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THE SITUATION ROOM
The Special Counsel Issues A New Indictment Against Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Slapping Him And A Russian Associate With Obstruction And Conspiracy Charges; President Trump Cast A Darker Cloud Over The G7 Summit; Trump On G7: "They Should Let Russia Come Back In"; McCain Slams Trump For Seeking Russia's Re-Entry To G8; Top Senate Staffer Charged With Lying To FBI During Leak Probe; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 8, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.
New Manafort charges. The special counsel issues a new indictment against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, slapping him and a Russian associate with obstruction and conspiracy charges. Is there a connection to Russian intelligence?
Making Russia G8 again. Already feuding with close U.S. allies, President Trump cast a darker cloud over the G7 summit by saying Russia should be welcomed back making it the G8 summit again. Why is he rewarding bad behavior?
Pardon my friends. President Trump called his power to pardon people a beautiful thing. HE says he could pardon himself but won't need to. And now he is suggesting NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should recommend people they think should be pardoned.
And leaking Senate secrets? A long time Senate intelligence committee staff is charged with lying to the FBI during a leaked investigation. Did he share secrets about the Russia probe with reporters?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in the SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. Special counsel Robert Mueller hits former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a new indictment charging him and the Russia ally with obstruction and conspiracy for alleged witness tampering. That comes as President Trump refuses to rule out a pardon for Manafort and infuriates allies at the G7 summit along with the Republicans by saying Russia should be readmitted to the group of nations.
I will speak with former Obama adviser and author Ben Rhodes.
And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage. But let's get to the breaking news. A new indictment by the special
counsel Robert Mueller. We begin with our justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, first of all, walk us through these new charges.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these new charges represent really the latest effort to pile on pressure on Paul Manafort to make a deal and tell prosecutors what exactly he knows. Now the former Trump campaign chairman is now charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct this investigation.
Now, earlier this week, we saw prosecutors accuse Manafort of witness tampering and they asked a judge to consider revoking his bail at least until he goes to trial later this year. He is already facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison if he's found guilty of the charges that he is already facing which are money laundering and other financial crimes as well as failing to register as a foreign agent.
Of course, this is all related to work that Manafort did before he joined the Trump campaign to lobby on behalf of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine at the time. Now, these charges roughly follow the same allegations that Manafort were made earlier this week by prosecutors that Manafort contacted witnesses to try to get them to lie to prosecutors.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges he's facing. He has a deadline actually today that he is going to respond to witness tampering allegations and he is due in court next week where a judge could decide that he could go back to jail.
BLITZER: Who is the other individual, this Russian who also has now been charged?
PEREZ: His name is Konstantin Kilimnik. He was a business partner of Manafort in Ukraine. He is believed to live in Moscow now. And until today, prosecutors have only cited him in court papers without naming him. He is facing the same charges of obstruction and conspiracy that Manafort now faced and prosecutors claim that the FBI considers Kilimnik to be closely tied to Russian intelligence.
Kilimnik has said in media interviews, by the way, Wolf that he is not tied to Russian intelligence. He has nothing to do with it. But, you know, he is now the 20th person who has been charged in the Mueller investigation.
BLITZER: Stand by. I want to bring in our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, how serious is the case Manafort now faces?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is just a world of trouble for Manafort. In part because this case is so much simpler than the rest of the case. The rest of the case involves complex financial crimes. This case is simply about going to people who are obviously
cooperating with the Mueller investigation and telling them, according to the indictment, that they should lie to investigators and lie about a fairly straightforward fact, about whether they were lobbying Europe, which would be legal or lobbying the United States which would require registration which they didn't do.
It is another charge and it is pretty simple one to prove and it is -- it is a big problem. Yet another for Paul Manafort.
BLITZER: And it certainly is. What does it tell us right now, Jeffrey, about what Mueller is trying to achieve? His strategy.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, it is quite obvious that they are leaning on Paul Manafort in every possible way in order to get him to cooperate. Plead guilty and tell him what they know. And he is facing just a blizzard of charges.
Remember, he has one set of charges in the District of Columbia. He has another set of charges in eastern district of Virginia, in Arlington, just across the river. Two separate trials.
