Return to Transcripts main page


Facing Bipartisan Backlash, Trump Says He Misspoke With Putin; Thai Soccer Team Rescued From Cave Speaks Out; Russia Claims Trump And Putin Reached Military Deal. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 18, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:11] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he misspoke when he sided with Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies. He says he should have used a double negative.

Do Republicans accept this explanation?

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania. Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: Do you buy the president's explanation for what happened in Helsinki?

COSTELLO: I don't, but I think at this point it doesn't matter whether people buy it or not. I don't think that the international community is going to buy it. And I think the damage was done at the time that he said it and the 24 ensuing hours after that fact.

CAMEROTA: And so, what does that mean? Where does that leave us?

If the damage has been done, now that he has revealed, frankly, that he believes the U.S. is just as to blame as Russia, that he believes the U.S. is foolish -- he didn't say that about Russia. Now that on the world stage the president reveals his thinking, now what?

COSTELLO: Well, let me add to that predicate.

Last night, he questioned the purpose for NATO. I mean, since 1949 when NATO was implemented, there's been no major European war. I mean, that right there is the significance and the importance of NATO.

And to then go on and speak about Montenegro like maybe perhaps it should defend itself. I mean, Montenegro was subject to a coup d'etat by Serbian nationalists and Russian agents two years ago.

So I don't know what was discussed over the two hours that Vladimir Putin met with President Trump. We do know that the Russian government or at least state television is indicating that there was some sort of deals made between President Trump and President Putin. We're in a situation now where the ability -- and this is to directly answer your question -- the ability of Russia to facilitate propaganda based on that press conference and what was or wasn't said in the 2- hour meeting where no one has any idea what was said, that's the fallout, and that's the danger, and that's the debacle of what happened two days ago.

CAMEROTA: You've spelled it out very compellingly, Congressman. What can Congress do?

COSTELLO: Well, Congress can do a couple of things but we are limited by virtue of the fact that he is the president. He is the commander in chief and he's allowed to say whatever he wants. I mean, some people don't like to hear that or want to accept that but that is a fact.

Two things, though.

Number one, we should ask administration officials to testify before Congress as to what deals or what was said at that meeting between our president and the president of Russia --

CAMEROTA: And who would know that? Who do you want to come before Congress? Who might have that information?

I mean, the interpreter was in the room or beyond that?

COSTELLO: I think that President Trump will have had to have disclosed to the secretary of state or some members of his cabinet -- his national security adviser -- as to what was spoken about, what was agreed to.

I'd be very curious if the issue of Montenegro was raised between Vladimir Putin and President Trump just because it sort of came out of nowhere in the discussion with Tucker Carlson last night.

[07:35:08] The other thing that we do need to do and that may happen in the Senate -- number one, a new round of sanctions if Russia interferes in our 2018 midterms. We know that Russia --

CAMEROTA: But why do we have to wait? I mean, why not be proactive? Why do we have to wait for them to interfere?

COSTELLO: Well, we did, though. We did implement new sanctions over this past year -- very far-reaching sanctions. We have also provided a military arsenal to Yugoslavia -- I almost forgot there.

We've been very robust but when the president goes and says and does more of this stuff, I think that there is reasonably an expectation by the American public that Congress step forward and say what we're not going to accept.

Additionally though, on the issue of tariffs, under 232 of the World Trade Organization provisions we are not allowed to use a national security claim for basic economic sanctions or tariffs. That's what we're doing right now. That should not be accepted so the Senate may take that up.

Really, we're probably going to have to see what the Senate does and then try and push something in the House.

But these comments that come out of the president's mouth are not helpful to NATO, they're not helpful to international stability, and that's a very big concern.

And then finally, we don't know what was said by our own president in a 2-hour meeting but we know what that following press conference was. And the fact that nothing was said for 24 hours, it's deeply damaging.

I mean, we should -- let's -- we shouldn't sugarcoat that and we shouldn't accept that somehow a double negative or a should instead of a shouldn't or a shouldn't instead of a should is somehow going to just make all this go away and everything's good again because that's not the case.

