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Trump Jr & Manafort Reach Senate Deal to Avoid Public Hearing; Congressional Negotiators Propose New Sanctions Against Russia; New White House Director: "I Love the President"; Video Appears to Show Baltimore Cop Planting Evidence; U.S. Apologizes for Airstrike that Killed 16 Afghan Police Officers. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 22, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thanks for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with new proposed sanctions against Russia. House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a deal that could send a new bill to the president's desk before the end of the month. It would slap Russia with new sanctions and give Congress veto power over easing sanctions against Moscow. The House will vote on the sanctions bill on Tuesday and the Senate is likely to vote shortly thereafter. Russia has already responded. In a text message to CNN, Kremlin Spokesman Dimitri Peskov saying he agrees -- he sees the agreement, rather, quite negatively.
But back in Washington, the investigation into Russia and possible Trump campaign ties is moving forward now. We now know that Donald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort will speak with a Senate panel behind closed doors about that secret campaign meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last year, June of 2016.
Let's go to White House reporter, Kaitlyn Collins, for more details.
Kaitlyn, is the president responding in any way to this proposal of coming from the House and Senate?
KAITLYN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Though the president was in Virginia this morning for the commissioning of the new Navy carrier, he has been tweeting a lot. He has not been absent on his favorite social media platform. And he's been tweeting about some of these things including pardons. Let's put that up on pardons. He said, "While all agree the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when the only crime so far is leaks against us. Fake news."
That tweet seems to be a response to a "Washington Post" story this week that the president and his legal team have been discussing his ability to pardon people, including friends, family members, maybe even himself. His adviser who said he had been discussing it with the president said he wasn't discussing it in a matter of how he could use it but was curious of what his power to use it is and with the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's special investigation truly is. We know that in a "New York Times" interview this week the president said that if Bob Mueller started looking into the president's personal finances, he would consider that a red line.
Now Jay Sekulow, the president's lawyer, says he is not considering using pardons and they are not on the table right now. But this tweet shows us that this is something on the president's mind. He's not saying he'll use it but he's definitely leaving that option open here.
WHITFIELD: And we learned House and Senate negotiators agreed on the sanctions against Russia that could possibly be sent to the president's desk after a vote. So, how do you expect the White House, if it hasn't said anything thus far, how do we expect the response to be?
COLLINS: That's a great question. We have not heard anything from the White House yet on this agreement that came from Senate and Congress negotiators this morning regarding this bill that would put new sanctions on not only Russia but North Korea and Iran as well. The sanctions on Russia would come in response to Russian meddling in the election and their military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. It really shows us that lawmakers are trying to get the president to take a hard line against Russia.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Kaitlyn. Appreciate it. We'll check back with you.
So more now on the stunning revelations from "The Washington Post" now, which is reporting that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his Kremlin bosses that he did, in fact, talk about campaign matters with then-Senator Jeff Sessions during the 2016 election. Current and former U.S. officials telling "The Post" that they learned of the conversations from intercepts of Russian discussions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly said he did not speak to Russians about campaign issues.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joining us live now.
Shimon, how does this new revelation about Sessions play into the special counsel investigation being led by Mueller?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. These are new revelations being reported, publicized. But keep in mind the FBI has likely been aware of this for quite some time and has been reviewed them. All of this is part of Bob Mueller's investigation into what kind of meddling was going on here, what were the Russians trying to do. These intercepts seem to continue along the lines, sort of the idea that the Russians were trying to target anyone who had access to the president at the time during his campaign obviously. And so, you know, as we've reported, there have been other intercepts, other communications amongst the Russians indicating that they were trying to reach out to folks inside the Trump orbit who could have access to Donald Trump and who could perhaps influence. This is part of Bob Mueller's investigation.
And also the latest revelations, which just came, you know, in the last week about the meeting that took place at Trump last year in June with the Russian lawyer, that, too, is now part of Bob Mueller's investigation. Yesterday, as CNN reported, Bob Mueller's team sent a letter requesting anyone who was part of that meeting, keep their text messages and e-mails.
And here in Aspen, at the National Security Forum, this has been a hot topic. Yesterday, two of the former leaders of the intelligence community, James Clapper, and the former head of the CIA, John Brennan, were asked this by Wolf Blitzer, and here's their reaction to this meeting that took place last June.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:05:41] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A lot of this, to me, had kind of the standard textbook trade craft, long employed by the Russians, or the Soviets, and now into the Russians. So I don't find it surprising that these connections are coming out. It would have been a really good idea maybe to have vetted whoever they were meeting with.
