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Intel Officials Russia Meddled, White House Unsure If Trump Agrees; Ex-DHS Chief: Putin Orchestrated Cyberattacks On U.S.; Senate GOP Leaders To Unveil Health Care Plan Tomorrow. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


EJEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I know that the states -- state election officials are very sensitive to -- and would oppose, likely -- federal standards for how they should run their elections.

[11:00:03] It was very hard to bring about -- I now remember the debate about HAVA in 2002.

So I would -- I would, you know -- I would use the carrot approach instead of the stick approach, and encourage them through grants to bolster their own cybersecurity.

REP. FRANK LOBIONDO (R), NEW JERSEY: And what specific policy changes, if any, would you recommend to your successor, Secretary Kelly?

JOHNSON: In addition to all the things we've just discussed, I think it's important that Secretary Kelly or the undersecretary for NPBD really take this on as a front-burner issue. When I -- when I came into office in 2013, I viewed counterterrorism as the cornerstone mission of DHS.

And then after a time, when I got a sense of the threat environment, I realized that cybersecurity needed to be the other cornerstone, needed be the other top priority of our department's mission.

It's going to get worse before it gets better, and bad cyber actors all the time are more and more ingenious, more tenacious and more aggressive. And so I would urge Secretary Kelly to make this one of his top one or two priorities.

LOBIONDO: Thank you.

I yield the balance of my time to Mr. Gowdy.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I thank the gentleman.

Director Johnson, I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I do think it's important. The last time you and I talked, I wasn't 100 percent sure, but I've since had it confirmed -- the DNC never turned the server over to law enforcement.

So twice now you have said that you could have camped out in front of the DNC, and I would say, in defense of you, it wouldn't have made any difference if you had, because they weren't going to give you the server.

So if you're investigating, either from law enforcement or from an intelligence standpoint, the hacking by foreign, hostile government, wouldn't you want the server? Wouldn't that help you, number one, identify who -- who the attacker was?

And if memory serves me, this was early in the summer of 2016 when we learned of the DNC hack. So if they had turned the server over to either you or Director Comey, maybe we would've known more, and maybe there would've been more for you to report.

So I guess what I'm asking you is, why would the victim of a crime not turn over a server to the intelligence community or to law enforcement?

JOHNSON: I -- I'm not going to argue with you, sir. That was a leading question, and I'll agree to be led.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. MICHAEL CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: The gentleman's time has expired.

GOWDY: Thank you.

CONAWAY: Mr. Carson, five -- seven minutes. Excuse me. Just hang on, Andre.

My general counsel has informed me that our unanimous consent order to extend the conversation for seven minutes per member is only good for an hour. So I ask unanimous consent that each member has seven minutes to question the witness, and hearing no objections, I will continue down that path.

Mr. Carson, seven minutes.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Thank you, Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for your service to our country.

We've heard since last year about Russian bots that were released on the internet, generating and disseminating fake news on social media platforms. As far as you understand sir, how do these bots work and how did we come to discover them? And how effective were they in basically shaping opinions? And how do they interact with social media to make their campaign most effective?

JOHNSON: Congressman, you're -- you're really testing me here.

CARSON: You're a brilliant man.

JOHNSON: Level (ph) -- to a technical level that I'm -- there are others who could sit here and give you a...

CARSON: Sure. JOHNSON: ... much better answer. It's hard to know -- I mean, the activity you've cited, I know, is prevalent.

CARSON: Sure.

JOHNSON: It is hard to know to what extent it influences public opinion. Like I said earlier about the election result, it is hard to know to what -- is not for me to know to what extent the Russian hacks influenced public opinion and thereby influenced the outcome of the election.

CARSON: Sir, do you think, as I do, that the Kremlin, on some level, managed to stoke uncertainty about our electoral institutions, and thus their operation was successful?

And -- and, secondly, do you think, with -- the Russian influence or interference operation, all of which Americans were victims, even if their votes weren't effective, offers us any hard lessons learned, sir, that we should carry on with us as we prepare for 2018?

