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E-mail to Trump Jr: Meeting Will Be with Russian Government Attorney. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 11, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The congressman was generally surprised when presented -- this -- if an e-mail is evidence, what was happening with Hillary Clinton the whole time. E-mails are e-mails are e-mails. This is a chain of custody --


KIRSTEN POWER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A couple more things in the e- mail, you know, where he's told about Russia's support for Donald Trump. There's a reference to that. That's a shocking thing to hear, right? Russia supports the candidacy of Donald Trump. That, alone, will send off alarm signals. I believe so will say what do you mean Russia supports my candidate. He doesn't seem bothered by that. He claimed he doesn't know the name of the person. In the e-mails, he says I'm going to send her name for security.

BOLDUAN: And it could be a thing we have seen before.

Just come in.


One of the things we have seen before. Maybe he didn't know specifically her name.

POWER: He couldn't recall it.

BOLDUAN: Or that he was told she was a Russian government attorney --


POWER: The campaign, most campaigns, if it got this far, and it wouldn't with most campaigns, would check that person out.

BOLDUAN: Let's be honest, at this point, if you got an e-mail -- at this point, if you got an e-mail that is a Russian government attorney, I don't much care what the person's name is.

POWER: Right. Yes.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Plus, you are sending the campaign manager -


CALLAN: I mean the campaign manager to the meeting, too.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Ken.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I have to respond to one thing. Look, I was, you know, fighting in the primary on behalf of Ted Cruz up to the month before this. Someone just alluded to, in other campaigns. That statement just doesn't belong in a discussion of the Trump campaign. It just doesn't. They had people doing their own thing, including children, during the campaign, as we have seen after the election. They go off on their own tracks.

You are right. No other campaign would operate like this. That doesn't mean this one didn't. They won that election operating on chaos theory. It hasn't proven a very good governing style, but it was effective campaign style.


CUCCINELLI: Wait. Let me finish one more point. Let me finish one more point.

We have to remember, because now you are saying this was a government official meeting. The way it got set up was the business connection. Look, these are friends or this is a person who put forward by this family that they have done business with as recently as a couple years before. So, that's the way this came in. It might explain why it was so easily accepted.

However, the last point, you say, well, I see no reaction to this government attorney thing. This is e-mail. You don't put in reactions like that. You have them yourself and you may roll your eyes and say I have to meet with this person, but that's not -- you are measuring it against other campaigns. That's an inappropriate measure. They have enough problems.


POWER: I'm measuring --


POWER: You have been talking a long time and telling me what I have been doing.


POWER: I want to tell you I'm measuring against basically how everybody in the world would work. The fact they did something that they, one, does not mean everything they do that's unethical and maybe illegal is OK. That sounds like what you are saying.

I mean, I just want to know --


POWER: -- who gets an e-mail saying the Russian government supports them and doesn't forward that to the FBI.

CUCCINELLI: What I'm saying -- well, you may not see the reaction in the e-mail. That it will be in the follow up question for Donald Jr. But what I'm -- you started out --


BOLDUAN: But as far as we know from the recording, of course, it's happening in real time. The FBI was not aware of this meeting ahead of time. So, if you --


BOLDUAN: Whatever reaction did not take the step of notifying.

Let me do this, guys.


BOLDUAN: Matthew, I can see -


BOLDUAN: His mouth is gaped because he wants to get in. And I want to get him in.,

Ken, I'm going to get you back.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, and you hit me every time I try to talk.


BOLDUAN: My punching bag.

Let's do this. Let's reset to bring everyone up to speed where we are right now. We started the day with "The New York Times" reporting Donald Trump Jr was told in an e-mail ahead of his meeting with the Russian attorney it was done and the source of the material that was going to be shared was the Russian government. This hour, Donald Trump Jr, himself, tweeted a statement saying, "For total transparency, I'm releasing the chain of e-mails."

Here's what we learned in these e-mails. Key point coming from the go between contact in Russia: "This is obviously high level and sensitive information, but it is part of Russia and its government support of Mr. Trump," helped along by a pop star and his father. I'm just summing up. In an additional e-mail, we are told that I believe -- "scheduled a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow this Thursday."

That is where we are in this moment in a very important moment, it appears.

Brian Stelter just jumped into the studio. He is here with us now.


