Return to Transcripts main page


Three Lawmakers Resign In Three Days Over Harassment Allegations; Rep. Franks Stuns With "Surrogacy" Revelations; Trump To Rally Near Alabama Days After Endorsing Moore; Donald Trump, Don Junior, Others in Trump Team Received E-mail for Hacked WikiLeaks Documents; Undisclosed E-mails Follow-up Made After Trump Tower Meeting with Russians; Strong November Jobs Report Out. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 09:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[09:00:19] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 a.m. Pacific. And we begin with major breaking news on two fronts in the Russia investigation, including several CNN exclusives this morning.

Moments ago we've learned that new e-mails show a possible attempt to share hacked WikiLeaks documents with the Trump campaign, including what the president himself, his son and other members of the Trump Organization just weeks before the 2016 election.

This comes on top of another CNN exclusive report about previously undisclosed e-mails that show follow-ups to a meeting between that Russian lawyer and the president's son, Don Junior, a meeting that was set up with the intent on getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Let's get straight to our senior CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju who has just broken this news on the WikiLeaks documents.

What can you tell us?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Junior, and others in the Trump organization received an e-mail on September 2016 offering a description key and Web site address for hacked WikiLeaks documents.

This is according to a September 4th, 2016 e-mail provided to congressional investigators by the Trump Organization.

Now, Poppy, to put the timeframe in context here, this e-mail came months after the hacked e-mails of the DNC were made public, and one month before WikiLeaks began leaking the content of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's hacked e-mails and shortly before Trump Junior began an exchange of direct messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks. Now congressional investigators are trying to determine whether this

individual who sent the September e-mail is actually legitimate and whether it shows this is part of many efforts by WikiLeaks to connect with Trump son and others on the Trump campaign.

Now the e-mail also indicated that the Trump campaign could access records from the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose hacked e-mails were made public by a Russian front group 10 days later. The e-mail came from someone who listed his name as, quote, "Mike Erickson." It was addressed to Trump, Trump Junior, Trump Junior's personal assistant and some others, and investigators are not certain who this individual is and we were not able to make contact with this person.

It's not even clear whether this e-mail was a legitimate effort to provide these hacked documents to the campaign. Now Trump Junior was asked about the e-mail Wednesday when he was question in the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, according to sources, who told both my colleague Jeremy Herb and me, and Trump Junior's attorney told CNN that his client has said he had no recollection of the e-mail and took no action on it.

Poppy, the use of a Web site and description key as a means to provide information aligns with past WikiLeaks practices and the idea that WikiLeaks were supposed to data file on the Internet but it becomes encrypted and it's impossible to open without the key.

The question is, is that actually what happened here? That's something we just don't know the answer to quite yet -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. Because when he was asked about it by members of Congress and congressional investigators yesterday, you know, again -- or this week, the answer was, you know, I don't know, I don't recall. We need a lot more answers.

Manu, thank you on the reporting.

Meantime, CNN has learned previously undisclosed e-mails also show there was a follow-up to that 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer and top Trump campaign officials, including the president's son, Don Junior. These new e-mails about questions raised -- what was actually talked about inside that meeting in Trump Tower. Remember the Russian lawyer promised dirt on Hillary Clinton but Donald Trump, Jr. insists the meeting was actually all about adoption.

Jim Sciutto, this is his exclusive reporting. He has more on this.

When Sean Hannity asked Don Junior, was there any follow-up to that meeting in Trump Tower he said, no, nothing, because there was nothing to follow up on. But your reporting is counter to that?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, these e-mails showed that some participants in that meeting, not Donald Trump Jr. but others including Rob Goldstein, the British publicist who brokered the meeting between senior Trump officials and Russians. Between him and a Russian that was in the room for the meeting and others, there were multiple communications, in fact, following that meeting.

I'll give you an example. On June 14th, 2016, five days after the Trump Tower meeting, Rob Goldstein forwards actually a CNN story on the news breaking that day that Russia had hacked DNC e-mails. He forwarded that story to one of the Russians in the room for the meeting on another Russian with somewhat cryptic comments at the top, saying, quote, "Isn't this eerily weird in light of what we talked about the other day."

