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Donald Trump Jr. Releases Exchanges with WikiLeaks; New Accuser: 'Roy Moore Assaulted Me When I Was 16'. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 14, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here was Donald Trump Jr., actively engaged with a known Russian agent.
[07:00:17] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing that Don Jr. did illegal here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It certainly has the appearance of a late developing conspiracy.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney general announcing that he's weighing a special counsel to probe Hillary Clinton, 10 days after the president said he was frustrated the Justice Department had not done so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who politicized as much of the government as he possibly can.
BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: I thought that he was going to rape me. And I was begging him to stop.
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I can tell you without hesitation, this is absolutely false.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think he should step aside. I believe the women.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We're following three major stories. The first, a bombshell report in "The Atlantic," revealing Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks secretly corresponded during the 2016 campaign. Now, in response, Trump Jr. released the Twitter exchanges. The timing of the messages is raising a lot of eyebrows.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So three hours after that report came out, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he is considering a special counsel to investigate any ties between the Clinton Foundation and the sale of a uranium company to the Russians when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
So, all of this is happening as a fifth accuser comes forward against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, alleging that he sexually assaulted her decades ago when she was 16 years old. Moore is denying any wrongdoing, but a group of GOP senators are calling on him to drop out of the race.
We have all these stories covered for you. So let's go first to CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She is live in Washington. Good morning, Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn.
Well, it seems like he wanted to hammer home the point his attorney has made, that they don't have concerns about these exchanges with WikiLeaks, because now Donald Trump Jr. himself has released them.
But even in the few message that now we know about, they tell us something significant. First of all, about WikiLeaks. What they wanted to do for the Trump campaign and what they wanted from the Trump campaign.
And, of course, again, we have yet another person deeply involved with that campaign in communication with what the U.S. intelligence community and even Trump's own CIA director believe is, at the very least, a channel for Russian influence.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): The interactions between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks happened in private over direct message via Twitter, starting as first revealed in "The Atlantic," on September 20 last year. WikiLeaks reached out to Trump's son, asking what he thought of a new anti-Trump website. He responded the next day, "I don't know who that is, but I'll ask around. Thanks."
The "Atlantic" reports Trump Jr. then e-mailed a number of senior officials, letting them know that WikiLeaks had made contact.
On October 2, President Trump's friend and former advisor, Roger Stone, tweeted that damaging material from WikiLeaks was coming. The following day, Don Jr. reached out to ask about it: "What's behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?" Trump didn't get an answer back, but four days later the intelligence community announced that it believes Russia was behind the DNC hacks.
Shortly after, WikiLeaks began releasing hacked e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta. Three days later, these now infamous remarks from then-candidate Trump.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!
KOSINSKI: Then, October 12, WikiLeaks was back in Trump Jr.'s D.M.s, "Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us. There's many great stories the press are missing."
Fifteen minutes later, Trump Sr. tweeted about how WikiLeaks isn't getting enough media coverage. Two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted that link that WikiLeaks asked him to post. That same day, Mike Pence denied the Trump campaign was coordinating with WikiLeaks.
Nothing could be further from the truth. A spokesperson for the vice president says Pence was not aware of communications with WikiLeaks and first learned the news from the media Tuesday.
On October 21, 2016, WikiLeaks made a request, a quote, "unusual idea," asking Don Jr. to leak them his father's tax returns. The reason, quote, "If we publish them, it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality."
But Trump Jr. didn't respond to any other Twitter D.M.s from WikiLeaks, including, according to "The Atlantic," a message on election night, urging the campaign to, quote, "reject the results of the election as rigged" if Trump lost, something the Russian government was also planning on doing, according to a report from the intelligence community.
Trump's own CIA director said this about WikiLeaks.
[07:05:05] MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.
KOSINSKI: A lawyer for Trump Jr. responded to the revelations, saying, "We can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these documents, and any questions raised about them have been easily answered in the appropriate forum."
President Trump, meanwhile, has been trying to shift attention to Democrats, expressing disappointment on Twitter 11 days ago that the Justice Department isn't looking into issues related to his former rival, Hillary Clinton, the Justice Department announcing in a letter yesterday that prosecutors are now examining allegations related to the Clinton Foundation and the sale of the company Uranium One to a Russian nuclear agency and considering whether a special counsel should be appointed.
