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Trump & Putin Had Second Undisclosed Meeting at G-20; Trump: "Let Obamacare Fail' After Senate Bill Collapse. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired July 19, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House says President Trump had a second undisclosed conversation with Vladimir Putin.
[05:57:43] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell is Donald Trump's obsession with Vladimir Putin? Why won't he be straightforward about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little extreme for us to somehow make this into a conspiracy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're also the identity of the eighth person in Don Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's very disturbing that it's taken us this long for this kind of information to come out.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll just let Obamacare fail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's just heartless. We're talking about real people here.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace will not be successful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a real Mitch McConnell failure.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 19, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here is our starting line.
The White House downplaying reports that President Trump and Vladimir Putin had a second undisclosed meeting at the G-20 summit that lasted about an hour. Given the intense scrutiny on their first meeting, why did they meet again without any American officials present?
CNN is learning new details about the eighth person in that meeting where Don Trump Jr. and top campaign staffers were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Special Counsel Robert Mueller clearing the way for the president's son and Paul Manafort to testify in public before Congress.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says it's probably time to just let Obamacare fail after suffering a humiliating collapse of the Senate's health plan.
The president is now inviting all 52 Republican senators over for lunch today at the White House to discuss what's next. And for the first time today, the president's Election Integrity Commission is going to meet as top Democrats sent a letter to the vice president, demanding that the vice chair of that panel step down.
We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin was one of the most closely scrutinized events of his young presidency, and now we know there was a second meeting, the White House confirming that second encounter after reports of it surfaced in the media.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump lashing out, calling coverage of this previously undisclosed second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin "sick," and alleging it's been made to look sinister.
A senior White House official tells CNN the discussion on the sidelines of a G-20 dinner lasted nearly an hour, and no other U.S. officials were present.
Ignoring protocol, the president relied on a Russian translator, leaving the U.S. with no official record of their conversation. The White House downplaying the second encounter, asserting, "The insinuation that the White House has tried to 'hide' a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd."
This new revelation the latest in a string of undisclosed meetings between Trump associates and Russians.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This kind of private meeting is virtually unprecedented in the diplomatic world. There seems to be a pattern of reckless or willful concealment of contacts with the Russians.
JOHNS: This meeting coming to light as CNN learns new details about the eighth person in attendance at the June 2016 meeting, where top Trump aides hoped to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. That man, Ike Kaveladze, seen behind the president in 2013 in this exclusive video obtained by CNN is a senior vice president at a real-estate development company run by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, who has ties to Putin. SCOTT BALBER, ATTORNEY FOR RUSSIAN FAMILY AND EIGHT MAN AT TRUMP JR.
MEETING: There was absolutely no conversation between Agalarov and the Russian prosecutors or the Russian government about Hillary Clinton or the U.S. campaign ever. Didn't happen.
JOHNS: According to his attorney, Kaveladze believed he was attending a meeting as a translator for a Russian lawyer, despite the fact that she brought a translator with her. In 2000, Kaveladze was linked to U.S. bank accounts that came under congressional investigation for possible money laundering on behalf of Russian brokers. He was not charged.
WARNER: This individual who's at least had a colorful past, if not a potentially criminal, it is very strange to me that this meeting was supposed to be originally -- which related by three or four people, about Russian adoptions.
JOHNS: And new this morning, Reuters reports that the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump last year, 2016, has offered to testify before Congress, citing hysteria over the encounter.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has told CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has given the green light for two people to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That would be Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Though it's not clear when that could actually happen.
Alisyn and Chris, back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Thank you for all that information.
Let's bring in our political panel to discuss it. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon; and CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza. Great to see all of you.
CUOMO: What a bunch of heavyweights we have this morning.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. In studio.
CUOMO: There must be something political going on.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Where's Cillizza? What, you can't come up from D.C.?
CUOMO: He says coming from New York is not the point. Always pushing his new product.
CAMEROTA: David, let's talk about this previously undisclosed, possibly hour-long meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin that there's no official U.S. record of. What are we to think of this?
GREGORY: Well, look, I don't like it. I think, you know, anybody who has covered the White House as I have, you know, the president who does things in the name of the American people should be transparent.
