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White House: Discussions Underway for Putin to Come to DC This Fall; Intel Chief Surprised of Plans for Second Trump-Putin Summit. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

In a week of surprises, we begin with yet another surprise. President Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to Washington, three days into the cleanup after Helsinki for plans for a round two.

It wasn't just a surprise to the press. It was also a surprise to a guy whose job it is to never be surprised. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, he found out on a stage in Aspen while being interviewed by NBC.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.



MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear --

MITCHELL: Yes, yes.




COATS: That's going to be special.



COOPER: Director Coats was not told of the decision to invite Putin to Washington this fall nor does he by his own admission know what went on in Helsinki in that meeting one-on-one with President Trump and Vladimir Putin, nor, of course, do we. We'll talk about that tonight as well as new claims the president is

making about how tough he is on the Russians. And there's yet more breaking news, even as these summit plans were being rolling out and even as questions were being asked about whether this rewards Vladimir Putin for bad behavior, the Justice Department issued a dire warning about bad behavior by Russia and others, ongoing bad behavior, a threat unfolding as we speak.

Word of it came at the Aspen Security Forum, the same place where DNI Coats was surprised to learn of the Putin invite.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is there for us right now.

So, you were in the room when Coats found out about the Putin invite. Talk more about how this unfolded today.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, I'll tell you, it's remarkable there, because clearly, as he was told there by Andrea Mitchell, it was clear he did not know. That was the first he was hearing about it. He also laughed it off a little bit in a way that indicated this is not the first time he's been surprised, right?

Normally, you would expect the nation's senior most intelligence official to not be made aware of or more importantly be consulted on by the White House sitting down with the leader of a foreign, a hostile nation, as many revelations about Russia's interference in U.S. politics have shown this week. Normally, they'd be consulted as well. But he was not.

And I think the humor there is something of a protective mode that you'll see many U.S. officials in this administration wrap themselves in a bit because they've been here before. The nature of the way Donald Trump does business. But again, something he takes very seriously because in the rest of his commentary this afternoon, Anderson, I will say, he made it very clear that he views Russia as a very dangerous adversary and one that is continuing to attack U.S. democracy.

COOPER: How unusual is it that Coats acknowledged, A, that he acknowledged it, and, B, just the facts that he doesn't know what went on between President Putin and President Trump in that one-on-one meeting?

SCIUTTO: Well, I'll tell you, that was one of the more hard to pick the most remarkable moment but yet another one, because here again, senior intelligence official who you would expect to be consulted, debriefed by the president afterwards as to what Vladimir Putin told him, what they agreed to. But he said, point-blank, I don't know what happened in that meeting.

Listen to how he laid that out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way.

But that's not my role. That's not my job. So, it is what it is.


SCIUTTO: So, there you have it, again saying that he would have recommended to the president that he not meet one-on-one with no one else present, and yet in the same conversation, he learns that the president's going to do it again -- inviting Vladimir Putin here to this country to meet with him. We don't know yet if that will be, again, a one-on-one meeting with no one else present except translators.

But in the face of all this that we've learned about Russia's continuing interference, the president seeming to tune it out, and saying, he wants to meet with the leader of this hostile power once again and give him that invitation which is something of a win for Putin.

COOPER: And he said he would continue to stay on in the job?

SCIUTTO: He did. He was asked, as a lot of officials -- Chris Wray was asked this question. Secretary Nielsen was asked this question. Were there moments when the felt so upset by decisions by the president or not being consulted by the president that they would -- that they would resign?

[20:05:07] Dan Coats asked the same. His answer to that question was very interesting. He said something along the lines of, that's not something that I would share publicly, so he did not say, no, I never thought about it.

But he did say, listen, as long as I feel I can seek the truth and speak the truth, that he will stay in this job. And, clearly, we were hearing him in that meeting there being willing to speak the truth. He said he does so to the president and here he was doing it to the American public as well.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

More now on the genesis of summit 2.0. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House tonight with more on that.

So, this invitation by the president to Putin clearly a sign he is doubling down, not acknowledging any kind of a mistake at Helsinki. No surprise there.

Do we have any idea of what went into it, or when Putin would come? Are we talking about right before the midterm elections or after the midterm elections? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, all

great questions. We got the sense there this is happening very fast. I mean, it was more of a doubling down, no doubt about it. We've seen President Trump again and again, if he's been criticized for something, he leans into it and owns it.

So, it's more of a doubling down by saying that this meeting went fine and he wants another one, much more of that than a do-over. There's no sense that a do-over would be any different perhaps. I mean, he spent the last three days, you know, sort of cleaning up and clarifying statements he made, still not making clear and saying, look, I did not speak forcefully enough to Vladimir Putin.

But there was a sense today, I'm told the White House -- the president himself asked John Bolton, the security advisor, to issue that invitation to Vladimir Putin. So, that happened midday, obviously one person not told about that, one of many people not told about that was the intel chief, Dan Coats.

COOPER: So, the invitation just went out today or was this something that was discussed on that one-on-one meeting, do we know?

