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INSIDE POLITICS

E-mail Shows Effort to Give Trump Team WikiLeaks Docs; Americans Slowly Giving Trump More Credit for Economy; Democrats Pushing for DACA Deal in Spending Bill; Sexual Harassment Allegations Roil Capitol Hill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:32:32] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

Exclusive new details on the Russian meddling investigation this morning raising more questions about what Donald Trump Jr. says he can't remember. CNN has learned about a September 2016 e-mail provided to congressional investigators. That e-mail addressed to then candidate Trump, to his son, and others in the Trump Organization offered a decryption key and a web address where the sender said the campaign could access, hacked WikiLeaks documents.

CNN's Manu Raju broke the story and Manu joins me now. Manu, lots of questions but first and foremost, do your sources tell you about the e-mail's source and whether it was legitimate?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's one thing the investigators are still trying to figure out. Whether or not this was a legitimate effort by someone connected to WikiLeaks to provide documents to the Trump campaign in the heat of the campaign.

This came on September 4, 2016 offering a decryption key and web address to get these documents. Also, it offered the chance to get Colin Powell documents as well. The former secretary of state, his own e-mails have been released 10 days after this e-mail was sent to candidate Trump, Donald Trump Jr., as well as Donald Trump Jr.'s personal assistant.

Now, Donald Trump Jr. was asked about this earlier this week at the House Intelligence Investigation and he said he had no recollection of this. This came from a sender named Mike Erickson and we don't know who this individual is.

And after we reported the story this morning, Trump Jr.'s attorney put out a statement saying this -- saying that, "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 Dana, on the day of Donald Trump Jr.'s -- they received this e- mail, Donald Trump Jr. for the first time tweeted about WikiLeaks. Also raising some questions for investigators to look ahead, to understand whether or not he knew about this e-mail. You know, he said, he did not recall it when he was asked about it earlier this week, Dana.

BASH: Manu, thank you. Thanks for that great reporting.

And we're back with our panel. Lauren, I want to remind everybody including our viewers about what Donald Trump Jr. himself said but in the one public interview he has done after we learned about this meeting that he had in June of 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: There was no follow-up because there's nothing there to follow-up.

[12:35:00] You know, as we were walking in, he said, look, I'm sorry for that. In the end there was probably some bait and switch about what was really supposed to be about instead of, you know, there is nothing there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Nothing there. Again, according to Manu, Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers again this morning insisting that he didn't follow-up, he didn't remember seeing this e-mail. But obviously, this is raising even more questions, giving investigators even more fodder for the issue.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: When we watched that clip, I think it's clear that a lot of people are trying to discredit the Russia investigation right now, saying that there are these tiny connections that Mueller is trying to thread together to make some kind of, you know, big statement about what went on during the 2016 campaign. But they were saying is, oh, this was just a little thing over here and I don't remember this and that really wasn't a big deal. And I think moving forward, that gets much tougher to continue trying to do.

BASH: Yes. And with the drip, drip, drip. You mentioned the move to discredit Robert Mueller which has grown louder and louder as this week has gone on as more information has come out. It's hard to imagine that there isn't a coincidence left there.

Let's just show a couple of examples from Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE: Let's face it. What we're saying here is a pattern and practice of Mueller hiring known Clinton and Obama political insiders and boosters, supporters to undo a presidential election. The election of Donald Trump.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, HANNITY: Robert Mueller is partisan, extremely biased, hyperpartisan attack team. We're going to name names tonight and explain exactly who these Trump-hating investigators really are. And why this entire witch hunt needs to be shut down and shut down immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WARREN, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think everybody is jumping to a lot of conclusions here to say the least. I mean, you heard the argument that this is an attempt to undo a presidential election. You read these reports like what CNN has found out and you think, well, this must be the smoking gun.

I don't think (INAUDIBLE) in the capes. What we are finding however is, we're finding more information that at the very least suggest that Russia itself and Russia clients, people like WikiLeaks as it turn out to be (INAUDIBLE) were trying actively and thought that they had a chance to actively influence the election through the Trump campaign.

