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House Grills FBI Director; First Round of Biden-Putin Talks; Second Round of Talks Now Underway. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired June 16, 2021 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: These entities. What more can you tell us?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the, you know, members from the Department of Defense continue to double down on this idea that even though there were so many requests into, you know, people outside the Department of Defense, the delay looks pretty long. I mean it was, you know, a four-hour -- about a four-hour time period from the time the first request came in until the National Guard was finally able to get to the Capitol.

While to everybody else in America, apparently, that seems like a really long time. Within the Department of Defense, they actually thought that was pretty fast. And what they have said over and over and over, yesterday was no different, is that it takes quite a bit of time to organize all of the members of the National Guard, get them to one place, develop a plan, brief them on the plan, get them the appropriate armor and then actually get them to the Capitol. So they thought that, again, that that amount of time was actually pretty quick in terms of DOD's normal timeline.

Christopher Wray was also pressed on this revelation that Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney brought forth, which is that Parler reached out to the FBI. Parler is this social media platform in which a lot of people were very adamant pro-Trump supporters were espousing quite a bit of violence.

And so what the chairwoman said to Christopher Wray was, what happened? Parler reached out to the FBI. They -- the social media platform has claimed that they sent a ton of information to the FBI saying that there would be violence, saying that it would be directed to the Capitol. What happened?

And the FBI Director Christopher Wray's answer was, he was not aware prior that Parler had ever reached out to the FBI. But what he's learned since then is that Parler did reach out apparently to a field division, Poppy, and they're working through how that information flowed and, you know, long story short, they're looking into it.

Poppy. HARLOW: OK. Whitney Wild with that reporting, thank you very, very much.

Now let's go back to Jim in Geneva.

Live here in Geneva.

We do have a breaking update from the location of this summit between President Biden and President Putin. Our Jeff Zeleny is covering it at Villa La Grange, the location of all this.

Jeff, talks got underway just under two hours ago. We have an update that the first round may have finished?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, that's right. We're hearing from a White House official that the first round of talks between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, just the four of them, that meeting has ended. That was the beginning of the two-part summit meeting here.

We're told it ended about ten minutes or so ago. That would put the meeting at a little under two hours' time total. Of course, we saw the very beginning of the meeting there with the chaotic photo opportunity and then the meeting was private. So for nearly two hours, the two leaders and their top diplomats met.

And now they have moved, we are told, into the second phase. That is the two leaders and five officials from either side are now in a room really hammering out some broader details and going, you know, through more specifics, we are told, on cyber, on human rights, on the litany of issues we've been talking about all morning long, Ukraine, of course. Also some issues of common ground potentially. The Iran nuclear deal is certainly one of those. Nuclear arms.

So this meeting is underway. Jim, this is really the question of the productivity of this summit will likely rise or fall on this meeting as well as the relationship and how the two leaders got on in the first part of the meeting.

But, for now, this is part two. And, again, White House officials are watching this from the sidelines with anticipation as well of how this will go.

So, again, once this all ends, we will hear from Russian President Vladimir Putin in a press conference of some kind, of course, followed up by President Biden. But we are still expecting several more hours of meetings to go here. If it goes shorter, that may be an indication that it -- you know, they've not achieved much. If it goes longer, perhaps the opposite. But we are still waiting and watching here. But part two of this summit now under way, we're told, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeff, going into this we had been told to expect perhaps four to five hours of talks in total encompassing both the one on one, really the two on two, I should say, given that Blinken and Lavrov were in the first session, and this expanded session. Based on our knowledge of how that time was divvied up, is two hours from that initial session about in line with the schedule as we understood it going in?

ZELENY: It seems like it was. I mean, of course it's up to the leaders to talk as long as they would like to. So had it been much shorter, of course, that would have been a sign that, you know, perhaps they did not find any common ground of talking about opening the relationship. And that is what President Biden, of course, is here to do, to open a dialogue, to see, in his view, if Russia is willing to have a more productive dialogue. So it is about the estimate that White House officials we've been talking to thought it would be.

Now the question is, when these five leaders from each side are in there, could these talks go longer, because these are the longer, more substantive discussions about the, you know, variety of grievances, as well as common areas potentially of agreement.

