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THE SITUATION ROOM
Manafort's Lawyers Reveal He Gave Trump Polling Data to Kremlin Operative; Supreme Court Denies Request by Mystery Firm to Take Mueller Case; Russian Lawyer Charged, Highlighting Ties to Russian Government; Trump to Push for Border Wall in Primetime Address; Kim Jong-un Makes Surprise Visit to China. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 8, 2019 - 17:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.
[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Secret Manafort meeting. A stunning court filing in the Mueller probe reveals that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met overseas with an alleged Kremlin operative during the campaign and shared confidential information on internal Trump campaign polling data.
High court rejection. The U.S. Supreme Court rejects a move by a foreign mystery company to resist a subpoena tied to the Mueller information. It's the first time the full court has dealt with the Mueller probe and may not be the last.
Russian lawyer charged. The Russian lawyer who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York with key campaign members is charged by federal prosecutors in a case separate from the Mueller investigation.
And "crisis" communication. President Trump will speak tonight from the Oval Office, trying to sell his border wall to a doubtful nation, as his administration uses falsehoods and misstatements to build the case for what it calls a crisis on the border.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, a startling new revelation emerges from court documents in the Mueller probe, with lawyers for Paul Manafort inadvertently revealing that the former Trump campaign chief shared polling information with an alleged Kremlin operative, meeting with him overseas during the election campaign.
That comes as President Trump prepares to deliver his first speech from the Oval Office just hours from now, part of an all-out to convince a skeptical public that there's a crisis on the southern border which requires a wall and is worth a painful government shutdown.
I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
Let's begin with the breaking news. In a truly stunning court document stemming from the Mueller investigation, Paul Manafort's lawyers have inadvertently revealed that the former Trump campaign chairman shared sensitive information, including secret polling data, with an alleged Kremlin operative.
Let's bring in CNN's Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Susan Hennessey.
Shimon, first to you. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Wolf, well, quite seriously, the Manafort team here, the defense attorneys here, putting this information in these court documents that were not meant to be seen by, certainly, anyone in the public.
This was information about a meeting that Manafort had overseas. The first time that we're learning also that Paul Manafort shared internal polling data with this Russian operative, a person believed to be connected to Russian intelligence, a person who has connections to the Kremlin. He shared this internal polling data with this operative.
The other information that we learned was that Paul Manafort even traveled to Madrid. This is the first time that we're learning that Paul Manafort had traveled overseas to meet with this person.
Really all of this coming after a mistake. It was a formatting mistake by the Manafort team, by the defense team, in their filing of these court documents. They just -- for whatever reason, they didn't check something. They didn't see if it could be seen by someone. All you had to do here was copy and paste what they thought was blacked out. All you did was copy and pasted it. You'd be able to see what was underneath the blacked-out part, and that's what happened here.
BLITZER: What a rookie mistake --
BLITZER: -- by these lawyers, clearly.
Does this new information, Evan, suggest that there was, in fact, what they call collusion between the campaign and the Russians?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think, Wolf, this is certainly the most detailed window we have into what Mueller has been pursuing, he and his investigators have been pursuing with regard to collusion.
And it tells us that they are developing this theory that people connected to the campaign, especially Paul Manafort, were essentially colluding with -- with Russians.
And here's how we know that. We know that Kilimnik is, according to the FBI, someone connected to the GRU. The GRU is the Russian intelligence agency that was involved in hacking the DNC. And what we're learning, as Shimon mentioned, is this meeting in
Madrid where he and Kilimnik are having a meeting. They're exchanging -- according to the defense here, they're admitting that Paul Manafort shared sensitive polling data from inside the campaign.
This is all happening during the time that Manafort is managing, he's chairman of the Trump campaign. What this tells us is that the Mueller invest investigators are pursuing very much the idea that there was this, some kind of exchange of information behind the scenes that was not known to everybody, perhaps not even known to candidate Trump himself.
[17:05:04] Again, there's not a lot -- there's still a lot of questions that are unanswered here. But what it tells us is that the collusion investigation is very much alive, and they're pursuing it.
BLITZER: Because he was traveling, Susan, during the campaign. He's the chairman. Goes to Madrid for this meeting with this Russian, provides sensitive polling information, which seems to suggest, if this GRU, the Russian intelligence unit, was trying to influence the election in various states, maybe this kind of sensitive information would be useful to them, to help Donald Trump get elected president of the United States.