[11:05:00] JOHNSON: Well, certainly, if the Russian aim of what they did was to distract us and divert us from the business of government, whether it's health care or something else, yes, I mean, as evidenced by what we're doing here today.

Again, I think the answer has to be greater workforce awareness among those who use -- whether it's the DNC or, you know, house.gov or the private sector -- raising awareness among those who use the system about unrecognizable e-mails and attachments, you know. This apparently started with an e-mail somebody shouldn't have opened.

And I can tell you from experience, the most devastating attacks -- and forget the Russians for a moment here -- the most devastating attacks by the most sophisticated actors very often start simply because somebody opens an e-mail that they shouldn't open.

And so raising awareness about spear phishing can go a long way. And, as I said earlier, encouraging those who are -- who are responsible for our democracy in ensuring that their cybersecurity is -- is protected and they've done what they need to do.

CARSON: Thank you, sir. Keep up the great work.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

CONAWAY: (OFF-MIKE)

CARSON: I yield to the ranking member at this time.

SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

You have been watching some very important testimony coming from Jeh Johnson, the former head of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

[11:06:35]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us. You have been watching some very important testimony coming from Jeh Johnson, the former head of Homeland Security, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

He just told lawmakers really in no uncertain terms that Russia hacked the election. As Johnson put it, plain and simple, yes, this has been discussed but it is, of course, another day that it's important to say it once again because the White House basically says they don't know if the president agrees with that statement.

Johnson also says that the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, refused their help when the organization was hacked during the election.

I want to start right now, though, with senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. He's been watching all of this. Manu, this has been really surprisingly riveting account coming from Jeh Johnson. He is laying out the case against Russia. At one point saying it was unprecedented, the scale and scope of what they were doing.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And yes, the response of the administration had as soon as they learned about the extent of the Russian attacks as well as what they tried to do with the states and trying to coordinate an effort to protect against the attacks and some disagreements among state officials as well about how exactly they should deal with this.

But also some frustration from some of the members of that committee who do not believe that the administration, the Obama administration, acted pro-actively enough in informing the public about exactly what was going on --

BOLDUAN: Democrats on the committee saying that.

RAJU: -- Adam Schiff -- exactly, Democrats on the committee, the ranking Democrat Adam Schiff and Jeh Johnson actually had an exchange about this at the beginning of this hearing. This is what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Why did it take the administration so long to make a public statement that a foreign adversary was trying to influence the American election? The statement didn't come until October. Why did we wait from July until October to make that statement?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congressman, I'm going to disagree with your premise there was some type of delay. This was a big decision and there were a lot of considerations that went into it. This was an unprecedented step. First, as you know well, we have to carefully consider whether declassifying the information compromises sources and methods. Second, there was an ongoing election and many would criticize us for perhaps taking sides in the election.

So that had to be carefully considered. One of the candidates, as you will recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And that candidate, of course, was President Trump, who said the election was going to be rigged. They didn't want to look like that they were saying something that would actually help Trump make that case that the election was rigged.

That's one reason why there was caution for the Obama administration about announcing that last summer. Now in addition to that, there is testimony in the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning in which a top Homeland Security official said, Kate, that as many as 21 systems, state election systems may have been targeted by Russian hackers during the elections last year. These two separate investigations taking shape here in this testimony today -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's looking back but it's an important look back. It's a huge impact on the now -- the here and now and looking forward because we're right around the corner from another election cycle. Manu, great to see you. Thank you so much.

[11:10:03]That hearing is obviously continuing, that testimony continuing. We will be listening and bring you any important moments that do pop up.

Joining me now to discuss is a group of folks, former assistant U.S. attorney, Nick Akerman, he helped prosecute the Watergate case against the Nixon White House, former CIA operative, Mike Baker, CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart as well as CNN political director, David Chalian.

David Chalian, I want to get your take on kind of where Manu left off right there. I mean, you have many important points that Johnson made, kind of reiterating and putting it in stark focus one more time, plain and simple he said it was Russia that was behind the hack. They had no question.

