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Interview with Madeleine Albright; President Trump's Explanations of Meeting with Vladimir Putin Examined. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 19, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- we can't have this, we're not going to have it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it really counted he didn't stand up to Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so convenient no one other than the interpreter was in the room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was saying no to answering questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have very strong sanctions against Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian agenda is to let the Americans destroy themselves from within.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin's got a path. The only way this is going to be corrected is one word -- vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, July 19th, 8:00 in the east. So the American people and the world this morning are trying to figure out where the president of the United States actually stands on Vladimir Putin. In an interview last night on CBS President Trump flipflopped again, claiming that he now believes Putin is responsible for Russia's interference in the 2016 election, but the president refused to say if Putin was lying when he denied Russia was behind the election attack.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are also learning this morning from a new report in the "New York Times" that two weeks before the inauguration then president-elect Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered, personally ordered, the attack on the U.S. election to sway the outcome.
Just moments ago, President Putin commented on the summit with President Trump. The Russian leader told his own ambassadors that certain forces in the United States were trying to undermine the success of his summit. So what are these forces that he is referring to?
Joining us now, someone who knows an awful lot about this subject, an awful lot about world issues, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She is also the author of "Fascism, A Warning." Madam Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.
I want to get your big picture take since you have such insight into the world. Just big picture, what's the impact of the last few days from the president's appearance in Helsinki side by side with Vladimir Putin to these two days of conflicting explanations about what went on?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The impact internationally is that everybody wonders what is going on in the United States. He has managed to confuse everybody. But I think the thing that worries me most is that he's confused about what he's confused about, because there's absolutely no logic to what he's been saying. And I was in Europe a couple of weeks ago and already then there were a lot of questions, and where was the United States, what was going to happen at NATO, how did he feel about Europe?
And I think the issue really is we do not have any idea, and I think what is most dangerous at the moment is the fact that nobody on our side was in the meetings that he had with President Putin, and President Putin and his people are already putting out they are going to be implementing something and we don't know what it is.
President Putin, if you notice, in the pictures had a pad and something to write with. I don't think -- we have no way of knowing whether President Trump took any notes. And I can bet you that the Russians had some way of listening to knowing everything that went on, and I don't think our people have a clue of what was decided.
BERMAN: In fact the "Washington Post" reports this morning that senior military officials have been scrambling the last few days to try to understand what was agreed to in that room and they can't come up with any answers. Is that unusual? You've been there. Is that unusual for senior officials in the U.S. government not to know what was agreed to in a meeting between world leaders?
ALBRIGHT: Unusual would be a stunning way of saying this because I've never heard of anything like this. And the whole point of our government -- and I teach about decision making and I was a part of it at a certain stage. We are an old country. We know how to make decisions. There is a system, but it requires some kind of contact and truthfulness between the person who has the conversations and those who are supposed to carry it out.
And now that we know that the president doesn't know the difference between a negative and an affirmative and double-negatives, it's very serious because we have no idea what he said. And so, am I worried? I am definitely worried. I used to say I'm an optimist who worries a lot. I am worrying more.
BERMAN: You say that this administration is the gift that keeps on giving to Vladimir Putin. What do you mean?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think a perfect example, actually, and I was listening on Montenegro, part of the issue there is this is a country that wanted to be a part of NATO. There was a coup there because the Russians did not want them to have that role, and now what has happened is the gift is that the Russians are playing games in the Balkans and trying to get them to be much more part of the former Russian group of people that were supportive of them.
[08:05:04] And this is a gift that all of a suddenly Montenegro who have provided troops to help in Afghanistan are now being questioned about whether we would defend them, which we're supposed to do under Article Five of NATO. That is a gift to Putin.
BERMAN: President ran on this agenda of America first. He went over to Europe talking about projecting American strength. Do you think the net result of his appearance and his meeting with Vladimir Putin, and again, the resulting explanations that have come from it, do you believe it projects strength to the world?
ALBRIGHT: I really am sorry to have to say this because it doesn't. It projects complete confusion. And America's power, which I believe in, has really reflected our views about what we see as our role in the world, how do we operate with our allies, how our decision is made, what is the rationale behind the things our president says, and none of that is evidence.
