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Trump Administration Announces Russian President Vladimir Putin Will Visit White House; Duck Boat Capsizes in Missouri During Storm. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: No, I cannot. What worries me about that, and I thought Dan Coats did a fine job of trying to play it off and try to make a -- put a little humor on that problem, but this is significant problem if you're director of national intelligence who coordinates all the information flowing through all of the intelligence agencies doesn't know what happened in the meeting, which means there was no agenda to try to accomplish and then no debriefing on what that could or couldn't accomplish in that meeting, all of that is problematic.

And here's what bothers me most about this. Vladimir Putin back in February 22 had his defense minister come out and say we have been so successful in information operations we are creating special units in the defense ministry of Russia to do these information operations. And then, of course, that's why the GRU, military intelligence side, was indicted just recently, which means they are moving out smartly and showing no sign of slowing up.

And what I think the president doesn't know and is not willing to admit what he doesn't know is that Putin is putting together, he's writing the script for future information operations, and unfortunately Trump, wittingly or not, is actually being a player, an actor in that script. And there's still continue after this meeting starting the message, when Putin went to the ambassadors and said there's really big, bad political problems in the democracy of America, but Russia is stable and moving out around the world. That was on purpose. It was part of his script, and that's what I am just so frustrated about that the president doesn't realize he is just getting reeled in here by a very sophisticated --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: When you say he's playing into the script, how exactly is President Trump being played by Putin?

ROGERS: Well, to go to the meeting and have a meeting where no one else is in it, and now Putin is selectively leaking out what happened in the meeting, now Putin is in charge of the information. It may be right, it may be wrong. It could be legitimate, it could be illegitimate information. But he is using that and the fact that the president is there trying to have this relationship, and, oh, by the way, the politics in America are bad. Remember, this is an old message, both by the Soviet Union and the Russian intelligence service that America is a bad place and democracy doesn't work and you shouldn't pay attention to them, he's now promoting that through these very sophisticated speeches and letting information out. This is what worries me is that somebody doesn't get a hold of the president sharing, hey, wait a minute. You need to understand what Vladimir Putin is trying to do, and he's using you to do it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He's writing the script even this morning. This morning the Russians are saying that in this closed-door meeting there was a discussion about having a referendum in Crimea which is the most Putin-esque of positions on how to deal with the future of Crimea. The Russians are saying this. We have no idea from the White House side if this is something the president considered or not. He hasn't said no. We just don't know.

But before I let that moment go, Jane, the moment of Dan Coats up on that stage, you worked with DNI Dan Coats when he was a senator and you were a member of the House of Representatives. That's not a version of Dan Coats that I ever saw when he was in the Senate there. Yes, he laughed. But I think he was laughing in a sense because he couldn't cry over what he was learning there.

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT, AND CEO, WILSON CENTER: Well, a couple of things. I was a co-author of the bill that set up the DNI, and Mike and I worked closely together when the House Intelligence Committee functioned on a bipartisan basis, which was a very good thing. It's very sad to see its demise now.

Yes, he was -- he's a quiet guy, and he said at the outset of the thing yesterday, I was there, I'm here in Aspen, that he spent his time as a senator trying to get his face in his local paper, and now in this job he's trying to go dark. But he has no choice now, and I think he knows it. This is the moment where he either defends his workforce and the intelligence community, which is supposed to speak truth to power, or not.

And I think Dan Coats is a principled guy, and he's got nothing to lose. He's been a senator twice, an ambassador once, and he's at an age where he doesn't need the job, and I think it will be very hard for Trump to push him out.

Let me just say one more thing. I think we should assume, I don't have any proof, that the Russians taped the private meeting. It was in Finland. The GRU is very good at penetrating places, and I think we should assume that. So they're going to dribble out that tape and we probably don't have.

If Putin comes to America, let's also assume there may be further indictments, maybe including Americans before he gets here. And there will probably be more detailed information about not just the fact that the GRU directed the maligned interference last time and this time, but that Putin directed the GRU to direct. And all of that will be swirling before the election, or if it's after the election, let's imagine that. Maybe the majorities change. I can't see how this visit will help either Republicans get elected, or surely Trump carry out some agenda that will exonerate the Russians or exonerate him.

