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Senate Intelligence Committee Releases Report Concluding Russian Actors Interfered in U.S. Presidential Election in Favor of Donald Trump; Reports Indicate Scott Pruitt May be Expelled from EPA. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 4, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president floated replacing Sessions with Pruitt. Scott Pruitt himself proposed it to the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy about certain things but he's done a fantastic job running the EPA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is actively sacrificing our clean air, our clean water to line his own pockets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're running out of options.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are expecting heavy rains in the next couple OF days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not out of the woods yet. This is just the beginning of the actual rescue phase.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a special edition of NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Fourth of July everyone. Welcome to a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 4th, 8:00 in the east on this Independence Day, America's birthday. John Avlon is here with us. We are all representing the flag right here.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We are. Maggie somehow is a subterranean way --


CAMEROTA: I see that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Maggie represents freedom of the press which is the most American thing of all, so God bless Maggie Haberman and God bless America.

CAMEROTA: We're going to get to you in a moment, Maggie.

BERMAN: Even on camera, not just the disembodied voice. CAMEROTA: That's right, because we do have big news. The Republican-

led Senate intelligence Committee is now the backing the intelligence community's conclusion that Vladimir Putin meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to help Donald Trump win. President Trump, for whatever reason, continues to repeatedly reject that finding. It will make for an interesting one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin and President Trump 12 days from now.

BERMAN: The scandal surrounding embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt read like a scroll. A senior administration official says Pruitt is, quote, inching forward toward the tipping point, perhaps gliding forward toward the tipping point now that we know he asked a security detail reportedly to go get him a certain kind of lotion.

We are getting new information about his future. Sources tell CNN Pruitt personally lobbied the president to fire the attorney general Jeff Sessions and replace him with a guy named Scott Pruitt. Joining us to talk about all this, CNN political analyst, "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. Long time no see, Maggie.

HABERMAN: It's been at least 10 hours.


BERMAN: It's been at least 10 hours since you and I last spoke. And the Senate intelligence committee put out this finding which says their assessment is that Russia meddled in the 2016 election under the direction of Vladimir Putin. They did it to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. This is the assessment from the intelligence community that we first heard way back on January 17. Yet on July 3rd, 2018, the intelligence committee comes out and says yes, this is the case, and it does fly in the face of what we hear regularly from the president and his allies in the House Intelligence Committee.

HABERMAN: It does. And I think it's interesting, because remember, Senator Burr is a Republican who leads this committee, and there is nothing equivocal about this report. It doesn't do what the House version of this report does, which is create some seed of doubt. This goes in a very different direction. It takes issue I think with two things the intelligence community did but nothing that would have impacted the outcome was in terms of their determination on what happened.

The president has sort of mouthed acknowledgment that Russia -- he said things like it could have been Russia, but it could have been a lot of people. A lot of people meddle. His aides will routinely point to that as an example of look, he has repeatedly said he realizes this. He has not done that and he has on his Twitter feed every day as we have seen continued to undermine the Mueller probe. The Mueller probe, again, is primarily looking at possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. And in order for that to have happened Trump has to then acknowledge to some extent that that is real. He is doing everything he can to suggest this probe is a fake. And people can speculate as to what his reasons. It is interesting that this report is coming out shortly before he's going to meet one on one with Vladimir Putin in a meeting where he reportedly does not want notetakers or any other people in the room.

CAMEROTA: What's that about?

HABERMAN: He does that with all of these meetings. It's going to raise a red flag on this one because it's Putin.

AVLON: This meeting is not like the others for reason the Senate intel report makes very clear. It's Independence Day. The opposite of celebrating American independence is a foreign power influencing our election outcome, and that's what clearly happened on President Trump's behalf at the behest of President Putin, who is one of the few people on earth Donald Trump refuses to criticize. All these things raise red flags as does this insistence that they meet alone without aides at the outset.

BERMAN: There's no record. There will be no record of the conversation.

CAMEROTA: Why does he want to do it? So he can say whatever he wants happened in there or because -- why?

