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Trump Sides with Putin Over U.S. Intel on Election Meddling; Trump Says We're All to Blame for Bad Relationship with Russia; Putin Said in Press Conference, I Wanted Donald Trump to Win Election. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY AGENT: ...Anytime that the leaders got uncomfortable they would pivot to something else. I think this whole idea of Mueller going over and being able to now engage in some kind type of cooperation and this joint cyber initiative it's all a distraction. There's no way that either leader really has in their interest in their own mind the ability or that they want to focus on this issue because they are afraid of where it's going to lead. And to that point of conflating the two issues. I think every second they spend denying collusion, which is more of this nebulous topic which we can't really put our finger down on, is another minute that they don't have to spend talking about the larger issue of Russian interference which appears to be without dispute. At least according to our U.S. intelligence community.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Josh Campbell, Jim Sciutto, thanks to both of you, appreciate it.
How will President Trump's response to Putin affect America's relationship with the rest of the world, with U.S. allies. Remember, fewer than 72 hours ago President Trump said that the European Union was a foe of the United States. Stay with us.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very good start for everybody.
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[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: A senior western diplomat calls President Trump's comments earlier today devastating and pathetic. A German official telling CNN that Trump's deference to Putin was frightening and it's why the same official tells CNN that Germany is looking at new strategy to deal with the U.S. as an adversary. I want to bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, anchor of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed, words devastating, pathetic coming from diplomats. Not really the kind of thing that diplomats say.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Not the kind of thing diplomats say, Jake and not the kind of thing European diplomats say. One of the interesting and actually heartening elements of this whole story has been that it has put the backbone into the Europeans. If you remember during the cold war and after the Americans have always been the more forward leaning partner in this alliance. It's always been the Americans that have been more aggressive on security concerns, more willing to take risks, more willing to see threats and nip them in the bud, maybe overreact rather than underreact. And the Europeans were always the restraining force.
This time around what's happened is you have this bizarre situation where the American President is siding with the Russians against his own intelligence agencies, against Europeans and their intelligence agencies. And the Europeans are as a result toughening up. They are saying, as you say, we will have to figure out how to handle Russia by ourselves. We will have to figure out how to make NATO stronger by ourselves. We will have to figure out how to deal with cyber-attack, cyber warfare by ourselves. This is not the worst thing in the world. The reality is Europe has been too lax, in many ways too backward leaning, relied on the U.S.
You know, the U.S. has always been the kind of gatekeeper, the guardsman. And so, everyone else could relax. Now that you have a bizarre situation where the U.S. is itself, if not relaxing, in a kind of very bizarre space, Europeans and other countries are beginning to think seriously about their security. As I say, it's not ideal, but in a strange way, Trump's bizarre behavior is making the Europeans more serious about their own security.
TAPPER: When you hear that Germany is trying to think of whether or not they need to come up with a new strategy to look and deal with the United States as an adversary what does that mean to you?
ZAKARIA: Well, historically it has not been a very good thing for Germany to take national security matters into its own hands, but I think that's really the past and history. The fear has been, to be more -- you know, to not try to evoke the World War II era memories. The fear has been, even after, that in a new reform totally Democratic Germany that Germany is such a large piece of Europe that if it were to decide to take national security issues in its own hand it would scare the Poles on its border, the French on its other border. And it would create the kind of competitive European dynamic that has not been a good thing for the last 400 years.
The U.S. has been the stabilizing force in Europe because it has allowed European countries not to kind of renationalize their own independent defense and foreign policy. So, while at one level it's a good thing that Germany thinks seriously about foreign policy, but the consequence is it will create a certain degree of friction and tension and potentially competition in Europe, which is what the U.S. has tried to avoid ever since World War II.
TAPPER: Congressman Liz Cheney, she's a hawkish Republican from Wyoming took issue with President Trump drawing a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia. Take a listen to President Trump talking about Russia/U.S. relations and the history of it.
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TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish.
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[15:40:00] TAPPER: Some pundits are saying that this is the equivalent of when President Trump suggested both the white supremacists and those protesting the white supremacists that were very fine people on both sides.
ZAKARIA: Yes, I'm not sure I'd go that far but it's a kind of naive view of history. I think perhaps President Trump needs to sit down with somebody who can explain, after the fall of the Soviet Union the United States reached out to Russia in unprecedented ways. It gave the Russians either in loan forgiveness or direct aid something in the range of $500 billion of foreign aid. It turned the G7 into the G8 to try to bring Russia in as a responsible party. So, the U.S. did all kind of things to bring Russia in. There is -- you know, we have the stop blaming America for this and recognize that it's President Putin who has turned the relationship as adversarial as it has become.
TAPPER: Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much, appreciate it, sir.
Did President Trump just give Vladimir Putin essentially everything he wanted? What does the United States do now? Stay with us.
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TAPPER: Moments ago, President Trump just tweeted his first public statement since the stunning press conference just hours ago here in Helsinki. President Trump writing, quote, as I said today, and many times before, I have great confidence in my intelligence people. However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future we cannot exclusively focus on the past. As the world's two largest nuclear powers we must get along, unquote.
Let's talk about it with my experts here. Just to be clear, Susan, his full quote from the press conference was, I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I have to tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. That's the full sentence and you know, I come from a tradition where people say when you have a sentence in the word "but" in there, erase everything before the "but" and focus on what the meat of the sentences.
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, the editor and me is cheering you on. But I have to say, Jake, listen, what are we seeing with the street? We are seeing our president in cleanup mode as he flies back to Washington. I think you are seeing strong pushback from Republicans. Donald Trump has sort of gotten used to actually Republicans acquiescing in most of the things that he has been doing recently in recent months. And so, perhaps he's reacting to the criticism, even from some of his allies. You see both Speaker Ryan and leader McConnell coming out and saying we believe the intelligence community. You have this really remarkable statement by Trump's own director of national intelligence who certainly he didn't read it the way that the President of the United States read it because he felt compelled to issue a statement. So, I don't think it was ambiguous as Trump said it at the press conference. TAPPER: I agree.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: This is all revisionism now. I mean, days ago, we saw President Trump criticizing the criticism that he gets over Russia. Then why do you have to say all of this stuff. OK, so, he starts this tweet by talking about how he did express confidence in the intelligence community. But he only went to that after he went on and on about Hillary Clinton's e-mails and where is the server and went on this rant about that. Then almost as an aside at the end of that he says oh, I do have great confidence in my intelligence people. Or something like that. So, it's not as if he went right to that. You know what? He had confidence in British intelligence over the poisoning of the Skripals and that's why the U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats. So, you're going to believe another country's intelligence on something Russia did, which you also did not call out today.
KOSINSKI: But then you are not going to believe your own country's intelligence on something you have refused to call out since the beginning.
TAPPER: Phil let's talk about director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. There's a lot of questions right now about how can he stay in this job after President Trump has so clearly undercut him before the world's stage siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying I don't know why Russia would do such a thing even though Coats told me they did. Do you think he should resign?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I don't think he should at the moment. I can see from the outside people saying, look he's being undercut by the President of the United States how can you have confidence in the President and stay in office. There's a different perspective, I mean, some of this is going to be his personal choice.
But a different perspective is whether you're in the military, the intelligence community, the diplomatic service. You have to step back, and he's clearly sitting there saying, we have a President who sometimes take some liberties with the truth. Do you stay in -- he's a man who's had a storied career in U.S. government? Do you stay in and hold the president accountable or do you leave and potentially door open for the President to appoint somebody who's going to be a yes man? I can understand the debate within him saying, maybe -- I'm not saying he won't go -- but maybe I should stick around and make sure I hold the President accountable.
TAPPER: Everyone stay right there, I want to bring in Senator Jeff Flake, Republican, of Arizona. He's not running for re-election. He has been a critic of President Trump. Senator Flake thanks for joining us. How did it feel watching the press conference, watching President Trump next to Vladimir Putin essentially accepting Putin's denial that Russia did not launch the cyber-attack against the United States? SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA (via phone): Well, I was just getting on
a flight with a very sketchy wi-fi here. So, I'm getting bits and pieces for a while. But I have to tell you I was just floored by it. I mean, my expectations weren't that high. I worried about what the President might promise during the private meeting. But I certainly didn't expect to hear what we all heard during the press conference.
TAPPER: A headline in the "Washington Post" says that the press conference was everything Putin dreamed of.
