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Whistleblower Reveals Flynn Vowed to End Russian Sanctions Under Trump; Trump Jr Grilled by House Panel about Russia Contacts; Romney Becomes Target for Bannon at Rally for Roy Moore; Southern California Wildfires Spreading; Calls Grow from Lawmakers for Al Franken to Resign. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired December 6, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And he's telling the Republican chairman of that committee, Trey Gowdy, that this whistleblower is prepared to talk to him about exactly what he appears to have known about conversations that Michael Flynn had with this business associate about this project involving nuclear energy that involved Russia and, potentially, easing Russian sanctions. This is significant, Brianna, because this is really the first time and probably the firmest indication that we have that the administration may have been moving to ease sanctions on Russia at the beginning of this administration, and also a sign that Michael Flynn himself may have been trying to do this for personal gain, given he was a part of this project.
Now, of course, Michael Flynn, as we know, pleaded guilty on Friday about lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. We don't know the reason why he lied. But we do know that Cummings' office has provided this information to Robert Mueller's own office, part of its own investigation. Mueller told him to hold back on this information until the Friday plea agreement. But no comment yet from Michael Flynn about these interactions. His attorneys declined to comment, Brianna. We're still waiting for Trey Gowdy will do next as well.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And this was a big day on the Hill for Donald Trump Jr. We didn't get to see him in a hearing, but he was behind closed doors, taking questions from committee members. What can you tell us about that?
RAJU: It's still ongoing. Breaking for votes and for lunch. But expected to continue afterwards after nearly four hours.
I'm told from sources familiar with the matter that Donald Trump Jr reiterated that he did not tell us father about that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which he was promised dirt from the Russians on the Clinton campaign. He said that he had no interactions with his father afterwards. That's something that lawmakers and others had been particularly interested in, about whether or not then-Candidate Trump was aware of this meeting.
Now we are told also there was questions about some of the other key issues. as well as correspondence that he had with WikiLeaks during the campaign season. But Donald Trump Jr, I am told by one person, was well prepared and made it very clear he did not collude with the Russians in any way, making it clear as private comments online with public comments on the matter.
But still, Brianna, we expect to get more information as the day transpires because they're are not done yet and they have more questions, not just about this but other interactions he may have had with the Russians during the campaign and before -- Brianna?
KEILAR: It's interesting. And we'll be learning more about that.
Manu Raju, on the Hill, thank you.
Donald Trump Jr insists he didn't tell his father about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.
With me now is Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who ran as an Independent candidate for president against President Donald Trump.
That's interesting news, Evan. We have you to talk about a number of topics. But this one, I want you to respond to from Manu Raju saying he didn't tell his father. Do you believe that?
EVAN MCMULLIN, (I), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER: No, I don't. It's hardly believable that so many senior personnel from the family and from the campaign would show up to a meeting that consequential, a meeting with people representing --
KEILAR: Kushner was there.
MCMULLIN: Kushner was there.
KEILAR: Manafort was there.
MCMULLIN: Manafort was there.
KEILAR: His son was there.
MCMULLIN: His son was there. It's hard to imagine in a campaign like that, that is so hectic, so much going on, that you could get all those people in the same room for any meeting, no matter how important, for all them to be there in the room and never to go to the ears of President Trump, the actual candidate, shortly after that time or shortly before that time is really hard to believe.
KEILAR: What do you think about what we are learning from this whistleblower, who is making it clear that Michael Flynn, from the get-go, was going -- wanting to in, indicating that sanctions against Russia, which the Obama had put in towards the end of his term, those sanctions would be ripped up, and also that he seemed to, potentially, there could have been some financial enrichment on this for him. What does that say to you?
MCMULLIN: First thing, it creates a bigger problem for Flynn. So tying potential -- it's corruption. You are tying potential enrichment to Flynn to action that he may take within the government leveraging his official position. But I think the bigger point here is it wouldn't have happened in a vacuum. If Flynn said, apparently, that this was a done deal, that sanctions were going to be repealed, removed. So he must have known. There must have been other discussions. He said that, apparently, as we are hearing, with confidence. And again, that wouldn't have happened in a vacuum. Even in his role or his soon-to-be role, he wouldn't have been able to ensure that sort of thing on his own. It would have had to have been in conjunction with the president himself. So again, this is a situation where I don't think they'll be able to separate what a senior staffer or senior Trump team member is doing and seeing from the president himself, eventually, as we learn more.
