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Trump Shuffles his Legal Team on Russia Probe; Deadline Day for Manafort, Trump Jr. to Agree to Testify; New Details on Deadly Destroyer Collision. Protesters Clash in Jerusalem. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 21, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- shakes up his personal legal team with some new leadership. The president has said just hours earlier, that he planned a more aggressive pushback.
Meanwhile, the Post reports that the legal team is also taking a look at where the president's authorities stand on issuing pardons, not only for aides and family members, but maybe also for himself. Well, this morning, the president's lawyer called that reporting nonsense.
We are covering all the developments this busy morning. Suzanne Malveaux is on Capitol Hill. Also, Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. And that is where we begin. The White House, they say nonsense, much ado about nothing.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Good morning, Poppy. We are hearing that Donald Trump is reshuffling his legal team in wake of Bob Mueller's investigation. And Marc Kasowitz, his long-time lawyer is going to see a reduced role. Meanwhile, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow take over handling the Russian investigation from outside the White House.
Now, because they are outside the White House working, they will likely not have to reveal their dealings with President Trump because of attorney/client privilege. Meanwhile, Ty Cobb lawyer is set to take over at the end of the month handling the Russia investigation from inside the White House.
Now all of this comes, like you said, as "The Washington Post" and "New York Times" are reporting that Trump staffers and lawyers are looking for ways to investigate Bob Mueller's investigators, including anything they have that's a conflict of interest that they think could discredit this entire investigation. Now, the report says they are scrutinizing their donations to Democrats and looking at Bob Mueller's relationship with James Comey, the FBI director who was fired by Donald Trump earlier this year.
Now it's worth noting that John Dowd, the Trump lawyer is pushing back on these stories, saying that they are nonsense. But as you know, in that New York Times interview this week, Donald Trump said that if they started looking into his personal finances, he would consider it crossing a red line.
HARLOW: Kaitlan at the White House. Thank you very much. Before I let you go, we are hearing and I'm just seeing some reports that the president is meeting with Hedge Fund Giant, big finance guy, Anthony Scaramucci. He's been a close ally of this White House. But there was news percolating that this may be to take over the White House comms job -- the White House communications lead role. Anything more you can tell us as these two men meet?
COLLINS: Yes. This is a role that's been left open since early June when Mike Dubke resigned and left the White House. Now, Anthony Scaramucci is this hedge fund guy who was turned campaign fund-raiser. And we have heard that he is under consideration for this position. This is a position that Sean Spicer has been handling along with the press secretary role ever since Dubke left. Anthony Scaramucci was seen leaving the White House last night and now we are told he has a meeting with Donald Trump, right now, at 10:00 a.m. at the White House.
HARLOW: Something tells me that working at the White House pays a little bit less than running hedge fund. I don't know. But we will see. Clearly, it's not just about money. Give us an update when you have it.
Today, a new - deadline, I should say, hangs over the White House and the Russian investigation. Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, former campaign manager, Paul Manafort haven't said yet whether they will appear before the Judiciary Committee next week and testify as scheduled on Wednesday. Now, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says if he doesn't have an answer from them today, well, he might subpoena them.
All of this as the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner is expected to meet with Senate staffers behind closed doors next week. Susan Malveaux is on Capitol Hill with more. So first of all, any update on whether Trump Jr. and Manafort have said whether they will be there?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are still awaiting their response. They have until the end of the business day to actually respond but we know the Senate Judiciary Committee is very eager to get a response. A letter has been sent out to both of them.
We know that Dianne Feinstein, -- the ranking Democrat on that committee, saying that they did get the clear from Special Counsel Bob Mueller, that this would not impede his own investigation, that they should go before their committee publicly and testify. Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of that committee also threatening, as he's been threatening over the last week or so. That he will issue a subpoena if it is not voluntary that they go and testify. This committee, very eager to know what came out of that meeting that happened last June. Those eight individuals, this meeting initiated by the Russian lawyer, as you know, who said they have some sort of damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Also, Poppy, look to Monday. That is when we are going to be seeing Jared Kushner. We might not see him, but we certainly will get some information from this meeting. He is going to be going before the
Senate Intelligence Committee. It is being described as an interview. It is not sworn testimony, per se, it will be behind closed doors with staffers to answer some initial questions, and then they will see how it develops. It is expected that he will potentially go before senators at a later date. But they, also, too, want to know what his role was in that meeting and what the larger implications of all of that.
