Return to Transcripts main page
Montana GOP House Candidate Accused of Body-Slamming Reporter; U.K. No Longer Sharing Manchester Intel with U.S. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 25, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA U.S. HOUSE CANDIDATE: I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time you came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.
[05:59:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Republican candidate for Congress charged with misdemeanor assault.
BEN JACOBS, REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": This was, you know, hoping to get the most basic statement. The next thing I know, I'm being body- slammed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden I heard a giant crash, saw Ben's feet flying in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're actually living in an environment that Donald Trump helped create.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff Sessions did not list meetings that he had with Russian ambassador.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oversharing is probably better than under-sharing.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is yet another example of a Trump campaign official not disclosing all of their contacts with the Russian government.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. it's Thursday, May 25, 6 o'clock in the east.
Here is today's starting line. The Republican candidate for a congressional seat in Montana accused of body-slamming a reporter. This happened on the day before an important special election. The Republican earning an assault charge. The whole event on audio tape with witnesses. What does it mean for today's vote?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That reporter was trying to ask about the GOP health care Bill and its new CBO score that finds the Bill would leave an additional 23 million people uninsured over the next decade. Another top story. International frustration about intelligence
leaks. The United Kingdom is upset with the U.S. after details into their investigation of the Manchester attack leaked somehow to the media. Is the trust of key allies now in jeopardy?
Also, there's a new development on the Trump-Russia front. The Justice Department says Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador on a security clearance form. One lawmaker now demanding an investigation into Sessions' misstatements.
So we have all of these stories covered for you. Let's go first to CNN's Kyung Lah, live in Missoula, Montana.
Give us the latest, Kyung.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.
Polls here in Montana open in just a few hours. Voters waking up to a dramatic turn of events in this special election. The Republican, widely considered barely the frontrunner here, caught in that dramatic audio. Local law enforcement considering it this morning a misdemeanor crime.
LAH (voice-over): Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte charged with misdemeanor assault the night before Montana's special election after allegedly body-slamming "Guardian" reporter Ben Jacobs at his campaign headquarters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a reporter, and he asked Greg about his health care plan, and he full body-slammed him.
LAH: The altercation captured by Jacobs in an audio recording.
JACOBS: ... the CBO score. Because you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until we saw the Bill, and it just came out.
GIANFORTE: We'll talk to you about that later.
JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious...
GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please.
I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time you came here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?
JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.
JACOBS: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.
JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call police. Can I get you guys' names?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you've got to leave.
JACOBS: He just body-slammed me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to leave.
LAH: Jacobs recounting the incident in an interview while he was at the hospital, where he received X-rays on his elbow.
JACOBS: He grabs my recorder and throws me down. My glasses break. He, I think -- I'm pretty sure he's on top of me wailing for a second and then screams at me to get the hell out. It's just very strange and mortifying.
LAH: Gianforte's campaign offering a different version of events, just after the incident. Releasing a statement blaming the altercation on Jacobs' aggressive behavior, writing, "Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, 'The Guardian's' Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ben was in the room. I heard a crash. I saw his feet fly in the air.
LAH: Both the audio recording and eyewitness accounts contradicting Gianforte's defense. A team from FOX News team, who was in the room, recounting that "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground. Gianforte then began punching the reporter." The eyewitnesses also stressing that at no point did they witness Jacobs acting aggressively.
LAH: Now last night, we did catch up with the Democratic challenger, Rob Quist. He said he didn't want to comment officially, that this was a matter for law enforcement.
We did speak with his Democratic supporters, and they believe and they're hoping that this is going to affect Democratic turnout in what is considered a very tight race for a seat in Congress, a seat that's been vacated by Zinke.
And what we are also hearing, Chris and Alisyn, is that as these polls open, 7 out of 10 people have already voted. So it's very difficult to tell if this is going to have any impact -- Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: That is fascinating. Kyung Lah, we'll talk about that right now.
Let's talk bring in our panel. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon; and "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian. Thank you very much, all of you, for being here.
John Avlon, I want to start with you, because you know Ben Jacobs. You know this reporter. He used to work at "The Daily Beast."
It's hard to imagine someone being more measured in their response to being body-slammed than the audio you hear of Ben Jacobs there, saying, "You just body-slammed me. You broke my glasses. I'm going to call the police." I mean, not yelling, not shouting. What is this reporter like?
[06:05:04] JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Ben Jacobs is a smart reporter. He was getting a question about a -- breaking news about the scoring of the health care Bill, and the audio tells the real story.