RELIABLE SOURCES: It's worth noting the time line of why the e-mails were released on Twitter at the beginning of the program. It does not seem to be out of effort of being transparent, in good faith. The context, "The New York Times" already had the e-mails, written an entire story and was about to publish the e-mails. At that point, "The New York Times" called him up for comment. They said give us more time, give us more time. Then he released the e-mails on Twitter. I think it's worth noting the context. This is not something where they woke up and said we need to get this out there and make it public. This was forced on him by "The New York Times." his statement says he was trying to be fully transparent. This is the fourth day in a row "The New York Times" published a story about this meeting, every day with new details that have been damaging to Trump.

BOLDUAN: I'm fascinated when you talk about this. As he says, for total transparency.


BOLDUAN: That's what he says.

Note, all, that President Trump has said nothing. He has been completely silent. His attorney said he was not aware of the meeting.

But during this same time period, President Trump spent time on Twitter defending another one of his children. The fact his daughter sat in on a G-20 meeting when he had to step out. He defended her on Twitter. Silent on this issue.

Let's go over now, back to Washington for a second. Let's go to Jeff Zeleny, who solved the mystery that I pop-quizzed with Matthew Rosenberg on.

You know where Donald Trump was that day of this meeting now in question. Jeff, on June 19th, 2016, where was then-Candidate Trump.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We do, indeed, Kate. On June 9th, 2016, it was beginning of the general election battle for all intents and purposes with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The California primary just ended two days before. Donald Trump was in New York that day, actually holding his first fundraiser for the Trump victory. He went to lunch at the Four Seasons, met with Reince, who was head of RNC. He effectively clinched the nomination a couple months before the investigation. The primaries just ended that week.

This was no ordinary day in the 2016 campaign cycle. This was the moment, the time Hillary Clinton had just delivered that big speech the night before in Brooklyn on that Tuesday evening. This was a Thursday, of course, when all of this was coming together. After that lunch at the Four Seasons, he went back to Trump Tower.

We looked at the reporters, at the reports from that day. Jeremy Diamond spent virtually every day on the campaign trail with Donald Trump. He remembers then-Candidate Trump being at the Four Seasons and going back to Trump Towers. We don't know, have any reason to believe he was at the meeting, but it certainly raises many, many questions and the credibility of this White House has been questioned and tested so many times before in terms of where people were and meetings people had. If his oldest son did not tell his father he was meeting with a Russian lawyer here, I would find that very interesting because they are incredibly close. They travel together. They were in each other's offices a lot. That was the moment of that week of 2016.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating stuff.

Jeff, I appreciate you tracking it down for us.

A big question, we had a Republican Congressman who sits on the Intelligence Committee on, hearing it for the first time. He seemed genuinely surprised. And said he would like to see Donald Trump Jr appear before the committee. He said, absolutely, they have more questions for him now.

The big question is, what is the reaction from Capitol Hill? This is a big moment. There have been many moments. But this is the first chain of e-mails we have seen in the drawn-out saga.

Manu Raju is tracking that from Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of concerns. Not just from Democrats, but Republicans as well who learned more about this. They want Don Jr to come and testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, before the House Intelligence Committee. The Republicans themselves are raising questions about why Don Jr agreed to meet with this Russian lawyer, especially in light of what we know now, that he was aware he could have gotten dirt from the Clinton campaign. This is something that was an effort by the Russian government to help his father's campaign at the time.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, said to us moments ago, anytime you are in a campaign, you get an offer from a foreign government, the answer is no. He expressed frustration as well that these story lines from the continue to change.

In addition, another Senator who sits on the Intelligence Committee, James Lankford, said really his concern is the drip, drip, drip of information. It's hurting the White House. The White House should come out and explain exactly what happened here, lay out all the facts.

[11:40:27] Some Democrats, using very strong words. Tim Kaine, the former vice presidential nominee for Hillary Clinton, said earlier this morning that it could be potentially treason, the activity by Don Jr and having this meeting with this Russian lawyer. Republicans are not going that far. Many Democrats are not going that far, Kate. But it is causing a lot of discussion in the halls of the capital. Republicans voicing concern. They want to hear more information and the point of the investigation to get to the bottom of it. BOLDUAN: Political conversation is being reverted back to a national

security conversation if you talk about Russian influence in the investigation.

Manu, great to see you. Thanks so much.

He's tracking all the reaction from Capitol Hill. We'll bring that to you as it comes in.

Matthew Rosenburg is back with me, sticking with me.

Thank you, Matthew, for sticking with us on this.

