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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Jared Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny in Russia Probe. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 25, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:01] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. Let's get right to the breaking news.
CNN has now learned that President Trump's close advisor and son-in- law is now a focus in the FBI's Russia collusion probe, and that is not all we are learning tonight.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has the story, joins us now with details.
Evan, what have you -- what can you tell us?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, part of what the FBI is interested in is they're trying to figure out exactly how the Russian -- the Russian spy agencies were able to focus some of their attention, negative news on Hillary Clinton and positive news on Donald Trump into particular areas of the country.
Now, they have collected a lot of data from these Russian bots, this computer -- essentially these computers that were helping to drive some of the information into different parts of the country. And in particular, they're looking at the data operation of the Trump campaign.
Now, there's no accusation here that anybody committed any wrongdoing, but one of the things that the FBI is interested in is perhaps anybody might have wittingly or unwittingly helped the Russians essentially target the data.
Now, last year Jared Kushner did an interview with "Forbes" magazine in which he described helping build this data operation that was headquartered down in San Antonio, Texas. And he described that they were using a lot of technology to micro-target and figure out where they could find small groups of Trump voters in parts of Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in Michigan. Of course, these are states that ended up being key to the president's victory.
Again, the FBI is at this stage gathering information. There's no allegation of wrongdoing against Jared Kushner. And he is not a target of this investigation at this point we're told, Anderson.
COOPER: So, why are investigators looking at Kushner and his relationship with Michael Flynn? PEREZ: Well, one of the things they're interested in in that instance
is the fact that Kushner was in charge of the foreign policy operation of the transition, of the campaign after Donald Trump's victory, Anderson. And so, they're interested to see what information Kushner might know about Flynn's meetings with Russian officials, including Sergey Kislyak, the diplomat here in Washington, the ambassador, the Russian ambassador here in Washington.
And they also know that he was deeply involved in setting up the foreign policy operation. They believe that Kushner has a lot of information that he could provide.
Now, they have not, according to Kushner's representatives, they have not reached out to Kushner to try to do an interview. We reached out to them on Tuesday, as we were preparing this story, Anderson, and one of the things they told us is that they have not heard from federal investigators. And they don't know whether there's any investigation that's targeting Jared Kushner.
COOPER: We should point out, Kushner had met with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition in Trump tower. Then there was a second meeting that he sent an aide of his to, he didn't actually go to the meeting with Kislyak, but at Kislyak's request, Jared Kushner did meet with a Russian who heads up a bank, a Russian who has connections with Russian intelligence and the bank, I believe, was a bank that was under sanctions, is that correct?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. This is one of those state-owned banks, the Russians state-owned banks. He did help set up or at least as a result of his meeting with Kislyak, which by the way Michael Flynn was in. We know Michael Flynn is a big focus of this investigation.
So, we know that because of that initial meeting, there was a subsequent meeting that Kushner's aide went to with Gorkov, the president of this bank. So, again, there's a lot of pieces of this puzzle the FBI is trying to put together. All of them, all of them interconnect in one place and that is Jared Kushner, who is a close aide to the president -- the president's son-in-law, obviously.
And so, at some point, the FBI is going to want to talk to him.
COOPER: We should also point out, Jared Kushner failed to note or disclose meetings with Kislyak and others initially when his --
COOPER: -- security information was sent in. That was quickly amended by his attorney.
PEREZ: Well, it was amended in the sense that they at least put in the correct form, the correct information. However, the form that they submitted, the SF-86, which is the thing that people have to fill in to get the top level security clearance, still does not contain a listing of these foreign contacts, including meetings with Russians and any other foreign officials. We've talked to his lawyer, and she says that essentially whenever the
FBI gets around to asking for it, they're going to be able to provide it.
Look, that's not the way it usually works, Anderson. Usually, what you do, when you fill out that form, you're supposed to put in all of our foreign meetings because that is what the FBI says it needs in order to do your security clearance. In this case, they're essentially saying whenever the FBI is ready to hear from us, we're going to give it to them.
COOPER: All right. Pam Brown is also joining us, justice correspondent.
Pam, will the FBI interview him?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is certainly the expectation given the fact that he has been under scrutiny as part of the Russia probe, as in the sense would be expected given his role during the Trump campaign and given his close ties to President Trump and as Evan pointed out, his meetings that he has had with Michael Flynn and the Ambassador Kislyak.
[20:05:17] What the FBI likes to do is gather as much evidence as it can, put as many pieces of the puzzle as it can -- in the puzzle as it can and then interview the subject. Now, we should point out and emphasize, as Evan did, he is not the target at this stage of the investigation. There is no indication of that.
But, of course, the FBI is looking at many people and Jared Kushner, as we have learned from officials, is one of them. And so, what's interesting here, though, as you pointed out his security clearance that he hasn't officially turned over his foreign contacts to the FBI, that is something that the FBI needs and apparently according to those who have spoken with the FBI has not even interviewed him for the security clearance yet.
And so, it does raise the question whether that is the case because of the counterintelligence investigation. The FBI, again, wants to gather as much information as it can before it contacts Jared Kushner. We should point out that his spokesperson said today that the FBI has given him no indication that he is under investigation and has not contacted him as part of the probe -- Anderson.
