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Trump Administration Wants to Strip Key Provision for Endangered Species; GOP Voters React to Trump-Putin Summit; Sketch and Improv in the History of Comedy; Trump Calls Russian Election Meddling a Big Hoax. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 22, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- citizen. The FBI telling a top-secret surveillance court it believes Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, is also a Russian agent conspiring with the Kremlin. Page firmly denies the FBI's claims.

Here's CNN's Jake Tapper today asking Page about his Kremlin ties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But you did advise the Kremlin? I mean, I just want to make it clear, you did advise the Kremlin back in 2013 or 2012, somewhere in there?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Jake, that's -- it's really spin. I mean, I -- I sat in on some meetings. But, you know, to call me an adviser, I think, is way over the -- over the top.

TAPPER: Except in a 2013 letter, you wrote that -- it says, quote, "Over the past half-year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for the presidency of the G20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda."

That's August 2013. That's yourself calling yourself an informal adviser to the Kremlin.

PAGE: You know, informal, having some conversations with people. I mean, this is really nothing and just an attempt to distract from the real crimes that are shown in this misleading document. You know, page eight, it says -- it talks about disguised propaganda, including the -- planting of false or misleading articles, which is exactly what this is. So that's kind of the pot calling the kettle black.

TAPPER: So --

PAGE: By Mr. Comey and co.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Reaction now pouring in, mostly along partisan lines. Republicans and Democrats suggesting these newly released documents back up their personal views of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Let's get right to CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, near the Trump golf resort in Jersey, where the president is spending his weekend.

Ryan, Trump has been on a Twitter tirade about this.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's a great way to describe it, Ana. And it's important to point out that we've not seen the president at all this weekend. He's been at his estate which isn't really all that close to where we are here in New Jersey. And he's had no public appearances the entire weekend. So our only glimpse into his thinking is his Twitter feed. And he's been very active on Twitter and on this particular topic, he's tweeted four different times about the release of this document.

And in his mind, it is vindication for his long-held belief that Robert Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt and that this particular FISA application was done almost criminally. He describes it as a conspiracy in many ways. So the president has been looking for more and more evidence to try and discredit the Mueller investigation. This falls right in line with talking points from some members of the Republican House and the president continues to echo those claims.

But as you accurately point out, Ana, before you came to me, there is a wide range of opinions as to how to interpret this more than 400- page document and not all of them are kind to the president -- Ana.

CABRERA: Including the opinions of lawmakers in his own party who are not on the same page as the president.

NOBLES: Yes, that's right, Ana. While there is no doubt a small group of Republican members in the House, many of them on the House Intelligence Committee, that firmly believe that there was some sort of conspiracy involved with the acquisition of Carter Page's surveillance warrant, you know, there are many prominent Republicans in the Senate who think otherwise.

Listen to what Marco Rubio had to say this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARC RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Yes, I don't think they did anything wrong. I think they went to the court, they got the judges to approve it. They put -- laid out all the information and there was a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page. And Carter Page was not a key member of the Trump campaign, but -- and the Trump campaign has said that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So there's a couple of things to dissect from Rubio's comments there, Ana. The first is this whole idea that the whole premise for applying for the FISA warrant was the dossier. That that was the linchpin of the entire FBI investigation. And there's been numerous example of the fact that they were looking at Carter Page long before the dossier was compiled. And the second thing that we should also point out is the FISA law. This is something that of course has been very controversial for a long period of time, but the Congress has had multiple opportunities to reign in the FISA law, to make it more difficult for the federal government to conduct surveillance on American citizens.

And every time they've continued to renew it, including as late as January of this year, and Ana, it was President Trump himself who's been so critical of this process who signed that bill into law which renewed the FISA law to continue it in its current form, the exact law that allowed for this warrant application to go through.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much. Let's get straight to the two legal analysts that we have. Some experts, for their perspective. Glenn Kirchner is a former federal prosecutor and a former U.S. assistant attorney for the District of Columbia, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. She has served as counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for National Security.

All right, guys. Before we had you on here, I asked you for three takeaways.

[18:05:03] They were very similar, so we combined them on one list. And I want to start with number one. You both said the warrant shows the FBI did follow protocol.

