Return to Transcripts main page


Secretary of State Pompeo to Testify on Russia Next Week; Top National Security Officials Met Today in Response to Summit Fallout; Trump Says He Misspoke on Russia Being Behind Election Meddling; McConnell Says Election Meddling Better Not Happen Again; Mueller Requests Immunity for Five Witnesses and Manafort Case; Former CIA Director Warns That Intel Community May Start Withholding Information from The President. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 17, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Why does Donald Trump continue to defer, to curtsy, to bow and will never say an unkind word toward Vladimir Putin? What is it that is going on with the U.S. President that he believes Putin instead of our own U.S. intelligence community?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Senator Bill Nelson, thank you so much, sir.

NELSON: Thanks, Brooke. Appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Thank you. You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: We are back here in the wake of the President's comments from the White House just moments ago. Getting a little bit more reporting. We know he was sitting there, reading these typewritten pages for the most part when he was sitting talking to the White House press pool. We are now learning that top national security officials met in "The Situation Room" today to develop a response to the President's summit with Putin and of course the fallout in the last 24 hours.

Got a couple of names for you who were sitting around this room. John Bolton among them crafting the remarks that the President just delivered from the White House and all agreed that Trump would need to clarify. Clarify. With me now, CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, one of the famed reporters that broke the White House story wide open. I spoke with Senator Bill Nelson who said he is not buying the President's whole I meant to say wouldn't instead of would with regard to meddling. Are you buying it?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's nothing credible that the President has been saying for the last two days, but really one of the things the President said recently twice is that he is a "stable genius." What we watched yesterday and what we watched today is not a stable genius. And what happened today that's so extraordinary is that finally leaders of the Republican party on Capitol Hill who have marched lock step with this President finally said today that the President of the United States, of their party, that he cannot be entrusted with the national security of the United States. That's what Ryan and McConnell were saying today. We are in a place that is absolutely unique in the history of the country in that the President of the United States, his loyalty to his country is being questioned by serious people of both parties and the leadership of his party today said, you know he can't be trusted. We have to assert ourselves. We've never seen anything like this in our history.

BALDWIN: Wow, for you to say. I'm going to come back to the Republicans here in a second, but to go further on what the President said a little bit in the White House. He said that he is now accepting our intelligence community conclusion that the Russian meddling, his word, took place, was an attack on our democracy, but then it seemed like a Trump ad lib, carl. If you caught it. It could be other people as well, and then reiterating that refrain, no collusion. So, he can't seem to --

BERNSTEIN: He said that before for momentarily that he accepts the idea that they, quote, meddled and then he goes on to his preposterous theories and says there's no collusion. Everybody agrees there's no collusion. Everybody doesn't agree there's no collusion. That's what Mueller is trying to find out, and one of the things that we know very well is that there was a meeting in Trump Tower attended by his son in which an attempt at collusion occurred. Prima facie, attempt at collusion. There is no evidence in fact that there wasn't collusion, and that's why his attacks on the Mueller investigation are so important to understand what's going on here, including his conduct of foreign policy and going right into the lap in Helsinki of Vladimir Putin.

He has said to the world on this trip that the world as we know it for the last 75 years, the post war world and all that we have held sacrosanct in terms of mutual security in the west, that all of that is out the window and I am going to have my own relationship with Vladimir Putin and you saw what kind of relationship that was yesterday. So, we now have a real national security emergency in this country in which it is clear to members of both parties and, indeed, the Republican party of leadership is terrified of Trump's base and going after them, but they are also terrified as dana and others have spoken with them, as have i, they are terrified of this President and his conduct of national security business.

BALDWIN: But what are they going to do about it? Carl, what can Republicans do about it?

