last year's campaign. there are multiple reports of white house turmoil because of what donald junior exposed with his owners mails. the finger pointing in the white house is described by "the new york times" as a circular firing squad. >> the president's son admitting he would handle things differently if he could do it all over again. his new e-mails are the clearest proof yet that trump junior understood the meeting was intended to get dirt on hillary clinton from the russian government. at least that's what was promised. the president again trying to call investigations into russian meddling a witch hunt. let's begin with cnn's jason carroll live at the white house. never a dull moment there, jason. >> reporter: never at all. other than tweeting the president has been keeping a low profile. this is the third consecutive day he's not had a public event on his schedule ahead of leaving for the trip for paris later on this evening. this controversy is really not only overshadowed the white
house, but overshadowed the president's agenda as he prepares for this next overseas visit. >> in retrospect i would have done things differently. for me this was opposition research. >> reporter: donald trump jr. confronting the controversy that has his father's administration in full crisis mode. multiple outlets describing the president's growing exacerbation with the russian revelations and suspicions and finger-pointing with his advisers. described by "the washington post" as a category five hurricane, a characterization the president's lawyer refutes. >> this is a category zero. this idea this has consumed the white house is false. >> reporter: the white house on the defensive after trump junior released a series of bombshell e-mails he had in june of last year with music publicist rob goldstone about setting up a meeting with a russian government attorney, goldstone
saying he had a lead on dirt that would incriminate hillary clinton, noting this is obviously very high level and sensitive information, but it's part of russia and its government support for mr. trump. trump junior replying, if it is what you say, i love it, especially later in the summer. >> someone sent me an e-mail. i can't help what someone sends me. this is 13 months before i think the rest of the world was talking about that, trying to build up this narrative about russia. so i don't even think my sirens went up or the antennas went up. >> reporter: the president's son and his attorney insisting president trump was not aware of the meeting or the e-mails. >> it was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell. i wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. >> the president, by the way, never saw an e-mail, did not see the e-mail until it was seen today. >> reporter: cnn learned the e-mails were discovered as jared kushner and his legal team were
preparing for his upcoming congressional testimony after being unusually reserved on twitter the president returning to a familiar line of attack this morning tweeting, my son donald did a good job last night. he was open, transparent and innocent. this is the greatest witch hunt in political history. sad. yesterday, the white house deputy press secretary read a statement on the president's behalf. >> my son is a high quality person and i applaud his transparency. >> reporter: vice president mike pence distancing himself from the growing controversy releasing a statement, stressing that the russia meeting occurred before he joined the trump ticket. the newly released e-mails undermining what the white house has been saying for days. >> it seems to be on the end of the trump individuals a big nothing berger. >> no information provided that was meaningful. no action taken. >> nothing inappropriate happened. there's nothing inappropriate. >> reporter: a number of lawmakers on capitol hill disagree. >> definitely he has to testify.
