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Trump Attempts Damage Control Over Putin Remarks Fails; CNN Sources: Intel Shows Russian Spy Agencies Plotting To Ramp Up Operations Targeting U.S. West; Federal Grand Jury Indicts Russian National on Charges of Conspiracy and Acting as Foreign Agent; Trump Given Option to Delay Russia Indictment Announcement. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 17, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks to our viewers for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, damage control. The President claims he misspoke once in his disastrous summit with Putin. Did the dog eat his homework, too?

Plus breaking news, new evidence tonight that Russia is plotting to ramp up operations against the United States, ramp up right now. Why? And a call for Jon Huntsman, Trump's Ambassador to Russia to resign. This call published in the newspaper owned by Huntsman's brother. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, how stupid does Trump think we Americans are? The President's excuse for his embarrassing press conference where he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence chiefs does not add up. We are learning tonight that driven by fear of resignations in the intelligence community, the President decided that he would say he misspoke during one of the multiple times that he took Putin's side against America's in that press conference. And so after meeting with top aides today, President Trump read from a prepared statement offering up frankly what seems to be a dog ate my homework excuse on how things went terribly wrong in Helsinki.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word would instead of wouldn't. The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative. So, you can put that in. And I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.


BURNETT: No, it does not. It does not clarify anything. It doesn't even pass the smell test. So, let me play for you again what the President said 32 hours ago, what he's just referring to there.


TRUMP: 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 will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


BURNETT: I don't see any reason why it would be. OK. So, everybody makes mistakes. Trump's explanation that he meant wouldn't instead of would might stand a chance of being plausible, except for a few reasons. One of which is this. That was just one of multiple times in that same press conference that he sided with Russia.


JEFF MASON, REPORTER, REUTERS: Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if so, what would you consider them that they are responsible for?

TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


BURNETT: Look, it is what it is. This is consistent with what he's been saying over the past year. He said what he meant and he said it again and again. The U.S. has been foolish. Putin was strong and powerful in his denials. It just makes it a bit absurd to say that the President just misspoke that one time on this whole would/wouldn't thing.

Keep in mind, if he did misspeak, OK, this is the other issue, that one time and none of the others where he expressed the same sentiment, he had 28 hours of condemnation from U.S. intelligence and his own party to correct the record. He failed to do so in any of those 28 hours. In fact, during that time, he conducted two interviews with Fox News. He tweeted nine times. His administration released talking points defending his performance at the summit. Not once did the President or his aides in 28 hours try to say that the President of the United States misspoke. Again, in one of the multiple times that he praised Putin and took his side.

So, the President's explanation does not add up and neither does his assertion today that he accept America's intelligence agency conclusion that Russia attacked the American 2016 election. Because today even when he was reading a prepared script accepting the intelligence community's conclusions, the real Donald Trump reared his head.


TRUMP: I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: There are a lot of people out there. That is true. But on this particular issue, no. Look, the thing is, and we all know it at this point, that is what Trump really thinks, OK, because he has said it before.


TRUMP: Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia and the reason they blame Russia because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia.

I'll go along with Russia. Could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?


BURNETT: Maybe it was a 400 pound Russian. U.S. intelligence agencies do not blame other people. They don't talk about how many other people there are on this planet that possibly could have been done this. Now, this is very clear, right? It's Russia. Not a 400 pound man. Putin who is far from that.

[19:05:06] But the President of the United States is incapable of accepting this because it's a very least we know this. He thinks it calls his election victory into question.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live at the White House tonight. And Kaitlan, you are learning a lot more about the scramble behind the scenes, the meeting at the White House today that the President attended to contain this damage.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We are, Erin. The President's big retreat came after his top national security advisers huddled today to try to figure out how to undo the damage that had been done in that press conference in Helsinki when the President embraced the Russian President over United States intelligence agencies.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence all huddled in the situation room today discussing what it was the President should say to try to clarify or try to fix what they could after there was severe backlash not just in Helsinki, but also back here in Washington in response to the President's remarks at that press conference after it became quite clear today, Erin, that a tweet was not going to suffice to fix the damage that had been done here.

We saw the President come out. He gave his very scripted remarks saying that it was simply a miscommunication. He said one word when he meant another. But, Erin, of course if you watched that press conference, it doesn't nullify that the President did embrace Vladimir Putin several times and gave a lot of voice to his denials of election meddling.

