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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Sides with Putin on Election Meddling; Trump Refuses to Condemn Putin for Attacks; U.S. Accuses Russian Woman of Being a Foreign Agent. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 16, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Siding with Putin. President Trump comes out of his meeting with the Russian president and rebukes U.S. intelligence agencies, citing what he calls Putin's "strong and powerful" denial of interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"Yes, I did." Putin confirms the intelligence community's conclusion that he wanted President Trump to beat Hillary Clinton, because he says Mr. Trump wanted to bring U.S. relations with Russia back to normal.
"Disgraceful" performance. Republicans react to the president's remarks with everything from shock to horror to disgust, including Mr. Trump's own director of national intelligence and the daughter of his ambassador to Russia.
And Russian agent caught? A Russian gun rights activist with links to the National Rifle Association is charged with being a spy for Moscow and infiltrating groups with influence on American politics.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Helsinki. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Truly astounding remarks by President Trump following his one-on-one meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Standing on foreign soil, here in Helsinki, with Putin at his side, the president refused to accept the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia attacked the 2016 presidential election. Instead, he said that Putin was, quote, "extremely strong and powerful" in his denial of election interference.
And tonight the unprecedented scene that unfolded here today is sending shock waves around the globe.
We'll talk about all of that, the breaking news with senator Rand Paul of the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees. He's standing by live. And Jake Sullivan, former foreign policy, national security adviser to both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. And our correspondents, specialists and analysts, they are also standing by.
But first, let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, these extraordinary developments continue to unfold tonight. Update our viewers.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Given a chance to directly confront Vladimir Putin over election meddling in 2016, the president took a pass today.
Instead, President Trump threw the U.S. intelligence community under the bus, and Putin drove right over it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Vladimir Putin could not have scripted the moment better himself. As President Trump tossed aside the U.S. government's conclusion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and cozied up to the Russian leader. In a stunning moment Mr. Trump blamed America, too.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago. A long time, frankly, be before I got to office, and I think we're all to blame.
ACOSTA: The moment played right into Putin's hands, who continued his denials.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.
ACOSTA: As for the Justice Department indictment announced late last week, accusing 12 Russian agents of hacking into Democratic Party e- mails, Putin said he would invite investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team over to Russia to question officials.
PUTIN (through translator): I don't know the full extent of the situation, but the President Trump mentioned this issue and I will look into it.
ACOSTA: The Russian president did admit one thing: he wanted Mr. Trump to win in 2016.
PUTIN (through translator): Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
ACOSTA: As Putin offered up to a memento from the World Cup, it was clear who was in control of this field.
TRUMP: Melania, here you go.
ACOSTA: There would be no public confrontation to stop meddling in U.S. elections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you denounce what happened in 2016, and would you warn him to never do it again?
TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?
ACOSTA: The president was all but admitting he'll take Putin's word over the assessment of his own intelligence officials.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
ACOSTA: Touting his years as a KGB agent --
[17:05:00] PUTIN (through translator): I'd like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself. And I do know how dossiers are made up.
ACOSTA: -- Putin weighed in on perhaps the biggest, lingering question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?
ACOSTA: At first, Putin smirked at the question, as laughter broke out in the room. Then, he dodged again.
PUTIN (through translator): I did heard this rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Well, distinguished colleague, let me tell you this. When President Trump is at Moscow back then, I didn't even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect. But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.
ACOSTA: Both leaders quickly left the room with so many unanswered questions in their wake.
Back in Washington, leaders from both parties were shell-shocked. Senator John McCain released a statement saying, "Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
Former President Obama's CIA director, John Brennan, tweeted, "Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous."
GOP senator Bob Corker captured much of the bipartisan disappointment.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I did not think this was a good moment for our country.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: For President Trump, this was yet another foreign trip where he disrespected key U.S. allies while warming up to undemocratic leaders like Putin. As one senior Republican congressional aide put it to me, it was shocking to see the president side with Putin. But as one source close to the White House who's familiar with the president's thinking put it to me earlier today, the people around the president are simply too afraid to disagree with him.
Wolf, it seemed like the president was all alone in his views today, and they didn't seem like "America first." More like "Russia first" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The whole situation was truly, truly shocking. Jim Acosta, thanks for that report.
CNN's Jake Tapper is joining us right now. We're here at the Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki.
Jake, what's your bottom-line takeaway from what we saw today?
TAPPER: The bottom-line takeaway is, according to Democrats and Republicans, intelligence agencies, every leader of the intelligence agencies, senators, the House, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, Russia launched cyberattacks against the United States to interfere in the election. They did that to the people of the United States.
And today, President Trump sided with Russia over not just the intelligence agencies of the United States but also the people of the United States. He took a KGB officer, a known liar's word for it.
Why he did so, if it had to do with his desire to not be seen as illegitimate because of the fact that Russia interfered, I don't know. I can't -- I can't really get into that. I'm not a doctor. But I can tell you, on the facts, the United States was attacked. And President Trump today sided with the enemy.
