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22 Killed, Dozens Injured In Manchester Arena Blast; Sources: Trump Asked DNI & NSA Officials To Deny Russia Evidence; Flynn Risks Being Held In Contempt;23-Year-Old Arrested In Connection With Manchester Attack. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 23, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:15] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We are following breaking news. Officers making an arrest in connection with a bombing that killed 22 people and injured dozens in Manchester, England. Police arresting a 23-year-old man in the southern part of that city. The explosion happened as an Ariana Grande concert was letting out. Authorities say a suicide bomber is behind the blast. Investigators believe they've identified him but are not releasing his name yet.

Obviously, when we see things like this abroad at something like a concert it harkens us back to what could happen here at home, and could we prevent something like this? Joining us now is Lisa Monaco. She's a CNN national security analyst. She's also the former Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama. Thank you for being with us --


CUOMO: -- this morning. When you look at this attack what stands out for you in terms of a threat assessment?

MONACO: Well, look, unfortunately it's an all-too-familiar scene now that we're seeing again. A strike appearing to be the work of a lone suicide bomber but it's early days, right? The British security services and intel services will be doing their work. We're only 12 or so hours into this. We see a -- yet again, targeting what we call soft targets -- public venues, areas for maximum effect and maximum terror, unfortunately.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And it's also familiar, as you said. I mean, just in 2015 -- we have a graphic that shows just how many terror attacks. Look at what's going -- gone on in Europe. I mean, these are just the ones that we gave the most coverage to and that we remember most vividly. Is this a trend? Is this a pattern? What do you see when you look at that map?

MONACO: Well, look, what we see is that our partners in Europe are not immune to, in many cases, the foreign fighter set that we've seen emerge out of Iraq and Syria. We're -- we've been making tremendous progress in the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. Some 55 percent of the territory that ISIS once held is now no longer theirs but what does that mean on the back end? It means, quite frankly, that we're seeing also a bulge of those foreign fighters who've traveled there -- some 40,000, our counterterrorism experts assess. Forty thousand individuals have traveled to Iraq and Syria to come back to some 120 countries that have been the source of those foreign fighters.

CUOMO: But that's not what it takes anymore, right?

MONACO: Right.

CUOMO: I mean, when we're talking about these lone wolves. You could be self-radicalized. You could be somebody who feels an affinity for these murderers but not really among their number. Is that the bigger concern here in the United States, that somebody who identifies with that group but isn't necessarily a part of it?

MONACO: Certainly, here, that's one of our main concerns. It's one of the things that, frankly, kept me up at night when I was working in the White House. An individual who doesn't need to travel, who doesn't need to get any training. Who, frankly, doesn't need to be directed by anybody overseas but, rather, can do what we call "self- radicalize." Radicalize themselves online, on the internet, from the, frankly, comfort and security of their own home.

CAMEROTA: That feels like such an intractable problem. I mean, where do counterterrorism officials even begin?

MONACO: This is the big challenge for our law enforcement and intelligence services. How do you understand, how do you know when something goes wrong in someone's mind? And this, frankly, is the biggest challenge that we face. It's what we have called, in the counterterrorism profession, a new phase in the terror threat.

CUOMO: Well, that's why community is so important and that's why you hear so much talk about not alienating Muslims -- American-Muslims -- or certainly they dealt with that outside Paris -- is that you need communities to tell you about members that seem radical within their midst -- extremism in their midst. That's something that should not be ignored?

MONACO: That's exactly right. I mean, we built up, through the work of tremendous efforts by intelligence and law enforcement officials since 9/11, a net to identify the internationally organized terror threat. That same net is not able to catch this type of homegrown, as we say, radicalized individuals. Again, we don't know what has happened in Manchester. We don't the source of that. We don't know if this individual had a --

CUOMO: And there's been no claim of responsibility. No word from ISIS or al Qaeda --

MONACO: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- or any of them.

MONACO: And we should be watching for all those things. But this concern the counterterrorism professionals have of the -- what we call "homegrown self-radicalized" individual is the biggest challenge and we do need to rely on communities to help us get after that threat.

