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President Trump Speaks to the Press On the Record on Air Force One; President Trump Returns from Meeting President of France Emmanuel Macron. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 14, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- American troops arrived on French soil to join World War I. The two men say goodbye to each other with an epic handshake that has everyone talking.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have multiple angles of this handshake which we will show you in a little bit.
The president will return to United States facing new questions about what he knew and when he knew about his son's e-mails in meetings with a Russian lawyer. Now White House aides are under scrutiny by the special counsel for their response to the Russia controversy with the president's eldest son. You will remember that they crafted that response reportedly last Saturday on the president's trip home from Europe. He had a trip to Europe last week. On the way home, the White House helped craft the response the initial "New York times" story about the White House.
CAMEROTA: And when you say the White House, we don't know who the White House is and whether or not President Trump was involved in crafting that statement.
BERMAN: That is one of the key questions. You'll remember that initial response also mentioned nothing about the fact that Don Jr. was promised information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton. It mentioned only adoptions.
CAMEROTA: Right. So Maggie Haberman who is of course with the "New York Times" as with CNN, she was the pool reporter on the trip over to France. And she's coming home back now with the president. There had been many reporters. And they had something like a 70-minute gaggle on the plane where they were able to ask President Trump about all of this. So let's go live to Paris. We want to bring in CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. She, as I mentioned, is traveling with the president. Maggie, great to see you on your fabulous assignment there in Paris. Great to have you.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's fabulous.
CAMEROTA: It does seem fabulous. But tell us about this flight that you took where you all had a long extended conversation with the president that at first you thought was off the record but turns out is on the record. So share with us the headlines. HABERMAN: Sure. A couple things just to clarify, though. It was 60
minutes, not 70 minutes. We thought it was off the record because Sarah Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary, asked for it to be off the record. The president, however, seemed unclear on that. And so yesterday I happened to be the print pool. I was the person who was covering his initial bilateral meeting with the French president. He called out, why didn't I use what he had said on the plane, and I explained that that had been off the record. And that sort of began the process of this becoming on the record.
But it was fascinating. It was the longest that we have heard him talk and answer questions in quite some time. He talked about a wide range of topics. He talked about his son and this meeting with this Russian lawyer, defended him, said much of what he said publicly but he said it with a little more detail and description.
He talked about his meeting with Putin. He said something that we hadn't heard the White House say about that meeting before, which was that he had told Putin that there couldn't be a, quote-unquote, "scintilla of doubt" about the United States elections. He talked about his view of the border wall and where that stood. He maintained that he is working toward an infrastructure bill. He talked about France and looking forward to this meeting with the French president where there was very much a reset in their relationship.
And it was, as you know, speaking with this president, he has a discursive speaking style. So sometimes the conversation starts on the top of the hill and it ends up at the bottom of a valley. But it was more nuanced then I have seen him. It was the best mood that I had seen him in quite some time. He clearly felt as if they had turned some corner on this issue surrounding his son. I think that other people would disagree with that, but that was where his mind was.
BERMAN: And there seemed to be an issue with some of the language you used -- he used. You mentioned his discursive speaking style. He told Reuters before he left about Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer. No, I didn't know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this. No, I didn't know about that. And then in the full pool report of the meeting, and it took a revision to get this out, there was a comment was made by the president that said in fact, maybe it was mentioned at some point. Maggie, it was unclear reading the pool report what exactly he was referring to by that one discrete comment. Do you have any idea?
HABERMAN: Right. My interpretation of what he meant by that -- and to be clear, the transcript that the White House put out, they did not include that bit in the press pool. We did put that part out because it was a significant omission. At the time, it sounded as if what he was actually talking about -- he was talking about adoptions, Russian adoptions, which is the pretext that the Trump folks had initially said this meeting was about before later acknowledging that it was actually something about Hillary Clinton and dirt on her.
He was talking about Russian adoptions and the issue of Russian adoptions. And my read on what he was saying was that was what he was referring to was the topic. It was not clear that he meant the meeting. And I followed up and said, did anyone tell you this was about Hillary Clinton and about Russia and dirt? And he said, no. However, again, what exactly he knew and when he knew it is a huge topic of interest. I asked the White House to clarify what he was referring to. They didn't respond.
