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President Trump's Controversial Anti-Muslim Re-Tweets Garner Backlash from U.K. Politicians; Special Counsel Interview Jared Kushner Army Vet Says Senator Al Franken Groped Her During 2003 USO Tour; Interview with Independent Senator Angus King of Maine. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's tweet sparking an international incident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our allies in England are mad as hell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a president who is paying almost no attention to the responsibilities as an international leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared Kushner has met with Robert Mueller's team. The special counsel's team really wanted to talk about Michael Flynn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner is a crucial witness in virtually every part of Mueller's investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three women telling "Variety" magazine they were harassed by Lauer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of fear among women at NBC. They were not sure how to react if they pursued them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they are going to feel a rolling impact on this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, November 30th, 8:00 in the east. President Trump has been condemned by a top ally. British politicians and the mayor of London don't want President Trump to come to the U.K., and they want Prime Minister Theresa May to disinvite him. Why? Because of what the president has been re-tweeting, incendiary anti-Muslim videos from a far-right fringe group in Britain. Prime Minister May says the president was wrong to do it, and Mr. Trump is firing back, this attack now straining relations between the U.S. and U.K. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile special counsel Robert

Mueller's Russia investigation is reaching into President Trump's inner circle. CNN first reported that Jared Kushner spoke to Mueller's investigators, and their meeting focusing on fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. So does that mean Flynn is closer to striking a plea deal? We've got it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House with our top story. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. What we have been seeing is the president doing what he does, distracting his own agenda, stepping off into sidebars that sometimes are shocking places, conspiracy theories. It's habitual behavior by this president, and we have seen it quite a bit over the last 24 hours.


JOHNS: President Trump in Missouri touting what could become 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 and inflammatory tweets and the president's long debunked conspiracy theories raising more 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 believing 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 re-tweeted 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.

BRENDAN COX, WIDOWER OF MURDERED BRITISH MP JO COX: This is like the president re-tweeting the Ku Klux Klan. This is not a mainstream organization for the president of the United States, our greatest ally as a country, to be re-tweeting, to be providing a microphone to those voices.

JOHNS: And world leaders condemning President Trump's re-tweets. A spokesperson 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 combating radical Islamic terrorism in her country rather than focus on him. The White House staunching defending the president, discounting questions over the veracity of the videos.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: This is just not constructive. And I'm not sure what the purpose of that was.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: Flummoxed. Why? It's very inappropriate. I just don't know what you gain by doing this.


JOHNS: And there's even more reaction from London this morning to the president's re-tweet of those controversial videos, this time from the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He writes on Twitter "President Trump has used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sew division and hatred in our country. It's increasingly clear that any official visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcome." Chris, back to you.

[08:05:01] CUOMO: All right, Joe, thank you very much.

Another headline, a member of the Trump inner circle questioned in special counsel Bob Mueller's Russia investigation. Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, met with Mueller's team to talk about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. CNN's Evan Perez live in Washington with more. What do we know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, Jared Kushner sat down for an interview earlier this month with investigators from special counsel Robert Mueller's office. This as part of the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Now we're told by sources that the questions Kushner answered were largely focused on former national security adviser Michael Flynn who is under investigation by the special counsel.

Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, told us, quote, "Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so." The Kushner interview lasted less than 90 minutes, we're told. Investigators appeared to be trying to see if Kushner had any information that exonerates Michael Flynn. Kushner and Flynn worked very closely together during the transition and in the early days of the administration.

You'll remember, Flynn's lawyers recently ended an information sharing deal with President Trump's lawyers in a sign that Flynn may be 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 now postponed an anticipated grand jury testimony as part of the Flynn investigation. Prosecutors earlier seemed in a hurry to get testimony from a public relation's consultant who worked with Flynn. They set a December date to provide that testimony, but that has now been postponed.

Meanwhile, over in Congress Donald Trump Jr. has now agreed to come back to provide another interview to the House Intelligence Committee. So lots of moving pieces, Alisyn and Chris, in these multiple Russia investigations.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you, Evan. Thank you very much for all of that.

Let's bring in our guests to discuss it. We have CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti who is a candidate for Illinois attorney general. Gentlemen, great to have you here.

So Ron, the president, you know, peddles lots of inflammatory and incendiary messages and tweets and re-tweets things and websites and videos. He did it again yesterday. This time it got the attention of our allies, it got the attention on an international stage. Sometimes we just deal with it domestically. So much so, these videos were so inflammatory, one of them could be classified fake news, so the president is putting out fake news that the Netherlands felt important to correct.

CUOMO: The White House is saying it's Ok.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn't matter, the threat is real.

CAMEROTA: Don't worry about it, the videos were real.

BROWNSTEIN: The frog is boiling day by day.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think this is a reminder that there is significant collateral damage out of what I believe the president views as an essential component of his job. There are so many of these Twitter fights, these cultural and personal fights that he provokes, many if not most of them with a clear racial overtone that, as I've said many times, you cannot view this as an accident. He views this as an essential part of his job. His job is to stir up these constant succession of fights that keep his base energized and also keep us focused while the Republicans in Congress and under the executive branch are advancing this very severe small government agenda. But there is a collateral damage to this. At home the collateral damage is much greater division particularly along racial lines. And you see here the collateral damage in terms of American allies across the spectrum in Britain, an extraordinary reaction, I think, particularly in Great Britain.

CUOMO: It's not collateral. It's direct damage. Now we have a member of parliament in the U.K. saying very, very tough things about the president of the United States. Here it is.


STEPHEN DOUGHTY, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT: This is the president of the United States sharing with millions inflammatory and divisive content deliberately posted to sew hatred and division by a convicted criminal who is facing further charges who represents a vile, fascist organization seeking to spread hatred in violence and in person and online. By sharing it he is a racist, incompetent, or unthinking, or all three.


CUOMO: Doughty is that man's name, a member of parliament. To this point the Prime Minister, Theresa May, says that what the president did was wrong, Renato, but she has not said anything about rescinding any invitation. The implications politically are obvious. What about legally?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: One thing that I think is a fairly straightforward implication for, if you are a lawyer, is the president and the administration are facing a challenge to the travel ban that he enacted that many have charged discriminates against Muslim Americans.

[08:10:00] And states' attorneys general have brought suit, particularly the state of Hawaii has taken a lead role, and the charge there is that that ban was entered into with discriminatory intent, in other words that means the president and his administration intended to discriminate against Muslims. If I was one of those attorneys general, I would use this as an exhibit, because it certainly suggests that the president has some discriminatory views towards Muslims.

CAMEROTA: Ron, there are all sorts of Republicans in Congress who have expressed to our cameras their discomfort with what he has done, that it's unnecessary, they don't understand it, it's illogical. But they don't do anything.

BROWNSTEIN: They don't impose any consequences. And in fact I think they have accepted an informal division of responsibility, as I said, where the president's job is to stir up this endless session of cultural and personal fights, many of them with racial overtones, while they kind of grind on and advance their agenda.

CAMEROTA: And there's a tacit understanding.

BROWNSTEIN: And I think there's a tacit understand to that that he operates on this plain, we operate on this plain. Their assumption is that they can kind of avoid any of the responsibility for what he is doing and that they can kind of advance their agenda, satisfy their coalition.

I think that is a misplaced assumption, because as the share of the public that says he lacks the temperament and judgment to be president is rising. It's up to 67 percent in the ABC/"Washington Post" poll a couple weeks ago. And we say in Virginia very clearly was that voters are dissatisfied with President Trump were willing to take that out on other Republicans, 86 percent of the people who said they disagree with Trump's job performance voted for Ralph Northam.

So all of these Republicans on the Hill who are basically like Paul Ryan saying don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player, I don't want to be commenting on what he is doing, they ultimately, I think, will be connected to what he is doing and they face a potential retribution from voters who do not believe they are providing enough of a check on a president they are ambivalent or uneasy about. CUOMO: And once again, that sound is the silence from Mitch McConnell

and Paul Ryan elected as leaders. And in terms of what is supposed to be said by a president when it comes to Islam, these acts of violence against innocence violate the fundamental tenants of the Islamic faith, and it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace, they represent evil and war. That was President Bush, that was days after 9/11, a point in our history, at least in my lifetime, where I have never seen righteous anger in American people toward the Muslim threat as there was then. These were the words from that leader in that moment. Now we are hearing something very different, just for context.

Topic switch. Jared Kushner, Renato, he goes down there, he's called in by the S.C. He says, yes, I'll come in. They want to ask him about Flynn. Why?

MARIOTTI: Well, before you charge anyone, if you are a federal prosecutor, you want to make sure that you tie down every loose end. You speak to every witness who might have valuable information, and you make sure there's nothing missing that might change the charges that you are bringing.