Manafort's probably -- you know, he lied about this. But certainly, Mueller and his team, they're looking at this as possible collusion.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that's right. I think that this does show yet another example of ongoing communication, ongoing coordination. We are moving closer and closer to that "C" word, you know, "collusion," that we've all been, you know, sort of moving around.
I think the big question here is, of course, why? Why is Paul Manafort sharing this, you know, sensitive internal polling information with the Russians? You know, what -- what was the Russian purposes? And then, you know, how much did Donald Trump or, potentially, members of his inner circle now about these efforts?
BLITZER: It was supposed to be redacted, this sensitive information about this secret trip during the campaign to Madrid. How much of a potential problem for Mueller's team is it, now that it's all out there?
HENNESSEY: Well, so this is a mistake that isn't -- isn't all that uncommon. It does happen from time to time. But this information was likely redacted, because it was considered sensitive to an ongoing investigation. Konstantin Kilimnik is under indictment himself, and so clearly, the Mueller team thought that this was information that, if it was revealed publicly, if it was revealed, potentially, to other defendants, you know, could tip their hand about what they knew.
You know, so potentially, depending on sort of what is revealed by that revelation and how much Kilimnik can gather about what kind of communication they may have heard, it could potentially be significant to that case. BLITZER: Another sensitive issue -- Evan, you've been reading this,
all of us have, very, very carefully -- Mueller has accused Manafort of lying about contacts he had during the Trump administration, after the president took office.
BLITZER: A section of the document that was supposed to be redacted reveals that one of the contacts he actually had was with the president of the United States.
BLITZER: How significant is that?
PEREZ: Right. I think what it tells us is that the Mueller investigators have information which they don't -- certainly we don't know everything here. But it tells us that they certainly are accusing, seem to be accusing Paul Manafort of using intermediaries to get to the president of the United States.
Now, we don't know exactly all the details here. And I kind of disagree a little bit with Susan a little bit on this. That I think, if you look at these -- the revelations in this, there are still so many pieces of it that we don't know that I'm actually kind of wondering why is this redacted? A lot of this stuff necessarily, I think, confirms information that's been out there. But -- and certainly, it's newsworthy, because it is now -- we now know that this is part of what Mueller has been finding. But I also wonder --
BLITZER: But Mueller and his team wanted it redacted?
PEREZ: They wanted it redacted. And I'm not sure why exactly. Because it doesn't really answer all of our questions.
BLITZER: Do you understand why?
HENNESSEY: So ordinarily, we don't actually know. I think that there are questions. Ordinarily, you would redact this kind of information, because you wouldn't want people to know how you had gotten it. You would be worried about compromising sort of sources and methods.
HENNESSEY: So in this case one of the reasons why you might want that information redacted is because it may demonstrate, for example, that federal prosecutors are aware of a conversation or a communication in which this polling data was shared.
PROKUPECZ: This is new information, Wolf.
HENNESSEY: And so that may be --
BLITZER: This is very new information.
PROKUPECZ: It is the first time that we're learning -- BLITZER: And very significant information.
PROKUPECZ: -- that there was an overseas trip.
BLITZER: And there's new information on another Mueller-related case we're getting, Shimon.
BLITZER: This one involving this mysterious company, and the United States has now -- the United States Supreme Court has now weighed in and said, "You know what? You're going to be fined a lot of money every day until you start to cooperate."
PROKUPECZ: Fifty thousand dollars a day is what they're being fined each day that they are not complying with the Mueller subpoena.
For whatever reason, Mueller wants this information from this company. They have been aggressive in fighting this, obviously, taking this all the way to the Supreme Court. And all we know about this mysterious company is that they're a foreign company. They have ties to some --
BLITZER: And it's an unnamed foreign nation.
PROKUPECZ: Owned by a foreign nation. And their regulators are claiming that, if they release information, it's against the laws of their country. That's all we know about it. This is now sitting in the Supreme Court.
The fines are continuing. What we don't yet know is whether or not the Supreme Court is going to hear this appeal, which would be basically the last step here for this company.
BLITZER: How significant is this win for Mueller?
HENNESSEY: I think it is significant, because I think any company facing that degree of fines is likely to actually comply with the subpoena.
Again, we don't flow what this company is. I think most significantly, we don't know what country it necessarily relates to. Sort of this foreign sovereign immunity is claimed. You know, but ultimately, whether or not this -- these are individuals that Mueller wants this testimony; they want them to be forced to comply -- to comply with the subpoena. And whatever that information is, you know, it's important enough to Mueller's investigation they're willing to litigate all the way up to the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: And there's another case that's emerging right now. It's not related directly to the Mueller case. It involves this Russian lawyer who was there in June of 2016 at that infamous Trump Tower meeting. She has now been charged in an unrelated case.
