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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

CNN: Russia Steps Up Spying Efforts After Election; Trump: Russia Meddled, But "No O ne Knows for Sure"; Trump Blasts Obama for Not Stopping Russians; Trump, Putin Meet Face-to-Face Friday; How Americans See Trump's Relationship with Russia, Putin's History of Intimidation; Threat in Diplomatic Meetings. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 06, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:25] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: With the president still casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community going into his meeting with Vladimir Putin, we have breaking news about what U.S. intelligence has uncovered now, namely, still more Russian spy. CNN's Pamela Brown has the latest on that and joins us once again tonight.

Pamela, what can you tell us?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we've learned that Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence gathering efforts in the United States, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, who say they've noticed an increase since the election. So the Russians' efforts have not been slowed by the intense focus of the intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

And since the election, John, U.S. authorities have detected an uptick in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the United States under the guise of other business. Officials say they have been trying to replenish their ranks since the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying, as you'll recall last December.

And, in some cases, Russian spies have tried to gain employment at places with sensitive information as part of their intelligence gathering effort. Now, the FBI, which is responsible for counterintelligence efforts to the U.S., would not comment for the story and the Russian embassy in Washington didn't respond to our request for comment. John?

BERMAN: So if U.S. intelligence says they think this is going on, why don't they stop it?

BROWN: Well, partisan political disagreements over the Russian activity and President Donald Trump's reluctance to accept intelligence inclusions about Russia's meddling in the election. As we heard just today has slowed efforts to counter the threat, former and current officials we spoken with had said.

And we're told that counterintelligence is seeking to basically -- FBI counterintelligence is seeking to keep an eye on the activity in some of these cases. The FBI will use surveillance to track the suspected Russian intelligence officers as part of these counterintelligence efforts and that's how the U.S. was able to identify and expel 35 Russian diplomats accused of spying last December in response to Russian election meddling.

And we're told some of the Russian diplomats have violated protocol by leaving the Washington, D.C. area without notifying the State Department. That has been a big concern for those in the intelligence community. Russia, we should mention, has similar roles for our U.S. diplomats.

Another issue is the ongoing frustration with the State Department over granting of visas to people with -- that the U.S. intelligence community suspects our Russian intelligence officers. A State Department official would not comment specifically on the visas. John?

BERMAN: All right, Pamela Brown, fascinating reporting. Thanks so much.

BROWN: Thank you.

BERMAN: More now on the president's day, first in Warsaw and then in Hamburg in Germany, as he prepares for a very important Friday. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president of the United States once again contradicted the U.S. intelligence community assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody really knows, nobody really knows for sure.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At a news conference in Poland, President Trump held open the possibility that other countries were involved.

TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But even as he insisted it was not clear Moscow alone interfered in the election, the president tried to blame former President Obama for failing to stop the Russians.

TRUMP: He did nothing about it. Why did he do nothing about it? He was told it was Russia by the CIA, as I understand it. It was well reported and he did nothing about it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): While even some Democrats say the Obama administration didn't go far enough, Obama did confront Russian President Vladimir Putin directly last September and the Obama administration officially accused the Russian government of interfering in the election in October. President Trump's uncertainty on the question runs completely counter to the U.S. intelligence community's analysis.

[21:05:04] SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Do you believe that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment accurately characterized the extent of Russian activities in the 2016 election and its conclusion that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to influence our elections?





ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also issued a stern warning to North Korea over its missile launch this week.

TRUMP: I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean we're going to do them. I don't draw red lines.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But later in his speech, the president did make a course correction of his own, stating his support for NATO's Article 5, that an attack on one of the alliance members is an attack on all. A stance he declined to take on his last foreign trip.

TRUMP: To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At his next stop in Germany, the president also made sure to shake the hand of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, something they did not do during a tense meeting in the Oval Office earlier this year, although they did at other times during that White House visit.

But it's his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Friday, that the whole world will be watching. A senior administration official said it's believed this will be Mr. Trump's first ever face-to-face encounter with Putin. The president has given a range of answers on this question in the past.

TRUMP: I was in Moscow recently and I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin who could not have been nicer.

I've never met Putin.

I don't know who Putin is.

I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him.

I have no relationship with Putin. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: But if you have no relationship with Putin, then why did you say in 2013, I do have a relationship. In 2014 --

TRUMP: Because he has said nice things about me over the years.


