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Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe; Trump Heads Home to a Political Firestorm; Trump Agenda Advances Despite Chaos and Dysfunction; Countdown to Indy 500; Washington Post: Kushner Proposed Secret Line To Kremlin; Sources: Comey Acted On Russian Intel He Knew Was Fake. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired May 27, 2017 - 06:00   ET





WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law proposed setting up a secret means of communicating with the kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White House has declined to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me that sounds an awful lot like colluding with an adversary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you have to do is talk to anybody in the Russian embassy and it will lead you back to Moscow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Jared Kushner going rogue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a pattern of senior Trump officials concealing conversations with Russian spies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are all these guys doing this? Are they doing to it protect themselves or Trump?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job. He's going to do a great job.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday to you on a Saturday morning. We are always so grateful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Saturday to you. The breaking news this morning, the new reporting from "The Washington Post" that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser proposed setting up a secret means of communicating with the kremlin.

PAUL: The "Post" reports the request came from intercepts of conversations between Russia's ambassador to the United States and Moscow. But three people with knowledge of the discussion tell the "New York Times" that the line was meant to be used to discuss strategy in Syria and policy issues. Here's our Elise Labott.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intercepted Russian communications discussed a proposal, by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to Russia's ambassador to the U.S. to create a secret communications channel between the Trump transition and the kremlin, "The Washington Post" reported citing U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

The "Post" reported Kushner made a proposal to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an early December meeting at Trump Tower to use Russian diplomatic facilities to shield their pre-inauguration discussions according to U.S. officials.

CNN previously reported the two men met as part of an effort to create a back channel to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House did not comment on the report.

These revelations comes as the FBI probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election includes looking at Kushner. The FBI is drilling down on Kushner's multiple roles in the Trump campaign and post-election transition.

Key among them the Trump's campaign data analytics operation run by Kushner and used to target voters in key states that helped Trump win the presidency.

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I've heard and it's been reported that part of the misinformation, disinformation campaign that was launched was launched in three key states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and it was launched interestingly enough not to reenforce Trump supporters to go out but actually targeted a potential Clinton voters with misinformation in the last week --

LABOTT: Federal investigators are examining whether Russian operatives used Trump campaign associates wittingly or unwittingly to aid their own efforts to push information about Hillary Clinton online.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Jared is going to do a great job.

LABOTT: As Trump's top foreign policy aide Kushner's contacts with Russia are under scrutiny. Kushner was one of at least four Trump campaign aides in contact with Sergey Kislyak and in December met with the head of a Russian bank under sanctions by the U.S. with close ties to Vladimir Putin. At first, he failed to list those contacts when he applied for a security clearance but later corrected the forms. REPRESENTATIVE SETH MOULTON (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It seems like another day, another name. It's hard to find who in this administration is not being connected with suspicious ties to Russia. It just points out how important this investigation is.


LABOTT: Officials tell CNN Kushner is not currently the target of the investigation, but they believe he may be able to provide information that could be helpful to the FBI probe. Now his lawyers says he has volunteered to share information with Congress about his meetings with the Russians and is willing to talk with the FBI if asked -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All right, thank you, Elise, so much. CNN's Sara Murray live with us in Sicily. Tough card you have today to be stationed there. It looks beautiful. You're with the president on his overseas trip. Help us understand, Sara, if the White House is reacting to any of this news from "The Washington Post" and the "New York Times" this morning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far the White House isn't commenting on this notion that Jared Kushner was trying to set up back channel communication, he'll communicate more directly with the Russians. These are just a couple of series of reports that came out.

There was another one from Reuters that noted that there were previously undisclosed contacts between Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador. To that we did get a statement from Kushner's attorney who said that Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period.

He has no recollection of the calls described. They asked for dates of such alleged calls so they may look into it, but we have not received such information.

[06:05:05]So far not even really any push back, just really not much at all coming to explain or sort of defend why these contacts might have happened if they did, and why Jared Kushner might be setting up this back channel.

Now this is all happening against the backdrop of the president being here in Sicily. He's wrapping up his meeting at the G7 today. After that we will hear from the president himself. He's going to be visiting a naval airbase here and speaking to American troops.

His advisers, staffers hoped this will be sort of a high point of the trip, a way for a foreign crowd to give him somewhat of a sendoff before he returns to the United States.