KEILAR: What do you think about the approach we are hearing from the White House and those close to the White House where they are targeting Robert Mueller. They are disparaging him. We do know he got rid of a top investigator that seemed to send anti-Trump texts. And that's something that the White House latched onto and they seem to be disparaging him. What does that tell you?
[14:35:31] MCMULLIN: Of course, the White House and president will do everything to disparage and undermine anything, any institution, any leader that tries to hold it accountable. They'll do that with the media. They'll do that with representatives and Senators on the Hill. They'll do that with Mueller. They did it with Comey. This is nothing new. This is what an authoritarian-type leader will do. So of course, they will do it with Mueller. Look, no one should be surprised that they had serious concerns with a candidate, Candidate Trump, who was clearly, to people in that business, being assisted by the Russians during the campaign. This is what these people, these FBI special agents, that's what they are employed to do. They're employed to protect our system, our ability to --
KEILAR: You don't want to be appearing to favor, say, Hillary Clinton, over Donald Trump --
MCMULLIN: You don't want to do that. And you don't want to be sending the texts. That is a mistake.
KEILAR: So stupid mistake.
MCMULLIN: Stupid mistake. But this idea that that somehow discredits the overall need for an investigation into Trump, and what we already know from the investigations that have already taken place and what they revealed, that's the much bigger issue here. We have a president who is elected while a foreign adversary was attempting to help him. That is the big deal. That's what we need to continue to be focused on.
KEILAR: Evan, I want to ask you about something that Steve Bannon said about Mitt Romney. So Steve Bannon was at a rally last night for Roy Moore and attacked Mitt Romney. Here's what he said?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, EDITOR, BREITBART NEWS & FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: You avoided service, brother. You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. You had five guns, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in his pinky finger than your whole family has in its whole DNA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Moore, of course, stands accused by multiple women of sexual assaults, sexual misconduct on women as young as 14 years old.
That was last night. And this morning, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch released a statement blasted Bannon. This is what he said, "Steve Bannon's attack on Governor Romney and his service are disappointing and unjustified. Mitt is a close personal friend, an honest leader, a great American, and someone who has sought every opportunity possible to serve our country."
Utah's other Senator Mike Lee jumped in with this tweet, "Mitt Romney is a good man. Whether you agree or disagree with him on any matter of public policy, you can't credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character, especially on the basis of his religious beliefs or his outstanding service as a missionary."
What do you make of this whole debate? What do you think of Steve Bannon saying this of Mitt Romney, and what his aim was in doing so?
MCMULLIN: I would say this. I would associate myself with the comments of Senator Hatch and Senator Lee. They are right. This is emblematic of Bannonism and Trumpism, to attack people because of their faith. This isn't the first time. And this has been part of Moore's campaign, too, suggesting that Muslim shouldn't be allowed to serve in Congress or going after Democratic donors because they are Jewish, making an anti-semantic comment recently. This is what Bannonism and Trumpism -- this is what they are. This is what they are. What you see happening here, the bigger picture, this is a fight for the direction of the Republican Party. What you see happening here between Flake and Romney and Bannon and Trump and others. And I think this is a rather foolish move just politically, tactically for Bannon. Bannon has been reported to be seeking ways to block a potential Governor Romney run for the Senate in 2018. If this is how he's going to do that, by attacking the Mormon faith, I can promise you it will backfire. I don't think that people, that Utahans and others who follow --
KEILAR: Because he's disparaging the two-year mission that Mitt Romney would have gone on, that his sons went on. It's almost a compulsory part of being a committed Mormon, right?
[14:39:56] MCMULLIN: It's part of the faith, certainly. But I don't want to dwell too much on that. Because I think there is a much bigger picture here. This is fight for Republican Party. One of two major parties. We should all, as Americans, want both parties to be healthy and committed to liberty, equality and truth. Right now, the Republican Party is drifting further and further to extremes that are destructive and divisive for our country. And you see Mitt and Senator Flake and others standing up to fight. And this is a fight that should have happened even more so in 2015 or 2016. But it sure better happen now. And if it doesn't, we are approaching no return for the party. That's the bigger picture here.
