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AQAP Is Sharing Bombing Techniques; Flynn Seeks Immunity; Protesters Set Fire to Paraguay's Congress; Modest Expectations for U.S.-Russia Engagement; Nunes Warns against "Witch Hunt"; E.U. Releases Guidelines for Brexit; Trump Moves Things. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 1, 2017 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Exclusive on CNN, American intelligence agencies believe terror groups have got a lot closer to making bombs that can go undetected at airports. We break down what we know about the threat and what's being done to counter it.

And Michael Flynn's lawyers says the disgraced former national security advisor has a story to tell, provided he's granted immunity. The White House says go for it.

Plus in Paraguay, protesters ransacked the congress building over efforts to change the constitution. We'll have more on that later in the show.

From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, a warm welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Cyril Vanier.


VANIER: Terrorists may have found a new way to get bombs onto passenger airplanes without being detected.

CNN has learned exclusively that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe the bombmaking skills of ISIS and other terror groups have improved. They may now be able to hide explosives in laptops and other electronic devices that are capable of bypassing airport security screening.

Sources say the intelligence on this played a major role in the recent White House decision to prohibit travelers flying out of some airports in the Middle East and Africa, we see them there, from bringing large electronic devices onto planes. More now from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (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 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 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 Raqqah 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.


VANIER: Paul Cruickshank joins us now, CNN terrorism analyst, for more on this.

Paul, you were telling just now that this is serious but not catastrophic.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: It's serious because these terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda in Yemen, developing new ways to try to get bombs onto a/please, including by concealing them inside laptops.

They're perfecting some of those techniques, the intelligence suggests. They are obtaining detection systems to try to probe their weaknesses. And so there's significant concern that they may stage future attempts to try to get a bomb onto a Western passenger jet. But at the same time, the state-of-the-art systems which are deployed

in airports in the United States and Europe and certain other parts of the world, including places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, those state-of- the-art systems are actually very good at detecting the kind of explosives that --


CRUICKSHANK: -- groups like Al Qaeda in Yemen are developing, even when they're concealing them inside laptops.

The key technology here is called explosive trace detection technology. That involves at the gate, a laptop or some other electronic device being swabbed and then a machine being used to analyze whether there's any explosive residue on that swab at all. And they can actually, these machines, detect a trillionth of a gram of residue.

So they're very, very good.

VANIER: The group that is believed to have the highest level of bombmaking expertise is AQAP. That's essentially Al Qaeda in Yemen. Tell us more about them and how they developed this expertise.

CRUICKSHANK: Al Qaeda in Yemen are at the center of the concern when it comes to this threat. They are significantly ahead of ISIS when it comes to developing sophisticated devices, concealing bombs inside electronics.

They have a master bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, a Saudi who is very good at building these kinds of devices and for years has been developing underwear bombs, shoe bombs. Even the group has experimented with surgically implanting devices inside people so that they can get them on planes.

There's intelligence that's come out on that. And this is a group which is believed to have shared this technology with a number of other Al Qaeda affiliates in the region, including Al Qaeda's affiliates in Syria, the so-called Khorasan group, a group that Western intelligence learned in the summer of 2014 were plotting to get a bomb inside electronics in some kind of laptop or other device onto a plane.

Actually, that plotting led to new rules being introduced by the TSA for foreign airports with the last destination coming into the United States. And those rules included the idea that you would have to power on your device to show that it wasn't a bomb.


VANIER: You have to turn on your computer. Many people traveling in the U.S. have had to do that before.

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right. But one of the concerns here, Cyril, is that what these terrorist groups are now developing, we understand, are the capability of producing laptop bombs, where these laptops can actually power on and still house an explosive device. That bomb in Somalia, we understand, which was put on that airliner in February of 2016, was put inside the DVD drive of the laptop.

So they're looking at new, innovative, inventive ways to hide bombs on laptops.


VANIER: And Paul, just as you mentioned this, we're looking at the footage of the hole in the fuselage of that flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti last year. And as Barbara Starr mentioned, that was one of the wakeup calls.

The question now and the fear now is could that plan come to fruition on a flight going to the U.S. and has that technology improved since that attempt?

CRUICKSHANK: Ever since the attempted bombing of that airliner in Somalia in February of 2016, there's been concern that Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates would replicate that attack on a Western passenger jet somewhere. That's not materialized yet. But there's been a significant concern about that, given the sophistication of that device.

