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After Summit Debacle, Trump Claims He Now Agrees Russia Interfered In Election, But Adds It Could Be Other People; Obama Warns Against The Rise Of Strongmen Politics; Did Dislike Of Hillary Clinton Bond Putin And Trump? Aired 11-12a ET
Aired July 17, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, 11:00 in the nose here in the East Coast. We're live with all the new developments for you. After siding with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community, including his Director of National Intelligence, President Trump now says he misspoke. For a man who prides himself on throwing up scripts, Trump today opted to look down and read prepared comments until he didn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be totally clear in saying that I've said this many times, I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Russia interfered in our election, but maybe it was other people. That seems anything, but clear. Does he think we forgot about the rest of his press conference with Putin? He dodged any appearance of criticizing Russia or its President. He clarified that calling Putin a competitor was actually a compliment, after being told by the very people he hired that the United States has been and is currently under cyberattack by Russia, he responded by praising Putin and blaming the United States for poor relations between the two countries.
President Trump may have misspoken, but tweaking one word doesn't undo or make us forget everything else he said. There's still all the other stuff. I want to bring in now two CNN Political Analysts, Patrick Healy, political editor of "The New York Times," and Michael Bender. He is a White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," also CNN Political Commentator, Matt Lewis, a senior columnist for "The Daily News."
Good evening to all of you. Michael, Daily Beast, sorry, -- sorry, Daily Beast. Michael, listen, great reporting in "The Wall Street Journal" tonight, just been reading it, just moments ago. You're reporting on why President Trump tried to walk back these comments from Helsinki today. What have you learned? MICHAEL BENDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the -- he was -- as he
said in the conference today, he was sort of suggested to say surprised by the pushback, and really the barrage of criticism. And it was just coming from all angles. And the President watches television pretty frequently, as we know. He was taking all that in on the ride home, on the flight home from Air Force One -- on Air Force One. And one comment in particular stung him, which was the tweet from former speaker, Newt Gingrich who called this the worst mistake of his presidency.
That comment stung so much that Trump made sure to speak with Gingrich after his comments, his revision today, to make sure that Gingrich, who is a close adviser, has been -- frequently meets with Pence, he talks with Trump quite a bit, make sure that Newt Gingrich saw those comments and to get his feedback, to see if he appreciated and thought that he had cleared things up now.
LEMON: Yes. Newt Gingrich responded, I am saying, I'm paraphrasing here, you know, saying the President responded quickly and he clarified basically saying to move on. But again as I am reading now, saying he was watching aboard Air Force One, he was asking advisers how his appearance came off, you know, then Tuesday morning, I'm quoting your article, had seen the news coverage and look at the transcripts of his Helsinki remarks. He called a meeting in the White House to discuss how to respond and attendants for Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser, John Bolton, new deputy Chief of Staff for communications Bill Shine and others who are familiar with the matter said. So, this was a big deal, obviously.
BENDER: Yes, and there were half a dozen other people there too. You've talked a little bit on your show, and others have made the comparison to Charlottesville, as well, as this being a real missed opportunity for the President. But I think one difference, one small difference is that this White House seems to be on the same page in urging President Trump to walk this back and to make some kind of statement immediately, trying to undo what he did in Helsinki.
That was a little different from what we saw right after Charlottesville, there were a lot of mixed opinions in the White House. This time everyone was telling him there was a real coalescing of opinions inside the White House that he need to take care of this immediately.
LEMON: I think we need to just remind folks, before we continue with this conversation. OK, so everybody pay attention, especially you, Matt, I'll come to you, it's not the first time that President Trump that he has botched damage control after the unthinkable comment and the horrific events in Charlottesville that Michael just mentioned. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides, on many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:05:04] LEMON: Two days later walked it back with this prepared statements, reading again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But just one day later, the President couldn't help himself and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent. I think there's blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Just as bad as the first time he said it. So listen, the reason I played that, you get where I'm going, do you think we've heard the last on his apology or his explanation on what happened with Vladimir Putin on that stage in Helsinki?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, if history is any predictor, I think he is going to reiterate what he said originally, right? So what happens is, he says something kind of crazy, then he waits. They say that -- by the way, they say he reacted quickly. It was like 26 hours or something before they cleaned this up. And they really never cleaned it up, but so he messes up originally, that happens.
