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Interview with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Manchester Arena Blast Kills 22; Probe into Russia Election Meddling; Michael Flynn to Plead the Fifth; Trump's Middle East Trip. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 23, 2017 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[08:32:18] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're following two big stories this morning. A terror attack at a concert in Manchester, England. And back home here we have growing developments into the Russia probe.

Joining us now to talk about both is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. He's a member of the Senate Intel Committee. It's conducting its own probe into Russia's role in the 2016 election.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

Obviously, you do a lot of work in the committee on intelligence. When you hear about the terror threat that we're dealing with at home and then you see what happened in Manchester, what is your greatest concern?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, first, it's good to be with you, Chris. And next of all, when you see these horrific news stories coming out and my heart goes out to the families, to all of those who have lost their lives, to their families, and to those who have been injured, I understand there's quite a few that are still injured and on the unknown status at this time. So, it's horrific.

I think what it does, it explains to people in the United States of America why we're so intertwined and dependent on our intelligence. The intelligence, if we gather accurately, which we have the best in the world, the intel community in the United States of America, working with the U.K. and other allies. work 24/7 trying to keep us safe, making sure these things can be prevented. You're going to have these horrific accidents and horrific tragedies being committed and trying to do and disrupt our lives, but our intelligence committee is someone we have to put trust in. And I think this even shows the importance of why we should be working closer together, why we should be giving them the tools they need and basically encourage this interaction that we have among the international intelligence community.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see what happens going forward with that relationship.

MANCHIN: Yes.

CUOMO: It's obviously evolving with a new administration.

MANCHIN: Right.

CUOMO: But the need is clearly great.

Let's talk about the investigating that's going on back here at home. What do you make of these reports that Donald Trump went to the head of the DNI and head of NSA and asked them to come out and say there is no evidence of collusion?

MANCHIN: Chris, these are all troubling. I mean they keep coming day after day after day. We need to get these reports into the intelligence committee, into the professional staffs. We can dissect and look at it and tell what's real or not real and move from there.

You would think that people would want to clear this up. If you're innocent, if you've got nothing to hide, if you have no involvement of any way, shape or form, make sure people come forth. Let's get a clarity to this. That's what we're there for. And the people -- the American people need to have trust. And I want to make sure that they should have trust in the Senate Intelligence Committee because we're not on the so-called witch hunt. That will not happen in this committee. We will go wherever the intel facts take us. That should take us to the truth and the truth basically sets a direction of course that you have to take.

[08:35:08] CUOMO: Senator, what does it mean to you that Comey had an opportunity while testifying to talk about who was impeding his investigation? He was asked in the context of the DOJ, but he could have said whatever he wanted. You just had the heads of the DNI and NSA before your committee. They had opportunity to talk about this issue generally and specifically, but they chose not to. Does that make you question how intense the pressure was that they felt from the president?

MANCHIN: Well, it makes you think and consider how uncomfortable they were setting in the setting in front of us in an open and closed session in the Intelligence Committee. I don't recall anyone asking the direct question of what just came out -- information that came out. But if there was something to be said, you would have thought in -- in the course of a conversation, especially in a closed intel when there's no one there but us and our staff, that some of this could have been discussed. It hasn't. So it leads us to where we want to know where. We want them to come back. We want to make sure they give us all the records they have. And let's put an end to this one way or another.

You know, I've said this, if you're innocent, help us let you prove that you're innocent. Don't make us work on the presumption that you're guilty. That's pretty simple.

CUOMO: Who are you talking about with that statement?

MANCHIN: I'm talking about anybody and everybody that's been mentioned. I want to get clarity to this. From the president on down, get this behind. If you've got people that basically have -- were involved and there has been a compromising of any way, shape or form of our United States of America, our government, our way of life, we're not going to tolerate it. And the rule of law applies to all of us. A person who's having hard times could be homeless right now to the top of the food chain. No one's going to be immune from the law -- the word -- you know, the rule of law in America.

CUOMO: What does it mean to you that Michael Flynn may take the fifth?

MANCHIN: It's not the Michael Flynn I knew way back when. I mean, you know, Michael came before us many times in his role as the -- as a general and basically spoke about the things that he was working on, security he was involved with, came before the Armed Services Committee. And now for him to take this direction, that's not the Michael Flynn I knew before. I don't know what happened, but I would say to Mr. Flynn, please, Mr. Flynn, come forward and work with us. Don't -- don't make us pull everything out tooth by tooth by tooth.

CUOMO: You know, Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, was just on. He said, you know, I'll tell you what concerns me, is not just these reports, but their sources, the leaks, could be compromising national security, could make foreign leaders not want to work with us. What has come out that would compromise national security or chill a foreign leader?

