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The E.U. and Japan Strike a Deal Promoting Free Trade; Barack Obama's Biggest Speech Since Leaving Office; Trump Tries To Clarify Summit Remarks After Backlash; U.S. Indicts Suspected Russian Agent; Former President Warns Against Strongman Politics. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired July 18, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles. The head this hour, Donald Trump tried to clean up the mess he made during his summit with President Putin, but did he? Plus, it's being called a message against protectionism. While some major economies threaten trade wars, the E.U. and Japan strike a deal promoting free trade and Barack Obama's biggest speech since leaving office, his message about political strongmen and their trouble with the truth.
Thank you for joining us, I'm Sara Sidner, this is Newsroom L.A. Donald Trump is in full on damage control mode after widespread criticism of his remarks at the summit with President Vladimir Putin. He tried to set the record straight about Russian interference in the U.S. election Tuesday, but he may have only made things worse. CNN's Boris Sanchez reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Facing fierce backlash after his stunning press conference with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the President met with lawmakers at the Whitehouse this afternoon, reading from extensive prepared remarks.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wanted to clear up, I have the strongest respect for our intelligence agencies headed by my people.
SANCHEZ: Despite months of calling the investigations that led to evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election witch hunts. Trump says he fully supports his intelligence agencies despite appearing to side with Putin in Helsinki.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this; I don't see any reason why it would be.
SANCHEZ: The President today, attempting to clarify that remark.
TRUMP: And I thought I would be, maybe, a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video. My statement (ph) should've been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia, sort of a double negative.
SANCHEZ: Sources close to the White House tell CNN the President was upbeat as he walked off the stage Monday. But after watching press coverage aboard Air Force One, sources say Trump became furious, fuming to aids about receiving scant support from Republicans over his performance, one rare voice defending the President, Senator Rand Paul on CNN.
RAND PAUL, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: Absolutely, I'm with the President on this. The intelligence community was full of bias people, including Peter Strzok, McCabe, and dozens of others. I don't think anybody doubts that the Russians got involved with leaking email and hacking into email, but there is a question of whether or not the election was legitimate. And all of this is a sideways way for those on the left to try to delegitimize Trump and to say he didn't really win the election.
SANCHEZ: The President responded on Twitter thanking the Kentucky senator. And we are learning that these remarks from President Trump were orchestrated. Several top national security officials met early in the day on Tuesday and decided that it would be best for President Trump to try to clarify the remarks he made Monday in Helsinki.
Sources indicate that those officials then crafted some of the President's response. Still, what stands out most is the idea that the President is suggesting that all of this controversy is not merited. It is all caused by him, simply, misspeaking. Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SIDNER: All right. So, this couple (ph) that's joins me now, Michael Genovese is President of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and David Siders is a Senior Reporter for Politico.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here, lots to get to because of what has transpired over the past, really, 72 hours, but 48 hours for sure. Let me start with you, Michael. Did the President manage any damage control in this short press conference, if you will?
MICHAEL GENOVESE, PRESIDENT OF THE GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE, LMU: Well, I'm not sure if the acts of contrition made it better or worse for him. He read his remarks with so little enthusiasm, kind of like when you were a kid and your mom made you apologize to your brother or sister for what you had done.
He stepped in it. He tried to step out of it. Was his excuse plausible? The original wording fit with all the other things he said.
SIDNER: Right. GENOVESE: Today's corrective did not fit with that. So - and he was saying, well, I know it was a double negative. Well, that's the way people are describing his presidency at this point, a double negative. He keeps stepping in it. And now Republicans, finally, some at least, are beginning to distance themselves from him.
SIDNER: They outwardly - some of the leadership outwardly criticized what he said and when he said it, particularly, right in front of Putin.
GENOVESE: Well, you know, we're being shaved by a drunken barber and he keeps on saying that, oh, it's just a witch hunt - it's a witch hunt. Well, we now know there are some real witches there. And so, the President didn't do a lot to help himself.
