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Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Faces Allegations of Initiating Underage Sexual Contact; Republican Senate Tax Plan Revealed; Senate GOP Reveals Tax Cuts That Conflict with House Plan; Jury Deliberating in First Trial Over Deadly Biker Brawl. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 9, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: rejected offer. President Trump's long-time security chief, Keith Schiller, tells the House Intelligence Committee he rejected a Russian offer to send five women to Donald Trump's hotel room back in 2013 because he thought it was a joke. Are there other bombshell revelations in his testimony?
More allegations. Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore denies a "Washington Post" story quoting a woman who says Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her years ago, when he was 32 and she was only 14. Moore denies any wrongdoing, but shocked Republicans say he should quit the Senate race if the allegations are true. Is his candidacy doomed?
Putin sit-down? After heaping praise on the Chinese leader, President Trump is heading to Vietnam and a possible one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Will they talk about Russian's meddling in U.S. politics?
And taxing problem. Just as a key House committee revises and approves a plan for huge tax cuts, Senate Republicans unveil their own plan, and it's significantly different. Will the conflict ruin the Republicans' chances for a much needed victory on Capitol Hill?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including revelations about a possible salacious offer President Trump's longtime security chief says he received back in 2013.
Keith Schiller says he rejected a Russian offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room when they were in Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. Schiller told the committee he thought the offer was a joke and Trump laughed it off when he was told about it.
Another important story in the Russia investigation is breaking exclusively here on CNN. A top member of President Trump's inner circle, the White House senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, has now been interviewed as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
Sources familiar with the investigation says Miller's role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey was among the topics discussed.
Also breaking, a shocking "Washington Post" report quoting a woman who says Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her years ago when she was only 14 and he was 32. Moore denies it, calls the "Post" story a baseless political attack.
The woman's stepfather tells CNN their family stands by the accusations.
On Capitol Hill, very worried Republicans say if the story is true, Moore should quit the race before next month's special election.
We're covering all of that and much more at this hour with our guests, including Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of the Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
But let's begin with the bombshell testimony from President Trump's former security chief.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is here.
Manu, what else did Keith Schiller tell the House Intelligence Committee?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier this week, Keith Schiller did testify before the House Intelligence Committee and he said that he rejected this Russian offer to send five women to then private citizen Trump's hotel room in 2013, when they were there for the Miss Universe Pageant.
Now, Schiller, who was Trump's former bodyguard, longtime personal aide, testified that he took that offer as a joke and on the way up to Trump's hotel room that night, Schiller told the billionaire businessman about the offer and Trump laughed it off.
After he left Trump's hotel room, he did not know what happened after that. Now, Schiller did not know who the Russian was who made the offer, but said it was someone in a group tied to the Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.
Now, members of the committee raised the matter because of salacious allegations laid out in the dossier compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele.
Now, while some of the allegations in the dossier have been verified, the salacious accusations about Trump's activities in Moscow have not been. That's why lawmakers want to know if in fact the Russians had dirt about Trump just as they were meddling in the election.
BLITZER: What else did Schiller say?
RAJU: He didn't give the committee a whole lot. In fact, they interviewed him for hours, Wolf, about Trump-Russia connections, about advisers meeting with Russians, and he claimed he didn't know much since he said he was in charge of the security for candidate Trump, but not involved in policy decisions. Plus, he was asked about what he knew about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, given he was the one who had to deliver that letter to the FBI on the day of Comey's firing.
He said, Wolf, he was not involved in the deliberations, leaving lawmakers with more questions.
BLITZER: Still, a very explosive story. Stand by, Manu.
There's other exclusive reporting we're getting, breaking news right now about another Trump associate being interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. This time, it's a key member of the White House' inner circle.
I want to bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
So, Pamela, tell us who the investigators wanted to talk about and why.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned today that White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has been interviewed as part of Robert Mueller's special counsel Russia probe.
So this brings the special counsel probe right into President Trump's inner circle within the White House, because Stephen Miller is a top aide and he is the highest-level aide that we know of who has been interviewed by Robert Mueller's team.