ACOSTA: And there will be other encounters to watch here at the G20, especially any interactions between President Trump and China's President Xi. The president has complained that Xi has not done enough to reign in North Korea, but asked whether he's giving up on that relationship the president said, "Never give up."

Now as for the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin, officials say it will be a small crowd in the room, just the two leaders as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta for us in Hamburg. Thank you so much, Jim.

Perspective now on the breaking news that Pamela Brown reported as well as everything in the mix of the intel front. Congressman Jim Himes, he's a Democrat. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee from Connecticut and he joins us now.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. The breaking news from CNN tonight, Russian spies have increased their efforts to gather intelligence in the U.S. They feel emboldened to do so, we are told, because of the lack of retaliation to the 2016 election interference from both the Trump and Obama administrations. You're on the House Intelligence Committee, have you seen evidence of this?

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we haven't seen specific evidence of it but it's not at all surprising, right? I mean, you know, if you're a Russian intelligence boss, you're saying, look at the election hack caused no response from the United States president, the United States president is talking about maybe giving back those two diplomatic facilities and refuses to criticize anybody. You know, if I were a Russian intelligence boss, I would be doing all I could to get folks over here.

BERMAN: But just to be clear, you have not seen evidence of more spies coming in or increasing their activity in the United States?

HIMES: Well, I have not. But remember, the Oversight Committees are not, you know, real-time -- we don't get briefed moment by moment on what's happening. So it wouldn't surprise me a bit. But, no, I have not seen reports that there are more coming in.

BERMAN: The president's statement today, "Nobody knows for sure whether the Russians hacked the U.S. election." What's the impact of a statement like that?

HIMES: Well, you know, first of all, it's a contradiction of something that we know to be true. And, you know, Jim Comey and his testimony after he was FBI director said it in a lot more clear fashion than he could when he was FBI director. There's not any doubt that the Russians attacked not anybody else but the Russians attacked our election process.

And the problem with that statement, of course, is that it makes it very hard for the president to sit down with Vladimir Putin and go on the offensive on this issue and say we know that you did it, it cannot happen again, I'm dead serious about this. He's on global T.V. raising questions about whether it happened at all and that, of course, puts him in a terrible negotiating position, vis-a-vis a very sophisticated adversary.

BERMAN: One of the things the president said today is something he said before, that other countries could have done it as well. Again, you said on sit on the House Intelligence Committee, have you seen any evidence that any other country besides Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election?

HIMES: None. None. You know, and, you know, yes, there are other countries out there with sophisticated capabilities.

[21:10:00] The Chinese are pretty good at this stuff. They've been stealing our industrial secrets for a long time. This was an issue under the Obama administration. There are plenty of other countries out there with capabilities.

The fact is, a very serious attack occurred and I don't understand how the United States president can protect the country if he's not willing to sit down with Vladimir Putin and look him in the eye and say, I know you did this. It will stop.

BERMAN: So again, you've seen no evidence that any other country hacked into the 2016 election, the president of the United States just said today it's possible other countries did. Is he seeing different intelligence? What do you make of what he said?

HIMES: No. John, I mean, you know, we got the, you know, 400-pound guy sitting on his bed. We got, you know -- for some reason -- and I suppose I understand it. You know, I think President Trump thinks that the fact that the Russians attacked the electoral system somehow damages the standing of his own election. I get that. But he is president of the United States. He won. He should move on and he should speak in very, very clear tones about what happened.

Because, again, look, Vladimir Putin is -- that guy plays 10- dimensional chess, you know. And you just heard it previously in your broadcast. You had a statement about, you know, why did you say you had a relationship with him? Because he said nice things about me. Is that how Vladimir Putin is going to own the president of the United States in his upcoming meeting by saying a few nice things about him, unless the president can speak with great specificity and great authority that we know that it happened and must not happen again, guess what, it's going to happen again.

BERMAN: He did speak out today, clearly the president did, about what he called the destabilizing activities of Russia. That's further than he's gone before. Is he on the right track?

HIMES: Well, and credit where credit is due. He did say that. And by the way, he, very specifically, articulated our support for Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, something that he did not do in the last trip to Europe. So the man can learn and I give him credit for saying some things that will, you know, kind of allow the Germans and the rest of Europe to think that we remain on their side and that will perhaps give Vladimir Putin some pause.

