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Compromising National Security; Finding Common Ground; Brutal Execution; Hackers Attack Again. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 16, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: U.S. President Donald Trump accused of revealing highly classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office. Plus, the U.S. says the Assad regime has built a crematorium near a notorious prison for disposing of the remains of dead detainees.

And later, organizations around the world are working to contain the massive cyber-attack from the virus known as WannaCry. And there's new insight as to who could be behind it.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

And we begin with breaking news. The White House is pushing back on a bombshell report that U.S. President Donald Trump shared secrets with Russia. The Washington Post broke the story and two former officials confirmed to CNN that Mr. Trump divulged highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister and Russia's ambassador during a meeting at the White House last week.

Washington Post reporter Greg Miller broke the story. He spoke earlier with CNN's Erin Burnett.


GREG MILLER, WASHINGTON POST CORRESPONDENT: This was really sensitive information about an ongoing and unfolding islamic state terror plot that has caused a great deal of concern among counterterrorism officials.

And in a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Trump is going into details of what the United States knows about this unfolding plot, how the Islamic state is pursuing it, trying to put it together, trying to pull it off.

And at the same time, talking about some of the measures the United States is taking to try to deal with it. And this is problematic, mainly because this is information the United States has, mainly if not exclusively because of a foreign partner providing it, that has some access to the Islamic state.

So it wasn't Intel that the United States was authorized to share, and especially not authorized to share with Russia. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And the Trump administration is trying to respond swiftly to the Washington Post report. Details on that from our White House correspondent Sara Murray.

SARA 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, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Hey, good evening, everybody. I just have a 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. They're on the record account should outweigh those of an anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn't happen. Thanks, everybody.


MURRAY: That's Trump's National Security Adviser 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 shared highly classified information with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting at the White House last week.

Now despite the administration's denial, one thing is clear, the story certainly knocks them 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 not going to be easy for this administration.

Sara Murray, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And as you just heard in Sara's report, the Trump administration insist the story, as reported by the Washington Post, is false and that President Trump didn't discuss the source of the intelligence with the Russian minister or ambassador.

My colleague Erin Burnett asked the Washington Post's Greg Miller about that.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He's saying your story is false and no sources and methods were disclosed. But I want to be loud and clear here. Your story does not say sources and methods were disclosed. It says a specific plot was discussed, from which one would be able to figure out sources and methods, am I correct?

MILLER: I think that's right. And I think the White House is playing word games here to that effect, to try to blunt the impact of this story.

[03:05:00] Nor do any of these White House officials who are denouncing the story, nor have any of them offered any explanation why if this was also above board, and note, not problematic in any way, why did the National Security Council coming out of this meeting, feel it was necessary to contact the CIA director and the director of the National Security Agency to give them a head's up on what Trump had just told the Russians?


CHURCH: For more on this, I'm joined by CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Always great to talk with you. Thanks for being with us. So, from a national security point of view...



CHURCH: ... how concerned should we be about this story in the Washington Post, indicating that President Trump shared with the Russians highly classified information that had been supplied to the U.S. by an ally, but never shared with any other allies? And just how damaging could this potentially be?

KAYYEM: I think there are three major concerns at this stage. I mean, the first, of course, is whatever country that is, is clearly going to not want to share information with us, but also our other allies, who may be willing or able to share information, or we have intelligence- gathering going on with them, might be quite reluctant to share that kind of information, knowing now what the president is likely to do with it.

The second issue is, of course, Russia. This is just in -- this is just jaw-dropping at this stage, that it's the Russians of all people that the president actually happens to sort of drop this information to. The president seems to have casualness with the relationship, especially the intelligence relationship with the Russians, which is just inexplicable at this stage.

And I think the third issue, how will ISIS respond knowing now that either, you know, either that the Russians know something or that the United States know something. And I think this is the piece that worries me the most.

I mean, we know terrorist organizations, when they feel like they've been exposed or that outside governments may know what they're doing, they may speed up anything that they're planning and that's where we're all most vulnerable.

CHURCH: Yes, of course. And the White House insists that President Trump didn't discuss the intelligence sources, but the amount of information that Mr. Trump did share with Russia could potentially reveal the source of this highly sensitive information. How possible is that, and what are the possible consequences?

KAYYEM: So I believe that the White House is trying to minimize the impact, if not only to protect ongoing intelligence efforts. So I don't blame them for that, but the Washington Post story also said that after the meeting, that the White House had to notify intelligence agencies that this had occurred, so that they too could minimize the harm to any relationships that were on going -- that were going on at the time.