And Stephen Miller has been by Trump's side from the campaign up until now, and he's been there for some key moments that we know Robert Mueller is interested in, including the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey and a meeting in march 2016, national security meeting, where George Papadopoulos, a campaign volunteer, talked about setting up a meeting between Trump and Putin.
So he is someone that we would expect to be interviewed in this probe.
BLITZER: What are else are you learning about why the investigators specifically wanted to question him?
BROWN: Well, we have learned that one of the lines of inquiry surrounded his role in the firing of James Comey during a weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey.
During that weekend, we learned that Stephen Miller was one of the people who wrote a draft, a memo explaining why Trump wanted to fire James Comey, the former FBI director.
We also learned, interestingly enough, my colleague Gloria Borger and Evan Perez were told that the memo that Stephen Miller wrote, according to sources, mimicked the memo that Rod Rosenstein wrote that was, that was cited as the reason for firing James Comey.
And so Stephen Miller, as my colleague Gloria said, really has a front-row seat to Trump's mentality, his mind, his thinking through the firing of James Comey, and that's all part of the possible obstruction of justice probe.
And also we're told that anyone who was in that March meeting where the idea was brought up to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, anyone who was there, we're told he was there, would be questioned by Mueller about the circumstances and what exactly happened in that meeting. So there certainly were various topics that were discussed, we're told.
BLITZER: Yes, Mueller's investigation clearly heating up right now. Guys, thanks very much.
Let's get more on today's potentially devastating sex allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama.
Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is following the story for us, getting more reaction.
Moore is adamantly denying any wrongdoing, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
The allegations, though, troubling, if proved to be true. Four women spoke to "The Washington Post" alleging when they were teenaged girls, Roy Moore, who was then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time, had sexual contact with them.
One of the accusers, Leigh Corfman, says back in 1979, when she met Moore, she was then 14 years old. She told "The Post" she met Moore in court with her mother during a child custody hearing. Later, she says Moore had two encounters with her, one where he kissed her and hugged her, a second when he allegedly partially undressed her and guided her hands to her genitals.
The age of consent in Alabama then and now is 16. "The Post" also spoke to three other women who say, when they were teenagers back in the late '70s and early '80s, they too allegedly had sexual encounters with Moore.
Moore's campaign calling all of these allegations "garbage," part of what the campaign called Democrats' attempt to discredit him. Moore himself, Wolf, in a statement saying: "The allegations are completely false and a desperate political attack" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason, you spoke to the accuser's stepfather.
What did he tell you?
BROWN: Right. That would be Richard Wells.
I spoke to him late this afternoon. He says the family stands by what was reported in "The Washington Post." He also said the following. He said: "Leigh is a very strong woman and women are often stronger than men and this is an example of that."
And, then, Wolf, when I asked him if the family was in any way concerned about any possible fallout from all of these allegations, Wells told me, he said, "We are not worried about any fallout" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason Carroll, thanks very much.
Despite Roy Moore's denial of wrongdoing, reaction to the sex allegations against him has been sharp and swift on Capitol Hill.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.
What are Republican senators, Sunlen, saying?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republican senators, Wolf, tonight are calling it deeply disturbing and horrifying news and many calling on Moore to step aside if these allegations hold up.
That coming from the Senate's top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who says tonight in a statement, "If these allegations are true, he must step aside."
But much stronger words here from Senator John McCain, who says, look, I don't need any proof. He calls the allegations disqualifying to Roy Moore. He says of Moore, "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of."
And here's more from Republican senators up here on Capitol Hill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: If they are true, he should step aside.
SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: It's very, very disturbing, what I have read about. And I will have more to say about it, I'm sure, after I learn more.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I think our folks are looking into what the laws allow for in terms of Alabama when it comes to placing candidates on the ballot, but, you know, there are a lot of things that have to happen before that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And that right there is pretty significant from the Senate's number two Republican, Senator John -- excuse me -- Senator John Thune, who says that they are already potentially looking into what the laws allow for here.
According to the Alabama secretary of state, the process is that Moore himself or the Alabama Republican Party can withdraw his name from consideration. But Moore's name will remain on the ballot because you have a lot of absentee ballots that have already gone out, a lot of overseas ballots that have already gone out, and there's no process in place within the state to change the name on the ballot.
