Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Protests in Germany; Putin Meets With Trump. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 7, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the president went there.
THE LEAD starts right now.
The handshake seen round the world. After all the hype, it happened. President Putin and President Trump meet face to face. And the secretary of state says the president called out Putin for Russian hacks. As the two leaders meet, CNN learns that Russia is ramping up psy-work inside the United States, and it seems nothing America has done yet has stopped them.
Plus, North Korea celebrating a July 4 missile weekend launch with fireworks. But did President Trump just hit a roadblock in this crisis named Vladimir Putin?
And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.
All those stories right ahead, but, first, for the second night in a row, protesters are swarming the streets of Hamburg, Germany, the site of the G20 summit, and President Trump's meeting earlier with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where election meddling was discussed at length.
But first to the action outside. Right now, police are trying to calm a chaotic scene as night falls in Germany.
I want to go straight to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He's right there down in the crowd in the middle of it all.
What's going on there now, Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi.
First of all, I apologize for all the noise. There is actually quite a lot of (INAUDIBLE) going on next to me. But there are several demonstrations that are going on in Hamburg as of right now.
The one that I have is fairly peaceful, although, as you can see, there is a considerable police presence at this one as well. But a couple blocks away from here, I would say about a mile-and-a-half, there is another demonstration that apparently has turned very violent. There have been barricades that have been set on fire, and what we
have just learned from the Hamburg police is that apparently one of its officers was harassed so badly by the people there, that he fired a warning shot into the air to try and get those people to go away from him.
So, certainly, a very chaotic scene that is going on there. There are those barricades that are on fire, the police in street battles there against people out there. And at the same time, of course, you have got various other demonstrations taking place here in the city.
One of them is the one that I'm at right here. That's going to start marching fairly soon. And what the protesters want to do, they want to try and reach the secure perimeter of the G20. The police said they're absolutely not going to let that happen. They have actually called in additional reinforcements to come (INAUDIBLE) -- Pamela.
BROWN: Wow, quite a dichotomy when you look at the left side of the screen and where are there.
I know it's tough to hear me, but I'm going to still ask this question. Earlier, first lady Melania Trump couldn't leave her hotel due to these protests. Could the crowds tonight cause even more problems for world leaders and their spouses? Is there concern about that, Fred, if you can hear me?
PLEITGEN: Yes, yes, of course.
There is definitely concern about that. It wasn't just Melania Trump that had trouble moving around. She was going to go to an event for the spouses of some of the world leaders which was actually organized by the husband of Angela Merkel to a private research center.
She wasn't able to do that because she wasn't able to be in a place where she's safe. There have been other motorcades as well that have been caught up some of the protests where roads had to be blocked, but then got to places later.
So, yes, it is something that is causing logistical problems here on the outer fringes, because of course a lot of these world leaders are not staying inside where the actual venue is, but they have to travel in and out.
BROWN: All right, Fred Pleitgen there in Hamburg, Germany, right in the middle of it all. We will check back with you as these protests continue there.
And as protesters ignited outside, inside the G20, the most anticipated moment of the entire summit, President Trump and President Vladimir Putin shaking hands before a meeting that went into overtime and produced a couple of stunning developments, including Mr. Trump silencing some of his critics and not remaining silent on Russian hacking.
I want to bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny, traveling with the president in Hamburg. So, Jeff, what are we hearing about these two leaders and what they discussed?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, it has been one of the biggest questions hanging over this summit, would President Trump bring up the matter of election interference from the 2016 campaign with Vladimir Putin?
He did bring it up, but how he brought it up is so interesting and worth looking at a little bit carefully. I was at a briefing with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier.
He said it like this. He said the president is raising the concerns of the American people. He didn't say if they are his concerns.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to be with you.
ZELENY (voice-over): The handshake the world has been waiting for, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin side by side today for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only other U.S. official inside the meeting, later told reporters that President Trump opened this session by raising the elephant in the room, Russian interference in the 2016 election.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.
ZELENY: While Putin denied involvement, Tillerson said the two leaders agreed to work together to avoid future cyber-attacks and to not allow the election influence to dominate their relationship.
TILLERSON: The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the U.S.-Russian relationship forward.
ZELENY: Tonight, one question above all remains unanswered, whether agreeing to move on diminishes the seriousness of Russia's role.
TRUMP: President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well. We have had some very, very good talks. We're going to have a talk now, and obviously that will continue.
ZELENY: The Russian account of the meeting was different. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Mr. Trump had heard and accepted statements by Russian authorities denying involvement.
Tillerson confirmed that Putin demanded proof and evidence of Russian involvement. He said offered no proof and moved on. He said the two presidents spent the majority of their time on Syria, forging a preliminary cease-fire agreement in the southwestern part of that war- torn country.