Then there will be a statement that he reads to try to clean it up. Then a couple of days later he will return to where he was originally, because of course originally is what he really believed, right? So when he says both sides are equal, that is his gut. That is what he truly believes. And I think we'll see the pattern repeat itself. You know, today he read this sort of written statement, someone wrote for him. That is not what he really believes. And so I suspect he will return back to where he was in Helsinki.
LEMON: What he believes, Patrick, is what he read -- what he had adlib there, right.
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
LEMON: Listen, remember when he held that -- what was supposed to be a press conference to disavow, to say that you know, the birther allegations weren't true, and then he spent most the time talking about the hotel and then blamed the faulty earpiece on the whole David Duke thing where they asked him three times to disavow the KKK. Why do you think he just can't come out and say he is wrong or that he is just so horrible at cleaning up his own mess?
HEALY: Because I think these are the things that he really believes. And I think he resents it so deeply, and you saw this with Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, with some others who came into the White House to try to control the messaging. He dislikes being fed lines that make him look, quote unquote, Presidential in his mind, that sort of make him, you know, look like the things that he is supposed to say. He wants to say the things that he truly believes. This is -- and in his gut, this is what he believes he was elected on. He believes that he had a very special, direct relationship with the deeply conservative Republican base and that he was able to connect with them by saying these things --
LEMON: He was elected on lies?
HEALY: You know, look, he was elected on how he sees the world. And the fact is today he was reading from a script, not a very good performance, and what he really believes is Hillary Clinton, the DNC server, he is going to be talking about Hillary Clinton and the DNC server as long as anyone will listen to him. You know, and it could be years and years and years. But those are the things that he really believes. What you didn't hear today was any reckoning that the fact that we had -- that he understands that there was something really problematic, and that is being nice, about an American President standing next to the President of Russia basically taking his side over the intelligence agencies. He didn't reckon with that.
LEMON: Yes. So, Michael, he was a candidate then. His comments about Megyn Kelly also come to mind tonight. This is the original comments, right, and his defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
I said nothing wrong, because I never finished my statement. Remember I said like blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. I was talking about her ears or her nose. Everybody said, oh, that was terrible what he said. I didn't say anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, anyway, he was talking to me when he made that Megyn Kelly comment, I remember that night distinctly. And I said, oh, my gosh, this guy just ruined his chances to be President. Boy, was I wrong. So, I mean that was not what he was talk -- when he was talking about, why does the President think that he can rewrite history on this?
[23:10:10] BENDER: Well, he did it to us at "The Wall Street Journal" too, almost the same thing that he did today. Back in January we interviewed the President in the Oval Office. We were talking about his relationships with foreign leaders. He was talking about all the great relationships he had around the world. And even Kim Jong-un, he said, I even have a great relationship with him. Now, this was in January before we knew he was talking to Kim Jong-un well before the summit.
When we wrote the story, they pushed back, the White House pushed back. 24 hours later saying that we missed the contraction, another blaming a missed contraction, for a very confusing statement from the President. The reason he keeps saying these things is because he keeps getting away with it, right? I mean, you thought that the Megyn Kelly comments were going to doom his candidacy.
There's been a long list of moments where we could all run through that probably should -- would have, you know, done in any other candidate. And even before today, in the last 24 hours or so, there has been a lot of reporting of Trump supporters, Senate candidates around the country. And very few people were willing to -- no one was willing to say on the record that they thought this was damaging, because everyone had been burned by that same prediction so many times before.
