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Kushner Breaks Silence, Outlines Russian Meetings. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2017 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- e-mails and was new at this whole politics thing. That's the first official defense, 11 pages worth, from senior White House advisor Jared Kushner for the swirl of Russia questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Trump White House.

Now, Kushner also happens to be the President's son-in-law. And he also happens to be minutes away from arriving on Capitol Hill where he will meet behind closed doors with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the efforts of Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

We should see his arrival any money now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So Kushner addresses quite a bit in this 11-page statement this morning. He dismisses the meeting set up by Donald Trump, Jr., the one to talk with the Russian lawyer who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

He says it was so meaningless, quote, I actually e-mailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 minutes or so and wrote, can you please call me on my cell? Need an excuse to get out of the meeting.

But notably, Kushner does not once, in these 11 pages, bring up Russia's hacking of the U.S. election. Not once. Our Pamela Brown will walk us through all of the important points in the statement in a moment, but let's begin with Manu Raju who is on the Hill.

And this is Jared Kushner leaving his residence as he is getting ready to go to exactly where Manu Raju is. He has released this 11-page statement, all obviously on the record. It will be presented and read before he meets with Senate Intelligence staffers today.

As we watch him head over there, let's go to our Manu Raju on the Hill. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, he should be here momentarily, meeting with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We are not expecting senators to be at this meeting, but this is something that actually will not be conducted under oath.

So it will actually just a staff interview. They typically those aren't under oath. Still, he has to tell the full truth. And it is, of course, a lie to -- it is a crime to lie or mislead Congress in any way, so the bar is very high.

And today, Jared Kushner, for the first time, laying out in detail 11 pages' worth of his past meetings. He is saying he had met both during the campaign season and during the transition with Russians officials.

Expect that, of course, to be a central line of questioning from these staff members who have been going back and forth for weeks and months with Jared Kushner about these meetings. They've been -- started talking to him back in March about potentially coming in and talking to the committee.

This is the first time he will be meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now, tomorrow, he also will be meeting -- coming to Capitol Hill, this with the House Intelligence Committee. Some members will be a part of that, as well as their aides. And we do expect that to be under oath as well.

So a very big week for Jared Kushner. He's the most significant witness so far to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee and before the House Intelligence Committee as they look into Russia meddling and any of those campaign contacts that occurred with Trump officials and Russian associates during the elections.

Jared Kushner, for the first time, detailing his own meetings. We'll see how that -- whether he is able to alleviate any concerns from Capitol Hill from a number of members, particularly Democrats concerned that Mr. Kushner did not disclose some of these meetings in his security clearance form initially. And whether they believe it or -- him or not that there is really nothing of significance to the meeting is another question that we'll have to probe later on today, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Stand by. Again, those pictures you're seeing from just moments ago, Jared Kushner leaving his house. He will arrive on Capitol Hill any moment now.

He did not speak while leaving, although he seemed to acknowledge reporters there. We're not sure whether or not he will speak when he arrives on Capitol Hill. We did see microphones set up. He'll get the opportunity should he want it.

HARLOW: He knew cameras were going to be out there.

BERMAN: He did, in fact, know cameras are there, right. He didn't speak out loud, but he did release this 11-page statement.

Let's get much more on that. We're joined now by CNN Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, what's in there?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE AND SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot in those 11 pages. And let's just reiterate that this is the first time that Jared Kushner is sharing his side of the story. And he defending his previous contacts that he has had with Russians,

saying in these 11 pages that he has nothing to hide, and unequivocally stating, I did not collude nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.

And Kushner painted, in this statement, a picture of a fast-paced campaign where decisions had to be made on the fly as he juggled multiple jobs within the campaign. He said in the statement, I share this information because these actions should be viewed through the lens of a fast-paced campaign with thousands of meetings and interactions, some of which were impactful and memorable and many of which were not.

And in the way he laid out the four difficult interactions he had with Russians, it's clear he wanted to emphasize that those were not what he viewed as significant meetings, as -- he said they -- basically making the point that they were unmemorable.