[08:05:12] CAMEROTA: So, Mike, look, I don't want to get too alarmist, but does it cause you any concern beyond just the politics of Vladimir Putin coming to the White House given everything that Jane has just laid out about how they're, KGB or whatever, GRU, generally sets up for those types of visits?

ROGERS: Clearly. And this is what's so frustrating. I guarantee you Vladimir Putin was prepared for that meeting. I'll guarantee you that he knew the issues of which he was going to address, the kind of buttons he was going to push. They did a profile on the president. They're going to try to figure out what his strengths and weaknesses are.

That's why in these meetings, especially with someone who is as savvy as the old KGB officer Vladimir Putin, you want to have people with you and you want to have really extreme preparation, and you must have an agenda. What do you want out of the meeting, Mr. President? Let's start there. To go just to be friends and have a group hug and a selfie is dangerous policy when you're talking about someone who is actively working against the interests of the United States.

This is the guy that invaded Crimea. He occupies 20 percent of our ally, the country of Georgia. He has just killed somebody in Great Britain because they were -- had the courage to stand up and say the system that he runs is wrong. There's a list of reporters that he has had killed in Russia within the last couple of years. You want do give this guy a national stage at the White House at a time when we know that most Americans at least appreciate they tried to influence U.S. elections? This is what worries me. That is a very shortsighted, I can fix this, by God no one else can but I'll do it, and it flies in the face of what we watched Vladimir Putin doing after the Helsinki meeting.

BERMAN: Jane, you're shaking your head.

HARMAN: Yes. I'm agreeing with Mike. I'm imagining the agenda, which is maybe one more time Russia helping with North Korea. By the way, we have no timeline for an agreement with North Korea. We threw out the Iran agreement which was working to some extent. Everyone at least agrees on that. Now they can re-nuclearize, and that could start an arms race in the Middle East. If you have no timetable with North Korea, we have already reduced our military exercises in South Korea. We may do other things, and if the region perceives that our nuclear umbrella is coming down, they're going to nuclearize.

So I don't exactly see where Putin fits in a movie that is going to make the world more stable. And that the friendship we're building with Putin, and I do think we should be talking to Putin, but as Mike says, not giving him the red carpet treatment in the capital of the United States when he's demonstrated enormously bad behavior to us and all of our allies in the last period of years.

CAMEROTA: Jane Harman, Mike Rogers, thank you both very much for your --

BERMAN: What's so interesting is this is bipartisan. Republican Mike Rogers, Democrat Jane Harman who were both key in Congress on intelligence and security matters, and they're pretty much in lockstep on how they view this past week.

CAMEROTA: Because they've been there. They lived it. They've experienced all this. They know from which they speak.

We'll get into more of that, but we do want to get to our breaking news right now, because overnight at least 11 people confirmed dead near Branson, Missouri. Their tour boat, a duck boat that you see here in this very disturbing, upsetting video, it sank in these intense winds and thunderstorms in the area. So we have some new footage of this tragedy which is what you're seeing on your screen right now. The duck boat there is about to sink. You can see it rocking back and forth moment before it does sink. And we believe that there are still people on board as this is happening.

So this video was taken by a passenger on a nearby showboat that was docked. Authorities say there are children among the dead. Thirty- one people were on board this boat when it capsized. At least six are still missing at this hour we think.

Joining us on the phone now is Missouri Governor Mike Parson. Governor, thank you very much. I know it's a very busy morning for you and I know you were just updated from authorities. So do you have anything new to share with us?

GOV. MIKE PARSON, (R) MISSOURI: No. We were. We just received a briefing earlier and we are actually on our way down there at this point now. We were on the other side of the state. Just a terrible, horrific, tragic accident that's occurred. And rescue is still ongoing. We have actually some other states now involved with the rescue side of it. There is 13 confirmed deaths at this point involving children. And right now we are just trying to make sure that we do all the support we can to end this as much as we can, and really get the resources on scene we need to try to get everything done.

