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Al Franken Resigns Fom Senate; Donald Trump to Hold Rally in Florida Near Alabama; New Reports Indication Link Given to Trump Campaign Related to Hacked WikiLeaks Documents; Interview with Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 8, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, meanwhile, three lawmakers in three days resigning amid sexual misconduct issues. First there was John Conyers. Then Republican Congressman Trent Franks abruptly announced last night that he was stepping down, and that of course came after Democratic Senator Al Franken caved to pressure from his party and he said that he plans to leave Congress within weeks. Franken, though, took a shot at President Trump and Roy Moore over the allegations they face from multiple women.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump heads to Pensacola, Florida, tonight as the sexual misconduct scandals rock Congress. The president will headline a campaign style rally. And Pensacola about as close as you can humanly get to the state of Alabama where there's a key Senate race that's happening right now, and the president has given his full support to Roy Moore despite the fact that Roy Moore has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. That election now just four days away.
CAMEROTA: Joining us now, our CNN political analysts John Martin and Joshua Green. Great to see both of you. Jonathan Martin, I guess let's just start with Al Franken. That was a stunning speech from the Senate floor yesterday. It surprised many. He didn't admit guilt. In fact he said that he thought that some of his apologies, his efforts to reach out and be compassionate to women and to believing women gave the false impression that he agreed that he had done something wrong and he was sort of setting the record straight there. What did you hear?
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's clearly unhappy that he is effectively being forced out, Alisyn. As you know this was not something he decided to do two days ago. He decided to quite two days ago because he was forced to by his own colleagues because after the most recent allegation against him that was enough for his Democratic colleagues, most of them women, who quickly said you got to go, and that's why he quit. So he's not happy about it.
But politically this is why it's important that Franken quit and that Conyers quit the previous day. Democrats are going to want to have the high ground next year, and if their hands are not completely clean on this issue of sexual impropriety, it's going to be tough for them in the midterms to go after Republicans for coddling the likes of Roy Moore. BERMAN: They want the high ground not next year. They want the high
ground tonight, Josh Green. The president is going to campaign for Roy Moore tonight. I know he's going to Florida, not Alabama. Pensacola and Mobile have the same media market. This is the Alabama media market. Lara Trump had made phone calls into Alabama to get Alabamians to go to this rally. So is this the picture that Democrats were hoping for, Josh, having President Trump on the doorstep of Alabama campaigning essentially for Roy Moore?
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. If you talk to Democrats they will point out you have a president who has been accused multiple times of sexual harassment, we've heard him on tape talking about it, going down to campaign for a very controversial Senate candidate who has been accused by I believe nine women of sexual misconduct, including a 14-year-old girl. That is as vivid a contrast as one could imagine so long as Democrats don't have their own sexual harassment problems hanging over them. And Franken's decision to step down or the party's decision to force him out I think helps that to make it a cleaner contrast.
CAMEROTA: OK, so Jonathan, that leads us to the next resignation we heard yesterday afternoon. Republican Congressman Trent Franks, as we have been discussing, this is in a different vein, sort of, than the standard sexual harassment accusations that we have heard. This is two staffers in his office who report in the midst of fertility challenges that he was having with his wife that he approached them about surrogacy, asking if they could help. He, Trent Franks and his wife, have a child, somehow.
MARTIN: It's perhaps not harassment, but it's just inappropriate. And I think the great lesson coming out of this moment is that it's reminding some men that you just can't act like that in the workplace. It seemed obvious to some people but perhaps was not to Mr. Franks. What is striking here, though, is that the Republicans have not been as quick to push their own out, and obviously in the case of Moore, many of them, including the president, are embracing his candidacy. I think what is striking about Franks is he is moving swiftly. Speaker Ryan did nudge him, and now to raise yet more to him, Alisyn, Congressman Blake Farenthold from south Texas, what does he do. He is on the record being accused of sexual harassment. A former staff of his has a taxpayer financed settlement.
CAMEROTA: Wait, $84,000. Well, from that fund that we have talked so much about, this secretive shrouded fund. Nobody knew where these $17 million worth of settlements were going. So now we have a little bit indication that $84,000 of it went to one of his accusers.
