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Mueller Indicts 12 Russians; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff; Trump Still Holds Meeting; Podesta Reaction to Indictments; Warner Reacts to Russian Indictments. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 13, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:14] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We begin with major breaking news.
New indictments in the Russia investigation.
Just moments ago, the deputy attorney general of the United States, Rod Rosenstein, announced that 12 senior Russian military officers have been indicted for trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election here in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Eleven of the defendants are charges with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election. One of those defendants and a 12th Russian military officer are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very strong, strong words.
Let's bring in our CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez. He was there at the news conference. Also our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance. He's in Helsinki, Finland, where President Trump will be meeting on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Evan, first of all, walk us through this indictment and the specific organizations and the Russian individuals involved.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This indictment actually names the names of 12 military intelligence officers from Russia who worked for the GRU, which is the Russian military intelligence unit. The indictment actually lists their names. It also lists the unit that they worked for in Moscow, describes some of their communications as they went through trying to essentially hijack computer servers around the world using cryptocurrencies to try to hide their tracks.
They broke into the DNC. They broke into the DCCC, as well as people associated with the Clinton campaign. And, obviously, this is the central focus of what Robert Mueller's investigation is all about, which is to try to figure out what happened in the 2016 election, what were the Russians up to.
What we don't see in this indictment is any indication or any names of any Americans who were participating or who may have known anything about this. As a matter of fact, the deputy attorney general, in his press conference behind me here, just in the last hour, made clear, he said that there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participate in alleged unlawful activity or knew that they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers.
This investigation is, obviously, still ongoing, Wolf, but, you know, one of the things that I think in reading this indictment that comes across is it's clear that the FBI, the intelligence agencies here in the United States have a great deal of communications that were going on between the Russians as well as some of the unnamed people that they were communicating with. Somebody who was in close touch with senior members of the Trump campaign. There was a journalist who was communicating with them to get some of the stolen e-mails that the Russians had hacked into.
And there's also an allegation in here about the Russians' ability to hack into state boards of election. There's the election supervisors. The -- sort of the basics of the way the American election systems work. And they stole the identities of 500,000 voters in the United States.
Now, we don't know what they did. This allegation -- the indictment doesn't say what they did with that information. They do make clear that they do not believe that this changed any of the vote counts.
But, clearly, Wolf, the timing of this indictment as the president is preparing for his summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in just a couple of days, he's obviously said that he's going to raise this issue with the Russian leader. Here, the Justice Department has laid out in plain language exactly who in the Russian military intelligence units were behind these activities, and we'll see whether or not this is something that the president is able to bring up with the Russian leader.
BLITZER: We'll see how that unfolds. Thanks very much.
I want to bring in Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the top Democrat, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He's joining me right now.
We've just learned that the top Democrat in the Senate, the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has just called on the president, congressman, to cancel the summit with Putin on Monday in Helsinki given the enormity of these allegations in this indictment. What do you think? REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I agree with him. In
particular because none of us have any confidence in what he'll say during that meeting. It has to be of concern, I think, to all Americans that the president wants this meeting to take place out of the earshot of any witnesses. And the president, by framing it that, OK, I will ask Putin about it, we don't need to ask Putin about it. The evidence is ironclad. That's not how you confront someone, by questioning whether it took place or what the Russians may have done. We know what the Russians did and now it's spelled out again in excruciating detail.
[13:05:17] This is the thing that really leaps out at me, Wolf, about this indictment, which is again the intelligence community has blessed sharing very detailed information about what we know about different members of the GRU and what the responsibilities are and when they took certain actions and what computers they used and where they used them. That is information that they do not like to share. But I'm sure they feel, and they're quite right about this, it's important that we let Americans know that the proof is unequivocal. It's important that we let the Russians know this.
So, yes, I think we -- the president, frankly, ought to cut his losses with this -- this disastrous trip to Europe, not make it worse by a friendly meeting with Vladimir Putin on the heels of yet another indictment of Russia.
BLITZER: Because the specifics in this indictment are really, as you correctly point out, enormous. The name -- they name names. And the U.S. intelligence community hates to do that because they think it could compromise future intelligence operations.
They go through point by point. It's one thing to say the Russians interfered. It's another thing to bring it up with all this kind of specific detail.
SCHIFF: Exactly. And, you know, what I've been looking at in these indictments, like the last indictment, is both what they include and what they don't include. Here, in the first indictment on the social media campaign, there was no mention of the hacking and dumping operation. So this indictment was foreseeable. We knew this was coming.
