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Trump Accused Of Sharing Secrets With Russians; McMaster: U.S. Lawmakers Want Answers From White House; Sources: Trump: NATO Allies At Odds; Trump & Erdogan To Meet With Syria Policy In Dispute; U.S.: Syria Built Crematorium To Hide Mass Executions; Italy Bust Alleged MOB Operation At Migrant Center; Source: Trump Shared Highly Classified Intelligence with Russians; "WannaCry" Cyberattack May Be Linked to North Korea; U.K. Hospitals Crippled by "WannaCry" Cyberattack. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 16, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, a new question about Donald Trump's judgment after the U.S. President is accused of sharing secrets with Russian diplomats. Plus, security experts believed North Korea may be linked to the cyber-attack that stuck inside more than 150 countries. And police say mobsters took over migrant center in Italy and saw millions of dollars in the process. Hello and thank you for joining us, I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.
Well, the White House is scrambling right now to deal with the bombshell report by the Washington Post. The paper is reporting - and two former officials confirmed to CNN: U.S. President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. and Russia's Foreign Minister. The disclosure allegedly happens when Mr. Trump met with both men at the White House last week. More now from our own White House Correspondent, Sarah Murray.
SARAH MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Another day at the White House and another damaging headline for the Trump administration. On Monday evening, White House officials were sent scrambling insisting the President did not compromise classified information and share it with Russian officials.
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Hey, good evening everybody! I just have a brief statement for the record. There's nothing that the President takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The President and the Foreign Minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation.
At no time, at no time, where intelligent sources or methods discussed, and the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials, who were present, including the Secretary of the State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. That on the record account should outweigh the anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn't happen. Thanks, everybody.
MURRAY: That's Trump National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, offering a vehement statement but not taking any questions. That was him denying a report; first, in the Washington Post that President Trump heard highly-classified information with Russia's Foreign Minister and Ambassador in meeting at the White House last week.
Now, despite the administration's denial, one thing is clear: the story certainly knocked off their message in a week where they were hoping to reset the narrative after the President's controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey. They wanted to focus on the search for a new FBI Director on President Trump's upcoming foreign trip. But it's clear in the wake of the news on Monday that certainly is going to be easy for this administration. Sarah Murray, CNN, the White House.
SESAY: Well, as you just heard in Sarah's report, the White House says the Washington Post's story as reported is false. But the Washington Post journalist who broke the story is standing firmly by as he spoke early with my colleague Erin Burnett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: And I think that the White House is "playing word games" here to that effect, to try to, to try to bunk the impact of the story. Nor do any of these White House officials who are denouncing this story, nor have any of them offered any explanation why. This was also above board and not problematic in any way. Why did the National Security Council, coming out this meeting, feel like it was necessary to contact the CIA Director, and the Director of the National Security Agency to give them a heads-up that Donald Trump just told the Russians.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT ANCHOR: Right. So, the bottom line is you stand by this story and every word of it. He said it's false; you say no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, joining us now CNN National Security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem; Democratic Strategist, Matthew Littman; CNN Political Commentator, John Phillips; and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon a Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. Good to see you all once again. Juliette, let's start with you. Typically, how would a President be briefed, be prepared for a meeting of this sort with folks like the Russians?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you say the word typically, and I think that's part of the problem is that the processes that are normally in place for a meeting like this, is State Department desk brief the Secretary, who would brief the President, there would be other people in the room, there will be U.S. media in the room. There were normal processes. All of those are a part Trump's sort of disruptive management style, and so there's not a lot that we know about what he was supposed to say to the Russians. What we now know, at least, from the Washington Post reporting is that he disclosed information. He did not disclose sources and methods, as denied by the White House; and the Washington Post did not report that.
He disclosed information that he had about the classified activity that was supporting anti-ISIS efforts, that was supplied to the United States by a third country. We can surmise what that country is, tomorrow President Trump is calling the King of Jordan, King Abdullah, so some commentators wonder if it's in relation. So, that sort of what we know right now based on the reporting, but there's no process that would suggest we would know what was the purpose of the original meaning.
[01:05:35] SESAY: John Phillips, the White House is pushing back. They sent out H.R. McMaster, we heard him there. But it's kind of a non-denial denial.
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I though he was quite clear with his language. You know, H.R. McMaster was in the room with President Trump along with two other Americans. They are all saying that they categorically denied the Washington Post report, that's not true, as printed in the newspaper. I think that's a very significant development. Now, politically speaking, as you look at this, this is a realm that Donald Trump doesn't want to be a sandbox, he doesn't want to be planned.
SESAY: Another Russia headline.
PHILLIPS: He did not get elected President so he could get involved in international affairs. He ran very much against that part of the Republican Party clot. Attacked Jeb Bush in the debate in the South Carolina Primary, he wants to focus on the wall, at least, when he was a candidate, pretty concerned on the Supreme Court, renegotiating the trade deals. And this is pulling him away from everything that made him popular with those Republican voters.
