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Lawmakers To Request More Docs From Kushner Trump Jr; DEMS Calls To Revoke Kushner's Clearance "Immediately"; Senate GOP Has No Votes To Spare On Health Bill; Republicans Face Off Over Revised Health Care Bill; Interview with Rep. Trent Franks. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 14, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:05] JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela. President Trump, as you said, did wrap up his whirlwind trip of Paris here after spending some 30 hours or so here in Paris.
But I can tell you a lot that was certainly among the White House staff and others consumed with questions and wonder and even worry in some regards about that Russia investigation still looming and, in fact, expanding in Washington.
Now, we heard the president yesterday gave a vigorous defense, a fatherly defense, if you will, of his son. He called him, you know, a good man, a, you know, a young boy. Well, the reality is he is just the exact same age as the new French President, Emmanuel Macron. So, certainly not a boy.
But, Pamela, this is coming at a moment where there are more and more questions focusing on, again, that meeting on June 9th, 2016. That meeting between Donald Trump Jr as well as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort with the Russian lawyer.
Now, there's, you know, had been a lot of discussion about when people knew about that meeting. Well, the timing has been up to some dispute. The White House insists the president did not know about it until the New York Times reported it last week. But we are getting worried that that may not be the actual chain of events here.
Now, we do know that Jared Kushner's legal team was advised of this, has been talking about this, strategizing about this since mid-June, for about a month or so. So, it really raises the question here, when the president and his lawyers were brought into the loop on this.
Now, we could get some more answers to shine some more light on this next week, if Donald Trump Jr. appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee as Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, hopes that he will.
And Pamela, this is all coming as there are more questions from conservatives about the meeting. Because the meeting of June 2016, its significance in all of this is that ties for the first time that there was an actual meeting between the Trump high command and officials from the Russian government or Russian lawyers here. Now, it certainly flies in the face of everything that President Trump has argued over the last year. So, we're even seeing conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer, very respected in the conservative view of things who are, you know, essentially saying that this is a new moment and that this scandal is now actually real. It's not a hoax as the president has argued so many times.
So, a big week coming up next week potentially on Capitol Hill for the president's oldest son. Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you for bringing us the latest there from Paris.
So, as Jeff pointed out this morning, there are looming questions and more questions really than answers for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Senate Intel Committee revealing, it has requested more records from Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. This as top Democrats double down on their call for Kushner's security clearance to be revoked immediately.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now with more. So, what are you learning, Shimon?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So, that's right. You know, yesterday, Senator Blumenthal was out saying that he wanted Kushner's security clearance revoked, even at one point saying he should resign.
And now, this morning, Nancy Pelosi held a press conference just a short time ago saying the same. Basically, they need to know more, that his clearance, that Kushner's clearance needs to be revoked. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIODE CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI, (D), CALIFORNIA: The revoking of the security clearance for Jared Kushner. It's absolutely ridiculous that he should have that clearance. It's not justified in any way.
The president could revoke it in a moment and he should. But, Congress should call up. And Republicans and Congress should stop hiding from the truth and stop hiding the truth from the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, that was Nancy Pelosi this morning. So far, we have not really heard from any of the -- anyone on the Republican side, certainly none on the lawmakers calling for his security clearance to be revoked.
And Pamela, as you know, I mean really there's not much anyone can do unless the president, that's President Donald Trump, you know, his father-in-law, decides. Do you know what? This is too much of an issue. Let me start to sort of maybe, you know, remove some of his clearance, start remove some of his power in the White House. But until then, really, there's not much anyone can do. Certainly, the FBI is not in the position to revoke it. And they're not going to do anything that's going to mess with the sort of the way the president is trying to conduct business.
BROWN: But clearly, that won't stop Democrats on Capitol Hill from calling for it. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.
And let's discuss with Paul Callan, CNN Legal Analyst, David Sanger, CNN Political and National Security Analyst, and Rebecca Berg, CNN Political Analyst and National Political Reporter for RealClear Politics.
Thank you all for coming on this Friday.
Paul, I'm going to start with you this morning. How crucial is this timeline of when Jared Kushner's legal team found out, when President Trump's single team found out, and why will it matter to investigators?
[10:05:01] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's critical because you, first of all, have the issue of security clearances and when forms were filled out regarding those security clearances.
