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Trump Now Talking About Second Putin Summit; Senate Votes 98-0 Against Putin Proposal; Homeland Security Secretary Backpedals Remark about Election Meddling. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Second summit. President Trump says the summit with Vladimir Putin was such a great success that he wants another one. And now the White House says talks are underway for Russia's president to come to Washington this fall.

[17:00:22] "I don't know." The director of national intelligence, caught by surprise at the news of a second summit, as he admits -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't know what happened in the first meeting." Why is the top spy chief in the United States in the dark?

Ninety-eight to nothing. A day after saying President Trump was weighing what he called "an incredible offer" from Russia to interrogate Americans, the White House now says the president disagrees with the proposal. But the damage is done, as an outraged U.S. Senate votes 98-0 to reject it.

And the evidence. The former director of national intelligence says Donald Trump was told before his inauguration that Putin personally ordered the attacks on the U.S. election. Now the ex-intel chief says, "I really do wonder if the Russians have something on him."

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, the White House says discussions are now underway for a second summit and that President Trump is taking steps to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this fall.

That comes as there's still lots of confusion about the first summit three days ago. The director of national intelligence says even he doesn't know what happened behind closed doors. And the U.S. Senate votes 98-0 to reject a Russian proposal to interrogate Americans.

I'll speak with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, there are now plans for a second summit, even amid the mass rush to clean up the president's comments from the first summit. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf.

That announcement from the White House. Certainly, it's the biggest sign yet that the president is, indeed, doubling down on his new relationship with the Russian president, not acknowledging at all any mistakes made earlier in the week, which really has shaped the narrative from that Helsinki summit.

But Wolf, extraordinary comments tonight from the top spy chief, Dan Coates, as you said. And on that second summit, he was told about it onstage in Aspen at a security forum. Before that, he said he knew nothing about it.


ZELENY (voice-over): The U.S. Intelligence chief saying tonight he had to correct President Trump's incorrect claim Russia had no role in attacking American democracy.

DAN COATES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It was important to take that stand on behalf of the intelligence community and on behalf of the American people.

ZELENY: Dan Coats, the president's hand-picked director of national intelligence, said American leaders must speak forcefully about Russia's ongoing threat to U.S. elections.

COATS: It's undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this. Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine our basic values that divide us with our allies. They are the ones that are trying to wreak havoc over our election process. We need to call them out on that. It's critical that we do so.

ZELENY: At a security forum in Aspen, Coats also said it was a mistake for Trump to meet privately with Vladimir Putin.

COATS: If he had asked me if that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role.

ZELENY: The extraordinary comments came as Trump invited Putin to the White House for a second meeting, amid another major reversal from the Helsinki summit. Trump now saying he disagrees with Putin's request for the Russian government to interrogate Americans. He changed his tune after a loud bipartisan backlash, including a stinging rebuke from the Senate only three days after he praised Putin's idea at the Helsinki summit.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer.

ZELENY: What the president twice called incredible on Monday was still being considered yesterday at the White House.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is going to meet with his team, and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that.

ZELENY: Even as the State Department rejected the idea.

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd, the fact that they want to question 11 American citizens.

ZELENY: For the third straight day, the West Wing scrambled to clean up, clarify and correct contradicting aspects of the Trump-Putin summit. The White House pulled the plug on allowing Moscow to question certain Americans, including Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russian, and American-born financier Bill Browder, who lobbied the U.S. government to impose new sanctions.

Speaking to CNN's Kate Bolduan, Browder said Putin wants to kill him.

[17:05:07] BILL BROWDER, AMERICAN FINANCIER: I've told people for a long time that I believe that I'm Putin's No. 1 foreign enemy, and sometimes people have scoffed at that. But I think the fact that Putin brought it up pretty much validates my assertion.

ZELENY: In announcing the reversal, Sanders says it is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin. But President Trump disagrees with it.

The about-face came shortly before the Senate unanimously voiced its opposition, voting 98-0 on a resolution to send the White House a message.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: That is neither the policy nor the practice of the United States to submit our citizens, let alone our ambassadors, to the interrogation of a foreign adversary.

ZELENY: The president taking no responsibility for the diplomatic debacle the summit has become, instead placing blame on a familiar target. "The fake news media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war," he said on Twitter. "They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I'll probably have a good relationship with Putin."