BLITZER: How unprecedented is that, especially here on foreign soil?
TAPPER: It's -- I mean, first of all, we say this about President Trump every week, I think, about him doing something unprecedented. But it's incredibly unprecedented.
And also, what's really shocking is there used to be a thing in this country where, if a politician didn't try to understand what was special about the United States of America, and the ideals to which we strive, the fact that we don't think of ourselves as brutal, we think of ourselves as at least trying to spread democracy throughout the world, and with the foreign aid we offer, et cetera. President Trump -- it used to be that if you didn't express belief for that in politics, you were dead in the water.
President Trump, I don't doubt that President Trump loves America. President Trump doesn't seem to think that there's something special about America. He makes a moral equivalence between what the United States does and what Russia does. When asked today specifically about his tweet where he said that the
U.S. was to blame for the failure of this relationship to thrive, is there anything that he holds Russia accountable for? Did he mention Crimea? No. Did he mention Ukraine? No. Did he mention the poisoning of individuals in the U.K.? No. Did he mention the cyber- attacks on the United States? No. He didn't mention anything, but he did talk about all of the failures of the United States. And I find that completely bizarre.
BLITZER: Yes. And I'm sure his top national security, foreign policy, military aides were all squirming. They probably, even though they've worked with him for a long time, they couldn't believe what he was doing.
TAPPER: This is not what Ambassador John Bolton, the national security adviser, believes. This is not what retired General James Mattis, the secretary of defense, believes. It's not what Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, believes. No, it's not at all. This is what President Trump believes. It's not what his team believes.
And that's why you have seen the Trump administration take actions contrary to Russia's desire, whether it's providing lethal aid to Ukrainians or expelling Russian diplomats or continuing sanction. We have seen the Trump administration do that. Although President Trump has, in many ways, done it reluctantly.
[17:10:17] But yes. There is such a chasm between what President Trump believes on this issue and what his team of experts believe. And today, we saw the buck stops where it stops.
BLITZER: We'll see if there are -- we'll see if there are -- we'll see if there are any resignations. Because potentially, this could have been a major turning point.
TAPPER: In any other administration, there would be resignations. And, look, at the end of the day, you know, the people out there trying to make their decisions about how strong to be about this? These are the moments where politicians make their legacies. They either take a strong stand for something they believe in or they don't. We remember the name of Elliot Richardson, the attorney general in Nixon, because he resigned. He took a stand.
I doubt we're going to see that. But this is a time for people to think about those legacies.
BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching very closely. Jake, thanks very, very much.
Let's get some more on all of this right now. Joining us, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's a key member of both the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us. Let me get right to the questioning. Do you believe that President Trump's meeting with -- with Putin made America safer? SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I think engagement with our
adversaries, conversation with our adversaries is a good idea. Even in the height of the Cold War, maybe at the lowest ebb when we were in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, I think it was a good thing that Kennedy had a direct line to Khrushchev. I think it was a good idea that we continue to have ambassadors to Russia, even when we really objected greatly to what was going on, even during Stalin's regime.
So I think that it is a good idea to have engagement. And I think that what is lost in this is that I think there's a bit of Trump Derangement Syndrome. I think there are people who hate the president so much that this could have easily been President Obama early in his first administration, setting the reset button and trying to have better relations with Russia.
And I think it's lost on people that they are a nuclear power. They have influence in Syria. They're in close proximity to our troops in Syria. They are close to the peninsula of North Korea and may have some influence that could help us there.
The other thing that's lost, and people forget this completely, the Russians tried to help us stop the Boston Marathon bombing. We actually did help them stop a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg, because we were communicating and exchanging information. All those things are good.
BLITZER: But Senator --
PAUL: But because people hate Trump so much, all of that's being lost.
BLITZER: It's not a matter of hating President Trump. It's a matter of what he did today, what he said today. He met with President Putin, as you know, for more than two hours. Unlike other presidents, especially on foreign soil, he blamed the United States for the bad relationship with Russia. He declined to back his own intelligence community for its assessment. He declined to support the U.S. law enforcement community --
BLITZER: -- including the Justice Department. He continues -- Senator, he continues to call the -- hold on a second. He continues to call the news media a free press in the United States, the enemy of the American people.
PAUL: But I -- but think -- but Wolf, I think I would put this in perspective.
BLITZER: Has any other -- Senator, has any other president --
PAUL: I think --
BLITZER: -- in American history done anything like that? PAUL: But I think I would put this in perspective. So for example,
when you look at the intelligence community, the most recent leaders of the intelligence community, James Clapper and John Brennan, James Clapper perjured himself before the Senate --
BLITZER: I'm talking about Coates. I'm talking about Dan Coats, the current director of national intelligence --
PAUL: I'm talking about -- if you'll let me answer --
BLITZER: -- who had to issue a statement --
PAUL: We can't have much of an interview -- Wolf, if you're going to interrupt me every question, Wolf, we can't really have an interview.
