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Trump Shared Classified Information with Russia; Trump Defends Sharing Classified Info with Russians; Opening Sesame in Jordan. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired May 16, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:10] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, heavyweights from both sides of the aisle square off on Trump, Russia, and that classified
information. On the Democrat's side, former CIA Director Leon Panetta. He says the president's national security team will now need to review what
they share with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think the biggest risk is that he continues to say things, you know, at will without thinking about it. And
that at some point it creates an international crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: For the Republicans, the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, defends the president on a steep learning curve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do remember when the Russians shared information with us. But you have to do it very carefully
and that's where the processes in the White House have simply got to improve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It could be the worst accusation ever leveled against a sitting U.S. president, that Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to the
Russians during an already controversial Oval Office visit with the foreign minister last week.
The Russians call all of this nonsense, while a senior Republican senator says the White House is in a downward spiral right now, and has got to
figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening.
Mr. Trump himself doubled down with this tweet this morning. "As president, I wanted to share with Russia at an openly scheduled White House
meeting, which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism, airline flight safety, humanitarian reasons. Plus, I want
Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS and terrorism."
And his national security adviser H.R. McMaster continues to insist that his boss did nothing wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I was in the room. The secretary of state was in the room as you know. The deputy assistant --
the deputy adviser for national security, Tina Pal for strategy was in the room, and none of us felt in any way that that conversation was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And at the end of the press briefing, almost as an afterthought he said that Trump was not even briefed on the source or the full details
of all of that information.
Now, all of this is ringing alarm bells in national security circles, especially ahead of Trump's first major foreign trip to some of the most
sensitive places like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Leon Panetta was CIA director and he was secretary of defense under President Obama, and he was chief-of-staff for President Clinton. He tells
us that Donald Trump is, quote, "a loose cannon" whose people need to sit down and tell him what lines he can and cannot cross. He also said that if
he were Trump's chief-of-staff, he would take the president's tweets away from him.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Panetta, welcome back to our program.
PANETTA: Nice to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You know, we have over the months, relied on you for a bit of a reality check on what is right and what is wrong and what's going on at the
heart of American power.
Can you give me your reaction to the sharing of classified information by the president of the United States with the foreign minister of the
PANETTA: I never thought in my -- in my career in politics, which has been over about a 50-year period, that I would ever have a president of the
United States tweet out that he had given classified information to the Russians and thought that it was OK. It's just very difficult to in any
way justify that that would happen.
And when he went ahead and provided that information, something that violated evidently the terms on which this information was provided, what
it does is it jeopardizes the ability of our intelligence agencies to gather the information that we need in order to guide decisions in this
country. So there's very much a national security issue involved here.
AMANPOUR: What would happen to that agent? Apparently names, sources, methods were not revealed, but the general -- whatever they found out was
What do you think is the threat for that individual or individuals?
PANETTA: Well, it jeopardizes those sources. It puts their lives on the line, because it never -- it never is easy to locate these sources. They
are in very sensitive positions. They're undercover.
[14:05:15] Obviously, the people that they're spying on do not know what their role is, and so you have to be very protective of that information.
When you get that intelligence, it has to be handled very carefully in order not to jeopardize the very sources that provide that information.
And so when the president obviously presented this information, there's no question that the Russians certainly are capable of determining how that
information was provided, and once that happens, there are lives that are at stake as a consequence of what the president did.
AMANPOUR: I just want to get back to the H.R. McMaster issue. Look, you know, honestly, I feel like putting my head in my hands. I've covered
these honorable military officers who are now serving this president, presumably to try to give him the best benefit of their expertise in the
world. He is uneducated and inexperienced in foreign and military affairs. And they have been brought on -- Mattis, McMaster and others.
At what point does somebody like H.R. McMaster risk his reputation and risk the security of the country that he spent his career defending?
PANETTA: You know, the best thing I thought about this administration frankly was their national security team. People like McMaster and General
Mattis and Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo.
I mean, these are all very reputable people in the business they do. And more importantly, at least my sense was that the president respected their
judgment. But when something like this happens, where McMaster goes out and says to the press that something did not happen, and the president then
tweets and says no, no, I gave classified information to the Russians, it does impact on his credibility.
And so any time you undermine your national security adviser, it weakens his position in terms of dealing not only with the administration but with
the rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that they can trust the president of the United States to hold their valuable information and to use it responsibly? And
if they don't, what does that mean?
PANETTA: I think there has to be a serious conversation that goes on between the White House and the various intelligence agencies. If that
information is suddenly going to be provided, not only to our adversaries, but to the world, and therefore jeopardize the sources of that information,
then I think the CIA and other intelligence agencies have to be very careful about what they present.
Now, you know, it's important that the president know what's going on. But it's also important that when the president gets that kind of sensitive
information, he does not violate the confidence of his intelligence agencies and then blurting that information out to people that shouldn't
AMANPOUR: Well, again, I would like you to look forward, because this weekend, the president is making his first major trip, and they are very
sensitive countries, whether it's intelligence or not, are you concerned that he may go to Saudi Arabia and promise something or claim something?