So, as of now, his name will stay on the ballot. Of course, any votes for him, if he were to withdraw, would be decertified, which means Republicans right now, Wolf, are facing this problem if he withdraws the way that they could win with Republicans would have to be through a write-in. Keep in mind, this special election is just over a month away.
BLITZER: Yes, four weeks or so away. Sunlen, thanks very much for that.
Let's get some more on all of this with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Lots to discuss. I want to get your quick reaction to the testimony from the president, then candidate's personal chief of security, Keith Schiller. You heard what he is saying about these five women who were offered up at this Russian hotel back in 2013, when they were all there for the Miss Universe Pageant.
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: It brings us back to that document, the dossier that came out more than a years -- well, almost a year ago now.
It shows a lot of it was at least down the right -- down the track, a correct track that there was something going on, that there was an attempt. What came in that attempt, apparently, nothing came of the attempt by the Russians to really compromise the president.
But there are many, many other things that this president has attempted to do in Moscow that would and could have compromised him and led us to what is now a question that all of us ask. Why is he kissing up to Putin? Why isn't he holding that government accountable for its misdeeds in Crimea and other places around the world?
BLITZER: Because Keith Schiller, the former security chief for Donald Trump, he worked for him in the White House as well until he left.
He's saying he laughed it off and the then candidate -- he wasn't a candidate back in 2013 -- then Mr. Trump laughed it off and suggested nothing came of that.
But do you know that nothing came of that?
GARAMENDI: I have no idea.
What I do know is the dossier is at least leading in a direction that is -- that was accurate. It was saying that there were things going on in Moscow. Schiller says nothing came of it.
Well, even if that is the case, we do know that Russia was attempting to compromise Trump in 2013. We also know that, even in the election process, 2016, that Trump was reaching out trying to do a deal in Moscow.
Again, that's a compromising situation. Now, whether there was a compromise, we don't know. But what we do know is that this president has never held Russia accountable, accountable for taking over Crimea and for the war and the rest of it in the Ukraine area.
BLITZER: And we now know in CNN's exclusive reporting Stephen Miller has been questioned about the special counsel's investigators, Robert Mueller, Stephen Miller, a top policy adviser to the president.
GARAMENDI: Well, we will see what comes of that. This man was very close to that whole situation, was apparently involved, from your own reporting, that he was involved in trying to figure out how to write the document that led to Comey's firing.
So what of this? What we do know is, there's a lot of smoke here. There's a lot of things going on that really need to be answered. And we know that Russia clearly involved itself to change the course of the American presidential election. There is no doubt about that.
Some may try to move the arrow away from that investigation, as the Republicans are attempting to do, going back to Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton's not the president. Trump is the president. This is where the action has to be. Did this man -- was he compromised? Did he engage himself in trying to stop the investigation by firing Comey?
And right now, we see a continuing effort to discredit Mueller. All of this is -- leads up to the question, is there a crime committed, the crime being obstruction of justice?
BLITZER: In the firing of Comey? That's what you're...
GARAMENDI: And beyond.
BLITZER: What other crimes?
GARAMENDI: Well, let's talk about what the White House is doing in trying to discredit Mueller, not just the White House, but the entire Republican machine, going after Mueller trying to discredit him.
That is an effort to obstruct Mueller's investigation. Is that obstruction of justice? In my account, yes, it is, or certainly would be if Mueller were to somehow be removed from this investigation or his investigation curtailed in any number of ways, cutting back on the money available, limited it in some way. All of those things add up to obstructing an investigation, which is an obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: Do you think your Republican colleagues are looking for the facts right now in all of this or they're simply trying to protect the president?
GARAMENDI: Two nights ago, I was on the floor of the House in what we know as a special order hour. And I wanted to talk about the tax bill. Preceding me were about eight Republicans, all of them, every one of them moving the issue away from the Russian investigation and Trump over to the Russian investigation of Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton is not the president. Trump is. We have to focus on the man in power. And was he compromised? What was his involvement in the Russian effort to change the course of the American election?