So for example, you could imagine if Mueller didn't speak to Mr. Kushner, went ahead and charged Flynn, and then Kushner ended up having very vital information that could transform a potential trial of Flynn, that could have been a mistake not to interview Kushner in advance. So what I expect they did there is they were trying to tie up a loose end. They talked to Kushner, made sure that they sort what we used to call locking him out, in other words, making sure that he wasn't going to say anything as I think your reporter mentioned exonerated Flynn so that they could go forward with charges against Flynn.

Ultimately they ended up flipping him. That does not mean the rest of the investigation is over. That does not mean that Kushner is not going to be interviewed again. Mueller is looking at a lot of different matters and he's taking them in many ways one at a time.

BROWNSTEIN: One of the things we have learned is that there's a lot about this investigation that we don't know. And I think that there's a lot about the investigation that the targets of the investigation don't know. They are in effect, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, known unknowns. And the Papadopoulos plea was as big of a surprise we have seen in Washington in a long time, no one saw that coming. And I think the fact that he was interviewed Jared Kushner about Michael Flynn, if true, is kind of -- I don't think that's the end of it. And I think it is kind of a reminder that we don't know everything that they know, but I think we do know that they know a lot that we don't.

CAMEROTA: I followed that. I actually followed that. Ron Brownstein, Renato Mariotti, thank you both very much.

We do have some breaking news to get to now. A fifth woman coming forward to accuse Democratic Senator Al Franken of inappropriate touching. CNN's M.J. Lee is live on Capitol Hill with all of the breaking details. What have you learned, M.J.?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, a new woman is coming forward this morning to say that Senator Al Franken groped her years ago. Her name is Stephanie Kemplin. She is a 41-year-old Army veteran.


She says that when she was deployed in Kuwait in December of 2003, she met Senator Franken while he was touring to USO visit American troops abroad.

Now, this is what Stephanie told CNN about the interaction that she had with him during a photo-op. She said, when he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast and I remember thinking, is he going to move his hand. Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand?

Now, she says the touching lasted at least five seconds and at some point, she shifted her body so that his hand was no longer directly on her breast, as you can see in the photo, you can see Senator Franken's hand is on her side. She says she felt ashamed. She felt embarrassed and she was in shock in the moment and she did not say anything directly to Senator Franken at the time.

Now, I will note that we reached out to Franken's office last night and this is the spokesperson statement provided to CNN. The spokesperson says: As Senator Franken may clear this week he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.

Now, Alisyn and Chris, just to put this into context, Stephanie is the fifth woman now in a period of two weeks to accuse Senator Franken of inappropriate touching and she is also the second woman to say that this kind of misconduct took place while on tour with the USO. The first woman, of course, was Leeann Tweeden. She's a California local radio news anchor, and Stephanie actually says part of the reason she decided to speak out is because she saw Leeann telling her story.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right.


CUOMO: MJ, appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it's a tidal wave. Every day, we have breaking news. Every day, it feels like, we have breaking news on some sort of sexual harassment. It has been pointed out, look at the people being fired in our business, in the media, huge names, Bill O'Reilly, and Matt Lauer, being fired. And in Congress, it sort of lingers while ethics commissions form and people investigate it.

And, you know, we heard a lawmaker say, but we are elected, the people are their bosses.

CUOMO: That's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: They can be fired the next election day.

CUOMO: But that -- that's the difference. The difference is, if you work for a company, the company decides your fate, if it wants, almost instantaneously.

CAMEROTA: We've seen that.

CUOMO: Not true in government. We're seeing that play out in real time.

All right. With President Trump facing backlash from British leaders over those anti-Muslim videos, how will this impact U.S. relations with the U.K.? We ask a top senator, next.


[08:21:25] CUOMO: British officials slamming President Trump for re- tweeting anti-Muslim videos from a far right group. One British politician even suggesting this morning the president should be arrested for inciting religious hatred if he ever visits the U.K.

Joining us now is independent Senator Angus King of Maine.

Senator, thank you for taking the opportunity, as always.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Good morning, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So, do you agree with the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when she says it doesn't matter if the videos are real or not because the threat is real and given an opportunity to distinguish those were perverting the religion of Islam and becoming terrorists versus all Muslims, she didn't draw that distinction and the president hasn't drawn that distinction.

How do you feel about this behavior?