BLITZER: No, I just want to be precise. It's not Clapper; it's not Brennan. It's -- it's Dan Coats and Mike Pompeo.
PAUL: You're usually better -- you're usually better than this, Wolf, at doing an interview. You need to allow the respondent to respond.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
PAUL: It does matter who was in charge of the intelligence. It does matter, because they started up this and ginned up this thing going after the president saying he committed collusion with Russia. No evidence of that, and it continues to go on.
Who are the people that started this? James Clapper, who lied to the Senate. Said they weren't collecting our information, and yet they were collecting all of our information and housing it in Utah.
John Brennan has now accused -- let me finish. John Brennan has now accused the president of treason. This is John Brennan who voted for the Communist Party when he was a young man. John Brennan now thinks he's holier than everybody else.
But these people had the power to collect every American's information and these are the people --
BLITZER: All right.
PAUL: -- I am concerned, used their bias against President Trump, and absolutely, I'm with the president on this. The intelligence community was full of biased people including Peter Strzok --
BLITZER: All right.
PAUL: -- McCabe and dozens of others.
BLITZER: And so -- and so what about Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats, who both say there is no doubt that Russia interfered, attacked the United States during the presidential election?
BLITZER: Did they vote for communists when they were young?
[17:15:03] PAUL: What I would say is that I don't think anybody doubts that the Russians got involved with leaking e-mail and hacking into e-mail. But there is a question of whether or not the election was legitimate. And all of this is a sideways way for those on the left to try to delegitimize Trump and to say he didn't really win the election.
When in reality, the election was really about Hillary Clinton being unfit for office, being a dishonest person who enriched -- her and her husband enriched themselves at taxpayer expense, and at the expense of receiving money from people like the sultan of Brunei and Saudi Arabia. So it was really a much more complicated situation.
But what's happened is everybody now says, "Oh, the Russians. The only reason Trump is president is because of the Russians." You can see how he takes that personally. And, frankly, I don't think anybody from Kentucky --
PAUL: He got nearly 80 percent of the vote in the mountains. I don't think anybody was influenced at all by anything to do with the Russians. They didn't like Hillary Clinton, because she wanted to kill the coal industry in our state.
BLITZER: But Senator, Senator, you know, you and I have known each other for a long time. I've interviewed on many occasions. Let me put up on the screen what Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, a former Republican senator, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany: "Russia definitely did try to influence the campaign." That's what he said.
Chris -- Chris Wray, the FBI director, also named by the president: "I have no reason whatever to doubt --"
PAUL: Here, Wolf.
BLITZER: "-- the assessment of the intelligence community." Hold on. Hold on.
PAUL: Put this in perspective.
BLITZER: Mike Pompeo, all of them said exactly the same thing.
PAUL: I would put this in perspective, Wolf. Dov Levin looked at this from the Carnegie Mellon Institute, and he looked at it from 1946 to 2000. And he found 81 times that the U.S. involved themselves and meddled in elections of foreign countries, 36 times that the Soviet Union did. It doesn't make it right, but I've said this before and I'll say it again. Any country that can spy does, and any country that can meddle in foreign elections does. All countries are doing this.
But we've elevated this to a higher degree, and we've made this all about the sour grapes of Hillary Clinton losing the election. And it's all about partisan politics now. This is truly the Trump Derangement Syndrome that motivates all of this.
BLITZER: Senator, Senator, I've got to disagree with you. Let me -- I know Dan Coats disagrees with you, as well. I'll read the statement he issued today after the president's news conference with Putin. Listen to this, and then I'll give you a chance to respond.
"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."
Go ahead and respond to your former colleague.
PAUL: And I don't disagree with anything that was said there. What I would say is that, instead of making this about everything's about Trump and accusing Trump of collusion with the Russians and all this craziness that's not true, we should try to protect the integrity of our elections.
Nobody is talking about protecting the integrity of the elections. How would you protect the integrity of our elections? Make sure they're decentralized. Make sure there's very good controls from the precinct on up. Make sure we're not storing the data in a central area where there aren't checks and balances at the local area. There are a lot of ways to make sure our election is not tampered with.
Also, it's important when you say the Russians meddled, they hacked into Hillary Clinton's e-mail and revealed some truths about her that weren't very popular. I agree, they did that.
PAUL: But the thing is, is nobody is alleging that votes were changed or that they got into our electoral system. But that is a danger --
BLITZER: Senator --
PAUL: -- and we should guard against that.
BLITZER: Who do you trust, Senator? The American intelligence community, the American law enforcement community or Vladimir Putin?
PAUL: What I would say is that all power needs to have checks and balances. And I think our intelligence community has way too much power. The fact that Peter Strzok was able to bring incredible bias towards the president to work every day --
BLITZER: But Senator, who do you believe? Who do you believe?
PAUL: That's not the question. The right question is that should be asked, Wolf, is should that power be unchecked, or should you have a judicial system that says, "You know what?"
BLITZER: I understand what you're saying. But --
PAUL: "You have to have warrants, and you have to have checks and balances on intelligence."