If any of those things prove out to be, then I think we have a situation where the House of Representatives has to undertake its obligation looking towards the impeachment. We will see. This is not yet over.
The Mueller investigation is moving along. It used to be a drip, drip, drip. Now it's an open faucet, one thing after another coming. We have had two -- well, three indictments -- two indictments, one guilty plea. What's the next step along the way?
The Republicans are trying their very best to deflect this away from Trump over to Hillary. Again, there may be something there on the Hillary side, but this nation needs to focus on this president.
BLITZER: You heard the allegations, sex allegations against the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore.
BLITZER: First of all, I want to get your reaction when you read that story in "The Washington Post."
GARAMENDI: I'm not surprised that there was yet another shoe to drop on this Senate candidate.
GARAMENDI: Take a look at his history, his history of been -- removing from office twice when he was on the Supreme Court of Alabama.
Why was he removed? For the way in which he conducted himself. So there's a lot of questions about his conduct, the way he campaigned, his -- the way -- the positions he held with regard to same-sex marriage, to all of these issues that are current -- he was way out of line.
And now we find out that there are allegations that he was out of line when he was a prosecutor dealing with young women.
BLITZER: Because the election, the special election, is December 12.
BLITZER: That's not very far from now, only about four weeks or so from now. How do you prove it either way? There's like 20 or 30 sources in "The Washington Post" article, but he says that's fake news and you hear a lot of Republican leaders in the Senate say if the allegations are true, he should step aside. But that's a big if.
GARAMENDI: Well, we have an election. We have an election.
We have one of the candidates charged with a very serious charge about what he did with young women, underage women, when he had power over those women. That's a campaign issue.
And will that play out in the campaign where the Alabama voters will say, I don't think we want this man as our senator? What then will they do? Will they vote for the Democrat? Well, perhaps they will. We have seen this shift occur in Virginia and other elections this last Tuesday.
BLITZER: You want him to stay on the ticket because you think the Democratic ticket will beat him, is that right?
GARAMENDI: I think this is a question that Republicans are going to have to answer.
It may very well be that they cannot take him off the ticket. But, ultimately, it's always the choice of the voters. They have information now, additional information about the character of Moore, his personal character.
That's a fundamental question in any campaign. It's the character of the individual. We know that Moore was compromised, that he carried out activities, and held policies that caused him to be removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court.
We also know that now this charge is there. The voters of Alabama have a clear choice. They can elect a flawed person or they can choose another candidate, in this case, a fellow that has a good reputation, that would be a good representative, would provide the balance necessary to get things done in the U.S. Senate.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks for joining us.
GARAMENDI: Always a pleasure.
BLITZER: John Garamendi of California.
Stand by. We're going to take a quick break. In a moment, we're going to have much more on the political aftershocks from today's breaking news in the Russia investigation, including what the president's former security chief told the House Intelligence Committee.
BLITZER: We're covering the political aftershocks from multiple breaking news stories, including the revelations that President Trump's former security chief and personal aide, Keith Schiller, told the House Intelligence Committee he rejected a Russian offer to send five women to Donald Trump's hotel room when they were both there in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.
Let's bring in our political specialist, David Swerdlick.
How does this testimony from Schiller before the House Intelligence Committee influence your understanding of the allegations in that so- called Russia dossier?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.
So now there you have got an on-the-record statement by someone who puts themselves right there saying what is in the dossier or precisely what is in the dossier is not in fact what happened.
It will be interesting now to see, as the investigation progresses, what comes out from testimony that Christopher Steele, the apparent source of the dossier, gives to the Mueller investigation.
On the other hand, Wolf, I will just note that obviously the administration, up to and including the president, had since December, had 10 months to say, oh, yes, we have heard that story, too, and here's why that story is false and give the account that we got today.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, it's interesting, because from a legal perspective, Jeffrey, what do you make of this revelation today?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's exculpatory.
It suggests that there were made -- an effort made to compromise Donald Trump, and it was rejected. And I think that's the only way you can view it.
