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Rep. Tom Reed Interviewed; House & Senate Intel Committees Disagree with Intelligence Community's Assessment on Russian Election Meddling; Report: Trump Losing Patience with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt; Defense Intelligence Assessment: North Korea Not Denuclearizing; Nationwide Manhunt for 3 Men Accused of Raping Girls in Ohio; Rush to Rescue Soccer Team, Coach before Torrential Rains in Thailand; Trump Spreads Dubious Story About Obama Giving Citizenship to 2,500 Iranians for Iran Deal; Trump to Hire Former FOX Executive as Communications Director. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 4, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're saying all these conclusions we saw from the Intelligence Community in 2017 that the president has doubted, they were sound.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: So Senate Intelligence investigation, of course, one of many intelligence agencies who made their own confident assessments. Over time, they said that Russia's interference has been greater than they initially realized. What are the various findings in the Senate report?

MURRAY: Let's start with who kind of believes what when it comes to this. We talked about the Senate report, we found they agreed with the Intelligence Community. But there are a few people who are not on the same page as the Senate. It's a pretty small group. It's basically, President Trump. It's basically, Russian President Vladimir Putin. And a number of investigators in the House, who are not agreeing with these conclusions from the Senate report, the same conclusions the Intelligence Community put out in January 2017.

Now let's look at the people who do believe Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and they did it to help Trump. It's a number of these intelligence agencies you see her, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who brought a number of charges against Russian officials as well as companies, the bipartisan Senate committee, as well as Democratic House investigators. So you see President Trump is in pretty slim company when it comes to doubting this issue of whether Russia tried to meddle in the election for his benefit.

SCIUTTO: The facts don't seem to support that position.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

I want to talk more about this with a member of the House. He's Republican Congressman Tom Reed, of New York.

Congressman, thanks for taking time on the July 4th holiday.

REP. TOM REED, (R), NEW YORK: Happy Fourth to you, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Who do you side with? Do you side with your Republican colleagues in the House, who doubt the assessment that Russia interfered, in part, to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, or do you agree with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the various intelligence agencies?

REED: Well, look, I do agree that Russian meddling into our election did exist. They, obviously, tried to influence the election, like they've done for decades before, and other countries have done previously. At the end of the day, the most important factor was the integrity of the election process was secure. The outcome of the election and the people's voice was heard in 2016. From my perspective, we need to wrap this investigation up and move forward because the country has problems that need to be solved.

SCIUTTO: Why is the president then, still, just as recently as last week, expressing doubt that Russia was behind the interference at all?

REED: Well, because there's no collusion. Who knows what --


SCIUTTO: But that's not what he --


SCIUTTO: That's not what he denied. To be clear, he did not --


REED: Who knows what a Russian mind is.

SCIUTTO: No. He questioned whether Russia interfered in the election when the intelligence agencies, the Senate Intelligence Committee are reaching very confident conclusions that that's exactly what Russia did. Why is the president doing that?

REED: Well, I think because there's a fine line here between meddling and trying to influence by putting information out there and trying to sway the outcome of the election to a Russia conclusion that they want to achieve. But at the end of the day, the most biggest threat to the election process was the collusion or the lack of integrity of the process. The president has been very clear, and I support the president's findings or conclusions on this. I see no evidence of collusion. I see no evidence of integrity of the election being broken. This election stands. And we should move forward. And we need to be smart that people are going to try to meddle with our election process but I trust the wisdom of the people in making sure that they filter that information and come to their conclusions they feel best for their future.

SCIUTTO: Isn't the president doing Putin's work for him when he undermines his own intelligence agencies' assessment about Russian interference?


SCIUTTO: Of course, Russia is going to deny it. It's not in their interest to acknowledge it. But isn't he doing Putin's work by expressing those doubts?

REED: No, I do not believe that's the case. I think what the president is dealing with is a rehashing of issues where people are threatening collusion and that the outcome of the election was persuaded, not by the people but some outside force. Bottom line, the people spoke in 2016. It's time to move forward with this election that has occurred and embrace the opportunity this administration has for us to bring change to Washington, D.C.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. I've been following this story for more than two years now, even prior to the election, looking at election interference. I speak to Republicans and Democrats. Both Republicans and Democrats who have been briefed on the intelligence say the evidence is -- let's set aside 2016 for a moment. That the evidence is that Russia is still performing probing attacks on not just social media, et cetera, but on election systems. That those attacks continue. And in fact, they expect Russia to interfere again in 2018 and 2020. Why isn't the president showing leadership on this issue to defend future elections from Russian interference? And aren't you, as an American, disappointed by that?

