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Trump Now Says He Holds Putin Responsible for Interference; Russia Claims Important Verbal Agreements Made at the Summit; Trump Considers Russia's Proposal to Interrogate Americans; Interview with Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired July 19, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:44] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And the president said he still doesn't see, quote, "what the fuss is all about.' But three days after his one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin, a very public and a very jaw- dropping news conference following that, the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department are all scrambling to get on the same page and most importantly to find out everything that was agreed to.
For his part the president just declared, "The summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the fake news media. That's right, this morning the president says the real enemy is not Russia, it's the American media. In a new interview the president says he would hold the Russian leader personally responsible for interfering in the U.S. election, but he wouldn't go as far as calling Putin a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS: Well, he denies it so if you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to get into whether or not he's lying. I can only say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agency as currently constituted. I think that Dan Coats is excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: As for the summit this morning the Pentagon is trying to figure out what Russian officials mean when they say important verbal agreements were made on control -- on arms control and on Syria. At the same time the State Department is trying to squelch any idea that the U.S. would ever turn over any U.S. citizens for interrogation by Russian officials. The White House on that is considering it and simply says we'll let you know.
Let's go to the White House. Abby Phillip joins me there this morning.
It is a stunning disagreement. Public disagreement from the State Department and the White House on a very important topic. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Really, a critical
topic. And right now you're hearing a lot of Republicans and Democrats saying the White House needs to clear this up and clear it up soon. But all of this is coming because there is so much confusion about what President Trump said in that meeting, what he agreed to, and where he really stands on Russian president Vladimir Putin. He has muddied the waters for the last several days and tried last night again in an interview that aired with CBS to clarify his standing that as of right now he believes the intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the election, that Putin was responsible. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLOR: You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016.
TRUMP: Yes. And I've said that before, Jeff. I've said that numerous times before and I would say that that is true. Yes.
GLOR: But you haven't condemned Putin specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?
TRUMP: Well, I would because he's in charge of the country just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country so certainly as the leader of the country you would have to hold him responsible, yes.
GLOR: What did you say to him?
TRUMP: I'm very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling. We can't have any of that. Now, look, we're also living in a grownup world. Will a strong statement -- you know, President Obama supposedly made a strong statement. Nobody heard it. What they did hear is the statement he made to Putin's very close friend and that statement was not acceptable. Didn't get very much play relatively speaking but that statement was not acceptable, but I let him know we can't have this. We're not going to have it and that's the way it's going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: And it is inexplicable really why it took the president three days to get to that point especially now that we are learning in a "New York Times" report overnight that the president was briefed as far back as January 2017 with specific intelligence talking about text messages between those Russian military officers talking about the operation that they were authorized to engage in, to hack into the 2016 election and also intelligence from a source of the intelligence community close to Vladimir Putin also talking about this.
Now President Trump in a tweet this morning says he is looking forward to a second meeting with Vladimir Putin at some point in the future to talk about some of the agreements that they made in that meeting. But of course as you just pointed out, Poppy, there is so much uncertainty right now about what he talked about for over two hours on Monday that it's hard to see how they can get to a second meeting unless some of that is sorted out -- Poppy.
[10:05:01] HARLOW: Democrats are trying to, you know, have the translator subpoenaed. We'll talk to one of the Democratic senators who proposed that in just a moment.
Thank you, Abby, at the White House.
Meantime U.S. Defense officials are scrambling this morning. They're trying to get to the bottom of what Russia's ambassador to the U.S. means when he says, quote, "important verbal agreements" were made between the two leaders on military issues in Helsinki.
Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon with more.
It is stunning, I mean, it's one thing for military leaders and the folks at the Pentagon to just say we know but we're not going to share it with the media, but your reporting they don't even know what the president agreed to.
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, that's right, Poppy. Some senior military officials really have received no direction at this point following this meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Now we just heard from General Joseph Votel, the commands all U.S. forces in the Middle East specifically also overseas troops in Syria where U.S. and Russian forces operate in close proximity. He told us that he's received no specific direction following the summit in Helsinki.
He says they're going to continue doing what they have been doing which is communicating regularly with their Russian counterparts to prevent accidents where their forces are operating. But he also noted that the U.S. Military is actually prohibiting by law from cooperating with Russia, that we need to seek some kind of waiver to that law if they were going to do something like that.
He's said he has made no effort to secure such a waiver but there still is no clear guidance at least in his mind that -- from what actually was talked about. And we heard from the Russian Ministry of Defense that Syria was a major topic. So many questions remain exactly what's going on.
HARLOW: OK. Ryan Browne, at the Pentagon, let us know when you get some updates. Thank you.
