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Trump Family Plotting Course For 2020; Sources: Comey Acted on Russian Intel He Knew Was Fake; Tight Security at Indy 500 After Manchester Attack; Music Icon Gregg Allman Dead at 69; Trump Takes Swipe at NATO Allies Not Paying Fair Share; New Pictures of Manchester Bomber Before Attack. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 27, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us.

Right now President Trump is flying back to the U.S. after wrapping up his nine day trip to the Middle East in Europe. Trump is returning to a White House confronting troubling new reports about his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Sources now confirmed to CNN, Kushner discussed setting up a secret means of communicating with the Kremlin with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

And a post-election meeting at Trump Tower. Now, this story was first reported by the Washington Post less than 24 hours ago. A describes Kushner's apparent push for this actual system using Russian diplomatic facilities and equipment. An awful lot of that meeting according to the post. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the now fired National Security advisor at the center of an FBI probe. And while all this is happening, CNN has just learned that members of the Trump family are thinking about the future meeting with the Republican National Committee to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the mid-terms in 2020.

I want to bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles in Washington. Ryan, are Jim Acosta just got some reaction from the White House at least from an official as to the status of Jared Kushner. What are you hearing?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially that Jared Kushner isn't going anywhere, Ana, that's what this White House official told our Jim Acosta despite really the last few weeks of what appears to be a series of reports on controversy surrounding Kushner. His connections to Russia and then the possible connections to the Trump campaign at large. Kushner of course has a very close relationship with Donald Trump.

He's not only his son-in-law but he is one of his closest advisers. He is someone that Trump is personally fond of. And from what Jim is being told by the White House, that Kushner may be taking somewhat of a less high-profile role but will continue to keep his head down as what Jim was told and then will continue to focus on his work at the White House. But in terms of any reports or rumors that Kushner may be taking a leave of absence from the White House or leaving all- together. This White House official told Jim, that is just not happening. That Kushner will remain in place in his post as one of Donald Trump's closet advisers -- Ana.

CABRERA: And Ryan, we're also hearing that President Trump's sons were spotted at a meeting with the RNC, what can you tell us about that?

NOBLES: Yes. This was a meeting not just with the RNC Ana but with some White House officials as well as a Super Pac which is designed to aid the Trump administration outside of the White House. American Priorities. This was Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump as well as Eric's wife Lara. They met in a series of meetings with these various groups. And the game plan here is to map out a strategy for the next several weeks and to make sure that all these different groups were on the same page that they were playing out of same playbook with the goal of making sure that Republicans can retain the House and the Senate in 2018.

And then even laying the grown work for the President's re-election campaign in 2020. This couples with the reports that the White House is planning somewhat of a war room inside the West Wing designed to respond to all these attacks and criticisms of the Trump administration as this Russia investigation moves forward. There's clearly an effort of foot here, Ana, to make sure that everyone aligned with the President is working together to make sure that his message gets out and they can refute some of the criticism that's coming his way from various circles.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles, thanks for filling us in on that. I want to talk more about this with former KGB spy Jack Barsky and former CIA operative Bob Baer.

So, Jack, let's focus on this intercepted conversation between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and his bosses in Moscow. What if the Russian ambassador was simply lying about Kushner and his reported desire to set up a secret communication line with the Kremlin? I mean, how likely is it that the Russian ambassador might have known he was being monitored and lied about Kushner to try to confuse U.S. officials or to spread miss-information?

JACK BARSKY, FORMER KGB SPY: What if and what if and what if.


BARSKY: The bottom-line is that we're dealing with a very, very experienced operative. Mr. Kislyak, he's sort of my generation. He, you know, invites the communist ideology with the mother's milk. And he came into the United States in 1982 as a low level diplomat with the U.N. That meant one of two things, he either was KGB or he was reporting to the KGB. And so, he's a very, very experienced player. You don't know what you're getting when you're dealing with these guys. So, you have to touch them with utmost care.

