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Putin Arrives at Presidential Palace for Meeting; Morgan Talks about Interview with Trump; Trump Arrives At Presidential Palace for Meeting. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:23] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so here's what we're showing you in Helsinki right now. This is the road that President Vladimir Putin will travel to get to the palace that is over our shoulder, which is where this much anticipated meeting will occur. Putin was late, so now everything is pushed back. And we are told that the American president is not going to wait Vladimir Putin any longer. Meaning what? Meaning more waiting, actually, because he's going to delay his trip from the hotel, which is about ten minutes away to the presidential palace. So we're going to be waiting on this.
But this is all just ceremony and a little bit of gamesmanship. The real deal is once these two men meet, what do we learn about it? What is this? There are two possibilities, that this is literally as simple as that, just a meeting, a restart. The presidents of the United States and Russia haven't met in some eight years but with good reason.
Let's bring back Phil Mudd, Rear Admiral John Kirby and Christiane Amanpour.
And that reason is, is that, OK, here's the motorcade coming down right now. Here's the first lead car, which is the Finnish Police. You'll see some Finland military here and then you will see the massive motorcade of the Russian president in his newfound vehicle, as Christiane Amanpour just told me, built to resemble the beast (ph) but be a little bit bigger than the U.S. president's beast vehicle that we've become familiar with.
So as you're watching the motorcade, why have they not met? Because Russia has been on a tear of unprecedented inimical acts around the world, including murder, murder by -- and poisoning and annexation of territory that was not their own. So there's been a reason that Russia has become what General Michael Hayden becomes a pariah, yes?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, there are obviously those reasons that you just point out are precisely the problem. You know, for a long time, under President Obama, under President Bush and Russian leaders before that under President Clinton. They got on well.
There were issues, yes. There were certain different priorities but there were also a lot of issues that they worked towards and worked together. It really, really -- there's a series of events. Obviously President Putin got very angry with President Bush over two things, the war in Iraq and the unilateral withdrawal from the INF treaty.
Then he got very, very angry with President Obama over what? Over using NATO and the Security Council to go overboard in Libya. That's what -- that's what Putin thought. You know, they abstained. They didn't prevent the U.S. from intervening in Libya, but they never thought it was going to be regime change. So they got all upset about that.
And then, you know, they did their thing by invading Crimea and eastern Ukraine. And not only that, you know, I mean sort of invading or backing an invasion by Iran by Syria.
So they have done a lot. Not to mention intervening in your elections and European elections. So there is a lot that they have done to cause this situation.
CUOMO: All right, so, Phil Mudd, setting it up. It's a win for Putin the moment he landed safely on the ground because he's been given legitimacy by the U.S. president. Literally the world is waiting on him to get here. From the U.S. perspective you believe could be an easy win for Trump as well.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's going to be an easy win, based on what we've seen in the past.
I mean let me not mince words here. The president has characterized the policies of his predecessors as idiotic. I mean if you look at how he's moved on North Korea, he's already claimed a win. Nothing's happened in North Korea, but he walked away from five hours and said, I won. He walked away from a NATO meeting and said, I won. I pressed them to increase defense spending. They, of course, said no such thing happened, but he said, I won. He's going to walk away from this after just tweeting saying the relationship is at its worst phase ever. Regardless of what happens, he's going to walk away and say, I won. It's all words, but people believe it.
CUOMO: All right, we're looking at the motorcade right now coming through. It is a very big Renault (ph) that Putin has brought with him. They're coming up the street over our shoulder. You're seeing it on the screen.
[06:35:09] And, again, it is led, of course, by Finland, military, and police officials because they are the host country and the president, Niinisto (ph), is waiting here to meet Vladimir Putin. They'll sign a guest book. There will be some photo-ops. We'll take you through that as it is made available to us.
John Kirby, it is interesting. You were a member of the Obama administration. President Trump, as a candidate, bashed you guys with regularity and gusto for being weak and going on an apology tour. But we never heard -- I'm not big into what-about-ism by the way or false equivalencies, but to hear a U.S. president say that the problem with Russia are the U.S.' fault, that is a really big statement for a U.S. president to make and it's not a true one is it?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Absolutely not true. And, you're right, it's the height of irony. Here he was all about how President Obama was an apologist and I take great issue with that characterization, as you might expect I would. I think President Obama was very tough on the world stage, and particularly tough on Russia, and more particularly in those last couple of years. But for Trump then turning around now and say that we -- or the United States is to blame for all of the problems in the U.S.-Russia relationship is to me not only the height of irony, but a grand apology from Donald Trump on the day he's meeting with Vladimir Putin.
