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E-mail to Trump Jr. Said Russian Government Had Info on Clinton; GOP to Get Peek at Health Care Provisions Today; Feds Investigates Blast at Air Force Recruiting Center; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired July 11, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:31:29] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, "The New York Times" says the plan to pass helpful information to Donald Trump Jr. and his father's campaign last year was part of a Russian government effort and that that effort was communicated clearly in an e-mail to the president's son before he accepted the meeting with the Russian lawyer.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So this morning we're learning more about the players involved in setting up that meeting. New additions to the growing cast of characters. Music publicist Rob Goldstone and his client, Emin -- you know, I can't read or pronounce it, Agalarov, a Russian pop star who asked Goldstone to make this happen.
Joining us now, Jill Dougherty, a CNN contributor and former CNN Moscow bureau chief, and Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst, former chief of Russia operations for the CIA.
And, Steve, look, we do not know if this lawyer was working directly for the Russian government. She says no. But what do we know about how Russian intelligence and the Russian government uses middlemen for these types of meetings?
STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What we know is that it happens, it happens all the time. The Russians have this unity of government that, you know, those of us who worked on the government of the United States can only envy.
I mean, Vladimir Putin gets up in the morning and says, you know, we really need to look and figure out how we can try to get into the Trump campaign or influence this election. He can do anything from, you know, command the -- you know, one of his intelligence services to get to work on this, he can reach out to any of his oligarch and senior businessmen and say, hey, if you guys have any contact with Trump or with, you know, Trump entities, Trump businesses, who would -- I mean, he has all of that, all of Russia really at his disposal.
To me, I think you're right. There's perhaps no smoking gun, if you will, that this lawyer, Mrs. Veselnitskaya, was actually working directly for Vladimir Putin or one of the intelligence services. But from a counter intelligence, I would say that it's likely and that what they wanted to do was just to see whether or not there was anybody in the Trump team who would be willing to take that first initial step and just say, yes, we'll talk to you about whether or not you have information that might help our campaign.
In retrospect, of course we know that the Russians wanted to influence the election, which they did. So this all sort of makes sense, at least, to me, from an intelligence perspective.
HARLOW: The initial explanation or defense for this from the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., Jill, was this was a meeting just about adoptions, that this was nothing more, not important, nothing to see here. However, it's not just about adoptions. Even though that's what she talked about in the meeting. This is about something very political, very loaded and very important for Vladimir Putin.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Because, remember, the whole reason for a lot of this, at least with Miss Veselnitskaya, was that she was working on -- working for clients who were under sanctions, and she was working to try to get rid of the Magnitsky Act, which was a United States law that put people from Russia on a blacklist because they were human rights violators.
And it would appear, and this is kind of murky, but trying to put it together. As she was working on that Magnitsky Act, which sparked Vladimir Putin's anger and in return the Russians put an end to adoptions by Americans. That's where that comes together. She was uncovering information. And it appears from the reporting that's out there, that she was looking into or had some type of information that might lead you to think that there were people who were not paying taxes who might have contributed to the DNC.
[10:35:12] So I can see where the Trump -- I should say the Trump campaign would be interested in anything that would be compromising on Hillary Clinton, the DNC, et cetera. So I think one of the big questions is, who really originated this meeting? You know, it could be that from either side. That it was quite obvious that the Trump campaign was very interested.
In fact, Veselnitskaya says in that interview with NBC, they wanted that information so much but she's pulling herself out of it. She said, I wanted to talk about adoptions and, of course, that means that highly charged political issue of getting rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.
BERMAN: And, Steve, we got 20 seconds left. But what would the Russians have learned from this meeting? What would the takeaway be?
HALL: Most critically I think the Russians would have taken away the important fact, the critical fact, that somebody in the Trump campaign, and not just anybody, but somebody who's very close to the candidate and one of his direct family members that was willing to talk, who's willing to have that conversation and in intelligence operations, the Russians are always looking for just that first half step.
I mean, you don't have to be completely in the first meeting to say, yes, absolutely, I want to cooperate with the Russian government to get everything I can about Hillary Clinton so we can win. That's not necessarily what the Russians are looking for. The Russians are simply looking for a sign, a flag, an initial indicator that, OK, you know, we can have that conversation, and then they are off to the races. So that, I think, was the most important part of this particular meeting.
HARLOW: Yes, because remember, the DNC had been being hacked for a year, leading up to this meeting.
Thank you very much, Steve Hall and Jill Dougherty.
