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Crisis Grows Over Trump Aides & Russia Contacts; Trump Open to One- State, Two-State Solution; Breaking Bread and Building Bonds. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 15, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, disarray in the White House as more claims emerge of Trump campaign contacts with senior Russian

officials. We get reaction from a veteran senior CIA analyst and a former Russian MP.

Plus, President Trump tells Benjamin Netanyahu he can live with a one or a two-state solution. So what now for Middle East peace? I ask one of the

Knesset's most outspoken Arab voice.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Paula Newton sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Crisis for the Trump administration is snowballing far beyond Michael Flynn and the national security adviser whom President Trump asked to resign.

Now it was not only Flynn who was in contact with Russian officials and it was not only after President Trump was elected. During the campaign, high

level advisers close to Mr. Trump were in frequent communication with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.

Those are from multiple current and former intelligence law enforcement and administration officials. They all tell CNN the same thing.

Now those advisers included Flynn and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Trump officials as recently as yesterday denied all of that.

President Trump after asking Flynn to resign today called him a wonderful man and took aim at the media.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very, very unfair what's happened to General Flynn. The way he was treated and the

documents and papers that were illegally -- I stress that, illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.


NEWTON: Now to be clear, investigators have not yet reached a conclusion about the content, the substance of those contacts, but they were alarmed

by their frequency, the seniority of the people involved and the correlation to candidate Trump's praise, if you remember it, of President


Now calls are increasing on Capitol Hill even with some Senate Republicans for a thorough and full investigation. Also revealed, the FBI interviewed

Flynn soon after Mr. Trump took office as part of its ongoing investigation into contacts between the Trump administration and Russia.

Even senior officials and the American military are now publicly expressing concern. General Raymond A. Thomas, head of the Military Special

Operations Command said, quote, "Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. As a commander, I'm concerned our government to be

as stable as possible." That was yesterday.

Joining me now from Washington is Mark Lowenthal, a former assistant director at the Central Intelligence Agency.


NEWTON: Thank you and welcome you to the program.


NEWTON: It's been a lot to take in, in the last 24 hours absolutely. To General Flynn first, do you think he was speaking to the Russians in the

so-called constant contact with the tacit approval? At least a tacit approval of either Mr. Trump or those senior to his staff. Or do you think

it's possible that General Flynn was just freelancing.

LOWENTHAL: There's really no way to know. I mean, the Trump campaign wasn't -- didn't run like a normal campaign did. So whether or not Flynn

had permission to do it or not is not knowable. But he should have realized that if he was talking to Russian officials somebody else is going

to be hearing this.

You have to be -- when you're dealing with foreign officials, you have to be careful with a couple of exceptions. And you have to assume when you're

speaking to a foreign official that even if they are not an intelligence officer, it's going to get back to an intelligence officer.

NEWTON: OK, but they were getting to the heart of the matter.

Is it possible that he knew that he was being listened to? He is a senior intelligence officer whose been during this, at this for three decades now.

That he knew people were listening to him, but he didn't care, because he knew this would be the president's policy going forward as it pertained to


LOWENTHAL: Well, I would have to assume that General Flynn knew that Russian -- that we have an interest in Russian conversations on the phone.

To say that he didn't care, I'm not sure he would have been that cavalier.

He may have felt that he had license to do what he was doing. He may have felt that he wasn't saying anything that was unacceptable. And there he --

it was a gross error in judgment on his part and that is what ended up haunting him in the weeks before he was forced to resign.

NEWTON: CNN has solid sourcing that this was constant contact. What does that mean to you? What does that tell you?

LOWENTHAL: Well, it means more than a phone call. You know, one or two phone calls. It means fairly -- obviously, it means fairly regular

contact. I have to say that for a -- I can't think of any past election where senior campaign officials from either side would have been in contact

with officials in a foreign country. That is unprecedented.

And you know, I know Manafort has said, well, we didn't know they were intelligence officers, that's very disingenuous. You have to assume that

certainly when dealing with the Russians that there's an intelligence nexus to this. And so I would say that it is unusual. It's -- I don't think

there's any precedent for seeing this kind of contact in the past.

NEWTON: And it's clear because the intelligence agencies, you know, even told the president that they thought it was unusual and alerted him to it.