So the White House did believe that this was a big deal. So what does it mean that he didn't disclose sources and methods? Well, he could have told the Russians that there was an asset from a western country, that had infiltrated ISIS in this city in Syria, and that's how we knew stuff.

Well, for the Russians, that's not going to be hard to figure out. They have strong ties with the Syrians, and they may do nothing with it, but one has to believe that they will view that as important information.

So it seems like, you know, how could he -- how could President Trump have given that much away? It seems like he could have actually given a lot away.

Yes. And the White House is pushing back on the Washington Post story, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster didn't take questions when he responded to this report. What does that tell you, and how damaging is this for the White House as well and for Mr. Trump?

KAYYEM: Well, I think it's damaging for Mr. Trump, particularly one, because I just think it shows at best, at best. I'm not going to put bad motivation to the president. At best, it shows just a casualness about this solemn duty he has regarding intelligence and intelligence efforts towards, at least in this particular case, the Russians.

So that to me sort of speaks poorly of at least just his judgment as regards this. I think McMaster, I understood why he had to come out. He wanted to make it clear that the president didn't say anything quite specific enough that it was just sort of shared information -- information sharing.

But it does not explain, at least according to the Washington Post, why the White House would have been concerned enough that they then told the agencies, CIA, and other agencies that this had happened. So to me, there's just a disjoint between the story and a not so

direct denial that I think that we have to believe the story at this stage. This also, I have to just admit, goes to the sort of credibility issue that this White House has. When they say this didn't happen, we know from past experience that they often say something didn't happen that actually happened.

[03:10:00] So this gets to the bigger credibility issue, not just with the media, but of course with the American public, and our allies who are watching CNN as well.

CHURCH: Yes. And before you go, I do want to quickly ask you for your reaction to President Trump hosting Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office with Russian journalists present, but the U.S. press shut out. Was the Oval Office compromised on that day?

KAYYEM: I think it would have been hard for it to have been compromised in the sort of did -- was a bug put in or something, and I have to be honest. I know the Secret Service well, they would have swept the Oval Office after. I'm not too worried about that -- about that.

My concerned was to have invited them in at a time when, for example, our NATO allies are very, very nervous about the rise and aggressiveness of Russia, to invite them in so publicly, let alone the day after Comey was fired.

I know the White House said look, it was on the calendar. The White House cancels things all the time. And this one's goes, this goes back again ones to just the, you know, put in the best light possible as just a series of really bad judgment calls that are exposing our intelligence agents and exposing our vulnerabilities as a nation.

CHURCH: Juliette Kayyem, always a pleasure to chat with you and get your analysis.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

CHURCH: We appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

CHURCH: And our Diana Magnay joins us now from Moscow. So Diana, what, if any reaction has there been in Russia to the Washington Post story on President Trump sharing highly classified information with its foreign minister and ambassador?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is being widely reported, Rosemary at this stage, across state-run media and across the two opposition outlets too, with some fairly straight reporting. The only article that isn't straight is from Sputnik News, which has been widely criticized in the west as particularly propagandist, a part of the Kremlin's propaganda wider vehicle.

And they have been saying this is clearly fake news. Their story is pretty much about the Washington Post being a purveyor of fake news and listing other examples of that, rather than really digging into the details of what the Washington Post here has said.

We haven't had any official reaction from Kremlin sources. We may get that over the course of the day. Probably what we can expect from them will be similar to what we heard in relation to the fury over the photographs in the Oval Office, where the press accused -- or the press suggested that the White House had said that Russia should never have published those photographs, and the Kremlin's response, the response of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister was that we did everything above board.

This is a story that has been created by the U.S. mass media, mass hysteria, and interestingly, they blamed the media, rather than the White House for that situation. And I imagine that is the kind of response that we can expect today. Rosemary?

CHURCH: yes, interesting and familiar line, certainly. So is Russia laughing at the United States and the Trump administration right now?

MAGNAY: Well, Russia doesn't really have to do anything for the havoc in the White House to gather pace. But I think what we have seen over the last week, since those -- the meeting in the Oval Office, which President Putin effectively orchestrated by asking President Trump to invite Sergey Lavrov to the Oval Office, which hasn't happened since around 2013, is that President Trump seems to be putty to a certain extent in Russia's hands.

