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Pressure Grows on White House to Reveal What Trump Discussed with Putin; Explosive Detonated Outside U.S. Embassy in Beijing; Sources: Cohen Tape Leak Could Complicate His Legal Troubles; Trump Allies Submit Articles of Impeachment for Deputy A.G. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired July 26, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's not for me to disclose the contents of those conversations.
[05:59:19] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that Secretary Pompeo knows what President Trump believes.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I'm glad they put off the next meeting. Private meetings like this, it's not turning out well.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's inconceivable that they'll be able to reunify the remaining children by the deadline.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We will do our best, but we will not cut corners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to make sure that we put Secretary Nielsen's feet to the fire.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, July 26, 6 a.m. here in New York.
So -- so what do you do? What do you do if you invite a sketchy character over to your House, someone who breaks things, someone whom your friends all hate, someone who really just can't be trusted? What do you do if you invite that guy over, and he completely ignores your invitation? You just say, "Nyet."
The White House, caving to mounting criticism, has postponed the Trump-Putin meeting, the one that the president just invited Putin to attend, even though he was universally criticized for taking Putin's word over that of his own intelligence agencies. Putin never responded, which is kind of super-power passive aggressive.
Now the White House is trying to spin this. National security advisor John Bolton claims the president decided to wait until, as he says, the Russia witch hunt is over.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clashing with Democratic and Republican senators. They want to know what the president agreed to with Vladimir Putin. The secretary pretty much refused to tell them.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, next big story. "The Washington Post" reports that the feds have seized more than 100 secret recordings from Michael Cohen, including that one we heard yesterday with President Trump discussing a hush money pay-off to a former "Playboy" model.
Now, people familiar with the U.S. attorney's office in New York say if the president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, is looking to cut a deal, he may have hurt his own cause, because his lawyers made that tape public without informing prosecutors first.
And today is the important deadline for the Trump administration to reunited ever family separated from their children at the border. But word is that 900 parents will not get their children back. So we'll tell you why.
Let's begin our coverage with Joe Johns. He is live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
The president and the administration trying to clean up controversies that have created criticism from both parties in recent days. The -- of course, the summit with Vladimir Putin, as well as the continuing feud over trade with the European Union. This coming at a time when the president, in fact, is suffering another diplomatic bruise, if you will, from that having to postpone that hastily-called second summit with Putin.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIR, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I don't think there was a lot of clarity that came of what came in those discussions.
JOHNS (voice-over): Bipartisan frustration growing over the lack of transparency surrounding President Trump's one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly refused to provide details.
POMPEO: Senator, the president is entitled to have private meetings.
It's not for me to disclose the contents of those conversations.
JOHNS: Pompeo defending the president while facing a grilling over the president's rhetoric and the White House's friendly posture toward Putin.
CORKER: The administration tells us, "Don't worry. Be patient. There's a strategy here." But from where we sit, it appears that in a ready, aim, fire fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Our president's statements have confused our allies, encouraged our adversaries, and have failed to be comparably clear.
JOHNS: The secretary of state accusing Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of engaging in partisan politics.
POMPEO: I've now been here three hours, and you're making -- you've got a political soliloquy.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: You want to talk about politics? If President Obama did what President Trump did in Helsinki, I'd be peeling you off the Capitol ceiling. Please.
JOHNS: And attempting to reassure lawmakers that President Trump understands the Russian threat, despite his statements questioning the interference in the 2016 election.
POMPEO: Here is what the world needs to know with respect to Russia. This administration has been tougher than previous administrations.
JOHNS: Pompeo pointing to a declaration issued earlier in the day, reaffirming that the U.S. does not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, prompting a sarcastic statement from Russia, saying, "We know the value of these 'fateful declarations'."
JOHNS: Prior to the hearing, the administration also backtracking on holding a second summit with Putin amid Republican backlash.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The speaker and I made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here at the Capitol.
JOHNS: Despite Russia not formally accepting the invitation, national security advisor John Bolton postponing the visit until next year, after the, quote, "Russia witch hunt" is over.
