Return to Transcripts main page


Mueller Indicts 12 Russian Officers for Election Interference; Trump Meets Queen, Says Russian Meeting Still On; ; DOJ Announces Charges Just Days Before Trump-Putin Summit; Democrats And McCain Call For Trump To Cancel Putin Summit After Twelve Russian Officers Indicted For Intefering In 2016 Election; Unnamed Entities In Mueller Indictment Of Russians Appear To Include WikiLeaks And Trump Ally Roger Stone. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Bombshell indictment. The Justice Department charges a dozen Russians, military intelligence officers, accusing them of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Large-scale interference. Details of the vast hacking conspiracy whose targets included Democrats and a state election board where data on half a million American voters was stolen.

Call it off. Democrats and a key Republican say, in light of the new indictments, President Trump should cancel his meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

And royal roil. President Trump meets the British monarch after insulting her prime minister, denying it, then apologizing for it.

I'll Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Twelve Russian military intelligence officers indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Moscow's election meddling. The charges come just three days before President Trump sits down with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

We'll talk about that and more with Senator James Langford of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and analysts, they are also standing by.

First, details of the new indictments. Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, they're working the story for us. Anthony Ferrante is also joining us exclusively. He served as a top cyber security official with the FBI and was in charge of cyber incident response for the National Security Council. He's one of the first people to see the Russians hacking into state election systems.

Evan, let me start with you. These hackers, they hacked into the DNC, the Hillary Clinton campaign computers, and they did a lot more.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This indictment lays out in great detail the charges against 12 Russian military officers. Now, these are people who work for the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, and they're charged with cyber hacking, identity theft, money laundering.

Now, they carried out, according to the government, this extraordinary campaign around the world, using servers in Malaysia and other countries, essentially using cryptocurrencies and other means to hide their tracks all along the FBI and the intelligence community here in the United States was following them. They watched some of their communications as they targeted more than 300 Democrats, people inside the Clinton campaign, the DNC, the DCCC, monitoring specific employees, even looking through the computers for specific language, looking for opposition research, including Benghazi and other terms, Wolf.

This is exactly the campaign that the intelligence community told us about last year. They said this was designed to try to help Donald Trump get elected, to hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign. And here, for the first time, we're seeing a window into this operation by the Russian military intelligence.

BLITZER: And to sow dissent here in the United States, as well.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: One of their directives.

Shimon, the Russian trade cap (ph), you've been doing some reporting on this. The amazing details including in this indictment -- included in this indictment.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's quite spectacular when you look at this indictment, the level of detail that the U.S. government has, the FBI has in terms of how this operation was conducted.

And you know, as Evan said, they targeted 300 people that were associated with the DNC, the DCCC and the Clinton campaign in a very simple method, spear phishing, claiming an e-mail they would send -- in this case it was John Podesta, where they can make them believe that they were Google. They used various methods like that, where they would pretend to be someone who perhaps it would feel safe to click on. They clicked on some e-mails, and that's how they were able to get inside some of this system.

They also used malware, and they were able to use the malware to get into the DNC and the DCCC. And basically, they sat there for quite some time, and they were able, in some case real time, to watch as people would access files, access e-mails, access different information on these servers. And the Russians, all along, were able to monitor this, grab some of that information.

And the other thing, what's interesting in the indictment, is that it talks about how these were planned, staged releases. So as they were getting some of this information, it's clear that they were, you know, deciding as to when -- part of some of their tradecraft here, part of some of their use of some of the information was to decide on when it was best to publish it and put it out.

BLITZER: What does this tell us about the -- these Russian intelligence officers and how they operated? It's pretty amazing.

PROKUPECZ: It's quite spectacular, Wolf. I mean, you have a commander. You have a major of the military, the Russian intelligence, the military arm of Russia here, very coordinated.

[17:05:00] You have 12 people working together, creating these accounts. There was social media accounts. They used fictious names to build servers outside of the U.S. In one case, the FBI was able to track a server to Malaysia. But this is clearly a very sophisticated operation, a very well-coordinated operation, really, that ties into the highest levels of the Russian government.

BLITZER: Evan, beyond the Democratic National Committee, the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Hillary Clinton for president election committee, they went after state election systems including various state secretaries of state.

