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House Clashes with Strzok; Trump Meets with U.K. Prime Minister; Protests in London. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Behind closed doors. Now, yesterday was a different story. Yesterday, the FBI agent, Peter Strzok, and Republicans clashed in an epic, very public, heated House hearing.

CNN's Evan Perez is live for us with the recap in Washington.

Wowza (ph).


Well, FBI Agent Peter Strzok speaking publicly for the first time about anti-Trump text messages that he exchanged with FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The contentious hearing lasted more than ten hours and became a spectacle of political grandstanding as Republicans and Democrats alike played for the cameras.


PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath, not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.

PEREZ (voice over): Embattled FBI Agent Peter Strzok firing back amid blistering criticism over anti-Trump text messages that he sent while involved in the Russia election interference and Hillary Clinton e- mail investigations.

STRZOK: I have the upmost respect for Congress' oversight role, but I strongly believe today's hearing is just another victory notch in Putin's belt.

PEREZ: The fiery hearing evolving into a partisan brawl, marked by shouting matches and personal attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it is so frustrating, answer the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you'll allow him to, I'm sure he will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been out of control since you've been on this committee. Why don't you leave it alone? This is not Benghazi.

PEREZ: House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte threatening to hold Strzok in contempt over his refusal to answer some questions due to FBI guidance.

STRZOK: That I may not consult with the FBI's council?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, there's no basis for that. He can consult with the FBI council. He's an FBI employee

GOODLATTE: The gentleman is not recognized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the chairman is not being proper.

PEREZ: Strzok explaining for the first time that he was referring to President Trump's attack on a gold star family with this text exchange from August of 2016. Page asks, Trump's not ever going to become president, right? Right? Strzok replies, no, no, he's not. We'll stop it.

STRZOK: My presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States, it was, in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate.

PEREZ: Republicans intent on portraying Strzok's texts as evidence of bias.

STRZOK: If you want to represent what you said accurately, I'm happy to answer that question. But I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok. I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.

PEREZ: And while Republicans bemoaned his actions, Democrats coming to Strzok's defense.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: What we're to believe from my Republican majority, that' you're so biased, you're such a Democrat, that you can't hold back from trying to destroy Donald Trump, yet you never told anybody that there was an investigation into Donald Trump's campaign into collusion with the Russians? You never told anybody about that?

STRZOK: No, sir.

PEREZ: The hearing hitting a low point when Republican Louie Gohmert attacked Strzok's character for having an extramarital affair.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I can't help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous.

GOHMERT: The accountability of a witness is always an issue and you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you, Mr. Gohmert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, please, there is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you -- Mr. Chairman, this is insane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is (INAUDIBLE) harassing of the witness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with that (ph). You need your medication.


PEREZ: And, Alisyn, and former senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page will testify on The Hill today, but she's going to be behind closed doors.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that will be a different tone we assume. Evan, thank you very much for bringing us all of the low lights.

We are joined now by CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman and, of course, John Avlon is here with us.

So, Maggie, I mean the grandstanding was epic. What jumped out at you?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There was a lot of jumping out of chairs, and that jumped out at me.

Look, I think that there's about seven different thing that have all been conflated into one in this hearing. It is legitimate to ask about the nature of these texts because I understand that what Strzok is trying to say is there was -- political bias didn't impact the outcome or how he performed his job. But those texts are biased. Definitionally, he was against Trump.

He is making the argument, and it's a pretty credible one, that if he was trying to stop Trump with these investigations, he didn't do a very good job of it, including --

CAMEROTA: He never mentioned it to anyone.

HABERMAN: Correct, including not leaking out details, not trying to publicize key facts that he knew that could have impacted public opinion. But -- but it was a spectacle, make no mistake there. And it is interesting watching everything, especially for people who are -- everything has become partisan, but people who are defending the president have started to equate, you know, x equals y equals z equals therefore this person cannot do their job. Nuance is gone and that was everything you saw yesterday.

[06:35:14] CAMEROTA: Yes. And one more point on that because I think that this is actually the overarching point. The Republicans were making, I think, the point that if you have any personal preference, if you have any personal bias, you cannot perform your job.

HABERMAN: You can't do your job, right.

CAMEROTA: And what does that say about them? I find that to be a very revealing stance that they're taking. And, in fact, it was pointed out, how can you ever serve your --


CAMEROTA: Democratic constituents if you think that your partisan bias doesn't allow you to do your job effectively.


CAMEROTA: I mean what's the answer?

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: I mean they're -- they are, at this point, all chugging Kool-Aid from their respective tribal troughs. And -- and the idea -- and so the hypocrisy's kind of blinded because they are completely approaching it, not about a search for truth, but grandstanding. And so that irony's not -- you know, that fall on the level of nuance in what -- what Maggie just said.

What I -- what I think's so stunning, beyond acknowledging the fact that, you know, Agent Strzok showed terrible judgment in having an affair, in sending these texts. He compromised his integrity. And as, you know, Teddy Roosevelt once said, you can't make powerful enemies if you're vulnerable in your private life.

