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Trump Fires Off New Tweets Amid Russia Probe; Terrorists May Have Airport Screening Equipment; David Axelrod Interview with John McCain Tonight; Intelligence Committees Not Interested in Flynn Immunity Deal; How Russian Internet Trolls Produced Fake News During Election. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 1, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:02] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us. President Trump is unleashing a fresh weekend twitter storm, this following a rough week after days of harsh headlines and troubling developments to the Russia investigation. His new tweets today are focused on the familiar theme, surveillance in his presidential campaign and once again his source is cable news, FOX News specifically, and he's quoting a report that CNN cannot confirm.

That's not the only tweet raising eyebrows today. He also suggested that he might work with Democrats on health care. President Trump wrote this, "The failing New York Times finally gets it. Places where no insurance company offers plans. There will be no way for ObamaCare customers to use subsidies to buy health plans. In other words, OCare is dead. Good thing. Good things will happen, however, either with Republicans or Dems."

Now, I want to bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles at the White House. Ryan, what are you hearing now about perhaps another swing at ObamaCare in the repeal and replace idea?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it was interesting because we have been getting mixed signals from the White House about what the next big agenda item that they will take on will be. There's been some suggestion that they will put the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare in the background and work on something like tax reform or perhaps infrastructure improvements. But it seems as though the President and the Vice President are talking more and more in taking another crack at health care reform. In fact, listen to what Vice President Mike Pence had to say to a group of people in Ohio.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress basically said that they weren't ready yet to begin the end of ObamaCare. It really is a shame. But as Congressman Tiberi just said to me a few minutes ago, it ain't over yet. Even as we speak, I'm told the members of Congress are forging ahead working the current legislation that will usher in the end of ObamaCare. And be assure these folks here in the buckeye state, when Congress finally decides to repeal and replace ObamaCare, President Trump and I will be ready to work with them.


NOBLES: And there's a lot of things that we can draw out of these comments by Vice President Pence. First, he says that there are Congressional Republicans that are working on another crack at fixing this health care situation, but also that they are going to allow Congress to be the ones in-charge. When Congress is ready he said, the President and he will be ready to get involved in that conversation.

Later on in that speech, he also said once ObamaCare is gone, then we will move on to these other issues like tax reform and infrastructure. So Ana, perhaps the White House with a bit of a different focus here, maybe ready to take another crack at the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. Of course, one of Donald Trump's biggest campaign promises.

CABRERA: And it was just a week ago they said we're going to move on from that. And turn our focus on some of these other agenda items. Now they are saying the exact opposite. So we will be watching and waiting to see which direction they go. Ryan Nobles, thanks for the update. A lot of moving parts tonight. In fact, I want to turn to the Russia investigation and bring in our panel to discuss some of those developments.

With us, CNN's National Security analyst and former assistant secretary of Homeland Security, Juliet Cayenne. We also have with us, CNN political commentator and former New York Congressman Steve Israel.

Congressman, I'm going to bring you in first. I know you spoke with Congressman Schiff after he went to the White House last night. He apparently took a look at some of the other documents that Nunes, his counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, had already seen. That kind of started a bit of controversy when he had gone independently and looked at those documents. You spoke to Adam Schiff after that, what did he tell you?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, he told me essentially what he's written in his statement, which is very simple. There was nothing in those materials that required the process that President Trump and Devin Nunes engaged in. Those materials should have been shared with the committee. They should have been shared on a bipartisan basis. And so what this all tells us is very simple. This is subverting a process in the Intelligence Committee in order to deflect from the truth. The subversion was, is releasing the materials, not to the entire committee, just to Devin Nunes.

And what is the deflection? It's very simple. You can chart it on the graph, Ana. On March 20th, we have Director Comey testifying to the Intelligence Committee saying that he's investigating potential solution between Trump campaign officials and the Russians and that President Obama did not tap President Trump. And then two days later, Devin Nunes rushes to the White House and we engage in this crazy dance. This is designed to deflect us from the fundamental issue which is potential collusion with the Russians and Russian meddling in our elections.

CABRERA: That is the fundamental issue. But the question has been asked, you know, how did these names get out there and was there surveillance of the Trump team in some fashion? Do you know any more about the contents of what was witnessed by Adam Schiff that is apparently what Adam or what Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee thought was so important for the President to see?