BURNETT: He did indeed, Kaitlan. As you point out, when he came out today, it was scripted, except for when it wasn't, right? And it wasn't just what he said. We pointed out some of the issues with that. But also what he left out, right?

COLLINS: Yes, quite a stunning contrast in the President's off the cuff remarks yesterday when he was asked questions about reporters, was not given any advice by advisors on how to answer those questions. And then today when we saw him sitting there in the cabinet room reading off several sheets of paper and the cameras, of course, zoomed in on these remarks of the President. And you could see in his classic sharpie that he uses to mark up papers.

Right there, you can see the President crossing out one line where it said something about bringing people involved in election meddling to justice and adding another line in all caps in a black sharpie, that is the President's handwriting to say, there was no collusion. Because, of course, the President didn't come out today and just say he did believe our intelligence agencies, even though he contradicted them in the next breath. He had to make clear he got his argument in there that there was no collusion. Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan. Pretty stunning. Something about seeing that in black and white on the paper after it was prepared, what he'd added and what he took out says so much.

OUTFRONT now, Senior Political Analyst, Mark Preston, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Steve Hall who was the CIA Chief of Russia operations and spent a lot of time in Moscow, thanks to all.

So, Mark, look, we now know the President is the one who went in the room and said, I've got this idea, right? I'm going say I misspoke. But I'm only going to say I misspoke once, not any of the other times where I expressed pretty much the same sentiment. I mean, I say this and I'm not saying tongue in cheek. How stupid does he think we are?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, short answer is that he thinks we're very stupid. And in many ways you can't argue against that. He has gotten away with this ever since he came down that escalator when he announced his presidency. We have seen him time and time again say one thing that is outrageous, that causes anger, then he turns around and acts like he never said it.

Now, the problem that we're facing right now, Erin, is that he enjoys an 80 percent approval rating amongst Republicans. So, when we're attacking Republicans on Capitol Hill for not doing enough, in many ways they're flummoxed. They're running scared. They don't know how to deal with Donald Trump. In many ways, he has become a president on his own without any allies, that the only people that are supporting him right now are those who fear him.

BURNETT: And the question is here, April, is whether all of this will matter. I mean, you know, you heard Kaitlan just go through, right, what he added. There was no collusion. But what he crossed out, and that's what I want to ask you about, right? These are prepared remarks. He goes and he reads them. He was supposed to read one that said, anyone involved in that meddling to justice, brought to justice, right? And he took that out.


BURNETT: Involved in collusion. How telling is that?

RYAN: It's very telling. Words matter. Erin, think about this. When the President goes off script, he's rogue and he causes mass pandemonium. Look what happened in Charlottesville. He went off script. It took him five or six times to correct it because the nation was in an uproar. Now the world is in an uproar for what he said.

When a President speaks, it's strategic. You have people who go through and vet what the President says at least 20 or so times before it's delivered, and that's in a prior White House. This time the President went off script when he was in Helsinki Monday. This President supported Vladimir Putin. He basically said, I trust you without verification.

[19:10:07] The words of a president are strategic, and the words of the President are important. They shape markets. They create peace. They create war. And they also help with our lives. So, when this President goes back and changes it a day later, understanding Republicans and Democrats are upset and the world community is laughing, and this President says things like, you know, you're unpatriotic for this, people are saying, what he did was unpatriotic. He cannot change what he's already done. History is showing it.

BURNETT: So, Steve, you know, even when he said, I accept the intelligence community's assessment, he had to add, ad-lib the caveat, and let me just start play part of it again for you.


TRUMP: I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also.


BURNETT: And he continues to say there's lots of other people. That is not the conclusion of the intelligence agencies. What's the reaction there?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: You know, it can't be anything but -- I mean, my former colleagues in the intelligence community, not just CIA but NSA and all these other places that also do very important and very difficult work against the Russian target. It's some of the most difficult stuff that we do. And to hear the President, you know, in almost a hostage, you know, letter-reading type of situation say OK, OK, yes, they were right, but then again there might have been others as well.

It's not something that increases morale. It's not something that you go home in the evening as an intelligence officer and saying, I'm doing really hard stuff but it's worth it. It's really -- it's got to be bad for morale.

