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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Trump Arguing Russian Collusion Is Not a Crime; Russians Using Facebook Again?. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired July 31, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Another event by the same group was supposed to take place in a couple of weeks. Resistors set up a counterprotest against white supremacist at the White House August 10.
Five other real group signed on to participate. As Facebook was announcing its crackdown on these potential Russian sites, the U.S. secretary of homeland security was that a cyber-security conference saying there's no doubt Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Everyone and everything is now a target.
GRIFFIN: And Russian actors may be at it again, comparing the upcoming midterm elections to a looming storm.
NIELSEN: Today, I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane. We are in a crisis mode. The Cat 5 hurricane has been forecast and now we must prepare.
GRIFFIN: Facebook says these current pages all shut down have the hallmarks of the activities the Russians did around the presidential election, though there are some differences. This time, the pages didn't lead back to Russian I.P. addresses.
And they used third-party services to buy ads to boost their posts and encourage people to follow the pages.
GRIFFIN: Jake, we did find the leader of one -- of a real protest group apparently duped by these fake sites into joining a rally. He was shocked that Russians could be behind this.
Facebook now in the process of notifying everyone who was in contact with these 32 fake sites, letting know -- letting them know, I should say, that these groups are most likely Russians trying to meddle in the U.S. political discourse -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Drew Griffin.
Drew Griffin, thanks so much. We should point out, as we discuss this among the group of experts
here, in reaction to the Facebook announcement this afternoon, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on Senate Intelligence, tweeted: "More evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like, say, Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation."
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, tweeted: "It's clear much more work needs to be done before the midterms to harden our defenses because foreign bad actors are using the exact same playbook they used in 2016, dividing us along political and ideological lines. As Dan Coats" -- that's the director of national intelligence -- "the warning lights are blinking red."
You're out there among the voters in Ohio, Nina. Are voters ready for this? Are voters aware of how much on Facebook and other social media might be Russians or others meddling, interfering, causing mischief?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think necessarily.
I think people who are focused on this, like us and others in Washington, may be more in tune. But the average everyday person is not necessarily going on there. Talking to family and friends, they don't necessarily know that Russia or any other actor may be involved.
But, Jake, the more -- I mean, I think the deeper question here is, what are we going to do about it? We, meaning the private sector and the public sector, are going to have to come up with something to do something to stop or ameliorate a lot of this from happening, whether that's educating the public in a way, more knock on doors, face to face.
Maybe that'll get our politicians to go door to door now. Go old- fashioned, because we definitely can't depend on the Internet.
TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, there's been a lot of reporting along the lines of the fact that the different agencies are not getting leadership from the White House when it comes to one big strategy, one big defense plan to ward off this kind of thing for 2018 and 2020.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And everyone has showed concern for it, except the president.
That is the one person who is in charge of really gathering all the momentum for something like this to lead this charge to protect this election, the most sacred right that Americans have. And Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats just warned that this is going to happen.
He warned about social media specifically. And then we saw that the way that the president doubted his intelligence on stage in front of everyone next to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. And though the president later went back and said, yes, he did believe their findings, he did side of the intelligence community, you saw for yourself what the president said on the world stage.
And then it threw Dan Coats' future in this administration into doubt for a few days. So you can see the state of that and how that really depends on what the president says coming out of the White House.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I don't necessarily think that these Cabinet secretaries, they're all very able, right?
We saw this afternoon or this morning the secretary of DHS come out and say, look, we know the Russians meddled, we're doing all we can to work on this, right? I assure you that Secretary Pompeo, that Gina Haspel, that others and all the Cabinet officials, they are doing everything within their power to combat against this.
To point to what Nina said, the people at home don't know they're looking at Facebook. These things are real. These guys are really good. They're bad people.
TAPPER: We just got some sound from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talking about this Facebook story, the Facebook announcement. Let's roll that, if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: The president has made very clear that he is against interference in our elections. Don't confuse cyber-security with election security.
I think Secretary Nielsen and Vice President Pence are both making that clear in their remarks today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So I couldn't really hear what you were saying there.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes.
I think Facebook -- the Facebook situation is a problem. Russia's intervention is a problem. But to be totally honest, the main source of fake news, of bad information in this last -- in the last 18 months has not been Russia and it hasn't been Facebook. It's been the president of the United States.
KRISTOL: And I would like to return to the president. No, but seriously, here's my only -- I don't want to obsess about Trump.
But it is true. I just find this in my own dealings with people. People can discount what some friend or relative sends them something that they read somewhere. Well, maybe that's mistaken. People can tell some of the Russian agitation.
When the president of the United States over and over and over shows no regard for the truth, repeats falsehoods, denigrates people, et cetera, that has impact. People are used to respecting the president.
