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Russia Trolling President Trump?; Trump Administration Leaks Escalate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 15:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Increasingly contentious as the subject of a deal that the Obama administration had made with Australia to take in these few hundred refugees that were living in Australia in detention centers came up.

The -- President Trump became increasingly agitated when he realized it was a deal he would have to make good on. He was saying: "I have had it. I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."

Now, we have to point out here, Brooke, that, in February, when details of this call got leaked saying that it was a little agitated between the two leaders, President Trump got on Twitter and said that it was the fake news that that was happening and that they had a very civil conversation.

But as you and I can see here, this clearly was not a civil conversation between these two leaders.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hmm. Kaitlan, the truth comes out in the transcript. Thank you very much at the White House.

Let's broaden this conversation out. We have got our correspondent in Mexico City, Leyla Santiago, standing by live. Also with us today, David Catanese, CNN politics writer for "U.S. News & World Report," and here in New York senior CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, who also hosts CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" on Sunday morning.

Welcome to all of you.

David Catanese, let's just begin with the portion of the conversation with Enrique Pena Nieto, where, to me, you know, the takeaway is that essentially President Trump is saying, you know, listen, listen, we're going to figure out what's going to pay, it's going to come out in the wash, but, really, Enrique, as he calls him, Enrique, you need to stop saying that you're not paying to the press.


And that part actually isn't that surprising to me, that Trump would go to another foreign leader and say, hey, stop ragging on me in the press, this is going to hurt me politically. I think the bigger reveal in all of that was that he said, hey, the wall actually isn't that big of a deal, isn't going to be the biggest thing in our relationship.

BALDWIN: It's psychological, was the word he used.

CATANESE: Yes, exactly, which is something he never talked about on the campaign trail. He doubled down on it.

But, to me, the broader picture on this is that this is really startling, that reporter that broke this -- the fact that this was leaked, I mean, the fact that the president can't have a private conversation with a foreign leader should be pretty startling to every American, whether you like Trump or whether you don't like him, because this -- I mean, the reporter that broke this, a very good reporter, is very well-sourced in the national security community.

So, to me, that infers that it was someone in the national security apparatus that was out there trying to undermine the president. Think of this scenario, Brooke. Think years down the road, President Trump is trying to broker peace in the Middle East, he's had conversations with both the Israeli leader and the Palestinian leader, and someone inside the administration wants to undermine that by releasing a conversation...

BALDWIN: I know. I know.

CATANESE: ... years before. I mean, this could have really serious implications, and that really is what startles me about the whole thing.

BALDWIN: On the leaks, Brian, let's just go to you on how this could have happened. And, I mean, listen, it proves the president's point. We heard this from Anthony Scaramucci. We have heard this from multiple people in the West Wing

And, listen, General Kelly has a big job to stop the leaks.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Every single day, there are stunning leaks that by any other standard would be lead stories on your program. Nowadays, there are so many of these leaks, today happens to be the transcripts that are lead-worthy, but there's half-a-dozen other things out there that are based on anonymous sources on any given day that represent in some cases betrayals of people's private conversations, in some cases, the leaking of classified information.

But to take the flip side argument here, why would someone leak a transcript like this?

BALDWIN: The motivation. Why?

STELTER: It could well be because they are concerned about the president's behavior, because they are trying to blow the whistle on what they think is troubling behavior from the White House.

It is clear that some people inside the government don't believe this president is competent and they are trying to warn the public. Now, they could be wrong about that. But it is clear from all of these leaks that there is a belief among some of these leakers that they are doing this almost as a public service to inform the country of what's going on. That's my takeaway from this daily drip, drip, drip.


STELTER: What's that?

CATANESE: Why don't they do it publicly and come out and say...

STELTER: You know why. You know why. You give anonymity to people because they're afraid of being fired or reprimanded, et cetera.


