Return to Transcripts main page


Soon: Tillerson & Ukrainian President Hold News Conference; White House Declines to Refute Russian Claims on Trump Meeting; McConnell: Will Work with Dems if GOP Can't Agree; Christopher Wray to be Grilled Wednesday; New NRA Ad Blasted By Civil Rights Groups; Trump: I Strongly Pressed Putin Twice on Russia Meddling. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired July 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: -- doesn't mean you can't stop and hold a baby and get a cute picture.

[07:00:03] A six-month-old Gosele Jackinsky (ph) was apparently just too cute to resist for Barack Obama.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Her mom says they were at Anchorage International Airport when the former president walked up and asked, who is this pretty girl, before scooping her up. He joked with the baby's father said, hey, I'm taking your baby. But he didn't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is customary to have a U.S. president, along with other leaders who attend these summits, hold a press conference. President Trump did not do that.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is no basis for thinking that Russia interfered in the election process.

REPORTER: Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump will be happy to make statements himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know Russia is going to keep doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why just sit there like an impotent weak president and let Putin walk over you and do nothing when it comes to our cybersecurity?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing he wanted to talk about and I think we have to now see where it goes from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressional Republicans have been waiting for years for their opportunity to overturn Obamacare, and now with it sitting in front of them, they can't figure out how to get it done!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we got to get the job done but we've got to do it right.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

PAUL: I want to wish you a good morning here on this Sunday. We're so grateful to have you with us, as always.

Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Ukraine this morning. It's his first official visit to the country as America's top diplomat. He is meeting with the President Petro Poroshenko. Any moment now, the two are expected to be speaking to reporters after holding some bilateral talks. When that happens, we'll bring it to you.

BLACKWELL: And the State Department says Tillerson intends to reaffirm America's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

PAUL: CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live from Moscow this hour.

Ivan, what are you learning about this meeting this morning?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very important, because it comes about 48 hours after Secretary Tillerson and President Trump sat down with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister. Ukraine is essentially an enemy of Russia. It views the Russian government as its enemy ever since the 2014 Russian invasion, occupation and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula and Crimea. And the U.S. joined in punishing Russia with sanctions as a result of that move.

Ukraine is also very much at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine. That's a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. According to the Ukrainian government, more than a hundred Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in that conflict in the first six months of this year alone. So, as Trump and Putin were speaking together in Germany, there were still dozens of ceasefire violations reported by international OSCE monitors in that conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian concern, of course, is that if relations thaw and warm between Moscow and Washington, Ukraine could get left out in the cold and that's presumably one of the reasons why Secretary of State Tillerson is in Kiev today. It's to try to reassure the Ukrainians. He's also brought along with him a newly appointed U.S. special envoy to deal with the Ukrainian conflict, a man named Kurt Volker, who is a former U.S. ambassador to the NATO military alliance -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Ivan, what has been the reaction there in Moscow to the G20 Summit and from President Putin about his meeting with President Trump?

WATSON: I think the Russians are delighted, Victor. I mean, you had a lot of top lawmakers coming here with positive statements, calling this a breakthrough. You had Russian state media saying the bilateral meeting, the two hour and 18 minute meeting between Trump and Putin eclipsed the entire G20 Summit.

And Vladimir Putin himself who came out in front of the cameras yesterday and joked with journalists looks very happy. And he had some pretty interesting observations. He said essentially the Trump we see on TV is not the Trump that he met in person. He said that the U.S. president listens to questions, answers logically, is a very good interlocutor.

But basically, this marks an end to nearly two years without any direct face-to-face meetings between the Russians and U.S. presidents. They succeeded in talking about a local cease-fire in a corner of Syria.

[07:05:07] Also, President Putin was able to make his denials directly to President Trump about Russian meddling, alleged Russian meddling in the November 2016 election, and that has led to more controversy with contradictions between the Russian and U.S. accounts of how that conversation ultimately ended up.

There is one area where the Russians recognize, they still have a long way to go. U.S. sanctions against Russia are still in place including sanctions that were imposed by the outstanding Obama administration, the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds at the end of December. Russia wants those compounds back. And Russian officials know that the atmosphere in Washington is not good for improvement in U.S.-Russian relations, that there is a great deal of suspicion in Congress and even within President Trump's Republican Party. They know they have an uphill battle there to try to further improve relations between these two governments.

