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President Comments on Growing Trump-Russia Firestorm. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 12, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A frequent critic of President Trump who raised a hypothesis based on Comey's testimony that President Trump asked him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: You have reiterated again and again your willingness to resign if ever forced to politicize an investigation. And I think that's why you hear so much bipartisan support for your confirmation today.

Would you also pledge to this committee that if ever directed by the White House to shut down or curtail an investigation, that you would report that back to this committee, not necessarily in a public setting, but at the very least, in a classified setting?

Will you commit today that any White House direction that you would curtail or end an investigation is something that you would report back to this committee and this Senate?


TAPPER: South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked what advice Mr. Wray might offer him if he were to receive a similar e-mail to the one received by Donald Trump Jr., one saying that the Russian government wants to help him get elected by providing incriminating information about his opponent.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I would think you would want to consult with some good legal advisers before you did that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: So the answer is, should I call the FBI?

WRAY: I think it would be wise.


TAPPER: That answer did not quite cut it for Mr. Graham.


GRAHAM: You're going to be the director of the FBI, pal. So here's what I want you to tell every politician. If you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.


TAPPER: We should all contemplate for a second what we witnessed today, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee quizzing the likely next director of the FBI about the challenges he might face in maintaining the rule of law and basic norms of legal and ethical behavior, challenges that these senators clearly fear Mr. Wray might face from the president of the United States.

The backdrop for all of this is not just the Russia investigation, but the just-revealed June 2016 e-mails from Donald Trump Jr. expressing a desire to meet with a Russian government lawyer for incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, we heard from Adam Kinzinger, the Republican House member earlier, who had some strong comments about how concerned he was about these e-mails.

You have been chasing down members of Congress. What are you hearing from Kinzinger's fellow Republicans on the Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot want more answers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who made some news earlier by saying that he actually wants to bring in Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman of Donald Trump, in a public hearing next week.

And he said he's prepared to subpoena Manafort as well. And Manafort was in that meeting with Donald Trump Jr., and Grassley said he wants to question him about that meeting.

The larger concern from a number of Republicans is, are all these revelations creating such a difficult time for the Republicans to get behind their agenda on Capitol Hill, creating one distraction after another.

This is what I heard from a number of Republicans today on the Hill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly problematic, at the very least. It's very damaging.

RAJU: Are you concerned about these distractions from the White House?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am. There is a common perception we're not doing much, when we're actually doing quite a bit. Most people back home aren't even aware. They're caught up in the sort of daily distractions that go on coming out of the White House.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's sucking the oxygen out of the room. Everybody knows that. I think it's very difficult when you have this overwhelming barrage of new information that unfolds every few days.


RAJU: And, Jake, McCain saying that it's actually undercutting their agenda at a key time.

And of course it's a very important time on Capitol Hill, just as the Senate Republicans plan to unveil a new health care bill tomorrow and try to get their party united behind it. But the White House distracted by this barrage of revelations, a lot of them by their own doing.

And, as a result, there is really no public relations effort to push this bill that has been very difficult. It's facing a really steep climb to get passed here in the coming days, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

How does the White House pivot from the Russia investigation and get back on message, their legislative agenda?

That story next.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

There is a live shot of the Champs Elysees there and President Trump of course is preparing to go to Paris, temporarily leaving a White House that we've been told by administration officials is paralyzed by the Russia investigation, especially the latest twist and turn caused by Don Trump Jr.'s e-mail.

Let's dive right into it all with my political panel.

In an interview this afternoon, the president told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Russian President Putin might have preferred Hillary Clinton as president because Mr. Trump, President Trump, wants a stronger military and lower energy prices.

I will start with you, Brian, the Clinton advocate at the table.


TAPPER: I assume you disagree?


Just think of all the flash points that emerged on Russia between Trump and Clinton during the campaign. For instance, he wouldn't even acknowledge Russia's role in -- aggressiveness in Crimea and annexing that territory.

Hillary Clinton spoke out very forcefully against it. Hillary Clinton spoke out forcefully in defense of our NATO allies. And he of course went around bad-mouthing NATO.

He went around saying that Putin was a better leader than our own American president at the time, Barack Obama. And even now Donald Trump won't admit Russia's role in meddling in our election. So I think that that was just a little defensive bit of commentary from Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Mr. Urban?


Look, the facts speaks for themselves. Secretary Clinton, her record with the Russians is she sold some uranium to the Russians and wasn't, I don't think, super tough on them, is not a fan, would not have as robust a military as this president has.


I think, Brian, to your point the president doesn't acknowledge meddling in the elections, I think -- Ana gave me a lot of grief on this when we were here last time -- that the president wasn't going to speak to President Putin about it.

The president raised it at the beginning, at the outset of the meeting with President Putin, by all accounts, beat him up on it and we see where that got.



ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In what accounts did he beat him up?


URBAN: Listen, what do you expect from President Putin to say? Oh, sure, we did it? He's not going to acknowledge it.

Maybe that's what you expected, but not what you're going to get. He called him on the carpet on it. He came back from the trip with a cease-fire in Syria, which gets overwhelmed by this mysterious leak just so happened to be perfectly timed for when the president returns from a great trip overseas.

It seems like all these leaks occur, and the bad news occurs when the president has a great State of the Union speech, something that the media goes the other direction. The president returns from a great trip with Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and the media comes.

And here we have another trip. Come back, cease-fire in a very important flash point, raises meddling in the Russian elections, and mysteriously there is a leak of classified information.

TAPPER: You could get all -- not you, but one could get all the bad information out at once. That's a solution to the problem.

URBAN: I don't disagree. I'm a fan of dumping it all, having a really bad week and moving forward, yes, moving forward. And I don't disagree with that.


TAPPER: I want to let you weigh in on the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump on Russia thing.

NAVARRO: First of all, I don't think we could dump all this out in one week. It's been six months, and it does not stop.

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. We can even forget talking about the substance about Syria and Crimea and uranium. Can we just deal with the fact that practically every Russian operative that is briefing, even some that may not be, have met with Trump world representatives -- wait, wait, wait.


NAVARRO: I let you go. So, at this point, it is absolutely impossible, practically, to keep track of just how many meetings there were between the ambassador of Russia here, who we all know was a recruit for spooks, between Russian operatives.

Practically anybody that has ever been close to anything related to Donald Trump met with Russian operatives.

That did not happen with Hillary Clinton. So, we can argue all we want about the substance. What is in front of us is the evidence that Russians were actively trying to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was actively accepting that help.

URBAN: So, I'm not sure that's evidence, right?

We have, I mean this in the nicest way, but a B-list publicist claiming that this is a Russian agent. I don't see -- until I hear proof, until I see a report from Director Mueller that this woman, this lawyer, was an agent for the Russian government -- I mean, you're campaign operatives.

If somebody came to you and said, hey, I have oppo research, some juicy oppo research, we know that DNC did it. They went to the Ukrainian Embassy. If somebody came to you and said that in the Trump campaign, you guys would have rolled on in.


FALLON: Absolutely not. That's not true.

URBAN: Oh, that's not...


TAPPER: Why don't you weigh in on this Ukraine thing because this is a talking point that we hear from Sarah Huckabee Sanders?


URBAN: But it's true. It's not a talking point.

FALLON: No, it's absolutely not true.

This is a conspiracy theory that the Trump campaign and now the Trump White House, unfortunately, is putting out there to distract from their own problems.

The Clinton campaign never interfaced with anybody from the Ukrainian government.


FALLON: DNC is out today denying it.

There is some rumor of some contractor at some point having a conversation with somebody at the Ukrainian Embassy. The DNC is out there today saying, we never accepted, received, asked for any opposition research about Paul Manafort. End of story.


NAVARRO: When there is an e-mail chain between Chelsea Clinton, Huma Abedin, and John Podesta accepting the offer of oppo research on Donald Trump from a geopolitical foe like Russia, then at that point we can start doing equivalency.


URBAN: But that begs the question that this from a geopolitical -- this is from a Russian lawyer. We don't know anything beyond that. We don't know anything. That's a factual statement.

NAVARRO: David, here's the part that is unrefutable.

URBAN: She's a Russian lawyer.


NAVARRO: OK. She's a Russian lawyer.

Donald Trump Jr. accepted the meeting under the pretense, under the offer that she had oppo research on the opponent to offer. Whether she did or not -- and I don't know why anybody would believe Donald Trump Jr. at this point, because he's done nothing but lie about this for the last six months -- but whether you believe him or not, what you cannot argue with is that the offer that was made to him and that he gleefully accepted, said, if this is what you're talking about, I love it, was that that Russia lawyer was going to give him oppo research on his father's opponent. (CROSSTALK)

URBAN: She is a Russian lawyer. We know that. And she said, I may have incriminating evidence on some illegal contributions.

And let me just tell you. Let's take -- if you go in time and think about this, in June of last year, June of that year it was taking place, the Trump campaign wasn't -- Russia was nowhere on the horizon. Let's just remember that, OK?


TAPPER: As a campaign issue.


URBAN: ... horizon of this campaign.

No, Ana, I was involved in the campaign. I was there.

NAVARRO: A couple of -- a couple of weeks later, you were -- they were changing the platform at the GOP Convention.