So, Carrie, explain why you think that?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Sure. So the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which this application was made for has different requirements, who the types of findings, the types of information that needs to be contained in the application. The senior officials who have to sign the applications. And everything about the redacted documents that have been released publicly now indicate that the Justice Department and the FBI followed the law, followed the procedures that are in place, took the case to a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Court. And so nothing based in the documents that were released indicates that they abused the FISA system in any way.

CABRERA: There were several pages redacted of this 400-plus page application, Glenn. So how can you be sure this was done by the book, as you put it?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, Ana, I think we can be sure that it was done by the book, notwithstanding the redactions, because four separate judges over time had an opportunity to review the materials and to weigh in and each and every one determined that there was reason, there was probable cause to issue this surveillance warrant. And I'll tell you, as a career prosecutor, I've probably been involved in reviewing and helping agents prepare well over a thousand affidavits in support of search and arrest warrants. And we all take our obligation very seriously. In fact, there's a

Supreme Court case called the Franks Case, that says, you know, if a law enforcement agent misleads a judge by putting something in an affidavit, in support of a warrant that is either untruthful or if they leave something out that is incredibly important and could undercut probable cause, then they could be in legal jeopardy, the case could be in legal jeopardy. And I'll tell you, all of these career FBI agents and DOJ prosecutors take their job and their oath extremely seriously.

CABRERA: Carrie, I know you have some experience specifically with these FISA warrant applications. What types of things would be redacted? What is the American public missing?

CORDERO: Right, so I did. I worked at the Justice Department in what is now the National Security Division and presented many of these types of applications to the FISA court for a number of years. And so the information that I would presume is the redacted or the still- classified information is information that relates to the intelligence, the counter-intelligence investigation that the FBI and the intelligence community were conducting at the time.

You know, this release of these documents publicly is very unusual. In FISA's 40-year history, these applications have never been released before. And so there has been a whole chain of events, starting with the president and the House Intelligence Committee's statements about these Carter Page surveillances that have gotten us to this point. But really, the information contained in these applications is sensitive, it's classified, it's national security information. And so that other information that's redacted would have further supported the case that the government was making to the FISA judge.

CABRERA: Glenn, one thing that is not redacted is what you mentioned in point number two, and that is that Republican allegations about the dossier are not supported. In fact, Republicans have said that the FBI failed to tell the courts that the Steele dossier may be politically biased and that is not true. The footnote reads on page 16 of this application, U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding candidate number one's ties to Russia. And the FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate number one's campaign.

So, Glenn, were Republicans who backed the Nunes memo being less than truthful about this warrant?

KIRSCHNER: Well, let me say, Ana, they were not being accurate. Because as we see, the people who participated in the drafting and the submission of this particular FISA application took their responsibilities very seriously because they did put in there information that could undercut the reliability of the information in the Steele dossier, which is exactly the point I made a few minutes ago.

So for example, if we have three witnesses that we want to rely on, in an affidavit seeking a warrant, and two of the witnesses have no bias, but the third witness, for example, has some beef or grudge with the target of the investigation, law enforcement puts that in the affidavit, so the judge has a complete picture on the evidence that he or she is relying on, before they determine if there's probable cause and if the warrant should issue.

So I think that now that we've seen in black and white that all of the information, the good, the bad, and the ugly was in the affidavit, seeking the FISA warrant, we really have to re-evaluate some of the criticism we heard about how, you know, the judge unduly relied on the Steele dossier and didn't have the complete picture. That doesn't seem to be borne out by the documents.

CABRERA: Carrie, the other point I want to bring up is one that you just made a moment ago, and that is that the release of this warrant is unprecedented. Is that good that this came out? But do you think there's a bigger risk there?

CORDERO: Well, I see risk. As a former national security practitioner, I see risks. Because what it means is that these applications now in other national security cases, so for example, other counterterrorism prosecutions or other future national security prosecutions that involve information that was obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, there is now a greater likelihood that judges in those cases might reveal the applications to defense council.

Now some might see that as a good thing in terms of transparency. But the way in which this particular case became public was driven by, for political reasons. In other words, the allegations that the House Intelligence chair and the president were making about this case were alleging abuse. And that is what set in course the chain of events that led to the release of these documents, which happened, you know, under appropriate ways.

These documents were not leaked. They were released after FOIA, Freedom of Information Act litigation. So I don't have a dispute with that. But I do think that the way in which attention was brought to these Carter Page surveillances was highly inappropriate for the House Intelligence Committee chair to be driving an effort to reveal classified information about an ongoing counterintelligence investigation.

