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The Controversial Meetings; Going Again with Twitter War. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 3, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. Time to hand over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now. Have a great weekend.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump is at Mar-a-Largo but his Russia troubles have followed him there.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, even Jared Kushner, all meeting with the Russian ambassador. What's that about? What's the connection between the Kremlin and the White House? We'll investigate. And what does Vladimir Putin want from all of this.
Meanwhile, President Trump responds to all this -- respond to all of this just as you'd expect with a Twitter war against Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
I want to get straight now to CNN's White House correspondent, Athena Jones, she's live in Mar-a-Lago for us this evening. Good evening to you, Athena. President Trump back on the offense as we continue to learn about the meetings between the president's inner circle and Russian officials, what's the latest?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don. That's right. He's counterpunching. Going on the attack on Twitter. His favorite social media platform, perhaps his favorite form of communications. Mid-day, he tweeted a photo of the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President back in 2003. They're drinking what looks like a hot beverage and eating what Schumer later confirmed were crispy creamed doughnuts.
And the president said "We should start an immediate investigation into ex-Senator Schumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. a total hypocrite." Schumer, took to Twitter to respond, saying he would happily talk about his contact with Mr. Putin and his associates. "Took place in all three in full view of press and public. Under oath. Would you and your team?"
So, that is the very latest we have from the president, who was clearly upset about all of the attention that is being paid to what he has repeatedly called a ruse and distraction and a way for democrats to make up for their big loss in November. Don?
LEMON: Athena, this is interesting because this new homeland security report it seems to undermine the president's travel ban or at least, you know, the reason that they want to have this travel ban. This report found that after looking at 88 cases of terrorism, that most foreign-born violent extremists do not arrive in the U.S. radicalized. How is the White House responding to that?
JONES: Well, the White House isn't responding specifically to that new report so far, Don. But this is so interesting. because even on that first weekend, you remember back at the end of January when the travel ban came out and created all this chaos at airports, at different airports across the country, the White House held a couple of background briefings.
And officials argued that this ban was absolutely necessary to protect the country, to prevent attacks like 9/11, the San Bernardino shooting and the Boston bombing. And Don, we pointed out at the time that, you know, all of those attacks were committed by people who either weren't from these countries or were U.S. citizens.
And so, the facts seem to keep getting in the way of what, of the argument the administration is making. And remember, we're still waiting for this ban, we were expecting to see, the revised travel ban, the ban that the administration hopes will stand up better to legal scrutiny, to legal challenges.
We were expecting to see that as soon as this week. We actually are expecting to see it last week. It hasn't come this week and the White House says there's no announcement on that or on the timing on that. And that when they're ready to roll that out they'll let us know, but it's proving to be quite complicated.
The fact that, you know, they've now asked for these reports to help justify it and the reports are coming back and delivering information that doesn't actually justify their point. Don?
LEMON: Interesting. Athena Jones at Mar-a-Lago. Athena, thank you. I want to bring in now CNN contributor Emily Jane Fox, a staff writer for Vanity Fair, political analyst, Kirsten Powers, a columnist for USA Today, and political commentator, Matt Lewis, senior columnist for the Daily Beast.
As Athena was reading that Twitter, who would have thought that the president would ever in a -- our president is in a Twitter war.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
LEMON: What's happening?
POWERS: Well, I mean, this is -- he's always in Twitter wars obviously but this response is, you know, especially childish. Because the allegations against the Trump administration right now are really serious. And if I was Donald Trump I would want to just clear my name and try to get everything out in the open so that can understand what exactly is going on with this -- his administration's relationship with Russia.
You know, so I think that for him to talk about something that Chuck Schumer did in 2003, I mean, what does it have to do with anything?
LEMON: Yes. What does -- and yes. Absolutely. That's why I said what is going on here.
LEMON: I want to play this because Anderson just spoke with former Trump adviser carter Page just a short time ago. I want your reaction a part of their exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So did you actually write policy papers and send them to the campaign?
[22:04:59] CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: Yes, I don't like talking about specifics of--
COOPER: Could you did say, I mean, you told the New York Times you did on March 25th. I'm just trying to -- you said -- you said it about--
PAGE: That's fair enough, yes, yes.
COOPER: Can you say who you sent policy papers to?
PAGE: I don't, you know, I don't talk about internal matters.
COOPER: But I mean, they are talking about internal matters saying you were not part of the campaign at all.