ZELENY: Well, that is a great question. We do not know what was discussed on the one-on-one meeting and that was perhaps the most revealing part about that Dan Coats interview of all, saying he still does not know. We've talked to other officials who do not know what President Trump and President Putin talked about for more than two hours there in Helsinki.

So, it was clear, you know, perhaps they discussed another meeting, that would be something that you would do after one meeting, saying, hey, I'll see you again. But it was clear that that was at least something that the president wanted John Bolton to invite him today.

Clearly, Anderson, talking to a variety of people, the president has gotten a lot of blowback. But they're doubling down on this and making clear that yes, he may have made a few small mistakes but he still wants to reset that relationship. But the timing of this, Anderson, so interesting.

COOPER: Well --

ZELENY: Inviting Vladimir Putin here in the fall, all the timing was the fall, before the midterms, after the mid-terms, we don't know, but, boy.

COOPER: And also the question is, does he have confidence in his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats? Dan Coats acknowledged President Trump didn't consult with him in advance about any questions Coats might have before he met with one-on-one with Vladimir Putin. You would think you would talk to as many intelligence people as possible, particularly people who are -- people you've appointed and who are running, you know, important positions.

And also, it was Dan Coats who the president referenced in that press conference with Vladimir Putin, where he said, you know, Coats came in, told me about the meddling, I can tell you Putin was very powerful, he denies it. You know, I don't see why they would have.

ZELENY: I mean, Dan Coats clearly said, look, I'm taking a stand. So, one thing I heard from a variety of people at that really extraordinary interview is he trying to get fired? Or does he not care if he gets fired? We don't know the answer to that and we also don't know what the president thought of the interview.

COOPER: Right.

ZELENY: But, you know, as we've also seen from the president, he reacts to news coverage of events. So, it was clear that -- I do expect some type of reaction from the president to this if he supports him or not. But the, you know, the sheer reality of this here is that Dan Coats clearly was doing something we have not heard from really any other top administration official that I can think of, with the exception maybe of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for speaking his mind. So, we'll see what comes of that.

COOPER: In front of an audience that's laughing and essentially laughing at the president. I mean, that's basically the butt of the joke was, like, oh, that's going to be special, that he didn't know about it. And -- anyway, we'll see.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

More now on many things, including the troubling notion that key members of the president's own national security team were kept in the dark about all of this, two men who know a lot.

Joining us is former CIA and NSA director, Michael Hayden, author of "The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies".

And with us by phone, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He's the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence."

General Hayden, does an invite to Putin to the White House make sense to you in the fall, whether it's before the midterms or after the midterms? I mean, you know, based on how the last meeting seemed to have gone?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: As a matter of policy, no. But, actually, there is a rationale there, Anderson. We have a phrase out of Langley, which is to live the cover story. And the cover story for the president was -- is that he was strong, that he was effective, that it was a successful meeting.

[20:10:07] He may be the only one in the national capitol area who is saying that. But that's his story and sticking to it. He's messaging that's his story by saying, I'm going to do it again.

COOPER: Living his cover -- I mean, fascinating.

Director Clapper, I mean, given the warnings from the Justice Department about ongoing attacks from Russia, what message does it send to Putin that the president is inviting him to the White House regardless of that?

LT. COL. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE (via telephone): Well, to me, it seems that this is something of a reward for bad behavior. I wasn't really wild about having the first summit just for that reason. I mean, what has Putin or Russia done lately that would merit a summit with the president of the United States?

And now, of course, typical pattern of our president is to double down on that. And so, I personally don't think it's a real good idea. But I agree with Mike about the rationale for it.

COOPER: And, General Clapper, when you hear the man who now has the job that you held, DNI, director of national intelligence, say that, you know, the president didn't consult with him in advance about the meeting with Putin and doesn't know what occurred in that meeting still, does that surprise you? I mean, just -- is that -- is it -- I would have thought, you know, the president would come out of that meeting with Putin and there'd be a quick debrief with his top intelligence officials or his top staff and that might get disseminated to DNI Coats if not directly.

CLAPPER: Yes, that's certainly the conventional manner in which these things are done where, first, the national security team would be a part of the decision-making process to have a summit and, you know, work out the details for the agenda and the objectives and rules and all that sort of thing. Well, as we have come to know, with this president, who's not conventional and very unorthodox -- so, no, it doesn't surprise me that everyone on his team is in the dark.

COOPER: General Hayden, I suppose, you know, in terms of the whole idea of living the cover, I mean, perhaps the president is putting it out there as a doubling down, kind of to show a brave face, perhaps they're not actually going to go through with having Vladimir Putin come, you know, whether it's before or after, I mean, sometime in the fall, the midterm elections, which according to the intelligence officials, you know, Russia is trying to be involved with.

HAYDEN: Yes. So, my instincts are, no, once it's out there and once the invitation is made, walking it back carries its own second and third order effects, even I might not want the United States or have the relationship suffer. So, I do think this is going to go on.

And, Anderson, can I add a thought to what Jim said earlier?

COOPER: Yes, of course.

HAYDEN: In addition to Director Coats not knowing what happened at meeting, there isn't a great deal of evidence that the American intelligence community and Director Coats was much involved in the preparation for the meeting. Let me tell you a question that the president really need to ask.