MANCHIN: Well, I guess the old saying that loose lips sink ships and people are concerned, can they trust us with information, can they trust us with the intel. We need to --

CUOMO: Right, but that applies to the president, senator.

MANCHIN: That -- that --

CUOMO: He's the one who may or may not have leaked sensitive information in a meeting. Not the media. If not for these leaks --

MANCHIN: Well, the media -- the --

CUOMO: Who knows whether or not the White House would have operated on what was going on with Michael Flynn. We wouldn't have heard about these Comey memos. We wouldn't have heard about these conversations with the DNI and NSA. Are the leaks the problem here?

MANCHIN: Let me say this. If those people who have this information that the so-called leaks are coming from, come and leak it to the Intelligence Committee, come and leak it to the professionals, come and leak it to the staff that has the ability to go through the sources to find out if they're credible or not. Don't play them out in the news media, which they are, and you all are doing your job, and that's exactly what you should be doing. But if they really want to get to the source of the problem, if they want to clear this mess up and get some -- and get some confidence back in the American public, that this government can function and protect them. We took an oath. All of us took the same oath. So I would say to all those who have sensitive information, come to us. We'd love to have it. If you want to come in force, come before us. If you want to give us the information, give us and let us sort it out. But we have a professional staff that can do this job.

CUOMO: Senator, we always hope that the reporting that we get helps to motivate action in government. Thank you for joining us, Senator Joe Manchin, as always.

MANCHIN: Let me say this --

CUOMO: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: Chris, you -- you've got us motivated and I appreciate the job you're doing. And now I'm asking everyone else to help us do our job better and get clarity on this.

CUOMO: Understood. Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, thank you very much.

MANCHIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, we will have the latest in the deadly terror attack at Manchester Arena. We will hear from a teenager who was there.

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[08:43:28] CUOMO: We are following breaking news. ISIS claiming responsibility for the terror attack in Manchester, England. The attack has killed 22 people so far. Dozens more are injured. The explosion happened at the end of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Officers have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with this bombing. They believe it was carried out by a suicide bomber who blew up an IED at the scene. British Prime Minister Theresa May says police believe they know the attackers identity. They are not releasing it at this time.

CAMEROTA: Well, Jessica Prepoint is a teenager who traveled from Liverpool, her home, to Manchester to see Ariana Grande perform last night and she was in the Manchester Arena when this attack struck. Jessica and her mom Jenny join us now.

Jessica, we're so happy to see that you're safe. Tell us what happened right as the concert ended and the chaos started. What did you see and hear?

JESSICA PREPOINT, EYEWITNESS TO MANCHESTER ATTACK: Well, she just left and basically every time you want to leave the arena, you have to climb a set amount of steps which leads you out into like the main area to exit the arena itself. And so everybody was just leaving out of their seat and I think everybody was just lining up until we heard like the first explosion. And, honestly, nobody knew what it was at the time and a lot of people thought it was a gun. I thought it was a gun at first. What I just remember seeing screams and like (INAUDIBLE) and just seeing everybody crying and, you know, just running. [08:45:19] CAMEROTA: And was -- I mean, obviously, there was so much

panic when you heard those sounds that you thought was a gun. Was there a stampede?

JESSICA PREPOINT: Oh, yes. Definitely. People were climbing up the bleacher there. And I lost a friend at the time who I was with and I got really, really worried because everybody was just in such a rush to leave, to get themselves out and safe. And people were just climbing off the higher tier (ph) areas just to escape.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Did you find your friend?

JESSICA PREPOINT: Yes, I did.

CAMEROTA: So, Jenny, when you heard that something terrible had happened at this concert, what was going on with you? How -- how quickly were you able to connect then with Jessica?

JENNY PREPOINT, DAUGHTER WAS AT ARIANA GRANDE CONCERT: She phoned me at the time when it happened and I thought she was (INAUDIBLE) obviously excited because she had met Ariana Grande. But it was just one (ph) (INAUDIBLE). And (INAUDIBLE) shocked (ph) go from shocked and, of course, the pictures that I have in my head was (INAUDIBLE). And then she just said there's been bombs exploded, like something's exploded, and like (INAUDIBLE) I was just out of my mind because obviously I wasn't there. I was in a different city and I just wanted to get to her and be with her. It was (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's so terrifying.

And, Jessica, this was supposed to be a dream come true for you. You were going to meet Ariana Grade and you did that and then all of this unfolded.

