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Interview with Roger Stone; Discussion of Russia Probe; Russia Indictments and Trump Meeting with Putin; Sen. Richard Blumenthal Interviewed. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: A happy ending in a sea of nightmares. Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

The Russians hacked the election. You know it. I know it. This new indictment of a dozen Russian high-ranking officers makes it clear.

So, will the president finally own the truth on the eve of being face to face with the man who ordered it all, Vladimir Putin?

We have a PRIME TIME exclusive with Roger Stone, longtime Trump friend and adviser, someone who appears to be the unnamed American mentioned in the indictment. Will he own that, and what is his advice to Trump in this all-important moment?

Plus, Democrats, even some Republicans are demanding the president call off the one-on-one with Putin, but the White House says the summit is on. A senator leading the charge to make it stop is here.

What a Friday the 13th. Yes, that's what it is. Let's get after it.


CUOMO: So, in less than 72 hours, President Trump will sit down with Vladimir Putin if everything holds steady at this point. I will be in Helsinki, Finland, to report for you, but no one will be in the room where it happens except Putin and Trump and arguably their interpreters.

So will the president put it to Putin? There is reason for doubt that he will. Why?

Two points. One, after learning about the latest indictment of 12 of Putin's people earlier this week, Trump still said the Putin meeting was going to be easy. Two, as recently as two weeks ago, Trump was still taking Putin's word over that of the U.S. intelligence community, something that he has done over and over.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

I believe that President Putin really feels, and he feels strongly, that he did not meddle in our election.


CUOMO: So what will he do now? Let's bring that up with the man of the hour. Once again, former Trump campaign adviser, Roger Stone.

Welcome to PRIME TIME.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. It's Friday night, so let's go easy to difficult on this interview. The easy work is that you are the man named -- or not named. You are the man suggested in this indictment. I know you've said you don't think you are, but now, what's your answer?

STONE: Earlier today, before I had a chance to read this extensive document, I wasn't sure. But I certainly acknowledge that I was in touch with Trump campaign officials, and I have testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that I certainly had a 24-word exchange with the persona Guccifer 2.0 over Twitter direct messages.

Anyone -- any objective person who will read that exchange, which is included in the indictment, will see that based on content -- context and timing, it's benign. It's innocuous.

So, in that respect --

CUOMO: It's also you, though?

STONE: -- I think I probably am the person referred to.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, look, I mean, you know, you put out the direct messages that you had with the person you now call a persona, Guccifer. And it is exactly what it is in the indictment. I think we have it if we want to put it up on the screen for people.

So, clearly, the president -- the government, in doing their investigating, is identifying these exact same communications. So, there was no reason to ever deny it, Roger. It's you.

STONE: No, I never denied that it was me. I just didn't understand the earlier reference. But to be absolutely clear --


CUOMO: Well, you said, I don't think it's me because I didn't speak to high-ranking campaign officials, which when I read that, I found that hard to believe. But why fight it? Why not just say, this is me. I put out the direct messages. They also say that there's no allegation of a crime.

STONE: Chris, I just did.

CUOMO: Now, but you didn't initially. That's what I'm asking you. STONE: No. Much earlier today, before I had a chance to read the

indictment, I misunderstood the reference. I think I've just clarified it.

CUOMO: OK. Let me ask you something else. Earlier you said that you didn't think that Guccifer had anything to do with Russia and that the government had nothing to do with the actions of Guccifer. We now know from this indictment there's only one Guccifer, and it's a fugazi name for the Russian bad guys who are conspiring against the United States in its election.

There is no other Guccifer. There is only one, and it's a composite of these bad guys named in the indictment. Will you own that now as a reality?

STONE: Well, an indictment, as you know, Chris, is an accusation. It's a charge by the government.

CUOMO: True, yes.

STONE: It's not a -- it's not a conviction. Even Russian intelligence agents in the United States have a presumption of innocence until they're proven guilty.

I agree with something that Congressman Nadler said in the previous program with Anderson Cooper. I would like to see the Russians extradite these intelligence agents so we can have a trial, so the DNC server can be examined, and so, this charge can be proven or disproven.

If that doesn't happen, then I'm hopeful in the civil suit that the DNC has filed against me and the Trump campaign and a dozen others, that we'll have an opportunity to examine the server to determine whether these --


CUOMO: Well, let's put the server aside. The server is a dark road of suspicion about what they wanted to hide and why -- let's put that to the side.

STONE: In all honesty -- no, wait a minute, Chris. I think the servers are absolutely necessary for the government to prove their case. I think it's perfectly reasonable to --


CUOMO: Well, if you read this indictment today -- if you read this indictment today, Roger --

STONE: I did.

CUOMO: -- they've got a ton of evidence linking down to the unit number of the GRU personnel who were doing the conspiring. Now, I know you can indict a ham sandwich. I get the whole deal. But this is part of a prosecution strategy which I'm sure you come

across in the past called name and shame. They know it's very unlikely that they get these people on U.S. territory, so they can prosecute, unless, unless the president demands it from Putin and uses it in trade for something maybe that Putin wants.