And of course, Russia likes that. Of course, Russia to a certain extent, gains some satisfaction from making the U.S. look bad. But there is another side to this story, which is, as President Putin has repeatedly said, they also need international cooperation to fight terrorism.

They need the U.S. on side, not just to come to some sort of conclusion in Syria, but also on a broader, longer-term perspective for the Kremlin, to rehabilitate the Kremlin to a certain extent, in the world sphere, to work towards the removal of sanctions.

Those are completely, that topic is pretty much off the table at the moment. Because of the freezing of the status quo in Ukraine, especially. But that is the Kremlin's long-term objective, and they need the U.S. on side, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Many thanks to our Diana Magnay with that live report coming from Moscow, where it is nearly 10:15 in the morning.

Well, the reports about shared intelligence took some of the focus away from last week's political fire storm, the firing of the FBI director.

Jim Acosta reports the White House says it's moving forward with finding a replacement, but isn't saying much more.


[03:15:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is the process to select a new FBI director going? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump may be making progress in his search for a new FBI director. But the White House is clamping down on questions about the firing of the former FBI director. Repeatedly refusing to confirm whether or not the president recorded his conversation with James Comey. As he hinted last week.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think I made it clear last week, that the president has nothing further on that. He's very clear and I made it clear what the president's position is.

I think the president's position has been very clear.

The president made it clear what his position is. He said that he has nothing further to add.

I answered the question over and over again the same way.


ACOSTA: The stonewalling left reporters shouting for answers to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the tapes, Sean?


ACOSTA: Despite a new poll that shows only 29 percent approve of Comey's firing and that 78 percent want an independent or a special prosecutor to investigate possible Trump campaign ties to Moscow. The White House is offering no regrets, either on the Russia probe.


SPICER: There's frankly no need for a special prosecutor.


ACOSTA: Or on the process to pick a new FBI director.


SPICER: I think this process is running completely as it should.


ACOSTA: Even members of the president's own party are urging Mr. Trump to avoid selecting a politician to run the bureau. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president has a chance to clean up the mess that he mostly created, he really I think did a staff a disservice by changing the explanation. So I think I would encourage the president to pick somebody we can all rally around including those who work in the FBI.


ACOSTA: As for the possibility of White House tapes, leaders from both parties are making it clear any such recordings could be subpoenaed.


CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Well, first of all, if there are tapes, the president should turn them over immediately, of course. To destroy them would be a violation of law.

MIKE LEE, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: If in fact, there are such recordings, I think they will be subpoenaed and I think they'll probably have to turn them over.


ACOSTA: Even former advisers to the president are beginning to see Mr. Trump as damaging to the country.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: In many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally, and that's the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Internally from the president?

CLAPPER: Exactly.


ACOSTA: The constant swirl of questions appear to be aggravating the president, who is threatening to halt the daily briefings in favor of less frequent news conferences, starring, who else but Mr. Trump.


TRUMP: What I'd love to do is stop them. We don't have press conferences and we do...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't mean that?

TRUMP: Well, just don't have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don't have them. I think it's a good idea. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Jim Acosta with that report.

We'l take a short break here, but still to come, two NATO allies are looking for common ground. How the U.S. and Turkish presidents will try to resolve their differences when they meet Tuesday. We're back in a moment.


[03:19:58] CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart will meet in Washington in just a matter of hours, and the talks are expected to be strained.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan will push for a reversal on Mr. Trump's decision to arm Kurdish fighters battling ISIS in Syria.

And Becky Anderson reports that's not the only area of potential disagreement.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We have to move on from making phone calls to one another and instead get together face-to-face.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: And now they're going to do just that. Turkey's newly emboldened President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet America's new president on Tuesday. The biggest thing they've got to talk about, surely Kurdish forces like this in Syria.

America's main weapon on the ground against ISIS. Washington moving in to protect them. But Turkey can't stand them. Bombing them, brandishing them terrorists. In a worldwide exclusive, Turkey's president told me why.


ERDOGAN (through translator): In order to hit a terrorist organization such as Daesh, using another terrorist organization such as YPG or PYD, it's not right. It's a terrorist organization and the other one is a terrorist organization as well.


ANDERSON: That is putting Washington in an awkward position. Its two main partners in a deadly war triangle and many have fled conflict like that.


ERDOGAN (through translator): There are three million refugees in Turkey right now, and last July, the E.U. echelons pledged 3 million euros to Turkey and then a second 3 billion euros was pledged. So far only through UNESCO have we received 725 million euros.