PEREZ: Right. That's one of the tantalizing things we've been hearing about for, really, over a year, the way that these -- the Russians were trying to target specific states.

In one instance, according to this indictment, they were able to get into the systems of one particular state. And they stole the information, about a half a million voters. This is their driver's license numbers, the date of birth. It doesn't really say, the indictment doesn't allege exactly what they did with this. It did say in the indictment that there is no information to indicate that they changed any vote counts.

But obviously, this is the big concern as you watch an operation like this, right, for an intelligence service to be hacking into the state systems. Really the nuts and bolts of the American election system. That's what scares people who did the job, as Anthony did.

BLITZER: And Anthony, you were there, you were investigating when you served in the government. Walk us through what you learned at the time.

ANTHONY FERRANTE, GLOBAL HEAD OF CYBERSECURITY, FII CONSULTING: Well, Wolf, it starts with one digital fingerprint, and an investigation ensues. I think Evan put it best, as he was speaking earlier, is that the Russians were definitely into our democratic systems, and I think the term Evan used is they were watching us. Well, I think it's fair to say, after reading this indictment, the United States was watching them, as well.

BLITZER: And they couldn't -- the U.S. couldn't stop it, because they did hack into the DNC. They did hack into the Hillary Clinton campaign. They did hack into the DCCC, and they exposed maybe a half a million American voters. Very sensitive, private information.

FERRANTE: They did. And unfortunately, these operations happen very quickly. And it's clear, by reading this indictment, that these 12 individuals were part of two very sophisticated teams. If you read the indictment carefully, of course, Shimon had mentioned officers through generals. And then you read the description of what each person did. And it's clear that these were two very sophisticated hacking teams.

BLITZER: Were these intelligence officers, these dozen Russian military intelligence officers, specifically authorized, directed by Putin to undertake this mission against the United States?

FERRANTE: Well, it's not clear in the indictment. But one would have to assume so. Two dedicated units, ranking as I said, through generals. You have a head of a department, an assistant head of a department. And clearly, their actions were part of a much larger coordinated campaign to effect some sort of influence on the 2016 election.

BLITZER: And you served in the government for a long time. Evan, hold on for one second. Any danger in the U.S. releasing all of this information? Because if you read this indictment, there is amazing, specific inside information about how the Russians operated and information, presumably, they're going to learn to try to fix it.

FERRANTE: Clearly, yes. I mean, there is a lot of information in this indictment. It's definitely an unprecedented peek behind the curtain and how the government conducts these investigations. But I think this is indication that the U.S. government is taking this extremely seriously, and they're not going to hold back any punches.

BLITZER: You were going to say, Evan?

PEREZ: Well, look, I think, you know, as Anthony was saying, you know, the previous assessments that were released by the intelligence community make it clear that the United States believes it has information and intelligence to indicate that this was ordered from the highest levels of the Russian government, from Vladimir Putin himself.

And so, look, the framing of all this -- we're talking three days, as you pointed out, three days away from the president being in Finland, sitting down across from the Russian leader. If the president is interested, there's plenty of information here for the president to use to confront Vladimir Putin and tell him exactly what the United States knows, despite his denials that the Russians were behind this operation.

BLITZER: Intelligence officials have told me it's still ongoing. The Russians are continuing to do this, looking ahead to November, the midterm elections. Based on everything you know, Anthony, is it ongoing right now?

FERRANTE: I would -- I would say that's a fair assessment. In my current role, I meet with dozens of state officials regularly, and they tell me repeatedly that they continue to see activity, adversarial activity against their networks, and they desperately need help.

BLITZER: You'd think the president of the United States, when he meets with Putin on Monday in Helsinki should demand from Putin that they extradite these 12 Russian military intelligence officers, even though we all suspect the Russians will never do it, Putin will never do it. But should he demand that they be sent here to the United States for trial?

FERRANTE: I would love to see an act like that. I think we'll see -- we'll see extensive pushback from the Russians. I believe they've already issued a statement that called this indictment slander and fake news.

[17:10:18] BLITZER: They've already issued a statement like that. We're going to have more details. They're already sort of echoing what the president himself has said about a rigged witch hunt and fake news. They just put out, the Russian foreign ministry, a statement along those -- along those lines.

So, where does this go from here, from your perspective?

