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Trump-Putin Meeting Ends, Lasted 2-Plus Hours; Trump, Putin Meet Face-to-Face At G20 Summit; McConnell Floats ObamaCare Fix If All Else Fails; Trump Meets With Mexican President At G20. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired July 7, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- President Trump just shy of six months on the job. Russia orchestrating what the intelligence community says was unprecedented cyber and other interference in the 2016 U.S. election, but President Trump -- let's talk about it. There's a special council investigation that includes questions of whether Trump associates colluded with the Kremlin during the campaign. And now questions of whether the president in his firing of FBI Director James Comey and other steps tried to obstruct or at least influence that investigation?
Congress is pushing additional sanctions on Russia. Yes, it's a long list. Then, there's the long list of traditional flash points. Like Russian aggression in Ukraine, in Georgia, and its support for Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime in Syria. Plus this, along list of statements by candidate Trump that ignored the facts and the times parroted Kremlin talking points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's not going into Ukraine, just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine. You can mark it down, you can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's already there, isn't he?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The history is what makes this never mind the present-day issues and the windshield issues looking forward. But stuff in the rearview mirror is what makes this so fascinating. And that during the campaign, Donald Trump was either grossly misinformed -- the meeting has ended, we are told. Though I should say that on the record they went more than two hours. We've done exact clock for you.
Just told the meeting has finally ended and we're waiting to find out more about the substance of what happened. It's this history that makes it so fascinating. During the campaign either Donald Trump -- well, you hear there, he won't go into Ukraine when he's already in Ukraine.
So he's either uninterested, not paying attention to the facts, or deliberately not wanting to talk about it. And we really don't know the answer to that question.
CARL HULSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that's the great mystery of the Trump administration. What is it with Russia? And why does he take this approach? And, you know, none of us have been really able to decipher it.
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Another important tidbit there is, what are the campaign talking points that he pushed some of his surrogates, or the idea that Obama and Hillary Clinton started ISIS? Remember I'm saying that in the last two months. That's a line that find its origin in actual Russian state media. That's where it came from. It was a Russian propaganda line that found its way to Trump's campaign rallies.
KING: And to the point, just yesterday, the president said one of the reasons he doesn't believe or necessarily fully believe the Russian election meddling intelligence, just because well, they got Iraq wrong. That is what the Russians have said from the beginning.
Now the president has every right to be skeptical about intelligence and any American has the right to remember the Iraq war intelligence. So on the one hand, you could say, OK, the president, I get that. On the other hand, it is exactly what the Kremlin says when you question them on this.
This is what Tony Blinken who worked in the Obama administration, worked on other Democratic administrations before that, the Clinton administration, former deputy national security adviser. This is what he says about being in the room with Putin. "It got to the point where he would be claiming there were no Russians in Ukraine. And Obama would say to him, Vladimir, we can see things. We have eyes. We know it's not true. He would just move on."
I mean, look, that's the challenge in these meetings. It happens in every bilateral relationship. I'm sure there were things the Russians or the Chinese or the Mexicans or any ask the American president that he doesn't want to talk about.
But in this particular case when it comes to Putin, because of the things Trump said during the campaign, because of the favorable friendly, open-minded generous things he said about Putin, the question is, what will he say now about Ukraine, about Syria, and about the election?
MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And it puts the Republican Party at large in a really difficult place, right? Because the Republican Party used to be the party that wanted to be more aggressive in its posture vis-a-vis Russia, right? Think back to Mitt Romney saying during the presidential campaign in 2012 that Russia was the sort of big geopolitical foe. And so you have, you know, folks like John McCain and others who are willing to be much more aggressive with sanctions and to confront Russia on its aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere. And then you have this president, and nobody's quite sure, to your point, where he is and how much he is willing to, you know, sort of stand with the other Republicans in his party and stand up to them. KING: We know Trump has an infinity for nationalism. And in that sense you can look at how Putin talked so proudly about Russia and say, I want to do that for my country. But there's a line when you look at Russian behavior, just for those of you keeping score at home. We're told the meeting ran two hours and 16 minutes. It could be amended after the fact. We'll find out.
But two hours and 16 minutes. We're waiting to get a readout on the substance. Again, one of the reason this is so fascinating is that just yesterday, the president said I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries. When his own intelligence communities -- remember, his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, his CIA Director Mike Pompeo, told the Senate Intelligence Community they had no doubt.