JOHN BRENNER, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's just profoundly baffling why three of the senior-most members of a presidential campaign would jump at the opportunity to meet with individuals that were going to, according to what's been in the reports, provide information, dirt and information, on Hillary Clinton that was coming from the Russian government. As Jim said, that's not something that's, you know, you can engage in personally. If they want to find out what was involved, you send a minion, you send someone else. But to go there with that, it raises a lot of questions. I think that's what the administration now is having to deal with, questions about what were the motives, what were people thinking at the time. They should have known a lot better. If they didn't, they shouldn't have been in those positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: That's right. That has been a hot topic here at the forum. You know, Clapper, at one point, called this sort of a soft tactic by perhaps the Russians to see if people within the Trump world would accept any kind of help from the Russians. And now, Fred, as we've been saying, this is all part of Bob Mueller's investigation.
WHITFIELD: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much, from Aspen. Appreciate it.
We're also covering lots of developments involving the Russia and the growing Russia investigations. We learned that Donald Trump Jr and former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, have struck deals and will be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. The arrangements will allow the pair to avoid being subpoenaed far high-profile public hearing later on. Both men have agreed to provide records to the panel and to be privately interviewed ahead of any public sessions.
Let's discuss all of this and other things with our panel now. Richard Painter is a former White House ethics lawyer. Matthew Whitaker is the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.
Good to see you both.
All right. So, Richard, let's begin with you.
I guess these protections, for lack of a better word, that Manafort, Kushner, and Don Jr are getting in having these private hearings or testimonies, do you believe in any way this is kind of a precursor to what any potential hearing would be like?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: They should have the private hearing but the American people are entitled to a public hearing, which all of three of them and anyone else involved with-in this collaboration with the Russians -- it's clear now there was collaboration with the Russians -- anybody who was involved with it testifies publicly. The American people are entitled to know what happened in the time leading up to our election and afterward when people covered up the collaboration. So we could start with a private hearing. But it's going to be very, very important to have the public hearing shortly thereafter.
And it's very distressing to see the president of the United States tweeting about handing out pardons. He's only six months into his term and he's talking about handing out pardons to people who were involved with the collaboration with the Russians and other scandals in this administration. That's very disturbing, only six months in. We've never seen this before in American history.
WHITFIELD: And, Richard, I know you wrote in "The Washington Post" along with Norm Eisen and Lawrence Tribe, you know, that you say, "The president can really not be the judge of himself and pardon himself," even as we understand the White House is looking into pardoning of family aides and even himself. Do you believe that this is an admission of guilt of something by even looking into whether pardoning should be something that the president should be considering, Richard?
PAINTER: Well, I don't know why they're looking into it right now, unless that's the game plan. And if that's the game plan, you know, they ought to proceed with it and he ought to leave the White House and let Vice President Pence take over. We need a president who's going to focus on the business of our country, not on pardoning his family members and his colleagues and perhaps himself with respect to this collaboration with the Russians. So if the situation is really that bad, I think it's time for him to move along. I do not know why they're researching pardons that the point in time. I've never seen this, particularly this early in an administration.
[13:10:44] WHITFIELD: Matthew, say you nodding your head, what, in agreement about the pardoning and what it says about the White House even looking into it?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, DIRECTOR, FOUNDATON FOR ACCOUNTABILITY & CIVIL TRUST: PAINTER: Yes. This is something that obviously, as this investigation has developed, I'm certain that smart minds in the White House are concerned about where this investigation may lead. We've seen special counsels with broad investigative directives go all sorts of places, including my former colleague who did the Scooter Libby prosecution. And, you know, that was very far afield from where it started. And so I think they are rightfully concerned about where the special counsel may lead. And I think, you know, back to your first question, to Professor Painter about the private interview --
WHITAKER: -- that my home state Senator Grassley is going to conduct along with Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, I think that's the right first step. Actually, it's not a win for Manafort or Don Jr. I see that as a very risky first move because, as a criminal defense lawyer in addition to a former federal prosecutor, you don't want to tell your story over and over because it's very hard for human beings -- and we're all human beings -- to tell the same story in the same way repeatedly. To go into that meeting and to tell the story privately, and then have potentially a public hearing in the future together with Bob Mueller's investigation looming, and maybe an interview there, I think that's a risky plan.
