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"The Washington Post": Kushner Sought Secret Line to Kremlin; Comey Feared Intelligence Would Discredit Probe; Trump's First Overseas Trip; U.K. Concert Terror; 28 Coptic Christians Killed in Egypt Attack. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 27, 2017 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president's son-in- law in the spotlight again. The new reporting from "The Washington Post" saying Jared Kushner tried to set up secret communications with the Kremlin. The Russia investigation now reaching into the president's inner circle.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, new revelations about FBI director James Comey. CNN has learned Comey knew a piece of intelligence related to the Clinton e-mail investigation was planted by Russian intelligence.

HOWELL (voice-over): And British authorities make two more arrests connected to Monday's terror attack in Manchester. We have a live report ahead.

ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Our top story, President Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, reportedly wanted to set up a secret line of communications with Moscow that bypassed normal diplomatic channels. And this was well before Mr. Trump took office.

HOWELL: This new storyline coming from "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" adding the back channel was intended to discuss strategy in Syria and other matters.

We get more now from CNN's Elise Labott.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Intercepted Russian communications discussed a proposal by President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to Russia's ambassador to the U.S. to create a secret communications channel between the Trump transition and the Kremlin, "The Washington Post" reported, citing U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

"The Post" reported Kushner made the proposal to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an early December meeting at Trump Tower to use Russian diplomatic facilities to shield their preinauguration discussions, according to U.S. officials.

CNN previously reported the two men met as part of an effort to create a back channel to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The White House did not comment on the report.

These revelations come as the FBI probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election includes looking at Kushner. The FBI is drilling down on Kushner's multiple roles in the Trump campaign and post-election transition.

Key among them, the Trump campaign's data analytics operation, run by Kushner and used to target voters in key states that helped Trump win the presidency.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VA., SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: I've heard and it's been reported that part of the misinformation/disinformation campaign that was launched was launched in three key states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and it was launched, interestingly enough, not to reinforce Trump voters to go out but actually target potential Clinton voters with misinformation in the last week.

LABOTT (voice-over): Federal investigators are examining whether Russian operatives used Trump campaign associates, wittingly or unwittingly, to aid their own efforts to push information about Hillary Clinton online.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jared is going to do a great job.

LABOTT (voice-over): As Trump's top foreign policy aide, Kushner's contacts with Russia are under scrutiny. Kushner was one of at least four campaign aides in contact with Sergey Kislyak and in December met with the head of a Russian bank under sanctions by the U.S. with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

At first he failed to list those contacts when he applied for a security clearance but later corrected the forms.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It seems like another day, another name. It's hard to find who in this administration is not being connected with suspicious ties to Russia. And it just points out how important this investigation is.

LABOTT: Officials tell CNN Kushner is not currently the target of the investigation but they believe he may be able to provide information that could be helpful to the FBI probe. Now his lawyer says he has volunteered to share information with Congress about his meetings with the Russians and is willing to talk to the FBI if asked -- Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters News Service that Kushner also had at least two undisclosed phone conversations with the Russian ambassador last year. Kushner's attorney says Kushner has no recollection of those calls.

CNN has also learned of a new development focused on the fired FBI director, James Comey. This is very important. It shows how Russian interference impacted the decision of top U.S. officials during last year's presidential campaign.

ALLEN: Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash has that.


DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that then FBI director James Comey knew that a critical piece of Russian information related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was fake, but felt --


BASH: -- he needed to take action anyway because he was concerned that, if the information became public, it would undermine the investigation and the Justice Department itself. This is according to multiple sources, talking to my colleagues, Shimon Prokupecz and Gloria Borger, and myself.

Now, these concerns 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. Now, you may remember that earlier this week "The Washington Post" reported on this intelligence and the doubts about its credibility.

The fact that Comey felt he had to act based on Russian disinformation is a stark example of how Russia's interference impacted decision- making at the highest level of the U.S. government during the 2016 campaign.

The Russian information at issue claimed to show that then Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation because of e-mails between then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operative said 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, quote, "drop" and undermine the investigation, but he didn't tell lawmakers that he doubted the accuracy of the information even in a classified setting a few months ago.

