Return to Transcripts main page


Nielsen: No Doubt Russia Interfered in Election; Calls Grow for Trump Interpreter to Answer Lawmaker Questions; Interview with Rep. Bill Pascrell; Kudlow Blames China for Trade War; U.S. Farmers Impacted by Trade War; Maria Butina Ordered to Remain in Jail as Flight Risk. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:27] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just minutes ago, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked at a security forum about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Since everyone is needing to have their temperature taken once again on this. Listen to what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So can you say definitively that, during the campaign, Russia, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, launched an attack on our country and that it was done to favor the election of Donald Trump?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What I would say is I don't think there's any question in the Intelligence Community or at DHS that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral system. They have the capability, the intent. What we're doing at DHS is to work with states to have the whole election infrastructure piece. That's the piece we have lead on. I don't think there's any doubt that they did it and I think we should be prepared given that capability that they will do it again.


BOLDUAN: But was it done to favor Donald Trump? We don't have that part. She didn't say that part.

There are two leaders in the room. Let's move on right now though. We'll continue to listen to her and bring you updates as Kirstjen Nielsen as continues to be interviewed by Peter Alexander.

Two leaders and two translators in the room. That's it. No one else. And facing questions about what was exactly said and agreed to, if anything between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, there are growing calls on Capitol Hill to hear it straight in the translator's mouth. From Democrats for sure. Even Republicans have started to wonder aloud about the possibility. But not every Republican agrees.

CNN's Manu Raju has new reporting for us.

Manu, you've been speaking to a lot of folks on the Hill. Lindsey Graham had something to say. What are you picking up?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Despite the push by Democrats to get this interpreter to testify on Capitol Hill, Republicans are pushing back. Even Republicans who have been sharply critical of the president's handling of the summit. They raise concerns about what they believe would be a bad precedent by forcing an interpreter to come before Capitol Hill.

Lindsey Graham was one of them. He has been one of the sharpest critics of the president's handling of Russia. But when I asked him specifically whether or not they should ask this translator to come before Capitol Hill, he said this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Absolutely not. That will be the last time you ever have a foreign leader meet with the president of the United States privately. And I can tell you there may be times where we need to do that. So I can't imagine how that would affect future presidents in terms of their ability to talk to foreign leaders.


RAJU: So, Kate, that is to say that Lindsey Graham has been praising the president's performance this week. There's been other significant amount of criticism that he levied against this president and others have joined as well saying that the president that significantly misjudged Vladimir Putin and he was not prepared for that summit.


GRAHAM: When it comes to Russia, it has been a bad week and it is imperative that he understand that he is misjudging Putin. I don't think he was as prepared as well as he should have been.

This was a missed opportunity. We are being forced a narrative that is bad for us as a nation. It came across weak.


RAJU: And wait for some legislative action as well. Potentially, the Senate may consider at least a resolution reaffirming the support for the Intelligence Community and possibly a sanctions package. That could take weeks to play out -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, while I have you, I want to get back to the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and what she said about election meddling. We all recall that you had asked her, I think, pretty of the same question not so long ago and she had a very different answer.

RAJU: And a couple months ago, I asked her directly, do you believe the Intelligence Community's 2017 assessment that Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to become president, and at that time, she pushed back. She actually said that that is not what the Intelligence Community assessment said when, in fact, that is what the assessment said and Vladimir Putin himself confirmed his own personal intentions this week. But she pushed back on that. Her spokesperson later had to clarify her remarks. But her remarks today interesting in light of those previous comments from a couple months ago -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Sure is.

Manu, great to see you. Thank you.

RAJU: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, one member of Congress pushing to hear from the translator who was in the meeting with the two leaders, New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. BILL PASCRELL, (D), NEW JERSEY: Kate, how you doing today?

[11:35:02] BOLDUAN: Doing all right, as we always say.


BOLDUAN: Doing all right. We continue on.

The national Security Council had said that they are still reviewing the meeting. What notes or recordings do you think there are?

PASCRELL: I think the American people deserve to hear either from the president or the translator as to what happened in those meetings. I know the military is anxious to hear what is going on. Of course, they will be affected by whatever, quote ,unquote, "agreement" as Vladimir Putin said there was, what are those agreements that will affect many aspects of the American society. So I think we have a right to know. I've asked and I sent the letter to both Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee. I think that's an appropriate place. If they don't want to do in public, let them do that in private and let's see what happened. I think we have a right to know. This is full transparency. This has been a horrible week for the administration and the American people. When it comes right down to it, we need to know. We need to know what direction we're going on instead of the chaos we face. Every push back has been another push back. Where are we standing on Thursday of this week? Any different than where we were on Monday? I don't think so. We need to get some facts here.

BOLDUAN: But calling up the translator to Congress, in public or private, it would be an extraordinary move. And Lindsey Graham --

PASCRELL: Yes, it would be.

BOLDUAN: Lindsey Graham was speaking to reporters and he makes the case that he says that it would set a horrible precedent doing so, impacting future presidents and their ability to talk candidly with foreign leaders. Do you see that?

PASCRELL: Well, the president can invoke executive privilege. He has every right to do that under the powers of the executive branch of government. Then he should come forth and tell us what those agreements are. Why are we learning from the Russians what the agreements are? Does that make any sense whatsoever? Not to me. And a lot of other people. Senator Sheehan in the Senate, Congressman Joe Kennedy in the House, agree with me. Others have agreed with me and spoken out. And I think if you get Republicans one-on-one, many of them would agree also. We need to know what those agreements were that we learned about generally from Mr. Putin.

BOLDUAN: Would you leave open the possibility that there were no agreements that were reached and that is just Putin being Putin and Russia lying?

PASCRELL: Well, there has been a lot of lying going on in the last serval days to the American people, eventually. And we need a reckoning here. We cannot have a fall back after every time we disclose what really happened or we were misunderstood. Sometimes we use the wrong words. This is not the case in this situation. We knew what to expect. And that is why, Kate, I began to read into the record on Thursday night of last week what the dossier actually did say. And 84 percent of which has been proven credible. I think that Steele dossier is very pertinent to not only Mueller's investigation, but what we're doing this week.

Can I mention one other thing when I was in Berlin the last time?


PASCRELL: The first thing I wanted to do is go to the East Germany, East Berlin. And the reason I wanted to go to East Berlin, I wanted to see the place where the KGB operated. How they got their information and the rooms that they worked in and on the citizens that they worked on. We're dealing here with a very serious situation. These are extraordinary times. Asking for the translator to come forth is extraordinary. But let me tell you, that experience that I had in that building where Vladimir Putin operated in East Berlin is enough for me to understand how all of these people operate. He is a former KGB, and we need to keep this in mind. And I think the president has been had. The American people haven't been had. The president has been had.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, let us see what happens with regard to any request for the translator.

PASCRELL: We will. And we'll follow up, Kate. We'll follow up. Count on us.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. With Republican majority, I'm not sure, Congressman, that getting the translator without approval from the White House is going to happen. Regardless, we'll follow it.

Thank you, Congressman.

PASCRELL: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

[11:39:30] BOLDUAN: Of course. Coming up, the Trump administration and China in a fierce battle over tariffs, and then and now, and for the foreseeable future. But now, a fierce war of words. What the president's top economic adviser is saying, what China has been saying back. And the American farmer is trapped smack dab in the middle. That is next.


BOLDUAN: So who is to blame for the U.S. trade war with China? The Trump administration says it is China. President Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, telling CNBC China's president is now the one standing in the way of negotiating a way out of this. Watch.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: I went to Beijing with our team, and when China came to the USA, I was involved in the discussions and dinner. I sat next to Lee Yuhei (ph) and his young assistants. And I think they are sincere. So there's hope. On the other, I do not think President Xi at the moment has any intention of following through on the discussions we've made. And I think the president is so dissatisfied with China on these so-called talks that he is keeping the pressure on, and I support that.


[11:45:22] BOLDUAN: China has responded to Kudlow's comments calling them bogus accusations.

So while they are trading barbs and raising tariffs, American farmers are stuck in the middle.

CNN went out west to Utah and Colorado to get a firsthand look at how this trade war is playing out in real time. Watch this.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): As the sun peeks over the mountains in West Weaver, Utah, Ron Gibson's dairy cows are already lining up. But as the farmer watches over his operation, he also has an eye on his Twitter feed.

RON GIBSON, DAIRY FARMER: I always hope that one morning President Trump is just going to wake up and send out that 3:30 in the morning tweet that says tariffs are gone.

BOLDUAN:: Gibson voted for Donald Trump and supports most of the president's agriculture policies. But he believes U.S. farmers will suffer the most from trade wars with countries that buy American agricultural goods.

GIBSON: We can talk about Harley-Davidson, we can talk about some of the costs that will go up. Agriculture is definitely the tip of the sphere in the retaliatory tariffs placed against the United States.

BOLDUAN:: For farmers in the west already battling drought and immigration labor shortages, losing foreign buyers could push them to the brink.

GIBSON: We have 160 dairies in the state of Utah right now. It is a very real possibility that by the end of this year, we could have 100. Pretty soon, you know, you have to say I can't do this anymore.

HARRISON TOPP, FRUIT FARMER: We really, really, really count on workers that come from Mexico. I call them agricultural athletes. They are phenomenal. They are incredible workers.

BOLDUAN:: This first-generation fruit farmer, Harrison Topp, worries a trade war with Mexico and Trump's harsh immigration policy will irreparably harm the relationship to the point he and fellow Colorado growers won't be able to find workers willing to come the hard work of hand-picking their peaches, their apples and plumbs.

TOPP: What is hard is the uncertainty. To have really an uneasy relationship with Mexico and to see what is happening with the politics in Mexico right now, it is concerning to think about what that could potentially do to our labor force.

BOLDUAN:: That is something that keeps farmers like Ron Gibson up at night. And once those foreign buyers leave, they may never return.

GIBSON: It is heartbreaking to me to watch what I believe is the core of America struggle for survival. I just hope that Washington, D.C., can do everything that it can to help the American farmer to be successful because I believe that when the American farmer is successful, we will be successful as a country.


BOLDUAN: So concerns are real, but it is not just fear of what is coming. They are already starting to feel it. Gibson, who you heard from there, he says he is already taking a dramatic hit financially. Last month, he saw some of the worst checks come in that he has received in the last decade. And when he saw them come in, he says he literally cried. We'll keep bringing these stories to you.

Coming up, still this hour, the U.S. court not taking any chances with an accused Russian spy and has ordered her to be held in jail without bail until trial. Why? Details ahead.


[11:52:51] BOLDUAN: A U.S. court is not taking any chance with an accused Russian spy. Maria Butina pleaded not guilty but has been ordered to remain in jail until her trial because prosecutors say she's an extreme flight risk.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is live from Moscow on this.

Matthew, what are we learning about Maria Butina?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this case of Maria Butina has become yet another thorn in the side of the very difficult relationship between Moscow and Washington.

What I think is most fascinating about this saga is what it tells us about the lengths to which Russia has, apparently, gone to try to infiltrate America political organizations, using every weapon in their arsenal.


CHANCE (voice-over): She appealed directly to the heart of American conservatism.


CHANCE: Combining a passion for guns with a youthful charm.


MARIA BUTINA, ACUSED RUSSIAN SPY: I'm a representative of Russian Federation here. And I'm a chairman of the Right to Bear Arms. It's a Russian nonprofit organization.


CHANCE: An unlikely profile says Butina was born in Siberia, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and spent her childhood navigating the rocky transition from Communism to capitalism. She apparently launched a chain of small furniture stores in her home town before moving to Moscow where it says her interests in expanding the rights of average Russian citizens caught the attention of the most senior leaders of the Russian Federation.

Butina's gun lobbying got her privileged access in the United States, including to the National Rifle Association.

John Bolton, then an NRA official, now U.S. national security adviser, appeared in a 2013 video used by Butina's organization to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Should the Russian people have the right to bear arms? I can share with you a word about what this particular freedom has meant to Americans and offer you encouragement as you consider embracing that freedom.

[11:55:07] BUTINA: I'm visiting from Russia. So my question --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ah. Putin. Good friend of Obama, Putin.

CHANCE: But it's now known Butina's gun lobbying also brought her into direct contact with Donald Trump, the Russian asking the then- presidential candidate at a public Libertarian event in 2015 about Russia and sanctions.

TRUMP: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK. And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you need the sanctions. CHANCE: While Butina has denied allegations against her, comparisons

have been made between her and Ana Chapman, the flamed-haired Russian agent who gained notoriety and celebrity after being arrested in the United States after being part of an illegal spy ring in 2010.

According to U.S. court filings, Butina offered sex in exchange for a position in a special interest organization during her work in the U.S.

It all raises questions about whether Butina really was just a Russian gun lobbyist or had her sights set on another target.


CHANCE: Kate, as you might expect, the reaction here in Moscow has been to cast this case as yet more principle posturing coming out of the United States. The Russian foreign ministry issuing a statement saying that the arrest of Ms. Butina was designed to undermine what it called the positive results of the summit between President Trump and his Russian counterpart in Helsinki -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Matthew, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, the secretary of Homeland Security says there's no question that Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. elections and will try to do it again. More of what Kirstjen Nielsen is saying. And how does it match up with her boss' latest clean up attempt, next.


[12:00:09] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The president says his summit with Vladimir --