CATANESE: But how -- I'm sorry. I just think -- if there's that level of concern within the national security apparatus, someone should be saying something. It's their responsibility to say something publicly.


STELTER: I think a lot of people have said lots of things in ways that are tiptoeing around the edges.

I agree with you, to your broader point. But there's a lot of folks, including some people who have resigned and written op-eds, expressing concern at the State Department, inside other government agencies.

We know there's going to be this press conference tomorrow from Attorney General Jeff Sessions about a leak crackdown. Our colleague Jessica Schneider just reported that it's not going to be any big new announcement, apparently. It's just going to be a reminder from Sessions about the dangers of leaks.

And, yes, there are dangers from some leaks of classified government information, but let's recognize that some of these folks that seem to be leaking, they seem to be concerned about the government's, you know, functioning. They seem to be concerned about the president's functioning.


And they seem to be concerned about the president's functioning and they seem to be motivated by what they think is whistle-blowing.

BALDWIN: Sure, but in addition, let me jump in.

And, Leyla, I see you there in Venezuela. But the fact is, if you're a world leader and you're seeing the news that these transcripts of what should have been this private conversation, yes, we get readouts, but this private conversation, verbatim, was leaked, maybe that's in the back of your head next time you're on the phone with the White House.

So, Leyla, what kind of response, if anything, have you heard from the Mexican president and how is this playing in Mexico?


I have actually talked to sources within the president's office, the foreign minister's office, the economic minister's office, and they're actually all staying pretty quiet, saying no comment, no comment.

So, let's put this into perspective here. Why would they stay so quiet right now? Well, he timing is so delicate. We are just a few weeks away from NAFTA negotiations, a few weeks away from such a controversial free trade deal that could affect millions of jobs, not only in Mexico, but also in the United States.

So, right now, the Mexican government is trying to really be clear on what type of strategy they will have in response to this. But I will tell you what. This could play into President Pena Nieto's favor. I actually just got off the phone with a Mexican senator who, in the past, has been very critical of Pena Nieto, and he was saying, good for him. I'm glad he did not bow down to the pressure. He did not say -- and he didn't change his message and say, OK, we will pay for the wall.

All along, Pena Nieto has said, from January to now, has said Mexico will not pay for the wall. Now, he always follows that up saying this is a complex relationship and we're going to work together. Just about 15 hours ago in Japan, the foreign minister was talking about that very thing, saying we have a great collaborative relationship, we're going to move forward with a win-win deal on NAFTA.

So, right now, you're not really hearing much from the government. I suspect it has to do with the timing. I mean, this could change the tone on the negotiations with this free trade deal that is so controversial and it could impact people on both sides.

BALDWIN: No, you make a great point. And I'm also -- you know, that's the Mexican response and the NAFTA timing, but also, it made me think of "The Wizard of Oz" and how at the very end when Dorothy kind of peeks behind the curtain.

I say that because I'm thinking of just Trump supporters and how all along they believed that there would be a wall and Mexico would pay for it. And I'm wondering how this plays with them.

But, David, I do want to move on to the conversation with Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia. Again, just for people listening, this is early on in the presidency, these are diplomatic phone calls, hello, how are you, pleasantries, and that kind of thing.

And so when you get to the part where he tells the prime minister how unpleasant, towards the end of this call, he tells him how unpleasant this conversation is and, in fact, he tells him that it was more pleasant with Putin.

CATANESE: Yes. That doesn't really help the Russia narrative that the president is battling day in and day out, of course. It also doesn't help what you mentioned earlier was that he sort of

denied that there was any tension in the phone call, and now the whole thing's been released.

But I also think on the broader point, with the prime minister of Australia and the president of Mexico, they both come off looking very good. They come off looking strong, looking sympathetic to refugees. Trump is the one that looks disingenuous and weak.

And you know, to get back to the earlier point, if national security officials are doing this leaking and think this is going to change the president, he's just going to get more angry about this. So, I don't know if this is going to -- if this is the best way to change his behavior. I think overall, though, this was strategic to make the president look bad.

