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Mueller Questions Bannon; McCaskill Fights in Missouri; Officials Hear Transponder Ping in Indonesia. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 31, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:32] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, met once again with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his team, on Friday. This for at least the third time he has met him. CNN has now confirmed that. "The Washington Post" reporting, in addition, that Bannon was asked about private comments that long-time Trump associate Roger Stone has made about his dealings with WikiLeaks, specifically whether he had advanced warning of the release of stolen Hillary Clinton e-mails.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right, and whether there was a coordination in terms of the timing of the leaking of those e-mails.

So, for Roger Stone's part, he denies any coordination with the group ahead of its release of those hacked e-mails from the DNC, ones that hurt Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Stone is beefing up, though, his own legal team. He has hired a prominent attorney who recently worked for the Trump Organization.

Paul Callan, our legal analyst, an expert is here to discuss.

We'll get to the legal team that Roger Stone is building up in a moment.

But first to Jim's point about "The Washington Post" reporting that Bannon was specifically asked about private claims by Stone regarding WikiLeaks ahead of the release of the hacked e-mails. Now, Bannon said on the record yesterday, don't believe everything you read.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes. But I'm not surprised. I mean this is -- you know, Mueller's now focusing on the WikiLeaks, Roger Stone, if there is connection, as a conduit to the Trump campaign and maybe to the president himself. So this is really central to any investigation of the Russia claims against Trump.

SCIUTTO: If you had Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist, sitting down in front of him this past Friday, and we know Robert Mueller doesn't waste his or anybody's time, is this an indication -- and that the topic was communications or alleged communication between Stone, WikiLeaks, et cetera, prior to the release of those e-mails, does that indicate that the -- the question of collusion is still open? CALLAN: Oh, I think it certainly does because any connection between

Stone, Bannon and WikiLeaks, I mean that's a direct, you know, like back to the Russians who hacked Hillary Clinton's e-mails, who hacked the Democratic National Committee's e-mails and then those e-mails, many of them, wound up with WikiLeaks and released subsequently. So, yes, that's really a central aspect of the collusion claim.

HARLOW: What's really interesting is the fact that Roger Stone has not been, to our knowledge, interviewed by Mueller's team at all. And that can indicate, right, you talked to a target last, right?

CALLAN: Yes. You talk --

HARLOW: It doesn't mean that, but what does it tell you?

[09:35:00] CALLAN: Well, it tells me, first of all, that Stone is -- may simply be refusing to go in to talk. I mean if lawyers representing Roger Stone, and he is a target, it's generally not a good idea to put a target in front of the prosecutor at this late stage in an investigation because you may be giving away things that will incriminate you. So that's one possibility.

But, of course, you know, we're speculating here. It's really hard to say.

HARLOW: We don't know if Mueller's tried to talk to him.


HARLOW: We don't know.

SCIUTTO: Well, this is always reading tea leafs, because, as I always say, the Mueller investigation's a black box. You only know what's happening based on what people who have been interviewed, et cetera, tell you about it.

But based on what you're seeing here, still talking to Bannon, has not sat down with Stone, is there evidence -- is this evidence that the probe is coming to an end or that he's still got work to do?

CALLAN: You know, it's such a hard question to answer, Jim, because he has been -- he -- Mueller's been so successful in being secretive about his investigation, as he should. But to me it indicates this -- he's circling back now to a central claim in the case, a link between WikiLeaks, stone and the Trump campaign. That can make a case or that can prove that there is no case.

And I think we should also be clear that you might even find a link to Stone, but you might not be able to link that back to the president directly. And, remember, to harm the president directly, you really have to link it to him directly. So there is still a lot of very serious, open questions.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you. Good to have you, Paul Callan. We appreciate it. SCIUTTO: Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is fighting for her

political life in the deep red state of Missouri. Her Republican opponent is embracing Trump's policies. So can she win by distancing herself from the liberal wing of her own party?


[09:40:47] HARLOW: All right, six days until the midterms. The Senate race in Missouri, one of the tightest in the country. Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill trying to fend off Trump supporter Josh Hawley in a state the president easily won in 2016.

SCIUTTO: And a state that could swing control of the Senate.


SCIUTTO: CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins us now.

