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Trump Pushes for Health Care; Eighth Man in Meeting Tied to Money Laundering Probe; New Questions About Trump-Putin Meeting. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 19, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you so much. Good to be with you all. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
Let's get to the breaking news, shall we?
Twenty-four hours after their health care bill collapsed, President Trump hosting a lot of frustrated Republicans at the White House and demanding they delay vacation until a new plan is in place. Only problem is, it's not entirely clear whatsoever what that plan actually is.
First, here's the president as he walked into the lunch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're close. I think we're a lot closer than people understand. And we have to pull it through. So important.
But we're in this room today to deliver on our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and to ensure that they have the health care that they need. We have no choice. We have to repeal and replace Obamacare. We can repeal it, but the best is repeal and replace, and let's get going. I intend to keep my promise, and I know you will too.
Obamacare was a big lie. You can keep your doctor, lie. You can keep your plan, lie. It was a lie, directly from the president. You can keep your doctor. You can keep your plan. Twenty-eight times he said it. Twenty-eight times. And it was a lie, and he knew it was. And now it's hurting this country irreparably.
I'm ready to act. I have pen in hand, believe me. I'm sitting in that office. I have pen in hand. You never had that before. You know, for seven years, you had an easy route. We'll repeal, we'll replace, and he's never going to sign it. But I'm signing it. So it's a little bit different. But I'm ready to act.
For seven years you promised the American people that you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting. Inaction is not an option. And, frankly, I don't think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care, because we're close. We're very close.
We have no Democrat help. They're obstructionists. That's all they're good at is obstruction. They have no ideas. They've gone so far left, they're looking for single payer. That's what they want. But single payer will bankrupt our country because it's more than we take in for just health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, so let's start there. Let's go to Jason Carroll, who is live at the White House, talking about this lunch.
But let's just rewind a little bit, Jason. How did we get here where we have, you know, the president sitting around the lunch table with 49 or so frustrated Republicans?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. You heard the president say that he's got pen in hand, basically, and that he's ready to act. But this is a president that was strongly criticized for inaction, basically. And what I mean by that is, there are a lot of folks here in Washington who feel as though this president misread the legislative tea leaves, if you will, and didn't really get into this process as he should have, because if he had, they would have had a better sense that this was going to fail. And so there was criticism that the president needed to do more to get in there, to get involved, and to personally pitch to senators. And so what you're seeing today is a lot of that effort.
This is a president now who's meeting with these GOP senators, talking to them, trying to get them all in a consensus, to get on board to pass some sort of repeal and replace type of legislation. You heard him there when he gave that brief talk there, basically - basically calling President Obama a liar when President Obama said that folks could keep their doctors.
He made a couple of other points. He had indicated that perhaps GOP lawmakers are closer than people really realize, Brooke, but it's unclear in terms of what he meant by GOP lawmakers being close. He said inaction is not an option, but then you heard him yesterday when he basically said, just let things fail, and then let the Democrats come back to the table.
There was an awkward moment during this lunch when he basically was talking about senators not wanting to leave at this point or basically senators wanting to leave. He's saying that they should stay. He basically made a joke, and in doing so he made a reference to the senator that was sitting next to him, Senator Dean Heller from Nevada, and basically made a joke about senators wanting to keep their jobs. I want you to listen to what he said and look at the senator's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You didn't go out there. This was the one we were worried about. You weren't there. But you're going to be. You're going to be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he? OK. And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they're going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:05:17] CARROLL: A bit of a no-so-veiled threat.
CARROLL: And then you consider sort of the serious side of this when you think about Heller, who his office was investigating - his office now investigating, along with Nevada police there in Las Vegas, a threatening letter that was left at his office over the weekend. Heller, as you know, Brooke, has expressed in no uncertain terms some discomfort with the legislation going forward. He was one of those people who were sort of on the fence there. Heller is up for re- election in 2018 and is seen as being one of those senators who could be very vulnerable. So a not so veiled threat there during that lunch.
BALDWIN: Interesting map of his seating chart, and that, you know, Senator Heller would be seated next to the president given everything that we know.
Jason Carroll, thank you so much for setting it up.
Let's discuss all of the above and more. Kevin Sheridan is with me. He is the former senior adviser from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and former communications director for Paul Ryan's vice presidential run. Also with us, Adam Jentleson, former communications director for the retired Democratic Senator Harry Reid.
So, guys, good to have both of you on.
