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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: "I Do Not Resign, I Was Fired"; White House Suspect Was Carrying Mace, Prosecutor Said; GOP Discredits Agency That Estimates Cost of Health Bill; Mike Pence in Kentucky Rallying Support for Obamacare Repeal Bill; Investigators Puzzled by Odd Link Between Trump Server, Russian Bank; Nude Photo Scandal Widens to 4 Branches of Military. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 11, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:59:50] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Kyung Lah reporting for us in Oceanside, California tonight. And we have much more just ahead here in the NEWSROOM, it all starts right now.
Hello, it's 5:00 in the East on a Saturday, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us. We are following two breaking news stories this hour. And we began with a showdown now between President Trump and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. One of the 46 federal attorneys targeted in that sudden order to resign.
President Trump has fired Bharara who had been told at this point had been refusing to step down. We've just got Bharara's reaction in a statement. He says quote, "Today I was fired from my position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life. No matter what else I do or how long I live."
Now sources say Bharara was especially blind-sided by this order to step down and not because it came with zero warning. But because back in November, President Trump actually asked Bharara to stay on the job. Listen to what Bharara told reporters inside Trump Tower, just after that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY: The President-elect asked, presumably because he's a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me to discuss whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years. We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on. I've already spoken to Senator Sessions. Who is, as you know, nominated to be the Attorney General. He also asked that I stay on and so I suspect that I'll be continuing to work at the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: We'll get right back to that. But I also want to let you know about a second breaking news story. We are following a shocking White House security breach. And now new bizarre details on the suspect in this case, that story is just moments away.
Let's begin now with the firing of Preet Bharara, and our correspondents and analysts are covering every angle. Let's start with CNN Justice reporter Laura Jarrett. What are you learning?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, what we're learning tonight Ana is exactly how all of this went down over the last 24 hours. You'll remember yesterday that we got word from the Justice Department, that 46 of the presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys had been asked to resign. But this morning we learned that Preet Bharara said no. And he had no intentions to resign unless the President fired him and then later this morning or this afternoon I should say, the acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente gave Mr. Bharara a call to see if it was true that he was intending not to resign.
Bharara told him that was the case and then Mr. Boente called him back later this afternoon and said the President had fired him. Now, we're getting a lot of reaction from different Democrats. On Capitol Hill. And we're also seeing a statement from the Attorney General of New York if we have it up there. He is making this political. And saying that this just shows that the President's abrupt and unexplained decision to summarily remove 40 U.S. attorneys has once again caused chaos in the federal government. And has led to questions about the Justice Department's vital and nonpartisan work. And whether it will continue under Attorney General Sessions as it must. Again that's from the Attorney General in New York Eric Schneiderman -- Ana.
CABRERA: As you mentioned, we're getting more and more statements, people are reacting in a dramatic fashion to this particular firing. Even though he was among 46 U.S. attorneys who were asked to resign. And the statement we're getting from Schumer, the U.S. senator of course, Preet Bharara has been an exemplary U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. His relentless drive to root out public corruption, lock up terrorists and take on Wall Street and stand up for what's right should serve as a model for all U.S. attorneys across the country. He will be sorely missed.
Sara Ganim you are following this man, Preet Bharara. And filling us in now on what more you've learned about his work here in New York?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the most respected -- well- respected and powerful U.S. attorneys in the country. Preet Bharara was appointed almost eight years ago by President Barack Obama. He had been chief counsel to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer now has emerged as one of the chief adversaries of Donald Trump. But back in 2009, it was actually Schumer who encouraged Obama to appoint Bharara after one of Bharara's investigations led then- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign.
Bharara's office prosecuted everything from terrorists, like the attempted Times Square bomber to international Russian crime bosses to the hacking group anonymous. But Bharara perhaps best known for going after corruption cases. Most notably, those Wall Street corruption cases. This "Time" magazine cover in 2012 really says it all. They said this man is busting Wall Street. They called him the enforcer. And he was greatly feared there.
[17:05:14] He prosecuted dozens of insider trading and securities fraud cases. Including Bernie Madoff's brother. Of course his corruption cases also went beyond Wall Street. Bharara was appointed by a Democratic president, but he was well known for his nonpartisan investigations. Going after both Dems and Republicans until today's firing he was actually in the middle of an investigation, two investigations involving the offices of the two most powerful Democrats in the state.
