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Interview with Robby Mook; Protests over Possible Deportation of Mother of 4; Trump, Netanyahu Meeting Soon at White House; White House May Ditch Two-State Solution. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 15, 2017 - 11:30   ET




[11:31:41] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A flashback there to last summer when then- candidate Donald Trump asked Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's e- mails. Those comments could take on more meaning with reports of Trump campaign aides having contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.

Someone very interested in finding the meaning here, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook. He joins me now.

Robby, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: In light of all of this, you want answers. I've been watching you on Twitter. What answers are you looking for?

MOOK: First and foremost, we've got to understand what these communications were between Donald Trump's aides on the campaign and Russian intelligence officials. You know, we've been saying from the beginning that the Russians were the ones who stole the information from the DNC, put it out to WikiLeaks. There's a real question now, were members of Donald Trump's campaign aiding, abetting, or encouraging this to take place? I think we also need answers from Donald Trump. He said to the media that there was no coordination. And what we learned in the "New York Times" report and CNN is that he was briefed by intelligence officials about these connections and he decided to lie, to not tell the truth.

BOLDUAN: Of course, the communication and coordination, those are two very different things that gets to the content of these conversations which we do not know. If it would come out, Robby, that these were benign conversations, with no aiding or abetting, what then? MOOK: That's where we need to know the specifics. I don't want to be

hypothetical about one thing or another. It is extremely strange to me that a member of any American presidential campaign would be speaking to Russian intelligence officials. And it's particularly bizarre given the fact that we know that Russian intelligence officials broke into the DNC, stole documents, and handed them to WikiLeaks for the purpose of hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump. The parallels to Watergate here are eerie, I have to say. First, that a committee was broken into. And now at every step we're learning more and more. And it's getting closer and closer to the president himself. And the fact that he was not honest with the media when we know that he was briefed on these details. He had to have known that his staff were having these conversations and he denied that they took place.

BOLDUAN: You may have some strange allies right now in Congress, Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, they say they want to get to the bottom of it, we heard concerns from John McCain now. Do you trust McCain to get to the bottom of it?

MOOK: I trust that Congress people on both sides of the aisle are patriotic Americans, they don't want a foreign aggressor like Vladimir Putin disrupting our elections. I think Marco Rubio said this, in fact. It's the Democrats this time. It's going to be the Republicans at some point. This is not a partisan issue. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about Donald Trump, his campaign, what he knew and when he knew it and whether they were coordinating with the Russians. I hope people of both parties join together. I think there should be a 9/11-style commission made up of people outside of Congress, outside of the executive branch, experts who can get to the bottom of what happened. Because it's also disturbing that the FBI was leaking left and right about Hillary Clinton, they put out a letter 11 days before the election. We now know they knew all of this, they knew that the Russians had hacked the DNC, they knew that members of Trump's campaign were talking to the Russians. They didn't say a word about that. I think we've got to get outside people to come together, have an independent commission, get to the bottom, and make sure this never happens again.

[11:35:50] BOLDUAN: On that, do you think that the letter from Comey and the lack of any similar letter about Donald Trump is the singular reason you guys lost this election?

MOOK: Look, this election was close. It was about 70,000 votes across three states that decided the outcome of the electoral college. Anything could have mattered. But I think what really matters here is that, you know, we shouldn't have partisan actions from the FBI. There were clear protocols in place that said they should never have sent a letter like that, they should have never talked about their investigation. But if they were going to do that, most Americans would have liked to have known before they voted that Donald Trump's campaign aides were talking to the Russians at the same time the Russians were breaking into the DNC and stealing documents and giving them out to the media. We've got to get to the bottom of this.

BOLDUAN: What I hear from Republicans, even Lindsey Graham, who says that he agrees that Russia was behind the hack, he says it wouldn't have changed the outcome of the election. You'll hear from the White House, from Donald Trump's folks, this question, what does communication with anyone in Trump's team with anyone in Russia have to do with Hillary Clinton not going to Wisconsin, misreading support in Michigan, campaign missteps?

MOOK: But I don't think that's the point here. I think the point here is that we shouldn't even be asking that question. We shouldn't even be in a position where we're speculating on whether a candidate won or lost because of a certain action. As I said, the election was very close. Any number of things could have mattered. I've talked about things I would have done differently. That doesn't matter now. The president of the United States should tell the truth to the American people and we should put safeguards in place so no foreign aggressor like Vladimir Putin or anyone else can interfere with an election again, and no campaign manager should be sitting here months after the election speculating about whether a foreign power is the reason their candidate lost. It should never happen again.

BOLDUAN: It's not unusual for campaign staff to be in touch with officials through foreign governments, you well know that. Was any Clinton campaign official in touch with Russian officials during the campaign?

