Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Jr. Releases Email Showing Possible Collusion With Russia; Benjamin Netanyahu Will Be Indicted, Says Former Israeli Defense Minister; Leopoldo Lopez Released By Venezuelan Government From Prison And Placed Under House Arrest; JK Rowling Says UK Government Should Do To Help Refugees. Aired 4-4:30
Aired July 11, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, the plot thickens as Donald Trump Jr. hand is forced. Releasing emails where he welcomed the
Russian attempts to provide dirt to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Is President Trump now in legal hot water?
Also ahead, as Trump's secretary of state tries to calm troubled waters between his Persian Gulf allies, Israel's former defense minister on this
and why he's challenging Bibi Netanyahu for prime minister amidst corruption investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSHE YA'ALON, FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Too many issues under investigations, in question. And I believe that at the end we will witness
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Plus, he is free, but his country is still trapped in a catastrophic crisis. Venezuela's best known political prisoner, Leopoldo
Lopez goes home from prison to house arrest. His wife and human rights activist Lilian Tintori says he was tortured.
Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Donald Trump's son has released emails in which a British contact tells him the Russian government may have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
This time last year, at the height of America's presidential face-off, Rob Goldstone, a British publicist with ties to Russia wrote, the crown
prosecutor of Russia offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her
dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is, obviously, very high level and sensitive information, but is part of Russia
and its government's support for Mr. Trump.
Fifteen minutes later, Donald Trump Jr. responds, in part, "if that's what you say, I love it."
Donald Jr. released the emails today as "The New York Times" was about to publish them. The Times reports, "this communication led to a meeting with
a Russian lawyer, Donald Junior, son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Donald Jr. initially gave different reasons for this meeting. Now, he says he did nothing wrong. He says the Russian lawyer had "no meaningful
information," but ethics lawyers say that is irrelevant.
The Russian lawyer, speaking to NBC, denied any links to the Kremlin, but acknowledges that the Trump campaign wanted dirt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN LAWYER (VIA TRANSLATOR): It's quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information. They wanted it
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, CNN's legal analyst Laura Coates is joining us from Washington DC. Laura, the obvious question, is this a smoking gun? How
much ammunition does this give the investigations, either in Congress or the special investigator, the special counsel?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a huge smoking gun. For the very first time in this counterespionage probe that has been fixated on the
Trump campaign's potential involvement with any Russian official and potential collusive activity, you now have somebody confirming - and it's
Donald Trump Jr. himself, a member of the campaign confirming - that there was, in fact, contact with Russian officials or an attempt to secure
information and a coordinated attack, if you will, against the opponent Hillary Clinton.
For the very first time, you've got that hook on this actual Trump campaign that has now been made public. And that nebulous term of collusion we've
all been using here in the United States to describe what may be illegal activity without an actual criminal statute hook now may have one in the
form of a campaign finance violation and possibly even worse.
AMANPOUR: Laura, does it matter what - in this instance, given what you've just said, does it matter what actually was discussed in the meeting, which
we do not know at this point, and do we know whether the president himself - at that time, candidate, nominee Donald Trump knew about this?
COATES: Well, that's the beauty of the campaign finance laws, in particular. The campaign finance laws in the United States say that you
cannot seek or obtain or receive a donation or any type of benefit or anything of value to your campaign that you should had to pay for on your
own in some way.
You certainly can't substantially aid a foreign entity in trying to help you access that information. And so, that does not require you to actually
receive anything of value or that you had to actually have a fruitful discussion.
The solicitation alone can be enough to secure a violation of that campaign finance law. And in other ways, you can have issues of espionage, of
conspiracy, et cetera. So, ideally, you'd like to have the fruit of that labor, but is not required to be a violation under American law.
[14:05:17] AMANPOUR: Laura, Michael McFaul, who as we all know is an expert, he was the Obama administration's ambassador to Russia, basically
saying today, while I will let the experts judge the legalities, but engaging Russian government to influence our elections is deeply unethical.
And to paraphrase Tim Kaine, the former Clinton vice presidential running mate, he basically said - I'm just trying to find it - this may have gone
beyond obstruction of justice and entering into the realm of treason.
From your legal point of view, does that stand up potentially?
