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Report: Russia's Provocative Moves Test Trump; Trump Briefed on Flynn Situation 19 Days Ago; Senators Review Oprah Show Tape About Puzder. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 14, 2017 - 15:30   ET



[15:35:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Russia reacting to news of Michael Flynn's resignation. One of Russia's senior lawmakers in the foreign affairs committee saying quote "Russia-phobia has already infected the new administration. It was obvious the Flynn was forced to write the letter of resignation under a certain amount of pressure." And on a stunning day when the Trump administration is mired in scandal, CNN is also learning that Russia has deployed a ground launched cruise missile off the coast of Delaware.

Before we go to Ivan Watson who is live in Moscow, but first Ryan Brown, our Pentagon reporter, so my question is what are you learning about what's happening off of Delaware right now?

RYAN BROWN, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Hi, Brooke, we are seeing several moves off Moscow, one of which is a spy ship is sailing off the coast of Delaware, U.S. defense officials tell us that ship is designed to gather signals intelligence here on the United States. Now that ship is in international waters but it is something to take note of.

In addition, we're also hearing Moscow has deployed a ground based cruise missile that America says it is in violation of a decades old treaty governing intermediate nuclear weapons, the INF treaty from 1987. And in addition, that we are learning that Russian war planes came within 1,000 yards of the USS Porter sailing in the Black Sea, so we are seeing these moves from Russia occurring almost within a matter of days and so something definitely that the Pentagon is taking note of.

BALDWIN: Two separate incidents there. Ivan, to you in Moscow from Russian president we just heard crickets, but what is the official line?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's approaching midnight here, so we're going to be looking out and trying to get reaction from the Russian government on these reports that are clearly coming from the Pentagon trying to confirm them or get any further details, I can presume they would say a warship in international waters, well, it's in international waters so allowed to be there. I can't imagine what the response will be about the allegations of a new kind of cruise missile that may be banned.

Of course, we'll be asking about that. We have to go to past Russian doctrine to interpret the expansion of the NATO military alliance into eastern Europe as a threat to Russia and that Russia holds the right and holds on to the right to protect itself to what it perceives to be a provocative action. Moscow has been very open and a lot of people here celebrated when Donald Trump won the election, they celebrated his positive statements about Russia but doesn't mean that Russian doctrine has completely transformed over the past two months. That's possibly what we may be seeing if these reports prove to be true.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Coming up my next guest was to be part of the Trump inner circle until the President told Steve Bannon to reject him. We will talk to a former national security adviser under George W. Bush. Next.


BALDWIN: With national security adviser Michael Flynn out who is left to advise Trump on his most pressing foreign policy? Secretary of state Rex Tillerson for one, but the former Exxon Mobil executive who lacks military experience is still looking for his number two, Elliott Abrams is now out of the running, served as the deputy national security adviser for President George W. Bush and says he was nixed because of Steve Bannon. I talked with Elliott moments ago and asked him what it means.


BALDWIN: You have three advisers, Flynn being the latest one, all now under investigation into potential ties with Russia and even Roy Blunt a Republican senator now calling on this investigation into President and Russia, there's a lot of smoke, Elliott, how suspicious are you of President Trump and Moscow?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, THE DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I have to say we don't know the facts even about the election for example. I've always thought that the Russians believed Hillary Clinton would win the election and they weren't trying to throw the election, they were trying to harm the next President namely who they thought would be Hillary Clinton but I think they really made a significant effort to hurt her and undermine her, how significant, how big was it? I don't know. Who knew about it? I don't know that either. But I think you are going to find out more from the Republicans in the Senate. I think one good thing that comes out of this frankly is that this administration is going to be rough on Russia, now they're going to have to take a harder line at least until all this settles down from my point of view is a very good thing.

BALDWIN: Because of this you expect unlike anything we have seen from Trump, him to pivot and be tough on Russia?

[15:45:00] ABRAMS: I think he really has to. Nikki Haley at the UN said we're not going to remove sanctions on Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, I think that has to remain in place, there is no possibility I would think of removing those sanctions while frankly this mess is cleared up.

BALDWIN: If he doesn't pivot and keeps the same line as he has, would you then be suspicious?

ABRAMS: Well, I wouldn't be suspicious that it's -- that he's being compromised. I would just say that it's bad policy, really wrong policy but I think you're going to find an awful a lot of Republicans on The Hill saying we have to find this out. The intelligence community has to look into this and get their own facts of who knew what at the FBI and who did they tell it to when did the chief of staff find out when the President find out? Was it all the same day? I think you're going to find they're looking into that pretty carefully.

BALDWIN: Last night I saw you on Erin Burnett "Out Front" and you believe it was Steve Bannon who ultimately stood in your way from snagging that number two spot at the state department. And so right now there is a lot of chaos in the inner circle. The quote we keep hearing is that the knives are out. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

ABRAMS: No. In the Bush administration, George W. Bush. The knives are pretty much never out. You got the impression from the President if are seen with a knife, you're out. It was very genteel. There was a story today in Bloomberg that was really knifing chief of staff Priebus he's no good, he's behind, he's not catching up. Where does that come from? That's an inside story if you take a look at it. If I were advising the new national security adviser the first thing I would say to him or her, you have to be in charge of foreign policy in the white house reporting to the President. There cannot be a strategic group reporting somebody else namely Mr. Bannon and talking about foreign policy, you've got to be the guy. So, I think this disorganization which we are now into the fourth week of really has got to end and you know the word that's missing so far?


ABRAMS: Loyalty. Loyalty.

BALDWIN: But people talked so much about loyalty, initially about Mr. Trump that he values loyalty within his inner circle.

ABRAMS: Well, to loyalty to him seems strong, but it is more than that. The loyalty to the president can't be we'll knife each other but won't knife you. There has to be a sense among the staff, nobody does this, we all take care of each other. Loyalty to the President means we are not trying to screw other members of the staff and get advantage over them and that's what you are not yet seeing. You're not seeing that kind of loyalty.

BALDWIN: We know General Petraeus is at the white house today, he is on the short list of replacements for this NSA job. Of the three names floating, just a final question who would you back?

ABRAMS: I know General Petraeus a little. Admiral Howard was colleague of mine at the Bush NSC. These are both great patriots and people who served their country enormously and I think would do a really terrific job. Those are the two that I know the best.

BALDWIN: Elliott Abrams, thank you so much for the time.

ABRAMS: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Up next senators are reviewing a decades old tape from the Oprah Show before they decide whether to vote yes on labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, what his wife said about him then and now.


BALDWIN: A bipartisan committee of senators some of whom are still on the fence about labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder is reviewing a 1990s episode of the Oprah Winfrey show. Why? Because in this interview, Puzder's ex-wife accuses him of domestic violence. She is now privately telling senators she made a mistake in leveling those allegations. By the way, Puzder's confirmation hearing is set for this Thursday. Manu Raju is our go to guy on The Hill, senior Congressional reporter. You've seen the tape. What exactly are the allegations she makes then? I know she's walked it back now.

MANU RAJU, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I have not seen the tape, but some of the committee -- some of the members on the committee have seen that tape. It is actually not available for public release and members on that -- the Oprah network actually has the rights to that tape, which is one reason why they have not release it had widely. So, there was one screening actually last week in which some members attended to watch that episode from the late 1980s on Puzder's ex-wife leveling those domestic abuse allegations. Also, she appeared in disguise because she did not want at that time her ex- husband to know that she was on the show.

Now, one senator who I did speak with who watched that tape is Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee that will be reviewing his nomination in that confirmation hearing this Thursday. She did not like what she saw. Here's what she said.


RAJU: You saw the Oprah video. What did you think that of?

[15:55:00] PATTY MURRAY, SENATOR, WASHINGTON: I think it's very troubling. I'm not going to comment on the case. I think there's a lot in this nominee, background comments that he's made, that are very troubling and should be to all of us about someone who's job is going to be to protect workers in the workplace. It's the ads that he has put out there, comments he has made in the past, issues of sexual harassment, how he treats and respects women.

RAJU: Will you ask him about the Oprah tape at the hearing?

MURRAY: I haven't decided yet.


RAJU: Now, some Republicans on the committee, too, have seen that tape including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and she had actually told our colleague Tom Lobianco she has not made a decision whether or not to support Mr. Puzder's nomination, even after seeing that tape. Some Republicans also on the committee, three other ones, are still withholding their support, waiting for him to answer questions. But it is important to note that his ex-wife did send a letter to the committee saying this she regretted her appearance on that Oprah show, saying she only did it because she wanted to appear as a champion for women's rights and she wanted to, quote, get a free trip to Chicago. And she's taken back all of those domestic abuse allegations, dropped them and now calls them a very good man. The domestic abuse cases did not actually happen. But expect all this, Brooke, to have to come forward at that hearing this Thursday, Brooke.

BALDWIN: On Thursday, Manu, thank you very much, on The Hill. Coming up next President Trump's representative at the U.N. slamming North Korea for its recent ballistic missile test. CNN is live inside Pyonyang with details on the regime's nuclear technology.


BALDWIN: We continue to follow the breaking news on two Russian provocations. The first Russia has secretly deployed a ground launch cruise missile, although the exact location of the flight test is unclear. What we do know is that this deployment is an apparent violation of a landmark arms treaty that helped see the end of the cold war.

Meantime, in a separate incident, in international waters off the coast of Delaware, the U.S. has spotted a Russian spy ship. The vessel is outfitted with high-tech spying equipment and is designed to intercept signals -- intelligence so it will be interesting to see how President Trump and the U.S. respond to that. Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "The Lead" starts now.