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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Throws U.S. Intel Agencies under the Bus at Summit, Refuses to Say Putin Attacked 2016 Election; Putin Admits "Yes, I Did" Want Trump to Win Election; Former CIA Chief Says President Trump's Remarks with Putin are 'Treasonous;' U.S. Charges Russian National with Being a Foreign Agent. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Helsinki.
It is hard to overstate what President Trump did here today at his summit with Russia's president Vladimir Putin. What he said and what he refused to say to the face of a tyrant. And it's hard to downplay the damage he may already be doing to American power and prestige around the world along with the president's credibility at home.
After a week that began with the president trashing America's closest allies, Donald Trump today spent time sucking up to a dangerous adversary, the one who ordered the cyber attack on American democracy, which continues at this moment, according to the president's own top intelligence official.
Today, during this ongoing attack, the president of the United States sided with the leader of a hostile foreign power, a near dictator, over the men and women of his own intelligence and law enforcement community. And in the hours that followed his own intelligence chief publicly contradicted him, the house and Senate leadership, Democrats and some Republicans, lined up against his position, the State Department went dark, utterly silent, according to our own Michelle Kosinski, no comment at all.
And the White House? Well, official there's openly saying they're at a loss for words, and frankly, they are not alone. What happened at the summit today has never happened at any super power summit ever before, and it apparently comes down to a choice by the president himself. A U.S. official telling us that what the president did today, quote, was not the plan.
Here's the key moment the president siding with Vladimir Putin over the U.S. intelligence community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.
What -- who -- my first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now, the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let me just say we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven't they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months, and I've been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. 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)
COOPER: The president saying all he can do of Vladimir Putin is ask the question about meddling. That's certainly not all the president of the United States, the most powerful country on the planet can do.
The president can show the evidence to Vladimir Putin. The president can demand that Vladimir Putin never do this again. The president can demand that Vladimir Putin extradite intelligence officials, something he is unlikely to do. There is a whole host of things that the president of the United States could have done today that he chose not to do.
Now, keeping him honest, the president may not be able to see a reason why Russia would attack the United States in this way, but the man he chose to be director of national intelligence certainly does. Dan Coats putting out this statement shortly after that remarkable summit ended, quote: We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.
And this should not have been news to the president of the United States. Here is Director Coats on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: In regards to state actions, Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy. The warning signs are there. The system is blinking, and it is why I believe we are at a critical point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that same day more evidence for the president. A dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: According to the allegations in the indictment, the defendants worked for two units of the main intelligence directorate of the Russian general staff, known as the GRU. The units engaged in active cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that was Friday. But again, this was only the latest headline in a larger story that the intelligence community and the president and his staff have known about for the entire Trump presidency.
[20:05:03] Back in May, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said his committee on a bipartisan basis had concluded without a doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. And last December, the president's own defense secretary also had no doubt.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: With regards to the Russian interference, did Russia interfere in the U.S. election?
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yes, I believe they did.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, remember, even last December, this was not new. The U.S. intelligence community got first wind of it during the campaign. The candidates both were briefed during the campaign. The president has known in one shape or form about Russia's attack on the United States for years. What he's never been able to do is accept it, let alone confront the man responsible.
Here is another missed opportunity from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.
Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you -- what would you consider them that they are responsible for?
TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish.
I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated.
There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Both countries are responsible for the decline of U.S./Russian relations, he says, yet there is only one country that has been caught red-handed again and again trying to undermine the democratic process in the United States of America. Only one country that's earned the distinction of being the only European nation that's actually seized territory from another since the end of World War II.
There is only one country that's at least partly responsible, according to G7 ministers for shooting down a commercial airliner, but somehow both countries are responsible. And yet somehow, perhaps not shockingly, someone is seeing what you just saw as the president getting tough with Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Disagreements between our countries were discussed at length, but what the world saw, what the American people saw is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, he can knowingly nod his head, but that is simply not true. It's just not. Putting the security of America first? This president has not headed cabinet level meetings to mobilize to counter ongoing Russian attack, an ongoing attack.
Putting the security of America first? It is simply not true.
But don't take my word for it. One U.S. ambassador told our Elise Labott, quote, Putin is very happy tonight, but we are all in shock. The ambassador went on the say, quote, it's a dark and sad day for the U.S.
And a German official called today's press conference, quote, frightening, unquote.
