Return to Transcripts main page


Sources: ISIS, Other Terror Groups Have Laptop Bombs That May Evade Airport Security; Sources: New Terrorist Laptop Bombs May Evade Security; Top Dem Of House Intel Committee Meets With Trump; Schiff: Shown "Precisely The Same Materials" As Nunes; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 31, 2017 - 19:00   ET


March 31, 2017

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news. CNN exclusive. New Intelligence suggesting ISIS and other terror groups have developed laptop bombs that could evade airport security. Plus, General Michael Flynn says he has a story to tell. Once immunity, the FBI responding tonight and following the trail of dead bodies. Are the suspicious deaths of several officials linked to Russia's interference in the U.S. election? Let's go OutFront.

And Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. On this Friday night OutFront, we begin with breaking news. Our CNN exclusive report this evening. U.S. Intelligence Officials say that ISIS and and other terror groups have found a way to hide powerful explosives in electronic devices. We're talking specifically about things like laptops. Intelligence officials suggest the terrorists have stolen airport screening devices so that they specifically learned how to conceal those bombs, finding ways to place them on commercial planes. Evan Perez and Barbara Starr broke the story along with (INAUDIBLE) from I want to begin this evening with our Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, obviously, an incredibly significant report. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRSPONDENT: Well, Erin, CNN has learned that U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies believe ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that FBI testing shows can evade some commonly used airport screening machines. Now the concerned is heightened because there's U.S. Intelligence suggesting that terrorist have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to effectively conceal explosives in laptops and other electronic devices.

Terror bomb makers have come up with a way to hide explosives in the battery compartment but still have the laptop able to turn on long enough to get past the screeners. In December, FBI had its experts reporting that they've tested variance of laptop bombs using different battery and explosive configurations to assess how difficult it would be for airport screeners to detect them using TSA-rated machines. The testers found that the machines had a far more difficult time detecting these new types of bombs.

BURNETT: Obviously an incredibly significant development. Barbara, is this the reason for the ban last week from some flights from some airports directly to the United States and Britain?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. It is a significant part of it. But what we also know from government officials we've been talking to that the U.S. Intelligence Community and U.S. Military Intelligence has grown increasingly concerned in recent months and weeks. They have been tracking a number of these plot threats about airliners, not just from ISIS but also Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Al-Qaeda in Syria.

All of it leading to questions about whether this ban on electronics goes far enough. The intelligence comes in the heightened concerns that ISIS and Al-Qaeda-affiliated terror groups have perfected their ability to hide bombs in electronic devices. CNN has learned this new intelligence was a significant part of the decision earlier this month to ban laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices from the passenger cabins of planes flying directly to the United States from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports. Demanding instead that they be stored in checked luggage.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Elevated intelligence that we're aware of indicates that terrorists groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressive in pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attack to include smuggling of explosive device and various consumer objects.

STARR: Officials have told CNN there was credible and specific intelligence that ISIS would try to attack aviation assets. And a hint from a top U.S. Commander about why he accelerated effort on the ground in Syria against the group.

LIUTENANT GENERAL STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: There's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqah. Because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is a significant external operations attacks planning.

STARR: Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, AQAP has for years been actively trying to target commercial airliners destined for the U.S. Looking for ways to create bombs that contain little or no metal content to evade airport security measures including hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic devices like laptops. And in February, 2016, a wakeup call when a laptop bomb according to Somali Authorities shorts was used to blow a hole in this Somali passenger jet.

The plane landed safely despite the attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab. CNN has learned the explosives were hidden in space created by removing parts of the DVD drive. Now the CNN reporting team has spoken to the CIA and the FBI about this story and as of now, both of those agencies have declined to comment. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. So Evan, let me go back to you. The TSA in terms of this ban, right? Of people not being able to bring laptops in the cabin, have to say they go in the cargo, only applied to specific countries. Given this new information, why is this not a wider ban?

PEREZ: It really makes the question, Erin, but the explanation given when the ban was introduced was that the U.S. and the Europeans have a layered security that greatly improves the chance of detecting explosives beyond just the screening equipment. The TSA issued a statement to the -- to us tonight saying that they won't discuss the intelligence that we're reporting on but they're say the -- that the U.S. Government continually reassesses existing intelligence and collects new intelligence.