WHITAKER: But at the same time I see it as from people that don't think they have anything to hide.
WHITFIELD: You say risky for Don Jr and for Manafort, but what about for Kushner?
WHITAKER: Well, you know, Kushner is in an interesting position because he's part of the administration and that brings a heightened scrutiny. I think all three of them need to tell the story about that meeting, why they took the meeting, what was discussed, what came out of it. I don't agree with Professor Painter and his characterization that there was collaboration or other untoward involvement with the Russians coming out of this meeting. But, you know, we don't know all the facts. That's where I think, to some extent, we need to slow down and let the facts come out so we can then ultimately judge what happened. But I don't see anything that suggests there was collaboration just based on one meeting and not really knowing what came out of it.
WHITFIELD: I know it is a lot to keep up with. There are so many moving parts in all of these investigations.
Really quickly, before I let you gentlemen go, this House and Senate negotiations, giving Congress potential veto power over easing sanctions with the White House were trying to do that, Richard, really quick, is that tantamount to Congress essentially saying that don't trust the president?
PAINTER: Well, I think they're furious with Russia, or at least say they're furious with Russia because the American people are furious with what Russia did. It's so obvious what the quid pro quo was. It's right there in the e-mails. They're going to bring the dirt on Hillary to the Trump Tower, and we know with what they wanted, the sanctions to be lifted. And there were three people at that meeting wanted sanctions to be lifted. And we're just foolish if we sit around and say there wasn't collaboration and there wasn't a deal. Congress obviously doesn't want to cave in on this deal because the American people aren't going to accept it, and they have to go up for re-election in 2018.
PAINTER: So they're going to say no, and Putin's going to get upset. It's going to be a real mess. And we should never be in this situation. It's very tragic.
[13:14:13] WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there, gentlemen. Always good to see and hear from you. Appreciate it, Richard Painter, Matthew Whitaker.
Next, the New York hedge fund manager who is now heading up President Trump's communication staff. Who is Anthony Scaramucci, the mooch? And what kind of impact will he have on the White House and the president?
Later, Baltimore police caught on camera allegedly planting evidence. This, just the latest a series of problems for that department.
WHITFIELD: The White House is getting a major shake-up with Press Secretary Sean Spicer out and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci now in. Spicer resigning, saying he wanted the White House to have a clean slate with Scaramucci at the helm.
Scaramucci is best known for his work as a Wall Street investor and for raising money for some of Trump's past opponents, including Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. At yesterday's press briefing, he had nothing but praise for the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I love the president. I'm very, very loyal to the president. The president is phenomenal with the press. He is an unbelievable politician. He's genuinely a wonderful human being. I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. He sinks three-foot putts. I love the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That is the love.
I want to bring is Mitch Ackles, the president of the nonprofit Hedge Fund Association. He has worked with Anthony Scaramucci.
So you know him well. Scaramucci has never handled communications strategy before, so how do you think he'll do?
[13:19:54] MITCH ACKLES, CEO, HEDGE FUND PR & SPOKESMAN, HEDGE FUND ASSOCIATION: I think he's going to do great. To say that Anthony hasn't handled communications strategy means you don't know Anthony. Over many years, he has elevated himself, whether it's through Sky Bridge, his firm, creating one of industry's most popular conferences, the Salt Conference, and he himself re-created and brought back "Wall Street Week." I think he has plenty of media experience and will be quite effective in the role.
WHITFIELD: He does seem to be a good communicator, as you see him on the podium. But leading that office means leading the message. He's a Wall Streeter. Is it more likely that, given his experience and background, that's what it's going to take for President Trump to listen to the guidance of the mooch, as they call him, right? Did you call him that?
ACKLES: I don't call him that. Most people in the industry don't. But Anthony, as a human being, wasn't born into wealth. He created his own business, was an entrepreneur, created many jobs himself. And I do think they connect on that level. I also believe that this president clearly is different than all other presidents before. And Anthony is probably going to be quite effective at interfacing with him, at bringing that team together. Because he does work with people. He doesn't have people working for him. In my experience, I think he's going to do an exceptional job.
WHITFIELD: You mentioned creating his wealth. That was one of the distinctions that he has made in terms of how Donald Trump couldn't be more different in the past. Scaramucci has been critical of the president, calling him a hack politician. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: He's a hack politician.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in trouble now.
