Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Questions Defending Small NATO Ally Montenegro; Trump Signed NATO Communique Endorsing Article 5; Facebook CEO Clarifies Holocaust Denial View. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 00:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, HOST, NEWSROOM: Thanks for joining us. Ahead this hour, another day, more damage control, Donald Trump tries again to clean up the fallout from his Putin Summit, plus the US President takes a shot at another US ally, casting doubts on the idea that an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all. And they're finally back home after a miraculous rescue, the Thai boys who were trapped in a cave for weeks tell their incredible story of survival.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril VAUSE, it's great to have you with us. So, it's day two after the Trump-Putin Summit and here's another explanation from Donald Trump about Russia's attack on the 2016 US election. The President now says his warning to Vladimir Putin during their one on one meeting was very strong; a sharp contrast to his conciliatory remarks at Monday's news conference in Finland. CNN's Jim Acosta begins our coverage.


JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A full two days after the President's disastrous summit with Vladimir Putin, the clean-up work continues. In an interview with CBS, the President finally says he wants the meddling to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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. But 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.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, over the shouting of White House aides trying to drown out reporters, the President was asked whether he believes Russia is still trying to attack US elections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Russia still targeting the US, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. Make your way out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you don't believe that to be the case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go. We're finished here. ACOSTA: The President appears to say no twice. But incredibly, White

House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the President wasn't saying no to that question.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President was - he said thank you very much and was saying no to answering questions.

ACOSTA: One big reason for the cleanup, the President's own Director of National Intelligence as well as just about every top national security official in Washington all maintain Russia is still on the offensive.

DAN COATS, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The warning signs are there. The system is blinking and it is why I believe we are at a critical point.

ACOSTA: The president has been on the defensive ever since he left his summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, tweeting, "Some people hate the fact that I got along with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It's called Trump derangement syndrome."

CHUCK SCHUMER, US SENATOR, NEW YORK, DEMOCRAT: And now, late last night and this morning, the President is back to celebrating his meeting with Putin. He's walking back the walk back.

ACOSTA: The White House is still muddying the waters on meddling. After the President suggested Russia is not alone in attempting to interfere in US elections ...

TRUMP: I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also.

ACOSTA: ... the White House declined to offer any specifics.

SANDERS: Certainly, the President receives a number of briefings and has talked about this subject pretty extensively. We're aware of others that have made attempts. But I can't get into any of that here at this point.

ACOSTA: Aides to the President insists Mr. Trump has been tough on Putin, but consider how Sanders could not definitively say whether the President told Putin in Finland to stay out of US elections.

ACOSTA: Did the president tell Vladimir Putin at their summit in Helsinki to stay out of US elections?

SANDERS: Certainly the President, as both he and President Putin said, discussed election meddling. I think we've made very clear what our position is on that front.

ACOSTA: I understand that you're saying they discussed election meddling, but did the President of the United States tell the President of Russia to stay out of US elections?

SANDERS: The President - the President has made clear to Vladimir Putin that he should stay out of US elections.

ACOSTA: And it seems there may be no way to prove it.

Was there a recording made of their one-on-one meeting? Does that exist?

A week of missteps and walkbacks, calling into question the President's boasts and bluster.

TRUMP: We're doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia. There has been no President ever as tough as I have been on Russia.

ACOSTA: Of course, the question remains whether Russia has a recording of that meeting between President Trump and President Putin. And as for whether the US translator at the meeting could be called to testify on Capitol Hill, both the White House and the State Department aren't saying whether that could actually happen.

One other development worth noting, the White House did not close the door on allowing Russia to interrogate former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, in exchange for allowing the US to question Russians indicted by the Justice Department for meddling. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: All right, let's discuss the latest developments. Joining me now, from Los Angeles, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson and Republican strategist, Charles Moran. Gentlemen, listen to another key part of Mr. Trump's interview with CBS.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say you agree with US Intelligence that Russian meddled in the election in 2016?

