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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  March 2, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm PST

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thanks for joining us. don't forget you can watch out front anytime, anywhere. "ac 360" begins right now. good evening. john berman here in for anderson cooper. undisclosed contact between russia and donald trump associates during and after the campaign. one after the other after the other. just weeks ago, president trump flatly proclaimed he had nothing to do with russia and no person he deals with does. well, his attorney general did. today, he recused himself from any campaign investigation because of it. tonight, we are learning other advisers did, too, during the republican convention. cnn's jim acosta has that. he joins us from the white house. what are you learning? >> reporter: that's right, john. we understand from talking to a former national security
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adviser, j.d. gor ddon, he and others met with the russian ambassador during the republican convention in cleveland last july. according to j.d. gordon, the me meeting occurred during it. gordon said he and other advisers explained how they would like to see and the campaign would like to seibert relations between u.s. and russia. all this is important because gordon says he was part of a trump campaign effort to put a change in the republican party platform that advocated against the arming of the ukrainians and the fight against the prorussian rebels. that was a hot topic at the time. j.d. gordon tells me, at no time during the conversations was there talk of a quick proquo and in exchange for doing this at the convention, the trump campaign was hoping for help from the russians. he said nothing like that was
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discussed with the russian ambassador. the reason they saw the change in the republican party platform is earlier in the year, in march, during a national security meeting at the unfinished hotel in washington, d.c., and a meeting chaired business jeff sessions, the attorney general, then candidate trump talked about his desire to not enter into world war iii over eukraine. at the time, he had the candidates wishes and interests at heart when he decided to seek that change in the platform. i am told by j.d. gordon he spoke to sarah huckabee sanders about the meet thag occurred during the convention earlier today. this is an indication, john, that the white house here is very interested in all those contacts that former campaign advisers had with the russian ambassador. >> more contacts popping up. the president said he did not believe happened. jim acosta at the white house.
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stand by, we are going to come back to you in a moment. the attorney general, what he said about his contacts with the russians during the confirmation hearings and what was said. pamela brown has that. >> recused myself in the matters that deal with the trump campaign. >> reporter: tonight, just three weeks into his job at the top cop, sessions announcing he is taking himself off any investigations regarding russia after revelations that he failed to disclose two meetings he had with russia's ambassador to the u.s., a man considered by u.s. intelligence to be one of russia's top spies. >> let me be clear, i never had meetings with russian operatives or russian intermediaries about the trump campaign. the idea that i was part of a, quote, continuing exchange of information during the campaign
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between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government is totally false. >> reporter: the two meetings between sessions and the russian ambassador took place last year on the sidelines at the republican convention, then again september 8 when the russian ambassador met senator sessions in his office when he was a member of the senate armed committee. at the time, sessions was also a leading trump campaign surrogate. >> you swear -- >> reporter: at sessions hearing january 10th, he denied contacts between trump surrogates and russia. >> if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign.
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i did not have communications with the russians. i'm unable to comment. >> reporter: tonight, sessions defending his answer. >> i was taken aback a little bit about this brand-new information, this allegation that surrogates and i had been called a surrogate for donald trump, had been meeting continuously with russian officials and that's what i focused my answer on. in retrospect, i should have slowed down and said i met one russian official a couple times. >> reporter: last night when the news broke, officials said sessions did not remember the details of the meetings. then his spokesperson said he met with multiple foreign ambassadors in his role on the armed services committee, not a trump campaign surrogate. comments about the election did come up in the talks. late last night, in a written statement, sessions denied holding meetings with the
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purpose of discussing the 2016 campaign with the russians, saying, quote, i never met with any russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. i have no idea what this allegation is about, it is falsz. still, some democratic leaders are calling on sessions to resign. >> it would be better for the country if he would resign. >> he has proved he is unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust. >> pamela brown joins us now. how unusual is it for an attorney general to recuse himself or herself in a matter like this? >> it's not unusual for attorney's general to recuse themselves. in fact, there have been several attorneys generals in the past, including eric holder under president obama who did several times in several cases. it's not that unusual. of course, there isn't always drama surrounding it as in this case. typically, what happens, if an attorney general tries to recuse