BURNETT: It's really interesting how you put it but the hostage reading --

RYAN: But Erin --

BURNETT: Hold on one second, April. I'm saying to Steve, like a hostage-reading situation.

HALL: Yes.

BURNETT: He seemed extremely uncomfortable reading that.

HALL: Yes. And I think it's also against the backdrop of -- you know, I think there's a lot of people certainly at least at CIA who remember him, you know, referring to the agency as, you know, nazi- like. And all of this thinking, people don't forget these things, especially the ones who are doing the hardest work which is against these hard targets like the Russians. It's just really debilitating, I think.


RYAN: Erin, from day one this President has had a hard time dealing with the intelligence community. I mean, look at what just happened with General McMaster. He let him go because he did not agree with him. And this man, he's known the world, traveled the world, he's been in the military, he knows intelligence.

Then not only that, just think about from the moment this President came in, he did not like receiving a book of intelligence every day. He needed bullet points. He didn't want to go through it every day. He did in bullet points. He didn't want to go through it every day. He didn't want to do what other presidents did. He did not want to accept the intelligence from the intelligence community to give to him so he could understand the lay of the land of the world. And if he would have read it like a book, he may have been able to change what he did Monday.

BURNETT: I mean, Mark, this is the kind of thing he would ordinarily call fake news, right. You guys are so fake, you're acting like I took a line out and you're acting like I added a line. Well, except for now there's camera proof, right, because he left his notes in front of him and now we can zoom in and you can see, right, there it is. There was no collusion. He added that in, and then made the point again and again. Here he is.


TRUMP: There was no collusion at all, and people have seen that and they've seen that strongly. The house has already come out very strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that. Furthermore, as has been stated and we've stated that previously and on many occasions, no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Is that what this is all about, Mark? I mean, is it really about just that one thing? He feels delegitimatized by it and so that's the only point that he cares about?

PRESTON: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Can we just stop for a second and just kind of laugh at President Trump for the fact that he had to write no collusion down on a piece of paper? Because he has been saying that over and over again.

BURNETT: But we know he's not going to forget the point.

PRESTON: Right. How could he forget it? Why did he need to write it? But really on a serious note, right, and I'm just sitting there and looking at Steve sitting at that desk who has devoted all his life, you know, to try to protect the United States from Russia and now he's seeing a President absolutely unravel it.

And for Republicans out there that might be watching, let's forget about the politics of all this. Let's forget about the policies that he might be pushing. Let's just look at the conduct in office. And if you're going to go and talk about Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush helping to bring down communism, to disable the Soviet Union, then you certainly can't be s supportive of the President.

BURNETT: Steve, quickly before we go. We know that part of the reason he did this today was he was afraid of resignations, right? Dan Coats obviously coming out with his own statement without the White House signing off on it going against the President yesterday. How real is that fear of resignations?

HALL: I think it must be significant. I mean, a guy like Dan Coats has got to find himself in a difficult position. Because on the one hand you want to stay there to try to keep the course and to try to make sure that your intelligence collection works and that whole system functions. But at some point you also become complicit in it.

[19:15:02] And I think really there is a time for people like Coats and others to say, look, we can't abide by this any more. We really have to make a statement and leave.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And next the breaking news, a new warning coming tonight that Russia could be on the verge of ramping up its operations targeting the United States. That breaking news next. And the Russian woman charged with being a foreign agent in court without Putin's protection. She is here in the United States. So who is she? And just how close did she get to Trump?

We have a special report. And a county that Trump won by a hair weighing in on the President's summit with Putin. Are they still with Trump?


BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, Russia preparing to ramp up operations against the United States. That's right. Despite President Trump's declaration that his meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin was a success. Sources familiar with intelligence collected by the U.S. and its allies tells CNN Putin was not deterred. In fact, he's ramping up. He was waiting for the summit and the word cup to end.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington with this breaking news. Evan, you're breaking this story. Tell us exactly what you mean here ramping up.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the intelligence services both here and the United Kingdom had noticed that there had been a low in some of the activity the Russians had been up to before the World Cup.

