Return to Transcripts main page


Vladimir Putin Arrives in Helsinki for Trump Summit; What to Expect from Trump-Putin Meeting. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 16, 2018 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. Helsinki.

[05:58:58] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Monday, July 16, 6 a.m. in New York. That's where you see Alisyn and John, but I'm Chris Cuomo, and I'm in Helsinki, Finland. And this is the place to be.

In just moments, history will be made here once again between presidents of the United States and Russia. Trump vs. Putin. Or will it really be "versus" at all.

You see on your screen right now, that is the Russian president's plane. He is late, probably intentionally so, for this big meeting. Why is this icing the kicker, as John was saying earlier? Is this just some kind of accident? We'll find out, but there's a lot of gamesmanship, even at the international level.

So the start of the meeting is delayed because of what you see on your screen. Everything has been slightly pushed back, but it will all happen on our watch this morning. And to be very clear: for all the hype, these talks are a big deal. They take place just after 12 Russian military intelligence officers were indicted by the Roller [SIC] -- Mueller probe, our special counsel in the United States, because of the 2016 election hacking.

We already have an idea of President Trump's mindset, because in a series of new tweets and in statements over the last few weeks, the president has been all about saying things that will be music to Putin's ears. He says the relationship with Russia has never been worse, and he blames the U.S. for that.

He also says that the European Union went in there and shook up the foundations of NATO. Putin will love that. He keeps blaming his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for not doing anything during the hacking and for letting the situations in Ukraine that involved Russia happen. Again, all music to Vladimir Putin's ears.

So the question becomes how will he be today? Has this all been a set up? Will his tone be tough? Will there be transparency? Will there be takeaway? Will he confront Vladimir Putin about something that the American intelligence community is sure that he was behind: the hacking of the 2016 election?

It's a lot to discuss. We've got a great panel, but first, let's start off with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, here with me at the Allas Pools in famous Helsinki -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it is quite stunning to see that plane just taxying down the runway. Vladimir Putin is on board that plane, and he is supposed to meet with President Trump in an official greeting here in about nine minutes. I'm guessing he's going to be a little bit late, but it's just stunning to see the leader of a country that is currently gripped by economic sanctions, a country that is being blamed for the nerve agent on a foreign soil, poisoning someone. Invading Crimea, meddling in the election. Here he is, keeping the leader of the free world waiting ahead of this high-stakes summit, where President Trump is facing enormous pressure to confront Vladimir Putin over that election meddling.

Now we got a little bit of an insight into the president's mindset going into this meeting this morning just from his tweets. And in those tweets, he's repeating exactly what the Kremlin wants to hear. He's blaming the U.S. for frosty relations between the United States and Russia, and not Russia for meddling in the election.

You see these tweets here. And those messages, Chris, suggest that President Trump, as he has never done before, is not going to seriously confront Vladimir Putin over this when they do sit down one- on-one for what is scheduled to be 90 minutes in that room together with no aides, no advisors, and no record of what is said during that meeting.

Now, the president has had a few interviews in the recent days ahead of this big summit. He sat down with Piers Morgan, and here is how he described how he feels about the Russian leader.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, we have plenty of people that I deal with are pretty ruthless people.

PIERS MORGAN, JOURNALIST: Is Putin one of those?

TRUMP: I can't tell you that. I assume he probably is, but I could name others also. Look if we can get along with Russia, that's a good thing.

I don't know him. I met him a couple of times. I met him at the G- 20. I think we could probably get along very well. Somebody said, "Are you friends or enemies?"

I said, "Well, it's too early to say, but right now, I'd say we're competitors." But for Russia and the United States, and frankly, the U.K. and other places, to get along with Russia and China and all of these other places, Piers, that's a good thing. It's not a bad thing. It's a really good thing.


COLLINS: So you see there, Chris, the president trying to justify his meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying it's a good thing that he's going to sit down with him. But the doubts are very high right now, Chris, over whether the president is going to seriously confront him about this election meddling or whether this is just going to turn out to be a friendly meeting.

CUOMO: All right, Kaitlan. Thank you very much.

Got a great panel. We have CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd joining us this morning. We also have military and diplomatic analyst, retired rear admiral, John Kirby; and CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Look, the meeting is good. Talking is good. Even the European Union has been saying we don't want to ice out Russia. They're neighbors. There are a lot of mutual areas of concern. Have to speak.