And this has happened to me a million times. Well, that's just not the case. Well, the president said it. Well, OK, but he really isn't right about X, Y or Z, whatever it is. Well, the president said it.
I think -- so I'm fine with -- we should deal with Facebook, we should do with Russia, but we shouldn't forget the main purveyor of falsehood is the president.
TAPPER: Well, speaking of President Trump, there is a governor's race going on in Florida right now.
And in the Republican primary, one of the candidates, Congressman Ron DeSantis, just unleashed an ad, just released an ad in which he is talking about how much he worships, how much fealty he has to President Trump. Let's play a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron loves playing with the kids.
REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Build the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He read stories
DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said, you're fired. I love that part.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is teaching Madison to talk.
DESANTIS: Make America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This is what it comes down to in some of these primaries is, who is Trumpier?
KRISTOL: The ad in the end sounds better in the original North Korean.
URBAN: The president is headed down there today to Tampa, right?
And it's going to be a big rally. A tough primary fight. The voters along the I-4 Corridor, I'm sure this is aimed strongly at them. This is a primary race.
And I know that everyone's surprised that in the primaries people run to the right or left in a primary. And that's what's happening here.
KRISTOL: DeSantis has taken the lead by being much Trumpier than Adam Putnam, who I think people would have bet on six months ago to be the governor nominee.
The funny thing, I know Ron DeSantis. He went to Yale. He was captain of the baseball team there.
TAPPER: Army veteran.
KRISTOL: Army veteran, intelligent guy.
He is just -- this is the picture of -- this is what has happened to the Republican Party in the last two or three years in miniature. A reasonably intelligent and responsible congressman has become just devotee or at least presents himself as a devotee of the Trump cult.
TURNER: He is being a Mini Me. And he has his children. Build the wall.
KRISTOL: Using your kids, little kids.
TURNER: Listen, I mean, him and his wife to roll like that, that's up to them.
But there is something beyond the primaries called the general election. There's a large Latino, Latinx population there.
TAPPER: All the Puerto Ricans that came from...
TURNER: Absolutely. So what is he doing?
I mean, if he thinks that is the only way he's going to win -- he may win the primary. But that doesn't necessarily guarantee him a win the general. What does that look like? I mean, telling your children build the wall, using your children as props, their right to do, but I think is wrong.
And he's just being a Mini Me.
TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, one of the concerns that some Republicans -- and obviously President Trump vs. the Republican establishment is not a new storyline.
We have a senior member of the Republican establishment right here. Some of the Republicans in town get upset that President Trump gets involved in these Republican primaries because they think he picks the guy that is the most sycophantic or the most Trump-like, and not necessarily the person that can win the general election.
This is also going on at the gubernatorial contest in Georgia. COLLINS: Paging Roy Moore also. The president endorsed Roy Moore on
several occasions, saying that they needed him because Doug Jones would vote against -- and it was even before that, that Doug Jones would vote against all of his things.
But that is a concern. The president is going to be traveling a lot this fall ahead of the midterms. It is a concern of his that they could lose the House as well. And so we are going to the president on the road a lot more. He will be on the road tonight. But what you have to keep in mind is when the president is on the road for these people, he is rarely stumping for them and giving them this full- throated endorsement.
Normally, it's a full-throated endorsement for whatever he is tweeting about that day, whatever is on his mind. That's likely what we will see in Tampa tonight. And that's likely what we're going to see as he's on the road this fall.
KRISTOL: It's one thing for the president to endorse candidates. I have no problem with that. It's another thing for the candidates to be so unbelievably...
URBAN: It's a different party, Bill.
KRISTOL: It is. It's a different country. I'm afraid it's a different country.
TAPPER: You're both correct.
Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more still to talk about.
If you follow President Trump's logic, collusion is a crime, but only if it involved Democrats and you're talking about it on Sunday. But if those two things aren't true, then it's not illegal, apparently. Things that make you go hmm coming up next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.
On Sunday, President Trump wondered on Twitter -- quote -- "Why isn't Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity and real Russian collusion the Democrat side, Podesta, dossier?"
Today, the president said -- quote -- "Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn't matter because there was no collusion."
So, apparently, the president feels collusion isn't a crime unless his political opponents commit it.
I want to bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
And, Jeff, the president's other lawyer Jay Sekulow is now pushing this "collusion is not a crime" line as well.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, he is and this is a proof that it's no accident or a stream of conscious mistake. It is the legal strategy of the President and his lawyers and they are arguing this the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russia during the 2016 campaign, and if they did it wouldn't be a crime. But Jake, what they're not saying anything about is conspiracy. That's what legal experts say is actually at play here.