But one of the things we're learning -- and this comes from our colleague, Robyn Kriel, is that that device was taken through an X-ray checkpoint by two airport workers, insiders who had been recruited by the Al Qaeda affiliates in Somalia. It actually went through the X- ray machine and they handed it off to a third man, a suicide bomber who brought it onto the plane. It then exploded; fortunately, didn't blow the whole aircraft up.

But the investigators actually went back and looked at that X-ray scan and were able to figure out that actually you could see the possibility of an explosive device. So in that case, the belief is there was human error involved in not detecting that explosive device, even though it was quite sophisticated.

So it sort of shows you that even X-ray machines, which are the least effective at detecting these kind of explosive threats, have, in the past, detected them, should have stopped these kind of attacks getting through.

The most sophisticated technology, those swab tests at the airport, should detect all manner of explosive devices that groups like Al Qaeda in Yemen are putting together, because they can detect tiny, minuscule amounts of explosives.

And Al Qaeda's bombmakers are just not clean enough in their handiwork to stop a little bit of residue getting on the surface of a laptop.

VANIER: Sources tell CNN the FBI may not be all that interested in giving immunity to Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former national security adviser, who was fired.

[02:10:00] VANIER: Flynn's lawyer says his client has a story to tell. But he wants assurances first against unfair prosecution. Our Jeff Zeleny reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump facing new questions tonight on Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser whose shadow still looms large at the White House.

Flynn is offering to testify, in exchange for immunity in the 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 a 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 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 Congressmen like 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.

Look, it's very mysterious to me, though, why, all of a sudden, General Flynn is suddenly out there 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?


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 have 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 happened, take whatever precautions you want or however your legal counsel advises you.


VANIER: And Paul Callan joins us now, CNN legal analyst.

Paul, as a lawyer, what goes through your mind when you hear that Michael Flynn wants immunity in exchange for giving his story?

What do you think the play is there and especially when you hear his lawyer saying he's got a story to tell?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's very interesting, Cyril, and I've been in this situation representing clients in the past. And you almost never see a lawyer publicly go around trying to sell an immunity deal.

Usually if he's got something to sell -- in other words, information to trade for immunity -- it's done quietly by an approach to the prosecutors or the chairman of the committee that's doing the investigation.

But here you have this attorney, Robert Kelner, who's a sophisticated, well-known attorney, making a public statement that I've got a story to tell. Now that certainly would certainly sound like the former national security adviser to the president has something significant to share that would be of interest to prosecutors.

VANIER: Right.

So you agree the lawyer is trying to raise interest for this Michael Flynn story, whatever it might be?

CALLAN: Yes. The lawyer is definitely trying to do that. The question really is why.

What I wonder about is, if he really had something that was worth selling to the prosecutors, he wouldn't have to hold a press conference about it. He'd make a phone call to the lead prosecutor and they'd say, "Get over here to the office right away. That sounds fascinating."

Instead, he's issuing a press release and that makes me a little skeptical about whether he's trying to sell ice in winter, you know. So we'll have to see.

VANIER: But so if he doesn't have a big story to tell, what's the play?

CALLAN: Hard to say. There are three possibilities. One is it's just a lawyer being overly cautious and trying to get immunity for a client who doesn't need it.

The second is that there's a minor crime involved; possibly, for instance, there's been a lot of talk that Flynn was an agent for a foreign country and he didn't register properly. Or possibly he was interviewed by the FBI and maybe didn't tell the full truth. That would be a crime under U.S. law.

The third possibility is political Armageddon and that is he's got information that could show a conspiracy with the Russians to destroy the American election. I mean, that would be such an enormous piece of information that it would be hard to resist for prosecutors.

So I'm betting it's an overly cautious lawyer and it's scenario one, that he's worried that maybe his client said something to the FBI that wasn't fully accurate and he wants to get immunity before he starts testifying in Congress.

VANIER: And so that would square with Michael Flynn's own point of view and even what appears to be Mr. Trump's point of view, as he expressed it in a tweet on Friday, saying Michael Flynn should ask for immunity, given this political climate that --


VANIER: -- his precise words are, "given that there's a witch hunt of historic proportions by the media and the Democrats."

CALLAN: Well, that would certainly explain why the attorney being extra cautious and extra safe would seek immunity. Ironically, both the president and General Flynn have made repeated statements on the campaign trail that if you ask for immunity, you must be guilty of something.

So I'm sure they're ruing the day they ever made those statements, now that both of them are recommending immunity.