This presumably will be added to the D.C. case. But it is a legal ordeal that most people would try to avoid in every possible --
BLITZER: Hold on for a moment. The President is now speaking with the prime minister of -- the Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. I want to listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We didn't discuss it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you come to an agreement on a joint statement --
TRUMP: I think we'll have a joints --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you leaving early?
BLITZER: All right. There at the G7 summit in Canada right now.
Evan, we are going to find out what the President said at the beginning of that for our viewers but you were about to make one more point.
PEREZ: Right. I was just -- in addition to what Jeffrey was just saying, you know, Manafort had a choice of actually perhaps making -- consolidating these two cases so he only faced one trial but now he has two trials, one here in D.C. and one in Virginia. The one in Virginia is coming up at the end of July, later on in D.C. So even if he's found guilty -- I'm sorry, innocent in one venue, he
is still facing significant charges. He could spend the rest of his life in prison --
BLITZER: And you are also saying in the coming days, his bail could be revoked. He could wind up spending time in jail.
PEREZ: As the prosecutors often point out, I mean, the one of the quickest ways to get people to cooperate is to let them spend a few days in jail.
BLITZER: We will see what happens on that. All right, guys. I know you are going to both be back later.
But other news we are following.
Already feuding with America's closest allies, President Trump raised the stakes dramatically today before he left Washington for the G7 summit in Quebec by calling for Russia readmission to the group.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He is in Canada for us at the summit.
Jim, the President has been meeting face-to-face with his counterparts today. So what is the mood like?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right.
Wolf, President Trump met with two U.S. allies turned adversaries today. You just saw one of them, the Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, the French president Emanuel Macron earlier today. And even before he arrived at the summit, the President made jaws drop here in Canada when he declared that Russia should be welcomed back into the G7. That was hardly the most alarming comment of the day.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Rocking critical relationships with major U.S. allies, President Trump has turned this summit into the OMG-7. The world's top economic powers gathered in Canada already rattled by the President's trade threats cringed again when Mr. Trump suggested welcoming Russia back into what was once known as the G8.
TRUMP: I have been Russia's worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I think Putin is probably going, man, I wish Hillary won because you see what I do. But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?
ACOSTA: That left other foreign leaders and members of Congress to remind the President that Russia was kicked out of the G8 for its invasion of Ukraine, not to mention his meddling in the 2016 election and the recent poison attack in the U.K., all blamed on the Kremlin.
DONALD TUSK, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Naturally, we cannot fault the U.S. if change their mind. At the same time we will not stop trying to convince our American friends and President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all.
ACOSTA: Senator John McCain said in a statement, the President has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies. Leaving the White House, the President also tried to clean up this comment when he down played the idea preparing for his upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: I don't think I have to prepare very much. It is about attitude. It is about what it is to get things done.
ACOSTA: The President attempted to make the case that his career in real estate are now prepared him for next week's nuclear talks.
TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. I said I have been preparing all of my life. I always believe in preparation. But I have been preparing all of my life. You know, these one week preparations, they don't work. Just ask Hillary what happened to her in the debates.
ACOSTA: The President is still defending his plan to slap tariffs on key U.S. trading partners.
TRUMP: We have massive trade deficit with almost every country.
ACOSTA: But that has other leaders at the summit referring to this as the G-6 plus 1 with Mr. Trump being the odd man out. French president Emanuel Macron tweeted, the American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a six-county agreement if need be.
Back in the U.S., the President is also talking about granting more pardons with other celebrities on his mind like the late boxing icon Muhammad Ali who once convicted for evading the U.S. draft.
TRUMP: You have to get it right. You have to get the right people. I am looking at Muhammad Ali.
ACOSTA: The problem is the pardon isn't necessary as Ali's attorney said in a statement, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed. Still the President has another pardon he can't stop talking about or himself.
TRUMP: No, I'm not above the law. I never want anybody to be above the law. And yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself but I'll never to do it because I didn't do anything wrong. And everybody knows it.
ACOSTA: Now the President plans to leave the summit earlier than expected. Tomorrow, he will miss out on meetings here in Quebec on climate change and on the state of the world's oceans but Mr. Trump has some oceans to cross of his own to sit down for what may be the most important negotiation of his life. That is the nuclear talks with Kim Jong-un set to begin next week in Singapore.
