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The House Has It Wrong, The Republican-Led Senate Intelligence Committee, What It Says Is That The Intelligence Community Was Right, That Vladimir Putin Directed Russia To Meddle In The 2016 US Election To Help Donald Trump Win, Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Now Facing More Than A Dozen Ethics Investigations That Goes Along With Countless Scandals Since He Took Office .Aired: 7:00-7:30a ET
Aired July 4, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this man, I think we would be putting a bigger swamp creature in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Authorities here are seriously looking at putting a full face oxygen masks on these boys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is murky water, hard to see things and heavy currents, there are many cramped passage ways. The monsoon season has only just started. They could be stuck in there for four months.
JOHN BERMAN, HOST, NEW DAY: Good morning. Welcome to this very special holiday edition of "New Day," do you feel special this morning?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, HOST, NEW DAY: I do. It does feel like a holiday, we are having some levity here, some holiday levity here.
BERMAN: Is it what it is? Is that what it is? Two hundred and forty two years old, America, happy birthday, America. John Avlon here with us to celebrate as well.
JOHN AVLON, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So, the President has it wrong. The House has it wrong, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, what it says is that the Intelligence Community was right, that Vladimir Putin directed Russia to meddle in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump win. The President for whatever reason has repeatedly rejected that finding, so this one make for a very interesting one-on-one when President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in just about two weeks.
CAMEROTA: Okay, also this morning, another installment of as the stomach turns, a growing scandal engulfing EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. Are they - this one? Is the latest one? Sending him closer to the exit door? A senior administration official says Pruitt is "inching forward toward the tipping point." Wow, slow down everybody. There is also this. Sources tell CNN that Pruitt personally lobbied President Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with Scott Pruitt. We have all of this covered for you, so let's begin with CNN's Abby Philip, she is live at the White House. Happy Fourth of July to you, Abby. What's the latest there?
ABBY PHILIP, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Happy Fourth to you, as well, Alysin. The Senate Intelligence Committee just released a critically important and bipartisan report bolstering the Intelligence Community's assessment that Russia did in fact meddle 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 that will be in Helsinki in just a few days.
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: Now this report isn't just a look back. There are urgent issues at hand. Back in February, the nation's intelligence chiefs did warn that Russia was planning on meddling in the upcoming midterm elections just four months away, but President Trump hasn't directed them to take any concrete actions to stop that from happening.
Meanwhile, here at the White House, it is the Fourth of July, the President and the First Lady will be on the South Lawn with military families to celebrate the nation's birthday, Alisyn and John.
BERMAN: All right, Abby Philip at the White House. Happy Birthday, America.
CAMEROTA: I'm accepting birthday greetings for America. Thank you very much.
BERMAN: Where is America registered?
AVLON: Where's the registry for gifts?
BERMAN: I'll tell you the address where you can send any gift.
BERMAN: All right, let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor- at-large, Chris Cillizza and CNN political analyst, David Gregory. And Chris it was interesting what Abby just said there at the end was perhaps the most important thing to remember. This is not just a look back, it is also positioning for how to go forward into the 2018 election. Now you have the Senate Intelligence Committee confirming what the Intelligence Committee has said for well over a year that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. It is important to admit that and believe that so that you can address the problems going forward.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: That's exactly right. Look, at this point, you just have a handful of House Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who say anything other than what we know to be the case, which is yes, Russia meddled, yes they did so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. In my mind, that is settled fact. So now we need to look forward, it is 125 days between and the November 6, 2018 election. That's a not long time. Mark Warner, Ranking Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee tweeted out last night, the Russians will target the 2018 election in advance of the 2020 election.
The Intelligence Community has said that time and again, this is not a one-time deal. They view 2016 as a huge success - Russia that is - and they will continue to stir up trouble in 2018 and 2020. The problem here is that the one person who really doesn't believe everything that I've just said is also the most powerful person in the country and the guy who is in position to say we need to devote resource to it, and as Abby just said, Donald Trump has not done so. That should worry all of us.
CAMEROTA: And in fact, David, in that committee - Senate Committee hearing where the chief intel - the intel chiefs all appeared, including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, he tried to sound the alarm in no uncertain terms, so let's remind people of this.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views that 2018 US midterms elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations. We need to inform the American public that this is real, that this is going to happen, and the resilience needed for us to stand up and say, "We're not going to allow some Russian to tell us how to vote, how we ought to run our country," and I think there needs to be a national cry for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I mean, he couldn't be any more plainspoken there.