But here, there's no mention, for example, of the Russians communicating with Papadopoulos. Now, I'm going through this indictment in real-time, but I haven't found any mention of that yet. Why is that excluded, that the Russians approached the Trump campaign, letting them know that they had these documents that are spelled out in this indictment? The reason you wouldn't include that is if there may be more charges you want to bring later that do involve U.S. persons.
So this still doesn't resolve the question of whether U.S. persons were knowingly involved. All the attorney general -- deputy attorney general said today is, there are no allegations about that in this indictment. BLITZER: But listen to what the president said just a couple of -- a
few hours ago at that joint news conference he had with Theresa May, the British prime minister, about what he always describes as this rigged Russian witch hunt.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 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. I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia. I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance -- a very good relationship with President Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction when you hear that?
SCHIFF: This is exactly why he should not go to this meeting with Putin. He is basically undercutting the work of our own intelligence agencies, throwing it open to question, suggesting that this is all a witch hunt. That is complete music to Putin's ears.
And on the heels of bashing our allies in Europe, to go into a meeting with Putin in this kind of a subservient way to the interests of the Kremlin would be disastrous to our national interests.
The problem is not the investigation. The problem is that we have a president of the United States unwilling to confront our enemies and our adversaries, but who gratuitously attacks our allies. That's the problem. That's the threat to our country, not the good work of Bob Mueller.
BLITZER: Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said he briefed the president on this indictment earlier in the week. So how do you explain, if the president was fully aware that these 12 senior Russian GRU military intelligence operatives were going to be named specifically and all these details in this lengthy document were going to be released, how do you explain the president once again calling it a rigged witch hunt, the whole Mueller probe?
SCHIFF: Because his argument about witch hunt has nothing to do with facts. And he's not so oblivious he doesn't realize that. This is all marketing for him. If he says it enough, if he says no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, which he repeats in threes like a mantra, maybe he can make the country or at least enough of it believe him. And certainly on the state-run TV that Fox has become, they will parrot his talking points.
But this is precisely it. He has to be aware of what the facts are. But he believes that if you deny it -- and in the world of Donald Trump -- and, look, it served him well, it got him to the ultimate office in the land -- in the world of Donald Trump, if you deny something, you will not only not have a problem, but it didn't happen. It literally makes the facts go away. And that's what he's practicing.
BLITZER: It's really the timing of this, from my perspective, on the eve of this potentially historic summit with Putin and the president in Helsinki, the deputy attorney general, working with Robert Mueller, releases all this damning information about Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. What do you make of the timing of this?
[13:10:14] SCHIFF: Well, you know, the concern I had initially in listening to Rod Rosenstein talk about how he gave the president a heads up about this indictment, is, this is no ordinary criminal case. This is a criminal case that potentially implicated the president and people around him on his campaign. And to have the Justice Department giving a preview of an indictment to someone who is -- has an interest in the indictment is problematic. But I do think, in this case, when the president of the United States is going into a meeting with the Russian leader, you don't let the president of the United States go in blindly.
Now, if this indictment had involved U.S. persons affiliated with his campaign, then it's a different story. But I think the Justice Department made the right decision to give him a heads up so he didn't go into that meeting with Putin blindsided. But, nonetheless, knowing this, the president knowing that there's unequivocal proof that the Russians hacked our institutions, to go into this summit and continue to make these comments so favorable to Putin and the Russians is utterly inexplicable from the perspective of U.S. national security interests. It can only be explained by the fact that Donald Trump has a single ideology that trumps everything else, and that is the ideology of self. It's good for him is all that matters
BLITZER: But I do want to point out, Rosenstein did say, and I'm quoting him now, there is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers. How significant is that?
SCHIFF: You know, he said essentially the same thing in the last indictment, which is a very narrow legalistic way of saying, we didn't include those allegations here, but we might include them in the next indictment.
Now, we can practically count down the amount of time it's going to take the president to say, I'm vindicated. The attorney -- deputy attorney general has said there's no evidence that U.S. persons in my campaign were involved. Of course that's not what Rod Rosenstein is saying at all.
BLITZER: Didn't take very long for the president's advisers and supporters to say he's been vindicated by this indictment. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, the president's personal lawyer, just tweeted this. I'll read it. The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the president and say President Trump is completely innocent. That's Rudy Giuliani, obviously speaking for the president. He's his lawyer. SCHIFF: And I'm saying this in jest. They could be walking the
president away in handcuffs and Rudy Giuliani would say, he's been vindicated, but only partly in jest.
