tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN July 12, 2017 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
kilometres series, the massive iceberg broke off in delaware. the massive iceberg weighs nearly 20 tons and it would fill lake erie twice over. researchers worry this could lead to the entire shelf breaking off. that's it for "the lead" today. i'm jake tapper. i now turn you over to jim acosta who is taking over for wolf in the situation room. pledge of independence. president trump's pick to replace fired fbi director james comey tells senators he'll be independent and loyal only to the constitution and rule of law. the support for the special counsel set up a clash for the president. bunker mentality, taking on a series of russian meddling and ties to the campaign, the white house is described as one top republican as paralyzed as president trump is still trying
to change the subject back to hillary clinton. russian partners. cnn has exclusive video of trump meeting with a russian billionaire father and pop star son bwho were linked to don jr.s meeting with the russian lawyer. and now moscow's insider out. the ambassador also seen as a spy is on his way home. his replacement played a key role in the russian invasion of ukraine. what does that mean for u.s.-russian ties? i'm jim acosta. you're in "the situation room." with the trump administration rocked by a series of bombshells on russia's election meddling, a top republican describes the white house as paralyzed. various administration figures paint a picture of chaos now reaching the president's inner circle after son donald jr. released e-mail showing he embraced a proposal of russian government help in attacking hillary clinton. the president tweeted today that
the white house is functioning perfectly and he's trying to defuse claims that russia acted to help get him elected. an interview with televangelist pat robertson, he said vladimir putin would have preferred hillary clinton in the white house because he's boosting less military and exports. the president hopes to get away from it all as he flies to meet the french president, president macron. and james comchristopher wray t senate today that he would resign if asked to do something illegal and immoral. wray said the president did not ask for a loyalty pledge, something comey repeatedly was asked for before firing him. i'll talk with congressman jim hines of the intelligence
committee and our guests are standing by with full coverage of today's stories. we'll talk about russian meddling and ties to the campaign. cnn's jessica sniyder is there. jessica, what's the mood tonight? >> reporter: the president himself is going to twitter, but inside they say there is a sense of paralysis. another one lamented this is just another week lost onagenda. all of this as the president prepares to take off for paris tonight. tonight the white house is all-consumed with the russia investigation by the latest investigation in donald trump jr.'s e-mails, detailing he met with someone who was told was a russian lawyer offering dirt on hillary clinton. when trump jr. released the e-mails via twitter tuesday,
sources tell cnn the reporters spent most of the day watching television. the president's mood went from frustrated to furious. he tweeted this morning, the white house is functioning perfectly focused on health care, tax cuts, reform and many other things. i have very little time for watching tv. but one republican close to the west wing tells cnn, the white house is paralyzed as the administration finds its policy agenda, including health care and tax reform, frustrated by the e-mail disclosures. but the president views it as another attempt to distract and damage his presidency by democrats, according to sources. a source close to the president says he believes the media is trying to create a conspiracy that doesn't exist. >> in retrospect, i probably would have done things a little differently. >> reporter: don jr. appeared on
"hannity" to say his lack of political experience was the reason he didn't think it was wrong. >> this is the first time we've done any of this. i'm still way in the learning curve on all of this, so it wasn't that urgent to me if i was saying, hey, it can wait until the end of summer, but we want information. if there's information out there, you want it. >> reporter: the white house told cnn they warned that the combination of power and naivete was enough to get the trump family in trouble and it could worsen in the future. but some were inclined to trust family members more than his staff. he said, my son donald did a good job last night. he was open, transparent and innocent. they're still on a witch hunt. sad. >> let's focus on what the president was aware of. nothing. he was not aware of the meeting, did not attend the meeting and was only informed about the e-mails very recently by his
counsel. >> reporter: the president sat for an interview with the christian broadcasting network this morning. the clip on the program did not address his son's e-mails, instead the president defended his two-hour face-to-face with russian president vladimir putin last week. >> i think a lot of things came out of that meeting, but i do think it's important to have a dialogue, and if you don't have a dialogue, it's a lot of problems for our country and their country. >> reporter: the president has not had anything on his public schedule for the past four days. that's a rare stretch outside the public eye for a sitting president. but deputy secretary sarah huckabee sanders said the president has been having meetings. she said just because the president is not standing behind a podium does not mean he isn't communicating his message to the american public or pressing his agenda forward. of course the president will be in the public eye. he'll be in paris tomorrow when he holds that press conference with the french president. it will be expected he will face
questions about his eldest son's e-mails as well as that meeting. jim? fired fbi director james comey is vowing independence. he said his loyalty is to the constitution and he would resign if asked to do something illegal or immoral. diane gallagher joins us. the russia investigation was clearly the focus today, wasn't it, diane? >> overwhelmingly. chris wray told senators he would not be pulling any punches if he is confirmed as director of the fbi, expressing confidence in the intelligence community's assessment of russian meddling in the 2016 election as well as special counsel robert mueller's abilities in breaking with the president who has repeatedly called the investigation into possible russian collusion with his campaign a witch hunt, even as recently as this morning in a tweet. >> i do not consider director mueller to be on a witch hunt.