[19:20:03] And so during the World Cup and of course during the time that the President -- two Presidents were meeting in Helsinki, there was this plan, according to the intelligence that was gathered, to kind of keep things at a minimum to make sure it didn't detract especially from the World Cup which is obviously a prestigious event that the Russians were hosting. So the expectation now based on the intelligence is that the Russians are going to ramp up some of their activity and that could range from everything from the social media activity, the propaganda activity that we've seen so much trying to influence elections to some of the more aggressive things like the Novichok poisonings and the United Kingdom.

And the U.K. in particular has reached out to some of the allies to tell them that this type of activity, the poisonings, and particularly the assassinations of decedents and people who are enemies of Putin could be coming to their streets next. That's part of the warning that we're hearing from intelligence officials both there and in the United States.

BURNETT: Evan Perez, thank you very much. Obviously significant development Evan breaking tonight.

I want to go straight now to the Republican Senator Mike Rounds, a member of the Armed Services Committee. He's OUTFRONT. Great to have you with me, Senator. I appreciate your time again.

Look, you know, you hear the reporting, right? Russia ramping up. Meantime, the President is tamping down some of the criticism, extensive criticism, right? He's received for that press conference with Putin today saying, you know, when he said I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia is what he meant to say, instead of I don't see any reason why it would be Russia. Do you buy that? Would versus wouldn't?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I'm not sure that I necessarily would have used that approach, but I do know that about four times in the last year the President has suggested that it was Russia and yet this particular time, I saw the tapes just as you did and I think it was a little bit different yesterday. I was uncomfortable with the way that he handled it. I think I understand what his tactic was -- what he was trying to do, but I'm not sure I would have used the same tactic.

BURNETT: What do you think the tactic was? He was trying to be nice to Putin and, you know, sort of I don't know, you know, whatever?


BURNETT: Because he's standing next to him?

ROUNDS: Yes. I think he was actually trying to downplay it to say, look, let's get past this. But I think he was making it very clear that if Mr. Putin was going to stand there and actually try to tell people that they weren't actively involved in trying to manipulate the election that everybody in the United States understands that they were, that President Trump clearly had said four times in the last year that they were. And that to have Mr. Putin stand there and say he didn't have anything to do with it, I mean, I think that's kind of what the President suggested would probably happen in the first place.

And -- So to me, personally I think he could have just as well have just said, look, if we can't have an ongoing relationship in which we can shoot straight with one another, we're probably not going to get very far in trying to improve relations.

BURNETT: Senator, what I'm trying to understand, though, you know, you talk about four times in the past year, right? And I can give you many more times in which he said the opposite. You and I both know a couple of them were even in the press conference. But here's the problem. Today when he came out and he said, you know, I meant wouldn't versus would, he also came out, no Putin standing next to him, right? This was his mea culpa, and he said this.


TRUMP: I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there.


BURNETT: I mean, Senator, that's absurd. Why does he have to add could be other people also? There's a lot of people out there? I mean, how can -- is that something you can stomach? That was today when he was supposed to be saying he was sorry.

ROUNDS: I understand that he was caveating it. I can tell you right now the Russians did influence or at least they attempted to influence the election process. There's no question about that. I recognize that the President is doing his best to try to find a way to move forward from the relationships with Russia. But I think we have to call it for what it is.

I think Ronald Reagan had the best approach. He simply said he would trust, but he would verify. You mentioned earlier here that they were ramping things up.

BURNETT: Yes. ROUNDS: Until such time as our public policy allows us to offensively come back in and go after the bad guys, and right now our public policy is more devoted to defending and trying to protect against those attacks as they're being launched against us, and that's happening innumerable times per day. We have to have a change in our policy so we can go after the bad guys where they're launching these attacks from.

BURNETT: So Senator, what do you make of the fact, you know, he had his notes? You know, because he have prepared this script, right. So cameras were able to get a glimpse of them, right, and were able to zoom in. And we know that he added in there was no collusion, wrote that in in a sharpie on top of it. He made that point several times. And then he crossed out a line and said anyone involved in that meddling to justice, talking about bringing anyone involved, you know, in the Russian meddling to justice.

[19:25:01] What do you make of that? I mean, it's almost pathological his obsession with this collusion issue. Are you OK with it? Are you concerned about it?