CABRERA: So, Glenn, at the end of the day, do you agree that this warrant ultimately did have to be released because of those dueling memos?

KIRSCHNER: I don't know if it had to be released. I do -- I don't think the dueling memos is what caused the release. I think it's more the FOIA request and I tend to agree that it's not only unprecedented that these kind of documents are released potentially exposing sources and methods in ongoing investigations, but I think this may actually prompt the reevaluation of the FISA laws to make sure that it accounts for the possibility in the future that some of these documents may become matters of public record.

CABRERA: All right. Well, we'll leave it there. Thank you, both, Glenn Kirschner, Carrie Cordero.

Stay with us and we are bringing our viewers live pictures right now of the president and it looks like the first lady both just arriving in Morristown, New Jersey, as they make their way back to the White House following a weekend at one of the president's golf resorts in New Jersey. And I have much more to talk about with you, Carrie and Glenn, when we come back.

We'll stay on these pictures as we take a break. I also want to mention, we're going to be covering the upcoming trial of the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. It is the first trial stemming from Russia's meddling or interference in the U.S. election.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:37] CABRERA: We turn now to another name that's become synonymous with the Mueller investigation, former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort is about to go on trial in Virginia. Money laundering, tax fraud are just a couple of the charges he faces. Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday and if convicted, Manafort could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has been following this case and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paul Manafort will soon emerge from his jail cell to face a judge and jury inside a Virginia courtroom.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He just won the primary process with a record number of votes.

SCHNEIDER: The man who served for five months as Donald Trump's campaign chairman now faces 25 criminal charges in two separate cases in Virginia and Washington, D.C., amounting to a maximum of 305 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Manafort lost his fight to move this week's trial away from Alexandria, Virginia, which is just across the Potomac from Washington, to Roanoke, four hours outside the beltway. Manafort faces 18 counts of bank and tax fraud in Virginia where prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team have laid out nearly 500 pieces of evidence they plan to present.

They'll include pictures of Manafort's five homes, spanning from Manhattan to Virginia, and other photos documenting his once lavish lifestyle, filled with cars, high-end clothing, and even a watch and other items from the self-proclaimed most expensive store in the world, Bijan.

MANAFORT: Mr. Trump will be officially the nominee of the Republican Party. So we're excited about that.

SCHNEIDER: Just one month after that announcement and Donald Trump clinching the Republican nomination, Paul Manafort was forced out. He left the campaign in August, 2016, amid questions about his past lobbying work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian government and the payments he received. More than a year later in late October, 2017, the special counsel's team indicted Manafort, charging him with hiding the money he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lying about his debt to secure new loans.

Manafort's lawyers have been fighting the charges for months on two fronts. In addition to the Virginia case, Manafort is charged with seven other counts in Washington, D.C., including failing to register as a foreign agent. That trial is set to start in September. In June, the D.C. district judge revoked Manafort's $10 million bail, which included house arrest, and sent him to a jail two hours south of Washington.

[18:20:06] The judge scolded Manafort after prosecutors said he contacted witnesses in his case and asked them to lie.

MANAFORT: I have no foreign clients, though. I have no clients. I have one client, Donald Trump.

SCHNEIDER: The man who arguably ushered Donald Trump to the Republican nomination is now more recognizable for his mugshot. The trial will be the first major spotlight for the special counsel's team that has already secured five guilty pleas, including Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates and former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

So far Special Counsel Robert Mueller has brought 191 criminal charges against 32 people and three companies as part of his investigation into Russian meddling and other matters that arise from that investigation.

(On camera): And Mueller's team is trying to compel five unnamed witnesses to testify in Paul Manafort's trial, offering them immunity from prosecution in exchange. It will be up to the judge if he decides to force those five to testify.

A hearing in Manafort's case, it is scheduled for Monday. That will determine what evidence will be allowed in, and jury selection is expected to begin on Wednesday, setting up a trial start for end of the week.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Thanks, Jessica. Glenn Kirschner and Carrie Cordero are back with us again. This is a significant trial, guys, because it is the first trial stemming from Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference.

So, Glenn, let me start with you, since we started with Carrie in the last segment, we are now three days out from this trial. If a paralegal were in the works, would it have happened by now?