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his or herself, the deputy attorney general or a u.s. attorney who is appointed would oversee the case. that is the expectation for what will happen in this case. in rare cases, john, a special prosecutor will be appointed. typically, the department of justice want as hand in the investigation. for that to happen, that would be the deputy attorney general or u.s. attorney. john? >> pamela brown, thanks so much. this just in. we got response from the white house from the president himself. let's go back to jim acosta at the white house. jim, what did he say? >> reporter: right, john, there's a statement from the president on this. we received this the last several minutes. we can put it on screen. he defends the attorney general to some extent saying he could have said it more clearly. he is an honest man. he did not say anything wrong. he could have stated the response more accurately, but it was not intentional. it's a way of saving face. losing an election everyone
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thought they would win. they lost the election. now they lost their grip on reality, the president says. the real story is all the illegal leaks, classified and other information. it is a total witch hunt, extra mags point, that is the comment tonight. john, i was on air force one earlier today. the white house press secretary held a brief gaggle with reporters saying there is no there there when it comes to the story. when you have a drip, drip, drip of information coming out almost every day, a couple times a week at the very least, there is some there there. take example the other bit of information we learned, jared kushner t president's son-in-law and michael flynn, the resigned national security adviser had an undisclosed meeting with the ambassador at trump tower in december. that was not disclosed to reporters in december. >> we didn't know about that. now we do. this is a lot of new information we are getting all at once, jim
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acosta. does the white house know one week ago they hadn't told us any of that. >> reporter: that's right thachlt is why we have gone back to the president repeatedly and asked him that question. this is the question i tried to ask back in january. you'll recall we tried to ask the question, did associates have contacts with the russians. he did not answer that question from me, ended up answering from somebody else. he said no, not yet. then he answered again where he was asked this question once again. he sort of dances around, offering a definitive answer on this. i think the reason why is so many of his associates, even his son-in-law, were having contacts and meetings with this russian ambassador that were previously undisclosed. it begs the question, why not get all this information out now? it seems like it would serve them from a pr standpoint.
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>> he said i have nothing to do with russia. to the best of my knowledge, no person i deal with does. the list of people with contacts with russia keeps growing. thank you for being was. joining us, chief national correspondent, john king and gloria bornlger, karl bernstein, reporter, a cnn political analyst. john king here. you know, jim acosta talked about the drip, drip, drip we have seen. you know, first it was the attorney general. then the meetings in august we learned about today. then the meeting with jared kushner. a lot of meetings with russians. specifically the russian ambassador. >> john, there's a serious case of jitters among republicans because of this. number one, they got surprised by the man who was supposed to be their friend, jeff sessions, the attorney general. two, u i don't understand there's a playbook for dealing with these things. everybody knows, the trump administration knows blaming democrats for this. yes, it makes sense.
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try to rally political supporters making it all political. democrats didn't invite them to the russian convention. they didn't invite him to trump tower. democrats didn't set up the meetings we are learning after the fact t. president's statement doesn't quite add up or address the facts. here is why republicans are worried. they are happy he recused himself. they think that turns the temperature down momentarily. there's a basic politics 101 playbook. bill clinton used it. if you know there's information out there that is going to kick you in the teeth at some point and other people know about it, especially at a time you are fighting with the intelligence community and you know they know about it, find a venue, do an interview with a friendly media outlet. find a venue to get it out. republicans are nervous. they find out about jeff sessions and now other meetings. either this is amateur hour in the white house or they are not getting it out on their own for
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some other reason. >> everything we hear is different than we were told initially by the trump teachl. michael flynn, they didn't talk sanctions, they did and he lied to the vice president about it. the attorney general, i didn't meet with russians. now it turns out he did. we are learning about this new meeting at the convention with trump associates. there's something different about the reality from what we are hearing at the beginning. >> seems to be a changing story. i think what we need is for the white house and to john's point, they should have done it a while ago to put out a list of everybody who had contact with the russian ambassador. the only person doing his job here is the russian ambassador who is actually trying to infiltrate the administration. he's like zelig, showing up everything in the front row, the speech, the republican convention. i think, you know, jeff sessions trying to explain his memory lapse today by saying, you know,
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i was taken aback because it was a news story that senator franken was telling me about. i had a hard problem processing that. then he said, you know, looking back on it, i guess i should have slowed down and said that i did meet with one official. then, he recalled his meeting with that official in great detail today, saying it got testy. they were talking about ukraine and the russians said everybody else was to blame. if he remembers it in that detail, he should have said it at the hearing or amended the record afterwards. >> invited to lunch and declining. a lot of details he knew there. the meeting that happened in august between trump associates, there were some content, at least at the convention that happened after that meeting that was of note. the republican platform was watered down on the issue of