In Moscow today, Putin was singing a strikingly similar tune.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russia/U.S. relations to sacrifice them for their ambitions in the course of an internal political battle.

ZELENY: "TIME" magazine making the point on its cover, showing the faces of the two leaders morphing into one.


ZELENY: Now, Wolf, as for that private one-on-one meeting between the two presidents earlier this week, U.S. officials say they still do not have a good sense of what they talked about for more than two hours. The intelligence chief again, Dan Coats, saying he does not know

exactly what the discussion was. And if he was to advise the president, he wouldn't have done it.

Wolf, also extraordinary this evening, when he was asked if he has any plans to resign, this was his answer to Andrea Mitchell, who was leading the moderation there. He said this, "So long as I have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I'm on board."

But Wolf, that, of course, will be up to the president. I cannot recall a top adviser like this speaking so bluntly and honestly and frankly during his time in office. We'll see what the president, of course, has to say to this, Wolf. But many moving developments amid yet another day of cleanup.

BLITZER: Yes. It's hard to believe that the director of national intelligence still, three days later, doesn't know what was discussed in that two-hour, ten-minute meeting --

ZELENY: Indeed.

BLITZER: -- between presidents Trump and Putin. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.

Even as the White House scurried to clean up President Trump's apparent embrace of Putin's offer to interrogate Americans, including a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, the Senate voted 98-0 to reject that proposal.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, a lot of outrage up on Capitol Hill over this and so many other related issues.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Wolf. Criticism has been building all week long after the president's summit with Vladimir Putin this week.

Republicans and Democrats joining in the chorus of criticism about the president's comments, as well as the White House, keeping open that option yesterday of allowing Americans to be questioned by Russians.

Now, when I had a chance to ask members of Congress about this, they pushed back very strongly foreshadowing that 98-0 vote that occurred on the floor of the Senate today, expressing the Senate's opposition to any idea like this.

This coming just moments after the White House reversed course and said that they no longer were open to that idea. Now, when I asked Senator Lindsey Graham about the idea, this is what he said.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Naive and absurd. There is no rule of law in Russia. There's the rule of Putin. The courts are not independent. The intelligence services are there for one purpose: to keep him -- keep him in power. I can't imagine a scenario where it would be in our national interest to allow Russia to have access to our intelligence community or people defending our nation.

RAJU: Are you concerned that the president may have agreed to a whole host of issues that you don't know about in this private meeting?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: We are not Russia. We have, as I said a moment ago, three branches of government. And so there are limitations to what even the executive branch can do without Congress. And I think you're going to see a variety of different views. But I'm not worried about what the conversations the president had in private with Putin. I'm worried about what the actions are going to be.


RAJU: Now, Republicans did provide a little bit of cover for the White House. There were two efforts, one by Dem -- independent Senator Bernie Sanders and one bipartisan effort to issue a resolution to have the Senate approve a nonbinding resolution expressing its concerns about what exactly happened in Russia, calling for the full implementation of sanctions that have not been fully implemented yet. Also, the Sanders plan calling for the president to cooperate with the Mueller probe.

[17:10:08] Republicans blocked those two nonbinding measures from going forward, not allowing the Senate to pass that. And also, Wolf, the Republicans are opposing the idea demanded by Democrats to call for that translator who was at the Putin/Trump meeting to actually testify on Capitol Hill or turn over the notes to lawmakers. They say that's a precedent they don't want to set -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: You just heard our reporting. Dan Coats apparently, he says -- it's not apparently. He says he didn't even know about this second summit that the president has now planned with Putin in the fall over at the White House, didn't know about it until a reporter asked him about it.

What does that say to you, that the director of national intelligence has to learn about a second summit in the works now with Putin from the news media?

SWALWELL: Well, it tells me we are more at risk at this upcoming midterm election than we were even before, because our leader, the president, is not on the same page with the person tasked with protecting us. Russia attacked our democracy this past election. When your home is

burglarized, you don't invite the burglar over to dinner. You put in a home security system. We should not be inviting President Putin to dinner at the White House, to have a visit at the White House, especially during the season of our midterm elections.

