Return to Transcripts main page


Kushner's Attorney: Senate Panel Is Playing "Gotcha Games"; Scrutiny Mounts Over Kushner's Lack Of Transparency; Attorney Defends Kushner Against Criticism Over Failing To Turn Over Russia-Related Documents; Senate Panel: Kushner Did Not Disclose Key Documents; Outspoken Sports Figures Draw Trump's Ire; Trump: I Should Have Left UCLA Players In Chinese Jail; New Accuser: Woman Says Franken Inappropriately Touched Her; Second Woman Accuses Sen. Franken of Sexual Misconduct; Sen. Gillibrand: We Need An Ethics Investigation For Franken. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY OF JARED KUSHNER: Committee investigations unfortunately are devolving into political got you games. If committees selectively leak parts of interviews or send me letters through the media or turn Jared Kushner's very clear e-mail that there should be no contacts with anybody in a foreign country into what they call as a missing document, then they're undermining their own credibility. Now, the issue of Russia interference in the 2016 election is a serious one, but these committee actions are not.


LOWELL: Mr. Kushner has been very clear that he will cooperate as he has been voluntarily with all bipartisan requests from committees on anything that's relevant.


JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: CNN Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz joins us now live. Shimon, rare for an attorney especially for one of the such high profile figures to speak publically. What's the strategy here?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, and this was the first time we've really heard from Abbe Lowell on this. You know, I think the strategy here is basically to show that Kushner is trying to be cooperative with these letters, this bipartisan letter that was sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee basically accusing Kushner of withholding information.

I just feel like the attorneys felt that it was time to fight back a little bit. They have been frustrated by some of the leaks and this is why they did this and this is an opportunity to perhaps show that he is trying to be cooperative.

KING: Help us with the context. This was not about Kushner's contact with WikiLeaks or the so-called backdoor overture, right? PROKUPECZ: Right. I mean, the whole points of the letter last week that was made public and sent to the lawyers from the Senate Judiciary Committee claimed that he was withholding information and there was some mention of backdoor overtures, WikiLeaks contact. But the lawyer, you know, Abbe Kowell (ph) -- Abbe Lowell has been making a point that this had nothing to do with him. It was a forwarded e- mail. he didn't have direct contact with WikiLeaks or the person who was suggesting this Russian meeting, this overture. So, this is what his issue is. This is what Abbe Lowell has been arguing that has nothing to do with Kushner. Other people were having this contact and it was just simply an e-mail that was forwarded to him.

KING: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for the latest. And now, let's bring the conversation here. Not the first time, maybe not the last. Jared Kushner is like an octopus in the sense that his tentacles appeared to be everywhere. He was at the so-called June 2016 meeting. He had a meeting with Ambassador Kislyak. There's this alleged contact with WikiLeaks. But if his tentacles are everywhere, his lawyer said it's not to do about nothing.

But he keeps popping up and we keep learning about things that if he wanted to months ago, Jared Kushner could have had a news conference or could have had the so-called Friday night document dump, put out all of these e-mails, put -- yes, I had these meetings, nothing happened, yet we keep learning about things, drip, drip, drip. Is the Senate Judiciary Committee noteworthy of the viewers run by Republicans playing got you as Abbe Lowell says.

SEUNG MIN KIM, ASSISTANT EDITOR: POLITICO: I think every -- all this is doing is or one of the things this is doing is just giving senators who are investigating this many more questions then thus dragging out the probe much longer than the Trump administration I'm sure what like. There's a good decent shot that perhaps maybe the House investigation could end by the end of the year. But again, you know, Committees and the Senate as you say run by Republicans, Richard Burr and Chuck Grassley have not really indicated yet that they are ready to wrap up this probe any time soon. I think the Intel Committee Chairman Richard Burr has said maybe February but that seems like a goal and not an actual, you know, reachable timeline that we got.

JULIE DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and I think what we're seeing in part is a frustration on the part of some of the members of the committee that they are not getting the kind of full presentation of the facts and of the documents that they would need in order to be going more quickly and being in a position to wrap this up.