BLITZER: But who do you believe? The intelligence community of the United States or Putin?
PAUL: I'm not discounting the allegations that the Russians hacked into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. I'm not discounting that at all.
BLITZER: So -- so why just -- why don't you just say that you believe in the intelligence community, the law enforcement -- you access [SIC] their -- you accept their assessments and move on?
Let me read to you a tweet that Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, just put out. And I'll read it to you right now. "President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected immediately."
Do you agree with Gingrich?
PAUL: No. I think people have gotten over top on this and lost the big picture. The big picture is that we should be engaged with Russia, we should have conversations with Russia. We have serious conflicts in various parts of the globe. It would be a mistake not to have open lines of communication with them.
And I can tell you what I have told the Russians who were here in the United States when I've conversed with them. Hacking into the election, if they did it -- and in all likelihood the evidence looks like they did, it has backfired, because it's made relations worse. And so they want to have better relations, there should be a great deal of incentive as time goes on for them not to do it again, because it's made relations so much worse, and so my hope is that we will push the issue and that over time --
BLITZER: So --
PAUL: -- those incentives will be apparent.
BLITZER: I know there's a little delay. I'm here in Helsinki, you're in Washington. So occasionally, it might be awkward. Bottom line, Senator. Do you believe that what President Trump did today here in Helsinki was good?
PAUL: I think it was a great idea and a good idea to meet with the Russians and to have engagement, conversations and to make sure that we don't accidentally stumble into war.
BLITZER: Everybody, everybody agrees it's good to have good relations with Russia, to have a dialogue with Russia. But do you believe it was good that the president of the United States threw his intelligence community under the bus and sided with Putin?
PAUL: Yes. I don't see it that way at all, but I do see that many Democrats have come forward, and they basically want a confrontation. They -- they suggested that he not meet with Putin. So really, the question of to meet or not meet, almost every Democrat
in Washington came on your program and other programs and said he shouldn't meet with Putin. That's a kind of sort of, I think, simplistic thinking that leads to war. We should continue to have conversation even with our adversaries, probably most particularly with our adversaries.
BLITZER: I've got to tell you, Senator, it's not just Democrats. It's a whole bunch of your fellow Republicans who think it was a mistake, especially now with hindsight.
And I also have to tell you, based on everything we're hearing, a lot of his own national security, military and diplomatic personnel, they also agree that this was a huge blunder on the part of the president of the United States to exit from this meeting with Putin the way he did. It's going to cause enormous, enormous grief for the president and for his administration.
But I'm grateful to you, as usual, for joining us and expressing your views. Thank you very much.
Senator Rand Paul, remaining silent in the aftermath of that. Appreciate it very much.
The breaking news continues. We'll have much more on President Trump's siding with Vladimir Putin today on Russia's election attack. Tonight "The Washington Post" is saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "The president just colluded with Russia."
Plus, the woman just charged by the U.S. with spying for Russia. We're learning new information about her tonight, as well. All of this is related.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, shock, disbelief and disgust, even among many Republicans after President Trump, with Vladimir Putin standing at his side here in Helsinki, refused to accept the U.S. intelligence community's finding that Russia attacked the United States during the 2016 presidential election. The president not only sided with Putin but blamed what he called foolish behavior by the U.S. for the current poor state of relations with Russia.
Joining us now, Jake Sullivan. He's a foreign policy expert. He served as a top adviser to both Hillary Clinton and vice -- former vice president, Joe Biden. Jake, thanks very much for joining us.
As you know, the president was asked if he holds Russia accountable for anything as far as these allegations are concerned. I want you to watch his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago. A long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame. I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.
I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign, and they're going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. It was a clean campaign.
I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her. And I'm not even saying from the standpoint we won that race. and it's a shame that there could even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing -- and we discussed this, also -- is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.
We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous what's going on with the probe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Jake, have you ever heard a U.S. president speak like that?
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISOR TO HILLARY CLINTON AND JOE BIDEN: Wolf, that was an unbelievable display. A president of the United States, the leader of the free world, goes to a summit with the Russian president, and his job is to stand up for the American people and to stand up for American interests. And Donald Trump threw both of those things under the bus in that answer and in his broader performance today.
And, you know, I'd like to say that it's surprising. It's not surprising, but that doesn't make it any less shocking for us to see the United States of America represented by a man who is so petulant and so pitiful as to put in a performance like he did today.
BLITZER: The president continues to demand information on Hillary Clinton's server, the missing e-mails. You worked on the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. How does it feel --
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISOR TO HILLARY CLINTON AND JOE BIDEN: -- as to put in a performance like he did today.
[17:30:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president continues to demand information on Hillary Clinton's server, the missing e-mails. You worked on the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. How does it feel to see the president make that demand standing next to the man who perpetrated that cyberattack on her campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?
SULLIVAN: Well, if you watch President Putin during the various exchanges today, he could barely contain his glee. He is getting everything that he wanted out of this president and more.
