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Trump Invites Putin To Washington In The Fall; Intel Official: Coats Felt It Was Important To Defend Us; FBI Director And DHS Secretary Agree Russia Interfered In 2016 Election; Rosenstein Warns Of Growing Cyber Threat From Russia. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 11:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- 27 tornadoes. The storm also brought heavy rain, damaging wind and destroyed homes, businesses. Ripped the top off a factory. All right. Thanks for being with me. Have a good weekend. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Kate Bolduan takes over next.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. For a week that started with a press conference that even Republicans called a disaster, clarification that required two other clarifications, the last thing you would expect is a surprise invitation to the White House for the man at the center of the whole crisis. But that is exactly what you just -- what you got. Surprise was even -- the surprise was even to the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to the --

COATS: Did I hear --




COATS: That's going to be special.


BOLDUAN: I feel like that's what I say before every show, that's going to be special. I know I normally say, wait, there's more. But today it's, but, wait, there's less. Coats still doesn't know what Trump and Putin actually agreed to or didn't in that one on one meeting Monday in Helsinki.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president's prerogative.


BOLDUAN: So, who does know what the leaders of the free -- the leader of the free world and the meddler of the autocratic world said besides the translators? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to have some clues.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have had a chance to talk with President Trump about his discussions with President Putin. There was progress made on a handful of fronts, agreements to work more closely on counterterrorism.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us with much more. Jeremy, on this fine Friday, is the White House saying anything more about this Putin visit, time, place, anything?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We don't at this point have any more details on the actual meeting. There is a lot going on in Washington and at the White House as it relates to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence comments yesterday.

You saw that shocked look on his face when he found out from another journalist that the president was planning a second meeting with Vladimir Putin, even as the controversy surrounding the first meeting has yet to even die down.

Let's just remember that this week began with Dan Coats issuing a statement, a forceful statement, defending the intelligence community after President Trump made those comments equating the intelligence community's assessments about 2016 interference from the Russians and Vladimir Putin's denials.

The White House and folks at the directorate of National Intelligence had thought that perhaps Coats and the president had turned a corner as the president kind of walked back some of those comments more recently this week. But it seems like that is shifting again.

The White House appears to be upset at Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats over his comments yesterday. Folks at the DNI seem to be upset at the White House for Coats being blindsided essentially during that very public interview when he was informed about the meeting between the president and Vladimir Putin that is in the works.

You know, Coats is not expected back in Washington until Monday. While he is away, a lot of questions about his future hang in the balance. A lot of intelligence officials beginning to worry that Coats could be fired by the president because of the way that he handled things yesterday.

Remember, it wasn't just his shock at this second meeting with Vladimir Putin. He also said that he would not have advised the president to have that one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in the first place.

He also said that he wouldn't have advised the president to invite senior Russian officials into the oval office last year. So, a lot of questions right now about Coats' future and how things will go forward.

We do know that the president is leaving later today to Bedminster and sometimes when he walks out to that the helicopter, he does speak to the press. We will keep you posted on all of that.

BOLDUAN: All right. Great to see you, Jeremy. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "The Washington Post," Josh Dawsey, and CNN global affairs analyst, who's advised both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state, Aaron David Miller.

So, Josh, bouncing off what Jeremy was saying, it seems White House officials are upset with Dan Coats. DNI is upset with the White House. "Washington Post" is reporting that a senior White House official says that Coats has gone rogue.

[11:05:01] Is that your sense of things? Is Coats being caught off guard in one case and in another reacting to the president being wrong on the intelligence assessment?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's certainly some palpable frustration within the White House of Dan Coats' interview, how candid he was, how he was seemingly critical of the president for meeting with Putin once, for doing it again.

He basically showed his cards on stage that he had no idea the president was inviting Vladimir Putin back to the White House this fall. I don't think Dan Coats is the most popular person in the White House today.