[10:05:02] At the same time, Poppy, we are still watching the special counsel investigation moving forward as members of Congress seem to be blocked when it comes to their own legislative initiatives and policies, really trying to get that moving sometime next week. Poppy?
HARLOW: Indeed, Susan Malveaux on the Hill. Thank you very much for that.
Let's talk about all of this. Error Louis is here, CNN political commentator, political anchor of "Spectrum News," Michael Shear, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent from "The New York Times," and Brian Kalt, Michigan State University law professor and someone who has a lot to say about all of this and the Constitution. He is the author of "Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies." Thank you all for being here.
And before we get to that, let's talk about the news that's just breaking, Errol. That Anthony Scaramucci is meeting again today with the president. He was seen in the wings of the White House yesterday evening. Kellyanne Conway went on Fox this morning and described him as someone who's been an incredible asset to the president, his team. And she said, he is one of those killers on TV. Do you think he's going to get the top comms job?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND POLITICAL ANCHOR, "SPECTRUM NEWS": I think it's entirely possible of course. The question is do they need another killer on television? You know, Kellyanne Conway, no slouch herself, Sean Spicer sort of almost iconic at this point as far as how he represents the administration and its style and then the president of course, who reserved to himself the right to big foot all of them and put out his own tweets, his own statements, his own interviews and sort of run communications himself.
And Scaramucci can thrive in that? Yes, sure. But the question is you've got a lot of different sharks. Sometimes they bite each other. Sometimes they are not going in the same direction. If Scaramucci can sort of put some order to the whole thing, the White House will probably benefit politically.
HARLOW: All right. We'll watch. We'll see their meeting now.
Brian, to you, as the legal, the constitutional scholar and legal expert on this panel, "The Washington Post" reporting, that the president and his team have been discussing the pardon possibilities. Can he pardon his aides? Can he pardon his friends? Legal answer, yes. Can he pardon himself? Legal answer up in the air, we don't know. There's not president for this. And you talk about it, that it is fiercely debated, but unresolved legally.
BRIAN KALT, PROFESSOR OF LAW, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Right. It's never happened. And until a court weighs in, we don't know. Anyone who says they know, they don't. There are arguments on both sides. But politically, it would be something maybe we can all discuss politically.
It will be a very difficult maneuver to pull off politically, but, there are people have this misconception that pardon means you are guilty, that accepting a pardon means you that are admitting you're guilty. It doesn't have to be that way. Pardons can be and have been used to exonerate people.
So, if the president wants to say this whole investigation is a witch hunt. It's gone way too far. I have the power to stop it. I am pardoning everyone involved. That would end the investigation and if enough people supported him and we can assume that at least 30 percent of the country could, he might be able to ride that out.
HARLOW: Right. It wouldn't hurt him politically among his base, at least, that believe that this is much ado about nothing.
Michael, to you, you've got not only this, you've got the White House, the president's lawyer this morning coming out, his personal lawyer and saying all of this reporting is just absolute nonsense. It is two publications that are reporting that the strategy in the White House right now is dig up as much dirt on Mueller and his investigative team as possible to undermine the investigation, undermine their credibility. This is not a new tactic. You know, we certainly saw dirt dug up or attempts to do so in the Clinton White House on Ken Starr. What is different this time?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, look, I think in some ways it's very similar because when presidents are faced with issued that are difficult -
HARLOW: What did she find on the web? What did Siri find on the web?
SHEAR: I have no idea. I thought it was turned off.
HARLOW: I hope she found my grocery. All right, continue.
SHEAR: Sorry about that. When presidents are faced with these kinds of legal challenges, often they try to discredit the people that are accusing them. And that's sort of a common thing. What's different here is that that effort is not kind of subterranean, but it's right on the surface.
The interview that my colleagues had with the president a couple of days ago showed, exposed for the world just exactly how frustrated this president is and how determined he is to -- push back against Bob Mueller and the investigation in a very open and public way. And so, given the president's own words, the fact that his aides are trying to do exactly what the president said that he wanted to do is not -- shouldn't be a surprise.
HARLOW: Interesting note, Brian. Our Jake Tapper spoke with - yesterday, alone with four sitting Republican senators.
[10:10:00] All of them expressing concern about the language that the president used to attack his entire Justice Department in the interview with Michael's colleagues at "The New York Times." One of them said to Jake that leaving the door open to the possibility of firing Special Counsel Bob Mueller is, quote, "chilling" and they went on to say that Congress could figure out how to hire someone on its own and how to sort of circumvent that, if that were the case. The issue is the Independent Counsel statute which would protect the Independent Counsel -- that lapsed in the '90s. So, what would the powers be then of Congress?