Would you advise the president to do that?

STONE: Well, first of all, what the indictment doesn't have is any link to the Trump campaign.


CUOMO: But let's put that to the side. I'm talking about Russian interference because it matters because the president always says, Roger, it didn't happen.

STONE: No. Well, let's not put it to the side. Let's address it, and then I'll answer your question.

There's nothing in this indictment that shows collusion or coordination or conspiracy with Donald Trump or the Trump campaign.

CUOMO: Right, but it's not the point of the indictment. It doesn't say anything about me either. That's equally immaterial.

STONE: The president made it clear earlier in the week that he intended to bring up the question of hacking with Putin. I think he intends to do so. He should certainly do so.

CUOMO: Should he ask for the extradition of the 12 people named?

STONE: I would not be opposed to that because I would like these charges to be either proven or disproven.

CUOMO: Do you think he will?

STONE: I'm happy to -- I couldn't -- I have no idea. He has not asked for my advice in this upcoming meeting.

CUOMO: But if he did, you'd tell him, ask for the 12. Be very strong with Putin?

STONE: I wouldn't be opposed to it in any way. I would like these charges to be proven. Otherwise, they're a public relations device in which they prop up the investigation and they make allegations that are yet unproven in a court of law.

CUOMO: Well, they are unproven in a court of law, but you can't read this indictment, I don't think, in conjunction with the last indictment that we had of almost a dozen people and the other indictments that have come out and the intelligence community assessment of what happened and the Senate Intelligence Committee assessment of what happened, and not face the reality that the United States was hacked by Russia during the election.

Will you accept that as fact?

STONE: No, I'm sorry. I think it is still unproven. There's an enormous amount of forensic evidence that points to a conclusion based on the download times that there was no hack and that the material -- the alleged hacked material was downloaded to some kind of a portable drive.

CUOMO: Where are you getting any of that?

STONE: I don't know. That's why I'd like to see a trial.

CUOMO: Where are --


STONE: "The Nation" magazine in an extensive article based on the findings of Bill Binney and Ray McGovern. Yes --

CUOMO: These guys have had subpoena power and the complete tools of the United States government. They've been looking at it for months. They detail who did it, how they did it, how they conspired, the different types of malware they developed, the different ways they paid with cryptocurrency fake servers to funnel the information, how they approached WikiLeaks, who they call organization one -- I'm not exactly sure why -- and they refer to you and how you were approached, how they developed D.C. leaks, how they developed Guccifer.

They lay it all out. Why fight the conclusion? Because you're in a very small group now. It's really you and the president.

STONE: Well, actually, I don't believe that because --

CUOMO: I'm saying in the relevant corpus of people. I'm making you relevant here, Roger. I know -- my Twitter feed is awash with people who want to believe every word you're saying. But I'm saying of those who should know better, very few cling to this idea that Russia had nothing to do with it.

STONE: Chris, I must already be relevant or you wouldn't have invited me to be here tonight.

CUOMO: A hundred percent. Point for you. Next.

STONE: So, to address your question, there's no evidence in this indictment that I or anyone involved with Donald Trump --

CUOMO: True.

STONE: -- received anything from the Russians.

CUOMO: True.

STONE: Or anyone who hacked the material and passed it to WikiLeaks.

CUOMO: True.

STONE: I don't know the people at D.C. Leaks. I don't think I've ever had any contact with them.

CUOMO: Right.

STONE: So, in all honesty, for me, this indictment is exoneration because some of your colleagues in the media believe otherwise, and that is clearly not the case.

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what I'll say on this, given my understanding of these matters and processes. I don't know why they didn't name you in this indictment and charge you with things if they wanted to, if they thought they could make the case. I don't know why.

I do think that you have a reasonable basis --

STONE: I know why, because -- I know why, because I never --


CUOMO: I think you have a reasonable basis at this point to say if they didn't name me here -- and they're obviously talking about me -- maybe it's because they don't have anything on me. I think that's a reasonable position for you at this point absent any further process by the investigators.

STONE: With all due respect, the reason I'm not charged in this indictment is because I received nothing from the defendants. I passed nothing on from the defendants. And my exchange with them, which is included, which any reasonable, objective person can read, is benign. It's innocent. There's no evidence of collusion or conspiracy or coordination.

CUOMO: I agree. I just don't know why you won't own that the person that you were -- whatever, the persona as they call it that you were corresponding with were the Russians. Why won't you own that?

STONE: Because I -- because I still don't know that it is true to a certainty.

CUOMO: Even though you never heard of any Guccifer before any of this, and there's all this proof from the U.S. government that it was developed for this purpose as stated in this indictment?

STONE: I think we've been round and round about this before. I think our intelligence agencies have been politicized, and I would like to see this proven in a court of law.

