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White House: Trump Stands by Sessions after Ripping Him in Interview; Interview with Rep. Joaquin Castro. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Claire Elizabeth White was born Monday to our senior editorial producer, Scarlett White. Oh my goodness. Look at that face.


TAPPER: Both mom and baby are home and doing well. Congratulations to the loving parents.

[17:00:20] That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Brianna Keilar. She's in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Conflict- free life. A Nevada parole board agrees to let O.J. Simpson out of prison after the former NFL star says he spent a conflict-free life. Simpson, acquitted two decades ago in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend, has served nine years in a robbery and kidnapping case.

At this time, the White House says President Trump does not intend to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller at this time. A day after the president warned Mueller not to investigate his family's finances.

Venting Sessions. A spokeswoman says President Trump still has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even though he vented against Sessions for stepping aside from the Russia investigation. But a White House official called the president's attack on one of his most loyal supporters "chilling."

And threatening subpoenas. A powerful senator says he'll issue subpoenas for Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort if they don't respond soon to a call to testify next week.

Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We have breaking news. O.J. Simpson has been granted parole nine years after he was sentenced to prison for kidnapping and armed robbery. A Nevada board acted after the former NFL star apologized and promised he'd have no conflicts if released. Simpson could be free as soon as October.

He's best known for his 1995 acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend in what was called the trial of the century.

Also breaking, the White House says President Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a day after he sharply rebuked him. In a "New York Times" interview, the president slammed Sessions, one of his earliest and most loyal supporters, for recusing himself from decisions tied to the Russia investigation.

The president also lashed out at other justice officials and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who he warned not to investigate Trump family finances.

The president's attack on his own Justice Department is worrying officials inside the White House, one of whom calms it chilling.

The Russia investigation, as well, is picking up speed, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hear next week from Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort about their meetings with Russians. So far, they haven't RSVP'd, and Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley is warning he'll subpoena them.

The president's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, is set to testify before a separate panel.

I'll be talking to Congressman Joaquin Castro, a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. And our correspondents, specialists and guests are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

We'll bring you the latest O.J. Simpson development shortly, but first, more breaking news as the president's attack on his attorney general and other law enforcement figures leaves some in the administration shaken.

We begin with CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

So Jeff, this was a stunning here. This was a stunning slam by the president on one of his most loyal backers.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed it was, Brianna, and we're learning tonight that President Trump has not spoken to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in at least the last 24 hours. They've certainly done a lot of talking about him, airing those grievances in a way we've not seen anyone else be spoken to like that from this president. Going from one of his biggest supporters to one of his biggest disappointers.


ZELENY: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once a trusted member of Donald Trump's inner circle, is vowing to stay on the job tonight. Despite the president's extraordinary vote of no confidence.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate. ZELENY: But how long is the latest question in the escalating drama

between President Trump and the Justice Department. The president blasted Sessions for recusing himself from the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, a decision that eventually led to a special prosecutor investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job; and I would have picked somebody else.

ZELENY: In an Oval Office interview with "The New York Times," the president suggested Sessions had been disloyal by stepping aside from the Russia investigation that's now consuming the White House.

TRUMP: It's extremely unfair -- and that's a mild word -- to the president.

ZELENY: Those words drawing strong condemnation from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who said the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, not the president's personal lawyer.

[17:05:03] SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I think the president makes a lot of statements off the cuff that sometimes come back to haunt him. And that's one of them.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: The attorney general can't be a wing man for a president. He's got to be very independent. And work for -- be a wing man for the people of the country.

ZELENY: Back in March, the attorney general announced his recusal from the Russia investigation, a decision that infuriated Trump then and now.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role.

ZELENY: At a press conference on cyber-security today, he offered little reaction to the president's blistering remarks.

SESSIONS: I'm totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way.

ZELENY: The president also questioned the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, saying he and his family's personal finances should be off-limits.

"No, I think that's a violation, the president said. Look, this is about Russia." But it's clear that his finances were on Mr. Trump's mind during the interview.

TRUMP: I sell a lot of condo units and somebody -- somebody from Russia buys one. Who knows? I don't make money from Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does Jeff Sessions still have your full support?

ZELENY: At the White House today, the president would not answer questions about Sessions. But at the Justice Department, Sessions and his high command stood side by side and declined to respond to the remarkable rebuke.

