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U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Resigns; Trump Criticized Over North Korean Missile Launch; Crews Fight to Control Flooding at California Dam. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 14, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: Our reporter and from - who reports from the D.C. Gary, from Washington D.C. I appreciate it. Thank you so much, Sir.


LEMON: Our live coverage of the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn's resignation continues now with Michael Holmes in Los Angeles, and Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for watching.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Michael Holmes live in Los Angeles where it has just turned 10:00 on Monday night.

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL PRESENTER: And I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones here in London, where it is 6:00 on Tuesday morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

HOLMES: Well, breaking news from Washington as we been reporting the last few hours with the U.S. National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has resigned. Flynn has been under-fire for his contacts with Russia's U.S. Ambassador before President Trump took office.

JONES: A number of sources say, Flynn inappropriately discussed U.S. sanctions on Moscow imposed by the Obama administration. And, just on Monday, CNN learns that the Justice Department has warned the White House last month, back in January, that Flynn maybe vulnerable to black mail by Russia.

HOLMES: All right. Let's head straight out to Washington, CNN's Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, joins us. Jim, I suppose his position had been untenable - growing that way, but was it this sort of accusation of potential black mail that was the turning point? Or was it that he misled Mike Pence, the Vice President?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that revelation that the Justice Department had warned the Trump administration a month ago, Michael, I think that was certainly a turning point in all of this. I think also this feeling inside the White House that it just was unacceptable that the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, now the former National Security Advisor, had misled either intentionally or unintentionally the Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had contacts with the Russian Ambassador. That he had discussed these Russian sanctions that have been handed down by the Obama administration.

Originally, Michael Flynn said, he did not have that conversation about the sanctions, it turns out later that he did have that conversation. And I think, Michael, the big turning point earlier today was, when Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to the President said, that the President had full confidence in Michael Flynn. And within an hour of that, the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, brought reporters into his office and said, "no, that was not the case." That the President was evaluating the situation, evaluating Michael Flynn's future and then I had heard, later on in the evening - just a few hours ago, that really his status was a "gray area."

Michael, as you know, from absorbing what happens here in Washington for many years, once a top official at an administration gets to that point, where the President cannot express, he has full confidence in that individual it's pretty difficult to walk that back. And for that person, that once again, have the confidence of the President. And so, it did become an untenable situation and we can tell you that, they're already starting to talk about a possible replacement for Michael Flynn. Keith Kellogg, a retired General, he is now going to be the acting National Security Advisor. He had been working in the National Security Council Office already, and so, he's going to be the acting National Security Advisor.

David Petraeus, the retired General, is now a front runner for this job. He was of course, involved in the Obama administration, was the top of the administration - the Obama administration, but resigned from that position because he had shared classified secrets with his mistress. And then, another retired Admiral Bob Harward, is apparently, also under consideration for the title of National Security Advisor. And this is going to get sorted out, probably not right away, it's probably going to take several days. But, what we're hearing from the Trump White House this evening is that the President has already moved on, from all of this, and that General Flynn did not get fired - he resigned.

According to Senior Administration Officials, President Trump tried to hang in there as long as he could, were told. But eventually, what you saw happen tonight simply became, as you said, an untenable situation.

HOLMES: And Jim, I'm wondering, you know, how much now is going to focus on who knew what? And when did they know? You know, it was - it was interesting that the President, just on Friday, on a pool, was one city ahead. And heard the reports about, Michael Flynn, but the Justice Department warning, according to the "Washington Post," it was last month. So, starts to make you wonder how could he not have known? And who knew about the substance of the conversations? And when?

[01:05:05] ACOSTA: It's very strange. And you know, I don't know why the President came on Air Force One and told reporters that, on Friday, that he had not even heard about the story. We were assured by the administration officials over the weekend that the President did know about all this. Meanwhile, all the while, Michael, Michael Flynn was involved with, you know, the dealings of the White House in terms of National Security business. He travelled down to Florida, down to Mar-a-Lago with President Trump when he was having that diplomatic golf outing with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was involved in that conversation that we saw spill out on the patio of Mar-a-Lago when they're dealing with the North Korea Missile launch.