I would admit that they have issued an extremely compelling and detailed indictment, but it's still an accusation. I said this on "Info Wars" earlier today. I would like to see a trial, and I'd like to see the DNC server. If we can't get it to a trial of the Russians, perhaps we'll get it in this civil trial, and we can get to the bottom of whether the DNC was hacked at all and who hacked it.

I don't deny the government's made a compelling argument today, but that's still an accusation. It's not a conviction. CUOMO: Do you think the U.S. president should use the same standard

that when his intelligence community and his intelligence officials and his Department of Justice all tell him we know who did this, it's Russia, and the Senate intelligence says, we've reviewed it all. We're not Info Wars, but we're pretty sure they've got it right, that he should accept it instead of saying, nah, I go with Vlad, Vlad says he didn't do it and he seems to really feel that's the truth, so I'm open on it? You really think that's the right disposition for a president?

STONE: I don't think the president has ever said that. Certainly not in those words.


CUOMO: When asked about whether or not he thinks they did it, he said, I spoke to Vladimir Putin on the phone. He says he didn't do it, and he like left it at that.

And then he was asked about it again, he said, look, he really believes that they didn't have anything to do with it. Like since when is that the basis of whether or not you're going to -- so everything you've been told by your intelligence committee, the Department of Justice, the Senate Intelligence Committee, all of it you weigh against the word of a man on the phone who is put at the center of the plot. Would you do that?

STONE: I hope the president will raise this question when he meets with Putin, and I hope he will press it on him. We have certainly interfered in Russian elections. We spent millions of dollars electing Boris Yeltsin.

CUOMO: What does that have to do with what they did here?

STONE: And we interfered in the Israeli elections. Well, because it is kind of hypocritical to say --


CUOMO: But then he could say that. He could say --

STONE: -- interfere in foreign elections.

CUOMO: Fair point. He could have said, Russia did it. I believe everybody else who is telling me this, who's in the business of knowing, which I'm not. But we've done it too, so I've decided not to prioritize it. He's never said that.

He said it's a witch hunt, and we know why. He conflates what you're doing a little bit tonight, Roger, with all due respect, which is if it's about him, he wants this all dead, so there's no collusion. It's not about me. I did nothing wrong.

Maybe so. Let's see what the probe winds up with. But there's a whole separate reality, which is, they did this, an inimical state did this. Many different ways with lots of money and lots of intentionality, including trying to get into electoral results and trying to manipulate systems. That matters too, even if it has nothing to do with Trump, does it not?

STONE: Yes, it matters although whit remains to be seen whether their efforts in this country were effective or whether they were --

CUOMO: They were clearly effective. Look at us. We question each other at every turn. We question the election. What we're doing left and right.

STONE: We were doing that --

CUOMO: Not like this.

STONE: We were doing that before the election.

CUOMO: Not like this.

STONE: We were highly polarized before the election.

CUOMO: I wish that were true, but it's not. Final point.

STONE: Again, no evidence pertaining to the -- connecting this to the Trump campaign in any way.

CUOMO: Nobody suggested otherwise.

STONE: If they did -- and if this is proven, even Mr. Rosenstein said today in his comments there's no evidence that they affected the outcome of the election.

CUOMO: Nobody suggested otherwise.

Silence. Roger, what I'm saying is if they meddled in the election, that's enough. Their efforts are enough. You have to stop it. You have to speak truth to power. That's the role of a president.

That's why I think it matters. That's why I wanted you on tonight so you could clear up your role in terms of this indictment and say what you think Trump should do. And I appreciate you doing that.

STONE: I think I have done both of those things, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: You fulfilled the mandate. Thank you, sir. I'll see you again.

All right. So what does this indictment mean about where this investigation is headed? As Roger Stone was just saying, there are no Americans named this round, OK? But we don't know what will come next.

Does it prove there never will be? No. And did the Russians really do what President Trump asked them to at a rally right after he asked? The makings of a great debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: One hundred ninety-one charges, 32 individuals charged, three companies as well. The latest round, a dozen of Putin's people.

So, is the Russia probe still a witch hunt?

Let's bring in our great debaters, Jennifer Granholm, and Ken Cuccinelli.

Show of hands. Who doesn't believe Russia meddled in the election? Good. Let's move on.


CUOMO: Yes. Do you believe, Ken?

CUCCINELLI: You're a good lawyer, Chris. You're phrasing it in the negative. Now you know, I think it's rather clear.

CUOMO: Well, Roger Stone still has questions.

CUCCINELLI: And it was clear before today. It was clear before today.

CUOMO: A hundred percent, I agree with you on that.

All right. So, let's talk about what this means in context.

Jennifer Granholm, the context is this. The president is on the eve practically of being in Helsinki where we're all go to go and watch what happens when he is with Putin. We heard he was told earlier this week by Rosenstein about this indictment, and yet when asked about the Putin meeting, he said it's going to be the easiest one yet.

What does that tell you?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it tells me, first of all, that he has no idea what he's going into. It also tells me he should not be meeting with Putin. But if he's going to be meeting with Putin, he certainly shouldn't be doing it without any witnesses.

