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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Trump Tax Returns Placed in Safe; Terror Attack in Egypt Kills Hundreds; Has Flynn Flipped on Trump?; Officials: Tillerson Snubbing Ivanka Trump's India Trip. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:12]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: If Michael Flynn's lawyers won't talk to Trump's lawyers then who are they talking to?

THE LEAD starts right now.

As President Trump tees off with Tiger, breaking news in the Russia probe. Lawyers for his former national security adviser all of a sudden stop sharing info with the White House, which could be a sign that Michael Flynn could be cutting a deal.

Mosque massacre. The hunt is on right now for terrorists who killed hundreds of people in Egypt. The president uses the tragedy to push his wall and his travel ban.

Plus, it's about the polar opposite of transparency. President Trump's tax returns about to be locked down in an IRS safe. What could it be that they don't want you to see?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with the politics lead.

President Trump spending the day after Thanksgiving on the phone with foreign leaders and on the golf course with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. But the president's holiday weekend also includes new developments in the Russia investigation. Michael Flynn's lawyers say they are not sharing information with the president's lawyers anymore.

A source tells CNN that could mean the fired national security adviser may be cooperating with the special counsel. We will have more on that in a moment.

But let's start with CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's in West Palm Beach, Florida, with the president.

Jeff, what are you learning about the president's calls today with foreign leaders?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we do know that President Trump just a short time ago was set to speak with Egyptian President El-Sisi to condemn that deadly terror attack in Egypt that claimed more than 230 lives.

Earlier today, the president also spoke with Turkish President Erdogan to talk about Syria. Now, all of these together in addition to the call with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week makes the White House's case that this vacation is a working one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): On a sun-splashed day in Florida, President Trump hitting the links with two of the biggest names in golf, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.

The White House rarely confirms when the president is golfing, but he made the announcement himself on Twitter, saying he would be "heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf quickly."

He departed after more than four hours at the course. His visit marking the 80th day he's spent at one of his golf properties since taking office and his 100th day at a Trump-branded property. Many Americans and more than a few presidents play golf. It's only notable because of what Mr. Trump repeatedly said before winning the presidency.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I win, I may never see my -- I may never see these pieces again because I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf, believe me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: The president also talking by phone today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the conflict in Syria. The Turkish foreign minister said Mr. Trump pledged to stop arming a Kurdish militia, the YPG, that the government considers a terrorist organization.

The president also condemning the attack today in Egypt killing more than 230 people and wounding more than 100 others in the deadliest terror strike on Egyptian soil. He called the president of Egypt to discuss the attack, which he also seized upon to push his immigration agenda, tweeting: "We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before and we will. Need the wall, need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt."

The president is also turning his attention to the tax plan up for a vote next week in the Senate. He offered a preview during a Thanksgiving Day call from Mar-a-Lago with American service members around the world.

TRUMP: Now we're working on tax cuts. Big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we will get that and then you're going to really see things happen.

ZELENY: The president is set to meet with congressional leaders at the White House and attend a weekly lunch of Senate Republicans on Tuesday. The Senate Republicans still don't have the votes to pass the sweeping

tax overhaul amid the concerns of the bill's effects on the deficit.

NARRATOR: Congress is talking about tax cuts that will add trillions to our national debt and hurt our economy.

ZELENY: Senator Ron Johnson has announced his opposition, with Senator Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski all voicing concerns. Senator Rand Paul will likely support the plan with Senator John McCain as a wild card.

As America marked Black Friday, the president's campaign joined in an the annual day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush with Trump merchandise marked down 30 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, Jim, the president's response to the Egyptian terror attack was particularly interesting because he did use it to promote his own immigration ban and building the wall, but particularly let's take another look at that.

The president talked about Egypt. Egypt is not one of the eight countries, as you know, that was included in the third version of the Trump travel ban. It simply wasn't included.

[16:05:01]

And we also don't know who was responsible for that deadly terror attack in Egypt. But, nevertheless, Jim, the president still using that to promote his own agenda in that tweet.

SCIUTTO: No question that travel ban still working its way through the courts. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Now to the Russia investigation and a new development into the investigation into Michael Flynn. What would make his lawyers inform other defense teams, including those working for the president, that they will no longer share information? Why now?

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

Shimon, I know some of this is legal tea leaf reading, but why if they were stopping sharing information would that be a sign that Flynn might be flipping?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of reasons here why that is what could be happening here, actually, Jim.

And, you know, Flynn's lawyer perhaps believes, you know, this is just no longer in his interests to cooperate here. Now, based on conversations with our sources, there seem to be ongoing talks between Flynn's camp and special counsel Bob Mueller.

There are several reasons for this, for the nature of these talks. They could be negotiating a plea deal where Michael Flynn agrees to plead guilty to what the government says he did wrong and as a result he wants to distance himself from the president's team, so that he doesn't do anything to jeopardize the plea deal.

