Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

Putin Sends Counter-Invitation to Trump for 2nd Summit; North Korea Returns U.S. Servicemember Remains; Facebook Suspends Alex Jones' InfoWars Personal Profile; Trump Says He's Open to 2nd Summit with Putin in Moscow; Trump Denies Knowing, Approving Trump Tower Meeting; U.S. Economy Sees Strongest Growth in 4 Years; Interview with Rep. Ken Buck. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 27, 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] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended a counteroffer to President Trump for a second summit between the two leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): We are ready for such meetings. We are ready to invite President Trump to Moscow to be my guest. He has such an invitation. I've told him that. And I'm ready to go to Washington. I repeat, once again, if the right conditions for work are created.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The invitation comes after the president invited Putin to Washington later this year, but then backtracked and pushed that potential meeting to next year after the midterm elections.

For more now, let's bring in senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He is in Moscow.

Matthew, I'm curious how this is seen in Moscow. It strikes me that Vladimir Putin is running the show on this summit here. It's going to happen. Maybe I won't come. Now I will come. What's the perception in Moscow?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a very difficult issue for the Kremlin to handle. Of course, we saw what the dynamic was like in Helsinki. I was in that press conference with Presidents Trump and Putin. Putin came across as much more dominant. President Trump came across as deferential, even submissive at times, which I think was shocking to many people in the audience. People in Russia were also shocked as well. State television said that President Trump smelt like a Kremlin agent. That was the words that they used to describe the U.S. president. So I think the Kremlin have kind of backed off a bit, despite this latest invitation. They're concerned that it's gone a little bit too far. They want President Trump to deliver on his election promises, to make the relationship better with Russia. But they also see that he's not going to be able to do that if he continues to perform like he performed in Helsinki when standing next to president Putin. So, yes, there was this invitation extended today. President Putin

speaking in South Africa at a BRICs summit, said that, you know, he's already given that invitation, in fact, to President Trump, perhaps providing us with some insight into what else was discussed in that meeting, that secret meeting or closed-door meeting that they had together whilst in the Finnish capital. But he made the point that the conditions have to be right. What he was talking about then, I think, is Putin wants the political environment in the United States to be less hostile to him if he's going to undertake another summit. He wants something tangible out of it -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, doesn't help that apparently Russia's hacking U.S. Senators again.

Matthew Chance, in Moscow.

Let's talk about that invitation. Joining me now is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson.

So, Ambassador Richardson, the president had what, by even Republican accounts, was a disastrous summit in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin. What is the good reason to have another meeting now, whether it's here in the U.S. or in Moscow?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. & FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: I would hold off on the summits between the president and President Putin. They've just caused problems, misperceptions. He said this, this happened, secret meetings. What I would do is old-fashioned diplomacy. Task your secretary of state, Pompeo, to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Find ways to reach possible common ground on the intervention in Syria, on the Crimea issue, on arms control issues, some soft-power issues that might improve the relationship, which right now is in tatters. I would avoid summits. I think the president is getting in trouble with too many summits, going from the top to the bottom on these relationships. I think there's a little -- a few problems on the North Korea front. Although, the remains issue is positive. But I do think that with Russia, just stay away from each other. I think it's in both leaders' interests. Let your diplomats. I think Mike Pompeo has done a good job on North Korea. Let's see if he can smooth things out. Lavrov I know, former U.N. ambassador to Russia, knows the United States well. Maybe progress can be made. But start at the lower level instead of going to the top for another summit that could be another disaster.

SCIUTTO: Right.

Well, let me ask you this. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democratic Senator, in what is a toss-up race, an important race for control of the Senate, revealed yesterday, confirmed that a Russian cyberattack targeted her. It was unsuccessful, she said. So this is really one of the first instances we're seeing of Russian interference in this election cycle.

Should a U.S. president, Donald Trump, meet with a Russian president when that is happening right now? RICHARDSON: No, he shouldn't. And this is another issue. Although,

I think Pompeo and the White House has said they do recognize the Russians interfered, cyberattacks. But this is an instance in the 2018 election. Clare McCaskill, that's one of the most coveted seats. She's a very strong Senator. But this shouldn't happen. There should not be any summits while the Russians continue this deplorable tactic.