REED: Well, no, I believe the president does respect the election process and wants the election process to be secure, just as we do, just as I do, because that's critical to the functioning of our democracy. But to think that Russia and other countries across the world are not going to try to influence our election is just to live in denial. This has been going on for decades.


[13:35:10] SCIUTTO: The question is what is --


REED: -- our election process. And that is just the reality of the situation.

SCIUTTO: The question is what -


SCIUTTO: But the question is, what are we doing about it? I'm sure you watched the hearing two months ago when the chiefs of the intelligence agencies, Mike Rogers, of the NSA, Dan Coats, of ODNI, they were asked by Senators whether they've been instructed by this president to do something about election interference, to take action to prevent those attacks, and they all answered no, unequivocally. How is that presidential leadership?


REED: Oh, I think there's leadership there in regards to the integrity of the system, making sure the ballot box is secure. I've seen --


SCIUTTO: But the intelligence chiefs said they're not told --


REED: -- fraud and abuses are outlined, too.

SCIUTTO: You can think that, but the intelligence chiefs who do that job are saying they have been given no specific instructions by the president.


SCIUTTO: You're an American. You, like me, want the system to be -- the integrity to be unchallenged there. But doesn't that disappoint you, as an American?

REED: Well, let's just be clear, each state controls its election process and making sure of the integrity there. We, in the federal, want -- have an interest in making sure the election process is secure. There have been resources given to the states to make sure that the process is secure.

And the fact is, you know, people filter this information. People are not stupid. People get this information and they come to their own conclusions. That's one of the troublesome things I see from the other side of the aisle that somehow the people are duped by this information. They are not. People are very smart, in my humble opinion.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, if I can -- and I appreciate you taking the hard questions on that topic -- about another topic. You're aware of the various scandals engulfing the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. CNN reporting administration officials believe the president is losing patience with him. That it's inching toward a tipping point, one administration official told my colleague, Jeff Zeleny. Do you believe it's time for Scott Pruitt to go?

REED: Obviously, I have some serious concerns about the EPA director and the activity going on. I'll leave that to him to make that determination, as well as the president, who the director serves at the directive of. So I think, at the end of the day, this will take its own course, and we'll have a conclusion that makes sure these individuals are -- no one is above the law. Everyone is held accountable.

SCIUTTO: Would you do the kind of things or accept the kind of things Scott Pruitt is accused of doing? Keep a secret calendar? Take trips that seem a little like boondoggles that cost a lot of money for taxpayers? Would you find that acceptable yourself?

REED: No, I try to, obviously, engage as a representative of the people, making sure that they are always listened to, that we're always accessible to them, and to do things in a way that always bring -- to be beyond that type of discussion and approach.

SCIUTTO: On North Korea, if I could ask you as well, because there are a lot of topics and stories in the news. You are aware Secretary Mike Pompeo is heading to North Korea tomorrow, continuing these discussions with the Kim regime over their nuclear program. I'm sure you're aware of reports, including a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that North Korea is not denuclearizing. In fact, might be making efforts to hide some of its nuclear program. What's your assessment of the status of negotiations with North Korea? Have you seen anything from the North Korean side that gives you confidence they're serious about this?

REED: Obviously, I was very hopeful, and took Kim Jong-Un at his word when he met with the president at the summit that he was going to commit to denuclearization. But as I stated at the time in my public statement, I know the history of this dictator. I know that his irresponsible behavior is at the root of his operations. And I'm very concerned. If Kim Jong-Un does not commit himself to peace and denuclearization, military options really will become, at some point in time, the only option able to take out this threat to our American coastline and to millions of Americans who could be clear inside a nuclear holocaust.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Tom Reed, appreciate you take something time out of the July 4th holiday.

REED: Thanks for having me on, Jim.

[13:39:17] SCIUTTO: Enjoy the day.