And certainly, when you're being investigated for improperly having, you know, cooperation or collusion or contacts during the campaign with the Russians, I don't think it's appropriate. I think this is another example where the president must think, "Oh, look, I can just, you know, forge this relationship. I can make it work," not understanding that Putin is an enemy of the United States, is manipulating and has manipulated U.S. leaders, and let's find out exactly what they talked about.
I'm interested to find out whether the president is going to get tough with Putin for attacking America during the campaign. There's no evidence of that. The president -- previous president had in place countermeasures that he could have used. Instead, you know, they are now having, you know, the two-hour meeting and then a separate meeting, and the president's position seems to be, well, look, he said he didn't do it, so what am I going to do, get into a fist fight if we disagree? To me that's not good enough.
CUOMO: Just to be clear, the president took on this reporting, calling it fake, but there seemed to be a misunderstanding on his part of what the reporting is.
There's not a report, as far as we know, that there was a separate dinner between the president and the Russian leader. It's just that at a G-20 dinner, the president got up and went over and sat next to Putin on his own accord for about an hour. That's the reporting, so let's deal with that.
The pushback is, John, he's the president of the United States. This is what he does. On his own whim, he will go and talk to whomever he wants whenever he wants. That's why he was elected to create relationships, forge deals, and he doesn't have to tell you anything.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That's not why he was elected or a core part of the job. When an American president sits down with a Russian president, that's news. That's high-level negotiation, even if it's under the auspices of something social.
But what's really sick, to use the president's words about this, is the idea that they developed a great rapport, talking about Russian interference in the American election. That shouldn't develop a rapport. That should get one's back up. And there should be a follow-through; there should be consequences, to David's point.
But if there isn't -- and there's no reason to think there is -- that's why questions keep getting raised about possible collusion between the Trumps and the Russians, and this kind of a belated report doesn't do anything to stop that. It only accelerates it.
CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, here's the White House statement they put out yesterday about this: "There was no second meeting between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to 'hide' a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of the president's duties to interact with world leaders."
I mean, it's true that they weren't hiding. They were in plain sight at this dinner hosted by Angela Merkel. But we don't know anything about the content of what they said.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Two things. One, no one said they were hiding. I mean, this is the problem. Donald Trump's tweets and the statement go to the same thing. They're creating a story that doesn't exist. To Chris's point, no one said the meeting -- it was a secret dinner. No one said they were trying to hide it. All that was said is this wasn't known.
And by my definition -- obviously this is flexible -- but brief is not almost an hour long. Brief is a minute long.
The second thing is, yes, presidents talk to world leaders, of course. They have phone calls. At a thing like the G-20, they have conversations, but this isn't just any world leader. This is the guy who, according to the FBI, CIA, office of the director of national intelligence, was involved in a detailed and, frankly, somewhat successful meddling in the United States elections.
This is not -- Trump said, "I talked to Macron." France and the United States have a different relationship than the United States and Russia, and not recognizing that difference is another part of the problem.
GREGORY: See, I just think that why can't the president of the United States do a real press conference where he takes all these questions on Russia? Why can't he talk about what he -- what his vision for a relationship with Russia is actually like, where they cooperate, where they're going to disagree. Bring us in on this, instead of saying, "Well, this is another" -- I mean, I don't find it -- I don't care if he wants to, you know, spend all that time with Macron in Paris and be as affectionate as a dad would be on his bar mitzvah day with his son, as he was with Macron. That's all fine. But here with Putin, you're going to strike this rapport, then there's going to be real questions, given what Russia has done.
CUOMO: But so you have a cycle here, right? And that's what this story is really about, this extension of a lack of transparency. Why doesn't he have the press conference? Because he doesn't like the questions. So he tries to shade the reality on this and call it fake whenever he can.
Why is it relevant? Because of what we're learning about the Don Jr. meeting and the eighth person. This eighth guy who was at the meeting, we'll talk about him, but it's the fact that we didn't know he existed.
CUOMO: And there is a continuing problem with this story for those who are saying, "What's the big deal?" It's that it's been too difficult to find out about who was at this meeting and what it was about. And now the eighth guy winds up being connected to the Agalarovs, but he has his own history that makes it a little bit suspicious to be sitting with the son of the president.
AVLON: I mean, even in the context of his business with the Agalarovs, he's been connected to money laundering to the tune of more than a billion dollars. So I mean, nobody here seems to be, you know, a saint in the context of the Russian folks they're meeting with.
But here's the tick-tock. There was no meeting. The meeting was about adoption. The meeting was just a handful of people, and it's all a terrible misunderstanding. Actually, it was between eight people, including the top members of the campaign, with e-mails that are verified that show there was an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton from a foreign power, denied absurdly by the White House in a press conference, because it's there for everyone to see. And now an eighth individual.
And so this keeps getting worse, because they have not been transparent from the start.
CAMEROTA: OK. So that leads us to what is upcoming, Chris Cillizza, and that is that there are reports that Robert Mueller has said, has given the all clear for Don Jr. and Manafort to testify in front of Congress in public. That's great for us who like transparency and are interested in this, but why is Bob Mueller letting them testify in public? What is he -- what's his rationale?
CILLIZZA: Yes, that -- I find that interesting. My initial take on it, not being a lawyer or a member of the criminal justice system, is that this probably means that he has gotten what he needs, either from them or about them and is not worried about a public testimony getting in the way of the investigation that he is running.
[06:10:21] It would be, obviously, I think, beneficial, to David's point. I think it would be beneficial for these things to be held in public.
And this latest, sidebar with Putin the biggest issue tied to the Russia story -- John mentioned this -- we just keep getting different stories. The July 9, 2016, meeting is the best example -- June 9, rather -- is the best example of that, but we just keep hearing different things.
And this latest, this sidebar with Putin, whatever you want to call it, is just one in a number of ways in which it feels as though the story shifts based on what we find out, not from the Trump administration but what we wind up finding out from reporting.
So I think it would behoove the public right to know as well as, frankly, the Trump administration. Let's remember: Donald Trump has called this investigation a witch hunt and a total hoax, among other things that he's called it. It would be in his interest -- if he believes that that is true, it is in his interest to have all these major players testify in public, because in his mind, there is nothing to hide here. So he should show it. Shine some light on it, and that's the opposite of what's been done.
GREGORY: They have not told the truth about what's gone on with Russia. Therefore, if I'm covering the president as I am, I'm suspicious of that meeting with Putin. I want to know what they talked about. I want to know what this president is doing to actually push back against Russia. He's been coddling Russia.
And I thought we had a major American party in this country, the Republicans, who were pretty tough on the idea of Russia and the former Soviet Union. And now the head of the Republican Party, the president of the United States, appears not to be. I want to know more about that. I'm sorry, I don't take them at their word that it was just a couple guys getting together, forming a better relationship.
CUOMO: Before President Trump, you had the two most outspoken critics of Russia and its president right now in Congress belonging to his party, Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Republican Senator -- just quick point of law. Bob Mueller has no right to tell Congress who they can have come before it.
You could argue legally, in terms of their jurisdiction, that Congress has every bit as much, if not more right, to invite people. So this is about deference. This is about accommodation. Mueller doesn't need to tell Congress who can come before it.
CAMEROTA: But does he decide which one can be closed door and which one can be public?
CUOMO: No. I mean, this is -- Congress has their own jurisdiction. What they're trying to do is negotiate who does what. Because the special counsel at this criminal jurisdiction...
CILLIZZA: But he has a strong hand in that negotiation.
CUOMO: He does, but this is about deference. They don't need his permission, necessarily.
CAMEROTA: But he's giving the green light, saying, "It's OK with me." Downplayed.
GREGORY: He says this would be really bad if I try to lean on someone or whatever.
CUOMO: I wouldn't read too much into what he says they can do and what he says they can't.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of the information.
CUOMO: All right, so there is little question that President Trump is raising eyebrows after saying, "Let Obamacare fail." Why? Because it's insensitive. Because it's going to cause a lot of human pain and suffering if it's allowed to happen.
Well, now the president is trying to turn the page and get a fresh start. He's inviting 52 Senate Republicans -- that's all of them -- to the House today for lunch.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill with more. What do we think the plan is here? Is this a fresh start? Is this an idea session? Is this time for carrot and stick? What do you think?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I mean, certainly, it's going to be interesting to see how that lunch turns out, because you've got all of the 52 senators who are invited here, and what we've heard from the previous dinner was that really, people were trying to be coddled, but the president ultimately was surprised when he felt that he was betrayed.
What we are going to see is after 24 hours of recriminations and soul searching from the Republicans, a spectacular failure in pushing forward repealing and replacing Obamacare, President Trump very likely saying much of the same, which is he refuses to take any credit and any blame, that perhaps what is next on the table is simply allowing Obamacare to fail rather than fix it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it; I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us; and they're going to say, "How do we fix it? How do we fix it?" Or "How do we come up with a new plan?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also moving forward, offering a repeal and not replace Obamacare plan, which also looks like it is going to fail next week when it comes up for a procedural vote, four senators speaking out against it, saying they're not going to support it. Notably, three of those four women who were excluded from the Senate's working group that crafted that legislation secretively -- Alisyn, Chris.
[06:15:12] CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for that reporting. And that raises the question, of course, where do Republicans and the president go from here in the battle over health care? Our panel has ideas. We discuss that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. But I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Let's discuss the truth of that statement, the president's vow to let Obamacare fail. It sounds insensitive, because it is insensitive. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still moving forward with his vote next week to try to repeal it with no plan for a replacement. And again, that could have serious implications for people's health care and the inability to pay for it. So four Republican senators are saying right now they won't go with
that vote, which would spell doom as a matter of simple math, but there is a lot of time between now and then; and deals could be struck. McConnell a master of that.
Let's discuss. David Gregory, John Avlon and Chris Cillizza all join us.
[06:20:03] David Gregory, why is it insensitive to say that we should let Obamacare fail?
GREGORY: Look, he's the president of the United States, the leader of the country. And people may forget after this gambit to try to destroy Obamacare, the truth is the federal government is responsible for making it work.
So, you know, the president has a duty to go out there and not just own it but fund it, shore it up where it needs to be shored up in terms of now the markets operate, how the exchanges operate.
CAMEROTA: He doesn't like it. This isn't his plan. He doesn't want to own it.
GREGORY: Yes, but he doesn't have a chance.
CAMEROTA: He doesn't like it.
GREGORY: But the federal government is responsible for paying some of these subsidies. The notion that -- look, Obamacare has plenty of problems going to that substance, but the reality is, part of his problem right now, part of this, quote unquote, death spiral, which is inaccurate, is that the -- the Trump administration and the Republicans have talked it down so much that it has created uncertainty.
When you talk to the insurance companies, what they want to know is what the deal is. They just want to know. And Obamacare's implementation was getting a lot better, because there was more certainty in the marketplace. A lot more people are getting covered, so there is a responsibility to own it.
Look, they tried, and they failed. And the irony of all this is that Trump could have actually pulled something off here if he had worked with Democrats, because he's not overly ideological about it. It's conservatives who can't agree about this. It's what John Boehner said years ago, that Republicans will never agree, and that's come to pass.
CAMEROTA: John, it strikes me that what President Trump is doing is a go-to move in business. Which is when you want to get people's attention, you walk away. It's often very effective to say, "You know what? I'm walking away." Sometimes that does make the deal come together, as we all know. That's a power move on walking away. So he's using -- I think he's employing that, but it's different when people's lives are at stake, as Americans are with health care.
AVLON: Yes. Look, I think that's exactly right in terms of his psychology of saying, "Fine, we'll let it fail, and that will change your mind."
But this is the opposite of Harry Truman saying the buck stops here. You can't just say, "Fine, it's hands off. I'm not going to own it," because it's happening on your watch and you have a moral and political obligation to try to fix it, to try to help people's lives.
CUOMO: Which is why the analogy to it would be a business move doesn't work in this particular context, because this is a business, to use the analogy, that is on his balance sheet.
CUOMO: So he can't walk away from this. He has set responsibilities. And if he were to walk away, as he suggested he would...
CUOMO: ... which means, how do you walk away? How do you let it fail? You don't provide the federal subsidies. You don't let insurance companies know whether or not the insurance mandate, which creates a healthier, wider pool, will exist. If you don't do those things, people are going to lose their care. It is most necessarily on his watch.
AVLON: And look, this is something where he has provided -- he's promised everything under the moon with regard to health care. Before he was running for president, talking about single payer to, you know, "Give me something terrific," to saying, "Don't call it Trumpcare." But by all means.
But if you're denied federal subsidies, then you know, you can't be an arsonist complaining about a fire problem in the neighborhood. And you have an obligation to put something forward. Republicans never got past opposition to proposition. That's why we're in this problem.
