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U.S. And Russia Agree On Ceasefire In SW Syria; Tillerson: Trump Raise Election Hacks With Putin; McConnell: If We Can't Repeal, We'll Work With The Democrats; Trump, Economy Get Boost As 222k Jobs Added In June. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 7, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Southwest Syria, what's the significance of that?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an area in which we have seen intermittently moments seen which pro- Syrian regime militia come to war, Syrian rebel forces that have U.S. backing and even U.S. trainer in the midst. And that caused the need for this sort of increased talk about the deescalation.

And to this deal, scanting details at this moment, frankly, does appear to involve a calming of the forces in that area. But as I have point out, Southern Syrian is not the most troublesome region, frankly, of the country. This kind of deescalation has been solid in the works for sometime. It will bring some sense of calm to Jordan, who is seeing more activity on their northern border. But I think more interestingly, we've seen hundreds, hundreds is an exaggeration, possibly a dozen Syrian ceasefires come and go in the past five years or so.

The point is the first time these two sides have a meeting here. They appear to come up with some sort of desire to work more closely together on Syria. They have the White House under Obama administration and Moscow been on totally different sides of the Syrian civil war. Now, the first restrict offer meeting is just they can work together and that means potentially a lot for Damascus, you might think, one of Russia's key allies in that region and possibly a torn in the side for what remains of the Syrian moderate rebel opposition group.

BALDWIN: But let me just take you back to Raqqa, though, and in our exclusive look, thanks to you and your crew. I mean, what more can you share about what you saw within those walls today? And Nick, how close our forces to recapturing it?

WALSH: Very hard to tell how long this will take, because they've been moving in the sort of suburbs of Raqqa very quickly, indeed. I mean, we traveled about three or four kilometers as far as we could tell that had been liberated in just the last three weeks or so. They're moving very quickly indeed and you can tell how they're moving down the straight roads and it seems the buildings in which the garrisons from ISIS are basically pancaked by coalition artillery or air strikes. That's the reason behind their swift advance but now they're hitting the more built up areas.

I have to say, they got into the (inaudible) about three to five days ago now, as far as we can tell. And there are already 400 or 400 meters in about a third of the way into that dense area. It's eerie, it silent. You don't see many civilians that appear to be some that are trapped because of ISIS snipers. But the progress, as far as I can tell, depending the comparisons we had with Mosul where progress was very slow because of how populated it was, it's a lot faster here in Raqqa.

You get a sense of a pretty intense American involvement, certainly when you listen to the night sky around Raqqa, that's when a lot of the fighting happens. Just frankly too hot in the day and ISIS snipers keep the Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fought forces pretty much in their positions during the day. But at night, it picks up again and they seem to be moving quiet and fast. They kind of strict that ISIS control from that one map I saw seems to be about 1.5 miles wide so about 3 miles long. And the question now is, of course, do they manage to cut them in the middle? Do the forces join up some way through, splitting ISIS in two? And how long does it take to fight through those dense urban streets of Raqqa? How much underground defense work is there by ISIS? How much ammunition and willpower do they have to hold out?

These are questions we can't know the answer. But what is clear from seeing what we've seen in the past few days, they're moving very fast indeed on the outskirts, is again they're going to keep going at that pace possibly, because at some points, ISIS without resupply for months now, are going to have to break. Brooke?

BALDWIN: We thank you for taking the risks to show the world what's happening there in Raqqa. To you and your crew, thank you so much. Live in Syria.

We do have more on our breaking news. The hour as President Trump spent with Vladimir Putin today maybe one of the most analyzed moments of his administration.

We go to Moscow, to our Senior International Correspondent there, Matthew Chance, who has interviewed Vladimir Putin twice. But Matthew, let's just begin with the news here. Now that we've heard, not only from the U.S. Secretary of State, we've heard from his counterpart, the Foreign Minister there in Russia, Sergey Lavrov. Tell me now what he's saying about how President Trump reacted to President Putin's denial of accusations of meddling in the election?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rex Tillerson is a U.S. Secretary has characterized this at -- this is as a robust exchange at where you have President Trump put to President Putin the concerns of the American people about the allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election, you called swept to the Donald Trump to office, that the Russians are also reporting Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, has been speaking to the Russian press about that exchange.

And he said that, look, you know, the -- in the end, the, you know, Donald Trump, the U.S. president, had accepted the statements by Vladimir Putin, that Russia had nothing to do with this.