I don't envy Abbe Lowell or any lawyer working with Jared Kushner having to figure out the whole range of documents and communications he might have had with various people in the campaign and at the White House that might be relevant here because as you point out, his hands are in everything. He's a senior adviser, he's a son-in-law, he's a trusted confidant. He was one of the only people who President Trump trusted in that way.

But the fact remains and Abbe Lowell knows this from his experience in this realm that this is not a got you on the part of the committee to want to see every single step of a chain like that, whether it was addressed to him, whether the e-mail was intended for him, whether he pushed back and said no or said oh sure, let me help, it sort of doesn't matter. He should be producing these things in order for them to rule out that it's any wrongdoing on his part.

KING: I think what we saw and Abbe Lowell knows this from other venues, just recently came to the Menendez trial in the Democratic side, I think that was more public relations than it was legal strategy. But let's just go back and look this again. Had Jared Kushner done anything wrong? We don't know. But are his tentacles are everywhere?

He failed to disclose meetings on his security clearance form. We know that. He attended that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where, again, Russian lawyers who said they had dirt on Hillary Clinton came to meet. Donald Trump Jr. set up the meeting. He held a secret meeting with Ambassador Kislyak. Secret is probably a little strong but he didn't disclose it. He had a meeting during the campaign and he didn't disclose it until after it was publicly reported. He met with a Russian banker close to Putin under sanctions during the transition. He sent an e-mail to Hope Hicks about Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks. Did not disclose, he was using a personal e-mail account for some of this business.

[12:35:08] So, if you're investigating this, whether you're a Democratic, Republican, Earth, Martian, whatever, you would understand the legitimate questions about Jared Kushner.

MATT VISER, REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. And if this were one isolated incident where, you know, Kushner did not hand over an e-mail that was forwarded to him, you know, you might see the committee looking pass it. But it is part of a pattern of numerous instances where Kushner is going back and revise past statements. His security clearance has been an issue because he hasn't -- didn't disclose all the people he met with.

So there's been a long pattern and that's just raises the suspicion of if you don't have something to hide and if Abbe Lowell is right, I mean, Kushner in his e-mail seems to be, you know, expressing some concern over having these meetings and they do have a good -- potentially good story to tell about that. But --

KING: Tell it.

VISER: -- tell it, and don't hide the documents.

KING: Right.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. But it speaks to sloppiness and the undisciplined nature of all of this. And, of course, it could be more nefarious than that. But there is a fundamentally rowdy sort of reckless nature about how that campaign was set up, how they did all of this, whether anybody was protected from meetings that they shouldn't have had, whether the principal, the candidate himself was protected from the fact that people who barely work on the campaign were having this meeting. And now, they can't even disclose stuff that has a decent story behind it. So look, he's actually making the argument we shouldn't be meeting with foreign hoppers (ph) or agents thereof. And they can't even disclose that.

KING: That's -- and that, we're talking about the congressional investigations. We also know the special counsel has entrusted the same questions about Jared Kushner plus Hope Hicks, the President's Communication Directors and some others to be interviewed in the days ahead. So we'll see how that one goes. Not going anywhere to your point on these investigations, they will not be done by Christmas.

Up next, the President picks two new Twitter fights, and they expose a trend in terms of just who he likes to attack.


[12:41:19] KING: Welcome back. Unless you've been on another planet the last two years, you know it's pretty hard to predict what the President will tweet about at any given day. But we know at least two things that get under his skin. Not standing for the national anthem is one and that's what we learned last week, not thanking the President when he helps you get out of a Chinese prison.

He's been venting on both topics taking aim at a father, that's funny, whose son who was caught stealing during a basketball trip to China. The President tweeted, "Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAnglelo is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail." Early this morning the President said Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders should be suspended for not standing when the national anthem was played before Sunday's game in Mexico City.

Going after the athletes, the NFL saga is not new to the President. Let's take the basketball. Those kids should be grateful to the President of United States. They should be because they got caught shoplifting in China which is not like getting caught shoplifting in Los Angeles. That's wrong in either place. But what does it say about the President though that he needs that, that they should be grateful, but, you know, they're not going to say it. And the father who I think shares a reality T.V. lifestyle with the President of the United States, why does he need to be thanked?

HAM: This is who he is. It's not good. And no president should be saying that he should have left Americans in a Chinese prison. I mean that's crazy. And we have now entered probably a never ending loop of reality start fight between Trump and LaVar Ball because he is also of that ilk. It's going to be an adventure.