SIDNER: Right. David, when you look at what was said. After saying he believed that there was, you know, some thing that happened with the U.S. intelligence agency that Russia did meddle in the U.S. election. But then he used these words, and it - but it could have been other people.
I mean, he, himself, is having this conference to, sort of, fix things and say he misspoke. But then, he always adds a little something extra. It could have been other people out there. What does that tell you? Were those comments really a walk back at all?
DAVID SIDERS, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I - I think there's some magic here to the redirect he uses and that is that the entire Russia conversation, the controversy, not just what happened in Helsinki, but what's been happening for months is a confusing situation and it's hard, I think, for people to understand.
And what the President knows is that with his base, with core Republican voters, it has not been problem. And I'm not sure that I - I see any evidence to believe that what happened in Helsinki or the walk back is any different than what's been happening for months, and that we won't be sitting here a week for now talking about a Supreme Court nominee with Russia well in the rearview mirror. So, yes, I do think muddling the information about it is advantageous if you're President Trump.
SIDNER: Purposeful to, sort of, muddy the waters a bit?
SIDERS: I have no idea, I don't sit there. But what I can say is that the record on President Trump and his comments about Russia have always been this back and forth, kind of a grudging acceptance of U.S. intelligence, but then, also, muddying the water. So, that, at least, is the record.
SIDNER: All right. Let's talk about what he tweeted not long after he made these comments. The President tweeted this - it basically, it appears that he is blaming the media again and that seems to be his strategy, but he says, the meeting between President Putin and myself was a great success except in the fake news media.
SIDERS: Well - well. SIDNER: What is he trying to do here?
SIDERS: This is so interesting because it's one of the few times where there is no filter. Everybody saw the President standing next to President Putin and they're making a judgment on their own, but what he doing here is, again, is that if there is a class of people who have a lower public approval rating than politicians, it's my profession.
SIDERS: It's reporters and journalists. And I think that that is something that not only President Trump does, although he does it, remarkably, effectively, but Republican politicians at large.
SIDNER: What do you make of some of the comments, the extra added bits that seem to always jump in. And I - I want to point something out. There are pictures that were taken. This has happened before with him.
SIDNER: Notes that he has been - that he has been given, written up. You see them there. And in these comments, there are some things that are struck through and then there are some things added in the margins.
You can clearly see lines that were crossed out, including an incomplete sentence that says - he is kind of mentioned what - what happened with the intelligence agencies. Anyone involved in that meddling to justice, in other words, bringing anyone involved in that meddling - the meddling of Russia in the U.S. election to justice.
That got taken out and then in the margins, there's a note written with a sharpie. You see it there. It's, you know, big and bold. It says make sure to say there's no collusion. And we've heard that from the President over and over and over again. Is this something, very much, like they used to do in radio where you keep mentioning something over and over again and you hope that it sticks?
GENOVESE: Well, that's the mantra and it's been effective because his base latches on to it and you hear all the Republicans, when you're talking about this, they say, oh, but there's no collusion and this - this is going to be ignored. Interfering in the election? Well, there was no collusion. Well, those are separate things.
GENOVESE: Both of could've - have could occurred, but I think in the case of the defense of the President that no collusion is a mantra that he keeps repeating over and over again. His base feeds on that and that's what they keep responding. And it's almost as if it's a mindless response because it's just blabber now.
SIDNER: At the point that he says no collusion, he clearly wants to make a distinction. Now, is that because, A, he is in sense (ph) about the fact that there were more Americans that did vote for the other candidate, but he did win the election and he's trying to make a division here that, look, Russia didn't help me. I won this on my own. Is that what you're getting from this or is there something else behind it?
SIDERS: Well, in this whole thing today, I think who he is speaking to is Republicans who have been gently critical of him since the Helsinki summit, but are not going further than that. They're not saying, we're going to hold up on the Kavanaugh nomination for example or something like that.
But he gives a Republican who's been critical of that performance with this apology and saying no collusion. He gives them something to fall back on to say, yes, the President made a mistake. He admitted it. The - you know, President Trump's supporters have not demanded perfection from this President...