SESAY: Matt, self-inflicted wound also-
MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, thank you. Yes. So, when you're in - John says, this is pulling him away, it feels like this is just happening to him. He's causing all these problems for himself, right? Last week's firing of the FBI Director and then what's happening? What happened with the Russians in the oval office? I mean, it's - these are all self-inflicted wounds. So, why is Trump doing this? I think is a bigger question when we talk about the fact that the administration is fighting back against the (INAUDIBLE). Washington Post is not the only newspaper reporting this; there are a lot of you reporting this. Washington Post says that they're not even reporting the half of it.
LITTMAN: That is actually worse than this. But also the administration stopped putting people on it, right? And one thing that we also heard was that there's a lot of screaming and fighting in the administration going on tonight as well. They're not putting people out; they're going to put people out until tomorrow, that's because people don't know what to say.
SESAY: Gayle, to you, if you are sitting in Moscow right now, what are you thinking? Are you dancing a merry dance which is really what might we're seeing last hour? Gayle, can you hear us? OK. We've lost Gayle with some audio trouble; we'll try to get her back. But let me put that question to you, Juliette, if you are in Moscow? How are you reading all of this?
KAYYEM: So, one, it's just more generally it is sort win for Russia in the sense of if the goal of all of this over the court last year was to sort of disrupt our systems, our processes, our confidence in governance, they have done so. More specifically, Russia is not an ally and you just can't say it enough. Their interests are very different from ours, and in particular in Syria. So, if you're talking about an ISIS campaign, our anti-ISIS campaign, our interest will diverge from theirs, more specifically, or as relates to sort of the security of the U.S. interests.
The Washington Post did report and H.R. McMaster did note that the discussion involved aviation security, so anyone who's been following along the last week knows that there's been increasing discussions about whether the laptop ban that applies to only a few countries right now would be extended to Europe. So, putting the pieces together, it appears that there's specific information regarding ISIS' to use a laptop to bring down an airplane; that is serious stuff. This is not politics, this is, this is life and death for a lot of people.
SESAY: And to that point, about the implications, to you Gayle, I believe we've reestablished contact, what does this kind of thing, that's kind of sharing of this level of highly classified sensitive information with the Russians. What does this mean for what is taking place in Syria right now? What are the potential consequences here?
GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS SENIOR FELLOW: Well, it's interesting. I talked to military folks and said, listen, you know this definitely not a National Security threat but it is certainly not helpful. We talked to Senior Military Leaders and what they say is keeping the counter ISIS coalition together takes 90 percent of their right now. And this is decidedly unhelpful in that because we're at a really critical moment, right? The President of Turkey is coming, NATO allies deeply unhappy about the United States partners on the ground in the fight against ISIS.
And then you have this whole question of really trying to keep the coalition that is involved there on the ground together as the fight to take - retake Raqqa from ISIS really warms up and we get much closer to that offensive. So, I think it comes at a really critical time for U.S. National Security decisions and that noise, and there - is sent among allies that perhaps some of the information isn't being handled with the kind of sensitivity that they would have expected is, I think, to be very unhelpful at a really urgent moment. [01:10:20] SESAY: Yes. John Phillips, let's take a - let's sense a get of the reaction on Capitol Hill. Listen to what John McCain had to say as took in the news about this sharing of information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It turns according to the Washington Post that President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians last week, what's your reaction?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, if it's true, that's disturbing but I think we've got to find out more before I could comment. I just can't comment on every new story, so obviously it's not a good thing.
RAJU: Should it be part of the investigation here going forward?
MCCAIN: Let's wait and see what this was all about first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: OK. Senator McCain's saying let's wait and see, but Senator Corker, Bob Corker from Tennessee took stronger line saying this in response to the White House or in reference to the White House, "they are a downward spiral right now and they've got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening. The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think - it creates a worrisome environment." John Phillips, this is my question, really: how long before Republicans start to flee this President?
PHILLIPS: I think that if he doesn't fulfill his main campaign promises then Republicans will start to jump ship if he doesn't finish building the wall if he starts appointing judges to the Supreme Court that aren't like the judges that he promised and people will and flee and drove. But until he does that, I think he's going to keep his base firmly behind him.
There's really a cookie cutter response to the outrage (INAUDIBLE) that we've seen, where you have John McCain being very troubled and Lindsey Graham having the same reaction. And Democrats are having the same level of outrage regardless of whether or not the scandal is how scoops of ice cream he's eating, where he goes on vacation, or something like this. And I think that it just becomes background noise and people tuned it out.
SESAY: OK. So, Matt, before you get to the ice cream issue. I know the Democrats care about this, but do people in America care about this as much as those on Capitol Hill do and how much do that factor into the Democrats' response?