[09:35:11]

So it looks like things are on track. But again, Jim, this is all tea leaf reading, which, we should point out, all sides are doing.

SCIUTTO: Sure.

ZELENY: And we will not know until they emerge from their meeting.

But, again, this is the opening gambit.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ZELENY: There is not -- there was never expected any major concession or agreement from the Russian side. But the sheer fact that they are meeting today that started with a handshake and the second meeting is still going on, certainly the world is watching here, not just these two countries, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Both sides will do tea leaf reading. Both sides will also do spinning based on the results of this.

ZELENY: For sure.

SCIUTTO: If you're just joining now, the first session, if you would call it that, of these talks between Biden and Putin have wrapped. Those talks were a smaller session. Biden, Putin, as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Now they're in an expanded group with other advisers involved.

Dana Bash following this as well from Washington.

Dana, Biden, Putin, what is a successful summit for President Biden from his perspective?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Biden administration and the president himself, he -- they have set expectations so low that they can define success in pretty much any way.

And that -- you know, a lot of that, as you said, is going to be spin, no doubt. But it is, in keeping with the reality of the relationship between not just the two men but, more importantly, the two countries at this point because there are so many things on the agenda. There's so many agenda items sort of on the docket, particularly for President Biden, that will be hard to achieve in the short term.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: But, really, the most important thing in talking to Biden officials and other officials who are experts on Russia relations is for President Biden at this point to -- I'm not going to use the word "reset" because that is a lot of baggage right now with the Russian relationship. But to make clear to President Putin that this is going to be a very different relationship than he has had over the past four years.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

That's a -- that's a reset, not just outward looking, right, in terms of the U.S. relationship with Russia, but inward looking, domestically, is it not, because President Trump's approach to Russia was very different. He attempted to, claimed to have a very warm, friendly relationship with Putin. And hesitated and outright refused at times to challenge Putin on a whole host of hostile behaviors.

How important is that domestic reset, if you could call it that?

BASH: Oh, it's huge. It's absolutely huge because, you know, President Biden, then former -- he was then former Vice President Biden -- was as horrified as were most Democrats and frankly most Republicans when they watch that now infamous Helsinki summit with Presidents Trump and Putin. And so the idea of, you know, avoiding anything like that, which will be easy because it's a totally different situation, but making clear that this is not a man in President Putin who will kind of steamroll America, steamroll the American president.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: One thing I do think is interesting, Jim, and I know that you've covered lots of presidents who have met with President Putin over the years and spanning different administrations. I remember covering George W. Bush's administration and him telling some reporters afterwards about the personal dynamics, which I always find so fascinating.

And it might be a little bit different now because it's not just one on one, but how much President Putin tries to use machismo. And at that particular time, it was -- he was literally saying to President Bush, I have a bigger dog than you have. My dog is bigger than yours.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: Trying to send signals in that way. That was so symbolic. And I just will be so curious to see how much President Putin tries to play that role and to use that card with this particular summit.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the dynamic between them, at least in that first seated photo spray, was one that was not confrontational. It certainly wasn't -- they weren't palling around in that room at the start of these talks.

BASH: No.

SCIUTTO: And, frankly, we should state that they have a lot of very serious things to discuss.

Dana Bash, thanks very much. Please stay with us.

I do want to return now to Jeff Zeleny, who's also live in Geneva with me here.

Jeff, I understand you have some news about the progress of the talks so far this morning.

ZELENY: Well, Jim, we do have a bit of news. I mean we are going to see, as the day goes on, the spinning of narratives from both sides, quite frankly, the Kremlin and the White House, about what body language means, what different comments means.

[09:40:06]

And the White House is already starting to do that. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki really explaining to reporters that moment of chaos we saw earlier today in that photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting when one reporter asked President Biden if he trusts Vladimir Putin. And the reporter in the room says that President Biden nodded in the affirmative.

Well, Press Secretary Jen Psaki now is saying that President Biden was not nodding in the affirmative that he trusts Vladimir Putin. He was nodding simply at the chaos that was unfolding in the room. So translation, bottom line here, the White House making clear that President Biden not saying he trusts Putin, but was just acknowledging the scrum in the room.

