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White House Struggling To Clarify Trump's Position On Russia; Trump: I'm Looking Forward To Second Meeting With Putin; Ex-Intel Chief: We Told Trump In 2017 Putin Behind Attacks; Admin Sends Mixed Messages On Putin's Interrogation Proposal. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:22]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Welcome to your daily serving of whiplash courtesy of the Trump White House with a side order of clarification and cleanup. And whether you like it and ordered it or not, you're getting seconds.

First let's go to the cleanup. President Trump now says to CBS news that he believes Vladimir Putin is responsible for Russia's interference in the 2016 election. But not without some equivocating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I would because he is in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happened in this country. So certainly, as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And here is then the whiplash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he denies it, so if you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't want to get into whether or not he is lying. I can only say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently constituted. I think that Dan Coats is excellent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So, excellent Dan Coats is the director of National Intelligence who stated in no uncertain terms that Russia is still targeting the United States. When the president was asked about that, that very question targeting the United States yesterday, he said no.

The reporter who asked that question says that it was clear he was looking right at her, he was answering the question. But the White House later says that the reporter and everyone else watching it play out was misunderstood. So, are you enjoying the whiplash so far?

Let's get back to the White House. CNN's Abby Phillip is there for us. Abby, another point of whiplash now is that we do now know that the president was told everyone before the inauguration that it was -- he was shown evidence that it was Vladimir Putin who directly ordered the hack on the election. What is the White House saying?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. Yes, that's right. That is one of the reasons why this has become so difficult to explain why three days later the White House is still answering questions about what the president actually believes about the intelligence community's assessment.

Back in January 2017 according to the "New York Times" in a meeting at Trump Tower with National Security officials, the president was briefed on this, he was shown top secret intelligence showing text messages between these Russian military intelligence officers, who were believed to be responsible for this attack, talking about the attack, talking about the strategy and origins of the attack.

And also, he was shown evidence from a top-secret source, an associate close to Putin who talked about Putin's role in directing the attack. Now, the director of National Intelligence under Obama, James Clapper, was on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning and he confirmed that that briefing happened, that the president acknowledged it and more or less accepted it.

But that hasn't explained why over the last year and a half the president has gone back and forth about what exactly he believes when it comes to election meddling. And even this morning, President Trump is tweeting all morning about this meeting with Putin calling it a great success, blaming the fake news media, who he has called the enemy of the people.

But also saying that he wants to have a second meeting with Vladimir Putin at some point in the future. Now, Kate, there are some questions about what even happened in his first meeting with Putin.

Two hours of the two of them basically alone and the U.S. government is still struggling to understand what exactly the president agreed to, so you can imagine a second meeting seems a little ways off -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, let's first figure out what happened in the first one. Maybe, maybe not. (Inaudible) out ahead. Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much.

So, minutes from now, we will hear from another important voice in all of this. The second of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, is going to be speaking in Colorado. What will she say about Russian interference then and now? Will she echo what the FBI Director Christopher Wray said last night? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and then it continues to engage in blind influence operations to this day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is CNN's senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer. Thanks for coming in, guys.

So, Bob, first, you had Dan Coats speaking out then you have Christopher Wray right there saying in no uncertain terms it is Russia and ongoing. But depending on when you catch him, the president either agrees or disagrees. Does this bring you comfort or what does this do?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Kate, I've never seen it where the intelligence agencies and the FBI director come out against the president. It's almost a revolt in the ranks against him because they know he is absolutely wrong.

[11:05:06] He is saying it could be somebody else that hacked, but everybody -- they have a smoking gun on the GRU, Russian military intelligence. They caught these guys on tape talking about it. They have names, ranks, addresses. They have everything.

I mean, you could take this to court and get a sure conviction in a day. So, for the president to throw doubt on this, throw cold water on their case as everybody said, he is taking the side of the Russians over American intelligence, which is got a good thing. He is not defending this country.

And by the way Wray, they didn't attempt, they did get in and they did affect the elections. Whether they threw it or not is something else. It wasn't just an attempt. And what scares me, Kate, is they are doing it right now. (Inaudible), DNI, has said they are doing it now and I think the homeland security chief will say that as well. They simply cannot deny the facts.

BOLDUAN: And that a is where a lot of the question -- and there are not a lot of great answers. What has the U.S. Congress done, what has the administration done to try to stop it in its tracks other than, I don't know, whatever was said in that one-on-one meeting.

But Mark, so you have Coats knew what he was doing when he put out his statement. Christopher Wray knew what he was doing when he made those comments last night. Is their message to the country or is their message to the president?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is to both. To the country, I think what they are trying to do is to calm any concerns or fears that people might have about the intelligence community and the investigation.

And the new poll numbers from CBS confirm the fears that in fact the intelligence community is not looked kind upon by Republicans and that is very problematic. But it is being a message being sent to the president as well. Dan Coats and Christopher Wray didn't come to Washington with Donald Trump in the sense. They are pretty established figures. They don't need Donald Trump to make their legacies. Their legacies have already been crafted.