This allows the DHS and TSA to constantly evaluate our aviation security processes and policies and make enhancements when they are deemed necessary to keep passenger safe. As always, all air travellers are subject to robust security system that employs multiple layers of security both seen and unseen. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much. The explanation given when the ban was introduced of course was, you know, that you can't stop all travel, right? They said that that wasn't possible to do. So now, of course, we just have this partial ban with the significant development at this hour. OutFront now, Bob Baer, former CIA Operative, Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Paul Cruickshank, terrorism analyst and Clarissa Ward, our senior international correspondent in New York with us tonight. Thanks to all. Mary, let me start with you. Our entire flight system is based on machines detecting bombs. Tonight, we are finding out though that the bombs can beat the checks.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOT GENERAL, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: That's right. And there are very important developments here that we haven't heard before and that is, one, that they -- we think that they have had additional testing capabilities by using the very equipment that we purchased, the United States encouraged other countries to purchase after September 11, 2001 to defeat the bombs, the future and the plastic explosives, et cetera.

And also that the modus operandi has changed, ever since the underwear bomber in 2009, we thought that perhaps they had help on the inside or they had explosives that could be detected. We went through a lot of equipment. And in the Somali bombing, they thought they had inside help. They arrest -- made several arrests. Now it appears they think it's possible to do this without inside airport help. Huge change, huge game changer, huge difference. Very, very troubling.

BURNETT: If this is a game changer, why has the U.S. only banned laptops and iPads in the cabin on direct flights to the U.S. rom Middle Eastern countries? I mean, does this make sense because after all, if you could get it through security, you could get it -- I mean, I just want to understand, you could pass it someone, you could get on a connecting flight. This doesn't make sense, does it?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: It does make sense because one of these bombs, they make sure they take an airplane down, you need to put them against the skin. What causes a small explosion, causes a zipper effect, the plane too come part. Also, a lot of these airports that are -- this extra security are places that don't have the same screening. If you get on a plane to the United States, Homeland Security knows who they are, they can be pretty much sure that you're not going to be putting a bomb, you're not suicide bomber. You know, nonetheless, I agree with Mary is that, you know, these bombs out there, if you can put explosives in batteries and hide them and beat nitrate tests and the rest of it, this is a development that's very, very worrying. And we knew these people are getting better all the time and fit -- frankly, it doesn't surprise me that they've advanced technology to this point. Aviation is in trouble.

BURNETT: Aviation is in trouble, I mean, Paul, the point Paul is making is it make sense -- I mean, I'm sorry. The point Bob is making is it makes sense to put the laptop or whatever it might be in the cargo because it wouldn't perhaps be along the edge of the airplane that way it would be if you're sitting up in the cabin, you can control where you sit. It would be harder to take the plane down. That's why that they're going for the cargo itself.

But in terms of this development, I mean, this is pretty stunning. And now we're being told, Al-Qaeda we know has a master bomb maker. But now we're being told ISIS, other terrorist groups. They weren't always sharing this information. That is also significant.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There is. Let me put this into perspective. The modern machines, the modern state of the art machines including explosives trace -- detection which takes swab tests at the airport that in place in modern airports in Europe, in the United States, in some parts of the gulf as well. They are actually very good at detecting the kind of explosive devices that Al- Qaeda in Yemen and other groups are trying to develop even when there's a concealed in laptop.

BURNETT: But some of those airports, in the Emirates, for example, are on this list.


CRUICKSHANK: Why are those airports are on the list because they've got just as modern machines as in United States and Europe which are very good, I repeat, very good at detecting these kind of explosive devices. One of the possibilities is that -- is some concern are the training, protocols at these airports, that there's concern about human error. All of these machines are not being systematically used. But the modern cutting edge technology should catch just about anything Al-Qaeda or ISIS could put together right now. It's very important to stress that.

BURNETT: Yes. But when you say things like just about, I mean, when they have the technology -- one official is saying this is hair raising. You just need one to get through. When you think about the destruction that could cause.

CLARRISA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, I agree. It thing what Bob Baer said is important and what Paul said is important as well which is this shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone. While it may be hair raising for as longs I can remember, to take down a commercial airliner has been the kind of holy grail of any of these various plethora of terrorist groups operating in and around the globe. We were focusing primarily on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al- Qaeda in Yemen because of al-Asiri who's, you know, the master bomb maker so to speak, because they had been sort of leading the charge with the efforts with liquids and the underwear bomber. But if you look at the effort and resources that ISIS has been funneling in to all its sort of technological operations, whether it's using drones, whther it's trying to build its own planes, whether it's constructing its own weapons, whether it's trying to create a self-driven car, it doesn't actually come as a huge surprise to me that they have been able over a course of time and perhaps working with certain rogue elements of other extremist groups to come up with something that could potentially threaten an airline.

BURNETT: And Mary, you know, when we had a chance to speak with you briefly before the segment, you said the system was blinking red before 9/11. And this situation reminds you of that.