ANDERSON: It's not clear how much help Trump would be either.


TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries.


ANDERSON: And that's not all. Turkey has another big wish.


ERDOGAN (through translator): We're going to ask for the extradition of this heinous Fethullah leader, the evidence is there, the documents have been amassed pointing to the number one perpetrator of this failed coup as Fethullah Gulen.


ANDERSON: That's this man, a powerful Turkish cleric who lives in Philadelphia. Erdogan accuses him of mounting this failed coup against him last summer. Something he strongly denies.

America's president wanted more proof before sending him to Turkey. Mr. Trump hasn't spoken about it at all so far, but Turkey's president is optimistic.


ERDOGAN (through translator): I am hopeful. I am hopeful, and I'm going to preserve that hope.


ANDERSON: But with a number of hugely important issues it's going to take a lot more than hope to get everything in order.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

CHURCH: Muhammad Lila joins us now from Abu Dhabi. Muhammad, how much leverage does Mr. Erdogan have when it comes to convincing Mr. Trump to change his mind on two main issues, one the arming of Kurds in the fight against ISIS in Syria and of course the other, the extradition of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames for a coup attempt against him?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Rosemary, because you know, on one level, President Trump and President Erdogan share similar personality traits. You know, they enjoy making long speeches to their supporters, they have a populous base, they have icy relations with the media and the free press within their own countries. But when it comes to policy, it seems as though this may be a case

where the two sides might not have any common ground. I mean, President Erdogan has said repeatedly that he wants Fethullah Gulen extradited to Turkey. He's also said that he opposes the Unite States backing Kurdish groups on the ground in Syria.

But on the American side, President Trump has shown no indication that he's willing to be flexible on either issue. So this might be a case of two people who perhaps have similar personalities, but are increasingly further and further apart when it comes to the policies they're both pursuing.

CHURCH: And so overall, what are the expectations for this meeting between President Trump and Turkey's president, and how likely is it that the story about Mr. Trump revealing highly classified information to the Russians would take center stage?

LILA: Well, this is important, you know, because that classified information allegedly pertained to ISIS, and operations on the ground in Syria. We know that Turkey, of course, is a major player in the region, it's a major player in Syria. Turkish troops have died fighting ISIS, and Turkish groups have involved in several offenses, trying to retake towns from ISIS.

So the question that we don't know, is what was the intelligence that was revealed to the Russians? Was it something that the Turkish government or Turkish intelligence agencies were already aware of, or was it some new information that they didn't know?

And now if it was something that they didn't know, obviously that's a cause for concern, because Turkish troops are at the forefront, in some cases, on the ground of fighting ISIS, as well as Turkish proxies on the ground fighting ISIS.

Now if this is information that could jeopardize their troops or it could jeopardize their operations against ISIS, you can bet they will be very upset that that information was shared with the Russians.

[03:25:04] And of course I'm sure this is going to come up as President Erdogan meets President Trump today in D.C. Because both sides, whether they like it or not, are now still on the same side fighting ISIS in Syria.

CHURCH: Yes. Still a lot of unanswered questions here. We'll be watching to see what comes out of that meeting. Muhammad Lila joining us from Abu Dhabi, where it is nearly 11.30 in the morning. Many thanks.

Well, Donald Trump is just days away from a much anticipated visit to Israel. In the next hour, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, seen here on the right, will be sworn in by Israel President Reuven Rivlin paving the way for the trip.

Now the visit will likely tell us whether Donald Trump wants to indeed move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something that would be highly controversial.

And there's another controversy, a report that a U.S. official questioned whether or not the sacred western wall was in Israel or the West Bank, infuriating the Israelis.

Our Oren Liebermann joins us now from Jerusalem. So, Oren, first discussion over whether or not to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is becoming the first public agreement -- disagreement, I should say, between the U.S. and Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting a re-location of the embassy won't harm the peace process. Is President Trump having second thoughts here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Donald Trump walked back his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, almost immediately after he was inaugurated. Remember it was one of his big campaign promises and it went over very well with the pro-Israel crowd.

Again, he walked it back and since then, he hasn't given any indication of which way he's leaning. He has at this point has only about two weeks to make the decision before the embassy moves automatically under a 1995 law.

Now his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that President Trump is being deliberate about his approach, and taking his time again indicating there's no definitive decision yet that Trump is willing to declare.

