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Trump Jr. Releases Bombshell E-mails on Russia Campaign Offer; Interview with Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); South Korea Contradicts North Korean Claims . Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 11, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. The smoking e-mails. Donald Trump Jr. releases e-mails offering Russian government help in attacking Hillary Clinton in setting up his 2016 meeting with other top campaign figures and a Russian lawyer. Is this a smoking gun?
Black and white. The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says it's now black and white that Russia tried to help Donald Trump. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want his son to testify, one suggesting it may even be an issue of treason.
Transparency. President Trump has kept quiet on his son's involvement with Russia, but issues a statement applauding his, quote, "transparency," even though Donald Trump Jr. changed his story repeatedly in recent days.
And not as successful. While Kim Jong-un's regime has been celebrating its new long-range missile, there are now signs it may not be successful as claimed. How great is the North Korean threat to the United States?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. A bombshell revelation today draws the most direct line yet between the Trump campaign and Russia, and it comes in the form of e-mails released by none other than Donald Trump Jr.
The e-mails set up the June 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer, with Trump Jr.; Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; and Trump's son- in-law Jared Kushner.
In the first e-mail, an intermediary relayed a message that Russia's state prosecutor, quote, "offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary," close quote. The e-mail said the information, once again quoting, "would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information, but it's part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump," close quote.
Trump Jr. replied, quote, "I love it."
The Russian lawyer who later met with Trump Jr. and his campaign colleagues says they wanted the information badly.
President Trump has been uncharacteristically silent on the Russia meeting and his son's involvement but released a simple statement today saying, and I'm quoting, "My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency."
Lawmakers are not staying silent. There are bipartisan calls for the president's son to appear before Congress while Hillary Clinton's former running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, says Trump Jr. may have even committed treason.
I'll talk with Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
The White House is clearly on the defensive right now over this truly stunning revelation by Donald Trump Jr. Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, take us through the e-mails and the president's rather subdued reaction.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are not loving it over here at the White House, Wolf. The president defended his son today, not in a tweet but in a sober statement read by the White House.
Aides to the president say he is frustrated with the Russia story, but today he only has his eldest son to blame.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The e-mails are astonishing. Released by the president's own son, Donald Trump Jr., the messages reveal top-level officials with the Trump campaign met with a Russian lawyer, who an intermediary suggested was offering support from the Kremlin. The e- mails, first reported by the "New York Times," promised, quote, "very high-level and sensitive information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton."
The messages between Trump Jr. and an acquaintance, Rob Goldstone, outline how Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov, whose father is tied to the Kremlin, wanted the president's son to meet with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in a meeting that also included former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Mr. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Goldstone: "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow this Thursday."
Trump Jr.: "How about 3 at our offices? Thanks, Rob. Appreciate you helping set it up."
Goldstone: "This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information. But it's part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump." Trump Jr.: "If it's what you say, I love it. Especially later in the summer."
The president's son tweeted photos of the e-mails along with a statement that reads, "I first wanted to just have a phone call, but when that didn't work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decide to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. She had no information to provide."
Goldstone, in his own statement, says, "The lawyer had apparently stated she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC, which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important. I reached out to Donald Trump Jr., and he agreed to squeeze us into a very tight meeting schedule."
[17:05:01] The attorney in question told NBC she doesn't work for the Russian government.
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, LAWYER (through translator): It's quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information, they wanted it so badly.
ACOSTA: At an off-camera briefing, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a brief statement from the president about his son.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: "My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency."
ACOSTA: The White House also responded to a question about whether Trump Jr. and members of the president's team could be brought up on charges of perjury, or even treason.
SANDERS: I think those new words are ridiculous.
ACOSTA: But the e-mails shatter past denials of any contacts with the Russians from the Trump team. From the president's son...
DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: It's disgusting. It's so phony.
ACOSTA: ... to the vice president...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to button up one question, did any adviser or anybody on the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, of course not.
ACOSTA: ... to the president himself.
(on camera): Sir, can you state...
