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Mother: We Were Never Told to Grab Life Jackets; Source: Team Trump Fears Backlash from Putin Summit May Affect Mueller Probe; Hillary Clinton Slams Trump Private Meeting with Putin; Trump/Putin Summit May Have Given Mueller Upper Hand. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 21, 2018 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- just wing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have moved past the tightly scripted comedy. The improv on curb gives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: You can catch that new episode of the "History of Comedy" tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt in for Ana Cabrera. We have breaking news this afternoon. We are waiting to hear from a mother who lost nine members of her family, including her husband and three children in that Missouri Duck boat incident. Tia Coleman first shared her story this morning about what happened onboard as the weather conditions worsened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIA COLEMAN, LOST THREE CHILDREN IN ACCIDENT: And when that wave swept over the last thing I heard my sister in law yell was grab the baby. I said Jesus please keep me, so I can get to my children opinion. And I was swimming as fast as I could. I couldn't reach -- I could not reach the life jackets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only members of the family to survive. There were 11 of them on that boat. In all 17 people killed.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung has been covering the story live from Branson, Missouri. Kaylee, as we wait for Tia Coleman to speak what more are you learning about those chaotic final moments.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tia Coleman and her family of 11 came here to Branson from Indianapolis about an eight-hour drive like so many people do. I'm sure you can see some of the folks in the water behind me. This is a popular tourist destination in the middle of the Ozarks.

Tia Coleman speaking to our affiliate, KOLR, gave more color to the struggle she experienced as the amphibious vehicle started taking on water. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLEMAN: I couldn't see anybody. I couldn't hear anything. I couldn't hear screams. It felt like I was out on my own. I was yelling. Screaming. Finally, I said, Lord, just let me die. Let me die. I said, I can't -- I can't keep drowning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank everyone for your concerns and for taking the time out.

MARQUARDT: There but Tia Coleman is about to speak at the hospital. That's not her but let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has been an incredibly difficult time for our family. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern and support. There has been a lot of interest in Tia's story. And that is why we are meeting with you this afternoon.

Tia will say a few words and then take a few questions. We will not be able to address any legal or technical issues. Again, we are deeply thankful for your concern and for the support that the public has offered. There is currently a "Gofundme" page at official -- I apologize -- @onlyofficialduckboatsurvivors and all the funds raised there will go to support Tia and her family.

We have experienced a loss no family should have to endure, and we are not planning to do any additional interviews while Tia is in the hospital. This is a challenging time and we ask that your questions be sensitive and considerate. Considering what the family is going through.

COLEMAN: I'm Tia Coleman, T-i-a., C-o-l-e-m-a-n. I just want to thank everyone for coming to hear my story and how I survived. I want to thank the hospital for taking such good care of me, for me and my family. They've been here. And anything we wanted or needed they've been able to provide that.

I want to give a special shout out to my pastor for driving down from Indianapolis to be with us and for all the peoples and families and vigil that I've heard about. I haven't seen them, but I heard about them. Keep us in prayer. We're going to need it. Thank you all.

[17:05:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tia will take a few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First we have NBC news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Tia. (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: He is a very strong young man. I won't be answering a lot of questions about him. I want to keep him protected. I just want you to know we love him. And anything that anybody, you know, can do is to definitely keep him in prayer. He is going through a lot right now and he is holding up just fine.

That's a hard question. I've never -- I've never had to recover from something like this. I don't know if it is -- I don't know if there is a recovery from it. The biggest thing is a lot of prayer. A lot of prayer, a lot of support. That's all I know. I don't know how to begin. It's only the beginning. So, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tia, can you talk about, the support system that or your faith is helping you through this?

COLEMAN: Absolutely. First of all, I've been raised -- what I call the right way. I've been raised in an apostolic church my whole life. I also have a ton of family praying for me, being behind me. As soon as they found out, they left in the middle of the night to come down. My pastor has come down.

