Return to Transcripts main page


New Revelations in Trump-Russia Probe; Terror in Manchester as Explosion Kills 22, Injures Dozens More. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 23, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our breaking news. An explosion killed 22 people and injuries dozens more last night in an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Among the dead, children. Police are treating incident as a terrorist attack and are focusing on a male at the scene as the probable suicide bomber. We're going to continue to monitor this.

All these developments, we'll have more live from Manchester in just a few moments.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On top of all this a long list of important developments on the investigations into Michael Flynn and the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Chief among them, President Trump called two top U.S. intelligence figures, asking them to publicly deny and push back evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

ROMANS: Current and former U.S. officials tell CNN Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA director Michael Rogers were both uncomfortable with the president's request and refused to comply.

The president called Rogers and Coats after then FBI director James Comey publicly revealed in March that the bureau was investigating possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

We're joined now by CNN political analyst David Drucker. He's a senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

Good morning. These revelations add a new wrinkle to the Russia story and it almost feels as though the President of the United States, before he was president, when he would run into some difficulty with his business, he would send in his lawyers. And he would try to shut it down, shut the opposition down.

Is that the kind of behavior we're seeing here?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's what we're seeing here. Look, I think a lot of --


DRUCKER: -- the president's problems stem from the fact he's trying to act like an owner in the White House and not like a leader. The executive branch serves at his pleasure, much of it, but they don't work for him in the same way his employees at the Trump Organization work for him.

In trying to run the White House like his closely held family business, where you have your children, which he has, and a close coterie of loyalists, it's getting him into a whole heap of trouble.

I sometimes wonder here if the president's right. Look, we don't know where this investigation is going to go. Robert Mueller, obviously now the special counsel, could take this in all sorts of directions.

I often wonder if there is no collusion but Trump is so bothered by the fact that people would suggest that he only won because of Russian meddling that he's trying to get everybody to shut this thing down just because of his sense of personal aggrievement.

And I think that's actually -- might be what's getting him into trouble, that and Michael Flynn, who is a cancer on this administration and, for the life of me, I can't understand why the president continues to stick by this guy personally because a lot of the president's troubles, talks with Russian officials, payments to Michael Flynn for speeches that he gave and now the idea that he may have pushed a particular policy favorable to Turkey after he'd done some work with the Turkish government, all of these things really emanate from one guy.

And they emanate from the president, who kept this guy very close to him throughout the campaign, who was his close foreign policy adviser, was a key surrogate on the campaign trail.

Memorably said, "Lock her up," I believe at the Republican National Convention. Christie might have also said that. But I'm pretty sure it was Michael Flynn as well.

So it's Trump's problem for hiring the guy. But he fired him and he should have nothing to do with him because a lot of the drip, drip, drip is either from Trump's frustration at the system or Flynn.

BRIGGS: Yes, because the others he's been linked with for the (INAUDIBLE) Roger Stone or Carter Page or Paul Manafort, he distanced himself early and often and turned the page.

But Michael Flynn, there is a resistance to distancing himself from that. But you mentioned Robert Mueller, the special counsel. He has now viewed the Comey memos, in particular the one where the president asked him to let go of the investigation.

Take that combined with what the president said to DNI Dan Coats and the director of the NSA, Mike Rogers, according "The Washington Post," now (INAUDIBLE) confirming, does it -- is it almost inconsequential at this point if there was collusion with the Russians?

Has he done enough to leave himself in deep legal and political trouble, even if there was no collusion?

DRUCKER: He might have. Look, I rely on Jeffrey Toobin for stuff that. However, this gets back to Trump's leadership style and his personality.

I think it's fair to say the Russians meddled in the 2016 election. I think it's fair to say they wanted Donald Trump to win because Putin's a nationalist and he saw Trump as a nationalist. It's not totally turning out that way as we're seeing this week.