[08:05:00] BERMAN: He will go if Republicans tell him to go. Mia Love, a Republican member of Congress from Utah last night, told Kate Bolduan that she thinks that he should step down. Barbara Comstalk of Virginia has apparently said the same. We have Democrat Elijah Cummings told me moments ago that he thinks Blake Farenthold should step down, too. But this is up to the Republican members of Congress. We'll have to wait and see.
MARTIN: Real fast, John, that's two rank and file members that you named. The House leadership has not pushed him yet.
BERMAN: Right, exactly. Paul Ryan would have to change here. He pushed Trent Franks out. The question is will he take the same action with Farenthold. Josh, while we have you here it's nice to tap your brain because it's somehow melded in some ways at least editorially to Steve Bannon.
BERMAN: You wrote the book on him. Will any of this change his support, not for the president but change his advocacy for people who have been charged with this type of thing? Any of the actions in Congress the last week with these people stepping down and the implications, will it force him to budge at all?
GREEN: No, I don't think it will. He's almost reveled in the attacks against Roy Moore. Moore's campaign sent out an e-mail this morning saying that somehow Franken's resignation proves that Roy Moore is innocent. So Bannon has been in the forefront I think of trying to write a counter narrative for Roy Moore, saying all these accusers are lying, this is a conspiracy by the Democrats and the mainstream media.
I was down in Alabama earlier this week for the rally that Bannon held with Moore, and essentially a lot of Republicans in Alabama believe that. So Bannon isn't at all put off by these charges and seems intent on convincing Republican voters in Alabama that they are false. If you look at where the polls seem to be heading that's a strategy that looks like it may work on Tuesday.
MARTIN: Just real fast, Josh, because you mentioned the polling there, Steve Bannon followed the polling, he didn't follow Roy Moore. Let's be honest, in the first days after "The Post" reported this story about the women and Roy Moore, Steve Bannon was quiet. He didn't say anything. The Mercer family which helps fund some of his activity has been gone from Alabama entirely. I think once Bannon saw the polling stabilize for Moore he saw an opportunity to go back to Alabama and obviously claim some of the spotlight. But I'm dubious that if the polling had not stabilized for Moore that Bannon would have ever shown up in Alabama again.
GREEN: I don't agree at all. Bannon was on the phone at the White House. He was on the phone with people like Sean Hannity calling almost immediately after this stuff trying to stop them from pushing Moore overboard.
MARTIN: He didn't publicly for the first days, though.
GREEN: Maybe not within the first hours, but I think he and the kind of conservatives he stands for had been pretty instrumental in trying to change the narrative at least among Republicans in Alabama and create a permission structure or really just a conspiratorial worldview that will all them to go ahead and vote for Moore. And if you look at the polls the last two, three weeks, that seems to be the direction in which Republican voters in Alabama --
MARTIN: That's what I am saying, Josh, is that the polling had Moore down 10 to 15 points I don't think we would see Bannon down there.
BERMAN: All right, guys, we have to break this up because it's getting too heated. I've nervous for both of you right now.
BERMAN: In addition to that we do have some breaking news we want to get to. Josh Green, John Martin, thank you so much.
The breaking news this morning we have to report is a CNN exclusive in the Russia investigation. An electronic trail has emerged showing a possible attempt to share hacked WikiLeaks documents with the Trump campaign. Let's get right to CNN's Manu Raju with these breaking details. Manu, what have you learned?
MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and others in the Trump organization received an e-mail September, 2016, offering a decryption key and website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents. This is according to September 4th, 2016 email provided to Congressional investigators by the Trump Organization.
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 contents 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 the individual who sent the September email is legitimate and whether it shows additional efforts by WikiLeaks to connect with Trump's son and others in the Trump campaign. 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 from a Russian front group 10 days later. The email came from someone who listed his name as Mike Erickson (ph) and it was addressed to Trump, Trump Jr.'s personal assistant, and others. The investigators are uncertain who the sender is, and CNN was unable to make contact with the individual.
[08:10:02] It's not even clear if the e-mail was a legitimate effort to provide the hacked documents to the Trump campaign. Trump Jr. who came to Capitol Hill this week was asked about this before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors according to sources that told my colleague Jeremy Herb and I. Trump Jr.'s attorney told CNN that his client said he had no recollection of the e-mail and took no action on it.