CABRERA: So, what is your gut telling you about what we've learned in this "Washington Post" report, and what sources are telling CNN, essentially confirming that there was some kind of a conversation about setting up a secret line of communication physically at Russian diplomatic facility for the Trump transition team essentially to use to communicate about Syria and other matters? It's what this source is telling us.

BARSKY: I just don't want to believe that somebody can be that naive to suggest that it is safe to use Russian communication channels rather than American ones, that's mind boggling. So my gut's saying, I hope not, I can't say any more, it would be all speculation after that.

[17:05:18] CABRERA: Would there have been security concerns for the Russians in doing this?

BARSKY: To some extent but more so for us obviously.

CABRERA: So Bob Baer, whoever leaked this information to "The Washington Post" apparently did so knowing that he or she could be exposing some of the inner workings of this intelligence gathering and now Russia knows the U.S. could happen to whatever channel Ambassador Kislyak was using with Moscow. How big of a concern is that?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, Ana, I think that the Russians know that their cell phones are being listened to, and I can only imagine what happened. Let's not forget Ana that this report is not being denied by the White House. And I have to say, I have to agree with Jack, this is just outrageous. I have never heard an American official even designate in the new White House go to somebody like Russia, to the Russian ambassador and say, listen we don't trust our own communications but we're going to use yours, your mind.

I mean, Ambassador Kislyak must have thought he had entered a different galaxy. Probably called back to Moscow and said, you won't believe just what happened. I don't think there were any sources and methods that have been compromised in this. We're not reading Russian communications, diplomatic communications, encode communications. He was on the phone. And this was going around with the oligarchs too. And they're laughing at us. I can't tell you. I have never heard of this. A new White House coming in approaching a foreign government and asking to use their communications to communicate back to their capital. It's just never happened before. It's just bizarre.

CABRERA: Bob, I want to ask you. Could this have just been fate in this, you know, trying to deflect or create misinformation, confuse U.S. intelligence sources again, during the course of leading up to the new presidency?

BAER: It's possible. But the White House right now just flat out deny it. Say, listen, here's the transcript from this meeting with the Russian ambassador, with Flynn, and the son-in-law, here's what happened, this is why we did. You know, we need to clear this up. The relations between the Trump administration and Russia are very confusing for me and also there's always the question of quid pro quo. I mean, you know, the Trump's, the Kushner's, all have business interests in Russia and are they getting something for this back channel? I just don't know. I mean, I do want to know. And I hope the Senate and the FBI gets to the bottom of it very soon, so we can get through this.

CABRERA: I want to know the truth. And I think it's important on that note to bring up that, as you point out Jared Kushner and his attorney have not denied this report. The White House has not denied this report they've simply said no comment. And on the flip side, Jared Kushner's Attorney Jamie Gorelick has commented and released a response to the Reuters report that also came out in the last 24 hours suggesting that Jared Kushner had had at least a couple of other phone calls with the Russian ambassador that he did not disclose on a security clearance.

I had it reported previously between April and November of last year. Let me read you the respond that she said to that report. She said, Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period, he has no recollection of the call as described. We have asked Reuters for dates of such alleged calls. So, we may look into it and respond. But we have not received such information. So, she has responded to that but not this. That silence perhaps speaks volumes. Jack, what is the potential upside for Russia and Kislyak in this idea of forming a secret communications line? Why would Russia reportedly be interested in using a different security channel to discuss security issues?

BARSKY: No. I don't think it has so much to do with the secret communication line. I think we're blowing this a little bit out of proportion if you think now we're going to get into this situation where there's going to be a secret communication from the White House to the Kremlin bypassing everything else. I think it's more or less, you know, the whole idea of what they're trying to do is you have to create chaos to the extent possible. And we're hoping the great deal by acting the way we are as, you know, in our leadership here.

CABRERA: Bob, in effect Russia has done what it had intended and that is to create more questions in the system here in the U.S.

BAER: Yes. Whoever the KGB is running this covert action campaign should be getting a medal right now because we are in total confusion. They are calling the shots. And from been an intelligence officer's respective mind, it's brilliant operation. So, the Russians are good.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, let's listen how former CIA Director Michael Hayden reacted to these reports of Kushner discussing a secret line in Moscow?