Now Ambassador David Friedman who will be sworn in at the president's residence here behind me in just about an hour, has been a big advocate of moving the embassy, but even he has gone quiet at this point.

In all the controversy surrounding Donald Trump, Friedman was certainly one of them. He was approved very much along party lines in a very close vote, both in the Senate committee and in the full Senate where he was grilled on his rhetoric used before the election and in the past, where he's compared some liberal Jewish group to worse than capos, which is comparing them to worse than Jewish Nazi collaborators.

He's also said the two-state solution is a scam. And said the U.S. State Department has a 100-year history of anti-Semitism. He apologized for those comments, although he did say some of them are his personal opinion.

So again, he was approved. He'll be sworn in here. One of the big questions as you point out, will be the embassy. I don't expect we'll get an answer from Freedman, as that will be an announcement Trump will make on his own when he's here in a week. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And Oren, we mentioned that other area of possible disagreement, Israel calling for the White House to explain a U.S. diplomat's comment about the Western Wall. What's the latest on this and on preparations for President Trump's upcoming visit to Jerusalem? LIEBERMANN: And that's exactly where this started as U.S. officials

and Israeli officials were trying to coordinate the visit. They were talking about the western wall. And according to Israel's Channel 2 the Israeli officials wanted to find out whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could joint Trump at the wall.

And pushed a step beyond that, and ask to Trump's visit to the Western Wall which would be the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Western Wall could be broadcast live. The U.S. officials then questioned whether that was possible. So this is isn't new territory the Western Wall is in the West Bank.

The Israelis were furious about that one. A statement from the prime minister's office said they were shocked and immediately sought clarification from the White House. The White House did apologize for those comments and say they're not in line with the White House's view or the president's view.

But that's where the statement stops. It doesn't answer the full question. It doesn't answer what exactly will happen at the Western Wall, and will Netanyahu join in there and will it be broadcast. I suspect those are questions we'll only find out when Trump arrives here in a week.

CHURCH: Yes. It's going to be an interesting visit for sure. And you will be watching it and covering it for us here at CNN.

Oren Lieberman joining from Jerusalem, nearly 10.30 in the morning. Many thanks.

Well, the U.S. says Syria is covering up more atrocities and it says these images near a prison outside Damascus are the proof. We'll explain when we come back.


CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we're following this hour.

Two former officials confirm to CNN that U.S. President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials. The Washington Post broke the story, reporting that Mr. Trump made the disclosures during a White House meeting with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador at the White House last week.

The British prime minister has been forced to defend her policies after an angry encounter with a voter. A woman with learning disabilities confronted Theresa May on the issue of cuts to benefits, saying she can't make ends meet. Mrs. May said the government has plans for people with mental health issues. Britain heads to the polls on June 8th.

France's new president is getting right down to business in his first days in office. Emmanuel Macron will meet Olympic officials Tuesday, hoping to boost Paris's bid to host the 2024 games. On Monday, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin where he reaffirmed France's commitment to the European Union.

A teenager was shot and killed in Venezuela Monday after violence erupted at a protest in Palmyra. Thirty-nine people have now died in the political and economic unrest that has engulfed the country. Thousands of demonstrators staged the sit-in near the capitol protesting President Nicolas Maduro's call for a new constituent assembly.

U.S. lawmakers are expressing their concern and frustration over reports that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russia.

CNN's Manu Raju talked to some of them and got their reaction.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The news that President Trump may have given classified information to Russian officials in the White House coming as a shock to members of Congress. Even senior republican leaders who sit on some key committees, including the Senate intelligence committee, Richard Burr, the chairman of that committee who gets briefed on highly sensitive matters said he did not know about this and was looking to read more about it.

And soon after the story broke, Senator John McCain, I had a chance to talk to about this, said it's very troublesome if this report is true. But he didn't know if it were true. And some republicans were just flat-out frustrated, including Senator Bob Corker, who is chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, saying to reporters that a quote, "it creates a worrisome environment that one controversy after another continues to hamper this White House."

So, republicans want answers to this. They do not believe this has been good for their party, particularly coming after this Comey firing, these tweets from President Trump going after James Comey.

[03:35:01] They want to get back to talking about their agenda, trying to put together a health care reform package, a tax reform package, but these type of things continually distract from their agenda, creating a lot of frustration among republicans on Capitol Hill.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

CHURCH: So let's talk more about this with CNN legal analyst Page Pate who is also a constitutional attorney and he joins me now in the studio. Always great to talk with you.