He was set to try several former aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo who are accused of bribery and bid rigging and he was also in the final stages of an investigation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Looking into allegations of pay to play. Now remember Ana, he led a very important federal district. The Southern District of New York. And what's in that district? Trump Tower is in that district. So any federal investigation that would include maybe for example wiretapping would have fallen under Preet Bharara's office. Until today of course, but it still falls in the Southern District of New York.
I also just want to add that a couple of minutes ago I talked to some people who worked with him. Who said that this really did come as a shock. Given the fact that he was told back in November that he would be able to stay on. You know, that was really a shock to that office.
CABRERA: All right. Sara Ganim reporting. We appreciate it. Laura Jarrett, our thanks to you as well.
I want to also bring in a Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus, Alan Dershowitz to talk more about how unprecedented this was. He joins me via Skype from Miami Beach. Professor Dershowitz, we know that it is not unprecedented for presidents to come in and kind of clean house. And then eventually put in people who are more representative of who they want to see in these positions.
Bill Clinton did it, George W. Bush did it. It hasn't been something that's new. But the way this was handled was certainly new and now to learn that he previously gave this particular U.S. attorney his word that he could stay on or even asked him to stay on, to turn around and fire him, what do you make of it? What could have changed between then and now?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, that's the question that we are all entitled to know the answer to. And obviously, the President owed Preet Bharara a phone call. He had offered him a job, he had sent him out in front of television cameras, he had said, I have the job. The President told me I have the job. I spoke to the designated Attorney General I have the job. Then to embarrass him by sending essentially a form letter saying, I want your resignation, that was not the right way to handle this.
Not only was he entitled to a phone call and an explanation, but we, the American public, are entitled to an explanation. Why was this nonpartisan prosecutor with one of the most superb reputations of any prosecutor in modern history. Suddenly fired. Does it represent some fear from having an independent prosecutor look into the wiretap allegations, look into the current issues that are being investigated? We're entitled to get the answer to that question.
And Congress should get to the bottom of it by calling people from the Justice Department and inquiring what the reason was to the turn events. You're absolutely right that all presidents have the right to seek the resignation of the sitting U.S. attorneys. But to first offer a job to a sitting U.S. attorney and then with no apparent change to withdraw it, that requires an explanation.
CABRERA: And on your point about him being a nonpartisan player, in doing his job. He's specifically talks about that in this statement since he was fired. Saying one hallmark of justice is absolute independence. And that was my touchstone every day, that I served. Given your expertise in the courts. Do you think he was the most powerful U.S. attorney?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, he certainly was among the most powerful. Perhaps the most powerful. Certainly the most powerful when it came to Wall Street. The good news is there are some great people who are now eligible to be appointed. There are some nonpartisan people. There are people who work within that office for a long period of time. It's an office with a tremendous tradition. I've been opposed to them on many cases, I've been critical of some of their actions, but nobody can criticize the fact that it's been an office of high integrity and the position of U.S. attorney in the Southern District has been filled by some of the great prosecutors in history. Bob Morgenthau among them.
And this is an office that must be filled now, by a person who is a bipartisan, great distinction and who is acceptable to Republicans and Democrats alike and to the bar. And I hope that we will see somebody appointed to that position, who will be able to replace the adequately replace this very distinguished U.S. attorney. In the meantime, the work will go on. There are excellent deputies in the office. They will continue the current investigations, nobody is going to stop them right away. So we're not going to see a dramatic shift in policy.
[17:10:20] CABRERA: There are some big, legal issues that are before the courts right now. The immigration policies. We've got the travel ban set to take effect. There's the ongoing investigations that are at very high levels and to Trump's claims about wiretapping that he brought up last week. As well as the Russian investigations, so we know that the U.S. Department of Justice has a heavy role right now in this administration. Do you see the removal of these 46 U.S. attorneys having any impact on that kind of work?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, not the immigration. Because that is being brought by state attorneys general and being brought in court. And generally, the Justice Department defends from Washington those kinds of cases. But it will have an impact on some cases that are more local. Ongoing investigations. But you know, the U.S. attorney's office has a tradition of being bipartisan and nonpartisan. And I don't think was suddenly going to see investigations only of Democrats and not of Republicans. I think anybody who gets the job of U.S. attorney is going to want to go down in history as somebody who maintained the tradition of that office.