SIDERS: ...in the past and he gives them that. While at the same time, I think, as you say, rallying the base.
SIDNER: OK. Let's talk about something else that happened today, as well. A U.S. grand jury indicted a Russian woman on two charges, conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent for Moscow.
Maria Butina is to appear before a Washington court in the coming hours. And we want to hear a little bit more now from Sara Murray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Maria Butina a charming Russian red head passionately touted her plate to expand Russian gun rights.
MARIA BUTINA, RUSSIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST: The old Russian (public communication), we promote gun rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: She has boasted (ph) and conferences and on social media, and even posed for a risque magazine spread. Today the Justice Department indicted the 29 year old on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. Her motives the government says we're advancing Russian interests by infiltrating U.S. political organizations and networking with other politically influential individuals.
U.S. officials say her efforts were years in the making. Butina used her Moscow gun group Right to Bear Arms to build inroads with leaders of an American gun rights group, which CNN has identified as the National Rifle Association. Smart and aggressive according to those who knew her, Butina landed invitations to exclusive events at NRA conventions and Prayer Breakfasts in D.C. At the 2015 NRA convention she got a chance to meet GOP Presidential candidate Scott Walker. Later that summer at a freedom fest event in Los Vegas Butina announced she was visiting from Russia. And asked then candidate Donald Trump a seemingly out of the blue question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTINA: If you would be elected as a president what will be your foreign politic especially in the relationships to with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both economy, or you have any other ideas?
DONALD TRUMP, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin. OK. And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: In 2016 she and her mentor Kremlin lynch banker (ph) Alexander Torshin worked behind the scenes to establish back channel communications between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They appeared to fall short. But she and Torshin did manage to briefly encounter Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner on the sidelines of the 2016 NRA convention in Kentucky. And Butina landed a prime spot at the 2017 National Prayer breakfast listening to the newly minted president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This gathering is a testament to the power of faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Butina's lawyer insists she's on a Russian agent, just a bright American university graduate who was looking at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations.
Now the National Rifle Association has not responded to requests for comments about its relationship with Maria Butina or Alexander Torshin. As for Butina her lawyer insists she was not a Russian agent. She will be appearing in court in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Sara Murray, CNN Washington.
SIDNER: All right we're going to go back to our panel, Michael Genovese and David Siders. Let's talk about Butina. She's the 13th Russian national that has been indicted in just this week alone. The president hasn't mentioned it. What's the strategy behind that?
GENOVESE: Well I mean we're overrun by Russians being indicted. So I think with this injustice that the Russians are being incredibly brazen. That they are probably going to be very active in the 2018 campaign. That there's no push back from the U.S. government publically, that the presidents giving them a free pass.
And so it's just become common now. We're just expecting the Russians to be active in our political process. And that in - to the extent -
SIDNER: That's very disturbing. Just that thought.
GENOVESE: Oh it's absolutely disturbing. And to the extent that they feel they have a free pass. The Russians will continue. There's nothing to stop them if we don't stop them.
SIDNER: Let me ask you about what has transpired over these past many months. President Trump has attacked repeatedly the FBI. He has not fighted with U.S. intelligence in front of Mr. Putin. Although he's now walking that back a bit.
What kind of assurances do our intelligence agencies in the United States have when dealing with the president? Is there going to become a time? Or is this the time when they stop giving him all the information. Can that even happen? He is the commander and chief.
[00:15:00] SIDERS: Yes. He is the commander and chief and I think they know who they report to. But your right to suspect that their uncomfortable about it there's this huge discomfort among people in the intelligence community. I think what so interesting is Michaels point about there being overrun by these indictments.
I mean there's something about -- and you asking about the strategy about the administration. Who said something about you know if you're a hunter and an animal keeps running and hopping over it's hard to land the shot. All these things, it's every other day right? It's another indictment. It's this it's that.
I'm not sure the indictment even hits the front page news in half the newspapers in the country tomorrow because there's so much going on. So I do think that that's to his advantage politically in this whole - this whole thing.
