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Accused Russian Agent Ruled Flight Risk; Trump Questions NATO Commitment; Trump Holds Putin Responsible; Espys Honor Abuse Survivors; Students Accused of Dine and Dash. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:13] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New details emerging about how a Russian woman, accused of being a foreign agent in the U.S., allegedly infiltrated American politics. The 29-year-old, who pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, is now in jail without bond after a judge decided she was a flight risk.

CNN's Sara Murray live in Washington with the seedy details of this story.



Well, 29-year-old Maria Butina sat pretty much emotionless in court yesterday wearing an orange prison jumpsuit as the government made its case that she was a flight risk and someone with ties to Russian intelligence. They said she essentially used her tenure as an American University graduate student as a cover for her broader aim of infiltrating Republican political circles, as well as the National Rifle Association. Prosecutors also took aim at her romantic relationship with a 56-year-old American man, essentially saying it was a sham and it was not something that was going to keep her tied to the United States.

Now, CNN has identified that man as South Dakota political operative Paul Erickson. And in making their case, the government says that she basically used Erickson for his political connections and that in documents seized by the FBI she expressed her disdain for having to cohabitate with him.

They said that at least on one occasion she even offered sex to another person in exchange for a position at a special interest organization. Now, that person, of course, is not named in these filings.

Her lawyer insists that Maria Butina is not a spy. That she was simply an American University student who was in a relationship with this political operative. Yesterday in court she pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and operating as a covert agent here in the United States, John. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it, Sara. It just gets curiouser and curiouser, as we say every morning.

Thank you very much.

[06:34:55] So, why would President Trump consider not defending a NATO ally? Well, former NATO supreme allied commander Wesley Clark has some thoughts on that. He's here, next.


BERMAN: Can NATO nations depend on the United States. Will the United States stand by NATO allies if they are attacked? This is a key part. Maybe the key part of the North Atlantic Treaty. But the president seemed to question it all this week.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that --

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

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

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


BERMAN: Joining me now is former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark.

General, thanks so much for being with us.

You spent so much of your career in Europe for NATO concerned about the Balkans. When you heard the president say that about Montenegro, questioning the need for mutual defense, what was your reaction?

[06:40:00] GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, it's like an invitation to President Putin to come meddle in Montenegro. Now, the truth is, Putin's already there. Two years ago they tried to stage a coup and overthrow the government and assassinate the prime minister. So this is the worst nightmare for the Montenegrins. They thought they were safe. They got into NATO. They rely on NATO to give them the assurance to be able to build a democracy and move their economy forward. And now the president of the United States, the leader of NATO, says, well, maybe we're not going to help you. It's an open invitation to Putin. And the United States must act to reassure this ally and our other allies that we really mean it with article five.

BERMAN: I'm glad you brought up Vladimir Putin here because I think a lot of people will look at this and say, hey, why are you so concerned about Montenegro. Why are you talking about Montenegro. Who, you know, among leaders of the world, would want such a weak statement of support for Montenegro?

CLARK: Well -- well, I mean, only Putin.

BERMAN: Only Putin.

CLARK: Putin welcomes it. Putin -- Russia did their best to block Montenegro's accession (ph) into the alliance. Now, the truth is that Albania's in the alliance, one of Montenegro's neighbors, but Serbia isn't. And the Russians have a major campaign to regain their influence in the western Balkans. They're built an operations center in Serbia. They're pouring money in there. They're trying to solicit Serb politicians. They're selling them weaponry into Serbia. And so they want to then move on and encroach into Montenegro.

There's a lot of Russian personal and private investment in Montenegro. It's a beautiful place. But this has been going on for years as Russia has tried to take it over. The former president, Dukanovic, told me in 2007, he said, the Russians are trying to take over our country, please help us.

BERMAN: And, again, this is such a key point here and I think it puts it in perspective here, who would want a statement like the one the president made to Tucker Carlson? Vladimir Putin would.

