Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump And Putin Hold Press Briefing. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 16, 2018 - 11:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- to his agenda? The same with Vladimir Putin. I don't know whether George W. Bush really looked into his soul, but he needed Putin then. They needed Putin for overflights, for all the sort of logistical help after 9/11 and all of that kind of issue.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Needed him in a way -- it's a very different Putin that was 18 years ago. When President Bush made that -- I interviewed Conde Rice and a State Department official, who is sitting alongside her. I asked them about the famous quote. She apparently did a big gasp of intake. They had prepped President Bush in advance. When he said that, they knew that we would potentially still be talking about it decades later.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When you say it's a different Putin, is it a less powerful Putin right now or a more powerful Putin than he was 18 years?

GLASSER: Well, it's certainly more confident Putin. I first met Vladimir Putin just a few days after that summit. He was still very much the former KGB officer who had risen from obscurity in a couple of years to become the leader of the kremlin. He was very eager to prove himself even to us American journalists.

He had read his briefing books and he wanted us to know he could reel off facts and figures. You wouldn't see Vladimir with that level of insecurity in his own office now. However, he needs America more than ever because for the last few years since 2014, and the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, that's the first such armed takeover of territory since the end of World War II in Europe.

He has been an international outcast ever since then in a coalition largely led and organized by the United States. Vladimir Putin, of course, has been seeking readmittance to the club. What's interesting that Donald Trump doesn't seemed to have imposed much in the way of costs on Putin to get him back into the club.

He's already said, I would like to invite you back into the G7, which by the way, we kick him out as a result of that.

AMANPOUR: I think it's important also just to note how much on the ground he has compared to several years ago. He has a massive presence in Syria, a massive base, troops on the ground setting the agenda in Syria along with the Iranians and Assad. That's against --

COOPER: We spent years getting the Russians out of the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: Precisely, and they are back in a big way. He has a base in the Balkans, Serbia. He is busy according to latest reports interfering in Macedonia. Doesn't want any of the other Balkan Republics to join NATO. Montenegro managed to do it. And that's a big deal, but he wants to get President Trump to acknowledge this whole sphere of influence idea that is their geopolitical thing.

COOPER: The president was asked if Vladimir Putin -- the president said if Vladimir Putin asked him to halt military exercises, joint military exercises with the United States in the Balankan states, he said he would consider that. John Holton then came out later on and said that's not on the table, but really not for John Bolton to say.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You have a sense with the two guys, these are two alpha males squaring off. It's really -- Putin would come late, he would make -- it's intentional. He made Trump wait for him. He came in later. That's what the senior person does in a relationship.

COOPER: These are not coincidence. It's not like there was a traffic jam here in Helsinki that it couldn't get --

AMANPOUR: But again, it's really important to note what the Russians themselves are saying on their state media. A couple of things they have said -- a state senator and ally of Vladimir Putin. Before that the state media said now is the real game. This Helsinki meeting is the end game. It was just sort of passing through Brussels and E.U. and Britain. This is the real game. Helsinki was the eye on the prize, so to speak.

COOPER: That's important -- this is important for Vladimir Putin. I think it's worth reminding viewers, Christiane, the economic situation that many in Russia are facing. Vladimir Putin is financially the country has been in trouble in large part because of sanctions and other things. Something like this where he is back on the world stage is certainly -- it works in his favor.

GERGEN: His economy is one-tenth the size of the U.S. economy.

GLASSER: That's right. We continually play into President Putin's argument for his domestic political audience as well. Christiane made an important point. Where Vladimir Putin and Trump actually have a similar world view and a view of great powers like Russia, President Trump mentioned China.

He said Vladimir Putin at the opening of this meeting, we're going to talk about our good friend, Xi Jinping. In a way, it shows you that President Trump is more comfortable with the notion that the three big men of the world would sit down, Russia and China and the United States.

Rather than this post-War II vision of multilateral web of alliances and partnerships of democracies. That is a notion that Donald Trump is not comfortable with.

[11:05:11] He is not a multilateral kind of guy. Now, he obviously doesn't speak in the elevated language of international diplomacy, Kissinger and Real Politique, but basically that's what both of these men believe in.

AMANPOUR: It's not just democracy. The west stands for peace and prosperity as well. That's at stake right now. The entire economic --

COOPER: We should also point out, these are alliances which have prevented another world war. You look back -- World War I and World War II. There has not been a global war on that scale since World War II. There's a reason for that. It's not by accident. It's the alliances which have been formed.

GERGEN: That's right. It's been worth it. It's been worth it.

GLASSER: Is someone protesting there?

AMANPOUR: What is this?

COOPER: Someone was holding up a sign.

AMANPOUR: Former U.S. ambassador to NATO who served two different presidents in the United States said this --

COOPER: I'm not sure what's --

AMANPOUR: I don't think we can see it unless somebody on the ground can.

GLASSER: He is carrying a handheld sign.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, what's going on?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a reporter is being forcibly removed from this room right now. A man who identified himself with being the nation of progressive publication. I'm not sure if that's accurate. That's how he represented himself to security officials.

