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Students Falsely Accused of 'Dine and Dash'; NYT: Trump Was Shown Proof of Putin/Russian Election Meddling Before Inauguration. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 19, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DENISE WASHINGTON, MOTHER, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT: -- to us beforehand and proactively.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Here's the police chief's statement about what happened.
[07:00:07] 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 them and make that inquiry. I feel like some of the young students probably felt uncomfortable by this situation. That certainly isn't our intent, and that's why I attempted to reach out to meet with them. We want to make sure that people who come here not only feel safe and secure, but know they are welcome to be here."
So I know that in a few hours from now, Teddy, you're going to meet with them. What's your message to the police?
TEDDY WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I -- what I plan to stress in the meeting, I think there was a mistake. For you to have a description of five African-American males and pull a group of ten kids over, I think even though it was at night -- this is around 12 a.m. -- but at the same time, if this was in broad daylight, I don't think they have -- they're within reason to pull over the first people that they see, no matter -- no matter the skin -- the color of their skin.
CAMEROTA: Mr. Washington, we're basically out of time, but what do you take away from all this?
THEO WASHINGTON, FATHER OF WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS: I'm trying to make a positive of the situation and make sure that we get something that is -- so this doesn't keep happening to our black and brown youth.
CAMEROTA: And I know that you all also wanted to make the very quick point at the end here. You're pro-police.
THEO WASHINGTON: Five of them (ph).
CAMEROTA: You have police officers in your family. You believe in police officers. You support police officers. And so when something like this, unfortunately, happens you don't want to leave the impression that, in any way, that you're anti-police. It's quite the opposite.
Well, guys, we look forward to hearing what happens at the police station today. Thank you very much for your message and for being with us.
THEO WASHINGTON: Absolutely. Thank you.
D. WASHINGTON: Thanks so much.
CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm John Berman. Alisyn Camerota here, in charge. John Avlon with us, as well.
We have some key new questions this morning. These are not trick questions, and in a way, it's fairly unthinkable that we even have to ask them about a U.S. president.
Does President Trump think that Vladimir Putin is done -- done -- trying to attack the U.S. electoral process? Did the president offer to consider handing over a former U.S. ambassador for Russian interrogation? What did the president agree to behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin? What did he give up, if anything? We don't know, because even senior U.S. officials do not know what agreements were reached when the two men were alone.
Overnight, the president refused to tell CBS News whether he thinks Vladimir Putin is lying, and he claims that Russia did not attack the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS: Well, he denies it, so if you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to get into whether or not he's lying. I can just say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies, as currently constituted. I think that Dan Coats is excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. We are also learning this morning from "the New York Times" they've added to their reporting that you may have read in the past, but that here's some more details.
Two weeks before the inauguration, Mr. Trump was shown highly- classified intelligence indicating that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered the complex cyberattacks to sway the U.S. election. That intelligence included texts and e-mails from Russian military officers.
Joining us, by phone, this morning is CNN national security analyst and former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He was one of the four primary intelligence officials who briefed then- President-elect Trump in that meeting.
Director Clapper, thanks for being with us.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via phone): Thanks, Alisyn, for having me.
CAMEROTA: Now that there's more details out there in the public sphere, thanks to "The New York Times" reporting about the things that you -- you showed the president-elect Trump that day, can you give us some more color in terms of what the evidence was that you produced for him and what his response was?
CLAPPER: Well, I think the best insight into the level of detail and the fidelity of the information we had which gave us such high confidence can be found in a careful read of the most recent indictment of the 12 GRU officers by Special Counsel Mueller. That, to me, is I think, great insight into the detail that we have which we exposed the president and his team to on the 6th of January in 2017.
In addition, we left very highly-classified written documents which laid out in more detail the evidence that we have. And so the fact that President Putin was directly involved and directly ordered this. No big decisions are made in Russia anyway without -- without Putin, and all that was -- was laid out.
CAMEROTA: OK. So you gave President-elect Trump specifics. You gave him a lot of evidence that wasn't vague. And at that time, what was his response? Was he skeptical then?
[07:05:07] CLAPPER: Well, I have to say that the -- in general, as I detailed in my book, it was a reasonably professional exchange. He did listen; had some skepticism.