FERRANTE: From my perspective, it just -- it just highlights what we have been saying all along, not only in U.S. government, but in the cyber security industry: that our electoral infrastructure is -- is weak and we need assistance. State and electoral officials certainly need not only support with respect to financial assistance, but technical assistance.

And this indicates, this indictment shows that the U.S. government is taking this seriously. That there's been an extensive investigation taking place over the years. And I think we're getting closer and closer to the truth to understand what really happened.

BLITZER: So what happens with Mueller next? What's he going to do as a result of this? Where does he go from here?

FERRANTE: That's a great question.

BLITZER: What do you think?

FERRANTE: What do I think? I think we're going to see -- we're going to see this indictment flashed out a little more. There's indication of some U.S. entities, and further digging into what they've uncovered in this. I think you're going to see more people raise their hand --

BLITZER: Including U.S. citizens. No U.S. citizens were indicted in this particular operation. But could you see, for example, Roger Stone or WikiLeaks named in a future indictment?

FERRANTE: I could see other prominent folks that have been discussed in the past possibly named in the future, sure.

BLITZER: Shimon, what do you say? PROKUPECZ: I think there's a lot more to say. But in terms of where

this goes, we know that Roger Stone, certainly, is one of the people that Mueller has been asking questions about, although he's not named in this indictment. There are some indications that some of the communications with Guccifer 2.0 matches up with the time period concerning Roger Stone.

The other thing here is -- and we mentioned this, but just the level of intelligence that the U.S. has been able to gather here, so much so that, you know, we've been able to gather some reporting that they captured some of the people, some of the Russians that are named in this indictment, celebrating this operation, celebrating Trump's victory, celebrating the success of their hacking operation, essentially. That is how good the U.S. intelligence got in this case, in this investigation. And that's remarkable.

When you read this, you can see that they were all over some of their, perhaps their e-mail, their phones, other information, human sources.

And this also, Wolf -- and I think we shouldn't forget this -- is that we're obviously approaching the election. This could be a way for our government, for the FBI, for the Department of Justice to say, you know, "Russia, if you try to do this again, if you're planning on anything come November, we're going to be all over you. We know what you're doing." It could be --

BLITZER: It's amazing if you read this indictment, it reads like a novel almost. Thanks very much, Shimon, Evan, Anthony. Guys, appreciate it very, very much.

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, says President Trump was briefed on the new indictments earlier this week, and today's announced threatened to overshadow his U.K. visit, which has been marked by a lot of controversy. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now.

Jim, you're there traveling with the president. Has his team reacted, first of all, to these new indictments?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They have, Wolf. The White House released a very carefully-worded statement on these charges against the Russians in the 2016 election, noting that there's no allegation of, quote, "knowing involvement" by anyone in the Trump campaign, while the president is still calling the Russian investigation a witch hunt.

He told CNN earlier today he will tell Vladimir Putin to stay out of U.S. elections when they meet on Monday, a summit the White House says tonight is still on.


ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president was greeted by Queen Elizabeth and holding talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr. Trump was again met with the unwelcome guest that never seems to leave his side: the Russia investigation. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that we're

being hurt very badly by the -- I would call it the witch hunt. I would call it the rigged witch hunt.

ACOSTA: At a news conference, the president again slammed the Russia probe, despite the fact that he had been briefed earlier this week that the Justice Department was preparing an indictment against 12 Russians accused in hacking in the 2016 election.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president is fully aware of the department's actions today.

ACOSTA: On the defensive, the White House released a statement, noting, "Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the Trump campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we've been saying all along."

The president said he would raise the issue of election meddling when he meets with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday.

TRUMP: I know you'll ask, will we be talking about meddling? And I will absolutely bring that up. I don't think you'll have any, "Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me." There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think.

[17:15:10] ACOSTA: Still, Mr. Trump complained the Russia investigation complicates his relationship with Moscow.

TRUMP: We do have a political problem where, you know, in the United States we have this stupidity going on, pure stupidity, but it makes it very hard to do something with Russia. Anything you do, it's always going to be, "OH, Russia, he loves Russia." I love the United States.

ACOSTA: As the president said at the NATO summit, he wants to be friends with Putin.

TRUMP: He's not my enemy and, hopefully, some say, maybe he'll be a friend. It could happen.