So the fact that the campaign spin contradicts it should be discounted. Let's call it out for what it is, a lie and an attempt also to demonize Ben Jacobs as a, quote, "liberal journalist." And that -- that added partisan insult, I think, speaks to the ugliness of not only what happened but what they're trying to tap into. The candidate flipped out to a question he didn't feel comfortable answering. And according to FOX News people who were on the scene, local...
CAMEROTA: Alysia Cumia (ph) was there. She's an excellent reporter.
AVLON: That the candidate, the Republican candidate the night before an election, physically not only slammed Ben Jacobs to the ground, but started punching him. This is not behavior that is acceptable for any adult, let alone someone who wants to represent the people of Montana.
CUOMO: Well, and he caught an assault charge, David Gregory. I mean, in terms of the criminal incident, it seems to be a no-brainer. The campaign can say whatever it wants. It's obviously fabricating the story to cover the guy, you know, losing it over what this reporter was asking about. So that's one component. Doesn't seem to be much of a case in terms of a defense to the assault charge. He did it. He lost his cool, and he did something stupid. Hand he should go through the system.
In terms of politically, what it means, 7 out of 10 votes. Trump won this by 20 points, this state. It's a heavily -- it's a heavily Republican place. The seat is traditionally Republican.
Do we expect any difference in the outcome of the election because of this, as egregious as it is?
GREGORY: Well, it's so hard to say, because you're going to have people who are just hearing about it who will vote and perhaps they'll be affected by it. It's certainly the kind of thing that could affect your vote and thinking about whether the guy is suited to be in the House of Representatives. But again, as was pointed out, you have so much early voting already
going in there that it may already be decided. So I think this one becomes very difficult to predict.
The other piece of this, of course, I mean, let's just react like human beings here. This is so clearly wrong. It just speaks for itself. And I'm hopeful that the candidate this morning wakes up and realized that he made a real mistake and, like any of us in that situation, would apologize.
CUOMO: He's got a bad story, though, now. That's his problem, is that what his guy, Shane, whatever his name is, the spokesperson. You know, he rolled out that B.S. about what they say happened. And he's got an audio recording and other -- now it's tough to back up and tell the truth when you've spinning a lot about what happened with, you know, witnesses and audio.
GREGORY: Exactly right.
CAMEROTA: And is there some sort of larger story or message we should be taking away here? Is this just an isolated incident? A candidate snapped, and we can look at it that way, or we can look at it as sort of growing aggression against the press?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST" I think Gianforte is going to say it's an isolated incident and others that have been experiencing these sorts of things that the accused assailants would be saying there are isolated incidents.
But we've seen this happen, I believe it was, earlier this week or a few days ago another one of my colleagues in Congress, John Donnelly, got roughed up, pushed against the wall when he was in the FCC trying to ask a question. You've got this kind of culture of, you know, the reporters are the enemy going on, and it depends. I mean, you see a lot of Democrats pointing the finger at the president right now, saying you've created -- you've helped create, at least, this culture where people consider reporters to be, you know...
CAMEROTA: An enemy of the people.
DEMIRJIAN: Exactly, right. And so -- and saying, you know, maybe that doesn't mean go out and assault a reporter, but it certainly creates an environment in which this is somehow OK to hate reporters and that sometimes fist fly.
CUOMO: The flip side is, though, John -- the flip side is, is it fair to blame the president for the actions of one dope in Montana?
AVLON: No. No, there's not a direct connection, because it is about creating an atmosphere consciously stoking those fires of fear and anger and resentment. And this isn't subtle. This is the president of the United States calling the press the, quote, "enemy of the American people."
A lot of rhetoric in his rallies over the course of the campaign where people at the rallies express a lot of anger and hostility to the press and the reporters. And it's part of a larger pattern we should be aware of. This guy clearly flipped off the handle. He's got some anger management issues.
CUOMO: His responsibility.
AVLON: His responsibility, and let's not try to diffuse that. Ben Jacobs is not exactly a threatening human being. This was a thuggish and bullying act.
CUOMO: That is probably why he went after him in the first place. You know what I mean? This is a bully kind of situation.
CAMEROTA: I mean, you know, he sounds like he snapped.
Go ahead, David.
GREGORY: Yes, I just think we should also point out, you know, there's also -- I mean, I agree with what Ben said. I mean, there has been a certain environment that's been created.
