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Three Administration Officials Decline Opportunity to Correct the Record After Trump-Putin Meeting; U.S. Intelligence Say an Increase in Suspected Russian Spies Entering the U.S.; Both Democrats and Republicans Urged the President to Confront Russia Over Election Meddling; Divisive Election is Still Dividing Americans; Closed Door Briefings on Elections Cybersecurity in Indianapolis. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 8, 2017 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:11] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us.

We begin with some breaking news on the he said/he said following President Trump's historic meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. We are now hearing from some of the President's top White House advisors right now aboard Air Force One flying home with Trump after his trip to the G-20 Summit in Germany.

Two of them were asked three times if they could dispute Putin's claim that Trump agreed that Moscow did not interfere in the U.S. election. And those advisors deflected the question. Meanwhile, President Trump has not held a press conference to share his own version of the meeting, something Putin and many other world leaders present at the summit did hours ago.

I want to bring in White House correspondent Athena Jones.

And Athena, the G-20, it all started in 2008. There has been a Presidential news conference at every one since then. Before that it was the G-8. And President Bush held news conferences there as well. Do we know why President Trump didn't?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear, Ana, why he decided not to, but it is an interesting point you bring up. This is very unusual. It is customary to have a U.S. President, along with other leaders who attend these summits, hold a press conference at the end to sum up what he feels he feels he accomplished in his discussions with various leaders and to take questions from the media who have been traveling with him. President Trump did not do that.

And for that reason, there hasn't been an opportunity to speak to him directly about what he discussed with Vladimir Putin. That's why we are relying on senior administration officials who have -- are proving still to be very, very reluctant to speak on behalf of the President.

At issue here is the competing contradictory read-outs of that two- hour plus long meeting President Trump had with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Both sides agree that President Trump brought up the issue of Russian meddling in last year's election. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the two had a lengthy and robust exchange about it.

But here is where they differ. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Putin himself both said that they believe President Trump took Putin at his word. Putin denied any Russian meddling in last year's elections. Both Lavrov and Putin said that they believe Trump took that denial to heart.

Now, a senior administration official told my colleague Jim Acosta last night that that is not how it went down. But given multiple opportunities to correct the record, the senior administration officials briefing reporters aboard Air Force One on the way home skipped that opportunity. Take a listen to an exchange with the treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another country making a statement about the President of the United States. Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't have comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that. But President Trump handled himself brilliantly. It was very clear he made his position felt. And after very substantive dialogue on this, they agreed to move on to other discussions.

And I think it is very clear that they have opened a dialogue. That it's important to have a dialogue. As we said, they focused on a ceasefire on Syria, focused on making sure that we have a cyber-unit to make sure that Russia and nobody else interferes in any democratic elections and we focused on the issue of North Korea which is a major concern to us and all our other allies.


JONES: So there you hear the treasury secretary dodging that question. You also hear him saying that President Trump will be happy to make a statement about this himself. He didn't do so before leaving the G-20.

And just one more point I will make, Ana. And that is at the last time we heard President Trump address this issue of Russian meddling was on Thursday, the day before he met with President Putin and he said a bunch of things. He said he thinks Russia did it. But it could have been other countries, other people. It could have been Russia. It could have been others. That is not the definitive statement, the kind of statement a lot of folks want to hear him make -- Ana.

CABRERA: Athena Jones at the White House for us. Thank you.

Now, the Russian President is revealing new details about his views of President Trump in the wake of Friday's meeting in Germany. Putin had this to say when asked how Trump handled the election meddling issue during their two-hour long discussion.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The U.S. President raised this question and we discussed it. It wasn't just one question. There were a lot of them. He devoted a lot of time to this issue. Our position is well known and I repeated it. There is no basis for thinking Russia interfered in the election process. What's important is that we agreed that the uncertainty on these matters cannot exist, especially in the future.


CABRERA: Senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance has interviewed Vladimir Putin twice. He has reaction from inside Russia to this highly anticipated meeting between Trump and Putin -- Matthew.