Now, another possibility, and this is the more significant explanation for this, is that Flynn is trying to work out an agreement to cooperate with Mueller's investigators. In either case, Flynn would want to cut off information sharing with the president's team, Jim.

SCIUTTO: You look at it now, we saw Michael Flynn Jr. taking -- back on Twitter after a bit of a respite, claiming -- telling everybody to calm down, not to overreact. You had Donald Trump Jr. venting about the Russia investigation as well.

But the fact is, you have the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, you have the deputy chairman in Rick Gates and now you have his national security adviser at least seemingly more in the crosshairs. That's not a good series of developments for the White House.

PROKUPECZ: No, absolutely not. None of these are good developments from Manafort to some focus on Don -- Flynn Jr.

We know that there is some focus on him because of the meeting that occurred during the campaign with a Russian lawyer who promised some dirt, eventually wound up promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. That is seemingly part of the investigation now.

And all of this, really, you know, there may be some signals that perhaps this is coming to an end, but certainly the people we have been talking to, that doesn't appear to be the case, and it just continues to be drip, drip, drip and more developments that in the end really are not helpful to the White House.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Perhaps the prosecutor or the special counsel trying to put pressure on one so that they can get that one to provide more evidence for the next one and so on.

Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much, as always.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for taking the time today.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet. Yes, you too. Yes.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I'm not going to try to treat you as a lawyer here, but you have been following the details of the investigation closely. What do you make of this development that Michael Flynn Jr. no longer sharing -- or his lawyers, rather, not sharing information with the president's legal team? Is that an important development in this investigation?

KINZINGER: Yes, I don't really know what to make from it. What I have said from the very beginning is America needs answers. We

just need everything out there. We need to figure it out. That process means that the special counsel has to go through their work and this is one step, and I think, you know, even a number of steps still to happen.

We want to take our time, make sure we get this right because this is a pretty big deal. So, I don't know what to make of it. It may be minor, it may be big. It's hard for me to tell kind of this day-by- day play.

I'm concerned about the leaks coming out of the special counsel. That doesn't mean this information isn't relevant, but at the same time I think Americans need to sit back and say and trust that the special counsel is getting the information he needs and that we're going to find out. It may just not be as quick as everybody wants. We all want to know the answers to everything tomorrow. This is a long process.

SCIUTTO: We have seen the political divisions boil up inside the committees that are investigating this, separate from the special counsel, the House Intel Committee, The Senate Intel Committee perhaps a bit less so, but still divisions there.

Are you concerned about that, about politics getting in the way of the congressional committees completing their investigations?

KINZINGER: Yes, I'm concerned about politics getting in the way of Thanksgiving dinner and everything in this country.

And, you know, literally, the Intel Committees, I don't serve on it. I have great respect for the people that do. Up until recently, a very bipartisan committee. This has become very partisan. And there is probably plenty to go on both sides. I don't want to cast blame specifically anywhere.

But that's the same with the whole country. I think politics to some people has become their religion and so, like everything, is put through that filter. So every piece of information we get is determined based on whether we consider ourselves a Republican or a Democrat and not based on what necessarily is true or untrue.

And that worries me for the future of this country long term, because, look, there's got to be -- you can look at things through different opinion lenses, of course. We come from different political backgrounds and different backgrounds all over, but I think at the end of the day we have to consider ourselves Americans before we consider ourselves Republicans, Democrats, conservative, liberals, anything else.

[16:10:07]

SCIUTTO: Yes, preaching to the choir on that.

Congressman Kinzinger, stick with us. Lots more to talk about, including on President Trump's reaction to that deadly mosque attack in Egypt.

We will be right back after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: We're back with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, also fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congressman Kinzinger, I want to turn to the war on terror.

In response to attack today in Egypt, President Trump tweeted the following -- quote -- "We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before. And we will need the wall, need the ban."

Egypt, of course, a key U.S. ally, but Egypt not on the current list of President Trump's travel ban for Muslim-majority countries.

Do you see the -- an attack like this in Egypt as justification for the wall or the travel ban? Are they connected?

[16:15:00] KINZINGER: You know, I think the president, as I've always said, has the right to do a travel ban as the chief executive. I think this is part of his commander-in-chief thing. I think there's a difference between Egypt and some of the other countries on the travel ban. If you remember, the president pulled Iraq off because Egypt actually has mechanisms to vet people.

And Egypt is a real issue. Egypt is a beautiful country. I was just there probably a year ago now, there are issues in the Sinai, and that's where a lot of this ISIS and terrorist issues are. That's where today's attack is. Egypt itself is an amazing, beautiful country and everybody should go visit it.

So, in terms of whether or not, you know, the president, the wall and everything else is justified, I support the president in border security, whether it's a wall or whether it's a, you know, virtual wall, technical law. I think it's important to protect ourselves.

