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President Trump Issues Threatening Tweet to Iranian President; Analysts Examine Possible Meaning of President Trump's Tweet to Iranian President; Trump Again Says Russian Interference Is A "Big Hoax"; FBI Releases Carter Page Surveillance Warrant Documents. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- July 23rd, 8:00 in the east. And we do start with some breaking news for you, because President Trump has issued that stern warning to the president of Iran. This was a late-night tweet. You may have missed it if you'd been sleeping. It was in all caps. The president wrote in part "To Iranian President Rouhani, never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before," end quote. Now, moments ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is weighing in on that tweet threat. We'll tell you about it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The question is whether the Iranian threat is real or a distraction from the criticism over last week's summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin, or maybe a distraction from North Korea. A U.S. official tells CNN that the president has grown frustrated over the slow pace of the denuclearization talks with Kim Jong-un's regime. CNN has also learned that North Korea plans to keep talks going for now, but the North Koreans calling for the U.S. to make a bold move towards peace.

We want to begin with CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with these new comments from Sarah Sanders, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. President Trump issuing that late-night tweet, a warning in stark, all caps letters, to Iran. He wrote this, To Iranian President Rouhani, never, ever threaten the United States again, or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious."

Now, the president's comments in that tweet seem to be a response to Rouhani's own warning to the United States. He said, "Mr. Trump, don't play with the lion's tail. This would only lead to regret. America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars." But these -- this back and forth over the weekend has a lot of people asking what exactly is behind it? Is it a distraction from a week of disastrous headlines on foreign policy issues, or is President Trump trying to bring Iran to the negotiating table? We put this question to Sarah Sanders in a gaggle at the White House a few minutes ago, and here's what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the president trying to change the subject from Russia to Iran? Is that part of the purpose of this tweet today?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. I think the president has the ability, unlike a lot of those in the media, to actually focus on more than one issue at a time. And certainly we know that the media is obsessed with speaking about all Russia all of the time, but the president is focused on a lot of things that are taking place across the globe.


PHILLIP: And Sanders also said that she didn't want to preview the president's strategy if there is one behind this tweet. She also wouldn't comment about whether he had consulted with his national security advisers before issuing that statement last night. But we should also say that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was delivering a speech yesterday in California aimed at an Iranian- America audience criticizing Rouhani's regime and also calling it a close to the mafia. So from the administration we are getting a lot of comments about Iran right now just weeks before the administration is supposed to be making a decision about the future of sanctions, John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you very much for the reporting from the White House.

Now to North Korea. More than a month after President Trump's historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, a U.S. official tells CNN that the president is privately frustrated over the pace of these denuclearization talks. CNN has learned the North Koreans are actually looking for the U.S. to make a bold move. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What does that mean, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn. What we are learning is North Korea wants the U.S. to agree to a full peace treaty, to end the war in Korea, and to lift sanctions. But sanctions, according to the administration, will only be lifted when North Korea engages in full and irreversible denuclearization. And so far, that is not happening. President Trump learning what his military advisers already know, nothing moves fast with North Korea, and Kim Jong-un remains very unpredictable and on his own agenda.

He has solidified his alliance with both Russia and China, so is he in any big rush now to denuclearize? Can he keep his economy going without full, immediate denuclearization? Those are some of the key questions right now. What U.S. intelligence knows is that he has not yet engaged in any critical denuclearization activities. They are warning diplomacy will take a long time, and one of the big concerns, President Trump optimistic because North Korea hasn't engaged in any missile launches for months, but the concern, has Kim Jong-un been using all of that time to continue to produce missiles, to produce warheads and secretly stockpile them away, hoping that the U.S. never finds them. That is one very big question on the table. Alisyn, John?

BERMAN: It's a huge question. Barbara Starr, thanks so much for being with us.

We want to bring in CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, we have this North Korean angle, we have the president's message to Iran that we all woke up to this morning. But it's happening in the shadow, we think, of this meeting with Vladimir Putin.

[08:05:10] One week ago exactly we still don't know really what was discussed behind closed doors. So where are we? If we're looking at the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world, framed through this meeting with Vladimir Putin, where are we?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I was there in Helsinki when this meeting took place a week ago, and we still have those questions of what was actually discussed in that meeting. And I think that's a very big question.

And from there, once that becomes public, which it should, then one can know slightly more about what sort of deals or discussions or whatever the leaders of the U.S. and Russia had. And it does seem from reporting from where you all are, certainly in Washington, that there is a lot of sort of disjuncture between the president and the rest of his national security establishment and the rest of his own administration on this.

