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Fusion GPS Founders Fights Back against Trump and Critics; Today: White House Officials Talk Budget with Top Lawmakers; Guardian: Bannon said Mueller Probe is "All about Money Laundering". Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired January 3, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said this about the 2016 Donald Trump Jr. meeting in Trump Tower, where Trump Jr. was promised dirt from the Russians on Hillary Clinton. Steve Bannon says, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or blank, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider joining us live from Washington. You know, I got to say a lot of people stunned to see these comments this morning from Steve Bannon, Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, stunned is the right word, John. Steve Bannon is really going after Donald Trump Jr. hard, calling out that June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. Also in attendance, there were Paul Manafort, then campaign chair, and Jared Kushner. Now that meeting actually happened about two months before Steve Bannon actually joined the campaign. So, Steve Bannon now telling the author, Michael Wolf, in that soon-to-be- released book, "Fire and Fury," saying this about the meeting in addition.
He said, "They're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV. So, very harsh words there. Also calling it treasonous, unpatriotic. Now, of course, Don Jr. has said that he took the meeting as someone new to politics. He said as a businessman, you take about every meeting that presents itself. And he said he also viewed it as getting opposition research.
But of course, Bannon there hitting back hard on that defense. Also, Steve Bannon in this book says that in the end, he believes this investigation will come down to one thing. He put it this way. He said, "This is all about money laundering." He said, "Mueller chose senior prosecutor Andrew Weismann first and he is a money laundering guy. Their path to bleep Trump goes through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, it's as plain as the hair on your face."
So, Bannon suggesting there that Mueller will, in fact, cross that red line that the president warned him against months ago while talking to the "New York Times," really digging into the family and business finances. So, John and Poppy, really strong and damaging words from the man who was really right by Donald Trump's side in those final few months of the campaign, as Donald Trump was ushered into the presidency. Now hitting hard at Donald Trump Jr. and really the entire Trump team, as well as the president. John and Poppy?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He is, indeed. Jessica Schneider, appreciate the reporting.
Also new this morning, the research firm, Fusion GPS is fighting back. That's the firm responsible for the Steele Dossier. That report which has been partially corroborated by the Intelligence Community that links the president, some of his businesses, to Russia. The co- founders call Republican accusations that their dossier started the whole Russia investigation conspiracy theories. And now they're asking Congress to release their testimony in full.
BERMAN: All of this going on as CNN has learned that President Trump's lawyers had talks with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team just before Christmas. Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz joins us now from Washington with the latest. Let's start with this op-ed of the founders of Fusion GPS, Shimon.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Poppy and John. You know this was really their way of -- it's the first time we're really hearing from them in that they're defending their actions, Fusion GPS. They have taken a lot of hits, both from Congress, even from the president for their actions, for their work. And this is the first time that we hear from them where they're defending some of their actions, some of the work, as you know, they hired a former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, who helped compile this dossier.
And in this op-ed, they talk about some of the contents, some of the credibility that was given to this dossier. Here's one quote from it where they say, basically, that as we told -- this is in their testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that "As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources," and this is the most notable part here, "including one inside the Trump camp."
Now, we don't know who they are referring to there. We have asked those questions. We have not been told if it was someone who was part of the campaign, someone who was part of perhaps the Trump organization or someone else. But obviously, that is a very notable part here, giving some confidence to them about their findings and their investigation. John and Poppy?
HARLOW: Shimon, we've also learned from the reporting of you, Evan, your justice team that the White House lawyers did meet with Mueller's team a few days before Christmas. And no details of that meeting have leaked out, but what the president has said since that meeting, after that meeting, is that he believes Mueller will be fair. What else can you tell us?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So that is certainly the president's belief and some of the lawyers working for the president at the White House have said so much. They have given us all sorts of different time frames of when this investigation would be over.