PEREZ: Right. This is Natalia Veselnitskaya. She is the Russian lawyer who was present at that now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with senior members of the Trump campaign. She's charged with obstruction in the Southern District of New York,
prosecutors in Manhattan. It has to do with this money-laundering case. And essentially, what she did is she submitted information, a declaration to the court which ended up helping win the case, essentially, for -- for her side; and what the prosecutors are saying is that she lied. She misled them about her connections to the Kremlin. She essentially hid her connections to the Kremlin.
And so, as a result of that, they are calling this obstruction of justice. It's not clear exactly what the consequences of this are. We reached out to her. CNN did reach out to her. She said that, essentially, she's on vacation. She hasn't had a chance to review this case, but she wants to defend her honor.
BLITZER: If she stays in Russia, she's never going to see a day in court here in the United States.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, and she's probably not going to come here.
Look, she used to come here. She was in New York a lot. Trump Tower meeting. The chances of her ever coming here again are probably none.
You know, it's significant, because her name has been out there so much. And you know, this is something that has been going on and has been under investigation for several years. The declaration that Evan speaks about was filed in 2015.
What we don't know is why, all of a sudden does the Department of Justice, the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorneys there, decide to file the charges now? Did something change? Is it the mounting pressure on the Russians and to show just their effort here in this country? Is this something that led the Southern District to go ahead and finally charge her? That could be, but we don't know. We also don't know if Mueller played any kind of role --
PROKUPECZ: -- in this investigation. Did his office provide any information? We don't know.
PEREZ: I think the important thing here, too, though, is the fact that even, again -- it's separate from Mueller -- it does say that -- you have prosecutors now saying that she is absolutely connected with the Kremlin and, of course, she had this meeting with key members of the campaign.
BLITZER: We've got a lot more to assess on this. Everybody stick around. Much more coming up.
There's other news, stunning revelations emerging about the Mueller investigation as President Trump, meanwhile, is focusing in on trying to convince a very skeptical public that the country needs a wall along its southern border with Mexico. With the government shutdown now in its 18th day, the Trump administration is going all out to push the idea of a crisis. The president will speak later tonight from the Oval Office. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us right
Jim, do we know if he will declare a national emergency?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Trump is expected to deliver a short address to the nation from the Oval Office tonight. There's no final word on whether the president will declare a state of emergency in order to build that wall on the border. At this point, we don't expect that to happen. Our sources are telling us that's not expected to happen.
But the White House is continuing to hype the case for a border wall with misleading claims, setting the scene for an address that will test the fact checkers tonight.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Trump plans to address the nation to make his pitch for a border wall, the White House spin machine is in overdrive. Vice President Pence is repeating the misleading suggestion that the wall is needed because of the thousands of possible terrorists trying to make their way into the country.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to come into the United States through various means in the last year.
ACOSTA: But as CNN has learned, it's only a tiny fraction of that, just 12, between October 2017 to 2018. The vast majority on the government's terror watch list are stopped at airports, contrary to what press secretary Sarah Sanders was telling the public.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Individuals --
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: They're not coming across the southern border, Sarah. They're coming, and they're being stopped, at airports.
SANDERS: They're coming a number of ways. They're certainly -- I'm not disagreeing with you that they're coming through airports.
ACOSTA: The White House conceded Sanders had her facts wrong.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: That was an unfortunate misstatement, and everybody makes mistakes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Right.
CONWAY: All of us. The fact is, it's corrected here.
ACOSTA: But pressed on whether the president will tell the truth in his address, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sounded defensive.
(on camera): Can you promise that the president will tell the truth tonight? Will he tell the truth? CONWAY: Yes, Jim. Do you promise that you will?
ACOSTA: Can you guarantee that the president's speech will pass a fact check?
CONWAY: And let me just -- let me get back in your face, because you're such a smartass most of the time, and I know you want this to go viral. A lot of these people don't like you.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House also struggled to explain what the president meant when he said some of his predecessors also wanted a wall.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me, and they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.
ACOSTA: But that's not true. All of the living ex-presidents have denied that claim or released statements showing their opposition to a wall. Pence tried to clean that one up, too.
PENCE: I know the president has said that that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents.
TRUMP: Who is going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico!
ACOSTA: After once promising Mexico would pay for the wall, the president is expected to describe the situation at the border as a growing humanitarian and national security crisis, despite recent studies that show the number of undocumented immigrants has declined in recent years and that native-born Americans actually commit more crimes than immigrants.
