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Trump's Embrace of Putin; Concern over Sinclair's Bid for Tribune; Judge Pauses Deportations; Trump Reverse Course. Aired 8:30- 9:00a ET

Aired July 17, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:50] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The shock waves continue from President Trump's press conference, siding with Russian leader Vladimir Putin instead of his own intelligence agencies when it comes to the Russian attack on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Joining us now is former Homeland Security secretary, former governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.


BERMAN: You served this country in Vietnam. You served in the U.S. Congress. You served in the White House during the Bush administration. You served in the cabinet as Homeland Security secretary. Can we --

RIDGE: I can't hold a job.

BERMAN: Everything you worked through there, that life of experience, I just want to know what you thought when you saw the president's news conference yesterday.

RIDGE: Well, I recalled my days in Congress in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev, "tear down this wall." It was a moment of great pride not only for Americans but I think of our allies around the world. And you contrast that with the performance at the press conference and sadly I don't think pride is the word that comes to my lips or anybody else's lips. I mean the universal condemnation has been rather remarkable and I think very justifiable.

BERMAN: Yes, you say pride is not what comes to your lips.

RIDGE: Not at all.

BERMAN: What word does?

RIDGE: Well, it's beyond disappointment.

You know, I was not surprised. If anyone that has followed President Trump's tweets, his words, his actions know for the past couple years he has publicly discredited the intelligence community. I mean and I had the privilege of working with them side by side with daily briefings, both oral and written. We're talking about thousands of people working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make their country as safe and secure as possible. And for the president to accept Vladimir Putin's word rather than these tireless patriots is numbing. It is beyond discouraging. I can't imagine what it is to be doing to work today in one of the intelligence agencies. But I think they need to know, from those of us who have been privileged to work with them and serve their country with them, how proud we are of them and we stand with them.

Mr. President, you made the wrong choice. You took Vladimir Putin's word over those of a group of patriots who work 24/7 to keep you and the rest of us safe. Wrong choice, Mr. President.

BERMAN: Well what does DNI Coats do about it? Should the director of national intelligence resign in protest?

RIDGE: Well, I've had the privilege -- I can call Dan Coats a friend. I've known him for a long time. The time in Congress, visiting when he was ambassador. You know, he's a patriot. He's a public servant. He'll do what he thinks is in, not in his best interest. Dan Coats will do what he thinks is in the best interest of the United States of America. You can take it to the bank. And I have no idea what it will be. But I can assure you, that's his mind-set and that will be his approach.

BERMAN: If you were in the White House -- I mean I -- look, it's hard to imagine a scenario like this playing out in the Bush White House. You need to stretch your imagination for a bit here. But if you were to tell the president, based on everything I'm hearing, from all the people in the United States dealing with Homeland Security, you went to the president and said, there is this very real threat. And the president were to say to you, you know what, I don't believe you. I believe the people you say are going to perpetrate this job. Would you stay in the job? Would you walk out?

RIDGE: I think -- no, don't think I could walk out. I mean, just personally, you know that -- the conversation I had with the president that day depends on what kind of access you have of the president, depends on what support others around him have of my opinion. So I think this crescendo of criticism, which is justified in every sense of the word --


RIDGE: Hopefully will -- it's not like the intelligence community needs more credibility. They are respected globally. It's just about time that the president gives them the same kind of respect and countenance that the rest of the world does. I suspect he'll stay on and do what he can to keep this country safe and secure.

BERMAN: Your fellow Republicans in Congress, you know, around the country, are they doing enough to stand up to the president on this issue? [08:34:56] RIDGE: Well, I will tell you this, John, if this

performance over the past week, when we were more critical of our two strongest allies in a post-World War II era in the U.K. and Germany, our criticism of them and denigration of them was public and to a certain extent humiliating and this rather strange embrace of Vladimir Putin, if that can't arouse the concern, the anxious and the anxiety, not from a political point of view, but from a geopolitical point of view within the Republican Party, then we are amiss and we forgot our foundation as a party in terms of our strength globally. We've missed the opportunity to be constructive in our criticism. We need to be constructive, but we need to be relentless in challenging the president. He cannot tweet his way out of this. He's going to have to work (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: I agree with that. A tweet does not undo something you say on the world stage standing next to a world leader.

RIDGE: It cannot be done.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you because, you know what, I need a breath of fresh air this morning. You worked with Allegheny College and there's a 2018 award for civility in public life.


BERMAN: Thank you.

What is it? And who's getting it?

RIDGE: Well, John, first of all we thank you and we thank your audience. Today, in a couple hours at the National Press Club we are going to honor two men of different political persuasion, two congressmen from Texas, Beto O'Rourke and Will Hurd, who decided to take a trip across -- a road trip from Texas to the United States and they had a FaceBook town meeting for a couple of days where these -- they argued health care, they argued immigration. The point being they are polar opposites philosophically but they conducted the debates in a civil way.