TRUMP: Yes, but - and I've said that before. I have said that numerous times before and I would say that that is true, yes.


VANIER: Okay, so Dave, the President now says that he agrees that Russia meddled in the US election, that he holds Vladimir Putin personally responsible and he warned him when they were alone together, not to do it again. Something tells me that's probably still not going to satisfy you.

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, Cyril, he hasn't explicitly said precisely what you said and how you said it. He has kind of wiggled around the edges, right? He's been very fuzzy and he's given massively violent political whiplash to the American people. Clearly, he thinks that the American people are stupid, that he can brainwash us, and sow seeds of discord every day by lying to us or having his cronies like Sarah Huckabee Sanders lie to the American press and through them to the American people every day.

Donald Trump explicitly, just the other day had said that Russia did not meddle in the election, going against the intelligence community. He said it twice.

VANIER: Well, in fairness, he didn't say they didn't meddle. He said, "I don't see why they would." "I don't see why they would do it." That was his quote.

JACOBSON: Look, the American President should have stood up next to Vladimir Putin and said, "Our intelligence community has overwhelmingly concluded that Russia not only meddled, but interfered and attacked our democracy," striking at the heart and core of what this country stands for and how we elect the people that run our country, the people in power of our country.


VANIER: But that was the heart of my question, today he was asked that question, "Would you now agree with your intelligence - various intelligence agencies assessment that they did meddle," and he says, "Yes, I would."

JACOBSON: Look, the challenge is that he has given us political whiplash throughout the course of his presidency and throughout the transition period. In fact, the "New York Times" is reporting just tonight, Cyril, that on January 6, 2017, Donald Trump was briefed by the CIA Director, Director of Intelligence, Jim Comey was there among other top intelligence officials that Vladimir Putin himself, they gave him concrete written evidence that he directed the - or attacks the hacking against the DNC and against our election.

And since that briefing, he has gone back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and has not been coherent and clear throughout the course of his presidency and with the American people about this issue, so the challenge is (inaudible) interview - he says one thing, and then tomorrow, he's going to say something different.

VANIER: Let's get the Republican point of view on this. Charles, do you really feel the President now is sincere when he says he holds Putin personally responsible?

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the President has been holding Vladimir Putin and the Russian spies, their intelligence community as well - not only in Russia, but also in the other countries that have been interfering in our elections ...

VANIER: Based on what? On what grounds do you say this?

MORAN: This has been in multiple reports today. Devin Nunes went - did an interview saying as early as 2014 and 2016, the House Intelligence Committee had been receiving reports talking about the interference and the attempts to by Russians to crack in and meddle in our elections, even - and we already know that they have been trying to hijack and meddle in other democracies throughout Europe and the former Soviet States.

So, this is a continuation, Donald Trump knew about it. Donald Trump is in lock step with the DNI, the White House has issued a press statement clarifying the President's comments. He doesn't see why they would ...


VANIER: Wait, wait. Charles, Charles, the President is in lock step with his intelligence agencies?

MORAN: With the DNI, Coats today in talking about the interference ...

VANIER: He is today - but that is my question. He is today. He wasn't on Monday. That's why I asked you the question.

MORAN: He has been consistently - when you talk all the way through the Presidential election before he was getting intelligence briefings, after he has been getting intelligence briefings, it has been true and concise that the Russians have been meddling. But I think the part that is tripping up the President is that he is continuing to see meddling as being a trajectory into collusion. And the collusion is always what trips up Donald Trump and I think he is really sensitive to it because there has been meddling, but there has been zero proof of collusion, and that's something that the Democrats continue to try to ram down the throats of Americans, it's to muddy the water between interference and collusion.

VANIER: I didn't mention collusion. Nobody here mentioned collusion ...


MORAN: I didn't say you did. And I didn't say you did. I'm just bringing up, this is what's going through the President's head. That's what we're talking about tonight, and I think the President tries to get ahead of himself by trying to preempt the collusion conversation, when we're really talking about meddling and he's walking into the Democrats' traps.