What was -- what struck me as -- and others as quite unusual was before we left the room, they started writing a press release about our encounter. And were trying to say that the Russian meddling, the Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election. We didn't say that, couldn't say it. That wasn't the -- that isn't the charter or the capability of the intelligence community to do it.
So I -- but I do think there was skepticism from the get-go, from that day to this day, that indicated that anything that attacked the legitimacy or questioned the legitimacy of now-President Trump's election, he just couldn't get his head around.
CAMEROTA: So --
CLAPPER: He said that that day and has ever since.
CAMEROTA: So they started writing the press release while you were still in the room about what they'd just learned, though it was, as you say, highly-classified. So was it your impression that was their first priority; that was their first instinct? CLAPPER: It appeared so, that they wanted to say -- they were very --
very anxious and eager to say something publicly about this much- -- at the time, much-anticipated encounter.
CAMEROTA: Do you have any fear, knowing now that President Trump met behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin, and there was only one other American witness, an interpreter? Do you have any fear that President Trump might have, even inadvertently, shared some of that with Vladimir Putin?
CLAPPER: Well, yes, there's no telling what may have been exposed, either at that meeting in Helsinki, or in their earlier encounters. Yes, that makes me -- it makes me very nervous.
CAMEROTA: Everyone is trying to figure out, after everything that we saw in Helsinki and all of the president's muddled messages and the -- the, you know, whiplash that we've all been experiencing in terms of whether he trusts Vladimir Putin, whether he doesn't. Whether he blames Vladimir Putin, whether he doesn't. Whether he understands and believes the U.S. intel, whether he doesn't. All of that.
Do you have any theory -- I mean, you are a trained intelligence officer and have been most of your career -- as to why the president seems to have this gaping blind spot and what people look like when they have, in fact, been compromised by the Kremlin.
CLAPPER: Well, I'll tell you, Alisyn, I have been trying my best to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and I've always expressed potential other theories as to why he behaves as he does with respect to Russia, generally, and Putin specifically.
But more and more, I come to the conclusion that, after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder whether the Russians have something on him. I think that his behavior was just unbelievable. I'm still getting -- trying to get my head around what I witnessed at the Helsinki press conference. So -- and this is a concern, of course, because of the jeopardy to the national security of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Why would President Trump consider allowing the Kremlin to interrogate former ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul?
CLAPPER: That is one of the most preposterous things I can recall in my entire experience over 50 years serving this country. I couldn't believe that, that there was any doubt or equivocation on such a -- an absurd proposal was even under consideration.
CAMEROTA: What can our intel chiefs do about all of this, Director Clapper?
CLAPPER: Well, what they need to do is keep doing what they've been doing. And I mean that by specifically Dan Coats' -- his forthright statement, as well as Chris Wray, the director of the FBI. That's what we need our intelligence leaders to continue to do to continue to provide the cover for the great institutions that they lead. CAMEROTA: The president is not giving you the benefit of the doubt.
He spoke out about you on CBS News last night. Let me play that for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then all of a sudden, he's gone haywire, because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn't even mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:10:09] CAMEROTA: What's your response, Director Clapper?
CLAPPER: Well, I'm not sure who "they" is, but I mean everything that I say. And I guess if President Trump doesn't have a lot of confidence in me, well, I think the feeling is mutual. And also I consider myself in very good company when he criticizes me along with the likes of John Brennan, Mike Hayden and Jim Comey. That's a badge of honor.
CAMEROTA: Director James Clapper, we appreciate all of your expertise on this. Thank you very much for joining us.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Alisyn.
BERMAN: All right, joining us now to discuss, CNN political analysts Josh Green and Josh Dawsey.
Let's start with what we just heard from James Clapper, because I think he said a couple things that were extraordinary there, and I don't want to let them slide here.
No. 1, James Clapper, who saw all the intelligence when he was DNI for well over a year here, about the Russian attack on the U.S. election, says after he watched the Helsinki press conference, "I really do wonder if the Russians have something." This is a guy who's been in the intelligence community for a long time. Also a guy, by the way, who saw the intelligence for a year, and that wasn't enough to convince him that the Russians had something on Donald Trump. But after to the Helsinki press conference, Josh Green, he says, "I really do wonder if they do have something."