MOOK: Not that I know of, ever. I want to underscore what's particularly strange here. It's first of all that it was intelligence officials. The reason these conversations were picked up is because the NSA routinely scans people that they know are involved in intelligence efforts and may be a threat to the United States. So, that's bizarre. And secondly, the president knew about this, we're now told, and he didn't tell the truth about it. So, that's what's special and unique here. We need to keep the focus on that.

BOLDUAN: Robby, on the very point of Russia, we had pretty interesting reporting last month. This is what Mike Allen (ph) wrote in his newsletter, "We have heard from numerous anguished people in Clinton-land blaming Obama, more than Putin, FBI Director James Comey, or Hillary herself for the defeat."

I want you to respond to that. Are you in that camp? Are you hearing that?

MOOK: I'm not a national security expert. I wasn't there. I didn't have all the informs. I was very glad that President Obama put the sanctions in place against Russia. I would certainly hope that President Trump keeps those in place. We may need to do more. I'm just not in a position to judge. And President Obama was incredibly supportive and helpful on our campaign and I'm only grateful for that.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Do you leave open the possibility, Robby, as there's more to come, we can suspect, regarding what is known about these contacts with Russia, do you leave open the possibility that all of these communications were benign?

MOOK: I think anything is possible. That's why we need to get an independent commission set up. Let's get those transcripts out there. Anything is on the table. But it's just sad that we're even having these conversations or speculating in the way that we are.

BOLDUAN: An interesting turn of events.

Robby Mook, thanks for coming in.

MOOK: Thanks for the opportunity.

[11:39:48] BOLDUAN: Of course.

Coming up for us, right now, a mother of four living here for decades is about to find out whether she can stay in the United States or will be deported to Mexico. Protesters are gathering at her immigration hearing. We'll take you there live.

Plus, any moment now, President Trump and the first lady will be welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. You're looking live right there at the White House where they'll be holding the two leaders will be holding a press conference and taking questions from the press. You will not want to miss this important moment. We'll take you there, live.


BOLDUAN: Supporters are gathering outside the immigration hearing of a Mexican mother of four who has lived in the United States for decades and now faces deportation. She's meeting with ICE authorities in Colorado to determine if her request to remain in the country will be renewed as it was twice before or if she will be separated -- if she will be deported.

CNN's Ana Cabrera has been following all of this. She outside the proceedings in Colorado.

Ana, I hear a lot of chanting behind you. Why is this case grabbing so much attention?

[11:45:13] ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I have to show you, the door behind me is what we're all waiting and watching closely. Her attorneys have gone inside to talk with immigration officials requesting their response to their request for a stay, which they submitted back in December and have been waiting for word.

Behind us here, on the other side, a huge group of supporters. Community members, friends, as well as immigration advocates who have shown up on behalf of the woman to show their support for her and for other undocumented immigrants, not just in this community but really around the country.

She's been here since 1997. She has been granted multiple stays to delay potential deportation. But she's worried about this time, because of what has been happening recently, the ICE raids, the political climate, and the case of the Arizona mother who was recently deported.

So again, a lot of anticipation for what's going to happen in her case. And we will be here continuing to follow her story throughout the day for CNN.

Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Ana, thank you very much. We'll get back to you as things change there in Colorado.

There's now this, calls for the release of a Dreamer who was detained by immigration officials outside of Seattle. 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina (ph), that's his name, was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child. But he's currently protected from deportation under the Obama administration's DACA program. He was taken into custody on Friday when ICE agents arrested his father. Authorities claim Medina admitted to being in a gang. His lawyers deny that charge and they've filed a federal lawsuit claiming unlawful detainment. Immigration rights groups say this may be the first time a Dreamer, as they're called, has been arrested without cause. We'll follow that case as well.

Any moment now, for us, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive at the White House to meet with President Obama (sic). The two leaders will take questions from the press. We'll bring that to you live.


[11:51:08] BOLDUAN: Moments from now, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be greeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, at the White House before the two leaders take questions at a joint news conference. You're seeing a live picture now. People are starting to fill in. We're getting closer and closer to this moment. We will bring that to you live, of course, as soon as it gets underway.

Joining me right now CNN's Joe Johns. He is standing by at the White House. And Oren Liebermann is joining us from Jerusalem.

Oren, first to you.

One of the big headlines that he is arriving to at the White House is the fact that the White House now says it may or may not insist on a two-state solution when it comes to the Palestinian conflict. This would be, I guess, potentially breaking from years of precedent on this in terms of the position from America. How are folks reacting there?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORERSPONDENT: More than just breaking from years of foreign policy, it's decades of foreign policy. A two-state solution has been seen not just by the U.S., but also by virtually the entire international community as the only way forward, an Israeli state and Palestinian state.

