Return to Transcripts main page


At Least 11 Dead, 6 Missing after Missouri Tour Boat Capsizes; Trump Invites Putin to Washington. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- tragic breaking news for you. Overnight 11 people have been confirmed dead. This is near Branson, Missouri. Their tour boat sank in strong winds and thunderstorms.

We have some video of this tragedy, it is very disturbing to watch it unfold, it is a duck boat. It rocks back and forth the moments before it sinks.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That is a lake. That is unbelievable.


CAMEROTA: There are people in there, it is just impossible to tell, if they had life preservers on or what was happening here.

BERMAN: Where this was footage being taken from?

How close were they?

Authorities say there are children among the dead. There were 31 people on board when the boat capsized; at least six are still missing. Our Dianne Gallagher tracking the very latest developments.

Dianne, what have you learned?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Divers are going back out this morning to continue to search for the six people. They suspended the dives last night around midnight after searching and locating the bodies of 11 people and rescuing those 14.

Now 29 people were passengers on that, two crew members. This is Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. It's a very popular area in the summer time with tourism for families, church groups. There are a lot of camps in the area.

And that is a duck boat. On the water, this is air and sea. It travels on land and then it goes down onto the water. This one in particular travels through the Ozarks before going on Table Rock Lake.

We do know there were life vests on board. At this point authorities say they cannot tell if anyone was wearing them. There was a severe thunderstorm warning before the accident happened with wind gusts, we're told, of up to 63 miles per hour. The sheriff's office says they do believe at this point this could be

weather related. Now the ownership group Ripley Entertainment (ph) had recently purchased this duck boat. They did have some other vessels on the lake. They say they made it to the dock.

Diving is going to resume this morning. The Branson city hall has allowed family members to stay there overnight to get additional information. We should be getting more from the sheriff's office about 10 o'clock Eastern this morning.

CAMEROTA: Please keep us posted on the search, thank you very much.

We have more major news for you. Despite facing bipartisan backlash over his meeting with Vladimir Putin just this past Monday, the president has now extended an invitation to Vladimir Putin to the White House in the fall.

His own intelligence chief, Dan Coats, only found out about this from a journalist. Watch the moment.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.



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.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

Watching Dan Coats process that in real-time is riveting.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He had a large smile on his face so he's --


CAMEROTA: -- yes, but that's because he -- it's just what fresh hell is this?

Is what he's basically saying.

As if we needed any confirmation that the president is going it alone and not consulting his experts or even clueing in his experts, that is Exhibit A.

HABERMAN: Or at least certain experts in his White House are not clueing in other experts. This is once again proof that this is not a team that functions as a team, which we have seen evidence of since, well, January 21st of 2017.

His surprise was very clearly genuine. What we have heard over the last 24 hours or how many hours it's been since that happened is the 18, 12, is the White House trying to basically put Dan Coats out there on a raft and suggest that he is going off on his own and he's the one acting as a rogue agent.

It is the President of the United States who is acting at odds with basically everybody else in his government on this topic. So it is true that someone is going rogue; it does not seem to be everyone else.

It is also worth noting with Dan Coats, when he was in Congress, he was one of the people -- I believe it was in 2014 -- who was banned by Russia because he called for more sanctions. So there is a personalized aspect to this with him, where he knows first-hand how Russia acts when somebody opposes Russia. It's not the same as what the U.S. does at all. It just isn't.

BERMAN: One of the things made clear to Andrea Mitchell there was he spoke out -- I guess it was Monday or Tuesday, again, I can't remember -- because he felt he had to correct the record. It's amazing when the Director of National Intelligence feels like he has to correct the record when the record is the President of the United States.

HABERMAN: I think we saw last year people dealing in various ways domestically and globally with a very different kind of president who was willing --


HABERMAN: -- to be at odds with his own government. And I think people were in shock for a long time about it and didn't know how to deal with it. And now I think you are seeing members of this government, members of aspects of this government, make clear they are representing the government and not him personally --

BERMAN: He made that crystal clear. I think that's what that laugh --

HABERMAN: I think that's right, and I think you're going to increasingly see people in the Trump White House again try to turn this into a up and down referendum on the president and suggest that people are being disloyal.

