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tv   CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield  CNN  July 22, 2017 11:00am-11:30am PDT

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senate negotiators have agreed to a deal that could impose new punishments against moscow. both houses of congress will have to vote on the bill before sending it to the president's desk. a spokesman for the kremlin says he sees the agreement, quote, quite negatively. and the investigation into election meddling moves forward. we now know that donald trump jr. and paul manafort will speak with a senate panel behind closed doors about that secret campaign meeting with a russian lawyer at trump tower last year in 2016 during the campaign. and president trump's son-in-law jared kushner also expected to have his interview on monday. let's go to cnn white house report eri reporter kathryn collins. first we know the senate was pushing for public testimony, but that is still a possibility down the line. right now it's behind closed doors? >> reporter: yeah, that's right. they were pushing for a public
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hearing and they were even threatening to subpoena drimz jr. and paul manafort if they had not responded by the deadline, which was yesterday. but we've heard from them that they have worked out a deal with the senate judiciary committee to talk to them privately and casually and provide documents to them before agreeing to go ahead with a public testimony. we do not know dates of these interviews yet. we know the topic will be the trump tower meeting in june months before the election when donald trump jr. thought he was meeting with a russian government attorney who hadd incriminating information on hillary clinton. now, donald trump jr. after the details of this meeting were revealed -- which were not revealed by donald trump jr. at first, they were revealed by the media, but he did tell sean hannity that he would be willing to testify before congress on everything that happened during that meeting and how it came about and what was said during that meeting. but it sounds like he's talked to his lawyer and instead
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decided to speak privately to the senate judiciary committee before going forward with any public testimony. like you said jared kushner also had several meetings this week with the house and the senate. and so it's safe to say that russia is going to dominate what's going on here at the white house next week even though the white house has decided to brand the week with american heroes theme, which is what they've been going with for the past few weeks. last week it was made in america week and this week it will be american heroes. >> so, kaitlan, the president spoke earlier today at a commissioning ceremony for the "uss ford," he talked mostly about the u.s. military, but did he also send a message to constituents to send messages to congress, members of congress? >> reporter: yeah, he had a very clear message for congress today, which was for them to do their job. as he was commissioning this $13 billion state-of-the-art
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carrier, he said that congress needs to do its job and pass the budget. this is a budget that would increase military funding, which is something donald trump has pushed for ever since he took office in january. let's listen to what he had to say to the crowd today. >> it's been a very, very bad period of time for our military. that is why we reached a deal to secure an additional $20 billion for defense this year, and it's going up, and why i ask congress for another $54 billion for next year. now we need congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs. so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it.
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[ applause ] and by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care. >> reporter: so you see there, fredricka, donald trump stayed on message today telling -- talking about his priorities to fund the military and increase spending for them. and also telling constituents to call senators and tell them that they want them to vote for health care next week. so he stayed on message there, but on twitter this morning he was very active and all over the place tweeting about james comey, hillary clinton, but during that speech today he talked about the military and health care. >> all right. kaitlan collins, thanks so much, from the white house. appreciate that. so we're also learning more about stunning revelations from "the washington post" which is reporting that russian ambassador sergey kislyak told his kremlin bosses that he did in fact talk about campaign matters with then-senator jeff
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sessions during the 2016 election. current and former u.s. officials tell "the post" they learned of the conversations from intercepts of russian discussions. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions has repeatedly said that he did not speak to russians about campaign-related issues. this week president trump said if he knew sessions would recuse himself from the russia investigations, that he would not have hired him. mike rogers, the director of the national security agency, was asked earlier today in aspen at the aspen security forum what he would do if the president asked his agency to stop working with the special counsel. >> if the president were to say to you this russia investigation is a distraction, it's preventing me from conducting my presidency, there's no foundation to it and i am going to fire the special counsel,