They initially asked him to step out of the room, which he did peacefully. They brought him back in to get his stuff. He said the reason why I'm being removed, talking about himself, is that he had a sign. A sign talked about the nuclear test ban treaty.

I believe that's what I saw on the sign. Something to do with nuclear testing. As he held it up, security officials grabbed him and forcibly removed him from the room. I don't know if you saw that on camera. It's happening in real time in front of us.

It was a scuffle between this reporter and the security officials here. Obviously, all day long, security officials on both the White House side and the Kremlin side have been trying to screen everybody, screen all of these journalists, make sure they get inside without any commotion.

Then, of course, as soon as we get inside this presidential palace in Helsinki, we had a commotion. There's a security official coming back in. Not sure if he is U.S., Russian. He is removing the rest of the gentleman's equipment, a laptop, phone and his bag. That appears to be a Secret Service officer.

So, it seems that you have both Secret Service and Russian security officials working hand in hand here to remove that individual. But Anderson, I don't think it would be accurate to describe this as 100 percent totally completely a reporter being removed from the room because he was trying to do reporting.

I believe it appears he was being removed from the room because he was carrying some kind of protest sign. He planned on causing a commotion. Obviously, we're watching this unfold in real time. We obviously need to get more information about all of this. It appears that is exactly what took place here.

This man, either who is a journalist or was posing as a journalist, had planned on holding up a sign during the press conference. He has been removed from the room quite forcibly. This was not somebody willing to go on his own -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, what is it you thought was said on the sign? We will try to re-rack the video to see the small sign he was holding up. You said it was something you thought about nuclear -- something to do with nuclear weapons?

ACOSTA: Yes. Forgive me for looking at my phone. I did snap a picture of the sign. The sign said, nuclear weapons ban treaty. That's what the sign said. I will climb off the chair right now. Hope you don't mind me doing that.

We have the delegation coming into the room, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, the chief of staff, John Kelly at the White House, John Bolton, the national security adviser, Jon Huntsman, U.S. ambassador to Russia and others. It seems, Anderson, we are getting closer to this press conference getting started.

COOPER: All right. Jim, we will let you take your seat. There's Stephen Miller obviously as well. Christiane, we haven't seen something like that for some time. There's Sarah Sanders. We don't know who that person was who had that sign.

AMANPOUR: That's Sergei Lavrov there. If it is what Jim read, if that's accurate, for all we know that could have been a question. We just don't know. It sounds pretty innocuous, what about the nuclear test ban treaty? That's one of the things we understand is under discussion today. That's just talking now from far across the river, just in front, not being in the room.

COOPER: Hard to know what the person was holding up the sign. We don't really know. Obviously, the -- it looks like this is about to take place. The principals are now on hand.

GLASSER: We are seeing the Kremlin spokesman, who has been a very close adviser to Vladimir Putin for the last two decades.

[11:10:10] AMANPOUR: Wasn't he inside the bilateral lunch?

GLASSER: He was in the lunch. I don't believe he was originally scheduled to be there. Originally, it was three on each side. They added a fourth. Glad to see that there was one woman in both delegations, National Security Council Senior Director for Russia, Fiona Hill. She's a real expert on Russia. She's written a book about Vladimir Putin --

COOPER: Here is Russia's President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump. Let's listen in.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Thank you so much. Shall we start working, I guess? Distinguished Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, negotiations with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, took place in a frank and business-like atmosphere.

I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round. We carefully analyzed the current status, the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship key issues of the global agenda.

It's quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationships are going through a complicated stage. Yet those impediments, the current tension, the tense atmosphere essentially have no solid reason behind it.

The cold war is a thing of past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of remote message of the past. The situation in the world changed dramatically. Today both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges.

Those include a dangerous maladjustment of mechanisms for maintaining international security and stability, regional crises, the creeping threats of terrorism and trans-national crime. It's the snowballing problems in the economy, environmental risks and other sets of challenges.

We can only cope with these challenges if we join the ranks and work together, hopefully, we will reach this understanding with our American partners. Today's negotiations reflected our joint wish, our joint wish with President Trump to redress this negative situation in the bilateral relationship.

Outline the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust and going back to the previous level of direction on all mutual interest issues. As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security.

Vital, we mentioned this during the negotiations, crucial that we fine tune the constitutive stability and global security and non- proliferation of weapons of mass distraction. We submitted to our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions.

We believe it's necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military and technical cooperation. This includes the extension of the strategic offensive arms limitation treaty. It's a dangerous situation with the global American defense system.

It's the implementation issue with the IMF treaty and non-placement of weapons in space. We favor the continued cooperation in counterterrorism and maintaining cyber security. I'd like to point out specifically that our special services are cooperating quite successfully together.

The most recent example is their operational operation within the recently concluded World Football Cup. In general, the contacts among special services should be put system wise basis should be brought to systemic framework. I'm reminded President Trump about suggestion to re-establish the working group on anti-terrorism.

