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Trump Jr. Invokes Attorney-Client Privilege to Avoid Questions; Whistleblower: Flynn Said Russian Sanctions Would Be 'Ripped Up'; Majority of Senate Dems Call on Franken to Resign. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 7, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: In my view, there is no attorney/client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son.
[05:59:26] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From my perspective, all of our questions were answered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only reason you come up with a cockamamie legal strategy is to conceal something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there's a pattern. Those are grounds for termination.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Franken is going to speak to this. He's acknowledged that his conduct was very serious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are the Republican voices? Where is their outrage? This is the time when we can make a culture change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is burned down to the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest threat is and will always continue to be the wind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab your family members. Grab a couple things that you need and get out now.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, December 7, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here's our starting line.
Donald Trump Jr. refused to reveal details to a congressional investigative panel about this call with his father related to this now-infamous Trump Tower meeting last summer between the Trump campaign and Russians.
Is Trump Jr.'s use of attorney/client privilege legitimate? The answer is no, and we'll tell you why.
We also have new details about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Russia investigation. A whistleblower telling a House panel that Flynn texted a former business colleague that Russian sanctions would be, quote, "ripped up" as one of the Trump administration's first acts.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: To the Democrats now, a majority of Senate Democrats calling for embattled Senator Al Franken to resign as the list of women accusing him of sexual misconduct grows. Franken is set to make an announcement today about his political future.
And on taxes, House Speaker Paul Ryan says the GOP plans to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in order to tackle the debt. Now, remember, candidate Trump promised not to touch these programs.
Are Republicans targeting welfare programs to pay for the $1.5 trillion that their tax plan is projected to add to the nation's deficit?
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Evan Perez. He is live in Washington with our top story -- Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, Donald Trump Jr. says that attorney/client privilege is the reason why he doesn't have to tell lawmakers what he and his dad talked about this summer after news reports emerged on his 2016 meeting with Russia. Now you'll remember. This is a meeting at Trump Tower in which Russians promised to provide Junior with information to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The president's son yesterday met with House investigators to answer questions for several hours. He told lawmakers that the father/son conversation happened after Trump Jr. issued a misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting and ultimately, he released e-mails showing what the meeting was really about.
Now, Trump also told investigators that he spoke to Hope Hicks, one of the closest aides, as they scrambled to prepare that statement for the media. That conversation occurred while the president was traveling overseas.
Now, as we reported, White House aides and the president himself worked on board Air Force One to prepare that misleading statement, which claimed that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting was about adoptions. Now, we know that the Trump Tower meeting and the White House response are under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Neither Trump Jr. nor the president is a lawyer. But Trump Jr. says that lawyers were present for the conversation, so it's covered by attorney/client privilege.
Democrats certainly dispute that idea. But it appears that, so long as the Republican lawmakers allow the privilege claim, the president's son won't have to provide more details about the conversations to Congress -- Chris and Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey Toobin, the verdict?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, some legal concepts are disputable and some are not. And this is not disputable. The attorney/client privilege only applies to conversations between a lawyer and a client. If anyone else is present, there is no client. The fact that Donald Trump and his father were both present with a bunch of lawyers does not make the conversation privileged under any reasonable interpretation of the attorney/client privilege. And what -- what the Trump forces seem to be relying on is awe compliant Republican majority in the Intelligence Committee that is not going to force the issue, because any court would reject an attorney/client privilege on this basis.
CAMEROTA: So John, the lawmakers were frustrated. Congresswoman Jackie Speier talked about how she had hoped that he would be forthcoming but was not. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: He has a very serious case of amnesia. And he was pretty nonresponsive on a lot of issues that, frankly, you would have a recollection of considering it was just a year ago that many of these events took place when Donald Trump is the candidate. He was by his father's side. He was campaigning with his father. And you get the impression in listening to him that he didn't spend much time talking with his father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So now what? Where does that leave them?