SCHIAVO: It does. Because we had so many warnings before 9/11. A lot of them didn't come to light until the years after. I spent 12 years litigating 9/11 for the families. And what was amaze is how --- amazing to me is how much information we had that they were getting very good and they were testing the system and they were coming forth us. It was published in the federal register in July of 2001. But we just didn't do enough. We thought we could do piecemeal safety systems.

And I fear that now we're doing piecemeal safety and security systems, and that just doesn't work because the terrorists are testing every piece of the system. And they do it systematically and they've been doing it, I think, since 2009.

BURNETT: Bob, final word, piecemeal?

BAER: Piecemeal and I agree with Mary, they're getting very good and these people are very talented and this technology goes back 30 years. Unfortunately they are going to make it through on one -- with one of these bombs. That's my prediction.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. Very sobering developments, sobering breaking news this evening. Next, more breaking news on Trump's Former National Security Advisor and the FBI, whether they're going to give him immunity. A big development tonight. And the top democrat on the House Intelligence Committee just met with the president and guess what, he's talking about what he saw at the White House tonight. It could be the key to the questions surrounding his committee's investigation into the president and Russia. And President Trump, the next move says Jeanie Moos, it's up to you.


BURNETT: And more breaking news this hour. In a stunning statement from the top democrat on the House Intelligence Committee we are learning, Congressman Adam Schiff saying the classified document he just saw at the White House are the same documents shown more than a week ago the Chairman Devin Nunes. Nunes of course haven't told anybody what's in them. Nunes suggested those documents boost Donald Trump's claim that his top aides were picked up in intelligence collection.

But here's the key. We now know that two White House staffers provided those documents to Nunes before anybody else in the first place, something that Nunes and the White House both still refuse to confirm. And we are also learning that Congressman Schiff and President Trump met tonight, they met in person for about 10 minutes inside the White House. Jessica Schneider joins me live now. And Jessica, this is obviously a huge development from Congressman Schiff.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Erin. You know, Ranking Member Schiff isn't revealing yet the content of those documents. But he has expressed dismay in written statement tonight that they're the same documents seen by Chairman Nunes more an a week ago. Schiff said this in his statement, he said, it was represented to me that these are precisely the same materials that were provided to the chairman over a week ago. The White House has yet to explain why Senior White House Staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House.

So of course Schiff is still taking issue with the fact that the White House released these materials to Nunes first, saying the White House effectively laundered the information through the committee to avoid the true source. But, you know, Erin, tonight the house committee is trying to get back on track. We know that Nunes and Schiff didn't meet face-to-face this week. They say they're committed to moving forward. And starting up those hearings again. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jessica. And, you know, speaking of Chairman Nunes, this comes as he breaks his silence back home in California. Kyung Lah joins me live in the Congressman's home district. And Kyung, Nunes is breaking his silence, right? On a crucial part of the story which is that two White House sources or staffers, I'm sorry, were his secret sources, so far completely has refused to acknowledge this. What did he say today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you know, he's refused to acknowledge. He's also been avoiding national D.C. Press all week. He decided to sit down and break his silence with the local T.V. station here in Fresno and he knocked down that report saying they were, "mostly not true." Here's what he said.


REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R-CA) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: But I can tell you that those reports are mostly wrong. And this is something that I've known about for a very long time from people who were not affiliated at all with the White House or anybody there. The challenge was, was finding a place to be able to view this information to be able to get my hands on this information. So, I think what's in the stories is there's a lot of innuendo, there were people that probably knew about this, knew about me being there but the fact of the matter is that doesn't make the source.


LAH: Now, the congressman wasn't so eager to make that assertion to CNN, to the national networks, or national newspapers. We're all waiting here at this event where he was scheduled to speak at a ticketed event. He snuck in through the back door. He left the exact same way. And that did not go over so well with protesters. There were many protesters that were lining the sidewalk in front of this event. They are very angry with this investigation with their congressman's behavior. They feel he is not working for them. Here's what one of them told us.


WHITNEY VEJVODA, CONSTITUENT: It doesn't seem like he has our interest in mind. And it's unfortunate because he works for us. He doesn't work for Trump. And that seems like his first priority lately is working for Trump.