KOSINSKI: A source tells CNN that these Trump Jr.-WikiLeaks exchanges were already provided to congressional investigators; and that, in fact, Trump Jr. answered questions about them when he appeared in a closed session before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.
So only now are these interactions with WikiLeaks themselves being leaked, which Trump Jr., in a tweet, called ironic. But there are others involved in investigating like the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who themselves would like to ask Trump Jr. more questions about this -- Alisyn and Chris.
CUOMO: The only question for him is why he waited so long to put this out. Michelle, sometimes you get a window into just the absurdity of the situation you're in.
CAMEROTA: Sometimes, yes. CUOMO: We have one right now. Let's bring in CNN political analyst
David Gregory and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza.
David, the juxtaposition of Mike Pompeo, Trump's choice to head the CIA, calling WikiLeaks a hostile, nonstate actor embedded by Russia, and the now president of the United States during the campaign saying, "WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks."
And in that, we see why this latest development is so important. WikiLeaks was not out to help the United States during the campaign. That's clear from Trump's own administration, and now we have his son communicating/attempting to coordinate/attempting to cooperate. I say it that way, because that's what the S.C. will be looking at, the special counsel.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The door was opened. The Trump campaign opened the door to Russia or Russian cutouts to do business, to try to dig up dirt on their opponents to otherwise help Donald Trump win.
And now you know there's evidence of that kind of interference in the election, and you have a president who just simply believes Vladimir Putin, the former KGB agent, when he says that he didn't meddle.
So we're getting this picture of a blanket of denials and then more disclosures of these contacts. The most innocent explanation: this was complete hackery and amateur hour within a campaign that would look, you know, around anywhere for dirt on Hillary Clinton without regard for consequences or something far worse. And that's what Mueller is trying to do and put all of that together.
CAMEROTA: Chris, why are we dancing around this? Why doesn't this show coordination between Don Jr. and the campaign and WikiLeaks?
CILLIZZA: OK. So it definitely shows communication. Candidly, Alisyn, it's hard for me not to say it shows coordination in that you have WikiLeaks direct messaging Don Jr. saying, "Hey, you guys should have your dad send this link out," and then 15 minutes later, the president -- I guess the presidential candidate at that point sends the link out.
CAMEROTA: Bingo. What more--
CAMEROTA: Why not bingo?
CUOMO: I'll tell you why. Go ahead.
CILLIZZA: The argument could be made that he just happened to do that. That it was mere coincidence. I'm a big believer in there are no coincidences in politics, based on my years of covering it.
So, yes, I feel like we're there, at least as it relates to coordination. Again, that 15-minute window. And, by the way, we know that when WikiLeaks initially made contact with Don Jr. he forwarded it to the sort of top Trump campaign officials.
CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, Kellyanne Conway. The whole--
CILLIZZA: Saying I've been in contact with these people.
CUOMO: But here's why his lawyers say we have nothing to fear with these documents. One, they're being paid to say that. Two, because the link was already out there, WikiLeaks had already published these e-mails.
So he was sending out something that was already available in the public domain.
CAMEROTA: He said, "Give us an extra boost," and so then, 15 minutes later, Donald Trump Sr. does just that.
GREGORY: The supposition is or what's suspicious is that maybe this was a window into greater cooperation or some kind of exchange of something valuable to the campaign at the behest of a foreign power. I think that's where you get into--
CUOMO: And the question is--
CILLIZZA: But remember before--
CUOMO: Why is this not enough? It's not enough because it was already in the public domain. And you would have to show that Donald Trump Jr. was helping motivate WikiLeaks to do something to interfere in the election. And that's a high bar, right?
CILLIZZA: Chris, that's collusion, not coordination. Right, right. We're not there.
CUOMO: Well, but collusion is an element of a larger crime where you have to show that you did something to help something illegal happen. That's a much higher bar than people think. Certainly, I don't think this alone makes the grade.
CAMEROTA: Yes, and I'm not going there. I'm just going coordination.
CILLIZZA: Coordination is different.
CUOMO: The point is what the special counsel is looking at. That is part of its purview. I'm saying if you're going to cooperate, if you're going to coordinate, there is another part of the analysis, which is, well, what did you do that furthered this illegal act? And I don't know that they have it on this.