We also mentioned plethora of regional crisis as not always that our postures dovetail exactly. Yet the overlapping and mutual interests abound. We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international forum.

Clearly, we mentioned the regional crisis, for instance, Syria. As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of the successful joint work.

[11:15:11] Russia and the United States apparently can take leadership on this issue and organize the interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis and help Syrian refugees go back to their homes.

In order to accomplish this level of successful cooperation in Syria, we have all the required components. Let me remind you. Both Russian and American military have useful experience of coordination of their action, established the operational channels of communication which permitted to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and the ground.

Also crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria, the south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the Treaty of 1974 about separation of forces, about separation of forces of Israel and Syria.

This will bring peace to Golan Heights and bring more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and also to provide security of the state of Israel. Mr. President paid special attention to the issue during today's negotiations.

I would like to confirm that Russia is interested in this development and this will act accordingly. Thus far, we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of Security Council, for instance the Resolution 338.

We're glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve. To a great extent it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation.

We also mentioned our concern about the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA. The U.S. -- our U.S. counterparts are aware of our posture. Thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran began most controlled country in the world, submitted to the control of IAEA, it effectively ensures peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear program and strengthens the non-proliferation regime.

While we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis, we paid special attention to the implementation of Minsk agreements by Kiev. At the same time, the United States could be more decisive in nudging the Ukrainian leadership and encourage to work in this.

We paid more attention to economic ties and economic operations. It's clear that both countries, businesses of both countries are interested in this. American delegation was one of the largest delegations in the St. Petersburg economic forum. It featured over 500 representatives from American businesses.

We agreed, me and President Trump, we agreed to create high level working group that would bring together captains of Russian and American businessmen. They know how to articulate this successful business cooperation. Let them think and make their proposals and suggestions in this regard.

Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of so-called interference of Russia with the American elections. I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including election process.

Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together. For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cyber security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.

Clearly, it's past time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area in the humanitarian area. As far as I think you know that recently we hosted the American congressman delegation.

Now it's portrayed almost as historic event, although it should have been just a current affair, just business as usual. In this regard, we mentioned this proposal to the president.

[11:20:07] We have to think about practicalities of our cooperation, but also, about the rational, the logic of it. We have to engage experts on bilateral relationship who know history and background of our relationship.

The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, prominent diplomats, and former military experts in both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries.

That would look for ways on putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth. In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full scale meeting because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international forum. We had good conversation with President Trump. I hope that we start to understand each other better. I'm grateful to Donald for it. Clearly, there are some challenges left when we were not able to clear all the backlog. But I think that we may the first important step in this direction.

In conclusion, I want to point out that this atmosphere of cooperation is something that we are especially grateful for to our Finnish hosts. We're grateful for Finnish people and leadership for what they have done. I know that we have caused some inconvenience to Finland. We apologize for it. Thank you for your attention.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you very much. Thank you. I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue. Went very well.

Before I begin, I want to thank the president of Finland for hosting graciously today's summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did. I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup.

It was really one of the best ever. Your team also did very well. It was a great job. I'm here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.

A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known. President Putin and I discussed them at length today.

If we're going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we're going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table.

We have seen the benefits of cooperation. In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the second world war. Even during the tensions of the cold war, when the world looked much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue.

Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically that to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything.

As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct. Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia forward the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.

I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.

During today's meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. Spent a great deal of time talking about it.

[11:25:13] And President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels strongly about it. He has an interesting idea. We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity, nuclear proliferation.

I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea. After today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem. Going to work with us and I appreciate that commitment.

The president and I also discussed the radical Islamic terrorism, both Russia and the United States has suffered horrific terrorist attacks. We have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.

Last year, we told Russia about a planned attack in St. Petersburg. They were able to stop it cold. They found them. They stopped them. There was no doubt about it. I appreciated President Putin's phone call afterwards to thank me.

I also emphasized the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East. As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one.

Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area.

We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow-up on all of the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we have started right here in Helsinki.

Today's meeting is only the beginning of a longer process. But we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought. Our expectations are grounded in realism, but our hopes are grounded in Americans' desire for friendship, cooperation and peace.

I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also. President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States.

Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States for the greatest good of all. This was a very constructive day. This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together. It's in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation and we have agreed to do so. I'm sure we will be meeting again in the future often and hopefully, we will solve every one of the problems that we discussed today. Again, President Putin, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The journalists would have chance to ask two questions -- two set of question each. First the Russian journalist will ask question. Give your affiliation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Good afternoon. My name is Alexei Meskov (ph), Interfax Information Agency. I have a question to President Trump. During your recent European tour, you mentioned that the implementation of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline makes Europe hostage of Russia.

You suggested that you could free Europe from this by supplying American energy. This cold winter actually showed the current model, current mechanism of supply of fuel to Europe is quite viable. At the same time, as far as I know, U.S. had to buy Russian gas for Boston.

I have a question. The implementation of your idea has political tinge to it or is this practical one? Because there will be a gap formed in the supply and demand mechanism and first, it's the consuming countries who will fall into this gap.

And the second question, before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary --