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Donald Trump Jr. Invokes Attorney-Client Privilege During Meeting with Congressional Committee; Senator Al Franken to Make Announcement Concerning Possible Resignation on Senate Floor; Trump Jr. Invokes Attorney-Client Privilege To Avoid Questions. Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired December 7, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my view there is no attorney-client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From my perspective all our questions were answered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only reason why you come up with a cockamamie legal strategy is to conceal something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And those are ground for termination.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Franken is going to speak to this. He's acknowledged that his conduct was very serious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're the Republican voices. This is the time when we can make a culture change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, December 7th, 8:00 now in the east.
Donald Trump, Jr., refusing to tell congressional investigators about a conversation he had with his father following that Trump Tower meeting last summer with Russians that promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president's eldest son invoked the attorney-client privilege to avoid answering questions about that meeting.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, a whistleblower tells the House panel that Michael Flynn texted a former business colleague on Inauguration Day, telling him that Russia sanctions would be, quote, "ripped up" as one of the Trump administration's first acts.
All of this and we're following breaking news overseas. There are violent protests in the West Bank following President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. So we have a lot of news covered. Let's begin with CNN's Evan Perez live on Washington on the Don Jr. Congressional interview. What do you have, Evan? EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Donald Trump Jr. says
attorney-client privilege is the reason why he says he doesn't have to tell lawmakers about what he and his did talked about this summer after news reports emerged on this 2016 meeting with Russians. You'll remember this is a meeting at Trump Tower in which Russians promised to provide Jr. with information to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The president's son met with House investigators yesterday to answer questions for several hours, and he told lawmakers that the father-son conversation happened after Trump Jr. issued a misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting and ultimately released e-mails showing what the meeting was really about.
Trump also told investigators that he spoke to Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest aides, as they scrambled to prepare that statement for the media. And that conversation occurred while the president was traveling overseas. As we reported, White House aides and the president himself worked onboard Air Force One to prepare that initial misleading statement which claimed that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting was about adoptions. We know that the Trump Tower meeting and the White House response are now under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Neither Trump Jr. nor the president is a lawyer, but Trump junior says lawyers were present for the conversation so it's covered by attorney- client privilege. Democrats certainly dispute that idea, but it appears so long as Republican lawmakers allow the privilege claim the president's son won't have to provide any more details about those conversations to congress, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Evan, thank you very much for all of that.
More news now, embattled Senator Al Franken expected to make an announcement on the Senate floor today about his political future. A majority of his Democratic senators now calling for him to resign amid these growing accusations of sexual misconduct. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. Do we know what he is going to say, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wish we knew what he's going to say. It's widely expected that he will announce a resignation, but we want to be careful about that because his spokesman via Twitter is pushing back a Minnesota public radio report that he would step down. That spokesman saying essentially that he was discussing these things with his family, but it is widely expected that that is what he will do.
And as you know, Alisyn, this comes amid an extraordinary day yesterday that happened, a sixth female came forward alleging that Franken had inappropriately touched her. This followed the day when Congress John Conyers who was accused of sexual harassment had resigned. It was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat, who finally said enough is enough. There's been growing frustration about parsing what was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable, and it was a campaign, if you will, via Twitter, via statements, many female senators, Democratic colleagues came forward within 30 minutes or so all essentially saying the same thing, more than 30 of Franken's colleagues and some very good friends saying that he would not be able to survive this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: Obviously there are new allegations today, and enough is enough. You need to draw a line in the stand and say none of it is OK, one of it is acceptable, and we as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard and not a lower standard. I do not feel that he should continue to serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: As recently, three weeks ago that he came back to the Senate, Franken then apologized after the first allegation of groping and of forcible kissing, that type of thing. He said he was ashamed and embarrassed. The Senate ethics committee would be investigating this, and he felt like if he put his head down that he would be able to work very hard.
[08:05:14] Well, his good friend, Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader, took him aside yesterday and spoke to him several times saying that he did not think he was going to survive this. If in fact he decides he is going to step down and resign, then it would be the Democratic governor who would be appointing his replacement. It would be a special election that would happen in November of 2018 and we expect that Senate race would be a competitive one. Alisyn, Chris?