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a pivotal moment for a lot of people. Not just ordinary Trump critics of the president but Republicans, people in the U.S. intelligence community, because Trump, who is so obsessed with this idea of strength and presenting himself as a strongman, sat there on a stage with the president of Russia, enemy of the United States, who had interfered in our elections, and Trump essentially made clear that he is the junior partner in that relationship. Criticizing his own government and doing everything he could to prop up Vladimir Putin.
So there's no reasonable explanation for this, which is why I think that even seasoned intelligence officials like former Director Clapper have to ask themselves is Trump somehow compromised by Russia?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I just -- you know, we need to emphasize how surreal this is. That there are serious, sober-minded, responsible people who've served their government with distinction for decades that are openly wondering whether or not the president of the United States is compromised by Russia. This idea is not fringe any more. It is something that responsible people are saying.
And there's a brand-new cover of "TIME" magazine I want to throw up, because it's an extraordinary image, and you're going to see this resonate. It's obviously a merging, a blending of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It is eerie; it is creepy. And I think it sums up a lot of people's concerns in a pretty indelible image.
CAMEROTA: What do you think, Josh Dawsey?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the president's defenders, what they say is that his comments at the press conference are more driven by the fact that he can't accept that the meddling could have helped him and that it undermines his legitimacy, and that he is frustrated that a year and a half in, that these people have perpetually brought up these concerns, and you know, linked it to his win.
That said, there were all these indictments, 12 indictments that were released on Friday that detailed exactly how it happened, and the president equivocated on whether it did or not.
So I think even within his administration, my reporting indicated -- we wrote this in "The Post" on Tuesday -- that, you know, a lot of aides were really frustrated by that performance. A lot of people around him, who tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, who are supporters, who are defenders, who come on this network and others and defend him, really -- could not really explain what he did on Monday. And I think that's led to, you know, head scratching ever since.
BERMAN: And Josh Dawsey, there has been this incredible exercise over the last few days to try to distort, I think, what the president really believes here, or explain away what the president has said in the past or believed in the past, and you've seen it. You have been in the briefing room while Sarah Sanders has said, for instance, trying to suggest he didn't say, "No, no, no," when asked if the -- if the Russians were still trying to attack the U.S. election system.
And it gets to another basic question, is we still don't know -- and you pressed. You pressed hard. What did they talk about when they were alone --
BERMAN: -- behind closed doors?
BERMAN: What did President Trump agree to? And that's not a minor thing. DAWSEY: Well, and the Russians say there are verbal agreements on
Syria and other issues. The U.S. military, we reported in "The Post" today, doesn't know what those agreements are. You know, that's what I was trying to ask Sarah yesterday.
They were behind closed doors for two hours and ten minutes. Now, there was two translators there, so that obviously extends the time, because the translators have to talk and give every word back and forth. But that's a long time for two world leaders to meet.
And they ticked -- could have a litany of topics. You know, Syria, the Middle East, meddling. But there was no concrete agreements that the president announced when he came out. And then the Russians said, "Oh, we did make verbal agreements."
And because the president was so concerned about leaks and the meeting getting out, he didn't let anyone else from his administration in. So basically, unless one of the translators at some point came forward, we have the words of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to describe this extraordinarily long and interesting meeting.
[07:15:17] CAMEROTA: And one of the things that came out of it that was just as head slapping, Josh Green, was -- and this is one of the things that President Trump touted. In fact, he seemed to really be open to this, I think, what he might have even described as a great suggestion from Vladimir Putin, which was to do this sort of witness swap; that, you know, Bob Mueller's team could go and interview these 12 military -- Russian military officers, in exchange for the Kremlin being able to come over and interview our former ambassador to Russia, as well as other Americans.
GREEN: This is utterly preposterous. The idea that the president of the United States would hand over a former U.S. ambassador to Russia for questioning is, you know -- it is hard to know whether this is Trump's instinct to try and make some kind of a deal, and he thinks this is shrewd; or, I think, the more likely explanation is he is a patsy who doesn't understand what is happening and how he's being taken advantage of by someone in Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer who's a very canny guy and understands propaganda, understands how he can -- he can twist this summit to his own ends. And I think even Putin couldn't have imagined things would go quite as well on that end as they wound up going.