But you know, the fact that the press annoys people, or that they strongly dislike them. Nothing excuses losing your cool and getting physical with somebody. I think you would tell that to your 4-year- old, right? I mean, that's pretty basic.
But dealing with reporters can be incredibly annoying. And anybody who's had to deal with them on a story, present company excluded, of course, can be highly annoying.
[06:10:11] So under the worst of circumstances, Ben was being annoying here. About to start another interview, and he's pressing him on an issue that he probably doesn't want to deal with. There's a lot of people who are amateurs in the political game and are not used to this kind of scrutiny. I've dealt with it, working in local news, with local officials. And I think that's part of what was going on here, too.
AVLON: Yes, but this guy ran for governor last cycle. He's not total newb, but yes, he's a businessman. He referred to a previous article by "The Guardian" about his business ties that apparently irritated him, as well. And look, you know, this is happening the day before election. Yes, there is early voting.
But as we all know and keep learning, the only poll that counts is on election day. And the fact that three papers in Montana overnight withdrew their endorsement is a big deal. Now it's up to the people of Montana to send a message.
DEMIRJIAN: He's going for a seat in Congress right now. And I don't know how familiar your viewers are with how reporting works around Capitol Hill. The reporters walk up to lawmakers. That's one of the beautiful things about covering Congress.
You can go straight up to the lawmakers, House members, senators, put a microphone in their face, ask them a question. This is how it works. It happens like this all the time. So this is just a little preview episode of what life is going to be like if he wins. And you can't body-slam the reporters. I've never had that happen in the Capitol. And it would be a remarkable thing for Capitol police, would rush in if it happened.
DEMIRJIAN: There you go. Great point.
CUOMO: There's one -- there's one opportunity here, though. The president made robocalls for this guy. He supposedly has a picture with him and one of Trump's kids. There's an opportunity. If the president's going to be fairly or unfairly blamed for this environment and come out, condemn it, say it's wrong.
You want to be angry at the media. That's fine. You want to have heated conversations, that's fine. You don't touch people. It's an opportunity. Let's see if he takes it.
CAMEROTA: All right. Panel, thank you very much for all those insights. We should let you know that next hour on NEW DAY we will talk with a BuzzFeed reporter who was on the scene when this alleged body-slamming incident occurred.
CUOMO: All right. Now, the report this morning, British law enforcement has stopped sharing intelligence about the Manchester attack with the U.S. because of intel leaks. We're getting new details about the suicide attacker and the bomb that he used. That's another thread to this story. But the leaks are real.
CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward live in Manchester for us right now. You know, leaks have become a topic of conversation. And there are two very different types. One is where you're getting information that politicians don't like. And the other one is where it is sensitive information, and it can create a larger security issue. What do you think we're we dealing with here?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I think there's a lot of frustration here from U.K. officials who can't quite understand why photographs of the crime scene, of the very sensitive details of the bomb and more so, the name of the bomber, why these informations are being released by U.S. officials.
There is an understanding that the U.S. has a sort of rather large national intelligence bureaucracy, and that potentially, it's not high-level officials but lower-level officials who are leaking this information. But it's now been a repeated theme that U.K. officials, just 24 hours ago we heard from the homeland -- home security here saying it's irritating and it needs to stop. Then those pictures came out. Now you've seen a chorus of lawmakers come out and say this is troubling; this is concerning.
The police say it undermines the relationship. And now we're hearing, as you mentioned, that there will be a suspension of intelligence sharing on the investigation into the Manchester bombing.
Now, part of the reason for that is, if you look at those "New York Times" photographs, Chris, that they published, it does seem to indicate that this was quite a sophisticated device. You see pictures of the backpack, of the shrapnel that was used, of -- there's a circuit board. The detonator, which was being held in the left-hand of the bomber. And bomb making experts who we have showed those photos to and who we have spoken to say there seems to be a disconnect between the sophistication of the weapon and what we know about the bomber himself.
So authorities now really want to make sure who made that bomb. Was it made here in the U.K.? Was it made in Libya, potentially? Was the bombmaker Libyan? Was the bombmaker British? These are the questions they are trying to drill down on. Because at the end of the day, this was a sophisticated device that killed 22 people. And nobody here in the U.K. wants to see that happen again -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Clarissa, thanks so much for all that background. We're going to talk more about it. Because with British officials furious about the leaks in this investigation, what is the potential political and the security fallout? That's next.
