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U.S. Indicts Russians for 2016 Election Meddling; Thousands March against Trump in London. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. special counsel indicts 12 Russians for meddling in the 2016 election as President Trump once again dismisses the Russia probe as a witch hunt.

Moscow calls the indictment a conspiracy to undermine Monday's Helsinki summit between presidents Trump and Putin.

And massive protests in London for the second day of the U.S. president's visit.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: The latest stop on President Trump's European tour: Scotland. He landed there a few hours ago and will spend a weekend at one of his golf resorts. It comes after tumultuous stops in Belgium and in England.

And now ahead of Monday's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this other bombshell, courtesy of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Twelve Russian military officers have now been indicted of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. We get more on the Justice Department's case from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twelve Russian intelligence officers are charged with hacking into the e-mail servers of the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign, plus stealing U.S. voter data during the 2016 election.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We know that according to the allegations in the indictment, the goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the elections.

SCHNEIDER: The 29-page indictment details how the Russians targeted more than 300 people associated with Democratic campaign committees and the Hillary Clinton campaign. This was the e-mail Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta

received, telling him to click a link to change his password, a technique known as spear phishing. Podesta did, allowing the Russian officers to steal his username, password and e-mails.

Prosecutors allege these Russian officers hacked into several accounts, stealing thousands of e-mails.

ROSENSTEIN: The defendants hacked into computer networks and installed malicious software that allowed them to spy on users and capture key strokes, take screenshots and exfiltrate or remove data from those computers.

SCHNEIDER: And then distribute the stolen e-mails. The indictment says the Russians registered the domains DCLeaks and then Guccifer 2.0 and used the network of computers around the world including here in the U.S., funding their scheme through cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

ROSENSTEIN: The defendants falsely claimed that DCLeaks was a group of American hackers and that Guccifer 2.0 was a lone Romanian hacker.

SCHNEIDER: Rosenstein stressed that none of the Americans targeted knew they were communicating with the Russians.

ROSENSTEIN: The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There was no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.

SCHNEIDER: But the indictment does detail the Russians contact with several Americans, including a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress whose identity has not been disclosed. It also documents discussions between the Russian intelligence officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 and a person who was close to the Trump campaign in August and September 2016.

The language of the messages revealed in the indictment matches the Twitter messages previously released by Roger Stone. But Stone, in a puzzling statement to CNN, says he doesn't believe he is the one referenced in the indictment. Stone has admitted he communicated with Guccifer 2.0, but denies he had any knowledge about the hacking.

ROGER STONE, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I'm not involved in any collusion, coordination or conspiracy with the Russians or anyone else and there's no evidence to the contrary.

SCHNEIDER: The indictment also alleges that the Russians first attempted to spear phish and hack e-mail accounts used by Hillary Clinton's personal office; on the same day Trump said this ...

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

SCHNEIDER: The Deputy Attorney General briefed President Trump on the charges before he left for his overseas trip and today, stressed politics should stay out of what is a serious legal and national security matter.

ROSENSTEIN: We need to work together, to hold the perpetrators accountable and we need to keep moving forward to preserve our values, protect against future interference and defend America.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.



VANIER: The Kremlin has always denied any role in U.S. election meddling. CNN Russia correspondent Matthew Chance has the latest from Helsinki, Finland.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russians have issued a reaction to the indictments of 12 of their nationals on hacking charges. And, unsurprisingly, Moscow is using a similar kind of language to that used by President Trump when he talks about the collusion allegations.

This is what the Russian foreign ministry has said in their statements.

"Washington is struggling to reanimate old fake news about alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election."

President Trump calls the allegations a witch hunt, spoken about collusion in that sense. Russians use that phrase as well.

But in this statement, they use a different phrase, saying it is just from a heap of conspiracy, schemes. They also say the purpose of this bogus story about election meddling is to spoil the atmosphere before the Russian-American summit.