A senior White House official told CNN the president's remarks had a chilling effect inside the West Wing, where the president values loyalty above all. It was particularly stinging, because Sessions was one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders. The first Republican senator to endorse his bid for the presidency.

SESSIONS: At this time in America's history, we need to make America great again!


ZELENY: It's difficult to think of someone in this town, some Republican in this town, who has been as loyal for as long to the president as this Republican senator, former Republican senator from Alabama, who gave up that job to go to the attorney general's office.

So the question tonight is, does the president want him to resign? At the White House briefing today, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Brianna, put it like this, "If he wanted somebody to take action, he would make that quite clear." We weren't sure if that was a yes, though, or a no.

KEILAR: Sounds like neither. Jeff at the White House, thank you so much.

I want to bring in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. What do you make of the president's rebuke? It's really an extraordinary rebuke of the attorney general.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I've never heard a president insult a member of his own staff, cabinet, with such vehemence and not fire him. So, that's what makes this so unusual. Sometimes the -- presidents fire people, but here you have this rebuke without firing.

But, you know, we are in a different land with President Trump in charge. And, I think, Attorney General Sessions is just going to keep doing his job, and I think he can keep doing it until and unless he just gets out and out fired.

KEILAR: What about Robert Mueller? Because at this point, the spokeswoman for the White House says the president has no intention of firing him, but the president did not completely rule that out talking to "The New York Times."

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: By no means. I think Robert Mueller is standing on a banana peel. That, you know, Mueller is going to do his job. I don't think anyone who knows Robert Mueller and his reputation and history, he is going to follow this investigation wherever he thinks is justified. But it is quite clear that the president thinks that Mueller should never have been appointed, that it's an illegitimate investigation; he is not guilty of anything, so no one needs to investigate him. And there could well come a time when the president, just as he did with James Comey, the former director of the FBI, says, "I won't tolerate this anymore," and asks his subordinates in the Justice Department to fire Mueller.

The interesting question will be, as in 1973 when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Cox, the Watergate special prosecutors, how many members of the Justice Department's staff will agree, will quit rather than do it or take the order and follow him? We could be at that moment at any point.

KEILAR: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much for that.

Let's talk more about this now with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He is a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

What do you think of this? The comments that the president made about Robert Mueller? He didn't say that he says, really, that there would be a red line, which is to have Mueller investigating finances of his family. He feels like that is outside of what he's supposed to be doing, and he didn't rule out firing him.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: I think first that it's inappropriate for the president to try to dictate the boundaries of the investigation. And I'm glad to see that Robert Mueller is taking the investigation wherever it leads.

And if, as Jeffrey mentioned, I think if he does attempt to fire Bob Mueller that you're going to see a strong bipartisan backlash in Congress. For any move like that.

[17:10:09] KEILAR: You're confident of that? I mean, what would do, and what would do you have confidence in your Republican colleagues, how far does that confidence go that they would actually do something?

CASTRO: Well, to be honest, that confidence has been shaken over the last few months based on some of the things we've seen happen already and the lack of concern or action that's been taken by my Republican colleagues.

But I do think that if you had a repeat of a Saturday night for example that Congress would take action. Again...

KEILAR: What kind of action, do you think?

CASTRO: Well, I think you would probably -- I would think you would have calls for impeachment on the Republican side if that happened. It would be unprecedented in American history for a president to be successful in removing that special counsel and in dictating the terms of an investigation into possibly him and his family and his associates. And what I heard from him yesterday when he talked about how upset he was at Jeff Sessions, what I heard was a president who was trying to get a loyalist, essentially a "yes" man, his good friend who endorsed him first in the Senate, in there as special counsel, and it sounds like to protect him from a true Russia investigation, which is deeply disturbing for the country.

KEILAR: Let's listen to part of what was really an extraordinary interview that the president had.


MIKE SCHMIDT, "NEW YORK TIMES" CORRESPONDENT: IF Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances, unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say yes. Yes. I would say yes. By the way, I would say I don't -- I mean, it's possible there was a condo or something. So yes, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody -- somebody from Russia buys a condo. Who knows?