LAH: We should point out that the congressman, though, is still very popular with his base. He did win his district, Erin, 68 percent of the people voted for him. So, even with the scandal, many people here still do support him.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung. Thank you. I want to go now to Juliette Kayyem who served as the assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, Jason Miller, former senior communications adviser for Trump's campaign also with me. Juliette, obviously, the big breaking news at this hour. Congressman Schiff, the ranking member, went to the White House, spent 10 minutes with the president and also was briefed on this classified information which he says is the same information that the chairman of the committee got more than a week ago. The ranking member didn't get at that time. The chairman shared it with nobody else. How damaging is this?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: I think it's damaging for Nunes only. In other words, I really appreciate what Adam Schiff did in the sense that I think he was, you know, played the big kid and went to the White House to see what Nunes saw and I think now the next move to save the House Intelligence Committee review is essentially for Paul Ryan to step in and say, look, there are other republicans on this committee. They are also committed to this review and investigation. No one has confidence in Nunes anymore and to replace him. You see other -- on your show, you have other members of that committee, republicans of that committee wanting to get the investigation back in order. You just can't do it with Nunes anymore. So I think that would be a smart move on Paul Ryan's part at this stage.

BURNETT: So, Jason, what I'm trying to understand is a basic thing here, right? Which is the White House obviously had this information, right? Because now they're giving it above board and to Adam Schiff who is saying it's the same information Nunes saw. Don't they have to explain why they decided more than a week ago to show the same information to the chairman -- to Chairman Nunes without trying to have their fingerprints on it? And then -- because he left and came back to the White House as if he had discovered it and presented it to them? Don't they have to explain that?

JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: I think this is really on Chairman Nunes to come out and explain the process and what all is going on. I think the White House did the right thing by inviting Congressman Schiff to come up and review the materials. And I think there is something very important that came out of today and that was the fact that Congressman Schiff attacked the process. Why does this matter?

Because if he's coming out and attacking the process in this, I think he saw something serious, I think there's something that's a very big deal there and I think the sooner all these documents are out and we have a chance to really understand what was going on, I mean, we're seeing reports from other news organizations that there was senior intelligence official from the previous administration who is involved in some of this unmasking activity.

We've seen the comments, the MSNBC comments from another staffer or person from the previous administration who said that there are things going at the higher levels for collecting information that people would really be concerned about. But if you really look at Congressman Schiff's comments today, for him to come out and attack the process and the way that he framed it, I think I didn't -- I didn't see anything that would have changed the normal procedures this should have gone through. For him to frame his words like, he's trying to throw people off the scent. I think it's really disingenuous, I think when you get this information out, this unmasking is a big deal.

BURNETT: OK. Unmasking, I just have to clear it, Juliette, before you go to explain to people, unmasking is basically if your name was picked up in routine intelligence that now somehow your name actually got put in there. That would be unmasking source.


MILLER: And it's an effort for back door surveillance for Trump association getting swept into this who weren't under surveillance.

KAYYEM: We know, we know, we know.

BURNETT: Go ahead, Juliette.

KAYYEM: So, I think -- I wouldn't read too much into Adam Schiff's statements. What I think what is important is what was happening at the White House that members of the national security staff as well as the legal staff, which I think is really key, the president's own counsel, a guy we don't hear -- talk about much, Don Miguel and I might be pronouncing it wrong, and those offices that were involved in the sharing of this information, to Nunes, I have to say those are names I had never heard before. They seem relatively low-ranking. One would assume that there was a process by which they were told or at least allowed to share the information with Nunes. And so I think that -- I think that the process is worthy of being reviewed. But I think the most important thing and Jason and I would probably both agree on this is that, you got to get the House Intelligence Committee back on track.

BURNETT: Well, right. If you can.

KAYYEM: It's hard to say that you could do it with Nunes but you could do it with another republican. There a lot of, you know, the intelligence committee never used to not have things kind of stuff. And there are lot of republicans or members of that committee who are agreed to what the review would look at and who are willing to look at the unmasking issue that Jason talked about --


KAYYEM: We're not going to play this game.

BURNETT: Jason, can I ask you before we go one --

MILLER: Juliette I give you absolute --

BURNETT: -- one more crucial question I want to ask you though.


BURNETT: And this is what Congressman Nunes said tonight. This information is something I've known about for a very long time for people who are not affiliated at all with the White House or anybody there. Obviously, it's uncommon on him to say who and why and was. But wouldn't you at least admit that in a sense that might make it even worse. So he's known the information for even longer period of time and not shared it with a ranking member or anyone else on his committee, isn't that stunning?

MILLER: Erin, I've said this both on your show and other shows on the network this week for where I've been critical of Chairman Nunes, saying that we need to get this information out and lay out where the information came from and we need to get to talking about who was surveilling President Trump and his associates, who in the previous administration was authorizing this. These people need to be held accountable. There's a big double standard between things being leaked to hurt President Trump and things being leaked that actually go and set the record straight. Let's -- we need to be talking about the unmasking, the back door surveillance. This is a big deal and these people need to be held accountable.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And just to be clear --


BURNETT: -- President Trump and his associates of course, the surveillance could have been of other people.

