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Trump Talks Deal with Iran as Mike Pompeo Talks Iran Threat; Ivanka Trump Shutting Down Fashion Company; Trump Says Russia Will Attack Midterms to Help Democrats Despite Putin Saying He Wanted Trump to Win; Trump "Concerned" Russia Will Impact Midterms for Democrats; Trump Considers Stripping People of Security Clearances. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired July 24, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: What's also interesting is that he spoke about Afghanistan but not a hot, active war, which is our presence in Syria. He made, in the two hours of mystery behind closed doors with Vladimir Putin, which he wants to distract the conversation from, and he wants to talk about revoking security clearances for Obama administration officials instead. What did happen, the Russians are reporting, is there's a deal between the Israelis and the Russians that he's signing on to for some kind of moves in Syria that are very complicated and do involve the Iranians. We need to know what that is. That's something he should have been speaking to these veterans about. He was noticeably quiet on that today.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Let me play a clip. This is the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking at the same time as the president speaking. He's been meeting with Australian officials. He spoke about Iran and the threat that the United States sees from Iran and the U.S. reaction. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've spoken to the president about the meeting he held with President Putin. I was part of a larger discussion as well. I've spoken to secretary -- or Foreign Minister Lavrov following that. The president's been clear about some of the things that were agreed to. We're going to begin to put together a business council that will start processes. There were many things that came from what I view as an incredibly important meeting between President Trump and President Putin, one that I think the world will have benefitted from when history is written.
I am looking forward to testifying tomorrow. I'll testify about a lot of thing, including the relationship between the United States and Russia. But I think one of the things that gets lost is the determination that this administration has had in pushing back against Russia's maligned behavior around the world. It is unequaled in the history of the United States in terms of when there's a post-Cold War conflict, how firm this administration has been in pushing back against those threats.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Yes, that clip did not address Iran, but it did address the Russia issue.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It does. Here's the thing though. That position, that's the administration's position, no one has been tougher than us, trust us, and there's some substance to back the position they've taken hard moves. The one they'll often cite is providing lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces on the ground, a step that the Obama administration did not take.
But let's ask this question. If the -- one thing that's clear is that even Republicans, even members of the president's own party, do not have confidence in this administration's stance on Russia. That's why you have someone like Lindsey Graham sponsoring a bipartisan bill, again, as Congress has already done, to pass new sanctions on Russia that the president cannot overrule. In effect, tie his hands because they clearly don't trust him. It's interesting, if you look at the Graham/Menendez proposal, they also require Senate approval requiring -- for U.S. withdrawal from NATO. They wouldn't put that in legislation if they weren't concerned about the president's public comments about NATO, which at least our NATO comments say weakens the U.S. and the West's position towards Russia. We know what Pompeo will say, we know what the president will say, we've been tougher than anyone. But even the Republicans don't trust their position.
BLITZER: The fact that Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez, Republican and Democrat, are working together to impose tough new sanctions against Russia, very, very significant indeed.
Everybody, stand by.
There's other breaking news we're following here on CNN. Ivanka Trump is shutting down her fashion company. We have new information. You're going to hear what she's saying about that. We have that and a lot more right after this.
[13:37:50] BLITZER: Some breaking news for our viewers. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior adviser at the White House, has decided she will wind down her fashion company so she can pursue a career in public policy.
Our Cristina Alesci is joining us right now.
You've been following the late-breaking developments. I understand she's put out a formal statement, Cristina.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I just got a call from a source who said that Ivanka Trump is going to address the staff of her company later this afternoon. Look, at the end of the day, this was a brand that really faced a lot of criticism for many, many reasons. But sources close to the decision tell me that this was driven by her desire to stay in public policy, to stay in Washington, D.C., and that the company had to operate under restrictions and limitations because of her role in the White House and that it didn't make sense to keep the company operating under those restrictions if she wasn't going to return eventually.
But that said, we can't ignore that this brand has been criticized. She's been criticized for keeping ownership of the company while also serving as a White House adviser, raising all kinds of questions about potential conflicts of interest and how she would address them.
The brand has also been a target for critics of the Trump administration and its policies. There was a boycott one women's group started after the "Access Hollywood" tape became public, calling on people to boycott Ivanka Trump goods, which were, by the way, targeted towards females, female empowerment. That's the message behind the brand. A lot of feminists saw that as a -- as sort of hypocrisy. That is just a few things that the brand was criticized for. So now we see Ivanka deciding to shut it down.
Look, it's unclear whether or not all of this criticism, all of this scrutiny affected the bottom line of the brand because it is a public company. It does not release financial statements on a regular basis. All we can see is that on Ivanka Trump's financial disclosure form that there was some payments coming from her company to Ivanka Trump personally. So you can assume that there was some profit coming out of the company -- Wolf?