We're all here saying that he's -- you know, many people are saying he's Putin's puppet. He's going to go there for his annual performance review, whatever. If you don't want people to have that story coming out, then you should make sure this is an open meeting.

You should take that indictment. You should hold it in front of Putin's face and say, I want those people extradited to the United States. I want to make sure that none of this is happening in the 2018 election.

I would confront him directly and get that on camera because otherwise, given this president's propensity for lying, when he comes out of this meeting, who the heck is going to believe whatever he says? CUOMO: Ken Cuccinelli?

CUCCINELLI: Well, first of all, if I were Trump, I wouldn't meet with him by myself. No one would ever, and I assume Jennifer is being, you know, dramatic. You would never wave an indictment in front of the face of Putin.

Jimmy Carter wouldn't do that. Ronald Reagan wouldn't do that. Donald Trump shouldn't do that.

But he should demand the 12 extradited. Of course they're intelligence agents. They won't be. One of the odd things about this indictment that hasn't been discussed is this really isn't how this should ever be put forward.

I mean, there are three types, as you know, Chris, of investigations of the Department of Justice -- criminal investigation, civil investigations, and the much less known counterintelligence investigations.

And this is counterintelligence material. I mean this makes sense in a report about Russian participation in the 2016 election, but these people are never going to be extradited.

CUOMO: Right.

CUCCINELLI: This indictment is never going to be moved upon.


CUOMO: Normally they would be under seal if you were trying to get them and hoping -- normally they're under seal because you're hoping they will travel. You'll have the legal operations ready so you can nab them --


CUOMO: -- when they do. Preet Bharara pointed out something today.

CUCCINELLI: And the best they can do with these folks tactically is they can use Interpol and they can stop them --

CUOMO: Right.

CUCCINELLI: -- from traveling outside Russia. That's the best they can do.

CUOMO: But Preet Bharara reminded me of something that we have seen in the past, Ken, so of you. You may have done it in your role as A.G., name and shame. We know we're not going to get these guys.

We saw it in Pittsburgh not too long ago with the Chinese hacking case where we know we're not going to get them, but we want it to be known. We want to shame the actor. Isn't that what's being done here?

CUCCINELLI: Well, that was my point -- yes, that was my point about the Interpol piece is that you can actually go through the trial in absentia and then these people are quarantined to Russia by and large for the rest of their lives.

CUOMO: Maybe that's what will happen.

CUCCINELLI: Undercover and all the rest. And maybe it is what will happen.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: I think this is an effective tool for having Trump confront Putin on what is happening right now.

CUOMO: Right.

GRANHOLM: Today, the DNI Director Dan Coats said that the red warning lights are flashing right now because Russia is right now hacking our election that's coming up in 2018. That is serious. That is the opportunity for Trump --

CUOMO: Right, and his hands are a little tied, Jennifer. He's put himself in a bad position. We all know why. The president has been unwilling, let's say, to separate the Russian hacking and how real it is with what that means about what anyone around him or including him may have done.

Ken, fair point? That he always says it's all a witch hunt because he's really just talking about him.

CUCCINELLI: There -- yes. And collusion, right.

CUOMO: So, he has put himself in a position where if he were to go with Putin right now and say, hey, listen, new sheriff in town, pal. I'm not Mr. Nice Guy. Strong, MAGA, you did it. You do it again, I'm going to sanction you like nobody has ever sanctioned you before, you hear me?

Putin is going to look at him and say, you don't believe that. You're listening to these deep state people around you.

CUCCINELLI: Oh, yes, I don't -- I don't know, but --

CUOMO: You don't know what? You don't think he's put himself in a hole by saying that Putin doesn't think -- I think it's a witch hunt a million times?

CUCCINELLI: No, no. I think your suggestion is he can't do go do that. He could go do that.

CUOMO: But will he be compelling at this point?

CUCCINELLI: I think it's also worth mentioning that Putin is a KGB agent. He's not just a president. That's this guy's background.

And the president's hyperbole going into this meeting and coming out of it is quite a different style and it's really not a match. I mean, the president is setting himself up for Putin. Putin could come out of there, say X, Y, or Z happened or didn't happen, and most of the American media would believe Putin, not Trump.

CUOMO: Jennifer Granholm, you agree with that?

GRANHOLM: No, I do. I think it's a real --

CUOMO: You'd believe Vladimir Putin over your own president?

GRANHOLM: No, no. I think that a lot of people would say because of the volume of lies that this president utters every single hour, that people will come out going, we don't know which one to believe, and what a shame that is, that in America we would question who do we believe, our own president or Vladimir Putin? Because our president is such a ridiculous liar.

So, that's why he needs a witness. That's my point about going -- if you're going to go in, I don't think he should go in at all because going in legitimizes this attacker of our elections. He has declared cyber war on the United States democracy.

CUCCINELLI: So, no, I don't agree with that.

GRANHOLM: So, if you are not --

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Hold on. I don't want to get too far away from the point. What don't you agree with, ken?

