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Trump Tout Calls with Foreign Leaders amid War on Media; White House Stays Confident Senate Bill will Pass; Trump, Putin to meet Face-to-Face this Week; Moscow: Patience is "Running Out" with U.S. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2017 - 10:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for John Berman and Poppy Harlow.

With just days before a series of high-profile meetings at the G20 summit, President Trump is working the phones early. Trump, who spoke last hour with the leaders of Germany and Italy, is pivoting now to foreign policy as he prepares for that face-to-face meeting, later on this weed, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And all of it comes as the president escalates his war with the media this weekend tweeting this edited video of a WWE match showing Trump wrestling a man with a CNN image superimposed over his head.

Joining me now from Bridgewater, New Jersey where the president has been, CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins. So, the president sending a few different messages, today is back on track but then, isn't his tweet from yesterday kind of upstaging a lot?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, after a weekend spent with rants against the media, the president spent most of Sunday night and Monday morning on the phone with foreign lard leaders.

He'll spend the rest of the day at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey before heading back to the White House with the first lady tonight. Then tomorrow, they will host military families at the White House for the 4th of July. And on Wednesday, he departs Washington for his second foreign trip.

He'll make a stop in Poland on Thursday before heading to the G20 summit in Germany on Friday. He's expected to meet with several world leaders during the summit but the one everyone has their eye on is with Russian President Vladimir Putin and whether or not the president will confront him over Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

WHITFIELD: And Kaitlan, what are we hearing from members of Trump's, you know, party about his Twitter war on the media?

COLLINS: Yes, even members of the president's own party are skeptical of his attacks on the media. Take a listen to what some members of Congress had to say here.


REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: We need to protect freedom of the press. There is a responsibility on the part of everyone, including the president of the United States.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: People are now begging the president not to do this, and you know he ought to stop doing it.


COLLINS: And the president may have heard those criticisms. He spent the morning tweeting about the work his administration is doing instead of attacking the media. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Kaitlan Collins in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Thank you so much.

Now to health care, the White House remaining confident today that the U.S. Senate will pass their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare despite not having the support to vote and pass it last week. And with Congress now in recess, lawmakers who headed home will likely face some fireworks from the critics.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is live for us from Capitol Hill with more on what's expected and what are people -- tourists saying? That's a big day for tourists there on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The good part about the Capitol Building you can always come in and see things. It's as good as it gets for the public. Fred, I think one of the really interesting elements here is really, actually twofold.

First and foremost, you mentioned, lawmakers are home for recess. Now, I've spoken to several liberal groups, several Democrats who made it very clear, they want to put as much pressure on those Republican senators as they possibly can, even Republican senators who are doing their best to avoid the limelight and not do any town halls. They are trying to make TV moments out of confrontations, as much as they possibly can, whether that be at grocery stores, July 4th parades.

All of that is kind of the outside pressure about what's going on. But there's also a lot of internal pressure as well, Fred. They left town, obviously. We know they delayed the vote. Senator Majority Leader McConnell wanted this done before they left for recess. He's very caginess in the potential pressure here.

What I'm told is going on behind the scenes is really the continued negotiations. The lawmakers know what the parameters are. They know what the Medicaid expansion senators want. They know what the conservatives on the other side related to regulations want. They're trying to thread that needle, figure out a way to get compromise.

But one interesting element that really developed at the end of last week is this idea that a lot of conservatives have been pushing for a long time. Just vote on straight repeal. In fact, it's something the president endorsed on Twitter on Friday. Something I can tell you a lot of Senate leadership aides did not really appreciate. But people who did appreciate that, people like Senator Mike Lee. Take a listen.

[10:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I've advocated for the last six months pushing a simple repeal bill -- something patterned perhaps or built up upon the foundation of the 2015 repeal bill, you know, the one that we passed in December of 2015. If people knew what was in there, they could vote on that. We could pass that with a delayed implementation provision, and then we could figure out what comes next later in an iterative step-by-step process -- one that could potentially involve Democrats once Obamacare has been repealed.


MATTINGLY: Now, Fred, a key and very important point there. Both Senator Mike Lee, Senator Ted Cruz, kind of the most conservative individuals pushing for this regulations amendment, all said they were going to continue to work in the current process. And that's important because if they would have left that process altogether, the effort essentially would have died.

Now, what I'm told right now is negotiations obviously ongoing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made very clear repeal and replace is the strategy. That strategy is not changing, despite presidential tweets, where conservative lawmaker views otherwise. And that's going to continue forward.

We also know another thing, at least according to aides right now. The expectation that there would be a vote as soon as leaders and Republicans come back next week, that's very unlikely, there is still a lot of work to do. They're starting to circulate proposals to the Congressional Budget Office. They need to get scores. They need to hash it out internally inside their conference. Expect this to take a couple more weeks when they actually get back.