According to sources close to Comey, the FBI felt that the validity of the information really didn't matter because if it became public, they had no way to discredit it without burning their sources and methods. Now think about the chain of events all of this help set off.

When Comey held this press conference in July of 2016, announcing no charges against Clinton, he also took an extraordinary and what many people say inappropriate step of calling her "extremely careless."

Clinton aides are convinced that her reputation was damaged with voters and she never recovered. Now that probably wouldn't 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 tell us that Russia is still trying to spread false information in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations -- Dana Bash, CNN, Washington


HOWELL: Let's now bring in Steven Erlanger. Steven is the bureau chief in London for "The New York Times."

Steven, a pleasure to have you with us this hour. I want to get back to this story on Jim Comey in just a moment but first let's talk about these new revelations about Jared Kushner and this alleged secret back channel with the Kremlin, reporting from "The Times" also adds that this channel was to discuss strategy in Syria and other policy issues.

We haven't heard Kushner's side of the story yet.

But if this is true, Steven, could this point to collusion?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it points to a sort of paranoia, it seems to me, about the intelligence agencies that Trump campaigned and now President Trump has indicated for months now and General Flynn also, who was fired, as you remember, by President Obama from running one of those intelligence agencies, the Defense Intelligence Agency, clearly didn't trust them.

So I suspect some of this was simply to be able, during this transition time, to go around agencies that the Trump people felt were in favor of Hillary Clinton and President Obama. That's my guess. Collusion, I think, is a tough word there. Talking to the Russian ambassador isn't necessarily collusion. That's just statecraft.

HOWELL: That leads into the other question, really. Jared Kushner coming into government, into politics, as a businessman, not exactly aware of all the rules, you know, the boundaries that are in place for a person in his position.

Now the question here -- and, again, we don't know, you know, exactly his side of the story yet.

But could this possibly just be a naive mistake of a business man stepping into politics?

ERLANGER: Well, I can't read into anybody's heads but Trump has lawyers all around him and lawyers should have been careful. And everyone in the Trump campaign particularly when he was elected but not taking office should have known to be very, very careful in who they talked to and what they did and checked with lawyers.

Now that's not implying illegality. And also the problem is, you know, if things come out as they've come out, it's embarrassing. And part of the points of politics is to avoid embarrassing yourself and embarrassing your president. So I think whatever it shows is some bad judgment, certainly.

HOWELL: One thing that is certainly under scrutiny is the fact that these meetings were not initially disclosed. Obviously, they were updated for several members --


HOWELL: -- of the Trump transition and into the administration that the meetings were not disclosed initially.

Let's talk about the simple fact that Jared Kushner is the subject of scrutiny. This investigation now going to the heart of the White House, to the man known as the unfireable by many there. It is the president's son-in-law. It's very close to home for the president.

ERLANGER: Well, it is. And Trump has run this company. It's not actually that big a company.

And who does he actually trust?

He trusts his family. He's decided to trust his son-in-law. He trusts his lawyers and his accountants. Everyone else is an employee.

And I think you're right; Jared Kushner is unfireable. But, you know, this is going to be very uncomfortable.

Trump wants all this to go away. Everything we've reported and others have reported and you have reported indicate that Trump did his best to short-circuit this investigation, to jolly the FBI into not looking into Michael Flynn.

It is a sort of real -- it's like a stomach wound that isn't healing. And I think it bothers him a lot and it has potential I think to undermine a lot of his presidency.

HOWELL: Steven, we're brief for time here, I do want to pivot. This is the other important story that we're following here on CNN today.

Mr. Comey allegedly acting on what he knew was misinformation while investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server. Many blame his handling of that investigation on Clinton's downfall.

ERLANGER: Well, I know I've heard that and certainly Hillary Clinton believes it. I think, you know, the fault lies in her campaign. That's my personal view. I'm not there and I didn't cover this election. But it was not a great campaign and, yes, I'm sure what with Comey

said about her e-mail server and so on hurt her -- and certainly Huma Abedin's husband hurt her. But what also hurt had her was not campaigning sufficiently in the Midwest among the core Democratic vote.

