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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
CNN: More People In Trump Jr. Meeting Than Previously Known; Reports: Lobbyist With Alleged Russian Intel Ties Says He Attended Donald Trump Jr. Meeting; Kushner Lawyer Steps Aside From Russia Probe; Source; Kushner Disclosed Russia Meeting In Mid-June. Aired 7- 8p ET.
Aired July 14, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Breaking news, CNN has now learned that at least eight people attended Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer, the latest in the ever changing story about this meeting. What else don't we know? Plus, reports of a Russian American lobbyist with alleged ties to Russian intelligence at that meeting. Who is he?
And the GOP power brokers says donors are starting to get worried. How big of a problem is that for Trump? Let's go out front.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, we are following breaking news. CNN is learning new details about who was in Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer. We now know that at least eight people attended. That's several more than Donald Trump Jr. initially disclosed.
One of the new attendees we're learning about tonight, a Russian American lobbyist, according to the Associated Press. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, he has described this lobbyist as someone who, quote, apparently has ties to Russian intelligence. His work. And a source tells CNN that there were other people in the room as well.
One more twist in the evolving story of that meeting set up with the promise of information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton according to Trump Jr.'s e-mails. Just days ago, Donald Trump Jr. himself said he put it all on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SON: They're trying to drag out the story, Sean. In all fairness. You know, they have it. They want to drip a little bit today, drip a little bit then. So I was like, here it is. I'm more than happy to be transparent about it and I'm more than happy to cooperate with everyone.
SEAN HANNITY, THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW HOST, FOX NEWS: So as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?
TRUMP JR.: This is everything. This is everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: And the President himself tweeted that his son has been open, transparent and innocent. That was on his tweet out of this story. But it appears clearly Donald Trump Jr. has not told the full story. So what else has been left out?
Jim Sciutto was out front tonight. So Jim, what more are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's be clear. This additional participant in the meeting, like other participants, far from inconsequential. He's described himself as a veteran of the soviet army. As you mentioned, the GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year sent a letter raising questions about his ties to Russian intelligence.
In addition to that, he was a very well known lobbyist on a key issue to the Russian government. That is the Magnitsky Act which it places sanctions on Russian individuals who are accused of human rights abuses. That's exactly what the Russian lawyer in the room who was the main participant in the meeting, that is her main issue as well. Why is that important? Because that is a U.S. policy that severely penalizes very powerful Russians and it something that both these people and the Russian government have been seeking to change.
Again, consequential people with influence on an issue of consequence. And that's what you're learning about this additional person in the meeting like the lawyer who set up the meeting. And I don't have to remind you, Kate, that that lawyer who set up the meeting came into that room promising incriminating evidence on Hillary Clinton and speaking of a Russian government plan to help Donald Trump.
BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. That was at least the impression they were given walking in. And that is what Donald Trump Jr. was expecting, according to those e-mails.
SCIUTTO: And welcoming.
BOLDUAN: And welcoming. I love it. We will never forget that quote. Great to see you Jim, thanks so much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: So Jessica Schneider, she's out front now for us at the White House. Jessica, what is the White House saying about this, you know, these ever evolving details of this meeting?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nothing just yet, Kate. No official comment from the White House. The President himself staying similarly silent. He said nothing aboard Air Force One on his way back here to the United States, has said nothing now that he's arrived in New Jersey at his golf club. Also, hasn't said anything about these new details on Twitter.
In the same vein, his son Donald Trump Jr. has not been eager to issue a subsequent statement as he was this past weekend when he issued one statement on Saturday, one on Sunday and the of course released those e-mails and did an interview on Tuesday. Donald trump Jr. saying nothing tonight. Also his lawyer, Futerfas, who said earlier this week that all of this was much adieu about nothing. CNN has reached out to that lawyer. He has not gotten back to us.
But one person who is speaking about this is Michael Caputo, the former Trump campaign communication's advisor. He actually met with the House Intelligence Committee investigators today. He said it was all to set the record straight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATION'S ADVISOR: I had no contact with Russians, and I never heard of anyone in the Trump campaign talking with Russians. But I never was asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anybody about Russia. I never heard the word Russia. And we did not use Russian dressing. There was absolutely no discussion of Russia on the Trump campaign to the day I left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So Michael Caputo speaking extensively there after a meeting with House Intel investigators. He also said that he never, at any point, saw any foreign agents at Trump Tower during the campaign. Now, although the White House is not officially commenting, we do know that top aids here are well aware of this changing story and the changing details to this June 2016 meeting and of course, Kate, they are not happy about the shifting details as they continue to emerge here. Kate.