VANIER: Paul, who's empowered to make a deal with Michael Flynn and his lawyer?

CALLAN: There are really two areas where you have authority. One, congressional authorities can make an immunity deal for testimony. And the Department of Justice could approve a deal separately.

He could go either way. He could go for congressional immunity or justice immunity. Now justice immunity would be the best because that would mean they're not ever going to prosecute him. If he gets congressional immunity, it just means that his testimony can't be used against him but Justice could try to independently develop a case and still come after him. VANIER: Yes and speaking of Congress, the sense from Congress is that they're going to wait to get more information on this whole investigation until they consider making a deal with Flynn.

Why wouldn't they just go ahead and see what he has to say?

CALLAN: It's way too dangerous because let's say hypothetically that it's a huge piece of information and that he is a major character in the commission of some crime. They may have immunized him from prosecution.

Because bear in mind, this can cause real problems for the Justice Department if congressional immunity is in play. They have to show that all of their leads came from something other than the testimony given by the witness. The Oliver North case, for instance, was utterly destroyed by Congress giving immunity to Oliver North. Then prosecutors couldn't prosecute him after that.

So the smart move actually is for Congress to work with the Justice Department and make a joint decision as to whether they want to give him immunity or whether his testimony's important enough to give him immunity or whether they just want to proceed and see if he takes the 5th Amendment if he's subpoenaed.

VANIER: All right, enlightening. Thank you very much, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst. We appreciate it.

CALLAN: Thank you, Cyril.

Coming up after the break, demonstrators storm Paraguay's congress and light it on fire. We'll be telling you why they're so outraged.

Plus anger on the streets of Venezuela after its high court strips the congress of power. But President Maduro says he can fix it. Stay with us.






VANIER: Welcome back.

In the capital of Paraguay, angry protesters set fire to the country's congressional building on Friday night. The outrage is directed at the ruling party for trying to pass a law that would allow the current president to run for another term.

Journalist and historian Laurence Blair joins me now over the phone from Asuncion.

As far as you can tell, as you can make out, Laurence, has calm returned to the streets of the capital now?

LAURENCE BLAIR, JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: It has more or less. I'm just walking through the streets now. I've seen piles of burning trash at various crossroads, a few police patrols, a few people walking around, even one or two bars and restaurants open at this time.

So calm has returned relatively, compared to a few hours ago, when we were seeing really pitched battles in the street between protesters and the police, protesters throwing rocks, fireworks; the police firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

I can tell you right now I'm outside the party headquarters of the Liberal Party, which is the country's main opposition party. People here are absolutely stunned and shocked because, a few hours ago, the police entered here, apparently, the police say, pursuing protesters who were throwing rocks.

People here say it was an unprovoked attack. The police entered the building, apparently firing rubber bullets (INAUDIBLE). And entering the building now, there's a lot of blood on the floor.

Apparently one young party member had come from the countryside to come to these protests today, was shot in the head. Media reports suggest that this young person has sadly died. So there's a lot of shock right here at the Liberal Party headquarters.

People are talking about a possible case for impeachment of the president and --


VANIER: So Laurence -- Laurence, very important events --


VANIER: -- yes, very important events unfolding in what is still a relatively young democracy.

Help us understand where this is coming from. The one-term rule for presidents was put in place, in fact, to protect this democracy after decades of dictatorships.

Who's trying to change that?

BLAIR: -- with Paraguay. It's had the same ruling party, the Colorado Party, for more or less the past 80 years minus four years before 2012. That's the Colorado Party and there you can, out of a 35-year dictatorship in 1989, that of Alfredo Stroessner.

So the constitution of 1992 has a means of preventing dictatorships from really happening again, expressly forbids reelection in any case. The (INAUDIBLE) of the constitution is very clear that reelection is not allowed.

However, there has been a growing consensus over the past 10 or 15 years that maybe having a president serving two consecutive terms is not a bad idea, because maybe it would give a bit of institutional stability because what tends to happen at the moment is the president will serve for two years, a honeymoon period of sorts, then immediately the succession struggle will break out.

So it has been a degree of consensus that maybe it's worth looking at the idea of reelection. However, a lot more people are in favor of a constitutional reform. That would be a much more gradual process, whereby there would be several votes within Congress, much more scrutiny.

What the president, Horacio Cartes, is trying to do at the moment, having tried to do --


BLAIR: -- for the past nine months or so is to pass an amendment to the constitution, which is a much quicker process, much fewer opportunities for scrutiny.

