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Modest Expectations for U.S.-Russia Engagement; Nunes Warns against "Witch Hunt"; True-Life Holocaust Story; AQAP Is Sharing Bombing Techniques; Flynn Seeks Immunity; Protesters Set Fire to Paraguay's Congress. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 1, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): An exclusive CNN report shows that small devices may be used to smuggle explosives onto planes. We'll tell you how and the new concerns it raises.

Asking for an immunity deal; Michael Flynn says he has a story to share with investigators, for a price they may not feel it's worth paying.

Plus, in Paraguay, rioters set congress on fire after the senate votes on potential (INAUDIBLE) amendment. We'll break that down.

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


VANIER: A CNN exclusive now. U.S. intelligence officials believe that ISIS and other terror groups have found new ways to hide bombs in laptops and other electronic devices. Even more alarming, they believe terrorists have got their hands on airport screening devices to figure out how to get the concealed explosives onto planes without being detected.

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. You see them right 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.

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.



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.


CRUICKSHANK: 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 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 --


CRUICKSHANK: -- 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: CNN terrorism analyst there, Paul Cruikshank.

There's a new twist into the investigations into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election. A lawyer for the former national security adviser Michael Flynn says he wants immunity. Flynn will agree to testify provided he's got a guarantee that he won't be prosecuted.

In a tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to encourage a Flynn immunity deal. But he later walked out of the room when a reporter pressed him on it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. You're going to see some very, very strong results very, very quickly. Thank you very much.

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS HOST: Mr. President, with your tweet, were you trying to tell the Justice Department to grant immunity to Michael Flynn?

Is that your intention, Mr. President, sir?

Mr. President, was that your intention?

Was that your intention, sir?


VANIER: Now Flynn's conditional offer to testify doesn't appear to have any takers at the moment. Law enforcement sources tell CNN that there's no indication that the FBI wants to talk to him again or give him any kind of immunity. For more on this, here's CNN's Jim Acosta.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any comment on Michael Flynn, Mr. President?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump biting his tongue on former national security adviser, Michael Flynn's request for immunity before testifying on questions about campaign contacts with the Russians.

Flynn's attorney explained his client's position in a statement.

"General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit."

ACOSTA: Is the White House concerned that General Flynn has damaging information about the president, his aides and associates, about what occurred during the campaign with respect to Russia?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: No. ACOSTA (voice-over): White House secretary Sean Spicer said the president is encouraging Flynn to testify, even though the retired general once misled the administration about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Spicer tried to make the case the real story is the president's allegation that Mr. Trump and his team were unlawfully surveilled. But Spicer didn't offer any hard evidence.

ACOSTA: It sounds like you are, just as the president is alleging, that the Obama administration conducted unlawful surveillance on the Trump campaign and Trump transition team.

SPICER: As I said in the statement, I believe that we -- that what has been provided and will be provided to members of the Both committees, I think should further their investigation.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who was invited to review materials at the White House today, insisted Flynn's proposal is significant, saying, "We should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former national security advisor to the President of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution."

The president is backing Flynn's request for immunity, saying in a tweet, "This is a witch hunt, excuse for a big election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion."

But lawmakers from both parties are balking at providing immunity to Flynn.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R), UTAH, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No, I don't think it's a witch hunt. I'd like -- it's very mysterious to me, though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The concern echoed time and again an immunity request could interfere with an FBI investigation.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIF., INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There's no way that immunity is going to be granted and it would be granted by the Department of Justice if and only if it provided a bigger fish.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Then there's the question of hypocrisy.

During the campaign, when legal questions were aimed at Hillary Clinton, both Flynn...

FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime. ACOSTA (voice-over): -- and then Candidate Trump mocked the idea of immunity from prosecution.


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




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 --


CALLAN: -- 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 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.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, protesters were so outranged in Paraguay that they set Congress on fire. We'll tell you where the anger is coming from.

Plus, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro rejects allegations that he's moving closer to one-man rule. The latest on the protests and growing alarm in Venezuela. Stay with us.






VANIER: In Paraguay's capital, angry protesters set fire to the country's congressional building Friday night. Its outrage directed at the ruling party for trying to create a way to legally allow the current president to run for another term. Our Rafael Romo takes a closer look.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: The demonstrators stormed the congressional building and set it on fire. There were also clashes with police on streets surrounding the building. The violence stems from a decision by the ruling Colorado Party to create an alternative senate with the purpose of passing a law that would allow current president Horacio Cartes to seek re-election, which is forbidden under the current constitution.

A group of 25 senators started holding sessions Tuesday for that purpose. The 45-member senate requires a simple majority of 23 votes to pass legislation, meaning the rogue senators have two more votes than required.

Meanwhile, protesters indicated they will stop the violent demonstrations once they get a commitment from President Cartes that he will stop seeking re-election. In a statement issued late Friday, President Cartes said democracy is not attained through violence.