ZELENY: They've become to a President Trump's favorite words.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion.
ZELENY: From the Oval Office --
TRUMP: There's been no collusion.
ZELENY: To Camp David --
TRUMP: There's no collusion.
ZELENY: To Mar-a-Lago. But today, he changed tunes entirely saying on Twitter collusion is not a crime but that doesn't matter because there was no collusion. That message turned heads considering just two days ago he suggested collusion was a crime when he tweeted why is it Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity in real Russian collusion on the Democrat side, Podesta dossier.
TRUMP: There was no collusion with Russia other than by the Democrats.
ZELENY: So which is it? Is collusion a crime or isn't it? That question went unanswered today by the White House. The President suddenly embracing a line of defense first offered Monday by his lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: They're not going to be colluding about Russians which I do not even know if that's a crime colluding about Russians.
ZELENY: Echoed today by another lawyer Jay Sekulow.
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: But collusion isn't a crime so that -- I think that was just twisted out of context.
ZELENY: While there's no federal statute for collusion, anyone found collaborating with Russia on the 2016 election could be charged with conspiracy or other crimes. That is thought to be at least one area of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation. The sudden shift in strategy or semantics came without explanation but it hardly changes how those words have been a soundtrack of Trump campaign rallies.
TRUMP: There's no collusion, no collusion.
No collusion, no nothing.
Russian collusion, give me a break.
ZELENY: All eyes will be on Florida tonight where the President is appearing at a rally and could expound on the collusion confusion. All this is the fate of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's future is resolved. The President marking his one-year anniversary Monday in the Oval Office.
TRUMP: General Kelly who by the way, one year today right, became Chief of Staff General Kelly John Kelly.
ZELENY: Kelly told senior staff in the West Wing the President asked him to stay on until at least 2020 cooling for now at least speculation about his departure.
ZELENY: So Kelly is staying on as Chief of Staff and he wanted everyone here to understand that and know. That that's one of the reasons that leaked out. So at least that's resolved for now. But Jake, of course, a White House chief of staff nor anyone here works under a contract like that. All of this is still up to the President but it settles one thing, he's made it a year as chief of staff. That's something that even he thought might not happen a year ago. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks so much. My experts are with me. I guess this -- the big question is why the change of strategy now and why the change of -- the argument that it used to be there's no collusion, this is all crazy conspiracy theory and now it is very clearly whether it's Issa or some of the Trump supporters on that other network or whatever, you start hearing collusion is not a crime, nothing wrong with it. Why?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And why is Rudy Giuliani looking into the federal code to see if it is a crime if it's something his client did not commit and it's not something that he's supposed to be worried about. Those are all the questions that Rudy Giuliani raises when he goes and does this slew of cable network interviews saying comments like this, backtracking. Sometimes things, that -- it's hard to follow his logic when he's explaining what Donald Trump is not guilty over, what he is guilty of --
TAPPER: You think it's that way? Do you think the confusion is intense?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh yes, I do. COLLINS: I not so sure. But the thing is, all of this is coming as all of the questions about whether or not President Trump knew about that meeting in Trump Tower, something that is former lawyer and longtime friend Michael Cohen is now alleging that he did know. So if President Trump did know about that meeting -- that meeting, it is obviously you cannot solicit something valuable information from a foreign agent which is what Donald Trump Jr. walked at that meeting thinking he was getting dirt on Hillary Clinton that we did it. So it raises questions even more about what it was the President knew, when he knew it, and all of that stuff.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: And he said, no he didn't which has been their consistent line, but how do we know that incidentally.
TAPPER: You think the President didn't know?
KRISTOL: This Trump Tower meeting -- I think we now know fairly well. We can now suspect the President did know that thing that he claimed he didn't know for a year or two. But how do we --
TAPPER: After the fact or before?
KRISTOL: Either. That phone call to the -- what is it? The unlisted number which is --
TAPPER: When Donald Trump Jr. called an unlisted number.
KRISTOL: So what -- so his claim, of course, was that he didn't know about it, either way, then his claim was that it was about adoptions. But everyone still seems to somehow believe because they said it so often I think that well, nothing really came of it. Nothing useful was produced. We don't know that. We don't know that.
KRISTOL: Maybe they established an open line so that on October 7th I think it was, when the Access Hollywood tape came out, 32 minutes later, the Russians dumped or that WikiLeaks dumps all the Podesta e- mails conveniently to muddy the waters on that key weekend, it was a dangerous so who knows what happened --
[16:50:15] DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bob Mueller knows. Well, Bob Mueller knows and that's we're going to find out at the end of this investigation. And so I think you know, we could hypothesize about a bunch of different things. The collusion stuff that I think Rudy has thrown a lot of chaff in the air right, trying to confuse people, he does you know 100 interviews a day and saying lots of different things and media the Twitterverse chases every one of them different way. I think that you know, that the fact that the President keeps pointing out that look even if this -- even if let's assume that the meeting happened. Let's assume that it went down just like it went down. The crime maybe what, an FEC violation?