And as a matter of fact, today, he was involved in the President's - presidential daily intelligence briefing. He was involved in those meeting with the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Canada, who is here today. And so, he was involved in all of these, you know, normal, you know, activities, affairs that you would - you would normally associate with the National Security Advisor. Up until this afternoon, when things started to unravel, when you had the Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, say that he had the full confidence of the President. And then, after that moment, it seemed it all went downhill and you had Top Administration Officials telling us, well, maybe, he didn't have the full confidence of the President. And by, you know, 11:00 at night, it was all over.

HOLMES: Yes, started to unravel. Got it. Leave it there. It's going to a lively press briefing tomorrow and if reporters like you -

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

HOLMES: -- Are allowed to ask questions? It should be pretty interesting. Jim Acosta, great reporting as always. Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

JONES: Well, as CNN Contributor, Jill Dougherty is a global fellow with the Richard Wilson censor, she joins me now live from Seattle, Washington. Jill, you're obviously in the United States but we have to talk to you about Russia. Russia, of course, on this subject had always denied that any of these conversations about sanctions between Michael Flynn and the Russian Ambassador, had taken place. Now that he's resigned, that calls the Kremlins' position somewhat into question. So, how embarrassing is this for Moscow?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's embarrassing, but I think that they're - they will probably try to finesse that question. I mean, the what - what they've been saying is there were no discussions between the United States and Russia, as far as I can see. And so, the they could say, well, no official conversations, maybe a little bit of a chat between the Ambassador - the Russian Ambassador and General Flynn. But we'll have to see how they - how they do try to finesse it, but I think it general terms, it's bad for them because their expectations that they would have some type of a better relationship with Donald Trump, are really kind of collapsing before their eyes. And nobody, here in the United States, let alone in Moscow, know where this is all going.

And then, it also, continues to raise, and really raises it higher than ever. This issue of why the special relationship between Donald Trump and Russia, Vladimir Putin, what is that relationship? There're a lot of question. And that would be bad for the relationship between Russia and the United States, because there will be more acrimony, there would be more congressional involvement in Congress, as you know, it's unpredictable where that will go. So, it could be very rocky.

But I have to say also that, the Russians in recent days have been a bit more critical, it's been a little bit more of a sense that they were questioning exactly what he was doing. And I also believe that they probably are looking at a certain level of incompetence, quite honestly, in this administration. That probably surprises them, I mean, when President Putin and Donald Trump were talking about nuclear weapons, nuclear arms control agreement new start, it was very clear in that conversation according to media reports that Donald Trump did not quite get it. He didn't understand what that agreement was about.

And when President Putin said, according to reports, we should extend it. Because it is going to expire next year. Trump said, it's a bad deal for the United States, it's a good deal for Russia - in other words, we got a bad deal. That's not a good way to start off the relationship with the country that thought it was going to have a lot clearer sailing than it did with the Obama administration. This is really - I think bad news, and very unpredictable bad news for Russia.

JONES: Yes. More bad news as well, as Michael and Jim were just a - leading to you, Jill. This "Washington Post" report that Michael Flynn maybe vulnerable to black mail by Russian, and this has been one of the main reasons why, his position became untenable. How is that black mail allegation going to play out in Moscow? Because it casts more shade, doesn't it? On Russian dealings?

[01:10:13] DOUGHERTY: It does. And I think it have to - OK, what would they black mail him on? Now, you could black mail him, perhaps, in the sense that he knew, let's say that he was misleading the Vice President, but that doesn't seem very strong. I mean, I don't think the Russians would really particularly want to use that as a bargaining point, but could there be something else? I mean, nobody at this point knows. But we do know that General Flynn, did speak in Moscow, and was at that R.T., the Russian broadcasting dinner, and has had relationships with the Kremlin. We don't know what're the details but there could be more. And so, I think these are the things that perhaps, you know, in the Intelligence Service of the United States, they had more clarity on that. And they could say, that there were some type of compromising data that could be used for black mailing General Flynn.

