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Mueller Subpoenas Trump Campaign; Judiciary Committee Requests Documents; Ex-Treasury Secretary on Tax Plan; Iraqi Town Liberated. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:45] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants more Russia related documents from the Trump campaign and has issued a subpoena to get them. Sources telling CNN, investigators are looking for things they're not seeing in the documents they already have.

All of this coming as senators zero in on Trump's son-in-law. They say Jared Kushner got e-mails about WikiLeaks and about a Russian backdoor overture and a dinner invite and that he failed to turn those over to the Judiciary Committee.

Well, now lawmakers want those documents and more.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following these investigations.

So, let's start first with Mueller's subpoena. What exactly do investigators want at this point from the campaign team?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Erica, so this subpoena we're told -- or subpoenas were issued back in October, just last month, and it went to more than a dozen people associated, some top officials at the Trump campaign. And it appears that they're asking for more documents, more e-mails, information regarding perhaps the Russia investigation, which, as you've mentioned, Bob Mueller, the special counsel, has been look into.

We don't know exactly what's being asked for, what the special counsel has requested. But people close to the campaign have said that they have been cooperating with the investigation. So it's not really clear why a subpoena -- what happened that now the special counsel has decided to issue subpoenas. It's a pretty aggressive step, you know. Some people close to the campaign, close to the president said that this was a book-keeping matter. It's really not clear. And it's also not something normally done in a bookkeeping matter to send subpoenas. So we just don't know enough, but it is a significant -- perhaps somewhat of an aggressive step by the special counsel.

HILL: And so as we continue to follow that, there are also these missing Kushner documents that the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to see. Walk us through that. PROKUPECZ: Yes. So this was a letter that was sent by the top -- you

know, the leaders of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Grassley and the Democrat, Senator Feinstein. The two leaders are asking for more information. They're conducting their own investigation. And they say Jared Kushner is withholding documents they know exist.

The letter they sent to Jared Kushner's lawyer is pretty specific in what they're seeking. And there's some of want they want. It was a forward e-mail that Kushner received about Russian backdoor overtures and a dinner invite, they say. And, as we know, Kushner has previously admitted that there was talk with the Russian ambassador during the transition about setting up a line of communications with Moscow through a Russian embassy in the U.S., which some have said was a backdoor channel.

Now, Kushner has claimed it was to communicate about -- with Russia about Syria. The senators say that Kushner has been cooperating with them, but they still want more details about his security clearance forms, phone records and his contacts, his foreign contacts, and also information regarding the former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn.

HILL: Shimon Prokupecz with the latest for us there. Thank you.

With us now to dig a little deeper, CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, who also served as a special assistant to Robert Mueller in the Department of Justice.

Let's start off first here with these subpoenas, as we were just learning about from Shimon. It's not clear exactly what they're after. People close to the White House, as he just reported, saying it's more about bookkeeping, but that's not typically how this is done. What do you really see really playing out here?

[09:35:11] MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So what we don't know is, have there been previous subpoenas that this current round of subpoenas is just additive of. So, for example, if in an early subpoena you said, give me all information about your contacts with Russia, and now you realize that your subpoena should have said, give me all contacts with Russia, agents of Russia, or those affiliated with Russia, then you might send a secondary subpoena to clean that up, to make sure that the document production is complete.

If this was not done by prior subpoena, if it was just an informal request for documentation, they reviewed that documentation, realized that somehow the information was incomplete, that they decide now they're going to issue a subpoena to make sure that there is no doubt about the obligations of these parties to return the information that they seek. So we just have to figure out what's going on.

HILL: So you're saying it could be as simple as a cleanup (INAUDIBLE).

ZELDIN: It could be as simple as a cleanup, or it could be a belief by the prosecutors that the voluntary disclosures were insufficient and now they're going to make it formal with a subpoena.

HILL: And so that is the question mark there.

ZELDIN: Right.

HILL: Meantime, in terms of information, we know senators, of course, are now looking for crucial information. They're talking about e-mail from WikiLeaks. These Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite. How problematic is it that the committee knew about these e-mails but they were left out of the documents that Jared Kushner turned over?

ZELDIN: So, again, it depends on what was asked of Kushner. If they said to Kushner, give us all information about your contacts with Russians, one might reasonably conclude as a lawyer that that does not include communications with WikiLeaks. And so that it was left out because it wasn't responsible to the exact black letter of the request. Others might say, well, that's being cute by one half and you should know that WikiLeaks is believed to be associated with Russia and that you should have done it in the first instance. So I'm not going to attribute to Kushner and his legal team bad purpose here. So we'll have to just see what it was that was asked for, what was delivered, and now what supplemental material they are delivering.

I believe that Kushner has been endeavoring to cooperate with this committee, and so I can't really get my arms around the notion that this is a purposeful withholding of information.

HILL: Let me ask you really quick. Throughout this investigation the president has really tried to distance himself. You know, Papadopoulos was a coffee boy. Carter Page wasn't really that involved. But you can't distance yourself all that much from your son-in-law as this seems to be closing in on the White House. What do you see the president doing?

ZELDIN: Well, I think that the -- the more -- the president has got more jeopardy potentially is not the son-in-law but the son. I think Don Junior, in his communications with WikiLeaks, which were direct communications. Remember, Kushner it seems is receiving e-mails that are forwarded to him, probably by Don Junior. And Don Junior is the one who is communicating with WikiLeaks starting in September 16, 2016, all the way up to July 2017, where it looks as if they are cooperating with one another about the distribution of material that has been stolen, given to WikiLeaks, and now being distributed by WikiLeaks and being facilitated in that distribution by Don Junior in his tweets.

And that, I think is way more problematic for the president and his family than the Kushner forwarding of e-mails and perhaps clerically not getting that to the committee as they hoped.