CUOMO: Suzanne, appreciate it.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian and David Gregory. With some exceptions people will look at the claim and say attorney-client privilege and say it doesn't fit here, it shouldn't have been allowed. But this is a political decision, David, and if they want to give him a break the can. And we had Chris Stewart from Utah on, Republican on that committee, and that's exactly what it sounds like. Stewart said in no uncertain terms I don't think we're going to learn anything else here. I don't think there is really anything else here. There was so many hours of questioning, and it was just on this one little thing where he said he wants to go back and check, so we said OK, go ahead and go back and check. He seems to want to be forthcoming. Where is the confidence in the witness' credibility given the misstatements in the past?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's that and the fact that are we really to believe he doesn't remember the conversations when he does have plenty of recall about what led up to these meetings and how nothing resulted from the meetings. He has that level of recall but not the subsequent discussions about how to deal with it when it exploded as a story. And there are reports that his father as president is dictating a statement from Air Force One which has special prosecutor's interest and attention.
And so I think with the president's son here, you are seeing the limits of the congressional probe, but perhaps just whetting the appetite for the special prosecutor who may look at this invoking of attorney-client privilege on such a thin ground as a reason to look more at Don Jr., bring him into the grand jury, and so on.
CAMEROTA: There you have it, Karoun. David just hit on exactly the problem. If these congressional probes, the Judiciary, the Intel, can't make any headway, you hear their frustration, Congresswoman Jackie Speier from yesterday said she thought Don Jr. was suffering from amnesia. You hear Dianne Feinstein saying her own chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, is moving at a snail's pace. So if they are stymied, then all there is is Robert Mueller's investigation.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Robert Mueller's investigation is definitely operating on a different plain than the Congressional investigations. We have seen how politics has taken over at least two of the three ongoing Congressional probes. There's been kind of a schism for much of the Senate Judicial Committee's work. Now we see yesterday that Republicans on the communication are saying thank you so much for your time, Don Jr., and Democrats are saying, wait a second, you can't pull this attorney- client privilege thing. We have more questions and you are not being very forthcoming with your answers.
So that was always a risk and almost always going to happen on Capitol Hill because there are a few things that can escape the partisan fervor that exists especially surrounding this issue of the allegations of the president's ties to Kremlin officials and what other members of his team might have had contact with the Russians. So it's not surprising but it certainly does put them at a greater disadvantage. Congressional probes that were already potentially not going to have as much ability what Mueller could because Mueller has more to trade on. Mueller is looking at potentially criminal charges. Mueller is making plea arrangement. Mueller has leverage that the Congressional committee's cannot really exercise.
GREGORY: I think we should add, though, the argument from the White House, from the president's supporters is all of these investigations are moving at a fevered pitch that is presuming guilt and collusion and the worst. And I think it's important to underline what we don't know. There is this big question of why. Why were there contacts? Why was there an attempt to cozy up to the Russians? Why has the president been so dismissive of looking into the attempt by the Russians to interfere with our election?
But what we are looking at and what we're able to actually report on as fact and analyze is still a set of circumstances that raise questions that we don't know what the answer is. And there is not yet evidence that they were working beforehand or during the election to somehow tilt the election. And I think it's worth nodding to the whole point of an obstruction investigation, an element of that investigation is that the president's team often bring these things on themselves by their behavior to shut things down or to deflect.
[08:10:00] CUOMO: We are seeing politics being used to tar the Mueller investigation. The FBI agent that was discovered to be sending texts to a colleague that were anti-Trump, they had to remove him. But now they're saying it's proof that this has always been pro- Clinton. Bob Mueller who people all the way up to Newt Gingrich said is impeccable, 100 percent integrity, the media should calm down now, this guy is great. Now they are saying he is compromised and he has a conflict. So we're seeing politics at play even there.
And now we have a new fact which is that Flynn may have been texting colleagues, Karoun Demirjian, saying the sanctions are going to be gone as soon as the new administration comes forward. Is that the answer to what David Gregory is suggesting is an unknown, which is why were they coordinating?
DEMIRJIAN: Potentially. Again, this is not a completed investigation but certainly the topic of sanctions has come up in various iterations both with Flynn's contacts with the Russians. Also when you talk about the subject of adoptions, adoptions for the Russians means sanctions because it's a response to what we did with the Magnitsky Act before.
So the texts certainly, it was a letter that Congressman Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said we should be looking that this whistleblower, and the response from the Republican leader of that committee, Trey Gowdy was I am not interfering with Mueller's probe. Clearly Mueller is looking at Flynn and we can't do criminal investigations or criminal prosecutions in Congress so I'm not touching it, and I already told you that, congressman. They are having a spat in public that apparently they've been having behind closed doors for a while as well.
But each one of these revelation certainly does go towards filling out the narrative or trying to answer some of the questions, although as David pointed out, at this point it's still an ongoing investigation and there are still these patterns that are developing but not necessarily a full conclusion. And it seems like we are going to having to wait for the various stages of Mueller's probe and these plea deals that he puts out, these potential reports that may come in charges to fully see the picture that they are seeing.