One of the things Mueller would be looking at was were those forms honestly filled out and do they honestly list important meetings that Kushner and others may have had with foreign officials. Obviously, a meeting suggested allegedly by the Russian government in the Trump Tower would be an important meeting.
So, the timeline is going to be very, very important to investigators. And also, there's a missing phone call that is referred to in the e- mail chain that Donald Trump Jr. participated in.
We don't know if a phone call was made, when the phone call was made setting up the meeting. So, a lot of these are critical factual issues that have to be explored.
BROWN: And just to point out, Don Jr's lawyer as well as the Agalarov lawyer denied that there was ever a phone call in that timeframe. However, the Agalarov's lawyer told me last night that there was a phone call between Emin and Don Jr. a few months before. So, still a lot to look at in that regard.
And I'm going to go to you, David Sanger, because the security clearance issue is issue is being brought up again. Paul was just talking about it. Jared Kushner first gave it in January, the form, and then amended it twice.
If it wasn't Jared Kushner, if it was someone else in the National Security Community, how problematic would that be? You heard Nancy Pelosi say his security clearance is not justified.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It would be medium problematic. It wouldn't be the first time that people who meet a lot of foreigners have to update their forms. The difference is for Mr. Kushner is that by the time they asked for that and you were asking a fairly specific set of questions and a meeting with Russian nationals, particularly one identified in this e- mail as being a representative of the Russian government, whether she was or she wasn't, would seem to be something that would stand out.
The same issue has come up in some ways for the attorney general who also left off his security clearance form. He said on the advice of Council, the meetings that he took while he was senator and in his capacity. But it's a harder argument to make in Jared Kushner's case.
I think in the end, Pamela, the bigger issue here isn't going to be what was on the form, what wasn't on the form, what was in the phone call or not. It's going to be the fundamental fact that the e-mail that it invited everybody to this meeting said that this was material on Hillary Clinton being supplied by a -- the Russian Court, essentially, that essentially the Russian government. And that's what should have set off all of the alarm bells.
BROWN: And because, I mean, you look so many months later, the intelligence committee then came out and said it believed the Russian government was trying to support the Trump campaign.
Rebecca, to you now, in line of all of this, there's this peculiar moment from the campaign trail. It happened June of last year, four days after the e-mail promising dirt on Clinton and two days before the meeting took place. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week. And we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you are going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, that never happened. That press conference never happened that he alluded to. Rebecca, knowing what we know now, does that raise questions for you about when President Trump knew about this meeting?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITCAL ANALYST: No, doubt about it, Pamela, because this was really the first major instance that Donald Trump started discussing potential dirt on the Clinton's and threatened to use it in a campaign setting.
Now, the fact that he never did, raises more questions. Why did he decide not to? Why did his campaign decide not to? Was it because they went to this meeting and there was no dirt to be had? We're not sure.
But the fact that he started talking about this shortly after this meeting was being arranged does raise the question of did he know about it. And Don Jr. says he did not tell his father. But Don Jr. is also being invited or is being requested rather that he's going to testify before Congress.
At some point, that testimony publicly will be under oath, and so it will be interesting to see if in that setting that story changes at all. Because to this date, he's, you know, given us a few versions of events. They've change subsequently. But when you are under oath, that's a whole different thing entirely.
BROWN: Different game. And I talked to his attorney last night, he said that now, they're doing a factual examination going through the past e-mails, going through phone records to make sure that his recollection of everything is in fact accurate.
[10:10:02] Paul, one of the challenges though for the president's legal team is that their client does what he wants. I mean, the Washington Post describes the challenge facing his legal team as managing the unmanageable.
Is President Trump his own worst enemy here?
CALLAN: He's a difficult client for any lawyer to deal with. I mean, most lawyers would say, please don't be making public statements about this until we go through all the e-mails and get the facts straight. But of course the president is constantly making speeches and twitting, you know, in the middle of the night about these things, kind of backing the lawyers into a corner.
So, it's a -- he's a tough client. And frankly, you know, he may get his son in trouble or he may get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in trouble. Because remember, they're going to be looking at what did Kushner know, what did Paul Manafort know about this situation and when did they know it.
BROWN: And what's fascinating about this, David Sanger, as my colleague Adam Perez reported, is now you have this scenario where White House aides, even the president who helped cracked this initial statement according to sources talking to. Now, they're sort of dragged into this probe because they could be called as witnesses by Robert Mueller.
SANGER: You know, it's always the same case in these investigations. It's the how you react with the investigator's questions, and whether that creates new issues, and so forth. And in this case, it could well.