KING: Well, actually, what the tweeting of this videos did was make the threat worse in two ways. I do a lot of work on intelligence, I should know. And the best source of information we have about domestic terrorism that comes from Islamic jihadists is from within the Muslim community, in the United States, to the extent we push them away from us and try to separate them from us, that cuts off one of the very most important sources of intelligence to protect ourselves from the few violent extremist that are out there.

The second problem is that this is literally part of the ISIS and Islamic jihadists playbook, to separate the West from Islam. There are 1.9 billion Muslims in the world. Do we really want to alienate them and push this away and make this a war between the West and the Muslim community? The answer is absolutely not.

So, this tweet yesterday actually, in my view, was wildly counter to our national security interests.

CUOMO: Well, you also have Muslims in a growing population here in the United States, you know, as citizens, American Muslims.

KING: Right.

CUOMO: But my question to you is, do you believe that the president aided and abetted by Sanders in this instance does want to create an us versus them with Americans/Christians and Muslims?

KING: Well, it does seem that his stock and trade is division and this certainly goes back to the campaign. You remember a Muslim -- he proposed a Muslim ban at one point. He had one of the first acts of his presidency was the travel ban, which certainly looked and felt like a Muslim ban.

He keeps raising this kind of issue -- to raise it out of the blue yesterday added with no context and to be retweeting from this woman in Great Britain that this is a right wing hate group, and as somebody said, I think on your program this morning, this would be like retweeting something from the Ku Klux Klan here in the U.S.

It serves no purpose and I would argue it's entirely negative in terms of national security, because it separates us as people. It separates us in the country. It potentially could cut off areas of intelligence that can help us protect ourselves from violent extremism and it also alienates people around the world.

We met yesterday with the king of Jordan. He's one of the key guys, one of our most important allies in the Middle East. He happens to be a Muslim. Do we really want to alienate -- one of our most allies in the Middle East? It makes no sense.

CUOMO: Well, and the most important ally for the United States, just about anywhere in the world is the U.K.

[08:25:01] Let's put up a live picture right now, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, in Jordan, speaking, responding to the president of the United States and his telling her to worry about terrorism. She says she is, that the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. is enduring, and that the invitation to the president to visit is outstanding, meaning it still exists, it's still there.

So, is this proof that this is overwrought and there is no damage done by what the president tweeted?

KING: Well, I mean, I don't -- you can't calculate damage. We don't know what is happening in the mind of an individual person anywhere in the U.S. or around the world. It just adds on to what has already been a pattern that I don't think is useful, and it doesn't -- one of the interviews yesterday with one of the senators said what's the idea? What's the purpose?

And there's no upside to doing something like this. Clearly, there's a threat. Everybody knows there's a threat. And we are working on it, our intelligence and military, we are all focused on that. But this makes it worse trying to lump together a billion -- almost 2

billion people with a small group that are dangerous and we need to be focusing upon.

CUOMO: So, let's switch topics here. Jared Kushner going to the special counsel, we are told, to discuss Michael Flynn. Significance to you?

KING: Well, I think it's an important part of this ongoing investigation. As you know, I work on this on the intelligence committee, but we're not -- we don't coordinate and we are not working with Mr. Mueller, he's following a different path. His role -- I think it's important to distinguish, his role is looking at were crimes committed. That's the job of a federal prosecutor.

Our role is to look at what happened, what are the facts, how to prevent it from happening again. So, we do crisscross sometimes but we are not exactly parallel.

I think talking to Mr. Kushner, clearly there's a focus on Michael Flynn but we don't know the details, whether they are focusing on him because of what he did or didn't do, or whether they see him as a witness involving other people in the administration. So, I think it's an important development, but I'm not going to speculate on what the detailed implications of it are.

CUOMO: The idea that Jared Kushner matters so much because he's at the nexus of so many of the meetings and the understanding of what was disclosed versus what was hidden or simply not disclosed. Do you share that opinion of him?

KING: Well, yes, he was at the center of a lot of the discussions. He was as I recall in the famous meeting in New York with the Russian lawyer, he was involved deeply in the campaign, particularly on foreign policy, involved with Director Flynn, both before the election and after.

So, all of these questions are very relevant and I think he's an important person, and my understanding is he has been fully cooperative and I hope that continues.

CUOMO: Senator, thank you as always for taking the opportunity. If I don't speak to you before, very happy holidays to you and your family. Merry Christmas.

KING: Same to you, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris.

North Korea showing off its latest missile, as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley issues a stern warning to Pyongyang. We have the new video, next.