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Trump Invites Putin to Washington in the Fall. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 06:00   ET

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


[06:00:00] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Particular duck boat. If you're familiar with a duck boat, it's one of those land and sea type vessels. This goes through the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, a very popular tourist destination for church groups, families. There were a lot of camps in this area.

Now again we know there are 14 survivors. We've been told that only one has serious injuries when they were taken to the hospital. And again, at this point we don't really know why they were on the lake with this thunderstorm warning that came through here. The reported gust of wind more than 60 miles per hour. We do know there were life vests on the boat, but at this point, John, we cannot say if anybody on that boat used those life vests.

They are going to continue of course that investigation, but most importantly it is the search and recovery mission to find and locate those six people who are still missing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Want to keep you updated on this story throughout the morning.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you very much. We will be speaking to an official from that tour boat company next hour.

We have more major news overnight. Coats has gone rogue. That is a quote in the "Washington Post" from a senior White House official about the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who seems to be in open rebellion from the White House .

There was a full-on "Twilight Zone" moment when Coats, one of the most important security officials in the country, learned for the first time that President Trump has invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the White House this fall. No one had told Coats. He was in the dark just like so many military leaders, just like Congress, just like the American people.

What did President Trump agree to in that two-hour private meeting with Vladimir Putin? Days later and the country still does not know.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House. It will be an interesting morning there to say the least, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. It's been an interesting week. Four days of controversy surrounding this Helsinki meeting that was widely panned as something of a failure for this White House. And now every day since then it has been a new fresh controversy. President Trump now says he believes the intelligence community's assessment that Russia did meddle in the 2016 election, but now he is inviting Vladimir Putin here to Washington. That will be the first time that the Russian leader has been in the United States in almost a decade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP (voice-over): The Trump administration responding to withering bipartisan criticism of his first summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin by trying to schedule a second, inviting Putin to the White House this fall when the midterm elections will also be under way.

The news leading the nation's top intelligence officer stunned.

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?

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL: Do you -- Vladimir Putin coming to the White House.

COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you?

MITCHELL: Yes. Yes.

COATS: OK.

MITCHELL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That's going to be special.

PHILLIP: President Trump tweeting that he's looking forward to implementing some of the things he talked about with Putin during their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, despite the fact that multiple members of the administration say they don't even know what was discussed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have received no specific direction at this point.

COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way but that's not my role, it's a not my job, so it is what it is.

PHILLIP: The surprise announcement coming as the Trump administration was forced to backtrack again over President Trump's openness to a proposal from Putin that would allow Russia to interrogate several Americans in exchange for his access to 12 Russians charged with interfering in the U.S. election. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He feels very strongly

about it. And he has an interesting idea. What he did is an incredible offer.

PHILLIP: After four days of intense backlash, the White House press secretary announcing that while Putin made the proposal in sincerity, President Trump now disagrees with it. Sanders' announcement coming shortly before the Senate voted unanimously to oppose the idea. Its strongest rebuke of the administration yet. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to downplay the proposal.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The administration is not going to send of course Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team.

PHILLIP: As President Trump attempted to counter criticism that he projected weakness in Helsinki.

TRUMP: Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is a positive, not a negative. Now, with that being said, if that doesn't work out, I will be the worst enemy he's ever had.

PHILLIP: The invitation to Putin coming as multiple intelligence officials issued stark warnings about the ongoing threat for America's democratic systems.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign is just one tree in a growing forest.

[06:05:06] COATS: I'm concerned about a cyber 9/11.

PHILLIP: House Republicans voting down an effort to increase election security spending on the chants from Democrats on the House floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote yes on this amendment for your country.

(CHANTS OF "USA")

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And President Trump today has nothing public on his schedule other than his intelligence briefing. He's only scheduled to head out to Bedminster, New Jersey, where he's going to his golf resort today. We'll see if answers questions from reporters about all of this controversy surrounding his meeting with Putin on Monday, but the Russian ambassador to the United States is also announcing that there will be another American delegation headed to Russia, although he didn't say which lawmakers will be going on that trip as well.

But in general, John and Alisyn, it seems very much like the Russians are the ones driving the narrative around this meeting and around all of these topics related to President Putin's interactions with President Trump.

BERMAN: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you very much. Nothing on the president's schedule. More time in executive time for

us to stew over his director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Or watch it replay on cable news over and over because --

BERMAN: We will oblige.

CAMEROTA: Yes. We need to show you that repeatedly.

BERMAN: Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker," Susan Glasser.

Susan, you've been busy writing an article I think that got a lot of people's attention summing up this last week. And I want to put just a section of it that a lot of people are talking about this morning up on the screen for people.

"We are witnessing nothing less than the breakdown of American foreign policy. This week's extraordinary confusion over even the basic details of the Helsinki summit shows that all too clearly."

The breakdown of American foreign policy, Susan. Explain.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, you know, it's pretty clear when you see that video over and over again, when you hear the accounts coming from Russia and not the White House about this extraordinary meeting between our president and President Vladimir Putin, you understand that this is a government whose foreign policy apparatus is no longer working the way that it has worked for generations under Democratic and Republican presidents alike.

You had no process at all leading up to the meeting and there seems to be no connection really between President Trump and the vast apparatus of the U.S. government. They don't know what policy is so they can't implement it. They have been kept in the dark. They are not informed about these important verbal agreements. That was the term that the Russian ambassador to the United States used to say what President Putin and President Trump agreed to privately.

President Trump doesn't seem to trust his own government. And the rift that has opened up in consequence really undercuts the ability of the United States to be. Remember this comes only a week after a trip to Europe that has to be one of the most contentious, difficult series of conversations between our European allies, and the United States, you know, in decades. You have President Trump insulting our allies, calling the European Union foes, while at the same time being -- basically plaintively reaching out to Vladimir Putin for a secret meeting that was of his own asking. This is not normal.

CAMEROTA: David, the -- a friend of "The Washington Post," that moment that we played where DNI Dan Coats is alerted by Andrea Mitchell that there has been an invitation extended to Vladimir Putin to come to the White House in the fall and he -- you hear the nervous laughter. Here's what the "Washington Post" found out. "Inside the White House Trump advisers were in an uproar over Coats'

interview in Aspen, Colorado. They said the optics were especially damaging noting that at moments Coats appeared to be laughing at the president, playing to his audience of the intellectual elite in a manner that was sure to infuriate Trump."

Well, if you don't want your director laughing, don't catch him unawares and humiliate him at a conference where he doesn't know a major foreign policy announcement.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is what's so striking about the meeting with Putin and everything that's come later. This kind of dizzying, you know, attempts to clean up things that he said, walk certain things back, which has been minimal and then to claim that he'll be the worst enemy Putin never had. This is all going on at the very top level. It's just Trump who is conducting this policy and negotiating this relationship without his top advisers or his national security team actually knowing what's going on.

So what's striking is that on its face, the idea that the president of the United States would be driving summitry with his Russian counterpart without the input and really without the hardest work being done at the -- at lower levels, at the staff level, it's what's so striking. And then we also have to understand Trump's approach to Putin in its largest form, which is really about ego.

[06:10:06] You know, his view that he alone can fix this relationship with Russia in a way that no one else has done, and that no matter what Russia has done, you know, resetting the relationship, having warmer ties is a good thing for America, but he's the only one who can pull this off because he's such a great negotiator is both arrogant and incredibly naive, and in the process is undermining American policy toward our Western alliance, toward our tougher stance against Russia, given what it's done and what it may do in the future.

So you put all these things together, I agree with Susan. I don't know that our foreign policy is breaking down, but certainly in terms of our approach to Russia, you have a team around Trump that is totally out of sync with him. And what the consequences of that are, we don't know.

BERMAN: Totally, completely out of sync. And let's just say about Dan Coats, and this is no disrespect to Dan Coats, I mean, this is the nicest possible way. He had two cents in the Senate where he was basically vanilla. You know, Dan Coats is not one of these types of guys to stir things up and what we saw in that stage yesterday was rainbow sherbet. He has no blanks left to give on this subject. He clearly did not care what the White House thought about her performance.

I just want to -- I'm going to play it again because people need to see this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

COATS: Say that again?

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin coming to the White House.

COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you?

MITCHELL: Yes. Yes.

COATS: OK.

MITCHELL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That's going to be special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I mean, as "The Washington Post" says, there are people in the White House who think that Dan Coats was laughing at them.

CAMEROTA: Well, he's processing it in real time. I mean, I don't know how you interpret it, Susan, but how do you expect him to react when a bombshell like that is dropped on him without any clue before him?

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I found the phrasing of that first report so instructive as to actually what the mindset is inside the White House. I don't think that others look at that and say Dan Coats is laughing at the president. They see a very senior of official of the United States government whose job is after director of National Intelligence being cut out of the loop by the White House, being -- you know, part of a long series of very senior officials being systematically ignored, humiliated.

I think David's point is the relevant point here which is that President Trump believes I alone can fix it. Remember last year when the ranks of the State Department depleted and emptied, and President Trump was asked about it, he essentially said, it doesn't matter. All those thousands of people who normally work in the federal government, forget about them, I'm the only one who matters. And now you see what this summit with Vladimir Putin, it's as close as you can be in a super power context to having a foreign policy orchestrated and organized by one person and that's the president, and that's not how it's supposed to work.

And that's what I meant about the breakdown of the system. You know, we're a country of 300 million people. The idea is almost laughable that one person is going to simply decide to re-orient American foreign policy. He doesn't need his staff to do it, he doesn't even need to tell his advisers what his plans are. Again that's just simply -- the reason you see people laughing nervously is because there is no way to process that information. GREGORY: And I think what else is important to add on to that is you

have the president pursuing a policy with Russia. An adversary of the United States. A country that has dialed up its attempts to interfere in our democracy. Whose actions were not adequately dealt with by the Obama administration, we should say, in real time. And you have a president who says no, Putin is somebody I can do business with, makes incredible offers, does all of these things, showing complete ignorance of what the Russian government is and has done in recent years.

Skewing any accountability on the part of Congress or even a senior national security team and then saying that attempts to hold him accountable for that is brought to you by a press corps that's an enemy of the people. So, I mean, you talk about President Trump's authoritarian tendencies, this would be writ large where he says the people mustn't know what we're doing. Let's keep this information away from the people, and I alone will do this for the benefit of America. You know, that should, you know, wake people up.

BERMAN: They're coming back I think next hour.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: There are two questions I want us all to think about.

CAMEROTA: OK.

BERMAN: As we're in break. Number one, David Gregory says the administration, the president is pursuing a policy toward Russia. Do we know that there is actually a policy he is pursuing? We don't know what happened in the meeting? Is there actually a set agenda in his mind?

Let's discuss that. And number two, how psyched are Republican members of Congress that President Trump announced that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in this fall?

[06:15:06] CAMEROTA: On a scale of one to 10, a slight chance?

BERMAN: How psyched surrounding the midterm elections are Republican members of Congress? Think about that. We'll discuss about the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: OK, so two stunning moments happened almost simultaneously yesterday. The White House announced that President Trump is inviting Russian president Vladimir Putin to Washington, and then just hours later Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out the cyber threat posed by Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSENSTEIN: Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign is just one tree in a growing forest. Russian intelligence officers did not stumble on the idea of hacking American computers and posting misleading messages because they had a free afternoon. It's what they do every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, we're back with David Gregory and Susan Glasser.

So -- I mean, the president is, I guess, I don't know if he's listening to all of his -- the experts around him, but whatever they're saying about trying to ring these warning belling, David Gregory.

[06:20:02] I mean, you know, you heard DNI Coats talk about how this is a 9/11 style attack, all of the warning signs are blinking red, but at the same time the president is inviting Vladimir Putin. How do you see it?

GREGORY: Well, I think -- look, administrations, the last administration wanted to reset the relationship with Russia as well. The presidency of George W. Bush sought warmer relationships with Russia. There was misjudgment there but there was also helpful work that was done in support on, say, Iran and countering Iran's nuclear program under the Bush administration.

So it's inconceivable that the Trump administration would like to work with Russia where it can. I think what is confounding is the split we talked about in the national security team, the question that Berman raises about what exactly is the policy, what's the end game for this administration with Russia. So, you know, what is it that they are actually doing here and trying to accomplish, and why elevate this level of summitry?

Why elevate Putin to this point where he's not kept at kind of cautious distance and put on notice, or actually sanctioned? And I think diplomatically this is important, the ability to say, look, we can step up sanctions, and this is how this looks unless you dial back what you are doing, which is what I think Obama tried to do face-to- face with Putin? So why elevate Putin and give him this level of summitry without achieving some of those things in advance first?