But, again, on this particular issue, you know, how you go into a discussion, you know, muddying the water about whether the attack occurred or not, I just don't understand how you advance the ball in getting -- in make sure that it doesn't happen again.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thank you very, very much.

HIMES: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Just ahead, our panel weighs in on this, the breaking news on whether they think the president is still responding perhaps naively to nefarious Russian acts.

Later, more on President Putin's tactics that might not be bringing a gun to a knife fight but bringing a dog when someone you're meeting with is scared of dogs is pretty close. We'll look at all the ways that Vladimir Putin tries to get the upper hand when "360" continues.


[21:16:22] BERMAN: All right. There are two headlines from the president's statements today on Russia, they'd be something like Trump issues strongest statement yet on Russian meddling around the world and Trump again waffles on Russian meddling in 2016 election. Both are notable. The president calling out Vladimir Putin on Ukraine but saying this about election hacking.


TRUMP: I think it was Russia but I think it was probably other people and/or countries and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.

I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction. How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what, that led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess. So, it was Russia and I think it was probably others also.


BERMAN: Earlier today, former director of national intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Jim Sciutto he saw no evidence whatsoever that others weren't involved. Let's get the panel's take. Matt Lewis, Kirsten Powers, Jeffrey Lord, Robby Mook, Jen Psaki, David Gergen. Thank you one and all for being with us.

And, you know, Kirsten, this is not the first time that the president has sowed doubt about U.S. intelligence finding on the Russian election. He happened to do it overseas. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois said that's just out of bounce. You don't go to Warsaw, you know, and really, you know, cast shadow over your intelligence agency. What do you make of it?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes, I think that's true. I think you don't normally also attack a former president, which he also did, you don't normally attack the American media, which he did. So I think he was doing a lot of things that are sort of unprecedented. And in his speech, he -- which he got a lot of praise for, he did condemn Russia for their destabilizing efforts in other countries, you know. And so maybe some people read into that a little bit. He could be talking about what happened here but then, of course, you have to take the full picture which is he's back to his old story which is who knows, you know, could be a guy in pajama.

BERMAN: And, Matt Lewis, you loved the speech in Warsaw today but did that statement, "Nobody knows for sure," which he delivered, you know, an hour before, did he undermine what was otherwise, what you believe, a very positive message?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Absolutely. And, you know, there's Trump supporters get angry at the media for being critical of him and for not talking about the good things. Well, this is a case where he, and sometimes it's with tweets. In this case, it was with the press conference, but this is an example of President Trump messing up -- stepping on his own story. I would love nothing more than to sit here tonight and talk solely about what I do think was a great speech, talked about defending western civilization.

He did talk about Russia and I think he sent a clear signal to Vladimir Putin in the speech to be careful but then he sort of mixes his message with that press conference and, of course, he also undermines on foreign soil the intelligence communities. He is his own worst enemy here.

BERMAN: The thing is, he sent a clear message to Russia about destabilizing activities but he refused to include Russian meddling in U.S. election as a destabilizing activity, Jeffrey Lord.

And, again, he seemed to say, yes, Russia hacked, which is something, you know, he's been unwilling to say at times over the last several months. He said he did think Russia hack but he also says he thinks other countries probably hack, too. Well, you know, Jim Himes who sits on the intelligence committee told us he has seen no evidence of that whatsoever. James Clapper said he's seen no evidence of that whatsoever. The president seen evidence, Jeffrey, is he making it up?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, I don't think he's making it up. I think he believes it. I think he believes it. BERMAN: Because he's seen something or because he believes that just because he had to send some says, hey, I think the Chinese were hacking even though I've seen no evidence of it?

[21:20:02] LORD: When you look at his statement on the intelligence community, and I don't -- I sincerely don't think he meant it as a knock on them. I mean good lord, the media in the Bush era was all over the fact that the intelligence community said that there was -- that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and then they weren't. So I mean this is like saying the obvious here. I don't think it's meant to be a slur. He's just simply being cautious when it comes to this.

And I will say, I think Matt may be right here, that he did do a great speech today in Poland. I mean, it was just really, if I may say, Reaganesque, like a Regan speech in Westminster.

BERMAN: This is the least shocking thing that's happened today, Jeffrey Lord.