[09:05:02] And it's worth mentioning that two of the meetings in December that he talks about in these 11 pages, one with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the other with the head of the Russian state-owned bank who has a direct line to Putin, was after the U.S. intelligence community publicly concluded Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

So, certainly, within that context, it raises the question of why he seemed, based on this statement, to brush them off as insignificant, John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Pamela, he also wrote one line that stood out to us a lot, saying I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form. He goes on to say, beyond -- above and beyond what is required.

Now, as you've said many times over, and we know, he resubmitted that three times. Has he done, to your knowledge, anything that is above and beyond what is required by law?

BROWN: So he makes the case, in this statement, that he went to great lengths to leave no stone unturned --

HARLOW: Right.

BROWN: -- in his security clearance. He said that the initial submission of the form was done by error due to a miscommunication about it being complete. And the next day, he notified the FBI -- his team notified the FBI of the error. And he says he then disclosed the foreign contacts over the next several months.

And he said that even though his attorney couldn't conclude the Russian attorney in the Trump Tower meeting last June was representing the Russian government, he included that anyway on his form out of an abundance of caution. But he did say that meeting wasn't discovered until June after a document review. So that also raises the question of why it wasn't discovered and disclosed sooner, Poppy.

BERMAN: Yes. Pamela Brown, thanks so much. I think his point was that because, in his mind, the Russian lawyer wasn't a representative of the government, you wouldn't need to include that meeting at all on the SF-86 form.

HARLOW: But if he read down in the e-mail, he'd see it was a Russian government effort.

BERMAN: Exactly. So in his mind, that's above and beyond. Whether, you know, the law sees it like that, who knows?

Here to discuss, Dana Bash, CNN's chief political correspondent; Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst; Susan Hennessey, CNN national security and legal analyst, a former NSA attorney; and Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator.

First guys, a lightning round, your first impressions of this 11-page document. Susan Hennessey, first to you. What does it look like to you as a legal document?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a really incredibly parse statement. While it certainly his first sort of defense of it, he actually doesn't deny a lot of it. He doesn't say, I never had those two phone calls with Kislyak. He says I don't recall having those phone calls.

So this is a very carefully prepared document. It's putting him in a position to preserve any level of plausible deniability, the possibility of errors. Because, of course, whatever he says in front of Congress has to be the truth, or it will be a crime.

HARLOW: Right. Including, Susan, this statement, right? Anything he writes in this statement, if there are any things that are lies, that's perjury, you know.

HENNESSEY: It's not perjury if he's not under oath, but it is a violation of the separate law.

HARLOW: OK. Gloria, your first impressions? Minimal downplaying, I went above and beyond. How do you see it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he portrays himself as kind of a naive here and someone who was sort of unfamiliar with the workings of government, who suggested, in fact, that they go to the Russian embassy to -- so the generals could talk to each other. And even Kislyak and General Flynn had to shake their head, no, no, no, no, you can't do that.

He said, in fact, the fact that I asked about direct contacts and who would be the best direct contact with -- to Kislyak is proof, he says, that I was not aware that any contacts existed before Election Day. And nowhere in any of these contacts do we hear Jared Kushner asking about the hacking of the election, which, of course, was on a lot of people's minds. I think Kushner was looking forward as opposed to backward. But it

was not an issue that he was concerned with at all. Instead, he was trying to figure out a way to establish back channels to Vladimir Putin.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, your first impression, remembering that Jared Kushner is in a much different place --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BERMAN: -- than a lot of the people involved in this whole Russia investigation. He is a White House employee. He works there.

BASH: That's right. Well, two things. One is, yes, he is a White House employee and he works there. So he has a lot at stake, never mind that it happens to be his father-in-law who is the President who he wants to do right by.

BERMAN: Right.

BASH: But first and foremost, he is facing some members of Congress who are already saying he shouldn't have security clearance based on a lot of the questions that have been asked. He's trying to put those questions to rest so that he doesn't have a problem with security clearance, so that he can keep operating as a senior adviser to his father-in-law. Because for all intents and purposes, if he doesn't have security clearance, he can't do that job.

HARLOW: Yes.

BASH: So that's one thing. And the other thing that, just from a political and optics and sort of atmospherics side of this, the question that is on my mind is, this is so detailed and, you know, goes so far to try to explain all of these things that we have seen over the past six months.