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direct those to whom he reports to fire him and i think it's time that our intelligence agencies or fbi cease cooperating in this investigation, which i have judged is inappropriate, unnecessary and i'm -- how would you as head of nsa -- >> i'm not going to get into hypotheticals. i will not violate my oath i've taken as 36 years as commissioner officer. i won't do that. i constantly tell the workforce, your integrity isn't worth the price of me or anybody else. >> cnn's shimon joins us live from aspen. so, shimon, this special counsel has a lot of different areas to investigate and this is really shaking up the intelligence community in many ways. >> yeah, that's right, fred. you know, the mueller investigation, you know, each week that goes by perhaps we hear of something new that they're going to be looking at. the sessions matter, the issue with the intercepts and sergey
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kislyak, you know, these intercepts have been part of the investigation for some time now. the u.s. government has had these intercepts, this isn't necessarily anything new that has just come to light, but it is part of the mueller investigation, the russia investigation into how they meddled. and certainly this has been a hot topic here at the aspen security forum and almost every panel someone is asked about russia. and, you know, just yesterday two former leaders of the intelligence community, that's james clapper and the former cia director john brennan, addressed the other revelation that was revealed last week where a meeting that donald trump jr. had and manafort and some other folks with a russian lawyer and sort of their reaction to it was quite fiery. take a listen. >> a lot of this to me had kind of the standard textbook trade
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craft along employed by the russians -- or the soviets, and now into the russians. >> it raises a lot of questions, i think that's what the administration now is having to deal with. questions about what were the motives, what were people thinking at the time, they should have known a lot better, if they didn't, they shouldn't have been in those positions. >> so those meetings are now also part of the special counsel investigation. you know, yesterday cnn reported that they have asked -- the special counsel has asked the folks who were in that meeting to preserve e-mails and texts. so this is ongoing. this is now a new perhaps part of the investigation. and we really right now have no timing on it. there's really no end in sight on this investigation, fred. >> all right. shimon, thank you so much. everyone stay with us through all of this because this too is integral to the growing russia investigations, i'm talking
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about the upcoming interviews involving key players in donald trump's orbit. let's talk about all of this with my panel, the executive director of the new york state democratic party, cnn legal analyst paige pate and cnn political commentator alex stewart. so upcoming interviews is what the terminology is of donald trump jr., paul manafort, formerly the campaign manager of the trump campaign, and even jared kushner who is an advisor to the president right now. so, paige, help us understand the distinction now of these interviews on the hill. these are not being called testimonies. primarily these are closed door discussions. >> right. >> what's the distinction? >> well, there are a lot of distinctions but the most critical distinction is this is not testimony under oath. >> so it's not on record? >> well, it's record to the extent somebody will take notes there. they are going to be asked questions by the senators.
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i suppose it's more of a discussion than interview, but no one is under oath. if they're not under oath and they can make false statements and cannot be charged with a crime even if they're trying to mislead the senators, that's why i don't understand it. now, the fact that it's not public is not nearly as important for purposes of an investigation than the fact that it's not under oath. and so by negotiating to get around a public hearing and not taking an oath, obviously their lawyers had something to do with that. >> so, basel, soubds like this is advantageous for those could we call them witnesses? they would be witnesses in the growing investigation case because it allows them time to change their stories or get more information before they were to testify? >> i absolutely agree. i think it is an opportunity for them to sort of get their stories straight. but i want to be clear about something else. i don't know if a public hearing would illuminate a lot of the information that we, you know, would add any illumination to what we already know. i think it's important for the purposes of transparency and accountability.
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i do want to see them brought before elected officials to talk about the role that they played in what appears to be shady business here. i think they would use it as a platform to talk about the president, sort of protect the shield, manafort potentially to sort of use it as a platform to engage the alt-right. i think all of this to be -- all of this said it's important for democrats to hammer home the narrative that a lot of what we're seeing is a lot of shady dealings behind the scenes stuff that the americans didn't vote for. and i think a lot of that is why the poll numbers are becoming worse and worse. >> so, alice, what's the whole point of this then if it's not on the record? what's the explanation behind why members on the hill would agree to something like this, this kind of arrangement? >> fred, any information they can gather under any conditions is helpful moving forward.
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and keep in mind we not only have the house and senate probes underway, but certainly robert mueller is conducting his investigation. so the more information they get, the better we can get to a conclusion here. and i question basil alluding to shady dealings. there are a lot of things we don't know, but i think it's important not to jump to conclusions until we have the outcome of these investigations. it is good that they're coming forward. i personally think at least at this stage of the game it's more helpful to have these conversations and these interviews to be conducted in private away from the spotlight because it does tend to enable some members of the house and senate to showboat a little bit. and that goes on both sides. that happens with republicans and democrats, but i think in terms of just getting to the bottom of this and getting more information, this is helpful. and from the trump administration who says there's nothing there and they haven't done anything untoward, this is a great first step to getting the information out there and putting this behind them and
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going about the business of executing the legislative agenda. >> so, again, these are going to be interviews, not under oath. hopefully i didn't misspeak by talking about on the record or not, but just not under oath. so then, paige, somewhere down the line there are likely to be testimonies from these same players. meantime, we understand reportedly that the president, the white house is looking into the power of the pardon. and whether the president would be able to pardon family members, aides, potentially even himself. but is that cart before the horse? because if we're talking about no charges. >> right. >> thus far. can you preemptively pardon before there are any charges or if there are any proven offenses or offenses that are being further investigated? >> well, the constitution doesn't provide a lot of detail about it, but it is clear that the constitution grants the president very broad powers of the pardon. he can pardon anyone who works for him. he can pardon them even before
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formal criminal charges have been filed, at least that's what the supreme court said many, many years ago. but what is an unanswered question, the supreme court has not had to address, can he pardon himself. and i think if you look back not just at the constitutional language but what the framers were saying at the time the constitution was adopted that he cannot do that. i don't think that power is in the constitution where donald trump can pardon himself either before being charged or after being charged. >> and if that were the case, that was undermine the power of congress to potentially get the ball rolling on impeachment or anything like that, right? >> sure. now, they can still impeach him. even though trump may argue, yes, i have the power to pardon myself, that doesn't prevent him from being impeached. but think about what it would do. it would give a president blanket immunity the whole time they're in office to commit any crime that they thought of and then they could simply pardon themselves before they were ever charged. i don't think the constitutional convention ever envisioned that happening that way. >> all right. thank you so much. page pate, basil smikle, alice
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stewart, where does the time go? we'll have you back. more to talk about. thanks so much. coming up next, new sanctions on russia may be imminent. the house and senate could send a new bill to the president's desk before the end of the month. and now russia is responding. we'll take you live to moscow after this.
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the house and senate have struck a new deal that would slap russia with a new set of sanctions for interfering in last year's election. it would also give congress veto powers over any attempt to ease the current sanctions. some in congress are expressing concern that trump is considering giving russia back two compounds that were seized by the obama administration in december. the bill could be on the president's desk before the end of the month. i want to bring in cnn's phil black in moscow. so, phil, how is the kremlin responding to today's
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announcement? >> reporter: well, fredricka, we asked president putin's spokesman how russia viewed the possibility of new sanctions. his response, two words, quite negatively. that is a powerful understatement because russia really doesn't like sanctions. it sees them as an attack on its sovereignty, attack on the stability of the government here itself because quite often they target the most wealthy, the most influential, the most powerful both individuals and businesses at the very center of russian power. russia spent a lot of time recently trying to have sanctions lifted like those put into place in response to russia's behavior in ukraine. certainly doesn't want to see more. it is very likely it will respond in some way. the key question is how. because russia's ability to hurt america financially, well, that's pretty limited. that's why you often hear russian officials in this situation talking about an asymmetrical response which means coming at the u.s. in some other unexpected way designed to
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hurt or cause inconvenience or pain to american citizens, businesses or the country itself. an example quickly, when congress passed what's known as the magnitsky act targeting russia human rights abusers with these bans and asset freezes, russia responded by banning american families from adopting russian children, even in cases where the process was already underway, even in cases where the families had met the children they were working to take back home. so it gives a sense that from here russia could respond really in any way. almost anything is possible from this point. but saying that russia's view is quite negative, well that is, it's early, as i say, and very understated response. we'll hear more about this in the week ahead, fred. >> so in trump's first six months in office, he's put a test across the world including syria, north korea, so is there a way in which to kind of sum up his record or even, you know, trump's positioning on a global
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stage? >> reporter: what we've seen through these first six months with all the big international challenges that have come along have been other world leaders, allies, really scrambling to maintain a close constructive relationship with president trump even when he's being unpredictable, even when they don't always agree with his policies. when donald trump meets world leaders, you can't look away. like any great spectator sport, there's the buildup, the tension. often there's great physical spectacle. and there's emotion. sometimes he's warm, sometimes he's not. each brief unpredictable moment is watched and scrutinized in the hope it gives some insight into trump's evolving feelings on the world's biggest challenges. six months into his presidency. trump's foreign policies can be highly fluid.
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trump surprised the world in april when he ordered a cruise missile attack against a syrian regime air base in response to its use of chemical weapons. >> tonight i call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter. >> reporter: russia condemned that strike ferociously, but since then the u.s. has pursued policies seen as much friendlier to russian interests in syria, backing a local cease-fire in the country's southwest while trying to negotiate similar deals in other regions. and now, according to "the washington post," citing unnamed u.s. officials ending the cia program to train and arm moderate syrian rebels fighting pro-regime forces. officially, the administration says no peace deal is possible with president bashar al assad in power. but u.s. policy increasingly recognizes the reality, he's not
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going anywhere. trump has continued barack obama's policies against isis in iraq and syria, letting local forces handle the front line fighting with u.s. advisors, artillery and air power providing crucial support. the results, isis has been driven from mosul in iraq and the same looks set to happen in the syrian city of raqqah. but the human cost is devastating. much of mosul is now rubble. hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. no one knows precisely how many civilians were killed. and isis isn't defeated. as it loses territory, it's expected to return to its roots as a deadly insurgency while still promoting terror around the world. the north korea problem has only grown on trump's watch. as pyongyang pursues its nuclear ambitions, recently successfully
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testing an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, trump again has followed his predecessor by trying to work with china. his focus on building personal rapport with chinese president xi jinping and thanked china for its efforts. and he's also accused beijing of not doing enough. contradiction inspired by frustration. trump and south korea have responded with joint military drills despite china's objections. and trump hasn't ruled out a direct military response. >> one of the worst deals i've ever seen is the iran deal. >> reporter: donald trump has never hidden his contempt for the obama-brokered iran nuclear deal, but six months into his presidency he hasn't torn it up. on this his administration is conflicted. twice officially certifying iran's compliance while also fiercely criticizing its behavior. trump is trapped between
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european allies who want the agreement to hold and the strong feelings from israel and arab states which view iran as a threat. trump appeared more decisive with that other international deal he hates, the paris climate agreement. world leaders lobbied hard, but trump declared he's pulling out. or is he? >> something could happen with respect to the paris accord. we'll see what happens. but we will talk about that over the coming period of time. >> reporter: six months in analysts say sending mixed messages has become a consistent pillar of trump's foreign policy. so has his willingness to lecture or ignore established allies while working very hard to charm traditional adversaries. now, as for russia there's no doubt there was some hope here in moscow that a trump presidency would see a thor in
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relations. it was always a cautious hope because officials here say they've always known no matter how much the american and russian presidents flatter one another, the bulk of america's foreign policy and political establishments continue to view moscow with deep suspicion, fredricka. >> all right. phil black in moscow, thank you so much. all right, next, will a change in guard at the white house during the press briefings, will it affect the administration's relationship with the media overall? we'll discuss after the break. [grandma] you misplaced your debit card? you have wells fargo, right? [grandson] yeah. [grandma] open up the app. [grandson] okay. [grandma] and turn off your card. [grandson] grandma, how are you better at this than me? [grandma] you know, you can use that phone to call me.
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