LITTMAN: Well, I think actually, John, hits on something here which is that Donald Trump's not fulfilling his agenda. So, the reason that a lot of people felt that their voices weren't being heard in Washington, they kind of wanted to blow things up. They picked Donald Trump, right? As their vessel, now obviously, Donald Trump is not going to be doing what he said he'd be doing: creating jobs, building the wall, these things aren't the half of it.
So, what is the answer for the Republican Party, what the answer for the Democratic Party is elect the Democrats next year in the House, I think you're going to see a pretty big wave next year. And if Donald Trump hasn't accomplished all of these things by then, by next year's elections, how is he going to do it after that with the Democrats possibly in control of the House; it's never going to happen. You're going to have four wasted years here for the Republican Party.
SESAY: As we take in the implications of all of this. Juliette, to you, for the U.S. Intelligence Community - I mean how troubling a moment is this?
KAYYEM: I think it - I think it has to be put in the context of the last couple of months. Remember during the transition, Trump very much challenged the Intelligence Agencies. Undermine them the challenge is too complimentary - a very much undermine in them, question them until he became President sort of at war with his own Intelligence Agencies. Then, over the course of the last couple of months, there's this been sort of consistent stories of him thinking that the Trump-Russia story was made up, never quite admitting Russia's involvement in the election.
So, there's always a wary relationship - my concern is two-folds as regards what just happened. One is that our Intelligence Agencies will be put to disadvantage because allies will not share with us as much, so that means that our own homeland will be more vulnerable. But the second is a little bit more disturbing for our democracy that the Intelligence Agencies will begin to edit what they tell the White House. We are a country governed not by intelligence operatives but by the President of the United States. And so, that kind of sort of correction if they become wary that the President himself is leaking information is not a good thing, although it may be the result of what has happened.
LITTMAN: Can I just say, you know what Juliette if you know that next, Donald Trump the daily intelligence briefing. You know what that next one is going to say? It's going to say, 72 degrees and sunny in Washington D.C. today and Get Out is the top movie of the box office. And that's it!
[01:14:52] KAYYEM: I do - I do have to say, I think there's no question there's going to be wariness about, about covert operations. You know, that the details of a covert operation, if it does turn out that it was - there was a Jordanian asset within ISIS, who was learning information about their attempts to use laptops bombs. I mean, that's like - that takes years to put together and if one casual remark to Russia destroyed it. That is just such a detrimental thing to the hard work of not just our intelligence agencies but Jordanians are who.
SESAY: Gayle I know Gayle want to weigh in.
LEMMON: Well and I think this is a really moment where you see collide the free willing Donald Trump and the campaign season within incredibly tearfully worded world of national security particularly special operations, right? I mean when your thinking about covert operations, special operations the kinds of operations that have really characterized America's fight against ISIS which if you know is everybody remembers the ghost of the Iraq war hangs over every decision made in terms of how to pursue the war in Syria. So it has largely been a war that has been waged far from the headlight without conventional ground troops and what you've seen is the importance of things not being revealed in a kind of free willing manner.
SESAY: Yes. As you talk about ghost John Phillips and Matthew Littman this is to you as well. There is some irony here in the sense that Donald Trump build his campaign in this idea that Hillary Clinton was unfit to handle highly classified information. Let's remind of viewers let's take a walk down memory lane of some of the things candidate Trump has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We can't hand over our government to someone who's deepest darkest secrets maybe in the hands of our enemies.
I don't think it's safe to have Hillary Clinton be brief on national security because the world will get out.
We can't have someone in the oval office who doesn't understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified.
(END VIDEO VLIP)
SESAY: I'll give it to you John.
PHILLIPS: Candidate Trump won the election and you know what? The President is in charge of the executive branch. The democracy is not and if they are leaking information in order to damage him and his credibility.
SESAY: Is that really the issue here?
PHILLIPS: Well we don't know, we don't know who's. It might be someone.
SESAY: I mean but the issue is not about leaking.
LITTMAN: No, but let's guess a lot of leaks are coming from inside the White House there are people who are working in the White House who don't believe that Donald Trump is fit to be the Commander in Chief in this country. He keeps proving it over and over again it's not just that he can't be trusted it's that he actually - he was bragging he was giving confidential information to Russian because he was bragging because he thought it was cool.
SESAY: Or this is an issue of this President not knowing how to handle classified information? This is where lack of government experience comes into play?
LITTMAN: No it's not a lack of government experience, I think Donald Trump, first of all, I don't think he's the brightest guy in the world number one, number two he's very immature. Great combination.
PHILLIPS: Before it was - he's not reading the intelligence reports and now he reads it and can't wait to tell it to the Russians. Both can't be true.