And it's why you see people like former director Clapper horrified --
GREEN: -- at what Trump stood and did in Helsinki.
BERMAN: There's a phrase that's been in the reporting. I'm not -- I'm not saying I agree with the phrase, but inside Russian intelligence, there is a word to describe what Josh Green just said as a patsy there. It's useful idiot.
BERMAN: They look at intelligence assets -- like Josh Green was saying they're a patsy -- as useful idiots.
AVLON: That's a term that actually goes back to the early days of the (AUDIO GAP) Lenin, where they tried to dupe people to be propagandists on their behalf, and it slides over into the intelligence services. Of course, Putin rising out of the KGB.
But I think, you know, what we witnessed is a lot more than preposterous. Clapper used that word; so did Josh Green. The idea that the American president would consider, and the administration may have the door open, to handing over an American ambassador to a hostile foreign power for interrogation is not preposterous. It is disgraceful. It is a total departure from anything resembling the norms we have created as a society. And it undermines the integrity of our ambassadors and our foreign service.
And this is going to have major blowback, and it should. It is nothing less than outrageous. Just as outrageous, by the way, as the distance between Donald Trump yesterday and his DNI.
And the ongoing questions of whether the Russians are turning back towards election meddling in 2018. And whether there's some branches of government are in denial about that, including funding that was allocated, $380 million, and then cut. This is an open question. It is an urgent issue. This isn't rearview mirror stuff, folks. This is real and now and will impact the country going forward.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Josh Dawsey.
DAWSEY: Well, one of the differences that I think is interesting to me is the difference between the president and his own government when it comes to Russia.
You have a number of his officials -- Pompeo, John Bolton, even Vice President, you know, Mike Pence, who is far more strident on Russia -- you know, they see them as an adversary, someone who's not in the best interests of the United States and one we should be very wary. You know, the Republican Party, even Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan.
I mean, in Washington, among Republicans and in Trump aides, Trump is the outlier. He thinks he can make a deal with Vladimir Putin. He thinks he can be his friend. He repeatedly has said that to, you know, aides. Former aide H.R. McMaster said to the president repeatedly, you know, that "you cannot be this guy's friend. Vladimir Putin is not your friend."
But the president thinks that he can, you know, charm Putin, he can make a deal with Putin. And he sees that on the world stage. We've seen that with Kim Jong-un, as well. The president, I think, said, "If I can get in a room with these guys, you know, I can -- I can pull something off." And a lot of others in the government and his own party are very skeptical of that notion.
BERMAN: I will say this. Heather Nauert of the State Department had a different answer than Sarah Sanders.
CAMEROTA: Quite different. BERMAN: I fully expect the White House --
BERMAN: -- to backtrack on this today, but it's done. It's out there. The message is out. It was received within the diplomatic community around the world, including the American diplomatic community, and it was received in the Kremlin.
AVLON: That's right.
CAMEROTA: All right, gentleman. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.
So a member of the Intel Committee is going to be here to react to all of these developments.
[07:23:48] BERMAN: New this morning, "The New York Times" reports that two weeks before his inauguration, President Trump -- President- elect Trump -- was shown highly-classified intelligence indicating that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered the attacks on the U.S. election. That intelligence included texts and e-mails from Russian military officers.
I want to discuss this with Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine. He sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator King, thanks so much for joining us. President Trump was asked by Jeff Glor of CBS News whether he holds President Putin responsible for the attacks on the U.S. election. And President Trump said, you know, "He's in charge of the country, so I hold him responsible."
But it's more than that. President Trump knows that Putin was responsible, because President Trump was shown intelligence that Vladimir Putin ordered these attacks. Correct?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, he's been shown that intelligence. He was shown it, according to that report, before he was inaugurated. I've seen the intelligence as a member of the committee. This is just a known fact.
And John, there are a couple of problems with this response that I don't think people have been talking about this week. Clearly, the president equivocating on whether or not Putin or Russia was responsible is a problem, but why?