JACOBSON: But here's the challenge, Charles. Like when we talk about Donald Trump being in sync with Director Coats, and then he goes out there yesterday when he's meeting with his Cabinet and he says, "Yes, the Russians meddled," perhaps, "I said, would instead of would not," it was the Russians and other people, Director Coats, didn't say other people, right?

There was concrete tangible evidence that it was the Russians that interfered in our election. It wasn't the (inaudible) ...


JACOBSON: It wasn't the Italians or the UK. It was the Russians. MORAN: No, you didn't watch the speech by DNI Coats today where he

went out and said, "It is not just only the Russians, but it's the Iranians and it's the Chinese in meddling and North Koreans." These were all friends. This is all a coordinated effort, but right now, we're talking about Russia as we should.

VANIER: Right, and so it doesn't change the question that was asked of Donald Trump multiple times, do you believe that Russia meddled in the election, and it doesn't actually change - well, his answer has changed multiple times, but his answer today is, "Yes, I believe my intelligence agencies." And so my question to you, Charles is, do you now feel as an American, not just as a Republican, but as an American, do you feel confident that you can just tick the box, "Yes, Donald Trump has a clear eyed understanding of the Russian hacking threat."

MORAN: I think he did two years ago. I think he did a year ago. I believe he does today and these are all facts that have let up - again, I see so many years' worth of missed signals in previous administrations both Republican and Democrat from the intelligence communities and in the warning signs.

I mean, if President Trump was briefed on the explicit Russian meddling as Dave and I just talked about or before he was sworn in, then that means President Obama knew about it, too and again, I did not - I also see clips of President Obama saying that, "Oh, the Russian interference is just a pipedream of Donald Trump."

I mean, I still don't understand why it's not an issue that we were - that we're talking about it so deeply now, but not when we were talking about it two years ago when we could have stopped it.

VANIER: Dave, this goes to a core criticism leveled by Donald Trump almost daily against the Obama administration, which is, "If this was going on in 2016, before I was ever President, then why am I being blamed for this. Obama should have been tougher on Russia then."

JACOBSON: Obama should have been tougher on Russia. I agree wholeheartedly. I mean, I think he really undermined or perhaps just underestimated the power of the Russian cyber attacks against this country. I mean, Cyril, the reality is, as Vladimir Putin had indicated and admitted on Monday, he preferred Donald Trump to be President. I think the challenge was, it was a very sort of tricky needle to thread when you're President Obama, you're supporting Hillary Clinton for President. Hillary Clinton is leading exponentially in polls, you don't want to put your thumb on the scale and look like you're trying to score points for your candidate.

And so, I think he was in a very tricky position, that being said, I think he made the wrong move. I think he should have been tougher. I think he should have been more out front and made more of an issue with this. I don't think the sanctions that he put forward sort of at the end of his administration were enough of a deterrent, so yes, I think the criticism being thrown at the Obama administration is totally valid.

But that being said, Donald Trump has been President now for a year and a half going on almost two years and CNN reported just last night, I was watching on "Anderson Cooper" that there's been reports that Russian meddling and cyber attacks against this country have ticked up since Monday's news conference, yet what have we seen from the Trump administration? No concrete, tangible strategy in terms of how to combat this and push against it, as we head to November, which is only a couple of months from now.

VANIER: Charles, you were referring earlier to Donald Trump's essentially political insecurities, right? That he doesn't want to talk about meddling too much because he thinks that gets him into the collusion conservation. Do you think his political insecurities are essentially forcing him to turn a blind eye then to the Russian threat?

MORAN: No, I don't. I don't think it is a blind eye. I think the President is very, very aware of ...

VANIER: Or he's softer than he otherwise would have been?