And let's just talk first about, Kevin, starting with you, just listening to the clip that we just had of the president, what do you make of his tone and his style, you know, given the fact that he is sitting with the Republicans who are - many of whom, most of whom are irked that this whole thing is going to linger, you know, for five, six, seven more days.
KEVIN SHERIDAN, FORMER SR. ADVISER, ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT: Yes, it's jocular. It's - he's doing some arm-twisting there. It would have been nice if he had actually gotten a little bit more involved a little bit earlier. I think this may have an effect on the Senate. The senators who have - you know, are holding out their votes right now to move forward and actually take it to the Senate floor and offer amendments -
BALDWIN: Do you think it will change their minds?
SHERIDAN: No. I mean this alone won't do it, but there are things he could do. And it's not on - all on him. I mean, this is up to the Senate to do this for themselves.
I mean, look, they've campaigned on it for eight years, as we all know. They've won seats on this. This is their moment. It's either do nothing, let Obamacare continue to fail and hurt Americans, or act now and get the reforms that we can only get with a Republican Congress, because Democrats aren't going to do those reforms. We know what they're going to do, they're going to dump money on to the problem and it - they're just going to kick the problem down the road.
BALDWIN: Adam, I'm just curious too, your thought on the optics, the seating chart and also, you know, Jason was just reporting, with Senator Heller, up for re-election, 2018, not so keen on the original, you know, vote, the original bill, and then, you know, it seem like, you know, the president was joking, but to say, you know, very surprised to hear my friends, they may not be my friends for much longer. Your read on that?
ADAM JENTLESON, SERVED AS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR FORMER SENATOR HARRY REID: Yes, I do not think Senator Heller found that joke to be funny. I think Senator Heller's take away from that was probably, please, Mr. President, stop helping. This is not how you lobby senators, at least not effectively. Senators - this isn't the House. Senators consider - take themselves very seriously. They have a lot of power individually. And they respect presidents who put in the work, who involve themselves in the legislative process, who show they care, and you don't just call them to the White House and then go on camera and call them on the carpet publicly. It's entirely possible that this has more of a negative effect than a positive effect. This is not how you do it and Trump simply hasn't put in the time or the work.
BALDWIN: Let me ask you just also as the - you know, doing coms for Senator Reid, I understand that you said, you know, at the time, looking back at the Senate majority leader, how he had love and respect from his members, and now you look at the current Senate majority leader, McConnell, you say he only has respect. But this is, you know, this is a man who is seen as a master tactician. How did he swing and get such a big miss on this?
JENTLESON: Yes, I would say Senator McConnell was seen as a master tactician.
JENTLESON: I think that reputation is in doubt now.
You know, I - McConnell has a lot of respect from his members for delivering primarily political victories, which he has done with a fair amount of success over the past few years. That's to his credit.
However, he's done it at the expense of the institution. He's done it by taking away power and influence from individual senators, from chairs of committees. And if you're going to do it that way, he's done it by centralizing power with himself. And if you're going to do it that way, you have to keep delivering. And here he is, on his first big test on health care, completely failing to deliver in a highly public way that puts all of his senators in a very difficult position.
BALDWIN: What do you think, Kevin? What do you think the conversation is around the table that we can't see? Do you think that some of these senators will be blunt with how they feel about the president and his role in this?
SHERIDAN: They've always had a, you know, an interesting relationship, the Senate and the president, and not all of them are his, you know, big fans of his, and he's not fans of them, and that doesn't necessarily matter at this point. This is an issue for all Republicans. We campaigned on this. This is his signature issue.
[14:10:13] BALDWIN: How does it not matter, the relationship between the president of the United States and the senators, if this is all something apparently they were on board for, for doing, you know, as a campaign promise, and here they are in nada.
SHERIDAN: Well, look, he could give an Oval Office address and assure the American people what this bill is and what it is not. You know, put aside some doubts of people that they're not going to lose their insurance or they're not going to lose their doctor or their plan or whatever.
SHERIDAN: I think he could do some of that - he could do some of that and go right over the heads of the Senate and right to the American people. I think he should continue to talk about it if he's serious about it.
But this is an issue for the entire party. It's not about just the president and it's not just about Mitch McConnell or the House. It is about all Republicans. It's what do we stand for. Do we stand for reforming an entitlement, the first chance we've ever had to really reform an entitlement, $772 billion over 10 years. This is our option to do that. Get people better health care options and better outcomes for them, and this is the moment to do it. We campaigned on it. We've got to do it now.
BALDWIN: All right.