CAMEROTA: President Trump is in Israel, as you know. He has spoken about this and who he believes the culprits are. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are. They're losers and we'll have more of them, but they're losers. Just remember that.


[07:35:35] CAMEROTA: I mean that, of course, is vintage President Trump-speak. Does it matter what we call them?

MONACO: To some degree I think it does, right? These are fanatics who are undertaking these attacks to terrorize individuals and to glorify themselves. They're seeking glory to do this. So we should not play into that with our rhetoric. We shouldn't do so by pasting an entire religion with a label as being an enemy and we've seen that in the change from President Trump and his speech in Saudi Arabia, and nor should we be elevating them and making them seem like they're 10 feet tall.

CAMEROTA: But losers works.

MONACO: Losers works. Murderous thugs also works. Criminals works, terrorist works. That's what they are.

CUOMO: Anything that doesn't glorify or celebrate them. That's the pushback on saying Islamic terror, is that you are giving them ownership of the faith which is exactly what they want.

MONACO: Several things. It's ownership of the faith, which is what they want. It is playing into something that they use to recruit individuals to their cause, saying that they are engaged in a clash of civilizations -- a fight of us and them. We don't want to play into that and their -- by aid, their recruiting message. And, quite frankly, our partners, some of whom President Trump has just visited, will be the first ones to tell you there is nothing Islamic about these terrorists.

CAMEROTA: Lisa Monaco, we appreciate your expertise. Sorry it's under these circumstances. Thanks for being here.

MONACO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So, there's new trouble at home for President Trump. What sources are telling CNN about the president's conversation with intelligence heads that has those involved in the Russia investigation concerned? That's next.


[07:40:55] CAMEROTA: Now to this developing story. Current and former U.S. officials tell CNN that President Trump asked top intelligence chiefs to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia. This, as his former national security adviser Michael Flynn refuses to turn over documents related to the Russia investigation. CNN's Laura Jarrett is live in Washington with more. What have you learned, Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the president has fiercely denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election, even slamming the investigation as a witch hunt. But it now appears that privately he made a 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.


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's investigation, 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-VA) VICE CHAIRMAN, 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.

TRUMP: 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: Chris, Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel after Memorial Day but we've learned that he wants to speak with special counsel Mueller before he goes public. Former CIA Director John Brennan will testify before the House Intel Committee later today.

CUOMO: Everything could really change with this special counsel and what he wants and what he sees as owned by his investigation, so we know you'll stay on that. Laura, appreciate it.

So what do these new reports mean for President Trump? The reporter who broke the story about the president's talks with this intel chiefs joins us next.


[07:48:20] CUOMO: Current and former U.S. officials tell CNN President Trump asked top intel chiefs to publicly deny evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. The story was first reported by "The Washington Post" and joining us now one of the reporters who broke that story, "Washington Post" writer Adam Entous. Also with us, CNN political analyst David Gregory, and "CNN POLITICS" reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza. Adam, first, how do I say your last name the right way?


CUOMO: I was close enough. All right. Adam, let's talk about the reporting that you have, the types of sourcing, and your confidence in what it means.

ENTOUS: Yes. I mean, we are quoting here two current -- two former officials with knowledge of what occurred here. And keep in mind that Admiral Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency -- one of the officials at his agency drafted an internal memo documenting Rogers' conversation with the president, so this is among the additional information that we have to kind of document that communication.

And, obviously, what it means is, you know, you get a sense of Trump's -- President Trump's frame of mind. Obviously, he was very concerned about what Comey had said in his testimony on March 20th about the scope of the investigation, looking at potential coordination between the Russians and his campaign and he wanted to push back. CAMEROTA: And Adam, just give us a little bit more of the circumstances that were around this. So we know that President Trump wanted somebody to publicly state this. What was their reaction to him?