URBAN: My turn, my turn, my turn. I was there. What we are concerned about during that period of time was a contested convention on the floor, contested debate on the floor. There was no talk of Russia intervention. This is - so if you - it's easy in retrospect, in hindsight to go back and look at this -

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But - I mean, David, you're ignoring the plain text of the e-mail. The e-mail itself, regardless of whether it turns out to be true, maybe the publicist was misrepresenting things, but Donald Trump Jr. took the meeting under the pretense that this was a government lawyer, and that's how the publicist identified this woman.

TAPPER: Russian government.

FALLON: Yes. And that this was part of the Russian government's plan to support Donald Trump's candidacy. So - and he said, I love it. So - I mean -

URBAN: Wait, I would say - so I would say -

FALLON: I want to say one thing in defense of Donald Trump Jr., which may be -

TAPPER: This is breaking news.

URBAN: Here we go. Make sure there is a big crawl at the bottom. Whoever is doing - whoever is doing the (INAUDIBLE), Jake, big crawl.

FALLON: He's taking a lot of heat right now, and understandably, because he was the least discreet on that e-mail thread but do you know who is not getting past over and is not getting anywhere near the same amount of attention, Jared Kushner. He's only one person who's actively serving in the government right now and has an active security clearance that was at that meeting and on that e-mail thread and it's Jared Kushner. Why are we not asking questions about him? He omitted this from his security form, not ones but twice.

URBAN: But he got up and left - he got up and left - he got up and left the meeting after six minutes, five or six minutes from what the account is. I mean, how many meetings -

NAVARRO: Who's (INAUDIBLE), the people who've been lying for six months?

URBAN: - how many meetings - how many did you participate in?

FALLON: To me, here's the strange thing. To me, the strange thing, as New York Times reported last night that this e-mail recently surfaced as part of a review that Jared Kushner's legal team was doing as they were trying to update his security clearance form for the federal government.

URBAN: You filled out SF86, you know how intense -

FALLON: To me, I'd be wondering - if I was Donald Trump Jr., I would be wondering if I had been knifed by my own brother-in-law which not the unusual for the Kushner family.

URBAN: A little - a little palace intrigue which I think you're creating which is not true.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question because all three of you worked on campaigns and I'm actually just - I don't know how any of you are going to answer. Have you ever been approached by somebody promising any opposition research from a foreign government?


NAVARRO: Absolutely not. And not only that, listen, I know the McCain kids very well. I know the Romney kids. There is no doubt in my mind that if any of those kids had been approached the way that Donald Trump Jr. was, they would have absolutely rebuffed it, they would have told their father. This would never have happened which tells me that we really have to question and be troubled by the judgment, the lack of judgment of the people of the White House and around that White House because it shows great lack of moral compass.

TAPPER: Let me - let me just give one - just to have Brian answer the question and then go ahead.

FALLON: Absolutely not. In fact, not only have I never had been approached by anybody representing a foreign government but even usually when U.S. civilians come up to you at an event say something and claim that they have dirt on your opponent, they're usually a whack job.

URBAN: Right. That's true. So I think umbrage in Ana's notion that somehow the Trump children are anything less than total patriots, OK. I know these -

NAVARRO: They lied for six months!

URBAN: Ana, that's your opinion, OK.

NAVARRO: No! He said -

URBAN: Feelings aren't facts.

NAVARRO: - he said there had never been any contact with Russia and we now know that's a lie.

URBAN: I can tell you without a doubt, without equivocation, all the Trump kids, total patriots, love their father and beyond that -


NAVARRO: I don't take issue with them loving their father. I don't take issue with then loving their father.

FALLON: But as recently as - as recently as Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. was trying to tell us that this was a meeting about adoptions. So let's not pretend that he's been transparent. He only released the e- mails yesterday-


FALLON: Right. He only released the e-mails yesterday because the New York Times was hot on his trail.

URBAN: And again, again, listen -

FALLON: To be honest, I don't even give him the benefit of the doubt. Last time he went on Sean Hannity, he said that the President didn't know about this, there was nothing to tell him about because this turned out to be a nothing burger. I don't believe him. I think the President knew. The President - if you look at June 7th -

URBAN: Again, again, again guys, listen.

FALLON: David, on June 7th, he accepts the meeting -

URBAN: Yes, but Brian -

FALLON: - Donald Trump Jr. does, and later that evening the President - now President Trump goes out and says, going to hold a press conference next week and I'm going to announce new dirt on Hillary Clinton. It never happened presumably because the meetings turned out to be -

URBAN: I doubt that that's the basis of it. Let me tell you, contextually, during that time period, the biggest concern was Cruz, Kasich, Rubio -

TAPPER: Fourth fight. URBAN: Yes, there's a fourth fight. That's what was going on. I was

there, I was present, I was inside that tent, OK? I can tell you that's what - that was the main focus of this campaign. Russia was not on the horizon. This was a - this was over the transom. When Director Mueller is done with his investigation, you guys - Democrats are hanging this on this as the biggest bombshell ever, and at the end of the day it's going to - it's going to be a big nothing burger.

