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Accused Russian Spy in Court; Trump Comment on Trade Draws Comparisons to Orwell's "1984"; White House Continues to Strip Away Transparency; Trump Meetings with GOP Leadership, European Commission on Trade Impacts Markets; Senate to Grill Pompeo on Trump/Putin & North Korean Summits; Fire Devastates Athens, Greece. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:20] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: She's accused of using sex, lies and guns to infiltrate U.S. politics. Accused Russian spy Maria Butina just appeared in a Washington district court. Prosecutors say she was trying to influence American policymakers to favor Russian interests.

CNN's Sara Murray was in that hearing. She joins us now with the latest.

Sara, fill us in on what happened in court.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the big fight today was figuring out a timeline for the government to turn over the troves of evidence to Butina's lawyer to they can start figuring out how to get this trial moving. The government says it's got the evidence. Right now, the government says it has four to six terabytes. Essentially waiting to be turned over those 1.5 million documents. Here's the catch. They only wanting to turn it over under a protective order. They called out Butina's lawyer for a number of television appearances he's made and essentially said they're concerned about him showboating and just using this evidence to go on cable news. This was the battle in court today.

Butina's lawyer has been particularly incensed, and he made this argument in court will one of the government's allegations in court filings, this alleged Russian covert agent, had at one point offered to trade sex in exchange for a job in a special interest organization. He says he has no idea where the government is getting that and he asked the judge to force the government to expedite any proof they had of that. The judge is not particularly sympathetic to this argument. He said he would see that evidence when he sees the rest of it. The two sides will continue to go back and forth for a while about that.

Driscoll also said he believes when his client testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee for eight hours that there could be some exculpatory evidence for her in that transcript. He said he thinks that the government's seen it. Now he wants to get his eyes on it. He is trying to get it from the Senate Intelligence Committee. So far, the government says they do not have a transcript of the testimony to turn over to him.

It is going to be a pause for at least a little bit. Both sides are not expected to be back in court until September -- Ana?

CABRERA: Sara Murray, thanks for that report.

Coming up, the new comments from President Trump that critics are comparing to a George Orwell novel. That's next.


[11:37:03] CABRERA: Welcome back. Something President Trump said during his speech to veterans yesterday is drawing some unflattering comparisons. Here's what he said in defense of his tariffs on U.S. trade partners. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


CABRERA: Critics are comparing that to a line from George Orwell's novel "1984," about a nightmarish authoritarian state. "A party told you to reject the evidence of their eyes and ears. It was their final most essential command."

Joining me now, CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, is that a fair comparison?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Fair or not, I think it's a pretty obvious comparison. It is startling to hear a president of the United States tell Americans, don't believe what you're seeing, don't believe what you're hearing. That is not the stuff of what most American presidents or any American president has said. This president's been on a mission, as you know, to sort of chip away at the institution of the free press, which is fundamental to our democracy, Ana.

But I would say this, though, too. What is it that the president thinks is untrue? When Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, stands and says, these tariffs are bad policy and not the way to go, is that not to be believed, when we see Paul Ryan saying those words, then report on them? It is just unclear what he thinks is untrue. This particular issue of how the tariffs decision he made and the backlash from his party and others, what part of that is untrue.

CABRERA: More broadly, this president likes to boast about how well things are going, the economy, no nuclear missile tests in North Korea. These are all things we cover, as well. Why would he want to muddy the waters when it comes to the truth?

CHALIAN: Again, because he said this in the context of the tariffs issue, he wants to muddy the waters because he's getting a lot of heat from some of his biggest supporters that don't agree with his policy position. He's now had a sort of double-whammy of non-conservative policy on this, both implementing the tariffs to begin with, and then now offering up a federal government bail-out to farmers who are facing negative repercussion U.S. of his decision to implement tariffs. Both of these things, bail out and tariffs, are just anathema of the Republican Party. This is a party that's been remade of Donald Trump, so that's why he wants to muddy the waters because he's getting heart on it.