TRUMP: Quiet. ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect...
TRUMP: Go ahead. He's asking a question.
ACOSTA: ... can you state categorically...
(voice-over): He once refused to answer whether his associates had contacts with the Russians and has repeatedly rejected the story as fake news.
TRUMP: But the entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero.
ACOSTA: Now Mr. Trump's advisers are defending the president's son's actions as something campaigns do.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: They wanted the dirt.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Which is what political campaigns do.
ACOSTA: Now, as for Rob Goldstone, he is referring all questions to his attorney, and as for the White House officials here, refused to answer any questions from reporters today on camera. In the past, they have said over here at the White House that these briefings are being held off-camera so they don't step on the president's message of the day. But the president had no message of the day today. On this day, he is staying behind closed doors with no public appearances on his schedule, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House, thank you.
President Trump may be keeping mostly silent on the stunning developments involving his son. But lawmakers, they are clearly speaking out. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, is on the case for us. Manu, what's the latest you're hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very clear, Wolf, this issue, this meeting that occurred between Donald Trump Jr., the Russian lawyer, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort will be central, at least part of the investigations of the House and the Senate side.
Both the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee say they want to hear from Donald Trump Jr. in at least a closed session, as well as everybody else who was involved in setting up that meeting, believing that this is, at least part of an effort by the Russia -- by Russia officials, by Kremlin-backed associates to try to influence the Trump campaign.
And the Democrats believe this is the first clear evidence of efforts by Trump officials to work with Russian officials to go after the Clinton campaign.
Now, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee -- in the House committee, just spoke to reporters about his concerns. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We now know that the response that the president's son gave to the Russians was that he would love it if they would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Rather than report this overture by the Russian government to provide damaging information to intervene in the presidential election in a way to help his father, neither the president's son nor the campaign reported this information to the FBI.
When it became obvious that the e-mails were being dumped, when it became obvious this was being done by the Russian government, when our own intelligence community issued a statement in October affirming that this was being done by the Russians, did the Trump campaign then disclose that, in fact, they had received an overture to receive damaging information? The answer, of course, is no, they didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, notable, Wolf, who is not by Adam Schiff's side was Mike Conaway, who's the Republican from Texas who is leading the Russia investigation. We have not heard from him yet, but I did have a chance to speak to the Senate Republican who's leading the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, Richard Burr, who told me he did not want to comment on Donald Trump Jr. himself. But he said we're, quote, "very early in our investigation" when I asked him about if this is more evidence about collusion.
Now Wolf, some other Republicans are speaking out, saying that they are very concerned that Donald Trump Jr. had this meeting and, knowing that this was -- could be coming from the Russian government, here are some Republicans and Democrats raising concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you're offered assistance from a foreign government in your campaign, the only answer is, "No." So I'm not going to condemn the guy on an e-mail, but this is something that's the most problematic thing I've seen thus far.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There clearly was a Russian government effort to discredit Clinton and to help Trump, and that Trump officials at the most senior level were aware of that.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: We're now beyond obstruction of justice in terms of what's being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [17:10:05] RAJU: Now, Wolf, a number of Democrats are not really willing to go as far as Senator Kaine did by raising the specter that it could be treason. I asked Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, if he agrees with Senator Kaine on that. He said, "I'm not going to go there yet." But he does want Donald Trump Jr. to testify in public, believing he should turn over all records to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wolf, I asked him specifically about if he has any concerns about this meeting. He just said this is something the Senate Intelligence Committee will look at. He did not answer that question, and when two other reporters asked him similar questions, similarly punted. Shows the difficult position this has put Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, Manu, thanks very much. Manu Raju reporting.
Let's bring our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, how serious is this, these e-mails from a legal perspective?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's certainly very serious, but it's also important to say, you know, there's a long way to go, and these e-mails in and of themselves are not proof of any crimes.
Two things to think about. One is, it is a crime for campaign officials to solicit anything of value from a foreign government. So the question is, was anything solicited here of value? Was --were e- mails solicited, was hacking solicited? That is a question investigators will want to explore.
