Return to Transcripts main page


Congressional Investigators Awaiting Comey Memos; CBO: 3 Million More Uninsured Under GOP Health Care Bill; Manchester Bomber's Brother Arrested in Separate Plot in Libya' Leak Details Trump Call with Controversial Filipino Leader. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. Missed deadlines. The FBI has failed so far to give congressional investigators memos by former director James Comey about conversations with President Trump that Comey found disturbing. Two committees are now weighing next steps. Will they issue subpoenas?

Intelligence correction. Israel says it's made a pointed correction after President Trump divulged classified information to top Russian officials. Did the president jeopardize a critical anti-ISIS operation?

Terror network. British investigators now believe the Manchester suicide bomber was part of a wider terror web, and now his brother has been arrested in Libya, suspected in a separate terror plot. What are their links to ISIS?

And losing coverage. The impact of the revised Republican health care bill is now out. The Congressional Budget Office says it would leave 23 million more Americans without health care coverage over the next decade. What impact will have that have on the bill's future?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Congressional investigators are awaiting FBI memos written by fired Director James Comey. The documents are believed to include details of President Trump's request for the FBI to back off its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to turn over any relevant memos or tapes by today.

Also breaking right now, we're just getting the report by the non- partisan Congressional Budget Office on the revised Republican health care bill. It says the plan would result in 23 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026.

And there's breaking news in the Manchester terror attack. The brother of the suicide bomber who killed 22 people has been arrested in Libya on suspicion of links to ISIS. Police there say he was allegedly plotting a separate terror attack. A family friend tells CNN the father of the men took them from Manchester to Libya to try to keep them out of trouble.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Adam Kinzinger of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.

Meanwhile, two congressional committees are waiting for memos they requested from the FBI in which fired Director James Comey details his conversations with President Trump.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is working this story for us. Jessica, so far no memos.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all, Wolf. We've been checking in regularly with the committees awaiting those documents from the FBI, but still, they have not been delivered.

Now Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is saying he might call on Special Counsel Robert Mueller to meet with him and Senator Dianne Feinstein if the FBI doesn't turn those documents over to find out exactly what documents and details might end up being withheld by Mueller's investigators.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight lawmakers are waiting for the FBI to turn over memos that fired Director James Comey wrote, documenting his meetings with President Trump, including one where the president allegedly told Comey, "I hope you can let this go," referring to the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The House Oversight and Senate Judiciary Committees demanded acting FBI director Andrew McCabe submit any memos or tapes, but neither committee has received them.

This week House intelligence chairman Jason Chaffetz announced public testimony from Comey, originally scheduled for today, would be postponed until after Memorial Day to give Comey time to meet with recently-appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill investigations into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russia continue to ramp up. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort just submitted 300 documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee containing drafts of speeches, calendars and notes from his time with the campaign.


SCHNEIDER: But so far Michael Flynn isn't cooperating. Flynn plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and hasn't complied with subpoenas from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. That refusal has prompted the Senate Intelligence Committee to send two new subpoenas to businesses run by Flynn for records, with a May 30 deadline.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE: If in fact there's not a response we'll seek additional counsel advice on how to proceed forward. At the end OF that have option is a contempt charge, and I've said that everything is on table.

SCHNEIDER: While President Trump travels abroad, his legal team is assembling here at home. Marc Kasowitz is expected to lead the team of outside lawyers on the Russia probe. Kasowitz has represented Trump for more than 15 years, but he also represents a Russian bank and a Russian business tycoon with ties to Vladimir Putin.

[17:05:14] Meanwhile, the White House is resetting its search for an FBI director after wide-ranging dissatisfaction with the leading candidate, former Senator Joe Lieberman, all while Paul Ryan put forth a muted defense of fired Director James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know the former FBI director Jim Comey. Does it prefer to you that the president referred to the former FBI director as a nut job?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, I don't agree with that, and I -- and he's not.


SCHNEIDER: And tonight sources tell CNN special counsel Robert Mueller has been briefed on those memos from James Comey. Mueller has also visited FBI headquarters, where he met with counterintelligence agents who have been working on the Russia investigation since July.

Important details, very fast moving story, I must say that. Jessica Schneider, thank you.