SESAY: I'm going to let the viewers reply. I'm not going to start too. Matthew, John, Juliette, and Gale, My thanks to all of you for a great conversation, thank you so much. This story is going to run and run, thank you.
Quick break here two NATO allies are looking for common grounds, coming up how the U.S. and Turkish President will try to resolve their differences when they meet on Tuesday. Plus the new feature of a brutal prison outside Syria's capital the U.S. unveils its latest evidence of atrocities.
[01:20:31] SESAY: Well the first meeting between U.S. President Trump and his Turkish counterpart will test the already strange relation between the two NATO allies. U.S. policy in Syria and extra diction of a cleric are on the table. Muhammad Lila joins us now from Abu Dhabi with details, I mean Muhammad, when it comes down to a two NATO issue before the President of Turkey, does one outweigh the other?
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Isha, you know to be a fly on that wall in that meeting would not be something especially after this contentious meeting with Trump and of course the Russian Foreign Minister last week. But look on the surface of it you would think that President Erdogan and President Trump would have a lot of common ground they do share a lot of similarities, they both enjoy giving long-winded speeches to their supporters, they both have an icy relationship with the media in their own countries and of course they both see themselves as populist leaders. You think there would be a lot of common ground there but unfortunately it seems that all this meeting today might be a little bit a strained and that is because there are some serious issues that are dividing Turkey and United States, of course, the most contentious issues as far as Turkey is concerned is that, just a few days ago the United States announced that it would formally back and formally armed Syrian Kurds inside Syria in their fight against ISIS.
Now, Turkey doesn't want that to happen because it see's those Kurdish groups as an opponent, it sees them as a danger to Turkish stability, and of course, the Kurds have talked about autonomy for a long in the region and that's something that Turkey wants to avoid. So that's going to be just one of the contentious issue that I'm sure will be brought up in today's meeting. And again, you know got two leaders with perhaps similar personalities but on the policy side, there's certainly major differences there.
SESAY: The Turkish officials including President Erdogan have been very outspoken in the objection to U.S. arming Syrian Kurds. Should Donald Trump refuse to change course, what are the implications with Turkey's engagement in Syria? LILA: Well the question is what would Turkey do? I mean treaty doesn't have a lot of leverage in this case I mean the most that they can do is they can the United States that they no longer have access to a Turkish air base that the United States has been using to launch airstrikes into Syria and Iraq. But even if they do that, the United States has a number of other air bases in the region, in Jordan on their aircraft terriers and the Persian Gulf that they can launch those airstrikes from, so in this case is really questionable, you know what kind of leverage does Turkey have to get what it hopes to achieve other than the fact that President Erdogan and President Trump may connect on a personal level and President Trump's company of course may have some business dealings of Turkey but other than that it's really hard to see what Turkey can do to convince the United States to drop its support for the Kurdish groups in Syria.
SESAY: If President Erdogan returns to Turkey without having brought about a change in the U.S. position when it comes to arming Syrian Kurds if there has been no promise from the U.S. that they will extradite Fethullah Gulen will this visit be seen as a failure? I mean what's the yardstick if you will for this meeting for this trip?
LILA: Well absolutely yes, I think it would be seen as a failure, I mean you have to remember that President Erdogan is coming up a very narrow margin of victory in this referendum that allows him to stay in power for another 10 years or so, so there was some sense of optimism there that, you know Turkish ruling party did that what it hoped for but if it goes to Washington, our President Erdogan goes to Washington now and is unable to get those two demands match by President Trump that demand first Fethullah Gulen going to be extradited and the second for the United States to stop supporting the Kurdish groups on the ground in Syria. Really what it means is that President Erdogan would be coming back empty handed it would be a blow to his political fortunes certainly and no doubt a blow to his ego.
SESAY: Muhammad Lila joining us there from Abu Dhabi with some important perspective, Muhammad we appreciate it thank you. Well the U.S. says it has evidence to Syrian government is trying to hide the systematic execution of detainee at a notorious prison outside Damascus. Michelle Kosinski Reports on why the declassified information is emerging now.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Here just outside Damascus, Syria though right next to the introumesly brutal Saydnaya prison complex is what U.S. officials now say is a crematorium build - may believe by the Assad regime to cover up an estimated 50 killings of prisoners per day. Just at this one prison more than 10,000 over years.
STUART JONES, UNITED STATES ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves. We know believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya prison complex which could dispose a detainee remains with little evidence. [01:25:21] KOSINSKI: They've included early of the building and interior firewall, snow melted on the roof above the ovens. Saydnaya prison has long been known for its torture and terrible condition "MNC INTERNATIONAL" called it a human slaughter house and a report this year. Compiled with the help of dozens of former detainees and people familiar with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we were beaten in front of the cells, there was a lot of blood.
