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Kushner Reveals Chat with Russians; Kushner Talks to Senate Investigators; Trump Slams Sessions. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 24, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:10] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, top of the hour, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
Jared Kushner is talking. He is the quietest member of the president's inner circle, at least publicly. But today he just became the most high-profile member to step before Congress and explain his interactions with Russia and during the campaign and also during the transition time.
Really the bottom line here, the president's son-in-law, and top adviser, is denying any collusion involving him or anyone else from within the campaign, as far as he knows. He also stepped in front of the cameras, which we never see, the statement he made in front of the White House shortly after meeting with Senate investigators. Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: My name is Jared Kushner. I am senior adviser to President Donald J. Trump.
When my father-in-law decided to run for president, I served his campaign the best I could, because I believe in him and his ability to improve the lives of all Americans. And now, serving the president and the people of the United States has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work on important matters, such as Middle East peace and reinvigorating America's innovative spirit. Every day I come to work with enthusiasm and excitement for what can be.
I have not sought the spotlight. First in business and now in public service, I have always focused on setting and achieving goals and have left it to others to work on media and public perception.
Since the first questions were raised in March, I have been consistent in saying that I was eager to share any information I have with the investigating bodies, and I have done so today. The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign.
Let me be very clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses. And I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.
Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him. It is an honor to work with President Trump and his administration as we take on the challenges that he was elected to face, creating jobs for American people, keeping America safe, and eliminating barriers to achieving the American dream.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to taking questions from the House Committee tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: No questions from the media there. He just turned around and walk back in the West Wing.
Now, as part of his meeting with the Senate Intel Committee, Jared Kushner submitted this 11-page statement that confirms he indeed had four contacts with Russians.
So let's begin with CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.
So, 11 pages. He spoke with the staffers there today on The Hill. What new details came out of Kushner's statement today?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Brooke, I say 11 pages worth of details. We really got an in-depth glimpse into this. And it was really the first time we had heard so publically from Jared Kushner about these four meetings with Russians during the campaign and the transition.
Kushner saying in a statement he wanted to set the record straight. He did detail the four meetings he had between April and December 2016. The first one was previously undisclosed. It was a short meet-and- greet, Kushner said, with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Kushner did meet with him again in December to discuss U.S. policy in Syria. He also met with the chairman of VEB Bank in December as well.
But it really was that June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian lawyer, among others, that's been the most talked about as of late and Kushner did address it head-on, saying this. He said he didn't know much about it. He said he attended at the request of Don Jr. And he said he didn't read the chain of e-mails that promised it would be to hand over dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Kushner instead reiterated that he believed it was about Russian adoptions. That's actually what was discussed. But Kushner said he quickly realized it was a waste of time. Kushner writing in a statement this, saying, I actually e-mailed my assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote, can you please call me on my cell, need excuse to get out of the meeting. He said that he did leave a short time later. [14:05:06] So, really, Brooke, these are some of the details that
Kushner presumably discussed with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators this morning. He was over on Capitol Hill for about two and a half hours. He was answering those questions behind closed doors, though not under oath. So we're not exactly sure what he side, but presumably it was along the lines of this statement. And, Brooke, like Jared Kushner said there, he will go before the House Intelligence Committee, both the members and the staffers, tomorrow.
BALDWIN: All right, Jessica, thank you for the setup.
Let's take a deeper dive into all of this. Joining me now, CNN political commentator Errol Louis, who is also a political anchor for Spectrum News, and Andrew Rice is with us, contributing editor to "New York" magazine, who wrote this massive profile about Jared Kushner earlier in January.
So, gentlemen, nice to have you both here.
And, Errol, just first to you.
I mean Jessica perfectly teed it up. He said in the 11-page statement, you know, reiterated it today in front of the White House. No collusion on behalf of myself or anyone in the campaign. You know, we did find out about this previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador that had not been out there. Hearing from Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, saying, hang on a second, all this information we're getting actually brings apart -- brings on more questions than answers. How do you read today as this -- all right, fulfilled his obligation, answered questioned, move on or what?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, no.
BALDWIN: No, no.
LOUIS: Oh, no, no, no. No, no, not yet. The -- it's a remarkable document. I would urge all of your viewers to take a look at it because it paints the portrait of sort of chaos and disorganization at a level that is somewhat alarming, actually, for somebody who now has the portfolio and the importance and the prominence that Jared Kushner has.