CAMEROTA: What about cyber defense? Do you think that Congress should appropriate more money now before the midterms to guarding the cyber defense?

COSTELLO: Well, we do have a National Defense Authorization bill where I think that that is the case.

We're going to take the advices of our military leaders on what we do need to do in the cyber arena and the Intelligence Community. We will do that. We are in the middle of the appropriations process.

We continue to invest more in our cybersecurity. We actually probably have a stronger cybersecurity network than people realize.

But the cyberattacks on our country during the presidential race were against political parties and state election systems, not necessarily against our Intelligence Community. So that's where we need to sort of step up and make sure that those organizations do have appropriate defenses in place so that foreign state actors are not able to influence our elections the way that they did.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, on a personal note, after what the president said in Helsinki you were quite vocal and you were forceful in speaking out.

You said that -- you called it embarrassing. You said it undermines our moral authority -- what he said in that press conference. You said it was a gut punch to our sovereignty.

You said in your lifetime you haven't seen anything so weak and so pathetic as that press conference.

And I'm wondering --

COSTELLO: From an American president, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK, from an American president.


CAMEROTA: And I'm just wondering, as a Republican, do you worry that there will be repercussions for you speaking out against President Trump?

COSTELLO: I don't really care about that. I mean, I was elected to speak my mind -- to vote and to speak my mind, and there are times -- listen, I support the president's policies in a number of different areas and so, I am a Republican.

I believe in smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense. I mean, so I don't hide from that.

At the same point in time, some of these issues -- and when any president says things that really have nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat but rather, have to do with American institutions and who we are as a country, and what our founding fathers envisioned, and why we are a model for democracies and countries who want to get beyond dictatorship and into a democracy.

When we undermine what we've set up in order to allow countries to do that you need members from both parties speaking out against that and speaking for what our shared values as Americans are.

So that's why I'm doing it. It's not because I like or dislike the president.

It's because I think as someone who is elected to the United States Congress, that's what I feel that I should do. That's why I'm here for another couple of months to do that.

CAMEROTA: Are you surprised that more of your Republican colleagues don't do that?

COSTELLO: I think that actually, in the past two days, many have. I do think that with the president kind of walking back about what he said yesterday that many members will say well, he walked it back and they will deal with this probably a little bit differently.

But there is, to be clear, bipartisan objections, concerns. I'll stop short -- frustrations, for sure, and even some outrage over the president's conduct at that press conference with Vladimir Putin.

[07:40:10] And now what we're seeing in the aftermath of that is exactly what most members here feared would have happened prior to the president going and meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Let's not forget, this was what President Trump wanted to do. And so, if he wanted to have this press conference, if he wanted to go meet with Vladimir Putin and do it and meet with him off the record with no one else around --


COSTELLO: -- many of us would have said who knows what Russia's going to take from that? Who knows what they're going to broadcast -- CAMEROTA: Yes.

COSTELLO: -- agreements that they came to.

And it's exactly what happened and that is what's so frustrating and so predictable.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Ryan Costello, we appreciate you being on NEW DAY. Thanks for your time.

COSTELLO: Thank you.


I want to show you something now guaranteed to make you smile. Check out this picture.

CAMEROTA: I'm smiling.

BERMAN: This is the most important popular best soccer team on earth, the Wild Boars. They're giving this news conference live right now. They've been released from the hospital, the 12 boys and their coach rescued from that cave.

CAMEROTA: Look at how good they look.

BERMAN: Look at them. We'll have much more live from the scene, next.


BERMAN: Look at that. That is the rescued Thai soccer team and their coach. They are now out of the hospital, speaking directly to the media for the first time.

[07:45:02] What was it like to be trapped in a cave underground for 18 days? They're getting so many questions, handling them so well.

Let's bring in Asian correspondent Jonathan Miller live in Thailand.

What are they saying, Jonathan?