I don't make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don't make -- from one of the most highly-respected law firms and accounting firms. I don't have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don't. They said I made money from Russia. No, it's not my thing. I don't, I don't do that.


KEILAR: He was asked there about finances unrelated to Russia. The president brought it back to Russia. If there was some sort of -- what maybe Democrats would have called during the special counsel for the Clinton some mission creep, you know, do you think that's fair?

CASTRO: Well, to the extent that it is tied to the special counsel's investigation, then yes, I think that it is fair. And the president laid out his position there that he has no investments or nefarious deals with Russia, but there's certainly been news reports which really raise doubt about that statement, and really bring it into question.

KEILAR: So you think that under -- well, in Mueller's purview, should be finances to see if there are connections to Russia? Or if he sees something amiss that has nothing to do with Russia, should he pursue that?

CASTRO: I think -- I think he's got a broad purview, as historically, special counsels have. And honestly, Brianna, if you're an ordinary American citizen or even another politician, once the FBI, or in this case the special counsel, starts opening your books, starts opening the files, and they find something that's illegal, they're not just going to let it go. And so I suspect that's what's going on or could be going on here.

KEILAR: Is your committee going to look at President Trump's finances, do you think?

CASTRO: Our committee's investigation is broad. Without going into anything classified, I'll say that our investigation and the questions that we're asking are quite broad.

KEILAR: All right. So not a yes, not a no. Do you see in a way finances being related to this issue of Russia?

CASTRO: Absolutely. I think it's quite possible that financing is related. It may be that there was nothing illegal done at all, that the president is in the clear as he says, but I also think that it's probably fair to investigate those things.

KEILAR: You -- I know probably have strong opinions about the president's previously undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin at a dinner at the G-20, and you are on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

So the president tells "The Times" that he and President Putin only discussed adoptions, but adoptions, of course, are very closely linked to U.S. sanctions against Russia, because Russia halted the adoption of Russian orphans by U.S. families to retaliate for those sanctions. So what concerns does that raise for you?

CASTRO: Well, if you look at that day, July 7, there had already been a formal two-hour meeting, which went way overschedule. So this is a second hour-long meeting.

What's extraordinary about it is, first of all, the length of the meeting, but also that there was no other American present. So we don't know if there was anything offered by either president, if there was any deal struck, whether it was on foreign policy or anything else. And so that's very troubling. And that cannot be the accepted new normal for how a president interacts with foreign leaders, whether it's President Trump, or the next president after this.

[17:15:09] BLITZER: How do you distinguish this -- I guess, maybe how do you characterize this differently than, say, President Obama having a 15-minute pull-aside meeting with Vladimir Putin, and then well down the line, we find out that they had figured out an off-ramp for the chemical weapons situation in Syria? Some time after that discussion.

CASTRO: A few things. First, President Obama, as far as I know, didn't disinvite or not have any other American around, including even a translator when he was speaking with Vladimir Putin. So there was somebody else and some record of what was discussed.

But let's be honest again, President Obama didn't have this cloud hanging over him about the Russians and, specifically, Vladimir Putin ordering Russian operatives to help him win a presidential election; and Donald Trump does.

KEILAR: All right. Stick around. Because as you know, there's a lot of testimony on Capitol Hill next week that is going to keep everyone very, very busy.

We'll be right back with Congressman Joaquin Castro.


[17:20:43] KEILAR: Our breaking news. The White House says President Trump still has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a day after a stunning attack on Sessions in a "New York Times" interview from the president.

We're back now with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He is a member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

So you raised a lot of eyebrows on this program somewhat recently when you said that you believed people would be going to jail or someone would be in jail once these investigations are over, once these Russia investigations are over. Is that something that you stand by?

CASTRO: I do. That was my assessment a few months ago, and it raised eyebrows, both from Republicans and Democrats. But I think as we see more things unfold, I think that more people believe it's a possibility.

And I said it not in a malevolent way or to be mean to anybody. But I think, based on what I've seen, you can't look at these facts and not think that there's a great possibility that somebody will face legal punishment.

KEILAR: When you look at the facts that have come out since you first said that, do you think that it could be someone at a higher level than maybe even you would have thought going to jail?

CASTRO: Absolutely. And I think the American people can see that for themselves what is possible here.