i will take a close look shortly upon being confirmed if confirmed to, as i said, making sure that former director mueller, now special counsel mueller, has all the appropriate resources that he ought to have. and my expectation is that i will remain committed to that support regardless of any decisions by anyone else in the department. i would not tolerate any inappropriate influence on special counsel mueller's investigation to the extent that i'm supporting it. at the end of the day, it's his investigation. >> yeah, so when it comes to those bombshell e-mails that were tweeted out by donald trump jr. throughout that meeting that he and jared kushner and paul manafort had with the russian attorney, wray admitted he had been busy preparing for his own hearing, meeting the senators, and he hadn't read any of this. so republican senator lindsey graham helping him out a little bit today, reading portions of those e-mails to him and then hammering him on what don jr.,
or any campaign, really, should have done. >> if a got a call from someone saying the russian government wants to help lindsey graham get reelected, they've got dirt on lindsey graham's opponent, should i take that meeting? >> senator, i would think you would want to consult with some good legal advisers before you did that. >> so the answer is, should i call the fbi? >> i think it would be wise to let the fbi know -- >> you're going to be director of the fbi, pal. so here's what i want you to tell every politician. if you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the fbi. >> to the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the fbi would want to know. >> so i'll take it that we should call you and that's a great answer. >> wray also said the president did not ask for and he would not have taken a loyalty pledge
before being nominated. wray said he feels like it would be a bit unusual to meet with the president alone about anything other than some sort of pressing, serious national security situation. jim, one more thing. wray says that if the president asked him to do anything illegal or immoral, he would first try and talk that president out of doing it, and if he couldn't, he would resign. republicans and democrats are both extremely complimentary today, jim. they suggested they would support his appointment as head of the fbi. >> diane gallagher, thank you very much. appreciate that. joining me now, member of the house intelligence committee, democratic congressman jim hines of connecticut. congressman, the house intelligence committee has been looking into the possibility of collusion as part of the russian probe. in your view now, is there a smoking gun? >> well, good afternoon, jim. what a remarkable turn of events, you know. it had been established by our intelligence community that the attack on our election occurred. it had been established without question that it was done on
behalf of then-candidate donald trump. and the big question was, were there any links? was there any collusion? of course, there was lots of back and forth on that, and that was something that was denied at every single step by the white house. by the vice president, by the president, consistent denials of that fact. and then it's not fake news. it's not cnn, it's not the "new york times," it's not the "washington post," anybody else the president has labeled fake news, it is his own son who said essentially i was looking forward to a meeting with a russian attorney who told me that they had incriminating information on my opponent. so in some ways, the question of whether there was a link now has been solved much to the destruction of the white house's credibility. now our job is to figure out what else is there? you know, was there further contact, was there further working together? does this rise to the level of a prosecutable crime? >> and congressman, speaking of more evidence, could there be more e-mails out there?
