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First 100 Days; U.S. Investigators Corroborate Russia Dossier; ICE Arrest Hundreds of Foreign Nationals; France Terror Plot Appears ISIS-Inspired; Hundreds of Volunteers Try to Save Whales. Aired 12- 12:30a ET

Aired February 11, 2017 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Keeping his options open. Donald Trump is considering issuing a new executive order on immigration.

Tension in the White House. The U.S. vice president tries to find out if the national security adviser deliberately misled him a call to the Russian ambassador.

Plus volunteers stepping up on the beach. People in New Zealand trying to save dozens of stranded whales.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier live from Atlanta and your CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: The Trump administration is exploring its options following the rejection by a U.S. appeals court of a controversial travel ban. One thing we do know: appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court is off the table at least for now.

That's according to a source familiar with the situation. Other options for the president include pursuing the matter in a lower court, revising the current executive order or scrapping it completely and starting over.

Whatever path the administration chooses, Mr. Trump was confident that he would prevail.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unfortunate part is it takes time statutorily. So it takes a little time. We'll win that battle. But we also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand new order on Monday.


TRUMP: Could very well be. But I like to keep you, you know, like to surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security. So it could very well be that we do that.


VANIER: For more on all of this let's bring in Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent at "The Daily Beast." She joins us from Washington.

Eleanor, good to speak from you. For Donald Trump, clearly, the court ruling was just a setback.

ELEANOR CLIFT, "THE DAILY BEAST": Yes, but he reacted in the brash way that he normally reacts to any kind of a setback.

He said, "See you in court."

But then the White House quickly walked that back and so did the president and I think they will probably try to rewrite an executive order that can pass muster with the courts because I don't think they want to risk going to the Supreme Court and losing.

This is not a man who loses well. And he has now invoked national security as a reason for this ban and has said that, as president, he now knows stuff that he never knew before and that we should all be very frightened.

So he's really playing the national security card here.

VANIER: Yes, which he's been doing from the beginning with this executive order.

Is there a sense that he could achieve substantively the same thing by just tweaking the text?

That's one of the words that's been used about this executive order and about the options that Donald Trump has.

CLIFT: Yes, I'm not sure you even need an executive order. The seven states that were selected for this partial ban basically grew out of more extreme vetting that was done under the previous administration.

And I don't believe there's any specific threat from these seven countries and it does seem more like a symbolic gesture to fulfill a campaign promise.

VANIER: But does the president have to prove in court, though, does he have to prove that in court, that there is a significant threat?

Because he's got a lot of latitude to invoke national security.

CLIFT: He does. But there are other elements of the Constitution, the establishment clause; if you single out one religion over another for apparent special treatment, that would not pass constitutional muster.

And the way he went about this particular travel ban, creating so much, really, unnecessary disruption and initially claiming only 109 people were inconvenienced, when it turned out there were tens of thousands of people who were inconvenienced.

VANIER: Couldn't he achieve essentially what he wanted to achieve if he took out the more controversial parts; for instance, prioritizing minority religions which, is one of the parts that is most likely -- could be deemed unconstitutional?

Couldn't he just achieve what he wanted to do if he executes it better and takes that part out of the text?

CLIFT: Except do you understand clearly what he wanted to do?


CLIFT: If you go back to his campaign rhetoric, he wanted a ban on all Muslims coming into the country. So if he keeps shaving this back, I don't see that he accomplishes much more than the --


CLIFT: -- previous administration accomplished with some pretty severe vetting.

People who come into this country have to go through two and three years of interviews and close scrutiny.

And for a country that is founded on the promise of welcoming immigrants, America really has not done its part, compared to Europe and other states. And so I think this president is really on shaky ground when it comes to conveying America's values.

And also I was under the impression that we were combating terrorism by indicating that we could go about our lives and we weren't afraid of terrorists. And if we became afraid and hunkered down, that meant the terrorists would win.

He is telling us to be afraid and hunker down and close the gates. It's a total reversal to how two previous presidents handled the threat of terrorism.