Those are Trump appointees, they said they had no doubt it was Russia. The president said, I think it was Russia, it could be other countries. Listen to James Clapper who's the former director of national intelligence, who wrote the report, the assessment that Russia meddled and that Russia's intent in meddling was to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Was it other countries?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:35:08] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Essentially no doubt about it. In high confidence levels, the multiple sources of information we had and its high fidelity still lead me very convinced of the voracity of that report. As far as others doing this, boy, that's news to me. We saw no evidence whatsoever there was anyone involved in this other than the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Help me. I mean, the president of the United States on foreign soil undermining his own intelligence agencies and questioning their conclusions?
JACKIE CALMES, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well -- and he's been the commander-in-chief now for almost six months. Commander-in-chief in which the intelligence community is a major part of his national security purview. And it's one thing for him to have said these things when he was a candidate. Another thing now, he's getting briefed nearly every day, I think by these people. Does he not believe them?
And when he's on foreign soil criticizes them for the Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and getting that wrong. It wasn't so much that the intelligence community got that wrong in the first place. It was used by people in power at the top in a way that was wrong. It turned out to be wrong.
SHEAR: And just a quick thing. You know who knows the truth about the Russian meddling? Vladimir Putin knows the truth one way or the other, right? So it's not as if Donald Trump is going into a meeting with a third party who doesn't -- so -- there's a real imbalance that, you know, they're sitting there in this meeting for two and a half hours, and whatever Donald Trump is saying about meddling.
KING: And to your point, even Putin has backed off his complete and total denial to in recent weeks saying, it might have been Russian patriots who are doing that, the government had nothing to do with it. That might been some patriots doing that (INAUDIBLE). The president woke up this morning again as part of this whole Russian saga. W e believe one of the reasons he won't talk about the meddling is because he believes it somehow delegitimizes his victory.
He's the president, almost six months now. There's no evidence any votes were doctored. He's the president. He's legitimately elected president of the United States.
But this morning he tweets from the G20, "Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful." I'd like to know who, who at the G20, the world's largest economic --
HULSE: Hard to believe that John Podesta's name was on the tip of everyone's tongue there, you know.
KING: Let's talk about North Korea. No, I want to talk about John Podesta.
HULSE: It's just another indicator of, you know, the fact that he was probably never going to press this too hard in this meeting. I mean, that everyone here looks at that, just --
KING: But what's the goal here? This president is different. And sometimes we jump on him for tweets that are reckless. Sometimes we jump in for tweets that are sexist.
I'm trying to game out what is this one about? What ball is he trying to move down the field with whom by bringing up John Podesta on the morning of his meeting with Vladimir Putin?
WOODRUFF: I think it can be perilous to try to over think the political strategy behind some of these Trump tweet.
KING: My mistake.
WOODRUFF: My guess is that Trump's tweets aren't being checked out before he sends them. Which we've seen over the last few weeks, we've seen him been more active on social media in a way that differs from a lull he had for a while there. And this is out of the piece with the way that he's behaved at the G20.
(INAUDIBLE) in front of the press, talking about making Mexico pay for the wall. This is very much Trump in unleashed mode. I'm confident that's an attitude that came through when he met with Putin.
KING: Some of that difference is charming. Some of that difference is worth discussion. Some of that differences, you know, let's watch. It's interesting to see a new American president on the world stage.
Barack Obama was different than George W. Bush. George W. Bush was different than Bill Clinton. George H.W. Bus was even different than Ronald Reagan. It's actually fascinating to watch the changes and how the world reacts.
This one is a bit of a mind-number to me but John Podesta is on a road trip with his wife. We find out this how? On Twitter because he decides to respond to the president.
Again, we're hoping to found out what was actually discussed in the meeting. But the president tweets this morning about John Podesta and John Podesta says, "I'm on a cross country trip with my wife. Pulled in for a pit stop in East Fairmont, West Virginia", (INAUDIBLE), "to see that our whack job POTUS, that's president of the United States, that's from John Podesta, is tweeting about me at the G20. Get a grip man, the Russians committed a crime when they stole my e-mails to help get you elected President."
Maybe you might try to find a way to mention that to President Putin. By the way, I had nothing to do with the DNC. Dude, get your head in the game. You're representing the United States at the G20."
SHEAR: It's maybe the first time John Podesta's ever used the word "dude."
CALMES: That's right.
KING: It was his evil twin, "zip it".
HULSE: It's a major topic of conversation except (INAUDIBLE).
KING: But this is, again --
SHEAR: Speaking of the base, right? I don't know -- I mean, I agree, I don't know if there's any grand strategy but to the extent, when Donald Trump uses Twitter, he's speaking to a different audience, right? It's not really meant to be, you know, conveyed to the leaders of the G20.
[12:40:04] CALMES: Speaking to the base, an hour or so before he's about to go into this high stakes meeting with Putin and Sergey Lavrov, two of the sharpest operators on the globe and imagine you're the two of them and you're getting ready to meet with Trump. And you see that he's tweeted this and think, well, he's clearly not boning up for our meeting. He's got other things on his mind and you're thinking, you're just empowered.
It's just -- you know, we can roll our eyes, we can even laugh, but it is -- there are serious consequences reflected in that.
KING: You don't think that's a master deception spy move there?
CALMES: I can't be a devil's advocate on this one for you, John.
KING: All right, sit tight. Again, we're still waiting to get the details. More than two hours, the Trump-Putin meeting, we're waiting for the details. If we get them we'll bring them to you immediately. If not, while the president is overseas, some very big developments back home as Republicans try to sell a health care compromise.
KING: Welcome back. A reminder, we're still waiting to get some details from the Trump White House on the meeting, two hours and 16 minutes with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, that at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Both leaders are due at a reception this evening. As soon as we get more information on what was discussed at that meeting, a personal relationship developed or not, we'll bring that to you right here. Stay with CNN.
[12:45:02] Now back on the home front, though I call this both a candid assessment and a warning shot. Back home in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says if his fellow Republicans cannot come to agreement on ObamaCare replacement plan, then they're going to have to go to work on ObamaCare fixes. Step back and think about that for a second.
After seven years of promising repeal, asking Republicans to fix ObamaCare is the ideological equivalent of asking them to raise taxes. Well, here it is from Leader McConnell, quote, if my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur. No action is not an alternative. We've got insurance markets imploding all over the country including in this state.
We say wow about a lot of things, that might not deserve wows but if you're a Republican leader, have lived the last seven years of your life saying we are going to repeal ObamaCare, that's a wow. Correct?
CALMES: Right. But what we know, for the last seven years when they were saying repeal ObamaCare, for probably a majority of both the House and Senate Republican conferences. That was a slogan and they never seriously thought it should be repealed. Fixed, yes. But even Democrats and President Obama thought it should be fixed.
And now, you know, the people who knew unlike I guess Donald Trump at the time, how hard it was to deal with health care knew that there were a lot of things about ObamaCare that people liked and may not even know that they owed it to ObamaCare. And so once you try to repeal that, it was going to open up a can of worms.
KING: And whether you like or dislike Mitch McConnell, now the Senate majority leader, formerly the Senate Republican minority leader, he's a governing conservative. He believes he actually have a responsibility. My job as Senate majority leader as health care collapsing in the country, I can't say, the Democrats passed this, ha, ha.
But you have to step in and do something about it. So he fires that warning shot essentially compromise, cut a deal, do it quickly or else I'm coming to the table with fixes of ObamaCare. The Heritage Foundation fires back. Welcome to the Republican civil war.
"If the Republican Party wants to work with Democrats to bail out ObamaCare, the results will be catastrophic for the party. For seven years it has pledged it is the party of repeal and now it is time to work toward that goal."
WOODRUFF: And Heritage has a valid point here implicit in what the majority leader has said, is it ObamaCare is fixable or at the very least, improbable. Democrats are going to seize on that and say, why do you all insist on repealing this legislation when we're here at the table ready to try to make these easy fixes? And there's a lot they could do that wouldn't necessarily mean putting ObamaCare in place for forever.
For instance, guaranteed payments of cost sharing reductions, right? The Trump administration has suggested that it won't help states, won't help the individual markets, make these payments. Congress could say no, you have to. That would help the individual (INAUDIBLE).
KING: But McConnell -- we all give him -- maybe we give him too much credit as the Harry Houdini. Everyone says in Washington, if anyone can pull it off, it's Mitch McConnell. And he's certainly was good at blocking the Obama administration agenda of not letting a Supreme Court nominee go through. We don't know with a Republican president, McConnell has been the majority leader with a Republican president, what's he trying to do here?
HULSE: Well, I think, you know, Mitch McConnell knew that his best chance to do this was do it quickly before the Fourth of July. And guess what? He was right.
Everyone's gone home, they're hearing from constituents. You know, people who are usually share thing Republican votes were saying, you know, we can't go for this. I think what Senator McConnell was saying there yesterday was, you know, it's doing two things. One, preparing for a defeat. Two, saying, if we don't do this, we're going to have to go back and work with the Democrats.
Well, guess what? There's a lot of Republicans who are against that bill, who want that to happen in the Senate. There are Republicans who say, we can make some easy fixes here, let's get this going. So, you know, I agree that is been Houdini in the past. I have a piece coming out about that, but, you know, this is a different set of circumstances. Health care is intensely personal for people, and I think he's in real trouble right now.