that e-mail was disturbing. >> we're now beyond obstruction of does tis in tefrps of what's being investigated. this is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason. >> reporter: those are pretty provocative statements coming from clinton's former running mate, but legal experts disagree on the implications here. what is clear is that going forward, the special counsel will be looking at these e-mail exchanges as part of their investigation into russian meddling, and both thumb trump junior and his attorney have said he will cooperate with that investigation. alisyn, chris? >> jason, thank you very much for all that background. let's bring in cnn political director david chalian, cnn senior analyst jeffrey toobin and cnn legal analyst david gregory. on the front page of "the new york times," "the washington post," reporting on what's going on inside the white house as they try to deal with all this breaking news. the reports are there's a lot of
suspicion among staffers and the president's top people about who is giving information to "the times" and "the washington post." you can imagine the climate inside as they try to deal with all this. >> there are two threats to the psychology inside the west wing, one is just that, looking around and saying who is leaking this stuff, and is family turning on family? is every advisor sort of in for himself? there's no sort of sense of a real alliance. that's one thing affecting the psychology there. the other thing is, the president, who remains completely consumed by this story line and, therefore, not advancing an agenda elsewhere. >> how can he not be consumed, when it's on the front pages of every newspaper, how can he not be consumed. >> i used to laugh back in the '90s with clinton and the white house compartmentalizing. there was something to it. if you talked to people inside the clinton white house at the
time, they were able to wall off sometimes, and clinton himself was able to wall off all his -- he was totally into the legally proceedings before, he was consumed by it, too, but was able to wall off and move forward on an agenda as best as he could. i think we know this president is not only consumed by the investigation around him, but consumed by the news coverage of it. i think that total immersion into this prevents him from being able to set as a north star inside the administration, this is where we're going. >> i think david puts his finger on what the concern here is, at least for the president, who often watches this show. it's not that he's consumed with this. he should be. this is really important. but it's why and what aspect he's consumed with, which is what david just said, the coverag coverage. what he should be consumed with is what the russians just tried to do to sisson and how that is
connected to the efforts to infiltrate our election. one would think would suggest embrace it, own it and correct it. instead they're fighting it and denying ever something thing. listen to the chain of denials. >> let's focus on what did not happen in that meeting. no information provided that was meaningful, no action taken, nothing. >> if there's a meeting that was wholly appropriate but which led to nothing, nothing inappropriate happened. there's nothing inappropriate. >> it was a meeting that produced nothing. let's be realistic, it's a 20-minute meeting out of a probably at that point 18 or 20-hour day. it produced no results, no information, no knowledge of anything. >> it was a very short meeting, a meeting apparently about russian adoption, and after about 20 minutes, the meeting
ended. that was the end of it. this is a developing story. i don't know much about it other than it seems to be on the end of the trump individuals a big nothing burger. >> the only thing we know for sure is one part of what reince priebus just said, i don't know for sure. none of the people you just heard have good reason to believe anything they just said other than what they've heard from don, junior. his story has changed so the credibility is at issue. david gregory, the president this morning listening to your compelling words about why this isn't a witch hunt responded by saying this is the biggest witch hunt in history. >> it's what you were saying a moment ago. the president only has one speed which is defiance, insecurity and an effort, a campaign for which he's using almost all his political capital to be smirj the news media and try to get
americans to not believe the facts being reported. these are facts that are often leaked by people who are around him which underscores how dysfunctional this white house is, how chaotic it is and how isolated the president is. instead of embracing an attack on america, embracing that fight against it, getting to the bottom of it, he is doing just the opposite. the idea that what the russians did to his son, what we know -- the real story this morning about these e-mails is that contrary to months of denials from the white house, in fact during the campaign, the trump campaign was open, welcoming help from the russians who wanted to see donald trump get elected and wanted to hurt hillary clinton. that was foreign interference on the part of our adversary. they didn't stand up to it. they embraced it. that e-mail indicates that, and it is concurrent with what the president was saying at the time when he was a candidate. he called on vladimir putin to
hack hillary clinton's e-mails. that was going on at the d nnchdnc. he was so cavalier about what russia was orr what it could be, talking about what a great and powerful leader he was. this was not just naivete and arrogance, it was dangerous policy. it's striking this morning, that the republicans, the republican party, a strong anti-soviet and an anti-russian party standing up for u.s. interest has decided to sit this out and let it all unfold. >> so jeffrey, president trump and his son are being defended from one corner and that is the kremlin. they just moments ago mutt out a statement, from foreign minister sergey lavrov, who says president trump is under unprecedented pressure. he says there's nothing to investigate with this russian lawyer, the lawyer has nothing to do with the russian government. he interestingly said that people are trying to make an
elephant out of a fly and maybe there is no fly. i like that analogy, and that he calls it wild, just wild to watch all this unfold. >> i cer that part. it's wild to watch it unfold. i'm not sure the russian foreign minister is the best source about russian influence on the election i'm not sure he's the character witness that the president wants to vouch for him. look, these e-mails are very important, very suggestive. but they are a narrow slice of a bigger story. the congressional committees, the special counsel are going to need to look at a lot more e-mails. these are just the e-mails setting up the meeting. we've had this parade of people
starting with donald trump jr. saying, well, nothing came of the meeting. their record isn't so great in terms of telling the truth about their relationships with the russians. maybe we should see the contemporaneous records of what came out of this meeting. >> if nothing did come out of it, jeffrey, are we cool? everything is fine, there's no crime if nothing came out of it? >> i think that's right. >> under the fec rules, solicitation -- there doesn't have to have been any fruit from this poisonous tree for there to be a problem under the election laws, but you'd have to show he solicited something. it seems like it was being offered to him. >> right, and i think alisyn's question to me was, if their story is true, that we know nothing more about this encounter, then i think in fairness we have to say there was no crime here because the crime is in solicitation, this e-mail was an offer.