SIDNER: It's the whole thing of squirrel every five seconds there seems to be another flashy thing that people, and the media ourselves concentrate on. And it's hard to keep, it's truly hard to keep up. Right? Even with us who look at it and study it and read it and try to pay attention. It is hard to keep up.
Let's talk a little bit about the private conversation that Mr. Trump had with Mr. Putin. Is there any chance and anyway for either congress or the American public to finally find out what exactly was said. And how important it is for all of us to know what was said between the two of these - these two leaders when there is only themselves and a translator in the room.
GENOVESE: Well it's less important for us to know. It's more important for the people in government to know. And the only way they'll get that knowledge is if Donald Trump tells them. Now some people are saying well let's subpoena the translator. I think that would run into some executive -
SIDNER: Is that even possible?
GENOVESE: It would be executive privilege might weigh in on that. And so I think that's probably not at all likely. And so meeting one on one in essence means that Donald Trump is the only one who has the information. Do we trust what he has to say? Should we trust what he has to say?
And so it's important for policy makers to know. But we're never going to know.
SIDNER: All right I have to ask one more question, I apologize. What is this going to do? What has happened between President Trump and Mr. Putin on the world stage and over these many weeks really. What is this going to do to the U.S. standing in the rest of the world?
SIDERS: So interesting. Well you saw President Obama try to do today in South Africa casting this alternative vision to what President Trump is. And then certainly what he presented himself in Helsinki. I get the feeling that if you were in another country you see America rightfully so, as a place divided between competing visions for the country.
So that's what I think it does internationally. In America I think there's no evidence that Russia plays at all in the 2018 elections and not the economy, more of your bread and butter issues. But internationally I think that has some interesting implications.
SIDNER: Have a serious impact.
GENOVESE: But I think this is also this week the trifecta. The flop at NATO, terrible time in the U.K., and now the Putin it's just one thing after another. And so if people were on the fence with Trump this week might be his Katrina. This week might be where people say there's something really fundamentally wrong here.
SIDNER: To be fair that has been said many, many times in this administration and during this administration especially by his critics. And it hasn't so far happened. I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens. Michael, David thank you so much.
SIDERS: Thank you.
GENOVESE: Thank you.
SIDNER: Still to come outcry across India, a horrifying but tragically familiar attack, a new case that sheds light on sexual violence there. Plus Japan and the European Union join forces for free trade inking what the EU President calls the largest bilateral trade deal ever.
SIDNER: Free trade just got a huge boost from Japan and the European Union. The two signed a massive deal that cuts tariffs on, nearly, all goods. The open trade pact removed tariffs on European exports such as cheese and wine while Japanese automakers and electronics companies will face fewer barriers in the E.U. The agreement impacts 600 million people and covers almost a third of the global economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There are currently rising concerns about protectionism globally. Within this context, I believe it is extremely meaningful that Japan and the E.U. are sending a message to the world about the importance of free and fair trade.
JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN UNION: Today we've (INAUDIBLE). Together, we are making, by signing this agreement, a statement about the future of free and fair trade. We are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Let's go straight out to our Will Ripley in Hong Kong for more details. Will, E.U. President is claiming this is the largest bilateral trade deal ever. What exactly will this deal do and how will it infect or affect - infect, that's not a good word. Well, how will it affect consumers?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, when you just look at the numbers, Sara, it's significant. More than two dozen countries, 600 million people, a third of the global GDP. And what's essentially happening is they're eliminating, nearly, all tariffs when it comes to trade between the E.U. and Japan.
So, consumers in Japan, and I've lived there for a long time, you know, you go to the grocery store, things like wine and cheese are very expensive, pork, and other meat, you can see it's a quite a stormy day in the camera behind me. They're wiping off the lens there. And trade has been quite stormy as well.
The trade forecast for Japan and the E.U. with the United States is very gloomy right now just like the typhoon hitting Hong Kong because of the fact that President Trump has thrown tariffs on these countries. He's threatened to put up more trade barriers.