ACOSTA: But the president told CNN he will insist that the Russians cease their attacks on American democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections?


ACOSTA: Following the NATO summit, where he outraged some U.S. allies, Mr. Trump irritated his hosts in Britain, criticizing the prime minister's handling of Brexit to "The Sun" tabloid.

TRUMP: I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it. But she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. ACOSTA: In a rare moment of contrition, the president said he was


TRUMP: Because when I saw her this morning, I said, "I want to apologize, because I said such good things to you."

ACOSTA: But there were no apologies from the president for his harsh rhetoric on immigration after saying he believes immigrants are changing the fabric of Europe.

TRUMP: And I know it's politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I'll say it and I'll say it loud. And I think they'd better watch themselves, because you are changing culture. It's a very sad situation. It's very unfortunate. But I do not think it's good for Europe, and I don't think it's good for our country.


ACOSTA: Now, as for Russian meddling, all eyes will be on the president to see if he will, in fact, tell Vladimir Putin to stay out of U.S. elections, as he told us earlier today.

And now, Mr. Trump faces, perhaps, an even more critical question: Will he demand that Putin turn over the Russians who have been indicted back in the U.S.? That demand will only make his hopes for a friendship with Vladimir Putin much more complicated. Wolf, the White House, the president, have not referred to all of this as an attack on our democracy, in terms of what the Russians did in hacking the 2016 election, which of course, it was -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in London for us, thank you.

The breaking news continues next. We're going to have more on the vast hacking conspiracy, detailed in the new U.S. Justice Department indictments. And we'll talk about it with Senator James Langford of the Senate Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees.

We'll be right back.


[17:22:04] BLITZER: We're following major breaking news: the special counsel, Robert Mueller indicts 12 senior Russian military intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. That comes just days before President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin. I'll be in Helsinki, by the way, for CNN's special coverage of that summit on Monday.

There's a lot we need to discuss. Let's get to Jeffrey Toobin.

First, Jeffrey, we've all read this lengthy indictment right now. What stands out in your mind?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Simply the extent and duration and intensity of the Russian effort, the Russian government's effort to make sure Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton became president of the United States.

I mean, this effort was really extraordinary. And it answers a lot of questions, but it raises one and doesn't resolve it, which is whether there was any complicity, any collusion by the Americans, by the Trump campaign. It doesn't accuse them, but it doesn't exonerate them, either. That question is very much still open.

BLITZER: Susan Hennessey, these 12 Russian military intelligence officers, they clearly worked for the Russian government. Everybody believes they would not have done this unless Putin, himself, authorized them to do it. How significant is all the detail we learned?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. This really isn't new information. The Obama administration, back in October 2016, said that the highest echelons of the Russian government had directed this interference. The intelligence community assessment is really, really clear on the point. They say with high confidence, they believe the GRU specifically was involved.

So I don't really think there's any lingering good faith reason to doubt. But to the extent that there's any question whatsoever, this is Robert Mueller saying, "I am prepared to prove in court, beyond a reasonable doubt." So he really is speaking to the quality and quantity of the evidence they had. At the end of the day, this is a little bit academic, because these are not individuals that are going to see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

BLITZER: They're not going to be extradited to the United States. No one believes they will.

But the amazing details, one thing for the U.S. government, the intelligence community to say Russia did it for whatever reason. It's another to name names and explain precisely how they did it in this indictment.

The timing, Gloria Borger, of this indictment, coming just a few days before the summit between the president of the United States and the president of Russia.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you have to assume that the Justice Department knew that this was going to be controversial so close to the summit. That's why -- I mean, Rosenstein went out of his way to say, "I informed the president that this was coming."

If the president had said, you know, "Wait," I don't know what they would have done. I mean, I'm presuming that they did this with the president knowing that they were going to do it.

If Donald Trump were anybody else, Wolf, he could walk into a meeting with Vladimir Putin or he could cancel it, decide not to do it because of this. But he could say, "Chapter and verse, here it is. You did it. Why don't you extradite -- let us extradite these people to the United States? And we don't have an extradition treaty with Russia. What are you going to do? We're going to slap more sanctions on you. I have this cold."

[17:25:17] But this is not Donald Trump. So we're not sure. We know they're not going to cancel the summit. So we're not sure what he's going to do with this.

