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Senate Bickers over Supporting Resolutions Rebuking Trump; Paul Blocks Resolution Making Trump Cooperate with Mueller; 2 Suspects Identified in Spy Poisoning in England; Trump Rips Federal Reserve on Interest Rate Policy; Sanders: Trump "Disagrees" with Putin Proposal to Question Americans; Montenegro Responds to Trump. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:34:26] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Here in Washington, there's some chaos right now on the Senate floor. Some in Congress try to hold President Trump responsible for his summit performance in Helsinki with Putin.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, what are you seeing? What has just happened as far as the efforts to support the U.S. Intelligence Community are concerned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senators are actually going to vote to rebuke the president in just a matter of minutes here, Wolf. A resolution is about to come before the Senate floor saying that no American official, including the former Russia ambassador, Michael McFaul, should be sent to Russia to be interviewed, something that the White House left open yesterday. The Senate about to go on record opposing that idea symbolically.

But other efforts to try to rebuke the president on Russia have fallen short amid Republican opposition. There was a bipartisan resolution to offer another similar symbolic rebuke to the president about his meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying that there should be immediate implementation of Russian sanction, and also reaffirming support for the Intelligence Community. And Jeff Flake, the Republican from Arizona, and Chris Coons, the Democrat from Delaware, offered the resolution, but it was blocked.

Listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[13:35:44] SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R), ARIZONA: We have indulged myths and fabrications, pretended that it wasn't so bad, and our indulgence got us the capitulation in Helsinki. We, in the Senate, have been elected to represent our constituents and cannot be enablers of falsehoods.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D), DELAWARE: This resolution makes clear that, on a bipartisan basis, we intend to defend our democracy. Mr. President, Russia's attacks on our last elections were attacks on every American, Republican and democrat. The threat is grave, it is pressing, and it demands that we act. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, Senator John Cornyn, the number-two Republican from Texas, voiced his opposition and blocked quick Senate passage of that bipartisan resolution, saying that there are other ways to go about that, pointing out that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, earlier today, said there should be hearings about a sanctions package on Russia, so that was his preferred route instead.

And also, there was a separate effort by Senator Bernie Sanders to push forward another resolution, and also not only reaffirm support for the Intelligence Community's assessment that Russia meddled in the elections, but also to make clear that the president should cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. That was blocked by Republican Rand Paul, who said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: Trump Derangement Syndrome has officially come to the Senate. The hatred for the president is so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So some back and forth there you're seeing. There's overwhelming opposition even among Republicans to the way the president handled this week's summit with Vladimir Putin. We're going to see that manifest in this vote later this hour, Wolf, when the Senate votes to say that there should be no Americans sent to Russia, no former American officials or current American officials, sent to Russia to be questioned by the Putin government -- Wolf?

BLITZER: You'll let us know what that roll call shows, Manu. We'll get back to you. We're standing by.

Up next, what happened in that one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin? Why aren't we hearing specific details of that meeting? We're digging into that with a former CIA chief for Russia. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:42:34] BLITZER: Right now, there's some dramatic new information emerging about the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England. Sources tell CNN that British police have identified two suspects in the Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is on the seen in Salisbury, where the poisoning occurred.

Nic, what's the latest? What have you found?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, right behind me is the house Sergei Skripal was living in. It's ground zero for the investigators. It's a potential danger to citizens living around here. It has a permanent police cordon. It's still part of an active crime scene here.

What the police seem to have discovered could be a very helpful and useful lead in all of this. A source familiar with the investigation has told CNN that the British authorities were able to pick up a coded Russian transmission to Moscow soon after the attack that said the two attackers had left the country. What police have been able to do after that is sort of work backwards from that, take all the close- circuit security footage they could find here in Salisbury and at border crossings and cross-check it, try to narrow down who the attackers could be. They're using high-tech facial recognition technology. They believe they've narrowed it down to two people.

Having said that, they believe they were traveling under aliases. We also understand that, as far as the police are aware at the moment, these two individuals were not previously known to British intelligence authorities, which, again, although this is an important discovery, again, gives you an indication of how much more leg work needs to be done on the investigation -- Wolf?

[13:44:25] BLITZER: Good point.

Nic Robertson on the scene for us. Thank you very much.

President Trump now wading unexpectedly to a very, very sensitive arena, making some strong comments about the Federal Reserve. The president is not supposed to get involved in that. We'll assess, give you the latest right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's breaking news right now. Moments ago, President Trump did something that presidents are not supposed to do, ripping into the Federal Reserve, complaining openly, publicly, about their policy on interest rates.

Let's go straight to White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, tell our viewers what the president said, and the controversy that's now emerged.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUE REPORTER: Interestingly enough, Wolf, the president mentions in this interview he was warned, it seems, not to talk about Federal Reserve policies publicly, and then he goes on to do exactly that, criticizing the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, something they've done twice this year. Listen to the president's own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[13:49:50] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I put a very good man in the Fed. I don't necessarily agree with it because he is raising interest rates. I'm not saying that I agree with it.

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: But I must tell you, I don't. I'm not thrilled. Because we go up, and every time you go up, they want to raise rates again. And I am not happy about it. But at the same time, I'm letting them do what they feel is best. But I don't like all of this work that goes into doing what we're doing.

