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Donald Trump Jr. Facing Questions Behind Closed Doors; Trump To Recognize Jerusalem As Capital Of Israel; New Wildfire Erupts In Heart Of Los Angeles. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 6, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Right now, behind closed doors, Donald Trump Jr. is facing questions from the House Intelligence Committee. It's the first time he's facing lawmakers and their investigations of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, and of course, possible collusion when it comes to the Trump campaign.
This is just as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is now joining the call to subpoena that very same Donald Trump Jr. to get him before their panel.
And, there is movement on the special counsel's investigation, as well. Deputy campaign aide, Rick Gates, may be facing more legal trouble. A lawyer for Gates, one of four people charged in that probe, says that they have been told more charges could be coming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill, following all of this very latest. So, Manu, what's going on behind closed doors right now with Don Jr.?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Donald Trump Jr. has been before the House Intelligence Committee for about an hour. He came to Capitol Hill this morning, avoided the cameras, avoided press at all costs, went to the back corridors to get into this meeting that we expected to last several hours.
Now this committee has interviewed several of the key players who are in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump Jr., of course, was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign.
The people who were at the meeting, including Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who has met with this committee, as well as some of the Russians who were at the meeting, the Russian American lobbyists, (inaudible), as well (inaudible) who is a representative for one of the families that was involved in some of these discussions.
And we have now learned that Rob Goldstone, who was that British publicist, who helped arrange this meeting, as well, will be interviewed next week before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Now, Kate, one thing they're trying to figure out is whether or not all of these stories line up. Whether or not there are any questions or holes in these -- in the different accounts. As well as whether or not Donald Trump Jr. had continuing communications with Russians after that meeting.
We have also learned that he spoke with Wikileaks through Twitter- direct messages after that meeting. The question will be, that will certainly come up in this closed-door meeting, as well as whether or not he has spoken to his father, then Candidate Trump, about any of these communications, when he met with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff in September, Kate. He said he did not have those communications. We'll see what he says today -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And of course, he avoided cameras on the way in, Manu. Any word if he could speak to you on the way out?
RAJU: Very, very unlikely. We expect him to avoid the cameras on the way out, as well. We'll see if any of the members decide to talk, if any members have any concerns, particularly Democrats about what he said or what he didn't say during this testimony -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: OK, great to see you, Manu. Manu is on it for us. Thank you.
There's also this, a historic announcement with global impact and another campaign promise fulfilled. President Trump is expected to announce in less than two hours now he's officially recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel.
And at the very same time, announcing that the United States will be moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something many a president has promised and not one has made good on. And world leaders are reacting. Many warning a potentially violent reaction in the region.
Let's get the very latest. CNN White House supporter, Jeremy Diamond, is here for us. Jeremy, what exactly do we know about the president's momentous announcement coming today?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the president is going to do two major things. The first is to recognize Jerusalem for the first time as Israel's capital and the second is to direct the State Department to begin moving the U.S. Embassy, which is currently in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Now, that's a process that could take several years, according to senior administration officials, but it's a process that is already beginning to roil this region. The president yesterday fielded calls from leaders in the region, U.S. allies, Arab leaders in the region in particular as well as the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
And of course, there have been warnings from the British, as well, and other leaders around the world, that this is a move that could potentially stymie the peace process, as it currently stands, and could also unsettle this region, which is already perpetually on edge. Palestinian leaders announcing three days of rage in response to this and protests are expected not only in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but across the Middle East, perhaps. And U.S. officials at diplomatic facilities in Israel and across the Middle East are beefing up security as a precautionary measure.
Now senior administration officials said that this move is simply an attempt to recognize a reality. A reality that Israel's seat of government is effectively in Jerusalem. And of course, it's making good on its 1995 law, to begin moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
[11:05:06] But the reality is, ultimately, this is the recognition of a campaign promise, that the president made, and a lot of critics right now are going after the president, for putting that campaign pledge above diplomatic concerns -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And can they be one and the same? Can progress on a campaign pledge mean progress on the peace process? That, of course, is a big part of the discussion right now. Thank you so much, Jeremy. All eyes are on the White House, but let's head over to Israel right now.
