders simply don't behave this way. They look in the rear-view mirror, instead of looking forward. And there are few examples, where Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. But these are idiosyncratic. The Middle East is usually colored, Wolf, as you know, in gray, not black and white. Here you got a guy of 30-something, made a bid for absolute power, a kind of new supreme leader in Saudi Arabia. And there's a cost perhaps. And I think we may feel it as well. But by and large, this is one of the most intriguing stories in a region that doesn't produce stuff that's new very often. This is new.
[13:40:10] BLITZER: And the rhetoric between the Saudis and the Iranians clearly heating up as this story unfolds. The Saudis basically accusing the Iranians of engaging in acts of war against Saudi Arabia, blaming them for a missile launch at the Riyadh International Airport in recent days, and now accusing the Saudis of telling the Lebanese prime minister he has to resign because his Hezbollah ally of the Iranians is part of the government in Lebanon. This could explode the situation unless it's controlled quickly.
MILLER: I mean, that's certainly the case, Wolf. The Saudis have three main foreign policy priorities, Iran, Iran and Iran. And they're watching Iranian influence gain capital in four Arab capitals, in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and in their own backyard. Now a lot I suspect is hyped up for American consumption because it dovetails with the president who wants to contain, if not roll back Iranian influence in the region. I think MBS, his great foreign policy achievement has been to cast a spell over Donald Trump. You saw in the tweet today that the president saying he has confidence in the young prince because he knows precisely what he's doing, that's highly arguable statement -- Wolf?
BLITZER: He's 32 years old, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia right now. The amazing thing, the billionaire prince, al Waleed bin Talal, who is often seen as the richest man over there, is now arrested with others at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. We're showing viewers some video of that. You know, he's been someone who is certainly well known to Americans. He's invested in some of the biggest companies here in the United States. Often likened to the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia. What do you make of that?
MILLER: He's the poster child for a modern, globalized Saudi economy. You're right. He hobnobs with the great and the near great, the financiers, investment bankers and hedge funds. I wonder if arresting him is going to backfire? It will shake investor confidence. And even the king can decide which Saudi fat cat he wants to imprison in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh or not, it's not an attractive advertisement for further investment in the kingdom. I think Prince al Waleed bin Talal was too big and too independent for the wood-be king's liking, and he's trying to make an example of him. And he's certainly not the first and won't be the last of anybody who gets in the would-be king's way.
BLITZER: You saw the president tweeting that he's totally supporting what's going on in Saudi Arabia. We know Jared Kushner, his son-in- law, was just there meeting with the crown prince among others. There's a lot more going on. We're going to stay on top of this story.
Aaron Miller, thanks for joining us.
MILLER: Always a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: More on the breaking news of the investigation of the church massacre in Texas. The sheriff telling CNN the gunman attended several church functions prior to the massacre. And we're also hearing another red flag involving a rape investigation of the killer. I'll speak live with the congressman representing that district.
[13:48:11] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: There is more breaking news coming in to CNN, the investigation of that church massacre in Texas. Just in, we're learning the gunman escaped a mental health facility in June of 2012 months after being accused of abusing his ex-wife and stepchild. This according to new documents just obtained from the police department. We're told the officers were advised he was a danger to himself and others and already had been caught sneaking weapons on to a U.S. Air Force base.
Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzales represents part of the county where the massacre took place. He joins us live from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, yet another red flag. But despite all of this, and we're learning a lot more horrendous details about this individual, he was able to legally purchase four weapons in the years that followed, two in the state of Texas, two in the state of Colorado. How does that happen?
REP. VICENTE GONZALES, (D), TEXAS: It's tragic, but obviously a lot of folks dropped the ball, from the military giving notice to our national criminal registry, and maybe this health institution that he was in. Also, there was no communication with other members of the community. I think, you know, my heart and prayers go out to the good people of Wilson County. But I think now we need to start having a very serious conversation in Washington and in legislatures across the country in getting to the bottom of what the issue is that keeps reoccurring in the United States of America at a much higher level, and it doesn't in other developed countries. I know we get together every time we have an incident like this, but it's not long before the conversation ends, and we move on with our lives. This time, we need to stay engaged and find ways to prevent this from being a continuous reoccurrence in the United States.