[06:18:17] CUOMO: All right. There are reports this morning that British law enforcement has temporarily stopped sharing intel with the U.S. about the Manchester terror investigation because they're upset about leaks. The U.K. government expressing growing concerns that information is making its way into the U.S. media. Information they don't want out in the public.
Let's bring back David Gregory and Karoun Demirjian. Joining them is CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
The media's perspective is this, Phil Mudd. News is often what the powerful want to be kept hidden. Leaks are important. You learn about things that you wouldn't know about otherwise that the public often has a right to know. But what's the other side, especially when it comes to intel?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Chris, you're correct, but only in half the cases. When we see something embarrassing revealed from the Oval Office, embarrassment, to my mind, is not a national security leak. Let's give you a definition of a national security leak. When the adversary gains an advantage.
In this case, the adversary did, because someone in the U.S. government -- it's an embarrassing day to be a U.S. intelligence officer. Somebody in the U.S. government decided "The New York Times" should know what the Brits shared with us secretly.
You reveal the name of the bomber. Terrorists make mistakes every day, and security services live off mistakes. When you reveal the name of that bomber, people in the cell may look at that and say, "Wow, I thought I had a day or two to escape, a day or two to destroy evidence. Now I realize the British security services and police services are on us. I've got to move more quickly."
You may not believe that scenario, but I saw terrorists do stupid things every day like they assumed they had more time than they did. So make sure when you see that word "leak," you differentiate between what's embarrassing and that's the kind of thing the White House doesn't want out there, and what gives the adversary the advantage. That's why the British are angry with us today.
[06:20:06] CAMEROTA: David, Phil lays out the case perfectly from the intel side. But you know, these are not things that are shocking bombshells in the U.S. press. We often know the name of a suspect or a bomber or we often have pictures of evidence. These are the things that now, British authorities are no longer going to share about this investigation with the U.S.
GREGORY: Yes, it's a little -- obviously, I take Phil's points. But it's a little surprising to me in this case what's different. I mean, don't we learn the identity of the bomber almost right away in most of these cases? And it sounds like there's a conflation here between, you know, the intelligence community sharing information that's been, say, damaging to Donald Trump and what's happened here.
This sounds law enforcement that's -- that's leaking this information to, you know, domestically. And that seems to happen in a lot of these cases, especially when, you know, the FBI is called on to help or consulted in some way.
CUOMO: Right. I mean, loo, timing matters. Yes, we get the names. We get information, but ordinarily, it's at a point where the authorities, that are giving it to you are comfortable, Karoun. And there's an analysis that goes in, right? You get information leaked to you. You go through an appraisal process, personally or through your own editorial staff about, and often in -- often, as you know this -- all of us do -- where you will go to authorities and say, "How sensitive is this information? What is the import from your perspective if this gets out or not?"
So it's not just a kind of dumping of any information that comes your way. That's a relevant part of this, too. Isn't it?
DEMIRJIAN: Yes. I mean, I think it needs to be repeated that news organizations have processes, have standards, have a sense of responsibility, don't just make these decisions willy-nilly. And it involves a lot of people when it's something that's going to be sensitive. So If a decision is made, usually a lot of thought went into that, about whether they're going to publish something or not.
CUOMO: But often we don't say things. report things like CNN recently with the big break that Jim Sciutto and Manu Raju and Jake Tapper had about the intel that the president was ultimately blamed for leaking. They were asked not to reveal certain information because of its national security import. And they did not report those details.
DEMIRJIAN: And it's another example of that when "The Washington Post" reported about a week and a half ago, about the meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian, in which the president disclosed the -- the names of cities. We didn't put that in the paper, either.
I mean, there are decisions that are made to be prudent and judicious, and withhold information that we know and not splash it all over the pages of a newspaper or all over the television screen based on such concerns.
But I think we also have to take into account that not only is there, you know -- there's a different culture between the government and the press in every country. And what standards we have here may not match what standards the British government feels like are applicable for them.
And you don't see the British government pointing the fingers at journalists in the United States as being the culpable parties who need to be punished. They're saying, "We're not sharing with the U.S. intelligence agencies. We're not going to be sharing the intelligence with our counterparts in the government, because we don't like the way they're handling it."
So again, I don't think that the onus right now and the blame is being put on the journalists so much as this is clearly hitting a nerve between these two very longstanding partners who rely on each other in many, many different spheres in this one circumstance. Just clearly a very, very tragic and very, very sensitive. But it seems to me that that is where the fight is localized right now.