But it's really, Wolf, I think incumbent, as Senator Cornyn said, we're not helpless. We have a Congress that could stand up to this president. Today in the House Intelligence Committee we had an open hearing. We rarely have open hearings. And Ranking Member Schiff and I made a motion to bring the translator in to subpoena the translator in closed session to test these Republicans on the committee. Many of them had made statements or tweets, concerned about what the president had done, to see if they're really sincere about that. They voted that down along party lines.

And so we just have to keep testing them to see what they're willing to do to protect our country.

BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee is real acrimonious right now along party lines.

SWALWELL: And that's sadly (ph) the case.

BLITZER: If it were -- I know. If it weren't shocking enough that he has to learn about a second summit from the news media, Dan Coats, maybe even more shocking that three days after the first summit, that two-hour-and-ten-minute meeting between presidents Putin and Trump, he doesn't know, really, what happened in that meeting.

SWALWELL: And that's why it's so important to hear from the translator, which I acknowledge is an extraordinary measure, which you wouldn't want to normally do.

However, this president, to use a prosecutor's term, he has a prior. Last year when Russians were in the Oval Office, he divulged national security secrets. We're now learning that he even negotiated with Putin the possibility of turning over for interrogation a former U.S. ambassador.

I think the American people, at least our Intelligence Committee, should know whether he divulged national security secrets, made any secret deals with Putin, and how this affects our security.

BLITZER: Listen to how Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, who was named by President Trump, listen to how he discussed his not, you know -- not knowing what happened in that first summit.


COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think, as time goes by -- and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting -- I think we will learn more, but that is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role. That's not my job. So it is what it is.


BLITZER: He also said, and if that were not enough, last year when the president met with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, Ambassador Kislyak, the outgoing Russian ambassador in Washington, he didn't know about that meeting going into that meeting. And he said if he would have known, he would have thought it was a bad idea. He wouldn't have done it.

I mean, he's the director of national intelligence. He's supposed to know about all this kind of stuff.

SWALWELL: Right. That's an honest Hoosier right there, what we saw with Director Coats. Thank God he's in that position.

But the problem is, if he does not have directives, if Christopher Wray does not have directives, if Gina Haskell, the CIA, does not have directives to counter what the Russians are doing, we're only as safe as the Congress is willing to be by standing up to the president.

Today, Wolf, on the House floor -- again, nice tweets, nice statements I saw from our Republican colleagues -- Republicans voted to completely zero out the election security grants that just last year were funded at $300 million. So we are going in totally vulnerable this November.

BLITZER: If the director of national intelligence is out of the loop on some of these so sensitive national security-related issues, where does that leave U.S. national security?

SWALWELL: Well, again, we're not helpless, so what we can do is start to require that, you know, the president turn over any conversations he's had with people like Putin to the national security --

BLITZER: You need the Republican majority in the House to be -- go along with you on that.

SWALWELL: I hope they see that, you know, this is a five-alarm fire right now, and we need every every fire hose and every hand on that hose to put it out. But we're so vulnerable if the president is off striking side deals and inviting the president to our country, and everyone who's responsible for protecting us is out of the loop.

[17:15:14] BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to a truly shocking tweet earlier this morning from the president. He tweeted this. And I'll put a little of it up on the screen. "The summit with Russia was a great success except with the real enemy of the people, the fake news media."

So it's not Russia that's the real enemy of the American people. It's what he calls the fake news media that is the real enemy of the American people. Your reaction.

SWALWELL: Well, Wolf, you know, the media is the only reason we've learned about so many of these side deals the president has struck with Russians, the fact that he had Russians in the Oval Office and kicked out his own team and let Russian photographers photograph him.

The media is the reason the American people know about concerning contacts the president has had with Russia. So God bless the free media. They asked tougher questions of Vladimir Putin than the president did when they were both there in Helsinki. So I'll stand with the media if I have to decide who's a bigger patriot.

BLITZER: Congressman Swalwell, thanks for coming in.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Up next, there's more breaking news. President Trump moves to invite President Putin to Washington for a second summit as damage control efforts continue after the first summit.

And as the White House reverses itself on Russia's offer to interrogate Americans the homeland security chief does a reversal of her own about Russia's election attempts.