So, state media has gone even further, quoting Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, saying that Trump said that cyber interference of Russia was exaggerated in some circles.

[15:35:03] And so the Russian media are saying that actually, Donald Trump made that concession to the Russians during that supposed robust exchange that the extent to which Russia was involved at may have been exaggerated at any rate. Now both sides have agreed to set up a working group to discuss the issue further, which is actually something that the Russians have been pushing for some time.

So you can characterize this, I supposed, from whichever side you want. It was a U.S. victory in the sense that they raised this important issue, this contentious issue. But the Russians got out of it, you know, this bilateral meeting, bilateral working group to discuss the issue of cyber security in the future. And not -- it's not altogether surprising that, that would happen because remember, Putin and Trump go into this meeting, went into this meeting, with pretty similar views, a pretty similar world view. It's what Trump campaigned on. It's what we've been talking about for the past year. And so it's hardly surprising that they would find common ground in this first face-to-face meeting.

BALDWIN: But again, on this denial, alleged denial, acceptance, you know, the ambassadors and experts I've just been talking to, you know, they say, listen, extreme caution in taking anything that the Russians have to say or how they're characterizing this. Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Again, live in Moscow.

Coming up next, we are watching pictures of these protests on the streets of Hamburg again today. This is outside the G20 Summit where Presidents Trump and Putin just met. Also ahead, Intel officials tell CNN, they have seen a spike in Russian spies coming into the U.S. since the 2016 election. A former Director of National Intelligence will join me live to talk about why this is happening and exactly what these spies are up to?


[15:41:07] BALDWIN: We are back. You see the picture here, these two world leaders, President Trump and President Putin. U.S. and Russia having met now for 2 hours, 16 minutes, perhaps the most analyzed meeting thus far certainly of his administration, his, being President Trump's.

The headline, according to one of the men in the room, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the fact that President Trump, as the meeting began, did something that the White House had downplayed, which was bring up the Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, an allegation that apparently President Putin denied. And according to the Russians, president Trump accepted that.

With me now, John Negroponte, once the U.S. Ambassador to both Iraq and Mexico, also served as the Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Ambassador, a pleasure. Welcome. JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER AMBASSADOR AND DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL


HOST: Ambassador Negroponte, first is your take on this reporting, again, from Secretary Tillerson that it was the meddling, the Russian election interference that President Trump brought up out of the gate.

NEGROPONTE: Right, which I think, essentially, was a positive thing because people were worried that he might not raise it at all.

HOST: Right.

NEGROPONTE: Let me say that, you know, a 2-hour and 15-minute meeting with consecutive interpretation really boils down to a 1-hour meeting, a little bit more than 1 hour. And I think for a 1-hour meeting, they covered a lot of ground, including announcing the prospect of a ceasefire in southwestern Syria.

So, you know, for the first meeting that these two leaders have ever had, I think you would have to credit it with being quite a positive first step.

BALDWIN: Where are you most hopeful? We know they discussed the election meddling, North Korea, China, you mentioned the ceasefire in Syria, where are you most hopeful? What are you hoping to actually tangibly come out of this?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I think two things. First of all, the very substance of some kind of progress on the Syria issue, I think, is a hopeful prospect and auger as well. And it obviously reflects a certain amount of dialogue and negotiation that had gone on beforehand. Second, I think the fact that perhaps this offers the possibility of systemizing the relationship a little bit more. A working group on --

BALDWIN: What does that mean?

NEGROPONTE: Well, a working group on cyber, for example, and to talk about election issues, the fact that we're obviously going to have to followup on the Syrian ceasefire. It seems to me that this holds out the prospect of being a little more systematic than Mr. Trump has been about these foreign policy issues up until now. He's been very spontaneous, you know, and almost cavalier in the way he deals with some of them. So I think that's a positive thing.

BALDWIN: But what about just following up on the ceasefire in Syria. I mean, this is declared as these two men are sitting in this, you know, room, at the G20, discussing Syria. Do you think that that was choreographed?

NEGROPONTE: Well, it certainly had been negotiated beforehand because Secretary Tillerson, you know, intimated this yesterday. And I know there's been a certain amount of work done on that.

So yes, it was planned beforehand. They chose this particular moment to announce it but the details aren't fully available yet and we'll have to study them a little bit more carefully when they come out.

BALDWIN: I'm curious, as you also wearing your, you know, former DNI hat, you know, how do officials scrub the room or, you know, just make sure the room is secure as they're having these high-level talks between two world leaders?

