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Russian Woman Charged With Being a Foreign Agent; Paul Ryan Speaks Amid Controversy Over Trump-Putin Summit; Mike Pence Defends Trump's Summit with Putin; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired July 17, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- and also tried to arrange a secret meeting between then candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Joining me now is our legal analyst Paul Callan. Paul, just walk me through. I mean, there's a lot here that's fascinating. One, she's the one that tried to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and Putin, she tried to go through the NRA to do a lot of this.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. She did. It's an unusual indictment, though, because she's essentially been indicted under two provisions. The first is a conspiracy to defraud the United States, which we see that used -- that's an unusual charge in a criminal case. Sometimes we see it in tax cases where you're trying to defraud the U.S. out of tax money. You don't really see it very often in a case like this, which is really saying she's a Russian spy.
CALLAN: And she's trying to hurt the United States. But that's count one. Count two then is a failure to register as a foreign agent. And in order to prove that, they would have to prove that she has a direct connection to the Russian federation and that her actions in the United States were directed and controlled by the Russian federation.
CALLAN: Now here's the problem, and what makes it tough to prove a case like this. If she's really a Russian graduate student coming to the United States trying to encourage better relations between the United States.
HARLOW: With Russia, right.
CALLAN: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would protect her right to lobby for that. So that whole key to the case is, how do they prove she was being actually directed by the Russian federation?
CALLAN: And obviously the feds think they can prove that. HARLOW: It's a steep hill, no question, but when you look a little
bit more as our Kaitlan Collins get into these court documents that have been since unsealed, they show that the prosecution thinks and the prosecution has indicated in these documents that the investigation into her had more than one subject. Meaning this could be broader. This could be bigger than just this one arrest of this 29-year-old woman.
CALLAN: Absolutely true. And I noticed when I was reading the court documents in the case, she has not yet been indicted by a federal grand jury. This has been brought as a criminal complaint, which means that the FBI and other investigators have enough information to bring her before a judge and charge her.
CALLAN: You may see a grand jury indicting for something broader than this.
HARLOW: What do you think this means for the Mueller probe? How does this tie in?
CALLAN: Well, it's interesting because this has not been brought by Mueller's prosecutors.
CALLAN: It's been brought by the Justice Department agency that handles security cases. So I think they're not seeing a direct connection to the plot to involve the Trump administration or at least that may involve the Trump administration. But it's very unusual that it would be brought not by Mueller but by the division.
HARLOW: Right. And if she is compelled to testify, what will she say? Could that tie in? We'll see.
CALLAN: Maybe. Yes.
HARLOW: Thanks, Paul.
CALLAN: OK. Thank you.
HARLOW: Good to have you, appreciate it.
Despite top Republicans slamming the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin and this joint press conference, the vice president is standing by him. Up next, we will speak with his former press secretary.
[10:35:04] HARLOW: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan responding to reporter questions after the Trump-Putin summit. Let's listen.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: And told you what I think about Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values. We just conducted a year-long investigation into Russia's interference
in our elections. They did interfere in our elections. It's really clear. There should be no doubt about that. It's also clear that it didn't have a material effect on our elections. But as a result of that, we passed tough sanctions on Russia so that we can hold them accountable.
I understand the desire and the need to have good relations. That's perfectly reasonable. But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values. And I think that should be made very, very clear. Sherman.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What could you do? I mean, you guys are a co- equal branch of government. What could you do to make sure that he doesn't do something --
RYAN: Here is what we have already done and here is what we can continue to do, which is to put sanctions on Russia. You just saw the indictments from the special counsel. Those GRU officers -- I've already seen the intelligence. They were the people that conducted this cyberattack on our elections. We'd already put in place sanctions. If the financials -- if the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee think that there are other sanctions that we have not yet placed upon Russia, I'm more than happy to consider those.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, Speaker Ryan, Obama's CIA director John Brennan said that President Trump's press conference --
RYAN: Is it -- excuse me?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm sorry?
RYAN: Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Obama's CIA director John Brennan said that President Trump's press conference in Helsinki, quote, "rises to and exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors," unquote, and quote, "was nothing short of treasonous," unquote. Do you agree with Brennan that Trump's actions were treasonous?