COATES: Well, as a colloquial term, treason is anything you're trying to do that is contrary to the interests of the United States. But
colloquially is not enough here. We have to talk about the legality.
And legally, the term treason is only valid or relevant if you're actually at war with the country you're talking about.
And while Russia may be a geopolitical rival of the United States, we're not presently at war with Russia. Therefore, the term treason does not
actually apply. And while you can throw it around, it does not have the legal ramifications.
That is why you see the word collusion, the words conspiracy, campaign finance violations, obstruction of justice and, potentially, if it turns
out that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner, all who were present at the meeting, and also copied on the email chain, if turns out
they have lied in some way to the special counsel or the FBI in their investigations under oath, then you've got the issues of perjury and
obstruction looming ahead of you. But treason is not applicable here.
AMANPOUR: Let me just tell you that the Russians are, obviously, denying any involvement in this. And President Putin's chief spokesman and aide
says we don't know who she is referring to the Russian lawyer. And, naturally, we cannot track the meetings of all Russian lawyers domestically
OK, that's one thing that you would expect them to say. But, I guess, the question is, if Donald Trump the president met with Vladimir Putin for two-
and-a-half hours in Hamburg just before the weekend during the G20 and there are differing ideas of whether he actually raised this hacking and
this interference or not, two people say two different things.
The fact that he was speaking to President Putin, who denied it, where does this lead sort of legally? I mean, can you even think of the Russian
COATES: Well, naturally, they're going to have conflicting testimonials about what actually transpired, whichever benefits the one to make their
bravado appear more in line, but we're talking about the legal implications of it.
There is two things happening here in the United States. There is the Congressional probe, whether or not there has been collusion with Russia in
an attempt to try to change the laws or an act of statute (INAUDIBLE) future of any entity.
Then you've got the criminal investigation. The criminal investigation is about whether there has counterespionage activity that is trying to use
Russia or unwitting or a witting person of the United States to try to undermine our democratic institutions.
If that's the case, there can be criminal and penal penalties including incarceration or a referral for impeachment. So, the meeting between Putin
and Trump would not be really illuminating if it did not include a discussion on whether or not there was election hacking.
But it would have been useful to the overall probe if had been about what the campaign knew about, whether or not this top prosecutor, as they talk
about in the emails, was in fact a friend of Putin and was used or the Russian government was used to try to back the campaign.
That would be important to know about what the criminal probe is about. Did the campaign have the aid of a foreign entity to try to undermine
democracy in America.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe - and this is sort of a one-word answer because we've got to go - that there will be more of these revelations, that this
is the beginning of this particular instance in terms of the emails that are being published.
AMANPOUR: Laura Coates, thank you so much indeed.
The widening Russia case is a significant distraction, of course, for the White House at a time when the president has a full slate of foreign policy
challenges on his desk.
And today, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Qatar and Kuwait trying to resolve the ongoing crisis between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its
Persian Gulf allies. They are all US allies and Washington worries that their dispute could impact its military operations in the region among
Now, as Israel's minister of defense, Moshe Ya'alon monitored events in the Gulf closely. Ya'alon resigned last year and now plans to run for prime
minister against his former boss Benjamin Netanyahu.
[14:10:03] I asked him earlier about all of this when he joined me from Tel Aviv.
AMANPOUR: Minister Ya'alon, welcome to the program.
YA'ALON: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Can I first start by asking you about this crisis in the Persian Gulf region with Saudi Arabia and its allies pitted against Qatar?
YA'ALON: Actually, Israel has found itself on the same boat with the Sunni Arab regimes on many issues.
We share, first of all, common enemies. Iran is our common enemy. For them, it is a Shia-Sunni conflict. For us, Iran has claimed to wipe Israel
from the map of the Earth. They fight now jihadists all over, ISIS as well as al-Qaeda. Again, we share common enemies.
And Muslim Brotherhood for us, it is Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as we call it Hamastan. For the Sunni Arab regimes like el-Sisi, again, Hamastan,
hostile entity. Muslim Brotherhood elements in the region is common enemy.
So, good news is that actually the term Israeli-Arab conflict is irrelevant for meanwhile.
AMANPOUR: Qatar, which says that it tries to do its best to have independent and peaceful foreign policy, was actually much more pro-Israel
than the others, and yet now you're siding with the others.