it was not at least in terms of what we've seen, a solicitation by anyone affiliated with the trump campaign. >> only with respect to don junior. the bigger problem, david chalian, is the one the president seems consistent in ignoring, what the russians were trying to do and succeeded in doing, this the most stark evidence yet that's been made public to his own son, at a minimum, someone was trying to loop him in. >> it's broader than just his son, to his own son. but to his campaign organization, that entity, the trump 2016 effort, is what the russians were infiltrating there. yes, through his son. it's broader than that. it's the organization that donald trump sat atop. fe haven't seen the level of concern from president trump about the election medsing that you want to see from a u.s. president who wants to ensure it doesn't happen again. we haven't seen that.
in fact, our rert poing indicates it's not something he wants to focus on when it comes up in meetings. >> some of his defenders would rather attack the reporters and find trash on us to subvert any evidence to talk about this. >> david gregory, last word? >> that's the point, the legal questions are so important but they're narrow. the broader point, there were active measures by the russians, they were probing, interfering, trying to undermine our election and perhaps sway the result. it doesn't appear that they succeeded based on what we know to date, but they'll keep trying. the problem is in trump in his rhetoric and in trump junior in his actions, we have some window in the fact that they were welcoming this. that's the kind of arrogance, uberous, naivete at the very least that is a foundation for it happening again. that's the policy concern here. >> look, it's so stark that the "new york post," certainly a friend to president trump from its editorial staff to its owner
called the president's son, i believe inappropriately, an idiot in their editorial this morning. that's how stark it is right now. so the question becomes what will his e-mails, donald trump jr.'s e-mails mean? this meeting with a russian lawyer, the most stark evidence we've seen about what russia was trying to do. we'll ask senator angus king next. [boy] cannonball!
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in retrospect, i probably would have done things differently. they had concrete evidence to all the stories i had been hearing about. >> no small irony, the president's son, donald trump jr. that wound up disproving his father's own theory about the russia investigation about his efforts being a witch hunt. his e-mails show a chain of solicitation about a meeting with alleged information developed by the russian government to help the trairn. this is going to be a special focus for the special counsel's investigation into the russian interference in the 2016 election. what does it mean for lawmakers? we have independent senator angus king of maine. he serves on the senate
intelligence committee investigating russian election interference. if you don't mind, i'd like to get a two-fer today. i want to talk to you about what we're hearing will be the latest offer from the republicans on health care and how it squares with your reckoning of what is needed to pass. let's start with this, the e-mails. what do they mean to you. >> we have to step back. i'm not going to be an armchair prosecutor. i'll leave that to robert mueller. what i want to talk about the larger sort of policy implications. there's one thing that we know that happened. it's very well established. i think everyone understands and recognizes except perhaps some people in the white house. that is the russians did try to interfere in our elections in 2016. this e-mail confirms that in a rather mundane waet, sort of matter of factually says we're going to give you information based on the russian's effort to
help mr. trump. that's one more confirmation. but what we don't know and what most of the investigations up here are focusing on is whether there was some kind of coordination or cooperation between the trump campaign and the russians. we've been told for six months or a year now that there was no such thing, never happened, no involvement whatsoever. this confirms that there was an opportunity to help with this salacious material about mrs. clinton, and then the question is what happened. that meeting is important. comprised of? >> i haven't heardny