COOPER: Pamela, we should point out also just the significance of this is that -- I mean, in one regard is that this White House has been able to distance themselves from just about -- or has attempted to distance themselves from just about everybody whose name has been floated out there as being possibly having met with Russians and being interested or subjects of exploration by authorities, whether it's Paul Manafort, Carter Page or Michael Flynn. You know, we've seen the White House say Paul Manafort barely worked for the campaign. We've seen the White House say Carter Page, the president wouldn't even know him if he bumped right into him in an elevator. And Michael Flynn, clearly though the president seems to be sticking by him, they have distanced themselves from Michael Flynn. Jared Kushner is in the White House still and is as close to this
president as one can get.
BROWN: That's right. So, it will be hard for them to distance themselves presumably from Jared Kushner. But I think it's important on that note to make a distinction here. The investigation into Michael Flynn and to Paul Manafort and Carter Page, the three individuals you mentioned, is a little different. I think Evan can speak to this too, than what's going on and where they are in the investigation with Jared Kushner.
At this point, what they know and what they're seeing is, you know, he's touching multiple parts because of his role in the campaign with the data analytics operation, with his meetings, you know, of course, with Michael Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak and the fact that he had such a big role in the transition. And so, that is a big reason why investigators are scrutinizing his activities. When it comes to Paul Manafort and when it comes to Michael Flynn and Carter Page, as we have previously reported, investigators have other information that is causing more concern as part of this investigation, though, we should also say they have all denied any wrongdoing.
PEREZ: Anderson, real quick, I would add, though. You're exactly right that the fact that they're looking at Jared Kushner really does bring this not only at the doorstep of the White House but inside the White House. And that's going to be much harder for them to say and distance themselves from.
COOPER: Yes. Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, we'll be talking to you throughout the next two hours, throughout the evening as you continue your reporting.
Jared Kushner's attorney has just weighed in.
CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president and he joins us now from Sicily.
What is Jared Kushner saying in response?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, a brief statement from Jamie Gorelick, who is attorney for Jared Kushner.
It says, Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he's contacted in connection with any other inquiry.
So, that's an indication there that they know that in addition to talking to congressional investigators, they may have to talk to law enforcement investigators as well, Anderson. We should point out. We're in Sicily right now. The president is going to be attending the G-7 summit, the next couple of days. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are not here.
They left this trip earlier this week. Yesterday after they met with the pope in Rome. The White House told us at the time that Kushner and Ivanka Trump left this trip because it was previously scheduled for them to do so. Obviously, that's going to be a question now in light of the fact that this is now coming up as a major story. And just to bounce off of what Evan and Pam were just saying, this is obviously very big news for this White House in that it brings the investigation not only inside the White House, but inside the Trump family.
And we should point out, Anderson, when I reached out to the White House for a statement, I received one within seconds. That is notable not just because a White House should be responding to something like that in seconds, but we understand from talking to White House officials that they are ramping up their war room rapid response operations inside the West Wing, so they can respond to these inquiries, respond to these questions that are going to be coming out of the Mueller special counsel investigation, out of these expanding congressional investigations and what the FBI and Justice Department are doing as well.
[20:10:10] And I talked to one White House official earlier today, Anderson, who said this is the reality of the world we live in. We have to get better at responding to these questions.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
I want to bring in our panel, Gloria Borger, David Chalian, David Gergen, and Philip Mudd.
Gloria, just how complicated is this now becoming for the White House? Again, to reiterate the point we were talking about with Evan and Pam, this does bring it into the White House in a way, though different than Michael Flynn and the others, they're not able to distance themselves immediately from Jared Kushner.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it brings it right into the White House. Jared Kushner is one of the president's top aides with top security clearance in addition to being his son-in-law.
I don't think they should be surprised, however, at all that the FBI is looking into Kushner's contacts since we and others have been reporting this spring that Kushner considered himself kind of the man to see on all foreign policy issues, particularly Russia, and that he met with Kislyak, as you mentioned before, and that he also met with this gentleman recommended by Kislyak, Sergei Gorkov, who happens to be the representative of a bank that is on the U.S. sanctions list, which his representatives have told us that he didn't know at the time when he met with him.
Their explanation of all of this to me and to others is that what he was trying to do at the time during the transition was establish a back channel to Russia. And that these were all what was called to me relationship meetings and that it was perfectly appropriate and they say when he testifies before the Senate intelligence committee and anybody else who asks him, that is exactly what he is going to say. The question is, does the FBI think that Jared Kushner's description of what these meetings were actually jibes with what they know? COOPER: Yes. And, David Chalian, I mean, I guess the question is meeting with a Russian banker who may have ties to Russian intelligence, is that someone you should be meeting with, with their bank on a sanctions list as a relationship building exercise.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. So not only does this now go inside the White House, inside to the Oval Office basically, as Evan said inside -- or Jim said inside the Trump family circle, but I also think what this news tells us is that the financial component of this is a growing part of the inquiry perhaps, because Jamie Gorelick had in her statement, it is these meetings the FBI is interested in, apparently, because that's what the statement said that Jared is willing to talk about those meetings.
And that meeting with the banker, we know that the financial component of this inquiry has already been opened and now that this meeting with this banker is on the agenda, I think it is the first of beginning to see more and more how finances are playing into this broader Russia investigation.
COOPER: David Gergen, do you agree with that?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do, absolutely. And, you know, President Trump is going to be very furious at this news. First of all, he thinks there's nothing to it, of course, but secondly, the fact that it was leaked out there. You know, internally, he's going to be in a rage.