KEILAR: We do know that Jared Kushner is going to be testifying behind closed doors on the Senate side before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week. And right now, Paul Manafort, one-time chairman of Donald Trump's campaign, is scheduled to testify along with Donald Trump Jr., scheduled. And you actually have the Republican Senator Chuck Grassley threatening subpoenas. Are those people that you want to hear from on your -- on your side?

CASTRO: Yes, first I'm glad that they're going to go in front of the Senate committees, and I also would believe that the House should hear from them. Because we are running two separate investigations. So I certainly want to hear from them.

KEILAR: What -- what is it that you want to hear from them?

CASTRO: Foremost about this meeting that they had with now what was eight people in that meeting, but also on obstruction of justice issues, election issues, basically all of it.

KEILAR: When you look on the Senate side, and it's getting to talk of subpoenas, are you surprised by that?

CASTRO: I suspect that Chuck Grassley will not have to subpoena Mr. Manafort or Jared Kushner. I do think that Chuck Grassley will follow through with a subpoena if he has to, but I hope, and I think that it won't come to that.

KEILAR: But it's come to this, the threat. When you look at Donald Trump Jr. and you look at Paul Manafort, and they haven't accepted these invitations, which seem a little bit inevitable, does it tell you anything about a choice they could be making?

CASTRO: It's quite possible. They could be making the decision that they're just going to cooperate with the special counsel, and they don't want to deal with the Senate or the House. They may be a decision that they've made with their lawyers.

But again, Chuck Grassley has the ability as a chairman to subpoena them and bring them forward. At that point, they would have to take the Fifth Amendment.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much. Congressman Joaquin Castro...

CASTRO: Thank you.

KEILAR: ... we do appreciate your time today.

And coming up, we have more on our breaking news. That's the White House insisting President Trump stands by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the president expresses his regrets about appointing Sessions in the first place.

Plus today's remarkable testimony that led up to the decision on parole for O.J. Simpson.


O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I've always thought I was -- I've been pretty good with people, and I basically have spent a conflict- free life.



[17:28:41] KEILAR: Our breaking news, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is insisting President Trump stands by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even though the president told "The New York Times" he never would have appointed Sessions if he'd known the attorney general would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Let's bring in our political specialists to talk about this.

Gloria, we've known for some time from sources that the president would fume, and even not so privately, I think before a number of people, about Jeff Sessions recusing himself. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

He was so upset about this, but he elaborated about this in "The New York Times," let's listen.


TRUMP: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a mistake?

TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.


KEILAR: It's astounding. And you have Sessions today saying he's staying on, but what do you think is going on with his future employment in the Trump administration?

BORGER: Well, I think we're going to have to stay tuned. Because I think given what Donald Trump said, it's very possible that, at some point, he could fire him or that, at some point, Jeff Sessions would decide, you know, that he had to resign and that his relationship with the president was pretty much untenable.

I think what this also tells us, on sort of a larger stage is it tells us an awful lot about the President's attitude towards the Department of Justice and the people who serve in it.

It seems to me that he believes they serve him and not the country at large because the recusal was about the fact that you don't want the public to believe that there is any kind of a conflict of interest that the Attorney General would have in any case, whether it resolves -- involves the President of the United States or anybody else. This one happened to involve the President of the United States. And it also gives you a sense about how he feels about sort of the independence and the professionalism of the people who serve there because he was also critical, not only of Jeff Sessions, but he was critical of Andrew McCabe over at FBI, of Rosenstein because he made the mistake of being from Baltimore, a Democratic town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it went on and on. It really did.


BORGER: And it went on and on.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Or New York City, we should point out, you know, which makes Donald Trump unusual as well. Look, Chuck Grassley said, obviously, a very important voice, a Republican in the Senate, he said that this is someone who's supposed to be the wingman of the American people, not the wingman of the President. CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Look at -- to Gloria's point, look in the excerpts that the New York Times released, Donald Trump repeatedly says when asked about Jeff Sessions, he put the President in a tough spot. It was very unfair to the President. Now, number one, amazing use of the third person there by Donald Trump, right? The President is you. But yes, that's how he thinks. This is -- I think you have to really -- it's Donald Trump is the hub and everything else is a spoke, literally everything else in the whole world.