ALLEN: Steven Erlanger in London, thank you so much for your time, with "The New York Times: and we'll of course to stay in touch with you.

ERLANGER: Thank you.

ALLEN: As you know, President Trump is overseas and is putting a cap on his eight-day tour abroad and he's doing it with a second day of G7 talks in Sicily, Trump's most ambitious try at foreign diplomacy yet has been rocky at times but it has been far more smooth than the political firestorm taking over Washington that we've just been talking about here in his absence.

Let's go now to our Nic Robertson. He joins us live. He's coverage these talks.

And, Nic, we want to talk about where there is commonality with the issues in just a moment. But first, since we were talking about yet another perhaps bombshell about the Trump presidency, I want to talk about perceptions among the leaders there of Donald Trump.

And it's also interesting that he has not held a news conference. He has not talked to the media and often -- you've been doing this for years and years -- presidents come out and take questions and they even take questions about what's going on back at home. He certainly avoided all of that.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and I think there's an understanding that he has sought to avoid commenting on the turmoil back in Washington.

Later tonight, he will be back there at the White House and it will become inescapable again.

But I think what surprises people, this was the president's first overseas trip by his own accounts, when he's commented as the camera's gone by him, particularly what he's told other leaders about how things went in Saudi Arabia, he seemed to have been very happy with that part of the trip.

But it is unusual for a trip of this length and even at a G7 summit like this for individual leaders of individual nations not to hold press conferences.

Theresa May was here yesterday. She held a press conference. Angela Merkel has made some comments on the record. The Italian prime minister has been speaking on the record here.

So you know, at the end of the G7, that's surprising. And at the end of such a big, big trip, having been to 70 places and met so many key allies of the United States, not for us to be able to learn what the president and understand first-hand from him what he's learned and question him about that, all we've been able to get at best is his advisers. And they've all put forward at times a very confusing and contradictory narrative -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, it seems like a disservice to the citizens of his country, that he hasn't spoken. Certainly he has no love of the media. We certainly know that.

Let's talk about the issues there they have come together on and the disagreements. I know climate change was discussed.


ALLEN: President Trump during the campaign saying it was a hoax cooked up by China but he's sitting down with other leaders who are very committed to clean energy and other issues surrounding climate change.

ROBERTSON: Yes. His chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and General H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, did give on record briefing yesterday. They said about 15 or 20 minutes was devoted to discussing climate and that President Trump listened to the issue of climate as put forth by the other members, that he didn't interrupt too much. It was a sort of a listen and interrupt, if you like, but he listened and he put forward his own views, that the environment is important to him, we're told. He told the other leaders there that he had received, President Trump, himself, told him that he'd received awards for his environmental views and work.

But there are still gaps on the climate; there were gaps on trade, there are gaps on migration. On terrorism, it seems to be where there's a commonality was found -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Nic Robertson, for us, covering its last day, thank you, Nic.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN, Muslims in the United Kingdom respond to terrorists after the Manchester attack. How some are condemning the bomber -- straight ahead.

ALLEN: Plus, gunmen go after a bus packed with Christian families in the desert. How the Egyptian president is vowing to try and find those responsible.








HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

A car bomb has killed at least 18 people in Eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Six people there were wounded.

ALLEN: The explosion hit near a bus station in the city of Kos on Saturday morning. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing so far.

HOWELL: British officials are scrambling to uncover a network they say is behind the Manchester concert attack. They've just arrested two more people and say that 11 men are now in custody.

ALLEN: And meantime, a Libyan militia says it has detained the father and brother of attacker Salman Abedi. It says the brother confessed to being in ISIS with the bomber and to speaking with him by phone 15 minutes before Monday's blast.

For more now, our Muhammad Lila is in Manchester and he joins us now live with the latest and more.

We can see outpouring of love and care for people behind you there, Muhammad.

I'm not sure Muhammad has audio.

All right. Let's go to his story now and then we'll talk with Muhammad afterwards. Here is his story.


MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The call to prayer echoes and the faithful begin to gather. This isn't just any mosque. It's the biggest and oldest Muslim congregation in Manchester. Many of its worshippers were born and raised in the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody on this land is my brother or sister.