And so I think those can be true without Trump colluding. Now it's possible some hangers-on of his may have colluded. Carter Page, I think, is kind of a clown, may have tried to collude or --


DRUCKER: -- Roger Stone's an interesting guy. I don't think Trump colluded per se but this drip, drip, drip of first trying to get the FBI director potentially maybe to back things down, then going to the intelligence chiefs to try and get them to get Comey to back down and this yapping to the Russians in the Oval Office that I got rid of that guy Comey now I can stop with all this Russia stuff.

Trump is creating a fire where there was none and possibly one that puts him in, at least, ethical jeopardy if not legal jeopardy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) Meanwhile he -- I was in Bethlehem this morning with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and he was responding to the attack last night in Manchester that killed 22 people and injured 59, children among the dead.

I want you to listen to how he characterized that.


TRUMP: I would like to begin by offering my prayers to the people of Manchester in the United Kingdom. I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims.

We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom. So many young, beautiful, innocent people, living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life.

I won't call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that's a great name.


TRUMP: I will call them from now on losers, because that is what they are, losers. And we'll have more of them. But they're losers. Just remember that.


ROMANS: David Drucker, this is 10.5 hours after the event. The president very strongly coming out there, as only President Trump can in his own colloquial way.

DRUCKER: Trumpisms don't always go over well from a governing and national security standpoint. But I thought this went over very well. They are evil losers. They are losers. And what he was trying to say -- I mean, I think we can gather is that you call them monsters and it gives them a sort of mythic image that they're hurting people. And he's saying no.

And I actually thought the statement was a well written statement, well delivered statement and even including that Trumpism, I thought was very appropriate. And in this case -- and it's the first time I've said this in a long time when it comes to this president commenting about terrorism, this is the first time this president that he has had to comment on a terrorist attack of this magnitude.

BRIGGS: It's a 3:00 am phone call in some sense.

DRUCKER: In some sense. But it's important because the U.K.'s our oldest and closest ally. I thought that that term was very appropriate and I thought at least that statement was very well handled.

ROMANS: All right, David Drucker, thank you so much for being here this morning --


ROMANS: Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BRIGGS: Grief, outrage and unanswered questions this morning, the morning after a deadly despicable bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in England. An apparent suicide attacker killing at least 22 people at the Manchester Arena. Children are among the dead. At least 59 others injured.

ROMANS: Police are treating this incident as an act of terrorism. A man at the scene, a man at the scene has been identified as the probably bomber. And investigators at this moment are digging into his background.

CNN's Hala Gorani has the very latest on the investigation. She is live in Manchester -- Hala.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, authorities haven't released the name for this suicide bomber. They're saying one individual is responsible and that his body was recovered at the scene.

They also said that he detonated an improvised explosive device, killing 22 people, injuring 59 others. This is a city that is on high alert this morning. We're still hearing helicopters overhead. Six hospitals are responding to the flow of injured and wounded concert goers.

This was an Ariana Grande concert as you mentioned, which means that the target for this terrorist was very young children, children as young as 5, one eyewitness told me, that were so small, so short they had to stand on their seats in order to enjoy the concert. Coral Long (ph), her 10-year-old daughter, Robin (ph), they heard the explosion. They were rushed out.

She said it was a near stampede situation and that it was a miracle that they got out alive because of the rush of people and the crush of people against each other as they tried to flee to safety.

Of course now authorities are having to look at who this bomber was.

Was he acting alone?

Did he have a network assisting or supporting him?

This isn't a knife attack or a car ramming. This requires some degree of sophistication, of preparation. You need know how to make a bomb. You know need to know how to detonate the bomb. This is more complicated.

Was this information and knowledge acquired online?

Is this a lone wolf or is it someone who was getting some sort of instruction from abroad online?

Or is this someone who was part of a network of individuals physically in this country?

So many questions because the other big one is the U.K. has escaped the types of terrorists attacks we've seen in France and Belgium and elsewhere, in Berlin, for instance, last Christmas, because it's an island. It's much easier to control the flow of people.

Is this someone who was born in the United Kingdom and is a U.K. citizen, as was the Westminster Bridge attacker, or someone who came in from abroad?