KAYYEM: Right.

BURNETT: With nothing to do them and (INAUDIBLE). MILLER: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: OK. Thanks to both.

KAYYEM: Russia should be held to a high standard as well.

BURNETT: And next, Trump says Michael Flynn -- General Flynn needs immunity to protect himself from witch hunt. Donald Trump is saying this. Do you remember when Donald Trump said this said this about immunity?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for?


BURNETT: And Jeannie Moos captures President Trump in some moving moments. What's going on?


[19:31:12] BURNETT: Breaking news: No indications at this hour that the FBI is going to let Michael Flynn off the hook and grant him immunity in exchange for talking to them about Russia and the Trump campaign.

So, will Trump's former national security advisor tell the full story or not?

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.


REPORTER: Any comment on Michael Flynn, Mr. President?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump facing new questions tonight on Michael Flynn. His former national security who shadow still looms large at the White House. Flynn is offering to testify in exchange for immunity in a growing probe of Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Flynn, a retired army general, fired after only 26 days in office for misleading the administration about contacts with the Russian ambassador. The president took the unusual step of inserting himself in an ongoing investigation, saying on Twitter, "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt, excuse for big election loss by media and Dems, of historic proportion."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer amplified that message today.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes that Mike Flynn should go testify. He thinks that he should go up there and do what he has to do to get the story out. ZELENY: The immunity offer for Flynn was rebuffed by the Senate

Intelligence Committee and drew skepticism from Republicans like Congressman Jason Chaffetz who took issue with the president's characterization of the Russia probe as a witch hunt.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: No, I don't think it's a witch hunt. It's very mysterious to me why all of a sudden, General Flynn is saying he wants immunity. I don't think Congress should give him immunity.

ZELENY: It all adds up to another head spinning moment at the White House, considering what the president said about immunity last year on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: If you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?

ZELENY: It was a frequent attack against his rival Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Did anybody ever see so many people get immunity? Everybody.

ZELENY: After leading attacks of his own at the Republican Convention --


ZELENY: -- Flynn had this to say about immunity.

FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.

ZELENY: At the White House today, Spicer said it was not hypocritical to suddenly support immunity, if it brought to light the president's belief that conversations with Trump aides were swept up by government surveillance.

SPICER: He's saying do whatever you have to do, to go up, to make it clear what happen, take whatever precautions you want or however your legal counsel advises you.


ZELENY: Now, a law enforcement official tells CNN tonight the FBI has no interest in talking to Flynn again or offering him immunity. So, this whole discussion of immunity raises the question of, in exchange for what? Usually, in a case of a high-ranking government official, they're offered immunity if someone can turn something over to them higher than them.

But, Erin, in this White House, very few people were higher than General Flynn in the campaign as well. That begs the question of what would he have to offer? Erin?

BURNETT: OK. Jeff, thank you very much. Obviously, the crucial question. Former prosecutor and legal analyst Paul Callan is with me, along with

the former advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod.

So, Paul, let me start with you, because there are a lot of reason someone might seek immunity. But usually, when you are granted it, as Jeff points out, it's because you're going to be giving someone up who is above you, someone who is even bigger than you.


BURNETT: As he says, fewer relative to Michael Flynn. Obviously, that means Donald Trump would be among them. Is there a chance that that part of this? That this is the president?

CALLAN: What I find suspicious about all this is that his attorney, Robert Kelner, very well know, connected guy, who's done a lot of big cases in his career, is publicly shopping the idea of immunity. Now, real lawyers when they have a client who's got a real problem and has really salable information to trade for immunity, you don't have a press conference.

[19:35:01] You have a quiet meeting with the prosecutor and you say, listen, I can give you this person, and it's all done quietly, nobody hears about it. Instead, a press release is issued saying, I got a great story, give me immunity. That's a very odd situation.

What it says to me is I don't think they have very valuable information to sell or it would have been a quiet approach.

BURNETT: So, David, you heard General Flynn in Jeff's piece.


BURNETT: And as you said, this might be the most played in the last 24 hours. There's a reason for that and that's why I'm going to play it again.



FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.


BURNETT: It's a pretty stunning thing to say now, but he's the one asking for immunity.