But the matter, the tone and how you head into it and what you deal with at the table during the meeting matters every bit as much, if not more. And for the president of the United States to tell Piers Morgan that "I don't know if Russia is a problem for me. We'll have to see."

The joint investigative team just came down with a conclusion about who shot down that plane in Ukraine. It came from a Russian missile launcher. Two hundred and ninety-eight people from a dozen different countries. It's one of the biggest mass murders we've seen in recent history. What is the calculation, you think, for Trump in mitigating the animus that should be directing towards the Russian president?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Look, I think the president goes in, if he wishes to use it with a very strong hand, that report that you point out, the indictment by the Mueller investigation on the 12 Russians who are not just ordinary Russians. They're military intelligence. These people can't move without orders from the Russian state, from the Russian presidency.

So that's a very strong hand, should he wish to use it.

The big question after all that we've just heard and all that we've just reported in the run-up to this conversation, is will President Trump take the western alliance line into this meeting with President Putin, or will he not? Will he do more of what we've been reporting he's done?

And of course, there have been mistakes on all sides regarding the relationship between Russia and the United States, but let us not forget that, in addition to these issues, you know, there has been the small matter of Russia violating another nation's sovereignty, invading and annexing a sovereign piece of land, Crimea, which actually belong to the Ukraine. Even under this administration's policy, Crimea belongs to Ukraine.

So if he can be tough on those things, as well as a number of other things, then maybe there's some way out of this stalemate. But I'm not sure whether we think that that's going to happen.

CUOMO: Let's just direct people to the screen. Just so you know, Putin is late, probably by design, a massive membership is coming along with him. It was showing you earlier -- you'll see it again at this point -- obviously, you see the huge limo there. But there are, like, a dozen or more cars as part of his retinue. A massive plane.

Remember, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump for him from where he was to get here. Finland and Russia obviously share a border. This was a short trip, but he's got a huge team with him. Obviously, a show of force.

So Christiane is teeing up something that is very true, which is you've got the leverage, President Trump. If you want to use it, every indication heading into this is that he wants to be friends, he wants to be nice, because that will make it easier to work together. So let's look at the past as the past.

We're watching the door. As the president of Russia exits, we will tell you. We're watching that.

John, give us your take.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't think that he will do that. I think Christiane is absolutely right. He could play a strong hand if he wanted to. But I don't think he'll do it. I think whatever leverage he might have had going into this meeting, he has lost. And he lost it in Brussels, and he lost it in London.

That he has definitely communicated to Vladimir Putin that he is actually not the leader of the free world. The United States is retrenching from the world stage, that he has no interest in leading the western democracies and the liberal world order that the United States put in place after World War II. And that he's going he is going to be able and willing to concede some of that territory to Russia and to Vladimir Putin.

The other thing, Chris, that really bothers me about this, what worries me the most about this, aside from the fact that he can give things away that we shouldn't, is the normalization of Vladimir Putin and Russia. They had been isolated since 2014.

CUOMO: There's a reason that a U.S. presidents hasn't met with Putin in eight years.

KIRBY: Absolutely. And now we are. We are bringing him back into the fold, onto the world stage. And I worry about that.

CUOMO: So from a strategic tactical perspective, Phil Mudd, as we watch the Russian president's plane here, waiting for him to exit -- even this is taking a little while -- the idea of what leverage you come in with, because you "could have" versus "do have."

If Trump throws a curveball to Putin and says, "I'm not asking you anything about the meddling or really hacking, the act of war against the United States during out election. I'm going to tell you how it is," hasn't he weakened his hand? Because Putin can say, "I know you don't believe that. I know you think it's a witch hunt. I know you think Crimea is in the past. I know you think Syria should be left alone by the United States." How real is all of that?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM: There's no way that Putin is going to take that bait if the president throws out the hacking issue, because the president gave Putin his playing card. When you get out there on Twitter and say, "Look, A, I think it's a witch hunt, and B, I think this a bunch of Democrats coming after me," what do you say if you're Putin? The president lays down that card, you say, "Excuse me, I didn't do it. And this is your own domestic problem."

