CNN’s Cooper: Helsinki ‘One of the Most Disgraceful Performances by an American President’

Reacting to the late Monday morning joint press conference (U.S. time) between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, CNN’s Anderson Cooper declared that he had just witnessed “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I've ever seen” at “[a]n extraordinary press conference.”

“You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I've ever seen. An extraordinary press conference,” Cooper stated, providing the network’s first reaction to the presser.

 

 

As a reminder, Cooper is a news anchor, not a CNN contributor, political analyst or commentator. He’ll sure draw (and did draw) amens from his CNN colleagues, but that’s not exactly a quote you’d want from someone who’s job is not to provide analysis but report the news.

Nonetheless, Cooper turned to CNN International and PBS host Christiane Amanpour and observed that, when asked by the Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire about whom he trusts more on the issue of Russian election meddling, “he blinked and he went to Hillary Clinton's e-mail server” plus blamed both countries for 2016.

Amanpour responded that “it really was quite extraordinary actually” and “an incredible statement” that the President didn’t forcefully condemn what’s undeniably proven as fact, which is that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.

Asked by Cooper if he’s “ever seen anything like this,” senior political analyst David Gergen replied (click “expand” to see more):

GEREGEN: No and it's a struggle to put it all together, isn’t? And to comprehend what we've just heard. I've never heard an American President talk that way, but I think it's especially true that when he's with someone like Putin, who is a thug, a world class thug, that he sides with him again and again against his own country's interests, his own institutions that he runs, that he's in charge of the federal government, he's in charge of these intelligence agencies and he basically dismisses them and he retreats into this — you know, we've heard this again and again on an international stage to be talking about Hillary's server and what happened and how it was —

COOPER: It's embarrassing. 

GERGEN: — campaign. It's embarrassing. 

Jim Acosta was locked and loaded to jump in, so he immediately agreed with Cooper about Trump being an all-time embarrassment, stating that it “sums it up nicely” as he correctly asserted that Trump took the word of Putin over his own country’s intelligence.

Here’s more of Acosta’s long-winded response (emphasis mine and, again, click “expand” for more): 

But I will tell you, it was astonishing, just astonishing to be in the room with the U.S. President and with the Russian President on this critical question of election interference and to hear the President of the United States retreat back to these talking points about DNC servers and Hillary Clinton's e-mails when he had a chance right there in front of us, right there in front of the world to confront Vladimir Putin and tell him to stay the hell out of American democracy, and he just didn't do it. It was one of those moments, I think, obviously we all think this is a very big deal right now and sometimes these sorts of things can fade away. But I don't think this is one of those moments. This is one of those moments, Anderson, I think really crystallizes a very critical problem for the United States right now in that you have the Prresident, the leader of the free world, taking the word of Vladimir Putin who from all accounts inside the U.S. government, the U.S. intelligence community, the law enforcement community, attacked American democracy in 2016. You know, when Vladimir Putin was asked whether he wanted Trump to win, that might have been the only honest moment of this news conference when Vladimir Putin said yes, he did want President Trump to win and then shortly after that handed him that soccer ball. 

Acosta concluded that Trump and Putin “came across as play mates on a soccer field more than they did international rivals” and thus Trump “very much yield[ed] the field on this day to Vladimir Putin.”

For more from Cooper and reaction by The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser, check out the transcript below.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s coverage of the Helsinki summit on July 16, click “expand.”

CNN’s Trump-Putin summit coverage
July 16, 2018
11:56 a.m. Eastern

ANDERSON COOPER: You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I've ever seen. An extraordinary press conference. I'm back with CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN chief international anchor Christian Amanpour. Christiane, the President, given the opportunity, asked by a reporter — an American reporter who he trusted on the issue of Russian meddling, the U.S. intelligence community or Vladimir Putin, he blinked and he went to Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. As to who he holds responsible, he says I hold both countries. I think we are all to blame. We have a chance to make some great things. Made no mention of Georgia, shootdown down of a Malaysian plane, Crimea, Ukraine, and election interference. In fact, he went onto say all he can do is ask the question about election interference, that Vladimir Putin was very powerful in his denial of it and the President went on to say he doesn't see any reason why it would have been Russia who interfered in the election.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I think that was the nut graph. I don't see any reason why it would have been Russia hacking into our election and, as you say, went on to talk about the server and the 30,000 e-mails, et cetera and he basically said in Russia, they would never have let this stuff happen. I mean it really was quite extraordinary actually. I thought we were going to get out of that press conference, with a minimum of damage and that was really, really extraordinary as you just said. And he then said that Putin came up with a great offer as to how to figure this out, which of course Putin responded as he always does with the sort of obfuscation. Yes, we have a sort of treaty on various issues, but you have to send us a formal letter and then we'll respond and then we'll reciprocate but only in kind. We need to have people of interest, etc. So it's very typical Putin response. But that was an incredible statement. 