LILA (voice-over): Worshippers like Gulnar Banukangadre (ph), the U.K. is the only home she knows, a home whose colors she's wearing on her hijab.

GULNAR BANUKANGADRE (PH), MANCHESTER WORSHIPPER: We'll get through this. We'll be more stronger. We'll rise above.

LILA (voice-over): As we remove our shoes, we walk inside the prayer hall. This is more than just a weekly sermon. It's the first Friday prayer service since the devastating attack that claimed 22 innocent lives, some as young as 8 years old.

LILA: How did it make you feel when you found out the person was a Muslim?

You're thinking about it now, I can see.


LILA (voice-over): It's a sadness that permeates the air, as the imam or prayer leader speaks from the pulpit, known as a member.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, he might have had a Muslim name but we disown his actions, we disown his character, we disown his behavior.

LILA (voice-over): Outside, a different crowd gathers. It's Amir Khan (ph), the champion boxer and one of the U.K.'s most recognizable Muslims. He grew up just a few minutes outside of town.

AMIR KHAN (PH), BOXER: The person who did the bomb is spoiling it for us, just giving us all a bad name. And obviously I don't want to be one of them people walking on the streets and someone pointing at me, saying, you're a terrorist. Or people being scared to sit next to me on the bus or the train.

LILA (voice-over): Back inside, we sit down with the imam and we ask him if the Muslim community should be doing more to stop these kinds of things from happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To say that the Islam community themselves are the answer to that problem in themselves is very unfair. There are multiple facets, multiple layers we're talking about, kind of psychosis, we're talking about psychological issues.

LILA (voice-over): That answer may not satisfy everyone and some in the community are afraid of reprisals. But he says now is not the time to hide. It's time to be proud of who they are and where they're from.


ALLEN: And we're joined now live by Muhammad Lila with more about what's going on there.

And there was something Ariana Grande had to say about this as well recently.

LILA: That's right. She put out her first public statement since the attack. We know that right after the attack, she said she was heartbroken and she had no words. She flew back to the United States.

Well, in a statement that she put out, she has vowed that she will return to Manchester to put on a benefit concert for the people here and she also says that she will remember those who lost their lives every day for the rest of her life -- Natalie.

ALLEN: A poignant backdrop, too, where you are standing there, Manchester.

Thank you for that, Muhammad Lila, thanks.

Well, it is time for mourning in Egypt after a devastating terror attack there we mentioned. Several gunmen opened fire on a bus full of Coptic Christians. At least 28 were killed, many of them children. HOWELL: In retaliation, the Egyptian air force launched airstrikes on what the president called "terror camps" in Eastern Libya.

Let's get more now from CNN's Ian Lee, following the story in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ian, we've seen this before, twin bombings on Palm Sunday.


HOWELL: Is this a threat of extremism?

Is it growing there?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, this is something that we've just seen happen in Egypt, really, over the past six months, are more of these deadly attacks against Christians by terror groups inside Egypt.

Now previous attacks like this have been claimed by ISIS. This current one, no one has yet come out to claim responsibility. If it is ISIS, expect them to say that they did carry it out.

But there have been a string of deadly attacks starting in December in Cairo, where a church next to the main cathedral was bombed, killing more than 2 dozen people. Then you had last April, where you had twin suicide bombing attacks on two different churches on Palm Sunday. That killed 45 people. ISIS claiming responsibility for that.

And in between all of that, in the northern part of Sinai, you've had ISIS target Christians; there's been an exodus of Christians out of Sinai. And I've spoken with them. And a lot of the times, after these attacks, they tell me that they're just -- they don't believe the government is doing enough.

We heard from the president yesterday. He said that Egypt is going to target "terror camps" that harbor and train terrorists, whether it's inside or outside of Egypt.

He also pledged that -- or he also called on the international community to do more.

But this latest attack is just having Egypt's Christians on edge because they just feel vulnerable. Where this bus that was traveling to St. Samuel, a monastery, which is -- this road is in, really, the middle of nowhere and it's easy for militants to strike and then disappear.