ROUNDS: I think the President is still concerned with the amount of attention that the press brings to the fact that they still suggest that somehow he might have been involved with it. I think he feels very strongly that every time he talks about it, he's going continue to tell people, look, I had nothing to do with these people. This was not something that their campaign was involved with. And I think he feels very sensitive about that because it questions --

BURNETT: What about crossing out a line saying that anyone involved in the meddling would be brought to justice, do you find that problematic?

ROUNDS: Yes. I wasn't aware that that occurred. I can tell you that most certainly I think most of the people here in Congress would make it very, very clear that these people should absolutely be brought to justice. And I think the vast majority of his advisors would strongly advise him, even if he doesn't want to bring attention to it, that most certainly there would be prosecution. If we can catch them, we need to deal with them and we need to deal very, very, very strongly with them.

Send a powerful message back to our near-peer competitors, Russia and China, and also North Korea and Syria that we take this -- these types of incidents in this domain, the cyber domain as being very, very serious and we're going to treat them as very serious attacks on the United States.

BURNETT: Senator Rounds, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

ROUNDS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the alleged Russian secret agent who got close to the Trump campaign and the NRA indicted by the grand jury today. She is in the United States and like all the other Russians who've been indicted, she's here arrested. And Jon Huntsman, Trump's Ambassador to Russia, now urged to resign by his own home state paper, a paper owned by his brother. Will he listen?


[19:30:43 BURNETT: Breaking news: the federal grand jury indicting a Russian national on two charges today, conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. That's Maria Butina and she's going to appear at a hearing tomorrow in Washington. Prosecutors have expressed concern that she is a flight risk.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT with more on who Maria Butina is and how close she got to the Trump campaign.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Butina, a charming Russian red head, passionately touted her plight to expand Russian gun rights.

MARIA BUTINA, RUSSIAN NATIONAL: We are Russian public organization. We promote gun rights.

MURRAY: She espoused it at conferences and on social media, and even posed for a risque magazine spread.

Today, the Justice Department indicted the 29-year-old on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. Her motives, the government says, were advancing Russian interests by infiltrating U.S. political organizations and networking with other politically influential individuals. U.S. officials say her efforts were years in the making.

Butina used her Moscow gun group Right to Bear Arms to build inroads with leaders of an American gun rights group, which CNN has identified as the National Rifle Association. Smart and aggressive according to those who knew her, Butina landed invitations to exclusive events at NRA conventions and prayer breakfasts in D.C.

At the 2013 NRA convention, she got a chance to meet GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker. Later that summer, at a freedom fest event in Las Vegas, Putin announced she was visiting from Russia and asked then candidate Donald Trump, a seemingly out of the blue question.

BUTINA: If you would be elected as a president, what will be your foreign politics especially in the relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both economy, or you have any other ideas?

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANIDDATE: I believe I would get along we nicely with Putin, OK? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.

MURRAY: In 2016, she and her mentor Kremlin-linked banker Alexander Torshin worked behind the scenes to establish back channel communications between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. They appeared to fall short. But she and Torshin did manage to briefly encounter Donald Trump, Jr. at a private dinner on the side lines of the 2016 NRA convention in Kentucky.

And Butina landed a prime spot at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, listening to the newly minted president.

TRUMP: This gathering is a testament to the power of faith.

MURRAY: Butina's lawyer insists she's not a Russian agent, just a bright American university graduate who was looking at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations.


MURRAY: Now, so far, the National Rifle Association hasn't commented on its relationship with Maria Butina. As for her, she will be in court here in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. We will see if she and her lawyer decide to fight these charge ands what kind much plea she decides to enter -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you.

And I want to go to now to Harry Sandick here with me, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Julia Ioffe, correspondent for "GQ" magazine who has interviewed Butina in the past.

So, Julia, let me start with you. You know, she got in the same room with some really important people again and again, right? The National Prayer Breakfast, General Michael Flynn was there in 2017. Donald Trump, Jr. at an NRA event, Donald Trump himself at a campaign event in Las Vegas.

I mean, that's pretty impressive. I don't know anybody who could have pulled off that trifecta that easily.

How sophisticated was she?

JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, GQ: She seems like she's pretty sophisticated. You know, I have to say that that January 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, there were a lot of other Russian politicians there and there were others trying to come whose either invitations or trips got scuttled for various reasons. It was -- it was kind of the dawn of this weird symbiosis between Russia and the U.S.