The other issue is that Jared Kushner, who is now a very high White House official, he's copied on these e-mails. The question is, did he disclose these meetings -- this meeting to -- when he filled out his form applying for a security clearance? If he intentionally left it off, that's a crime. It's not a crime if he simply forgot or made a mistake. This meeting, though, certainly seems pretty dramatic, even in the context of a dramatic campaign. The idea that he simply forgot about it, which strikes me as probably a little hard to believe.
BLITZER: Because the law states that the campaigns cannot accept money from foreign nationals...
BLITZER: ... or other things of value. Opposition research is something of value. Campaigns spend a lot of money to get opposition research. This was -- this would be opposition research. Is that a crime?
TOOBIN: Well, it would be a crime if a court agreed that it was something of value. I'm not aware of any criminal cases yet where something -- anything of value is defined as research. But it's not out of the question. And again, it's always important in this -- in these circumstances to remember we have a very small -- important but small slice of information. What do the other e-mails show? What do the witnesses say? Was there any surveillance? I mean, all of this, in -- you would have to have Inspector -- Director Mueller accumulate, and then he would make a decision. You don't make a decision based on these very provocative e-mails.
BLITZER: Some have suggested that the first thing Donald Trump Jr. and his colleagues should have done once they were offered this information from a foreign national, this Russian lawyer, is immediately go to the FBI, to law enforcement and report this. Should they have?
TOOBIN: Of course. I mean, that would have been a much more prudent course. Or even if they didn't want to do that, you don't send the campaign manager, the candidate's son, the candidate's son-in-law, the top people, to meet with this woman. I mean, that was the craziest thing to do.
Maybe you send a low-level person with instructions: simply write down what she says. We'll evaluate it and then maybe get back to her or not. To put these top people involved suggests that they thought nothing wrong -- nothing was wrong with meeting with such a high-level person who is identified in the e-mails as someone who represents the Russian government.
BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey, you're going to be back with us in a little bit, so don't go too far away.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: So what was your reaction when you heard what was going on this morning with these e-mails?
BLUMENTHAL: As a former prosecutor, my reaction was these e-mails are a textbook example and evidence of criminal intent. I can almost hear the closing argument to the jury, using "I love it," repeating again and again, "I love it."
Those three words are going to haunt Donald Trump Jr., because they are a clear signal that he is looking for information, dirt, on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government and expecting an agent of the Russian government to be providing it to him, and having the meeting showing, and again signaling, the Trump campaign is open for business: "We will accept information no matter how it is obtained, legally or illegally."
[17:15:02] And that is potentially a violation of the Espionage Act, yes, treason, and it is also potentially a violation of the prohibitions against defrauding the government through conspiracy, against cyber-fraud and abuse. There are a slew of statutes that may have been violated here.
But the bottom line is that we are beginning to understand why Donald Trump, the president, may have been so eager to fire Jim Comey if he felt that his own son was at risk. And we should begin looking for alarm lights flashing about possibly firing Bob Mueller, because clearly this investigation is coming closer and closer. There's a lot of fire here, more than smoke. Closer and closer to the president of the United States.
BLITZER: I want to follow up on both those points you just made, but very quickly, did you know about this meeting in June of last year or these e-mails before the "New York Times" reported them over the past few days?
BLUMENTHAL: The simple answer is, Wolf, no. We owe a huge debt of gratitude as a democracy to the free press for disclosing them. We are far from indictments or charges. Jeff Toobin is absolutely right that there is much more to be known about this story, but it will probably be known from the press before we know about it from anyone else.
And I think where this story is going is disclosure about additional meetings. This meeting was not the end of Donald Trump seeking information from the Russian government, and the Russian government perhaps disclosing to him that, in fact, they obtained information by hacking into DNC computers and others.
BLITZER: Well, you said you're fearful now the president might actually fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, as he fired the former FBI director, James Comey. Is that a serious concern you have? Is that at all realistic?
