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At Least 13 Dead, 4 Missing After Tour Boat Capsizes; Trump Invites Putin to Washington in the Fall; Brett Kavanaugh in 1998 Said Only Congress Should Investigate President; Trump Being Manipulated by Russian Intelligence, GOP Representative Says. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 20, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- are fleeing through Mexico up to the United States. Some of them seeking asylum. All right. We'll keep an eye on that. We have a lot of news ahead. Let's get after it.
All right. Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And we begin with breaking news out of Branson, Missouri, where any moment we are expecting an update from officials after this tour boat known as the duck boat, sinks during severe weather. At least 13 people are confirmed dead.
As I speak, emergency crews are diving in Table Rock Lake looking for any possible survivors. We do have video of this boat sinking. And I want to warn you, it's disturbing to watch. You can see waves violently rocking the boat as the wind picks up. Right now four people are still unaccounted for. We are told children are among the dead.
Our Diane Gallagher is following the latest. Dianne, as we wait for this press conference, what have you learned?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, of course, the first priority right now is finding those four people who are still being declared missing right now. We do think we're going to get an update on their status in the next couple minutes there at that press conference. Of course the next priority, though, is finding out how this happened.
Table Rock Lake is near Branson, Missouri. If you are familiar with that area, it's a hot spot for tourism in the summertime especially for families and church groups. There were a lot of camps out there. And these duck tours have been in the area for nearly half a century. They go -- they're on land and they may go into the water and then go back out on land. This one in particular kind of goes through the Ozarks before going out on Lake Table Rock.
Now we're told that where the boat sank, where this accident happened, it's about 80 feet deep. And that is where divers are searching at this point. Again, we are hoping that they are going to be able to give us an update on those four people.
Now as far as the conditions go, when this happened, we know that a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect about half an hour before calls started coming in about the boat sinking. CNN spoke to the owner of the company about why they might have been out on the water even at this time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM PATTISON JUNIOR, PRESIDENT, RIPLEY ENTERTAINMENT: My understanding was that when the boat went in the water it was calm. And partway through coming back is when everything -- when the waves picked up and then obviously swamped the boat. People are supposed to be able to go out for an outing and have a good time and this -- it should never end this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Very difficult for really everyone. The president has tweeted about this already. The NTSB tweeted requesting additional videos and photos if anybody has them. Their go team is en route now to help investigate this.
Again, Poppy, we are waiting on that press conference to learn more about what happened, the status of those who are missing, and, of course, those 14 survivors as well, you mentioned before, of course, though that among the dead are children in this accident.
HARLOW: Dianne, thank you.
Joining me now on the phone is Melody Pettit, communications manager for the city of Branson.
Melody, I'm so sorry.
MELODY PETTIT, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, CITY OF BRANSON: Thank you.
HARLOW: What -- you know, just talk to me about how the community is responding to all of this because you said what you've seen in the last, you know, 18 hours has been just a testament to the character and the spirit of the people of Branson.
PETTIT: Absolutely. As you can imagine, Branson is a small community, but we make up for that with a big heart. We've seen that nothing but just an outpouring of love from people offering lodging, food, prayer and thoughts. It's just been overwhelming to know that this many people are concerned and care about what's going on.
HARLOW: We're waiting for an update from officials on the numbers here on if they have been able to rescue any of those four that are missing. But when it comes to those you know did die in this, children are among them. What can you tell us about that?
PETTIT: I can't speak to any of the official investigation. There's a joint task force that's going on right now. As you mentioned, with the NTSB, the sheriff's department, the Missouri Highway Patrol. What I can tell you is that our first responders have done such an amazing job. Everybody who was just first on scene -- to everybody who was first on scene out there last night to the people who worked overnight. We've had a team here at city hall all night who have gone without
sleep, just kind of comforting and the families who are involved here. When you come to Branson as a tourist, you're not just a tourist, you're our family.
[10:05:00] And so we are trying the best we can to take care of our family, if that is offering a shoulder to cry on, trying to get them more information, giving them a location here at city hall that they can come to if they need anything at all. But we are very concerned with these people. We have offered them psychologists and chaplains to kind of deal with what's happening.
