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Carter Page Testimony Released; Page Suggested Trump go to Russia; Governors Races Test Trump's Strength; Remembering Lives Lost in Shooting; Jurors Deliberate in Menendez Trial; Search for Texas Shooting Motive. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired November 7, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:51] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, new information this morning about Carter Page's revealing and in some cases surprising testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser may have spoken to more Russian government officials than he has mentioned before.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He also now says senior members of the Trump team, the Trump campaign, were aware of his trip to Russia last year. He talked about quoting e-mails that he sent to the team about this trip.
Joining us now, CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.
It's fascinating that he testified for, what, six hours without a lawyer next to him to the House Intel Committee, and now we have the details. Especially fascinating, these e-mails that he sent back and forth with the Trump team.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And Carter Page changing his story a little bit, Poppy and John. He previously said his trip to Russia at the height of the campaign was a personal trip and that he did not meet with any Russian officials. But the transcript from that very long congressional testimony, it tells quite a different story.
So, first, Carter Page now admits that when he travelled to Russia in July 2016, he had a private meeting with Russia's deputy prime minister. And even that Carter Page e-mailed Trump campaign officials when he returned, offering them a readout of that one-ono-one conversation.
Also in his testimony, Page is disclosing that he alerted several campaign officials before his trip, saying he e-mailed Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski, and J.D. Gordon, letting all of them know.
Now, J.D. Gordon is responding to this, saying that he doesn't remember the e-mail since he received thousands of messages as national security adviser for the campaign. And we know that Corey Lewandowski reportedly pushed back on this, saying that Page, if he was going to Russia, should not plan on representing the campaign. And finally in this testimony we're also learning that Carter Page
floated the idea of then candidate Trump taking a trip to Russia. This is what he wrote to J.D. Gordon and another adviser, Walid Ferris (ph). H said, if he'd like to take my place, meaning Trump, on a trip to Russia and raise the temperature a little bit, of course I'd be more than happy to yield this honor to him.
Now, of course, that's a similar offer to what George Papadopoulos made to part of the campaign team as well. Of course, though, Donald Trump, he never did go to Russia and we know that the idea of him going was dismissed.
But, really, John and Poppy, a lot more details, a lot more questions being raised with the release of this six-hour testimony transcript from Carter Page, his story changing slightly, now, in fact, that he did meet with Russian officials and that inevitably will draw even more questions and more scrutiny from congressional investigators.
John and Poppy.
BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
Joining us now, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, and Nathan Gonzales, a CNN political analyst and editor of "Inside Elections."
Caitlin, I want to start with you.
Carter Page, how big of a deal is it that his story has changed and there is this e-mail trail between him and the Trump campaign?
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. Exactly. What's interesting about this too, as you mentioned, he's doing this without a lawyer, six hours of testimony, and what should concern the Trump folks is that Carter Page has been pretty prolific in terms of his public appearances, talking about this issue. He's on TV all the time giving interviews. He gave this testimony today.
What got Papadopoulos -- George Papadopoulos in trouble was not necessarily the fact that he had these connections and contacts, is that he lied about them to the FBI.
HUEY-BURNS: So what's important about this testimony to me is, is some of the contradictions and the idea that, you know, it's kind of meandering in a lot of ways. So he could end up getting himself in trouble perhaps. But it's not helpful to the Trump folks that he's out there all the time.
HARLOW: So, Nathan, the Trump team will continue, I believe, unless something changes drastically, to deflect, deflect, deflect. This is a nothing burger, et cetera, et cetera. The facts don't bear that out, but also the numbers don't bear that out. We have a brand new CNN poll this morning and what it shows is that more Americans than ever are concerned about contacts between suspected Russian operatives and the Trump team. Forty-four percent of Americans very concerned. That is up from 27 percent who were very concerned in July. That's a big jump. And then when you look at his overall approval rating, it now sits at 36 percent. Regardless of the, you know, rhetoric from the administration, is this taking a toll?
[09:35:05] NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, Poppy, I think, on the legal -- you know, there's the legal angle and there's a political angle, which the numbers you brought up. What's most interesting to me is, looking at Trump's core supporters, those people who are loyal to the president above anyone else, even above other Republicans, and I think that this investigation still needs to get closer to the president's inner circle or maybe implicate the president himself before you start to see that shed -- before you start to see that support shed from him.
If -- and also if the investigation gets closer than it is now to the president or his inner circle, that will put pressure on Republicans on Capitol Hill to start to say something or distance themselves, because right now we have Carter Page and Papadopoulos and Republicans on The Hill can kind of shrug it off and try to ignore it, but if it creeps closer to the president, then they're going to be forced to probably say something more public about it.
BERMAN: All right, Caitlin, it is Election Day in America right now. The biggest election no doubt is the governor's race in Virginia. Strategist Ed Gillespie against Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. Talk to me about this race. What will this race in Virginia -- and if you're not from Virginia you may not care as much about it -- but what does it mean for politics and the nation overall? What signs will it send?