But why the heck would he do that anyway? That is Donald Trump. He's told us all along he's a genius, he's smarter than Bush and he's smarter than Obama. He reverses course on North Korea --

CUOMO: Here's -- here's President Vladimir Putin right now. He's coming down, one many by his side. Quickly down the steps and into a massive waiting motorcade.

We can only assume, Christiane, that these are all different types of his government delegation, along with him, waiting him -- waiting for him on the ground.

AMANPOUR: Well, there's certainly aides coming down behind him. Obviously, the foreign minister will be accompanying accompanying, as well.

President Putin, in respect to this meeting comes, doesn't even need to prepare. He's been on the stage in positions of leadership since the year 2000, as president and prime minister over and over again. And he knows exactly the chess game that he is so good at and that he will play to the biggest advantage.

He, as they say -- if somebody opposite him plays a move, he'll play ten moves ahead. And that is what he does. Some people have said he plays a weak hand strong. Some people say he's playing a strong hand strong. Whatever he's doing, he has so far managed, certainly on the international stage and on the public relations stage, to outwit a lot.

It's clear that a lot of stuff at home is not going well. The economy is not going great. Obviously, the political situation is very constrained. The media situation is very constrained. But he comes off a brilliantly-executed World Cup, where yesterday he was glad- handing and hugging and kissing with presidents Macron and the president of Croatia.

[06:10:08] And now he's coming here to be given an equal billing with the president of the United States, who is still the leader of the free world and the most powerful person in the most powerful office in the whole world.

CUOMO: And that shouldn't be missed. What we just witnessed here with this safe landing, and him in the car, on the way to this meeting, equals a victory for Putin. And I'm not talking about travel safety; I'm talking about world perception. He is getting a pomp and circumstance, big-time meeting with the president of the United States in an historic location of Helsinki, where it has been home to many big matters of importance. So he is legitimatized.


CUOMO: He is respected, and he is being waited on, literally, by the world leader right now. As he makes his way towards the palace over our shoulder, we're going to have some ceremony at first.

President Niinisto from Finland is obviously playing host here, as Finland has done many times in the past to great significance. He's going to meet with each gentleman. There's a guest book signing. There's going to be a ceremonial press meeting. Then, there will be a meeting between the two men and maybe -- maybe -- translators on both sides.

John, insight into that? Could it really just be one translator? Whose would it be?

KIRBY: It could be. I mean, remember when --

CUOMO: Do we believe that, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: I don't know.

KIRBY: When Trump -- when Trump did the pull-aside with Putin in Vietnam at the economics.

CUOMO: That was just with Putin.

KIRBY: Just with Putin's translator. So it could be. I highly doubt that in this for the more formal, sort of set up event.

CUOMO: Right.

KIRBY: They'll probably be translators for both sides.

CUOMO: Translators, not just a linguist in this situation, right? It will be somebody who has some other kind of skill set like we saw in Singapore?

KIRBY: I don't know. I mean, it could -- could just be a translator. And remember, the translator's job is simply to interpret, and that's it. It's not like a note taker taking official notes or a summary of the meeting. So if he doesn't have a note taker in there or another official, then we really won't have a record of what is said.

AMANPOUR: Let's hope there's a recording.

KIRBY: Well, I doubt there will be. I mean -- but what that means is -- and the Russians will beat us to the punch like they always do.

They'll come out, they'll have their narrative --

CUOMO: Right.

KIRBY: -- for what was discussed and what was agreed to, and that's a problem. CUOMO: The joint press conference afterwards. Now we see the motorcade is on the way. Look at the size of it.

AMANPOUR: Can I just give you a lovely tidbit?

CUOMO: Go ahead.

AMANPOUR: We were talking to the -- to the editor of -- correspondent for "The Economist," and he was telling us that, actually, this car is a new car, and it's maybe even a little bigger than the beast.


AMANPOUR: And he's brought here specially. It's made in Russia. It's a big deal. It's his sort of "This is what we can do." And that he's brought it here especially, this car.

CUOMO: He's got his own Beast, and his Beast is bigger than your beast.

AMANPOUR: Isn't that funny? I'm not going there, but that's what all 00

CUOMO: It reminds me -- it reminds me of what we were talking about earlier, Phil, with President Bush and "My dog's bigger than your dog."

Look, these -- at the end of the day, they may be presidents, there may be sophistication in teams around them. They're still two men who are trying to figure out, at a meeting, who's got more muscular perspective on what's happening around the room. Which is sad on many levels.