NEGROPONTE: oh, they have different ways of doing that. I don't think that's a particularly serious problem on both sides. I mean, both the U.S. and the Russians have capabilities to do that. So, I wouldn't be concerned in that regard.

[14:44:59] BALDWIN: Let me ask you about this CNN reporting here of this increased Russian spying since the 2016 election. According to our intel, Russians are ramping up intelligence gathering efforts, and there is this uptick. We know about the, what was it 35 spies who were expelled in December under President Obama, and now there are many more who are coming in. Who are they and what exactly are they trying to infiltrate?

NEGROPONTE: Yes. Well, I'm not sure what information we're referring to here and who the sources are, and how reliable it is. But the one thing I would say is, you know, the FBI is really all over this issue of espionage. They monitor espionage by adversarial powers very, very carefully, and they have a long record of experience in doing that. And I'm sure they're totally alert to whatever might be happening at the moment.

How worried are you, just lastly, on more interfering in the democratic process in 2018 as we've heard from James Clapper and also 2020?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I think it's a good thing that the president raised it. We've got these two commissions, the two Congressional committees working on it. We've got Bob Mueller with his special counsel. I think we've got to keep on that issue and we have to keep it in front of the Russians as well. I wouldn't accept that they didn't -- that they didn't do anything. That's patently wrong, it would appear. But, you know, we just have to keep that issue alive and on the radar screen.

BALDWIN: Ambassador John Bob Negroponte, thank you so much.

NEGROPONTE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admits he may have to work with Democrats on healthcare as the chances are looking increasingly grim for this Republican plan to pass. We will tell you why.


BALDWIN: While the president is making foreign policy decisions in Germany, his party may be making major concessions back here at home. Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell says if Republicans cannot replace Obamacare, he will work with Democrats to fix it. So, let's go to our White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, for more on this and bring in CNN Senior Economics Analyst Stephen Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former adviser to President Trump, so great to see both of you.

And, Stephen, let me just begin with you. You know, reading our reporting, another high-profile senator, John Hoeven of North Dakota, is the latest Republican to say that he's not supporting this Republican bill as it is. Is this growing list of names what is prompting leader McConnell to say, "Hey, we need to -- may need to work with Democrats, and does that sound a tad defeatist to you?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Hi, Brooke. Well, I would say one-word answer, frustration. I think that's what Mitch McConnell's facing right now.

And, you know, I have to give him credit. He's got a tough job, Brooke, because he's trying to thread a needle here. He has to get the 50 votes in the Senate, right, and he's got 52 Republicans. Unfortunately, there aren't going to be too many Democrats, if any, that are going to help on this.

And so that means that he can only lose two Republicans, right, and if he moves the bill a little bit more to the right, to accommodate the conservatives like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, he risks losing some of the moderates. If he moves it to the left, the same thing happens.

[15:50:05] So it's a -- you know, he is frustrated right now. I do believe, Brooke, that he is going to get to that 50 votes but it's a delicate operation right now.

BALDWIN: Well, you have the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, saying that Mitch McConnell's comments are encouraging, Stephen. I mean, what do you say with the notion of working with Democrats?

MOORE: You know, I've been in this town for 35 years, Brooke, and some of the best, you know, piece of legislation in the past have been bipartisan, Welfare Reform, the 1986 Tax Reform Act. I wish that could happen where we could get Democrats to vote for repealing Obamacare and moving on to something that will work better in terms of reducing cost and increasing available healthcare.

But, you know, I would like to know who he has in mind, who is this Mitch McConnell have in mind that he thinks he can get to vote for a bill that repeals most if not all of Obamacare. I just don't see it went up there in the House or Senate being cooperative.

BALDWIN: If the fixed, to Stephen and Kaitlan, we'll talk that, but if the fix is possible with Obamacare insurance markets, why not do it now?

MOORE: I'm not sure I understand. If the fix is possible under what circumstance?

BALDWIN: The Obamacare insurance markets. MOORE: Well, it has to be. Look, I don't think --

BALDWIN: That's what McConnell was referencing.

MOORE: Yes. I think that Obamacare doesn't have to be -- every word of it doesn't have to be repealed, but it has to be substantially repealed. Especially on the side of what Obamacare has done in the insurance market, where you see dot spiral (ph) where, you know, healthy people are dropping out of the market because they can't afford it and sick people are -- this is exactly what we predicted, by the way, when we were at the Washington Journal editorial page.

We wrote an editorial almost every day predicting what would happen with Obamacare world. So you would have to fundamentally remake the insurance market in a way that doesn't lead to this kind of dot spiral (ph) across.

BALDWIN: A very patient Stephen Moore there at the Wall Street Journal.

Kaitlan, over to you, big news today, awesome news today when it came to these job numbers, the numbers far better than expected, 220,000 jobs added. I was curious to what kind of jobs, and the bulk in healthcare, as you can see, on your screen. How much of this -- this is great news. How much of this credit goes to President Trump?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think they'll certainly try to take a lot of credit for this, Brooke, but this is, you know, the strongest jobs report that we've seen since he took office in January. It's certainly stronger than what most economists projected would come out this June. And the administration is already taking credit for this.

Donald Trump got ahead of the jobs report and was on Twitter over the weekend saying the numbers look great and the administration's work has only begun. But let's not forget that when Donald Trump was a candidate, he often dismissed these reports as phony and fraudulent, said they weren't real, and that the unemployment numbers were fake and they were lower. And when Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked all this in March, he said maybe they were phony before but they're very real now.

So I think we're going to see him try to take a lot of credit for it, but I don't think many economists would say that the Trump administration has been in office lone enough to really have an effect on these numbers.

BALDWIN: Stephen Moore?

MOORE: Well, a couple of things. I mean, I think it is true that, you know, you can't say that the numbers were phony a year or two ago and say that they're, you know, they're very accurate now.

You know, when I was campaigning with Donald Trump, we talked about the unemployment rate, and what he meant by the fact that they were phony is not that the Bureau of Labor Statistics was making up the numbers, but that what was being reported by the press was not so accurate. In other words, this headline unemployment rate number, you know, that has been reported all day today and was reported for the last seven years, is just less and less important because we got so many people, Brooke, that are not -- there are millions and millions of people that are in the work force anymore that aren't being counted.


Moore: And that was I think the point.

And by the way, that still true today. I mean, the real unemployment rate is not 4.4 percent. If you want to go to, you know, get a big laugh before an audience, you go to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois and tell people you got a 4.4 percent unemployment rate.

So -- but I do think on this issue of who deserves credit, yes, absolutely he stalled in early months of his administration. But there's no question, you saw a little bit of a bounce in the economy after the election with the stock market and confidence numbers. And I think that is starting to translate into jobs, but he's got to get this tax bill done I think if he's going to get, you know, a continuation of really good economic news.

BALDWIN: Yes. We have to see once everyone comes back from vacation, what happens with healthcare, and then of course tax is a huge issue after that.

Before I let you go, maybe this is another one in the win column for the president, the border crossings numbers, Kaitlan, remaining at the steady and historic low that, you know, how much should this be attributed to the president and his rhetoric?

COLLINS: Well, border security officials have credited this with President Trump's ramped up language saying they're going to increase border security and actually deport people. But the question is, do they still need the border wall if the numbers are at all-time lows and that got brought up today. The president is in Germany for the G20 summit and he had his first meeting with the president of Mexico.

[14:55:05] As you remember, the president of Mexico canceled his January meeting with Trump after Trump kept saying that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. And then tweeting --

BALDWIN: Which he still saying to the head of Mexico today, right?

COLLINS: Exactly. While when there were reporters were talking to then, they asked do you still want Mexico to pay for the wall? And the President Trump said, absolutely while he was sitting next to the president of Mexico.

However, when we got read out of the, what happened during their meeting, the wall was not mentioned and the Mexican foreign minister said the wall was never even brought up during their meeting.

MOORE: Well, I guarantee you one thing that Donald Trump doesn't want to build that wall. I think it's important for, you know, symbolic reasons and I think it's important to his voters.

But it will be interesting. I think the big question going forward once we got this wall built is, you know, if we can continue to bring illegal immigration down, then I would hope we could actually, you know, have gates open for legal immigrants because, you know, Brooke, we're getting closer and closer to a situation where employers are going to need more workers as we see the economy start to advance. And I'm against illegal immigration but I'm all for people coming in legally and I think we need them.

BALDWIN: OK. Stephen and Kaitlan, thank you both so very much.

MOORE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, President Trump taking on Russian election meddling in his first face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. Details from the meeting that lasted three times longer than anticipated.


BALDWIN: Don't miss it, Sunday, 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.

We continue our special live coverage of the G20 in Hamburg. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being with me. "The Lead" starts right now.