COOPER: David Gergen, have you ever seen anything like this? 

DAVID GEREGEN: No and it's a struggle to put it all together, isn’t? And to comprehend what we've just heard. I've never heard an American President talk that way, but I think it's especially true that when he's with someone like Putin, who is a thug, a world class thug, that he sides with him again and again against his own country's interests, his own institutions that he runs, that he's in charge of the federal government, he's in charge of these intelligence agencies and he basically dismisses them and he retreats into this — you know, we've heard this again and again on an international stage to be talking about Hillary's server and what happened and how it was —

COOPER: It's embarrassing. 

GERGEN: — campaign. It's embarrassing. 

COOPER: I want to go to Jim Acosta, who's in the room. Jim, your thoughts. 

JIM ACOSTA: Yeah, Anderson. I think what you were just saying there a few moments ago, I think that sums it up nicely. I mean, this was the President of the United States essentially taking the word of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, over his own intelligence community, over his own law enforcement community on this critical question of Russian interference in the 2016 election and I think when Vladimir Putin was asked that question by Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press at the very end whether or not the Russians had compromising information on President Trump, I thought it was very interesting that Vladimir Putin paused for a few moments, seeming to understand the question but not exactly sure how to answer it and there was some nervous laughter in the room. I don't know if you could hear that on the microphones in the room, but there was some nervous laughter.

It took all of us by surprise. It sounded as if Vladimir Putin was trying at that point to come up with a good answer and he didn't really have one. I thought it was striking, Anderson, that the Russian president did offer to allow Robert Mueller's team to come over Russia to continue his investigation. I'm not sure that would be greeted by President Trump, given that that would probably extend the life of the Russia investigation. But I will tell you, it was astonishing, just astonishing to be in the room with the U.S. President and with the Russian President on this critical question of election interference and to hear the President of the United States retreat back to these talking points about DNC servers and Hillary Clinton's e-mails when he had a chance right there in front of us, right there in front of the world to confront Vladimir Putin and tell him to stay the hell out of American democracy, and he just didn't do it. It was one of those moments, I think, obviously we all think this is a very big deal right now and sometimes these sorts of things can fade away. 

But I don't think this is one of those moments. This is one of those moments, Anderson, I think really crystallizes a very critical problem for the United States right now in that you have the Prresident, the leader of the free world, taking the word of Vladimir Putin who from all accounts inside the U.S. government, the U.S. intelligence community, the law enforcement community, attacked American democracy in 2016. You know, when Vladimir Putin was asked whether he wanted Trump to win, that might have been the only honest moment of this news conference when Vladimir Putin said yes, he did want President Trump to win and then shortly after that handed him that soccer ball. They came across as play mates on a soccer field more than they did international rivals, Anderson. The President of the United States very much yielding the field on this day to Vladimir Putin. Anderson. 

COOPER: Yeah. Susan, have you ever seen anything like this? 

SUSAN GLASSER: You know, it's really — I think we are going to remember this day for a long time. Sometimes, there are indelible images that come out, certainly George W. Bush talking about Vladimir Putin's soul. I think this moment is going to go down with that moment, for me at least, to hear the President of the United States attacking Robert Mueller's investigation, questioning the U.S. intelligence agencies, the work of his own Justice Department, while standing literally next to Vladimir Putin. He called the probe a disaster for our country as Russia's leader looked on. He began the summit meeting this morning with that extraordinary tweet in which he said that, essentially, the United States is to blame for the bad state of relations with Russia, Crimea, and the illegal annexation of territory in Europe, the first such armed takeover since the end of World War II was never mentioned until the very last question of the campaign — of the press conference. I think this is one of those moments where, you know, we heard Rod Rosenstein on Friday say this is not partisan, this investigation. Well, President Trump has made the most partisan press conference I've ever seen between an American leader and the leader of Russia. 

COOPER: He was tougher on Democrats and the intelligence community in this press conference. I mean, he was given the opportunity by an American reporter to just turn to Vladimir Putin and say something to him about Russia's meddling in the United States democracy, which is ongoing, and he refused to do that and instead, went after Democrats. 

GLASSER: This was a worst-case scenario going into this. You know, many people were hoping the Hippocratic oath would apply here of do no harm and the first half of the press conference the two leaders' statements made it clear they didn't actually come out with some grand new bargain, there were no initiatives that would cause alarm back on Capitol Hill among Republicans or Democrats and then President Trump basically exploded all of that in the second half of the press conference. And you know, one year ago his national security advisor wrote an article in which he said the Russian election interference was an act of war against the United States. Well, John Bolton was in room today at lunch today with Vladimir Putin. Does he still think that's an act of war? How can he serve a President who spoke the way that he did today? 


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