BLUMENTHAL: It is a realistic concern. And in fact, I intend to raise it tomorrow in the hearing with the nominee for FBI director Christopher Wray. I met with him today privately and asked him questions about the potential firing of Bob Mueller, because the closer he comes to the president of the United States, the more desperate Donald Trump Sr. may be for himself and for his son, the more fearsome and apprehensive that possibility may be.
BLITZER: And have you done the research? Would the president of the United States have the legal authority directly to fire Mueller?
BLUMENTHAL: He has no direct authority to fire Mueller. But he could appoint a deputy attorney general, if Rod Rosenstein refuses and resigns, to do that task, and I want to know from Christopher Wray what he would do if that happens, if he is confirmed as FBI director.
These points are all speculation right now, but they are the reason that we need to think ahead and be prepared for the eventuality that none of us could have anticipated. And we have a free press -- again, I can't stress it enough -- the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" and others like CNN who have done such a tremendous job. BLITZER: You mentioned the word "treason," a very powerful word.
Your Senate colleague, Tim Kaine, of Virginia, the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, he goes directly and says it is possible treason. On what basis would you use that word "treason" involving the president's oldest son?
BLUMENTHAL: If the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., intended to be part of a conspiracy to interfere with the lawful election procedure in this country; if he meant to, in effect, sabotage our democratic institutions by aiding the Russians in doing so, I think that that kind of charge would have to be considered by a prosecutor.
BLITZER: Because I looked in the U.S. Constitution, and it's -- this is how they defined, our Founding Fathers, the crime of treason: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
You believe that, potentially, that definition of treason would fit what was going on in that meeting?
BLUMENTHAL: Here's what I believe very strongly, Wolf. The Russians attacked our nation. They did it through the cyber domain. Their action, in my view was, in fact, an act of war. They sought to sabotage our elections. They, in fact, endeavored to interfere with 21 states in administering the tallies and counts of votes that are part of our lawful election system. They attacked our democracy in a way that would mean treason for anybody who aided and abetted or provided them comfort in doing so.
[17:20:00] Now, we are, in fact, engaged somewhat in speculation. I want to emphasize that I know no more than what has been revealed publicly, or little more, but we need to think seriously about the consequences of these starkly illegal claims and potential charges.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, we have more to discuss, including new information we're getting on the special counsel right now. I want you to stand by. We'll resume our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Our breaking news. E-mails released by Donald Trump Jr. show that in advance of his meeting with a Russian lawyer last summer, he was offered damaging material on Hillary Clinton by an intermediary claiming to represent the Russian government.
[17:25:07] We're talking with Senator Richard Blumenthal. Senator, stand by. We have some new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is getting this information.
Evan, you're learning new information about the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, plans to examine all of this.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is probably not going to come as a huge surprise entirely, but the investigators working for Robert Mueller are now planning to examine the meeting and the exchanges, the e-mail exchanges, that Donald Trump Jr. today disclosed publicly.
And the full details of the meeting and of these interactions was not fully known to the FBI. The FBI has been taking a look at this, as you know, for about a year. But they didn't know all of these interactions, at least, I'm told, until recently.
So what was happened more recently is that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, has amended his SF-86 form. This is the form that he submitted in order to get a permanent security clearance from the FBI. As part of that process, Jared Kushner disclosed this meeting, because he attended it, as you know, with Paul Manafort, the then-chairman of the campaign, as well as Don Jr.
So all of this is now one reason why the FBI is going to take a look at all of this, the FBI investigators that are working with Robert Mueller's team.
It should be noted that the FBI has, in the past year, taken a look at Don Jr.'s finances, his associations as part of the broader look at whether or not there was any collusion or whether or not there was any ties to Russia that crossed over into criminal territory. Obviously, that is something that's been going on now for about a year.
BLITZER: And Donald Trump Jr. released the e-mail chain only after he was notified by the "New York Times" that they had it, and they were about to publish it; so he decided to release it before it was published by the "New York Times."