NEWTON: I want to get now, though, to the leaks. You know that President Trump has been very pointed saying that, look, this is way too many leaks.

I want to bring up what he said in a tweet just this morning. He's saying, "Information is being given to the failing "New York Times" and "Washington

Post" by the intelligence community, NSA and FBI, just like Russia."

And there you go. You have that comparison to Russia again. In fact, in January, President Trump compared these leaks to something that had been

done in Nazi Germany.


NEWTON: I mean, what do you make of it? We have to underscore these leaks at times are criminal offences.

LOWENTHAL: Yes. I am a career intelligence officer. I am not in favor of leaks. I think leaking is reprehencible. I don't disagree with that.

Having said that, this is not about trying to save the subscribers of the "New York Times" whose numbers are actually up. And he said this morning

that this was a bunch of people trying to contest the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the election.

This is not a bunch of Clintonistas holding out in Langley, Virginia hoping for another outcome. These are people who rightly or wrongly are seriously

concerned about a bunch of behaviors.

Now I'm not condoning the leaks, but the motivation is not about partisan politics. And, unfortunately, the president keeps devolving to it that

it's either partisan politics or these people are totalitarians.

And you know, he started off badly with the intelligence community. And he's not doing anything on his side to make it better. This should be a

two-way relationship. And, unfortunately, he hasn't done anything on his side of the relationship. His visit to the CIA I would say was a disaster.

If that was intended to mollify the intelligence community, it was terribly misplayed.


NEWTON: OK. But, Mark, what are the consequences of that? Some people would say so what, he's sending notice to the intelligence community.

There's a new president.

LOWENTHAL: Well, he's sending -- the consequence is that it's very bad for the nation. You want the president and the intelligence community to have

some residual level of ability to work with each other. They don't have to like each other. They have to be able to trust each other. And I think at

this point we don't have that.

And that is just becomes very bad for the country, which means that the intelligence agencies become more weary about what they tell senior

officials, which is bad and senior officials tend to discount the intelligence they are being told out of hand and that's also bad.

There has to be that some firm basis for working relationship and clearly, in terms of the highest levels of government, we don't have that now.

NEWTON: You know, viewers might think that we're skirting around the issue here. Why does it matter if Donald Trump knew the extent to which General

Flynn and others were in contact with Russia?

LOWENTHAL: Well, that matters because it suggests that, first of all, he was doing something that was out of bounds in terms of -- was not an

official yet. He was the president-elect. That's not an official position. And it means that he was condoning, sending signals to the

Russians that should not have been sent.

So if he was doing this -- now, the narrative right now is that the White House did not know. Certainly Vice President Pence did not know. But if,

in fact, he was being told to send signals, that's -- it's not something president-elect is supposed to be doing until they take office.

NEWTON: Understood. And, finally, what about the disarray within the White House, even to give them 100 percent credit saying that their critics

are wrong.

How much of a distraction is this and how much will it hurt the national security interest?

LOWENTHAL: This is a major distraction. Even if you're not the president, or the vice president, or -- it affects the entire building. And in fact,

it affects the entire national security apparatus. It's very hard to focus on your work, to focus on the things you should be working on when you have

all of this swirl going around you.

It's not -- it makes -- first of all, the White House is very thinly staffed at this point. DOJ, the Defense Department, the State Department

all very thinly staffed. There aren't many senior officials in place except for interim and holdover officials.

[14:10:05] And so within, you have something of a power vacuum there. People not really empowered to represent this administration. And then the

senior officials that are in place have to deal with this major distraction.

So it makes us -- if something very serious were to happen, it makes it very hard to get the apparatus focused on the decisions and issues that

need to be paid attention to.

NEWTON: Understood. Mark Lowenthal, thank you so much for being on the program.

LOWENTHAL: Thank you, Paula.


NEWTON: Now for Russia's reaction to the turmoil out of Washington, I spoke to pro-Kremlin analyst Sergey Markov, who joined me a short time ago

via Skype from Moscow.


NEWTON: Sergey Markov, welcome to the program. I appreciate having you here.

I want you to help me out with a theory I have, and the theory is that the Kremlin has known for several weeks that anybody that was pro-Russia within

the Trump administration would be on their way out and that's why they are saber rattling, that they've been doing this for a few weeks now,

redeploying missiles, continuing to buzz American aircraft carriers, menacing NATO allies, completely far fetched?

SERGEY MARKOV, PRO-KREMLIN ANALYST: We have a regular, normal military activity and we want to first of all to send signal, don't attack Russia by

military. Because I had the law from CNN, from "Fox News," from "Washington Post," few years ago, five or six years ago that Russian

military is very weak, that Russia has gone to be weak as well.

And we remember that Napoleon Bonaparte decided to attack Russia because he believed that Russia was too weak. And we don't want Washington to repeat

the mistake of Napoleon Bonaparte.

NEWTON: Why the denials from the Kremlin, or why the denials from the Russian embassy in the United States? Why deny that there was this contact

with Michael Flynn. Clearly, there was constant contact with Michael Flynn, don't you think, and this would be normal if they wanted to reset

Russian relations.

MARKOV: As I understand, (INAUDIBLE), Michael Flynn hide away such a telephone call, but then Russia never asked Washington about sanctions. We

don't care about your sanctions. We never will ask to stop sanctions. We disagree with sanction. We think the sanction is bad, but we'll never ask

to dismiss sanctions because of our great Russia.

We don't break any sanction because that way we can't attach issue sanctions. But he, (INAUDIBLE), this issue of expelled Russian diplomats.

Some people got the sanction, some of the people think they are kind of playing diplomatic war and so on.

Of course, our Russian ambassador discussed with U.S. official, experience with the Russian diplomats from the United States and postponing the

American diplomats from Russia because (INAUDIBLE), not to undermine U.S.- Russia relationship, but to improve U.S./Russian relationship.

NEWTON: In terms of improving that relationship, what are your chances now? General Flynn is out as you said yourself. The Republicans on

Capitol Hill are dead set against any kind of Russia reset.

MARKOV: You know, main Russian friend in the United States, not Michael Flynn, not Rex Tillerson, not Donald Trump but American people who believe

that Russia should be friend in fighting against international terrorism and who create Ukrainians Neo-Nazis (ph) who would grip power in the

Ukraine now, same as Russia. We all spend together against terrorists and against Neo-Nazis (ph). It's American people and Russian people believe


NEWTON: We will leave it there. Thank you very much.

MARKOV: My pleasure.


NEWTON: That is a pro-Kremlin voice we just heard there from Moscow.

Coming up, a one-state or two-state solution. President Trump says he can live with either. He said that during the Israeli prime minister's visit

to the White House. We get the reaction from an Arab-Israeli lawmaker just ahead.


[14:16:20] NEWTON: For two decades and three presidencies, the White House has claimed that a two-state solution is the best path to peace for

Israelis and Palestinians.

Now Donald Trump seems to be up ending that long held policy in a joint press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr.

Trump became the first u.s. president in years to say he could accept a one-state solution.

Take a listen.


TRUMP: So I'm looking at two-state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I

can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But, honestly, if Bibi and if the

Palestinians -- Israel and Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.


NEWTON: OK. Despite the shifting rhetoric, Mr. Trump did take a tougher stance on Israeli expansion, urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to, in his

words, "Hold back on building new settlements."

From Jerusalem now, I'm joined by Ahmad Tibi. He's the leader of the Arab Movement for change and deputy speaker of Israeli's Knesset.

Mr. Tibi, how about it there. Donald Trump is saying one state, two state, what does it matter? The Palestinians are already on record saying this

was essentially mean the end of peace talks, not the beginning.

AHMAD TIBI, LEADER, ARAB MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE: for the first time American president is talking, mentioning the one state solution. And surely, there

are two choices. The one which we support, I support, two-state solution. The mentioned of two-state solution. American administration supported the

international community. The vast majority of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Now we are talking Trump -- President Trump is talking about two-state solution, one state solution, whatever they want. But Prime Minister

Netanyahu even is not mentioning the two-state solution. And even is not mentioning the two-state solution and he is not -- will not accept one-

state solution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to continue the status quo, deepening the occupation. The pre-term for any so-called deal, I don't like the word

deal, that any agreement should be putting an end to occupation, putting an end to the operation of the Palestinian war, Palestinian people.

Those who are suffering much more than any other part in this equation. But if there will be any chance after I said I am supporting the two-state

solution, for one state solution, this state should be democratic with the option of one person, one vote.

