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Toddler Shot and Killed in Chicago; Russia Makes Moves against U.S.; Flynn Resignation Becomes White House Crisis; Trump Says "Illegal Leaks" Are the Real Story. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired February 15, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Republican House Oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz is launching an investigation into the security protocols at President Trump's Mar-a-lago estate.
Well, the pictures that we have all seen showing the president and the Japanese prime minister reviewing documents in a restaurant basically. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, maintains no classified information was exposed. We don't know how he could know that for sure.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A woman is under arrest linked to the murder of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Officials say the brother, Kim Jong-nam, died after being attacked at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur airport while boarding a flight to visit family.
A South Korean official says Kim was poisoned but did not give more info on how or where. Authorities say the investigation into this death continues.
CUOMO: We continue to report on the violence in Chicago. We have another homicide that cries out for justice. A 2-year-old boy is on your screen right now. This baby was killed in a triple shooting on Chicago's West Side. The toddler -- his name is Lavontay White.
He was shot yesterday as he sat in a car with his pregnant aunt and an unidentified 25-year-old man. The man was also killed.
Police say that 25-year old was a known gang member. The boy's aunt was recording on Facebook Live when someone drove up and began firing. We have some of the video. It is disturbing. It is also the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO (voice-over): The murdered toddler's aunt shot in the abdomen. She and her unborn baby are amazingly in stable condition.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: My God. That is horrifying audio and horrifying video. We pray for that family and that they get justice somehow.
Another top story to tell you about, new provocations from Russia. U.S. officials say Russia is secretly deploying a new cruise missile off the U.S. coast.
How will the Trump administration respond?
CUOMO: First came reports of a Russian spy ship just off the coast of Delaware in international waters. The timing: right when the Flynn resignation story broke.
Now senior military officials tell CNN Russia has deployed a cruise missile in an apparent treaty violation. These are the latest in a string of Russian provocations, despite a supposed better relationship with the Trump administration.
Let's talk to our experts. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and CNN military analyst General Mark Hertling.
General, what do you make of these acts by the Russian government?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's a continuing trend, Chris. This is not something that just started but it's certainly gotten worse in the last few months, specifically weeks.
I've watched Europe very closely. You know I'm connected to the folks in Europe, having commanded there. And I have watched what they have done in that little bitty province of Kaliningrad, where Russia has a naval base.
The kinds of threats they've made against the Baltic States in Poland, the approach toward other countries and --
HERTLING: -- expansion and continued attacks into Eastern Ukraine. I know the press secretary said yesterday the president has made statements about Crimea. I have not seen those. I did a search last night and you couldn't find anything that Mr. Trump has said countering Russian advancements across Europe.
And now we have indicators of Russian interference in many European countries' elections. So the combination of all of these things concern me greatly.
CUOMO: All right, a quick second beat on this and I want to move on to some questions for both of you about Michael Flynn.
Have you heard from any reliable source in Europe and into the theater of Ukraine, who shares our president's doubts about Russia's involvement with the separatists there?
HERTLING: None whatsoever, Chris. And I conducted a -- I was a moderator for a panel in Ukraine about two months ago. They are very concerned. They have seen increasing moves by Russia, increasing artillery attacks across the border. There is no lightening up and, in fact, Ukraine is just concerned about holding to a stalemate in Eastern Ukraine.
CUOMO: All right, Barbara, Michael Flynn is a long-time intel guy, respected for his intelligence. The idea that he thought that he would have clear channel communications with a Russian strains credulity.
How do you make sense of that, that Flynn wouldn't think somebody was monitoring communications?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Right, you know, after a whole career in the U.S. military, wouldn't you worry that you're -- if you're talking to the Russians, that the U.S. Intelligence community might be eavesdropping on that conversation?
We've asked that question -- and people are saying, who know him, say don't think of him so much as an intel officer, think of him as a special ops guy. That is really his background in the U.S. military. And these are people who believe in themselves, to a large extent. It's what keeps them alive on the battlefield.
And Mike Flynn has no shortage of high feeling about his own capabilities. I think that's very clear.
But I want to add something. You know, there is another special operations currently serving officer, General Tony Thomas, who heads the Special Operation Command.
He said something extraordinary yesterday. Let me quickly read it to you, General Thomas saying this.
"Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we are a nation at war."
