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WashPost: Putin Directed U.S. Election Hacks; Trump Admits He Doesn't Have Tapes Of Comey Talks; Senate Health Care Bill Meets Fierce Resistance; Interview with Sen. Jeff Merkley. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:02] LAURIE SEGALL, SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Now, think about the women's march, David --


SEGALL: And how impactful that was. That was a movement that started on Facebook. I think this is mark's way of saying, I understand my power and with that comes a lot of responsibility. We have seen the good and the bad and trying to give communities those types of tools to be able to come together in a better way and more efficient way for a better dialogue.

GREGORY: Right, and in politics too, going back to the Obama years, the Obama campaign using Facebook so effectively.

Laurie, thank you so much. Appreciate the conversation this morning.

Thanks to all of our international viewers for watching. You can watch CNN talk up next. And for our U.S. viewers NEW DAY continues right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. David Gregory joins me, great to have you.

We do have some breaking news to get you right now because the "Washington Post" has an exclusive new report on Russia's interference in 2016 U.S. election. The "Washington Post" reports that sources deep within Russia revealed the hacks were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

GREGORY: Really worth underlying how important that is evidence tying Putin to this at a time when President Trump still calls it a hoax. He doesn't believe it. It comes as the Obama White House wrestled with the response concerned about adding fuels when already volatile election. They didn't want to tilt the election.

Joining us now is Washington Post reporter Adam Entous who is breaking the story this morning. Adam, good morning to you.


CAMEROTA: Adam, tell us. ENTOUS: Yes. I mean what we're -- what, you know, the story is basically trying to reveal kind of what happened behind the scenes when the Obama administration was deciding what to do. What happened here is that this intelligence arrived by courier from the CIA in the first week of August. It was provided to a small group of the president's top advisers and to the president himself.

Once they finished reading the intelligence, they were told to give it back to the courier, so the courier could bring it back to Langley. And inside the package was basically information from such an important source that it was almost as if they were seeing directly Putin's instructions on what to carry out here.

GREGORY: Let's talk about what I think is really the big headline here. This is an account that there was definitive proof that this was an attempt to interfere in the U.S. election directed by President Putin himself. How can you report this so definitively? What gives you and the "Post" so much confidence?

ENTOUS: Well, what happened was, as we know there was classified annex, a classified version of the intelligence report that was made public in early January. This is the document that was provided to the president. It was provided to then-President-elect Trump.

What we have learned and what we are revealing in today's report is what those -- what was in that document that was presented to Trump, you know, by Brennan, Clapper, Comey, during that meeting at Trump Tower back in January. And so that information now, you know, we're -- we are with holding some details about the nature of that intelligence to protect sources and methods at the request of the U.S. government.

But otherwise, we are -- we're basically explaining what was in that document that obviously made -- convinced Obama and appeared at least at the time to be -- to address some of Trump's concerns. But as we've seen in recent days and weeks and months he apparently remains skeptical.

CAMEROTA: But Adam, explain to us just as openly or clearly as you can what is the direct line to Putin? What convinced people that Putin directed this?

ENTOUS: Basically, the U.S. government had a very trustworthy source of information here. This is exactly the kind of stuff that they've asked us not to discuss because they obviously are trying to protect their ability to continue to get information from this source of information.

So, I really can't go further than that. But effectively what they had was Putin giving the direct -- direction to his team, his intelligence officers on what exactly he wanted them to do which was --

CAMEROTA: And -- yes, go ahead.

ENTOUS: -- which was to intervene in the election to try to help Trump win.

CAMEROTA: That is what I was wondering.

GREGORY: So, the other big question, the administration gets this. Your reporting indicates there was not immediate agreement within the intelligence community about who is behind it initially. And there's -- there were also questions on the part of the president, President Obama, about how to respond given his concerns about making it look like he was tilting the election in one way or the other. How did the president want to deal with this information when it came in?

ENTOUS: Right. So, you have to understand when the information comes in, it's just coming from CIA sources. It's effectively raw intelligence. It hasn't been properly and fully analyzed. The National Security Agency which collect signals intelligence had yet to pull in comparable intelligence that would back up what the CIA was reporting.

[07:05:14] So, the president directs the intelligence community to basically come up with what's known as high confidence assessment. That means he wants them from the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and other agencies to kind of reach a consensus on this intelligence.

When he gets that, he is prepared to issue the public statement that takes place. Again, it's not in his name because he is worried about it, looking like a political action on the part of the White House. So, he has the intelligence community issue that statement on October 7th. And that's the first time the U.S. government says anything that attributes the hacking to WikiLeaks. You know -- excuse me, to the Russians through WikiLeaks.

And so, then there is a debate about whether or not there should be retaliation before the election or after the election. And that settled early because Obama is very concerned that if he retaliates before the election then Putin might decide to actually tamper with voter roles or voting machines on or before Election Day.

GREGORY: And it's worth following up on this point that when the president, President Obama meets with Putin overseas before the election he effectively says, knock it off, stop it or else. And that wasn't enough.

ENTOUS: Yes. Well it was -- they believe it was enough to stop him from going to the next level. At that point, the damage had been done in terms of e-mails being leaked to WikiLeaks, at least that's what the Americans believe. They believe that that warning and other warnings that were passed through other channels convinced Putin not to go to the next level of actually trying to meddle in the actual election itself, vote tallies, that kind of thing.

And so, they believe this. They don't know this. This is just something they believe. In fact, you know, on Election Day there, you know, as Trump points out and others, that there is no indication of any messing with voter turnout, the roles, the machines and so on. So, you know, it appears that Putin did the damage that he wanted to do and basically at that point had pulled back. CAMEROTA: So, Adam, as you know President Trump has been very reluctant to say that he believes that Russia officially meddled. He has said things like, yes, maybe they meddled, maybe it was China, lots of countries meddle. So, how did your reporting today move the needle to something more conclusive?

ENTOUS: Well, you know, I think for a lot of us who are trying to follow this story and it is a very complicated story. And, you know, it's a -- we have these developments that we report on. But we don't really know how they all connect together. So, we thought it would be important for us to kind of go back in time and try to re-create the moments, the tough decisions that were being made last summer and during the transition to piece that together.

This is a look backwards to try to explain why did the Obama administration not respond more forcefully at all? Why didn't they respond before the election? And I think there is a revelation in the story which we haven't discussed which probably has not happened yet which is that Obama signs at the end of his administration a covert finding which authorizes the CIA, the NSA and Cyber command to start deploying what's known as cyber implants.

These are basically equivalent of cyber time bombs, if you will, in Russian electronic infrastructure which could be used down the road in the future if there is a determination that there Russians are, again, acting in ways that require a response.

GREGORY: One final point, Adam, which is you know the criticism that will come from President Trump that these are government officials who are divulging either classified information or information about classified materials. Are they doing it out of frustration that President Trump refuses to acknowledge, embrace and react to the fact that this was an attack on America by Russia's president?

ENTOUS: You know, I don't want to get into motivations of the people in this case who are talking to us. I think they're interested in basically an accurate history, early draft, if you will, of what occurred, being told at length and in substance so that people who read the story and people out there can understand why the tough decisions were made that were made or maybe why actions that people thought should have been taken were not taken because of how complicated this actually was.

[07:10:02] GREGORY: And this is actually three dozen current and former officials that you spoke to, to get a full picture of how the Obama administration first dealt with these revelations.

CAMEROTA: Adam, thank you very much for breaking this news on our program. Please stay with us. We have more questions for you. We want to bring in our CNN political analyst, Maggie Haberman and associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics A.B. Stoddard.

Maggie, I know you've been listening in to all of this. What are your thoughts listening to Adam's reporting?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: My thoughts of it is A, it's excellent reporting. B, it is another extremely detailed presentation of what was known in real time during the election, what led to certain decisions, why it is candidly that there are so many Democrats who are frustrated with what President Obama did or didn't do.