And that's really what's got people angry here and the fact that there's been very little communication from the Cartes presidency about this amendment.

President Cartes haven't made any public statement this week, apart from a brief Twitter message earlier tonight, condemning the violence. So I think people feel that they haven't been told the truth. They haven't been informed of what's going on.

And there may well be reasons for reelection. The Colorado Party may have good intentions but it's really failed to communicate them massively. And I think people are absolute bound to feel that -- the worst here. And the violence tonight, I think, has shocked a lot of those people. You have seen the images of congress in flames. I was there as part of that crowd. And --

VANIER: Yes, Laurence, we did see those dramatic pictures. We're looking at them right now.

BLAIR: -- discharging, you know, tear gas flying around. This is the first time that protesters have ever taken Paraguay's congress building. It's quite a historic moment although, that said, it seems as though the police, at least at that point, were under orders not to put up too much resistance.

VANIER: Laurence Blair, thank you so much for joining the show and putting this all in context for us. Thanks a lot.

And we're going to stay in Latin America because Venezuela's president is asking the country's supreme court to review a ruling that critics say amounts to a government coup d'etat. Nicolas Maduro had vowed to step in after the attorney general slammed the high court's decision. It would strip the opposition-led national assembly of its powers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): As the head of state, invested with authority and constitutional power, this impasse will be resolved in the quickest and best way possible.

We will hand over to our people another constitutional victory through dialogue, through the heights of politics, through the heights of the state.


VANIER: And that ruling has sparked violent clashes in the Venezuelan capital. Protesters scuffled with the national guard outside the supreme court.

Mr. Maduro is also calling for dialogue with the opposition.

Two of the most influential men in the White House are abroad and they're spending most of their time walking back past comments from their boss, the president.

Plus a top member of the U.S. Intelligence Committee finally used controversial reports at the White House. We'll explain what's going on -- after the break.




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And a warm welcome back to everyone here in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.


VANIER: Two of the U.S. president's top cabinet members are on the road. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Brussels for a NATO meeting. He expressed his support for the organization, a military alliance that, remember, not so long ago, was described as "obsolete" by the U.S. president.

And Defense Secretary James Mattis held a news conference with his British counterpart in London. Both of them played down expectations for U.S. engagement with Russia. Here's James Mattis.


GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor and we're finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point of areas that we can cooperate with Russia, contrary to how we were just 10 years ago, five years ago.


VANIER: All right. Joining me now is Matthew Chance in Moscow.

Let's get the Russian perspective on this. Matthew, if you listen to James Mattis, you listen to Rex Tillerson over the last 24 hours, you think back to just a few months ago, when there was talk of a possible detente between Russia and Washington.

Now you listen to them, it seems a very distant prospect indeed.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does seem a distant prospect. And that's immensely frustrating for those people, particularly in Russia, the Russian government, that thought and hoped that the Trump administration was going to deliver a much better relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Remember, Trump as a candidate, promised to build a much stronger relationship, a detente, as you said. He said he would look at recognizing Crimea as being a part of Russia; Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

He said he would cooperate with Russia over issues of international terrorism, particularly in the war in Syria. He criticized NATO, as you mentioned. All of this was music to the ears of the Kremlin.

But none of that has come to pass. Instead, the whole Russia issue has descended into this poisonous, toxic notion in politics in the United States. If anything, and this is what the Kremlin says, if anything, the relationship between Moscow and Washington is now worse than it has been at any time in the past.

VANIER: Matthew, I'd like you to look now at the ongoing investigation here in the U.S. into the possible relationship and connections between Russia and the Trump campaign team.

How is that perceived in Russia?

Are you able to assess how Russians feel about this?


CHANCE: Yes. Look, I mean, the Russian officials that we speak to regularly make no bones about what they feel about it. The refrains they use are very familiar to anybody living in the United States or anybody listening to Donald Trump because they say this is "a witch hunt;" this is the corrupt media that is spinning this.

And, of course, this is "fake news" or false news. These are the phrases that they're actually using themselves. So they're using the same language as the Trump administration when it comes to this issue.

They also point out that there is nothing but circumstantial evidence linking them with any kind of involvement in hacking or trying to influence the U.S. election. And it's something that the Kremlin and the Russian officials under the Kremlin categorically deny.