So, now, we're left with a question of why. Why the deference? Why the kowtowing? Why the reluctance to actually criticize?
There are many, many theories, very, very few answers, answers few people know the answers to. President Trump surely knows. Vladimir Putin might know, and so too might Robert Mueller.
Now, the president, meantime, returns to Washington late tonight.
CNN's Jim Acosta was there for his joint press conference earlier today. He joins us now.
Jim, I'm wondering what the White House reaction has been to this after the press conference.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they're trying to play cleanup on aisle six when the whole supermarket has been trashed. On the way back to Washington, the president put out a tweet saying he has great confidence in the intelligence community. He obviously did not show that during that press conference with Vladimir Putin. But, Anderson, in just the last couple of minutes, I've obtained
talking points that the White House is sending out to Republican members of Congress and other Republican surrogates that are loyal to the White House. And here are a few of those talking points. They're trying to put the best face on what is obviously a very bad and devastating situation.
These talking points say President Trump approaches talks with Russia grounded in realism but our desire for friendship, cooperation and peace remain. President Trump said in Helsinki that he has great confidence in his intelligence agencies.
And Anderson, the last one, which is sort of mind-boggling to put your head around, over a year and a half the president has repeatedly said he believes the intelligence agencies when they said Russia interfered in American elections.
Anderson, you have a situation right now where the White House, people who work for the president are essentially saying that they believe the intelligence community, that, yes, Russia interfered in the elections when the president of the United States really doesn't sound like he believes that very much and that he was essentially taking the word of Vladimir Putin over that intelligence community earlier today.
And so, I think what you're going to see over the next 24 hours for those Republicans out there who are still interested in spewing these talking points that they're going to try to clean this up as best as they can.
[20:10:04] But, Anderson, I think that what happened in Helsinki is not going to stay in Helsinki, not for this president and not on this issue when it comes to interfering in our democracy. There are just too many people back in Washington and around the world who are just outraged over what the president did today.
COOPER: Well, I mean, there is just too many people who saw what the president did today with their own eyes and heard what their ears. I mean, for the White House to say --
COOPER: -- you know, the president believes in the intelligence community, he was asked point-blank by an American reporter, the very people he says are enemies of the American people, the very people he says, you know, daily are putting out fake news, he was asked by an American reporter whether or not he believes in the intelligence community or Vladimir Putin, and he went off on this rant about, you know, the 30,000 e-mails or Hillary Clinton's server.
You know, it's like rain man --
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: -- going back and back and talking about -- I mean, doing this on a world stage in front of Vladimir Putin, I don't understand how the White House can in these talking points, you know, claim that the president supports his intelligence community when the president himself doesn't say that in front of Vladimir Putin.
ACOSTA: Right. It was a Reagan moment that the president could have had today, and he choked. I think that there is no other way to describe it.
The president of the United States had a moment standing next to Vladimir Putin where he could have said, stay the hell out of our elections, and instead he was, you know, tossing around the soccer ball.
Anderson, this reminds me of the Trump Tower press conference after Charlottesville where the president equivocated on the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and said there were very fine people on both side and said there was blame to go around on both sides. That's essentially what he said today about American democracy and this attack on American democracy in 2016.
And it just -- it's very strange to talk to people who are loyal to this president. I talked to a source close to the White House who is familiar with the president, knows the president well who said earlier today there are people around the president who are just afraid to tell him not to do these things. So, the president was essentially alone on this stage, really just dictating, you know, talking points that were written by Vladimir Putin.
And, you know, I agree with you and just about what everybody else has said today that this was just a sad and dangerous day for our democracy. The president had a chance to stand up to Vladimir Putin and he just didn't do it -- Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, you think about Ronald Reagan, you know, even turning to Gorbachev and saying trust but verify. And he said it in a funny way that got a laugh, if I recall correctly, but, you know, it's tough and it sends a message.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: There is a lot of ways the president could have confronted Vladimir Putin and he chose not to do any of them.
Jim, thanks very much.
Again, one question runs through this entire story, one word, really, why? Why can the president not seem to confront Vladimir Putin over this? Why can the president attack our allies, attack Theresa May, not to her face, of course, in the pages of "The Sun" tabloid in England and to her face saying she is a wonderful woman, attacking Angela Merkel, but again not to her face. He always does this kind of stuff, same with the prime minister of Canada, Trudeau, attacking him for attacking the White House behind the president's back, something the president knows a lot about.