But I think this time there was a real recognition from inside the White House, from Trump himself, that -- I mean, he put -- he called into question, you know, the patriotism of the country. And for his supporters, his base, who put, you know, patriotism almost above everything else that was what one Trump supporter told me could be a crack in the foundation. And that is why we saw what we did this afternoon, at least an attempt.
HEALY: Don, let me just add to that. We in the media, it is interesting, we keep -- and I don't agree with anything just said, but we keep waiting for the turning point with Trump supporters. I mean, I had several of my reporters talking to voters around the country the last two days. And they were going into conspiracy theories about the FBI and then Trump was set up and his White House aides didn't brief him properly. I mean, the amount of sort of excuse-giving was so vast. And we kept sort of pushing and there was behind it -- look, there was some doubt, because a lot of people grew up in this country thinking, well, the President of the United States doesn't go and stand next to the president of the soviet union or the President of Russia and take their side against America. That is how some people felt. Now, whether it's a turning point, we keep waiting for it, Don, but I don't know.
LEMON: Nothing matters anymore.
HEALY: Things matter, Don.
LEMON: When you were saying that, though, it just made me feel awful that people are so deceived and they don't know what the truth is.
HEGSETH: It's how we live in America. We're all in our own little bubbles.
LEMON: One day, maybe. OK. Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, Mark Mckinnon is here. We'll be right back.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Some of the President's Republican allies say they buy the President's claim that he simply misspoke when siding with Russia over his own intelligence agencies, but are they really on board? And what does this mean for the Republican Party? So, let us discuss now, I said before the break, Mark Mckinnon is here. He is the former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain. He is now the executive producer of ShowTime's "The Circus." Good evening, sir, good to see you. You say yesterday was the worst day of the Trump presidency and should be a turning point for elected Republicans. Should you, could you, would you, or maybe I should say maybe would you.
MARK MCKINNON, CO-HOST, SHOWTIME'S THE CIRCUS: Should be that it probably won't be, given to what we are seeing today. I mean, watching this presidency is sort of like, what must have been, watching the Hindenburg at first, it was like, listen you cannot or maybe you can, look it is flying and then Helsinki is like, no, not really can't. Right?
MCKINNON: It was a disaster yesterday and listen, you know what happened. A full news cycle went through. You saw how bad it was. If he had really misspoken, they would have cleaned it up right after the press conference. They had a crisis meeting, and I've been in a bunch of those, I know what they're like, this morning. They said, we've got to fix this. They read the transcripts and they came up with this -- not even clever, I mean it's very transparent, what's going on here, but what it does is it gives people like Newt Gingrich, who called it what it was when it happened, covered it now and say, OK, well, he misspoke.
LEMON: He is such a smart man.
MCKINNON: Republicans wants to keep their power and that what it is all about.
LEMON: You just laid it out. You're such a smart man. As I was sitting there, reading this and then -- reading Michael Bender's report in "The Wall Street Journal," it sounds like someone got together, you know, with all the advisers, the TV producer was in the room and said, someone said, here is the most damaging thing you said yesterday, right? And here's the one thing that you can fix, you can do this, it is damage control and it is P.R. It's just like producing television or what you would do for a talent on a TV show or on a news show who said something wrong. You would say, this is what you said, and here is how you fix it. That is what happened.
MCKINNON: Yes. Well, exactly. This is a baptism for Bill Shine who just came over from Fox to be the new communications Director.
LEMON: You got it. MCKINNON: So, welcome to the circus, Bill. You know, they looked at
all the possibilities and I am sure and they said, this ain't great, but it's all we got.
LEMON: That it is all we got. Because you couldn't sit there today and watch that and not laugh. Everybody's reaction when they saw it, it was like, really, is that where we're going with that?
MCKINNON: Yes, well, and then in classic fashion, he couldn't even stay on script, in fact crossed out part of it, the part that said we would hold people accountable. How can you justify scratching that out and go off script and say, well, there's lots of people. So, even under these circumstances, he couldn't hold to the message.