KIRSCHNER: Yes, it would have, Ana. And I suspect that Bob Mueller's team may not have even extended a plea offer to Paul Manafort. In part because, you know, not only did he commit this sort of parade of horribles, allegedly, you know, bank fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, but even almost more important than that, when we talk about the integrity of the criminal justice system, he committed witness tampering and has been indicted, albeit in another case, in witness tampering.

So the problem is, if we as prosecutors bring, Ana, a cooperating witness who has engaged in misconduct that sort of strikes at the very heart of the integrity of the criminal justice system, it's very hard to make a plea offer to that witness, try to clean him up sufficiently, and put him on the stand without what we call the cooperator stink rubbing off on the prosecutors.

CABRERA: Carrie, Mueller's team has indicated in court, at least, that Manafort's trial will have a connection to the Trump campaign, but does that necessarily mean the connection will have anything to do with Russia or the election attack?

CORDERO: Well, he was the chairman of the campaign for a number of months. So, I mean, there's a very direct connection, even though the president and his team have tried to distance themselves. The actual indictment doesn't include information regarding the Russian influence efforts on the election and the intelligence activity that Russia in their intelligence operations did. So whether or not that becomes a part of the case, we don't know.

The charges that are brought against Manafort pertain to all his business dealings and his work on behalf of the president of Ukraine. Other than that, most of the charges that are against him pertain to the things that Glenn just mentioned, tax evasion, fraud, all sorts of financial crimes.

CABRERA: Glenn, you mentioned that the fact there hasn't been a plea deal may be because he wasn't offered some kind of a plea deal. Could it also indicate, though, that he may not have any information important enough to trade?

KIRSCHNER: It could. I mean, it's a sliding scale, because the more valuable the information a cooperator can provide, the more likely he is to be able to strike a plea deal with the prosecutors. But again, in this case, I don't know that the Mueller team wants or needs Paul Manafort's assistance. And I'll tell you this case which will be a document-intensive case in the hands of a novice prosecutor could be a bit of snooze fest.

But Bob Mueller's team is not -- they're not novice prosecutors. So I suspect they're going to keep the trial moving along and you're probably going to hear things like, you know, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this case is going to take us all to a place where arrogance meets opulence. And they're going to show lots of pictures of Paul Manafort's custom-made waterfall ponds and putting greens and million- dollar wardrobes that he just had to have with what -- let's call it what it is -- stolen money.

CABRERA: Got to leave it there.

Carrie Cordero and Glenn Kirschner, thank you so much for your time today.

Meantime, it is a big week for tariffs and how they might affect your bottom line. Christine Romans takes a look in this week's "Before the Bell."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Corporate earnings are likely to drive trading on Wall Street this week. Some of the biggest names in tech deliver their quarterly report cards. Google parent Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter are among the heavy hitters.

[18:25:06] Tech stocks have been on fire lately. The Nasdaq hit a record high last week, but tariffs and trade tensions remain an overhang for the stock market. And the issue is back this week as European Commission leaders visit the White House on Wednesday to talk trade. President Trump wants the EU to drop what he calls unfair trade barriers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We said if we don't negotiate something fair, then we have tremendous retribution, which we don't want do use, but we have tremendous powers. We have to, including cars. Cars is the big one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The Trump administration has threatened tariffs of 20 percent to 25 percent on European cars if leaders don't make trade concessions. So investors will be watching for headlines out of Wednesday's meeting.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

CABRERA: Some other news you may have missed this week. The Trump administration stripping out some key protections in the Endangered Species Act. These are the rules that protect animals like humpback whales and bald eagles.

We'll talk about this next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:44] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration wants to strip key provisions from the Endangered Species Act, an act that, well, protects endangered species.

The law was passed 45 years ago, and it is largely credited with helping to save animals like the humpback whale and the bald eagle. But some industries, like coal and gas, see it as a burden because it limits where they can and can't work in order to protect these animals.

Brett Hartl is the government affairs director for the Center of Biological Diversity and joins us now.

Brett, thanks for being with us. What do you think is at risk here?

BRETT HARTL, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: Well, thanks for having me.

In short, almost every species that's protected by the Endangered Species Act, animal and plant, depends on these nuts and bolts regulations, these critical safeguards, that have been in place for 45 years. And the Trump administration is proposing to really, basically, take a sledgehammer to them and weaken them across the board.

So that means that every endangered animal and plant that is still on the road to recovery, that road just got a lot harder.