LORD: I didn't want to disappoint you.


LEWIS: Between Churchill and Regan.

LORD: Right, right. But, you know, it was a good thing to do. But I don't think -- and one of the things that would help here, at least it's my understanding and maybe you guys know better than I, whether the Democratic National Committee is withholding forensics on their server.

BERMAN: Well, look --

LORD: I mean that certainly would tell us, wouldn't it?

BERMAN: I suppose the president didn't bring that up today, Jeffrey, while he was doing that. I think that's a rabbit hole. That he isn't part of what happened today overseas.

LORD: But I mean if we find out, we -- if they do the forensics to see with some degree of accuracy who hacked, we would know, would we not? And they are withholding their servers, I understand it.

BERMAN: Well, look, you and I haven't seen the intelligence the intelligence leaders have had and they again say in no uncertain terms, they believe Russia hacked the election. President Trump now says he thinks Russia hack the election, what he says as others and CNN too, we don't know any evidence of that.

Robby, you know, how do you think this plays -- you know, we hear Jeffrey Lord sit here and talk about this. Does it play to the entire base of the Republican Party right now or President Trump's base when he talks about U.S. intelligence like this?

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think it plays to his own ego. I think what Donald Trump cares about is Donald Trump. And I think one of your earlier guests had it right, Congressman Himes. He thinks it's an attack on the legitimacy of his win. He's got to get over that.

In fact, he has an independent investigation against him by one of the toughest prosecutors in our country today because he wasn't adult enough to turn this over to acknowledge the problem and turn it over.

And I have to say, what's most damaging about this, bringing up the DNC, you know, trying to drudge up the past, we've got to solve this in a bipartisan way. And when the president does that, he undermines our country's ability to come together and solve the problem. This was an attack on all of us, all of us in this country, both parties, everyone in this room and the president is trying to divide us because that helps him feel better about his own election win. That's dangerous.

BERMAN: David Gergen, you know, again, and this is all on the eve of a giant meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. And I just want to remind you and our viewers some of the things that President Trump has said about Vladimir Putin in the past. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin who could not have been nicer.

Putin did call me a genius and he said I'm the future of the Republican Party. He's off to a good start.

I like him because he called me a genius.

He is really very much of a leader.

He said nice things about me.

I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him. I don't know anything about him other than he will respect me. If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him.

It would be nice if we get along. If we don't, we don't but it would be nice.

He could not have been nicer. He was so nice.

If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that's called an asset, not a liability.

I hope we have a fantastic relationship.

I don't love, I don't hate. We'll see how it works. We'll see.


BERMAN: So, David Gergen, how does that set the stage for this meeting tomorrow? DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REGAN & CLINTON: Well, I think that it opens up for the Russians the possible psychoanalyzing Donald Trump and how they might work with him or work against him in the Putin meeting with him tomorrow.

And namely, what we know, John, is a number of countries have been analyzing his tweets to try to figure out. If you go in and grace you ate yourself with Donald Trump right at the beginning, if you play to his narcissism, then we can say he's one of the great leaders of our time, you might be able to get concessions out of him more easily. You might get in to come around lots of things because he thinks he has a friendship that is budding there. So people are -- I think of all the people we know, the Russians will spend the most time trying to figure that out before going in.

I just want to add one thing, John. The real news out of the United States today on this Russia front was Pamela Brown's reporting about the growing number of Soviet or Russian spies who are coming into the country posing as businessmen. There are about some -- at least 150 or so right now according to the CNN reporting.

You know, it does raise a question. Do we need a travel ban on Soviet businessmen or Russia businessmen? Maybe we do. But it's a serious problem. And one more reason why the president needs to be firm and tough, tough, not be talked in, not let his ego get in the way, be tough with Putin about this meddling.

[21:25:04] BERMAN: All right, guys, stand by, Jen Psaki. We'll take a quick break. Start with you after the break on new polling and perhaps whether or not Pamela Brown's reporting that Soviet spies are coming to the country more of them now, whether that might have an impact on U.S. public opinion. Stay with us.


BERMAN: On the eve of tomorrow's Trump/Putin bilat, as it's called, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Polls suggest the majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe President Trump has done something unethical or illegal in his dealings with Russia and President Putin. Thirty-six percent say President Trump has done nothing wrong at all and 10 percent are unsure. And you'll be shocked to know this breaks down really very much so on partisan lines.