Coming up, mystery in the U.K. Two people collapse just miles from where a former Russian spy was poisoned. Could this be another poisoning? We'll go live to Scotland Yard for the latest on that story.

And their discovery brought relief and elation, but now really an impossible choice, how to get them out safely. The new efforts to free a team of young soccer players trapped in a pitch-black cave.


SCIUTTO: Right now, British counterterrorism officers are investigating a case with striking similarities to the poisoning earlier this year of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Here's how police describe what happened to 45-year-old Charlie Rowley and 44-year-old Dawn Sturgis.


PAUL MILLS, DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE, WILTSHIRE POLICE: Wiltshire Police and partners have declared a major incident after two people were hospitalized following their potential exposure to an unknown substance in Amesbury.

It was initially believed the two patients fell ill after potentially using contaminated illegal drugs. However, further testing is now ongoing to establish the substance which led to these patients becoming ill.


SCIUTTO: One reason the incident is concerning is its close proximity to Salisbury, where Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on an outdoor bench in March. It was later found that they were poisoned with Novichok, a suspected military nerve agent, and the suspicion is that Russia was behind it.

CNN international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is outside Scotland Yard. He's been following this story for us.

Nick, what have we been learning about this today?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, you see the striking similarities here. The biggest one, frankly, is the geography, which you mentioned, so close to where Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were struck down by that Russian nerve agent. Also, the response of British officials, government and police. They are, of course, on the highest alert imaginable after what happened to the Skripals. Frankly, apart from the fact counterterrorism police have been used to try and work out what this unknown substance is and the British government has said it's dealing with this with the utmost seriousness, to some degree, that's where the similarities end. Those two individuals, Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgis, 45 and 44 years old respectively, are locals to Wiltshire. No obvious Russia connection on the surface at all. And it's still unknown at this stage exactly what the substance is, meaning that a longer time has elapsed now with British police on higher alert than they were before, for them to identify what the substance was. And it took for them to identify the Novichok nerve agent that tried to kill the Skripals a couple there. This is about an incident that seems to have happened on Saturday where this couple were at home. Something made Dawn, the younger of the two, ill in the morning. Charles fell ill later in the day. Ambulances came on both occasions. And it was in the hours after that that the contamination began to be dealt with. We saw police in protective clothing. But still, at this stage, they don't know what that substance was. Bear in mind the psychology here, a real sense of fear in Britain. But also a big question, with so little connecting this to Russia, it doesn't look like replication of the Skripal incident. But that's still the case of what is that substance, and that could be another surprise -- Jim?

[13:46:01] SCIUTTO: Certainly, they're taking care with this one.

Nick Paton Walsh, outside Scotland yard there, thanks very much.

Coming up, new urgency for teams racing to save a group of young soccer players trapped deep in a cave. Heavy rain about to move in. And a rescue there needs to happen fast.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. There's a nationwide manhunt under way right now for three men accused of kidnapping and raping two teenage sisters in Ohio. The victims, they were just 13 and 14 years old. They were held against their will at a motel before they eventually turned up in an emergency room.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joining us now.

Kaylee, what -- do we understand there's a fourth suspect now in custody?

[13:49:56] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. One man is already in custody in Ohio. Simon Juan Thomas is being charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. But there are still three other men who are on the run.

We're told by Bowling Green police that in detectives' investigation of the case, they have found that all four of the men, though, have fraudulent paperwork in regards to their immigration status. Thomas, the man in custody, he's from Guatemala. Juan Adeal (ph), on the left, as well as David Contreras, are from Mexico. The fourth, Arnulfo Ramos (ph), his home country is unknown.

Bowling Green police tell us that their focus remains on the alleged sexual assault, but with the information of the men's immigration status, ICE is involved in the manhunt, as well.

The police were first made aware of the incident on June 28th when the girls' mother took them to the hospital following the alleged assault. Otherwise, the details are largely unknown, Jim.

Police telling us this is a very personal and difficult investigation for many of them.


MAJ. JUSTIN WHITE, BOWLING GREEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: They're 13 and 14-year-old girls. They're your daughters. Obviously, it's very emotional. It's difficult for us, as officers, because we have to stay objective to investigate the case. However, a lot of us have children.