Now there are multiple explanations for what he might be saying there but was at least referencing that there was more to that conversation than Russian adoptions. There's another series of e-mails where Rob Goldstein is pitching the senior Trump campaign official Dan Scavino who's now actually social media director in the White House about getting Donald Trump a page on the Russian equivalent on Facebook, it's called VK.

[09:05:10] He pitched this frequently and aggressively. So it does two things. It shows that after that meeting, there was still back and forth between participants, and that after that meeting there were references to other things talked about in that meeting besides Russian adoptions. And the fact is, Poppy, you know, the Russian adoption story has fallen apart virtually from the beginning because of course there's an e-mail in advance of that meeting that Donald Trump Junior went in there expecting dirt on Hillary Clinton.

HARLOW: Right. And now you have Rob Goldstein who sent those follow- up e-mails that you're reporting breaks coming before, you know, Congress to testify next week. So hopefully a few more answers.

SCIUTTO: That's right.

HARLOW: But, Jim, I mean, Don Junior, the president's son, was asked about it this week on the Hill and his answer?

SCIUTTO: I don't recall, which has been a frequent answer to any of these.


SCIUTTO: And let's be frank, it was a long campaign and they, like you and I, received a lot of e-mails over the course of that time.


SCIUTTO: But that "I don't recall" answer is one he used here. He's used to other questions that Senate and House investigators have had.

HARLOW: All right. Stay with me and let's bring into this conversation, Laura Coates, our legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.

Laura, let's talk about any legal implications here because, you know, Jim is right in saying that the answer that Don Junior has given multiple times to congressional investigators on both of these e-mails that Manu and Jim just reported about is I don't recall, and there was no smoking gun evidence that there was direct Trump campaign response to this outreach, for example, for the WikiLeaks documents. So any legal implications here?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you continue to see a pattern of behavior. They're self-inflicted wounds because amnesia may be a topic of, like, a lifetime movie but it's not persuasive to Mueller or a criminal investigation particularly when you have a pattern of behavior where amnesia is selective, when the "oh yes, I forgot about the defense" has already run its course, you have further indication that there was advance notice of perhaps passcoded identifications for, you know, hacked e-mails, et cetera.

You've got a direct message trail between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump, Jr. You've got corresponding evidence to corroborate the fact that he was aware that there may have been more content in that meeting simply about the Magnitsky Act and adoption. And now you have further details that say that there may have been more information disclosed, more topics covered.

Now the question is whether or not Mueller's team is aware of this, and we suspect that they are because there's been an air of duplicitous, a nature throughout this entire investigation. But it just says to me that it's a sound that continues to be this air of amnesia, as a persuasive and compelling legal defense here.

HARLOW: Jim, you cover the Russia investigation so closely. I mean, when you piece all of these news, CNN is reporting, together, what does it tell you about where the investigation stands, where it may turn, where Mueller's team and some of these congressional investigators may turn?

SCIUTTO: Well, for one thing, the Trump Tower meeting which we know is the subject of the investigation from a number of angles, the story -- the initial story has fallen apart, right? This idea that it was just about adoptions. You have e-mail traffic on either end that shows that that's just not the case. And remember, in that instance, the president was involved in crafting that misleading explanation for that Trump Tower meeting.

He was on Air Force One helping to write up the statement that came out, which was proven to be misleading, once the e-mails that Donald Trump had had came out. So there's a consistency here in a couple of things. One, misleading statements, misleading explanations, and that goes even to the larger picture, right? Because from the very beginning the Trump world position has been there were no communications or contacts with Russia. The fact is over time we found that there have been a whole host of them.


SCIUTTO: They raised questions. You don't know what they were exchanging necessarily, and this goes to the core question of whether there was cooperation or collusion, that's not established yet. But at a minimum, there was communication.

HARLOW: Right. SCIUTTO: So that is something that Mueller and House and Senate

investigators are trying to get to the bottom of.

HARLOW: Laura, go ahead.

COATES: And remember, if you look back to even George Papadopoulos who made the mistake of believing that he knew what Mueller's team already knew and he found out late in the game that they had already obtained subpoena power and control and knew about the electronic paper trail that he had on Facebook, it would be a mistake for anybody who knows about a federal prosecutor's investigation, particularly one that is in the limelight like this to assume that Mueller's team or the congressional team who's had a corresponding investigation, is not already aware of what evidence is out there. And so to keep kind of get ahead of the story would be the better thing, but they're playing catch-up in a very dangerous pool.