[09:10:11] Why now? Why not, you know, so many months ago to do this so that you didn't have the drip, drip, drip? You didn't have this overshadowing his father's -- the first six months of his father-in- law's, excuse me, administration.

I will tell you that a source close to Kushner insists that it is because he wanted to do it in a proper way. He wanted to do it when he could actually go to an official body, meaning the United States Senate, the people who are investigating, and not deal with people like us.

HARLOW: So, Senator Santorum, to you. If you are -- say that you're one of the staffers that is going to be in this meeting with Kushner -- he is headed there right now -- and you've read this 11-page statement this morning. Does it satisfy you? What are your outstanding questions?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I did read the 11- page statement this morning. And for those who saw Jared Kushner at the center of a collusion effort with the Russians, they're going to be sorely disappointed.

I mean, this puts that issue, I think, squarely to bed. Jared Kushner was very detailed, laid out a very plausible explanation, backed up by evidence.

The idea, for example, that was said earlier that the only thing he did with -- that he couldn't recall these two conversations that Reuters reported. He says more than that.

He doesn't say he doesn't recall it. That, in fact, they went through and checked every phone record, everything, they couldn't find anything in communications. So it wasn't just he didn't recall it. They exhaustively looked at whether there was any type of communication and they found none. So this is --

BERMAN: According to him.

SANTORUM: I think this is a very strong statement on his part. And my only question is Dana's question. Why did you wait until now if you had such, what I believe, such a persuasive statement to make?

BERMAN: And let's just be clear, I mean, this is Jared Kushner's version of events and his attorney's version of events. I don't think anyone, Senator, expected him to come out and say, I was at center of a mass collusion ring. That would have been highly unexpected today.

But, Susan Hennessey, to you. This gets to the point that Gloria was making, and also you pointed to before, the carefully parsed language. That last statement, the fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should, of course, be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.

Now, your friend, Benjamin Wittes, you know, at the "Lawfare" blog suggests that, you know, maybe Jared Kushner is allowing for the possibility that a relationship existed but asserting that he didn't know about it. Your thoughts?

HENNESSEY: So one thing that's interesting is that this statement is sort of designed to exonerate Jared Kushner. It doesn't say much about the rest of the campaign. Certainly, it's sort of notable that he's kind of -- he's covering himself but he isn't really talking much about the rest of the campaign. That's certainly significant.

But the other thing that's significant here is that, you know, we've been told that Jared Kushner is going to solve the Middle East peace. He's going to run the U.S. government's China policy. He's actually going to restructure the entire U.S. federal government.

When it comes to the ability to fill out forms, keep track of meetings, exercise good judgement in whether or not he should be meeting with these types of officials during the transition period, it's all of a sudden sort of, oh, shucks, I'm brand new to politics.

That really is the sort of -- the message that comes through loud and clear in this statement, that -- basically him saying, look, I didn't know what I was doing. And so anything that was untoward, it was just an innocent mistake.

HARLOW: Well, and to Dana, as all of our mothers and fathers taught us, there are no "I" in "we" and there are a lot of "I's" in this statement. I mean, do you read more into John's point there, that this is a statement about me, me alone?

I mean, even when he was describing the Don Junior meeting that was set up with the Russian lawyer, he said nothing about, you know, well, he could've made -- you know, he was a rookie at this too. He didn't know, blah, blah, blah.

BASH: Right.

HARLOW: None.

BASH: I mean, I think you're rit. I think, to be fair, this statement is supposed to be about him. It is supposed to be about his experience, his recollections, whether he did anything wrong in all of these meetings that he had, so I'm not sure it would be appropriate for him to be speaking for somebody else.

It is easy to, more politically, to read it a very different way. That, you know, you're on your own, brother-in-law, when it comes to why you set up this meeting last June. But I think, in this particular case, for this particular audience, it probably makes a little more sense.

Having said that, it does leave open the question of, for example, during the campaign, allegations and questions -- things that the Congress and likely the Special Counsel will be looking into is, you know, the fake news that went out on digital platforms in places like Wisconsin and Michigan, places that the President ended up doing really well.

Whether or not there -- this is, again, what they're looking into, whether or not there was any, you know, coordination with any Russian official or any Russian entity that tried to help get that through digitally through the campaign. That is something that I don't believe that he addresses.