donald trump jr. only released four pages of e-mails. could there be more e-mails out there? do you want to look at a server? >> of course there could be, and quite likely are. think of the seniority of the people who were in that room. paul manafort, then head of the campaign, jared kushner who seems to have five or six jobs in washington, very important to the operation, and the president's own son. first of all, one question is, what follow-up was there from that meeting? my guess is there was probably some. the second question is did the president, then-candidate, know about that meeting, or did his campaign chief and others keep him in the dark? particularly just after that meeting the president went on a rally and said, boy, do we have stuff on hillary clinton. we'll want to follow up on all those questions. >> as bad as the e-mail looks, i guess there is a key question being asked by people in trump world, were there any crimes committed by donald trump jr.? are you willing to say at this
point that the president's eldest son committed a rhyme? >> no, i don't say that, because i don't say that about people that haven't been fairly tried. i will say that there's certainly -- and i'm not obviously in any way, shape or form directed by robert mueller, that's his call to make. a foreign entity in a campaign is a crime. conspiring to defraud or interfere in an election is a crime. you have suggestions that may have occurred, so therefore it's very, very important that we take the next steps to determine whether they did. sadly, as an american, forget about my political party, as an american is really distresses me that we're in a position where the president of the united states and the people around him now have exactly zero credibility. of course, donald j. trump jr. was denying the nature of this meeting 40 hours before he released the e-mails that showed the nature of this meeting. sadly, this is not going to be clearly an investigation that is going to be met with anything
other than audacity by the people who are being investigated and that puts a burden to be sure we get to the bottom of it. >> paul manafort was at this meeting, jared kushner, the president's son-in-law. paul manafort volunteered to appear before your committee earlier this year. do you think donald trump jr. should testify before congress, that jared kushner should testify before congress, that paul manafort should testify? do you want to see all of them testifying before your committee? >> all of them should and will. those three, of course, you'll recall the story that was reported about the alleged attempt by jared kushner to set up a direct line of communication perhaps at a russian diplomatic facility. again, that was a news report. but boy, we want to know about that. of course, now the president's son based on the e-mails that he released, again, this wasn't fake news, this was the president's son saying, look what i did. we want to talk to him. and paul manafort, he was the guy at the top of the ladder while all of this was happening. so we're going to want to know
what he knew, whether he encouraged that and, of course, whether he told now-president, then-candidate donald trump. and congressman, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, chuck grassley, said he's prepared to issue a subpoena if necessary. what if the white house says no, executive privilege? the president's son can't come and testify, jared kushner is not going to testify, paul manafo manafort, i guess they can't really block paul manafort from testifying, and i suppose they can't really block the president's son. but are you prepared to push for subpoenas in all of this? i suppose you may not have that power, but how do you see that playing out? >> we do have that power, congress has the power to subpoena anything and everybody -- >> you as a democrat -- your republican colleagues may decide this. >> i think on the house side and the senate side the democrats and the republicans are working very well together on this. mike conaway who is running the house investigation has been very, very fair-minded on this. of course if we need to, we will
subpoena. there cannot be a claim of executive privilege for conversations that occurred before the executive was the executive. this is about activities that occurred during the campaign. i would assume that occurred on the face of it, not to mention a political disaster. the moment has arrived for everybody, for jeff sessions, the attorney general, for all these people associated to finally at great long last tell the truth and put it out there. i'll give the president's son credit for saying, finally, after six months, here's what we've got. we'll see if that's all he's got, but things would be a lot cleaner is people wouldn't try to obfiscate and say what was heard. we'll see more about donald trump jr.'s e-mails. we'll ask you about it in just a
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investigators are looking at the ties between two wealthy families, the trumps and russians linked to donald trump jr.'s meeting with the russian lawyer. we have exclusive video of that connection. let's turn to cnn justice correspondent pamela brown. pamela, this is some very interesting video. what have you learned? >> this is video that cnn exclusively obtained from 2013, donald trump meeting with father and son promising to pass along information about hillary clinton through an intermediary. this video is a fresh look inside their relationship, apparently just as it was beginning. the behind-the-scenes video obtained exclusively by cnn