And it's a very, very high tradition going back a long period of time. It's had some very vigorous attorneys in it. Rudy Giuliani who is very tough. The current U.S. attorney who is very, very tough. The current U.S. attorney who was tough. Bob Morgenthau. I think we're going to see somebody with that kind of prestige and aggressiveness, bipartisan progressiveness, hopefully replace Preet Bharara. But he was the best. Because he had a unique reputation for seven years, well-deserved for running a very good office and I think the President should have treated him with more respect. Should have made a phone call, should have had a discussion, they should have jointly come to some resolution with timing as to when this occurred. It shouldn't have occurred like overnight suddenly. That's not the way you run the Justice Department.
CABRERA: All right. Professor Alan Dershowitz, thanks for your expertise.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.
CABRERA: I want to turn now to a stunning White House security breach and bizarre new details on the intruder. The President was inside the White House residence when this intruder was finally stopped outside just a few hundred feet away. This intruder has been identified now as 26-year-old Jonathan Tran. He said, quote, "I am a friend of the President and I have an appointment." That's what the police reports say he told the security officer who stopped him now. In a few hours Tran is due to be arraigned in court today. Here's what President Trump had to say about this midnight security lapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES: Secret Service did a fantastic job last night. I appreciate it. Secret Service did a fantastic job. It was a troubled person. Very sad. The Secret Service was fantastic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Now the suspect made it all the way to the South Portico entrance before the Secret Service stopped him.
Let's bring in CNN's Athena Jones, she is live following the story for us outside the White House. Athena, I understand you have new details.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do, Ana. We are just learning from the prosecutor, the suspect is being arraigned. We learned it from the prosecutor, that the suspect had in his backpack that he was carrying, two cans of mace and a passport. This is according to the prosecutor, during this court appearance that's taking place. Earlier, we were told that the suspect's backpack had been examined and that no hazardous materials were found. So apparently mace is not considered a hazardous material. But just rewinding to what happened, this went down late last night,
11:38 p.m. when according to Secret Service, the suspect scaled the south grounds fence, of the White House complex. Now, we're getting some different details from the Secret Service and from the police report put out by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and so it appears from the details in that report that the suspect made it over at least two barriers, because the police report that the suspect jumped over the northwest courtyard fence which is right behind me, near the Treasury Department.
So, a very serious matter. The suspect making it over these fences and all the way to the South Portico door. That is an important door. You see the President use it. Whenever he's leaving -- oftentimes when he's leaving the White House to go get on Marine One, you see him come out that door to greet visitors, like just a couple of weeks ago, the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. And it is certainly very concerning that the suspect got that close just a couple hundred feet from the President's bedroom.
CABRERA: Athena, the President did come out and speak about this incident essentially thanking the Secret Service and commending the job that they did. He also seemed to believe that the suspect had mental health issues, are you learning any more about whether he indeed has a mental health history? I know his family is speaking out. What are you hearing from them?
[17:15:16] JONES: That is right. His family is speaking out. We should make it clear that the suspect had no criminal history and no previous history with the Secret Service. But you did hear the President call the suspect troubled. And that's exactly the word that was used by his family.
A CNN producer Laurie Ure reached out to Tran's younger brother, Brian, in California. Who said that his older brother was troubled after being laid off from his job at an electrical engineering company. Brian Tran said that his brother, Jonathan was living in his car and eating junk food. Now we know that Jonathan, who is 26 years old. Graduated from San Jose State University. With an electrical engineering degree, and his brother said he had been stressed out from the job.
We also know from Brian Tran that the Secret Service called the family at home on Friday night to inform them of this fence-jumping incident. And he said that his mother is very troubled about the matter. So that is what we're hearing from Tran's family about the suspect -- Ana.
CABRERA: And very quickly, Athena. You mentioned he is in court right now where we're learning a few new details. Any idea why he jumped the fence?
JONES: It's not clear, but certainly his family said he was troubled. The President called him troubled. There may not be reason beyond that we're not just clear yet, we'll have to wait for more details. Wait to hear what more the suspect might say. We know from the police report that he talked about having had an appointment with the President, called himself a friend of the President, it doesn't appear that he was aiming to necessarily harm him. But again we just don't know, we do know that he was carrying mace in that backpack. And we do know that he made it very, very close to the residence. Though not inside the residence. The President was never in any harm.
