Return to Transcripts main page
22 Killed, Dozens Injured In Manchester Arena Blast; Sources: Trump Asked DNI, NSA To Deny Russia Evidence; Senate Intel Leaders: Flynn Risks Being Held In Contempt. Aired 5:30-6a ET
Aired May 23, 2017 - 05:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[05:30:04] JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: Whether that's because it's a larger group or not, it's hard to say, but it's very, very different than the kind of lone wolf attacks on a bridge with a car or with a gun or even a knife. So this is the kind of terrorism that has the earmarks of a classic global terrorist group that is trying to kill as many people as possible in as dramatic a way as possible, and the fact that it is young women is particularly designed to sow fear and chaos as much as possible.
But for the British, of course, they have incredible resiliency over the years and I suspect they will heed the words of their home secretary that they're going to get on with their business and not let themselves be cowed.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The weapon changes everything, as you're pointing out. It's not a car or a lone assault rifle. This is something that took some type of sophistication -- the clues early on that the shrapnel patterns seems to be bolts and nuts. The explosion being very loud points investigators to certain types of explosives that would have been necessary. They're very carefully monitoring the bomb area. At what point does it suggest that this person had help versus learning how to do it themselves online -- self-radicalization?
RUBIN: Well, I guess as soon as they identify the person and figure out very quickly the kind of information they were learning on the internet, who they were talking to, whether there are calls to foreign countries, that sort of thing. I think it depends very much on who the person is and you'll quickly know whether they were someone capable of putting all of this together. But again, given the fact that it -- apparently, it was an anniversary of some kind that the type of weapon involved and the location, which is a very well -- I mean, let's -- as you said, a very well-chosen location to get as many people as possible in a small space. So this was not, you know, the random act of a -- of a knife-wielding lone wolf.
CUOMO: The U.K., why there? Is it just a simple fact of its geography and its connection in the war against terror or is there a different culture dynamic there that bears some type of intrigue?
RUBIN: Well, there's two issues for the U.K. One, obviously, the al Qaeda and ISIS have pointed towards the U.K. as a potential next target in recent months, so that's certainly one reason that the large global terrorist organizations would say that after France had suffered attack after attack that the U.K. is next. But then again, as you imply, there is an incredible number of Muslim and British citizens from the subcontinent Pakistan, India, and there are some issues here where it's been difficult for the Islamic British citizens to become part of the greater society, that some of the previous attacks have been from disaffected young Pakistanis. Butone doesn't want to jump too much to a conclusion other than to say that the British were named by the international organizations as the next big target.
CUOMO: When something like this happens, what do feel is important for people to remember?
RUBIN: Well, I guess there are two big things. Number one is that after 9/11, the Western world decided to do all it could to prevent the kind of very complex, very effective -- what you might call a strategic attack where you were able to kill thousands and thousands of people on television in the days of 9/11. The work of the Western world, with the help of their Muslim partners, has been able for all these years now to prevent that sort of strategic attack again. But given the alienation, given the growth in smaller terrorist organizations, we are never going to be able to stop determined individuals in a free society from causing some mayhem and that's a reality that we have to live with that goes with our civil liberties and our freedoms, as painful as it is to admit.
CUOMO: And that's why you're hearing from British authorities that they will be measured in terms of how they respond and how they punish who did this. Jamie Rubin, thank you very much. It is worth pointing out this is the deadliest attack in the U.K. since those subway bombings in 2005. Some 50 people lost their lives there -- Alisyn.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So Chris, of course, we are continuing to cover the breaking news out of Manchester. We're also following new developments in Washington. Sources tell CNN that President Trump tried to convince intelligence leaders to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin before the investigation was complete. How well -- how will this affect that investigation? All of that is next on NEW DAY.
[05:39:00] CUOMO: All right. Through the morning we'll be giving you breaking developments in the Manchester arena bombing that is being investigated as a terror attack. As we learn them, as we hear about the casualties and the fatalities, we will bring you that information.
Now, we also want to cover other news morning, including some major developments in Washington. Current and former U.S. officials tell CNN President Trump didn't just ask Jim Comey to lay off Michael Flynn, he went to intelligence chiefs and asked them to publicly deny evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. This, as former national security adviser Michael Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the Russia investigation. CNN's Laura Jarrett live in Washington. What do we know? LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the president has fiercely denied any coordination between his campaign and Russia, even going so far as to slam the investigation as a witch hunt. But it now appears that privately he took his pitch to members of his own national security team in the hopes that they would publicly come to his defense and help him push back against the FBI's investigation.
[05:40:15] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JARRETT: President Trump's first international trip overshadowed by ongoing controversy back home, including stunning new revelations from U.S. officials that the president personally asked two top intelligence officials to publicly deny any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. Sources telling CNN the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers were uncomfortable with the president's request and refused to comply. President Trump reaching out after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly disclosed the Bureau's investigation in March.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
JARRETT: The Trump administration responding to this latest bombshell, saying, "The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals." According to "The Washington Post,"
Rogers documented the president's request in a memo written by a senior NSA official, which will be available to the special counsel now overseeing the Justice Department'sinvestigation, Robert Mueller. According to sources, Mueller has already reviewed Comey's handwritten memos detailing the president's early request for the FBI to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I didn't think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration and I made that very clear to candidate Trump I wouldn't let Gen. Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job.
JARRETT: Flynn's attorneys now saying that their client will invoke the Fifth Amendment, refusing to comply with a Senate Intelligence subpoena to provide a list of contacts he had with Russian officials.
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have to find out whether we have the ability to either hold Gen. Flynn in contempt or whether it's just Fifth Amendment. I've got to get the legal answer to that first.
JARRETT: President Trump's past criticism of Hillary Clinton's email scandal when her I.T. chief took the Fifth now coming back to haunt his administration.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? JARRETT: All this as the top Democrat on the House Oversight
Committee says Flynn appears to have lied to investigators about who funded his foreign trips, including a 2015 trip to Moscow.
JARRETT: Now, Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel after Memorial Day but we've also learned that he wants to speak with special counsel Mueller prior to any public testimony. Former CIA Director John Brennan will testify before the House Intel panel later today -- Alisyn, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Laura, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Let's bring in our panel to discuss it. We have CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith?" David Gregory. CNN political analyst and "Washington Examiner" senior congressional correspondent, David Drucker. And, CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" White House reporter Abby Phillip. Great to have all of you here on this special early edition of NEW DAY.
David Gregory -- so, we've learned this was more than just the president pressing Jim Comey to try to make this public admission that as the president sees it there's no collusion. Of course, the investigation has barely begun. So now he pressed these two other intel chiefs. That's not obstruction of justice but it's out of bounds according to them.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH": Well, and it sure looks like the president has something to hide. I mean, why was he working so hard to get this FBI investigation shut down?
I think part of this is -- goes back to the psychology of this president, which he is obsessed with the notion that an investigation of collusion with the Russians makes him look illegitimate as president and he can't get past it that somehow his election was tainted in some way, rather than being focused on the fact that the Russians tried to interfere with our election in a way that, as president, he's got to take responsibility for to try to protect against in the future.
And that as president, he's done nothing to try to sanction the Russians to keep the Russians at bay. In fact, we've got statements indicating just the opposite. That he wants this pressure relieved so he can pursue a normal relationship with him, all of which looks incredibly odd to say the least. This kind of reporting indicates interference that is completely inappropriate, if not illegal. Now we know that the president is looking to hire outside counsel and is ramping up that effort. So there's the Flynn piece of this, the impact of which is not altogether clear to me as we move forward, but this piece of it is so crucial.
[05:45:00] And I think it's so important to keep our eyes trained on what Jim Comey does at this point. Are we going to have to the spectacle of his testimony, taking on the president, rebutting what the president has said publicly or is the special counsel going to suggest that Comey take a lower profile while the investigation moves forward?
CUOMO: That's seeming more and more likely and you do see the different leaders of this congressional probe kind of being told to stand down in light of the special counsel. That will be an interesting dynamic in and of itself to see how it plays out.
So, Abby, one step back. We don't know what this is and we do not know what it isn't, so the idea of saying whether its obstruction of justice or not you can't say. You don't know what was actually said. You don't know what the role of the DNI and NSA are in any investigations so it would be difficult to ascribe any type of criminality to it, but it does speak to abuse of power and influence. How is it playing in the D.C. circle?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, one of the other interesting things in this report which my colleagues at "The Washington Post" first reported last night, is that these individuals who were asked to essentially drop or to come out and say that there was no collusion refused to do it because they didn't want to say something that wasn't true. And secondly, this White House seemed to not understand the boundaries that are supposed to exist between the White House and ongoing investigations. In this case, an ongoing FBI investigation.
That is a big red flag to me because it signals that there are potentially other things that they might have done in the interest of making the president feel better about an investigation that was really bothering him that we know annoys him on a deep level. And they may have tried to do more to get them to come out and say there was no collusion. And in the case of some of the reporting that my colleagues at "The Washington Post" did, White House officials pressured those officials to encourage Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.
So there are a lot of unanswered questions and right now this White House is trying to find some outside counsel to deal with these ongoing issues. For those individuals -- those attorneys who are going to come into this situation, the unknown here is the biggest risk. They do not know on some level what was said and what was done during this period when White House officials and the president himself was trying to figure out what kind of power they had over this investigation that has been such a thorn in his side.
CAMEROTA: Another unknown, David Drucker, is, of course, Michael Flynn and exactly what he was doing, and who he was talking to, and what those conversations or correspondence entailed. He is signaling now that he's going to plead the Fifth against self-incrimination and that's his right as an American. But as you heard President Trump, when one of Hillary Clinton's staffers or I.T. guy attempted to do that back in September the president ridiculed it. What is it about Michael Flynn that the president has seemed so protective of or affectionate towards when now people like Chris Christie are popping up and saying I never trusted that guy?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, I can't really understand it from this perspective. When you look at Michael Flynn, I think he's really been a cancer on this president and on this administration. Almost all of the president's troubles that are not self-inflicted when it regards to the transition, and the first few months, and Russia all emanate from Michael Flynn. His past dealings, what he didn't disclose, what he did, how that may have influenced policy,
The best thing Trump ever did, even though he was forced to under duress, was fire Michael Flynn. And it's really interesting when you juxtapose how he has treated Michael Flynn, who served this country in the armed forces admirably for many years, and how he treated James Comey, who although he wasn't a member of the armed forces served in law enforcement and at the Justice Department was in public service, and how he has trashed James Comey for weeks to justify his firing. And none of it makes any sense when you look at the problems that Flynn has caused the president versus the problems that Comey has caused the president.
CUOMO: The biggest problems that the president is facing right now in this context are abuse of power based on what's come out for what they call illegal leaks and anonymous sources. We wouldn't have known any of this stuff. But the good question for the president's perspective on this is why didn't Comey tell anybody if it was so bad? Why didn't Coats and Rogers tell anybody if it was so bad? They were just in front of the Senate Intel Committee -- this never came up. Why? That's something they're going to have to answer.
DRUCKER: As a political matter, the problem here is this is turning into a drip, drip, drip. It's a cliche but look, we have had now two and one-half weeks of almost daily scoops, and revelations, and stories, and everybody may be above board legally and the president may just be reacting because of his sense of aggrievement and fairness and he thinks he's being persecuted, but it all looks very bad. His party on the Hill is getting ready to throw him overboard and he needs to get this thing under control from the perspective --
[05:50:05] GREGORY: How?
DRUCKER: -- of how he controls himself or this is going to permanently spin out of control.
GREGORY: Yes, but the question is are they throwing him overboard? Who's standing up to Donald Trump? That's going to be a big question. Who told President Trump no? Did anybody, and if they did, is it simply a matter of the president refusing to listen? You know, one of the big questions if he hires outside counsel -- if you're a lawyer --
GREGORY: -- who's going to go work for President Trump, do you have any confidence that Trump is going to listen to you, you know, because if you remember the attack on Judge Curiel back in the campaign, at the time, in that Trump University case, Trump was represented by an excellent lawyer who told him what the answers were and Trump didn't listen? So I think that's a big question here. Whether you've got, you know, heads of intelligence agencies saying I'm uncomfortable with this, a White House counsel and attorney general. Is there anybody who has told Trump no or is Trump not listening to anybody because he's so obsessed with this question of legitimacy and is that going to be at the heart of this?