YA'ALON: It's quite a strange situation in which we are now. It seems we are the only party which do cooperate with Qatar as Qatar is the only party
which is ready to spend the money, to invest in the reconstruction, the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, coordinated with us.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about President Trump because, obviously, he was in Saudi Arabia. Then he came to Israel, his first trip abroad. He did
that in June. And he's, obviously, heavily involved in all this issue. And he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the
years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing. And if you both are willing, then we're going to
make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that was in Washington. And he was basically saying that he believes a peace deal is possible if all sides are willing. What do you
make of that?
YA'ALON: There is a change in the US policy, not to compare to the former administration which demonstrated in the Middle East weakness. And the
vacuum in the Middle East has been filled by the free radical elements, claiming for hegemony.
On top of them, Iran, ISIS and Al Qaeda claiming for Sunni caliphate and Muslim brotherhood elements led by Erdogan of Turkey.
Nowadays, the administration responded in a very different way when Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. And, of course, a visit to Riyadh was a
clear signal that the United States is associating with the Sunnis rather than with Iran as it was perceived in the region until recently.
When it comes to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, I believe that we see now more realistic policy without high expectations that we can solve the
problems within a year or within nine months as it was the case with the former administration.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you why are you challenging Benjamin Netanyahu to be the next prime minister? Your views are very similar on very many
issues. What has made you break away? You are his minister.
YA'ALON: Christiane, you're absolutely right when it comes to our defense, security, foreign affairs issues. My main dispute with my Prime Minister
as well as other members of the government and the coalition was about internal issues.
It's about Jewish and democratic values, to keeping the checks and balances in our democracy, looking to certain legislation. And unfortunately, even
corruption, as you can witness now, ongoing investigations about corruption.
AMANPOUR: How do you think that's going to end up? Because these are serious charges and there are serious investigations underway about the
prime minister and the issue of corruption. How do you think this is going to end up?
YA'ALON: By indictment. That's my assessment and belief. Too many issues under investigations and questions and I believe that at the end we will
[16:15:00] AMANPOUR: Whoa! You are his defense minister and you're telling me now that you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will, under the law,
YA'ALON: Absolutely. Can I ask you another thing because I'm just catching my breath from that prediction you've just made? There was a
very, very upsetting incident that happened in Hebron, where an Israeli soldier shot a wounded Palestinian.
And the Prime Minister and others inside Israel believe the soldier was doing his duty and praised him. You took a very different view of that.
YA'ALON: That one was one of the clashes, a dispute between myself, the Prime Minister and the other ministers.
From my point of view, the former paratrooper general, as the defense minister, it was clear cut by relation of our rules of engagement, our law,
our values of the Israel Defense Forces, it was clear cut.
Unfortunately, the soldier was embraced by politicians as hero. I couldn't tolerate it. And that's why I had a clash.
AMANPOUR: It's a complex world out there, Moshe Ya'alon, and you've just demonstrated that in this interview. Thank you very much indeed for
YA'ALON: Thank you, Christiane, for having me.
As for the multiple corruption investigations involving the Israeli Prime Minister, an official in his office told CNN in Jerusalem that Mr.
Ya'alon's allegations are baseless and they accuse him of smearing the prime minister for political reasons. That is the response from Benjamin
Now, after the break, the Venezuelan government tries to get one over on its critics by moving a top opposition leader from prison to house arrest.
But is it a show of strength or weakness?
Leopoldo Lopez still cannot talk publicly, but his wife, the activist, Lilian Tintori, can. And she joins me next. With their emotional reunion
help topple the Venezuelan president?
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Venezuela's economic recession and its ruinous populist policies have plunged the country into a full-blown
catastrophe. For months now, we've seen supermarkets go without food, pharmacies without medicine, legions of political opponents have been
incarcerated by President Nicholas Maduro and his government.
One of the most famous dissidents, Leopoldo Lopez, has just been released. But he is not free, just under house arrest. The government claims it was
an act of mercy for an ailing man. Opponents disagree and say the regime is becoming increasingly desperate.
His wife, Lilian Tintori, joins me now from Caracas. Lilian, welcome to the program. You must be very, very happy. How is your reunion? And is
he sick? Is that why he was released?