JONES: Jill, just explain first, if you can. Sanctions, we're always talking about sanctions and the one for the currently in place on Russia at the moment. Presumably, the Kremlin wants them lifted because they are particularly punishing, has that all been thrown into turmoil now because of Flynn's departure?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, I don't think that they were really, ultimately, realistically thinking that these sanctions would be easy to lift. They were really inoculating - inoculating themselves early on by not even really talking about it. Officially, when Putin and Trump talk they didn't get into sanctions, at least that's the report. So, why? Because they know that sanctions are often tied again, with Congress. And there is a movement even among some Republicans like John McCain, not to lift those sanctions. So, I don't think they were totally counting a 100 percent that it would happen.

That's one part of it. But, you know, another part, I think that's really important to watch is what happens to the NSC? Because after all, the National Security Council is a crucial body for deciding the security posture, the policy in the United States, and giving information to the President to make his determination. If they get somebody stronger in there? Because Flynn was not, reportedly doing a very good job at all, in managing it. But there could be a quicker movement towards some type of policy on Russia.

Right now, nobody knows what the policy is. It's just words of saying, "wouldn't it be nice," Mr. Trump's words, "wouldn't it be nice if we had a better relationship? Or maybe, we invite, be able to do a deal by cooperating on fighting terrorism, and then we could have a nuclear deal on this side." All of these ideas, they've really not formulated to put it mildly. So, the Russians actually, I would say, the White House now maybe able to put together a better more cohesive policy. But at this point, it really is a point of turmoil both for the Kremlin, and for the White House.

JONES: Yes. Fascinating, let's see what happens with the NSC, as you say, and of course Presidents Putin and Trump haven't yet met in person. It'll be completely fascinating to see how that goes down when that meeting takes place. Jill Dougherty, live for us in Seattle, at Washington State. Thanks very much.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, joining me here now in Los Angeles; Political Commentator and Talk Radio Host, Mo'Kelly; and from Dallas, Texas, CNN Political Commentator, Ben Ferguson. Thanks for being with us gentlemen. Let's start with you Mo, General Flynn might have gone but is it over for him? Democrats are going to want to make hay out of this. You - there's already, you know, inquiries into the Russia links to the election. Why do you think General Flynn could end up giving evidence somewhere along the line?

MO'KELLY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND TALK RADIO HOST: This is inevitable. I mean, the Democrats, they don't have any real leverage in Congress so they have to use whatever is available to them. And this's kind of felon to their laps. And for all the discussion about the level of involvement of Russia in our politics. Now, you have a physical embodiment of the boogieman, if you will, while we can point to say, there is some they're with General Flynn.

And so, where it might lead? No one knows. But we know the Congressional hearings probably will follow, and there'll be a lot of questions now going forward with some actual weight behind them, as far as Russia's involvement in American politics. We had a Senior Cabinet official, lie, to a Senior Administration Official, the Vice President about his communication with the foreign adversary. That can't be overstated enough.

[01:15:00] HOLMES: And Ben, we - I think we've really only know about one phone call, and we don't know the exact substance of that. What, there's likely to be more? I mean, where do you think this goes now? And how damaging it is for the White House?

FERGUSON: Well, anytime in the three weeks of the administration, you have your Security National Adviser who rely to the Vice President of the United States of America and has reason over it, the politics of this obviously looked bad. I don't think though the substance of this is going to go much further. This was a bad decision by Mr. Flynn to do this. He obviously should have been more upfront and forthcoming to the Vice-president. He put himself in this situation. There's no one to blame but him. And he resigned tonight, because I think he realized that he had lost the confidence, probably of the President and definitely, I think, the Vice-president and others around him.

Now, the politics of this are going to be nasty. I mean, the Democrats are going to seize on this and they're going to try to make this a bigger deal than what it actually is. I don't think there is any type of crime committed here, no one's implying that. So, what are you investigating? A guy who resigned and that's going to be the partisan part of this.

HOLMES: Well, the Democrats surely banned together be sighting. They want to investigate what the substance of the conversation was.