So, this really is an effort on the part of two key U.S. allies to try to look for other options here when it comes to trade and it's going to benefit consumers. It's going to benefit the companies that are going to be paying less, fewer tariffs. It's still difficult though, Sara, how this is going to fully ease the pain of some of the estimates just out in the recent days from the IMF saying that if Trump's trade war come to full fruition, it's going to cost the global economy some $420 billion by 2020 and slash global growth by a half of a percent.
This trade deal somewhat eases that pain, but still, obviously, the relationship with the United States is very important. And this is an effort to try to ease some of what could be significant economic losses for Japan and the E.U.
SIDNER: As I understand it, Will, the pact has been in the works for many years. The reason for inking the deal now, I mean, this is really - is this a message to the United States or is it really trying to keep themselves in - in good steed with one another knowing that the Unites States, right now, is - is in trade wars with - with places like China and others, Canada as well.
RIPLEY: Yes, right. And that's a really important clarification because these conversations between Japan and the E.U. started during the Obama administration, but they really speeded up the negotiations once President Trump took power and started to, kind of, dramatically change the United States' position from being a global leader in free trade to this increasingly protectionist kind of approach.
And the countries realizing, you know, Japan, for decades has focused its trade policy on America and Asia. And in the E.U., every few years, as well, has focused primarily on transatlantic trade, but now they're realizing these two key allies of the United States, both, economically and politically, and militarily. They need to look at other options and that's exactly what they're doing.
So, this is a message to President Trump of the passing of this so quickly, that free trade is alive and well even if the United States is no longer interested. And what you're seeing, according to a lot of analysts, Sara, is really a shift in the entire global economic power structure and it's shifting away, frankly, from the Unites States.
SIDNER: All right, our Will Ripley, live for us there in Hong Kong. I appreciate your time, Will. The boys from the Thai football team whose dramatic cave rescue captured the world's attention will finally be released from the hospital in just the coming hours. The boys and their families will then talk to the media for the very first time since their harrowing ordeal.
It has been more than a week since the boys and their coach were rescued from the cave complex in northern Thailand. The group found themselves stuck in the cave on June 23. They were stranded for nearly three weeks until a international team of rescuers pulled them out. And many people in the world watched that.
Now, we're learning of another alleged case of child rape in India. The details are extremely disturbing. Seventeen men face charges for raping an 11 year old girl in the city of Chennai. Investigators say the men worked in the building where she lived, this horrifying case followings a string of other cases that have rattled India in recent months.
Nikhil Kumar joins us now live from New Delhi. Let's start with this, Nikhil, what are investigators saying happened in this case?
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: So, the details, Sara, are truly horrific. As you said, 17 men are now under arrest. All of this unfolded in the state of Tamil Nadu in the south of India, in the city of Chennai there, the capital over there. And the allegation is that the attacks began around mid January.
This girl lived in this building, in a neighborhood in Chennai, with her family. She was attacked by men who worked in facilities and security, is the allegation, in that building. It only came to light earlier this month when she told her family and then they approached the police. And it all sort of hit the headlines over the last few days once the case was registered.
They're now all, as I said, in police custody. Because of a change in the law, Sara, a change in the law brought about by, in fact, protests about sexual violence, here, earlier in the year. Because of that, these men could now face the death penalty. This is back in April when thousands of Indians came out on the streets over here demanding that the government act.
And the response, the government introduced a death penalty for certain cases of assault involving children below the age of 12. This girl is 11. So, these 17 men could, potentially, face the death penalty under - under that legislation - the emergency legislation that was passed by the government here. So, it's a terrible case, but as you say, it's one in a string of cases.
Just a few days ago, we had a case of a 15 year old elsewhere in India - in eastern India who was attacked it's alleged by 19 people. Sixteen are contemporaries in her school plus three teachers. So, as you say, one of a string of cases which, once again, sends a spotlight on what is a very - very serious, very troubling issue and an issue that, unfortunately, no matter how much we talk about it, it doesn't seem to go away, Sara.