GREGORY: Let's go back, Chris, to what you were saying, which is you have the CIA director. He's in place. It's April of this year, saying this is a nonstate actor, a bad actor.
GREGORY: And enemy of the United States.
GREGORY: And then back in the campaign you had candidate Trump at the Democratic convention saying, "Hey, Russia, I hope you find all of her e-mails, talking about Hillary Clinton." And as Chris pointed out before, you knew in October before the election that there was interference going on.
CUOMO: Those are all bad facts for my position that I took. That's why I jumped in early when Alisyn said bingo. Because I was good up to that point. These additional facts do create this window effect you are all suggesting. There's no question about it.
CILLIZZA: Just one other thing. Let's remember, Don Jr. was one of the three attendees of this meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower.
CILLIZZA: The thing is, it's a lot of coincidences and a lot of coincidences, as you point out, Chris, do not add up to collusion, do not add up to illegality, but it's a whole lot of coincidences and I think it's worth noting that, while also saying that doesn't mean laws were broken.
CAMEROTA: OK. And that leads us to what the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is looking into now. He's looking into the Clinton Foundation. So he has announced that he may consider appointing a special prosecutor to look at, once again, the Uranium One deal. It was done in 2010, as we pointed out, there have been all sorts of government agencies that signed off on it. It wasn't just Hillary Clinton deciding this unilaterally. So where is this going to lead, David?
GREGORY: Let's just go back. Let's remember that candidate Trump threatened during a presidential debate to put his political opponent in jail. I mean, that's what happens in authoritarian regimes.
Now you have a president who has expressed his anger for the fact that his attorney general recused himself and ultimately led to a special prosecutor in the Russia investigation, who's frustrated by that, who tries to distract attention from it and has tried to gin up support for a special counsel against his enemy, who he beat, who he defeated in the election.
The real question is whether there are enough people in the Justice Department who can stand up to this kind of bullying on the part of the president on his -- against his attorney general, with whom he has a terrible relationship, because he has marginalized him.
I mean, the facts here are stunning. Some of these issues are already being investigated. Somebody who is actually responsible for the rule of law, separate from the political wins has to step up.
CUOMO: Chris, why is this such a big deal in terms of seeing the president's motivated animus when you've got all these lawmakers who feel the same way, starting nominally with Goodlatte, right? He's the one who sent two different letters about this, I think in July and then in September.
CUOMO: Also they're not saying they're going to appoint a special counsel. They're saying we're investigating what you put in the letter.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
CUOMO: They're looking at -- the prosecutors are looking at it. If anything needs to be investigated, that isn't being investigated already. We'll give it to the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, and they can make a determination that the special counsel is needed.
CILLIZZA: That's right. Let me -- to your first point, I -- Congress is already looking into this. The Republican Congress last month lost -- launched investigations into the Uranium One deal and into the Clinton e-mail handled by the Justice Department, which is Congress's purview. It's why you want to control Congress. Because you get to look into what you want to look into.
I think the Justice Department, potentially at least, looking into a special counsel is a different thing. I was looking down at my phone because on November 3 -- I mentioned this last hour. On November 3, you -- we -- you guys put up that tweet that Donald Trump put.
CILLIZZA: He also said this. I want to make sure I get it right. "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 am not supposed to be involved with the FBI." This is in a radio interview, the context of which was why is the Justice Department not looking into this stuff?
So today is the 14th. So that's two -- less than two weeks later--
CILLIZZA: -- we get news that the Justice Department is at least considering it. You're right, Chris, they haven't done it. But 11 days between saying, "Man, I wish I could control the Justice Department and they could look into this" to the Justice Department saying, "Well, we're going to -- we're thinking about looking into this."
CAMEROTA: There's a lot of raised eyebrows you're giving us today, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: I mean--
CAMEROTA: Say no more. The eyebrows speak for themselves.
Gentlemen, David Gregory, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.
Roy Moore facing new accusations. What does this mean for the race? Alabama secretary of state joins us live, next.
CUOMO: The more time, the more accusers, the more Roy Moore doesn't have compelling responses to more Republicans we see, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling the candidate to step down.
McConnell now urging the nominee to withdraw from the race because of these allegations of sexual misconduct and even assault in at least one case. CNN's Jason Carroll in Gadsden, Alabama, with more.