MORAN: I don't even necessarily think it's an issue of just foreign policy and this is I think going on to one of our other topics of conversation, the Trump Derangement Syndrome. Just a constant attack left and right. I think President Trump figured he was going to walk into Helsinki, try to deescalate the tension, just as he did with North Korea, everybody - when Donald Trump was sworn in, he was claiming he was going to bring the whole world to war again. I think he's trying to be a bigger man to be a leadership figure that's going to deescalate in this international situations.

And I think that what he came back from that, he realized that he did not give the type of presence that the American people and the security that the American people and our allies wanted to see coming out of dealing with somebody who is still an existential threat to democracy in the world.


VANIER: Right, and okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. I'll speak to you again next hour and we'll have to talk about this notion that Donald Trump wanted to be the bigger man, because honestly, he rarely takes the high road on any real policy issue. Charles, Dave, we'll get a chance to talk about it again in the next hour. Thank you very much.

MORAN: Thanks.


VANIER: A US Judge has ruled a 29-year-old Russian woman accused of working as a Russian agent will remain in jail. Maria Butina entered a not guilty plea. Prosecutors say that among other things, she tried to exchange sex for political access. Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.


directly to the heart of American conservatism, combining a passion for guns with a youthful charm.

MARIA BUTINA, GUN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I'm a representative of Russian Federation here and I am a Chairman of the Rights 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 seen to have caught the attention of the most senior leaders of the Russian Federation.

Butina's gun lobbying also got a privileged access in the United States included to the National Rifle Association. John Bolton, then an NRA official, now US 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 SECURITY ADVISER: 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: I am visiting from Russia, so my question ...

TRUMP: A good friend of Obama-Putin.

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

TRUMP: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, okay? 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 US court filings, Butina offered sex in exchange for a position in a special interest organization during her work in the US. It raises questions about whether Butina really was just a Russian gun lobbyist or if she had her sights set on another target. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


VANIER: And the world watched for days waiting for news of their rescue. Now, the boys who were trapped in that cave in Thailand are telling their story. We'll have that for you next. Plus, a record multibillion dollar fine levied against one of the biggest tech companies in the world and how its smart phones are marketed. Stay with us.


VANIER: After spending days trapped in a flooded cave, 12 Thai boys and their coach are going home. Their story captured the world's imagination. So as they left the hospital, they stopped to describe what they'd been through. Jonathan Miller has the details.


JONATHAN MILLER, JOURNALIST: Fond farewells at the Chiang Rai hospital to those who have been looking after them since their dramatic rescue. What a journey this has been. The boys are back in town.

Amid concerns of media intrusion, a joyous news conference was organized, so that the world, hungry to learn their version of events, could hear directly from them.

First to speak was Adun (ph), the stateless tribal teenager from Myanmar, who described the magic moment when the two British divers first emerged from the murky water.

ADUN, WORLD BOARS FOOTBALL TEAM (Through a translator.): When they got out of the water, I was alarmed. I just greeted them and they greeted me back. I thought the whole thing was a miracle.

MILLER: The boys were asked to flash a "V" for victory if they felt physically and mentally strong. All did. They have proved unbelievably resilient, but child psychologists warn of the lurking danger posed by posttraumatic stress after their ordeal from the moment they realized they were trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through a translator.): We were swimming back and got to the three-prong junction. Then one of us shouted that the water had rushed in. So I went ahead to check. I tried digging under the water, but it was all sand under there and above, it was all rock. So I went back and I told them that we can't get out this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through a translator.): I tried to be calm and looked for a resolution. I tried not to be frightened. I tried to find a way out.

MILLER: The youngest, smallest boy, Titun (ph), paid a moving contribute to Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL, who died. "Thank you," he said, "for sacrificing your life so that we all could live."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through a translator.): This is the biggest event in my life. I realized the value of life, the value of myself. It made me more resilient, it gave me strength, it made me hopeful.