And he takes credit for things that all of a sudden NATO is more powerful than it was and at the same time undermines the whole concept with his comments about Montenegro because I think that -- and I'm beginning to think that he simply does not understand the connection of one thing to another.
BERMAN: I don't know whether he understands the connection or not because I have not heard over the course of the campaign and his presidency a solid commitment. He's paid lip service to it in NATO last year and again this year to the idea of mutual defense, but it's not something he certainly dwells on. So it's not clear to me that it is something he firmly, solidly believes in, especially given what he just said about Montenegro.
ALBRIGHT: I think that's true, and I think he takes, quote, pride in the fact that he has now bullied people into saying that they're going pay more when that also just shows a lack of understanding about how NATO works and why NATO is a creation that the United States thought up and believes in because it adds to our strength and in terms of developing what has to happen in the world generally in terms of the international system and protecting those that are on our side.
BERMAN: But you do think it is a good thing for the nations who are part of NATO to start spending more in their own defense. That was agreed to in Wales that by 2024 they would be spending two percent of their GDP on their own defense. That is something you support?
ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, no question about it, and when I was in office I used to say that NATO is not a philanthropic organization. They have to, you have to participate, you have to be ready to participate. It's just the language that goes with things, and the taking credit and bullying and really confusing people. I think that's the only line I can use. I think I've used every adjective I can think of to describe what is going on and it is indescribable.
BERMAN: I want to ask you about Mike McFaul and something that happened yesterday. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that President Trump behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin -- and again, we don't know for sure what was discussed, but Sarah Sanders told us that the president of the United States did discuss with Vladimir Putin the idea of perhaps making Mike McFaul or turning him over for questioning by Russian investigators. And Sarah Sanders said that when they have an announcement to make on this, they would let us know. Again, you were secretary of state, you oversaw the State Department, embassies all around the world. The idea of making a former U.S. ambassador available or turning him over for Russian questioning, your reaction?
ALBRIGHT: Outrageous, because the ambassadors are there representing the United States. We have to be supportive of them. It is the whole process of diplomacy. And this not only undermines Mike McFaul who is an incredibly good and smart diplomat and somebody who understands Russia, but everybody, every diplomat now, because the jobs are very hard, and it is the job of the State Department and the secretary of state and the president of the United States to stand behind our ambassadors and not just kind of put them out there for bait. I think it's outrageous.
BERMAN: You talk about the language, and that's something I want to delve into a little bit more because, on this subject, for instance, Sarah Sanders says it's up for discussion, we'll let you know when we have more. And so often we've been told by people on Twitter and elsewhere, we shouldn't pay attention to things that the White House says the president is considering, we should only pay attention to the actions, look at the actions. Again, you were a key player in the world of diplomacy. Do the words matter? Should we be ignoring the words in this case?
ALBRIGHT: You can't ignore the words. I think that everybody listens to what the United States says and tries to parse the words, figure out what really has been meant. Obviously the actions are the most important aspect of it, but before the actions, there's an awful lot of trying to analyze what really has been said.
[08:10:00] And all I can tell you is not just from my own time in office but just recently one of the things that's hard is when you're in a foreign country and you're a former diplomat not to be critical -- your president, you have to be careful. But after a while everybody everyone's credibility is on the line if we cannot explain what the president is saying, and it is very hard to figure it out. And so words do matter. BERMAN: You just mentioned you've been talking to leaders all around
the world here. I've heard you talk about the fact that you know Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin is someone that you met with and worked with right now. What does he make of this? Put yourself in his head right now. We just did get this statement he'd been talking to his own ambassadors, talking about the fact that he thinks his meeting with the president has been undermined by Democrats and the media here. What does Vladimir Putin really think about this meeting?