These other two foreign leaders, I think, look pretty good if you read through the whole thing.

STELTER: Yes, it plays into the narrative, especially in conservative media, that the deep state is out to take down this president. Whether there's evidence for that or not, it does play into that narrative.

BALDWIN: Don't you think, though, just quickly, Brian, that if this president wasn't Trump, but someone else that was maybe a Democrat, and these, you know, conversations leaked, I mean, Breitbart would be going after them.

STELTER: Listen, we have dealt with a lot of leaks of people's private conversations in the past year or so.

For weeks, this network and other networks and other news and journalists were all curious about the WikiLeaks e-mails from John Podesta of the Clinton campaign. Now I wonder what President Trump is thinking. He's seen his private conversations, things he thought were private, splashed on the front page of the papers.

BALDWIN: Yes. I wouldn't love it myself.

Leyla and David and Brian, thank you, guys, so very much.



Breaking news now, the sentencing of that Massachusetts woman who urged her boyfriend over text message to commit suicide. She is facing 20 years for involuntary manslaughter. We just got the judge's decision. We will have that for you next.

Also ahead, the Russian president -- actually, it's the Russian foreign minister trolling President Trump on Twitter, and President Trump blaming the bad relationship on Congress. We have a reaction from Moscow.


You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: We have breaking news. We have a verdict in the case of Michelle Carter. She is the young woman sitting right there in the white who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for pushing her boyfriend to commit suicide through the series of text messages.

The judge has ruled. This is what he said moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Carter, please stand.

Ms. Carter, a guilty finding having entered on the indictment charging you with the involuntary manslaughter of Conrad Roy III, now sentences you to two-and-a-half years in the Bristol County House of Correction; 15 months of said sentence shall be deemed a committed sentence, and the balance thereof shall be suspended until August 1 of 2022.

You will be on probation, administrative, until you are released from incarceration, supervised thereafter, and the date of probation commences today.


While you are on probation, there will be the usual conditions of probation, which include that you will obey all court orders and all local, state, and federal laws. You will report to your probation officer as that individual directs. You will allow the probation officer to visit in your home or school.


BALDWIN: All right, Brynn Gingras is here. Danny Cevallos is here.

Just first, Danny, to you on the legal piece of this, as we were talking, we were all talking a second ago, maximum was 20. They were asking for seven to 12. She got two-and-a-half, but really 15 months, which is way on the low end.


Among the options in this case, the judge could sentence her to an adult sentence, so she won't be going into the Department of Youth Services. She's going to House of Corrections.

But the two-and-a-half years, he split that up. He said 15 months of it, you will be committed. The remainder will be suspended, so she will be out. It's 15 months that she will actually be in. That suspended sentence is sort of like an obstacle course.

If she misbehaves or gets in trouble again, she will be back before that judge, somewhere she doesn't want to be. But she's looking at 15 months, which is well within the sentencing guidelines, and well within the powers of this judge when sentencing a youthful offender, as that term is used in Massachusetts.

BALDWIN: So for people who have not been following every twist and turn of this whole case, we say involuntary manslaughter, we talk about the text that she sent to push him to commit suicide, but really what happened?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, you talk about the stipulations that he just mentioned.


GINGRAS: Like, she cannot have any contact with his family in those stipulations. She cannot profit, as you were mentioning, from the family.

BALDWIN: The judge apparently went on and on and on about that.

GINGRAS: Exactly.

And that is a big thing that happened in this case, is that the whole reason, according to, you know, in this trial, was that she not only encouraged Conrad Roy to actually go forward with this suicide, but then she didn't do anything about it. And then the family has argued...

BALDWIN: What do you mean didn't do anything about it?

GINGRAS: Didn't call police, didn't call family members who she's had contact with, didn't show any remorse.

BALDWIN: When he took his life.