The presidents of the United States and Russia are scheduled to be here in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, on Monday. That meeting is still going ahead. And the fact that the Russian foreign ministry is characterizing these latest indictments as part of a political conspiracy to undermine not just Russia but President Trump and United States as well domestically, far from setting the scene for a more confrontational meeting between the two presidents, could actually be something, one of the many things that these two leaders actually agree on.

So it will be interesting to see what is actually discussed and the tone of those discussions on Monday when this historic summit takes place -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Helsinki, Finland.


VANIER: The White House says Monday's summit with the Russian president will not be called off, despite demands from some members of Congress. Speaking to reporters in London on Friday, Mr. Trump returned to a familiar theme about the Russia probe.


TRUMP: 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 after watching some of the little clips. I didn't get to watch too much because I'm here.

It's a different time zone, to put it mildly. But after watching the people, the man that was testifying yesterday, I call it the rigged witch hunt. I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia.


VANIER: Also in that news conference, Mr. Trump responded to the outcry over his interview with the British tabloid "The Sun." He created a firestorm when he slammed British prime minister Theresa May, his host, for how she is handling Brexit negotiations.

On Friday he tried to walk that back a bit and he did something he rarely ever does.


TRUMP: I said very good things about her. I didn't think they'd put it in, but that's all right. They didn't put it in the headline. I wish they'd put that in the headline. That's one of those things.

And she's a total professional because when I saw her this morning, I said, I want to apologize because I said such good things about you. She said, don't worry, it's only the press. I thought that was very -- I thought that was very professional.

That's called being -- don't worry, they've been doing it to me and I do it to them.


VANIER: We will delve into the Trump-May relationship in just a moment. For now, I want to keep it on the Trump-Putin relation. Steven Erlanger joins us for that. He is chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times."

Trump wants a better relation with Putin. He said it on the campaign trail. He has said it since he became president.

Is it feasible?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, sure, it's feasible. What would be terrific is if Trump could get a serious commitment that had penalties attached, if it were violated, from Putin to stop meddling in the American election.

That would be a great idea, right?

So it is true, without question that Trump --


VANIER: That, in itself, Steven, doesn't sound extremely feasible, what you just described.

ERLANGER: Well, it's not in Trump's mindset. That's the problem. I mean, what worries everyone is this one on one meeting with Putin and what he might get away. He clearly likes Putin. There's a bromance there that is very bizarre, no one understands it.

Except he likes strong leaders who don't seem to have to deal much with congresses or investigations into their behavior. He's not very fond of that, either, I have to say. And Putin somehow seems not to have to suffer from these things.

And Putin is a decisive man, Trump likes that. He has this image in his head that he's the great negotiator, that he can get one on one in a room and get done what he wants done. There's very little proof of that so far, looking at this negotiation with Kim Jong-un. But there's time to go with that.

It is true; relations with Russia have been terrible. There is a kind of Russophobia in Washington.


ERLANGER: The timing of the Rosenstein-Mueller announcement is, I think, very worrying, given it's just before the Helsinki summit.


VANIER: Why is it worrying?

ERLANGER: -- the timing.

Sorry, Cyril.

VANIER: Why is it worrying?

ERLANGER: Well, because it is a Justice Department investigation and indictments that had a political timing. And if it didn't have a political timing, then someone in the Justice Department is really stupid and not thinking because one cannot make these announcements before a big meeting and be ignorant of the impact that they will have, whether you like Trump or don't like Trump. I find it a bit worrying.

VANIER: What impact do you think it has?

Do you think it will box in the U.S. president, as in limit what he can say and do with Vladimir Putin or what?

ERLANGER: Well, you heard many congressman saying you should cancel the meeting, which he obviously doesn't want to do. It will, if Trump uses it, help him make the case with Putin about proof of his behavior.

But frankly, Putin knows what happened. It's not like he's ignorant about what happened. He just denies it.

And the more he denies it, Trump always seems to say, well, he denies it, so what else can I do?

So I'm not sure it's going to change that very much, that personal reaction the President of the United States faced with the president of Russia, who's simply very good at saying, no, it has nothing to do with me, sorry.