[19:05:10] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the Russian leader himself has been heaping praise on President Trump after their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. Expectations here in Russia have been extremely low that anything substantial can be achieved given the poor state of relations between the two countries and the swirling allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. Presidential election.

But as we know the meeting became far more than a formal exchange of pleasantries with Presidents Trump and Putin covering a range of difficult issues at the heart of the fractured relationship. But speaking to journalists at the close of the G-20, Putin spoke of his impressions of President Trump. Take a listen.


PUTIN (through translator): TV Trump is very different from the real person. He is absolutely specific, absolutely adequate in his perception of the dialogue partner. He analyzes things quickly. Replies to the raised questions on (INAUDIBLE). So I think if our future relations will unfold the same way as our meeting yesterday, there is every reason to believe that we can restore, at least partially, the level of cooperation we need.


CHANCE: Well, in that same news conference, Putin was asked repeatedly about the exchanges with Trump on the allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The Russian leader said once again that Trump asked him lots of questions on the topic and that he tried to answer those questions as best he could, underling that Russia was not involved. I think he took it into consideration and agreed with it, Putin said, adding but you should really ask him what his opinion is -- Ana.

CABRERA: Matthew Chance, thank you for reporting there from Moscow for us.

Let's talk with our panel. Joining us CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "Politico" Tara Palmeri. Also CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for the "Atlantic" Ron Brownstein. CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz and CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

So Elise, the bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin was very small, just four people. Compare that to the one Trump just had today with China's President Xi, which you see on the right hand side of the screen. These two pictures show you the difference in size of their meeting. Does the fact that only the President and his secretary of state Rex Tillerson were there at that meeting with the Russians hurt the White House's ability to control the narrative?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it does. And I think they wanted it to be very small for that specific reason so that they were just going to have their narrative and that's it. You have seen how many leaks there have been about his conversations with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador Kislyak. When they met several months ago there were several leaks of that conversation. This was a very small, tightly controlled conversation. And I think they liked it that way.

CABRERA: Ron, can you see a possible strategy in the White House choosing not to deny Putin's claims?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, really. I mean, I think, you know, in some ways the distinction between the versions of events, I think, is smaller than is portrayed because even undersecretary of states Tillerson's version of events, in essence, what he is saying is they agreed to disagree. So you have on the one hand the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russian did in fact repeatedly meddle in the 2016 Presidential election and then you have an autocrat who lies about murdering his own political opponents saying he didn't. And we are essentially saying, OK, we are at an impasse here. When in fact, you know, when we face situations like this in the past, the fact that a foreign country is denying something that it has done, has not prevented us for acting. For example, imposing sanctions on Iran.

And I think the key question going forward and even if you agree with the argument from President Trump and secretary Tillerson that the key issue is what happens next, the best way to influence what Russia does in the future is to impose consequences for what they have done in the past and it is still a very open question whether President Trump is really willing to do that.

CABRERA: Tara, Lavrov and Putin have dozens of years of diplomatic experience combined. Meantime, President Trump and secretary of state Tillerson have had really zero before taking office. Do you think that lack of experience is coming into play here?

TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You saw exactly what the Russians do best. They are able to get ahead of the story, put out their angle and frame the message in a way that leaves the opponent, often the Americans, catching up, which is why there is usually so much preparation before a meeting like this. And national security advisor, general H.R. McMasters said that Trump was going to see how he feels and talk about what he wanted to and there is not a set agenda.

You can't do this with the Russians. Putin is a former KGB officer. He knows exactly what he wants. He has an agenda and he knows what he wants to get out of these meetings. I found his comments about Trump being different in person than on TV to be a bit of a backhanded compliment - you know, backhanded compliment against Trump and sort of the way of Putin elevating himself above the U.S. President who essentially said, you know, you meddled with our elections but we are going to move past that. We are moving on. And you know, you are not even going to get a slap on the wrist.