[07:20:03] We've seen allegations like this come up in the past, in our last election, and they wound up not mattering. What's it like on the ground down there?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all going to come down to the voters here in the state of Alabama. That with this most recent accuser, Chris, she says over the years she told her sister, she told her mother, she told her husband about Roy Moore allegedly sexually assaulting her. Roy Moore says it's all untrue, and he has no intention of stepping down.
CARROLL (voice-over): Beverly Young Nelson says Roy Moore attacked her when she was a 16-year-old high school student and he was in his 30s after offering her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked 40 years ago.
BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me and putting his hands on my breasts. I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop. But instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me.
CARROLL: Nelson says she began to cry and Moore eventually relented.
NELSON: He said, "You're just a child." And he said, "I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you."
CARROLL: The embattled Republican Alabama Senate candidate denying Nelson's account.
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: This is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman. I don't know anything about her.
CARROLL: But this message in Nelson's high school yearbook suggests the pair did know each other. It reads, "To a sweeter, more beautiful girl, I could not say merry Christmas. Love Roy Moore, D.A."
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think he should step aside.
CARROLL: The backlash on Capitol Hill continues to grow. A number of Republican senators calling on Moore to leave the race outright, removing a key caveat from earlier statements, encouraging him to drop out only if the allegations are true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe these allegations to be true?
MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.
CARROLL: Senator Cory Gardner, who chairs the committee that works to elect Republicans to the Senate going further, saying if Moore refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him.
Others voicing support for a possible write-in candidate as the only five senators who backed Moore's campaign officially withdraw their endorsements. Still many voters back in his home state of Alabama rallying around the controversial former judge.
CAROLYN OWENS, ALABAMA PARISHIONER: We make very bad decisions when we're young.
SHALON HARDWICKS, ALABAMA VOTER: Are we going to take one bad action and discount the good that he's doing now?
CARROLL: Others in his hometown telling CNN that the rumors about Moore's behavior are well-known.
JOAN SLEDGE, GADSDEN RESIDENT: What we would hear was that he would hang out at the mall to meet -- meet young teenagers.
KATHY SISSON, FRIEND OF ACCUSER'S MOTHER: It was common knowledge. You just steered away from him.
CARROLL: An editorial in Alabama's largest paper, "The Birmingham News," called Moore grossly unfit, saying he should step down. Moore again saying he's not going anywhere. Part of his defense is that he says that these accusers are being paid to come forward. I asked Leigh Corfman's family about that, again Corfman says that she was sexually assaulted by Moore when she was 14 years old. A Corman family member telling me, quote, "No money, endorsement or other inducement has been paid, offered, or promised and none is expected" -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Jason, thank you for all of that background. Joining us now is Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Mr. Merrill, thank you so much for being here.
JOHN MERRILL, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, Alisyn. Thank you for having me as your guest.
CAMEROTA: So last week, you said last week you know Judge Moore to be a man of character and integrity and that it was quite possible that these women were making it up. Do you stand by those statements?
MERRILL: Well, I didn't say that it was possible that they were making it up. I never said that. What I said was I thought it was very unusual. I thought it was very odd and, quite interesting that these claims had come to light at this particular time, especially during the U.S. Senate campaign.
CAMEROTA: OK. Because I have an interview that you did on Thursday, and you're quoted as saying people make things up all the time.
MERRILL: Oh, they do.
CAMEROTA: Do I think it's possible -- do I think it's possible they made this up?
MERRILL: Yes, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: I do.
MERRILL: Well, of course, it's possible. Anything is possible. And that's one of the things we see in this political climate today.
CAMEROTA: Yes, so do you think they're making it up? I'm just asking you today.
MERRILL: Well, I didn't do the investigation. So I have absolutely no idea what level of validity there is.
CAMEROTA: But you've read their accounts, I'm sure. You've read their accounts in "The Washington Post," and you saw this woman come forward, the fifth accuser yesterday. And you could see her with your own eyes. Do you think that these women are making it up?
[07:25:09] MERRILL: Well, I don't know whether or not they're making it up or not. Because I don't know their intention. And I don't know whether or not there are other things that have happened to them that have caused them to come forward at this time.
CAMEROTA: So you do think it's possible that they're making it up?