At the same time, we can't disengage from the world. It's important to understand that we have a unique position in the world and the only way to defeat terrorism is not through missiles and bombs alone. That's an important part of fighting --

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Listen --

KINZINGER: -- the current batch of terrorists. But it's an understanding that the 7 and 8-year-olds today are the ones that could be the terrorists tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: I hear you on that larger point, but you're well aware that every time there is a terror attack anywhere, even in the U.K., right, a country that's certainly not on the list, and the travel ban wouldn't protect the U.S., the president will glom on to whatever the attack is and say, here you go, this is why we need to ban from these seven or eight countries, I've now made the list, or it's a reason you need a wall on the southern border.

Why is that a relevant argument to that other debate?

KINZINGER: Yes, I don't necessarily think it is. There is not a lot of defending of the president's Twitter. I do. I think it's a good tool, but I think a lot of times he doesn't use it in the way that I would use Twitter.

I think it's important in a time where you have a terrorist attack in Egypt or a terrorist attack in England or anywhere to actually be bigger and to say, you know, we will stand with our ally. We will defeat this cancer where it exists. We will work together. And I think maybe at a different time push the issue of travel ban and wall, because what you're doing is injecting domestic politics.

And we know this is a very acidic time in domestic politics. You're injecting domestic politics into an issue, frankly, where Americans should be unified, which is defeating terror.

SCIUTTO: No question. Another point I want to get to you, particularly as a veteran, President Trump addressed veterans yesterday. I want to get your reaction to a particular comment he made about the fight in Afghanistan. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We opened it up. We said, go ahead, we're going to fight to win. We're not fighting anymore to just walk around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: You're a vet yourself of the war in Afghanistan, did you during your time there believe you were fighting to just walk around?

KINZINGER: I don't think we're ever fighting to walk around, but I do think under the prior administration, where were hamstrung in Afghanistan. There's no doubt when President Obama announced -- and I'm not a guy that likes to look back and blame, but I think it's important to talk about -- when he announced a surge and announced a withdrawal date, he not only emboldened the enemy because they could outlast us, he actually took these alliances we were building in Afghanistan and they were shattered.

So, I think it is essential for the president to send the message that we're in Afghanistan to win this because that breaks the morale of the enemy. And, look, there is never going to be a complete eradication of the Taliban. It's going to take driving to the table for a negotiated solution. Every war ends in a negotiation, and I think sending the message that we're committed to win is how we get a negotiated solution on our terms.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Kinzinger, thanks very much and happy Thanksgiving.

KINZINGER: You, too. Any time. SCIUTTO: Is the State Department snubbing Ivanka Trump? Why there

are new questions about a major global event the president's daughter will be attending. That's after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:52] SCIUTTO: We're back now with the politics lead.

Is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson snubbing the president's daughter Ivanka Trump? She is scheduled to attend the global entrepreneurship summit next week in India, but despite her high profile, no high- ranking official from the State Department will travel with her.

I want to bring in CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

Typically, when the U.S. has attended these in the past, they've sent high-ranking delegations. Why isn't Ivanka Trump getting the same treatment?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, it's a big deal generally. It is a large event. But we're hearing from several sources within the State Department, as well as a source close to the White House that Rex Tillerson and his inner circle don't want to send senior level people, even though this is put on by the State Department.

And Ivanka Trump, who is, of course, the first daughter and senior White House adviser, she was invited to attend by India's prime minister. But the reason these sources are giving is that they don't want to bolster this being her big event, that she's headlining this.

This is a quote from a senior State Department official: They, meaning Tillerson and his staff won't send someone senior because they don't want to bolster Ivanka. It's another rift between the White House and State when Rex Tillerson doesn't need any more problems with the president.

And a from a close source to the White House, Rex doesn't like the fact he's supposed to be our nation's top diplomat and Jared and now Ivanka have stepped all over Rex Tillerson for a long time. So, now, he's not sending senior people from the State Department to support the issue. He's not supporting Ivanka Trump.

So, several people see this as a snub. In the past when you look at this event, President Obama attended more than once, Secretary Kerry did more than once. Last year, there was a huge delegation with an undersecretary and assistant secretaries, but you can say, OK, this is an Obama-era event, it was their creation, this is at a time when the State Department is trying to slash its budget dramatically and there's no permanent assistant secretary for the region in place.

But the response that we're getting back from these sources is, well, if you want to have a small delegation, then send somebody who is high-ranking and cut back in other ways. And the State Department has just now gone on the record saying they're committed to supporting women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurship and this summit is a prime opportunity to showcase that.

[16:25:07] SCIUTTO: But it doesn't help that Tillerson's relationship with the White House has bubbled up in public.

Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much.

ISIS crushed in Syria but regrouping and slaughtering elsewhere. As President Trump tells troops, we are winning like never before. We look at how the terror group may be morphing into a new kind of threat. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: We're back now with breaking news in the world lead.

What is now believed to be the deadliest terror attack in Egypt ever, state media says that 235 people have been killed, more than 100 injured in an attack on a mosque in the North Sinai region, involving at least two explosions and multiple gunmen.