AVLON: Well, this is clearly a case of political amnesia. In terms of attorney/client privilege, as Jeff just said, that's not how this works. Now the real question is, will the partisanship in Congress allow them to get away with something self-evidently not enforceable in a court of law.
CUOMO: But that matters, by the way. Form matters. Jeffrey is 100 percent right, as am I. Anybody knows this. All you have to do is Google it.
CAMEROTA: And I'm right.
AVLON: Especially you.
CUOMO: Alisyn's favorite thing, homework. If you just Google United Shoe and attorney/client, you'll see...
AVLON: ... United Shoe.
[06:05:03] CUOMO: You'll see what the answer is. It's very clear. But it doesn't matter, because this is political. It's not legal. There is no judge. There are no rules. It's whatever they allow is OK. So they don't -- if they're like, OK, that's fine with us, it's fine. As is the word recollect. That's another word. But he's doing this to protect himself.
AVLON: Of course he is.
CUOMO: That's what he's doing.
AVLON: This is also why people hate Washington. At the end of the day, legal process is about to be a search for the truth. And whenever people start putting partisan polish and spin or ignoring the obvious, I think it's more convenient for them politically. That increases contempt for the system. His supporters will say, "But all this is about is politics. They're trying to get us." This is a witch hunt that's going on. So why would I want to give them ammo?
AVLON: Because parroting talking points is not a reasonable response to an inquiry about a search for the truth, about a foreign power, a hostile foreign power trying to influence our election. And we heard across the board no connection. There was nothing, no recollection of any connection with the Russians.
And now we see it's a persistent pattern. It's that kind of a pattern. That's central not just their campaign but to American history. I would imagine there would be some self-reflection about it, which would also spur memories, which would spur conversation and testimony. If there's not, it's because they're trying to avoid something that could be politically and potentially legally damning.
CAMEROTA: Always, counselor. Jeffrey, does this mean that the congressional investigations are basically, I don't know what the word is, impotent perhaps? And it really is Mueller's investigation, where anything could happen.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think certainly the Mueller investigation is far more serious. Though we don't know what form any disclosures from the Mueller investigation will come. I mean, he has obviously brought a handful of cases. But what kind of report he will file, whether that is public, that is very much an unresolved question.
CUOMO: A mandate it's not, right? He only has to give it to Rosenstein.
TOOBIN: Correct. And even what form that report takes is not defined. So Mueller is going to define himself what kind of report he files to whom, about what, to what extent. But you know, it is -- the -- the House and Senate investigations have produced some valuable information. But anyone who thinks there is going to be a comprehensive, fair-minded complete investigation of the whole Russia/Trump campaign matter from these deeply-divided committees I think is kidding themselves. CUOMO: Well, their main role -- their jurisdiction is really
oversight and to figure out how to prepare the country how to deal with it the next time.
CUOMO: It's really Mueller who's looking into coordination, collusion, cooperation and any crimes attached thereto. The unfortunate thing is, this meeting with Trump Jr. is a metaphor for the entire thing. The big questions for him, the obvious one is, one, why did you change your reckoning of what this meeting was. That's going to have a more obvious answer, you know? He was worried how it would be perceived. But what did the president know? Why? Because that goes to whether or not there was any really organization coordination here.
TOOBIN: And the question you are asking is precisely the question he refused to answer on bogus attorney/client privilege grounds. And he's -- he's allowed to do that by the Republican majority on the Intelligence Committee.
CUOMO: The Mueller question for him is what happened after the meeting? He has said, "I don't remember any documents being left for, given to or anything like that." But that's going to be a very key component for Mueller.
AVLON: Here's another point, too, or a question for Jeff. Which is House -- the purpose of the House Committee at the end of the day is to stop this from happening again. And there is no evidence that that is being taken seriously.
AVLON: Because there's -- there's sort of partisan blinders on the fact that a foreign power tried to influence our election. As long as that occurs, they're not going to be proactive about stopping it the next time.
CUOMO: We heard on the show yesterday Senator Kennedy said he believes it will get worse.
AVLON: Right. And you know, that's simply unacceptable.
