Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Facing Mounting Problems from Cohen Tapes, Mueller Probe & Putin Meeting; U.S. Intel Chief Blindsided by Trump Invitation to Putin; Trump Invites Putin To D.C. Even After Summit Widely Panned; U.S. Intel Chief Blindsided By Trump Invitation To Putin; 17 Killed After Duck Boat Capsized In Misssouri. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 16:30   ET


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And then the president goes to Helsinki and, you know, there's a question according to the sources that you talked to and that I talked to of whether this could be an inflection point of some sort and that perhaps Mueller now might be sort of sitting back.

[16:30:07] He just did his Russian indictments a week ago today, of 12 Russians, and that he could be sitting back waiting to see a little bit how it plays out before dealing with them specifically on any kind of an interview with the president.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Right. That is really the question, right?

BORGER: Right.

BASH: The question of whether or not the president will ever sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller. The talks were already slow going. We have been reporting that for months now.

BORGER: Forever.

BASH: Right. But it's even more so now and I was told that Mueller's team, according to the way that the Trump team sees it is not expressing any tremendous desire to expedite this and that could be to borrow a term of Dan Coats, a big, red, flashing light.

BORGER: That's right. You know, remember, just -- was it a month ago or so? We did a story that said that an interview was set for the president at the Camp David and then the president's lawyers led by John Dowd at the time pulled out. So, they had made progress. Then it went nowhere.

And now, we're told that there's kind of a lull, that they're doing some ministerial things in conversations, but nothing really substantive. And, of course, Mueller himself is like a stone. He's not giving anything away.

And so, people on the Trump team are sort of scratching their heads saying, where are we on this? Where do you think this is going to head? Because they don't know the answer.

BASH: No. They don't. You know, Rudy Giuliani told me just this week he thinks that now the president is -- who has said publicly to testify that he's more inclined or listening to his attorneys on the idea of at least narrowing the scope of the interview but as we have been reporting, this new reporting is, who knows what's going to happen with this interview and Robert Mueller is?

Thank you so much, Gloria.

BORGER: We don't know. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Always good working with you.

OK. So there's the Cohen tapes we are talking about. Speculation that Putin has something on the president which was elevated like to the nth degree this week after that press conference. Now, Mueller as we have been reporting may have new reasons to question the president's actions in Helsinki. And the list goes on and on.

By the way, this just happened in the last four days that we're talking about right now.

Kevin, can you imagine because you have worked for many a politician in the campaign and government, any of these -- one of these things happening that you had to explain and defend?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Every day is like a week, every week is like a month, every month is like a year. I mean, think about it, the Kim Jong-un summit a month ago. It feels like six months ago, right?

Look, I think -- the one thing that Gloria pointed out that you were discussing with her about the idea of Bob Mueller becoming and the investigation becoming sympathetic. I think that's probably the wrong word. I think it's really hard to make people sympathetic to a special counsel. But the last four days have done a lot to make it feel like the inquiry is warranted.


MADDEN: Legitimate. And is gaining steam rather than, you know, petering out. So that is I think one of the biggest political challenges right now for the president and his supporters.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say that the heat is so intense right now. The reaction to what happened in Helsinki so bad sometimes I wonder what could Vladimir Putin possibly have that would be worse than that? I think we are getting into a worse-case scenario for Trump regardless of what happens to Mueller because now, everything Trump does is viewed through a lens of distrust, Republicans are revolting. The Senate had 98-0 vote against the only knowable part of the deal that Trump considered with Putin. And so, I don't think Putin could do worse to us.

BASH: Except -- back on the Mueller probe, obviously, it is all related, before the Helsinki summit, the latest CNN poll showed Mueller's public support dropped to 41 percent last month. It was, you know, above at least starting 50 percent. I mean, that tells you something about how successful the president and his team were about chipping away at support and the open question is whether or not --

MADDEN: This changes it.

BASH: This changes it and the tide will turn.

RYE: I mean, you just think about how consistent they were and the messaging about a witch hunt, right, and all of a sudden, you know, you saw in this joint presser with Putin, this oh my god, maybe it's not a witch hunt. Maybe there's some there there there, like all the way there. And I think if nothing else, it created some type of reasonable doubt.

All of a sudden, cries for impeachment from the Democratic side didn't seem super unreasonable when you think about the ideas of dereliction of duty or an abuse of power or the fact he just regularly lies and what type of abuse of power that really is and how irresponsible that really is.