[13:35:22] SCIUTTO: I want to switch gears now, if I can, to North Korea, a country you have dealt with personally. You know it very well. A moment in the last 24 hours in South Korea, what are believed to be remains of U.S. troops killed during the Korean war, some 55 in fact. Before you have a chance to answer, please have a watch here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fallen heroes from America back from the Korean War. They're coming back to the United States. These incredible American heroes will soon lay at rest on sacred American soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So this is, Ambassador Richardson, one of the first, really, concrete steps we've seen from North Korea during this. It doesn't relate to denuclearization, but it's concrete. Is this an important sign from the North Korean side?

RICHARDSON: Well, this is good an important for North Koreans and for the United States, for the families that have been waiting. I got seven remains in 2007 from the North Koreans in a negotiation. But this is just the start, Jim. These are -- the North Koreans said 200. They're doing 55. They're slow-rolling this. They're going to stall this. There's 5300 total. This is going to be a long process. But it's good that it's happening.

On the denuclearization front, the North Koreans have been very silent, and they're not delivering, although, they did blow up a missile site. But at the same time, they're developing more nuclear fuel. Secretary Pompeo admitted that. So they're bobbing and weaving and not fulfilling their denuclearization commitments. But this is also going to be a long process. This is also going to be a tough negotiation that should be continued.

SCIUTTO: As you know, they like to drag out these negotiations.

Ambassador Richardson, thanks very much for taking the time.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, this just in to CNN. Facebook has suspended the personal profile of Alex Jones, the founder of InfoWars. He's pushed numerous conspiracy theories. In fact, just outright-fake stories. Hear about the last straw for Facebook. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:42:23] SCIUTTO: He runs a Web site notorious for spreading conspiracy theories and outrageously false news stories. Now Facebook says, you might say, somewhat belatedly, that it has suspended at least the personal profile of InfoWars' founder, Alex Jones, and that it may be close to banning him and his Web site entirely. Social media site also removed four videos associated with Jones and InfoWars.

CNN Money senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, joins me from New York.

Oliver, explain what Facebook has done so far, and I suppose what they haven't done so far, and why they're doing it now.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN MONEY SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Well, last night, Facebook said that they suspended the personal profile of Alex Jones, but they are leaving right now at least the InfoWars and Alex Jones official profile page up. What this means is Alex Jones' personal profile, he can no longer post photos and stuff like that on there, but other administrators can go on InfoWars and post content to InfoWars, post content to the Alex Jones page. It's some action from Facebook. It's really the first action we're seeing against Alex Jones. But it's still allowing InfoWars and Alex Jones -- they can still go on Facebook and post their content.

SCIUTTO: So then, it seems like it's a step without a difference. Are they considering banning him entirely from the platform?

DARCY: So what Facebook says is that InfoWars and the Alex Jones page haven't met the threshold of violations necessary to warrant unpublishing their pages from Facebook. That said, I talked to a spokesperson earlier this morning, and that person had said that they are close to meeting that threshold that would result in the pages being unpublished. Facebook hasn't really specified what that threshold is. They won't say how many strikes against the accounts would warrant unpublishing the page, but it's apparently close to hitting that number, and that would result in Facebook unpublishing these pages from their social media platform.

SCIUTTO: Now, I imagine Jones is not happy with this prospect. What's been his response?

DARCY: Right. We just actually got this totally bonkers cease-and- desist statement from Alex Jones. He's asking CNN to cease-and-desist reporting essentially on the company. And he calls CNN a number of things, says we're un-American for reporting on Facebook and their position on his InfoWars page. Of course, you know, CNN hasn't done a number of the things that we're accused of, including he says we're trying to ban his free speech. That's not what anyone at CNN is trying to do. We're just reporting on how Facebook deals with the InfoWars page on their Web site.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, you might say we're doing our job. I'm are American, and you are.

DARCY: Yes.

[13:45:10] SCIUTTO: Oliver Darcy, thanks very much.

DARCY: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: President Trump denying Michael Cohen's claim that he knew and approved of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians in 2016 promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The question is, does Robert Mueller already know who's lying in this story? A Republican Congressman will join us live to respond.

Plus, not even a week since the backlash against the president over his summit with Vladimir Putin, the White House now says that he's open to Putin's invitation for another summit in Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:50:10] SCIUTTO: Dueling invitations. First, President Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington. This following the summit in Helsinki. Now President Putin has revealed he extended his own invitation for President Trump to come to Moscow. The White House says they are now considering this offer.