Hillary Clinton two years ago during the campaign made a comment in one of the debates about how Trump was going to serve as Putin's puppet. And at the time it seemed like it was just rhetoric, but it's actually turned out to be reality.
What Putin wants at the end of the day is to for the United States to help him weaken NATO and undermine Europe. Trump did that for him. He wants the American president to create a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia. Trump did that for him. And he wants the American president to give him impunity for his attacks on American democracy so he can keep attacking us, and Trump did that for him today.
So, you know, they can't -- they can barely contain their excitement in Russia today. And for the rest of us who care deeply about America's national security but, even more importantly, about the values that make this country great, it is a very sad day.
BLITZER: The president spoke about the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, laying out American intelligence on that cyberattack. And the president says that he trusts Coats and Putin equally. Could you believe your ears?
SULLIVAN: In a way I could believe my ears, because Trump has been saying something along these lines since he became president. He is engaged in a tactic that people call "what about-ism." Basically, any time someone says something negative about Russia, Trump's immediate response is to say, "Oh, yes? Well, America's just as bad, if not worse." You actually heard a little bit of that from Senator Paul in the previous segment, who's kind of picked up on this tick of President Trump's.
But it's really the job of the American president not to go defend and apologize for Russia but rather to defend and stand up for the United States of America. So today was the most extreme form of actually something that we have seen from President Trump ever since he stepped foot in the Oval office.
BLITZER: Do you think Director Coats should resign?
SULLIVAN: You know, I'm always very cautious about calling for an official like Director Coats to go ahead and resign. I think that's a very difficult call.
But I have to say that, given where things have gone today, given the fact that, in front of a country that attacked American democracy and continues to do so, the president of the United States said he believes the Russian president over the intelligence community, I think the right thing for Dan Coats to do would be to send a clear message and say he can no longer serve this president.
BLITZER: I suspect a lot of officials are thinking about doing precisely that. Will Russia feel emboldened to continue its cyberattacks on the United States going into the midterm elections in November? SULLIVAN: You see, it's more than just feeling emboldened. I mean,
there's no doubt Putin's going to feel emboldened after today. He's going to go back and tell the GRU, the Russian intelligence units, that Mueller just issued indictments about to unleash the dogs, to go for it. Because the American president has more or less given him the green light.
But more than that, it's not just what Trump said or didn't say in the summit today. It's what he's doing or not doing about the actual interference. He has not given any direction to any of his national security agencies to actually stop this from happening going forward.
Senator Paul in the previous segment said no one's talking about the actual threat to our election systems. Actually, the fact is, a lot of people are talking about it. The one person who's not is the person who's in charge of making sure it doesn't happen again, and that's Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Jake Sullivan, thanks so much for joining us.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get the insights of experts here in Helsinki and in Washington. And it's really an awful situation. John Kirby, you served at the -- a retired U.S. admiral, served at the State Department as the spokesman. I want you to hear the president directly. Listen to how he phrased some of these most sensitive issues.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago.
I do think that we have both made some mistakes.
I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. It was a clean campaign.
I beat Hillary Clinton easily -- zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.
[17:35:04] It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous what's going on with the probe.
It came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election. Which, frankly, they should have been able to win. Just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn't know the president. There was nobody to collude with.
We have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? All I can do is ask the question.
My people came to me. Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don't think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to Hillary Clinton's e-mails? Thirty-three-thousand e-mails gone. Just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn't be gone so easily. I think it's a disgrace that we can't get Hillary Clinton's 33,000 e-mails.
So I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. John, what do you make of the president's remarks, especially that final remark that President Putin extremely strong and powerful in his denial today? The commander in chief uttering those words, here in Helsinki on foreign soil.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. Wolf, I'm still too shocked today to be angry. The disgrace is really -- and I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but disgrace is our commander in chief right now today.
Thirty years in the Navy. My first deployment was right here in these waters in the Baltic Sea, trying to chase down and hunt Soviet submarines. And when you think about all -- all of the lives that have been put at risk over the last 30 years in our -- in our fight against communism, in the Cold War and, quite frankly, in the last 10 years or so just against Russia's maligned activities. If you don't think that they have contributed to the loss of American lives, you're fooling yourself, because of the support they give to Iran, because of the -- because of the support that they're given to the Syrian army. And the Syrian -- and the Syrian president. They have, in fact, helped cause the loss of American lives.
And what he did today is standing up there, taking the side of President Putin against his own intelligence community and, by the way, his national security team, who clearly doesn't feel the way he does about Russia. To me, that was a disgrace.
BLITZER: Yes. And the law enforcement community, the FBI, the Justice Department.
BLITZER: All of the above. Tony Blinken, your reaction?
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Like everyone else, you know, you feel a little bit today like one of those cartoon characters whose head is spinning around and around 360 degrees. But this is the world turned upside-down. And as many have said, the president was presented with a compelling,
detailed indictment from Mueller. He was then presented with his own director of national intelligence telling him and telling us that not only did this happen in 2016 but it continues today. The system is flashing red. And instead of confronting Putin, he embraces him and criticizes the investigators, criticizes our allies, says we're to blame for the bad relationship with Russia.
