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White House Remains Silent as Russia Drives Summit Narrative; Duck Boat Accident Victims Identified; Sex, Lies and Audiotapes. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired July 21, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:48] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It's 11:00 on the East Coast. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
NEWSROOM starts right now.
Right now, two major stories hanging over President Trump as he spends the weekend at this golf resort in New Jersey. First the White House remaining silent as Russia shapes the narrative on the controversial and stunning summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian foreign minister saying it was, quote, "better than super". And now President Trump says he is ready for round two. This time he is hoping Putin will come to the White House this fall.
And the second major story, a secret tape now in the hands of the FBI. It is a recording between Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen discussing a payment to a former Playboy model who alleges an affair with Trump back in 2006. Trump has denied that alleged affair.
A source says when Trump learned of the secret recording he said quote "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." So why did the President waive privilege on this recording to give the FBI access? We'll discuss.
All right. First, let's start with the possible upcoming second summit with Vladimir Putin.
Our CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joins us, live nearby Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. So Sarah -- what do we know about this planned meeting thus far?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred -- despite the fierce bipartisan backlash to President Trump's performance alongside Vladimir Putin this week, Trump is essentially doubling down on his Russia policy by rolling out plans for a second summit.
The White House stunned even some of Trump's own cabinet members on Thursday when it announced plans to invite Putin to the White House sometime this fall. The Russian president hasn't stepped foot in the White House in more than a decade.
Now Trump asked his national security adviser John Bolton to extend that invitation to Moscow even as the fire storm on Capitol Hill was still raging with Democratic and Republican lawmakers slamming Trump over his refusal to take a harder line against Russia over its election interference and its aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Now Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was among the Democrats calling on the administration to reveal what Trump and Putin discussed in the first summit before making plans to host round two on American soil because remember five days later we still know very little about what took place in that summit.
And some senior administration officials are still in the dark because Trump and Putin met alone with their translators. And even some Republicans are wary about the prospect of a second summit this fall. GOP congressional leaders have made clear Putin won't be receiving an invitation to the Capitol when he's in Washington and this will come in the fall right before the midterms -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood -- thanks so much.
All right. CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley joining me now from Moscow. So Sam -- the White House has said very little, you know, about the content of the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki and that's left it up to now Moscow to control the spin.
So what has the Kremlin been saying?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still in control of it. Just in the last half hour, the ministry of foreign affairs here has issued a statement saying that Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who was referred to earlier on there in the introduction as the man who said that the Helsinki summit had been better than super and magnificent. He had had a call today with Mr. Pompeo, the Secretary of State, in which according to the Russians -- and everything is coming from the Russians at the moment -- they discussed the normalization of diplomatic relations.
Now that is something that obviously Russia is very anxious to do because in the end that would mean the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on it over its illegal annexation of the Crimea.
But also -- and this will go down a storm I say in (INAUDIBLE) in Washington, demanding the immediate release of Maria Butina, the alleged agent of the Russians who's been under investigation in Washington and been arrested for her alleged roles in a number of efforts to gain political influence through the National Rifle Association.
So the Russians now are demanding her release. They had yesterday started a social media campaign in which they asked their followers to post -- replace their Twitter pictures, their avatars on Facebook and other social media with Ms. Butina's image. Now they're making that as a direct demand.
But I think more strategically important is this continued energy that they're driving that they're in charge of the dialogue. They've already been releasing details of the secret conversations between Putin and Trump and now they've come up with this idea that they're going to normalize diplomatic relations.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sam Kiley in Moscow -- thanks so much.
All right. Let's talk more about this. Joining me right now: CNN political commentator and assistant editor for the "Washington Post" David Swerdlick; CNN's national security analyst and retired CIA chief of Russia Operations Steve Hall; and CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
All right. Good to see you all.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi -- Fred.
[11:05:01] All right. So David -- you're up first, you know.
So still no clarity, you know, from the White House on what exactly was discussed or even promised. So why does this White House think scheduling another meeting with Putin, this time in the White House, is beneficial?
SWERDLICK: Yes. Good morning -- Fred.