Much more on Russia but another breaking store they hour. The Congressional Budget Office score of the revised Republican health care bill is now out. I want to go to our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, the report says 23 million more Americans would be uninsured under this bill?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. That's one of the big headlines coming out of of this much-anticipated analysis from the non-partisan CBO, coming three weeks notably after the House passed their version of the bill.

The CBO out with their analysis tonight, finding that if that bill ultimately becomes law, 23 million more people will become uninsured over the next ten years. That's notable because that's 1 million better than the previous score which was given before the last changes were made to that House bill. It also finds important numbers here on deficit reductions. It would

save $119 billion by 2026. That number was so important, because procedurally, they needed to hit a certain level, a threshold, and this bill indeed does find that they met and exceeded that deficit reduction threshold.

So that essentially bottom line means that the House does not have to vote on this health care bill again. It passes it over to the Senate, where we know Senate negotiators have already been hard at work.

The expectation is here, Wolf, that they will make considerable changes to the bill as they work through this. We will likely see in the coming days, really, Democrats seized on that number, 23 million more people would become uninsured under this bill.

We know the pushback from Republicans has consistently been that they don't trust the CBO, that they don't believe that they're coming out with accurate numbers, noting that number -- number and coverage estimates that came under Obamacare were off in the end, so likely that pushback to come up here on Capitol Hill tonight. But certainly, some crucial data points here for Senate negotiators as they push forward to their version of the bill.

BLITZER: Yes, 23 million Americans would not have health insurance that they have right now within the next decade. Thanks very much, Sunlen Serfaty.

Let's get some more on all of this. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, he's joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: I want to get to the CBO score in a moment. But first, on the Russian investigation, as you know, the House Oversight Committee still hasn't received the Comey memos from the FBI. The memos are presumably significant to the question of whether the president tried to interfere with this entire investigation.

Here's the question. Should congressional investigators have access to those documents?

KINZINGER: Well, I'd like to see them have access to the documents. I think if this investigation continues, they need all the information in front of them. As I've said many times, the American people deserve the bottom line answer. Whatever happened, we deserve to know and that's how you restore faith in the democracy in the long run.

At the same time I think it's extremely important that Robert Mueller have access to all of this, because what we've done with this special counsel is basically say that we're trying to take, as best we can, and it's a very hyper partisan time right now. But trying to take the partisan politics out of this and let somebody as respected as Robert Mueller sift through all it, he's already compiling information and hitting the ground running. And hopefully, when that is all said and done, that's the investigation that I think a lot of people are putting their hopes and faith into to say, "Let's just find out, you know, in the end of the day what really happened, and the answer is, and we'll know.

BLITZER: Yes, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, now the special counsel investigating all of this. As you also know, Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser, is asserting his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify before Congress or even to turn over any of the requested documents.

Should he be held in contempt for refusing to provide that kind of evidence, the documents?

KINZINGER: So that's a hard one for me to answer, because I don't know exactly what the Fifth Amendment covers. I've heard some people say that, when it comes to business-type issues, the Fifth Amendment doesn't cover that. But I've also heard a lot of people have said, "Hey, the Fifth Amendment is to defend somebody against self- incrimination, whether or not they believe they're guilty."

[17:10:10] So it's really hard to say whether that rises to the level of contempt. I really wish General Flynn would participate. I think it's important, again, to get all the information out there. What was his role? When did he talk to the Russians? What did he know, you know? What was his business connections with them? That's all information we want to know.

In terms of the Constitutional question, of does that fall under the Fifth Amendment? If it does, then he probably shouldn't be held in contempt, because that's his constitutional protection. If, however, that window does not cover that, then that's for the committee to decide. And frankly, I think it may be a good process to go forward with.

But again, I'm not the -- the expert on exactly what the nuances of that are.

BLITZER: Let me also get your reaction to the former CIA director, John Brennan, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia may have led U.S. persons down what he called a treasonous path, perhaps even unwittingly. Based on what you know about Russian intelligence services, in your sense is that a plausible scenario?

KINZINGER: It's very plausible. I think, look, when Russians recruit -- and this is, I guess, kind of general spy craft -- and you try to gain somebody's trust. You try to have interaction with them. You try to have a relationship with them. And then ultimately some day -- and you're well-trained in this when you're in this business -- you determine when the time is either to get information without them knowing they're giving you information or to turn, you know, somebody into a full-blown agent. I not -- I think there are people being led down the path by Russian intelligence unknowingly and then the question is whether when is the final step taken and now you're a turned agent for Russia or providing terrible information for the Russians that's damaging to the United States, but the Russians have been doing this for a long time, and they're really good at it.