ENTOUS: Yes. I think, according to the officials we spoke to, both Rogers and the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, were both -- were both surprised and thought it was inappropriate for the president to make that request, both because there's an ongoing FBI investigation and because, you know, the intelligence agencies -- they like to see themselves. They try to be separate from partisan issues and being pulled into this, you know, political fray over Russia was the last thing that they wanted to do.

[07:50:30] CUOMO: Chris Cillizza, but not upset enough to say anything. Their memos, as Adam talks, and we had similar reporting with Comey -- but not to say anything to any other officials. Not to say anything publicly. Not even to leak it at the time so that it would get out there. So what does that tell us about a balanced sense of the urgency of any entreaties by the president?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well look, I mean, I think at some level these guys are company men, right? These are people who in many cases -- Dan Coats, the DNI, is a former U.S. senator two times over. These are people who spent a lot of time inside this massive federal bureaucracy. I mean, these are people who -- Comey, same thing, you know. So I think that their first tendency is not to go and say I can't believe this happened, I'm going to go tell someone publicly. I think they do make sure they cover themselves. We saw Comey with memos. We see Rogers with an internal memo here, as Adam reports. So I actually think some of that is a function of who they are and how they sort of run their lives. They are not people who are typically going to just go and turn to the media.

What I would say, though, is in all these cases, Comey and now Rogers and Coats, you've seen they were uncomfortable with it. They felt it was a breach of protocol and this is a pattern with Donald Trump. This latest reporting the Adam and his colleague, Ellen Nakashima, this is not a random one-off asking Comey if he was under investigation, asking Comey if he could drop the Flynn thing.

He -- Donald Trump has no sense that there are boundaries. I wrote a piece this morning. He operates the government like a business. In business, I got a problem with somebody, you go talk to them and see if they can work it out. You know, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. That's not how the federal government works, right, and he seems blithely either unaware or uncaring that those things are two different ways that you run things.

CAMEROTA: So, David, politically, how big of a deal is this?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it goes to the heart of the matter which is why is he trying to hide something? I mean, why is the president so sensitive about this investigation moving forward? We know some aspects of his mindset. One, that he's obsessed with the idea of his own legitimacy and he takes the whole Russian interference fact as a way to undercut his legitimacy rather than saying no, I'm actually a legitimately elected President of the United States and I need to protect the office and protect our electoral system, so let me understand.I mean, this is what Chris is alluding to. It's not just that he runs it like a business, he doesn't respect the checks and balances.


GREGORY: He doesn't respect the institutions that are always bigger than the person who's involved. That's was he doesn't have reverence for, which is so disappointing. And so, whatever's going on, whether it's -- whether there was something -- whether there's something there, whether there was some kind of collusion, we don't know. The fact that he's interfering is so completely inappropriate.

And Chris, you've been raising this all morning. I think it's a fair point. Why didn't these individuals do more at the time? I think you have to separate out who's involved. Why didn't Jim Comey do more other than write memos to cover what was going on? Presumably, he didn't trust the Justice Department with that information. I don't think in any of these cases they automatically leak and I don't think they're leaking in this case. I think it's people who are close to them and now there's a certain momentum in all of that to try to fight back against the administration where you've got a lot of people, even close to the president, who are leaking out this information because they're very concerned about how he's been behaving.

CUOMO: Well, you've got, Adam -- you have the notion of how wrong did they thing it was, why didn't they say anything? I mean that's relevant, especially if you're going to look at some kind of malfeasance argument. Something about how this extends beyond just bad politics becauseI don't know what your sense is to whether or not the defense of, you know, I didn't know that this was the wrong thing to do because I'm really a businessman. I don't know that businessmen feel that you're supposed to contact government officials and try to interfere with whatever investigations that you're concerned in. But what is your take on what the defense is by the White House, other than that you and we are terrible reporters and our sources are all fake?