AXELROD: I think it's fair to say that given the chance, he would not have said it then if he knew what was going to happen. Yes, absolutely. I mean, it wasn't just him. Donald Trump campaigned across this country, raising this issue of people who would work for Hillary Clinton taking immunity as a sign of their guilt. So, yes, this is why they're called sound bites, Erin. They're coming back to bite right now. BURNETT: I mean, Paul, here's the thing -- this is the height of

hypocrisy for President Trump as well, right? He has come out and said that General Flynn should be granted immunity.

But here's what Donald Trump said. By the way, repeated, we saw a little bit there in Jeff's piece but repeatedly on the campaign trail talked about immunity. He was always talking about Hillary Clinton and her team. Here he is.


TRUMP: If you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?

The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn't do anything wrong, they don't think in terms of immunity.

They ringleaders are getting immunity deals. We'll call them really the FBI immunity five. Nobody's ever seen it. They gave so much immunity, there was nobody left to talk to. There was nobody left except Hillary.


BURNETT: And, Paul, the thing here is when the president says Flynn should get immunity, is what he's saying is Flynn is guilty. I mean, right, that's pretty clear. That's basic logic and reasoning.

CALLAN: Well, if we -- yes, if he's being consistent where what he said on the campaign trail. But I don't think he's been particularly consistent with what he said on the campaign trail. If he's saying get immunity, well, why do you need immunity? Because there's criminal behavior.

But on the other hand, if you think about it, he's saying testify under immunity, I have nothing to hide. That's really what that statement means in terms of President Trump.

TRUMP: Well, it's easy for him to say, right, considering that the Senate is clearly not giving him immunity. The House doesn't seem to be giving him immunity, and the FBI doesn't seem to be giving him immunity. So, the president can say give it to him with very little risk.

AXELROD: It was a way of saying I have no fear about what he might say. But I think the second half of his tweet was equally important in which he colored the whole thing as part of a witch hunt, a partisan witch hunt. And this is what's been going on for months, the president has been in advance of any conclusions trying to impeach the investigation. And this was part of that effort.

CALLAN: You know, I agree with David completely, and I think what he's really saying with that take immunity statement, he's throwing a life raft, he's throwing a preserver to Flynn and saying, I've got your back, pal. Have immunity, testify, I'm still with you. AXELROD: So, David, here's what we know about General Flynn's ties to Russia because obviously this is core, right? They want him to testify in front of his committee, along with Jared Kushner, and Carter Page and others. We know he had phone calls with the Russian ambassador, of course, and with sanctions were discussed and he misled the vice president about that. We know that he met with that ambassador at Trump Tower. We knew that he went to Russia for a paid speech and sat next to Vladimir Putin.

But all of that isn't so much in itself. The question is, is that the tip of the iceberg or not?

AXELROD: And who knows? And I think, as in any investigation, we don't know what the scope of what they have is, or what they're looking at. But clearly, he is a focus for the investigation and it could go in directions that we -- that we don't know yet.

BURNETT: The impact of Russia influencing our election is something that comes up in the Axe Files which is, of course, your podcast and now a special here on CNN. You talked to John McCain about the significance. If Russia -- if America tried to help Russia, a specific thing that's under investigation here with the Trump campaign. If that happened, how significant is it?

Here's what he told you.


AXELROD: If someone, if an American citizen were complicit with the Russians in trying to interfere in our elections, would that be in your view tantamount to treason?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think you would have to gauge exactly the circumstances. There's one thing to have a conversation. It's another thing to plot together. But I think it would be something that individual would have to be held accountable.


AXELROD: Yes. He's -- listen, the John McCain is probably as fierce as anyone in the United States Congress about Russia and he's clearly appalled by what happened and very much offended by the notion that others may have participated.

[19:40:01] And he made it -- he made it very -- in that same interview, Erin, I asked him about comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan that you hear sometimes from Trump supporters.


AXELROD: And he said very coldly, you wouldn't hear Ronald Reagan comparing the United States to Putin's Russia as you've heard from this president. He was very tough on it.

BURNETT: Well, thank you both very much.

And "The Axe Files", you're going to see that, Saturday night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN, of course, with David.

And OUTFRONT next, following the trail of dead Russians, how recent mysterious deaths could actually be linked to the U.S. elections and Russia?

And have you ever noticed how the president moves things around? You know, not many people have, but this is getting increasingly bizarre. And Jeanne Moos has a special report.


BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump's defense secretary and secretary of state taking on Russia. This as the U.S. gets a stark warning that Putin is still meddling in U.S. politics.

Elise Labott is OUTFRONT.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blasting Vladimir Putin in his own backyard, President Trump's top diplomat blamed Russian aggression for turning the idea of reset with Moscow into a pipe dream.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: From what happened in Crimea to other aspects of their behavior in mucking around inside other people's elections.