So I think if you look at what happened this week with the President and President Putin in Helsinki and you look back a few weeks ago to North Korea -- a meeting that took place between Kim Jong-un and President Trump in Singapore that has since not yielded that much fruit, you see that President Trump displays at times, I think, a feeling that meetings in and of themselves are accomplishments.
He likes the pageantry of meetings. He likes the idea that he is moving chess pieces on the world stage. And what you have back here at home is people on both sides of the aisle, people in his intelligence establishment, people in the State Department saying ok, now let's actually get to work on our policy goals.
And although they are at work on those, the President's rhetoric with regard to President Putin in Helsinki and the actual goals of the United States with sanctions and so on, there's a disconnect between those. And I think that's what's caused so much controversy this week.
WHITFIELD: And then Elise -- listen to, you know, what the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said about this possible second summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm happy that the two leaders of two ve2ry important countries are continuing to meet. If that meeting takes place in Washington, I think it is all to the good.
Those conversations are incredibly important. We have our senior leaders meeting all across the world with people who we have deep disagreements with. It is incredibly valuable to the people of the United States of America that President Putin and President Trump continue to engage in dialogue to resolve the difficult issues that our countries face between each other. I think this makes enormous sense. And I'm very hopeful that that meeting will take place this fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Elise -- all to the good but still no real clarity from even his point of view about what was discussed. Might this time the Secretary of State be present or someone else be present during a second meeting?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we certainly hope so, Fred. I mean look, the two delegations did meet before that big meeting. It doesn't seem to be any agreements were there; so all of these agreements that the Russians are laying out supposedly took place.
Secretary Pompeo is maybe one of the few people who actually know what went on in the meeting between President Trump and President Putin. He had lunch with the President the other day.
But, you know, all this talk about why a second summit is so important and so valuable maybe the American people would understand a little bit more if the White House, if the State Department were able to put out some information about what was agreed to.
Nobody has received any instructions, as David said, as a result of this meeting, so the narrative that the Russians are putting out sounds wonderful. I think everyone would like to know what this wonderful progress is. And you know, there's a lot of frustration in the State Department and in the administration because there's such little information -- Fred, a lot of frustration.
And Steve, it is what the President would or wouldn't say or the clarity or lack thereof that really provoked you to tell Anderson Cooper on our air that you do believe now there really must be some kompromat -- something that the Russians have on Trump to make him seem so wishy-washy.
What is it about what was or wasn't said, or what did or didn't happen, makes you feel more so is the case?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: After Helsinki, Fred -- you know, there doesn't seem to be a better explanation out there as to why the President is behaving the way he is towards Vladimir Putin -- having second summits, you know, talking and giving these victories so easily to the Kremlin.
Look, Secretary Pompeo I think is off and is showing the naivete of the United States in this particular. This is hackneyed (ph) but the Russians do play chess and sometimes we play checkers.
All the things that the Russians have done from the annexation of Crimea and all those other things, they knew at some point in the long run, down the road, the United States would trot out that, you know, our typical western approach and say well, shouldn't we be talking to people that we disagree with? We ought to be talking with the Canadians about say steel imports and that sort of thing. But when you're talking about brutal dictators who kill people, those aren't the type of people you talk with. Those are types of people you contain and they pay price until they change their behavior on the international stage.
WHITFIELD: And Steve -- even, you know, Fox News, you know, asked Pompeo about lawmakers who raised this possibility that Russia has something on Trump. Listen to his reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: I think those allegations are absurd. This administration has been relentless in its efforts to deter Russia from its bad behavior. We inherited a situation where Russia was running all over the United States.
[11:10:02] These last few days have been frankly more heat than light. This administration has been strong in supporting the Ukrainians, strong in making sure that we are protected against Russian expansion in other parts of the world. We all recognize that that threat is real and President Trump has been strong in protecting America from Russian aggression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Is he convincing to you or is he naive to you?
HALL: No, I'm still waiting for an explanation as to why it is -- if it is not kompromat that the Russians have on President Trump, then why is it that he treats Vladimir Putin very differently than he treats even other dictators.
He has no problems being very strong with Kim Jong-un and saying, you know, my nuclear button is bigger than yours. He has no problems being strong with China and basically starting a trade war.