Dan, what is it your folks are saying that Putin is going to bring up to me in this meeting, and so that the president can be prepared for the things Putin is going to surface in addition to the things he might want to surface.

COOPER: So, what are the things Putin wants to get out of this meeting which is obviously the kind of thing you want to know before you go into a meeting?

HAYDEN: Right. Yes, so that you're not surprised. I mean, we're already living with first and second order effects of the swap of witnesses with regard to the Mueller investigation, and Ambassador Mike McFaul.

Perhaps the president wouldn't have said this is such a fascinating, interesting idea if he had expected the president of the Russian Federation to bring it up to him and already prepared for himself in his own mind how to push back against what is patently a very bad idea.

COOPER: Right, which now, Director Clapper, I mean, the White House has said, the president doesn't think it's a good idea despite what he said on the stage and we all heard, you know, for ourselves.

What do you think would be the reaction with the intelligence community, Director Clapper, about this new invitation and what does that the intelligence committee do in anticipation of it? I mean, what do you -- I mean, if the president is going to ask for -- I mean, I don't know if the president is going to ask the intelligence community to do anything in anticipation of it, but what would they do in a normal time?

CLAPPER: Well, exactly what Mike suggested, and had that happened with this first summit, President Trump might have reacted in a better way than he did to what he characterizes a wonderful suggestion to exchange witness, which is -- and particularly, make available a former ambassador, which is completely absurd.

[20:15:03] Had there been preparation for this, you know, that might not have happened.

So, hopefully, you know, hope springs eternal. There will be a lesson learned here and this time, there will be some preparation for what might be on Putin's agenda.

COOPER: Director Clapper, we have seen the president say over and over again that it could have been Russia who interfered in the election, but it could have been someone else, too, that there's a lot of people out there. You were one of the four people who actually briefed the president about this, telling him that it was Russia.

To the extent you can, can you tell us what he said and how he reacted when you told him?

CLAPPER: Well, I can't go into a lot of detail about that. And I might as sidebar mention "The New York Times" article today, which was not entirely accurate. I'm not going to go into details about what was and wasn't accurate, but that's kind of an example of that.

But I would cite are the two indictments issued by special counsel Mueller, the one in February involving the Internet Research Agency and particularly, the more recent one, indicting the 12 GRU officers. If you read those two together, particularly the last one, you get some insight into the level of detail we had and why we had such high confidence in our findings that we included in the intelligence community assessment we briefed then President-elect Trump on the 6th of January 2017.

You know, he took it pretty well. It was generally a professional exchange, although immediately, he wanted to write a press release saying that the Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election, which we didn't say anything about in our assessment. So, I can assure you that we did provide substantiating evidence, some of which highly classified but I'm not going to go into details about it.

COOPER: Well, I mean, just the fact that you're referencing what we've now learned from the Mueller investigation indictment there was a high level of detail even as far back as then you were able to brief him on and obviously, you can't go into details.

General Clapper, thank you. General Hayden as well.

Coming up next, we're going to dig deeper into why in all of this and why it's troubling to so many people. But first, a closer look at how the president's decisions and statements have been raising concerns in Washington.

And later, why people who know intelligence operations and know how the Russians recruit and run agents are so worried now about the man who sits in the Oval Office. We'll go there with expert advice tonight on 360.


[20:20:27] COOPER: We're talking tonight about a major national security and foreign policy decision that came as news to a major national security and foreign policy player. I just want to show you the moment again, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats taken aback at today's summit news.


MITCHELL: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

COATS: Say that again?


MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear --

MITCHELL: Yes, yes.




COATS: That's going to be special.



COOPER: Some people laughed, but when you think about it, it's not really much of a laughing matter. It says something about how decisions are made at the White House.

With us to talk about it, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, former House intelligence chairman, Mike Rogers, now a CNN commentator, also Matthew Rosenberg, national security correspondent for the "New York Times," and our national security analyst.

Chairman Rogers, I mean, you have the invitation being extended on the same day or at least us learning about it on the same day that Director Coats, we learned, wasn't informed of the invite and doesn't know what happened in the private meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. Should that be cause for concern?

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, absolutely. I think Putin is getting exactly what he wants. I mean, he set up the conditions for the meeting. He got Trump to agree to meet alone, by the way, where Trump said he didn't want leaks, but he met alone which mean there wasn't a lot of prepared staff people around the table to try to deal with thorny issues. And then subsequent to the meeting, he began his campaign to set the table for the next one.

So, think about it -- about $100 billion in U.S. debt, treasury bonds that the Russia has dumped since May, about $100 billion. After the meeting, he starts broadcasting how his military prowess and technology exceeds, in an implied way, the United States of America, which does two things, tells folks who are thinking whose team they should be on, sends a clear message that Russia might want to be on that list, as well as people who want to buy new military hardware.

And this -- all of this serves Putin's interests, and that's what's so frustrating to me. If you go into a meeting like this without an agenda, Anderson, I guarantee you that Putin is prepared, everything that happens in that meeting was prepared and Trump I think was reacting to all of it, which is why I think he got himself in so much trouble.