[10:05:01] You know, leading us in some cases to try and lead us to believe that this would be over already by the end of last year. So, this meeting, we don't know what exactly took place. But this was sort of, I think, from our understanding was, they wanted to know what direction the lawyers, for the president, wanted to know what direction this investigation was going in. I think they were looking for some closure to have an idea of when this might be over. But it doesn't seem like the special prosecutor, Bob Mueller, and his team, gave them any indication exactly when this may be over, because now, we're hearing could be several months, even from the president's lawyers, before this is over.
BERMAN: Shimon, one other thing. The Fusion op-eds with, the Fusion GPS founder who is wrote in the op-ed, they also talked about evidence that they had found of financial links, between the president, his organization, and the Russians. They say, signs perhaps, to money laundering. What's going on there?
PROKUPECZ: Right, so Glenn Simpson, who we showed in the video, walking through the halls of the Hill, over at Congress, has spent his career as a reporter, used to be a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, and spent years reporting on Russia, money laundering, other aspects of the way in which Russia moves money, some of the people affiliated with Russia. So, he has extensive knowledge, years of knowledge of reporting on Russia, money laundering.
He also spent a lot of time reporting on Paul Manafort, for years. He also spent reporting on other people. So, that's exactly -- that's what's going on. He's using his knowledge, his sources and sort of, when they went out and built out this investigation, some of their findings, some of it had been old. They have a very good understanding, the Fusion GPS folks, on how Russia works, how Russian money is moved.
BERMANL: Shimon Prokupecz for us, thanks so much for your reporting on this.
President Trump due to get an intelligence briefing at the top of the hour after which he'll have lunch with the vice president and the secretaries of state and defense. None of this is on camera. We have not seen the president since he arrived back from Florida on New Year's night. But he's been talking a lot on social media. Talking a lot about things that have people talking. Namely, buttons with North Korea.
HARLOW: Yes, one of those post talks about whose button is bigger. Seriously?
Let's go to Joe Johns at the White House for more on all of this. 16 tweets in total yesterday and the final one is the one that made the most waves.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. 16 tweets from the president yesterday and in fact two tweets on North Korea. Really devolving, Poppy, if you will, into what has been described as a somewhat undignified measuring contest. But the president's message is being viewed here at the White House as consistent with his strategy to apply maximum pressure on North Korea in hopes of achieving denuclearization, if that's possible.
But there were a number of other tweets. The president went after former President Barack Obama, "The New York Times," Pakistan, and also talked about the Palestinians. In fact, the president indicating that he might want to stop making payments to the Palestinians if they don't return to peace talks. Indicating in his tweets that the United States gives the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars. And if they don't get back to the negotiation table, maybe they shouldn't give them those payments anymore. The Palestinian authority responding very curtly, essentially calling the president's comments blackmail.
Now, as you said, today, we are expecting the president to get his daily intelligence briefing. After that, lunch with the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, given all the tweeting over the last 24 hours. Very likely they're going to have a lot to talk about. John and Poppy, back to you.
HARLOW: Joe Johns at the White House. Thank you, my friend.
All right, in just a few hours, these critical meetings begin on the Hill as people are coming back to work after the holiday. Namely, how to avoid a government shutdown. Congressional leaders will sit down with officials from the White House, talk about what to do about the spending deadline fast approaching.
BERMAN: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live for us on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, lay out what we're going to see.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this absolutely is a critical meeting today where the Congressional leaders are going to be discussing a budget bill and that spending deadline that's looming large on January 19th. So, today, up here on Capitol Hill, we'll see the top four Congressional leaders huddle up with two White House aides. OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, Mark Short. Of course, the White House Congressional liaison.
And top on the agenda for today's meeting will be setting the defense and domestic spending levels. Now, ahead of this meeting, Democrats tried to essentially draw their line in the sand, saying that they will continue to insist on parody, more talking about this spending levels.
[10:10:03] Meaning that every dollar they put toward defense, they want to see that matched with domestic money included as well.