And yet when he comes out on the stage with Vladimir Putin and, you know, acts in an obsequious fashion with him, after a meeting where nobody else was present, you have to ask ok, what is the best explanation for that.
And I keep coming back to look, it seems to me like there's got to be something that they have on him; else he wouldn't be acting this way. But I hope that there's a better explanation. I am waiting for it.
WHITFIELD: So Elise -- what are your thoughts? I mean how does the Secretary of State sell this when it also seems the Secretary of State doesn't even know what happened?
LABOTT: I think the Secretary does know, you know, the general idea of what they discussed in terms of the topic issues. And to Steve's point, I guess, everything you're saying about the, you know, treating of a dictator -- let's leave that aside for a second -- the U.S. And Russia have to talk to one another. They have several issues -- obviously we're talking about Ukraine, we're talking about Syria, nuclear proliferation and the whole idea of a New START treaty -- these are areas the U.S. has to talk about.
What I think people are looking for is more of an explanation from President Trump himself or Secretary Pompeo about where those issues are going with Russia. You know, there's nothing wrong with talking.
I think everyone would have wanted President Trump to come out like leaders do and like he has as Steve said with other leaders and say we talked in specifics about Syria. We talked about specifics on Ukraine. He didn't -- you know, he just kept saying it was wonderful and it was great, and there's this great relationship.
I think if they could give examples of where these issues are going, I think the American people would feel more comfortable, you know, or not. But the mystery is what is kind of allowing the Russians to shape this narrative and the lack of a response from the U.S. is very puzzling.
WHITFIELD: Yes. David -- it is all very perplexing, and even more so when you see the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats while in Aspen seemingly caught off guard, you know, by the news that there was a second meeting. I mean his best description was well, that's going to be special.
WHITFIELD: So, you know, the administration has put itself in quite the bind, advocating for something that intelligence, you know, is even confused about.
SWERDLICK: Right, yes. Again it's the head scratching and the wondering what this is all about, and the lack of information trickling down from the President to someone like DNI Coats who's also a former U.S. Senator and should be briefed in.
LABOTT: I have some thoughts on Coats --
SWERDLICK: Yes. I just wanted to say I agree with Elise, right.
Russia is a nuclear-armed power. Russia is a -- Russia is also a member of the U.N. Security Council. They're a chief global rival. Of course we, have to talk to them. We have to talk to China. The President is right about that.
The question is do you do it in a pull aside at a G-20? Do you do it in Helsinki? Do you do it at the U.N.? Or do you invite Vladimir Putin -- someone who your own intelligence services said directly ordered intervention in our elections in 2016?
WHITFIELD: And do you do it with transparency? Do you do it with transparency?
SWERDLICK: Yes. WHITFIELD: Do you do it with some sort of recording, record-keeping of what was and wasn't because Steve -- I mean, Russia, they know it better than anybody else exactly how to change the dialogue, how to direct the narrative. We're seeing it right there. How to get the upper hand which have they done?
HALL: Well -- and that's, look, I am not disagreeing that we ought not be talking at all with the Russians. However, look what's happened. Moscow has taken over the, you know, the propaganda role. They're typically doing their spinning and how they want to.
Yes, let's talk to Russia but let's not have summits with them. I mean -- take nuclear weapons and the arms treaties, those are very important but they're also very, very technical. You don't need Donald Trump, and your guess is as good as mine as to how much he understands, you know, nuclear treaties. You need experts to talk about that.
You do need pull asides. You need low-level things because there are positive implications to talking to the Russians just to talk to them, which apparently is what Donald Trump likes to do.
WHITFIELD: All right. Steve Hall, Elise Labott, David Swerdlick -- we'll leave it there for now.
SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.
[11:14:51] All right. Still ahead -- sex, lies, audiotapes, the White House waives attorney-client privilege over secret recordings of President Trump and Michael Cohen discussing a former Playboy model. Why Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani -- what he has to say.
Plus -- a survivor of the duck boat tragedy who lost several family members describes the moment that she thought she would drown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIA COLEMAN, LOST CHILDREN IN DUCK BOAT ACCIDENT: I was yelling. I was screaming. Finally I said Lord, just let me die. Let me die. I said I can't keep drowning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. A live report on that gut-wrenching tragedy -- next.
