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Trump: GOP Bill Will Get Even Better At Lunchtime; Dems Ask FBI To Review Ivanka Trump's Security Clearance. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:40] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. This morning a tale of two meetings, two awkward meetings for the White House. One awkward for what we know about it, and the second awkward for what we did not know.

Republican senators, all of them, summoned to the White House for a special lunch with the President in just a little bit. The kind of special that deals with how Republican efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare went up in flames after seven years of promises.

HARLOW: Indeed. The Senate Majority Leader has now called a vote for Monday that seems all but certain to fail. And if the healthcare system in the United States crumbles, well, the President of the United States now says that's not on him.

The lunch meeting today is on the schedule and transparent. The other meeting, not so much. The White House now confirms the President held a second previously completely undisclosed meeting with Russia's President, Vladimir Putin.

This was at dinner at the G20. It lasted about an hour. The official calls it brief, but White House officials are telling CNN, nearly an hour.

And as for what were discussed, we might never know because no other American was present. No interpreter, no record taken.

First, though, this morning, breaking news on healthcare. An intriguing new statement from the President.

The Republicans never discussed how good their healthcare bill is and it will get even better at lunchtime. The Dems scream death as OCare dies.

M.J. Lee joins us from Capitol Hill. So what does that mean, a third stab at this? Is that what the President is saying?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, certainly, Poppy, this has been a really, really rough week for Republicans in their attempts to make some kind of progress on healthcare.

Just to remind you, remember that going back to before the July 4th recess, that was when Mitch McConnell wanted to have his first vote on a repeal and replace bill. He did not have the votes for that.

And then when folks came back after the recess, they proposed a revised bill, with changes made to that first bill. They did not have the votes for that bill either.

So, now, this week, Mitch McConnell basically conceding that the repeal and replace strategy is simply not going to work. And now what he's trying to do is have a vote, as you said, early next week on a bill to repeal and delay. And this is something that has not been successful in the past or that Republicans, at least, said wouldn't be successful.

But why is he pushing for a vote next week even though the math is, again, not in his favor? Because of President Trump. This is what President Trump wants.

And McConnell made that clear when he made the announcement about the vote last night, that this is coming from the President, that he is trying to make a final push. And that is why, I think, we are clearly seeing him invite all of the Senate Republicans for a lunch meeting at the White House today.

Now, the President, of course, has been not in a good mood about the progress or the lack of progress that Republicans have been making on the healthcare front. He has been lashing out at Democrats, even blaming some of his Republican colleagues, and even saying yesterday that Republicans should simply just let ObamaCare fail.

And, of course, the tweets from this morning making it clear that he intends to continue putting the pressure on Republicans. And I think, Poppy and John, the big question that everyone is wondering about is, what could possibly happen between now and the vote next week to change the minds of some of these Senate Republicans?

I asked that question to Senator John Cornyn yesterday, and his response was simply a little passage of time. So we will see if a little passage of time is exactly what Republicans need.

BERMAN: But instead of -- you know, beyond time and just hope, M.J., is there anyone up there who says this is anything but dead at this point despite or, you know, notwithstanding the President's tweet from moments ago?

LEE: Frankly, the answer is no. The Republicans and the Republican aides I am talking to and have been speaking to over the last few days, it's clear that this bill, the new attempt by McConnell to try to do a vote on a repeal and delay strategy, again, this is something that they actually ended up ruling out earlier this year because a lot of folks do not want to pass to simply pass a bill that would replace ObamaCare without a replacement bill in place, ready to go.

BERMAN: All right. M.J. Lee for us on Capitol Hill. The President apparently not taking no for an answer.

HARLOW: He says it's going to get better.

BERMAN: We will see. Very interesting.

In the meantime, new questions surrounding the undisclosed meeting between presidents Putin and Trump. These are the facts as confirmed by a senior White House official.

[09:05:01] This happened during the G20 dinner event. The conversation lasted nearly an hour. Only Russia's translator was there, which means there is no official record of what was said. The White House only went public with any of this after they were asked about it.

HARLOW: So the President's response, knowing all of that coming from the White House, is this --

Fake news story of secret dinner with Putin is sick. Press knew. Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister.

Joe Johns is outside the White House with more on all of it this morning. Any explanations from the White House on this?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of explanation. They say it's not a meeting. I'll get into that in a minute, but I think it's the optics of it that's probably the biggest problem for this White House.