You know, I read the story which includes Michael McFaul, the former ambassador in Russia described it as sort of essentially not doing enough in response to what he learned. But it's also interesting because you still have the current president, President Trump, who has shown tremendous difficulty distinguishing between what is personal about him and what is institutional about the country, refusing to say whether he believes that, you know, I think accepts the finding of the intelligence agencies that this was Russia behind this.

And in fact, he appeared to suggest, exactly otherwise yesterday. So, I think this just adds another layer and another very specific point to the current administration to be pressed on about why it is they refuse to accept the intelligence community findings.

GREGORY: Yes. And A.B. because the president really sees these questions as a way to question his legitimacy as president which these are not, it's not about that. He legitimately elected as president of the United States. But it is the question of what has this administration done here before to make sure there is not a similar attempt or a more detailed attempt to interfere with what's happening in our electoral process.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: They are not doing anything about this. And it was really so telling and quite stunning to hear from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week where he admitted he has not had a briefing or saw the on Russian interference in our election. As our nation's top cop, that's pretty stunning.

What they are doing is allowing this to be conflated with the question of Russian collusion to which Trump and his allies continue to say that there's no evidence has turned up on that. We don't know what evidence has turned up on anything because we're not supposed to find that out to the end of any investigation.

But in terms of Russian meddling, this is a grave responsibility of the executive. He might have, you know, he might be sore about the fact that in his view this delegitimizes somehow the discussion about his victory if we keep talking about the Russians intending to help him. But it actually is -- we're sitting by wasting time while the Russians continue to perfect their active measures.

And we already know there was a "Time" magazine report out yesterday that they stole a bunch of voter information and their successful attacks into voter databases. So, next time it will be an illegitimate election. It will be messing with the numbers of the ballot box. They are certainly working on that now.

And if the Congress doesn't step up and stop this, I am happy to say there's an effort, there's a bill out called, Fight Russian Corruption Act and it actually has Republican co-sponsors, Congressman Rustum and Congressman Hill of Arkansas are working with Congressman Meeks and Congressman Suozzi of New York because it goes beyond just the meddling there.

It is a sort of a vast crime network they're using for their advantage throughout, to effect politics throughout Europe as well. But this is something that if we just sit around and fight about Russian collusion, we're wasting time mitigating this threat which is being perfected with each passing week.

CAMEROTA: So Adam, for people who are just joining us, give us the headlines again. Is it that your new reporting is, to your mind, the most deeply sourced reporting that you've done thus far on the connection between Putin directing this interference into the U.S. election? And that he directly wanted the DNC computers hacked and fake stories planted?

ENTOUS: Right. So, yes, this story does not address the question of collusion or so-called collusion. This is basically the story of the -- how the intelligence community discovered and how the Obama administration reacted to that intelligence that Putin personally made this call to his intelligence services to carry out this operation.

And basically, then takes you in the situation room with the principals as they wrestled with whether or not to respond. And you can definitely, if, you know, depending on where you sit on this, you can definitely judge them harshly for the way they handled it or as you can see in the story you can see how complicated this was for them to deal with.

[07:15:11] GREGORY: Adam, to what extent was the Trump campaign aware during the campaign that as the headline of your story asserts that the CIA was picking up directly that Putin directly wanted to help Trump and hurt Clinton in the election? To what extent were they aware of that and put on notice about it?

ENTOUS: I mean, he definitely was not put on notice at least not officially. You know, the -- this was so closely held at first that number of cabinet level officers that were allowed to know this information was, you know, the defense secretary and the secretary of state, for example, were not informed until early September of this -- were not brought into this discussion within the White House until early September.

So, you know, it's kept so close within the situation room. In fact, they even turned off the internal cameras in the situation room so that people at their desks at certain offices in the National Security Council wouldn't be able to see who is in the situation room because, you know, they really wanted nobody to know that these meetings and this intelligence existed.