I mean -- I read real through it and I said, well, will the real Jared Kushner please stand up? He's either the person that's portrayed in this 11 page document as somebody who doesn't read his own e-mails, so that an e-mail that says Russia, Clinton, personal and confidential, he doesn't read that, but he shows up at the meeting.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
LOUIS: He doesn't stay at the meeting. He doesn't understand that when a Russian representative is talking about adoption, they're talking about sanctions. They're talking about the number one issue causing tension between the U.S. and Russia. He doesn't understand these things. And yet he now has a portfolio that includes trying to settle the Middle East peace situation. Globetrotting to Iraq into an active war zone to be the president's eyes and ears. Organizing a state meeting by the president of China. Running a council that's supposed to bring private sector innovation into the federal government. These two things cannot both be true at the same time.
BALDWIN: I want to come back to your point on the e-mail as well in a second.
But to you, I mean, just reading your piece in January, the whole thesis was essentially, you know, Jared Kushner is more like the president than anyone realizes. In watching him today and this voice that no one can close their eyes and imagine what he sound like, this mystique as we discussed before the show came on, who is the real Jared Kushner?
ANDREW RICE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: I think you saw him in that -- in that statement. I mean, the -- the line -- the most memorable line, I think, from the statement was about sort of that the -- to suggest that Donald Trump didn't win fair and square, was ridiculing the American people.
BALDWIN: He ran the smartest campaign, winning fair and square.
RICE: That sounds like the Jared Kushner I think, you know, people who know him have said that he's very -- you know, he was very upset after the campaign at the tone of some of the coverage of Trump's victory. And I think probably the last six months of Russia headlines have only made him feel even more embattled in that sense.
BALDWIN: But here's the question, and let me just say with you, off of Errol's point on this whole e-mails as one example, right? So we all know, you get e-mails, you have items in your calendar, and apparently he just responded -- Jared Kushner responded to, oh, I have a -- you know, a meeting, Trump Tower with Don Jr. And according to Kushner, neglected to read the whole trail of the previous e-mails chain on what was promised. It said meeting apparently, you know, dirt on Hillary Clinton, which we reportedly came to not be. Ignores the e- mail subject line, which is essentially Russia, Clinton, private and confidential. And if you read "The New York Times" this morning, Frank Rooney (ph) said this. He got the e-mails about emissaries of a former adversary bearing dirt, but what do you know, read right over the subject line that said Russia Clinton private and confidential. No flashing lights in those proper nouns. No blaring signs from those particular adjectives. You know, and, again, the phone call then or I guess the e-mail while he's sitting in the meeting to be assistant, hey, get me out of here ten minutes in. How skeptical should staffers be up on Capitol Hill when you -- when you hear something like that?
RICE: Well, I mean, I think that there's -- there's sort of two layers of it. One is likes sort of what's legally provable. I mean it's difficult to prove that somebody noticed what a subject line in an e- mail was. And then there's sort of like what would any rational person believe? And I think maybe Jared has a little bit harder time on the second one, that he would have showed up to a meeting with Don Jr. without having any knowledge of like what the -- of what the agenda was, particularly when he takes pains in the rest of the statement to talk about how incredibly busy he is and how many people are demanding his attention. So, you know, there's a slight internal contradiction there, I feel like.
[14:10:16] LOUIS: It all opens up the possibility that if he's as hard-pressed and sort of disorganized, as the statement makes him sound --
LOUIS: He could be going into meetings where the Russians are running some agenda that he's not even aware of. I mean if you immediate with the Russian ambassador --
BALDWIN: Which is alarming in a different sense.
LOUIS: Exactly. I mean if you meet with the Russian ambassador and cannot remember his name, you know, that ambassador may have gotten information out of you or just the fact of the meeting and might be using it as part of some larger strategy of which Jared Kushner apparently was unaware.
BALDWIN: But isn't a larger -- Errol, a larger piece of this, as we've been hearing, you know, Donald Trump, and folks within the White House, you know, railing on the fake news media and these reports, fake news of, you know, people within the campaign and the transition team meeting with Russians. And, you know, yet you have out of his son-in-law's 11-page statement, you know, the opposite essentially confirming that the fake news is fact.
LOUIS: Sure. Yes, well, that's right. I mean look, certain words mean certain things in Trump world. I think we got a big taste of that during the campaign and it has continued into the administration. When Donald Trump says so-and-so is beings very unfair or so-and-so is being biased, what they -- what he means is that information is coming forward that's not favorable to Donald Trump. When they say that, you know, it's fake news, it means the news is accurate, the news is factual, but it paints them in a bad light.