I've had friends come down to support me. This isn't all the family. This is just some of the family that you see here. I've had tons of family members and friends and asking how I'm doing and supporting.

That's the only way getting through this is through God and a lot of people in the city. I've had pastors from the city come and they've prayed for me and said they would keep me in thoughts and prayers. That's the best way I'm getting through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about going home?

COLEMAN: Going home I already know is going to be completely -- completely difficult. I don't know how I'm going to do it. Since I've had a home it's always been filled. It's always been filled with little feet and laughter and my husband. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I just know that I can continue to need the support of my family, my friends, and even my extended family and friends I haven't met. I'll need that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you wanted to share how you were able to survive. How were you able to survive?

COLEMAN: I've always loved water. I don't know if it's a Pisces or what. I always loved water, but when that water came over the boat, I didn't know what happened. I had my son right next to me. But when the water filled up the boat, I could no longer see. I couldn't feel anybody. I couldn't see.

I just remember I got to get out. I got to get out. And I don't know if somebody pushed me or what happened, but I hit my head on the part of the boat. And when I got out into the water it was ice cold. And I remember as we were going into the water they said that the lake stays pretty warm like in the 80s.

So, I knew from it being so cold that I'm close to the bottom not the top. And I remember kicking and swimming, swimming up to the top and I was swimming I said, Lord please let me get to my babies. I got to get to my babies.

I was kicking. The harder I fought to get to the top. I was getting pulled down. I kept fighting and I kept fighting. I said Lord, if I can't make it, there is no use in keeping me here. And so, I just let go and I started floating. And as I started floating, I felt the water temperature change.

And it got warmer. As it got warmer, I knew I was to the top. I stuck my hand, out and I kept swallowing tons of water. The waves were crashing over my face. Every time I get my head a little bit above water, I screamed help, help.

[17:10:00] Finally, I came up to the surface and I saw a great big boat out like a river boat. And they were, oh, my God, they were jumping in saving people. They were throwing life rafts out to everybody.

I couldn't reach it. I couldn't get there in time. Somehow, I managed to get to the boat, and these beautiful people, angels I don't know who they were. They pulled me up. And when they pulled me up from the boat, I didn't see any of my family. But I believe I survived by God and by the Good Samaritans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: The captain did say something about life jackets. He said above you are your life jackets. There is three sizes. He said I'm going to show you where they are, but you won't need them. So, no need to worry. So, we didn't grab them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: I really don't know. I'm kind of in and out remembering minute facts. But it was said that there are life jackets. But don't worry, you will not need them, and we were never told after that to grab them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: I have no idea. I just know when the water -- I was sitting close to the front. So, when the water came up over me, I immediately floated up, but I hit my head on something. So, that's all I know about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible questions).

COLEMAN: I have no idea. Again, I can't answer that. I don't know how I got out. I couldn't see anything. So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

COLEMAN: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How soon did you realize how tragic this was?

COLEMAN: It took me maybe a minute to realize. It took me a minute before the boat went under because the water was splashing. It was so hot we thought this was just cigarette. The water splashing but when the swell came in that's when I got nervous. The next the big swell is what -- I didn't know the boat capsized. I thought it went under. When the next big swell came in, I did go under. So, I don't know how long that was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Tia. I just want to ask you a little bit about the weather before you went out. Did the crew say anything about -- I heard the (inaudible).

COLEMAN: Sure, before we left out, they just said it's a storm coming. So, go to the water first so you can avoid it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They did say that.

COLEMAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the sky look cloudy? Was it noticeably --

COLEMAN: Not right then it didn't. Even when we first hit the water it didn't look cloudy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

COLEMAN: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible). You said you were sitting at the front of the boat. Do you have any idea from your vantage point what the greatest obstacle yourself and everything everyone else on the boat to exiting safely? Is there one thing that stood out to you?

