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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Exclusive: Carter Page Testifies He Told Sessions About Russia Trip; Mueller's Investigators Asking About Kushner's Role in Firing of Comey. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 2, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:13] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Breaking news on the Russia investigation dominates the program tonight and reaches directly into the president's inner circle, touching his closest advisers, his oldest supporters, even members of his own family.
Major developments involving son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as Russia -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia, former campaign co-chair Sam Clovis and Russia, and, of course, the president himself, his own actions lately and his own state of mind.
There's breaking news as well on what people think of it all. There's new polling from "The Washington Post" and ABC News showing 58 percent approval for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and on the question of whether they believe or suspect President Trump committed a crime, more people by a slim margin, 49 to 44 percent say yes. We'll have more on all of that.
Evan Perez on the Kushner story shortly.
And right now, CNN's Manu Raju on Carter Page's closed door congressional testimony today about campaign contact with Russia and it puts new scrutiny on what the man who is now the highest ranking law enforcement official in the land, Jeff Sessions, told Congress under oath about campaign contact with Russia.
So, Manu, let's begin with you. What did Carter Page say in his testimony today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, for more than six and a half hours, Anderson, Carter Page went behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee and talked about a whole wide range of issues. And one thing that he was asked about was this July 2016 trip that he took to Moscow.
And the question came, well, who in the campaign knew about this? And when that question came forward, he informed the committee under oath that Jeff Sessions, then the senator from Alabama, and a top campaign surrogate, in fact, knew about it. He said that he mentioned to him at a private dinner with other people who were involved on the Trump national security team, he told him in Carter Page's words in passing about this trip that he planned to take to Moscow. Now, Carter Page said it was not related to the campaign. It was
simply just for him to go overseas to deliver a speech overseas in Russia. Now, why this is significant is because Jeff Sessions on a number of different occasions has been asked about his connections with Russia, any contacts he had with Russia, as to whether he was aware of anyone who was involved in working with Russia during the campaign. A whole slew of questions during testimony on Capitol Hill and every single time, he either said he did not recall or he said no, it didn't happen.
He was even asked at a June hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee by Joe Manchin directly about Carter Page and whether he was aware of whether or not Carter Page actually had met with Russian officials, he said he did not know. So, questions about whether or not Sessions should have disclosed this meeting even if it was just in passing, Anderson.
COOPER: What's the Justice Department saying about it?
RAJU: Well, tonight they're not commenting, Anderson. But Mike Conaway, who is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Russia investigation told me that, you know, he didn't think that it was too problematic for Jeff Sessions. He said he didn't see anything sinister here. He said that perhaps, it's understandable that Jeff Sessions was not aware of this.
Now, one source who's familiar with the meeting said that they did have an interaction at that meeting. They confirmed that. They said that it actually occurred towards the end of the meeting when Carter Page approached Jeff Sessions.
And Page himself told me this was the one and only interaction that they ever had during the campaign season, but he did confirm that he did mention that he was planning to take this trip the next month to Moscow, Anderson.
COOPER: So, this is on top of renewed scrutiny from members of Congress over Jeff Sessions' testimony by George Papadopoulos, correct?
RAJU: Yes, that's right, because in those court papers that were unsealed earlier this week, George Papadopoulos had actually proposed a meeting in March of 2016, a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and then candidate Donald Trump. Now, at that meeting where Papadopoulos made this suggestion, Jeff Sessions was in attendance. And now, we are told by a source who was in the room that Sessions actually rejected this call for a meeting between Putin and Trump, saying we should not go there.
Now, again, Anderson, that raised a number of lawmakers who I talked to today said, well, why didn't Sessions disclose this during his testimony when he was asked over and over again about Russian contacts. And even a Republican, two senior Republicans, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Cornyn, who is the number two Republican in the overall Senate, both said they want to learn more about this and Grassley said he was looking into it and Cornyn said it was a worthy area to explore.
But Democrats are going much more aggressively after this in saying, why did -- Sessions may have to amend his testimony if he does not clarify exactly what happened soon, Anderson.
COOPER: Manu Raju, appreciate that.
Before we go on, I just want to play an important piece of tape in the context of Manu's reporting. It's from the confirmation for Attorney General Sessions and a question from Senator Al Franken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians. Is that what you're saying?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.