Keep in mind, also, Democrats here are likely going to continue to press on all these other authority issues. DACA, CHIP Funding, disaster aid bill. All of those things that they want to potentially see, included in the spending bill. And keep in mind, again, that Democrats do have some leverage on this issue, because Republicans need their support, John and Poppy, to get this passed through.
HARLOW: They do, right? They can't just do it with 51 votes this time around. Look, the face of the Senate is changing today. You've got two new senators that are going to be sworn in. It still leaves a Republican majority, but makes it slimmer.
SERFATY: That's absolutely right. A lot of new year, new changes in the Senate today. We'll see Doug Jones sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence, of course, winning that big Alabama Senate race. We'll also see Tina Smith sworn in, who replaces Al Franken, who resigned amid those sexual misconduct allegations. Also, another change, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch yesterday announced that he's not running for re- election. That he will retire at the end of his term. Of course, this sets up a race in Utah for that seat. We know that Mitt Romney is considering that, but no word whether he will run or not. John and Poppy?
BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider -- I'm sorry, Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for being with us, Sunlen. Really appreciate it.
New reaction from the stunning report from "The Guardian" this morning. The president's former chief strategist says that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower was treasonous.
HARLOW: And not for sale, Palestinian leaders firing back after the president threatened to cutoff aid. What does this mean for the president's hopes of achieving what he has called the ultimate peace deal. Stay with us.
[10:15:35] BERMAN: Some fascinating new developments this morning. The president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, commenting on Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower, where he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Bannon says, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad blank, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
Joining us now, Republican Congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio. Congressman, Happy New Year to you. Do you agree with Steve Bannon, that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower was treasonous and unpatriotic?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Well, I think he's been questioned about that meeting. What I want to know about that meeting is, why was the Russian lawyer meeting with Glenn Simpson, Fusion founder, both before and after the meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with the Russian lawyer? Why did that take place? I think there's lots of questions that need to be answered. That's why we have investigations going on. That's why we need to get to the bottom of so many questions that are out there so the American people can get the truth.
HARLOW: So, I'm just going to re-ask John's question to you. Because we're very interested in your opinion. You sit on a very important committee, obviously, Judiciary. Do you agree with the president's former chief strategist that, indeed, this meeting in which the president's son was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton said before the meeting, "I love it," and then took the meeting in Trump Tower was treasonous and unpatriotic?
JORDAN: What I think we need to do is get -- like, look -- why did they only release 375 text messages of the 10,000 --
HARLOW: I just asked you a different question. That's not what we're asking you. And I will happily ask you that next.
JORDAN: What I'm saying is, I think there are lots -- in fact, we're doing some tweets this morning on a number of questions that need to be answered. I think there are all kinds of questions that need to be answered - so I think Donald Trump -
HARLOW: But you don't think that needs to be answered? -- It sounds like you don't think it needs to be answered, about whether or not this meeting was treasonous or unpatriotic? Is that right?
JORDAN: I'm happy to get the answer to that question. But I also want to get the answer to lots of other questions that are out there. For example, did the FBI peg Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier. Was the dossier actually used as the basis to secure warrants at the FISA court --
BERMAN: So, let's talk about the dossier.
JORDAN: If those things happened, that is very, very unsettling, I think, for all kinds of folks in this country.
BERMAN: You bring up the dossier. It's interesting, because there is news on two fronts on the dossier today. The Fusion GPS founders wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" where they say today that the dossier was not the basis for the FBI investigation, which you have suggested in the past. They say the FBI was interested in the dossier because it corroborated reports they already had, including one from inside the Trump campaign. Your reaction to that?
JORDAN: John, I think it's interesting how the dossier has been the central focus for what, now, a year. Was viewed as -
BERMAN: Your central focus. Your central focus -- Congressman, your central focus.