JENTLESON: I would just -
JENTLESON: I have one thing to what Kevin said, which is that -
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Adam, quickly.
JENTLESON: Yes. You know, what confidence do Republican senators have to believe that this is the third - second or third position we've heard President Trump take in the past few days. What confidence do they have that this is the position he is going to continue to take. He could wake up tomorrow morning and tweet, oh, never mind, let it fail. That undercuts his juice here too, even if he was to give a primetime address.
BALDWIN: We will be talking to one of the senators in the room. One of the senators who actually is a key component of this thing not going forward, Senator Lisa Murkowski, next hour.
Adam and Kevin, thank you both, gentlemen, very much.
Meantime, let's talk about this Russian lawyer who was one of the eight people attending a meeting at Trump Tower last June during the campaign, now telling CNN she is ready to tell her story to the U.S. Senate with a few conditions. This is her speaking earlier to a Russian government backed TV network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA (through translator): Let's put it this way - I'm ready to clarify the situation in today's mass hysteria only within the legal field through lawyers or by testifying in the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You are ready to go to the Senate?
VESELNITSKAYA: Yes, if I'm guaranteed safety. Today, I have to think about my safety first and safety of my family, my four children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Well, we certainly don't know what will come out of that meeting. We're learning more about the eighth person who was in the room. We now know his name, Ike Kaveladze, was tied to an alleged money laundering investigation involving nearly $1.4 billion that passed through U.S. banks.
Now, he was never prosecuted. He currently works for the Russian oligarch who originally requested the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. And Kaveladze was working for him when he partnered with Donald Trump in the whole Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.
So this is this video we've been showing to you. This is from 2013 at the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas. And Kaveladze is actually behind the guy with his arms folded in the lighter suit. And obviously you see the now president.
But his attorney told Erin Burnett he never met anyone else in the meeting prior to June 2016 at Trump Tower.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BALBER, ATTORNEY FOR EIGHTH PERSON IDENTIFIED AT DON JR. MEETING: He was intended to be there, his understanding, to be actually a translator, interpreter, for the Russian lawyer who speaks mainly Russian. Before that day, he had not met any of the other people in that room. Prior to one hour before the meeting, he had no idea what the meeting was going to be about. He was asked by his boss, go to the meeting, make sure it happens, facilitate logistics, and that's all he knew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, who's been watching this one for us.
And so what more can you tell me just about this whole money laundering investigation?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Brooke, so Kaveladze, he was never criminally charged. But, you know, the mere fact that he was investigated as part of this potential billion dollar money laundering scheme that was tied to Russian brokers, that is raising alarm bells for lawmakers, past and present. In fact, it was former Michigan Senator Carl Levin who took to his FaceBook page to really spell out the concern here.
Now Levin pointed to the congressional probe that he led in the year 2000 that asked the Government Accountability Office to look into how foreigners establish U.S. corporations with hidden ownership as a way to launder money through the U.S. banks. So Carl Levin writing there, "numerous corporations and bank accounts established by Irakly Kaveladze on behalf of people in Russia," that's what he's saying was set up. He said, "the owners of those accounts then moved some $1.4 billion through those accounts."
So now, at the time, Kaveladze did speak to congressional investigators. Kaveladze said he knew all of the entities for whom he set up those accounts, but former Senator Levin called Kaveladze the poster child of those practices, setting up those shell companies. So last night Kaveladze's lawyer again reiterating that he did nothing wrong. Take a listen.
[14:15:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BALBER, ATTORNEY FOR EIGHTH PERSON IDENTIFIED AT DON JR. MEETING: What Mr. Kaveladze did back 20 years ago was absolutely unequivocally legal. There was never any allegation of him engaged in any criminal activity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was not charged.
BALBER: Was certainly not charged with anything criminal or regulatory and did absolutely nothing wrong. And the focal point of that GAO report was about the banks onboarding of client accounts, account opening documents and that kind of issue, a compliance issue. He has never been implicated in any wrong doing whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And, again, Kaveladze was never criminally charged as part of this money laundering investigation involving Russia.
SCHNEIDER: But, you know, Brooke, many lawmakers, including Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat of the Intelligence Committee, they point out that the mere fact that Kaveladze was in this June 2016 meeting, given his, quote, colorful past, those are Senator Warner's words, they say that that raises the stakes even more now to find out exactly what transpired inside that meeting and they plan to find out.
BALDWIN: On those raised stakes, Jessica, thank you.