URBAN: Let's assume that it went down exactly as everybody says.
KRISTOL: We don't know what the violation --
URBAN: Is it an FEC violation?
COLLINS: The question is if Donald Trump knew about it. He says he didn't. He says he learned in July of last year, a year after the meeting happened. But now there are these questions and Michael Cohen alleges that he did know about it.
URBAN: Well, Michael Cohen, the guy the guy who taped all his clients?
KRISTOL: Don't go watch T.V. 20 times a day. That's what I learned from this conversation.
TURNER: The strategy is collusion and confusion. That is absolutely the strategy of this administration. It is the strategy of Rudy Giuliani. And the man -- he does it very well he is so good at it. This is not by accident because they want to submit in the minds of the American people especially his base who's on first, who's on second, who's on third. So you don't know what the heck is going on. That's their strategy.
TAPPER: But you don't think it's a strategy you just think. And you think Rudy is kind of confused?
COLLINS: Well, they aren't --
TURNER: (INAUDIBLE) I just it --
COLLINS: It is hard to track Rudy's logic sometimes and what he is saying in those interviews. I think even the White House doesn't want to be accountable for the things Rudy Giuliani says. They've made that quite clear in all of the briefings and --
TURNER: They don't want to be accountable for what the President said. I mean --
COLLINS: And any comments that the reporters have. But to bring it back to what we do know for sure is that Robert Mueller the Special Counsel wants to know what the President knew. We know that that is a focus of his inquiry. We know that that is a question he wants to ask President Trump if he does ever sit down with him, something that Rudy Giuliani now says is increasingly unlikely and we also know that the President and his legal team believes that this is a strategy of public -- winning over the public opinion. Because in the end it could just be that Robert Mueller issues this report saying here's what happened and then there are no charges for the President or anything like that whether you believe there could be indictments --
URBAN: Again, at the end of the day. Again, at the end of the day, unless he indicts the President, this all goes --
TAPPER: To Congress.
URBAN: It goes to Rod Rosenstein, and then it gets dropped on the House Representatives.
TAPPER: And they decide. They've been -- ultimately it become very political.
TURNER: That's right.
TAPPER: Thanks, everyone. President Trump said everybody can now feel much safer after the North Korea summit in Singapore but do the new spy satellite images tell us the exact opposite. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" now. Despite President Trump bragging about how successful his summit with Kim Jong-un was, today there are troubling new signs the North Korea's building more missiles. The Washington Post reports that U.S. spy satellites spotted work on two intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially hit the United States. CNN's Barbara Starr filed this report.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, North and South Korean military officials meeting for fresh talks at Panmungak on reducing tensions just as new commercial satellite imagery shows North Korea could be building new liquid-fueled ballistic missiles according to the Washington Post. This despite the Trump administration's hope that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons following the Singapore summit. For intelligence analysts, the critical question is what has North Korea been up to in the weeks since then.
BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIVISION CHIEF FOR KOREA: What we're seeing with the intelligence leaks as well as the unclassified satellite imagery is a continuation of production as well as even the expansion of production facilities for fissile material, for nuclear weapons.
STARR: There are no signs Kim Jong-un is headed to shutting everything down despite these underground nuclear test tunnels being destroyed and some limited dismantlement at a satellite launch site. The nation's top intelligence officer said days ago it's classic North Korean tactics.
DAN COATS, UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm not surprised the North Koreans they might be trying to hide some things, try to be deceptive.
STARR: And the top U.S. military officer in the region also warning recently North Korea may still be producing nuclear fuel for warheads.
GEN. VINCENT BROOKS, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, KOREA: We haven't seen the complete shutdown of production yet. We have not seen the removal of fuel rods. STARR: If there are new liquid fuel ballistic missiles, several U.S.
officials say it's not all that concerning because liquid fueling takes long enough that spy satellites can see it and offer early warning. The larger U.S. intelligence concern advanced solid-fueled missiles can be fired in surprise. The way ahead now has slowed.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have no rush for speed. The relationships are very good so we'll see how that goes. We have no time limit.
KLINGNER: If we've abandoned timelines, if we abandon the pressure, its it seems to be that the Trump administration has embraced the Obama administration's policy of strategic patience. The longer the negotiations drag out, the less international resolve there is.
STARR: The most important intelligence right now might be the very highly classified communications intercepts and eavesdropping on Kim Jong-un to find out what his real intentions may be. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.