Just a few days ago, Vladimir Putin came out for the first time really since the Trump administration and said, "Read my lips." Did we influence the U.S. election?

"Read my lips, no."

And that's the message we're getting from Russian officials all the way down from the Kremlin.

VANIER: Matthew Chance, reporting live from Moscow, thank you very much.

On Friday, the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee was given access to the same documents that were shown earlier to the committee chairman, Devin Nunes.

Now Nunes has been at the center of this latest controversy for the Trump administration. The White House is accused of sharing intel reports with Nunes. Our Jessica Schneider takes a closer look.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee arrived at the White House to examine documents, the Trump administration pushed back against concerns it coordinated with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: It's not in our interest to talk about the process. What occurred between Chairman Nunes and coming here was both routine and proper.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The administration continues to deflect questions about whether it provided the documents Devin Nunes said revealed the incidental collection of communications by President Trump and his staff.

SPICER: The unmasking and leaks is what we should all be concerned about. It affects all Americans, our liberties, our freedom, our civil liberties.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But Ranking Member Adam Schiff questioned the timing of this letter from the White House, inviting the committee to view documents the National Security Council discovered in the ordinary course of business.

The letter was sent on the same day that "The New York Times" identified White House officials, who allegedly provided Nunes with intelligence reports during his secret visit to the White House grounds.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF.: The timing certainly looks fortuitous and probably more than fortuitous.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Nunes has repeatedly declared it was a whistleblower who provided the documents.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIF.: We invite whistleblowers to come forward. And, in fact, we've had many people come forward to the committee in recent weeks.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: By holding the meeting on the White House grounds, it makes it appear that someone in the administration was coordinating the release of this information to you.

Is that not the case?

NUNES: No, it's not the case. In fact, I'm quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling Chairman Nunes' actions "bizarre" and says there's no doubt the White House set Nunes up for political purposes.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Of course he was a dupe. He was duped. Now let's just -- that's the most innocent, most benign characterization, that he was duped. But he should have known better, when you're the chairman of the committee.


VANIER: Larry Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, the documents that were first shown to Devin Nunes, intelligence documents about a week ago were shown on Friday to the number two in the House Intelligence Committee, a Democrat, Adam Schiff.

Do you think the investigation can now continue as if nothing had happened?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Certainly not. I would say that Chairman Nunes' actions have really brought discredit on his chairmanship and probably made it less likely that the House Intelligence panel will be accorded the kind of respect that the Senate Intelligence panel will be, because the co-chairs on the Senate side are well-respected.

They are clearly interested in a bipartisan inquiry and they have done everything right. So far, the House committee -- or the chairman, at least -- has done everything wrong.

VANIER: But you could also argue, you know, if the intelligence has been shown, if it was intended and can be shared with everyone on the committee and it's now been shared with the number one and the number two on that committee, that means that there's nothing wrong with it or nothing politically damaging?

SABATO: Well, what was politically damaging was that the chairman of the committee was willing to go to the White House complex and be briefed by people who are essentially White House aides, given the information and then rushed back to the White House the next day and pretend to be briefing President Trump.

One assumes that these individuals in the White House complex had already briefed Trump or certainly could have.


SABATO: There's just too much subterfuge here and I think it has ruined the effect of the House committee no matter what happens from here on out.

And there's also a lot of tension between the chairman of the committee, the one who's leading the investigation, who's a Republican, Devin Nunes, and the ranking Democrat on the committee.

How big a factor is that, if those two men don't get along or even are accusing each other of wrongdoing?

SABATO: It's going to confirm what many Americans think about this anyway, that it's just "a partisan witch hunt," as undoubtedly Trump would call it. Democrats are very supportive of the inquiry and Republicans think it's a waste of time and money.

But, again, I think that (INAUDIBLE) -- and we're bound to see the partisanship show, once the hearings are held. That is simply going to shift attention to the Senate, where, frankly, the adults seem to be in charge.

VANIER: And does the Senate have any powers of investigation that the House doesn't have?

Should the American public be concerned that the House may be less effective in its investigation at the moment?

SABATO: The public should certainly question what the House committee does because I doubt they will use the powers that they have; for example, the subpoena power. They could get some information, financial and otherwise, from the White House and even from the president if they wanted to do so.

The Senate committee, it's going to be interesting to see whether they stray into that area. Certainly some Democrats would like to do so. To this point the Republicans on the committee or at least the chairman, Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina, has been willing to cooperate fully with the Democratic vice chair, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.