MILLER: Initially, some had accused Ek, the Wild Boars 25-year-old assistant coach of negligence. But he apologized profusely to the parents of the boys and they absolved him. Now, it's thought his calmness and selfless leadership sustained them all, qualities he developed as a monk at Scorpion Mountain Monastery, to which Coach Ek will now return for his recuperation. Many of the boys said they, too, would join the monkhood, in honor of the memory of the Navy diver.

The Wild Boars dived deep into a dangerous, dangerous world. But they kept their cool and came out the other side. This afternoon, the Wild Boars put Thai Navy SEALs through their paces in the hospital before they left. They can't wait to get back to their football.


VANIER: That was Jonathan Miller reporting there. What a fantastic story and the coach explained that the order of bringing the boys out wasn't determined by their health, it was determined by who lived the farthest away, so that they could tell everyone the others were fine.

Now, American tech giant Google, says it will appeal a $5 billion fine levied by the European Commission. It's the largest penalty the commission has ever imposed and the second time it's actually handed the company a multibillion-dollar fine. Google is accused of illegally suppressing competing search engine and apps on its Android mobile devices by requiring Google's products be preloaded on phones sold in Europe.



MARGRETHE VESTAGER, EUROPEAN COMPETITION COMMISSIONER: Google has engaged in illegal practices to cement its dominant market position in internet search. It must put an effective end to this contract within 90 days or face penalty payment.


VANIER: Last year Google was hit with almost $3 billion in a separate antitrust case. Google says it plans to appeal and that Android users always have the option downloading other search engines and apps.

It's NATO's newest member and one of its smallest, so why would President Trump question defending Montenegro if it is attacked? And could the reason lie in the Kremlin? Stay with us.

I am Cyril Vanier, your headlines this hour. Donald Trump says he delivered a very strong warning to Vladimir Putin over interference in the US elections and he holds the Russian President personally responsible. That's a sharp contrast to his remarks at Monday's news conference with Mr. Putin in Finland.

The 12 rescued Thai boys and their football coach are sharing stories about what they went through, what it was like. They described to reporters how they tried to dig their way out of the flooded cave and survived on dripping water. The coach said, the boys will spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honor the diver who died trying to save them.

Plus, the European Commission has slapped Google with a record $5 billion fine for violating EU antitrust laws. The Commission says the tech giant illegally suppressed non-Google search engines and the other products on its Android smart phones. Google says, it's going to appeal this fine.

Only a few days ago, President Trump had contentious meetings with fellow leaders of NATO countries. In the end though, he did sign a communique that explicitly endorsed Article Five of the NATO Charter. That's the article that says an attack against one NATO member is an attack against all members.

Now, the US President seems to be calling that into question. Barbara Starr has the details.


BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: On the heels of a controversial meeting with NATO allies, President Trump once again questioning the entire point to one of America's oldest alliances.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that's attacked. So let's say Montenegro, which joined last year is attack, why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that?

TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question. You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

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

TRUMP: That's right. No, by the way, they have very strong people, they have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and congratulations, you're in World War III.


STARR: It may be no coincidence that Montenegro, a tiny country in the Balkans has the American President's attention.

Last year, President Trump visibly dismissed the prime minister of Montenegro when he shoved him out of the way at a NATO photo op. And the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been furious that Montenegro is the newest member of NATO.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: He has seen multiple countries lean toward the west over the last 14 or 15 years who have asked to join NATO to include many countries that used to be part of the Warsaw pact, that used to be part of the Soviet Union. And it irks him that he feels he's being attacked from the alliance and from the United States.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, ANALYST, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I would not be at all surprised that what you heard the President say to Tucker Carlson there last night, is derived from what Vladimir Putin told him during those one-on-one discussions in Helsinki.

STARR: Trump has never been happy that U.S. obligations to NATO could require U.S. troops to come to the defense of other countries. The worry, European allies will feel vulnerable now.

HERTLING: They have seen and heard the President question the collective security agreement, which is NATO. They have seen the President suggest that U.S. commitment to NATO is conditional.