That's been a real challenge for the Egyptians to try to curb this violence.

HOWELL: CNN correspondent Ian Lee live in Istanbul, Turkey. Thank you, Ian. We'll stay in touch with you as well.

ALLEN: Next here, he is Donald Trump's son-in-law but has Jared Kushner overstepped a mark?

We'll go a little deeper into the latest revelations involving Russia.

HOWELL: Plus, we go live to Moscow for reaction there about the news with Jared Kushner and his contacts with Russia's ambassador of the United States.

We're live in the U.S. and around the world this hour. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.


ALLEN: One of President Trump's top advisers reportedly looked into creating a secret line to the Kremlin during the transition. "The Washington Post" reports Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, discussed setting up such a connection during a December meeting with the Russian ambassador. CNN has not confirmed the report and the administration has not commented.

Jared Kushner is more than Donald Trump's senior adviser; he's family.

HOWELL: And that means that he has the ear of the U.S. president whenever he wants it. CNN's Randi Kaye takes a closer look at Mr. Trump's right-hand man.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wherever the president goes, his trusted son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is never far behind.


KAYE: As senior advisor to the president, Kushner sits in on meetings in the Oval Office and was even in the war room when the U.S. struck Syria in response to a chemical attack.

Kushner, who is married to the president's daughter, Ivanka, is also helping shape the president's agenda on matters related to U.S.-China relations, trade with Mexico, criminal justice reform and overhauling the government.

An incredible amount of influence for the 36-year-old Kushner, who until the 2016 campaign, had no political experience. He and his father, like Trump, are real estate developers.

But his lack of expertise in all things Washington has hardly stopped President Trump from making Kushner the point person on just about anything, even peace in the Middle East.

TRUMP: He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.


I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.

KAYE: Kushner, an orthodox Jew who supports Israel, just this week met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife. In April, he represented the Trump administration on a swing through Iraq, alongside the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared's going to specifically express the commitment of U.S. -- of the United States to the government of Iraq, meet with U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign.

KAYE: Kushner has been called the secretary of everything, a title which has riled up some Democrats.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: He doesn't have experience in any of these areas and he's acting as a super secretary of state.

KAYE: When asked about Kushner's growing influence and role in international deal making, the White House explained it this way.

SPICER: There's a lot of relationships that Jared's made over time with different leaders, Mexico being one of them you mentioned, that they're going to continue to have conversations with him.

KAYE: And what about Kushner's relationship with Russia?

During the transition, turns out Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower. The White House says he was acting as a conduit to world leaders.

Also at Kislyak's suggestion, Kushner met with a Russian banker who owns a bank that had been sanctioned by the Obama administration. Kushner has offered to testify before Congress about both of these meetings.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), S.C.: The fact that he met with the banker, I think he needs to explain himself.

KAYE (on camera): His dealings with Saudi Arabia may also need some explaining. Just two weeks --


KAYE: -- before the president's visit to Saudi Arabia, Kushner personally called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to cut a deal for a sophisticated missile detention system.

Kushner asked the CEO to cut the price so they could finalize the arms deal, a weapons package that in the end cost about $110 billion for tanks, fighter jets, combat ships and more.

KAYE (voice-over): For a Trump White House built on unconventional choices, it goes without saying Jared Kushner is just that -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Randi Kaye, thank you so much.

Now let's get perspective from CNN's Clare Sebastian, live in Moscow.

Clare, great to have you with us. So again, the headline per "The Washington Post," Kushner sought secret line to the Kremlin, big story here in the United States that will certainly play through the day.

Is it playing there in Russia?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's getting a small amount of attention, George, in some of the Russian media. But it's interesting; we reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment on this. The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman replying to me and saying this was, as she called it, McCarthyism or, quote, "internal political squabbles."

I followed up with a question about whether the ministry has had any communication from its ambassador in Washington and any knowledge about the request by Jared Kushner for a secret channel with Moscow.

The response I got, well, no direct comment on this but the foreign ministry spokeswoman simply saying that if we want to know more about Jared Kushner's business or political contacts, it would be worth turning our attention to the Middle East, perhaps a reference to those dealings with Saudi Arabia that your previous report talked about.