Again, it was because of the sensitivity in sources and methods that provided them this information, they went to extraordinary lengths, lengths that they really never took, they haven't taken since the Bin Laden raid and the run up to the Bin Laden raid where it was so sensitive that there might be a leak that they kept it so close they kept, you know, John Kerry and Ash Carter, the defense secretary out of these meetings until September which is just extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that is fascinating background.

And Maggie, here we are today. I mean from that moment that Putin gave this directive it has mushroomed obviously to all of the chaos that has been sewn during the election that we're still dealing with it now. And President Trump is still trying to get his arms around and compartmentalize, you know, what's what and what his campaign did and did not do. He just this morning gave an interview to "Fox" in which he touched on this. So, let me play this for you.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't have any tape and I didn't tape. But, when he found out I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean, you'll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. And my story didn't change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you'll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed.


CAMEROTA: So, Maggie, obviously, he's talking there about James Comey.

GREGORY: Yes. There's lots of ways we can clear this up actually.

CAMEROTA: Right. But I think it's also interesting that the president there says, you know, whether there are governmental tapes.


CAMEROTA: I mean what is that? They were meeting at the White House. What does that mean?

HABERMAN: Right. Well, so, I put those into two buckets. One bucket is that this president has conducted a pretty extraordinary public campaign against the nation's intelligence agencies. I don't think we've really ever seen anything like this. So that is one bucket.

The other is, the legal bucket for himself where suggesting that he was talking, you know, none, who knows? I wasn't taping. You know, I was saying, anybody could have been taping those, government leakers were taping, who knows. But, you know, it wasn't me is a way to move it away as I said earlier from any suggestion that he was trying to put pressure on Comey before his testimony with that statement.

And that was a very, very heavily legal tweet lawyered by White House Counsel by his personal Marc Kasowitz was put out yesterday. His answer with "Fox News" was pretty similar. And to be honest, I got a little lost in the hedge maze of what he was saying. Because what I think what he was talking about was that the story that didn't change by him was that Comey had told him that he was not under investigation. And that was according to Comey's sworn testimony, the case. But Comey also put an answers now and making clear that, you know, if that changed he didn't want to have to go public and say that again.

GREGORY: And I think just to button this up. I think the president would argue and his defenders would argue however inappropriate he may have been he was so frustrated by the fact he is being told by all these intelligence folks, look, you're not under investigation. He say, well, can't you just say that. And I think that is a more charitable way to look at that, he's conduct. And I think that's the argument he would make.

CAMEROTA: I agree with that totally, David. I'm sorry.

GREGORY: All right, we're going to have more on all of this as we continue. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we'll talk with President Trump's Councilor Kellyanne Conway in our next hour for all of these breaking developments.

CAMEROTA: OK. We also want to thank Adam Entous there because we're going to have more on his bombshell "Washington Post" reporting about Russian interference in the U.S. election.

[07:20:06] And of course we're also going to talk about the battle over the Senate Health care Bill it is only just beginning. So, will Democrats work to hammer out a compromise or they're going to try to kill this all together? What's their plan? Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is going to join us next.


CAMEROTA: There's a bombshell new report in the "Washington Post" this morning just out. U.S. intelligence captured Russian President Vladimir Putin's instructions to hack the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win and defeat Hillary Clinton.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Senator, thanks so much for being here.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: I know you're just reading this report as we are. We just had Adam Entous, who's the reporter on to help break the news. So this is the incredibly well-sourced three dozen current and former U.S. officials who tell the inside story of President Obama in the final days of the election getting this information that Putin himself had directed this interference. What do you make of this new reporting?

[07:24:57] MERKLEY: Well, up until now we assumed that Putin was very involved, that nothing like the extensive hacking effort and manipulation effort could occur without his involvement. But now, we actually know, yes. Putin directed it. He had a specific goal that was to defeat Hillary Clinton and explains the huge coordinated effort from the botnets to the trolls.

CAMEROTA: It also reports that President Obama didn't want to do something terribly aggressive. He didn't want to be perceived as given that Putin was trying to manipulate this, he didn't want to be perceived as throwing the election for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. He wanted to sort of, you know, walk lightly into this. In retrospect, does it seem that President Obama did not act aggressively enough?

