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Tillerson on Trump/Putin Meeting; Trump Raised Election Hacks with Putin; Putin Denies Meddling; Agreement to Cease-fire in Syria. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 7, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE (voice-over): -- interested in talking about, how do we have you stop where you are today? Because stopping where they are today is not acceptable to us.


QUESTION: Thank you.

So, Mr. Secretary, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg." Could you give us a road map. Did you agree on a next set of talks up (ph) to the president and (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE) will they cover question on general impressions. We thought this was a 30-minute meeting and it ended up being two hours and 16 minutes. That's a lot of time to watch those two leaders interact. (INAUDIBLE) just, you know, whatever, any insights on the - on (INAUDIBLE). Any update on the sanctions (INAUDIBLE) and on the Ukraine sanctions and any resolution (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

TILLERSON: OK. So the first question -


TILLERSON: Next talks. There's no - there's no agreed next meeting between the presidents. There are agreed subsequent follow-up meetings between various working-level groups at the State Department. We agreed to set up a working-level group to begin to explore this framework agreement around the cyber issue, and this issue of noninterference. So those will be ongoing at - with various staff levels.

QUESTION: Who's leading that? Is that Rob Joyce (ph) on the U.S. side?

TILLERSON: Well, in - it will be out of the State Department and the national security adviser's office.

As to the nature of the two hours and 15 minutes, first, let me characterize the - the meeting was very constructive. The two leaders, I would say, connected very quickly. There was a very clear, positive chemistry between the two. I think, again - and I think the positive thing I observed, and I've had many, many meetings with President Putin before, is there was not a lot of re-litigating of the past. I think both of the leaders feel like there's a lot of things in the past that both of us are unhappy about. We're unhappy. They're unhappy. I think the perspective of both of them was, this is a really important relationship. The two largest nuclear powers in the world. It's a really important relationship. How do we start making this work? How do we live with one another? How do we work with one another? We simply have to find a way to go forward. And I think that was - that was expressed over and over, multiple times, I think by both presidents, this strong desire.

It is a very complicated relationship today because there are so many issues on the table. But I think - and one of the reasons it took a long time, I think, is because once they met and got acquainted with one another fairly quickly, there was so much to talk about. All these issues. Just about everything got touched on to one degree or another. And I think there was just such a level of engagement and exchange, neither one of them wanted to stop. Several times I had to remind the president, people were sticking their heads in the door and I think they even - they sent in the first lady at one point to see if she could get us out of there, and that didn't work either.

QUESTION: Is that true?

TILLERSON: But - yes, it's true. But - but it was -

QUESTION: Did it work?

TILLERSON: Well, went another hour after she came in to see us, so clearly she failed.

But I think, you know, my - what I've described to you, the two hours and 15 minutes, it was an extraordinarily important meeting. I mean there's just - there's so much for us to talk about. And it was a good start.

Now, I would tell you, we spent a very, very lengthy period on Syria with a great amount of detail exchanged on the agreement we had concluded today that was announced, but also where we go and trying to get much greater clarity around how we see this playing out and how Russia sees it playing out. And where do we share a common view, and where do we have a difference. And do we have the same objectives in mind. And I would tell you that by and large our objectives are exactly the same. How we get there, we each have a view. But there's a lot more commonality to that than there are differences. So we want to build on the commonality and we spent a lot of time talking about next steps. And then where there's differences, we have more work to get together and understand. Maybe they've got the right approach and we've got the wrong approach. So there was a substantial amount of time spent on Syria. Just because it's - we've had so much activity going on with it.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Mr. Secretary, you said the president was unequivocal in his view that Russia did interfere in the election. Did he offer to produce any evidence or (INAUDIBLE) to Mr. Putin?

[14:05:07] TILLERSON: The Russians - the Russians have asked for proof and evidence. I'll leave that to the intelligence community to address the answer to that question. And again, I think the - I think the president at this point, he pressed him, and then, you know, felt like at this point let's - let's talk about how do we go forward. And I think that was the right place to spend our time, rather than spending a lot of time having a disagreement that everybody knows we have a disagreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you guys very much and have a great evening.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's take it. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN here.