GREGORY: It's just interesting with Flynn, you look at the facts and say, wow, this is someone who is potentially so corrupt in his dealings with the Russians, and was he directed to do that, he's going to be cooperating, or is this more benign. Was this Trump's version of a reset with Russia when he never believed that they were capable of pulling off this caper that the Democrats are alleging. And again, that's why the mystery around Flynn is so significant.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Al Franken because he's going to make some sort of announcement and many people believe that he's going to heed the calls from his Democratic colleagues and that he will resign. And you can see in stark relief the difference between how Democrats have been dealing with John Conyers and Al Franken, just the latest two, and how Republicans are wrestling with what to do with Roy Moore and the accusations against Donald Trump and Blake Farenthold, all of that, there's a distinction. Last night, it was interesting, Laura Ingraham, conservative radio host on FOX, and Newt Gingrich appeared to be siding with Al Franken, but really it was just against with what they thing is this newfound morality of Democrats. So listen to this moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: These are people who grew up in a party which used to preach free love, which used to think that all of hippy-dom was wonderful, who used to think they somehow represent the future. And now they suddenly curled into this weird puritanism which feels a compulsion to go out and lynch people without a trial.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I just want everyone watching to understand that Newt Gingrich is here tonight, and he's standing up for Al Franken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Sort of. I mean, he's calling it weird puritanism. It's not the 60s anymore, My. Speaker.
DEMIRJIAN: It's also not a question of free love, which is presumably hopefully consensual and these incidences which are basically nonconsensual. And it's strange to hear -- there are so many characters like Newt Gingrich who have their own history talking about these things. But generally speaking, yes, Democrats got a lot of criticism over the last week or two since the allegations about Senator Franken did come out for not reacting more quickly. But they have reacted in great numbers now, at least in the Senate, to say it's time to go, at the same time you have the Republican Party moving in closer to Roy Moore.
And I really think that that is a very important thing to keep in mind, that the calendar of the election in Alabama coming up and Democrats needing to be able to have a reason to point a finger at Roy Moore and not have the finger pointed directly back at Senator Franken. So it does help them politically to be able to do this now.
The real question about whether this is a sincere shift or just a political shift is going to be after that election. Does this continue with other people whose names come up? Does it continue to be a zero tolerance party in the Democratic Party or not? And that's what we'll kind of tell how much this is political posturing or really a sincere shift?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's also just interesting that the Democrats have been attacking Trump for attacking Democratic institutions. And now they're getting rid of Franken without due process, or at least they're trying to. We'll see what Franken says today, it's up to him.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean I just think, you know, this is ultimately an argument that is putting the due process piece aside and saying to Franken this is for the good of the party. This helps Democrats under oath.
CUOMO: No. No. No. You're --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Cora and David thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. So, Donald Trump, Jr., invoked the attorney-client privilege. How can law makers get the answers they want if it's that easy to duck to the questions? We're going to ask the ranking Democrat of the House Intel Committee who tried to get answers out of Trump, Jr. What do they think? Next.
CUOMO: Donald Trump, Jr., invoking attorney and client privilege to avoid answering questions from the House Intelligence Committee about his conversations with his father after the campaign meeting with Russian at Trump tower last summer.
Joining us now is the top Democrat on that committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, thank you for joining us. I do want to talk to you about wildfires that raging in your state as well here. We want to get the word out about the need there and the danger. But let's talk about this hearing. Why did you guys let him assert a privilege that by most legal reckonings he does not have?
[08:20:04] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's not a question of us allowing him to a certain privilege. We asked the questions. We sought to get the answers. He invoked the privilege. And we made it clear at least on our side of the aisle that we did not think this was a recognizable privilege.
He then and his counsel said they would go back and discuss it further with their lawyers, with the president's lawyers and get back to us. The question comes if they get back to us and say, no, we're not going to answer those questions. Then we'll be required to subpoena Donald Trump Jr., back before the committee.
Unfortunately, I think that committee has set a precedent that if witnesses make any flimsy claim of privilege that the House or the Senate will back away. We have seen, for example, the attorney general, not just in the House but in the Senate too, make an assertion that they were not going to answer questions about conversations, not because they were invoking the privilege in those cases. But because they thought that the president ultimately might invoke privilege sort of a privilege to potentially invoke too much privilege. There's no such thing.
