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Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas In Russia Probe; Trump: "The Russian Story Is A Total Fabrication" Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 4, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- I just want to congratulate the acting secretary. This is really a good thing they do. Terrific person has done an amazing job for the administration and everywhere she proceeded so congratulations. It's a very important thing you are doing.
We are very strong on Homeland Security and we are very strong with respect to FEMA. FEMA is something I have been very much involved in already. We have had some things in the last six months where I have to say the governor has been fantastic rebuilding that stretch of highway that ended up burning so badly.
Reasons why and it wasn't a good reason, but nonetheless they did it in record time. I understand they can get ahead of schedule and under budget. That was very nice to see. We have many, many things like that. We have taken care of many of the situations that needed emergency funds.
We do it quickly. We do it effectively. We have an incredible team. I want to thank all of you people and your representatives. They have really done a fantastic job. Thank you very much.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The president making those remarks just as he gets ready head on vacation. Meantime, this morning, broadening the scope, following the money and crossing the red line.
The telling new details CNN has learned about how the Russia investigation is steaming ahead, leaving President Trump steaming in anger. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller issuing the first grand jury subpoenas related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian attorney, and several others. The probe just getting wider.
The investigation broadening as investigators look into the potential financial ties between the president and his associates to Russia, something Mr. Trump warned the special counsel not to do.
Let's find out more about where things stand right now. CNN crime and justice producer, Shimon Prokupecz, is part of the CNN team that broke this story, these new details. Shimon, fill us in.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, that's right. This certainly seems to be an additional phase or perhaps a new phase of Bob Mueller's investigation. The special counsel issued grand jury subpoenas to people who could provide information about this June 2016 meeting, which we know took place at Trump Tower, and was set up by Donald Trump Jr, a Russian was present, and other Trump campaign officials.
Now, this is going on while the FBI has been exploring potential financial ties of President Trump and his associates to Russia. The FBI has been reviewing financial records, real estate records related to the Trump organization. They have reviewed records related to the president himself, as well as family members.
We are told by sources that the financial links could offer a more concrete path to any potential prosecution. The president's lawyer issued a statement saying they haven't received any request from the special counsel.
Now Ana, keep in mind, financial crimes could be these financial crimes that Bob Mueller is looking at, could be unconnected to the election. This is something that's coming from several of our sources and several of the folks that we have talked to.
CABRERA: All right, Shimon, thank you very much for that reporting. So, what does the president say about these latest developments? Well, as the investigation moves forward, the president moves to his comfort zone, a campaign-style rally reaching out to his supporters.
Let's listen to him hit back hard at his rally last night in West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is. Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign, there never were. We didn't win because of Russia, we won because of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us at the White House. Kaitlan, what else are we hearing from the president and his legal team?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We actually heard from Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow last night just after all these headlines about the investigation were coming out.
This is what he said before Donald Trump's rally. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY ESKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The empaneling of a grand jury in situations like this when you got an investigation is typically how they move forward. It is really very much standard operating procedure when you have a situation like this. But with respect to the empaneling of the grand jury, we have no reason to believe that the president is under investigation here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, Ana, this is the same lawyer who said that Donald Trump played no role in crafting his son's statement about that meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last summer only to be later contradicted by the White House when they said that last week that the president actually did weigh in on Don Jr.'s statement.
[11:05:04] But putting that aside, we saw from the president last night as he is taking a new approach to this Russia investigation. Instead of having it be all about himself and his family, he is making it about his supporters now saying that the Democrats and those who are pursuing this investigation are coming after him, coming after his supporters and undermining their support for him.
So, we are seeing that take a new turn. As Donald Trump has laid out these red lines with the special counsel in recent days, we are really seeing this investigation get ramped up and move quickly and aggressively -- Ana.
CABRERA: And Kaitlan, the president, as we mentioned earlier, is getting ready to take a big vacation, 17 days at one of his golf clubs in fact. It's kind of interesting considering how often he slammed his predecessor for going on vacation.
COLLINS: That's exactly right. When he was a private citizen, there were a dozen tweets that's like the one I'm about to show you where he mocked Obama for taking too many vacations for too long and playing too much golf.
At one point, he said, "Barack Obama playing golf, about to go on a vacation to Martha's Vineyard, nice work ethic." Now as you know Donald Trump is about to go on vacation for 17 days. That's almost twice as long as the vacation that Barack Obama took in his first year in office.
But the White House is billing this as a working vacation because they are doing some renovations here in the west wing at the White House. So, they said that he will be working while he is in Bedminster.
But as you know, when he's been at his golf clubs in the past, they have not confirmed to reporters that he is playing golf while there. Even though we've seen him in golf clothings.