But, of course, we'll be looking for more information today about what exactly Jared Kushner's role was during the transition and now even in the White House and what kind of contact he may have had with Russian officials. We are expecting a press briefing with senior administration officials. Back to you. PAUL: All right, wonderful. Sara Murray, thank you so much for the wrap. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's bring in CNN political analyst and Princeton history professor, Julian Zelizer, and CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Good morning to you.

Julian, let me start with you with that response from Kushner's attorney that he had thousands of calls between April and November 2016. He doesn't remember any calls with the Russian ambassador. Is that plausible?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's hard to believe. At this point, we keep hearing those kinds of denials but this would be a major channel of communication if he, indeed, did try to establish it. So I don't think many people Democrats or Republicans will find it very plausible that he just can't remember setting this up. It's not the best defense.

PAUL: Joey, you're a defense attorney. You have been. What's your take on it?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there's always two sides to the law. There's many more sides than that. From a defense perspective let's back up, first of all, we have to look and see if the accuracy and reliability of this -- is this the Russians spreading misinformation and the fact that our intelligence agencies were spying in on them.

Let's throw this out there to add further, you know, sort of issues as it relates to America. We disrupted their election. Now let's just disrupt the whole electoral -- the whole electoral process. Let's disrupt the presidency. So we have to be cautious with regard to whether it's accurate.

Now moving on from that assuming it is accurate, so what from a defense perspective. There's no law against proposals which may be misguided or otherwise. You know, something that may not make sense whatsoever in terms of this back channel communication.

And if it were a back channel communication, perhaps it was not for a nefarious purpose. In fact the defense would argue it's not at all. We have a terrible issue with ISIS going on. We have the Syrian conflict with this whole transition. There would be a reason to do that.

Moreover there certainly would be a reason to ingratiate yourself with Russia. Let's bring about new relations and finally, we don't trust Obama or Hillary Clinton and so that will be another basis to do it.

And so again, I'm speaking from a defense perspective. There's certainly would be a reason if he suggested a proposal however much we don't like it for it to happen having nothing to do with criminality or any type of purpose which would be improper.

BLACKWELL: Well, let me come back to you, Julian, because the reporting from the "New York Times" is that -- I'm sorry, Reuters, was that the discussion was over fighting terrorism and improving U.S.- Russian economic relations. That would be the purposes of these conversations that we know that happened between Flynn, Kushner and the Russian ambassador according to this new report.

Does this reach the point of discussing those economic relation, I'm sure that's the question the FBI wants to know of easing sanctions and if there was some quid pro quo.

ZELIZER: Right. So let me just back up, in 1968, for example, there were communications between the Nixon team and the Russians to create a back channel. So part of these discussions could have been about Syria and some kind of new strategy to develop that.

But the economic sanctions is trickier. This has been a subject, not just a legal discussion but a political discussion. The question is, were Trump officials working and communicating with the Russians making promises, potentially, about easing the economic sanctions that are very troublesome to the Russians.

Jared Kushner met with the head of a bank that was subject to the sanctions, and that, I think, would bring the discussions into a different realm, particularly at a time the Russians were openly trying to sway the election so that President Trump would become President Trump.

PAUL: OK. Joey, you brought something up about what is valid and what is not. I want to read specifically what CNN's reporting is on this from Dana Bash yesterday, she said multiple U.S. officials tells CNN to this day Russia is trying to spread false information in the U.S. through elected officials and American intelligence and law enforcement operatives in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations.

[06:10:04]With that said, does that mean that every single thing that comes out is questioned? How is it that you validate information?

JACKSON: Well, it's a great question, Christi, and I think we have to be mindful that we have the best intelligence agencies in the world on the planet. We have an FBI that is just spectacular with regard to what they do. We have national security agencies and entities. You know, they are on it.

They know what's happening. But it's very important having said that that we vet the information so as to ensure that this is not just another Russian attack. You know what? We got those Americans it's ridiculous. Look what we're doing to their system.

We've got Congress investigating the president and the House and the Senate. We have the FBI investigating the president. And now let's take it one step further and let's throw everything else into disarray.

So I just think it's very important with respect to our intelligence agencies and FBI that everything is vetted, everything is clear so that the information they are relying upon, particularly if you're talking about prosecuting people is reliable enough to take that extra step in the event that it's warranted, in the event we find this collusion, in the event there was something amiss with respect to the Russians and the Trump administration.