VANIER: Oh, again, he's invoking national security.

Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast," thank you very much.

CLIFT: Thank you.

All right. Now CNN has learned new information about the ongoing investigation into allegations raised in a collection of memos created by a former British intelligence agent for political opponents of then-candidate Donald Trump. Jim Sciutto is working the story and he spoke earlier to Erin Burnett.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: What have you learned tonight?


For the first time, U.S. investigators say that they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in that 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.

CNN, as you said, was first report last month that then president- elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the memos prior to the inauguration.

Until now, though, U.S. officials have said that none of the content or allegations have been verified. But we have learned multiple current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN that intelligence intercepts of foreign nationals confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.

The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, quote, "greater confidence in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier," as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.

We should be clear that CNN has not confirmed the content of the calls or whether any of the content relates to then-candidate Trump. And none of the newly learned information relates -- I should emphasize -- to the salacious allegations in the dossier.

Reached for comment this afternoon, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, quote, "We continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting," end quote.

Spokesman for the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, all reached by CNN, they, Erin, had no comment.

BURNETT: So, Jim, you talk about that this didn't relate to the salacious parts of the dossier but there were incredibly serious allegations in here.

Do you have any sense at this hour what it is that U.S. investigators have corroborated that is true in this dossier?

SCIUTTO: Well, this is what we know. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. One thing the U.S. has is a collection of foreign call intercepts.

So they used that information to seek to verify that some of these alleged conversations described in the dossier took place and U.S. intelligence officials emphasize the conversations they have now verified were solely between foreign nationals, including those tied to or inside the Russian government.

But some of the individuals involved in the intercepted communications were known to the U.S. intelligence community as being, quote, "heavily involved in collecting information damaging to Hillary Clinton."

And I should note this, Erin, "helpful to Donald Trump."

BURNETT: Right, which obviously is a crucial part of all this and then whether there was any kind of collusion there. I mean, the sources I know that you have been talking to say, look, there's confirmation; these conversations happened.

And I think it's crucial to emphasize your reporting, right, on the dates and times and places that they were alleged to have occurred.

There still, though, is a lot in those 35 pages, right, that they cannot verify, right?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely not. And we want to emphasize that as well.

One of the officials stressed to CNN that they have not corroborated -- and this is a quote -- "the more salacious things," end quote, alleged in the dossier. And I'll remind our viewers that CNN has not reported any of those salacious allegations.

However, when we first reported this story, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials said they could not verify any parts of the memos. They are now saying they did indeed corroborate some of those communications.

I will say again that none of the officials we spoke to for this story would comment or confirm that they have proof --


SCIUTTO: -- of any alleged conversations or meetings between Russian officials and U.S. citizens, and that includes associates of then- candidate Trump. Officials who spoke to CNN for this story cautioned they have not reached any final judgment on whether the Russian government has any compromising information about the president, President Trump and his staff.

You remember this, Erin, as well, have repeatedly dismissed the entire dossier as, quote, "phony."


VANIER: All right, Jim Sciutto there, talking with Erin Burnett. Thanks to them both.

Meanwhile, another scandal involving Russia is swirling around Mr. Trump's national security adviser. A U.S. official tells CNN that Michael Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Kremlin's U.S. ambassador, adding to the controversy the alleged conversation happened in December, while Barack Obama was still president.

Mr. Trump appeared oblivious to the allegations on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it.

What report is that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a number of reports (INAUDIBLE) reporting that he talked to the ambassador of Russia before you were inaugurated about sanctions (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: I haven't seen that. I'll look at that.


VANIER: Now vice president Mike Pence has said in the past that Flynn didn't discuss the sanctions but three administration officials say he only knew what Flynn told him. A source now tells CNN the only reason Flynn hasn't been fired is that the White House doesn't want to look bad.

President Trump's Florida resort is living up to its nickname, the winter White House this weekend. Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump hosted Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his wife for dinner at Mar-a-lago on Friday.

Also dining with them, Robert Kraft, the owner of Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. But even during Mr. Abe's visit, China is taking up much of the spotlight, as Michelle Kosinski reports.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump with the Japanese prime minister, facing questions about China, seeming to offer a warning over currency manipulation.

TRUMP: We will be all on a level playing field because that's the only way it's fair. That's the only way that you can fairly compete.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Yet it comes one day after the stunning statement from the White House, summarizing last night's phone call between President Trump and the Chinese president.

President Trump agreed at the request of President Xi to honor our One China policy, a striking about-face for President Trump, who has said plenty to rock that boat.

TRUMP: I don't know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.

They break the rules in every way imaginable.

China, which has been ripping us off, the greatest abuser in the history of this country.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Xi had not spoken to Trump since Trump took a phone call from Taiwan before the inauguration, an unprecedented breach of protocol in this complex and important relationship.

The One China policy, in China's view, is the bedrock on which cooperation rests, ensuring that the U.S. views Taiwan as part of China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given its importance to China, it was inevitable that we would have to back down. And that makes us look weak. Now I think our partners and allies in the region are reassured we are not about to go to war and the relationship with China is stabilized. But they are also asking if we are not a paper tiger. We make threats and then we back away from them.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): And now comes word from the European Union after meetings with U.S. officials on the Iran nuclear deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was assured by what I heard in my meetings on the intention to stick to the full and strict implementation of the agreement in all its parts.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Yet again, this was a key issue on which President Trump ran for office.

TRUMP: We can't continue to make deals like that horrible Iran deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going the rip up the Iran deal.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): A major shift away from the rhetoric, reminiscent of President Obama's warning to the new administration.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are things that make for good sound bites that don't always translate into good policy. Reality has a way of asserting itself.

KOSINSKI: It's clear that foreign policy is very much in the shaping stage. There's a new poll out, though, by Gallup that shows that now only 29 percent of Americans believe President Trump is respected by other world leaders and only 42 percent now feel that the U.S. is viewed favorably in the world -- Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the State Department.


VANIER: Mexico is now warning its citizens in the U.S. of a new reality after a high-profile deportation. Guadelupe Garcia de Reyos (ph) was expelled from the U.S. on Thursday after a routine check-in with immigration officials. The 35-year-old mother had been in the U.S. since she was 14 but she was convicted of using a fake Social Security number in 2008.

Five years after that, Garcia de Reyos (ph) signed papers acknowledging that she would eventually be removed from the United States. Her attorney says her deportation now --

[00:15:00] VANIER: -- was due to a crackdown on illegal immigrants by Mr. Trump.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released these photos earlier showing their officers making arrests in both Los Angeles and Atlanta. Hundreds of foreign nationals have been arrested across the country this week, many of whom had criminal histories.

Immigration officials say these were routine actions, targeting criminals, not due to the president's executive order. But critics say this is Mr. Trump cracking down on innocent immigrants.

Stay with us. We're going to take a very short break. When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, French police say they have thwarted a terror attack and the suspects may well have been inspired by ISIS. Stay with us.




VANIER: Welcome back. Military police in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo have agreed to end their week-long strike that sparked violence in the streets and left at least 110 people dead.

The police and government officials cut a deal that will promote officers who are eligible and address concerns about the workload. However, they will not receive a salary hike. The officers' wives, who had initiated the strike, did not participant in those negotiations.

Police in France say they have thwarted an imminent terror attack. A source says the four suspects who are French nationals appear to have been inspired by ISIS. Our Melissa Bell has more details.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a dawn raid in the Montpelier area at several addresses that allowed authorities to take in these four suspects, among them, a 16-year-old girl.

Now French authorities say that that 16-year old and the other suspects were preparing to carry out an imminent attack. No word yet specifically on the target that was intended.

But our information and our sources tell us that quantities of TATP were found in one of the flats. That is that explosive favored by terrorists because it is relatively easy to assemble. It is the kind of explosive that was used in the November 13th attacks in 2015 here in Paris also in the Zaventem airport attacks in Brussels.

Now sources say that the 16-year-old girl had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organization just a couple days of ago in a video posted online. No word yet, though, on the precise coordination that may have taken place between the four suspects here in France and anyone involved on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.

French media though are, this evening, reporting that the 16-year old was due to marry one of the other suspects. It is alleged that he was the one who was going to carry out the attack on French soil. She was planning to head to Syria as the widow of the jihad.

French authorities now have 96 hours in which to question these four suspects before being obliged under French law to release them -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


VANIER: Hundreds of volunteers are rolling up their sleeves at a beach in New Zealand. They're trying to save dozens of pilot whales, who beached themselves on the sand.


VANIER: At least 250 whales stranded on the beach have died. Emily Cooper of TVNZ has more now on the desperate rescue effort.


EMILY COOPER, TVNZ (voice-over): A desperate and heartbreaking rescue mission.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We've named her. And Echo will survive.

COOPER (voice-over): The hundreds of volunteers digging in at the site of a mass stranding of pilot whales.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) nice and wet, not covering the blowhole, going around the dorsal fins and over the top of the dorsal fins. And then just making nice clean, cool buckets of water over these.

COOPER (voice-over): Battling the cold to try and save the animals still beached in the shallows at Farewell Spit.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quite emotional. It's -- for me, it's encouraging to see the number of people who have come out today to help. A lot of them haven't seen a whale before.

COOPER (voice-over): The whales stranding here overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they said somebody come and see the whales, we just assumed that they were near to the shore but not stranded or beached like this. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thinking they might die.

COOPER (voice-over): Many did die but rescuers successfully refloated about half of the survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just being sitting out on the edge of the shelf, just observing, making sure that they don't come back in.

COOPER (voice-over): For the remaining whales, a long wait for the next high tide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's currently a race against time for these guys at the moment. It's a low tide so it's about keeping them comfortable. Any later on this evening, at high tide, it's hoped they will be able to refloat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we first came down and saw the dead ones on the side, it was pretty heartbreaking. But it's an amazing thing to come down here and just try and help these animals isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The adrenaline has been keeping us afloat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very emotional and it's very sad.

COOPER (voice-over): An emotional time for all of those on this beach that will carry on into tomorrow.


VANIER: That report there from Emily Cooper of TVNZ.

All right, coming after the break, Greenland has become a ground zero of sorts for global warning.

And an actor from the hit show "Game of Thrones" wants us to see its rapidly changing landscape before it's too late. Stay with us.




VANIER: An intense heat wave is prompting a fire ban in Australia. Of particular concern are the bush fires and the temperatures which could shatter a 121-year-old record this weekend. Meteorologist Julie Martin joins us with more on this.


VANIER: A star of the TV hit "Game of Thrones" is focusing his offscreen efforts on climate change. Jonathan Mann shows us his mission to document some of the dramatic changes happening now in Greenland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU, ACTOR AND U.N. GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: Greenland, it's like a whole different world. It's like something out of a movie.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Danish actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Greenland is his family's second home. His wife grew up there. Now the "Game of Thrones" star and newly appointed U.N. goodwill ambassador is partnering with Google to document the countries' changing landscape.

Waldau is traveling around Greenland, wearing a high-tech backpack, called the Trekker, collecting Street View imagery of the country's amazing sights. From the ancient Viking ruins to these stranded icebergs called "beached whales," to its geothermal hot springs.

WALDAU: What I love about Greenland is you turn a corner and you walk a few hundred yards and you're in the middle of nowhere. And I feel small in the best sense of the word.

MANN (voice-over): Waldau hopes his efforts and images will help people understand the drastic changes taking place in Greenland.

WALDAU: If we go and we film with the Trekker a glacier and come back in five years, we'll be able to see that there is less of this ice in five years' time.

MANN (voice-over): And by documenting Greenland's vanishing beauty help people better understand the impact of climate change before it's too late.

WALDAU: Greenland is all untouched in a way. But if we all work together, we can preserve this beautiful wilderness that we have left.

MANN (voice-over): Jonathan Mann, CNN.


VANIER: All right. That's it from us. Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. And I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.