HARTUNG: Three of those men, as we've said, continue to be on the run. Jim, ICE involved in the manhunt. When we reached out for comment, they said they would have no comment for us today. The last sighting of one of them, Contreras, was Saturday afternoon at a Walmart in Holland, Ohio. Otherwise, they're on the run. Police say they're dangerous.

SCIUTTO: Just an appalling crime.

Kaylee Hartung, thank you very much for following the story.

Coming up, a FOX News contributor called a report about the Iran deal totally made-up B.S. So why did the president himself blast it out to 50 million followers? We're tracking the dubious story that went all the way to the president's Twitter feed, next.


[13:55:16] SCIUTTO: Torrential rains are heading for Thailand within days, and that is adding to the urgency of an around-the-clock effort to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave where they've been trapped now for a week and a half. Dive teams were in the cave today. The kids practiced breathing with the oxygen mask they'll need if it's decided to bring them out the same way they entered. That means going through the water.

Asia correspondent, Jonathan Miller, is there.

Jonathan, the boys spending another night underground. What's the time frame here? It seems like it's swinging back from staying there for weeks potentially until the rains are gone to getting them out sooner. Do we have any more clarity?

JONATHAN MILLER, ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm not sure I can offer clarity, Jim. But you know, it just wasn't a very attractive option to have the boys stuck until the monsoon ended at the end of October. There's a sense of urgency here now. And there seems to be an effort to try to get the boys out the way they came in. Except now, unlike when they entered the cave, it's pretty much submerged. They've been training the kids to use scuba gear and, hopefully, there will be this window of opportunity offered by the weather. There's been another rain-free day here. It's merciful because it's allowed them to practice evacuations. There are 47 divers down there right now. The cave opening is 200 yards behind me here. There are teams going up and down and four divers going into the cave constantly putting supplies in of food and medicine. The boys seem to be in reasonable condition. I think the hope is that they will be strong enough to get out soon.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope so. It's been a long time in there.

Jonathan Miller, thanks for following that story.

Is the president pushing fake news on Twitter? Trump attacked his predecessor saying, quote, "Just out that the Obama administration granted citizenship during the terrible Iran deal negotiation to 2,500 Iranians."

That bold claim coming a day after FOX News published an article claiming the same thing. Problem? FOX News cited an Iranian news agency that cited an Iranian newspaper that quoted a single Iranian cleric. And immigration data from the Department of Homeland Security does not show an uptick in Iranian immigrants during the Obama presidency.

CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, has been looking into the story and joins me from New York.

Oliver, it seems pretty clear this was a false story. How do we get here with the president tweeting this out to 50 million people? OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It's unnerving and it seems

to be another example of the president looking to right-wing media and consuming right-wing media and then using what he consumes to stoke a political conspiracy theory about one of his political opponents. In this case, he took a FOX News story that was published on Monday, a very thinly sourced story, and he just effectively tweeted out the thrust of the article without fact checking it. After the story was tweeted, Obama officials quickly refuted it. Last night, on "THE SITUATION ROOM," Jake Sullivan said it was not true. Jeff Prescott, the director of the National Security Council under Obama, told CNN this is false. He shared with us the Department of Homeland Security numbers that show there was no uptick in naturalizations of Iranians before and after the Iranian nuclear negotiations. It remains relatively consistent through the Bush and Obama years. Nevertheless, the president went out there on Twitter and posted this false information, and here we are.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good tweet.

And yet, the symbiotic relationship between FOX and the White House may be getting closer. Trump hiring a former FOX News executive, Bill Shine. What's his job going to be?

DARCY: We are told at CNN that he's going to be overseeing communications. I don't think his official title has been announced yet by the White House. It's going to be in a communications capacity, is what CNN has reported. It's going to be interesting. He is a former co-president of FOX News now in charge of communications at the White House. He's a buddy of Sean Hannity. It's going to be interesting to see what the White House's communication strategy is going forward.

SCIUTTO: Of course, accused of at least covering up possibly or not addressing accusations of sexual assault at the network.

Oliver Darcy, thank you very much for digging in on that story.

That's it for me. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Wolf today.

The news continues on CNN right now.

[14:00:09] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Hi, and happy Fourth of July, everyone. Welcome to a special holiday edition --