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Tidal Wave of Condemnation Faces Trump after Putin Summit; Russian Woman Charged with Being an Agent. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 17, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
[07:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. And it is a big day. John Avlon joins us here, as well.
The president chose Russia in front of everyone. He chose Russia. And today the White House, the Republican Party, the country and, in fact, the world are dealing with the ramifications of this stunning decisions. The Russians attacked the 2016 presidential election, and the president of the United States says the Russian version of what happened has as much weight as that of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Republican Senator John McCain calls it one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. Newt Gingrich, a huge Trump supporter, says it is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected immediately.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, what will the White House do today in response? Thus far, not much. They did put out some talking points that were obtained by CNN, and they show that White House allies will falsely claim that President Trump has spent the last year and a half, quote, "repeatedly believing" his intelligence community. That is not the message that has come loud and clear from President Trump. So we'll see if they can successfully spin their way out of this today.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip, who is live at the White House. Any movement there yet, Abby?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.
The White House is really struggling this morning to explain the president's behavior at that press conference with Vladimir Putin. It is extraordinarily telling that while the Kremlin is celebrating the summit as a resounding success. The White House has remained largely silent. And they've issued those talking points that you just mentioned that are directly contradicted by the president's own comments himself yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, why didn't you confront Russian President Vladimir Putin? PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump returning home to blistering
condemnation after publicly siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.
He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
PHILLIP: The president blaming both countries for eroding U.S.-Russia relations.
TRUMP: I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago.
PHILLIP: And refusing to condemn Putin, instead pivoting to his election victory and the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: It was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. It's ridiculous what's going on with the probe.
PHILLIP: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aghast.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The president put what's best for him over what's best for the security and wellbeing of the United States.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: President's comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover.
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I've seen the Russian intelligence, you know, manipulate many people in my career. And I never would have thought the U.S. president would be -- would be one of them.
PHILLIP: Director of national intelligence Dan Coats reportedly bypassing the White House to rebut the president, writing, "We have been clear in our assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."
Former CIA director John Brennan calling the news conference "nothing short of treasonous." House Speaker Paul Ryan stressing, "Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence."
Newt Gingrich calling it "The most serious mistake of his presidency." Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, labeling the press conference, "One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
President Trump insisting he has great confidence in his intelligence people as the White House scrambles to do damage control, sending out talking points and the vice president to reassure supporters.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.
PHILLIP: Meanwhile, Russian officials hailing the summit as a resounding success and applauding Putin's performance.
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, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes I did, because he talked about bringing the right U.S./Russia relationship back to normal.
PHILLIP: Putin, later confronted by a FOX News journalist, refusing to examine the Mueller indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in the election hacking and penetrating America's election system.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: May I give this to you to look at, sir? Here?
PHILLIP: Putin also downplaying the attack.
PUTIN (through translator): It wasn't some forgery effect. That's the important thing that I am trying to point I'm trying to make. Was there any false information planted? No, it wasn't.
[07:05:05] PHILLIP: President Trump today has a meeting with Republican senators at the White House about taxes. And that meeting is closed to press at the moment, but we'll see if they decide to open it up and use it as an opportunity for the president to speak up about this.
Meanwhile, there is no White House press briefing on the schedule, just another sign of how this White House is really, you know, battening down the hatches right now. They are under siege, for sure -- Alisyn and John.
CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you very much for setting all that up.
Joining us now, we have CNN political commentator and former Republican congressman Charlie Dent and Julia Ioffe, a former Moscow- based correspondent who has been writing about Russian politics for more than a decade. And John Avlon joins us at the desk.
Congressman Dent, people have been wondering, Democrats primarily, for the past year and a half, what would be the breaking point for Republicans in Congress? When they would reach the Rubicon.
And I'm just wondering, given all the response that you've heard from Republicans now, but most of them are people who have already criticized President Trump. But you do have Paul Ryan in there who have said that this is so unacceptable for a U.S. president on foreign soil to blame the U.S. for the election interference.
