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Trump Visits Paris; Trump Defends Son; Kellyanne Conway Uses Props; Trump in Paris; Kushner Omitted Meeting from Form; Republicans Unveil New Health Care Plan. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired July 13, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:18] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and indeed around the world to CNN's special live coverage of President Trump's trip to Paris, France.
In just a few minutes, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will face reporters from both countries in a news conference and we'll see how much the Russia scandal followed the president across the Atlantic.
In a pair of interviews before he left Washington, D.C., President Trump defended his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and again dismissed the, quote, "Russia story," as, quote, "a hoax made up by the Democrats," which, of course, factually is not accurate. Russia's interference in the U.S. election is established fact, at least as far as President Trump's own intelligence community has testified before Congress and the possible collusion by his campaign team is a matter being investigated by the FBI.
This is Trump's second trip to Europe in less than a week. He is helping the French celebrate Bastille Day, which is tomorrow, and he'll also mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, despite suggestions by those around the president, and indeed the president himself, that he may have preferred Macron's challenger in the May presidential election, Marine Le Pen. Mr. Trump's political adviser, Steve Bannon, recently made a friendly overture about Mr. Macron's brand of populist nationalism. This trip is an attempt at what the French might call (INAUDIBLE).
Earlier today, Trump and the first lady toured the military history complex that contains the tomb of Napoleon. Tonight they will dine as a Michelin starred restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Last hour, Trump met with his host, Macron, who says he was also subjected to attempted election interference by the Russians in the May election in France.
It will be interesting to watch the leaders interact. In Mr. Macron's very short time in office, the French president has made headlines for criticizing President Trump for pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change, for mocking Trump's make America great again slogan and for this white-knuckle handshake that Macron later called a moment of truth. CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now live
from Paris. We're also joined by CNN's senior congressional reporter Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
Jeff, let me start with you. First of all, bonjour.
If one wanted to change the subject from Russia investigations and what seems to have been a legislative paralysis, as well as White House dysfunction reportedly, one could do worse than a splashy think to Paris, I suppose?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No question about that, Jake. And when the president accepted this invitation, this was long before anyone knew about those e-mails. So this was something that was in the works. But it certainly offers a change of scenery, no question about that, and that was visible thorough the morning here in Paris. But I'm not sure it changes the subject. And the reason is, Russia, its meddling in elections, it's aggression in the region is something that transcends every country, indeed when a president, Emmanuel Macron was saying this morning that he believes that the Russians meddled in his election as well. That is something that essentially makes this a local issue. So when the president faces questions this hour from two French reporters and two U.S. reporters, he is all but certain to be asked about this, but particularly the Donald Trump Jr. situation. We've not yet heard of president address that on camera in any substantive way. So look for him to certainly be asked that. We'll see if he answers those questions or not.
But, Jake, beyond that I think this - also the imagery this morning so interesting here, going from that handshake in Brussels at the end of May to right now we've seen, you know, a couple friendly pats on the back. It is still a mano a mano sort of, you know, face-off between these two new leaders here. They could not be more different in their policy and their age, other things, but they do have some similar populist strains and the fact that they are both new to government here. But you get the sense that Emmanuel Macron wants to bring President Trump in on his turf, on his stage here. And tomorrow when the Bastille Day Parade is taking place, when President Trump is watching for a couple hours the French military proceed, as well as some smaller U.S. military exhibits, this is going to be a moment for the American president to sit there and watch the French military. It's certainly interesting.
But at this hour there is a bilateral meeting between the two leaders. They're talking about counterterrorism. They're talking about Syria. Those issues unite and align the interests of the U.S. and France. But, of course, so many other ones different. The biggest of which is the Paris Climate Accord. We don't know if that will come up at all. But President Trump has taken so many jabs at Paris. It was sort of a running commentary in the 2016 campaign and beyond saying Paris is not what it to be. I stand with the voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Well, Jake, President Trump is now in Paris and I think he's happy to be here given what it's going on in Washington.
[12:05:015] TAPPER: Yes, of course. In a recent Pew global attitudes poll, only 14 percent of the French people expressed confidence that President Trump would do the right thing in international affairs. Not that he necessarily cares.
