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President Trump And Putin Summit Underway In Helsinki; CNN: Trump Had Translator In Putin Meeting. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: -- having a clear eyed-approach to the very real threat that Russia poses to our alliances and our democracy.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Chris Coons, we appreciate you taking time away from your duties in Chautauqua to talk with us. Thank you very much.
COONS: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: All right, our breaking news coverage of the Trump/Putin summit continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Monday, July 16th. You see your team there, Alisyn and John in New York. I'm Chris Cuomo here in Helsinki, Finland, where they would say good morning to you.
Right now President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin are meeting one on one. First question to ask this morning is why President Trump wanted it that way we are told and why he wanted it that way, included not being interrupted by his more hardline advisers when talking to Vladimir Putin.
So they are behind closed doors. Each has a translator, and that's it. So we won't know what was said until we hear the reckonings of both men. Before the meeting started, there was a little bit of a press avail, as we call it. President Trump spoke second and brought up a list of topics he wanted to discuss. No mention of the following -- no mention of Syria, which was surprising, Crimea, Ukraine, the Russian election -- the American election, rather. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most importantly we have a lot of good things to talk about and things to talk about. We have discussions on everything from trade to military to missiles to nuclear to China. We'll talk a little bit about China, our mutual friend, President Xi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Mutual friend President Xi, not democratically elected, not by American standards.
So what are these talks about? They take place just days after a big moment in the Russia probe in the U.S. -- 12 Russian military intelligence officers with the same unit that is suspected of doing the poisoning on U.K. soil of a former soil, indicted by Special Counsel Bob Mueller for hacking e-mails of Hillary Clinton's campaign and the DNC. We learned they penetrated America's election infrastructure as well, but there was no finding that they altered any vote counts.
Earlier on Twitter, President Trump called out the United States as being to blame for strained relations with Russia. That is something that we have never heard a U.S. president do before. So why would he do that? What does it mean heading into this meeting, and how are they hoping to come out of it with wins?
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. What do we know, Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you saw there. We heard from President Trump and president Putin. President Putin went first. He spoke first about what this meeting was going to look like, and then President Trump went after him. We're learning that's because Russia is considered the host country of this summit between the two world leaders, their first formal sit-down since President Trump took office.
Of course, they are behind closed doors, and the question on everyone's mind is what they are going to talk about while they are in there. As you noted, the president brought up China, nuclear weapons, missiles, trade. He did not bring up Ukraine, Syria, or election meddling. But this is how he said he believed those talks were going to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that, frankly, we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years. I've been here not too long, and it's getting close to two years. But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship, I hope so. I've been saying and sure you've heard over the years and as I campaigned, that getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, Chris, the president said there are -- what we're learning from sources is the president had three reasons for wanting to meet with Putin one on one, which is he is doing right now. One of those is that he felt he could better assess Putin if they were sitting in a room with just the two of them, the translators off to the side. Secondly, he didn't want any of their conversation to leak to reporters, something that has infuriated the president in the past. And lastly, the president didn't want any of his aides who take a strong stance on Russia to undercut or interrupt him during that sit- down with Vladimir Putin, which according to the schedule before they were running late was slated to run about 90 minutes. We'll see how long it goes, Chris.
CUOMO: Well, Kaitlan, make sure to disappoint the president quickly as possible and find out what's happening in that room. We need to know.
Let's get some perspective. We have CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny with us here, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.
[08:05:03] So, quick note that we understand that while the two presidents are in the room there are other meetings going at the same time. We had been told that there would be a joint lunch and working meeting after this. But now we're understanding that simultaneous to it, Secretary of State Pompeo, Foreign Minister Lavrov meeting contemporaneously, at the same time. So that is a little bit more of what was being hoped for here, is that there would be some lower level discussions of people who could get in to more of the true grist for the mill of these controversies that weren't mentioned by Trump in that little precursor meeting there.
Now, we have to set the table of how we got here. Vladimir Putin has to feel good, Jeff Zeleny, or you could never tell by his countenance. He looks like this was all but a bother for him. But President Trump has been saying all of the things he would want to hear. European Union is a foe, drama with NATO, drama with Theresa May, that the hacking is a witch hunt, that the reason U.S. relations with Russia are bad is because of the United States.
