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Trump Trades Twitter For Phone In World Leaders Calls; WH Sources: Trump Unlikely To Talk Meddling With Putin; WH Adviser: Media Coverage Of Trump Not "Patriotic"; Christie Soaks Up Sun On Beach He Closed To Public. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. After a busy weekend slamming and body slamming the press on social media, President Trump carrying out some more traditional presidential duties today, speaking with the leaders of key allies, Italy, Germany, and France, ahead of their annual meeting at the G20 summit later this week.

And at that summit maybe the most anticipated face-to-face of them all, President Trump's first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN, Kaitlan Collins is traveling right now with the president who spent the weekend at his golf course in New Jersey. So Kaitlan, have we gotten any readouts of these calls today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No, we have not, Kate. We are still waiting on those. Though the president spent most of the weekend attacking the media on Twitter, he may have heard the widespread criticism of those who think he needs to stay on message because he spent the morning tweeting about the work that his administration has been doing.

As he wraps up his time here in New Jersey, the White House says the president is focused on his upcoming foreign trip. He made several calls with foreign leaders Sunday night, including the Gulf States, Japan and China, before speaking with Germany and Italy this morning.

During his call with those Gulf State leaders, the president urged unity in the ongoing dispute with Qatar and some of its Arab neighbors saying, "The importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology."

During his calls with China and Japan, the president raised the growing threat of the nuclear program from North Korea. That call with China comes after the president recently said he didn't think they were doing enough to put pressure on North Korea.

Saying, "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried." The president spent the rest of his day here in New Jersey before heading back to Washington with the first lady tonight ahead of a White House celebration on the Fourth of July -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's just the beginning of the week and then off he goes later this week for that G20 Summit. Kaitlan, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

So let's get to what is becoming the main event of that whole trip, the first meeting of President Trump and President Vladimir Putin. A number of things could, of course, come up, Syria, Ukraine, and possibly Russia's cyberattack on the 2016 election.

But what exactly will be discussed? What exactly is on the agenda and what exactly will this meeting look like? Well, CNN is starting to get some of those details. Let's get those details.

CNN White House producer, Kevin Liptak, has been looking into it. Kevin, it's great to see you. So what do we know?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE PRODUCER: Well, Kate, yes, the president plans to focus heavily on the civil war in Syria and the crisis in Ukraine during this high-stakes first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin at the end of this week in Germany. Those issues the president feels threaten global stability.

They also threaten his commitment to foster a partnership with Russia. That was something he vowed to do on the campaign trail. Now it's a lot less clear whether the issue of election meddling will arise in this meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Officially the White House says that no agenda has been set yet, that the president himself will decide what topics will arise. But that has led senior administration officials and those close to the White House to say that they do not expect the issue of election meddling to arise.

Now perhaps that's not a huge surprise, given that the president has downplayed the issue. He's even questioned whether Russia was solely responsible. But of course the president will be under enormous political pressure to raise the election meddling issue.

The national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, last week when asked whether the president will bring this up, he said that there's no specific agenda, that it's really going to be about whatever the president wants to talk about -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Well, I guess that just means we will have all to stand by for that. Great to see you, Kevin. Thank you so much.

All right, so joining me to discuss the major political implications of this, political reporter at "Bloomberg News," Sahil Kapur, CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa is here, and CNN analyst and former spokesman for both the State Department and the Pentagon under President Obama, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. It's great to see all of you. Thanks so much for coming in. So Sahil, as Kevin is laying out, it seems that there is little expectation that President Trump is going to be bringing up the Russian cyberattack, but it's all up to him, so who knows what he'll come up with in that moment maybe.

That, if it does not come up, I mean, that seems that it's very likely to anger some in his own party on Capitol Hill, who talk about it quite often and who are right now pushing new sanctions against Russia for this very thing.

SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": It's a seminal political moment for him, Kate, for President Trump in bringing up the question of what he's going to do and how he's going to confront an adversary that his own intelligence agencies and intelligence agencies in the United States believed inappropriately meddled in the United States election.

[11:05:02]If he doesn't do this now, there are concerns already among experts that Russia is going to try this again. But if this isn't dealt with appropriately in terms of sanctions and punishing them for doing this and beefing up our cyber infrastructure to make sure this doesn't happen in the future, this could come back to haunt him.

And this could be a real blemish on his legacy if nothing is done about it. I'm sure you will hear demands from Democrats in particular on Capitol Hill that he bring this up.

I don't what Republicans are going to say about this publicly, but privately many of them absolutely are concerned that the United States is not doing enough for this.

His own counterterrorism officials have said that Russia is going to be attempt this again. The only question is whether they succeed and what the United States does about it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Well, and what is appropriate in coming up in these meetings? Let's talk about that. John, White House officials, they're not saying formally like what is exactly on the agenda or even the setting of how this meeting is going to play out.

Listen here if you will to the president's Homeland Security advisor, Thomas Bossert, he was asked about this over the weekend. Listen.


THOMAS BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We don't know if this will be a long bilateral meeting or shorter, those details haven't been set. In part that format will dictate what they discuss and how they discuss it.

But I would say that if there's an opportunity the president would recognize that we have an extremely low point relationship based on distrust right now and while we should condemn their cyber security behavior. And we should condemn their behavior in the Ukraine and sanction them for it. President Trump has said as much, he should also take opportunities to partner with them in ways that help us defeat ISIS and prevent the Syrians from using chemical weapons.


BOLDUAN: OK. So I have two questions on this one, John. Less than a week out, should they have these things settled? The time, the place, the agenda. Should they?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Less than a week out for a poolside meeting like this, I'm not surprised that there's no formal agenda proffered by either side. I suspect the teams that are working at lower levels are trying to set all that so I'm not surprised there's a specific agenda.

What does bother me is when I hear General McMaster say, well, it's just going to be whatever the president wants to talk about? I'm hoping he's being glib. I'm hoping what they're doing is sitting down and saying, Mr. President, these are the issues you must bring up with President Putin, certainly Ukraine, certainly Syria.

I'm not surprised that Kevin is hearing that they're going to bring that up. But I do agree that this is a prime opportunity for him to raise the Russian meddling in our elections. And it's more than just that, Kate.

You know, it can't just be, hey, I'm bringing it up as a sort of circumstance or a consequence. He has to actually have a point here and a warning to the Russians about not doing this going forward.

BOLDUAN: Does Bossert have some kind of an argument, though, John, that in the first face-to-face that it's not the time to bring up the Russian hacking?

KIRBY: No, he's completely wrong. This is the time. This is the prime opportunity for the president of the United States to look Putin in the eye and say, look, our intelligence agencies know what you did. We're still investigating it. We're not going to tolerate this going forward. This is the chance. There's no better opportunity than that first meeting between the two men.

BOLDUAN: Asha, one thing that everyone is waiting for is if we do get a glimpse of it, the body language between these two men. I mean, everyone remembers the stone cold greeting between Obama and Putin back in 2013.

There are multiple examples of it between those two men over the years. I mean, what does this personal interaction between these two men? What does it mean for the entire relationship going forward?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, body language aside, I think that John and Sahil are right that it matters much more what is said. Now there needs to be a strong message that the meddling in our election was unacceptable because otherwise the Russians will be emboldened and believe that there's no consequences going forward.

You know, it's interesting that the president has downplayed the Russian meddling but is moving full steam ahead with this voter fraud allegation which is baseless and asking for all of this information from the states.

There's a national security issue here because there are reports that Russia may have gone at the state level to interfere in potential voting, whether they were successful or not is not clear, but if -- the fact that this information is dispersed among the states protects that information.

If it's centralized with the Voting Commission, that's just open season for future attempts by Russia to get that information for their other attempts to meddle. So I think there needs to be a strong direct message, not just body language in this meeting.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about a different kind of body language, like the body slamming kind of body language. Asha, I'll start with you. It was some kind of transition, just go with me, folks.

President Trump and his social -- and the video that he posted over the weekend, of course, hitting CNN and hitting the media in general over the weekend. But President Trump's homeland security advisor again, Thomas Bossert, he was asked about kind of this beating up CNN video right when it came out.

[11:10:08]When he was asked about it, he said that he would not perceive it as a threat. He would hope no one would perceive it as a threat and said I hope they don't. Do you see it as a threat, Asha?

RANGAPPA: I think that it is in direct contradiction to what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week that he doesn't depict or promote violence in any way. Whether or not it's a threat.

We know from this attack on our Congressmen in the baseball field that whatever is intended, there are people out there who will -- unhinged, irrational who take these messages, internalize them and may act on them.

Of all people the president of the United States should understand that, particularly in wake of that tragedy and be much more responsible on what he puts out on a social media platform to 30 million viewers.

BOLDUAN: As a former spokesman to both the State Department and the Pentagon, John, when you saw that, you thought what?

KIRBY: I was -- I was stunned. I was aghast that this was coming from the president of the United States. Let me make two points. One, I've been at CNN now for a couple of months and I've always worked on the other side of the journalist notebook, being a spokesman.

To come here and to see the rigor and the ethics and the professionalism that CNN applies to its reporting, not that I was surprised by that, but it certainly has been brought home clear to me every single day that I come to work and I'm proud to be a part of this team.

And it just stuns me that he is able to make these wild accusations about the professionalism here. Number two, I moderated a panel at Georgetown a few months ago right after the election. Four young journalists, all in their early 20s.

Some were freelancers, some work for a major daily newspaper here in the nation's capital, all of them said in the wake of the president's election, all of them had received threats. Whether it was electronically or over the phone, all of them.

