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Republican-Led Senate Intelligence Committee Agrees With The Conclusion Reached By The Intel Community That Vladimir Putin Meddled In The 2016 US Election In Order To Help Donald Trump Win, Our Three New Scandals Surrounding Scott Pruitt Sending Him Closer To The Exit. Aired: 6:00-6:30a ET
Aired July 4, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, HOST, NEW DAY: It is Wednesday, the fourth of July.
JOHN BERMAN, HOST, NEW DAY: Happy Birthday, America.
CAMEROTA: Happy birthday, America. You don't look a day over 225.
BERMAN: What do you get for the country that has everything?
CAMEROTA: Well, you dress, you emblazon the flag on your anchors' outfits, that's what we're doing for America.
BERMAN: Amazon gift cards are always a good gift also.
CAMEROTA: That's right also, but look at us, we are representing ...
BERMAN: Represent here ...
CAMEROTA: Stay on "New Day." So, here's some news. Here is our starting line. The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee agrees with the conclusion reached by the Intel Community that Vladimir Putin meddled in the 2016 US election in order to help Donald Trump win.
President Trump for whatever reason, has repeatedly rejected that finding. So it will make for an interesting one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin and the President 12 days from now. Meanwhile, the attorney for embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok tells CNN that his client may not comply with a subpoena from a house Committee for a second round of questioning next week.
Lawmakers they grilled Strzok for 11 hours last week about those anti- Trump text messages that he exchanged with a former FBI lawyer, while working on those Clinton e-mail and Russia collusion investigation.
BERMAN: And our three new scandals surrounding Scott Pruitt sending him closer to the exit. The first 12, 13, or 14 - not enough to cause the embattled EPA administrator his job, but now a senior administration official tells CNN, Pruitt is "inching forward to the tipping point." Maybe sliding forward to the tipping point would be more apt. Remember, there are reports that Pruitt sent his security detail out to buy special lotion.
CAMEROTA: A fine-smelling lotion ...
BERMAN: Sliding toward the exit, and now there is this, sources tell CNN Pruitt lobbied President Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with a guy named Scott Pruitt.
Also, major developments in Thailand, rescuers working to reach or to find or to get that soccer team out of that flooded cave in Northern Thailand. What are the options they now face and how long can those kids stay underground? We have it all covered for you. Let's stay with CNN's Abby Philip live at the White House, Abby?
ABBY PHILIP, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good morning, John and Happy Fourth of July to you. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a critically important and bipartisan report finding that Russia did intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. Now, this report comes just on the cusp of President Trump's one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin.
(START VIDEO TAPE)
PHILIP: The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee breaking with their counterparts in the House concluding that the intelligence community was correct in its assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him.
PHILIP: The Senate report calling the intelligence community's analysis a sound intelligence product whose conclusions were reached in a professional and transparent manner. Republican Committee Chairman, Richard Burr adding that their conclusions were well supported and the trade craft was strong. The highly politicized House Intelligence Committee chaired by Trump-ally Devin Nunes concluded the opposite earlier this year writing that they found significant intelligence tradecraft failings in the assessment of Putin's objectives.
RICHARD BURR, REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Their real object was protecting the President. It wasn't doing a credible investigation.
PHILIP: President Trump's entire national security team saying last year, they supported the intelligence community's report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment accurately characterized the extent of Russian activities in the 2016 election?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do, yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PHILIP: But the President himself has repeatedly refused to accept the findings of his own government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election to help you win the presidency. Your reaction?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.
PHILIP: Just last week, the President continued to cast doubt that Russia interfered in the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will tell you what President Putin said to me through the translator of course, she said, there was no meddling in the 2016 election by the Russian state.
PHILIP: Despite this, the White House insists President Trump will bring up this issue when he meets with Putin in their first official summit on July 16th.
TRUMP: We're going to talk about Ukraine. We're going to be talking about Syria. We'll be talking about elections and we don't want anybody tampering with elections.