But let not distract us from the larger point that I think Strzok was making, which is that the FBI held on. There was no leaking of information about an ongoing Russia investigation that went back to July of '16. If anything, James Comey's actions as head of the FBI helped Donald Trump win the presidency. So the kabuki and the heated -- and the anger is itself sort of surreal.

HABERMAN: Well, and it's being done also -- I mean we -- the bigger picture here, to your point, is, this is looking to undercut the credibility of the probe into possible Russia collusion. And you really can't lose sight of that.

What Republicans and the president, with his Twitter feed, have done is tried to make this all about Peter Strzok personally. There's no question that Peter Strzok made many, many, many mistakes, but that does not mean that the investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign is negated. And that is what you are seeing Trump and his allies say. They are trying to use one to say the other is invalid and it's hard to draw that line if you're looking at facts honestly.

AVLON: In fact, that's explicitly what Rudy Giuliani did in a tweet last night, saying that, you know, that entire investigation is the fruit of a poisoned tree --

HABERMAN: Yes. AVLON: Because Strzok was ever involved in it. So that is the larger game. Let's muddy the facts. Let's use it to discredit the entire Mueller investigation.


AVLON: And that's dangerous. I mean we have to be in a place, as a country, where we can agree on facts. But this is an assault on the idea that there is -- there is such a thing as an independent investigation into what we know was a foreign power's attempt to influence an election.

CAMEROTA: I mean, on the personal front, it's a good thing that no Republicans or Rudy Giuliani ever had a marital infidelity is all I can say because they would really look hypocritical by going after the personal bad judgment if they ever had an affair or anything like that.

AVLON: I think Louis Gohmert's the one who hung his hat on that particular part.

HABERMAN: Yes, I think everybody else said that that was a bridge to far, including Mark Meadows.

AVLON: Yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: All right, let's move on to what's happening -- the drama that we're seeing unfold, Maggie, oversees and what's happening to the U.K.

It was so interesting that this interview with "The Sun" comes out where Donald Trump gave an interview. It hit last night. It undercut Prime Minister Theresa May. And then just now we watch their photo-op and he's conciliatory, he's complimentary.

Explain the Trump dynamic where in person he is complementary and behind your back he stabs you in the back.

HABERMAN: There -- so there's -- there's two dynamics and they're not in competition but there's just two things going on. One is that Trump does not see a need to have continuity in his behavior. So there's no -- there's no contradiction in having given this interview where, you know, he repeatedly does the thing in the interview where he's like, no, no, I'm not saying negative things about her, but, here's the shiv and let's just push her over. And he sees no contradiction between that and then showing up and being friendly with her.

But he really doesn't like direct, one-on-one interpersonal conflict and confrontation. And that's what you are seeing here.

Christiane Amanpour was commenting from Europe that she saw in Theresa May some sense of trying to almost placate Trump or make things easier for him. And there was some of that. And he was asked, you know, I think some question about, do you regret what you said or something like that and he just wouldn't answer it.

But he didn't look particularly comfortable.

CAMEROTA: No, but it's an interesting dynamic to have the aggrieved party, who's been undercut, try to comfort the aggressor. I mean what's on display is --

HABERMAN: We're seeing all kinds of news things.



AVLON: We are a long way from Franklin and Winston and Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher. There is bad blood on the menu at the bilateral today.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, thank you very much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

OK, John Berman is on the ground there with that stunning backdrop for all of the drama in the U.K.

Hi, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I built it -- I built it just for you, Alisyn.

No, behind there, behind parliament is where we're seeing some of the biggest protests in London right now.

[06:40:03] I believe we have a live aerial shot of what's going on, on the ground there. Thousands of people out on the streets.

That Trump baby balloon has now been lowered. The time it was allotted to fly is now over, so it has been grounded. I think perhaps the attention being paid to this is disproportionate to the actual impact here. So the people who built it getting exactly what they want, no question about that.

But just part of the protests we're seeing around the United Kingdom. This as the president and prime minister are behind closed doors at this moment in the middle of their bilateral meeting. They will speak live at a press conference in just a little bit. We will bring that to you.

What's the impact of everything we have seen this morning? What is it like when a bomb drops like this overnight diplomatically? We're going to speak to someone that has been an ambassador to everywhere who can guide us through these delicate moments.


BERMAN: President Trump and the British Prime Minister Theresa May, they are meeting at this moment. This coming after the president slammed the prime minister in an scathing interview with a British tabloid. I should note, they are preparing for a joint news conference. That will take place maybe about an hour from now, as soon as this bilateral meeting is complete.

[06:45:06] You're looking at live pictures. It will be an outdoor news conference underneath the nice English sky.

Joining me now to discuss how this will all go is John Negroponte, former director of National Intelligence, former U.S. ambassador to more countries than actually exist on planet earth.

Ambassador Negroponte, thank you so much for being with us to help us understand this moment.