BLACKWELL: And that's an important question, if this is reliable information. Julian Zelizer, Joey Jackson, thank you both.

PAUL: Thanks, Gentlemen. More details are unfolding behind the FBI scrutiny of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. How his specific meeting with a Russian banker could become a central part of this investigation. We have more on that.

BLACKWELL: Plus the other big story this weekend, former FBI Director James Comey acted on intelligence he knew was fake and being put out by Russia during the Clinton e-mail investigation. We'll tell you why he says he did it. That's next.



BLACKWELL: We have new information that former FBI Director James Comey acted on Russian intel that he knew was fake while investigating Hillary Clinton's emails.

PAUL: CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash" walks us through the details here.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, CNN has learned that then FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of Russian information related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was fake.

But he felt that he needed to take action anyway because he was concerned that if the information became public it would undermine the investigation and the Justice Department itself. This is according to multiple sources talking to my colleague, Shimon Prokupecz, Gloria Borger, and myself.

These concerns were a major factor in Comey deciding to publicly declare that the Clinton probe was over last summer without consulting then Attorney General Loretta Lynch. You may remember earlier this week "The Washington Post" reported on this intelligence and doubts about its credibility.

The fact that Comey felt he had to act based on Russian disinformation is a stark example of how Russian interference impacted decision- making at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the 2016 campaign.

The Russian information at issue claimed to show that the Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation because of emails between then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and a political operative saying that Lynch would make the FBI probe into Clinton go away. Now according to one government official in classified briefings, Comey told lawmakers he was afraid that the information would, quote, "drop and undermine the investigation," but Comey didn't tell lawmakers that he doubted the accuracy of that information even in classified setting a few months ago.

According to sources close to Comey the FBI director felt that the validity of the information didn't matter because if it became public they had no way to discredit it without burning sources and methods.

Now think about the chain of events all of this help sent off. When Comey held his press conference in July of 2016 announcing no charges against Clinton, he also took an extraordinary and what many people say inappropriate step of calling her extremely careless.

Clinton aides are convinced that her reputation was damaged with voters and she never recovered. Now that probably wouldn't have happened without Russian interference. Also talking to many officials on Capitol Hill and elsewhere dissemination of fake information is still a major issue.

Multiple sources tell us that Russia is still trying to spread false information in order to clout and confuse ongoing investigations -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Dana, thanks so much. Let's bring in now Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director. Tom, good morning to you. Let's start with just the broad question here, the former director acted on information that he knew was fake. Your reaction.

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Victor. Now I spent 30 years in the FBI conducting investigations, supervising, managing, coordinating investigations and if there was any truth at all to this story that the FBI decided to close an investigation based on information that the information knew to be false then Director Comey deserved to be fired if that was, in fact, true he should have been fired.

BLACKWELL: So beyond hastening the closure of the investigation, it also according to Dana's reporting, it prompted that news conference, that infamous July 2016 news conference. Did the Russians accomplish what they set out to do by creating this document, according to the reporting?

FUENTES: Well, I don't know that any of this is true so whether the Russians created it, you know, thinking that the FBI would be fooled and somehow would choose an action not to pursue a case based on it, I have a hard time believing that.

[06:20:08]The FBI would have thoroughly vetted it. The Russians would have expect the FBI to vet it. So it's one thing to provide disinformation to the bureau and think you'll get away with it. It's a separate thing to provide disinformation or information for that matter to the public because that's all you have to affect is the court of public opinion who will go to the polls a few months after this information is provided.

BLACKWELL: You say he did this, if this is true, he acted on this and ended the investigation because he felt that this was going to be released it would undermine the investigation and the confidence in the process he should have been fired. But what about the reason that he did it?

FUENTES: Victor, how does it undermine an investigation which he is closing? It makes no sense.

BLACKWELL: So let me ask you this. According to Dana's reporting, she said that if the intel became public, there would be no way to discredit it without burning sources and methods. Is that accurate from your experience?

FUENTES: No. It's not accurate because you don't have to provide the source and methods. He doesn't have to prove it. All he has to say publicly or privately in a closed session with Congress is we vetted this. We believe it's not true.

We're not going to tell you how we exactly know that just like all of this other information that's come out of the intel community, they don't say exactly how that came out. And he wouldn't have to do that.