Back now with the panel, Jen Psaki, you know, those numbers, 54 percent, it is the majority of the country to say unethical or illegal, you know, but I doubt they've moved much in the last month and I doubt they'll move much in the coming months. What will convince Americans one way or the other?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what we've seen is that the fever may be breaking a little bit. Obviously, Trump supporters are with him. They probably will be with him in six months in a year, almost regardless of what happens but I think we're seeing a little bit of movement in terms of people recognizing that something doesn't feel right here. [21:30:11] So what will change it? I think as people start to focus on the fact that elections are coming, there are two gubernatorial elections coming up in November in Virginia and New Jersey, and as people have realize this could impact them. There are 36 elections -- gubernatorial elections next year, 21 states were hacked. We learned just last month.

So, I think as it starts to impact people and their lives, people are worried about their data, their financial data, their student loans, how it impacts them. And I think we're starting to see that because it's, frankly, on the news every day, on the front page of newspapers.

BERMAN: All right, one more for you, you worked in the Obama administration. President Trump today overseas brought up President Obama and what he did or in this case --

PSAKI: A favorite past time of his.

BERMAN: Well, what about that? He said, look, President Obama knew about Russian hacking and did nothing about it. President Trump had this weird quote, which says, people say President Obama choked. I don't think he choked but he did nothing. Your reaction?

PSAKI: Well, first of all, last summer when President Obama learned that there was the hacking or potential hacking that was taking place, he asked the Intelligence Committee to look into it. They did that. He took action, shortly after the election he asked them to issue a new report that came out in January that President Trump was briefed on.

The fact is, this is ongoing. What President Trump is not doing, he's placing a lot of blame on Obama but he's not addressing this ongoing attack, this ongoing effort to impact our democracy. So he's going to place a lot of blame. We're not sweating that too much.

What should be concerning to the American people, to Democrats but certainly Republicans, too, is that this effort could impact our elections in November, next November, special elections. Their efforts are ongoing. We learned that from Pamela Brown's reporting and he's doing nothing to stop it.

BERMAN: You know, Robby, as you sit here, when you hear President Trump say President Obama did nothing about this, you know, President Obama, some say he choked, you obviously were in the middle of this all. So, I guess what is it going to be like to see that?

MOOK: Well, I think what is fair is for all of us to ask what would we do differently, right? And I know, now that we have a benefit of a lot more intelligence that I would have done things differently, right? And I'm sure President Obama would have as well.

I would hope that Donald Trump would have done things differently, like he wouldn't have called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails. But again, that's where -- I just think the president is putting this debate in completely the wrong place. And look, the other thing I'll say is, this is sort of hidden in today. Think of the opportunity the president has to bring the entire world together around this North Korea situation, right? This is potentially the most dangerous situation we've seen since the Cuban missile crisis, since 9/11. The president should be rallying the free world. We're talking about Russia e-mail hacking in the last election.

It's an enormous missed opportunity. So I just think he's misguided on a number of levels here and, again, I think it just comes back to him. He's got to let it go, he's got lead the people and not protect his own ego.

BERMAN: You know, Kirsten Powers, we're less than 12 hours away now from all of this happening. What will you be looking at tomorrow as this all unfolds?

POWERS: I mean I don't know. There's always this hope that he's going to do what Robby was just describing, right? That there will be some sort pivot towards, you know, being a leader and actually trying to unite. But I think if you look at today, yes, he read a speech from the teleprompter that, you know, was a pretty good speech.

But when he is sort of left to his own devices, he does go back to his basic personality, which is just to attack the media, to complain about President Obama. To not really behave in a real leader-like way and to complain -- look, he's complaining about President Obama not doing enough but he's done nothing, right? So it doesn't even really make sense.

It's like he's on the one hand claiming, he doesn't even know if it happened. And on the other hand, he's complaining that President Obama didn't do enough to combat it.

BERMAN: Matt Lewis, quickly, rate of one to 10, likelihood that President Trump surprises us all and brings up Russian election meddling tomorrow with President Putin?

LEWIS: I think it's at least 50-50. I think there's a decent chance he brings it up and it would surprise us and he might do it because we don't think he's going to do it.