[17:20:53] BLITZER: While the White House does a flip-flop over Russia's proposal to interrogate Americans, including a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, the homeland security secretary is doing some backpedaling of her own about Russia's attack on the U.S. presidential election.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Evan Perez. He's joining us right now.

Evan, tell us about what Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had to say about this.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Secretary Nielsen, by now, should have this answer down pat, but she struggled as she was asked here at the Aspen Security Forum whether she saw evidence that the Russians were working in favor of candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 -- meddling in the 2016 election. Here's what she had to say. Take a listen.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I haven't seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, the intelligence community did have that finding. Right? Their finding was that it was in an effort to favor the president. Agreed?

NIELSEN: It was in an effort to attack certain political parties that we know about, right, more than others. And so I think we'll continue to look and see what that means and be prepared for the next time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREZ: and Wolf, that's not the first time that she's struggled with that question. I talked to people close to her that after the -- after her interview and she -- they told me that, essentially, what she was referring to is the infrastructure, the election infrastructure. That's the clarification, at least, that people close to the DHS secretary were saying.

But however, if you know -- if you notice her comments, it really contradicts with what the intelligence community found in their assessment in early 2017. I'll read a part of it to you. It says, "We also assess that Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible, discredit -- by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him."

Jim Sciutto, our colleague here at the Aspen Security Forum, pressed the secretary of the Homeland Security Department on her answer. Take a listen to this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Are you saying you agree with not only the assessment that it was Russia that interfered but that their intention was to help Donald Trump and disadvantage Hillary Clinton? And can you just say those words very simply and directly?

NIELSEN: I -- I agree with the intel community's assessment, full stop. Any attack on our democracy, which is what that was, whether it's successful or unsuccessful, is unacceptable. It is an attack on our democracy. Election security is national security. The intel community is made up of professionals who do this for a living, who are dedicated public servants. I absolutely believe their assessment.


BLITZER: You know, but it's still pretty amazing that she refused to say flatly what the intelligence community says, that Putin and the Kremlin really wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton, sow dissent in the United States, and also help Donald Trump in terms of the election.

And Evan, as you know, it's not just the intelligence community here in the United States that is making this assessment.

PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. The Senate intelligence community -- I'm sorry, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report just a few months ago, in which they endorsed what the intelligence community had found in their assessment.

Of course, the Justice Department just announced charges just in the past week against a group of Russians who they believe were behind some of this -- these attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic organizations. And they repeated that it was clear that the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump get elected.

And of course, we saw just a few days ago President Putin himself, standing right next to President Trump, said that he was -- he was aware that -- what the Russian government was trying to do and he -- obviously, he knew that he was endorsing Donald Trump.

So it's clear that Secretary Nielsen and anybody else who's not on the same page are really struggling with the answer there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm really surprised that she couldn't say flatly what the entire intelligence community and so many others are saying. It was a very, very awkward answer that she provided.

Evan Perez, thanks very much for that report.

PEREZ: Right.

[17:25:12] BLITZER: Coming up, there's more breaking news. The White House now says talks are underway for a second summit. Yes, a second summit. President Trump is moving to invite Russia's President Putin to the White House. But damage control is still underway just days after the first summit.

And the director of national intelligence is caught unaware by news of yet a second summit, even as he admits he doesn't know what happened during the first summit. Amazing.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:30:19] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Our breaking news, the White House says that discussions are now underway for Vladimir Putin to come to the White House this fall for another summit meeting with President Trump. This comes, despite the administration's ongoing efforts to clean up and clarify what happened earlier this week when Presidents Trump and Putin met in Helsinki.

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was visibly surprised when he learned about the second summit earlier in the afternoon while sitting for a live interview. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have some breaking news, the White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear you --


COATS: OK. That's going to be special.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Let's get some analysis from our political and legal experts. And Dana Bash, he's a very, very serious, very smart former senator, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, now the top spy in the United States. He doesn't know? How is that possible that the President of the United States is inviting Putin for a second summit in a couple of months in the fall over at the White House?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because the President he works for is Donald J. Trump, that's the reason. For the same reason that this President stood next to Vladimir Putin and threw that very Director of National Intelligence under the bus. He later cleaned it up but it doesn't erase what happened and the visual and the unfortunate theater of that moment in Helsinki. He also, Dan Coats said, that he didn't know that Sergei Lavrov was coming into the Oval Office at the beginning of the --

BLITZER: Last year.