HUEY-BURNS: Well, Virginia always has his off year election and people look at it to try to read the tea leaves of what we might expect for next year. Traditionally, it's not entirely reliable, right? There have been instances where it hasn't been predictive. But in this case, you have Republicans trying to figure out how to deal with this era of Donald Trump, how to play in states where the president is unpopular. And Ed Gillespie's strategy has been to kind of walk the line a little bit. He hasn't endeared himself to Trump, but he hasn't distanced himself either. He's really tapped into some of these cultural issues in the state that resonate with Trump supporters in the state, but also a little bit beyond within the Republican Party. So people are looking at this race for implications for 2018.
HUEY-BURNS: And also just in terms of Democrats, this is a must-win for them. They have already hemorrhaged support across state houses across the country. They would lose -- if they lose this governor's seat, that would leave them with just -- that would be very problematic for them.
HARLOW: In a state Hillary Clinton took by 5 percent.
HUEY-BURNS: Right. HARLOW: But to you, Nathan, you know, Gillespie has adopted the Trump playbook on many of these, especially cultural issues, when you look at immigration, when you look at some of the ads that have been running about MS-13, the gangs, et cetera, in these final weeks, even though his team says that's -- you know, that's not our strategy, that's not our platform. Is this a road map big picture for Republicans if he can pull it off, if he can win?
GONZALES: Well, I think Caitlin's exactly right, that Gillespie has -- is trying to thread that needle between being a Republican and running in a Hillary Clinton state. And, you know, I don't believe in accidents in campaigns. I mean the ads or the messaging that you see in ads from -- from any candidate, there is a -- they're very purposeful and intentional. And so -- but I -- but to just reemphasize something that Caitlin said, right now Democrats are looking for the first high-profile victory of President Trump's administration. They fell short in some House special elections. Now those were in districts that Donald Trump won. But this is a state that -- a commonwealth that Hillary Clinton won. And so the pressure is on Democrats. And if they don't win, then there's going to be a lot of finger pointing and blaming about what Ralph Northam's message should be, what should the Democratic message be in 2018. And even if Northam wins, you know, this is a high profile race that we'll be talking about tonight and tomorrow. But, still, it just maintains the status quo. There's a Democratic governor. And, again, it's a place where Hillary Clinton won. So Democrats, the pressure is on.
BERMAN: You say there's going to be finger-pointing. There already is finger-pointing. They're terrified. Democrats are terrified about this race, Caitlin.
HUEY-BURNS: They are. And they have a little bit of 2016 PTSD, right? They thought they were going to win the 2016 election. It turned out not so.
I've been talking to a lot of Democrats who say, look, you know, we have all of the structural advantages in this state. The economy, countered to what the president said in his tweets in support of Gillespie is pretty strong in Virginia. They think they have that going for them. But, again, they don't want their voters to be complacent. And you also saw President Obama going --
HARLOW: Oh, yes.
HUEY-BURNS: Out for his first public appearances saying, you know, you guys kind of sleep off in the midterms and in off year elections.
HARLOW: You get sleepy. You get complacent.
HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. So a lot of concern here trying to drive out turnout.
HARLOW: We will see. That's why you see that on the bottom of your screen.
BERMAN: Right. HARLOW: Election night in America tonight. Watch it right here beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.
Caitlin, Nathan, thank you both very much.
Ahead, we take you back to Texas. Chilling accounts from inside that small town church where a gunman went on a killing spree. We honor the victims, next.
[09:43:54] HARLOW: Welcome back.
This morning we are learning more about the lives lost in the Texas church massacre. And we are hearing some firsthand accounts of what happened inside from a survivor.
BERMAN: Twenty-six people were killed spanning generations, sometimes generations in the same family, including children. CNN's Alison Kosik joins us live now with some of their stories.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's just overwhelming the pain that these families are going through after learning that their loved ones were killed in this church.
We learned about Richard and Theresa Rodriguez. They were married for 11 years. They were high school sweethearts. And they attended church every Sunday.
Richard's daughter says she loved hanging with her dad. She had some great memories waking up on Saturday morning's and watching "Soul Train" and '80s movies with him. And now, in the wake of his death, she says her kids are having a really difficult time with this. They idolized him and looked forward to their visits with him. Listen to how she was this morning on "NEW DAY" with Alisyn Camerota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REGINA RODRIGUEZ, DAUGHTER OF VICTIM RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: He -- he really looked up to my dad. And the memories that I have is, my dad was country, so my son will put on his country pants and his boots and he -- and I remember him going around asking me, where's my hat, mom? Where's my hat? And my dad loved wearing caps and he would always put his glasses sitting on top of his hat. And he would always be standing around the house with a hat, his glasses and his backpack and he was so excited and he was just waiting for my dad to pull up when he would come on the weekends.