CUCCINELLI: I don't agree with Jennifer that he shouldn't go forward with the meeting.


CUCCINELLI: I do believe that an indictment like this demands it be part of the agenda.

CUOMO: Yes, but all right --

CUCCINELLI: But it doesn't mean you have to cancel the meeting.

CUOMO: Jennifer, don't you guys -- I want to talk about this with Senator Blumenthal also. I don't understand why you're saying this so help me understand it, because it seems like you get what you want either way. If he goes there and speaks truth to power and owns the Russian meddling in a way that we've never seen him do before, and I get that there's a margin of concern there, you get what you say you want.

If he doesn't do that or somehow Vladimir Putin is willing to show that he never did that and has a very different understanding, you still get what you want because then Trump is exposed as someone who backed down from Putin. So why wouldn't you want the meeting to go forward?

GRANHOLM: Are you talking to me?

CUOMO: Yes. Ken would love that question. Go ahead.


CUCCINELLI: Sure I would.

GRANHOLM: Look, I think that meeting with Putin without a witness confers legitimacy on a ruler who has attacked the United States. And do you really want to confer that legitimacy when right as we speak right now, there has not been a clearly defined purpose for this meeting. He's been very all over the map. Oh, it might be about Syria. Oh, yes, OK, maybe I'll ask him about the hacking of the election, but he's not going to say that he did it.

I mean, what is the purpose of this meeting, especially in private if it's not to -- I don't know. It's hard --

CUOMO: Quick button.

GRANHOLM: -- he's going to get out of it.

CUOMO: Ken Cuccinelli?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, so, look, that's the Democrat line because he's going forward with the meeting. If he was canceling the meeting, they'd all be criticizing Trump and saying, no, you should confront him at this meeting. You shouldn't be canceling this.

GRANHOLM: No, that's not --

CUCCINELLI: I mean, he's -- on that front, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.

CUOMO: Well, but here's the thing --

CUCCINELLI: He's going, so he should confront Putin.

CUOMO: Here's the reality. One, there will be translators in there, and the last time, at least in North Korea, it was actually a fairly high ranking State Department official. So, you would have a set of eyes and ears there that maybe people would trust.

Two, it's all on Trump. This is the moment he wanted. This is the moment he says. He says it will be easy.

We know the facts. Sure it's an indictment, but boy did they go deep, Ken, even by your standard. Let's see what he does.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, absolutely.

CUOMO: I'll be there to watch.


CUCCINELLI: -- particularity (ph).

CUOMO: Ken Cuccinelli, Jennifer Granholm, thank you to both of you. It's Friday night. Have a drink. Enjoy yourselves.

All right. What happens when Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki on Monday? Is it wrong for so many to doubt that Trump will talk turkey to the Russian leader?

Michael Caputo is a longtime friend and former aide of the president. His take and his advice to his boss, next.


CUOMO: So, will the Putin meeting be as easy as the president promised now that we know about the indictment of 12 of Putin's guys for election meddling?

Let's get after it with a former senior adviser on the Trump campaign, Michael Caputo.

Welcome back to PRIME TIME.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER SENIOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Hey, Chris. How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: So what do you make of that? Rosenstein says I told the president about this indictment earlier in the week. After that, the way, you know, the simple calendar would work, President Trump said the Putin ones, that's going to be the easiest of all of them.

Knowing that he has this indictment that he's going to have to deal with with Putin, he thinks it's going to be easy. Why?

CAPUTO: I think the indictments kind of make it pretty cut and dried, don't they? I mean, even those indictments against a military action is kind of a feckless move -- I mean, this is a military attack on America's election system. We should -- let's hack them back with our military.

We should be much tougher on them than simply indicting them for crimes they'll never pay for. If this is true -- and like Roger, I'd love to see the DNC server. I've always believed this was Russia. I think the president should get right in Vladimir Putin's face and say, hey --

CUOMO: Go ahead. Finish your point, please. Get in his face and say what?

CAPUTO: I think he should say, hey, you know, you run a police state. You're in charge here. This is our elections. Cut it out.

CUOMO: Well, cut it out. Don't say that. That's what Obama told him. He's going to have to do better than that, right?

CAPUTO: But I think they should -- this is a military attack. I think they should --

CUOMO: I don't disagree, but the problem is what you're saying right now. CAPUTO: Drain their bank accounts, Chris.


CAPUTO: Drain Chairman Korobov's (ph) bank accounts.

CUOMO: I hear you. I hear you. It's not for me to judge what's right or wrong in a situation like this. But I hear your argument. It is a strong one.

I've just never heard it from the president. He says there was no meddling. Russia says they didn't do it. Putin being from the KGB doesn't make him a bad guy. He says a lot of things to mitigate.

Hasn't he put himself in a hole now if he's going to go there and speak truth to power about something that Putin's going to know that President Trump has, you know, spit all over himself?