Also this morning, the White House confirms it is considering what the president has called an incredible offer from Vladimir Putin for the Kremlin to interrogate prominent Americans in exchange for something else. Among them, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and American-born financier Bill Browder. Moscow says if you do that, we will help you in the Mueller probe. We will help you in speaking to those 12 Russians indicted just a week ago.
It is an extraordinary move by the White House to say it is even considering this. The State Department on the other hand slammed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He said it was an interesting idea. He didn't commit to anything. He wants to work with his team and determine if there is any validity that would be helpful to the process. But again, we've committed to nothing. I mean, it was an idea that they threw out.
HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: What I can tell you is that the overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd. The fact that they want to question 11 American citizens and the assertions that the Russian government is making about those American citizens, we do not stand by those assertions that the Russian government makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK. And now that former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is tweeting, "Even during the Stalin era, the Soviet government never had the audacity to try to arrest you as government officials. Think about that."
Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker," Susan Glasser.
You have been working around the clock, from Helsinki back here. Thank you for being with me this morning.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
HARLOW: How stunning is it that the White House is even considering this?
GLASSER: Stunning, pick your adjective. This is extraordinary and unprecedented. These are not verbal gaffes that you're seeing from Sarah Sanders. This is something even more remarkable in my nearly two decades of observing Russian-U.S. relations. And I should say through all that time working closely with Mike McFaul who is a Stanford University professor before and after he was the U.S. ambassador to Russia, a career expert on the former Soviet Union and Russia.
This just is mind blowing. If the sacrosanct nature of American diplomacy is not partisan, it's not about being Obama's ambassador to Russia anymore than it's about being Donald Trump's ambassador --
HARLOW: Susan, hang on one second. Let's listen into Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the Hill.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: -- taken away, driven out and now the Russians are coming after him. I don't think there is one member of Congress on either side of the aisle that believes it is remotely smart to allow to require our former ambassador, Mr. Browder or any other person to submit to interviews by Putin's government because there is no rule of law as I said in Russia. There is just the rule of Putin.
Everything -- every institution in Russia, from the duma to the judiciary to the intelligence agencies, to the police on the street have one mission. And that is to keep him in power.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How worried are you about what -- how worried are you about the agreement, whatever agreements may have been reached between Putin and Trump in private?
GRAHAM: Well, I want to know what they were. Some may be good. I don't know. But bottom line is that's why Pompeo is coming.
[10:10:03] If there were some agreements reached between us and Russia that make sense, I will support those agreements. I have no idea what they are. But I do know this. The concept of allowing the Russians to interview a former ambassador of Russia -- United States ambassador to Russia, is absurd. And the concept of letting American citizens being investigated for crimes that are just I think are jokes is absurd. And I don't believe there is one member -- I challenge you to find one member of the House and the Senate that believe this is a good idea.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What would be the effect on the U.S. diplomats' ability do their job if this kind of threat was looming over their head, this was an actual possibility?
GRAHAM: If this were a rule of nation I'd have a different view. I don't believe our diplomats are immune from being scrutinized in terms of their behavior. But in Russia, it is not a normal country. Would you like -- if we had relationships with Iran. So the whole point is that the administration to even entertain this shows to me how naive they are about what's actually going on in Russia in terms of their legal system.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Trump agreed that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the Russia meddling in the election, yet we keep having all these walkbacks or I misspoke or what happened yesterday asking you like all the time --
GRAHAM: Well, and here's what I'll say. I'm not going to play the game of every day what do I think it means. I'm going to judge him by his actions. So here's what I would hope to find. That you have a president who not only believes the intelligence, but acts on it. And time will tell. We haven't done enough yet in my view consistent with the threat, but I'll get back with you about what I think enough would look like.
RAJU: One of --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What is your confidence level right now?
GRAHAM: I think he's done a lot of good things. I think when it comes to Russia, it's been a bad week. And I think it's imperative that he understand that he is misjudging Putin. I don't think he was prepared as well as he should have been. He is right to say that Bush misread Putin's soul. He looked into his eyes and saw somebody he could work with. John McCain said, you know, when I look into his eyes, I see KGB. He criticized Obama I think rightly for being weak in the face of Russian aggression.
All I'm saying is he is not making the problem better, he is making it worse. And he has the potential to make it better and I hope he will.
RAJU: Will you support bringing the American interpreter here for Congress to testify? The American interpreter who was in that meeting?
GRAHAM: Absolutely not. That will be the last time you ever have a foreign leader meet with the president of the United States privately. And I can tell you there may be times where we need to do that. So I can't imagine how that would affect future presidents in terms of their ability to talk to foreign leaders.