Meanwhile, police are saying that people who still don't know if their loved ones are OK can call an emergency number. There are areas inside the arena, certain gates that are being devoted to assisting family members still searching for their loved ones.

So still very much an open situation and a very, very active police investigation. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Hala Gorani, the who and why something that will be cold comfort to the families of 22 concert goers who lost their lives there.

Let's bring back chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Michael Weiss, who's a CNN investigative reporter for international affairs.

Christiane, we should really point out that we're not hearing anything from authorities other than there is a man --



ROMANS: -- and he is dead and he had an IED. You can assume that they're scouring the country for where he came from and who he knows.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Precisely. In fact, the police chief in Manchester was very, very clear. He said to the public, to the press, if you have any idea of the name or whatever of this guy, please, we are not repeating anything right now. We are looking into it.

So don't go reporting or broadcasting anything until we can tell you who this man is, who was carrying or wearing an IED, they believe, as we've been reporting, it was just one person but of course they are looking to see whether there was some kind of a support network.

And again, the British prime minister has not yet spoken publicly, although she has sent condolences to the families in Manchester. We do expect her to do so shortly. We were given a half an hour warning but we expect her to do so shortly.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, who would -- equivalent be the Secretary of Homeland Security -- did make a recorded statement in the hours after this attack, urging Britain to remain alert but not alarmed, talked about the immense step-up in police presence. And those of us who've got colleagues and things on the London Underground have noticed a step-up in police in that area and elsewhere on the underground train service.

And there is a huge deployment of police and other security officials, trying to not just secure the place but also to figure out who this person was.

Did this person slip under a net?

Was this person ever on a police radar?

And all the other attendant questions that they're going to need. But it's clearly the worst thing that's happened in Britain since the 7/7 attacks of 2005. And Britain knew, with the uptick in those going to ISIS and coming back from Iraq and Syria and this whole new set of terrorists and recruiters that are vastly helped by the massive online ability to recruit, that this has been given this country's intelligence services a huge amount of work. And we've been warned that it was not if, but when this might happen.

BRIGGS: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May convened a emergency COBRA meeting. That started about 45 minutes ago. We expect to hear from her any moment now.

But, Michael Weiss, great to have you here with us on set in New York as we -- we've almost become numb to terror attacks. But this one, of particular despicable nature, targeting teenage girls and adolescent girls and the president, President Trump, reacting, calling these attackers "evil losers in life."

He wouldn't call them monsters because they'd like that. What do you make of that characterization and this latest despicable attack?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think I can come up with a more pungent term than loser to describe the mass murderer who, as you say, was targeting young girls.

But I don't find this characterization objectionable at all. The British historian Michael Burleigh (ph) in his cultural history of terrorism, "Blood and Rage," in the introduction has a very similar kind of phrasing. And he's dealing with the whole sweep of terrorism going back to the IRA, the PLO, Hamas, Al Qaeda, this was before the days of ISIS, of course.

But, no, I think that's broadly right. A lot of people who end up doing things like this, you will find that they have a criminal background. They're kind of lumping members of society, even if they come from a good family or a well educated upbringing, which is often the case as well.

Muhammad Emwazi was the son of a black taxi driver in London, was attending university, had an engineering degree then went off and tried to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia before, of course, joining ISIS and becoming their chief beheader of Western hostages.

So, no, I think actually the president, even if he didn't quite know the sociology of terrorism, got it right in this case.

ROMANS: And a loser to lion (ph) mentality, where the jihadi narrative somehow just resonates.

What we don't know is, Michael, who this person is, if this person is deceased. We don't know how many associates it took to pull something like this off. And counterterrorism officials, intelligence officials will be looking closely into every interaction this person has had.

WEISS: Yes, and my suspicion if this wasn't a nail bomb, given that it was packed with shrapnel, these things are not easy to build, especially by one person, an amateur. Chances are this is somebody who did have help. Again, you've got about 900 people who have gone off to Syria to join ISIS coming from the U.K.