Wolf, I hope where this goes now, because it's hard -- the question is where do we go from here? I would hope that when the president and his team get home that the senior leaders in Congress demand that he debrief them on exactly what he said to President Putin in their one- on-one. And that Congress calls to testify, ideally in public, the secretary of state and others who are able to testify to, again, tell the American people what actually went on in Helsinki. That's where we need to go from here.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen, you're based in Moscow. You're here in Helsinki with us right now. How are the Russians reacting?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're taking a victory lap, obviously, after this. It was interesting, because right after the summit finished, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, he came out and said that the meeting was magnificent, that it was better than good. The Russian state TV -- I don't know if we have the video here, but they already have come up with a symbol for all of this.
It's a sort of a hand with a Russian flag and a hand with the U.S. flag joining hands, because they're obviously saying, look, they believe this is the steppingstone to better relations between the U.S. and Russia, which they think is already going on. And then there's analysts and politicians in Russia who are flat-out praising President Trump for some of the things he's said. I want to listen to what one senior lawmaker said really shortly after the summit was over. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VYACHESLAV NIKONOV, RUSSIAN LAWMAKER (through translator): Trump, the whole time he's been around, has never said that word that would be offensive to Russia, President Putin and the relations. I'm sure Trump has found common ground with Putin and is grateful to Putin in many ways for the position he takes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Grateful. That's Vyacheslav Nikonov, who's a very senior lawmaker in Russia.
[17:40:05] And President Putin actually, Wolf, we just learned, he's also come out already and also given an interview to Russian state TV, to the first channel in Russia, saying that he had good meetings with President Trump, that President Trump is a very skilled individual and someone who's willing to listen. So you can -- you can see the happiness in Moscow right now. BLITZER: Julie Hirschfield Davis is with us, as well. Julie, what
are you hearing from inside the Trump administration? So many officials must have been so confused, so disgruntled. This was not, I take it, part of the plan.
JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, this was not part of the plan, and I think a lot of people are upset about the way this played out. I'm not so sure that they're surprised, though.
I think there was a lot of concern going in that this -- that just this sort of thing could happen. They knew that President Trump was very keen to meet with Mr. Putin. They knew that he doesn't like to take detailed briefings. It's difficult to sort of map out a conversation that's going to happen between him and another leader, because this president likes to be spontaneous. There were no advisers in the room, other than the interpreters, so it's not even going to be clear to them exactly what was said.
So I think there were a lot of concerns going in that this would play out this way. I think they also acknowledged that, you know, Vladimir Putin was going to get somewhat of a boost just by being with President Trump. And so they were determined to sort of limit the damage to make sure that he wouldn't offer concessions and wouldn't come out and have sort of an embarrassing display. And I think for some of them, they're feeling like that's exactly what happened today. And I know on the plane on the way back to Washington, I'm told some aides and the president himself were quite upset.
BLITZER: I'm sure they were and for good reason.
Everybody stand by. We're following another breaking development as we follow the president here in Helsinki. He's now aboard Air Force One, flying back to Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C.
There's another major story involving Russia that has now broken back in Washington. A Russian woman is under arrest accused of being a foreign agent who was trying to infiltrate organizations in the United States and to try to influence U.S. politics.
I want to bring in our CNN political correspondent Sara Murray, who's been working the story for us.
Sara, first of all, what do we know about this woman?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the woman is Maria Butina. She's a 29-year-old Russian citizen. She was arrested here in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Previously, government agents had raided, we believe, her home and collected evidence against her in this case. And as you pointed out, they accused her, essentially, of being a Russian spy and infiltrating organizations in order to try to promote Russian views. We know that she had deep ties, for instance, to the National Rifle Association.
Now, according to CNN's previous reporting, as well as some of the allegations that prosecutors are putting out today, she tried to use these ties to foster some back-channel communications between Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the Republican Party.
We also know that she worked with her mentor, who was Alexander Torshin, a prominent Russian official who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government to try to arrange a back-channel communication between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-candidate Donald Trump.
Now, we don't believe that they were successful in that, based on what we know so far. But obviously, we can see that this is a woman who has been operating in the U.S. for years now. This is someone the government has been keeping track of, and they're now saying this is not just a woman who, you know, was running a gun rights organization in Russia, which is what she was proclaiming to have done and trying to learn more about gun rights in the U.S. by fostering these ties with the National Rifle Association.
In fact, she was operating as a Russian agent here on U.S. soil, at least according to these documents we're getting today from the Justice Department, Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's a statement that her lawyer has put out. Is that right?
MURRAY: That's right. Her lawyer has put out a statement today, insisting that she is not, in fact, a Russian agent. Her lawyer goes on to say, "There is simply no indication of Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law of the United States, only at most, to promote a better relationship between the two nations."
