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Trump Faces Backlash; Putin Doesn't Share Our Values; Putin Meeting Better than NATO Summit; GOP Lawmakers Break with Trump; Trump Surprised by Fierce Criticism; Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Right now. Have a great day.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Up first today, facing the fallout. The White House in severe damage control mode as President Trump faces a strong backlash from his summit with Vladimir Putin. The president will make remarks on the Putin summit at the top of the next hour. We're going to bring that to you live.

The president came under blistering criticism for siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia's attack on the 2016 election. Critics called his comments disgraceful, shameful, and embarrassing. And that was just from the Republicans. Even the conservative "Wall Street Journal" said the president projected weakness. The editorial board writing, quote, Monday's joint press conference was a personal and national embarrassment. On stage with a dictator whose election meddling has done so much harm to his presidency, Mr. Trump could not even bring himself to say he believed his own intelligence advisers like Dan Coats over the Russian strongman.

Let's bring in CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood. She is at the White House.

Sarah, President Trump initially apparently pleased with the news conference, with the summit, even though there was no mention, for instance, of many of Russia's crimes, including the shoot down of Malaysian Airline Flight 17, which I'm mentioning because it was shot down four years ago today, killing all 298 people on board.

What is the president tweeting about this morning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jim, President Trump showing no signs of backing down from his performance in Helsinki yesterday despite the fierce bipartisan backlash that has been building over the past 24 hours. Trump defending his summit with Putin this morning tweeting, while I had a great meeting with NATO raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way. The fake news is going crazy. Of course, setting aside the fact that Trump's NATO meeting was also

itself controversial, it was the president's comments in a press conference after that summit with Putin that has caused even some of his top supporters to describe his treatment of the U.S. intelligence community as a serious mistake. Now, Republican criticism has ranged from describing this as a missed opportunity for Trump, to calling his comments disgraceful, and even suggesting that the president was potentially manipulated by Russian intelligence.

Trump, so far, not offering any clarity to his remarks, but, like you mentioned, we'll be seeing him at the top of the next hour and perhaps he will explain the thinking behind his press conference strategy.

SCIUTTO: Sarah Westwood there at the White House.

And if you're tempted to think it's purely partisan, those were Republicans sitting in the House among them who were criticizing the president, raising those hard questions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the speaker, he spoke out against the president's comments as well. He had a very different characterization of Putin and Russia. Listen to what he said just a short time ago.


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.


SCIUTTO: That was Speaker Ryan there.

Manu Raju, our Capitol Hill senior congressional correspondent, he's up there on Capitol Hill.

Manu, it was interesting. So Ryan certainly did not pull punches when it came to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but he did not take a shot at the president himself. Why is that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the line that Republicans have been trying to draw. They want to be tough on Russia, but they also don't want to get cross wise with the president.

And one thing that I tried to ask Paul Ryan about was the finding that was in the House Intelligence Committee's report that disputed what the intelligence community concluded, that Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to become president. Well, Vladimir Putin himself said at that press conference yesterday he did want Trump to become president. I asked Paul Ryan if that was a mistake at all by the House Republicans to assert otherwise. He would not go there. He said that the Republicans found fault with the methodology used by the intelligence community in making that conclusion. Similarly, the other Republicans are weighing a wide range of options

to respond. Some say there should be no response. Some say there should be more sanctions. Some believe there should be a symbolic response reaffirming its support for the intelligence community. Nevertheless, there are some Republican, even some Trump allies of Congressman Pete King of New York, who said the president made a mistake.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The president is wrong on that. I agree with the president, there's no evidence of collusion. But there's overwhelming evidence of meddling by the Russians. Everyone I've spoken to in the administration, both administrations, accepts that view. I think the president feels if he makes any concession on that, somehow that gives credence to collusion. But there's not. These are two separate issues. He's got to realize that. And also definitely wrong to in any way be suggesting any moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. To me it's -- it's a terrible mistake and he's got to correct it.


[13:05:12] RAJU: And King also stood by that House Intelligence Committee finding. He sits on that committee. He said he absolutely stands by the finding, questioning whether or not Putin wanted Trump to win, despite Putin's own words yesterday. He said he doesn't believe anything Putin has to say.

