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E-mail To Trump Jr.: Anti-Clinton Info Is "Very High Level"; "Part of Russia and Its Government's Support for Mr. Trump." Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 11, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Before I ask you, Jeff about these e-mails because there's an important question there. The whole question of adoption, that was the explanation from Don Jr. at the beginning when this first broke --


BASH: -- on Saturday that it was all about adoption. Certainly at least in these e-mails, leading up to it, nothing about adoption.

SCIUTTO: No, not mentioned once.

BASH: Jeff Zeleny, these e-mails. Not only do we get a batch of the back and forth between Don Trump Jr. and Goldstone, who, again, was the intermediary, a friend, but it's clear that Don Trump Jr. forwarded the e-mails to two very important people.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very important people. Two of the most important people with the exception of one in Trump tower that day. And those people were, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, who's gone on to be a senior adviser to the president and Paul Manafort who was at that moment the chairman of the campaign who left after the convention. But he forwarded the e-mail saying the time of the meeting has changed until 4:00 p.m. It was initially supposed to be 3:00 p.m. on the 9th of June.

So this shows that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort could see this entire chain, the intent from the Russian government.

BASH: Bingo.

ZELENY: The intent to try and to take down the Clinton campaign and I think that is significant. And again, it raises the question, did the president know about this meeting. Since it was changed to 4:00, the president that day was only blocks away at the Four Seasons, having his first Trump victory fund event and it was over -- well, before 4 p.m. he was back at Trump Tower.

It's a big place. He could have been at his apartment. We have no evidence he was at the meeting. But the question is, did he know about the meeting? The White House says, in fact did not.

But interesting to point out, a month after this happened, Donald Trump Jr. came on to CNN, he told our Jake Tapper, he went after the Clinton campaign at the mere suggestion that any Russians were involved. He called it disgusting, phony. So their credibility here at this point after these months is pretty thin and questionable. We'll see what the White House has to say about this later this afternoon.

BASH: Well, on that note, Jim Sciutto, one of Don Jr.'s defenses that he's been tweeting about over the past days has been, what about the Democrats and Hillary Clinton's meetings with the Ukrainians? Do you think that there's an analogy there? I mean, do you think he has a legitimate defense?

SCIUTTO: Well, one difference is that -- I mean, his defense in effect that this is political opposition research, whether it came from Ukrainians, Russians or someone in the states, that's one point. He mentioned that again in this statement. Two, the difference is that Russia is a major U.S. adversary and of course was at the time hacking or meddling in the U.S. election.

He says in his note today, attached to these e-mails that this was before, in his words, the Russian fever was in vogue. In other words, before he was aware it was out there that the Russia was there. And that's a fair argument. U.S. intelligence services had not come out and said Russia is meddling in our election. But on the difference with Ukraine, I mean, Jeff was covering the campaign.

ZELENY: It was so significantly different -- I mean, in the sense that we do not know again if there were other meetings. He said at this point, I would be happy to -- I love the idea of this. I love it especially later in the summer.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: We don't know if (INAUDIBLE) but this is only a part and parcel of the meddling. I mean, it went on to sort of, you know, this is not all that was done.

BASH: No question.

ZELENY: And in the summer and fall, they went hard after electronically after Hillary Clinton with bots and other things. They meddled in the election.

BASH: OK, stand by guys. We have a lot more on our breaking news right after the break. Stay with us.


[12:37:38] BASH: If you're just tuning in, we are digging through a series of explosive e-mails to and from Donald Trump Jr. released by Donald Trump Jr. today. It came from a time period leading up to the meeting that he had in June of 2016 with a Russian government attorney. As well, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and at the time, the campaign chair Paul Manafort were also at that meeting. Now, the e-mails begin with this from a British publicist and former tabloid journalist named Rob Goldstone. "Emin, a mutual Russian acquaintance just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with Emin's father this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump. I can also send this info to your father but it is sensitive -- excuse but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first."

And then Donald Trump Jr. replied in part. "Thanks Rob I appreciate that. If it's what you say I love it."

Now, let's bring in our panel to discuss all of this. Jackie Kucinich is here from the Daily Beast, along with CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson and Jeff Zeleny and Jackie Calmes from the Los Angeles Times.

Jeff, I'll start with you. You cover the White House every day. First and foremost, what do you make of the fact that Donald Trump Jr. is the one to release these? I mean, we hear leak, leak, leak, leak, leak. This was an intentional release but he didn't just offer it unsolicited?

ZELENY: He did not offer it just because he wanted to be transparent. (INAUDIBLE) we're on day four of this now. I mean, the New York Times first reported this on Saturday. So you have Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The reason that Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyer released these this afternoon in the tweet or late this morning I should say is because the New York Times was on the verge again of publishing all of it. The New York Times is writing in its story today that they were on the verge of publishing them, they called Donald Trump Jr. for comment about all of these. He did not respond to just a request for comment but instead released all of these.