PAUL: All righty, all righty. Good background for us there. Thank you so much, Ivan Watson. Appreciate you being here.

BLACKWELL: White House advisers are not offering really any clarity on whether President Trump accepted Russian President Putin's denial of interference in the 2016 election. President Trump has not spoken about the different accounts of his meeting with the president of Russia. Here is what his treasury secretary said about this responding to a question from a reporter aboard Air Force One.


REPORTER: President of 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'm not going to make comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about this discrepancy here. With us to talk about it, CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist, Josh Rogin, and deputy editor of the "Weekly Standard", Kelly Jane Torrance.

Good morning to both of you.



BLACKWELL: So, shortly after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that President Trump accepted Putin's denial, a senior Trump administration official told CNN that the president did not accept it. Why won't -- I mean, this seems like it would be quick and easy and clear and done. Why won't the administration just answer the question on the record?

ROGIN: Well, I think the reason is because they don't know what happened inside that meeting. The only people who are in there were President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Now, "The New York Times" reported this morning that Rex Tillerson told a close associate, quote, the president said to Putin, quote, I want to get this out of the way, did you do this? And Tillerson was stunned by that.

The bottom line is, who knows? You know, Steve Mnuchin doesn't know what was said in that meeting. We can't trust what President Putin says, and we can't what President Trump says because both of them have been proven to lie on the record all the time.

What we do know is what President Trump actually thinks about the Russian election hacking. He says it all the time. He says the Russians probably did it, but others probably did it too.

Now, that's not supported by the intelligence. That's not supported by the reporting. But that seems to be what the president of the United States believes. That it's very troubling.

You know, what we are looking for coming out of this meeting is what actions will the president take? Will he support congressional sanctions? Will he give back those compounds to the Russians? That is the greatest indication of whether or not President Trump actually believes the Russians did this or not.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kelly, coming up on "STATE OF THE UNION" later this morning, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, will be a guest. Dana Bash sitting in for Jake Tapper today. I want you to listen to part of her interview.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: What he did was bring up right away the election meddling and he did that for a reason. One, he wanted him to basically look him in the eye, let him know that yes, we know you meddled in our elections, yes, we know you did it, and cut it. And I think President Putin did exactly what we thought he would do which is deny it.


BLACKWELL: OK. So, two things here. Yes, we know that you meddled in our elections. We don't know that yet to be what happened in that meeting. And second, cut it out, effectively, and maybe this is a direct quote from what President Obama said last year and was criticized by the Trump for saying to Vladimir Putin.

Is this an assumption on the part of Ambassador Haley or does she potentially know something or counterparts don't? Kelly, what's your take?

TORRANCE: Well, perhaps she does know something, but if she does, if she's been told this, why aren't we hearing it from the people themselves?

Now, Rex Tillerson spoke to reporters off camera but audio was recorded and I've gone over his comments multiple times and he did not say once whether Trump agreed to accept Putin's denial that Russia was not involved in America's elections. It's a pretty simple yes or no question, isn't it? I think it's very telling that both Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov have gone on camera talking to reporters.

And Vladimir Putin is no friend to reporters. The fact that he is willing to get up and answer reporters' questions publicly but neither President Trump nor Rex Tillerson will go on camera and answer these questions directly, I think that really speaks volumes and it's quite concerning.

[07:10:14] BLACKWELL: All right. Josh, let me move ahead to what is happening this morning. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kiev meeting with the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, after what President Trump described as a tremendous meeting with the Russian president. How is that description received in Kiev? And detail for us the line that the secretary of state will have to walk now in his defense of the sovereignty of Ukraine.

ROGIN: Sure. Well, first of all, it's good that the secretary of state is making this trip to Ukraine and meeting with Ukrainian leaders there and reinforcing the U.S. and Ukraine partnership in the face of Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine which is ongoing and causing a lot of violence and heartache there. So, that's the top line.

What's going on behind the scenes is that the U.S. is reigniting, restarting its interest and its activity in the Ukraine negotiations. What the president has done is appointed Kirk Volker, a very competent former U.S. ambassador to NATO to be the U.S. special envoy to those negotiations. And what that means practically is that the U.S. is now going to get re-involved in what's called the Normandy format, which is meant to resolve this conflict. So, if you want to roll back sanctions on Russia, you have to solve

Ukraine. If you want to solve U.S.-Russia relations, you have to do something about Ukraine. That's how the president thinks about it.

