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Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Interior Secretary Under Investigation; President Trump Blasts Al Franken, Stays Silent on Roy Moore; Watchdog Slams Interior Secretary for Failing to Record Travel. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tax brawl. Senators get into a shouting match over who would gain and who would lose in the GOP tax plan. The battle over a top priority for the president getting more heated and a lot more personal.

And travel baggage. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke under investigation for trips on private jets, now under fire from his own department's watchdog. We're going to tell you why investigators are being prevented from determining if Zinke broke the rules.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the Trump White House facing serious questions about hypocrisy, after the president seized on the groping allegation against Democratic Senator Al Franken, while refusing to speak out about the multiple sexual abuse allegations against GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Mr. Trump slamming Senator Franken in a tweet and mocking the photo released by the senator's accuser. Tonight, the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, rejecting any comparison between the allegations against Franken and accusations made against President Trump by multiple women.

She says Franken has admitted to wrongdoing, but the president has not.

Also tonight, the Moore campaign tells CNN its fund-raising has gone through the roof since the sexual abuse allegations became public. But new polling shows Moore now is trailing his Democratic opponent by eight points with the special election in Alabama less than a month away.

Also breaking, CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to interview the British publicist who set up that 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. We're told Rob Goldstone is being invited to talk, but he's not being subpoenaed, this as Mueller has issued a new subpoena to the Trump campaign.

Sources say investigators want more Russia-related documents, believing there are things that possibly should have been turned over, but were not.

This hour, I will talk about those stories and more with Congressman Ted Lieu. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.

And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, the president's tweet about Al Franken certainly has raised a lot of questions.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Let the charges of hypocrisy fly. There are questions about why the president was so quick to weigh in on allegations against a Democratic senator, but has been all but silent on allegations against a Republican Senate hopeful.

And, of course, all of this just drawing the spotlight back to allegations against the president himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's reaction to sexual assault allegations and his own history of alleged misconduct with women under new scrutiny today. The president ignoring questions about the allegations against Alabama Senate hopeful Republican Roy Moore for days, but quickly firing off a tweet attacking Democratic Senator Al Franken for a photo in which he appears to touch a woman while she's sleeping.

"The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad. Speaks 1,000 words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps?"

Franken has apologized for his actions and welcomed an investigation, while Moore maintains he's innocent.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: "The Washington Post" has brought some scurrilous false charges, not charges, allegations, which I have emphatically denied time and time again.

MURRAY: But Trump's decision to weigh in on Franken immediately drawing comparisons to the president's past behavior. During the presidential campaign, a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape came to light, showing Trump boasting about groping women.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. (LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": Whatever you want.

DONALD TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You can do anything.

(LAUGHTER)

MURRAY: Trump apologized after the tape was made public.

TRUMP: Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong, and I apologize.

MURRAY: But, afterwards, more than a dozen women came forward and accused Trump of sexual misconduct or assault.

TRUMP: The stories are total fiction. They're 100 percent made up.

MURRAY: Taking aim at their looks.

TRUMP: She would not be my first choice.

MURRAY: And threatening lawsuits that he never actually filed.

TRUMP: All of these liars will be sued after the election.

MURRAY: Today, the White House dismissed any similarities between Franken's misconduct and allegations against the president.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.

[18:05:04]

MURRAY: When it comes to Moore, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't say whether Trump believes the women making allegations against him and said Moore's fate ultimately lies with Alabama's governor and the voters.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president certainly finds the allegations extremely troubling, as I stated yesterday. And he feels like it's up to the governor and the state -- the people in the state of Alabama to make a determination on whether or not they delay that election or whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, the White House has said President Trump believes Roy Moore should step aside if the allegations against him are true, but it's pretty clear Trump does not want to intervene in this election.

As for the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey says she has no plans to delay the election and she plans to vote for Roy Moore -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The election is scheduled for December 12.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Let's get to the breaking news in the Russia investigation right now.

I want to bring in our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, the special counsel actively seeking new information on multiple fronts.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

And the latest source of that information could be British publicist Rob Goldstone. He was the one who first pitched that meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower to Donald Trump Jr., promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump Jr. says he never got that dirt, but investigators are inviting Goldstone to come to the U.S. for an interview. And on the congressional side, investigators are now implying Jared Kushner has not been forthcoming in handing over key documents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling Jared Kushner's disclosures into question, labeling what he submitted so far incomplete and demanding more documents.