[19:10:29] CABRERA: Shimon, you have contact in the justice department in the Intel community. Is there a sense after that meeting that President Trump trusts Russia more than them?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, I think we are going to keep going here. I don't think this argument, this conversation is going to stop any time soon. You know, the FBI is still in the middle of this investigation, still trying to figure out whether there was collusion, whether there was any kind of coordination. So I think this argument and this conversation is going to continue.

And quite frankly, you know, the FBI, which is really leading the charge on this investigation, is going to keep doing it. And also, the intelligence communities are going to continue to provide whatever intelligence day learn to the White House, to the President to keep him informed. Whether or not he believes that Russia may have been behind meddling here or what their plans are for the future and what they continue to do. Because let's, you know, keep in mind, the FBI and intelligence community is still looking at different activity that the Russians are continuing to do in this country.

CABRERA: No doubt about it. And as you have been reporting the stepped up efforts of spying in the U.S. Let's talk more about that in a moment.

But Elise, I'm curious as we look back at the G-20 and this specific meeting between Putin and the President of the U.S., how are other world leaders viewing their meeting?

LABOTT: Well, I think you saw that President Trump found himself a bit isolated from all world leaders, really, at the G-20 on a whole host of issues, on trade, on the environment. But I do think that, you know, a lot of these countries specifically Germany, France, the United Kingdom are all worried about Russian meddling around the world in elections in Europe and elsewhere. They don't understand why, given the fact that the intelligence agencies have been so clear about that fact, why the President has refused to kind of acknowledge it because in effect he is denying that Vladimir Putin is doing this in Europe and that hurts them, too.

So I think that, you know, President Trump, this was a very tense meeting, not just on the Russia issue, on a whole host of issues. I don't think the President was necessarily very popular there to begin with. And neither was President Putin. You saw these pictures of Angela Merkel rolling her eyes at something

he was saying. You saw this kind of club of Germany, France, the prime minister of Canada altogether, these democracies kind of looking down a little bit upon President Trump and President Putin. But I do think that this is really -- this Russia issue has been a diversion for the Russian community and they want to move passed it while making sure there are efforts to make sure Russia does not continue to meddle in upcoming elections such as Germany, for instance.

CABRERA: We know Germany is concerned about it. We thought it happened in France with Macron prior to the victory there.

But, Ron, when you look at consequences for Russian meddling, I want to read a clip from a new op-ed in the conservative "Weekly Standard" entitles Trump caves to Putin. And here is just a portion of it. It says Trump and Putin, Tillerson announced, agreed to explore creating a frame work where the two countries could work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats. A frame work for understanding? Not consequences? Not sanctions? Not even the threat of retaliation from the United States? That's a quote from the op-ed.


CABRERA: Was it enough for President Trump to bring up election meddling or did he need to give Russia a reason not to do it again?

BROWNSTEIN: Very similar to what I said when I talked a minute ago. I think a very similar analysis to how I interpreted the meeting. There was less distance between these two different versions because ultimately they end up in the same place with the American President saying well, we agree to disagree and let's move on. And you know, in fact, let's have a joint commission to look at this, which is very far -- I think most experts would say that Putin responds most to power and to the U.S. standing up and, you know, that is what is missing here, this kind of sense of urgency that this was an attack on our national institutions.

And while it is admirable the President brought it up, what is missing is any consequences for Putin in the first place. And I think there is a broad sense in Europe that Putin, you know, is more part of the problem than the solution really in any direction that you look, that he has reasserted Russia as a global power precisely by making it into a rogue nation willing to violate international boundaries and norms. For example with his meddling in the elections. And ultimately the key is to constrain him and the way you do that is by imposing consequences.

[19:15:13] CABRERA: Shimon, talk to me about your new reporting that Russia steps up its spying since the election, that it is not feeling deterred.

