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Jeh Johnson On Russia Meddling In 2016 Election And Immigration Reform; Trump's Remarkable Break With Jeff Sessions;Senator John McCain Diagnosed With Brain Cancer; Trump Talks About Second Undisclosed Meeting With Putin. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, PARTNER, PAUL, WEISS, LITIGATION DEPARTMENT: I'm sure of that. I've known him for a long time and he's the right man for this job.

And it's difficult, obviously, for the president to have to endure this investigation day-to-day where various people close to him are being questioned but we've just got to get this behind us. It's not going away and whether it's Bob Mueller or some other special investigator, it's not going away.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, one of the reasons that I was so emphatic in trying to get you to come on the show -- and you're always welcome, you know. We want our best minds on the issues that matter to come to people, so you're always welcome here on NEW DAY.

But specifically to this, you know what is knowable about the Russian meddling and the interference.

We know that "Time" magazine is now reporting that the administration had a 12- or 15-page document about what should have been done in response. How much of it was carried out. There's a lot of criticism about the administration about not doing enough.

What do people need to know about what Russia did and what needs to be addressed?

JOHNSON: Well first, we made public on October 7th what we knew at the time about what the Russians were doing. Jim Clapper and I issued a public statement declassifying the intelligence and informing the American public before the election what we knew what was happening.

We knew what was happening. We felt had to do that. Any tough national security decision, somebody's going to say why did you do that, and then others are going to say what didn't you do it soon enough.

Now, after that statement -- after the steps we took on January 6th after I designated election infrastructure to be critical infrastructure in this country --

CUOMO: What does that mean? JOHNSON: It means that election infrastructure should be among the most vital infrastructure we have in this country and the Department of Homeland Security and other aspects of the U.S. government should prioritize giving them assistance. Now it's up to the current administration to follow through on that.

As we speak, I'm worried that our election infrastructure is as vulnerable now as it was six months ago. We're very preoccupied with the usual Washington inquiries about who knew what when and what did you know when you knew it. And we're still -- we still have a vulnerable, critical infrastructure -- election infrastructure system that needs to be hardened.

And so, my hope is that our president and our Congress do the things that are necessary to harden the cybersecurity around our election infrastructure.

CUOMO: So there are real issues there that need to be addressed. There is vulnerability going forward and it remains in place until we see further action. So we'll come back to you when we know what this administration is going to do and you tell us if it's adequate.

Another issue that Homeland Security centers on is immigration. That debate has been put on the back burner by other things but it's going to come back. And when it does, what is of paramount importance, in your mind?

JOHNSON: I believe that we have to enforce our immigration laws consistent with our values and consistent with humanity.

When I was in office and I had the responsibility to enforce our immigration laws we arrested and deported lots of people including, frankly, a lot of desperate men, women, and children from Central America. And I spent hours with these people, a lot of women and children.

And at the end of the day, when you enforce immigration laws you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, look your own family in the eye, recall the women and children who are desperate, to say I did my best to enforce the law consistent with our priorities and consistent with our values. And I hope that the current administration does not lose sight of that.

Think about the next meeting you're going to have with the next Catholic bishop or priest who's going to implore you to do the right thing. And that's what we're about in this country. We've got to protect our borders, we've got to enforce the law, but we've got to do it in a humane way.

Illegal migration on our southern border has gone down since this president has been in office, basically because through his rhetoric he's scared off a lot of women and children in Central America who'd rather stay in their desperate circumstances or just migrate to Mexico and stop there. But these are really desperate women and children -- women with babies in their arms who are trying to flee the poverty and violence in the countries they left. And so we've got to enforce the law but we've got to do it in a humane

manner consistent with our priorities. Our priorities in the prior administration were public safety. So I told our immigration enforcement personnel to go after the really bad guys, go after the convicted felons. And they did that -- they were doing that. And so an increasing percentage of those we arrested and detained were convicted felons.

And that's where I think the focus needs to be with the resources we have in immigration enforcement.

[07:35:05] CUOMO: Well, we've heard a lot about that in terms of sanctuary cities. What it will mean and how it will manifest an overall policy remains to be seen.

But, Jeh Johnson, you're a great mind.

JOHNSON: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: Thank you very much -- good discussion. We look forward to having you back on NEW DAY.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CUOMO: -- Alisyn.


President Trump making a lot of news in a "New York Times" interview out this morning. The president breaking with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job he recuses himself.


TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.


CAMEROTA: All right. Here to discuss that and more, we have CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. Good morning, David.