COLEMAN: The biggest thing that stood out to me is no matter what I -- I felt like if I was able to get a life jacket I could have saved my babies. They could have floated up to the top and somebody could have grabbed them.

[17:15:07] And I wasn't able to do that. I can't say what the restriction was because when I went up I thought I hit the ceiling and I thought I was dead. Because I didn't know how to get out from -- I'm great with directions bus in water I'm not. I don't know which way I'm facing.

So, I when I went up I didn't know if I was in the ceiling. I figured I was in the ceiling because I wasn't moving, and somebody kept pushing me I kept floating pup. I don't know if I was coming through a window or if somebody did remove the roof. I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tia, thank you for we know this is difficult. We talked to other companies around. Do you think Duck Boat Company should take their boats back on the water?

COLEMAN: That's something I'm just not at liberty to say. I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on what you your family went through. COLEMAN: Based on what we went through, I never want to be on any boat again in my life, anybody's boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are hearing some about your family. (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: I want them remembered how they were. I lost nine people. I lost my husband, who was -- he would have -- he was so loving. He didn't look like it. My oldest son was Reese, who was on the autism spectrum, but he was the happiest sweetest little boy anybody would ever want to meet.

I love everybody remember my Evan who was 7, who was extremely smart, quick and witty. He loved life and he was a great brother, a big brother and a little brother. And then my baby, Aria. She was only 1 and she had a thousand personalities wrapped up in her one.

And show blow kiss and she would fight. She was a little fire ball and my only girl. And then to remember my Uncle Ray. He was the oldest of the Colemans. He liked to laugh and have a good time. My father-in-law who had a heart of gold, he would give anything for anybody. My mother-in-law who was like a second mom.

I never knew I would marry into such great people. I never knew it. She was always there with a supportive word. My sister in law who I called my sister because she was. She was so loving and she would do anything for her family.

For my nephew Max -- the sweetest baby ever. He loved big hugs and warm kisses. So, I would ask everybody to remember my family as the beautiful people they were.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: I don't have anything to say to the owner. I don't have anything to say to the captain. To the survivors of the boat, I continue to keep you in my prayers. I know what you are going through. To all the lives that were lost, so much -- I just pray they continuing to live on in their family's hearts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tia, sorry for your loss. (Inaudible). What are some of the things you did in Branson? (Inaudible).

[17:20:06] COLEMAN: The hotel you were staying at -- the kids always loved to swim in the water. We liked getting in the water. So, we all went down to the water had a good time in the pool.

And then I caught myself sneaking off to get in the hot tub and here come the little bodies in there with me. It feels so good. It feels so good. I said get back in the kiddy pool. I'll remember always how they always loved to be around family.

We end up going out to eat while we were here, went to Golden Coral and I hadn't been in I don't know when. I forgot how much food they have. I said you were on vacation. You started piling up plates. They were eating up all this food. They had cotton candy and rainbow sherbet.

Stuff you shouldn't give your kids all the time, but that's the kind of parent. I would do stuff like that occasionally we did. And you enjoyed our -- we had a big van. I enjoyed us being together and laughing at each other's stories and just talking with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: We did not see shows. We picked -- in our family like I said my son is autistic. My oldest son is autistic. A lot of things that, quote/unquote, "normal families" or people say they are normal families do we don't always do. That's another thing I loved about my family.

They'll -- they would make the situation fit for him. So, we have to do stuff that would keep him where he can jump up and be entertained or he likes to ride. We knew he loves watered and likes to ride. That would work out for everybody.

We could drive around on the boat, get in the water, and it would be a good time. We had planned on going out to eat afterwards. We did not see any shows. We did on our family trips we always try to indicator towards kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: This is our first time coming to Branson. We go as a family -- we would travel to different places. The best one that I've been to for me -- I'll say it's Mackinaw City, Michigan. It was peaceful. It was the clearest lake I ever seen.