Do you feel like this is the moment?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I certainly hope it's the moment. I mean, you just run out of words, adjectives. You know, disgraceful, shameful.
The one word I wouldn't use is "surprised." I mean, the president has been talking this way about Vladimir Putin for a very long time. I cannot understand why the president of the United States continues on this blowtorch tour, seeking to destroy western institutions, whether it's NATO, the E.U., the -- you know, condemning or criticizing center-right governments in the U.K., in Germany. I mean, where does -- where does it end?
I think my colleagues have to stand up right now. I mean, I thought the trade issue might have been the one to force many of them, you know, to push back on the president, but this, you know, the president of the United States failing -- failing to stand up for western values and institutions, throwing his own intelligence community under the bus.
I mean, at what point -- at what point do we say, you know, enough is enough? We've got to stand up for what we believe in. This is dishonoring the sacrifice and the service of all these people since the Second World War who built this great order. And the president seems to want to trash it.
BERMAN: Well, when you run out of words, it might be time for actual action, John. And color me skeptical. Color me skeptical that Paul Ryan, when he has a news conference today, you know, will say after he gushes about the tax cuts and the economy will promise to actually do anything about this.
AVLON: I think that's exactly the question that people need to confront. This is not simply about tweets. I think it's great that Republicans are standing up and realizing they need to confront the unavoidable fact of yesterday's disaster.
But words are insufficient. And I think the question becomes, for example, will there be a vote, however symbolic, to say we support the intelligence community's assessment of the election, not the president's repeated assertions and not buying into this B.S. from the White House, these talking points that try to ignore reality and obfuscate as they like to do.
They cannot spin their way out of this one. But it's going to be up to Republicans to show that this really is about country over party, folks. This is not a partisan issue anymore.
CAMEROTA: Julia, you are a fascinating guest to have on today, because your last story out of Moscow in 2012 was about a strange young woman trying to get Russia to legalize firearms. Her name was Mariia Butina. That rings a bell.
She was just charged yesterday by the Justice Department for acting as a foreign agent and infiltrating the NRA and trying to create back channels with the Trump campaign and trying to get Vladimir Putin invited to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast.
So, since you interacted with her and now you watch all of this unfold, what do you make of everything that happened yesterday?
JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, "GQ MAGAZINE": Well, I'm kicking myself, because she reached out to me several times after moving to the U.S. wanting to, you know, hang out and get coffee. And I just thought, "I don't know. I don't have time for this." And could have been a good story.
Instead I just have this story about her taking me shooting at a former KGB shooting range back in Moscow in 2012.
BERMAN: Not for nothing.
AVLON: Yes, good.
CAMEROTA: But just very quickly, one point on that. Did you sense she was trying to make inroads into the U.S. and, you know, get some sort of policy changed?
IOFFE: Well, this was back in 2012. She was still based in Russia. And she came to my attention, because basically, the Russian opposition tends to be kind of more libertarian because there is so much, you know, of the government in everything. And some of them go really, really far, and they want firearms are not legal.
There is no Second Amendment in Russia, and she was trying to get, with the help of Alexander Torshin, who was then sitting Russian senator and with connections to the NRA, trying to legalize firearms in Russia.
[07:10:08] So to me it was more about Americans and American groups like the NRA trying to push their agenda inside Russia.
So, that's the other thing. I think we have to keep in mind that this is a porous border. That these are things that go back and forth. There was a -- also a lot of American influence on Russia, you know, a lot of right-wing Christian fundamentalists, evangelical groups trying to push a kind of family values agenda in Russia, trying to get the Russian government to ban abortion, for example. So --
BERMAN: So Charlie, one of the things that happened over the last 24 hours is the way the president spoke standing next to Vladimir Putin has caused a lot of people to reassess their view of this relationship and their view of exactly what Russia may or may not have on President Trump.