Joining us now is author and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters. He joins us now.
Colonel Peters, as someone who has shared your concerns over how President Trump would handle this summit, I just wanted to hear from you tonight what you make of -- what did you see and hear this afternoon in that press conference?
LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Vladimir Putin pitched a shout out. Trump got beat up in the locker room. Seriously, words rarely fail me, Anderson, but the words, the adjectives don't come easily to describe such a thorough debacle, such a disgrace to our country, such a disgrace to the office of the presidency, even apart from this man who temporarily occupies it.
But what is it going to take for Trump supporters to accept the fact, the apparent fact that Trump is indebted to Vladimir Putin? We have a president who appears not merely willing but eager to compromise our security, to betray our national interests, to betray our country. And as I've said for over a year, year and a half, as a former intelligence officer, the Steele dossier absolutely rings true to me in all of its major details.
And Putin again today in an interview pulled this stunt about or his line about oh, you think we spy on everybody?
[20:15:00] We don't have the manpower. If you go to Moscow on a business trip, an official trip, a semi official trip, even if you are the gopher, they're spying on you.
The Russian security services essentially buy lottery tickets in mass. They've got a file on everybody who passes through. And with Donald Trump, they hit the lottery hugely. And I believe as an American who really cares about this country that we have a president who is betraying us.
COOPER: You know, I think of the criticism of President Obama, rightly or wrongly, the Republicans made about him, saying that there was a moral equivalence argument that he and other Democrats were making.
This president -- and again, you can believe that or not. But this president, time after time, makes a moral equivalence argument. Basically, you know, today at the press conference saying, quell, look, there is a lot of blame to go around. We've all done things.
He blamed the United States for -- he blamed the DNC for the hack. He blamed the Obama administration for it. You know, he blamed -- when asked if Vladimir Putin is a killer long ago in an interview, he said, well, you know, there is a lot of killers out there.
I mean, does it -- if a Democrat, if President Obama had done what President Trump did today, Republicans would be understandably outraged.
PETERS: Yes, of course they would. But I also have to say to be fair, the fact that Trump is such a despicable indescribably bad president doesn't automatically make Obama a good one. We have not, in my view, had a fully competent, qualified American president for over a quarter century. And in the age of hyper media, I'm not sure we can have one. Both parties have failed us. But back to Putin himself and the relationship with Donald Trump,
today, we watched an American president grovel, grovel before the leader of a most hostile foreign power in the world, licking his boots. Putin purposely arrives an hour late, keeping our president waiting, making him the supplicant.
And, you know, all this we are excited right now about what we saw and heard. But, Anderson, think about what we didn't hear. We weren't in the room with just Trump and Putin. We don't know what the president promised him, what he agreed to. We don't know what American secrets he may have compromised.
I mean, I've -- god knows, I lived through the upheavals of the '60s as a teenager, went through Watergate, all of that. We've gone through crises. You know, there were times obviously in the military, the infantry battalion in Germany staring across the border, wondering what was going to happen. But I never seen anything like this.
But above all, I have never expected our country to be in this position where the American people cannot have the least faith in our president.
COOPER: Colonel Peters, I'm sorry we're on tonight talking about this, because I'm sorry what happened today happened, but I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.
PETERS: By the way, great job, Anderson.
COOPER: Up next, the reaction to the summit in Moscow, how the Kremlin sees it. And you can imagine, as some have said, they're probably popping champagne bottles on the flight back to Moscow.
Also, on a day the president was denying this kind of thing even happens, well, more spy charges today. A new defendant, a familiar face however, when 360 continues.
[20:20:33] COOPER: Well, here at home President Trump is facing a lot of criticism for how he handled today's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course, siding with him and not U.S. intelligence on election meddling.
But the reaction is much different, obviously, in Moscow.
CNN's Matthew Chance joins me with that. He is also here in Helsinki. He has been monitoring the situation in Moscow.
What's the reaction of Russians been after the press conference, Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, he's definitely not being criticized in Moscow for all of this. There has been some quite subdued remarks from President Putin. He spoke to state television in Russia shortly after that joint press conference that outraged so many people in the United States. And he called the talks informative and useful, downplaying how welcome they were.
But I think the real indication of how happy the Russians were about how these talks went comes from Sergei Lavrov, who is the Russian foreign minister. He is usually very restrained in the kind of praise that he makes, and he said the talks were magnificent, better than super is the other phrase he used, which is an extraordinary way of explaining, you know, how happy the Kremlin is that these talks went down the way they did.
It was always going to be a success, remember. Putin knew he just had to turn up for this to be a political success for him, but he didn't even dreamt for one minute that there was going to be such a pass was given to them by the U.S. president in this way -- Anderson.
COOPER: Russia's foreign minister said the talks were better than super? I mean, if that doesn't make the White House regret what happened, I don't know what will. I mean, that's pretty stunning.
I'm wondering what stood out to you. You were in the room.
CHANCE: Yes, worryingly high praise indeed. I guess what stuck out to me, look, I'm an American so I was struck by the fact that President Trump took the side of Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, but I was also struck by the fact that these talks, you know, were controversial because they came despite the fact that there had been such a lot of malign activity by Russia over the years, from the annexation of Crimea to the support for Bashar al Assad, the shooting down of MH-17.
It's the -- by the way, now local time, it's the fourth anniversary of that shoot-down which according to his national investigators was done by a Russian army Buk missile. 298 people on board were killed. That wasn't even mentioned.
So for me, that was what was also very striking, but none of these issues was addressed or confronted by President Trump sitting next to President Putin.
COOPER: Yes. Matthew Chance, thank you very much.
Joining us right now here in Helsinki is CNN Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour, CNN Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, who has worked with four presidents, Democrat and Republican, and also, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a former State Department and Pentagon spokesman during the Obama administration.
Christiane, we've all had some hours now to reflect on we were sitting here watching the thing as it happened. I'm wondering how you see this now and what happens now?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Look, I don't think there is any question that it was a massive train wreck. And pulling out of this and trying to reconstruct American credibility is going to be incredibly difficult.
The Finnish newspapers, this is a diplomatic country, this is not a crazy country here. They're talk about Trump, 0, Putin, 1. So that is the Finnish reaction to what's happened here in the newspapers.
Newt Gingrich, who I don't often quote, has said that this is the most serious mistake of President Trump's presidency, and it needs to be corrected immediately. And to that end, you know, you just have to wonder, at what point will America and its institutions decide that what's going on is dangerous?
If it's true what Jim Acosta says that the American White House is too afraid to tell President Trump the things that he doesn't know, this is a very, very scary thing. The president clearly is not a politician. He needs an education when it comes to these really serious things. You don't deal with a maligned competitor who he says that's a compliment anyway, competitor, as you would in a real estate.
I know that sounds trite, but that's what the president seeks to do, take everybody as a business partner or rival and try to deal with it like that.
[20:25:01] And it's just shown, it's blown up in his face, it's blown up in the U.S. face, it's blown up in his, you know, Republican supporters' face, and to me, the German tweet, the foreign minister of Germany has said after all this, we can no longer fully rely on the White House. He doesn't say America, by the way. We can no longer fully rely on the White House, says the foreign minister. In order to recalibrate our partnership with the United States, we need a united, confident and sovereign Europe.
I mean, it's really scary. It is really scary.
COOPER: David, you know, Colonel Peters was saying something which I -- you know, in all the activity today hadn't given a lot of focus to, but I think it's an incredibly important point to point out. If this is what President Trump said publicly in front of the eyes and the cameras of the world in a little over 45-minute press conference, who knows what he said face-to-face to Vladimir Putin when only translators are president and there are no permanent notes being taken?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: A very pertinent argument, because there is now going to be for a long time to come a conspiracy view that they had a secret conversation, they cut secret deals, and they're shaping the secret of the world without consulting anybody other than themselves, and we'll never know for sure. And that is the price they're going to pay for not having a third party in there or one additional party on each side with note taking.
COOPER: And for not having credibility.
COOPER: I mean, Vladimir Putin certainly doesn't have credibility in terms of his word. I mean, I've -- you know, I don't know that I'd -- I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to say this now, but, you know, the idea that the American president doesn't have credibility to be able to tell the American people what happened in a two-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin is -- GERGEN: You've got two guys up there and you don't believe either one
so, you have no idea what's for certain. I think that both sides will now be trying to debrief. I'm sure they're trying to do that on air force one going home. And to try to construct for themselves some sense of what really went on in there.
But I think we'll all go to our graves thinking was there something else that happened in there? And was there some secret deal?
And from my point of view, Anderson, this is the worst day in the Trump presidency since Charlottesville. And he made the same mistake here that he made on Charlottesville. There he created the moral equivalency between the white supremacists.
COOPER: I mean, here the mistake is on a global scale involving a nuclear anniversary, involving --
AMANPOUR: Cyber warfare.
COOPER: Cyber warfare, attacks on America. I mean, the list goes on and on.
GERGEN: It has bigger and graver implications here because of the global quality of it, and so many people around the world depend on the relationship.
COOPER: You know, Admiral Kirby, it's so interesting. Helsinki was clearly picked because both leaders wanted this to be a momentous occasion, even though there was really no agenda, even though there was no pre-signed deal. President Trump is now paying the price for that because the echo of what has happened here in Helsinki in past summits with past leaders --
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Right.
COOPER: -- it stands in stark contrast to what we saw today. The president Trump wanted to be compared to other American presidents who had been here before --
COOPER: -- that comparison does not -- he doesn't come out well in that one.
KIRBY: No, exactly, Anderson, for two reasons. One, usually in the past, those summits were around one central issue and it was pretty precooked before they met. And number two, those summits were designed to constrain both sides, to put limits, to bound the relationship in some sort of responsible way.
We didn't see any of that today. There was no bounding over anything. As David said, we don't know what was said in this one-on-one meeting. All we've got is him complaining about, again, the election, and complaining about the Democrats not taking care of their servers. That's it. So, there was no -- there was no constraining, no responsible
diplomacy that was done today. It's completely opposite of what's been done in the past.
COOPER: Chris Wallace had an interview with Vladimir Putin. Let's just slay play some of what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: May I give you this to look at, sir? Here?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia as a state has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections. Do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States? Why wouldn't special counsel Mueller send us an official request within the framework of this agreement? Nobody sent us a single formal letter, formal request.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Those were the indictments that had just been handed down that Chris Wallace was handing to Vladimir Putin.
AMANPOUR: Well, look at his body language. He won't even take it from Chris Wallace. He is a smart, cold-blooded cookie. He wouldn't even take it. He wouldn't even look at it.
He wasn't going to put himself in that position. And President Trump put himself in that position over and over again standing next to this rival. I mean, look, just on a basic level, all the press reports before, all the warnings before was that Putin was a really smart operative and would come to the summit to eat President Trump's lunch. Even with those warnings, the president allowed himself to be trapped by a question by the press.
COOPER: But (INAUDIBLE) President Obama for playing golf a lot. Yesterday he is playing golf in Scotland, instead of preparing for, you know, this summit.
KIRBY: And also criticizing Obama for being an apologist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he did it before the meeting basically apologizes for the United States causing the rift between the U.S. and Russia.
COOPER: And blames the United States, blames the DNC.
GERGEN: But the White House putting out the word "they," you know, they it went off track. This wasn't what we intended. They bear responsibility for that. He had a prepared statement that they worked on. They could have framed the whole question about the interference in our elections and all the other things that it was really important for Trump to stand up to Putin on. They kind of have put that in the opening statement and framed the whole thing, you know, and I just think there is an incompetence level that goes along with this --
COOPER: Well also what's stunning, it's not what they expected, meaning --
COOPER: It's not what they wanted, meaning the people actually work in the White House and studied these issues, but it's what the man they work for wanted because it's exactly what the man they work for did.
GERGEN: He work (ph), because didn't prepare properly again.
KIRBY: I wanted to write an opening statement for somebody when you weren't in the meeting, when you don't even know what was discussed saying, we complete it, I mean --
AMANPOUR: That the finish President tried to put a silver lining on the big global geopolitical issues, saying that at least he didn't talk about lifting sanctions on Russia, at least he didn't talk about pulling out of either NATO or military exercises, you know, at least he didn't do some of those things, which NATO leaders were incredibly, incredibly worried about. But again, we don't know what was said.
COOPER: I mean, at least he didn't dribble, but, I mean that doesn't make me feel -- it shouldn't make us feel anymore secure, I mean, those are all pretty extreme things, you know --
COOPER: -- the fin to try to put a silver lining, and say something, you know, but you can't put lipstick on this.
GERGEN: He was not that their policy discussions were pretty much --
AMANPOUR: Two business soil. One is the American story and the other is the geostrategic story.