Dana, you spoke with both candidates there. What's the state of the race?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, look, President Trump is slated to go not once but twice in the next six days. That's how tight this race is. And you got to remember that in Trump country, it is not easy for any Democrat, even somebody who has served for two terms.


BASH (voice over): Democrat Claire McCaskill rolling deep in rural conservative Missouri in search of every possible vote to send her back to the Senate.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I mean we're realists about this. It's not that anybody believes I'm going to be able to win Jasper County. But you know what we can do, we can win a few more votes. Because I've got news for you, it's close.

BASH: In many ways it's a political miracle this two-term Senate Democrat even represents this red state President Trump won by nearly 20 points. She first won in 2006, a Democratic wave year. And again in 2012 after GOP opponent Todd Akin talked of legitimate rape.

MCCASKILL: Health care is on the ballot.

BASH: Like many Democrats in tough races, she tries to stay focused on health care and preserving Obamacare's protections for pre-existing conditions. Her GOP opponent, Josh Hawley, says he supports them, too, but he's part of a lawsuit that could strike down those protections. He's casting the race as a clear choice.

JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: We don't like the Washington establishment. We think that there needs to be a shakeup in both parties. And, you know, voters were very adamant about that. And this campaign is really about that. BASH: Hawley is a staunch Trump supporters, elected Missouri attorney

general just two years ago. The blunt McCaskill regularly launches one-liners at her 38-year-old Ivy League educated challenger.

MCCASKILL: As Ronald Reagan said, I'm not going to try -- I'm going to try not to hold his youth and inexperience against him. He may be a Yale educated lawyer, but I'm a Mizzou educated lawyer, and I can keep up.

BASH: She's running on her experience, yet running from the left wing of her own party.

MCCASKILL: It may irritate some of you in this room that I am proud that I'm a moderate. There may be people in this room that think I am not liberal enough to carry the banner of this party.

BASH (on camera): You have a radio ad out saying that you're not one of those crazy Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise.

BASH: What does that mean?

MCCASKILL: Well, the crazy Democrats are the people who are getting in the face of elected officials in restaurants and screaming at them. The crazy Democrats is whoever put a swastika on one of Josh Hawley's signs in rural Missouri. That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, the extreme stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Claire McCaskill and the radical left from passing their social agenda.

BASH (voice over): Tying her to liberal Democratic leaders is the centerpiece of Hawley's campaign, seizing on her votes against both of President Trump's Supreme Court candidates.

BASH (on camera): That was a big deal?

HAWLEY: A big deal. A very big deal.

BASH: Like -- like that could make the difference?

HAWLEY: Yes, I do. A very big deal.

BASH: In what way?

HAWLEY: Because I think voters were so appalled by what they -- just appalled by the smear campaign.

BASH: Well, she did say how she would vote before the -- before the hearing and all that.

HAWLEY: She -- right, she was -- she was honest in saying that she was voting against Justice Kavanaugh because he was a conservative.

BASH (voice over): She says she voted no because Kavanaugh has supported unlimited campaign cash.

MCCASKILL: And I would be a big hypocrite if I voted for Kavanaugh because of dark money.

BASH: She's making an effort to connect with Trump voters she needs to win in other ways, like on immigration.

MCCASKILL: The impression he's giving Missourians that somehow the Democrats are in favor of our border being overrun, I am not. I support the president 100 percent doing what he needs to do to secure the border.

BASH: Rallying supporters to get out the vote, the Democrat reminds them she's beaten Missouri's odds before.

MCCASKILL: Because of all of you and your commitment, they're going to say, that Claire McCaskill, she's done it again.


[09:45:05] BASH: Now, big picture. Missouri is a must-win for Democrats if they have any chance of taking back the Senate on Tuesday. It's also a seat that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has been really frustrated about not picking up because as you see there its DNA favors Republicans so much. In fact, McConnell knows candidates matter, which is why he and other Republican leaders really pushed Josh Hawley hard to run, even though it meant Hawley broke a promise to stick with his job as attorney general of Missouri. He only won that two years ago.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, Dana, we were just saying during the piece, this reporting is so valuable, you on the ground in North Dakota. Then there. I know you don't sleep much, but thank you for bringing it to us.

SCIUTTO: Take care of your voice.