Steve Hall, former Moscow bureau chief, was just here with us and says, "You know what? He was dismissive of the idea of kompromat, but he can no longer dismiss it. And you say, Charlie, you look at this now, and you wonder if there might be something there, there might be something that Russia does have on the president.
DENT: Yes, it certainly forces one to speculate that there may be something. Maybe some kind of a financial entanglement, because it's simply inexplicable and indefensible for what the president has just said. It just -- it seems to me that the Russians must have something. What else is there?
And by the way, what Congress should do on this matter, if I were in Congress right now, I'd recommend that they put a resolution on the floor of the House, you know, condemning the president's comments and reaffirming support for the intelligence community. Maybe even put something on the floor in a binding nature. Maybe you say on trade that the president couldn't impose tariffs without the consent or approval of Congress or all kinds of things they can do right now to reclaim their Article I powers and -- and try to refrain this agenda.
AVLON: Or protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation. I mean, that's something that's been called for that is still necessary. I think the president has gotten certain constraints that are now self-made. The fact that Charlie is saying, a former member of the Congress, that he's concerned about compromise.
And I think it's important also to say this is not the salacious stuff. This is about follow the money, folks, that that needs to be dealt with seriously in the wake of yesterday's diplomatic --
IOFFE: Could I -- could I just jump in here for a second?
IOFFE: So I think that we're all -- the money, I think, is part of it. There might be something more salacious, but you also -- not that you shouldn't, but you don't have to dig all that deeply. A lot of it has been staring us in the face and screaming for the last two years.
You had the current president during his campaign say, "Russia, if you're listening, go and hack and find Hillary Clinton's missing e- mails."
You have this meeting at Trump Tower in which Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son and namesake, was more than willing to accept help from a foreign government to win the election. There is so much stuff that is out in the open that leads me to believe that the kompromat or blackmail, as it's called in English, is -- is staring us in the face, which is that Russia helped Trump win the election. That's what they have on him.
And of course, he's not ever going to say, "You know what? You're right. They helped me win. My win is illegitimate. And therefore, my presidency is illegitimate." No sitting president, especially one as thin-skinned and vain as this one, would ever admit that.
BERMAN: Vladimir Putin told us yesterday, he was asked flat-out if he wanted Trump to win, and he said yes.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that was the --
IOFFE: We knew that.
BERMAN: I know, but it's interesting to hear him say it. AVLON: And we also know from the most recent Mueller indictment the
day Donald Trump turned to the cameras and said, "Russia, if you're listening" was also the day, coincidental or not, that Russian hackers broke into the servers that Hillary Clinton had used. So that's pretty extraordinary.
CAMEROTA: Charlie, as Lyndon Johnson might have said when President Trump loses FOX News, he's lost middle America. And for the first time, Charlie, yesterday, there have been people who have been real cheerleaders of President Trump on FOX News who sounded shocked and stunned by the fact that he would stand up there and blame America for the election hacking. So listen to their confounded response afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DUPREE, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was the time and 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 NEWS BUSINESS ANCHOR: But he didn't. And that's what made it disgusting. That's what made his performance disgusting.
A U.S. president on foreign soil, talking to our biggest enemy, is essentially letting the guy get away with this and not even, you know, offering a mild, a mild criticism.
TRISH REGAN, FOX NEWS BUSINESS HOST: This was clearly not his best performance. He's done a whole lot better than this. He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community.
STUART VARNEY, FOX NEWS BUSINESS HOST: Was not a very forceful presentation from President Trump with Putin standing right next to him.
[07:15:04] CAVUTO: I don't know. I'll give the benefit of the doubt to maybe jet lag and time differences, but holy tamale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Hey, Charlie, I mean, what of that, if -- will that get Republicans in Congress, will that get their attention?
DENT: Well, when the amen corner does not say "amen," all we can say is hallelujah. Let me tell you, this is unbelievable. Look, if anything -- if nothing else happens, maybe people will now back off of Mueller and Rosenstein and let them complete their work uninterrupted.