And then a tweet this morning that I want to put up for the audience. That's his tweet, "Never worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity." Look at this, Jeff Zeleny. What do you make of that response from Russia?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that is the Russian foreign ministry's account responding to that, and that is where the conversation begins. That is perfect context. Those two words, "We agree." Boy, that gives President Trump so much there. It's extraordinary.
It is being attacked by some Republicans saying that he should have started out. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, was giving some advice on Twitter. Of course he's not the biggest fan of the president. He said the president should have said this, Russia is the enemy of America and our allies and we'll expose and respond to confirmed cyber attacks. Of course the president is not going to do that starting out. But that tweet this morning may not have been the ideal way to start the conversation in some respects.
I think separately of that, though, I'm being told by reporters in the room the president didn't bring up election meddling but he was asked about it right afterward. He did not answer, but according to the A.P. report in the room he said that Vladimir Putin was smirking when he was being asked those questions. So we'll see if that's true later on here. We do know that he's going to bring it up. But bringing it up is beside the point. The last time they met was last fall in Vietnam and he said I believe him when he says they didn't meddle. CUOMO: Right, but, look, very often the approach is suggestive of the
outcome. If I ask you whether or not you meddled or hijacked the election or hacked the election, that's one thing. I'm expecting you to deny it. This isn't a situation where it's open to doubt. And that's why they were making the point about whether or not, Susan, that Trump was going to drop the hammer on Putin about what he did, and nobody expects that now.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's exactly right. A lot of the buildup to this summit, we've been talking endlessly as if it was going to be some debate between Trump and Putin. Obviously that's not going to be the case when you think about the president's presentation beforehand and his desire to have a friendly relationship.
But who cares whether they get in a verbal sparring match. That's not really the issue. It's been two years since the 2016 election the question of what America's policy response is both on the level of what we're doing inside the United States but also in terms of how we're engaging with Russia, I want to underscore again how extraordinary this summit meeting is like any other.
First of all, you have the White House and the State Department trying to deny it's even a summit meeting at the same time the president of the United States is tweeting in all capitals it's a summit meeting. You have a president who has gone into one on one meeting at his own request for Vladimir Putin, at least in part because he doesn't trust or isn't willing to have his advisers there potentially to undercut him because they don't agree with his reconciliatory policy towards Russia.
And then you have the details of the summit being so extraordinarily unclear even going into the meeting. The schedule itself is in flux. We don't know who's going to be in there. The president has disregarded professional advice --
CUOMO: But it's a little reflective of very simple reality, David Gergen. I'll bounce it to you on this. This is all Trump wanted. We're all here, there's a big movement. He shook Putin's and. He says we're going to be good, we're going to talk. It's better than not talking.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And Donald Trump is at the center of the universe. Listen, I think what's shaping up is that Trump went into this meeting today under intense pressure to hold Putin accountable, and we've been looking for ways is he going to do that. The tweet he sent out sort of blaming the United States instead of Trump automatically tilted the argument to say it's all our fault.
And then when you go through the litany of what he wants to talk about at the meeting, it has not to do with the past bad behavior of the Russians, nothing about holding them accountable. Instead it's let's look at the opportunities out there in the future on trade, on nuclear on arms control, and on China. And it's sort of like he just wants to sweep the past into the past. [08:10:11] CUOMO: It gets tricky, though, right, because what you
ignore you empower, but his own guy at the DNI, Dan Coats, said the red light is flashing, that they are trying to meddle once again right now, Russia, in the U.S. election.
CUOMO: It is not only does he give Putin a free pass, but it insults our intelligence agencies, it insults our whole justice system. We're spending a lot of time and effort trying to figure out what the hell happened. There have been 32 people indicted so far. This is not something that just goes away easily when you know it's traced now directly to the Kremlin.
CUOMO: And look, we are all learning how to figure out what's going to happen here by a new set of expectations with Donald Trump. He's certainly unorthodox and unconventional, and any other un word you can come up when it comes to being president. And Zeleny, we saw it again today. He made a lot of hay during the campaign. Nobody knows this better than you, by saying I'll tell you how I'm different than Obama. This guy wasn't proud to be president. He bad-mouthed America all around the world. Well, the apology tour is over. In all fairness, did Obama ever say anything that approaches what Trump tweeted giving the U.S. blame for Russia-U.S. bad relations.
ZELENY: Not that I can recall. And I'm pretty sure that we would remember that because that would have been an extraordinary moment, particularly being on foreign soil. That old adage is out the window. But the president blaming the U.S. essentially, it's an extraordinary way to start this. And I'm not sure if he was tweeting. Often he's telling his advisers what to tweet. That was coming as he was waiting for Vladimir Putin who was arriving about an hour late. So he has time on his hands to do that.
But I think one thing here is clear. We've talked a lot about how President Trump doesn't prepare as much for the summits. I'm not sure -- he doesn't prepare in the kind of way other presidents have, but he is prepared more than they would like to let on. But as David said, it's about the future, about going on. And this has a lot to do with the midterm elections back home. I've traveled all week with the president through Brussels, through the United Kingdom, a lot of big images, and he said this will be the easiest. As you said earlier, it's the easiest if he wants it to be the easiest.
He wants it to be him on the foreign stage, you would think having him here would draw attention to the Russian investigation back home. Administration officials believe it actually gets them beyond it because it makes them look presidential. I'm not sure that's true if he doesn't confront Vladimir Putin at all.
CUOMO: Presidential becomes an acute definition, it becomes very subjective, because I have to tell you, this place has a lot of history, Helsinki. We're here for a reason. May not make that much sense in context today, but past meetings, 1975, the Helsinki accord, 1990 when George H. W. Bush was here with Gorbachev, 1997 was a very big one with Clinton and Yeltsin for the expansion of NATO. And a lot of those countries that when expanded from 14 to 29, they live in existential fear of Putin. And to hear the president of the United States not mention Ukraine and Crimea, I was on Ukrainian soil. I saw what happened when the plane hit the ground and 298 people were dead and Russian backed whatever you want to call, them but they had Russian uniforms on, wouldn't let people collect the dead. That is the image of fear that people are living with and they are worried about in the outcome of this meeting.
So we'll see what happens after the meeting and what is said and what the tone is, because there are literally people watching and listening all around the world. And I'll have you good people to help me understand it when we learn.
We have been told that the media has been told to assemble a few minutes from now. We don't know what that means, but we will take you through it. Am I going back to New York or are we going to break? What do you want? Break it is.
Stay with CNN. There is so much more to cover. We'll take you through it as it happens.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have now been meeting for about an hour behind closed doors. So, what's happening in there? Is it possible that President Trump would confront Vladimir Putin about any of the difficult issues facing the world?
Joining us now with his expectations is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson. Good morning, Governor.
BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Help us manage our expectations. What is possible to come out of this meeting? What are you looking to see?
RICHARDSON: Well, what I wanted more than anything as an American not just as a former Democrat or Republican is the president saying to Putin, what you did in meddling in our election is unacceptable. I want an assurance that it will never happen again and then thirdly, I would ask for the extradition of those 12 indicted intelligence officers.
Now, that's probably going to be very difficult under Russian law, but my worry Alisyn, having been in these summits before, the prelude to the summits, the opening statements kind of tell you what is going to be discussed.
The fact that the election meddling was not discussed as somebody that's been in elections before, the massive interference in our electoral process, Wikileaks hacking the Democratic National Committee, obviously against Hillary Clinton is so blatant that it requires a response.
The fact that also with Syria, Russia, helping Iran, against all kinds of human rights interest in Syria, helping Assad, certifying to Russia that it's OK what happened with Crimea and Ukraine.
The fact that wasn't mentioned at the outset is very troubling. Maybe he's going to mention it in passing to cover himself, but I'm very concerned about the results of this summit.
CAMEROTA: Governor, what you have just described is so far afield from what was just said in the tone of the photo ops. There are a few words just exchanged in front of reporters as you know what's going on behind closed doors. We may never have an accurate accounting of right now, but the photo op, let me play what President Trump felt compelled to say to Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:20:07] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that frankly we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years. I've been here not too long, but it's getting close to two years.
But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I hope so. I've been saying and I'm sure you've heard over the years and as I campaigned, that getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I mean, so it sounds like what President Trump's end game is and what he's going in hoping for is to have an extraordinary relationship with Russia. Your thoughts?
RICHARDSON: Well, there's no question the U.S./Russia relationship is very important. There are a lot of issues that we need each other and the fact that it's not going well is also a reality.
The concern I have is that this summit is going to sweep the problems we've had where we have to stand up for Ukraine, for human rights in Syria, where we have to stand up for our democracy and electoral process and instead we're going to focus, well, all right, an arms control agreement resuming the start talks and inf talks, that's good.
But that's the only deliverable and Putin wins if none of these issues contentious issues especially the electoral involvement are not raised, he comes out the big winner because the absence of friction makes Putin win if we basically certify, OK, let's put all of that aside, all of that important stuff aside and focus on issues in the future.
All right, an arms control agreement, that's good for humanity. But we cannot possibly excuse what has happened in his behavior and his potential involvement in the next election. His own national security adviser mentioned it. The head of our intelligence services, Dan Coats, has mentioned it. Cyber threats, this is not good.
CAMEROTA: Governor, you have been involved in high stakes diplomacy. Do you find it strange that President Trump doesn't want his top aides in the room with him that we don't -- as far as we know there's no State Department officials that at best there might be an interpreter on his side to witness and somehow try to recollect what goes on between these two men?
RICHARDSON: This seems to be a pattern of the president, which is very troubling. I've never been in a summit situation like that or observed it before. Secretary Pompeo, the secretary of state should be at that meeting. He is the chief diplomat. He's done a good job, I believe Pompeo with North Korea.
So, my worry is that even John Bolton, who is tough appropriately on Russia, won't be there. So, you don't know what's going to be discussed. You don't know what's going to be recorded. And so, you're left alone in this luncheon that they are going to have or this meeting of the principals.
Maybe it's already been decided and that's a meeting that is not going to have much substance where maybe you cover the things well, what about Syria, what about -- instead of saying what about Syria, you want to say to Putin, look, we've got to find a political solution that excludes Assad.
On Crimea, you can't do that again, you've got to find ways to stop the carnage in Ukraine and Crimea. And then on our electoral process, you have to say to them, you can't ever do that again.
You give me an assurance that's never going to happen. By the way, let's get those 12 Russians that have been indicted for massive involvement in our electoral process, which is totally unacceptable. You know, that needs to be said and you don't know if it's going to be said.
CAMEROTA: I mean, and just to be clear, it doesn't -- the president had admitted to CBS this weekend that he -- it had not occurred to him to talk about the extradition. He hadn't thought of that but said he will bring it up. We will see what he says when he comes out. Bill Richardson, thank you for your expertise, great to have you here -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Almost halftime at the Trump/Putin summit in Helsinki, the two are wrapping up shortly. We were told there would be some kind of photo op in between and then they'll go behind closed door with their staff for more meetings. What will they say? We can find out in a few minutes. CNN special live coverage continues right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers. We have 90 percent of the nuclear and that's not a good thing, it's a bad thing. And I think we hopefully can do something about that. Because it's not a positive for us, it's a negative force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That was President Trump right before going in to his private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here we are in Helsinki, Finland. We're expecting to hear from both leaders soon about what they discussed and what happens next.
Joining us to discuss the impact is CNN global affairs analyst, Susan Glasser. We also have CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, and CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.
Michelle, there's a lot of gray going into this. They picked this very august place, Helsinki, rich with history with big meetings between U.S.-Russian presidents, but we didn't know that much. We now have word that at least we know both have a translator. And then there were reasons offered for why it was so important for Trump to be alone with Putin.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We wouldn't have a cliff hanger. We wouldn't have suspense and surprise if they gave out a lot of information. I think sometimes that is the way the White House sees it or at least that's the way President Trump sees it.
They have emphasized over and over again. The White House and State Department that this is not an agenda here. They've set no set agenda. They want to just talk things through and see how it goes. So, a couple of things, jumped out of me.
First of all, President Trump goes back to his sort of --