PAGE: Well, I'm not surprised that he didn't know me because he was there until there, you know, he came over from Ted Cruz--
COOPER: Right. But nobody ever came out after Jason Miller said and said well, actually that's not true. Carter Page has been, you know, an adviser to the campaign.
PAGE: Well, you know, the beauty of it -- part of the reason why I stepped back is, I wanted to prevent the continuing to be a distraction. And I mean, this -- this news cycle--
COOPER: But you say you stepped back, they said you weren't part of it to begin with, which is just weird.
PAGE: You know, Jason didn't know. I mean, he was -- I mean, that's -- it's an honest mistake. He was on a few months between Ted Cruz's campaign and moving on to another someone else right now.
COOPER: So, when Sean Spicer January 11th, just two months ago, said "Carter Page is an individual who the president doesn't know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign." What were you put on notice for? What does that mean?
PAGE: You know, I don't know. I haven't met Mr. Spicer either, so.
COOPER: Because there was report as you probably know in the Daily Caller that the Trump campaign had sent you cease and desist letters after relationship with the campaign ended, is that true?
PAGE: I don't know anything about that, yes.
COOPER: So you do not -- you didn't acknowledge receive any cease and desist letters from your attorneys or anything?
PAGE: You know, I, nothing specific that -- there's nothing that really came up in that regard. Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I know you all -- I actually started to feel bad for the guy but then he voluntarily accepted that interview as Emily Jane Fox was pointed out. I mean, it made no sense. He seemed not to want to answer many or any of Anderson's questions or get specific about anything. What did you think of that?
MATT LEWIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, and that's only like a teaser. I mean, there are -- it went on. It was long interview. I mean, I don't even know. And I couldn't tell -- like you said, I feel sorry for him but also it's like the car wreck, you can't not look at it.
LEWIS: That's how I felt. I was intriguing. I found myself like wanting to keep like watching it. Obviously he's not being truthful, obviously he's not being forthcoming about everything.
We don't know. It's like unclear if like it was Jason Miller misleading or was this guy misleading, but you know, obviously it doesn't add up. It's intriguing television but very weird that he went on -- he decided to go on a primetime TV show but not talk about a lot of the things he was going to be asked.
LEWIS: It was a weird decision.
LEMON: And he's been on this show. I mean, nice enough guy but in that interview, boy. Emily, what do you think?
EMILY JANE FOX, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he has every right to as he said not talk about internal matters but that right kind of goes off -- you know, out the window when you decide to do an interview on cable news live.
But look, we're in a time where there are very many head scratching things going on and things that happen in on interviews, things that happened on live television that are probably way more important than this interview where we have a lot more questions at the end of them.
POWERS: I think he's overstating as well in the Trump campaign.
POWERS: It was very clear to me in the interview and I actually texted somebody who was on the Trump transition team who said this never ever advised Donald Trump. I think he was hanger who was exaggerating his role. And why he went on with Anderson and wouldn't just answer these direct questions I think just made him seem even less credible.
LEMON: Emily, let's move on. I want to talk -- because that's going to continue. You know that interview is going to be everywhere, right.
LEMON: I think he's going to have some explaining to do.
LEMON: Maybe not only to, you know, whatever, or however this is investigated, but probably to the Trump folks as well he's going to have to.
Let's talk about Jared Kushner now. I understand, Emily, you have some new reporting on Jared Kushner's meeting with the Russian ambassador back in December that White House has disclosed, I think it was yesterday. What do you know?
FOX: So, I talked to a White House official today who just reiterated how short this meeting actually was between himself and the Russian ambassador. It was very quick. You know, Kushner had met with dozens and dozens of foreign officials. I think the number that the White House official gave me was 100 leading up to then taking office in January.
So, they just reiterated this is business as usual for Kushner. The thing that is not business as usual, is that there is a very small number of people in the innermost circle in the White House, within the west wing, and seemingly they can't keep track of who is meeting with one person.
[22:09:58] The White House official told me today that Sean Spicer did not know about this meeting as late as the end of January. It's really unbelievable that in such a small number of people that you really can't seem to keep track of this one guy.
LEMON: Well, that sounds -- why they can't seem to get ahead of this. Why this drip, drip, drip? Did they just not their acts together? Because maybe they just don't and maybe nothing happened in all of these meetings. But it makes them look like they're hiding something. Do you disagree with that?