What I do expect is for the administration and the president eventually to tell us were any agreements reached. I don't care what they talked about. I care about what we do. You can talk to Putin all day long. Here's what I want to know, what did you agree to do with him and give us a chance to see if we think it makes any sense.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should he have been stronger talking out against Putin knowing what he knew from 2017 on?
GRAHAM: I think he should have been stronger standing up for the fact that Putin has interfered in the past and still doing it in the future. I know it's difficult. You want to be somewhat diplomatic. You're standing right by the guy. We have to deal with him. I don't mind him dealing with Russia. I just want to deal with Russia from a position of strength. But I said this was a missed opportunity. We reinforced a narrative that's bad for us as a nation. It came across weak.
HARLOW: OK. A whole host of headlines there from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham bashing the Trump administration saying President Trump misjudged Vladimir Putin, said it's been a bad week when it comes to Russia. He also said, look, Russia is not a normal country and he said the White House even entertaining the idea of allowing Russian agents to interrogate Americans like U.S. ambassador to Russia, former ambassador Michael McFaul is naive, it's naivete on the part of the Trump administration when it comes to Russia. And he said he misread Putin's soul.
We're going to get our reporter Manu Raju back up in a moment on that. But let me go back to Susan Glasser.
Susan, you also heard Lindsey Graham there say in no world would he entertain agreeing to subpoena the translator who was in the -- the woman translating who was in this meeting with Vladimir Putin and with President Trump. What is your read?
GLASSER: You know, it was interesting to listen to Senator Graham who sometimes has been a critic and sometimes, you know, been very supportive of Trump's foreign policies not being supportive at all of what happened this week when it comes to President Trump and Russia. [10:15:06] But what I'm struck by is the fact that even Senator Graham
who is frequently in contact with the White House has no idea whatsoever what Donald Trump privately agreed to.
HARLOW: Agreed to.
GLASSER: In the meeting with Vladimir Putin. Just today President Putin has actually also confirmed there were apparently private agreements made. That's the term he used.
HARLOW: Yes, it is.
GLASSER: It's the term that Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, used. Verbal agreements were made with President Trump. How come President Trump hasn't briefed his government, how come President Trump hasn't briefed senators. He hasn't briefed allies. The State Department, the Pentagon appear to be entirely unaware of the major substantive and policy issues.
So here we are days later debating President Trump's public comments at that press conference in Helsinki without people really knowing. It suggests to me the government has stopped functioning in any normal meaningful way on foreign policy. This is not how any government works, Democrat or Republican.
HARLOW: That is quite a statement.
Susan Glasser, important context from someone who knows this incredibly well. Thank you for being here.
Still to come, a growing list of lawmakers as we just talked about, not Lindsey Graham, as you just heard, but a growing list of Democrats want the president's translator to testify before Congress. Could that even happen? We're going to talk to the senator who proposed the idea, Senator Jeanne Shaheen joins me next. And it was a horrible way to start a new job, but it all came to an incredibly heartwarming end.
That is the Alabama teen Walter Carr who walked 20 miles to get to his first day of work. What did his boss do? He handed over the keys to his own car. We'll talk to both of them ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[10:21:20] RAJU: Would you support bringing the American interpreter here to Congress to testify? The American interpreter who was in that meeting?
GRAHAM: Absolutely not. That will be the last time you ever have a foreign leader meet with the president of the United States privately. And I can tell you there may be times when we need to do that. So I can't imagine how that would affect future presidents in terms of their ability to talk to foreign leaders.
What I do expect is for the administration and the president eventually to tell us were any agreements reached. I don't care what they talk about, I care about what we do. You can talk to Putin all day long. Here's what I want to know, what did you agree to do with him and give us a chance to see if we think it makes any sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: That is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham making a lot of news just moments ago. Our Manu Raju asking him if he would be supportive of something that has been put forward by Democrats, which is subpoenaing the translator who was in that Putin-Trump meeting.
With me now is the senator who initially proposed that idea earlier this week, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Thank you for being here.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Nice to be with you.
HARLOW: What's your response to Lindsey Graham? He says in no world, absolutely not would I be supportive of this subpoena.
SHAHEEN: Well, I understand that a number of my Republican colleagues don't like this idea. But the point is, the point that Senator Graham made, and that is we don't know what the president agreed to in this meeting. The information we're getting about what was said is coming out of the Russian government, the Ministry of Defense in Russia is where we've heard what they've agreed to.
It's incumbent on the administration to let the American people and Congress know what was agreed to. We have an oversight responsibility. And if they won't tell us, then we've got to figure out how to get that information some other way.
HARLOW: So I understand that, but the pushback is, and look, to be candid, Lindsey Graham wants answers on Russia. You heard how critical -- he just called the Trump administration naive on Russia.
HARLOW: So -- you know, so he is no apologist for the Trump administration on this front. But his point, Senator, is that if you do that, you have a chilling effect, right? I mean that there has to be some privacy to these things, some ability for translators just to be translators. Listen to what Scott Jennings, who was a special assistant to President George W. Bush, said about this idea last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: There's bad ideas, there's terrible ideas, there's crazy ideas and then there is this one that comes from the farthest left fever swamps of Washington, D.C. We cannot go down this road. It would have a serious chilling impact on all of these functional people in the White House that help the president do his job. I mean, what's next? We're going to have to go out and find the people who take the garbage out to the dumpster and say hey, did you look through the garbage bags last night? This is a lunatic idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Does he have a point?
SHAHEEN: Well, he is wrong and he is being ridiculous. But the point is, the one that Senator Graham and I and so many others are making, we are not being given any information about what was said, what the president might have agreed to at his meeting with Vladimir Putin. I had the opportunity to hear from some State Department officials after Helsinki. I asked them a question about Syria and what had the president agreed to with respect to Syria, and they didn't know the answer to that. So clearly he is not everyone talking to his own administration about what he agreed to.
We have a responsibility to the American people to have an oversight of foreign policy and this administration is keeping us from fulfilling our responsibility.
HARLOW: Your Democratic colleague in the House, Representative Eric Swalwell, just this morning apparently tried to subpoena -- we're just learning, tried to subpoena the translator and that was struck down by an 11-6 vote in the House Intel Committee killing that effort to do it.
[10:25:09] Republican Senator John Thune said this is Democrats trying to make the story alive, but he also makes an interesting point. And he says the translator is someone who is probably not versed in policy and is not going to be able to explain the nuances of what went on there. Does he have a point?
SHAHEEN: I don't need somebody to explain the nuances. I need somebody to tell me what was said, what was agreed to. We don't have that information from this president. All we have is what the Russian Ministry is putting out. And that is not good enough for the American people and it is certainly not good in enough for Congress.
HARLOW: Are you getting any indication privately from your Republican colleagues -- I know Corker said he's considering it, of course he chairs the committee. You sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. But he said I don't even know if it's appropriate. Are you getting any indication from your Republican colleagues that they feel differently than Lindsey Graham who says absolutely not, meaning could this happen?
SHAHEEN: Well, I appreciated that Senator Corker is willing to consider the idea and see what might make sense. What we need is a commitment from this administration to bring in the officials who can tell us what was said and what was agreed to at the meeting in Helsinki. So far all they have done is provided obstruction. So if we can't get this information from the president, from the administration, then we have to figure out how to get it.
HARLOW: But to be clear and just put a button on it before I move on, you don't -- I mean, you don't have Republican senators privately telling you now they're on board, right? SHAHEEN: No, I haven't. I haven't heard anybody.
SHAHEEN: All I've heard is people saying that -- as you said, Senator Corker said that he would consider it.
HARLOW: Yes. Consider it.
SHAHEEN: Some others have said they don't like the idea.
HARLOW: You traveled to the NATO summit as well, part of a bipartisan delegation. And we all know how that went before the president heading to Russia. This morning the White House says it's all good, things are fine. Let me read you part of the reporting our Elise Labott has from a senior White House official on this. Quote, "There isn't a lot of cleanup because there doesn't seem to be a lot of spillage. The feedback we're getting from the Europeans is that they're relieved. They were worried he," the president, "was going to give away the store and he didn't. So they aren't thrilled with the optics, but they're are fine."
Are they fine? Is that what you were told?
SHAHEEN: I was not told they were fine. There was a great deal of concern at the summit in Brussels about what the president's intentions are with respect to the Article 5 commitments and the NATO agreement about his suggestion that he might pull the United States out of NATO. He said that again in a recent interview when he was talking about whether we should support Montenegro or not.
I would remind him that we had over 1,000 people from other countries killed defending the United States in Afghanistan after we were attacked on 9/11. The only time the Article 5 has been invoked for NATO was in defense of the United States. So the problem is the NATO summit turned out OK. But it raised concerns among our allies about whether or not the United States is a reliable partner and the more that that happens, the more it undermines or credibility and our ability to work cooperatively as allies to defend America and the rest of the NATO countries.
HARLOW: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, an important morning to hear from you. Thank you for being here.
SHAHEEN: Nice to be with you.
HARLOW: We're getting new information about the Russia investigation in the House. Manu Raju has that after the break.