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Interview with Representative Eric Swalwell; TV's New Reality Involves the President of the United States. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:33:42] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's top spy chief Dan Coats was apparently left in the dark about the White House invitation to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Coats found out on stage while taking questions at a security forum. Watch his reaction.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: The White House has 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 --





COATS: That's going to be special.


BERMAN: All right. Let's discuss that and more with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.


BERMAN: Look. Let me first get your reaction to the invitation to bring Vladimir Putin to the United States for a meeting with the president.

SWALWELL: He shouldn't be in our country, John, frankly. You know, he attacked our country. Most Americans, when they have their home broken into, they upgrade their security system. They don't invite the burglar over for dinner and the president shouldn't let Vladimir Putin take a victory lap in the Rose Garden. So -- but let me just tell you this. For this meeting, they're not going to be as alone as they would like to be.

There are going to be I think thousands of people, maybe more, in the streets around the White House peacefully demonstrating and letting their voices be heard.

[08:35:07] BERMAN: Well, but they won't be in the room. The issue here is who is in the room with the president of the United States and you say Vladimir Putin should not come to the U.S. We talked to Ambassador Thomas Pickering who was ambassador to Russia, ambassador to everywhere as I like to call him before, and what he says is you want your president speaking to leaders of other countries, whether or not you're getting along with those countries.

So isn't a continued dialogue with Russia as complicated and fraught with peril as it has proven to be this week something that could be in U.S. interests?

SWALWELL: Yes. As long as we have somebody who's able to achieve our strategic objectives like pressing them on what they have done in Ukraine. He hasn't done that. It sounds like Trump is -- President Trump is open to allowing a referendum in Crimea. Pressing them on the chaos they're causing in Syria. There's no indication that they're reducing their support, the Russians, for Bashar al-Assad, or pressing them directly in public on what they have done in the our elections and making warnings that we won't tolerate it again.

Again the president was incapable of doing that. So what is this? Just an opportunity for the two of them to hang out in private and strike side deals? That's not good for America.

BERMAN: I get you do not like the product of what you have seen this week but what is the United States supposed to do in terms of foreign policy for the next two and a half years, or six and a half years, just fold up shop and not conduct foreign policy?

SWALWELL: That's a great question. And thankfully our founders did not leave us helpless. We have a Congress that can be a check on the president, we can be a check on the power of the purse, we can be a check on not legislating the president's priorities in this area.

The Senate yesterday --

BERMAN: But not foreign policy. Foreign policy, the president has reasonably free reign. Not on the purse, as we saw way back when with Nicaragua, but in terms of the policy and meetings and whatnot, he does have fairly free reign.

SWALWELL: That's right, John. However, we also can put in tougher sanctions, we can fund election security. We can show that we are unified even if the president is isolated from us and saying that the Russians, you know, are going to be punished if they do this again and maybe the Senate should pass a sense of the Senate resolution saying Putin is not welcomed in America until the meddling stops because FBI Director Wray just said this week they continue to conduct maligned operations against the United States.

BERMAN: It's just symbolism, though. The argument against it, and we heard this from Senate Republican leaders, so why bother? If all you're doing is basically symbolic, is it worth it?

SWALWELL: Well, you know, symbolism without any action is nothing, John. You're right. And that's why I think the action has to be the sanctions, funding election security, protecting the Mueller investigation. That bipartisan Senate legislation has not made its way to the floor but there's a lot we can do to show unity as an anecdote toward a president who is drawing himself closer to the Russians than he's willing to draw himself toward law enforcement.

BERMAN: You talk about symbolism. And yesterday you engaged in what a way is symbolism because you had to know it wasn't going to go anywhere. You tried to subpoena the interpreter who was in the room with President Trump and Vladimir Putin. And you acknowledge that you're pretty sure you weren't going to get that. Right?

SWALWELL: Well, no. Actually, John, I was encouraged because just a day before we -- Ranking Member Schiff and I subpoenaed the translator or made a motion to subpoena the translator, we had heard Republicans on the Intelligence Committee make public statements and send out tweets saying they were really concerned about the president's behavior so we wanted to see, well, are you so concerned that you would want to hear from the person who was in the room to see if any national security information was divulged or any secret deals were made, and again disappointingly a party line vote, the Republicans voted it down so let's test them on their words.

Tweets and words, they're great but they don't do anything if they're not followed up with action. Talk is cheap.

BERMAN: I do understand that you wanted to test them and you --

SWALWELL: Well, not test them. I want --


BERMAN: I understand you were unhappy. I doubt that you were surprised by the outcome.

SWALWELL: I am not surprised.