shows then businessman donald trump in las vegas in 2013. at several events during the weekend of the miss usa pageant, hanging out with the men now at the center of the newest development in the russia controversy. the men, russian pop singer amin agalarav, and his father, a real estate developer in russia, were helping trump hold his miss universe pageant in moscow later that year. >> this is one of the richest men in russia. >> reporter: in the video trump is seen having dinner with the agalaravs, along with the publicist, rob goldstone, leaning over to talk to trump. on tuesday trump's son, donald jr., released e-mails pitching a meeting between trump's son and a russian lawyer, pitching she would release damning information about hillary clinton provided by the government. amin agalarav told goldstone to
set up the meeting. quote, amin just called and told me to contact you with some very high level information, but it's part of russia and its government support for mr. trump. the footage describes a closer look at a friendship fwebetweene two families and could explain donald trump taking the meeting. you can hear trump boast about his work with the miss universe pageant. the next day in front of reporters, trump spoke grandly about the promise of taking miss universe to russia. trump predicting his pageant could even bring russia and the u.s. closer. >> it really is a great country, it's a very powerful country. it's a country that we have a
relationship with, and i think this could certainly help that relationship. >> reporter: investigators plan to examine the trump tower meeting and the e-mails. on fox news tuesday, donald trump jr., who does not appear in the 2013 video, said he had limited knowledge of the russian family. >> i met them once or twice and maintained a casual relationship there, talked about some potential deals and that's the extent of it. they really didn't go anywhere. >> reporter: but new video and others show the president's own connections. in 2013, trump appeared in one of amin's music videos. >> you're just another pretty face. i'm really tired of you. you're fired. >> reporter: and wished him happy birthday in a video posted on amin's instagram. >> amin, i can't believe you're turning 35. >> reporter: their lawyer said the e-mails don't add up. sdplz it's just a fantasy world, because the reality is if there was something important that mr. agalarav wanted to communicate to the trump campaign, i suppose
he could have called mr. trump directly as opposed to having his son's pop music publicist be the intermediary. >> reporter: the father of the pop star, amin agalarav said he doesn't personally know don jr. and said he doesn't know goldstone that well, either, saying it was a tall tale that gladstone contacted him about dirt on hillary clinton. >> they do seem close in the video. thank you very much, pam. we're back now with democratic congressman jim hines of the intelligence committee. mr. hines, what more do you want to know about these men who apparently played a central role in organizing this meeting. you can see them in this video exclusively obtained by cnn. goldstone, ross, amin agalarav. what do you make of that? what more do you want to know? >> all advertising to the contrary, it looks like what happens in vegas doesn't stay in
vegas. congratulations on somehow securing that video. the video itself just establishes that then donald trump knew the people concerned at the very center of this, and it puts some question and doubt on his repeated statements that he didn't know russian oligarchs, he doesn't know russia, he doesn't do business with russia. clearly there were some relationships there, and even at that time, in 2013, who knows if he had in mind to run for president in 2016. he had this sort of fascination and support for russia. i think it creates some context around the meeting that his son had with some of these same players that further lead to the question of, okay, if donald trump himself knows these people, what is the probability that this meeting happened without somebody in that room going back to donald trump and saying, here's the deal, here's what they have to offer. that's speculation on my part, but knowing there is a relationship there, you would think that might have occurred. >> is there any evidence to suggest or are you looking into this, digging into this, that
these men were so-called cutouts, in other words acting in an unofficial capacity on f behalf of the kremlin? obviously the kremlin isn't going to send in someone wearing a uniform with the government or with the russian military in one of these meetings with donald trump jr. they're not going to do that. they're more clever than that. what about these two men? any chance that these are what they call cutouts? >> well, they're not a lot more clever than that, right? the e-mails that donald jr. released suggest that he knew there was ties with the russian prosecutor. this is stagecraft. it's a little different than how we operate where we have diplomats and military in foreign countries that act on behalf of the united states. the russians, more often than not, will employ people,
business people, oligarchs, friends, friend of friends, to do these things, sort of missions, if you will, on behalf of the government but in a way that gives them some plausible ability. we do not do that, but that is standard operating procedure for russia, and of course the russia that is led by vladimir putin, a former kgb agent, who of course would be excellent in this particular kind of tradecraft. >> getting back to jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, senior adviser, he was also in attendance at this meeting with the russian lawyer. should his security clearance be revoked or at least reviewed? that's a question that's come up at the white house press briefings, at least off camera, in the last few days. they sort of dance around that question and aren't willing to answer that question. what do you make of that? >> there is no question in my mind that if jared kushner, instead of being the son-in-law of the president, were a military officer or a civil servant, a foreign service officer, an intelligence officer, and if the evidence had