JESSICA PREPOINT: Yes, I mean, it is an 18th present for me because I met her a couple of years ago, but it was a very awesome (ph) experience and like I really wanted to be able to have the chance to see her again. And so it was a present from my family for my 18th and -- last November and it just seemed to turn to like the worst nightmare you can think of.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, Jessica, take care of yourself. Obviously, it takes a long time to be able to recover, even if you're not physically injured. And, Jenny, we're so glad that you're reunited with your daughter there. Thank you both for taking the time to talk to us about what happened last night.

JESSICA PREPOINT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CUOMO: What a thing to live through, but at least she's one of the lucky ones.

The president's trip in Israel is wrapping up. He's going to be heading to Rome in just a few minutes. This is a live look at Air Force One on the tarmac. How's the foreign trip going? Will it matter here at home? It's part of "The Bottom Line," next.

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[08:51:36] CUOMO: President Trump is about to depart from Israel and head to Rome for the next leg of his foreign trip. New reports back here at home are dogging him, though, about the Russia probe. So, is he going to escape the cloud of controversy while abroad? Will the impact of the trip abroad help boost him back here at home? Let's discuss "The Bottom Line" from CNN political reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza.

First, how has he done? What will it mean back here at home?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I think he's done fine, Chris, as long as he stays on script and reads the teleprompter, Franky, he's OK. His worst moment thus far is when he took the question yesterday with Benjamin Netanyahu and talked about the fact that he never mentioned the word Israel in the meeting with two top Russian officials. No one said he did. So, you know, when he speaks off the cuff, when he freelances, he gets himself into trouble.

These trips tend to be extremely carefully planned and strategized. So if he sticks to the script, he'll be just fine. But to answer your question, no, that will not, I think, help him in any meaningful, long term way with the problems he has here at home.

CAMEROTA: And those problems, Chris, just feel as though they're coming in such rapid fire succession now. We've said this for a long time. Obviously we've all -- everyone, whether you're in the press or not, talks about this, you know, break neck news cycle.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But does something feel, in Washington, as though it has changed? Since say Comey's firing, have things ramped up and accelerated?

CILLIZZA: Yes, look, I mean the pace that Donald Trump makes news is unheard of, both because his access to social media, his willingness to just talk, his willingness to give interviews, frankly, but also because of the level of interest in him. So the number of people who are interested in him is larger, I think, than any president before. It is undoubtable picked up, Alisyn, I think, since the Comey firing. You know that's now, let's see, Comey was fired on a Tuesday afternoon, so we're now not even two weeks into it. And I went through over the weekend and just documented the number of things that have happened, negative news stories about Donald Trump in those two weeks. It's mindboggling and I guarantee you both that you probably have forgotten some of them, whereas if it was any other president, this would be a month's long conversation. So in a way the pace -- and, again, I don't know if this is strategy or accident (ph), in a way the pace helps him because you wind up forgetting things. There's too many stories. But the --

CUOMO: Right. We talk about that all the time that --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: He benefits from the surplusage (ph). You know, but at the same time, you know, people will say, oh, 90 plus percent of the coverage on Trump is negative, but they're not looking at the cause of the stories --

CILLIZZA: Well, yes, those studies --

CUOMO: And you could argue very easily he got a pass on what he said about Israel at that presser yesterday because he's overseas, because there is this inclination to be balanced in terms of taking a look at what's happening there and not just micromanage. But him saying, I never mentioned Israel, was a real -- a bad fact for him to put out there because it just suggests what that whole conversation was about.

CILLIZZA: That's right. And, Chris, to your point, some of those studies that say -- and I -- and people send me them every day to prove how bias the media is, but they'll (ph) say, well, most of Donald Trump's coverage's is negative. Donald Trump is doing a lot of things that he probably shouldn't be doing. We don't dictate Donald Trump talking to two top Russian officials and telling them classified information. We don't dictate Donald Trump asking Jim Comey, while he was the FBI director, to stop investigating Michael Flynn, right? We cover those things. We report on those things. We talk about those things.

[08:55:21] He continues -- the more he talks off the cuff, the more he tweets without approval from anyone else, the more trouble he gets in. What you have seen in this first 125, 130 days thus far of his presidency, this is a guy whose presidency has been detailed by himself, by self-inflected wounds that are a result of a lack of message discipline and a lack of personal discipline in terms of who he talks to, what he says both publically and privately. Those are facts that I really do believe are beyond dispute. No matter how much you hate me -- no one hates Alisyn -- but me or Chris Cuomo.

CAMEROTA: Great point. On that note --

CUOMO: Good point.

CAMEROTA: We should leave it there. Chris Cillizza, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CUOMO: So our breaking news coverage of the bombing in Manchester, England, of course, will continue through the day and on CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman, which will pick up after this very quick break.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.

News breaking by the minute this morning. In last night's horrific attack at a concert in Manchester, England, that concert filled with teenagers and children.