The use of a website and decryption key as a means to provide information, this aligns with past WikiLeaks practices, the idea that WikiLeaks will post a data file on the internet but it is encrypted and impossible to open up without the key. The question here though, is did that actually happen here? We don't know the answer to that quite yet.
BERMAN: Just to recap here, what happened allegedly is somebody sent Trump campaign officials essentially the keys to access these WikiLeak documents, hacked documented in possession of WikiLeaks. And just to be clear is there any sign Donald Trump, Jr.'s attorneys deny that he did anything with that information, any sign about whether anyone in the Trump campaign used these keys that were provided to them?
RAJU: We don't have evidence of that yet. We know that what Trump Junior told the House committee was that he had no recollection of it. His attorney said that he did not act on it. And we don't know whether the president himself was aware of it. We know he's not a frequent e-mailer, we don't know if he was made aware of this message. And the White House did not respond to a request for comment. So the question that investigators have is did anybody know about this, and was this just another effort by WikiLeaks to try to make a connection here or was this not a legitimate effort. We don't know that quite yet.
CAMEROTA: Just very, very quickly in our waning second, were the keys real? Do we know if the keys had worked if they tried them?
RAJU: That's a great question. We don't know that yet. It is going to lead to more investigation to figure out exactly if that was real, whether this website was real that actually had these documents allegedly.
CAMEROTA: OK, Manu, thank you very much for all that reporting. Bring us when you have anything more.
We have another CNN exclusive for you right now. Sources tell CNN that previously undisclosed e-mails reveal multiple follow-ups to that now infamous meeting in 2016 between Trump campaign officials and a Russian Lawyer. CNN's Jim Sciutto is live in Washington with his reporting. Tell us what you have, Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this contradicts the consistent Trump storyline that this infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, that that was a one-off, there was no follow- up, and all the discussion in that meeting was about Russian adoptions.
Multiple emails here that show multiple discussions at least following that meeting, one of them came just five days after that Trump Tower meeting. Rob Goldstone, a British publicist who had brokered that meeting emailing a Russian who was in that room there and another Russian forwarded a CNN story as the news was breaking that Russia had hacked DNC e-mails, and attaching the comment, "Isn't this eerily weird," and I'm quoting there, "in light of what we discussed a few days ago?" It does provide evidence or at least raise questions about what exactly was discussed in that room. Did it touch on topics like this? And again, like I said, we heard a very different story coming from Donald Trump, Jr. and others about this meeting. Have a listen to what Don junior has said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR.: There wasn't a follow-up because there's nothing there to follow up. As we were walking out, he said sorry about that. In the end there was probably some bait and switch about what it was really supposed to be about. So there is nothing there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Another thing that was discussed, we're learning from these e-mails as they were coming out of the meeting, was getting Donald Trump, Sr., the candidate, to build a page on VK, Russia's equivalent of Facebook. Multiple emails, in fact, from Rob Goldstone, again, the man who brokered the Trump Tower meeting to Dan Scavino. Today the social media director for the White House, VK is, again, like I said, a Russian Facebook equivalent, but it's also something that is popular, Alisyn, with rightwing groups in the U.S. These are things that Congressional investigators are looking into and certain to ask Rob Goldstone when he comes up on the hill as early as next week for questioning. John?
BERMAN: Jim, thank you very much. And of course join us tonight, because Jim Sciutto is going to present a CNN special report, "The Mystery of Michael Flynn." It traces the life and career of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn from his years as a boy in Rhode Island to his controversial time in the political spotlight. Here's a sneak peek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Inside the intelligence agencies, some grew concerned that Flynn's positions sometimes contradicted the facts and the intelligence. "Flynn facts," they called them.
People talked about Flynn facts. You have heard this expression.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DNI: I was hearing from more than one source in DIA about what became Flynn facts. That concerned me.
SCIUTTO: Can you give me an example?
CLAPPER: I think he was convinced that the Iranians were behind the Benghazi attack, which they weren't. At least we had no evidence of that, but we insisted we find evidence to back up that proposition.
SCIUTTO: The increasingly infamous Flynn facts became one symptom of broader concerns about Flynn's leadership at DIA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flynn started to manifest some of the more controversial behaviors that ultimately played out on the national stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. You can watch the "CNN Special Report: The Mystery of Michael Flynn" tonight at 10:00 Eastern Time.
CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, FBI director Christopher Wray playing defense on Capitol Hill, assuring lawmakers his agency is not in tatters, and there's a lot more to that hearing. One of Wray's toughest questioners here next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women who are working as hard as they can to keep people that they will never know safe from harm. The agents, analysts and staff of the FBI are big boys and girls. We understand that we will take criticism from all corners, and we are accustomed to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. That was FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, defending the FBI after President Trump said its reputation was in tatters. Some of the toughest criticism came from Republican lawmakers who suggest the FBI is politically biased against the president and one of those is Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who joins us now.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: So, you had some pretty heated exchanges with the Director Wray yesterday.
Do you -- are you one of the people who agrees that the FBI's reputation is in tatters?
[08:20:03] JORDAN: I think the vast majority of the FBI, the rank and file agents are good people. But I do think there are a lots of folks at the top who have done things that I think Americans questioned, members of Congress questioned, particularly as it relates to this entire Clinton investigation and the Russian matter. All those issues.
So, that's where my focus is and that's what I questioned Director Wray about yesterday.
CAMEROTA: I heard that.
So, you were zeroing in on the dossier and what you wanted to know was whether that Steele dossier was used as a predicate to get the FISA warrant.
CAMEROTA: And so, you admitted you had a hunch about that. That's your suspicion, but you don't have any basis for it?
JORDAN: It was reported it was used to get warrants to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign, and we know the dossier is a fake news "National Enquirer" baloney that the Democrat national committee, the Clinton campaign paid the law firm who paid Fusion GPS, who paid the agent, who paid Russians.
JORDAN: I mean, that's what is amazing.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but hold one second.
JORDAN: One campaign paid Russians for a report that is baloney and yet, it became the basis? All evidence points to this direction.
JORDAN: It became the basis for spying on Americans? That's what take him to the FISA court?
CAMEROTA: So, hold on, you're making so many leaps of logic that I just have to stop you for one second. First of all, the dossier has been corroborated by the intelligence community. The only part that you're talking about, "The National Enquirer" part of it, which is something that CNN did not report, is the most salacious stuff. That's never been corroborated. But the rest of it, in terms of all the contacts between high-level Trump folks and Russians, all that has been corroborated by the intelligence --
JORDAN: So, Alisyn, why not do what we asked Director Wray yesterday, what we've asked the attorney general, why not release the application that was taken to the FISA court?
CAMEROTA: Right. He said, because it's classified. He told you yesterday, he said because all that stuff is classified, he can't do it in an open --
JORDAN: You can give it to the judiciary. That's what we asked him. We want the application. We're the Judiciary Committee.
We're the committee that has oversight over the Justice Department. So, give us the material you assembled, not what the court has, what you assembled to then take to the court. We want to see that.
And my guess is, Peter Strzok's fingerprints are all over that. Remember, Peter Strzok --
CAMEROTA: Peter Strzok, the agent who you are talking about who was dismissed and has anti-Trump texts.
JORDAN: And he was dismissed, I mean, thinks about this -- supposedly dismissed for anti-Trump tweets as I said yesterday. If everyone was dismissed from the Mueller team who was anti-Trump, you wouldn't have anybody left. There's got to be more to this story, because Peter Strzok is the same guy that ran the Clinton investigation --
CAMEROTA: Yes. JORDAN: -- who interviewed Clinton, interviewed Mills, interviewed Abedin, interviewed Mike Flynn in the Russian investigation. Peter Strzok is the guy who took the term gross negligence in the exoneration letter, changed it from gross negligence, which is a crime, to extreme carelessness --
CAMEROTA: Look, but I'm confused about --
JORDAN: -- this guy was picked by Mueller to be on the team, and then we're supposed to believe, oh, because he exchanged some anti-Trump text messages with a colleague at the Justice Department that somehow disqualified him, after all his history?
CAMEROTA: Yes. I'm just confused about you painting the entire Mueller investigation with one broad brush stroke. We know that there are Democrats and Republicans on that team.
JORDAN: Well, all I am saying is I don't think he was dismissed because he had anti-Trump messages.
CAMEROTA: I know.
JORDAN: Remember, most of the top lawyers gave to Clinton, gave to Obama, they've got an anti-Trump bias as well. That's not the reason. There has to be something else.