Paraguay lived under a dictatorship for 35 years, ending in 1989. Alfredo Stroessner, a Paraguayan military officer, took power after an armed coup in 1954 and ruled the country for the next 3.5 decades -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


VANIER: Venezuela's president and the country's national defense council are asking the supreme court to review a ruling that critics say amount to a government coup d'etat. The court's decision would strip the national assembly, which is currently led by the opposition, of its power.

But Nicolas Maduro vowed to step in after the attorney general slammed the ruling.


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 --


MADURO (through translator): -- through dialogue, through the heights of politics, through the heights of the state.


VANIER: The ruling has sparked violent clashes in the Venezuelan capital. And Mr. Maduro is also calling for dialogue with the opposition.

Some of President Trump's more controversial statements have worried foreign leaders all around the world and it's falling to his top cabinet officials to reassure U.S. allies abroad.

Plus the leading member of the U.S. Intelligence Committee is finally seeing some controversial material. We'll explain what that's about after the break. (MUSIC PLAYING)



VANIER: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM.



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And about that, U.S. Second of state Rex Tillerson was at the same summit and stressed his support for the alliance that was not so long described as obsolete by the president.

Meanwhile, U.S. deputy secretary James Mattis held a meeting in London. Both of them urged realistic expectations when it comes to U.S. engagement in 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: Let's talk more about this U.S.-Russia relationship that's developing under the Trump administration. Matthew Chance joins us from Moscow.

Matthew, if you listen to what's Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis were saying otl24 is very much like what Trump suggested, that there might be some kind of detente between Washington and Moscow. Seems to me very similar to what the previous U.S. administration was saying.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In some ways, it's worse than what the previous administration was saying in the sense there's not the kind of contact, at least there was, with the Russians as there was with the Obama government.

It's all frustrating and very disappointing from the Russian point of view, from the point of view of the Kremlin. They thought, quite rightly, that Donald Trump was the candidate when he was campaigning to be the President of the United States who was going to build a better relationship with Russia.

He said that time and again, wouldn't it be great to -- if Russia and the U.S. could get along, to paraphrase what he said. He spoke about possibly recognizing Crimea as being a legitimate part of Russia. Crimea of course was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. He spoke about cooperating with Russia on the subject of international

terrorism, particularly on Syria. He criticized NATO, all this music to the ears of the Kremlin that had been waiting for a president to come along who saw the world from a similar point of view to them.

But none of it has come to pass, of course. Instead, you've got this political environment in the United States which is toxic and poisonous when it comes to Russia and as a result the relationship between Moscow and Washington has deteriorated and in the words of the Kremlin is at zero at the moment.

So yes, very disappointing to the Kremlin.

VANIER: Right, toxic, poisonous domestic American political environment as you described quite rightly.

How does Moscow view that?

And how does Moscow feel about being front and center of this ongoing investigation here in the U.S. and essentially being the bogeyman that it's been for a long time in U.S. politics?

CHANCE: They're no strangers, of course, to being the bogeyman as you call it, in U.S. politics. This happens during most political cycles in the United States, that Russia is villainized in that way.

On this occasion, the situation has reached fever pitch. There were these Senate and House investigations into the role Russia allegedly played into manipulating the U.S. political system and U.S. elections. It's something that Russian officials categorically deny.

They've call it fake news. They've adopted the same language as the Trump administration has, calling it "a witch hunt." They talked about the corrupt media propagating this idea.

Just the other day, two days ago Vladimir Putin broke his silence on the issue as well, saying, "Read my lips, no," we did not interfere in the U.S. elections.

So on one hand, the Russians are very frustrated that they continue to be used as a scapegoat, as they would, call it in this political situation in the United States. They say they were being used for domestic political agenda.

On the other hand, there are others in Russia who are sitting back and watching the circus in the United States and probably thinking to themselves, well, look, we may have our flaws in Russia but at least we have stability in a way that the United States at the moment does not.

VANIER: Matthew Chance, reporting live from Moscow with the Russia perspective, thank you so much.

And 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 a new controversy for the Trump administration. Our Sunlen Serfaty has more.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff shuttling to the White House today to review --


-- classified information offered up by the White House, an invitation extended by the White House sent in this letter to the intelligence committees Thursday.

But it's not clear if Schiff will be looking at the same classified documents shown to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Schiff before his visit sending a letter of his own back to the White House, expressing profound concern with the way these materials are being made available to the committee.

Meantime, Chairman Devin Nunes faces continued fallout, with new revelations about what he knows and how exactly he learned that information. First reported in "The New York Times," a U.S. official now confirms to CNN White House staffers, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, are believed to be two individuals involved.

But still unknown is whether the two White House staffers were involved directly in showing Nunes the documents when he was on White House grounds last week, as he looked at the intelligence materials that he claims showed Trump aides campaign conversations with picked up in intelligence collection.