BASH: Yes. The beginning of the administration. And a whole --

BLITZER: The Russian Foreign Minister.

BASH: And a whole host of other things that he should have known. And by the way, Sergei Lavrov ended up leaking things from that meeting, that you would think you want your Director of National Intelligence to have a say in whether or not that would be a good idea.

BLITZER: And an even more shocking, potentially, Chris Cillizza, is the fact that he said -- he said publicly in this interview that he doesn't know what happened at the first summit, three days ago.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean -- yes, it's kind of a six of one, half a dozen of the other in terms of trying to figure out which is the bigger news. Because those are both huge news stories. The fact that the DNI doesn't know that the Russian President has been invited to the U.S. is big. The fact that he still has no read out of a summit that happened three days ago between the Russian President and the President of the United States, I actually think may be a bigger deal. And what it -- they both suggests the same thing, there is a lack of communication, a total communication breakdown between the intelligence community as represented by Dan Coats and the White House. Is that surprising? No, particularly given Donald Trump runs the intelligence community down every chance he gets.

BLITZER: Let me play the clip for you, Mark, and then we'll discuss. Listen to this.


COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the President has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the President's prerogative. If you'd ask me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role, that's not my job. So, it is what it is.


BLITZER: But his role, his job is to know what's going on. He's the Director of National Intelligence. Yes, he would have recommended that there be some notetakers, a U.S. Ambassador to Russia, for example, a Secretary of State, a National Security Adviser participating as simply not just a U.S. translator.


CILLIZZA: Well, that solves it.

PRESTON: Do what he says. No, I mean, listen -- I mean, it is -- I feel bad for Dan Coats today because Dan Coats put on a hot seat on some very, very, very volatile issues right now. And Wolf, a couple of things, and again, just to highlight again, that really struck out to me. I would have suggested it in a different way, meaning he's not taking my advice. It's not me. And then he goes on to say, so it is what it is, meaning what the hell can I do about this now? I don't know what to do. But what I do think is really, really telling and deeply disturbing, and I haven't heard this yet, and I was just thinking as we're talking about it, the timing of this. That tweet was put out while he was on stage at Aspen. Everybody knows in the White House, you know where your principal people are. They knew he was on stage. He was going to get that question. And you have to wonder, why did the Chief of Staff Kelly allow it to happen? Why did Bill Shine allow it to happen? Why did Sarah Sanders allow it to happen? Are they testing coats? It's an interesting --

[17:35:08] BASH: He's been pretty tested already.


CILLIZZA: I mean, I am amazed. This is -- well, he mentioned this, this is not a guy who is a Trump guy, right, who he kind of plucked from cherry. Dan Coats has been a senator twice. He retired once from Indiana and came back, won again. It's -- he's a serious guy who doesn't really need this. I continue to wonder this. And I'll throw Jon Huntsman in there, too, the ambassador to Russia (INAUDIBLE) former Governor of Utah. These are serious people who I don't understand at what point do you reach a breaking point? These are not people who need these jobs or have been made by Donald Trump to feel they owe him a loyalty. I don't know the answer to that. (INAUDIBLE) why?

BLITZER: The only -- the only explanation I've got, and Laura, I want you to weigh in as well. These people are patriots and they think that if they were to leave, the country could be further in trouble, and they stayed despite the humiliation and the embarrassment that they get. But go ahead, Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's the core of public service because you're not supposed to serve the President, you're serving the actual United States of America. And its longevity in the long run here. So, I completely agree the idea that, yes, you are being hamstrung in your position. It's not just the shock and awe. I think you actually saw it just know, what it's like every single time the President tweets, every single time Sanders get a comment that everyone's reaction is the same of OK, I guess we're going with this nowadays.

And I think when that happens, it's not just about an ego bruise, it's about your main job is to inform the President, and he won't even ask for a suggestion of what you would do next, let alone listen to it. And if you're wondering why there is message of back and forth between his own lawyers, his personal attorneys, and the Mueller probe, do you want that Twitter surprise of his team if his actual kitchen cabinet members, people who are in very prominent roles cannot get the President to bend his ear to their thoughtful insight?