The letter sent by Chairman Chuck Grassley and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein points to revelations Monday that Donald Trump Jr. exchanged direct messages with WikiLeaks over Twitter during the campaign. Trump Jr. e-mailed Jared Kushner and other top campaign officials, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact.

The committee wants Kushner to hand over the e-mails. They also want all documents relating to a so-called Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite, Kushner's communications with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and any e-mails relating to his firing, all documents related to his security clearance.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: My name is Jared Kushner.

SCHNEIDER: Kushner has had to update his forms three times for not reporting several meetings with foreign officials and all communications with Sergei Millian, a Russian businessman who "The Washington Post" reported is a source for the dossier.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He's definitely apparently omitting documents, and that is the reason that I have long advocated subpoenas for all of the documents. That's the only way we will know whether he's producing all of them.

He certainly is doing himself no favor by withholding some, apparently. And I think he ought to be subpoenaed to appear before the committee in open, under oath, at a hearing.

SCHNEIDER: Kushner's lawyer releasing this statement: "We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner's calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request," adding Kushner will continue to voluntarily cooperate.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think it's obstruction. I think he's saying, look, Congress, write us a clear letter and we will give you a response to your clear letter.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, the special counsel has subpoenaed the Trump campaign, according to sources. The subpoena seeks more records based on expanded search terms, suggesting investigators believe there are still documents that haven't been handed over.

The campaign had provided documents to the special counsel that had also been given to congressional investigators. One source describes the request as covering a large amount of material. The Trump campaign hasn't responded to requests for comment.

And in Washington today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after he initially failed to disclose he met with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, made light of the situation at the same hotel where he encountered Kislyak at a speech during the campaign.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Is Ambassador Kislyak in the room?

(LAUGHTER)

SESSIONS: Before I get started here. Any Russians?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: And on Russian television this week, Kislyak joking about the investigation, saying any list of his contacts with Americans would be too long to list during the show.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And the special counsel's office is also planning to interview key figures at the White House in the next two weeks, according to sources. On the list, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn.

Both were involved in the campaign. Hope Hicks actually started with the Trump Organization in 2014. She was a key player in the early days of the campaign, throughout the election and, of course, Wolf, she's a big player now in the administration as communications director.

BLITZER: She certainly is.

All right, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this. Congressman Ted Lieu is joining us. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So what questions do you have for Rob Goldstone?

[18:10:04]

LIEU: Well, based on the CNN reporting, it's very clear that special counsel Mueller is very interested in the meeting where Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. attended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

I would like to know from Goldstone how he knew that the Russians had this information and why was it that he contacted Donald Trump Jr. to basically have this meeting happen.

BLITZER: What context can you give us, Congressman, for these -- for September 2016 e-mails that Jared Kushner forwarded about WikiLeaks and about a -- quote -- "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite"?

The Senate Judiciary Committee says they have not received those e- mails that he forwarded. They want those e-mails.

LIEU: I think it's important to know that this was a bipartisan letter from Senator Grassley and Senator Feinstein.

And they're basically accusing Jared Kushner of withholding relevant documents related to Russia. And this is not the first time Jared Kushner has done this. He made two false and misleading security clearance applications, all of which conveniently omitted information related to Russia.

So either Jared Kushner had massive selective amnesia on Russia, or he did something bad last year.

BLITZER: So what do you think? Do you believe Jared Kushner is guilty of anything? Some have suggested maybe obstruction of justice with those omissions.

LIEU: I think Jared Kushner is in trouble.

"Wall Street Journal" today wrote that Jared Kushner gave testimony to congressional investigators saying he had nothing to do with WikiLeaks. Now we know that he was actually in possession of these e- mails, because he forwarded some of them. If he in fact did that and made that testimony, he then lied under oath.

BLITZER: We also now know, Congressman, that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has subpoenaed the Trump campaign. What questions still haven't been answered that the campaign potentially could provide documents about? LIEU: The issue really is no longer, was there collusion between

Trump campaign officials and Russia? The issue is, how far up did that go?

We know from Trump campaign official George Papadopoulos' guilty plea that he tried to collude with Russia, and who knew about it? Well, Jeff Sessions knew about it. Who else knew about it? And with all the reporting that we're seeing today how people try to connect the dots between Trump campaign and Russia, it's one big dot, Wolf. That's what we're seeing.