But also the Democratic frustration then that you saw coming from Democratic members that President Obama didn't speak out forcefully enough.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. Let's put this in larger context of where we are now, Kate, because you recall, Sean Spicer was asked yesterday at the White House press briefing about the president's own thinking about Russia hacking in the election. I haven't talked to him about that today or recently was his answer.

We know that President Trump has not made this a big focus. We know that when Comey testified, he was asked if the president seemed to have an interest in this and Comey said he didn't -- there were not that many questions about this.

So as you made the point at the end of your conversation with Manu, forget -- which of course, Donald Trump can't do. For this conversation, forget anything related to Donald Trump, right, like forget anything related to the investigation into collusion or obstruction of justice.

Simply that our Democratic method of elections was hacked by the Russians, the fact that that has not been a front and centerpiece of the Trump administration thus far to ensure it doesn't happen again, at least not as part of their public posture, is largely because Donald Trump can't separate it from the investigation into himself. I am concerned, perhaps that that leaves us vulnerable as a country in these upcoming elections.

BOLDUAN: It sure seems that Jeh Johnson feels that way. That they are talking about that much more needs to be done. Let me play that sound bite. Mike Baker, I want your take on this. Let me play the sound bite. This is how Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, answered a question about does the president believe that Russia was behind the hack. This was just yesterday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conversation about Russian interference in our elections, there's 16 intelligence agencies that say that they did. The former FBI director said that without a doubt the Russians --

SPICER: I understand I have seen the reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president share those views?

SPICER: I have not sat down and asked him about a specific reaction to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's the answer from the White House, Mike. You have -- I don't need to listen to that again. You have 17 intelligence agencies, they say Russia is behind the hack. Jeh Johnson again reiterating -- important to not, there wasn't a single Republican or a Democrat on that panel today, who took issue with when Jeh Johnson said plain and simple it was Russia behind the hack. You spent 15 years at the CIA. When you hear that non-answer from the White House, what do you make of it?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, part of it is the sort of dysfunctional nature of Washington, not just this administration but really any administration the way that sometimes messages get out. At the end of the day, did Russia meddle? Jeh Johnson was saying what everybody knows.

Of course, they did. Have they been doing this for generations? Yes. Cyberspace is where they play now because that's what is available to them.

In part, I think going back to what David was talking about, the inability to separate this idea of Russian meddling from obstruction of justice or collusion. It's not just the Trump administration's problem there.

That's because we have taken all these issues and smooshed them together. We're doing what always happens in Washington. Every investigation that happens -- I argue that that's the place where investigations go to die. We're going to see this again. We have how many investigations now, the Judiciary Committee --

BOLDUAN: Let's go with a rounded out five.

BAKER: An investigation has to be focused. The parameters have to be narrow. I have a company that does this all around the world. They have to be built on something solid. You have to have a time line that you answer to. It never happens in Washington.

BOLDUAN: The narrowing of the focus of the committees in these investigations. I want to get to a second. Something that Mike said brought a question to mind. It does seem when you hear that comment from Sean Spicer -- my brain just stopped for a second -- it seemed it's a deliberate -- it seems deliberate on the part of the White House to do something. I'm trying to figure out to do what. To dodge a question? To sow doubt? To undercut the intelligence community still? Do you have any guess?

[11:15:07]CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, my sense is to underplay anything that touches this notion that Donald Trump himself or his associates had some relationship with Russia. That somehow impacted the election. It's rejected flat out at the White House.

Their whole posture is there is no there "there" to this investigation. That may be true. When this is all said and done, I don't know, you don't know, that might be the answer. That is their argument right now. That's where they are.

So any question that comes their way dealing with this, they want to push to the side because they want to give no credence to the notion there may be some there "there."

BOLDUAN: But of course, everyone can have two thoughts in their head at one time. You could not have colluded with the Russians and the Russians could have hacked into the election. Everyone could accept that if that's where the facts bear out.

But Alice, looking forward on this, one of the big concerns from Jeh Johnson is what happens in 2018? This came down to Jeh Johnson said he came up against a lot of resistance and pushback from the state and local level when they tried to reach out and say, we have a problem and it's coming your way.