Moreover, he wants to continue this attack on the press because of the Russia investigation, the Michael Cohen matter. There are lots of headlines this president is trying to erase.

CABRERA: Yet, we see the GOP backing him time and again, or at least being more cautious about offending this president. With the midterms around the corner, how do you see Republicans handling this?

[11:40:01] CHALIAN: I think you will continue to see very muted critiques, like you heard from Speaker Ryan. He'll say, hey, that's not a policy path I agree with, I hope we end up in the right place and that this works out but I don't think that's the best path. You're not going to see the president's party -- he's got 88 percent support among Republicans in that latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll -- all of a sudden, rise up and stop him. This is Donald Trump's party and they are along for the ride, there's no doubt about it.

CABRERA: As the president says, don't believe them, just listen to me.

We have the White House continuing to strip away transparency, scrubbing a portion of the Helsinki press conference transcripts. We also talked about how they're no longer give read-outs of the president's calls with foreign leaders. What's the impact of this, David?

CHALIAN: That reporting that CNN had reported initially about no more read-outs of calls with foreign leaders, that's really startling, Ana, in the sense that I know if you read those read-outs in the past, there's a lot of double-speak and they don't reveal much actual substance. But they're really important markers in these global relationships. If you were look at a time of war, if something were to happen and the president needed to build a coalition of nations to try to respond to something, those calls were so important as the White House would read them out to the American people to know that an American president was putting together the coalition needed to defend America. I would just argue that this becomes a very slippery slope. What else is going to be cut off from the American public that their government is doing on their behalf?

CABRERA: David, as always, thank you so much for your analysis.

Right now, President Trump is meeting behind closed doors with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, amid backlash from his own party on trade policies.

Following that meeting, President Trump is scheduled to sit down with the president of the European Commission. So how is this impacting the markets?

CNN's Richard Quest joins us now from the New York Stock Exchange.

Richard, fill us in. What can you tell us?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE & CORRESPONDENT: Well, the markets are taking it somewhat in stride because what they are focusing on are the various companies that are now reporting earnings. Those companies are warning about the effects of these tariffs. We've had General Motors. We've also had Boeing reporting today. You want General Motors, G.M.? Look at the stock. The stock is off some 7.5 percent because G.M. is admitting that not only is it paying more for its steel, but, of course, G.M. cars, if they are exported, are being tariffed if they're going to China. What we're seeing similar with Boeing, is warning after warning that this tariff policy of the administration is now starting to have unintended consequences, whether it be through the necessity of agricultural aid.

Look, put it this way, Ana. When the president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, who represents an organization who the president says is a foe, says he's not optimistic about having trade talks, it shows the situation is serious.

CABRERA: Where does it go from here, is the big question. We'll hopefully see some progress this afternoon.

Richard Quest, thanks so much, as always.

Coming up, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will face off with lawmakers this afternoon amid the continued questions about President Trump's private meeting with Vladimir Putin. Will we get answers on what they discussed? Stay with us.


[11:48:04] CABRERA: The Senate wants to get to the bottom of what happened during President Trump's Russia/North Korea summit. In a few hours, lawmakers will get a chance to grill Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us now with more on this.

Elise, is there any expectation that Pompeo will actually give us any details on the president's private meeting with Putin?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think we'll see a little bit more detail, Ana. We'll hear a little bit about some of the things that the presidents agreed to. They're kind of a little bit mundane, such as business council, what they call Track Two process where experts from the two countries agree to meet and try and further the relationship. I think he'll also talk about some of the things he's been dripping out in some interviews about how they talked about Ukraine, they talk about Syrian refugees.

We understand chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, says that he just spoke to a European diplomat that expects that Secretary Pompeo may make a statement on Crimea, that the U.S. will never recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea as a Russian territory. You know that President Trump has said before that he considers Crimea Russian because all the people speak Russian there -- Ana?

CABRERA: Elise, we can also learn more about the ongoing negotiations with North Korea. Pompeo's been central to this ongoing back-and- forth. Where do things stand? Later this week, in fact, is when they agreed to help get some U.S. war remains back to America.

LABOTT: Yes, that's right. U.S. officials are headed there. We expect some of the remains will be transferred to the United Nations, then to the U.S. next week. They're also having working-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea about a denuclearization process. One thing an official told me is they are looking for a start date. When will the North Koreans give something to demonstrate that the denuclearization process is under way? So far we haven't heard anything about that. But I think a kind of definition of what denuclearization means to both countries, an agreement on that, and when that could start, we could hear something about that today.

[11:50:23] #; You'll be listening in from any read out that comes from that.


CABRERA: Elise Labott, thank you. We appreciate it.

Entire villages wiped off the map. This is what is happening in Greece right now. Look at these images. A huge, and actually multiple wildfires are ravaging parts of that country. Dozens are dead. More on that, next.


[11:55:25] CABRERA: Rescue crews in Greece are frantically searching homes, cars, and the coastline for survivors as the worst wildfires there in more than a decade have killed at least 80 people.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in the hard-hit seaside resort area of Mati near Athens.

Melissa, we're seeing these striking images. The stories coming out of there are just horrifying. What can you tell us?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely heart- wrenching. This was a happy seaside town just 40 kilometers east of Athens. Ana, it's essentially been wiped off the face of the earth by fires that were so strong and ferocious that they left in their wake devastation like this. And very slowly this ghost town, since it was evacuated and the scene of so many deaths is seeing survivors coming back to the ruins of their houses.

We spoke to one a moment ago who spent two and a half hours in the sea waiting to be picked up. She said, this had been paradise. It was now the ugliest place on earth. The point is that she and those who survived this did so, Ana, because

they made it down to the ocean. On that night, Monday night, the only way to survive was to make it down to the water. But you can see that because of the geography of the place, the sheer cliff faces, that were simply not possible for so many people.


BELL (voice-over): As morning breaks in Attica, a scene of utter devastation. The survivors begin to count the terrible cost, even as the search for the missing continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're sitting in the burnt houses to see if they've been abandoned or find something more.

BELL: Christiana Fugeck (ph) has come back to her home to see what's left.

CHRISTINANA FUGECK (ph), FIRE SURVIVOR: This is my burned home. The wind brought an incredible, immense fire which ruined everything. I couldn't save all my cats and dogs. My mom's house. I thought in the beginning she was dead because she managed to go to another beach.

BELL: Christiana herself only survived by taking refuge on the cliff face. But 26 people died here, locked in a final embrace.

FUGECK (ph): Unfortunately, a lot of people who were trapped, and, of course, they don't know. They're not acquainted well with this area. They saw our two doors which we left open. They came down, but there were just the last ones as the fire was approaching. It was very, very strong. They couldn't make it because they couldn't find their way out to the water. And they were strapped inside our House. That's all I can tell you.


BELL: Ana, those are the sorts of stories that are beginning to emerge as the survivors come back and tell us what they saw, tell us exactly what happened in that night when that inferno spread and destroyed the town of Mati.

For the time being, the death toll stands at a staggering 80 people who have lost their lives throughout the Attica region since Monday night. Sadly, that is likely to rise. And that is because, Ana, there are so many people who are still missing.

So what we're seeing all around this town is people going door to door trying to find either the remains of the people who died in their homes or signs of anyone who might have survived. And this, even as an investigation continues to try and work out how these fires broke out in three separate regions of Attica at the same time. Authorities have said they believe that that is deeply suspicious -- Ana?

CABRERA: Melissa Bell reporting, thank you.

New this morning, a spokeswoman for first lady, Melania Trump, is responding to "New York Times" reporting that Melania was tuned in to CNN on Air Force One and the president wasn't happy about that. East Wing communications director, Stephanie Grisham, tells our Kate Bennett the media should focus on issues important to the first lady, like enfants and neonatal abstinence syndrome or bullied children. Grisham telling CNN, quote, "Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV. Any channel she wants, by the way. Or if she heard some recording on the news."

That's going to do it for me. Thank you very much for being with us.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.