KOSINSKI: They describe cells designed to hold five prisoners that actually 70. Beatings, killing, and force asylum in among the prisoners, lawyers, protester, people helping refugees. But this is been going on for years so why declassified this information now? U.S. officials made it very clear in their - they want not only to expose more Assad but to forcefully ad publicly blast Russia for still supporting Assad.
JONES: Russia has either aided in or possibly looked away as the regime has conducted and air strike to gas the U.S. convoy destroy East Aleppo and use chemical weapons.
KOSINSKI: Strong words only days after the Russian Foreign Minister met in Washington with the Secretary of State and President Trump.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The international community was obsessed with the idea of ousting of one person Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya. Why we don't try to learn from our mistake.
KOSINSKI: But learning from past mistakes is the same message the state department is trying to send Russia in exposing these images. After last month's chemical gas attack in Syria which the U.S. believes was work of the Assad regime, President Trump reacted desirably.
TRUMP: Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered.
KOSINSKI: And bombed a Syrian airfield.
TRUMP: That's a butcher, that's a butcher so I felt we have to do something about it.
KOSINSKI: So the question was raised today what now does the U.S. somehow try to target this facility and that's how something that officials are ever willing to discuss ahead of time of course but you look at the difficulty here it can't target the prison, full of prisoners they would be a recur target the crematorium. Officials said before they believe the Syrian regime was using this facility they were just using mass graves anyway. So what happens next is unclear, officials did tell us though that this is the first they've seen of such a facility, a prison and a crematorium in Syria. Michelle Kosinski, CNN the State Department.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SESAY: Well Italian police have arrested dozens of people link to a suspected mafia operation at one of New York's largest migrant reception centers. Prosecutor says mobsters use a Roman Catholic charity as a front to skim of at least 36 million Euros in state funds. They infiltrated the center in Southern Italy a decade ago, taking over services like laundry and catering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLA GRATTERI, ITALIAN PROSECUTOR (through translator): Five hundred migrants arrive there at mid-day but there is food only for 250. Two hundred and filthy migrants will eat no lunch and they will eat on the evening, this the food will arrive on time or they will eat the next day. In the meantime the head of the Misericordia, the priest, and their friend were fat, earn millions of Euros with this money they buy theaters, cinemas, flats, bought luxury cars and luxury boats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well the association of runs and centers says it has been placed under special administration. We're going to take a quick break here, next on NEWSROOM L.A. the latest on our breaking news. Reports that President Trump shared highly classified information with Russia. What the alleged disclosure could mean for the U.S. and major allies in the war against ISIS.
[01:31:42] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
The headlines this hour --
SESAY: Well, for more on reports that President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials, I'm joined by CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger.
David, thank you so much for being with us.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be with you, Isha.
SESAY: Now, what do you make of these reports, also by your paper, "The New York Times," that the president shared this highly classified intelligence with two senior Russian officials?
SANGER: Well, on the one hand, the president has the authority to declassify anything he wants, and he's perfectly within his legal right. He's really the only one in the U.S. government who can really do that, but he's got that power. That said, there's a question of whether it was wise to do because, in this particular case, the intelligence came from a very sensitive source, through a partner intelligence service that's made it clear to the United States that if the information leaked out, how they were getting this and so forth, that that could dry up future cooperation with the U.S. And while it was legal, it was certainly unwise. We've heard from the White House that the president didn't discuss sources and methods, but it appears he discussed enough details, including the city in which they had heard the information from, that the Russians could figure this out pretty fast.
SESAY: And to that point, they sent out H.R. McMaster, the president's national security advisor. He was the man to face the cameras. Take a listen to what he had had to say?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Good evening, everybody. I just have a brief statement for the record. There's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way, and have said so. All the record accounts should outweigh those anonymous sources. And I was many the room. It didn't happen.
MCMASTER: Thanks, everybody. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: David Sanger, is that the definition of the nondenial, denial?
[01:35:04] SANGER: Well, it's pretty close. The critical words were "as reported." And I think he added in some thoughts that I didn't see in the original "Post" piece or in "The New York Times" piece, and so forth. So "The Post" never alleged, and "The Times" has not, that the sources and methods were discussed. The question is all, really, in how he presented this data and whether he presented it in a way that would have been enabled them to get -- to figure out the source and method pretty quickly. Usually, there are at least careful notes if not a recording of these conversations. In this case, probably, there were note takers there, so it should be a knowable fact. It looks like those notes are being pretty closely held right now, so whether or not we'll need to get at those facts is hard to say.
SESAY: What is this going to do? I mean, if this reporting is borne out, if -- from "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," and this is, indeed, how it played out, what will this do to, first, the relationship between the U.S. and the ally who provided the information, and other allies the U.S. shares information with? What's the fallout here?
SANGER: Well, it will certainly strain the relations with them. It's not the first ally who has discussed intelligence information that has been revealed. When Edward Snowden walked off with the documents four years ago out of the NSA, many of the documents belonged to GCHQ, the NSA's equivalent in Britain. They were pretty frosted over that. It happens at other time. But every time it does happen, it's a bit damaging to American intelligence relationships. And it may be a little bit damaging to the president's relationship with his own intelligence briefers, who may worry that things that they tell him will get repeated to foreign visitors or adversary visitors. And certainly, in this case, it was an adversary, the Russians, who showed up in the Oval Office, and in bad timing, they showed up the morning after he had fired Jim Comey.
SESAY: I mean, there is -- one is forced to pause for a second when you realize that this is a president who built his campaign around the -- the central idea, well, one of the central ideas is that Hillary Clinton mishandled sensitive information, classified information with her e-mail server, and repeatedly said she was unfit to be president of because of that. And put out this tweet, which I want to read for you, you may remember this: "Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. Not fit." And here we are. I mean, someone say, again, this is just highly ironic.
SANGER: So remember, what that quote is about. That was a quote, I believe, from Jim Comey, the man he ultimately fired, but there, was endorsing his words describing Hillary Clinton's handling of the e- mails that went through her private server last July. By comparison, we haven't seen a whole lot or heard of a whole lot that was in those e-mails that was as sensitive as what he appeared to have been discussing with the Russians.
SESAY: Well, this is going to run and run, I'm sure. Let's see how the next couple of hours unfold.
David Sanger, I look forward to speaking to you in the hours ahead.
SANGER: Thank you very much.
SESAY: Turning to France now. The president is due to meet Olympic officials Tuesday, hoping to boost Paris' bid to host the 2024 games. This comes after a busy first day for Emmanuel Macron. After choosing a prime minister, he headed over to Berlin. It was a show of solidarity with the European Union. But Mr. Macron says more work is needed to strengthen the block.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translation): The Franco- German partnership, I think, needs more pragmatism and more direction from above in the short term for European citizens and for the you Eurozone, in general, and that's the reason why we have to work together. And I am aware of the fact, of course, that Germany is a frank, direct and constructive partner. And I think the destiny of the two countries is deeply linked and that has to do with the overall success of Europe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[01:39:47]SESAY: Well, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany and France need each other for the E.U. to remain healthy.
To the U.K. where one of the country's most notorious criminals has died in prison. Ian Brady tortured and killed five children with the help of his lover, Mara Hindley (ph) in the 1960s. The pair were known as the Morgue Murderers because of where at least four of the victims were buried. Investigators were never able to find the fifth child's remains. The killings horrified Britain because of the barbaric nature of the crimes and the fact Hindley (ph) was a woman. She died back in 2002. Brady was 79 years old.
Coming up, hundreds of thousands of computers get hacked in the world's largest cyberattack. Who could be the behind the WannaCry virus, next.
SESAY: Well, North Korea could be linked to the massive cyberattack that began targeting computers around the world Friday. The virus locks up computers and demands ransom to regain control. Experts say they found similarities between the WannaCry ransomware and programs created by hackers linked to North Korea.
Our own Alexandra Field joins us now live from Seoul, South Korea.
Alex, good to see you.
North Korea now having a finger of blame or suspicion, I should say, pointed at them? Give us some perspective on the suspicions. The fact here is, North Korea does have a track record with these kinds of hacks, or these large-scale hacks.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They do. And to be clear, it is certainly too early to tell who is behind the attack that has affected people in more than 150 countries. You're talking more than 300,000 cases. But North Korea is certainly a direction that security firms are looking in. That's because it's a difficult process to get to the bottom of these hacks to see who is at the root of them. But typically, what researches will do is they'll look the code of malware used and they'll try to compare it to code used by already known hacking groups. That did lead them, it seems, to take a look at North Korea. You have a Google researcher who first pointed to the similarities between the code used here and the code used by a North Korean group called Lazarus (ph). Those findings, similarities are being backed up by two major security firms saying they have found the same thing but they are looking for stronger links. They say these links are not yet conclusive. CNN reached out to another connection that says the connection is not unique enough at this point to point to a common operator. Certainly, more work needs to be done here. But one reason researchers are looking at this Lazarus (ph) group is because it is well known. This is the same group that was linked to the Sony Pictures attacked in 2014 and also to hacks on banks around the world -- Isha?
SESAY: Indeed. Alexandra, any reaction from South Korea?
FIELD: Yeah, you know, governments have been reacting to this because it affected so many people. The bulk of the attacks have been in places like Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine. But this has affected a range of corporations, people, global corporations, Chinese universities, hospitals in the U.K., even movie theaters right here in South Korea. South Korean officials say they are not ready at this point to try to point to who is behind this attack. They are not pointing to North Korea at this point. They say that more investigation needs to be done. But this has affected at least 10 different corporations in South Korea. That's why the government says they have raised their preparedness for cyberattacks from a level 4 to a level 3. The South Korean government has always carefully tried to look at North Korea's capability and capacity when it comes to cyberattacks. Again, they're not implicating North Korea in this cyberattack but they have pointed out, in the past, in previous defense reports, they have pointed to North Korea as being behind about a dozen different cyber plots in the last decade or so. They also estimate North Korea has a group of people that now amounts to 6800 that is dedicated to trying to pull off cyberattacks, Isha. So certainly, there are always certainly watching North Korea, trying to understand what kind of capacity and capability North Korea could have at this point -- Isha?
[01:45:59] SESAY: Some very important perspective.
Alexandra Field, we appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, the WannaCry ransomware appears to be contained but officials warn there is still a threat here. British hospitals were hit hard by the virus and patients are struggling because of it.
Erin McLaughlin has more now from London.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the most widespread ransomware attack ever. Thousands locked out of their computers unless they pay up. The target? Mainly corporate computers lacking a critical Windows security update.
(on camera): Here in the U.K., hospitals have been badly hit, including this one in central London. Since Friday, it's been struggling to get back online.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did have breast cancer two years ago. I have an annual mammogram just to make sure that everything is OK, but nothing is happening, because it can, at any time, recur, so it's a little bit frustrating to come and I can't be reassured.
MCLAUGHLIN: The hospital told Ken Robbins his cancer surgery was delayed.
KEN ROBBINS, PATIENT: They phoned me up this morning and said it's too important to have my operation. Come in straight away and they're going to do it.
MCLAUGHLIN (on camera): What is your message to the hackers who created what happened?
ROBBINS: To put it bluntly, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And he needs to put twenty years. They don't realize what impact they're having on patients.
MCLAUGHLIN: Now, in the midst of a general election, previously focused on Brexit, new questions about the state of Britain's health care system, the country's cyber security, in general.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Cyber security is issue that we need to address. That's why the government, when we came into government in 2010, decided to put money into cyber security. It's why we are putting two billion pounds into cyber security over the coming years.
MCLAUGHLIN: The victims spread across at least 150 countries, and include Fed Ex, the Russian interior ministry, and a Spanish telecom company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The common thing about the Britains is they are a very large organization with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of workstations. That's a typical environment when it's hard to patch. When you have so many different systems in such a large geographical area, it's hard to issue the updates in time.
MCLAUGHLIN: With hundreds of so-called ransomware gangs out there, fresh fear of more attacks and victims to come.
Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.
SESAY: I'm joined by the former director of the National Cyber Security Center, Rod Beckstrom. He's also the former CEO of ICANN, the internet corporation assigning Internet names and numbers.
It is always good to have you with us, Rod. Welcome.
ROD BECKSTROM, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY CENTER & FORMER CEO, ICANN: Thank you.
SESAY: A finger of suspicion being pointed at North Korea. To be very clear, it has not been verified. They're not saying they are responsible but they are looking at North Korean hackers as being responsible.
SESAY: Does this sound plausible to you? Talk about the capacity, because this was a huge hack.
BECKSTROM: Yes, it was. It's eerie, because when the news came out on Friday, my own suspicion was -- and I told a top threat intelligence researcher I was in dialog with that I could smelled North Korea.
SESAY: OK, why?
BECKSTROM: They're the only nation state typically that hacks for money. They are desperate for hard currency right now, particularly since China quit buying coal for them, they're desperate for hard currency, which is why they hit the banks last year. Most nation states use their top intelligence gathering tools to get intelligence, not to steal money. And the North Koreans do it to steel money because they need that currency.
I didn't have any facts to assert that it was North Korea. It was just sort of my intuition based on my years of experience that they were a possible culprit. And otherwise, we've been thinking it was probably a small group of criminal hackers that want to make money. But if there's a nation state that might be doing it, North Korea would probably be the best candidate. But we'll have to dig through a lot of evidence.
SESAY: It will take some time.
BECKSTROM: It will take time.
SESAY: The president of Microsoft is lashing out and saying, really, the finger of blame should be pointed at the intelligence community. The intelligence community, they're the ones who realized that there are vulnerabilities in the Microsoft system, that there were -- in their service, if you will, that were hacked and expose by WikiLeaks.
SESAY: So ultimately, this comes down to the government's fault. Is that the case?
[01:50:10] BECKSTROM: Well, Brad Smith is doing his job. And I know Brad and I've worked with him and I understand his concern here. It is the job of intelligence organizations to gather intelligence. The way they do that in the cyber world is they've got vulnerabilities and develop exploits or software techniques to gather information using those vulnerabilities. They generally inform private-sector companies, like Microsoft, when they learn someone has discovered the vulnerabilities that they're exploiting. Then they share the information. And we see, in this case, this vulnerability was patched by Microsoft in March. But many customers didn't update --
SESAY: I was going to say --
BECKSTROM: -- install the patches.