But as the White House has said, as Congressional leaders have said, they're still working. They're working a lot behind the scenes. What will be most interesting to see is if the public blowback they're expected to get over the next couple of days will have any impact when they get back to Washington. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. We shall see. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

All right, joining me now to discuss all of this, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," David Fahrenthold, CNN contributor and reporter for the "Washington Post" and Rebecca Berg, CNN political commentator and national politics reporter for "RealClear Politics." Good to see all of you.

All right, so Lynn, you first, you know, amid this war with the media, the president also made news tweeting this. "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal, and then replace at a later date!"

Sources on Capitol Hill, telling our Phil Mattingly, there that that option is not on the table. Something echoed by Trump's Health and Human Services secretary yesterday. So is there a real disconnect here?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, there is. And let me explain why this is just a strategy without substance in terms of fixing what we need to do with health care. And if you listen carefully to Congressman Zeldin saying, oh, well, we have a piece of legislation with an implementation date out there.

So, let me make it in simpler words. If you pass repeal with an effective date of, let's say, 2020, 2019, all it will do is wreaked havoc with the insurance markets. And what the Republicans and President Trump crave is a win. So, it's kind of not how you would have an orderly transition in the marketplace no matter what your politics are.

I think it's kind of a trick if you just repeal. We have to look at what the effective date will be in that piece of legislation. That's crucial and will tell the whole story of whether or not it's a glorified press release or if it's a step to fixing what's wrong with our health system. I suspect if you have an outside date years away of effectiveness, it's just symbolic and not a way to fix the system.

WHITFIELD: So, David, you know one of your "Washington Post" colleagues writes the following about the president's involvement saying, quote, "Trump has spoken out repeatedly during his tenure about the shortcomings of Obamacare. But he has made relatively little effort to detail for the public why Republican replacement plans -- which fare dismally in public opinion polls -- would improve on the former president's signature initiative. So in other words, you know, this president really is not putting an effort in shaping whatever plan the Senate would vote on.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the president has actually said some things about health care. The problem is that they contradict each other and they often contradict the things that Republican leaders are working on. So, he's had a pep rally at the White House after House Republicans passed their bill but then came out and called it mean.

He sort of pushed for the Senate bill but then now he's saying, well, forget it, scrap it, let's just repeal and replace later. It doesn't seem like President Trump has a strong idea of what's in the bill or what he wants to be in the bill. And I think without really having that kind of policy knowledge or specific policy goals, it's really hard for him to go out and beat the bushes and say we have to do this when it doesn't seem like in his own mind he's settled on what this should be.

WHITFIELD: Well, what's interesting, David, because wasn't that the argument and wasn't that the observation after the House plan. And now, you've got the Senate shaping it. It would seem as though the president may have learned from that so that he could be out in front of the plan. So that he can also best sell it. Wouldn't that be the lesson learned?

[10:10:04] FAHRENTHOLD: You'd think. Instead, there was this dynamic in the House at the very end with people like Elise Stefanik, the Republican from New York, Darrell Issa, the Republican from California, people that are in kind of iffy districts for Republicans and were on the fence about that bill. They voted for it thinking we'll give the president a win. The president really wants a win.

And then, the reward was, OK, we're going to have this pep rally at the White House. It seemed like the president was pleased. But then a few days later, the president comes out and says, no, that bill was mean. So these people who stuck their necks out for the party and the president in the House was their reward. They get kicked in the teeth. And so, people in the Senate are not going to even have that kind of motivation to please the president if that's how he rewards you.

WHITFIELD: Right. So, Rebecca, what is a win and you know, is a win defined very differently for the president versus perhaps Republicans who are going to stick their necks out for this president to, you know, succeed in changing health care?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, "REALCLEAR POLITICS": You know, I think, Fred, that simply if Republicans in the Senate are able to pass some version of health care reform over the next couple of weeks that the president could claim that as a win. But he and Senate Republicans and congressional Republicans more broadly are really going to have to focus over the next weeks and months. Assuming they're able to pass something in the Senate and then approve that again in the House after conference.

They're really going to have to focus and work hard on crafting a message of support for this legislation because we've all seen the public polling. We've seen how unpopular their legislation, their ideas remain. And the reason for that is because Republicans have not focused yet on selling this reform to the public. And the president could be a leader in that regard because he has a bigger platform than any Republican lawmaker on Capitol Hill, but they haven't done that yet.

So, assuming they can pass something, that is the next step. That will be the question to answer, you know, is this a win for Republicans. It could well be, but they're going to have to tell people why this is a positive change for them.

WHITFIELD: And then, Lynn, you know, on the heels of the president's tweet yesterday, does that kind of behavior, the message that the president is sending from his POTUS handle, potentially jeopardize whatever support he does have from some Republicans on the Hill to focus on the president's agenda?

SWEET: Yes, it does. And it's self-inflicted. I've kind of -- taken a recast view. It's not just this distracts, these tweets distract from his agenda or what they want the story of the day or the week to be, be it energy week or health care week or infrastructure week. These tweets let you have an insight into the mind of the president. That is what people are analyzing and looking at with this kind of material that we've never had before in history.

So, of course, it distracts because the president is one of the most important people in the country. People are still writing books about Abraham Lincoln, for goodness sakes, because they're scarce material. So, it's natural for the media to focus on what Donald Trump says in his tweets and what the president says is an important insight. And in this case, it massively distracts from his policy agenda and hurts his allies on Capitol Hill.

WHITFIELD: All right, Lynn Sweet, Rebecca Berg, David Fahrenthold, good to see you all and Happy Fourth.

All right, still ahead, Moscow says it's losing patience with the U.S. All of this ahead of that much-anticipated face-to-face. What will President Trump and Vladimir Putin discuss and not talk about at the G20 summit?

Plus, fierce fighting underway in Mosul as Iraqi troops battle for the final few blocks being held by ISIS.

And beachgate New Jersey's government shut down by a budget standoff. State parks and state beaches are closed to the public, unless you're the governor. Governor Chris Christie.


[10:18:05] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump is making the rounds this morning with phone calls to leaders of Germany and it I Italy. Meanwhile, he is also preparing for his big face-to- face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two will meet this week at the G20. The White House says this unstructured meeting will happen on the sidelines of the summit, which will allow the two men to talk about whatever they want. But officials say, Trump is not likely to address the big elephant in the room, which is, the election meddling.

CNN's Matthew Chance is joining us now live from Moscow. All right, so, Matthew, the White House says that the two are likely to talk about Ukraine or even Syria, but what is the Kremlin saying about Vladimir Putin's style? I mean he is a former KGB guy and likely he's all about dissecting and deciphering and really trying to read someone. Will that really be his focus, trying to read Donald Trump?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so. I think it's hard to believe that Vladimir Putin, this former KGB officer, this man who's been at the top of Russian politics for so long now, is going to go into what is one of the most important meetings of the Trump presidency so far, from a Russian point of view, without being absolutely prepared to deal with any eventuality, absolutely prepared with an agenda of his own to push if there is no agenda coming at him from the other side, if you like. And the Russians want more than anything else to normalize the relationship with the United States. They want the sanctions on their economy to be lifted. They want their interests around the world in places like Syria and in places like Ukraine, where there are ongoing hostilities, to be recognized by the west in general and by the United States in particular.

[10:20:00] And so, this is what Vladimir Putin is going to be going to this meeting trying to achieve, a normalization of relations. Already the Kremlin has suggested that Vladimir Putin may raise the issue of cooperating on international terrorism. It's what the Kremlin have said in the past as being an obvious area where Washington and Moscow can coordinate, particularly in the Syrian war zone. And that may again be raised by the Russians. But, of course, there's always the sort of unknown when it comes to Donald Trump. I mean who knows what topic he is going to raise and what offer he is going to make.

WHITFIELD: And those are a lot of things for a sideline meeting. So really, you know, if there is a second meeting or if this meeting will help cement that there will be yet another meeting. Then, that might demonstrate some real groundwork, you know, some real ground has been made between these two men, right?

CHANCE: Yes. I think in terms of expectation management, what the Russians are saying is that if they can achieve simply an agreement to have another meeting at some point later on down the line, then that would be seen as a success. And so, their expectations are very low. If this is not an abject failure, if it doesn't disintegrate into some kind of chaos, I think many Russians will be very happy with that outcome for this first meeting.

WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this with CNN counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, a former CIA counterterrorism official and a former FBI senior intelligence advisor. Also with us, CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations. Good to see both of you and Happy Fourth weekend.

All right, so, Phil, you first, you know, what do you imagine Trump and Putin really could discuss and the parameters of this sideline meeting during the G20?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST AND FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Well, I think we've been overthinking this in the past couple of days, Fredricka. If you look at what Trump has said, it's been pretty basic. Number one, he's comfortable with Putin. Number two, he's comfortable dealing with people who want to oppose ISIS. Number three, he's comfortable with dictators.