SCARAMUCCI: He's probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his vice presidential nominee. You have to cut it out now and stop all this crazy rhetoric spinning everybody -
SCARAMUCCI: You're an inherited money dude from Queens County. Bring it, Donald.
SCARAMUCCI: Bring it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. So of course, Scaramucci was asked of that in the press room at the White House yesterday and he says he has apologized to the president for that comment, in particular, he can't get away it from, he's asked about it every 15 seconds he says. How does Scaramucci now craft a relationship with the president after that kind of criticism or has he done that already and let bygones be bygones?
ACKLES: Clearly, he has done that. They've known each other for years, before those comments were made. And in my estimation, many people evolve, many people change their views and their opinions. He's in this role not just to serve the president, obviously, to serve the American people and to facilitate that level of communication.
One thing that I would suggest that he do, if Anthony is listening, is keep those cameras on. I think the American people deserve that visibility. And I think those briefings should be on camera as they have been for traditionally over all of these years.
WHITFIELD: So guess what, Mitch? Scaramucci has decided it really is water under the bridge. In fact, he just tweeted this: "Full transparency. I am deleting all tweets. Past views evolved and shouldn't be a distraction. I serve the president of the United States' agenda and that's all that matters."
There you go. Even though people can pull up the tape, you know, the television appearances, he says, in terms of the world of tweets, he's getting rid of everything negative he's ever really said about the president and so water under the bridge, let's move forward. Effective?
ACKLES: Well, that's his choice. But, you know, one thing I can tell you, aside from being president of the Hedge Fund Association, I'm the P.R. person, and it's forever. Your deleting tweets makes no sense. I would say don't ever post anything, write anything, blog anything, post anything to Facebook unless you're willing to stand by it forever because people will save it, as they have done with those tweets that he's probably deleted.
WHITFIELD: So, new guy in charge of communications. Does that mean a new road ahead in terms of the relationship between the press and the White House? Because, you know, it's been a little tenuous to say the least.
ACKLES: It has been. And I think, you know, this White House obviously operates quite differently than the past White House staffs have done. And the president, it has to start with him. And his communications style is clearly different than all others. And they're going to have to find that rhythm to work together. I do think it's very important that all parties be on the same page. We have seen occasions where something is said, and then the next day, it's contradicted in a tweet. Hopefully, they'll come up with a strategy where they can be on the same page and speak with a unified voice.
WHITFIELD: Do you believe it will be a mission to change the tone?
ACKLES: I don't believe the tone is necessarily what they will aim for. I think one of the things I noticed when Anthony was speaking yesterday is to talk about the future. We are in the 21st century, so there are lots of communications and mediums, television, the Internet, obviously. They can reach directly out to their constituents. But their constituents are all of us, all Americans, so it's not just those that voted for Trump that they have to reach out to. That's why, again, I encourage them to keep the camera on, to keep those lines of communications open, and to, you know, take the opportunity to be interviewed across all media outlets. Because it may reach a wider audience and they do have conviction of their message and are consistent with it, they'll be much more effective than I think they have been.
[13:25:19] WHITFIELD: Mitch Ackles, good to see you. Thank you so much.
ACKLES: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: What was really behind this staff shake-up? Our political panel tackling that, and the latest developments in the Russia investigations. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: In Baltimore, stunning new video of proports showing a police officer planting evidence at the scene of a drug arrest. It was released by the Baltimore public defender's office. The Baltimore state's attorney says the investigation could affect up to 100 active, open cases.
[13:00:00] CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the story for us.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If perception is reality, then this video does not help police community relations in Baltimore. Watch as the officer wearing the body camera appears to stuff a baggie of heroin into a can during a January drug bust. He and his fellow officers walk away, only to return a few seconds later. This time, the device's mic is active.
UNIDENTIFIED BALITMORE POLICE OFFICER: I'm going to check here.
SANDOVAL: After scanning over some debris, the officer finds what appears to be the same can containing the same drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED BALTIMORE POLICE OFFICER: Yo.
SANDOVAL: Was this officer intentionally planting evidence or re- creating when and where the narcotics were initially found? An internal investigation will have to determine that says Commissioner Kevin Davis.
KEVIN DAVIS, COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: So if our community thinks that there are police officers who are planting evidence during the course of their duty, that's certainly something that will keep me up at night.