The president also attempting to quell GOP criticism of his trade policies, touting an agreement with the European Union to work toward lower tariffs and posting this picture embracing the president of the European Commission.
TRUMP: This was a very big day for free and fair trade.
JOHNS: The surprise announcement coming as some Republicans voiced concern about the president's $12 billion proposal to help farmers hurt by his trade war.
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Are you kidding me? We now have a Republican Party that is muted and silent on the issue of a bailout.
JOHNS: The president heads out to Iowa today, where the issue will be trade and trade tariffs, in fact. First, he'll talk to farmers who have been hit hard by the retaliatory tariffs from China, as well as the European Union. Then heads on to Illinois, where the topic will be steel tariffs, companies there warning of price hikes and lower profits.
John, Alisyn, back to you.
[06:05:16] CAMEROTA: Thank you, Joe, that will be very interesting.
OK. Let's bring in our panel to discuss it. We have CNN senior political analyst John Avlon; CNN political commentator Errol Louis; and CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian. Great to have all of you.
Errol, yesterday we had Senator Bob Menendez on our show, and he told us -- he previewed for us the very simple question that he wanted to get out of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It was quite a simple question. So let me play that moment when, in fact, followed through and asked him that simple question. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki?
POMPEO: Presidents have a prerogative to choose who's meetings or not. I'm confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life, as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient way to --
MENENDEZ: I asked you a simple question. Did you --
POMPEO: I just --
MENENDEZ: I can't eat up my seven minutes.
POMPEO: I'm -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to answer, Senator
MENENDEZ: Did you -- did he tell you whether or not -- what happened in those two hours?
POMPEO: Yes, Senator. The predicate of your question implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. I completely disagree.
MENENDEZ: Just -- I didn't ask you the predicate. I asked a simple question. I hope we're going to get through it. Did he tell you what transpired in the two-hour meeting?
POMPEO: I have had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Why all the tap dancing, Errol?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there's some embarrassment on the part of the secretary of state. I mean, everything we know about what happened after that public -- or that private meeting is that we know that the DNI was not told about what was going to happen and about Putin coming to visit.
We know that the joint chiefs of staff, the chairman of the joint chiefs didn't get a briefing in the last week -- over the last week.
We know that not even a classified briefing was brought to keep members of the Senate. And we know that the secretary of state -- and it's a pretty reasonable question, you know, does anybody know what happened in the meeting? How closely held is this information?
It's a very important and valid question, and I guess the secretary of state was doing what any of us might want to do, which is try and be a good team player, try and put forward a united front, as if the administration has a coherent strategy and policy. There may be a strategy, and there may be a policy, but very few people are in on it. And it includes the military and diplomatic leadership that normally
is part of the lead-up.
BERMAN: "A pretty reasonable question" as to what was agreed to between President Trump and President Putin is the understatement of the century. It is the central question, which is why it was asked by both Republicans and Democrats there.
And John, I'm fascinated now by what seems to be the official answer from the State Department, which is basically, don't pay attention to what President Trump says out loud. Don't pay attention to the president of the United States, the actual words that he uses in front of all the billions of people in the world. Look over here at the policies.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's fascinating, among other reasons, because it codifies officially what you've been hearing from Trump supporters for a lost [SIC] time -- a long time. You feel the sense of exhaustion about defending the president. "Don't listen to what he says. Look at what he does. Look at what the administration does." That now is basically the official position of the State Department.
That is stunning, because the president speaks for his administration normally. He's the best articulator of his vision. But in this case, it's being kept hidden.
And Bob Corker yesterday, Republican, says he was blistering about -- about his interrogation of Pompeo and the problem of the lack of transparency, not only in this Putin meeting, which is unlike any others because of the hostile foreign power influenced our election, which the president continues to deny. But because there isn't the kind of normal transparency about strategy and vision. And that speaks -- that goes a long way, I think. Bob Corker offers a lot of moral clarity on this issue.
CAMEROTA: So Karoun, we have scant details from Secretary of State Pompeo about what the president and Putin discussed. But here are a few. Pompeo said the leaders made an agreement to establish a business-to-business leadership exchange. OK. I don't remember that being on the agenda.