[08:10:06] There are still people in the water. We do know that. So at this point, it's just -- I ask everybody to keep in mind the families are involved with this. The emergency crews are working on this. It's a sad day for us, and I just -- my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone.

CAMEROTA: Ours, too, governor. Our condolences with your state and our prayers with your emergency rescue crew that's in the water right now looking for the folks that are still in the water as you're reporting. So that is a new number to us. You're saying most recent number you have are that 13 people were killed.

PARSON: That is correct. That is correct. We do know that we still have divers in the water that's been working all night. People are just doing their best to recover from the scene. The victims are there. And a lot of agencies are involved. We're putting all the resources we can. I know the Army Corps of Engineers is involved, the sheriff's department down there is involved, just about every resource we have. And people are just trying to do the right thing, we're all trying to deal with the tragic event here in the state.

CAMEROTA: Governor, maybe you can help us understand. When we watch this video, it is so, so upsetting to imagine the terror that was on that duck boat, but we do know that -- the number we had is that 14 people were pulled to safety, 14 people on the boat are alive that we know of this morning. Can you help us understand how they were rescued? How were people able to get to them to get people out of the boat alive?

PARSON: Yes, I'm not for sure the details of that. As a matter of fact, I'll be receiving a different briefing on that. But I want to make sure I have the facts before I comment on that. I do know people were involved in trying to rescue some, which we're so thankful for that. But the reality of it is there was a storm front come through and it played a factor in that. And just terrible circumstances, terrible situation.

And we don't know all the details yet of the whys. I'm sure we'll find those out in days to come, but right now it's just really truly just about trying to support the families in any way we can, and our thoughts and prayers are with them. That's just the main emphasis we've got to be right now.

CAMEROTA: Here's the reporting that we have. The incident was caused by weather. Branson was under a severe thunderstorm warning that was issued shortly before 6:30 p.m. local time. That was about a half an hour before the boat capsized. Logically speaking, we can imagine that the boat already out on the water. We don't know that, but that could be one of the scenarios. So it was already in the water by the time they might have gotten that thunderstorm warning. The highest wind gust reported in the area was 63 miles per hour, and you can just see the violent waves that this boat had to contend with. Are these conditions typical of the Branson area or did something -- was there something unusual yesterday?

PARSON: Well, I think it was just -- I want to say weather patterns are just so unusual in how they determine storm fronts come through. They're isolated to sometimes they could be a mile apart, not a huge front. But we actually had storms here in the last week or two. All of them across the state just picked up from time to time. But we went to an unusual sum where we had quite of a drought, and then all of a sudden these storms come through and they're just unpredictable. I don't think anybody can ever predict exactly where they're going to be at what time, and they're just scattered throughout in the state.

Governor, I know that you have reported there are still emergency crews in the water, there are still people from the boat in the water. Of course, you are holding out hope. I know your prayers with the families, but from the emergency -- the updates that you have been getting, is the sense from the divers in the water that they believe that there are people who are still alive, or are they doing a recovery effort?

PARSON: I hate to predict that. In the circumstances it doesn't look well. It doesn't look very good for survival. But I'm headed that way. I'm going to be there probably within the hour to get some more briefings, so maybe learn a little bit more of the details about it. But right now, it's a recovery effort. They're on a rescue together. We're just doing the best we can to try to bring some sort of resolve to the scene, and then really just let the families know how important it is and how much we care and want to support them. CAMEROTA: We understand. Just to let everybody know as we end this,

the investigation will be conducted by the Coast Guard, of course. The Missouri State Highway Patrol assisting. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is already traveling to the scene. Friday morning, as you say, you are traveling to the scene.

[08:15:00] Obviously, all resources are getting there trying to just -- try to handle this horrible tragedy.

Governor Mike Parson, we know how busy you are. Thank you very much for giving our viewers an update on what has unfolded there this sad morning.