He would have the credibility of the director of the FBI saying we have vetted this, it's not true, and then go on. That would be the end of it.

BLACKWELL: So let me ask you, do you expect or should the former director should have discussed this during the classified briefings he held with members of Congress. Because according to the reporting from CNN that this didn't even come up as a major topic of discussion.

FUENTES: Well, I have to believe that, you know, any of this would have leaked out right away if this was going on or if this was the basis foreclosing the investigation. I just don't think it was. I'm not saying the reporting is not accurate, I'm assuming CNN reporters were told this by, you know, their sources. I just think the sources are wrong.

BLACKWELL: All right. We, of course, will hear more about this when the former director is on Capitol Hill with that testimony that we know is coming in front of the Senate Intel Committee. Tom Fuentes, thanks so much.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

PAUL: Thank you, Tom. There's a new report connecting Jared Kushner to the Russian investigation. We are live in Moscow for you with some details on that and as to whether this leak could have been intentional.

First, though -- in this week's "Staying Well," thousands of people finding life balance. We all need that by taking to the water on paddle boards. Here's a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand up paddle boarding is standing on a giant piece of fiber glass with an extra-long paddle and paddling along the surface of the water. I tell people if they can walk and chew gum then they can stand up and paddle board.

AYANA BERNARD, LOCAL NEWS EMPLOYEE: I like the kind of work out that doesn't feel like a work out. At first I had endurance issues. I would get tired. I had to go on my knees. The more I did it the longer I could stand up and continue and I noticed that my body got stronger. My legs got stronger. My core got stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a commercial plumber. It kind of takes the stress out of running your own company. This helps you to relax and get away from it all. Just to listen to the water, to listen to the sounds, the birds. I feel better than when I go to the gym. This kind of works everything all at once. Balance is a key issue and you fall in, get out, get back up. Go again.

BERNARD: It's kind of like your own private boat. You just float and glide with the water. It's very peaceful.




PAUL: Welcome back. We're so grateful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

Brand new thread in the Russia investigation. This from "The Washington Post" that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, proposed a secret communication channel with the kremlin at a meeting last December and this morning the "New York Times" says it was to discuss strategy in Syria and policy issues.

That meeting was attended by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Listen to what "THE WASHINGTON POST" reporter who broke the story told CNN.


ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Kislyak has a good reputation in terms of the accuracy of his reporting. According to the officials I've talked to, U.S. officials who are reading that reporting and feel like Kislyak is accurately portraying the messages that are being discussed by both sides.

That said absolutely sophisticated intelligence, adversaries to the United States routinely put false information into their communications. Sometimes they do so in order to see if the Americans are in that channel. So, in other words, if a piece of -- the Israelis do this all the time to the -- do it often to the Americans to try to see if Americans are spying on a particular channel. Russians do the same thing. You can't rule out when it comes to intelligence which is what this is that people exaggerate.


PAUL: Now the FBI investigation into President Trump's Russia ties has been inching closer to the White House. However at this point Kushner, we need to point out, is not a target of this probe and there are no allegations that he committed any wrong doing.

[06:30:07] Just moments ago, Russia dismissed media reports of Kushner's contacts with Kislyak.

BLACKWELL: Well, CNN's Clare Sebastian is live from Moscow, joining us now. Clare, what's the reaction, if any, from the Kremlin?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, from the Kremlin, we've had no response as yet, Victor, but we have heard from the Russian Foreign Ministry. I reached out this morning to Maria Zakharova, who is the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, asking her for her response to that story from the "Washington Post".

She called it, "McCarthyism or simply internal political squabbles." I followed it up to see if she would confirm that Moscow was aware that Kushner had made that request to Kislyak. We assume, of course, that they were since this was an intercept of a communication between Kislyak and his superiors in Moscow.

She said that she had already answered my question. She would not be drawn on that, but said if we wanted to know more about Kushner's political or business connections, it would be worth looking to the Middle East.

We assume, of course, that she is referring to a recent deal for Saudi Arabia to invest $20 billion in US infrastructure, funneling that through the Blackstone Group, an investment firm that has had ties to Kushner Companies, which Jared Kushner, of course, ran before moving to the White House.

But this rhetoric very much in keeping from what we've heard over the last few months from the Kremlin, painting this as internal chaos in Washington and nothing to do with them, saying -- essentially trying to point out that using that word McCarthyism that Russia is being used by Trump's opponents as a way to hurt his administration and really trying to deflect attention away from us here.