FRANKEN: And you don't believe it now?
SESSIONS: I don't believe that it happened.
FRANKEN: OK. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, let's bring in our panel, our legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor and former justice department special assistant to Robert Mueller, CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein. With us as well is CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Michael, let's start with you. Just how big a deal is, I mean, if what Carter Page said is true that he told Jeff Sessions this, whether it was in passing or not, how big a deal is it that Jeff Sessions in front of three different committees seemed to, A, not recall this or much about Russia frankly?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT DOJ: This is pretty problematic for sessions. In the earlier back and forth with Franken when he was asking him about the contacts with Russia, it was a bad question. It wasn't really a well-formed question. And the answer to it couldn't stand up to scrutiny as a false statement for a perjurious statement.
Here, he's asked a pretty specific question. Do you believe there were any surrogates that met with Russians? And the answer was pretty much, I didn't. I don't know of anyone that did.
That's a pretty direct question and answer on which I think a false statement claim could arise, but more importantly, he'll get called back to Congress and have to figure out what his answer is to how come he can't remember these key things, but he can remember anything else that impugns his integrity? COOPER: Carl, I mean, you know, he is 70 years old. I suppose that
could be part of the reason. He will say, you know, there was a lot going on and this was just a minor mention from a guy, Carter Page, who I didn't really know at all.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It takes place in a larger context of serial lying. Serial lying by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general of the United States by the president of the United States, by the children of the president of the United States, by his campaign manager, by his associates in his business enterprises.
What the special prosecutor is now doing, he's doing two things. Follow the money, follow the lies. And there's an intersection of the two.
And so, we're coming to a kind of precipice in this investigation, both in terms of public hearings that we're seeing on the Hill, but especially in the legal terms, the investigation that the special prosecutor is developing. We only see this much of it.
But what we see now is deadly serious. We're in a kind of precipice. And we're going to find out where we go in the coming weeks and months.
COOPER: Michael, I keep coming back to the point Carl made is what we see is a tiny fraction of what Mueller has access to, what Mueller has already -- and his team have already seen.
ZELDIN: Right. And in fact, in one of the court pleadings, he said that. He said in the Papadopoulos plea, he said this is a small part of a larger matter and what we're presenting to court today is only a portion of what information has been provided for us. Enough for the court to take the plea, enough facts that the court can say, I find you guilty, but not enough to reveal all of what Mueller is doing.
And to Carl's point, the two indictments -- the indictment and the plea, Manafort has followed the money and it's not necessarily money that's actually connected to the collusion investigation, but it's their business operations generally. And then nobody is too small to be indicted for lying to a federal agent.
And so, both ends, you've got the big and the small and then I guess, of course, everybody in the middle.
COOPER: Gloria, I mean, the idea that Carter Page wasn't going to Russia in an official campaign capacity, A, does that distinction really matter here and, B, does it defy credibility? I mean, clearly the Russians had an interest in him because all of a sudden, he had been named as a foreign -- you know, out of like manna from heaven for him as a foreign policy adviser for President Trump, though he had never met President Trump and according to what he has said publicly in interviews never actually did meet President Trump.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you look at these pieces as part of a larger mosaic here, putting the Jeff Sessions stuff aside, you have George Papadopoulos, you have Carter Page. They're both volunteers but they're in name advisers on a foreign policy advisory board to Donald Trump. And they get to sit in on these meetings and they get to go to policy meetings.
And if you're trying to kind of infiltrate a campaign, you work from the bottom up. And, you know, whether Carter Page was aware, whether Papadopoulos was aware, that's up to the special counsel and all the rest. But, you know, you can look at this picture and you could see, OK, there he is at the table with Donald Trump. He's suggesting, Papadopoulos is suggesting, hey, how about a meeting with Putin, which sessions shoots down. Trump is kind of noncommittal. And you get to see the larger picture here.
[20:10:00] I can't speak to whether Jeff Sessions, you know, he shook Carter Page's hand after a dinner meeting whether he remembers or didn't remember. That's an issue between the Congress right now and Jeff Sessions to work out. And he might have to amend his testimony.
But I do think there's another big story -- the bigger story here is exactly what the Russians were doing in trying to infiltrate this campaign that I'm sure the special counsel is looking at and investigating.