GERGEN: Right, but it's also a question -- you know, the policy discussions were fairly mainstream and were fairly predictable, but when it comes to sort of the relationship, the fundamental relationship when a President essentially, you know, puts Putin up on a pedestal.
AMANPOUR: I'm agreeing with you. I'm agreeing with you.
GERGEN: That's a whole different magnitude.
AMANPOR: The silver lining is out there somewhere.
COOPER: Yes. Christiane Amanpour --
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
COOPER: -- thank you very much for staying up so early. By the way, it's almost 3:30 a.m. here, even though it's a beautiful light right now, so one of the amazing things about Helsinki, David Gergen, Admiral Kirby as well.
A great many of Republicans tonight are decidedly unhappy with what the President of course said today standing next to Vladimir Putin. Senator John McCain called the summit quote, "A tragic mistake". He is not alone.
Coming up, who is saying what, on this what has been an extraordinary and dark day.
[20:35:56] COOPER: Well, as you might expect, there's been a great deal of political reaction to the President's Helsinki remarks. Democrats, of course, were highly critical, but a surprising number of Republicans chimed in as well, not happy, to say the least. Here is just a sampling.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: What the President said today is not accurate. The intelligence community has assembled probably an unparalleled amount of evidence in regards to the Russian not just efforts to interfere in 2016, but ongoing efforts to interfere in American society.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I just don't like the President's comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover. And I was disappointed in that. I just don't know what it is about the President that continues to deny that that occurred.
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I've seen the Russian intelligence, you know, manipulate many people in my career, and I never would have thought the U.S. President would be one of them. So it's disappointing. I mean, also, that press conference showed why Vladimir Putin is so formidable when it comes to this information, because I actually believe that press conference was disinformation.
COOPER: That's a brief sampling. Take a look at this list of Republican Senators and House members who mentioned President Trump in tweets or in statements, all of them critical in one way or another, not supporting how the President handled this today. Here are the Republican lawmakers who have defended the intelligence community for its assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thanks Anderson. COOPER: You know, so much has been said already about what happened today, but I'd like to just hear your perspective on what you heard our President say.
REED: Well, it was unprecedented and outrageous. So, the President of the United States on foreign soil standing next to a Russian autocrat, undercutting his own intelligence service, the men and women who risk their lives to protect this nation, and at the same time essentially defending the Russian autocrat.
It's absolutely outrageous. And what it does is it causes our allies and partners to distrust us, to loose faith in us, and it gives -- I think our adversaries a sense that they don't have to respect us. They can do what they will.
COOPER: You know, I keep thinking about Ronald Reagan. I grew up watching, obviously, and the importance he plays on American exceptionalism, on America as a shining beacon, a shining city on a hill, as a voice for those whose voices have been taken away, as an example of 2freedom of beacon that would shine around the world.
And I just wonder tonight about people living in places living under tyranny and people and places in Russia where people are imprisoned for their ideas or for their opposition to President Putin and what they think of America tonight after hearing the words, if they've heard the words of President Trump.
REED: Well, I don't think they have that same sense of city on a hill, a shining beacon of hope after hearing the President today. What was heard was someone who is making indefensible statements, in my view, completely undercutting his intelligence services and supporting Putin, who has his whole career has been undercutting democracy, not just in Europe, but most particularly in the United States in 2016 and even today, and seeming to defend that type of behavior cuts against our aggressive core values and that sense of freedom and liberty and trust that the United States used to generate under Reagan and many other presidents.
COOPER: You know, there was always concern about what the President was going to say when he met one-on-one with Kim Jong-un and there was just translators present, that seems to pale in comparison to concerns now about what did the President actually say to Vladimir Putin one- on-one when there were only translators present for more than two hours that day.
[20:40:04] That press conference was -- I think about a little bit more than 45 minutes long. There's no telling what he said, and there is no record probably other than some translators' notes about what the President of the United States actually said to Vladimir Putin.
REED: Well, as you may recall, I joined some of my colleagues in suggesting the President not even have this meeting in Helsinki, and part of it was a reaction to his performance in Singapore with Kim Jong-un.
That meeting one-on-one where he departed from any type of agreed format with his advisors, they essentially canceled our exercises, in fact referred to them as provocative war games. That was not an inspiring performance, and we were all concern he do the same thing. And I think, in effect, he has done that today.
