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Putin Tries to Justify Hacking of Democrats; Trump Gets Cozy with Putin After Bashing NATO; Russian Charged with Conspiring Against U.S.. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Disgraceful, played, bizarre, shameful. And that's just from Republicans. Allies from Capitol Hill to FOX News ripping the president's appeasement of Vladimir Putin.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. Take a day off, the whole world changes.



BRIGGS: Wow. Tuesday, July 17th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. We start of course with the president back in Washington this morning after a summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. It capped an overseas trip that could go down as one of the most damaging in American history. The president fending off widespread condemnation that he sold out the intelligence community with this answer to this question.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. What -- who -- my first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me. Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


BRIGGS: The president also holding both countries responsible when asked if Russia is to blame for anything.

The joint news conference met with condemnation that was swift, broad and unrelenting even from voices normally in the president's corner.

ROMANS: The top headline at the "Dredge Report" giving Putin credit for dominating the summit. Newt Gingrich tweeting the president's comments were, quote, "the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected immediately."

There was more of the same on FOX News. Sean Hannity spoke to the president and did not bring up Trump's earlier statement about election interference but many, many at that news network did.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Trump clearly should not have created any semblance of moral equivalency between our intel community, even if it has its flaws, which it does, and the assurances of Vladimir Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the time and the place for the president to look Putin squarely in the eye and said you will be punished for what you did in 2016 and don't ever think about doing that again.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX BUSINESS NEWS: But he didn't. And that's what made it disgusting. That's what made his performance disgusting. I'm sorry, this is the only way I feel. It's not a right or left thing. This is wrong. A U.S. president on foreign soil talking to our biggest enemy or adversary, or competitor. I don't know how we define him these days. He's essentially letting the guy get away with this.


BRIGGS: Neil Cavuto there. FOX host Abby Huntsman, the daughter of U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman who was at yesterday's meeting, tweeted this. "No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus." And there was this perspective from FOX contributor Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, tweeting that Trump only sees Russia interference through the lens of whether he won or lost. Fleischer writes, "That should not blind him to how wrong it was for Russia to interfere, I believe Mueller and the intel community. Trump should, too."

ROMANS: Intel community leaders standing by assessments of the Russian threat like Trump appointed director of National Intelligence Dan Coats who said Friday the warning lights are blinking. He reaffirmed after the summit, quote, we have been clear in our assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security." Former CIA director John Brennan calling Trump's performance nothing

short of treasonous and asking Republican patriots, where are you?

BRIGGS: More than a few of them actually were listening. Dozens of Republican senators spoke out against the president's comments. House and Senate leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell spoke out against the president's remarks. Among the strongest rejections was this, from gravely ill senator, John McCain. He called the news conference one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. It is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. Response in the media, almost as fierce like this "New York Daily News" cover, "Open Treason."

ROMANS: Even the normally Trump supportive "Wall Street Journal" editor board saying the president showed weakness, quote, "Details from the private Trump-Putin talks in Helsinki will spill out in coming days. But Monday's joint press conference was a personal and national embarrassment."

[04:05:08] "The Washington Post" went even further, quote, "In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted there was no collusion with Russia, yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia's behavior while trashing his own country's justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile foreign power."

BRIGGS: The president attempted damage control on the way back to Washington, tweeting, quote, "As I said today and many times before, I have great confidence in my intelligence people." And as aides dealt with the fallout from the summit, the White House e-mailed talking points to Republican surrogates, one U.S. official directly involved in the summit put it this way, this was not the plan.

ROMANS: Vladimir Putin got a pass from President Trump, but not from Chris Wallace of FOX News.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: May I give this to you to look at, sir? Here.


ROMANS: That was Wallace offering Putin a copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers. The exchange that followed was contentious, with Mr. Putin apparently trying to justify the hacking of Democrats by arguing the information that was hacked and disseminated was true.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (Through Translator): Was it some rigging of facts? Was it some forgery of facts? That's the important thing that I'm trying to -- a point that I'm trying to make. Was this any false information planted? No, it wasn't.

WALLACE: May I just say, you're indicating that they stole real money, not counterfeit money. So are you saying it's OK because the facts that they took from the DNC, from John Podesta, it was their real e-mails so it's OK to hack?