STARR: This year, Defense Secretary James Mattis making certain to congratulate the newest member of NATO.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is the 29th nation. And to see the confidence that they have from a NATO that is that open in discussion and honest in discussion.

STARR: Montenegro, about the size of Vermont, has a military force of just a few thousand. It's already sent 20 troops to Afghanistan to help with security and plans to send several more. President Trump may also want to consider this. NATO invoked the Article five mutual defense clause after 9/11 for the first time, sending patrol aircraft to the U.S.

And since then, more than 1,000 NATO troops have died in Afghanistan in the war that was a response to the attack on America. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Markos Kounalakis, visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Standard University. He joins us now from San Francisco to discuss this. Markos, on a scale of one to ten, one being, well, this is all just talk, it's Trump being Trump, and 10 being NATO will not survive the Trump presidency? Where do you rate this?

MARKOS KOUNALAKIS, PRESIDENT, WASHINGTON MONTHLY: I say I'd give it a five, right around the middle of the spectrum because it is so uncertain, you know. It seems that one day, the President is saying that NATO is obsolete, the next day, he's reaffirming Article five. But whenever he seems to reaffirming Article five or the joint defense pact, he seems to be saying it and crossing his fingers behind his back.

So, I think the Europeans are having a hard time accepting those finding those assurances from the President, perhaps from Secretary Mattis, perhaps from Secretary Pompeo. But I think the President's credibility as far as NATO is concerned, is really wanting.

VANIER: So there is a conversation about NATO now in this country. And I'd like you to address something that Fox News Host, Tucker Carlson, asked. Listen to this.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: The U.S. has to defend Montenegro? Really? Why is that? Is there a good reason? Let's hear it. That's the conversation we should be having.


VANIER: So what would you say to an American who is not interested in foreign military interventions, doesn't think Americans should die ever to protect far away countries and feels that NATO is a burden on the U.S.?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, I think it's important to ask that question again because it is a question that we answered a long time ago. But as you ask the question, you should also wonder how likely is it that Montenegro would be the country that you have to go and fight for. And the chances are, they're pretty slim.

Where you really should worry about it are in the Baltic areas, which are bordering Russia, that Russia clearly covets, Turkey which has invoked Article four in the past, has shot down a Russian plane recently that was coming in from Syria. And I think then the question is legitimate. Should we have that question on a national basis? Well, as I say, I think we have answered that question over time because the alliance strengthens the United States.

It strengthens trade. It strengthens the nations that are bordering on Russia and it provides peace and has been a stabilizing force in a region, Europe, primarily, that has experienced so much violence in the 20th century. It is a stabilizing force. We need to reinforce that commitment. And, you know, I find it odd that the President would be raising the question, the fundamental question of whether or not there is value to NATO.

[00:35: 13] VANIER: Well, the President's critics, as you know, fear that he is seriously undermining NATO. What -- who would that benefit, if that were actually the case? And I know you graded this as a five out of ten, right?


VANIER: But if that were the case, if NATO is undermined, who does that benefit?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, clearly, Vladimir Putin and Putin's Russia. The Russian state run by Putin has interests throughout Europe. It has interests in breaking up the unified defense pact, the unified economic market that exists there because it would allow him to really make inroads into Europe by asserting the size, the strength, the energy dependence that Europe currently experiences.

Putin could easily break apart these nations by then dealing with them one-on-one. So that's who would benefit without question. In fact, I wrote a piece for the Atlantic council last year, called Trojan Horse 2.0 that looks at the influence campaigns and the assertion of Vladimir Putin's Russia into the Balkans -- into the Balkans down south and into Greece, in specific.

VANIER: All right. You know who agrees with you? And that's Senator John McCain, here in the U.S. He tweeted this. The people of Montenegro boldly withstood pressure from Putin's Russia to embrace democracy. The Senate voted 97-2 supporting its accession to NATO by attacking Montenegro and questioning our obligations under NATO, the President is playing right into Putin's hands.