LABOTT: Visiting NATO for the first time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to reassure nervous U.S. allies that President Trump won't seek closer ties with Russia.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to obviously have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly Eastern Europe, in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

LABOTT: On Thursday, former FBI agent Clint Watts told lawmakers investigating Russia that Putin might be trying to cover his tracks.

CLINT WATTS, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Follow the trail of dead Russians. There's been more dead Russians in the past three months. They are tied to this investigation, who have assets and banks all over the world.

LABOTT: Last week, exiled Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was gunned down in broad daylight outside a hotel in Kiev. The former security minister has shared closely guarded state secrets about Russian actions in Ukraine with investigators. Ukraine's president calls his murder, quote, "an act of Russian state terrorism." And he's just one of several mysterious Russian deaths since Russia became a target of investigation for meddling in the U.S. election.

In December, Russia's ambassador to Turkey was shot dead at point blank range in an art exhibition. The shooter, a Turkish police officer shouted, "Do not forget Syria" as he pulled the trigger. The same day, Petr Polshikov, a senior Russian diplomat, found shot in

the head in a bedroom of his Moscow home.

And on November 8th, U.S. Election Day, New York police were called to the Russian consulate to find diplomat Sergei Krivov unconscious. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Russian officials changed their story of how he died three times, from falling from the roof, to a heart attack, before an autopsy said he died of a tumor.

In all, eight prominent Russians found dead since the U.S. election. Five of them diplomats, including Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin, who died suddenly of a heart attack last month.


LABOTT: Now, some deaths appear to be of normal causes and foul play has been ruled out. But with others, details are scarce. The facts have changed overtime and the cases are still under investigation, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Elise. As we said, live from Brussels tonight.

And OUTFRONT now, a former FBI special agent Clint Watts and former deputy national secretary adviser and deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken.

Clint, let me start with you because we saw you testifying about eight of these prominent Russians who have -- are dead just since the election. And you say that there could be links between these individuals and the Russian dossier, which, of course, detailed link between the Trump campaign and Russians in rigging the election.

WATTS: Yes, I think there's three of those deaths that are key that we need to be looking at. One is last January in D.C., RT, the state sponsored outlet, one of their leading figures died of blunt force trauma. No explanation for it.

You fast forward to election night, you have another diplomat essentially fall from a building here in New York City on election night.

And then on 26 December, you have a former commander of the FSB die under suspicious circumstances in Moscow. He was found in his car dead. Some people say that he was shot dead.

Those are key linkages. You've got the main propaganda outlet, you got an FSB commander, you got someone here in the U.S. that died. Those are all potentially sources in the --

BURNETT: And you're pointing that this happened in the United States, but also that these individuals did have links somehow to that dossier?

WATTS: Well, I don't know that they are the people in the dossier, but they all could be. BURNETT: Yes.

WATTS: I mean, you have an intel service who could be a leaker who dies in Moscow. You've got the main propaganda outlet which we talked with influence here in the United States, in English language.

BURNETT: Right, right.

I mean, Tony, this is pretty stunning if true. I think what Clint's talking about, a lot of people aren't aware of, these things are happening here in the United States. Jumping off a building or blunt force trauma.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER OBAMA: Look, what we do know apparently is that being a Russian diplomat is not the path to health and longevity. Whether there's anything more, whether you can really connect these dots, I think it's too early to say. But, certainly, the number here at a time suggests that there's a little bit of smoke there.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, and, Clint, when we talk about smoke, I mean, you know, we're talking about one of these cases, someone found dead in a Washington hotel room. First, we're told it's a heart attack. Then we're told that the guy who had blunt force trauma on the back of his head and around his body somehow had a fall and it was -- it was natural. This is a Washington, D.C. hotel room.

WATTS: Yes. It's fascinating to watch and all these cases, all three of them, we're told one reason why they died and later we're told another and that just creates suspicion in itself. Which is the truth? And it's interesting that it's happening in our own story. Why we can't get a straight story here in the United States.

BURNETT: Right, right, because you have coroners in the U.S. who appeared to be going along with whatever reasons or excuses perhaps being given.

[19:50:05] Clint, you've been speaking out here, you testified about this. Are you concerned about your own safety, in talking about this so openly and bluntly?

WATTS: I'm not worried so much about my physical safety. I mean, I have dealt with this in the counterterrorism circles, whenever you're doing research. There's always a very minor chance of risk. I think the bigger is, we have seen Russian propaganda target Americans. We have seen the president actually say, released emails on my political opponent, I don't believe in the intel services.