[17:05:04] ISRAEL: No, I don't. And frankly, neither did the members of the Intelligence Committee. And that is what was so wrong here. Is that the contents of these materials were shown to Devin Nunes, the chairman actually had to divert a taxi ride to the White House and furtively go on White House grounds and talk to presidential aides, get these materials, which we still don't know exactly what is in these materials. Then he briefed the President on materials that the President's staff provided to the chairman. I mean, this thing is like a spy thriller.

CABRERA: It doesn't seem to make sense.

ISRAEL: It doesn't make sense. And it doesn't make sense because this thing is just concocted and it is improvised for one reason. To deflect us from the Comey testimony, to deflect us from the real issue here, which is did the Russians meddle in our election. There's broad bipartisan agreement and agreement with the FBI and others that they did. And were the Trump campaign officials involved and did they collude with Russian officials? That's what we ought to be focused on.

CABRERA: Congressman Schiff apparently met with the President for about ten minutes is our understanding. What did they talk about?

ISRAEL: I don't know. I don't know.


ISRAEL: But it's --

CABRERA: That's another interesting piece of all of this.

ISRAEL: Yes. Yes.

CABRERA: And given how heated this issue has become. Juliette, I want to ask you about your tweet last week, which is now, you know, coming back around, Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, this week apparently offering to testimony for immunity. Well, this is what you've wrote last week. It increasingly looks like Flynn may have a deal with the FBI. What are you hearing now?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I was maybe slightly premature on that. It clearly was true and certainly lawyers who knew how witnesses set up the cases, that Flynn was the one to watch. He was an outlier when it came to those guys like Carter Page and Manafort. We had not heard from him. He was cleaning up a lot of his odd business dealings and lobbying with places like Turkey and Russia.

And so it was not a surprise to me that this was going to be what Flynn wanted to do. But I want to make clear to your viewers, that the relevant story and what is very bad news for the White House is that Mike Flynn is willing to testify. We don't know exactly what he knows or the contents of the proper, but he's the first person in the very inner circle. He had been with Donald Trump for some time, willing to give testimony.

We don't know that it will be accepted. The second issue that is as important is that just because the Intelligence Committee or the FBI have not accepted it now, does not mean that they won't accept Flynn's overtures later. And so part of this is just it was a little bit premature. But if I can quickly just pick up on what the congressman said. I'm with him 100 percent in the way that Devin Nunes, I don't know why we sort of need to believe anything he says now, and I mean that as a National Security person.

What he did was so absurd, I think it is a safe way to put it, that, you know, Adam Schiff took the time to try to right-size the House Intelligence investigation given what Nunes had done. But that Nunes believes or has proof of incidental, remember, the law recognizes that there will be incidental collection. It's not like it's a shock to anyone. The law actually recognizes it, says you have to minimize it, but that Nunes says he has proof of incidental collection is like I have proof that two plus two equals four. It's irrelevant. The question is, was there collusion between the White House and the Russians? That's what the investigation is about. And I wish that Paul Ryan would save the House Committee by replacing Devin Nunes at the stage.

CABRERA: Let me switch to some other topics today. Let's talk about Trump's war on the Freedom Caucus. He tweeted this today, the Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team and fast. We must fight them and Dems in 2018. What is your response?

ISRAEL: Well, my response as a Democrat, just salivating what is going on.


ISRAEL: Look, Donald Trump needs to do some math if you're going to declare war on the Freedom Caucus. And you're not going to work with Democrats. I have news for him, you're not going to find 218 votes to pass anything. If you're at war with the fraction of your party and you are not going to bring Democrats into the process, you will always fall short of 218 votes.

CABRERA: But that is not good for anybody, for any party or for America, right?

ISRAEL: Which is why Donald Trump should tweet less and build coalitions more. Instead of tweeting this insanity this morning, he ought to pick up the phone and try to assemble a coalition to pass at least some things that make sense for the country. The other thing I want to mention is this, Ana, I talked to Republican members of Congress. And you could hear the ice cracking under their feet. You know, they are telling me, we are going -- we are approaching the first 100 days of the presidency.