JONATHAN MILLER, ASIA CORRESPONDENT, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: Well, yes, here you go. The Wild Boars alive and kicking and on stage and taking it in turns to recount this absolutely remarkable misadventure which could have gone so badly wrong but finally ended very happily indeed.

They have been talking about how in hospital they watched the World Cup Final and how they were all supporting different teams.

They've been talking about the food they want to eat. One them said apparently, that he really was looking forward to eating some snake sausage.

They've been talking about -- oh yes, one of them said I was really worried when we first got trapped because I thought my mom would get really, really mad at me. I think all is forgiven. The moms and dads are very, very pleased to have them out.

And the first to speak was this boy, Adun, who is actually ethnic Burmese tribal minority being schooled by a Christian church over here in Thailand. And he was the one because he spoke English who had the first encounter with the British divers when they went into the cave.

Here's what he said.


ADUN SAMON, RESCUED FROM CAVE: And we heard a human voice so we want to rush to see them so that we -- they can see us and give us help. When they got out from the water, I was a bit surprised so I just greet them. I thought this really miracle.


MILLER: Well, a miracle indeed. An absolutely magic moment.

And the boys, as I say, are taking in turns now to speak. We've also had the assistant coach who initially was blamed for negligence in taking the boys down there, but he turned out to be a bit of a hero because he sustained the boys in this long sultran (ph) in the cave.

Nine days they were down there in the dark completely alone before they were first met by those rescue divers, and some of them took as long as 18 days to get out.

Now, the doctors from the hospital have declared the boys physically fit and mentally fit, which is -- which is great.

But some child psychologists are slightly more wary of this because they look back at the example of the Chile miners, you remember, that was eight years ago when they were rescued from deep underground after 69 days, they were down there. But these were men who were used to being underground.

These boys had ventured into the odd cave every so often. So, you know, the Chilean miners, they are still suffering symptoms of post- traumatic stress years later. So I think to prejudge the mental fitness might be the one thing to do.

What they are doing is being very careful to ensure that there is no media intrusion. And the first thing the boys are going to do after seeing their families at home is go off together on a very well- deserved vacation.

CAMEROTA: Above-ground -- it is great.


CAMEROTA: Jonathan Miller, thank you so much for this very good news that so many people thought we'd never see this happy day. Thank you very much for bringing that to us.

Look, there's no way to know years from now what the ramifications of that odyssey will be for them. But today --

BERMAN: Today.

CAMEROTA: -- they look so healthy.

BERMAN: They look like teenage boys -- young teenage boys. It was wonderful.

And the reaction, like a young teenage boy, was when they got trapped in the cave, my mom's going to be so mad. She's not mad right now. I guarantee it.

CAMEROTA: No. As he just said, all is forgiven. So we'll follow their story obviously, wherever it leads.

BERMAN: All right.

We're following the news the morning which is President Trump -- you know, was it a walk-back, was it not a walk-back? I think the real answer there is no.

The question this morning, what will Congress do going forward? How will they get the truth from the administration?

We're joined by a key U.S. senator, next.


[07:53:04] BERMAN: The president says he misspoke when talking about Russian election interference -- the fact that Russia attacked the U.S. election in 2016. And, of course, he refused to defend U.S. intelligence while standing next to Vladimir Putin.

Not everyone expecting -- accepting the president's clarification this morning. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal called it backhanded and half-hearted.

Senator Richard Blumenthal joins us this morning. He sits on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committee.

You were not impressed, Senator.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE: I was underwhelmed, I think is the right way to put it. It was backhanded and half-hearted. Too little, too late.

Too far away from that tableau of the president betraying his oath of office, which is to defend our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

But even more alarmingly John, TASS, the official Russian news agency, yesterday issued a statement saying -- and I'm almost quoting directly -- the Russian Foreign Ministry is ready for the practical implementation of the agreements in the sphere of international security reached by the Russian and United States presidents. So we have a constitutional responsibility here to demand transparency about the private meeting to decide what the president said.

BERMAN: Do you have any idea? Do you have any idea what those agreements are?