CAPUTO: Well, I'll tell you, the president wants to have a better relationship with Russia just like George W. did, just like Bill Clinton did, just like presidents before him, just like Barack Obama did. And each time, they came in with wide eyes and high hopes and they were disappointed. Certainly since Putin's been in power, each one has been.

The fact of the matter is the president has the same optimism that those presidents did, and I think we see from these indictments whether they turn out to be true or not, it's a pretty strong case, certainly a strong case for diplomatic action.

CUOMO: Yes, by the way, this isn't new information. This isn't new information. This is the latest information.

CAPUTO: No, in fact, if you read the HPSCI report, if you read the HPSCI report, if you read the Senate report, none of this was real news today. I think we saw some names attached --

CUOMO: Right.

CAPUTO: -- to some important positions within the GRU. But by the way, I don't see Chairman Korobov mentioned here at all. I say go after the chairman's millions of dollars in his foreign bank account. Drain them, now.

CUOMO: You think President Trump should say, I want these 12 guys. If you want to do a deal with me, if you want to work on something, if you want these sanctions relieved, give me these guys?

CAPUTO: I don't think that's realistic. He'll never be able to get extradited any of these 12 people.

I think Interpol should be on alert. Each of these people travel in Europe with their families. Their kids go to school overseas. These are people who have money hidden in bank accounts across Europe.

CUOMO: All right. I hear you about the practicalities. But what does he need to say because we've seen him be real tough with the NATO allies. We've seen him be real tough with Theresa May, who is also a NATO ally obviously, but she just laid out the red carpet. He does an interview with "The Sun" and trashes her.

How tough does he need to be with Vladimir Putin?

CAPUTO: I think this being the first real, you know, bilateral meeting, I think Russia's economy is the size of New York state. You know, I think the president needs to look at Vladimir Putin and tell him, listen, you know, we disassembled the USSR. We can do the same thing with the Russian Federation.

I mean I know the Russian Federation wants to play on par with the G7. I don't think they should have been in the G7 -- they shouldn't have made it the G8 to begin with until they joined the family of men.

But the fact of the matter is I think these indictments are weak. I think that it's litigation instead of a tit for tat. I think our military hackers should be working overtime right now to do the exact thing back, because we're never going to stop this.

CUOMO: Part of the reason they're not is because the president doesn't want that. Part of the reason --

CAPUTO: Or the president --


CUOMO: Part of the reason that we need this probe is because the president wasn't a believer about U.S. meddling -- Russian meddling in the U.S. election and did certain acts to try to stop the investigation, not that they were illegal, not that they were nefarious, but he didn't like it, and that's part of the reason we are where we are right now. And the only problem --

CAPUTO: Well, one of the reasons we are --

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CAPUTO: One of the reasons we are where we are right now, and I said this in July of 2016. The hacks or whatever they are, server or no server, these attacks on our nation were provocations from the Kremlin.


CUOMO: They were provocations from Trump too. Trump gave a rally on July 27th --

CAPUTO: But, I mean, something needed to be done about this in 2015, Chris, 2016.

CUOMO: No, look, no question the Obama administration has stink on it. We get what their mentality was about feeling they were in a catch-22. Whatever. They should have done more. They didn't. Shame on them. Fair point. However, we know a hell of a lot more now than we did then, and

President Trump --

CAPUTO: No doubt.

CUOMO: -- at a rally on July 27th, 2016, said in full-throated fashion, Russia, find the Hillary e-mails and now we know in this indictment, after hours that same damn night, they did exactly that. They started spear phishing.

So this is a situation he has to own, and it raises the question, Mike, why doesn't he? Why is it when it comes to Putin, he has kid gloves on his hands? The guy pointed missiles at his house. Do you remember that video? I had them pull it.

He pointed missiles -- this is from Putin, showing the range of their missiles and how far they could go. And you know where they wind up coming down? Forget about the mountains.


CUOMO: Florida. Right in the region of where Mar-a-Lago is. You know what Trump said? Crickets.

CAPUTO: Kind of shrugged it off.

CUOMO: Not a damn thing. There are the missiles coming down to Florida.

CAPUTO: And, Chris, you know, I lived there -- I lived there for a long time. I was there for seven years. I understand Russia fairly well.

I think each one of our presidents, like I said, have come in with kind of Pollyanna looks on their faces and they learned, each one of them, that they can't trust Vladimir Putin. I think we're at a point now, and the chapter and verse in these indictments, I think they're weak. I think it's feckless. I think we should be attacking back with our military capacity on the Internet.

I think we should be draining Chairman Korobov of the GRU's bank accounts right now, today. But, you know, having said that, these indictments are a pretty clear description of facts and truths that need to inform the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin.

CUOMO: Well, hopefully.

CAPUTO: It's turned a light on. I think it's turned a light on, and I hope the president takes a good look at it.

CUOMO: Well, look, he's had every reason to know the truth for a long time. Nobody has access to better information on this than he does. But this is the moment he wanted, Michael. I'll be there in Helsinki. He's going to meet face to fate with Putin.