And certainly, as we just saw from the statement, from -- in Trump world, when you say there's a problem here with all of these sort of undisclosed meetings and other issues going on with the Russians, they hear that as you're saying our administration is illegitimate. And I don't know if that's genuine. I don't know if it's political. I don't know if it's strategic. But the reality is, one can clearly logically say, yes, he won. He flipped counties in Wisconsin from Obama to Trump. He won Michigan. He won Pennsylvania. He won the industrial Midwest. He won. He's the president. It's all legitimate.
However, there's something going on with these undisclosed meetings.
BALDWIN: Agree, but at the same time I'm just trying to look at it from all perspectives.
Just finally to you. You know, do we -- does the public need to give Jared Kushner credit, as he and his lawyers have been promising for months and months and months that they would speak, maybe not to the public, but to, you know, the very important people up on Capitol Hill who are investigating on this Russia probe that, yes, he will sit and answer those questions. Yes, he's going back tomorrow. Do we give him credit?
RICE: Sure. I mean I think, you know, to the -- to the extent that he appeared willingly, he wasn't as far as -- you know, he wasn't subpoenaed to come and testify, you know, obviously he gets credit for that.
I mean I will say that the one part that seems quite credible and conforms to my own reporting is that, you know, both the campaign and the transition were incredibly ad hoc affairs. They kind of made it up as they went along, especially during the transition because, let's be honest, I don't think even they expected to win the presidency. Jared Kushner never expected to be doing a transition. And so to that extent, I think we can give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt in terms of some of those contacts that he had, that it's possible that he didn't realize the gravity of them or the way that they would look to outsiders months later.
BALDWIN: Of the whiting out the security clearance. But now we know his version of events. So from here on out, if anything changes, we have a problem.
Errol and Andrew, thank you so much, on all things Jared Kushner.
President Trump once again publically insults his attorney general. Have you seen this? Calling Jeff Sessions beleaguered. What's this about? Is this the president trying to get one of his earliest supporters, his most loyal soldiers, to quit? Let's talk about that.
Also ahead, it is his first full week on the job, but Anthony Scaramucci already dealing with mixed messages from the White House.
And just a short time from now, the president will be delivering a statement on health care just 24 hours before the expected procedural vote in the Senate.
Lots happening on this Monday. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:18:09] BALDWIN: A new day, a new insult. President Trump is taking yet another swipe at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Just days after the president blasted him for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, the president tweeted this.
So why aren't the committees and investigators and, of course, our beleaguered A.G. looking into Hillary's crimes and Russia relations.
That comments makes this moment today from the president all the more curious. As he took a photograph with White House interns, reporters asked, should Jeff Sessions resign? The president said no words, but he definitely seemed to be giving a message. Watch him. (VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Eye roll and a cacophony of laughter there from the interns.
Let's go to our CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins.
Rough week for the A.G. When's the last time they've even spoken? What's the relationship like right now?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So we heard today that Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have not spoken since that "New York Times" interview last week when Donald Trump publicly blasted Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. Now, Jeff Sessions recused himself back in March, but it's clearly something that is still irking Donald Trump because he said he would not have picked Jeff Sessions as his attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself.
And those attacked haven't stopped. He went after him in a -- again in a tweet today calling him beleaguered. Now, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who is now the new press secretary, said last week that Donald Trump has confidence in Jeff Sessions, but that he was disappointed in him for recusing himself.
But now we know that they haven't spoken. So it seems like their relationship is pretty tense, with Donald Trump calling him out on Twitter.
[14:20:00] BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you.
We're going to continue this conversation.
When you hear the world beleaguered, this is -- this is the president's latest slam against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. This comes nearly a week after President Trump, as we just mentioned, told "The New York Times" he regretted hiring Sessions and would not have done so had he known Sessions would have recuse himself in the Russia investigation.
So, Chris Cillizza is with me, mister point himself, CNN politics reporter and editor at large.
Chris Cillizza, let me make --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Hello, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Let me lay this scenario on you just to try to understand what this would be like. This would be like, you know, our boss talking about beleaguered Chris Cillizza
CILLIZZA: Oh, yes.
BALDWIN: In a very -- in a very public way. You know, this is ad -- just not too long after hiring you. What would you be thinking if you were called beleaguered? Would you want to quit?
CILLIZZA: Is there something -- is there something Jeff Zucker is saying that I don't know about?
BALDWIN: I'm looking at his office. I don't see him sticking his head out at the moment, but --
CILLIZZA: No. You -- look, I do think it is always helpful to take this out of sort of the presidential terms and think of it in our own lives and what it would be like. Donald Trump made his sort of name, Brooke, by firing people, right? Everyone knows, you walk out on the street in D.C. outside this bureau and say, what's the first thing you think of when I say "Donald Trump," most people would say "you're fired."
BALDWIN: You're fired.
CILLIZZA: That's what he did on "The Apprentice." But the truth of the matter is, outside of James Comey, he doesn't really like firing people. He didn't really want to fire National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, but he did. Just this past week with Sean Spicer, asked him to stay on repeatedly. Spicer rejected it.
I think what he's doing here -- and I don't think it's much of a leap -- I think what he's doing, he doesn't wants to fire Sessions, but he does want Sessions to leave. There's just nothing else that explains this -- from last Wednesday until now this series of tweets and statements.
And as Kaitlan Collins reported, Sessions still hasn't talked to Trump since that meeting --
CILLIZZA: Since that interview with "The Times" last Wednesday.
BALDWIN: Right. Well then add this. You know, and you had this in your piece on cnn.com, this whole report out today that Rudi Giuliani's name has been floated as a possible A.G.
BALDWIN: This is, you know, assuming Sessions doesn't last long, I presume. Apparently Giuliani just told CNN that there is no truth to that, even saying that Jeff Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. So, hmm.
CILLIZZA: Well, here's what I'd say. I think -- I'm cynical, but I don't think there are a ton of coincidences in presidential politics, which means if Donald Trump is talking a lot about running down Jeff Sessions and then there's a report suddenly, well, privately he's mentioned Rudy Giuliani, both of those things can be true, which is Giuliani can not have been contacted in any way, shape or form and Trump could have been discussing that possibility internally and making sure that that internal discussion went public on a day where he calls his current attorney general beleaguered.
The broader point here is, if you're Jeff Sessions, who was a reminder Donald Trump's -- one of his biggest advocates. His first senator to endorse Donald Trump, right?
BALDWIN: First senator. Yes.
CILLIZZA: Like this is a guy who was a core supporter for whom immigration was the defining issue, why he decided to endorse Donald Trump. Suddenly you have Donald Trump running him down, which begs the question, if you think that the attorney general is so bad and is focusing on the wrong things, he works for you at the end of the day. But, again, that returns to my point.
CILLIZZA: He doesn't really want to fire him. He doesn't like firing people. He may not like how that would look, about he doesn't want Jeff Sessions in that job anymore. That much I think is very clear.
BALDWIN: Well, apparently also, and this is what we're hearing, you know, that people working just even within the White House hearing about all of this, they're deeply alarmed in how the president is going after his loyal soldier in Jeff Sessions, you know, from the get-go.
We're also hearing that even in Rex Tillerson, secretary of state Rex Tillerson, was taken aback by the president's remarks about Jeff Sessions in that "New York Times" interview, and now could be considering what's actually being called rex-it.
CILLIZZA: Which is a brilliant name.
CILLIZZA: Whether it happens or not, whoever came up with that deserving a lot of kudos.
BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE). What are you hearing about that?
CILLIZZA: Tillerson, I think, was always an interesting but difficult fit for secretary of state because this is a guy who is running a big company who's used to he says it and it happens, as opposed to managing a giant piece of the federal bureaucracy. I don't think his's going anywhere immediately, but I do think human nature would dictate, Brooke, that if you saw someone who was an early supporter of the boss, who was with the boss always, and then the boss suddenly said, I don't -- I don't like this guy anymore, you --
BALDWIN: Would be a little worried.
CILLIZZA: If you were also an employees of the boss would say, geesh (ph), what does that mean for me? I mean you could not not thing that, right? You would not be a human if that -- what Trump has done with Sessions over the past five days did not have an impact on you. If you're a Rex Tillerson or anyone else in the cabinet, or anyone else serving in the White House.
Chris Cillizza --
CILLIZZA: It's really good. I wish I had come up with it.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much.
[14:24:51] BALDWIN: He's -- he is the smooth-talking president praising new communications chief at the White House, but Anthony Scaramucci deleting his old tweets, many of which slam his current boss. We went back to see exactly what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I love the president. I've gotten to know him unbelievably well over the last 18 months. He's a phenomenal fighter for the American people. If I said some things about him when I was working for another candidate, Mr. Trump, Mr. President, I apologize for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That is the newest hire in the Trump White House, who is changing his tune about the president. Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci even deleting old tweets, some of which were negative comments about his new boss.
[14:30:01] Scaramucci tweeted, quote, "full transparency, I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved and shouldn't be a distraction. I serve the president's agenda and that's all that matters."
So, for the sake of transparency, we went back and took a look at --