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Severe Storms Expected To Hit Southeastern U.S.; Will Michael Flynn Be Granted Immunity?; Intel Sources: Laptop Bombs May Evade Airport Security; Official: Al Qaeda Trying To Hide Explosives In Laptop Batteries. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:32:19] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president of Colombia declaring a state of emergency as the death toll from devastating mudslides surpasses 250 people. That number is expected to rise. Rescuers, you can see them working here, frantically searching for survivors as more than 100 people are missing at this hour. The mudslides tearing through entire communities in Southern Colombia after torrential rains forced three rivers to overflow.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A mother and daughter killed after a powerful tornado tears through Louisiana flipping their mobile home. The twister was leveling communities. Officials say the tornado packed winds of more than 100 miles an hour.

CAMEROTA: OK, so is that threat of severe weather over? Let's get to CNN meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She has our forecast. What are you seeing, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it is not quite over. We will see more severe weather today. In fact, yesterday, 35 hail reports, 95 wind reports, and 10 tornado reports, eight of those in Louisiana, two in Texas.

Here are the storms now, Southeast Louisiana all the way up through portions of Tennessee, Kentucky. We do have a tornado watch and severe thunderstorm watch in place. This should get out of the New Orleans area before the rush hour.

These storms are still very powerful and have the potential to produce isolated tornadoes, damaging winds as well as large hail. Here is the risk area for today. You see these areas shaded in orange. That will be where we see the highest risk for possible tornadoes just on the south side of Atlanta including Mobile as well.

As these storms continue to march to the east, Chris, we'll be on high alert watching them as they head east.

CUOMO: All right, we'll check back with you in a little bit. Thank you very much.

So big story with political and legal implications, lawyers for President Trump's fired former national security adviser, Mike Flynn says he has a story to tell, but he needs to get immunity. What does immunity mean politically and legally? More than you think. Jeffery Toobin has the answers next.



CUOMO: All right. So here's the big question for you, will President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn get what he's asking for? He says he wants immunity or at least that's what his lawyer says to protect him from prosecution to tell his story before Congress. How does that work? What does it mean legally? What does it mean politically?

Let's ask somebody who actually knows all of these issues. We have senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffery Toobin. Let's reach across the magic wall for a shake. Always a pleasure.

So let's start at the beginning. This is what we heard from Kelner, the lawyer for Mike Flynn. Flynn has a story to tell. Wants to tell it. Should circumstances permit? No reasonable person with the benefit of advice to counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly publicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.

This is a mixed message. This is politics and law in here, but asking for immunity before you speak. Where does that fit in terms of how common, how risky?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: OK, well, everybody knows that under the Fifth Amendment, you can refuse to answer questions. But Congress has passed a law called "the use immunity statute," which says, if Congress, a congressional committee or the Department of Justice gives you immunity, you no longer have your Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions. You have to answer questions, but the answers to those questions cannot be used against you. As a practical matter, if you are given immunity, it is basically impossible for you to be prosecuted for anything --

CUOMO: On the basis of those things of what you say -- that can get dicey. Ollie North, you were in that case.


[06:40:05]CUOMO: We are going to ask you about that, but just to be clear, I'm in Congress, fine. Toobin, you want immunity, I'll give it to you. Is it that simple or can the DOJ come in, a little compromise here with Sessions or I guess, Dana Beinte (ph) running that shop, but doesn't the DOJ have to weigh in and say whether or not they like this idea?

TOOBIN: Well, they can weigh in, but they don't have control. There are two separate jurisdictions who can give immunity. Congress can give immunity and the Department of Justice can give immunity. The problem can arise and this is what happened in the north case is when Congress gives immunity, but the Department of Justice doesn't. CUOMO: Right, then what happens?

TOOBIN: Then what happens is the Department of Justice or the independent counsel as in my case, I was on the staff of welsh who prosecuted North, we can try to prosecute, and he was convicted of three counts, but the appeals court said because of his congressional immunity that case had to be thrown out. The conventional wisdom since the North case in the '90s, you cannot prosecute someone who has received Congressional immunity.

CUOMO: Ordinarily you would want to weigh that, but again, politically, that's gotten sticky here because the DOJ is run by Trump people. Now one other thing, there is a good step that's going to come. It's called the proffer. Now what is the proffer and how big a deal can that be?