HILL: Michael Zeldin, appreciate your insight. Thank you.

ZELDIN: You're welcome.

HILL: The Trump administration says the tax overhaul will give middle class Americans a salary increase. Here's what former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers calls that claim.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Ludicrous. Absurd. Not going to happen.



[09:43:28] HILL: Republicans call their tax plan a once in a generation opportunity. They say it will pay for itself and spur on the stock market. But former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers calls it something eels, a serious policy error.

CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel spoke to Summers and joins us now with more on that.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's the polite thing he said. He also said it's irresponsible, ludicrous, absurd.

But we started talking by asking him about the Republican plan to repeal the Obamacare mandate.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Jamie, this is madness. It is madness to spend $300 billion taking health insurance away from more than 10 million Americans in order to finance tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans. What values are served by doing that? Moreover, who's going to pay for the health care when the people show up in emergency rooms?

GANGEL: The administration says this tax plan will give middle class Americans a tax break. They say the corporate tax rate will stir investment. You say about this plan?

SUMMERS: I think this plan will bloat our deficit, favor the most affluent, and mortgage our future.

GANGEL: From your --

SUMMERS: It's a serious -- it's a serious policy error.

GANGEL: The Trump administration is still saying it could give middle Americans a salary increase of $4,000 to $9,000.

[09:45:01] SUMMERS: It's a nonsense claim. Yes, there may be some stimulants to investments and, yes, that may have some impact on wages, but no serious expert who looks at the actual plans under discussion has or will support the $4,000 to $9,000 claim.

GANGEL: In a word, you think the claim is?

SUMMERS: Ludicrous. Absurd. Not going to happen.

GANGEL: Bottom line, is there anything good about this tax plan? SUMMERS: There are some very limited efforts to contain some abuse

involving tax havens, which, if substantially extended and expanded, could be quite valuable. There's the idea of extending the child credit. That is a quite valuable idea. But in its totality, I think this plan is a serious error.

GANGEL: You have taken on Treasury Secretary Mnuchin recently. You've said the administration's claims about the tax plan were, quote, dishonest, incompetent and absurd. Did you go too far? Has it gotten too personal?

SUMMERS: No. No. I said that with respect to his specific claim that the tax plan would pay for itself. When he made the claim, he referenced a published Treasury study. There is no published Treasury study. There is no serious economist, nor any reading of the experience to support his claim that the tax bill will pay for itself.

I've been doing this for a lot of years and I've never said anything like that about any public official before. But when claims become unmoored from any possible reality, I think it's important to call that out. The specific claim that the Treasury secretary has made repeatedly, that the tax bill will pay for itself by spurring economic growth, I respect the office enormously, so it pains me to say it, is nonsense.

GANGEL: It's nonsense?

SUMMERS: Nonsense.

GANGEL: Why do you think he's saying it?

SUMMERS: You'll have to ask him why he's saying it. I imagine that it is not easy to have Donald Trump as a boss. I have been very surprised --

GANGEL: You -- you --

SUMMERS: And disturbed that there have not been principled resignations from the Trump administration. Certainly I would have resigned from any administration of which I was a part that had gone anything like this far in terms of fake facts on the economic side, or in terms of embracing racists in its political rhetoric. And I am surprised and disappointed. I don't know how some of these people face their children.

GANGEL: You would have resigned?

SUMMERS: I would have resigned, absolutely.

GANGEL: As a professor, overall grade you'd give him?

SUMMERS: Anybody at the end of their first year gets an incomplete.


GANGEL: Generous, considering everything else he said. HILL: Everything else we heard from him.

So he said he would have resigned and he's surprised more haven't. Who does he think should resign?

GANGEL: So he wouldn't say names. And he said not the national security people. He thinks they should have stayed in. It's an important job.

He talked about the economic realm. I think he's thinking about Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, the two men who were standing at Trump Tower next to Donald Trump after Charlottesville.

HILL: It was a great interview. Really appreciate it, Jamie.

GANGEL: Thank you.

HILL: Great to see you.

A major victory in the fight against ISIS. The latest in the war on terror is just ahead.


[09:53:32] HILL: This morning, a major victory in the fight against ISIS. Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition forces, recapturing the town of Rawah. It's the last known town in Iraq to be held by ISIS militants. So right now celebrations in the streets as the army raises a national flag around the city.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Beirut with more for us now.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica, Rawah itself is a rather insignificant town in normal times and population is less than 20,000. But as you mentioned, this is the last major population center in Iraq to be retaken from ISIS.

Now, the town was taken on the 21st of June, 2014, during what was ISIS' blitz (INAUDIBLE) across Iraq when they took Mosul and other Iraqi cities. At one point, ISIS was ruling over more than 10 million people in Iraq and Syria. But their fortunes have changed radically. And now they basically control small villages and great sways of desert, essentially. They rule over camels, sheep, goats, and lizards out there.

This is a major reversal of their fortunes. And we did hear, for instance, from Brett McKirk (ph), the special U.S. envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS, saying that the days of ISIS' phony caliphate are coming to an end.

[09:54:57] Now, there are still Iraqi forces and Syrian forces fighting ISIS in that border area between the two countries, but it does seem that their days are numbered. However, it is worth pointing out that ISIS still controls territory in parts of North Africa, the Egyptian Sinai. They do seem to be expanding their area of influence in Afghanistan. And as we've seen, they're also active in parts of the Philippines. So they're down definitely in Iraq and Syria, but they're not out.


HILL: An important clarification.

Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thank you.

Capitol Hill rocked by allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. The president going after Democratic Senator Al Franken, but keeping his distance from Roy Moore.


[10:00:04] HILL: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill, in for John and Poppy this morning.