So once they get here -- Putin gets here first, meets the president. Then the president of the United States and the first lady, they're already here. Their trip from the hotel to the palace behind us will not be televised. We'll be made aware of when it's happening. We'll take you through it, just to make you aware, because it happens on our watch.

But the real work will be in that meeting, but really after. And even if we look to history, very different meeting, 1975. Brezhnev on the Russian side, Ford on the U.S. side, they signed the Helsinki Accord. But it didn't happen here, John Kirby.


CUOMO: This was the signing, but it was work in layers. Drab, drawn- out months of work.

KIRBY: Right.

CUOMO: Could this be, should we be optimistic to see this as a starting point today, not a finish?

KIRBY: This is exactly what the White House wants to convey. They -- that's why they're stressing that this is not a summit and a meeting. And a State Department official told me this morning, don't look for a communique. Don't look for a joint statement. Don't look for any tangible deliverables as a result of this but the beginning of a process of talks.

So what they -- what I think we might hear when the two of them stride to the podium at the press conference is, "Hey, we agreed to continue to talk about cooperation on "X" number of issues, and we're going to set up "X" number of working groups to try to work our way through that.

So yes, it could be the beginning of more regular communication and dialogue between our two countries. Because right now, Chris, the dialogue only exists on a mil to mil level, the U.S. military and the Russian military. That's basically it.

Now, that could be a good thing, because there's lots of things, like, cyber and Syria, and Ukraine that we do need to work towards a better relationship with Russia. I just am doubtful that there's going to be much progress in the near term.

And we don't know if there will be a press conference.

CUOMO: Well, we're hoping that there's something. Let's go back to John and Alisyn in New York. So working the reporting here on the ground a little bit.

Here's what I'm being told, is that this talk coming into this, John and Alisyn, that maybe they'll have a team to work on cyber meddling, that it's not going to happen. That the perspective of the people around Trump, his advisors, is it's just too fraught with political peril. The victim of an act of war, a cyber-attack on an election, doesn't work with their attacker on how to stop the problem. Russia is the problem.

[06:15:19] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. But you -- the flip side of that is it would be a perfect time to bring it up. If you're going to bring it up with somebody, bring it up with the guy who ordered it, Chris.

Moments ago we saw Russian President Vladimir Putin land in Helsinki late, pretty late, more than a half hour late. He is on his way at this moment to the summit, or the meeting, as they're now calling it with President Trump, the timing very much in his hands. Will the subject matter of this discussion be in his hands, as well?

We have former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden with us next to discuss what he thinks the U.S. should try to get out of this meeting. Stay with us. CNN's special live coverage continues right after a quick break.


BERMAN: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is on the ground in Helsinki, in Finland. He landed just moments ago. His motorcade traveling at this moment to the presidential palace for the meeting with President Trump. They will meet face to face this hour.

We have learned, though -- and this is really interesting -- President Trump will not depart his hotel until Vladimir Putin arrives at the meeting site. It could be now that President Trump is trying to reassert his scheduling dominance in the situation.

Say, "Yes, you're going to keep me waiting, Vladimir Putin? Well, I'm going to wait until you're actually on the ground to even leave my hotel." This is what goes on.

[06:20:10] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Scheduling diplomacy. Right.

BERMAN: Scheduling diplomacy. Power plays. This does appear to be happening.

Let's bring in CNN national security analyst, former CIA director under President Obama, General Michael Hayden.

General, thank you so much. You've studied and monitored Vladimir Putin for years. He's in this motorcade now, headed to this summit. Here's -- here are the things he knows. He knows that President Trump has called the European Union one of the greatest foes of this country. He knows that President Trump has said that relations have never been worth Russia -- worse with Russia because of the Russia investigation.

So what's going through Vladimir Putin's head at this moment?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first thing is this is a great day for Vladimir Putin and the Russian federation. Just step back a little bit, John, and we realize that -- it's quite obvious this is a president of a pariah, isolated, second- rate country. I mean, no insult to the Russian people, but do you realize our president is now going to meet with Putin.

Putin, on top of an economy that is actually smaller than the economy of several American states. And so that's a sense of equivalency. It's really not earned by Russia's status in the world.