I lived in London 2.5 years in the days before ISIS. And there was always a sense of gallows humor about just the number, the magnitude of people that were being graduated from this country to go off and fight --


ROMANS: Do you think MI-5 --

WEISS: Most of them are. Most of them, whenever you find that there's been a terror attack, whether successful or abortive, you then find that the day two story is he's been on a watch list by -- of MI- 5. So I wouldn't be surprised if this were the case here as well.

BRIGGS: Christiane, you're about 200 miles roughly from Manchester. You mentioned the London attacks --


BRIGGS: -- in 2015 and the pedestrian, the car that drove through pedestrians as recently as March 22nd, what has been the feeling there in London, in Manchester, around the U.K. about the threat level, about the terror threat level, which was severe?

AMANPOUR: You have to remember that this country has been living with terrorism since most people can remember, from way back when the IRA targeted areas in England and other parts of this country.

But, generally, it was slightly different kind of terrorism. As I mentioned, in Manchester in 1996, they did attack a big shopping center but there was a warning phoned in.

This is a complete different type of terrorism and I think what Michael said was quite interesting. I don't know whether he makes any delineation between some of the political acts, that was what the IRA was, the PLO and others, and this kind of apolitical, nihilistic mass murder and mass slaughter that doesn't care even whether they kill children.

That is very different I think to what has come before. But also they are most -- many, many of them are -- will be found to have a criminal background. Many of them basically society's outcasts.

But some of them -- for instance, you got back to the Al Qaeda types, back in 2005, 7/7, they were highly educated, they were doctors, some of them, who went on to the London Underground and blew themselves up.

And that was -- they said very clearly in tapes that they'd left behind that as long as you keep bombing our brothers and sisters -- at the time it was in Iraq -- we will keep doing this to you in your homeland.

So this whole nebulous area that some previous groups mixed some kind of political ideology or what they thought was a political ideology, has morphed all the way to this, where there is rhyme nor reason and no ideology to it.

ROMANS: And that's what makes it so difficult, Michael, to combat.

WEISS: Yes, indeed, look, there's not going to be an Oslo accord or a Good Friday agreement with ISIS or Al Qaeda. So Christiane is quite right in that respect.

But, remember, ISIS does have an ideology. And as difficult as it is to get the Western imagination to wrap its head around this, for them, there's a politics to this.

When they kill women and children, they always justify it by resorting to moral equivalence. Then they show you photographs of coalition bombs. They claim coalition bombs having immolated young babies in the rubble in Syria and Iraq. They did this when they immolated the pilot, Muath Al-Kasasbeh. with

the Jordanian airmen in a cage, burnt him alive. Everybody focused on the gruesome violent pornography of that scene. But they didn't watch the full video, what came next was very persuasive to somebody who might have been an Islamist or a jihadist cast of mind.

It was essentially eye for an eye. Now, again, we don't know anything about this perpetrator. We don't know even, to be honest, which group or faction he was loyal to. We don't know what the process of radicalization was that he underwent, if had tried to do things like this before, had to tried to go off and fight, had gone off and fought.

So there's a lot of unknowns here. But generally you can, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, there is a kind of broad characterological sketch. And as Christiane was saying, good family, good background. If they're a native son of the West, if they come from the region, then it's a different story. But in this case I'm not seeing that this was some kind of immigrant attack. I think this was somebody who was born in the U.K.

BRIGGS: Again, we don't know who committed this awful attack.

But is there something that makes the U.K. particularly ripe to radicalization?

WEISS: Yes. It has been -- well, it depends on who you consult here. We all have our different theories.

When I was there, living there, which was around 2010, there was a big debate about the policy of what they called state multiculturalism. The idea is we are a receiving pool of immigrants, particularly from the former Commonwealth states, from Asia, Pakistan, India, former Colonial territories.

But rather than have the melting pot situation that we famously have in the United States, we're going to allow essentially different communities to live almost in isolation as though they're replicating their societies from abroad in the U.K.