And later, a hit job from a bike? President George H.W. Bush's former doctor gunned down by a bicyclist while the doctor was also on a bike. Was this a random shooting?
[11:19:57] WHITFIELD: All right. Today many questions remain after a devastating duck boat accident near Branson, Missouri Thursday evening, all 17 victims ranging from the age of one to 76 have now been identified. A mother who lost nine family members including her three children is sharing how she struggled to survive as the boat went under.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
I couldn't see anybody. I couldn't hear anything. I could hear screams -- I just -- I thought I was out there on my own.
And I was yelling. I was screaming. And finally I said lord, just let me die, let me die. I said I can't -- I can't keep drowning. I just can't keep drowning as I felt (ph).
And then I just let go and started floating. I was floating up to the top. I felt the water temperature raise to warm. As I felt the water temperature raise, I jumped up and I saw the big boat that sits out there. I don't know what kind of boat, it is huge though.
When I saw them, they were throwing out life jackets to people. I said Jesus, please keep me, just keep me, so I can get to my children. Keep me, lord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: What a horrifying sequence of events.
CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung joins us live now from Branson, Missouri. So Kaylee -- what more are investigators saying?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- investigators from the NTSB are saying it could take them a year to deliver a detailed report explaining what led to the deaths of 17 people here at Table Rock Lake. Four of the 14 survivors, including Tia Coleman who you just heard from, remain hospitalized today.
Speaking to her, the other survivors as well as the eyewitnesses from Thursday night's tragedy will be key to the long investigation ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those poor people -- oh my gosh.
HARTUNG (voice over): Cell phone video capturing the moments before the amphibious tour boat carrying 31 people capsized on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. The duck boat struggling, fighting 60 miles per hour winds and massive waves before overturning just after 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening. A severe thunderstorm warning issued about half an hour before the boat capsized.
JIM PATTINSON, JR., PRESIDENT OF RIPLEY ENTERTAINMENT INC: My understanding was that when the boat went in the water it was calm. Part way through coming back is when everything -- when the waves picked up and then obviously swamped the boat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Western units, we need a water rescue, will be north of the showboat, will be a duck that has capsized. We have approximately 30 individuals in the water.
HARTUNG: Seventeen people killed. Authorities say the victims ranging in age from 1 to 70; and Missouri's governor telling CNN that 11 members of one family were on the boat, nine of them dying when it sank.
GOVERNOR MIKE PARSONS (R), MISSOURI: They're still somewhat in shock at the incident, trying to figure out all of the things that happened in that tragic event. But it was tough, it was tough to go in and talk to them, and to see them in that position because all of us that have family members and children, you know, it is just hard to imagine being in that situation.
HARTUNG: Choppy waves began crashing against two duck boats in the Missouri Lake. Courtney Parker was on board the boat just a few feet in front of the one that sunk. She told CNN, "My husband was holding our daughter" and tried to get life jackets and tried to get lifejackets for them jump off. "But then we got out of it, and made it to the ramp. And I turned around, watched the other boat nose dive and my heart dropped."
Officials say there were life jackets on the boat, but it is unclear if anyone was wearing them. Among those killed, the driver of the boat, Bob Williams; a second crew member, the boat's captain -- among the 14 survivors.
HARTUNG: According to survivor Tia Coleman, she says the crew explained to the passengers where the life jackets were but said they wouldn't need them. She said when the swells began to come into the boat, no one moved for a life jacket. They were instructed to stay seated.
Fred -- that boat still at the bottom of this lake. No timetable on when it will be resumed. Investigators are saying that will be important for them moving forward. But Tia Coleman saying she expects when the boat is found, all the life jackets will still be on board.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Gosh, it's heartbreaking.
All right. Kaylee Hartung -- our hearts go out to all of them -- thanks so much.
Still to come, leaked tapes expose President Trump and then attorney Michael Cohen discussing payment to a Playboy playmate. This as we learn the President has waived any attorney-client privilege on that recording. Will that work in his favor. We'll discuss -- next.
[11:24:34] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. The White House has waived privilege on a secretly-recorded conversation between Donald Trump and long-time fixer Michael Cohen. Well that means the FBI can now assess the recording as part of an investigation into Trump's former lawyer. On that particular tape, then candidate Trump and Cohen are reportedly heard discussing a payment to a former Playboy model, and it is not the only recording that Cohen has made.