As far as this effort to discredit the Mueller investigation goes, I think it's problematic to suggest -- there are some problems here and what we learned about this FBI agent, Peter Strzok who was texting with somebody, someone, he was having an affair with them. I would like to see what the anti-Trump texts sent, were they sort of one of the (INAUDIBLE). Can you believe what this guy said or were they something worse?

But until we know what that is, the attempt to sort of paint a broad brush in the entire FBI and the Mueller investigation -- after Mueller removed him from the investigation, I think is really, really far- fetched and is looking for an excuse to discredit the Mueller investigation.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, no question that Peter Strzok in the situation, you know, put a blot on the Mueller team. But he did act very quickly to get rid of him. This is an effort we've been seeing since the very beginning since the special counsel was first named at the White House and President Trump's allies and Republicans on the Hill to some extent have tried to discredit him.

At first, he was a Comey pal and now his investigators are somehow partisan. He has a big team of investigators. I don't know anyone who thinks they know the political affiliation of all those people. But it's a way to undercut whatever it is that comes out.

And as more and more things come out, that becomes more valuable to the White House.

BASH: Absolutely, there's no question. And as somebody at this table yesterday said, it's hard to imagine successfully painting all FBI agents as tree-hugging liberals.

But we leave you right there. We want to remind our viewers about an important programming note tonight. CNN's Jim Sciutto investigates the downfall of Michael Flynn from military legend to his part in the Russia investigation.

You can watch CNN Special Report tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And up next, another strong jobs report to end the year. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. So are voters ready to give President Trump credit for the strengthening economy? We'll talk about that, next.

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[12:43:43] BASH: Welcome back.

Some good news today from this month's jobs report. Employers added 228,000 jobs last month and that employment remains at a 17-month -- excuse, 17-year low. This, plus a stock market that keeps hitting record levels. It's all a wonderful holiday gift politically for the president.

He is of course someone who loves to talk about economic growth on his watch. And it appears Americans are giving him more and more credit for it.

Check out this poll numbers from Quinnipiac University. For the first time, just as many Americans credit President Trump with the state of the economy as President Obama. Back in March, just 19 percent of Americans thought President Trump was more responsible and now the split is almost even. In fact, far more Americans say President Trump deserves the credit for the stock market and the job market.

Unfortunately for him, it doesn't seem to be translating into his overall job well done factor for the president. His approval rating is pretty grim. A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows just 32 percent of Americans approve of his presidential performance.

And we are back around the table. I wanted to show a couple more numbers on this which is all good.

[12:45:01] Unemployment as I mentioned, it keeps falling. In January of 2015, it was 5.7 percent. There you see it was down to 4.1 percent this month. Economic growth dipped to 0.5 percent between January 2015 and January 2016, but it spiked back up to 3.3 percent in September of this year.

CARL HULSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I think this is all good news and I think it's natural that people start to give President Trump and his administration some credit. He's been there 11 months.

Oddly, it's also an issue surrounding the tax bill. Because how much of this is already baked into the economy that people are expecting the tax bill to come in.

So, will the tax bill spur the growth that the Republicans say it will? And if it falls a little short, they're going to feel it politically. So, you know, it's the old -- well, it's a good news right now, but how is this going to play out?

BASH: Yes, and that's really true. I mean, I have heard from so many people outside in the real world, particularly in the business world saying just that. That it's baked in. The idea that there will be tax reform and that is a big part of the economic growth.

DAVIS: Right. And we hear President Trump and people around him saying over and over again, look at this great growth that we're getting now. It's three percent, it could be four percent. I've heard the president go as high as six percent.

The fact is, the business world and Wall Street and the country in general has been hold now for months and months that this tax cut, a massive tax cut is coming, that it's going to be a cut of corporate rates and it's going to be bigger than anything they've ever seen.

And they priced that in and so now the question is, how much can we go above the really good growth levels that we are seeing right now. And if it falls short, they're going to have a problem in terms of revenue.