Because there was this big sensitivity to the intrusion of the federal government on their election processes. You know this intimately. You were the deputy secretary of state of Arkansas. This is right up your alley.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. It's important to keep in mind, every state runs their own election. So we have, you know, 50 different elections going on. For the federal government to come and tell a state, we want to declare your election system, your state election system as critical infrastructure, that's federal government intrusion.

A lot of states, secretary of states, election officials, the DNC and others don't want that federal intrusion for a lot of reasons, security reasons but also unfunded government mandates in the future. Arkansas was not influenced by the Russia election. They can check that box. They want to be able to control their systems as their own. DNC felt similar way. One thing about --

BOLDUAN: Do you think that even though Jeh Johnson said he was frustrated with the pushback that he got, he wasn't trying to say we're taking over. We want to offer cyber security element that critical infrastructure like the grid would have, that was lost. You think that he is wrong?

STEWART: I think he made his point. I think those that have an intimate knowledge of this wouldn't really understand. People would say if the federal government wants to help, do it. The biggest fear across this country is I'm from the federal government, I'm here to help, a lot of people don't want that.

One thing to keep in mind with what we have been talking about, Jeh Johnson pointed out, there's no doubt the Russians interfered in our election. One thing he pointed out, this was at the direction of Putin. That's a buzz word for this administration.

I think the world of Sean Spicer -- it's difficult if not impossible to believe he has not had that discussion with the president. But we all know there's hesitancy on the part of this administration to do anything that will stand up to Putin.

BOLDUAN: Let's try to go down this path on this Putin hack, white House still won't -- doesn't want to touch it. The fact they're dodging questions still on Russia's role in the election, is there anything -- is there any legal strategy to it in not answering the question?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Not really. This is all endemic of a much greater problem with cyber security. It relates to our businesses. It relates to our electric grid. It relates to --

BOLDUAN: Every single one of us.

AKERMAN: The problem is this country does not have a comprehensive cyber security policy or a practice. They have tried to get something through Congress. It hasn't gone through. Everybody thinks sign as cyber security is relating to I.T. That's not true. It relates to educating people, clients I have in businesses don't do this properly.

It really relates to training people. Jeh Johnson just mentioned the fact that people are not really attuned to spear phishing and being able to recognize e-mails. That's how it all started. One little word out of place, one little dot out of place, you really have to educate and train people so that they are on top of this. To really do this properly --

BOLDUAN: That's a scary proposition that it will come down to one person in one organization.

BAKER: What Nick is saying is correct. We have been slow to the game on this. The public should not believe that this issue is just something that's bubbled to the surface in a year. We have been dealing with cyber issues, whether economic espionage or probing and attacking of our infrastructure for a long time.

We have been -- Capitol Hill is leading that problem -- slow to the game. When we talk about the previous administration and some of the Democrats voiced frustration over the inability of the Obama administration to act on some of this, it wasn't just Obama administration. This is before that as well.

[11:20:05]This is a major problem. The good point, if we're trying to find a happy note here, is that the FBI and others understand it and for the past handful of years have been working very hard to try to create a better environment. They're working hard to get the public and private sectors to focus on this issue together.

BOLDUAN: Right. The public and private sector to focus on this issue if it's not a priority of the man at the top of our government, how much of a priority will it be? Guys, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Everyone standby for me.

Coming up for us, Republicans, they are set to release their secret healthcare bill or at least a draft of it. One the president wants to make sure has heart. What exactly does that look like? I will ask one Senate Democrat if this gives him any hope.

Plus serious new concerns that North Korea may be gearing up to make a big move. What U.S. spy images now show as tensions rise over the death of American Otto Warmbier?