BERNSTEIN: Serial lying by all of these people is about Russia, is about what's happening in terms of an investigation into the undermining of the American election by a foreign power. That's what the serial lying is about. It's about a cover-up that is attempting to keep us from learning what these people did and what they knew in regard to this election, to their finances, and to what happened generally speaking during the campaign in terms of getting information about Hillary Clinton, about the Democrats from the Russians. It all comes together under one umbrella.
And the question is whether or not there is a real conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other things in this investigation, whether it is about illegality. But we certainly know it is about a cover-up and we need to know now whether a law has been broken in that cover-up in such a way that it might extend to the president of the United States and those closest to him.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to pick up this conversation shortly.
Also bring you more breaking news in the Russia investigation, including new attention on Jared Kushner tonight.
And later, with all of this, the president about to head overseas for crucial talks with Asian allies, how is he holding up? He says great. Others say not so much. Some insight when we continue.
[20:15:24] COOPER: A quick note before the break, we played a portion of Attorney General Sessions' Senate testimony. We mistakenly identified it as his confirmation hearing. It was, in fact, a subsequent appearance, same subject, different occasion. I want to correct that.
More breaking news tonight in the Russian probe. It involves his son- in-law Jared Kushner. Documents he's turned over to special counsel Mueller, and questions he's answering in connection with the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. Questions that sources tell CNN could be part of an obstruction of justice investigation.
Evan Perez is part of the team that broke this story for us. He joins us now.
So, what are these documents?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, sources tell us that Kushner voluntarily turned over documents that he had in his possession from the campaign and the transition. And these related to any contacts with Russia. The documents are similar to ones that Kushner gave to congressional investigators and, of course, this comes as investigators have begun asking witnesses about Kushner's role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
We also know that even before special counsel Mueller was appointed in May, the FBI had begun looking at Kushner's failure to disclose Russia contacts when he submitted his security clearance application, what's known as an SF86 form. Now, these are all documents that the FBI already had in its possession.
COOPER: Why is the special counsel interested in Kushner's role if any in the Comey firing?
PEREZ: We're told that investigators have asked witnesses about whether Kushner played any role in the firing of Comey. And we've heard different accounts from sources, some say Kushner was a driver of the president's decision. Others simply say that he didn't oppose it and that it was something that the president had already made up his mind about, that he was intent on doing this.
Now, sources close to the White House say that based on what they know, Anderson, Kushner is not a target of this investigation.
COOPER: So how significant is this?
PEREZ: Well, you know, Mueller's team asking questions about Kushner is a sign that investigators are now reaching into the inner circle of the president and have extended well beyond the 2016 campaign actions taken at the White House level, at the highest levels of the White House. White House official tells us that Mueller's teams asking questions about Kushner is not a surprise, and they say that, you know, that Kushner could be on a list of, you know, a lot of people who investigators would be asking about.
Now, a lawyer for Kushner it should be noted did not respond or did not comment for this story. And the White House also declined to comment, Anderson. COOPER: All right. Evan, thanks. Before going any further on the
impact of today's news, it is worth looking back for a moment just as a reminder of all the force at play and all the conflicting stories of what went down in the firing of James Comey and the scramble to justify it.
In many ways, it was the genesis of much of what we've seen since then and all we could see in the weeks ahead.
Randi Kaye tonight looks back.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Has confidence in the director.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was May 3rd. Just six days later, President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
(on camera): That much was clear, but the reason he was fired was anything but. Just hours after the firing, Sean Spicer who was then communications director locked himself in his office at the White House. Then when the media caught up with him, he was huddled with his staff among the bushes on the White House grounds.
SPICER: Hold on, just turn away. We'll take care of this.
KAYE (voice-over): Spicer then went on camera with Fox, saying the president's firing of Comey followed a recommendation from his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and his boss Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And those recommendations said nothing of Comey's Russia investigation.
SPICER: The president when given these recommendations made a decision to accept their conclusions and to remove Director Comey.
KAYE: The next day, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders stuck to script.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president over the last several months lost confidence in Director Comey. Accordingly, the president accepted the recommendation of his deputy attorney general to remove James Comey from his position.
KAYE: But the very next day, a completely different story from the president himself, boldly telling NBC he had made the decision to fire Comey on his own and the reason was the Russia investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I did is I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not --
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You had made the decision before they came in the office.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey.