My next guest was the head of the GAO, that's the General Accounting Office, during this whole money laundering investigation involving Kaveladze. He is David Walker, who's with me now.
Mr. Walker, thank you so much for being with me.
DAVID WALKER, HEAD OF GAO DURING PROBE OF EIGHTH MAN: Good to be with you. It's the Government Accountability Office. And, yes, I was the CEO of it in 2000.
BALDWIN: You got it, sir.
So I know that there were a multitude of reports and this is just one of them. So, you know, as the CEO of the GAO, at a time when former Senator Levin says Kaveladze's name came up in looking into issues surrounding these shell companies, and to Jessica's point, you know, Senator Levin now calling him this poster child of the issue, were you surprised to see his name in the current headlines?
WALKER: Well, I was. But you have to understand the nature of the investigation that GAO did for Senator Levin. We were trying to look at two particular U.S. corporations and their activities dealing with money coming from eastern Europe, going through the United States, back to eastern Europe and individuals' names did not appear that that report. I re-familiarized myself with the report before I'm coming on now. The corporations did. Bank institutions did. But the fact is, is what GAO found was the know your customer rule clearly was being violated by the U.S. financial institutions. We referred -
BALDWIN: Can you explain that further? Can you explain that further, just for people who may not fully understand what it was you all were looking into?
WALKER: Sure. I understand that. I understand that.
Obviously, the United States is concerned about the potential use of U.S. bank accounts for money laundering, whether it be for corruption, whether it be for drugs, whether it be for other illegal activities, and there are various banking laws that, among other things, the know your customer rule, where banks are supposed to do reasonable due diligence to understand whose account it is, where they get their money, what type of business activities that they're engaged in, in order to try to provide reasonable but not absolute assurance that fake accounts aren't being set up for the purpose of money laundering.
And in this particular case, there were two U.S. corporations, Euro- American Corporation and IBC, that set up about 2,000 different accounts for various Russian brokerage. Money came from eastern Europe, went through these accounts, went back to eastern Europe, $1 billion to $1.4 billion. And it was pretty clear from GAO's report that inadequate due diligence was done by these institutions with regard to who their customers were. And as a result of -
BALDWIN: Right, so it was the institutions - if I may just jump in, it was the institutions. WALKER: Sure.
BALDWIN: And I know that this individual, Kaveladze, wasn't, you know, specifically - and he wasn't prosecuted, he wasn't blamed.
WALKER: That's correct.
BALDWIN: But we now know that this Kaveladze was this, you know, eighth previously unidentified person in this - in this June 2016 meeting over at Trump Tower, you know, including the president's son and key campaign leadership and this Russian attorney.
So do you find it concerning, just given all your knowledge of these schemes, you know, just to know that this individual had a seat in that room?
WALKER: Well, I don't know this individual. I don't know what role that individual played in this meeting. Candidly, from my standpoint, it looks like that that meeting that is getting a lot of press attention, you know, that people were saying that it was for one purpose and it was obviously for something very, very different.
BALDWIN: That's correct.
WALKER: The bottom line is - yes, the bottom line is, is that GAO did its work in a professional, objective, nonpartisan way. We did find concerns with regard to possible money laundering, with regard to not following the know your customer rule. We referred it to the appropriate banking regulatory authorities and law enforcement authorities. They did whatever they felt was appropriate. Nobody was indicted, to my knowledge. Nobody was convicted. But it is - it is a serious issue that is becoming increasingly - an area of increasing concern. And given the global interconnectivity of our economies and other types of activities.
[14:20:08] BALDWIN: Help us understand, though, Mr. Walker. I mean we heard this man's attorney say that his involvement, which corroborates with what you're saying. You know, with all these transactions was, quote, unequivocally legal. So just explain to us, last question, you know, in cases like this, why would he not be prosecuted?
WALKER: Well, he evidently didn't do anything wrong. I mean the fact is, if you look at the GAO report, you'll find that in order to set up these corporations, you don't end up having to put a lot of information with regard to the owners of these corporations and a variety of other detailed information, who's working for the corporations. It's very limited the amount of information you have to put up. And so the focus of GAO's investigation, as I said before, was, what happened with regard to the establishment of these accounts, and were there reasonable safeguards taken to try to prevent money laundering. The answer is, no.
BALDWIN: Got it. David Walker, thank you, former chief of the Government Accountability Office. Thank you sir, very much.
WALKER: Good to be with you. BALDWIN: A secret sit-down between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Why didn't we know about this?
And why didn't another American join in the conversation? Two former CIA agents will discuss that.