So everything that happens is, how does this impact me and oftentimes, why -- he has this odd victimhood thing, why is this being done to me? Why did Jeff Sessions recuse himself, and it hurts me rather than saying -- this is probably the right thing to do for the country.

KEILAR: The former -- sorry, go on.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was just going to say I was just talking to an official who is familiar with this situation who is very familiar with the President's thinking on this, and then on other things, who said two things, one is, Jeff Sessions showed weakness, and two, Jeff Sessions surprised Donald Trump. And it was a double whammy when it comes to the way that Donald Trump perceives a person, especially a person who works for him, which is why he wasn't able to get over this for the past many, many months. As you said, we knew about it realtime that he was angry, and he just sort of, you know, let it out in this -- in this New York Times article just now.

The other thing though that he -- I'm told he knows, is that getting a replacement for Jeff Sessions, which means Senate confirmation, isn't going to be easy and wouldn't be easy. Now, you know, he's certainly -- that could have been the case with James Comey and he was so angry he fired him anyway. Although, that ends well on that because his nominee now for FBI Director, it has bipartisan support, but the Attorney General is a political job and that is something that is quite different. Maybe he understands that now.

KEILAR: Let's listen -- I want to listen to something that Donald Trump said about Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and what really -- where he thinks the parameters of his investigation should be, let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family's finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say yes. Yes, I would say yes. By the way, I will say, I don't -- I don't -- I mean it's possible there's a condo or something -- somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don't make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don't make -- from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don't have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia, I don't. They said I made money from Russia. No, it's not my thing. I don't -- I don't do that.


KEILAR: Is Robert Mueller going to be checking into some condos soon then, do you think?

BASH: Or maybe he already is. I mean, it's certainly -- the fact that the President brought that up unsolicited, not the idea of looking into the finances, but the condo in particular. Looked like he could tell.

BORGER: Right. And look, the question is what is the FBI looking into? What is Robert Mueller looking into? It's clear to me that the President believes that this is kind of a red line, that Mueller shouldn't cross because that's not within his purview. The President believes his purview --

KEILAR: But it's not up to the President, right?

BORGER: Well, hello, exactly.

CILLIZZA: He could fire him, though. I mean, you're right, Gloria. It shouldn't be, but remember, it would be politically disadvantageous, I would argue, but he theoretically could do it.

[17:35:02] KEILAR: So, you're saying maybe it'll happen. We'll see. All right. You guys, stick around with me. We have so much more to talk about. We're going to be back with our panel in just a moment.


KEILAR: We're back now with our political specialist Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza, and Gloria Borger. So the President has this interview with the New York Times, and in it, he again, denies knowing until recently that his son Donald, Jr. along with Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a group of Russians in June 2016. Here was his answer to the New York Times.


[17:40:06] TRUMP: I just heard there was an e-mail, requesting a meeting or something, yes, requesting a meeting, that they have information on Hillary Clinton. And I said -- I mean, that's standard political stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

TRUMP: No, I did not know anything about the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't --

TRUMP: It must have been a very important -- it must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit, but no date --

TRUMP: No, nobody told me. I didn't know. It's a very unimportant -- it sounded like a very unimportant meeting.


KEILAR: Sounds like he's saying I just heard about the e-mail. Does that mean I heard only about the e-mail or I recently heard about the e-mail? It's unclear.

BORGER: It's unclear.

CILLIZZA: It's hard to tell. It's hard to tell from the context and then it goes on to another sort of thing there, so it's hard to follow up on. What I would say is it's not -- some people said, oh, he got caught in his own tiny trap. I'm not -- I'm not sure it's that. The one thing I would take issue with is, when your eldest son who is one of your senior advisors, when the then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and when your son-in-law, who's another one of your senior advisors, you know, three of the four, or five most powerful people in the campaign are all in a meeting, given what we know about the other people in the meeting, it seems odd to be able to say, well, it was unimportant, or I heard it was unimportant. And they don't usually say --


KEILAR: And he said -- he said and he just had lunch with Senators, right? So, he then said that --

BASH: When he did the interview.

KEILAR: That's right. He said I've had -- I've talked to a lot of people, and they've said essentially that Donald Trump, Jr., anyone would have taken this meeting, and it turns out he's talking about a couple Senators, we don't even know which one.

