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Trump and Putin's Second Meeting; Simpson Faces Parole Board; Trump Meeting at Pentagon. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:48] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump sounding off in a wide-ranging interview with "The New York Times," opening up about the newly revealed second meeting he had with Vladimir Putin at the G-20, while defending once again his son, Don Jr.'s meeting with a group of Russian officials.

Back with me, Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, and Salena Zito.

So, Rebecca, to you first.

Let's listen to how the president described that meeting that a senior White House official told CNN previously lasted an hour. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Actually, it was very interesting. We talked about adoption.

HABERMAN (ph): You did?

TRUMP: Russian adoption. Yes. I've always found that interesting because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting, because that was a part of the conversation that Don had with this meeting that I think, as I said, most other people - you know, when they call up and they say, by the way, we have information on your opponent, I think most politicians - I was just with a lot of people and they said, who wouldn't have taken a meeting like that?


HARLOW: All right, he also said to "The New York Times" the meeting was 15 minutes, not an hour. So two different stories from the White House on that.

Rebecca Berg, what's your takeaway?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one of the things that is so problematic, Poppy, about this meeting is that we will only ever have the president's version of events here, because there was no American with the president. None of his top advisers were here for this meeting, whether it was 15 minutes or an hour. It's important that we have that record by the United States. Otherwise, we only have Russia's word and the president's word. And as we've seen, sometimes he can be sort of an unreliable narrator when it comes to these things.

So it's good to hear from him some details about what was discussed. But, unfortunately, we're not going to have a Rex Tillerson or an H.R. McMaster to come out and give us more details about what was said because they weren't there.

HARLOW: But the Russians have that because they had their translator there.

BERG: Exactly.

HARLOW: So Salena Zito, to you.

Yet again a sort of full-throated defense of his son and his son-in- law and his former campaign chairman's meeting with that group of Russian officials. Listen.


TRUMP: I didn't look at it very closely, to be honest with you.

BAKER (ph): OK.

[09:35:00] TRUMP: I just heard there was an e-mail requesting a meeting or something - yes, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton. And I said - I mean that's standard political stuff.

SCHMIDT (ph):P Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

TRUMP: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

SCHMIDT: Abu you know -

TRUMP: It must have been a very important - must have been a very unimportant meeting because I never even heard about it.

HABERMAN: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit, but nobody (INAUDIBLE) -

TRUMP: Nobody told - no, nobody told me. I didn't know - it's a very unimportant - sounded like a very unimportant meeting.


HARLOW: Salena.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, most parents are going to defend their kids, right? I - can I just say, I loved this interview because it was so amazing how they were able to not only draw some things out of - with him. But because he's comfortable with these reporters, he's also very, you know, loose with his words. He's - and he also, you know, makes sure that he gets across what he wants to get across. No, this was not a normal meeting. This is not the kind of meeting any

candidate that I have ever interviewed would have considered or part of their team would have considered to go and listen to. Having said that, this was part of sort of them not being part - not part of the political establishment. You know, they're very naive in how they approach politics. They approached it like business.

HARLOW: So, at the same time, he made sure to applaud himself, Ron Brownstein, about his performance on the world stage, right? He had these big two foreign trips. First, you know, to Poland and the G-20 and then to France. Here's what he said about the speech that he gave in Warsaw, which was applauded by many.

Here's what he said. "So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine, are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president."

Ever made on foreign soil by any president. What do you make of that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: (INAUDIBLE). There are a lot of - there are a lot of contenders.

Look, it is the kind of hyperbole that is common to this president. I mean the larger picture, first, is that we know from the Pew data that trust in the U.S. has plummeted around the world. There are only two countries - I believe Russia and Israel - are the only countries in the world where President Trump's standing - more people have confidence in President Trump than expressed confidence in President Obama.

But even, I think, more fundamentally than that, you have now this sense, whether it's in Asia or Europe, that the U.S. is receding from its role since World War II , in essence as the leader of the free world. You know, Gary Cohn (ph) and H.R. McMaster and the president have all said, we basically don't believe in the idea of a community of nations. We believe in a series of individual transactions that are constantly renegotiated.

And whether it's Asia or Europe, you are clearly seeing nations that have been allies of the U.S. that have kind of worked in harness with the U.S., feeling they have to go their own way. And more, in many ways, personal chemistry between the - President Trump and President Putin than with many of the countries with whom we have been terribly allied.


BROWNSTEIN: So, you know, the big question has always been whether America first translates into America alone. And so far that is a direction in which it is trending. HARLOW: What is also surprising, guys, is that he gave this interview to "The New York Times," which he has many times called a failing publication. That he gave it to them and talked about so much other than the initiative of the White House this week, which is "Made in America Week." That is not the headline that his advisers -

BROWNSTEIN: Or health care.


HARLOW: Or health care.

BERG: And for a White House that has said it does not want to be talking about Russia, the president talked a lot about Russia in this interview.

HARLOW: Yes. That's an important point.

Thank you all very much, Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg, Salena Zito.

BERG: Thanks.

HARLOW: Up next, you see it on the side of your screen. Well, it was right there. Could O.J. Simpson soon walk a free man? In just a few hours, a parole board will decide just that. But if he is paroled, will he even be allowed to go home? Next.


[09:43:14] HARLOW: Today, O.J. Simpson finds out if he will walk free out of prison or face up to two more decades behind bars. Simpson is set to go before a parole board in just a few hours. He has been locked up for nine years after being convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Those charges, the ones that put him away, of course not his most notorious. Back in 1995, the former football player was infamously found not guilty after murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. That's a verdict that shocked the nation.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, and criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner.

Thank you both for being here.