HARLOW: Melody, we are all with you and thinking about you this morning as, of course, is the president who wrote about it on Twitter this morning. Please keep us posted.
PETTIT: Thank you. Will do.
HARLOW: Of course. We'll bring you that press conference as soon as it begins.
But before that, as we await it, let's talk about Washington and the White House where a week consumed with controversy over that summit between Vladimir Putin and President Trump is now ending with new drama, new intrigue, new controversy over a summit 2.0, a second summit being planned with Vladimir Putin. Watch the National Director of Intelligence -- director of National Intelligence as he is trying to process the announcement that he received not from the West Wing but from a journalist, from NBC's Andrea Mitchell during a live appearance yesterday at the Aspen Institute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again?
MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to the White House.
COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you --
MITCHELL: Yes. Yes.
COATS: That's going to be special.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. I mean, you know, they are laughing about it, I suppose. And it is stunning to find out something like that from a journalist and not, you know, your own team in the West Wing. But in all reality, our colleagues at "The Washington Post" are reporting that the White House is outraged at how Dan Coats responded and that the president might see this as a personal betrayal.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. There is a lot of speculation right now inside the West Wing about DNI Coats' future. You know, that was not something that the president typically likes to see is one of his highest ranking officials publically appearing to mock something that he's just done which in this case is inviting Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, to the United States for round two.
But it is indicative however of the president's strategy it seems going forward from Helsinki. You know, we saw him first try the art of the walk back, trying in various ways to say that he had misspoken during that press conference with Vladimir Putin and trying to say -- show that he is indeed tough on Russia, that he has been tough on Russia.
And now we've seen him kind of double down instead on that rapprochement with Russia. The president making clear that he does want to go forward with the strategy of bringing the United States and Russia closer together, planning for the second meeting with Vladimir Putin in Washington, no less. And this doubling down strategy is already provoking added backlash.
We've seen it so far from Capitol Hill, even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman saying that there's no invitation from Congress at this point for Vladimir Putin when he does indeed come to Washington, if indeed that invitation is confirmed.
But the president is still trying to make clear that he has been tough on Russia and that if his diplomatic endeavors do not work, that he will be Vladimir Putin's worst enemy.
HARLOW: Yes. He said that in that CNBC interview.
Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks.
Let's talk about all of this with CNN national security analyst, former chief of Russia operations for the CIA, Steve Hall, and CNN global affairs analyst and the online news director for the "New Yorker," David Rohde.
Nice to have you both here, gentlemen. Let me begin with you, David. Let me get your reaction to something else very striking, the DNI Coats said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more but that is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way. But that's not my role. That's not my job. So it is what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: What, David, should be more concerning to the American people, the fact that he found out on stage and not from the West Wing that Putin was coming to the White House, invited to the White House in the fall, or the fact that he still, four days out, has no idea what was said behind closed doors between the two leaders?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think the latter is far more alarming. Across the government, there's no information about what actually President Trump might have agreed to with President Putin. Putin and the Russians are putting out statements that there were agreements and the president has sort of boxed himself in by refusing to tell everyone what happened.
And I was in the audience here yesterday in Aspen when Director Coats gave that answer. And people were stunned.
[10:10:01] I mean, this is one of these security conferences and, you know, there's a lot of talking. The atmosphere here is extraordinary. There's constant questioning about what happened in that private meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
HARLOW: Steve Hall, to you. You wrote this week, from a counterintelligence perspective, something is going on behind the scenes. Before Helsinki -- I'm sorry. I'm hearing something in my ear. But my question to you is, do you think that this makes America stronger in any way to have a summit 2.0? Because a comment from Angela Merkel that was interesting this morning is she said she welcomes, you know, the Russian president and the American president meeting together. So -- I mean, is there anything that this America first president, as he bills himself, has that would make this good for America?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Poppy, I just think we all need to be asking ourselves continuously and more importantly asking this administration specifically this president one simple question, which is why. Why do this? It doesn't make any sense from an American -- I don't believe -- national security perspective. We need to be containing Russia I believe at this point. We don't need to be engaging Russia. Because what is it in for the United States?