It's just staring us in the face. Everybody connected to the Trump campaign happens to be lying about the Russian contacts. That can't be a coincidence.

BLITZER: Well, do you think this Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena could give a clearer view of the roles that George Papadopoulos -- he pleaded guilty, as you know -- Carter Page, another national security adviser to the campaign, that the connections that they may have had with Russia and who they were taking orders from on the campaign?

LIEU: Absolutely.

And it's now been reported in "The Washington Post" that there were at least 31 contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials and at least 19 meetings.

Keep in mind, earlier on, Trump campaign officials denied any such contacts occurred. So, something very, very bad happened last year, and I think special counsel Mueller, as well as congressional investigators will get to the bottom of it.

BLITZER: The former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, you just saw in that report, he now says he spoke with so many Trump officials, it would take him more than 20 minutes to name them all. Is he simply taunting the U.S. in that interview with Russian TV or could there be more contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia that haven't yet come to light?

LIEU: It's certainly fascinating that Kislyak is now throwing Trump campaign officials under the bus.

And keep in mind, he's not just a Russian ambassador. It was widely known in U.S. intelligence circles that he is a spy and master spy recruiter for Russia. So, keep in mind, you're having this campaign for president. You're talking about domestic issues. And then all this Russia stuff is really weird.

If you're on the campaign, why were you even dealing with all these Russian interactions? They should have set off multiple red flags, which leads me to believe that collusion went pretty high up in the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: He was the ambassador here in Washington for a long time.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as you also saw in that report, he was over at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington today, where he had one of those undisclosed meetings with the former Ambassador Kislyak.

Let me play that clip once again, how he warmed up the crowd when he began to speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: But I just was thinking, I should want to ask you, is Ambassador Kislyak in the room?

(LAUGHTER)

SESSIONS: Before I get started here. Any Russians?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SESSIONS: Anybody been to Russia?

(LAUGHTER)

SESSIONS: Got a cousin in Russia or something.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:15:02]

BLITZER: All right. He was smiling. He was joking, but was that appropriate?

LIEU: Not at all.

Jeff Sessions still doesn't get it. He's not in trouble because he happened to be in places where there are Russians. He is in trouble because he had a nearly hour-long meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, also a spy, and then he failed to disclose the existence of that meeting under oath to the U.S. Senate.

That's why Jeff Sessions is in trouble.

BLITZER: Congressman Lieu, stand by. There are other developments I want to discuss with you.

Let's take a quick break, resume our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:13]

BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California.

Congressman, the White House, as you know, rejecting any comparisons between the groping allegation against Senator Al Franken and the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Mr. Trump.

Do you think a Senate ethics investigation into the allegation against Senator Franken goes far enough?

LIEU: Let me first say what Senator Franken was completely unacceptable.

But with the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump and the "Hollywood Access" tape, I don't think the president has moral standing to talk about this issue.

But, as a society, we need to talk about this issue right now across kitchen tables, across America. Families need to talk with their sons and daughters that sexual harassment and sexual assault can never be tolerated, what they should when they see it and how they report it. This is a big wakeup call for all of us in society.

BLITZER: We have learned from some of your congressional colleagues, Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Democratic congresswoman -- Jackie Speier from California that, in addition to Senator Franken, two other sitting members of Congress face allegations of sexual harassment.

Does the public, the American people, do they have a right to know their names?

LIEU: They do.

And I believe sexual harassment should not be tolerated, whether it's in government or in the private sector. For too long, we have not discussed this issue. It's been in the shadows. People have been scared to report.

First of all, there's strong disincentives for victims to come forward. So, I commend all the victims that have already come forward, and I believe them. And it's something we just need to address head on in society, because this is completely unacceptable, the amounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault we're seeing everywhere.

BLITZER: Do you think it's appropriate, Congressman, for taxpayer money to be spent settling incidents of sexual harassment in Congress?

LIEU: So, the government settles a variety of different cases, including sexual harassment.

I do have some issues with that, but one of the reasons that these are settled is because of victims themselves don't want their names plastered all over the press, for example. So we have to also honor victims' request in that case.