BERMAN: But I also know you're a lawyer, too. I mean, you still are a lawyer. A practicing lawyer. And you do know that legally speaking subpoenaing an interpreter is questionable at best in the fact there's a lot of law which says that probably would never be allowed.

SWALWELL: It's not something I take lightly and Ranking Member Schiff and I asked for the hearing to appear -- for the hearing to occur in closed session. We don't want to make a spectacle of it. But I do believe this is an extraordinary circumstance. This president, to use a prosecutor's terms, has priors. He has disclosed national security information in the past while alone with the Russians and now it looks like he was also negotiating, turning over Ambassador McFaul to the Russians. So there's a lot of reason to want to know what was said in that room and whether he has jeopardized the national security of the United States.

BERMAN: I don't know whether it was negotiating, too, but one thing is clear the White House did say they were discussing it. It was up for discussion and that in and of itself --

SWALWELL: Unacceptable.

BERMAN: -- is something that was stunning I think to a lot of people in the international diplomatic community.

Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thanks for coming on this morning.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, John, sometimes after a week like this, it's hard to determine what reality President Trump is rooted in.

[08:40:02] BERMAN: I thought you were going to say sometimes after a week like it's time to get a drink.

CAMEROTA: It is time to get a drink, as well.

BERMAN: That's what I was hoping you were going to say.

CAMEROTA: There's not 21 minutes left or so now.


CAMEROTA: The point is this. We preview a CNN special on "The Reality Show" next.


CAMEROTA: Time now for the five things to know for your NEW DAY. Number one, 13 people have been killed and others are still missing at this hour after a tour boat sank in rough waters on a lake near Branson, Missouri. President Trump tweeting just moments ago offering his deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those lost.

BERMAN: President Trump says he'll be Vladimir Putin's worst enemy if relations between the United States and Russia don't work out. This is as he invites the Russian leader to the White House this fall.

CAMEROTA: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats seemed shocked to learn on stage at a security conference that Vladimir Putin was invited to Washington. Coats also says he does not know what happened in that one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Putin in Helsinki. BERMAN: Central Iowa reeling from a series of tornadoes, the storms

leveled several homes, damaged a number of businesses and left at least 17 people injured.

[08:45:04] CAMEROTA: The NFL pausing its new policy on national anthem protests. The league and the players association reaching a standstill agreement on the policy that compels players to stand during the anthem and the union's grievance.

Of course for more on the five things to know, you can go to for all the latest.

BERMAN: All right. The president taking over television, sort of a 18-month takeover and ongoing. We have a special preview of the CNN special TV's new reality. That's next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I'm Donald Trump. Fake game. I was cheated bigly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to make sure it works with his coloring. Yes. That's the one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you avoid literally the elephant in the room?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president --



CAMEROTA: That's a clip from a new CNN special report, "THE TRUMP SHOW: TV'S NEW REALITY." The one-hour special premiers tonight at 9 -- no, at 10:00 Eastern. It's hosted by CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter who joins us now.

[08:50:01] OK. 10:00, people will be treated to what? What will they see in this reality show?

STELTER: You know, we've tried to take a step back and think about how primetime has been changed by Donald Trump. Think about the Bush years or the Obama years. You didn't hear the president's name come up all the time in sitcoms or dramas but you do nowadays. Everything from the "Handmaid's Tale" to "Homeland," these are shows that don't reference Trump directly but the plot lines make you think about Trump. Or shows like "Blackish" or "Will & Grace" that talk about Trump, they take him on directly, they make fun of him, they make jokes at his expense. It seems like Trump has infused prime time in a new way so that's what we explore.

BERMAN: Why? Why and how? I mean, you had a chance to talk to -- STELTER: Yes.

BERMAN: -- some of these show writers about why it is that they decided to address this.

STELTER: Right. And I think part of the answer is about the resistance, the so-called resistance to Trump. It takes many forms. We see protests outside the White House, we see protests in the streets. Well, in writers' rooms, in studios you see mostly liberal writers and producers wanted to take a stand up and speak up at this moment in time in America, so I think that's part of it. I also think when you see comedy directed at the president, it's about validating how many people feel, it's about saying to viewers at home, you are not alone, you're not the only one that thinks the world has gone crazy.

CAMEROTA: Look. The president also has a way of permeating everything. He permeates content, he permeates the brain. He permeates every plot line. I mean --

BERMAN: Sports, football.


BERMAN: Basketball.

STELTER: And that's what we're so interested in. You know, there's a couple of producers that have gone the opposite direction, and they say we're never going to say Trump's name. On Comedy Central, Broad City, they bleep the word Trump as a joke to say we don't ever want to hear the T word. But you're right, most shows have gone in this direction where they're acknowledging politics, they're having to talk about the news of the day and look, the interesting thing for these writers and producer is that oftentimes they're working in a reference and then it gets outdated by the time the show airs.