DAVID GREGORY, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: And what's striking to me is that if you're the President who wants to marginalize the Mueller investigation, as he clearly does because he thinks that it's way off the mark, and that there is nothing to see there, he ought to acknowledge what the Russians were up to. He can make clear that there is no evidence that says that our points to a tipping of the result, but the intent that his own intelligence chief is talking about there for them to keep moving in this direction, to keep undermining our elections is a significant threat to the country, and he ought to be on the forefront of saying, "We will never allow this to happen." Which means that the agenda of a conversation between him and Vladimir
Putin can't just be checking the box, it has to be a really tough conversation, and there has to be something behind it. There has to be a slate of options to be looked at here that are punitive against the Russians to make it very clear they won't do this again or they can ramp it up and it could affect Republicans next time.
That's why you have to be bigger than the office if you're Donald Trump in this case, but it's also congressional leaders, right? They've got to step up. The Senate Intelligence Committee because so much of this is looking backward. They've validated what our Intelligence Community said, but what are you going to do to stop it the next time?
AVLON: Well, look, to an extent, there had been members of Congress that have abdicated here and the House Intelligence Committee is largely abdicated here. There are a bunch of senators in Moscow right now and it is hard to see exactly what they're doing. We just heard Richard Shelby say, "Yes, you know, it came up," John Kennedy was there and said, "I told them not to meddle." Hopefully, there is more of that. And John, this isn't just a distraction.
President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in two weeks. He has a chance to bring this up and he has previewed this meeting by sending out a statement to around the world, Russia continues to say it didn't meddle.
BERMAN: Yes, I mean, he previews the meeting by saying, "We're accepting Russia at its word." On Crimea, the official position is, "It was really Obama's fault and we'll agree to disagree when it comes to Ukraine." This is acquiescence. What David Gregory just laid out is what a President should do, but this falls under what color is the sky in your world, because that's not what the President is doing. He has shown a resistance to being tough with Russia when it comes to accountability for election meddling, and the reason this bipartisan report from the Senate Intel Committee is important is it is a definitively bipartisan document that says definitively, "Here is what happened. President Putin personally ordered this. The dossier had nothing to do with it ..."
BERMAN: "... they intervened on the President's behalf and we need to learn from it going forward," because we also know from their first report that 21 states had their voter databases broken into, so that's a significant warning shot for what Dan Coats spoke about, but will the President lead, he has shown no desire or willingness to do so.
CAMEROTA: So, Chris Cillizza, listen, when the Intel chiefs - hold on, I just want to make this point and then I'll let you make yours, when they told Congress, "We haven't been instructed to do anything, to take any sort of precautionary terms from the President for the midterms," but can't we assume that they are taking those? I mean, do they need a directive from the President? This is their job. Will it give us any comfort to think that they are doing that before the midterms? Go ahead, David. CILLIZZA: So, several of the Intelligence Chiefs, Alisyn have
testified in open hearings before Congress, they directly asked Mark Warner, others - Adam Schiff, other folks like that Democrats primarily, have you been directly tasked by the President ...
CAMEROTA: We have, we have ...
BERMAN: We keep on talking about this, so let's play it here so people can see what was said, this is back in February.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the President directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not specifically directed by the President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say I have been explicitly directed to "blunt" or actively stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the President had been very clear that he asked our agency to cooperate with each of the investigations that is ongoing and do everything we can to ensure that we thoroughly understand this potential threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pass it on and they make the decisions on how to implement it.
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
BERMAN: One guy there got promoted, Mike Pompeo, but Chris Cillizza, that was back in February. We don't know what's happened since then, but go ahead.
CILLIZZA: No, we don't, and that's a good point, John, but I would say, look, I think, Alisyn, you can assume that there is some of that going on in the Intelligence Community, sort of trying to ward off these efforts by - we expect from Russia, but we know that priorities matter and if it is not a priority of the President of the United States, the Intelligence Community has got a lot of things they need to worry about, and if you know that this is something that the President of the United States cannot stop conflating with somehow an attempt to undermine the fact that he is the President of the United States, it's two totally separate things. But he is the guy who can't see that. My guess is it's not as big a priority as it should be.
BERMAN: That's your guess?
CILLIZZA: Very strong educated guess.
BERMAN: I mean, every single member of the Committee said yes, Russia got involved, but President Trump's only response to date is not ...