BASH: And that's such an important point. This isn't about who's allowed in the room, who knows what, it's not about hurt feelings, it's about this position and this person and the people who work for him, being there to help the President. They're supposed to coordinate for a reason because they all are supposed to work together to benefit one another and ultimately benefit the country. So, it's not about bruised egos, it's about a system that is in place in order to prevent things like what happened in Helsinki.

BLITZER: Yes, I give Dan Coats, by the way, a lot of credit for being as honest and as blunt as he was during that exchange earlier in the day. Stick around, guys, there's more news we're following.

We're getting some new details about what President Trump learned even before he was inaugurated about Vladimir Putin's role in ordering Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Plus, more on the breaking news, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, there you see him, he's caught unaware by news of a second summit even as he admits he doesn't know what happened during the first summit.


BLITZER: As we follow the White House clean-up efforts in the wake of the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, one question that won't go away is why the President seems to give more credence to Vladimir Putin's denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election than he does to the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community? This New York Times reports that two weeks before his inauguration, President Trump was shown very highly-classified intelligence indicating that Putin personally ordered cyber attacks to sway the election in his favor. One of the co-authors of the article, Matthew Rosenberg, is joining us right now. Excellent reporting, Matthew, you and David Sanger wrote this article. Walk us through the major headline, what we learned in the course of your piece.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, we know that, you know, January 6th, Trump is about to take office. All the American intelligence chiefs go to Trump Tower, and they know they're going to have a skeptical audience. They've (INAUDIBLE) to say. So, they go in there armed with what they need to convince him that this was Putin's -- done at Putin's best. They go in with stolen e-mails and text messages that they had taken, intercepted from Russian intelligence along with intelligence that came from our allies in Britain and the Netherlands and elsewhere. They also go in with intelligence they gleaned from a human source in Putin's inner circle and other human sources inside the Kremlin. This was a source so sensitive that many people in the White House did not even know he existed. And they go in there and say, look, here's what we know, and these are the ways we know it. And you know, they try to convince the President, the president-elect at that point that there is real meat on the bone here.

Trump, according to people who were in the room grudgingly kind of accepted it and we saw he came out and sort of accepted but he sort of said it could have been others, and then, you know, within weeks, he was back at it, saying, I don't buy it. You know, claiming Clapper and Brennan who were the CIA Director and the DNI at the time are just political hacks. You know, a lot of what we see here is that, for Trump, the messengers have as much to do with -- kind of believes (INAUDIBLE) the message.

BLITZER: But (INAUDIBLE) hearing now the same thing from the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, Mike Pompeo, and now the Secretary of State, Christopher Wray, his own FBI Director, they're telling him exactly what the Obama administration national security team told him.

ROSENBERG: Yes, they are. I think, you know, for the President also, it looks like it suits whatever his political needs are of the moment. So, staying with Vladimir Putin, he wants to go down with Putin, so he says, I don't see why he would do that?

BLITZER: Why is that?

[17:44:56] ROSENBERG: I can't get into his head. I mean, there are any number of reasons he seems to think that there is a relationship to build here. You know, there are all kinds of wilder theories about whether the Russians are compromising on him or not. I don't know if there's any (INAUDIBLE) to that. But you know, he comes home to an outcry and then he backtracks, but backtracks only so far. So, it's really hard to tell, but the intelligence has been solid. At least, the way it's been described to us, and everything has been unanimous from the people who were appointed under Obama, to the people who are appointed by Trump himself.

BLITZER: And the one who's not part of that unanimous team is the President of the United States --


BLITZER: -- who has got a lot of doubts about all of this. Matthew, great reporting, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Coming up, a closer look at the whistleblower Vladimir Putin specifically mentioned during the summit. Why is he now a target for Russian interrogation?