[16:35:06] The fact that people thought they were voting a strong man and you saw Donald Trump completely weakened in front of Putin. It was -- it's crazy.

BASH: You just brought up the "I" word.

RYE: I did. I'll say it again. Impeachment.


BASH: You know, a lot of your fellow Democrats are throwing things at the television.

RYE: Is that worse than treason?


BASH: But on the raw politics.

CARPENTER: Yes, yes.

BASH: That will embolden Republicans.

MADDEN: -- to your point, because I question the potency of the Russia issue politically in midterms. I really truly did. What I would be watching for over the next week or so is whether or not this change, because we all know partisans made up the mind.

RYE: Sure.

MADDEN: Some thought it was a witch hunt. The others thought it's legitimate call or means for impeachment.

But the big middle, the most persuadable voters that are probably going to matter the most in the midterms, they weren't viewing this election or a lot of this through the lens of Russia. The question is now, do they?

BASH: What do you think?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, that's the CBS poll showed very clearly. So, I think 1 in 3 Americans supported how the president behaved in Russia, but then with Republicans, it was 3 in 4 Republicans.

But where you saw change in Russia it was among mostly Democrats but also independents. And so, I think there are people who are looking at this and asking, what's going on? And I honestly think unless -- I think the three and four Republicans who feel the way they do about handling Russia watch Fox News. I really do, or they get all -- they get their news from -- they get their news from one place because I do think most people and including -- there's been plenty of reports of people in his administration who were disgusted by what they saw. And I think that what happened there was so outrageous that the only way you could not be outraged about it is that you just aren't hearing about it.

BASH: And then Amanda Carpenter, 90 percent, 90 percent approval rating among Republicans.

CARPENTER: Yes, I think --

BASH: I know that this is what you've been beating your head against the wall for about two years.

CARPENTER: Yes, I do, but I also look back to how Obama was polling in June, July, August 2010, the midterms where he reached hard times, but he still had 78 percent of Democratic Party with him. Even at the worst point and he still got shellacked in those midterm elections. And so, Donald Trump can keep 70, 80, 90 percent of Republicans and still lose significantly because all the energy, all the enthusiasm, all the organizing on the Democratic side.

RYE: Can I just -- just one quick point on this. What was crazy to me about this? Great point. That was just because Barack Obama was trying to pass health care. Like --

CARPENTER: He didn't have Democrats revolting against him like Donald Trump does.

RYE: That was just for health care. Look at where we are now.

BASH: All right. So, if you think being secretly recorded doesn't make the president happy, how about when one of his cabinet officials laughs at him on live television? Well, National Intelligence Chief Dan Coats may find out.

Stay with us.


[16:42:23] BASH: Today, there's new speculation about the future of the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who has been very publicly at odds with President Trump this week. He set the record straight on Russian election interference, and he said he would not have suggested such a private meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Coats was also blindsided by the news that President Trump invited Putin to Washington for a potential summit 2.0, saying he doesn't even know what happened in the first meeting.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.

And, Kaitlan, so Coats might not be in the president's good graces right now. But he is speaking to the vice president. What are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Trump had one thing on his schedule before he left for New Jersey today and that was an intelligence briefing. His intelligence chief Dan Coats wasn't there because of the event in Colorado yesterday, but he did speak with the Vice President Mike Pence before that briefing occurred.

Of course, now, the question is whether or not the president or whether Dan Coats can maintain his good standing with the president who is very sensitive to public criticism.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump leaving Washington today after plunging his administration into chaos yet again. This time, with a stunning invitation for the Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington this fall -- an announcement that blindsided his own intelligence chief.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.



MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear --

MITCHELL: Yes, yes.




COATS: That's going to be special.


COLLINS: Dan Coats advising Trump against another one on one with the Russian leader.

COATS: I would look for a different way of doing it.

COLLINS: White House officials say Coats' blunt statements raising questionings about his future in an administration led by a president who doesn't like to be criticized. The White House possibly scheduling the visit around the midterm elections, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Russia will try to sabotage.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have great confidence that the Russians will try to undermine western democracy in 2017, 2018, 2019 and for an awfully long time.

COLLINS: But Pompeo expressing hope for the second sit-down.

POMPEO: I think this makes enormous sense and I'm very hopeful that that meeting will take place this fall.