When I stepped in Mackinaw City I felt like I stepped back in time. They don't even have internet they have dial up. What's going on. I felt that was one of my favorite places to go. The kids favorite place was South Carolina, Motor Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: We don't know for sure. I'm still recovering just from swallowing so much water. But I'm doing better. I'm breathing better so small steps. But steps in the right direction. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible question). What that was like as a mother not knowing where your children were?

COLEMAN: It was -- it was the worst -- the worst feeling you could ever feel. And then the one thing I remember saying is if they don't make it, Lord, take me too. There is no need for me to be here and I just -- it's very hard to describe as a mother, it's very hard to describe. It's -- I've never felt that feeling again and I would never wish that on anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that moment when you say you just started floating what was that like?

COLEMAN: I thought I was going to die anyway. It felt like the right thing to do at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are you happy you survived.

COLEMAN: I don't know yet. I think only time will tell.

[17:25:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Tia. (Inaudible question).

COLEMAN: I can't go into too many details, but I can say that people are constantly checking on me. I've had people that of course with permission asked if they pray with me and for me. Pray with me. They have any kind of resource I need, counseling coming in anything like that they provided. It's above and beyond anything I can imagine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible question)

COLEMAN: I would tell my husband that what I always tell him. We in this thing for life, better or worse. And I would let him know again just how great of a father he is. I'd tell my Uncle Ray -- I would tell him how much we love him and appreciate him.

I'd tell my father-in-law since I lost my own father 20 years ago he is my father. I'd tell my mother-in-law, thank you for all your wisdom and your love. I'd tell my sister in law don't sweat the small stuff. You know I got your back, sis. I'd kiss my nephew.

I'd tell my oldest son, Reese, don't worry about what the world puts on you. Make your own new world. I'd tell my son, Evan, that you can be anything you want to be and I'd kiss him. And we'd talk about each other and call each other names.

And I'd tell my daughter, Aria, which I still would whisper in her ear, always look out for your brothers, keep the family together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talk about (inaudible) -- it's no doubt your faith -- why do you think (inaudible).

COLEMAN: It's not a thinking matter for me. I tried it. I can't comprehend. I can't explain. I don't have the capacity to understand it. The only thing is I think God must have something for me because there is no way I should be here.

MARQUARDT: All right. You've been listening to Tia Coleman in Branson, Missouri, one of the survivors of this horrific Duck boat accident talking about a loss that none of us should have to face. Seventeen people died in this accident, nine of whom from the Coleman families, nine relatives of Tia's.

The only other surviving member of the family was her 13-year-old nephew. Tia lost her husband and all three of her children. The members of the family who died in this accident ranged are from 1 years old to 76 years old.

Tia talking about how she survived. Thanking God. Thanking what she described as Good Samaritans and angels. Heartbreakingly describing each of the members of her family who passed away and what she would say to them now. And also saying she never wants to be on another boat again as long as she lives. And understandable sentiment.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Kaylee Hartung, who has been on the ground covering all this. Kaylee this is unimaginable loss for any of us. Tia there, Tia Coleman talked about the life jackets which has been one of the big questions.

All of these boats are equipped with life jackets required by the Coast Guard. But Mrs. Coleman did say there the captain told them very specifically, you don't need to worry. You won't need to grab them. So, what more do we know about the life jackets and other security measures that were ignored possibly?

HARTUNG: Well, as Tia explained as they boarded to ride the Duck Boat, the crew members told them there are three sizes of life jackets, they are above your head, don't worry about them you won't need them. As she also said when swells began coming into the boat, the captain actually instructed everyone to stay in their seats. She has said when the boat is brought out of this lake -- it's still 80 feet underwater -- she said when that boat is brought out all of the life jackets onboard as mandated by law will still be on that boat. Such a difficult sentiment to hear.

You also heard her say that she felt like when she saw life jackets being thrown into the water by a big boat, as she called it, she thought if she could get to one of the life jackets she could get back to the babies and help save them but couldn't. By the time she made it to that big boat as she described, she was pulled on bored and realized she didn't have any other family members with her. That big boat, that's "The Bell," a show boat that cruises around this lake for dinner cruises.