Wolf, you could hear the music here playing and in Quebec City. The President will be looking to make some harmony with Kim Jong-un here in a few days over in Singapore, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Will be flying directly from Canada to Singapore.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Now joining us now Ben Rhodes. He was the deputy national security adviser to president Obama. He is the author of a brand-new book entitled "the world as it is, a memoir of the Obama White House."
Ben, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on the new book. I'm going to ask you about it in a few moment. I want to talk about these two summits in Singapore and in Canada also. But let me get your quick reaction to these latest charges filed against the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his Russian associate.
BEN RHODES, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, look. I think this is the 20th indictment that we have seen come down and it just shows that, you know, while there is all of the noise and Trump tries to create distraction, Bob Mueller is just methodically building a case that I think leads up to very high levels around Trump.
BLITZER: No. Be specific? When you say very high levels around Trump, what do you suspect is going to happen?
RHODES: Well, only Bob Mueller knows that, Wolf. But I think there is a lot of smoke. And I would suspect that there is fire there when we comes to the fact that we know Russia interfered in the election and helped Trump.
We have learned about far more contacts between Trump associates and the Russians that I ever knew about when I walked out of the White House. So I think, you know, Mueller is going to put that picture together for us.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the summit. There is some serious strings, as you know, not necessarily with some of the non-allies but with allies of the United States and now the President is suggesting openly, he boasted about this, Russia should be readmitted to the G7 -- make it the G8 once again.
You were in the Obama administration when it went from the G8 to the G7. What is your reaction to the President's proposal to bring in the Russians and let them be part of the G7?
RHODES: I think it is astonishing, Wolf. I mean, I was there together with our allies kicked Russia out of the G8 because they annexed Crimea and violated the most basic tenant of international order and worked with Europe over many years to put sanctions on Russia.
What we are seeing before our eyes is kind of the unraveling of the post-World War II international order with the U.S. and our allies at the center of that. And the fact of the matter is that is going to have profound consequences for U.S. security and global security in the years to come. And frankly, it is exactly what Putin would want. When people asked, why would Putin interfere in our election and help Donald Trump get elected? A split between the alliance of the world's democracies would be the greatest return on Putin's investment that he had.
BLITZER: Do you think Putin is winning right now?
RHODES: He is absolutely winning. This is exactly what he wants.
BLITZER: And who do you credit for that win for Putin?
RHODES: Well, what is so astonishing, what is happening is the Atlantic alliance, the alliance of democracies has withstood all kinds of adversaries over the years and decades. It is a U.S. President Donald Trump who is precipitating this crisis for no good reason.
BLITZER: The other big summit coming up on Tuesday in Singapore, the President with Kim Jong-un. The President suggested yesterday, you know what, he has been preparing a long time. It is more attitude right now that is important in dealing with Kim Jong-un than preparation. The key is, is Kim Jong-un ready to take concrete steps toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula? Do you believe he is?
RHODES: I don't see that he is, Wolf. I see that he probably believes he is in some position of strength having consolidated its nuclear weapons program, and its missile program. Frankly, it takes a huge amount of preparation. I mean, I talk about say the Iran deal took seven years of sanctions to get there. The opening to Cuba, I must have 20 meetings with Alejandro Castro, Raul Castro's son, before we put Barack Obama in that room.
And in North Korea, you are talking about issues of nuclear program and what is their program and what do we put in place in inspections, what are we going to do with our sanctions? Very intricate details. And frankly, I don't think President Trump has done the necessary preparation to have this successful summit.
BLITZER: Low expectations.
All right. You are speaking about the Iran nuclear deal which the President ripped up. You were part of the team that put that deal together. And now a Senate report from Republicans, they are saying the Obama administration, you served in the Obama administration, actively misled Congress about an effort to help Iran before the deal was signed get access to $5.7 billion that was held in Oman.
You have the treasury department lift some sanctions for this one-time deal. And they are really angry that you did this and they say you never informed Congress about it.
RHODES: No, look, Jack Lew has said to Congress --
BLITZER: He was the treasury secretary.
RHODES: Yes. And we had said we are going to have to find ways to help Iran get access to the own money --
BLITZER: Even before the deal was signed?
RHODES: No. This is part of how the deal was implemented.
BLITZER: But the deal has not yet been signed when you lifted the sanctions on the $5.7 billion.
RHODES: You know, this was part of our commitment as we were negotiating the deal. It was Iran's own money that they had to get access to. And by the way --
BLITZER: But they wouldn't have had access to it unless the treasury department said the Omanis could -- a couple of U.S. banks, major banks make the transition from Omani currency to dollars and then to euros. The banks, by the way, they didn't even want to do it because they thought it would violate the sanctions.
RHODES: Well, and this is the point. First of all, this is a single license that was granted. There was never even used. And the fact that here we are -- they got what they wanted, Wolf. They tore up the Iran deal. They scrapped the Iran deal. And instead of actually putting forward a policy for constraining around nuclear weapons going forward, they are investigating things in a partisan way that happened years ago.
And frankly, what is more concerning to me is the fact that a few days ago the supreme leader of Iran said that they are going to resume their nuclear enrichment activities. That is what we should be worried about here.
BLITZER: But just to be precise, on the $5.7 billion, did you notify Congress specifically that you wanted a one-time lifting of sanctions to allow that money to be freed up, Iranian money, in order to -- so they would have access to it?
RHODES: My understanding, Wolf, is that -- at the end of the administration. And again, I think Jack Lew in testimony and Adam Zubbin, our treasury, very highly respected sanctions expert had said that we are going to have to take steps to allow Iran to access its own money.
And that this was a routine license that the treasury department issued. So again, I think this is consistent with how we have approached sanctions for many years.
BLITZER: You saw that Republican report.
BLITZER: That was release yesterday. The book, "The World as it is," anybody who reads the book, from your perspective, you spent a lot of time hard work writing it. What is the most important thing a reader will learn from this book?
RHODES: Well, I want them to know what experience is like. You know, I had the unique position of being 29 years old and pretty anonymous when I went to work on the Obama campaign, 31 when I came into the White House and then become very close to President Obama. And so, I wanted to take people into that experience.
What is it like to be in those rooms? What it is like to walk into the west wing and realize it is just you and about, you know, 20 or 30 officers making these decision? What is President Obama like not just in the moments at the situation table, not this one, but the one in the White House?
BLITZER: You mean there is one at the White House?
RHODES: There is one in the White House, too. But what is he like behind closed door? What was he like in between summits, you know? What was his conversation like?
And so, I wanted to take people through that experience. For the full eight years, I have realized I have a fairly unique opportunity to be there the first day of the administration and to fly with him on the final flight on air force one to California with his family after the inauguration and to tell that story.
BLITZER: You spent a lot of time in the White House situation room. What do you think of our situation room?
RHODES: Well, you know, I can tell you that the graphics are better here.
BLITZER: Much better. Years are 1980s.
RHODES: But I think we have more comfortable chairs and you have better graphics.
BLITZER: The book again is entitled "The World as it is: A Memoir of the Obama White House." Ben Rhodes is the author.
Ben, thanks very much for coming in.
RHODES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, more breaking news. Former Trump chairman Paul Manafort is hit with new charges by the special counsel, including obstruction and conspiracy charged along with him an associate said to have ties to Russia intelligence.
And a top Senate intelligence staffer charged with lying to the FBI during a leak investigation. Did he give reporters classified information about the Russia probe?
BLITZER: Back with our breaking news. More indictments in the special counsel Russia investigation. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort already facing charges ranging from money laundering to lying to investigators, now stands accused of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice and those same charges were also levied against Manafort's longtime former business associate Konstantin Kilimnik.
Let's get analysis from our experts who are watching all of this very closely.
And Samantha Vinograd, Kilimnik has suspected tied to Russian intelligence services. How does he fit and how does all of this fit into this Mueller investigation?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well first off, I think we learned today that Paul Manafort's disregard for the rule of law knows no bounds, regardless of how many ankle bracelets he is wearing. And the fact that he is now been indicted for a second time along with Kilimnik tells us that there is one more potential touch point with Russian intelligence. And I'm going to stress this potential because he has denied this claims. And we don't yet have any information from the FBI directly linking him to Russian intelligence.
But we do know that there are multiple touch points between members of the campaign and the GRU, the FSB and various parts of the Russian government. And I think my question from a national security perspective is whether the FBI now comes back and does have more information about Kilimnik's direct ties with Russian intelligence.