But it is a very troubling issue. And I believe you're going to see additional sexual assault cases appear, both on Capitol Hill, as well other places. It can't be that Capitol Hill is immune from what's happening across these other sectors that we're seeing right now. BLITZER: How do you believe Congress can fix this problem? And I

suspect there is a lot more sexual harassment going on, on Capitol Hill than we know about.

There's a serious problem here. What, if anything, can you as a member of Congress and your colleagues do about it?

LIEU: So, I support Jackie Speier's efforts to not only raise this issue, but make sure that everyone on Capitol Hill is trained regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Keep in mind that one thing we haven't seen is really a woman sexually harassing or sexually assaulting men. So if we were able top elect more women into Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, I think that would also help this problem.

And, again, we just need to be talking about this, and I'm glad that you're raising this issue. This should be discussed across families all across America.

BLITZER: As the conversation on sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse power evolves, Congressman, many are also grappling with how Democrats handled Bill Clinton's behavior.

Listen to Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York address in an interview with "The New York Times."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time, given the allegations?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Yes. I think that is the appropriate response. But I think things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances, there should be a very different reaction.

And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump and a very different conversation about allegations against him.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: You agree with Senator Gillibrand that President Bill Clinton should have resigned?

LIEU: So, Wolf, I'm a relatively new member of Congress. I was not there during the impeachment process.

I don't know how I would have voted if I was a member of Congress, but I do know that now we have this issue out in the open. We need to discuss it. We need to remedy it. It is something that for far too long people have not been willing to talk about. And I honor all the victims that have come forward.

We need to believe their stories and we need to hold people accountable.

BLITZER: Well, Senator Gillibrand was not a member of the Senate. She wasn't in Congress at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was impeached, President Clinton. He was not convicted in the Senate, but he was impeached. A lot of us remember covering that.

[18:25:03]

If you -- hypothetically, if you had been in the House of Representatives, you're saying you're not sure how you would have voted?

LIEU: That's my honest answer. I'm reacting to this as you're telling me. I don't know.

But what I do know is, we need to address this issue head on as something that in the last few months has appeared in public consciousness in a way that's never happened before. And that's a good thing. And we need to believe the victims that have come forward. We need to hold people accountable and we need to have investigations into any allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

BLITZER: Congressman Lieu, thanks for joining us.

LIEU: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on President Trump's attack on Senator Al Franken and the silence on Roy Moore. How is the White House answering questions of hypocrisy?

Plus, travels by a Trump travel secretary now under serious scrutiny. Did the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, violate government rules?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight the White House is rejecting any comparison between the sexual misconduct allegation against Senator Al Franken and similar accusations made against the president during the campaign. The question coming up after Mr. Trump made a point of tweeting about the Franken incident. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[18:30:59] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is this different?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's start off with our political specialists. And Abby, I want to get your reaction, because you're one of our White House correspondents. Everyone has been waiting for the president to speak publicly about

Roy Moore, the allegations against him. Instead late last night, he tweeted this: "The Al Frankenstien [SIC]" -- misspelled "Frankenstein" -- "picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps? And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape."

The president is not recalling the 12, 13 women -- we've got some pictures -- publicly made accusations against him involving sexual harassment, sexual assault. And he also apparently forgot about that "Access Hollywood" video in which he openly brags about grabbing women by some private parts, as you know.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's pretty clear that the president also views this as a -- as a different case. He thinks that Al Franken has, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed out, admitted that he did what the victim accused him of doing.

And also, the photographic evidence. The president fixated on this image as being part of his response to this.

And I think he believes that his allegations are different, because these women are making accusations against them, but they don't necessarily have photographs. And he hasn't admitted that he's done anything wrong.

At the same time, I think President Trump is in a tough spot here. You know, there's a different sentiment about this in the country right now. Even compared to a year ago during the campaign. And people want to know where he stands on these incidents. Why hasn't he spoken up about Roy Moore? And is it just that there's photographic evidence of Al Franken that he thinks that this is a problem?

BLITZER: So how hypocritical, Jeffrey, is it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Very. Very, very. I mean, it's -- I mean, look, this has become the Sean Hannity presidency. The only response Donald Trump has to any political event now is identical to that of Sean Hannity and FOX News.

You know, Sean Hannity said, you know, he went after Al Franken and has -- doesn't discuss -- doesn't discuss the accusations against -- against the president. Defends Judge Moore in Alabama. And that's how -- and that's what the White House reaction is.