Just days after a jury acquitted the officer involved in the death of Philando Castile, disturbing new dashcam video just came out and shows what happened the moment before the shooting including Castile's last words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:25:04]

BOLDUAN: All right. The healthcare bill that's been drafted entirely behind closed doors could see the light of day tomorrow. Senate Republican leaders say tomorrow they will finally unveil the bill they drafted behind closed doors. Frustrating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly is joining me from Capitol Hill. Phil, I know this is something that you know very well. I was e-mailing you and was struck by this. They have this working group. You have Senator Ron Johnson in the working group saying he is not involved with writing or drafting the bill. So who is?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the majority leader's staff and leadership staff and some of the committee staff. I think this is an important point, though, Kate, I've heard this from a couple of different members right now. They don't feel like they have a role now.

How often are senators actually taking pen to paper and writing legislative text? Not a lot. But their personal staffers often are. Their health care policy staffers often are. That hasn't necessarily been the case this time around.

There's a lot of feeling right now that the drafting of this bill has really been cooped up in leadership offices and in the committee offices. I had one person tell me last week who is involved with this process, if you talk to somebody who says they know what's inside this bill, they are either A, lying or B, Senator McConnell's top health care staffer.

That's kind of the perspective on things and it has led to a lot of frustrations, frustration that was borne out yesterday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you seen -- what have you seen of the health care bill?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Haven't seen it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a problem?

MCCAIN: No. Never a problem. Of course not. I always like to move forward with legislation that I haven't seen. That's one of the practices I have enjoyed around here.

SENATOR MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: It's not being written by us. It's apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. If you are frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration, wholeheartedly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now Kate, I know you know these halls well. Senator McCain was being sarcastic. He doesn't actually believe that.

BOLDUAN: What?

MATTINGLY: I know it's a rarity. I think what Senator Lee was saying, there's frustration from members that they don't feel like while they have voices in the process, behind closed doors and had opportunities to put their perspectives out there that what they have drafted, what they have sent along hasn't necessarily gotten into the bill or perhaps more importantly -- this is what Senator Lee's point was -- they don't know if it's been incorporated in the bill yet.

That leads to a lot of concerns not just with conservatives like Mike Lee, but with a lot of moderates as well, like Senator Rob Portman and Senator (inaudible), Senator Susan Collins, who have very specific issues that they want to see in the bill that they have drafted and sent along.

They don't know whether or not those will be in. It will be a grand unveiling tomorrow no question about it, but I'm told still there's a lot of work to do from Senate leadership. They are nowhere near the 50 votes that they need yet.

They think they can get there, but the avenues, the pathways to get there, it's threading the needle in a very, very narrow way. They know they have a lot of work to do.

BOLDUAN: And that's why as you well point out, the concerns raised by the moderate Republican senators, they need to listen very closely because they need every single one of those votes in order to get it over the line because they're not going to get any Democrats unless I'm completely surprised and don't know what I'm talking about anymore. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, of course, who played a key role in House leadership when Obamacare was passed back in 2009. Senator, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Kate, great to be with you.

BOLDUAN: So Mitch McConnell says there is going to be a draft tomorrow and it will be shown to you. You have said that you will do anything in your power to stop it. Stop this bill. Why not wait and see what's in it first?

VAN HOLLEN: Kate, obviously, we're going to take look at it. Everything we're hearing is this is very similar to the House bill which President Trump, of course, celebrated in the Rose Garden, but behind closed doors described as mean.

Republican senators have been behind closed doors. There's only one reason to keep this from the public, which is that this is just as mean if not meaner.

Besides, Senator Cornin, who is also part of the Republican leadership said this would include at least 80 percent of the House Republican bill, which we know is a really rotten deal for the American people. BOLDUAN: So still a wait and see, though, but on the lack of transparency, Democrats that has been something you are all very frustrated by, protesting on the Senate floor about. Republicans equally frustrated with the lack of transparency. It's not like you are not going to be able to read the bill before voting. The fastest time line that we are being told is that you will have a week in between seeing it and being asked to vote on it. Why is that not enough time?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, Kate, I think the issue is the opportunity to hear from constituents. I think the question for our Republican colleagues is why are you not having a single hearing on a piece of legislation that could do incredible harm to the health care system and health care for hundreds of millions of Americans?

When we passed the Affordable Care Act, whatever you think of the final result, there were over 100 hearings and public forums where people were brought in. Amendments were offered in the committee process.