HOLMES: Where sanctions discussed, where the other phone calls. Did he have a conversation about sanctions with the Russian Ambassador on his own? Did he not run it by anyone? Was it just casual conversation or did the administration know about the conversation?


HOLMES: Surely, that's the sort thing they're going to look at.

FERGUSON: Of course. But the reason why they're looking at it, let's be clear, is not because they're going to get rid of Flynn, he already resigned. It is the politics of this. They're seizing on an opportune - perfect opportunity here. A perfect storm for then they once again go after the Trump Administration. The damage has already been done. He lied to the Vice-president of the United States of America. I also think this sends a very clear message to those in the White House where we've had a lot of leaks in the last three weeks that Donald Trump is now probably going to look at making decisions about personnel if they cross any of these lines. Flynn is the first example of that. There will probably be others. And the Democrats - look, they're going to play the politics for this and they're going to investigate this because they're going to try to make sure that they do everything they can to make Donald Trump's approval rating going down even though - I don't think there's much else here except for the fact you had someone that lied to the Vice-president and it cost him his job as it should have. HOLMES: What about - Moe, do you agree with that? Do you think that

the damage has been done and it won't go much further in terms of the actual substance of what went on, the relationship between Flynn and the Ambassador? Who knew what and when they knew it?

KELLY: With all due respect to Ben, I mean, when you say he lied to the Vice-president, that right there is significant in it of itself. But there's also another aspect to this, that the DOJ let the Trump Administration know that the NSA - that the National Security Adviser was vulnerable to blackmails so their other pieces, their other pieces of information which have not been introduced to the public, but are very necessary to this investigation - this pending investigation. So, it's not just Michael Flynn that he lied, it's also that their other aspects to this, which have yet to be released to the public, which are very important to this discussion and obviously that goes back to Russia, as far as, how many of our Senior Cabinet officials, including the President, quite possibly, are have - these ties to Russia that are not being revealed yet need to be discussed and obviously would shed a different light on how we may receive this Administration.

FERGUSON: Look, I totally understand the play here and you just saw that. Democrats see blood in the water and they're going to try to catch something, a big fish off of it. I just don't think, based on the resignation letter, based on how long Flynn even have the confidence of the President since this afternoon, I think this is the story. He is now resigned, he made a mistake, and it was a mistake that cost him his job and this is going to be his legacy now. But if Democrats overplay this, it may actually backfire on him a little bit if he try to make this into an actual bigger scandal than it really is.

HOLMES: Well the question is - it's got to be a valid one of who knew what and when and how far does it go. Is it just General Flynn? The story of Jim McCotter earlier Ben, about this. And you know, last Friday, on Air Force One that the President was asked about this and he said, "Roger, I haven't heard those reports." Now, if the DOJ had told the Trump Administration about this last month, how could he have not known?

FERGUSON: Well, I think the DOJ telling somebody or an individual like the President that, "Hey, FYI. These conversations happened." They may have just given him a general scope. They might not even have the transcript yet of what was actually said or what was in it. For him to say that he didn't realize the extent of this, or he wasn't briefed on it, is absolutely possible. We also don't know what the definition of blackmail is. Is it the fact that he had a conversation, he denied it to the Vice-president. Is that where the blackmail would come in? You know, again, I'm sure Democrats are going to have no problem looking into this and seeing if there is anything there that they can sink their teeth into. I just look at the demeanor - the way that Flynn resigned and the way that he did this because it seems that this was more of a distraction - this White House, than anything else. And he understood how big of a distraction it was and that's why he resigned. If they find something else, they're going to be thrilled about it. I just don't see it there yet. [01:20:29] HOLMES: And Moe, where - the other thing about this is the, you know, you've got one hell of a man with his experience in the intelligence community. I don't know, didn't these few dead conversations with the Russian Ambassador weren't going to be monitored?