[19:05:08] BOLDUAN: Well, and plus some of those White House aids and advisors they may be having to face those same questions that Michael Caputo just faced today in light of all these.
Great to see you Jessica, thank you. Out front with me now, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, of course. Senator, thanks for the time.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you. Good to be with you.
BOLDUAN: So as we're learning, more people added to the roster of attending this meeting in Trump Tower. Three new people just today, not previously disclosed, including that Russian-American lobbyist we're learning a little bit more about. What's your take on this, senator?
BLUMENTHAL: More bombshell news as part of a pattern of concealed and secret meetings with the Russians, despite the repeated denials by the President and everyone around him. It really disastrously undercuts their credibility, not to mention Donald Trump Jr., who has said recently all there was to know had already been disclosed.
But even more fundamentally, it strengthens the case for revoking Jared Kushner's security clearance. Here he was at a meeting with a former counter intelligence officer of Russia who, according to that letter from the Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, was described in public report as active in foreign operations, subversive political activities involving hacking and measures that intruded in political operations. So that's exactly what Donald Trump and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner went to that meeting hoping to receive. It's more indication of criminal intent.
BOLDUAN: Well, unfortunately for you, Democrats don't have a say on if Jared Kushner's clearance status. That really in the end is up to the President. But why do you think Senator this story keeps changing? You've been in Washington a long time.
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I've actually been in Washington for about six years. I was the state attorney general of Connecticut and a federal prosecutor before coming to Washington. And the reason I think it keeps changing is that the administration has something to hide. That's the clear indication from this changing story, the contradictions, deception, nondisclosure, promises of the whole truths and then clearly not so.
But here's another witness who ought to be called in my view before the judiciary committee, Mr. Akhmetshin, ought to be called before the Judiciary Committee to tell his story. And he is relevant because his specialty as a Russian lobbyist was, in fact, lifting sanctions. And arguably, that was Vladimir Putin's main objective in possibly offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
BOLDUAN: Do you have any indication that your, you know, your committee chairman will call him? I mean, here's the thing. He's an American citizen. He could be subpoenaed. He definitely could be called to testify before your committee as opposed to some of the others who were in this meeting. Do you think Chuck Grassley is going to ask him to come before the committee?
BLUMENTHAL: Great question. And you are absolutely right. That's the key point here. He is a U.S. citizen. He could be subpoenaed. And the individuals called so far, Donald Trump Jr. And Paul Manafort, lead me to think that this individual will be called as well by Chairman Grassley because I believe he's intent on getting all the truth that we can about this meeting and others. And here's the important point. This meeting likely was not the last on this topic, and likely not the only one.
BOLDUAN: And those are questions that can be asked and should be answered. Here's the thing. This lobbyist, he told the Washington Post that he had become a U.S. citizen back in 2009. And the Russian attorney, also the Hill reports that she came into the U.S. legally. Both of these instances of course would be -- sounds like during the Obama administration. So if they are -- pose a threat to the country, is the Obama administration to blame in any way?
BLUMENTHAL: What we know for sure is they have relevant information. They ought to be sought by the Judiciary Committee to tell their story and what possibly they could have offered. Whether the Russians at that point had the kind of damaging information because they already, according to the timing we know, had hacked into the DNC computers, maybe even the campaign -- Hillary Clinton campaign computers. BOLDUAN: Do you think that's a valid kind of area of inquiry, though, looking into how they got into the country and given legal status?
BLUMENTHAL: If it's relevant to knowing what they were offering, what the purpose of the meeting was, yes. All of the circumstances of their being there ought to be reviewed.
BOLDUAN: Senator, always great to have you. Thanks for your time.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Out front next, why did Jared Kushner take so long to disclose the meeting with the Russian lawyer and that lobbyist, and did he tell the President about it?
[19:10:07] Plus, an influential Republican now saying there is evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Will other Republicans follow? The President back on U.S. soil now at his golf course in Bedminster tonight. Why are there goats there and how are they helping him pay less in taxes?
BOLDUAN: New tonight, one of Jared Kushner's top lawyers stepping aside from the Russian investigation. CNN now confirms that Jamie Gorelick, she will hand over responsibilities to Abbe Lowell, one of the country's top criminal defense attorneys. It comes as Kushner is facing growing questions about why he failed to initially disclose that meeting with the Russian lawyer and Russian-American lobbyist. And did he tell the President about it. Tom Foreman is out front.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inauguration week and the President's son-in-law files his first papers for a security clearance on January 18th. Jared Kushner reveals no contact with any foreigners during the campaign or transition. But the next day he says he hit that send button too soon and will amend that.
In May, according to his lawyer, the papers are updated to show Kushner had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most during the transition. By mid-June, as they prepare for congressional testimony, Kushner's lawyer say they discovered the e-mail from Donald Trump Jr., setting up that meeting last year with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, allegedly to get Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton.
[19:15:15] Kushner attended that meeting, which Donald Jr. now says was a best.
TRUMP JR.: It went nowhere, and it was apparent that that wasn't what the meeting was actually about.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Nonetheless, on June 21st, Kushner amended his security papers again to reflect his attendance at that meeting. And according to a source close to Kushner, he said he was going to tell President Trump. We don't know if he did.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Yet, even as the President calls the Russian lawyer meeting meaningless, he is also saying he learned of it not in June, but only days ago.
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He was not aware of the meeting. Did not attend the meeting. And was only informed about the e-mails very recently by his counsel.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Kushner's late admission of that meeting has spurred sharp interest in all his foreign contacts not initially disclosed, because as an advisor, all meetings with foreigners must be listed.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It seems strange to me that those meetings were at least conveniently forgotten, at least by Mr. Kushner.
HANNITY: How long was the meeting?
TRUMP JR.: Twenty minutes or so.
HANNITY: About 20 minutes. And jarred left after 5 or 10?
TRUMP JR.: Yes.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The Russian lawyer says neither Kushner nor then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort played much of a role.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was the only one I was speaking to.
FOREMAN (voice-over): But amid all the late revelations, Democrats are fuming that Kushner was given security clearance at all.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Anybody else apply for clearance under these facts would be denied that clearance.
FOREMAN: Of the three representatives of Donald Trump whom we now know were in the room with that Russian attorney, only Jared Kushner is now an official advisor to the President and that has put him squarely in the cross hairs of investigators. We're trying to figure out if anyone actually did anything illegal. Kate?
BOLDUAN: That's why the spotlight has turned quickly to Kushner. Great to see you, Tom, thank you.
FOREMAN: Good to see you.
BOLDUAN: Out front now, CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston, Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, Julie Pace and Former White House Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter. Great to see all of you, thanks so much.
Mark, sources close to Kushner's legal team, they told CNN that they began mapping out a strategy in late June, so weeks ago with White House aids over how to manage the disclosure of these e-mails. So is it safe to say then that they knew this would be a problem?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no doubt about it. I mean, if anybody looking at the situation, even if you were not involved in politics intensely as Jared Kushner was not until his father-in-law ran, you would know that this is going to be an issue. The big question, though, is Kate, what White House aids were actually involved in doing it. How big was that circle? Was it actually a very small circle or was it much bigger?
And we still don't know the answer to that. But the bottom line is whatever strategy they might have mapped out in June, if it's the one that they implemented over the weekend, then those people should be fired because it has been an absolute disaster.
BOLDUAN: Well some folks might say maybe Don Jr.' trampled on what their role have played more if you will, with that disclosures of e- mails. But Richard, scrambling to respond to the controversy over the meeting and the e-mails, how much -- how much did White House aids in doing that expose themselves to scrutiny to the special counsel now?
RICHARD PAINTER, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRES. GW BUSH: Well, they certainly have exposed themselves if they lied to anybody inside the United States government. That's a violation of the false statement statute. And this is a very serious situation because this meeting appears to be evidence not only collusion but a quid pro quo because you got lobbyist there who want the sanctions to be released and also people offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
It's pretty clear that there is a quid pro quo being offered by the Russians and the Trump campaign people are showing up at the meeting. The top three people in the Trump campaign. So this meeting is a very damaging revelation. I could see why they might want to cover it up and hope nobody could figure it out. But doing that is itself a criminal offense. So they are in a very, very bad situation right now.
BOLDUAN: Julie, the time line here is becoming more and more important. President Trump, he told Reuters on Wednesday that he only learned about the meeting a couple of days ago (INAUDIBLE). And then here is also one of his attorneys Jay Sekulow speaking on Wednesday as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: The President was not aware and did not attend this meeting and was only made aware of the e-mail, on this chain of e-mails, which he only saw yesterday as it was released. He was made aware of it just in the last really very, very recently by his lawyers. The legal team met with the President to discuss it just literally days ago. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Days ago versus those in the White House knowing about it weeks ago. Is it conceivable, Julie, the White House would keep the President in the dark on something like this?
[19:20:10] JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, look, in past White Houses that I have covered, there is generally a rule of thumb where if something is happening in the White House with a senior advisor or with a policy decision and it is going to be bad when it gets out there in the public, at a certain point it needs to be brought to the President. And generally that happens, you know, within a pretty reasonable amount of time, not on the eve of a story coming out that's going to look bad.
That being said, the Trump administration operates differently. I don't think we can put the same kind of play book in their hands that we've seen from other administrations. But generally a good rule of thumb is if it's going to thumb in then it's going to reflect poorly on the President, whether he was involved in it directly or not, if it involves one of his senior advisors. You would tend to see advisors loop him in earlier.
BOLDUAN: And add this into the mixing (ph), Mark. A person close to Kushner's legal strategy said that they learned of the e-mail chain by mid-June and then he told his lawyers that he planned to sit down with the President to talk about it. It's not clear at this moment if that ever happened.
BOLDUAN: But either way, does this pose a problem for The White House?
PRESTON: Oh, no doubt. I mean, this has really been -- I mean, you can look at a lot of times over the past several months. You can say this was the moment for the white House that was really bad. Well, but this is actually the moment that's really bad for the White House because it's their own words. It was Donald Trump Jr.'s own words.
Now, grant it, he's not in the White House. I understand that. But he is the President's son. Jared Kushner was at the meeting. Jared Kushner is in the White House right now. This isn't an opportunity for detractors of the media to come out and say fake news, because it can't be fake news when it's their own language. It's in e-mails. It is very clear what they were trying to do.
BOLDUAN: So play this out for me, Richard. If Kushner did -- if that meeting did happen and he did lay it out to the President, which would mean the President's tweets are wrong and the President's attorneys are wrong and the Presidents comments on this are wrong, what would that mean for the President?
PAINTER: Well, the real issue is the collusion with the Russians and the quid pro quo that is strongly suggested by these meetings. And these are meetings where former KGB people apparently were there, from what I've heard. So, we need to get to the bottom of the substance, what happened. And to what extent the President during the campaign was aware of the collusion and any potential agreement that they would offer to lift the sanctions in return for damaging information on Hillary Clinton. We don't do that. We don't offer official action in return for monetary contributions to a campaign or contributions in kind to a campaign. I mean, that's bribery.
This is a very serious situation. But I think that while it's important to focus on who knew what, when and where and who said what, when and where, we need to get to the substance of this because this is a -- once again, I said it before, it's treasonous conduct. It may not the prosecutor under the treasonous statute because we don't have a declaration of war but we dealt with this type of conduct during the cold war. And quite frankly a number of these people have claim to a security clearance that's much weaker than Alger Hiss, who keep wanted to go back into the government.
It is a very, very serious situation. And we need to get to the bottom of what happened, who colluded with the Russians, what the quid pro quo was. We know what the deal was the Russians offered, but who in the Trump campaign was on the other side of the deal.
BOLDUAN: So Julie, weigh on this. If that was -- if Trump knew what do we need for him, then if Trump didn't know about this, like you said he didn't, play this out for me. Strategy-wise, genius or crazy?
PACE: Well, look, I think you can argue it two ways. I don't think either is actually good for the President. Either you have a situation that's happening in the White House where he is not aware of what's going on with his top advisors, and in this case someone who is in his family.
PACE: To have a president who is out of the loop is generally not advisable in an administration. Or you have a situation where they know that the information is so damaging that they need to keep it from him and I don't think that puts the administration in a great position either.
BOLDUAN: Yes, protecting him but at what cost when it comes to who's all going to be in the line of fire now. Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.
PRESTON: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Out front next, a closer look at the lobbyist we've been talking about, the lobbyist meeting with Donald Trump Jr. There are reports tonight of his alleged ties to Russian intelligence, so who is he? And a conservative icon says he's seen enough calling the evidence of collusion by Trump aids, damming.
[19:28:14] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, with damming new claims are emerging tonight about another Russian who is now at the center of the controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian lawyer. According to that reports, that individual a lobbyist, with the questionable web of client (ph) who has also been accused of once serving in Soviet Counter Intelligence. Alex Marquardt is out front.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPODENT (voice-over): His name was never mentioned in the e-mail chain setting up Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the supposed Russian government attorney at Trump Tower. Today, the explosive revelation, there was another Russian in that meeting. The Russian-born lobbyist, who is now an American citizen, identified himself to several media outlets as Rinat Akhmetshin.
In April, Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee wrote that Akhmetshin he has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests. Mr. Akhmetshin is a Russian immigrant to the U.S., who has admitted having been a Soviet Counter Intelligence officer. Akhmetshin denies that he was formerly trained as a spy, but told the APN, Washington Post that when he served in the soviet army, his unit was part of the counter intelligence. "At no time have I ever worked for the Russian government or any its agencies", he said. "I was not an intelligence officer. Never."