How the Ukrainians think about it is they need American involvement in order to make progress on this fight. And so, they welcome that. So, this could be an area where U.S. and Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, all get together and try to find a way out of the fighting there. Now, that's going to be a difficult, complicated, long process. And it's filled with risks and road bumps and spoilers and all that stuff.

BLACKWELL: There is there no easy route out of this. It may be telling that Kurt Volker was named as the special envoy and known as a bit of a hawk on Russia.

ROGIN: Sure.

BLACKWELL: We'll see what that means moving forward. You see pictures here of the secretary of state there in Kiev.

Kelly Jane Torrance and Josh Rogin, thank you both.

ROGIN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And you can hear the entire interview with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION". That's with Dana Bash this morning and at 9:00 a.m., only on CNN.

PAUL: Well, just ahead, they are back from the holiday break this week, of course. Will a new strategy by Ted Cruz revive this GOP health care bill?

BLACKWELL: Also, the deadly heat wave fueling the wildfires. Look at these pictures. This is southern California. People are being evacuated from their homes. Hundreds of homes are threatened by these flames. We have got the latest on the fight.


[07:16:49] PAUL: That is a good looking Sunday morning, isn't it? Good morning.

BLACKWELL: Nice start to the day.

PAUL: Good morning. Good morning, everybody, there in D.C., wherever you happen to be waking up this morning. We are so glad to have your company. And hope you're seeing some sunshine wherever you are.

But, that, of course, is the capitol and it's now or never for Senate Republicans, we should point out, because they're coming back from their July Fourth recess tomorrow. And you know health care is the first thing on the agenda.

BLACKWELL: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells us his party that they need to either pass their health care plan this week or be forced to work on a bipartisan effort with Democrats. And Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, he warns this on Twitter: the GOP should be ashamed, he writes, they have not passed health care reform by now and will lose the Senate, the majority there, if they do not do it.

Let's go to Tom Foreman now explain the path ahead.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congressional Republicans have been waiting for years for their opportunity to overturn Obamacare and now with it sitting right in front of them, they just can't figure out how to get it done.

(voice-over): From the Republican-controlled Senate, a stunning change of direction. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will work with Democrats to prop up Obamacare if his own party can't pass an alternative plan.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Premiums are going up, deductibles are going up. So, we have to solve the current crisis, and I think repealing and delaying the replacement doesn't work.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.

FOREMAN: CNN has learned the White House was caught off guard by McConnell's comments coming less than a week after the president's own surprise move, when he tweeted if Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date. But that has gained no traction, even as the Republican bill has continued spinning its wheels.

Some senators in their home districts for the July Fourth recess face tough questions from constituents.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I still am a no, unless the bill is dramatically changed.

FOREMAN: So bipartisan support, limited as it may be, is swirling around McConnell's idea.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Senator McConnell is correct in that we need to make sure that the individual market is a stronger market than it is today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe what Mitchell McConnell says is the right path to take.

FOREMAN: Even amid furious pushback from conservative quarters. Heritage Action for America saying such a deal with Democrats would be catastrophic for the Republican Party. And on it goes, with various Republicans offering their own solutions about how to end the impasse, unite the party, and somehow turn the turmoil into triumph.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think we got to get the job done, but we've got to do it right. The results matter. It's not just passing a bill whose title is Obamacare repeal. We actually got to do something that fixes the problem.

FOREMAN (on camera): Watching the Republicans twist themselves into knots trying to deal with the health care reform riddle was a wonderful holiday recess for congressional Democrats, only it was less like Independence Day and more like Christmas in July.


[07:20:02] PAUL: Now, President Trump's pick for FBI director is going to face a confirmation hearing this week. Christopher Wray will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That happens on Wednesday. The president fired James Comey in May remember.

Now, you might be wondering, who he is Christopher Wray exactly? Well, he is a Yale Law School graduate. He worked as a federal prosecutor for decades and was eventually nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003 to serve as an assistant attorney general working for the Justice Department's criminal division. Wray went on to work with both Comey and now special counsel Robert Mueller.

He now works as a litigation partner at a law firm representing defendants in white collar cases and he counseled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie throughout the bridgegate scandal. Wray has given more than $50,000 to Republican candidates, committees and his law firm's PAC since 2007. And we do need to note, there has been bipartisan support for his nomination.