PEREZ: Right. Exactly. That's right.
BLITZER: All right, Evan. Thanks for that reporting.
Let's get back to Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary Committee. Senator, you just heard Evan's reporting that the FBI only recently, apparently, learned about the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with this Russian lawyer. Do you believe there are other e- mails, other meetings that investigators have not yet uncovered?
BLUMENTHAL: I believe very strongly, Wolf, that there are a trove of additional e-mails bearing on criminal intent, on the substantive criminal actions that may well have taken place. And the reports that provide public confirmation of this kind of suspected activity, I think, will aid the investigators, if only because they are likely to precipitate cooperation by other potential subjects or targets of the investigation, knowing that progress is being made.
A lot of the progress of the investigation will depend on the momentum that it has. And these kinds of disclosed reports will aid in that momentum. They will also, very importantly, aid in our efforts here on Capitol Hill to persuade the president to support a sanction order or our colleagues on the House side to support a le legislation that's already been passed by the Senate, overwhelming, a 98-2 vote, bipartisan, for sanctions, greatly increased sanctions and codified sanctions against the Russians, making them pay a price. That is terribly important, because otherwise they're going to repeat this criminal action, perhaps with other campaigns.
BLITZER: You say you believe there may be other e-mails, other meetings, but do you have any evidence to back that up?
BLUMENTHAL: Only the fact that these e-mails seem to indicate such a strongly-rooted desire for this kind of information that it seems almost impossible that this was a one-off, that they abandoned this effort after this seemingly unsuccessful meeting.
But the fact that there was no useful information here is not a defense to a conspiracy charge, because the purpose and intent are nonetheless to get this information to cooperate and collude with the Russians.
BLITZER: You said earlier, Senator, you met one-on-one with President Trump's nominee for the FBI director, Christopher Wray. Did you ask him specifically if he's willing to be independent from the White House if the White House asked him to stop the Russia investigation, for example?
BLUMENTHAL: I am convinced after my conversation with Christopher Wray that he will be independent, that he will protect the integrity of the FBI. I will ask him questions tomorrow on the record. I'm sure my colleagues will, as well. But I think he has the expertise and experience, as well as the guts and determination, to make sure that the FBI is protected and that the special prosecutor is provided with whatever resources are necessary for him to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
BLITZER: As you know, James Comey, the fired FBI director, said he was so concerned about the president's honesty that he kept contemporaneous memos about his conversations with Mr. Trump. Did you ask Christopher Wray if he plans to keep notes or write memos about any meetings he might have with the president?
BLUMENTHAL: I have yet to go into that detail with him as to how he intends to substantiate or reflect any meetings that he may have with the president or anyone else. But as a former prosecutor and one with a lot of detailed experience, I am persuaded that he will do whatever is necessary procedurally to make a record to keep and reflect the conversations that he has. But I'm also convinced that the FBI is determined on its own to get to the bottom.
BLITZER: Are you a vote to confirm Christopher Wray?
BLUMENTHAL: I am undecided finally, but from what I've heard so far, I would vote to confirm him.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, more on the bombshell revelations in Donald Trump Jr.'s newly revealed e-mails. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:35:47] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the continuing reaction to Donald Trump Jr.'s releasing an e-mail chain in which he responds "I love it" to a June 2016 offer to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton and what the e-mail chain describes as, quote, "part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump."
I'm joined by our correspondents and specialists. And Gloria, how damaging are these e-mails?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They're very damaging. I'll let Jeffrey Toobin talk about what they amount to legally, but I will tell you that, first of all, as Senator Warner said today, and I said -- I believe rightly so, this makes it very clear, these e-mails, that the Russian government tried to aid Donald Trump's campaign, period, end of sentence. That occurred given -- given what this e- mail said when he said to Donald Trump Jr., "This is sensitive information, but it's part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," period.
Second thing we learned from this e-mail is that Donald Trump Jr. did not seem at all stunned or shocked that this offer came across the transom from someone I gather he knew tangentially and seemed to be very willing to collude in whatever it was this -- this person was offering.