HARLOW: You know, Jim, turning to the Mueller investigation on Russia. You know, the -- it wasn't that long ago that the president was sort of on an island criticizing, you know, all of this as a hoax, et cetera, et cetera.

[09:10:003] Now you've got some big named Republicans increasingly going after Bob Mueller. You've got Newt Gingrich, who let me remind you what he said back in May about Bob Mueller. "Robert Mueller is a superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should calm down now."

Yes, but here's what Gingrich said this week on FOX News.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt.


HARLOW: You've got Mark Meadows of the Freedom Caucus, Republican from North Carolina, going after Mueller this week, too. What's going on?

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's a campaign, right? It's a campaign to discredit the investigation and the man at the top of the investigation Robert Mueller.

HARLOW: But why now? Why now and not then? You know?

SCIUTTO: Well, because the investigation is continuing, one, and it's finding stuff, finding stuff that makes them uncomfortable. Keep in mind, Robert Mueller is a life-long Republican. Right? So, you know, there are things, you know, in the midst of this portrayal here, and not to mention, as you do, it wasn't just Newt Gingrich, it was many Republicans who were very happy when he was chosen to be the special counsel. He has an impeccable reputation here in Washington, D.C. So this is -- it's a campaign, right? It's a campaign to discredit the investigation by discrediting the man. One thing I would just say is going after -- and hearing Newt Gingrich

there and other, and hearing the president talking about the FBI in tatters, keep in mind, the FBI is fighting on a lot of fronts, right? I mean, the FBI is principally in charge of protecting the U.S. against terror acts. They're very much involved in that, going after terrorists. So are you saying that the FBI that you rely on for, you know, serious national security issues and threats, are you saying the whole operation is in tatters because -

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: That's a question the president has to answer and Newt Gingrich has to answer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, they're not answering that question.

HARLOW: Well, you've heard the very stark, strong defense of the FBI from Christopher Wray yesterday on the Hill, multiple times over, defending his teams against these attacks.

Jim Sciutto, thank you for that and the reporting.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Laura Coates, thank you for the analysis as well.

Do not forget to watch Jim's special report, "The Mystery of Michael Flynn." It is at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN tonight.

Just moments ago we got the monthly jobs report. It is a very strong one for the Trump economy.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here. Big number.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is another big number. I mean, it shows that employers are aggressively hiring still, continue to hire aggressively.

I can show you what the job growth looks like over the past year. 228,000 net new jobs this most recent month. You can see October with 240,000 some, that's bouncing back after those hurricanes in September. So that's a pretty good picture of just how strong the economy is.

You look at the sectors, health care up 30,000. These are a broad array of jobs, some of them pay very, very well. Business, services, again, a highly paid sector of the economy in many cases. Manufacturing up 31,000, that's a very strong number for manufacturing. And even construction, entering the fall construction up 23,000 net new jobs there. Those sometimes tend to be higher paid jobs.

When we look at wages, up about 2.5 percent. If you look at overall weekly paychecks those grew about 3 percent, Poppy. That's because people are working more hours so that's a little bit a caution in the wage front. We still haven't seen wages off to the races yet. HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: But when I dig into these numbers, I see fewer discouraged workers, fewer marginalized workers, fewer under employed. All these numbers going in the right direction.

HARLOW: They are. So here's what I'm fascinated by, Romans, this morning.

For the last three decades it has been the economy, stupid, right?

ROMANS: Yes for that.

HARLOW: Every since President Bill Clinton. And when presidents -- are presidents during a strong economy, they can sustain a lot like impeachment proceedings, right? But if you look at the new Pew numbers this morning, President Trump has a 32 percent approval rating, the lowest we've seen for him. I mean, why the disconnect this time when the economy is just doing remarkably well?

ROMANS: It's fascinating. It's fascinating. A mirror image of stock market and job market gains and the president's approval rating. And that's a very -- a perfect mirror image when you look at those.