The latest sort of thing that's got everybody in a tizzy in the White House and in Washington is apparently the president wanting to invite Vladimir Putin to the White House or to Washington. So the key is, what was discussed in that meeting? Is there a vision that is a vision that is an administration vision? Is it just a President Trump vision? And what do the rest of his administration say?

So I think that is really important. We do not know what happened. And then, of course, I think all of this overarchingly speaks to the fact that President Trump believes that the power of his presence and his personality can fix situations, whether it is with President Putin, whether it is with a leader Kim Jong-un, or whether it is with President Rouhani of Iran.

And I think you see he this president with all these other strongmen leaders around the world using a lot of public rhetoric. And I think the latest one with Iran is very similar to what happened with North Korea. There was a lot of back and forth on twitter, if you remember, the whole world was like, oh, my gosh, are we going to war with North Korea at the beginning of this year. And then that sort of tailed off.

But on North Korea, John, you know and we have spoken to American experts, it's a very long and complicated thing. And there was no promise and no specifics from that meeting in Singapore that I was also attending, there was no specifics, no promise from North Korea about a timeline or denuclearization or a declaration, just a basic declaration of what they have.

BERMAN: Yes, they delivered on what they promised, which is nothing.

CAMEROTA: Right. Therein lies the problem, which is President Trump actually can have very pleasant meetings with people who were previously seen as being closed off or walled off. But then nothing materializes. And, in fact, the "Washington Post" reports, diplomats say that North Koreans have cancelled follow-up meetings, demanded more money, failed to maintain basic communications with the U.S. even as the once isolated regime's engagement with China and South Korea flourish. So they have reneged on the things that he thought were going to happen, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: The thing we really thought was going to happen was this missile engine test was going to be destroyed. That hasn't happened. But the basics of a nuclear negotiation, the very basics, according to the experts who have been there over and over again over the decades, is to get a declaration. You first need to know what they have from their point of view, and then come to some sort of timeline.

Then the other thing, and this, again, goes to the idea of these conversations happening person-to-person. Are these negotiations with North Korea just going to be U.S./North Korea, or is it going to involve all the key partners and stakeholders, China, Japan, South Korea, and the others, who need to know about it?

Similarly with Russia, is it just going to be president to president? Or does it take in what the western alliance needs to see happen with Russia? Even as President Trump is saying what he's saying about Russia, we are hearing from the Pentagon and Secretary Mattis that some $200 million worth of arms and assistance are going to Ukraine to fight back on Russian interference there. And I would point very, very carefully at what just happened on Iran. That is another typical Trumpian tweet. But if you look carefully at the end of Pompeo's speech, he left the door open to negotiation. He left the door closed to regime change. And that's very important. And that is what people overseas are reading into that speech. People are saying we're used to Trump tweets, we don't take them all seriously. It's such a serious issue, but there seems to be a lot of confusion at the very top, and an administration not all reading from the same page.

BERMAN: I think that's a really interesting point you're making right there, because 18 months ago this type of language on Iran, I think, would be alarming all around the world.

[08:10:04] Again, I'll just read part of it. "You will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before." Christiane, it sounds like what you're telling us is at this point, people don't take these words, perhaps, as seriously. Even though Richard Clarke, we just had Richard Clarke, and I know you've had some really interesting discussions with him over the last few weeks. But Richard Clarke just told us, if there is a war between Iran and Israel or Iran and the United States in the next year, people might look back at this overnight tweet as something that contributed to it. AMANPOUR: Well, yes, absolutely. But then you have to ask, is there

going to be a war? There wasn't one at the height of the worst times between the United States, Israel, and Iran, which is when the world really believed they had some kind of military nuclear program, potentially. It is not an easy thing. We've been through this before with the Bush administration, with the then Israeli government, and with the then Iranian government. Trying to have a war against Iran was considered unfeasible. And that's why the Bush administration did not go that route particularly in the wake of what happened in Iraq in 2003.

And I can assure you that even American allies in the gulf, whether it's Saudi Arabia or the UAE and others, that is not what they're looking for and not what they're hoping for. So I think that that has to be really, really -- we have to internalize that a war against Iran is not a war against some tinpot sort of republic somewhere floating around out there. It's a very, very serious idea. But, remember, that that tweet is very similar to tweets earlier before the new year between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, very, very similar.