CNN's Ian Lee is live in Jerusalem as people, of course, there are waiting for the announcement, as well. Ian, we have already hearing objections from world leaders especially Arab leaders in the region. Explain why this decision is so controversial, please.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Kate, we're going to have to go back to 1967 and the six-day war when Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. And then later, through -- you move forward to present day, and the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, these are parts of what the Palestinians want as a future state.
And so, the land was going to be negotiated through a settlement, through the peace process, especially East Jerusalem, for the Palestinians. They want that to be the capital of their future state.
So, essentially, with the United States saying that the -- that Jerusalem belongs to Israel, that signifies to the Palestinians that they no longer have a claim to it. So that's what's really angering a lot of Palestinians.
And you're getting a lot of anger not just with the Palestinians, but really the Arab and the Muslim world because Jerusalem is home to the holiest sites for Judaism, Christianity, and the third holiest site in Islam, and that's really what's angering a lot of Muslims.
And that's why we're getting these threats of protest in other countries, as well, not just in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Ian is there. We'll be gauging reaction there. Our eyes stay on the White House as we'll be hearing from the president this hour, hopefully, he'll be speaking, and we'll bring you that tape when it comes.
But joining me right now to discuss, Elise Labott, CNN global affairs correspondent, CNN correspondent, Oren Liebermann, usually reporting for us in Jerusalem, with here with me today, and Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Clinton and former special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for President Obama.
Ambassador, if I could start with you, you became ambassador to Israel the same year this law went into effect, instructing the president to move the embassy to Jerusalem. That announcement is officially coming now from the president. What does it do?
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS: Well, it's -- I think it's important to understand what his aides have said he's going to announce. That is to say that he recognizes and therefore the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
But he's actually not going move the embassy, like all presidents before him, since President Clinton in 1995, for 22 years, again he's going to sign the waiver. And his aides have come up with an excuse, lacks all credibility, that he's actually not going to move the embassy for many years.
He can move the embassy tomorrow by simply sending the ambassador up and putting a plaque on one of the two large American facilities that exist in West Jerusalem. So, they've created this attempt to have it both ways.
On the one hand, please the base by declaring that he recognizes Jerusalem as the capital, but on the other hand, not moving the embassy. And at the same time as all of that, not defining what area of Jerusalem he's actually recognizing. So, it's a kind of thing that's going to please nobody. And in the end, could well generate violence.
BOLDUAN: At the same time, Oren, the White House -- their back room briefing, they said, with this announcement, from their view, that it shouldn't have an impact on future peace negotiations. It shouldn't have an impact on any future boundaries that should be decided in those negotiations. They may believe that, but do you think anyone else does?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably not. From their view, it's a pragmatic move because foreign leaders meet Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, Israel's (inaudible) the parliament is in Jerusalem.
But what we'll be watching for here and Martin touched on this in the White House trying to navigate this sense of issues is the specific wording here because all of the world views this as black and white and in some respects, it is.
The wording from President Trump is very important. There is a spectrum here, on one end, if he says Jerusalem is the undivided, unified, united capital of Israel, that would be seen as very pro- Israeli, there would be outrage from the Palestinians, Arab world and perhaps beyond.
And then whatever Trump had planned for a peace process is dead on arrival. The other end of that spectrum is, if Trump says, West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, East Jerusalem is part of a Palestinian state or will be, then the anger would be on the Israeli side, and the Palestinians might find that much more palatable.
[11:10:10] Realistically, we're expecting something in the middle of that spectrum, something vague about -- Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, let's work on boundaries and negotiations and figure out the final status in negotiations, and that it seems how he's trying to keep his hopes for a peace process alive.