Manu Raju, let me ask you, because the Russia investigation is continuing apace. What's the latest on Capitol Hill?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, we're expecting a letter being sent out by the Senate Judiciary Committee as early as today asking for Donald Trump Jr. to testify before that panel as soon as next week. Now, the top Republican on the committee, the chairman, Chuck Grassley, and the top Democrat on the committee, Dianne Feinstein, both told me today that they want Donald Trump Jr. to testify before their panel and not even - not ruling out the threat of subpoenas. Here's what Chuck Grassley said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: What would you want to ask him? What do you want to learn about it? Why is the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to question (ph) him?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, very much because our oversight of the Justice Department. And I think it's just - it's raised a lot of questions. But the real way that I feel comfortable inviting him is ever since I've - ever since President Trump was elected, it seems like every conversation that has come from somebody in the family where there's been some sort of issue, they've seemed always to be very, very open. And I just think that he would welcome the opportunity to say whatever he wants to say. Now I - I -
RAJU: Would you subpoena him or -
GRASSY: I've got to - let's wait and see what he does for - with our letter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Jake, why this is significant is, this is the first time a Republican chairman of a committee has formally invited Donald Trump Jr. to come testify, at least publicly acknowledging that. I've asked Senator Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is running its own investigation. He would not comment about Donald Trump Jr. I asked Mike Conaway, who's leading the House Russia investigation. He would not comment about Donald Trump Jr. But Chuck Grassley clearly asserting himself in this area.
And also, Jake, there's an interest in that same judiciary committee in the Senate side for Paul Manafort also to come before their panel. Manafort, the former campaign chairman who was also at that meeting that Donald Trump Jr. was at with that Russian lawyer. There's an interest in getting him before their panel next week. But, Jake, uncertain if that's going to happen quite yet because Grassley is trying to make sure it does not conflict with Bob Mueller's investigation, to having those conversations right now. But, clearly, a new effort by a key Republican chairman to at least bring some big- name witnesses before and it could also be in a public setting if they agree to testify, Jake.
TAPPER: One should not underestimate or over - understate, let's say, how big a deal this is for the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee to be talking about calling witnesses like this before his committee.
Manu Raju, thanks so much.
Jeff Zeleny, in France, thanks so much.
Let's bring in my panel. We have with us, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Michael Shear.
Folks, let's start with this quote from President Trump talking to Reuters telling him - telling Reuters, the reporter, Steve Holland, that he does not fault his son, Don Jr., for taking that meeting in which he was promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. President Trump saying, quote, "I think many people would have held that meeting. And you have to understand, when that took place, this was before Russia fever. There was no Russia fever back then. That was at the beginning of the campaign more or less. No was no Russia fever," unquote. It is factually true that there was no coverage of Russia interfering in the election before Russia actually began interfering in the election, so I suppose that's true, although I'm not sure exactly what that proves. But this is not an everyday thing. We cover campaigns all the time. I've never heard of anything like this.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes. That's completely right and it's completely beside the point, everything he said there. And the person who undermined that argument was his own FBI director nominee, Chris Wray, who said yesterday, under oath, that it is not OK, and that if anybody got this kind of request, if they work on a campaign, they should know from here on out, as they should have in Trump Tower, you got to call the FBI. It's not OK. I'm not talking about run of the mill opposition research. We're talking about a foreign government, a foreign adversary, reaching out, wanting to give damaging information. I mean that is, by definition, meddling in elections and you're -
TAPPER: Or an attempt to, yes.
BASH: An attempt to, thank you, and agreeing to it, or at least being open to it, is absolutely not OK. Look, Donald Trump Jr. clearly was not - he's very new to politics. Didn't, you know, understand that this was not OK. The fact that they didn't have the wherewithal to contact a lawyer to say, is this - is this weird? Is this not weird? You know, that's going to be probably one of the main things that he's going to be asked about at the hearing, whether it's in public or private, with Chuck Grassley. But the bottom line is that the president is understandably trying to defend his son because he felt that his son was doing this only to help him, but it's not OK.
[12:10:33] TAPPER: Gloria Borger, Donald Trump Jr., in March, said this to "The New York Times" when he had ever been - when he was asked if he'd ever met with any officials from the Russian government. Quote, "did I meet with people that were Russian? I'm sure, I'm sure I did, but not that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in in way, shape or form," unquote. Not true?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
BORGER: False. Not true. He also told you in an interview in July, I believe, that this is all ridiculous, and this is all made up by the -
TAPPER: Yes. Well, 2016, yes.