This is his chance to prove that anybody who says that he's soft on Putin is wrong. We'll see what he does. I'll talk to you after it. Thank you very much.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So as I said earlier, the president knew these indictments were coming. How do we know? Because Rosenstein said it today, that he had informed the White House earlier in the week. So, he still went out after knowing about this and told the world that he hopes to make friends with Putin. Why would he say that?

My next guest says because of that, he wants to cancel Monday's meeting. Senator Richard Blumenthal is on PRIME TIME, next.

Good to see you, sir.


CUOMO: Welcome back.

A group of Democrats led by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are calling for President Trump to cancel his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after today's indictments of 12 Russians for election meddling.

Now, one of those Democrats is Senator Richard Blumenthal. The senator joins us now.

Thank you, sir.


CUOMO: Make the case. Why cancel the meeting?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, you answered that question, I think, in one of your very first sentences on this show, when you say Vladimir Putin ordered this attack on our democracy. Your word, "ordered". The fact of the matter is that it was an act of war.

Now for Donald Trump to meet with this enemy of the United States -- he's no friend. He's an adversary and an enemy, and he means us nothing good. It elevates him and legitimizes that attack. What Trump has to do now is hit back and hit back hard and make the Russians pay a price. And there is a tremendous danger of miscalculation.

What Donald Trump ought to be doing instead of meeting with Vladimir Putin is ordering heightened sanctions, exposing the corruption within the Russian regime for the Russian people to see, and freezing assets and disclosing them here in the United States belonging to those oligarchs and top Russian officials.

CUOMO: Right.

BLUMENTHAL: There are steps we can take.

CUOMO: Well, look, the indictment does just that, right? I mean, this is what you guys in the law used to call on the prosecution side "name and shame", right? The practicality of getting these guys is not the highest degree, but you put the names out there. You show what happened.

We saw it in Pittsburgh when they named those Chinese hackers. They didn't have a great chance of getting them. But they put the names out there, let it be known what the Chinese was doing.

Why isn't the meeting a win/win from your perspective that if the president goes and he speaks truth to power the way he says he will, then you get that message sent to Putin in a way that maybe we've never heard it before in and if he doesn't, if he falls short, if he uses those kid gloves that he keeps using where Putin is involved, you win anyway because he becomes exposed once and for all for not standing up to this man?

BLUMENTHAL: There is so much more at stake here, Chris, than just the politics of the moment. We are under attack not only in the past, but it is continuing. That's the collective wisdom. It's unanimous among the intelligence community. They've said it publicly, so I'm not giving away any classified information as a member of the armed services committee.

The attack is continuing, and now is the time to make the Russians pay a price. No more business as usual. No more bromance. The dangers of both courses, his failing to stand up to them and his continuing this kind of infatuated bromance are really perilous.

And to allow him to go into that meeting alone is national security negligence on the part of his advisers and his top staff.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something. How significant is it to you that no Americans were named in this indictment today?

I know it doesn't mean that there will be no more indictments. I get that. But they kind of went to great lengths here to not name anybody else while suggesting that there are people known and unknown, organization one, which we all know is WikiLeaks, company one, which we know is CrowdStrike.

You know, they went to lengths. A person who was talking to Trump's senior staff, who everybody was going to find out was Roger Stone. He played around with it early on, but he even owned it tonight on the show.

Why don't you think any Americans are named if they were involved?

BLUMENTHAL: That's really a great question, Chris, and quite honestly nobody but Robert Mueller and his staff knows the real answer to it. But I'll give you my hunch about it.

Number one, in order to name people in this indictment, just like every single sentence and allegation in this complaint, there has to be proof beyond a reasonable. The standard is this is not an interesting fact, or --

CUOMO: Well, that's to convict. As you know, look, you're a much better lawyer than I ever was, but just to put it in the indictment, that's not the standard. They could have indicted somebody.

BLUMENTHAL: No, Chris, it is the standard. Because for a prosecutor -- and I was one, a United States attorney --

CUOMO: Right.

BLUMENTHAL: -- indictment means you need to be able to go to a jury and prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

CUOMO: Right, to convict, yes.

BLUMENTHAL: You cannot put yourself in the position of making allegations that can't be proved.

But here is another point. This investigation is continuing. And those Americans who were not named, but clearly were involved, there is more than Roger Stone, there are illusions to other Americans, are put on notice and the Russians and everybody involved in this investigation is put on notice that there is more to come.

And I think that is a very powerful message. He may not have the evidence now to prove beyond a reasonable doubt but, remember, when George Papadopoulos was finally not only indicted but actually convicted, it was months after he actually entered his plea of guilty. So, Robert Mueller is playing by his own strategy and playbook.

CUOMO: Right.

But are you a little worried about hanging your hat on the potential that Americans are going to be named for colluding with Russia? And I know colluding isn't a legal term, in part of a conspiracy with Russia to meddle in the election.

Because, you know, it's been set up as a standard for a lot of people. It never has been for me. I've been fighting this conflation fight.