CHURCH: So two former U.S. officials with knowledge of this situation have told CNN that the main points of the Washington Post article are in indeed accurate, and that President Trump shared classified information with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. If that's the case, and that's what our sources tell us, what's happened here, what are the ramifications of this?

PATE: It's really unprecedented, Rosemary. I mean, we've never had a situation where a sitting president has provided classified, I think highly classified information has been the description of it, to a representative of a foreign government who is not in active cooperation with us in some international endeavor.

So it's incredibly unprecedented. The law was not written to cover a situation like this. If this were any other official other than the president he would be guilty of committing a crime. But in this case, the president has a lot of discretion to determine what is classified and what is not classified and who he can communicate it to.

CHURCH: Now, we don't know how far the president went. There seems to be some sort of disagreement on that particular point, but we understand that he didn't reveal the source of the intelligence here. But intelligence officials tell CNN that their concern is that the Russians will figure it out.

PATE: Right.

CHURCH: So in that sort of situation, I mean, this is very sensitive information, as you say, highly classified, what happens?

PATE: As far as an investigation on what we do of...


CHURCH: Yes. And legally, what happens here?

PATE: You know, again, this is entirely unprecedented. First of all, who is going to investigate this? I mean, the executive branch, the intelligence community, the Department of Justice would normally open up an investigation to determine if any classified information had been improperly leaked.

But what happens when the target of that investigation is your boss? There really is no mechanism set up in the Justice Department to investigate someone for leaking classified information if that someone is the President of the United States.

CHURCH: So let's go back to that meeting. Because we have the foreign minister of Russia and the ambassador of Russia there with their entourage in the Oval Office. Was it compromised on that particular day, a day after the firing of FBI Director James Comey?

PATE: Well, the timing is awful. The optics are horrible, and the American people I think are very concerned to see -- first of all, we were kept out. The American press wasn't even allowed to know that this meeting was going on at the time. So it's very concerning, just the mere fact that the meeting happened.

And then to find out that there was a discussion about classified information, that takes it to an entirely different level. It's no longer a political problem. It's no longer a potential ethical problem. It's now a legal or constitutional problem.

CHURCH: And I want to talk too about the tweet that President Trump put out a few days ago, where he basically implied that there are tapes of the conversations that he had with the former FBI Director, James Comey. Now we don't know if they exist or don't exist, because the White House won't say any more, and basically the tweet stands, apparently.

But we're hearing from even Senator Lindsey Graham that if there are some tweets -- if there are some tapes of those conversations, they need to be handed over.

PATE: Yes.

CHURCH: So what happens legally on that particular issue?

PATE: Well, I don't think there are actually tapes. But if there are tapes, there are federal laws that govern what you have to do with that information. It becomes a public record. So you have to maintain those tapes, and if someone in Congress wants to get access to those tapes, there's a process where they can apply for a subpoena and then request that the White House turn them over.

Now the White House can say, just like Nixon did, this is privileged information. It's subject to executive privilege, I don't want to turn them over. Then the issue would go to a court for a resolution.

CHURCH: So you don't think there are tapes. In other words, you don't believe the tweet.

PATE: Right. I think it was absolutely bluster. Consistent with the type of bluster he's given in the past. I think in a situation like that, if were there tapes, especially if they proved Comey wrong, or I guess the presumption of what Comey's going to say wrong, if they backed up the president, we would have heard about those tapes by now.

CHURCH: Some people are talking impeachment here, do you think that's an exaggeration of what's going to happen?

PATE: I don't think we're there yet. Because we don't know two things. We don't know what the president said to Comey when they were discussing the Russia investigation. Did he really put pressure on Comey to either speed up the investigation, to divert agents from the investigation?

[22:40:02] Did he really influence or obstruct that investigation? If he did, there's a possible violation of the law. Same thing here, we don't really know exactly what classified information he provided to the Russians. Did it go so far as to possible violate the Espionage Act?

So I think we first, if you're looking at the question of impeachment, have to determine if the president committed a crime. And if so, then it would be up to Congress to determine if that's sufficient enough for impeachment.

CHURCH: All right, Page Pate, I always enjoy your analysis of these situations. And it just gets more and more complicated each day, doesn't it?

PATE: Certainly it does.

CHURCH: Thank you so much.

PATE: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, the U.S. says it has evidence the Syrian government is trying to hide the systematic execution of detainees at a notorious prison outside Damascus.

