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New Book Details Donald Trump's Takeover Of The Republican Party; WikiLeak's Julian Assange Turned Ecuadorian Embassy Into Command Post; Missing Camper Found Alive In California. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), (2015 INTERVIEW): I want to talk to the Trump supporters for a minute. I don't know who you are and I don't know why you like this guy.

I think what you like about him -- he appears to be strong and the rest of us are weak. He's a very successful businessman and he's going to make everything great. He's going to take all the problems of the world and put them in a box and make your life better. That's what he's selling.

Here's what you're buying. He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn't represent my party. He doesn't represent the values --


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, back with us is Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent at "POLITICO" and author of "American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump".

Does anything capture, Tim, what the Republican Party -- the spectrum that they have gone through from criticizing Donald Trump -- that was just three and a half years ago that Lindsey Graham felt that way -- to now, just complete defender, and friend, and champion of Donald Trump? You can see it -- Lindsey Graham, to me, personifies what you're talking about in your book about what the Republican Party has had to do in terms of embracing him.

TIM ALBERTA, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN CARNAGE: ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE REPUBLICAN CIVIL WAR AND THE RISE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP", CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: It's almost like that was happening in an alternate universe, right? That we have traveled back in time.

You know, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio called the president a conman, and unfit for office, and immoral. Ted Cruz called him --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Short-fingered.

ALBERTA: -- called him -- yes, short-fingered vulgarian. CAMEROTA: By a magazine.

ALBERTA: Yes, just by a magazine, he said.

Ted Cruz -- obviously, we know their history -- said that he was a pathological liar.

Rick Perry, a cabinet member, said that he was a cancer on conservatism.

I mean, we could go up and down the list here.

The fact of the matter is that in politics, self-preservation trumps everything else, no pun intended. And for most of these folks, they made a calculation pretty immediately. And when I say pretty immediately, I mean like around 2:30 in the morning on November ninth, 2016 that they had better get on the Trump train or get off the tracks because it was going to run them over.

And they've all, pretty uniformly, made the same decision. And those who haven't -- you know, Jeff Flake, Mark Sanford, Justin Amash -- you're out, right? It's that simple.

And this is what I was getting to a minute ago in terms of the fault lines being redefined. The party -- it is really a binary choice for these folks at this point. You are with the president.

And more so, I should emphasize, you are with the president's base because it's not just that they're afraid of Trump, personally -- and many of them are -- they see that Trump has achieved this sort of supernatural connection with the Republican base.

And for a lot of these folks -- it's worth remembering that in 2018, a lot of your more moderate, suburban-based congressional Republicans were wiped out. And so, what the party is left with at this point folks is this disproportionately white, working-class, exurban and rural --

BERMAN: And evangelical, when you talk about it.

ALBERTA: And evangelical, yes -- and evangelical Republican base.

And these are the members of Congress -- when they go home, they're constituents are crazy about Trump. So it's not just a matter of crossing Trump, it's a matter of crossing your own constituents, which is much more than these members of Congress are willing to do.

BERMAN: All right. I'm a campaign junkie and there's a lot in here that I didn't know about the 2016 campaign even though I covered every single day.

Let me just read one Ted Cruz quote and then -- and then get into more Ted Cruz issues on this idea of flip-flopping on Trump.

Ted Cruz did not endorse the president at the convention in Cleveland. He refused to support him and he "...told confidantes there was no way in hell he was prepared to subjugate himself to Trump in front of tens of millions of viewers. 'History isn't kind to the man who holds Mussolini's jacket,' Cruz told friends in 2016."

First of all, that's a hell of a quote.

He's come around, obviously, to Donald Trump. Yet -- and this is the part I wasn't aware of that you write about -- he lives with regret about the campaign. He really feels that he could have beaten Donald Trump perhaps if not for -- you point out three instances there -- but it just drives him crazy. He can't sleep at night.