PUTIN (Through Translator): The information that I am aware of, there is nothing false about it. Every single grain of it is true and the Democratic leadership admitted it the first time. Now the second point. If you don't like my answer, you can give it to me straightaway and I'll just keep silence. And if you want Americans to listen to my opinion, could you please wait for a little bit?


ROMANS: Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Sam Kiley.

What a remarkable 24 to 36 hours. How is it playing where you are?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that generally speaking the reaction from Russian officials and we spent a lot of time talking to them last night. Politicians and Sergey Lavrov summed it up, and he said it was magnificent, better than super was the view of the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

I think that as the dust settles and the initial sense of triumph, there are now questions going to be asked about what did Russia really get out of this. Yes, it caused consternation in Washington which they always find satisfying in the Kremlin. But longer term, there's been no movement on Syria for example. Certainly no discussion over -- not least in public over the lifting of sanctions, over Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimea.

None of those big ticket issues were addressed as far as Russians were concerned. I think ultimately there will be concerns within the Russian duma, the parliament, about that. But of course Vladimir Putin runs a very tight ship. The media here is very, very strictly controlled. So it's quite difficult to discern whether some of those broader strategic issues from the Russian perspective are being discussed. But at the moment there is a sense certainly of satisfaction if not triumph.

ROMANS: You know, remarkable. I mean, it is the president of the United States side by side with Vladimir Putin with kind words for Vladimir Putin. Endorsing his view of the world and refuting the American Justice Department's view of the world on the fourth anniversary of that Malaysia Airlines 17 flight that was shot down. Just one of the many, many reasons why Russia was isolated in the first place but welcomed back by the president of the United States. Just remarkable.

But, OK. Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: By cozying up to Vladimir Putin after bashing European leaders at the NATO summit, President Trump is forced to at least one longtime ally to plot away forward without the United States.

Nic Robertson live in Helsinki monitoring the latest developments for us.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning, Dave. I mean, what we're hearing is the stunning sound of silence. Where is the applause? Where is the support from President Trump's NATO allies that he said were so you united behind him and his trip coming here to meet President Putin?

One to be -- as he came to meet President Putin, one -- I'd imagine a different scenario where they would be standing up, saying bravo, Mr. President Trump. Well done for standing up to President Putin. Not only he's been meddling in your elections, he's been meddling in ours. He's meddled in the German elections, he's meddled in the Britain's Brexit to leave the European Union.

[04:10:04] He's believed to have meddled in Britain's general election last year. Of course these two countries and their leaders, President Trump on his way to get to Helsinki undermined Theresa May during his visit there. Lambasted the German Chancellor Angela Merkel while he was at the NATO summit. So, you know, the reality is, is that Europe also has gone to bed last night, is waking up this morning to the fact that President Trump has acquiesced to President Putin, that he can no -- that it appears if he can longer trust his own intelligence services, how can his allies expect him to trust their intelligence services therefore trust them?

How can his allies expect him to act in their own national security interests if he doesn't appear to want to act in the national security interests of the United States? So of course, we find ourselves in a position where Germany and we've heard this from Angela Merkel and other Germans over the past year or so, saying look, we need to look to ourselves for unity and strength in Europe. We can no longer rely on the United States.

We're going to hear this message amplified up. But of course right now, as I say, it is stunning silence because there's no applause because there is none to give. And everyone is trying to figure out how do they tackle this. Germany giving us an idea.

BRIGGS: Wow. Stunning silence. Thank you, Nic Robertson live for us in Helsinki this morning.

American politicians and world leaders not the only ones stunned by the president's comments in Helsinki. Here now your late-night reaction.


TRUMP: Where are the servers? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying? Where is the server?

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": We know where the server is. He is standing right next to the master.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Putin did say that the meeting went very well. In fact it went so well that Putin said he might make Trump president for another four years.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": If you're wondering whether or not Vladimir Putin has an incriminating video of Donald Trump, we now know beyond a treasonable doubt that he does.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a one-on-one meeting today that lasted over two hours. Ugh. Poor Trump. That is a long time to hang out with your boss.