[13:40:09] BLITZER: Cristina, thank you very much for that. We'll continue to follow that story as well.
Other news, the president with his latest spin on Russia interfering in the U.S. election, tweeting this just a little while ago. I'm quoting him now: "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump," close quote.
That's simply, clearly not true. The U.S. Intelligence Community has concluded that the Russian leader, Putin, was trying to help Donald Trump when he meddled in the 2016 election, something the Senate Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis recently backed up.
If that's not enough, you can hear it straight from the source. We're talking about the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who specifically said in Helsinki at that joint news conference with the president that he wanted Donald Trump to beat Hillary in the election, Hillary Clinton. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election? And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S./Russia relationship back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. Senator Mike Rounds is joining us right now. He's a Republican from South Dakota. He's a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Appreciate the opportunity, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what do you think of the president's claim this morning in that tweet that the Russians are going to be working very hard in the midterm elections in November to help Democrats get elected and make sure that Republicans like you -- I don't know if you're even up for re-election this time -- but make sure Republicans lose?
ROUNDS: Well, I think what will happen is that they'll try to create chaos in the election if they can. That's what they were trying to do in 2016. They thought that Hillary would win. When they saw an opportunity to help Mr. Trump, they took advantage of that. But what they really wanted to do is cause chaos. I think in 2018, they'll try to do exactly the same thing again. It's what they're doing in Western Europe today. And I don't think that they're going to change until we actually have the ability to send a very powerful message that it's simply not acceptable and there's a price to be paid.
BLITZER: Well, you're right. One of the goals of the Russians, according to the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Obama Intelligence Community, and the Trump Intelligence Community, is to sow discord, to create chaos in the American political system, but it didn't stop there. The Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats and Republicans also concluded that the Russians not only wanted to sow discord but they also wanted to make sure that Hillary Clinton lost, and finally that Donald Trump won. That was their goal. Do you accept that was the goal of the Russians, according to the U.S. Intelligence Community?
ROUNDS: I think the most recent reports that I could discuss that have been unclassified would suggest that they were not happy with Secretary of State Clinton's activities and what they felt was her interjection in Mr. Putin's last, if you want to call, his last election. He never forgot that. I think that's a large part of it. I think there was a significant amount of animosity between Mr. Putin and the former secretary of state. I think that played into the election process as well.
BLITZER: Yes, clearly, they didn't like Hillary Clinton. They didn't like the Obama administration. And as you heard Putin himself say, that's why he preferred and he worked to try to help Donald Trump win the election. Do you think there's any evidence -- have you seen any evidence at all, Senator, that the Russians right now are working to help Democrats? Forget about sowing discord or chaos, but to help Democrats win the midterm contest.
ROUNDS: The most recent reports that we've had have simply been they'll do everything they can to undermine the confidence in the election process. They do not like democracy. They do not like free elections. They don't like it when the United States has confidence in the outcomes of elections. So what you'll see them do is sow seeds of disbelief. They'll work their propaganda. They're not just doing it the way they used to do it, which is through newspaper ads and TV ads, commercials and so forth. They're using it through social media now. Then they're doing one more thing. They're also trying to suggest -- and they will do everything they can to reinforce -- that they might be influencing the actual counting within the election process. They'd like us to believe that they might be able to impact certain areas around the United States where the votes are being tallied. It wouldn't take a whole lot of those different locations where they could just suggest that we have the wrong numbers being added up, that they would then be successful in their move to give less confidence to us that our system is true and honest in its accounting systems.
[13:45:04] BLITZER: So how do you explain the president being so nice to Putin when they met in Helsinki and saying all those positive things about Russia? And Pompeo, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, just a few moments ago, saying that it was a great meeting and they've agreed to work together to create a joint U.S./Russia business council, to even improve relations, even as you suggest and others suggest the Russians are seeking to undermine U.S. democracy.
ROUNDS: Yes, I'm not going to say that I agree with the president's tactic in this particular case, but I think what he was trying to do was to get past the issue. I think what he wanted to do was say, look, we basically have 90 percent of all the nuclear weapons in the world today. We have to have a working relationship. So if you're going to tell me that you didn't argue it, I'm not -- you know, I'm not going to stand here and argue with you and have a "he said/she said." I think he wanted to get past that. I think that may have surprised Mr. Putin a little bit. But at the same time, I'm not sure that was necessarily the correct tactic to use. Clearly, Mr. Putin was very actively involved in the elections. Clearly, they have not stopped. And, most certainly, they'll be trying to impact the 2018s as well. Yes, we've got to have a relationship in terms of communications, but you've also got to have some sense of trust in those communications. Right now, I don't think we can trust anything the Russian government is telling us. I don't think we can trust anything that they're trying to share on social media. I think whatever they can do to sow distrust in the United States, they will. And we have to take that all into account as we try to establish this relationship with another nuclear power in the world.