Also ahead, "People" magazine reporting that Donald Trump Jr. is miserable with his father in the White House. New insight into the family's new headaches.
And, after days of silence, officials finally revealing what officers say happened in the death of this bride-to-be. Hear why - what they're calling a loud bang is now a centerpiece of this tragic story.
You're watching CNN.
[14:25:42] BALDWIN: If it were any other two presidents with a bit more disclosure, a bit more detail, this story may not be such a big deal. But it is these two presidents, both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, who did not disclose a second meeting until now, and who have not offered many details of said conversation.
Here's what we know. A senior White House official tells CNN that near the end of this dinner with other G-20 leaders, Putin and Trump spoke for nearly an hour through a Russian translator. The American translator was not there.
In a statement, the White House says this about the meeting. Quoting, "it is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of the president's duties to interact with world leaders." The White House also disputed the discussion as a second meeting, but instead referred to it as a brief conversation.
So, how should we be reading this? I have with me CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, who is also a former CIA counterterrorism official. And Lindsay Moran is with us. She's a former undercover CIA operative and author of "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy."
So, Phil, you first.
Is this a big deal?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, I - I don't think it is. I think it's significant that they met. Look, you think about the issues that are on the global stage now, especially the effort to get a solution in Syria. You think about the president's questions on things like election meddling, what's going on in Crimea and Ukraine. You think about broader issues, the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea.
Remember, this is happening through translation. So over the course of this meeting, these two meetings, they meet for three-plus hours. In translation, that's an hour and a half, hour and 40 minutes. I think it's good for a president who's not known - look at health care - not known for dealing with detail that he actually wanted to get into detail.
There is one outstanding question.
MUDD: What the heck happened there. And I'd like to know that. But I think the fact of the meeting is OK.
BALDWIN: Well, isn't that part of the issue. I mean, Lindsay, a lot of people are pointing out, it was this Russian translator, instead of having a single American present other than the president of the United States. How do you see it?
LINDSAY MORAN, FORMER UNDERCOVER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, yes, I think that is an issue. I mean I would just say, from a strategic, symbolic, and from a security point of view, it just seems ill-advised. What it looks -
MORAN: It - what it looks like is not good, and what it - what it looks like from the Kremlin perspective, I mean, if you're in human intelligence, in collections, the ideal circumstances are for you to get the person alone. So I think before the world stage, we've seen Putin get Trump alone. And what does that say symbolically? What does it say strategically? I think, again, it shows this - it shows our administration to be a little bit of amateur hour. I mean you don't want to make it look like Putin is in control. And that's what it looks like. It looks like he's the puppet master.
BALDWIN: The whole notion of getting him alone, I was reading a piece in one of the papers this morning, Steven Piper (ph), former ambassador to Ukraine, said exactly this in "The New York Times," if I was in the Kremlin, my recommendation to Putin would be, see if you can get this guy alone and that's what it sounds like he was able to do.
But, Phil, back over to you, you read "The Washington Post" and they float these three theories. Let me throw this on both of you. One, could be something nefarious. Two, the ignorance defense. He's the president and hasn't really been in government all that long and didn't really totally know. Or, three, that Trump is addicted to causing controversy, right? He knew we'd be buzzing by going over and talking to, of all people, Vladimir Putin. Which do you think it is, Phil Mudd?
MUDD: Well, I'm not sure it's any of those. I guess it's closest to two. But let me do something I've never done in my life and will never go again.
BALDWIN: Throw it on me.
MUDD: Let me give Sean Spicer - let me give Sean Spicer some talking points.
BALDWIN: OK. MUDD: The president of the United States has met world leaders before. He met the Chinese leader at Mar-a-Lago. He's never met somebody who Obama tried to reset with and Bush 43 tried to reset with. The conversations - the official conversations during the day were so in depth that the president decided to continue with them at dinner. The issue, again, is there's no other American president - and we don't know what happened - but I think if I were at the White House, I'd say spin this right, boys. The president wanted to get into the dirt and he did that evening. What's wrong with that?
BALDWIN: Lindsay, would you buy the spin?
MORAN: No, I wouldn't buy that spin at all. I mean everything about it, even randomly -
BALDWIN: Nice try, Mudd.
MORAN: Even randomly poaching the Japanese interpreter, again, it smacks of amateur hour. It makes us look silly. And it makes us look silly in the eyes of the world and as if we're being very, very skillfully manipulated by the Kremlin. And I think we've seen that again and again.