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CNN Exclusive: Previously Undisclosed E-mails Show Follow Up After Trump Tower Meeting; CNN: Email Shows Effort To Give Trump Campaign Wikileaks Documents; Trump Tweets "Vote Roy Moore!"; John Lewis To Skip Civil Rights Museum Opening Due To Trump's Presence; Trump To Rally Near Alabama. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 8, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. More e-mails, more problems for Donald Trump Jr. in the Russia investigation. CNN has exclusive new details about a message sent in the final stretch of the 2016 campaign offering access to hacked Wikileaks documents.
A previously undisclosed effort to reach Donald Trump himself, his son, and his inner circle, just weeks before the election. This comes, of course, on top of other new evidence. Other new evidence of follow-ups to the famous Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer, follow ups that he had promised when he had promised there weren't any.
Let's get over to CNN's senior Congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, there is a lot that you have gotten in the past day plus. Lay out your new reporting today on this effort to give Trump access to Wikileaks documents.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, this e-mail on September 4th, 2016, was sent to Donald Trump, then-Candidate Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and others in the Trump Organization including Donald Trump Jr.'s personal assistant.
And in this e-mail, it actually has a decryption code and link to web address where purportedly they could have received the hacked Wikileaks documents included in this, it says that they could also receive the hacked Clinton -- Colin Powell e-mails, the former secretary of state whose own e-mails were hacked and released 10 days later by a Russian front group.
Now the timeline is important here because on September 4th, that was after -- months after the DNC was hacked and after their own e-mails became leaked and it was a month before Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta's e-mails were leaked by Wikileaks.
And it was also a couple weeks before Wikileaks was corresponding with Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter via direct messages. The person who sent the e-mail someone by the name of Mike Erickson, we don't know who this individual is, and the Congressional investigators don't know who this person is either.
But Mike Erickson sent this e-mail to Donald Trump Jr. saying that they could access these documents, and Donald Trump Jr. was asked about this, Kate, at the House Intelligence Committee's classified hearing yesterday -- earlier this week and when he said he had no recollection of this e-mail exchange.
Now the attorney for Donald Trump Jr. just put out a statement responding to our latest report saying this, "We understand that the media reported 12 hours prior to this e-mail that the DNC e-mails had been hacked or leaked. We do not know who Mike Erickson is. We have no idea who he is. We never responded to the e-mail."
But interestingly, Kate, on the same day that Donald Trump Jr. received this e-mail, was the first time that he appears to have tweeted about Wikileaks. This is what he tweeted on that day, September 4th, "Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton sent thousands of classified cables marked "c" for confidential," having -- including a link there to Wikileaks.
So Julian Assange himself has tweeted about our story also saying it is not clear what this has to do with Wikileaks, but I can tell you, Kate, this appears to follow a pattern the way Wikileaks provides this kind of information, giving the decryption and a website link.
Whether this happened here, we don't know, and we also -- it doesn't appear that the Trump campaign or anybody contacted the FBI after they received this e-mail. They said they didn't act on it and didn't respond -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And to be clear, Don Jr. says he doesn't recall seeing this e-mail?
RAJU: Yes. He doesn't recall seeing this e-mail and the lawyer said he took no action on it so that's where we stand right now. That's what he testified under oath.
BOLDUAN: So, separately, but I guess all connected, these previously unknown follow-up e-mails after the Trump Tower meeting, Manu?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. As you recall that Trump Tower meeting we were told by the White House and by Donald Trump Jr. was all about Russian adoptions and veered off into this unusual subject about Russian adoptions, people in the room that -- that even though Donald Trump Jr. initially was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign that did not happen according to Donald Trump Jr.
But we have learned that Rob Goldstone, who is the British publicist, who helped arrange that meeting, sent some follow-up e-mails after the meeting and also referred to a topic that was discussed at meeting that we didn't know about before, which was setting up a social media page under the Russian Facebook of sorts called VK for Donald Trump, Candidate Donald Trump.
And that was sent to the senior White House aide now senior White House aide, Dan Scavino. Uncertain how the White House responded or Dan Scavino responded to that because we have not gotten a comment from the White House. They declined to comment on that report -- Kate.
[11:05:07] BOLDUAN: All right. Manu, thanks so much for laying it out. I really appreciate it.
Joining me now to discuss what this could mean, Asha Rangappa, a CNN legal and national security analyst, former FBI special agent, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, James Galliano, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent. Great to have you all here.