SESAY: It was in March.
SESAY: I mean, could -- when were they told?
BECKSTROM: Well, look, we recommend that all users do automatic updates so you don't have to be told. It's done automatically by the company. Your system, when you log on, will tell you.
SESAY: Will tell you there's an update --
BECKSTROM: It's automatically done, in the background. But some people don't have that turned on. They're the ones that got cut out here. Like, for example, it's a positive story that the American government, the federal systems didn't get hit heavily. That's because the federal government has gotten its act together on automatic updates. Otherwise, it would be in a much worse situation.
SESAY: The fact of the matter is, and this is what I wanted to ask you, and you started explaining it to me. These viruses, at least, there is a blue print from previous attacks that they're seeing in this WannaCry virus. Is it just the hackers are outpacing those that are fighting this kind of thing in terms of creating the patches so they can't break through?
BECKSTROM: It's a constant evolutionary game. Kind of like our bodies where viruses are mutating or our immunities are --
SESAY: Getting ahead of us?
BECKSTROM: So the hackers, in general, we say the offense is a lot easier than cyber defense. That's because all you have to do is find one door or window open to break into an electronic system or find one vulnerability. The case here is that there is significant ability that Microsoft only discovered or became aware of in March, and patched, shipped that out. It's alleged the NSA had that vulnerable for maybe some considerable time. The hackers have taken what got leaked out by Shadow Brokers, which is the group that took the NSA tool kit and linked it, but they combined it with other pieces. That relates to our Homeland Security's Tom Bosser's comments today. He didn't say NSA didn't do this. He said NSA didn't put together basically a ransomware kit. That didn't put the combined package together. He wasn't going to comment so specifically about government methods. The hackers did that. The NSA doesn't steal money. The NSA doesn't build tools to lock up people's data and ask them for money.
SESAY: They built upon what they --
BECKSTROM: Exactly. So the hackers took something, including a piece from NSA, other bits of code, put those things together, unleashed it on the Internet. And because it's a worm, it has continued to spread where there are machines, Windows machines that aren't protected.
SESAY: Oh, dear. I feel I must update my machine.
BECKSTROM: I have something for you. I brought you an external hard drive.
SESAY: Is this what I need? BECKSTROM: Yeah, if people go out and spend $50 or $100 on an
external hard drive and backup all the data on their machine every two weeks or a month and keep this unplugged from the machine.
BECKSTROM: If you get ransomware, you can reinstall your whole system.
BECKSTROM: Yeah. You can have that so you're save
SESAY: They're coming bringing us gifts on the show.
Let's no accept this, but, thank you.
Thank you, Rod.
Next on CNN NEWSROOM L.A., Donald Trump's catch phrase is spawning jokes after he left James Comey go. How, "You're fired," backfired, next.
[01:55:26] SESAY: Donald Trump made, "You're fired" his trademark phrase at a reality TV host. But his words have come back to haunt him.
CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You'd think it would be par for the course when President Trump decided off with the FBI director's head. After all, Trump is considered the ultimate authority on those two words.
TRUMP: You're fired.
MOOS: But it backfired. Critics attacked the president for firing the guy who was investigating the administration.
UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: How would you like to be able to do that?
UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: A cop pulls you over, you're under arrest sir. Oh, yeah? You're fired.
MOOS: Stephen Colbert compared it to the Mafia sending a message.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, LATE IGHT: It's like a horse head in the bed. It's like the Godfather. Only in this one, nobody respects the Don.
MOOS: A "New York Times" columnists opined, "Trump is terrible at firing."
A professor from the Yale School of Management agreed.
UNIDENTIFIED YALE PROFESSOR: I give a bad grade on execution day, but on this.
MOOS: It caught the president's spokesman flatfooted, trying to fend off questions as night fell out by the White House shrubbery.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm pretty sure I can see him hiding in those bushes.
MOOS: Que the Bush jokes.
(on camera): A Canadian woman even created garden Spicer, a cut out lawn ornament she shared on Facebook, saying -
(co): -- "Now, you, too, can have the White House press secretary in or among the bushes in your yard.
But is Spicer planted in the briefing room?
JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX HOST: Will he be there tomorrow?
TRUMP: Yeah, well, he's been there from the beginning.
MOOS: A non-answer like that leads to speculation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you surprised he fired Comey before he fired you?
MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN: Get out!
MOOS: Will president soon get to take another shot --
TRUMP: You're fired.
MOOS: -- at improving his firing technique?
MCCARTHY: Is this like the Godfather when you kiss me and no one ever sees me again.
ALEC BALDWIN, COMEDIAN: Yes.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from L.A. I'm Isha Sesay. I'll be back with more news right after this.
[02:00:10] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
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