SCHIFF: But as long as the Senate and House fail to act and insist, then we create this new opportunity to evade oversight. And I think that's dangerous. And our investigation I think is more dangerous in terms of the entire precedent.
CUOMO: Well, and then you have what else went on, according to sources in this Q&A yesterday, which was him saying he doesn't remember things. So, how much off scathing do you think you got versus clarity that you got?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I don't want to characterize the testimony in that way. What I tried to do is basically not go into the content of what people have said. But rather when they refuse to answer questions not let them hide behind the closed nature of the proceeding and then go public and say, well, we fully cooperated when they haven't.
But, I will leave that for others when we do ultimately publish the transcript. And I hope that at the conclusion of the investigation will publish all these transcripts. So the American people can see exactly what these witnesses had to say and whether it supports the conclusions that we reached. But personally, I'd rather not characterized the witnesses' testimony.
CUOMO: All right. Well, how about this thing, did you learn more about why Donald Trump, Jr., provided different reckonings of what that meeting was about, and whether or not he's father, the president of United States knew about the meeting, and if so, when? And what if anything happened after that meeting in furtherance of the cooperation that was present at the meeting?
SCHIFF: You know, we certainly learn more than we knew going into the hearing. So, we did gather additional facts. And what you hope in these interviews had not necessarily that a witness is going to says, OK. I did it or agree to the overall conclusion. Did you collude with the Russians? You seldom get a straight answer if you ask the summary questions.
But if you ask the very specific questions, it leads you to other witnesses, other documents in which you can prove or disprove what the witnesses have said. So, yes, I think we gained some important insights that we can now follow-up if we have the support of the majority find out, OK, was this witness telling us the truth. And if not, does it lead us to other evidence that will shed more light on the facts. So, I think it was very productive.
CUOMO: Chris Stewart says he doesn't think there's anything there, that there was a long questioning and period that Donald Jr. gave as much as he thought he could give. And that based on what he knows of this circumstances and the facts of the situation. There's just nothing there to follow-up on in terms of collusion. He kept saying that there is nothing over that next reach.
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think Mr. Stewart has expressed that opinion from the very beginning, you know, before we had this witnesses come in. But if you look at what has now been produced in the public eye, I think you can see a lot of evidence that's filling in the picture of the puzzle.
I'll just give you quick snapshot. In late April, you have Papadopoulos now admitting that the Russians informed him through in the mid-years (ph), informed that campaign that they had the stolen Hillary Clinton e-mails. Now, this was in such an early date that not even the Clinton campaign was aware the Russians had theses e-mails.
Weeks later, you have Don Jr. and these others top campaign people taking a meeting with the Russians who represent themselves as representing the government and its effort to help Donald Trump and promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, dirt which the campaign was then unnoticed that they really had.
They go in to the meeting, the dirt that they get, they express great disappointment. They want more. And within days Julian Assange announces he's obtained the e-mails and the Russians start publishing them through DCLeaks and Gossip, ForTwo (ph). That's a pretty damning set of circumstances.
Now, there was some pieces that we continue to look forward. Was it communicated to the campaign that the way the Russians were going to help is not by delivering the e-mails directly to the campaign which could incriminate both the Russians and the campaign by but by publishing them independently, that's how they were make good on the offer of help and the campaign, acceptance of help.
[08:25:01] We're still looking at that particular issue. But there's a lot in the public domain. You really have to be trying to look away to say there's no evidence of collusion here. And you have to, I think, accept that face value the self-serving statements of the administration and as investigator that's just not what we do.
CUOMO: Well, I smell what you're cooking. But as they say, you're going to need some more ingredients to make soup. We'll see what you find and follow every step of the way. The fires that are burning in your state are no joke. There was zero percent containment for a long time. We know that a lot of resources are being thrown at it. We're showing pictures now of the situation there. How urgent is it? How worried are you that it's going to spread to even more populated communities?
SCHIFF: It's very urgent. And with these winds there's just no containing a fire as long as the winds persists. So, I'm deeply concerned about it. I've been talking to my constituents. Many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from their homes. And they are, as you can imagine watching very nervously to find out whether their entire world ends up in flames, so hard to overstate the danger here. I don't think we'll be out of the woods until those winds come down. But the firefighters are doing an absolutely heroic job.
CUOMO: I mean it is just horrible. Literally looks like hell fire that they're dealing with out there.
SCHIFF: It certainly does.
CUOMO: Congressman, thank you very much for taking the opportunity. Appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right, Chris, we're continuing to follow our Breaking News, violence from the west best bank following President Trump's Jerusalem decision. Former U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, George Mitchell is going to share his insights, next.