I mean, he said, "I love it." Basically he said, "This is awesome. I think it's fabulous that we can do this." And I think the special counsel, as Evan Perez and others have reported, is going to have to look into this and find out what this all amounts to.
BLITZER: So Dana, are these e-mails the evidence a lot of people were looking for that the Trump campaign knew Russia; not only wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign but try to get -- help Donald Trump get elected president?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, again, you can talk about evidence, because...
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm getting nervous, all those (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
BASH: You have a lot on your shoulders, Jeffrey. You better step up. But -- but for me, from a layman's perspective, there is an intermediary here. I mean, it's not the -- we don't have the Russians, you know, actually either in an e-mail or on tape saying, "We want to help Mr. Trump. How can we do that?" It's them asking an acquaintance, Mr. Goldstone, who is, you know, who is British to ask it.
But it was very specific in the e-mail that he sent. And in addition to that, it can't go -- it can't be forgotten that it was Donald Trump Jr.'s response, as you said, Glo, saying, "Oh, it sounds great. I love it." That is a huge part of the story.
BLITZER: It certainly is. You know, Ron Brownstein, a lot of his supporters, Donald Trump's supporters, they're suggesting that the Russian lawyer who came to this meeting misrepresented herself.
But when you read the e-mails from Goldstone, clearly characterizing her as a Russian government lawyer, explaining why she was coming to this meeting, it simply backs up this fear that -- that a lot of people have had that there was collusion.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Gloria really hit on the right point. The language in the original e-mail couldn't be more explicit. I mean, the information in the original e- mail could not be more explicit, is part -- the information they're offering is part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump.
And for Donald Trump Jr.'s reaction is not, "What are you talking about? What Russian government effort to support Mr. Trump?" Or alarm: "This is inappropriate." It is, instead, "I love it." He does not -- he seems very nonplussed by the idea that the Russian government, in fact, wants to support his father in the campaign. It does not feel in the e-mail that this is the first time that notion had crossed his desk.
So I think that is a very important point here: the familiarity, the casualness and the fact that he felt comfortable forwarding this on to Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, who then felt comfortable attending a meeting framed in those terms. I mean, those are very significant moments.
I saw today that there was some anonymous reporting that lawyers associated with Mr. Manafort said, well, he hadn't read through the e- mail chain. All of this is going to be thoroughly investigated, and eventually everyone involved, in all likelihood, is going to have to testify under oath. So in that sense we're at the beginning, not the end, of a process.
[17:40:07] BLITZER: You know, Jim Sciutto, how worrying is it that this was not simply a foreign national but potentially a foreign adversary?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. I mean, this is Russia, and it was a foreign adversary that was interfering in the election as this meeting was happening. The fact is, the first breach happened one year before this meeting. That was the first breach of the DNC computers by hackers tied to the Russian government.
To be clear, as well, the way Russia operates in these -- in these kinds of influence ops is to use what are called cutouts, right? They don't send a KGB officer to the table. They send a lawyer tied to the Kremlin or a businessman friendly to Vladimir Putin. That's the way they work.
In fact, even with the release of the Clinton e-mails, they used WikiLeaks. They used a cutout in between the folks who stole the e- mails, the hackers, and the public sphere. They sent them. That's, at least, the assessment of the intelligence community.
The other point I would make is this. Is that, until this point the whole collusion case has been based merely on the fact that meetings took place. A bunch of meetings, an unusual number of meetings with Russia, unusual that they took place with Russians.
Now you know the reason that one of those meetings took place, explicitly to share incriminating information. Special counsel is looking into this meeting, but the fact is the special counsel is going to be looking into a whole series of meetings, because there are many more that took place in the states, that took place in Europe between people tied to Trump and Russians. What were those meetings for, and were they part of a pattern?
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, you heard Senator Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, bring up the issue of treason, possible treason in this particular case. You don't -- you're not ready to go that far?