PROKUPECZ: Well, it's not. And you know, U.S. officials we have talked here at CNN have all basically feel that if anything they feel embolden by sort of what, you know, we were just talking about, in that, you know, Russia does not feel threatened. They don't feel deterred. They are sort of not afraid to continue what they are doing. And in fact, you know, there is some feeling that they have ramped up some of their intelligence, some of their spying in trying to bring more spies to this country to continue in this activity, to build relationships to sort of get access to people who may have information, who may have classified information.

So they are continuing to do what they have been doing. And I think down the line, based on certainly some of the U.S. officials that I have been talking to, we are going to hear a lot more because this is nonstop. They want to continue to interfere in our government, in what we are doing here and to learn more about our institutions, whether it's through hacks, you know, intrusions, cyber intrusions or just coming here and really building relationships with key folks who have access to information.

CABRERA: I appreciate all of your thought tonight. Tara, I owe you a question next time. Thanks, everybody for joining us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Still ahead, a light in the darkness. Remarkable leads out of Mosul, Iraq as soldiers work to release the city from the grip of ISIS. We will take you there.

Plus, frustration with the feds. Dozens of secretaries of state gathering to break down cybersecurity issues from the 2016 election. What they are telling CNN about the lack of cooperation they got from Washington.


[19:21:04] CABRERA: We have two remarkable videos to show you out of Iraq both as celebration, a life and liberty in this war torn country. Take a look at this one.


CABRERA: You are seeing Iraqi federal police soldiers dancing in the streets of the old city of Mosul today, waving their weapons and the Iraqi flag to celebrate the completion of their mission. The soldiers played music. They fired celebratory gunfire. They are celebrating what they say is their imminent victory over ISIS in the takeover of Mosul.

Now, earlier today at least 30 civilians were rescued from three houses that ISIS blew up. These images are so incredible. Iraqi federal police pulling a number of families, including these young, young children from the rubble. ISIS was using these homes to hide and hold families that they were using as human shields.

One of the last things President Trump did before leaving Germany and the G-20 today, a closed door session with the President of China. Top of their agenda, North Korea and what to do about their missile tests and the rising aggression toward its Asian neighbors and the United States.

I want to bring back CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. Elise, the only official to make a statement on this meeting was the

treasury secretary. Steven Mnuchin, he said, this two reporters on Air Force One. I quote "President Trump made very clear to President Xi that he is moving on this issue and wants to move forward and make progress. And I think President Xi gave an interesting perspective from their standpoint."

That's an optimistic view from Mnuchin. But President Trump has made other statements and tweets that show also very frustrated with China on the subject of North Korea. Can these two leaders move forward together?

LABOTT: Well, I think it's unclear, Ana. I mean, clearly the Chinese have not done enough to President Trump's standpoint. And you saw his tweets earlier that we gave it a try, but China is not really cooperating. I mean, on one hand, all of the cooperation that they need from North Korea goes through China. But the U.S. does have tremendous economic leverage. President Trump has threatened to use trade as a weapon. And I think one of the reasons that secretary Mnuchin was talking is because of those economic leverages that the U.S. has.

He also is threatening to sanction Chinese banks and individuals and companies that are doing business with North Korea. I think the real question is whether the Chinese are going to act in their own interests and, you know, their interest is not necessarily to see a destabilized Korean peninsula.

So I think the Chinese are trying to juggle their economic interests with their security interests. And I don't really know where it us going to come down. But clearly the U.S. is moving in that direction of economic tariffs or (INAUDIBLE).

CABRERA: Here is an idea that Fareed Zakaria brings up regarding whether China is really the key player here. And he writes, it's a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, but the alternative, just speaking of compromise with North Korea is to hope that China will act against its interests and crush its ally or that North Korea will finally collapse. But hope is not a strategy. So is there an alternative that doesn't require China to take any action?