One more question for you, Markos, is there a scenario, can you envision a world order where the U.S. is better off without NATO?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, sure. I mean, I think if weave some level of relations with -- where Europe, for example, develops a European defense force and maybe that's the idea behind why the President is pushing so hard against NATO. That Europe actually develops the ability to defend itself without the United States.

I don't think that's a positive outcome, but I could see under these circumstances that they would try to create some other force to supplement or rather to supplant what may be on the cutting room floor, you know, on the cutting room floor.

VANIER: But then the U.S. also wouldn't have those 28 other countries willing to come to its aid when it has a problem.

KOUNALAKIS: That's exactly right. And that is really the key, right? As Barbara Starr said earlier, the only time that Article five has been invoked was after the attacks on the twin towers and on the United States, the Pentagon, on September 11th of 2001. I mean, this is really astounding that the one nation that has truly benefitted from the joint defense pact is the one that is now questioning its value.

VANIER: All right. Markos Kounalakis, great pleasure speaking to you today. Thank you very much.

KOUNALAKIS: Thanks Cyril.

VANIER: Still to come, how social media is mocking President Trump with jokes and memes from misspeaking about Russian interference in the U.S. election. Stay with us.


[00:40: 32] VANIER: Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, says he finds holocaust denials, deeply offensive. But he doesn't believe that the content should be banned from Facebook. In an interview this week, he said, at the end of the day, he doesn't believe that Facebook should take that down because he thinks there are things that different people get wrong.

He adds that he doesn't think they're intentionally getting it wrong. The comments drew immediate criticism on social media and among civil rights activists. Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, responded by saying that he personally finds holocaust denial, deeply offensive and absolutely did not intend to defend the intent of people who deny it. But Zuckerberg says intent is hard to judge and offensive content isn't always banned on Facebook, unless it is to harm or attack somebody.

Social media is exploding with people making fun of President Trump and his claim that he misspoke about his beliefs on Russian meddling when he was standing next to Russian president. Our Jeanne Moos shows us how film quotes and music lyrics are being twisted at the President's expense.



TRUMP: I said the word, would, instead of wouldn't.

MOOS: If President Trump started a trend, singer Richard Marx was right here waiting to mimic the President.

RICHARD MARX, SINGER: I will be right here waiting for you.

MOOS: Tweeted Marx, I misspoke, I meant to say, I wouldn't be right here waiting for you. Chimed in someone else and Queen has just reported.

QUEENM, ROCK BAND: We will, we will rock you.

MOOS: That they meant to say, we won't rock you. So, I guess Journey meant for us to stop believing.

JOURNEY, ROCK BAND: Don't stop believing.

RICK ASTLEY, SINGER: Never going to give you up.

MOOS: Maybe Rick Astley meant to say that he really would give you up.

ASTLEY: Never going to let you down.

MOOS: Never would not going to give you up, would not going to let you down. And it's not just song lyrics that are getting the Trump treatment.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: Stay here. I'll be back.

MOOS: Oh, no, he won't. Memes range from the President saying, I meant Mexico wouldn't pay for the wall, you will. To Kim Jong-un saying me, too, I meant, wouldn't denuclearize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Melania is now saying that at their wedding, she meant to say, I don't.

MOOS: What a difference it makes. Even departed stars were resurrected from the other side. Whitney issues a press statement clarifying.


MOOS: Won't always love.


MOOS: Even Darth Vader corrected himself. Luke, I misspoke yesterday.

DARTH VADER: I am your father.

MOOS: I meant to say, I am not your father. Luke's reaction is pretty similar to how the President's clarification was greeted by critics.

TRUMP: I said the word, would, instead of wouldn't.

LUKE SKYWALKER: That's not true.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: I don't see any reason why it would be.


MOOS: New York.



VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier, "WORLD SPORT" starts right after this break, and I'm back at the top of the hour with more news.



VANIER: Another clarification. President Trump spends another day trying to clear up what he really --