I mean, the idea that, you know, Al Franken had the decency to admit how wrong he was, that that makes it worse than someone who was caught on tape admitting sexually assaulting women, as the president did, I mean, it's just completely absurd. But, you know, this -- he is playing to his base, and that's -- that's what the base wants to hear, I guess.

BLITZER: Kaitlan. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look at

it. OK. So we've got President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by -- what is it -- 13 women, I believe, is our count, and he's denied those vehemently until -- the White House is still denying those, saying that those women are lying when they talk about that.

And then we have the audio of President Trump, then as private citizen on that "Access Hollywood" bus, saying that he grabs women the way he wants because he's famous.

And then with Al Franken, we've got this woman saying that he forcibly kissed her without her consent. And then we have the photo of him pretending to grope her. Now, Al Franken has said he doesn't remember that kiss the way that she remembers it, essentially denying it, but has apologized for the video.

The president denied those accusations, but he had to acknowledge the audio, because we could all listen to it, and we could all see this photo of Al Franken. So it's almost -- they're very similar. The White House is saying they're very different situations. But we're seeing them -- they can deny where there is no photographic or audio evidence, and that's the same situation we're seeing with Al Franken. If we didn't have this photo, would he be denying this?

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because when those 13 women came forward near the end of the campaign, the president said, "Right after the election I'm going to sue every one of them. Each one is lying right now." It's been more than a year. There's been no lawsuits.

[18:35:04] PHILLIP: And it's worth remembering how the president talked about these women. It wasn't -- in addition to calling them liars, he also implied that they weren't attractive enough for him to have sexually assaulted them.

So I mean, there were a lot of issues with the way that he dealt with those accusations. I think he never actually had an opportunity to say, you know -- to offer his evidence as to why he claims that they didn't happen.

I think those cases are really very much unresolved. They are not -- I think the election results were what they were, but they are not a vindication of those cases. Those women are still out there. They haven't retracted their cases. And no, the president has not sued.

BLITZER: So the president -- and Jeffrey, you're our legal analyst. The president clearly hasn't filed any lawsuits. But these women potentially could file lawsuits for defamation.

TOOBIN: Some have. Some have. And those cases are proceeding, including requests for documents about how the president or then- candidate Trump planned to respond during the campaign.

So it is possible that some of these cases will actually move -- move through the courts. But, you know, if the world has changed and if we now have a different attitude towards women who accuse powerful men of sexual harassment, the single biggest beneficiary of the old system is the man who was -- who was president of the United States.

I mean, remember, Billy Bush, who he was talking to on the Bush -- on the bus, got fired because he didn't speak up in defense of these women. He got fired, and the other guy on the bus got elected president of the United States. Pretty amazing.

BLITZER: You know, and this debate is going to continue. Let me also point out -- Kaitlan, I want you to react. The women now and men who are taking another look at Bill Clinton, the president, the former president of the United States. Listen to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and what she now says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time, given the allegations?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Yes. I think that is the appropriate response. But I think things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction. And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump and a very different conversation about allegations against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Clinton is obviously still very powerful in Democratic politics. It puts a lot of Democrats in a rather awkward position right now.

COLLINS: It does. And I think every Democrat should be asked if they agree with her comments there. And her comments are pretty stunning. They would have been really stunning if they had made them a year ago when these sexual assault accusations against Donald Trump are coming out.

But now, you know, the nation is seeing this watershed moment where all of these accusations are coming out.

And she made a pretty striking comment for someone who is, you know, presumed to run for president in 2020, and we haven't seen someone make a comment like that about Clinton. But I think it's leading to this moment where all these sexual assault accusations are coming out. That we're really starting to reexamine the way that people responded when Bill Clinton was accused, not only of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but also his rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations from several other women.

I think people are really starting to look at the way that they responded to that and how they acted towards Bill Clinton and how they would act towards him now and the way they treated the women back then, and if they would be credible people now.

TOOBIN: It might have been nice -- it might have been nice to hear that from Senator Gillibrand when she was accepting a great deal of help from Bill and Hillary Clinton... PHILLIP: Right. Yes.

TOOBIN: ... in running for office. Now that she's in office and doesn't need their help anymore, she's all high and mighty about how awful it was and how she should have been impeached.

But, you know, politicians are opportunistic and, you know, I think we all understand that. But there are degrees of opportunism that can become even too distasteful, and I think Senator Gillibrand may have crossed that line here.

PHILLIP: Well, I think the driving force behind this is younger women, who were very tepid about Hillary Clinton a year ago in that election and who are becoming older women. I mean, they're not going to be young forever, and they're voting. They're going to the polls.

And they want a different set of politics out of the Democratic Party. They want the Democratic Party to come to terms with this cognitive dissonance of the Bill Clinton years and where we are today. I think it's -- in 2020, not just female candidates but every Democratic candidate is going to have to answer for these kinds of questions.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There are new developments in the Russia investigation. We're going to get to that. Much more right after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:44:38] BLITZER: We're back with our specialists. We're following some new and important developments in the Russia investigation, including a rather surprising joke delivered by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. And Jeffrey, let me play the clip for you. He was over at the Mayflower Hotel, a well-known hotel here in Washington today. It was at that hotel he had an undisclosed meeting during the campaign with Sergey Kislyak, the then-Russian ambassador to the United States.

[18:45:04] Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: But I just was thinking, you know, I should want to ask you is, is Ambassador Kislyak in the room?

(LAUGHTER)

Before I get started here.

(LAUGHTER)

Any Russians?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Anybody been to Russia? Got a cousin in Russia or something?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It was a friendly audience. Clearly. Lots of laughter. Lots of applause.

Was it appropriate?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Who am I to say, Wolf? I am not the secretary of appropriateness. I think it just agrees -- it just shows that they're not taking this Russia investigation seriously. They think it's a big joke.

I mean, all of them have made charitably false statements about their dealings with Russia. Sessions made incorrect, false statements. Jared Kushner keeps making over and over again false statements about his relationship with Russia.

But they obviously don't care. And, you know, what consequences have they suffered so far? He's still attorney general. Jared Kushner is still one of the most important people in the country. So why not laugh about it?

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kaitlan, because Jared Kushner is now facing more questions. The Senate Judiciary Committee, bipartisan, chairman, the ranking Democrat, they want more e-mails than he provided, including some e-mails he forwarded about WikiLeaks and what in that letter, Chairman Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat, in that letter they want e-mails about WikiLeaks and a Russian back door overture and dinner invite.

By not providing all of that so far, previous examples as well, how much trouble is he in?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, there's a lot of selective memory from these administration officials over this, including Jeff Sessions, who left out his meetings with Sergey Kislyak on some of his forms and then had to go back.

So, that's a pretty bold joke for him to make. But Toobin is right. We've seen a lot of people in the administration make jokes like this. The president often makes jokes like that at rallies, asking if there's any Russians in the crowd.

But back to this, we've seen Jared Kushner specifically leave a lot of information to be desired, even after he speaks with some of these committees, they still want to know more. They want to have these e- mails, including the ones about Mike Flynn's firing and what happened there. And it's worth pointing out that Jared Kushner has been in this administration in a very senior position and he still doesn't have his top security clearance yet, even though he's gone through all of this.

And we've seen him time and time again leave off several meetings and then after they're revealed by the media, then they go back and edit his form to put these things on there. So after, you know, one time you get a pass to say you forgot a meeting, but then after three times and you keep having to amend all of these meetings and turn over more documents, you know, this is when you need to get it right the first time. This is a very serious investigation. And like Jeffrey said, it doesn't seem like the administration is taking it all that seriously right now.

TOOBIN: But if your father-in-law is your boss, it's less of a problem.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. I mean, to Jeffrey's point, if a regular old person was trying to get a security clearance in the federal government, these times of omissions would not be acceptable. You would not be able to go through, you know, six -- half a dozen rounds of revisions of your documentations.

COLLINS: Exactly.

PHILLIP: Omitting important meetings and omitting contacts with foreign nationals. You would not be able to do that. And so, there is a little bit of a different standard here.

And at the end of the day I think when we look at all of the omissions lined up, it does make you wonder why weren't they more thorough? They have some very serious lawyers working on these things, working on this documentation. Why couldn't they get it all together or was it intentional? Were they waiting for Congress and others to ask them for it?

TOOBIN: Maybe -- maybe when you're repeatedly not telling the truth, you're lying. I mean, that's a possibility, right? It just -- you know, I think sometimes we should -- we should recognize the most obvious explanation is sometimes the true one.

BLITZER: So --

TOOBIN: If you keep telling -- not telling the truth, maybe it's because you're not telling the truth.