Michelle Kosinski reports on why the declassified information is emerging now.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Here, just outside Damascus, Syria, built right next to the infamously brutal Sednaya Prison complex is what U.S. officials now say is a crematorium, built, they 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, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE BUREAU OF NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves. We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya Prison complex which could dispose of detainees' remains with little evidence.


KOSINSKI: They've included eerie detail of the building, an interior fire wall snow melted on the roof above the ovens. Sednaya Prison has long been known for its torture and terrible conditions. Amnesty International called it a human slaughter house in a report this year. Compiled with the help of dozens of former detainees and people familiar with it.


They described cells designed to hold five prisoners, that actually hold 70. Beatings, killings, and forced silence. And among the prisoners, lawyers, protesters, people helping refugees.

But this has been going on for years. So why declassify this information now? U.S. officials made it very clear in their announcement today, they want not only to expose more Assad regime atrocities, but to forcefully and publicly blast Russia for still supporting Assad.


JONES: Russia has either aided in or passively looked away as the regime has conducted an air strike against a U.N. convoy, destroyed east Aleppo, and used chemical weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 one person -- Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Gadhafi in Libya. Why don't we try to learn from our mistakes?


KOSINSKI: But learning from past mistakes is the same message that the State Department is trying to send Russia is exposing these images. After last month's chemical gas attack in Syria, which the United States believes was the work of the Assad regime President Trump acted viscerally.


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 had 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 not something officials are ever willing to discuss ahead of time, of course, but you look at the difficulty here. You can't target the prison full of prisoners, they would be at risk, or 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.

CHURCH: Well, the search is on for those responsible for the world's biggest cyber-attack. Coming up, why experts say it could be linked to North Korea. We'll explain.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the world's biggest cyber- attack appears to be somewhat contained, but officials warn there's still a threat. Experts say North Korean hackers could be linked to the attack. The

virus locks up computers and demands ransom to regain control. At least 300,000 computers have been affected around the world.

Hospitals in the U.K. were hit hard, impacting essential health services. And CNN spoke with a cancer patient in London whose operation was delayed.


KEN ROBBINS, CANCER 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your reaction to the hackers?

ROBBINS: To put it bluntly (muted). And he needs to go to prison for 20 years. They don't realize what impact they're having on patients.


CHURCH: That is putting a human face on the issue. And we are following this cyber-attack from all angles.

CNN's money and business and technology correspondent Samuel Burke is in London. We're going to start with Alexandra Field in Seoul, South Korea. So, Alexandra, the experts are suggesting that North Korea was behind the ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe, but where's the proof?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, that's the direction that they are looking in, Rosemary, right now, and it's going to take more time to have definitive proof. They said that this will be a long process, but they are getting perhaps the first break in that process.

Governments around the world are interested in finding out the source of this hack attack. Of course, it affected some 150 countries. You're talking about more than 300,000 cases. So the work of uncovering who is at the root of this falls on security firms and researchers.

What they do is they look at the code that was used in this attack and they try to match it to samples used by known hackers. That seems to be what led one Google researcher to find some similarities with code used by a North Korean hacking group called the Lazarus group.

Two major security firms have backed up those finding saying that they also see the similarities, but they are warning that these connections are at this point still just preliminary findings. They're still looking for stronger connections.

CNN has talked to an outside security group that is also weighing in on the similarities, saying that the similarities are just not unique enough at this point to point to a common operator.

But it makes some sense that researchers in security firms will be looking toward Lazarus. This is a group that's well-known on the world stage. They were the same group that was linked to the 2014 Sony Pictures hack and it's also been linked to cyber-attacks on banks around the world, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Samuel, this attack may be somewhat contained right now, but this wasn't particularly sophisticated from what we understand, and we can assume there will be more to come. What are hospitals, companies, individuals are doing to protect themselves against future ransonware attacks, and more particularly, what's Microsoft doing about it?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all quite simple to protect yourself, whether you're somebody watching at home right now, or in your office or hospital. You just have to update Windows.

So what we're seeing here are the first steps in an investigation, just like if somebody robbed something from your house. And the previous days, what we saw was looking at OK, where were things taken from, what countries were affected. Then we started to see, OK, this is Microsoft, this is a problem with Windows. So of course they take some of the blame.

[03:49:59] Microsoft also points the finger at the NSA and the United States. They say, well, we have a vulnerability, but the NSA developed a tool to take advantage of that vulnerability, and now these cyber security researchers are saying, well, who weaponized that? Who took that tool and used it for bad?

