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Kelly: Indictments Have Nothing To Do With Trump; Kelly Won't Apologize For Comment About Congresswoman; Facebook, Twitter, Google Lawyers On The Hill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 31, 2017 - 12:30   ET


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: -- and go crazy. You know people in Capitol Hill. Do you think there's any chance that they will go along with that?

CARL HULSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that would really royal Capitol Hill. The one thing they're -- obviously the Republicans are very nervous right now. They much prefer to be talking about tax reform, but they have to talk about this. But if they got pushed to that other level, I think that would really trip a wire over there.

Chuck Grassley said yesterday that he thinks that the special prosecutor should continue. I think that's pretty much the position over there and move to cutoff funding or do something dramatic like that. I think it would really spark and uproar on both sides, obviously.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: The --Susan Collins was in -- yesterday and talk with Bloomberg and one of the things that she talked about was the frustration among her and amongst some other Republicans on the Hill, but the President has not been vocal enough about how very real the Russian interference was. And that the--

BASH: Yes, with that at all.

TALEV: There are less and less questions shrinking by the day.

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: And there are revelations yesterday with some of those, the plea documents and also the indictments just kind of ratchet that up that if you look at this on two tracks, right, whether the Russian interfere with the elections and then the second, the question of whether there was collusion. She said on the second question there are still probably weeks or months of investigation ahead before that can really be answered. But on the first question, there's essentially no doubt about it.

And that -- so the President not to be hammering on this raising holy hell about it, talking to his base about it, talking to regular Americans about it, means that Americans aren't informed or as worried as they should be. It means that there's not enough of an urgency about the response and that the stage of the investigation is in right now. There's -- it makes it, you know, more important than ever for him to engage. To the extent that other Republicans feel that way and are willing to advocate that, I think it really limits his ability to downplay this or to mess with the Mueller probe which, of course, as you know, is looking above this aspect (ph).

BASH: And the way that Mueller and his team kind of showed their strength with the strategy to not just put out the indictments of Paul Manafort who we were kind of expecting at some point, who was briefly the campaign chair, his deputy Rick Gates.

But this other man, Papadopoulos, who people hadn't really heard a lot about. I covered the Trump campaign and I heard the name, but he was certainly not like, you know, a very important guy.

Having said that, he doesn't have to be important for the press to know about him for him to get his e-mails answered the way he did inside the Trump campaign. And this is something I want to bring up and just to kind of illustrate how many Trump campaign officials did respond to him according to this affidavit yesterday.

Paul Manafort, this is CNN's reporting, was another high ranking campaign official was referred to in this affidavit who was discussing, communicating with Donald Trump about potentially meeting with some Russian officials. Another campaign official who's -- this is how he is referred to in the affidavit, received and forwarded the e-mail that I just mentioned.

Another high ranking campaign official, "The Washington Post" identified as Corey Lewandowski, who got e-mails from Papadopoulos several times to discuss Russia's interest in hosting Donald Trump. Campaign Supervisor, again, "The Washington Post" says its Sam Clovis who wrote great job to Papadopoulos. Again, a response from the Trump campaign to this man, low level or not, making suggestions about meeting with Russians about dirt that they have on Hillary Clinton.

And an unknown senior adviser whom Papadopoulos e-mailed saying that they had interest -- he had interesting messages from Moscow. So that kind of paints the picture in a nut shell of what this very long affidavit said here.

JOHN MCCORMACK, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The most interesting part about Papadopoulos is, I guess, referred to as a proactive cooperator.

BASH: Yes.

MCCORMACK: And what is that exactly mean? I mean, he's helping with the investigation and there's some speculation that that phrase has been used in the past to people who unwires. We have no idea whether that's true or not, but that's the question of how. How many people could he get information that they had committed any wrongdoings, any crimes here?

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: And how long has he been working with them for? How many other people he wrote there and provided information to? I also want to point out that I think as much as this is a legal matter that's going to be resolve in the courts one way or another, the public opinion matters a lot too.

And I think this inside, outside game where the White House is playing, you know, defiant against all this stuff, basically calling it a hoax. The President is doing this himself. Even ask, by the way, he says but the Tony Podesta side of this is real and that's a bombshell. There's a bit of incoherence there.

But I do think that outside game that Steve Bannon is playing along with this creates the impression among the new, you know, from the new sources where conservatives and Republican voters get their information that there's nothing going on here and that is going to determine how the Republicans --


[12:35:02] BASH: You mentioned Tony Podesta, and it's a name sounds familiar because he is the brother of John Podesta who is Hillary Clinton's campaign chair. We will not test you at home later about all these connections.

But, Carl, talked about that about the Tony Podesta connection here. The idea being and Donald Trump even tweeted today, "The biggest story yesterday, the one that has the Dems in a dither, is Podesta running from his firm. We know about crooked -- what he knew about Crooked Dems is, dot, dot, dot," and he goes by.

HULSE: Yes. I mean, I think that --

BASH: By the way, he say, he is a Democratic lobbyist, probably the Democratic lobbyist.


HULSE: You know, I think the point here, the prosecutors casting a wide net. They're seeing some things that -- about foreign contacts that hit a lot of firms. So he --

BASH: In a bipartisan way.

HULSE: Yes. He -- and this is a common practice in Washington. So, you know, he is moving away from his big firm right now. And this is giving the -- Republicans are great talking point, but as you said, it's sort of incoherent.

One thing I did want to say about Trump and Papadopoulos is that, one, of course, they are going to sort of diminish him. But Trump took great pride in how small his campaign staff was. There were not that many people working.

So, you know, whatever level you are at, you were having contacts with all through the ranks of that campaign. You know, there was a great comparison that Trump made to me personally one time that, you know, I have like 70 or 80 people working in my campaign and Hillary Clinton has 700. And this was a point of pride. So the fact that this guy would know things is not surprising to me. KAPUR: And there are lots and lots of outside advisers. As anybody who covered President Trump's campaign knows there are a lots of outside advisers whose influence waxes and wanes over period of time. And I think that's the kind of thing that Mueller and his team are going to be looking at.

BASH: OK, everybody stay tight. We want to make sure you at home tune in tonight. We don't want you to miss CNN special report on "The Russia Investigation" hosted by Jake Tapper. That is 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And up next here, the White House chief of staff sounding and acting a lot like his boss. The John Kelly-Donald Trump mind-meld ahead.


[12:41:26] BASH: Welcome back. The White House chief of staff last night on Fox News trotting out the company line.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I know that the gentlemen were indicted today. All of the activities, as I understand it, that they were indicted for was long before they ever met Donald Trump or had any association with the campaign. But I think the reaction of the administration is let the legal justice system work, everyone's innocent until -- or presumed innocent and we'll see where it goes.


BASH: As the state (ph) rebuttal from the former general trying to distance the President from the indictments. But as the wide ranging interview went on, Kelly stirred up a brand new controversy with his answer on what caused the bloodiest conflict in American history.


KELLY: It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now, it's different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.


BASH: I'm going to throw it to our resident Civil War historian, Carl, what do you make of that?

HULSE: Well, you know the President himself had said this earlier, I think this year in an interview with a historian said, you know, what was the deal with the Civil War, why couldn't that have been worked out?

You know, the interesting thing that I found that he said there was, you know, inability to compromise. But American history tells you they really did try to compromise around the Civil War, the Compromise of 1850, the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act. I didn't cover any of those. Yes. Now, you think I might have.

TALEV: You came in around reconstruction (ph), right?

HULSE: Right. But this is an issue that couldn't be compromised. Own slaves or not own slaves. And I think, you know, for him to bring that up out of nowhere in some ways after Charlottesville and some of the other things that have gone on and his own problems with his description of what went on with Frederica Wilson. I think it was a real, real mistake.

BASH: And I want to play, as we continue to talk about this, one other part of the interview. Not only did he kind of allude to what the President said they got him in trouble using the term both sides, he also talked about another hot button issue and that is Robert E. Lee.


KELLY: I think this is very, very dangerous and it shows you what -- how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is. I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which in 150 years ago was more important than country.


BASH: For those who didn't cover the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was, of course, the -- led the charge of the south that led the confederate soldiers. And obviously this whole notion and the question about statutes that are sprinkled all over the south, particularly in his own home state of Virginia, have been the thing that kind of keeps bubbling up.

What do you make of him kind of getting out there on this? Is it just, again, party line and something that really does help the President with the base or dangerous?

MCCORMACK: You know, I have certain (ph) points. One would be that I don't think it's certainly wise for General Kelly to be getting involved in this hot button issues. You know, he is -- he has this (INAUDIBLE), his authority. And to squander that over debates that really aren't very relevant to the ongoing to the White House, I think it's unwise for him to talk about the actual sense to what he said.

[12:45:02] I think, you know, you go back to Abraham Lincoln. The only reasonable compromise that you could have had was Lincoln's compromise and that was morally defensible, which is keep slavery out of the territories where you could and it will eventually die in the south. And maybe you can have a just solution while avoiding 600,000 dying in war.

On the question of Robert E. Lee, I think that again you look back to Lincoln. And Lincoln in the second inaugural sort -- he doesn't sort of claim a moral superiority for the north to the south. He says that if the north were in the south, then people there might have been the exact same thing that we were all sort of paying this bloody price for the same of slavery. And so I do think it's a little more complicated.

BASH: Yes, a lot more complicated.

MCCORMACK: I don't think that General Kelly should be getting involved.

BASH: And I want to move on, but I also should say that as we look ahead to 2018 I've talked to many Democrats in Trump districts who just are fearful of Democrats jumping on this because they think it's a distraction from what really matters and hurts Democrats and that Republicans are playing right into that.

The thing -- the other thing that was really striking about John Kelly, which we never got to see before because he was a military man, a four-star general, then he was DHS secretary, kind of -- the character and the man of the guy who was running the trains at the White House and his approach is a lot like the President.

You mentioned Frederica Wilson, the congresswoman, and a mistake that he made about referencing a speech and a video where he said something she didn't say, but he didn't apologize at all. Listen to this.


KELLY: Yes. And you know, a number of people that were there after she said what she said about me were volunteered to come forward because they saw her both before and after her official comments. I said, "No, let's not do these." These are FBI agents, former FBI agents that were there. That part of it we should let go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But do you feel like you have something to apologize for?



KELLY: No. No, never. I will apologize if I need to, but for something like this, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.


KAPUR: This is where I think you nailed it with the mind-meld. There's nothing more Trumpy (ph) than refusing to apologize even when, you know, evidence later on proves you wrong. That's one area where that was true and the other was the false equivalent as he talk about the both side. They got the President in trouble for Charlottesville.

What I want to know from General Kelly is what he thinks the compromise should have been. There were, as Carl pointed out, compromises attempted all along the way between the anti-slavery in north and the pro-slavery south starting with the 3/5 compromise. The things he mentioned, Missouri Compromise, Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Even after the civil war, there were compromises made by Lincoln in an attempt to reintegrate the southern states and get them back into the union. So, what should have been the compromise between slavery, owning, beating, raping people and freedom for them?

BASH: Real quick, I want to get your take on the man we just saw kind of the veil lifted a little bit more and who he is and what he stands for and how he seems at least right there quite similar to the President.

TALEV: I think the real promise and strength (ph) to General Kelly when he came over, you know, a few months ago was his value behind the scenes in terms of internal operations staff of marching orders for the staff who comes in and who goes and to some extent to the President, although he couldn't control the Twitter.

His public state is a totally different enterprise and it is something that's still evolving. This is really not something that he has experienced with. The White House has experimented with bringing him out only when the President is in trouble.

General Kelly will do -- has done a couple of press briefings on days when they felt that they needed to do it because otherwise the President's own words or the press secretary's ability to change the narrative wasn't working. This interview seems to be also an example of that and I think they are fine tuning his efficacy in an outfacing manner versus in an in more facing manner.

BASH: Fascinating. OK, everybody stand by. Up next, Russia, Russia, Russia, what's all this about Russia infiltrating your social media feed? Google? Facebook? Twitter? You use those. Well, if you do, you might have been trolled by Russians trying to change your vote in 2016.


SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: We've got to take steps to protect our Democratic institutions, including how social media is used by foreign governments to try to influence America's Democratic institutions.



[12:53:50] BASH: Welcome back. In just a couple of hours, top lawyers for Facebook, Twitter, and Google get some old school grilling on Capitol Hill. Senators on the Judiciary Committee want to know just how deeply the Russian campaign was able to influence the 2016 election.

Now, some early raw numbers obtained by CNN are the following. On Facebook, roughly 126 million Americans have been exposed to content conjure up by Russian government link troll accounts. And on Twitter a similar scope. Over the dramatic final three months of the campaign accounts with possible Russia ties generated 1.4 million tweets.

CNN's Dylan Byers, rather, joins me now. And Dylan, you've gave us that information. You've been doing incredible reporting on this. What are you watching for when this sort of tech heads, social media heads, go before Congress later today? DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Think how forth coming they're going to be, how much they're actually -- the lengths that they will go to, to at least give lawmakers the impressions they're actually willing to play ball here, that they actually take this issue seriously.

Everything that they've been transmitting so far since first revealing that there were any Russian ban ads in the first place back in September, their entire approach has been to say, "This wasn't a big deal. Don't worry about it."

[12:55:11] The idea that Russian meddling on social media had any influence on the 2016 election is crazy. All of a sudden it wasn't crazy, but it was small, then it was not so small, it was sort of bigger. And now we're learning on Facebook alone, 126 million news --

BASH: Not small at all.

BYERS: No, not small at all -- targeted. And even now they're sort of saying, "But, look it's a very small part." I mean, it represents 0.004 percent of what you would see. The equivalent of watching is 600 hours and seeing -- of television and seeing one ad there. This notion that somehow they keep trying to push it down what --

BASH: That is not what Capitol Hill wants.

BYERS: That's not what Capital Hill. That's not what's in (INAUDIBLE). Everybody is going -- every lawmaker is going to be looking to them to demonstrate that they're taking this issue seriously and that they're not just trying to dismiss and pretend like it didn't matter.

BASH: Another thing they should keep in mind, Carl Hulse just said in this way out a reminder that every lawmaker is thinking, "This could be me. I could be targeted next."

BYERS: Absolutely.

BASH: Dylan, thank you so much for your awesome reporting.

BYERS: Thanks Dana.

BASH: And thanks for being here in Washington. And thank you for joining us on "Inside Politics." John King is back tomorrow when Wolf Blitzer is up right after a break.