CABRERA: Have any of these species rebounded enough, though, that they no longer need such stringent protections?

HARTL: Well, sure. Many endangered species are on their way back. The grizzly bear is a great example, and it's getting closer to recovery. But if you take away the protections before recovery has been achieved, and in a sense, you move the goalpost as well, it becomes harder to maintain those successes over time.

So it's really like pulling the -- you know, Lucy pulling the football out from Charlie Brown type of situation here. If you take away these protections, you undo a lot of good work that's been done.

CABRERA: There's also this, that the policy that they are suggesting would end the practice of providing future protected species -- or threatened species, that is -- with the same protections as endangered species automatically. What do you see as the impact of that?

HARTL: Right. So for 45 years, almost since the beginning of the Endangered Species Act, threatened species, which is the second lowest level of protection below endangered, receive basically the same protections as endangered species. And it helped them recover much faster.

The Trump administration is proposing that threatened species will get almost no protections, which means you can actually kill them or injure them and that would be a legal act.

So, for example, the monarch butterfly is being considered as a threatened species in the next year. If the monarch butterfly were protected, basically, all of the things that harm that butterfly would still be allowed.

Now, it would be good to get it protected, but it would make their ultimate recovery much harder. It makes it more expensive and it puts them at greater risk. So it's really penny wise, pound foolish to take this approach. CABRERA: This administration also says economic impact should be a

consideration when you're evaluating the Endangered Species Act and implementation of it. Should that be a consideration?

HARTL: Well, no. And Congress was very clear back in 1982 and during the Reagan era that costs should have no bearing on whether or not an endangered species should be protected. Because at its core, it's really a scientific question whether or not an endangered species needs protection.

Once they are protected, the Endangered Species Act provides many flexible tools that have always accommodated reasonable business since the beginning. By incorporating economic concerns right now at the outset, you risk injecting a lot of improper political-economic pressure into that scientific process.

And we've seen, unfortunately, in the Bush era and in the past, that when you do that, when economic pressure comes in, the animals and plants that need protection often don't get it. And we have to go to court then to ultimately get them protected.

CABRERA: So what do you say to those who say animals just aren't as important as jobs and cheaper energy?

[18:34:52] HARTL: Well, I think it's a really false choice. We have over 1,800 endangered species in this country. And for decades, we've known how to get them on the road to recovery and have jobs and energy at the same time. They're not incompatible.

What you have is a lot of hyperbole and really unfortunate rhetoric that tends to demonize species and that doesn't help anyone. The reality is, is that having a healthy environment and having healthy and vibrant wildlife populations provide an enormous benefit to all Americans who deeply support the act.

And we can do this together. We have -- it has always worked. And this is really an unfortunate step in the wrong direction.

CABRERA: Brett Hartl, I really appreciate you joining us. Thank you for your perspective and for sharing it with us.

HARTL: Thanks a lot for having me.

CABRERA: This is disheartening to see, but it is important that we share it with you. This is a wave of mostly plastic waste floating just off the coast of the Dominican Republic in their Playa Montesinos.

An environmental group filmed this massive man-made mess. They call it the world's largest garbage emergency and are working with the government now to clean it up.

Coming up, this past week has been a controversial one for the President given the blowback from his summit with Vladimir Putin. So how are Trump supporters reacting? We'll go to one community to find out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:52] CABRERA: We have this just into CNN. We now know that none of the 17 passengers killed when a Missouri duck boat capsized were wearing life jackets. This is according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Authorities say they will work to raise the boat out of the water on Monday. It sank Thursday during a storm.

Among the victims, nine members of the same family. A relative who survived the accident, Tia Coleman, says no one ever instructed them to grab life jackets.

President Trump's controversial summit with Vladimir Putin sparked a backlash on Capitol Hill, and it's getting mixed reviews from everyday Americans.

Just 33 percent surveyed in a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll approve of Trump's performance in Helsinki. Exactly half disapprove.

But let's focus on Republican voters, specifically Trump voters. What do they think about his controversial comments at the Putin summit?

CNN's Gary Tuchman went to a well-known retirement community in Florida to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Villages, Florida is a popular place for Republicans to retire. Making it easy to find people who voted for Donald Trump for president.