You know, there was a reference to Stormy Daniels on an episode of "The Good Wife" and then they cut it off because the Stormy Daniels saga had changed so much by air date.

CAMEROTA: I know that feeling. I wrote a book.


CAMEROTA: That John brings to the set every day called --

BERMAN: Now available on paperback. Now available on paperback.

CAMEROTA: But this is the thing that there are some --

STELTER: This is the thing. True.

CAMEROTA: It is imbued with some of these themes and timeliness and it's a good weekend --

(LAUGHTER) CAMEROTA: John is starting to read it right now. For your summer read.

STELTER: It's about time, John.

BERMAN: But let me ask you, I want to cut her off for the promo because this is a good one right now.

CAMEROTA: Right. I know you're really good at this.

STELTER: You are.

BERMAN: You have been working on this special for a long time. 24 hours a day. And Roseanne obviously, her show, I imagine, was central to what you were looking at.


BERMAN: And that whole scandal, this whole episode happened while you were putting this show together.

STELTER: Yes, that's right. And we reworked it as a result because now ABC has announced a spinoff of the spinoff. Right? They're going to have a version of the "Roseanne" show without Roseanne.

CAMEROTA: Who's recommended here on this --

STELTER: And that's going to come on the fall.


STELTER: I believe it was.

CAMEROTA: On this net, as you may remember. I said why don't we just do it without Roseanne? You're welcome, America.

STELTER: And now the writers are working on it.


STELTER: I can tell you they have figured out a way to move on past Roseanne. I don't think they're going to kill her off, but I don't know what they're going to do. We're all going to find out in the fall. But that is an example of how TV has been changed by Trump. And look, now Roseanne is out this morning with another YouTube video trying to explain herself, trying to say she wasn't making a racist comment. I mean, give me a break. She's trying too hard to come back. She's not going to be coming back to TV. But everybody else in TV is talking about Trump.

CAMEROTA: How about some laughs? I feel we need it at the end of this week. Here's some late-night laughs.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": "I look forward to our second meeting." It's just like the exciting sequel coming out this summer. "Titanic 2: Here We Go Again."

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": President Trump said that he told Russian president Vladimir Putin not to meddle in any future U.S. elections. So good news. Apparently there are going to be future U.S. elections.

The White House announced today that President Trump plans to invite Russian president Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall in what is sure to be the worst ever episode of "Undercover Boss."


BERMAN: All right. That's a funny look back at this last week. From the media perspective, though, Brian, it is interesting because the president has tried over the course of this convoluted twisted week that he's had.


BERMAN: To talk about the media again and put it back on them. And I get the sense that it's not hitting as solidly as it has in the past because people just know it's not true.

STELTER: I'm glad you pointed that out and you can even measure that in a way via his Twitter and Facebook accounts. You look at how the president would put out this anti-media attacks. It actually doesn't get shared as much as it used. It's not as loud as it used to be. I think we know, though, with the president, when the going gets tough, the news gets fake. That's his default, that's his go-to. And all this week has been about the president's loyalty when he attacks the media. That makes you wonder if he knows what makes America great.

CAMEROTA: Also when you hear something with your own ears and see it with your own eyes it's hard to call it fake news.

STELTER: Hard to call it fake news.

BERMAN: Media was not in the room with Vladimir Putin for two hours alone or standing next to him in Helsinki. That's for sure.


BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BERMAN: The special report "THE TRUMP SHOW: TV'S NEW REALITY" premieres tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

[08:55:04] CAMEROTA: OK. Listen to this story. A young volunteer at a food pantry came up with a more efficient way to feed the hungry. An online platform called MEANS which connects charities with businesses that offer extra food. So far she's helped redistribute close to 2 million pounds of food. Meet our latest CNN Hero Maria Rose Belding.


MARIA ROSE BELDING, CNN HERO: There was a food pantry in my church that I grew up working in. You would have way too much of one thing and would be in desperate need of a different thing. Inevitably some of it would expire and I ended up throwing a lot of it away.

When I was 14, I realized that doesn't make sense. The Internet was right in front of us. That's such an obvious thing to fix. This is not (INAUDIBLE), it has turned green. You would really think of the novelty of it would wear off. It doesn't.


CAMEROTA: To see Belding's simple yet effective fix go to And while there, you can nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero.

BERMAN: All right. This wild week continues, shows no signs of slowing down. Stay with CNN for all the latest special coverage. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow picks up right after a quick break.

Have a great weekend.

CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend.