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Trump Speaks at Voter Fraud Commission; Kentucky Secretary of State Reacts to Trump's Voter Fraud Commission; Trump Had Secret 2nd Meeting with Putin at G-20. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 19, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:13] KATE BOLDUON, CNN ANCHOR: Any moment, President Trump is set to speak at the first meeting of his voter fraud commission. This is a panel getting their work under way today. Vice President Pence speaking right now. He's chairing the commission, alongside vice chair, Kansas's Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is the man who stirred big controversy when he requested, on behalf of the commission last month, that all 50 states turn over some pretty detailed voter information. Many states run by Democrat and Republican alike simply refused the request.

CNN's Diane Gallagher is following the work on the commission.

Diane, what do we know, what are they working on today?

DIANE GALLIGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Underway. Vice President Mike Pence, you saw him there, introduce President Trump. Here he is.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We're going to listen to the president.


Mr. Vice President, distinguished guests, and members of the media, I'm honored to welcome you here today as the bipartisan Advisory Commission on Election Integrity prepares to conduct its first official meeting. Very, very important. And this commission is tasked with the say credit duty of upholding the integrity of the ballot box and the principle of "one citizen, one vote." Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy. You can't let that happen. Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by non-citizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.

I'm pleased that more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission. And the other states that information will be forthcoming. If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they're worried about. And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission, what are they worried about? There's something. There always is.

This issue is very important to me because, throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw. In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states. All public officials have a profound responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote. We have no choice. We want to make America great again, we have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters.

[11:35:05] This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's an American issue. It's the concern of so many Americans that improper voting has taken place and cancelling out the votes of lawful American citizens. That is why President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is the affair of every honest voter, wherever born, to see that no fraudulent voting is allowed anywhere."

I want to thank Vice President Pence for chairing the commission.

I also want to thank Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for serving as vice chair.

It's going to be a lot of work. They're going to work hard over a short period of time.

And I want to thank you very much, Kris, Mike.

This is a bipartisan panel consisting of both Republican and Democratic leaders and experts on voter integrity.

I would like to personally thank each of our panel members for serving.

Really do appreciate it.

In addition to the chair and vice chair, this distinguished bipartisan panel includes Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

Thank you.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

Thank you.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Elections Assistance Commissioner Christine McCormack.

Former Arkansas State Representative David Dunn.

Thank you, David.

Wood County, West Virginia, Clerk Mark Rhodes.

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow and manager of the election law reform initiative, a real expert, Hans van Spakowski.

President and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation -- great group, J. Christian Adams.

And Jefferson County, Alabama, Probate Judge Alan King.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Each of you has been entrusted with the great responsibility of helping to advance the cause of fair, honest, and lawful elections. Your work will help protect our democracy. This will be a very transparent process. It's going to be very open for everybody to see. You will approach this important task with a very open mind and with no conclusions already drawn. You will fairly and objectively follow the facts wherever they may lead.

I look forward to the findings and recommendations your report will produce. And I share your report, as soon as I can and as soon as possible, with the American people so the full truth will be known and exposed, if necessary, in light of day.

We call on every state to give its full support and total cooperation in this effort. Most of them have really done brilliantly, and we appreciate it. And the rest, all of that information will be forthcoming.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Vice president, thank you.

And, Kris, thank you.

Panel, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Do a great job. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: All right, you're just listening to President Trump right there at the first big meeting of the voter fraud commission that was set up, you'll remember, in response to what the president said in a closed meeting and then tweeted about it afterward that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for three to five million illegal votes in the election. This was set up in response to that. The president saying a lot, that voter suppression and intimidation must be stopped and voter irregularities need to be checked out. Without evidence, saying at one point that very large numbers of voter irregularities were reported involving very large numbers of people in certain states. Without providing any evidence of what states he's talking about.

Let's get to it. Let's get reaction. With me is Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes. She, of course, said there is not enough bourbon in the state, her state, to make her give up voter data to the panel. She's a member of the DNC's Commission on Voter Protection that was set up in response to the White House commission meeting today.

Secretary, thank you for your time, appreciate it.

ALISON GRIMES, (D), KENTUCKY SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Kate, great to join you.