COLLINS: The former head of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers disagrees, warning a summit in D.C. is a bad idea.


MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You don't want to roll out the carpet for a guy that's, you know, murdering dissidents, murdering reporters as we speak, occupies 20 percent of our ally, the country of Georgia, annexed Crimea. I mean, the list is huge and long. You don't give him a reward by parading him with a state dinner in Washington.

COLLINS: Trump ignoring those warnings telling CNBC he's been tougher on Russia than his predecessor.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: look at the sanctions I put on. Look at the diplomats I threw out. Look at all of the things that I've done. Nobody else did what I've done. Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia.

COLLINS: While warning that if talks go south --

TRUMP: If that doesn't work out, I'll be the worst enemy he's ever had.


COLLINS: Now, a visit to Washington into the White House, Dana, is much different than a visit to a neutral site like Helsinki. It would be much more higher profile and it would show a much chummier relationship than what the President has said in the past about Vladimir Putin and what past presidents have done for the Russian president. It would be stunning timing if it came around the midterms.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Could it be chummier than what we saw in Helsinki? I guess it could be. Thank you so much Kaitlan for that report. I appreciate it. OK, so we have been so focused understandably on that incredible moment when Andrea Mitchell told the DNI that the President had invited Vladimir Putin to the U.S. that there were other really special moments during that interview. One, was when he was asked if he considered resigning. Here's what he said.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: -- other days when you think well, what am I doing? Yes, but there's a lot more days saying you know, the mission here is critical. As long as I'm able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I'm on board.


BASH: Wow.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, his days are numbered, I would say.

BASH: You think so?

Wait, how do we -- how do we start the week with him -- with him you know, people saying you know, he needs to quit and protest and we ended the week with him being potentially fired?

POWERS: Well, you know, I think -- I think honestly any president who has a senior staff member talking that way about them would be in peril probably. The difference here is that no other president has ever behaved the way Donald Trump had behaved in Russia and so it's kind of hard how else to answer that if you're being honest, right? But I think that any president would be bothered by that and Donald Trump, in particular, will be bothered by that especially because where he was doing it. He was doing at this liberal confab you know, the Aspen Institute, you know, Festival. And so they're going to say, oh you're sitting with all these liberal elites making fun of us and laughing at us and saying oh well, how do I do this job?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But let's rewind the tape just a little bit. How did they want him to react? They know he's doing a live T.V. interview in front of this audience and then Sarah Huckabee Sanders decided to send that tweet. They wanted to get a reaction out of him I think because they wanted to pick him apart because they were upset that he previously reiterated that he stands by the Intelligence Community's findings about meddling in the election. They provoked the reaction that got the laughter. Let be no mistaking about that.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's never a good sign when the answer to that question is not I serve at the pleasure president. That's it. That's the only answer you'll ever give on that even when (INAUDIBLE). But I think this goes to Amanda's point. The bigger problem here is that this is not going to be an isolated incident. The President is once again going to get asked about intelligence assessments and he's going to answer in a way that is contrary to the way that the Director of National Intelligence needs and wants that question answered and that conflict is going to continue to exist. And so this will not be an isolated incident. We will go through this process again with questions like that being answered, not answered in the affirmative and we'll go through the cycle all again.

ANGELA RYE, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Here's one observation I had in addition to not saying I'm serving as a pleasure of the president. The fact that you saw in that moment his inherent conflict, the fact that he says I wake up sometimes thinking what am I doing here and probably the real answer is what the hell is going on here right? And I think the other part of it is you hear this real grappling with patriotism right? Like he is striving for truth in that role and know --

MADDEN: If it's not me, who?

RYE: Right!

MADDEN: And if it's not me, will that person stand up to the president the way I have?

RYE: OK, and then quite finishing that sentence. That was a good one so I don't --

MADDEN: I'm sorry.

RYE: No, it was good. It was good.

BASH: Let's talk about the actual meeting that the President had, two hours, just the -- just the translators and the fact that his top advisors including the DNI so apparently don't really have a clue what went on in there. Listen to what the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today about agreements apparently made in that private meeting.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I'm not sure I'd take the Russian Ambassador's word for a whole lot. From time to time there -- want to tell stories. There was progress made on handful of fronts, agreements to try and work more closely on counterterrorism, an effort to begin conversations around arms control to prevent the spread of nuclear proliferation. There were lots of things discussed that it remains a great deal of work to do.