We thought we would be talking about jobs, wages, security. And instead we're talking about immunity from prosecution and Devin Nunes. They believe that they are weakened as a result of this president. And I think they are facing grave threats in the midterm. If the President is fighting with the right of the Republican Party and fighting with the left of the Republican Party, their base is going to be dispirited in 2018. They're going to have to press turnout. And I think Democrats have an opportunity to pick up a majority as a result of these self-inflicted wounds by the Trump administration.

[17:10:34] CABRERA: Congressman, you wrote an op-ed and said, he should pick up the phone and call Nancy Pelosi if he wants to get things done.

ISRAEL: Believe it or not.

CABRERA: When you say something like that, it makes me ask, would she really work with him? I mean, how open is she?

ISRAEL: It depends on what it is. You know, I chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for four years. I was in the room with her when Paul Ryan would call or John Boehner and say on critical issues, necessary to advance the functioning of the country, like not shutting down the government, or funding Homeland Security, or authorizing the export/import bank, they consistently fell short. There weren't enough Republicans to get to 218. They would call her and it was always the same conversation.

She would say, look, how many votes do you have? I'll make up the difference. There are three criteria she has to provide Democratic votes. Number one, is it vital to moving the country forward? Number two, does it reflect the priorities of her caucus? And number three, does it advance her desire to pick up the majority? In all three cases, if the answer is yes, she will work with any Republican president or speaker, including George Bush who relied on her to pass the START program.

CABRERA: All right. We'll have to leave it there. But Juliette, I do want to ask you very quickly, when we're talking about bipartisanship, when you look out what's happening on the Senate Intelligence Committee in this Russia investigations, how confident are you that they will get the job done and get to the bottom of this?

KAYYEM: I am very confident in the partnerships between Senators Burr and Barner, at least for now. I thought the first hearing was remarkably educational that I wished everyone could watch it. It wasn't a gotcha kind of hearing. It was explaining what the Russians had actually done. Because I think most Americans don't know the specificity, the targeting that was going on in the campaign. Witnesses will of course bring their own I think drama to the aspect, but they seem to be even keeled in some ways. I think that we are reacting to the sort of madness surrounding what

Devin Nunes did on the House side. So they are trying to remain aligned. And I think we have to be realistic. There's unlikely to be an Independent commission, at least right now, because it would have to be voted on and just given the politics of the time that is unlikely. And so support for what is going on in the Senate is key. And then, of course, let's not forget there's a very quiet FBI investigation that is going on. So at any moment, an indictment could drop or anything. We just simply don't know the pacing of that series of investigation.

CABRERA: All right, Juliette Kayyem and former Congressman Steve Israel, thank you to both of you.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

CABRERA: Up next, we have a CNN exclusive. New intelligence on airport security. And a threat that law enforcement officials describe as hair-raising. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:17:25] CABRERA: Now to the war on terror and something you will only see here on CNN. US Intelligence sources telling us that ISIS and other terrorist groups may have figured out a way to bypass the high-tech bomb screeners at American airports. It's a deep concern to the FBI and one reason the Trump administration decided to put strong restrictions on how laptops and other large electronics enter the U.S. from a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more details.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about the threat against aviation that they are seeing, not just from ISIS, but also al Qaeda in Syria and al Qaeda in Yemen.

(voice-over): U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies believe that ISIS and other terror groups have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that can fool airport security screenings. The concern is heightened because there is U.S. Intelligence suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how well the bombs are concealed.

CNN has learned this new intelligence once a significant part of a decision earlier this month to band laptops, tablets and other electronic devices from the passenger cabin of planes flying directly to the United States from ten Middle Eastern and North African airports. Demanding instead that they be stored in checked luggage.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Elevated intelligence that were aware of indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressive in pursuing innovative message to undertake their attacks to include smuggling of explosive devices with these 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 the accelerated effort on the ground in Syria is against the group.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: There's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa. Because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is a significant external operations attack 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 wake-up call. When a laptop bomb, according to Somali authorities, was used to blow a hole in this Somali passenger jet. The plane landed safely despite the attack claimed by the al Qaeda affiliate al- Shabaab. CNN has learned the explosives were hidden in a space created by removing parts of the DVD drive.