But for some Trump voters, things went south this week. Especially following President Trump's presentation as he stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

SALLY INBERWISH, RESIDENT AT THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: He's an embarrassment to me. And as a Republican, I still feel that -- you know, I just wish he would just learn to say things properly, and maybe he wouldn't get himself into so much trouble.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): On this day, hundreds of Republicans in The Villages showed up at a forum attended by Florida candidates for governor, which was a good place to ask Trump voters about what happened in Finland.

TUCHMAN (on camera): When Donald Trump said there's blame for the United States as well as Russia -- he put blame on this country -- does that trouble you?

ASHERA STANTON, RESIDENT AT THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: It's Donald Trump. You know, you sort of expect that.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But does that trouble you? Do you think the United States should be blamed? STANTON: No, I don't think the United States should be blamed.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So should Donald Trump not have said that about his country?

STANTON: He says a lot of stuff he should not say.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But then there are Trump voters like Dick Hoffman.

DICK HOFFMAN, RESIDENT AT THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: I think he's doing a wonderful job. I love the fact that he just plays the press like a Stradivarius.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Voters who say the President has nothing to apologize for.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Are you a little uncomfortable with how comfortable he was with Vladimir Putin?

HOFFMAN: Didn't bother me a bit because I don't know what --

TUCHMAN (on camera): You didn't think he was deferential to him?

HOFFMAN: -- went on in their meeting before that.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Well, no one does, and that's the problem. Except for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

HOFFMAN: Well, OK, I have faith in him.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What Donald Trump said when he was standing next to Vladimir Putin was, regarding meddling -- Russian meddling. He goes, I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

So what does that mean to you, strong and powerful? What did he say that was so powerful that convinced Donald Trump that --

RON NICHOLS, RESIDENT AT THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: He's strong and powerful in the way he said it. I mean, he is --

TUCHMAN (on camera): But does that sound a bit creepy to you for Donald Trump to be talking about the Russian leader as strong and powerful? I mean, if that is --

NICHOLS: I think the way you're questioning me with that, you're questioning me in a very strong and powerful way. No, I don't see that as a big deal.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Many of the Republicans here have been alive for 13 presidents. They've seen a lot, and some, while continuing to support their president and their party, are a bit wistful.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You were born when FDR was president. You've seen FDR. You've seen Truman. You've seen Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, up until Donald Trump today.

You said you love Donald Trump. But would you be more comfortable if Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower were president today?

JOHN DESMAIRAIS, RESIDENT AT THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: If Ronald Reagan would have run again, yes.

TUCHMAN (on camera): After spending the day here in The Villages, which happens to be the largest retirement community in the United States, we talked to many Trump supporters who are very disappointed with President Trump in the way that he handled the summit with Vladimir Putin.

But none of the Trump supporters we talked to said they wished they voted for Hillary Clinton instead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Our thanks to Gary Tuchman for that report.

Heads up if you eat Ritz Crackers. There is a nationwide recall you need to know about. We'll explain, live in the CNN NEWSROOM, next.

[18:44:59] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Bail has been set at $2 million for the suspect in last night's standoff at a Trader Joe's grocery store in Los Angeles. Twenty-eight-year-old Gene Evan Atkins is being held on one count of murder and other charges.

A store employee died in the standoff. Atkins held dozens of people hostage for hours after a police chase that ended there following a separate shooting.

And there's a nationwide recall issued for certain Ritz Cracker products due to a possible salmonella scare. This recall is only a precaution. So far no illnesses have been reported.

The concern is over certain Ritz Bits and Ritz Cracker snacks that contain whey powder as an ingredient. And if you have any of these products at home, you should throw them out.

[18:50:01] The "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES: THE HISTORY OF COMEDY" is back. And in tonight's brand-new episode, we take a look at how comedy powerhouses, from Carol Burnett to Dave Chappelle to "Saturday Night Live," used improv and sketch comedy to make audiences laugh.

Our Anderson Cooper talked with actor and comedian Sean Hayes, the executive producer of "HISTORY OF COMEDY," about his series.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, welcome, it's great to see you again.

SEAN HAYES, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "THE HISTORY OF COMEDY": Thank you. It's very, very good to see you. Last time we spoke, I couldn't see you. It was just a black box.

COOPER: Right, and I think you were on your phone a lot last time I tried to interview you.

HAYES: One second.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: No, I'm talking to him now. No, this is him. Yes, I'm on right now. No, it's really -- it's gray. It's really silver gray. Bye-bye. Go ahead.

