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Trump and Putin to Hold Press Briefing After Long One-on-one Meeting; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 16, 2018 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: -- wanting to make friends with a man he clearly admires. And then as you were talking about earlier in the show, Anderson, being willing to blame America first for the Russian meddling. And by the way, using the word meddling underplays it. It was an attack on America. It was a clear attack on America. He saw those --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

BORGER: Those indictments and he can't get over the fact that the Russians were putting the thumb on the scale on his side. And he -- and people I talk to, he can't get over the fact that he believes it's a way to delegitimize his own presidency.

COOPER: Yes, Dana Bash, had Russian agents physically come to the United States, broken into the offices of the DNC, broken into the office of John Podesta, broken into, you know, voting systems, and actually carried documents out, perhaps it would be more difficult for this White House to turn a blind eye to it or to not hold Cabinet- level meetings about how to prevent it from happening again, which is exactly what they have done.

You know, you have the White House -- you have the FBI saying, look, we're doing all we can to try to prevent this. You have various arms of the intelligence community trying to prevent this from happening again. But you haven't had high level Cabinet meetings, you know, chaired by the president of the United States overseeing all of this and you continue to have this -- certainly this reach across from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin. And we're going to see, you know, what level it goes to in front of the world's media at this press briefing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We sure will. We sure will. Look, I mean, the way that this president is reacting, my guess is if Russian agents physically broke into the DNC, the president would have said they should have had better locks on the doors, better security. I mean, that is the approach that he is taking, because it is the modern day version of physically breaking in when the Russian government, clearly with the blessing of and maybe even probably the direction of Vladimir Putin, goes into cyberattack mode, which is exactly what they did.

And it wasn't just on the DNC. According to this indictment that we saw on Friday, it was on state and local election boards. That's non- partisan. That's the fundamental backbone of American democracy that you are talking about. And that is not a partisan issue, which is what his own deputy attorney general tried to say in a pretty extraordinary statement with that indictment.

So the question, of course, is and has been whether or not, not just behind closed doors, which would be nice, but in public, in front of the world, the president turns to Vladimir Putin as any other president before him would have done and said, cut it out and stop doing it right now, because his own director of National Intelligence has said that there's -- that this is happening right now ahead of November's elections.

COOPER: Yes.

BORGER: Yes, the red light is blinking is exactly what he said.

BASH: Exactly.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, thanks very much.

Another quick break, waiting for the press conference to begin any minute. Trump and Putin speaking at the press briefing. We will bring it to you live from Helsinki, Finland. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:50] COOPER: Welcome back to a beautiful and sunny Helsinki, where it is 5:37 in the afternoon. And the sun is shining bright. It is a heat wave here. It is extraordinarily beautiful. We're expecting to hear from President Trump and Vladimir Putin shortly after the two wrap up a working lunch. We're told that this is going to occur sometime in the next 20 minutes or so, right before perhaps the top of the hour.

Right now our senior CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us with more.

You know, Nic, you and I were talking about the last time -- really the first time that President Trump and Vladimir Putin met. And what you were saying was really interesting about what came out of that meeting and how it's played out over time and how essentially it seems like the Russians were able to play President Trump and the U.S. Can you just explain that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Look, so what came out of that first time they met at the G20 in Hamburg last year was a meeting just President Trump, President Putin, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign minister, and at that time it was the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. And Rex Tillerson gave us all a brief afterwards and he said, well, out of this came an agreement. And it was an agreement on a ceasefire, a freeze on -- in the area of southwest Syria.

And then we found out a little more on there was the sort of four so- called safe zones that were agreed around Syria. But this became what is essentially an old play from the Russian sort of playbook, if you will, which is you declare a safe zone and you freeze the fighting there. Then you marshal your forces to attack just one of those safe zones, because you don't have enough to go after them all at the same time, and then you go after these safe zones one at a time.

And what is happening right now is that they are going after that safe zone in the southwest of Syria. Assad's forces backed by President Putin's forces in the past couple of weeks have been forcing refugees out of their homes and basically taking down this area that President Trump was so happy to go along with President Putin's plan to call it a safe zone last year.

And those four safe zones that they agreed to last year, three of -- two of them are completely gone, one is on the way of being dismantled right now, overrun by Assad's forces backed by Russia's military.

[10:40:10] So in essence when you look back at that and compare it to the situation now, President Trump seems to have been played by an old Russian military ploy, safe zones, they're safe today, they're not safe tomorrow. President Trump fell for it back then.