Their argument would be that they're being loyal to the country.

CAMEROTA: Yesterday I was saying to John Berman here, was Helsinki on Monday?

Was it this week?

I was flabbergasted because so much had happened in the space of these four days. And the president had so many positions and there has so much cleanup and there had been so many different things, giving us all whiplash.

And so at the end of this week, let's just stop and take a breath and see where we are. Because at the beginning of the week, for the first time, it seemed like there was a chorus of Republicans, who were so astonished by what had happened in Helsinki, and the president seeming to blame America that they actually spoke out.

At the end of the week, here is Republican Will Hurd. He has an op-ed in "The New York Times," as you know.

He says, "By playing into Vladimir Putin's hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign," OK, saying that President Trump actually participated, "that legitimatized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States with both our friends and foes abroad."

Unlike the other Republicans who have spoke out, he not retiring.

HABERMAN: He's not retiring; two facts to bear in mind with him, one, he is a former CIA officer. So he brings that to his words, number one.

But number two, he is in a competitive race in these midterms. And I think that he is a bit of a bellwether. It's not going to be universally but he is -- he is where this is going for people who are in competitive, certain competitive House races, where they recognize this will be problematic.

They need some distance -- Republicans, I'm talking about -- need some distance from the leader of their party, that they cannot be seen as in lockstep with him on this.

And the president is -- we've seen before where he does harm to members of his own party with his words, with things he does. He's also doing harm to himself right now in a very specific way which is that his legal team has spent, I think it's now, almost three months trying to influence public opinion on the Mueller probe.

It is a witch hunt, this is wrong, they are going outside of the bounds, why would anybody think collusion. This is all a Democratic scheme. The president is doing a lot to undermine that work with what he has said because there are -- voters will understand, the president is not sticking up for American citizens. The president is not sticking up for American interests. That is something that voters will get and that works against him. Again, not just in terms of his own approval ratings but in terms of what his legal team has been trying to do in anticipation of a report from the special counsel.

BERMAN: This is a tough picture. This is a very tough picture for them and I asked the question last hour, how psyched are Republicans that Vladimir Putin is coming to the United States in the fall?

We don't know when in the fall, I would be shocked, I would just be shocked if it's before the November election. But I've been shocked a lot.

HABERMAN: Well, right, fall is elastic, I guess. But it's interesting; I asked a Senate official yesterday whether Putin would be welcome on Capitol Hill and it was a very emphatic and fast, there is no invitation being extended to come visit Congress.

So that was a real message to the president, you're on your own with this. We're not going to bolster you.

BERMAN: The CBS poll had, what, like 68 percent approval among Republicans. And for a second yesterday, people were using that, saying, look, Republicans are standing by the president here. But that is actually a much lower number than he has overall.

HABERMAN: It is a lower number than he has overall and on other issues. I will say, I'm loathe -- and I said this to you guys earlier this week -- I'm loathe to jump to the conclusion that this will have a deep impact with voters. It clearly has Republican elites and electives very nervous, angry and uncomfortable, whatever range of emotions.

We don't yet know what that looks like with voters and I think --

CAMEROTA: I know. We need to do some public polling --


HABERMAN: -- we need to wait a week because it's not clear yet.

CAMEROTA: Sure and we need to wait until the midterms. But before all of that, and I did ask you this at the beginning of the week. But again, on Friday, let's just assess what has happened this week.

Do you today feel that something changed this week?

That after all of the things that people say, surely this is it, surely this is so breaking with convention that this will have some sort of impact.

Was this week, of all of the drama, will it have a different kind of impact than we've seen?

HABERMAN: I think this is certainly the worst week of his presidency. I can't really -- I mean, Charlottesville would be the other comparable one. Whether this one has staying power in the minds of voters, I still think it is too early to say.