ALBERTA: And look, at least he's honest about it, right? And the senator and I had a very long conversation for the book and we had a couple of glasses of wine and to his credit, he was really candid.

He said, "Look, I lost this race probably for three reasons."

Number one was the Ben Carson shenanigans in Iowa where his campaign was accused of playing dirty tricks and essentially, sent out this alert to all these caucusgoers in Iowa implicating -- indicating, rather, that Ben Carson would be dropping out of the race when, in fact, he had not said as much. And so that, you know, obviously played right into the perception of "Lyin' Ted" as Donald Trump had called him.

The second moment that Cruz viewed as pivotal and was never really reported until the book was that Ted Cruz had made an outreach to Marco Rubio to join forces to take down Donald Trump together.

Rubio was on the ropes. He was about to drop out of the race and Cruz threw him a lifeline and said look, the two of us together, we can beat Trump.

If we form a ticket, these two young, bright, Hispanic stars of the party, we sort of operate in different worlds. We come from sort of different spectrums. I'm more of a, you know, Tea Party here on fire guy. You're a little bit more friendly with the establishment.

We could cobble together a hell of a coalition and we could beat Trump together.

[07:35:00] So they had this whole meeting set up. Mike Lee, of Utah, their colleague, was set to broker this meeting. He rented out this penthouse, very private, in a hotel room in Miami to have this sort of Mafioso gathering to bring the families together and Rubio stood Cruz up at the last minute.

And, Cruz told me, when I lay awake at night thinking about 2016, that is the moment in my mind I cannot get over. I should have gone to his hotel. I should have banged on the door.

CAMEROTA: Why did he stand him up?

ALBERTA: Because Rubio he realized he just wasn't interested. Rubio told me -- "Look, when you spend a year and a half of your life campaigning for president and you know that you're about to drop out, the last thing you want to do is go be somebody else's vice president. You don't want to go play second fiddle to somebody else."

BERMAN: But, Cruz is convinced -- that's the part about it that I really didn't know. He is convinced he would have beaten Trump had Rubio joined him.

ALBERTA: Totally convinced.

And then, the third thing I should just add quickly, also never reported until the book, a fascinating scene just before -- the week before Cruz drops out of the race, he and John Kasich have a private top-secret meeting in California. They were both there for the state's Republican Convention.

So they meet in this small little conference room at a hotel by the airport and Cruz sits down with Kasich and says, "Look, John, you've only won one state and it was your home state. Respectfully, you're not going to win this nomination.

And if you are really invested in preventing Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee, you need to drop out of this race. One of us has to or else he is on a glide path to the nomination."

And, Kasich says, "Ted, I am going all the way to the convention in Cleveland. Nothing you can say is going to change my mind about that."

So a couple of days later, Cruz drops out of the race after losing the Indiana primary. And the next morning, John Kasich is on the tarmac in Columbus, Ohio getting ready to fly to D.C. for a big fundraiser. And Kasich says, "You know what? Cruz got out, I'm going to get out, too."

And when Cruz found out about this -- I talked to people who were with him that day -- they were worried for his health. They said he looked like he might just collapse.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's just one of the anecdotes in the great book, "American Carnage". It's been great to talk to you. Thank so much for all of the reporting and sharing it with us.

ALBERTA: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

BERMAN: It really is terrific. Go buy it now.

Relief in a California town after a missing camper is found.




BERMAN: Her stunning survival story is next.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. Plus, a CNN exclusive. How Julian Assange turned an embassy into an

election-hacking headquarters. We go inside and that's ahead.


[07:41:23] CAMEROTA: Now, to a CNN exclusive for you.

Surveillance reports and other materials just obtained by CNN reveal how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned Ecuador's embassy into an election-meddling command post in 2016.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in Washington with the exclusive. This is fascinating, Alex.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Alisyn. This is a remarkable collection of material that really shows in a way we haven't seen before just how Julian Assange lived at the Ecuadorian embassy for all those seven years. And more importantly, how he coordinated the WikiLeaks business of releasing these tens of thousands of stolen e-mails from Russian hackers.

Now, these new documents, photos, and video were obtained exclusively by our colleagues at CNN en Espanol and when it's all matched up with what we know from the Mueller report, this all paints a really damning picture of how Assange interfered in the 2016 election.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Ecuador's embassy in London turned into a command post for WikiLeaks. At its helm, the Web site's founder, Julian Assange, who was living there in political asylum.

In stunning new detail, hundreds of security reports, videos, and photos obtained exclusively by CNN and verified by an Ecuadorian intelligence official describe how Assange released stolen Democratic e-mails directly from the embassy and who he met with -- world-class hackers and Russians tied to the Kremlin.

The explosive material, when lined up with the time line in the Mueller report, paints a striking picture of how Assange orchestrated the game-changing document dumps from just a few rooms in the embassy.

The exclusively-obtained surveillance reports show that the WikiLeaks founder, who had been given asylum in 2012, wielded enormous power in the building, rivaling even the ambassadors with whom he would regularly clash. As these exclusive security photos show, he even got physical with the embassy guards.

The documents describe how Assange demanded and got high-speed Internet, phones -- even a special guest list that allowed certain visitors to not show identification or be searched.

Even as it hosted him, Ecuador hired three different security companies to carry out surveillance of Assange, including Spain-based UC Global, which compiled the reports obtained by CNN. The never-before-seen cache of documents says Assange installed his own recording devices and used sound machines so he couldn't be listened to, all of which may have played a role in his election interference.

Assange has denied working for the Kremlin or receiving the stolen e- mails from Russia. WikiLeaks did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is temperamentally unfit to hold an office.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): It was June of 2016. Trump and Hillary Clinton were the de facto nominees and it was looking like it was going to be a bitter election.

DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): That month, according to the Mueller report, WikiLeaks communicated secretly with unidentified online personas who turned out to be Russian hackers.

Meanwhile, the number of visits paid to Assange at the embassy dramatically picked up. The reports obtained exclusively obtained by CNN show one frequent visitor was this man, Andrew Muller-Maguhn, a hacker whom the special counsel wrote, "...may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks."

ANDREW MULLER-MAGUHN, MEMBER, GERMAN HACKER ASSOCIATION CHAOS COMPUTER CLUB: If you look at the Internet from the perspective of people in power --

[07:45:00] MARQUARDT (voice-over): Muller-Maguhn had appeared on Assange's short-lived show on RT, the Russian T.V. network that gets its marching orders from the Kremlin.

The security logs show that RT's London bureau chief, Nikolai Bogachikhin, also visited that month, twice. And during one visit that lasted only five minutes, he gave Assange a USB drive.

Bogachikhin defended his visits to Assange, telling CNN, "RT has produced multiple programming featuring Mr. Assange. Within that process, everything that is intrinsically involved in the production of content took place."

Muller-Maguhn declined to comment to CNN but told "The Washington Post" he never had the hacked materials before they were released.

But, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded RT actively collaborated with WikiLeaks, playing a significant role in Russia's efforts to help Trump win, which RT denies.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN": Russian hackers have breached the computer network of the Democratic National Committee. MARQUARDT (voice-over): On June 14th, 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked and accused Russia of being responsible. Trump dismissed allegations of Russian involvement, instead suggesting the DNC hacked itself.

Five days later, according to the exclusive documents, Assange got new equipment for data transmission. The embassy's security attache even helped install it.

On July sixth, WikiLeaks reached out to the Russian hackers who used the names Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks. "Those are covers," the Mueller report says, "for Russian military intelligence."

"The Democratic National Convention is approaching," WikiLeaks warned the Russians, "and Clinton will solidify Bernie Sanders supporters behind her."

Eight days later, the group received encrypted files, according to the Mueller report, with the name "big archive." That same day, Assange met again for more than four hours with Muller-Maguhn, one of at least a dozen times they met at the embassy before the election, according to the security reports.

On the day the Republican National Convention kicks off, the security photos show a man in a mask and sunglasses arriving at the embassy. A guard left his post and collected a package. The documents suggest this was an arranged meeting.

It's unclear whether that was related to a message sent the same day, July 18th, when WikiLeaks told the Russian hackers, according to the Mueller report, that they received the files and would release them "this week."

PROTESTERS: Hell, no, DNC. We won't vote for Hillary.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Four days later, WikiLeaks released a trove of stolen files and all hell breaks loose. More than 20,000 e-mails from the DNC showing the preference of top officials for Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

When the Democratic Convention opened it was consumed by chaos.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Everybody settle down, please.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The DNC chair had to step down and Trump pounced.

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): As the election entered its final weeks, Russia, according to Mueller, wrote WikiLeaks offering more files. "You won't be disappointed," the hackers wrote.

After receiving several files from the Russian hackers in the immediate days prior, WikiLeaks started posting 50,000 e-mails stolen from Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, revealing infighting and bickering.

JOHN PODESTA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: If this was about transparency, then put them all out. So, they're dribbling them out.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Mueller's team suspects that transfer took place on September 19th, the same day Assange met again with hacker Andrew Muller-Maguhn, according to the security reports.

In the last month before the election, WikiLeaks released batch after batch of Podesta's e-mails.

TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks -- I love WikiLeaks.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Transcripts of Clinton's paid speeches to Wall Street, staffers criticizing her terrible instincts.

TRUMP: WikiLeaks -- this WikiLeaks is unbelievable.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The U.S. government decided to get involved, according to a U.S. official and documents obtained by CNN, warning Ecuador stop Assange or there will be consequences. Just three weeks before the election, Ecuador cut Assange off. No more phones, Internet or guests.

Shortly after, the embassy relented on guest restrictions and at 1:00 a.m. on October 19th, the security materials obtained by CNN show two WikiLeaks staffers showed up and took away about 100 hard drives. Security guards wanted to examine the hard drives but they couldn't. The WikiLeaks personnel were on the special list of people not to be searched.

One of the Ecuadorian ambassadors who worked at the embassy during Assange's stay told CNN he was never pressured by his government to give Assange special treatment.

But this past April, Assange's world came crashing down. The asylum, his lifeblood, was taken away by Ecuador's new president, citing his participation in U.S. election meddling. British police carried him out of the embassy.

[07:50:05] JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: The U.K. has no civility.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): And the U.S. Justice Department unsealed secret charges, but not for anything related to the election. Instead, it was for soliciting and publishing classified Pentagon materials in 2010. Assange maintains his innocence.

And right on cue, Russia came to Assange's defense. Top officials accusing the U.S. of violating his rights, saying, "The hand of democracy squeezes the throat of freedom."


MARQUARDT: Julian Assange is currently in a British prison awaiting his U.S. extradition hearing. That's due to take place next February in 2020, almost a year after he was arrested. John, the extradition process is expected to be long, and grueling, and complicated.

If U.S. prosecutors get their hands on him, there is a long list of charges, including 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing those classified Pentagon documents, meaning he could spend the rest of his life in prison -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Alex Marquardt, a fascinating, detailed report there. Thank you so much for that and congratulations to the whole team that put that together.

Joining me now is Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent and a CNN law enforcement analyst.

And, Josh, we were watching this together and you said what this report shows is that Julian Assange was, essentially, running an intelligence operation outside of the inside of the Ecuadorian embassy.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Yes, this is stunning reporting -- getting access to these documents, this video footage, seeing these people coming and going.

I think what this does is that it helps further destroy this narrative that somehow Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were operating in the spirit of transparency.

Now, this is an organization with a very complicated past.

You go back to the Chelsea Manning documents and obviously, WikiLeaks was in operation before that. They were essentially telling the world that our goal is to ensure that governments don't have these secrets -- that they're not hiding things from the public. They're pushing this information out.

I was inside the FBI and Intelligence Community whenever this happened. We looked at this and stared at this and realized that this was a threat to national security. I was part of the task force that went through and tried to determine -- OK, what -- is there a damage assessment that we need to do and what was the impact? And I can tell you there was damage to national security.

That said, we also learned that the U.S. government overclassifies information. So at that point, people could -- good people could debate the spirit of what WikiLeaks was doing.

That notion, now, is destroyed because you couple this great reporting today with the Mueller report, volume one. So much focus has been on obstruction but I think we should still focus on volume one. We see that Robert Mueller indicating that Julian Assange, in 2015, had indicated a preference for the GOP to win the election.

If you're operating in the spirit of transparency, yet you're weighing in and trying to determine -- OK, we want -- we want a particular candidate to win, there goes this notion of transparency.

As you mentioned, he was using that embassy as a platform to help the Russians conduct information warfare.

BERMAN: In all the meetings -- yes, with hackers but also with RT.


BERMAN: What is RT?

CAMPBELL: RT -- so RT bills itself as a media network. It's nothing more than a Russian propaganda outlet. It's funded by the Russian government. They use it, obviously, to spread messaging around the world.

And again, this goes back to that notion that you have Julian Assange and WikiLeaks saying that we operate fairly. Our goal is just to get information out.

When you sideling up to these kind of people and, again, coming -- you know, coming and going, passing information along, knowing that that information has a -- there's a possibility that it's going to be used to throw an election, how can you say that you're operating in the spirit of transparency? So, there's that part.

Also, we know, again, looking at the Mueller report, that there was timing issues there as well. On the day that the "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" tape was released -- we all remember that -- the Mueller report states in volume one, less than an hour after that came out, WikiLeaks started dumping stolen Democratic e-mails, which means they already it. They would have known that this would help throw a narrative. They were operating with the intention to help throw the election.

BERMAN: I will say if transparency is your goal, carting away 100 hard drives never to be seen again, a little incongruous.

CAMPBELL: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Josh Campbell, great to have you here with us. Thank you very much.

Up next, how a camper who was lost in the woods for days was found with the help of her dog.


[07:58:15] CAMEROTA: OK, here's an incredible survival story. A missing California woman found alive after a desperate 4-day search.

Sheryl Powell and her husband were camping last week when the 60-year- old woman and her dog vanished. This morning, we are happy to report they are both safe.

CNN's Dan Simon has the latest from San Francisco. What happened, Dan?


First of all, usually, these stories have tragic endings. This one does not.

On Friday, 60-year-old Sheryl Powell and her husband went on a camping trip in the Inyo National Forest. She went to take her dog on a little bathroom break while her husband moved the car. And lo and behold, Sheryl is missing.

They were experienced hikers. Her husband had a satellite phone which he used to call authorities. Well, for four days authorities searched far and wide for Sheryl and it turns out she was found about two miles from where she originally went missing and where her dog was found earlier.

Sheryl spoke out just a few minutes ago on ABC. Take a look.


SHERYL POWELL, SURVIVED IN THE WOODS FOR FOUR DAYS: All of a sudden, some guy pops out from behind a tree or something. He'd been observing me and it was scary. I just was really very nervous about the fact that he was threatening to do my dog harm.

I just realized I wasn't sure where I was because I'd been running out of fear. And when I did realize that I was in another canyon -- I ended up in completely another canyon than my family was -- I knew how horrible it must be for them.


SIMON: Yes, scary stuff. She says she was threatened by a man with a knife and just ran, and that's how she got lost.

Well, apparently, she survived in those four days in the wilderness on cactus fruit and whatever water she could find. The good news is she seems to be OK. She was a little dehydrated.

And, John and Alisyn, we'll send it back to you. And the dog is OK as well. Back to you.

BERMAN: Fantastic. Good news on the dog. Great news for that family.