CAMEROTA: Well, there are all -- people also gave to Republicans.
JORDAN: And I think it has to do -- I think it has to do with this dossier.
CAMEROTA: I know you do. OK, I get it. Yes, I want to zero in on that.
JORDAN: Which has been reported was the basis for the FISA court.
CAMEROTA: I know you think that. No, it was part of the basis for the FISA warrant after --
JORDAN: So was the application.
CAMEROTA: Hold on, Congressman, after the FBI corroborated the details on their own, so they second sourced it --
JORDAN: The same FBI -- the same FBI --
CAMEROTA: So, it sounds like you don't believe that the FBI is capable of doing their own investigation.
JORDAN: The same FBI who also reported paying Christopher Steele, and the same FBI who launched the investigation, the same FBI who took this discredited document to the FISA court and said, this is the reason we need a warrant to spy on people associated with the Trump -- this is it was paid for by Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee --
CAMEROTA: I know the history of the dossier, but it hasn't been discredited. In fact, it's been corroborated.
JORDAN: Really? Oh, OK.
CAMEROTA: You ask your intel community. Your intel community has corroborated all the details.
JORDAN: All the details. Not all the details.
CAMEROTA: Hold on, Congressman, let's go over it. Let's go over the facts. They have corroborated the contacts made between the high level Trump team and Russian, the conversations made between the Trump and Russians, the face-to-face meetings between the Trump team and the Russians, and the only part you are focusing on is the most salacious stuff, which we have not reported on.
JORDAN: No, no, no, I'm talking about the whole thing. The idea that the FBI has been reported was paying Christopher Steele at the same time that Democrat national committee was paying Christopher Steele to put together an opposition research document that the FBI, I believe, dressed all up and took to the FISA court so they could spy on the other party's candidate and other party's campaign.
[08:25:01] That's what I think happened.
CAMEROTA: I know that's what you think happened. You were very clear about that. But you don't have any basis for that. That's your hunch.
JORDAN: Are you kidding me?
CAMEROTA: No, you called it your hunch yesterday. You said, this is my hunch.
JORDAN: And you know what? And the FBI could prove I'm wrong if they show us the application. They will show us the application.
CAMEROTA: Well, actually, they said that they will, but it's classified. So, in a closed hearing -- I mean, they say, in fact, that they have disclosed it to closed congressional committees and yours was an open one yesterday.
JORDAN: Yes, well, they can bring it to us in a closed setting, but frankly, they also -- to the extent they have to redact some names or whatever, they can make it in an open setting, which is what we need because, you know, closed setting is one thing. But open hearings, that's something else where the American people can then know what in fact took place.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I get it. Listen, I like open hearings a lot better than closed one as well, along with you, but they said it's classified and you don't want classified information revealed in an open meeting, do you?
JORDAN: I do not. But I want to know was in fact this dossier the basis of the warrant to spy on Americans associated with Donald Trump's campaign, with President Trump's campaign. Did that -- if it did, that is wrong. That's what we need to find out.
JORDAN: I think everything points to that, and if that took place where you had one party working with the FBI to go after the other party's nominee, that is not supposed to happen in this country. And each and every day, as we learn more, and we learn Mr. Ohr losing his position at the Justice Department yesterday, we learn about Peter Strzok, who was demoted at the FBI, all because --
JORDAN: -- each and every day, we get more information which points to this is what took place and if it did, people need to be held accountable.
CAMEROTA: I hear you, when you say if it did, people need to be held accountable.
JORDAN: And they can tell us.
CAMEROTA: I get it. These are the connecting of the dots you are trying to do but we are there yet. So I get it and that's what you are trying to do, but I just don't want to make that leap of conclusion.
JORDAN: I think we are close. I think we are close. And, look, if I'm wrong, prove me wrong. But I think all the -- every day, it points more and more to the theory that I have what took place in this case.
CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Jim Jordan, hank you very much for coming on with your perspective.
JORDAN: You bet.
BERMAN: All right. We have a CNN exclusive. An electronic trail emerging that shows a possible attempt to share WikiLeaks documents with the Trump campaign, including then candidate Donald Trump and his son. We're going to talk to a member of the House Intelligence Committee, next.