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Intel Chiefs Warm of Threat from Russians, While Trump Dismisses It; Manafort's Bookkeeper Testifies He was Broke by 2016. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired August 3, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Nick, thank you very much for that reporting. Obviously, we'll keep an eye on that.
[07:00:05] Meanwhile, thank you for watching to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN TALK is news. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Russia continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything. We got along really well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the only one in the government that hasn't been paying attention.
COATS: I'm not in a position to understand fully what happened in Helsinki.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's absolutely amazing. He needs that information. Yet, he doesn't know what happened.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What is the message to the American people? I don't see one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bookkeeper describes how Manafort lied to the banks in 2016. He was trying to make a financial comeback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick is extremely important to the case. He is going to be at the center of everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respect Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, there's something that happened here.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot that we have to get into with all the details of the Manafort trial, et cetera. Something very colorful.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: As you know. And made of expensive fabric.
GREGORY: Made of ostrich. Which you don't often get to say at the beginning of a program.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. John Berman is off. David Gregory joins me. Great to have had you all week.
GREGORY: Had fun all week. A lot of news this week.
CAMEROTA: For sure.
GREGORY: And it continues.
CAMEROTA: The nation's top security officials are trying to warn Americans about what Russians are doing to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections. But for whatever reason, the president does not believe them. And just hours after they spoke, he again slammed any investigation into Russia as a hoax. We don't know why the president is ignoring the warnings of his intel chiefs or why he sent them to the podium to say all of that.
This highlights, again, once of the most puzzling contradictions of his presidency. Why does President Trump believe Vladimir Putin's denials over the top U.S. officials who say the threat is real and that, quote, "democracy is in the crosshairs"?
GREGORY: What's striking, too, is that it's been nearly three weeks since the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, and we still don't know what the two leaders discussed, what the ramifications are for U.S. policy and the U.S. relationship with Russia.
The director of national intelligence said yesterday -- that's Dan Coats -- he said he still does not fully understand what happened in that two-hour meeting.
But there is at least one source, the president's national security advisor, John Bolton. He insists Vladimir Putin, in fact, says that election interference was the first issue that President Trump brought up.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's live this morning, traveling with the president in New Jersey -- Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was quite a show of force yesterday when the nation's top intelligence officials came into that briefing, offered a candid, blunt assessment that, yes, the threat from Russia is very real. But those in the room couldn't help but notice who wasn't there, the president, and that he's someone who hasn't been nearly as forceful as they have about Russian interference.
TRUMP: I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything. We got along really well. Now, we're being hindered by the Russian hoax. It's a hoax. OK?
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump downplaying the Russia threat once again, just hours after the nation's top intelligence officials briefed reporters about ongoing efforts by Russia to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections.
COATS: We continue to see a pervasive messaging -- messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.
COLLINS: The show of force standing in stark contrast to the inconsistent messaging from the president.
TRUMP: Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also.
COLLINS: Still, administration officials insist President Trump takes the issue seriously and has instructed his national security officials to confront the threat.
GEN. PAUL NAKASONE, NSA DIRECTOR: U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency are tracking a wide range of foreign cyber adversaries and are prepared to conduct operations against those actors attempting to undermine our nation's midterm elections.
COLLINS: FBI Director Christopher Wray warning that the FBI has seen efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing.
WRAY: Make no mistake: the scope of this foreign influence threat is both broad and deep.
COLLINS: Those warnings coming amid bipartisan criticism on President Trump's virtual silence on the issue.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: He's been the only one in the government that hasn't been paying attention to this.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: What they said was important, but the president's been missing on this.
COLLINS: Asked by a reporter how he explains the apparent disconnect between the president and his administration on display in Helsinki, the director of national intelligence admitting he's still in the dark about the summit.
[07:05:06] COATS: I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened at Helsinki.
COLLINS: Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, stepping in to insist that the attack on the 2016 election was discussed.
BOLTON: President Putin said the first issue that President Trump raised was election meddling.
COLLINS: President Trump falsely claiming in a rally last night that Putin didn't want him to win.
TRUMP: I'll tell you what. Russia is very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you.
COLLINS: Despite President Putin saying the exact opposite three weeks ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did.
COLLINS: Now the White House insists that briefing on election security was the president's idea. But last night at his rally, President Trump made no mention of election meddling. Instead, his only reference to Russia was to call the Russia investigation a hoax.
CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, thank you very much for all of that.
Joining us now to talk about this, we have CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd; and Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics reporter and editor at large. Great to have all of you. Happy Friday.
Phil Mudd, to quote Maya Angelou by way of Oprah, two of our greatest philosophers, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And President Trump has shown us time and again very clearly that he does not believe the intelligence that Russia interfered in the election, that Russia is doing so again. Even standing next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the president took Vladimir Putin's word.
So let me just remind everybody by playing this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So he believes Vladimir Putin over Dan Coats and his own intel people. That's where we are today. Let's believe that. GREGORY: He clarified that to say "I don't why it wouldn't be."
CAMEROTA: Well, he said that's what -- no. That's what he claimed, that. But he was stuck to his script, saying it was a simple contradiction. But we can play the whole Helsinki thing. In the Helsinki thing, he said Vladimir Putin gave a very forceful, very powerful denial. And the president also went on to blame the United States.
So in the context, it's very hard to imagine that he just missed a contraction there, but I'm glad that you pointed that out.
Phil Mudd, that's where we are. So what do the intel chiefs -- you know what world well -- can they work around the president?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: They can partly -- look, we can see them, obviously, collecting information about Russian involvement. That's why they're out there speaking yesterday so clearly about Russian involvement.
They can talk to the Congress, which is having a conversation now this week about a bipartisan sanctions bill on Russia.
There are some things they cannot do, however. For example, you heard a mention yesterday by somebody at the podium, one of the government officials, about operations against Russia. If we are going to undertake our own U.S. government's cyber operations, the president ought to be involved in authorizing those operations.
Simple question: has he or has he not authorized U.S. government to conduct similar cyber operations against the Russians.
The other thing that he has to do is to speak to the American people. As you go into an election campaign, into the midterms, what do the American people think about the difference between some nut screaming on social media and how to determine whether that nut is actually a Russian front? Who's going to talk to them? It's not going to be the director of national intelligence. It should be the president, but he's been absent on this one, Alisyn.
GREGORY: Let me ask you this, Chris Cillizza. This -- this striking phenomenon that we've seen a lot, which is the president says one thing, while his administration does another? Our reporting indicates that, in fact, the president wanted his team to go out there. He didn't join them, because he is separate and apart, saying this is all a hoax, and that he blames, you know, both sides for what happened in this relationship.
But how do you understand the fact that the president says one thing; and yet his administration is out there saying, "Well, forget what the president says. But here's what we're doing and this is a real threat"?
MUDD: Well, this goes back, David, I think, to, you know, do you take him literally or not? Right? Is he just talking? As we have already debated this week as it related to Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller and the probe? Is he just talking? Is it just his opinion? Is he urging? Or is it something in between?
What's difficult here is that the White House does this on lots of issues. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, does this all the time. He will come out and say something that contradicts what Donald Trump has said in the past.
And you think, "OK, well, maybe Donald Trump is sort of -- they've gotten on the same page." While I was skeptical of that yesterday, I said, "OK, maybe he urged them to go out and do this, show of force. Maybe they're on the same page."
He is in Pennsylvania literally hours later, and he is saying, "It's all a hoax, folks. It's all a hoax." He -- that's what he believes.
[07:10:12] I think they are trying to publicly, in many occasions, to sort of cajole him into a certain opinion. He bristles against that I think there is just not a lot of debate. He does not believe that Russia interfered in the election, certainly that piece. And then he's even more skeptical of the idea they did so to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton.
CAMEROTA: Asha, tell us the significance as you see it of the head of the FBI, the head of the director of -- the director of national intelligence, homeland security, everybody coming together visibly there at the podium to say, "We see signs that this is happening." Now they're trying to sound the alarm. The lights are blinking red.
ASHA RANGAPPA, LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. I think that's exactly what it is. That what they are seeing on the intelligence side is so alarming and threatening, that they feel they have to tell this message, basically, in the president's stead.