[17:05:08] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: General Hayden, is this nefarious or is this naivete?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well Michael, right now, I'm going with naivete, and that's not particularly very comforting for me. I mean, what manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt would you have to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or an appropriate idea. So again, naivete out, it doesn't make me feel very good about many things.


CABRERA: We heard Jack use the word naive. Bob, do you agree? Could this be sheer naivete on Kushner's part to reportedly push for secret lines to the Kremlin?

BAER: I do hope it's naivete. It doesn't look good for us in any case and will never look good. But the alternative is that they knew what they were doing and it was some sort of secret agreement that they're keeping from the government, that would be much worse. If it would be, you know, a real collusion with the Russians. I refuse to believe that so far but, you know, we got to see.

CABRERA: Bob Baer, Jack Barsky, thank you both.

Coming up. Russian misinformation, why would former FBI Director James Comey let a piece of Russian intelligence that he knew would be fake drive his decision to publicly denounced Hillary Clinton's e-mail habits. We'll break it down. Next. Live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:15:42] CABRERA: It's no secret Russian disinformation was at play in last year's presidential election but we now know a piece of intelligence, that former FBI Chief James Comey knew was bogus, nevertheless forced his hand in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash explains.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that then FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of Russian information related to the Hillary Clinton email investigation was fake. But he felt that he needed to take action anyway because he was concerned that if the information became public, it would undermine the investigation in the Justice Department itself. This according to multiple sources talking to my colleagues Shimon Prokupecz, Gloria Borger and myself. Now, these were a major factor in Comey deciding to publicly declare that the Clinton probe was over last summer without consulting then Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

You may remember that earlier this week, "The Washington Post" reported on this intelligence and doubts about its credibility. Now the fact that Comey felt he had to act based on Russian disinformation is a stark example of how Russian interference impacted decision making at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the 2016 campaign. The Russian information issue claim to show that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been comprised in the Clinton investigation because of e-mails, purportedly emails between then- DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operatives saying that Lynch would make the FBI Clinton probe go away.

Now, according to one government official in classified briefings, Comey told lawmakers that he was afraid the information would drop and undermine the investigation but Comey did not tell lawmakers that he doubted the accuracy of the information. Even in the classified setting. Now, according to sources close to Comey, the FBI director felt that the validity of the information didn't matter because if it became public, they had no way to discredit it without burning sources and methods. Now, think about the chain of events that all of this helps set off.

When Comey held his press conference in July of 2016 announcing no charges against Clinton, he also took the extraordinary and may people say, appropriate step of calling her extremely careless. Clinton aides are convinced that her reputation was damaged with voters and she never recovered, that probably would not have happened without Russian interference. Also talking to many officials on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, dissemination of fake information is still a major issue. Multiple sources tells us that Russia is still trying to spread false information in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

CABRERA: All right, thanks to Dana Bash. Let's discuss now a lot to try to unravel and all of these with CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI agent James Gagliano. Also, CNN political commentator Maria Cardona.

James, we'll start with you. What did you think or what was your reaction when you hear that James Comey knew this memo that was coming from Russia intelligence apparently was a fake but yet decided to take action because of it?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. I think there's definitely a sense I think within the FBI that a number of those documents might not have been credible and real. The problem is sort and through them because so much of it is just, is noise. And the purpose in the Russians doing this in dumping these documents so close to the election was to sew discord and discontent and be a distraction to us here. What I think really, we can't allow a diminution of this to happen is, the FBI director's calculus really came after that tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch on a plane with the former president. And I think that's pretty much what set emotion that the director making an unprecedented decision to hold that July 5th press conference.

CABRERA: So, you still think that he was being truthful went he testified that that was the impetus for making this decision to come forward, perhaps both of these pieces of information came into play?

GAGLIANO: I do. I mean, I'm certain he took in a lot of different things to come up with his final decision. But I do know that that meeting on the tarmac, that one on one meeting for 30 minutes, I know that that weighed heavily on his mind. What he was concerned about was, will the American public have lose their faith in the institution of our government. He felt he had to do that. Because that had never happened before. And I know it's been questioned good people on both sides of the issue can come down and say, well, it was a good decision or well, it's an ill-fated decision. But I think the dominos really started in late June, not July 5th at that press conference.