KELLY: Yes, I don't understand it either. I mean, any type of conversation with a foreign official, yes, it's going to be recorded, yes it's going to be transferred. So, that goes back to judgement. If his judgement was so lucky in that moment, how might that judgement impact his decisions versus North Korea? Versus ISIS? Versus anything which is going on in the Middle East? So, I think this is a - this administration does have an identity problem as far as how the - having a way of swaging people's fears and giving a sense of calm. All we seen is chaos instead of calm. And if this is going to be a harbinger of what is going to be in the future for this administration, well this is going to be tough sledding.

HOLMES: Mo'Kelly and Ben Ferguson, we're going to leave it there unfortunately. Thanks so much, gentlemen. Good to see you.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

JONES: All right. A busy night or a busy morning, depending on where you are watching. But you are watching CNN's Live Breaking News coverage. U.S. National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, has resigned. We'll see how Russia is reacting in a live report from Moscow, coming up next.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Don Riddell with your CNN WORLD SPORT Headlines. We're bound two thirds of the way through the Premier League Season, time for clubs to get serious about chasing Chelsea. We've heard one on top a big lead of talk.

One of the sides of the chance Manchester City were in action on Monday against Bournemouth. City found goal Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, as they secured their third consecutive league win, taking in two-nil and moving into second in the league, eight points behind Chelsea.

The run of 60 kicks off in the Champions League, Tuesday, with one of the matches featuring the Portuguese title holders Benfica hosting Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund is pretty much out of Bundseliga's contention and are found trouble at home, having been ordered to close their iconic yellow wall at Westfalenstadion for the next home game against Wolfsburg. The club will also find just over $100,00 for the crowd trouble that broke out in the recent match against RB Leipzig when supporters clashed outside the ground. 28 people were arrested.

Now, have you ever wondered how boxers choose their next opponents? Well, Manny Pacquiao asked his Twitter followers who he should fight next. Pacquiao is rumored to be finding Jeff Horn but in a choice between Horn, Kell Brook, Amir Khan and Terence Crawford. And overwhelming majority went for Khan. We'll see what happens next if the two boxers will agree to fight.

That is a quick look at your Sports Headlines, I'm Don Riddell.

[01:25:21] JONES: Welcome back. Recapping our top story. Michael Flynn has resigned as the U.S. National Security Adviser.

HOLMES: Here's the part of coming after reports. The Justice Department warned he could be vulnerable to blackmail over communications he had with the Russian Ambassador. Now, reports also said Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions with the ambassador after Russia relatedly interfered with the Presidential Election and walled President Barack Obama when he was still in office.

Let me read just a little bit of that resignation letter. In it, Flynn said, quote, "Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice-president and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador." He went on, "I have sincerely apologized to the President and Vice- president and they have accepted my apology."

JONES: Well, joining me now from Moscow, CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance. Matthew, great to have you on the program. And perhaps, so too early. Just coming past 9 there in Moscow, too early perhaps for a full response from the Kremlin. But how big a loss is Michael Flynn to Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, he had a relationship with Russia. I mean, he notoriously attended gala dinner here back in December 2015 which was a paid attendance and he gave a speech there which was hosted by Russia Today which is a Kremlin funded television station, nearly sat next to Vladimir Putin that proved criticism about his judgements.

Of course, the remote questions about his judgement now leading to this resignation. But perhaps a bit of reaction so far, not from the Kremlin, you're right, it's too early for them yet but a Senior Russian Lawmaker, Alexey Pushkov, has tweeted that the target of the scandal was not Flynn but the relationship with Russia. And that cuts to a real concern here in Russia about the political scandals that are taking place inside the United States of the moment which is the relationship that Trump has tried to forge with Russia.

The bettering of that relationship has become a political liability for him and his critics both in the Democratic Party and in the Republicans, have made it quite clear that they're going to use that sympathy that he has and the sympathies of those around him have to try and undermine his credibility and undermine the credibility of the Trump Administration. And that's a deep concern to Russia, not simply because Michael Flynn is no longer in the picture, but because it could lead to - sort of unpredictable consequences on the part of the Trump camp - Trump - the Trump Administration when it comes to Russia. For instance, in order to placate Congress, in order to ensure is principle survival and the survival of those around him, Trump could opportunistically do a U-turn. This is the concern expressed in many Russian circles. Trump could do U-turn and become much more anti- Russian in his policy that he's indicated, that he would be in his campaign and that it has been up until now. So, that's something that's really bothering those in the upper echelons of power in Russia at the moment, Hannah.