He is now a registered lobbyist working aggressively in Washington to overturn the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. law that sanctions and blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. It was named for a Russian lawyer who died mysteriously in prison after uncovering $230 million of fraud by Russian officials. Magnitsky worked for American financier Bill Browder, who was the driving force behind the law and who filed the complaint with the Justice Department against Akhmetshin accusing him of working on behalf of the Russian government.
[19:30:03] WILLIAM BROWDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL: All of his actions to date show that he's absolutely clearly working in the interests of the Putin regime and the FSB in order to repeal the Magnitsky Act and create a situation where Russian torturers and murderers can now freely travel again.
MARQUARDT: Akhmetshin's partner to remove the sanctions is Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer initially introduced to Donald Jr. has having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from a Russian prosecutor. She was also named in Browder's complaint. The day of the meeting, according to "The Washington Post" and "A.P.", Veselnitskaya asked Akhmetshin to attend.
BROWDER: They were working together in New York. They were working together in Brussels. They had this big project together. It would have been odd if he hadn't been at the Donald Trump Jr. meeting since this is a project that they had been sort of walking lock-step. And from what I can tell, Rinat Akhmetshin is the U.S. operator. He's the guide in the corridors of power. And so, it completely makes sense that he would have been at that meeting.
MARQUARDT: California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has been critical of the focus on the Trump administration's Russian ties. REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: You're trying to make it look
sinister that he only remembered two of them. Come on!
MARQUARDT: But Congressman Rohrabacher has also been lobbied by Akhmetshin and told CNN in May that he is someone with an ulterior motive, who is involved with people who've got an agenda.
Asked if Akhmetshin is connected to the Russian security services, he said, I would certainly not rule that out.
MARQUARDT: Akhmetshin told "The Washington Post", he became a U.S. citizen eight years ago, but kept his Russian citizenship as well. Despite working on causes that are very much aligned with the Kremlin's interest, he said according to "The A.P.", that he didn't think he needed to register as a foreign agent and has the right to tell Congress his story.
As you might imagine, the Kremlin is staying far away from this saying we don't know anything about this person -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: That's probably the only bit not surprising about how this is unfolding. Thanks, Alex. Great to see you.
OUTFRONT now, Bob Baer, former CIA operative, and Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations.
Great to see you both.
Steve, Alex really laid it out pretty well. From what we are learning about this man, does it sound to you like he's connected to Russian intelligence?
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Well, Kate, I would say that it's almost a moot point. I mean, I think in the intelligence world, we would call him suspect intel. You know, he claims that he was -- didn't work for the Russian government. Yet also claims he worked for the military, which last time I checked was part of the Russian government.
He said he had some counter intelligence responsibilities and need to work in the Baltics. You know, whether or not he was a former or -- sorry, a formal GRU officer, a military intelligence officer, is almost moot, though, because of his connections to the oligarchs that we have heard about, and really anybody who is against the Magnitsky Act is, and is trying to get that change is pro-Kremlin, pro-Putin.
Lastly, I would say when Dana Rohrabacher, who rarely sees a Russian that he doesn't like has concerns about this guy, then there is probably something to be concerned about. Whether he's a former intel officer or not is almost irrelevant.
BOLDUAN: Yes, even House Republicans joke about Dana Rohrabacher's connections with Russia. Bob, this lobbyist denies any connection to Russian intelligence as,
of course, he told "The Washington Post". You say there is no doubt in your mind that he is. Why?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Oh, he is. I mean, you know, the fact that he works out of Moscow essentially, represents Russian interests, was invited to this meeting with Donald Trump Jr., all these connections.
Let's don't forget that Russia is a security state. And if you're dealing in high level politics in Washington, you go back to Moscow or dealing with the Russian embassy, in fact, you come clean with them. You essentially work for them. You work at the behest of the Kremlin one way or another.
And Steve is absolutely right, whether he was -- you know, he had a rank in the GRU --
BAER: -- what he did in the military is totally irrelevant. They use -- the Russians have tons of proxies in New York and Washington and Los Angeles. I know some of them and they make no bones about it. They leave the United States and they go back and report to the Kremlin. It's the way it works.
So, this is highly suspicious and the fact that Senator Grassley considered him a Russian agent, Dana Rohrabacher, he's suspect intel.
BOLDUAN: With that in mind, Steve, there were -- I mean, maybe we call them red flags, if we will. You know, Senator Grassley is saying that, it appears he was acting as unregistered agent of Russia. If there were warning signs, if you will, kind of in the U.S. public, why would Russia want to use someone of his background and profile on something like this?