But I do think he'll also recognize that this is increasingly dangerous, because to bring it inside the White House, I think David Chalian, it's not just inside the White House, it's about broadening the perspective of what they may be looking at. It's about more than collusion. It is increasingly about follow the money. Does the money relate to the conversations in the campaign? What are all these things about?
Is President Trump -- does President Trump -- has he known for a while that Jared Kushner might be in their sights? And is that why he's been so protective of a lot of this and tried to throw it out there? There are a lot of questions are going to --
COOPER: Yes, David, this White House has been -- the last time I interviewed Kellyanne Conway, one of the things she was clearly stressing was the difference between Donald Trump the candidate, what happened on the campaign trail, and Donald Trump as president and in the White House.
COOPER: This White House has clearly been, you know, Paul Manafort now in the history of the campaign was a bit player who just sort of seemed to be there for a short time.
GERGEN: Just happened to be chairman.
COOPER: He was running the thing. You know, Carter Page is somebody they never even heard of, though, and there seems to be a lot of evidence he didn't really do much, but the president did say his name as one of his five national security advisers and then, of course, Michael Flynn as well. It's harder to do that.
GERGEN: Right. This almost has a sense of like a Greek drama now with the son-in-law and the father figure. But I just think that this is -- Jared Kushner is sort of the point between the campaign activities talking to the Russians and the banking and the president, because we haven't seen the tax returns.
[20:15:02] So he's the person that probably has the most information to give. But I think what the White House will ask, why are you singling him out like this? What is the legal significance of that?
You know, he's -- to move him up to a person of significance, when you're not saying he's done anything wrong, he's not a target and we have to keep stressing that. He's not a target, he's not in legal difficulty at this point, but it's the political aspects of that. Why -- you know, when suddenly he's elevated and it comes inside the White House, the White House is going to be -- they're going to really feel our enemies are doing this.
COOPER: Phil Mudd, I mean, how does the FBI approach someone like Jared Kushner in this situation? He's, as David said, doesn't seem to be a target, but he certainly has the ear of the president -- the president who has called the investigation a witch hunt.
PHIL MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: Let's be clear about this and we'll get to the issue in a moment about why it's taking them so long to speak to him. If you're looking at this, I'm going to give you something that sounds like White House talking points. We're in the midst of a Russian investigation that involves White House advisers.
One of the closest advisers obviously is Jared Kushner. He's been involved with the campaign from day one. He's interacted with people we know are involved in this problem, including General Flynn, and he's had meetings with the Russians. If you're the White House, you're stepping back, if I were them, and saying, of course, he's part of this investigation, we support the investigation and you should speak with him.
The reason it's taking so long for them to speak with him is understand when the White House walks into your office door, they're not only looking for answers and they're not only looking for gaps. As Pamela was suggesting earlier, they're collecting a lot of data interviews, financial information, travel information, because they want to have as much as they can about your pattern of activity to see what you say when you don't know how much they know. They want to see if you slip, they want to see if you say something different than they saw in some other interview. They want to see if you can explain financial transactions that you don't even know they have.
So, they're going to wait a while to ensure that when they walk in that room, they can box him clearly on questions where they already know the answer. COOPER: You know, Jeff Toobin, one of the things that is unknown is
-- we don't have Jeff Toobin.
Gloria Borger, one of the things that the president continues to back Mike Flynn, saying he's an honorable guy. There have been reports he's wanted to reach out to Flynn even though obviously legally that's not a wise idea and even though Mike Flynn lied to the vice president and apparently others in the White House and, according to Sally Yates, engaged in some sort of conduct that could be seen as illegal or there was illegality there.
The president continues it seems to stand by him. The question, of course, is why, and did Mike Flynn approach the Russian ambassador at the urging of the president, with the knowledge of the president-elect at that point? You know, what was that -- did he inform him all along the way? I assume Jared Kushner may have information about that.
BORGER: He could.
COOPER: That I assume is something that the FBI could ask him about as things that they would be interested in knowing.
BORGER: Sure. We don't know how the FBI regards Jared Kushner's role in their investigation. He may be the focus of it to a degree, but nobody is saying that he's a target of the investigation. Nobody is saying who is the target of the investigation.
We know that Jared Kushner was a backer of General Flynn. We know that he liked General Flynn, and we know that Donald Trump remain and remains steadfastly loyal to Flynn because he was the first person, as one source put it to me, with brass on his shoulders who actually went out there and supported Donald Trump early on, and Donald Trump believes that helped him get elected and that it was very significant to him.
So, we don't know about any serious relationship, however, that the FBI would be looking at about Flynn and what Trump told him to say or do, if anything, and Jared Kushner, and how informed he kept Donald Trump, for example, of his meeting with Sergei Gorkov, very close to Vladimir Putin, works for this VEB Bank, which is on an American sanctions list. We don't know whether he kept the president-elect informed about any of these meetings. I mean we just -- you know, there are lots of --
COOPER: We also frankly don't even know if -- we know based on reporting that Jared Kushner while he was part of the transition team was meeting with people in order for his company's business, with Chinese looking into a deal on a building in New York. We have no idea if -- was this meeting with this Russian in order potentially to develop a relationship as someone to invest in Kushner properties.
[20:20:03] That's -- and again, I don't know if that's something the FBI would be interested in as well.
BORGER: They would. They would. The Kushner representatives say that is not the case, this was all about a back channel to Putin. But that could well be something that law enforcement is looking at.