Why wouldn't he, or myself or dozens of Russian analysts that are talking about this let the Russians attack, smear a campaign, discrediting campaign, compromise -- everything they have done in Europe, we have all suffered cyber attacks, I'm not the only one that's been notified. Why wouldn't the president who's either an opportunist or a willing collaborator take aim at myself or others?

BURNETT: Tony, you know, when it comes to the Russia situation, you know, the White House press secretary today, I know you heard this, cited a report, this report was that the Obama administration basically created a list of document serial numbers, so every document that Obama deemed relevant to any investigation between the Trump colluding with the Russians, they saved it. They made a list. They gave that list to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reportedly, of course, to make made sure that the Trump administration couldn't bury that information.

Do you have any information about this? Do you think that happened?

BLINKEN: Look, there's a huge amount of distraction and deflection going on here. This is all actually very, very straightforward. President Obama ordered a full investigation of Russian attempts to interfere with the election, back in December. His counterterrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, announced it from the White House podium, and she said we would gather all the facts, all the intelligence, all the reports, all of the evidence and we give it to Congress.

So, that's exactly what --

BURNETT: So you're saying this would be standard, this wouldn't be done to try to front run the Trump administration coming in, it wouldn't be done out of fear that they would destroy these documents. You're saying it's the motivation --


BLINKEN: This would be entirely consistent with what the president ordered, which is get to the bottom of what happened and make sure that we have all the information, make sure the Congress gets all the information.

But, you know, I think Clint really put his finger on something very important yesterday in his testimony. And the bottom line is this, whether intentionally or not, the president has beautiful fallen into doing Trump administration business for it, because Russia's modus operandi, what it's trying to do around the world and in the United States is undermine confidence and credibility in our institutions. And by spreading fake news, that's exactly what's happening. The president unfortunately has become the leading consumer and purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories. That's doing Russia's job for it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

WATTS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And a programming note, our senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward tonight with a unique and revealing look at ISIS, speaking with one young man who joined the terror group and then returned home.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you something, if you had been asked while you were in Syria to execute someone, would you have done it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, in Islam, there's the pledge of alliance.

WARD: Would you have done it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you have to obey the Emir.

WARD: So you would have done it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is Islamic law. And believe me, it not a funny thing to execute people. It's something terrible, but yeah.


BURNETT: "ISIS: Behind the Mask" airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And next, Jeanne Moos on President Trump and something, I don't know, this is real strange and wait until you see it. This is an investigation that's only Jeanne Moos can do it. That's next.


[19:57:20] BURNETT: President Donald Trump is a habit that very few people have noticed, but you know, there is no habit of Donald Trump's that the eagle eyes of Jeanne Moos will not catch. Here's her report.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's your move, Mr. President. Whether it's a glass or a coaster, President Trump has a habit of moving things a few inches here, a few inches there.

A viewer alerted Jimmy Kimmel to the president's quirk.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: He's more of a mover than a shaker.

MOOS: Moving individual items and even an entire place setting, apparently seeking the sweet spot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General counsel.

MOOS: A shorter compilation circulated online, leading to comments like this is desktop manspreading. He's marking his territory and trying to intimidate others with the space he takes up.

The president's move inspired web gags and arm chair psychology. "He thinks he's the master of everything. This is mine to touch."

TRUMP: Nice to see you.

KIMMEL: All I have to say is I hope the new health care plan covers OCD, because --

MOOS: OK, so everyone has an opinion, what's a professional think? Professor of psychology. While declining to diagnose, Professor Kevin Volkan weighed in on what

may be behind this type of behavior.

KEVIN VOLKAN, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, CAL STATE UNIVERSITY, CHANNEL ISLANDS: They're feeling anxiety about something, they control things, they move things around, they make lists.

MOOS: Or more likely, in someone with a narcissistic profile --

VOLKAN: They're just really bored. They can bore very easily, especially when the conversation is not about them.

MOOS: Internet posters likewise couldn't resist moving things, like the president's head, replacing it with a cartoon called business cat and adding a sound track.


MOOS: Funny, President Trump doesn't seem like the type to be a paper pusher.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: All right you armchair shrinks, have at it.

Finally tonight, though, on a personal note -- I want to take a moment to introduce you to OUTFRONT's newest produce, Sasha Marin Mills (ph). She just became part of our family. She came in six pounds six ounces. We are told she has her mom's nose and her dad's hairline. That means at least very good things pertaining her mom.

Congratulations to the proud parents, Alex and Vanessa. Vanessa Flores is our much loved copy editor, conscience of the newsroom and keeper of the office candy jar, we can't wait to have her back and enjoy every second with that little girl.

Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend.

Anderson is next.