mounted that the original forms that were filed for his security clearance were inadequate, that he did not disclose contacts with russians, that he did not affirmatively disclose this particular meeting -- remember, we've been talking about possible links in collusion with russia for the last six months, and here you have jared kushner in the white house who knew and was actually at that meeting and chose not to raise his hand and say, hey, everybody should know about this, here's what happened. on that basis, if this weren't the president's son-in-law, there is no doubt in my mind that security clearance would be revoked. >> do you believe this meeting and any potential meetings yet to be disclosed left the administration vulnerable to bla blackmail? that was sort of the concern by the president-elect, that this compromise by the russian government. do you think this has left the
trump administration to blackmail? >> just 48 hours ago, before this e-mail was known, just imagine that the russians wanted jared kushner or the president's son to do something. and buone of those two gets a phone call from somebody in russia saying, hey, the entire american media, three investigations are looking into the question of whether you had any contact with russians and we want you to do x-y-z or we're going to release e-mails or t n transcription that occurred. that's the definition of blackmail, so of course there is a vulnerability there, and that makes it very important that we get to the bottom of this and understand what's there. if there is more there, that gives the russians a very powerful source of leverage on people lining jared kushner, the president's son, and who knows who else. >> let's get back to christopher wray, the nominee for fbi director. he had his hearing on the hill today. he said he wouldn't take a loyalty pledge to the president. he also said he would resign if
asked to do anything illegal. were you encouraged by his testimony today? i know you're not in the senate but you may have been observing or listening in. what do you make of his performance today? >> i can't judge it. by all accounts, there is a decent and competent individual, and, you know, the problems that we have had with people who have not been honest about meetings with the russians have almost all or have all been people that were associated with the trump campaign, from the attorney general jeff sessions to jared kushner, to people that were -- to paul manafort. all of these people were associated with the campaign. look, we'll see, but i don't have any reason to believe that this is not a perfectly capable individual who is untainted with the activities that may have occurred within the trump campaign. >> okay, congressman jim hines, thank you for joining us today. we appreciate it, sir. >> thanks, jim. coming up, more on the mood inside the white house as president trump prepares to leave it behind and head overseas for the second time this month. and later a prominent person
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new, more reliable equipment for your home. and a new culture built around customer service. it all adds up to our most reliable network ever. one that keeps you connected to what matters most. just hours from now, president trump heads to france leaving behind what a top republican in the west wing calls a paralyzed white house. the president is described as furious and frustrated by the release of e-mails about last year's meeting involving a russian lawyer and his family. let's get more from our correspondents and specialists. dana bash, you're hearing more about this, the president's mood and what's happening in the white house. they don't sound too happy right now. >> you're hearing the same thing. >> not as many cries of fake
news. >> no. exactly. it's hard to call fake news something that the president's son actually puts out via twitter. but look, the president's tweet this morning suggesting that everything is on track and he's not watching tv. i mean, it's like the ultimate example of protesting too much. we know that's not the case. every single thing in that e-mail from the tv to everything being on track. at the end of the day, that's really what matters if you are a trump voter. it's what is his agenda? where is it right now? is it going to get done? am i going to have a job? am i going to affordable health cary don't have now? and those are the things that have been, you know, sidetracked. now, it is still happening. congress is still working. they're trying very hard, but it is really, really hard for these republicans to keep pushing on when they have all of this noise
that is impossible to ignore. >> every time we ask a question up on kacapitol hill, it's typically about the russian investigation and those lawmakers do not like that. >> i wonder if that's what the trump presidency is all about, the legislative -- >> what i said was the trump voters want to know. >> but is it what they want to know? maybe what they really want is to have him tweeting about what jerks we are. >> they're not mutually exclusive. >> sometimes i think, oh, you know, he's not making progress in the capitol, which he's not, but maybe the fact that he's picking fights with us is something that makes them happy and that's -- >> trump voters are not monolithic, okay? even one person doesn't have just one single desire in their elected officials. so i think that certainly there is no question we met a lot of these people on the campaign trail who are still ardent trump
