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Trump on Meeting with Mueller; Democrats Call for Translator to Testify; Russian Agent Deemed Flight Risk; Epys Honor Abuse Survivors. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:34:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

The president says he is still willing and wants to sit down with Special Counsel Bob Mueller despite frequently calling the investigation a witch hunt.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've always wanted to do an interview because, look, there's been no collusion. There's been no talk of Russia. There's been no phone call. There's been nothing. And it -- I call it a witch hunt. That's exactly what it is. It's a -- it's a vicious witch hunt. And, you know what, it's very bad for our country. Very, very bad for our country.


HARLOW: At the same time, the head of the FBI, almost at the same time as that interview, giving a separate interview in Aspen and throwing his support unequivocally behind Mueller. Listen.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: And do not believe Special Counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt. I think it's a professional investigation conducted by a man that I've known to be a straight shooter in all my interactions with him, in my past life in government, and certainly since then. So I don't think it's a witch hunt.


[09:35:18] HARLOW: OK. With me now again, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

You know, people would look at it on the surface and say, wow, the president wants to sit down for this interview. But Rudy Giuliani just says he can't. His lawyer says he can't.

Should anyone have any illusions that these two men do not know exactly what they're -- what they're doing here and that they really aren't on different pages?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's been -- you know, this is like "Groundhog Day" with this subject of this interview. We've been talking about this for months. And the president's been essentially saying the same thing, I want to do it but my lawyers won't let me.

I mean there is a political problem that he faces because if he says ultimately --


TOOBIN: I'm not doing it, then there's a very good chance Mueller will subpoena him and that, you know, that's an unresolved legal question and that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. So it's not entirely up to the president about whether he gives an interview. In part, it's up -- it's going to be up to the courts.

But this endless discussion and without resolution of whether he's giving an interview, I just don't see what, you know, what the point is after all. They ought to just decide one way or another.

HARLOW: It's up to him if he ever actually answers a question, right? I mean he's --

TOOBIN: Right. And just, you know, I mean, in the spirit of, like, good journalism -- and I have to say, Jeff Glor seemed totally asleep at the switch during this interview. He says, no one said anything about Russia.

The president said, Russia, look for the e-mails. You know, he gave speeches during the campaign saying, Russia, find the e-mails, and Russia found the e-mails. So the idea that there was no connection between the Trump campaign and Russia is just preposterous.

HARLOW: I was stunned in the interview when he said the media only covered my press conference, not my meeting with Putin. You -- we weren't in your meeting with Putin!

TOOBIN: That's right. We'd love to have been in it.

HARLOW: No one was in your meeting with Putin.

TOOBIN: That's right.

HARLOW: I was like -- wanted to jump through the TV.

TOOBIN: Right. We'd love -- you know, we would have loved to have been invited, but, yes.

HARLOW: Let me ask you a few other things of importance this morning, and that is this growing call among Democrats, and even Corker's considering it, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, to having the woman who is the translator, who was in that meeting, testify before Congress. Legally can she be compelled to? How would that work? Would it have to be classified in public?

TOOBIN: You know, it's a very interesting question. It's never been resolved. And there has been a strong norm, not a law, but sort of a norm that you leave the translators alone. The translators exist --

HARLOW: It's like kids. Leave the kids out of it.

TOOBIN: Leave the kids out of it. Because translators want to be completely neutral parties. But the -- now there is so much concern about what went on there and so much distrust of both the president and Putin about telling the truth about what went on, there's the possibility of asking the translator to testify.

It seems to me that in a Republican Congress you are not going to get a congressional committee to vote a subpoena. It would take a subpoena. There's no question the translator's not coming in voluntarily. Would there -- would the House -- the Senate Foreign Relations, would the House Foreign Affairs Committee actually vote a subpoena? It seems unlikely to me.

HARLOW: But, legally, it could happen?

TOOBIN: Legally, I think it could.

HARLOW: So the DNC this morning is alleging that the Secret Service is blocking it from serving Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, the president's son-in-law, with a lawsuit. And this is a lawsuit alleging that Donald Trump's presidential campaign, you know, conspired with the Russian government in the election. So the DNC says, look, we tried three times to deliver this lawsuit and the Secret Service, the doorman, everyone at his house, at the White House turned us away. So they want to mail it first class mail, which doesn't require a signature. The judge says, no, no, no, you can't do it. Figure out a way to get this to Kushner.

The Kushner team says this is ridiculous. This is purely political propaganda, et cetera.

This seems absurd. Can the lawsuit not go on unless he's served?

TOOBIN: You know, America is full of unsolvable problems. This is a solvable problem.

The usual way these things work, and the way I assume this will be resolved, is the lawyer for Jared Kushner, in this case Abby Lowell, says I will accept service on behalf of my client. You don't have to harass him.

I don't know what's going to happen with this lawsuit, but Jared Kushner will be served. That's not going to be the problem. So everyone should rest easy on this one sliver of an issue.

HARLOW: Thank you, Jeff Toobin, we will.


HARLOW: Nice to have you, my friend.

It sounds like a "Bond" movie. Prosecutors saying an accused Russian spy was trying to trade sex for political access. Why a judge says she needs to stay behind bars right here in the United States, next.


[09:43:50] HARLOW: An accused Russian spy is going to have to stay behind bars here in the U.S. until her trial. A judge ruled she was a flight risk. We're talking about this woman, 29-year-old Maria Butina, who faces two criminal charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. Prosecutors say she infiltrated Republican politics, tried to trade sex to get a job with a special interest organization and a lot more.