LABOTT: There is alternatives, you know, but they are not ones that could actually work. I mean, the whole incentive, really, is to bring North Korea to the table. I think the only incentive at this point is real, intense diplomatic action and promising North Korea the kind of things that it is looking for like regime assurances that the U.S. is not looking for regime change and an armists (ph) to end the Korean War. The question is if the U.S. were to give that North Korea, would it then end its nuclear program? So unless it has an incentive, which is really economic punishment, I'm not sure it would work.

[19:25:09] CABRERA: All right. Elise Labott, thanks so much.

Coming up, it's a he said/he said situation. The White House and the Kremlin giving differing versions of the meeting between their two leaders. How this could impact President Trump's agenda moving forward.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:29:39] CABRERA: The White House is refusing to deny Vladimir Putin's claim that President Trump appeared to accept his word that Russia did not meddle in last year's election. Putin made the claim earlier today while talking to the press.

Later on, on Air Force One, White House officials were asked three separate times about Putin's remarks and each time they declined to answer. They deflected the question.

Let's talk about it. With me, "New York Times" contributor Wajahat Ali and CNN political commentator and conservative radio host Ben Ferguson.

So Ben, why is the White House not coming out and saying Putin is lying, that's the President of the U.S. believes his own Intel community more than Russia?

[19:30:17] BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there is two things here. One, they had a meeting and I think realized that there is certain things you have to work on right now. One of those is what's going on in Syria specifically with looking at part of Syria. They are going to have a no fly zone and that deal with Jordan.

I think they also understand that in this meeting there are a lot of other things that deal with North Korea, for example, that they have to deal with and also Crimea. So do you want to get into a war of words again with Vladimir Putin in he said/she said over a meeting.

Look. The White House knows what happened at this meeting. They made it very clear. And there was a real and blunt conversation about Russia interference in this country. No one is lying to themselves. We know that Russia has been trying to interfere in this country for as long as I have been alive. So I don't think they have to come out and get back in the he said/she said battle.

Be the President. Lead on these issues and let's move on to the real issues here instead of he said/she said, which is Russians would love for us to be involved in that.

CABRERA: OK. But let me ask you this, though. Is it in the U.S.' best interest to let President Putin say that the President of the U.S. has accepted that they did not meddle in the election?

FERGUSON: Look, I don't think the White House has said that they accept it. I think the White House just on answering questions is not taking the bait.

CABRERA: That's the bottom line. Why would it be hard or not in the interest of the U.S. to say that's not true, that's not how things went down? FERGUSON: Again, you look at what was actually said after this

meeting. I mean, you even had the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, talking about the first thing on the agenda was the President confronting Russia on meddling in our elections. That's enough for the average American because they know that it's accepted that they were interfering or trying to interfere and that we confronted them about it.

I don't think you are going to get agreement. I mean, first of all, if Putin looked at you and said, OK, I did it. He is not going to stop doing it. That would be the biggest lie out there. We know Russia is going to keep doing this. The real question is what do we do to protect ourselves when it comes to cyber security? And, two, how do we deal with these other world issues. Going back to a he said she said moment and letting Russia get us off-track on national security in North Korea, to me, it is not worth it.

CABRERA: Wajahat, your response?

WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I think the world saw the master and the apprentice. And I was waiting for Putin to tell Donald Trump you are fired. It was really sad to see as an American that Donald Trump got owned yet again by Putin. He seems utterly impotent in front of Putin.

FERGUSON: How did he get owned?

ALI: Also, let's just be clear. Rex Tillerson said that this is an intractable problem and we have to move forward. And so, the lack of denial here of Lavrov's statement is very troubling because Lavrov, of course, said that Trump asked him in the first 15 minutes of the two- hour conversation, so that was that vigorous first 15 minutes and apparently Trump accepted Vladimir Putin's assertion that he didn't do it.

However, this is problematic because just a couple of days ago, Donald Trump yet again threw his own intelligence under the bus and said Russia is fake news and has refused to accept his own national security assessment that Russia has repeatedly tried to interfere in our elections. Already did it in 2016. Is going to do it again in 2018 and going to do it again in 2020.