BLITZER: Let me turn to the other breaking news we're following, Congressman. The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, the scorecard has just been released on the Republican health care bill that passed the House of Representatives. You voted for that legislation. It passed earlier in the month. What's your reaction to this score from the CBO which says 23 million more Americans would be without knelt insurance over the next decade if what you voted for has become the law of the land?

KINZINGER: Well, in full disclosure, we've been voting before the bill was passed. The top line numbers are actually pretty similar to what we saw in the last iteration before the bill was passed. I think there's an improvement of about a million people.

But a significant number of those 23 million that the CBO predict are folks that basically choose not to have health insurance coverage. We believe philosophically that the government shouldn't compel somebody to buy insurance. And so there are going to be some people, as there are now even under Obamacare -- they choose to take the penalty instead of the coverage -- that will choose not to take it.

So, you know, that's a top line score. I want to get in to read the details. What's it going to do to premiums. Because the one thing I do know is in the 16th district of Illinois a number of my counties only have one insurance provider available to people now, and I know their costs are skyrocketing, their deductibles are skyrocketing and, in some cases, people basically have a piece of paper that says "coverage" on it, but they can never use it, because that's too high.

So look, this is a very emotional issue for everybody. There's a lot of passion in this. I've been on both sides of this, from being as a candidate running against Obamacare to where we are today. My ultimate goal is to get to a health care system that works for the American people, and I think this is step one in getting there.

BLITZER: You say you want to read the entire Congressional Budget Office report. But shouldn't you and your colleagues in the House of Representatives have waited to read it, get all the nuances before voting?

KINZINGER: Well, look, I would have -- I think that's always a good thing to have. We had, basically, the general score prior. We knew that the tweaks would make -- would actually improve, as they did by it appears a million or so and we knew it would have an impact on budget savings.

But we did have a score on the bill until the last kind of what they called the McArthur Amendment was added. We can see the impact of that. And now the Senate has all the information in front of them. They're going through their own process right now. It's in their hands. And then we get to see -- it's the old how a bill becomes a law from "Schoolhouse Rock." We'll see that come over and potentially go to conference committee, and either we can pass something or, if the Senate can't do anything, we have to go back to where we -- where we've been.

BLITZER: According to the CBO, in 2026, an estimated 51 people here in the United States under the age of 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law, the Obamacare law. Those numbers, they don't worry you?

KINZINGER: Well, look, you're always concerned about people getting coverage. You always want to make sure people have coverage. One of the problems though, again, in the current system very is that it's unsustainable. We've seen insurance providers pull out of all kinds of markets. We're seeing people's coverage become very low in quality. I talk to a lot of people that talk to me every day about how their premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed.

[17:15:06] We want to create a better market. We want to create a market where people, where insurance companies actually compete to cover you and do their best. Advanceable tax credits to help people that need help to buy that insurance.

But the one thing we don't do, which these numbers reflect, is we don't mandate people to do it. This would be basically the first time the federal government has mandated an individual to buy a product. And that's something we philosophically disagree with, but we want this to improve.

Then we have round two which is some stuff coming out of HHS and there's a lot of very bipartisan things -- insurance across state lines, et cetera, S-CHIP reauthorization -- that Democrats and Republicans work together on, and hopefully, we can do that.

Look, this is always going to be partisan. I understand it. And unfortunately, that's the business we're in, but my hope is this ends up being a better system for the American people, and I frankly don't care who gets credit. I just want the American people to feel better.

BLITZER: Very quickly though, states, as you know, they do mandate people to buy car insurance if they want to drive a car.

KINZINGER: Yes, and you choose to drive a car. You choose whether or not you want to have a car. You don't choose whether or not you want to be alive in the United States of America, and so that's a very different premise on it, although I understand kind of the intention of trying to equate the two.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Congressman. There's developments happening out of the terror attack in Manchester, England. We're going to get you to react to that right after this.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. We're back with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He's a key member of the Foreign Affairs [SIC] Committee.

Congressman, I want to talk to you about some new developments breaking right now in the Manchester suicide bombing. "The New York Times" has published photographs that appear to have been taken by British authorities following the attack. They purportedly show what could be the detonator, a battery and fragments of a backpack used by the bomber. CNN reached out to Manchester police about the photographs, but they would not comment.