The fact is now I think they are sending a message to Donald Trump saying you can't change us any more than we are right now and we're standing by what our assessment is.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about some of the poll numbers, Nia, that CBS just came out. This is the first real poll since the summit and in it, 32 percent overall approved of the president's performance in Helsinki, 8 percent Democrats, 29 percent independents, 68 percent of Republicans approve of the president's performance.

Is that everything you need to know on the question of is there going to be any real blow back against the president after Helsinki despite the tough words that we heard from Capitol Hill?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that is right and if you think back to Trump himself as a candidate, he famously said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and wouldn't lose any supporters.

I mean, it was obviously hyperbole, an exaggeration, but it did get at the fierce partisanship going on in both parties really, but obviously very apparent in the Republican Party.

And what is also striking is the ways in which Donald Trump as the leader of the Republican party has fundamentally altered the ways in Republican voters think. I mean, at this point, the way they view Putin is sort of on the rise. They view him much more favorably now than they did in the past.

They don't seem to necessarily have these hawkish views in the ways that the typical Republican voters had in the past. So, you will see by and large folks on the Hill line up with that, on the one hand trying to be tough on Putin in their language.

But not really go after Trump very much and that is what we've seen overwhelmingly even though Paul Ryan was tough in his language about Putin, he didn't really go after President Trump and not many senators did either.

BOLDUAN: Past is prologue on that one. I mean, I think that's just what we're going to see. Bob, we're now learning that the president was shown evidence two weeks before the inauguration that Putin personally ordered the cyberattack on the election to attempt to sway the election.

Last night, he still equivocates, though, on holding Putin personally responsible saying because he is the leader of the country is why you would hold him responsible much like he would hold me responsible for things that happen here. You saw that, and you thought what?

BAER: Well, I thought as a former professional in the work, in intelligence, that this case against the 13 Russians, the military officers, is great. It is great intelligence. What I don't think is that he understands it.

I don't think he understands how damning this intelligence is against Russia, against Putin and their intelligence services. He just didn't get it, and this is what happens when you elect an amateur to the presidency.

[11:10:03] You run into this thing, but he is particularly stubborn. I mean, I suspect he has an aging mind and can't absorb new facts, and he also has financial interests --

BOLDUAN: Really, Bob, really?

BAER: I do. Yes. He also has financial interests to Putin.

BOLDUAN: There is no evidence of those two things but continue.

BAER: You look at the guy, for me it is enough. He cannot be convinced by his own intelligence services when the information is so good, there is something wrong here. It is either he is speaking in behalf of Putin as a business partner, and they do have business associations which go back to the 90's or he simply doesn't understand it. There is no in between.

BOLDUAN: Mark, play this one out for me though. Because what we've seen from the president since Helsinki is instead of talking about what happened in the meeting with Putin, which everyone wants to know, the president just blamed the media for not covering the meeting.

I mean, that was like one of the more head scratching moments with Jeff Glor last night because it's a meeting that there is no way anyone could cover it any more than they have because that's how the president wanted it. He was the one who asked for it to be just a one-on-one meeting.

PRESTON: Which in and of itself is very strange that you would have Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump sitting one-on-one without senior level staff around them. But attacking the media as we all know is an easy and it's time trusted honored, successful strategy by Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: But it's just so ridiculous, just talk about what happened in the meeting like lay it out.

PRESTON: But here's the problem, though, really, I want to go back to these poll numbers. This is a very important data point right now about where we are politically. If you look at the approval of Donald Trump holding the summit with Putin, you have nearly seven in 10 Republicans saying that they approved of that.

That is an astounding number for a Republican Party that we have come to know and understand and has championed this whole fight against the cold war, this threat of democracy, the idea of economic freedom, whatever. But the bottom line is you have a Republican Party now not here in Washington but all throughout America that thinks that this is a good idea. That in itself is troubling and that is why Donald Trump can get away with saying anything he wants.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what he says next. Guys, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Coming up, the State Department calls it absurd. The White House, I don't even know. Won't rule it out? Vladimir Putin asking to interrogate a former U.S. ambassador and a businessman who is a major critic of the kremlin. One of those men on Putin's wish list joins me next.

Plus, what else did Trump and Putin discuss in their meeting or what at all did they discuss? Only on the translators know. And now a member of Congress, many of them, want to subpoena the president's translator. A member of Congress is joining us live with that request. We'll be right back.

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[11:17:33]

BOLDUAN: So, is the Trump administration actually considering handing over former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and businessman, Bill Browder to the Kremlin for questioning in exchange for assistance in the ongoing U.S. investigation into election interference?

The State Department was asked about this first yesterday and gave maybe the answer you would expect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: What I can tell you is that the overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But later White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had a very different answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is going to meet with his team and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a topic that came up in their conversation? Did President Putin raise this with President Trump?

SANDERS: There was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States and the president will work with his team and we'll let you know if there is an announcement on that front. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And don't forget, in Helsinki, the president of the United States called Putin's request an incredible offer.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP: And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that is an incredible offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me now, one of the men at the center of all this, one of the men Putin asked for, Bill Browder. Bill, thanks for coming in.