You are seeing something really unprecedented, a member of the Special Operations community, the same background as Mike Flynn, telling his commander in chief that the government is in unbelievable turmoil. I think we're in unchartered waters.
HERTLING: And, Chris, if I can add to that, I know Tony Thomas very well. He was my assistant division commander in Iraq in 2007 and '08. This is not something he would say. He's a four-star general right now but he's leading Special Operations Command all over the world. They are conducting operations as we've seen.
Every time you see a hit on a terrorist, that's Tony Thomas's organization. For him to say something like this is pretty intensive.
CUOMO: Look, I mean, you've lived it. War is old men talking and young men dying and there's no question that it is an urgency on the part of our fighting men and women for things to get clear and complete as soon as possible.
But, Barbara, to follow up on this. Or Mike Flynn didn't think he was doing anything wrong. Mike Flynn wasn't hiding. Mike Flynn had one of these communications while on vacation in the Dominican Republic with his wife that he wasn't breaking any laws as far as he knew. So he knew he wasn't hiding.
And now he's been forced to resign and it does beg the question, is he being thrown under the bus?
Who knew and when?
We know they had weeks to figure it out.
If they were so shocked, why didn't they do anything about it?
STARR: Well, I think, these are all the questions, as everyone has said all morning, that no one in Washington, in the public arena at least, really knows the answer to. Mike Flynn is very smart. He knows how it all works.
So it's one of two choices here.
Did he make some mistake of sheer ignorance, that he had no idea that he was (ph) intelligence community monitors the Russians?
Probably not very likely -- Chris.
CUOMO: And, remember, still no proof that Mike Flynn said or did anything to compromise the U.S. position on sanctions. What got him caught up was that he didn't maybe tell the truth or misled about having that word mentioned in conversations at all.
General, Barbara, thank you as always.
HERTLING: Always a pleasure.
CAMEROTA: Chris, the president says the real story behind Michael Flynn's departure are -- is the White House leaks to the press.
What does he plan to do about them?
Our media experts tackle that -- next.
CUOMO: The Trump White House saying the focus of the Flynn-Russia controversy should be illegal leaks.
Now leaks are bad. Media experts break it down.
CAMEROTA: President Trump knew for three weeks that his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had misled the administration about talks with a Russian ambassador. But, according to President Trump, that's not the biggest part of the story.
The president says the real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington.
Will these leaks be happening as I deal on North Korea, et cetera?
Let's discuss this and more with CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter; CNN media analyst and author of "The War for Late Night," Bill Carter.
CUOMO: He's worried about integrity with the North Korea situation, maybe he shouldn't do business in an open restaurant. Maybe that would be a point of concern.
CAMEROTA: And there's that.
Brian, illegal leaks: how do you read that?
BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Leaks are coming from many different places for many different reasons. That's been true during the transition and now especially true that Trump is in office.
Every administration, every government has leaks. But this is of a whole other level. We're seeing something so much more extreme.
CAMEROTA: And why is that?
STELTER: I think it has partly to do with career government officials who are concerned about Trump. Partly it does have to do with some former Obama administration officials who have their own agenda.
And partly it's a cry for help from Trump aides, from people inside the Trump White House, who may feel they're loyal to him but believe he needs help, that he's not getting the right support. Oftentimes people are motivated to leak in order to alert the public to a problem.
CUOMO: Also, we have seen a redefinition here that I think this story has thankfully corrected.
"Fake" means he doesn't like it. "Illegal leaks" means he doesn't like it. But he loved leaks during the campaign. He asked the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's server. Oh, he was just joking, people said, at the time.
Because he has been covering for Russia and their hacking ever since.
I mean, isn't that what is going on here, Bill?
BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: And he welcomed WikiLeaks, too.
When you start blaming leaks, that means you -- the stories are true, essentially.
CARTER: You're not -- you can't deny them.
CUOMO: He hasn't said one thing yet to disrupt our fact pattern which would be fair play.
CARTER: Exactly. So if he can undermine the facts, undermine the facts. But if you attack the leaks, all you're saying is, well, those are true but I wish it wasn't coming out. I wish this wasn't -- is something I have to deal with.
It doesn't in anyway undercut it. In fact, it really kind of validates the reporting. And he's trying to make us look bad, make the news media look bad and then these stories come out and you blame the leaks.