I mean, what Rosenstein, what Mueller has done and it would have given any other president is an armament here to throw at Vladimir Putin, with details that read like a novel and with -- with an incredible depth of cyber security, whatever they do. I don't have any idea. But it's amazing what we've accomplished. But the question is, what is Donald Trump going to do with it?

BLITZER: Well, the optics of the summit, Sabrina Siddiqui, the Monday summit in Finland, assuming it goes forward, and all indications are it will go forward. The White House says it will go forward. The Russians say it will go forward. But the optics of this indictment will have a tremendous impact.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Certainly. And I think there are many people who are already questioning the optics going into the summit when you think about the context of the past year and a half, where it has been the widespread consensus of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia, a foreign adversary, meddled in the 2016 election, with the intent of sowing discord in the United States and undermining its Democratic process of inflicting damage on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Why was President Trump, after all of that, willing to reward Vladimir Putin with this high-profile summit? I think if you look at the president's tone, also going into the summit where he's called Vladimir Putin a competitor, said he's not an enemy, where he shrugged off this issue of election meddling, it doesn't provide any reassurances that he plans to take seriously, holding Russia accountable for its actions.

In fact, it was like pulling teeth last year to get the administration to sign off on the sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly passed that, in part, were to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the election.

BORGER: The president's reaction to this today was kind of remarkable and stunning and, in a way, depressing. Because he said -- the White House statement was narcissistic and said, "Well, this proves that -- that there was no collusion, that you know, the campaign wasn't involved," because they used the line from Rod Rosenstein saying there was no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime.

And so it was all about Donald Trump and him, his organization. What it wasn't about was congratulating the Justice Department for their incredible forensics in doing this or saying Vladimir Putin has a lot of explaining to do and is going to have to pay for this, and this cannot stand in the future. None of that from the president of the United States. Only that from John McCain.

BLITZER: We put together, Jeffrey, some clips of the president, what he said about WikiLeaks, what he said about Russian interference during the campaign. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You've got to read it.

Amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks is fascinating.

Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.

Came off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn't want to keep you waiting.

Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.


BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey, you want to weigh in?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, just remember, now we know that, according to Donald Trump's Department of Justice, WikiLeaks was part of a criminal conspiracy against American law. The organization that he is celebrating in all of those comments are a part of a criminal enterprise to undermine the most important election in the United States.

And they have done it with complete impunity. This summit is going forward. They are going to meet, just the two of them, Putin and Trump. No one knows why the summit is even taking place. No one knows, really, what's going to happen between the two of them, because no one else is going to be present.

I mean, this is like a spy novel, except it's real life. You have the president of the United States encouraging unlawful activity. The unlawful activity is caught and the president is like, "Well, whatever."

BLITZER: In this indictment, Susan Hennessey, no Americans were indicted, no U.S. citizens, just these 12 Russian military personnel. They were indicted. But could this lead to further indictments down the road, involving U.S. citizens?

HENNESSEY: We always want to be careful when we're discussing uncharged conduct here. You know, but look, this indictment shows that there was an ongoing criminal conspiracy into the summer of 2016, that American citizens were in contact with the charged conspirators, including individuals that were part of the campaign, that they were in contact about the very subject of the criminal conspiracy: the hacking and dissemination of these -- these e-mails.

[17:30:02] Now that doesn't get us all the way to the sort of federal aiding and abetting statutes, you know, but it does raise really significant questions. You know, we don't know who, we don't have enough information of who might be indicted next. But I do think it's a safe bet that this is not the last person who's going to be charged in the Robert Mueller's investigation.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Everybody, stand by. I want to bring in right now, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma; he's a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also a Member of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: These individuals, high ranking Russian officials, working for the Russian military intelligence operation, directly, clearly for the Russian government. Could this have been authorized by anyone other than President Vladimir Putin?

LANKFORD: It could have been, but most likely it was authorized by him. So, I can't imagine Putin not being engaged. Again, we lose track of the facts sometimes. He's a KGB agent. What they always say is there's no former KGB agent. So, he is somebody that's passionate about the intelligence, about going to be able to probe this. And so, I can't imagine that he wasn't directly involved in this as well.

BLITZER: As you know, no Americans were indicted today, but you expect that to change?