JONES: Yes, and same with this idea of the unpredictability of the Trump Administration. It called into question, doesn't it - what Putin - President Putin has on President Trump?

CHANCE: It - you could interpret it that way. Another interpretation is that these constant denials that have come from the Kremlin about any conversations of sanctions about sanctions having being ended into. I mean, this is something that's left the Kremlin with predicament spaces where - left it quite humiliated in the sense that it's been repeatedly asked over the past couple of weeks and days.

Just yesterday in fact, whether sanctions were discussed when it came to this conversation between Michael Flynn and its Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. And the Kremlin has repeatedly said no. It wasn't discussed.

Now, why would they have done that? Was that to, because they wanted to keep that fact leverage at a later point? Or was it really to generate a certain amount of goodwill with the Trump White House which is another possibility? To sort of tow the White House line on their denials that sanctions were discussed. It's unclear at the moment but certainly, the Kremlin have been left - as they say with egg on their face - with egg on its face - and slightly embarrassed by the fact that they've been denying that this conversation took place about sanctions. For now, apparently, that's untrue and it's led to the resignation of Michael Flynn.

JONES: Yeah, perhaps a certain amount of egg on the Trump administration as well, and for all of how this played out. There will be more reaction, I'm sure, from the Kremlin, Matthew Chance, in Moscow, throughout the morning.

Matthew, thank you.

HOLMES: And it is 10:30 p.m., on the west coast. Much more ahead on the resignation of the U.S. national security adviser, Michael Flynn. What it could mean for the Trump administration and the U.S. military, next.


HOLMES: You're watching CNN news room, live from Los Angeles where it is 10:34 p.m. I'm Michael Holmes.

VAUGHN JONES: I'm Hannah Vaughn Jones, live to you from London, where it's 6:34 a.m. On Tuesday.

HOLMES: We have more breaking news on the resignation of U.S. Security adviser, Michael Flynn, who stepped down Monday night.

VAUGHN JONES: Over contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a source tells CNN the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Flynn had misled Trump administration officials about the substance of those communications and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.

HOLMES: CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, joins us now live from California.

Good to see you, sir.

This position held by Michael Flynn is surely one of the most important positions made by the president. Was Michael Flynn ever the right man for the job?

[01:35:29] LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that was always the big question. When he was first appointed, there was a lot of controversy around him. Remember, he was basically fired by the Obama administration as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, so there were a lot of questions whether he could actually step into that role.

But he was very admired by Mr. Trump and he selected him. And I think now that the administration might be looking at that as maybe not the best personnel decision.

HOLMES: And of course, he always had contacts with Russia before, even being paid to speak at an event, sitting next to Vladimir Putin at a dinner.

You know, when you look at that, and you look at the fact that he had this conversation, allegedly, with the Russian ambassador, given his background in intelligence, would you not have expected he would think that that might be recorded?

FRANCONA: It is inconceivable that he would not know that. As the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, of course, he would know about these conversations. I was not pleased to see a lot of this conversations come out about what we do to intercept those communications but he had to know that.

The fact he had this conversation doesn't surprise me. He was going to be the national security adviser in the new administration. For him to contact the Russian ambassador doesn't surprise me at all. Even talking about the sanctions. I guess we'd have to know what the actual substance of that discussion about the sanctions was. If he just mentioned, of course, you know, Mr. Ambassador we'll have to talk about the sanctions after. So, we don't know exactly what was said.

I think the biggest issue here was the mischaracterization of what happened in that conversation to the president. And once you lose credibility inside the West Wing, you're done.

HOLMES: I suppose when it comes to the content of the conversation, what has everybody's attention is the fact that it came after President Obama expelled a bunch of Russian diplomats and, all of a sudden, the Russians uncharacteristically did nothing right around the time of the phone call, and that is what piqued everybody's interest. There's surely going to be further investigation into this.