The Transportation Security Administration gave CNN a statement noting that while they will not discuss specific intelligence, they continue to monitor all the threats that they see and that they will change security procedures as they see fit.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


CABRERA: All right. Thanks to Barbara. Still to come here in the newsroom, Senator John McCain sounding off on President Trump's team and possible ties to Russia. He says talking is one thing, plotting is another. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:25:14] CABRERA: He's the political mastermind who propelled a Rookie Illinois senator all the way to the White House. David Axelrod was the chief strategist for President Obama's first presidential campaign. He went on to be President Obama's senior adviser. Today he is CNN's senior political commentator and host of the popular podcast of "THE AXE FILES" with David Axelrod which makes its television debut tonight on CNN at 9:00 Eastern.

And David Axelrod is joins me live. David, before we get to tonight's special, I want to ask you about this week in Washington specifically the developments in the Russia investigation. What did you make of former National Security adviser Michael Flynn's lawyers now saying he'll agree to testify if he's given immunity?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there's a great irony to it given the fact that last summer it was General Flynn who was leading the charge against Hillary Clinton and was very derisive of some of her aides for having been granted immunity in the investigation surrounding her e-mail. So, and the President himself had heavy inference to that fact wherever he spoke. So that is one reaction I had. The other is that this seems like a significant turning point in the investigation.

General Flynn was as close as anyone to President Trump during his campaign. He served, as we know, briefly in the administration as National Security adviser before being forced out. So he clearly is someone who knows a lot about the operation. And the fact that his lawyer is reaching out with some kind of proffer, asking for immunity, suggests -- and suggesting that he has a story to tell, clearly raises the stakes in this whole process.

CABRERA: As you mentioned, he had such close -- such a close relationship with the President. And here is what President Trump had to say about this. He said, "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity. And that this is a witch-hunt, excuse for big election loss, by media and Dems of historic proportion." So, when you read that in his tweet, is Trump encouraging Flynn to tell his story publicly or is he trying to give Flynn cover for maybe cutting a deal. What do you think of the strategy there?

AXELROD: I'm not sure. I think on the one hand, he wants to suggest that Flynn has nothing to hide. And signify that he's encouraging him to speak, but I think the bigger part of that tweet is this ongoing effort to try and taint the investigation, both in terms of Congress and by the investigative agencies as political in nature. It seems like a down payment on whatever he expects them to conclude, which he hopes to dismiss as a political exercise.

So this is part of an ongoing campaign that we have seen for months and months and months of the President. First, dismissing the notion that the Russians were involve in the election at all, and then very derisively dismissing the idea that any of his folks could have been, in any way, involved with the Russians on this, in this incursion.

CABRERA: So if you're one of the lawmakers on these intelligence committees, I would assume you'd want to hear from Flynn. What do you do?

AXELROD: Well, you know, I'm not a lawyer, but the nature of immunity is you don't grant it unless there is a good reason to do that. And generally, it comes later in an investigations when you -- when you know exactly what you want and when you get a formal proffer as to what you would get in exchange for that immunity. So right now the Senate apparently has turned down the offer. That doesn't mean they can't come back to it. But it's not a slam dunk that he's going to get immunity. And they may call him, certainly the investigating agency, particularly the FBI, is going to pursue it. And then his lawyer will have to decide whether General Flynn actually testifies or takes the Fifth Amendment.

CABRERA: Now, when it comes to the question of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign associates, we keep hearing people say things like there's a lot of smoke, but they are working to determine if there is an actual fire. Do you anticipate that there will be definitive answers when this investigation concludes? AXELROD: You know, I hope so for the sake of the country. And I

think it is important to say that we, you know, everyone may have their idea of what happened, but the President, his people, they are all entitled to a presumption here.

[17:30:00] And you want this to come to a conclusion one way or the other. Because you don't want this cloud hanging over the presidency and our democracy in perpetuity. So, it's really important that these committees do their work and that the FBI and the Justice Department can do its work and tell us one way or another if laws were broken and if there was alleged cooperation or any other crimes committed that should be prosecuted.

CABRERA: In your special tonight, you sit down with Senator John McCain and talk to him about Russia's interference in the election. Let's watch.


AXELROD: It is now clear, everyone seems to agree, that the Russians did interfere in our election campaign.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: If you destroy democracy, the fundamental democracy, certain fundamentals, rules of law, respect, et cetera, but one of them is freedom to elect legitimately leadership. That's the fundamental principle. And if you destroy that, then you have really destroyed democracy.