So, Asha, this new reporting that Manu has gotten exclusive to CNN and also laid out perfectly there about -- offering to Donald Trump Jr., to Donald Trump himself, to access to these Wikileaks documents, with a decryption key in the e-mail, from an investigative standpoint, what does this e-mail mean?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, to make it easy to understand, this e-mail would be as if someone contacted you and told you they had robbed a bank and gave you the location of the storage locker where they had stashed the money and gave you the combination for the lock on the door.
So, even if he never responded to that e-mail, from an investigative standpoint, I would say why didn't he call the FBI. This is knowledge of potential stolen goods or stolen information. It's knowledge of a crime that could have happened, hacking, and so I think even just standing alone, before we even get into any of the other things and there is a lot.
RANGAPPA: That Manu mentioned, this is problematic.
BOLDUAN: And Paul, from a -- so from an investigative standpoint that's where Asha's head goes first, right? From a legal sense because she kind of kicked us off there, from a legal sense, what do you think this means?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very interesting development because if this was an attempt to give stolen hacked e-mails to the Trump campaign and the Trump campaign acted on it, you would have an argument that they were then in possession of stolen property, property they knew to be stolen.
CALLAN: Now that can be a crime under federal law. It clearly can be a crime by the way under New York law if that's where, in fact, Don Jr. looked at the e-mail if, in fact, he did look at the e-mail.
So, I think it's an important story, but we have to see how the puzzle gets put together. There is not enough there yet to say there's a criminal case, but there's enough information to clearly investigate carefully.
BOLDUAN: James, your hand in this piece of information in an investigation, what are your first questions?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I have to respectfully agree to disagree with my two colleagues here. I'm looking at it from this perspective, investigator sources of mine in the FBI tell me this is in Shakespearean terms a tempest in a tea cup. Look at what we have thus far.
We have Paul Manafort and an associate pleading guilty to conspiracy to conduct shady business dealings. We have two folks Papadopoulos as well as General Michael Flynn that pled guilty to Title 18 USC 1001, which is misleading false statements, fictitious statements to an FBI agent.
Those are or those two specifically are ancillary process crimes, meaning it's not indicative of an underlying scheme. In this instance involving Trump Jr. absolutely should have gone to the FBI, absolutely. Is it tawdry, unseemly, absolutely?
But that's part of politics. Collusion is not a crime and unless we can tie this back and say there was a reach back to these sources and a request to meet or for more information or a request to conduct more, you know, findings from Wikileaks, I don't see the crime.
CALLAN: You have stolen property and you knowingly obtain it from the guy who stole it and you possess it --
BOLDUAN: That's the question.
CALLAN: -- that is a crime.
BOLDUAN: Right. That's the question and that hasn't been established. It hasn't been established. He says he doesn't recall it. He says they didn't act on it and no one even tried to use said decryption key that is discussed in the e-mail.
Is that -- is that what this all hangs on? Does it matter if there's evidence that -- does it require that there is evidence that the e- mail was read, forwarded, passed along in some way or acted upon or just the mere fact that it's sitting in his inbox?
CALLAN: No. You would have to have evidence that he acted on it. We're starting to see a little bit of circumstantial evidence. Now, we have the fact that for the first time he tweets about Wikileaks.
CALLAN: We also have his prior history of mischaracterizing meetings. Remember, that Trump Tower meeting originally said it was a big nothing. It was only about sanctions and then we find out --
BOLDUAN: It was three or four iterations later.
CALLAN: It was about a lot more. So, I think there's a lot of information we don't have on this yet.
GAGLIANO: It's not a good look when he can't remember the particulars.
BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Asha.
RANGAPPA: Well, I also just want to point out that this is a part of a larger pattern. This is multiple outreach to the Trump campaign, dangling potential information about their political opponent.
[11:10:06] A pattern of Russia and Russia-related contacts reaching out to the campaign. You know, now social media offers linked to Russia which we know, and so it is true what James and Paul are saying that these aren't necessarily smoking guns of criminality.
But Kate, let me just point out to you, these people had more contacts with Russian nationals and Russian-linked entities in six months than most Americans have in their entire lifetime.
And yet they've insisted that this was ordinary course of business. They don't remember and after all of this, it's really hard to understand how none of these things could have either raised a red flag or they cannot remember and continue to lie, distort and omit and, you know -- just -- more continues to come out.
BOLDUAN: Well, and when you're forced -- and in an investigation, when you're forced actually to admit things on a continuous string, rather than say we have nothing to hide this is all what happened, that's what is different here.
RANGAPPA: Absolutely. That's right.