But this is in keeping with the rhetoric that we've seen throughout the last few months from Moscow, basically painting this as internal political chaos in Washington, essentially suggesting that Russia is being used by Trump's opponents to try and hurt the administration and really just trying to deflect attention as a realization here of just how politically toxic Russia has become to the Trump administration.

HOWELL: Clare, I surmise that I can guess the answer that you'll have when I ask this question but, again, this is a new ripple in the water here, this new revelation we're learning from "The Post" or "The New York Times."

But is there any official response to this latest news, any official response from Russia?

SEBASTIAN: Nothing more than that what we just got from the foreign ministry, that statement from Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman calling this, as I said, McCarthyism or internal political squabbling in Washington. We haven't heard anything from the Kremlin and there isn't really very much attention being paid to this in the Russian media. Russia has very much been trying to distance itself from what is going on in Washington. They have other foreign policy issues going on. The foreign minister was meeting with his Chinese counterpart this weekend. They are really trying to stay calm and stay above all of this as these lines continue to stream out from Washington -- George.

HOWELL: Clare Sebastian live in Moscow. Clare, thanks for the reporting.

The former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has died. He served under then president Jimmy Carter during the Iran- contra crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late '70s.

ALLEN: Mr. Carter described Brzezinski as "brilliant, dedicated, loyal and a superb public servant." His death was announced on Instagram by his daughter, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski. She called him the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have. Zbigniew Brzezinski was 89.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, more on the Manchester bombing case. What we now know about the attacker's ties to that city.

ALLEN: Plus what a Libyan militia claims about the bomber's family. We'll have a live report from Tunis as well.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta.




HOWELL: Welcome back. The Iraqi military says it has started the final stages of the liberation of Mosul from ISIS. This after months of intense fighting. The terror group's control of this sprawling city has shrunk to just a few neighborhoods in Western Mosul.

ALLEN: The military did not say how long this final push might take. Leaflets have been dropped over the ISIS-held parts of the city, urging civilians to flee ahead of advancing Iraqi forces.

HOWELL: So let's recap the news that we're following out of the United Kingdom. British authorities have made two more arrests in the Manchester terror investigation. Eleven people now in custody as investigators try to unravel the network they say helped the bomber, Salman Abedi.

ALLEN: Meantime, a Libyan militia says it has detained Abedi's father and brother and that the brother admits the siblings were members of ISIS. Our Atika Shubert is in Manchester with more on Abedi's possible ties to terror.



Two possibilities, Syria and Libya. But the answer may be much closer to home. Last year, Abedi was seen with this man Abdalraouf Abdallah, also British Libyan but now in prison, convicted for funneling fighters into Syria.

A seasoned veteran wounded in the 2011 Libyan revolution, Abdallah needs a wheelchair, which is why several worshippers at the Aratman (ph) Mosque remember him and Salman, helping to push the wheelchair at Friday prayers. Khalid al-Kouncil (ph) saw them together a year ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you remember seeing Salman Abedi at the mosque?

KHALID AL-KOUNCIL (PH), MOSQUE WORSHIPPER: Yes, I see him sometimes in here in the mosque. He come usually (INAUDIBLE) on Friday (INAUDIBLE) because he comes, last time I see him, (INAUDIBLE) he was pushing the guy with the (INAUDIBLE), that disabled guy.

SHUBERT: Also from Libya?

AL-KOUNCIL (PH): Yes, he was from Libya, yes. He was very quiet. He was come to the mosque; he sat in the mosque and pray and he goes. It seems like he's a normal person.

SHUBERT (voice-over): The mosque is in Manchester's rough Moss Side (ph) neighborhood. Khalid al-Kouncil (ph), a Libyan mechanic here for 17 years, told us the attack has hit the Muslim community hard.

AL-KOUNCIL (PH): Every single Muslim is affected with this, what he done, because everyone he looks to the Muslim, what he done. And this is actually, it's not right things to do. He affect me, affect, I mean, too many brothers in here, he affected them. And even now, we fear, even my wife, she is scared to go to the town.