BLITZER: So is there a possible obstruction of justice case we're looking at?

TOOBIN: Well, if Robert Mueller can establish that this was not a mistake over and over again, and it is not a crime to make mistakes in disclosures, but if there is evidence that Jared Kushner knew about these meetings and intentionally left them off, absolutely. The form itself, the form for the security clearance says on it that it's a crime to make intentionally false statements.

So, it's not like this is but you know, this is one reason why nepotism is not a great idea.

[18:50:02] Because, when the boss' daughter and son-in-law are principal advisers, they're not judged by the same standards as everyone else.

BLITZER: In addition to the subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee, there's also now a subpoena from the special council to the Trump campaign. They want a whole lot more documents, as well.

COLLINS: Yes, that's right. They want to know more information.

We're kind of seeing this special counsel's investigation really expand, and Bob Mueller knows a lot more than we do because we see that come out with all of the indictments we've seen recently. Things like the Papadopoulos for example. That was something that a lot of people had not seen coming including a lot of the Trump officials, the former campaign officials, and now those who work in the White House.

So, we're really seeing this ramp up. Basically they just want to know more information.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting that the former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak in this interview with Russian TV says you know, he could name all the Trump officials he met with within 20 minutes. I mean, there's so many of them that he met with.

I don't know if he was simply trying to poke some fun or if he was serious. But if he's serious that's a big issue.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, Sergey Kislyak has been known to be a little tongue in cheek about this particular situation in the past. But the broader point really is valid, which is that it is astonishing the degree to which people within the Trump orbit, and people around the Trump campaign, have had numerous contacts with Russians, the number of contacts is far more than they led people to believe, and now the goalposts are kind of changing. Now it's not, have we had contacts? It's, what is the definition of collusion exactly?

BLITZER: Yes, all right. We got a lot more to discuss. There's more news coming in, as well. An internal fight over the interior secretary's questionable travels. What he isn't doing to help investigators?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:45] BLITZER: Tonight, a Trump cabinet member under scrutiny for his travels, being chastised by this department's internal watchdog.

The Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is accused of failing to properly document his trips. That's preventing investigators from determining if he broke government rules.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us right now. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM for us.

Multiple trips Zinke took that are being looked at right now, including his use of private jets.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this new memo directly contradicts what the secretary of the interior has claimed about his travels, paid for by American taxpayers. And that can mean nothing but more trouble on this front for another member of the Trump cabinet. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): To hear the horseback riding, hunting, handshaking secretary of the interior tell it, his official trips are a model of transparency.

RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Every time I travel, I submit the travel plan to the ethics department that evaluates it line by line to make sure that I am above the law. And I follow the law.

FOREMAN: But a probe by his own department's inspector general is casting serious doubt on that claim.

Our investigation has been delayed, Mary Kendall wrote in a memo, by absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips and a review process that failed to include proper documentation and accountability.

Among the trips drawing scrutiny, a flight to the Virgin Islands in late March where he attended a Republican fundraiser, and went snorkeling at a national monument. A trip to his native Montana, in May, during which he attended a political rally and spent a day and a half at his home. And in June, a journey to meet with the a professional hockey team in Las Vegas, owned by a political backer, before taking a chartered plane to his Montana home once again. His office notes he has done some official business on each of these trips. He says he charters private jets only when commercial flights won't work.

And even though he spent almost $73,000 taxpayer dollars this way since taking office, Zinke is making no apologies.

ZINKE: I'd just like to address in the words of General Schwarzkopf, a little B.S. on travel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Zinke's staff has said part of the problem is a paperwork mess they inherited from the Obama administration. The inspector's investigation is not done. And the issued this memo in hopes of addressing that matter. Still, several other cabinet members are also being scrutinized and one has already resigned over questions about what looks in some cases suspiciously like private travel on the public's dime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

We have a follow-up tonight on an exclusive CNN report from our own Nima Elbagir and her team that aired earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier in the week. A report on horrifying modern day slave auctions being conducted in Libya.

Libyan authorities now tell us they're formally launching an investigation. They're promising to convict those responsible, and to find the people who are being sold into slavery and bring them to safety. CNN has turned over evidence. We'll be closely monitoring the

investigation. We'll report back on the results.

Thanks to Nima Elbagir for that excellent, excellent report.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.