CAMEROTA: So the president didn't say exactly when he found out.
HABERMAN: I'm sorry?
CAMEROTA: The president didn't tell you exactly --
HABERMAN: He said initially at the beginning of that whole exchange that he had just found out about the meeting two or three days ago. And then he talked about adoptions. And then he said something about, well, actually, maybe, you know, I think somebody may have mentioned it. And the it appeared to be the subject of Russian adoptions, not that there had been this meeting.
BERMAN: You know, so interesting.
HABERMAN: But they are going to have to clarify what he meant at some point.
BERMAN: Exactly, they are, which gets to the issue of sort of the peril in having a president speak off the record to reporters for 60 minutes if that leader -- if the president, he or she, says something which either runs counter to what they are saying in public or raises more questions. And it is fascinating that that was not part of the crypt initially released by the White House. I don't know whether there was intent there to withhold it because they knew there was a problem or not.
It is also interesting, Maggie -- you noted this yesterday -- which is that the president himself seems much more willing and eager, and happy to speak to the press in free flowing, unrestricted ways than his staff wants him to be.
HABERMAN: Correct. Look, most presidents in recent decades have, frankly, wanted to engage more with the press, or at least in specific ways with the press, that their staffs may not have wanted them to, but this president, more than most, for a lot of reasons. But one of which is that it is such a way in which he deals with the world is talking to the press, over three, four decades at this point, that that's what he knows.
In terms of your point about the perils of an off-the-record that was 60 minutes long, there's a peril with an off-the-record discussion with a president whether it is five minutes long or three minutes long or 60 minutes long. These issues are always fraught. This was not the first time he has come to the back of the plane and spoken off the record, and I'm very happy that this went on the record.
CAMEROTA: So Maggie, when he told you that what he said to Putin was, there couldn't be a scintilla of doubt about Russian meddling, what does that mean? HABERMAN: It seemed to indicate that -- and there's clearly much more
to this meeting, whatever it was, 2 hours and 16 minute meeting. There is a lot we don't know about what was said, but it appeared to be something that is of concern for Republicans and for Democrats that, remember, there was a lot of opposition research from the Democratic committees that was taken about a number of members of Congress and candidates. There is a question about whether people can, A, be living in fear that there is going to be more coming in the next year-and-a-half, and, B, that people need to believe in the United States that their elections are not being meddled with and are secure, and that was the message he was sending. How hard he sent it, what else he said, we don't know. But it was an interesting remark.
CAMEROTA: Ah, yes. It is an interesting remark because he is talking about moving forward. He's talking about the future. He is not saying that there is now a scintilla of doubt that Russia was behind what happened in the past.
HABERMAN: He's been very -- you saw what he said as well as we heard it, and what he said on the plane about that is really no different than what he said publicly. The only addition to -- or off the plane. The only addition to it was saying, when we pressed him about would you -- why would you accept that, or some version of that, why accept that from Putin's word for it, he said I asked him twice and I asked him in a completely different way. He had already said that to Reuters before he got on Air Force One. Then he said to us on the plane, what are you going to do at that point? Get into a fistfight? That was the only addition. He was not moved off of this.
So again, he is still not taking any form of hard line that we're aware of that he accepts the findings of the intelligence community. And in fact, in that same plane ride, he again did the lots of countries hacked, China is terrible. So this is no different than what you've heard him say before. I understand that it was -- but it was 60 minutes sounds tantalizing. But a lot of it was very similar to what we've heard.
BERMAN: And Maggie, just in closing here, we may never have found out about the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer were it not for the reporting in "The New York Times" ultimately which you were a part of. The initial response, President Trump is on the plane right now returning home from Paris, like he was last Saturday returning home from a European trip where "The New York Times" reported he approved that initial response to your reporting that was misleading, that the meeting was really only about adoption. Did he do anything to dispel that in this conversation yesterday?
HABERMAN: He acknowledged what has been said publicly. He did the exact same thing. But, no, he did not suggest anything beyond the parameters of what has already been reported. I assume you've seen the transcript of what was said on the plane.