CILLIZZA: And by the way, he said it repeatedly. Well, Vladimir Putin tells me they didn't. Well, what does Vladimir Putin going to say? I mean, this is allegedly the greatest dealmaker in the world has ever known. And if he can say, "Ah, we did it. You guys got us, good one, there." I mean, at some level, you kind of have to expect this, right. If you're Donald Trump, that can't be the defense. When this guy who runs a country that is adversarial to us said they didn't do it, so we're not going to trust him rather than our Intelligence Community who unanimously say this in February 2017.
BERMAN: Go, David.
GREGORY: I mean, that's really - the point is that as Chris has said, as long as the President is conflating these issues, as long as he is not taking it seriously, you can't expect him to marshal all the resources, but it's still important that it gets set about what a constructive approach would look like. Imagine, you've got all of the stakeholders involved. The intelligence communities, companies like fake book, sorry, Facebook whose platform was exploited for actual misinformation and propaganda and everybody got together and looked at what impact this had.
But then look forward and said, "What would an attack on critical infrastructure of our election systems look like?" That's what actually becomes important to prevent moving forward, and again, if you're President Trump and you think so much of this has been miscast, then isolate that part of it and look forward into what areas that you can actually control to protect your party and control the Democrats. I mean, help Democrats and the system more broadly.
AVLON: To protect America as we like to say. Chris, while I have you here, I just want you to weigh in on my conspiracy theory, which is that the Senate Intelligence Committee even though it is bipartisan and proud of this work product, they dumped it on July 3rd in the afternoon before a holiday. What's going on there?
CILLIZZA: Well, okay, so timing is never coincidental in politics. So, yes, I think there is an element of that to say, "Hey, well, the Intelligence Community was right and Donald Trump was wrong." I mean, yes, that's definitely a piece of it. I will say, the counterintelligence portion of their report, so getting into collusion and that sort of thing, we have not seen yet, so there is more to come, but the simple fact here, I think you have to remember, it's not a he said, she said, he said, he said. It is Intelligence Community unanimously bipartisan and Senate Intelligence Committee versus a handful of House Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and Donald Trump.
CILLIZZA: It's not a fair fight. This is not six and one half dozen than the other .
BERMAN: Wait until Labor Day for the next installment of the report. All right, guys, stick around, we have a lot more to discuss. Scott Pruitt still heading the EPA as of 7:15. Will he make it to 7:20?
AVLON: Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt now facing more than a dozen ethics investigations that goes along with countless scandals since he took office, and now, there is also this, resources tell CNN that Scott Pruitt directly asked the President of the United States to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with Scott Pruitt. Here now to discuss this, CNN contributor, Norman Eisen, he is a former ethics czar for the Obama White House, Norm, Ambassador, great to have you with us, Happy Birthday, America.
This notion, Kaitlan Collins was the first to report this that Scott Pruitt says, "Hey, Mr. President, you should fire Jeff Sessions, slide me into that position using the vacancy act." You actually question whether in fact it would even be legal?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER ETHICS CZAR FOR THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: John, thanks for having me back. That's right, back in March when we first got a whiff that this ploy might be going on, I wrote and explained that there is a law called the Vacancies Reform Act. It lets you replace somebody who dies or quits with someone else who has already been confirmed by the Senate for 210 days, but it doesn't say anything about firing somebody, about ousting somebody, about one Cabinet Secretary. Think about it, John.
It's like Shakespeare. One Cabinet Secretary going over there to the White House putting the knife in the back of another one saying, "Hey, put me in that job, Mr. President," if the President had done that, he would have been acting illegally and that still would be the case.
AVLON: So what you're suggesting is that maybe Scott Pruitt doesn't have a solid understanding of the various ethics laws that surround the government?
EISEN: Well, I think after the 13th investigation, we know of 14, some say there are as many as 18, I think after the 13th investigation, John, we could conclude that his knowledge of law and ethics is a little deficient. The luxury lobbyist condo, firing people who had the temerity to question him, the excessive spending that he has done, many times his predecessors, but this nails it, John.
AVLON: Let me just read some of it - again, there are 13, I think active ethics investigations that doesn't include all of the active accusations and the scandals. Let me just read through a few of the things going on here. He asked the President for Session's job, place an old ally in charge of foyer request, kept a secret calendar to hide meetings, that's a CNN report which is fascinating; sought a Chick- fil-A, franchise for his wife, accepted courtside tickets to the University of Kentucky basketball game, $43,000.00 for a soundproof phone booth, 24-hour security detail, travel expenses, housing controversy, pay raises for close aides, they didn't put it up on the screen, my favorite, reportedly asking his security detail to go out and look for a special kind of lotion that he likes.