CAMEROTA: OK, panel, we'll have much more on this, obviously, throughout our program. Thank you very much. But we do have tell you about this breaking news. There's been this terror attack in Manchester, England during an Ariana Grande concert. Just at the very end there was an explosion. It is an improvised explosive device. We'll tell you all the details we have when NEW DAY continues.
[05:55:35] CAMEROTA: We're learning more about those affected by the deadly blast that rocked an arena in Manchester, England last night. The stadium had hosted thousands of young children attending an Ariana Grande concert earlier. This morning, CNN International spoke with a mother who attended that concert with her daughter and joining us now is Coral Long. She was the woman at -- one of the women at the concert with her young daughter. We have Coral via satellite so it comes in and out but just briefly I'll tell you that she was with her 10-year-old daughter. Here is a snippet of what she told CNN.
CORAL LONG, MOTHER OF 10-YEAR-OLD CONCERTGOER: Ariana had just literally finished her last song and we was getting ready to leave the arena and get our belongings together, and the next minute we just heard this almighty bang coming from the left-hand side of the arena. At that point everyone just went crazy and was running and screaming and trying to get out and jumping off of seats. We managed to get through the doors and how we wasn't crushed to death is a miracle. And the people were just pushing and pushing and pushing to get out.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL LONDON-BASED ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Did you realize right away -- you realized right away this is wrong.
GORANI: This is isn't just some sort of accidental --
LONG: Yes. The stewards -- the stewards were screaming at people to get out, to get out, and we actually came out at this entrance just here. And I knew a lot of people that was in the arena so I was frantically trying to get hold of those people. My friend's children were inside and I just needed to make sure that everybody was OK and --
GORANI: Did you see -- I mean, I can't even imagine. First of all, you hear the explosion. Did you see anyone injured? Did you see any --
LONG: We didn't because we came out of the opposite entrance to where it happened so thankfully we didn't have to go through that because opposite -- it's bad enough that my child has had to go through such a horrific experience and to see that, but I do know that a friend -- my friend's daughter, she did see what happened and obviously she was in a horrific state.
GORANI: And what is -- your daughter, Robin, is 10.
GORANI: What has -- what has she been telling you over the last several hours?
LONG: She's just been crying. She's just been crying. She's just saying why do these things happen to people? Why do they keep doing this to people? Again, she's just so worried that they're going to come to her school. I'm breaking down today because yesterday I just had to be strong for her to just remain calm and just make sure that we got home safe which, thankfully, we did.
GORANI: Because obviously police are saying they believe this is a terrorist attack. That means that someone targeted children, right, because, I mean, the age group that -- the target -- the demographic of Ariana Grande fans --
GORANI: -- are girls you daughter's age.
LONG: Exactly. There was children in there as young as five. There was a little girl literally in front of me who was that small. She had to stand on her seat just to watch the concert. And so people to see their idols -- the children to see their idols and then have this then impact them the rest of their lives is disgusting. These people are cowards. They're just sick cowards.
CAMEROTA: Of course, we are continuing to follow the latest on the terror in Manchester, so we have breaking news coverage continuing now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Tuesday, May 23rd, 6:00 here in New York, and we do begin with breaking news. At least 22 people killed, including children. Dozens more are injured in this terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. (Video playing) This was a chaotic scene. You can see it on your screen. It unfolded when an explosion occurred just after the pop singer finished performing at the Manchester Arena. This is the deadliest attack on British soil since the subway bombings there in 2005.
CUOMO: Now, those were, of course, coordinated attacks and that's the big question right now for investigators. Who was this bomber? Was there help? The device, of course, suggests some level of sophistication. This arena holds 21,000. Many people are still unaccounted for. The numbers that you hear will likely change in terms of the victims. Now, right now, police are focusing on just one lone suicide bomber who was uniquely positioned in this enclosed are that connects the concert hall to Victoria Station.