CAMEROTA: So -- I mean, the president -- we had heard this reported before by Maggie Haberman but we've never heard it out of the president's mouth, just how much he has soured on Attorney General Sessions and how somehow he thinks that Attorney General Sessions should have known before he ever took the job that he might someday recuse himself.

AXELROD: You know, Alisyn, most presidents would mark the six-month anniversary of taking office by looking back at their accomplishments over the last six months.

The president, instead, called reporters in to issue a series of grievances and the first and most notable grievance was his own attorney general -- his own appointee. It was really remarkable. We haven't seen anything like this since Watergate.

We have a president essentially at war with his Justice Department. He not only dissed Sessions, who did the right thing by recusing himself to protect the integrity of the Justice Department, but also, Rosenstein, his deputy, who he suggested was not objective because he came from Baltimore and there aren't a lot of Republicans in Baltimore.

Well, you know what? There aren't a lot of -- there aren't a lot of Republicans in Manhattan either, which is where the president comes from, so it was a crazy kind of suggestion.

And then, of course, going after Comey and Mueller.

I remember when Mueller was appointed a few months ago -- and so do you -- and Republicans and Democrats hailed that appointment because they said he was a man of impeccable integrity. So here you have the President of the United States essentially questioning the integrity of his own Justice Department and, by extension, the justice system.

And this is what's so concerning about the president because he seems to have no regard for the institutions of our democracy and the independence of those institutions. He thinks they should all be subjugated to his needs, his ego.

And, you know, we're not a nation of men, we're a nation of laws. That's one of the strengths of this country. He doesn't seem to grasp that.

CUOMO: You know, we just had Jeh Johnson on. I don't know if you were able to hear it. Certainly, a far better mind than mine.

He sees the situation with Sessions differently than I did. I thought it was about the testimony and then Sessions had to recuse himself after what he said in botching those answers in testimony.

Jeh Johnson says no. That Sessions was always going to recuse himself. That the president knew that and should have known that as a member of his campaign if that came up he would have to recuse himself. He'd have no choice.

So he puts it on the president and says this isn't about Jeff Sessions doing you wrong. This is about you doing yourself wrong by picking somebody who you knew had contacts to the campaign and you knew there was an ongoing investigation that would touch the campaign. And the suggestion is if you put someone in to stymie the investigation, you put in the wrong guy. AXELROD: Yes, but the fact is that the president doesn't think in those terms and we know that. He doesn't think any of these things matter. This is a guy who has spent a lifetime essentially flouting laws, norms, pushing laws to the limit.

I don't think he believes that the attorney general that he appointed should be doing anything other than serving him and his interests. And so I'm not even sure he went through that thought process. I think Jeh is imposing a kind of rational construct on what doesn't really reflect the way the president thinks.

CAMEROTA: David, I want to switch gears entirely because, of course, you know and have worked with Sen. John McCain when you were in the White House.


CAMEROTA: And this is bad news. This is a very sobering diagnosis of this --

AXELROD: Devastating.

CAMEROTA: -- brain cancer.

All of us know of John McCain's spirit and his history of being a fighter. What are your thoughts on the senator this morning?

AXELROD: Well look, I ran a campaign against John McCain in 2008 and yet I never stopped respecting him.

[07:40:00] And I did one of my "AXE FILES" T.V. shows a few months ago with him on CNN and just to hear him talk about his experiences in that Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war and what he endured. You know, the fact that he refused to be released ahead of the people who were imprisoned with him, and so on, and just endured the torture instead.

You know, he is an American hero and he is also one of the last of a breed. He's one -- he's a giant in the Senate. A real strong personality willing to work across party lines. Willing to take political risks on issues like immigration and climate change and others that didn't endear him to his -- hasn't endeared him to his base.

And so this is really such sad news and we -- you know, everybody is relying on that same fighting spirit that allowed him to survive all those years in prison. But it's a tough -- it's a tough fight ahead of him and we're all thinking of him and his family and all those folks who love him. And it is a -- it's just devastating news.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and he's so funny. I mean, obviously, we all know that he's a great storyteller. He would always tell jokes on the campaign trail, sometimes the same joke over and over and it was still funny because he just -- he has such as a personality.

CUOMO: He is, but --

AXELROD: He's got a wonderful spirit.

CUOMO: And, Axe is pointing to the right feature of him. Yes, he's 80 years old. Yes, he's got a tough battle in front of him. This is not a normal 80-year-old man --


CUOMO: -- and he very much wants to be here.


CUOMO: He's got a lot of work left to do and his family needs him and he knows that. So we wish him well.

And, Axe, thank you for the perspective on this and everything that matters.

AXELROD: All right, guys.