CAMEROTA: So we now know more about what Mike Flynn was up to, thanks to -- courtesy a whistle-blower.
CAMEROTA: Who said that, on the day of the inauguration, Jeffrey, Michael Flynn was sending texts to contacts, basically saying that the sanctions against Russia, for interfering in the election that Obama had placed on Russia, would be ripped up shortly now that President Trump was installed.
TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, if Flynn was doing this, it's inappropriate at so many different levels. You know, it shows he's using government information to profit either himself or his colleagues. It is a disclosure of -- he shows that he was acting -- doing negotiations before the Trump campaign took office.
And third, and perhaps most importantly, it's yet another example of Trump campaign, Trump administration officials reaching out to Russia trying to accommodate Russia for reasons that remain entirely unexplainable.
[06:10:07] CUOMO: You'd still have to show quid pro quo for there to be a problem. But on the face of these facts...
TOOBIN: Yes. I didn't say it was a -- it was a criminal matter. I just said it is just further proof of how inappropriately the Trump transition and Trump campaign behaved with regard to Russia.
AVLON: This is more than that, though. This anecdote is sort of like a flinty villain out of a lousy spy novel. I mean, during the inaugural address, the incoming NSA is texting business colleagues basically saying, you know, "Our get rich quick scheme over national security and nuclear power in the Middle East and Russian sanctions removal, it's on. It's unbelievable.
Keeping in mind that the sanctions were put in place in retaliation for Russia trying to influence the election. And we're allegedly being, you know, brushed back by Flynn and other folks. This is being done during the inaugural address minutes into the administration from the incoming NSA business partners about trying to get rich off these things. It is beyond craven.
TOOBIN: And the answer we still don't have both in the small scale and the large scale is why. Why was the Trump administration or the Trump campaign so fixated on accommodating Vladimir Putin? What was it about Vladimir Putin that Donald Trump found so appealing that he kept kowtowing to him throughout the campaign and into the beginning of his administration.
CAMEROTA: All right, gentlemen. Thank you for posing all of those questions and the analysis. Thank you very much.
CUOMO: Ahead on NEW DAY, we're going to talk about all of this with President Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. We assume he will shed new light on all of these troubling questions.
We're also going to talk with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who was part of that hearing with Donald Trump Jr. Does he think that the privilege was warranted?
CAMEROTA: OK. Senator Al Franken now facing an avalanche of Democratic colleagues calling for him to step down amid these allegations of sexual harassment. Will Franken resign today? What will he say during his announcement? We discuss that next.
[06:15:46] CUOMO: Embattled Senator Al Franken is going to make a big announcement today, we think. It's certainly about his political future and what's driven it to this point? A majority of his Democratic senators kind of spontaneously got together and called for his resignation amid growing accusations of sexual misconduct.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has the story on Capitol Hill with how we got here -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
We do expect that Senator Al Franken is going to announce the fate of his future here here in Washington, D.C., later today. His spokesperson late last night disputed a Minnesota Public Radio report, saying that he was going to step down. But it is -- having said that, it's widely expected that is exactly what he is going to do.
This came after an extraordinary day of developments yesterday. A sixth woman came forward, alleging that Franken had inappropriately touched her. It was just the day before Congressman John Conyers had resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Well, it was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat, who said enough is enough. She put out a statement and then quickly, there was an effort, if you would call it an effort, of female Democratic senators calling for his resignation. It turned into an avalanche within about 30 minutes or so.
You had, really, more than 30 people, colleagues of Al Franken saying that this was not going to work. That for the good of his constituent constituents, as well as the Senate, that he step down and resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Obviously, there are new allegations today. And enough is enough. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is is OK. None of it is acceptable. And we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard not a lower standard.
I do not feel that he should continue to serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So recently, Al Franken came back to the Senate after initial allegations of -- regarding groping, and inappropriate touching and kissing. He'd apologized, said he was embarrassed and ashamed. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating him well, was Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday, who took Al Franken aside and said, "Look, this can no longer endure." He also publicly said that, "He's a dear friend of mine, but he has to go."