I do think the fact that we look at all of these issues basically as the same, and everything is in the same box of does it impact him, does it change anything --


HABERMAN: -- this is objectively different, objectively a big deal. I don't know whether it impacts him or now. But it is -- I think that enough Republicans are understanding and leaders are understanding why this is potentially detrimental to them.

BERMAN: Two things though I want to point out. Number one, in your piece, which came out overnight, you addressed this variation -- I think it was Jeff Gearan (ph), and Democratic polls, where it basically says he thinks that this may actually stick. He thinks this is one of those things that might actually stick.

Number two, you talk about the objective facts here. We're sitting here on a Friday and the objective facts are there is still confusion, we still don't know --


HABERMAN: -- he has changed -- he also changed his story and Jeff Gearan (ph) made this point to me, too, that Trump has changed his story about where he is on various aspects of his meeting with Putin several times.

And I think "would/wouldn't" is almost like a parody version of it. But he has had other --

BERMAN: Every day.

HABERMAN: -- points of this, yes.

BERMAN: I guess my version of the question that Allie (ph) asked was, do they think, in the White House, the people you are talking to, do they say out loud or are you getting the scent of concern from them in your conversations that they fear this might be different?

HABERMAN: They do fear this might be different. But remember, everything -- this is a White House that has a tremendous bunker mentality. And you have a choice when you work for him, which is to either bend toward what he wants or to leave.

And you still see people bending toward what he wants because what they end up seeing is we're under siege from the outside. They're also under siege from above them, with the president. But it is a lot harder to look at it that way.

So they do recognize that there is danger here. But they are hoping that they can just barrel through.

CAMEROTA: I guess the reason that I think that it was so different is because hearing the president on foreign soil, standing next to Vladimir Putin, blaming --

(CROSSTALK) CAMEROTA: -- that was a Rubicon for some people, including FOX News. The reason that it's out there this week is despite they're his biggest cheerleaders ,there are certainly people on FOX News who have spoken out against the president's policies.

But this time it was his cheerleaders, the people who have stood by him, who said, what was that? What just happened?

HABERMAN: That's part of why you saw him do an attempt at course correction relatively quickly for him. We usually don't see it that fast.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I was like a grammatical course of action --


HABERMAN: -- I don't think he turned the car in the other direction --

CAMEROTA: -- I'm not sure that, for voters, an apostrophe will make them unhear what --

BERMAN: Well, the problem is because by Thursday and Friday, where we are now, you don't remember the apostrophe. You just remember still that he was standing side by side with Vladimir Putin and there continues to be confusion about what he agreed to, whether it's turning over U.S. ambassadors, whether he thinks that Russia's still meddling in the election.

No one currently knows what is going on. And that gets us to the invitation, invite Vladimir Putin here. You have -- let's walk people through Maggie's day yesterday.

You were writing an article about how the president was trying to pivot away from Russia. Ultimately in the middle of that he the announces --

CAMEROTA: Your lead changed.

HABERMAN: A lead change.


HABERMAN: We needed additional writing and reporting. It was really a microcosm of the Trump era for reporters, really. It's like you have this idea and then an hour later, he does something that -- it doesn't certainly undermine what you're writing but it changes it into different degrees.

His White House is having trouble keeping up with this. One of the things that I think is this huge misconception about him is that everyone always tries to impute this strategy onto what he is doing.

So there's some -- he went to the U.K. and what was he thinking when he was critical of Theresa May? He gave an interviews to "The Sun" as a favor to Rupert Murdoch. And he didn't recognize until that interview was over the magnitude of what he had said.

When he had left the stage -- and he has said this -- when he left the stage with Putin, he was like, that went fine. What is the problem?

CAMEROTA: That went well.

HABERMAN: And you're going to -- when somebody is just sort of fundamentally disconnected from how these things will be received, you will be surprised a lot and rewriting your leads a lot.

CAMEROTA: That is not crazy like a fox, that is Mad Hatter level confusion.

HABERMAN: I'm just saying there is no plan. Without diagnosing, there's -- he doesn't -- there's not some grand strategy that he is working on, other than survival and getting through very small increments of time.