GERGEN: Well, I think the other irony is they have just come off one of the best planned series of events in the presidency with this trip, and Kushner was right at the center of that. He's going to have no choice but to spend a lot of time revisiting the questions about who he met, when did he meet them, lawyering up and following what's going on inside. That's going to be a blow for the White House.
But the second thing, Anderson, is that it's not only the FBI and the investigators that are going to be looking more closely, the press is now going to go back and re-evaluate Jared Kushner, what was his role in this. And to recall, for example, that he was pushing the president very hard to fire Comey.
Now, how much of a conflict of interest did he have at that point? We don't know. We don't know a lot. But I can tell you the press is going to put him through the grilling again.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein joins us now as well.
Carl, I want to put up this picture of all the people that we know have had contact with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, Carter Page, attorney general Jeff Sessions, national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner.
As you look at that diagram and you hear the news, what do you make of where things are tonight?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, Kushner is not a suspect at this point, and let's make that very clear. Second, this is no surprise that he is being very closely looked at and investigated pie the FBI, by the congressional committees, those of us who have been following and doing some inquiries ourselves on this story knew that it was inevitable that he would come to the center of this.
Why? Because he is the one who has the president's ear and he is the person who is knowledgeable about what has happened in regard to many, many things having to do with Russia, with policy towards Russia, with individuals who have been appointed to deal with Russians in the campaign and in the White House. And they want the investigators real explanations and believe that there's one person that can give them the explanations that they need. That is Jared Kushner.
They also want to look at his travel records. He traveled through the campaign in the summer of 2016. They want to know where he traveled and what he did on those travels.
There also has been in the view of a lot of investigators, as well as to the press, there is a cover-up that has been going on, not necessarily an obstruction of justice, but a cover-up by those in the White House in which the president himself has tried to keep investigators from knowing what these relationships are with the Russians. The president has tried to impede, demean, obstruct investigations. Why? Not necessarily a legal obstruction of justice, but why has he been doing this?
Who can give the answers? Jared Kushner, better than anyone.
So the circle is closing in terms of demands by investigators for answers, and the person they're focused on who can give them those answers, including financial records, who has the financial records of many of the Trump Organizations' dealings with ethnic Russians, neo- Russians is Jared Kushner. So, now, he is central to what investigators are trying to find out.
COOPER: David, how much can somebody like Jared Kushner say, look, things I have conversations with the president of the United States about are covered, you know, are between the president and I, the president has a right to have, you know, to have counsel that's not revealed?
GERGEN: Well, I think the executive -- he could invoke executive privilege.
COOPER: Does that stand if you're on the transition?
GERGEN: Executive privilege will not extend back to the transition and to the campaign. You get privilege for the time you're in -- actually in office. But it would be politically very dangerous to invoke executive privilege. It looks -- you look like you're playing into the scenario that Carl just laid out. Is there a cover-up going on and how serious is it?
So I think they would think -- President Reagan with Iran Contra has increasingly cited it was a good way, a healthy way to take care of these things. He waived executive privilege with regard to everybody around him in order to prove that there was nothing there to hide.
So, when you invoke it, it's a little bit like taking the Fifth. It has similar sort of overtones.
COOPER: There's much more to talk about on this, including the deeper political implications of this latest news.
Also tonight, breaking news, fired FBI Director James Comey's memos and when we might get to see them.
[20:28:40] COOPER: Well, our breaking news, presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner is now a focus of the FBI's Russia investigation. He's one of four people under scrutiny for having had some form of contact or another with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
He, Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the difference as we discussed before the break is that Kushner is as close to the president personally and professionally as you can get.
Before bringing in the rest of the panel, I do want to quickly go back to Evan Perez and focus more sharply on just what investigators are interested in.
Let's just start there. What are they interested in and what are they not interested in? I mean, he is not a suspect, correct?
PEREZ: Right. He is not a target of this investigation, as far as we know at this point, Anderson. But they want to talk to him or they at least believe he has information that could help them understand all the different parts of this investigation.
Let me give you three different parts of it that connect directly to Jared Kushner. He ran -- he helped set up, as he has said, the campaign's data analytics operation. It's part of how they were able to micro-target voters in the three states which frankly ended up being the margin of victory for Donald Trump, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
So, the FBI is trying to understand a little bit more about that and whether or not that was in some way co-opted by the Russian spy services.
Secondly, they know that they want to talk to him and his relationship with Michael Flynn, who we know is one of the focuses of this investigation, one of the targets of the FBI's interest in this investigation.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: -- who we know is one of the focuses of this investigation, one of the targets of the FBI's interest in this investigation. And then thirdly, his own meetings with Russians, including Sergey Kislyak. The FBI wants to understand a little bit more about how that came to be. The fact is that Jared Kushner was in charge of the transition's foreign policy operation, and so they want to understand a little bit more about that.
Again, all of these things are running all through, all these different strands run directly through Jared Kushner, because he'd became such a big part of the campaign and a big part of the transition, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And just in terms of his cooperation, he -- they are willing to cooperate, correct?
PEREZ: He says, according to his lawyer, he says that he's willing to talk to anybody who wants to talk to him. He's already offered to speak to the congressional committees, who already have said that they want to talk to him. And it's just a matter of time before they can schedule those interviews. I believe the Senate is going to be the first to actually talk to him. And then, you know, according to his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, he is willing to talk to any investigator who wants to know more.
COOPER: All right, Evan Perez. Joining us now is Matt Lewis, David Gergen, April Ryan, Paul Begala, Scott Jennings, David Urban and Carl Bernstein.