No agreements were made on Ukraine. That was something that he had been pressed to talk about. They did not talk about sanctions on Russia.
So you know, I mean, we just will never know. I mean, it sounds like -- if we didn't find out from Pompeo yesterday, it sounds like it is going to be very hard to get the real answer of exactly what happened during those two hours.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, I think the one last-ditch effort you have at that is that he agreed during that hearing to a classified briefing with those senators. So if they're able to squeeze more information out of him in that sort of a setting, then maybe you'll get slightly more information about that.
But every stage of this game yesterday was combative, and it was a struggle to get him to even say, to even discuss whether they discussed sanctions, to even say whether he had discussed the specifics with the president.
And so with Pompeo on the defensive like that, and members of both sides of the aisle clearly visibly frustrated, not with Pompeo but with the president, and frankly, with Pompeo's lack of willingness to separate himself enough from the president to acknowledge that this is problematic, yes, this is not setting a good stage for this to go anywhere positive.
[06:10:12] BERMAN: I'm fascinated by what the political impact of this all might be in the United States. And we have a window in some key places provided by NBC News and Marist, which does polling. And they polled Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Of course, the president won in Michigan and Wisconsin, got close in Minnesota.
Look at the president's approval rating in these states against two of the three which he won. In Michigan, it's 36 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove. In Minnesota, it's 38 approve, 51 percent disapprove. Wisconsin, 36-52. That's underwater in a big way.
And then if you look at 2020, what voters want in all these states, more than 60 percent want to give a new person a chance, and right around 30 percent say the president deserves reelection. There's also numbers on the Mueller poll which showed that -- the Mueller investigation, which showed that people trust that more than being a witch hunt.
You know, Karoun, does this show that perhaps what we saw in Russia and the unsettling juxtaposition it provided is, perhaps, seeping in, in some of these states?
DEMIRJIAN: It certainly does. You know, you can't have bipartisan criticism of the president and not have that actually felt someplace in the country, too. I mean, this is -- the Helsinki meeting was widely considered to be any place from an embarrassment to a missed opportunity. And yes, you're going to see that reflected in those poll numbers. But the thing is, the president is not on the ballot in 2018. And that races come down to a handful of key Senate races across the country, a number of House races, the majority of which are not in those three states.
So the question is, you know, yes, this is clearly showing some sort of a backlash to what the president's been saying and doing, which could be related to Russia, which could be related to the tariffs. There's a lot of high-profile issues that have been out there. But does it actually translate into moving seats in Congress, is the big question that matters. And the president's not on the ballot in the fall.
AVLON: Yes, he's not on the ballot, but midterms are a referendum on his performance. And for him to be this underwater in key states that he won that were essential to his victory margin, I think that does send a message. And if you look at the question of whether they want to put a check on this president, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. So I think look at these states. State numbers are significant.
LOUIS: Yes, that is a key part of the poll. They do ask, "Do you think that you should vote for members of Congress this fall -- It's only 103 days away -- based on whether or not you are going to help the president or put a check on the president? Very large majorities in those three key swing states saying -- 60 percent, in the 60 percent range, saying, "We need to put a check on this president." That's sort of the way the system is supposed to work. Not great news for the White House.
DEMIRJIAN: The question is, does that translate past those three states, I guess, to determine, you know, is this sort of a bellwether for what's to come? Or is this an isolated circumstance in one part of the country?
CAMEROTA: OK. Karoun, Errol, John, thank you all very much.
BERMAN: We've got breaking news out of China this morning. An investigation under way at this moment following a small explosion outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Our Matt Rivers live at the scene with the breaking details.
Matt, what have you learned?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, a bit of a scare this afternoon here in Beijing outside of the American embassy. There was viral videos going around on Chinese social media that showed what looked to be an apparent explosion outside the embassy.