You have been listening to the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who was inside one of the most highly anticipated meetings here between two world leaders in recent memory. President Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin meeting face-to-face for the very first time. This meeting lasted a whole lot longer than anyone anticipated. We clocked it. It was two hours and 16 minutes.

We now know what was discussed behind closed doors. For one, Russia's influencing the 2016 presidential election. There were a lot of questions as to whether or not President Trump would, in fact, go there. The indication from administration officials was that he would not. But you just heard Secretary Tillerson says the president opened his meeting confronting President Putin about it and Putin went on to deny it.

The two also made some moves on Syria, reaching an agreement on a cease-fire in the country's southwest. They talked North Korea. They talked China. And as we just heard at one point, they went on for so long, they tried to deploy the first lady to get these two men to wrap it up and that didn't work. They went on for another hour.

So, with that, Jim Acosta, let's begin with you, our CNN senior White House correspondent, who is live there in Hamburg.

So, surprise, surprise, they opened with what many people assumed they would not.


BALDWIN: Is this the White House, perhaps, listening to critics?

ACOSTA: You know, I think we're going to have to be careful, Brooke, and gauge this as we move forward over the next couple of days when we get a fuller readout of what occurred and we talk to more officials about this. But clearly from what the secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after this meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin that it does appear President Trump was listening to his critics and really urging him to go into this meeting with the Russian president and confront Vladimir Putin on this issue. Now, according to Rex Tillerson, who is, of course, speaking from the U.S. point of view here in terms of how this meeting played out, President Trump brought this up at the very top of this meeting, that this was a lengthy exchange, and that Vladimir Putin simply denied that Russia meddled in last year's election. As a matter of fact, according to Secretary of State Tillerson, the Russians demanded proof. Vladimir Putin wanted proof that his country had meddled in last year's election. That proof was apparently not provided during this meeting.

It's interesting to note, Brooke, as we're getting some initial reporting out of Rex Tillerson and Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, talking to reporters after this meeting, Sergey Lavrov apparently told reporters after this meeting that President Trump accepted Vladimir Putin's claim of non-interference in last year's election. Brooke, I just talked to a senior administration official in the last few minutes who says, no, President Trump did not accept Vladimir Putin's claim of noninterference. And so there is a little bit of a disagreement here. A he said/he said in terms of what went on in this meeting. But, clearly, no question about it, make no mistake, this is a significant development because just recall yesterday -


ACOSTA: President Trump, at that press conference in Warsaw, was talking about other countries potentially being involved in last year's election, contrary to what the U.S. international - excuse me, the U.S. intelligence community has been saying for a very long time.


ACOSTA: And so for the president, despite those expressed reservations about all of this to go into this meeting and say that, I think it's pretty significant.

BALDWIN: Agree, and we'll talk in a second with my panel about how this is all really possibly just carefully choreographed.

Jim Acosta, thank you so much in Hamburg.

President Trump and President Putin actually spoke to reporters shortly before their formal meeting. Here you go.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. We appreciate it. President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well. We've had some very, very good talks. We're going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue. But we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States, and for everybody concerned. And it's an honor to be with you.


BALDWIN: Let's analyze. With me now, Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and retired CIA chief of Russia operations, Mackenzie Eaglen, national security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and former adviser for the Romney campaign, Laura Rosenberger, who served in The State Department under President George W. Bush and the National Security Council under President Obama, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who has been adviser to four presidents.

[14:10:13] So, David Gergen, to you. I mean the fact that we are now learning that President Trump opened this conversation with President Putin specifically on the election meddling, do you think this was all just carefully choreographed?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think - I think the - I think the president went in carefully choreographed. I don't think the whole meeting was.

But I must tell you, Brooke, Jim Acosta's right, we need to be - we need to be cautious now. Let's get the full reading. But the initial reading suggests that this could have been one of the most productive, promising meetings President Trump has held since he took office. The very fact that now the meddling is on the table, we - and we may have disagreements about how that conversation developed, but that they're developing a framework for future cyber-attacks and how they're going to handle it on each side and how they're going to keep the Russians out of the U.S. and other countries, that is promising.