BLACKWELL: The organizers behind this year's massive women's march around the time of the inauguration, they are taking their message to the NRA this week. They've got a question about the organization's relationship or their response to people of color who are victims of gun violence.

PAUL: Women on both sides of that conversation are joining us to discuss.

Also, hundreds of people ordered to evacuate from a fast moving wildfire. It's burning through southern California and officials this morning are still struggling to contain that fire. We'll have an update for you.


[07:25:44] PAUL: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. If you're still in bed, that's OK. It's Sunday. I'm Christi Paul. We're glad you're here.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Sunday morning to you.

And right now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He was greeted in Kiev this morning. You see, he took a bite there. This is the traditional bread and salt welcome ceremony there.

The Ukrainian president spoke to the reporters in the room before their meeting. But Tillerson did not. PAUL: In the meantime, President Trump is back in Washington, back to

trying to make progress on his domestic agenda. First up, of course, is health care reform and confirming a new FBI director.

BLACKWELL: The organizers behind this year's massive march on Washington has a message for the NRA: start protecting black and brown lives.

PAUL: They are frustrated over the NRA's silence surrounding the police shooting of Philando Castile, and that Castile was shot multiple times in his car last July, remember, after he told the officer he had a firearm. He was a registered firearm owner. The officer was ultimately cleared.

Well, co-organizer Tamika Mallory wrote a letter to the NRA saying, in part: If in fact, the NRA was an organization that represents all people why would you have a response to Philando Castile?

She also blasted the NRA ad, a recent ad, as a direct attack on the minority community. Take a look.


DANA LOESCH, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE EXECUTIVE VP FOR PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS, NRA: They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and homophobia!


PAUL: Tamika Mallory, co-organizer of the Women's March is here with us. She's also on the board of advisers with the Gathering of Justice. And also, Dana Loesch, the star of that NRA ad that we just saw. She serves as the NRA special assistant to the executive vice president for public communication.

And we are grateful that both of you ladies are here. Thank you for being here.

Dana, I want to clear something up right out of gate. Who is the "they" you all referred to in the ad?

LOESCH: Sure. The they are, those are people who think that somehow peaceful protest is the exact same thing as the violent riots. In fact, all of the footage shown in this ad and this ad came for fruition, by the way, out of the concern of millions of NRA members, that they are the people who actually engage in the riot or who sanctioned them by silence, who endorse them, who want to conflate violent actions such as property destruction, arson, busting up store fronts, some of the things that we saw during the inauguration from the Antifa protesters, or assaulting individuals just perhaps because they wear a hat or a T-shirt that displays a political message is maybe different from that of an individual what they believe.

Those are the people that I'm talking about. And that's why we used that footage of actual violent right riots, footage that this is taking place in the United States to really hammer that message across. This is what we're talking about.

Now, as somebody who has organized countless peaceful protests and participated in peaceful protests, I love protests! I don't love property destruction and assault, though.

PAUL: OK. Tamika, so with all of that said, I know that you called this ad vicious in your letter to the NRA. What is your reaction to what Dana is saying?

TAMIKA MALLORY, BOARD OF ADVISORS, THE GATHERING FOR JUSTICE: Well, first of all, I want to make it clear that most protests are peaceful protests. I've been involved in protests all my life. Almost 20 year of my life and I've probably never been involved in a protest that turned violent. That is a very, very small portion of protests that have happened in this country.

So, for someone as powerful, an entity as powerful as the NRA, to use its air waves to speak about something that is a very narrow, very, very small portion of what happens at protests in this country, wherein many cases, they are provocateurs, some of which are people from the right, some of which are NRA members and people who Dana Loesch maybe thinking she was speaking to show up at that protests and create tension on purpose.

[07:30:03] And so, first of all -- so, that is wrong. Second of all, the ad, in itself, and anyone of good moral conscience understands that when the NRA is responsible for gun owners, people who have the ability to take lives, they should be doing nothing more than speaking about de-escalation, safety, and finding ways to solve problems and save people's lives, versus giving any type of inciteful message that could, in fact, hurt or damage someone. We know that since this presidential election and since President Trump has taken office, we have seen a surge in racially charged incidents in this country.

The NRA, on its Web site, says it is one of the oldest civil rights organizations. And if that is true, then this organization in the spirit of civil rights organizations should be standing for the rights of all lives and looking to do nothing but protect people and find ways to make sure that people are safe.