The world was transfixed when President Trump had his first meeting with Vladimir Putin. And now we've learned that there was another meeting with Vladimir Putin, a two-hour meeting without an American translator. The President, as you said, calling the coverage sick, saying it was being made to look sinister.

Now, here is what the White House says, Poppy.

There was no second meeting between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to hide a second meeting is false, malicious, and absurd. It's not merely perfectly normal, it's part of the President's duties to interact with world leaders.

Now, the other story on the Russia investigation here in the United States, if you will, is the identification of the eighth person who is in another meeting. That meeting in 2016 with Donald Trump, Jr., at Trump tower, where they were trying to essentially find out about -- dirt about Hillary Clinton. The eighth person in that meeting, CNN has learned, is a man named Ike Kaveladze.

Now, he is an American citizen. He is a fluent Russian speaker. Also vice president of a real estate company owned by a billionaire whose family may have actually called for the meeting.

But the most interesting thing perhaps in his resume goes all the way back to the year 2000 when the General Accountability Office was looking into companies he owned and said those companies engaged in money laundering. No charges were filed, it's our understanding. And Mr. Kaveladze, for his part, has said this is all just part of a witch hunt.

John and Poppy, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House.

Joining us now, CNN Political Analyst Jackie Kucinich, April Ryan, David Swerdlick.

April, I want to start with you. You know from covering the White House it's not unusual for world leaders to speak during these big summits, even on the sidelines of dinners like this.

But isn't it unusual that this meeting between presidents Trump and Putin went on for an hour? And isn't it even more unusual that there was zero disclosure or information from the White House about this for more than a week?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, John, it depends upon what normal is now. But traditionally -- and this President says that he is a -- he's new -- he is a new, modern presidential president, so let's take it in that context. So the way he does things is totally different from what other administrations would have done.

Leaders meet at these meetings, at these dinners, but what you have is staff on the side or behind them. Someone maybe from NSC, someone maybe Chief of Staff, someone around from the administration to make sure that everything is above board, above the fray.

And then also, you know, they typically chitchat -- we've seen pictures of presidents chitchatting on the sidelines. But for an hour -- for an hour or close to an hour, that's a long time.

And then for the White House to omit that and then answer it, though, when they're asked, that leaves a lot to be desired, especially the time when we are wondering what is going on with this administration and what this administration is doing and did when they were running for the office with Russia.

HARLOW: So, David, I mean, the response from the White House and the President on Twitter is not atypical. You would expect this. It's an attack on the media and the coverage of it. However, what we have not gotten is any details about what was discussed.

So if they do want to be transparent and now it's out there after it was, you know, reported by Ian Bremmer and others, why put no details out there? If it lasted an hour, it had to be something more than small talk. No?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, Poppy. I mean, it's a little late for the administration to be completely transparent because as April said, this meeting could have been disclosed from the beginning.

They already had a messaging problem with the first disclosed two-hour meeting where the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister were there because, you know, if Trump really had wanted to do a boss move on President Putin, he wouldn't have brought up the Russian meddling in our election at all, Poppy, right?

[09:10:05] We -- our intelligence services have already confirmed that. They could have moved on to Syria, to Ukraine, to sanctions, et cetera, strengthen relations as the President says he wants to do. Instead, he gave that opportunity for Putin to say, no, we didn't meddle, and then they moved on.

Now, you have this meeting, and it's just causing people here and in Europe to scratch their heads and say, look, the President seems in thrall to the Russians. He didn't have an hour aside with Chancellor Merkel or Prime Minister May, our staunchest, most important allies, or President Macron.

He sits at this dinner where all these other leaders are, and he chooses to have this hour aside with Putin. And as you said, now, we're still left wondering, OK, what did they talk about in that hour that they didn't talk about in the other two hours when others were present?

BERMAN: So, Jackie, I want to talk about another meeting that involved a Russian. This is Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer, which is now beginning to look like the bar scene from "Star Wars," right?

More and more characters coming to light here including this eighth person, the eighth man -- it sounds like a Graham Greene novel -- Ike Kaveladze, a guy who was accused of some serious money laundering. These are serious accusations from 2000.

So no matter what was discussed inside the meeting, you know -- whether it was adoption, sanctions, or collusion -- you know, it's not a good look, is it, with all these people?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: No, because, initially, remember how this was about adoption. I mean, I think that was a week ago, that that was the story coming out of this. And it's one of the reasons why you have senators, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, who now want to talk to Donald Trump, Jr. about what was discussed here.