When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
KAYE: Sanders was left to cleanup the inconsistencies.
SANDERS: I went off the information I had when I answered your question.
KAYE: Another voice adding the confusion and contradictions, Vice President Mike Pence, saying the firing was not related to the Russia investigation.
[20:20:06] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear with you, that was not what this is about.
KAYE: Then perhaps the strangest twist of the entire saga came a day after Comey's firing, in the Oval Office of all places with a Russian. It was there President Trump told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak he thought Comey was a, quote, nutjob and firing him had relieved great pressure.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: So with that as a backdrop, we're back with the panel.
First of all, Michael, how significant is it that the special counsel is asking about Kushner's involvement in the firing of Comey and then also just big picture we were talking during the break and if you just could kind of give an overview of how you see this, the kind of various tracks of this as both Russia investigation and also financial.
ZELDIN: Sure. So, I don't think that asking Kushner about his role in the firing of Comey necessarily does anything to advance the obstruction of justice claim. The obstruction of justice claim is really on the president and what he did to interfere with the investigation. I think, you know, it's on the margins relevant to that.
And we'll see whether or not Mueller thinks that the firing of Comey, the asking of his national security team to get out in front of the media on this story, to ask them, also to ask Comey to stand down the investigation, whether he asked Flynn's investigation to be stood down.
All that stuff Mueller has to sort out and then you have to deal with the constitutional question of whether if the president does something he's constitutionally allowed to do, can that be obstruction of justice or not? That's an open question.
COOPER: You think it's very possible Michael Flynn has already flipped.
ZELDIN: Yes. So, in answer to the question that you asked, the big picture, when you look at the Manafort indictment and you're Michael Flynn, you have to think, you know, this is what I did too probably. COOPER: Except with Turkey.
ZELDIN: Except with Turkey. And I have a son who is in part of my group too and I see too that under the sentencing guidelines, Papadopoulos cooperates. He takes his sentence down from a possible three to five years to zero to six months. If Manafort were to fully cooperate, which I don't think he's capable of doing at this point, he would take his is 11 or 12 year sentence down to about for or five years. So, there's powerful incentive to cooperate.
I think that that's probably what's at play here. I'd be surprised if Flynn isn't cooperating.
COOPER: Which would be huge because I mean, Flynn had a pretty close relationship with candidate Trump throughout the campaign.
ZELDIN: Yes. Exactly. Just as Manafort did for a little bit of time. Gates did for a longer time.
So, if you're Mueller and you're looking at who is my possible witness if there's a collusion case to be made, Gates is the far more credible and important player because he stayed on after Manafort left. He went all the way through the transition with Trump. So, he's got a lot more information and is a more credible witness.
So, the strands that you asked about earlier is, I think there's a whole financial group of investigations that Mueller is conducting. Manafort was the first of them. Flynn will be the second of them. Kushner and his properties and maybe the EB-5 visa program for his properties in New Jersey. Maybe his reach out to the Chinese and the Russians for financing of his property in New York City.
COOPER: Six-six-six Fifth Avenue.
I think those are all independent financial investigations. They may have -- to Carl's point they may have some road back to Rome which is collusion, but I think they stand as financial crimes investigations. And then you've got the sort of Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Roger Stone, all of those people and their interactions with the Russians and whether or not that was designed to get Hillary Clinton's e-mails in an October surprise sort of way.
Late in the campaign in order to damage her at a time where she couldn't respond to it in time.
COOPER: And then would the third string of this be the obstruction of justice stuff?
ZELDIN: Exactly. The third string would be the obstruction of justice.
COOPER: Carl, do you agree with that sort of --
BERNSTEIN: Yes. And also, look, some of the lawyers involved who know some things say that Flynn is cooperating. They don't call it flip. But they say he has been cooperating with the investigators.
But more -- you know, what we see with Kushner, Kushner is a focus of Mueller's investigation in all much these areas that we're talking about. Remember that Kushner was running around the world during the transition and during parts of the campaign looking for money, foreign money, Russian money, money where he could find it to try and get himself out of a bad financial position.
Mueller is looking at all of this. He's trying to put all -- I'm not saying that this information comes from people in the Mueller investigation.