But look, this is a perfect example of the President actually having a good story and completely blowing it up, because on the issue of bringing Americans home, he's had a pretty good record, like Egyptian- American Aya Hijazi, Otto Warmbier who tragically died afterwards. But he has made personal efforts on behalf of Americans. He has gotten them home. But if it's for the thanking instead of helping the Americans, then that doesn't look as virtuous as it might have otherwise look. And if his insecurity would not take over, that would be a decent story for him.

KING: But he --

HAM: And it appear it is not because --

KING: But he has to be --

HAM: That's it.

KING: He has to know and you can tell from the President's tweet, he does know LaVar Ball's M.O. and LaVar Ball saying to ESPN on Friday, "Who? What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out." Well, he did help you out, sorry. He did. He did help you out, but the President has to know this and what he's getting into and he likes it, right?

VISER: This is a high road and a low road here for the President to take and you can be he usually takes the low road here. I mean, he could have had a response that made sense, you know, to LaVar Ball and to point out that, you know, I was helping your son and I'd, you know, appreciate some appreciation for it. But he doesn't do it that way and he does it in such in a personal way. And, you know, as we've gone through some of these tweets, it's usually black athletes who --

KING: Right.

VISER: -- who he chooses to respond to and doesn't think about, you know, the other things that maybe this week could be about.

DAVIS: Well, and he also -- I mean, we know this from the period of time when he first brought up the NFL players not standing for the anthem. he likes this bite.

KING: Right.

DAVIS: This is -- you know, the response he gets from a lot of Americans, from the public, is in his mind a very positive one that people think he's standing for up for patriotism. He's standing up for the flag that, you know, this is a cultural fight that he wants to pick and wants to have. The other side I'd point as Matt points out is like this is normally something where he is going up against black athletes who are, you know, in their own formulation protesting and using their, you know, right for free speech and their First Amendment right to make their views known.

[12:45:00] So what it looks like on the other side is that he is trying to shut down protests. But, again, this is a fight he thinks he can easily win and this whole LaVar Ball thing had the same flavor to it that he thought, you know, if I pick a little fight with this guy, he'll hit back and that will be great for me. That will be fun.

KING: I nominate Charles Barkley to moderate the Donald Trump-LaVar Ball fight. Thank you.

DAVIS: That man is a national treasure.

KING: They can figure that out together.

Up next, the new accuser says Senator Al Franken groped her while he was a sitting member of the Senate.


[12:49:59] KING: Welcome back. A second woman is now accusing Senator Al Franken of sexual misconduct just days after the first allegations surfaced. A 33-year-old woman named Lindsay Menz says Franken touched her inappropriately during this photo you see right her taken at the Minnesota State Fair back in 2010. She tells CNN quote, "He pulled me in really close, like awkward close. And as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear. It was wrapped tightly around my butt check." She continues, "It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt. I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

Senator Franken tells CNN in the statement he doesn't recall taking that photo. Quote "I take thousands of photos at the State Fair surrounded by hundreds of people and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

Sitting United States Senator when this happened. Senator Franken issuing the statement that's awkward in it's wording at best. Where does this go? He himself to his credit, I guess, he had no choice, it was happening anyway, but said I welcome the ethics investigation of the event that we learned about last week while on the USO trip overseas when he was a private citizen, a comedian, and we have the photo of this. You saw the woman Leeann Tweeden came forward. She said she had the photo where he's reaching out while she's sleeping reaching out there and touching her at least right approximating touching her breast.

Senator Franken has apologized for this. The Ethics Committee will investigate. Now you have this second woman coming forward saying this happened when he was a United States Senator. How seriously significantly has that changed the equation?

KIM: That changes that dramatically in terms of the Ethics Committee investigation. First of all, the Senate Ethics Committee has not publicly confirmed yet that they are investigating these allegations against Franken. They've confirmed some other probes recently but not this one.