Those two seem to have formed a bond and seem to be determined to get to the bottom of this, probably because in part Senator Burr has already announced he is not seeking reelection when he would next comes up in six years.

VANIER: So is the investigation in good hands with the Senate, then?

SABATO: Yes, I have confidence that the Senate committee is going to produce real information and has a much better chance of getting to the bottom of this although, if you had to pick an inquiry that might get to the bottom of the situation, it would probably be the FBI and not either house of Congress.

VANIER: Larry Sabato, always appreciate having you on the show. Thank you very much.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: And still ahead on the show, E.U. leaders warn of difficult Brexit talks but tell Britain there will be no punishment for leaving the bloc. Stay with us.





VANIER: So the European Union warned Britain that it would stand by its principles as it laid out its negotiating position for Brexit talks. European Council president Donald Tusk says talks on Britain quitting the E.U. will be difficult, complex, even confrontational. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has more on this.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: E.U. leaders are saying that they're not going to be punitive about the Brexit process, that it's punishing enough.

At the same time, guidelines that they released on Friday make it very clear that they intend to be in the driver's seat, especially when it comes to the organization, the order of the Brexit negotiations.

Now the U.K. has made it clear that it wants to negotiate its future relationship with the E.U. in parallel to the actual withdrawal. Today, president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, saying simply that won't happen, that the withdrawal will be negotiated first, which includes such thorny issues as budgetary issues as well as the fate of citizens living both in the U.K. and in the E.U.

Once the European Council has determined that they've made sufficient progress in those areas, that's when they'll move on to discuss a framework for the future relationship.

And, keep in mind, the clock is ticking. Two years is not a lot of time to get all of this done. And while E.U. leaders are saying that they want a deal, that that is what they are working towards, at the same time, they're preparing for the possibility of no deal -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Malta.


VANIER: And Scottish voters largely rejected Brexit. Now its first minister has told the British prime minister her country will hold a second independence referendum, this whether Theresa May likes it or not.

Nicola Sturgeon says there's no reason for the U.K. to block a new vote. She wrote a letter to Ms. May, saying the people of Scotland must have the right to choose their own future. But London has already said it would decline the request.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, officials in Atlanta charge three people in connection with a massive fire that collapsed a portion of this vital highway. Stay with us.





VANIER: Three people have been arrested in connection with a huge fire that caused parts of an elevated interstate highway in Atlanta to collapse on Thursday. Officials say the three suspects are thought to be homeless.

No one was injured during the incident but officials say the highway will be closed for months, impacting an estimated 220,000 vehicles that drive daily over that particular stretch of the road.

And a powerful tornado caused significant damage to homes near Virginia Beach in Virginia. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam of course joins us with the latest on the storm wreckage.

What do we know?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Cyril, according to the Virginia Beach firefighters, there were 50 homes that were damaged within this tornado that touched down about 6:30 in the evening on Friday.

By the way, 25 homes moderately damaged, 12 of them completely condemned or destroyed from this funnel that you can see forming.

The damage you'll see in this next video, this is actually from a church in the Chesapeake region. The entire building basically, at least the right side of the building there, taken apart by the strong force of the winds.

It's going to take several weeks, if not months, to clean up this effort. Let's look at the storm reports from today, being Friday, the last day of March, there were three confirmed tornadoes, five reports of wind and 16 reports of hail damage.


VANIER: Now Donald Trump has a habit that's starting to get noticed. He shuffles around whatever objects are in front of him. And because he's Donald Trump, it's being parodied, even psychoanalyzed. Jeanne Moos checks it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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.


MOOS (voice-over): A viewer alerted Jimmy Kimmel to the President's quirk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's more of a mover than a shaker.

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

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 moves inspired Web gags and armchair psychology.

"He thinks he's the master of everything."

"This is mine to touch."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I have to say is I hope the new health care plan covers OCD, because --

MOOS (on-camera): OK. So everyone has an opinion, but what does a professional think, professor of psychology?

MOOS (voice-over): While declining to diagnose, Professor Kevin Volkan weighed in on what may be behind this type of behavior.

KEVIN VOLKAN, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY: They're feeling some anxiety about something and so they control things. They move things around. They make lists.

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

VOLKAN: They're just really bored. They get bored really 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 soundtrack.


MOOS (voice-over): Funny, President Trump doesn't seem like the type to be a paper pusher -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: All right. Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back with another hour of news right after the break. Stay with CNN.