You look at the Euro, look at what's going on with the E.U., and they're not doing what we're doing. And we already have somewhat of a disadvantage, although, I'm turning that into an advantage. Last year and for years, we have been losing $150 billion with the E.U. nations, with the European Union. They're making money easy. Their currency is falling. China, their currency is dropping like a rock. And our currency is going up. And I have to tell you, it puts us at a disadvantage.

Now, I'm just saying the same thing I would have said as a private citizen. Somebody would say, oh, maybe you shouldn't say that as the president. I couldn't care less what they say. My views haven't changed. I don't like all of this work that we're putting into the economy and then I see rates going up. I see China where -- I mean, look at what's happening with their currency. It is dropping like a rock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: The Federal Reserve, Wolf, is an independent agency. Presidents typically don't comment on its monetary policy, so the president straying from that. Similar to what he did back in June before the jobs report came out. The president also tweeted about that saying he was looking forward to it. That's also not something that presidents typically do -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Good point. That will cause a ripple effect. A lot of controversy.

Jeremy, thank you very much.

More breaking news now. Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us.

As we anticipated, another day, another clean-up operation at the White House.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Talking about the markets, maybe the president and White House should buy stock and clean-up equipment. Because you're absolutely right. No surprise. We have a new statement on the record from Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying the following, talking about this proposal --

BLITZER: The proposal to let the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul, be questioned by the Russians.

BASH: Exactly, which everybody on both sides of the aisle has said is absolutely outrageous. The United States Senate is about to pass a resolution saying just that. Here's what Sarah Huckabee Sanders is saying: "It is a proposal that

was made in sincerity by President Putin but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt."

It's that first line. "It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin but President Trump disagrees with it." This is about 24 hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn't say this from the podium. She said we're looking into it, which was in direct contradiction from what we heard from the State Department, which appropriately said this is outrageous, there's no way we're going to do this. Now she has been able to clean it up with the blessing of the president, who was the only one in the room when that proposal came from Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: It's interesting the timing of the statement, just minutes before the Senate is scheduled to vote on a resolution saying don't even think about letting the former U.S. ambassador to Russia be questioned by the Kremlin.

BASH: There's absolutely no choice. I mean, there are so many times in this administration when things happen, and it seems as though the president and White House have no choice but to, frankly, do the right thing. They often don't follow it. This one, there was no question. They had to put out the statement and say there's no way, we would break all kinds of protocol and have a revolt in the State Department in the diplomatic corps across the world if the president of the United States said he will not protect an American citizen serving in the line of duty, which is basically what the U.S. ambassador was.

BLITZER: It would be like the Russians saying, Putin saying, yes, to the FBI, you can question the former Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

BASH: Right.

BLITZER: We'll send him to Washington, go ahead and ask him whatever you want.

BASH: Not happening.

BLITZER: Not happening. You just don't do that kind of stuff. It was shocking that Sarah Sanders left open that possibility yesterday. To her credit, the State Department, Mike Pompeo I'm sure was involved, the secretary of state --

BASH: But it --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- saying that's not happening.

BASH: Sarah Sanders left open the possibility because her boss, the person she speaks for, the president of the United States, left it open. That was the only reason.

[13:54:33] BLITZER: A very important point.

Dana, thank you very much.

Much more breaking news coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Before Tuesday, most people in the United States probably couldn't point out the small European country of Montenegro on the map. But President Trump changed that when he said that protecting the NATO ally could spark World War III. Now the Baltic nation is speaking up and defending itself.

Let's go to the scene. Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is there.

Nick, how are folks in Montenegro reacting to the president's comments?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I've just been speaking to the foreign minister here, and he, to some degree, encapsulated what we heard from many people, slight sense of bafflement. He referred to it as a bit of fun to some degree. I think he tried to phrase it as a way of Donald Trump using Montenegro simply as an example of why the world or NATO members need to spend more towards their NATO contributions, the 2 percent line he kept going on about, too. But he also said how this might be music to Russia's ears. This is an incredibly complicated country. Wolf, I am standing in the capital outside parliament that has huge relevance. It was here, in October of 2016, that Russia was accused, its intelligence agencies, of trying for a coup, getting radicals to burst into parliament, take over government buildings, ruin an election, and make sure NATO wanted nothing to do with a country plunged into chaos. That failed in the joint NATO June last year. When they heard the president talk about the possibility that collective security under NATO wasn't such a given, that's chilled many people here. Russia wants greater control over the area. It sees it as part of its Slavic hinterland. It wants access to deep-sea ports. It wanted it to not join NATO. Now it is part of that. Many people are perturbed at what's being seen here. I've talked to people on the scene and many have never heard of Trump's comments, thought it was baffling. One man said, I'm not an aggressive man. This is about a place which never imagined it would see American troops coming here to its aid. That's not really how Article V works. It works on collective

security, don't mess with us all together. That's been undermined fundamentally here for one its smallest, newest member -- Wolf?

BLITZER: I remember Montenegro became a formal official member of NATO in June last year, and the president was Donald Trump at that time.

Nick Paton Walsh, thanks very much.

I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Meantime, the news continues right now.