supporters. they were thrilled when he would go after the media. but we met a lot of people who really wanted him to shake things up and get things done. that's why they put him in of office, to get things passed and done. >> he's certainly shaken things up. i don't know if you could argue he's gotten a lot of things done. what do you make of this talk on w warring factions inside the white house? what i'm seeing is they're really defiant in the white house, they don't see that this rises to a level of scandal. >> that's certainly been their strategy all along, the idea of embattled white house trump as an embattled president. it makes him again kind of cultivate this image as the outsider who everybody is against, and i think he very much connects with his supporters in that way, too, as the fighter. one of the things, i think, that makes this kind of recent story in this overarching russia story is the family piece of it,
right? the don jr. piece of it, the jared kushner piece of it as well. he was obviously in that meeting. that has made things, i think, i hear from people close to this white house very difficult for people inside the white house, because there are people who work inside this white house who can't be fired, right? we know there are different factions in all sorts of white house, whether it's the obama white house, the bush white house, the reagan white house. the fact there are top level folks there who are related to donald trump and in his family and are essentially a protected status skpand untouchable. that makes things different for this white house. >> you followed this story closer than the rest of us. did you think this would all come out in a tweet by the president's son? >> it had to be a russian billionaire known as the donald trump of russia and also has a son, aside from being a pop
star, works with his father at the krocrocus group. you want to talk about connections. agalarav is very close to the kremlin, the government, with president putin. he has developed some of the biggest shopping centers in moscow. he's been given a lot of government contracts as a reward, a lot of hypocrisy given the corruption surrounding these russian billionaires. he's also been awarded a contract for a stadium for the world cup in 2018. so people are trying to figure out what the connection is between this man and vladimir putin and donald trump where you have a direct line between agalarav and the russian president. >> brianna, right now we're watching exclusive video that shows donald trump, not even candidate trump at that time, citizen trump, businessman trump in las vague is as with the
agalaravs and rob goldstone. dana bash, it seems as though there is no shortage of drips in this story. just when you think you've seen it all, another shoe drops. >> no question. the thing about this video is it connects the names on an e-mail from a year ago to pictures. and more importantly, to the president of the united states. it makes it at least appear much more clear why donald trump jr. was so responsive to goldstone. look, he was hanging out with his father. he clearly -- >> i see michael cohen in the video here. >> this is, my understanding, before it actually went, his pageant, miss universe, was taken to moscow. so he was really working with these guys to help bring it to russia. the relationship, the sort of preexisting relationship with these very important russians, which brianna was just talking
about, is there, and that is the context with which we will now see the e-mails that went back and forth between don jr. and the man next to the president, ron goldstone, about this alleged information that they had. >> jeffrey toobin, do you see anything legally here the president's team should be worried about when they see this video? >> it's part of the mosaic of the relationships that could be used to establish that people knew each other. certainly there's nothing criminal or inappropriate with what's going on in the video. just in terms of the atmosphere in the white house, all of these people are under criminal investigation. there is a prosecutor with some of the finest lawyers in the country, the entire research of the fbi at their disposal, investigating whether all of these top people committed crimes or an i am peempeachable offense. that wears on you. that is a draining, difficult, emotionally rigorous experience
to go through, and that matters. >> i was just going to say another casualty of this video is it's becoming harder and harder to comprehend or to believe that the president had no knowledge of the meeting between don trump jr. and this lawyer because of the connection, because of the connection to this billionaire and his son. they've had a past with each other, so it would make sense that don jr. would at least inform his father if he informed the campaign chairman and jared kushner that, hey, i just received this e-mail about potentially explosive information. so when the president says he had no idea about this meeting or he never had been told about it, it becomes hard skpand hard to accept that answer. >> getting back to dana's point earlier, what if there are trump supporters out there who say, i don't care. i don't care that he met with the russians, i don't care that he's doing this here. i still like that he sticks it
to the news media, sticks it to washington. does it rise to the level of outrage in trump country? >> i think they will stand by him for many, many, many months. and not to draw parallels between nixon, but it was the same thing with nixon. republicans stayed with nixon deep into the watergate scandal both in terms of rank and file voters as well as lawmakers. and i don't think that's going to change here. >> i was just reading woodward bernstein's book "the final days." one of the points they make is that the republicans stood by nixon basically to the end, and the day he resigned, he was at about 30% in the polls. it wasn't zero. >> right, right. >> so none of our -- fortunately we live in a society where people never agree on everything. you know, and that's okay. >> america's views on russia have changed over the yearsment i mean, obviously from a