FOX: I completely agree. I think that that is the issue here. It's that this meeting was not nefarious. This is the role that Jared Kushner has carved out for himself however unprecedented that role may be, but this is his job. He is meeting with foreign official, that's what he's doing.
But the facts that Sean Spicer didn't know about this meeting and they knew that this or they should have known that this would be a controversial meeting. That is problematic. And what that does is that -- well, what it does not do is create a sense of confidence in the White House and it does do is it makes people think -- you know, we're sitting here watching them create mess after mess and they can't get to their policy agenda if they're just going to create messes and have to clean them up--
LEMON: I wonder -- I mean, Matt, I'm wondering, I mean, is this, are they doing this on purpose? Because a lot of this, these are all self- inflicted wounds and they're very easy to clear up. I mean, all Jeff Sessions had to do after the Flynn thing is say, you know, I need to go back considering what happened, I need to amend what I said. And you know, you guys need to know this.
That didn't happen. They could have, you know, released a lot of this information. And again, we're not talking about one meeting or one person. All of these top aides had meetings with the Russian ambassador. I mean, aren't you curious about what Russia wanted or what these meetings were about?
LEWIS: Yes. Look, I think that this is such a complicated thing. First of all, I do agree, I think that incompetence, like the simplest explanation, incompetence is probably most likely the right explanation.
So, I agree. I think it's probably, you know, Jeff Sessions probably was nothing nefarious, Jared, probably not nefarious, probably just t normal course of business. You know, Jeff Sessions if you go back, I know, actually Vanity Fair had a piece of the hive that was quite good that actually diagnosed the question that Al Franken asked and the answer that Jeff Sessions gave.
And if you actually very closely read it, it's understandable that sessions thought he was answering a very specific question about talking to them on -- I know you're laughing at me. I'm telling you if you actually read it--
LEMON: I'm laughing, you know what? I understand where you're going with this.
LEMON: But anytime you're having to explain something about how you answered or explain a joke--
LEWIS: Yes. It was that good.
LEMON: -- or explain your strategy or your policy, what does that say, Kirsten?
POWERS: Well, I mean, you have a problem.
POWERS: Right? I mean, because you don't you shouldn't -- the thing is, I'm having a hard time following this. I heard Jack Kingston kind of making a similar argument earlier. He offered up the information.
POWERS: So, and Jack Kingston was sort of arguing, well he wasn't asked about this so somehow the fact that he offered up this information doesn't matter, but that's not true.
He was under oath, he said this. He, you know, I think it was totally plausible that what he said is true, that he misunderstood, was thinking one way when he got the question. But then why not correct the record after the fact? What about the staffers that were in the meeting?
You know, I also would love to know just basically is this the regular thing for him? So, did he meet with the ambassador in the preceding year? Like just the basic information.
LEMON: But then also so he -- it has been reported that he used campaign funds to go to convention.
LEMON: Does that undercut what he said if he -- because then he's working--
POWERS: Well, pretty much everybody does that, though. I mean, all members of Congress when they go to the conventions use campaign money. So, you know, but he -- but I think it also underscores the fact that he was doing political work.
POWERS: Not in his official capacity.
LEMON: One thing we do know, panel, is this is a mess. It's a mess. Politics are messy or is it, politics are messy. Thank you. I appreciate it.
When we come right back, democrats calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. But was his decision to recuse himself enough?
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president is taking a break from the White House, spending the weekend in Florida but he can't get away from the lingering questions about Russia, including why so many of his top aides met with Russia's ambassador before his inauguration.
Let's discuss now, Nicholas Kristof is here, he's a columnist for the New York Times and a frequent -- I can say contributor here on our show, a frequent guest. So, thank you so much for coming on.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Good to be with you.
LEMON: Let's talk about this. Because CNN's reporting about Ambassador Kislyak and at least three other campaign he met with three other campaign advisers during the RNC in Cleveland, additionally he met with President Trump's senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, met with the ambassador at Trump Tower in December. What did you -- what is happening here?
KRISTOF: Well, I mean, a, I don't know. I wish I did know. But I do think that the connections at the Republican National Convention are a little bit overdone. I mean, that was a -- you know, there were bunch of ambassadors there, Sessions, for example, apparently met with a group. I don't think there was any collusion going on there.
LEMON: Do you think he misremembered?
KRISTOF: Sessions? That would be a really charitable explanation. I mean, I think he didn't tell the whole truth. You know, what the reason for that is, I don't know. I mean, I must say that every -- every other liberal is calling for him to be ousted.