ENTOUS: Yes. I mean, at this point we really haven't gotten a substantive response from the administration as to what President Trump was aiming for with those conversations. I do think you kind of need to look at the whole pattern of conduct until this point. I mean, there was an earlier episode in February where the White House was basically asking intelligence -- the top -- the committee chairman of the Intelligence Committees on the Hill, as well as -- as well as, you know top intelligence officials in the intelligence agencies to push back at a "New York Times" report which alleged that there was frequent contact between Russian officials -- Russian intelligence officials and members of the Trump campaign.

[07:55:25] And so, in that case, of course, the White House was trying to orchestrate pushing back at a "New York Times" story, not to an FBI director who had just testified about the scope of his investigation. So those are very different types of things for the administration to try to refute. And so, I do think that investigators will look at the pattern here of similar activities taking place in recent months. Whether or not Trump really understands that he's crossing the line or doesn't care, I don't think we know the answer to that yet.

CAMEROTA: So, Chris --


CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead.

CILLIZZA: I was just going to say, Alisyn, I'm not convinced, certainly from a political perspective, that it matters that much. I think Adam's right. The question always with Trump is, is this three dimensional chess or is he just doing and sayings things, right? Is it a grand strategy we can't all see or is there no strategy at all? But the thing is, ultimately, the attempts to use people you should not be using and contacting to influence things, it doesn't -- I mean, intent matters at some level but doing that in and of itself, politically speaking --

David makes the right point, which is it makes it look like there is something behind all this smoke that Donald Trump doesn't want to come out. Now there may not be but from everything -- from the way that he's interacted with the Russians, to how he continues to defend Michael Flynn, to the questions to Comey, to this. To, as Adam points out, trying to push back on that "Times" story with the intelligence. It all suggests that he's trying to make sure that this things ends. That his influence is felt in a way that brings this to a conclusion sooner rather than later. All of that makes you look not as though you have -- it makes you look like you have something to hide which he insists publicly he doesn't because this is all fake news and total hoax and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: So it can't be both of those things. If it's a total hoax you should say, say whatever you want because I'm totally innocent in this. I want my name cleared.

GREGORY: But you've got a special counsel who's digging into all of this, who's going to dig into whether there is any violation of the law. But I think as journalists, as citizens, we can hold the president accountable for a disturbing pattern of behavior that's being reported on. When we covered him during the campaign, and you heard him during these debates, what are some of the things he said? I may not accept the outcome of the election.


GREGORY: That he would put his political opponent in jail. That's how an authoritarian talks. And now, we have reporting indicating that he's trying to abuse power by snuffing out an investigation by the FBI, by clearly overreaching his authority as President of the United States. These things must force some kind of accountability. We have to get to the bottom of what actually occurred here. Yes, I'm sure the president's upset about these leaks but that's part of a democratic system.


GREGORY: That people do speak up, sometimes anonymously, when people in high power are doing things they shouldn't be doing, and this is going to help us, I think, get to the bottom of what's going on.

CUOMO: And boy, did he love the leaks when they were working in his favor during the campaign. But, though, you make a good point, David. We don't know anything until Comey and these intel chiefs come and say that this was actually said to them. The memos, the reporting may be real but the political impact won't come until you hear from their mouths.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Adam, thanks for sharing your reporting with us.

CUOMO: All right, we have a lot of news. We have Senators Marco Rubio and Joe Manchin here to discuss what these events mean to the overall understanding of the Russia probe, but we also have breaking details in the Manchester terror attack. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 23rd, 8:00 in the East, and we are following breaking news for you.


Police have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with a deadly terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. At least 22 people were killed, including children, dozens of others wounded. The blast happened after the pop singer finished her performance at the Manchester Arena and you can see the chaos.

CUOMO: People are still unaccounted for. We hear the venue held 21,000. It was supposedly sold out. Here's what we know about the investigation. Police are saying even though they just made a second arrest that it was carried out by a lone suicide bomber. He used an IED, an improvised explosive device. The British prime minister condemned the attack. President Trump condemned it, calling the terrorists behind it "evil losers." We have it all covered.

Let's go first to CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward, live in Manchester. One arrest made so far, plus the bomber, so two people involved but there could be more, right?