CABRERA: He seems to be an avid golfer for how many often times we've seen him on the golf course. Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Lots to discuss with our panel. Joining us, CNN legal analyst and former assistant to Special Counsel Robert Mueller at the Justice Department previously, Michael Zeldin, and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.
Paul, we'll start with you. What does the fact that this grand jury has been empaneled tell you? PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's an important development in the case because Mueller could have looked at the evidence that's been gathered to date and said, you know, there's no reason to empanel a grand jury. There's nothing here to look at.
So, it suggests that there is something to look at. Now on the other hand, we don't know that it will result in indictments, it could still result in no action being brought, but it's a significant development.
CABRERA: Michael, Andrew McCarthy of the "National Review," a conservative publication, of course, he says there's no need for a grand jury in a counterintelligence probe. Again, this all began as looking into Russia's election meddling. Is this a fair argument?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know what the argument can possibly mean. If the conspiracy to violate election laws, the conspiracy to violate the compute fraud and protection act, the obstruction of justice, the financial ties to corrupt organizations, all those things are crimes that need to be investigated through the grand jury if there's a belief that there's a possibility of criminal activity.
So, I'm not sure exactly what he's making sense of. It doesn't matter to me, really, at all.
CABRERA: Gotcha. Paul, are there limits to the powers of a grand jury?
CALLAN: Well, yes. He can only be indicted for something that is a law of the United States. So, and in terms of --
CABRERA: But in terms of their investigation, do they need probable cause to request some kind of document or call a witness?
CALLAN: No. They really have wide powers to subpoena documents in connection with an investigation. They don't need probable cause to issue subpoenas. You need probable cause to indict and to arrest, but to gather information, no, they have wide powers to subpoena.
If they want to subpoena something that the president doesn't them want to, he can go to court and try to fight it. But more often than not, the grand jury wins if there's relevance of the document to the investigation.
CABRERA: And where is this investigation going is the big question so many are asking. Our CNN reporting about the investigation widening to include financial matters including financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 election. Michael, explain why that can be part of the scope of this investigation when the heart of the prop is Russia's election meddling?
ZELDIN: So, the mandate that Mueller has is collusion, if you will, ties between coordination between Russian government officials and Trump campaign and matters which arose and which might arise from it.
And so, when you conduct an investigation, you say, well, why did people behave the way they did? What motivates them to behave the way they did? When you look at people's financial connection, it often gives you that motivation.
As well, it's not clear to me that these are matters which do not connect to the Trump campaign at all. I know it's been reported as they are unrelated. But what their relationship is between financial corruption and money laundering and tax evasion and other things can well lead into the counter intelligence collusion aspects of it.
[11:10:03] So, I think it's appropriate to look at these things and make determinations about whether they actually are crimes that he wants to investigate or whether these are things that he wants to refer back to the Justice Department saying, look, you guys can do this without me.
I've gathered some evidence, it's not really in my mandate per se, you take it over from me. I'll stick to what is in my mandate. So, I don't think there's anything inappropriate about this.
And to the earlier point, I think it is perfectly appropriate and proper for the grand jury to be that body that does this investigative work to make those final determinations about indictment and not indictment.
CABRERA: Guys, let's listen to what Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, said on CNN when asked about this reporting and Mueller's team looking into financial records.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We know that these types of -- these types of endeavors are fishing expeditions. They are very broadly cast net and I would remind everybody that in terms of President Trump, he has said he has no financial dealings with Russia whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Paul, she uses the term fishing expeditions. We heard Ken Star this morning also saying kind of warning about fishing expeditions. What is your take?
CALLAN: Well, that's a popular way to sort of attack an investigation that may, in fact, be legitimate. I don't think it's accurate here because I mean, what do we know so far? We know that there was a meeting in the Trump Tower involving Don Jr. in which the subject of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton came up and that was going to be used in the American presidential campaign.
So, if they are fishing, they are fishing in a pond that looks like there may be some fish. So, I kind of don't buy into that. Now in terms of looking at other aspects of the Trump empire, why would that be relevant?
Well, it would be relevant because if, as a result of the Miss Universe contest, which was owned by Trump, they made contacts with Soviets or Russians who might have been involved in some way in the election, then that's relevant to the investigation and it would require a look.
So, once again, it's not a fishing expedition, they are looking at relevant evidence in a case.
CABRERA: All right, Paul Callan and Michael Zeldin --
ZELDIN: Ana, may I add one thing?
CABRERA: Sure, quickly.
ZELDIN: Remember, the eighth person in the meeting at Trump Tower was a person who had a specialization in setting up shell corporations, which are typically used for money laundering. So, there's a direct nexus right there.
CABRERA: All right. Thank you, Michael Zeldin and Paul Callan, for both of your expert thoughts. We appreciate it.
Coming up here in the CNN newsroom, two high profile senators speaking out against President Trump hitting him on the Russia probe and his efforts in the health care fight. They are both Republicans. The exclusive interview ahead at this hour.
Plus, a leak of those fiery transcripts between the president and U.S. allies orchestrated by the White House, why new details on the leak are raising some eyebrows.
And ISIS terror plot involving deadly gas, high grade explosives, and a commercial jet. Why authorities are calling this a highly sophisticated plan and how they stopped it, just ahead.
CABRERA: President Trump tweeting this morning about the crowds and enthusiasm at his West Virginia rally last night calling it an incredible night. The president firing up his base with his latest assault on the Russian investigation, which he called total fabrication and at one point, even mocking it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's bring in our panel, CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro, Angela Rye, Alice Stewart, and Harlan Hill, who is also a Trump for President advisory board member.
Ana, I'll start with you, the president taking on the investigation with a political argument. His rhetoric familiar when it comes to Russia, but what seems different is he isn't just wishing the investigation away anymore. Do you think this is a new strategy to fight the investigation politically head on making this us against them?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, which has worked for him in the past. Yesterday was a big day on this investigation. Robert Mueller empaneled the grand jury and it means that this thing is not going away. It is probably going to be around for a very long time and we are all going to wait to see what the outcome is.
In the meantime, President Trump is going to continue attacking it, attacking Bob Mueller's credibility. He's going to continue being angry at Jeff Sessions for having recused himself.
He is going to try to pick this as fake media, attack the credibility of the investigation and call it a witch hunt. I mean, we've heard it all before. He is just going to be doing it in crescendo as this thing grows and become much more serious.
CABRERA: Harlan, if this is all fake, as he says, why not allow the investigation to go forward unpitted (ph) and eventually his name would be cleared, right?
HARLAN HILL, DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER: Isn't that exactly what the president is doing? What he's frustrated by is that at least as a Trump supporter, I feel as though this is a fishing expedition and a character assassination of the Trump family, the president himself, and many of his supporters, paid for by the taxpayer.
CABRERA: Why does he feel that way when really this is about Russia meddling in our democratic systems?
HILL: Because you look at the make-up of Mueller's team, it includes eight Democratic donors and a lawyer that worked for the Clinton Foundation as recently as 2016 and, Mueller himself, is a friend of James Comey.
So it seems to be that there is a real demonstrated conflict of interest that is backed up by the facts and we are just getting out ahead of this because we smell a rat.
CABRERA: There is bipartisan support remember for this investigation, for the special counsel, both Republicans and Democrats in --
HILL: There's bipartisan support --
CABRERA: -- Congress are even saying don't attack Mueller.
HILL: Let's be clear, there's bipartisan support to get to the bottom of whether there was any Russian interference in the election. That's what people want to get down to.
What we do not want to see is that we are going back 20 years and going through financial records and complicated real estate transactions to try to poke a hole in this and to come up with something.
[11:20:05] As I said, a fishing expedition for something. Mueller's mandate was clearly written out and the Department of Justice to look into this question on 2016. If he goes beyond that, if he goes back decades, we have a real problem and that is beyond purview that what was clearly stated by the Justice Department.
CABRERA: We don't know exactly how far back it's going. Alice, you want to get in on this?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We also have to keep in mind back when Ken Star was doing the Whitewater investigation. The Clintons called this a right-wing conspiracy. So, it's nothing new when someone of this nature the president is being investigated for them to go on the attack.
And I think the president is going to stay the course. He is constantly and always fought against the Russian probe thinking it undermined his election victory and did that last night to his face, saying this is total fabrication and I believe he will continue that because it works for him.
That's what he believes and energizes the base. At the same time, I'm encouraged by special counsel, Ty Cobb saying, look, this is part of the investigation. We will fully cooperate. We want to see this fully come to a conclusion and they are going to help speed the process along.
CABRERA: The statement from Ty Cobb because we have that, and Angela, I'll get your reaction. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller. So, the White House says it is willing to cooperate. What do you say, Angela?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I say, I can't wait for Donald Trump's next 140 characters where he undermines completely what Ty Cobb says. I will also say there's not just bipartisan support for Bob Mueller to thoroughly investigate what happened with Russia collusion with this last election.
There's also bipartisan support to ensure that Donald Trump is not equipped and does not have the power to remove Bob Mueller from this. There's legislation that has been introduced (inaudible) it doesn't happen on a bipartisan basis.
So, there are a number of people that want to get to the bottom of this, but are not convinced that there aren't any financial transactions that won't also tie into this. So, I think it's important to say the facts on this program.
CABRERA: We know the president has been advised to stop talking, to stop tweeting about the Russian investigation, but that's not happening. Here he is talking about it very passionately in fact. Let's listen to another clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT TRUMP: They can't beat us at the voting booths so they are trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They are trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Alice, he says they are fake stories. So, do you think he believes that?
STEWART: He believes that 100 percent. He's always believed any questions about Russian collusion, Russian coordination, is a way to undermine his victory. He is going to clearly stay the course on that.
Last night, rallying his base, saying look, this was a total fabrication for the Democrats to try and excuse away their tremendous loss in this election. That's what he believes and is continuing to push with his voters and his constituents and it continues to energize them.
The problem is when you have intelligence community officials saying, look, there is clear evidence of Russian interference in the election, we need to investigate that. The big question is whether or not that influenced the vote. I don't believe it did.
I think Donald Trump had a message, he connected. He worked hard and played in all the right battleground states. That led to his victory. That being said, we still need to investigate any Russian ties.
CABRERA: Angela, I mean, is it fair to give him a little bit room for him to feel the way he feels?
RYE: I mean, he's not -- he doesn't need our permission to feel. He's felt again all over Twitter and at these faux campaign rallies. It's clear that Donald Trump doesn't believe that this is fair.
I would just say there's an important number that we sure to remember, and that's 39, 39 is the number of states that Russia attempted to hack into election systems. So as long as that number is present, we don't know what that's about and why that is a real problem. He's entitled to feel whatever he wants, but we need --
HILL: Angela --
RYE: Harlan, we need to ensure that we are looking at the facts and just feeling.
HILL: And we are looking at the facts and I'll give them to you. The Republican Party controls the House, Senate, the White House, 34 governor's mansions, over two-thirds of the state legislatures in this country.
The Democratic Party has become totally irrelevant in terms of governing in this country and as long as people like you are talking about Russia and as long as the mainstream media is blaming Russia for Hillary Clinton's loss, and it seems a reckless fashion that they talked about Flight 37.
You know, the next thing I'm going to hear people blaming a black hole or the Bermuda Triangle for Hillary's loss.
[11:25:08] The truth of the matter is the Democratic Party has become totally irrelevant. They don't have an economic message. They don't have any leadership and this is just --
RYE: You are off message right now. This is about the Russia probe. I know you are mad at the --
HILL: The Russian probe is one great excuse. You don't have to admit you did anything wrong.
CABRERA: Angela, I'll give you the last word.
RYE: What? My last word is, what? That's all I got.
HILL: You have no substance. You have no substance. Push back on me.
RYE: I have a ton of substance. I give to you my law degree and my six years working on Capitol Hill and the fact I stated on the program. Back to you all the lies you told and the feelings you feel today. Harlan, I have tons of substance and I'll get back to you when I have more time. I'm not doing this with you on a program.
CABRERA: Ana, what is going through your mind?
NAVARRO: Well, first of all, I'm not sure how any of this advances the issue of the Russian investigation, but as far as what Donald Trump feels and believes, yes, he probably does believe it.
I have come to the conclusion he has this alternate universe that lives inside his head where he has imaginary friends, he has imaginary phone calls with those friends, imaginary crowds, where he has imaginary victories, and there is imaginary illegal immigrants voting for Hillary Clinton.
I think he has alternate facts in the alternate universe and thus, he does believe the alternate truth.
CABRERA: All right. Harlan, let me just ask you one last quick question because I know you feel so passionately in support of the president. Why is it all about him?
HILL: Because the media is making it all about him. Last night, in that rally, he didn't make it about himself. He didn't say I won. He said you won. He said the Russians didn't vote for me, you voted for me.
At every turn, President Trump has made this about the voters. His sacrifice personally, professionally, and financially, and politically, has been a sacrifice for the American people. This is not about him. The media makes this about him.
CABRERA: All right. Guys, got to leave it there.
STEWART: The Russians want to not only interfere in our election, but in our political process. They wanted the Republicans to fight and the Democrats to fight. Unfortunately, the Republicans are winning. Hopefully, we'll get to the bottom of this, put an end to Russian interference, and we'll move on.
CABRERA: Alice, Harlan, Ana, and Angela, thank you all for joining us.
Coming up, they are hitting the president on the Russian investigation and how he handled the health care fight and they are both Republicans. An exclusive interview, straight ahead.
Plus, the White House has been raging against leaks in a big way. So, why didn't they object when a reporter said he was about to publish those transcripts between the president and U.S. allies? The stunning new details that are raising serious questions, ahead. Stay with us.