[20:25:04] But reporters know a good bit at this point from piecing, from various sources together what the broad outlines of what Mueller is looking at. And it is all three of these areas, and he's very far along in terms of what we saw this week and yet we only know this much.
ZELDIN: Right. And the thing to add to that is Don Jr. gives a speech back in '08 where he is asked about the financing of their properties, Trump empire properties, and he said essentially, we don't get money from U.S. banks. We get them from rich Russians.
ZELDIN: And so, they have a financial relationship with the Russians that go back a long way, notwithstanding what the president's statements about that are and I think that that also informs Mueller's investigation.
BERNSTEIN: (INAUDIBLE) Russians too. They're not just people in Russia. I think it's important to point that out.
COOPER: Gloria, do we know how involved Jared Kushner actually was in the Comey firing?
BORGER: Well, it is a question that I've been doing an awful lot of reporting on and I have sources on both sides of this. I have some very good sources who say that he was a driver of the Comey firing. Don't forget that he was in Bedminster the weekend that the president made up his mind, as was adviser Steve Miller, who wrote a memo. And that he believed that it would be a politically good thing to do and that the Democrats would jump on board, which of course they didn't.
Then I have other sources who say that, in fact, he was not a driver of this at all. You heard Donald Trump say this was my decision and that in fact he did not oppose it. That Jared Kushner did not oppose it. That he went along with it and that perhaps he did that because he wanted to please the boss, who was also his father-in-law.
So, it is a question, I think, that the special counsel is going to try and get to the bottom of because Jared's name comes up in a whole bunch of places. He was on Air Force One when they had to come up with that statement about what occurred at the Trump Tower meeting that they had to revise a few times. He had had all of these repeated meetings with Russians to establish a back channel to Russia during the campaign. He had the SF-86 form which had to be filed repeatedly.
So I think they have a lot of questions they want to ask Jared. I -- sources in the White House say they are convinced he is not a target of this investigation, but he is a witness. I think it all remains to be seen.
COOPER: I want to play a clip, though. We just got it in. It's president Trump speaking to a Washington, D.C. radio station. He was asked about investigating leaks and investigating Hillary Clinton. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: The saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: It's interesting, Carl, to hear the president of the United States bemoaning the fact that he can't be involved in these, you know, investigations.
BERNSTEIN: Because they're investigations of him, his family and the people around him. You know, it's a ridiculous statement on its face.
BORGER: Well --
BERNSTEIN: I want to say one thing about this idea of a target of the investigation. Usually you don't become a target of an investigation and get a so-called target letter from the federal government until you are about to be indicted. Right now, it is no secret that Jared Kushner is the focus of many inquiries by both the intelligence community and by the FBI. We know that and presumably Mueller is the coordinator of all that incoming information about Jared Kushner.
And all of these areas come together often on his portfolio as it were, which is so broad that it extends to politics, family money, all over the board. And that's why he is --
ZELDIN: The other area, I think, that Kushner is being inquired of is the Cambridge Analytica data operation.
COOPER: Which he had talked about, the data operation.
ZELDIN: That's right. And how does that marry up with the social media Russia troll campaign, because they seem to have some similarities with respect to their ability to target key voters in states that you wouldn't have thought that they would go to. They had information. I don't know whether it's coincidental, whether Facebook is the unwitting conduit between the two, but that's another area that they have to look at. COOPER: We've got to take a break.
Michael Zeldin, Carl Bernstein, Gloria Borger, thank you.
Coming up, Attorney General Jeff Sessions under new scrutiny over a meeting with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and his testimony under oath about Russia. The question is, does Jeff Sessions have some explaining to do to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We'll hear what a member of that committee has to say when we talk to him next.
COOPER: As we reported, attorney General Jeff Sessions is under new scrutiny over his testimony about Russian contacts because of the meeting with former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos and a new revelation from another former adviser Carter Page. Just before air time I spoke with Senator Richard Blumenthal, who's a member of the Senate judiciary committee.
COOPER: So Senator, if Carter Page is telling the truth and he did informed Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his trip to Russia, I mean that it's really seems to raise at least a lot of new questions.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If not only raises questions Anderson, but really another powerful compelling reason that Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to come back before the judiciary committee and explain and justify his statement that he was unaware of any contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, which is belied not only by this report from Carter Page but also by the statement from George Papadopoulos that there were numerous meetings and communications between him and a campaign supervisor and high- ranking campaign official about his contacts with the Russian Foreign Ministry.