BERMAN: Nearly --

CAMEROTA: Yes. And that one worked. I mean, I think that he would think that one worked. It got Kim Jong-un's attention, it led to that summit. And so maybe he's going back to that playbook. But Christiane, it is always great to get your context on all of this. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: We do have some breaking news we're following this morning. Police now say that two people were killed, 12 other people shot last night in Toronto. The suspected gunman was killed in this police shootout. Police say they are investigating the motive, which includes a variety of possibilities, including at this point, they have not ruled out terrorism.

CAMEROTA: All right, America was attacked by Russia, cyberattacked. That's a fact. But President Trump is again this morning struggling to figure out where he is on this. So we'll explain it all.

BERMAN: Good. I need an explanation.

CAMEROTA: Stick around for that.



CAMEROTA: You'll remember that last week after seeming to side with Vladimir Putin, President Trump then tried to convince Americans that he does actually believe the U.S. intelligence conclusion that Russia attacked America during the 2016 election.

Well, that didn't last long. Today, the president tweets, "So President Obama knew about Russia before the election, why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax! That's why. And he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win."

Joining us now is Michael Caputo, a former aide to the Trump presidential campaign. Good morning, Michael.


CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. So, what do you say to Americans, who cannot unhear what they heard in Helsinki last week where the president stood next to Vladimir Putin and seemed to side with President Putin that president Putin was very strong on his denial and that it was America who had been foolish and stupid?

CAPUTO: Well, this is one of those rare occasions where I break with the president. In July of 2016, I called out Russia for releasing those e-mails right before the Democratic convention. I lived in Russia for quite a while. I know how the Russian government works. I got an idea as to how Putin works.

I think the president -- has a hard time with this, because so much of the opposition to the president says that, you know, they talk about the Russian meddling in the election as if it has some indication that there was Russian collusion on the Trump campaign.


CAPUTO: The president doesn't like that and he reacts that way.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Look, I appreciate your candor. I appreciate your candor saying this is one of the rare places you break with the president. I think that that's really helpful because you are an avid ardent supporter of his.

But something else happened in Helsinki. It wasn't just that he conflates collusion and meddling, as we know. It was that he denigrated the U.S. He insulted the U.S. on the world stage while he stood next to Vladimir Putin. Why did he do that?

CAPUTO: No, actually, he didn't do that. He was not denigrating, but he was, you know, expressing his distrust for the American intelligence organization who tried to stop him from being president -- and are trying to remove him as president today.

CAMEROTA: Come on, Michael. Hold on a second. Hold on. Let's just stick with the facts. He said that basically what he said was he believed Vladimir Putin's denial, that Vladimir Putin was quite strong in terms of his denial, and why would it be Russia? And he said that America had been foolish.

CAPUTO: I believe that you don't have to look any further than these FISA warrants, the information released late on Friday to see that the intelligence community was dishonest from the very beginning when they were pursuing the opportunity to spy on the Trump campaign.

Listen, it was 192 days ago at 8:33 in the morning when the president tweeted about FISA saying that the Congress is about to reauthorize this, and it may have been used to spy on his campaign. As we know today, he was absolutely right 192 days ago.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Michael, a couple things. First of all, let's fast forward to one week ago. It was one week ago we were in Helsinki and you're not answering my question. Why did he stand on the world stage and insult America?

CAPUTO: I believe that you're wringing your hands over something that is not true. The president expressed his displeasure and disbelief in findings of an intelligence community that was trying to run him out of office.

CAMEROTA: That's not what he did. Listen, we've got it. Look, Michael, hold on a second. We have the actual soundbite. Let's play it, and then you can explain what he was thinking. Listen to the president.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago.


CAMEROTA: He holds both countries responsible for Russian meddling? The United States has been foolish? How do you categorize that?

[08:20:07] CAPUTO: I see the president, again, as talking about meddling and collusion in the same sentence.

CAMEROTA: How is the United States responsible for that?

CAPUTO: The United States -- the intelligence community is responsible, for example, for putting together this FISA application completely based on --

CAMEROTA: How is the United States responsible for being a victim of a cyberattack?

CAPUTO: The United States intelligence community is responsible for this bogus investigation, Alisyn, and you can see it from the FISA documents.

CAMEROTA: Michael, you're not answering my question. How is the United States responsible for having --

CAPUTO: I am answering your question.

CAMEROTA: -- for having been attacked?