And then isolation, since the invasion of the Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea in 2014. And now he's been embraced by the leader of the United States.

And so almost cost-free. Just by agreeing to show up, I think Putin has pocketed almost everything he needs for the domestic audience at home. And if he picks up anything else in the meeting, that's just on top of that.

CAMEROTA: General, on a different topic, I'm very interested in the transparency, or the lack of transparency with what's about to happen during these next 90 minutes.

Is it unusual that the subject of an investigation -- so we know that President Trump is the subject of Robert -- a subject of Robert Mueller's huge investigation into Russian hacking and meddling of our Democratic process and the 2016 election. Is it unusual for a subject to meet of an investigation to meet with

the perpetrator of the crime, alone, with no witnesses?

HAYDEN: It -- it really does set up a strange dynamic, Alisyn. And there was speculation a few minutes ago with Chris and the folks with him as to who else would be in the room for the one-on-one. And the speculation was will there be one or two interpreters? And I don't want to be alarmist here at all, but if there's only one interpreter in the room, and it's the Russian interpreter, to me that would be a very worrying sign.

CAMEROTA: Well, sure.

HAYDEN: But now we, the United States, will have no confident narrative with regard to what happened in that meeting.

CAMEROTA: No record on our side. I mean, we really need to find out who that other interpreter is. And I mean, if we're banking on just that interpreter's memory and recollection and impression, with no record, I mean, I just don't know how the U.S. public is going to be able to count on what's agreed upon in this meeting.

HAYDEN: Well, I gave you a sense of what I thought Putin's goals were showing up. I think President Trump's goal is to try to establish -- and this just betrays his past history as a businessman, where this is very important -- I think the president's goal was simply to establish some sort of personal relationship with the Russian president.

He said this over and over again: "Wouldn't be a -- wouldn't it be a good thing if I had a good relationship?" And frankly, for folks like me, not automatically. A good relationship has to be conditional.

And so Alisyn, this morning, we get the tweet that blames everything bad in the Russian-American relationship on the United States. In other words, he is preemptively forgiving Putin for the bad ties we had between the two countries. Again, all in service of his only goal: the personal relationship with Putin.

BERMAN: Russia attacked and invaded and occupied Crimea. Russia attacked and intervened in the U.S. election, and the president is saying the bad relationship is because of the United States of America, the country which he leads.

General, what will you be watching over the next several hours? We're going to see the two men together. They'll be signing the guest book with the Finnish president. There will be opening statements, and then they go behind closed doors. And then they'll give what we're told is a press conference. I cannot picture how this press conference will play out. It seems to me quite odd. What happens when a reporter says, "Hey, Vladimir Putin, did you intervene in the U.S. election?" He says "No." Then what does President Trump say, standing next to him?

[06:25:06] HAYDEN: Yes. And so I do think one of the more interesting aspects of the whole day is going to be the conference and what the American press is able to impose on one or both of the presidents.

Look, I don't mean to insult my old friends on the National Security Council, but I don't think the president imposed on them any great preparation, talking points, points to be made, things to be sure to bring up for this summit. And so if we come out of this with some sort of an announcement on an agreement on anything, I think, at a minimum, I would be uncomfortable and maybe a little bit scared, because I don't know what the preparation would have been or what we expect.

CAMEROTA: General Michael Hayden, always great to get your analysis on all of this. Thank you for standing by with us.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: As is Chris Cuomo, who is on the ground in Helsinki.

So I mean, Chris, you hear John and me struggling to figure out what these next 90 minutes and beyond are going to look like, what they're -- if they're going to bear any fruit and how we'll ever really be able to count on what we're told happens during those 90 minutes.

CUOMO: Well, I share your struggle, but it really isn't one. The bottom line is, no matter who's in that room, we're only going to know what President Trump and President Putin want to say when they come out initially, Alisyn. That's the key. Initially. If we know anything, that we've lived through in recent history, is that the truth will come out. And you know, within 24 hours of this moment, with me speaking right now, the Kremlin is going to have its own reckoning of what happened in this meeting and what it means going forward.

So we're going to take a break right now. When we come back, the occasion is now underway. Putin has landed. He is supposed to go and meet with the Finnish president first. That's going to happen. Then the president and the first lady are going to come. We're going to take you step by step through the morning's events and see what fruit is bore by this meeting.

Stay with CNN.