SANDOVAL: This is the latest controversy to rock a department struggling with growing public distrust.
CEDRICK ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: None of them are perfect. And there are going to be things that are going to happen that's going to create some concern.
SANDOVAL: In March, seven Baltimore investigators were arrested as part of a federal racketeering takedown. The group is accused of robbing people and defrauding their department. On Friday, two of the suspected officers pleaded guilty in court.
SANDOVAL: And police community relations reached a breaking point in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray while in custody. Residents clashed with police in the streets following the incident. All of the officers involved were eventually cleared of wrongdoing, causing further division between the community and police.
Cedrick Alexander, a former top law enforcement official, believes bridging that gap requires action on both sides.
ALEXANDER: We cannot give up on each other. Police need community. Community needs police. And we have to find a way in order to continue to build that trust and build those relationships.
SANDOVAL: Baltimore may be taking a step in that direction with Commissioner Davis promising transparency by releasing the body camera video.
SANDOVAL: The question now, will that transparency translate to perhaps more trust within the community there. That is yet to be seen, Fred. In the meantime, prosecutors in Baltimore are closely examining about 100 cases involving at least one of those investigators, who is currently off the job, suspended as this investigation continues. Prosecutors are going to try to see if there's possibly another way of prosecuting those 100 cases -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
I want to bring in our legal guys. Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, joining us from Cleveland. And with me here in Atlanta is Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor.
Thanks for being with me, guys.
Avery, wish you were here, but we know you have family obligations --
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: I'm a little imbalanced right now.
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSWE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: It's OK. You can stay in Cleveland, Avery.
AVERY: I'll make up for it.
(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: You're here in spirit and via satellite so we're grateful for that. Thanks so much.
Avery, you first.
The police chief said he wanted the video released in the name of transparency. That video is six months old. So what's your reaction to how this is being handle so far? Does this assist in being as transparent as possible?
FRIEDMAN: It's a video that should have been released a long time ago, Fredricka. The city of Baltimore is under a federal consent decree -- being watched over by a federal district judge. The Justice Department tried to back of that thing. The federal judge wants to know about this. This is a serious setback. Do we have an institutional problem, Fredricka or do we have a rogue cop? We don't know the answer to that. Except when these things happen, the issue of trust in the community is set back, time and time again. And believe me, that federal judge overseeing the United States of America versus the City of Baltimore is not going to be happy with this. They're all going to be called into federal court. And they will all be accountable for what's happened here.
WHITFIELD: Richard, if this is the real deal and it isn't some recreation, which some have implied it could have been, not only might it be impacting potentially 100 active cases, but what about cases where, perhaps, if this is the real deal, this really was, you know, planting evidence, this officer or others may have been involved in other cases that are closed where there were convictions, et cetera? This has really widespread ramifications, potentially, right?
HERMAN: It really does. And other defense attorneys and other cases that this was the complaining officer are seeking to reopen those files. And just imagine you have the standard proof beyond a reasonable doubt and you have this officer as the complaining witness for the police, and you cross-examine him about him planting evidence, intentionally, planting evidence. And we know he did that. This was not a recreation. He sought to turn off the camera. He didn't know how to do that. He just muted the camera. He sought to turn it off. That's a big problem, Fred. It's not only office of professional responsibility but I believe criminal charges are going to be brought against this officer.
FRIEDMAN: And civil.
HERMAN: And civil. This is really horrific. And, you know, it's tough enough to defend people, but when law enforcement plant evidence, it's the worst.
WHITFIELD: Avery, there have been a lot of cases, but one very high- profile case is the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore. When you have images like this and we already know widespread the distrust that's been reported between the community and police in many sections of Baltimore, this only adds fuel to that fire, doesn't it?
FRIEDMAN: It certainly does. I mean, the best that's going to come out of this, Fredricka, is you'll be able to show a rogue cop. Whether the city will be civilly responsible for that remains to be seen. I have to tell you, one thing for sure, under an 1871 federal Civil Rights Act, that individual cop, if he did this, is personally on the line for both compensatory and community -- and punitive damages. But believe me, the loss in trust to the community I think is irreparable. I don't know how you patch that one up.
HERMAN: That's the problem, Fred. So many law enforcement officers do an incredible job every day of the week.
FRIEDMAN: That's right.
HERMAN: But it just takes one or two instances like this that take the system, take the public's trust.