government standpoint, russia remains an adversary, particularly this government in russia, but americans have seen the relationship evolve and thaw over the years, so for example, the relationship with the soviet union, our arch enemy, when i moved to this country and the sort of feelings that people had towards russians and the soviets back then have changed over the years. so i think your question is valid. if many americans say, so what if there's a video between the president, showing the president of the united states with russian oligarchs? >> that was the lesson burned in my brain after this election cycle, certainly. the views out there in trump country are very different than those in washington, d.c. thanks very much, everybody. the man picked to replace james comey assures his independence and vows to resign rather than carry out an unethical order. that's created controversy and
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and it only gets better from here. why wait?! you can start hearing your better days by scheduling your free hearing evaluation today. miracle-ear...hear a better day. we're watching multiple new developments in the russia election meddling investigation. one man who figures prominently in many of those stories is leaving. cnn's brian todd has been watching as russia's ambassador to the united states says his good-byes. tell us more about that. interesting guy, interesting character. >> reporter: he certainly is, jim. we haven't been able to report on the russia investigations without mentioning sergey kislyak. he's been everywhere in this scandal and seemingly every trump confidant kislyak has
interacted with has found trouble as a result. he lumbered into washington's porsche saint region us hotel for a party given in his honor. only stayed an hour and a half then left. sergey kislyak, the burly back slapping russian is returning to moscow, leaving a string of controversies in his wake. >> it is clear he has played a substantial role in this investigation that is now consuming the trump administration. >> reporter: for years kislyak who was already a seasoned diplomat before arriving in the u.s. has been known as an operator in washington, affable and social. >> you can hardly imagine a more cuddly jovial russian diplomat than sergey kislyak. >> reporter: but behind the scenes u.s. government officials consider kislyak a spy recruiter something the kremlin strongly denies. and while he has not been accused of russia's meddling in the u.s. election last year, at every turn kislyak seems to be a
central character in the story. the topics michael flynn spoke about in phones with kislyak during the transition got flynn fired after he misled the white house whether sanctions were discussed. jared kushner remains under scrutiny for allegedly discussing with kislyak in december a secret back channel to the kremlin. the white house wouldn't comment on that. and attorney general jeff sessions's meetings with kislyak during the campaign eventually led to his recusal from his department's investigation into russian interference. >> he met with attorney general sessions while sessions was a u.s. senator and a top surrogate for the trump campaign. that led to the questions in session's confirmation hearing that sessions was unt fully forthright about and eventually led to his recusal and rubt mueller's appointment as a special counsel. >> reporter: during trump's meeting in the oval office, after the controversial firing of director james comey, the president reportedly told the russian ambassador comey was a
nutjob and was relieved from the investigation. he stepped into a fire storm where russia is radioactive and he may not bring much more comfort to u.s. officials. he is seen as a hard liner, less chummy than kislyak. he held a top position in putin's defense ministry and was reportedly a key figure in russia's 2014 invasion of ukraine. he was sanctioned by the e.u. for that but not by the u.s. >> if relations are going to be bad, it turns out he probably is well suited to a kind of period of chilly interactions. >> reporter: now, the state department did not respond when we asked why antonov has not been sanctioned by the u.s. for his alleged involvement of invasion of ukraine. as for sergey kislyak, they are not saying where he is going next. former state department official who we spoke to in this piece says kislyak may be in for a letdown, that he'll be hard-pressed to find a job with as much buzz and influence as the one he's leaving right now.
jim? >> brian, he's like a character out of a novel. spy novel, absolutely. sur getting a sense that sergey kislyak was directed by the kremlin to stir things up to provoke the trump team into getting into some trouble? is there any evidence of that? >> reporter: jim, we are getting different takes on that from veteran diplomats and analysts in washington. some believe kislyak was doing what russian ambassadors have to do. when trump became a front runner he simply had to get more information on them. he had to meet with trump's people. others believe everything putin has done was to distract the new administration, and guess what's happening right now? >> my guess is plenty of people in washington are happy to see him head back. >> reporter: absolutely. >> brian todd, thank you. president trump's pick to replace james comey says he will be loyal to the constitution and rule of law. could he set up a clash with the president? >> i'm asking you as the future fbi director you consider this
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happening now, no loyalty pledge. the fbi choice to leave offers independence for the white house and support for the special counsel in the russia investigation. furious and frustrated gop insiders say the president is blaming his enemies for the fire storm surrounding his son. mr. trump is speaking out tonight about donald junior's e-mail exchanges and his meeting with the russian lawyer. party fears,