PAUL: OK, part of the controversy here --

LOESCH: I need to respond to that. Because, really quickly, really quickly.

PAUL: OK, Dana, go ahead.

LOESCH: If Ms. Mallory is accusing the NRA and NRA members of inciting riots or agitating, I would like evidence of that. And I'm more than happy to --

MALLORY: The ad was that. The ad.


PAUL: I need to get away from the ad!


PAUL: We are talking over each other. Nobody is hearing us. I want to make sure both of you are heard. I want to make sure both of you are heard. So, I want to move real quickly to the task at hand, which is the Philando Castile situation, because, Tamika, you wrote a letter to the CEO, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, saying: You are responsible to an organization that claims to be the oldest civil rights organization in America. However, recent action by the NRA demonstrate not only a complete disregard for the black and brown people in America -- your fellow citizens -- but appear to be a direct endorsement of violence against the citizens.

You want a reaction from the NRA to the Castile killing and to the -- now that it's all over, to the trial that took place.


PAUL: I want to give the NRA -- the NRA did make a statement last July, on July 8th. This is what they said: As the nation's largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it's important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.

Dana, the facts are now known. The case is over. Why haven't we heard from the NRA yet?

LOESCH: Well, I've actually spoken out quite a bit on this and I'm unfamiliar with whether or not Ms. Mallory has acknowledged that or not. I realized that when you're accusing the NRA members of agitating like DeRay McKesson in St. Louis and Ferguson, that you may not want to acknowledge the truth of that matter either.

But I've actually spoken out on this quite a bit. I think it's absolutely awful. I think its' completely unfortunate. And I don't agree with every single decision that comes out from courtrooms of America. There are a lot of variables in this particular case and a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently.

Do I believe that Philando Castile deserve to lose his life over his stop? I absolutely do not. I also think that this is why we have things like NRA carry guard, not only to reach out to citizens, to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when we go through stops like this. Now, Christi --

PAUL: So, Dana, you have this ad -- LOESCH: He has been pulled over while carrying. I have been pulled

over while carrying before. And we need to make sure -- really, really quickly -- this isn't a political thing. I just want to make sure when individuals, when we are pulled over, that we make sure we have our concealed carry permit card as someone who is hyper- protective of natural rights like Philando Castile's, I want to make sure that's well known so we don't have someone who perhaps maybe doesn't make all the right decisions!

PAUL: I only have a minute left, Dana, but I wanted to ask --


PAUL: -- why -- do you think, though, the NRA, do you understand why it's important for people to hear from the NRA at the end of the day on this?



LOESCH: That is why I'm speaking out this.


LOESCH: I'm speaking for NRA membership.


PAUL: Tamika, one moment please.

Dana, are you saying that you are speaking for the NRA right now?

LOESCH: Yes. I'm an NRA spokesperson. That's why I'm here.

PAUL: You're speaking for the NRA and what you are saying this morning is a formal statement on their part? Is that what you're saying?

[07:35:03] LOESCH: It's a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. Yes.

PAUL: Tamika, go ahead and respond. I only have a couple of minutes.


PAUL: Tamika, go ahead.

MALLORY: What we would like to see is the same effort that was put into this ad that has been put out that is dangerous to black and brown people and protesters. We want to see the same type of effort and energy put into speaking on behalf Philando Castile.

And Ms. Loesch speaks about people carrying their --

LOESCH: We have been! (CROSSTALK)

MALLORY: I'm not finished!

PAUL: Let her finish!

LOESCH: Tamika, you don't get the courtesy when you endorse someone --

PAUL: You are talking together and I'm going to have to cut it short!

Tamika, we only have a couple of seconds, but go ahead.

MALLORY: She speaks about the concealed carry record being in your pocket. Black people are not allowed to reach for their concealed carry weapon because if we reach anywhere, we are shot and killed.

LOESCH: Nor are white people.


MALLORY: That has not happened to white people. It does not happen!

LOESCH: White people are not allowed either.

MALLORY: Show me that!


PAUL: I'm sorry, we are out of time. I appreciate so much to both of you being here. I hope you both feel you were heard. We had a good conversation here and we appreciate your time. Thank you.

LOESCH: I was talked over a lot, but I appreciate you guys having me on.

MALLORY: Yes, yes, we can talk in person. I have challenged you to a debate any time.