Here is a line that I recalled from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This was yesterday, before the e-mails came out. When asked about Don Jr, she said, in her view, certainly, she would say Don Jr did not collude with anyone to influence the election. Is this now going to come down to what the definition of collusion is?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It could well. I mean, sure, if that's what he's telling her. She may believe it. She may not. I don't know.

I do know a few things. Number one, you know, if you are an elected official and somebody from the Russian government comes and says the Russian government wants to help you with information that you don't know how they got it, if you are in the government, a career person, you report it to the FBI. It's not something you blow off.

Look, if they weren't in office yet, not had a lot of experience in government. Maybe they didn't know.

The other issue is one of the things we keep hearing about a number of meetings about the Trump campaign, people running around, doing their own thing. Sure, that's true. This involved, Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, a top adviser. It's not a single person freelance. You have the top of the campaign sitting down in this meeting. That certainly does raise questions about where the campaign was at this time in relation to this material, what it was looking for, and what it was willing to take from others. They are questions the FBI is trying to figure out, a pair of congressional committees are trying to figure out and a lot of journalists are trying to figure out.

BOLDUAN: And I'll say it, when you look at these e-mails -- yes, Don Jr wants to be totally transparent, thank you. When you look at the e-mails, Kirsten, I cannot get over how big of a deal this line is. When someone e-mails to the then-candidate now the president's son during the campaign, this is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump. I know they have a lot of questions. I'm not faulting the Congressman who came on that he didn't have an answer for how he felt about it at the moment. This gets to the heart of what this investigation is about, no?

POWER: Right. I mean, you know, Donald Trump Jr said this is before everybody knew about Russia's alleged involvement in the campaign. It's right there until the e-mail that they support Donald Trump. Like I said, I think this is something that would normally send off alarm bells to somebody. It seems to be something that didn't with them because he is -- when all this news came out, he was dismissive of it. What's the big deal. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has done this. The idea that they were suggesting that maybe he sounded to the FBI, he made light of it. Itis not something that seems concerning to them and they were happy to work with the Russians. This is like if John Podesta, Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton had a meeting with Russia saying they supported Hillary Clinton and they were bringing information to harm Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: If it came -- in that meeting, they said nothing came of the meeting.

Ken Cuccinelli, I was guess there would likely be another Benghazi- style hearing on Capitol Hill, no?

CUCCINELLI: I fully expect to see Donald Trump Jr answering questions about this. I think that's entirely legitimate. We need to learn the details of this.

I would note, with respect to a comment that keeps coming up about these things being dead end leads -- and I'm not referring to today's.

My other Senator, not Tim Kaine, but Mark Warner, on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the same thing on a Sunday show a couple weeks back where he said there's smoke. We haven't seen fire yet. We are going to keep checking out the smoke. Obviously, this is another one of those, as John McCain said, a shoe that dropped. I'm not suggesting it shouldn't be run down. I want to make sure it's put in the proper context.

Tim Kaine's comment about treason when people aren't in office, I don't think there's a legal foundation for it. This is going to fuel more of the political rhetoric on Capitol Hill. It legitimately fuels concerns about the bottom line details of this interaction.

I am curious, and I don't know sitting here, when Jared Kushner identified this meeting in his supplemental security submissions. I think that was really the first time this meeting was identified not so much when "The New York Times" reported on it. I don't know when that was. That's going to be part of the time line as well.

[11:46:00] STELTER: Don Jr said it was about adoptions a couple days ago. On Saturday, the original explanation was it was primarily about adoptions. Is this an ice cube or just the tip of an iceberg and we can't see the rest underneath? It feels, based on the drip, drip, drip of "The New York Times" reporting, like an iceberg.


CUCCINELLI: -- made the comment that I would agree with. That is the whole Trump family would do itself a whole lot better service if they'd just put all this stuff on the table, defended what they thought need to be defends, explain what needed to be explained and let everybody draw their conclusions instead of the drip, drip, drip. I completely agree with that. I think the American people would appreciate it. In some ways, they are getting fed up with all this. We get one more dash of this information, another shoe to drop that legitimately needs to be investigated. It distracts from, really, the kind of work that needs to take place in American governance today.

BOLDUAN: The attorney that's now mixed up in this, the Russian attorney -- be it a Russian government attorney or a Russian national, you decide. She spoke out this morning to NBC News. Listen to what she had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED NBC NEWS CORRESPODENT: They had the impression, it appears, that they were going to be told information that you had about the DNC. How did they get that impression?

NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN ATTORNEY (through translation): It's quite it's possible that maybe they were looking for such information. They wanted it so badly.

UNIDENTIFIED NBC NEWS CORRESPODNENT: Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?