BOLDUAN: Can I just ask really quick, Asha, Mike Erickson, that the name of this person who -- the name on the e-mail that was sent here. The name is listed on the e-mail. Congressional investigators haven't been -- are unsure who this person is, our reach out, CNN's reach out was not responded to.
Don Jr.'s attorney in their statement says that they don't know who this person is at all. Is that essential here? Is that -- I mean, I would assume that the FBI when looking at this, I mean, that seems an essential piece of this puzzle?
RANGAPPA: Absolutely. So, I think that the cyber investigators in the FBI will trace this back. I would say, Kate, there's going to be three different trails in this entire investigation which has many threads.
One is the money trail, which as James pointed out has come up in the Paul Manafort indictment and we don't know where those trails might lead if they lead to other people. There is a digital trail. This is malware. Social media, these kinds of e-mails, how were they linked altogether.
And then I have to say, there is the trail of tweets because both Don Jr. and the president keep tweeting things that give information about what was going on behind the scenes and what was in their minds when these things were going on. BOLDUAN: And very quick coincidentally landing on key moments or right ahead of key moments throughout the campaign when looking back. There's a lot to this.
RANGAPPA: That's correct.
BOLDUAN: And this is just one more part of this web. Asha, thank you so much. Paul, James, thank you so much.
Tonight, a special report for all of you CNN's Jim Sciutto investigates the downfall of Mike Flynn from a military legend to the Russian investigation. "The Mystery of Mike Flynn" that airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. You don't want to miss that.
And if there was any room left for any doubt in your mind about how President Trump feels about the Alabama Senate race, he just erased it with a single tweet, of course, about the embattled Republican candidate, Roy Moore, and now he's headed down south tonight. What he tweeted today and what he may say when he gets on the stage coming up.
Plus, wildfires have scorched over 140,000 acres now in California. New fires are burning. New evacuations are under way right now as president Trump approves an emergency declaration for the state. We're going to take you there live for the latest.
BOLDUAN: In case you had any doubt where the president stood on the Alabama Senate race, he just made it crystal clear. In a tweet, of course, attacking Democrat Doug Jones. Trump signed off the tweet vote Roy Moore and tonight, the president will be holding a rally just 25 miles from the Alabama border in Pensacola, Florida.
Let's bring in right now CNN's Joe Johns at the White House. So, Joe, just yesterday, the White House said the allegations against Moore said once again were extremely troubling, so what's going on now?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, going down to Pensacola, notably not going to Alabama, but it's still the mobile media market is 25 miles from Alabama and the assumption is that the president is at least showing his face there, just a few days before voters go to the polls.
And he certainly is a big supporter of Roy Moore, so draw your own conclusions. But there's also a question of here of plausible deniability because Republicans say there could be quite a bit of blowback next year in the midterms when voters go to the polls and it could affect the math if you will in the United States Senate.
So, the Republicans, the president, trying to have it both ways on this Roy Moore race, trying to get him into office and at the same time, trying not to get too much of his fingerprints on them.
BOLDUAN: Yes. It seems as his strongest endorsement yet of what he would like to see Alabama voters do. That's tonight. The president is going down this weekend to -- for the opening of a new civil rights museum in Mississippi.
Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Benny Thompson, in hearing this announced that they're not going because the president is. The reaction from the White House after this has raised some eyebrows. What are they saying about this now?
JOHNS: Yes. It's pretty interesting. I'll just read it to you, the reaction says, "We think it's unfortunate that these members of Congress would not join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds."
[11:20:10] The interesting part of that, of course, is that John Lewis certainly an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and Benny Thompson both saying they don't want to go because they don't think the president is a good fit with the memory if you will of the Civil Rights Movement -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Joe Johns, thanks so much.
Joining me right now, Bryan Lanza, a former deputy communications director for President Trump's campaign and Scott Mulhauser is here, a Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to the Senate Finance Committee. Great to see you both. Thank you both for being here.
So, Scott, I'll start with you, Pensacola tonight, plausible deniability that the president is not going to -- down there to stump for Roy Moore? I mean, I don't get it.
SCOTT MULHAUSER, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. EMBASSY, BEIJING: So, it lets the president hit Alabama voters without hitting Alabama. One in six Alabamians are hit by that media market. It's a way to campaign for Roy Moore, but have the plausible deniability.
BOLDUAN: Why do you need plausibility deniability if you tweet out vote Roy Moore?
MULHAUSER: Joe made a good point. I think he has an eye on 2018 and his own re-election. Whether he thinks Roy Moore will lose or yet again have it both ways that's clearly what he's balancing right now.