And, of course, a couple of days ago we asked President Biden at NATO headquarters, how will he determine if he can trust President Putin? He says verify first and then trust later.

So already the, you know, the framing of this meeting and the discussion happening even as it's under way, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's an important clarification --

ZELENY: It is.

SCIUTTO: Because when we heard that here in that moment, we -- we -- myself, Clarissa Ward and others, we had questions about it because that would have been a notable statement for the U.S. president to say that he trusts Putin given his very public comment to the contrary in the past. Jeff Zeleny, live in Geneva as well.

We continue to cover the ongoing summit between President Biden and President Putin. The first smaller group portion of those talks that comprised Biden, Putin, the secretary of state and the foreign minister of Russia as well. That has wrapped. And now into an expanded version with more advisers present. Digging deeper on some of these issues.

We'll continue to watch this live. Stay with us.

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[09:46:15]

SCIUTTO: Live from Geneva and the first round of face-to-face talks between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, that first round has ended. A second session is underway, an expanded session, with more advisers of both leaders present. These talks happening in the wake of several cyber security attacks against U.S. companies and infrastructure by Russia. The FBI linking those responsible for the attacks to hacking groups based in Russia.

Joining me now to speak about this, CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He covers cyber very extensively, has written a lot of books about it, and Shawn Henry, he is president of CrowdStrike, which is a cybersecurity firm and helps companies defend against attacks like this one. He's also a former executive assistant director with the FBI.

Good morning to both of you.

David Sanger, if I could begin with you.

We know, at least the Biden administration says, he will raise cyberattacks in these meetings and warn Russia off, I suppose you could say. But we also know that in public comments at least Vladimir Putin continues to deny that Russia is behind these attacks, though the U.S. knows that they are. So imagine for us that conversation then and what, if anything, comes out of this summit on the cyber issue?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's hard to imagine, Jim, but think of it this way. For 70 years, these conversations have largely been about nuclear weapons and Putin's predecessors and Putin himself not only didn't deny that they had the weapons, they boasted about them, conducted nuclear tests. Putin himself has shown off slide shows in recent times of his new arsenal.

For cyber, it becomes so much harder because while Putin knows that his own intelligence services are launching attacks and that ransomware groups are launching attacks from Russian territory, it's to his advantage to pretend to know nothing about this because the weapon itself is deniable.

And that's why it makes it so hard to do what you would expect a summit like this to do, which was begin to lay out at least the parameters of what arms control might look like, or at least to use Biden's term, some guardrails about the targets you wouldn't attack, whether those were power grids or energy pipelines like the colonial pipeline we saw the other day, or whether it was election systems. And that's what they've got to break through. They've actually got to get to a common understanding that both these powers have big cyber arsenals now and both have used them regularly.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

And now the American consumer, average citizens, are feeling the effects of these. You look, for instance, at the attack on Colonial Pipeline, led to gas shortages. It has real effects, real impact.

Shawn, you were quoted in "Newsweek" saying the following, that we need to find what those red lines are. This continues to escalate and we can't allow it to escalate. It's the exact reason we have nuclear arms talks.

To David's point here, describe what those red lines could be then given that even the most hopeful American diplomat does not expect -- does not expect Russia to stop these attacks altogether. So draw us some of these potential red lines.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE SERVICES: Yes, so, Jim, I think when you talk about red lines, you're talking about critical infrastructure, to David's point.

I think for many years the U.S. and other countries around the world recognize that espionage, for example, where you might be looking to steal secrets and to use those secrets to better inform your policymakers or your decision makers in your home country so you can better protect yourselves as a nation.

But when you go beyond that and you take operational activity, where you actually disrupt the infrastructure, where you're shutting down that critical infrastructure, impacting people up and down the East Coast, millions of people, where gas or energy is disrupted, communications, hospital systems are disrupted, municipalities around the country are disrupted because of ransomware, then you've crossed a line.