I'm not convinced that the president actually instructed them to do that. I -- you know, I have a feeling that they said, "This is actually going to happen," and you know, there -- if there's a showdown about that, that could -- would leak and that would be a problem.
So maybe he said, "Fine," and he went off to play golf.
But, you know, what does is say when the president is, like, bumbling around on the stage with Putin, going off and play golf, and all of his cabinet members have to come in and say what he should be saying to the world?
GREGORY: You know, this whole question of whether, ultimately, he feels undermined, delegitimized by the specter of Russia interference in the election that he simply can't get past. There are those around him who are arguing otherwise.
Even if it's -- I thought they said yesterday, well, it may not be at the same level as what they saw in 2016, but this is where we are.
Also, Chris Wray, who is the head of the FBI, who is the president's choice to take over the FBI after he fired Jim Comey, was standing alongside press secretary Sarah Sanders, who has talked about the president's view that there's widespread corruption in the FBI. And he responded to that yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WRAY: I can assure the American people that the men and women of the FBI, starting from the director all the way on down, are going to follow our oaths and do our jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Which is interesting again. Here is an example of someone standing up for the independence in the institution in America that is the FBI. And good for him, you know? A Trump appointee not going to -- not going to go there on all this criticism that's coming from the top.
RANGAPPA: Yes, and I think what he is saying is they are going to follow their duty, and they're going to follow the evidence. They're going to uncover the intelligence activity that's happening here, neutralized it, and you know -- and they're going to do this regardless of their politics. They're going to -- I just don't see that they are going to be fazed by what the president says as long as he stays out of their way to let them do their jobs.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: But put it in perspective. I mean, this is -- this is Donald Trump's pick to run the FBI.
CILLIZZA: This is Donald Trump's pick to be the director of national intelligence. This is Donald Trump's pick to be the Department of Homeland Security head.
You know, I mean, that's -- he is in a rhetorical, at least, battle against his own Justice Department. I mean, you know, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, this is not an adversarial group of people. No matter what Donald Trump tweets about 13 angry Democrats.
I mean, Bob Mueller, nominated by George W. Bush to be the FBI director, a Republican in private life. Picked by Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, to head the special counsel.
CILLIZZA: He's setting up this idea that it's a versus, it's an adversarial thing. These are all theoretically his people.
GREGORY: But isn't it -- but the point is, Chris, that this is a president who is asserting that he can be the outsider, even as head of the government.
GREGORY: That he can argue every day and say, "Well, this is what all these people who work in the government say. I'm still skeptical." And he's trying to pull that off. CAMEROTA: Yes.
CILLIZZA: I mean, yes. The difficult thing here is if -- someone who is an expert at something offers an opinion, and then someone who has never heard of the thing that person is an expert on offers an opinion, those opinions should not be given equal weight.
CILLIZZA: They are.
CAMEROTA: So -- so, Phil, when the intel chiefs come out and sound the alarm to the American people, as they were trying to do yesterday, what are the American people supposed to do about that? Should nobody trust their Facebook page anymore? What should the American people take away from the message that the intel chiefs feel and the head of homeland security and all that feel so strongly about what's about to happen in the midterm elections.
MUDD: Well, presumably, you should hear from the White House, but I think in going into the elections, where we should be watching and what the American people should be watching is their members of Congress and senators. The Congress has -- including Republicans -- have been more and more direct about saying what's happening out there. And I think their messaging is going to have to be sort of more of a public relations campaign for the American people, since the White House is going to speak.
But let's be clear. That was not a security meeting yesterday. Let me throw a penalty flag here. And that was not a red light. That was the White House using a bunch of people so for the next two months, they can use a talking point that said, hey, every time somebody raises Russia to Sarah Sanders, she's going to say, "Look, the president directed those guys you saw and also those women you saw on the podium to go do something about Russia."
CAMEROTA: So that was a P.R. stunt to your mind?
MUDD: That was a P.R. stunt. Give me a break, yes. They got used.
GREGORY: You know, the other -- the -- I don't know that they got used. I mean, these are still the responsible people who, whether they reacted out of pressure, they still came out and briefed people about where they see the threat, and what -- what the government is doing about it.