KALT: Well, ultimately, this shows how awkward it is for the executive branch to be pursuing the head of the executive branch. And constitutionally, the way it's supposed to work, when the president is in the cross hairs, so to speak, is for Congress to be impeached in the process and the impeachment process would involve hiring investigators and letting them do their job and seeing what they come up with. And that's the way it's supposed to work. They certainly have that power. And politically, if they want to do that, that's how it would go. But if politically they don't, then nothing will happen.
HARLOW: Right. But again, this is coming from, you know, sitting Republican senators. So, that is telling. There is another telling thing. And that is the numbers we got in this new CNN poll this morning, Errol Louis. Let's pull them up.
Americans asked about their concern about contacts between Russians in the Trump campaign. It actually declined. It's 49 percent of them are concerned now. It was 55 percent in March. Taking to the numbers a little bit more. Only 27 percent of Americans say they are, quote, "very concerned" about contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign. What do these numbers tell us and what do they bolster the White House strategy?
LOUIS: I think the White House would probably regard that it is good news, although it's not. Because we know that Bob Mueller is not looking at the polls. He does not care. We know that the Senate Intelligence Committee for that matter is not necessarily going to be swayed by sort of a moving number like today's poll compared to March numbers on this question.
I would go back in time and remind people that most Americans -- and I'm talking about 60 plus percent did not think Watergate was serious until the hearings actually began.
HARLOW: And that was a two-year process.
LOUIS: Exactly. They knew there was a break-in. They knew there was a Saturday Night Massacre. They knew that the president didn't want this to go forward. But it was really only in the public forum when people saw hour after hour. You can look at the demeanor of the people. You can look at the questioning that they are placed under. That is the American system, to sort of put people in front of a jury or in this
case, a jury of the public and question them closely and find out what they know. That's why these hearings that Grassley is talking about are so important.
HARLOW: And Michael, just the fact that the Republican chair of the Senate judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, has been you know, moved to say yesterday to our Manu Raju. Look, if Don Jr. and Paul Manafort don't volunteer by the end of today, to come before our committee on Wednesday, you know, we are going subpoena them.
SHEAR: Yes. That's pretty significant. And you know, I think one of the things that are really hanging over this entire series of episodes is the question of when Republicans -- how far Republicans are willing to go in protecting the president on one hand or letting the investigation continue on the other. And remember, it was, in Nixon's time, it was when a whole -- a handful of very senior Republicans went to the president and said it's time to go that he finally resigned. And the question is not -- nowhere near that -- resignation or impeachment or anything like that yet.
But the question of how far Republicans are willing to go on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of the investigation or to let it proceed. I mean, Senator Grassley's position right now suggests that they recognize that there are serious issues here and at least some of them are willing to let it proceed.
HARLOW: And of course, Errol Louis, it was the Republican lawmakers question, Howard Baker's question that moved things so much.
LOUIS: What did the president know and when did he know it.
HARLOW: When did he know it, right? That was it.
LOUIS: A pretty good question.
HARLOW: It is a pretty good question. Final thought just quickly on where you see the White House this Friday, given all of the shake up in the legal team and these new strategies clearly around the president.
LOUIS: They seem to operate at a chaotic pace, in a chaotic direction. So, you know, it's anybody's guess. Really, the initiative has moved from the White House to the media, increasingly to Congress and to the special prosecutor. They are who's driving the process. For all of the chaos that comes out of the White House, they really are in reactive mode. I don't know that they have the initiative at this point. And if they try to recapture it, they are going to have to do it in a more structured way than we've them somehow.
HARLOW: Maybe Anthony Scaramucci gets the job. Maybe he changes the messaging -
HARLOW: Maybe he gets in front on some of this stuff. We'll see. Errol Louis, thank you very much. Michael as well and Brian, have a good weekend, guys.
[10:15:01] Multiple errors and a failure to take action, chilling new details this morning about that deadly collision between the USS destroyer and a cargo ship.
Also, rubber bullets and stun grenades protesters are clashing in Jerusalem with these new rules trying to keep young males away from the holiest of sites.
And Attorney General Jeff Sessions set to speak next hour. Will he address like he did yesterday the continued fallout from the president's attacks on him?
HARLOW: This morning, an initial investigation into that of collusion between a U.S. Navy destroyer and Philippine cargo ship shows the navy could be to blame. This preliminary findings show multiple errors by the crew of the USS Fitzgerald and a failure to take action in the final moments leading up to the crash. That's according to two of our defense officials telling Barbara Starr.