Though, that said, his frustrations seemed to express the ad hoc nature of this meeting. A lot of White House officials don't know what was said in that meeting, trying to unspool what it means.

So, you have a disconnect between the president and his administration. Now that Dan Coats, as a pretty prominent member of the administration, is out showing some of the frustrations, you are seeing some frustrations from the White House.

BOLDUAN: Aaron, the simple fact that the director of National Intelligence doesn't know anything about what happened inside that meeting in Helsinki still days later, are you surprised by that?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not in Trump land I'm not surprised. I'm not entirely persuaded Mike Pompeo received a full briefing. The only person who actually knows on the American side what transpired in that meeting is the interpreter and Mr. Trump.

I'm assuming the Russians recorded the conversation. We probably easily could have as well. Whether an actual transcript exists and if it does exist, whether the president would essentially allow it to be prepared and shared, another matter entirely.

In Trump land, you have two choices. You can stand up and defend the interests of the republic. Rex Tillerson, despite his imperfections as secretary of state, or you could suck up and survive. I think Dan Coats is trying his best as others have tried to navigate it line. Whether or not he will succeed, anybody's guess.

BOLDUAN: Josh, here is the confusing whiplash element of it to keep with the theme of the week. If we talk about the future of Dan Coats and Jeremy Diamond saying there's conversations about is he going to last, your paper has reported that one of the reasons behind Trump's clarification after Helsinki was concern that Coats would resign over the press conference. What are you hearing about how close it came to that?

DAWSEY: I think Dan Coats and others in the intelligence community certainly were despondent over the president's comments at the press conference with Vladimir Putin. He came out the next day and said he felt differently.

A number of kind of walk back and changes from the White House on Russia. That's why that clarification was made the next day. The president was under tremendous pressure to fix what he said at the podium, even if the president deep down maybe was not so displeased with his comments after all.

A lot of the apparatus of the government really was pushing him to make changes. I think that kept Dan Coats around. That said, obviously, Mr. Coats out in Aspen felt the need to unload about what he saw this week and he did that.

BOLDUAN: Aaron, from your Twitter feed today, after Helsinki, you are in a place now where you think Putin has something on President Trump. I want to know why you think that but also then what you then think of Putin coming to the White House in the fall.

MILLER: I mean, I really don't know, Kate. I'm trying to be as honest and objective and detached about this as possible. Why is an American president consistently kneeling before at best a frenemy of the United States and perhaps an outright adversary?

One is the possibility that exist some sort of Trump file either for personal transgressions, financial ones, and that Putin actually has considerable leverage. Second is the reality that Trump has to keep Putin close.

Because as the process proceeds in terms of Russian election meddling, the more the Russians are perceived to have meddled, the more the president believes the legitimacy of his election is at stake.

And finally, I think it's not just Mr. Putin, it's Erdogan, it's a number of authoritarians. Mr. Trump loves to deal with authoritarians over cranky allies. As far as the summit is concerned, we haven't gotten over the chaos and confusion of the first summit.

We don't know what's happened there. Now we're scheduling a second. Only one Russian leader has been to Washington and addressed a joint meeting of Congress and that was Boris Yeltsin in '92. At that time, he was perceived to be a partner rather than an enemy. So, I don't understand it. I think it's a bad decision.

[11:10:02] BOLDUAN: I get a sense that Putin will not get an invite to Congress if this trip does come through. I don't know. Maybe that's a possibility. Josh, what are you hearing? How did this invite to Putin kind of come about from the White House? Do you have a sense from the White House that they think another Putin meeting would be a good thing especially if it's held just before the election?

DAWSEY: I think the president thinks he can charm any foreign leader, he can make a deal. We saw that with Kim Jong-un. He praised Kim Jong-un as he has been critical of some allies. He is doing this with Vladimir Putin.

When you talk to his advisers and people in the White House, what they say is a less nefarious explanation. In their mind, he thinks if he can get in a room with someone, he can make terms, he can have peaceful relationships with Russia, friends with Vladimir Putin. A lot of folks in the White House don't think that's possible, but the president thinks it is obviously.