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ukraine and russia, the idea of saying the united states would support arming the ukrainians against the battle of russian separatists. george stephanopoulos asked about it. >> why did you soften the platform on ukraine? >> i wasn't involved in that. i would like to -- i would have to take a look at it. i was not involved. >> do you know what they did? >> they softened it, i heard. i was not involved. >> j.d. gordon said he requested it will softened, he pushed for it, based on a meeting he had with donald trump. again, a lot more to the story than he told george stephanopoulos. >> this story is about lies from the beginning. we need to look at attorney general sessions appointment as the chief national security
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adviser for the campaign back in march of 2016. he was in charge of all this. then he became the attorney general of the united states and became in charge of the investigation that is ongoing in the federal government. we have got a situation that calls for a special prosecutor or a select committee of the senate of the united states to get to the bottom of all of this. it is very clear that sessions has lied. whether or not he's guilty of perjury, technically, is another question. he's lied to the senate. he's lied to the american people. the president has lied about those in his campaign and about his own actions and this is an ongoing story, particularly how did donald trump come to his positions about russia, do this reset, what is behind it, where his financial holdings have anything to do with it. we know nothing in terms of the real story, except it keeps
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dripping out and it is going to take serious investigating to get to the bottom of it. it's not going to go away. >> it does change from day-to-day. carl bernstein, don't go far. there's a lot more to discuss and details continue to emerge about a giant question mark over the white house. we are going to speak to a democratic member of the bipartisan committee. later, who is russia's ambassador to washington that keeps on having so many meetings that so many people don't remember the content? that's coming up on 360. when you're close to the people you love, does psoriasis ever get in the way of a touching moment? if you have moderate to severe psoriasis, you can embrace the chance of completely clear skin with taltz.
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the recusal and who met with the ambassadors in july. meetings at trump tower and more. most of it may end up in front of the house intelligence committee, which is investigating. joining us, a committee member, joaquin who serves on the house foreign affairs. thank you for being with us. i want to get your reaction to the latest news from tonight. jim acosta reported trump campaign associate advisers met with the russian ambassador during the convention. again, they meet with politicians all the time. is there anything about that meeting that concerns you? >> well, certainly, if all those reports are true, then this becomes more and more disturbing and why the president and the administration have not been more honest and open about the extent of their meetings and interactions with the russians with respect to attorney general sessions, i'm glad, first of
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all, he's desis sided to recuse himself between the investigation of the campaign and the russians, specifically those that interfered with the presidential election in 2016. like many folks today, i believe that for the good of the country, he should resign. >> resign, why, exactly? meeting with ambassadors. again, that is nothing unusual. was it the testimony to congress? >> sure. it was his testimony to congress and whether he was fully honest with the u.s. senate while under oath. also, there was something very strange about his reaction yesterday when news broke about those meetings. think about the timing on this. by the time he met with the russian ambassador in september, the news about the hacking came out at the dnc around july or august. so, it would be odd to meet with the russian ambassador in your senate office and not think a
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remarkable meeting you should be able to recall. i noted yesterday, when you meet with with an ambassador usually there's someone's staff t senator's staff or embassy staff that takes notes. there should be a record of what happened. look, i met with him four, five, six years ago and i don't have that information anymore or i can't recall specifically what happened. the other point is when you meet with ambassadors of a certain country, there's usually a set of issues you are discussing. so, for example, i'm co-chair of the us-japan caucus. if you are going to meet with the japanese ambassador, you talk about the south china see, the threat of north korea, the relationship with south korea. it's not only that he didn't tell the truth, but hard to believe that he didn't recall and he also can't point to staff
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member who may have recalled what happened. >> he said there were three people in that room. today, he said his recollection was to discuss terrorism, then it got testy, he was invited to lunch and said no. today, he remembered white a bit. i want to move on to your role in the house committee. adam schiff made a great statement, being briefed by james comey. he said he's not satisfied with how much the fbi director is telling the committee right now. do you know what he means by that? >> i just had a chance to look over adam's statement. i think he's expressing, quite honestly, a frustration many of us feel. first of all, i agree with him that director comey was more forthright today than we have seen before. he did share a good bit of information but, like adam, i
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agree, there seems to be much more that the committee doesn't know that we feel is vitally important for this oversight committee to have an understanding about. we are just not there at this point. >> it's confusing, i think when people hear that. is it that democrats aren't being told what they want to hear? they are not providing information that you hope is there? >> no, that's not it at all. it's basically, you know, the fbi is conducting its investigation and there is a sense among committee members that it's much further along than the information we are getting. so, there's a big gap between basically what they know and what we know. >> congressman castro, thank you for being with us. i appreciate your time. i want to bring in erol lewis, kirsten powers, donald trump supporter and katie.