I've just learned from the attorney general of the state of Missouri, Josh Hawley, they believe approximately 600 people were onboard the show boat and the process of interviewing hundreds of them has already begun -- Alex?

MARQUARDT: We are showing the pictures again of the horrific conditions that were out there, just very high waves, high wind.

Kaylee, we heard Tia Coleman talking about how she survived. And she said she doesn't know how she survived. She was disoriented underwater, didn't know where she was ,she made her way to the surface, felt the water getting warmer. As she broke the surface, these good Samaritans, angels she called them, managed to throw her a life jacket.

You did speak to the attorney general as you mentioned. What more are we learning about investigators about what went wrong? What should have been done?

HARTUNG: Well, as it's been our understanding, the NTSB, who is taking the lead on the investigation -- I should say the attorney general came to this area today to meet with the investigators on- site. And he was able to give me better perspective on understanding the two investigations that should work in parallel fashion and in unison as many questions are left unanswered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH HAWLEY, MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation is the early staples. There are two parallel investigations going on. The NTSB is conducting an investigation into the sinking of the vestal and the circumstances surrounding that immediate event. The Missouri State Patrol is investigating the circumstances leading to the tragedy beforehand and whether or not this should be treated as a crime scene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG; Alex, yesterday, the NTSB telling us they thought it could take up to a year for them to share the official report explaining the causes that led to the death of 17 people. The attorney general telling me that is unacceptable. They will not wait a year for the investigation. The criminal investigation needs the information from the federal agency to proceed. One piece of news he shared with me, the black box from the boat has been recovered. While the boat hasn't been salvaged and is expected to be in the next couple days, the NTSB does in fact have the black box in possession which will help them get a time line together. But,7 Alex, that's how early investigators are in this process. That time line of what happened on Thursday hasn't been nailed down.

MARQUARDT: And it's so incredible to see your shot, Kaylee. It's a beautiful day out there. W when you juxtapose that with the incredible images of the boat bobbing in water, really tough weather.

Kaylee Hartung, thanks very much. We know you will stay on the story.

Our thoughts are with the families that lost loved ones.

[17:35:09] You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Now to the latest fall out from President Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump's legal team and close allies now worried about the backlash from that meeting and how it could impact the special probe, the Mueller investigation. A source telling CNN that Trump may have strengthened the special counsel's hand at a critical time. This, as the Trump White House moves forward with plans for a second summit with Putin potentially this fall in Washington. That was announced a couple of days ago by Sarah Sanders.

As this swirls around, we learn today that Mike Pompeo called his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We haven't gotten a read out from the State Department, but Moscow says they are discussing a normalization of relations and the situations in Syria and North Korea, both issues that both countries are intimately involved in.

And there's another reason that Trump allies might be worried about how his performance alongside Putin could impact the Mueller investigation. It's how former top intelligence officials reacted in its wake. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE (voice-over): More and more I come to a conclusion that after the Helsinki performance, and since, that I really do wonder whether the Russians have something on him. I think his behavior was just unbelievable.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR & FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: This president basically coddled Mr. Putin. And it was clear that he was intimidated by that situation. Whether -- whether the Russians have something on this president or not, no one really knows. But the way he behaves, there's a clear signal that the Russians have something on him, that the Russians have something on him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:40:19] MARQUARDT: The Russians have something on him.

To discuss, this we have two of the foremost experts on Russia and how the Kremlin operates, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, and retired CIA chief of Russia operations, Steve Hall.

Thanks for joining me, gentlemen.

Steve, first to you.