VESELNITSKAYA (through translation): No.


BOLDUAN: So, we have that added to the mix.

Jake Tapper is adding to the mix.

Jake, what do you make of this?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, simply, obviously, we need a full explanation. There needs to be an investigation. We need to find out the details of this. I don't see how anyone can come to the conclusion that this e-mail chain, on its face, suggests that the Trump campaign was willing to collude with the Russian government and expressed so in writing in an e-mail.

Here we have an e-mail. Let's back up and go over this so people can see what I'm talking ability. With Rob Goldstone, a publicist, who was friendly with both Don Trump Jr and others in that orbit, is talking about how Emin Agalarov -- so we can state who the Agalarovs are, they are a family in Russia that the son is a pop star and the father is a real estate developer. They have known the Trumps for some time. They did some business or were associated in the Miss Universe Pageant when it was in Russia.

So, "Emin called me and asked me to contact you with something interesting. The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father, Aras" -- the real estate developer -- "and offered to provide the Trump campaign with official documents to incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be useful to your father." If Rob Goldstone's e-mail is to be believed on its face -- and always

with the stories, don't just believe an e-mail because they said something in the e-mail. According to the e-mail, the crown prosecutor of Russia is reaching out to him knowing that he has a relationship with the Trumps and offering to provide information. We don't know what kind of information. That seems to document unflattering information about Hillary Clinton and wants to give it directly to Aras to give to the Trump campaign that would presumably go from Aras to Goldstone, et cetera, or the attorney. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but as part of Russia and its government support for support of Mr. Trump. "What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin directly?" And Don Jr writes back, "Thanks, Rob. I appreciate it. I'm on the road. Perhaps speak to Emin. If we have time. If it's what you say, I love it. Especially later in the summer. All do a call first time when I'm back."

And most of the other e-mails are trying to coordinate a time, although there is another reference to the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday, presumably, that would be the attorney with whom he met.

[11:50:45] BOLDUAN: Right.

TAPPER: So according to Donald Trump Jr's latest information, when we do need to acknowledge that his stories on this story, on this information, have changed. In March, he had never met with anyone from the Russian government, he told "The New York Times," in any way, in his capacity, with the campaign. We now know that's not true. From his own admissions. On Saturday, he told "The New York Times" that this meeting was about adoption primarily. And then when "The New York Times" went back at them with more information, acknowledged that the information was about damaging information on Hillary Clinton and obtaining it. We still don't know what was in the meeting.

Obviously, the attorney, the Russian attorney in question has a very different take on the story.

Again, just because somebody says something in this tale doesn't mean he or she is to be believed, but on its face, this e-mail chain now -- we need context, information, we need to talk to Don Jr, et cetera. The press and also investigators, but on its face this e-mail chain is proof of a willingness expressed by Donald Trump Jr to collude with Russia to get information directly from the Russian government through intermediaries to help the Trump campaign.


TAPPER: I don't see any other way to read these e-mails.

BOLDUAN: I think it's the -- the burden is on him to explain it otherwise, at this point. When he releases an e-mail with lines like, "This is done by the Russian government in order to assist the campaign of your father," I mean, unless it's lost in translation somehow, there's no other way to read it.

It also brings into a stark reminder of the interview with Don Jr shortly after this meeting happened -- Jake?

TAPPER: It's amazing.

I don't know if we have that clip ready to go.

BOLDUAN: We do. Let's run it.

TAPPER: Before we do, if we could one second. This is in July. This is the morning -- of the week of the Democratic National Convention. The DNC was hacked weeks if not months before, and in June, after this meeting that Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort had with this Russian attorney, after that meeting, announced hacked the Democratic National Committee. Now what we have in July to set the stage for this clip, e-mails are starting to come out from the DNC that suggest a lot of hostility towards Bernie Sanders from DNC staffers and causes quite an uproar.

Robby Mook, Clinton campaign chairman, comes on my show that Sunday, "State of the Union," saying experts told him it was the Russians behind all of this. Donald Trump Jr was the next guest. And here's what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, it goes to show you their exact moral compass. They'll say anything to be able to win this. This is time and time again, lie after lie. Notice, he won't say, well, I hear this. We hear experts. His house cat at home once said that this is what's happening with the Russians. It's disgusting. It's so phony.


TAPPER: I mean, what's so amazing of that righteous indignation, this came weeks after Donald Trump Jr received e-mails from Rob Goldstone in which it was expressed that the Russian government wanted to help the Trump campaign.