BOLDUAN: And this gets to diplomacy or where the diplomacy lands on this, Elise. I mean, not with the president today in making this historic announcement is his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. He's overseas right now. And asked about this, here's what Rex Tillerson's spokesman said. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: I think the secretary has communicated clearly, as have all the members of the inner agency, who have a role in making this decision, or being a part of the decision. He's made his positions clear to the White House. I think the Department of Defense has, as well, but it's ultimately the president's decision to make. He is in charge.
BOLDUAN: That does not seem an enthusiastic endorsement of what's happening today.
ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's not, Kate. And look, I mean, Secretary Tillerson did not support this move. He has argued, as have most of the other allies and, in fact, you know, a large majority of the president's advisers in the cabinet, that this is not the right time.
That it can't be in the absence of a peace deal because it would prejudice the deal. It would lose -- the U.S. would lose credibility around the world, and in fact, that seems to be what's happening.
Look, you know, President Trump's advisers on the peace process, Secretary Tillerson is not one of them. You have Jared Kushner. You have Jason Greenblatt. They have been traveling around the world, listening to the parties.
This kind of seems a little antithetical to what they're hearing. This is about President Bush addressing his supporters. I agree with everything that Martin and Oren had said.
BOLDUAN: President Trump --
LABOTT: It's going to be an amorphous thing that doesn't really satisfy anybody. But I think it's going to be -- the U.S. thinks that maybe this would help, you know, energize the deal, you know, inject something unexpected. I think that we're in for a very rough time ahead, especially on the peace process.
BOLDUAN: And Ambassador, you hit on this. And I want -- it gets at something I've been thinking about, with regard to this announcement, as you look in the details. I mean, you call it trying to have it both ways.
The reality is, in making this big announcement -- he is making this big announcement, but as you mentioned, he's still signing the waiver and the actual move wouldn't happen for years. It does feel similar to the big announcement he made on the Iran deal.
He said he was not going to certify that Iran was in compliance, but then taking no immediate action, and he's not pulling out of the deal. And also in some regards, maybe even the Paris Climate Accord.
I mean, with this, are we starting to see a Trump doctrine? A big pronouncement and less follow through on the backside?
INDYK: Big pronouncement designed to appeal to his base, designed to avoid going through with things that his predecessors did because he hates doing that. He wants to be the disrupter.
But on the other hand, in international diplomacy, and particularly on the issue of Jerusalem, he's playing with fire. And the idea that he imagines that he can have it both ways in these circumstances, simply misunderstands the importance of Jerusalem to Israelis, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians throughout the world.
It's a hot-button issue, and the attempt to have it both ways, I believe, will fail. And at a minimum, it will set back his efforts to achieve the ultimate deal in the peace process.
BOLDUAN: Elise, one final question, real quick, what do you make of the argument that -- what about the argument that -- it's the argument that the president, in folks have made about North Korea, which is, the status quo hasn't made a difference. Let's try something new and maybe this gains him some -- gains him credibility internationally.
LABOTT: It doesn't gain him credibility internationally. It does gain him some credibility with the Israelis because it's going to fall short of what I think the Israelis want. I understand that, you know, I've talked to some of the presidents' advisers and they say, look, these deals are never linear.
If you introduce something unexpected, maybe this will galvanize the Arabs. Maybe they'll kind of push the Palestinians to accept something. I think what it does is it prejudices the deal, and it also, you know, kind of calls into question the U.S. role for decades as an honest broker in the Mideast.
This is clearly coming down on the side of the Israelis, and also, the Palestinians don't have that many cards to play. This is something they are looking to play at the table. So, to kind of put, you know, these realities on the ground, as we like to say in the Middle East, and Oren knows all about that, this kind of actually hurts the U.S. And any progress, I feel, that the peace team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt have been quietly making. They don't have anything big to announce, but they are moving towards putting something on the table. I'm afraid this might set it back a little bit.