And what I want to first get from you is this. Because you've been inside at so many different types of moments around the world, what happens when an article like this comes out? What happens behind the scenes when there is this moment? Is there scrambling? Is there clean- up? What's going on right now?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I mean, I think certainly -- a certain amount of scrambling, a little bit of backgrounding and damage -- damage control I suppose would be the right word for it.

But, look, this is not totally surprising from President Trump. We always wonder what he's going to say next. The substance of his foreign policy tends to be much better than the form. There hasn't really been a president like him in terms of the way he talks so freely. I -- he thinks out loud, I think, when discussing some of these situations and doesn't always contemplate the ramifications.

BERMAN: The substance is better in the form, we'll talk more about that in just a second.

Specifically on the form, though, in this case you do believe some of the things he said overnight in this bombshell of an interview were inappropriate, particularly about the former foreign secretary who quit the cabinet, Boris Johnson. Explain.

NEGROPONTE: Well, it's not textbook diplomacy, let's put it that way. On the other hand, it's probably a double edged sword in the sense that whatever he said -- Britain's an age old democracy. It's got its vigorous parliament. People are going to be reacting to what he said. And the British people are going to have their own reaction and so is their parliament. And so I'm not sure that it's necessarily going to hurt Mrs. May. It may end up being sort of a wash in terms of the impact it has. Or people might even come rushing to her defense.

But, again, the important thing I think is to try to pass from this moment to the substance of the meetings they're going to have or they have had and are going to continue to have.

BERMAN: And let's talk -- and let's talk about the substance. Again, you say, at times with the president your view is the substance is better than the form. Talk about the substance that took place in Brussels. What do you think there worked and didn't work?

NEGROPONTE: Well, again, he had -- he went in there as the disrupter and had everybody quite dismayed as to what he was saying and his demands that spending be increased. And then, of course, he came out with a press conference later on, a press statement, saying that he thought it had been a very successful meeting and that countries had committed to greater increases.

In fact, if you read the 18 page communique coming out of NATO, it's pretty standard fair out of the NATO summit. That's pretty standard fair. And I think a robust commitment on the part of all member nations to the NATO alliance and to working together in -- in -- on the global scene.

So, again, it's -- it's -- it's the teleprompter Trump, if you will, versus the Twitter Trump. It's -- when he tweets and ad libs or thinks out lout, he will say that get people upsets or confused as to what he might mean. But when push comes to shove, the policy seems normally to come out in the right place.

I wonder what the two leaders are talking about right now in their bilateral meeting, but I'm sure one of the things that's going to come up is the president's forthcoming trip to Russia. And there I think I probably have the most serious concern, particularly about the possibility that one way or the other the president might make some kind of concession to the Russians on the issue of Ukraine. And I think that would be a bad outcome.

BERMAN: You're worried about that?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I do worry about that. And I'm sure that our European friends, Mrs. May, and possibly even the queen for all I know, although we'll never know what happened between them unless the president tweets it out, is going to be to caution the president about the menace or the threat that Russia's behavior represents to Europe. And certainly the seizure of a -- of territory from another sovereign state, in this day and age, is something that is completely reprehensible and just cannot in any way, shape or form be recognized. I think that's probably the single most important point as far as his trip to Russia is concerned.

[06:50:15] BERMAN: And that is Monday. We're watching that very carefully. And as you note, he speaks of the threat posed by many more U.S. allies than he does speak about the threats posed by Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Ambassador Negroponte, always a pleasure to speak with you. I really appreciate it.

NEGROPONTE: Yes. Thank you.

BERMAN: We've been watching the protests here in London and across the United Kingdom. We have some pictures from up above as to what they look like. We'll have a live report from the ground coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: All right, there are protests here on the streets of London protesting the visit of President Donald Trump. This as the British prime minister is meeting with the president at this moment about 40 miles outside of London.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in the middle of the protests in Parliament Square.

What are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, John, behind me is a very much deflated Donald Trump blimp. But don't worry, those of you that got accustomed to seeing it, there will be a smaller one popping up in just the next hour which doesn't have the two-hour long restriction attached to it.

[06:55:07] But, still, a very colorful scene here. One man dressed as Charlie Chaplin in protest in a much more artistic, if not slightly insulting, picture being held up here.

But this is essentially just the beginning of it. A day of protest in which tens of thousands of people are expected to move through central London in protest. Of course, this initially having been permitted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. And that drew an angry response from Donald Trump, saying it made him feel unwelcome and criticized the terrorism and crime record here.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, again, in the middle of the protests behind me in Parliament Square. We will keep our eye on this throughout the morning. Right now it looks more like a festival than any kind of angry demonstration. We will see if that changes.

The president and the prime minister behind closed doors as part of this really important meeting. How will it be affected by the bombshell of an interview the president gave that came out just hours before? Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[07:00:02] BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm John Berman live in London this morning. Alisyn in New York.

President Trump, he set off a political explosion here in the United Kingdom, slamming the British Prime Minister Theresa May