[17:15:11] The president, who faces questions about his own credibility, once told CNN he supported the impeachment of former President George W. Bush for the case he made for the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: They're impeaching him?
TRUMP: Absolutely. For the war. For the war.
BLITZER: Because of the conduct.
TRUMP: He lied. He got us into the war with lies. And I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant, and they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. And yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.
PEREZ: And the White House is continuing to make its case for the wall. Just before the president's speech tonight, Vice President Pence is up on Capitol Hill meeting with GOP lawmakers, very aware of the fact that there are some Republicans who are ready to bail on this president and reopen the government, whether he gets this wall or not.
Wolf, that is part of the reason why the president is planning to go up to Capitol Hill and meet with Senate Republicans tomorrow. He doesn't want any defections at a critical time when he's trying to get that wall on the border, a case he'll make tonight in that speech from the Oval Office -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very sensitive moment indeed. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of both the Intelligence and the Judiciary Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us. Let me get your thoughts on the government shutdown in just a moment. But first, let me begin with all the breaking news, the latest truly stunning developments in the Paul Manafort case. You heard all of our reporting.
Do you believe the new information just revealed by Manafort's attorneys, apparently unintentionally, is evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes. The Trump campaign met with and worked with Russian spies while Russia was interfering in our democracy. And those two individuals are the military officer that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data with, and Natalie Veselnitskaya, who set up the Trump Tower meeting and who was going all over the world, as we put in our minority report, bumping into members of Congress in odd places, working secretly on behalf of the Russian government, as the indictment says. That's what spies do, Wolf.
And the Trump team never turned them away. They kept welcoming them. And this is why I think it's so important that Bob Mueller and special counsel team be able to sit down with President Trump. If he did not welcome this and he did not know about this, an innocent person would sit down and say, "I had nothing to do with this." Only a guilty person would refuse to cooperate with this much evidence out there.
BLITZER: But how would Manafort's sharing sensitive internal Trump campaign polling information with Konstantin Kilimnik, this Russian, flying to Madrid during the campaign, while he was the campaign chairman -- explain how you believe that would benefit the Trump campaign?
SWALWELL: Well, we know that the Russians were weaponizing social media. They were putting out targeted ads; they were putting posts on Facebook and YouTube. You know, and if they were doing that in a targeted way, with the information that the Trump campaign had about, you know, what areas you should do that and what types of voters you should do that, that would be collusion.
Again, the Mueller team better knows that than the House Intelligence Committee, because every time we asked, every time we sought to learn if that's what was going on, we were blocked by the Republicans. Those days are over. We actually will now be able to learn much more and tell the American people just what they were up to.
BLITZER: Why would Paul Manafort lie about something like this while he was supposedly already cooperating with the special counsel?
SWALWELL: He fears the Russians, Wolf. If you look at everyone that Bob Mueller has indicted or who has -- he's put the screws to, they've all folded, and they've all turned into cooperators except one person. That's the person who faces the most amount of criminal exposure and the most amount of prison time. He was offered a really sweet deal, and he has not cooperated. I think, Wolf, he's seeking to protect the Russians, and he's seeking to protect the president.
BLITZER: Manafort's attorneys say he has cooperated extensively with Mueller and his team and that any lies he told were unintentional. Do you buy that?
SWALWELL: I don't. I don't buy it at all. You know, he was charged with lying. He made false statements that he was convicted of. This man is a convicted liar. And I don't think a leopard changes its spots.
BLITZER: What about the revelation in these new documents that after President Trump took office, that there was Mueller [SIC] contact with individuals in the Trump administration, including the president?
SWALWELL: I believe it, Wolf, because we saw in our own investigation that you had these witnesses were all talking to each other. And it appeared that they were trying to get their stories straight. And you had a number of witnesses who all had the same lawyer, which seems to be a conflict of interest.
So the only people who have been in the dark have been the American people, because the Republicans wouldn't release our transcripts while these witnesses were working in concert. So I think they've been working together to protect the president and keep this investigation from getting closer to him.
[17:20:08] BLITZER: Because the contacts between Paul Manafort and the president and the administration after he took office, you believe, what, those were inappropriate? Illegal? What do you believe?