HALL: Well, it is interesting because when you watch how the Russians work on these type of things, you know, if you are going to take the step of trying to feel out the Trump campaign, trying to feel out the Trump team as to whether or not they're open to having a conversation about collusion, about cooperation with the Russians in order to win the election, then you're not going to want to have a high profile Russian diplomat or Russian intelligence officer.
[19:35:04] You are going to want to have someone who is lower level than that. And yet, the interesting thing about, as Bob (ph) mentioned, is he does have some of the qualifications that you want when you need a discreet, semi-clandestine relationship trying to get established. He's sort of the middle ground. Yet, he clearly has some experience at least in intel-like types of situations.
BOLDUAN: Intel-ish, if you will.
Bob, given the man's past and the concerns raised by lawmakers we see, do you think he should have been able to get U.S. citizenship when he did? BAER: A lot of these people have slipped through, Kate. The FBI had
nothing firm against them. They suspect these people when they come into the United States. They talk to them when they get their green cards. They're investigated a little bit. But without a smoking gun there is not much they could do about it.
Like I said, there's a lot of them in the United States, and they are very useful to the Russians because of plausible deniability. They don't act as Russian intelligence officers. They come in. They may spot and assess, carry reports back to Moscow. But they are not doing anything that's entirely legal. You know, they're just all over.
And, you know, what surprises me is that when he came in and the lawyer to see Donald Trump Jr., they didn't immediately go to the FBI, because if a Russian approaches you saying they're from the government and they want to talk about whatever, you go right to the FBI. It's standard.
BOLDUAN: Steve, play this one out for me, quick, if Russian had information on Hillary Clinton like it was promised in these e-mails, they could have leaked it out without getting the Trump's involved. Why would they get the family and the campaign involved then?
HALL: Oh, I'll tell you, if I'm the Russian intelligence officer who is involved in, you know, trying to get what Russia's goal here was, which is increase the likelihood that Trump would win and that Clinton would not, you're going to do all the things you saw in terms of the propaganda and the hacking into servers.
But the real brass ring is if you can actually get the campaign or the team to cooperate with you because then it is so much easier. You can say, look, here's the information. We don't have to leak it through WikiLeaks. We don't have to, you know, rely on "R.T." and "Sputnik", Russian press outlets, to get this stuff out and hope people listen to it. We could get it straight to the campaign where they can make really good use of it.
It's risky and it's hard. But, you know, it's a great operation if you can pull it off. And they would definitely be interested in doing that. Whether or not they accomplished it yet or whether or not they accomplished it, that's now what has yet to be determined.
BOLDUAN: That's part of the investigation.
Great to see you both.
In the break, I want to know whose cell phone that was and what your ring tone is. I know America is wondering. Great to see you both.
OUTFRONT next, the Trump-Russia scandal, are big donors and loyal conservatives getting nervous. A powerful Republican speaking to them is my guest, coming up.
And President Trump at his New Jersey golf club tonight. Trump claims his golf resorts are worth tens of millions, but tonight, his lawyers say they're worth quite a bit less, in order to get a lower tax bill. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:41:36] BURNETT: Breaking news, the Trump administration is facing growing questions tonight about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer. CNN learning at least eight people were in that meeting. These new developments according to my next guest are causing conservatives to grow increasingly concerned.
OUTFRONT with me now, Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical leader and conservative powerbroker.
Great to see you, Bob.
BOB VANDER PLAATS, EVANGELICAL LEADER: Good to be with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: So this story about Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian attorney, it's evolving or it's changing again. He didn't just meet with an attorney. There were several other people in the room. And according to the reports, this includes a lobbyist with some were saying ties to Russian intelligence now.
With all this, you're talking to some powerful Republican donors, influential people in the party. Is this starting to make them nervous?
VANDER PLAATS: Well, I think what it is and we're going to have a big summit tomorrow where a lot of activists and donors are going to be in attendance. I think what they see is a divided country that's they both jump into conclusions. One is that he's guilty. The other is that he's innocent.
I think what our base is telling us, is let's take a deep breath and see what is is, and if there's any there there, then let's address it. But there is no doubt as the story keeps growing taller on down the line, there continues to be more and more suspicion. So, that's why I think, you know, my message to President Trump would be, keep focused on delivering results for this country. If you are delivering the results, whether it'd be repealing Obamacare or building the infrastructure or anything else, the country is going to be a little bit more forgiving.
But the other thing they need to do is tighten up the leaks in this White House. And -- so, I would say stay on focus, keep the business of the country first and foremost and let's see. We had all these investigations taking place. You've got the House, you have the Senate, you have Mueller's investigation. Let's see what happens here and then let's address it.