BERMAN: All right. Guys, don't go anywhere. We've got a lot more to discuss on this. There's a lot going on. We saw a live picture. You see it there, Jared Kushner due to arrive on Capitol Hill at any minute. Will he speak at those microphones? Maybe.

In the meantime, Russia is firing back at the talk of U.S. sanctions. One of the outstanding questions is will the president sign this legislation or not? We're getting mixed messages from the White House.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the president taking aim at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions again, calling him, quote, "Our beleaguered AG," in a new statement this morning. Why is he targeting people so high up within his own administration?

And we are, of course, live on Capitol Hill. Jared Kushner arriving any moment. You'll see it right here. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. At any moment now, we will see the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrive on Capitol Hill. That was him, leaving his home, moments ago. This is all behind closed doors. This is all about his contacts, four separate ones, with Russians or Russian government representatives.

[09:20:10] BERMAN: So, while this senior adviser and son-in-law to the president is on his way to Capitol Hill, the president of the United States made a new statement this morning in just the last few minutes, where he takes aim again at his own administration and his own attorney general.

I will read it to you out loud, "So, why aren't the committees and investigators and, of course, our beleaguered AG looking into crooked Hillary's crimes and Russia relations?"

Back with us now, our panel, Gloria Borger, I'll put this question first to you. Our beleaguered AG, spoken by the man who is doing the beleaguering.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, he basically says, you know, our AG under attack. By the way, I'm the one doing the attacking. If I were Jeff Sessions and I saw that, I would not take that as a huge vote of confidence from the president of the United States.

He is calling his own attorney general beleaguered and then saying why aren't you doing your job? And your job would be to look into Hillary Clinton, et cetera, et cetera, not to be recusing yourself from Russia.

If you recused yourself from Russia, you have time to be doing the more important work. Not exactly a vote of confidence to Jeff Sessions and we have known for quite some time he's not pleased with him.

HARLOW: Senator Santorum, it's not that surprising, given the interview that the president gave to "New York Times" at the end of last week, saying, even Jeff Sessions' testimony for confirmation was bad, he would never have hired him had he known he was going to recuse himself.

It's not surprising. I guess, the question I continue to have is what is the playbook here? What is the tactic? Is this an effort to get eventually Sessions, who seems like Teflon right now, not quitting -- to get him to quit so that he can get an AG in there who would fire Special Prosecutor Mueller? What is the goal for the president?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure there is a goal. I think you have to understand the president. The president saw Jeff Sessions --

HARLOW: Help me understand. SANTORUM: Let me give it a shot. The president saw Jeff Sessions as a friend, a close confidant, they developed a very close relationship over the course of the campaign. Jeff Sessions was someone who was as close to the president as anybody that had come on the campaign trail.

And I think he feels betrayed, that Jeff Sessions didn't do what a friend would do, which is step in there, on the landmine, take the hits and do what was necessary.

And I think that really -- if there's one thing that I've seen about Donald Trump is that when he does build that bond and he feels like someone hasn't been completely loyal to him when he has been loyal to them, that causes some real problems in the relationship.

BORGER: Would he see that as a choice between being loyal to the president and being loyal to the Constitution?

SANTORUM: Well, I would make --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

SANTORUM: I would make the argument that Jeff Sessions could have been loyal to the Constitution, had he not recused himself. So, I think the element of recusal is at the core of everything at this. I think the president sees that as the root of all the problems that have come from that. And so, it's not -- I don't think there was a constitutional requirement that Jeff Sessions recuse himself.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Go ahead, Susan.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly a requirement by DOJ regulations that Attorney General Sessions recuse himself under these circumstances. Really what President Trump appears to be chasing against here is an independent Department of Justice.

An attorney general who is acting on behalf of the best interests of the American people and not the best interest of his buddy, the president. That actually raises much bigger questions about how the president himself views the role of an independent law enforcement.

BERMAN: And I would only add, at the risk of disagreeing with you, which I would never do, I would never not be surprised by a president of the United States seeming to publicly ridicule his attorney general. You know, his --

HARLOW: Over and over again.

BERMAN: It's shocking to me. We see it, continue to see it each and every morning, but perhaps in the context of what he has been saying in the last 24 hours, he was talking about Republicans in general.

HARLOW: Right. BERMAN: And he sees it as the job of every Republican. It's very sad the Republicans, even some carried over the line on my back do very little to protect their president -- Dana.

BASH: Look, I think if anything has changed since he got a new communications director in place, someone who is kind of sympatico, seems to be sympatico with the way that Donald Trump conduct himself and, even more importantly, Anthony Scaramucci said himself, let Donald be Donald.

[09:25:03] That President Trump has -- it's hard to imagine him being even more kind of eager to share his feelings than he has been over the past six months but it does seem that he is.

And even more so eager to do it in the way that he did it during the campaign, to take a shot at the establishment, to take a shot at Republicans, to take a shot at his own attorney general and to use his platforms to kind of chide these people who he said he was going to come in and shake up.

Who knows if this is going to have any kind of, you know, good end to the story, whether or not it's going to have any success. It does feel that he, the president, feels that he has a more license to even put more out on twitter about what's going through his head than he did before, which is hard to imagine.

HARLOW: Gloria, let me get your take -- hold on -- to add to what you were going to say. Your take on that. He brings up Anthony Scaramucci, his first day on the job although he was on weekend shows. Is he going to be an asset or liability?

He put a lot out there. He's the one who said, yes, we did talk about pardons in the oval office after Jay Sekulow, the attorney for the president said, no way, no one talked about that.

And he's the one who offered up to Jake, by the way, the president called me from Air Force One and basically said Russia is so good at this stuff that if they had hacked our election, our U.S. intelligence agencies wouldn't even know about it. Two big things.

BORGER: I think Scaramucci may talk too much. I think that may turn into a problem for him. He is kind of new at this and he's offering information that perhaps he shouldn't be offering. He also let us know that the president doesn't believe that the Russians hacked the election.

I think we're going to -- it's doing to be a brave new world here with Scaramucci, who is really, you know, kind of another version of Donald Trump, if you will. What we see from Donald Trump and from Scaramucci is the demand for ultimate loyalty.

So, Scaramucci will tell people who work for him today you're going to be fired if you leak to journalists and Donald Trump is saying to the attorney general, whom he seems to try -- he seems to be trying to get him to quit with this tweet today. You weren't ultimately loyal to me because you recused yourself, so you ought to be gone. HARLOW: They're, Gloria, on the same page now. But backtrack about six months, 12 months and on totally different pages on gun control, climate change.

BORGER: Never mind. Never mind.

BASH: But you could say the same thing about Donald Trump himself.

HARLOW: There you go, Dana Bash. So smartly put. That's why you two ladies are the chiefs of everything politics here. Thank you very, very much, all of you.

So, the president keeps saying look at how much we've done, look at the stock market and the stock market is soaring. It doesn't matter for half of Americans, though, CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans is here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. The investor class, then the working class, we do know the investor class has been enriched. I wanted to show you what is driving the markets here. Futures are flat pretty much right now, but it was record highs for all the major averages last week, a very good week.

And the S&P 500 is the gauge that your 401(k) is most likely closely tied to, up more than 10 percent for the year. So, what are these goldilocks fundamentals that we're talking about here in the economy driving things?

Moderate economic growth, improvement in labor market, low inflation and very good corporate earnings. Companies are making a lot of money. As you know, Poppy, stock prices reflect how much companies are making, not necessarily how main street feels.

We are getting a whole bunch of corporate earnings today, Alphabet, the Google parent, that's today. You can see all the other ones later this week. It's interesting, Alphabet just revealed as well that they spent a record amount of money lobbying -- with the White House.

Lobbying -- tech companies have never spent more money lobbying Washington because they're on the opposite side of things, high-tech visas and the like. There it is, the opening bell.

BERMAN: They're cheering about something.

ROMANS: I guess they are.

HARLOW: It's Monday. They always clap at that bell.

BERMAN: I applaud their optimism. Christine Romans, great to have you with us this morning.

All right, we have an eye on Capitol Hill. Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, senior adviser, he will show up and walk past this spot, really, any moment from now. He's driving to the Hill any moment to speak to Senate investigators. We'll bring you that moment live when it happens. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)