Paul, I mean, you worked in the Clinton White House. What do you make of this development?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it brings the investigation into the White House into the family. Let me start with the White House piece of this. Mr. Kushner now can't talk about this case with anybody at the White House or with anybody at all, except for his attorneys, because it could be construed as witness tampering. Right. He could be mess around with --
PEREZ: Really? Because --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead, Evan.
PEREZ: Actually -- I'm sorry I interrupted there. But I mean this has actually been a recurrent problem with President Trump because he's been talking. We know he's talked to -- after we know -- he's known about the FBI investigation, he's been talking to Paul Manafort, he's talked to Carter -- I'm sorry, to Roger Stone.
PEREZ: So that's repeatedly a problem. Apparently, at least the president doesn't quite understand that he's not supposed to be talking to people who are subjects of an FBI investigation.
PEREZ: Sorry to interrupt you.
BEGALA: The president needs to do -- Evan is exactly right. The president needs to do two things. Lawyer up and shut up. And he's done -- he's done the first, I guess. There's reporting that he hired a lawyer. Good for him, he needs to.
Mr. Kushner has one of the best in Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general, really good lawyer. The problem when you're in one of these things, though, is he's radioactive now. Everybody -- if he's in a meeting and he's talking about the biggest political news of the day, he's making a mistake and everybody in that room is going to be like -- or writing a memo to the file the way Jim Comey did. Oh, Mr. Kushner today said this is all a bunch of hooey and the prosecutors -- I'm making this up.
But the pressure he's going to be under -- and the president is going to be under, I don't wish on anybody. I want the truth to come out. But this is a young man could under extraordinary pressure now. And I don't know how -- by the way, he's in charge of trade negotiations, Middle East peace, reorganizing the entire federal government and he's got a fairly broad palette.
COOPER: And he's going to -- I mean when you're, again, not the suspect in this, not a target but when you're under this kind of pressure, it takes up a lot of time to prepare.
BEGALA: An enormous amount of time. He has to spend a lot of time with his attorneys to prepare so that he can be fully compliant. I'm glad he's cooperating, he needs to. That takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of discovery. He's going to have to go through documents and e-mails and produce them.
It just -- and it also -- you never have a good night's sleep. You always have this pit in your stomach. What's going to happen? Because he doesn't know what other people are saying, true or false, about him. People are going to want to roll on him, to hurt him, to hurt the president, maybe correctly. Maybe incorrect, I don't know the facts. But he is -- this is a guy under a ton of pressure.
COOPER: Scott, you're a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and also a Trump supporter. What do you make of this development?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think it's important to underscore the Kushner transparency as has been pointed out. His lawyer says he wants to cooperate with anyone that wants to talk. He's been saying that for weeks. And so the fact that he's been willing to be transparent I think should be taken into consideration.
And it's also important to remember, simply having information about a meeting that occurred is not the same thing as being in trouble. Of course he's one of the president's top advisers. He's in the president's family. It makes sense that he would have information. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's done anything wrong or that he should be or will be in trouble.
And I think that as long as President Trump has confidence in him and the transparency that he's willing to put forward in an investigation like this, I think he will be able to go about doing the jobs, the big jobs that the president has put on his plate. There's no doubt that this weighs on your mind. There's no doubt that it's a huge distraction.
But again, the issue here is he's being transparent. It doesn't strike me as unusual that he has information. And also, let's not forget, we are now well far afield, I think, in some of the things that have been reported tonight from the whole original story of campaign collusion with the Russians. We're talking about things that have nothing to do with the campaign now, and that's where all of this started. We're well beyond that at this point, which I think strikes a lot of Trump supporters as, you know, my gosh, you know --
[20:35:08] MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: That's the way it works, right? You start off with an investigation into Whitewater, it's a blend deal in Arkansas and you end up with a president perjuring himself. And that's the danger not with the president specifically, but with the Trump administration that this could end up being nothing to do with collusion and there still could be serious ramifications.
COOPER: Evan, just to be clear, this does have something to do with the campaign, I mean, given --
COOPER: -- that these meetings took place during the transition. PEREZ: Right, it does. It has to do not only with the transition, but also the FBI is very much interested to see whether or not the Russians perhaps in some way had some kind of window into the Trump campaign and to be able to funnel some of this news that they were -- some of the e-mails that they had stolen from the DNC and some of the stories associated with that, including from Russian outlets like R.T. and Sputnik and making sure that it was first in the search patterns of people in Pennsylvania, in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Again, these are things that the FBI is still looking at. So it very much has to do with the campaign and it very much has to do with the theory of Russian coordination or Russian collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson --
COOPER: Go ahead, Scott.
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Anderson --
COOPER: David, sorry.
URBAN: Yes. So, you know, from somebody who worked on the campaign in Pennsylvania, I can tell Evan, the Russians weren't there, Evan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?
COOPER: Well, I -- you're talking about physically there. I think they were talking about a cyber presence.
URBAN: So -- yeah, I understand his point. But my point is much more generally. Contacts don't mean collusion. There is no news story in this story today. I don't know what the big -- the story is that Jared Kushner's previously said that he's met with the Ambassador Kislyak, that he's previously had these meetings, that he's previously --
COOPER: He actually didn't say that, though, in the documents that he -- that they handed over to -- for his security clearance, it was only days later that they amended the documents.
URBAN: On the SF-86, it's incomplete. It's being completed, according to his attorney.