I think we need to start not only talking about gun control laws, but also mental health issues and communication between potentially mental health officials and gun dealers. I think that should be part of the conversation. There were a lot of gaps in judgment with this young man, from the time that he got out of the military to now, that he was in a mental health institution, to the events that transpired the last few days. It's just awful. And I think that we need to start paying closer attention and trying to get to the root of the problem that has affected America.
[13:50:46] BLITZER: And as you know, U.S. Air Force made a major blunder. They acknowledged they did not notify the FBI after he served a year in a military prison for abusing his ex-wife.
GONZALEZ: That's correct.
BLITZER: And basically, hitting this little child repeatedly, causing some serious injury to that child. They didn't make a deliberate notification to the FBI. He then went ahead and was able to purchase the guns. The ATF said the shooter's rifle was a semi-automatic. How does that affect the debate over gun control?
GONZALEZ: Well, I think we need to have an intelligent plan going forward. I'm a gun collector and avid supports man and I believe we have the right to bear arms, but we need to be smart and careful about it. These 50 clips, clips with capacity of 50 bullets is ex- certificate I have excessive and needs to be looked at. More than that is the mental health issues that we keep finding in individuals who commit these assaults on the American public. There should be red flags at every gun dealer when somebody with this profile comes in. God, he spent a year in jail in the military, was dishonorable discharged, and a history of spousal abuse. I believe spousal abuse should be a red flag in purchasing a gun.
BLITZER: A lot of people agree with you. Your colleague, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, in California, he walked out during a moment of silence for the shooting victims. Here's how he explained his actions on Facebook page. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU, (D), CALIFORNIA: I've been in too many moments of silences. In just my short career in Congress three of the massacres in history has occurred. I'll not be silent. We need action. We need to pass gun safety legislation now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Congressman Lieu calling for universal background checks, a ban on assault-type rifles and bump-free stocks, as they are called. Is any of that -- and you understand what's going on in the U.S. House of Representatives right now. Is any of that likely to happen?
GONZALEZ: It's divisive time. I don't know. I would like to see that happen. But in all honesty, we have a lot of folks on right who may not agree with some of this legislation. But I do believe we should have very tight background checks. We should, if somebody wants to purchase a gun and they have to wait 30-day waiting period before they are given the gun that they purchased, I think that should be OK with the public. We need to keep the American people safe. And we need to provide this safety through good legislation. It's happened five times this year. And it's happened across the country and state lines and racial and religious barriers. It happens in the rural communities and urban communities. So we can't define it in anyone way. But I think mental health is a top issue that needs to be considered and creating new legislation. Maybe there needs to be communication between mental health officials and law enforcement and gun ownership.
BLITZER: You know, Congressman, in the initial confusion right after we learned of this church massacre, and there is always a lot of confusion in the immediate period after a horrific event like this, you were mentioned on CNN and said a name for the suspect that turned out to be incorrect.
BLITZER: Very unfortunate. But I think we have to step back and learn lessons and make sure it doesn't happen again.
Explain what happened here and what lessons we could learn from that.
BLITZER: Because going forward, unfortunately, this is going to happen again.
GONZALEZ: Absolutely. And I regret it very much. I was on another national mainstream media interview, and the news producer gave me this name. And I don't follow Internet sensations so I wouldn't have known the difference. Certainly, the producer didn't know the difference. And when I asked the name on CNN if I knew the name, I told them this is the name been reported to me. I didn't have initial confirmation, but I thought I could rely on news producer from a national network. And even they were duped. So something we need to be careful with moving forward.
[13:55:09] BLITZER: Especially as the breaking news unfolds, have to be very careful going down the road.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: Congressman, good luck to you. Our hearts go out to all of them in your district. Our hearts go out to all of them. We will stay in close touch with you. Thanks for joining us.
GONZALEZ: Thank you, Wolf. Talk to you soon.
We'll have more on the breaking news. We're learning the gunman escaped a mental health facility in June 2012 months after accused of abusing his ex-wife and step-child. We have new details. And how the red flags, and there were so many of them, that were missed.
[14:59:02] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.
We do have breaking news. The stunning red flags somehow overlooked in the story out of Texas here.