For Putin, today marked the beginning of a new relationship with another U.S. president. From Bill Clinton here in Moscow to George W. Bush at his ranch in Texas, to Barack Obama here in Northern Ireland, every U.S. president has pledged a fresh start, as Mr. Trump did before taking office.
TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.
ZELENY: The highly anticipated meeting today lasted two hours and 15 minutes, far longer than the originally planned 40 minutes. At one point, first lady Melania Trump was sent in to break up the meeting to keep the president on schedule. But Tillerson said the session lasted one more hour.
Outside the summit meeting, protesters clogged streets and sparked violence, which officials said kept Mrs. Trump from attending a spouses event on climate change earlier in the day.
For Mr. Trump, the Hamburg summit was his second major appearance on the world stage with his new counterparts, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
But it was the meeting with Putin that largely overshadowed the summit, not only for the complex international challenges facing both leaders, but complicated even more by domestic politics.
ZELENY: So, Pamela, now that this first meeting is out of the way here between these two biggest leaders, the big question is, what happens next? What happens in future meetings between them?
They did raise the idea of election interference and they said they would work together to diminish cyber-attacks. The question, though, by the president not saying this is a top concern for him, how much will Vladimir Putin actually be invested in trying to fix this?
I think the idea of any type of a major change here is probably not that likely. But, on Syria, that is a major development here that happened in that meeting today, but, again, Pamela, this is the beginning of their relationship. We will see where it goes from here.
BROWN: We will see where it goes. And it's interesting.
You look at yesterday, the president still continued to cast doubt on the intelligence community's assessment about Russia's meddling in the election. And then today it was the first thing that he brought up in this meeting, according to Secretary of State Tillerson.
What do you make of that?
ZELENY: Well, Pamela, he brought it up, but, again, he did not really -- it's unclear how full-throated he was discussing this.
He said he's bringing the concerns of the American people to him. He did not necessarily say if he agreed. But then the account from the Russian side is that they asked for proof, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president said he was not going to offer proof. That would be up to the intelligence community to do so.
We know what the president thinks of the intelligence community. We heard that yesterday when he was talking in Warsaw. Pamela, I think it is significant that he raised it with him. Beyond that, I'm not sure this will go any further with them, but of course those investigations, as you well know, as the Justice Department, are ongoing on Capitol Hill, as well as with the special counsel -- Pamela.
BROWN: That's right.
All right, Jeff Zeleny live for us in Hamburg, Germany, thank you so much.
Well, does the president's pressing of Vladimir Putin on hacking satisfy a top Democrat and Trump critic? I will ask Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee up next.
And take a look here. We have some live pictures coming in of fires on the streets right near the G20 summit. And, of course, we will continue to follow this breaking news. Stay with us. We will be back.
BROWN: And we are back with our world lead.
President Trump wrapping up a two-hour-plus meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit.
With me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks for coming on.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Pam.
BROWN: First question, are you satisfied that the president brought up Russia's meddling during today's meeting with Putin?
COONS: Well, I think it's long overdue.
And the American people need to hear this directly from President Trump himself that he holds credible the allegations of our entire intelligence community, their conclusion that Russia really did interfere in our election.
After their meeting, Tillerson and Lavrov, the respective foreign ministers, secretary of state, had very different characterizations. They both he brought it up. But whether it's had any consequences, whether it's had any impact, that's something where we differ.
I frankly think, rather than rushing to say what an honor it was for him to meet Putin, how delighted he was with the meeting, President Trump could have made it clear at the outset that he thinks Russian meddling in our 2016 election was a grave matter of national security, and he intends to take strong action.
BROWN: You said that there were two different readouts when it comes to Russia's meddling. Who do you believe?
COONS: Well, frankly, I would believe more directly hearing from our president that he believes our intelligence community, rather than what we've heard from six months: I'm not sure. It could be someone else. It's not decisive.
I think it's important that he elevate our intelligence community and rely on their conclusion, rather than constantly undermining or sidestepping directly addressing this issue.
BROWN: Looking ahead, I know we're just talking to officials in the intelligence where law enforcement, well, there's a concern about the next election and Russia's potential meddling and even going as far as impacting both as we've heard from officials that did not happen in the last election.
But today, Secretary Tillerson who is in this meeting for the two men discussed how to move forward on the commitment of non-interfering in the future. Do you think today's meeting will help prevent future Russian interference?
COONS: I think it's important for President Trump to have laid out an expectation that Russia will stop meddling in our elections, but I only think that will happen if Russia pays a grave consequence, if there is real action taken by the United States and in partnership with our European allies.
Russian has continued to meddle in the elections in France, in the upcoming elections in Germany. They have attempted to meddle in other elections across Western Europe, and as former FBI Director, Jim Comey, said clearly to Congress, we can expect the Russians to meddle in our next elections in 2018 and 2020 if we don't take strong action. That's why the bipartisan bill that came out of the Senate by the vote of 98 to 2 ought to be taken up and pass the by the House this coming week and President Trump should sign it.