[09:45:34] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": I know that he liked to dress like his grandpa because he loved him so much and he was so excited to see him.
And tell us about what your youngest -- you have a six-year-old. What has your six-year-old been saying about this? RODRIGUEZ: He just keeps on telling me he wants to go to grandpa's
house. Can I call grandpa? And I just tell him where he's at now we can't call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: It's just heartbreaking. We can all relate to that closeness within our own families and to lose somebody so suddenly like that.
But I do have an incredible story of survival. Roseanne Solis told ABC News that she played dead to stay away from the gunman. She says she hid under a bench with a boy and a woman as she -- she heard the gunman just walk through indiscriminately shooting people, even people who were on the ground bleeding. But she knew to stay very quiet. And there were points in there where it got very quiet and she knew she couldn't make a move, she couldn't say anything. Here's some of what she said on "Good Morning America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEANNE SOLIS: I saw bodies with a lot of blood. That's all I saw, because I wasn't about to get out from where I was hiding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was anybody trying to get away? Was there anywhere to go?
SOLIS: No. There was nowhere to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSIK: And she said that she was actually hit in the shoulder with one of the bullets and she said she didn't even feel the pain, that the pain came later. Of course, she feels very sorry for the people who lost their loved ones. And she doesn't know why she survived, but she's very thankful to be alive today.
BERMAN: A long road ahead for so many of the people down there.
HARLOW: Thank you.
BERMAN: Alison, thanks so much.
KOSIK: You got it.
HARLOW: Right now the jury is deliberating in the corruption and bribery trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. We have the latest from the courthouse, next.
[09:51:44] HARLOW: Right now, a 12 person jury is deliberating the federal corruption trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. He faces potential jail time in this. The outcome, of course, will also have significant implications for his political future. BERMAN: You can see the senator entering the courthouse. This happened
just moments ago. He is accused of corruption and abusing his power in office.
CNN's Laura Jarrett outside the courthouse with the latest.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN REPORTER: Well, John and Poppy, we are waiting here as jurors begin deliberations for day two to see if they have any questions as they begin to dive into the mountain of evidence that they heard over this nine-week trial and decide whether to acquit or convict Senator Menendez of 12 counts, including corruption, bribery, fraud and also failing to disclose a number of gifts on his Senate disclosure form.
Now, the senator appeared very confident walking into court this morning. He told reporters that he was feeling great. He's inside right now. We're waiting for him to come out very shortly as the jury deliberates.
But it's also Election Day on top of everything here in New Jersey. The voters are going to the polls soon, trying to elect their next governor to replace Governor Chris Christie. And the question is, what happens, what's the implication for Menendez's Senate seat if he is, in fact, convicted. This is far from anything from an open and shut case, but the question is, if he is convicted, will Republicans push for his ouster and will Democrats be able to resist that pressure because it requires two-thirds of the Senate to expel him.
But, for right now, we are on verdict watch as the seven-person -- seven women, I should say, five man jury reaches deliberations here.
HARLOW: We'll be watching. Laura Jarrett, thank you very much.
Could some yard clippings be the motivation behind this brutal attack on Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. A neighbor suggests the senator and his attacker, who is a different neighbor, have had a long-running dispute over grass clippings and leaves. An attorney says what happened on November 3rd had nothing to do with politics, called it a trivial matter, but trivial it is not. Senator Paul suffered five broken ribs and bruised lungs. That neighbor faces assault charges.
BERMAN: All right, he shot and wounded a Texas church gunman. Now the man who did that speaking out for the first time. Hear his remarkable interview coming up next.
[09:58:23] BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.
This morning the hero who shot the Texas church gunman tells his story. Listen to his humble account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND CHASED TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTER: I'm no hero. I am not. I think my God, my Lord, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. And I just wish I could have gotten there faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: More from that interview in just a moment.
BERMAN: But first this morning, new information about the killer that unequivocally should have kept this man from owning a gun. Just no question about it. Domestic abuse so bad he once fractured his stepson's skull. And an admission from the Air Force that it dropped the ball reporting this man's previous conviction and everything it knew. We'll get the latest from the Pentagon in just a moment.
But first, Dianne Gallagher on the scene in Southerland Springs, Texas.
Dianne, what are you hearing from investigators?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, John and Poppy, at this point they're not just trying to track down a motive, but also kind of put together a picture of who this shooter really was.
Now, we are learning from them that at least their best lead at this point seems to be something stemming from this family dispute, an ongoing grudge with his wife's family that we're told that he just wasn't able to let go of and had become increasingly obsessed with over the past recent time here.
Now, investigators let us know that he sent a threatening text message to his mother-in-law the morning of the shooting. We do not know the contents of that text message but it was described as threatening. She was not in the sanctuary, but his wife's grandmother was. She died in that shooting.