LOESCH: Condemn Sharia, you condemn Sharia, and you ban for life --

PAUL: Thank you, ladies.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's turn now to what we saw in the G20. The president now offering a response to all of the questions about if he accepted Putin's denial but is he offering clarity? We've got that brand-new statement from the president after the break.


[07:40:41] BLACKWELL: Welcome back.

Let's get to this discrepancy on whether the president of the United States accepted Russian President Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 election. Asked three times, White House officials were unable to confirm that the president did not accept that denial as senior official told CNN on Friday night.

Now, we are hearing from the president and an official statement via Twitter, tweeting just a few minutes ago: I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.

So, a response from the president but not an answer to the question. Did the president accept the denial or did he not? Hopefully, that will come via tweet, via an official sometime later this morning.

Now out to California where hundreds of people are being evacuated this morning after this fast moving wildfire continues to rip through that part of the state. Official in Santa Barbara are struggling with two major fires, as the Alamo fire tripled in size yesterday nearly 30 miles wide now.

The other fire, the Whittier Fire, it forced at least 60 campers to evacuate their campgrounds. That fire is nearly five miles long, burning on both sides of Highway 154.

PAUL: In the meantime, wildfires and dangerous heat wave are what Arizona is dealing with right now. We have learned this morning there is an investigation under way as authorities look at nearly 60 people, who they believe have died as a result of this heat. Phoenix broke 112-year-old heat record hitting temperatures as high as 118 degrees. Officials from the Arizona burn center said their emergency department visits doubled when temperatures skyrocketed last week.

BLACKWELL: All right. More now from the president. We'll talk about an additional tweet coming from him. But still, no clarity, no answer on whether President Trump accepted the denial of Russian President Vladimir Putin in interfering in the 2016 election. We'll get into it after the break.


[07:46:52] BLACKWELL: All right. The breaking news we are hearing from President Trump on his meeting with Vladimir Putin and this exchange over Russian interference in the 2016 election. Did the president accept Putin's denial or did he not?

The president responding on Twitter this morning, just a few minutes ago: I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.

We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now is the time to move forward in working constructively with Russia.

All right. Let's bring in Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

And, Brian, you made the point just a few minutes ago, that the president has shown obviously an affinity for the statements via Twitter but it is not a replacement for a news conference which is what we saw from the other world leaders at the G20 and this could have been cleared up.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're not hearing him actually address this. We can't see him, hear him. And we can't see journalists try to follow-up on these things when all we get are statements via Twitter.

We mentioned earlier and I think worth the context now we are hearing from the president, normally at the end of a G-20 summit, there is a press conference by the American president answering questions from journalists. Obviously, at a press conference that would have taken place this weekend, there would have been many questions about Trump and Putin about this pivotal meeting about what exactly President Trump said and how Putin responded.

Since there wasn't that press conference, all eyes have been on his Twitter account, on his Twitter feed. So, it's notable in the past few minutes, he has weighed in here. I think the four most important words in his tweets are, now it's time -- time to move forward. He is saying it's time to move forward, not to talk any more about the Russian meddling in the United States election last fall.

Time to move forward sounds like a new talking point. Let's see a week or two from now if it is. But sounds like a new talking to me because it is a way for the president to say, I addressed it, I brought it up, I pressed Putin on it, he denied it to me, so it's time to move on.

Obviously, Intelligence agency experts have said Russia is plotting this again. They will do this again, whether it's in 2018 or 2020 or in the future. It could happen to hurt Republicans or hurt Democrats in the future. Either way, this is not something that is over. It is still very much present day.

And, of course, as our viewers know, there are multiple ongoing investigations into last year's meddling and into Trump campaign communication and contacts with Russians. So, there is many reasons why this is not over, why people won't be moving forward and, obviously, guys, these tweets are going to do nothing to comfort or assuage concerns among liberals that President Trump never took this seriously to begin with.

PAUL: Well, I think that that last part of the first tweet, I've already given my opinion, the last time we heard from the president personally was on Thursday and let's listen to what that opinion was at that time.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

[07:50:08] Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess. So, it was Russia and I think it was probably others also. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So, he acknowledges it was Russia. He says there was others also, but it doesn't acknowledge here -- I think what is missing that people wanted to hear was, did he accept Putin's denial or didn't he?