GINGRAS: When he took his life. And that was a big point for the family and the commonwealth in this case, and that she really didn't ask for help at all and actually almost kind of played the, oh, poor girlfriend sort of scenario, where she actually wanted to sort of people feel bad for her.

So that was a big thing and probably why the judge made that comment during the sentencing, is that you can not profit from this story.

BALDWIN: How has she been through any sort of -- you look at her face and just watch everything. And we know, of course, his family has been in there. Just talk us through the emotional toll this has taken on his family and how she's appeared throughout.

GINGRAS: Well, she certainly was very emotional throughout the trial. She was very emotional during this -- while the commonwealth and the defense were giving their recommendations. She was crying. She had a tissue up to her face.

It looks like it's taken a toll on her. However, again, a big thing here is that the family has said and even in those moments before the judge made a sentencing, you haven't apologized for it. You haven't said that you were really sorry about this. And that's something that's really eaten away at them and certainly that's something the judge took into consideration before making the sentencing.

BALDWIN: You want to jump in?

CEVALLOS: She has to be really careful about her elocution, her speaking to the court.

Yes, an apology might help on the sentencing end, but this is a case she's sure to appeal. It's really a case of first impression in many ways in the United States, because, maybe for the first time, we're holding someone responsible for involuntary manslaughter for not being there, for not being physically involved, for essentially telling him from a distance, go kill yourself.

So now we're going to see this in appeals, and that's a really dangerous thing to have your client get on the stand and admit responsibility, say I'm sorry to the sentencing judge. It's a bit of a catch-22 for any defendant.

BALDWIN: Is this -- that's an interesting point. Is this the first case of its kind where she is, from a distance, over a phone communicating to this person to kill himself?

CEVALLOS: This -- I mean, this is a case that we really haven't seen where, even in Massachusetts, holding someone responsible for encouraging someone to kill themselves, it's been upheld, but only when the person is actually in the same room.

BALDWIN: Right, physically there.

CEVALLOS: Yes, physically there. They may not be touching anything, but they're saying -- and I'm really quoting from one of the cases -- load that shotgun. I dare you to do it. They're in the room telling them to do it. Here's how you hold the shotgun to do it, basically instructing them in the same room.

This judge has taken that a step further and said, you don't have to physically be in the room. You can be from far away and encourage someone to kill themselves.

We also saw it in Minnesota, where somebody was accused and convicted of encouraging suicide across the ocean in some cases. So, this is a new era. It's definitely an appealable issue, and something that this defendant will certainly be taking up with the court of appeals.

BALDWIN: OK. She is 20-year-old Michelle Carter, again, two-and-a- half year sentence, 15 months to be served in prison and the balance remaining supervised probation.


Brynn and Danny, thank you both so much for that.

Coming up next, the Russian government effectively trolling President Trump on Twitter, saying the Trump administration has shown weakness and was outwitted by the establishment by passing that Russia sanctions bill. President Trump, he's responding. We will discuss the future of Russia-U.S. relations next.


BALDWIN: So, when the president signs a bill, it's a big deal. There's normally a lot of cameras, there's a lot of praise.

But President Trump here has instead slammed, again, this first major bill he signed into law. This is a set of new sanctions against Russia, actually also North Korea and Iran.


But focusing on Russia here, this is in retaliation to the 2016 Kremlin election meddling designed to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Trump tweeted this: "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us health care."

Now, the sanctions were answered with a stinging rebuke by the prime minister in Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, number two only to Putin, who warned that Congress sees Trump as a -- quoting him -- "an incompetent player who must be liquidated," writing this: "The Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence in the most humiliating manner, transferring executive powers to Congress. The American establishment completely outplayed Trump."

Matthew Chance is our senior international correspondent there, standing by in Moscow, and David Andelman is editor emeritus for "The World Policy Journal" and opinion writer.

So, let's go to Russia first.