BERMAN: All right, Maggie Haberman, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for that insight into this sort of epic free-wheeling conversation between president and press corps. [08:10:00] In my own opinion, not that it matters, is that Maggie is
absolutely right. It is essentially that that conversation be on the record, particularly because it went beyond what the White House and president has said on the record.
CAMEROTA: Your opinion matters to me and all of us.
Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory, White House correspondent from Bloomberg News Margaret Talev, and congressional reporter for the "Washington Post" Karoun Demirjian. Great to see all of you. David Gregory, what are your thoughts having heard Maggie's understand from Paris?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is always very interesting when any president takes it upon himself to meet with those reporters covering him and speak in a way that's kind of open-ended. I would like to see a lot more of this from President Trump in the form of a formal press conference. But I think in any form it is important. It often makes aides nervous and it absolutely should be on the record.
And we learned something from it, including -- and especially what Maggie is talking about with regard to his own insights about the meeting with Russia. And I still think there is a lot of inconsistencies there. The president has continually undermined the notion that Russia interfered with the election. He has publicly said it would have been them, it could have been others. That is not the consensus from the intelligence community of the United States, including his own intelligence officials that he has put into place.
And he has given then Putin room to just deny it and explain itself away. It's not only accounting for what his own campaign team might have done to welcome information and cooperate with the Russians who are trying to hurt Hillary Clinton, it is now a matter of what are you going to do to prevent such a thing from happening in the future? And to the extent that he gives cover for Putin or gives him space makes it more likely that it could happen again. And that is a fundamental point.
I think the other problem with Trump, it is quite clear that the president believes he is his best spokesman. He seems to have little confidence in others unless they just show a kind of toughness that he likes, whether it's a distraction or not. But the danger is he is inconsistent. He says things that aren't true. He says things that are incomplete. There is a legal investigation going on. There is a political process that's under way. And it also hurts his ability because he wants to be everywhere all the time, to channel his political capital into actually moving a legislative agenda as we know that health care is kind of hanging on by a thread.
BERMAN: And now there is that mystery that Maggie Haberman was talking about, the statement he made on Air Force One, that the White House did not include in the original transcript that said in fact maybe it was mentioned at some point, he was talking about some aspect of the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. And Margaret, CNN reporting overnight that now people inside the White House are talking about aides inside the White House feel they might be under scrutiny by the special counsel because of the way they responded to the initial "New York Times" reporting. The last week of response, maybe even going back to when Jared Kushner's legal team first found out about these e- mails and turned them over and he was interviewed by the FBI going back into mid-June.
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes. But, John, I think it is fair to say that for months now, certainly since Jim Comey began his testimony on Capitol Hill, every senior aide of the White House has been aware that they may need to seek legal counsel at some point, that they need to figure out what to do to manage their e-mails or conversations that they've had to figure out.
Part of the thinking with moving the president's legal advice for Russia outside of the White House counsel's office to a private team was to try to kind of begin to firewall and sequester those things. So this is sort of a new turn in a concern that's been building for a while. And while the president's off-the-record discussion on Air Force One is certainly very interesting and illuminating, the big news of the week still remains, the guiding news still remains the release of those e-mails by Don Jr. and the acknowledgement of what they mean. And that has created a jumping off point on all of these other fronts. We know who was on Air Force One that day. Gary Cohn, Steve Mnuchin, H.R. McMaster, among other aides.
We know of course who the top advisors at the White House are, and now the obvious questions are being asked about who accompanied the Russian lawyer to that meeting, who on the campaign team was informed about the meeting before it happened, what were the discussions after the fact. All of these are now kind of jumping-off points that Bob Mueller's team as well as congressional investigators are going to be asking questions about.
And that's why all of the president's testimony, as it were, whether it is in a news conference or off the record on an airplane, if the White House stenographers are there and there is a tape recording of it, portions of it may still be off the record for public consumption, but not for investigators.
CAMEROTA: All of this is, Karoun, is set against the backdrop of the president's visit to Paris with all of its pomp and circumstance for Bastille Day, and the very interesting, evolving relationship between President Macron of France and President Trump.
[08:15:06] So they had this epic handshake that had never different permutations. It involved a hug. It involved a group handshake hug. So what do you see in this relationship?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we made the point before that for the president, politics is personal. He is much more interested in those kinds of interpersonal relationships than maybe the nitty-gritty and long task of crafting policy.
And there is a lot that they could actually find in common as much as they don't agree on policy. They are both the upstart candidates from their campaigns. They both kind of took the political field by storm. They've both now become president, two very powerful nations that are
in the U.N. Security Council that are going to be dealing with each other on many of the most important international issues that there are. Macron had made a very concerted effort to, as much as he's criticized Trump and he disagrees with him, the Paris climate accords were a real departure for the two of them, he has made a real hand to extend the hand of friendship to invite Trump to the biggest day they have in France to basically roll out basically all the stops they have in this display that they had right there that we've been showing and analyzing.
That seems designed to appeal to Trump and it also seems to have work. Trump seems to have an affinity for macron. As we have said, he is the same age as his kids basically. So, it is both that he sees somebody there that he kind of likes maybe and admires but also maybe doesn't see as any sort of political threat because he wasn't around before and dealing with Obama who Trump consistently measures himself up against even though he's speaking disparagingly of Obama, he's always making that comparison.
And here, it's kind of a clean legislate with somebody who's clearly interested in working with him and we'll see who is the better politician as we move forward.
BERMAN: David, quick final thought. Go ahead.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I was going to say, I think it is really striking on the part of Macron who wants to be the European leader who can basically bring Trump around on issues like climate change or trade or his positions about terrorism, even his rhetorical slights against Europe writ large. And I think he understands the key to Donald Trump's heart is to lavish praise and importance on him, to make him feel big, to feel legitimate, to feel honored. I think that's what this day represents.
It shows there is not a rigidity to President Trump's thinking about foreign affairs. That personal chemistry I think is what's really important. It will be interesting to see how this relationship evolves.
BERMAN: All right, guys. Thanks so much.
President Trump says he would consider inviting Vladimir Putin to the White House. So, how do lawmakers feel about this? We will ask, next.
[08:21:19] BERMAN: All right. President Trump defending his son while on the world stage in Paris. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's a deputy Republican whip, and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Kinzinger, thanks so much for being with us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Thanks.
BERMAN: First point, just to clear this up, the president said many people would have taken that meeting. You, sir, Congressman, would you have taken the meeting?
KINZINGER: No, absolutely not. There are a couple of points to this. Number one, there are some on the other side of the aisle are really hysteric about this. We don't know full details. I've heard the word treason. This isn't treason.
On the other hand, to dismiss this and say anybody would have met with anybody, that may be the case if you have an e-mail that says, hey, I have some information on your opponent. But when you see that it is from the Russian government, courtesy of your friend, Vladimir, or whatever, that's when you hit hard stop on that. That's when -- you know, I, frankly, if it would have happened to me I would call the FBI and say, hey, this or that government is offering me information, do you want me to take this meeting as counterespionage or something.
But I certainly would not take a meeting with any kind of foreign intelligence agency.
BERMAN: And let me ask you, Congressman, this sounds like a strange question, but how old are you?
KINZINGER: I'm 39, almost 40.
BERMAN: Thirty-nine -- almost happy birthday. You are the same age as the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., who he consistently refers to as a wonderful young man, as if to suggest that maybe he's not old enough to understand the implications of the meeting? Do you think your age is an impediment to understanding that the meeting might not be appropriate?
KINZINGER: No. But you know, look, also, I have been in the military, we learned -- I've had a security clearance for a very long time. And that's not an excuse.
But the other thing is just, if you hear that something is provided by a government, even if it is our friends in Canada or friends in Australia, that's when you go to the FBI and say, look, somebody's offering me information and they usually don't do it out of the goodness of their heart. There is usually a payback on the back end of that.
BERMAN: You don't think your military training was required to understand that an offer from the Russian government was inappropriate.
KINZINGER: Nope. Not at all.
BERMAN: All right. Let me ask you about something that happened. We learned yesterday that President Trump spoke to reporters for quite a long time. He thought it was originally off the record. He thought it was on the record now, we know what they discussed.