URBAN: But there is no -- I don't see the crime or the news in this story. What I do see is the continued leaking by people in the FBI and other places that is a crime. And I don't understand why people aren't up in arms about that, about people in positions of authority who have classified information and provide it -- I understand Carl may have a different look on it, but it is a problem.
COOPER: Right. This information --
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Mr. Urban, can I answer you --
COOPER: Carl, go ahead.
BERNSTEIN: -- a little bit there?
COOPER: Carl, go ahead.
BERNSTEIN: First of all, if there is exculpatory information that shows that there is no there, there about collusion with the Russians in the Trump campaign, the person who could best testify and demonstrate that is Jared Kushner. So if there was nothing there --
URBAN: Carl, do you remember Ted Stevens -- do you remember Senator Ted Stevens in this town a few years back?
BERNSTEIN: I sure do. And he was railroaded.
URBAN: Do you remember what happened -- do you remember what happened? What did the FBI do to him?
BERNSTEIN: He was railroaded. And what I just said --
URBAN: By who, Carl?
BERNSTEIN: Can I -- he was railroaded by the federal government.
URBAN: By the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Carl.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. And there have been huge excesses going back to J. Edgar Hoover and further on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
URBAN: Inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
COOPER: It's best to let somebody finish what they're saying and we don't talk over each other. Go ahead and then you can respond.
BERNSTEIN: Could I finish here?
URBAN: Sorry, Carl, sure.
BERNSTEIN: I just said if that indeed there is no there, there, the person who can best demonstrate it is Jared Kushner as a witness for the president and the people around him. Aside from that, the person who we have not mentioned in this conversation is Paul Manafort. That it is known by people in the press, by investigators on the Hill and the FBI that the person most closely being examined in terms of collusion is Manafort in many regards.
And so the FBI and other investigators want to know what were Kushner and the president's interactions with Paul Manafort. That is something else that Kushner can answer.
COOPER: But Carl, David raises --
BERNSTEIN: So all I'm suggesting is --
COOPER: Carl, David raises, you know, an important point, which is if you are a Trump supporter --
COOPER: -- it is understandable that you would be upset that these leaks continue to come out one after another. The president has, you know, on overseas trip, he's doing the things most presidents do and then suddenly this leak comes out and it overshadows that.
BERNSTEIN: First of all, it's -- let me just finish and I respect what is being said on the other side of the table there. That, yes, people are concerned about leaks who are the president's supporters. But remember, "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", CNN, "The Wall Street Journal", have been working on these stories for weeks. They don't necessarily mean leaks in the sense of people are running to reporters and dropping things in their lapse.
[20:40:04] The reporters have looked at records, they've looked at travel records, they're talking to all kinds of people. This is no simple conspiracy by the press. It's not fake news.
BERNSTEIN: It's very good reporting.
COOPER: David, I want you to be able to respond and then --
BERNSTEIN: And let's move on from there.
COOPER: David, I want you to be able to respond then go back --
URBAN: Sure. I would say, Carl, inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the office of professional responsibility. In the past several years, Director Comey has subjected several hundred FBI agents. They have gone through the Office of Professional Responsibility. Their conduct has been reviewed.
I suggested that a similar investigation take place into the Director Comey's conduct and other people who may be leaking. That's all I'm saying. It's a nonpartisan, nonbiased, internal investigation done at the FBI, an I.G. so to speak. I think the Office of Professional Responsibility should really be active on these leaks.
COOPER: April, I mean, as someone who works in the White House, again, it's important to point out, according to all this reporting, Jared Kushner is not a target or the central focus of this investigation. One of the things that we have seen from the White House is for the others whose names have been raised, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, they have sidelined those people and distanced themselves as much as possible from those people, though the president does seem to still say favorable things about Michael Flynn. But in terms of Manafort, in terms of Carter Page, they have certainly -- and Carter Page, it seems there's a lot of evidence that he really didn't have much contact. APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: This one is very close for the president. I want to see how he plays this one out. Jared Kushner has his hands in a lot of pots at the White House. He's in the family. He's -- I mean Jared Kushner and Ivanka are there and his own sons aren't there. This is close. But my big question is why is it coming out now? Why are we just finding out -- if there was transparency about this, we should have known about this before. But this -- and in going back to what --
COOPER: These meetings were -- the meeting with Kislyak wasn't, I think, on the record. He didn't go into the regular --
RYAN: Right, but still understanding that this is an issue, and it has been an issue and the gravity of this issue. It should have been known prior to now. Mueller is doing his job. We are finding things out. And the connection with Flynn going into these meetings to talk about the sanctions, and also talking about, you know, the issues of banking with this Russian banker.
So my question is, my question is right now why wasn't this pointed out? But this is not a partisan issue. We've got people trying to take the silver ball and distract everyone from what really is on the table. On the table is the possibility of collusion with Russia. Who we don't know, but there's a possibility of a democracy that has been tainted, our democratic process for the elections. 2018 and 2020 are coming.
And then also you have the issue of potential or possible obstruction of justice. That is real. This is not a partisan issue. This is about the American democracy that has been tainted. France has been tainted and other countries --
COOPER: David Gergen, you know, Scott was pointing out earlier about how starts off is one thing and then seems to brand the others: You all, you know, raised the issue of Whitewater. That start off as Whitewater ended up with Monica Lewinsky and other things. "The Washington Post", David says, investigators also looking broadly into possible financial crimes. Sources didn't say who or what was being examined. Again, that's another avenue who knows if this --
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO REAGAN, FORD, CLINTON & NIXON: And it could be the most dangerous before it's all over.