BROWN: We're also told the two men greed to a ceasefire in Southwest Syria along with Jordan. Secretary of State Tillerson also said that eventually Assad will lead power. Do you ever see that happening?
COONS: Well, I though that was the best news that came out of today. If that agreement was actually reached and if the details of that agreement prove out to be something that could be enforced, the idea that Russia and the United States would have a common commitment to Assad leaving power in Syria is an important step forward. But the devil really is going to be in the details here.
Putin and Putin's Russia do not share our values or our priorities with regard to Syria and Assad, with regard to the Middle East, Ukraine or Western Europe. So, frankly, I'm going to wait to see the details of this agreement to see if they really will make a difference.
BROWN: Senator, stick around. So much more to discuss.
Escaladed espionage U.S. intelligences officials say Russia is increasing its covert efforts right here in the United States. What are they doing right under our noses? That's up next.
[16:21:22] BROWN: And we're back with our national lead. Stepping up spying. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell my colleagues and me that Russia is ramping up intelligence gathering efforts in the United States. These officials believe the Kremlin feels emboldened by the lack of retaliation for meddling in the U.S. election. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more on the spy among us.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As President Trump met face to face with President Putin, sources tell CNN the Russians are ramping up intelligence gathering inside the U.S. with suspected Russian intelligence officers continuing to enter the country under the guides of other business. In some cases Russian spies have tried to gain employment at places with sensitive information.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They're looking for other ways to be able to attack the United States should they need to do so. And the most compelling way to do that is basically a cyber attack that would shut down significant American infrastructure.
GALLAGHER: U.S. officials say Russians are feeling emboldened by the lack of significant retaliation for meddling in the 2016 election from both the Obama and Trump Administration. Intelligence experts warn that America and its elections remain at risk, even after Trump raised the issue with Putin during their meeting. Putin denied any interference.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This is an assault on us, our nation, our country. And regardless of party. And we need to get to the bottom of this and figure out what to do to prevent it in the future.
GALLAGHER: For decades, Russian intelligence gathering inside the U.S. has been a constant threat. Before becoming a Moscow media star, Anna Chapman was caught on camera in the USA, working undercover for the Kremlin. In 2010 she was busted during an FBI probe into 10 Russian deep cover sleeper agents. Chapman and others were later exchanged in a spy swap with Russia.
Currently intelligence sources tell CNN they believe the Russians have nearly 150 operatives here, quickly replenishing their ranks after the Obama Administration expelled 35 diplomats suspected of spying back in December. Shuttering two compounds believe to contained sophisticated surveillance equipment but Russian deny that but a U.S. officials says Russians were seen removing equipment before going home.
Meanwhile tonight, the FBI and Homeland Security have issued new warnings to the U.S. energy facilities about potential cyber attacks on operating systems of nuclear plants. Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation that runs a nuclear plant in Kansas was one of the companies targeted, according to a report in the "New York Times."
There is no indication in any of the intrusions the systems that control the actual plants have been infiltrated. A joint statement from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in part, "There is no indirection of a threat to public safety. As any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks." And while the origins of the hackers are being investigated people familiar with the investigation tell the New York Times the technique seen here mimic though (ph) of a Russian hacking group from years ago. Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: Well, today, Secretary Tillerson said President Trump and Vladimir Putin see the issue differently. How could that complicate stopping North Korea march toward a nuke? That's next.
[16:28:36] BROWN: And welcome back. I'm here with Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's kindly sticking around to talk about the North Korean threat. But today, Secretary Tillerson said during the meeting with President Trump and Putin, the U.S. and Russia express differing views on how to deal with the growing crisis. We'll hear from Senator Coons in just a moment on that.
But first, I want to go to CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. And Barbara, today, North Korea not only blamed the U.S. for the missile test but also pledged to send "more gift packages." What does that mean?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: More gift packages, it means only one thing, Pamela. They are pursuing and accelerating their nuclear program, their missile program and they are not backing off.
STARR (voice-over): South Korea flexing its own military muscle, conducting a naval live fire military drill to show the world and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un its own military might. For its part, North Korea is still celebrating the launch from the fourth of July.
JANG CHANG HA, NORTH KOREA NATIONAL DEFENSE SCIENCE ACADEMY (though translator): The great success of the intercontinental ballistic missile launched is a demonstration of our mighty power. STARR: U.S. intelligence is urgently assessing what it knows about
the North Korean ICBM test and how soon it will be able to strike U.S. soil.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're still analyzing the latest test at this time.
STARR: A key question? Did the missile reenter the earth's atmosphere intact? That would be a necessary step for a North Korean ICBM to hit a target. Then there's the issue of placing of nuclear warhead on top of the missile.