I just wanted to go back from a long time ago to a point, you know, the panelists were being made, which is what happened in that time period? So, you played the clip of the president promising a press conference about Hillary Clinton. That conference didn't happen.
But what did happen over the next month was a series of proclamations by the president or by the then candidate Trump, that the Russians would have seen as somewhat pleasing. And we just don't know whether that reflected any further effort to try to draw them in or any kind of direction. We simply don't know.
But in an interview that I did with them with Maggie Haberman, he talked about not coming to the defense of NATO countries if they haven't paid off. That obviously played right into the Russian's hands.
It was this time period where that he called for the Russians, jokingly he says, to go get Hillary Clinton's 32,000 e-mails. It was during this time period he was asked whether he might recognize the Russian seizure of Crimea. And he said, we're looking into it.
Now, they haven't done that. In fact, they said the opposite. But it was a fascinating period of time in July of last year when all these positions was suddenly in play.
BROWN: Interesting historical context there. David Sanger, Paul Callan, Rebecca Berg, thank you.
And still ahead on this Friday morning, new threats from the Kremlin. Russia warning of retaliation if their diplomatic properties in the U.S. are not returned. We are live from Moscow.
And what's in a handshake? As President Trump heads back to the U.S., we take a closer look at the evolving relationship between Trump and President Macron.
[10:17:29] BROWN: No votes to spare. That's the situation facing Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as he scrambles to get his fellow Republicans onboard with the latest plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Two prominent lawmakers, his fellow Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul, along with Susan Collins of Maine already say they don't want even to debate the bill onto the floor, let alone vote for it.
MJ Lee is tracking all of the latest developments. She joins me now from Capitol Hill. So, what are you learning MJ?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, Pam. Well, Mitch McConnell quite literally has no room for error as you mentioned. Already, two Senate Republicans have come out to say that they would vote against the motion to proceed.
What that means, of course, is that McConnell cannot lose another Senate Republican if he wants to move forward on this bill. Now, as though McConnell needed more pressure, President Trump weighing in this morning on the healthcare issue from his overseas trip.
He said on Air Force One that the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and Palestinians is healthcare. And he also sent out a series of tweets, one of which read, Republican senators must come through as they have promised.
Now, it's noteworthy, Pam, that this bill not sitting well with a lot of Senate Republicans despite the fact that Mitch McConnell decided to make some notable changes to the bill. Of those changes, of course, includes the option for insurance companies to offer less expensive and skimpier plans and the $45 billion in extra funding to go towards opioid treatment.
But one change, Pam, that McConnell did not make was to Medicaid. This is an issue that really has a lot of moderate Republicans very worked up and very worried. They did not like how steep the cuts were in the original bill and they had hoped to see those cuts be a little bit less.
McConnell, again, did not make those changes. That is why we saw a number of Senate Republicans including Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito, those members huddling again with McConnell yesterday after he unveiled that bill.
And of course, one thing that they are going to be all watching very closely is the updated score from the Congressional Budget Office to see if there are any positive headlines, any silver linings in that report next week.
That, again, is expected sometime early next week, and a lot of Senate Republicans will be paying close attention. Pam?
BROWN: MJ Lee bringing us the latest there. It is very clear that McConnell is walking a tight rope right now. Thank you so much, MJ.
And here to discuss this and more, Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona. Congressman, thanks for coming on.
SEN. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me, Pamela. I appreciate it.
[10:19:58] BROWN: So first question on the hills of what we've heard from MJ, repealing Obamacare has been at the core of the Republican strategy election, campaign, policy prescriptions and more really for seven years now.
BROWN: What is the impact on your party if this can't get done?
FRANKS: Well, I think it's very significant. And I think probably the untold story here, Pamela, is that right now, they're trying to put a bill together under reconciliation there which is controlled -- not to be too esoterically controlled by the Byrd Rule. And that means that there's really no room for lateral negotiation. It makes it very hard to get a bill passed in that kind of environment. And the reason that that's necessary is because the 60- vote rule in the Senate doesn't allow for regular order.
And we have the same challenge in the House where we have to try to sort of shape our bills to fit through this weirded process in the Senate that none of the American people really understand. And has become so outdated and so impossible in this polarized environment that it makes legislation either dirt in ice cream or nonexistent.