[15:40:00] BERNSTEIN: That I don't know. I don't know, and, in fact, this may define the Republican party in the United States for generations if they cannot figure out what to do about a rogue President who has no regard for the rule of law, who has no comprehension, it would seem, of our history. There is such spectacular ignorance of our history in this country and of the West and what happened after World War II. Vladimir Putin has taken armies and moved the borders in Europe, the most immutable aspect of post war democratic consensus about what our world is about in the West was violated by Vladimir Putin and this President has not called him on it.

So, we are in an extraordinary moment in which we will see how the wounds in the past couple of days that Trump has inflicted on himself, whether they may be somewhat mortal, be hard to imagine given what he's survived and thrived on so far, but he is bleeding badly in front of all of us. And we are watching a horrible spectacle play out in which we don't know exactly whether we can trust the loyalty of the President of the United States whether through incompetence, whether through incoherence or whether through nefarious relationships. We just don't know the answer.

BALDWIN: To use your word, extraordinary. When I was talking to dana bash a little while ago, she said one option for congress could be -- and, again, this would be an extraordinary step, but to subpoena a translator in that meeting if people want to know, what to demand transparency as to what was discussed between put continue and Trump Putin and Trump. We know that the secretary Pompeo hearing is happening next week. Do you think they will ever know what transpired between those two men?

BERNSTEIN: I think it's an impossible -- impossible to know definitively what occurred including what winks, body language and all the rest occurred. Can you imagine that here we are talking about whether or not the President of the United States can be trusted with a despot, a tyrannical murder rouse thug and the President of the United States we're unsure of perhaps whose side he's on or whether he's ambiguous whose side he's on. Yes, extraordinary, and at the same time we need to find out to the best of our abilities and the Republicans need to assist in this in what the hell happened in Helsinki.

BALDWIN: What the hell happened in Helsinki is right. Carl Bernstein, thank you as always.

Coming up next, we are on Capitol Hill where Mitch McConnell had a harsh warning to President Putin. What will Republicans do? The same question to Carl Bernstein. Their reaction now to President Trump walking back his statements in Finland.


BALDWIN: The President's latest remarks come after a barrage of Republicans slammed him for his comments on the world stating after he met with President Putin including this comment from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell minutes ago.

MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Senator Rubio, for example, has got a bill that targets the 2018 election, the cycle we're right in now. Which, as I understand it, potential penalties if the Russians do it again. So, Yes, there's a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this. In the meantime, I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016 and it really better not happen again in 2018.

BALDWIN: Better not happen again so says Leader McConnell. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. What are other Republicans saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans are divided about how to respond. A lot have been critical about the President but they're not certain whether or not to go as far as what Senator McConnell is saying or imposing sanctions or trying to do a more symbolic gesture to reaffirm support for the intelligence community. That's on the Senate. In the House you're getting support for what the President said, not as much discussion about legislative response.

[15:30:00] On the House side there are a lot of questions about what the House intelligence committee concluded in its report earlier this year. One of the conclusions in the report, Brooke, there was nothing to confirm. The intelligence community's assessment that Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to become President. Well, we know from yesterday's press conference Putin himself said he wanted Trump to become President. So, when I ask some key members today, the Senate intelligence and the Speaker of the House whether they would walk back from the finding in the House intelligence committee report, they stood by it.


RAJU: The House intelligence committee's report said that, you know, it disputed whether or not Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to win and tried to get Trump elected President. Yesterday Putin said he wanted Trump to win. Can you still stand by what the house intelligence committee concluded on that?


RAJU: Why is that?

KING: Based on what I have seen.

RAJU: Did the Republicans make a mistake in that report?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'll refer to the intelligence community. They were concerned about the trade craft that was conducted by our intelligence community. And when we reviewed the IC, we also believe that there were some mistakes made by IC. Let's be very clear just so everybody knows. Russia did meddle with our elections.