CAPUTO: The president -- I understand, as I said before, that the president was conflating the two issues. I don't like when he does that. I don't like when you do it. The collusion -- CAMEROTA: How am I conflating these two?

CAPUTO: Because when you talk about the Russian meddling, which I believe is correct, too many people in the media equate that to Russian collusion by the Trump campaign.

CAMEROTA: That's not what we're talking about, Michael, and you know it. What we're talking about -- the cyberattack on the United States and the president of the United States stood on the world stage next to Vladimir Putin, who was responsible for that cyberattack, and said the United States had been foolish and the United States was to blame. And he blamed -- I blame both countries.

CAPUTO: Well, you and I aren't going to agree on this, Alisyn, but I can tell you this. The intelligence community's misuse -- if you'll give me a moment. The intelligence community's misuse of the FISA system is the reason why Department of Justice is stonewalling the Congress on FISA documents.

It's the reason why Department of Justice is stonewalling the Manafort defense team on FISA documents. I mean -- at the end of the day, I agree with Alan Dershowitz. There are 300 pages of this 400-page FISA document that are redacted.

Anybody this summer who is creating a great novel, rip out three quarters of the pages of your book and throw it in the pool and tell me if you know the story. The redaction was covering up incompetence and it's what the president is referring to when he doesn't believe the people trying to run him out of office.

CAMEROTA: Michael, do you remember when Barack Obama went abroad and there were so many people in the right-wing media who said it was an apology tour?

CAPUTO: Yes, I do. And let me tell you, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: Did you think that President Trump was on something of a blame America tour a week ago?

CAPUTO: I don't. I don't.

CAMEROTA: What's the difference?

CAPUTO: I don't agree with the president talking about the American government overseas that way. I don't agree with the congressman and senators and political hacks who were beating him up all the way while he was on his way over there. We're all talking about America --

CAMEROTA: He's the president.

CAPUTO: -- overseas now. All sides of us are. The president, the Congress --

CAMEROTA: He was overseas, criticizing the United States. I'm just wondering, Michael. Have you shared your feelings about that? I appreciate you saying you break with the president on this. Have you shared your feelings about that with the White House?

CAPUTO: Listen, everybody in the White House, people in the campaign know that that's how I feel. I caught a lot of heat for it in July of 2016 when I said it. I haven't backed off of it. I disagree with everybody on at least one thing. Even my beloved wife. So, at the end of the day, I think the president understands where I am on this. He disagrees with me and we move on. Just like you should too.

CAMEROTA: Listen, it's very hard to unhear what we heard a week ago.

CAPUTO: But you're going to have to.

CAMEROTA: How? Why? Why do we have to?

CAPUTO: The hand wringing has got to stop because we --

CAPUTO: Hold on, here's the question. Why do we have to unhear how the president of the United States denigrated the United States overseas? Why would we ever want to unhear that having that knowledge?

CAPUTO: I think it's just as important to unhear that as those of us who heard President Obama whisper to the president of Russia that he is going to have more flexibility after his own election. That wasn't an appropriate comment either. We needed to get over that, as Republicans. We eventually did, and you'll get over this.

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure you ever did, because I remember that vividly, and of course, you're bringing it up now. Here's what's interesting, Michael. At least we heard that, because of a hot mic moment. You know what happened for two hours behind closed doors? Do you?

CAPUTO: A private conversation between world leaders that went on, and the Obama administration all of the time.

CAMEROTA: Not with Russia, it didn't. Not with a known adversary, Michael. Not with Russia.

CAPUTO: Hillary Clinton met in private in an unannounced meeting with Vladimir Putin during her term as secretary of state. This happens all of the time, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It doesn't happen all of the time. It doesn't happen all of the time.

CAPUTO: It does!

CAMEROTA: Listen, we have all of the intel chiefs. You think that DNI, Coats, you think that that happens all of the time, where he's surprised by a revelation that is being announced to him live on camera with Russia? It doesn't. These are unusual times, Michael.

[08:25:05] CAPUTO: I love Dan Coats. I've got a lot of respect for him. What he did out in Aspen was despicable and I'm glad he apologized for it.

CAMEROTA: What did you want him to do when it is sprung on him, the breaking news that Vladimir Putin has been invited to the White House.

CAPUTO: Well, first of all, I don't think I would want him going out to Aspen in this liberal --

CAMEROTA: that's what is really bothering you. That's what bothers you. That's the elites.

