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Trump: Russia and Other Countries Meddled in 2006 Election. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2017 - 06:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 6, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joins me. Thank you very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.

CUOMO: As usual, you bring with you breaking news on President Trump. He is on the world stage on the eve of his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Trump slamming his predecessor, dismissing U.S. intelligence, and questioning whether Russia alone meddled in the U.S. election, saying others may have been involved. No one really knows. That's his quote.

HARLOW: During a joint news conference just a short time ago with Poland's leader, President Trump also continuing his attacks on the media and responding to the escalation from North Korea. The president facing serious foreign policy tests on this overseas trip. On several fronts. In about one hour he will deliver a speech to the Polish people. You will see that live right here on NEW DAY. We have it all covered this morning.

Let's begin with our Sara Murray, who is live in Warsaw where the president is about to give that speech. Sara, what did you make of the press conference?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty remarkable comments on President Trump in his press conference today alongside the Polish president. One of the things that's sure to raise eyebrows is President Trump questioning whether it was just Russia that was behind hacking in the 2016 election and blaming his predecessor, Barack Obama.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. And I won't be specific. But I think a lot of people interfered. I think it's been happening for a long time. It's been happening for many, many years. Now, the thing I have to mention is that Barack Obama when he was

president found out about this in terms of if it were Russia. Found out about it in August. They say he choked. Well, I don't think he choked. I think what happened is he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said, "Let's not do anything about it."


MURRAY: Now whether President Trump is inclined to accept it or not, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies did conclude that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election. They did not conclude that there was any other country involved in that.

Now, obviously, anything the president says about Russia is going to be closely scrutinized on this trip. But there are other diplomatic issues and challenges he's facing. Of course, one of those pressing ones is how to navigate North Korea. The president was asked about that today. He said he has a strong response in mind. But he doesn't want to draw any red lines.


TRUMP: Say that people in NATO. As far as North Korea is concerned, I don't know. We'll see what happens. I don't like to talk about what I have planned. But I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean we're going to do -- I don't draw red lines. President Obama drew a red line. And I was the one that made it look a little bit better than it was.

I think we'll just take a look at what happens over the coming weeks and months, with respect to North Korea. It's a shame that they're behaving this way. But they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner. And something will have to be done about it.


MURRAY: Now, we got yet another taste of President Trump's unorthodox approach to diplomacy on the world stage. He opened up that press conference by calling on a reporter that's interviewed for jobs in the Trump White House. And then he proceeded to bash CNN, as well as another of other news outlets. Effectively questioning the free press at the same time he was appearing here in Portland, where they're also cracking down on a free press, as well as on the courts.

Now, what we see from Trump again and again is a very different approach from a U.S. president. We're used to them going abroad and touting American values. Instead, we saw Trump take aim at the free press and also question conclusions from his own U.S. intelligence agencies. Just a reminder that President Trump remains as unpredictable on the world stage as he is at home.

Back to you guys.

CUOMO: All right, Sara. A little odd there, as you suggest. The president bringing the political pettiness of the American forum to Poland. Let's discuss this wobbly start. Let's bring in Robin Wright;

"Washington Post" congressional reporter, Karoun Demirjian; CNN political analyst Jon Avlon and in Hamburg, CNN political and security analyst David Sanger.

Let's do this. Robin and everybody else, thank you for being with us. We're going to listen to this extended interplay between the president of the United States and an NBC reporter, that kind of set the stage for his message this morning. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia. And I think it could have been other people in other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfering. I've said it very -- I said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia. But I think it could well have been other countries. And I won't be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. I think it's been happening for a long time. It's been happening for many, many years.

Now, the thing I have to mention is that Barack Obama, when he was president, found out about this, in terms of, if it were Russia. Found out about it in August. Now, the election is in November. That's a lot of time. He did nothing about it. Why did he do nothing about it? He was told it was Russia by the CIA, as I understand it. It was well-reported. And he did nothing about it. They say he choked. Well, I don't think he choked. I think what happened is he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. And he said, "Let's not do anything about it."

Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it. So he was told in early August by, presumably, the CIA that Russia was trying to get involved, or meddling, pretty strongly with the election. He did nothing about it. The reason is he thought Hillary was going to win. And if he thought I was going to win, he would have done plenty about it. So that's the real question is why did he do nothing, from August all the way to November? And why did he do nothing? People said he choked. I don't think he choked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The follow-up's for you on that, Mr. President, you think it was Russia. Your intelligence agencies have been far more definitive. They say it was Russia. Why won't you agree with them and say it was?

TRUMP: I'll tell you, let me just start off by saying, I heard it was 17 agencies. They said, boy, that's a lot. Do we even have that many intelligence agencies, right? Let's check it. And we did some very heavy research. It turned out to be three or four. It wasn't 17.

And many of your compatriots had to change their reporting, and they had to apologize and they had to correct. Now, with that being said, mistakes have been made. I agree. I think it was Russia. But I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.

I remember when I was sitting back, listening about Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction. How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong, and it led to a mess. So it was Russia. And I think it was probably others also. And that's been going on for a long period of time.

[06:05:06] But my big question is why did Obama do nothing about it, from August all the way to November? He did nothing about it, and it wasn't because he choked.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... blaming President Obama, Mr. President...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. You must go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very briefly follow-up, Mr. President. Why haven't you showed that anger toward Moscow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask the president...




CUOMO: So, let's get some reactions on this. John Avlon, the idea of the president of the United States. And again, customarily, you go across to Trump and American values. You leave somewhat of the political interplay here at home, at home. He didn't do that. He wound up echoing something that we often hear from Russian intelligence types about U.S. intelligence. They always bring up weapons of mass destruction and how that was wrong. Odd to hear it from an American president?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Incredibly odd to hear it from a president. Incredibly odd to hear it on a foreign trip.

And look, the White House aides have been trying to say it's been -- the president was going to step up his game and that he understood the responsibilities of statesmanship. And her, in his first press conference on a key foreign trip, he goes out of his way to raise all of the demons and, you know, fight all the dragons of domestic politics as he sees them. He questions the Obama administration and their act, with record to Russian hacking and questions our own intelligence agencies. He apparently needed to confirm how many intelligence agencies there are.

None of this is normal. This elevates it to a new level, because it's dangerous to have a president not be defending American values on the stage. But instead, airing all our dirty laundry in a way that it puts the press as an equal enemy, apparently, and danger as North Korea. That recites Russian talking points and muddles what there is consensus about among everyone else, except the offices of the Oval Office. Which is there was Russian hacking in the election. And this is dangerous for a democracy.

HARLOW: David Sanger, to you, the president seemed to be making a set of arguments in the same breath, right? He didn't definitively say, yes, it was Russia, and they should be punished for it, and they should not interfere in American democracy. He said, "I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people or other countries he was referring to." In the same breath, he went on to lambast President Obama for not doing more when he himself and his administration has not taken on Russia on it. We don't even know people speak to Vladimir Putin about it.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's right. And by leveling the question of whether or not it was, in fact, Russia, it gives them a little bit of an out, sort of soft- sell this with President Putin when he meets him here tomorrow. Because this lie, which he's used before, it was the Russians and others, never defining who the others were, sort of suggests everyone does it.

Well, let's be clear on a couple of things, with the intelligence community included. First of all, he's right. It wasn't all 17 intelligence agencies that came to the conclusion, because there were only a few that were involved: the CIA, the NSA. It was gathering together by the director of national intelligence and by the FBI, and the director of national intelligence, of course, represents the entire intelligence community. That's where his confusion with the number 17 rolled in.

Secondly, their information was very specific. It was not only that this was ordered up by Russia but that it was ordered up by President Putin, who he is meeting for the first time tomorrow. And I think the third thing is this whole routine that he went into about what President Obama knew and didn't know. I had some sympathy for. You can make an argument that President Obama underreacted. In fact, many former members of the Obama administration I've spoken to now wish they acted more strongly.

He may be right that they would have acted differently, had they thought that Hillary Clinton was going to lose. We'll never know this. But none of this is new. This was playing out on the front pages in real-time. We reported in "The Times" in July, before he said President Obama knew of this in August, that the intelligence community had confirmed with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that it was a grudge. It's not like any of this was not publicly known as this was all playing out.