BLITZER: And Kilimnik, we got to say, he strongly denies any ties with Russian intelligence and these are allegations. There has nothing been proven yet. And we should point out Manafort, of course, has pled not guilty in all of these charges, at least so far.
But big picture, Jeffrey Toobin and I want your analysis because you have seen a lot these kinds of cases unfold. It tells us a lot about where the Robert Mueller investigation is heading.
TOOBIN: Right. I mean, the simple message here is that they are putting every bit of pressure they can on Paul Manafort to plead guilty and cooperate to flip, to testify and tell the investigators what they know.
This -- this indictment is worse than just another indictment. Because this claim that he approached these witnesses and tried to get them to lie to investigators, it is also the basis for the Mueller team's effort to -- to end his bail, to revoke his bail. And next week, there is going to be a hearing, presumably, at the same time that Manafort is arraigned on these new charges.
The Mueller team is going to go to the judge in this case and say, look, this guy should not be out on bail because he is obstructing justice while he is out on bail. And that is something judges look very unkindly on. They don't have to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
And I would say Paul Manafort's freedom is hanging by a thread at this moment and it is even more pressure to plead guilty if you are waiting for your trial in jail as opposed to out on bail.
BLITZER: Yes. It is one thing to have an ankle bracelet. It is another thing to actually be in a cell which he potentially could be in the coming days.
Jackie Kucinich, President was asked today about a pardon for Manafort. He didn't rule it out. He also reiterated his belief, his strong belief that he has the power to even pardon himself. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not above the law. I never want anybody to be above the law. But the pardons are very positive thing for a President. I think you see the way I'm using them. And yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself. But I will never have to do it because I didn't do anything wrong. And everybody knows it. There is no collusion. There has been no obstruction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you pardon Paul Manafort?
TRUMP: I haven't even -- I haven't even thought about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about Michael Cohen?
TRUMP: I haven't even thought? I haven't thought about any of it. It is certainly -- it is far too early to be thinking about that. They haven't been convicted of anything. There is nothing to pardon. It is far too early -- it is far too early to be thinking about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does that seem like he's sending a signal of sorts?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: One of the things we have seen we have known that we have seen over the past -- I don't even know how many months at this point -- is between Giuliani and President Trump, a lot of his associates really trying to undermine the Mueller investigation.
And when he is talking about these pardons, listen, he didn't say it there but he talks about being treated unfairly, talks about that a lot. And that to me seems to be laying the ground work for perhaps pardons in the future if the Russian witch-hunt and these people are treated unfairly, he might use that as a way to pardon them eventually.
BLITZER: But pardoning, Sabrina, pardoning Manafort, that would be a huge, huge deal. It would cause a big uproar. Do you think the President might be ready to do that, though?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, it is telling that he would not. It supposed to be rule out pardoning Paul Manafort. And Paul Manafort is someone who has been indicted on charges that range from conspiracy to money laundering and lying to the FBI. He has, of course, pled not guilty and declined so far to cooperate with the special counsel. Now you have the obstruction charges on top of everything else.
And so while the President has brought authority when it comes to pardons, Paul Manafort is not someone who has behaved like an innocent man. And I also think that the big question is the intent of the President's pardon and if it is seen as an effort to protect himself and to prevent witnesses from cooperating who may testify against him or his campaign, that looks like, to a lot of people, obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: You think -- and Jeffrey Toobin, I just want to ask the question, and say give me your reaction, do you think Manafort though is holding out for a possible pardon?
TOOBIN: It certainly has to occur to him. And he has to be encouraged by what he has seen. I mean, look at the people he has pardoned. Dinesh D'Souza who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. He can hardly claim it was unjust case since he pleaded guilty. Scooter Libby also someone, you know, deeply involved in Republican politics.
And most importantly to quote John Boehner, this is the Trump party now. It is not the Republican Party. There is nothing he can do that will alienate the members of the House of Representatives.
They are so closely tied to the President at this point that he could pardon -- he could pardon Paul Manafort tomorrow and good old Jeff Flake would come out and say, this is really bad and Paul Ryan would say, I'm very concerned and then nothing would happen. And that has to be on everyone's mind. The pardons have come at no political cost to the President. In fact, it is some benefit.
BLITZER: And those Republicans you mentioned and others, they are not seeking reelection either which is a significant point.