[15:50:00] Where does this leave the United States Senate? What will you do in the Senate in terms of expressing in a tangible way, in an action, your opposition to what happened today?
FLAKE: I haven't even arrived at the capitol yet. I'm still in route from the airport. But I'm certainly going the sit down with my colleagues and see what we need to do. Four of my colleagues and I visited the countries close to Russia. We were in Finland just a week and a half ago, and in Latvians. And the thing was -- what the Latvians told us they here as far as Russian propaganda, the station out of Bastia, with a population 40 percent Russian speaking, is that NATO is weak. That we're split. That the United States is an unreliable ally. And how much that echoes what the President is saying I can't tell you. And just -- it's disheartening to them, I'm sure. And certainly, ought to be disheartening to all of us. And so, we'll see. When I get in the capitol and talk to my colleagues where we go from here.
TAPPER: Do you think that what happened today is such a dark day, so disastrous for this country, that President Trump should be challenged for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2020?
FLAKE: Well, I've said all along, I am probably not a good one to talk to on this, I felt all along that there ought to be a Republican primary just for no other reason, it's probably suicide mission for any other Republican right now. But it may not be a year and a half from now. But if nothing else, remind the Republicans out there what it means to be Republican and conservative. To be in favor of strong national defense and free trade and immigration. These things I'm afraid we're losing and that's -- so yes. Yes, I do hope that somebody runs.
TAPPER: All right. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, thank you so much for calling in. We appreciate your time.
FLAKE: Thanks for having me. Bye.
TAPPER: Republican Congressman and former CIA officer, Will Hurd, joins me next with his reaction. Stay with us.
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TAPPER: Russian President Vladimir Putin today admitting that he wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 election. It was just one of the stunning moments from today's news conference with Presidents Putin and Trump who both heaped praise on one another. Joining me now to talk about this all is Republican Congressman, Will Hurd, of Texas. He serves on the intelligence committee and was once a CIA officer. Congressman, first and foremost, what was your response to the way President Trump interacted with President Putin?
REP. WILL HULRD (R), TEXAS: Well, I said earlier today, you know, having spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA, having spent my time here in congress working with our allies across the world who have to face the Russian menace, I never would have thought -- I've seen the Russian intelligence and, you know, manipulate many people in my career. And I never would have thought the U.S. President would be one of them. So, it's disappointing.
I mean, also, that press conference showed why Vladimir Putin is so formidable when it comes to disinformation. Because I actually believe that press conference was disinformation. He was able to validate by standing next to the leader of the free world some of these crazy notions that they have been perpetuating.
If Vladimir Putin wants to change the relationship with the United States, and the rest of the world, here's an idea. Why don't you leave eastern Ukraine and get out of Crimea? These are places that the Russians invaded. Stop your support to the Iranian groups that are operating throughout the Middle East, stop your support to Bashir al-Assad who is killing his own people and also killing American officials.
This -- these were some of the things that should have been brought up. I'm just glad the gentleman from AP and the other American reporter -- I think from Reuters -- was there to ask those tough questions of Vladimir Putin.
TAPPER: So, as a former intelligence officer, you must be stunned to see President Trump side with a former KGB official over American intelligence agencies over what is essentially a consensus view by intel chiefs that Russia launched a cyberattack on the U.S. election to help President Trump.
HURD: And, Jake, there's a consensus amongst Congress, too, that the Russians attempted to manipulate our elections. Right? There is no question about that. We know that this is something they've done for the last three decades. It's something that we've seen them do in other countries. It was very clear what their attempts were in order to undergird our democratic institutions.
Why is -- why should we be concerned about Vladimir Putin? Why should we be concerned about organizations like NATO? NATO is something that has stood in the way of Russia's designs to re-establish the territory or integrity of the USSR. NATO has allowed for 70 years of peace and prosperity in Europe which has allowed us to trade with them. Which has allowed us to grow our economy. Which has allowed us to have a great trading partner and ally like all of Europe. And Russia is trying to undermine this. And we should -- you know, it is very clear what his goals are and unfortunately, we didn't see the tough talk that was necessary to deal with the thug like Vladimir Putin.
TAPPER: To say the least. Congressman Will Hurd, Republican of Texas, thank you so much for your time. We are going to take a quick break and come right back.
[16:00:00] TAPPER: And welcome to this special edition of "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper coming to you from Helsinki.