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Kushner Met with Special Counsel about Michael Flynn; Trump Under Fire for Retweeting Anti-Muslim Videos. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired November 30, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared Kushner has met with Robert Mueller's team.
[05:59:13] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The special counsel's team really wanted to talk about Michael Flynn.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Jared Kushner is a crucial witness in virtually every part of Mueller's investigation.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's tweet sparking an international incident.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Our allies in England are mad as hell.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a president who's paying almost no attention to the responsibilities as an international leader.
BRIAN STELTER, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Three women telling "Variety" magazine they were harassed by Lauer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of fear among women at NBC. They weren't sure how to react if he pursued them.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they are going to feel a rolling impact from this.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, November 30, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here is your starting line.
Several big developments in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigators are apparently encroaching on President Trump's inner circle now. And they're looking into actions taken by senior officials at the White House. CNN first to report that senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared
Kushner met with Mueller's team to answer questions specifically about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Now, a world leader denouncing President Trump for retweeting three anti-Muslim videos posted by an ultra-nationalist fringe group. The White House defending the president's tweeting despite a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric. The president's recent behavior is raising questions about his fitness for office.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Today the Senate will begin debating the GOP's tax bill with Republicans still divided over the details. Can they secure enough votes?
And stunning new details about Matt Lauer. New accusations of sexual misconduct. What did NBC executives know and will with ever hear from Matt Lauer?
We have a lot to cover. So let's begin with CNN's Evan Perez. He's live in Washington with our top story. What have you learned, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.
Jared Kushner sat for an interview earlier this month with investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office. Now, this is part of the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. And we're told by sources that the questions Kushner answered from Mueller's team were largely focused on the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who's under investigation by the special counsel.
Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, tells us, quote, "Mr. Kushner voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so." The Kushner interview lasted less than 90 minutes, we're told. According to one person familiar with the meeting, investigators appeared to be trying to see if Kushner had any information that exonerates Michael Flynn.
Kushner worked closely with Flynn during the transition, of course, in the early days of the administration. And you'll remember that Flynn's lawyers recently ended an information-sharing deal with the president's lawyers in a sign that Flynn is discussing a plea agreement with the special counsel.
And we got another indication that those talks may be heating up as Mueller's team has postponed an anticipated grand jury testimony that's part of the Flynn investigation. We're told that prosecutors had asked a public relations consultant who worked with Flynn to provide testimony to the grand jury. They were given a December date to provide testimony, but prosecutors have now delayed that.
Meanwhile, over in Congress, Donald Trump Jr. is agreed -- has agreed to come back to provide another interview to the House Intelligence Committee. So we have lots of moving pieces in the multiple Russia investigation -- Chris and Alisyn. CUOMO: Evan, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting and
bringing this up to speed. Let's get our experts in here: CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Jeffrey, when we see these developments, the idea of the first notion, it seems that the investigators are moving towards the inner circle. One, is that how investigations work? Do you work outside in, generally? And what do you see in the latest round of reporting about the talks.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, yes. That's generally how investigators work in any sort of investigation in any organization. Whether it's an insider trading ring or an organized crime family. You start with the more peripheral figures, see what you can get out of them and then -- and then start to ask questions towards the center of the group.
As for what's happening right now, certainly the most important substantive development has been the fact that Michael Flynn's lawyers are no longer cooperating, participating with a joint defense agreement with the Trump lawyers and other lawyers. That certainly suggests that Flynn is in the process of negotiating with the Mueller office. Whether that ends in a guilty plea or it doesn't, you know, I don't pretend to know at this point.
But certainly, that and this interview that Evan was talking about, which suggests -- remember, Jared Kushner has information relevant to every part of Mueller's investigation, whether it's contacts with Russia, whether it's obstruction of justice, the firing of James Comey. Kushner is everywhere. But he's asking about Michael Flynn, which again suggests that Flynn is at the center of what's going on now.
BLITZER: Phil, what do you see in these new threads about Jared Kushner now speaking to special counsel?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The timing to me is significant. As we were just talking about, the fact that the information focused on Michael Flynn and not on everything that Jared Kushner tells -- knows about, for example, the Comey firing, suggests to me that the reporting we've seen that there might be a deal between the special counsel and Flynn is maybe accurate.
I would also agree with Jeffrey on a critical point. And that is when you're conducting one of these investigations, you do not want to walk into that room not knowing the answers to at least half the questions you're asking. You're looking for corroboration. You're looking to see whether Mr. Kushner is truthful.
[06:05:12] So the fact that that they're having this conversation with Kushner now tells me that they're close to making a decision on what they're going to do in the Flynn case. You don't talk to Kushner unless you've talked to all the peripheral players, looked at financial records, looked at e-mail information. They're going to come out with something soon about what's going to happen in the Flynn case. That's what I see here.
CUOMO: And to correct some misconceptions that are out there: one, does it look like Flynn is negotiating? Yes. Does that mean he's trading for information higher up the scale or closer to the president? No. He could just be cutting a deal on what they know about him and his reporting of his finances and his lobbying efforts. And they may give him a deal on that, based on--
CAMEROTA: But why would they cut a deal if they weren't getting anything out of it?
CUOMO: The cumbersome nature of prosecution. They really want to focus on Russia and different types of transactions and not deal with that. Or maybe he is giving them information. But it's not a given.
TOOBIN: And maybe, to be fair, he doesn't know incriminating information about other people. And you say why would they give him a deal--
CAMEROTA: If he's not delivering anything.
TOOBIN: If he's not delivering anything. Maybe he'll--
CAMEROTA: That's a bad deal.
TOOBIN: Not necessarily, unless you don't have information that he did anything else wrong.
TOOBIN: I mean, you know, make him plead guilty to crime "X" because you don't have information that he committed crimes "Y" and "Z."
CUOMO: And sometimes economy of justice. That, you know, they've got a lot on their plate. These came up. They believe they have prosecutable differences. Similarly with Kushner. Just because he came in to talk about Flynn does not mean that he will not be asked to come in again to talk about other things.
TOOBIN: And I think it's really important to just, you know, when you think about Jared Kushner, there is no figure in this investigation, not Donald Trump Jr., not even the president, who has as much information about as many subjects of the special counsel's jurisdiction as Jared Kushner.
CUOMO: He checks a lot of boxes of disclosure gaps also, Phil Mudd, when we're talking about Jared Kushner. I do not mean in any way to impute any sense of wrongdoing. But you know, he's had to amend the disclosure forms several times. And it has come up several times in reporting that Kushner was connected to things or knew about things that we didn't initially understand from his own reckoning of events.
MUDD: That's right. I mean, we're only talking about half the story. We're missing half the story in here. What we've talked about is what Kushner might say about Flynn. And Kushner's lawyer is rightly representing his client, saying, "Hey, we're cooperating. This is -- you know, we are being fully transparent."
There is another half of the story here. And that is when you walk in that room, you already know if you asked Kushner, for example, about meetings or conversations within the campaign last year that Flynn participated in, you already know half the answers.
We know that the Mueller team will prosecute people, or will it, pardon me, indict people for lying to a federal officer. That's not a benign conversation with Kushner. My point is when he answers questions about what happens in those meetings and the federal investigators say, "Hey, four people told us one thing, and Kushner told us something else," he's at risk for getting a charge for lying. So that conversation better be very careful with Kushner about being transparent about everything, because the feds already know a lot themselves.
CAMEROTA: Let me pull up the -- a full screen that we have that just shows the numbers. I mean, I know it's hard for everybody at home to keep track of all the different threads. So here it captures exactly how many Trump associates had contacts with Russia. Twelve.
At least 19 face-to-face interactions with Russians that we know of from campaign and related officials. At least 51 communications, meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchanges and others. At least nine occasions where Trump and senior officials of the campaign denied having any contacts.
CUOMO: I think, even though it's the smaller number, it's the most important one, because it's what launches suspicion for prosecutors like Jeffrey used to be.
You tell me, "There's nothing. I never met. I don't know. I don't even know why you're asking. You should be embarrassed."
And then I find out, wait a minute, that's not true. And that is really powerful medicine to prosecutors. When they know that they have been deceived, even if it was benign. Like you just didn't think it mattered.
CUOMO: You didn't want to make something out of your own reckoning, it becomes relevant.
TOOBIN: And if you look at the public explanations of Jay Sekulow, the president's lawyers and others associated with the Trump campaign and now the Trump presidency, when we first raised this subject of was there some sort of contact between the Trump campaign and Russia? Absolutely not. Didn't happen. That has changed.
TOOBIN: Because of all these disclosures to, well, nothing illegal took place. That's a very different explanation.
CUOMO: And Phil Mudd says it all the time that you do, as well, as guys who conducted investigations.
When you feel that someone is being deceptive, it just puts you on a trail that becomes hard to get off of. And I've never been involved in an investigation where that wasn't true. Where someone didn't come to me at some point and say, "Listen, it was your guy who told us something that wasn't true. Now you're telling us to believe everything he says." It's tricky.
[06:10:12] CAMEROTA: Phil Mudd, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you both very much.
Meanwhile, President Trump under fire for retweeting anti-Muslim videos and elevating this fringe ultra-nationalist group in the U.K. The president firing back at the British prime minister after she denounced Mr. Trump.
This as questions grow about the president's behavior in the past couple of weeks and his competency.
So CNN's Joe Johns has more on this, live at the White House. Hi, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
This is what the president does, stepping on his own message, distracting from his own agenda with often shocking side bars into dark places, including the conspiracy zone. It's become habitual behavior for this president and on full display this last week, especially the last 24 hours.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump in Missouri touting what could be his first major legislative win.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel.
JOHNS: But any legislative traction is being overshadowed by wild insults, inflammatory tweets and the president's long-debunked conspiracy theories, raising questions about his competency. A source close to the president tells CNN that Mr. Trump is now doubting his decision to finally acknowledge that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. Trump believed that he would have done better if he continued to peddle his birther conspiracy.
TRUMP: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?
JOHNS: A source also tells CNN White House aides have given up trying to stop the president from tweeting inflammatory remarks. That comes after the president retweeted three inflammatory videos purportedly showing Muslims committing acts of violence. The leader of the far- right nationalist group Britain First, who posted the videos, praising Mr. Trump, as did former KKK leader David Duke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like the president retweeting the Ku Klux Klan. You know, this is not a mainstream organization. For the president of the United States, our greatest ally as a country to be retweeting, to be providing a microphone to those voices.
JOHNS: World leaders condemning President Trump's retweets. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May saying it's wrong for the president to have done this. Refusing to let that go, the president firing back that Theresa May should focus on combatting radical Islamic terrorism in her country rather than focus on him.
The White House staunchly defending the president, discounting questions over the veracity of the videos.
SANDERS: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real. And that is what the president is talking about. That's what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats. And those are real no matter how you look at it.
JOHNS: Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill again put in the position to explain the president's tweets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not constructive. And I'm not sure what the purpose of that was.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Flummoxed.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why?
FLAKE: It's very inappropriate.
I just don't know what you gain by doing this.
JOHNS: And a footnote this morning to the president's retweets and the controversy over it, this time from London's Muslim mayor, posting on Twitter, "President Trump has used twitter to promote a vial extremist group that exists to solely sow division and hatred in our country. And it's increasingly clear," Sadiq Khan writes, "that any official visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed."
Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Joe. Thank you very much.
Those are two very big questions we have to pursue this morning in this category of news. One is why is the president doing this? You did not hear the White House say, "The president doesn't mean all Muslims. He's only talking about this terror threat and the extreme Islamists that are involved in it." Why? And what does this reflect about the strength of the president's competence?
CAMEROTA: Good morning. Questions about President Trump's behavior after he retweeted incredibly inflammatory anti-Muslim videos and began feuding with a U.S. ally. Here's this morning's headline from a "New York Daily News" editorial
that calls the president a mad man. And it says, quote, "After his latest spasm of deranged tweets, only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected. The president of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is, by any honest layman's definition, mentally unwell and viciously lashing out."
Let's bring in CNN political analysts. We have here David Drucker and Karoun Demirjian. Guys, great to have you.
Look, obviously, it's very dicey for us to begin any sort of diagnosis of the president's state of mind. However, these -- these are clues. These are -- he's done enough things that are so questionable that now allies such as Britain are questioning, Karoun, what his mental state is.
There are all of these British officials who want Prime Minister Theresa May to uninvite President Trump from the U.K. He was supposed to go next year. And they say things like here's Labor M.P. Stephen Doughty: "This is the president of the United States sharing with millions inflammatory and divisive content by someone who represents a vial fascist organization, seeking to spread hatred and violence in person and online. Trump is either a racist, incompetent or unthinking or all three."
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a very significant rebuke. And Theresa May is going to be under a lot of pressure to make sure that she does not extend the typical diplomatic courtesies.
I mean, Trump was welcomed with, basically, the highest honors when he went to Britain this year. Yes, he'd go back to the same reception after saying these things, which really. I mean, it shows -- if it's -- look, clearly, he knew he was tweeting anti-Muslim videos. He didn't realize quite what role that the group Britain First played in the U.K. That's ignorance. But it's not really OK if you're a -- you know, a global leader. You're supposed to be dealing with your allies there, especially not OK to not apologize for it after the fact, given what -- how this has shaken the U.K.
[06:20:06] And so, yes, you have people -- look, as you just said, we certainly cannot armchair diagnose. I certainly don't have a medical degree or a psychological degree to do anything like that.