Congressman, stand by. Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is on the scene for us.

Clarissa, investigators, as we speak, they're revealing new information.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're getting a much better picture about who the bomber was and who his family was.

A family friend tells CNN that the father of the bomber was so worried about his sons and that they kept getting into trouble that he actually brought them with him to Libya and confiscated their passports. But the one son, the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, lied to his father, told him he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia to attend the Umara (ph) pilgrimage and was able to get his passport back, which is how he then came back to Manchester. Take a look.


WARD (voice-over): Tonight investigators say they do not believe the 22-year-old British bomber, Salman Abedi, who blew himself up outside of this concert hall Monday, killing 22, acted alone.

CONSTABLE IAN HOPKINS, GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE CHIEF: I think it's very clear that this is a network that we are investigating.

WARD: Hours ago Abedi's brother was reportedly detained by a militia in Libya, which alleges that he was plotting to launch his own terror attack in Tripoli. The Libyan militia claims Hashim Abedi told them that he and his now-dead brother were members of ISIS. CNN is reaching out to the militia and Western authorities for verification.

U.S. military sources tell CNN Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, had been in Libya for several weeks before the attack.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He certainly might have had the opportunity in Libya to connect with a terrorist group. ISIS has a presence in Libya. Al Qaeda has a presence in Libya. Other jihadi groups.

WARD: Police say he was known to both British and U.S. intelligence officials, and investigators are now trying to piece together whether Abedi met with ISIS or al Qaeda operatives or received terror training while abroad. They also want to know who he was in contact with here in England. Tonight police continue to raid buildings across Manchester. They say

they have made six arrests in connection with the bombing in a frantic race to find anyone who may have helped Abedi build his bomb or plot his attack.

HOPKINS: This extensive investigation is going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.

WARD: The prime minister has raised the terror threat to its highest level, critical, for the first time in a decade. Police have increased security at major sites across the country, including at Buckingham Palace and St. Paul's cathedral; and armed officers continue to patrol Manchester.


WARD: Earlier today, Wolf, Britain's home secretary, which is the equivalent of the secretary of homeland security, actually complained in an interview that U.S. officials have been leaking too much information about the investigation into the bombing at the Manchester Arena to the media. She said that, while she doesn't believe these leaks have, in any way, compromised the investigation necessarily, she called them, quote, Wolf, "very irritating."

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward in Manchester for us. Clarissa, thanks very much.

Let's get back to Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

Congressman, it looks like the bomber was linked to a larger terror network. What does that tell you about the capabilities of terror groups in Europe?

KINZINGER: Well, it shows they're plenty capable. If in fact, this is a cell, as we've seen six arrests, A, it's good news that they're wrapping up the cell. The bad news is how many cells are out there, and we really don't know the answer to that until, unfortunately, we know after a tragic situation like this or through intelligence.

[17:25:18] So look, they are very capable, al Qaeda, ISIS, but it's -- it doesn't doesn't take the kind of capability that it takes the U.S. military or the U.S. intel agencies to find them.

All you have to do as an ISIS cell or as ISIS itself is recruit one person to do something like walk with an explosive backpack and kill as many people as he can. There is a low cost of entry for that, and that's the concern. And we don't want to, as a society, turn to fear and panic. We don't want to lock ourselves in our house. Your chance of being killed by a terrorist attack is still extremely slim.

But we have to be aware of the danger out there, and we have to continually invest in the tools and resources necessary to try to prevent this from ever happening in the first place.

BLITZER: And as you just heard, security in the United Kingdom has now been boosted to that critical threat. That's that highest threat level, first time in a decade over there. Are American counterterrorism officials prepared to thwart this kind of attack on U.S. soil?

KINZINGER: Well, I think we're the best prepared we've ever been. The question is, are you prepared to thwart any attack? And it really all comes down to what steps do -- does somebody make before they actually do the attack?

So the only time we can actually tell if somebody is going to do a terrorist attack like this or join a terrorist network, is when they actually show intentions, whether it's through the Internet or whether it's through voting with their feet, going and meeting with somebody, because you can't screen for somebody's intention. So if somebody has evil in their heart and they intend to do something, until they take that first step, we have no idea.