BOLDUAN: So, is it a redo? Is it a do over?

DAWSEY: I think in the president's mind, he wants to keep meeting with Vladimir Putin. I think he has said that repeatedly. I don't know that's a do over. I think he actually see -- he thinks can come out of this that are good for the United States. Obviously, time will tell.

A lot of Republicans, a lot of his own advisers are very skeptical anything good can come out of a meeting with Vladimir Putin. The president wants to do it and has said that for months and months.

He wanted the things we reported is that he has been frustrated that people within his government have tried to stop him from meeting with Vladimir Putin. He was frustrated when we reported in a few months ago that said do not congratulate Vladimir Putin on the phone call and that came out.

It's really him versus his own administration when it comes to Vladimir Putin. He takes a far more sunny approach to meeting with the Russian strongman.

BOLDUAN: It's always rainbows and butterflies when it comes to Vladimir Putin from personal experience. Great to see you, Josh, Aaron. I appreciate it.

All right. Now to some breaking news that we need to get to that's happening overnight. A tragic story that seems to only be getting more heart breaking. What was supposed to be a leisurely summer night on a Branson, Missouri lake ended with at least 13 people dead when a tourist duck boat capsized in the storm.

Right now, divers are back in the water looking for a handful of people who are still missing. Investigators are looking for answers to just why this happened in the first place.

CNN's Rene Marsh is following these latest details. She's joining me right now. So, Rene, they've just wrapped up a press conference a short time ago for an update. What's the very latest?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Kate, at this hour, this is still being considered a recovery effort. But as the governor told CNN this morning, it doesn't look good for survivors. We know that children are among the dead. Fourteen people survived.

But again, at this hour, the search continues for even more survivors. To set the scene, take you back to how this all unfolded. It was Thursday evening. The ride -- the Duck's Tour boat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake near Branson.

It was during the storm. You are looking at video, how choppy the water was there. People captured the moments as that boat was just rocking back and forth in the water. The winds were extremely strong and whipping this boat around.

The area we do know was under a severe thunderstorm warning. It was issued shortly after 6:30 p.m. local time, about 30 minutes before the boat capsized. The big question is, were they tracking that weather? Why did they go out there on that boat?

The CEO of the boat's company, this Duck Boat Company spoke to CNN earlier today. Take a listen.


JIM PATTISON JR., PRESIDENT OF DUCK BOAT TOURS' PARENT COMPANY (voice- over): My understanding was that when the boat went in the water, it was calm. Obviously, we shouldn't be out there in severe weather. People are supposed to be able to go out for an outing and have a good time. This should never end this way. There's not much more you can say.


MARSH: All right. So, that's going to be a key part of this investigation. Were they aware of this weather system that was in the area? Did they pay close attention to that before they decided to leave?

That is a key question for investigators. It's unclear at this hour if passengers had time to put on life jackets. We know both the Coast Guard and the NTSB are investigating. But Kate, I do want to point out, the NTSB has long warned about the dangers of these specific type of tour boats. It investigated a very similar incident back in 1999 in Arkansas. In their final report, the NTSB said that the canopies on those boats, which this boat has the same sort of canopy is a major -- I'm quoting -- "impediment to the survival of the passengers."

So, was that another contributing factor in this case as well? Why more people didn't get out alive. That will be all a part of this investigation -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That was in 1999.

MARSH: Yes, nearly two decades ago.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Rene. We will stay on this as divers are back in the water right now. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, it is what they do every day. That's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Russia's continued attacks on the United States especially targeting U.S. elections.

[11:15:10] But is the U.S. prepared? Our next guest says no.

Plus, President Trump touches yet another third rail -- takes on yet another third rail of presidential politics. This time he's sounding off on the Federal Reserve. What he said and what it means, stay with us.