I mean, this bill costs a lot of money and they've been saying that growth will compensate. Now, we already have a lot of that growth so where is there to go from here?

BASH: Speaking of costing a lot of money, today was the deadline for the government to potentially shut down. Congress and the president averted it, they passed a two-week continuing resolution to keep it going. The president signed that this morning.

Meanwhile, there was some bipartisanship a little bit, at least a bipartisan meeting yesterday. And we just wanted to show you and our viewers some of the highlights from the moments when the poll was brought in -- I mean, the cameras were brought into this meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a friendly well unified group. It's a well-knit together group of people. And we hope that we're going to make some great progress for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're here in the spirit of, let's get it done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here to make progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to reach a bipartisan agreement to finish out the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to resume conversations. I'm grateful for the leaders of both political parties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The only thing there missing was this fire pit in the middle. More as in singing Kumbaya.

WARREN: And strumming a guitar, right. That's all they'll need.

BASH: Exactly. But, listen, real quick, Lauren. The reality is that there are some really hard choices that they have to make in the next two weeks because that's all the room that they gave themselves. Most importantly, the so-called Dreamers, it sounds like that's going to be punted until next year.

FOX: Well, I think, part of the problem is, they could see another government shutdown in two weeks. And so they have a lot of work to do. And you're right, a lot Democrats in the House have been saying we need to do something for the Dreamers but we have to remember that leadership needs Republican and Democratic votes to pass this.

In the Senate where they need eight Republic -- where they need eight Democratic senators, they just probably are not going to be able to do Dreamers this is year. It's becoming very clear that that's the direction.

BASH: Yes, it does seem. I agree.

Stay with us. Up next, waking up Friday morning, Capitol Hill looks a whole lot different than it did on Monday. We'll talk about why after the break.

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[12:53:21] BASH: Three lawmakers out of office in one week. On Monday, Senator Al Franken and Congressman John Conyers have given no indication they had any intention of abandoning their post. We had no idea Congressman Trent Franks had done anything inappropriate.

This morning, all three are on their way out. Resigned in disgrace after women stepped forward and said the men sexually harassed them.

We're back around the table, and Carl Hulse, I have covered Congress for many, many years with you. This is -- everyone is calling it a reckoning, but how much do you think it is really going to affect the culture?

HULSE: I actually do think it's going to affect --

BASH: Or already is?

HULSE: I think that, you know, you can't go back and erase what you've done in the past. I do think everyone is on notice right now in a serious way. This is jarring.

Congressional careers like John Conyers who has been there since the 60s, they don't end overnight like this usually. So, this is a real shift out there and I think that it's going to claim some more. I don't think we've seen the last people who send in a statement that they're quitting as of this afternoon.

FOX: I also just think that the women on Capitol Hill are feeling more comfortable coming forward. You know, a couple of weeks ago we were saying, there's all these stories about the culture on Capitol Hill but no one wants to come forward because these are very powerful members. Clearly, there is an appetite to take women's stories seriously, and I think that has made a big difference.

WARREN: I do wonder if there is something that people on Capitol Hill are missing, a bigger picture. This is not simply just about the sexual harassment revolution we're sort of seeing in the country. There's also a big problem because it's Congress of public trust.

[12:55:00] And finding out about these payments for instance from Blake Farenthold's office or from John Conyers' office, I think really threatens the public trust in institutions. So it's a bigger problem in many ways for Congress beyond this sort of revolution that's happening.

DAVIS: Well, much like the Harvey Weinstein situation. For many people in Capitol Hill, certainly women who have been around Capitol Hill for a long time, a lot of this was an open secret that there were some behavior that crossed a lot of lines and no one ever talked about it. And as Lauren said, women are now feeling empowered to come forward and the institution itself is really starting to respond. And I think that can't be reversed.

BASH: It definitely can't be and it is long overdue in Congress in most things lags behind. And I think this is no different but it seems as though there is a change and this week certainly showed that.

Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 8 p.m. in Jerusalem, 9 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

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