Nunes today remaining adamant, a spokesman saying, "Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source's identity and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources."

The White House staffers' involvement fueling even more questions about the independence of Nunes' investigation from the White House.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIF., INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm firmly convinced that the president and his aides concocted this and drew Devin Nunes into it and he became, you know, an advocate and abetter to what I believe is an absolute fabrication.

SERFATY: And even more criticism of the credibility of Nunes' claim that the information was brought to him by a whistleblower.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF., RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: To me, this looks like -- nothing like a whistleblower case and -- and, again, I think the White House needs to answer is this instead a case where they wish to effectively launder information through our committee to avoid the true source of the information.

SERFATY: The White House today...

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We all found out, you, me, everyone else, that is coming down here after he held a press conference with your colleagues to say he was coming down here based on stuff that he had found that didn't have to do with Russia, that had a whistleblower source had given him.

SERFATY: -- attempting to swat down the criticism.

SPICER: What he did, what he saw and who he met with was 100 percent proper.

SERFATY: Meantime, as the firestorm continues to grow around Nunes, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is facing increasing questions if he still stands by the chairman. A spokeswoman saying today the speaker doesn't know the source of the disclosure to Chairman Nunes. The chairman has the speaker's full confidence.


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. 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 --


VANIER: -- 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: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, officials in Atlanta charged three people in connection with a massive fire that collapsed a portion of this vital highway.

Plus severe storms sweep across Virginia Beach on the U.S. East Coast, causing significant damage. I'll have the details on that when we return.




VANIER: Three people have been arrested in connection with a huge --


VANIER: -- 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.

And that impacts an estimated 220,000 vehicles that drive daily over that stretch of the I-85 in Atlanta.


VANIER: Also I wants to update our viewers on the story you've been reporting on recently which is that Peru is asking for more international help after deadly landslides and flooding devastated much of the country.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced because of this, caused by severe weather. Many Peruvians still need clean water, food, medicine. The country's infrastructure has been severely damaged with major highways and bridges wiped out as you saw.

Economists estimate the cost of rebuilding at more than $6 billion.

We're going to take a short break. When we return, we profile a film that pays tribute to a woman who became a hero to hundreds of people in World War II, a fascinating report -- when we're back.




VANIER: Welcome back.

"The Zookeeper's Wife" is a new Hollywood film that tells the incredible story of a woman who hid Jews in a Polish zoo to protect them during the Nazi era. CNN's Oren Liebermann introduces us to one of the people who lived through that experience.



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Black and white pictures from Moshe Tivosh's childhood, a youth spent in hiding, now brought to color in the new film, "The Zookeeper's Wife."

Set in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II, the movie tells the story of Antonita and Ians Zabinski (ph), who made a courageous decision during Nazi occupation of Poland.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Moshe Tivosh was one of those Jews. He escaped from the nearby Warsaw Ghetto. His family split up to make it easier to hide. Tivosh was 5 years old when his family sent him to the zoo with his little sister.

There, they met Antonita Zabinski (ph).

MOSHE TIVOSH (through translator): When I saw their face, I knew we'd arrived at a good place. She radiated goodness. She hugged us.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Tivosh stayed for three weeks before he was smuggled to another hiding place.

TIVOSH (through translator): I held my sister's mouth --


TIVOSH (through translator): -- because she would cry for our mother and father. (INAUDIBLE) Zabinski completed with his mother, bringing us food so we were not hungry there.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Zabinski (ph) and her husband hid hundreds Jews in World War II. Israel's Holocaust museum named them "righteous among the nations," non-Jews who helped Jews survive the Holocaust.

Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain plays the title character.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, ACTOR: At the end of the day it's a movie about hope, about family and about love. When it shows no matter how dark life can be, how dark it gets, love will always be there and you can find it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): That's a lesson Tivosh learned in his own life. He was reunited with his family after the war. He moved to Israel, where he started a family of his own, proudly telling his own story and the story of "The Zookeeper's Wife" -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Caramiel (ph).


VANIER: Just before we wrap up the show, something totally different.

Pop superstar Beyonce has just got a totally cheesy tribute -- literally. It's been christened Brie-once (ph) but it's actually made of Cheddar, 20 kilos of Cheddar. Now this you may recognize as a recreation of Beyonce's pregnancy photo from earlier this year on her Instagram. You see it there.

But actually, the cheese version of it took a whole team of people, sculptors, experts of food art, who knew that was a thing, and they did this for a cheese carving championship in London. It took them 28 hours to finish. Our take -- if the jury likes it, then they should put a rind on it.

Get it?

A rind on it?

Well, we liked it. That's our creative input for the day. Thank you for watching and you are in CNN NEWSROOM with Natalie Allen and George Howell. It starts right now. Stick around for that.