[12:40:06] This is what we call sort of getting ahead of the story, you know? Friday afternoon document coming Tuesday shortly before lunch and that shows you the severity of all this. But I think as you said, it's important to point out. No, this is not a leak.

This is something that he is putting out there which means, a, he confirms the authenticity of them first and foremost. And b, they realized that the story isn't going away and they must be ahead of it. And again, to point it out, they were forwarded to Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort as well.

BASH: Jackie, the president's -- one of the president's legal advisers is Jay Sekulow was on Fox this morning before we got the e- mails. And here's what his defense was. I want you to listen.


ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I just continue to wait for some brave soul in Congress. It needs to be a Republican because they're in charge. Somebody's got to step up and say enough is enough. We have too much evidence at this point that the administration has been compromised by Russian interests.


BASH: Forgive me. That was Robby Mook not the -- officially not the president's legal adviser. Robby Mook talking about the fact that he wants Republicans to step up and, in fact, there have been Republicans who said that they're very concerned about it since then. Now, let's play Jay Sekulow, the president's legal adviser.


JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP'S LEGAL ADVISER: You're asking basically, is everybody reviewing notes? Of course people review notes, review data and find out that data, but this is much ado about nothing. No one has pointed to me where there's a legal violation of a meeting with a Russian lawyer --


SEKULOW: -- that involved the campaign.


BASH: So, are they just not talking to each other? The lawyers? Did he not talk to Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney and know that these e-mails were even out there?

JACKIE CALMES, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The level of -- it's either incompetence or malpractice. And I don't think any of us really know for sure. It's just complete mystery. I would be lying to you if I said I could explain almost any of this.

BASH: You've covered Washington and politics for a few years. Have you seen anything like this? Because, you know, Jeff was talking about the fact, that, you know, that they got out ahead of the story by releasing these e-mails themselves. I mean, getting out ahead of the story a month, a year and a month after the meeting was held.


BASH: And a year after this investigation began? You know, not so sure how ahead they got.

CALMES: Well, I'm sure at CNN and it's already beginning that you're going back over your clips for the past year. This is a year --

BASH: No question.

CALMES: -- in which everyone from Donald Trump on down has not only denied all of these but denied it vehemently, and attacked the media who was asking about it for pursuing fake news. Donald Trump Jr.'s e- mails here that have Jared Kushner's name and Paul Manafort's name in them and communications with them, that's not fake news. And -- so now that they're going to be confronted with a year's worth of clips and quotes that they're you know, their credibility, which was already dangerously low is just about shot.

BASH: Well, the Washington Post has already has started to do what you suggest that no surprise, Jackie --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're always on top of it.

BASH: Not only did Donald Trump Jr. on Saturday say this was a meeting about Russian adoption and nothing else. In March, he said that there were no meetings representing the campaign with the Russians. In January, the president-elect said there was no contact between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign.

(INAUDIBLE) back in November, blanket denial. No communication with a foreign entity. And it goes on and on and on --


BASH: -- of denials, you know. Again, this is political. Making a denial in public to the press is not -- something that -- it's not criminal. The big question is -- I mean, obviously, number one is the just the very real legal question.

HENDERSON: Yes (INAUDIBLE) in some ways it will be up to Republicans to decide what the political ramifications of that -- of this are going forward. And we've seen some Republicans come out today and essentially say it's much ado about nothing, and also, what about Clinton, the clinton campaign, and in Ukraine. But there are other Republicans, more senior Republicans, people like Lindsey Graham, people like John McCain that obviously the more interesting to listen to, as well as people like Richard Burr, who was at the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This is, I mean, the fact you have e-mails in this documentation, and the changing story from Donald Trump Jr. Oh, it was really about adoptions as he initially said and then finally admitting that it was about something else. And then suggests apparently that other people didn't necessarily know what the meeting was about?

He's talking to someone worked on a former campaign and said that would never happen. Where you have these three most senior people on a campaign who go to a meeting and have no idea what the meeting is about. So, you know, it will be -- we'll watch today to see what Republicans come out with today.

[12:45:03] BASH: So Jackie, before I come to you, I want you to see something that Erick Erickson said. Now Erick Erickson to people out there who might not know, he's a conservative but he also is somebody who has been extremely critical of President Trump and then candidate Trump. He was one of the last never Trumpers. But here's what he said in his publication The Resurgent.

"You might not like it but that's sleazy politics. It is not illegal. It was foreign interference in an American election. So, too, was the British spy circulating a dossier of information to ruin President Trump's campaign." Now, again, he's trying to make a point that politics is dirty and nobody out there would be surprised about that. But is it different when it comes to a foreign national and specifically a foreign adversary?

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: I'm not a lawyer but it certainly seems different. It certainly -- especially this isn't just a foreign entity. This is an adversary.