RYAN: I do not. Manu.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You talked about your year-long investigation that happened in the House Intelligence Committee. In that report it disputed the finding of the intelligence community's assessment that Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to win. Yet yesterday, Vladimir Putin said he wanted Trump to win.
RYAN: Yes. Yes.
RAJU: Did you make a -- did the Republicans mistake in that report?
RYAN: I'll refer you to the Intelligence Committee. Their concern about was the trade craft that was conducted by our intelligence community. And when we reviewed the IC, we also believed that there was some mistakes made by the IC. But let's be very clear, just so everybody knows, Russia did meddle with our elections. Not only did Russia meddle in our elections, they're doing it around the world. They did it to France, they did it to Moldova, they're doing it to the Baltics.
Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself to delegitimize democracy. So for some reason they can look at by comparison. Let's just be really clear about that. And the point we are making here is we know they interfered with our elections and we have passed sanctions on Russia to hold them accountable. More importantly, what we intend to do is to make sure that they don't get away with it again and also to help our allies, to help those democracies, those new and older democracies in the world who are going to be facing this kind Russia again -- this Russia aggression again. We need to make sure that we can equip them with the tools they need to stop this from happening in their democracies.
RAJU: Do you stand by that report? Do you stand by the report?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Some of your Republican colleagues have called the president's comments yesterday embarrassing, disgraceful, damaging to the United States' relationship with allies. Have you talked to the president about his remarks? Do you think he needs to come out and clarify, retract, say exactly what he was trying to accomplish yesterday?
RYAN: I have not spoken to him. I put out a statement yesterday within minutes after that press conference. And I think that statement speaks for itself.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Ryan? In light of the new indictments on Friday and the president's comments yesterday, does anything -- does any of that change your view about Congress doing something to protect Special Counsel Mueller so he can continue his work or encouraging some of your colleagues to back off their attacks on the Department of Justice?
RYAN: Well, look -- look, we've had a compliance issue with the Department of Justice. That just goes to the legislative branch conducting oversight of the executive branch. Those compliance issues unfortunately I had to get involved. It shouldn't have to take a speaker to get involved in that. But they are now coming to compliance. We're trying to close up those items. So that's just -- that's an important point which is they were not complying with our subpoenas and we're now making sure that they do comply with our subpoenas.
On the Mueller issue, I have been clear from day one, he should be allowed to finish his investigation and carry out his work, nothing has changed. Thank you very much.
HARLOW: House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he has not spoken to President Trump after the summit with Vladimir Putin. Also taking reporter questions saying that he doesn't agree with former intel chief John Brennan who called it treasonous but says he made his opinion very clear and is open to tougher sanctions on Russia. [10:40:02] With me now our senior political correspondent Mark
Preston. So, Mark, I mean, what's your big takeaway there?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the big takeaway is that he was very strong in his belief and he was very forceful in saying the fact that he believes that Russia did interfere with the elections. However, he only said -- the only thing that they can do, meaning what Congress can do, you know, is to try to put more sanctions on Russia to try to punish them. And really, put it up to his committee chairman to try to find out if that's the case, could they in fact pass more laws to try to get these sanctions in place? But beyond that, we didn't hear any criticism of President Trump to the extent that we've heard from a lot of the rank and file Republicans.
HARLOW: Why do you think that is, Mark Preston? I mean, he is not looking to be re-elected.
PRESTON: Well, I mean, if you just go back to the previous hour when you were talking to Ron Brownstein and Matt Lewis, they're caught in a rock and a hard place in a sense that as Ron was pointing out, they're very happy with the agenda that's getting passed right now.
PRESTON: Environmental regulations being rolled back. We're seeing two Supreme Court nominees that are going to be very conservative. You know, and really, the great goal for social conservatives is to try to overturn "Roe v. Wade." So that is why you see that driving force and also quite frankly 80 percent approval rating.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
PRESTON: Almost 90 percent amongst Republicans.
HARLOW: Yes. Exactly. I think 87 percent. Mark Preston, thank you.
Manu Raju is with us. You heard him ask that question to Paul Ryan. I'm so glad you asked that question, Manu, to Paul Ryan because I actually asked Representative Turner of Ohio the same question an hour ago and said, you know, do you -- does Vladimir Putin's answer that yes, he wanted Putin to win and yes, there were directives to intelligence, does that change the House Intel findings that the Russian interference did not help Donald Trump, what did you make of the answer that you got from Paul Ryan? And I didn't hear his answer to your follow-up question on do you stand by the report.
RAJU: He didn't answer the follow-up but he stood by the report. But it sounded like he essentially did. He said that what the Republicans found fault with in the way that they assessed what the intelligence community found was the, quote, "analytical trade craft." So they defaulted the methodology used behind the intelligence committee's ultimate conclusion that it was Vladimir Putin who tried to help Donald Trump become president, that was the goal of Putin, according to the intelligence community's assessment. Paul Ryan not walking away from that finding. Instead, side stepping
that and then criticizing Russia, Russia aggression, and trying to take a firm tone with Russia. But it shows the difficult line that these Republicans, especially on the House side, are trying to walk given that conclusion that was found by the Intelligence Committee last -- earlier this year.
Pete King, who's also a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, told me earlier today similarly, he said that I stand by that report despite what Vladimir Putin said. So you're seeing a lot of Republicans having a difficult time squaring that circle and also this --
RAJU: This just shows the president's comments yesterday also putting Republicans in a bit of a box. They want to criticize Russia but they don't want to criticize the president. So that's something you saw how the speaker just handled it just moments ago -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Manu Raju, thank you for asking the important questions and for jumping on with us. Appreciate it.
Still ahead, unease in the White House over the president's performance at the summit with Vladimir Putin. We'll speak with someone who has worked next to the president in the White House next.
[10:47:57] HARLOW: Vice President Mike Pence is standing firm with his boss, not joining the long list of Republicans to rebuke President Trump's dismissal of U.S. intelligence findings on Russian election interference. Listen to the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world saw once again the President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world. What the American people saw is a President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Joining me now is Vice President Mike Pence's former press secretary, Marc Lotter.
Marc, it's nice to have you. Thank you for joining me. And let me just begin with that. Yesterday on the world stage, standing next to Vladimir Putin, did President Trump put America first?
MARC LOTTER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Absolutely. I think he put the long-term interests of our country at his priority because as opposed to just focusing on what happened two years ago, the president is talking about things to deal with the ongoing issues we have with Syria, the threatening actions that could affect Israel, North Korea, the European energy security sector, which is something that's very concerning to the United States, NATO and her allies. So those things that the president is actually focused on.
HARLOW: Well, then --
LOTTER: And we need to have a productive dialogue with Russia to be able to work with them on this.
HARLOW: Marc, then what did America gain yesterday? Name one thing for me that America gained yesterday by the president essentially slapping the entire U.S. intelligence community in the face.
LOTTER: Well, I'll remind you, first, the president has said on multiple occasions that he agrees that he thinks Russia did meddle in the election.
HARLOW: Except I'm reminding you of what the president said yesterday. He didn't say that.
LOTTER: And he also talked about the intelligence community.
HARLOW: He did not say that yesterday.
LOTTER: And he talked about the findings --
HARLOW: And not once did he back them up yesterday. So help me understand what America gained yesterday from the president.
LOTTER: What America gained is the beginning of a relationship between the two largest nuclear powers on the face of the earth where we have got to come to an agreement and be able to work together about long-term issues that lead to world security, world prosperity of America and our allies.
[10:50:10] HARLOW: Here is why, Marc, a lot of people, including Republicans, are very concerned this morning hearing the president not support our intelligence agencies and calling the United States foolish when asked a question of whether he holds Russia accountable for anything, he answered by saying both sides are responsible. The U.S. has been foolish in all of this. And then when a reporter asked President Putin a question about who he wanted to win in the election and what he instructed his intelligence officials to do, here is the exchange with Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, 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) HARLOW: That's Vladimir Putin admitting that he directed officials within the Russian government to help the president of the United States win the election. Does that bother you?
LOTTER: What I think he was admitting is that he wanted the president to win because of restoring relations. I'm not sure if he was answering --
HARLOW: Do you want me -- let's play it again.
LOTTER: Because he's denied --
HARLOW: Hold on. Let's play it again. Just listen to the full question.
LOTTER: I listened to the question.
HARLOW: And the full answer. Let's play it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
PUTIN (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: "Did you direct any of your officials to help him do that? Yes, yes, I did."
LOTTER: And again, he's also denied that he's had any involvement in it. So what we have to do is get beyond a two-year-ago -- two-year- old discussion and look to the future, which is what the president is doing, talking about the need to work together on issues like Syria, Iran, North Korea and energy security in Western Europe. Those are the critical issues that we face as a country going together. That's why the president is building this relationship.
And I'll tell you, this doesn't -- this is not that remarkably different -- I remember some 40 years ago when Ronald Reagan was widely condemned for his summit at Reykjavik with then premiere Gorbachev.
HARLOW: This is --
LOTTER: Including Nixon telling him it was horrible. And then two years later we've got or a year later we have a treaty and we moved on.
HARLOW: Marc, you know that this is in no way -- you know, Marc, that this is in no way akin to that. And you are speaking right along the lines of the White House talking points that were sent out last night that our Jim Acosta got. One of them was saying an excessive focus on the past. Right? That the president shouldn't have an excessive focus on the past. How is it an excessive focus on the past when you have the director of National Intelligence Dan Coats coming out after this summit and saying that Russian meddling in the 2016 election certainly happened and is, quote, "ongoing and pervasive in an effort to undermine our democracy." Is that not important to focus on?
LOTTER: And you see -- and you see that the president has said that on multiple occasions over the last 18 months. He has taken sanctions --
HARLOW: That is not what he said yesterday. He in no way said what DNI Coats said.
LOTTER: He has said it multiple times over -- the last 18 months.
HARLOW: DNI Coats said it's ongoing and it is pervasive.
LOTTER: We have multiple sanctions.
HARLOW: And you are saying it's not as important as these other issues. Why?
LOTTER: And what I'm saying is that you've got the United States under the Trump administration that has sanctioned dozens of people, expelled diplomats, worked with state agencies through our security chief to toughen up the cyber security issues. So we are sending a very strong message. We are being very tough on Russia. But we're also looking forward to working with them in the future because that's what we have to do.
HARLOW: The president said President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today when he asked him about election interference. He said, it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be. Do you see any reason why it would be Russia interfering in the election?
LOTTER: I can tell that you in 2016, President Obama said that Russia denied it and that --
HARLOW: That's not what I'm asking you.
LOTTER: Publicly shaming them.
HARLOW: Please -- Marc, please --
LOTTER: Would not have any -- would not have any --
HARLOW: Please answer the question. Please answer the question.
LOTTER: I can tell you the intelligence community --
HARLOW: Do you see any reason -- do you see any reason why it would be Russia interfering in the election as all of our intelligence agencies have found? Because the president says, I don't see why it would be.
LOTTER: The Russia -- according to the intelligence community, Russia meddled. There are probably many other countries that also meddled. And the United States also exerts its influence around the world when it comes to -- in democracies in countries that we're working with. But we're also saying --
HARLOW: So your -- hold on. You're --
HARLOW: Just to be clear. I just want clarity. You're comfortable with Russia interfering in our election and attacking our democracy?
LOTTER: I'm not --
HARLOW: That sits OK with you?
[10:55:02] LOTTER: I'm not comfortable with their influence campaign. But what we can also say is that it's been unanimously determined that no votes were changed. The outcome of the election wouldn't have been changed.
HARLOW: Isn't that essentially --
LOTTER: So we can focus on --
HARLOW: Isn't that giving -- hold on. Isn't that and the president saying something similar giving Russia a green light to do it all over again in 2018 and 2020?
LOTTER: Absolutely not. When you look at the sanctions that have been leveled by the Trump administration, diplomats expelled, consulates closed, they are taking strong action. We're also working with the intelligence community and our cyber security teams to make sure that we have hardened up the systems to make sure they can't influence any future elections.
HARLOW: Marc Lotter, thank you for your time this morning.
LOTTER: Thank you.
HARLOW: We continue to monitor the latest reaction to the summit between President Putin and President Trump. Stay with us. More next.