[23:20:10] LEMON: The minority leader in the senate, Chuck Schumer, said this about your Party. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: Our Republican majority, many of them, seem as afraid of Trump as Trump is afraid of Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is he right? Is your party afraid of Donald Trump?
MCKINNON: They are. And you know, what they're looking at are numbers which are fairly incredible. For example, Donald Trump is more popular with his own party at this point in his presidency than any other President in history except for George W. Bush, because it was just post 9/11. So within the party, within the primaries, he is as solid as he can be. And they show no signs of peeling off. We'll see if this has any impact, probably not. Nothing else really has. So people are going to stick with him. And he has used his power in the campaigns to take out people that are against him. And so, you know, unfortunately for almost everybody in politics, it's all about survival.
LEMON: Conservative columnist, George Will, Mark, he is out with a column today about the President titled "This sad and embarrassing wreck of a man." Is that how you see it, or do you think Will is too harsh?
MCKINNON: Man, that guy's got a poison pen. He is got a way with words. You know, I mean, and you know, listen, George Will, has been consistent in his criticism of the President from the very beginning. And he, like some others, not enough others, but you know, he thinks that character counts, and that is been sort of lacking in this presidency. And it doesn't matter that some things are working if there's a real character deficit. And he is the one that keeps pointing it out with his swift and poignant pen.
LEMON: I also want to get your take on what Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, said about the President's response to Russia attacking our election last night. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I mean, I don't really, I'm not a shrink so I don't fully understand it. I don't think Russia is our close friend or anything like that. I think, of course they try to interfere with our affairs. They have for a long time. Many countries do, some more successfully than Russia, like Mexico which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, what's your reaction to the host of the President's favorite network suggesting the actual threat to American democracy is Hispanic voters?
MCKINNON: Well, it's Tucker being quite provocative as he is very good at doing. You know, I would just point out that anybody coming over the border -- first of all, I challenge anybody to prove that there's any election fraud going on in this country. There's been intensive studies that prove there's literally no election fraud going on.
And so if somebody is coming across the border and voting, that means they have become a citizen, and you know what that means? That means they're an American, so that means they're Americans voting and an American citizen, because they've become a naturalized citizen, the way that Tucker Carlson and the President Trump, thinks they ought to do it. So I don't think the analogy is quite appropriate.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Mark Mckinnon. Good to see you.
MCKINNON: Kick it.
LEMON: Kick it hard.
When we come back, former President Obama throwing shade at his successor while issuing warnings to the world while he is in Africa. On a lighter note that he also busted out a move. There he is. All right, now. More on his trip, next.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Obama breaking his silence and criticizing the rise of authoritarian regimes around the world. Also taking some swipes at his successor without naming President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the west you've got far right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Here to discuss, Jennifer Palmieri, who was the White House Communications Director for President Obama, as well as Communications Director for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Also here is CNN Political Commentator, Alice Stewart, who was Communication's Director for ted Cruz. Good evening to both of you. Thank you so much for joining us. Jennifer, as someone who worked closely with President Obama, what message do you think he is sending by saying this?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think he is trying to step back and give us all some context for how to think about these times. So, you know, you said in the opening that he was throwing some shade at his successor. I think he is trying to do something larger than that and have a way to think about this time, which is our democracy is still intact, but we have someone at the head of it that is not honoring the rules by which the democracy is meant to operate.
And it's incumbent on all of us as citizens to engage and try to make that right and to understand that this is something that is isolated to the United States, but it's happened in other parts of the world. And you know, he went on to explain, you know, after all of the disruption and change and great economic loss that we went through after the great recession, it's right in some ways that you should expect institutions to be tested.
And people don't have the faith that they used to in them. And I think what his message to everyone is, understand, we're going through a period where we are really being tested, and it is incumbent on all citizens in America to double down on what the principles of this country or -- have always been and engage. And I think that is useful lesson for everyone to hear.
LEMON: But you know, he never mentioned, Alice, Trump by name, but many of his comments appear to be aimed at the current administration. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they're caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.