So foreign national security most Americans are like, listen, you are the President of the United States of America. Why are you normalizing and validating Vladimir Putin? Why don't you hit back harder and why did you sit there like an impotent weak president and let Putin walk over you and do nothing when it comes to cybersecurity. And instead, they said we are going to do a panel. We are going to do a cybersecurity sharing panel with Putin. That's amazing.

CABRERA: Guys, let me play for you what ambassador Nikki Haley --

FERGUSON: I have to respond to that real quick though. This is important.

CABRERA: Quick. Make it quick. FERGUSON: It's a sad day when you see people that are actually trying

to tear down the President for being Presidential. If he would have come out there guns blazing and hitting back harder you would have said he was putting our national security at risk and he was a loose cannon. And he wasn't focused on the real issue.

The President came out Presidential and moved forward on actual issues and confronted Vladimir Putin. My point is this. I don't think there is anything Donald Trump could have done on this meeting that you would have come on TV and would have actually said he did a good job because you hate Donald Trump.

ALI: I would have loved if you said, hey Russia, you interfered in our election. As the President of the United States, I said more about national security. And guess what, there is going to be retaliation to make sure you don't do it again because our intelligence agencies, which I discount as President, has said they will do it again in 2018 and 2020. And I care more about my intelligence agency and national security than it comes to appeasing you. That's what I would say if I was the President of the United States and care about our national security.

CABRERA: Hay, the President is not talking, but his ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is. Here's what she told CNN. Listen.


[19:35:02] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said everybody knows that the Russians meddled in the U.S. election and that the President said so behind closed doors to Vladimir Putin. If that's the case, why won't the President say this in public? It would put a lot of these questions and quite frankly the fact that a lot of your fellow Republicans are perplexed to put it all to rest. Why wouldn't he do it?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I think that you can ask him. Everybody is trying to nitpick what he says and what he doesn't. But you know, talk is one thing. Actions are another. He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing that he talked about and we have to see where it goes from here.


CABRERA: So Ben, she said everyone knows Russia meddled. But just one day before the meeting with Putin, President Trump said quote "nobody really knows for sure who meddled." So is it enough just to bring up election meddling with Russia if you are not going to do anything about it? And publically you are going to still be out there saying you don't know for sure who is responsible?

FERGUSON: Well, first, you have to put the whole context of the quote you just mentioned. You mentioned the second part of it. The first part of it he said that Russia was involved and possibly other countries. We don't know who all was involved in meddling. So he mentioned Russia by name. And then he went on to say there are other countries. We also know that there have been multiple hacking incidents in this

country and attacks on our national security interests from other countries. So he deliberately said clearly first Russia, yes, and other countries. So we have to make sure that we don't act like he is refusing to say that Russia was involved.

It was also the first thing he brought up in the meeting. But there is a certain point when you are the President when you have to actually get rid of some of the noise around you when you are dealing with word leaders and have a conversation that was blunt and honest and the first thing he brought up for 15 minutes with Vladimir Putin was meddling in our elections. That is a long time to talk about something to the translators and that it was the first thing they talked about. So it was an important issue to this White House.

But of course, there is nothing that I'm going to say or the President is going to say that his destructors and people that hate him have to stand from it seem like they are almost rooting for Russia that I'm going to be able to say or he is going to be able to say that is going to make them happy on this issue. So if I'm advising the President, you did your job. You did it well and move on. And let the people that hate you hate you because you are never going to change their minds because they are always going to go after you no matter what you do.

CABRERA: Wajahat, should the President get credit for confronting Putin about the election meddling?

ALI: He didn't confront him at all. It was a 15-minute conversation. At the end of the conversation --.

FERGUSON: But he did.