It suggests that the Russians try to use this kind of technique, but if Schiller's testimony is true, and if it's the full story of the nature of this particular approach to Trump, it is helpful to Trump's defense.
Let me get Ron to weigh in.
Go ahead, Ron.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I agree with Jeffrey.
It does put the allegation from the -- move it from the sphere of kind of something constructed out of whole cloth into something that was rooted in what appears to have been an attempt. But if this is the end of the story, then it's the end of the story.
BLITZER: Let's see if it's the end of the story.
There's another development, Rebecca, that we're following. We learned today here on CNN, Stephen Miller, who is a top policy adviser to the president, he's now been interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. What do you make of that? REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, obviously, Wolf, it shows
that this investigation is progressing, accelerating.
When you get to the president's most inner most circle, the next step is to really talk to the president himself, and it's worth remembering that Donald Trump has insisted time and again, as recently as a couple of weeks ago to "The New York Times," that he himself is not under investigation.
All of the evidence we're seeing out of the Mueller investigation and the moves that he is making suggest the opposite. He is looking into potential obstruction of justice here, and that's part of the reason he's interviewing Stephen Miller, because Stephen Miller was involved in that process with the president of deciding to fire James Comey, so very significant development here.
TOOBIN: And also just because someone is interviewed once doesn't mean they are not going to be interviewed again.
We are sort of ticking off the people who have been interviewed, but in a major investigation like this with complicated facts, it certainly wouldn't be out of the ordinary for Mueller's team to go back to these people more than once, more than twice.
BLITZER: Because, David, it really looks like Mueller's investigation is heating up. Last week, two indictments, a guilty plea, a lot more revelations emerging. This train is moving.
SWERDLICK: The train is moving. It's heating up.
I think we are going to hear more things. I agree with Jeffrey that one interview in and of itself does not tell you the whole picture. That being said, with regard to Stephen Miller, if he was involved in the deliberations around firing Director Comey, there are two documents that are already out there that we know are inconsistent.
One is the Rod Rosenstein memo that lays out these reasons related to Hillary Clinton that suggest the president lost confidence in Director Comey. The president sent a letter directly to Director Comey saying, I asked you three times if I was under investigation. I didn't like the answer, therefore, I'm letting you...
BLITZER: Ron, let me get your thoughts on these awful allegations against the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, I think this is a big test for how tribal our politics have become and whether we have grown so divided that it's no longer possible to hold public officials to any kind of objective standards of behavior or performance.
I think the initial reaction from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was a dodge. He said Roy Moore should step aside if the allegations are proven. It's worth noting right now here that "The Washington Post" story is remarkable. There are four separate women speaking on the record, one aged 14, one 16, one 17, one 18. The mother of the 14-year-old is on the record talking about the most direct sexual contact in there.
In Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein was kicked off of the academy essentially on this kind of testimony. And now the Senate Republicans, who are often quick to kind of brand Hollywood as licentious and lacking morals, are going to demand a different standard before they will act?
And, really, it doesn't end there. It really comes down to the voters, because, I mean, certainly, we saw in 2016 plenty of voters who expressed personal unease about aspects of Donald Trump's character who said they were willing to vote for him because they thought he would advance the issues they care about.
This will test really how far voters are willing to go in that regard, because it's not clear to me what other kind of evidence you could have than what you have already received today in the "Washington Post" on the record.
[18:30:27] BERG: Well, let's remember that the president himself, Donald Trump, when he was a candidate, was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault. Not blind quotes. These were women on the record attaching their names, their faces, their reputations to these allegations.
And even though Republicans came out and spoke out against the president at that time, it didn't matter to voters. Voters supported President Trump anyway. He's president now.
We might see the same with Roy Moore. I mean, even if Republicans come out, as so many are, and say he should get out of this race, Roy Moore -- Roy Moore says he is staying in this race. And it's up to voters at that point.
BROWNSTEIN: And I agree. It is entirely possible that is the outcome. But that is quite a statement about how, you know, kind of the tribal nature of the politics, that you're willing to accept even someone who has been accused of these kinds of actions, again on the record, which were criminal, at the time, according to the -- according to the testimony at least, and still vote for them. I mean, that says something about where we are as a country and the level of division that we are now experiencing.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. A very important note to our viewers. Stay with CNN for more on this important conversation. Later tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern, tune in to a special CNN town hall, "Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America."