TOOBIN: No, I think -- I'm ready -- I'm not ready to go that far. I think it's ridiculous. I mean, treason is not even remotely possible.
BLITZER: Tell us why, because the Constitution says -- I've read this before -- "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
TOOBIN: Right, there's also a federal law, as well as the Constitution covering treason, all of which involve enemies of the United States, which means states with whom we are at a state of war. We're not in a state of war with Russia, so I mean, treason is simply off the table, never going to happen.
However, there are definite criminal, at least, investigations that will come out of this. Possible violation of campaign finance obligations, the fact that receiving anything of value, soliciting anything of value from a foreign government is -- is a federal crime.
And the person who I think is at greatest risk here is not Donald Trump Jr. but Jared Kushner, who still works for the government, who applied for a security clearance, where he was supposed to list all of his contacts with foreign nationals for precisely the purpose of determining whether you have had improper contacts with people. Whether or not he listed this meeting on his application for a security clearance will be something of great interest to Director Mueller's investigation.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, you've heard the argument from some Trump supporters that, you know what? Jared Kushner was new to politics. He wasn't all that familiar with the rules, campaign finance rules. For example, Donald Trump Jr., as well.
But Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, was there at that meeting and spent 20 to 30 years in politics meeting at very significant levels. He would know if there was a violation of campaign finance laws.
BORGER: Right. And that's why there were reports that he says he didn't read the whole bottom of the e-mail chain, that he just read the top where it said the time of the meeting had been -- had been changed.
Look, I think that's not a good enough excuse. And Don Jr. clearly has not been involved in politics, but he is an American citizen. And -- and you get this kind of an e-mail from -- from Russia, even though you know the people who are tangentially involved, because don't forget you're dealing with a family that -- who the patriarch was involved in the Miss Universe pageant with Donald Trump.
So there is there -- there is a relationship there, but you get this kind of an e-mail, and you should shake your head and say, "What are you talking about? And maybe we ought to get the FBI in on this."
SCIUTTO: Just as you made that point, it reminded me, remember last year when we were talking about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and the question there was a "C, it was confidential" but Hillary Clinton didn't read down to see the confidential material in there, and how that was dismissed by many people in the Trump world as "that can't be an excuse." You know?
Whether you read that e-mail or not, this is a meeting with a Russian, someone tied to the Russian government, offering incriminating evidence. It -- you know, it's a really -- it's a difficult explanation to accept.
BORGER: And when she was interviewed today, by the way, on "The Today Show," she said they wanted it badly; they wanted the information badly. So I wonder what questions were asked.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Ron Brownstein, I want to get your reaction to the president's very brief statement. He's been silent over the past few days on all of this. He said this today through his press secretary: "My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency."
But the transparency resulted only after Donald Trump Jr. learned "The New York Times" had the e-mails, were about to publish those e-mails. He decided, I guess, based on some advice he was getting from his lawyers, if there's bad news, you release the bad news, don't let your critics release it.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was transparency at the point of a gun and after, you know, several earlier versions of the story that were, you know, flat out misleading, if not lies. And so, yes, I mean, it is -- look, this is not the last we have heard of this meeting. It is not the last we have heard of this.
Ultimately, as I said, everyone involved almost certainly now is going to testify under oath. And when that happens, my guess is the portrayal of this meeting and others will look different than it does today.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, remember, this is all about the run-up to the meetings. This is about pretense for the meeting, the reason for the meeting, which is all, you know, pretty nefarious and potentially -- potentially -- criminal. But then the big question is, what happened in the meeting? What
really happened? What was discussed and what was offered and what was the reaction? And then what were the e-mails following up on that? Those are all things that are still TBD.
BLITZER: A lot of TBD, I must say that. Everybody, stand by. We're going to have much more on the breaking news, Donald Trump, Jr.'s decision to release e-mails showing he thought he was being offered secret and sensitive Russian government information on Hillary Clinton.
Also coming up, new doubts right now about what North Korea claimed was a successful test of a new ballistic missile.