Yes, there are some nuclear arms negotiations with regard to treaties that are coming due soon that need to be taken care of. That's typically best done by experts. So, you know, aside from that, why do we need to -- the whole idea of, yes, we're just going to have a good relationship with Russia because that's a good thing is childish as an approach to Russian foreign policy.
So we just need to say, why is he doing this. And I honestly don't understand. It doesn't do the president any good politically, right? Because everybody keeps asking, well, wait a minute, is there something more, you know, on this relationship between the president and Putin? So I just -- I don't understand it. Why?
HARLOW: David, let me read you something that was written a year ago by a then influential conservative in Washington, D.C., quote, "Trump, this was after Trump and Putin met briefly, by the way, for the first time. "Trump got to experience Putin looking him in the eye and lying to him, denying Russian interference in the election. It should be a fire bell in the night warning about the value Moscow places on honesty. Whether regarding election interference, nuclear proliferation, arms control or the Middle East. Negotiate today with Russia at your own peril."
Guess who wrote that? That was John Bolton. The same John Bolton who's now a national security adviser, who invited Putin at the White House. Either his views have dramatically changed or he's sort of grinning his teeth and bearing it. What is it and why does that matter?
ROHDE: I think it matters because this is a clear pattern of Donald Trump putting all of his eggs in extraordinarily, you know, difficult positions. It's Donald Trump doing all this. The vast majority of Republicans in the Senate and the House are sort of baffled by this behavior.
Dan Coats yesterday I think was trying to sort of do his job. You know, he was polite in other parts of the presentation. But he was saying that it was his job to present facts to the president of the United States when asked about why he, you know, told the president publicly and stated that the Russians had meddled in the election.
So Donald Trump is the extreme position here. He is insisting on this alone. And I think there's a lot of discontent all across -- you know, privately, Bolton, I would assume, himself. It's just extraordinary how alone the president is in this approach.
HARLOW: Steve, when the president says, as he did to CNBC in this new interview, you know, I will be the worst enemy he's ever had, meaning Putin, if Putin, you know, sort of dares cross us, right? I mean, what do you make of a threat like that from, you know, the leader of one nuclear power to another? What does that really mean?
HALL: I think that you can safely assume that Vladimir Putin thinks that that's the most ridiculous vacuous threat simply based on what I think not only Vladimir Putin but most of the rest of us should look at, which is what are Donald Trump's actions versus his words. So he goes to Helsinki, he has this -- you know, this ludicrous summit where he has, you know, secret meetings that nobody really still understands what happened behind closed doors. He comes out and essentially appears, you know, to be totally subservient to Putin. And then, you know, says, not only that I'm going to invite you back for more discussion.
So how is that hard? I mean, there have been some expulsions, there have been some sanctions. I think Putin is perfectly prepared to put up with that for the expressed ability to divide not only the United States but the West, which is his real goal in all of this. So why meet with a guy who wants to weaken the United States, who wants to weaken the West against Russia? That's why I keep asking myself why in God's name this is happening.
HARLOW: Steve Hall, thank you. And Dave Rohde, thank you very much.
Still to come, the same day the president calls the press the enemy of the American people, his former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen sticks up for the media.
[10:15:08] What should we make of that?
Also, new light on old words from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Could they impact his confirmation? Ahead.
HARLOW: Old words from a man very much now in the spotlight. Quote, "It makes no sense at all to have an independent counsel looking at the conduct of the president. But when it comes to looking at the conduct of the president it has to be Congress." Well, those words come from President Trump's Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh. Yes, this was in 1998. And yes, it can be very relevant today when it comes to the Mueller probe.
[10:20:01] Joining me now for more on this reporting is our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
This is the first time this is being reported. The fact that he said this back in '98, yes, it was a long time ago, but you can bet this is going to come up in his confirmation hearing.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. He has made his -- this is in line with his legal views about raising concerns about whether a president can be indicted. He's raised concerns about the independent counsel. We reported earlier this week that he believes that the Supreme Court precedent upholding the constitutionality of an independent counsel should be overturned.