You know, part of the concern here you hear from the intelligence community and going inside the White House, when you talk about President Trump and President Putin and Donald Trump, Jr. and some of these -- the Russians that were visiting him, we're not talking about evenly matched people at this point.

So we're talking about, I mean, some people like the President and his son, and Russians who are very experienced in what they do, in extracting information from Americans and espionage and all sorts of kind of ways of getting into the American government.

So the fact that we don't have a clear readout of this meeting in Trump Tower and at the G20 at this side meeting is problematic because we don't know what was said. We don't know what information was exchanged. And that causes a lot of concern considering the adversarial nature of the Russian government.

HARLOW: So, Jackie, just staying with you for a moment on all things Russian, and we'll move on to healthcare, but we just learned overnight that the President nominated Jon Huntsman, formerly governor of Utah, formerly a presidential candidate, to be Ambassador to Russia.

Now, this is someone who was supportive of the President but after that "Access Hollywood" tape came out, he said Pence should leave the ticket. And back in 2012 during that election, President Trump tweeted about Jon Huntsman saying -- Jon Huntsman just called to see me. I said no. He gave away our country to China.

Is this a big boy move? Is this a big move from the President to put all that aside and put him in such an important role when it comes to Russia?

KUCINICH: It seems to be. I mean, Jon Huntsman's record as ambassador, that you mention, is unimpeachable. But he's also someone -- I remember having a conversation with him right after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out. He was someone who was very disgusted with the President and, you know, with the party establishment for lining up behind him regardless.

But -- and we've also seen in other parts of this White House where if someone has spoken out against the President, they have been totally nixed from the lists of appointments.

So, you know, perhaps this is an acknowledgment of the important importance of the Russian ambassador in the grand scheme of things because -- and you have to imagine that Jon Huntsman is going to sail through his confirmation hearing. So perhaps this is a bright light.

BERMAN: So, April Ryan, healthcare now, this big lunch meeting at the White House that the President says some miracle will be performed that resurrects this bill. We don't know what will be discussed there. It's a little confusing why he thinks it may, all of a sudden, work.

What we do know from "The New York Times," the President was pretty ticked off at Rand Paul, not just for opposing this but for talking about it on television.

And as for the (INAUDIBLE), one senator told (INAUDIBLE) guys think of Trump. Can you imagine them doing this to another president?

You've covered a lot of White Houses. Is that true?

RYAN: Well, let me tell you what I'm hearing, and I just talked to a Republican source before I came on with you. The source is saying that the GOP is in meltdown about this, about healthcare, because the President is forcing Mitch McConnell to hold a vote when there is not support for it.

[09:14:55] So -- and this is about the American people being touched. Many of the President's supporters are not feeling the new healthcare plan that would affect them and the ways that it would.

They are not happy with this, and the president is trying to force a vote.

And he can have all the lunches and meetings that he can call as much as he want, but what it affects the senators constituents and affects people, and people are going to these town hall meetings screaming, these senators feel it.

That's why you are hearing from the Rand Pauls and you're seeing the women who are pulling away from saying yes to a vote on this new healthcare plan. It will continue to be a downward spiral.

And he will have to call on a higher power, as you said earlier, John, if he wants to see this passed because it doesn't look like it's going to happen right now at all.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: David, very quickly --

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If I could interject here. The president is not getting behind Republicans on this. Remember, he celebrated with House Republicans about passing their bill, and then turned around and called it mean.

So senators are putting their necks on the line for this healthcare bill and don't know that the White House will back them up. That's causing a chilling effect.

HARLOW: David, before we go, very quickly to you. If the tactic is now let it fail, maybe help it fail by not, you know, supporting enough funding, no subsidies or not enforcing the individual mandate, can these Republican senators that Jackie brings up who put their neck out there on this one, can they stomach that and what that will mean for their constituents?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think they will ultimately be able to stomach that if prices and premiums go up and if people lose care, but in the short-term I don't think they have much choice.

Big picture, Republicans didn't have -- were not ready with a plan when they won the White House and both houses of Congress, that's where we've been for the last six months, Poppy.

It's that Obamacare, was Romneycare, was the Republican alternative to what Democrats were proposing for years and years and years. Now that Obamacare/Romneycare is the law of the land, Republicans have never been able to get their hands around what they want to replace it with and why that's so bad as opposed to whatever unknown plan or you know, draft plan they've tried to propose.

And that's going to carry on through 2018 and 2020 as Jackie said, it matters how it affects constituents down the road.