BOLDUAN: You have been very clear that you're no fan of this commission and you're not giving over your state's -- the data that was requested from your state. What did you think of what the president just said right there. If there's any state that doesn't provide the information, you have to wonder what are they worried about? What are you worried about?

[11:40:08] GRIMES: Well, in terms of Kentucky, it's making sure that 3.3 million Kentuckians' sensitive private information is not put in the public domain and importantly in the hands of Vladimir Putin, someone who all intelligence agencies confirm sought to interfere in our elections. It's also to keep sacred what the Constitution and the 10th Amendment prescribed for our elections. They are to be run by the states, the voter registration rolls, especially, in particular. The decentralization, Kate, to our elections, that's what led to the headlines, instead of being meddling, outright disruption. And we have the president admitting the baseless claims for which this sham commission was put together are his insecurity for losing the popular vote. What we don't have and what we still don't have answers to is why this commission continues to waste taxpayer dollars on a claim that expert after expert and even elected official after elected official continues to say does not exist, and that's that three to five million folks voted illegally in this election.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask, Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the commission, he spoke out this morning and he defended the need and the request for voter information that was put out there. He says it's to improve voter integrity. Listen to Kris Kobach.


KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE & VICE CHAIRMAN, ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY: The commission is not set up to prove or disprove President Trump's claim. The commission is simply to put facts on the table. So, if as the Democrat members of Congress who wrote that letter contend, there is no voter fraud, then we will make their case for them because the commission will come up with nothing. So the idea that you should stop the commission from looking at a problem because there's going to be something we don't want the American public to see, that's outrageous.


BOLDUAN: What do you say to that?

GRIMES: I think the secretary from Kansas is in damage control. He knows as well as the American public that this commission has been received about as well as a breeze off an outhouse. It's the reason why no secretary of state is fully complying with this request. We heard the president reiterate claims that are just not founded this morning in terms of compliance.


BOLDUAN: But if it is public information, if it is public information that they're just trying -- and they're just trying to gather information, he says why not give them the benefit of the doubt?

GRIMES: Well, Kate, we don't have any evidence, from study after study of which taxpayer dollars have been used, or even elected officials saying that don't stand by their results, there is simply not evidence with which we need to continue to waste taxpayer dollars, or worse, create one of the nation's most widespread national voter suppression efforts. The secretary from Kansas this morning didn't see the impact, the horrible impact this commission has already had on our elections. I have one answer for him, that's Colorado. It's thousands of folks who are already deregistering because they don't want this sensitive information, when they registered, importantly their date of birth, voting history, political affiliation, all in the hands of the White House. They don't want to take away what's important about our elections and that's that they're left to the states. It's basically akin, Kate, to telling a robber, "Here's the keys to my House and right where my jewelry is located." This information being aggregated, stored in an unsecure facility in the White House -- we know the White House has trouble keeping things confidential. Just look at what they did to folks who had objections to this commission. We had thousands of folks who wrote letters through e-mail to the White House, their information. Either incompetence or outright intimidation already released to the public. One individual from Kentucky, Ms. Julie Pease (ph), we're here today standing up for her and so many from Kentucky.


GRIMES: These people don't want their information compromised for the president's insecurity.

BOLDUAN: I hear what you say is the concern in Kentucky. As far as I can see, though, the commission doesn't have legislative power. The commission can't tell Kentucky how to run your election.

GRIMES: The request is just that, a request. It's not a demand. But I'll have no problem, Kate, if we need to go to court, standing up and fighting for 3.3 million Kentuckians.

The fact this commission exists though, and the first foot they got off was requesting data, indicates that they've gotten off on the wrong foot. And like the Keystone Cops, I don't trust them to shoot straight. We don't need to continue to perpetuate a myth that study after study shows massive voter fraud in this state does not exist, especially such that would be sufficient enough to swing an election, especially the popular vote of this presidential election in 2016.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

GRIMES: Thank you, Kate.

[11:49:40] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a secret and a second sit-down between the president and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Why wasn't the meeting revealed? What was discussed? And who knows what really was said? That's ahead.

Plus, any moment now, Republican Senators will be arriving at the White House. Looking at live pictures of the capitol for a scene that's become familiar. Republican Senators getting on a bus, going down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to meet with the president to have lunch after the collapse of their health care efforts. Where are they going to go from here. We'll see what comes from this lunch. Stand by.