CABRERA: Good to know. Athena Jones, thank you for your report.
Coming up, the President's Mexican border wall isn't built yet. But it may already be working. At least some of his rhetoric. We'll tell you how, coming up.
[17:21:22] CABRERA: The number of illegal border crossings dropped dramatically last month in the southwest corner of the nation, the reason? Uncertain. It might be President Trump's tough talk on immigration or it might just be the weather.
CNN's Polo Sandoval explains.
TRUMP: We're getting some very, very bad players out of this country. Drug lords. Gang members. Heads of gangs. Killers, murderers, we're getting them out.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's tough talk on illegal immigration may be a driving force behind a dramatic drop at the nation's southwest border. Customs and border protection announcing the number of illegal border crossings fell by 40 percent between January and February. Homeland Security Chief John Kelly calls it an early sign that, quote, "Comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact." The White House taking it a step further.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: These measures reflect that both the economy and the border are already responding to the President's agenda.
SANDOVAL: But a former immigration and customs enforcement chief under the Obama administration says, it's too soon to say if the decline is because of Trump's policies or something else. The number of undocumented border crossings tend to decrease seasonally, dropping in the winter months and increasing in the spring.
Illegal crossings appear to have slowed. They haven't stopped.
SANDOVAL: Isabel, a woman who didn't want her face shown waits at a migrant shelter in Ciudad Juarez, just preparing to cross illegally with her three kids.
ISABEL, PREPARING TO CROSS THE U.S. MEXICO BORDER (through a translator): Yes. We are afraid, but my children is what drives me to fight for a better life.
SANDOVAL: Isabel says, she will not be deterred by either Trump's tough stance on immigration that includes a recent crackdown on deportation by ICE agents or the President's plan to build a wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the wall still --
SPICER: The President was very clear, it's not just needed, the President committed to doing it. To the American people.
SANDOVAL: Yes, the President still faces skepticism from within his own party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Mexico will pay for it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval. CNN, Atlanta.
CABRERA: The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is out of a job. Today, President Trump fired Preet Bharara hours after the U.S. attorney said he would not resign. The latest on this breaking news, coming up. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:28:11] CABRERA: Back to our breaking news, high-profile U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who up until this point had been refusing to step down has now been formally fired by President Trump. Bharara was among dozens of U.S. attorneys asked to resign with little notice by the Justice Department just yesterday. Now, sources say Bharara was blind-sided by this order to step down because back in November, then President-elect Trump had asked him to stay on.
Turning to that White House intruder, our other breaking news, just moments ago. Twenty six-year-old Jonathan Tran was in court. And a prosecutor says Tran was carrying two cans of mace when he got within just a few hundred feet of the President's private residence. The President was inside when Tran was finally stopped near the South entrance of the executive residence. The intruder said quote, "I'm a friend of the President and I have an appointment." His brother says, Tran recently lost his job. He seemed troubled and was living in his car eating junk food.
Meantime the battle continues today over what to do about your health care. As even Republicans struggle to see eye to eye on their proposed health care bill. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are anxiously awaiting the estimate on how much this new plan could cost. The highly respected and bipartisan Congressional Budget Office is working on that estimate.
But as CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans reports, some of the GOP are already trying to discredit their findings. Christine?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana, this week the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release the price tag on the GOP's ObamaCare replacement bill. Ahead of that, the White House and some Republicans are questioning the CBO's credibility. Their argument, the CBO was wrong about ObamaCare. So why believe it now? Well it is true, the agency did get a few things wrong. Like how many Americans would sign up.
[17:30:00] It predicted 22 million people. Only about half of that enrolled last year. That error is partly because fewer employers dropped health coverage than predicted. And more Americans were eligible for Medicaid. The CBO was also wrong about costs, it predicted 132 billion dollars, but the actual price tag was $22 billion less. There's one stat the CBO got right. How many adults would be insured. The agency predicted 89 percent by 2016. The actual number was 89.7 percent, up 7 percent before the exchange opened.
Ana, the CBO may be nonpartisan, but the battle over the Obamacare replacement bill won't be.
CABRERA: Christine Romans reporting. Thank you.
Vice President Mike Pence this morning pressing the need for Republican support in Congress to overhaul the nation's health care system.
The vice president was in Kentucky, the home of one Republican Senator who is openly opposed to the current Republican bill, Senator Rand Paul.
Joining me now, Wajahat Ali, contributor to the "New York Times"; and CNN political analyst, David Drucker.
David, I'll start with you.
This appearance in Kentucky, was it a direct shot at Senator Rand Paul?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It might have been. If so, it was a waste of time. I think this might have been the administration looking for a friendly crowd. You're never going to move Rand Paul on anything, he just won re-election in 2016 if he's going to be pressured, check back with him in four or five years. The thing to watch, is where does the president go next. He's going to Nashville. Nobody has targeted there, that's where he's going this week to sell the health care plan. It will be interesting to watch. This will be a real test of his leadership. A lot of people come out against the bill. But health care reform was never going to be easy. It was always going to be complicated. So I think the thing is, if the president is the negotiator that he's cracked up to be, this is where he's going to be tested. And we'll have to see how this unfolds.
CABRERA: Wajahat, Kentucky is largely Trump territory. It makes sense that they would be rallying the troops behind this health care plan there. It's interesting because a lot of the folks in Kentucky have benefitted if Obamacare, right?
WAJAHT ALI, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Exactly. "Let them have iPhones" is the new Republican version of, "Let them have cake". I'm quoting Jason Chaffetz. Now they're realizing that Obamacare that benefitted them, they might lose it, and they might lose their health coverage. So of course, Mike Pence has to go there and convince the base that our plan is better. According to the numbers and what we know so far, the rural, low-class, low-income and the white workers, specifically from these regions, Kentucky, West Virginia, places in Tennessee. We're talking about red states. They're going to be the ones who lose out the most with this new American Health Care Act. Which is also being called Trump care, which is on social media being called Trump no care. You're not going to move Rand Paul. They're going to try to rally the bases in condition. Probably have to go to Tennessee and West Virginia. It seems like an uphill slog. I don't think they're going to get it.
CABRERA: I know that more than 400,000 Kentuckians, if that's how you, they prefer to be called. They are benefitting from that Medicaid expansion, which has been so contentious this week. We know there are more conservative Republicans who want to see that Medicare expansion that's part of Obamacare ended immediately. The current Republican plan has that sunset date somewhere in 20. How do you sell this plan, to those folks who have the Medicaid benefits of Obamacare?
DRUCKER: Here's the tension is that Republicans are trying to create a bill that does everything people like about Obamacare which includes the Medicaid expansion. Even though they're going to overhaul how Medicaid works, reform it and allow the states to run the program. A lot of people signed up through the expansion that Republican governors took on even when they reject other parts of Obamacare. They want to give governors what they need. At the same time, they're trying to create a conservative health care policy. That still keeps things like preexisting conditions, allowing you to keep your kids on your policies, until they're 26 years old, adults. And it's hard to do that. That's the tension here. Is paying for all of these things that people like about Obamacare, but getting rid of taxes and mandates that people didn't like and actually have made this health care system not work as advertised. Because you had rising premiums, you had a loss of choice, you've had insurance companies pulling out of exchange, even before it was clear that Trump was going to be the president and obviously dismantle it. So they're trying to do things that are difficult from a policy perspective and they're trying to sell it as everything is going to be great without talking up what they think is really good about the plan while admitting some of the things that are going to change.
CABRERA: What is the biggest problem with this plan, Wajahat?
[17:35:01] ALI: The biggest problem is that it's cruel and it's going to affect those people who need insurance the most. We're talking low income, middle-class, white rural workers, a Republican plan that many Republicans say doesn't go far enough in gutting Medicaid, and gut Medicare and removing the taxes from the high-income folks and finding the money. I don't know how they're going to find the money to pay for this. I think what's really clear is they should have actually improved Obamacare. You don't think it's perfect? Make it better. Had six years to come up with a plan and this is the best they can do. Mainstream Republicans are against it and even "Breitbart" said it will attack the low class, rural workers, white base in places like Kentucky and West Virginia. And I think we're going to see with the new Congressional budget bipartisan review that's going to come out. You're going to see people lose their health care insurance and see rising premiums based on the math. It's going to be a lose/lose, and it's up to the Republican administration and Trump to use his negotiation deal, "The Art of the Deal" to sell it to the millions of American who voted for him.