HARLOW: We appreciate it. Feel better.

BASH: It's the best part of the job.

HARLOW: Thank you. We need you on Tuesday night. Feel better, Dana. Thank you.

Now to the plane crash in Indonesia.

Investigators there have found a sign of hope in terms of figuring out what happened. They have detected a transponder ping, which may bring them one step closer to the reason of why the Lion Air flight crashed. A live update, next.


[09:50:33] SCIUTTO: Officials in Indonesia making some progress on the reason why Lion Air Flight 610 went down killing all 189 passengers and crew on board. Investigators have heard a transponder ping. They're 70 percent sure that that is coming from the plane's black box, which may have some answers in it.

HARLOW: At the same time, these are the families that are desperately waiting for answers. Some of them are sifting through items recovered from the sea, trying to identify any personal items from their loved ones that they can recognize.

Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson joins us this morning in Indonesia with the latest.

Let's start with them. Let's start with the victims and the families because there are heartbreaking scenes playing out where you are.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because as part of the salvage effort, which involves more than 40 ships and helicopters and maybe a thousand emergency workers, they've been bringing in debris, bringing in debris and personal belongings that have been fished out of the Java Sea where the plane smashed Monday morning and bringing them here. And we saw scenes of some relatives of victims brought to look at things arrayed here, like backpacks, like shoes. And just, you know, it was like getting punched in the stomach seeing a 52-year-old father spot his 24 year old's black sneaker laying here and the man immediately started weeping and was led away.

We spoke to him and he said that he's convinced that his son -- his son's body must be out there under the ocean with the main fuselage of the plane and he's desperate to get his son's body back.

That is what the operation here is looking for. They've detected the ping of what they think is the underwater locator from the black box. They say that they're hampered by fast currents underwater that have prevented divers from reaching the area where they think the fuselage and the black box might still be.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: So, Ivan, this plane was virtually brand new, a couple months old. It's a new model, the Boeing 737. I understand that an official with the aviation -- either the airline or aviation has now been relieved of duties. Any progress on what caused this plane to come down?

WATSON: Well, you're right, Lion Air, the low cost operator of this plane, they announced that that they fired their technical director at the urging of the transport ministry which says they're investigating that individual, as well as, you know, the airline, and they're inspecting other Boeing 737s in Indonesia's various companies, inspecting them for potential problems.

If you take a close look at the flight path of this doomed flight Monday morning, Lion Air Flight 610, and we've got some flight data from the flight monitor that's called Flight Radar 24, experts have looked at the altitude which was varying dramatically, as well as the speed, which you can see in this graphic in blue and yellow, saying it looks like the crew was battling something in the desperate minutes before the plane smashed into the ocean. But we still don't have a specific reason for why this brand new plane was brought down.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: All right.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they got to get those answers to see if there's an issue that they can address for other similar planes.

HARLOW: Others.

SCIUTTO: Ivan Watson, thanks very much.

Still ahead this hour, the all-out blitz. The president about to make his final midterm push with a hardline message.


[09:58:42] HARLOW: All right, six days --


HARLOW: Six days to go until the midterms, until you head to the polls to vote. What is driving you there? Here's what you told us in today's "Why I'm Voting."


CARLAN HELGESON, VOTER FROM FLORIDA: The issues that are driving me is the lack of freedom and the shrinking of rights for immigrants and LGBT people. And so I am one of the mad people that's voting.

JOANN DICKERSON, VOTER FROM INDIANA: Well, important is the V.A. benefits, because my husband's a veteran, and the terrorists and everything that's happening in this country. It's awful.

MARTHA BASTIN, VOTER FRO KENTUCKY: Equal rights. Rights for children. Schools in our area. Schools are a big thing right now for public schools. In Kentucky, a very local issue right now is teachers and schools.

DEMAL MATTSON, VOTER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: The most important thing in this election to me is that we continue the forward momentum that I've seen. I'm no professional analyst or anything, but I started my business when the economy crashed and I guess that was about ten years ago now. And I've been fighting and clawing to get it up and going. And I've just seen a huge difference in the influx of the amount of money that people are spending.


[10:00:00] SCIUTTO: Well, we want to hear from you as well and you can participate. Just post a video to Instagram using the hash tag #whyivotecnn.