AXELROD: Have a good day.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

CUOMO: All right. So we have an update for you on this story out of Minnesota. The bride-to-be who called 911 and then wound up getting shot and killed by police officer.

She called 911 twice. Why the second call? We'll explain, next.


[07:45:37] CAMEROTA: A couple of important headlines for you.

U.S. Intelligence indicates North Korea may be forging ahead with another missile test. Two administration officials tell CNN that an intercontinental ballistic missile or intermediate range missile could happen -- launch -- could happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Time is running out for North Korea to agree to military talks floated by South Korea, proposed for tomorrow at the demilitarized zone.

CUOMO: Officials releasing the 911 transcripts from the calls made by a bride-to-be who was shot and killed by police just moments after reporting a possible crime.

The transcripts show that the bride-to-be called for help twice, OK? So, why were there two calls?

The first was to report a possible rape which she thought was going on behind her home. Then, eight minutes later she called asking when officers would arrive.

Two officers got to the scene just minutes later. According to one of those officers the police officer who fired, Mohamed Noor, was startled by a loud sound in an alley and wound up shooting the victim right after.

Now, her family is saying they want the investigation to come to a conclusion as soon as possible, obviously, because they want to take her body home to Australia and get closure.

But why does this second call matter? It matters because at a minimum, it shows that in that period of delay her concern may well have heightened and caused her take an action to go outside to look for herself to see if the police were there and in so doing it may have created conditions -- I'm not saying in terms of obviously, it's not her fault to get shot.

But we now know a little bit more about how she came into the field of vision of the police officer on this situation. Now, how he responded, what he perceived, where he was, all remains unknown.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I think that as we get more information about this it only gets cloudier. The questions about why he would fire that shot certainly have not been addressed yet.

CUOMO: That remains the question. What was it about her and in those circumstances that made him think that was reasonable?

CAMEROTA: All right.

Meanwhile, a heat wave is gripping much of the East Coast as a line of strong storms tear through the Midwest.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. How's it looking, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It looks hot. It's going to feel like 99 in New York City today.

Storms are rolling through Chicago right now. Over 300 flights were delayed yesterday. I suspect you're not going to get out of Chicago on time this morning.

But here's the heat wave right through the central part of the country, right into the northern part of the country. Philadelphia, you're going to feel like 105 today -- somewhere in that ballpark.

It is the day that you cannot let pets or kids in cars at all anywhere across the country. It will be 107-108 in Kansas City for that feels- like temperature. It will be hot all across the Midwest.

Chris, when you were a kid they used to say -- write on your notebook or your yearbook, stay cool. I thought it meant that I was already cool and I should stay a cool guy. What it really meant was just -- really, it was a temperature thing. Stay cool today.

CUOMO: Well, I don't know about that Chad Everett. You are cool. Everybody knows it. But that map looks hot, that's for sure.


CUOMO: All right. Thank you, my friend. Keep us --

MYERS: You bet.

CUOMO: -- fully informed.

So, President Trump downplaying his second meeting with Vladimir Putin. He called it little more than brief pleasantries -- just a few minutes, maybe 15. But was it more than that, not just in terms of duration but in terms of importance?

We'll tell you the different factors, next.


[07:53:00] CAMEROTA: President Trump opens up to "The New York Times" about his second undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin. Well, the second one was undisclosed for 10 days.

What do world leaders think of the two men's relationship and President Trump's leadership?

Joining us now is the head of Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass. Mr. Haass and his new book are featured in a new VICE special report, "A World in Disarray." It premieres tomorrow at 10:00 on HBO.

Richard, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: I know that you've read with great interest this long, wide-ranging interview that the president just gave to "The New York Times."

He speaks about domestic things, he speaks about international things. What jumped out at you?

HAASS: He speaks about Napoleon, and the role of cold weather, and European history.

CAMEROTA: He touched on a lot of things.

HAASS: It's actually -- if you read it separately it's almost like a screenplay or the text of a Broadway play. It is one of the most rambling -- you almost sense that the president finds that it's easier to talk to journalists than he does for anybody who works for him.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that he did is he added a little bit more meat on the bone of what happened with Vladimir Putin.

So there was this meeting -- a second meeting that we didn't know about -- we in the public or the press -- at a dinner that Angela Merkel held and President Trump went over and approached Vladimir Putin and he says that the two men spoke for 15 minutes. People -- other reports in the room was that it was closer to an hour.

Here's what he says.

"I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes.

Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting. We talked about adoption."

Just -- your take on that?