COOPER: Yes, and, Gloria, and seemingly reacting in a moment. I mean, he did seem sort of surprised by, you know, Putin's ridiculous offer of, you know, having the Mueller team go over there and Russian team come over here, and, you know, interrogate -- you know, American citizens. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, Trump got

played, completely, 100 percent. And, you know, I think what we're seeing today is his reaction to Washington reacting to that by inviting Putin, you know, to come back here, he's throwing a tantrum and saying, look, OK, guys.

He's up against the wall. He got criticized, he doesn't like that, you know? He had to admit he made a mistake, that he misspoke, he had to change his opinion on that incredible offer that you're just talking about.

And so, I think what we're seeing is Donald Trump saying, OK, guys, I'm going to throw this into chaos again, I set the agenda, nobody else in my administration. And I'm going to -- I'm just going to -- I'm going to do this and I'm going to show you who's in charge.

I mean, it's such a Trump tantrum we're witnessing, and unfortunately, it's dangerous.

COOPER: Matthew, I mean, you're reporting that two weeks before the inauguration, the president was shown classified intelligence that Putin personally ordered the cyber attacks in the 2016 election. We just heard Director Clapper talked about that.

How do you reconcile that with what we have seen this week, the comments being made by the president?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, look, Trump knows what has convinced every other intelligence official and other officials in the U.S. government that the Russians tried interfere in the election, but they were looking to support him. Trump knows what they know as well.

COOPER: Well, it seems like, by the way, the homeland security secretary doesn't know that says she's not convinced it was in order to throw it for Trump. Even though Vladimir Putin said at that press conference he wanted Trump to win.

ROSENBERG: I mean, then she walked that back a little bit. This has been a whole week of walk-backs for seemingly half the administration.

Look, the president seems to react to what suits his political needs or what he thinks they are in the moment. So, sitting next to Vladimir Putin, you know, maybe he didn't do it.

[20:25:04] Get back to Washington, there's an outcry, OK, I think he did it. And it's hard to tell at any given moments what exactly he believes on this.

You know, I also do wonder, you know, what he thinks we're gaining from all of this. Russia is a country with a far smaller economy. There are three U.S. states with a bigger economy than Russia. Its population is in decline. This is not an equal global power and these are not the days of the Cold War.

So, this kind of like I've got to have Vladimir back for a second one is wildering. It also looks like Trump is now dealing with an entire administration. I mean, most people in his government who don't think Helsinki was a success. So, he's going to double down and say, I'm building on my successes.

COOPER: Yes, Chairman, I mean, it's interesting point that Matthew raises, which is, what does President Trump think he is getting out of all this? Obviously, we don't know -- you know, there are plenty of nefarious explanations that people may have. But just -- you know, on a purely geopolitical U.S. foreign policy stance, you know, Russia is not powerful. The president repeatedly focuses how powerful Vladimir Putin is as a person, as a personality, as a leader and has cearly been kind of fanboying over Vladimir Putin for a long time, going back to Miss Universe pageant saying -- tweeting out, gosh, I wonder if we're going to become best friends.

What do you think the president thinks he is getting out of this?

ROGERS: Yes, can I just disagree with one thing?


ROGERS: Russia is not powerful economically, absolutely true. Yes, they have a demographic problem that within 25 years, they're going to have real problems.

But they are a very dangerous country. Why? They have real good technical capability in cyber warfare and cyber information warfare operations of which, candidly, we're right in the middle of another one and I think it's going Russia's way.

They also have -- they are a nuclear armed country and they have good special forces and intelligence services of which they are willing to export where they can to influence parts of the world. Syria was a great example, Ukraine another one. They talked about sending troops to Arctic.

So, I would be careful about saying, yes, they're not economic -- you know, we shouldn't pay attention. They're just dangerous and acting that the way that they are causes those of us in the national security space a lot of concern because if we don't check that, Vladimir Putin is going to continue to do it because it's -- he's not even talking to us anymore, Anderson, us being the United States. He's talking to other adversaries. He's talking to people he wants to be allies of Russia.

He's moved beyond the summit, the Helsinki summit and as he told his ambassadors I think it was this morning, guess what? They're in political turmoil in the United States. They're in political turmoil. So, let them deal with that. Oh, by the way, we have friends and allies we need to recruit around the world.

That's what I worry about. And I don't think Trump actually sees that because he doesn't prepare. He's afraid to take a staff person in the room. They might leak what he said. That's a dangerous place to be.

COOPER: I agree with everything you said, but not -- the president doesn't seem to agree with what you just said, because one of your explanations for why Russia should be paid attention to and dealt with and focused on is because of their cyber capabilities. It is not clear that the president really believes Russia was behind the attack, because even in reading a prepared statement, he then ad-libbed, well, it could have been other people as well, there's a lot of people out there.

ROGERS: Listen, you hug, Vladimir Putin, you're going to get a knife in the back and that's what worries me. He doesn't -- I think he honestly believes -- Trump honestly believes if he develops this relationship, he can tone down some of the other problems with Russia.

The problem is that's not the way Vladimir Putin thinks. He is a trained KGB officer. He sees that as a weakness and they are trained to exploit those weakness, which is why you saw the very press conference coming out of the ambassador's meeting that you saw today, because he was sending a message to his ambassadors to the rest of the world, the heck with the United States, send this message to the rest of the world, he's thumping his chest in a very diplomatic way to try to gain advantage and influence in places we probably don't want them to have.

BORGER: And, you know, that's one -- maybe that's one of the reasons Trump has invited him back to show that, you know, I can thump my chest, too. And, you know, they're laughing at me here, but I'm going to end up being on top.

I think Trump regards this in many ways as sort of a real estate negotiation. Only it isn't, and only Vladimir Putin knew exactly what his agenda was going to be and Donald Trump did not have an agenda. As a result, when Moscow comes out of this summit, they are setting the agenda. They are announcing what they got and nobody is in this country knows what Trump said or did.

And members of Congress now have to decide, OK, are they going to trust the people in the administration --


BORGER: -- who disagree with Trump or are they going to listen to the president?

COOPER: Matt, do people you talk to have a theory why the president just doesn't seem to believe the Russian attack?

ROSENBERG: I mean, it ranges from, you know, the obvious theories about kompromat, which, you know, to this day we have no clear cut evidence of, to, you know, very plausible theories that the President still things, that he told aides of this, more signaled to aides, they believe, anything to that. Any kind of suggestion this election was interfered with by the Russians would throw his victory into question. And question the legitimacy of his presidency. And he just can't do it.

COOPER: Yes. ROSENBERG: He won't do it. So, even if they're not talking about whether it swayed the election, just the mere fact it exists is too much.


ROSENBERG: And, you know, there's what we got.

COOPER: Yes, Matt Rosenberg, Mike Rogers, Gloria Borger, thanks.

The question that continues to loom over all this of course is why -- why is the President differential to a man, who according to U.S. intelligence agencies directed attacks against America's democracy. We'll talk to Steve Hall, former Moscow station chief for the CIA. He tweeted this from a counter-intelligence perspective, something is going on behind the scenes. Before Helsinki, I was less sure and post Helsinki, I feel sick.

Steve Hall and his former CIA colleague Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, join me next.


COOPER: Its day three of the fallout from the Helsinki summit, the question is still keep coming, and coming about exactly what went on behind close doors between Trump and Putin. Of course one outcome we do know is that possible visit to Washington by the Russian president, we've learned about today. But almost everything else, that's a mystery.

So we showed you before the break, here's what former CIA chief of Russia operative Steve Hall posted yesterday on Twitter. He said, from a counter-intelligence perspective, something is going on behind the scenes. Before Helsinki, I was less sure. Post Helsinki, I feel sick.

Steve Hall joins me now along with Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, like Steve a former CIA officer who also spent good deal time in Moscow.

Steve, you choose your words carefully. What makes you feel sick?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, before the Helsinki summit, you know, I was not prepared to go to the darkest corner in the room and say, you know, there is compromising information on Donald Trump.

[20:35:13] But, then, after I saw him together with Vladimir Putin, you know, the murder, the person who has done, you know, the standard litany of things that we're now all familiar with and I saw Donald Trump treat him in a fashion that is just inexplicable, the only conclusion that I can come to is -- and I would disagree with one of your former guests, I think there is information and data out there that implies that there is indeed compromising information that Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump.

Look, why else would he treat him this way? Donald Trump has been pretty tough with the Chinese. There's an impending trade war. He's been pretty tough with rocket man when they were comparing the size of their buttons. So it's not as though Donald Trump has any problem being tough with people. The question is why not be tough with a guy like Vladimir Putin. And the only explanation that I can have is that he is concerned that the compromising information that Putin has on him will get out, because everybody else he treats very, very differently. That's kind of what sickens me.

COOPER: Rolf, do you have that sense of sickness as well?

ROLF MOWATT-LARSSEN, FMR CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I would say that I agree with Steve's description or the symptoms, but I'm not sure I understand the cause. In other words, I'm not prepared to go there in terms of saying that the President is influenced directly by any compromising material the Russians have. But what I would add to Steve's commentary, is that in a way it doesn't matter. The fact is that we cannot proceed with any realistic expectation that we can prove relations with the Russians. If the President is not prepared to take a hard line with Vladimir Putin.

I mean his entire national security community is in essentially an opposition to him and waging this really horrible struggle to watch to both support the President who they serve as well as their conviction that we need to confront the Russians. And as a matter of fact, if you look at the decades of history between the U.S. and Russia and the Cold War today, I don't think there's ever been a period where we've been able to achieve any progress in relations, except when we've been tough with one another.

You have to remember that when President Ronald Reagan confronted the Russians in the beginning, it was from the approach of Russia -- Soviet Union representing an evil empire. That in fact was a necessary pre-condition for the progress that was made with President Gorbachev after that, the hard line faded into the relationship that they are all though for.

So, I think if President Trump believes that he can develop a friendship with Putin that's based not on reality, as his intelligence community and law enforcement community and policy community sees it, he's not only deluding himself, he -- President Putin will not respect him for it.

COOPER: Steve, it does seem like, I mean everything about the Russians had people have always said, is, you know, it's you come at them from a position of strength. They respect strength. I just keep wonder what is going through and its possible to know, but what is going through Vladimir Putin's mind when he's standing on that stage listening to the President kind of go through all his greatest hits of all the things Vladimir Putin has no doubt read transcripts of the President saying before about his election victory and no collusion and all these things. It's -- I mean the President is not a great poker player. He things to give away everything that is actually in his head.

HALL: Sure. Undoubtedly a very weak performance. And I would agree with Rolf, that, you know, there's no reason not to go with the Russians tough. And then the question again rises, well then why isn't he doing that? And to get to Rolf's other question that have many have ask, well so what is this compromise -- what is this information?

You know, the salacious tapes, all of that stuff, I don't think that that concerns Trump, I don't think that concerns his base. But go back and look at the finances. Donald Trump has been doing business and his organization has been doing business, by his son's own admission, and if you go back and look at the records for years. What is the most important thing for Donald Trump, not being a rich man, it's the ego satisfaction, its being the tycoon, its being the biggest, best deal-maker of all.

And to have somebody like Vladimir Putin, who can say, you know what, guess who was behind that. Guess who bailed you out, guess who helped you out via Deutsche Bank and other mechanisms when you were really having trouble that was the Russians. That's what they hold over him. That is Donald Trump's vulnerability and that is why he is not being tough with the Russians.

COOPER: Rolf, two just quick things. One, when the President says nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has, his supporters point to, you know, there were some Russian mercenaries were killed in a battle in Syria by U.S. forces, the bombing of an airfield in Syria. You know, supplying weapons to Ukraine, a, do you buy that nobody has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.

[20:40:01] And also the -- you know, I mention the top of the program, the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said that the attacks from Russia persists and pervasive and on going that to undermine Americas democracy. How serious do you take the warning?

MOWATT-LARSSEN: I have to come to the reluctant conclusion that the President is either delusional and ignoring all the advice he's getting from his key advisors about what the Russians are really doing. Continually casting renewed doubts, and then trying to in a way convince himself that he's being tough by making the statements that he is the toughest President, when that is just so patently ridiculous, frankly. I don't want to sound disrespectful.

But I think that raises another key question. When you watch the summit, the contrast between President Trump and Putin could not have been clearer. President Putin also adopted an unusual I would say approach or demeanor in which he became very bitter. Many of his comments were very bitter. He offered these two ridiculous proposals that he had to understand were completely unacceptable to the entire U.S. national security establishment in calling for the Mueller investigation to be interviewed in Russia. That's a slap in the face of the Mueller investigation. The only person that would appeal to in United States, the only person I can think off is the President himself.

COOPER: Yes. And he did appeal to him and the President seem to, you know, said on the stage frankly that it was a --

HALL: He said he was incredible. COOPER: Yes.

HALL: He said it was a great idea.

COOPER: Right, twice he referred to that.

HALL: That's absolutely incredible.

COOPER: Yes, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Steve Hall, thank you. Really fascinating.

MOWATT-LARSSEN: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: New polling about how President Trump fared in the wake of the Helsinki summit. We'll tell you the results, when we continue.


COOPER: New polling from CBS News on American attitudes about how President Trump handled himself at the Helsinki summit. Overall 55% disapproved the way things went, 32% approved. At all surprising, there's a sharp divide between Democrats from Republicans only 8% of Democrats approved. Republicans meantime approved by a 68% margin.

[20:45:07] Joining me now with three Republicans for their point of view, Steve Cortes, Tara Setmayer and Mike Shields.

So Tara, does this -- do these numbers surprise you at all? I mean we've been hearing all week from both sides of the aisle condemning the President's comments as weeks to greater or lesser degrees is?

TARA SETMAYER, BOARD DIRECTOR, STAND UP REPUBLIC: Well, the Republican support doesn't necessarily surprise me but it alarms me. The fact that the Republican Party and such a large majority would look at what took place on Monday and think that performance by President Trump basically cozying up and siding with an enemy of this country, a murderous dictator over our U.S. intelligence community is really, really disturbing. What a 180.

Only a couple years ago, the Republicans were up in arms rightfully over Barack Obama's handling of Russian relations, the -- you know, whisper to Medvedev about tell Vladimir they will have more flexibility after the elections and things like that. I mean Ronald Reagan, tear down this wall, the evil empire. And Republicans are very hawkish on Russian policy.

And now since Donald Trump has been on the scene, he's repeatedly softened the Republican position on Russia. And it obviously reflecting in polls like this --


SETMAYER: -- where Republicans look at this and think what he did was OK. That should alarm everyone. Because what he did was not OK. It was abhorrent. COOPER: Mike, the poll also found that just more than half Republicans say they believe U.S. intelligence the Russians meddled in the election. What does that say about the belief and the institutions that were setup to protect us, I mean has there -- as the President efforts to, you know, undercut their credibility succeeded?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I mean, you're ascribing that to the President, I think that they have also harmed themselves with some of the way that people have act to James Comey and others and looking how partisan, they are. There's been a lot of people doing a huge disservice to our intelligence communities and undermining their credibility amongst Republicans. And certainly the President is playing on that and helping it. But he's not the only one and they're certainly responsible themselves for some of this.