And President Obama would tell you that he sat down with Putin in his last meeting with him and warned him off of this and meddling in the actual count of the election in November.

CUOMO: But there's a bigger situation emerging on this trip, even in its nascency here, Robin. And that is that the president's own party was so critical of President Obama and ought to be rightly so. That you don't go abroad and bash your own country. That you go out and you put the best foot forward, especially in a place like Poland, where they are battling their own individual liberty fights right now. And that America is supposed to be out there to share itself at its best. That is not what President Trump did.

[06:10:12] Do you think that that deserves criticism the way President Obama got it from his own party?

ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: This is a pivotal moment for Trump. This is a time when he's trying to show commandos foreign policy. The first trip was soft. This is going to be much harder.

And in his speech, which he is to give very shortly, he's going to talk about the importance of the west rallying together. And he faces the biggest foreign policy challenge yet in North Korea. And he is using this or squandering, in some ways, this opportunity to show leadership by delving back into what the previous administration did.

What was really striking about that comment and question about Russia, is that he never mentioned Vladimir Putin by name, on the eve of his trip or his visit and meeting with Vladimir Putin. That he's dodging the big issues. He does not look like he has the command he hopes to try to reflect in the speech he's about to give. This is a tough moment. And he's, once again, kind of going back into the personal issue. I mean, he began his comments on this stage, by talking about how many Polish-Americans had voted for him.

HARLOW: Karoun, to you. If you could weigh in on how you would compare the president's reaction to the media and different media outlets, versus his reaction to the question about North Korea and Kim Jong-un. Because as Robin rightly pointed out, he never said the name Vladimir Putin. I listened to the presser. I didn't hear him -- he called out the North Korean regime. But the anger with which he took on the media, did it seem disproportional to you on the world stage in front of that audience, standing next to President Duda?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": It's incredibly odd, but it's not incredibly surprising coming from him. I mean, Donald Trump has been in campaign mode since he took -- his inauguration. He has focused on the media and on messaging in his own, every time he needs something to go wrong in his criticism of his policy.

He has shied away from speaking as forcefully about other heads of state, other people that may be actually causing problems, as far as even his intelligence community has assessed is the case. And this is -- this is odd behavior from somebody who is going overseas to represent the United States. That's a point at which the president is supposed to kind of be the one voice representing the whole country and not just talking about divisions and squabbles that are left over from the last election season.

But this is classic Donald Trump to be doing this sort of thing. To be focusing on how the media is portraying him badly, if he comes off badly. To be focusing on how Obama set him up by underreacting to excuse his own present, what many people would say is a bit of an underreaction, given the circumstances of the continued probes into the meddling and the fact that he's meeting face-to-face with Putin for the first time.

So -- so this is just kind of extrapolation from that that now has excited to addressing the issue of North Korea, because he has to address the issue in North Korea. But turning and letting more of his ire be focused on those who are portraying the things that he's doing instead of what he's actually -- the substance of it.

AVLON: But Chris, you raised a really interesting point in parallel, which is that the conservative refrain during the Obama administration was that the president would go on these apology tours, how they called them where he went.

In that characterization, you could feel the righteous indignation. And here, the Republican president is doing it on his first really major trip, which is going to be confrontational in the world seas. And his first opportunity to speak, he is apologizing from -- he's running down our country and its institutions and raising all the specters of domestic politics that line up with his personal emotional agenda and not the national interest in the work to be done. That's dangerous. It's also hypocritical.

CUOMO: All right. But the big test for him will be what he says about North Korea. And, you know, some of the prepared comments that we've gotten advance on, objectively are solid. That we understand the message that's going to come out of them.

So let's play some of the sound about North Korea, during the press conference. And we'll discuss how it's different than what the planned message might be.


TRUMP: I don't like to talk about what I have planned. But I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean we're going to do them. I don't draw red lines. President Obama drew a red line. And I was the one that made it look a little bit better than it was.

But that could have been done a lot sooner, and you wouldn't have had the same situation that you have right now in Syria. That was a big mistake.

But I think we'll just take a look at what happens over the coming weeks and months, with respect to North Korea. It's a shame that they're behaving this way. But they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner. And something will have to be done about it.