Netanyahu is under pressure from his coalition and even many members of his own party to back away from his public declaration of support for a two-state solution. They want him to say that's off the table. In fact, it was his public security minister, a high-ranking official in his government, who said the entire security cabinet, all of the ministers in Netanyahu's government, his closest circle of politicians, he says, that as the public security minister says, none support a Palestinian state. He even says including Netanyahu. Yet, Netanyahu's public position has always been in support of a Palestinian state. But it's always been the U.S. -- that's traditionally, I should say -- that's led the efforts there. That's why this breaking policy, even if the rest of the international community stands firm in support of a two-state solution, that's why the U.S. break in policy is such a big deal.

It also means the White House's Middle East policy has yet to be fully formulated. That's something that Netanyahu will want input on, and our diplomats have already put input on. That is something these two leaders, Netanyahu and Trump, have a chance to clear, a chance to formulate here.

Importantly, though, this meeting, this press conference is happening before the meeting, which is to say, it's before any substantive discussions. That's important here. Both of these leaders are focusing on the optics here. They want to show that this is a new start, a fresh beginning between the U.S. and Israel, a fresh beginning between these two leaders, that's off to a strong start.

BOLDUAN: We'll see that on display in just a few minutes.

So, Joe, this is the first time for President Trump that he will be facing the media since his national security advisor, Michael Flynn's resignation, and also this new report, of course, out today on the contacts -- seen as report on contacts between the Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials during the campaign. The White House is obviously preparing for this. What's the White House expecting here?

JOE JOHNS, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, you have to say this is obviously a distraction for this president early in his administration having to deal with this crisis. It's a problem for him. It's a problem for his staff.

Nonetheless, they are going about their business. They continue to do so. The president just a little while ago attending a meeting with retail CEOs from around the country, some of the biggest name brands that you probably ever heard of in the room. The president talking about taxes and growth and so forth. So, they're trying to go on about business as usual here at the White House, while the issue of Michael Flynn plays out in the background.

And I think Oren Lieberman is absolutely right, the atmospherics here are so important because Benjamin Netanyahu had such a stormy relationship, if you will, with President Obama. At this time, they're trying to get off to a fresh start, if you will. And again, not a large expectation for a whole lot of deliverables, if you will.

And important also to say, while the Candidate Trump is very stormy on the campaign trail in his support of Israel. The administration has somewhat moderated its tone on things like moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is quite controversial. That's the thing they have been largely silent about. So, we'll see if they make any progress on that and some of the other issues as they face a change in statecraft now.

[11:55:32] BOLDUAN: Looking from Candidate Trump to President Trump, it will be important to hear where the president lands on some of the key issues with Israel. And also, albeit, it is just optics, but these optics are important when you are talking about an ally as close as it is with America and Israel. We will see that on display any minute now. We're standing by for this to begin live.

Oren, Joe, thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.

Again, our special coverage is just moments away. We are going to bring you President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing the media together in a joint press conference. That's starting live. That's starting next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington. We want to welcome you to our CNN special live coverage of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's historic visit to the White House. Historic because it's the prime minister's first visit with the new American president, a leader with whom he feels more aligned than he ever did with President Obama. The two are about to hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House. In an extraordinary break from the usual practice, they'll face reporters before they even sit down together in private for a meeting.

All this comes at a very historic moment, the extraordinary turmoil for a Trump administration still less than one month old.

Joining us now to lay out the issues, set the stage, our CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is in the East Room of the White House for us right now where the news conference is about to happen. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by from Jerusalem. Our correspondent, Oren Lieberman, will join us as well.

Jim, Candidate Trump saying Prime Minister Netanyahu's song on settlements, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, hating the Iran nuclear deal, he has moved away from a lot of those positions since becoming president of the United States. What do we expect to hear today?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODNENT: That's right, Wolf. While all the issues regarding Israel are going to be top of mind here at this news conference in the East Room of the White House, it does seem, Wolf, in recent days, that there is blood in the swamp. That if you observe what is happening inside this administration, it's almost felt like an unraveling of sorts in recent days. And that is because, even though we are now week four of this administration, this is a White House that got off to a rocky start, focusing on frivolous things like inauguration crowd sizes and bogus causes like voter fraud. Then there was the ill-conceived travel ban that got frozen in the courts. And this week, the questions swirling around the resigned national security advisor, Michael Flynn. And now, the questions facing the president of the United States, did his associates with the campaign, his aides with the campaign --


BLITZER: Jim, I'm going to interrupt you for a moment. Hold that thought for a second, because I want to alert our viewers to what we're seeing.

This is the South Lawn entrance to the White House. You see the Color Guard. The Marines are already there. The first lady, Melania Trump, you see her, she's standing there together with the president of the United States.