I mean, this cannot be tolerated. I mean, whether he was joking or not, he's sending a message that this kind of violence is OK and that the media are an OK target for violence. It's just unacceptable.

BOLDUAN: If you just look at the politics of the moment, Sahil, in your area of expertise, be it a threat or not, we do know one thing, that Republicans in Congress are losing patience with juvenile Twitter attacks that the president has been lobbying over -- well, since he was elected and before, but especially since he's been president.

Health care -- what the president did over the weekend, it has nothing to do with the key issue of health care. But do you see it impacting the debate over health care?

KAPUR: Kate, it's certainly evoking violence if not explicitly calling for violence. The president's advisers and his allies can dismiss this as a joke but presidents generally don't -- you know, have a higher standard of behavior than this sort of thing.

One thing that I think is really important that a new poll shows is that this rhetoric has an impact, it matters, 42 percent of Republicans now say that the United States has gone too far in expanding the right of a free press. That is an absolutely stunning statistic.

That's according to a new NPR/Marist poll that's out. It goes to show that, you know, people do follow their political leaders and the stuff has a real impact.

Now, with regard to health care, it's a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, Republicans do prefer that to be the focus. They do prefer the president to be driving that message and not get distracted on this sort of things.

But the health care debate, Kate, has been mostly playing out behind closed doors. The crafting of this bill has been very secretive and it's not a popular bill. It's polling anywhere between 12 percent and 18 percent in the polls that have come out in recent weeks.

So on some level I think Senate Republicans may be happy that it's not at the top of the agenda while they're trying to cobble together the votes, twist arms behind closed doors and get it done. It's a complicated thing but nobody is condoning this sort of thing. BOLDUAN: Getting some of those arms twisted, some of those senators who are on the cusp, who are nos and who they are trying to make into yeses, though, they have been far from impressed or pleased with what they have been seeing from the president.

So you wonder if he's been burning through more political capital as he tweets these things out for his agenda when he wants to get things done over in Congress. Thank you all very much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, it's a long holiday weekend, of course, a time when millions are headed to the beach and state parks. But in New Jersey, that's not happening. But don't tell that to the governor, who ordered those beaches closed. Why these photos have caused a huge uproar over a budget battle now.

Plus, how does this sound for we're making progress. The top Republican in the Senate comparing the current state of health care negotiations to working with a Rubik's cube.



BOLDUAN: Right now, New Jersey lawmakers are meeting in an emergency session. Why? Well, the government shutdown over a budget standoff. The shutdown has Governor Chris Christie and his beach vacation, though, now in the spotlight. We are going to get to those images in just one second.

But first, what is happening in New Jersey? Let's get there. Let me bring in right now joining me with the details, CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval. So Polo, where do things stand at the moment?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, at this point, this is now day three, Kate, of this partial shutdown of the New Jersey state government. And so all non-essential agencies and properties have been closed, including Liberty State Park, which on any weekend is usually extremely busy and especially on the Fourth of July Monday.

Which as you can see here cars are ling up trying to make their way onto what is really a large, beautiful park with a beautiful view of Lady Liberty but instead state park police turning people around.

That is fueling frustrations and especially after that image that was released showing the state's chief executive on that beach. Of course, we have heard from state officials here that are saying that there is more to that picture.

That the beach that Governor Christie and his family were on is actually attached to the governor's private residence. So it wasn't necessarily on that public beach. But you talk to some people here and they are not just going to accept that.

They are quite frustrated that they are not able to make their way on to public beaches or public parks what you was what's happening in Trenton, New Jersey. What will happen next?

There is that session that is currently happening among lawmakers. They are debating this budget battle to try to figure out a way but the last time this happened, Kate, was 2006. It took them about eight days before they found a solution.

[11:20:09]BOLDUAN: Eight days. That seems to go right past the Fourth of July holiday if my calendar math is correct. Great to see you, Polo. Let's see what they come up with today.

Let's go to those photos, while his constituents were being turned away from state parks and beaches, Governor Chris Christie and his family were spotted on one of those state beaches all by themselves. My next guest asked Governor Christie about his trip to the beach over the weekend. Watch his response.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No, I didn't, Claude, but go ahead. I didn't get any sun today. No. No. There's no one. There are no lifeguards, there's no one to pick up the garbage. There's no one providing any services at Island Beach State Park. Next. Next. Excuse me, next. Next. I'm done. We're talking about the closure of government and you're talking about your TMZ stuff.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now is the reporter who was questioning, asking questions, speaking right there for Governor Christie. Claude Brodesser-Akner, the New Jersey Statehouse reporter for the "Star Ledger." Also with us, CNN political reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza.

All right, Claude, great to see you. Quite a weekend you've had. The governor was asked again this morning about the photos that you've all took. Here was his take today.