But we've had no official denial that this took place. They're simply not really commenting.

BLACKWELL: All right. The reporting is very new. Just hours old. And we'll stand by potentially for a response from the Kremlin.

Clare, thanks so much. PAUL: And while Kushner isn't a target of the FBI investigation, as we said, this latest report can serve as yet another distraction, though, as the president meets with world leaders at the G7 Summit in Italy.

Just moments ago, in fact, I hear -- there are the pictures. President Trump standing front and center as the leaders pose for a class photo there. They are meeting for a working lunch in just about half an hour.

CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond is live there in Sicily. So, we've seen the headlines here in the US. What are the headlines there right now, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far we have heard from the president a little bit this morning, tweeting about NATO countries and re-upping their payments. But the president so far has not commented on this latest series of allegations involving Jared Kushner.

The White House also declining to comment on those allegations. But even before the dust settled on those -- that report from the "Washington Post" alleging that Kushner had perhaps set up -- tried to set up a secret channel of communications with Russian officials, another report coming from Reuters overnight saying that Kushner had multiple previously undisclosed contacts with Russian officials.

His attorney Jamie Gorelick sent this statement to CNN. And I'll read it for you. "Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked Reuters for the dates of such alleged calls, so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information."

Of course, the allegations about Kushner are just the latest in a series of allegations that we've heard in the last week, two weeks, concerning this investigation into potential contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.

Those allegations, of course, the president was hoping to escape as he departed for his first foreign trip, but they have continued to dog him throughout this entire week. And, of course, particularly here in Europe, those concerns about Russia, coupled with the allegations that have surfaced in the last week or two, have really amplified all of that situation.

In NATO -- speaking in NATO the other day in Brussels, the president failing to once again reassure those NATO allies about his position on Russia, about his willingness to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin here at the G7 as well.

Those Russian concerns are very real, of course, and many of these G7 leaders will be looking for further reassurances from the president that he is willing to really confront Russian aggression in the region, particularly here in Europe where Russia is really at the door steps. So, we'll have to wait and see whether the president is able to provide those reassurances. We have not, however, heard from him himself discussing these allegations this week.

PAUL: We're going to hear from him, though, in just a few hours here if he steps in front of the mic there. Jeremy, any idea what he's going to say?

DIAMOND: Well, he is expected to give a troop this afternoon at a US military airbase on -- here on the Sicilian island. We do not, however, expect him to address any of this. What the president has really done this week is he has not taken any questions from reporters in any kind of press conference setting.

Instead, he's really focusing on his foreign trip, but that, of course, will end very soon. He heads back to Washington tonight.

[06:35:08] PAUL: Alrighty. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for the update.

BLACKWELL: We're going to dig more into this breaking news, FBI's Russia probe bringing in new controversy to the White House. Jared Kushner's relationship with two Russian officials pulling him into the investigation. The implications for the president, more on that.


BLACKWELL: Twenty minutes till the top of the hour. The president's son-in-law, senior advisor Jared Kushner under scrutiny over undisclosed meetings he had with two Russian officials back in December.

Now, we've talked about the new reporting involving the Russian Ambassador, but also at the center of the controversy a meeting with a Russian banker who represented a bank under US sanctions.

PAUL: Although he is not a direct target of the FBI investigation, he is yet another White House staffer now caught up in the political turmoil in Washington. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


[06:40:08] RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the man Jared Kushner met with in December 2016 just a month after Kushner's father-in-law, Donald Trump, was elected president.

His name is Sergey Gorkov. He's a Russian banker, the chairman of VEB Bank. He also has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who appointed him to head the bank. Gorkov graduated at Russian Academy that trains people to work in Russia's intelligence and security forces.

Here's how the White House explained the nature of Kushner's meeting with the banker.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition and the campaign where he was a conduit to leaders. He wants to make sure that he's very clear about the role that he played, who he talked to, and then that's it.

KAYE (voice-over): That may be true, but it doesn't square with what the bank itself has said about the meeting. In a statement, the bank said, its executives met with Kushner not as a representative of the White House, but as head of Kushner Companies. The bank said its leaders met with numerous global financial executives as it developed a new strategy for the bank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's interesting that the Russians seem to contradict what Jared Kushner said. He said that he was acting as a liaison between the campaign and foreign governments. So, I'm sure that that will be an issue that we'll try to clarify.