General Clark, you have such a big perspective on the world in general, let's try to assess what has happened the last week, or even just the last few days. This week the president equivocates on the Russian attacks on the 2016 election. The president equivocates on Article V of NATO, suggesting perhaps he wouldn't defend Montenegro. The president suggests -- the White House suggests the president's willing to discuss turning over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation. Does this make the U.S. president, in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, look strong?

CLARK: No, it makes him look very weak and it makes him look like the rest -- to the rest of the world he looks like an agent of Putin. Nobody can understand it. My European friends, the colleagues I -- have called me. The people I talk with. They can't understand it. They could understand it in the campaign a little bit because he was a businessman. He didn't know anything, they thought. But he was popular with the American people. But elected, when he's briefed by the best intelligence agency in the world, the Central Intelligence Agency, by the FBI, by people with unimpeachable credentials, and he simply refuses to accept it? And then undercuts allies and our legal commitments publically, they can't find a reasonable explanation for this.

BERMAN: He says he's trying to establish good relations with Russia. He says talking to Russia is better than not talking to Russia. It's OK, he says, to have this relationship.

CLARK: It's good to talk to Russia. But to talk to a man like Vladimir Putin, you have to talk from a position of confidence and strength. And what President Trump is portraying is insecurity and weakness.

BERMAN: General Wesley Clark, always a pleasure to have you on with us. Thanks so much. Come back real soon.

CLARK: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, John.

Gymnastics sexual abuse survivors, they were honored at the Espy Awards. We'll play for you this moment.


[06:48:00] BERMAN: Such an emotional night at the Espys. Athletes who were sexually abused by disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar, they were all honored together.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.


This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

More than 100 of the athletes that Larry Nassar abused over a 30 year period were honored last night with the Arthur Ash Courage Award for making their stories heard. And it was definitely a powerful image when the 141 survivors took the stage together. They're known collectively as the sister survivors. Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman among the women honored and she delivered an emotional message to all 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: Yes, and there were lots of emotional moments last night. Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly, still fighting cancer, gave an inspiring speech while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. And also the three coaches killed in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, Alisyn, were honored as coaches of the year. And I'll tell you what, there were a lot of people in that crowd fighting back tears when they gave them that award.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, what an emotional night. I mean all of that together combined, the loss and then, of course, the survivor stories and the, you know, prevailing through pain.

BERMAN: There was so much courage on the stage last night. It was wonderful to see.


BERMAN: Andy, thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

[06:49:56] CAMEROTA: All right. So, listen to this story. There were a group of college students, they were accused of dining and dashing after they ate at an IHOP. And what happens next is the story and why they think they were targeted. We'll talk with one of them, next.


CAMEROTA: Earlier this month, 10 incoming freshman at Washington University in St. Louis when the IHOP for dinner. They ordered, they ate, they paid their check and they were heading back to campus when a police car showed up blocking them at the crosswalk. Then another squad car. Then another squad car. They were wrongly accused of dining and dashing.

But the story does not stop there. One of the accused students, Teddy Washington, joins us now, along with his parents, Theo and Denise Washington, to tell us the rest of the story.

Teddy and Mr. and Mrs. Washington, thank you so much for being here.

Teddy, tell us about that night.

So you and your fellow incoming freshman, you all ate at IHOP. You were heading back to campus. And you're -- you are -- you are all black. I think this is an important part of the story.

TEDDY WASHINGTON: Yes. Yes, we are.

[06:55:05] CAMEROTA: You were blocked at the crosswalk.


CAMEROTA: One squad car, then another, then another. And what did police say to you when they stopped you?

TEDDY WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT: So the first officer to get out of the car, he just told us of the situation and they said they had a call of five people running out of an IHOP and they dined and dashed. Afterwards he asked us if we'd come from IHOP, which we said yes. Right after that he asked us if we had any receipts or any proof of purchase and to make -- just to make sure that we paid. So that was the first interaction. CAMEROTA: Yes, and, by the way, some of you did have your receipts on you, which is impressive, OK. I'm not sure I keep my IHOP receipts all the time, all right?


CAMEROTA: But, I mean, herein lies the difference, right?

So, some of you had receipts. But that wasn't enough. And they marched you back to the IHOP with squad cars following you and then what happens when you get to the IHOP?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: So, as soon as we got to the IHOP, the manage, he looked disgusted. So right -- it didn't even take him ten seconds. As soon as he looked at the group of 10 of us, he said, yes, you guys definitely have the wrong group.

CAMEROTA: But then what did the police -- so the manager exonerated you. You had your receipts. And then what did the police do?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: So after that it was pretty quick. There are two officers there. The one -- one of them came out of the IHOP. He said, yes, you guys are the wrong group. He gave us our receipts back. And then the officer that approached us at the beginning was already in his car and then he drove off and he said, thanks for your cooperation, and that was the end of the night for us.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's good, because I thought that the police were skeptical at first?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: Most of it was just in the first interaction, right when he stopped us. They really didn't show any -- any movement after we said that we didn't -- that weren't the dine and dash people.

CAMEROTA: Meaning, they -- they were skeptical of all of you, despite the fact that you had your receipts.


CAMEROTA: They weren't believing you?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: No, not at all.

CAMEROTA: OK. And so, Teddy, what are you left with? I mean what has this experience taught you? Or what lesson or message do you take away from this?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: It kind of brought me to a realization that I've studied I guess racism in -- for the past few year. I guess since the beginning of high school. And it kind of brought a situation to where I am a lot more present and aware of the presence of racism in our society. I also think that happening -- it happening in St. Louis kind of -- it didn't surprise me as far as the history of St. Louis. But I think at this moment I know that as far as -- like, I'm on CNN now, so I know I have a voice that I can make some change. So my -- my next move is to just do what I can to kind of -- to, I guess, make the world a better place to live in and I think this is a good start.

CAMEROTA: I think so too. I mean that's a nice silver lining. You're obviously taking the most positive approach after this.

But is it your sense, and was it your friend's sense, that this would not have happened if it had been ten white kids leaving IHOP?

TEDDY WASHINGTON: In my opinion, I don't -- I really don't think so. For the -- the description was five black males, one of them wearing a red t-shirt. So that leaves a really large pool for the police to kind of pull over any African-American males they see, even though we had -- it was a mixed group of -- the group was mixed gender. So if there were I guess white kids walking around, I don't think -- I don't think they would have been I guess approached in the same sense. It seemed like they approached us as if we were the culprits of the crime.

I also think in my response, I don't know as far as legally my rights, I could have said no and I could have tried to go back to the Metrolink and took the train home. But as far as my response, I think that's the difference between how I guess a white kid and a black kid would responded. In my opinion, I don't know if I could have responded in the same way than a white kids would.

CAMEROTA: You couldn't have said, no. you had to be uber polite.

TEDDY WASHINGTON: That's -- that's -- yes, exactly.

CAMEROTA: So, Mrs. Washington, what are the conversations that you and your husband or that you and your son or all of you have after something like this happens?

DENISE WASHINGTON, MOTHER, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT: You know, I think most importantly it was some of the conversations we had before. So I was really thankful that Teddy had listened to us over the years. You know, we try not to necessarily be alarmists, but we've always encouraged him. You know, if you have these types of interactions, that it's really important to be calm about them.

I'd say, on the back end of this situation, at least me personally, I've really worked to be -- just have an open ear for him, just being really thankful how things turned out. You hear of them turning out worse, so I'm really thankful that it turned out the way it did. But I haven't talked in great detail because I didn't really want to feel like I was retraumatizing him. So much of what I've heard about the incident, I've heard when he's been talking to others and doing interviews of this sort. But I'm very thankful he listened to us beforehand and proactively.

[07:00:03] CAMEROTA: Yes. Here's the police chief's statement about what happened. He says, we have to respond. That's the duty we have to the business and to the citizens. But beyond that, how would you determine whether or not any of the males had been involved if you didn't approach