BORGER: 2016, that this is made up by the Democrats. So now we know that that is demonstrably untrue. And while this may have been before Russian fever, as the president pointed out, it isn't before laws were invented in this country to make sure that we don't have undue influence from foreign nations in our election system.
And another thing I want to point out here is that Donald Trump Jr. is going to have to explain to this committee why in his e-mail exchange he wasn't shocked, outraged, surprised, why he was so casual about his response to his friend, Rob Goldstone, in this. I think that is a - you know, his - it leads you to believe that there may have been other conversations. There clearly, as we know, was a pre-existing relationship. Did they talk on the phone? I think that's what the committee is going to try and sort of flesh out here.
TAPPER: And, Nia Malika, let me ask you, Kellyanne Conway went on Fox last night to knock down allegations of collusion. I'll ask you how effective you this this is. She - she pulled a Gallagher, as it were, a carrot top, and did - and did it - did it with - did it with props. Let's roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I just want to review, in case you run out of time, this is how I see it so far. This is to help all the people at home. What's the conclusion? Collusion? No. We don't have that yet. I see illusion and delusion. So just so we're clear, everyone, four words, conclusion collusion, no. Illusion, delusion, yes. I just thought we'd have some fun with words. Sesame's Grover word of the day perhaps, Sean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Looks like an SAT (ph) test to me.
TAPPER: I don't even know what to say. Yes.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, you know, a shout-out to Grover. That's probably the best thing about that.
Other than that, you know, I think it's clearly a work in progress, them trying to figure out how to respond to this. It's essentially from the top down. Donald Trump is insisting that this is a Democratic hoax. There's no there there. And so that is all that they're left with. So there she resorts to props. I don't think it's very effective. I think they've got to figure out how to respond to this. What is the messaging?
But even, I think, aside from the messages, there is still the matter of an investigation, a legal investigation into what happened all these many months. Was there collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? So, you know, they can go on Fox and be cute and have, you know, sort of illusion and collusion in props all they want. It's not really going to help them in terms of the legal case and the legal jeopardy they might be in.
TAPPER: Let me just take a break right here and go to France, to CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray, who joins me now from Elysee Palace in Paris.
Sara, give us a sense of what's going on in the room, what we're about to see, and how the Trump team is handling everything.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're waiting for President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron to wrap up their bilateral meeting. They are in that right now. Of course, that's where we expect them to deal with some of the meatier, the more substantial issues on this agenda. What to do in Syria, as well as counterterrorism efforts.
After that, they'll be joining us here in this room to take questions from the American press and the French press. Two questions from the American press. Two questions from the French press. This was originally slated to be outdoors, but the weather is not necessarily cooperating today in Paris, so we've moved into this very palatial room. We'll be awaiting them.
Now, obviously, this will be the first time that we'll be seeing President Trump in front of the cameras, in front of a broader press corps, and he's likely to face questions about this meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and this Russian lawyer that occurred last summer. He has made some comments about the fact that he does not blame his son for taking this meeting in other interviews, but it will be interesting to see if he's pressed more broadly on the credibility question as to why people should take his word that there is no collusion or take his word that there are no other meetings when, in fact, we saw blanket denials from a number of officials in the Trump administration saying there were no meetings with Russians whatsoever. And, Jake, obviously, as you know, we've seen a drip, drip, drip of revelations that prove otherwise.
[12:15:16] TAPPER: Drip, drip, drip, a term used by Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, a strong conservative, not known for criticizing the Trump administration.
Sara Murray at the Elysee Palace, thank you so much.
Michael, let me go to you because their - Don Trump Jr. was not the only person in that meeting. Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, and Jared Kushner, who currently is a senior adviser to President Trump, were in that meeting. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be revoked. Here's how the White House is responding to critics who say that Jared Kushner's security clearance should are revoked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: He was part of that e-mail chain. He knew what that meeting was about and knew what was promised. What do you say to Democrats who say that Jared Kushner's security clearance should be revoked?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ah, once again, we don't discuss security clearances, but I think Democrats are trying to play political games, and I think it's ridiculous.