Listen, the foundation -- Allegheny College and President Jim Mullen honor something really, really unique. The foundation of democracy, the two pillars are civility and compromise. And in the past we've honored Joe Biden and John McCain. Last year it was Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg. There's ways that we can, in our democracy, have disparate points of view, strong points of view but we need to be civil in challenging one another and let that process work out in the form of compromise to advance America's broader interest.

BERMAN: Mr. Secretary --

RIDGE: That's what Allegheny College feels is necessary. And I'm very proud to be associated with my friend Jim Mullen in the college and we're grateful for CNN letting us break the news with you this morning.

BERMAN: Well, look, Mr. Secretary, we're grateful for having you on. Thanks so much for the award. Thanks for being with us. I'm getting texts from friends from Erie saying how great it is to see you out and about. Thank you. We really appreciate it, sir.

RIDGE: Thank you, John. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That looked a little bit like the tour bus because, you know, Beto O'Rourke was a punk rocker in a punk rock band. So (INAUDIBLE) --

BERMAN: It's all about punk rock. It's all about punk rock for you.

CAMEROTA: It's about punk rock.

All right, meanwhile, we do need to give you this important update on those families who were separated at the border. A judge has made an important decision about them regarding these kids separated from their parents. We'll bring that to you, next.


[08:42:11] BERMAN: Time for "CNN Money Now."

Sinclair broadcasting on the path to become a local TV powerhouse, reaching three quarters of American households, but federal regulators have serious concerns, putting the deal in doubt.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in our Money Center with the details.



FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has serious concerns about Sinclair's $3.9 billion of Tribune Media. He's calling for a hearing that could kill the deal. The conservative-leaning Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S. Now, it has been criticized for its must-run segments with conservative commentary and for forcing local anchors to read a promo echoing President Trump's anti-media rhetoric.

Buying Tribune Media would give Sinclair access to 72 percent of U.S. households. That's well above the FCC's limit. So Sinclair has been selling off station, but critics are taking issue with some of those sales. They let Sinclair keep a stake in stations, essentially allowing them to retain control.

And Pai agreed, writing that certain situation divestitures would allow Sinclair to control those situations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. Sinclair denies those allegations. But this is a big policy shift for Pai. Appointed by President Trump in 2017, he has eased many regulations on the broadcast industry during his tenure.

CAMEROTA: OK, Christine, thank you very much for that.

Now to this story that we've been following for weeks for you. A federal judge has a new order for reuniting families at the border. The Trump administration says they're still trying to reunite thousands of children who were separated from their parents and they're trying to do it by next week.

So CNN's Rosa Flores has been following this for us. She's live in McAllen, Texas, with more.

What's the latest, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, there was so much fear here that mass reunions would only be followed by mass deportations that there is a huge sigh of relief now that the judge has ordered a halt of the deportations of these reunified families. But now these families are having to make a very tough decision, do they deport themselves with their children or do they leave their children behind?

Now, all of this is happening, of course, as the deadline for reunification is looming. And it's only nine days away. And if we've learned anything about the reunification of the toddlers, the number of separated children doesn't equal the number of reunited families.

Now, here is the breakdown so far. Of the 2,551 children between the ages of five and 17 who are in the custody of the United States, who were allegedly separated from their parents, 2,480 of them have parents who have been identified. Now, 1,609 are still detained. The difference between those two numbers is alarming for a lot of the advocates because that means that those parents have either been released, have been deported, or are in the custody of federal or state authorities. It's unclear what bucket they're in.

[08:45:07] And then there's this number, the 71 children, Alisyn, whose parents have not been identified. I should add, however, that historically sometimes these children come into the united States with relatives other than their parents.


CAMEROTA: Thank you so much for that update.

BERMAN: All right, it is nearly 9:00 in the morning. The president has been silent on his press conference yesterday with Vladimir Putin. Anthony Scaramucci told Alisyn he should reverse course. Will he? "The Bottom Line" is next.


CAMEROTA: Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci tried sending a message to President Trump on NEW DAY moments ago.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is -- this is a major mistake, Alisyn. And so if they don't reverse it -- this is not a mistake of words, by the way. This is not a bad PR kerfuffle.

[08:50:01] CAMEROTA: This is a mistake of what?

SCARAMUCCI: This is a mistake of strategy.

CAMEROTA: And thinking.

SCARAMUCCI: This is a mistake of execution. This is a mistake of thinking. And you've got your ego involved. And let me tell you another thing you're doing, you're conflating the issue of Russian collusion --


SCARAMUCCI: With Russian meddling, OK. Don't conflate those two issues. He's got to reverse course immediately.


CAMEROTA: Is there any way we see that course correction today?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with two distinguished guests. We have the host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Fareed Zakaria, and CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein.

It's great to have both of you.