SWALWELL: It's not what innocent people do, Wolf. And knowing the way that the president has dangled out there pardons, and he hasn't said, you know, affirmatively that he would not pardon Paul Manafort, I think we can conclude that Paul Manafort is, you know, fishing for a pardon of sorts and is not going to be a true cooperator, if he believes that that is ultimately his way out of this.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the government shutdown right now, on its 18th day. The president isn't budging on his demands for a border wall funding package. And he's about to take his case directly to the American public in his Oval Office address later tonight.
Should Democrats offer some sort of compromise to the president, even if it's just a way to help him save face so the federal government can reopen fully?
SWALWELL: We're not here to help the president save face, Wolf. We're here to save the American people from the threats that we have abroad and domestically. And we have put forward legislation that passed the Senate 100-0. A hundred Republicans and Democrats who came together to fund border security.
Donald Trump is not interested in border security. He is interested in border theater. And he's not interested in the facts, which are that there is a net outflow of immigration leaving this country right now, and that the majority of undocumented individuals overstayed their visa. So we should look at better enforcing that.
So Wolf, he can interrupt the Super Bowl in a couple weeks, as far as I'm concerned. He is not getting a wall.
BLITZER: But what would you say, Congressman, to those federal workers in your district and, indeed, across the country who want to see the Democrats at least offer some sort of compromise, in order to reopen the government?
SWALWELL: We've offered the compromise that Mitch McConnell already passed in the Senate, Wolf, and I think the fact that these workers are not getting paid as -- is as immoral as putting a wall on our southern border with an ally. It contradicts that lady with a torch in New York Harbor and the -- you know, the sick, tired huddled masses that, you know, she is welcoming. You know, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. That's the message of America.
And we have to draw a line somewhere, Wolf. Because when will -- what will the president want next if he's able to, you know, shut down the government for something that is so un-American?
BLITZER: Congressman Swalwell, thank you so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. Paul Manafort's lawyers reveal that the former Trump campaign chairman shared confidential campaign information with an alleged Russian operative.
And President Trump gets ready for that Oval Office speech. Can he get Congress and the American public to change their minds about his border wall?
[17:27:06] BLITZER: Our breaking news, lawyers for Paul Manafort reveal the former Trump campaign chairman gave sensitive polling information to an alleged Kremlin operative. We're going to have much more on that shortly.
In the meantime, as the president gets ready tonight to make his case to the American public for a border wall with Mexico, top officials are out in force, insisting there's a crisis on the border.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.
Sunlen, the administration is applying lots of pressure up on Capitol Hill. Will it have any significant impact?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think time will tell, Wolf, indeed. But at this hour, the vice president, Mike Pence, and the DHS secretary, they are up here on Capitol Hill tonight, huddling with House Republicans as the president prepares to make his speech to a national audience tonight.
The White House is essentially trying to make sure that they're keeping Republicans up here on Capitol Hill in line. There have been a small number of Republican defections recently. We saw about a handful of Republicans last week vote with the Democrats to reopen parts of government without funding for the administration's ask for the border wall.
So essentially, tonight, they are trying to squash what could be a rebellion in the ranks, not wanting to lose any more support within their party for the border wall.
And tonight we'll also see Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, giving the rebuttal to the president's address. They have requested equal time on prime time to give their own address. They say the president's address, they believe, will be filled with malice and misinformation.
All the while, Democrats will attempt to keep up the political pressure on Republicans on the Hill. In just a few minutes on the Senate floor, we will see Senate Democrats withhold their vote, a procedural vote, on the Syria sanctions bill. They want to see first a vote to reopen the government. This set off the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, today. He railed against this Democratic strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Now they're threatening to shut the Senate down, too. Got the government shut down for two weeks. Now they want to shut the Senate down. They're threatening to shut down efforts to protect our allies and strengthen our relationship with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And over in the House tomorrow we will start to see leadership there again try to move on passing these individual appropriations bills that Nancy Pelosi did last week.
As we know, though, those are going nowhere over here in the Senate. Mitch McConnell today reiterated his stance, saying that he's not going to waste any time, in his words, on show votes.
Meantime, President Trump coming up here to Capitol Hill tomorrow to huddle with Senate Republicans, and then congressional leadership, Wolf, back over to the White House tomorrow afternoon.
BLITZER: Clearly, lots at stake right now. Sunlen, thank you. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.
We certainly have a lot to discuss with our political, legal, and national security experts. They are standing by. Much more right after this.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following multiple breaking stories, including today's startling court filing that revealed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared information with an associate who the FBI says has direct ties to Russian intelligence.