COOPER: The most dangerous.
GERGEN: It could be. We'll have to wait and see where this goes. But Jared Kushner -- listen, first of all, I think the Trump people and I think all of us as citizens should really question about these leaks now. This is really -- I mean we have Manchester coming on top of this. What the hell is going on --
GERGEN: -- that the government can't keep these secrets.
COOPER: A classified documentation of a conversation with Duterte. GERGEN: Absolutely. And I agree. Listen, I think it's terrific the press is doing so much hard reporting, but nonetheless there are people on the other side who are cooperating with them. You know, the press just didn't -- just didn't get it because they really, really pursued it. Somebody actually sat down and said this is what we're doing. This is what's happening.
JENNINGS: You want to talk about threats to democracy, the concept that a president and his top staff cannot run a White House and run a country without the thought that an unelected bureaucrat somewhere that has access to information might run out the door with it and put not just that presidency in jeopardy, but the institution of the presidency, our trust that we have with our allies.
COOPER: We should also point out I assume some of these leaks also come from the White House itself.
RYAN: From top officials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know where they're coming from.
RYAN: Some of us do know where they're coming from, from top officials in that inner circle. It's coming from the inner circle.
JENNINGS: That's a problem. And hopefully these investigations will ferret some of that out.
BEGALA: By far the most damaging leak of this presidency was when Donald Trump leaked to the Russians that we had a source in ISIS that apparently we got from Israel. That's by far -- he's the leaker in chief here. And frankly, if he can't inspire loyalty in his team, they're going to continue to leak on him like this. It starts at the top.
[20:45:56] LEWIS: Well, look, I think Donald Trump declared war on the media, calling us, calling, you know, them enemies of the people, enemy of the people. And Donald Trump declared war on the intelligence community. Really dumb. The media and the intelligence community. He for some reason that boggles the mind, it's actually Nixonian. I don't know how you can expect to have a presidency that isn't inundated with scandal when you intentionally pick a fight with those two institutions.
RYAN: And I think about something a couple of weeks ago --
BERNSTEIN: As someone who has talked to some of these supposed leakers.
COOPER: Carl, you may not hear April is talking and then we'll come to you.
RYAN: I'm sorry. BERNSTEIN: I'm sorry.
RYAN: I'm thinking about something a couple of weeks ago when the president mistakenly or purposefully, we still don't know for sure, talked to Kislyak about what was happening with -- what was going on with ISIS and the laptops, they did not give him source and means, the intelligence community. There is still some friction there. Why is he not getting information? They don't -- the friction is because maybe he's not able to handle it.
COOPER: The conversation about leaks is an important one and we've had it many times, just as we have tonight. Just to sum this conversation up, though, I mean this information now has leaked out, it is there. Matt, how significant is it that Jared Kushner is now in this?
LEWIS: I think it's one more part of the story, right? So every night we come here and we say what happened today is a bombshell and it usually is, right? It usually breaks about 5:00. This is just one more day of this. But I think that, you know, again, we thought with the special prosecutor maybe things would go back to normal. The White House could basically shut down talk about Russia scandals and say that's being looked at by a special prosecutor. These leaks keep coming. We're still talking -- we're not talking about the trip that Donald Trump made. Most people think a fairly successful trip.
COOPER: We'll have more on that, by the way.
LEWIS: Well, I'm just -- I'm not indicting us.
COOPER: I know, I know.
LEWIS: I think this -- that's the problem that Trump has. The Russia story will not go away.
COOPER: We've got to take a break.
A closer look at Jared Kushner's path to the White House coming up, which was much like his father-in-law's path has paved with lots of real estate, and not much political experience or none but a lot of business experience. We'll explain that ahead.
COOPER: Tonight's breaking news, the investigation into Russian melding in the presidential election now includes desire to speak to the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, though again, it's important to point out he isn't accused of any wrongdoing.
Kushner, like his father-in-law, showed up on the national political stage with no experience in the world of politics and was then tasked with fixing some of the most complex problems in the world. Randi Kaye has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wherever the president goes, his trusted son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is never far behind.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's very good at politics.
KAYE (voice-over): As senior adviser to the president, Kushner sits in on meetings in the Oval Office and was even in the war room when the U.S. struck Syria in response to a chemical attack.
[20:50:06] Kushner, who is married to the president's daughter, Ivanka, is also helping shape the president's agenda on matters related to U.S./China relations, trade with Mexico, criminal justice reform, and overhauling the government. An incredible amount of influence for the 36-year-old Kushner, who until the 2016 campaign, had no political experience. He and his father, like Trump, are real estate developers. But his lack of expertise in all things Washington has hardly stopped President Trump from making Kushner the point person on just about anything, even peace in the Middle East.
TRUMP: He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK? I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.
KAYE (voice-over): Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, who supports Israel, just this week met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife. In April, he represented the Trump administration on a swing through Iraq, along side the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared is going to specifically express the commitment of the government of U.S., of the United States to the government of Iraq, meet with U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign.
KAYE (voice-over): Kushner has been called the secretary of everything, a title which has riled up some Democrats.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He doesn't have experience in any of these areas. And he is acting as a super secretary of state.
KAYE (voice-over): When asked about Kushner's growing influence and role in international deal making, the White House explained it this way.