And that's something, frankly, probably with technology in 300 years, we'll never be able to screen for. So I think it's a reality we have to understand. We have to be secure, but we can't overreact. You always hear people talking about pushing out checkpoints further. The problem is you'll have lines beyond those far checkpoints, and all you're doing is inconveniencing people and still creating a target, just further away.

So look, investing in intelligence capability, the ability to monitor folks on these watch lists, that's where the money is going to be made in terms of stopping this in the future.

BLITZER: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much.

KINZINGER: Any time. Take care.

BLITZER: Coming up, more on the breaking new. Now "The Washington Post" is reporting that the Russians may have planted a fake document that influenced then FBI Director James Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigations.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories in the Russia investigation, including "The Washington Post" now revealing FBI director James Comey's actions last summer in the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation may have been influenced by what is now believed to be a dubious document, a likely fake memo, that may be part of Russia's effort to influence the U.S. presidential election.

[17:32:27] Let's bring in our political, legal and counterterrorism specialists, and Laura Jarrett, first to you. This document, this report in "The Washington Post," it's pretty eye-opening. Explain how this could have -- this could have affected the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail -- private e-mail server.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So according to this report, Wolf, Comey really felt like his hands were tied. Back in the spring of 2016, they find out about this document, and it suggests that then attorney general Loretta Lynch had privately reassured someone in the Clinton camp that the investigation was going nowhere and she had everything handled. And so Comey felt like, according to this report, that with that out there, if it leaked, it would somehow compromise the investigation, especially if Lynch later announced that Clinton was facing no charges.

But something about this just doesn't add up. No. 1, by all accounts, the FBI doubted the veracity of this account and thought this was part of Russia's disinformation campaign, but the second thing is, if Comey truly believed that Lynch had a conflict of some sort, the remedy for that would be to go to the deputy attorney general, then Sally Yates, and say, "I think there's an objectivity question here." The remedy is not to then get out ahead of DOJ's own announcement in July.

BLITZER: Gloria, how significant is it that this document may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, can we say this is crazy? I mean, this is -- this is a story that you -- you know, you can't make up, that the FBI is getting -- you know, has a document that they know is not real, that the Russian operatives leaked to them, right? I mean, it's just -- you know, we know now that the Russians were seeking to influence law enforcement and intelligence, and not just people who were voting.

I mean, it seems that the -- that what we've learned in this complex story is that -- that, you know, their hacking went far beyond what we already know.

I think that if you read "The Post" story, what you -- what you are led to believe is that the FBI director was really worried that, if Lynch were the one to announce that the charges were going nowhere, and the document then got leaked, that somehow his whole case, the validity of what he was doing, was going to be questioned.

This is so complex and so bizarre on the face of it I think we need to know a little bit more.

BLITZER: Phil, you worked in the CIA. Does this sound like a real Russian tactic to you?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I suppose on the surface, you could say this is a classic disinformation campaign, putting out information about somebody you don't like, namely Hillary Clinton, and seeing what sticks to the wall.

But Gloria's right, with one exception. Complex? This is "Three Stooges." I mean, this is intelligence at its worse. Let me give you a couple of terms you should understand: validation and corroboration.

You have an alleged e-mail here that includes multiple people. How do you validate that? You acquire the e-mail and say, "Does it actually exist?" How do you corroborate that? You go to talk to the recipients of the e-mail and say, "What do you think about this e- mail?" Nobody has ever found the e-mail, and the individuals in the e-mail evidently don't know each other and were never questioned by the FBI. And you want to say this is a core part of what Director Comey thought about? I find that really highly questionable, and I want to hear what he has to say because this is comical.

BORGER: He'll be asked about it.

MUDD: He will be.

BLITZER: If he shows up at that hearing. There's now some question whether or not he's actually going to show up. Robert Mueller, the special counsel says, you know, it's not necessarily a good idea, but we'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

David Swerdlick, the FBI still hasn't turned over the memoranda that Comey supposedly wrote following his conversations with the president to relevant congressional committees. The House Oversight Committee wanted those documents by today. Why is the FBI playing it so close to the vest?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think there's a lot of -- there are different investigations going on now than there were when the public first became aware of these memos, and I think the story has advanced far in the public to where the FBI may need to get their ducks in a row. I don't have that reporting, but I will say two things, Wolf.