And this agreement in Syria could be very promising. It is a multistate agreement, not only with the Russians and the United States, but also with Jordan and Israel. And if - and if we could start working together with the Russians, that's something John Kerry wanted to do in the Obama administration. If we could start working with the Russians more closely on Syria, that could be very promising too.

This was presidential. This was big league stuff.

BALDWIN: The fact, though, and, Laura, to you next, as a former member of the Obama administration, you have been very critical of President Trump. Your reaction? Do you give the president credit with how he handled the election interference off the top?

LAURA ROSENBERGER, SERVED ON THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER O BAMA: Well, I think David's right that we need to know a bit more here. I think the differing accounts that we've seen from Tillerson and Lavrov are something of concern. I think if they walked away with a difference understanding of what happened in that conversation, that's not a very good sign.

I think it is, of course, very important that the president raised it. I think it's interesting that the president himself has still not said publicly that he believes that Russia was involved in this and so I think it will be important for us to hear that from him directly. But I do also think it's important for us to remember that Russia views this as basically, you know, this is an assault on our democracy that they have undertaken, last year in 2016 and what we will be potentially seeing in the future. And we need to take steps to prepare ourselves to defend against and deter that kind of threat going forward. And -

BALDWIN: But - but -


BALDWIN: No, no. Yes, I totally agree with you and I think that's a whole conversation we need to have, and especially given what, you know, former DNI Clapper has said about worries about 2018 and 2020 and the CNN reporting we have.

But just going back, Mackenzie, to you, you know, why do you think the difference in what President Trump said publicly in Warsaw yesterday, he - you know, the day before the Putin meeting he can't even hold Russia accountable despite everything that his intel chiefs have said, and today, when, again, according to Tillerson, he opened with Putin on interfering?

MACKENZIE EAGLEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, just one goes to show there's nowhere to go but up with low expectations set all across the board by the advisers to the president. And I think it was meant to send a signal domestically here in the U.S., to both parties, to Congress, to everybody concerned that, yes, he does take it seriously. Laura is right that he hasn't publicly confirmed that he believes that this is true, but nonetheless this is a - one way to signal to the American people, I agree it's a serious concern and a problem and I'm going to raise it.

But I think it's important that he does next is actually offer up that proof or allow the intelligence community taking out sources and methods and that sort of thing but to give proof to say that we know exactly how you did it and where and why because if we really want to deter Russia in the next election, we first have to show that we do have that proof.

BALDWIN: What about, Steve, you know, just listening to Jim Acosta, our White House correspondent there in Hamburg, you know, just reported that this official says that the president did not accept Putin's denial of this interference. How do you think that back and forth would have played out in that room?

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: Yes, Brooke, let me - let me try to channel, I think, what the Russian side is perceiving on stuff like that. I - you know, first of all, good that the president raised the election meddling issue, although it's interesting that our threshold is now sunk to the level of, well, at least he's got to - he's got to raise it. I mean this is a serious assault on democracy, so one would hope that he would.

But I think the Russians are basically going to continue to deny this. I take a little bit of a different tack on the, you know, providing proof. First of all, the Russians know that they can ask for proof all day long and we're not going to provide it because it's sensitive intelligence and it doesn't make any sense to provide it to the Russians. It's simply going to give them a better idea of how we got it and they're not going to say, oh, yes, now I get it. Yes, we'll stop.

[14:15:00] When we - what I really hope happened is that the president laid out specifically what would happen in very stark terms if it happened again. And the fact that Lavrov walked away and said, well, you know, Trump accept that we have a difference of opinion and he accepted the Russian explanation, I think, is a very bad thing because it's a result of Tillerson saying, well, we're just going to move forward. We're not going to look backwards. I think in some cases you have to look backward and say, look, we're not going to move forward until we get some sort of resolution on some of the bad things that Russia has done, not only in this election situation, but just over the past couple of years. So I'm a little concerned about that.

BALDWIN: Laura, what's your reaction to what Steve just said?

ROSENBERGER: I fully concur with Steve. I mean I think it's difficult - number one, Vladimir Putin knows what he ordered. The intelligence community has assessed unanimously that not only what Russia did but Vladimir Putin's own involvement in that. And we know that in the unclassified version of the report that they released in January. So the Russians don't need proof, they know it. That's number one.