CUOMO: All right. David Sanger, those comments seem fairly unformulated. And it's very different than the advance notes we got from the White House, about how, you know, they are working allies. There are strategies in place for different types of levers and sanctions that can be used. You didn't hear that in that statement. What's your take?

SANGER: Well, first of all, there's a lack of discipline in how he talks about these. Things that happen with presidents in their first year. But you would think on North Korea, the issue that he's had to deal with most intently over the past six months and come way up a learning curve, that he would be a little bit more specific. And as you said, we expect he will be in the speech.

Let's face it, Chris. If an increase in sanctions was going to change the behavior of North Korea, it would have happened sometime over the last 20 years. Every administration, Democratic and Republican, we've had, have responded to each new incremental North Korean advance, by saying, "Oh, we will impose the most severe sanctions ever." Well, there's only so much you can sanction a country that basically has been under every sanction you can imagine since 1953.

So let's face it. That is not a strategy that is going to get Kim Jong-un to give up his missiles and his nuclear weapons, which is the stated end goal of American strategy. He's going to have to come up with something more -- more convincing than that. And we know that military action, for reasons we've laid out in "The Times" today and others have done elsewhere, is not a live option for him, at least and unless we're under an immediate and imminent threat.

HARLOW: And David, as you wrote in "The Times," a brutal education for this president about the limited options that he has in facing North Korea. Thank you very much.

Ladies, gentlemen, we appreciate it. We have a lot ahead here. President Trump, one day away from those face-to-face talks with Russian Vladimir Putin. How is he preparing for this historic meeting? We're getting some color from the White House. You'll hear the details next.


[17:21:00] HARLOW: Today, President Trump is in friendly territory in Poland right now. You're looking at pictures of crowds in Warsaw waiting to hear him speak next hour. You will hear that live right here. The challenges that lie ahead of the G-20 summit are many. That's where he will sit down face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin for an incredibly high-stakes meeting.

Back with us, our panel: Robin Wright, Karoun Demirjian, Jon Avlon and David Sanger.

Jon, just looking at how those around the president look at how he will approach or could approach this meeting, McMaster saying sort of anything is on the table. We'll see. Versus how the president is going to approach it, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state with some interesting comments, saying, "I would say at this point, it's difficult to say exactly what Russia's intentions are in this relationship."

It seems diametrically opposed to how the president enters this meeting. How do you see it? AVLON: This is the fundamental contradiction of the administration.

You've got a national security team, which is highly regarded professionally, particularly H.R. McMattis -- James Mattis, playing a game of really contained the present. Trying to create continuity in American strategy, a more forceful tone on the world stage.

And the problem has been is the president keeps undercutting his administration's own positions with tweet storms, with questions at press conferences which go off the rails. And yet, there are these folks who are trying to create continuity and stability and a strong line. And unfortunately, the reality is that they're trying to contain the president. President Trump at the end of the day, no pun intended, because he's got the bully pulpit. He's got the podium. He's got the Twitter account.

CUOMO: You know, it wouldn't be the biggest gamble in the world, to suggest that those who believe that this is going to be the meeting that H.R. McMaster, James Mattis, that they're setting themselves up for disappointment.

We just heard the president to question U.S. intel and leave logic aside. How, you know, on the Iraq war, he questions U.S. intelligence. Remember, it's very important to him that that war had been the wrong decision. That he be perceived he's been against it, although there's no proof of that. That he doesn't believe about Russian interference, because he thinks that's bad for his legitimacy as president. He does believe that about North Korea, even though that's not our best intel bank when it comes to understanding that nation.

But he does believe the North Korean intel. He just ran down the Russian intel. He wouldn't mention Putin by name. I mean, doesn't that tell you everything you need to know in terms of his posture entering the meeting with the Russian president?

WRIGHT: Well, this is the most important meeting the president has probably had since taking office. And he's dealing with probably the shrewdest and the most manipulative leader on the world stage. Someone who has lived through four presidencies, who is very involved and -- down to the details, whether it's armistice agreements with the United States, military deployments of the United States. He really knows these issues.