LANKFORD: I'm not sure that will change. They were pretty clear in the indictment today to be able to say there were Americans involved. We've known that for a while even from the previous indictments against the Internet research agency -- that's a Russian entity -- before when they came out there. It was clear that there were Americans they reached out to that these were Russians, that was mentioned again today, that pretended to be Americans even interacting with other Americans. So, I think it's a big jump to say those Americans were colluding with or they were cooperating with, or they may be indicted. These were Americans that were reached out to through different social media platforms by Russians that had pretended to also be Americans to be able to talking about the campaign. So, they seem to be unwitting in this cooperation with some foreign entity.

BLITZER: In addition to going after the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee, the Hillary Clinton Campaign. The indictment makes it clear that the Russians also went after specific voting systems throughout the United States that are clearly vulnerable to hacking. And they say that half a million, 500,000 American citizens have very sensitive voter data information stolen. What is Congress doing to fix that?

LANKFORD: Well, that's actually a bill that I worked on, it's a bipartisan bill we released out months and months ago, that we're working through the process right now. We just had a hearing with the Rules Committee this week on the Secure Elections Act. That's something Amy Klobuchar and I have worked on for months and months along with Kamala Harris and multiple others. Now, we believe that we should cooperate with the federal government and states in their election systems to make sure they stay secure. Now, elections are a state responsibility and its part of the strength of our system is that there's a diversity of systems. But if any one entity is vulnerable, then the entire election system is vulnerable. So, we got to have more communication --

BLITZER: Go ahead, finish your thought.

LANKFORD: Well, we have to have more communication, we've got to have better security, and we've got to be able to make sure that when we find out a threat is happening, that we're working with those states to be able to identify that threat and neutralize it.

BLITZER: You released a statement today, very carefully written statement. I read it completely. It says in part -- and let me quote from the statement: "With each passing month, our Russian investigations continues to confirm that Russian officials attempted to interfere in our 2016 election." Now, the Russians, clearly, according to this indictment, they hacked the DNC server, they hacked voter rolls, they hacked the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman. Isn't that more than an attempt?

LANKFORD: Well, when you talk about that they interfered in our election, I think a lot of people take the next jump and say they clanged votes, they changed the outcome. What's been very clear, both from all our DOJ, from Mueller, from all the way to the investigation in the both the House and the Senate in a bipartisan agreement. We've not found evidence that they changed any votes, that they engaged to this, but clearly, they were trying to be able to affect our elections. But we've got to be able to be clear, because they were trying to attack voting systems, and try to find out more about them; they were probing that information. There are 2-plus states that we already know and have verifiable evidence that they were probing those different states to see if they can find that information. Most of those, they were not able to get into. Some, they were able to get the voter rolls, but not actually get to changing votes. So, they were trying to find ways to engage. But again, we found no evidence, and so far, we've seen nothing from the special counsel that they've changed votes, but they were clearly trying to engage our election to influence Americans.

BLITZER: Because they released a lot of e-mails throughout the course of that campaign that clearly, potentially could have had a very, very serious effect. They weren't attempting to interfere, they clearly did interfere.

LANKFORD: Well, they were engaged in it. If you realized early on in the campaign, they were trying to affect every campaign. They were breeding chaos in it. Longer it went on and once there were two candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they were very focused on doing everything they can to hurt Hillary Clinton. I think that's a key reason that they were going after the DNC to be able to get information there. It's a key reason that they were trying to be able to attack. They had a clear disdain for Hillary Clinton throughout the process.

[17:35:05] BLITZER: The White House released a statement following the indictment -- let me read it to you in part: "Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along. The statement did not condemn the Russians for their activity -- and that was surprising. I want you to compare what the White House statement said with what was just released by Senator John McCain. He says this: "Today's indictment is a result of the hard work of America's law enforcement and intelligence officials who dedicate their lives to bring into justice those who wish to do us harm. These revelations add to a body of evidence confirming an extensive plot by Vladimir Putin's government to attack the 2016 election, sow chaos and dissention among the American electorate and undermine faith in our democracy. If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward." That statement from John McCain. Which are those two statements, sir, resonates more with you?