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

MCCAIN: I think you have to gage the circumstances. It's one thing to have a conversation, but it's another thing to plot together. I think it would be -- it would be something that individual would have to be held accountable.


CABRERA: David, Senator McCain can be seen as the Republican elder statesman in Washington, so how much weight do you think his words carry among his colleagues when it comes to this investigation?

AXELROD: Well, I think on the issue of Russia, his words carry a great deal of weight. And this is a very tough opponent of Vladimir Putin. He personally has lost friends who are part of the Russian resistance movement who are assassinated, one presumes on the orders of Vladimir Putin. And so he -- I think he will have a great deal of influence on this. And he -- you know, he was careful when I pursued this with him, but clearly he sees the Russian -- he said in other interviews, it was worse than dropping bombs on this country. So he made it clear that if people were found complacent, that they should be held accountable.

CABRERA: I know he's one of the Republicans who say this should be part of an investigation that is independent of some of his colleagues that are currently investigating on the House committee, for example, following some of the developments with Nunes. Did he repeat that call for an independent commission and special prosecutor?

AXELROD: He -- he was clearly critical of what was going on in the House. He said, what occurred in the Intel Committee would never have occurred in his committee, for example, the Armed Services Committee. He said he prized the relationship between the committee chair and the ranking member of the other party to cooperate. And it is very important. He was more positive about the Senate investigation. And so far, the Senate investigation seems to be moving along in a much more nonpartisan fashion without some of the histrionics and drama we have seen on the House side.

CABRERA: I imagine he has the closer relationship to some of those on that investigation as well, given that he is a Senator and would be close to some of the Senators as part of that committee, specifically.

I know Senator McCain clearly was a rival of yours when you leading President Obama's campaign. So after sitting down with him, did you find that you actually share common ground when it comes to current affairs?

AXELROD: Well, I knew that going in, and it is not just about current affairs. I wanted to sit down with John McCain because I'm of the mind that we have to, in a functioning democracy, have the ability to add mire and appreciate people, even if we don't agree with them. And we have to have the ability to have conversations across party lines, across philosophical lines. And I know that he feels the same way. And he spent a great deal of time in our conversation waxing poetic about the days when he came into the Congress and some of the friendships he had with people like Ted Kennedy --

CABRERA: Who was on the other side of aisle.

AXELROD: -- with whom he worked with on legislation. And he really lamented the loss of that, and said that he hoped in the future that could be recovered because it really does speak to our ability to move forward as a country and deal with some of the big problems we face.

CABRERA: David Axelrod, thank you very much for your time.

AXELROD: Ana, thank you.

CABRERA: We look forward to your special.

AXELROD: Thank you.

[17:34:44] CABRERA: Don't forget to tune in for the special tonight, "The Axe Files," at 9:00 p.m., here on CNN.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. We are back in a moment.


CABRERA: So far, no takers following the offer by General Mike Flynn to testify in exchange for immunity. The House Intelligence Committee says it's too soon to talk deals and many are not interested, at least not yet. Flynn was Trump's top guy before moving into the West Wing as his national security adviser.

Joining me to discuss, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza: Republican strategist, Doug Hye; and Democratic strategist, Keith Boykin.

Ryan, Flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed he talked to the Russian official about lifting U.S. sanctions. I know you talked to someone who saw the transcripts of the calls, what did you find out?

[17:39:38] RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, last week a Republican Congressman on the Intelligence Committee said that he has seen the transcript and was briefed about it. And I asked him, did he think Flynn, based on the transcript that he saw, did anything wrong or potentially illegal? And he said, you remember, this is a Republican congressman on the Intelligence Committee, he said it was, quote, "open to question." Which I thought was relatively interesting. Now, he's not a prosecutor or -- but I thought that was somewhat telling that there was some ambiguity in his mind. The legal jeopardy that Flynn may have on discussions with Kislyak get you in on the Logan Act, which is a law that basically says you can't conduct your own foreign policy with an adversary of the United States that undermines the current, the official foreign policy. It's apparently never been prosecuted. It's an 18th century law. So you find a lot of the law experts who say, boy, it would be surprising if the Justice Department went after Flynn on that. Now --


CABRERA: Do you think that is why he's asking for immunity? Is that what he is most worried about, do you think, based on sources?