STELTER: And there's no note-taker in the room and only two other Americans in the room. So, it's really always, I think, going to remain murky as a question about what actually happened in the meeting. Oftentimes, there is a National Security Council staffer in the room, taking notes for the American record. In this case, it was Trump, Tillerson and a translator.

"The New York Times" has a source today saying that Tillerson was stunned at the way that Trump handled this. Hey, let's get this out of the way. Let me ask you about the meddling.

Obviously, some Trump aides are spinning it differently, saying the president was very tough, very strong when it came to this subject matter. But here we have him and now in his own words for the first time addressing this. I do think it is notable. Normally, you do have some sort of an event on camera where a president talks about his meetings at G20. We haven't had that from President Trump.

What we do have this morning in "The New York Times" and now confirm by CNN and other outlets is another previously unreported meeting between one of Trump's aides, one of his allies and a Russian official. This was June 2016, right after Trump clinched the GOP nomination, Donald Trump Jr. now confirming he and Jared Kushner and then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort all had a meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. This is the kind of thing they did not disclose right away. They only recently disclosed it in government filings. The lawyers are saying this was mostly about adoption, there are a lot of questions however about this meeting and about what other meetings may have taken place before Election Day.

So, it's just another example of how news coverage of this issue continues, how Russian meddling is very much an ongoing story, not to mention Clapper and other former officials saying the Russians are going to try to do this again.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and, Brian, I think you pointed out the four most important words in the tweets we've seen this morning: time to move forward. It actually makes whether the president accepted the denial or not less important, not irrelevant, but it also shows what his treatment of this will be. He wants to move forward in a different direction and get away from that conversation in some respects.

We've got a statement here. We're hearing that now from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who's in Kiev meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and he says that interference in the 2016 U.S. election remains an impediment to better relations with Russia. Pair that with what we're going to hear later this morning from the U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley who says everybody knows Russia did it, he wanted to look -- speaking of the president -- the Russian president in the eye and tell him we know you did it. Cut it out. It seems like the members of the administration are far more hawkish

on this than the president himself.

STELTER: I think that's absolutely right, according to all of their public statements, the words we've heard from Trump's cabinet officials, from his appointees, versus the president himself. I think there's been such a lack of clarity on this issue because at various times the president has said this is a hoax, this issue, this overall Russia issue is a hoax, an excuse invented by Democrats, notwithstanding the fact that government officials were investigating this well before the Democrats loss on Election Day.

PAUL: Brian, one more thing. We need to point out, President Trump just tweeted this: Putin and I discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit so that election hacking and many other negative things will be guarded.


PAUL: So, maybe a little more --

BLACKWELL: And we've also heard from --

STELTER: Let's see how people react to the idea of Russia and the U.S. working together to stop hacking.

BLACKWELL: We've already heard Adam Schiff make a comparison here, it's like asking North Korea about joining a commission on non- proliferation.

PAUL: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Brian Stelter, we'll see you later this morning.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: All right. Quick break. We'll be back.


[07:58:36] PAUL: In this week's "Staying Well", a new device that you wear on your shirt keeps you aware of your back posture and, therefore, helps your health, they say.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a small device that promises big gains for your back health.

(on camera): Oh, there you go.

Can you describe to me how this whole system works?

MONISHA PERKASH, CEO, LUMO BODYTECH: So, Lumo Lift attaches to your shirt magnetically and when you slouch, it will vibrate, to remind you to straighten up. Also, it connects an app on your smartphone. And on that app, it will

track your posture habits that helps you to be aware of your posture, so that you can self correct and develop the muscle memory to hold yourself in a good form.

Posture is so important to your general health. It's correlated with back pain as well as good breathing, good digestion. It affects your energy level. It affects your confidence. Back pain is the second most frequent reason why people go to the doctor. It's outnumbered only by the common cold.

CRANE (voice-over): While posture devices like this one may be helpful, physical therapist Karena Wu has concerns.

KARENA WU, CLINICAL DIRECTOR, ACTIVECARE PHYSICAL THERAPY: You have to remember to charge it, put it on and actually use it, and then you have to remember to attend to it because of how easily one can ignore sensory stimuli once you get used to it.

It's more about making the conscious effort to say, oh, you know what? Let me sit up with good upright posture, because I know my health will be better in the long run.


PAUL: All right. Upright we are. And thank you so much for starting your morning with us. We appreciate you.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts now.