[17:20:20] CABRERA: And Maria, I know you've been critical of Comey's press conference last July. Does this new information change your opinion of his actions? MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It actually underscores it.

And in a jaw dropping way Ana, I cannot believe this story that CNN and others are now reporting, and while Mr. Gagliano is saying that in James Comey's testimony and perhaps even in his mind, the reason why he went so public in a way that really did away with every Justice Department protocol up until then, which was is to announce the end of an investigation without any editorial commentary, the reason he says was that it happened because of the meeting between Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General, and Bill Clinton.

What he told members of Congress was not that. In fact what he told members of Congress, according to CNN reporting, is that the reason he felt compelled to go public with his editorializing about his decision on the Hillary Clinton investigation, was because of this fake intelligence document. And when he told members of Congress that, he didn't even share with them that he knew at that point that it was a fake intelligence document.

To me, that is as astounding and what it does is that unwittingly, hopefully unwillingly James Comey actually became an agent of the Russian government because he put his thumb on the scale. And to me and so many others that worked on the 2016 election was a key reason that that election swayed to Donald Trump.

CABRERA: I want to give you a chance to respond to that because those are some strong words when you say he unwittingly became an agent of the Russians.

GAGLIANO: I got to push back on my colleague just a little bit on this. I mean, that's overheated hyperbole. James Comey is a man of high moral rectitude. I can tell you this, Ana. This was not something he woke up one day and just decided to do. He struggled with this, he spoke to his senior executives about this and he made this unprecedented decision because of that domino effect and what he felt like he had to do. What troubles me, and I'm not a show for the FBI, served in it for 25 years, I believe blue and gold, I understand the mission, I understand why we're a-political.

What bothers me are the leaks. All these things that are coming out. It just -- it doesn't look good and I think it has a deleterious effect on the process. I just hope that they can stop that because these leaks are coming from upper echelon either in the justice or either the FBI and I don't think it help the situation and I don't think it makes the FBI look good. I understand consequentialism, I understand people saying the ends here justify the means but every time these things leak out, I feel like the American public loses just a little bit of their trust and confidence in the FBI.

CABRERA: Well, it seems like the FBI, in this case James Comey was worried about leaks and that's why he again went around the typical protocol, and according to him, you know, made this statement in front of the public about the investigation. But let me ask you this Maria.


CABRERA: If his reasoning was that if he didn't come out and say something before somebody leaked this information about the fake memos, regardless if they were true, regardless if he knew they were fake and he weren't coming out and say eventually that these are fake, I mean the American public may not have believed him and would already assume then that that the Justice Department was there in the pocket of the Clintons. Would that not be a logical response?

CARDONA: Well, what I'll say is this, I have no doubt that James Comey was in perhaps one of the most difficult positions that an FBI director has been put in in recent history, I don't doubt that. And I don't doubt that he lost sleep over the situation that he was in. But what I do believe happened is that he made exceptionally horrendous decisions based on to me what it seemed was too much worry about what the FBI would look like in the eyes of the public, the politics of the FBI, his arrogance about being the FBI director and having to navigate through these political waters.

When in fact to me and I think to many, the role of the FBI director is to not even take politics into consideration here. And I'm sorry, I don't buy the fact that he believes that if this came out publicly if it was leaked that they would be unable to push back on it. Of course they would be able to push back on it without having to talk about methods of how they got this information and putting that at risk.

I believe the FBI has a role in pushing back on information especially now, disinformation, I just don't buy that they would be you know, completely at a lost as to what to do if these fake documents came out. And so, again I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say unwittingly he put his thumb on the scale of this election and did exactly what the Russian government wanted, which is to interfere and actually have a huge impact and the result of the 2016 election and that's exactly happened.

[17:25:44] CABRERA: Maria Cardona and James Gagliano, thank you both.

CARDONA: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up. How this work's deadly concert attack in the UK is affecting security now at the Indy 500?