HABERMAN: He has done this with other leaders, and my general understanding of what the reason then is he likes to get a feel for them, he likes to understand who they are, where they are coming from, and I think there is probably something to that.

[08:05:00] But again, what most presidents would do given this fact set is say, you know what, I'm going to have some other people come in the room for this one. That is not ever where this president goes. And again, to your point about how Putin is the one person he won't challenge, he also is one of the only people who he will just take his word for it. He keeps saying, well, he says he didn't do it. Well, then that's that. This is a president who routinely disregards facts, statements, anything that don't fit with his preexisting belief. And yet this is something where he has taken his word on invasion of Crimea, he has taken his word on all manner of things that cut against what U.S. policy has been.

BERMAN: We played before in the show, Maggie, back in February when the intelligence chiefs were all asked if they had been directed by the White House to do anything to stop election meddling going forward. They all said no, no, no, not really. Not exactly. You report on the White House every day. Are there some huge organized efforts or even small, disorganized efforts right now to battle election meddling in 2018 that we're not hearing about every day?

HABERMAN: Not that I know of, and I think you've seen the same reporting I have, which is that tech leaders recently had a meeting with members of the intelligence community, and they apparently came away with a general sentiment that they're on their own for 2018, that there's not going to be some organized effort. We do know the president doesn't talk about it very much and we certainly that know a red flag has been raised internally. I don't think a whole lot has been done and it has been made clear from intelligence community officials over and over again, it's not they might meddle. It's they are meddling. We're not necessarily seeing it. CAMEROTA: And how surprising is it, Maggie, that national security adviser John Bolton also says that he doesn't -- that he was assured by a Russian translator that no meddling. Listen to this. It's not just the president. Listen to this moment.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president has already said that he's going to raise the question of Russian meddling again with Vladimir Putin. He said it this past week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he believe what happened?

BOLTON: I'll 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. So I think it still raises the question. I think the president will want to have a conversation about this and say we don't want to see meddling in the 2018 election.


CAMEROTA: Is he kidding? The translator told him that? Case closed?

HABERMAN: I think John Bolton likes his job and wants to stay in it, and I think he knows this is going offend the president.

BERMAN: But it's different than what we saw in the assessment from the intelligence committee. The intelligence committee said that Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian meddling in the election, and as far as I know Vladimir Putin is part of the Russian state despite what the translator apparently told John Bolton.

AVLON: But we've also, and Maggie has written extensively about this, the gap between this administration and the White House is stark and perhaps never so stark at these intel committee hearings where Dan Coats, the DNI, and other have said watch out. The Russians are targeting our upcoming elections. I think we've got that tape.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There should be no doubt that Russia perceived its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm 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 be happening, and the resilience needed for us to stand up and say we're not going to allow some Russian tell us how to vote, how we ought to run our country. And I think there needs to be a national cry for that.


AVLON: And I will say just to add to that, though, Trump's Department of Homeland Security still has not released the names of the individual states. And the estimate is 18 and 21 that voters rolls were broken into by Russian hackers. They have still not released the names of those states publicly. That is troubling. Why? HABERMAN: It's also worth remembering just going back to John Bolton

for a second, John Bolton was a Russia hawk. It's so striking.

CAMEROTA: What happened?

BERMAN: I'm old enough to remember a few months ago.

HABERMAN: I think what's happened is he wants to keep his job. I don't think it's more complicated than that. I think the president has set the tone on this front and I think that John Bolton is following along. Whether he is going to say something more definitive after the summit, but again he says the president -- President Trump will confront Putin and say we don't wanted meddling in the 2018 election. That's going to be very hard to confirm when no one else is witnessing this meeting.

BERMAN: Who is the biggest loser in this Senate Intelligence Committee report? It strikes me that they went out of their way -- well, they did dump it on July 3rd -- to contrast themselves with the House Intelligence Committee. It seems to me they're saying sorry Chairman Nunes over in House Intel, you got it wrong here.