LANKFORD: I would say McCain's statement does. He's very, very clear on it. I mean, what the president stated is also correct, but I'm proud that John McCain put out such a clear statement along those lines as well. There have been some actions on Russia of late and what we saw previously, when Mueller came out and indicted all those with the Internet research agency -- there were sanctions that were laid on those individuals, whether it'd be some of the oligarchs that were involved in funding it, the individuals at the Internet research agency, the agency itself, and some of the intelligence bureaus within the Russian government. I hope and expect that they would do that again and expand this out after the Mueller indictment to be able to expand out our sanctions. The president has been clear with Germany and his frustration of their cooperation with Russia for Russia gas that undermines NATO, that undermines all in Europe for them to be able to get Russian gas and be dependent on Russia. And the president has been very outspoken on that to be able to push back on Russia and Germany, and I would hope he continue to press in other ways.

BLITZER: Should the president have said what Senator McCain said?

LANKFORD: I would hope the president would continue to say some of those same things. He's a firm law enforcement over and over again. He's been very frustrated, that's been very public, about his frustration to say that this seems to be a continual attack on him; that they find lots of evidence that the Russians were trying to engage. They're not finding evidence that anyone on the president's campaign, whether the president himself were trying to work with the Russians. So, these constant accusations that the president was somehow colluding with the Russians is very different than the Russians were trying to attack our system. No question the Russians were trying to attack. But I think the president is frustrated there when they make the next jump when there's no evidence for that. BLITZER: The investigation, though, that Mueller has undertaken and

his team, obviously, continues. Do you believe in light of the indictment today, the president should cancel his planned summit Monday with Putin?

LANKFORD: I don't. I think there are a lot of issues that have to be addressed including this one. I think the president should be very frank on what he's already said about Ukraine. We have Russian engagement and occupation of Eastern Ukraine. The president has already made a statement saying that's the first thing that's going to come up. We have to be able to deal with that; we've got to be able to deal with Syria. The Russians, I don't think, have much influence there. I think that Ayatollahs in Iran have been playing the Russians for a very long time and been basically using them as their own personal military for the things that Iran didn't want to do.

But then, and Iran plans to stay and the Russians are going to continue to be able to pull out. The United States and the Russians have to be able to talk about what happens in Syria and where does this go in the days ahead because that's exceptionally important to the entire region. And I would certainly hope the president is very frank and clear to not believe President Putin when he says we didn't do it, and to know that we absolutely know that the Russians and President Putin were engaged in trying to affecting our elections. And I hope the president will make that very blunt and clear.

BLITZER: He keeps calling it a rigged witch hunt as recently as only a few hours ago, even though knew what Rosenstein was about to announce. Senator Lankford, thanks so much for joining us.

LANKFORD: You bet. Thank you.

[17:38:58] BLITZER: Coming up, more details from today's bombshell indictment on the Russia election meddling investigation. We'll be right back.


[17:43:44] BLITZER: We are following dramatic aftershocks from today's latest indictment from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The indictment names 12 Russian members of the Russian military intelligence unit and comes just days before President Trump is set to meet with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju has been tracking down lawmakers to get their reaction. Manu, is it the usual partisan divide?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the most part, yes, Wolf. Democrats, in particular, seizing on these new allegations to say that it's time for the president and his allies to back off those attacks against Robert Mueller, back off from the criticism, calling it a witch hunt, telling the Republicans who have been criticizing the Mueller probe are not yet willing to do. And Democrats, also saying, it's time to call off that planned Monday meeting between Vladimir Putin and the president, and the Republicans don't agree with that.


RAJU: What are you concerned about with having the one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Putin? What specifically is driving your concern to say they should not meet alone?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I have been concerned for some time with the president's ad hoc style of going into meetings and winging it, isn't appropriate, particularly when you're dealing with someone like Vladimir Putin, who's been on the world stage for 20 years, former KGB agent. He will come in with his facts, with maps, and I'm afraid that actually the president could be taken advantage of.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think the president, frankly, ought to cut his losses with this disastrous trip to Europe, and not make it worse by a friendly meeting with Vladimir Putin on the heels of yet another indictment of Russia.