PARSON: All right. All right. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: This is horrible, John. I mean, as I said, I have been on that -- you know, Boston has a lot of these duck boats as you know and I've been on them. It's fun to brings kids on them. It's a wonderful outing. And you never imagine that you'll be fighting for your life and just to have to watch that -- the horror as that -- everybody on board had to decide obviously what to do in those moments.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And again, the breaking news that you just learned right here from the governor is 13 now dead. He says not 11. We've been told 11 overnight. We were six people missing overnight. Unclear whether that means there are four people missing or not. And you always want to hold out hope until the last possible moment but the governor did not seem encouraged as this search continues this morning.

CAMEROTA: As we get more information, obviously we will bring that to you.

BERMAN: All right. Other news this morning President Trump has invited the Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the White House. What? After all the press from his meeting this week, why not have him for a return visit? What will this play like politically?

David Axelrod will join us next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump has invited the man accused of directing Russia's cyberattacks on the 2016 election to the White House. Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod tweeted this about the Russian president.

[08:20:05] "Convenient timing for a visit because if Putin visits in the fall he can personally survey the progress of his efforts to disrupt our elections."

CNN senior political commentator and host of the "AXE FILES," David Axelrod joins us now.

Not to put too fine a point on that, David, but the timing is interesting. Around the midterms for a visit from Vladimir Putin. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Can you just explain how -- whether your head has exploded this week?


AXELROD: Well, first of all, I'm sure that news was greeted with great enthusiasm in the cloak rooms up on Capitol Hill. The Republicans cloak rooms. There will be --

CAMEROTA: Where the real things -- where truth is really spoken?


AXELROD: Where they're going to be fighting to hang on to their majorities and I think the last thing they want is Vladimir Putin showing up here.

This has been a disastrous week. And we should step back. I mean, I listened to your discussion between Mike Rogers and Jane Harman at the top of the hour. This is not just a political calamity. This is a real concern for our national security. The fact that Vladimir Putin holds all the cards here because they were alone for two hours and even the president's national security team.

Susan Glasser, wrote a great piece in "The New Yorker" yesterday revealing that even his own National Security team doesn't know what happened in that room. I mean, this is a frightening situation.

As far as the politics goes, you know, what's interesting is you remember Donald trump once said that I could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and my people would still stay with me. We're putting that to the test right now because this was a blatant submission to a genuine foe of our country on a global stage and, you know, variously polls say 68 percent to 79 percent of Republicans approve of what he did in that summit and that's what gives him encouragement.

He always plays to his base and so he put his foot to the pedal and he said, OK, you guys, you know what, I'm doubling down, I'm bringing Putin here.

BERMAN: One thing I will note is that number of Republicans who approve of his performance in that summit is lower, substantially lower than his overall approval rating among Republicans there, so there is a gap there.

One other point you brought up, what Mike Rogers was saying about Vladimir Putin writing the script, what's so stunning to me is it's Friday and Putin is still writing the script about this meeting and it doesn't seem like the White House or the president who seems to be the only one guiding this message can get his arms around it or change it, David.

AXELROD: Well, you know, the frightening thing is that he has this sense that he can walk into any room and just charm the other person. I mean, this was true with Kim Jong-un who's I think embarrassed him since the summit in Singapore and it's certainly true of Putin who's a professional manipulator. I mean, that's how he's trained. And so Trump walked into that room and really into the arms of a guy who was prepared to take advantage of the situation and then, of course, was the press conference came and the signals that were sent to the world in that press conference, an American president really submitting to Vladimir Putin.

These are, you know, this is not -- I know this is a phrase that's beaten to death but this is not normal and it's deeply concerning.

CAMEROTA: And David, one of the things that we just had Rick Santorum on. He speaks sort of the mind of Trump supporters.


CAMEROTA: And one of the things that they often say is don't look at what the president says. Look at his actions. And if you look at his actions, they are different on Russia. They are harsher, they are stronger than the, you know, overly friendly tone that he routinely takes with Vladimir Putin. So here -- and Donald Trump relies on that. And so, here is what Donald Trump was saying about his own actions versus President Obama's.


CAMEROTA: And he obviously has hurt himself, being called a patsy this week, and he is flipping the script so here it is.

AXELROD: Well --

CAMEROTA: Listen to this.