BLUMENTHAL: We have no idea except that TASS -- again, the Russian news agency -- referred to the START treaty, cooperation in Syria, and other topics of military security.

The President of the United States is reaching agreements that pertain to treaties and military security in the Middle East, two topics of the utmost national interest and importance without even revealing to the American people or Congress what was said.

And we have a constitutional responsibility that overrides legally and politically any claims of executive privilege or translator exemption which seem frivolous by comparison to that constitutional responsibility.

[07:55:10] BERMAN: So what are you going to do about this?

You brought up the translator. Do you think Republicans will actually allow a subpoena to be issued to get the translator to testify before Congress to say what went on behind closed doors?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, that is a key question John and my answer is that Republicans have a historic responsibility as do all of us because the red light is flashing, as the director of National Security Dan Coats put it, much as it was before 9/11.

We are in a 9/11 national emergency because our country is under attack, literally. That attack is ongoing and pervasive, verified by objective and verifiable evidence. Those words are, again, from the director of National Security.

And this 9/11 moment demands that we do come together. Issue a subpoena not only for the translator and the notes but also for the national security team that debriefed the president about these supposed agreements in the sphere of international security.

Again, a direct quote from the Russian news agency that says it's ready to enliven contacts. That word is of uncertain meaning.

But we need to move forward in the Congress not only on this issue but also to impose sanctions -- make the Russians pay a price. And also, to expose Putin's ill-gotten gains. His assets hidden well around the world --

BERMAN: There is a --

BLUMENTHAL: -- to name and shame.

BERMAN: There is some concern about what might have been said behind closed doors between President Trump and Vladimir Putin now about Montenegro which is a NATO member.

There is concern because of what President Trump said in this interview which just aired overnight. I want to play part of that.


TUCKER CARLSON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOX NEWS: Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that?

TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question.

You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

CARLSON: Yes, I'm not against Montenegro or Albania.

TRUMP: Right.

And oh, by the way, they're very strong people. They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and congratulations, you're in World War III.

Now, I understand that but that's the way it was set up.

Don't forget, I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago --


TRUMP: -- but I took over the conversation three or four days ago and I said you have to pay.


BERMAN: So, collective defense. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty is foundation to the whole idea of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Do you feel that the president just undermined U.S. commitment?

BLUMENTHAL: He undermined the United States' commitment and our credibility around the world because the principle of NATO is when one is attacked, all are attacked.

That is also a lesson that we've learned from the history of appeasement prior to World War II when Neville Chamberlain brought back peace in our time, supposedly, by sacrificing a few powerless pieces of land in Europe. And obviously, it failed to satisfy a rapacious Hitler just as a few pieces of land in Europe now, like Crimea which we have sacrificed, is failing to satisfy a rapacious Putin.

So the principle here is more important than ever because not only is the United States under cyberattack literally every day but also, Europe is. And out intelligence agencies depend on that cooperation day in and day out. Donald Trump may have no use for United States intelligence and his betrayal of that trust is really egregious, but our intelligence agencies know the value of cooperation from the English, the Dutch and others because it was essential to the indictments that we saw on Friday.

BERMAN: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thanks so much for being with us. We do appreciate your time this morning.

We have a lot of news going on here so let's get right to it.


TRUMP: I said the word would instead of wouldn't. I think that probably clarifies things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's reading the statement like he's a hostage.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It's 24 hours too late and in the wrong place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us will misspeak. He's corrected it which is what matters.

REP WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I don't think he should be doing one-on-one meetings with heads of state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is not going to back down as quickly as, let's say, Obama did.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm just glad he clarified it. I can't read his intentions.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The Russians need to know that it really better not happen again in 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be a time in history where people ask where did you choose to stand.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, July 18th, 8:00 here in the east.

John Avlon with us at the desk this morning.

Facing backlash from both Democrats and Republicans after taking Vladimir Putin's side over U.S. intelligence, the president apparently decided he had to issue an explanation. And this, we guess, was the best he could do.