But the piece of what the government can do has to do with local election infrastructure. Look at Facebook, for example. There's a lot of -- the onus is on Facebook. The onus is on users of Facebook. The FBI is helping Facebook to try to detect if there's Russia bots and fake pages and all the rest. I mean, there's got to be a lot of vigilance at a lot of levels, to your point, Phil, which makes it harder when the president says, "Really, don't pay attention to any of this." MUDD: It doesn't make it harder. Look, every time the guy is
confronted with something that damages his ego, whether it's the number of people who showed up at the inauguration, he got embarrassed, so he directed his press secretary to go lie about it.
When too many people showed up for Hillary Clinton in the popular election, he got embarrassed and told governors to try to count phantom voters, and they said no, including Republican governors.
He's embarrassed about what happened in Russian intervention, so he goes and says it's a hoax. I mean, you said that this is -- that these guys weren't set up, and these women weren't set up on the podium yesterday. Let me ask you one question. Do you think they were asked by the White House to go speak because the White House wanted them to say that there's a red light about Russian intervention in the election? Or do you think the White House wants a talking point that said, "Yes, the president of the United States, when he says on the same day in Pennsylvania, 'This is a hoax,' that he directed his national security people to go fight this hoax."
I think they want a talking point. They don't want the message.
CAMEROTA: Phil, always wonderful to get your perspective.
CAMEROTA: And experience. Asha Rangappa, same thing. Chris Cillizza, you as well.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
GREGORY: Thanks, all.
Paul Manafort's longtime deputy, Rick Gates, may take the stand as early as today. It comes after the bookkeeper for Manafort revealed he was broke in 2016 when he was President Trump's campaign char chairman, and how he lied to get bank loans.
CNN's Joe Johns live outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, with more now.
Joe, good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David.
The prosecution filling in for the jury a few more pieces of the Paul Manafort timeline, laying out, through this bookkeeper you just spoke of, how he went from the boom years when he was flush with cash from his overseas accounts to when he was flat broke around. That was around 2016. The same year, by the way, he went to work for the Trump campaign for no pay. So broke, in fact, that he was submitting doctored financial statements to try to get loans, which goes to the bank fraud element of the case. This bookkeeper also describing how he was a hands-on guy with his
money. Actually, personally approving all of his expenses, which goes to the intent element of this case.
That's also important because Rick Gates, the long-time deputy of Mr. Manafort, who has himself now pleaded guilty, if you will, to both conspiracy, as well as making false statements to the government, now turning state's evidence.
He could testify as early as today it could be a very tough cross- examination for him because the defense has already made it clear they want to portray him, Gates, as the guy who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Manafort, of course, the big question is whether he's going to testify, Alisyn. The judge has said if he does, he might be more willing to allow in evidence suggesting Manafort, of all people with such tough, crazy finances, didn't get an audit from the Internal Revenue Service.
CAMEROTA: That is notable. Thank you very much, Joe. It will be very interesting to see what happens in that courtroom today.
So, do lawmakers think the Trump administration is doing enough to stop Russian election interference? We will ask a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, next.
[07:23:18] CAMEROTA: President Trump's top national security officials assembled at the White House podium yesterday to warn of the ongoing attempts by the Russian government to interfere in America's democracy. Then, just hours after that, President Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything. I had a great meeting. I had a great meeting. We got along really well. By the way, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. That's a really good thing. Now, we're being hindered by the Russian hoax, it's a hoax, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Senator Cardin and a bipartisan group of senators introduced additional sanctions against Russia yesterday.
Senator, thank you very much for being here. So why do you think all of those national security officials went to the podium yesterday? What was the point of that?
CARDIN: Alisyn, first, it's good to be with you. I think they were trying to make it very clear their responsibilities, that they're acting on behalf of the American national security and pointing out what Russia did in 2016 and that they're still very much active in 2018.
Now, what really concerns me is that the president was missing. As you said, he was not only missing from that event, the next day he calls it a hoax.