[11:15:08] BOLDUAN: And that announcement we're expecting in less than two hours from now. Oren, it's great to see you. Thanks for being here. Elise, always great to see you. Ambassador, thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate it. We'll be following this as the announcement comes.
We're also following some more breaking news I want to get to. A new wildfire is raging out west, threatening major roadways, landmarks, and hundreds of thousands of homes in California as we speak.
State officials have now been forced to shut down a very busy portion of the 405 Freeway. And remember, this is not the only fire burning in Southern California right now.
CNN's Paul Vercammen is just north of L.A. in hard-hit Ventura, California. Paul, what are you seeing there?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're continuing to see the advance of flames, Kate. And as you said, this is not the only fire, so let's look at what's going on right here. This is right near the Pacific Ocean.
The objective today for Ventura County firefighters is, they do not want this fire to cross on the other side of the 101 Freeway and burn into these exclusive beachfront homes. As you've pointed out, a lot of fire is burning, 65,000 acres have burned on this fire alone, 150 structures destroyed, zero percent contained.
And if you start to do the math, you know there's that creek fire in L.A. County. You pointed out about the fire burning near the Getty Center. You also have the rye fire. Off the top of my head, that's about 85,000 acres burning right now.
One of the things they've been dealing with so much in Ventura County, you can just see, faintly, little wisps of ash. A lot of firefighters have suffered eye injuries. That's a problem they're dealing with right now.
So, they're going to let it burn down here. You're not going to see a huge, huge show of force by the fire department because they're trying to save lives and structures. But it is not a situation where they think that, suddenly, we're going to have the wind die down and all of this will burn itself out.
This is going to burn more acreages and we'll get to that 100,000-acre mark, Kate, I'm sure.
BOLDUAN: It absolutely looks like it's going to get worse before it at all gets any better. Paul Vercammen is on it. We've got folks on the ground stretched out between what is becoming a massive area threatened by these fires in California. We'll bring you the very latest throughout the hour. Paul, thank you so much.
We're also keeping, of course, a close eye on the White House. President Trump is about to meet with his cabinet ahead of the major and historic announcement regarding Israel and we will take you there.
Plus, hard to believe, but the battle for Alabama Senate seat just got even uglier. Steve Bannon attacking everyone from Republican Senator Jeff Flake to Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney's family at a rally for Roy Moore. The Democrat in the race, turning up the heat, as well. We'll take you live to Alabama.
BOLDUAN: Right now, the president's son is on Capitol Hill, behind closed doors, and in the hot seat, facing lawmakers' questions for the very first time as he is right now with the house intelligence committee. The focus, you can probably guess, Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Joining me now to discuss, Samantha Vinograd, she is here, CNN national security analyst, served on President Obama's National Security Council, and Michael Moore, former U.S. attorney. Thanks to both for being here.
Samantha, we were told -- Manu Raju teed us off at the top of the show, with the areas that lawmakers want to focus on because there are so many, as we know, so many strands in all of these investigations.
But with Don Jr., specifically, it comes backs to, largely, the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, where there was a Russian attorney who promised dirt straight from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton, but also, what's come to light later, which is the Twitter contacts, these Twitter communications, between Don Jr. and Wikileaks. What -- where do you have the most questions? What area?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the first thing is, the backdrop to this meeting on the Hill today is very different than the last time that Don Jr. went to the Hill.
BOLDUAN: How so?
VINOGRAD: We now know that senior transition team officials, and Don Jr. was one of those officials, directed and authorized General Flynn to work with foreign governments to undercut U.S. policy.
So I think the committee is going to be asking if Don Jr. knew what was happening and also, were there any other policies that the transition team was trying to undercut by not working with the White House during the transition?
And I also think that they're going to ask him about his foreign travel. We know that he asked the Carter Page about his foreign travel I think a month ago. And there's good reason for this. The Russians have a history of using relatively neutral European capitals like Paris, where Don Jr. went, to try to contact intelligence targets and to set up secret meetings that can be used for blackmail purposes.