KEILAR: Evan McMullin, thank you so much.
MCMULLIN: Thank you.
KEILAR: I really appreciate you're being on today.
MCMULLIN: My pleasure.
KEILAR: I want to talk about our breaking news. At least 20 Democratic Senators are calling on their colleague, Senator Al Franken, to resign as sexual harassment allegations against him mount. Moments ago, his fellow Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, also reacted to what he should do. We are back in a moment with that.
[14:45:19] KEILAR: We have more breaking news involving embattled Senator Al Franken who is facing a chorus of calls to resign from members of his own party. Now his fellow Senator from Minnesota, Senators Amy Klobuchar, is speaking out.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us from Capitol Hill to tell us what she is saying.
What is Senator Klobuchar saying?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, she's not calling for her fellow Senator from Minnesota to resign. She has been silent all morning long. A lot of pressure what she would say for her fellow colleague from Minnesota. And she just spoke up over Twitter saying that sexual harassment is unacceptable, she starts with that. And says, "This morning, I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I'm confident that he will make the right decision."
So Senator Klobuchar stopping short from calling him to resign, not joining in in the calls that many fellow Democrats have done today. Including most notably a group of female Senators coming out today calling him to resign.
Now, Brianna, I'm out here of the Indian Affairs Committee. This is a committee that Senator Franken is on. We don't know if he will show up. As of now, he has not. But we are searching to see if he'll show up today at this committee -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Sunlen, if Senator Klobuchar thinks her colleague, who she obviously has spent a lot of time working in the same party with, if she thinks he is going to step aside, then perhaps she wouldn't want to call for him to step aside. Is she in a tough position that could come back to hurt her politically? Or is she, do you think, paying attention to maybe sensitivities coming out of Minnesota? Is this about their personal relationship that she isn't joining this chorus?
SERFATY: Yes, I think it's mostly all of the above. I think any one of those issues can come into play on her decision to say, look, I will wait for Senator Franken tomorrow to make his announcement. I'm not going to get ahead of that. Some personal and political issues at play, saying he gets the time to make the announcement tomorrow. But certainly, is notable that she, being a female Senator, of course, and one of the few left among Senate Democrats, to not call for his resignation. That's pretty glaring today -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Certainly is.
Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for that report.
We have some more breaking news as we are monitoring this situation in southern California. Parts of the Bel Air Estates are now under evacuation. My next guest is a mother of three kids and also a dog mom who was forced to evacuate today. She's going to join me next.
[14:52:33] KEILAR: Well, homes are burning in the exclusive Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. A ferocious wildfire is triggering evacuations in an area known for multi-million-dollar homes. This fast-moving fire has shut down parts of the 405 freeway and clogged traffic for miles. And flames are now getting near the Getty Museum, one of the nation's top art museums. It is one of several wildfires burning there across southern California. Thousands of families are evacuating, and dozens of schools are closed in the area.
And I want to bring in Felicia Waldman, who evacuated her family from their home, which is about two miles from the Getty.
Felicia, tell me what you went through. You are in North Bel Air and got out with your twin sons, 11-year-old daughter, your dog, your husband, and you just all of a sudden had to pack up. Tell me about how this all went down.
FELICIA WALDMAN, EVACUATED CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: Yes, thank you. It was very scary. Actually got a phone call from two friends in the morning and said look in your backyard and did just that, and the flames were right there. And we live about two miles from the Getty and just started panicking didn't know what to do. So we hadn't been told to evacuate, but we were going to evacuate. So we just started thinking, my husband said just take anything that you think you might need. Everything can be replaced. Let's just get out of here. And he was right. So I woke my kids up, which was kind of sad for me to tell them that we had to pack up and leave, and to pack a bag and take anything that you think was important. But made me realize how unprepared we really were.
KEILAR: And at this point in time, as I understand it, the wind is blowing the fire the opposite direction but, of course, you still have concerns about your House, right?
WALDMAN: Oh, absolutely. I mean it count have been closer. And if the wind direction changes, which we are still keeping an eye very carefully, because we are now evacuated, but if the wind changes, then by all means it's going to come right off our hillside and to your home.
KEILAR: Felicia, stand by for me one minute. We'll be right back to you.