Joining me from Capitol Hill is Colorado Congressman Ken Buck, a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman Buck, thank you for taking the time. We appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

Just yesterday, Claire McCaskill confirmed a report that her office had been targeted with a cyberattack -- she said it was unsuccessful -- that she blamed on Russia. Is this a time for the U.S. president to meet with the Russian president when there's now evidence that Russia is again attempting to interfere in a U.S. election?

REP. KEN BUCK, (R), COLORADO: I think there are issues beyond cyberattacks, but I think it is absolutely necessary president of the United States makes it clear to the president of Russia and the president of China that we will not stand for being targeted by cyberattacks from state entities or private individuals within those countries. So it is not wrong to meet, as there are so many important issues around the world, but it is absolutely wrong to suggest that we don't take this very seriously and we won't take retaliatory action.

SCIUTTO: Given Mr. Trump's performance in Helsinki, do you have confidence in President Trump to deliver that warning in stern terms to the Russian president?

BUCK: I have confidence in President Trump delivering messages. I think he is really good at delivering a lot of kinds of messages. But I think it is important that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and others make it clear to the Russian government at all levels that we take this seriously and we won't stand for it.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, I'm sure you're aware, CNN had some reporting last night regarding Michael Cohen. What he is willing to testify to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, that he says -- and this was my own reporting with Carl Bernstein, so I know the story well -- he is claiming to know that President Trump knew about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians. He claims to have been in a meeting with the president when this was discussed.

How important is that to you? If this is true that the president knows this, knew in advance, what does that say to you?

BUCK: Well, I was a prosecutor for 25 years. I consider myself a prosecutor impersonating a Congressman at this point. I think it is one of those things that he'd better have corroboration. Michael Cohen has very little credibility on the stand. If he has corroboration, the next question is, what is the crime? What are the elements of the crime? Does this evidence support any of those elements? There was no transmittal of information during the meeting that occurred or after the meeting as a result of that meeting. So finding a crime that makes this particular statement relevant is going to be a challenge.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. What struck me about the explanations for this meeting -- you've heard this from Donald Trump Jr, even the president himself said it -- campaigns, any campaign would accept this kind of help. And Donald Trump Jr's explanation for why he didn't tell his father was that, well, the Russians didn't deliver this dirt on Hillary Clinton as promised.

Do you think a campaign should be interested in, willing to accept help from Russia in the midst of a presidential election?

BUCK: I don't think any campaign should accept help from Russia, who is clearly an adversary, if not an enemy of ours. I don't think any campaign should accept any help that the source of that information was illegally obtained. So I think there were things going on with the DNC. I think there were things going on, on the other side. And we should look at those things in Congress and I think we should make sure that we pass laws that make it absolutely clear that accepting information from an outside source without knowing that that information was legally obtained is wrong.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this as well. There's big economic news today. Very strong numbers in the most recent quarter, 4.1 percent economic growth. You're a Freedom Caucus member. You have been railing against exploding deficits for some time. Of course, there was a big tax cut earlier this year. Deficit financed.

When you look at these numbers, do they look sustainable to you? I was speaking to an economist who said this is a sugar high. The numbers falsely inflated by deficit spending. Are you concerned about that?

BUCK: I'm hopeful that this isn't just a sugar high. I'm hopeful that these numbers, maybe not at the 4 percent range, maybe the 3 percent range, are sustained for a time and help pay off the tax cut. But it goes beyond creating deficits. What creates deficits in the United States is the spending that we're engaged in, not the tax money. The tax dollars belong to the taxpayers. And I think it is unfortunate that somehow a tax cut that leaves taxpayers with more of their own money is a cause --

(CROSSTALK)

[13:55:28] SCIUTTO: But that's just math. Because the budget - anybody who has a checkbook knows, it is both what you spend and what you take in. If you reduce what you take in, you're going to have a budget problem.

BUCK: Not if you reduce the money you spend. That's the key. We passed a farm bill that talked about reducing payments -- food stamp payments to able-bodied individuals. We've looked at other ways to cut spending in D.C. And that's what we have to focus on.

SCIUTTO: Well, Congressman Ken Buck, thank you very much for taking the time and answering the questions.

BUCK: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We'll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)