[17:50:21] BLITZER: I have breaking news, the White House now says talks are underway for a new -- a new Trump-Putin summit this fall here in Washington, even though the White House hasn't finished explaining and clarifying what happened Monday in Helsinki. Earlier today, just days after President Trump used the term "incredible offer" to describe a Russian request to interrogate U.S. citizens in return for U.S. access to the Russians accused of interfering in the election, the White House now says the President disagrees with the idea. Monday, Vladimir Putin mentioned one specific American the Russians want to question. CNN's Brian Todd has spoken with him. Brian, why is he Putin's target?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bill Browder is Vladimir Putin's target because Browder has had success targeting Putin that no one else has. Browder has gone after Putin's shady money, his friends has struck at the very core of Putin's power. The result, a blood feud where Putin calls Browder a criminal and a thief. Browder calls Putin a homicidal sociopath with a vendetta.


TODD: Vladimir Putin has mentioned Bill Browder's name in the most matter of fact tones. Putin did it Helsinki when he proposed that Russian officials should be able to interrogate Browder, an idea President Trump now says he disagrees with.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We can bring up M. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over 1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States. And yet, the money escapes the country.

TODD: And accusation Browder denies. Putin was also straight-faced when he falsely accused Browder of being behind the death of Browder's own lawyer.

PUTIN (through translator): Underneath are the criminal activities of an entire gang led by one particular man, I believe Browder is his name.

TODD: Behind the dead-pan tones, there is by most accounts, a seething hatred that Vladimir Putin has for the American-born financier, who is now a British citizen. Browder spoke about that when I interviewed him in Washington.

What are the security threats you've received?

BILL BROWDER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: They've -- the Russian government has made numerous death threats against me. They want to kill me. They'd like to kidnap me, they'd like to have me arrested and sent back to Russia.

TODD: Putin hates Browder because Browder spearheaded the passage of the Magnitsky Act, an American law which sanctions powerful Russians close to Putin and prevents them from getting to the money they've stashed outside Russia.

BROWDER: I have found his Achilles heel. I've created a mechanism, a legal mechanism to seize that money. And he feels personally aggrieved and he has a vendetta against me.

TODD: Analysts say Bill Browder has struck a nerve with Putin that few of his other enemies have, a threat to the roots of his power.

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE": Putin is furious about this because if individual members of his kleptocracy get banned from accessing the West and accessing their money, they no longer have a reason to be a hundred percent, rock solid, loyal to him. And it starts to open the question to them of whether or not Vladimir Putin can in the long-term guarantee their assets. Is he the right man to secure the kleptocracy's operations?

TODD: The Putin-Browder battle goes back to the mid-2000s when Browder was a hedge fund manager in Russia. Browder hired a Russian lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed a $230-million fraud scheme, benefiting people linked to Putin, a scheme which Browder says ripped off his firm. Magnitsky was arrested and jailed and later died in Russian custody under suspicious circumstances.

BROWDER: Sergei Magnitsky is dead. He suffered terribly and is dead because he was my lawyer.

TODD: Bill Browder has since made it his life's mission to expose Putin's alleged corruption, which he believes has made Putin the richest in the world.

BROWDER: I estimate his net worth to be about $200 billion. And he keeps that money in Western banks.


TODD: We tried to get response from Russian officials at the Kremlin and here in Washington to build Browder's assertion that Vladimir Putin and his regime want to kill Browder. They have not responded directly to that. But Vladimir Putin has called Browder's assertion that Putin has amassed great personal wealth through corruption, quote, garbage. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, how does Browder move around, how does he protect himself, how vulnerable is he?

TODD: Browder is very vulnerable, Wolf. He believes he could be targeted at any time by Putin for assassination. He tells us he takes precautions at every step. When we interviewed him in Washington, he had two large bodyguards who never left his side. But he told us he does not spend his time quaking and living in fear.

[17:54:48] BLITZER: Amazing stuff, indeed. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Coming up, the breaking news, new details emerging now about plans for Russia's President Putin to come here to Washington this fall for a second summit with President Trump. But the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is caught by surprise at the news of the second summit as he admits he still doesn't know what happened in the first meeting.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Coming to America, the White House just revealed that talks already are in the works for a second Trump-Putin Summit, this one in Washington in the fall. But tonight, the President still is struggling to clean up the mess from their first meeting in Helsinki.

Not so incredible, after Mr. Trump left the door open to letting Russia interrogate Americans, the White House now says he disagrees with the offer he found so intriguing, and even incredible, three days ago.

Putin's talk, the Russian military is putting out video of nuclear and other weapons that the Russian leader has touted as invincible.