BERMAN: And it could be politically speaking, it's hard to see what the political risks of the whole thing are, which makes it even more surprise --

LEWIS: And he likes to keep -- he doesn't like to telegraph what he's going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unpredictability.

BERMAN: Unpredictability. Is he going to talk about it tomorrow?

LORD: I don't know. But I think he does this deliberately.

BERMAN: Should he?

LORD: Maybe.

BERMAN: More than -- you nodded yes. He should bring it up tomorrow?

LORD: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Lord, you heard him say it right there.

LORD: And just say flat things for not doing it.

BERMAN: It would be interesting to see. Jeffrey Lord wants the president to bring up Russian election meddling tomorrow. You hear it here -- you heard it here first I should say.

All right, there is disagreement of whether it's better for President Trump to make nice with Vladimir Putin in hopes of having a better relationship with Russia or keep the former intelligence official at arm's length. We'll get into all of that with some experts coming up.


[21:38:48] BERMAN: Russian meddling in the U.S. election aside, the relationship between President Trump and Vladimir Putin is important right now because the two super powers are working, if not together, at least on the same issues, on Syria, North Korea to name just two. But the question remains whether President Putin is better as a friend or foe.

Joining us now tonight to dig in, Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies politics at NYU and Princeton and CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

So, Fareed, you've described Vladimir Putin as the most powerful man in the world right now. Can Russia be a reliable partner to the United States right now? Do you think there's any room for real cooperation?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I do think there's room for real cooperation. Look, the most important thing to understand about Putin I think is he's a Russian nationalist. He's not, you know, a rogue actor. He's very intelligent, he's very purposeful and has a view of Russia's interests that is very logical and consistent.

So what the United States has to do is not believe it can charm Vladimir Putin, you know, serving him chocolate cake and things like that. The idea would be to ask where do those interests intersect and at least theoretically, there are many points of intersection, on Syria, for example. And in general the Russians have many shared interests, whether it's with Islamic terrorism, whether it's with North Korea. They don't want instability either.

[21:40:06] The big problem for the Trump administration is, of course, the -- they've put themselves in a box where they can't seem too cooperative, they can't seem too hostile so they've ended up being paralyzed. And for some reason, particularly on Ukraine, I noticed that Trump refuses to be very tough, even in this last speech there was a couple of lines about it, he didn't mention Crimea at all. So the challenge I think that Trump has is to find those areas for practical cooperation. I think if he can find them, Putin is willing to deal. But first, we need a Russia policy which means Trump has to get out of his defensive crouch about the, you know, the election interference.

BERMAN: Professor, you actually say this could be the most dangerous times, perhaps the most dangerous time in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including, I think, the Cuban missile crisis, you said. You know, why? And how much of that is on Vladimir Putin?

STEPHEN COHEN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF RUSSIAN STUDIES & POLITICS, PRINCETON: Well, let's start with the objective reality. I saying, we've argued about this before. This may be the most dangerous moment in Russia relations because we're in a new cold war.

ZAKARIA: You've said that for a few years, so I don't know whether it still applies.

COHEN: I have said it for a few years and you could say I was pressing --

ZAKARIA: Or that it hasn't happened.

COHEN: Well, you know, I -- but here's the difference. Unlike in the last cold war, we have three cold war fronts that are fought with hot water, Ukraine, the Baltic region and Syria. So this is exceedingly dangerous.

We've had a lot of summits between American and Russian leaders. I actually participated in a few of them. I have followed them. But this is both, in some ways, the most unusual and the most dangerous, and the most important for better or worse. Fareed alluded to this. It's absolutely clear what Putin wants. I mean, he says it every day, there's no mystery.

We think we know what President Trump wants because he said repeatedly wouldn't it be great to cooperate with Russia and we know the agenda first and foremost is terrorism in Syria. But Trump is a crippled president because of these Russiagate series of allegations.

And so you mentioned the Cuban missile crisis and we all give Kennedy tribute from getting his ally (ph) that cruelly, correct? We don't disagree. But imagine if Kennedy, faced with these Russian missile -- Soviet missiles in Cuba had been accused daily of somehow being an agent of the Kremlin, he would have had no room to negotiate.

So what worries me, even if Trump knows what the right thing to do is, we can debate that, is it free to do it because of the political situation?