As a former member of the CIA, do you have those same concerns as Leon Panetta and James Clapper, the Russians might have something, some kompromat on the president?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I do indeed. I didn't have it before Helsinki. But when I saw the performance where the president stood next Vladimir Putin and essentially, not only through his own intelligence services and you know the U.S. government threw them under the bus, but did seem to be totally indirect. Although, I would go with Leon Panetta's comments, we don't know for sure yet. Hopefully, Robert Mueller will find that out. You can do counterintelligence assessments and say what explains this. There are things that are straightforward as to why Trump behaved that. I believe it does point to kompromat.

MARQUARDT: And that was a tipping point for a lot of people for whom it was merely a theory and then convinced by the performance in Helsinki.

Ambassador, turning to you, there was a lot of discussion about Ambassador McFaul being part of what the president called an incredible deal. He walked it back and said he disagreed with it. But there was a discussion about the Russians able to interrogate McFaul and others. And the Mueller team being able to interrogate Russians who were indicted. Which wasn't a fair deal considering that many people thought the crimes were Trumped up on the Americans.

As a former ambassador yourself, how did you feel about the fact that this was even being discussed? ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, the whole

proposal was ridiculous from the very start. First of all, the idea we would gain any insights about the Russian interference from our elections from the guys who carried it out, when dealing with a country that lies as a matter of state policy, that half of the deal was absurd. But the quid pro quo that the Russians would be given access to the former ambassador who is covered by diplomatic immunity for his time as ambassador and others implicated in the Magnitsky affair, which was a bona fide effort to expose corruption, is it equally ridiculous. But the fact that the president called it a great deal at the press conference in Helsinki suggests he is in over his head in dealing with Vladimir Putin.

MARQUARDT: All right, gentleman, hold tight. There's a lot more to talk about.

Including whether President Trump might use this next summit that he is talking about in the fall to be tougher with President Putin. So we will talk about that with both of you. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[17:47:39] HILLARY CLINTON, (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The great mystery is why the president has not spoken up for our country. And we saw that most clearly in this recent meeting with Putin.

(CHEERING)

CLINTON: We don't know what was said in the room where just the two of them --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Well that was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state speaking at Aussie Fest moments ago, a liberal festival in New York. She went on to describe that meeting, that one-on-meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Trump in Helsinki as unprecedented.

So I want to bring become in my panel, Steve Hall, who ran CIA operations for decades, Russian operations, I should say, and ambassador Alexander Vershbow.

Ambassador, first to you.

Do you agree with Secretary Clinton this was unprecedented and should not have been done?

VERSHBOW: Absolutely. The fact the president wouldn't stand up to Putin whether it came to the interference in the elections or the other aggressive axe actions Russia has conducted. Shooting down a civilian airliner over Ukraine four years ago. It was a case of moral equivalence. It was quite embarrassing to be an American at that moment. I say that as a former professional diplomat who wants the president to succeed in dealing with Russia. It's a tough challenge but he is going about it the wrong way.

MARQUARDT: Why would the president want to meet one-on-one and not bring in other experts and top officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others?

VERSHBOW: Well, he seems to think that the power of his personality is the way to solve real problems, real fundamental differences between the United States and Russia. And it's not that easy. And there were rumors he didn't even trust his own aides. He wanted this with no witnesses in the room. Whatever his motivation, it clearly was the wrong approach. The Russians are talking about the outcome and about agreements reached. We still don't know if there were agreements reached. We heard about Russian proposals and they're definitely a trap, such as the idea of a referendum in the occupied parts of Eastern Ukraine. So hopefully, if he is going to have another meeting in the fall, he will prepare it the right way and he'll have the most senior advisers in the room with him so he doesn't get misled by the very slick and clever Vladimir Putin.

[17:50:03] MARQUARDT: And, Steve, considering the fact you just told me you think the president has been compromised, that Putin has something on him, do you support the notion of this meeting in the fall in Washington?