TOOBIN: Well, see, basically, Congress or anybody that gives immunity doesn't want to by a pig in a poke. You want to know what you're getting in return for immunity. The way that works usually is the lawyer or the client or both go in a less formal session and go to the congressional staff and say if I get immunity, this is what I will testify to. It is sometimes called a queen for a day agreement. That on the basis of that, they decide whether to give --

CUOMO: Who is they? Who votes?

TOOBIN: It's the members of the committee in Congress. It will be --

CUOMO: You will still have a little bit of a Republican advantage in doing it. What's going to be interesting is that the lawyer and people around Flynn suggested he will talk about who leaked on him. That's not going to be enough to get an immunity deal because there's going to be a lot of people who want to know about the sum and substance.

TOOBIN: The committee also doesn't want to give immunity to someone who doesn't have information of use and may be the most culpable person of everyone involved. So you know, I think what Congress is doing is appropriate, which is waiting and say let's look at some of the other evidence, the e-mails and intercepts. Let's see what the other evidence shows --

CUOMO: Before they need to cut a deal with the guy.

TOOBIN: Exactly.

CUOMO: Just, you know, as a reminder, these three men have not asked for immunity. They said they will come in and talk. Now testifying, I don't know if that is the case for all three. I don't know if they will raise their hand and take oath, but we'll see because that changes everything.

Now to the politics just in a very simple way here. Flynn didn't help himself when he said this. He said nothing. He wanted to change his mind about it. What Flynn said, you have these Obama people. They asked for immunity. When you ask for immunity, it means you probably committed a crime.

Now that is a prejudice that we try to avoid when talking about it, but it hurt him politically. This did not help him either having the president say he should asked for immunity and that this is a witch hunt. Again, he loaded the deck in terms of whether or not they'll give them immunity. How big a deal are those states?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't know how big a deal they are because ultimately Congress is trying to get facts. If they want Mike Flynn's testimony at this point, there is only one way, which is to give him immunity. So if they think Flynn is important enough, they will give him immunity even though it would be embarrassing in light of what Trump said here and what Flynn said as well.

CUOMO: I don't know if you meant it, but that was one of the greatest words I've ever heard in my life. Did you just say testiphony?

TOOBIN: I did here myself say testiphony and maybe --

CUOMO: That is a strong mistake. Jeffrey Toobin, that's a good one, testiphony. That sounds something. It's almost Camerota-esque in its genius -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that. I believe Chris will be employing that word throughout the week. Thank you, Gentlemen.

So they are a tiny school with a hard to say name, but Gonzaga beat powerhouse North Carolina to win its first NCAA title. We have all the details in the "Bleacher Report" and it is not testiphony.



CUOMO: Started with 68 teams, all comes down to tonight. Who got? Gonzaga or North Carolina? That's going to determine the national championship on the line. Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report." Who do you have?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I have to go with the veterans, North Carolina. In terms of program history, you know, tonight's game really is David versus Goliath if you think about it in terms of program history. Gonzaga has never played in the championship game before while North Carolina have been in it ten times and winning five of them.

The Tar Heels have the much bigger fan base. North Carolina's yearly enrollment is about 29,000 compared to 7,000 for the Zags. The underdog role is something that Gonzaga has really embraced for nearly two decades and our own Coy Wire spoke with tonight's coaches.


MARK FEW, GONZAGA HEAD COACH: We're not on a one-year mission, we're on a 20-year mission, we've been trying like crazy to build this thing up to the point where we can get it done. ROY WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: You did it last year and turned right around and you've done it again. And so I did, I tried to congratulate them, I get a little cold chills myself, but about what an achievement they already have, but you know, somebody is going to win, why not let it be us.


SCHOLES: The tip-off from Arizona is a late one, 9:20 Eastern. The odds makers are calling this one a near even matchup, North Carolina just a one and a half point favorite.

All right, Mississippi State pulling off one of the greatest upsets in women's college basketball history over the weekend beating UConn in the final four, but they ran out of gas in the championship game losing to South Carolina 67-55.

[06:50:10]This was the first ever national championship for South Carolina, and that game really kicking one of the greatest weeks in all of sports, Alisyn. You got the masters this week and the National championship game tonight and of course, opening of baseball for the majority of teams later today.

CAMEROTA: Where will I find time to do anything else? Andy, thank you very much for all of that.

So there are new concerns about laptops on airplanes. The terror threat that may change the way we all fly and what law enforcement is doing about it, next.


CAMEROTA: The Trump administration banning laptop on planes coming from ten airports in the Middle East and Africa. U.S. intel sources believed that ISIS and other terrorist groups have found ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that can make it through airport security screening.