One is that, in these memos, we already sort of have a hint at what they might say. I can understand why there may be putting the brakes on Comey testifying, now that there's a special prosecutor, but those memos should be in the hands of Congress, even if Congress can't reveal the contents to the public.

BLITZER: Are these FBI memos or James Comey's personal memos?

MUDD: My judgment, he must have put these as memorandum for the record, which means maybe he's retained them in his personal files. But the FBI should be able to access them as part of their standard record, and I think it's appropriate for the Congress to ask for them.

BORGER: Right. And he shared it with his team, don't forget, so there are -- there are others who have seen them or who spoke with Comey. And if you can't get Comey to talk about it, you can certainly ask some other people.

BLITZER: I assume, Laura, if they're in FBI files, they are FBI memos.

JARRET: Right. You can imagine a scenario in which they're trying to coordinate right now with Bob Mueller and make sure that they're not doing anything to get ahead of his investigation. He's just getting off the ground, trying to get his bearings. He's getting briefed on them, we understand that, but you can understand that once you put them in front of Congress, it opens up a can of worms.

BLITZER: Stand by. Everybody stand by. There's more developing right now. After a year of lobbing criticism at one another from long distance,

President Trump and Pope Francis, they finally get to meet face to face. So what happened, and which high-profile member of the Trump team was missing? That's next.


[17:42:26] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories related to the Russian investigation and the British terror attack.

Both Russia and terrorism are very much on the agenda for President Trump's current stop overseas. That would be a NATO summit in Belgium. The president arrived several hours ago after one of the most anticipated events of his entire trip, a meeting with Pope Francis.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, so what happened when the president met the pope?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's hard to imagine two different world leaders. President Trump arriving with his large entourage. Pope Francis pulling up in a Ford Focus. But they've had their differences in the past, no question about it, but today it was all diplomacy, and before that a piece of business was conducted. The pope urged the president not to drop out of the Paris climate accords.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're liking Italy very, very much. And it was an honor to be with the pope.

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump and Pope Francis face-to-face today at the Vatican. A cordial first meeting after a contentious long-distance relationship.

The president joined by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, paying respects and posing for pictures in one of the most anticipated moments of Trump's first presidential trip abroad.

The pope ushered the president into his study for a private meeting on some of the very issues that have divided them, from climate change to refugees. Their starkly different world views not aired, publicly at least, in a morning steeped in high diplomacy.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. I won't forget what you said. Good luck.

POPE FRANCIS: Thank you. If there's anything I can do, let me know.

ZELENY: It was the trifecta of the president's visit this week to the homes of three religious: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. But the president and the pope came into the meeting with a lingering tension that boiled over during the presidential campaign. POPE FRANCIS (through translator): A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be located, and not building bridges, is not a Christian.

ZELENY: Trump responded like this.

TRUMP: For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I'm proud to be a Christian.

ZELENY: Awkward moments but no clear signs of that tension today as the president and first lady presented gifts to the pope and said their good-byes before touring the Sistine Chapel and going on their way.

TRUMP: He is something. He is really great. We had a fantastic meeting, and we had a fantastic tour. It was really beautiful.

ZELENY: But the images from the Vatican told the story of a point that often goes unspoken in the Trump White House. It's a family business, where old friends and blood lines reign above all.

[17:45:04]. Unlike previous presidential visits, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is Catholic, did not make the cut for the papal meeting.

Tonight, the President arrived at the NATO meeting where terrorism took on greater urgency in the wake of the Manchester attack.

TRUMP: When you see something like what happened two days ago, you realize how important it is to win this fight. And we will win in fight.

ZELENY (voice-over): Back in Washington, the White House was digging in for a prolonged fight in the investigation of Russian meddling in the last year's election. The President is hiring Marc Kasowitz and a team of lawyers to represent him. The White House also reopening its search for an FBI Director, CNN has learned, likely bypassing former Senator Joe Lieberman, who was a leading candidate to succeed fired FBI Director James Comey.


ZELENY: Now, President Trump is still trying to avoid talking about that Russia investigation. He is in Brussels tonight. Tomorrow, he holds meetings at NATO. Of course, that organization is one he once called obsolete.

But tomorrow, he will be meeting with world leaders here to talk about the global fight against extremism and terrorism. He'll be meeting with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, but having a lunch with the new French President, Emmanuel Macron.