CNN's Coy Wire is there.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Over 300,000 fans are expected to be here tomorrow for the Indy 500. It's the largest single day sporting event in the entire world. It's been said that you can fit Yankee stadium, the coliseum in Rome, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Dallas and Vatican City all inside the tracks. Well, of course, security is a priority here at Indy 500. Coming up, we'll tell you what measures they're taking to keeps fans safe.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:30:30] CABRERA: The terror attack in England prompting tighter in security in Indianapolis. For this weekend's Indy 500, race officials warn security will be seen and unseen with a beefed up federal, state and local law enforcement. Also prompting tighter security, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be there on Sunday.

CNN sports anchor, Coy Wire, joining us live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What's security like there, Coy?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, Ana. Track officials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway told us there'll be more than 1,000 law enforcement on site. They added quick-response tactical teams. They've had the drivers record PSA that will play on video boards at the track reminding fans if they see something say something. The terrorist attack in England has heightened security measures. And as you mentioned, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been to over 30 Indy 500s, will be here, too. Is expected to be, so to say. Now there is a well-thought out plan to keep the more than 3,000 people safe. Ana, this is the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

CABRERA: Exciting.

Coy, let's talk a bit about the big event. Rare for a rookie to win Indy 500. It happened last year. What are the expectations this year?

WIRE: Well, Ana, Spanish racing legend, Fernando Alonso, has never raced in the Indy 500. Over two million people watched the live stream of his practice here. The two-time Formula One world champion never on an oval track, never driven an Indy car, but Fernando likes a challenge.

One thing will be familiar to him, driving at ludicrous speeds.


WIRE: I played in the NFL and I thought I was crazy. Watching what you do out there, you're crazy.


FERNANDO ALONSO, RACE CARE DRIVER: We are. Definitely when you are in the car you don't feel the speed. You always want one miles per hour more. When you stop, and see the cars passing, or when you're in the grandstand and you see the race, you say these guys are crazy.

WIRE: Right. Right.

ALONSO: You realize you are one of those but you only realize it when you were outside the cars.


WIRE: Average speeds over 225 miles per hour. I rode in a car here and I had to tell myself stop screaming. My head started hurting afterwards.


I was nauseous. These guys go 500 miles for three hours, no bathroom breaks. They lose four to seven pounds over the course of the face. What they do is absolutely phenomenal.

CABRERA: Lose four to seven pounds, I guess because of the energy it takes to keep control.

Coy Wire, thank you so much.

Sad news to report in the music world. Music pioneer, Gregg Allman, the southern rocker legend, described as "a kind and gentle soul." We'll speak with his manager who spoke to him yesterday. That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:37:43] CABRERA: The music world lost a legend. Gregg Allman passed away today at 69. He was a founding member of the Allman Brothers band, a group that ushered in the era of southern rock in the 1970s.




CABRERA: That is Gregg Allman performing his classic "Midnight Rider" back in 2014.

He overcame family tragedy, drug addiction and health problems to become an elder statesman of sorts for the music he loved. Allman died from liver cancer complications at his home in Savannah, Georgia. He was surrounded by his family and friends.

Allman's manager, Michael Lehman, is joining us on the phone.

Michael, thanks for spending some time with us.

First, my condolences for your loss of your good friend. When did you learn the sad news?

MICHAEL LEHMAN, MANAGER FOR GREGG ALLMAN (voice-over): Thank you Ana. I learned this two hours ago. Gregg and I spoke last night and I actually got to say good-bye to him earlier today when he was very near passing. And then I received a call sometime, I guess mid- afternoon, that he had passed away peacefully at his home. Some complications, solemnly very cancer. I last saw him 10 days ago and we had a visit with each other, laughed, and shared stories and listened to music together.

CABRERA: It's always nice to be able to share those moments. LEHMAN: Yeah, actually, I was able to hear some new tracks from his

brand-new record, which is going to come out soon, called "Southern Blood." He finally got to hear the mixes of his record and shared with me how happy he was.