CUOMO: All right, Putin is pulling into the presidential palace, which is right over our shoulder. This is as anticipated. The timing is off, but the process is exactly as what was agreed. The president moves in. You see the drape being closed on the security tent there. Why? Obviously you're going to have two world leaders meeting in a moment. You want to keep it as secure as possible. We are told that there will be photos released. There will be video released. When we get it, we will show it to you.
So, Christiane, the big, ugly white elephant in the room will be the U.S. election hacking. We've been calling it meddling, but I'm trying to stay away from the word because it's just way too mild. This is an act of war. If it were done in physical -- here's obviously a live picture. You're seeing the Russian president enter right now. He's going to meet Finland's president. There's going to be some ceremony going on. You're watching him with this entire Renault (ph) coming in. Do we identify anybody as they come in?
AMANPOUR: I think that was the Finnish president with him walking in.
CUOMO: OK. So they're watching side by side coming. President Niinisto, Finland's president, playing host to this, obviously, as is his country's police and military. They're walking through. We'll watch the ceremony as it occurs step by step.
So, back to our point, Christiane, coming into this situation.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, you just said, you know, that the act of war, et cetera. I mean it is actually quite incredible sitting here now and watching this image, even though we've been talking about it ad nauseam and we now see this image of President Putin arriving here, going through the presidential palace, waiting for a very, very important meeting, when, yes, it is an act of violation of sovereignty of the United States and the other European countries that have been cyber hacked on their electoral matters.
CUOMO: Foreign Minister Lavrov just went through. Obviously there are going to be big shots on both sides. The expectation is the two main men meet but then there is a joint working meeting afterwards with a lunch.
AMANPOUR: And a working lunch as well. Yes, needed.
CUOMO: Yes. AMANPOUR: And the British have said that it violated our sovereignty. They fully believe the Novichok attacks were directed from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they believe that that was a violation of their sovereignty. And, of course, now one person's dead, so that is now a murder investigation. They're not blaming that on the Russia because it may be co-lateral because the Novichok was there. They still have to do a complete investigation.
So this is -- this is really an incredible moment. And after what happened, the tone of President Trump with his allies in NATO, and then in Britain, and now calling the E.U. a foe, the western alliance wants to believe and hopes that President Trump will go into this meeting with their line of defense, with their point of view, not with Putin's.
CUOMO: So, we will see. Literally, on our watch, we will know.
Now, there was one little curveball, John and Alisyn, as we give it back to you in New York. One of the mysteries of the Putin-Trump relationship has been with Putin when he showed that video, you might remember at the Kremlin, of showing the capacity of some of their new long-range missiles. And they had a video that was obviously a characterization that showed them landing in Florida. Do you remember that?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
CUOMO: And we heard a deafening silence from Trump after it. He never said anything. Well, a piece just coincidentally came out right before this meeting that the president, according to sources, was enraged by this video and that he called President Putin and was very harsh with him and said in his enraged state that Theresa May and President Macron agree with him, that this was outrageous what Putin had done. But what are the chances that that's completely accurate, that President Trump held his tongue in a moment of outrage when that video came out, tweeted nothing, said nothing, called Vladimir Putin outraged, and we heard nothing and used Macron and Theresa May as proof of collective strength against Putin. What a set of characteristics if that actually happened.
[06:40:18] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And if I read the article correctly, it allegedly happened in the same conversation where President Trump congratulated President Putin on his big election victory. So --
CAMEROTA: Hard to know.
BERMAN: Put that all together.
CUOMO: What's the chance of that?
CAMEROTA: Hard to know.
CUOMO: That Trump's upset at your and then congratulates you? Never happened to Alisyn. I'll tell you that right now.
CAMEROTA: I only accept congratulations.