The reporting is good. That means the reporting is solid.
STELTER: -- as these are illegal leaks, though. We should acknowledge, there could be government officials committing crimes --
CARTER: They could be.
STELTER: -- by sharing this --
CAMEROTA: Yes, OK.
STELTER: -- some of these cases.
CAMEROTA: OK. STELTER: There could be felonies. Now then you get into a question of whether it's justifiable, whether it's ethical for that person. But conceivably we saw leak prosecutions during the Obama administration. We could see them now --
CAMEROTA: Yes, that's what I'm getting at.
What is the upshot?
So if he's calling them "illegal leaks," that means that the government officials who are talking would be prosecuted.
That means that the journalist would somehow be punished?
STELTER: We've heard a lot of bluster about leak investigations. It's unclear how much is actually happening behind the scenes. But let's play this out. Normally it's the leakers who are pursued. That's what the Obama administration did, much more so than past administrations.
What we have not seen in the past is that next step to go after the journalist directly, using the Espionage Act. There were times when the Obama administration --
STELTER: -- that's right, they were going after reporters, trying to find out who their sources were but not directly prosecuting the journalists. I was talking with "The Washington Post" editor, Marty Barron (ph), about this a couple of days ago.
Obviously he's very concerned about leak investigations, as are his colleagues and other newspapers, other newsrooms. But he said that's really the bright line and the question is whether they would ever try to cross that line.
CUOMO: Well --
STELTER: And so far no indication.
CUOMO: -- an important note also. The president is not shy about weighing in to news matter. The only thing he has said about Mike Flynn and his resignation and who knew and what's going on with Russia is to bash the media for reporting it. Now this tweet is the only thing he has said about it. Sometimes silence says as much as anything.
CARTER: Exactly. There's no denial now and there's no really deflection of the question of why he waited all this time to do anything about it. We haven't heard anything about that. So it's always on the attack with him. He's not going to -- he doesn't feel -- he has to explain himself. And he has gotten away with that for a really long time.
CUOMO: I think it changed on this story because the idea that Mike Flynn was just soloing and doing his own thing with Russia, that nobody knew about, nobody directed, nobody commented on and now he is forced to resign without an admission that he broke any rule.
The Logan Act, people keep throwing it around. It's never been prosecuted. One case back in the 1800s --
CAMEROTA: So, if he broke -- if he broke it, he broke it.
CUOMO: But there's no proof to this point that he manipulated sanctions policy. He got stuck by being misleading or lying about whether sanctions were discussed.
Discussing them would not necessarily reach an illegal threshold, let alone a political one. Ordinarily, you would think Trump, who keeps getting credit for being so loyal, would have covered for this.
OK, he did talk about sanctions. I'm president now. My guy will talk about whatever he wants and it would be over. But not this time.
Why, Brian, why is Flynn taking all the heat on this?
STELTER: Right now, it may have a lot to do with the dysfunctionality of this White House, the confusion, the chaos inside. Our colleague, Nolan Byers, there's a story on cnn.com this morning about Sean Spicer versus Kellyanne Conway, about allegations that Conway is leaking against Spicer.
We're seeing a lot of that sort of behavior out of the White House. It's hard to know how much Trump has control over the situation and how much he can actually step in.
By the way, you say he's only said one thing so far about this issue; hopefully that will change at noon today with this joint press conference. Hopefully he'll be asked --
STELTER: -- about the Flynn situation.
CARTER: Let's see who asks the question.
STELTER: It all depends on who asks the question, right, who does Trump call on.
CAMEROTA: -- on friendly reporter for the past many days.
CUOMO: It's two American -- or two American journalists and two Israelis so those two, you know.
STELTER: So noon is the big question. I do think Trump loyalists watching this program right now, people that voted for Trump, they may feel -- and I'm seeing this on Twitter and Facebook -- that their president is under siege by the media. And I think we should just continue to separate out the reporting, the news, from the commentary about the news because sometimes Trump folks try to confuse the two and say that we're attacking him when, in fact, the news reporting on this has been solid. The stories about the leaks from CNN and "The New York Times" and "The Post" have been really solid.
CARTER: They're playing out as truth, as fact. They're not just leaks. This is really hard news.
CAMEROTA: Brian, Bill, thank you. Thanks very much.
And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.