And Trump will say, yes, well, that's what he says. And then he kind of promises not to do it again.

But what are the obligations, what are the penalties if Russia is found to continue to be doing it or doing it again?

I think that's one of the questions one should ask. They should have the meeting. But the meeting should be substantive and it should produce results.

VANIER: What do you think it's actually about?

Because that question has been asked many times to the U.S. president. And, honestly, there's a laundry list of things that have been mentioned. The U.S. president seems to be worried about nuclear armament, about conventional armament as well. But also, he says this is about building a relationship.

ERLANGER: Well, I think it's all those things. I mean, he does want a relationship with Putin, he's been wanting that since even before he was elected. And it is not a bad idea to get face to face in a real way and say, what are your interests, what are our interests, let's talk about it.

There are issues, including nuclear arms control, very important, missile restrictions. Ukraine is not doing very well for Russia and it's not doing well for Ukraine, either.

And maybe there's some decent discussion that can be had about pushing forward the Minsk accords. There's also the very serious question of Syria, where Russia's deeply involved and where Iranian forces are pressing closer to Israeli occupied territory in the Golan Heights.

And one of the things Mr. Trump's friend, Bibi Netanyahu, would like him to do is to convince the Russians, to convince the Iranians to at least pull back from that area.

Because the likelihood of an Israeli-Iranian clash getting out of control is really quite serious. So that's a very important part of this discussion.

The election meddling, you know, because it's out there, I think is probably less important because, in some ways, they've already discussed it and we know what both men think. VANIER: Well, that brings to mind one of Mr. Trump's earlier comments, when he was in Brussels at that NATO summit, saying actually his meeting with Vladimir Putin might be the easiest meeting of his Europe tour.

Steven Erlanger of "The New York Times," thank you very much.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Cyril.

VANIER: President Trump wraps up his first official U.K. visit amid protests clogging the streets of London. We'll tell you about those when we come back.





VANIER: President Trump's first official visit to the U.K. was rife with controversy and turmoil. But it ended in regal fashion when Mr. Trump and first lady Melania meeting Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle.

They inspected the rank of the Guard of Honor and had some tea. All the while, large protests were happening on the streets of London. Tens of thousands of people came out to denounce the U.S. president's policies and his rhetoric. Here's our Nick Paton Walsh with more from the London protests. xxx (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tens of thousands clogging streets that would normally be sealed off to allow a sitting U.S. president to be whisked through.

Instead, fury at racism, immigration, sexism flooded Regent Street and marched to Trafalgar Square, some going as far to physically attack a punching dummy decorated as The Donald.

And London, the multicultural heart of Britain, was just getting started. Women dressed as handmaids pared their white caps with white protest signs even anti-Trump trumpeters sounded their alarm.

This blimp perhaps the most visible sign of disapproval raised in the U.K. so far. It was about as close as anything resembling President Donald Trump would get to the seat of government of America's closest ally. He said it made him feel unwelcome and slammed the London Mayor for approving it in a widely critical interview with "The Sun" newspaper, that targeted his host.

Well, police have actually told people to stop coming in to central Trafalgar Square because it's near capacity this baking afternoon. That gives you an idea really as to what kind of political damage Donald Trump may be able to do to British Prime Minister Theresa May, regardless of what he says.

So few people in the United Kingdom approve of him as a president that, in fact, to some degree, she may actually benefit from his harsh words. Still, President Trump has left British leaders and the U.K. press utterly stunned and very politely furious.

"The ego has landed, the "Daily Mirror" declared.

SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR, LONDON: Let me tell you the irony of people who are lecturing me about the art of diplomacy. I'd argue, with respect, not diplomatic when you're about to enter a country to do an interview which criticizes the Prime Minister and the strategy that she's embarking on.

WALSH: The damage his three days here have done will take months to digest. But it's unlikely he'll be back in a hurry.


VANIER: That was Nick Paton Walsh reporting.

Dominic Thomas is back with us, CNN's European affairs commentator.