He's met with the Egyptian leader, who I regard as a dictator, in the White House. That Egyptian leader was ostracized by the former president, President Obama. I think the bottom line is pretty straightforward, that there will be conversations, in particular about Syria, and that those conversations will tend towards saying we need to stop the Civil War. We both need to focus on ISIS. Here's the tough part, Fredricka, if that includes acceptance of a continuation in power of the dictator, Bashar al-Assad, I think the president will signal that that's OK.

WHITFIELD: So, Steve, do you see that there is room for negotiation, that this is a meeting where the two will have discussions about Syria, you know, talk about compromise, talk about, you know, how to work things through, or is this more of a meet-and-greet, just kind of size one another up and then see what happens later?

STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST AND RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: For me, Fred, this is always sort of a sad affair because the Russians understand the western psyche so much better than we understand where the Russians are coming from. The Russians understand that we are going to want to come in and that the president is going to want to come in and look for cooperation. Look for areas that we can agree on. His predecessors, Obama, did that. You know, Obama's predecessor, Bush, did that. They all went in with the best intentions. I'm going to fix this relationship. We're going to make the relationship with Russia work. Putin sees that - sees it coming and takes it to the bank every single time.

What needs to happen is the president needs to go in there and strongly say, look, you meddled with our elections. He can do that now, by the way, because on the 23rd and 24th he tweeted as much and he also said so on another news network. He said it in the context that Obama should have done more but he tacitly admitted that. He needs to take the Russians to task on Crimea. He needs to take the Russians --

WHITFIELD: And how strange would it be if he doesn't, if President Trump does not take this opportunity to say something about elections. I mean, it's not over. There are other elections, you know, to come that Russia can influence or meddle with. So what does it say if Trump does not take or seize this opportunity?

HALL: It's a flag. It's an indicator and a strong one to the Russians that they're not going to be held accountable for this. That they're not going to be held accountable for their unacceptable behavior not just in our Democratic election but perhaps even more importantly, depending on your perspective, internationally. You can't go annexing other countries. You can't do these types of things. And yet what Putin will say is, well, certainly there's something we can agree on. Can't we agree on, I don't know, counterterrorism?

I think if you would look at the history of our cooperation with Russia really on a lot of different things, but specifically on counterterrorism, and on intelligence sharing, which is a critical part of the under counterterrorism fight, you will find that there is not a whole lot of success in past attempts of cooperation with the Russians. So, you've got to ask, what are we bargaining for. We're bargaining for a little tiny bit of cooperation on something like Syria or counterterrorism, which probably isn't going to yield a whole lot for the Russians.

[10:25:02] And yet, we're not going to hold the Russians to task? That's a clear sign to Putin that, hey, I can get away with a lot here. There's room to maneuver here. Maybe I can even get sanctions lifted and other things that I need out of the American administration because they're not going to hold my feet to the fire on this. That's the danger, and the Russians know it.

WHITFIELD: So, Phil, in a briefing last week, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Trump really would like there to be a more constructive relationship with Russia. What does that mean?

MUDD: Well, as Steve suggested, the previous presidents have gone in saying, hey, let me fix this and we get taken to the cleaners by the Russians every time. There is one significant difference here. And that is in the past, I think, we wanted to talk about compromise with the Russians. In this situation, I think we have a president walking in, saying I'm pretty comfortable with the Russian position. If we want to fight ISIS in Syria, that's fine. If we want a continuation of the Assad regime, that's fine. That's different than previous administrations.

I do think looking at Steve's comments about what's going to happen in this conversation, I would be surprised if the president makes an issue out of the election meddling. I agree he should, but the fact that he had a Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office and couldn't even discuss this with the foreign minister is a signal that the reporting that he doesn't want to accept the reality of Russian meddling is true. He doesn't want to raise this with Putin -

WHITFIELD: Can he afford to look at the jovial, however? You know, remember that picture. I mean, he was very jovial. The president was, with the foreign minister of Russia as well as the ambassador. And they looked like they were having a great time. Can Trump afford to have that same kind of imagery with the Russian president?

MUDD: Look, every time he walks into one of these situations, we inside the beltway in Washington, D.C., have an historical overlay. We say when you have this conversation with the Russians. You can't afford to look happy. You can't pat them on the back. You can't shake the hand of the man who is responsible for meddling in the American elections and Donald Trump does the exact opposite. I would expect to see a pretty comfortable meeting with Putin. I wouldn't be surprised to see a photo op where both of them are smiling.

WHITFIELD: All right, Phil Mudd, Steve Hall, we'll leave it right there. Thanks so much, gentlemen, appreciate it, Happy Fourth.

All right, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is caught lounging on the beach. Usually that wouldn't be so bad. But when the governor says all state beaches are closed and parks closed, it doesn't look so good. Just moments ago, he actually spoke about it.