BLITZER: The bottom line in all of this, when you read this indictment, all these documents, you're on the Intelligence Committee, you're briefed, you're in the Gang of Eight, as they say, you know what's going on. Did anything surprise you?
SCHIFF: Nothing surprises me in this. The only thing that really strikes me about it is just the extraordinary level of detail. And I -- you know, I commend them for doing it. It's the right call. I know the Russians are immediately reverse engineering this information as we speak to try to figure out how did they know this, how did they know that, what do we need to shut down, what do we need to do to basically dry up whatever sources the Americans have.
But, no, this indictment was, I think, expected. And the question is, will the next indictment go to the heart of what the Russians told George Papadopoulos? Will it go to the heart of what was involved in the Trump Tower meeting? I think those are the questions that are teed up by this indictment.
BLITZER: And we know the U.S. intelligence community believes the Russians are planning to do the same thing in the midterm elections coming up in November.
SCHIFF: And on that, Wolf, if I could just add, because I'm glad that the indictment goes into this because most Americans are not aware of this and should be. Not only was the DNC hacked and Clinton's campaign manager hacked, the DCCC was hacked. The Russians played in House races, which means that if they follow the playbook from the last cycle, they'll play in the midterms. And we, obviously, need to be doing everything we can to protect against that.
BLITZER: U.S. intelligence community believes one of the main objectives of the Russians was to sow dissent here in the United States. And they've actually clearly achieved that objective.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Adam Schiff, the top Democrat, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
I want to get some reaction, what we're hearing from the Russians. Matthew Chance is our correspondent. He's already in Helsinki, Finland, getting ready for the summit, assuming it'll still take place on Monday between Presidents Trump and Putin.
Matthew, what are you hearing?
[13:15:00] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're still assuming, first of all, Wolf, that this summit will go ahead in, what is it, three days from now, just under, because we haven't heard anything otherwise to contradict that from the White House. And, of course, it would involve a massive about turn by a U.S. president for him to take the evidence that's been presented today and say, OK, enough is enough, now I'm really going to hold Russia over the fire for this because he certainly has that -- hasn't had that attitude so far, calling it a witch hunt, which, by the way, is exactly the same language, amazingly, that the Kremlin uses when it describes these allegations against -- I've spoken to them time and again about this. I've been texting the Kremlin tonight on my cell phone trying to get some response. They haven't got back to me yet. I'll bring that to you as soon as they do. But I can predict what they're going to say, which is that this is politically motivated and that this is an attempt by the enemies of Russia to make it look bad on the international stage.
As far as they're concerned, this summit is still very much going ahead. And, remember, this isn't the only controversy hanging over this summit. You know, it's been a summit that was proposed and set up with a whole kind of laundry list of terrible controversies hanging over it. The U.S. election meddling is just one of them. The recent poisoning with a Russian nerve agent inside the United Kingdom, which killed a British citizen, another one, the downing of MH-17 in 2014 over the border between Ukraine and Russia. Another controversy, the annexation of Crimea. The list just goes on.
But despite all of that, the White House, President Trump have set up this meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. And as far as everybody's concerned here in Helsinki, that meeting is still very much going ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Helsinki, thank you very much. That meeting scheduled for Monday.
Much more on all the breaking news coming up. I'm going to be speaking live with someone who was hacked allegedly by the Russians directly. The Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, he's standing by live. We'll get his reaction to this bombshell of news right after this.
[13:21:27] BLITZER: More now on the indictment today of 12 senior Russian military officials accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. One of the accounts the Russians are accused of hacking belonged to then Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. John is joining us on the phone right now.
John, thanks for joining us.
Give us your reaction to today's indictments.
JOHN PODESTA, HILLARY CLINTON'S 2016 CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN (via telephone): Well, Wolf, look, I think from the beginning at the heart of this matter were crimes that were committed against individual citizens, including myself, but what's more important, crimes were committed against the American democracy. And I'm pleased that there's enough criminal evidence to bring an indictment. And whether or not we'll ever see any of those individuals brought to justice is a different question because, obviously, I think Vladimir Putin, who ordered this operation, will try to protect them, keep them in Russia.
But I think it's an important step and shows that at the heart of the Mueller investigation it's a set of serious questions and -- and, as I said, at the heart of it, it's criminal activity that occurred by the Russian government.
The president will have the opportunity to confront President Putin with that when he sees him on Monday. I don't hold out too much hope that he'll take this any more seriously than he has over the last 18 months.
BLITZER: It's interesting that it wasn't just you that -- your e-mail, your computer was hacked, but the indictment charges that these Russian military intelligence officers, they hacked the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to Congress, and they used that information, the hacked information, they used it under the names D.C. Leaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity as well. The specific details in this indictment are really amazing.
I know you haven't read the entire document, but it's very impressive the way they re-created step by step by step, John, what happened to you and to others.
PODESTA: Yes, I think, Wolf, that we've known the general outlines of this from intelligence reports going back to right after the election and indeed from the letter that the intelligence community issued even in advance of the election that the Russians where up to no good here, and we've known the general outline. But this is, you know, quite specific and they've done the forensics and obviously they believe they have the proof to prove the charges against these actors. And, you know, the president likes to describe Mueller's operation as a witch hunt. Well, they've caught the witches here. And I hope at some point that they will actually be brought to justice.
BLITZER: One final question, John, before I let you go. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, also said, and I'm quoting him, there is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers. What's your reaction to that, that there were Americans who were communicating with Guccifer 2.0 and these other fake organizations, but they didn't know these organizations were being run by the Russian military intelligence unit?
PODESTA: Well, quite frankly, that's -- I take that with some skepticism since the forensic -- independent experts who looked at the hacks, particularly the DNC hack, early on in July of 2016, identified Guccifer 2.0 and identified D.C. Leaks as Russian operations closely tied to GRU units operating there. So if they didn't know, that was willful ignorance on their part.
[13:25:29] But we'll have to wait and see whether Mr. Mueller believes that anybody else committed crimes. And, you know, again, he's played things pretty close to his chest, but, you know, I think time will tell. And if there's actually the capacity to have a trial, we'll learn more about who knew what and when.
BLITZER: Yes, don't hold your breath, John, for these 12 Russian military intelligence operatives who are all presumably in Russia right now to be extradited or voluntarily come to the United States.
PODESTA: (INAUDIBLE) -- if I were (INAUDIBLE) -- I wouldn't be -- I wouldn't probably be, you know, taking a vacation in Cyprus this summer.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're right.
John Podesta, thank you very much.
Gloria Borger, let me get your analysis, your reaction.
It's a pretty startling development, the details contained in this document.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, the forensics are amazing. Secondly, I think that we've learned -- we're learning details in this that we really didn't know before. And the White House reaction to this is that no American citizen -- there's nothing in this indictment that says an American citizen created a crime or did a crime.
BLITZER: Hold on one second.
Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is reacting.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Documents. I want to start by commending Special Prosecutor Mueller for his work. To date, 23 indictments, five guilty pleas, and now direct evidence of Russian agents interfering in our elections by hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the e-mails of John Podesta, and interfering in over 20 states' electoral systems. My hope would be that the president and his allies would cease and desist from calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt.
As a matter of fact, this morning we saw something remarkable. The president was questioned in the U.K. why relations with Russia are at a bad state. And he replied, because of the Mueller investigation. No, Mr. President, the reason why relations with Russia are difficult is because Russia and its agents interfered dramatically in the 2016 elections.
So, going forward, there should be no one-on-one meeting between this president and Mr. Putin. There needs to be other Americans in the room.
Secondly, if the president and his team are not willing to make the facts of this indictment a top priority of the meeting in Helsinki, then the summit should be canceled.
Next, on the question of election security, the Congress has been working in a bipartisan way to make sure our election security -- our election system is safe in 2018. As a matter of fact, we had hearings just this past week. But what we've lacked is any meaningful involvement from the administration and this White House. There needs to be someone designated in the White House to work with the Congress to make sure, in a bipartisan way, we keep our election systems safe and secure in 2018 and on a going forward basis.
And, finally, these indictments today further reflect the need for us to have strong alliances. Matter of fact, on Monday, Senator Rubio and I are meeting with parliamentarians from other NATO nations to discuss the Russian engagement in their countries. These tactics are not going away and we need to have this administration stop calling our allies, adversaries and trying to treat our adversaries like friends. It is time for the country to step up in a bipartisan way to make sure that what happened in 2016 doesn't ever happen again.
QUESTION: Senator, why are you -- senator, why -- what are you concerned about, having a one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Putin? What specifically is driving your concern to say they should not meet alone?
WARNER: I have -- I've been concerned for some time that 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.
[13:29:55] Equally important is, I want to make sure that other Americans hear that the president makes this issue of Russian interference a priority in the meeting and it's not something that's simply sloughed off with a quick saying -- response from Putin saying he didn't do anything. And that's why if he