That long discussion privately with Putin, who knows what has been said and what inadvertently might have been leaked that reveals our source, our methods or information that we don't want Putin to have. So, again, it was poor judgment I think to go forward with the meeting, poor judgment to have it alone just with Putin and translators and not with advisers, and then the press conference was I think was an unfortunately, as I said before, unprecedented, outrageous and detrimental to the national security of the United States.
COOPER: Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that the President's actions today were and I'm quoting, "Nothing short of treasonous." Certainly strong word, do you think the President's actions rise to the level of treason?
REED: I think they rise to the level that not only questions his support of our basic -- his basic responsibilities to preserve, protect, to defend the constitution and the United States, but, again, I think the issue here is how do we move forward.
I don't think it's one of those issues that is precisely treasonous, but it is incredibly poor leadership and it disadvantages this country dramatically.
COOPER: Yes. Senator Reed, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
REED: Thank you.
COOPER: Again, the President can barely acknowledge this sort of thing, but there are new spy charges tonight against yet another Russian national, that story just ahead.
And as President Trump sides with Vladimir Putin over the U.S. Intelligence Community, some former intelligence chiefs are outraged. What they are saying tonight, when we continue.
COOPER: Well, we have more breaking news tonight. The U.S. government has charged a Russian national with being a spy in the United States. Now this comes on the same day the President was denying this kind of thing even happens. The accused is Mariia Butina, who in the language of the indictment is charged with developing relationships with, quote, "U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics".
Our Sara Murray joins us now with more. What do we know about this Mariia Butina and the charges she is facing?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that she is essentially facing this conspiracy charge for working as a foreign agent here in the United States. She is just 29 years old. She was arrested in Washington, D.C., and this is where she has been charged. This is someone that we know from these court documents, but also previously CNN reporting who has been years trying to make inroads with political organizations, with political operatives and even candidates here in the United States alongside the man who was her mentor, Alexander Torshin. He is a Kremlin-linked banker who was slapped with sanctions earlier this year along with a number of Russian officials.
Now, this is someone who has deep ties within the upper echelon of the National Rifle Association, and she was able to use those ties to meet various political operatives and political candidates. And we know that she and her mentor, Alexander Torshin also at one point tried to establish this back channel of communications between then candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it does not appear that they were ultimately successful in doing so based on the testimony and the documents we've seen from witnesses involved in that.
COOPER: Does this arrest have anything to do with the ongoing Mueller investigation?
MURRAY: Well, the really interesting thing about this is this is separate from the Mueller investigation. This is something that has been going on for years, and these charges, yes, were brought in Washington, D.C., but it's not the same thing as the Mueller investigation. And what it does is that it gives you a glimpse into all the different ways that Moscow has been working to try to not only meddle in the 2016 election, which is what Mueller has been looking into, but also broadly influence the American political climate. What Mariia Butina and Alexander Torshin were trying to do hand in hand were to promote Russia's interest by infiltrating groups like the National Rifle Association, which declined to comment today, and trying to make inroads with other politicians.
COOPER: Fascinating. So, it will be interesting to say what the National Rifle Association says. Sara Murray, thank you so much.
Christiane Amanpour mentioned this a moment ago when she was out here. A local paper here in Finland, the equivalent of the "Wall Street Journal," one of our producers just managed to get a hold of one. The headline reads, "Trump, 0, Putin, 1." Back home the "New York Daily News" front page has a cartoon of President Trump shooting Uncle Sam on Fifth Avenue of Vladimir Putin holds his hand. The headline, "Open Treason".
This of course comes only hours after today's remarks by President Trump and the former head of the CIA was unsparing in his opinions about what took place. As we mentioned, John Brennan posted this on Twitter. Donald Trump's press conference he said, in Helsinki rises and exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous, not only were Trump's comments in basilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots where are you?
Joining me by phone is retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence and author of the book "Fax and Fears: Hard Truths from the Life and Intelligence".
Director Clapper, good to have you with us. Those are certainly strong words from Director Brennan. I'm wondering how you see it.
JAMES CLAPPER, FMR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think, first, Anderson, after we spoke earlier today, or yesterday for you, I actually went to the czars (INAUDIBLE) to capture what geology that would described what I witnessed today at this unbelievable news conference. And I think the President reflected his incompetence and his naivete and his gullibility with President Putin, in the presence of President Putin and before the whole world. And he is aiding and abetting our arch adversary and has failed in my mind to live up to his constitutional obligations and responsibilities.