[17:51:12] BLITZER: We have much more to come on the breaking news involving Donald Trump, Jr.'s e-mails, but we are also getting important information right now about North Korea's recent ballistic missile test as well as the U.S. response.
Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, you're learning that that missile test may not necessarily have been as successful as the North Koreans claim?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. South Korean intelligence officials tonight are saying that long-range missile which had the range to strike the United States did not have the capability to survive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere as Kim Jong- un claimed it had. But it's not clear if the South Koreans' assessment is accurate or how they came to that conclusion. And there are still dire warnings tonight that Kim is racing to perfect that missile technology.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a key claim from Kim Jong-un's regime about one of his most dangerous missiles is being contradicted by his archenemy. That intercontinental ballistic missile which North Korea test fired on July 4th does not have the capability of surviving the heat of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. That is according to South Korean lawmakers briefed by the country's intelligence service.
Kim's regime had claimed that missile could survive reentry which could have enabled it to strike targets in the U.S. carrying a nuclear warhead. A missile expert told us what the North Koreans would have to do to make that work.
THOMAS KARAKO, DIRECTOR OF THE MISSILE DEFENSE PROJECT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Within this nose cone or shroud would be the war head that's going to enter the atmosphere very fast, and it's going to be very hot. It's also going to be shielded. Within that nose, within that delivery vehicle, would be presumably a nuclear weapon of some kind. So it has to survive all the heat and the bouncing around of the reentry. TODD (voice-over): U.S. military and intelligence officials tell CNN
they are still analyzing the North Korean missile test and won't comment on the South Korean's assessment. At a minimum, we know North Korea is trying to perfect reentry, ground testing nose cone heat shields under simulated reentry conditions.
The newly raised doubts about reentry have not stopped Kim from celebrating that long-range missile test. A concert in Pyongyang featuring dancers and several bands lauded Kim's leadership and so- called guidance of the test firing. Kim's glamorous wife, Ri Sol-ju, even made a rare appearance at a banquet to join in the festivities.
In the United States, a different response -- a long scheduled missile defense test conducted overnight in Alaska. The Pentagon says the THAAD system which intercepts intermediate range missiles had its 14th successful test.
And from China, a complaint -- stop suggesting that it's entirely up to China to pressure North Korea.
GENG SHUANG, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE FOREIGN MINISTRY OF CHINA (through translator): Recently, certain people have been exaggerating and giving prominence to the so-called China responsibility theory. I think this either shows lack of a full correct knowledge of the issue, or there are ulterior motives for it, trying to shift responsibility.
TODD (on camera): Is there validity to their claim here?
MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA AND JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: No, not really. The Chinese provide about 90 percent of food and fuel for the North Koreans. They have the ability to put an enormous economic squeeze on them. They don't want to because if the North collapses, that's calamitous for China in several respects. But they're not doing some, you know, basic things they could do to help.
TODD: But there are now indications that President Trump and his team may not be waiting around for China to act and may be imposing more pressure on Beijing tonight. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting that the Trump administration is moving toward imposing its own sanctions on Chinese banks and companies that U.S. officials say help fund Kim Jong-un's weapons program. We got no comment on that report from the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, there are also some reports out there that the missile the North Koreans tested last week could actually have had the range to hit some major American cities.
[17:54:57] TODD: Right, Wolf. Early on last week, those estimates were that the missile could hit maybe parts of Alaska. But the publication the diplomats citing a government source in the United States with knowledge of the launch now reports U.S. officials say it could have had a range of as far as almost 10,000 kilometers, which would allow that missile to reach Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.
Sources we're speaking to at the Pentagon and elsewhere don't believe it may be able to go that far. But, again, the reassessment of this missile launch us still ongoing, Wolf. They need more information.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much.
Coming up, the breaking news. A bombshell revelation draws the most direct line yet between the Trump campaign and Russia as Donald Trump, Jr. releases e-mails showing he embraced an offer of Russian government help in attacking Hillary Clinton.