CABRERA: It obviously speaks to how much he loved music because of the fact he was still creating music. Everybody, well, maybe not everybody, but so many of us know his music but perhaps don't know the man you know so well. What does the world need to know about the person you knew very well?

[17:40:04] LEHMAN: So Gregg was a warm, kind-hearted southern gentleman. He loved people. He loved animals. He was a pet lover. He loved music, loved his fans. You know, he really loved life. It's one of his greatest joys was being out on the road, playing music in front of fans on a regular basis. And he actually got a create his own festival called the Lay Back Festival, and played his last concert on the stage in Atlanta on October of 2016.

CABRERA: And he was married to another music icon, Cher. And she tweeted out a picture of them earlier, saying, "Never Forget." She's got the emoji, smooch.



CABRERA: Tell us a little bit about their relationship.

LEHMAN: I really didn't know much about their relationship. Gregg spoke -- they had a child together. But you know, Gregg's most recent wife, Shannon, took beautiful care of him towards the end of his life and, you know, was there for him as well as his closest friend, Middleton, and myself, and his immediate family. Again, he felt love, he felt things very passionately. I know he and Cher stayed in touch. He had just spoken to Jackson Brown over the last couple days. He and Jackson first met when they were teenagers getting started in the business. And Gregg actually covered one of Jackson's songs on this last record and Jackson harmonized on it as well. It's going to be a beautiful tribute when this record comes out. I know the world is going to love the record.

CABRERA: We look forward to it.

Michael Lehman, thank you. And again, so sorry for your loss.

LEHMAN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Rocker Gregg Allman passed away today age 69.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, the president wraps up his first trip abroad not without ruffling feathers overseas. We'll break down the moments, live from the CNN NEWSROOM.





[17:46:35] CABRERA: President Trump ending his first foreign trip abroad by taking another swipe at NATO allies who he said aren't paying their fair share for defense. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PREIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The U.S. is currently paying much more than any other nation, and that is not fair to the United States or the United States taxpayer. So we're working on it, and I will tell you, a big difference over the last year. Money is actually starting to pour into NATO.


CABRERA: Those comments came after President Trump publicly scolded NATO members, drawing awkward looks and whispers during his speech in Brussels.

Joining us to discuss this, Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton University; and Caitlyn Huey-Burns, national political reporter for Real Clear Politics.

Julian, it's interesting because, remember in Saudi Arabia last week, we remember the president take a stance with people there. We'll talk about Islam, but yet, he goes in his meetings with Europeans and ally and the U.S. and he comes across hard and offends the members. What do you make of that?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: His relationships with European allies have been a source of attention from his campaign onward and that very much reflects his attitude toward NATO, toward our traditional alliances, and it was symbolized in the shove. Many NATO members feel that's who Trump is. It's going to be a problem. To implement the ideas he talked about, he's going to need that alliance.

CABRERA: We have that video right there of the shove as he pushes aside the prime minister of Montenegro. There's an op-ed on that says Trump's body language likely kind of troubled some of our U.S. allies there or ruffled feathers.

Caitlyn, do you agree?

CAITLYN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It certainly was a lot caught on camera. Remember the handshakes between Donald Trump and the French president --


CABRERA: There were a couple handshakes.

HUEY-BURNS: A couple of handshakes. The White House pool reporters described as a white-knuckled handshake. What's interesting --


CABRERA: This is the second one. The first one we saw we saw them sitting next to each other.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly, which is fascinating because Donald Trump had some supportive things to say about the French president, now French president opponent during that length. What's interesting about this trip, too, is Donald Trump was meeting other foreign leaders who were recently elected or this was their first time on this kind of national stage as well. As you mentioned these alliances are critical and we've seen as it pertains to NATO a lot of people are concerned he didn't endorse that defense pack and what that means moving forward especially as all these issues regarding Russia continue to unfold.

[17:49:44] CABRERA: Not only did he not come out and say, mention the Article 5, but he also did not sign the communique when it comes to climate issues, and people wonder what he's going to do on the Paris Climate Accord. He said he's going to make a decision this week. In a tweet this morning, that's what he's saying. We anticipate something there.