[16:50:15] BASH: OK, he just made, Mr. Secretary, you just made the point of the critics including and especially Republican critics about this meeting. Of course, you can't trust the Russians to say what happened in the meeting. But what choice does he have or anybody else have when the Russians are the only ones talking? Yes?

POWERS: I just -- I find it impossible to believe that Donal d Trump had in-depth policy talks for that length of time. This this is just not a person who has a lot of interest in the details by his own account. You know, so the -- so they were talking about something else. I'm sorry they were not just going into --

CARPENTER: Incredible offer. POWERS: -- over you know, over these negotiations. And I think one of the big problems with this is that Trump is acting like a king not a President, right? He's acting like were his lady one and he goes over and he just talks and does his stuff but he's there as the representative the United States. Without that behind him, he's nobody. And so there needs to be somebody else in that room that is representing the United States. Just them in there talking it's just it's not appropriate.

RYE: And neither --

BASH: We need to take a break. Before we do, I really want to get this in so people see what a Republican Congressman Will Hurd who was a former intelligence officer, Republican congressman made a point of writing an op-ed and here's what he said. By playing into Vladimir Putin's hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weaken the credibility of the United States of both our friends and foes abroad. Boy if that doesn't tell you anything about what the significance really was of that meeting, I don't know what does. OK, everybody stand by because we're going to talk next about tragedy on the water. New eyewitness accounts of the terrifying moments as a duck boat full of people starts taking on water in a raging storm.


[16:55:00] BASH: And we're back with our "NATIONAL LEAD." The victims are as young as one and going all the way to 70. We now know 17 are dead after a duck boat capsized in Missouri and we've just learned one woman lost nine members of her family CNN's Miguel Marquez joins me now. And Miguel, the obvious question is why did this boat go out there at all when the weather was clearly so bad?

CNN MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this will be a huge question for investigators, what did the crew of that boat know when they set out and we're just learning as you said nine members of a single family perished in this accident.


MARQUEZ: Cell phone video capturing the unthinkable. A tour boat full of families disappearing beneath the swells on Missouri's Table Rock Lake fewer than half the people on board would make it back to shore alive. 17 passengers from ages just one-year-old to 70 including the boat's driver Bob Williams are now gone.

GOV. MIKE PARSON (R), MISSOURI: One lady lost nine members of her 11 members of her family.

MARQUEZ: Oh dear.

PARSON: So I had a chance to talk to her and it's difficult to find the right words to say.

MARQUEZ: It is one of the deadliest duck boat accidents in history. As strong weather rolled in Thursday evening, the waters on the lake became treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen it quite this bad. Boats can't get in, boats can't get out.

MARQUEZ: This video from a man who had a ticket for the duck boat and turned back tweeting we saw high winds and bad weather roll in so I decided to get a refund and leave with my wife. Severe thunderstorm warnings for the area were first issued at 5:45 then again at 6:30 just before the accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome aboard, ride the duck.

MARQUEZ: Still two duck boats continued with their advertised tour. Radar shows the fast-moving storm heading toward Branson hitting the lake with 63 miles an hour wind gusts just as the boats try to turn back at 7:00 p.m. Only one made it to shore. The first emergency calls for the other came in at 709.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Western unites, we need a water rescue, will be north of the showboat. Will be a duck that has capsized.

DOUG RADER, SHERIFF, STONE COUNTY: For somebody out there with the video of this, please send it to our Stone County sheriff's office Facebook page.

MARQUEZ: As investigators pour into Branson to find answers, the president of the Duck Boat Company tell CNN this never should have happened.

JIM PATTISON JR, PRESIDENT OF THE DUCK BOAT COMPANY: It was perfectly calm and we had a high-speed wind system that just came out of nowhere. Now, obviously, we shouldn't be out there in severe weather. We're absolutely devastated and you couldn't tell -- we feel terrible.

MARQUEZ: For so many here now, grieving such sudden loss, terrible is just the beginning.


MARQUEZ: Now the National Transportation Safety Board is on the ground here. We may hear more from them tonight and the next step in this is to bring that boat up and out from the depths here. It is down 80 feet and they hope to drag it out by Monday. Dana? Absolutely tragic. Thank you so much for giving us the update. Thank you, Miguel. And tune in this Sunday to "STATE OF THE UNION." Jake Tapper's guests will be Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Seth Moulton. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and then again at 12:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer right now in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now --