So of course, we came right over here, and we were immediately met with a very heavy police presence. And so we got some information shortly thereafter, the U.S. embassy saying someone had lit off a small explosive device. And after that it was the Beijing police giving us the details, that a 26-year-old man from outside of Beijing actually came outside the embassy here and lit off what they're calling a firecracker-like device. It might sound small, but it was enough to create quite a stir here outside the embassy, a lot of smoke, a big sound. And so it did make a lot of people nervous.
There's actually still some scorch marks there on the ground from where this happened. We know that that man is in custody. No motive as of this point. He was injured, but no one else on the scene was. And that is pretty remarkable, because right down there, down that sidewalk, there were hundreds of people lined up when this explosion happened. That's where people line up to every single day to apply for visas to get into the United States for a number of different reasons. So the fact that no one else was injured is pretty amazing. But still, some scary scenes here in Beijing outside the American embassy.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it's right. Matt, it could have been so much worse. Thank you very much for the reporting from Beijing.
All right. So turns out that Michael Cohen doesn't just have that one tape where he taped Donald Trump talking about hush money. He has 100 tapes. So what's on those, and why was he taping everyone?
[06:18:15] CAMEROTA: All right, so that tape you heard yesterday of Michael Cohen speaking to Donald Trump, that secretly-recorded conversation, could pose more legal problems for Michael Cohen, who is already the subject of a federal criminal investigation.
Let's bring back John Avlon and Errol Louis to discuss this. Also joining us is CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
Carrie, let me start with you on the legal question. Obviously, Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, would have calculated whether the risk/benefit analysis of releasing that tape that you heard, where he's talking with Donald Trump about the hush payment for the "Playboy" model. So they must have thought it was going to help Michael Cohen somehow. Why else would they have done that?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a good question, Alisyn. You know, we don't know right now exactly the contours of the federal investigation of Michael Cohen specifically. So we don't know what he might be charged with. It's possible at this point that his lawyer does.
And it's very unclear whether or not Michael Cohen really has information of value to provide to the government and whether or not they are in any type of serious negotiations with the government about him cooperating in some other investigation related to the campaign or related to the president.
So at this point, it does seem inconsistent from a lawyer's perspective to be so public and to be publicly sparring with the president if, in fact, they really are trying to reach some type of agreement. The two issues seem incompatible.
BERMAN: I'm a little less surprised, maybe, than you are that Michael Cohen made questionable decisions. Questionable strategic decisions.
CAMEROTA: Well, that's fair, but he does have a legal team.
[06:20:01] BERMAN: I understand that.
CAMEROTA: That's allowing him to make these questionable moves.
BERMAN: I understand that. But if you read "The Washington Post" story this morning, Errol, it does seem that a lot of this is just based on the fact that Michael Cohen had his feelings hurt about the way the president and his legal team have referred to him or how people have treated him over the last six months.
LOUIS: That's right. People are people even if they do distasteful things, even if they do inconsistent things and unpleasant, unprofessional things. I think Michael Cohen has done all of those things.
So he's now in a very, very tough position. I mean, remember, the raid was his -- everything, right? It was his computers; it was his phone; it was his safe deposit box. Sixteen cell phones. I don't know what the heck that could possibly have been about. He could be in more trouble than any of us can even imagine. And when you're in that deep of a hole, you know, you're going to do anything you can to get out of it.
So the -- the advice that any lawyer would give would be "Keep your mouth closed. We'll negotiate this. Let's do this in court, not on television." He's going in a different direction.
Keep in mind who he has worked for in the last couple of decades.
AVLON: That's right.
LOUIS: He has seen Donald Trump pull rabbits out of a hat and rescue himself from almost certain political doom by -- by being kind of out there. Maybe he's trying to do the same thing.
AVLON: Right, this is "I learned it from you, Dad." I mean, this is -- this is -- I mean, this is Trump playing that -- playing the playbook he learned from Trump, because he feels disrespected but also because he feels in real deep personal jeopardy. And so he's been trapped into a corner.
And the release of that tape is significant, because it does show that a fundamental break has occurred. And if he was hoping to play for a pardon, that negotiation, you know, got a lot more complicated.
CAMEROTA: And there are people -- I mean, I know you're going, "Is this Depeche Mode?"