But I do want to go bring in a reporter who is actually in Bel Air, not too far from your house.
Kyung Lah is there for us in the Bel Air neighborhood.
Kyung, tell us about what we are seeing here?
[14:54:57] KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What you just saw was a helicopter that came by and just did a water drop. This is a hillside that's fully engulfed right now. And what you are seeing, the area we are in, is a neighborhood, that firefighters are trying to protect. These are multi-million-dollar homes. And they are hitting this as hard as they can on the Hillsides.
But to give you a little perspective on this, this area has already been hit by fire retardant. You can see part of the hillside is bright pink. That is false check and they try to wet down this area with chemical to stop the fire. But in this case, it simply hasn't worked. And you can see how intense that is. And part of the reason is this region has not burned for a long time. Even though they have done a great job in this community to chop down the brush, all of that fuel, you can see how quickly it goes up. We were watching a few minutes ago and looked like the fire retardant was going to stop it but then started charging up the hill.
We have firefighters all along this area. In case you are wondering the neighborhood we are in, I want my photographer to take a quick peak over to the left. You can see firefighters over there. They are watching this fire. And as you go back to looking at the burning hillside, there are firefighters basically surrounding any place that is burning. There are fire crews in the valleys. You can't quite see. But we have seen them working below. They have tools to try to create a line to try to have a physical barrier so that they can stop this fire.
So here is the difference between what happened yesterday and what happens today. The wind here, even though this looks extremely frightening, even though people who may live here, maybe concerned about their homes, the wind is not that bad. It is actually helping firefighters.
So you saw the firefighters standing there a short time ago, there is not a lot of panic, because they are trying to make sure they can get ahead of the fire.
And see that white smoke, I want you to take a look over there, that white smoke is an indication that the water and fire retardant is starting to work. But some of this is fuel they have to let burn. I think I can hear, that's another helicopter. There are a lot of air crews, fixed wing, as well as helicopters in this area trying to hit the Hillsides.
The firefighter over here to my right, he is watching all of this happen, keeping an eye.
Sir, can I ask you -- first, we are CNN. What's happening as far as this particular edge of the fire?
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: It's just a typical draw. So the fire is going to boil up in there and eventually work itself up until it gets in line and make a run. So it's typical. It's predictable. We knew it was going to happen. We have all the companies in place. So we are good.
LAH: There have been some structures lost in this community.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: I don't know how many. But I know for sure probably two in that area next peninsula over.
LAH: And then a lot of fire crews here. Has it helped? There is another water drop. And you are hitting these hillsides very hard with water as far as fire retardant.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Yes. And that was actually checked before the fire got there. So it slowed it down quite a bit.
LAH: So the water drops certainly have to be giving a big hand to the fire personnel?
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Sure, they do.
LAH: And tell me a little bit what's happening in the valleys as far as fire crews trying to dig in there with the tools?
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Well, right now, we actually have fire crews working on the bottom, so we usually go three feet to mineral earth all the way around the fire so working on that right now.
LAH: And, sir, you are with L.A. County Fire?
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: L.A. City.
LAH: L.A. City Fire. And there are multiple fire teams out here. How many manufactures out here as an estimate?
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: I don't know. I would say 500 to 750. A lot of us came from the creek fire for immediate need in the morning.
LAH: And these winds today certainly better than yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: Way better than yesterday, yes. Way better.
LAH: How much of a difference does the weather play? It's huge. UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: It's huge. So we figure for every mile an hour, it's going to increase our flame length by four times. So if you can kind of do the math on that, it's huge.
LAH: They will be turning around at some point.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: I haven't heard. I haven't heard a newscast in L.A. a couple days.
LAH: You've been busy.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: A couple days now, yes.
LAH: Thank you very much, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: You're welcome.
LAH: Thank you for your work, sir.
A lot of firefighters like that gentleman out here trying to contain these flareups that we are seeing out here.
And, again, I think we are about to see another water drop. Part of the reason why we have so many helicopters up here is because, amid all the peaks and valleys in Bel Air, there are a lot of people who live here. This is an area under mandatory evacuation, but we have seen a lot of people who say they just want to make sure their homes are OK.
This is just one corner of Los Angeles that is on fire. There are other countries, other parts of this - that's a water drop hoping to put out this flareup.