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Report: Trump Does About-Face and Disagrees with Putin Proposal to Question Americans; Trump Initially Went Further Than Putin's Proposal and Suggested Sending the U.S. Ambassador to Russia for Questioning; James Clapper Says Trump Shown Intel of Russian Election Interference Before Taking Office. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I am Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Known as day four in the Trump, Putin summit fallout. We have breaking news on a controversial proposal Vladimir Putin made to the President. The White House has apparently changed its tune. We'll explain that. I want to take a moment at the top of the show to remind everyone how we got to today. Let's rewind back to Helsinki, Finland Monday. Here was President Trump on the world stage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be. 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.


BALDWIN: That is the President of the United States directly contradicting our nation's intelligence agencies. But wait because a day later back at the White House the President essentially is saying would, wouldn't, that was a slip of the tongue.


TRUMP: The sentence should have been I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative.


BALDWIN: I said this Wednesday, I'll say it again, that was ridiculous, right? The President now says he misspoke, that despite his comments in the last 18 months that he does agree with U.S. intel chiefs. Then in the same breath, this.


TRUMP: Let me be totally clear in saying, and I've said this many times, I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. Lot of people out there.


BALDWIN: Again, let's just be clear. U.S. intelligence across the board says it was Russia who interfered in the U.S. election, not other people. The very next day at the White House the President is then asked a key question.


TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go, make your way out. Let's go. We're finished here.


BALDWIN: To many, initially, including lawmakers on capitol hill, that was a resounding no, saying the U.S. is in the clear, Russia's attacks are a thing of the past. That forced Sarah Sanders to give another White House clarification, saying the President was saying no to further questions, not to Russian attacks. Where are we today?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't condemned Putin specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?

TRUMP: Well, I would because he's in charge of the country just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country, so certainly as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say to him?

TRUMP: Very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling. I let him know we can't have this, we're not going to have it, and that's the way it's going to be.


BALDWIN: That's what we're hearing from the President now. Could have heard it before when he was sitting with Putin, standing next to Putin there or talking about Putin interviews right after the fact. But all right. Now Trump is saying Putin did it. But that's only part of the story. Did anyone catch this comment Monday in Helsinki when Trump was talking election interference.


TRUMP: Spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly because he feels very strongly about it and he has an interesting idea.


BALDWIN: An interesting idea. So now we know what that interesting idea is. In their private meeting Putin tosses out the suggestion which is this, he said that Russia will allow Robert Mueller's team to come into his country, question a dozen Russians charged with interfering in the election, but in return Putin wants to interrogate Americans. Moments ago, the White House now says it is opposed to this proposal but not after major backlash because again, Sarah Sanders at the podium when asked about it yesterday did not immediately shut it down.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President is going to meet with his team, we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a topic that came up in their conversation? Did President Putin raise this with President Trump?

SANDERS: There was some conversation about it but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States and the President will work with his team and we'll let you know if there's an announcement on that front.


[14:05:00] BALDWIN: Wasn't a conversation, wasn't a commitment? That's not what the State Department was saying.


HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd.


BALDWIN: And the breaking news now that the White House put out a statement to clarify the President's position on this. Kaitlin Collins, you're at the White House, we're talking about clarifications this week. What's the deal now?

KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it is a proposal that the President initially said was incredible. State Department said it was absurd. And now the White House says it is off the table. The press secretary Sarah Sanders just now issued a statement saying, "it is a proposal made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt."

This is a proposal that President Trump came out of the press conference, said Vladimir Putin made essentially that in exchange for letting Special Counsel Robert Mueller question the 12 military intelligence officers who were charged with attacking an American election, that they would be able to question some Americans they believe have interfered in their affairs, including the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFall, who has been incredibly critical of Russia and Vladimir Putin and his human rights record.

This is astonishing, Brooke, that the White House was even considering this idea. We had 24 hours of backlash after Sarah Sanders was asked twice during the press briefing if the White House made a decision and was considering it. She did not rule it out. Said the President and his team were considering it, there was no firm commitment, but they would get back to us. That prompted bipartisan backlash from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill who couldn't believe the White House was even entertaining this idea.