Go to Israel and say something completely different? I mean, is there a -- is there a possibility for a great big screw-up?
PANETTA: Well, you know, as a former chief-of-staff to the president, and as a CIA director and secretary of defense, when a president goes abroad
and conducts diplomacy on behalf of the United States, usually there is a lot of preparation that goes into those meetings with very specific talking
points that are provided to the president. So that he does not violate anything that's classified. But more importantly, say something that could
jeopardize the relationship with that country.
I think, I think it's very important if this president is going to conduct his first overseas trip, that he ought to be very carefully briefed, and
that there ought to be others in the room to make sure that the president adheres to the talking points that were provided.
AMANPOUR: This is what a Princeton University expert, Dr. Bernard Haykel, told me about what the Saudis intend to do for this president. Just listen
for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNARD HAYKEL, PROFESSOR OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I really don't think that they're concerned about what's happening
domestically in the United States. Their aim, especially when it comes to the Arabs in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, is to make this a huge success
for the president. I mean, they are setting it up so that he has a major, major foreign policy success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yes, and apparently they're going to promise all sorts of billions of dollars in investment and arms purchases, et cetera.
What does that say to you?
[14:10:12] PANETTA: Obviously, Saudi Arabia, as well as these other countries, want this to be a successful meeting with the president of the
But I also think that there is this kind of rational out there that the only way to make it a successful meeting is to ensure that a certain
business decisions are made that enhance their presence and also can provide to the president some assurance that there is some economic gain to
be made as a result of these visits.
I just think -- I think the president has to be very disciplined here, to make sure that we have certain interests that have to be presented. We're
not walking into these meetings just to have another country, basically take over the meeting. We have certain things that we need to do for the
sake of the national security of the United States. Those points need to be made. And I hope the president recognizes that the most important thing
for him to do is to protect the national security interests of the United States. That's the most important mission he has on these trips.
AMANPOUR: What do you think is the biggest risk right now?
PANETTA: No, I just think -- I think the biggest risk is that he continues to say things, you know, at will without thinking about it. And that at
some point it creates an international crisis that, you know, can really hurt the security of this country.
I mean, this is really important. This is not just a movie actor kind of bouncing around the world saying whatever a movie actor wants to say. This
is the president of the United States. And that's why I'm very concerned about the kind of mistakes and miscalculations that can either send the
wrong kind of message to a country abroad that could suddenly blow up on us in one way or another.
I mean, that -- he's been able to kind of walk this silly trail right now, but those risks are real.
AMANPOUR: Leon Panetta, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
PANETTA: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So how does all of this look from the Republican side? I speak to George W. Bush's former national security adviser and secretary of state
Condoleezza Rice. She says Trump is on a steeper learning curve than most new presidents.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
Republican Condoleezza Rice navigated her fair share of rough waters in the White House. She was the first female national security adviser, and then
the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state.
She came out against Trump for president, but she became more nuanced once he was elected.
She's a passionate defender of spreading democracy and she's written a new book about it, so how does she defend Trump's America first agenda and
sharing that classified information with Russia.
AMANPOUR: Condoleezza Rice, welcome to our program.
RICE: Thank you. It's great to be with you.
AMANPOUR: What do you make of this incredible development in the White House overnight, that President Trump apparently divulged classified
information to, of all people, the Russians?
[14:15:05] What if we do put all the pieces together and find out that actually, you know, an ally, a partner was compromised? It speaks to two
things, the level of coordination and discipline inside the White House, and the national security compromises, if there are.
RICE: Well, obviously, if it involves an ally, then you're going to have some work to do to make sure that that relationship remains strong. And
I'm sure that whatever happened, there are efforts under way right now to reassure this ally to go over what might have happened. So that you have
to do, because there's nothing more important, by the way, than intelligence sharing among allies.
Then there is the question, and look, I think this is a new administration. It's always a little bit more complicated with new administrations as the
White House finds its footing, as it gets its relationships with other agencies.
And, Christiane, I will say also of course they have a steeper learning curve with this president because he's never been in government, never been
anywhere near government.
And so, yes, there will need to be some tightening up of White House processes, some real understanding of when you go into a meeting like this,
how much do you say.
If you want to tell the Russians something because you're worried about as the president said something humanitarian, maybe that this is a threat that
might affect the Russians, that's not a bad impulse. I do remember when the Russians shared information with us. But you have to do it very
carefully. And that's where the processes in the White House has simply got to improve.
AMANPOUR: Let me talk then about democracy and where Russia stands on this issue, because obviously it's the title of your book, "The Ideal of
What do you make at the moment? I mean, the relationship between your administration and Russia was far different than the relationship between
Russia and the United States today.
What do you make of their interference, according to all U.S. intelligence into the American democratic process?
RICE: Well, it is a serious matter and it is a hostile act to interfere in our democratic elections. I tend to think, Christiane, that Vladimir Putin
is bit of an eye for an eye sort of person, and he was really furious that we, particularly Secretary Clinton, said that his election in 2012 was
fraudulent. It indeed had a great deal of fraudulence involved in it. And so it made him angry. I suspect he was getting back at us.