MERRILL: Well, again, I think anything is possible. I think this is a very, very difficult time for our state. I think it's a very difficult time for our people.
I do know that Judge Moore has got a lot of confidence from a lot of people in the state. One of the things that's very interesting, because of what I've introduced before -- I know you know this, Alisyn, from the accounts that you've read of the interviews that I've done -- is that Judge Moore has been on the ballot eight times, different elections, primaries, run-off, general elections. He's been an office holder for more than three decades in our state.
And not one time has any of this information ever been introduced publicly until some 30 days prior to the biggest election in his career.
CAMEROTA: So do you--
MERRILL: I just find that odd and very interesting. That's all that I had said before, and that's what I continue to say.
CAMEROTA: You're not alone in questioning the timing. We've heard other folks say that, as well.
MERRILL: Yes, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: Given what you know today, do you plan to vote for Roy Moore?
MERRILL: Well, if the allegations are proven to be true, I don't think that there's any way that I or any other Alabamian would continue to support Judge Moore because of the way that these allegations have been produced. There's still questions--
CAMEROTA: But how would those allegations, given that they're so many decades old, how would they ever, before election day, be proven true to your mind?
MERRILL: Well, one of the things that I would ask you is if they are true, then why would someone have waited this long to have brought this information out at this particular time?
CAMEROTA: Well, I'm happy to answer that.
MERRILL: What was it, 30 days before. And I understand that there are a number of situations that have involved people throughout our nation, especially recently with all the information that's been introduced from Hollywood--
MERRILL: -- where people were reluctant to come forth at this particular time.
CAMEROTA: Right. So why is it different? Why are you--
MERRILL: I think it's odd it's being done at this particular time.
CAMEROTA: Secretary Merrill, I want to get you on the record about this. I think you have just answered your own question. So you recognized that all the flood gates have opened on Hollywood, and Silicon Valley, and the other places that we've seen women come forward after women come forward after a period of time with traumatic stories.
Why do you think it would be different for these five women to come forward now? Why are you holding them to a different standard than, say, Harvey Weinstein's accusers?
MERRILL: I'm not -- I'm not holding them to a different standard. What I'm saying is that when someone has been on the ballot eight different elections over three decades, and these individuals have had this information all of that time. And they're just now bringing it forward. It just seems very odd and very interesting to me. I have not said that they are bringing forth false charges, because I don't know whether they are or not.
What I do know is this is a very difficult, very tenuous time for the state of Alabama and for our people.
CAMEROTA: What happens if Roy Moore does step down now now? I mean, the deadline has passed, the October deadline has passed to take his name off the ballot. So--
MERRILL: Yes, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: -- what happens if he doesn't want to move forward?
MERRILL: Well, if Judge Moore disqualifies himself as a candidate and he does that formally by submitting a statement to our office that would indicate that he no longer wants to continue as a candidate and he formally withdraws, and he still receives the most votes, then at that point our election would be declared null and void.
Likewise, if the state party decides to disassociate themselves from Judge Moore and his candidacy, and Judge Moore gets the most votes, then the election would be null and void.
The only way that a write-in candidate or the only way that Doug Jones would be elected to the U.S. Senate would be if one of those individuals, either a write-in candidate or Doug Jones, received the most votes in the race.
We do not have a majority requirement in our general election. We only have a plurality requirement. So if they receive the most votes, they would win. Otherwise, if Judge Moore received the most votes and he had disqualified himself formally or the state party had disqualified him, the election would be null and void, and Governor Ivey would have to call another special election.
CAMEROTA: OK, so last question. As of today--
MERRILL: Yes, ma'am.
CAMEROTA: -- given the evidence you've heard -- given the evidence that you've hard, you would still vote for Roy Moore?
MERRILL: As of today, with the information that's been introduced to me and if these charges are not proven to be true, then I would continue to support and vote for Judge Moore.
CAMEROTA: Secretary John Merrill, thank you very much for explaining all of that to us.
MERRILL: Yes, ma'am.
CUOMO: Significant development in the Russian investigation. Donald Trump Jr. releasing, on his own accord, private exchanges he had with WikiLeaks. What do they show? Do they show an attempt by the campaign, in the form of Donald Junior, to coordinate efforts with a known hostile state actor? We have a man at the middle of it all. Cory Lewandowski next.