OBAMA: Look, let me say, politicians have always lied. But it used to be if you caught them lying, they would be like, oh, man.
OBAMA: Now they just keep on lying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Listen, he's a great speaker, but people laughed, Alice, but the fragrant lies that we hear from this president day after day after day, a lot of people are worried about that. Shouldn't there be a zero tolerance for that? Especially, listen, he said politicians lie, but we expect more from our president.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We should. And we need to go back to doing that. And I think, look, the former president, I didn't like his policies, but I did like the way he treated people. I liked the way he represented us on the world stage. I liked the way he understood what was a friend and what was a foe in the international community.
And some of the things that he pointed out in that speech were spot on and calling out -- as you say, he didn't call out President Trump by his name. He talked about those in power and elected officials. And one of the things, as you say, that he pointed out was the problem that we're having with clearly the current administration, with not understanding the concept of objective truth, which is alternative facts.
And that is something that is a concern. And not only that. The fact that he referred to this administration undermining institutions. And all of these are in the bigger picture, undermining democracy. And that's a serious problem. I'm sure I would imagine Jennifer can probably address this much more than me.
He probably wanted to say all of this 10 days ago when the president was abroad, but he understood the repercussions of criticizing a president when he is abroad. It was all he could do to hold his tongue to wait until he got back. But I think he had some various serious concerns. He's probably been wanting to say them for some time. But the way he went about saying it, he made a very valid point and it was spot on.
LEMON: But I think it was timing too as well. It just happened to be in Johannesburg and he happened to be there for that event in doing that.
LEMON: But Jennifer, I would love to talk to you more about this but I want to move on. I can talk about what is happening now because this is the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking Democrats' computers, stealing data, publicly posting some of it.
And you tweeted this. You said, Trump officials said they had three major voter suppression efforts under way to keep Clinton voters at home. If they had access to our data from 9-16 analytics act (ph) as noted in indictment, they have great road map for how to do that.
I'm reading Twitter shorthand there. We don't know what the Russians did with the stolen analytics, but could that have made a difference in targeting voters in a particular state?
PALMIERI: Oh, yes. I was blown away on Friday when I read that that had happened. You know, we did not know this. We did not know that in September that they had hacked in again and that they had reached the analytic data. And so, you know, what that's going to show you is it will show you how we're doing in states and it's going to show you who we're targeting and who we have to turn out in order to win, right?
So what they would have seen in the closing months is that yes, we were losing support in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. And about a month out from the election, they changed their ad traffic. They had been heavily invested in Florida. They dropped that in favor of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
They were very boastful about their voter suppression effort, which is an incredulous thing, something I'm incredulous about them, wanting to brag about but they did. They said that they were trying to demoralize our voters and have -- see if this makes sense to you, white liberals, African-Americans, and young women to stay home and not vote.
LEMON: To suppress the vote.
PALMIERI: So, you know, we lost those three states by less than 75,000 votes. And yeah, that could have really made the difference. But it gave them -- it's like giving your opponent the keys to the kingdom.
LEMON: Or giving the other team the playbook.
PALMIERI: Giving that kind of data.
LEMON: That got to be the last word.
LEMON: It's a conversation for a much longer conversation in another time.
[23:35:00] Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
PALMIERI: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: In Helsinki with President Trump, Vladimir Putin gave a direct answer when asked about the 2016 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Vladimir Putin has never tried to hide his dislike for Hillary Clinton. CNN's Fareed Zakaria looks at their history.
FAREED ZAKARIA, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR, CNN HOST (voice over): At the heart of the hacking scandal that rocked the 2016 general election --
CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON: Ladies and gentlemen --
ZAKARIA: -- was an old grudge.
CLINTON: My mother, my hero, and our next president, Hillary Clinton.
ZAKARIA (voice over): It went beyond ideology. It was personal. Vladimir Putin was not a fan of Hillary Clinton.
DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER: Of course Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to lose. He hated Hillary Clinton.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime minister, we have a lot of problems.