COOPER: President Trump said last week that he doesn't consider Russia an enemy but a competitor. He did, though, in this recent interview just yesterday called the European Union a foe, which is obviously a pretty extraordinary statement. He also then went on to say, China and Russia are also foes, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing but just in terms of trade he is talking about. But to hear a sitting president call the European Union a foe certainly sends shockwaves through the European Union and to a lot of the countries in NATO, certainly.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. I mean, many of those members of the European Union are also members of the NATO military alliance. And President Trump was meeting with them, berating them just a few days ago. Yet patting them on the back at the end and saying they've all done a great job for stumping up more money, more money because he'd been pushing them to do it.

There's an element of truth in that but here he is throwing it back in their face that they are essentially a foe of the United States. We know that he doesn't like the European Union. He was in Britain a few days or just right after that meeting at NATO essentially undermining the British prime minister for her stance on Brexit so -- which is Britain getting out of the European Union, of course.

So President Trump seems on one hand so ready to undermine his allies, those very same allies watching this meeting now with a great deal of concern. The only heat they will have seen on President Putin will have been that moment he walked off his aircraft, casually took his jacket off at the bottom of the steps before he got in his own armored limousine, very much giving the signal that he was in a relaxed position, rather than any sort of, if you will, heat from President Trump, putting heat on President Putin for the meddling in the U.S. elections.

President Trump didn't mention that. So, you know, not to mix too many metaphors here. It's blasting down sunshine here, but in essence that's the only heat that President Putin is feeling right now. Not a lot it seems from his relaxed demeanor from President Trump.

COOPER: Yes. We'll learn more certainly in the next few minutes when this joint press briefing begins. We'll obviously bring that to you live. Stay with CNN. We'll be right back live from Helsinki.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:32] COOPER: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. We're live from Helsinki. We are just minutes away now from the press briefing to begin with President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin. We're exactly not sure on how it's all going to play out. We imagine both men will probably make some kind of initial statement and then we believe they will open it up to questions. We're not sure how long that's going to go on for.

I want to bring in CNN's chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, senior political analyst David Gergen and global affairs analyst Susan Glasser, as we await for this. As you can see, the room is already filling up.

You know, it is very easy when you talk in a summit like this to kind of talk about both world leaders on an equal footing. It does bear, though, just some moment to kind of talk about Vladimir Putin and his record. I mean this is a person -- I mean he's -- you know, I don't know if thug is the right word. But in terms of the norms by which a president runs a country, he does not hold to the same norms as democracies.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, no, he doesn't. I mean, it's not by any means a democracy. It's a very managed one if at all, but nonetheless, as you correctly point out, it's the reason for the very bad relations is his ascension to power. Since 2000, he has been either president or prime minister for many, many, many years now. And in the later years, he's done things like invade another country. And that is on an international field. That is an incredibly bad thing to do.

It completely rearranges the norms of international relations. A big country invading a small country, then annexing it and then -- you know, increasing the activity in eastern Ukraine, et cetera, et cetera. So the Crimea phenomenon. And while of course U.S. press and the U.S. rightly is very concerned about the hacking of the election and the democratic process, these are wars by other means, either the election process or what's happening in eastern Ukraine, the whole idea of, you know, having denied it and for so long, you know, little green men and this and that, it's not Russia, blah, blah.

COOPER: By the way, we've just been given the two-minute warning as I say for --

AMANPOUR: Very good because that's when we'll know really what's accomplished. But the bottom line is on the big picture, Western allies are hoping that President Trump will be speaking with a U.S. leadership of the world kind of tone and adhering to the Western, you know, democratic and political agenda, rather than giving too much to the Russian agenda. COOPER: Which in a normal time, that would be the case. Unclear

exactly what is going to happen and what we're going to hear in the next few minutes.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thug is the right word. Listen, America has tried to have very extraordinary relationships with people you can work with, who are honorable and upstanding. We just don't hate every Russian. You know, Reagan, you know, still like to talk about the evil empire, but he thought well of Gorbachev and worked with him. So did Margaret Thatcher. And Clinton thought well of Yeltsin, trying to bring democracy. Thought well of Medvedev. But Putin is someone on a wholly different order. He's a cold-blooded murderer. He does -- he violates the norms and to try to get along and figure you want a real buddy, buddy friendship with this guy is a terrible idea.

COOPER: Susan, that's what makes the idea of sort of kowtowing to him or kind of kissing up to him so repugnant in many ways for the leader of -- the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Vladimir Putin considers the breakup, the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century and he's seen his 18-year presidency and Prime Minister (INAUDIBLE) so far as a project of restoring Russia to what he views as the rightful great power place in the world.