One reason might be this, Poppy, and I can show the last 10 months of the Obama administration, about 1.86 million jobs were created. The first 10 months of the Trump administration, 1.7 million. So is there really a big change in how people feel about the labor market? I mean, these are strong jobs numbers, no question, but they were a little bit stronger last year. So it's been a trend that is intact.

There's also this risk that when the president goes out and talks about the job market and the Trump economy and takes credit for it, people who may not feel it, and certainly don't feel it in their paychecks, I just told you, wages only up about 2.5 percent, that doesn't feel so great. They might wonder, wait a minute, if you're crowing about the economy and I'm not getting it in my paycheck yet, is that really -- is that really justified?


ROMANS: Another thing, we're told that this tax reform or tax cuts for companies are supposed to unleash growth in the economy. Yet we see a strong labor market already.

[09:15:00] We see, you know, the GDP economic growth is growing, so do we really need to unleash growth for companies if the labor market is already doing well and the stock market too? A lot of good questions there.

HARLOW: A lot of questions. Christine Romans, thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: So, still to come, a shocking out of the blue resignation by Republican Congressman Trent Franks, now the subject of a House Ethic probe over conversations he had with staffers about being surrogate parents for he and his wife, seriously?

Plus, out of control and getting worse, new evacuations across Southern California as many more are warned to get ready to leave.



HARLOW: In the space of three days this week, three of the most distinctive and influential voices in Congress have resigned each over claims of sexual misconduct that in many cases the lawmakers denied.

For John Conyers and Senator Al Franken, the pressure was to resign was intense, public, and protracted. But Trent Franks' announcement came out of the blue. The eight-term Republican congressman from Arizona admitted to being insensitive to women staffers on the topic of surrogacy pregnancy, but even go farther than that.

Our M.J. Lee is on Capitol Hill. Let's start with Franks. What happened?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Poppy, it really is quite the backstory. He put out a lengthy statement explaining what happened last night and he essentially said that he and his wife have had fertility problems and that they were looking for a surrogate to carry their child.

And he acknowledges that he spoke with at least two female subordinates about the issue and that he may have made them feel uncomfortable. Now as a part of the statement, he insists that I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced or have or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.

But he does acknowledge that "Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.

Now he is currently under the House Ethics investigation, and he says that this is part of the reason why he is resigning, he believes that because of the current climate he is not convinced that he can get a fair trial.

But that is not what House Speaker Paul Ryan said last night. He said he was presented with credible claims of misconduct and that they were serious enough to require action and that he actually called on Franks to resign last week.

Now one member that Paul Ryan is not calling on to resign is Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas. He was also accused of sexual harassment back in 2014 and remember, Poppy, he ended up settling with the accuser and the accuser, Loren Green, ended up being paid $84,000 from a fund set up with taxpayer money.

This, of course, has raised fresh questions about why the system is made in such a way that taxpayers are on the hook to settle and payout accusers who say that they were, you know, subject to sexual harassment by members of Congress.

HARLOW: Indeed. M.J. Lee, you have been at the forefront in all of this reporting. Thank you for all of it.

So as these men are leading Capitol Hill over these actions and allegations, the president is holding a rally just 25 miles from the Alabama border, four days before their special election, and just days after he endorsed Roy Moore for Senate, a man accused of molesting a 14-year-old, and other sexual assault allegations, et cetera that he denies.

Now the Republican Party is also pumping a lot of money back into Moore's campaign in these final days. The RNC chairwoman spoke to our Randi Kaye about it, but she never mentioned Moore by name. Listen closely.


RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: This is a democracy and they will see it play out and they will make that decision and it's not up to me and the president said we want to support the president's agenda.


HARLOW: With me now CNN political analyst, "Time" magazine correspondent, Molly Ball, "Real Clear Politics" reporter, Caitlin Huey-Burns, and Lynn Sweet, the Washington Bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times."

Lynn Sweet, let me begin with you. This is a moment, no question, we will see what happens with Farenthold as he holds on or if he pulls out, but the Democrats have set the bar here, right? And so, now the question becomes, OK, Republican Party, what are you going to do and what do you stand for on this? Where does it go?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Where I think it goes -- let's look at the Tuesday election in Alabama. If Moore is elected, I would not be surprised if the Senate Democrats don't try to get him expelled.