HABERMAN: I think that Burr is -- I don't know that that was his goal. I think that Burr is actually really concerned about what happened in 2016. I think that you have a lot of members of the Senate who are genuinely concerned about what happened and don't want to see that happen again and are concerned about the fact that this administration appears to be complacent at best about trying to grapple with this going forward. And I think that is mostly what it's about. I don't think it's meant to put a thumb on the scale, and I don't even think it's meant to rebuke their colleagues in the House. I think it is just meant to offer further, laying down a marker, this is what took place.

[08:10:05] BERMAN: This is not nearly enough Maggie Haberman.

CAMEROTA: No, never enough.

BERMAN: So stick around. Stick around. There's more to talk about, including Scott Pruitt, the embattled EPA chief.

CAMEROTA: We've run off the rails with this one.

BERMAN: Scott Pruitt, will he last another day?


BERMAN: Despite more than a dozen investigations into Scott Pruitt's ethical scandals, the president's EPA chief still has a job, but a senior administration official tells CNN that Pruitt is, quote, inching forward to the tipping point.

CAMEROTA: Or careening.

BERMAN: Or careening. Back with us now, CNN political analyst, "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. That was Jim Acosta who heard from an administration official that things are inching toward a tipping point for Scott Pruitt. You have your own reporting, Maggie, that there are people within the house, including currently very senior people, who would like to see the era of Scott Pruitt come to an end.

HABERMAN: Yes. I think we're inching really slowly. I just want to make that point. There are a lot of people around the president who would like to see Pruitt go, and one of the things that Pruitt has done very successfully is he has ingratiated himself with not just Trump but with members of the Trump family. He has made himself present, he has made himself available as an ear to the president. The president has enjoyed trashing his attorney general with him, Jeff Sessions, which we'll talk about lather.

BERMAN: Nothing more fun than getting together with the president.

HABERMAN: As one does. And look, Pruitt has accomplished things that the president is happy about in terms of deregulation. I think that Pruitt is also a favor of some of Trump's key donors and so it should not be a surprise to anybody that Pruitt has survived this long. I think that Trump's aides would like that get this done more than Trump does. I've had people say to me, look, Trump is really focused on other things. It doesn't take much to read a headline and say this person has to go, and so, for whatever reason while we have been hearing every week for months now this is going to be the week that he's gone, he's not gone.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I've had people say to me look, Trump is really focused on other things, it doesn't take much to sort of read a headline and then say this person has to go.

[08:15:01] And so, for whatever reason, while we have been hearing every week for months, this is going to be the week when he's gone -- he's not gone.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But that's the mystifying part, because there are other people who could take over deregulation.

HABERMAN: There weren't at first. I would agree that is true now, that was not true for a long time because they didn't have the deputy EPA director confirmed. Once they got a person in who they felt was theirs, who they felt would continue their agenda, then what we're hearing was, it's going to happen really soon because now the box are in place.

CAMEROTA: The deputy could take over.

HABERMAN: That was two or three months ago, yes.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Somebody deeply embedded with the industry that the EPA exists to regulate, so one would assume that ingratiated industry would feel comfortable but there has been this resistance. Inching forward to the tipping point would be a great name for a song of summer, by the way, but indicates the angst in the administration around Pruitt, because these scandals are embarrassing. They are a distraction.

You've got Chick-fil-A and lotion in the same scandal around -- yes, this is not a typical cabinet secretary.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I think they're separate scandals but they are scandals involving Scott Pruitt --


AVLON: We're going to combine them together for Fourth of July.

BERMAN: Maggie, you were telling me John Kelly would like to see this come to an end.

HABERMAN: Yes, John Kelly -- he has told different people in the White House different things on this front, but several people I spoke to said this is something he would like to see dealt with especially before his own time there is done, which is, you know, an open question if you believe he is going to leave soon, which some people do.

Even if he doesn't he recognizes has people do that this is a blight on the White House and on the party potentially going into the midterms because it's a giant neon sign that people can point to and voters can understand. If you sort of want to paint a picture of corruption run amok, or alleged corruption run amuck, all you have to do is talk about lotion or God knows what else.