BERMAN: Is he watching this?

Does he know yesterday when -- I'm not --


BERMAN: -- but the Dan coats thing, for instance, he is up on stage yesterday, he sees that. Not only did that play out over that moment on stage but then it became four hours --

HABERMAN: That was just the most predictable reaction in the world. But to be fair to him, any president who had a member of the administration speaking out like that would not be happy --


HABERMAN: But no other administration that I could think of would have this kind of dynamic in the first place.


CAMEROTA: Obviously, Dan Coats was caught unaware. He doesn't want to be embarrassed in front of the Aspen Institute. So then alert him to what you're thinking. You could have avoided that.

HABERMAN: Again, this is -- I've been hearing from people close to Trump for the last 12 hours how wrong this is, that people are going and speaking out --


HABERMAN: in this way, that they're going to the Aspen Institute, that they're talking like this.

It's -- this is -- you can argue, you can quibble about the forum. But at the end of the day, their loyalty is supposed to be to the country and not to one particular person, which has always been what the government --

BERMAN: Just to the point again of where the line is drawn by some supporters of the president here, in your piece, you talk about Newt Gingrich, who was the first one to say that the president needs to correct this.

When the president corrected it, he said, OK, it went well. But now he's gone silent again?

HABERMAN: Yes, this is what happens with the president and this is the most predictable thing in the world, is that once he did -- this is why his folks said to him, you have to do some kind of a change although they were not banging on the gates, saying do this.

They knew that would give some of his supporters something to point to, to say, look, he dealt with it. So we can just move on now.

But of course he has been undealing with it for several days.

CAMEROTA: Is Dan Coats going to keep his job?

HABERMAN: I don't think the president is going to be in a position to fire anyone based on this. I think it has been made clear to him, and if it hasn't sufficiently, it will be, how problematic it would be in this climate to fire anyone.

Does that mean it stays the same after the midterms?

No, I think they will reassess everything --


HABERMAN: But right now I think things --

BERMAN: And yesterday Dan Coats was asked out loud, will you stay in the job?

He goes, I will stay as long as I can seek the truth and speak the truth, which is, hey, Mr. President, I'm talking. I'm going to keep on talking. This is me.

HABERMAN: Yes, that is unusual and we have not seen a lot of that from people working for the president, that is true, or in this administration under this president.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, great to see you. Thanks for coming in, giving us a window on what it's like to try to report on all of this stuff.

So the presidents, President Trump, President Putin, invited to a new meeting here in the United States. In the meantime, Congress, members of both parties, trying to pass certain measures to check Russian aggression.

How's that going?

We'll speak to one of the leaders of that effort -- next.





BERMAN: A stunning admission, the president's top intelligence chief, Dan Coats, saying he doesn't know what happened. He does not know what was discussed during the meeting between President Trump and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, that one-on-one meeting that lasted more than two hours in Helsinki.

What do lawmakers know?

Joining us now is one of the leaders in the Congress trying to assert some oversight over the administration on this issue, Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, thank you for being with us. Your take on some of the news developments in the last 20 hours or so. The president announced he's invited Vladimir Putin to come visit the United States in the fall.

Do you think that is a good idea?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: What could go wrong, John?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a difficult result. Clearly this was just a scramble to try to do damage control. I think the president dug himself even deeper here. Didn't even consult with the head of DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, or others in the administration.

So it was bad enough the first time. I'm not sure why a do-over is a good idea.

BERMAN: In a vacuum, meeting with leaders of different countries is a good thing, you would agree with that, yes?

VAN HOLLEN: Absolutely. And we should try to improve our relations with Russia. But you don't improve relations with Russia when you go into a meeting and, before that, you tweet out the reasons we have trouble with Russia is because of the United States, not the fact that Russia invaded Crimea, not the fact that they have been aggressive in the Ukraine and not the fact that attacked our own elections in 2016.