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erol, i want to start with you with where we are tonight. it's 8:23 eastern time, who knows where we will be at 9:23 eastern time. there are contacts between trump associates in the russian campaign we didn't know about three days ago. more of them. >> that's exactly right. the question from earlier today, which seems like a lifetime ago, are we talking recusal or resignation? we had a discussion about the cross hairs of what most reasonable people would say is a clear problem, a clear conflict of interest. now we have the question of resignation hanging out there. the question of what he said under oath and whether or not congress, members of congress want to step on the gas and say push that. listen, you are not being forthright with us, this
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constitutes perjury. to the extent they want to push that, we are talking about this for quite a while. >> as soon as he said questions for recusal. renodded your head vigorously. >> we have a cabinet that's confirmed, now they are going to ask them to resign. we have one, jeff sessions, i think he made the right decision to recuse himself. this is an investigation in search of a crime. there might be malpractice of communication strategy here. i went to the republican convention and talk to all kind of ambassadors. >> you were completely honest to us, the six of us sitting here. >> i don't think there's any question about whether he's honest. i listened to the tape five or six times today. what he said was as an add versy
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with the trump campaign he did not. there were 30 democratic senators who had contact with this russian ambassador. are they going through impeachment? this is silly. they should do that. if they don't, then they should be in trouble. >> he did not say he did not meet with him as a surrogate. he said he had been a surrogate, but unrelated -- >> pronoun. >> he said it's not -- >> no, in fact, he said, and i quote, i did not have any communication with the russians, period. >> as a surrogate. >> no, he did not say as a surrogate i had no communication. he said i had no communication with the russians, period. that is a lie and he did it under oath. michael flynn lost his job for just lying to the vice president. this man lied under oath to the senate judiciary committee and
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the american people. by the way, i'm sorry, but i don't buy it when he says, oh, i didn't remember. i didn't know what the question was. he knows he is smack in the middle of this investigation having to do with perhaps treasonous activities. >> hang on, hang on. >> this is what is being investigated. >> hold the thoughts. >> come on. >> did the white house move past this scandal today? we will raise that question when we come back. i think there are people who think no. stay with us. digital world? communication. like centurylink's broadband network that gives 35,000 fans a cutting edge game experience. or the network that keeps a leading hotel chain's guests connected at work, and at play. or the it platform that powers millions of ecards every day for one of the largest greeting card companies. businesses count on communication, and communication counts on centurylink.