ZAKARIA (voice over): The tension between the leaders had been brewing for years. In 2001, another American leader, George W. Bush, vouched for Putin.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul.
H.CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
ZAKARIA (voice over): But on the campaign trail in 2008, Hillary had a different take.
H.CLINTON: I could have told him he was a KGB agent. By definition, he doesn't have a soul. I mean, this is a waste of time, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Recently Mrs. Clinton said you as a former KGB agent by definition can have no soul.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Putin's reply? Statesmen shouldn't be guided by their hearts. They should use their heads. Clinton had a lot of tough words for Putin over the years.
H.CLINTON: He's a very arrogant person to deal with.
We have to stand up to his bullying.
He is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can.
ZAKARIA (voice over): But it was what happened in 2011 that marked a point of no return. It began with the Arab spring protests early that year. The kind of popular uprising that Putin dreaded.
REMNICK: He begins to see himself through the eyes of Hosni Mubarak.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Mubarak of Egypt was facing prosecution. Syria's Bashar al-Assad was on the ropes. Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi met a particularly gruesome fate, brutally killed after begging for his life. Putin may have feared the same bloody fate for himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin, get out of here!
ZAKARIA (voice over): Just a few weeks later, rebellion arrived in Russia. Tens of thousands rallied in the streets of Moscow. The biggest protest there since the fall of the Soviet Union.
JULIA IOFFE, JOURNALIST, THE ATLANTIC: People were hanging off lamp posts, people were in the streets. Really shocking.
As the winter went longer and longer and got colder and colder, the protests got bigger and bigger.
ZAKARIA (voice over): As Putin saw people turning against him, Hillary Clinton weighed in.
H.CLINTON: The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
IOFFE: When Putin hears something like that, I imagine he hears Bush talking about Saddam Hussein. He hears that as, they're coming for me. They're trying to drive me from power. And what the hell do you know about my people and whether they deserve to have their voices heard? It's like, I'll tell you if they should have their voices heard.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Russians had a lot of reasons to be angry. That fall, it was announced that Putin would run for president again for a third time. That meant he could potentially rule Russia until 2024.
IOFFE: Some people said, oh, my god, I'm going to die with this guy in power.
ZAKARIA (voice over): A few months later, the elections for Russia's parliament were a farce.
H.CLINTON: We do have serious concerns about the conduct of the elections.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Hillary Clinton called out the election.
EDWARD LUCAS, COLUMNIST, LONDON TIMES: I don't think she realized how badly that was going to go down.
ZAKARIA (voice over): With his back against the wall, Putin turned the tables. He blamed the protests on Hillary Clinton. Claiming that she was the one who incited them with her complaints about the election.
[23:45:05] H.CLINTON: There are growing restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights.
REMNICK: Quote, unquote, she sent a signal, that was his words.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Putin's strategy propelled him to victory. In March 2012, he won reelection handily. Fighting back tears after a tense fight to maintain his power.
PUTIN: (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN).
ZAKARIA (voice over): He may have won the day. But Vladimir Putin never forgot about the woman who had kicked him when he was down.
LEMON: And when we come back, the former chief of CIA Russian Operations weighs in on Fareed's report and what we might have learned about President Trump and Vladimir Putin's relationship from yesterday's press conference.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Did President Trump and Vladimir Putin bond over their shared dislike of Hillary Clinton? Let's discuss now. CNN National Security Analyst, Steve Hall, is here. He is a retired chief of CIA Russian Operations, and Tom Nichols, the author of "The Death of Expertise." So good to have both of you on. Good evening.
Steve, do you think one of the reasons President Trump is so favorable to Vladimir Putin is because they both despise Hillary Clinton from what you saw in Fareed Zakaria's report?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's certainly true that Trump despises Clinton. I mean, some of the marches that we saw, I was there when those happened. A lot of those protests that Putin did as a mechanism, turn on and blame not just Hillary Clinton but the U.S. government, CIA, it was all our plan to do all that.