Right now, here in New York City, police officers and many others paying their final respects to one of their own. Fallen officer Miosotis Familia. A memorial services inside the church, but just look at this scene outside of the church. A sea of blue as officers remember one of their own during Officer Familia's procession.
BERMAN: The 12-year veteran of the force was ambushed in an attack while sitting in her police vehicle last week. Police shot and killed the suspect. And our hearts go out to her and her family and the police community here in New York City.
We'll be right back.
[10:41:55] BERMAN: All right. It's all happening up on Capitol Hill. In the next couple of hours Republican senators will get their first peek at changes being made to the health care bill.
HARLOW: Our national politics reporter MJ Lee is following all of this on the Hill.
So the question is, can they thread the needle? What are you hearing?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, well, I can't tell you, but the mood in the Senate right now is pretty bleak, to say the least. A lot of folks that we have been talking to with senators and their aides privately and publicly expressing a lot of skepticism about how leadership could actually bring on board enough members to get to that 50 yes votes.
And I think the bad news, John and Poppy, right now isn't just that there are at least 10 Senate Republicans who have publicly said that they are opposed to this bill. We already know that this bill in its current form would not pass the Senate. I think the question now that Senate Republicans have moved on to is how will they actually see a bill that is enough to bring on board enough people to get this through the Senate when there are such different priorities that different members have, the moderates and the conservatives?
If you, you know, look for example at some of the changes that are being discussed, you look at the Cruz amendment, for example, this is an amendment that Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, a couple other conservatives have indicated that with this amendment in place, they could get to a yes, but then you risk losing some of the moderate votes who have questions about whether this amendment would be bad for folks in their districts and their home states who have pre-existing conditions. And then you look at an issue like opioid funding. This is very
important to the Rob Portmans of the world, Shelley Moore Capitos of the world. But they have also indicated it's all well and good that this extra funding is included in the bill. They expect it to be included in the bill. But they have also that this is not the only issue that they care about, that they would have to see other changes to the bill.
So really right now, you know, the math is very, very difficult for McConnell. One Republican aide I was talking to yesterday saying, you know, he can imagine McConnell getting to 40 or 42 yes's, but it is very, very difficult to see how he can get to 50 yes's.
HARLOW: Yes, 40 doesn't cut it. 42, 49, doesn't cut it.
Thank you, MJ, on the Hill. We appreciate it.
So amid this health care push, the White House cannot seem to escape the headlines around Russia.
Let's talk to our panel about it. CNN political commentator Angela Rye and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. I just read your line.
BERMAN: You did a very nice job.
BERMAN: Look, you're a political commentator, also political experts even though you're partisan.
Angela Rye, you know, the White House and allies of Donald Trump Jr. are saying, look, this was just opposition research. Donald Trump Jr. says, you know, am I the first guy to ever have a meeting about opposition research? Is this how opposition research works, Angela?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not that I know of, John. I think that we -- normally in American elections, we don't make it a pattern in fact just to get oppo research from foreign entities. I think that we have -- we are kind of aware that we could run the risk of something like this happening, which is a far more invasive and intrusive push from Russia into our overall elections.
[10:45:07] We know that they hacked into upwards of 30 something states, 39 states, I believe it is, during the election. And that is all, frankly not just an availability to the Trump campaign, an interest by the Trump campaign, but also frankly a push from the president -- now the president during the campaign to find the other 30,000 e-mails.
So it wasn't just interest by the Russian government. It wasn't just taking a meeting. I think that they were far more involved. And that is exactly why all of the investigations that are happening on the Hill as well as the special prosecutor really matter. People need answers to these questions. HARLOW: Doug Heye, you've worked on campaigns. You're a big wig for
the RNC. Is Angela right?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't appreciate the crack about my hair, Poppy, but I'll tell you when I worked on campaigns --
HARLOW: No wig there.
HEYE: Every campaign I have worked on, the same thing has happened. Somebody calls the campaign and says, I've got the dirt on the opponent that's going to win the campaign. That person is always either a crank, somebody who wants something, or a crank who wants to something.
It's very clear that whatever happened in that meeting, the Russians who set up the meeting and who were in the meeting wanted something. That goes to intent. And that's a real problem for the Trump White House right now.
I think a lot of Trump people are defending all things Trump does without knowing facts. I think a lot of Democrats, not Angela in this case, are saying it's clearly collusion. I'd agree with Angela, we have these investigations for a reason. We've got to get to the bottom of this because we know that the intentions, at least on the side of Russia, were certainly not pure.
BERMAN: All right. I want to play some sound from a guy who's now the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, who was interviewed about the subject or asked about Russian connections way back in January, the weeks before he became vice president. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to button up one question. Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who are trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course not. And I think -- I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, Doug, how is that comment aged?