So, I think they'll want to know, in addition to the Trump Tower meeting, did Don Jr. travel anywhere else, have any other meetings that were undisclosed or misreported in some way?
BOLDUAN: And as more information comes out from -- publicly from the special counsel or from other investigations, how do these answers and stories, how do they all line up? That becomes, of course, part of the question.
Michael, I want to get your take. This is -- we're talking about the -- this is the congressional investigation, of course. Do you think Don Jr.'s facing any vulnerability when it comes to Mueller's criminal investigation?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know what, I think so. I think it's never a good day when you're in there having to explain yourself or explain meetings or statements or tweets or anything else that contacts you've had to a committee, whether that be in a congressional investigation or in the Mueller investigation.
I've seen this a lot, both representing people and when you had criminal defendants in a case. They oftentimes think they can get in there and outsmart the investigators or outsmart the folks asking the questions.
And if he could have the opportunity to explain themselves and explain what really went on, they think they're going to clean it all up. And I think probably Don thinks he might be the smartest one in the room today. I think he probably comes by that naturally.
[11:25:06] We have a saying in our family and that is that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and he thinks he can get in there and bombastic and assertive and clear of these questions of these meetings.
But when you're in there talking, you don't know what the investigators already know. And you find that people get in there and they want to come in and give their version of events or give their explanation, not knowing, maybe, that the witness before them or the witness last week has already refuted what they're now testifying to.
So, I just don't think it's a good day. And I think it probably leaves him exposed and I think Mueller is probably well on this path, as we're seeing from the charges coming down against other associates.
BOLDUAN: And along that line, Samantha, as you mentioned, he was -- he was on the transition executive committee. He was a transition official, Don Jr. was and he never joined the administration. In that regard, does that in any way inoculate the president from any wrongdoing that Don Jr. would be part of? VINOGRAD: I don't think that we know yet and I'll leave that part to the special counsel. I do think that, again, it's clear, the Russian government launched a very successful intelligence operation.
They tried to target members of the campaign, members of the transition team, and we're now finding out that senior members from both of those places lied to the FBI. And there are real questions, I think, about who knew what when -- who knew what when, and what they told the FBI.
And so, on the transition team, now Vice President Pence headed the transition team. We know that senior members of his staff directed and authorized Flynn to work with foreign governments. So, I do think there are questions about whether he knew what Flynn was doing and who else knew what was going on.
BOLDUAN: Real quick, Michael, what do you make of this -- Rick Gates. His attorney now says that more charges could be coming. That's what they learned in court from the special counsel's team. What does this mean?
MOORE: Well it, tells me that probably with the charges that we already saw, that there's additional money laundering charges coming out. We've seen the Mueller team do their subpoena with Deutsche Bank.
I've said all along, and I think most folks are agreeing that this is going to come back to a quid pro quo and maybe looking back at some Russian money that either flowed to Trump, his investments, his family, whatever it is.
And clearly, that's where Gates' charges stem from, when it comes to financial crimes. So, a superseding indictment in and of itself is not a particularly new thing, in that, you know, it simply means that the investigators are moving forward, maybe amending the charges.
But when we start talking about money laundering charges, Manafort, quid pro quo ideas and Russian money, I'm not surprised, but I think it gives a bigger axe to hang over the head of folks that need to be talking about people deeper in the Trump administration.
BOLDUAN: Great to have you both here. Thank you so much. Michael Moore already winning the day because he said not once, but twice something I never say on Tv without biting my tongue, quid pro quo.
The message from Alabama voters to Washington has been the following, stay out of our Senate race. So why then is someone straight from Washington making all the news today in Alabama? We're live in Alabama. We'll take you there.
Plus, breaking news, massive fires in California threatening thousands of homes and some of the busiest highways in the country. We'll take you there live. What's happening right now.