LILIAN TINTORI, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND WIFE OF LEOPOLDO LOPEZ: Thank you, Christiane, for the opportunity to speak today. And thank you to CNN.
I am not happy. I am full of hope. I feel at peace because now Leopoldo is safe. Leopoldo is in house arrest, but is with our children.
[16:20:02] But still, there are 432 political prisoners in Venezuela that we ask the release of the political prisoners in Venezuela immediately.
Leopoldo transfer for jail to house arrest should be seen as the first - it's like the first step towards the freedom of all the political prisoners
and freedom our country Venezuela.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I understand that, Lilian. And in fact, you've tweeted that I cannot think of all the families who still feel the pain of
separation from their loved ones, unfair to prisoners and fallen.
Let me ask you because this is sensitive. Leopoldo said he would not leave jail first, that it had to be all or nothing. And yet, he's out. What was
the reason for that?
TINTORI: Many things. First, protest in the street for more than 102 days. People ask in the street today, release all the political prisoners.
The second thing, I feel is the international community, I need to say thank you. Thank you and thank you all the countries that ask for
democracy in Venezuela and ask for release political prisoners, especially Leopoldo Lopez, my husband.
And the other thing is the torture, the conditions. Leopoldo has been in a military jail for three years and five months, isolated with degrading and
cruel treatment, tortures. And we denounce all the tortures, all the cruel treatments. And Leopoldo need to be out that military jail.
AMANPOUR: Lilian, what was the torture? Can you describe the torture?
TINTORI: Yes. The last 32 days was horrible. They blocked their lawyers' visit. Leopoldo has been three months without his lawyers and 32 days
without the family.
They blocked the connection of the family to Leopoldo, their calls, their books, they put inside a jail without nothing, and they blocked the food to
Leopoldo. And they obligate Leopoldo to eat the food of that jail and Leopoldo said no. And then Leopoldo try a little piece of food and start
sick for ten days and nothing happens.
He's tortured. He's isolated, without lights, without a connection with anybody. That's treatment - torture treatments and cruel.
AMANPOUR: All right. Let me ask you -
TINTORI: Has been for many months, many years.
AMANPOUR: So, he's been in, as you said, for more than three years. There are people, like the Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz who was loyal to
Maduro, but now is criticizing him. Do you believe at this moment that there can be a greater push in the opposition's demands for democracy? Can
Leopoldo under house arrest lead the opposition? How? What are the conditions of his house arrest?
TINTORI: Right now, Leopoldo have a monitor - a digital monitor in his ankle to track him. So, Leopoldo is not free.
But I think Leopoldo means hope, a hope of fight, a hope of resist. Resist for our fight. Our fight for freedom, our fight for democracy, our fight
for the change of the regime.
This regime is a dictatorship, repressive and murderous. And we need to change. That's why I feel with Leopoldo in the house, with the connection
with the leaders of the unity of democracy, the unity, and the connections with the people, like feeling that Leopoldo is here in home, we have more
and more hope for next Sunday.
Because next Sunday, July 16, people, we will express the democracy will to change the regime -
TINTORI: - with the votes, this next Sunday.
AMANPOUR: All right. We'll be watching. Lilian and Leopoldo and your children, you are reunited after more than three years. Thank you.
Coming up, from being trapped in a home to being trapped without a home, as the global refugee crisis hits record number, the author J.K. Rowling
tells me that the UK government must do more to help. Imagine that. Next.
[16:27:20] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where refugees have a place to call home. More people than ever before have been uprooted
due to war and persecution. The UN says a staggering 65 million. And it's calling on more countries to step up to the plate.
J.K. Rowling, who appeared in a very rare interview on this program last night, agrees in this postscript.
Her charity, Lumos, is trying to do its bit, trying to help children languishing inside institutions and in refugee camps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR: This is a huge, huge issue. And personally, I'm trying to help in a number of different ways, but the key thing is going to
be governmental. The UK needs to take more children in.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think about their record?
ROWLING: We all know it's really poor. They promised to take -
AMANPOUR: What's going to change it?
ROWLING: Well, in a democratic society, very, very often, we find politicians are led by the public rather than the other way around. So,
what needs to happen, I think, is for the public to - the public needs to want them in.
The answer to that is not simple because we - as we know, we have newspapers who (INAUDIBLE) refugee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The answer may be leadership. That is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.