So you see her lawyer there, insisting she just wanted to foster better ties between the United States and Russia. And that is certainly something that she told a number of Americans she met with here on U.S. soil, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Murray, thanks very much for that report. We'll obviously follow up and continue to watch the fallout from that.
Right now, I want to talk about the political fallout from everything that happened here in Helsinki today.
Gloria Borger, does this expand our understanding of the scope of Russian interference in American politics, specifically the charges leveled against this Russian woman?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, Wolf. You know, this apparently was not referred by the Mueller investigation. This is a separate investigation.
And if this woman is doing what they say she was doing, you see the tentacles here spreading. That it isn't only the large amount that Mueller is looking at. But, you know, there were people everywhere trying to infiltrate, trying to set up meetings between President Putin and Donald Trump.
And you have to continue to ask the questions, particularly after the president's performance today --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: -- at, but, you know, there were people everywhere trying to infiltrate, trying to set up meetings between President Putin and Donald Trump. And you have to continue to ask the questions, particularly after the President's performance today, standing next to Vladimir Putin.
Why did these people think that they would be pushing against an open door? We don't know the answer to that question yet, but after today's performance with the President, a lot more people are going to be asking it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me bring Fred Pleitgen back into this conversation.
Fred, you cover Russia for us. What's the feeling you're getting there, the charges leveled against the Russian woman in Washington?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, we have been following the case of Maria Butina for a while and some of the things she's been doing with Alexander Torshin, who is quite high up in the Russian Central Bank and who were trying to get those meetings with President Trump and then propose, possibly even, during the campaign trail, for him to try and meet with Vladimir Putin. They were clearly trying to do that for a while.
We have now found out that the Russians are demanding counselor access to Ms. Butina. There was actually a fairly senior Russian lawmaker who came out and also acknowledged and said that they were going to give her help, whatever that means. Obviously, there's only a very limited amount they could do because she is in detention in the United States right now.
But clearly, this is a case that is pretty high up on the agenda of the Russians, and there are some voices in Russia who are already saying this is something as being politicized. Obviously, it comes on the eve of the summit.
They believe it might be retribution for some of the American authorities feeling angry about some of the things that were said in that press conference, but you can tell that this a case of very high priority for the Russian government.
BLITZER: And you notice Putin, when he was asked specifically whether Russia has, you know, compromising information -- kompromat as they say in Russia -- as far as the President is concerned, he sort of dodged that question.
PLEITGEN: He dodged it a little bit. He said, look, there are so many people who come to Russia, so many business people that come to Russia, why would Russia focus on him? Of course, in the press conference earlier, he said he's talking from the position of having been a KGB agent, obviously trying to get some more clout that way. He also said that there had been an economic forum recently, a St.
Petersburg forum, in Russia where there were 500 American business people. It would be impossible to keep track of all of them. And also, why would Russia do that?
He then sort of tried to laugh everything off, but there was no flat- out, no, we don't have anything.
BLITZER: And that was very interesting, Jim Sciutto, the notion that Putin -- you know, I think it's fair to say he tried to dodge that very, very sensitive question which so many people have been focusing on.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would have been easy for the Russian President to eliminate that as a possibility when, in fact, you saw the Russian President there, the former KGB agent, relishing a number of moments which supported his agenda, right?
You had an American president who is repeating Russian talking points about the interference, about the investigation, undermining his own agencies as he has undermined his own allies in the days preceding this summit.
So on that point, why would he eliminate doubt to that? Because it serves his interests to keep that hanging out there, as do so many of these things. And he has someone in President Trump, for whatever his motivations, in effect, repeating those talking points wholesale.
And it really is remarkable. Sometimes with the same phraseology, right? You know, calling the -- you know, calling the investigation, the probe of Russian interference in the election, unfounded, et cetera. You know, these are things that the Russian President has said.
And that's why it was a particularly remarkable moment yesterday when the Russian foreign ministry, right, the Russian equivalence of the State Department, tweeted out it agreed with President Trump's assessment. That it was U.S. mistakes -- U.S. stupidity, in fact, you'll remember the President said -- that's as responsible for bad U.S.-Russia relations as anything.
BLITZER: You know, Chris Cillizza, the President clearly wanted to send a message that he has serious doubts about his own administration, about his own intelligence community, didn't he?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes! In short, Wolf.
Look, if you read the transcript of that press conference, Donald Trump says, look, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has told me one thing, that Russia did it. Vladimir Putin says strongly that he didn't. I don't know why they would.
That's his -- that's sort of -- those three things follow on one another. It's kind of hard to read that and conclude anything other than Donald Trump believes Vladimir Putin rather than Dan Coats.
Now, "why" is the bigger question. I think, right now, the most obvious "why" to it is because Donald Trump can't get -- he can't see the forest through the trees. He is incapable of understanding that saying that Russia interfered actively in the election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton doesn't mean he is not the president anymore. He is still the President.
I think, unfortunately, his inability to grasp that -- and that goes -- this goes to what Jim was mentioning. His inability to grasp that sows chaos. And I think what -- at root, what Russia was going for in this -- in their election meddling, in what we assume is their continued meddling, is sowing chaos and sowing doubt in the democratic system.