AVLON: Depeche Mode.
CAMEROTA: Is it Depeche Mode?
CAMEROTA: Right, I mean, so the wisdom that we can glean from Depeche Mode is obviously vast.
BERMAN: You went to an Erasure concert, you know? With Depeche Mode?
CAMEROTA: So fantastic. I'm all Erasure, not so much -- but I digress. Why was he tape -- why does he have 100 tapes?
LOUIS: You know, there -- there are a couple of different theories on this. There's something -- there's a whole bunch of different bar associations, like 20 bar associations in New York, and they are split about whether or not it is permissible or ethical to record one's client. In New York, you can do it, in a very strictly legal sense. You know, you won't run afoul of wiretap -- into wiretapping laws.
On the other hand, is it -- is it ethical? You know, there's some explanation that he just likes to have a backup. You know, we as journalists, there's some of us that like to do that. You want to just make sure you have a record of what you've said.
In his case, though, I think it's going to really blow up in his face. This is not -- it doesn't sit well. You lay that alongside the 16 cell phones. You lay that alongside the, you know, creating these LLCs to pay off the mistresses of his client. It all looks --
LOUIS: -- bad.
BERMAN: Very bad.
AVLON: Best case.
BERMAN: Maybe when it comes to Michael Cohen and having cell phones, Michael Cohen just can't get enough. You know what I'm doing there?
CAMEROTA: I like that.
BERMAN: We're going to end that conversation, because that one can't go any better.
Carrie, the timing is interesting yesterday. You know, in the wake of the Michael Cohen situation, which clearly, the president is agitated about, his allies in Congress -- I'm talking about members of the House Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan, others, have now committed articles of impeachment for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Your thoughts?
CORDERO: It's really shameful, John. The -- there's nothing that the deputy attorney general has done that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, which is the impeachment standard. It's clear that these individuals in Congress are really playing politics with the intelligence information related to the national security investigation that was conducted of Carter Page and the Russia investigation more broadly.
They are holding the deputy attorney general responsible, because they know politically that they can't go after the special counsel Mueller, because there has been legislation introduced to protect him. And it's widely understood that that would be catastrophic if -- politically if he were removed or if the president put more pressure on him.
So instead, what they're doing is they're going after Rod Rosenstein, who has really shielded the special counsel's investigation, from my perspective, from this political influence. And so he has been clear about conducting oversight, and he has put himself out front. That has made him the target.
AVLON: And this is another example of "I learned it from you, Dad." This is the -- the House Republicans doing deflect and divide. Because the whole question of obstruction of justice, let's raise the specter of impeachment, however unlikely. And by the way, it is unlikely that they would succeed.
And it's just layers of hypocrisy and ignoring the real issue. Also evidenced by Devin Nunes, House Intelligence Committee chairman, not bothering to look at the unredacted FISA warrant that he himself subpoenaed and made such a big political issue and pressured the White House to release. It shows how much of this is kabuki. And it's really toxic.
[06:25:07] CAMEROTA: Very, very quickly, Errol, hasn't the Department of Justice also turned over an unprecedented amount of the documents to the House Intel Committee?
LOUIS: Yes, yes.
CAMEROTA: I mean, they have opened the kimono. More than they ever have.
LOUIS: Hundreds of thousands of documents, including over 800,000 documents about Hillary Clinton. I mean, you talk about deflection. The wasting of government resources is sort of a misdemeanor, if not crime in all of this stuff, politically speaking.
BERMAN: And they're putting this forward not as a privilege but which means that they're not forcing the vote on this. Which just goes to show, all they want us to do is talk about it. They don't necessarily have the guts to force the issue on the House floor right now.
CAMEROTA: Mission accomplished.
AVLON: A play to the base.
BERMAN: All right.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
BERMAN: One and all, thanks very much.
The White House banned CNN's Kaitlan Collins from an open event in the Rose Garden. This is something, guys. We'll tell you what Kaitlan says happened next.
BERMAN: Some First Amendment news this morning. This White House bans CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins from a Rose Garden event for asking questions.