In just a little bit, President Trump will be leaving China to head for an important summit meeting in Vietnam. Will the president sit down with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin? And, if they do meet, I want to get everyone's opinion about what they should talk about. Our panel will stay with us. Stay with us.
[18:36:39] BLITZER: In just a few hours, President Trump will be attending a summit of Asia Pacific leaders in Vietnam. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is going to be there, as well, and the two leaders may meet one on one tomorrow.
Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. Brian, if they do meet, both leaders could certainly have a lot to discuss.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure could, Wolf. You know, anticipation is building tonight over this possible meeting between the president and Vladimir Putin. The U.S. and Russia are at odds over Syria, over North Korea. But it's the lingering controversy over Russian meddling in America's elections, which is still going on, that puts the charge into this possible meeting and puts more pressure on Mr. Trump to get tough with Putin.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to be with you. Thank you.
TODD (voice-over): Their first meetings this summer in Germany were a political fiasco for President Trump, and tonight, it seems Vladimir Putin's aides are eager for a second act, saying flat-out Putin and Trump will meet at the summit in Vietnam on Friday.
President Trump's team says that meeting is still not confirmed, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked by CNN, if they do meet, will Trump pressure Putin on Russian election meddling?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Russian meddling and the investigation, is that still on that list of things to talk about? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It stays on that list.
TODD: Tonight, some observers believe the president is under considerable pressure to hold Putin to account for Russian election interference, which U.S. officials say is continuing.
The president's team is already under fire from Democrats and Republicans in Congress for not implementing sanctions on Russia fast enough. Many in Washington are complaining that those sanctions, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, are still behind schedule. But some analysts believe the president has no interest in pressuring Putin on Russian meddling.
JAMES GOLDGEIER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think that, from Trump's standpoint, he's doing everything possible to bury this story that there was Russia meddling. He doesn't want there to continue to be these accusations of collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
TODD: At the G-20 summit in German in July, Trump and Putin met for more than two hours. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I'm delighted to be able to meet
you personally, Mr. President.
TODD: Trump said at that meeting he pressed Putin twice, "Did Russia interfere in the 2016 election?" Trump says Putin denied it twice, and they moved on. The White House denies Russian claims that Trump accepted Putin's denials.
MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "THE FUTURE IS HISTORY": Of course Trump let Putin off the hook. He has repeatedly tweeted that Russian election meddling is fake news.
TODD: At that same summit, Trump initiated an impromptu meeting with Putin. The White House initially didn't disclose it, then said it was just a brief conversation, but sources told CNN the meeting stretched for almost an hour.
Recently, Trump had his CIA director, Mike Pompeo, meet with a conspiracy theorist, who pushed the false notion that the hacking of the Democratic Party was an inside job. Analysts say this is part of a larger, unsettling pattern of President Trump trying too hard to befriend the man in the Kremlin.
GESEN: Trump really adores Putin. Trump really think -- thinks that he wants to be Putin. If he could be an American Putin, that would be his dream come true.
Putin is actually a lot more skeptical about Trump. He considers him a fool. He considers him, you know, uncontrolled and inconsistent.
TODD: Analysts say if Trump does not stand up to Putin at their next meeting, it might actually put the U.S. at greater risk from North Korea. They say not standing up to the Russian president after a Russian attack on America's election process might single to the North Koreans that Trump won't totally destroy North Korea as he promised, if Kim Jong-un fires missiles at the United States -- Wolf.
[18:40:19] BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much.
Let's bring back our specialists. Ron Brownstein, what are the potential risks of a Trump/Putin meeting?
BROWNSTEIN: You know, this relationship, Wolf, as you know better than I, has unfolded so differently than either one of them expected, certainly, a year and a half ago or two years ago. There's a legal phrase -- Jeffrey can correct me -- the fruit of a poisoned tree, that has really infected everything that has happened. I mean, all of -- all of the expectations from both Putin and Trump that they could reshape American-Russian relations have been fundamentally undermined by this cloud hanging over the Trump administration over what Russia did and their reluctance to confront it.
You know, there are reports -- it isn't entirely clear what happened, but there were reports that automatic -- automated bot accounts were involved in the Virginia governor race in trying to stir up some of the controversies along race-related lines and, obviously, raising questions about whether Russians are continuing to try to interfere in our elections.
So I think that, you know, there are obviously places where a good relationship with Russia can be valuable, particularly in trying to -- any leverage that you could bring to bear on North Korea.
But until the president, I think, is able to directly confront and deal with this overriding question, it's hard to see much good coming out of this relationship.
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, but this is obviously something Donald Trump just has never wanted to deal with. He's never acknowledged that it existed. All of our intelligence agencies have said Russia tried to interfere in our election. The president has rejected that view.
This -- and throughout the campaign and even into the presidency, he's never said a bad word about Vladimir Putin. That's not even true of most American politicians. He says terrible things about the Senate majority leader of his own party, but he never says a bad word about Putin.
BLITZER: Rebecca, very quickly?
BERG: Right. I don't think this is going to be a meeting that changes our perception of the president and his relationship with Putin or his view of Putin. But, you know, many of his supporters and even skeptics of Trump would probably be pleased if he could get some concessions out of Russia to help on a pressing issue like North Korea.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's more breaking news we're following. The House Republican tax plan makes it through the committee as Senate Republicans unveil a tax plan of their own. Can they resolve some major differences?
[18:47:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: More breaking news now, the House GOP tax plan has made it through a powerful committee on a party line vote, now goes to the floor as Senate Republicans unveil their own version of the tax bill.
Our senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar is up on Capitol Hill.
Brianna, there are major differences between these two tax plans?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There certainly are, Wolf. Now, both of them would effectively reduce the number of Americans who itemize their deductions, but there are so many differences between the House and Senate plans, key differences that when you're looking at this tight timeline that Congress has for getting this done, hammering out those differences is going to be a tall order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The committee will come to order.
KEILAR (voice-over): Today, the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee putting the finishing touches on the plan to overhaul the nation's tax code.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those in favor signify by saying aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those oppose no.
KEILAR: Democrats charging them with cramming a tax overhaul through Congress with only limited hearings.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Speed of light in the dark of night and back rooms without even their own members. What an insult to the intelligence of their own members, what an insult to the intelligence of the American people as they make an assault on the middle class.
KEILAR: Democrats argue their sweeping victories in the gubernatorial, mayoral and state legislative races should send a signal to Republicans to tap the brakes. But House Speaker Paul Ryan insisting the final product will help the middle class, says Republicans are going to fulfill their campaign promise.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is about actually improving people's lives and making a positive difference, and I fundamentally believe when we do this, make good on our word, make good on our promise, make people's lives better, we're going to be just fine politically.
KEILAR: In the Senate, Republicans revealing their tax proposal with significant differences from the House's. The House would eliminate the current seven tax brackets in favor of just four new ones. The Senate plan would have seven.
The House plan repeals the estate tax overtime. A tax paid annually by thousands of uber wealthy Americans and a few dozen farms and businesses, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center. The Senate plan repeals it only in part.
The House plan gets rid of the state and local income tax or SALT deduction in part, and the Senate plan does away with it entirely.
These differences, a potential problem since Republicans are promised to send a bill to President Trump by the end of the year. Another challenge: some estimates show the plans actually growing the
federal deficit and some in the middle class paying more. Republicans struggling when asked if every middle class American will pay less in taxes.
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: I would never try to guarantee anything like that.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Can you guarantee that every single filer might, you know, have some different experience?
[18:50:03] I don't think you can guarantee that.
KEILAR: Now, one certain sticking point is going to be that lawmakers in high tax states and cities have a big concern when it comes to getting rid of the ability of taxpayers to deduct property taxes. That would be in effect, Wolf, of getting rid of the SALT deduction, the state and local tax deduction. So, that's going to be a sticking point moving forward here for Republicans.
BLITZER: Certainly will be.
All right. Brianna, thanks very much. Brianna Keilar up on Capitol Hill.
We have much more news coming up. Stay with us.
[18:55:13] BLITZER: As we await President Trump's departure from China for a summit of Asian Pacific leaders and a possible face-to- face meeting with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam, we are closely watching as a Texas jury now deliberates in the first trial involving a deadly brawl among rival motorcycle groups. Security cameras captured part of the shootout and focused international attention on the case.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Waco, Texas, right now.
Ed, the leader of one of the groups could be facing life in prison if he's convicted.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Not only is all eyes kind of focused on his particular situation, but the ramifications coming from how this jury rules could have a serious impact on how all of the other cases unfold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your hands up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds like a gunfight of O.K. Corral. Bang, bang, bang, one right after another.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Two and a half years after the deadly gun battle at Twin Peaks Restaurant in Waco, Texas, the case against the first biker put on trial, Jake Carrizal, is just now headed to a jury. He faces up to life in prison.
Nearly 180 bikers were arrested in May of 2015 after the violent shootout that killed nine people.
This mug shot soup was an unprecedented round up, 154 bikers were indicted on a charge of engaging an organized criminal activity. The shootout stemmed from a simmering battle between rival motorcycle clubs, the Bandidos, a notorious club and self-described outlaws. And the Cossacks, one of other large clubs in Texas.
Jake Carrizal is the president of the Bandidos Dallas chapter. Carrizal spoke exclusively with CNN last year for the documentary, "Biker Brawl: Inside the Texas Shootout".
He was one of the first bandidos to roll into the Twin Peaks parking lot. Waiting on the patio were dozens of Cossacks, which is seen on the surveillance camera footage first obtained by CNN. As Carrizal parked his motorcycle, the Cossacks moved in, seconds later, the confrontation erupted. Punches turned to gunfire and all out mayhem.
JAKE CARRIZAL, BANDIDOS BIKER: We were ambushed in a war zone. I have never been that scared in my life.
LAVANDERA: The Cossacks say they were there to make peace. The Bandidos say the Cossacks showed up at a biker meeting that day to surprise them and start a violent fight.
CARRIZAL: It seemed like just seconds later, I started hearing gunshots go off. I had guys all over me. Cossacks all over me.
LAVANDERA: Carrizal is in an all-out brawl on the ground with the Cossacks. The Bandidos leader says he acted in self-defense that day. Surveillance video shows another biker walk up to him and take aim.
(on camera): You actually see four plumes of smoke and he's pointed right at you?
CARRIZAL: Oh, yes.
LAVANDERA: Boom, boom, boom. You fall to the ground. You didn't get hit?
CARRIZAL: No. Looks like a cop, you know, may have taken him out and --
LAVANDERA: He dropped, after he fired four times.
CARRIZAL: Yes. Wow.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Prosecutors say Carrizal instructed his crew to bring their tools, slang for firearms, and that the Bandidos came to exact revenge for assault on some of their fellow Bandidos brothers that had occurred in the months before the Twin Peaks shootout. MICHAEL JARRETT, PROSECUTOR: On May 27, 2015, our community here in
Waco, Texas, was forever changed by the actions of some people who believe that a patch, a piece of clothing is more sacred than life. We actually have that one in a million case where the crime was committed on video.
LAVANDERA: Jake Carrizal testified over two days at the end of the first biker trial, the exchanges with prosecutors were often tense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You live to be a bandido, that's obvious. Isn't that right?
CARRIZAL: I live to be a good brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you'd die for your patch, would you not?
CARRIZAL: I would die wearing it, yes, sir. I hope to be buried as a Bandido.
LAVANDERA: So, Wolf, as I mentioned, a lot of people paying attention. That there are still more than 150 other bikers anxiously awaiting to see how this particular first trial is going to turn out. And on top of that, federal investigators are going after some of the top leaders of the Bandidos national organization. And that investigation continues as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you've been working the story from the very, very beginning. The documentary you did, Ed, was excellent. Thanks for all your hard work.
We'll stick around and watch what's going to happen. Ed Lavandera reporting for us from Waco, Texas.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.