AMANPOUR: You mentioned Hillary Clinton. So my question to you is, was Hillary Clinton wrong to talk about the state of democracy in Russia?
Again, you are very, very keen on the promotion of democracy.
And the sad thing is that Freedom House, you know, its annual sort of index showing that democracy has been on the decline worldwide for the last 11
Surely the U.S. secretary of state should have pointed out flaws in Russia's democracy.
RICE: Absolutely. And indeed when we saw flaws in elections or in the way that Vladimir Putin was treating civil society or the cracking down of the
press, President Bush himself and I certainly as secretary made those views known.
And in fact Secretary Clinton did nothing wrong in pointing out the fraudulent election there. But we need to defend the proposition that no
man, woman, or child should have to live in tyranny. And that really needs to be really at the center of American discourse with the world.
AMANPOUR: Well, it isn't right now as you very well know. President Trump has made it clear that that's not his motivating factor. It's an America
first policy and it's generally about trade and jobs.
So put that in context. Do you think the current State Department and the Trump administration is failing in America's traditional role of being the
major democracy and human rights promoter?
RICE: Well, these are early days. And when Secretary Tillerson gave that speech, I saw a little more nuance in it. And he's come back and talked a
little bit more about it. And so we are better off, America is better off.
Forget America first, second or third. America is better off when the number of Democratic states in the world multiplies and when we have allies
who are reforming because unless you reform in this world, you know very well that with social media, what happens in the village doesn't stay in
So somebody gets fed up in Tunisia, self-emulates and brings down the regime in Egypt. We need to tell our allies, wherever they are, reform,
give your people a voice, allow civil society to develop and you will be safer, too.
AMANPOUR: "Politico" has just had an article quoting foreign correspondents, whether they're in Venezuela or in Germany or wherever it
might be, you know, basically worried that the example coming out of the Trump White House on democracy is giving many leaders either fear, if
they're allies, or sucker if they're not. They're saying see, you can't point a finger at us.
RICE: Well, I think you will see over time that the presidency is very special in the United States. I noticed, for instance, that when the
chemical attack took place in Syria, President Trump was moved by, as he said Syrian babies choking on chemical gas.
But then he said, we can't let that stand. Well, really what he's saying is the American president can't let that stand. So I hope that as he
travels, he has an opportunity to meet some of those people who are struggling, to have just the very rights that we have, that he'll have a
chance to meet brave people who are willing to go to jail, if necessary, religious objectors who are willing to be persecuted, because I think that
over time he will see and the administration will be more forceful on behalf of these values.
It's both a moral case for the United States -- we're an idea. And if we really are endowed by our creator with certain rights, then it can't be
true for us and not for them. And so I am looking for greater voice for those people, particularly people who are struggling in places like
Venezuela just to be heard.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to go back to what you said, you know, before the election, when that horrible tape came out, and you basically said,
"Enough, Donald Trump should not be president. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to
run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth."
Now, you have since, and we have listened to you sort of moderated your views. Why have you moderated your views, given the national security
stuff that's come into focus now? And do you think as our Republican commentator Anna Navarro has said, Republicans should stop being enthralled
to what she called the cult of Trump.
RICE: Well, the reason that -- it's not a moderation of views. One important thing happened, Donald Trump was elected president of the United
States, and I respect that.
I respect our Democratic processes. I respect my fellow citizens who voted for him and managed to get him elected. And so whatever I thought before
this election, I'm going to try to give the president of the United States a chance, and I'm going to try to help where I can. Because we only have
one president at a time. That's our system.
Now, I will not hesitate to criticize when I see things going on that I don't agree with. I will not hesitate to say to those inside of the White
House, usually first privately, you're on the wrong course.
I think any patriot owes it to the country and to the person that's leading it to say, when things are going wrong. But I do think that this is a
really fine national security team.
I have great respect for Secretary Tillerson, who I've known for years. He's an oilman. Oil men know the world, like other people don't.
Jim Mattis is one of the best commanders of his generation. And H.R. McMaster as well. And so I have a lot of respect for these people. I know
how hard it is in there. I know what it's like when things are swirling around you on a daily basis. And so I'm going to try to help. But no, I
won't hesitate to criticize when I see things that I don't like.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, former national security adviser, thank you so much for joining us.
RICE: It was a pleasure to be with you.
AMANPOUR: A brighter view. When we come back, we imagine a very modern lighthouse bringing together rival nations across the Middle East in
scientific pursuit. The marvel that just opened in Jordan today, after this.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the White House says that President Trump would try to unite the world's major faiths on his first overseas trip at
the end of this week. But imagine a world where that is already happening. It is the scientific world.
King Abdullah of Jordan today opened the Middle East's first major international science research center. It's called Sesame. It's the
result of decades of cooperation across difficult borders. We saw researchers from Israel, Iran, Turkey and many other Middle Eastern
countries come together. And it also gives the region another first -- a synchrotron, which is a particle accelerator that uses powerful beams of
light to reveal the structure of matter.
Only of only around 50 in the world and it can be use to study everything from physics to medical science and even archaeology. If all these
adversarial nations can erase borders in the name of science, surely they can do it in the name of peace.
That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online @Amanpour.com. Follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.