JORDAN: No, "The New York Times" wrote about it in April, as the focus to get the warrant to spy on Carter Page. So now all of a sudden, when we find out the dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, when we find out all the news we learned about Peter Strzok, head of counterintelligence at the FBI, his fingerprints are probably all over the application taken to the FISA court. When we find out all this important information, now, all of a sudden, oh, wait a minute, the dossier wasn't important? It was George Papadopoulos shooting his mouth off at some bar in England? I mean, this is so convenient that this comes up now. What I'm saying is let's get to the bottom of all of these questions so that the American people can get the truth. BERMAN: But you seem to though, dismiss, the notion, "The New York Times" reported that George Papadopoulos, speaking to an Australian about the fact that the Russians had hacked e-mails from Hillary Clinton. That is why the FBI, "The New York Times" suggested, began the investigation --
BERMAN: You don't seem willing to accept that. You only seem willing to think this was from the dossier?
JORDAN: Well, that's what's been reported on for I don't know how many months. That's been the focus - now all of a sudden when we find out, oh, the Clinton campaign paid for it --
BERMAN: It's never been reported by us. The dossier has always been reported -- everywhere that I've read, the dossier has been of interest to investigators because it corroborated things they already knew, which is what the -
JORDAN: Because it was taken --
BERMAN: -- what the Fusion GPS said today.
JORDAN: How about what Andrew McCabe said two weeks ago. It was reported in his testimony in front of the Intel Committee. It was reported that they didn't corroborate the dossier, but it was used. That's to me the fundamental --
BERMAN: Parts of the dossier.
JORDAN: Plus "The New York Times" story last week. Six unnamed sources. Really? How convenient.
[10:20:01] HARLOW: Congressman --
JORDAN: Six unnamed sources after we've learned all these important facts, six unnamed sources come up and say, wait a minute, it was something else entirely. It was loose lips -
HARLOW: So, two points. -- As you know, Congressman, the key finding, the central, foremost finding of the dossier that the Russians interfered in the election was corroborated across U.S. Intelligence and has not been questioned. That --
JORDAN: The central thing about the dossier, Poppy -
HARLOW: You keep saying that other people -- hold on. You keep saying -- Congressman, I'm going to finish my question -- I'm going to finish my question. You keep saying that everyone else is focusing on the dossier. Time and time again, on this network and every other network, you come on and talk about the dossier as the central reason. You went so far as to on Fox News say that you think because of the dossier, where it came from and your belief that it launched d the FBI probe, which now from multiple reporting sources we know, it's not. You said that you think the DOJ and the FBI were putting together a plan to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the next president of the United States. And you used the dossier as a central argument in that claim. And our question to you now is --
JORDAN: Poppy, you're forgetting key facts.
HARLOW: Our question to you now is, now that you know all of these other facts, do you still believe that?
JORDAN: James Comey said it was salacious and unverified. The FBI director testified under oath and said that. We have text messages between Lisa Paige and Peter Strzok where he says, we need an insurance plan, we need an insurance policy -
BERMAN: But Congressman, that's a total --
JORDAN: Those are important facts that you're conveniently leaving out of this presentation.
HARLOW: I'm not conveniently leaving it out, Congressman. And by the way, if James Comey thought it was so important, then why did he come to New York to brief the president one-on-one about it?
JORDAN: To legitimatize it. And then they leaked it right away. Come on, everyone knows that. The press had the dossier for months. No one reported it. But then when James Comey goes and tells the president on January 6th, 2017, tells president-elect Trump about the dossier. How convenient? Now, they leaked the fact that he talked about the dossier -
BERMAN: Congressman, CNN read your theory -- this is part of your theory that James Comey --
JORDAN: It's not a theory. It's facts.
BERMAN: Listen. That they leaked it in order to get it out there to delegitimize the president, that's a theory. That's your theory, sir, that the FBI was somehow trying to keep Donald Trump from being president, -- which as you and I have discussed, would be a pretty awful plan given the fact that they released the fact they were reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton days before the election.