But the reason why it matters is because of this conduct that happened reportedly when he was a sitting United States Senator. And there have been questions about what the jurisdiction of the Ethics Committee is and what they can investigate if this conduct happened before the person was a United States Senator is a question that we're facing not only with Franken but also with Roy Moore because if -- I mean, Mitch McConnell said he would be immediately in ethics proceedings. But again, this conduct would have happened before he was elected to office. But the fact that now this happened in 2010, two years after he was elected, that does seem to put it squarely within the Ethics Committee's jurisdiction and purview. DAVIS: It also just speaks to a pattern of conduct if what this woman is saying is true that, you know, this USO tour where these high jinks are alleged to have happened, this abuse is alleged to have happened wasn't the only time. And as we've seen with Harvey Weinstein and others, once the initial allegations come out, the question is, are there other women who have had similar experiences? You then look back and say, oh, well, yes, that happened to me too.

KING: Right. And you can see this on Lindsay Menz, this woman here reached out to CNN's M.J. Lee after she saw some of the reporting last week. M.J. was doing reporting on this problem on Capitol Hill, not just with Senator Franken, but asking about more broadly in the context that this woman came forward and reached out to her saying she felt it's important to tell her story.

This is the statement Senator Franken issued last week after Leeann Tweeden came out. And you see the photo there from the State Fair, excuse me. Senator Franken said, "I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed. I understand why we need to listen and to believe women's experiences."

That's what the Senator said last week. It is striking just as someone has been in this town for almost 30 years now, senators and the political crisis, very serious allegations with sexual misconduct. He has been quiet in the sense that he put out an initial public statement on paper then a more lengthy public statement when Leeann Tweeden came out.

Now this statement about Ms. Menz was saying that this has happened at the Minnesota State Fair. But he has not been on television defending himself. He doesn't have anyone out defending himself, an attorney or somebody from his staff. He did have some women members of his staff for put out a letter saying he worked with him and this is not how it goes. He hasn't tweeted since Veteran's Day, someone's who's relatively active in social media. What does it tell you about the political environment and potentially legal environment I guess were on the Senator right now?

VISER: I think it's dicey. And he didn't vote last week either. You know, he's skipping votes because of this. And I mean, I think to the extent that we now have two instances and to the extent that there could be others I think causes Franken to be, you know, very quiet and waiting for things to happen. He could do other things. If this was an isolated incident, the first one, you could come out and you could make that case more forcefully in a way that he didn't.

KING: And it plays out of the context of the conversation we had earlier in the show. Roy Moore, a Christian conservative candidate for Senate is accused of felony behavior if he was touched by a police at the time by the statute of limitations at best, felony behavior to which people go to jail. This is different behavior. That doesn't -- it's still a reprehensible behavior if true, but it's different behavior of the scales of justice if you will, scales of criminal wrongdoing. My big question is what happens to his Democratic colleagues? Listen here, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York speaking at NBC about the Senator's future.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should senator Franken resign his seat in the senate?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Well, obviously I was really disturbed by those allegations and very personally disappointed. And I think the appropriate thing right now is to have an ethics investigation.


[12:55:10] KING: That committee will do its work. It is not in some ways the most important jury here for senator Franken to convince his female colleagues to talk to them as quickly as possible?

HAM: Yes. I mean, look, I think one accusation with no photo and your like political tribalism might protect you more, but we've got one acquisition with a photo that bolsters the accusations, then you got this. And by the way, I think the most important part of the story and we look for these credibility markers is at the time she posted on Facebook, her sister said on the Facebook post that people could see at the time.

KING: Right.

HAM: Sorry, but you two are not bible's width apart which I love. And she says, dude, Al Franken totally molested me, creeper, exclamation point.

KING: Right.

HAM: At -- on the 2010 post that her friends can see. So that's a pretty solid contemporaneous report that we can refer to. I do think he's in more trouble than he would have been because the Democratic Party had taken a turn during that we're learning more stuff to somewhat cynically but also correctly say maybe we were wrong about Bill Clinton and some of these accusers. So he's in a really sticky situation where making the heel turn for his colleagues to say, oh, but it -- no, we're not going to take this seriously --

KING: He needs this.

HAM: -- is very, very hard.

KING: He's going to need to answer this specifically and directly and soon.

That's all the time we have today. We'll continue this conversation the days ahead. Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. See you back here tomorrow. Jim Shudo is in for Wolf. He'll be here after a quick break.