COOPER: Director Clapper, let me ask you, we've heard Christopher Wray, the FBI testified that the FBI is doing everything it can to try to stop another attack by Russia during this next election and then the next Presidential election.
[20:50:03] We've heard other levers and arms and departments within the U.S. government say the same that they're doing what they can. Why is it so important that the President be the one holding cabinet level meetings about Russia attempts to attack America and if success in attacking America, and their desire to do it again, why -- and somebody who has dedicated their life to government service and knows the leverage of power? Why it is so important that the President be the one who believes the intelligence community and actually not just has each agency doing it on their own, by tries to coordinate everything?
CLAPPER: Only the President can infuse the sense of urgency that needs to prevail here, which we really don't have. And I'm sure all the individual agencies and components are each doing their own thing to try to secure our election apparatus. But in the absence of strong presidential leadership, this isn't going to happen. And it has to be coordinated and coherent across -- not just across the government but as a society-wide thing. The President is failing his responsibility to educate the public and particularly those who vote about the threat that the Russians are posing and how they are undermining our very system. And this news conference was just evidence of that.
COOPER: It is incredible, and I know we've talked about this a couple times already in this hour. But the idea that Vladimir Putin and President Trump sat down for more than two hours without anybody from their staffs, except for interpreters in the room, and we really have no idea what was talked about. The fact that, you know, you could say, oh, well, we're making too big a deal of it. But what we saw happen in front of cameras was shocking enough. What do you do about the fact that we have no idea what was said behind the scenes?
CLAPPER: Well, exactly the point. I mean here we are hyperventilating and appropriately so over what we were witness to. What I worry about even more is what we weren't witness to. So for -- while it was an over two-hour meeting, you cut it in half for translation. That's an hour of discussion in which who knows what concessions or agreements that Trump agreed to? So it's very worrisome.
COOPER: What's also worrisome frankly is the fact that the President is riding back to Washington and may not even realize himself how badly he did, may not even realize how shocking his performance was and most likely doesn't think it was. Director Clapper, I appreciate your time.
When we come back here in Helsinki, where it is almost 4:00 a.m., a lot to talk about. What I said right after today's press conference and why.
[20:56:36] COOPER: as you've seen, President Trump's words today so solicitous towards the authoritarian leader of an expansionist regime struck many, regardless of their politics, as inappropriate to the moment and frankly unworthy of the office of President of the United States, myself included. If you watched this broadcast regularly, you know I try not to push my own opinion or weigh in with anything other than facts. But today as the President wrapped up his summit press conference, this is the first thing that came out of my mouth.
COOPER: You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I've ever seen. An extraordinary press conference.
COOPER: Well, yes, that was commentary, but it sprang from a simple fact. I've never seen an American President speak of his Russian counterpart that way and his own intelligence community because no one has. In my lifetime, I've seen presidents in both parties deal with Soviet and Russian leaders in many different ways, but never once kowtowing, never once refusing to acknowledge which country stands for freedom and which often opposes it.
I came of age in the age of Ronald Reagan. His words as powerful today as they were when he first spoke them.
RONALD REAGAN, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
COOPER: Even as President Reagan was issuing that challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev, he was also pursuing talks with the Soviets just as when John F. Kennedy was confronting Nikita Khrushchev over missiles in Cuba, the two sides were discussing ways of reducing nuclear tension.
Conciliation and confrontation were not usually exclusive as this president seems to believe. Getting along with Russia, as the President puts it, may be a good thing, but it doesn't have to include giving in to Russia, much less the kind of giving in that may this time be personally motivated. It never has until now.
So I called it like I saw it, disgraceful, and I don't say this with any kind of glee or need for validation. But I wasn't alone.
Soon after I got off the air, Senator John McCain, no less, said in a statement, and I quote, "Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump's naivete, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake". Pointing it out on the other hand. He's not.
One last note, today we were proud to kick off something new, a live interactive daily newscast on Facebook. It's called full circle. On it you'll see great interviews with the today's biggest news makers, a quick look at the day's hottest stories online. As well, stories that you yourself decide on. We've been working hard getting it ready, in cooperating your feedback, it's really interactive broadcast. Try to make it special in different as possible. You can access it at facebook.com/andersoncooperfullcircle, that's one word.
[21:00:13] Discover what tens of thousands of followers already have, we'll you see there.