And look, I mean the other thing that I say about this poll is, you know, Tara, outside of Republicans in Washington where some spoke out, you're talking about literally millions and millions of Americans. And one of the things that happens when something like this goes on is they see the President, Republicans, and we're talking -- I'm talking about Grassroots Americans out across the country, they see wall to wall coverage of the President being attacked and they immediately just come to his defense, and say, you know, what I don't believe this. It looks like a lot of noise. I'm going to back him up if the pollster calls me, you know, what I agree with how the President handle this.

Because they just think he's being attacked. And so we lost the ability to analyze a summit like this and have our -- a conversation about it without people just going into their corners and this polls reflect of that.

SETMAYER: Well, I think it's reflective of group think, your justifying group think whether it's uninformed or not.

SHIELDS: No, Tara group think is different. Group think is something in like an office when you have a group of people. When you're talking to --

SETMAYER: Or millions of people who just follow something to Trump says and repeating it over and over again whether it's true or not.

SHIELDS: Tara, I just think that's an unfortunate dismissal of too many Americans to say it's group think is if they're stupid and their interests don't matter. 60 millions of Americans voted for President Trump.

SETMAYER: Yes, I tried that for a long time. But when you look at what the President did, he took the side of a murderous dictator enemy of this country.

SHIELDS: No, but that's not my point Tara.

SETMAYER: I know but you --

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Tara, that's not what it is -- so Mike is making a point that the pushback from people who are, you know, going into their corners, they saw the media reacting, even people on Fox News reacting the way they did and they're saying that to pollster, look, I'm supporting this guy, this is just that, you know --

SETMAYER: Yes, no matter what.

COOPER: -- that attacking.

SHIELDS: They think he's being attacked.


SHIELDS: And they didn't --

CORTES: Listen --

SHIELDS: -- they weren't all glued to their television, they're at work and then they see the coverage, and they go, oh he's being attacked for this --

CORTES: Anderson --

SHIELDS: -- he's probably did something right and they don't like it.

COOPER: Steve, go ahead. Steve, go ahead.


CORTES: I'm about as fervent a Trump supporter as you can find. And I wrote an article on RealClearPolitics saying and I thought that his press conference was disastrous, I really did. And I'm glad that he corrected and clarified himself. But the point is he did. And I think you bring up, and a very important -- what is being brought up here is a very important point that he didn't side with Russia. I don't know when it became unpatriotic to view our intelligence services conclusions with skepticism. If George W. Bush had viewed the intelligence community's analysis with skepticism, we would have thousands of --


CORTES: American taxpayer money --

COOPER: I don't know if you believe the would-wouldn't excuse.


COOPER: But I mean during that press conference, he certainly did seem to take Vladimir Putin's side in the idea that, well, Putin's so powerful in his response saying he didn't do it, I don't know why he would have done it.

SETMAYER: And you don't criticize our intelligence agency on foreign soil. (CROSSTALK)

CORTES: Can I have a minute?

COOPER: Let Steve finish.

CORTES: Can I have a minute. All right, listen, I agree again, I just said, and I wrote about this publicly right afterward. I agree that was a poor performance because he seemed to give a moral equivalence.

[20:50:09] You know, on one side we have American intelligence, and the other side we have Putin and the KGB, and they're not equal of course not, they're not in the same world playing remotely. But my point is too, and this is important. The idea that we take the word of U.S. intelligence as sacrosanct is, number one, not logical. It's not historical. But also for President Trump, it's not politically feasible because we have unfortunately -- and listen, I love the men and women of law enforcement and our security agencies who do hard, dangerous work for our country. But the leadership of those agencies, people like McCabe and Strzok --

COOPER: Right.

CORTES: -- and James Clapper, who lied under oath to the American people, and John Brennan, who hacked the Senate's computers, they have proven themselves time and again to be totally unworthy of our trust.


SETMAYER: Do you believe the Russians meddled in the election, Steve? Do you believe the Russians meddled in the election? Do you believe they attacked our electoral system?

CORTES: I think the Russians among many nations tried to interfere in our elections, yes.

SETMAYER: OK. So you're being qualifying this also.

CORTES: And I also believe they changed a single vote. They didn't change a single vote.

SETMAYER: That's not what I asked you. I asked you if you believe whether --




COOPER: Mike -- when, you know, Steve is talking about the leadership in the intelligence community, you referenced it well, I totally get that perspective. And the President says the same thing. You know, that he's put his own people in. He now has confidence in his intelligence community. But the people who are actually the career intelligence people, the people actually doing the intercepts, who were the case officers in the field, who are doing the analysis, they're pretty much the same people who were there in the Obama administration, probably in the George W. Bush administration. They are career intelligence people, and they're the ones making these assessments. It's not --


SETMAYER: That's right.

COOPER: It's not, you know, Comey who is twisting it and handing it to the President.