RAJU: You're hearing some different responses here. Republicans are trying to take a tough line against Russia. They're not going as hard against President Trump as the Democrats are and Democrats also not satisfied with this latest effort by the President to clean up the remarks of yesterday. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, Mark Warner, the top Senator in the Senate intelligence committee said it's too late given the opportunity to do that next to Vladimir Putin and Republican side of the aisle not a coherent response of their side what to do next and about how firm to go after the President after he said what he did yesterday, Brooke. BALDWIN: Keep asking. Manu, thank you.

Just in to CNN, Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking for immunity for five witnesses in the Paul Manafort case. A former FBI lawyer and U.S. attorney joins me live to explain what that could mean and react to President Trump's conflicts statements of the U.S. intelligence community. Stay here.


BALDWIN: All right. Just in to CNN, Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking a federal court for immunity of five unidentified witnesses slated to testify against former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and said they have yet to be charged. Manafort's trial on financial crimes charges begins next week. So, with me now, Greg Brower, former U.S. attorney and former assistant director of congressional affairs of the FBI.

Greg, first on this, just what do you make of this immunity for five people? What does that tell you?

GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY AND FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS, FBI: A fairly standard process and the prosecutor tells the court and Special Counsel Mueller tells the court to reach immunity deals with five witnesses. In other words, offered immunity in exchange for immunity and part of the process to formalize that grant ordering them to testify because they're clearly not in jeopardy of being prosecuted for what they say, and the fifth amendment rights don't apply because of the deal reached with Special Counsel Mueller.

BALDWIN: Got it.

BROWER: What it tells me is as most of us suspected is that the Mueller team has been able to co-op some witnesses in this -- we suspect that these five by way of immunity deals and typically that type of testimony can be very powerful.

BALDWIN: Gotcha. Let me move on and ask you, of course, in the wake of the President's comments this not referencing what we just saw at the White House but yesterday in Helsinki and in response to that, former director of the CIA, John Brennan, he's reacted a few times, but he was outspoken talking about how the President's comments were treasonous and now he has come forward with this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would there be a tendency for intelligence gatherers and briefers to withhold now some vital intelligence to the President?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: Very well might be. There might be. Out of concern. And there are things that as director of CIA I wouldn't share details with the President of the United States or individuals outside of CIA because you're trying to protect the capabilities and you don't want to give anybody any information they don't need.


BALDWIN: So, A, how stunning is that to hear that from John Brennan? B, do you think the intelligence community should withhold?

BROWER: I don't think we will see the intelligence community withholding information from Presidential briefings. I do think that what we're likely to see and may be happening already is a supervision, a management of those briefings at a much higher level within the respective IC agencies than would be normal. In other words, more senior officials at the agencies likely to be paying a lot of attention, maybe attending briefings themselves they would not otherwise attend to manage that briefing process and make sure that they're aware of exactly what sort of questions the President has and how exactly the President is being briefed. And I think that's the more likely result as opposed to withholding information.

BALDWIN: Can I just 30,000-foot view and the fact that I am having to ask you this question and the fact of the question asked of John Brennan?

[16:90:00] BROWER: That's where we are now. And I know that the question was asked earlier, how is the IC, the intelligence community, reacting to recent events.


BROWER: And I will tell you the men and women in the IC that I worked with I think are -- frankly, struggling with what they're seeing and hearing. Both at the line analyst, lawyer and agent level up to the top of the agencies. So that's one thing. And that's unfortunate. On the other hand, though, I will tell you that I have no doubt that the hard work, the tough work, continues despite this background noise and challenging environment that the IC finds itself in.

BALDWIN: On your struggling point, and I hear you on that, 30 seconds, what do you think the IC will think about hearing the President say one thing yesterday and now suddenly saying he has full faith in the intelligence agencies?

BROWER: Frankly, I think he loses credibility as the commander in chief when in the eyes of the IC when the IC professionals hear that and watch that. But again, as IC professionals, the tough work continues to be done and incumbent upon the leaders of the agencies to be very, very direct, very --

BALDWIN: I have to cut you off. I'm against the wall.

BROWER: And very tough with the President.

BALDWIN: I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.