But, Jim, also today, we're hearing from a lot of calls, particularly from Democrats, for these national security officials in the Trump administration to testify publicly and explain exactly what was agreed to behind closed doors. Some Republicans, like Bob Corker of Tennessee, do want to bring in people like Mike Pompeo. So we'll see if that plays out in the coming days here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Let's get more insight now from our panel. We have Jeff Mason, he's White House correspondent for "Reuters." He was out there with the president. CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier, senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, you have I have sat next to each other here at this table countless times after shocking moments. I think it is very fair to say that this moment was different in that the president has taken shots at a whole host of American institutions before. But to stand next to the man who orchestrated this attack on the election say the same thing and in fact agree with him, that is substantively different. The question is, will the reaction be different?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it remains to be seen. I mean we've heard the words. We've heard the Democrats call for stronger sanctions, for testimony from the national security officials. I think they want some kind of transcripts or notes from the translator. They would like to see what was there.

You do have Marco Rubio and Dick Durbin calling for more sanctions. Democrats saying, we've got to protect Mueller. We've got to do that. We've got to figure out ways to do that.

But the Democrats are hamstrung. They don't control the Congress. And Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, while coming out and saying, yes, you know, the Russians are not our friend --

SCIUTTO: Through a spokesman.


BORGER: He had -- yes, he hasn't -- he hasn't come out and said this is what -- this is what we need to do.


BORGER: Republicans are mortified and they're embarrassed and they want to find a way to limit the president's running room, but they haven't had the guts to go out there yet and say we are going to do this and we're going to tie the president's hands through legislation. They haven't done it.

HENDERSON: Yes, and it's clear why they haven't done it. It's because the president enjoys 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. That was the last Gallup Poll.

He is essentially the most popular Republican president that we've seen in many years. And so it's difficult for Republicans to move against him, to damage him because they need him. They need his voters. And that's not changing.

SCIUTTO: Let me -- let me ask a question on that, because some of that phenomenon is the echo chambers that both parties, you know, a punitive Democratic president under fire might have a significant support of the Democratic Party. But when you have those voters in an election year hear from unusual sources, criticism, whether it be some sitting Republicans, and, frankly, not that many, but some, but Fox News anchors, and I'm not talking about Sean Hannity, but you did hear from a -- you know, a Neil Cavuto. You hear from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board, et cetera. Does that seep into the base in my measurable way?

HENDERSON: We will see, right?


HENDERSON: And even a better question is, does that seep into Donald Trump's speech? We'll hear from him later today, because he's an avid viewer of Fox. It must have been quite surprising and mortifying for him to see what some people call state TV, for them to be quite critical of the president, some more critical than others. Sean Hannity, of course, was not critical at all.

BORGER: Who never apologize for it. HENDERSON: Who never -- yes. So we'll see what he says today.

SCIUTTO: Jeff, if I just can, you just returned from Helsinki. You were there. You speak to a lot of folks in the White House on the president's team. Do they feel that this was a particular mistake, that it's something that the president has to correct? And I suppose the next question is, if they do, does that matter? Would the president listen to that kind of criticism?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, two things. One, we flew -- I flew back on Air Force One last night because I was in the pool and we did not see really any White House advisers. A couple came back briefly to the press cabin but didn't have much to say. And I think that was a sign that they were already sort of getting into bunker mode and fixing -- how do we fix this mentality? Then they've scheduled this -- these remarks this afternoon at 2:00. So we'll see if the president decides to roll back anything that he said or double down or if he'll take the model that he used after Charlottesville, where he sort of tries to roll it back and then gets irritated about that and goes back to where he was in the first place.

But in general, I mean, I -- they -- you know, they all watch TV. He certainly watches TV. He is stung or will be stung by some of this criticism. And that's going to affect them in the West Wing.

SCIUTTO: Kimberly Dozier, President Obama, he was speaking yesterday in South Africa about -- actually today, I should say, local time, about the rise of strongman politics. President Obama has been somewhat measured in when he's spoken out publically, critically, against this president. But let's have a listen to his words.