CABRERA: President Trump was golfing today while his vice president was on the stump for this health care reform bill. How do you think he's doing as a president trying to sell this legislation?
DRUCKER: Time is going to tell. I think the rollout was choppy and could have been a lot better. I'm surprised they didn't have the president front and center rolling this thing out.
CABRERA: Why wasn't he rallying? He loves these rallies, right?
DRUCKER: He does. So it will be interesting to see what he says in Nashville this week when he rallies for the first time since the bill was rolled out. I also want to see if he ends up in some of these districts where you have Republicans that are resisting the health care bill. He's going to have to try to find a way to craft a compromise between Republicans who support the bill and most of them do. And the majority that oppose the bill without making the kind of major changes that the minority that opposes the bill want. Because it's just not possible to, do given how they've laid this thing out.
ALI: The Koch brothers don't like it and they're very influential. So good luck, Donald Trump.
CABRERA: I'll leave it there.
Wajahat Ali, David Drucker, thanks to both of you.
Up next, the FBI investigating what it describes as an odd computer link. Was there any connection between a Russian bank and the Trump campaign or the Trump organization over the summer? What sources close to the investigation tell CNN.
We're back in a moment.
[17:41:32] CABRERA: Federal investigators are still trying to figure out what kind of server connection, computer server may exist between the Trump organization and a Russian bank. One U.S. official tells CNN investigations have found the relationship between the two servers odd.
Senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joins us from Moscow with the latest on the investigation -- Fred?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we reached out to Alpha Bank and we asked the comment on this matter. They said they had seen CNN's new reporting on all of this. And we asked them for a statement and they said they wanted to talk the matter over internally and they would then get back to us. However, they called back about three or four hours later and said they had indeed discussed this and there was nothing further that they had to add.
Now in the past what they said is that, on the one hand, they claim in a none of their top executives ever had any sort of contacts with President Trump or with any of his business partners or with the Trump enterprises and there were no financial dealings, either. The way that they explained what happened with these DNS look-ups, they say that their hypothesis is that they believe possibly some of their executives, possibly some other employees may have stayed at some Trump hotels in the past, may have given their e-mail addresses there while they maybe were checking in. And then what happened is that Trump servers made have sent e-mails, advertising e-mails back to servers of the Alpha Bank and, therefore, that triggered some of the cyber protection that they have. And that that in turn triggered that DNS look-up. They said they also launched an investigation. It's never clear what happened to that investigation or whether they came to any sort of final conclusion. So there are a lot of questions out there.
A little bit about Alpha Bank, the bank is actually very independent. It's not in any way, shape or form owned by the Russian government. In fact, it really is a bank that prides itself at keeping an arm's length towards the Russian government. That's only possible to a certain extent in a widely regulated and restricted environment like the business environment in Russia.
There are some indicative things. The bank and none of the executives are not on any sort of sanctions list of the European Union or of the United States.
The other interesting thing about this bank is that, even though you have these horrible relations or nonrelations right now between Russia and Ukraine, this bank, Alpha Bank, actually still does business in the Ukraine. That business apparently isn't going all too badly. It really doesn't seem as if the bank has any ties to the Russian government.
As far as this server communication is concerned, there still are a lot of unanswered questions out there -- Ana?
[17:44:16] CABRERA: Thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen.
When we come back, she discovered nude photos of herself circulating the Internet without her consent while she was serving her country in the Marine Corps. This woman is just one of now several alleged victims in a military-wide Internet scandal. Ahead, new details on that investigation.
You're live in the CNN NEWSOOM.
CABRERA: Female Marines violated. CNN is learning that four branches of the military are looking into the origin of nude photos of female servicemembers posted on various websites without their consent. Among those photos, predatory language, even encouragement of sexual assault.
CNN national correspondent, Dianne Gallagher, is working the story for us.