[00:25:00] SIDNER: I do want to ask you this. You mentioned that the laws have been changed because of some of these cases, because of the public outcry. But has the stigma surrounding rape changed? Whether it be in the public or from the point of view of police, or from the point of view of the government at large?
KUMAR: Well, Sara, you know, you've worked here. It's - it's - this is a country where it is - I mean, I would be wrong to say that the stigma has gone away. There are - it is still a complicated topic. There is still a stigma in parts of this country. What has changed and this is the change that really began post 2012 when you remember that young medical student was horrifically attacked in this very city where I am now.
After that case, the definition of what counts as rape was broadened and the conversation around this topic, it became a larger conversation. There were large protests. It was on top of the agenda politically, in the media, and so on.
In the aftermath of that, what we have seen and activists that you speak to here, loyal that you speak to here, they say this again and again. We've seen better reporting of these crimes. This is, of course, a crime that is underreported by - according to experts around the world.
In India, the reporting has improved. The problem, of course, is that enforcement and this is something they pinpoint again and again. Enforcement has not been good enough. And so, in the case that were talking about, for example, in this state of Tamil Nadu. We reached to the Chief Minister there because law and order is, of course, a state issue in this country. We're waiting to hear back.
But it - it's something that is asked again and again. What about enforcement? You can have all of the laws in the world. And I want to bring one more case that will really highlight this. You know, a few months ago there was a case of a 16 year old attacked in Northern India by a sitting lawmaker of the ruling party. Once again, turned the light on the issue of enforcement, the allegation there is that he was able to manipulate the institutions of the state so the police wouldn't prosecute because he was an influential lawmaker.
So, this issue of enforcement keeps coming up. Even if reporting has become better, even if new laws are passed, what you really need is better enforcement on the ground. The state, standing behind victims of sexual violence to make sure that this doesn't happen and that when it does happen that the perpetrators are brought to justice as fast, as swiftly, and as efficiently as possible, Sara.
SIDNER: Thank you so much, again, Nikhil Kumar, with a devastating story out of India. Now, just ahead, Donald Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin is raising new concerns in the U.S. intelligence community. Why some are wondering if the President can be trusted with the nation's secrets.
[00:32:29] SIDNER: Thank you for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Sara Sidner. The headlines for you at this hour:
Donald Trump now says he misspoke during his news conference with Vladimir Putin when he said he didn't see any reason why Russia would interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Today, Donald Trump attempted to reverse course saying he did agree with the U.S. intelligence on the matter and meant to say he didn't see any reason why Russia wouldn't be behind the election interference. But, he then added it could be other people. The president has come under fierce criticism for appearing to side with Russia over the U.S. intelligence community.
U.S. prosecutors have indicted a Russian national on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. They say Maria Butina used her ties to a major U.S. gun rights organization to woo influential conservative U.S. politicians in order to make them more-friendly to Moscow. Butina is due to make her second court appearance Wednesday in Washington. She is the 13th Russian national to be indicted by authorities here in the United States this week.
Japan and the European Union have signed a massive open trade deal that will cut tariffs on nearly all goods. The E.U. president calls it the largest bilateral trade deal ever. It covers 600 million people and almost a third of the world's economy.
Now, despite President Trump's efforts at damage control, questions remain about how much he told Vladimir Putin during their private meeting in Helsinki. It's creating a dilemma for those who brief the president on the nation's most sensitive and closely held secrets. Joining me now, our CNN Contributor Norm Eisen, he's a former Ethics Czar in the Obama White House and now a fellow at the Brookings Institute. Thank you so much for being here today. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to U.S. intelligence and the president. For many weeks now, here in America, we've been listening to the president bash the FBI and really seem to be more aggressive towards the intelligence agencies than he is with Russia. Then he did this on the world stage in front of Mr. Putin. What does that say to the U.S. Intelligence agencies and those who work to try and guard America's secrets?
NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER ETHICS CZAR IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Sara, thanks for having me. And it sends a devastating message to our U.S. intelligence community. They don't know what he went in and said in his lengthy session alone with Vladimir Putin, just with their two translators. Judging from what he said in public, which was so shocking and disturbing, denigrating our intelligence agencies, even at one point going so far as to trust Putin's word over those of our own intelligence professionals who, after all, put their lives on the line for us often. You can only imagine what they may be thinking, and of course, there are reports that some in his own administration have even encouraged the extraordinary Republican criticism that we've seen. And I'll say one more thing, his constant refrain of witch hunt, his attacks on our law enforcement community -- you know, the FBI is also considered to be a part of the intelligence community.
EISEN: So, this is not a new phenomenon, and on top of attacking NATO, his criticism of Germany, his criticism of the U.K. prime minister, everybody's asking, can we trust the American president?
SIDNER: So, here's the question: Can -- he is the commander in chief of America, does the intelligence community even have the right to withhold information?
EISEN: Well, if he asks a direct question of them, they're required to answer that question. But there is a certain amount. Of course, I worked in the Obama White House. I, myself, held a security clearance, our top security clearance as a U.S. ambassador. And I knew President Obama's briefers. So, I've seen this phenomenon up close. The whole point of this briefing is to select, in the judgment of the briefers, what is the most important information. And I think what you may see is unless he asks the question point-blank, Sara, that his briefers may choose to shield sensitive information. Remember, he had a meeting in the oval office right after he fired Comey, in which he was reported to have shared some of our most sensitive national security information that we received from our ally, Israel, with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the United States. That was a scandal. So, I think confidence in the president is at a low right now.
[00:37:33] SIDNER: When it comes to that private meeting that we all know happened, he and Mr. Putin are in a room with a translator. There's no one else ostensibly in that room. Is there any way for Congress, for example, to at least know exactly what was said, get a transcript? Is there any way for them to force that? EISEN: Well, the Congress can force it. Putin was there with his
translator. The president was there with his translator. They can ask the translator, and there will be a very interesting privilege debate. I believe that because there was a foreign national president, Mr. Putin and his translator, that privilege will be deemed waived. So, I don't think even though there'll be a fight about it, I don't think the president can say, no, you can't interview my translator. There are others who have readouts, who have information about what happened. The Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo; the National Security Adviser, Mr. Bolton, they can be -- the secretary of state, a little more customarily. But both of them can be summoned as well as other White House staff. The president may have notes, and the Senate or the House could subpoena those notes. So, there are a variety of ways if the majority -- this is the big if -- if the majority is willing to put some teeth in. They barked, but are they willing to bite? That's what we're going to wait and see in the days ahead.
SIDNER: It could take members of his own party and his own leadership, the GOP, to come forward and enforce this issue. They're in control right now, correct?
EISEN: Yes, they are.
EISEN: And they haven't been willing to take him on, but on the other hand, we've never seen at any point in his presidency a chorus of denunciation like we have seen from his own party since the Helsinki summit. So, maybe they will consider some concrete measures.
SIDNER: I think it's remarkable that you say that it is possible that the intelligence community could withhold some things if they're not asked direct questions, and that that is a real possibility. Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your insight every time you come on.
EISEN: Thanks, Sara.
SIDNER: So, next on NEWSROOM L.A., a former U.S. president shows serious shade at the current oval office holder.
SIDNER: The former president of the United States had something to say about the current commander in chief. Barack Obama, who has made very few public appearances, even fewer remarks about Donald Trump, sounded off in Johannesburg, Tuesday, on world affairs and took a veiled swipe at his predecessor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they're caught in a lie, and they just double down and they lie some more. Look, let me say, politicians have always lied. But it used to be if you caught them lying, they'd be like, oh, man. Now, they just keep on lying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Mr. Obama warned against the rise of strongman politics just a day after President Trump was widely criticized for supporting Russia's Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence services.
[00:42:34] Now to a lighter note. Again, former President Obama caught on camera here dancing at the opening of a youth center in Kenya. It was a short dance, but people seemed to love it there. The audience appreciating it there, but he did take a seat just after a few seconds.
Wanted to leave you with a smile. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Sara Sidner. "WORLD SPORT" starts right after the break.