FRIEDMAN: That's right.
HERMAN: And, you know, Baltimore, like Houston, we have a problem in Baltimore, and it continues, and it's just horrific.
WHITFIELD: And, you know, while this video might put the microscope on one particular officer, it really does impact many officers. It really will impact the scope of, if, indeed, this officer planted evidence, the relationship this officer may have with anybody else and it puts under the microscope the actions of any of the other officers who may have been there and linked as to whether there was widespread wrongdoing.
HERMAN: Any case that he touched, any case.
FRIEDMAN: Fredricka, we don't know if that's true. We don't know what's true.
WHITFIELD: -- but it inspires an investigation of everybody --
FRIEDMAN: I agree with that.
WHITFIELD: -- even if they were not involved.
FRIEDMAN: I agree with that.
HERMAN: Every case he tangentially or directly was involved in, they're going to seek to open because they're going to say he's a corrupt officer and this is what he does, he plants evidence. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
FRIEDMAN: That's right.
HERMAN: It's reasonable doubt.
WHITFIELD: Always great to have both of you, whether it's via satellite, in studio. But one of those days, Richard and Avery, we're going to get you right here so we can all be together.
HERMAN: On each side.
HERMAN: On each side of Fred.
HERMAN: A sandwich.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you guys. Thank you so much. Appreciate your commitment.
HERMAN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.
[13:42:07] WHITFIELD: Get used to the name Anthony Scaramucci. He is now the communications director for the White House. Sean Spicer handled in his resignation. Scaramucci will be adapting to his new role. This, at a time when the president of the United States and the White House is handling so much, as the investigations into Russia's meddling in the election advances forward among the items.
Joining me are Democratic strategist, Mustafa Tameez, a former consultant for Homeland Security, and John Weaver, a Republican political analyst.
Good to see both of you.
John, you first.
What is behind this shake-up in your view?
JOHN WEAVER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: At the end of the day, all organization takes on the characteristics and integrity of the person at top. That's very the case with the Trump administration. I think, at the end of the day, Donald Trump wanted another, different, maybe slicker, deceitful person speaking for him on camera. And he probably likes this guy's style. Maybe he likes his wealth. Who really knows? But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter because the focus here is on the president and his conduct, and it doesn't matter how they move around the deck chairs at the staff room.
WHITFIELD: Yikes. You used the word "deceitful."
So, Mustafa, the president is the messenger in chief, is he not? Anthony Scaramucci, what role would he really be able to play to help reshape, control the message of President Trump when, you know, President Trump is at the controls of his tweets, as far as we know, and he really is taking the lead in what kind of message comes out of the White House, right?
MUSTAFA TAMEEZ, A DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST AND A FORMER CONSULTANT FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes. Actually, he is going to be spokesperson in chief. You'll see him in a lot of the Sunday shows. He'll be out there.
But I think the real issue is not the P.R. problem. We often put a lot of the issues with the president on the P.R. bucket when we really should see one of the things coming out. We just saw in a "Bloomberg" article the president's new attorney that -- Mr. Dao that came out and said that there are some things, some transactions that Robert Mueller is looking at that are outside of the time frame in which, you know, potential criminal action might be out there from President Trump's business transactions. I mean, there are things coming out. A lot of it, his former campaign manager filing as a registered foreign agent retroactivity, taking $17 million from Kremlin-linked ties. These things are so over the top and crossing legal lines that it's not just a P.R. problem or tweets. These transactions are so concerning. And that's what we really should focus on, not -- it's almost like putting lipstick on a pig, when we talk about who's his press person.
[13:45:13] WHITFIELD: So the press secretary, the elevated press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will still be the one taking on the questions, answering them, setting a type of tone in the pressroom.
So, John, do you see that the way in which Anthony Scaramucci will be making his mark is how that message is sent? Not necessarily the message that's coming directly from the president, but really the message that may be conveyed perhaps from the pressroom or, you know, how to place emphasis on what message the president might want to come out?
WEAVER: Well, I mean, look, at the end of the day, the president is the communications director, right? And they've moved all kinds of different staff people different places. His lawyers have advised him not to tweet. His staff have advised him not to tweet. They've advised him to stay on message. He doesn't do it. He does whatever he wants to do.