Dominic, once the drama -- and there's been a lot of it -- once it washes away, what will you remember and take away from Mr. Trump's visit to the U.K.?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: That's an interesting question. I think, obviously, the remarkable turnout at those demonstrations have said an awful lot.

I think that what came out of the trip to U.K. and the trip to NATO and just a few days prior to that, I think will get us to think even more about Trump and Trump's policies and the way he goes about interacting with leaders and institutions.

I think at best he's a mouthpiece or a puppet for far right nativists and ideologies. This is absolutely unambiguously clear in his support for a hard Brexit. And all that that would do in terms of destroying or breaking down some of the relationships with the European Union. And he has a deep disrespect for NATO as well.

And I think that "The Sun" interview --


THOMAS: -- said an awful lot about the kinds of people Donald Trump has been speaking to and from whom he has been getting his opinions and positions on such questions as Brexit and immigration in Europe. And it became even more clear out of this visit where he really stands on these questions.

VANIER: Do you feel he's actually harmed the U.S.-U.K. relations in any concrete way?

Down the line, years from now, when Donald Trump is no longer president, Theresa May is no longer prime minister, do you think he will actually have made lasting damage to that relationship?

THOMAS: The relationship, the institutions, the memory will be there long after him. The queen of England may even be there after he leaves off this, after having met so many former presidents.

I think that the British people are able to distinguish between an unpopular president. Let's not forget that there were times when George W. Bush or even Ronald Reagan were not that popular and across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom.

I think that at the heart of this relationship right now is this question of trade. And this is what is making Theresa May look the other way and just sort of say, this is Donald acting like Donald.

And this trade relationship after Brexit is what everything relies upon right now. And that's what's going to be the big question. Of course, in the next few weeks and months as he leaves, the impact of his visit and of "The Sun" newspaper interview is going to be very interesting in terms of seeing to what extent he's given more air and fuel to the hardcore Brexiteers in the U.K. that are seeking to undermine her.

VANIER: Same question for Europe as a whole.

Is Trump a danger for Europe or just a distraction?

THOMAS: Well, Europe will be there. And by Europe, here we're talking about the European Union will be there and after the Donald Trump and presidency. Having said that, his deep contempt for the institutions of the European Union, in the same way that he's putting into question NATO and so on, first of all, ignores the long historical relationships with these various institutions that the ways in which through peace and prosperity, of course, the United States has also benefited.

The fact that remains his presidency is undermining these institutions. His support for these far-right, nativist organizations are today arguably the greatest issue that the European Union is facing.

It's causing deep fractures around issues of immigration, national identity, all the sorts of issues that Donald Trump has put at the forefront of his agenda. And what we see is the European Union actually moving away from this American relationship, dealing with climate questions by themselves, thinking about the Iran deal in their own corner and also exploring trade relationships with places like India and China and so on and not prioritizing the United States, perhaps, in the way they have historically.

VANIER: Dominic Thomas, CNN European affairs commentator, thank you so much. Once again, thanks.

THOMAS: Thanks, Cyril.

VANIER: Members of the rescued Thai football team will be going home by Thursday, we've learned. The 12 boys and their coach are still in the hospital after their ordeal. But Thailand's health ministry says they'll soon be released because they're in good shape physically and psychologically.

A team of international divers rescued them from the cave where they were trapped in an incredibly dangerous 3-day operation.

Sports now. We are following big stories at Wimbledon and at the World Cup this weekend. In tennis first, Kevin Anderson won the second longest singles match in Wimbledon history. He did it by beating John Isner to reach the men's final.

Anderson will face either Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic on Sunday, depending on who comes out of the semifinals.

In the women's final, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, will be in attendance, watching her friend, Serena Williams, taking on Angelique Kerber. That starts just a few hours from now.

To the World Cup: England and Belgium face off in the coming hours for third place honors. And France and Croatia will face off Sunday in the World Cup finals. So a busy weekend for sports fans.



VANIER: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. We've got the headlines in just a moment.