HEYE: Well, it's not aged well. Obviously I think Mike Pence was not in the position to know who took what meeting. And one of the troubling things that we've seen is more and more disclosures come out on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. Oh, wait, I did have this meeting with the Russians. Oh, I met four times with the Russians.
Everything we see around the Trump White House right now is a lot of smoke and it's a lot of smoke involving the word Russia. They need to move past this and part of how we do that is finding out exactly what happened, what was said, why it was said, and what was agreed to. And until we know that, we're going to continue to have these conversations.
HARLOW: Angela, in your first response, you were -- you know, you were measured and Doug pointed that out. Look, she's not saying collusion. There have been other Democrats, Democratic lawmakers who have said this is now treason. We heard Tim Kaine, for example, the running mate to Hillary Clinton, going there saying, you know, this could be.
Is there a cautionary tale, a warning sign that you have for Democrats on this one to sit back, let the facts play out before jumping to anything.
RYE: I don't think the time is for sitting back. I actually think it's the opposite. I think it's time to lean into these investigations and ensure that the Trump administration is cooperating.
We are talking about conversations that happened during the campaign or we're talking about things that happened on the transition team which Mike Pence, in the latter days, oversaw. There were clearly interactions, conversations and meetings happening with Russian officials. That is the problem.
And so when this administration came in, they talked about transparency. We know from the very beginning, whether it's the tax returns or whatever else, it's not been very transparent. So that is really the problem. You can't drain a swamp when you are knee-deep in it. And that's what we're seeing right now.
BERMAN: Doug Heye, you've got 15 seconds left. Health care on the Hill. What happens if Mitch McConnell can't put the votes together in the next two weeks?
HEYE: Well, look, I don't think that this is on Mitch McConnell. The only dynamic between today and past Republican struggles is that we have a Republican president. We need Donald Trump and Mike Pence who know these senators well to be fully engaged and make a full-court press to make this happen. They're the only thing that's new in our past failures that I certainly barely lived through.
BERMAN: All right, Angela Rye, Doug Heye, thanks so much for being here with us. I appreciate it. We're glad (INAUDIBLE).
HEYE: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. We have news this morning. An explosion at U.S. Air Force recruiting office in Oklahoma. Investigators are not ruling out domestic terrorism. We have new information on the investigation.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:53:29] HARLOW: Federal officials now investigating an explosion outside of a U.S. Air Force recruiting office in Oklahoma. They say the blast looks like it may have been a pipe bomb. They are searching for a motive and the suspect right now. They have not ruled out domestic terrorism.
Our Brynn Gingras has more on all of this.
So what happened and why do they think it might be terrorism?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just what you just mentioned. They don't know for sure yet because they don't have a motive and they don't have a suspect. So they can't pinpoint that just yet. But of course they are not ruling that out. It's a very strong possibility it could be.
The FBI is the lead agency on this. At this point, it's not clear exactly what happened here. What we do know, though, is that investigators have collected a bunch of evidence at the scene. A number of bomb fragments at the Air Force recruiting center that was in Bixby where authorities say someone did detonate a bomb last night.
Now that bomb it blew up the front door, it pierced holes through the center's ceiling, and caused really a lot of destruction. Initially, like Poppy said, it looks to be a pipe bomb. But authorities are really trying to piece together exactly those fragments to figure out what kind of bomb we're talking about here. They are also at the stage right now of interviewing witnesses, they are collecting video surveillance from that area as well.
Another thing investigators are looking into is if this incident is related to a vandalism that happened really just a few days ago at the National Guard Recruiting Center, which is located nearby, also in Vixby. So at this point, connecting the two is too preliminary. Again we're just 12 hours out from this incident happening last night in Vixby but those are some of the things investigators are looking at right now.
[10:55:04] HARLOW: Anyone -- no one injured, right?
GINGRAS: No one injured. That's a good thing. It happened 10:30 at night.
GINGRAS: So no one was actually at the center. But again, the two incidents, you know, they say, doesn't sound ironic.
BERMAN: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much. Glad no one was hurt. Federal officials now on the investigation.
In the meantime, we have new details that are emerging about what Donald Trump Jr. knew before meeting with the Russian lawyer. What he knew about Russian government efforts to help his father's campaign and what he did and did not do about it.
New developments coming up.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Another day, another new twist in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"The New York Times" report that Donald Trump Jr. was e-mailed ahead of time about the material a Russian lawyer wanted to pass along to him and was told the source was the Russian government.