COOPER: It is pretty surprising the extent to which Jeff Sessions seems to have pled ignorance on anything to do with Russia. I mean I would have thought that somebody at his level would have people in the room, would have assistants who might take notes about what happened in any given meeting, particularly, you know, while they're on the campaign.
BLUMENTHAL: And particularly incredible because of the intimacy of the Trump team. It was a small a --
BLUMENTHAL: -- small team. These advisers were seated around that table with the then-presidential candidate and Attorney General Sessions, a very small group. So the absence of any notes certainly raises any questions, along with his lack of recollection.
COOPER: You know, Carter Page has always said that his trip to Russia was unconnected with his role in the campaign. First of all there's questions about what his role and then he really was in the campaign at all, Donald Trump named him as a one -- as an adviser, but Carter Page said he never actually met Donald Trump, even though he told Russians that he had.
[20:35:12] Does it make a difference if the trip really was unconnected to the campaign? The caveat is I find it hard to believe he would have been invited to speak if, you know, if he didn't have this official role with the campaign.
BLUMENTHAL: And that's exactly right. The pattern is the same as it was with George Papadopoulos. The Russians became aware of their status as foreign policy advisers and therefore reached out to them and engaged them, a very familiar tactic of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Intelligence Services. And sought to provide George Papadopoulos with dirt on Hillary Clinton and e-mails, much as they offered to do later with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.
So there's a pattern here. And the special counsel is working his way up the ladder of criminal liability. And we can see more surprises, we can expect them. And they are likely to include potential charges and also convictions.
COOPER: Against Sessions or just in general?
BLUMENTHAL: In general, we're not speaking about Sessions in particular. But there is a moment coming when Jeff Sessions will, I hope, be forced to explain these apparent contradictions, his saying he was unaware of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials which is contradicted by Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
COOPER: I also want to ask you about the reporting that special counsel is looking into what role Jared Kushner may have played into firing of Jim Comey. Is that something that would be of interest to your committee?
BLUMENTHAL: Very much of interest to our committee because we're very interested in the obstruction of justice, which is within our responsibility. We have oversight, purview, when it comes to the Department of Justice and the FBI. The firing of Jim Comey is very much of interest to us. And Jared Kushner's possible involvement in it.
I have said for some time that Jared Kushner should be subpoenaed, Donald Trump Jr. should be subpoenaed, so should Paul Manafort, now he will probably claim his Fifth Amendment probably, but anybody involved in that June 9th meeting should be subpoenaed and he -- but he involve in a potential obstruction of justice in firing Jim Comey.
COOPER: Would like to see Donald Trump Jr. in testifying in a public hearing.
BLUMENTHAL: In a public hearing under oath. All of them should.
COOPER: Senator, appreciate your time. Thank you. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up, the President's nominee for chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture withdraws from consideration for that job, had nothing to do with fact that he wasn't actually a scientist, sources saying is because of the Russian investigation.
Also ahead, House Republicans unveil their tax reform plan today, or plan their pitching as middle-class tax cut and the president is calling a great Christmas present. The two big questions, what is in it and will it pass? Is next
[20:41:38] COOPER: Now to what the president says will be one of the great Christmas presents. House Republicans revealed new tax bill today, they say it's whole purpose is the middle-class tax cut, it also lowers the corporate tax rate and does away with some deductions. Our Phil Mattingly joins us now with the tells of the plans. So what does the new plan look like particularly for middle-class Americans?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Anderson, the answer to whether this will be good or bad for middle-class Americans, could very well make or break the future of this plan. And when you talk to Republican leaders they're on unequivocal. Anderson, take a listen to what Speaker Paul Ryan told me an interview earlier today.
MATTINGLY: Can you guarantee that all middle-class taxpayers will see a tax cut? I know your models are.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: That's the entire purpose of this is tax focus average family of four on a $1,200 tax cut. I think that's going to helping people who live in paycheck to paycheck. So absolutely.
I think this is a game-changer for our economy.