TAPPER: We'll see David, Ana, Brian, thanks one and all. Appreciate it. As ISIS loses its grip on its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, CNN has the first journalists actually inside the old city. Stay with us.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with the "NATIONAL LEAD" and the future of the Republican health care bill, which could impact your health care coverage one way or another. It grows more uncertain by the day. President Trump today - said today that he is ready to sign whatever plan Republicans in Congress come up with.


TRUMP: And I'm sitting waiting for that bill to come to my desk. I hope that they do it. They've been promising it for years.


TAPPER: This time tomorrow, Senate Republicans hope to have at least one revised draft ready to consider, but what will be included in it is anyone's guess. Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles who's live for us on Capitol Hill. And Ryan, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, he is slamming ideas that his colleagues are floating saying, they don't amount to a true repeal, this version is worse than the last one, he said.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Jake. And to be clear, Rand Paul has been pretty much against this version of health care reform from the very beginning, at least when it got into the hands of his fellow Senators. But he believes that the changes being floated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make the bill even worse, as you pointed out and he talks about a complete repeal of ObamaCare. He said that is something that he and his colleagues campaigned upon, it's what they promised and he believes that this bill does not deliver on that promise. Take a listen to what he said just a few minutes ago.


[16:55:20] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: All over TV you have Republicans talking about the death spiral of ObamaCare. That is real. But you know how Republicans are going to fix it? By subsidizing it, they're not going to fix the death spiral of ObamaCare -

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: And so, let's show you exactly what we believe will be in this new bill that will be unveiled tomorrow morning. We have talked for a long time about more money to combat the opioid crisis. There could be as much as $45 billion presented in the bill tomorrow. Also the one of the big rubs for Rand Paul, more money to stabilize the ObamaCare insurance market. That's expected to be in there. There aren't expected to be any changes to Medicaid from what Senators have is already proposed and they're also are not going to repeal this tax on wealthy Americans. That's something to keep the moderates at the table. But Jake, it's important to point out, you see these problems that Rand Paul has with the bill. These are problems that many other conservatives have as well. And he says that behind closed doors, they are all grumbling that this is not a full repeal. And you have this major divide between the conservatives and the moderates. It doesn't appear that they're any closer to coming together.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us. Thank you so much. Turning to our "WORLD LEAD" now. Now that Mosul has been liberated from ISIS in Iraq, attention has shifted to Raqqa, the terrorist group self-proclaimed capital in Syria. U.S. backed Syrian rebel forces are charging ahead into the heart of the old city of Raqqa hoping to capture it from ISIS very soon. This is the last symbolic stand of ISIS. CNN was first to go inside the walls of Raqqa's old city. Our Nick Paton Walsh reports from frontlines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is where it ends. ISIS' twisted idea was built on claiming their own state. But now ahead of us, there's just a few square miles of old city streets and urban sprawl left of their capital, Raqqa.

The major threat on this street we're being told is from snipers, although the Syrian and Kurdish forces have pushed further inside the old city and now have positions past its historic old walls.

A few days earlier, surgical coalition airstrikes punched holes through these 1,300-year-old defenses.

They say they don't move forward in daylight because of ISIS snipers but here they are, literary 20 meters away from the historic old city wall of Raqqa, a milestone in the war to rid the Middle East of ISIS. (AUDIO GAP) precision fire power (AUDIO GAP) marked here where civilians are trapped, perhaps as human shields. For some days ISIS has cut off water and everything to them, he says. They told him to stay inside, and if they go out, they'll slaughter them. We're the first journalists they take in.

Over this side, they say they're safe from sniper cover and there is the old city wall right there. Something we just hear regularly throughout the time we're here. Targeting ISIS positions deeper inside Raqqa. They are the foot soldiers in a global fight against ISIS fueled by the hope of U.S. support for a Kurdish homeland nearby afterwards.


WALSH: He didn't vote Trump here, but the White House has let this assault gather pace, whisking through three miles of Raqqa's outskirts in as many weeks to here. It is merely empty. The one civilian we see further out unable to speak, yet her story is in her bloodshot eyes. At least 50,000 other stories of loss and horror are now encircled inside Raqqa, hostage to the question when does ISIS' wolves resolve to die finally break? Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Raqqa, Syria.


TAPPER: Finally for us in our "EARTH MATTERS" series, world maps now need an update after an iceberg the size of entire states of Delaware broke away from Antarctica, scientist say. It's our "EARTH MATTER" story today. The massive iceberg weighs more than 1 trillion tons and the volume would fill Lake Erie twice over. Researchers are concerned this could lead to the collapse of the entire Larsen C Ice Shelf. Scientists are exploring if climate change played a role in expediting the rift.

That's it for THE LEAD today, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Jim Acosta who's in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.