Our Matthew Chance has been looking into her history and her background as a Russian gun lobbyist as well.

Her story, it's almost out of a "Bond" movie, Matt. What can you tell us?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, as if it's been taken off the pages of an Ian Fleming novel. And it's a story that also apparently appealed very much to, you know, American conservative politicians, particularly those associated with the National Rifle Association and other -- and other conservative political groups as well.

The case of Maria Butina has become just the latest in a long, you know, series of thorns in the side of the relationship between Moscow and Washington. But what's particularly fascinating about it is it sort of reveals or sheds some light on the ways in which these individuals, allegedly working for the Russian state, tried to infiltrate the U.S. establishment and groups like the NRA.

[09:45:10] Take a look.


CHANCE (voice over): She appealed directly to the heart of American conservatism, combing a passion for guns with a youthful charm.

MARIA BUTINA: I'm representative of Russian Federation here and I am a chairman of the Right to Bear Arms. It's a Russian nonprofit organization.

CHANCE: An online profile says Butina was born in Siberia a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and spent her childhood navigating the rocky transition from communism to capitalism. She apparently launched a chain of small furniture stores in her hometown before moving to Moscow where it says her interest in expanding the rights of average Russian citizens soon caught the attention of the most senior leaders of the Russian Federation.

Butina's gun lobbying also got her privileged access in the United States, including to the National Rifle Association. John Bolton, then an NRA official, now U.S. national security adviser, appeared in a 2013 video used by Butina's organization to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws. JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Should the Russian people

have the right to bear arms? I can share with you a word about what this particular freedom has meant to Americans and offer you encouragement as you consider embracing that freedom.

BUTINA (July 11, 3015): I am visiting from Russia. So my question --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (July 11, 2015): Oh, Putin. Good friend of Obama, Putin.

CHANCE: But it's now know Butina's gun lobbying also brought her into direct contact with Donald Trump. The Russian asking the then- presidential candidate at a public libertarian event in 2015 about Russia and sanctions.

TRUMP (July 11, 2015): 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.

CHANCE: While Butina has denied the allegations against her, comparisons have been made between her and Anna Chapman, the flame- haired Russian agent who gained notoriety and celebrity after being arrested in the United States as part of an illegal spy ring in 2010. According to U.S. court filings, Butina offered sex in exchange for a position in a special interest organization during her work in the U.S. It all raises questions about whether Butina really was just a Russian gun lobbyist or if she had her sights set on another target.


CHANCE: Well, Poppy, the reaction here in Moscow, as you might to -- as you might expect, has been one of categorical denial. But this is anything other than political posturing. The Russian foreign ministry issuing a statement saying that the arrest of Maria Butina was clearly designed to undermine what they call the positive results of the recent summit between President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki.

HARLOW: Matthew, thank you for that reporting and an in-depth look at exactly who she is. Appreciate it.

More than 100 survivors of sexual abuse standing together last night on stage at the Espys. It was quite a sight. And they had quite a message for survivors everywhere.


ALY RAISMAN, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Your truth does matter, you matter, and you are not alone.


HARLOW: Much more on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:53:08] HARLOW: Last night, a very emotional night at the Espys. Athletes sexually abused by disgraced U.S.A. Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar were all honored together.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

It was an extraordinary sight to see so many of them on the stage at the same time.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Poppy. More than 100 of the athletes that Larry Nassar abused over a 30 year period were honored last night with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for making their stories heard and continuing to tell them. And like you said, it was a powerful image when the 141 survivors all took the stage together. They're known collect as the sister survivors.

And Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman was among the women honored and she delivered one emotional message to all the survivors of sexual abuse.


ALY RAISMAN, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: To all the survivors out there, don't let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter, you matter, and you are not alone.

SARAH KLEIN (ph): Make no mistake, we are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see, a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.

RAISMAN: We may suffer alone, but we survive together.


SCHOLES: Now, that was not the only emotional moment. People in the crowd fighting back tears when the three coaches who died in the Stoneman Douglas school shooting were honored with the Coach of the Year Award, Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon. They died saving students on that February day. And they played a touching video of students remembering the coaches and then Elliott Bonner, who has been an assistant football and baseball coach at the school since 1997 accepted the award on their behalf.

And former Bill's quarterback Jim Kelly was also honored last night with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. Kelly has been battling oral cancer for five years now. But despite his own health issues, he continues to do what he can to help others.

[09:55:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM KELLY, FORMER BILL'S QUARTERBACK: You can be a difference maker. Put a smile on those faces. My kids, my friends, when they came into see me, not once did they ever have a frown on their face. So I just urge anybody out there, if you have somebody out there suffering, it doesn't have to be cancer, it can be somebody not having a good day, it could be your mom, your dad, it could be your grandparents. What you say to them, and the smile that you have on your face, that can be a difference for them (INAUDIBLE) the next day. Remember that, always, always persevere. Like Jimmy V said, never ever give up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: You just love Jim Kelly's message there, Poppy. And it's inspiring seeing how he continues to keep such a positive attitude despite what he's going through.

HARLOW: It was such a night. I only caught a little bit of it, but it made us think a lot about how we act every day and what we do for others.

SCHOLES: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Andy, thanks.

SCHOLES: All right.

HARLOW: Still ahead, Russia says important verbal agreements were made between President Putin and President Trump behind closed doors. U.S. officials this morning scrambling to figure out what those agreements were. A live report from the Pentagon ahead.