Number two, I really am focused on the - on the piece that President Trump and his administration needs to start taking measures here at home. I worry a bit if we get caught in a conversation with the Russians about what it means to have an agreement on noninterference. Are they going to make false equivalency between U.S. support for human rights activists or others inside Russia? We're going to get caught in a very long loop of negotiating something that should not be a negotiation. They have conducted an assault on our country. And as commander in chief, the president has a responsibility to order his administration to take defensive and deterrent actions.

BALDWIN: But - agree. But, Steve, just back to you. You know, the fact, again, this is according to Secretary Tillerson, that President Trump opened the meeting with this, do you think that that totally took President Putin by surprise? Would that have been maybe part of the reason? You think - you think it ticked him off?

HALL: I'd be surprised if he were ticked off or taken by surprise on something like this. I mean he's probably in wait and see mode. But those comments are absolutely right. Russia would like nothing more than to get in some sort of convoluted discussion about, you know, how we should move forward on cyber things (ph). This is like a criminal saying, let's negotiate how (INAUDIBLE) killed somebody or commit a serious crime. Let's talk more about that before we actually send me (ph) to jail. That's exactly the position of what the Russian (ph) (INAUDIBLE) -

BALDWIN: OK, you're going in and out. I want to keep going through some of the headlines on Syria and North Korea. But, David Gergen, just on the sheer face of this meeting lasting, you know, two hours, 16 minutes. I realize some of this is lost in the translators going back and forth. What's your read, though, on the meeting length?

GERGEN: I think we should welcome the fact that they spent two hours and 15 minutes. You know, it was originally scheduled for 30 minutes and they could not have had a serious discussion. I imagine both sides actually thought it's probably going to run over, but it would send a good signal to the world.

And I keep coming back to this. We can get down into the weeds on different aspects of what's going on with the meddling and that sort of thing. That will have to be thrashed out. But I must tell you, Brooke, I - to - the bigger take away here for me right now is, this seemed - he seemed presidential today. And we actually had a secretary of state who was explaining stuff to us. How often have we had that?

BALDWIN: Very forthcoming.

GERGEN: You know, this - this seemed like - yes, and more forthcoming. This seemed like we were back to normal life for the first time, one of the only times, in the last few months. And this is what we expect from our president. We may agree or disagree with the particulars, but we want our president to be - show leadership and to be at a presidential level. And I thought we saw more of that today, and I think we should be encouraged by that.

BALDWIN: What about, you know, people have been discussing the years of experience between - if you add up the years that Putin and Sergey Lavrov have had, it's something like 80-plus years. And then you look at Tillerson and Trump, new in government, they're newbies. But we do know that Rex Tillerson, in his previous lifetime -

GERGEN: Right.

BALDWIN: You know, has had years of dealing with Russia.

So, Mackenzie, I'm just curious, in this two hours, 16 minute back and forth, how much do you think secretary - how much do you think Tillerson actually weighed in?

EAGLEN: I think it's a great point that you're raising. It's obvious that advisers to the president are having a strong influence over everything that he's saying on this trip, not just in this meeting alone, but his firm commitment to Article Five, our mutual defense commitment to the NATO countries and our allies who participate in NATO. And, again, today in the meeting, talking, they wanted a win and they got one, if, of course, this cease-fire agreement holds in southern Syria. It seems clear -

BALDWIN: But do you think Tillerson would have piped up on policy?

EAGLEN: I would have expected that he did speak, absolutely.

BALDWIN: Yes. Let me ask everyone to stand by. You mentioned Syria. We've got other big headlines, including the ceasefire in Syria, talks of the Assad family and the Assad family going, also on North Korea, China's role in helping the U.S. So much more to talk about.

[14:20:02] We're going to take a quick break. More breaking news on the back end here of this all-important President Trump/President Putin meeting there in Hamburg


BALDWIN: Welcome back, back to our breaking news here. Just extraordinary headlines coming out of this two hour 16 minute long meeting between President Trump and President Putin. The top headline, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was in the room, saying that President Trump opened this meeting talking about Russia's interfering in the U.S. election. Something that President Putin denied. That was number one. Number two, the news that was made out of this meeting on Syria. Here

is Secretary Tillerson.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE (voice-over): They discussed important progress that was made in Syria, and I think all of you have seen some of the news that just broke regarding a de-escalation agreement, a memorandum, which was agreed between the United States, Russia and Jordan for an important area in southwest Syria that affects Jordan's security, but also the very complicated part of the Syrian battlefield. This de-escalation area was agreed. It's a well- defined agreements on who will secure this area. A cease-fire has been entered into. And I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria and, as a result of that, we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to deescalate the areas and the violence once we defeat ISIS.


[14:25:41] BALDWIN: Let me bring my panel back.

And, David Gergen, beginning with you. You know, this headline, hearing from Secretary Tillerson confirming in southwest Syria this cease-fire, referred to it as de-escalation. What's the significance of the cease-fire?

GERGEN: Well, if the cease-fire were to hold in that part of Syria and then were to spread, it would be very - it would be extraordinarily important because this is one of the worst conflicts, which has created so much human suffering and these great migrations into Europe and a lot of the issues about immigration in our public. So this is - it's very significant. We'll just have to wait and see.

I think when it comes to Syria and Russia, one should always be cautious and not overplay it. We'll have to wait and see. The Russians are very wily on this. And I - the Russians have - play a long game here. They intend to stay in the Middle East. They intend to have a lot of significance. They intend to be a major player there. And I'm sure if they're doing this in this cooperation way, they say there's something in it for them.

It is, to some degree, a win for President Trump if this is serious. It will be seen as a win for him that he secured something that was - the United States has wanted to secure, and that is a working relationship with Russia. If that were to be the case and it would lead to more peace and say no-fly zones and that sort of thing, that's something John Kerry worked really hard to do and it eluded him as it has often eluded others. So it could be really significant, but we need to be cautious.

BALDWIN: I hear your cautious, David Gergen, and I'm listening too very carefully.

To add, though, to what we're talking about with the cease-fire, Secretary Tillerson also made news essentially saying Assad will have to go. Let me quote him. He said, "Assad will leave power eventually. How he leaves is yet to be determined. There will be a transition away from the Assad family."

Again, Laura, having worked in the Obama administration, dealing with Syria, transition away from the Assad family. What's your reaction to hearing that?

ROSENBERGER: First of all, I think it's important that Secretary Tillerson made that statement. There have been some mixed signals from the administration, particularly early on about what their position was vis-a-vis Assad. I think it's important for him to reiterate that viewpoint. That's a very important strategic understanding of where the administration wants to go.

But, of course, it's the how that's really critical here. It's not entirely clear to me if that is something that was discussed - the nature of the discussion with the Russians on that or not. And the how and whether or not that interacts with this cease-fire agreement. I think David's right in terms of the way we should think about this, in terms of both its potential but also need for caution. The devil is always in the details on these kinds of things.

One thing that's important to note is my understanding is that neither the regime nor the Iranians were involved in the negotiation of this agreement, and so whether or not they will abide by it, I think, will be an important test of its effectiveness, will be an important test, frankly, of the Russians and their ability to actually get the people - the players that they support to actually come along here.

BALDWIN: Well, here's another one on the how being a key piece of this. They talked about North Korea, we know. According to Secretary Tillerson, they said they have a lot of differences. "They" being Russia and the U.S. on how to handle the situation, the escalating situation in North Korea. He said both of us want denuclearized North Korea. We want to work with them to persuade them though on the urgency.

Mackenzie, can you explain the difference between how Russia sees it and how the U.S. sees North Korea.

EAGLEN: The status quo is always preferable because even if the regime is unpredictable, everybody thinks that they can handle what they know already, which is, of course, what's been happening, which is the status quo. Nobody wants a mass humanitarian crisis spilling over the borders of North Koreans into China. Nobody wants mass casualty events in South Korea, in its major cities, including its capital. The urgency here is that they tested an intercontinental ballistic missile. It was a new capability demonstrated for the first time, which means they have weapons that can reach American shores, namely Alaska in this instance.

[14:30:04] BALDWIN: Thus the sense of urgency on behalf of the U.S.

EAGLEN: Absolutely, right. And there should be, on behalf of allies close to China, which would include Russia, because of the problems that would --