BOLDUAN: But Brian, I mean, what do you want to hear from Donald Trump tonight? I mean, you know, you never know what's going to happen when Donald Trump gets on the stage for a big rally like this, but if he doesn't talk about Roy Moore, what does that say?
BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, he is all-in for Roy Moore. He's put out his endorsement. He has the apparatus of the RNC behind him. So, there is no plausible deniability in any of this stuff. He is all-in. He planned this ahead of time before his endorsement. So, people are excited I'm sure they'll have an opportunity if they want to do another event in Alabama. BOLDUAN: Robo call saying hope you can join us.
LANZA: They're all in. They are not having it both ways. This is what the president does when he gets behind somebody and made a determination that is troubling as these allegations are, still are allegations, but when you compare that to what a liberal in Alabama would mean to the U.S. Senate and to how his agenda moves forward, you know, he has to put focus on the. The American people voted for a specific type of change that they're getting with the president.
BOLDUAN: If you're back in your old job, are you happy he tweeted this out this morning? Because you have these two messages that do not go together which is we find these allegations extremely troubling. We want to let Alabama voters decide for themselves, and then you've got the president saying, no, no, no, you vote for Roy Moore!
LANZA: If I'm in my old job I learn to adapt. I mean, that's the one thing I learned about working for President Trump during the campaign is you never know what the next hour is going to bring. So, you just learn to adapt and roll with the punches. Some good comes with the tweets, sometimes they make us uncomfortable but overall a positive effect.
BOLDUAN: Do you acknowledge that in some strange way that Roy Moore would be the best thing to happen to Democrats in 2018? Do you think that's true?
MULHAUSER: Let's start with the fact that no one -- sexual harassment has no place in our Congress and I think what we've seen from Roy Moore is pretty despicable across the board. Is it a campaign wedge issue the Democrats could use? Yes. Would folks rather not have Roy Moore on the Senate given his history? I think that's also true.
BOLDUAN: Let's look at upside, down side, Brian, to you, upside, another strong economic report, 228,000 jobs added in November. Unemployment remaining at a 17-year low. Downside the president's approval rating in a Pew survey is at 32 percent matching what they say is the lowest that they've seen in any poll since he took office, 63 percent disapproval. These two things great economic numbers and approval ratings, they don't often go in the opposite direction. What is going on here?
LANZA: You've had some distractions in the past year that have prevented the White House from talking about these economic numbers. The investigation has been a huge distraction and that sucks up a lot of oxygen so you're not talking about the economy or unemployment in the Latino community being historic lows.
You are not talking about a 20-year low of unemployment in a black community. Those things happen, but they'll get through and power through it. You know, 32 percent if that's what it is that's what it is.
But as he has more successes going on in the coming year, you will see that number improve and look at the November election for next year, it's Trump who is going to be driving the agenda the main issue, but it's also Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The voters have to make a choice between those two's agendas. We're pretty confident they will choose Trump.
BOLDUAN: But also just ask James Carville what often decides elections is the economy. Do you think that was different now?
LANZA: I think what you're saying --
MULHAUSER: They're hoping.
BOLDUAN: Of course, they're hoping, but do you think that's -- do you -- I mean, because if things -- these are the numbers in 2018 good luck, Democrats, that's what Republicans are saying.
MULHAUSER: But these economic numbers aren't viewed in a vacuum. What you're seeing is the economy continue to grow as it has for several years, but you're also seeing these sort of President Trump claim to drain the swamp, claim to do a host of things and the first year has been a struggle in terms of accomplishments and the first accomplishment which a appears to be the tax reform, I think folks see wage growth not going up and see the bulk of that going to corporations and they are skeptical.
BOLDUAN: Final, misstep on how they responded to John Lewis saying they are disappointed that he's in the going to join them in honoring civil rights leaders?
LANZA: It's not the answer I would have sort of, you know, gone forward with, but it is a shame that John Lewis can't be there. It's a historic moment for our country. We come together during certain particular moments and put the differences aside and this could have been that opportunity and it is, you know, I'm discouraged that he's not there. I hope he changes his mind. I believe that the president welcomes it any time.
BOLDUAN: Brian Lanza would have written the statement differently. We'll just leave it there. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.
Coming up next, we do have breaking news coming out of Southern California. Unfortunately, it is not good news. Massive wildfires burning near Los Angeles and now San Diego and there are new evacuations under way. Where the fires are right now, where they're spreading and what the conditions look like, that's coming up.