What's interesting about Butina is not so much her -- what she was doing here. It's that she was constantly relaying it back to Alexander Torshin back in Russia.

And he is a really important figure. I mean, he headed the central bank. He was a Russian senator.

[19:35:00] But more importantly, he was named by Spanish -- the Spanish law enforcement as being very, kind of heading up an organized criminal group that was laundering Russian money in Spain where we know Putin has some property.

So, this guy is really tied with some nasty, dirty illegal stuff, and she seemed to be his assistant and his kind of eyes and ears on the ground here in the U.S.

BURNETT: I mean, you know, because, Harry, I'm sure some are quick to dismiss, oh, you know, look, the red head femme fatal Russian. She seems to be much more than that, right?

She was sophisticated. She got things done.


BURNETT: She had connections. The FBI affidavit says Butina was working to establish back channel lines of communications with American politicians.

The intent of, quote, those lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.


BURNETT: Now again, let's put her back in the room with Michael Flynn, Donald Trump, Jr., Donald Trump himself, and her arrest not part of the Mueller probe.

How significant is that?

SANDICK: That's right. I think what it tells us is there are things going on with respect to national security that have nothing to do with the Mueller probe and that the Mueller probe is going to be focused fairly narrowly on instances of trying to influence the 2016 election, and that he's doing it probably for a couple of reasons. One, that's the assignment he was given by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and he wants to honor that and not face claims that he's trying to become the prosecutor of everything in the world.

BURNETT: Right. So, Julia -- go ahead.

IOFFE: I think -- sorry -- one other thing. I think this also confirms what we already knew about the Russian influence campaign, is that it was very broad, very varied. They had various irons in the fire, trying things that -- some things that worked, some things that didn't.

It's interesting seeing this coming after the Friday indictment out of the Mueller camp which described in great detail the cyber operation. Here we have a much more, if you will, macro real world operation. It seems like they were trying lots of different things.

BURNETT: So, you know, Harry, she is also here.


BURNETT: She's here in the United States.

SANDICK: That's right.

BURNETT: All of Mueller's Russians, the 12 in the mostly recent indictment, the 11 or so in the other, they're not here. And they're not coming here.

SANDICK: No way.

BURNETT: She's here, she's in custody.

SANDICK: Yes, she's going to be treated just like anyone else who is charged with a crime in the United States. She'll get discovery. She'll have the right to file motions. And she'll have the right to go to trial.

And if she's convicted she'll be sentenced here in the United States to whatever prison term or other sentence is appropriate.

BURNETT: But to your point, discovery and a trial. There's a lot of things we're going to find out here we are not in these other cases.

SANDICK: Absolutely. And, you know, we already know some of the unknown identities. You know, the gun rights organization is the NRA.


SANDICK: But if this case does go to trial, we'll know a lot more. The only way it doesn't go to trial is if she pleads guilty and admits what she did was wrong, or if somehow there is some miraculous intervention on her behalf as there was in 2010 in the Southern District when there was a different case involving Russian spies and they were traded in essence.

BURNETT: Right, the trade, right.

And, Julia, Harry mentions the NRA. She's a gun enthusiast. All these pictures have her with guns. Obviously that's how she tried to get to Donald Trump, Jr.

You actually -- when you profiled her, you went to a gun shooting range with her, right?

IOFFE: Yes, to me this was crazy. I first -- you know, she first resurfaced on my radar when Tim Mak then at "The Daily Beast" wrote an amazing story about, you know, connecting all the various dots, showing her to be an agent of influence. I knew her as this kind of fringe figure who was -- had this tiny group, advocating for gun rights in Russia where firearms are not legal.

And -- I mean, it's such a fringe issue in Russia. And it -- to me, it was just a way in to show certain things about Russian society at the time. To me, it's a little -- it's crazy.

But in retrospect, A, she seemed very well trained when we did these shooting exercises. It wasn't just target practice. It was kind of scurrying around, almost like a movie set and shooting out of screen doors and from around corners. And she hit everything on target, super fast.

Also what's interesting is that back then it was the NRA, it was American right wing organizations that were trying to influence things in Russia, not the other way around.

BURNETT: Wow, interesting how the tables were turned.

All right. Thank you so much, Julia and Harry.

And next, a columnist urging the Russian ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, to resign. Did Trump's address today change his mind? He's my guest next.