PHILIP: A Republican Congressional delegation is currently in Moscow preparing for the summit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With election meddling, addressed in the meeting ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... concluding that we haven't settled anything. This is Day 1.
PHILIP: While this issue could not be more urgent, in February, the nation's intelligence chiefs said that Russia was expected to meddle in this upcoming election just a few months away from here, but now President Trump has not told them to take any direct action to stop that from happening.
PHILIP: Meanwhile, here at the White House, it is the Fourth of July, the President and the First Lady are planning on hosting military families for a picnic and a celebration on the South Lawn later this afternoon, Alisyn and John.
CAMEROTA: Okay. Abby, thank you very much. Let's discuss this. We want to bring in CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and CNN political analyst, David Gregory. Happy Fourth to both of you. Thank you so much for being here.
So, Charlie, I want to start with you because when you hear Abby's piece, it's so remarkable to hear it all in one place. I mean, now the Senate Intel Committee has, of course it agrees with the Intelligence Committee. There is evidence that Russia meddled and that Russia didn't want Hillary Clinton, their nemesis to win, and the idea that John Bolton and President Trump are taking the word of a Russian interpreter or Vladimir Putin over the Intel community? How do you make sense of this?
CHARLIE DENT, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, it simply defies logic. I mean, I sat through the classified briefing in January 2017 when the leaders of the Intelligence Community told us that the Russians meddled and that they were trying to harm Hillary Clinton's campaign and they preferred Donald Trump.
The Senate Intel report simply reinforces what the Intel Committee had - the Intelligence Community had told us. What's interesting though, I don't think the report did say though that the Russian meddling may have affected the outcome, at least in terms of manipulating voter tallies. I mean, so I can't understand why the President is so defiant in this regard.
I don't think - look, he just has got to deal with it, accept it. It's reality, he should be pushing back hard on the Russians for their meddling not only here, but throughout other European countries in terms of the meddling.
BERMAN: He's not, he hasn't, and he never has. And there's no reason to expect that he will and David Gregory, thanks so much for joining us. Great to see you here with this. This doesn't exactly cover the House Intelligence Community or Committee in glory, does it, David? I mean, the House Committee put out a report and said, really the bare minimum, yes, Russia meddled, but we don't see any evidence they did it to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
DAVID GREGORY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Right. I mean it is striking and it really - it undercuts our own government's efforts in Congress to see two vastly different interpretations of what's happened. The reality is, anybody who has been following this can see that the Senate effort and the Intelligence Committee has been a more serious, more professional and more bipartisan approach to getting to the bottom of what actually happened.
And I do think this is just a huge blind spot for President Trump who has refused to recognize that this is a real and growing threat to the country. Regardless of whether there was actual impact in the meddling, there was intent, there is a history of Russia doing this in Ukraine and there is of course a threat of Russia doing it again in the United States.
Any President has to look bigger than his own interests and think about the presidency itself, think about the integrity of our elections, and everything we've heard from the administration and President Trump said, "How many times can I keep asking Vladimir Putin if he did this when he says that he didn't," it's not a responsibility to just check a box when they're going to meet together and say, "Oh, I hope you didn't do this because we can't have this." There has to be an aggressive effort. And I think, the other thing that is striking to me is how much
support there is now for the Intelligence Community. If you look historically in places where you haven't not found it, a lot of critics of President Trump, a lot of progressives in America are really putting faith in the Intelligence Community in ways that they haven't in decades past, and a lot of supporters of the President simply don't agree that the Intelligence Community can be trusted. What has not varied is that those professionals who are Trump appointees have maintained their confidence in how this information was gathered and the conclusions that were drawn.
BERMAN: Yes, I mean, it is really the entire US government, this bipartisan committee, versus the Trump White House, but to David's point, it's just that he is blind - President Trump is blind to these results, it is that he is willfully blind. He is willing to take Vladimir Putin's word about election meddling, which has been demonstrably proven by our Intel Committee, but not for example President Obama's word about where he was born during the whole birth conspiracy theory.