And, Joey, everything I read, every headline is, this is a lock for him, that he is going to get paroled, that he hasn't made one misstep in prison in these nine years. What is it such a sure bet?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, let's talk about that.

Good morning, Poppy.

Good morning, Ann.

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning. JACKSON: You know, a lot of people, when they think of O.J. - well, I shouldn't say a lot. Everyone, right. They don't think that - necessarily about this particular robbery, they think about that other case we followed so much, right, Poppy?


JACKSON: That's the double murder. And he did it. And I'm sure he did it. And everyone has an opinion about it.

But this is about not that case. This is about what he did in Reno, right? And so the issues will turn on that particular case. And there are many who believe that everyone but the judge says, you know, nine to 33 years for trying to steal your own memorabilia is ridiculous and has a lot to do with payback.

And so you assess whether or not the punishment fit the crime, but then you assess how he acted in prison. What type of person is he or has he become? What has he done with his life? You look at his age. They do a risk assessment and what they do is they score you based upon your behavior, based upon what you're doing in jail, you know, and they evaluate you. And by all accounts, if you measure that, and if this board acts in good faith, remember it takes four of the seven, and four will be proceeding with this, it seems to be that O.J. Simpson will be a free man.

[09:45:12] HARLOW: All right, so here's what our legal analyst and esteemed at everything at the law, Jeffrey Toobin, writes in "The New Yorker." "The American legal system is not supposed to be a karma- based organism of retribution for unpunished bad deeds, but that's how it worked in Nevada. The Las Vegas case was a transparent attempt by the local authorities to issue payback for Simpson's acquittal in the 1994 murders."

Now, Anne, nothing can factor into the parole board's decision, noting other than his behavior these nine years in prison, right?

BREMNER: Right. And like Joey said, it's a numbers game. I've always said, three things in life are certain, death, taxes, and karma.

O.J. Simpson, you know, suffered for karma with this sentence because of the homicides and kind of payback, like Joey talked about and Jeff, but we can have that and we can't have it now. So, by the numbers, what are we going to hear today from him? I say he needs to be - be contrite and be seated. I mean, basically, he needs to say very little other than, I did it, I'm sorry, and then move on.

But I think he will get out. And we need to understand as a nation that we can't keep him there forever by virtue of something for which he was acquitted a long time ago.

HARLOW: This is how the justice system works.


PHH: Joey, even if he gets paroled, there's no guarantee that he's going to be able to leave Nevada. I mean he has said he doesn't want to step another foot in there. He wants to go home. He wants to go play golf. He wants to be in Florida. But that decision is going to be up to one person and one person alone, even if he wins parole today.

JACKSON: You know, I really do think, Poppy, that they'll work it out. And who amongst us would say, I want to still remain here after being here against my will for almost nine years? And so certainly you could see what his sentiments are.

But, you know, wherever you're on parole or, you know, wherever you're released and they evaluate whether they should release you, generally what they do is they impose conditions. And that means that if you're a good citizen, you do all you're expected to do, you have no police contact, you know, perhaps there's a curfew, or they have him in some type of program, do what you're told, remain under the radar, and I do believe that there will be a time that he will leave this fine state of Nevada, continue to live his life, and at age 70 perhaps live it a little bit more quietly than he has in the past.

HARLOW: Joey Jackson and Anne Bremner, thank you both very much.

BREMNER: Thanks.

HARLOW: We'll be watching, of course, today. 1:00 p.m. Eastern you'll see it live here.


[09:52:35] HARLOW: All right. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just telling our Manu Raju now that he will, if needed, subpoena both the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., and the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee next Wednesday. We know they have been invited to testify. We have not heard whether or not they will. And this is a threat from the Republican who leads that committee saying that he will subpoena them if necessary.

The ranking democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, also agreeing with him on that.

Meantime, President Trump leaving the White House any moment for a major meeting at the Pentagon. It's expected to cover a lot of issues, including the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and new intelligence that shows North Korea may be preparing for another potential intercontinental ballistic missile test and a report this morning in "The Washington Post" that in Syria the president has ordered the CIA to continue disarming anti-Assad rebels.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is with us.

A lot on the president's plate as he heads into this meeting with Secretary Mattis and others. What are you learning about what they'll talk about?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Ono the right-hand side of your screen a moment ago you saw the Pentagon steps. That is where the president will walk up and enter the building just a few moments from now. He'll make - just to give you a bit of the optics, he'll make a quick left turn in the hallway and go directly to the tank, the secure conference room in the Pentagon, and sit down with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the chairman of Joint Chief. The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has already arrived. The secretary of the treasury, Steve Mnuchin, is here. And we are told to expect one of the president's closest advisers, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also expected to attend this meeting.

So what is on the agenda? Well, this is not a meeting about planning a military operation. When that happens, they go to the president. He doesn't come here.

This is a bit of optics. This is the commander in chief coming to the Pentagon, we are told, to get the so-called walk around the world. They will discuss threats, where U.S. troops are located, how strategy is going. Everything from indeed North Korea to ISIS.

But what we don't expect at this point is any decisions to be announced. In fact, a number of things are still pending, including a new strategy for Afghanistan, whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, and a bit more about the way ahead in Syria and Iraq. The anti-ISIS strategy that the president has long promised. All those things still on the table.

[09:55:12] But you will see the optic of the commander in chief here, a commander in chief that has not yet gone to the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq as his predecessors have.


HARLOW: That's a very good point. Barbara Starr with that reporting from the Pentagon, where the president will be in just moments.

Thank you very much.

We are also just moments away from Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking for the first time. This is so critical because it is the first time that he will make public remarks after the president lashed out at him saying he wouldn't have even hired him had he known he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Will he respond? We're on it.