REPORTER: Is there any concern over the top adviser to the president -
SANDERS: Did nothing wrong? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Is it possible at all that he could lose his security clearance, or there could be any repercussion for his attending this meeting that, if you read the e-mail was very clear, it was billed as Russian government incriminating information on Hillary. Here's a Russian government lawyer. Let's have a meeting.
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I don't know what the specific procedures are for revoking somebody's security clearance. My sense is that these things don't happen lightly and that the great likelihood is that he will keep his.
I do think, though, that the presence of those two folks, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, in that meeting raises the stakes a lot higher than it would otherwise be for this White House because - because if it was just Don Jr., and I say just in quotes, right, I mean he is the son of the current president, but he's not in the White House currently. He didn't have a formalized role in the campaign. With the - with the other two gentlemen, you do have both of those things. You have the - one of the most senior advisers in the White House and you have the fellow who ran the campaign for a time. And I think that raises the stakes connecting the dots directly to the president and the president's campaign. And I think that's what raises those stakes legally on this and politically.
BASH: And, keep in mind, the only reason we know that these e-mails exist is because Jared Kushner's attorneys were going through his documents, his e-mails, to prepare for Kushner to go up to The Hill. He was the only guy that the investigators on Capitol Hill wanted to talk to, not Don Jr., before they saw the e-mail. When the lawyers saw this e-mail, they showed it to Jared, and, you know, the rest is still - we're trying to sort of suss out exactly how it happened.
BASH: But the bottom line here is, even before this, Jared Kushner was already being looked at for this meeting and other meetings that he had, and maybe even things that we don't know about yet. We only know what is in public.
TAPPER: And the reason that the security clearance is especially relevant, not just because of judgment or whatever, it has to do with the fact that the reason that we know about this is because Jared Kushner was updating his security clearance -
TAPPER: Which is supposed to -
TAPPER: Which is supposed to provide information about how many meetings you've had with people from other countries.
TAPPER: And he had omitted this meeting and I believe two others -
TAPPER: From his security clearance.
BORGER: Well, he -
BASH: He didn't put any in there.
BORGER: He did any - all of them.
BORGER: In his - in his first form, he had omitted all of them. It was updated the next day to say, we will provide you the details of these meetings over the winter and the spring. They updated it with more than 100 contacts. And then, just recently, on June 21, they updated it to include the meeting with the Russian lawyer. And, by the way, I believe, I was told, that he still has only an interim clearance. He has not - he does not have full clearance. People get interim clearances in the White House when they're not done with their security interviews and he had a couple of interviews at the end of June.
TAPPER: I believe that the interim clearance or temporary clearance is - it's only really at secret level, which is basically just access to diplomatic cables. You don't get really any intelligence at all, no signals intelligence, no human intelligence, no allied intelligence, et cetera.
Everyone stick around. We're going to keep talking about this. We're going to take a quick break.
Up next, President Trump about to hold his first news conference since the scandal over his son Donald Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer came to light. What might he say about that? Can he get the focus back on his trip to France and bilateral relation with Emmanuel Macron? We're standing by.
Plus, we'll have new details on the Senate Republican leadership's health care legislation. We'll go to Capitol Hill next. Stay with us.
[12:23:48] TAPPER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're looking right now at live pictures of the Elysee Palace, the home of French President Emmanuel Macron. We are waiting for him and for President Trump to emerge from their bilateral meeting and to come to the lecterns. They will make statements and we're told that they will take questions. We'll bring that to you live.
Also moments ago, this video came in to CNN of President Trump and President Macron's meeting. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) remove the (INAUDIBLE) so we'll just sit down for (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the handshake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, that was really edifying. Back on U.S. - back on U.S. soil, senators on Capitol Hill went into a closed door briefing to hear details of the revised Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The rank and file Republicans in the Senate have largely been shut out of this process. Many of them are complaining about that. Some are just now finding out what is in this draft pretty much at the same time you are.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill.
Ryan, you have the draft bill in hand. What are the major changes here?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, not too many surprises in this bill that was just released in the last hour. And, you're right, there were many senators this morning who were saying that they had not even seen the contents of this bill, so they're reading it just as we are.