ALI: He said let bygones be bygones and let's move. That's this tough, bold President who can tweet against literally everyone - women, congressmen, Republicans, the intelligence agency. But in front of Putin, he cannot say a word. He is utterly impotent and he instead tweets he is a very smart man and pins a tweet. And then Tillerson says, hey, guys, it is an intractable problem. Let bygones be bygones. Listen, we are just United States of America. This is just our national security. So we just have to move forward. Really? Is that strength? Is that retaliation? Is that a response?

FERGUSON: That's not what Rex Tillerson said in the context.

ALI: And now Lavrov has said that Donald Trump accepted Putin's admission that, hey, we didn't do anything. And the White House it's been hours so far has not contradicted that statement. The question I have is this. Why is Donald Trump so weak when it comes to Putin? Why?

FERGUSON: Again, this is the part that makes me laugh. You have what is going on in Syria. You have a confrontation in Syria where we actually dropped bombs and got into it with Russia. You have the President walk in a room and have a direct conversation about an issue of meddling. And at some point when you are dealing with someone like Vladimir Putin and if you have ever dealt with national intelligence on any level you know that there is certain leaders that are constantly and always going to deny they did something. And if you know they did it, you have to at some point say, I'm going to move on as a country to protect my country. I'm not going to sit here and talk to you knowing that you are lying to my face any longer about this. So I'm going to do what I have to do to protect my nation. I'm going to do what's in my best interest for the United States of America and move on to the next issue because you're a pathological liar on this one.

You are never going to get Vladimir Putin to admit that he meddled or try to influence or tried to hack into our national security and/or our election. You are never going to get him to admit he has spies in the United States that are spying to spy on us.

CABRERA: All right, I think you made your point, Ben. I have to jump in here. I appreciate your both. You always bring the fire, the spirit in the conversation. We have to get to a break, guys. Thank you very much.

A quick programming note. By the way, you just heard from Nikki Haley. You will hear the whole interview from U.N. ambassador Haley on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." That's tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. only on CNN.

We are back in a moment.


[19:43:54] CABRERA: Many of the nation's secretaries of state are in Indianapolis this weekend where they received closed door briefings on elections cybersecurity. DHS and FBI officials are there as well as the chairman of the U.S. election assistance commission working with the states on keeping elections secure. But the meeting has also exposed continuing friction between the secretaries of state and the federal government when it comes to cybersecurity in elections.

I want to bring in CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan. She is with us from Indianapolis.

So Tal, what are the secretaries of state telling you about their frustration with the feds?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. Well, it's interesting. You know, elections absolutely have national implications, but secretaries of state really take pride and draw strength from the fact that it's really a decentralized system. And they, you know, traditionally have managed elections within the states and localities. And so, now you have the situation where people are really worried about the cybersecurity of elections nationally and what the federal government wants to be involved.

But secretaries of state are saying not so fast. Let's talk through this. And one of the biggest points of contention is communication. And we talked to a few secretaries of state about that issue if you want to take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:45:06] MATT DUNLAP (D), MAIN SECRETARY OF STATE: It's been a frustration for us really since before the election when you had a lot of information coming from these federal agencies through the media that we were not getting directly. And then we found ourselves scrambling before the election trying to ensure the public that the election was not in jeopardy.

WAYNE WILLIAMS (R), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. I think there is some frustration with the time it takes for things to happen at the federal level. I think, you know, state governments tend to be more nimble, particularly given the change of administration that has taken place that has delayed some of the responsiveness some of us might like.


KOPAN: So as you heard, you know, that lack of communication and, in fact, hearing things and leaks about what may have happened during the elections before the secretaries of state had their arms around it so they couldn't answer questions about it was really a point of contention. And you know, another secretary of state put it a bit as growing pains and the federal government and states really learn to work together on this issue.

CABRERA: All right, Tal Kopan, we appreciate your time. Thanks for filling us in.

A divisive election is still dividing Americans. Still ahead, voters tell CNN their stories of broken friendship and vicious backlash they suffered all over politics. Stay with us.