And Jeanne Moos on when the lights went out on Donald Trump.


[19:43:27] BURNETT: Tonight, a call for Trump's ambassador to Russia to quit. We're talking about Jon Huntsman, one of Trump's prestigious ambassadors, a former presidential candidate ambassador to China and governor.

Now in a column in the "Salt Lake Tribune", which is owned by Huntsman's brother, there is a Chicago for the ambassador to take a stand and resign.

"Salt Lake Tribune" Columnist Robert Gehrke writing in part, quote, "Ambassador Huntsman, you work for a pawn, not a president. This has to be the last straw. To remain silent and continue to serve this president would be complicity in the undoing of our nation and its status as a world leader. Come home, Mr. Huntsman. Your country needs you.

Robert Gehrke is my guest OUTFRONT tonight. He knows Ambassador Huntsman from covering him when he was obviously governor of Utah.

Thanks very much for being with me, Robert.

You didn't mince words there, and you know, you heard President Trump today, right? He came out and said he misspoke in one of the multiple times that he took Putin's side against the U.S. intelligence community yesterday in that press conference with President Putin.

Did that change your call for the ambassador, Ambassador Huntsman, to step aside?

ROBERT GEHRKE, COLUMNIST; SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: You know, it really doesn't. I mean, if you read what he's saying, he said he meant to say in the context of what he was saying overall, it doesn't make sense. I mean, he was undermining the intelligence community throughout his commentary. It wasn't just one word here or there. And as you mention, he said similar things before.

So, this is, you know, even if you take him at his word that he misspoke, the overall message is the same.

[19:45:00] And I think the damage has already been done to, you know, the intelligence community and the U.S. relations and its standing globally.

BURNETT: So, you know, his daughter also, obviously, is a well known figure. She works for Fox News, Abby. She was very critical of President Trump's actions with Putin. She immediately went to Twitter.

She said, quote: No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.

And then this morning on Fox News, hours later, she continued by saying this.


ABBY HUNTSMAN, REPORTER, FOX NEWS: The problem is the way that he handled it in that moment, there is reason for people to pause and for people to be quite upset frankly because this is a real issue that we face with Russia. You should always defend America when you leave the country, especially when you're in Russia, not Russia, but Helsinki standing next to Vladimir Putin of all people.


BURNETT: Now, do you think, Robert, that she would have spoken out without her father knowing, especially given that more than 12 hours had passed between her tweets, or do you really think that was very much a separate thing?

GEHRKE: Yes, it's hard to know whether they spoke about that previously or not. I will say that knowing of the relationship between Abby and Ambassador Huntsman, they're very close and, you know, he's always been very supportive of his daughter, his daughter's journalism pursuits.

So, I think he's willing to let her say what she wants to say and speak her mind. And, you know, if they hadn't spoken before, I'm sure they'll speak about it in the future. And, you know, but she's going to be her own person and speak her own mind on this, I'm sure.

BURNETT: You write in your column --


BURNETT: -- that a lot of people in your state were surprised when Huntsman accepted President Trump's offer to be the Russian ambassador. Obviously, it's a crucial position. But it does come with this great dark cloud given the broader situation we're in. But his explanation was very similar to that which he gave when President Obama asked him to be ambassador to China, right? It was about a deep sense of duty.

Do you think that is why he will not resign, or do you think he's actually considering it?

GEHRKE: Yes, you know, the ambassador has always said when your country calls, you answer the call. He's got two sons who are both in the navy. You know, there is a deep sense of patriotism and loyalty to the country. I think that's why he took the job.

In my column, I say that's why it's time for him to step aside. If you're trying to be our man in Moscow and stand up to Russia on all of these issues from the bombings in Syria, from the occupation in Crimea, the election hacking, and you have to be firm and resolute. It's very hard to do that when the president comes to town and cuts the legs out from under you.

So, I think there is a likelihood I think that he's going to stay put. OK? He probably envisions it or sees that he can do more good from inside the system than outside the system. You have to be part of a team to score points, but it's hard for him to score points for the team when the coach is actively working against him to undercut everything he's worked for over the last year.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Robert. I appreciate your time.

GEHRKE: Great, thank you.

BURNETT: And next, breaking news, about the president's involvement in the Justice Department's decision to announce that indictment of 12 Russians, remember it came out right before the president's meeting with Putin and some people said oh, the DOJ was trying to manipulate Trump. No way, guys. We know how it went down now.

And Trump now shedding new light on his summit from the dark.


TRUMP: I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies.



[19:52:18] BURNETT: Breaking news: we are learning the White House gave the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein the OK. The White House said, OK, go ahead, announce the indictment of 12 Russians. You remember that indictment that came on Friday right before the president's summit with Vladimir Putin.

Some people said oh, it was the DOJ trying to manipulate and force Trump into something. Not at all, people. He is the one who said fine.

Kaitlan Collins is back with me from the White House with this breaking news.

Kaitlan, obviously, very significant. What have you learned about the White House's involvement in when this

announcement came out?

COLLINS: Erin, this is quite significant. We're learning that last Monday, before President Trump departed for his trip to Europe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came to the White House and briefed the president on these fourth coming indictments of these 12 Russian military intelligence officials who hacked the Democratic National Committee, among 2other offenses, and presented the White House with the option to hold off on the announcement of those indictments until after the president's meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Now, they went back and forth, and after some consultation, the White House did give the Justice Department the go ahead to go ahead and move forward with those indictments. The president left for Europe on Tuesday, and on that Friday, just days before his meeting with Putin, that was when Rosenstein held that conference, announcing the indictment of these officials.

And, of course, Erin, that really upped the pressure on President Trump to confront Vladimir Putin during their meeting over meddling in the election, something that the Justice Department presented as a fact in that 29-page indictment. Of course, later on in that press conference, that was where the president sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence officials. And Vladimir Putin, for his part, acted like he didn't know what the reporters were referring to when they asked him about that.

But Erin, we do get a little more insight into that decision before the president's big sit-down with the Russian president.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much for that breaking news.

Harry Sandick is back with me.

What do you make of this? The president's defenders are trying to say oh, look at Rosenstein, he is trying to force Trump's hand right before this summit. Not the way it went. The White House made the call.

SANDICK: Yes. And, look, either way, there is an opportunity for either embarrassment or for the president to capitalize on it. If they had delayed the charges and hadn't gone to the White House until after the summit, critics of the investigation would have said they were sandbagging the president, trying to make him look bad by holding this up. So they gave it up to him earlier. They let him know this is coming.

And despite maybe a conflict actually existing giving the president this option, they said you can decide for your foreign policy. It is better before or after? And I guess the White House picked before.

BURNETT: Which is extremely interesting part of the Mueller investigation that they did do that and give him that ability. SANDICK: Yes.

BURNETT: And he made that choice.

[19:55:01] All right. Thank you very much, Harry.

And next, Jeanne Moos on the day the lights went out in the White House.


BURNETT: Tonight, the lights went out on Donald Trump, literally.

Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't nearly as dramatic as the time the lights came crashing down.


MOOS: While Bill and Hillary Clinton were preparing for a "60 minutes" interview.

But when President Trump spoke, it was as if the lights were listening.

TRUMP: I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies. Whoops, they just turned off the light. That must be the intelligence agencies.

There it goes. OK. You guys OK?

MOOS: The president stayed calm, but Twitter got excited.

Putin turned out the damn lights at the White House, read one tweet. The intelligence community has spoken read another.

Even the president allowed that it was --

TRUMP: Strange.

MOOS: Strange.

Evangelicals, do you need any more signs from a god, asked one critic?

Then the Twitter account identifying itself as god chimed in. Did you like it when the lights went out on him? That was me.

But it's not the first time this has happened.

TRUMP: So that we put them in our jails, because to put them in our jails, they didn't pay the electric bill. Oh, I like that much better!

MOOS: Then candidate Trump lit up when the lights went off at an Atlanta rally.

TRUMP: No, get those lights off! Let's go, ready? Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!

MOOS: The chanting worked. Too much light, not enough light, nothing to do but make light of it.

TRUMP: As I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: Get those lights off!

MOOS: -- New York.


BURNETT: I didn't realize that it happened that time before. You got to give him credit. He was very quick on the draw on that one. It looks like they didn't pay the electric bill. Let's hope the White House is.

Thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time. Just go to CNN Go.

"AC360" with Anderson starts now.