SHIELDS: That's right. No, that's right. But --

CORTES: But Anderson, but they also get a lot wrong. Let's be honest. They do.

SHIELDS: Of course, yes.

CORTES: They get a lot wrong. We should never have gone to war in Iraq.

COOPER: You're saying it's the leadership which is anti-Trump, and I'm just saying it's actually the, you know, the core workers in the intelligence community who are doing the work.

SEMAYER: That's right.

COOPER: Who are doing -- collecting this intelligence and analyzing it.

CORTES: I'm saying you've had a leadership under President Obama. You had a leadership which was incredibly corrupt and incredibly biased. In addition to that, separate from that, you also have --


COOPER: I don't know about that corruption, but --

SETMAYER: Trump's own people have come to the same conclusion.


CORTES: Looking at a history of them frankly just missing a lot and being wrong very, very often. So the President is elected to be in charge of the intelligence community, not the other way around.

COOPER: All right. We've got to end it here.

CORTES: They work for him.

COOPER: That is certainly true.

SETMAYER: And they also said the same thing.

COOPER: They actually work for the American people. Thanks very much everyone.

Time to check in with Chris Cuomo to see what's ahead on "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But I was enjoying that.

COOPER: I know you are.

CUOMO: I love to see you because you are so reasonable and civilized, and I love to see when there's a food fight going around there. I'd love to see inside your head in those moments, but not tonight. Hey Cortes told me last night it was the new form of bitherrism.

COOPER: Yes, he mentioned that.


CUOMO: Oh did he run that tonight? I was getting made up at the time.


CUOMO: But I'd tell you, it did not --

COOPER: I had gone to the special place in my head.

CUOMO: Right over like a (INAUDIBLE) definitely here on "PRIME TIME". All right tonight we're going to be talking to Tom Donilon, he was of course the national security adviser to President Obama, perhaps one of the people that Trump folk are now calling corrupt and dirty. How does he see what we had to live through in Helsinki? And what this new word of a meeting this fall is all about. We'll talk to him. We've got Anthony Scaramucci on who says, he can tell us why Trump is doing what he's doing now right now with regards to Russia.

So, we'll see where it takes us.

COOPER: All right, Chris thanks very much. That's in about seven minutes from now.

New developments linked to Russia tonight namely about that alleged spy. Details ahead.


[20:56:20] COOPER: New tonight, free Mariia Butina. That's the hashtag campaign has been launched by Russia's foreign ministry for the alleged Kremlin spy after her arrest in Washington. Russian diplomats have also visited her in the detention center where she's being held until trial. A federal judge agreed she is a flight risk so she has to stay in custody.

Randi Kaye tonight tracks her path which, as you know, once crossed with the Trump campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARIIA BUTINA, ALLEGED SPY: I'm visiting from Russia. My question will be about foreign politics.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's how close this accuse the Russian spy got to then candidate Donald Trump this July 2015. At Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. Her name is Mariia Butina.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK?

KAYE (voice-over): That same woman now charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of the Russian government. The 29-year-old graduate student from American University is accused of using sex and deception to cozy up to high-level politicians and steer them toward Moscow's objectives. Prosecutors say she had a personal relationship with a man CNN confirms was Paul Erickson, a Republican political operative nearly twice her age. Butina reportedly describing him as her boyfriend.

Prosecutors say she used her own Moscow-based gun group, Right to Bear Arms, to build relationships with the National Rifle Association.

BUTINA: I'm a representative of Russian federation here, and I am a chairman of the Right to Bear Arms.

KAYE (voice-over): Butina once posed with a pistol, wearing stilettos and leather for this risque Russian "GQ" magazine shoot. And in 2015 at the NRA convention, she managed to meet Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker, and that's Butina at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, once again in the same room as Donald Trump.

TRUMP: This gathering is a testament to the power of faith.

KAYE (voice-over): Butina has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyer insists she's no spy, just someone looking to create a better relationship between the two nations. But prosecutors tell a very different story. They say Butina came to this country in 2014, if not earlier, and once offered sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organization. She was issued a student visa in august of 2016.

(on-camera): Prosecutors say it was all just a cover. In fact, before she arrived in the U.S., she worked for an unnamed high-level Russian government official, who allegedly directed her efforts in the U.S. also court filings show Butina and her mentor, Russian banker Aleksandr Torshin, had once tried to establish back-channel communications between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

(voice-over): In her latest endeavor, documents show Torshin allegedly praised her, writing, you have upstaged Anna Chapman, referring to another Russian sleeper agent. Butina texted him a photo of herself from Donald Trump's inauguration, smiling in front of the U.S. Capitol, and he allegedly wrote back, daredevil girl.

For now, maria Butina remains behind bars. She's considered a flight risk given that agents found she had terminated her lease and packed her bags.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: It's a fascinating story. Before we go, quick reminder. Don't miss our daily newscast on Facebook. You get to pick the stories we cover. You can watch, it's called Full Circle, week nights at 6:25 p.m. eastern. Just go to circle, all one world. I'll see you there tomorrow at 6:25, also again at 360 at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

[21:00:05] The news continues. I'm going to hand it over to Chris in "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you, Brother Cooper. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time".