CAMEROTA: So Phil, this is expected to come up with President Trump and Theresa May of the U.K. at NATO. She is apparently going to bring up her displeasure with President Trump. She'll find, obviously, a sympathetic ear. He also has expressed displeasure at this.
But Phil, one more thing about what the president did in the Oval Office, where he divulged classified information, as Karoun and Chris were just saying, about ISIS to the Russians. Now Israel. Another one of, obviously, our closest allies, is put in a terrible position. Because that's where, apparently, the intel originated. And they said that they have had to make, quote, "a pinpoint correction" of people in the field because of this. It has real-life -- obviously, you know -- consequences.
MUDD: It does. But let's be clear about the long-term implications here. The Brits are right. They should hammer us. I would not reveal information about the investigation if I were them, unless it related specifically to the United States.
But long term, that's not sustainable. If you live in the war on terror, whether you're working with the Israelis, the British or other Europeans, even the Russians, threat is a great unifier, even when you have differences among countries.
If you're an intelligence professional and you have information that might suggest that there's an attacker in Moscow, in London, even if you have a difference of opinion about what happened in this case, you cannot sit on that information. So if tomorrow the British uncover information that suggests that there's an e-mail connected to this case and that might have a link to the United States, even if there's a disagreement between the two, you've got to pass that information. Threat unifies, Alisyn, all the time. [06:25:00] CUOMO: Right. But you know what? Leaks need to be
qualified, David Gregory. We're dealing with a situation right now in the United States where the American people would not know about what's going on with Michael Flynn if it hadn't been for leaks. There's a really good chance -- you know, hindsight is 20/20. But there's a really good chance that Michael Flynn would still be the national security adviser if not for the journalism.
And again, news is often what the powerful want hidden. So leaks are not all under one umbrella of bad things that must be stopped.
And Trump's not the only one to feel that way. We'll remember what Eric Holder did to the media. We'll remember Brian Fallon, now champion of the left, as a P.R. guy saying to a reporter there is no press protection in the First Amendment for your sources. That was Fallon who said it. It was a Democrat who said it. Holder is a Democrat. Obama was a Democrat. This isn't new.
GREGORY: It's not new. And it's going to be a tension that continues in the national security matters. It's got to be thoughtfully carried out on both sides. There's no question that people who have the ability to leak, to be able to talk without attribution to reporters, are responsible for getting some really important information out about what the government is doing, how the government may have been compromised. That's got to continue for journalism to function properly and for the American people to know what's going on.
CUOMO: Yes, I mean, just remember that one fact, you know. Everybody now is jumping on the band wagon that Michael Flynn did all these bad things. We don't know that. It has to be proven. But if not for the reporting, who knows if the White House would have done anything about Michael Flynn.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about some other great reporting. That is Karoun's in "The Washington Post." Everyone can read it.
Karoun, you found out that some of Jim Comey's decision making, when he went public last summer, to talk about the conclusions that he had drawn of the Hillary Clinton e-mail case, which was highly unorthodox that he did this could have been based on a bogus -- some bogus intel that perhaps the Russians planted. Can you just summarize your reporting for everyone?
DEMIRJIAN: Sure. Well, we learned in late April from a long years profile of Jim Comey that part of his decision making in stepping forward in early July and not letting Loretta Lynch, the attorney general at the time, close -- tell the public that the Clinton e-mail probe was closed, was based in part on the tarmac meeting that Lynch had with Bill Clinton but also in part on this Russian-sourced document, which was a Russian intelligence analysis. We discovered that it was citing an e-mail said to be between Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an employee of the Open Society Foundation in which she was saying, "Lynch is talking to a member of the Clinton campaign and don't worry, because the FBI investigation won't get too close."
Except for nobody ever saw that e-mail. And the FBI knew as early as August that the reliability of that document was unreliable.
So the questions are at this point, you know, did the FBI make its decisions based on a document that they knew, or would later discover was unreliable at best and potentially even fake. Or are they explaining a decision based on a document that's unreliable and potentially even fake? That's the -- the final question we couldn't answer, but in both cases, it's rather troubling to think that, in one case perhaps, you know, what could have been -- what was certainly not reliable intelligence, bad intelligence and might have been fabricated by Russian sources could have sway the decision making in the FBI or it is being relied on now when they know it is not something that can be relied on.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. The spider web of Russian influence continues, and everyone should read Karoun's reporting in "The Washington Post" about all this. Panel, thank you very much.
So up next, we have a top House Democrat calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be investigated after a new revelation in the Trump- Russia probe. A live report from Washington.