HALL: Well, no, absolutely not. That would be completely independent as to whether or not I'm right, that there's compromising information that Putin has on Donald Trump. Again, as the ambassador was just indicating, the litany of Russia's misbehavior, horrific stuff over the past couple years, dictates a policy of containment, not engagement. When you have a guy like this, like Vladimir Putin, to the White House, it's a win to him. One of the important things for Putin is to be seen on the world state as a real player. He wants a seat at the table with the big boys. To give him that is to empower him. That's not something we want to do.

To be clear, I don't think we ought not to speak to Russia. There are issues that require communications. Arms control is a good example. But those are expert discussions that can happen as a much lower level that don't give Russia the win propaganda-wise like -- like they're making great hay about what happened in that room in Helsinki right now. We don't do that self-inflicted wound. We can be smarter than that. We should be.

MARQUARDT: Expert-level discussions that would normally take place before a huge summit like this.

Ambassador, wouldn't a second summit, a second meeting in the fall give the president a second chance to be tougher against Putin?

VERSHBOW: Well, perhaps. I'm not strongly opposed as Steve is to the idea of another meeting, but I do agree with him that having these meetings with all the fanfare and not putting Putin to any real tests on the issues where Russia is destabilizing the international system, that's a mistake. You give Putin the stature of being back at the table with the big boys, as Steve said, without paying any price for their aggressive behavior. We have to go about it differently. There may be a play for the high-level dialogue in trying to solve some of the problems, or at least managing a very dangerous relationship and avoiding risk that things could spin out of control. But we have to be very, very careful and prepare thoroughly, and not appear to be normalizing relations, going back to business as usual, while Russia is still occupying Eastern Ukraine, occupying Crimea, not admitting even to the slightest what it did in interfering in our elections.

MARQUARDT: Fascinating months ahead. But we have to leave it there.

Ambassador Vershbow, Steve Hall, thank for you joining me.

I'm Alex Marquardt, in New York. I'll see you two hours from now live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.

But first, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us to the biggest obstacle race in the world in this weekend's "FIT NATION."

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) The stink trench, man versus lake --

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GUPTA: -- and the world's longest set of monkey bars are just three of the 200 challenges to overcome at the Rat Race Dirty Weekend, the largest obstacle course race in the world.

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JIM MEE, COURSE DESIGNER: This is a big objective for people to conquer and this might be the biggest thing they ever do.

GUPTA: Two hours north of London, more than 5,000 adults and children tackle a 20-mile course featuring 200 invented obstacles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to know what to expect and what's next around the corner. Can't train specifically for it, and kind of why I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything can happen in a 20-mile race. A mind game to overcome. Push through the pain and get to the end.

GUPTA: The challenge is daunting, but course designer, Jim Mee, has carefully considered the race's degree of difficulty.

MEE: Obviously, physically challenging. We don't want it so difficult it's what we call a suffer event. No joy in not completing something. My favorite touch is the little things we do. We have this with a rail inside. We have an old London cab that people climb through. We also have some old phone boxes and we buried some pieces underground. Big jump on this court. You stand on top of this and pear over the surface, it's like you almost can see the curvature from the top. Jumping off that, that's a mind game. People get a great sense of achievement for having done it. It's those things that sets the event apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Camaraderie amazing. Don't stop. Keep on going.

GUPTA: The top finishers there are cash prizes, but for most racers, finishing with friends is all the reward they need.

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[17:54:37] MEE: The majority of people want to come and do stuff that they just don't get to do in everyday life. That's the opportunity to give them, at the same time doing something tough and demanding. The joy is in persevering, doing somebody arduous and kicking back afterwards and saying, wow, that was insane, that was epic.

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[17:59:40] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish, in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and from around the world.

Just when you thought a bad week for the president couldn't get worse, it did. The president was reportedly taped by his own lawyer discussing a payment to "Playboy" model, Karen McDougal. We'll discuss the evidentiary implications.

Plus, the president's strikeout. After trying to do damage control after the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, President Trump may have made things worse when he deviated from his script. Overlooked by many are the seven words he refused to say, which I --