MATTINGLY: Although the reality is -- it's a little bit more complicated. There's no question about it, there are reductions on the rate side of things. There are thing like the boost in a child tax credit that will help families, the nearly double of the standard deduction. Those are positive thing, but there's also the reality that in this plan, there's about $300 billion in reductions on the individual side and about $1 trillion of reductions on the corporate side. That latter point matters a lot. The reason why they're doing that is the Republican belief and they're stated position that they help on the corporate side will help boost incomes for individuals. Help boost wages. That will be crucial.
Their ability to sell that idea that not just tax cuts on the individual side as you lose significant deductions across the board on things like student loan debt, on this like mortgage interest rate deduction, scaling that back a little bit. That the boost from the economy on the corporate side will help things out. If that doesn't sell, they could have problems. If it does, could be in good place, Anderson.
COOPER: Most of the Republicans didn't get a look at the plan until today whenever one else got to see it. How were they reacting?
MATTINGLY: Well look, they are enthusiastic that they finally have a plan, they're enthusiastic that this an opportunity to actually do something they haven't done at all this year, and that is accomplish a major legislative goal. But I mentioned, the removal of popular deduction, issues like the mortgage interest rate deduction, issues like statement local tax deduction, they were capping the property tax deduction at $10,000, they're removing the income tax deduction altogether, those are hairy issues. Those were issues that Republicans particularly northeastern Republicans from high tax states have already stated unequivocally, they will be against the bill if they don't see changes. The big question right now Anderson is, what will win out? The political imperative here, the move forward to do something anything, legislatively or the fact that these details, this in the weeds propositions could make or break people's political and potential policy features.
COOPER: And the Republicans to find out they obviously want to move quickly on this.
MATTINGLY: Yes, look, they're not -- hyper speed one person described it to me. And look, they're staring at reality here. There's a reason this hasn't been done in 31 years. There's a reason major overhauls the U.S. tax code are so complicated. And that's because you have interest groups, you have people that care about these deductions, these things you have to get rid of in order to pay for this very large rate cuts. So because of that fact, Anderson they will be moving this bill through committee next week. It will be on the House floor the week after that.
The Senate will start their process as well. They want this done in the House and Senate by Thanksgiving. They want it on the president's desk by Christmas. Can they actually pull that off? That is a very, very aggressive schedule but at least according to the speaker, the answer is yes.
COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly. Phil, thanks.
Up next, as all the Russia investigation news breaks this week, sources tell CNN the president is agonizing or the developments isolated in the White House.
[20:45:03] But President insist the "New York Times" and he's not angry. I'll speak to man who author of the "Art of the Deal" Tony Schwartz about how the president deals with this kind of pressure.
[20:49:21] COOPER: Jim Acosta has some new breaking news in the Russian investigation. Jim what are you learning?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Anderson, this goes back to that conversation we've been reporting on over the last couple days about the former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos raising this idea, this prospect of a meeting between then candidate Trump and Russian President Putin. This was at that national security advisory board meeting back in March of 2016.
We had heard only heard from sources about this conversation up until now. But we can report now Anderson, that one of the attendees in the room, a former national security official J.D. Gordon. If you're looking at this picture right now on screen Anderson, obviously there's George Papadopoulos in the middle, there's Donald Trump on the end and Jeff Sessions is on the near into the table, right in between Jeff Sessions and George Papadopoulos is J.D. Gordon, is a former national security official of -- for the Trump campaign, was obviously at that meeting that day.
[20:50:15] He now says to us on the record J.D. Gordon, that then candidate Trump heard him out, referring to George Papadopoulos, that then candidate Trump heard out Papadopoulos's pitch about then candidate Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Of course we've been reporting that Senator Sessions and now Attorney General Sessions at that time knocked down the idea. And, of course, all of this is a very big interest to the special council's office, because they want to know what the president's reaction was in the room that day. And according to J.D. Gordon, at the very least, he heard him out.
COOPER: All right, Jim, appreciate that the breaking news.
As more people in President Trump's inner circle under scrutiny, the Russian investigation we're also learning more before how President Trump himself is reacting. Sources told CNN yesterday, the president was fuming, agonizing over the news of special council Mueller's indictments are isolated at time and the third floor at the White House earlier in the week. Then the president spoke to the "New York Times" as Maggie Haberman on the phone and said he's isn't personally under investigation, that he was not angry at anybody.
Joining me now is Tony Schwartz, the co-author of "Art of the Deal", contributor to the "Dangerous Case of Donald Trump", a new book.
I want to play first of all Tony, something that the president said on a radio interview just, you know, I think a local radio station in Washington. Let's listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department, I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I'm very frustrated by that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well -- I mean, that's I guess not all that surprising.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "ART OF THE DEAL": No, I mean it's scary though because what he's essentially saying is, I'd like to be in charge of everything.
COOPER: Right. And he'd like to be involved in -- be able of --
SCHWARTZ: He like not make a distinction between those agencies, he'd be the emperor and have full control over all of them, that's what he wants.
COOPER: I think the last time you were on the program, you talked about how the sort of the President and how Donald Trump in his past focuses basically focuses in the short term to get through -- it goes it's kind of a survival mode. Can you sort of explain that?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think it's -- yes surely what he's in right now, it's of course ludicrous to think that he is -- as he told Maggie Haberman that he's not angry at anyone. That he's angry at everyone right now, I guarantee you. And if you're sitting in that White House you're feeling it.
I think what happens is that there's nothing Donald Trump finds more intolerable than to feel weak or potentially humiliated or out of control. And a long comes this guy Mueller indicts these three people. Sets his Trump's teeth on edge that it's coming toward him. This is like a tsunami really that is move or even to use a more relevant description, a hurricane, a stage 4, stage 5 hurricane it's moving toward him at a slow pace. But we're in a medium pace but it's coming toward him. And what happens to him in that circumstance is that rather than feeling the intolerable weakness or vulnerability he moves into aggressiveness and goes after people, and that's what you're seeing now.
COOPER: And that would -- where does that come from? Is that the Roy Cohn School that he sort of he was taught from?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think he was taught it a long time before Roy Cohn, you know, his father taught him that from a very early age. And taught him, you know, strike back and strike back hard. That's what Fred -- his father did. And for sure, that was Roy Cohn's style, and we're going to see that more and more now as more and more revelations -- I mean more and more -- I don't know there will be indictments, although I suspect there will. But more and more news from Mueller, because there is a level it which despite his desire not to feel it, Trump is very, very, very anxious that Mueller's going to get him.
And I've said before, and I'll say it again, that I believe he will. Interestingly, I don't necessarily know that Mueller will get Trump for Russia. I think he's going to get a ton of people around him, I don't know that he'll get Trump. But what he's got is 40 years of Trump's actions in the marketplace. And that's a lot for him to be looking into. COOPER: In terms of past legal action of that as a civilian, Donald Trump was involved with -- I mean wondering in those past legal actions can sort of -- could be an indicator of how he deals with an ongoing investigation. Because there was some question of, you know, that he's legal team was -- there was some debate within his supporters of how he should deal with Mueller investigation, whether, you know, full cooperation or escorts (ph) here.
SCHWARTZ: Well, to talk about something that's killing and the last thing he wants to do is accept that this investigation is continuing. He hates that and would of course love to fire Mueller now, tomorrow.
[20:55:07] I believe he will. And I believe he will do it on an impulse in spite of whatever voices may be telling him, not a dangerous thing to do. And I think we will see another Saturday night massacre.
COOPER: He does continually say though that he's not personally under investigation.
SCHWARTZ: I think it's a -- it's kind of thread a needle. It is possible to me that Trump is not culpable around anything related to Russia. What he's worried about if that's true is that there is an awful lot of other stuff he is culpable for.
COOPER: Do the -- you know, the reporting that Jared Kushner now is certainly of interest to Mueller, Jared Kushner has given over documents, I mean coming that close to, you know, to be in Donald Trump's family, that's got to be extremely difficult.
SCHWARTZ: Well what's fascinating is -- and I thought this, you know, said these six months ago, that there was going to come a time when Trump in his relentless lack of loyalty was going to turn against his own family members. Well, he's done it. I mean we heard yesterday Gabrielle Sherman reported that, you know, he went in then he reported today that he went after Jared Kushner, he's blaming him for getting rid of Comey. And I can see him, you know, as he isolates himself and he's looking for enemies, I can see him going after literarily the blood members of his family. I'm waiting for Donald Jr., I'm waiting for Eric. I think Ivanka would be the last to go.
COOPER: Tony Schwartz, appreciated you being with us. Thank you.
Up next, the breaking news in the Russia investigation, that touches members of the president's inner circle including his family, we're matching, we have the major news involving Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when we continue.