BLITZER: Yes, and the Russians are succeeding pretty impressively in those goals so far. Let's see what happens down the road.
Mike Rounds, Senator Rounds, thanks so much for joining us.
ROUNDS: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: The former acting director of the CIA says the president's idea of revoking the security clearances of former Obama officials is sending a chill through the U.S. Intelligence Community. Why he compares it to McCarthy. Plus, the United States' attorney general laughing and repeating "Lock
her up." You just heard him repeating that chant a little while ago, talking about Hillary Clinton. You're going to see what happened. Stay with us.
[13:51:56] BLITZER: Mixed messages are dominating President Trump's Twitter feed right now for days after the Helsinki summit, eight days ago. The president refused to condemn Russia for the meddling in the 2016 presidential election, questioning his own U.S. intelligence agency's conclusion. But today, a change of heart. Listen to this. He tweeted he's concerned about Russia's impact on upcoming elections in November. Says they definitely don't want Trump.
Let's bring in Bob Menendez. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's a Democrat from New Jersey.
Senator, let me get your reaction first to this tweet from the president. You've seen it. Let me read it to you: "I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump."
What's your reaction?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, that's the president's jujitsu political action. The reality is that Vladimir Putin knows that he hit the lottery when he pursued undermining our election in 2016. It paid off. It paid off with a president that ultimately didn't challenge Putin in Helsinki. Saying that he's the strongest president against Russia is pretty amazing. It was President Obama that, after I passed with others the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, that began sanctions as it relates to Russia for invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, it was President Obama who created the European deterrent initiative with NATO that reiterated our commitment to Georgia for NATO accession when they qualified. And so this president who was bought kicking and screaming to sanctions on Russia under CAATSA that passed the Senate, 98 to two, who didn't want it, but because of the overwhelming vote knew he would be overridden so signed it. The president is not someone who I think is Putin's adversary. At least not by his actions today.
BLITZER: No. I want to point out, at his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, he discussed North Korea, Iran, and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The tariffs involving the European Union. Never mentioned Russia. Didn't talk about that issue at all. We've listened to the rest of the speech.
You and your colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, have outlined a bipartisan Russian sanctions bill. Give us a brief headline what you hope to achieve and do you believe the president will support it? MENENDEZ: Well, I've been working with Senator Graham on this
particular issue. We've worked together on many other sanctions- related national security questions. We're going to pursue Russia's energy and financial sectors, it's oligarchs, it's parastatal entities, it's cyber section as a sectorial section. Those are some of the things the legislation calls for. We have increasing bipartisan interests in the legislation. So it is my goal, along with Senator Graham, to make sure that we're protecting the United States, defending the United States, defending our democracy, and being a robust challenge to Russia under Putin.
[13:55:26] BLITZER: Will the president support it?
MENENDEZ: Well, if we get a similar vote to CATTSA, the Counting America's Adversary Through Sanctions Act, that passed 98 to two, I don't think he'll have much of a choice. I hope he'll embrace it. What I saw at Helsinki was a president that wasn't challenging Putin. Actually, it was a president that was rather stipulatant (ph) to what Putin wanted. I'm hoping that he will embrace the legislation. And in the absence of that, that we'll get incredibly strong vote as we did in CATTSA that ultimately will have him have to sign it.
BLITZER: It will be veto proof if you get that kind of vote.
The president is considering stripping people of their security clearances because he feels their public commentary about the ongoing Russia probe is inappropriate. Listen to what the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think he's trolling people, honestly. This is something that's in the purview of the executive branch. I think some of these people have already lost their clearances. Some people keep their clearances. That's something the executive branch deals with. It's not really our purview. I think he's just trolling people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you think the president is simply trolling people?
MENENDEZ: No. I think the president has an enemy's list that he's developing. And this is one universe. I think it's unfortunate because, while he possesses the power, the reality is that you may want to call upon these people at any given time, at any given moment in a crisis and say give me the history here of what transpired before, and you're going to want them to have those security clearances in order to exchange with them information to make very critical determinations. I think it's a mistake, especially when done as a political vendetta.
BLITZER: Yes, truly unprecedented what the president said he's thinking of doing. He hasn't done it yet. He's thinking of doing it and has the authority. He wants to strip someone of security clearance, as he's the commander-in-chief, he's the president, he can do so. It's something that hasn't happened in the past.
Senator Menendez, thank you so much for joining us.
MENENDEZ: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just in, dramatic new dash cam video of the pursuit of a suspect into Trader Joe's. We're not learning the employee killed was killed by an officer's bullet. We'll have more when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:59:57] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
If you're keeping count with us, day number eight, eight, and still not a single detail about what happened inside the president's private summit with Vladimir Putin.