After 24 hours of that, they've come back to say it is off the table. The President does disagree with it. In the last segment of the statement, said hopefully the Russians will send the 12 military intelligence officers to the United States. That's an idea that largely a lot of people believe is not likely to happen, even the President's own National Security Adviser, John Bolton said that simply wasn't on the table, it was more a show to indict 12 Russians for hacking the election.

Brooke, day four of fallout from the President's explosive press conference in Helsinki, and we're seeing again the White House having to clean up one more decision after there was backlash from all throughout Washington.

BALDWIN: Kaitlin, thank you. We touched on this a second ago. After several days of seeing this fallout from the summit between Putin and Trump, Putin is now weighing in. For that angle, let's go to senior international correspondent Matthew Chance who is live this evening in Moscow. What is Putin saying?

MATHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, with all of the confusion, with conflicting remarks being made from the White House, at least you can say that Vladimir Putin is being consistent. He's not flip flopping on this at all. He thought the meeting went well, thought there were useful agreements made, although he hasn't made clear what the nature of the agreements were, but he jumped to the defense of Donald Trump saying that essentially there are those in the United States who for political reasons are trying to undermine the positive results of that meeting. Take a listen to the Russian President defend his American counterpart.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russia, U.S. relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in the course of an internal political battle.


CHANCE: Internal political battle, consistently has the Kremlin, Russian officials, foreign ministry, always characterized the idea that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians or even the idea there was any kind of hacking by Russia of the U.S. Presidential political system, and they stuck to that line time and again. Remember just to characterize how well this meeting went from a Russian point of view, Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, normally restrained in his remarks, called the talks magnificent, better than super. And that's worryingly high praise coming from a kremlin official when it comes to this meeting.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Magnificent. Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Let's dive into all of this. With me now, expert in American diplomacy, Jamie Reuben, was assistant secretary of state for public affairs under President Clinton. And Jamie Reuben, my goodness. Let's start with this because we wanted to talk to you. There are American diplomats in all corners of the globe that trust and depend on their government's unwavering support. After this proposal between Putin and Trump and the 24 hours of bipartisan backlash that followed, now we're hearing from the White House, disagreeing with this Putin proposal. What are the diplomats, what would you be thinking?

JAMIE REUBEN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I guess I would be troubled by the difficulty that the White House and the administration had in immediately coming to the defense of its diplomats, and they could have done it very easily. The really silly part of all of this is that the impression was allowed to sit for 24 hours by the administration that U.S. diplomats could somehow be handed over to the Russians, that that was the proposal, when even Putin's absurd proposal never envisioned that, he just wanted to have the U.S. question its own diplomats while the Russians were watching, and that was never going to happen.

So, there was really, really bad handling. First thing they should have done is come out in defense of American diplomats. Nobody will be handed over, nobody is going to be questioned, that we're focused on getting the result related to Mueller, and if you look at what happened today and what the President's statement ultimately said, I think you can see there's a pattern, that the decisions that the world, United States would have liked President Trump to make at the summit are now allegedly being made two days later. That's the absurd part.

BALDWIN: What does it say to you that to use our correspondent in Moscow's point that the President of Russia this week seems to be more consistent than the President of the United States.

REUBEN: That's the problem. It is not just what the President says and does, it is the whole way the administration is managed. Yesterday the state department called the Russian assertions absurd, while the White House press secretary couldn't figure out how to respond, she said maybe this is still on the table. That's what gives the impression that the right hand and left hand are not operating in synch. I think we should also remember that Putin is now smarting. President Putin is in a way realizing that this whole thing may have back fired on him, and I'll tell you why. If you look at what his proposal is all about, it was about the so-called sanctions.

And if you look at the original meddling argument that the Russians came to the Trump campaign, it was to see whether they could get these sanctions removed in a new administration, and by involving themselves so deeply, by causing this backlash in the United States, by making Russian meddling the single most important issue in American politics, the chances of Russian sanctions being reversed are exactly zero. Both Republicans and Democrats are only talking about increasing sanctions. So, while yes, some success has come to Putin on a tactical level, his big goal is a failure, which is to change U.S., Russian relations. That's why he's coming to Trump's defense, why he's desperate to say things are getting better when they're obviously not.