HAASS: An awful lot about adoption at this White House. One wonders at times whether adoption has become the new euphemism for --

Look, you know, I worked at the White House for President Bush, the father. Fifteen minutes, half an hour, that's not a pull-aside, that's a meeting. And usually, niceties and pleasantries go on for 30 seconds, 45 seconds to a minute.

[07:55:00] But the idea that the president would have an extended conversation with any world leader, but particularly Vladimir Putin, given all that's gone on in Ukraine, Syria, the cyberattacks on us, it shouldn't happen that way.

It should be planned. There should be notetakers there. There should be staff there for follow-up and so forth. It's too important to leave to that kind of freelancing.

CAMEROTA: So how do you explain their relationship?

HAASS: I can't and I think that's one of the mysteries. Look, for more than two years now Mr. Trump, as candidate and now as president, has had what I would call relatively benign or sanguine view of Russia's role in the world. The reality is Russia's a spoiler.

I think Mr. Putin gets up every morning essentially looking to oppose us, to counter us. So I can't geopolitically, you know, given my business in the foreign policy business -- I can't explain why an American president would stake out such a positive, relaxed view about what Russia is up to in the world.

CAMEROTA: The Kremlin just put out a statement. Their spokesperson says about this meeting, "Yes, I can confirm this topic was discussed. I can't say anything else."

I assume he's talking about adoption?

HAASS: Supposedly, and that's not exactly going to reassure people. And you don't want to rely on Russian translators, Russian readouts. Again, it's one of the reasons -- you know, in the earlier meeting you wanted to have NSC staffers.

And I think it also raises real questions about how the administration is conducting its foreign policy. Who's in meetings, how the meetings are being prepared, how there's follow-up, so it's just unsettling.

Again, it would be one thing if it were George Bush, the father -- even Richard Nixon. But the fact that this is all taking place against the backdrop of the campaign and all the unanswered questions, that's why people are so unsettled.

CAMEROTA: How do define American leadership in the world right now? I know that you think that the -- there's a void of leadership but how are you seeing that play out?

HAASS: I think the president's raised major questions about it because leadership, in large part, depends upon predictability. On reliability of allies who basically have staked their security on what it is the United States is going to do for them. They can't have questions about it.

Deterrence is based, again, upon the likelihood that we're going to do certain things if other things were to happen.

Mr. Trump has a whole approach which is fundamentally different. He wants to challenge. He wants to question all these things.

He wants people to be off-guard. He wants to destabilize many things rather than preserve them. So I actually think he's, in some ways, the greatest outlier when it comes to American foreign policy of any American president since Harry Truman.

This is a big deal. This is someone who's basically departed from the main themes and main lines of American foreign policy, from free trade to support for allies, opposition to Russia. It's the greatest departure since Harry Truman.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the VICE special that you are featured in coming up on HBO tomorrow night, "A World in Disarray," based upon your book. So let's watch a clip of this.

HAASS: Great.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: World order has been upended. Weak states threaten global stability as easily as strong ones. And America's role in determining the future is far from certain.


CAMEROTA: OK. You say -- I mean, that's basically the premise. The world order has been upended.

What causes you to stay awake at night? What's your biggest concern?

HAASS: Well, just that. There's no alternative to the United States. The world doesn't organize itself by itself and there's no one who's willing and able to step into our shoes in a stabilizing, reassuring way.

And at the end of the day, if things go bad out there they're not going to stay out there. We can't build a giant moat around the United States. If things go bad out there in terms of security or the economy they're going to find their ways here.

We are going to pay an enormous price for what I call a world in disarray, and I think that's the direction we're heading in. If you're not worried about the direction of history you ought to be.

CAMEROTA: And I know that in your book you do have some prescriptions for all of that.

So again, people can watch this special. It debuts on HBO Friday, 10:00 p.m.

Richard Haass, great to have you here.

HAASS: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for coming in.

We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself. He should have told me and I would have picked somebody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people would quit their job if their boss did this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who believes that everybody is out to get him.

TRUMP: I said hello to Putin. We talked about adoption.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It seems a bit hard to believe that that was really the topic of conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is obsessed with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a battle between an outsider and a whole city full of insiders.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That operation that he had on Friday revealed that he has an aggressive type of brain cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is nobody who is the kind of fighter that John McCain is.

GRAHAM: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 20th, 8:00 in the East. And we begin with "The New York Times" extraordinary interview with President Donald Trump. You really get a sense of where his head on the issues that matter. The cloud of Russia clearly weighing on his mind at this six-month mark of the presidency.

The president doing something that we have not heard in recent history. He throws his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, under the bus saying if he had known that Sessions was going to recuse himself, which he should have known, he wouldn't have picked him.