KAYE (voice-over): What exactly was discussed between Kushner and the banker remains a mystery. Though Jared Kushner has offered to answer the Senate Intelligence Committee's questions about not only this meeting, but another meeting he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that same month. It was Kislyak who had suggested Kushner meet with the Russian banker.

(on-camera): The fact that Kushner didn't mention either of these meetings on his White House security clearance forms may also be a topic of inquiry, though he did rectify that a day after the omissions.

There's also the concern that the Russian bank has been under US sanctions since July 2014. And when Kushner met with Gorkov, he was still CEO of Kushner Companies. And critics question whether he was looking for financing for a pricey Manhattan real estate project.

(voice-over): The meeting itself didn't violate the US sanctions, but investigators will want to know what was said.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE AND FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I have a feeling that it related to financial issues since it involved a Russian bank. But to his credit, he's willing to testify on that issue. And I hope that the committee really thoroughly looks at what the reasons were, why he engaged in that conversation.

KAYE (voice-over): Seems that Jared Kushner who rarely speaks beyond a whisper in the president's ear may soon be called on to do a whole lot of talking.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BLACKWELL: Well, new reports and allegations surfacing daily with three major headlines breaking in just the last 16 hours, but that's not stopping Republicans on Capitol Hill from advancing the president's agenda.

We'll discuss how the Back the Blue bill fits into the president's vision of law and order. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:47:11] PAUL: Forty-seven minutes past the hour right now. And with all the turmoil swirling around the White House, there have been questions about whether President Trump and his party will be able to achieve their policy goals, policy which a lot of people are watching.

Well, Republicans in the House and the Senate are moving forward. They've introduced the Back the Blue Act of 2017. This is a key part of the president's law and order agenda. Among other things, the bill would create new federal crimes for killing or attempting to kill officers or judges.

A specific aggravating factor for federal death penalty prosecutions and a new federal crime for assaulting law enforcement officers that's backed by groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police. However, there is opposition to this, specifically from Human Rights Watch, which says this bill would shield police from any sort of accountability.

Let's talk about it with CNN contributor and "Washington Post" national reporter Wes Lowery. Wes, thank you for being here. Also, the author of They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement.

So, I understand that you believe this bill could create more problems than it solves. What are your specific issues with it?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, it potentially could. There's been a lot in the days -- since this legislation has been introduced, there's been a lot of concern from civil rights attorneys, specifically from folks who work on police abuse and police misconduct cases.

In addition to creating additional laws or additional penalties for assaulting or killing an officer, the second part of this legislation actually I think is really important. What it does is it makes it more difficult for someone who believes they've been abused by police to sue the police.

So, what we see very often in cases whether it be the Eric Garner case, the Tamir Rice case, the Freddie Gray case, what we see is that there are very rarely criminal charges for officers involved in these cases, but much more likely is that the city or the police agree to a civil settlement, right? There's a payout of millions of dollars to the family where they agree this death should not have happened even if it was not a crime.

What this legislation would do, it would remove some of the liability from officers if those officers could prove that the reason that person was killed or part of the reason the person was killed was because they themselves were in the commission of a crime, right?

So, if you were, for example, someone -- a drug dealer and you are killed in part of a drug raid, even if the police don't follow the right policies, even if they perhaps are abusive, there's misconduct involved, if they can prove that part of the reason you are killed is because you were committing a felony, then the police no longer have a civil liability.

And so, that's been part of the concern from advocates.

PAUL: What is the possibility that this will pass, that this will become law?

LOWERY: Well, look, the reality is supporting law enforcement or attempting to posture as an administration that supports law enforcement has been a priority of the Trump administration.

[06:50:03] Republicans control both the Senate and the House. This is something that they want to prioritize. They control which legislation comes in front of these two chambers. And politically, something like this is probably something that's going to be popular.

This is something that, again, Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, have prioritized from the very beginning. One of his first executive orders, President Trump instructed Jeff Sessions to look into potential legislation and this is actually something that police groups, the Fraternal Order of Police and others, have asked for similar legislation for a long time.

They've wanted targeting police officers to be considered a hate crime. This idea that attacking an officer, assaulting an officer should be considered something different or something special. Now, again, that's something not a lot of civil rights groups push back on or disagree with, but this is something that police groups have asked for for a long time.