So of course, meeting with a foreign leader, if you're prepared, is fine. But when you go into a meeting and nobody in your administration has any idea what you agreed to, that's a very dangerous situation.

BERMAN: So it is Friday, this meeting was Monday, you are in the Senate, a member of the U.S. Congress.

Do you have any idea at this point was what agreed to during that meeting?

VAN HOLLEN: I have no idea. And I think we're learning that people in Trump's own administration don't have any idea. Of course, what they will know is only what the president told tem.

And we don't know if that will be an accurate reflection of what happened. That is why this is no way to conduct our foreign policy. What we do know about what happened in Helsinki is what the world saw, which was President Trump throwing U.S. intelligence under the bus and saying that Vladimir Putin is just as credible -- and maybe more so -- than the United States of America.

And that sends an awful message around the world.

BERMAN: That is what he said on Monday. He has since said he misspoke there. We ill have people decide what they think for themselves.

Congress has been very active this week. I would say unusually active this week on this very subject, discussing a number of resolutions. Yesterday one did pass 98-0, suggesting it would be a very bad idea for the United States ever to turn over a former U.S. ambassador for questioning by Russia.

But there other measures and you are leading on to deal with Russia going forward in a more forward-looking way. This is called the DETER Act. Explain exactly what this would do.

VAN HOLLEN: It's very clear that President Trump is not interested in defending the integrity of our elections. So Congress has to step up to the plate. What the DETER Act would do -- and introduced it with Senator Rubio, it's a bipartisan bill, growing support from both Republicans and Democrats, very straightforward.

It creates a mechanism whereby if the Director of National Intelligence determinations that Vladimir Putin and Russia have interfered in the 2018 elections or any other elections, there are automatic very tough economic sanctions.

So if you're Putin and you're trying to do a cost/benefit analysis about whether it's worth interfering in another election, you will know if you --


VAN HOLLEN: -- get caught, your economy will get clobbered. And the idea is to deter Putin from taking action again.

BERMAN: If yesterday is any barometer, there were some measures that were allowed to go to a vote and one of them was this 98-0 measure dealing with U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.

But there were other measures that Republican Senate leadership blocked.

Do you feel that you have the support of Republican Senate leadership to allow this to go to a vote?

VAN HOLLEN: I think the jury is still out on that, John. This is a moment where words and public criticism and resolutions that condemn the president's actions but actually have no teeth are not enough.

This is a moment where we have to step up and actually take specific action. Republicans said that they understand this moment is different. They understand that Congress really needs to assert itself and take meaningful action here.

So I hope we will move forward on this. Senator Rubio and I, just today, sent a letter to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, saying let's move forward this coming week to have hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Banking Committee that I serve on and act quickly.

BERMAN: You said you know this moment is different.

From purely a political perspective, is it different between we're 18 months into the Trump presidency and there has been one political crisis after another? And they've come and they've gone. Charlottesville happened and then, months later, that didn't seem to be what people were talking about, certainly was not being discussed in Congress.

So will this one actually last?

Will the concern -- will the focus in Congress last beyond this week next week?

VAN HOLLEN: The test will be whether or not the Republican leadership steps forward and takes meaningful action, working to pass the DETER Act, like working to protect the Mueller investigation. There are two things we've got to two. We have to protect the integrity of the Mueller information, let that investigation run its course. Let's get the facts and then protect the integrity of our elections going forward.

2018 and beyond. And I think the answer to your question is still unknown and that is what the coming week will test. We have got to pass legislation to protect our elections. That is what the DETER Act will do.

And as I indicated, we have growing bipartisan support. Now the question is whether the leadership will move forward.

As you said, the leadership blocked a very simple resolution, non- binding resolution yesterday, just standing behind the findings of our intelligence agencies. That was not a good sign.

BERMAN: Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, thank you so much for joining us. Please keep us posted as to how this vote progresses, thank you, sir. VAN HOLLEN: Will do. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: How are Republicans feeling today about the week that we have just had?

How are they feeling about the president and his policies at the end of this very bizarre week?

We'll talk to Rick Santorum -- next.