Here's CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Michael Cohen secretly recorded multiple conversations with Donald Trump, sources tell CNN. And those tapes are now in the hands of federal investigators.
Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump discussing a payment to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal. That's according to Trump's current attorney Rudy Giuliani.
McDougal claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with the President right after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006.
[11:30:00] KAREN MCDOUGAL, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: I was attracted to him, yes. He is a nice-looking man and, you know, I liked his charisma.
SCHNEIDER: McDougal has said Trump tried to hand her cash after their first night together.
MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me and --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- tics.
KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL: I was attracted to him, yes. He's a nice-looking man and you know, I like his charisma.
SCHNEIDER: McDougal has said Trump tried to hand her cash after their first night together.
MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did he actually try to hand you money?
MCDOUGAL: He did.
SCHNEIDER: Trump denies the affair. McDougal says she didn't take the money that night, but McDougal eventually sold her story to the "National Enquirer" for $150,000. The tabloid never published it. Giuliani told CNN that Trump didn't know he was being recorded during that discussion, but on the tape Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to McDougal's story from AMI, the parent company of "The Enquirer."
Trump advised Cohen to pay by check so that it could be documented according to Giuliani. The reporting was one of several seized by the FBI during a raid of Cohen's hotel room, apartment, and office back in April.
There are other tapes of Michael Cohen and other powerful individuals that the FBI seized, beyond the president, that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with those tapes.
Prosecutors in New York City are examining possible election law violations related to payments Michael Cohen made to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. She since sued Trump over that agreement. Daniels' attorney is now urging Cohen to release the recordings.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If Michael Cohen in fact is a true patriot as he wants the American people to believe and as Lanny Davis wants the American people to believe, then Michael Cohen should release all of the audio recordings. And I will tell you for a fact there's more than one, there's multiple recordings, and all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public.
SCHNEIDER: For now, Michael Cohen isn't commenting. He has been seen on the streets of New York City, but stayed mostly silent at least publicly. He sat down with ABC Anchor George Stephanopoulos off camera earlier this month, signaling his willingness to work with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, stressing his family, not the president, comes first.
And late last night after a week of twisted words from the White House regarding Russia, Cohen quoted the legendary broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, and said, "It has never been more important than it is now for everyone to distinguish between innuendo and fact." Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk more about all of this. With me right now, Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and Sahil Kapur, a political reporter for "Bloomberg." Good to see you both.
Michael, you first. Two sources tell CNN that the president and his attorneys waived privilege on the recorded conversation, allowing the FBI investigators to have access to that tape. So, that leaking this tape takes away potentially from the power of Cohen. Is that the strategy?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it is very hard to know what actually is going on here. If you remember, Fredricka, the way the process worked was that the FBI seized documents, including these tapes presumably from Cohen that they then were reviewed by the special master to determine what was privileged and what was not privileged.
And then after that determined and each party got to make its statement with respect to it, she then presumably passed material onto the federal prosecutors now, so they're in possession of that, which is not otherwise privileged.
Whether this fit into that privilege material or not we just don't know and whether it was privileged and then Cohen's team leaked it, or Rudy Giuliani leaked it, we don't know that either.
So, it is hard to figure out what the strategic legal position is with regard to leaking it. The only one person who's talked about the contents of it is Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani may have waived privilege inadvertently.
WHITFIELD: Then your idea, Michael, on the fact that the president has said and inferred that if there were some recordings between you and his attorney, that might be illegal. What is the case on that, if there were recordings and whether it was interaction with Trump or other clients, how legal or illegal is that?
ZELDIN: Well, there are two things. First, Michael Cohen recording with his clients, legal clients without their permission may be a violation of ethics rules which may jeopardize his practice, license to practice law.
In New York whether or not one person recording without consent of the other violates New York statutes really is pretty fact dependent. So, it may be that the recording violates New York law. It may be that it puts Michael Cohen's law license in jeopardy.
And it may be something that's of interest to the federal prosecutors, the contents of which will fit into the examination of whether or not these payments or these alleged payments violent federal election law.