And, Dianne, any indication at this point who is behind these photos?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Ana, there's an ongoing criminal investigation, but the Marine's top general says it seems to have perpetuated from a subculture within. There were 30,000 members of this private Facebook page, posting and sharing the photos. \
A military official has told us that at least one person has been disciplined, an I.T. subcontractor, in connection with these photos. But from what we've learned over the past couple of days, it appears the first Facebook page might just be the tip of the iceberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:50:02] ERICA BUTTNER, In August 2016, I learned that a photo of me was posted on Marines United Facebook page without my consent.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): 23-year-old Erica Buttner speaking out earlier this week saying she's one of the victims of the Marine's photo scandal.
BUTTNER: I am disheartened and disgusted with this scandal.
GALLAGHER The site is called Marines United, a private Facebook group, which posts hundreds of photos of active and retired female servicemembers. Some of the photos show the women naked. The group has 30,000 members. And the photos are posted without the women's consent, sometimes listing their names, ranks and social media handles.
BUTTNER: Multiple victims recently began speaking out about those unauthorized posts. But they received threats and backlash in an attempt to quiet them.
GALLAGHER: So far, there are less than 10 victims, according to top officer, General Robert Neller.
GEN. ROBERT NELLER, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: This is our problem and I own it. We own it.
GALLAGHER: General Neller spoke to the press Friday condemning those involved.
NELLER: I don't know how many active-duty Marines participated or were witting to this behavior. But the investigation that's ongoing will help us understand the scope of this. And I can assure you, if there is accountability to be made, those that are involved will be held accountable.
GALLAGHER: News broke when Thomas Brennan, a former Marine and founder of the Military News site first reported the group to the Marines and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service.
Although no one has been charged, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released a statement Friday saying, "The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout the armed forces."
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D), NEW YORK: I'm very concerned that this system was allowed to fester as it did.
GALLAGHER: Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's office has spoken with one of the victims. And the Senator says she wants to meet with any others who are willing to come forward.
In a letter written this week to the U.S. Senate, Gillibrand demanded an investigation.
GILLIBRAND: If you allow a climate like this to exist, you are not taking that pledge seriously. And you are doing what's necessary to actually get rid of sexual violence of the military.
GALLAGHER: Four military branches are now investigating those involved in posting the photos on Facebook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Now, Erica Buttner says that she actually notified NCIS of a Google drive containing photos of female servicemembers back in January. Neither she nor her attorney, Gloria Allred, would comment on the Navy's response to that. The Navy, Ana, said it cannot comment on the ongoing investigation.
CABRERA: Dianne, so is Congress getting involved?
GALLAGHER: So I can tell you, Ana, that a congressional aide has told us that General Neller is going to be briefing the House Armed Services Committee next week on this. We're not going to be able to be in that because it is a closed-door, closed-to-press, private briefing to talk about the scandal here.
CABRERA: We'll stay tuned.
Dianne Gallagher, thank you.
In the next two weeks, we'll introduce you to the first of CNN Heroes of 2017. But first, a check-in with our last year's CNN Hero. Jason Arizobal is dedicating his life to helping young people with disabilities in Colombia. On a recent trip to New York, he made a special visit to a fellow Colombian who brings free meals to people in need every single night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON ARIZOBAL, CNN HERO: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ARIZOBAL: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANUGAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let them inspire us to be better people, right? To nominate your hero, just long onto CNNheroes.com.
We have a lot going on here. New details on the major breach of security at the White House overnight, and what just happened during a suspect's court appearance.
The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts live after a quick break.
[17:58:53] CABRERA: Thanks for being with us in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
We have two breaking stories we continue to dig into this hour. First, a White House intruder and suspect was just in court. A prosecutor saying 26-yer-old Jonathan Tran was carrying two cans of mace when he got within 200 feet of the president's private residence. The president was inside. This happened just before midnight. Also, Tran was reportedly carrying a letter to President Trump. The Secret Service finally spotted Tran near the south entrance. We'll tell you what Tran is charged with in just a few moments.
Our second story, a showdown between President Obama (sic) and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, one of 46 U.S. attorneys targeted in that sudden order to resign. This afternoon, President Trump fired Bharara who had been refusing to step down. We just got Bharara's reaction, and I read, quote, "Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. Serving my country as a U.S. attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live."
Sources say Bharara was especially blindsided by this order to step down, not because it came with such little warning, but because, it was back in November, just a few months ago, when President Trump actually asked Bharara to stay on the job.