BORGER: Which ones have said they would take the meeting?

KEILAR: I don't -- that's right. But he wouldn't -- he didn't say.

BASH: Let's just be clear. This is his -- this is his strategy, it has been his strategy since the first time he reacted to this at all. To try to reset and reframe the reality, which he has done in his life many times, successfully. So, of course, at age 71, he's going to continue it, but, you know, got a lot of success including the presidency of the United States to say things over and over again, and say it enough. And you hope that you make it true. However, the more he says it, the more it does not necessary make it true because, over and over, we can say, those of us who have covered politicians and political campaigns and talking to them that this is not a meeting that they would take or should take.

BORGER: And first of all, I would look at the -- I would try and -- if I were the President's lawyer, I would try and pin him down on this timeline here, what he heard and when he heard it. Because in listening to that interview, it was kind of all over the place. Did he know about e-mail and not know about what occurred about the meeting, did he not know about either until it was over? It's just still kind of unclear to me, and what he's trying to do, as Dana points out, is, of course, diminish all of this, which is it was just another one of those opo research meetings, and my son, Don, Jr. did absolutely nothing wrong, and neither did anybody else who attended it. And it was of no consequence and it really didn't seem to matter what was in the e-mail.

KEILAR: The reporters here tried to get at the fact that just a few hours after this meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. had, Donald Trump himself on the campaign trail uses sort of a different rhetorical flourish or making a point about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and he says in this, you know, like whatever. He's -- what he basically says, I was hitting her so hard, this isn't any different than what I was doing before.

CILLIZZA: He remark -- well, I shouldn't remarkably, I overuse that word as it relates to Donald Trump. He uses a quote -- his language -- I'm paraphrasing here, essentially, the only thing worse I could say is that she had shot someone, which of course, famously/infamously calls up his line in Iowa in January 2016, I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and my supporters would still be with me. It is a significant coincidence, I would say, that he -- I remember that, it was the California primary night, June --

BORGER: 7th.

CILLIZZA: -- 7th. And he says, very soon we're going to come out with stuff that's going to shock you about Hillary Clinton. Now, to Dana's point, he often just says stuff. I mean, that should not be taken as evidence that, oh, well, he must have known because in two weeks, he's going to do everything under the sun, and he's going to have all the answers for you in 30 days, he's going to have a plan for ISIS, right? So, I'm not sure that's the evidence of it, but it is a significant coincidence.

KEILAR: The e-mail is important -- just really quickly. The e-mail is important because it references sort of almost as a given the Russian government's support for Donald Trump, right?

BASH: That's one of the main reasons. There are several reasons why it's important, but that is for sure one of them. And from a guy, Rob Goldstone, White House, you know, the Trump people now and the Christian people are trying to kind of blow off as just kind of a bombastic P.R. person, but talk to people who have more of a knowledge of the Russians who he worked for, he was more -- he's more of a fixer than an in-the-know-guy than just a publicist.

[17:45:07] KEILAR: Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza, Gloria Borger, thank you so much. And coming up, does President Trump support Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or does he wish he'd never appointed him? Could the answer really be both? And next, what went into today's decision to parole O.J. Simpson and what did not? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The majority of the opposition letters are asking us to consider your 1995 acquittal and subsequent civil judgment, however, these items will not be considered in this case. Thank you.




[17:50:04] KEILAR: We're back now with CNN Political Editor At Large, Chris Cillizza, as we talk about what's really an extraordinary interview that President Trump gave the New York Times. A number of topics that they covered, but one was health care which has been so overshadowed by all of this -- all of the Russia investigations, plural. And this was something that the President said about the challenges that he's facing with health care.

He said, "Pre-existing conditions are a tough deal because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you're 21 years old, you start working, and you're paying $12 a year, note that, for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, I want my insurance. It's a very tough deal but it is something that we're doing a good job of." I mean, that --

CILLIZZA: I mean, what does that mean?

KEILAR: I don't understand.

CILLIZZA: Look, all of those are English words that I recognize.

KEILAR: $12 -- no one pays $12 a year.