BILL BROWDER, AUTHOR, "RED NOTICE": Great to be here.

BOLDUAN: What did you think when President Putin specifically name checked you there? You are the one person he specifically mentions in that press conference that he wants Trump to basically turnover if he could as part of a negotiation.

BROWDER: Well, I wasn't surprised overall because this is not the first time that Putin has mentioned my name. Over a period of years, I've really gotten under Vladimir Putin's skin because I'm the person who initiated the Magnitsky Act, which has been pass the now in the United States and six other countries.

Which freezes the assets and bans the visas of people -- I should say (inaudible) and human rights violators around you Vladimir Putin. So, he is extremely angry. He would like to get his hands on me, he'd like to kill me like he killed Sergey Magnitsky, my lawyer eight and a half years ago.

BOLDUAN: And you facing interrogation by Russian agents would mean what for you?

BROWDER: Well, effectively what the Russians have said very clearly on a number of occasions is they would like to get me back to Russia, they would like to send me back to Russia.

[11:20:09] And then once I'm back in Russia, they would like to kill me, and so, anything that begins that process is effectively a death sentence for me.

BOLDUAN: Still did it seem surprising on the level of where this came up between -- in a press conference between Vladimir Putin and the U.S. president?

BROWDER: Well, I've told people for a long time that I believe that I'm Putin's number one foreign enemy, and sometimes people have scoffed at that. But I think the fact that Putin brought it up pretty much validates my assertion that he is really, really mad. Putin is really, really mad.

And he really, really wants to get his hands on me and this is not the first time that he's brought it up. It's not the first time that they have tried using international treaties and negotiations to get me.

I've been put on the Interpol list now seven times by the Russian Federation to try to get me back to Russia. I was arrested in in in Madrid on May 30th on a Russian Interpol arrest warrant. I was detained in Switzerland --

BOLDUAN: That's the last time you spoke, that's right.

BROWDER: So, this is happening day in, day out. I would guess that there are probably 250 people working full-time inside the Kremlin and other law enforcement agencies in Russia trying to figure out how to get me back to Russia, how to kill me, detain me, destroy me.

BOLDUAN: But I want to focus on President Trump's reaction to this. After the president called it an incredible offer, what did you think?

BROWDER: Well, I think that that is probably one of the most insane things I've ever heard coming out of his mouth. Basically, he wants to hand over me and I should point out that there are ten other people, who Vladimir Putin is asking to be handed over, who are all effectively government officials or former government officials in the U.S. government, who have been the foot soldiers in fighting against Russian corruption helping on the Magnitsky Act and investigating Russian organized crime in the united states.

Effectively, what President Trump was saying is that he wants to take a bunch of loyal patriots, people who have given up money for government service to serve their nation, who have been protecting that this nation against Russian interference, Russian organized crime, and he wants to hand them over to the Russian criminals. And that has to be the most insane crazy thing I've ever heard.

BOLDUAN: And then the answer from the White House days later, right, the press secretary saying that, essentially, we'll have to get back to you when asked about it. How concerned are you?

BROWDER: Well, I can't -- so whatever kind of dirty deals Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are doing behind closed doors, there is a rule of law in the United States. The United States is a country of laws. And the United States has very clear laws in relation to mutual legal assistance with Russia and extradition with Russia and various other things.

And you have agencies that operate on those laws. And I don't think that there will be people who work in the apparatus of the law enforcement agencies of the United States that are going to be going along with the dirty deal with Putin.

BOLDUAN: I just want to make sure for those who don't know, Bill, and of course, you and I talked about this before, to explain why Putin hates you so much. Your attorney died in a Russian prison while investigating a massive tax fraud scheme in Russia that as you point out involved everyone Putin and those around him.

Putin accuses you and others as fraud. But after that, you were able to get the United States strike some of the strongest sanctions against Russia that at U.S. has imposed. With all of that in mind, if you could speak to President Trump now, what do you want him to know today about you or about Vladimir Putin?

BROWDER: Well, I think -- I mean, I wrote an open letter to President Trump before the summit where I said Vladimir Putin is a bald-faced liar, a criminal and killer. And he should know that. And he should also know that to hand me over to Putin is basically to hand me over to my death. And I've been fighting for human rights, I've been fighting for justice for my murdered lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. So, to hand me over to his death would be insane.

BOLDUAN: And you are a British citizen, but have you heard anything from the U.S. government?

BROWDER: I've heard a lot of things from the U.S. Congress. I've had many, many communications with senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle who are fully shocked by this and on my side and ready to do whatever it takes.

[11:25:08] But I have not spoken to anyone in the official apparatus of the --

BOLDUAN: The Trump administration.

BROWDER: -- White House or the State Department about this.

BOLDUAN: All right. Bill, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. It sure says something that whenever you come on, we are very careful to not reveal your location because that is the state of things for you. I really appreciate you coming on as always.

BROWDER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, will lawmakers get to question President Trump's translator who was inside the private meeting with Vladimir Putin? What precedent would that set? One member of Congress calling for that joins me next.

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