But let's just peel that backward more. You have a lot of major cyber security firms here, you have Symantec, Kaspersky, these are the top names in cyber security, as well as one of the top researchers at Google that Alex reference there.

So these are important players, and, yes, let's make it clear, they're not saying definitively these are the North Koreans. In fact, they're saying we have very weak links right now. But these are the first days of an investigation. They take weeks, sometimes they take months.

But it's very interesting we're seeing that this code has so many similarities, the WannaCry code that's been used the past day, to codes that the North Koreans have used.

And also one more interesting thing here is the fact that a lot of people said well, it's probably not a nation state, because look, they're attacking so many countries, maybe North Korea could have even been affected.

But keep in mind, North Korea as a society, a country that has so little infrastructure, so even though this was hitting their neighbors in China, all around the world, it could mean they would be safe from it, because they have such poor or little connection to the internet. So interesting factors here.

CHURCH: Very interesting. And Alexandra, back to you, what's South Korea saying about these accusations directed at North Korea?

FIELD: Well, at this point, Rosemary, they're not weighing in on whether North Korea could be behind this. They can see that this investigation does have a long way to go. But South Korean corporations were affected. Even South Korean movie theaters were affected.

So you have seen them actually raise the cyber-attack threat level in this country, which increases their preparedness for further attacks. And again, while South Korea is not in any way pointing the finger at North Korea, in this attack, we have learned a little bit more, we think about North Korea's cyber-attack ambitions from South Korean defense officials who closely monitor what's going on inside of North Korea.

They have indicated that North Korea has for years now, been trying to build up its cyber-attack capacity with a team of about 6,800 on a team that's dedicated to cyber-attacks, that's again, according to South Korean officials. South Korean officials also link North Korea to 10 different cyber plots in just the last decade. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Alexandra Field and Samuel Burke, great to talk to you both. I appreciate it.

We'll take a short break here. But still to come, Donald Trump's catch-phrase is spawning jokes after he let FBI Director James Comey go. How you're fired backfired. That's next.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Donald Trump made you're fired his trademark phrase as a reality TV host. But his words have come back to haunt him.

CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN 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 has considered the ultimate authority on those two words.


TRUMP: You're fired.

You're fired.

You're fired.


MOOS: But it backfired. Critics attacked the president for firing the guy who was investigating the administration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How'd you like to be able to do that? A cop pulls you over, you're under arrest, sir. Yes? You're fired.


MOOS: Stephen Colbert compared it o the mafia sending a message.


[03:55:00] This is like a horse set on the bed. This is like the godfather, only in this one nobody respects the don.


MOOS: New York Times columnist Gayle Collins opined, "Trump is terrible at firing." Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld from the Yale School of management agree.


JEFFREY SONNENFELD, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: I give a bad grade on execution date on this.


MOOS: The news caught the president's spokesperson flat-footed, 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: Cue the bush jokes. A Canadian woman even created garden Spicer. A cut-out lawn ornament she shared on Facebook, saying now you too can have the White House press secretary in or rather among the bushes in your yard. But is Spicer planted in the briefing room?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, he's been there from the beginning.


MOOS: And non-answer like that leads to speculation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you surprised that he fired Comey before he fired you?


MOOS: Will President Trump soon get to take another shot?


TRUMP: You're fired.


MOOS: At improving his firing technique?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No way. Is that like in godfather when you kiss me and no one ever seeing me again?




MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: Well, opponents usually try to intimidate each other in the sumo ring, but over the weekend, Japanese wrestlers just wanted to make babies cry. The crying sumo ring is a 400-year old ceremony across Japan. More than 100 babies took part in the tradition at a shrine west of Tokyo. Perhaps not willingly. Pairs of infants are held up in the ring by sumo wrestlers to try to get them to ball their little eyes out.

Their cries are believed to drive out demons and protect the young children for trouble -- from trouble, I should say. They're just trying to get away.

A 101-year-old World War II veteran is proving you're never too old to set a new skydiving record. Bryson Hayes is now the world's oldest tandem skydiver. How about that?

He completed the record-breaking jump Sunday in Devon in Southern England. That special moment included three generations, a son, grandson, and two great grandsons, all took part in the jump. Hayes did his first skydive a year ago on his 100th birthday. He was also raising money for a U.K. charity to support British soldiers and their families. Fantastic.

And thanks so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. I love to hear from you. The news continues with our Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.