And this was a policy adopted both by Labour and Conservative governments. There was then the famous or rather infamous Prevent strategy, taken by the Blair government after 7/7, which basically made the case that we must empower non-violent, quote-unquote "nonviolent Islamist movements" as a bulwark or a counter to the violent kind.

So in other words, let's help community organizations that might be loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood or to some other form of what they considered nonviolent Islamist movement. What they didn't realize, though, is that those groups --


WEISS: -- often create the mood music or the intellectual ballast for what then becomes Al Qaeda or ISIS terrorism, which is why the U.K. just did a review into the Brotherhood, essentially tearing up the whole Prevent logic.

ROMANS: Wow, Michael Weiss, Christiane Amanpour, great analysis. Thank you, both of you.

Want to quickly listen to some sound we have from overnight. We're going to start with a woman who, at 11 o'clock, five hours ago, was still frantically looking for her daughter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She went to the concert with her friend, spoke to her just about 10 o'clock. She was enjoying the show. And we've not heard anything from her since. We've been -- we've phoned (INAUDIBLE). We've phoned everywhere we can think. We've posted on every social network.

And there's nothing, there's no news of her. She's (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to put her picture there. There she is. We're putting her picture up on the screen for our viewers to see.

What do you want people to know about what parents like you are dealing with tonight?

I don't know if you can even put it into words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't. It's the most horrible feeling ever to know that your daughter is there but you can't find her, you don't know if she's dead or alive. And I don't know how people can do this to innocent children.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's just petrified that whoever did this would come to the house or would go to her school. She's just -- she's devastated. For her to, at 10 years old, to witness something like that is just horrific.

People just pushing and trying to get out and I was screaming at people to stop pushing because my daughter was being pushed. For children to see their idols and then have this then impacting the rest of their lives is disgusting. These people are cowards. They're just sick cowards.


ROMANS: 22 families have lost someone, 59 injuries. And you think of the thousands of thousands of kids in there who -- how do you explain horror like this, just indiscriminant horror?

BRIGGS: I sat and watched this story with my 9-year-old son, who listens to this very type of music. He couldn't turn away from it. Your heart breaks for these parents involved in this despicable, undescribable (sic) type of horror. You hope that maybe this is some type of breaking point in the radicalization of this, what the president called losers, evil losers in life, wouldn't call them monsters, which heart breaks for all the innocent victims, parents, loved ones in Manchester.

ROMANS: -- show young people, a lot of young girls, teenage girls, tweens with pink -- the pink balloons and the Ariana Grande little hats that so many of her fans wear. They chose a location, whoever did this, for maximum impact and it's just horrific.

BRIGGS: Ariana Grande tweeted herself she is broken after this attack. There was a concert scheduled for Thursday at the O2 Arena in London. No word yet but you would expect that to be canceled.

We're expecting Theresa May, the U.K. prime minister, to speak any moment. "NEW DAY" takes over from here. Thanks for being with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, May 23rd, 5 o'clock here in New York City. And we do have breaking news. A terror attack in England, at least 22 killed, dozens more injured, after police say a lone suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device just as an Ariana Grande concert let out in Manchester, England. The stadium holds 21,000. Many are still unaccounted for.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Witnesses describe a scene of utter chaos, one saying there were bodies scattered everywhere. (INAUDIBLE) had thousands of concertgoers, many of them children, running for their lives.

Reaction is pouring in from around the world, including remarks from President Trump.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's go first to CNN's Clarissa Ward. She is live in Manchester.

What's the latest, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. Well, you may be able to see the arena in the background behind me. This is actually as close as we can get to the venue because there is still a large police cordon, at least a square mile, around the entire area.

The venue was actually sold out last night. And, as you know, Ariana Grande very popular pop star with the tween audience. That's why there were so many young people there and authorities are confirming that among those at least 22 dead there were children among them, according to people who attended the concert. The concert had just ended when chaos broke out.



What's going on?

Oh, my god.