It takes 67 votes which means they will have to get 19 Republicans to go along, presuming the Democrats stick together. The impending departure of Senator Franken means that that Democrats can take a moral high ground and move ahead in talking about who I think the first target will be on this, will be Moore if he is elected.

After that, where it goes, it's a lot of cleaning and introspection within Congress, and they pass laws for others that they do not impose upon themselves, and this episode, I think, will start having Congress act like employers throughout the rest of the United States, where they have to take more responsibility.

HARLOW: That would make sense, considering we pay their salaries. So, David Axelrod, Molly Ball, to you -- David Axelrod is obviously the former adviser to President Obama, he said Tuesday the Alabama election will be the test of the "Me Too" movement. What if it fails, what if it doesn't? Is he right, is Tuesday the test?

[09:25:03] MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. First of all, there's no single test for a movement as powerful as this. I think the momentum that it has is not going to stop because of one election, and elections are complicated.

There are a lot of different variables here and a lot of Alabama voters view it also as a partisan test, as the chairman of the RNC was saying there, this is also about Republican versus Democrat for a lot of people, and some voters may choose to overlook Roy Moore's behavior and others will not.

I think it's more complicated than a single referendum on whether or not people want to punish people with the history of sexual misconduct, and it's that, too. One of the things both parties will be watching is how powerful a force is this anger that women voters have already shown so far this year. If it's powerful enough to change something in a state like Alabama, then it is very powerful.

BOLDUAN: Caitlin, Al Franken resigned, he did not apologize to the women, and I noticed that listening to his live remarks yesterday, and he said, "I think there may be a misconception that I was admitting guilt when I wasn't, et cetera." Does that hurt the Democratic Party in a taking stand?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, it was very interesting because he was defiant in this speech yesterday kind of saying, look, why am I leaving when others who have been facing similar accusations, some facing what some would argue more egregious accusations are staying in their posts.

Yes, I think a lot of people are asking that question and asking whether Democrats would have made this decision had the Minnesota governor not been a Democrat, and I want to note this could become a competitive seat next year, and there's that component.

I think Democrats were looking at this in the aggregate saying we have to take a stand on this and put the spotlight on Republicans and we will see how voters respond to that. If Republicans start doing the same thing, try to level of playing field in that way, I am wondering how this will play out, though, in terms of how, you know, voters are already kind of angry that Congress has been lagging behind other institutions on this issue.

The ground has certainly shifted in the past two months on Capitol Hill, it shifted in the past two weeks, and the situation last year during the election is certainly different than perhaps it would be next year. I think voters are waiting to see how that plays out.

BOLDUAN: Lynn Sweet, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush was tweeted this, "It's fascinating Franken should not have resigned. His fate should have been left to the people of Minnesota.

Moore who had sexual contacts to the 14-year-old girl should drop out. Conyers should have resigned, and Franken is a creep that acted inappropriately, but facts are different. So, that's counter to what, you know, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said this week, which is forget sort of this is OK, this isn't OK. There has to be a single bar and that's what we all have to operate on as a single party. What do you make of Ari Fleischer's comment here?

SWEET: What I make of Ari Fleischer since he has the Republican, he more, I guess, he has more freedom to take on something now dividing Democrats, and that is there was not a recognition that all issues of harassment are equal.

What Senator Al Franken did is not the same as what Harvey Weinstein did, as what others who were forced out of their jobs did. When you talk about equivalency there are issues. Our society recognizes the difference between going 20 miles over the speed limit and something far more serious.

You don't have to take away the seriousness of what Senator Franken did, but I think you need to since we do in everything else in life when it comes to making these judgments recognize that what he's accused of is not as egregious as some of the other mortally gross, lewd and sickening acts that some of the accused did. This is what I am talking about writ large in these -- in this post Weinstein era.

HARLOW: Interesting to see Fleischer, a Republican saying that about a Democrat saying he should not have resigned. I will say the response M.J. Lee got from one of the accusers of Franken is disappointment in his lack of an apology yesterday.

Ladies, thank you all. Have a nice weekend. You will certainly be back. We will keep talking about this.

All right. A CNN exclusive report, a new possible connection between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks including an e-mail sent directly to Donald Trump weeks before the election.