I mean, this Russia investigation has to go on. And if yesterday's events didn't make that clear, nothing will. So I hope those, you know, who have been the amen corner, the hallelujah chorus, you know, get some -- get some manners right now. They have to stand up and do what's in the best interests of the country. And that's -- it's as simple as that. BERMAN: I saw Julia nodding "no" there, because she knows that the
Freedom Caucus yesterday was talking about going after Rod Rosenstein. Again. It's just happening.
CAMEROTA: All right. On that note, thank you all for sharing all of your personal experience and perspective with us.
BERMAN: We're going to have a Republican lawmaker on with us next. The issue is this: what are they going to do? Will they take action? We want to know the answer to that question. Stay around.
[07:20:23] BERMAN: Many Republicans, including those who have stood by President Trump during some of his biggest controversies, are breaking with the president after the president decided to believe Putin over U.S. intelligence community. One of those critics is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He joins us this morning.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. You say, "Mr. President, you need to retract the whole Helsinki press conference and reassess your view of allies and enemies."
The president hasn't done that. So what are you going to do about it?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Well, look, I heard Charlie earlier. He's a good friend of mine, talking about we need to put a resolution condemning his words.
We have to understand something. The president has a right, as president, to run foreign policy and to say things. We have a right, as members of Congress, to vehemently disagree. Yesterday wasn't the end of the world, but literally, when your only defender is Rand Paul, you have a problem. And that's where we're at today.
The president stood up yesterday and, basically, presented a moral equivalency with Russia. This is the same Russia, by the way, that everyday bombs hospitals with innocent children in them.
And when we look back at words like, from what Ronald Reagan said when he talked about a shining city on the hill, and it was that shining city that tore down the Iron Curtain, because people saw the values of America over that Iron Curtain. To somehow say that we're equivalent with a nation that bombs hospitals on purpose and then poisons people with biological weapons in England and kills innocent civilians, we're not equivalent.
So it was a really bad day for the president yesterday. I like President Trump personally. I like a lot of his policies. I'm a Republican. But it is incumbent on us to call out when something like yesterday happens. And I really hope the president today clarifies this, because I don't think this pro-Russia stuff is necessarily in his heart.
BERMAN: I will note this. You say it's a bad day for President Trump. I think others will say it's a bad day for America.
KINZINGER: Sure, yes, yes.
BERMAN: Yes. It's a bad day for America, and you represent the people of Illinois in the U.S. Congress. You know, helping run America. So again, I'm going to put to you the question that Thomas Friedman suggests that every member of Congress get asked, and it's this. Are you with Trump and Putin? Or are you with the CIA, FBI and NSA?
KINZINGER: Well, that's a very biased way to ask it. I get it. It's -- I don't think there is a Trump and Putin and then the CIA. I think Trump, President Trump, was wrong yesterday in a major way, and I think it was a very embarrassing press conference.
That said, I stand with our intelligence agencies. I put that out on my Twitter feed yesterday, that I think it's a disservice to call out the credibility and especially a disservice in front of the chief enemy of the United States that again, in Syria, bombs innocent children and hospitals. That's something we need to continue to remember.
BERMAN: This is no small thing. And I honor your service in U.S. wars over the last 20 years. You served overseas. Our men and women in the intelligence communities are serving the country, as well.
Put yourself in their shoes. The president of the United States stood there side by side with Vladimir Putin and said, "You know, I'm hearing all these things from the intelligence community, for our men and women who put their lives on the line to get us this information, I don't believe it any more than I believe this guy standing beside me who has people murdered?
KINZINGER: Look, going into yesterday's meeting, I knew that there were probably going to be some things that you look at, I wish that wouldn't have happened. I expected the president --
BERMAN: But is this an "Oh, I wish it" -- but is this an "OH, I wish" moment?
KINZINGER: Let me say it. I -- I wished -- I thought it was going to be like that. To see what happened yesterday was shocking and beyond that. It was beyond surprising, because I thought the president had come a long way over the last year in accepting this, even if he didn't like to admit it.