BERMAN: You brought it up.

HABERMAN: I do not bring it up, you bought it up.

AVLON: It's a moisture scandal.


HABERMAN: For whatever reason, as many things do in this White House, there is some inertia around this. So, inching would be an accurate way of describing it.

CAMEROTA: Somehow, we're bringing Maggie Haberman down to our level which is a crying shame.

HABERMAN: I'm trying --

CAMEROTA: No, you're trying to keep the high ground.


CAMEROTA: But, Phil, I do think that it is worth repeating exhibit A through Z here, of just some of the top hits of the Pruitt scandals. Here they are. So, recently, he asked President Trump for Sessions' job, that's not really a scandal, that's just hubris.

HABERMAN: And it wasn't recent. That's a long time ago.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile he placed one of his allies in charge of the Freedom of Information Act requests about the very department so when journalists need information, he has one of his soldiers deciding whether to dole it out.

Kept secret calendar to hide meetings and scrubbed some of the controversial meetings off the public calendar so taxpayers couldn't see them, sought a chick-fil-a franchise for his wife. They were pressured to find a job for his wife, accepted courtside tickets to the University of Kentucky basketball. Gifts for public servants. Generally frowned on. $43,000 soundproof phone booth -- I don't think that gets enough play -- for his office. What is he talking about in there?

HABERMAN: Right, right.

CAMEROTA: Twenty-four hour security detail though there were no threats.

BERMAN: This isn't just a dramatic reading, it's a participatory reading.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, OK.

Travel expenses, that's -- I don't think that we're doing that justice. First class travel insistence though there were no threats but he couldn't be in coach.

HABERMAN: Right. I think -- is there more? I don't want to stop you.

CAMEROTA: There's more but it's only a three-hour show. Go ahead.

HABERMAN: Look, I think that one of the things that has been striking, the travel, which you just raised, there's an aspect of this with Pruitt. This is one of the wealthiest cabinets ever assembled and there's a strange aspirational quality I think about what Pruitt was looking at, which is he wants to be commensurate with other members, some of them have their own planes or have the ability to travel however they want and have good accommodations.

And I think there was this sort of yearning for that kind of thing. With Pruitt, you're seeing the biggest -- I'm understating this obviously just based on that length of that list. But there is such an unbelievable blurring of the lines of what is permissible, personal, political, governmental --

CAMEROTA: Ethical.

HABERMAN: -- ethical, but it was government, I think ethical. It's just one big pile with Pruitt, and it's a confluence of various strains of what we have seen get criticized throughout the administration but certainly in the White House. BERMAN: Can we get you on the Supreme Court here? Because you've

been reporting on this every day. We know the president met with at least two, if not three new -- not new, but people. The decision comes on Monday.

Brett Kavanaugh may be the leading candidate but also the one who is being the most targeted by some on the right. Explain.

HABERMAN: Right. So, I think Brett Kavanaugh is a favorite of Don McGahn, the White House counsel who is really leading this process. And there is some suspicion among McGahn critics and Kavanaugh skeptics that McGahn is trying to hard wire this for Kavanaugh. McGahn has rejected that.

However, Kavanaugh has been top of the list. The president had been on Monday leaning toward Kavanaugh, as I understood it. Second choice was Amy Coney Barrett. And the third was Judge Kethledge. He was kind of seen as a compromise choice. I think this president is going to change his mind 800 times before we actually get to a decision.

In the case of Kavanaugh, he was George W. Bush's staff secretary which, you know, on its face for Trump who has issues with the Bush family, that is going to raise questions or suspicions. Whether that is a disqualifier, we don't know but there is a lot of pushback from some conservatives, from some pro-life activists about Kavanaugh. They concerned he's insufficiently committed to certain issues and certain things that you will face on this court.