Let's discuss what's being done about this with CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, and CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official, Phillip Mudd. Phil, before we get to what they are doing about it, do we know what the impetus was for how alarm bells were setoff about laptops?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. You got to look at a couple of things here. We have seen conversations out of the U.S. intelligence and the law enforcement community about progress in bomb making by ISIS and al Qaeda for a few years now.

[06:50:08]When I look at this in that context, I have to believe that the intel guys has some fairly specific information. They understand the implications for travelers and airports and airlines of asking for these kinds of restrictions.

So you are not looking at general warning saying we're kind ever worried. You are looking at specific intelligence related to individual bomb makers within ISIS and al Qaeda who are hollowing out, if you will, some electronics in a laptop.

And also potentially enabling those laptops still to be able to be turned on if an airport security guy wants them open so you can get through security. So a lot of progress by al Qaeda and ISIS.

CAMEROTA: Paul, you have some reporting on what the wake-up call was for airport screeners?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. I mean, the big concern is from al Qaeda in Yemen. This is a group which has significantly had of ISIS when it comes to these sophisticated devices. There is an expert bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri (ph), he's been experimenting with shoe bombs, electronic bombs, underwear bombs and surgically implanting bombs into human beings so that they can get onto aircrafts.

He has been sharing that technology with other Al Qaeda affiliates in the region, notably that group in Syria. In fact, al Qaeda in Syria back in 2014, were planning a similar laptop bomb threat.

That group in Yemen is much, much richer now. Better resourced than it was back in 2009 and 2010 when it put together that underwear bomb plot, printer bomb plot. They recently stole a hundred million dollars from a Central Bank branch in Yemen so more money, more resources to put into the R&D to get bombs onto passenger --

CAMEROTA: Haven't they also gotten their hands on the airport screening machines, Paul, so that they can test it before they send it off on a plane?

CRUICKSHANK: That is right. There is concern that these terror groups in the region have got hold of that equipment so they can refine methods to try and get bombs onto planes. But I think we need to put the threat into some perspective.

While there has been quality concern for some time that advanced x-ray systems may miss something like a laptop bomb, there is other technology at the airport explosive trace detection technology that actually really, really good at detecting something like a laptop bomb that al Qaeda may put together.

They can detect a trillion of a gram of explosive residue and even a bomb maker finds it very, very difficult to work so cleanly, that he will not have explosive residue on the surface of that laptop. One of the problems, though, is as we all know from travelers, not every laptop is screened in that way at the airport.

CAMEROTA: That is the problem. Phil, that is fascinating. That the explosive trace detection is so low-tech. They run that cotton swap over your hand at the airport. So why aren't all of our laptops swabbed at airports? Is that next?

MUDD: Well, a couple of things we need to think about here. I think we are heading to an age when you think about -- what we've had to do is shoes since the shoe bomber years ago. After the liquids plot in the U.K. in 2005, we can't bring liquids on aircraft anymore. I think we are heading toward stricter restrictions on things like Kindles, iPads, and laptops. I don't know if that means you'll be required to check them. That may mean as you are suggesting that you have to go through special screening.

I'd say one thing, though, as someone who sat on risk at the FBI and CIA, you are depending on every single one of those screeners to have the right training to ensure nothing gets on the aircraft. That is a huge risk.

I would be thinking about going in the other direction simply requiring travelers put a laptop into the belly of an aircraft so you don't have a system that requires every screener to be perfect every time. That's a lot of risk, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: But can't you just blow it up from the belly of the aircraft?

CRUICKSHANK: That's right. You could. It could be on a timer device.

CAMEROTA: How does that solve the problem, Phil?

MUDD: Well, there is a couple of things that make it more difficult for a terrorist to explode something in the belly. You need higher sophistication. Nobody at the keyboard exploding the device. The second issue is a little more technical. If you put it in the belly of the aircraft, you can ensure that it is against the skin of the aircraft. So the likelihood it takes the aircraft down is lower.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, guys. I mean, the idea that you are not going to be able to bring your cameras, iPads, laptops or gaming devices on a plane, those are game changers, I mean, obviously --

MUDD: Alisyn, buy a book.

CAMEROTA: I don't know, Phil. I remember we used to read. That does ring a bell. All right, well, thank you, Gentlemen, for letting us know where we are with the status report. Thanks so much.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching, for you "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


CUOMO: President Trump facing the most critical week of international diplomacy.