Let's talk about the G7 summit right now, Sam. The President today said, you know what, it should be the G8. Russia should be brought back in even though back in 2014 Russia was kicked out for invading Crimea and Ukraine.
VINOGRAD: Yes. And I was the last G8 that Russia present at. And I can tell you is a very tense meeting. The interesting thing here is what the President didn't say in that statement before the media: it should be an aspirational goal for all of us that Russia be invited back into the now G7 -- Russia is a major economy that plays a huge role in the world stage. But what the president didn't add on was what Russia had to do to be
invited back to the party. And that similar to what he said about Kim Jong-un, saying maybe he'll invite Kim Jong-un to the White House. Again, should be an aspirational goal at some point but we have to lay out the preconditions for getting these carrots that people hold out so much hope for.
WOLF: In saying, Jackie that Russia should be part of the G8, rebuild the G8. The president said may not be politically correct to say that, but what does it say to you about his sort of vision for diplomacy?
KUCINICH: Well, he's reached out his hand to despots and dictators, and he's really stress-testing the relationship with U.S. allies. We've seen it over and over, and over again. But you know, Sam and I are actually talking about this in the green room.
It's also -- it's not politically incorrect, it's politically tone deaf because there is a bipartisan coalition in the House and the Senate that favor Russia sanctions, that favor what happens with the G8 when Russia did leave. So, the fact that he continues to be -- so accommodating to Russia, it really is -- it's troubling for a lot of politicians here in the U.S.
BLITZER: Let me read to you, Sabrina -- Senator John McCain, his statement that he released today after the president said bring the Russians back in: "The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies, those nations that share our values and have sacrificed along us for decades are being treated with contempt.
This is the antithesis of so-called principled realism and a sure path to diminishing America's leadership in the world." Very strong words from Senator John McCain blasting the statement from the president.
SIDDIQUI: And Senator McCain has been among the most vocal critics of Vladimir Putin and Moscow. It's worth noting, having said that to Jeffrey's point that the Republicans in Congress by and large have been willing to give this president a pass and that includes on his posture toward Russia.
You think about the sanctions that were passed by Congress last year -- a new round of sanctions, of course, against Moscow. The president implements those with great delay of more than a month and a half worth of delay. He also declined to take any punitive action toward Moscow for its support of Basha al-Assad's regime in Syria.
You had his own intelligence chief testified on Capitol Hill but he is not doing enough to prevent Moscow from meddling in our election both this November and in the future. So, despite the president's assertion that he's taken a very tough line against Russia, you have yet more and more evidence that he's doing the opposite.
BLITZER: You know, before he left Washington, left the White House, Jeffrey to head off to Canada for the G7 summit. He spent about 20 minutes answering reporters' questions on the south lawn of the White House.
And out of the blue, he suggested this that the NFL players who want to protest police brutality whenever they want to protest -- and get down on their knee during the national anthem, you know what, he would welcome them perhaps offering some ideas for additional pardons. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You should stand for our national anthem. You shouldn't go in a locker room when our national anthem is played. I'm going to ask all of those people to recommend to me because that's what their protesting: people they think were unfairly treated by the justice system, and I understand that.
And I'm going to ask them to recommend to me -- people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs or people that they know about and I'm going to take a look at those applications. And if I find and my committee finds that they're unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What does that say to you, Jeffrey, about the president, sort of, reaching out to these NFL players?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, no one can certainly object to the idea that people who maybe unjustly imprisoned could get a hearing from the president. It's worth remembering that President Obama had an elaborate program after 2014 where he offered commutation for the most part that is letting people out of prison to more than a thousand low- level drug offenders -- who he thought he had received excessive sentences. So, there is some precedent for this. You know, President Obama didn't do it by asking football players what their advice was. They had a more structured program. But look, if the president wants to take seriously claims of unjust imprisonment, so much the better.
BLITZER: How do you see it, Jackie? The political implication, that's a pretty specific proposal he offered these NFL players.
[17:35:00] KUCINICH: Right, but I think that that is a -- handing out, get out of jail free card is different than the reforming the criminal justice system. He has an attorney general who has been -- who has completely reversed everything that Eric Holder and President Obama did to try to reschedule how drug offenses are handled. I think those actions speak louder than words. We will see what he does as Jeffrey said. It's not -- it's not necessarily a negative thing but it does overlook the systemic problems in that system.
SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that the president clearly is trying to exploit the so-called culture wars when it comes to this issue. But Jackie's point really gets to the crux of this issue, which is these protests were designed to draw attention to police brutality and criminal justice reform. There is bipartisan support in Congress, both Republicans and
Democrats alike, prefer to move away from mandatory minimums for low level drug offenses as Jackie pointed out: Jeff Sessions, Trump Justice Department, they have done the opposite; they have reversed the Obama-era policy and gone back to mandatory minimums. So, if he's serious, it's not just about pardons, it's about changing his own policy.
BLITZER: All right. We went through a lot. Stick around. There's more news. A long-tine senate staffer charged with lying to federal agents as they investigate leaks of classified information. We'll bring you the very latest.
BLITZER: Breaking news, a top staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee is charged with lying to federal investigators as they probe for leaks of classified information. Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. Jessica, give us the latest details.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, he was the senate staffer who was in charge of safeguarding that sensitive and classified information.
Now, he's charged with lying to the FBI. And when James Wolfe left the federal courthouse earlier today, he was stone-faced and silent -- refusing to answer questions from reporters. But federal prosecutors say, in the past few years, he did plenty of talking to reporters and they say when he was questioned about it, they say he lied.
SCHNIEDER: Mr. Wolfe, did you leak classified documents?
Tonight, a former high-level senate staffer is facing federal indictment charged with making false statements to the FBI during a leak investigation. The president and his Justice Department have made cracking down on leakers a top priority.
TRUMP: It's very interesting that they caught a leaker. And a very important -- it's a very important leaker.
SCHNEIDER: Fifty-seven year old James Wolfe, a 30-year staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee was arrested for lying to federal agents during the investigation into the leaking of classified information. According to a federal indictment, Wolf lied to FBI agents last December about contacts he had with four reporters, including allegedly using encryption apps to communicate.
Prosecutors say, Wolf, initially told the investigators he had no personal relationships with any reporters. But after being confronted with evidence, he admitted to engaging in a multi-year personal relationship with one reporter who now works for the New York Times, Ally Watkins.
Federal prosecutors say, the pair exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications. In one text, Wolf says, "I always try to give you as much information that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else. I felt like I was part of your excitement and was always very supportive of your career and the tenacity that you exhibited to chase down a good story."
According to the court filing, Watkins who then worked for BuzzFeed, wrote a story revealing the identity of an individual who appears to be Carter Page -- a former Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser who previously met with Russians. Wolfe, then finally notes, had access to a classified document that identified Page and was in touch with Watkins the same day she published the story.
The indictment also alleges Wolfe revealed to reporter that the committee had subpoenaed a witness who also appears to be Carter Page.
TRUMP: I'm a big believer in freedom of the press but I'm also a believer that you cannot leak classified information.
SCHNEIDER: Wolf Blitzer pressed Senator Mark Warner, the Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman, right after news of the possible indictment broke but he refused to provide any details.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: This is an ongoing legal proceeding. It's now in the hands of the Department of Justice and I'll have nothing to add.
SCHNEIDER: But in a joint statement, Warner and Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the news of the indictment disappointing, saying while the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the committee take this is matter extremely seriously.
The indictment and details of the investigation are raising concerns for some about this administration's aggressive pursuit of leakers. The New York Times reports that the Department of Justice seized Ally Watkin's e-mail and phone records but not the actual content of those communications.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The reason we know about the government is because some people have the courage to come forward and reveal often misconduct by government officials. If you -- if the government over-reaches, though, and places reporters under this kind of scrutiny and investigation, it really will have a sever chilling effect on the press and also sources for the press.
SCHNEIDER: And the attorney for that New York Times reporter calls it disconcerting that her phone and e-mail records were seized. Now, when it comes to James Wolfe, he has been released until his next court appearance -- that is in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. And Wolf, if he is convicted of all three of these charges of lying to the FBI, he does face up to 15 years in prison. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jessica, thank you. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Coming up, President Trump huddling with world leaders in Canada amid an escalating trade war. Why is he stoking tensions with American allies while calling for Russia's readmission to an exclusive global club?
And later, we remember the life of chef, and author, and adventurer, Anthony Bourdain. We'll honor his memory by talking candidly about suicide. And if you or someone you love need help, you could call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day. Here is the number: 1-800-273-8255.