This report from the bipartisan committee, which is the only bipartisan report we've seen to date because the House was a bit of a disgrace, says that President Putin personally ordered the interference, right? That that is unambiguous in advance of a meeting, a summit with Putin that the President is going to be conducting beginning a one-on-one meeting without other officials in.
This beyond troubling. It also establishes by the way that the so- called dossier did not impact the initial Intelligence Committee's findings. So, that accusation which is frequently repeated by the President trying to peg the entire assessment on the dossier is utterly ...
BERMAN: unfounded and that's as clear as day.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Charlie, in the halls of Congress, when you were there recently, behind the scenes, would you all talk about how the President's interests with Vladimir Putin, some would say infatuation with Vladimir Putin was bizarre?
DENT: It is beyond bizarre. I think many - I can say - speak for myself and I know some of my former colleagues shared my view that it is inexplicable, why the President of the United States would seem to be advancing what I would consider to be Russian interests in terms of his lack of support for NATO or his unfavorable comments about the European Union, I mean, saying things that - essentially that really suit Russian national interests. It makes absolutely no sense and with the respect to denying reality ...
CAMEROTA: Did anybody ever have a theory as like why he was doing that?
DENT: Oh, I guess, I think this is pure speculation, but maybe there is some financial entanglements and that probably speaks to the Mueller investigation that might be compromising. I mean, that's the only thing that I think some of my colleagues can really point to because it really makes no sense. Why would a President of the United States do anything to want to unravel the NATO, the greatest alliance in the history of mankind, that's the foundation of American national security policy or break up the EU, which is a 70-year peace project that I would argue has been wonderful for the world and for and for Europe, and the United States, it's inexplicable.
And by the way, I just want to say something, too about denying the reality of the Russian meddling. People around the country are not denying that reality. In fact, I serve on a commission in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburg on cyber security, election security, bipartisan and we're planning to protect ourselves from meddling in this coming election.
BERMAN: Good, glad you're doing it. We need more of that - go ahead, David.
GREGORY: And that's - I just think that - the important here is how all of this is framed. We are in a political discussion or a political debate that has been fanned by the President and his supporters to say, nobody should pay attention to this because it's a witch-hunt, which it's not and by framing it by saying that, "Oh, we'll the critics are just saying this was an explanation for why the Democrats lost." That's not what this is.
There is no evidence that this actually tilted the balance of the election, but that it happened is serious enough to frame it in a way which - to say, what are we going to do moving forward is different.
And to the point that Alisyn raised which I think is really important, the strange fascination that the President has with Putin is at the very least just arrogance, hubris and ignorance of what Russia is and has been just in the past 10 years ...
BERMAN: Four years.
GREGORY: And John Bolton as national security adviser - right, but I mean, as Ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration, knew about the invasion of Crimea and former soviet Republics and saw first-hand in the Bush administration how he proved untrustworthy to the West and moving away from the West.
BERMAN: Let me say one thing though, when we talk about the propaganda campaign that the White House has been doing on the Mueller investigation and the entire idea of Russian meddling, the Senate Intelligence Committee which everyone respects, everyone looks at as a bipartisan effort has this document they're very proud of. When did they release it? they released it like in the afternoon before the Fourth of July. Its seems to me, that perhaps they were trying to bury it a little bit.
CAMEROTA: But that's not the final report.
BERMAN: I know, but still, this is a thing - I mean, this is a thing, they could have released it Monday, they could have released it Friday, they could have released it next Monday or last Friday. It just seems to me that if they were truly have been proud of it and they wanted to maximize the impact of the release, they would not have done it yesterday afternoon. Something is fishy there.
GREGORY: Well, and we should also say that this is Chapter 2 out of an estimated five they are going to come up with, but the unclassified versions have been very thin. And I think that's significant given the urgency of this inquiry and the fact that it has, it's the only bipartisan agreement in town after the House Intel Committee put forward just a totally prophylactic document for the Trump administration.
CAMEROTA: All right, Charlie Dent, David Gregory, John Avlon (ph), thank you all very much for this conversation.