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quite a night, the breaking news keeps oncoming. here is the headline on the indianapolis star site. exclusive, mike pence routinely used a private e-mail account for state business and was hacked. joining us now on the phone, the reporter who broke this, tony cook. vice president pence, while governor of e-mail, used a private e-mail account to do government business? >> reporter: that's right. he used a personal aol account
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to correspondent with top advisers on issues related to homeland security and other sensitive issues. >> you were able to obtain some e-mails. did they contain sensitive material? >> reporter: that's right. we obtained about 30 e-mails through a public records request. the e-mails themselves that we received don't contain too much in the way of sensitive information, although, there are e-mails where pence requests updates on investigations and in one case, his homeland security adviser relays an update from the fbi regarding the arrest of several people on federal terror related charges. >> this was his private e-mail account? >> reporter: that's right, aol. cyber security experts told us
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can be vulnerable. his e-mail was hacked by apparently a scammer who, you know, sent an e-mail to his contacts claiming pence was stuck in the philippines and needed money wired to him. >> okay, the account was hacked. what has the vice president said about it? >> reporter: pence hasn't spoke about it yet. his office sent us a statement regarding this. he says he fully complied with indiana law regarding these, regarding these e-mails and the way they need to be used and retained. and, you know, his spokesman also down played any comparisons to hillary clinton's use of a private e-mail server account saying comparisons are absurd. >> tony cook of the indianapolis star, thank you for being with us. i appreciate your time. interesting report.
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we are back with the panel. joining us by phone is the former press secretary for hillary clinton's presidential campaign. brian, your reaction? >> caller: well, it makes me shake my head. all during the campaign, we were trying to convey that we thought the discussion and outrage about hillary clinton's e-mail use was completely overblown considering how common the practice was among other government officials. during those months one of the biggest critics was jason chaffetz. if you receive his taxpayer funded business card, it lists a g-mail address. they use it all the time and the opening days of the trump administration, we learned they are using rnc addresses which is not illegal, but who is to say whether they are doing government business on it. to learn the vice president
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himself was using the same practice is just another indication of how hypercritical the attacks were against hillary clinton for a year and a half. >> there is a difference between a governor and secretary of state. they deal with things that aren't classified. i don't want to relitigate this, there were things that were classified with hillary clinton, but there's a difference, yes? >> there's a difference because she had a server she used. that was a bigger issue other than the e-mail. this isn't similar in that way. indiana law does allow for the public officials to use personal e-mails as long as they retain the records. the question is whether or not he retained the record. the federal law, you are not supposed to use personal e-mail accounts even though people do it all the time. >> regulations change over time for the secretary of state. >> i think there is a difference.
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the question is whether governor pence was retaining the information. the fact it was hacked shows why you should avoid using personal e-mail. i assume it was sensitive information that was now open to, you know, people getting hold of and putting on a public domain. >> you know people are going to look and say there is more than a hint of irony in this. mike pence, the trump campaign, critical of hillary clinton, the whole campaign. it turns out that he was doing private e-mails and got hacked. >> they will be reassured. one, indiana law permits dwrou use a private e-mail account. secondly, the outrage with hillary clinton was not just the server, it's the fact she deleted 30,000 e-mails, she changed her story four times on whether she sent or received classified information, violated the federal records act deleting state document that is should have been kept and maintained.
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there's not a similarity here. this is what the trump administration is against, a hostile press who are going to any length to drown his presidency. case and point, this article from the indy star, you find out this isn't a violation of state law at all. the trump administration is going to have to learn how to navigate hostile reporters who discredit their own story. >> news is news. if the guy was using two accounts and sending and receiving e-mails, it's just news. learning the facts may be important to the voters of indiana. i'm not sure that makes them a hostile reporter. paul, i want to get back to the stories out of the white house today. you have been sort of smirking. >> trying to choke down the vom it. i'm sickened. it's too spectacular.