[12:25:09] But let's take a look at some of the highlights that you mentioned. One of the most important parts of this newly revised bill is that there really aren't that many changes as it relates to Medicaid. Those deep cuts to Medicaid that were in place in the original version of this health care reform bill stay in place. That's going to be a tough sell for a lot of moderates who said that they were very concerned about the Medicaid component, so no big change there.
There is a provision that has been put in, largely spearheaded by conservatives, that's going to allow for an option for a low premium catastrophic plans that don't currently exist in the health care market. This is something that Ted Cruz has really spear-headed. There's also a provision under there that will allow these insurance plans to be sold parallel to Obamacare insurance plans but without those necessary regulations. But we're still working through the fine details of that aspect of it.
The tax cuts for wealthy Americans that were thought were going to be repealed, they're going to stay in place. That's an outreach to moderates who believed that that was too toxic of a provision to be put in the bill. So that's going to stay there.
This is a key aspect of the bill that's going to now be a part of it, and that is allowing people to use their health savings accounts to pay for their premiums. Under the Affordable Care Act, you were not allowed to do that. That's been a big push. And Republicans of all stripes seem to support that.
And then, finally, there is a significant amount of funding that is going to be put in there to combat the opioid crisis, some $45 billion. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has pushed for that.
But, Jake, we should really emphasize that a lot of these changes are really on the margins and it's hard to imagine right now, and we're not going to get a response to some of these Republican senators until later this afternoon to see how this moves the ball all that much. The kind of big, big issues that they've been fighting about, there isn't much of a change there. And we heard from Senator Rand Paul yesterday who - he doesn't believe from the conservative end that this is really a full repeal.
So they're trying to find some middle ground here with this bill. We're not going to know for sure how these senators are reacting until they emerge from this closed-door meeting later this afternoon. Jake.
TAPPER: All right, thanks, Ryan Nobles, on Capitol Hill.
I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
And, Dana, first of all, just a reminder to our viewers, there are 52 Republicans. They can't lose more than two Republicans on this bill. And there are different coalitions. There are the conservatives, Ted Cruz. Mike Lee, Rand Paul. There are the more moderates, like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. In addition, I know you have some reporting on Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana working separately on a compromise bill. Tell us about that.
BASH: That's right. And it's kind of - more of an alternative bill, if what Ryan was just reporting on simply can't get the 50 votes, which is what they need, the 50 Republican votes to pass the Senate. And the difference, I would say, between what they're talking about now, the kind of current Republican bill, and this alternative, is that they would take the money and take the policy and send it back to the states.
It's modeled on welfare reform back in 1996 and the idea is to let the governors really dictate how health care will be run in their states. Make it state-by-state. The initial idea was something that they actually just adopted in the - in the other bill, which is to use the money that - that is - the taxes on wealthy Americans. One of the major issues with the current bill and one of the reasons why Republicans are twisted into many, many pretzels is, was, number one, because it was very hard to sell the notion of keeping - excuse me, repealing taxes for the wealthy and cutting benefits for people who need it. That is not - that -
TAPPER: For poor people.
BASH: For poor people.
BASH: For poor people and even people who aren't that poor but just - but just, you know, can't afford these kind of health care -
TAPPER: Especially the disabled, who have been very vocal in their criticisms and protests on Capitol Hill.
BASH: Exactly. Exactly. That's one. But the other more fundamental problem is that what Republicans, from the House bill to the Senate now have been trying to do is they've been trying to come up with a replacement bill based on the Obamacare template, which fundamentally no Republican senator agrees with because it's federalizing the concept of health care. And so what these - what these senators are hoping is that by taking it out of that approach, changing it to block grant, that it could help.
It is a hail Mary politically. They're working with Republican governors and they think that those would be the key, because a lot of Republican governors are really calling the shots with their senators, whether or not things can happen. Like Brian Sandoval, for example, in Nevada. And so it's up in the air. The name of the game is to get to 50. And the reality is, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, talked to people behind - who talked to them behind closed doors, he doesn't really care what this bill looks like, he just want it to be able to be something that will work and pass.
TAPPER: And - but doesn't having this Graham/Cassidy alternative, does that undermine the chances of the bill that McConnell and the Republican leadership are pushing?