I wonder, when you look at it, do you feel that the conversation about sanctions with the Russian ambassador was something that somebody like Michael Flynn would have just done on his own and not mention it to anyone, not run it by anyone in the administration? It's a pretty important sort of conversation to have, you would imagine.

FRANCONA: Yeah, that is a really important distinction we don't know the answer to. I don't know if this was sanctioned by the president or somebody else in the White House, but for Michael Flynn to have that conversation, you would think he was acting in what he thought was his job, or he was directed to go out and make contacts with the Russians.

Remember, this action on the part of the previous administration, the Obama administration, expelling the Russian diplomats, which many of us thought was an overreaction to what happened, and Trump was automatically faced with the dilemma with the Russians, he may have sent Mr. Flynn to talk to the Russians and say calm this down until we get in office and then we can figure out how to fix this. We don't know what happened, but it will be interesting to see if those transcripts come out, what was the substance of those talks.

HOLMES: One imagines there will be a lot more to go on this. It's not done with the resignation.

Rick Francona, we'll get you back next hour to talk about this. More to talk about, that's for sure.

FRANCONA: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

VAUGHN JONES: Well, President Trump is under some scrutiny for how he handled a big foreign policy test. Why he has been criticized for his response to North Korea's latest missile launch. Coming up right after this break.


[01:43:16] VAUGHN JONES: You're watching breaking news, live here on CNN. We're less than a month into Donald Trump's presidency and already a member of the White House's inner circle has just resigned. National security adviser, Michael Flynn, stepped down late on Monday.

HOLMES: Now, he has been under fire for allegedly discussing U.S. sanctions with Russia before President Trump took office. The U.S. Justice Department warned the White House about the situation and Flynn's vulnerability to blackmail by Russia.

VAUGHN JONES: Now, President Trump is also being criticized for how he handled his first major foreign policy crisis. That was, of course, North Korea's missile launch. Mr. Trump was in Florida with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he received the news. And these photos show aides using cell phone flashlights to read through documents. Well, they were surrounded in that table by members and guests of Mr. Trump's resort. The White House said the leaders did not discuss classified information at their dinner table.

Let's get much more on this. Our Matt Rivers, joins us live from Seoul in South Korea.

Matt, domestic matters aside, we need to talk about how President Trump responded to this news of the North Korea missile launch, and the Mar-a-Lago diplomacy, as well. How did South Korea, how did Seoul, respond to this?

[01:45:41] MATT RIVERS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, we haven't seen any official response from the government here in South Korea, other than to say they're ready and willing to work with their American counterparts at the U.N. to make sure that punitive actions are levied against North Korea for their provocations. And say what you will about Donald Trump's actions at the dinner table there with the Prime Minister of Japan, but people have criticized him for not coming out after the Japanese prime minister said something in a statement, he had a very short statement, saying he supported the Japanese. And in a press conference with Justin Trudeau, he brought up North Korea only saying he would deal with them very strongly. And some in the international community said there should be a stronger response from the president and he should be out there really laying out his administration's agenda for dealing with the North Korean crisis. But on the flip side of that, others would argue he is still just getting into his presidency. They're still trying to figure out exactly how to responds here.

And don't forget, there were some 24 other ballistic missile tests in 2014, from January to October, and every time you saw an immediate- range missile launched in the Obama administration, you didn't see President Obama come out to the East Wing or the Rose Garden and deliver a statement every time. So, what proponents would say is look, the Trump administration is responding in an appropriate way given what North Korea did.

So, obviously, you have two competing sides, some wanting President Trump to say more, some thought he was reacting in a measured way, but here in South Korea, no official response from the government.

VAUGHN JONES: Great to get your reaction from South Korea and what is happening north of the peninsula and the responses from the U.S. as well.

Matt Rivers, thank you.

HOLMES: Do stay with us. Still to come here on the program, crews in northern California scrambling to prevent water from spilling uncontrollably at the nation's tallest dam. Thousands have been forced to evacuate. We'll have the latest when we come back.