The president also got a call last night or yesterday from Senator Tom Cotton who has been a key outside adviser to the president throughout his term. And while he did not say, as I understand it, according to the person briefed on the call, that he would vote against Kavanaugh, he did suggest there were other picks that might be better than Kavanaugh, and not really based on the politics of it so much as just based on judicial aspects of it. So, we will see.

BERMAN: Interesting. Watch this space.

Maggie Haberman, thanks so much for coming in for giving us that news and reporting.

CAMEROTA: Have a great holiday.

HABERMAN: You, too.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Jim Jordan says he never saw sexual abuse, was never told about sexual abuse when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. The wrestler tells us a different story. That's next.


[08:25:31] CAMEROTA: An emphatic denial from Republican Congressman Jim Jordan following report he is turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of wrestlers at Ohio State University when he was an assistant coach there decades ago. CNN's Jean Casarez joins us with more. Tell us about this.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are many levels to this. The doctor first of all alleged to have molested male Ohio State University athletes is former university physician Dr. Richard Strauss. He died in 2005 but was the school's team physician for athletics from 1981 through 1995.

He treated athletes at Ohio State for 14 major sports including football, baseball, gymnastics, swimming and wrestling, and that's where he overlapped with now Congressman Jim Jordan, a former assistant wrestling coach at the school. For months, Jordan and his office have denied he had knowledge of what may have been happening telling "Politico" just yesterday: It's not true, I never knew about any type of abuse. If I did, I would have done something about it. And, look, if there are people that were abused, then that's terrible and we want justice to happen.

Three former wrestlers told ABC news they were molested by Strauss who they say also showered with students. I spoke with one of the alleged victims, Michael DiSabato, who said everyone knew about it, at least in the wrestling department, including assistant coach Jim Jordan and the coach himself, and to his knowledge no one reported anything authorities. DiSabato said it was, quote, a running joke" in the locker room that if you went to the doctor's office or doc, as they called him, he would touch you inappropriately, calling Strauss, quote, "a serial groper."

We should note that Ohio State student newspaper reports in 2008, DiSabato was involved in a separate lawsuit with the university after they cut off his long time contract selling athletic merchandise. NBC reports that one of the former wrestlers, Dunyasha Yetts, coming forward, accusing Strauss, admitted to serving 18 years in prison for bilking investors out of nearly $2 million and he also says Jordan knew about the abuse.

Ohio's attorney general and Ohio state legal counsel launched an independent investigation into molestation allegations in April of this year. They have interviewed more than 150 students and witnesses. The legal counsel for Ohio state said they previously contacted Jordan's office by e-mail and phone to request he participate in an interview but they say they got no response.

Another allegation that Jordan denies, and Alisyn and John, his office told CNN late yesterday, give us the communication, we never got one from Ohio State, and he's willing, he says, to cooperate and tell Ohio State everything he does or does not know about any alleged abuse.

CAMEROTA: That would be helpful.

BERMAN: All right. Jean Casarez, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Mike DiSabato, former Ohio State University wrestler who says he was one of Dr. Strauss's victims and insists Congressman Jordan knew athletes were being abused. Mike, thank you so much for being with us. I know it can be hard to tell you story. You were a wrestler to Ohio State for years. You then volunteered for the team after that.

Explain to us who Dr. Richard Strauss was and what he did.

MIKE DISABATO, FORMER OHIO STATE WRESTLER: Well, Doc, Dr. Strauss was our team physician and team for sigs for multiple teams at Ohio State. He was high profile doctor within athletic community, he was not only employed at the Ohio State University but he was also sanctioned by USA Wrestling, the USOC and the IOC.

My first interaction with Doc Strauss was as a 14-year-old high school student. He conducted research, at least what he disguised as research surrounding body fat and high school wrestlers. I believe he targeted high school wrestlers. It was one of the communities he was deeply involved in.

During the body fat test, he, you know, did a lot of things that you do during a body fat test. You pinch certain areas to measure and there's a procedure that you go by, but the one thing that was strange and now I know to be unnecessary was a genital exam. That was 14.