TAPPER: And here you have Donald Trump Jr acting as if the notion that the Russians were trying to help the Trump campaign was an evil and devious lie, when he had been told by a confidant, Rob Goldstone, that that was the case.

BOLDUAN: Jake, stand by with me.

I think we have Robby Mook, former campaign manager of Hillary Clinton's campaign -- you referenced there -- Robby on the phone.

Can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Thanks for jumping on. Appreciate it. You're obviously seeing all this in real time like we are. Your

reaction to the e-mails that Don Jr released?

[11:54:52] MOOK: Well, it -- it's surprising how transactional this appears to be. Even I was surprised and I've been pretty skeptical when the Trump people have claimed that this was all Trumped up. No pun intended. I'm concerned, however, about what we don't know right now. They've withheld so much. They've lied so many times about whether these meetings took place at all. If this is what they're willing to send to us, I can only imagine what they're not willing to send, and I'm -- I'm frankly concerned this may be an attempt to get us to focus on Don Jr when we know there are a lot of other people we were already told were talking to Russians. Carter Page, in conversations with WikiLeaks. So I think it's important that we continue to demand all the information here, and the other thing I would just say is we need to act, Congress needs to act to protect our country. We can see in that e-mail that the Russians were doing everything they could to support Donald Trump, by the evidence, by Trump's own behavior, it looks like he's doing a lot to try to express interest through our foreign policy, and that's got to stop. And I just continue to wait for some brave soul in Congress, it needs to be a Republican, because they're in charge. Somebody's got to step up and say enough is enough. We have too much evidence at this point. The administration has been compromised by Russian interests.

BOLDUAN: Robby, real quick, you said an attempt to get everyone on focus on Don Jr rather than elsewhere. Do you think that, having Don Jr take the fall or something?

MOOK: I don't know. I find it strange that after a policy of denying and denying and denying, all of a sudden, they're putting out this incriminating e-mail. Again, my question is, what do we not know? What have we not seen? We know that Paul Manafort had deep ties to the Russians. Even deeper than Trump's son. You know, what conversations was the president himself having? I think this piece of information is incredibly damning, but, again, the mere fact they were leaked makes me wonder what has not been or will not be released.

BOLDUAN: Robby, thanks for jumping on the phone. Really appreciate it.

MOOK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Jake, I think -- I hope you're back with me.


BOLDUAN: What do you think? I mean, one of the things I've noticed, struck by, that Donald Trump silence in all this in the past few days?

TAPPER: Yes. It is interesting. Especially since it's his son --


TAPPER: -- who is in the firing line. It is, I should say, politically and legally wise for him to be quiet. But we know that he values his social media voice and this social media presence and doesn't necessarily always do what is considered wise when it comes to speaking out on issues. Even when it's issues about the law. Such as his travel ban. He's been rebuked by no less than Kellyanne Conway's husband on Twitter comes to that. It is interesting, although I'll say again, it's smart for him not to weigh in on this, because this is obviously very serious.

The other thing that I just want to say in terms of the indignance that Don Jr showed in that July 2016 clip when Robby Mook was talking about how the Russians were behind the hack and Don Trump Jr knowing full well that there were claims out there by confidants of his that the Russian government wanted to help the Trump campaign, and he himself released this e-mail chain today, and anybody who wants to see the e-mail chain, go to donaldjtrumpjr Twitter feed. They're all there.

Brian Stelter pointed out, there is a sort of faux transparency to this. "The New York Times" obtained the e-mails, were ready to public them when Donald Trump did so as well. That's just politics 101. Get the information out on your own as much as you can. He could have done this, of course, a year ago.

Beyond that, beyond the indignance of Donald Trump Jr, the indignance of President Trump, Vice President Pence, the Trump White House. Very easy to find clips online or in our databases of the president and others very angrily talking how there's no "there" there, no contacts with Russians, nothing to this story. It's fake news, et cetera, et cetera.

One of the reasons why many strategists believe the Trump White House has been so aggressive in trying to undermine the fourth estate, whether "The New York Times" or the "Washington Post" or CNN, is because of stories like this. Because 35 percent, 40 percent of the country doesn't want to hear this information.

BOLDUAN: They don't --


TAPPER: -- don't want to believe it.

But more importantly, the indignance of the Trump White House knowing -- some of them had to have known that this meeting took place. Some of them had to have known that these e-mails existed, of a confidant of the Trumps saying -- I mean it's really -- if you had asked me, you know, a week ago --