BERMAN: Why reward him?

GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: Why reward him with an invitation to the United States at the end of a week where you repeatedly had to -- you know, we use the phrase walk back, but it's either reverse, clean up, fix. Three major points that the president had to fix, whether it was -- whether he believed there was even election meddling, whether he thought that the Russians were meddling right now, whether it was -- whether he wanted to turn over a former U.S. ambassador to Russian interrogation --

CAMEROTA: Whether they would or wouldn't do it again.

BERMAN: Yes. You know, it's just -- why reward Putin at the end of a week for that, and David Axelrod, admittedly David Axelrod who is now, you know, a CNN host of a podcast among others but at one time was a Democratic political operative, he knows, Susan, convenient timing for a visit because if Putin visits in the fall, he can personally survey the progress of his efforts to disrupt our election.

Is there a chance Putin says to this, Susan?

GLASSER: Well, actually, you know, it's interesting you raised that, President Trump already invited Vladimir Putin to the White House, people didn't focus on this but back in the famous "do not congratulate" phone call in March, when in fact President Trump did congratulate President Putin for his reelection, when he invited President Putin to the White House. Interestingly at that time it was the Russians once again who put out that information, not the White House.

And what I was told in my reporting that was that it was actually President Putin who didn't want to come to Washington initially. And so that's how they ended up in Helsinki for their first meeting. But I think your point is well taken. Number one the politics of this. Is it really going to happen in the fall? Who knows, we don't know yet. It seemed a little bit like a gimmick or a stunt when they tweeted this out in the middle of that Coats interview yesterday.

So we'll see what actually happens, number one. Number two, I want to make a point, though, why do we have these increasing tensions with Russia? Why all this concern about the policy and what was agreed upon privately as opposed to what President Trump said publicly? I can't emphasize that enough.

Our problems and our difficult relationship with Russia did not begin and end in 2016. In fact the reason that President Obama's administration ended up on such difficult terms with Vladimir Putin was because of Russian aggression and the illegal annexation of Crimea. That's the first illegal annexation of territory since the end of World War II in Europe. OK. And so that's why we began imposing the sanctions.

And President Trump has not given an answer to the basic questions that you posed before, which is what is our policy toward Russia? Congress has a policy of continuing these sanctions. Europe has a policy, but it appears from all of his statements that President Trump doesn't really support that policy anymore, so the question is, what did he discuss with President Putin behind closed doors about possibly coming to a resolution or moving away from America's tough position on that 2014 annexation and that still ongoing war, by the way? It's still a war in the eastern Ukraine.

CAMEROTA: And of course the answer is we don't know. We don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: The other thing we don't know -- I mean, what's scary is this again, the egocentric piece of this, which is you know that Trump feels his best defense against election interference or worse is that, oh no, he won't do that to me. He pushed around those other guys but I alone can fix this relationship and he thinks I'm tough enough that he wouldn't do this to me. I don't know what would give Putin that impression based on how the

president is conducting himself. And the split within his own administration of pursuing whatever the policy or end game is with Russia.

[06:25:06] For him to say in an interview, having a relationship is a good thing and if it doesn't work out, I'll be the worst enemy he's ever had. Again, completely divorces himself from his own national security team and leaves him in a position of saying one thing to undermine Coats then trying to shore him up, saying, oh no, they absolutely did interfere after saying no, they didn't. Oh well, that's a great idea, maybe we'll allow him to interrogate a former U.S. ambassador, oh no, we're not going to do that. I mean, this part is just leaving everybody whipsocked (PH).

BERMAN: We have to let you go, can I say a quick poll yes or no, does Dan Coats have a job in the administration at the end of the day, Susan?

(LAUGHTER)

GLASSER: I'll be watching with great interest at CNN's coverage throughout the day.

BERMAN: David Gregory?

GREGORY: I think he does.

CAMEROTA: Well said.

GREGORY: I think he does. Yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. There you go. Thank you both very much for being here.

All right. Back to what's happening with all of the extreme weather, there are tornadoes that have touched down in Iowa. Look at this. We're going to show you some of the destruction that it left behind.

BERMAN: Wow.

CAMEROTA: My gosh, look at this video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)