WHITFIELD: And then, Sahil, I guess, losing your law license may seem like small potatoes when Michael Cohen is really potentially worried about his family and going to jail, et cetera. So, if Cohen indeed has a trove of recorded conversations, how worried do you suppose the White House is about the content of this recording or other recordings?
SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": We know Michael Cohen was the president's lawyer as well as his fixer, his business intermediary. He previously bragged how he would take a bullet for the president.
That all seems to have changed in the last few weeks or months where Cohen is under the gun in the southern district of New York for potential campaign finance violations. The big question I have here with these recordings here is what happened to attorney/client privilege as you were discussing with Michael. Was it in fact waived, and if so why? And if it wasn't waived, was it pierced by the special master. If it was pierced, that would suggest as my understanding goes that the conversation was believed to have been done potentially in furtherance of a crime or fraud, that would certainly make for an interesting piece of evidence in court.
Tapes obviously make for excellent evidence and prosecutors love those because you can't really cross examine them. So, the question, I guess there's the core question of what happens next and political question with three and a half months before a major election. How do voters perceive this?
WHITFIELD: Michael Cohen's attorney is saying that Giuliani's statements, exculpatory evidence, et cetera, is spin, says that his client, Michael Cohen, has really nothing to worry about with this recording. So, is there some real evidence that perhaps Michael Cohen might be willing to flip or cooperate with prosecutors to save his own hide?
KAPUR: That seems to be the question. The idea of Michael Cohen flipping seemed unheard of months ago before this happened, before the raid on Cohen happened and people were raising questions.
There's this particular case, but there is also the fact that Cohen knows a lot and knew a lot about Trump's business interest. He was intermediary between some business partners that the Trump organization tried to work with or some of which they did not end up working with in places like (inaudible) and Georgia.
That's also of interest to people. What Michael Cohen knows, how much he knows, how much he is willing to disclose seems to be the big question that would make the White House nervous at this point.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sahil Kapur, Michael Zeldin, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.
More questions and answers after the president's widely criticized private meeting with Vladimir Putin. The only people in the room are the president and their interpreters. What really went down? Just ahead, a man in that situation before as an interpreter for President Reagan. We'll get his take next.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. There's no word if a private meeting with President Trump is in the cards if Vladimir Putin does visit the White House this fall. Despite loud criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans, the leaders met by themselves in Helsinki. No advisers in the room, just two interpreters.
I want to bring in Dimitry Zarechnak, a Russian interpreter who has his own experience in high level meetings. He worked interpreting for President Ronald Reagan during his summit with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland in 1986. All right. Dimitry, good to see you. So, what do you remember about who was in the room between Gorbachev, Reagan, you, the other interpreter, who else?
DIMITRY ZARECHNAK, FORMER RUSSIAN INTERPRETER FOR RONALD REAGAN: OK, you mention Iceland. The first meeting was in Geneva in 1985, and in that meeting it was just Reagan, Gorbachev, myself and the Soviet interpreter. In Iceland, by the time they had met in Iceland, there were also note takers there in addition to Reagan, Gorbachev, myself, and the Soviet interpreter. So, if you want to draw parallel between the meeting in Helsinki, it would be the meeting in Geneva rather than the Iceland meeting.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. So, are you put in a position where you are also taking notes, so besides listening and immediately translating, you are also taking notes?
ZARECHNAK: Yes. The way it works is that let's say Reagan said something, he spoke for a little while, and I'm taking notes as he is speaking. When he finishes speaking, I look at my notes from what he is saying and put that into Russian for Gorbachev.
Then Gorbachev listens, he replies, at that moment his interpreter is taking notes and I'm also taking notes on what Gorbachev is saying, and the Soviet interpreter will then put it into English for Reagan.
So, the process is kind of long. Initially they expect the meeting to last 20 minutes, well, that's very unrealistic because 20 minutes back and forth is not that. When you do it through interpreters, it is cut in a quarter.
[11:45:04] In other words, it leaves only 5 minutes for each side to speak which is unrealistic, which is what happened with the first meeting between President Trump and President Putin the G20.