And, Matthew to you, tell me more about the post from Medvedev and why -- why -- I mean, is this the first time that we have heard a specific attack on the president from Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I was just thinking that to myself. I think it is. I think it's certainly the strongest attack that we have seen from anyone in Russia on President Donald Trump.

It's unprecedented. They have attacked his political opponents in the past, but this is almost designed, this -- these sound bites from Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, designed to irritate the U.S. president, I mean, saying that he'd been demonstrated as being impotent, it was humiliating, the American establishment completely outplayed Trump, he's been put in his place.

This is exactly the kind of stuff that Donald Trump is going to be -- you know, he's going to be furious about, and I'm surprised, shocked that he hasn't tweeted about this already in response. He's been sort of deafening in his silence. I think, from a Moscow perspective, what it does show very clearly is

that the Russians, despite what they hoped for in the past, have very clearly moved on from this idea that Donald Trump is this messiah-type figure who's going to transform the relationship between Moscow and Washington.

And, instead, they seem to have drawn a line under that and gone, you know what, this is not going to happen under Trump or anyone else at the moment, and so why not kind of unleash on him?

And that's the takeaway I get from it anyway.

BALDWIN: This first unleashing is fascinating, fascinating to me.

And, David, you know, Matthew brings up the point, the silence is deafening, although we showed the tweet from the president, saying, you know -- let me just be precise -- saying that, you know, the relationship with Congress is at this low -- relationship with Russia, rather, is at this low, but he doesn't say Putin by name.

He has still never tweeted about, you know, Putin expelling 755 American diplomats from Russia. How do you square that?

DAVID ANDELMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's pretty hard to square, and particularly since apparently Russia has moved on from a relationship that it really devoutly wanted with a Trump administration, with the United States.

BALDWIN: Six months, done?

ANDELMAN: Well, it seems to me it's pretty much done.

Remember, there's now this pivot to China. I wrote about this just the other day on

BALDWIN: You mean with regard to U.S.?

ANDELMAN: I'm sorry. No, no, he's moved on from relations with U.S. to a relationship with China.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

ANDELMAN: So, Putin and China are now really coming together in a way that should be very frightening to Donald Trump and the Americans.

BALDWIN: But hang on, because he's still heaping -- the president is still not criticizing Putin.

ANDELMAN: No, no, he's not, but he's still probably harbors these hopes, you know, at some point, things can get much better, they can have this relationship, they think alike, they're great buddies and so on.


BALDWIN: But he's such counterpuncher, David. ANDELMAN: Oh, of course he is. He is a counterpuncher.

But he has to understand that all of these different parts go together. And he doesn't seem to get the fact that there are so many moving parts in world affairs that don't necessarily mesh right now. And this is one of the things that really does not mesh right now, is Putin and Trump getting together.

BALDWIN: So, when we were just talking earlier, your point about China, because, yes, he is focusing on China, and, yes, there was the chocolate cake and that, well, China tried bit, and now it's, hey, China, you need to be a little tougher on North Korea.

What was your point?

ANDELMAN: Well, my whole point is that all of these go together. You have to have a world view. He doesn't seem to understand that the best way to North Korea is through China. And you have to be nice to China in order to do that.

Perhaps, indeed, if there was some way of getting Russia on board as well, you could have Russia and China being nice to Korea. Remember, Korea -- North Korea shares a border with both China and Russia. So, all of these countries have all come together in some horrendous, horrific stew pot, which the United States is now on the outside trying to figure out how we're going to get in somehow.

And Donald Trump seems to have no idea how all these things will come together.

BALDWIN: Matthew, I still -- I come back to you just on the point of, still President Trump over here is not taking Putin to task for the 755 American diplomats that he's expelling because of this sanctions bill, and it was Putin earlier this week that didn't blame President Trump. He blamed Congress.

Do you think there's any love lost between these two, or is the relationship donezo?

CHANCE: Well, you know, it's difficult to say, but, I mean, I think you're probably right --