I don't know which one to ask you about specifically, but let's ask about these apparent repeated requests from people who worked for him, for the government to go help find jobs for his wife? What's wrong with that? EISEN: Well, one of the most fundamental principles of government
service, John, is that you take public office in order to serve the public. And when you use your public office as Pruitt has done, again and again and again allegedly, but there is strong evidence of some of these allegations, when you use it to line your own pocket and in particular to benefit yourself, when you're ordering other people, there's reports in recent days that he went so far as to tell some of his junior aides to put his hotel rooms on their credit cards. It is just so wrong.
And you know what's even worse, when some of them tried to step forward, and these are not flaming Democrats, John, these are Trump loyalists. When they tried to step forward, stop him or report him to the White House, he fired or otherwise discriminated against them, and their jobs. So, there's investigations of that. Approximately five people have lodged those investigations.
It is terrible, but when I look at that list you put up on the screen, John, there is only one person who exceeds Scott Pruitt in milking the government for personal gain and that is the President himself, and it seems to me that this is not just about Scott Pruitt. He has taken a signal from the President's emoluments, the President spending a third of his time on his own properties, a third of the day of his presidency.
AVLON: Let me read you the most recent statement from Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley because at least, the official position now is maybe they are growing weary of Scott Pruitt. The official statement from Hogan Gidley, "The President feels that Scott Pruitt has done a really good job. Deregulated the government to allow for a thriving economy. That's important, but these things ..." and by these things, I think Hogan means the repeated scandals - "...matter to the President as well. He is looking into those. When we have an announcement, we will make it."
Ultimately, the President has the authority here, can Congress step in if the President doesn't act anytime soon? Could Congress theoretically if it wants to step in and say, "You've got to do something?"
EISEN: Well, yes, first those are crocodile tears that Hogan Gidley is crying on behalf of the President. We've heard these expressions about Pruitt before. Maybe the President will fire him. It's not because the President is outraged. The President does many of the same things, John in profiting from his public office in a way that I allege is against the Constitution.
It's because the political lead is too intense. So Congress could turn up the political heat, ultimately, it's the President's call. You know Scott Pruitt is not going anywhere. He is as shameless as Mr. Trump himself. So, if the President forces him out, fires him, then Pruitt will go.
EISEN: There has got to be a point at which it is too much, it's so- we've never seen a Cabinet member behave this way ever with this serial exploitation of public office for personal gain. It's atrocious.
AVLON: Scott Pruitt doesn't see a problem here. He thinks he needs a promotion. Ambassador Norman Eisen, great to have you with us. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
EISEN: Thanks, John. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: You didn't get enough lotion references, I don't think ...
AVLON: I've got one. I've got one.
CAMEROTA: That's under your usual number.
AVLON: And I put this out on Twitter last night, why do I joke so much about the fact that Scott Pruitt asked a security detail reportedly to go get lotion? Because I think it's unusual for a Cabinet level Secretary to send his security detail out to get lotion.
CAMEROTA: What if his hands were dry?
AVLON: Is that a security risk? Is dry skin a security risk for a Cabinet ...
BERMAN: It depends. It depends.
AVLON: Cracked skin is a security risk. Chafe skin is like DEFCON 1.
BERMAN: The pattern is what's so stunning, right? It's not just the 14 ongoing investigations, it's the level of which, as Norm was saying, he is trying to profit up the office. I think aides tried to procure Chick-Fil-A franchises. I mean, you've got Chick-Fil-A in this cavalcade of scandals.
CAMEROTA: Oh my goodness.
AVLON: And a phone booth.
BERMAN: And a phone booth.
AVLON: ... which is the (inaudible). Look, I will say this, and Norman pointed this out, one of the things that's also evident here is that there are enough people uncomfortable inside Scott Pruitt's own operations, there are so many whistleblowers ...
CAMEROTA: There are whistleblowers that have come forward.
AVLON; ... which is why these stories keep coming out, so that people are very uncomfortable with this who work for him.
CAMEROTA: Oh, I'm sure we've made people very uncomfortable.
BERMAN: Yes. CAMEROTA: Indeed. All right, trying to create diversity on college
campuses. Is that now a thing of the past? We take a look at that next.
AVLON: And this weekend, relive the decade that brought you Usher, "The Soprano's," the iPhone, the Obamas. CNN's new original series, "The 2000's" way, way back to the 2000's starts this Sunday night at nine o'clock.
CAMEROTA: Too soon?