Now I think the new communications director likes to be on TV. He likes to see himself on TV. But he's already reached out to "Breitbart" and some of these other entities. So I don't expect to see anything much different, other than a guy who likes to be on tv defending Trump, advancing that agenda. But really, I don't see anything major changing. And how long will it be before the president falls out with this latest fellow?
Mustafa, what do you see coming from the White House press room from this point forward? Will there be a different tone?
TAMEEZ: Well, it's likely to be more of a contentious tone. What we've seen coming out of the briefing room is very little. Meaning that the briefings have not been on camera. Some of the briefings have been not even on audio. There have been less briefings that we've seen. What used to be a daily briefing is no longer even a weekly briefing anymore. So -- WHITFIELD: Do you think more of the same or do you --
TAMEEZ: -- very little information coming out.
WHITFIELD: More of the same or --
WHITFIELD: -- return to at least on camera?
MUSTAFA: I think we're likely to see less. I think we're likely to see more of "talk to our lawyers," as almost like a recorded message. Everything that's important that the press is going to ask, it's going to be referred to the lawyers. And the lawyers have actually said they'll be talking less, too. So this is a lot more obfuscation that we're going to see coming out of the White House.
WHITFIELD: That's interesting you brought that up, talk to the lawyers. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been saying a lot, you know, well, I don't know, you'll have to talk to the president. But that's what that job is, you know? When the president is saying no or is unavailable to networks for sit-down interviews or one-on-ones, more than just an occasional he picks up the phone and has the instinct to do it, that's the role of that spokesperson to really be the spokesperson for the president of the United States. So it will be interesting if any of that will be changing.
Mustafa Tameez, John Weaver, thank you so much.
Coming up, a U.S.-supported airstrike targeting militants goes terribly wrong in Afghanistan. 16 Afghan police officers are mistakenly killed by friendly fire. Detail on that next.
[13:52:34] WHITFIELD: The U.S. is apologizing for a U.S.-supported airstrike that went terribly wrong in Afghanistan. The friendly fire killed at least 16 Afghan police officers. The strike in Helmand Province on Friday was targeting militants in a compound, but Afghan forces were actually inside.
CNN's Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, joining us with more on this now -- Ryan?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Fred, this airstrike was part of an offensive that Afghan troops were conducting against the Taliban down there in Helmand. And there's been a series of these offenses in recent days and weeks. The U.S. providing a lot of airstrikes. There's been significant increase in U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan in the last few months during the summer fighting season, as it's called, when violence tends to tick up in the country.
And, again, this all coming as the U.S. is reviewing its strategy in Afghanistan and what to do kind of in the ways ahead, how to best help the local Afghan government combat the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the region. Secretary Mattis speaking to reporters yesterday saying that the U.S. was "close," quote/unquote, to unveiling this strategy, something he initially said might be done by mid July. We're kind of in that timeframe now.
So the U.S. though still not waiting on that strategy. We've seen that on the ground. They're upping the number of airstrikes. They're using advisors to help the Afghan forces. Again, we're kind of seeing the results of one of these airstrikes going wrong here, striking allied forces as opposed to Taliban troops. So this uptick in airstrikes has some risks associated with it. This renewed U.S. effort in Afghanistan showing some of the pitfalls that are there. And one of the things -- additional troops that the military is seeking for Afghanistan, one of the things they would do is call in these kinds of airstrikes, advisors who could coordinate with U.S. and NATO air power.
So this is all factoring in as the Trump administration kind of weighs what it wants to do in Afghanistan in the wider region, a decision many expect to be made relatively soon -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: OK, Ryan, and there's a U.S. military statement on this?
BROWNE: Yes, there is. The U.S. issued a statement apologizing -- U.S. forces in Afghanistan issued a statement apologizing saying they wanted "to express the deepest condolences to the families affected by the unfortunate incident."
This is something that the coalition kind of produces these statements. Incidents have happened in the past. Of course, it's considered a terrible tragedy. But again, U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the coalition kind of expressing their condolences to the families of those Afghan forces killed in this accidental airstrike -- Fred?
[13:55:07] WHITFIELD: Ryan Browne, thank you so much.
We've got so much more straight ahead in CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with possible new sanctions against Russia amid a deepening investigation at the White House. CNN is learning that House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a deal that could impose new punishments against Moscow. Both Houses of Congress will have to vote on the bill before sending it to the president's desk. A spokesman for the Kremlin says he sees the agreement, quote, "quite negatively."
And the investigation into election meddling moves forward.