LIZZA: There are three things, this is based more on the public discussion of this. There are three things Flynn seems to have possible legal jeopardy on. One is the violation. Two, making false or misleading statements to the FBI. We know the FBI interviewed him if January. And the final one would be the foreign registration act that requires you, if you're working on half of a foreign government, to register with the Department of Justice. We know that he registered as an agent of the, I believe, it was the Turkish government or some entity related to Turkey, after he left the government. And some people are saying, perhaps that is what the Justice Department is going after him on. There are three things that is have been raised publicly. Of course, we don't know, we don't have a whole lot of visibility into the FBI's investigation. There could be something that is completely, we just don't know.

CABRERA: Exactly.

Doug, I know you used to work with Senator Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, leading their investigation. Do you feel confident about his ability to set aside the partisan politics that we have seen seep into the House investigation so that we can get answers regardless of what it means for a Republican administration?

DOUG HYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. You know, I'm biased having worked for Senator Burr, but I'll tell you a quote from Erskine Bowles, a Democrat opponent, said about him, "Nobody works harder or smarter for North Carolina than Richard Burr." What we have seen last week in the press conference with Mark Warner in the previous hearings is that it is true for the entire country as well.

When it comes to General Flynn, there's a lot of questions to General Flynn and a lot of questions about General Flynn. While you were on commercial, I was e-mailing to someone working on one of the investigations about where they are on this, and the reply I got about General Flynn was his lawyers appear to be nuts. That is not a great endorsement.



CABRERA: Well, let's talk about his lawyers, because General Flynn's lawyer, we know, was somewhat anti-Trump during the campaign. In fact, we have some tweets that Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kilner, said during the campaign. He said, "Donald Trump is the bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I have ever known, #manchuriancandidate." He also said, "I have a fantasy that Pence resigns and makes a fiery speech invoking Reagan as he condemns Trump. Humor me."

What do you make of that, Doug?

HYE: Any time someone makes a reference to the Frank Sinatra movie, it's going to make me happy. But the reality is there are a lot of Republicans who didn't support Donald Trump. I was one of them as Ryan and Keith know from conversations we have had on air, but those who had concerns still have to represent their clients, still have to do what they think is in the best interest of the country. That's why with General Flynn, there are not just questions that will be asked to him about Donald Trump, but a lot of questions about him. It was revealed today that he received $150,000 from the Russian television network RT That wasn't disclosed until just yesterday. That's a problem.

CABRERA: Keith, three other former Trump campaign aides have offered to testify without saying it has to be with immunity. One is Roger Stone. Let's listen to what he said in a recent interview.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: I'm not asking for immunity. I was maligned by a number of members of the committee who said things that were patently false. In a free society, I should have a chance to respond in the same forum.


STONE: And I don't need a subpoena. I don't need immunity. But I want to be in public, not behind closed doors. Let's go, I'm ready. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He has no reservations, Keith. Is that a good sign for the president?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know how to take that because Roger Stone is a quirky character.


But I do think that, you know, we have Roger Stone out there and Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, there's a whole lot of people who met with Sergey Kislyak or Russian officials. We don't need to rely on General Flynn in order to get evidence about what took place. We can ask all these other people who have met with the Russian officials and find out what they discussed. I don't think there's a reason why the House Intelligence Committee would offer immunity to -- except from General Flynn.

I think this is a question on Donald Trump's judgment. Donald Trump chose this person, General Flynn, to be the national security adviser. He fired him only after it became public that General Flynn had lied and misled the vice president, Mike pence. And then, just yesterday, I believe, and maybe today, Donald Trump is out there tweeting again that General Flynn is the victim of a witch hunt. If he's the victim of a witch hunt, then why would you have fired him? It just makes no sense. There is no logic in what Donald Trump is doing. And here we are almost 100 days into the president's administration, and we have no clue where he's going. He's failed on the health care bill and failed on the travel ban. And he's mired in a controversy with Russia. This is not where Republicans want to be and where the country wants to be and certainly not where the Trump administration wants to be.