ALBRIGHT: Just look at his body language, first in the meeting where he was sitting back and being bored. But during the press conference you can just kind of see smirks, that he was -- on his face. But I also do know the following thing. He is smart. He is a former KGB agent. When we were with him, he was the one, he didn't speak from notes but he always took notes. He is tough and smart and, frankly, he has played a weak hand very well because he's got help from some people in the United States in terms of, as what I said, President Trump has been a gift in terms of following out what I think is Putin's plan, which is to separate us from our allies and make it more difficult for America to be the leader of the free world.
BERMAN: Do you think he has something on President Trump?
ALBRIGHT: I have no idea. But I do think he knows how to play him, and there is this kind of flattery business or -- I find it so peculiar having been in meets with an American president, President Clinton, and how you can get along, he got along with Boris Yeltsin, but pretty tough when it came to having tell it like it is. And because we have no idea what went on in that very long, almost two- hour meeting, that's what I'm really worried about at this point. What is the readout? And the fact that people have to say we're still thinking about what's coming out of it and, meanwhile, President Putin, at least what I've heard on the news, is already talking about how to, quote, implement what they decided in that meeting, and we have no idea.
BERMAN: Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: As we've been discussing all week, the president cannot get his story straight or his feelings straight on Russia. So what is Congress's next move? What are Democrats going to do? Adam Schiff is here.
[08:16:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has been all over the map this week on whether he trusts Vladimir Putin. So is it possible that President Trump would share, even inadvertently, classified information with Putin when they were behind closed doors in Helsinki? Joining us now to discuss this and more, we have Democratic
Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D). INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Thanks to the "New York Times," we have some more details in terms of what then president-elect was shown by the intel chiefs two weeks before his inauguration and they really opened their files to him because they felt it was so important that he know about what Vladimir Putin had ordered. I mean, they had Vladimir Putin's fingerprints on these orders and they wanted President Trump -- President-elect Trump to be able to fully digest this and what they showed him we now know highly classified details, texts and e-mails from Russian military officers and information from an extremely highly-placed source.
Now you'll remember, Congressman, that a year ago in May of 2017 President Trump shared classified information in the Oval Office with Russians. Here's the report from them. President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the U.S. in a White House meeting in May of 2017.
So where does that leave us today? Do you have fear any that President Trump behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin may have said something he shouldn't?
SCHIFF: Absolutely, and I think given the president's performance in the last week, let alone the last year and a half it would be naive not to have that concern. I think these are the kind of extraordinary circumstances where we ought to subpoena the interpreter, we ought to bring the interpreter in, behind closed doors, and find out, did the president make concessions to Putin? Did the president share classified information with Putin? Did the president take other steps beyond those that he took so publicly to undermine the security of the United States?
Was there, for example, a discussion of ignoring Article 5 of NATO, of Montenegro's situation? It certainly seems far from -- easy to imagine -- far from difficult to imagine that this is what prompted this discussion of Montenegro recently, that's a high priority of Vladimir Putin's, and to have the president of the United States say, why should we risk people over Montenegro, that's exactly what the Kremlin wants to hear.
CAMEROTA: So, listen, bringing in the interpret as you know is controversial, it's a double-edged sword, and lots of people don't want to do it because they say that world leaders need to be able to speak freely to each other and not think that they're going to be outed by an interpreter in there who it's not their job to give context on what they heard. It's their job to verbatim tell the leaders what is being said. So do you see the down side to bringing in the interpreter? SCHIFF: You know, this is certainly not a broad policy I'd want to
see happen all the time but when you have the president of the United States basically saying I don't want my National Security adviser present, I don't want my secretary of State present, I don't want really anyone as a witness other than the United States adversary, and then in public behave so inexplicably, I think those extraordinary circumstances warrant this extraordinary remedy, and under these circumstances I think it's negligent for us not to find out.
CAMEROTA: Do you Democrats have any other recourse?
[08:20:00] If for whatever reason you get pushback and cannot bring in the interpreter, do you have any other plan for how to figure out what the president might have agreed to or shared in there?
SCHIFF: Well, like a great many things here, we have a limited capacity to stop the president from doing things that damage the country as long as we're in the majority -- in the minority. Now if we're in the majority after November then we have a whole different range of options to mitigate the damage as long as he's there, but unfortunately, no, and the minority, particularly in the House, where the majority rules everything and literally can make up the rules as they go along to ensure that they do, there are only so many options.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about this woman, Mariia Butina, who's this foreign agent operating in this shadowy way in the U.S., she's now been charged, as you know. You sent this out, this tweet last night. I want to read it to everybody.