AXELROD: And demonstrably so, yes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at the sanctions I have put on. Look at the diplomats I threw out. Look at all of the things that I have done, nobody else did what I've done. Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy. Look at the statement he made when he thought the mikes were turned off. OK? The stupid statement he made. Nobody does a big deal about that.

Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is a positive. Not a negative.


CAMEROTA: What about that in terms of the actions? More sanctions, throwing out more diplomats. Can he hang his hat on that?

AXELROD: Well, let's -- well, I think we have to look at the history of that. Remember, Congress passed withering sanctions and the administration dragged its feet in applying them. [08:25:08] The administration was lukewarm on the passage of those

sanctions. The fact that he refuses to repudiate Putin in a significant way, that he stood there and he had a chance to repudiate some of the things that an American president should, starting with the attack on America, is just fundamentally weak and just a -- he always falls back on Obama, on Hillary.

I will note that after the invasion of Crimea and the push into eastern Ukraine, it was Barack Obama who brought the world together and particularly the Europeans to put crushing sanctions on the Russian economy. And it's going to be hard to exercise that kind of leadership for President Trump when he spends a week sullying our relationship with our allies and embracing Vladimir Putin.

BERMAN: And again, we've learned from the Russians this morning that they discussed perhaps a referendum in Crimea. No word yet from the United States if that was in fact the case because as Mike Rogers pointed out, Putin is writing the script here.

David Axelrod, you are a star, a television star, host of "THE AXE FILES" which airs this weekend.


BERMAN: And you've got a really interesting guest. I like to say if you want to get an answer or a non-answer from anybody, the best thing to do is ask them who the Democratic nominee will be in 2020, and people will just shake their heads and nod and be silent because there is no one knows. No one knows. You spoke to one of the people --


BERMAN: Who was on sort of the long list. Former New Orleans Mitch Landrieu. I want to play a little bit of that interview.


MITCH LANDRIEU, FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: I'm not interested in figuring it out anymore. President Trump has us all spinning around in circles. Trying to figure out why he does what he does. What we need to be is focused on what his behavior is and what his decisions are and asked themselves whether it makes America stronger or make America weaker. I think that he weakened us in a way that we've never been weakened before and he should be ashamed of himself for the way he handled it. More importantly, putting that issue aside, we need to start figuring out how to work around him as a country and how to contain him.

AXELROD: Hard to work around the president.

LANDRIEU: Well -- but actually it's not impossible and it is possible for the speaker of the House to grow some courage and to start checking the president's power. And there are lots of different ways that we can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So he's running. What did you take from that?

AXELROD: No. No. Listen. There are a lot of people who are interested in Mitch Landrieu for just the reason that you just saw. He presents himself in a really clear, understandable way. He's comfortable with himself. He's a commanding figure. He showed great leadership on the issue of race in his city of New Orleans. But in the interview he was very -- he sent strong signals that he wasn't going to run.

CAMEROTA: Why is that?

AXELROD: He actually embraced another candidate. I won't tell you which candidate because I want you guys to watch on Saturday.

CAMEROTA: Clear with the art of the tease.

AXELROD: But -- you know, the weird thing about the interview was everything he did I think viewers will watch and say, this guy's a plausible candidate for president. Except for the one question of whether you'll run for president and on that he was much less robust.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, why? Why doesn't he want to run?

AXELROD: Well --


AXELROD: Maybe because he has some sense of what the presidency entails and what running for president entails. He just finished eight years in New Orleans. I said to him, you sound like a guy who was going to miss your job. And he said I'm not going to miss the burden of worrying about a catastrophe striking at every moment. And I think, you know, he's collecting himself. There may come a moment in the next few months where he says, you know what? I have it in me to do it.

Right now my sense was that he doesn't have that fire in the belly that you need and we'll see if that changes.

CAMEROTA: OK. David Axelrod, great, thank you very much for previewing that with us. Giving us a little taste.

Make sure to watch "THE AXE FILES WITH DAVID AXELROD" tomorrow, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

BERMAN: Who's Mitch Landrieu backing for president? That what I want to know.


CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, tune in.

BERMAN: All right. President Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to come to the White House. We'll get reaction from a U.S. lawmaker next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)