RAJU: Now, on the Republican side, it's been mostly quiet. John McCain, one of the notable exceptions saying that it is time to call off this meeting. If not, the president, if he's meeting with Putin, needs to take a firm and aggressive stand towards Vladimir Putin. But others, even the Republican leadership have not responded to questions about this. Paul Ryan would not say whether or not Trump should meet Putin. Mitch McConnell's office also would not comment. And I've been standing outside this hearing room, it's been going on for several hours over House Republicans. And virtually none of them agree that it's time to call off that meeting. The White House plans to move forward, Wolf. So, again, despite these very serious allegations that have come forward against these Russian nationals, you're seeing the usual partisan divide on Capitol Hill.

[17:46:09] BLITZER: Yes, Senator Lankford, the Republican, just told us, the meeting should go. Manu, thank you very much. Coming up, one of the most intriguing questions raised by today's indictment. Who's the unnamed person who allegedly did have contact with the conspirators, as well as senior members of the Trump campaign.


[17:51:01] BLITZER: "One of the most the intriguing questions raised by today's special counsel indictment involves an American identified only as a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump," that's a quote. The indictment says this person had direct contact with the conspirators. CNN's Brian Todd has been trying to connect the dots. So, Brian, what have you found out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are strong indications that this person is Roger Stone, the long-time Republican Strategist whose always been a master of intrigue and opposition research. Stone tonight is telling CNN he's not the person referred to in the indictment, despite word-for-word matches of communications that Stone admitted to having with Russian hackers.


TODD: Roger Stone, the longtime Trump confidante, the legendary Republican operative and conspiracy theorist with a Nixon tattoo on his back, tonight claims he's not a key unnamed person in Robert Mueller's indictment, despite strong indications otherwise.

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Who says that lucifer is a Russian?

TODD: Today, Robert Mueller did. The indictment says that in the heat of the 2016 campaign, around August 15th of that year, hackers working for Russian military intelligence, posing as an entity called Guccifer 2.0, "wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump." Stone tells CNN tonight, I don't think it is me, because I wasn't in regular contact with members of the Trump campaign. But the language, which Mueller's indictment says was used by Guccifer to communicate to that person matches an exchange, which Stone himself acknowledged he had with Guccifer. The indictment says the Russian hackers asked that person: Do you find anything interesting in the docs I posted? That's exactly what's in Twitter screen shots, which Stone released on his own Web site -- screenshots of exchanges Stone said he had with Guccifer.

A day after getting that message from Guccifer, according to messages confirmed by stone, stone wrote back, asking Guccifer to retweet an article Stone had written about how the election could be rigged against Trump. The indictment says that later, the Guccifer hackers wrote to the unnamed person: Please tell me if I can help you anyhow. It would be a great pleasure to me. Again, a match with a message Stone admitted he got from Guccifer. Tonight, even in denying that he's the unnamed person in the indictment, Stone tells CNN, those communications with Guccifer prove no collusion or collaboration -- something Stone told the House Intelligence Committee last September.

STONE: My exchange with someone claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 when viewed through the context, content, and timing was benign and innocuous.

TODD: Stone stressed that those messages he exchanged with Guccifer occurred after the hacking of the Democrats took place. But there were other head-scratching moves by Roger Stone during 2016, even though he'd left the Trump campaign the previous year. Twice in 2016, Stone claimed to have had back channel communications with Julian Assange, Founder of WikiLeaks, which published some of the damaging Democratic e-mails. Stone said this to "Showtime."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that you have a back channel to Assange, correct?

STONE: Mm-hmm. We just happen to have a mutual friend -- yes, who we happen to have a mutual friend who has supported Assange and has some connection to him.

TODD: Stone has since explained he got his information from a friend who spoke with Assange, but it was not a communication directly with Assange.


TODD: Now, there've been other curious communications which Roger Stone has explained away more than a month before Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's e-mails were published by WikiLeaks, Stone seemed to predict that would happen in a tweet, saying Podesta would be "in the barrel." Stone later told CNN that prediction was based on his own research on Podesta, and not on any communications with WikiLeaks. Speaking with CNN today, Stone reiterated what Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, that there's no allegation in today's indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting. Roger Stone, by the way, will be among Chris Cuomo's guests later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern on "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

[17:55:11] There's breaking news coming up. New details of the Justice Department's indictment of a dozen senior Russian military intelligence officers, accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election.


[18:00:04] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. 12 Russians indicted. The Justice Department reveals the most detailed evidence yet of Moscow's interference in the 2016 presidential election --