But the fact that people are asking these questions is also troubling, and the president does not really seem to care. He is doing his own thing. He is answering to himself in this regard and does not seem to mind, even, when you know, other foreign leaders are saying, "Stop. That's not OK. You really have gone too far here."
CUOMO: And once again, we've just seen the echo from the White House itself. You know, Scaramucci's words echo in my own head of, "Well, Sarah Sanders has to balance telling the truth--"
CAMEROTA: Telling the truth.
CUOMO: "-- and protecting the president."
All she needed to say, all he need to say was, "It's not all Muslims. I'm retweeting these things. I don't care about the source, because these radical" -- if they want to call them, whatever they want -- "this radical branch of really nonreligious people, who are coopting Islam, they're the problem. It's not about all Muslims." That's all they had to say. They didn't say it. I
And it's not because the president is insane, David. He would pass any competency test you want to give him, in a clinical sense. He appreciates the nature and consequence of his actions. This is who he is. He likes to start a fight. And he feels he's under attack, and he fights dirty. And that's what he's doing. And this is him at his best, not necessarily at his most diseased.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that it's just another example of the president never transitioning from being a brand manager of a closely held family business to a team leader and the president of the United States. And this is how he is most comfortable operating.
The point here is not whether -- it's not whether or not the president's policy prescriptions for the threat of radical jihadism are correct or not. I think the problem, No. 1, is that when you engage in promoting extremist groups with questionable sourcing, it undermines a very valid point, which there is a threat of radical jihadism that the United States and Britain are at the forefront of trying to deal with. All this does is undermine U.S. policy in that regard.
And even -- even that aside, getting into a spat with one of our most important allies -- it's not just an ally, and the president has jawboned other allies during the campaign and since he assumed power in the White House. But getting into a spat with the prime minister of the United Kingdom and putting the British government in the position, with its own voters, of having to rebuke the president of the United States, can have profound consequences for U.S. diplomacy and military policy that could reverberate for years, if this isn't cleaned up.
CAMEROTA: So now the London mayor, who as you know, has squabbled with President Trump in the past, is calling on the prime minister, Theresa May, to disinvite the president from next year.
And Theresa May, Karoun, is in a pickle. I mean, does she -- if she invites him and keeps the invitation, does she seem to endorse some of this? If she disinvites him, obviously, they're major allies. What to do.
DEMIRJIAN: It's putting her in a situation where she has to choose between Trump or between kind of instilling harmony in her own country. And we'll see if there's a middle ground, if she can kind of downgrade the scope of the visit.
I mean, a disinvitation is also a very, very dramatic move. Clearly, the president -- the American president started this by tweeting out those videos and starting a reaction. But if her reaction is to say, "Huh-uh, stay home," I mean, that also potentially has consequences for what is a very close alliance and a very vital partnership for the U.K.
They do not -- I mean, look, especially now, the U.K. is kind of in a situation where they're looking down the barrel of going it alone after they kind of voted to split off from the European Union. That alliance with the United States matters. If they're afraid of provoking Trump and having a stronger backlash, that might be a reason that she would not heed the London mayor's call.
But it certainly puts her in a situation where she's got to do some peacemaking on the home front without upsetting what is a very important partnership. And she didn't start this. So that is not exactly an ideal situation for her to be in.
DRUCKER: Look, I don't think the president's behavior should be shocking or surprising to anybody. This is who he is. When you tend to govern the way you campaign. And he has proven that over time. I think what's significant here is that, when the president does things like this that impact domestic politics and domestic policy, we can debate about the wisdom of what he's doing and talk about, you know, some of the fallout but also maybe some of the benefits for the president's parting his policies.
DRUCKER: But when we're talking about international impact and possibly creating rifts with allies that impact the country globally, that's where this starts to veer off of political discussion and into more of a competence discussion and whether or not the president's choices are going to outlast him in a way that isn't helpful to the country.
[06:25:07] CUOMO: Yes, I would just be slow to give him the excuse of not being in control. You know, or being somehow mentally sick. I wouldn't give him that excuse. There's no real proof of that. This is who he's always been.
CAMEROTA: I understand, except that we did have Maggie Haberman, who's covered him for years, who said that she senses an acceleration of everything.
CAMEROTA: So we'll talk about that later.
Karoun and David, thank you very much.
Now to this story: hours after firing Matt Lauer, NBC confirms at least two new allegations of sexual misconduct against the former "Today Show" host, and the details are so disturbing about what the women say that he did to them.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: New details about the stunning downfall of "Today Show" host Matt Lauer. "The New York Times" and "Variety" detailing very disturbing allegations of misconduct against him from women on his staff.
CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now with more.
Brian, this is so much worse than any of us on the outside suspected.