If, in fact, he decides he's going to step down, it will be the Democratic governor, who will appoint his replacement. There will be a special election next November. And looking at that Senate race, it's expected to be very competitive -- Chris, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that background. We're back again with John Avlon, and we also want to bring in CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian.
So Karoun, it's hard to see how he doesn't resign with this now sort of tidal wave of colleagues calling for resignation. And look, there are lots of complicated questions. And I don't know if there's any easy answers. But if this is -- if the punishment fits the crime, and if he really does have to lose his job in this "#MeToo" movement, he apologized. He's said he's embarrassed. He's been contrite. These are things that don't seem to rise to the level of Harvey Weinstein- like crimes. But in this climate, I guess Al Franken is going to leave his job.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, the Democratic, it is very hard to fight off that many of your colleagues, dozens of her colleagues at this point, especially your closest friends like Chuck Schumer who are saying, "Look, it's time for you to go."
This is, in some way, about the accusations against Senator Franken and also, in some way, about the Democrats kind of proving to themselves and to the country that they could do some house cleaning when they have to do it. If they can't get rid of, or take care of, is a better way of saying it, their Senator Franken problem, it becomes difficult for them to speak with moral clarity when it comes to people like Roy Moore. It becomes difficult to point a finger at other people as well, if they're not willing to look at them themselves and do the house cleaning where they have to.
So this is clearly a sign that it's happening. It becomes, look, it's interesting this week is actually when Senator Franken seems like he started more forcefully denying certain allegations that were made and yet, there's the drip, drip, drip into the bucket got to be too much. And you then have -- saw yesterday the women in the Senate coming out, person after person after person. I think there were five or six people in 10 minutes. And then it was just like a snowball rolling down a hill. And clearly now, at this point, there's very few people in the party that have not said, "OK, time to go."
[06:20:07] CUOMO: Or a game of telephone where they wound up building momentum for a joint cause. Look, I could argue this either way, I think, fairly effectively.
But there are a couple of problems with the assumptions that you made when you laid it out. One, well, here's the relativism argument. Well, these accusations aren't like what Roy is. I think that's demonstrably true but smacks of hypocrisy. And does the punishment fit the crime. Who gave these people the right to tell an elected leader you must go?
CAMEROTA: That's the argument about Roy Moore. The argument about Roy Moore.
CUOMO: And that's why they've been saying the voters decide. We have a boss. If the boss doesn't like what we do, they fire us. They have a boss that is a collection of people who vote, based on when their term is. What about this precedent that a group of lawmakers can get together and say, "We decided Avlon, we don't like you. We don't like your face. Get out." And that you have to get out. AVLON: Look, I think that the precedent is an issue. And there are
-- there are methods for dealing with senators, right? I mean, you know, there is censure. There is Office of Congressional Ethics. When Bob Packwood declined...
CUOMO: They have an investigation against Franken.
AVLON: Correct. And I think it's better to let that process go forward. Again, there was certain -- Bob Packwood, in the early 1990s, 19 allegations of sexual misconduct. Very serious. Ultimately, there was a 10,000-page report. And he left the Senate, despite being recently re-elected.
There was an avalanche yesterday of senators, Democrats coming out, particularly when the (INAUDIBLE) -- probably an untenable situation for Al Franken. But it's clearly a political calculation, because the Democrats, I think, admirably to some extent, want to say, "We've got moral clarity when it comes to condemning Roy Moore."
Do they have moral clarity if they do it to achieve a political purpose?
They are trying to make that contrast clear. Here's, I think, the larger problem. It's not just the precedent. It's also about these alleged six. We've got six women coming forward. That is a real problem. People keep coming out. There are incidents that occurred primarily before Al Franken was senator. That's an interesting question about what's the statute of limitations ethically.
CAMEROTA: But not all, right?
AVLON: A majority of them seem to be before. His radio show, USO tours. I'm unaware of any directly when he was...
CAMEROTA: I'll check.