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irony has not only died, it drank a gallon of antifreeze and threw itself off. there is no more irony in america. hillary's use for a private server, on the day it broke, government employees should use government e-mail. governor pence didn't violate state laws. the principle attack on hillary, the republicans, is because she used a private e-mail. it was certainly not a crime. right wing republican jim cohen said no prosecutor would take this case so we know she didn't. i trust governor pence didn't. i don't want to hound him. the hypocrisy is staggering. words fail me. >> you called him right wing. >> and republican. a republican is not a dirty word. >> there are times when democrats pray he was going to
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do the investigation. brian fallon -- >> he was on the white water -- >> brian, if we have you on the phone, i want to switch gears back. >> reporter: can i jump in? we should not be quick to say he did not violate laws. indiana state law permits it for work purpose, but you are required, if you are going to do that, to turn over all your personal e-mails. according to the story, the governor did not do that until he left office. when he did, it was his own personal attorney that reviewed what to turn over. that is what happened with hillary clinton. everyone said how can we trust her lawyers turned everything over? the questions should be asked about governor pence before deeming him -- >> did hillary clinton break the law? >> caller: no. all i'm saying, ask the same follow up questions about mike
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pence's deletions as we did hillary clinton. some were deleted in realtime in hillary clinton's case, that was inappropriate. it may be case governor pence did in realtime. never turn the personal ones over according to the story. let's ask the same question. >> we can ask him if he used sledgehammers to bust up blackberries and the answer will be no. i really think that you are searching -- >> caller: we don't know. >> i would happily ask him that. >> caller: it's immaterial. a red herring to bring up the fact she used a personal server. personal e-mail is personal e-mail. if it's wrong to use it for work relat related purposes, it doesn't matter if it's g-mail or yahoo!.
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i think we shouldn't be so quick -- >> i have to disagree with that. her having a server was significant. the fact, the way she responded to it and the way the clinton campaign down played it had a lot to do with people not having a lot of trust in hillary clinton. so, to hear brian fallon continue to defend this, where i really think she was out of line in what she did and the way she responded to it when she was caught. if mike pence did the same thing hillary clinton did, he should be held accountable. there should be the same standard. >> it's not national security. >> we shouldn't down play what hillary clinton did. i think, if he violated a law, if he wasn't retaining records, that is a problem. you are supposed to retain the records. that's a very serious offense. >> we are just learning about this tonight. we are going to hear more details. who know what is else will break. up next, a russian spy, what
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we know about this man and his many, many, many meetings, the russian ambassador. e*trade's pol trading tools, give you access to in-depth analysis, and a team of experienced traders ready to help if you need it. it's like having the power of a trading floor, wherever you are. it's your trade. e*trade why pause a spontaneous moment? cialis for daily use treats ed and the urinary symptoms of bph. tell your doctor about your medicines, and ask if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take cialis if you take nitrates for chest pain, or adempas® for pulmonary hypertension, as this may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. do not drink alcohol in excess. to avoid long-term injury, get medical help right away for an erection lasting more than four hours.
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the russian ambassador, the center of controversy over meetings with president trump's team. he's not new to washington. senior u.s. government officials say u.s. intelligence considers him one of russia's top spies and spy recruiters. the ambassador considers himself -- michelle kaczynski reports. >> reporter: russian ambassador to the u.s., sergey kislyak
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spent a dozen of his 66 years working as a diplomat for the united states. he and his wife seen out and about enjoying parties and envents in washington, d.c. >> i have been working with the united states so long, i know almost everybody. >> he's straight out of central casting, perfect english, heavy russian accent, immaculate suits, blunt and stands out. >> reporter: trained as an engineer in russia and highly intelligent. he joined the russian ministry during the cold war. he's been ambassador to the u.s. eight yurs running. some feel he is more than that. some believe he has close ties to russian intelligence according to current and former senior u.s. government officials. speaking at stanford, he described the u.s./russian relationship after the election of president trump.