MERKLEY: Well, it's such a dilemma because if he had acted aggressively in the way that he had gone public, and said, this is why we're doing this. It would have been seized upon as an attempt to bias our election. So, there was enormous bias in the election because of the Russians. But how do you balance that out without further damaging? It is an extremely difficult problem.

And this is why Americans have to understand the extensive methods that the Russians used to intervene. It involved 1,000 trolls, it involved fake news, it involved hacking, it involved botnets to generate fake messages on social media. As if they're Americans. It was massive. And we can never let it happen again.

CAMEROTA: So, what should President Trump be doing?

MERKLEY: Well, you need to have a cyber command that actually goes after every piece of this, works with the other Democratic Republics in the world because this is the point, Russia didn't just want to just undermine Hillary Clinton. They wanted to undermine the legitimacy of elections in the Western world.

And so, our system of government is at stake. And we have to be prepared next time to expose every piece of their involvement as it happens and to fend it off and retaliate and hopefully deter it.

CAMEROTA: Connected, of course, is the whole charade about the tapes whether or not there were audio tapes of President Trump's conversations with James Comey. Were you surprised yesterday to learn that there -- that President Trump did not have any audio tapes?

MERKLEY: The way he phrase it was very interesting. He said that, I didn't record it. And I don't have any possession tapes which leaves a lot of questions about whether he worded that specifically because there's more information to obtain. And there's nothing quite frankly that I can trust about what this president says because he bends the truth or just breaks it outright time after time.

CAMEROTA: Health care. So, the Republicans revealed their health care plan. I know that you say that it's a mean plan. That it doesn't work for Americans. It's seemed you hasn't scored it yet, what do you see in it that you --

MERKLEY: Well, here's what we know about. Like the previous house plan, it proceeds to demolish the expansion of Medicaid. And in my state that's 400,000 people who would lose health care. If they were holding hands from the Pacific Ocean, 400 miles to Idaho, just visual that impact.

One out of three people on Oregon health plan in Oregon. But then it goes on to create an inflation index 2.5 percent in 2016 lower than the house index compressing standard Medicaid. And that's where the meaner part comes in. This is "Dumb and Dumber" you know, the movie, the comedy, this is mean and meaner but it's a tragedy or horror show.

CAMEROTA: Meaning that there'll be less money. They're going to be allocating less money to the poor. But, you know, what they say is that we're going to let states decide how to handle their own poor and their own needy and their own Medicare. How can the federal government know what Oregon needs versus Idaho?

MERKLEY: Well, having 50 different health care systems across the country makes no sense in terms of efficiency or consistency for a fundamental right and a fundamental act. So, this is like you have transportation. You have education. You have health care. These are the fundamentals in society. And it's not just that this strips health care for millions of people. It transfers the wealth, the richest Americans. Get this the 400 richest Americans would get $33 billion out of this bill over 10 years. That's equivalent to stripping health care from 700,000 Americans.

CAMEROTA: What are you going to do about it?

MERKLEY: We are going to defeat it. We must defeat this. This will be a black mark on America. People will die.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I hear you, I hear your passion but you don't have the numbers to defeat it.

MERKLEY: Well, we hope that there are people of character in the Republican Party who will join us. They will have multiple opportunities. The first opportunity is to not vote to get on to the bill because there has been no public process for a bill with devastating consequences.

This is a zero, zero, zero bill. This is a zero committee meetings and we had over 100 committee meetings, walkthroughs, roundtables, eight years ago. This is zero amendments in committee. And we have over 400 amendments considered. And 100 Republican amendments adopted eight years ago. This is zero months to be able to consult with constituents back home and have them weigh or have the health experts weigh it. For that reason alone, my Republican colleagues, this is not a dictatorship. This is a democracy.

[07:30:07] CAMEROTA: Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much, great to have you here in the studio with us.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get back to David.

GREGORY: Alisyn, so much news to cover today. Remember, President Trump threatened that there may be tapes of his --