AVLON: But so that's an issue.
The other thing is as we confront this problem, it's a cultural problem as a country. And it affects all industries, apparently.
I do think we want to keep distinct the Harvey Weinstein allegations of sexual assault, harassment, rape involving a position of power in an industry, the Roy Moore bucket.
And then -- and then sort of the Al Franken bucket and perhaps the George H.W. Bush bucket. You know, these are -- not to lump them all in together, I think, does a disservice to the victims, among other things. But this is a political calculus.
CUOMO: Where were those 30 faces popping up about getting rid of those settlements that use our tax dollars to fund these kinds of things.
CAMEROTA: They say that they didn't even know about it. We've been discussing this for weeks now. I mean, they say that they didn't know. I mean, they've told us on camera...
CUOMO: Congressman designed the policy. It was voted on to be put into policy.
CAMEROTA: We talked to Senator (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about that. I mean, here we are.
We find ourselves here today. And this is where, eyes wide open how are we going to deal with it when some of these things crop up. Let's move on to taxes. So now Paul Ryan is saying that, in fact, we may need -- that they are considering cutting Medicare, Medicaid, all the things that would help not accrue the $1.5 trillion in deficit, Karoun. Here's what Donald Trump in 2015 thought about any cuts to those entitlements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut. And even if they wouldn't, they don't know what to do, because they don't know where the money is. I do. I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So what's happened?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, he's now president, and he has now been -- he's in a position where he doesn't actually get into the fine-tuning work of the details of a lot of these bills. He will leave it up to the congressional GOP, says he wants to win and then kind of, you know, says -- cheers on whatever he gets.
Look, we'll see. Trump has changed his tune on a lot of things between when he was campaigning and when he got to the Oval Office. This becomes one of those things where he really does put a line in the sand and say, no, you cannot touch Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. OK. Then, he'll be keeping a pretty clear campaign promise that I think is why he -- it spoke to a lot of people that supported him.
This really gets to the nitty gritty. And it's a question of balance sheets and a question of the whole GOP leadership on Capitol Hill saying, no, we have to do this in order to find that money that you said you know where it is but clearly is not on the table right now when we're talking about tax reform. We'll see what he says, if he decides to go along with it. And again, it's not the first time he's changed his mind.
CUOMO: This is -- Karoun, this is Ryan at this point. We'll see what the president postures.
DEMIRJIAN: That's exactly it, because Paul Ryan is the one who's actually working with the -- you know, with the designing and crafting the policy at this point.
[06:25:07] DEMIRJIAN: Trying to build the coalition and then saying, "Mr. President, this is what we've got." And the president has taken the position, basically, where yes, sometimes, he's commented on things and said, "That looks mean. I don't like that, I prefer that. But in general, he's been the -- playing the role of cheerleader for getting something done. Not the role of examining everyone.
CUOMO: We'll see what he does.
AVLON: But this also has been a cause for Paul Ryan throughout his career before he was speaker, as a vice-presidential nominee. The generational debt and -- the deficit and the debt and the generational irresponsibility of it all.
The problem is it seems to have also been passing a larger plan with a fiscally irresponsible tax cut that put potentially one foot forward. A trillion in addition to the deficit and the debt. And now they're saying, you know, now we're going to go view entitlements.
We'll see what the president's focusing on. They seem to be focusing on Medicare and Medicaid. That's a big deal. And putting aside infrastructure reform, which is something the president does seem to have a real mandate for, made a case for. That's the side. They're focusing on the deficit and the debt to try to square the circle on a deeply fiscal irresponsible...
CUOMO: What is surprising is that Ryan would show his hand on something that could be so potentially politically damaging to pay for your tax cuts for the rich on the backs of Medicare and Medicaid recipients. That's going to be a tough sell.
CAMEROTA: Karoun, John, thank you.
CUOMO: Donald Trump Jr. refusing to tell lawmakers what he discussed with his father about that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Why can't he talk about the conversation with his dad? We're going to ask former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski next.