"Mariia Butina, Russian national, has been charged with acting as a surreptitious Russian agent and establishing a secret backchannel with the GOP through the National Rifle Association. More likely to come on this. No wonder GOP members of the House Intel Committee refused our request to bring her and others in."
So hold on a second, Congressman. You knew about Butina and you tried to interview her and question her in front of your committee?
SCHIFF: We certainly knew about her and part of the role that she was playing. We didn't know whether she was an agent of a foreign power but certainly had deep concerns over her activities of others that we had e-mail correspondents about setting up a secret backchannel through the NRA. We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA so, yes, we wanted to pursue this but like many other things, when it got too hot, the Republican reaction was we don't want to know.
We'd rather not know. And even today as we continue to bring in witnesses the majority continues to call the witnesses who are coming before our committee and telling them do not come in, don't tell the Democrats anything. That's the action of a majority that is burying its head in the sand and acting to protect the president rather than to protect the public interest.
CAMEROTA: But really, I mean, just to be clear, you're saying that your Republican colleagues on the committee called her and said, do not come in? I mean, what -- how exactly did they block her sharing information with you?
SCHIFF: Well, no. During the course of time when they were actively in the investigation, the majority that is, we said let's bring in Mariia Butina, here are the circumstances, here are the reasons why we should hear from her, here are the reasons why we should hear from Paul Erickson who is alleged to have been involved in setting up this secret backchannel.
The Republicans were unwilling. They said no. We don't want to have them come in, we don't want to hear what they have to say. They wouldn't explain why but it was very clear that anything that might tarnish the NRA, anything that might lead to discoverable evidence that might incriminate the White House or people around the president, they didn't want to hear.
With respect to other witnesses who have shown a willingness to come in and have expressed that they will come in what the GOP has done when they've learned those witnesses were coming to testify before the committee is they've now affirmatively called those witnesses to say please don't come and talk to the minority, we'd rather they don't know since we don't know.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for all of the information.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting discussion.
President Trump seemed to question whether it was worth defending a key NATO ally. We're on the ground there live from Montenegro next.
[08:27:48] CAMEROTA: Breaking news. A source tells CNN that police in the UK have identified two suspects in the Novichok poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The source says investigators discovered the two suspects after combing through months of surveillance video. The source also says the suspects fled to Russia after the attack. The Skripals survived after spending weeks in a coma.
Now there's also an inquest set to open today in the fatal attack of Dawn Sturgess. She died earlier this month after also coming into contact with that nerve agent in a separate incident.
BERMAN: More breaking news. In California 22 people were hurt after a tent collapsed during a training exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett. This is a military base about 170 miles south of San Francisco. Two of those injuries have been airlifted to get medical care. A spokeswoman says wind from the rotors of a Black Hawk helicopter that was landing knocked down the tent.
CAMEROTA: All right. So President Trump's would-wouldn't flip on Russian interference got some nostalgic treatment last night on the "Late Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Instead of should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) Your favorite schoolhouse, schoolhouse rock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) Double negative, what's your function.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) A desperate way to not side with the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) Double negative, how's that function?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) Confusing the people with sentence construction.
The president isn't in Putin's pocket. The president isn't not in Putin's pocket. Let's try it again. The president wasn't owned by Kim Jong-un. The president wasn't owned by Kim Jong-un. Not. How about the president isn't trustworthy? Well, let's just let that one stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Oh, my god. That is clever.
BERMAN: Think of how much money you can save in college just by watching reruns of "Schoolhouse Rock" for a few years.
CAMEROTA: That's right. I mean, that one was particularly helpful. I think that really illuminated where we are today.
BERMAN: Tomorrow, how a bill becomes a law.
OK. Meanwhile, President Trump reveals his dream opponent. Who does he say he would like to run against or is it wouldn't?
BERMAN: I see what you did there.