Kellyanne Conway clashed with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in a combative interview on “New Day” Monday, as President Trump’s counselor and former campaign manager was forced to defend Donald Trump Jr.’s pre-election meeting with a Russian lawyer.
“You want to talk about Russia,” Conway told Cuomo during their 35-minute, often heated exchange. “I want to talk about the opioid crisis.”
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump Jr. agreed to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, an attorney with connections to the Kremlin, because she had offered to give him compromising information on his father’s opponent in the 2016 election.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also reportedly attended the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower, as did Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
In a statement, Trump Jr. initially said “it was a short introductory meeting” with a woman whose name he was not told beforehand, and that he had invited Manafort and Kushner “to stop by.”
“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,” he said. “But it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
In a follow-up statement, Trump Jr. said the meeting was set up by an acquaintance he knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, and that the mystery woman quickly informed the group she had information on Clinton.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. continued. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
In a subsequent tweet, Trump Jr. mocked the suggestion by some observers that their encounter was evidence of the Trump campaign’s attempt to collude with Russia.
“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “Went nowhere but had to listen.”
“Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting,” Conway said on CNN. “No action taken. Nothing.”
Conway also reiterated Trump Jr.’s claims.
“Don Jr. has very explicitly stated he didn’t even know the name of the person with whom he was meeting,” she said. “They get into the meeting and it quickly turns into a pretext for Russian adoption, according to his statements, that the comments this woman is making about any type of information on Hillary Clinton were vague. They were meaningless.”
Cuomo suggested that taking the meeting with a “Russian-connected person” during the presidential campaign wasn’t a good idea, dirt or no dirt.
“Whether or not it was good information, Kellyanne, doesn’t mean it was a smart move,” Cuomo said. “That could create huge legal issues. You know that.”
Conway then took a thinly-veiled shot at CNN, a network Trump frequently refers to as “fake news.”
“I admire your moxie, sitting there with the CNN chyron next to you,” she told Cuomo.
The interview then devolved into an argument over the cable network’s coverage of Trump.
“You’ve got to treat this guy more fairly,” Conway said. “You’ve got to treat him more openly and honestly. The snarky looks, the furrowed brows, the rolling of the eyes from so many people on your panels — and you know it. You’ve made a business decision to be anti-Trump.”
“And you guys have also made a decision,” Cuomo replied. “You’ve made a decision to be antagonistic toward the media, to lump us all together, to rally your followers to think that we’re bad people.”
“Why aren’t your panels more balanced?” Conway asked. “They have to be more balanced.”
“If you want flattery there’s another channel that can give you that,” Cuomo snapped, a not-so-subtle jab to the Trump administration’s cozy relationship with Fox News.
After the interview, Cuomo remarked to “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota that she was “awfully quiet” during his 35-minute discussion with Conway.
“I went to work out,” Camerota joked. “I don’t often have time to work out, but I just did now.”
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