[11:51:14] BOLDUAN: This in his defense: "The fake news is becoming more and more dishonest. Even a dinner arranged for the top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister."

It's not there was a dinner took place that anyone is reporting on. It's the fact that there is a meeting, that the president spoke with the Russian president for nearly an hour that is raising eyebrows of folks. Not just folks in the United States, but the other leaders in that meeting. That is how that is being reported.

Joining me now to discuss, former ambassador to the Ukraine, Steven Pifer. He was also a foreign service officer at the embassy in Moscow. He knows this area very, very well. And CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "Politico," Tara Palmeri.

Great to see both of you.

Ambassador, first to you.

On this conversation, the White House is describing this all as no big deal. In a statement, when they finally acknowledged that this conversation between the presidents took place, the White House said this, that "It is not only perfectly normal, it's part of the president's duty to interact with world leaders."

Is this perfectly normal?

STEVEN PIFER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Certainly, the president needs to be talking to world leaders, including President Putin. I guess the thing that was surprising about this discussion, other than the fact that it was not previously disclosed, was after spending two hours with President Putin in a meeting earlier that day, at the dinner, he chose to spend another hour with President Putin. And then also the absence of another American there. Part of the problem was, the interpreter that President Trump had was a Japanese interpreter because he was seated next to the wife of the Japanese prime minister. But it might have been smart for the president to take that person along to get a record of the conversation.

What now is that Secretary of State Tillerson, and national security adviser, General McMaster, they don't have a record of that meeting, what commitments might have been made, so it's hard for them to follow up on whatever discussions took place during that hour-long discussion.

BOLDUAN: Tara, one of the reasons this conversation became known is that a well-known political scientist said that folks in the room, which included some of the United States' most important allies, that folks in the room were alarmed, concerned, and disturbed by what they saw there. Has the White House responded to that concern?

TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANAYST: They haven't specifically responded to that. They do think the entire idea that he chatted with Putin is ridiculous, that that's his job. But obviously, there are a lot of concerns about the fact that it wasn't disclosed. And it sort of follows a pattern that President Trump has taken, leaving the state government workers, a translator, who works for the State Department, in the dark. Despite the fact that this person, like you said, was a translator for Shinzo Abe in Japanese. He could have asked for a Russian interpreter. And he was the only person with Vladimir Putin on a one-on-one.

And I think what you're seeing is this idea that Trump is being defiant. Most people would be tip toeing around someone who he has been accused of colluding with. But Trump is saying there's nothing to see here and I'm going to go as usual. And the fact that allies are willing to tattle on him about that, that's not great either because it shows what kind of report he has with them. I think with the president of the United States, they might be more careful about revealing details inside of a meeting. But with Trump, I guess they were fine with sort of, in a way, ratting him out.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, the fact that the president, as you sort of got to, the issue of the translator, the fact that he engaged in this hour-long conversation with the Russian president, with only the Russian provided translator present, how confident can Trump that he really knows what was said?

[11:54:52] PIFER: My guess is the Russian interpreter had an interest in interpreting correctly. So I wouldn't worry about that so much.

It's just the absence of the record. When I worked at the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, we would always look for the memorandum of the conversation, a transcript of the conversation, because that allowed us to communicate to other parts of the government, this is what the president said, this is what he has agreed to, this is what we need to follow up on. And without that record, it's going to be very difficult for the government to function. That's where the mistake was here.

The other thing, though, that I find a bit surprising here, is that given all this cloud that's been hanging over the White House the past couple of months about possible collusion with Russia, this would have been also about, if there was someone there to keep the record, would have been a way for the president to protect himself. At it is, now you see the storm because there was this private meeting with Putin and all these questions about why it wasn't mentioned and what may or may not have been said.

BOLDUAN: And why it wasn't disclosed until it became reported, which seems to be kind of the order of operation of how these things keep going when it comes to Russia.

Ambassador, it's great to see you. Thank you.

STEVENS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Tara, thank you, as always. I appreciate it.

PALMERI: Thank you.

STEVENS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back after this.


[12:00:09] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

A big hour ahead. It begins at the White House.