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>> we are in the worst point of our relations at the end of the cold war. >> reporter: he expressed optimism that things would get better. now, the controversy over kislyak's meetings with jeff sessions is the second time in weeks the ambassador finds himself at the center of a storm regarding the trump white house. incoming national security adviser, michael flynn told top members of the administration when he spoke to kislyak by phone, he did not discuss sanctions against russia. later, admitting he did not remember if they talked about that. flynn was forced to resign. those conversations had been captured and recorded, according to u.s. intelligence officials because russian diplomat calls routinely are and some content raised flags. kislyak has not responded to the latest over attorney sessions, his spokesman saying they had
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nothing to add to this, from the russian foreign ministry responding to questions whether he, himself, is a spy. >> stop spreading lies and false news. >> reporter: echoing a now familiar refrain. >> something i have heard from former spies is the russians really stepped up their spy game in recent years. you can see that by looking at their embassy in washington, d.c. they estimate something like half the personnel in there are related to intelligence. >> reporter: russia continues to figure into the political controversy in america right now, whether it's hacking, spying or just talking. michelle kaczynski, cnn, the state department. >> joining us now, steven hall, former russian operations at the cia and former michigan republican mike rogers. with us, as well, former obama communications director, a wise
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choice to come over here. steven, let me start with you. there are questions about whether the ambassador is recruiting spies or not. is that pertinent or enough that he is the eyes and ears of vladimir putin here in the united states? >> i actually think it's unlikely he is a staff fsb officer. i would doubt that. but, i would argue, you are right, it doesn't matter. he is, indeed the eyes and ears of vladimir putin. each of them have their role. it appears he's been aggressive in going out and doing what they pay him to do, obtain as much information as he can, however he can do it, primarily overtly and the meetings with then senator sessions would have been particularly attractive because of sessions position on the armed services committee, an interesting topic for the
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russians and perhaps more important because of his allegiance with then candidate donald trump. they are important requirements for moscow regardless if it was an intelligence officer or ambassador. >> jeff sessions was the only senator supporting donald trump for a while. he was chairman of his national security team and rogers met with not just sessions but frequent contact with flynn and now we learn tonight, had meetings with trump campaign advisers at the convention itself. this is a very busy ambassador. >> it is. one point of caution here, if it weren't for leaping to a conclusion, it would get no exercise at all. the ambassador's job is meet with senior officials in the obama administration, the bush administration and clinton administration before that. that is not unusual. when i was a member of congress, on the intelligence committee, i
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met with the ambassador on two occasions on issues we were trying to find common ground on. it happened to be a drug issue trying to solicit a joint effort between russians and the united states. that, in and of itself, that a member of the united states senate would meet with an ambassador, not unusual. member of congress, that, in and of itself is the mission and definition of diplomacy. they have to have those conduits. the ambassador was there to do it. what they have here is an interesting time line they are going to have to explain. i just don't think the administration has done a great job explaining the time line. they are going to have to explain it. i would not leak to, i have heard treason and other crimes. as an old fbi guy, i don't see any of that. tough go a long way with evidence to go with that. they should get it on the table and clear it up and move on. >> one of the issues, as
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recently as two weeks ago, they said it didn't exist, there were no meetings at all. there were two with sessions, at least one at the convention. you worked in the obama white house with the state department. what was the view inside the obama administration of ambassador kislyak? >> a long known diplomat in circles around the world for many, many years. he served in nato and the united states for quite some time. it's important for people to remember that no government, including the united states confirms a role of any diplomat in intelligence gathering. that's not something the russian government -- we shouldn't hold our breath and say more about that, but it's also important to remember that intelligence gathering has been a long, valued quality of diplomats in russia. remember, putin came up through the kgb. when i was in the white house working for president obama,
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obviously, we didn't know a lot of what we know now, the drip, drip, drip of many meetings. some of the important questions to ask here are about the timing of the meeting at the republican convention then we also, immediately after that, we saw a weakening of the and then we saw that when we kicked out 35 diplomats who had ties to intelligence gathering, the russians didn't do anything in return. there are questions the attorney general should be answering. >> steve, there are things that the ambassador might want that don't necessarily get into the world of espionage or intrigue. there are things the russians would legitimately want to know about someone that might be president. >> uh-huh. that's absolutely true. and intelligence gathering can have a range of purposes, but it also can be what is the new trump administration going to do