CILLIZZA: The problem is put together -- it's both sort of out of context, out of touch, and it doesn't make any sense. I mean, he -- if you read the excerpts that The New York Times puts out, he -- and I would urge folks to do it -- he is all over the place. I mean, he really kind of -- you know, one minute he's talking about Russians and their ability to fight in the cold, he's talking about Napoleon and then literally in the next sentence, he says things are going well, the economy is strong. So, this is --

KEILAR: And he is steering it in these different ways.

CILLIZZA: Steering it is a kind way of saying what he's doing. I think he's just riffing. I mean, I think that's his sort of M.O. On health care, the thing I was struck by in addition to the 21 years old -- 21-year-olds are paying $12 a year is the fact that he's so self- conscious and aware, for someone to say he detests the media and it's all fake, he's so aware of what is being written and said about him. He has a quote where he says, the papers --

KEILAR: Can I read it --


CILLIZZA: Please, yes, yes.

KEILAR: Here we go. This is the quote, "You know, a lot of the papers were saying actually these guys couldn't belief it -- he's talking about the Senators.

CILLIZZA: Talking about the senators, right.

KEILAR: Who had just been at the White House. These guys couldn't believe how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care.

CILLIZZA: OK. So, what do you see there? The papers are -- he cuts himself off because he knows, talking about what the papers are saying about him isn't good. But then what does he do? I just met with these Senators and they all were amazed at how much I know. Then, boy, do I know a lot about health care. I mean, this is, you know, he's overcompensating. Donald Trump has never been in his business life and particularly in his political life, he's never been a details guy. He's the face, he's the brand, he's the salesman. He's not the guy who comes in and says, on page 27, there's -- that's not him.

KEILAR: Right. He's not -- yes. He's -- and I mean, we know that privately these Senators are frustrated that he doesn't know the details of how --

CILLIZZA: And we've heard that reporting for months that he's not engaged in the policy details.

KEILAR: He talked so much about Hillary Clinton, he mentioned her almost a dozen times in this interview.

CILLIZZA: The 20 -- this is all part and parcel, I think, Brianna, of the constant talking about the popular vote versus the electoral vote. Remember the first three or four months, there were maps being brought in he was bringing up at every event he could. The 2016 election for Donald Trump somewhat understandably is a touchstone for him that proves everything in his life. Remember, this is a guy who whether you believe it or not, views himself as someone out on the outside looking in all the time. His father was a developer in queens, not Manhattan.

When he was a developer in Manhattan, he wasn't welcomed into the old money crowd there, that he had to make his own golf courses because he wasn't necessarily welcomed to all those golf courses. He comes to Washington in 2011 and Seth Meyers and Barack Obama make fun of him for a full night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. So, it was proof positive that he knew better that all the people who were laughing at him were now the ones who were wrong so he returns to it over and over and over again because it is so seminal to sort of how he has long viewed the world and then the affirmation that he was right.

KEILAR: He constantly slams the New York Times, and then he invites their marquee reporters in to interview him.

CILLIZZA: 50-minute interview on the day he's trying to save health care.

KEILAR: It's almost 20 pages, right? This is long. Does that just reinforce how obsessed he is about the media coverage?

CILLIZZA: I think it shows that this is -- he is -- he is practicing a strategy in attacking the media. I don't think all of his supporters are aware of that, but Donald --

KEILAR: He loves the media but they're --

CILLIZZA: Donald Trump consumes more media, whether it's CNN, whether it's the New York Times, he consumes more media than any President before him and he understands the power that someone like the New York Times has. Remember, in an interview with the New York Times, two weeks, exactly two weeks after he won the 2016 election, Brianna, he called it a major jewel, a crown jewel in the world when he was interviewing with them. So that's more what he really believes. The other stuff is him doing political posturing.

KEILAR: Yes. All right. Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

[17:54:58] KEILAR: And coming up, we have some breaking news. The White House says President Trump does not intend to fire special counsel Robert Mueller at this time. That's a quote. A day after the President warned Mueller not to investigate his family's finance. And after the President slams his Attorney General, the White House insists he still has confidence in Jeff Sessions.


KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news, I've done my time. O.J. Simpson is granted parole after nearly nine years in prison and two decades after he was a defendant in one of the most infamous trials in U.S. history. This hour, more on the former NFL star and his rambling remarks about the crime that landed him behind bars.

Subpoena threat. Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort are facing a new deadline to agree to testify in the Russia investigation.