[07:25:04] No. 1, we're under attack. We're under attack right now, and we need a coordinated response from the United States government. And when the president continually sort of is on again and off again, mostly denying it, it makes it impossible to have that happen. His new national security advisor even abolished the position of cyber coordinator in the National Security Council. A bizarre decision, given that. The second reason that this is important, John, is I've met with
people in Eastern Europe who have been putting up with Russian interference for years. I said, "What's the best defense? You can't turn off the Internet or the TV." They said the best defense is for the people to know what's going on. So when it happens, they -- their population says, "Oh, it's just the Russians again."
When the president of the United States continues to deny this, he's basically signaling a third of the country there's nothing to worry about here, which essentially renders us defenseless. That's why this is so important and so disturbing. Not just because the president keeps changing his -- his story on this, but because it has impacts in the real word in our ability to defend ourselves against an ongoing attack.
BERMAN: It's not a syntax issue; it's not a word choice issue. It's an issue of national security. And it's a very, very, very immediate issue of national security all around the world.
You mentioned Eastern Europe. Let's talk about Montenegro for a moment here. The president did this interview the other night with Tucker Carlson, where the president openly questioned why U.S. troops would go to defend Montenegro if Montenegro, a member of NATO, was attacked. Your reaction?
KING: Well, there were two real problems with that. No. 1 -- maybe this is a minor one -- but remember, he talked at the end, he said, "Well, they're aggressive people. Maybe they'll be aggressive, and then we're in World War III." That misunderstands NATO and Article V.
Article V in NATO is a defensive treaty. In other words, we respond if a member is attacked. If Montenegro tries to start a war -- and by the way, Montenegro is 900 miles from the border of Russia. That would be like Delaware attacking Illinois. I mean, it just -- just doesn't make any sense. But it misunderstands that the whole point of NATO is -- is defensive.
The more disturbing point, though, is -- and I think a couple of your commentators have made this point this morning -- the whole idea of NATO is deterrence. It's to deter the Russians from aggression anywhere along the European -- in Eastern Europe and Europe. You know, this goes back 70 years. And to say, "Well, maybe we'll honor it and maybe we haven't" -- and by the way, this is the third or fourth time he's said something like this, going back to the campaign -- that's an invitation to Putin to poke, and prod, and test our resolve. We don't want to have to face that.
And the only way to keep from facing that is if Putin believes the deterrent is solid, and rock-solid, and that he will be met with force. He's going to poke wherever he can.
Putin's dream is weakening and breaking up NATO. They tried the foist a coup on Montenegro two years ago to keep them from joining NATO. To suggest that we're going to maybe respond and maybe not, that undermines the whole purpose of this set-up that's protected the peace of the world for 50 years. BERMAN: And again, Montenegro is not an abstraction here. Bringing
up Montenegro, talking about it in those terms is candy. It's candy for Vladimir Putin.
I want to cover a range of issues with you, because so much has happened even over the last 24 hours. This issue of former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. The president, again, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, when asked a direct question about whether or not the president discussed the possibility of handing over Mike McFaul and Bill Browder for questioning by Russian investigators, Sarah Sanders says, "We are discussing this. We'll let owe know when we reach a decision here."
Handing over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation, what do you make of that?
KING: Well, first, ask yourself your question here. You ask an ambassador somewhere in the world, maybe in a difficult country that has hostile interests to the U.S., "How do you feel when you woke up this morning, knowing that maybe your government was considering whether or not to turn you over?" I mean, that flies in the face of 200 years of diplomatic history, diplomatic principle. It should have been dismissed completely out of hand. I mean, it just -- it's a ridiculous thought, and it undermines, again, our ability to -- to work across -- across the world.
And if you recall, when the president came out, when they had that press conference, he sort of talked about this being one of Putin's good ideas. He said, "Well, maybe this is a good idea."
The other thing that bothered me, John, is we don't know what went on in that meeting. Normally, when there's a press conference after a meeting, the two leaders come out, and the first thing they do is they say, "We've agreed to these following things." None of that happened this time.
There was nobody else in the meeting. So there's no -- we have no knowledge of what went on. And that's one of the reasons that the whole thing is -- is disturbing, because it's starting to leak out the Russians say this happened.