Fareed, how, even if he reversed course today, could he ever get Americans and the world to unhear what we heard yesterday? What could the president ever do today to try to convince us that he isn't on the side of Putin?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": That's in a way the most disturbing element of this. You know, international relations is based on power but also on credibility. On, you know, if you think about it, all our allies around the world depend on the United States for security. George Osborne, the former British finance minister, said to me, when David Cameron and I would plot foreign policy, we always knew America had our back. And he said, today, every European leader is wondering, where is America? How can we trust it? Do we know where it would stand?

And I think that feeling, that sense of uncertainty about America's commitment to its core alliances, uncertainty about America's attitude towards its core adversaries, is infecting the entire realm of international relations around the world. And what that means is you have -- you know, as Scaramucci put it quite rightly, this is not an optics problem, it's not a communication problem. You have a central problem with the American-built international order that was created after 1945 because that was built on American power, but crucially on American credibility. The words mattered because you don't need -- you don't want to have to keep going to war to prove that you have -- that, you know, that you are actually going to deliver. People need to trust you. And I think that trust has been shattered. Look, you have a situation where senior Republican senators like John

McCain, the former nominee of the party, says this was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president ever. Now that kind of thing can't be put back in the bottle.

BERMAN: No, and this was not a slip of the tongue. The president's had two years to think about this. This wasn't a communications issue and a tweet can't undo what was done yesterday.

Carl Bernstein, you've had a chance to watch and think about this. Your take?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a genuine national security emergency, whether through incompetence or questioning his loyalty or whether he is ignorant. The president of the United States cannot be entrusted with the national security of the United States. That's what we saw on that stage where the two leaders appeared yesterday.

We've never had a moment in our history like this in the country where serious people of both parties are questioning the loyalty of the president of the United States. Unprecedented. And we now have to figure out how to deal with a president of the United States who wittingly or unwittingly has been compromised. What we saw yesterday was collusion witting or unwitting in the president's words and attitudes towards Putin as the two stood there.

CAMEROTA: And so, Carl, what does happen next? What do you think happens next if it's a crisis to the level that you're talking about?

BERNSTEIN: I think this is a moment for Republicans to define who they are, as they did in Watergate when they decided that we could not have a criminal president of the United States. Republicans now have to speak out and say that we cannot have a president of the United States whose loyalty is being questioned. We need to hold him to the rule of law.

One of the problems here -- and all the Republicans that I talked to know this, that the president lies incessantly. And part of the problem here is the president has been lying about the Russian investigation and what it means and the role of himself and his family in terms of their relationship with Russians, ethno-Russians and the rule of law. And if Republicans cannot insist that this president stop this kind of conduct, allot this investigation -- it's no accident that this is occurring at exactly the moment when Mueller is closing in on the collusion issue.

BERMAN: Fareed --

BERNSTEIN: So we have a genuine national emergency here to deal with and only Republicans can deal with it effectively and so that we can unite and hold the president of the United States accountable for what he must do.

BERMAN: Carl -- I mean, Fareed, Carl says only Republicans. You've written about what want to be -- what might be one of the most fundamental accomplishments of this president, President Trump, which is to transform the Republican Party into his image. So if only Republicans are the only ones that can fix this, it's hard to imagine it's going to happen.

[08:55:04] ZAKARIA: Think about this. The party of Ronald Reagan was staunchly pro-free trade, staunchly pro-immigrant, staunchly pro- agencies like the FBI, the CIA and very hawkish on defense and fundamentally anti-Russian. Donald Trump has literally turned that on its head and the Republican Party has followed him meekly.

The genius, if there is a genius of Donald Trump is that he recognized that the Republican Party rank and file were in a different place than all the elites. That elites might say one thing. They might still adhere to the Reagan formula. But the party at the base, they wanted to hear about something very different.

So now we see the core test (ph) because finally you are seeing some Republican leaders, like John McCain, like Mitt Romney, break with the president. Will that matter? So far it has not. Remember, this president has the highest approval rating among Republicans of any Republican president in history. That includes George W. Bush the week after 9/11. So that has to break. That fever has to break. And I'm not sure we understand what will make it happen. But this is sure as hell the best test case I've seen because this is the case of a president really not fulfilling his constitutional duties to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

CAMEROTA: Fareed Zakaria, Carl Bernstein, thank you both very much for your -- sharing your perspectives with us.

BERMAN: Quite a day.

CAMEROTA: Indeed it has been.

BERMAN: And silence from the White House so far. Will it last?

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow will pick up after this break. And we'll see you tomorrow.


[08:59:54] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

Shameful, disgraceful, bizarre and flat out wrong. This morning, those are just a few words from Republican lawmakers describing the spectacle that was the Putin/Trump summit in Helsinki less than 24 hours ago, as President Trump called Vladimir Putin, quote, extremely strong and powerful while