CHRISTIE (via telephone): This is where we live, one of the places we live, and so what a great bit of journalism by the "Star Ledger." They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with, his wife and his children and their friends.

So it's really a bit of -- I'm sure they're going to get a Pulitzer for this one because they proved they caught me doing what I said I was going to do with the people I said I was going to be with.


BOLDUAN: So, Claude, why did you guys decide to take the plane out and what did you think when you saw the governor there on the beach?

CLAUDE BRODESSER-AKNER, STATEHOUSE REPORTER, "THE STAR LEDGER" AND NJ.COM: Well, we decided to take the plane out because it's a state of 9 million people and government is shut down. The state beaches, like Island Beach State Park, which is where the governor spent some time with his family over the weekend, are closed to the public.

And it's a pretty stark contrast if you look at the photos of the rest of the beaches in the state, which are many of them municipal beaches and unaffected by the closure, they're packed in there like sardines. People are slithering their well-oiled haunches to get a spot.

Meanwhile on Island Beach State Park, you have this pristine miles of beach and just a handful of people. So when I saw the photos, it was shortly after I asked the governor about -- when I first went to the press conference, he was looking exceptionally red.

So I began just by saying you look like you got some sun, Governor. And he answered as he did, as you just saw in the video, which was puzzling to me because he looked like not quite like he was having an ischemic attack, but he looked sunburned.

When I got back -- the reason I asked the question was we have gotten a tip from a source that it was possible that some lifeguards had been exempted from the executive order closing the beaches just for Christie's family. And that's why his answer was puzzling to me.

We were curious to know if there were lifeguards and if they were able to swim. And he came out and said what he said was at variance of what most native English speakers would consider to be the truth.

BOLDUAN: Chris Cilizza, you need to use that line later on.


BOLDUAN: Claude, real quick for you, though, the governor is not impressed with you one bit. The reaction from his spokesman is pretty priceless and I want to make sure that we get that in. When you asked him about getting the sun, they followed up and said, no, he did not get any sun, he had a baseball hat on when you presented them with the facts.

BRODESSER-AKNER: Yes. And I think that's the reason people are having the reaction they are to this. It's not just the image of these pristine beaches empty except for a select group of the governor's family while everyone else is excluded because of the shutdown.

It's that were this any other politician, I think people might have gone, politicians sometimes say these things. But this is Chris Christie who prides himself on being blunt and quite honestly defined his presidential bid in 2016 as telling it like it is.

This seems like, you know, if you'll recall the Clintonism, it all depends on what the meaning of the word is, is, this is the question of what the word "sun" is. It begs belief from a syntax standpoint.

BOLDUAN: Chris, what is going on? Let me add this to the mix. The current lieutenant governor of New Jersey, who is running for governor, just posted this on Facebook. If I were governor, I sure wouldn't be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn't have access to state beaches. It's beyond words is what he wrote.

[11:25:07]CILIZZA: Yes, that sound you heard was Kim (inaudible) pushing Chris Christie directly under the bus in that statement. Look, he is if not the least popular governor in the country, he's right up there.

Quinnipiac did a poll in the middle of June that had him at 15 percent approval, which they noted was the lowest approval for any politician they had ever tested in any state.

The only one I can think of who had a lower approval rating than Chris Christie is Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, who is currently incarcerated.

So Christie, as Claude pointed out, Christie built his whole brand on I'm going to tell it to you how it is. I'm going to flout conventional wisdom. I'm a straight talker. Some of that is why he appealed in some ways to Donald Trump.

This is the opposite of that. His spokesman's quote about, well, he didn't get any sun, he had his baseball hat on, is -- I wrote this this morning. An immediate fast tracked entry into the spin hall of fame.

I mean, come on. That's absolutely ridiculous. The thing with Christie is when you're at 15 percent, I'm not sure how much lower you can go. He's term limited out of office.

BOLDUAN: Was that it, he just doesn't care?

CILIZZA: I defer to claude on this because he covers him more closely but Chris Christie's political future in New Jersey was over prior to this incident. He's deeply unpopular. His one track anywhere I think is to come to Washington in some sort of second wave of Trump administration hiring and this doesn't hurt him in any way, shape or form with that.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's the interesting twist in all this. Claude, great to have you on. Thanks so much for bringing that reporting and bringing those photos. Chris, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.

Coming up for us, raising taxes on the rich. It sounds like a plan that Democrats would propose or have several times. So why is one of the president's top advisers reportedly backing that, suggesting that, quietly pushing that plan, according to some to make the wealthiest pay for tax reform? That's ahead.

Plus President Trump calls his Twitter use modern day presidential. His advisers say there is nothing threatening about it. Americans say we need more civility in Washington. Add it all up, we'll try to figure it out. We'll be right back.