Here's the problem. What that report was saying, what they were saying at that meeting is that Mr. Putin will fill a void. If he thinks he can move with impunity and attack our system, he'll attack our system. And what President Trump did in Helsinki and what he did yesterday in calling the Russian a hoax, it gives a green light to Mr. Putin to continue his activities here in the United States to compromise our system of government.
[07:25:11] CAMEROTA: Yes. But just --
CARDIN: That's what I think really concerns us.
CAMEROTA: I understand. But just -- I'm sorry to interrupt -- but Vladimir Putin wasn't waiting for a green light. I mean, as we know, when President Obama said, "Cut it out," or "Knock it off," as he was reported to saying, that didn't stop Vladimir Putin. So it isn't as though President Trump is giving him a green light. Vladimir Putin, the reporting is, has been doing this, has been authorizing it, is doing it again in the midterms.
And I hear you: President Trump is not -- doesn't appear to be saying anything to him to stop it. But I'm not sure that Vladimir Putin would respond to a president saying to stop it.
CARDIN: No, but he would respond to presidential action and American action, and that's why a group of us filed legislation this week, bipartisan legislation, to say we're going to take additional steps against Russia if they continue this behavior.
He under -- Mr. Putin understands force. He understands NATO. That's why he's so concerned about trying to weaken NATO. He understands strength. There's a reason why his troops are in three countries that are not NATO members. Because he felt he could get away with it. So he understands strength, and the United States, through President Trump, is not showing strength in regards to what Mr. Putin did here in America.
CAMEROTA: We just had Phil Mudd, who's one of our CNN counterterrorism experts. He was formerly at the CIA and the FBI. And he said that he thought happened yesterday was a publicity stunt at that podium and at the White House.
Because he thinks that that -- not that -- not that all of the national security chiefs don't believe it. They do believe it, and they'll take any opportunity to publicly sound the alarm, but that it gives the White House cover. So that then President Trump at night can call it all a hoax, but say, "But look, I sent out the national security chiefs."
Do you think that that's what's happening? CARDIN: First, I was pleased to hear what they had to say. Because I
think it -- all four laid out very clearly the risk to our country and the continued activities by Russia and steps that they're taking in order to protect us. It's very consistent with the recommendations that was made in the report I authored six months ago by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But I do believe that Mr. Trump will use that, but will -- the concern is will he stop contradicting what his own people are telling him? Not only in facts but also in strategy. I think that's a concern.
No, I don't think it's a public relations stunt. I think the four were very sincere in what they were saying. And it gave us some confidence that those in charge of those agencies understand the risks to our country.
CAMEROTA: Dan Coats yesterday, at that moment at the podium, the director of national intelligence, said that he does not really understand what happened inside that Helsinki one-on-one between President Trump and President Trump. It was an interesting moment to hear him not be able to answer that question. Let me play it for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COATS: I'm not a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki. I'll turn it over to the national security director to address that question.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The issue was discussed. And in fact, President Putin said, I thought, at the press conference, but certainly in the expanded bilateral meeting when the two leaders got together with their senior advisors, President Putin said the first issue that President Trump raised was election meddling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Vladimir Putin is our source for what happened inside that one-on-one? You're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Do you know what happened in there?
CARDIN: No, do I not know, and the fact that the director of national intelligence does not know what happened in the meeting between Mr. Putin and President Trump is absolutely unacceptable. He needs to understand that, and he has not been really briefed on what happened.
It really is hard to understand. That's why many of us, we're very concerned on just the setting and how that meeting took place. We really need to know what happened inside that room.
CAMEROTA: How are you going to find out?
CARDIN: Well, we have an oversight function, the United States Senate and the Congress, and we've asked for information. We've asked for classified briefings. We know there's source material through the interpreter. We are just -- we're not interested in finding out or violating any confidences, but we do need to know the substances -- substance of what happened in that meeting. We have oversight responsibility. Congress should act as an independent branch of government and get that information.
CAMEROTA: The American public looks forward to hearing what happened in there, as well. Senator Ben Cardin, thank you. Always great to have you on NEW DAY.
CARDIN: Thank you.
GREGORY: Alisyn, "The Washington Post" reporting that President Trump has told more than 4,000 falsehoods since taking office. The truth behind the misleading statements, coming up next.