[10:20:00] Seven of our country's finest and bravest died in that collision. You see them all right here. Among them, Xavier Martin, just 24 years old, a son who followed in his father's footsteps joining the Navy as a teenager. His father calls him a supernova, a bright shining star.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How proud of your son are you?
DARROLD MARTIN, FATHER OF FALLEN SAILOR XAVIER MARTIN: Words can't describe how proud. I can't -- I have -- I have kept every text from the time he's joined the navy. There are numerous texts that I have expressed how proud I am. I'm so proud to be his father. I could not ask for a better child. Never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: One of the seven lives lost. Joining us now from the Pentagon is our Barbara Starr. Barbara, you are the one who broke this news of the preliminary investigation. How could something like this happen?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, now they are beginning to put some answers to the question about what happened, but why it happened still remains very much a matter for investigators to try and determine. What it appears, according to these initial findings is the crew simply was not aware, quickly enough, of what was happening around them. That this cargo ship, this Philippine cargo ship was approaching them, the Navy crew driving the Fitzgerald at that time, not aware soon enough of how dire the situation was. The imminent danger they were in of being hit.
They continued on their course. And by all accounts took no action to evade the cargo ship. This would put it square in the navy's lap, officials say. They have the responsibility of getting out of the way.
Navy ships rely on expert seamanship. They should have understood much sooner what was happening to them. Tragedy for the seven navy families, but look, this cargo ship, when it hit the star board side of the Fitzgerald ripped a huge hole below the water line. The sea flooded in. That's where the seven sailors drowned. It could have been utter catastrophe, the damage so bad, navy officials say the ship could have sunk the entire crew of more than 100, could have been lost. Poppy?
HARLOW: And generally, especially with a ship of this size, this many sailors on it, you would have a lot of failsafe in place, right, Barbara, to warn way ahead of time that a collision was coming soon.
STARR: If that's it. I mean, there are redundant systems. There are radars. There are sensors. There are you know, what the navy calls human eyeballs, people on the bridge, people out standing watch on the deck. They should have seen what was happening. Very busy waters off the coast of Japan there and as a ship is approaching and there is a potential problem, the standard rules are, you call the commanding officer, if the commanding officer is in their bunk and another part of the ship, you call them to the bridge so they can deal with the emergency. The commanding officer, apparently not called. After the crash, he was still found in his cabin. Poppy?
HARLOW: Barbara Starr reporting, thank you very much.
Also, two Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli police. This is right outside of the old city of Jerusalem. More than 100 people have been injured in this clash as they began. When worshippers approached today, were pushed back by police. Males under 50 years old have been barred temporarily from entering the old city and of course Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary. The restrictions are coming a week after the fatal shooting of two Israeli police officers.
Our CNN international correspondent Ian Lee is there with more. You know, I was also speaking yesterday with our Oren Liebermann who is also usually in Jerusalem and he was warning about what may be to come today and we are seeing it play out.
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Poppy. We have seen it since the very beginning this morning, these clashes between police and Palestinian protesters and to show you the weapons that have been used. We have this, which is a stun grenade, a sound grenade that the police have been throwing as part of it, also, rubber bullets that the police have been firing. This is end of one of the rubber bullets. As far as the Palestinians go, we have seen them breaking pieces of the street, rocks, concrete, turning rocks into projectiles and at times, the air filled with projectiles as the Palestinians are throwing them back.
And I'm here at a hospital and just about a half hour ago, there were clashes right here, the police throwing those stun grenades, rocks being returned. Those clashes have moved further down. But over 100 Palestinians have been injured. Also note that two Palestinians have been killed. On the police side, we are hearing four police officers have been injured in today's clashes. And, Poppy, this is expected to get worse as it gets dark toward evening prayer.
[10:25:10] HARLOW: Wow, those images are stunning. Ian Lee, thank you for the reporting live for us in Jerusalem.
Ahead for us, the president sparking more Russia investigation controversy, this morning, is the White House's new messaging controlling flames or fanning them? I will speak with two former communications directors for Republicans who campaigned against this president, next.
HARLOW: Next hour, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be speaking at an event in Philadelphia. He's heading there to talk about crime. But it's the controversy over President Trump's repeated criticism of him that is still stunning many. The White House is now trying to ease some of that. Saying, the president, quote, "Still has confidence in Sessions," that statement from the White House coming after several Republican lawmakers rant to Sessions defense. All of this raising questions about what is going on in the White House and its messaging machine.