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if he wins about sanctions to ukraine. what are they going to do related to cooperation in syria. there are significant foreign policy decisions that russia wants to know where the united states is and national security team is and that also can take the form of intelligence gathering. >> steve, can you tell what the russians were after based on the pattern of meetings we've seen between the ambassador and various trump campaign associates? >> you know, it's a classic counter intelligence question and from my previous career, we spent a lot of time when you talk about russia on counter intelligence. it's difficult to determine precisely, not difficult to imagine the topics you were talking about in terms of crimea, ukraine, those positions. let's not forget what is really the counter intelligence issue and that is we're talking about a drip, drip, drip amount of information. what you're doing is looking for
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those threads and indicators that something is going on and make no mistake about how serious this is because if indeed, there was some sort of co-op raoperation prior to the election, if it tracks and drips and leads us back in that direction, you're talking about questioning the election, which is why it's a partisan and difficult issue and that's the real from a counter intelligence perspective, i'm interested as to all the drips that just keep coming out and what is behind them. >> mike, last question to you, you did advice the trump transition for awhile. if you could advice them now, what would that advice be? >> first of all, you have to take russia, who they are and their interests do not align with the united states on probably 95% of all our issues, number one. number two, i would get out ahead of the problem. it is not wrong to meet it and it's really dangerous to say that diplomats are somehow all engaged in an intelligence operation. we have diplomats overseas who
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are diplomats doing real important diplomatic service to the united states of america and they should never be labeled as part of some collection opportunity. what they will do in diplomacy, by the way, and this is important, is try to understand intentions of different nations. the russians will try to understand the trump campaign as so every other diplomatic mission in this town trying to figure out what the trump administration -- >> that's clear -- >> take russia as serious a threat as it is and get out in front of this thing and start laying out the case of how you'll be tough on russia and i think this goes away. the longer they play this foot game, the longer it will go. >> footsie is never good in politics. thanks so much. are the. the recuse l from the attorney general came hours after president trump said so while visiting a soon to be
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commissioned aircraft carrier and talking about boosting the defense budget by some $54 billion. he wasn't planning on a brush fire that erupted over attorney general session and randi kaye gets reaction from some of the people at the shipyard to see the president. >> reporter: on board the uss gerald ford, they packed the belly anxious to see the new commander in chief. many in the crowd hadn't yet heard that newly minted attorney general jeff sessions was under fire for failing to share during his confirmation hearings that he had met with a russian ambassador twice during the campaign. many members of congress including republicans are saying he misled the committee during the confirmation hearings. does that concern you? >> it does. it does concern me. i hope that's not true. >> reporter: should he resign? >> no, i don't think so. i think we need to find out more about him first. >> reporter: do you think it's a
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big deal? >> yeah, probably. i mean, he's talking with the russians and we don't know exactly what is going on, not sure exactly. >> they said he was doing it because his job at the time, not because of mr. trump or anything else. >> reporter: so you believe he met with him as a senator and a member of the armed services committee, not as a trump surrogate? >> why would he not? >> reporter: all the questions about him lying under oath, do you believe he told the truth? >> i do not know all the questions but there is no upside to lying. >> i hope if he's done something illegal, that's taken care of. >> reporter: when we told the trump supporter the man then senator jeff sessions met with is considered to be a top russian spy, she refused to even talk about the situation. >> you better get somebody else because that really makes me mad. >> reporter: some in the crowd thought sessions deserved a break suggesting it was memory lapse or he was possibly being
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coached. >> it's part of his job and normal routine. we don't know what you do every day. >> reporter: are you concerned perhaps then senator sessions lied under oath? >> reporter: no. i think at that time he was probably told he should not say anything, so i don't think he was lying under oath. >> reporter: about the appeals for him to step down. what do you make of the calls for the attorney general to resign? is it too soon? >> maybe too soon. maybe wait for more facts to come out and more time just to see what happens, you know, let the whole due process continue. >> reporter: do you think he'll make a good attorney general? >> i think he will. >> reporter: so does this man who was quick to point out all senators talk to foreign nations, it's part of the job. does that bother you? >> no. >> reporter: why not? >> it doesn't. he's a patriot, god bless america. >> randi kaye joins me live from virginia. after the rally attorney general sessions recused himself. had you talked to folks about
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that? >> reporter: we had talked to them about that but of course, that was before he did recuse himself, but many of them told us they weren't readily to weigh in on it anyway, they needed more facts. these are folks who are sailors and shipbuilders at work on that aircraft carrier much of the day and not following the news as closely. there were many, john, quick to say absolutely he should recuse himself. they felt the investigation was already compromised and they were concerned about what he might have learned in his short time involved if that investigation but the one thing, john, we heard over and over from people is they are very concerned this whole mess, right or wrong is going to bog down the trump administration to slow down the president's agenda, he's not going to be able to accomplish anything and worried he's going to continue to lose cabinet members, which they say won't be good for the country. they would like this to go away. >> thanks so much. meetings between the russian ambassador and several members of the trump team one part of the story tonight.
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