ZAKARIA: But that is -- it's when he's created -- it's his own making. If he has simply said we're going to hand this over to an independent commission from the start and I'm -- neither I nor any member of my administration is going to make any public comment on it until that investigation is done. He would be free because he keeps contradicting U.S. intelligence, because he keeps refusing to accept it, because he keeps saying things, you know, he -- this is a problem of his own making.

BERMAN: Let me ask both of you, because of you both seem to agree. Hang on one second. Both of you seem to agree on what Vladimir Putin wants. Stephen, or Professor, do you think President Trump understands what Vladimir Putin wants? Have you seen any evidence of that?

COHEN: One of the things that concerns me and I don't mean to denigrate anyone and Fareed probably knows better that I do. I'm not confident that there are people around Trump knowledgeable enough and willing enough to give him good advice on how to, "cooperate with Russia."

Regan wasn't sure either when he decided to cooperate with Gorbachev, but he knew who to put around him, and he put good people around him.

BERMAN: Do you think President Trump is capable of making it a better relationship?

COHEN: Yes. Why not? He's not a stupid man. His instinct toward cooperation seems to be there. And Russia though, and we don't have time, Putin has his own politics. You know, there is deep suspicion in Moscow at the highest levels of any arrangement that Putin makes with the Americans because in Moscow's eyes, we have broken our promise to one Russian -- one American president after another since Clinton, have broken the promises to Russia. They don't trust us.

BERMAN: Last word, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: There is politics in Russia but it is a politics that has allowed Vladimir Putin to rule this country since 2001 and it appears to allow him to rule for another 15 years. That's a strange kind of politics which allows you to bizarre for 30 years.

BERMAN: All right, Fareed Zakaria, Professor Stephen Cohen, thanks so much for being with us.

Up next, see how Vladimir Putin plays hardball at meetings like the one tomorrow beyond even bringing a dog when your counterpart is afraid of him?


[21:43:37] BERMAN: When President Trump sits down with Russia's President Vladimir Putin tomorrow at the G20 summit, he won't be dealing with a typical politician. The former KGB officer has a history of intimidation and threats beyond typical political maneuvering. CNN's Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Vladimir Putin back in 2007, they were not alone. The Russian president brought along his big black Labrador, even though Merkel was afraid of dogs. She's been attacked by a dog back in 1995. She sat with her hands in her lap clearly uncomfortable while the Russian president seemed to smirk.

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, RUSSIA EXPERT: It was absolutely a power play, it was an intimidation tactic. This is a way of showing that the Russian people, hey, I'm a powerful man, I'm a manly man.

KAYE (voice-over): Years later, Putin tried to explain to a German newspaper, "I wanted to do something nice for her. When I found out she doesn't like dogs, of course I apologized."

ROJANSKY: It's well known that Putin is a former KGB officer and in that role he was trained to be a handler of people. What that means in an espionage context is of course exploiting people's vulnerabilities but also their desires, their ambitions, their insecurities to achieve your objectives and that's not always to shame that person. It's not always to have dominance, but it's to advance your interests.

[21:50:00] KAYE (voice-over): This wasn't Putin's only apparent ploy involving a dog. Former President George W. Bush shared a story recently, about how Putin, "Dissed his dog, Barney."

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin says, would you like to meet my dog? Laura and I are with Putin in his dacha outside of Moscow. I said, yeah, I like to meet him. And out comes a giant hound kind of loping across the birch-lined yard, and Putin looks at me and says bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney.

And, you know, it speaks volumes when you listen to what somebody says. And so in other words, he's got a chip on his shoulder.

ROJANSKY: Putin, at the end of day, is a human being. He's certainly has his ego, he's got his insecurities.

KAYE (on camera): Putin is also well known for keeping important people waiting for a long time. In 2014, he left Germany's Angela Merkel waiting more than four hours to see him. He kept the prime ministers of Japan and Ukraine each waiting three hours. He even made the Pope wait almost an hour. The waiting game, it seems, is just part of the power play.

ROJANSKY: It puts them in a position of being appreciative of that time, and automatically taking Putin more seriously, even if they are actually there to chide Putin or to try to pressure him into changing his views.

KAYE (voice-over): In a meeting with Putin back in 2011, then Vice President Joe Biden referenced to conversation he'd had with the Georgian prime minister. Putin's response seemed to hint that Russia had eavesdropped on that conversation. His response to Biden according to the "Washington Post" was, "We know exactly what you're saying." Biden reportedly laughed. Putin did not.