BLITZER: Our breaking news, already quarreling with America's allies. President Trump today poured fuel on the fire when he calls for Russia to be re-admitted to what's now called the G7 group of nations. CNN's Brian Todd is here. Brian, critics say the president is rewarding Russia for bad behavior.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are saying that, Wolf. And they say these public battles that Trump is having with allies, and Canada, and France, are playing right into Putin's hands. The Russian president today called Trump a serious-minded person. Tonight, it's Putin who observers believe has seriously divided America and its allies.
TODD: Analyst say, it's the kind of endorsement the Russian leader Vladimir Putin could only dream of getting. But tonight, it's coming from a very powerful source, the president of the United States
TRUMP: Russia should be in those meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?
TODD: President Trump's impromptu idea to reinstate Russia into the G7. The elite group of the world's leading industrial nations, delivered on his way to the summit this morning. It's exactly the type of victory, critics say, Putin wants.
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump extending this invitation really does make Vladimir Putin's day. It's accomplishing everything Putin has set out to accomplish in dividing the United State from its closest partners.
TODD: That's because experts say, Putin is facing trouble at home, like a stagnant economy. And that he longs for the days of the Soviet Union when his country was considered a super power. They say, he isn't so much trying to strengthen his own hand as he is trying to destroy others.
That's why analysts say Trump's public battles with his NATO allies: Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, play right into Putin's hands.
SARAH MENDELSON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL: Putin's goal is to weaken Democratic institutions in the west, whether it's in formal organizations like the G7 or formal organization like NATO. The fact that Trump is playing along for Mr. Putin leaves the United States in a bad place.
TODD: Tonight, some members of Trump's own party appear to agree with that assessment. Senator Ben Sasse saying in statement: "This is weak. Putin is not our friend and he is not the president's buddy. He is a thug using soviet style aggression to wage a shadow war against America."
And from John McCain: "The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies." Russia was suspended from the G7 after Putin's 2014 annexation of Crimea, then part of Ukraine. But since being retaliated against, Putin has doubled down on his aggression, meddling in America's elections -- allowing his war planes to buzz American ships and allegedly poisoning his adversaries even on foreign soil.
The president claimed today he has been tough on Putin, leveling hard- hitting sanctions on the Russian president and his friends.
TRUMP: I have been Russia's worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I think Putin is probably is going: man, I wish Hillary won.
TODD: But many analysts disagree, saying Trump apparent deference too and compliments of Putin, have only fueled Putin's swagger. One example, in interviews this week, Putin said he's got no intention of handing Crimea back to Ukraine. And listen to how he raised the specter of a security threat from Ukraine to the upcoming World Cup in Russia -- a threat which there seems to be no public evidence on.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I hope that there will not be provocations by Ukraine during the World Cup. If this happens, it will negatively affect Ukrainian statehood.
MENDELSON: He is on the one hand threatening Ukraine which is an extraordinary thing to do. On the other hand, he's also already instigated war in Ukraine. The fact that he's threatening their state hood, sovereignty is deeply problematic.
TODD: Now, for his part, Vladimir Putin recently denies wanting to divide the European Union, saying the E.U. is his biggest trading partner. To analysts, say, that's a disingenuous comment by Mr. Putin and a deflection from what they say he really wants to do: to divide the E.U., to the divide the U.S., and divide them from each other. Wolf.
BLITZER: But there are weaknesses that Putin is starting to show, Brian, especially domestically and those were caused by President Trump's retaliations against them, is that right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. We have to point that out, in fairness to Mr. Trump. Experts on Russia are telling us the sanctions, which the Trump administration recently imposed on several Russian oligarchs -- those really wealthy, kind of shady business leaders with close ties to Putin.
Well, those sanctions have angered those men and could turn them against Putin. The sanctions have basically denied many of those oligarchs' access to a lot of their cash stash around the world.
TODD: Very interesting. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Coming up, breaking news, the special counsel issues a new indictment against former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, slapping him and a Russian associate with obstruction and conspiracy charges. Is there a connection to Russian intelligence?
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, charged with obstruction. Special Counsel Robert Mueller files stunning new charges against one- time Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, as well as his one-time business associate, who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence.
Tonight, what Mueller is alleging Manafort has been doing while under house --