[17:46:14] CABRERA: Thank you, Keith Boykin, Ryan Lizza, Doug Hye --


HYE: This is not where Republicans want to be.


CABRERA: You guys agree on that.

LIZZA: I think all three of us agree on that.

CABRERA: That is a good place for us to end our panel. I wish we did have more time to discuss.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.


# Much appreciated.

Hey, guys, it is April Fool's Day today. Have you been pranked? Have you been telling jokes? You know, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard some testimony this week that was not funny at all. Coming up, we'll show you how Russia's army of Internet trolls tried fooling us during the 2016 election with a barrage of fake news stories.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:51:18] CABRERA: There's a long tradition to prank your friends on April 1st and that's why we call it April Fool's Day. Well, this week, experts testified before the Intelligence Committee that the Russian government had an army of Internet trolls that tried to fool all of us during the 2016 election. In some cases, it worked.

Correspondent Brian Todd shows us how it happened.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with several tweets, alleging a terrorist attack at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey last summer. Russian state media outlets, RT and Sputnik, posted variations of the story. Soon, even Donald Trump's campaign manager apparently thought it was true, repeating it on CNN.

PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANGER: There's plenty of news to covering this week but I haven't seen covered. The NATO base in Turkey was under attack by terrorists.

TODD: No attack occurred. Researchers say it's an example of fake reports spread online on purpose with the help of pro-Russian users in what's believed to be a disinformation campaign supported by Vladimir Putin, all designed to influence elections and sow descent and confusion in the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a coordinated information campaign and deliberate strategy. They pick their objectives in the information space.

TODD: In another case, a leaked e-mail from Hillary Clinton's campaign in which she asked a question about a treatment for Parkinson's disease was spun into a fake story alleging she was sick, triggering allegations and chatter that the Democratic candidate had the disease. Researchers say the story was shared and reposted by pro-Russian sites and read eight million times, evidence, experts say, of how Russia was trying to throw last year's election.

(on camera): How easy is it for them to spread bogus stories?

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Once they build an audience with their accounts, it's very easy through amplification. Every time you're able to promote a story, that puts it into trending feed, then it takes a life on its own.

TODD (voice-over): Experts who research Russia's fake news campaigns testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, explaining how Putin's government uses an army of trolls, online critics who push their agendas, to confuse and frighten audiences in the West, an idea that played out dramatically on the Showtime series "Homeland," a troll factory where hundreds of employees toil away, hosting fast tweets under fake names.







TODD: Their marching orders? Post phony stories and tweets, spreading them as wide as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You'll find a new set of talking points in your folders. Get outraged.

TODD: Experts say the real-life troll factories used by Russians may not look as slick as the TV version, but they are real. They say paid trolls who spread fake reports can amplify their impact using botnets, thousands of other people's computers harnessed to do their bidding. Analysts say Putin's goal is to create distrust among Americans and their allies and their political systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't just want to discredit U.S. elections. They wanted to discredit Hillary Clinton. Sowing division in the European Union. These are all things that are part of the Russian agenda.

TODD (on camera): When asked about the accusations of Russia's interference in America's elections, Vladimir Putin said, quote, "Read my lives, no."

But experts who testified before Congress say we can expect Putin's government to continue to support fake news campaigns. They say, for Putin, it's easy, it's effective, and best of all, for him, it often can't by traced directly back to him.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


[17:54:44] CABRERA: Fascinating report.

Our thanks to Brian Todd.

President Trump threatening war with the Freedom Caucus, pledging to take down members of the conservative congressional group. Ahead tonight, we'll discuss the political game that's unfolding inside the GOP.


CABRERA: In Chicago, violence knows no age limit. This week's "CNN Hero" is on the front lines determined to give kids back their childhood. Meet Jennifer Maddox.


JENNIFER MADDOX, CNN HERO: We are in a state of emergency here in the city of Chicago, the shootings, the killings. 5, 6, 7-year-olds, they're losing people they love and care about. I'm a law enforcement officer, but I'm also a mother and a member of this community. We can't arrest our way out of this. Once I saw that there was another side to policing, I thought that I could do more.


CABRERA: To see Officer Maddox's full story, go to, and while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 "CNN Hero.

That will do it for me for the next hour. I'll see you back here at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

"SMERCONISH" is next.