What is extraordinary about this moment is that this is the fourth straight American president that Vladimir Putin has dealt with. And, you know, the three previous never did what Donald Trump has started out this summit meeting today, which is actually to appear to advance the agenda of Russia rather than the agenda of the United States, when it comes to Russia's place in the world.

COOPER: Jill Dougherty is also joining us, who's spent a lot of time in Moscow, based in Moscow.

Jill, I'm wondering your thoughts as we await probably about a minute or so and last for these two men to come out.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I'd say Russia right now, you are in a big room, you've got flags, you've got pomp and circumstance, and I think they are baiting, that they are back on the world stage. I just looked at a tweet by Aleksey Pushkov, a senator. He said, Russia and the U.S. are deciding the fate of the world, the leaders of the leading powers of the planet are meeting. And I think that's what they look at regardless of what happens.

[10:50:02] I think they are back. Putin is back. And he's meeting with the U.S. president there as proof.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, we just heard from Jill Dougherty. Certainly Russia's view of this -- of Russia being now front and center once again on the world stage after being booted from what was the G8.

You're in that room. Explain what's going on. Where are the reporters? Are they able to -- going to be able to ask questions?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think so, Anderson. I haven't had a chance to enjoy the Finnish saunas here but it's been like that all day long. It's been that warm. We've been in tight quarters all day long but we've finally been escorted into this room where we expect the two leaders to walk into this room at any moment. The president's remarks were just placed on this lectern a few moments ago. And I'm standing on this chair inside this room here because we're so packed in like sardines that this is really the only way we can do this.

But obviously, the big question moving forward here is the president set the table for us in terms of our questions earlier this morning when he seemed to side with the Russian government over his own law enforcement community when it comes to the Russia investigation. He is continuing to refer to all of this as a witch hunt. Obviously, last Friday the Justice Department indicted I guess what they considered to be wizards of technology on the Russian side when it comes to hacking into Democratic e-mails in the 2016 election.

And we're all just waiting at this point to see whether or not the president confronts him on that and exactly what he says because I think more so than the Kim Jong-un summit, Anderson -- and obviously that was a consequential summit, that was a very big discussion about the fate of the Korean peninsula and denuclearizing a -- what is a dangerous part of the world.

This has more to do with an attack on American democracy. In 2016, the democracy of the United States of America was attacked by the Russian government. That is the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, that is the consensus of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republicans and Democrats. And the president throughout all of this as we know, Anderson, has sided with the Russians, with the naysayers, with the skeptics of this investigation, rather than just letting this investigation move forward.

And so I think when the president stands next to Vladimir Putin here, I think this will be a critical moment in his presidency because it will be essentially a moment in time where the whole world is watching and waiting to find out whether or not Donald Trump can sort of step out of the role of the antagonist, of somebody who is very skilled in terms of marketing and being a reality TV star and can he be the president of the United States defending all Americans and their democracy that they hold so dear?

And I think that -- it's hard really to wrap your arms around how big this moment is. But I think it's that kind of moment for the president of the United States. And we're going to find out in just a few moments. Vladimir Putin as we know, this is not his first rodeo. He has dealt with U.S. president after U.S. president. He has denied all of these things just in the same way he denied the invasion of Crimea.

Of course we expect him to come out and deny once again that he attacked American democracy. But really, it's up to the president of the United States at this point to say, you know what, listen, I've got a Justice Department here that says yes, you did. And you need to do something about this. And where, I think, Anderson, at this point, you can talk about Syria, that's a very important issue.

You can talk about North Korea and Iran and all these other issues that these two leaders obviously share in common. But I don't think there really is a more critical issue at this stage in our history than what we're faced with right now, and that is somebody being held accountable for what happened in 2016 -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, can you just give a sense -- do you have any idea of how long this may go on for? How many questions they may take from reporters? What we're seeing -- we're seeing two aisles essentially of people. Are all of those people reporters? Are there people in balconies above? Are some of those seats for officials?

ACOSTA: Yes. Well, I want to be careful here. I'm standing on a chair so I can give you a lay of the land here. But this is what we consider the U.S. press, the White House Press Corps. There are some folks who have jumped on and have joined us here on this side. I don't know which side is the bride and which side is the groom, Anderson. But it sort of feel like we're at a wedding here. And on the other side of the room are our friends from the Russian Federation and other journalists who have been credentialed by the Kremlin. And we'll see both leaders come out here in a few minutes.