And of course Donald Trump feels very strongly the same way. What the kind of activity is there, whether there's some commonality and some shared animus, hard to say.
LEMON: Yes, but most likely yes, but hard to say, for sure. Listen, I want to read, Tom, this is a portion of your piece that you wrote in the U.S. -- for USA Today. You said that Putin was in complete control of the summit. You wrote this.
You said, he performed brilliantly, turning every issue back to the Americans and Trump took it all. Ukraine? The Americans should talk to their Ukrainian friends, not us. Espionage? Pish-posh. We're not that kind of country. Putin did what one would expect him to do. And his behavior was icily competent and carefully executed.
Do you think that Trump or America got anything out of the summit?
TOM NICHOLS, PROFESSOR, NAVAL WAR COLLEGE AND HARVARD EXTENSION: Absolutely nothing. In fact, what we got was an incredible amount of to the presidency, to our foreign policy, to our alliance relations. There was no reason to have this summit.
It had no agenda other than for some reason, the president wanted to see Putin in person. And I think it was a highly destructive event. It's going to take a long time to recover from this. We didn't get anything out of this, except damage and more problems to come.
LEMON: After widespread criticism from his own party, the president tended to clarify, even defend his performance at the summit, and then he veered into a familiar talking point. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There was no collusion at all. And people have seen that and they've seen that strongly. The House has already come out very strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that. Furthermore, as has been stated and we've stated it previously and on many occasions, no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, he even wrote on his remarks, right? As though he would forget to say it, you know, that he might forget to say it. Do you think his continued insistence at this point, what does this say about him and what's going on?
HALL: A couple of things have changed for me over the past 48 hours after the Helsinki thing. And the first thing was, you know, this obsession, and many commented on this, whenever you mention Russia, he thinks collusion. Whenever you mention Putin, he thinks that somebody is questioning his legitimacy in terms of winning the election.
I thought, well, you know, he is (INAUDIBLE) guy, that's maybe just how people were. I think it might be more clinical than that. It's clouding his judgment. I mean, when Vladimir Putin comes out and says, I have an idea for you, there were 12 guys that were indicted, that is interesting. How about you let me talk to some of your intelligence officers?
LEMON: Work together, yeah.
HALL: And then what's the president's response? That's a pretty cool idea. That is close to -- incentive is probably too strong, but there's something wrong mentally. And I wonder whether it's part of this cognitive issue that he's got with Russia and the whole issue.
LEMON: Yes. Sources are telling CNN, Tom, that Russian intelligence agencies are preparing to ramp up operations targeting the west now that the Helsinki summit and the World Cup have both ended. Why wouldn't he -- you know, after the display we saw from the president at the summit, why is he doing this?
NICHOLS: Why wouldn't he do it? The problem here is, one of the reasons I think we're in increased peril, as always, just my personal opinion. Trump I think gave Putin a pass on so many things that if I were Putin, I would be wanting to keep putting cards on the table and doubling down. Why not?
This increased threat about the elections and intelligence activity, DNI, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, already warned us that this is coming, that all of the warning lights are flashing, as he said.
[23:55:02] And after meeting the president in Helsinki, if you're Putin, what possible deterrent could you think of after that meeting? If you're Putin, you think you pretty much got carte blanche to do whatever you want and maybe the president is not going to call you on it.
LEMON: I got a few --
NICHOLS: He might even have your back.
LEMON: Yes, I got a few seconds left here. Steve, do you think he emboldened Putin?
HALL: Yes, I think he did. And the scariest thing about all of this is that what we are talking about here is hybrid warfare. We are not talking about, you know, people talking about it, it's the great nuclear power so we need to talk to each other. It's the hybrid warfare that he is capable of. The cyber stuff going after our electrical grids and stuff like that. And propaganda operations.
Those are the types of things that are very difficult for democracies to fight back against. And I think he is emboldened. It's worked really well for him up until now. And I think we're going to see a lot more of it.
LEMON: Steve, Tom, thank you very much. Appreciate your time. That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.
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