SHEAR: And I guess the question Carl is that, you would know better than any of us but is there a real danger of these guys being primaried? If they really go down the path that McConnell suggest, we got a year and a half before the midterms. You know, can you see a lot of these hard-core Republicans, you know --
HULSE: Well, part of the real problem with that, too, is the new call is, well, let's just repeal the bill and we'll go back later. Well, you can't do that without Democrat votes.
KING: And to that point, McConnell also in firing that number one warning shot, cut a deal soon or we bring fixes to the table. He also said while home in Kentucky, I think repealing and delaying the replacement doesn't work. So that is a, sorry Mr. President, sorry Senator Paul, sorry Senator Sasse, that's a fire back at the conservatives and the president of the United States. So McConnell is frustrated.
You mentioned you wanted to do this quickly. And the president opened the door to talk to these conservatives, McConnell ain't happy. Let's leave it at that.
Take a quick break here. Now we can tell you, there is going to be a briefing with senior administration officials on the Trump-Putin meeting. We expect that shortly.
When we come back, another colorful interesting moment from the president's day on the world stage.
[12:52:50] KING: Welcome back. We remind you, we're waiting for a briefing from senior Trump administration officials on the recently ended meeting between the president of the United States and president Vladimir Putin of Russia. That would be in Hamburg, Germany. We will bring you those details as soon as we have can.
Diplomacy is a funny business. Sometimes it is about what is said, often, what isn't said is the big news or how something is said. Take today's face-to-face between President Trump and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico. The small talk was brief and upbeat about working together. To renegotiate, for example, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and work together on border issues especially organized crime. And then, this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT: Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump, do you still want Mexico to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: Yes, absolutely. Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Notice the president looked towards his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, not for the president of Mexico when he said absolutely. Almost under his breath that he still wanted Mexico to pay for the wall. The Mexican foreign minister by the way tells us in the actual meeting, that reporters allowed since the beginning of the meeting, in the actual meeting, the foreign minister of Mexico says the wall never came up.
But when you're watching -- again, this is the president's second overseas trip. It's his first big international summit meeting. I guess the NATO summit being his -- G20, big meeting. You're watching to everything from the president, what did we learn from that? WOODRUFF: Pena Nieto is on uncomfortable position for starter. He has taken a tone of heat in his country for not being tough enough to Trump. The fact that Trump is now sort of talking smack, take his own secretary of state is not a great moment. That said, I don't know if this is necessarily shocking but it didn't come up in the meeting. I don't know what they would say, right?
(INAUDIBLE) to reiterate that he wants Mexico to pay for the wall. At the end of the day, the wall construction is going to have get a pay form from Congress.
KING: Well, that's the solar panels (INAUDIBLE).
SHEAR: The other thing is -- remember --
WOODRUFF: Mexican sun.
SHEAR: Remember, a visit between these two, a formal visit was already canceled once. And I think the United States and the White House and the diplomats here are eager to try to get that back on track. And the last thing that's going to get that back on track is a confrontation about the wall at the G20.
And so I mean, I think they were eager to try to do that.
[12:55:03] KING: And a potential big plus for the U.S. economy. I know the president said he's going to rip NAFTA up. But if that drama leads to a re-negotiation between the two countries, that could benefit all three countries?
HUSLE: It's another example though of the president playing to its base at this international forum, and, you know, this happened before. He went down to Mexico for the meeting and didn't bring it up in the actual meeting. So in some ways, that hurts his credibility.
CALMES: He had a rally that really did play to the base.
KING: Let's look at some of the pictures earlier. There's a big semicircle of leaders sitting around and you see a lot of people say, is it America alone at the G20. See the president, there's Angela Merkel and Theresa May flanking the president of the United States. The president saying absolutely nothing.
On the far end of the room, here you're going to see President Putin engaged in a lively conversation. In part, we don't know what's going on the room here, in part that President Trump is new at this. Most of these leaders have been on the job for a while and know each other quite well. As you walk through this, we have other pictures later of the president talking casually, having fun here with Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France and Angela Merkel, who's the senior leader here.
Just fun and interesting to watch a new president going through transitions. WOODRUFF: It's like the OSCARS of geopolitics. See all the famous people talking to each other.
CALMES: I wish I could lip read.
KING: You wish you -- you can't?
CALMES: You can?
KING: You can't? I can't answer that question, not on live television.
All right. Again, we're waiting for a big readout from senior administration officials on the Trump-Putin meeting. Stay with us for the next hour.
Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. I'll see you Sunday morning, back here on Monday. Jim Sciutto in, after a quick break.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto in for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1 p.m. here in --