[09:50:21]

And these are the discussions that need to occur been President Biden and Vladimir Putin where those norms are defined and the Russian government decides they're going to work collaboratively in order to avoid some of the deterrent effects of the U.S. response, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Right and to avoid the possibility, something that both sides, frankly, would fear would be an escalation beyond control, where you keep ratcheting it up to the point where you have, you know, severe and perhaps lasting consequences.

David, it was notable at the NATO summit that NATO brought cyberattacks somewhat into the mutual defense treaty by saying that cyberattacks could potentially trigger mutual defense, describing those that would be significant, cumulative, malicious attacks, might, in certain circumstances, be considered armed conflict.

You know, qualified there a bit, but tell us the significance of them saying, hey, there are circumstances in which we would consider a cyberattack as severe as a kinetic, as an armed attack.

SANGER: Well, this has been brewing for quite a while, Jim. NATO, a few years ago, actually said that a cyberattack could trigger what they call an Article 5 resolution, that is a part of the NATO charter that says an attack on one is an attack on all.

But the fact of the matter is, as we've learned, is that every country regards the severity of a cyberattack very differently. And, you know, what's worried American officials the most have been the Russian intelligence agency attacks that went right after the integrity of software that the federal government and corporations use every day. They actually got into the system on which it is built. That worries people because you'd never trust your own networks. Yet it's hard to imagine NATO coming to our aid on such an issue.

It is easy to understand NATO getting together if it goes after the kind of infrastructure attacks that Shawn was just discussing, if it cut off Europe's access to gas pipelines or electricity and so forth. But even then, while NATO has a significant strategy for how it can go to nuclear war, it really doesn't have much of a strategy about how it would use cyber weapons.

SCIUTTO: Shawn Henry, one reason the U.S. is more vulnerable to these attacks than say perhaps Russia is that so much of the physical infrastructure, key infrastructure, is in private hands. It's not government controlled. A pipeline line Colonial Pipeline, for instance, power grids and so on. So it's more difficult to require those companies by law to meet certain standards than, say, an intelligence agency might need to protect itself against attacks like this one.

So what do you do about that? I mean does the U.S. need a law to require basic cybersecurity to protect critical infrastructure that's in private hands?

HENRY: Well, I think there's actually been a lot done in the private sector in the last few years. Certainly there's a long road ahead and there's a lot more that needs to be done. Companies need to invest in their security to be more resilient.

That being said, I think we may see regulations. Certainly the government has come out and provided recommendations. Whether that moves to something that's a little more stringent, we'll see.

But, at the end of the day, the adversaries, whoever they may be around the world, are going to continue to come at U.S. infrastructure because they are seeing a significant return on their very limited investment, whether it be financial return, whether it be having an impact on an election system, et cetera, they will continue. And that will happen unless they're incentivized or deterred from stopping that type of activity. So there needs to be more investment in the security from a defensive

posture. Companies need to be more proactive and hunt on their networks for these types of activities, the anomalous behaviors that we're seeing, and governments need to sit down and define the norms and recognize we are in a new world where our entire lives rely on a successful and resilient infrastructure, Jim.

SCIUTTO: David Sanger, quickly before we go, given these attacks happen virtually every day, is it wrong to say that the U.S. and Russia are already in a state of a low level war to some degree given the severity of these cyberattacks going back and forth?

SANGER: Well, the way I usually put it, Jim, is that we are in a daily short of war cyber conflict where both countries, and to some degree China, Iran, North Korea, are attacking each other.

[09:55:08]

The Russians more, I think, than the U.S. is going after Russia itself, certainly. And trying along the way, not only to steal data, as Shawn suggested, not only trying to get into infrastructure, but to actually make us doubt the integrity and reliability of our own systems. And so just as they are going after our democracy, they're going after our infrastructure. And I think that's the way to think about that.

SCIUTTO: David Sanger, Shawn Henry, thanks so much to both of you. The cyber issues so central to these talks today.

The second round of talks between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin here in Geneva, they're underway. The first one, which was a smaller group, in effect just the presidents, the secretary of state and foreign minister of Russia as well. Now, an expanded group. They hope a more detailed discussion, not only of issues of disagreement, but potential, small ones, potential areas of agreement.

We're going to continue with our live special coverage of the Putin- Biden summit.

Please do stay with us.

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