And so, I would imagine that if this comes up for vote, it's something that's very likely to pass.

PAUL: All right. Wes Lowery, thank you so much for the explainer on it. We appreciate it.

LOWERY: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Of course.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn to the track now. There is more to this weekend's Indy 500 than just driving fast and turning left. Coy Wire has an up-close look at the greatest spectacle in racing.


[06:55:33] BLACKWELL: Vice President Mike Pence is expected to return to his home state for tomorrow's Indianapolis 500.

PAUL: Coy Wire is already there. He's got a preview in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. Vice President Mike Pence is a huge motorsport fan. He rode in the parade last year. He has attended this race more than 30 times. He'll be attending with his wife Karen, who has been to even more races here in Indy than her husband.

One of the exciting storylines, though, here at the track, two-time Formula One World Champion, Spanish racing legend Fernando Alonso has made the trip to Indy for this race. He is a megastar.

When he had his first practice run, there were over 2 million viewers on the live online stream. He's never raced on an oval track, had never even driven an Indy car, but he is up for the challenge and already has made himself familiar with one of the great traditions here at the Indy 500, like the winner drinking milk. Listen.



FERNANDO ALONSO, TWO-TIME FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPION: I like milk. I never drink milk in the afternoon. It's only for breakfast. But this will be a perfect moment to start drinking in the afternoon.


WIRE: Now, guys, this was my first Indy 500. And I really wanted to get a feel for what these teams go through. So, I joined Graham Rahal's number 15 steak and shake conduct pit crew.

These guys absolutely schooled me. I have a newfound respect for what they do, the precision, the attention to detail. One millisecond mess up could make a world of a difference at the end of the race.

As a former pro-athlete, I thought I'd at least be respectable. When everyone was laughing at me and the pit coach told me he was going to get out a sundial to time me, I realized, guys, that I had a long way to go.

A little hoarse this morning is because I later went and raced with a racing legend. Mario Andretti took me around this track at nearly 200 miles an hour. We're going to show that to you tomorrow as well.

BLACKWELL: Wow. So, how long does it take you, Coy, to change one of those tires?

WIRE: Well, it took me about 42, 43 seconds. They normally do in about four or five. So, you can see just how skilled these guys are.

PAUL: Four or five compared to 42? I'd still let you change one of the tires on my car if I had a flat. Just saying.

BLACKWELL: Hopefully, you're not in the race.

WIRE: Slice of the humble pie.

PAUL: I know.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about something serious here, Coy. Security, I understand, is being up. How? WIRE: Indiana State Police Captain Dave Bursten said that part of a good plan is not sharing specific details or too many of them that could educate the very element that seeks to do harm.

But we do know that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is going to have more than a thousand law enforcement and security personnel onsite this week and they've added quick response tactical teams to their security apparatus and they've found a unique way to remind fans of see something, say something.

They've had the drivers prerecord PSAs and they're playing them on video boards here at the track. They have a good plan in place. With the cooperation of attendees, they feel that the 101st running of the greatest spectacle in racing will be a huge, huge success.

PAUL: It's a good thing that you are an athlete because I don't think people understand how athletic it is to have to drive that car for that long. I mean, this is a three-hour race.

WIRE: I went in there two times around the track. My nausea, my adrenaline was off the charts. My head hurt a little bit. These guys go three hours, no bathroom breaks, no food. It's absolutely phenomenal.

PAUL: Can't even imagine.

BLACKWELL: All right, Coy. Enjoy the run up to the race. We'll check in later today.

PAUL: Nice job, buddy.

And with that, we want to start our next hour here. Good morning to you. We're so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Breaking news this morning. New reporting in the "Washington Post" that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, proposed setting up a secret means of communication with the Kremlin.

PAUL: The "Post" reports the request came from intercepts of conversations between Russia's ambassador to the United States and Moscow. But three people with knowledge of the discussion tell the "The New York Times" this morning that the line was meant to be used to discuss strategy in Syria and policy issues.

BLACKWELL: Now, of course, all this comes as President Trump's overseas trip draws to a close. That's happening today. He spent this morning attending a G7 roundtable.

In a few hours, the president will speak to US troops at an air base there in Sicily before heading back to Washington and the ongoing investigation hanging over the White House.

Investigations -- plural -- our Elise Labott has more on the latest reports.