And now the question is will the president lead and try to come up with some bipartisan deal to at least fix the problems that exist in the bill? But now the official position of the president of the United States says, "Not on my watch, not my problem."
CUOMO: Chris, you wrote a piece called "Six Months In, Trump's Presidency is Teetering on the Brink of Disaster." That was the theme of it. How do you see this in terms of the role of health care in this six-month measure and what the president needs, and what is teetering, exactly?
CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, I think there's a number of things. Look, the Russia investigation has been a constant problem for him, both in the way he's dealt with it and in the investigation's special counsel ongoing. You never want a special counsel in your first six months.
His approval ratings are 36, 37, 38, 39 percent. And then legislatively, you know, he says, "I've signed more bills or almost more bills than anyone in history." No. 1, that's not true.
No. 2, what's the legislative accomplishment that you can point to? Health care has obviously been the big push. It -- I agree with you Mitch McConnell is very good at this sort of thing, but there -- there is not going to be -- they're not going to repeal Obamacare and then replace it. Just the votes are just not there, and that they're not going to change it.
So now, where does he go? Remember that he ran as a guy who knew how to make deals. He persuaded people. "These people who run the government are stupid; I'm smart. They make bad deals; I'll make good deals." Where is the evidence of that?
I think this thing that happened on Monday night, he's got seven senators who are all "yes" votes on health care over. He's talking about Bastille Day. He's talking about how him and Macron got on famously. All of a sudden, Senator Moran and Mike Lee put out a statement saying, "We're not voting for this," and suddenly the bill is dead.
The great dealmaker at some point has to make a deal.
GREGORY: The reelection campaign slogan cannot be, "We'll always have Paris." It's just not going to -- it's not going to work.
CILLIZZA: And that would be inadvisable, David is right.
[06:25:10] GREGORY: You know, the real thing is I think, you know, the signature of the Trump campaign was, right, big time leader. Repeal and replace Obamacare, you're going to get big infrastructure improvements to make America great again, and you know, you get big time tax reform.
So on health care he talked about, "We're going to do all these things," and yesterday, he said, "Well, these guys basically couldn't get it done. It's just too bad that we've been talking about it, and they couldn't get it done. You know, the problem is that he couldn't lead it. He wasn't deep enough in it.
CUOMO: He's not over, though.
CAMEROTA: He's not over. I mean, I'm glad that we're saying this. Because today he's having 52 Republican senators for lunch.
GREGORY: If he actually wants to push the health care fight, which he may, into 2018, that would be interesting, but this puts a lot more pressure on tax reform.
GREGORY: You've got to come through.
CAMEROTA: He's talking in a different way than he's acting, because why have all these GOP senators over for lunch if he really is walking away?
CUOMO: Well, because they're concerned about the ability to get anything done and have the parties behind him.
CILLIZZA: And Alisyn, I think...
GREGORY: Why does it matter what he's doing at this point?
CAMEROTA: Because he's -- obviously, something is going to happen at this lunch. They're going to either vent their spleen to him, or he's going to persuade them to do something. This isn't just for nicety of a lunch.
AVLON: And this is going to end up being on tax reform. They've got to show sustained focus, sustained purpose. That's what did -- Trump says, you know, "No one knew health care was so difficult." Everybody knew.
CUOMO: One other surprise move, though. There is an area of opportunity for the president to get started on today, if you're watching. This is what your guys are talking about, so you know this already. Pharmaceuticals and the cost of drugs.
Democrats are against them. The Republicans want to move on it. The president has said that he's not afraid of big business. If you move on prescription drugs, you will lower costs in health care, and that's what everybody wants.
CILLIZZA: Hey, Chris, let me just -- I'll tell you one thing on that. EpiPens. Remember the big controversy about how expensive they were? When my kids -- my kids need them. We went to get the generic. Twelve hundred dollars.
So you're still talking about a massive amount of money that these companies are taking away, and that is something that fits with a populist theme, right? What he -- David makes the point, what he runs on at some point has to be what he does, or the reelect is just not going to work.
CUOMO: He checks every box, and he could own it.
CUOMO: Chris Cillizza, that's the point.
CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you very much for all of the information.
So six months in, is President Trump's "America first" agenda somehow alienating the U.S. from the rest of the world? The impact of Mr. Trump's policies on the world stage. That's next.