BALDWIN: Speaking of that, I wanted to get this sound in, Bill Browder, one of the Americans called out in Helsinki Monday, he said this earlier today on CNN.


BILL BROWDER, PUTIN CRITIC LED BY KREMLIN: Vladimir Putin is a bald- faced liar, he is a criminal and he's a killer and he should know that, and he should also know to hand me over to Putin is basically to hand me over to my death.


BALDWIN: What is the danger, going back to the original point here, and again, the White House is disagreeing with this notion, but the danger that the White House even gave this exchange of Russians for Americans a hint of consideration and didn't immediately, when Sarah Sanders was asked about this not just once but twice yesterday in the briefing, didn't put a stop to it. What's the danger and that?

[14:15:00] REUBEN: That's the sad part because I don't believe in any construction that Congress, let alone the rest of the administration, would have ever allowed Browder or an American ambassador to ever be put in any danger from the Russians through such a proposal. The really sad part is if you look at what Putin said, and I'm just looking at the transcript now from Helsinki, even he wasn't proposing that. He merely said that he wanted to have Russians come to the United States and observe Browder and the American ambassador being questioned by Americans. So, there was no construction, even Putin's absurd proposal, the White House just rejected, never envisioned putting him in any danger. If the administration had somebody with the wit and wisdom to read back the transcript from Helsinki of Putin's proposal yesterday, I think we wouldn't have had to spend this day worried about whether diplomats would be put in jeopardy.

BALDWIN: Here's my last question, you know about choreographing meetings like this. As was reported 24 hours ago, on the Russian side they said deals were made, military agreements specifically, and the only specific we heard was this bit about Russians for the Americans. My question to you is how much of what was discussed between presumptive and Putin do Americans have the right to know?

REUBEN: Well, as much as President Trump has not handled his diplomacy with Russians particularly well or diplomacy with allies, I have to say as someone that worked in the executive branch, the President of the United States should be able to meet with counterparts, with a translator present, have private discussions that then they figure out whether they're going to be turned into agreements and then flushed out and then discussed wider, and if they're actually implemented, flushed out even further and discussed wider. But the idea that the United States public should have an immediate megaphone into the meeting of President Putin and President Trump would just defeat the purpose of diplomacy. I don't believe that was ever going to happen.

I think what it brings up is a lack of confidence and trust that has developed between our branches of government and people in our government, so people don't have the trust and confidence in the administration and the President who have not been committing to something that would be very dangerous, and the example of the diplomats, inability to read back the transcript, explain nobody was ever going to be handed to the Russians, the fact that went on for a day shows you why trust and confidence is lost, let alone the question behind the Mueller investigation which will obviously be a deeper level of trust and confidence that's lost.

BALDWIN: Jamie Reuben, thank you so much.

REUBEN: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Coming up. "Time" magazine, you've seen the cover, tackling the President's praise of Putin with the cover that has everyone talking. Look at this. More on this photo and a revealing poll taken after the summit. We should say artist's rendering. And the poison plot thickens UK police zero in on two suspects after a nerve agent attack on a Russian double agent and his daughter. New details there.

And later, shocking audio. Uncovered by CNN's K File. A Republican Congressman caught demeaning women repeatedly and lamenting that he can't call them sluts any more. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



TRUMP: What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer.


BALDWIN: All right. Let's start right there. That was President Trump obviously standing by Vladimir Putin on Monday in Finland, now we have the breaking news from the White House that they're now saying that the White House disagrees with this proposal. Gloria Borger, Bob Baer, Michael Zeldin with me.