CAPUTO: You know what really bothers me? And here it is. I don't like the way that congress sold FISA to the American people. They lied to us about that pig and a poke. The Congress lied again to the president on January 11th, 2018, when he expressed some doubts about FISA so that he would sign the reauthorization.

CAMEROTA: Michael, you're fixated on FISA. I just want to ask, these were four Republican federal appointed judges. They all saw the probable cause to figure out what Carter Page was doing. Carter Page had said he was an adviser to the Kremlin. They had information that perhaps Carter Page had somehow, maybe even inadvertently been turned. You don't want the FBI to investigate that when they find out that information?

CAPUTO: I'll tell you what, now the FBI and all of those judges owe Carter Page an apology. His country failed him.


CAPUTO: FISA is a crime against America and it needs to be eliminated.

CAMEROTA: The FBI looks into possible crimes. If they get word that Russia is trying to turn Carter Page, who has now begun working on a presidential campaign, how do you want them to ignore that?

CAPUTO: What I want them to do is be honest when they're trying to apply for these over intrusive FISA warrants. I want them to not pretend they don't know it comes from Hillary Clinton. I don't want them to send campaign --

CAMEROTA: There's a full page --

CAPUTO: -- opposition research to a judge and represented as intelligence.

CAMEROTA: That's just not true, Michael.

CAPUTO: A Yahoo! story that was entirely placed, based upon the dossier in there as evidence.

CAMEROTA: Michael, hold on. I just want to correct your fact check. There's a full page of footnotes that explained that it was from a rival political campaign, that that's where the dossier originated from, but it was a source that the FBI trusted.

CAPUTO: I saw the footnotes. They're tortured. I saw the footnotes, they're tortured. And I can tell you this. Director Comey said in interviews, and I believe in front of Congress, that the FISA warrant was based on a broad mosaic of facts. And as we know now it was based almost primarily on this bogus --

CAMEROTA: There's a portion of it that was based on the dossier, because they trusted Christopher Steele, because he had given them good intel in the past.

CAPUTO: Everything we saw in there was based on the dossier.

CAMEROTA: There was a big portion based on George Papadopoulos running his mouth and an Australian diplomat in a bar hearing it and being so concerned they called over to the State Department. So, I don't know where you're --

CAPUTO: Shocker. Shocker. An Australian diplomat who organized a multimillion dollar donation to the Clinton Global Initiative got involved. I wonder how that happened.

CAMEROTA: Maybe because George Papadopoulos was running his mouth off truck, which was a fact. That --

CAPUTO: Right. I'll tell you what --

CAMEROTA: That Russians had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Shouldn't that arouse some suspicion?

CAPUTO: The American government owe George Papadopoulos an apology too.

CAMEROTA: Should it arouse some suspicion when George Papadopoulos is drunkenly talking in a bar saying that the Russians have offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, and a diplomat hears that?

CAPUTO: I don't know. But don't forget that Stephan Halper, a spy for the FBI, sent George Papadopoulos over there, sent a woman to him at the bar to get him drunk and then they sent the Australian diplomat over to hear what she baited him into saying.

Alisyn, that is not a good example of American investigation craft. It is an absolute apostasy and the FBI owes George Papadopoulos and Carter Page an apology. And I really think they should do it today. The embarrassment of putting out three quarters redacted document to try to prove themselves.

CAMEROTA: They never (inaudible) only because of the Freedom of Information Act. We never see these FISA applications. Generally, the American public doesn't ever see it. We only are seeing it because of the FOYA. However, I just want to say this. You know there have been five guilty pleas, right?

CAPUTO: I understand that.

CAMEROTA: Do you think guilty to a hoax?

CAPUTO: Absolutely none of it on collusion.

CAMEROTA: Fine. CAPUTO: It's all ancillary crimes, trying to get people to turn over and say something about the president. Nothing on collusion. Zero evidence. It's time to shut this thing down. And I'll tell you what, you don't have to look any further from the FISA documents to know it needs to be shut down.

CAMEROTA: Michael, it's about lying to federal investigators. Are you cool with that?

CAPUTO: No, I'm not cool with it. I can also tell you that George Papadopoulos was set up to lie, was baited into a perjury trap. That's absolutely true. And I think it's important to note that two years into what I believe are illegal FISA warrants, Carter Page is still uncharged with anything.

CAMEROTA: That's true, it's uncharged. But maybe you should take it up with the four federal judges all appointed by Republican presidents.

CAPUTO: If you think this is about Republican versus Democrat, you're not paying attention.

CAMEROTA: You think this is about Republican versus Democrat.