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Republican Charged With Assault Apologizes, Wins Race; Jared Kushner Under FBI Scrutiny In Russia Probe; Dems: Revoke Kushner's Security Clearance Amid Probe. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Moments from now, Hillary Clinton will be speaking out, going back to where it all began for her in some respects, getting ready to give the commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

She did the very same back in 1969 when she was class president and was Wellesley's first student commencement speaker then. She spoke again at the college's commencement in 1992, but of course, just look at the calendar.

A lot has happened since 1992, first lady, senator, secretary of state and defeated 2016 presidential candidate, just to name a few things. It will be very interesting to hear what her message is for the 2017 graduates of the all-women's college.

A source close to Clinton tells CNN that she will connect the politics of 1969 to the politics of now and what that message will be. Stand by for that. Just a short time ago, she put out a tweet, tweeting "Back to Wellesley today to talk to the class of 2017 about what comes next."

She's probably talking about what comes next for them, but maybe also what comes next for her. We'll bring you her speech, her remarks as soon as she begins. Following that.

But also new this morning, President Trump weighing in on the special election in Montana and Republican Greg Gianforte's big win last night. He is now the Republican Congressman-elect, who is also now charged with assaulting a reporter just a day before voters went to the polls. Here is what the president said just a short time ago about the election from the G7 Summit in Sicily.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you! Thank you. Gracias.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you! Thank you!


BOLDUAN: Gianforte, he beat his Democratic opponent by about seven points overnight. President Trump won much bigger there in November, beating Hillary Clinton by 20 points in big sky country.

With that perspective, let's get the very latest on the win and the assault charge fallout. CNN's Kyung Lah is in Missoula, Montana, with much more.

So Kyung, following you on Twitter and following you on TV, it's very clear that you've heard quite a lot from voters since you have been in Montana. As the sun is rising there now, what are you hearing today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A win is a win. I mean, that's essentially what the locals are saying here when it comes to Gianforte's victory, that at the end of the day, he did win. Now, that is not entirely surprising.

We heard all during the day from Republicans who were heading to the polls that they anticipated that he would win, that this late surprise came too late, and they anticipated that he would win. What we're hearing from Democrats, though, is look at that win. Look at the single-digit win that Gianforte made.

And what they were also noting is that he basically didn't show up on Election Day until he won, and then he decided to apologize about the incident with "The Guardian" reporter. Take a listen.


GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Sometimes hard work is borne out of hard lessons. Last night, I learned a lesson. Last night, I made a mistake. And I took an action that I can't take back, and I'm not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did. And for that, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're forgiven!

GIANFORTE: I should not have treated that reporter that way and for that, I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.


LAH: A couple of things he didn't mention is the statement he put out the night before, that his campaign put out the night before, that didn't match the audio, that didn't take responsibility for what happened with that reporter.

And something else, Kate, you may have heard some of the shouting in that crowd. A lot of the supporters there didn't think he needed to apologize. And we didn't get much word on what's going to happen with his court appearance when he does have to appear sometime between now and June 7th. He has to appear in court for that misdemeanor assault charge -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: We'll have to see where that lands on the calendar with his swearing-in and when he'll head to the capitol. That could be some interesting timing. Great to see you, Kyung. Thank you so much.

All right, joining me now, a lot to discuss here, the fallout from the politics and the assault charge, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House aide, Keith Boykin, and CNN political commentator and conservative columnist, Kayleigh McEnany is here.

Caitlin Huey-Burns from "Real Clear Politics" is here and CNN political analyst and Princeton history professor, Julian Zelizer. For some reason, I always get your name right, even though it is a tongue-Twister.

So great having you all here on this Friday. But first, Kayleigh, what is your biggest takeaway from the Montana election?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, there are certain lines that should define partisanship. Physical assault is one of them. Sexual transgressions like what Anthony Weiner did, is another one.

[11:05:08]And I think we're at a moment where we're so entrenched in our partisan corners, and it would be nice if we saw someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan not only say we need an apology, but if this is true, perhaps consider stepping down.

Look at censure charges in the House of Representatives because there are certain things, especially when they're mishandled, like it was mishandled in Jean Forte's case --

BOLDUAN: With the original statement.

MCENANY: -- he apologized after he won. He didn't apologize during the election when it wouldn't have been politically advantageous for him to do so, or that was his calculus, at least. So, I think we need to step back in both parties, analyze situations where when we cross a certain line, we all come out against it.

BOLDUAN: Where is the line now, right? That's kind of the question.

MCENANY: Physical assault should be one of those lines.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for putting your neck out there on that one, Kayleigh. I really appreciate it! Keith, let me get you on this. Not on the assault, but on this, Trump won Montana by 20 points. Yes, this was an uphill battle for Democrats all along the way in the special election, but this was one of the big targets for Democrats.

Where they really saw an opening where if they could win this, this would show the momentum that Democrats have the wind at their backs and they will be retaking the House of Representatives in 2018. With this, now all eyes, of course, turn to June 20th, special election in Georgia. But here's the question, when it comes purely to wins and losses, when are Democrats going to start winning?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, hopefully, they'll start winning with Jon Ossoff in Georgia. I think this doesn't necessarily bode badly or well for the Democrats. I wasn't expecting to win in Montana, honestly.

But I do think it's a short-term victory for the Republicans in the sense that it's hard for Democrats to win in some of these traditionally white, Republican, red states like Montana. I think Bill Clinton won the state back in 1992.

He was probably the last Democrat and the only one who's done it in a long time. But we're in a difficult point right now. The Republican Party is the party that wins the majority of the white vote consistently, and the Democratic Party is consistently winning the majority of the nonwhite vote.

The problem is for the Republicans in the long term is that the demographics are changing, so as we start to see more nonwhite voters in the polls, that makes it increasingly hard for Republicans to use their same brand of politics to win elections.

BOLDUAN: I hear you, Keith, and that's good spin, and you may not have thought that this one was going to be close, but Caitlin, this was a target, right? I mean, this was something that Democrats saw, yes, it was an uphill battle, but that's why they thought it would be such a big win if they got it. Is this a blow to Democrats?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": We talk about Montana as a deep red state, and yes, it went for Donald Trump by 20 points in the election, but Steve Bullock, the governor, was elected to his second term by about four points against Gianforte in that same election, so this state has an independent streak.

So, there were Democrats looking at it. They weren't invested as heavily there as they are in that Georgia district coming up next month. And when you're looking at the map that Democrats are looking at, they're looking more at states or districts like that Georgia one, where either Trump won by a narrow margin or districts that Hillary Clinton won.

But I think, you know, looking at this, they thought that not only the latest -- the late developments in this race would have a difference, but also kind of the overall mood against Trump didn't really pan out here and when we heard from voters there --


HUEY-BURNS: -- from reporting, they were supportive of Gianforte even after that revelation and that kind of reflected -- Gianforte embraced Donald Trump. He ran on the Donald Trump kind of brand in the state.

BOLDUAN: Yes, politically bear-hugged him, right?

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly -- and that's different from his last campaign where he tried to create some distance.

BOLDUAN: So let's talk about one of the things that Kayleigh brought up, Julian. So he apologized last night after his win. Kyung played that for us, brought us the sound. Republicans today are saying that they're happy that he apologized. But his apology does not address what is clearly now a contradiction from his original statement where, I don't need to read you the whole thing again, but he basically blames it on what he viewed as a liberal reporter who kind of -- which is clearly a contradiction in what he apologized for last night, which makes me wonder, what is Gianforte sorry for?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure what he's sorry for. Here you have someone running for office who appears to have body slammed a reporter. It's an unbelievable story, and he wins.

So, you have the contradiction in that statement and how does the Republican Party deal with that, and you have the fact that the victor is someone who physically assaulted a journalist just before the election.

And I think the Republican Party has to make a decision -- do we respond to something like this perhaps through censure, or do we say this is politics as normal post-Donald Trump? And I think that could be a problem for the party.

[11:10:02]BOLDUAN: I know we've got go to quick break, but Keith, let me ask you that, just jump in on this what more do you want to see Republicans do, Keith? I mean, because at this point, Paul Ryan, he wanted him to apologize.

Today, he put out a statement saying that Gianforte will be a valuable voice in the House Republican caucus, but what more do Republicans need to do? What more can Republicans do? He was voted in.

BOYKIN: I'm actually going to agree with Kayleigh on this. I mean, I think she's right in the sense that Paul Ryan was right to call for an apology but didn't call for him to withdraw from the race. I think that we've crossed the boundaries now, and I think Donald Trump is largely responsible for contributing to that atmosphere.

Kayleigh will probably disagree with that part. But here we have Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States who says he's a Christian first and then a conservative and then a Republican in that order.

And Mike Pence, this great Christian, refuses to stand up and say a single word when this assault is taking place and everyone knows about it. Then you have $100,000 coming in to the coffers for Gianforte's campaign in the last day of the campaign after the body slam, and then an apology that happens after he's elected!

There's no courage here, there's no moral integrity here, and I think it's time for the Republican Party to stand for something. It's supposed to be -- it used to claim to be the party of family values and integrity. Where is that? How do you get back to that?

Because it's not happening right now, and I applaud Kayleigh for at least standing up and saying that Paul Ryan should have done more than just demand an apology. BOLDUAN: And for the record, the only reason -- the reason Keith is not in studio with us is not because he was afraid that Kayleigh was going to body slam him. I'm just going to say that. It was just a scheduling thing. Just saying, because I've seen her work, and it's terrifying, and impressive.

MCENANY: That's true.

BOLDUAN: All right, guys, standby. We got much more to come. Thanks. Not to make light of a very serious situation, but we are going to move on now.

The man closest to the president is now under FBI scrutiny in the ongoing Russia investigation. How this now impacts Jared Kushner's role in the White House.

Plus, one Democratic senator says he fears Michael Flynn is secretly cooperating now with the Justice Department, undercutting multiple other investigations going on in Congress. Hear why on that one.

And we're now being told the Manchester concert bomber made a phone call just 15 minutes before his attack. Hear who he called and how police are now trying to contain his network, the network that he's been working with. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, another name has popped up in the Russia investigation, and it's Jared Kushner. The FBI is looking at his role in the campaign's data analytics operation, his relationship with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and his own contacts with Russian officials.

However, at this point, he is not a target of the probe and there are no allegations that he committed any wrongdoing. So, where does that leave us?

Let me bring in right now Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, Caitlin Huey-Burns is back with me. She hasn't left me yet. Adding voices to the panel now, Andrew Rice is a contributing editor with "New York" magazine, and Lizzie Widdicombbe, a writer for "The New Yorker." All thank you so much for being here.

You two are the Jared Kushner expert side of the table because you both written extensively about his work, but put it into perspective for me first, Caitlin. This appears to be the only current White House official that is now under scrutiny now by the FBI.

Jared's attorney says that they are ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation, but they haven't been contacted yet. What is your sense on how big of a concern this is for the White House?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, remember that Jared Kushner, there was controversy surrounding his non-disclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador, as you mentioned, also with the Russian state bank meeting. So, there are a couple questions involving the nature of those conversations, including whether there was any relationship to the businesses, whether there was any -- you know, what the exact kinds of conversations were.


HUEY-BURNS: Jared Kushner is one of the key members of this White House, and he is, of course, an unelected, or unfirmed, right?


HUEY-BURNS: His position did not have to go through the scrutiny of the Senate, and so there are lots of questions. This also comes, of course, as he is abroad with the president, his portfolio, as we know, is expansive. He is also a person that lots of members of Congress want to talk to in regards to their investigation, and he has said he would comply with those as well.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. So Andrew, you wrote a major cover story on Kushner back in January?


BOLDUAN: And that's an important part of kind of where the scrutiny is at this moment. Everyone in America at this point knows that he is one of the president's closest advisers, but what did you learn in your research and in your writing about how involved he is, what level of trust and where his place is in terms of the real decision-making for the president?

RICE: And I think this is really pertinent to the whole question of the FBI investigation, because allegedly, or reportedly, these meetings took place during the transition, which is a time period when Jared was very much running the show. I mean, the Trump campaign I think won maybe even to their own surprise, and much of the transition was very improvised. You may recall that Chris Christie was sort of booted out.

BOLDUAN: Right. He was in charge and then quickly not.

RICE: And Jared took over. And so, they were sort of improvising everything on the fly, including contacts with foreign governments. Russia wasn't the only one. They were having back-channel discussions with Israel at the time, and really, they were kind of almost running interference against the Obama administration's closing foreign policy moves. So, this all happened in the context of this transitional period.

BOLDUAN: That is fascinating. And Lizzie, you've written extensively about Kushner and Ivanka and kind of their power center in the campaign and now the White House. What is known about -- one of the focuses is, it sounds boring, but it's super, super important, the data operations that they have. What is known about that data analytics operation that he ran and why it's now under scrutiny? LIZZIE WIDDICOMBE, WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": I think that he -- I mean, one thing that Jared always has taken a lot of pride in is sort of his connections with Silicon Valley, with the tech world, which he admires.