I don't think Russia elected Trump, but I do think they meddled in our election. So as Congress -- I think, look, it is incumbent on us to speak out, first off, when we have massive disagreements like this.
And secondly, I'd like to see, maybe, a resolution reaffirming America's support for NATO, reaffirming, however we want to word it, that Russia is an enemy or competitor, at least, of the United States and that they're doing really, really, really bad things around the globe and there's know equivalence to the United States. What's the way of words? I don't know. But I think that's the kind of things we can do in Congress. There's
-- we can't overcome the president's role as commander in chief. That's constitutional, but we can make very strong statements.
BERMAN: No, but the legislature is a co-equal branch of government.
KINZINGER: Yes. But we don't -- we don't get to make foreign policy like the president does.
BERMAN: You don't?
KINZINGER: I would say the same things when President Obama was president.
BERMAN: You do?
KINZINGER: I was on your show, saying the same thing.
BERMAN: But you'd be -- perhaps if President Obama were in office, it would be harsher language than "I would like to see, maybe, Congress putting together a resolution here." "Like to see maybe" isn't "Mr. President, stop this right now."
[07:25:11] Look, the House Ways and Means Committee going over to meet with the president today. Should they open that meeting, do you want the member to sit there and say, "Mr. President, before we talk about tax cuts, we've got to get this off our chest"? You just heard America.
KINZINGER: Yes. Sure. Yes. I mean, yes. I think this is a very big issue.
And, you know, what's amazing to me in this narrative, and it's going to continue for the next 24, 48 hours, you have Republican members of Congress coming out and saying, "This was a big problem."
And you're going to have some of my friends on the left that are saying, "They're just not doing enough. You'll never do enough about it."
This is a big step to say, "This is a problem and as Congress we need to make statements. We need to come out and say it." We need to say -- and I'm telling the president this. "There's a lot of stuff -- I like you as a person. There's a lot of stuff I like that you do, but this is a big problem, and you need to come out today and very much clarify this, not on Twitter, but I think in front of the cameras."
BERMAN: Syria, you care deeply about Syria.
KINZINGER: I do.
BERMAN: President Putin yesterday said that "I want to help the refugees" --
KINZINGER: Yes. BERMAN: "-- of Syria." If there is -- you know, if you listed the
top four people responsible for the refugee crisis in Syria, he would be easily, you know, No. 2 or 3 three on that list, correct?
KINZINGER: Yes. I'd actually put him as No. 1 because, of course, Assad is No. 1, but Assad would be dead right now if it wasn't for Vladimir Putin riding to his rescue and bombing innocent civilians. Like they did in Afghanistan, they're doing now in Syria. And half a million dead Syrians. Fifty thousand children -- 50,000 children -- have taken their last breath because of Assad, because of Iran, and because of Russia.
You cannot cut deals with the devil. And you can never trust Russia. These are the same people that said Assad got rid of his chemical weapons. You cannot trust them.
BERMAN: Last question. Your friend, congressman -- former congressman Charlie Dent was just on with us. You heard him say what he heard yesterday, "It makes me think that perhaps the Russians have something on President Trump."
Are you 100 percent convinced the Russians don't have something on President Trump?
KINZINGER: No, I'm not going to go there. That's -- I don't know anything. All I know is the Mueller investigation, which I support continuing and coming to fruition, that's where all these questions are going to be answered.
I don't believe there was collusion. I've seen no evidence of it. But I do believe there's a blind spot with the president in terms of, for whatever reason, this affection to Russia that I think he needs to clarify.
Our allies are our allies. Our enemies are our enemies. You can deal with our enemies, but you don't do it from a position of weakness.
BERMAN: That "for whatever reason" part is something that perhaps needs to be probed.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, great to have you with us. Thanks so much for your time.
KINZINGER: Any time. See you.
CAMEROTA: John, we'll get the Democratic side next. What do Democrats in Congress think they should do?