Anderson, we've been hearing all sorts of things all day long. Earlier in the day we were hearing that these two leaders were just going to make joint statements and nothing more and then hustle on out of here. And then we did hear later on in the day through some of our sources obviously, you know, who are telling us, listen, all this is very touch and go, that we will get questions. And so we're just waiting to find out as all of us are exactly what is going to unfold.

But I think when the president of the United States tweets that the press in the United States are the enemy of the people and he attacks members of the press as fake news and so on, I don't think it would be a profile in courage to come in here, give some statements having assembled all these members of the press and not take any questions.

[10:55:12] It seems to me, Anderson, when you dish it out, you ought to be able to take it. And I think if the president is going to refer to the press corps of the United States as the enemy of the people, he only owes it to the rest of us here to take a couple of questions.

Now we don't know about what Vladimir Putin has planned. But obviously, Anderson, we've seen over the years, our Matthew Chance, senior international correspondent with CNN, is also here. He has asked Vladimir Putin questions at news conferences. So we know the Russian president is not afraid to take questions. And so we hope both of these leaders will do that here in just a few moments.

COOPER: All right, Jim, I'm going to let you take your seat as we are just moments away from these two world leaders coming out.

I'm joined by Christiane Amanpour, David Gergen, Susan Glasser, Jill Dougherty. Christiane -- go ahead.

AMANPOUR: Just a couple of observations.

COOPER: Yes.

AMANPOUR: You know, the Helsinki press has put up huge signs here saying welcome to Helsinki, Mr. President, the land of the free press. So I think there's a very big pushback on his -- you know, his dealings with the free press. But I think on a big international level, of course, the U.S. story is huge. The interfering, the violating of U.S. sovereignty. So there are equally huge, huge, huge issues for the survival of the Western democratic liberal order.

Will President Trump defend that robustly either in the meetings or outside? European leaders do not want him to allow Vladimir Putin to drive a wedge between the NATO alliance, between the EU. You heard the EU president -- the president of the council tweeting back about how EU is not a foe. We are allies. Any suggestion to the contrary is just fake news.

This for the rest of the world, for the alliance is huge as to whether President Trump as leader of the democratic world, the free world, is going to actually take that mantle on and let Putin know that that's where he stands.

GERGEN: That's a very, very good point, Christiane. When American presidents in the past have talked to the Chinese or the Russians, they usually speak for the West and not just the United States. And in this case, it's a really big question of whether Donald Trump believes in the West and believes in the alliances so that he can speak.

GLASSER: Well, it's a huge change. If you think about it, we're used to wonder whether our human rights was going to be on the agenda. American presidents felt an obligation to speak to their Russian counterparts about violations of democratic norms and the like. Not only was that omitted from the very long list that President Trump offered of things on the possible agenda today.

There is a hot war still going on in Ukraine. I think that bears repeating. In eastern Ukraine there are Russian forces who have been combating in eastern Ukraine for the last four years. Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the tragic shoot down in which hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in the shoot down of that Malaysian airliner. That has been blamed by the Dutch and other independent investigators on the Russians.

I've never heard President Trump to my knowledge ever make a reference to that. There of course is also ongoing fighting on the ground in Syria in which Russian troops are participating. So if there were to be a substantive agenda, I think everyone would welcome that in the West as well as in Russia and yet instead we've been, you know, treated to what so far has been a very Trumpian spectacle. The eyes of the world are trained upon this room in Helsinki to see what a president who cherishes unpredictability will offer us because it's very unpredictable.

COOPER: It is also -- you know, this is really our first chance to get a sense of what they talked about in that room. And again, it's both of their perceptions of what they talked about. It's not a factual record or a definitive record of what was discussed. But at least we'll be able to get a sense of what each person took away from that meeting, you know, or at least the sense that they want the public to have.

GERGEN: Yes. It's two questions they ask themselves usually. One is, what do we agree or disagree on in the substance? And the second question, very important, how do I judge this other person? And how do I get along? I think that's particularly important for Trump.

COOPER: But you know, we've had presidents -- I mean, George W. Bush, you know, famously -- I don't want to misquote the line, but, you know, said he looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and --

GLASSER: Sense of his soul.

COOPER: A sense of his soul, which, you know, he was sort of -- a lot of eyebrows were raised from that. And I'm not sure in subsequent years if he felt he had been right about what the soul of Vladimir Putin was or how much of a soul there actually was to see.

AMANPOUR: You know, it's so interesting because as we see with these leaders, other leaders don't quite know how to deal with them. Do you flatter and appease President Trump or do you confront President Trump? Do you stand firm or do you sort of bend over a little bit to his agenda? And 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 over flights, for all the sort of logistical help after 9/11 and all of that --

GLASSER: Yes, and --