One of the things he talked about is the possibility of Vladimir Putin visiting the White House. He was asked if he would invite the Russian leader. He said, I don't think it is the right time but the answer is, yes, I would. Folks, we have perhaps the second-most powerful nuclear country in the world. If you don't have a dialogue, you have to be fools. Fools. It would be easiest thing for me to say to all of you, I will never speak to him and everybody would love me. But I have to do what's right.
Opening up the possibility of a White House meeting, if not now, at some point. You were on the house foreign affairs committee. Is that a good idea?
KINZINGER: I don't have a problem with it, but not now. I think as part of negotiations, as part of diplomacy in the future, sure.
But I think we have to make some things very clear early. I hope when -- I hope it's been delivered prior, but if it happens soon, maybe the president can deliver our Russian sanctions bill that I think we're going to pass in the next week or two. There's tweaks we are working out between both sides. I think that's going to get done.
We need to sanction Russia for our election interference, not just on us but on our allies. I think it's important -- it's fine to have negotiations, it's fine to have talks. What I think a lot of us are waiting for, we see a president with, frankly, a pretty hawkish Russia foreign policy.
[08:25:01] I think more so than the last administration.
What we're begging for him out here is to say some words, recognizing that half a million Syrians are dead, largely thanks to Iran and Russia, that they're backing an evil regime and, frankly, that that regime is the incubator for ISIS. That's the kind of things we want to hear. We hear it in the administration around the president.
So, I have no problem with Vladimir Putin coming to the White House. I do hope it is not now because we need to make some strong statements.
BERMAN: It's interesting. You were talking about conditions in which he'd be comfortable with Vladimir Putin coming to the White House, you weren't talking about conditions you would like -- or concessions you want from Vladimir Putin. You were talking about things you'd like to see from the president before Vladimir Putin is invited to the White House.
KINZINGER: Well, I think we can get those concessions from Vladimir Putin when the president is very forceful about that.
Look, Russia understands they have an economy that's about 1/20 our size. They are not our equal. Their military is in disrepair. They're trying to rebuild a failing empire of which the satellite states reject their philosophy.
So, to think of Russians as our equal, they simply aren't. But we need the president to put down a lot of -- the term's been overused, but basically red lines to say, here are areas where we can't accept. He's done that in policy, striking the Syrian base, shooting down the SU-22, hitting these Iranian elements in the deconfliction zones. These are good messages, you know? Standing with Ukraine.
It's just I think we need to see a little more verbally from him. But we'll see what happens.
BERMAN: You and I spoke before the president met with Vladimir Putin. You talked about the need sort of for a brick wall on the idea of Russian election meddling. And now a lot has been discussed about what actually happened inside that meeting, the Rex Tillerson version of it, the Sergey Lavrov version of it, now we have more from the president himself who said he did ask Vladimir Putin a couple of times whether or not Russia meddled in the election.
But what's your assessment now a week later of how the president handled it based on what you've been told?
KINZINGER: Truthfully, I think the president went in there and did actually pretty well. I think nobody expected him to bring up -- we were talking on all the shows, do you expect him to bring up election meddling? Most people said no.
He brought it up immediately. I thought that probably would have caught Vladimir Putin off guard.
BERMAN: But he asked. He didn't tell. He asked did you do it, not you did do it and stop.
KINZINGER: Yes, I wasn't on the meeting. I don't know the details of that. I know that -- the fact that he brought it up was surprising to me and I was actually pleased about it.
I don't believe that Trump in his heart believes Vladimir Putin's line that he didn't do it. This guy is a former KGB agent.
However, where the damage is done is not in the meeting. I mean, meetings are meetings or dynamics, or whatever. It is the tweeting afterwards, when you have the thing about the fusion cyber unit with Russia, that really took the president off a message of, hey, we were strong against Russia. And so, he had to walk that back, and did.
So I think it is the tweeting in many cases. I hear my colleagues, my friends, everybody say it, that tends to take him off message of where he could be.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, thanks so much for being with us. Thank you.
KINZINGER: Any time. Take care. See you.
CAMEROTA: All right, John. President Trump says he only learned about his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer in the last few days, but there are other reports that his lawyers have known for weeks. So what was the timing of this? David Axelrod will give us the bottom line next.