And I think, you know, he has been also engaged in psychological warfare with some of the other leaders he's met, bringing in his Labrador dog with Angela Merkel, who we knew was afraid of dogs. This is someone who is going to game this meeting. He's a very tough manipulator. And the danger is that Trump, who is -- who is still learning foreign policy, will find that, as some in the policy community fear that Putin will eat him for lunch.

And the -- what are the deliverables? The challenge in this meeting is on what could they probably agree? There's -- there's deep profound, long-standing differences between the United States and Russia on Ukraine. Syria, there may be some kind of movement on de-escalation zones. But

it gets -- it gets very complicated once you get into the specifics. And on North Korea, China and Russia have both taken a tough stand at the United Nations, saying that they don't want to go along with a U.S. proposal for tough, new sanctions. So this is a meeting where it's going to be hard to see what President Trump can come out of this, and show that he really is tougher or as tough as Vladimir Putin.

HARLOW: David Sanger, if the president decides not to bring up Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, what would the calculation be that would benefit him domestically here at home, or in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, because he would be opening himself up to vast criticism on the domestic front for not bringing that up, especially after his criticism of President Obama, again today, for not doing more on Russia.

[06:25:22] And in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, we know that Putin values strength. So wouldn't he see that as a weakness?

SANGER: He certainly would. And, you know, there's a fairly easy way out of this, which is you can make a brief reference to the history but then say, "Mr. Putin, forget about what happened last year." Let's talk about what you're doing now and what you will be or will not be doing in the future.

Because it's not like Russia's cyber activity has stopped. You saw them attempt to meddle in the French election. There's an election here in Germany in September, where we've already seen Russian activity. You're seeing more Russian activity around the world.

And so I think the big question here for President Trump is whether or not he can begin to convey to President Putin that, if he stays on the path he's on, he's headed toward the old classic strategy of American containment of Russia.

And so he's got three or four big objectives here, which Robin alluded to. There's common ground in Syria, perhaps. He's got to somehow come down pretty hard on the Russian continued activity in Ukraine. When I interviewed President Trump as a candidate, he didn't seem particularly concerned about what they were doing in Ukraine. Well, we'll have to see if his view has changed.

He's got to figure out how to stop Mr. Putin's efforts to try to meddle in the current European elections with American allies.

And then finally, on the nuclear front, he has to figure out how to deal with a big Russian violation of nuclear accord, on intermediate missiles that has been going on for some time. And if he can't get out and explain how he discussed those topics and what ground he laid for that, I think it's going to be a problematic meeting.

CUOMO: Well, one of the concerns is that you give up a lot of leverage when you say that your own intel community gets things wrong. You know, when you go in to meet with the Russian president, and you've given him good entree to question your own suggestions and allegations in that meeting.

But it won't be just Russia-specific here, Jon Avlon. You have this interweaving, this dovetailing of issues on Syria and in North Korea, that will involve Russia.

But also, very important, intense meetings with the president of China, Xi, at the G-20. Also, with Germany's leader, Angela Merkel. So let's put up the sheet. We have a little card for the issues that come up in that one, as well. This will matter.

You know, North Korea, you just had Xi and the Russian president, just to remind people. They put out a statement, basically making North Korea and the United States sound like equal aggressors in this situation. North Korea has to stand down, and the United States and South Korea have to stand down. That's how they discussed it. Not good for the U.S.

AVLON: And look, the administration has been taking a much tougher line on China in the wake of them not using adequate leverage to contain North Korea.

But President Trump is surrounded by bad options in all of the hot spots of the world. He's going to have to be a statesman. And this is one of the real problems. You know, it's tough to be leader of the free world and king of the trolls at the same time. He's going to have to up his game and realize that the reality of what he's dealing with is responsibility across the board. That's not his natural mode.

HARLOW: Thank you all. Appreciate it. Of course, we're going to get a lot more grist for the mill in the next hour, when the president delivers his prepared remarks. OK? So we'll play that for you live. And then, we'll understand much better where the president's head and heart are, going into these meetings.

And there's no question, he already said in the press conference, he believes that what North Korea is doing could get very dangerous very quickly. But he was vague. What does that mean, realistically? We know what they did. What can be done to them? Next.