Chris, thank you. We should let you know that President Trump is now on his way. He now is headed to the presidential palace now that Vladimir Putin has arrived. As we've been talking about this sort of scheduling tit for tat, this scheduling diplomacy. So, President Trump will be the last person, leader, who arrives. So obviously we're keeping an eye on all of this.
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan of "Celebrity Apprentice" fame and before that CNN and "Good Morning Britain," just interviewed President Trump on Air Force One. Sat down with him for I think half an hour. They had a wide-ranging conversation. So Piers is going to join us live to talk about all of this.
[06:45:12] CAMEROTA: All right, President Trump is on his way to the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, as we speak, for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ahead of their meeting, President Trump refused to condemn Putin as a ruthless leader or a foe in this new interview with ITV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean we have plenty of the people that I deal with are pretty ruthless people.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "GOOD MORING BRITAIN": 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. Someone 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right, so let's bring in "Good Morning Britain" host Piers Morgan, who conducted that interview onboard Air Force One.
Piers, great to see you.
I know that you said that this is something like your 35th interview with Donald Trump. You've known him for a long time, obviously. He gave you 30 minutes and I know that that was -- you gave a lot of color that people can read about of what it was like on Air Force One. But tell us what you think the headline of those 30 minutes was.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "GOOD MORNING BRITAIN": Well, honestly, and all of the interviews I've done with Trump were at CNN, so it's nice to be back on CNN. And good morning to CNN viewers. I've missed you.
I think the -- the reality of the interview with Trump was it came after a really bombastic week even by his standards in Britain where he came in and he lit up this flame by attacking the British Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit, which is our hugely controversial and divisive decision to leave the European Union. And he basically inferred that there could be no trade deal with America and Britain after with Brexit because he'd been told that her new plan, Mrs. May's new plan, simply wouldn't allow it.
And this is a huge, contentious issue now in our country. So by the time I got to him, he'd spent two days with Theresa May and she had mollified him. She seemed to have persuaded him that Britain could do a big trade deal with America when we come out of the European Union. But a lot of people in Britain think she was spinning President Trump a line here and that we are not able to do that. It's a crucial issue in my country and I think that Donald Trump actually, by being a bull in the China shop, did us all a favor. He blew it up and he's refocused people's minds.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting.
So what did -- we just played a little bit -- a portion of the interview of when you asked him about Putin and how he would characterize Putin. So what else did he tell you about what he expects for this meeting happening moments from now?
MORGAN: Well, I asked him whether he had a kind of world view, a Trump doctrine, about the world stage, which involves him getting in a room with the bad guys, whether it's Kim Jong-un, whether it's Vladimir Putin. And he kind of said, yes, he does. You know, he said he -- nothing from his time as a real estate tycoon in New York. He believes in just getting in the room, even with people you can't stomach, and try to do a deal. You know, he's a business guy at his core, Trump, as we all know.
And I think that with Kim Jong-un he feels now he has at least some kind of relationship which he thinks is to the benefit of not just America but world peace. I think he's going in to see Vladimir Putin with the same kind of relatively open mind where he wants to see where the conversation goes.
I have to say the -- his general view is -- was interesting where he said, look, when I first got into office, everybody assumed I'd be at war very, very quickly with people and I think that's true. I think a lot of people did have that fear. And Trump actually, by getting into these rooms with the bad guys and trying to avoid war he's saying, look, you know, it's the old Winston Churchill thing, it's better to jaw-jaw than war-war. I would say he'll be judged by results.
If, genuinely, he can forge proper peace with North Korea and if genuinely he can be a kind of control valve on Putin, than this will be a very good thing not just for America, but for the world.
CAMEROTA: Well, the problem is, it will be hard to know what actually happens during these 90 minutes because there will be no record of it. And really, I mean, we -- maybe, we've been told, an interpreter, but we don't know if that's a State Department interpreter. We don't know if that's a Russian interpreter. And so it's hard to know what the president will come away with.
Furthermore, you know, he hasn't really called Putin a bad guy. In other words, he doesn't necessarily think that Putin's a bad guy. In fact, I mean, here's where his mindset was this morning. This is what the president was tweeting about.
President Obama thought that crooked Hillary was going to win the election. So when he was informed by the FBI about Russian meddling, he said it couldn't happen-- that's not true -- was no big deal -- not true -- and did nothing about it. When I won, it became a big deal and then rigged witch hunt, headed by Strzok.
[06:50:10] It's hard to know, Piers, where he is on this because he's upset that President Obama didn't think it was a big deal and then President Trump tells people it's not a big deal.
MORGAN: Yes, listen, I completely agree. And there's an inconsistency there. There's a lot of hypocrisy because of his positions against Obama before. And Trump, as we know, is not a politician. He's a very different kind of political animal. And, you know, we have to see where this all takes us.
I can only say that -- and my own brother is a British army colonel who's current fighting in a NATO force. And I think the military view is that however unsettling and disruptive Trump's tactics may be, actually it's not a bad thing if America and Russia can somehow avoid open conflict. Similarly with North Korea. The question is, can Trump's very unusual tactics lead to that happening? And I think that there's a bigger picture here. America, obviously, has a very fixed focus, I know CNN is very fixed on this, about the Russian meddling in the election, the Russian hacking, and whether, you know, how far has Russia gone to compromise the integrity of American democracy. I absolutely understand that. The rest of the world has an even bigger picture, which I guess is world peace.
MORGAN: And the question is whether Trump can forge that or not.
MORGAN: And I think we have to see whether what he's doing works.
CAMEROTA: Yes, of course.
Piers, we are watching the motorcade. President Trump's motorcade heading towards the presidential palace there in Helsinki. So we're going to let you go.
Piers, thank you very much for sharing your interview with us.
And we're going to go back to Chris Cuomo, who is on the ground for us. So, Chris, this is the moment as we watch President Trump close to arriving.
CUOMO: This is the first moment in a series of anticipated events, to be sure. This is the U.S. president's motorcade coming down the boulevard toward the presidential palace. President Vladimir Putin of Russia is already there having walked in with Finland's president. We expect the president of the United States and first lady to come in, be greeted, sign a guest book, and then we'll have the first major event, the joint media availability of Presidents Putin and Trump. They'll have some short statement, we are told, then the media will exit the room and the meeting will begin.
It will be one on one, as you've been raising, Alisyn, a legitimate issue, who does the translating, how many, what kind of people are they allowed to be. We don't know, but we'll see in that room. We'll get a much better sense for the media who are there as well.
Then the media leaves. The men meet one on one for about an hour. But it could go longer or shorter. We don't know. Then there will be a joint working meeting. We saw Foreign Minister Lavrov here in attendance with President Putin. So that will be the big moment.
After that lunch, there will be a press avail later in the day. But, as you said, the transparency is a concern. We're going to give you different shots as we get them. This is, obviously, a very secure and tight parameter. The president is now traveling through an area where they didn't want media to have direct eyes on him. We weren't allowed to capture the live exit from the hotel for security reasons. So this is the moment that we're waiting for.
Over our shoulder is the presidential palace. There is a makeshift tent that has been set up so that when the president and first lady exit and meet with Finland's president, it will be closed off by a big curtain for security reasons, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, thank you very much for that scene setter as we are watching it.
As we're watching here, John --
BERMAN: Yes, Chris, give me a sense of how this whole meeting is being received in Finland. As you know, Helsinki has been the sight for so many important meetings. What do they make of it? What do they make of President Trump?
BERMAN: I know the press freedom, for instance, is something they care a great deal there.
CUOMO: You know, that is a good question. I have to tell you, this place is such a lineage, a legacy here of historic meetings with U.S. and Russian presidents. However, this one is different. We know that President Trump enjoys a moment. And that's really what the Singapore summit was about, a moment. The after effects of it have been, you know, disappointing to say the least. And this is what President Trump wants here today. Our expectation is, it's a win for him just to be here. On the ground, there have been protests. There are a lot of people here in Helsinki, they have very acute environmental concerns, concerns about the Baltic Sea, concerns about human rights, concerns about President Trump and what he sees happening with the migrants in the United States. So there were thousands of people who took to the streets here on Saturday.
There were people lining the streets as the motorcade starts coming up the boulevard now. We see the signature beast there, the presidential vehicle. A little bit of color early on provided by Christiane Amanpour that Vladimir Putin has constructed his own beast that is supposedly fabricated by Russian hands that is designed to be just a little bit bigger, John and Alisyn, than the United States president's beast.
[06:55:10] So, he's coming up. His motorcade not as big as the Russian president's, but those kinds of things should not matter. And, again, the process, procedure for today, the president and the first lady come. They meet the -- Finland's president. Signing of a book. And then we get into the main events here.
Now, what will come from it and how will we know, to Alisyn's concerns. We don't have good answers to that. We'll know a little bit better when the media is able to get in the room and see who is in attendance with the two presidents.
But the easy win for Putin is this happening at all. He's been give legitimacy on the world stage. End of story.
For Trump you could argue that he will make the case that he made something happen here. But, boy, did he pay a price to get into this, John and Alisyn. For him to blame the United States for the state of play between Russia and the United States. We have never heard that kind of derisive statement made by -- about the United States by a U.S. president, at least in my history of this business. I've never heard anything like that. He has said a lot of things that will be music to Putin's ears.
And on one issue that has the highest level of expectation certainly in the United States, it may be a true compromise, which is, how does he raise the act of war of the hacking and different attacks during the U.S. election when Vladimir Putin knows damn well that President Trump doesn't really believe the truth and doesn't put a whole lot of stock in the event itself.
CAMEROTA: Chris, such good points. I mean, and how will we know exactly what he has said in terms of raising that act of cyber war.
But back to your point about criticizing the U.S. while on the world stage. You know, John, as you would say, I'm old enough to remember when the -- anybody, any public official connected to the Obama administration, ever said anything mildly critical of the U.S. and Fox News called them the hate America first crowd. And now to hear President Trump saying things like that is just stunning.
Here's the president arriving at the presidential palace in Helsinki. You can see President Trump walking in, preparing to meet with Putin.
CUOMO: Finland's president by his side as he walks in. Obviously, Finland, the host country here. President Niinisto met with both gentlemen. He's going to be interviewed by Christiane Amanpour later on. It will be interesting to see what he believes this day was about.
You saw the first lady walking in, I believe in a yellow outfit she had on coming in. And now the men will go up, sign the guestbook, the president and first lady will. Then we will have -- you see John Bolton walking in there. Remember, there's a big -- Sarah Sanders walking in. Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, walking in.
We know that after the two mean meet one on one, there will be a joint meeting and a working lunch.
So that tees up a very relevant consideration here. What will be the take away? You have the tone coming in. You have the transparency of the process. And then you have the take away. We have had our expectations lowered by the White House. Don't call it a summit. Call it a meeting. This is just a reapproachment of the two sides because they haven't spoken in some eight years. It's just the starting point. Unusual for Helsinki. A very long legacy of meetings here.
However, it was usually an end point, Alisyn and John. You think way back to 1975 with President Ford and Russian Leader Brezhnev, the Helsinki Accords, that was the summation of a lot of -- months of hard work. This could be a starting point today but of what and in what direction. Those are the questions.
BERMAN: And we've seen that before with President Trump on foreign policy to much the same thing with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in regards to the North Korea policy, instead of a lot of meticulous preparation and then the one-on-one meeting to put a cap on it. You have the meeting first and then the work happens after that.
Just give people a sense of where we are at this moment. Fifty minutes late. This meeting, previously called a summit until the White House told us they don't want to call it a summit anymore, is on Vladimir Putin's schedule. He showed up on the ground in Helsinki late, at least 45 minutes.
We're going to see them very shortly, Chris. They will make a joint statement prior to their one-on-one meeting. It looks like their joint appearance before the microphones will come a full hour after it was supposed to. Does it really matter in the long term here in terms of what is discussed and what is agreed to? No, but it does give you a sense of how Vladimir Putin does play this. He showed up late to meetings with the queen, we've been told, late to meetings with Angela Merkel. He likes to assert his dominance here and that's one of the things we've seen so far. It will be interesting to see if we see that behind closed doors as well, Chris.
CUOMO: Well, look, you know, a lot of this lays ahead of us. Let's reset for people who are just joining us now at the top of the hour. We're here in Helsinki, Finland, and we do have both presidents on the ground, both presidents in the palace over our shoulder here for this meeting between the two men and their top advisers. There will be a secondary meeting, a working lunch thereafter.
[07:00:08] Everything got a little delayed this morning. President Putin was late. Was that tactical? We don't know. But it's not unusual.