But the question ultimately is, how does he view the Mueller investigation given that Robert Mueller is a special counsel which operates differently than an independent counsel? Perhaps this video from 1998 could shed some light. Here he makes very clear that he believes that Congress is the one entity that should be investigating the president, not an independent counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The implication is that Congress has to take responsibility for overseeing the conduct of the president in the first instance. That's the role, I believe, the framers envisioned. That's the role that makes sense if you just look at the last 20 years. It makes no sense at all to have an independent counsel looking at the conduct of the president.
Now to be sure, most criminal investigations are going to involve multiple subjects. So we still need a criminal investigation ongoing. But when it comes to looking at the conduct of the president, it has to be the Congress. Congress has to get in this game and stop sitting on the sideline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now of course this came in the context of the Ken Starr investigation, he was investigating the Clinton White House. But Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr for four years. Ken Starr was an independent counsel. Robert Mueller, a special counsel so he was clearly raising concerns about that. But again this is in line with his views about how a sitting president can be investigating, believe that it's the Congress' role. It's a clear separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.
Congress is the one entity that should be investigating the president. So what does that mean for a special counsel like Robert Mueller who is clearly investigating the president, who is investigating the president's campaign? Does he believe that it's constitutional? That is a question that is not answered by this but raises more questions undoubtedly. And it could be very significant if he were confirmed to the court, Poppy, and let's say a subpoena -- they fight a subpoena that Bob Mueller's team issues to force the president to testify.
It goes all the way to the Supreme Court, something that the legal team has warned that they may fight in court. What would Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh do in that situation?
RAJU: We don't know. So significant questions today that he'll have to answer at his confirmation hearings. No doubt.
HARLOW: Yes. And as our legal expert on all this stuff, Steve Vladeck, points out and your reporting, Manu, it's not just that he said, you know, Congress should have this role, it's that -- you know, does he consider the Constitution to -- you know, for -- you know, foreclose on something like this, right?
RAJU: Yes -- yes.
HARLOW: The constitution is that he view it as saying no, this is not legal? That's really the crux of where the questioning I think will go here.
All right, Manu. Thank you.
RAJU: Thanks, Poppy.
HARLOW: Up next, a Republican congressman says a Republican president is being manipulated by Vladimir Putin. What the former CIA agent turned congressman says this could mean for the country.
[10:28:04] HARLOW: This morning, just another Friday, but a Friday where a Republican congressman is taking on a Republican president on the pages of the "New York Times." Former CIA officer turned Texas Congressman Will Hurd writes in an opinion piece, titled "Trump is Being Manipulated by Putin, What Should We Do?," quote, "By playing into Vladimir Putin's hands the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized this Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends or foes abroad."
Joining me now is Amy Parnes, our political analyst and senior political correspondent for the "Hill," and our senior political analyst Mark Preston.
Nice to have you both here. Mark Preston, to you, in some ways yes, it's just another Friday. But this comes on the heels of Lindsey Graham yesterday, Republican senator, calling the Trump administration naive on Russia, the president misjudged Putin. But to you my question is, what are they going to do about it?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what is Congress going to do about it? There's not much Congress can do about it other than continue their investigation into Russia. If Vladimir Putin does come over here right before the midterm elections, which the timing couldn't be any better for Vladimir Putin, the question would be, would Congress invite him to a appear in the United States Senate or the U.S. House would be some kind of joint invitation, I doubt that would happen very much.
HARLOW: McConnell said no.
PRESTON: No. We saw that last night, McConnell said no, of course. And then we would -- what we're seeing happening anywhere right now is that they're trying to create even tougher sanctions right now against Russia. That to the greater spectrum of it all right now, there's really not much Congress can do.
HARLOW: Amy, you hear the president's defenders in the White House saying -- this is some of Eliana Johnson's reporting in Politico. You know, yes, yes, we know it looks bad. It's bad optics. But policy- wise, nothing has really changed and they keep pointing to the president's actions on Russia, et cetera. I mean, how long is that going to fly when you have comments like this coming from, you know, Republicans the president needs in Congress?
AMY PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not going to fly for very long, Poppy, and you know I think what Congress can do is they can actually call Pompeo --