[01:50:29] HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. The U.S. Department of Defense says it is ready to assist in operations at California's Oroville dam after damage to the dam's spillways forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate as a precaution. Engineers cautiously optimistic they can contain the potential flooding. But more rain is on the way.

CNN's Ryan young with the latest.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, we watched all days long, as the crews continue to use large helicopters to take rocks to the area where the spillway was damaged. In fact, the last two days hasn't seen any significant rains. And officials believe that's a good sign.

(voice-over): Dramatic Instagram video shows a close look at the massive amounts of water rushing from Oroville Dam spillway in Oroville, California, the tallest dam in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really, really flooding. And it's really loud.

YOUNG: The water overtaking trees, land and whatever else stands in its way. It is an emergency that led to frustration and confusion, as more than 188,000 residents were suddenly ordered to evacuate three counties near the dam. Many residents stuck for hours in massive traffic jams as they left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our phones started going off and we just loaded up the kids and took off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter called me and told me we had to get out. I have a handicapped daughter that can't walk and the ambulance won't come in and take her. Please help.

YOUNG: Residents fleeing to high ground. While at the Oroville Dam, the main spillway designed to prevent flooding during heavy rains now has a gaping hole nearly the size of a football field. The only remaining protection, an eroding emergency spillway that, according to the California Department of Water Resources, hasn't been used in the 48 years since the dam was put in service.

Emergency crews are putting large rocks in place to shore up the area, measures they hope will prevent a catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that is not address and we don't take care of that and mitigate it properly, we're looking at is approximately a 30- foot wall of water.

YOUNG: In 2005, environmental groups claim the dam's auxiliary spillway wasn't designed to be permanent emergency backup. Officials didn't pay for the fix at the time.

(on camera): Right now, 100,000 cub feet per second is being released from the dam. Officials will want to analyze that data and see over the next two days when they can give the all-clear for residents to come back in -- Michael?

HOLMES: Our thanks.

Eric Kurhi is a reporter for the "San Jose Mercury News." He joins us now.

Eric, thanks for doing so.

We saw heavy machinery in that piece. What is being done to alleviate the situation? What is the risk of the worst-case scenario that exists?

ERIC KURHI, REPORTER, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: The problem is that the water coming over the concrete berm on the emergency spillway was eating at what is a dirt hillside. The danger is that the dirt can erode to the point where the concrete berm itself can fail, which would send a lot of water going downstream. So, they're trying to shore it up. That's what you're seeing with all of the trucks and helicopters dropping the big rocks. It's kind of the, you know, "plug up the hole" theory with something harder than dirt. That's what they can do for the time being.

HOLMES: In Ryan's story, we heard there's concern over conditions of the spillway. What are the questions about how this happened?

KURHI: It was brought up years ago, that this is a dirt spillway. Someone said in 2005, that it's third-world design, that basically, you know, it's very primitive. It's not a controlled overflow device. It's just a low point in the dam that the water will come over and eat away at the Hillside. Years ago, they wanted to reinforce that with concrete to make it more resistant, armor it, they say. But, at the time, officials didn't like the idea. It's an expensive proposition, tens of millions of dollars, so it didn't happen. And here we are now.

HOLMES: For viewers around the world, we've reported a lot over the last few years on California's drought. This is the opposite of that. And there's more rain coming in. What's the concern about that?

[01:55:09] KURHI: It is a concern. They're draining the lake at a rate of about eight feet a day. They wanted to get it town to 50 feet. That's not going to happen. Before the next storms come in, about midnight Wednesday. Now, if the storms aren't particularly strong, they'll be able to drain it faster than the waters coming in. But that's dependent on the main spillway, which is damaged. If they cut the flow coming out of the spillway, the waters could rise again. That's the fear.

HOLMES: Still a lot of concern.

Eric Kurhi, a reporter for the "San Jose Mercury News," appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

KURHI: Thanks for having me. I's a pleasure.

HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Michael Holmes. VAUGHN JONES: I'm Hannah Vaughn Jones, in London. We'll be right

back with plenty more of our breaking news story this hour, the resignation of national security adviser, General Michael Flynn.