But, you know, another thing he didn't do on this trip overseas that has caused a bit of questioning behind the scenes is, why he did not hold a press conference. That's very irregular when it comes to these trips abroad.

Our Sara Murray asked the Trump team about this. Listen.


SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But you guys aren't in all of the meetings. How come the president didn't come out and do a press conference?

GARY COHN, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Do, look, look, General McMaster and I have been in the vast, vast majority of meeting -- there's very few that we haven't -- but that's not relevant.

MURRAY: But it's very bizarre for a president to (INAUDIBLE) trip like this and not take questions from the press to tell us how he thinking the meetings are going.


CABRERA: It was obviously hard to hear. This was an off-camera briefing with H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, and Gary Cohn, the director of the economic council. And they were defending President Trump. I don't know if it was in that, if you could hear, but they responded saying he's been so, so, so busy, there just wasn't time for him to take questions. Do you buy that, Julian?

ZELIZER: That doesn't seem plausible. You have an administration in the middle of a major crisis here in the United States, a major scandal, a major investigation, and every day, we have news breaking about some more he has to responded to. He's go the from attacking the press to avoiding it altogether. That won't last long. A press will come after a president and they will get them to speak, meaning the president and their staff, whether they want to or not. I think that's what's going on overseas.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. Some of his staff that were doing press conferences, to some extent, they said Russia didn't come up. They couldn't answer the questions that people are asking publicly. The president canceled a big rally in Iowa later this week, which is really striking, particularly since we know he likes those kinds of venues, and likes that atmosphere that could give him a chance to be interactive. That's canceled with all the questions about Russia looming.

CABRERA: And they didn't give a specific reason for canceling that.


CABRERA: They just said unforeseen reasons to have to reschedule.

What did you make of Melania on this trip abroad, Caitlyn? She seemed to step into the spotlight a bit.

HUEY-BURNS: She did, certainly, and why there was a lot of focus on her is because she has not done the traditional kinds of first lady things. She's not living in Washington yet, so this was her debut in this role as first lady on this national stage. A lot of attention was paid to her attire.

CABRERA: Which she got high marks in a lot of countries, except for the jacket you see there on the left, because that was a $51,000 jacket.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. Not entirely reflective of this populist mentality. But she was in fashion. That was her career. In the spotlight because she hasn't been seen in that role yesterday.

CABRERA: I'm curious about your take. We so often talk to women about women, Julian?

ZELIZER: She's been not very visible on the public stage. She hasn't been very active. It's not clear she's comfortable with the role, so everyone was watching. The two moments that caught everyone's attention, one the clothing and this contradicts the populism of the campaign and b, the hand holding, which you never want to read too much into, but it gives us a feel a bit, and not what kind of person she is but him and what their relationship is. This is one of the big puzzles.

CABRERA: She's a mysterious person for a lot of people, but there was that flick where he tried to grab her hand as they were walking from the plane with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. So many people have been focusing on that, although we did see them hold hands through the rest of the trip.

Julian and Caitlyn, thank you for discussing with us. We appreciate it.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

[17:54:11] CABRERA: Coming up our first look of the Manchester bomber on the night he carried out a deadly attack on the Ariana Grande concert.


CABRERA: Breaking news on CNN, news pictures, not yet seen before, of the Manchester, England, suicide bombers. These images just released by police, showing Salman Abedi not long before the attack. Authorities say today they have also identified the apartment in Manchester where final assembly was done on the bomb taken to the arena. Police say more than 1,000 people are involved in the investigation gathering information about Abedi's expenses.

Also breaking tonight, a travel nightmare unfolding in London. British Airways has canceled all flights from London's two biggest airports tonight, Heathrow and Gatwick. The airline blames a major I.T. system failure. But airlines officials say there's no evidence of a cyberattack. This comes as a major spring break travel weekend is upon us also in Britain. And British Airways says it hopes to restore service by tomorrow. Delays, however are expected.

That will do it for me for now. In New York, I'm Ana Cabrera. I'll be back in one hour from now for more of CNN's NEWSROOM.

In the meantime, "SMERCONISH" starts right now.