[11:20:10]So, he hired contractors to run this team. So, that was kind of what he oversaw. So, I imagine that what investigators would be interested in -- he gave interviews where he kind of boasted about their ability to micro target voters in Wisconsin and in a lot of these swing states.

BOLDUAN: Places where they shouldn't be doing so well, right?

WIDDICOMBE: Yes. I mean, I would guess, were they sharing any of that information with Russian hackers, you know, or with the Russian (inaudible) and so forth? I mean, you know, as the person who oversaw that part of the campaign, he would be the, you know, someone they'd want to talk to.

BOLDUAN: One that would know it. Paul, as I mentioned earlier, there is no indication that he is a target or there is any allegation of wrongdoing at this moment. If that stays, right, if that -- what would the FBI want with him?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because he had information about data collection, about social media use in the campaign. Any contact with the Russians is, of course, going to be of great interest. Let's say hypothetically the Russians have in their possession anti-Hillary documents, e-mails that would hurt her campaign, and they're looking for a way to micro target pro-Trump voters.

Well, what better way to explore this topic than by finding the guy in charge of micro targeting pro-Trump people? Jared Kushner may have been in that position. So if I'm an FBI agent, I certainly want to talk to him. Now, that's not to suggest that this actually happened, but the FBI is looking for the people who are most likely to have information that will push the investigation forward.

BOLDUAN: Right. They've got to rule things out and also rule things in, right?

CALLAN: Exactly, so of course they're going to talk to him. He's somebody with knowledge.

BOLDUAN: One of the things that's come up, Matt Miller, a former spokesman for the Department of Justice under Obama, he on this whole topic of Kushner being under scrutiny tweeted "Typical government employees would likely have their security clearances suspended while this was ongoing. What will Trump do for his son-in-law?" Do you agree that his security clearance would be suspended if -- he's not a target --

CALLAN: No -- well --

BOLDUAN: What do you think? What's your theory? CALLAN: I think ultimately people forget that this is up to the

president of the United States as to whose security clearance is suspended. And if the president doesn't want his security clearance suspended, it will not be.

I mean, the whole problem, of course, with the Trump administration has been you've had people coming in from the business world who have little government experience, and they're making a lot of errors on these forms.

Now, whether this is deliberately hiding information or whether they're simply not paying attention when they're filling out these lengthy government forms remains to be seen, but I'd be very surprised if Kushner is taken out of the advisory role as a result of --

BOLDUAN: And I do wonder, one thing that we do know about the president is the president doesn't like attention -- when someone else is getting a lot of attention. Maybe he does in this regard because maybe this is not the most welcome of attention. What do you think this scrutiny does, from your reporting, Andrew, what do you think the scrutiny does, if anything, to the relationship between Jared Kushner and the president?

RICE: It's hard to say, because Jared Kushner has a different relationship with the president than seemingly almost anyone else besides Ivanka. And really, he is somebody that the president seems to trust completely.

And so, his loyalty, which has not been incredibly strong towards other members of the administration, I think probably will go much deeper to Jared.

But on the previous point, I just wanted to mention that one of the things that was sort of mentioned as an aside in the "Washington Post" article is that the investigation seems to have broadened to possibly encompass not just electoral issues but potential financial improprieties.

And this is important when Jared Kushner comes into play, because I think on those disclosure forms, there are hundreds and hundreds of LLCs, anonymous shell companies listed and there's nothing like intrinsically illegal or nefarious about that. That's typical real estate financing.


RICE: But it's a very opaque industry. And so, therefore, there might be a lot of questions that the FBI might now be asking about where money is coming into the real estate business that wouldn't necessarily be eyebrow-raising if it was just a normal real estate developer, but now that it's a real estate developer with a security clearance, it becomes an issue.

BOLDUAN: That's an interesting point. All right, guys, stand by. We've got a lot of news we're watching right now. We will get back for more of this discussion in just one second. Coming up, British officials now say they are trying to contain -- that's their wording -- a terror network that's linked to the Manchester suicide bomber. How far can that network reach? And who did the bomber call minutes just before he committed that horrific attack?

[11:25:13]Plus any moment we're keeping our eye on Massachusetts, Hillary Clinton giving a commencement speech at her alma mater. We're told she will dip her toe into politics. We'll bring you her remarks when they begin. Standby for that.


BOLDUAN: New details just in on the deadly ambush of children and parents at a concert in Manchester, England.