BOLDUAN: Complicating matters here is this isn't just the president's son who is at the meeting. It is also his son-in-law who is now a top White House advisor. That has at least one Republican Texas congressman, Bill Flores, saying now, President Trump's kids need to go. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. BILL FLORES (R), TEXAS: I'm going out on a limb here, but I would say I think it would be in the president's best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House. Not only Donald Trump but Ivanka and Jared Kushner.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Bob, do you see his family as a liability now to his presidency?
VANDER PLAATS: You know, I'm not sure if it is the family that's a liability. But if there is anybody, whether it's Jared Kushner or anybody else that is undermining or being a stumbling block to advancing the agenda of President Trump, then I think he's right, they do need to go. But I think to paint a broad brush to say all family members need to go, I'm not sure we're at that conclusion either yet.
BOLDUAN: Do you think with Jared Kushner, it's reached the level at this point?
VANDER PLAATS: You know again, I think that's where we have to let these investigations play themselves out. That's why I'm proud of our Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley, who wants to visit with Donald Jr. He's also one who called out the alert on this Russian-American lobbyist way back in April.
So, he's doing his job. He's going to get to the bottom of this. He's a guy of high integrity and I think when the facts play out, then let's address the facts. But in the meantime, let's focus on the business of this country.
BOLDUAN: You want the president to focus on the business of the country and keep moving. Do you think, though, as some Republicans in the Senate and Congress are saying that this cloud over his administration is getting in the way of that?
[19:45:03] VANDER PLAATS: Without question. There is no doubt it's getting in the way of it. And that's why I think as a leader, leader of the free world, keep advancing your agenda. Keep your team on focus, keep your team on message, minimize the leaks or eliminate the leaks.
But keep advancing the agenda of this country. I think when that happens, good things will happen for this administration while these investigations play out.
BOLDUAN: Yes, keeping that focus might be the hardest thing facing them right now with all of this facing them down.
Great to see you, Bob. Thanks for your time.
VANDER PLAATS: Great to see you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
OUTFRONT next, President Trump already back from France and had one of his golf clubs tonight. This as he's angling to lower his taxes at several of his resorts. We have a special report on that.
And a powerful banker says it's almost an embarrassment to be an American citizen. What made him say that? Be right back.
BOLDUAN: President Trump is at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, tonight, where he is attending the U.S. Women's Open Golf Tournament. Bedminster is just one of 12 resorts that Trump owns in the U.S., and he is waging a war in the courts over how much tax he owes on them.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, a 285-acre luxury state-of-the-art property, good enough for the president to host Japan's prime minister, later golfing on the lush course.
[19:50:09] In federal election filings just last month, the Trump Organization claims its value is more than $50 million. But in the lawsuit filed Thursday against Palm Beach County, Trump's lawyers argue it's worth far less than what the county assesses it at, $18.4 million. In 2014, Trump's lawyers claimed it's worth no more than $5 million.
(on camera): If you lower the value?
PROFESSOR DAVID HERZIG, VALPARAISO SCHOOL OF LAW: If you lower the value, you pay less taxes.
LAH: So, it's about how much you pay the town.
HERZIG: Yes, it's how much you pay the state of Florida and the city and the county of Palm Beach, yes.
LAH (voice-over): It's a year's long pattern repeated practically every year. Public records show Trump has fought the tax assessments on all 12 of his U.S. golf courses except the one in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he gets a farmland tax break for having goats on the property.
The Trump Organization is also suing the small town of Ossining, New York, population 40,000, to lower his taxes on his Westchester golf course, touting a 101-foot waterfall at the 13th hole, Trump National claims it's the most expensive golf hole every constructed. In campaign filings, Trump says the course is worth more than $50 million. But in 2015, his attorneys argued the course was worth far less, only $1.35 million. The tax difference between those two values is about $425,000 a year.
DANA LEVENBERG, OSSINING TOWN SUPERVISOR: I think it's so unfair. Who is going to be paying the difference except for the people of Ossining.
LAH: Trump's lawyers are also fighting the people of Rancho Palos Verdes, south of Los Angeles, home to another luxury golf resort. Public tax documents obtained by CNN show in 2007 the course was worth $67 million. But year after year, Trump filed hundreds of appeals to drop the value of the golf course by tens of millions of dollars.
All those appeals have dropped the value to $27.7 million, down $40 million in nine years.
Multiple tax experts tell CNN that Trump is not alone in what he is doing. Many wealthy people have attorneys fighting to lower their tax burden. But there is an important difference with Donald Trump now.
(on camera): Do you find anything overall problematic since the person we're talking about is the president of the United States?
HERZIG: If you think the system is easily manipulated, why should the average person have to pay taxes or value property properly or pay their fair share?