Congressman, though, let's get you on the actual news of the day and commenting, if we can, on these developments rather than trying to change the focus. The Fusion GPS authors, the owners, the founders said today, among other things, that they saw evidence of what they call money laundering, connections between the Russians and the president and his organizations. They say they've asked Congress to investigate that. Congress has not been willing to look into that. Do you think those are important avenues to investigate? Yes or no?
JORDAN: Look, Bob Mueller's going to do his investigation. Who knows where it leads. But what we do know is to date, there is not one bit of evidence that shows any type of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Not one. But we do know -
BERMAN: I'm sorry, Congressman, Steve Bannon just said -- Steve Bannon just said -- Steve Bannon just said -- Steve Bannon just said --
JORDAN: -- who paid Russians to influence the elections. We do know that --
BERMAN: Steve Bannon just said -- Steve Bannon just said that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russians at Trump Tower was treasonous and unpatriotic. At a minimum, there was this meeting.
JORDAN: Of course, there was this meeting. He's been -- Donald Trump Jr.'s been questioned about it. I don't know if anyone's been questioned about why was Glenn Simpson meeting with the lawyer who organized that meeting with, the Russian lawyer, both before and after the meeting took place. I'm saying, let's get the answers to all of those questions. Steve Bannon is, of course, entitled to his opinion about whether that meeting should have happened or not. But the fact is, it happened. Let's get the answers to that question. But a whole host of other questions that are out there that I think the American people deserve to be -- to get the answers to.
HARLOW: Congressman, we would love your answer to this question, as well. And that is that the Fusion GPS authors point to in their opinion piece in "The Times" this morning, the Trump organization saying it had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangement that often raise questions about money laundering. On the money laundering point, Steve Bannon, a close ally of this president, not an enemy of this president, said that he believes, in his words, this is, quote, "All about money laundering," and he goes on to point to Deutsche Bank and to Jared Kushner and saying this Kushner blank is greasy.
Now, the Fusion folks say the only bank records that Republicans in Congress want are their personal bank records, not Deutsche Bank records, in terms of facilitating some of these business deals or potential business deals with Russians. Do you want to see and do you think that those Deutsche Bank bank records should be subpoenaed? Do you think that would give the American people some answers? Those records?
JORDAN: Poppy, I want the truth. I want answers to the important questions that I think are being raised. But, remember, Mueller's charge is --
[10:25:02] HARLOW: Is that a yes? Hold on, is that a yes? (CROSSTALK)
HARLOW: Please on Deutsche Bank, is that a yes or a no?
JORDAN: What I'm saying is, the Mueller focus is, was there coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election?
HARLOW: And bank records could help us -
JORDAN: if you let --
HARLOW: -- could help bring that answer --
JORDAN: -- special counsel to branch out and cover everything, that is not how it's supposed to work in America.
HARLOW: Come on, you know money ties a lot of things together. Do you want to see the bank records? Do you want to see the bank records?
JORDAN: I want the truth. I want the truth.
HARLOW: Please answer the question.
JORDAN: I want the truth. Let's get the truth to the key questions that need to be answered on all sides. Some that Mr. Bannon raised, but the one that I'm raising today that I think most American people are really focused on. Particularly, did the FBI pay Christopher Steele at the same time the DNC and Fusion GPS were paying Christopher Steele? That's a critical question.
BERMAN: It seems to be the most critical --
JORDAN: -- the FBI can give us the application. I asked that question in committee and Christopher Wray would not answer.
BERMAN: Congressman, it's crystal clear what you think the most important questions are. We appreciate you coming on and sharing these questions with us. We always look forward to answers when they're available from you, as well. So, we appreciate the dialogue, sir. Congressman, thank you.
JORDAN: You bet.
HARLOW: Thank you.
BERMAN: We're on top of all of the fast-moving developments this morning. Russia on the Hill, overseas, reaction to the president's statements sparking some reaction this morning.