And Gloria, it is again the theme of walk backs? Would, wouldn't, the meaning of no, now this proposal. I just want your gut reaction to this quote, unquote, "incredible offer," and now the software that isn't so incredible. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The reversal was so weak and submissive and even in turning around, saying we're not going to do it was complimentary to Putin, it was a proposal made in sincerity by Vladimir Putin because he really wants to help us, right? No. This was a proposal that was kind of a trap and that it was not made out of sincerity, and effectively showed the President was gullible and completely mismatched when it came to standing next to Vladimir Putin, and they knew Congress was about to overwhelmingly pass a resolution saying that you can't possibly do this, so instead of saying, for example, we would never do this, this stands against anything we would ever do to any member of our diplomatic community, kind of an are you kidding me response, this was sort of like OK, Putin made a nice offer, but when thinking about it now, we kind of disagree with it, and it is just to me the language was just weak.

[14:25:00] BALDWIN: How about just even, Michael, on the sheer legality of this. I was trying to read into this. The U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with Russia. Since this would be politically motivated, couldn't DOJ, even if it was considered in a hot minute, could the DOJ just say no?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There are two parts that we have to keep separate. First, we have a mutual legal assistance treaty with Russia. MLAT. Russia is asked by our Department of Justice to provide comprehensive mutual assistance on criminal matters. So, within terms of that treaty, I think the United States is well within its rights to demand of Russia compliance with MLAT and provide whatever information we may need in our criminal prosecution of the 12 Russians Mueller indicted. On the other side --

BALDWIN: But what about the Americans?

ZELDIN: I was going to say. On the other side, on the incoming, there's no on-going criminal investigation in the United States, so there is no request that can be made under the treaty. Under the treaty even if there were such an obligation, there's a carve out if it provides for violation of national security or other national interests which clearly the ambassador's testimony would fit within, and Browder is not even present in the United States. Incoming, it makes no sense. Outgoing, the President could say I'm still going to hold the President of Russia to his obligations under this treaty and demand cooperation.

BALDWIN: Got it. Bob, to you, I want to move past this to another nugget that came out thanks to "New York Times." they're reporting that the country's intel chiefs showed incoming President Trump, I think two weeks shy of the Presidential inauguration specific evidence that Putin was personally responsible for attacking the U.S. elections. Last night on CNN, James Clapper seemed to reaffirm that. Here he was.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Before we left the room, started writing a press release about our encounter, trying to say that the Russian meddling, Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election. We didn't say that, but I think there was skepticism from the get go from that day to this day that indicated that anything that attacked the legitimacy of now President Trump's election, he couldn't get his head around.


BALDWIN: Couldn't get his head around, Bob Baer. What more can intelligence agencies do to prove to this President that Russia attacked the election?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, General Clapper put it too nicely for my liking.

BALDWIN: How would you put it?

BAER: The President is illiterate when it comes to intelligence. I have read that indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers. It couldn't be any clearer. The intelligence can't be any better. It is nobody else but Russia. They meddled to help Trump. It's something that he cannot admit.

He doesn't understand the difference between human sources, and intercepts, and why they are different, one you can rely on, the other you can't. He is an amateur at this and trying to defend himself politically, which is an explosive mix when it comes to politics. What's going to happen when there's intelligence put in front of him that we're about to go to war with somebody. How is he going to react in a Pearl Harbor situation, is he going to dismiss it? I cannot underline how dangerous this is when a President turns against his own intelligence community and when the intelligence is absolutely, patently clear.

BALDWIN: Illiterate and amateur. On that note, throw up the "Time" magazine cover, melding between Putin and Trump. And you'll see this cover. Here it is. And Gloria Borger, when you first saw this --

BORGER: I did a double take. I wasn't quite sure what it was. I am trying to figure out whose eyes it is. Looks like Putin's. It is insulting to Donald Trump. He doesn't like it. He is being made fun of, which is the thing he hates most in the world, and he understands that in terms of sort of handing over ambassador McFall for interrogation by the Russians, people on capitol hill were laughing at him. Laughing at him if it weren't so serious.

[14:30:00] And you know this whole notion that Donald Trump is a President who deals from strength, he's the great negotiator. The second sentence in his statement today is hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States. Hopefully? Hopefully? Is he sort of making a wish? I think you'd expect stronger language from a President whose election had been hacked and it is continuing, and I think that, you know, the cover is just one --