Wolf, this is a big moment for President Trump, his first on the world stage. After this, he goes to the meeting of the G7 in Sicily -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Busy, busy trip. All right. Jeff Zeleny in Brussels, thank you.

And to our viewers, be sure to stay with CNN for new developments in the Russia investigation. Later tonight, you can see all of our reporting in one place, a special report, "WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS," with Pamela Brown and Jim Sciutto. That airs at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

Coming up, a secret phone call between President Trump and the very controversial leader of the Philippines. Why are so many details of the President's calls to foreign leaders leaking?


[17:51:20] BLITZER: We'll have much more on the breaking news today in the Russia investigation as well as the British terror bombing, but we're also learning right now new details about leaks involving President Trump. Israel says it's made a pointed correction after President Trump divulged some classified information to top Russian officials. And there's another leak in the news as well. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

This latest disclosure, Brian, causing lots of concern.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is raising a lot of concern tonight, Wolf. This is a leak of a confidential phone call between President Trump and Philippines' President, Rodrigo Duterte.

It's got human rights observers fuming because of what President Trump said to Mr. Duterte. And it has intelligence veterans very concerned tonight because this is yet another leak of a sensitive, important conversation between the President and another leader.


TODD (voice-over): An extraordinary conversation where Donald Trump, again, seems to heap praise on a strong man. On the phone with Philippine's President, Rodrigo Duterte, President Trump says, quote, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. What a great job you are doing."

Human rights observers criticized the President for praising Duterte, who they say has sanctioned thousands of extrajudicial killings to combat the drug problem in the Philippines. A senior U.S. official who was briefed on the April 29th call verified the basics of the conversation to CNN, but the official said President Trump was not condoning human rights violations.

Tonight, intelligence experts are concerned that another confidential important conversation between Trump and a foreign leader was leaked.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The ramifications of it are, again, very negative. The President doesn't know who he can trust. It erodes the team, I would imagine, from the inside.

TODD (voice-over): A leaked transcript of the Trump-Duterte conversation was published by "The Washington Post" and the news Web site, "The Intercept." It's not clear whether the leak came from the U.S. side or the Philippines side. The cover sheet, marked confidential, bears the Philippine government's logo.

On the call, Trump says of Kim Jong-un, quote, "We can't let a mad man with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that."

GENE COYLE, FORMER FIELD OPERATIONS OFFICER, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: American presidents say things in confidence, off the record, that are very blunt and to the point, that you don't want out in the public domain.

TODD (voice-over): Separately, twice this week, we've gotten word that U.S. allies were upset with leaks about intelligence coming from the American side.

British authorities are irritated with U.S. leaks about the Manchester bombing investigation. And when Israel's Defense Minister was asked if an Israeli agent's life was put in danger after Trump allegedly divulged top-secret intelligence obtained from Israel to the Russians, the Minister would neither confirm nor deny saying only a, quote, "correction had to be made."

TRUMP: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or name, Israel. Never mentioned it in that conversation.

TODD (voice-over): In just four months, the President's conversations with the Russians in the Oval Office, his call with Duterte, and his contentious calls with the Australian Prime Minister and the Mexican President have all been leaked. Tonight, experts warn of the consequences.

HALL: Foreign intelligence services, when they see their information used inappropriately in ways that they have not approved, in very public ways, will simply stop passing that information. And they won't tell us they are not passing the information. They will simply dial it back.


TODD: Now, how can this administration stop these leaks or at least slow them down? Former CIA officers who we spoke to said the President and closest aides, well, they can investigations. They can try to prosecute people who have leaked classified information, and they can limit the number of people who have access to these meetings and conversations.

But doing all of that, they say, is extremely difficult given how many people in the White House have access to secrets, Wolf. And that goes for really any administration.

[17:55:05] BLITZER: Yes, good point. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

Coming up, two -- two -- congressional committees are now waiting for FBI memos about President Trump's conversations with the director he fired, James Comey. I'll talk to the chairman of one of those committees, Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He joins me live. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Left off the forms. A CNN exclusive tonight on Attorney General Jeff Sessions' meetings with Russian officials. Why didn't he disclose the contacts when he applied for his security clearance?

[18:00:03] No memos, no tapes. The FBI and the White House both fail to turn over key evidence that might confirm whether the President asked fired Director James Comey to back off from the Russian investigation.