BRIGGS: You just can't help but wonder after it all. Why hold the summit? Knowing you're going to question U.S. intelligence, knowing the indictment was already coming down of 12 Russian intelligence officers. Still going there in front of the world and equivocating.

ROMANS: The American president siding with the Russians.

BRIGGS: It's hard to imagine.

ROMANS: Siding with the Russians against his own national interests.


ROMANS: The American national interests and American law enforcement. Remarkable.

All right. Just when it couldn't get more bizarre, a Russian national was charged with conspiring against the U.S. in the lead up to the election. We got that.


[04:16:46] ROMANS: Moments after President Trump gave Vladimir Putin a pass on Russia's election interference, the Justice Department was charging a Russian national with conspiring against the United States in the lead up to the 2016 election.

We get more from CNN's Sara Murray in Washington.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest piece in the deviant spree of Russian news, the U.S. government charging 29-year- old Russian national Maria Butina with being a spy for the Russian government here in the United States. Butina was arrested on Sunday and appeared in court here in D.C. on Monday.

The Justice Department announced she was charged with conspiring against the U.S. as a foreign agent. According to court filings and previous CNN reporting, Butina spent years trying to make in-roads with Republican Party leaders, politicians and big league leaders to promote Russian interests. She and her mentor, Kremlin-linked banker Alexander Torshin, had close ties with the leadership of the National Rifle Association and appeared to use that group as their primary avenue of influence. The NRA didn't respond to a request for comment. During the presidential campaign, she and Torshin even tried to

arrange a covert back channel of communication between with then candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it doesn't appear they were successful. As for Butina, her lawyer insists she is not a Russia agent but rather a bright graduate student living in the U.S. and trying to foster a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: All right, Sara, thanks for that.

BRIGGS: If you ran into trouble on Amazon's Web site yesterday, you were not alone. They were rough. More on the prime day problems next.


[04:22:50] BRIGGS: Amazon no doubt hoping today the second half of Prime Day goes better than the first. The retailing giant's Web site suffered periodic desktop and mobile outages Monday afternoon right after the sale began. Instead of scoring deals, many shoppers, myself included, just saw an error page featuring the dogs of Amazon. The company says it worked quickly to resolve the problem.

Prime Day is Amazon's annual sales bonanza projected to earn more than $3 billion in sales this year alone, says Amazon, if enough people can make those purchases.

ROMANS: Uber is under federal investigation for gender discrimination. The latest government probe into that company. A source tells CNN the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking into Uber's hiring practices and wages. The EEOC does not confirm open investigations but Uber says it is taking several steps to fix gender inequality including adjusting pay structure and publishing diversity reports.

The investigation began in August 2017, proving how hard it's been for Uber to move past that tumultuous year and the toxic work culture under former CEO Travis Kalanick. In 2017 Uber faced accusations of workplace discriminations, sexual harassment, illegal behavior by executives. The string of scandals forced the CEO to step down. His successor took over last September. He pledged to reform that company.

BRIGGS: In Hawaii, a frightening scene caught on video shows the moment a lava bomb hits a boat tour.

Hard to make out exactly what happened there. The airborne hot lava punctured the boat's roof. Authorities say 23 people were injured, 13 of the victims treated at the hospital.

ROMANS: It's unclear exactly where all this happened but it's about an hour's boat ride from the harbor to where lava is plunging into the sea. Kilauea volcano started erupting in early May. BRIGGS: To baseball, Bryce Harper is Major League Baseball's homerun

derby champion. And he won the title in front of his hometown fans in dramatic fashion.

[04:25:00] The Washington Nationals star slugging nine homers in the final 47 seconds of regulation to tie Kyle Schwarber before defeating the Chicago Cub star with this towering blast in bonus time. Wow.

There is controversy brewing online, though. Critics claim Harper's dad who was pitching broke the rules by not waiting for the previous ball to land before throwing the next pitch. The hometown fans did not mind the controversy. Quite a scene here for a guy who has struggled mightily at the plate this season.

Ahead, the "Wall Street Journal" calls it a national embarrassment. Why did the president question U.S. intelligence on Russian interference? And how can he calm the fury that's erupted among his allies even at FOX News?


WALLACE: May I give this to you to look at, sir? Here.