LAH: Now, CNN did reach out to the Trump Organization for comment about the Jupiter property as well as some of these other golf properties. We did not get a response and, Kate you may recall, though, that the president said to pay as little tax as possible makes him smart.
BOLDUAN: The goat tax break, I like that one. Great the see you, Kyung.
OUTFRONT next, dysfunction in D.C. A Wall Street banker sounds off on, quote, stupid things we have to deal with in the U.S.
[19:55:50] BOLDUAN: Tonight, the Senate health care bill appears to be hanging by a thread. If one more senator says no to it, it wouldn't even get a chance to get a vote on the Senate floor.
President Trump on his way back from Paris made calls to wavering senators, but also he is ratcheting up the pressure on his own party, issuing a series of statements this morning on Twitter, including this one. After all of these years suffering through Obamacare, Republican senators must come through as they have promised.
Trump making clear even before he went overseas, that in his view, it's all on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get together and get it done.
PAT ROBERTSON, CBN NEWS: What will happen if they don't? TRUMP: Well, I don't even want to talk about it, because I think it
would be very bad. I will be very angry about it.
ROBERTSON: Mitch McConnell is a tactician of great skill.
TRUMP: He is.
ROBERTSON: You think he can pull it off? It's his job.
TRUMP: He's got to pull it off. Mitch has to pull it off. He is working very hard. He's got to pull it off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT now, Stephen Moore, former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
So, Steve, the president is putting it on Senate Republicans right now. You've been on the Hill talking to some of these senators about all this. Are they feeling the pressure from the president?
STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISOR, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, first of all, I agree with everything that Trump said in those statements. You know, it's so essential for the party to get this done. It's important for America. But also just Republicans have to realize that if they don't hang together on this, they're going to hang simply and lose. So I think for political and policy reasons, they have to get this done.
Kate, they're very close. They're somewhere around 45, 46 votes. So, yes, there is about five or six that are still undecided. You know, I'm hesitant to almost make any predictions about how this is going to turn out.
BOLDUAN: You're smart.
MOORE: Because on this show back at the start of the year, I said by March, they would have this thing done. So, it's dragged on.
By the way, I think the longer it guess on, the worse it is for Republicans. They've got to get this done. It's a gut check moment for the party.
BOLDUAN: No matter the outcome, doesn't the president bear responsibility too? It seems he is trying to put it on Republicans so much that it's not on him. He ran on this promise just as much as they did, right?
MOORE: Well, that's partly true. I think President Trump made a mistake sort of at the beginning where he listened to the speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell who basically told him right when he became president, look, we'll take care of this. We'll get this done. And it took a lot longer than he expected.
I think it's been a learning curve lesson for Donald Trump about how hard it is to get legislation passed. He needs this W partly because obviously he needs to get Obamacare repealed. The whole health care system is falling apart. But also, you know, the issue I've been working on so fervently and that Trump wants to do is tax reform. And, you know, Kate, you can't get to that until this gets done. So, it's put everything on hold until they get this thing over the finish line.
BOLDUAN: Yes, they might have to improvise, but this doesn't get over the finish line if they want to get there. As, of course, you know, Steve, health care has a huge impact on the economy. I want to ask you about comments that came from the head of J.P. Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, today.
BOLDUAN: He was on a earnings call, and he went off about the dysfunction of Washington. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE DIMON, CEO, J.P. MORGAN CHASE: We have become the most -- one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet. It's almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid (EXPLETIVE DELETED) we have to deal with in this country. At one point, we all have to get our act together or we won't do what we're supposed to do for the average Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: He was talking about the impact of gridlock on economic growth. I mean, this is a guy that was under possible consideration to be Trump's treasury secretary at one point. Is he right?
MOORE: Well, partly he is. I mean, look, is there dysfunction in Washington? Is there gridlock? Yes. It's a town that has a hard time getting anything done? Yes to all those things.
But, you know, it's interesting, Kate. You know, he said that on a day that the stock market hit a new all-time high where you have record amounts of consumer confidence where things seem to be going pretty well with the economy.
So, I mean, Jamie Dimon is making a lot of money on this Trump bounce that we see now that has lasted six or seven months.
BOLDUAN: Final, quick, no time left question. Is the Mitch McConnell bill going to be the one that gets through?
MOORE: I believe it will. When it's going to happen, I can't say. Before Labor Day. Before Labor Day.
BOLDUAN: You're a good betting man. You're a good betting man. Great to see you, Steve. Thanks so much. MOORE: Good. Good to see you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: And thank you all for joining us.
"AC360" starts right now.