And we literally can't get things to the floor in the Senate anymore under regular order. I think the Senate may be one of the few major parliamentary bodies in the world now where the majority cannot bring a bill to the floor for debate and amendment under their own power. And that's pretty -- that's a unique situation.
BROWN: All right. I want to turn to what Nancy Pelosi said just in the last hour. She said that Republicans are enablers when it comes to the White House and Russia. Do you agree?
FRANKS: Well, no. Obviously, I don't. But I think that, you know, in all due difference to Ms. Pelosi, I don't think Democrats could find Russia on a map until they found out or concluded that it could somehow be used to beat up Donald Trump.
And I mean, that's all they talked about, even this latest situation. I mean, I've had -- I don't know how many thousands of dollars spent on me doing opposition research. And I think if --
BROWN: But this is a foreign government. I mean, this is the President's son --
FRANKS: Well, that's what I'm saying.
BROWN: -- going to a meeting under the pretext that a foreign government was trying to help the Trump campaign by offering dirt on the opponent. I mean, that is not --
BROWN: And talking to several people on both sides of the aisle who have dealt with campaigns, that is not normal practice.
FRANKS: No. But I think if my opponents had thought that, you know, some Russian told my opponents that they had information on me, I'm sure that they'd been glad to take the meeting. I think a lot of people would have taken the meeting. Now, but he would be --
BROWN: If that happened to you, would you have asked for legal advice? OK, go ahead.
FRANKS: The key would be that if there was something that he learned that was illegally obtained or was somehow an attempt to, you know, create espionage, then he would have the right and the -- not only the right, but the responsibility to turn that over to the legal authorities.
I guess it never came to that, so we don't know anything along those lines. But you are right. If there was something where there was some illegality that occurred, then he had the responsibility. I don't think there's a statute anyone could say he broke. But I suppose time will tell.
BROWN: It's interesting that you hear Christopher Wray that the president's nominee for the FBI director saying that if someone -- you know, someone should go to the FBI or seek legal council before taking a meeting like that.
And we've also heard in the wake of this that these calls for Jared Kushner to lose his security clearance, others say he should be fired. What do you think, at a minimum, should happen given these new revelations?
FRANKS: Well, I think bottom line is we need to find out what the facts are. And I think as has been so far, that they will indicate if there were no laws broken. And, you know, there was no attention brought when Mr. Obama sent taxpayer dollars overseas to Israel to literally try to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu.
We didn't hear much about that. But that was taxpayer dollars. So, I don't think that this is going to come to anything, but the facts are always the key.
BROWN: And I know that there is frustration among Republicans on Capitol Hill that this sort of put the cloud over the work that you're doing. But at the same time, do you have frustration that from people -- direct to people in the White House such as Jared Kushner for not being more transparent earlier.
Because this additional meeting, according to sources, was discovered in June, six months after Jared Kushner first provided his security clearance form, after they looked at e-mails.
Are you frustrated that wasn't done sooner, that they weren't more transparent sooner? Because had that been the case, perhaps, this wouldn't be unfolding the way it is right now.
FRANKS: Well, you know, I recognize that this administration is unique and that it wasn't really spawned out of the political class. And so, they don't have as many experiential references to point to.
But I'm much more frustrated in that we can't seem to actually speak of the issues facing the country. I mean, we can't speak -- seem to -- I'm on the nuclear committee here and I see some profound implications for America on the horizon.
[10:25:05] And yet, my friends on the left, all they can talk about is Russia, where they never talked about Russia when they were a real threat to the United States.
BROWN: But what about the president? What about the president? I mean, he tweets about it. He, you know, attacks the media. Does that frustrate you because he's not always --
FRANKS: Well, this president -- it's fair to say that this president doesn't speak diplomat. But I think the American people realize, at his core, that the man wants to do what's right for America, that he wants to defend our country, that he wants to defend the constitution, he wants to see the economy grow so that everyone can be part of this amazing miracle called America.
I'm convinced to that with everything in me. And I didn't start out a Trump supporter. But the more I know the guy, the more I see that, at his core, I think that he is truly committed to America and to each person that wants to uphold it and see the dream of the Founding Fathers be manifest.
BROWN: All right. Congressman Trent Franks, thank you very much. Have a great weekend.
FRANKS: Pamela, thank you, my lady. Thank you.
BROWN: Well, Russia is signaling that they may consider expelling U.S. diplomats if they don't get what they're asking for from Washington. Up next, a look at what they want.