[17:34:43] Let's ask our experts about the impact of today's revelations. Susan Hennessey, what does it tell us? This new revelation inadvertently by Manafort's lawyers, included in this court document, what does it tell us about the state of the Mueller investigation?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think once again, it shows us that Mueller knows a whole lot that the rest of us don't. You know, sort of substantively, it shows that there is this ongoing communication, this ongoing contact.
We aren't just seeing Trump campaign officials receiving information, as has been alleged in the past. That's bad enough. We're actually seeing them providing information in this case.
So I think the big question is why? Why was Paul Manafort providing this internal polling information? Did he intend for some action to be taken based on it? And how was it seen as beneficial to the Trump campaign?
Now, these documents don't answer those questions, but they continue to raise very, very big questions. BLITZER: What about this Ukrainian peace plan that -- that Manafort
supposedly discussed with this Russian operative?
HENNESSEY: Yes, so this is a peace plan that is reportedly favorable to Russian interests. Reportedly, Michael Cohen han- delivered a version of the Ukraine peace plan to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
You know, I think the question here is, you know, there's always been a little bit of a question with regards to Trump's positions, whether or not his impulse and sort of natural inclination leads him to adopt pro-Russia positions, or whether or not he's adopting those positions in coordination or at the direction of -- of Russians.
And so I do think that this gets us a little bit closer towards wondering whether or not, you know, there actually is some coordination behind the scenes.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, if in fact, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, during the campaign gave sensitive internal Trump campaign polling information to this Russian, tell our viewers why this potentially could have been significant in the Russian effort, with trolls or whatever, to try to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, one of the ways that it could help is that it gives you a closer look as to how Russians were so in tune with the temperature, the political temperature in the United States.
I mean, you know, the big question for the president -- and I'm sure we would hear from him if we hear a response at all -- is that, you know, he barely knew Paul Manafort. That he acted solo on this exchange, and that the president went out on his own and campaigned on his own in places like Michigan, in places like Wisconsin and places where the -- he says his rival, Hillary Clinton, didn't go.
So you can already see a line of defense for the president saying, "I had nothing to do with this. This is Paul Manafort. Maybe he was acting rogue." You know that he had his own financial woes and financial obligations to some oligarchs, so maybe this is one of the reasons.
But another question is why did he come work for the Trump campaign to begin with and for no money at all, no income at all?
BLITZER: Those are good questions. Dana, it does raise questions about what Donald Trump knew during the campaign about any contacts with Russians and what he knew after he was elected president.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Look, it's --- it's no small thing. Just underscore what you've been talking about -- for a campaign chairman, for a candidate for a major party to meet with a Russian intelligence officer, clearly somebody who Manafort, knowing the business dealings that he had, understood was just that, in the first place. Never mind if he didn't share more than a -- you know, a turkey sandwich. But the fact that he shared internal polling data, it begs the
important question of why. Why -- was he just trying to kind of, you know, show that he's the man and he's got, obviously because he's campaign chairman, access to information that he knows that would be of interest to Russians? Or was it something much, much more nefarious. That is a fundamental question. And look, whether or not President Trump knew about it or not, he was the campaign chairman at the time. Again, that is no small thing.
BLITZER: And polling, internal polling matters if you're trying to influence voters in sensitive battleground states like Michigan, or Wisconsin --
BLITZER: -- or Pennsylvania.
BASH: Right. Let's just kind of game this out.
If that was the reason, if he says, "Look, this is our internal polling data," if the hope was -- if the hope was that the Russians could help the Trump campaign, by having that data, they could see where the Hillary Clinton campaign was doing well, where the Trump campaign needed a little bit more help and could, potentially, guide the bots and all the other things that we now robknow about that was going on, the monkey business going on, at the behest of Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.
Again, I want to underscore, that is a big "if." But it is certainly -- there's no question of possibility that Robert Mueller is looking into, because that's the core of his mission: potential collusion with the Trump campaign and Russia.
BLITZER: If in fact the --
GOLODRYGA: And you see how big the tentacles are of this Russian operation, though. I mean, you have the troll farm, right? You people like Kilimnik. You have people associated with various intelligence agencies within Russia, which -- which fits the Russian intelligence model of sort of try everything you can, have a lot of, you know, people maybe that aren't necessarily working together or don't have a direct tie but are looking at every which way they can open the door into the U.S. political system and, obviously, into one specific campaign.
[17:40:18] BLITZER: And it's interesting, Sabrina. This information was released, supposedly, inadvertently by Manafort's lawyers. It had been redacted, made, you know, sensitive information by Mueller and his team. They didn't want this information out.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, they didn't want this information to be public. And that likely has to do with the fact that this is an ongoing investigation. There are several other witnesses who Mueller's team are in the process of interviewing. And they likely didn't want to tip their hand in terms of what information they already had access to. Now, it's quite clear that they were, of course, well aware of Paul
Manafort's meeting with Kilimnik during the course of the campaign, the fact that he shared this internal campaign polling with him at the time. And obviously, it's unclear if other members of the campaign were aware of Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik, and that's something that special prosecutors were -- the special counsel and his prosecutors were obviously interested in.
BASH: The other thing is, as you're talking, doesn't it strike you as -- OK, obviously, hindsight is 20/20 -- as exceedingly dumb for a campaign chairman to go and have a meeting with a Russian operative of that level or any level during a campaign? Because obviously, both governments know; not just the Russians but the American government knows what it is happening with people -- with key people like that.
BLITZER: And not only have a meeting but, in the course of that meeting, during the campaign, provide sensitive internal polling --
BLITZER: -- information about what the Trump campaign is learning.
GOLODRYGA: And remember, this came after that Trump Tower meeting which Natalia Veselnitskaya, which Paul Manafort was in attendance of, as well. So if you say, you know, that was a random one-off that we had no idea what the circumstances were based upon arranging this interview, then you have that -- you have that meeting followed by his own relationship with Kilimnik. A bit too much of a, you know -- one issue being Russia connected to the campaign chairman saying how can he say at this point that, "Oh, it was just an innocent mistake. I didn't know"?
BLITZER: It's a good point.
You know, Susan, let's talk a little bit about another revelation included today, an intriguing detail, in today's filing.
Manafort's attorney disputing Mueller's claim about improper contacts between Mueller [SIC] and the Trump administration after the president took office. Here's a line. Supposed to be secret, but it was out there today. "The first alleged misstatement identified in the special counsel's submission (regarding a text exchange on May 26, 2018) related to a text message from a third party asking permission to use Mr. Manafort's name as an introduction in the event the third party met the president. This does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the president."
Now, that's a little complicated. Fill in the details of why this, potentially, is significant.
HENNESSEY: I think it's potentially significant, because they are responding to an accusation. And so what they're saying here is this thing that occurred, this communication, that doesn't constitute, you know, outreach to the president.
That means that Robert Mueller has accused them of having some kind of outreach to the president. So I think that that does certainly -- you know, does certainly suggest that that is what Mueller has accused them of, and that's what they're trying to say, you know, "No. This thing that -- this communication, that doesn't count to this outreach."
SIDDIQUI: And Paul Manafort did tell Mueller's team that he did not have any contact with any members of the Trump administration in 2017 or 2018; nor did he try to make any outreach to members of the Trump administration.
Now, Mueller's team says that that is a lie. Now, maybe they're looking at this exchange as perhaps Manafort trying to have some sort of an intermediary get him in touch with members of the Trump administration. We can't necessarily say too much, because there's a lot we don't yet know about why it is that Mueller's team is so certain that Manafort was lying about the nature of his communications with the Trump administration, as this investigation continues.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Susan, there's a lot of speculation out there that Manafort was already maybe seeking some sort of presidential pardon.
HENNESSEY: Yes, so this has been one of the questions, you know, whether or not there was any kind of communication with Manafort, with Manafort's lawyers. Questions about this joint defense agreement and then whether or not, if the president did something like dangled pardoned or offered them in exchange for Manafort not cooperating, whether or not that could amount to itself obstruction of justice. So whether or not, potentially, sort of the legal questions are just piling on top of one another.
BLITZER: What have we learned, Bianna, about Russian methods, Russian operational methods in dealing with a presidential campaign from these late disclosures?
GOLODRYGA: That clearly, they weren't so structured. Right? There wasn't one direct model that the Russians seem to have approached. They tried multiple angles and channels to get into the U.S. political system and the election system, as well.
[17:45:00] Clearly, we know now, and as we were discussing, throughout the campaign leading up to the election, that for whatever reason, the President seemed to be more favorable -- or then, the candidate Donald Trump seemed to be more favorable towards Russia in some of the things that he had said and some of even the policies that they had outlined, which then you saw the Russians say, OK, this is going to be our candidate. This is going to be our guy. We are going to help him.
The big question is, was there collusion? Did the President know about this? And there are still so many unanswered questions. The first one and the top one I have is, what took place during that meeting in Helsinki between the two of them?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's a good question.
(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: And I'm sure someday we'll probably know. Everybody, stick around. There is more we're following on the breaking news.
Also, North Korea's brutal dictator turns up in China. What is Kim Jong-un looking for in his fourth visit with China's powerful and ambitious leader?
[17:50:31] BLITZER: As we suspected, Kim Jong-un was aboard that special armored train that traveled from North Korea to China. CNN's Brian Todd has more on what Kim is likely up to.
What are your sources telling you, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told that Kim Jong-un's train arrived in Beijing under very heavy security and secrecy, with few people allowed to view the train's arrival and no one allowed to film it.
He is meeting with China's president. These two men are said to despise each other personally, but, tonight, they're engaging in crucial discussions on how to deal with President Trump.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Kim Jong-un is meeting with one of his only and arguably most important allies, the President of China. With Kim seemingly a different man than he was a year ago.
Then, the 30-something-year-old dictator was a pariah on the world stage. Now he is a player, meeting with other leaders on equal footing.
But experts say Kim's meeting in Beijing, the result of a secret late- night train trip, could still have the air of a young, ambitious leader seeking affirmation from his mentor at a crucial time. Just as President Trump talks about a second summit with Kim.
JOSEPH YUN, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: For Kim to go to Beijing now is to get the green light, that I'm going to see Trump and this is the outline of what I have in mind. Can you give that stamp of approval?
TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Kim has come to pay deference to Xi before new summits with Trump and South Korea's Moon Jae-in, despite the fact that Kim and Xi are said to personally dislike each other.
The Chinese are believed to have been furious with Kim for executing his own uncle, Jang Song-thaek, considered China's man in Pyongyang. And they were long fed up with Kim's relentless quest for nuclear weapons.
HARRY KAZIANIS, DIRECTOR OF DEFENSE STUDIES, CENTER FOR THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Let's face it -- China is trying to rise, they're trying to dominate all of Asia. And when you have an ally that essentially goes rogue every few years, testing nuclear weapons, testing hydrogen bombs, testing ICBMs, that really makes China very nervous.
TODD (voice-over): Still, ties between North Korea and China run deep, forged in blood when more than 130,000 Chinese troops were killed fighting for the Kim regime during the Korean War.
Since then, it has only helped China to keep North Korea's brutal leaders in place. That's because if North Korea fell, experts say, China fears hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, who stayed put because they are paralyzed by fear, would stream across the border seeking a better life.
At the same time, North Korea relies on China to look the other way as goods banned by international sanctions flow across that same border. It's a symbiotic relationship, often symbolized with storied trips to China by Kim's father and grandfather who, like Kim, always traveled on a train built like a fortress.
MICHAEL MADDEN, AUTHOR AND EDITOR, NORTH KOREA LEADERSHIP WATCH: It is armored. It has the ability -- on the roof of the train, there is the ability to land a helicopter while the train is moving. There are air escorts with the train. There are North Korean Air Force jets that will fly over while the train processes through North Korea.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, experts warn that North Korean train has united two men who, working together, could cause serious damage to two of President Trump's signature policies -- escalating a trade war with China while preventing a nuclear one with North Korea.
KAZIANIS: If I'm Donald Trump, I realize that Kim Jong-un really does have a China card to play if he wants to, and Xi Jinping has his very own North Korea card if he wants to play it.
The problem for Donald Trump is this -- he cannot take on North Korea and get North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons by taking on China at the same time in a trade war.
TODD: Analysts say President Trump should also be mindful of the fact that Xi Jinping is probably briefing Kim on how to work that personal dynamic with President Trump, to flatter Trump, manipulate him to try to get what you want, make lofty promises.
Experts say Kim has already done some of that at the Singapore summit and with those personal letters to President Trump. But they say, after this meeting with Xi Jinping, Kim is probably going to step that game up a notch, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens next, Brian. Good report, thank you.
Coming up, breaking news. A stunning court document from the Mueller probe reveals that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met overseas with an alleged Kremlin operative, shared confidential campaign polling data during the campaign. Plus, President Trump gets ready to speak from the Oval Office, trying
to sell a skeptical nation on his border wall. Will he dare to declare a national emergency to get what he wants?
[17:54:58] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Manafort's secrets exposed. A new court filing reveals former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling information with an alleged Kremlin operative during the 2016 campaign. Did Manafort's lawyers mistakenly make some key evidence in the Mueller probe public?
[17:59:56] Supreme denial. The high court rules against the mystery company owned by a foreign government in a case related to the Mueller investigation. Are there new clues about the secret identity of what's being called Country A?