SPICER: There's a lot of relationships that Jared's made over time with different leaders, Mexico being one of them, you mentioned, that are continuing to have conversations with him.
KAYE (voice-over): And what about Kushner's relationship with Russia? During the transition, turns out Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower. The White House says he was acting as a conduit to world leaders. Also at Kislyak's suggestion, Kushner met with a Russian banker, who owns a bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration. Kushner has offered to testify before Congress about both of these meetings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that he met with the banker, I think he needs to explain himself.
KAYE (on camera): His dealings with Saudi Arabia may also need some explaining. Just two weeks before the president's visit to Saudi Arabia, Kushner personally called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to cut a deal for a sophisticated missile detection system. Kushner asked the CEO to cut the price so they could finalize the arms deal, a weapons passage that in the end cost about $110 billion for tanks, fighter jets, combat ships, and more.
(voice-over): For a Trump White House built on unconventional choices, it goes without saying, Jared Kushner is just that.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Joining me now is Lizzie Widdicombe, who's written extensively about Jared Kushner for "The New Yorker".
It's interesting to me how -- by not saying anything, Jared Kushner has not really made public statements, one really has no idea -- for someone who is so close to the president and such a top adviser with so many hands, where he stands on kind of any issue or exactly his importance in the White House?
LIZZIE WIDDICOMBE, WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, I think that that is -- that's something that he has taken care not to do, to speak publicly the way his father has, because it tends to get yourself into trouble that way.
COOPER: But in terms of -- I mean, in terms of somebody who has the president's ear, he --
COOPER: There's really very few people who have the role that Jared Kushner does.
WIDDICOMBE: Yes, I mean, friends say, and he describes himself as being non-ideological, that he's just there to help out and get things done and it leads to this constant sort of musing about what his real positions are.
COOPER: He's very -- he's very loyal, not only to, obviously, his family, who he, you know, roads in real estate through his father, but also to Donald Trump, which I assume is why the president has him so close.
WIDDICOMBE: Yes. He comes from a family that's a lot like the Trump family. His father is a real estate developer in New Jersey and now New York and in his family and in the Trump family, business and family are all sort of one, one thing. And loyalty is the most important.
COOPER: What kind of a track record has he had in business? Has he had -- I mean -- WIDDICOMBE: I think you would have to call it mixed. It hasn't -- he took over the family business --
COOPER: It was already a successful -- I mean is it big real estate company?
WIDDICOMBE: Yes. It was a big real estate company that was founded by his grandfather, who was a holocaust survivor and built a lot of -- built and purchased a lot of small homes in New Jersey. And his father turned it into a really big business and his father went to jail in 2000 -- was convicted in 2006 of tax evasion and illegal campaign donations, went to jail.
[20:55:04] And Jared was a law school student and took over the family business. And he oversaw a move to Manhattan. So they sold off a lot of their assets in New Jersey and --
COOPER: It's interesting, like -- just as Donald Trump --
WIDDICOMBE: Yes. So there are a ton of parallels. And a lot of people -- in reporting my story, a lot of people compared Jared's father to Donald Trump, sort of a brash real estate developer from outside of Manhattan.
COOPER: Mm-hmm. And then he wanted to -- he bought "The New York Observer".
WIDDICOMBE: He did, yes. That was sort of his coming out into New York bold-faced names page 6 territory, which is where Ivanka was already operating.
COOPER: Right. And now he's at a whole other level. Lizzie Widdicombe, thanks very much.
WIDDICOMBE: Thanks a lot.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
Coming up, the latest on tonight's breaking news, the Russia investigation now hitting very close to home for President Trump with the focus on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. More on that ahead.
COOPER: Our breaking news tonight, Jared Kushner, the president's close adviser and son-in-law is now a focus in the FBI's Russia collusion probe. He's one of four figures known to have contact with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, along with Cater Page, Attorney General Sessions, and Michael Flynn, there's that.
We're also learning that the FBI is looking into any possible ties, overlaps or other connections if they existed between the Trump campaign's computerized voter targeting system and Russia's own cyber operations. Pamela Brown and Evan Perez have been working on the story. They join us now with details. So, Even, what have you learned about the Trump campaign's voter targeting system? Explain what that is and why -- how, if at all, is that connected to any Russians?
PEREZ: Well, Anderson, the Trump campaign actually, at the end of the campaign was boasting about this really good micro-targeting campaign that they had, this ability to be able to find voters in those key states in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan in particular --
COOPER: We should point out, the Clintons were also boasting about their ability. So just the fact that they were boasting -- anyway, go ahead.
PEREZ: But one of them won. And so they were -- they apparently had a very good system to be able to target voters, Anderson. And what the FBI is interested in is whether or not the Russians had a window into that, either through some witting or unwitting cooperation from somebody inside the campaign.
Now, Jared Kushner ran and set up this operation, according to interviews he has given after the victory by the president. He said that he helped find some of these computer people who were able to refine the microtargeting of these voters.
And so what the FBI is interested in is whether or not some of these Russian bots, these computers that were able to push out negative news on Hillary Clinton and positive news on Donald Trump and targeted some of these places in the country, whether or not they had some help, either witting or unwitting, because of the benefit of the Trump campaign's data operation.
COOPER: And, Pamela, how does Kushner's relationship with Flynn factor into this investigation?
[21:00:02] PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Michael Flynn is also under FBI investigation, the former national security adviser. And so the FBI's focus on Flynn also touches on Kushner because he led the presidential transitions, foreign policy efforts.