BOLDUAN: The president spent the week clarifying and reclarifying who he thinks is behind the attack of the 2016 election. His administration spent the week essentially saying, well, they know.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Russia attempted to interfere with the last election.

[11:20:06] KIRSTJEN NEILSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't think there's any question in the intel community or DHS that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral system.


BOLDUAN: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is now adding his voice to that chorus of administration officials saying the attack happened and the threat is still very real today.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign is just one tree in a growing forest. Focusing merely on a single election misses the point. As director Coats made clear, these actions are persistent, they are pervasive, they are meant to undermine democracy on a daily basis.


BOLDUAN: But who is the next threat going to target? Is the country any more prepared? Joining me right now is Garrett Graff, CNN contributor and author of "The Threat Matrix, Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror." Great to see you, Garrett.


BOLDUAN: So, you have a surprising take on who you think is the next target of the next attack on a U.S. election. It could be the opposite of 2016. Republicans could be the next target. Why?

GRAFF: I think this is one of the things that puzzles me about how slow Capitol Hill and this administration has been to push forward on the cyber threat this year, particularly around the midterm elections, is that certainly we have seen the consensus of the intelligence community regardless of what the White House might be saying this week is that Russia interfered to advance Donald Trump's campaign and hurt Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

There's no guarantee, though, that Russia or any other nation state would again interfere on the Republican side. In fact, if you are China or Russia looking at the midterm elections, there's a lot to say to advance your own geopolitical goals that the Democrats are the ones that you would want to be interfering on behalf of in this midterm election.

Microsoft announced for the first time that they have seen new attacks from foreign nation states, probably Russia, against at least three midterm congressional campaigns.

BOLDUAN: Have you seen any evidence that the country is more prepared for this election than last? I was looking over a note of what the homeland security secretary was saying when asked about it. I don't know if she would give detail. She says, we're doing at DHS is to work with states to prepare on the election infrastructure piece.

GRAFF: Yes. We're certainly better prepared than we were in 2016, but we were in terrible shape for 2016. That's sort of like saying, we have now baked half of a loaf or a fifth of a loaf rather than having no loaf at all.

This is a very relative measurement. We're a long way from where we need to be either in terms of securing the campaigns themselves or securing the election infrastructure itself.

Robbie Mook, Hillary Clinton's campaign director in 2016 was out with an op-ed this week saying he thinks it should be the responsibility of the Secret Service, an agency that has deep cyber security expertise, to secure elections and campaigns in the same way that they protect election candidates, presidential candidates in a presidential election.

BOLDUAN: All along, this has me wondering, is the problem a lack of will to fill the holes and fix the problems or is it that it's just that hard to completely protect against this type of cyberattack?

GRAFF: Both. Part of the challenge of this is the vast majority of cyberattacks can be prevented with very basic technology steps. Something like using two-factor authentication. If John Podesta had been using two-factor authentication on his g-mail account in 2016, the Russian GRU would have never been able to access it.

What we have seen is that campaigns are not moving as fast as they should be to adopting those very basic blocking and tackling cyber security steps. At the same time, this is an incredibly complex and deeply underfunded area of American investment.

I mean, elections are carried out at the state level, the county level, local level. You are dealing with local Boards of Elections that don't have the time, talent, money or resources to really begin to upgrade their cyber security in the way to face a persistent nation state threat.

BOLDUAN: And elections -- the election system is decentralized on purpose. This is maybe one of the -- this is why there are these presented -- these challenges are presented. Great to see you, Garrett. Thank you so much.

GRAFF: My pleasure.

[11:25:11] BOLDUAN: Not that we feel more comforted afterward but it's Friday.

Coming up, President Trump breaking another presidential norm. Taking on the head of the Federal Reserve, the head of the Federal Reserve that he appointed. That's next.


BOLDUAN: He is a good guy but -- whatever follows that is never a good think when it's coming from your boss. But that's what Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is face --