COOPER: Yes.

HAYES: I -- what was the question now?

COOPER: Did -- were you always funny growing up?

HAYES: No. I'm still not, still searching for acceptance in any form.

COOPER: Well, I didn't want to say, but --

HAYES: No, no, that's my job.

COOPER: Yes.

HAYES: So, no, I -- you know, I think -- I come from an Irish Catholic family, very loud, you know, laugh through the pain. Father left when I was very young, that whole story, blah, blah, blah.

So I learned to cope with tragedy through comedy a long time ago, and I think most people who are in the business of trying to be funny probably can relate to that.

COOPER: That's interesting. I mean, you also -- in this show, you also look at how comedy has allowed groups -- you know, women, gay people, people of color -- to assert their sexuality. To have a voice in ways that society has not allowed them to previously.

HAYES: Yes. Well, that's the great thing about comedy, isn't it? I mean, everybody's a fan of comedy.

And I think it's -- not to pontificate too much about comedy because the second you dissect it, it's not funny anymore, but I think we need comedy for our souls, you know. It provides us levity and balance in our lives and in our souls.

And to me, you know, the history of comedy is a fun ride. But if you look a little deeper, for me, it's also -- everything I do is informed by the people who came before me, and that's what I love about the show.

COOPER: You know, you were telling me a story before we went on about you shooting here in New York a couple of weeks ago, which I find odd because I got no notification, no e-mail or text or anything. HAYES: Well, that's weird! That's weird. I went through your 10

people to get to you. Did that ninth person not deliver on their job?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Maybe it was them, yes? Blame the assistants.

HAYES: Yes, yes. Yes, well, it's hard to see you. Sometimes people can't see you in your office with your 19 Emmys on the wall. Like, the glare.

COOPER: Yes.

HAYES: They might open the door and not see you right away.

COOPER: I also blend into the white wall. I'm like Casper the friendly ghost.

HAYES: There you go.

COOPER: I really look forward to this. I love the first series. Do you think there'll be another?

HAYES: Yes. Well, you know, I think so because there's so much -- there's so many more topics that we want to cover that fall on the umbrella of certain specific areas of comedy.

You know, this season, like I said, there's those -- all those topics. There's animation, comedy in animation and sketch comedy and comedy legends and - you know, there's so many we haven't done yet. You could do 10 episodes just on female comedy. You know, females in comedy.

COOPER: It is interesting how much comedy changes over time. I mean, you look back at stuff that -- well, actually, maybe that's another -- maybe it's too long and boring. We could --

HAYES: Uh-oh. Did you just --

COOPER: I just --

HAYES: -- have a brain fart?

COOPER: No. I just -- yes, I don't know what I was doing. I was just --

HAYES: That's OK.

COOPER: Yes.

HAYES: You look great.

COOPER: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Thank you.

HAYES: Yes, sure.

COOPER: Always good to talk to you, Sean. Thank you.

HAYES: You too, Anderson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Hopefully that made you smile. Don't forget to tune in. An all-new episode of "HISTORY OF COMEDY" airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Moments ago, we saw President Trump boarding Air Force One heading back to the White House.

And within the last hour, President Trump is now tweeting again about the Russian election investigation. He is calling it all a big hoax. More on that coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

[18:54:20] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We have breaking news this evening. The President has changed his mind yet again and is once again attacking the findings of his own intelligence community on the issue of elections -- Russia's election interference.

Let's put up the tweet.

So President Obama knew about Russia before the election. Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax. That's why. And he thought crooked Hillary was going to win.

So let's put this into context. It was just days ago the President was forced to issue a clarification after appearing to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin at that summit in Helsinki. Here he is.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't." The sentence should have been, "I don't see any reason why I wouldn't" -- or "why it wouldn't be Russia." So just to repeat it, I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now, this comes as the Trump administration releases previously secret documents detailing why the FBI believed a Trump campaign aide was working with the Russians.

And now in an exclusive interview with CNN, Carter Page is denying he ever cut a deal with the Kremlin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER PAGE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: This is so ridiculous. It's just beyond words, you know? It's -- you're talking about misleading the courts. It's just so misleading going through those 400-plus page documents. You know, where do you even begin?

[19:00:05] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ever advise the Kremlin or work with the Kremlin on anything?