[13:10:16] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Given the strange and uncertain times that we are in, and they are strange, and they are uncertain, with each day's news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, we now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business.


SCIUTTO: Kimberly, is that something you're hearing from foreign diplomats, leaders, et cetera that you've been speaking to?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Very much so. A combination of the stages of grief, you know, anger to denial. Some of them have said to me, now it's all down the Mueller investigation. We don't trust this president. Others are more in the middle of the road. You know, his national security team keeps telling us, trust us. And then still others saying, hey, we woke up this morning, everything was the same in terms of intelligence sharing and national security cooperation. This is going to be another blip that just shows you how Donald Trump personally feels towards Vladimir Putin. His team will take control of this.

SCIUTTO: But the difference on that point, though, is that -- is that it's not just talk, though, because the president has made substantive decisions, policy changes, while ignoring or overruling the intelligence community, right? For instance, on the Iran nuclear deal, they told him, this is working, it's keeping them under wraps.

BORGER: Right.

SCIUTTO: Mattis, et cetera. He killed the deal. On North Korea, said the military exercises are necessary, important. He pulled that rug out from under our South Korean allies without even telling them. The thing is, Gloria Border, it's not just talk. You know, regardless of what assurances our allies are getting from the Mattis' of the world, the president is shifting -- he's driving the ship, the state, in a different direction.

BORGER: In a totally different direction. For the first time, and after your great question yesterday, which I was to commend you on, for the first time yesterday, Republicans and Democrats started asking the second question, which is, OK, we know the president can't get past his nose on the so-called collusion and the Russia investigation. The second question that was openly asked yesterday was, what does Putin have on Donald Trump? Period. And he -- and that now is the difference coming -- coming back from Helsinki.

SCIUTTO: Have Republicans said that? Have Republicans raised that? I've heard that from a lot of Democrats.

BORGER: Well, you hear it. I mean John McCain almost went there, but he didn't quite. But I do believe that these -- that question now is being asked privately, and I believe the Democrats -- Chuck Schumer said it publicly yesterday. And they're going to push that narrative, I think, because it is a question people now want the answer to. I just think something changed.

HENDERSON: Yes, it was the juxtaposition, right, of him being there with Putin and seeming to surrender to Putin essentially and completely co-sign everything that was --

SCIUTTO: We -- that word in "The Wall Street Journal" editorial struck me, because you also heard that from some Fox News commentators. And I only bring that up because we know the president watches Fox News and appears to listen to what they say. Weakness is not a word that this president likes to hear in the same sentence with his own name.

DOZIER: So I think what we're going to hear from the president this afternoon, as part of his pushback, is something I heard from a former administration official who was in the room for early talks on Russia. A view being put to Trump is that Russia is a power broker who has, despite its size, behaved defectively in a number of situation where we need their cooperation. Russia is cozying up to China. We need to edge China out and make sure it's us and Russia against China. So this is a sort of Nixon in reverse strategy.

I don't know, Jeff, if you've heard anything similar.

MASON: I haven't heard anything similar to that. But I -- what I -- a point I would like to make, and it ties in with what you're saying, it's just it reveals what he said yesterday, reveals again the divide between him and his own advisers.


MASON: In the run-up to this trip you had Ambassador Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the ambassador to NATO, talking about Russia's maligned activities and saying that that's what the focus of both the NATO meeting, as well as the Russia summit, would be. And they were saying even, you know, the advisers were saying the night before, we've had tough meetings with Russia going into this. It's been very difficult. It's going to be tricky tomorrow. He didn't do it.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean it's --

MASON: And this is not -- and this is not what he did (ph).

[13:15:04] SCIUTTO: And it's an important counterpoint because the president will say, as many of his supporters, it's just -- it's just the left and the media who disagrees with me. When, in fact, it's people he's chosen for these jobs himself and has appointed to them.

MASON: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Dan Coats but even folks in the White House as well. We're going to have to leave it there, but thanks very much, as always.

There are countless Republicans now who told us that they were troubled, even disgusted by the president's remarks in Helsinki. Up next, we'll get the thoughts of a retiring Republican congressman. He is Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

And in just under an hour, a reminder, the president himself will speak about his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Will he take back anything he said, or will he double down? We're going to, of course, take those comments to you live. Stay with us. We'll be right back after this break.


[13:20:10] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. I'm Jim Sciutto.

We are continuing our coverage of the fallout from President Trump's comments yesterday at the Helsinki summit alongside the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And I want to get right back to Capitol Hill. Joining me now is Congressman Ryan Costello. He's a Republican from the great state of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. So our viewers know, we reached out to dozens of Republican lawmakers today to speak, to react to the president's comments. And I want to thank you for being the only one who said yes.

So if I could ask you first, what is your reaction to President Trump's comments alongside the Russian president yesterday? REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I was embarrassed. I think

that I was outraged because I think that in all my years of having a tremendous respect for the institution of the presidency and its role around our globe, I'd never seen a more pathetic and weak display of American leadership as a president. And it's not explainable. It's not defensible. And it's something that we should view, I think, with outrage and ask serious questions as to why our president would somehow cast doubt or create some equivalency between Vladimir Putin's denial and the very substantive, investigative powers of our law enforcement and intelligence communities, which made a determination and issued an indictment that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election.

SCIUTTO: Why do you believe the president was willing to do that, to give that false equivalency?

COSTELLO: I think the question over why the president treats Russia the way that he does is something that is -- curious is too innocent of a word in the sense that it just doesn't make sense. I don't know why.

I was listening to your panel a moment ago. Does Putin have something on the president? I don't know. What did they talk about for two hours? I don't know. But all these things come to life, and more substance gets put behind them when he acts this way.

But even more to the point, I do hope Senator Corker does bring forth administration officials next week to ask about if any deal was made with Putin. I do think that we should protect the Mueller investigation.

But I would also highlight that in our Congress, we have put more sanctions on Russia in the past few years than the previous several administrations. We have provided vital weaponry to the Ukraine in the past year. So Congress is doing some good things to provide a check and balance on Russian aggression. But when the president does this, he undermines our ability to even say that to the American public because they're too worried about what the president may or may not be doing in a two-hour meeting where no one is allowed in the meeting with him.

SCIUTTO: It's a fair question. Now, you're aware that the president, this morning, continued to falsely claim that all the criticism is coming from, as he often says, the fake news media. But I just want to remind our viewers that some of the people, including yourself, who have broken ranks with this president, Republican president, a president from their own party, and rebuked his comments. This, of course, includes the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, though through a spokesman. The two previous Republican nominees for president in very strong terms, a senior GOP member of the Senate, chief of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, et cetera. You see that list there.

I just wonder this -- and excuse my skepticism, Congressman Costello, because -- because we, as a country, have been in moments like this before where the president has done and said things that shocked both parties, lawmakers of both parties, and yet attempts to either corral him, check him in somehow -- check him somehow have fallen away. And I know that Congress has passed sanctions. But, for instance, the president dragged his feet on implementing some of those sanctions.

COSTELLO: Yes, but then we -- we pushed him on that. And I would say this. What's different about this is, this is about American sovereignty. This is about the fact that we are a democracy that relies on free and fair elections. That underpins our entire system of government. And then we elect officials to protect our civil liberties in accordance with the Constitution. And when you go and you speak with a foreign leader who sought to undermine our free and fair elections and don't -- and instead take an opportunity to say that you kind of believe him or that he was strong in his denial, that itself undermines the integrity of our democracy and the protection of our free and fair elections, which is more sacred than being a Republican or a Democrat.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Costello, I want to thank you for taking the hard questions and for speaking honestly.

[13:25:03] COSTELLO: I appreciate you having me on, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Best of luck to you.

Coming up next, her name is Maria Butina. She's a Russian national now charged by the Justice Department with being a foreign agent who conspired against the United States. So what do we really know about her, her role in Russia's election interference, and how she operated? That's coming up.


[13:30:06] SCIUTTO: We're learning alarming new details from the Justice Department on the extent of Russia's interference in U.S. politics.