WHITFIELD: When you hear about a two-hour meeting or two-and-a-half- hour meeting between Putin and Trump, it isn't two and a half hours of actual talking because of the translation. How would you say that is equivalent?
ZARECHNAK: In other words, each side in a two-hour meeting gets one quarter of that time because it is interpreted and so on. In a two- hour meeting, each side, Trump and Putin gets one half hour. And that's the whole thing. People think that in a two-hour meeting, it will be way too long, or I think it was scheduled for a half hour. Half hour each side will get seven and a half minutes which is totally unrealistic.
WHITFIELD: Because there was no one else as far as we know, no recordings in the meeting between Putin and Trump, is it fair in your view that an interpreter, translator, would be put in a position of having to convey the content of that meeting after the fact?
ZARECHNAK: I'm not sure what you mean having to convey. In other words, the way it worked in my case and probably in this case as well I can only assume is that after the meeting is over, since I have taken notes on everything that's taken place, including the president's remarks and remarks of the Soviet leader in this case Putin, I would then dictate to a secretary the results of that meeting, in other words, there would be a memorandum about the whole meeting that I would have dictated to the secretary, to a secretary.
WHITFIELD: In other words, do you like the idea that there have been some who have discussed whether the interpreter should testify on Capitol Hill, should be asked however many days now, at least a week now after the summit about what was discussed between the two men?
ZARECHNAK: Yes. I think that's totally atrocious. When I first heard that, I couldn't believe it. In my 30 years' experience as an interpreter, I retired 20 years ago, since then I have never heard of any such thing.
I mean, can you imagine a foreign leader, any foreign leader, want to meet with an American leader thinking you know whatever we say, they're going to call the interpreter to Congress and tell she or he, going to tell them exactly what we said.
It would be impossible. Totally atrocious. I've talked to other interpreters, those that like Trump and don't like Trump, they think this is just crazy.
WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that would be atrocious because note taking isn't comprehensive enough to do that or you believe that would violent kind of the trust, the job, the duty of a translator in a setting like that.
ZARECHNAK: Of course. Exactly that. In other words, the interpreter is an extension of the president or whoever secretary of state, he is not an independent entity, so it is not someone that can be quizzed independently of that. If they want to quiz the president or whoever, fine, that's part of the game. But not the interpreter, that's an extension of the president.
WHITFIELD: Dimitry Zarechnak, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate the expertise.
ZARECHNAK: OK, my pleasure.
WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. This week's all new episode of "The 2000s" is all about the Bush administration. President Bush tries to manage insurgency in Iraq while seeking reelection, hurricane Katrina, a financial meltdown, and his own plummeting pole numbers. Here's a sneak peek.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had inspectors scrambling and they couldn't find what had been one of the primary justifications for the war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turns out we were all wrong probably in my judgment and that is most disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I concluded that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We'd gone to war on that basis. But others in the administration continued to insist that they existed. So, Charles Dotter was offered the job after I resigned, and he confirmed the exact same conclusion.
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Chief Weapons Inspector Charles Dolfer (ph) issued a comprehensive report that confirms the earlier conclusion of David Kaye that Iraq did not have the weapons that our intelligence believed were there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an embarrassment to the Bush administration. And so, democrats are feeling that there is an opportunity for a different direction.
JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry seemed to solve a problem for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party at that time was seen in political slang as the mommy party whereas the Republicans were the daddy party. The daddy party goes out and fights the war. The mommy party is softer, and as some people saw it, weaker and the Democrats had to show that they were more war-like. Let's get a war hero.
KERRY: I defended our country as a young man and I will defend it as president of the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was able to use his Vietnam service as a weapon really against George W. Bush. He's able to say when the bell rang in Vietnam, I said send me. I won a silver star. A won three Purple Hearts.
[11:55:05] WHITFIELD: Catch an all new episode of "The 2000s" tomorrow 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. It all starts right after this.
WHITFIELD: Hello again and welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with me.
Right now, the White House remaining silent as Russia shapes the narrative on the controversial and stunning summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian foreign minister saying it was, quote, "better than super." We're still waiting on an official readout of that summit from the White House. And now President Trump says he's ready for round two. This time, he's hoping Putin will come to the White House this fall.
Our CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, joins us live from nearby Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is this weekend.