Then it is something new. I can't consider it and I can tell you now that this will be the case, I will be -- we will be running for the post of the

prime minister and I can assure you that I will win BiBi Netanyahu because we will be more -- all Palestinians will vote for me. Some Israeli Jews

will vote for me and Netanyahu will be the loser.

Let's go and strengthen the idea of two-state solution, end of occupation. That's what any American administration, including President Trump should

do. Not to tell Benjamin Netanyahu you should choose both. You should choose. There is a problem which is occupation. This is the main problem.

Enhance by the settlements.

Settlements, which --

NEWTON: But Mr. Tibi --

TIBI: Which was continued day by day.

NEWTON: Do you think this is a game changer with the Trump administration? Do you think they understand quite frankly what they have been discussing

for decades on the ground there?

[14:20:00] TIBI: If this is a regression from the origin of two state solution, we are going back to two decades. It's dangerous. It will lead

to confrontation, to violence. And President Trump should learn much more the details of the conflict.

We are not talking about deal, we are talking about longstanding, national conflict based on occupation of Palestinian lands, based on oppression of

those who are willing to be freed, to be liberated. To live in peace side by side by the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, they are confronted by the government with all ministers saying that they are not -- they are opposing independent Palestinian states. And

the government of the -- and the Palestinian government, all ministers, Paula, all ministers are supporting the vision of two-state solution.

In the Israeli government, there is no one minister supporting Palestinian, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

NEWTON: All right. Let me get in here now with what is the foundation for any kind of peace negotiation because President Trump thinks he's there.

He's just put on display a very warm relationship with the leader of Israel.

Let's listen now, though, to what he said was the responsibility of Palestinians. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they are taught from a very young age. They are taught tremendous hate.

I've seen what they are taught. And you can talk about flexibility there, too, but it starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room.

And they have to acknowledge Israel.


NEWTON: Mr. Tibi, your reaction to that?

TIBI: You can never ask those who are under occupation to love their occupier. It is unreasonable. But Mr. Trump, President Trump should be

also -- should read the hate speech indicated, (INAUDIBLE), in the Israeli right radical religious schools.

They are educating also their students to hate Palestinians, to hate Muslims. (INAUDIBLE) also there in these schools of hate. Whenever there

is a conflict, there is friction, there is confrontation, there is bloodshed, there is hate.

We all should do our best in order to put an end to the root of this conflict, which is occupation, in order to change. Hate by something else,

which is starting by reconciliation, but we are far from there.

NEWTON: And Mr. Tibi, you've made your position clear. We, obviously, will continue to follow all of this. Mr. Tibi, thank you for joining us.

TIBI: Thank you very much, Paula.


NEWTON: And still to come, sharing a meal, meeting your neighbors and empowering refugees. It's dinner with a difference. And this New Jersey

supper club hopes it will new arrivals feel right at home.


[14:25:40] NEWTON: And finally tonight, imagine a world where breaking bread can mean breaking down barriers. That's what the organizers of the

Syria Supper Club want to do. The group hosts dinners where refugees cook meals from their home countries. Their guests locals in the New Jersey

communities where they've settled.

Now it's an idea of two members of a local synagogue who so wanted to welcome those recent arrivals. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, welcome. We're so glad to have so many people who have traveled long distances from across town, from New York City.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people arrive at Syria Supper Club event, at first there's a little bit of nervousness. How am I going to communicate

with someone who doesn't speak my language? And through the process of the evening, you start off as strangers and you leave as friends. And it's the

power of sitting down together and breaking bread together that does that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we are trying to do is put them, you know, put them on an equal footing and let them be the center of a beautiful meal as

opposed to the recipient of a financial assistant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want the same things as you or I do. They want their children to be safe. They want their children to be in school. And

they want to contribute to society.

We all know that the executive orders weighing very heavily on all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In particular the travel ban, you know, for our Syrian friends and their families, the unspecified period of time,

indefinite ban of people traveling from Syria, and we just want to tell you that this might seem like a little dinner, but it's actually (INAUDIBLE),

it brings people together. It raises awareness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the first person that welcome us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can do anything to help people on that path, I think we should. And we as a community, as a country will only benefit

from that.


NEWTON: Nice story there. That's it for our program. And, remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on

Twitter @PaulaNewtonCNN. And thanks so much for watching. Good-bye from New York.