HARLOW: Guys, thank you very much. Jackie, April, David, appreciate it. So what did Trump know? When did she know it? She being Ivanka Trump. A group of House Democrats this morning questioning the first daughter's security clearance calling on the FBI to investigate whether she knew about her husband and brothers' meetings with those Russian officials.

Plus a few setbacks under a cloud of controversies six months in the White House, what is the president's next move?

BERMAN: And did a kiss killed a baby just weeks after she was born? What happened here has so parents concerned?



HARLOW: First daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her security clearance facing new scrutiny this morning, 22 House Democrats calling on the FBI to review her security questionnaire. Why?

BERMAN: Joining us is CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Michael Zeldin. Jeremy, tell us about this letter.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. Well, Congressman Don Byers (ph) is leading a group of 22 House Democrats who are essentially calling on the FBI to review Ivanka Trump's security clearance application for any potential omissions.

Particularly what they're talking about here is omissions with regards to foreign contacts. Now with the security application form, the SF- 86 asks for is for people to list any contacts with foreign governments or officials as well as the contacts of their immediate family.

So in Ivanka Trump's case, that includes Jared Kushner and Don Trump Jr. Of course, we know that a meeting just last week was revealed from June 2016 that both Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner attended.

They had not previously disclosed that meeting, of course, and we know that Democrats have been calling for review or even a revocation of Jared Kushner's security clearance based on his numerous updates to that form.

Let me just read you a part of this letter here that these House Democrats wrote to FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe. It says, quote, "We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception" and it goes on to say, "The high standard to which we hold public servants, particularly senior advisers to the president of the United States requires that these questions be raised and promptly answered."

So as I said, this is Democrats turning up the heat now. They've turned up the heat on Jared Kushner and now they are turning up the heat on Ivanka Trump as well. The White House so far as well as an attorney for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have not yet responded to comments.

HARLOW: All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you so much.

And now to Michael Zeldin, so you have to answer for your spouse and you have to get it right on these forms clearly.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Correct as to both. You do need to answer for yourself and your spouse. It's a very lengthy form. This question 20B, which is talking about foreign business relationships and then question 19 which talks about foreign contacts asks very specific questions, and you need to fill out this form as honestly as possible.

It's not easy to fill out this form completely correct the first time around. People do edit them and update them as need be. The form specifically says that once this form is completed, it's the basis for your interview, and you have a live interview, during that live interview you have a chance to update the form.

So it's a process that ultimately asks the question, are you worthy of a security clearance? And the form specifically says the answers to your questions may be released to Congress, may actually be released to the media, and can be released to the DOJ and its investigative bureau.

So you know going into it that this stuff, though protected by Section 5 of the U.S. Code Privacy Act will not always be completely disclosed, but it will be disclosed. So you want to get this stuff right.

[09:25:08]And so Don Byer and others are saying can we make sure that this process is done thoroughly and I think that's a fair question to ask.

BERMAN: It may be a fair question to ask, but there's no accusation at least as far as Ivanka Trump goes that it has been done anything but correctly. We just don't know -- perhaps her husband got it wrong.

We know that he filed it three times there. But just to be clear, Michael here, when it's asking for meetings with people from other countries, is it just government officials here? It's not asking to list every time you rub shoulders with everyone from, you know, any country on earth.

ZELDIN: Well, the question on foreign contacts and foreign business affiliations is a little bit different. Foreign contacts says a person or representative of -- rather a country that you have a close affection for or continuing relationship with.

The other one asks about close business ties. So they're really asking more or less the same thing. It's not your incidental you bumped into a foreigner at Safeway and he asked where is the yogurt, that's not really what the form is about. It's about relationships that may bear on your susceptibility to coercion or influence or compromise in some way. That's what they're looking for ultimately in these forms. Yes, you're right from what we know there is nothing in the form of Ivanka Trump that is misleading.

But I guess the suspicion is one of guilt by association. If your husband didn't fill out this form with all these things, what leads one to believe that you did it correctly?

And so they want to make sure that these things align and that they're fulsome and that the investigative agencies that will make a determination about whether these security forms are correct and whether or not final security can be granted is done right.

And so we all want it done right. I mean, she and Jared Kushner want it done right so their lawyers tell us. Good for everybody.

HARLOW: Michael Zeldin, thank you very much. A little bit later on in the show, we'll have a Democratic Congressman who signed the letter, who is asking for this. We'll ask if he has any evidence that drove them to ask for this.

Ahead for us, though, face-to-face or just faceoff, an all-hands on deck meeting hours away at the White House between Senate Republicans and the president after the healthcare collapse.