Even today, the White House said here is our takeaway from the indictments. No allegations that any American did anything, no allegations of any staffer, no allegations that the president did anything.

You know, this is conflation. This indictment is part of the main line mandate for the special counsel which is to find out who did what for Russia. And that's why they named these dozen people.

But there's been this conflation and in fairness, a lot of Democrats are part of this, saying there is going to be collusion. What if there isn't?

BLUMENTHAL: The point here is really to better protect our nation. Our national security is at stake because the Russians are continuing to attack us.

Robert Mueller is performing a profoundly important public service by following the facts and the law where they lead. And it should be above politics, the spectacle yesterday of the haranguing and harassing a witness before a congressional committee is the opposite of the approach that Robert Mueller is taking. No public statements, just the facts and the law.

So, we may speculate about conflation and collusion and conspiracy, but what will be revealed at the end is a factual record of the Russian attack on this country, deliberate, direct, destructive ordered by Vladimir Putin, an act of war.

CUOMO: Thank you, Senator Richard Blumenthal. Thank you for being on the show, especially on a Friday night. Appreciate it, sir.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CUOMO: Don Lemon has no choice on a Friday night to be on CNN.


CUOMO: Although he finds a way out of it sometimes. His show is coming up in a few minutes.

You know, it's very interesting --

LEMON: I'm paying a mortgage, Chris.

CUOMO: I know you are. And this one.

The idea of what this means, what we saw today in this indictment is a really interesting one, because it does come on the eve -- it's very interesting, I haven't had anybody from the right tonight bring up the timing was wrongful.


CUOMO: I thought for sure that would be a main line argument. That this shows Mueller is dirty because he brought it out right before we meet with Putin and there is some suggestion that the president wanted this to come out, and even though he knew about it, Don, he said, yes, this meeting is going to be easy with Putin.

LEMON: Well, he briefed him before he left, right?

CUOMO: Right, but that's some definition of easy.


CUOMO: You got this indictment and all of this heavy weight on you, with real facts about what these guys did and now you go into the man who may have ordered it all.

LEMON: And here is the thing -- here is what we're doing. Everyone is talking about how the president is responding to this. You talked about how Republicans and the timing. You questioned all of that.

We know what the Kremlin said, basically using the same words as the White House. This is a witch hunt. This is fake news, and on and on. But I have some Russian experts who will tell me how will Vladimir

Putin and how is he reacting to this, to have 12 of his military intelligence officers indicted when the president is coming over. That's what we're going to break down and what this means for the meeting of the titans.

And you'll be there, right? You're going, yes. So, you'll be covering and we'll have those on tonight.

CUOMO: I will bring back some pickled herring. See you later.

LEMON: Yes, I like pickled herring. So, bring me some back.

CUOMO: He doesn't love it. I'll see you later.

Something else quite remarkable happened today. It is a truth check that may end all speculation about who is real, and who is fake. Closing argument, next.


CUOMO: All right. So, President Trump responded to the first class treatment by Prime Minister Theresa May by saying, not the best things about her leadership. So when asked about this at a presser with the prime minister today, instead of owning his words, he went to his signature move.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fortunately, we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you like it. But we record when we deal with reporters. It's call fake news.


CUOMO: Remember that. He's talking about "The Sun", which is run by his friend Rupert Murdoch. Remember, no one is safe when they are unflattering to Trump.

Now, he also said in a piece, you know, a poll just came out that I'm the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party, 92 percent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.

They didn't have polling when Abe Lincoln was president and most GOPers were equal or better to Trump at this point in their presidency. And he exaggerated his own polling with GOPers by four points, so that's all truth abuse. False. Fake.

But there is a bigger challenge here. Either Trump was taken out of context as he suggests, or -- and there are a lot of nice things said that were hidden, or not. And here is the good part. Here is the challenge.

We can know the answer. "The Sun" says they have tapes. They put out about eight minutes or so of a roughly 30-minute interview. We can't find the rest but they say they have them. They must be like the sun and shine the light on everything said and

if they can't, Trump said, you just heard him, that he has tapes, too. He told the reporters you could get it from Sarah. Get it Sarah -- Sarah Sanders, right?

He has suggested this before, that they have tapes and not produced them. We have been told the traveling pool did ask for that audio more than eight hours ago no sign yet that the White House is going to give them up.

So, it is either a big deal or it isn't. And I know people are going to say, everyone lies in politics.

No. The truth matters, especially now. And someone lying a lot doesn't make their lying less of a lie. We should not apply a different standard to our president than we do to our kids.

Can you imagine letting your 8-year-old get away with lying about doing her homework? I have one at home. This is a very factual scenario. No, we wouldn't do it. But it's OK when the president calls out the media and attacks anybody who try to call him out on a world stage? No, it isn't.

Produce the tape, "Sun", please? If not, Sarah, get after it, all right? Make the truth known. This is a put up or shut up moment.

All right. That's all I have. We're going to be live from Helsinki Monday night for President Trump's big meeting with Vladimir Putin.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.