LEMON: It's a little much at this point.
KRISTOF: It seems to me, I mean, I didn't call for Bill Clinton to be, to resign when he lied under oath. And it seems to me, you know, we need to investigate this but then that's a diversion.
LEMON: But the first thing when I saw all of the democrats rushing up to the mic, I know that they think have something and just putting out the statements. The inclination would be just to wait to see what happened.
LEMON: But they're -- and the president said they're overplaying their hand. That was my exact thought when I saw all of that.
KRISTOF: And also you know, the big problem all along is nobody -- we, in the media and we didn't thought, we, you know, we chase the latest bright thing--
KRISTOF: -- and shiny thing, and you know, that's it right now. The really important issue is this larger question of getting an independent investigation of what the connections are with Russia. LEMON: I cut you off. You said additionally, is that what you wanted
to say? You thought Cleveland was over, it was a little bit blown and then you said additionally.
KRISTOF: That's right. And I mean, I think that -- I think that Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland probably doesn't matter too much. The meeting in Washington--
KRISTOF: I mean, that's a good thing. Senators should meet the Russian ambassador. They also then shouldn't deny it later on both in testimony and a written questionnaire.
[22:19:55] But what's weird is, you know, any individual meeting whether it's with Kushner, whether it's with Sessions, can be explained. But you have this broad pattern of person after person at the Trump campaign that is in meeting with Russians.
I mean, Paul Manafort maybe is the -- is the most important. And the server that was communicating with a server in Russia. We don't know what is going on there. But there is a cloud hanging over this and it's not going to be dispelled by a Senate committee investigation. I mean, it's got to be an independent investigation.
LEMON: Well, you know, everyone is saying, well, you have this whole thing while the former president is talking is dealing with sanctions and then you have the meetings. And then you have -- so, it's not -- it's not -- if it was Flynn by himself, if it was Sessions by himself. If it was Kushner by himself. Do you understand where I'm going with this?
KRISTOF: Absolutely. I mean, it's a pattern.
LEMON: It was Manafort by himself.
KRISTOF: At this point you need to ask at the administration who did not meet with the Russian ambassador. And you know, it's also the White House saying repeatedly that they had not had communications with Russia.
Vice President Pence said in January, that there had been no communications with Russia. And he said, why would there be? Well, that's excellent question.
LEMON: How can they get past this, because in the panel before you I said, maybe all of these meetings are innocent. We don't know.
LEMON: Maybe nothing transpired in all of these meetings. But the way they're handling it makes it seem like they're hiding something because they keep tripping over themselves. KRISTOF: I mean, it's always the cover-up. You know, President Reagan
when he was faced with a similar challenge with Iran-Contra, he called in an independent outside commission with people like Brent Scowcroft led by John Tower and they, in three months issued a report.
And I think that kind of outside commission, independent people with subpoena power, is going to be the only way to clear the air. I don't think a Senate committee is going to be sufficient.
LEMON: When you talked about the server and then, we put up a time line last night and then someone said to me, again, this is, this may just be coincidence because I think the platform, the republican platform is already making changes when it came to Ukraine.
Someone said, so let me read this, someone think Carter Page, J.D. Gordon and Jeff Sessions met with the ambassador at the republican convention. And after these meetings the RNC platform weakened the provision and soften the support of Ukraine in its first -- in its fight against the Russian-backed.
A few days later, the first batch of hacked DNC e-mails is released by WikiLeaks. Do you think that's more coincidence or maybe not?
KRISTOF: There are awful lot of dots there. And I don't know which dots we can connect. But that's something a committee has to investigate. You know, on that issue, it's also notable that President Trump was asked by George Stephanopoulos at one point about the weakening of the convention platform language.
And he said he had no idea where that came from. It wasn't anything to do with him. And now it turns out in fact that J.D. Gordon played a role in weakening that language. His aide.
So, there all these dots all these connections. And it fundamentally goes back to the same question when I was in high school, back to Watergate, what did the president know and when did he know it? We don't know the answer to that. I don't want to prejudge it but only an independent commission is going to resolve that.
LEMON: I usually get ready for my show in my office and I'm watching my colleague Anderson Cooper do interviews. And tonight I watch him I wanted to go into the studio in the break and say what just happened, Anderson. I didn't do that. The other show do--
KRISTOF: With the Carter Page.