And in 2007, Putin may have succeeded at unnerving the president of France. In a documentary that aired on French public broadcasting, a journalist said Putin berated Nicolas Sarkozy in a private meeting, leaving Sarkozy visibly shaken for his press conference that followed.

ROJANSKY: And this is, again, a way of setting a tone in a relationship where, you know, if you have anything resembling empathy for the story that he tells, you kind of feel like you owe them something, what are we going to do to make up for it, how to we apologize, how do we make it right?

KAYE (voice-over): Vladimir Putin's power play, his next target could be President Donald Trump.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: All right, lots to discuss now with an expert on each president, Ben Judah is author of "Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out of Love with Vladimir Putin." And Michael D'Antonio is a CNN contributor, author of "The Truth about Trump."

And, Ben, I want to start with you here, knowing what you know about Vladimir Putin, which direction do you expect him to go in tomorrow? Are we talking about a power play intimidation here or maybe flattery?

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE": I think it's very important to remember that Vladimir Putin is hugely experienced in meeting and dealing with world leaders. Vladimir Putin first started meeting the western ruling class when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the early '90s and got a chance to meet (INAUDIBLE) Cole, Ronald Reagan, Jacques Sha Rack (ph).

He's met Tony Blair, Clinton, Obama, Bush, and judging by the modes that he has. I think the first meeting he had with Bush is possibly one of the more illustrative in which Putin went for a very hard seduction on Bush, trying to use his Christian faith to manipulate him much to the alarm of his aides. Telling him many stories about a little golden cross that he claimed to have had to save from burning dacha and had been a gift from his mother.

BERMAN: So you think perhaps more the charm route tomorrow in this first meeting. Michael, what about you? Obviously, President Trump likes to fashion himself as a big negotiator here, but we see a fighter or a charmer on his side?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: Oh, I think he'll try to be charming. That's usually his set point in an encounter with someone he hasn't met before. And despite what President Trump has said over the years he's never actually met Vladimir Putin, never dealt with him face-to-face.

But I also think it's important to remember that there are really three presences in this meeting. One is the Russian interest which is represented by Putin. The second is America's interest, which is represented by President Trump, but the third interest is Donald Trump's ego.

I think Vladimir Putin will have the ability to set aside his own feelings and he'll have a purpose that is nationalistic and pretty set. I think in Donald Trump, we have a person who's already capitulated in a way by having this meeting in the first place and the second part of this is that he is far more wounded and far more vulnerable than Vladimir Putin is and will have a need to satisfy. He wants to be recognized by Putin far more than Putin needs to be recognized by Trump.

BERMAN: Interesting. And Ben, you know that one of the best analyses of Vladimir Putin might be a KGB assessment of Putin and that's what the U.S. should be looking at right now to get some direction. Explain.

[21:55:10] JUDAH: Well, this is one of the more fascinating documents that exist on Vladimir Putin. When Vladimir Putin was sort of training to sort of join the elites of the KGB to participate in Foreign Service, an assessment done on him found that he was not at all vulnerable to flattery or women or drink, but he was very vulnerable to a lowered awareness of danger.

And what does that mean? It means rushing into conflicts or situations without having properly mapped out how dangerous these could be for you as an agent or perhaps, indeed, as a world leader.

BERMAN: He doesn't know when he's in trouble, in other words. Michael, just a bit of time left here. You do think that President Trump may draw a line when it comes to Syria?

D'ANTONIO: I think he may. And I actually think President Trump may recognize that he has an opportunity here. This is if he has capitulated by having this meeting, he now has an opportunity to show himself to be forceful. Syria is probably one place where he can both be direct but also seeks out accommodation, the shared interests that he talked about during the campaign when he said, wouldn't it be great if we got along?

So, let's hope from America's point of view that the president sees an opportunity here, has the presence of mind to put forward our interests and make something happen.

BERMAN: It will be fascinating to watch. Ben Judah, Michael D'Antonio, fascinating perspective. Thanks so much. We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Thanks so much for watching "360." I'm John Berman. Time now to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: New developments in the Russia story.

This is "CNN TONIGHT." I'm Don Lemon.

CNN learning that Vladimir Putin's spies are digging even deeper into this country since the election.