[17:50:06] Donald Trump is abetting in that, whether he means to or not.
BORGER: Look, Wolf, I think -- and Newt Gingrich, of all people, said this today, that this was -- this press conference the President had today was the worst mistake of his presidency.
And I think he is going to have to find a way to figure out what he does next because in talking to people on Capitol Hill -- we heard from Chuck Schumer today -- they're calling people to testify.
Maybe they're going to ask for the notes of the translator. They want to know exactly what happened because this spectacle of the President of the United States standing next to Putin and saying we did bad things, you did bad things, is something that Congress has to react against. And maybe this will do it.
SCIUTTO: And the Russians, by the way, as you know --
BLITZER: It took us --
SCIUTTO: They have a word that. It's called about what aboutism. It dates back to Soviet times.
SCIUTTO: It's a strategy to say, oh, you accuse us of bad behavior but here's the worst mistake you made. You know, Trump is, once again, repeating a Russian talking point which serves Russian interests, not U.S. interests.
BLITZER: All right, everybody, standby. We're hearing right now from many observers who say that Vladimir Putin got exactly what he wanted from today's summit here in Helsinki and the press conference with President Trump.
And going forward, what does Putin fear? CNN's Brian Todd checked with some of the experts.
Brian, what are they telling you?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, going forward, we're told Vladimir Putin could well be fearing just how much U.S. intelligence knows about his hackers.
Experts are telling us tonight that the detail in Robert Mueller's indictment of 12 Russian spies shows that Putin's spy network likely was infiltrated pretty extensively by U.S. intelligence.
TODD (voice-over): Emboldened by President Trump's conciliation, Vladimir Putin, in public, confidently denies meddling in America's elections.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): Russia has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in U.S. internal affairs, including the elections.
TODD (voice-over): But in private, intelligence and cyber experts say Putin could well be very worried tonight. Robert Mueller's indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers reveals startling details on how Putin's spy network could have been penetrated by U.S. intelligence.
STEVE HALL, FORMER CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Putin, being a former intelligence officer himself, of course, will not look kindly upon the fact that he was -- that his officers were caught. The GRU officers were caught.
TODD (voice-over): The indictment includes specific details of the Russian spies, names, unit numbers, titles, street addresses where they work.
The indictment reveals one of the 12 spies, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, a lieutenant colonel, oversaw a department within unit 26165, dedicated to developing and managing malware, including a hacking tool used by the GRU known as X Agent.
TONI GIDWANI, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH OPERATIONS, THREATCONNECT: The detail about who and when and what and where they developed this tool for use is very significant, something that we very rarely see from these types of reports, whether they're coming out of government or from the private sector.
TODD (voice-over): The indictment identifies another hacking tool called X Tunnel. It pinpoints specific dates and times of the Russians hacks, how they used bitcoin to pay for things like servers, something they thought would hide their tracks.
American investigators even knew what the Russians were googling, identifying specific search terms.
Even cyber sleuths at the firm, ThreatConnect, which helped identify networks used by the Russian hackers, Guccifer 2.0, learned something new from Mueller's indictment. That the Russians used a backdoor to hack top Democratic officials, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GIDWANI: The fact that the DCCC was hacked and that's one of the ways the attackers got into the DNC in the first place, which we did not know before. In addition, the use of the tools, how widespread, the multiple versions that were used, and the fact that they persisted into the fall of 2016 were all new details from this indictment.
TODD (voice-over): Intelligence experts say Putin is now doing a damage assessment to figure out how the Americans infiltrated his spy networks. Putin will likely learn from this, they say, and come back at the U.S.
HALL: They seem to have gotten a lot of bang for the buck. The mayhem, really, that has been visited upon our democratic system because of what Putin and the Russians did for our 2016 presidential elections, it's hard to imagine that they are not going to give it a shot again in 2018.
TODD: Now, another incentive for Putin to try again, analysts say, the minimal repercussions for him for the 2016 hacks. He is never going to extradite those indicted Russians spies to the U.S. And President Trump's appeasement of Putin in Helsinki today is just a green light the Russian President was looking for -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks for that report.
[17:55:01] The breaking news continues, next. President Trump sides with Russia over his own intelligence agencies, sending shockwaves around the world. Tonight, one top Republican is calling it the worst mistake of his presidency.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Believing the enemy. President Trump looks Vladimir Putin in the eye and then signals to the world that he buys the Russian leader's denial of election interference.
New reactions tonight to what many are calling a very shameful moment in American presidential history.
Disaster for our country. That's what Mr. Trump called the Russian investigation as he used his summit with Putin to bash Robert Mueller and Democrats. Tonight, critics in both parties say the real disaster was the President's performance.
[17:59:58] Heading for the exit. The Director of National Intelligence is rejecting the President's assessment of Putin and Russian interference. Will he and other top administration officials call it quits after being rolled over by their boss?