LEMON: What did you think of that interview?
KRISTOF: I don't know what to make of it. I -- but, I guess don't think that Carter Page was some kind of a major secret liaison. I don't think Jeff Sessions was a secret liaison. If there was collusion as the dossier said, then I think it was other people.
And you know, Paul Manafort is somebody who's I think everybody has got to focus on. It has to be research on him.
LEMON: One more and another note before I let you go--
KRISTOF: And can I also say, I mean, the Trump taxes, I mean, there's a real question about whether the Russians had leverage over the Trump family through investments that they had made. And you can't resolve that unless we see the Trump taxes.
LEMON: Well, Mark Sanford is a republican he is now calling for the president to release his taxes because to show if there is or isn't a connection to Russia. Do you think you'll see, starting to see more republicans to do that?
KRISTOF: I hope so.
KRISTOF: Because you know, it's not just a question of finances. It also raises national security question of whether the Russians had leverage over him.
LEMON: Quickly, do you see the hypocrisy or is there a hypocrisy that you or regarding the Pence e-mail, him using a personal e-mail to do state business and then his heavy criticism of Hillary Clinton doing a similar version of that, but also having, she also had a personal server as well.
KRISTOF: Absolutely. I mean, it was astonishing to me to see that, you know, Pence was denouncing her all along for having this private server for--
LEMON: Private e-mails.
KRISTOF: -- private e-mails or, you know, that she may have been hacked. You know, we don't know whether she was hacked. I gather that he was.
[22:25:05] LEMON: He was, yes. And there's no indication that she was at this point.
LEMON: Thank you. Have a great weekend.
KRISTOF: Great to be with you.
LEMON: Just ahead, what were Vladimir Putin's motives for Russian efforts to hack the election? I'm going to ask our experts who know Russia very well.
LEMON: Democrats in Congress calling for a special prosecutor to investigate any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
I want to bring in now Jonathan Sanders, associate professor at the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, and the author of "The Russians Emerge," Matthew Rojansky is director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Centre, and Jill Dougherty of the Evan School at the University of Washington, who is a former CNN Moscow bureau chief.
Thank you all for coming on. Good evening. Jonathan, you first. We keep learning new details about the meetings between Russia's ambassadors to top aides for President Trump. He has denied that there was contact between any of these people with the Russians. But don't you, don't people want to know why so many contacts and what were these contacts and meetings about?
[22:29:56] JONATHAN SANDERS, PROFESSOR, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Don, weren't you intrigued about who this Donald Trump guy was, didn't you want to know whether he could win? The Russians wanted to know. He was just as much a puzzle to them. I can't tell you how many Russians up until the election would ask me, is he for real, what is it going to mean, what is he going to do? Is this guy crazy? Is he a caricature? Well, how do I understand this cartoon? He isn't a normal American politician.
And then they'd want me to explain to them the same thing in Russian just so they could get confirmation. I think that some of this was going on, were they getting secret instructions, I doubt it.
LEMON: So that explain -- that explains the Russian side of it. But it doesn't explain the other side as well. Because just because they want to learn about it doesn't mean that they have to, that they must meet with them. It doesn't explain why the -- why the folks on the Trump side wanted to meet with the Russians as well.
SANDERS: Well, this is the black box. We still have not had a serious explanation from Donald Trump about his intrigue with Russia. Does he just like Russian souls? Does he like it because it's so contrary? Does he like Putin simply because everyone in American establishment can't stand him? Does he -- did he get a lot of money from Russians? Did see Sputnik when he was a little boy and all he's wanted to see the other side of the world?
LEMON: So what do you think the--
SANDERS: Does he --does he find new Russians just like him, crass and crude and liking to do things in exaggerated fashion.
LEMON: But on part of that you're saying it sounds like you're saying it's part of it serious, and part of it it's not. Do you think that there should be an investigation into this?
SANDERS: Yes. I think we need a long deep investigation which also needs to include how America interfered in the last free election in Russia in 1996. They didn't have impact except maybe it taught the people there they could invade our elections. LEMON: Matthew, I want to get your reaction to the conversation we
just had, what do you think?
MATTHEW ROJANSKY, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER DIRECTOR: You know, I think one motive for Russian representatives, especially for diplomats, to be meeting with either presidential campaign, especially later in the elections.
So after the primaries were over when we now know from U.S. intelligence sources that a Russian information operation of some kind was already well underway. They may have wanted to see how were the potential future leaders of the United States reacting to those revelations.
Were they going to punish the United States? Whatever the purpose of the intervention was, whatever the outcome of it was, was there a likelihood that the next government of the United States was going to impose further sanctions or continue the sanctions that it then turned out in December that the Obama administration at the 11th hour impose.
You know, I'd want to know that if I was Vladimir Putin. What's going to be the reaction of the next U.S. government. Beyond that, I think that there were real curiosity. What were their policies going to be?
And of course, you know, this is -- this is basically the work of diplomats, reporting on the perspectives of Americans whether they're in power, out of power. And by the way, the Russian ambassador has been doing that for years. I've watched him do that. He does that very well.
LEMON: Yes. Jill, listen, these meetings again. And I keep saying it could be very innocent but, I mean, there seems to be a lot of them. Here's the more conventional wisdom I think from people -- from average folk is that follow the money, follow the money. That there is the potential financial connections here, do you -- ties to Moscow at least. Do you think that's a possibility?
JILL DOUGHERTY, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS FELLOW: I do not know of course, because I'm not with the FBI. But I do think that when you, you know, when you look at the history of Donald Trump, his -- the first thing we know other than, you know, being impressed by Sputnik was, seriously, when he went to Moscow and wanted to do deals in Moscow, building a hotel in Moscow.
And so a lot of his early connections it appears with Russians were based on business and money. And so, many of the people that he met from that world are business people, money people. And when you get into that part of the world, former Soviet Union, there is -- there's a lot of murky activity. Everybody knows that.
So, you're going to bump into a few shady characters along the way. So, all I'm saying is that it's entirely possible that those -- that's the beginning of the nexus. Now whether you take to nth degree and you say, you know, that there is a collusion and that there is blackmail, I cannot say that. But I think that this mystery, this so-called mystery why Donald Trump
is interested in Russia, there are many different reasons why he is, and they're not all that unclear. You know, money. He likes power. He likes powerful men. He thinks of himself as a powerful man. He really disdains old forms of government. That's very much like Putin would go along with that. There are many different cross currents going on in this.
[22:34:58] LEMON: All right. Everyone I want you to stand by. Because Anderson had someone on a Trump adviser, a former adviser on earlier. I want to play part of that interview. It's an interesting interview and I want to get your response. We'll be right back.
LEMON: White House dealing with the fallout tonight from revelations that multiple Trump advisers had meetings with Russia's ambassador prior to the election.
Back with me now my Russia experts, Jonathan Sanders, Matthew Rojansky, and Jill Dougherty.
The former Trump adviser, Carter Page just spoke to Anderson Cooper. And Anderson asked him if he has met President Trump and here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I never shook his hand. I've been in you know, many rallies with him from Arizona to North Dakota to many in New York.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Rallies?
PAGE: Rallies, you know, which is -- which is meetings.
COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that.
COOPER: Because you have said repeatedly that you were in meetings with the president.
PAGE: That's right.
COOPER: You were in Moscow in December of 2016 at a press -- you held a press conference at the Sputnik headquarters, and you apparently, to reporters you denied claims that you never met Donald Trump during your time as an adviser.
[22:39:57] And you said, I've certainly been in number of meetings with him.
COOPER: Now that implies I'm in a meeting in a conference room, around a table. You're now saying that those meeting were actually rallies?
PAGE: That is -- listen, if you look at the definition of meetings in Russian and in a Russian context, 90 percent of the students from the university and other media people that came to that meeting, that briefing or the presentation I gave were Russians.
And so, when they, you know, when they have demonstrations and gatherings in Bolotnaya Square and other places, you know, that the term for that is meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Jonathan -- OK. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Matthew? Who wants to go first.
ROJANSKY: We're all kind of laughing because technically that's true. Technically, the translation that the Russians use, the term meeting to describe things that we might call for the rallies or kind of bigger gatherings. That's kind of a funny point, but yes, that's pretty strangely evasive.
And you know, I was just in Moscow myself last week. And what's amazing to me about this whole story, is you know, you hear Carter Page kind of conveying his efforts to clarify things to the Russian press. The Russians are also kind of befuddled by what's going on.
ROJANSKY: Maybe someone at the very, very top knows what the whole story is. But most of the Russians that I talk to don't really have a clue. And I think most worrisome of all is, if there was a plot to intervene in the U.S. election, what they're worried about is it's totally exploded in their faces now.
And President Trump is more hemmed in on Russia policy than you could ever have imagined. There is no opening for him to do engagement to roll back sanctions. And it's not just going to happen.
LEMON: I want--
ROJANSKY: You got as Russia hawkish a policy in front of him now as Hillary Clinton would have had.
LEMON: I want you guys to keep that thought in mind, because I want to talk more about that. But just quick reaction to that interview. Jonathan, first. I mean, you spent time in Russia as well. What did you think of this explanation there?
SANDERS: I thought it was absurd, bordering on satire, I don't know whether he should be on the news program or on a children's morning cartoon program maybe with Homer Simpson.
LEMON: Jill? DOUGHERTY: I think it's ridiculous. In fact, I'm surprised he even
knows the word meeting which is, which really is a word as we just heard from Matt. And I saw Carter Page in fact in Moscow over the summer; I guess it was last summer giving a speech at a university.
And it was interesting, because even at that point, people were very interested, here's a man from the campaign, from Trump, we will find out about Trump. He refused to answer--
LEMON: To Jonathan's point.
DOUGHERTY: -- any questions about the Trump campaign. Even there in Moscow he did a very good job of dissing American foreign policy in Central Asia but he wouldn't answer any questions about the Trump campaign. So that to me was a little odd as well.
LEMON: yes. Hey, Jill, I don't know if it was last night or the days we're all here together or the night before, but let's talk about the Russia reaction because Matthew brought it up. The Russian -- the Russian people's reaction to what's going on over here about these meetings and so forth.
DOUGHERTY: You know, I totally agree with Matt. That it's very difficult. You know, some -- I would say in the Kremlin, people are not naive. And I think that they understand -- they understood even from the beginning that Donald Trump was unpredictable, kind of a wild card, with a lot of ego.
And that this all would play into the way that Russia would eventually play with him. So, you saw the early comment by President Putin, which was stroking the ego of Donald Trump.
You saw other comments but never really any complete commitment. So, yes, they didn't want Hillary Clinton to win, but I'm not too sure they knew what they were going to get with Donald Trump, and right now they certainly do not know where all of this is going. And it is backfiring because any chance--
DOUGHERTY: -- of having any type of deal as we said on sanctions, et cetera, is out the window at least at this point.
LEMON: I got to get this in quickly, if you will. Jonathan, I want you to weigh in on the report that seven Russian officials were reportedly murdered or found dead since the U.S. election? What do you think of that?
SANDERS: If I had a dollar for every Russian official that's been killed, Jill and I have 30 acquaintances, Russian journalists who have been killed. That is something that Putin and Trump share, they do not like the press except Putin can really do something evil about it.
LEMON: Wow. You're not saying, I mean, you know, the president would never murder anyone, you want to make that clear.
[22:44:58] SANDERS: Only in his dreams. And you might be one of them.
LEMON: I doubt it. I think -- I think he actually likes me. But you know.
SANDERS: Let's invite him on and see.
LEMON: Yes, we'll see. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it.
When we come right back, President Trump expected to sign a new travel ban any day now. The last one caused worldwide chaos. What will this -- what will happen this time?
LEMON: President Trump's new executive order on immigration is expected any day now. The first one created chaos for travelers all around the world.
Let's discuss that and more with the man who has traveled the world himself with his new CNN series "Believer." Reza Aslan joins me now. Good to see you.
REZA ASLAN, CNN HOST: Hi, Don. How are you?
LEMON: Let's -- I'm great. Let's watch the president, this is the original signing of the original travel ban on January 27th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this is the protection of the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States. We all know what that means. Protection of the nation from foreign terrorist's entry into the United States. Big stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: This is pain -- I see it pains you so much you have to laugh? Why are you laughing?
[22:50:00] ASLAN: I just -- because it's like -- it's clearly the first time he has ever read that. It's the very -- he is like this is the -- what is it again? What is it? Foreign -- I mean, what are we doing here? What are we dealing with? I'm sorry, I know it's late at night and I've been doing a lot of interviews. But I can't stand it anymore.
LEMON: Well, this is the show where you people come on and say--
ASLAN: That's why I'm laughing.
LEMON: -- end of the night.
ASLAN: You're on at 11, this is what happened. I can't stand it anymore.
LEMON: But after, you know, that he's going to redo it.
LEMON: But then after the speech he gave earlier in the week they wanted the good publicity from that so they delayed it, but it's so--
ASLAN: That's how urgent it was.
LEMON: That's -- exactly.
ASLAN: Look, I think the only--
LEMON: Is it that urgent? Because some really bad dudes, as he said, are getting in.
ASLAN: Yes, the argument of the White House, OK, to be fair, is that these countries were chosen specifically through an objective analysis of the threat that there are foreign nationals pose to American citizens. An urgent threat.
And unfortunately, every part of that argument is crumbling. First, the fact that zero Americans have been killed on U.S. soil from foreign nationals from any one of these countries.
LEMON: Seven countries.
ASLAN: Second by reports now that we are going to be removing Iraq from that list. That's a good idea to remove Iraq from that list. We are after all fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraqi military personnel against a common enemy. So maybe it's a bad idea to talk about banning their citizens from coming into the United States.
But nevertheless, that further erodes the notion that this is about an objective analysis of threat. And now we have a Department of Homeland Security report stating quite clearly that the real fear from foreign- born terrorists, if you will, is that they get radicalized long after they are into the United States. So any kind of extreme vetting that this EO represents will be useless anyway.
LEMON: That's what I was going to ask you, that these reports shows that they don't arrive here radicalized. They become radicalize after that. Do you agree with that, and do you -- how can we prevent that if you agree with that?
ASLAN: Well, I mean, I don't know what polls or statistics DHS is using but in my academic work on radicalization, yes, it is true. That radicalization happens through a long, long period of disaffection, through a crisis of identity within the individuals themselves. That's how it happens in Europe. That's how it happened in the United States.
LEMON: What I find fascinating is when you talk about you broach these issues in new series 'Believer' it airs at 10 p.m. on Sunday, but you examine smaller religions so that you can find out about how people become radicalized, how they help extremism and they promote it. What did you find out?
ASLAN: Well, look, I think if you start with the notion that religion is first and foremost a matter of identity, and only after that a matter of beliefs and practices. That when someone says I'm Hindu, or Buddhist, or Muslim, or Jewish, that making a statement about who they are as human beings.
And who they are as human beings isn't just of defined by their religion. It's defined by their politics, by their social views, by their economic positions. All those are included in it.
And so, one of the things I'm trying to do with a show like this is to educate people about the varieties of ways in which a single faith can be expressed. So, in this first episode you see Aghori mystics who take part in the most really so scary rituals, you know, eating corpses, things like that.
LEMON: Well, this is -- there's one man you talk with the man, he believes that -- he's from India's untouchable population, I believes his karma lead him to lifetime of disposing India's deceased.
ASLAN: yes, he's untouchable.
LEMON: Let's watch. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASLAN: How long have you been working on the Ghats?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My entire life. I work almost 18 hours a day. I'm not literate so I can't have a different occupation. I learned how to do this job from my parents. It's a family tradition. Initially, when I began, I used to have some nightmares. But not anymore. I feel tired. I'll be able to do this for another 10 or 15 years. No more than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What are we seeing?
ASLAN: He's part of an untouchable class called the doms. In Hinduism there are a lot of things that can pollute you. But nothing is more polluting than a dead body. But you have to figure out a way to get rid of those dead bodies. And so an entire untouchable caste is responsible for the disposal over those dead bodies. [22:54:55] But the problem is that because they touch those bodies
they're continually more and more polluted. So not only are they outcast from society but according to traditional Hindu theology, that when they die they will be reborn back into this untouchable caste. So, it's an eternity of this kind of suffering in social positions.
But this is I think a perfect example of what we were talking about. Is that, just as there are many Hindus who will say, well, if you're an untouchable, it's because you did something in a previous life to deserve it. It's part of our religion. There are just as many Hindus who would say no, our religion is about liberation and freedom and justice and the caste system is against that. That's the thing, is that religion is whatever a religious person says it is.
LEMON: Right. Yes. This is fascinating. You must love doing this. I mean, I'm sure you learn a lot.
ASLAN: It's like a dream job. I can't believe that you guys pay me for it.
LEMON: I don't want to -- I don't want to jinx you -- but no, not you guys, you're one of us now.
ASLAN: That's right.
LEMON: Yes. So, welcome. Thank you so much.
ASLAN: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Don't miss CNN's new original series "Believer," a spiritually curious journey into scientology, voodoo, and much more. "Believer" with Reza Aslan premiers Sunday night at 10 p.m. right here on CNN. We will be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)