[19:50:31] CABRERA: It is summertime, temperatures are soaring across much of the country. And emotions are running high for many, part of it however can be traced to politics. Some people are still frustrated. Now eight months after one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history, relationships are strained, some cases friendships are on ice.

Let's talk it over with CNN digital correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich.

And Vanessa, I know you went out and you talked to a lot of these voters who are actually saw relationships crumble.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is for our latest issue of state magazine, our political magazine here at CNN. And we wanted to hear from voters eight months later. So we actually ended upsetting up a voicemail and had people call in and leave us messages with a simple question, how are you feeling eight months later, and has it affected your relationships. So we heard from two callers, Kathy and Heather. They both live in California. Only 50 miles apart, but they are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum politically. Take a listen to their voicemails. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER TOMLIN-WAGONER, SACRAMENTO CALIFORNIA (voicemail): What's good for the goose is not good for the gander with the liberals. They are hypocrites. And I have seen nothing but shear hate, contempt and bullying come from the left leaning liberals when you guys preach tolerance.

KATHY GIBBENS, NEVADA CITY, CALIFORNIA (voicemail): I have also been bullied by neighbors to the point where I have to move because two of the neighbors in this building of six condos that voted for Trump are just, just really horrible bullies to be around. And I do my best to avoid them, but I finally had to take the Bernie bumper stickers off my car.


YURKEVICH: So you hear it right there, Heather is extremely angry and Kathy is extremely frightened. But we talked to two experts and asked them to listen to their voicemails and they actually said they have something in common, they both feel like they are misunderstood and they just want to be heard. And that's something we saw across all of the callers that we listened to.

CABRERA: I know you also heard from a guy who said he lost 150 Facebook friends.

YURKEVICH: Yes. This guy -- it's actually a really interesting voicemail from Joseph. He is a Republican and his girlfriend is a Democrat. And they bicker over political things.

CABRERA: That's always dangerous.

YURKEVICH: I know, but the fun thing is they get along. They love each other. And it's actually their friends who have a problem with their relationship. So take a listen to what Joseph had to say in his voicemail.


JOSEPH DAVID RITTENHOUSE, COLLEGEVILLE PENNSYLVANIA (voicemail): My girlfriend worked very like extensively in democratic politics, and she has been ostracized for dating me, for being around me, for recognizing the fact that I'm a Republican. She can't even like be in the same room with some of the people she used to work with daily in Democratic politics. I personally have lost over 150 friends on Facebook for coming out as a Trump supporter. We get along better than anybody I've ever met in the entire world, and people can't stand it. People can't stand the fact that we get along.


YURKEVICH: Yes. And people just obviously his friends just can't take it, but we asked our experts what advice they would give to Joseph. They said, you know what, the advice is from Joseph. Americans need to look at their relationship and realize, look, these are two different people with two different sets of ideals politically, but even they can get along.

CABRERA: And they are listening to each other.


CABRERA: There is hope.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you.

YURKEVICH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Great to hear from you.

Coming up, we will take you to Washington where any moment President Trump is set to return home from his overseas trip.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



[19:58:30] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CBS was in a really bad spot. They had just fallen apart over the early part of the '90s and they had gone through a couple different network executives.

But then suddenly they had this hit with an unknown comic. This was the year of "Seinfeld," no hugging, no learning. And this was a show being made as if it was produce to the year of the Dick van dyke show. There was hugging. There was learning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you work for me, your job was to go home, get in a fight with your wife and come back and tell me about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't sleep on the couch. I just cleaned down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, the pilot I put in this true thing that happened to me wherein I sent my parents a gift for the holidays of the fruit of the month club.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did you know you sent me a box of pears?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From a place called fruit of the month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. How are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my mother reacted as if I had sent her a box of heads from a murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you do this to me?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't talk. There's too much fruit in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think we are, invalids? We can't go out and get our own fruit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried to tell him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I'm canceling the fruit club!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real story is where the real connection with your audience is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank God all your families are crazy too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like you got the whole family together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. It's dysfunction collusive.