BERMAN: Here is some soft news coming up next. Soft, soft skin. We're talking about Scott Pruitt, right?
CAMEROTA: You can work a lotion reference into anything.
BERMAN: I will talk about lotion and moisturizer and Scott Pruitt.
CAMEROTA: All to live long day.
BERMAN: For the rest of his life and my life. I cannot believe the reports that he sent out a security detail to find moisturize, and that's only one of like 16 (inaudible) ...
CAMEROTA: Yes, that's the one that you fastened on. There are so many scandals. I mean, the phone booth, the private phone booth that they sent in his office ...
BERMAN: I don't want to think about that alongside the lotion, but look, I will say, it's happening. Scott Pruitt, we have information about his future, how much longer will he be in the government, stick around. Stick.
BERMAN: A list of ethical scandals facing embattled, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt continues to grow and a senior Trump administration official now tells CNN that the feeling is Pruitt is "inching forward to the tipping point."
CAMEROTA: That's my favorite. That is my favorite ...
BERMAN: Inching forward.
CAMEROTA: Hey, man slow down. Slow down. Let's wait until - this scroll of all of the ethical scandals get to be five pages, instead of the four ...
BERMAN: Twelve to thirteen scandals, that's not a worry, but 14 or 15, whoa ...
CAMEROTA: I think there's more than 12 or 13.
BERMAN: I don't know.
CAMEROTA: Look at this. We're not looping this. Look at all of this.
BERMAN: That's impressive. Scott Pruitt he has been busy in his time at the EPA. The question is, is this perhaps finally the straw that broke the very strong camel's back. Charlie Dent, David Gregory back with us right now. The marginal rate of scandal here to use an economic term, I'm not quite sure, Charlie, why number 15 is any different than number three or four, but there has to come a point where President Trump looks at this and says, "This may not be the type of thing I want during an election season."
DENT: Yes, I think he's certainly - Administrator Pruitt has taking on too much water, it's time that he go. Clearly - and by the way, and picking a fight with the Attorney General, I mean, I really hope Jeff Sessions hasn't learned about what Pruitt is trying to do to him because when you have this level of ethical impropriety or scandal lurking about, these issues can quickly become DOJ issues if you're not careful, so I don't know he thought it was a good idea to pick a fight with the Attorney General suggesting he wants to replace him, so I can't imagine he is going to be in this job much longer.
CAMEROTA: I'm not sure Scott Pruitt has a lot of self awareness or some compass that leads the requests that he makes. David Gregory, it is shocking. I mean, we obviously make light of it because it is so jaw dropping. The requests that he's made at taxpayer expense, the first class travel, all the demands that he has made, I mean, it's so imperial, it's just stunning and the idea that, look, his deputy okay, is a coal industry lobbyist, surely he could take over and dismantle the EPA as efficiently Scott Pruitt ...
BERMAN: Just as efficiently and with one type of scandal ...
CAMEROTA: How does he possibly still have a job, David Gregory?
GREGORY: The bottom line is what he has done at the EPA and that as someone who is carrying out a more conservative agenda about paring back what the EPA does is certainly in sync with conservative base of the Republican Party and the part of a base that President tends to very carefully on these issues. He's been strong enough, supported enough by industry that the President has been willing to withstand and whether the blows that have come his way.
When the President starts talking about it this way, inching towards the tipping point, when he says he's not happy about it, when he says those things out loud now, it's very difficult to see how Pruitt can survive this, but the President said it himself, it is only because in his view he has done such a good job at the EPA. Remember, this is - there are those who are - who take a very dim view of what Pruitt has done and there are those who are very supportive, who think that rolling back environmental regulations is good for the economy and it is an appropriate place for government to operate in terms of the environment. So, you have to recognize how strong that is, the President has and has been willing to overlook it.
And maybe Pruitt is somebody who has insulated himself to the point where he doesn't see what is so inappropriate about these questions that have been raised, but what is striking to Charlie's point, that he would then take that on and say, "Yes, we've got all of these problems, why don't you make me Attorney General just for a brief period, so that I can go back and run for governor of Oklahoma."
BERMAN: Don't punish me, yes, don't punish me, promote me.
GREGORY: Yes, and use the environment strong enough to overcome all.
BERMAN: Le me just read you the statement from Hogan Gidley, the Deputy Press Secretary here because this gets to David's point there about how they're kind of hedging their language. "The President feels that Scott Pruitt has done a really good job with deregulating government to allow for a thriving economy, that's important to him, but these things ..." and by these things, he means, what they're seeing ...
GREGORY: The lotion ...
CAMEROTA: I really think there's more. I'm going to count the score ...
BERMAN: "But these things matter to the President as well and he's looking into those. When we have an announcement, we'll make it. That is from Hogan Gidley. Hogan is not making personnel decisions, but Hogan is empowered to say things that are true and the things that are true there is that the President is obviously concerned about what's going on.
GREGORY: Yes, that don't buy any green bananas, but the conflict within the administration is this, Pruitt has done a great job showing great fidelity to industry. He's done what the industry wants, so these 14 active investigations against him, those seem to not be disqualified, or else they would be for any other Cabinet secretary and I'd just remind folks that Republican Richard Nixon created the EPA. Teddy Roosevelt had a Republican theory of conservation. This is not Republican. This is not conservative. This is serving an industry and putting up with an unprecedented amount of scandal and sleaze and John Berman, you might say slime, with the lotion.
BERMAN: I will say, I mean, I think he is right though. He doesn't need to be hinged, someone else can do this. I just don't think that the scandals are worth it politically. CAMEROTA: And so just to tell viewers what we're referring to is that
there is reporting, Kaitlan Collins that Scott Pruitt went to - because he knew that President Trump had fallen out of love with the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he had gone and said, "Make me the Attorney General and then I'll go back to Oklahoma," but I mean, obviously, the President, Charlie can just send him back to Oklahoma now. He doesn't need to actually wait for any particular grace period. If Scott Pruitt's goal is to go back a rich man to Oklahoma, he can do that today.
DENT: Yes, well, that's certainly true, but I think the other reason why Scott Pruitt may not have left is because I think there's a great deal of concern that his successor will never be confirmed by the Senate even though there are plenty of people who could certainly execute on the President's agenda as it relates to the EPA. In fact, the only thing I will say in defense of Scott Pruitt is that representing his state with a big coal industry, many of us felt that the coal industry was unfairly targeted by the previous administration through regulation to try to bankrupt them and shut down plants all over the country unfairly given the other issues in that industry.
So, that said, that doesn't justify though this type of behavior that we're reading about on a daily basis. It's in the best interest of the President that this have been stepped aside and that they put somebody else in there to execute on the agenda.
BERMAN: And David, you talk about hubris, I mean what kind of hubris must the public official have to walk into the President and say, "You fire the Attorney General, put me in. Here is my list of qualifications, which include 14 investigations - current investigations - into me right now."
GREGORY: Look, we have to go back to kind of the original theory of this administration. This is Donald Trump we're talking about, so it shouldn't be surprising that he would have a figure like Scott Pruitt working for him amid all of these questions and amid all of the scandal and say, "Look, I can weather this. The President can deal with a lot of stuff, he's not going to blink as long as I have the President's support. It really doesn't matter what other people say, and as long as I am protecting him, by doing the job that keeps conservatives really supportive of what this EPA is doing," that is a far cry from how it was founded under Nixon and the views of Teddy Roosevelt about the environment and this Republican Party and in this conservative movement about the role of regulation then he felt that he could weather it.
CAMEROTA: Okay, David Gregory, Charlie Dent, so great to get your perspective from inside the Halls of Congress. Thank you both very much. Happy Fourth of July. Okay, now, we need to talk about obviously our top story and that is what is happening underground with these boys and the challenges of rescuing them.
So, every hour, there are developments, and there are also some of different ideas about how to get them out, so we will go live to Thailand for you soon.