This is an entity that the U.S. intelligence agencies say tried to meddle in the U.S. elections. This is a much bigger deal than someone in Iowa finding, you know, some dirt on Hillary Clinton and sliding it to the Trump campaign.

But, yes, politics is sleazy like that. This is very different. So different that the Trump campaign decided to deny it for months -- you have -- that kind of coordinated denial, which we've seen for the last year plus doesn't happen because politics is sleazy. There's a reason that they were not -- they didn't want to talk about this.

And we're starting to see Erick Erickson aside on the Hill, we're already seeing weariness when they have to answer questions about Trump and Russia. This is not going to help and it extends beyond Russia to the president's other agenda items. But I imagine on the Hill there's a lot of people now saying I haven't seen those e-mails and are not want to going to want to talk about but they're going to have to.



BASH: Because they realized that this is a very big deal. Everybody stand by. We're going to take a quick break and coming up, we're have a lot more on the explosive e-mail chain that we've been talking about released by Donald Trump Jr. about his meeting with a Russian lawyer. Stay with us.


[12:51:31] BASH: And back to our breaking news. President Trump's eldest son Donald Trump Jr. just released e-mails regarding his meetings with a Russian lawyer. Publicist Ron Goldstone offering him very high level and sensitive information that would incriminate Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr.'s response, if it's what you say, I love it.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator Brian Fallon who was the press secretary for the Hillary Clinton Campaign. And Brian, I want to start with your response just generally to what you thought when you heard this.

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Quite frankly, Dana, my mind is blown a little bit. For as possible and even likely as many of us that worked on the campaign thought that the Trump campaign may have been colluding with the Russian government. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think you'd see a piece of evidence that would be as much of a smoking gun as this e-mail. I thought that at best, at the end of this investigation, you'd have a bunch of circumstantial evidence that would be a close call in terms of, you know, any -- having any criminal repercussions to it.

But this is as clear as day. Usually when somebody engaged in some type of conspiracy, they are better at covering their tracks, but here you have the publicist saying in an e-mail, they were using e-mail, and he's putting in writing that this is part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign, and identifying the person that he's trying to set up Don Jr. to meet with as a Russian government lawyer, and they take the meeting. And it's not just Donald Trump Jr. taking the meeting but it's the high command of the campaign proper.

You have the campaign chair Paul Manafort and the son-in-law Jared Kushner then deciding to join the meeting. So, I think it's impossible -- as much legal hot water as Donald Trump Jr. is probably in now, I think it's impossible to believe the president himself was unaware of this apparent effort by the Russian government that was known to others in the Trump campaign, that it's impossible to believe that the president himself did not know about this, and now you assume Donald Trump Jr. is going to have to answer questions under oath, if not, not just before Congress but also probably in front of a grand jury. At least in an interview with Bob Mueller's investigative team and he's going to be asked about conversations he may have had with his father in the months after this meeting.

Even if the president didn't know about this meeting itself, it's impossible to think that for all the months during the campaign as the e-mails were being leaked out by the Russians, that there wasn't at some point a conversation where the son revealed to the father that he knew of a Russian government plot to help the Trump campaign.

BASH: Brian, I want to show you part of Donald Trump Jr.'s political defense. This is something that he tweeted on Monday. "Everybody is forgetting that Clinton allies did the same thing as Don Jr." He re- tweeted a story from the Daily Caller which talked about the fact that there was a report in January about a veteran DNC operative who had worked in the Clinton White House, who was working with the Ukrainian government, and officials there to help dig up dirt on Donald Trump and on his allies. Does he have a point?

[12:55:05] FALLON: I know of -- I know nothing about that report and I know of no contact that our campaign proper ever had with any foreign government. But keep in mind, what also makes this more troubling in the case of Russia and the trump campaign is, this wasn't just cooperation for the sake of helping get Donald Trump elected. Donald Trump is now paying the Russians back for the assistance the Russian government provided him in the form of adopting the Russian government's position on any number of issues.

Just think, you know, Congress, the Senate passed by I think a 98-2 vote a few weeks ago, a new round of sanctions against the Russian government in response for their aggression in Crimea and in response to their meddling in our election. And the Trump White House right now as we speak is trying to kill that bill. He's trying to unwind the sanctions that the Senate thinks is appropriate to impose on Russia as we speak.

Also, as we speak, there are apparently the Trump administration is considering giving back the two spy installations that the Obama administration stripped the Russians off after meddling in the election came to light. So, in addition to all statements he made against NATO during the campaign, the friendly stance he continues to take towards Vladimir Putin, I mean, there is a direct connection to the United States foreign policy that should trouble lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

BASH: Brian Fallon, thank you so much for joining me. Unfortunately, we're out of time. But we are going to have a lot more on this breaking story up next.

Thank you for joining me on the INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer is on the chair right after the break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for --