SHUBERT (voice-over): The Abedi family attended the larger mosque in the upscale Didsbury area. The sermons against ISIS and extremism pushed Salman to the fringes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Abedi family, especially the father and the older brother were quite respected and well-known in the Libya community here. And there were normal people. There was nothing abnormal about them.

However, Salman was kind of isolated and inverted. He was not engaging with the Libyan community here and actually most of --


SHUBERT (voice-over): -- his friends were outside of the Libya community.

SHUBERT: The picture that's emerging of Salman Abedi is that of a lonely young man, drifting between communities here but he didn't have to go far to find other young men and women vulnerable to extremism. SHUBERT (voice-over): Around the corner from Abedi's house at Whalley

Range High School, Zahra and Salma Halane caused a stir when they ran away from home to join ISIS.

Even when the Halane twins reached Syria, they met up with an old friend from Moss Side, Ralph Hosti (ph), notorious for being ISIS' most prolific British recruiter, believed killed in a drone strike.

Local media, citing British investigators, say he, too, is linked to Abedi.

Many came here to escape wars at home and now some worry about raising their kids here.

AL-KOUNCIL (PH): Is everybody here worried about his children.

SHUBERT: You have sons of your own.

AL-KOUNCIL (PH): Yes, yes, you have to worry about them.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Violent extremism, he told us, is a danger no parent can afford to ignore -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Manchester.


ALLEN: So let's talk more now about the bomber, Abedi, and his ties to Libya. Our Jomana Karadsheh joins us now from neighboring Tunisia.

Hello, Jomana.

What are you learning?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, a lot of the information that we are getting is coming from family friends or the special deterrent force in Tripoli. That is one of the main armed groups in the Libyan capital that is normally under the control of the interior ministry.

They say on Tuesday they detained Salman's younger brother, Hashem, a 20-year old, for suspected ties to ISIS. They also claim that he was planning to carry out an attack himself in the Libyan capital.

They also detained the father, Ramadan Abedi, on Wednesday and they say that they are interrogating him. They have not released any information about what they have may have obtained him from the father. But so far the information that is coming out from this armed group relates to Hashem Abedi. They say that he has provided them with information. Of course, how that information is obtained is something we really cannot verify.

They say that he was aware of his brother's movements, that he knew his brother was planning to carry out an attack and that his brother, Salman, called him 15 minutes before he carried out the attack in Manchester.

They also say that Hashem was in the United Kingdom during the planning phase of that attack.

Now why the Abedi brothers were in Libya in the first place, we're learning this Natalie, from family and friends who tell us that the father, Ramadan, who left the United Kingdom following the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, returned to Tripoli.

He was really concerned about his two younger sons, Hashem and Salman, and he worried that they were getting into some sort of trouble, some sort of gang violence in Manchester.

So about a month ago, he went back and he brought them to Tripoli, confiscated their passports so make sure they don't return to the United Kingdom. But according to family friends and also to the special deterrent force, Salman deceived his parents.

He told them that he was going -- he wanted to go and perform the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, took back his passport and left but he did go back to Manchester. And that was days before carrying out the attack.

A spokesman for the special deterrent force says they do not believe that any planning or training for the Manchester attack took place in Libya, that according to what the younger brother, Hashem, told them, that the planning has been taking place since the end of 2016.

But you can expect Western intelligence agencies, British investigators will really be looking closely at his trip to Libya and possible previous trips to Libya, who he may have met with, who he may have spoken to because, Libya, Natalie, remains a lawless country with so many different armed groups and some of them jihadist groups with ties to ISIS -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Hopefully, they will find more people that perhaps were involved or inspired there. Thank you so much, Jomana Karadsheh, for us.

HOWELL: Still ahead this hour, dozens of people are dead and missing in Sri Lanka after monsoon rains triggered flooding and mudslides.

ALLEN: Derek will be along with more about it in just a moment.






HOWELL: Welcome back.

Intense flooding that's been caused by the Indian monsoon has killed more than 90 people and it's left many more missing in Sri Lanka.

ALLEN: Yes, it's believed to be the worst flood in Sri Lanka since 2003. Derek's going to tell us about it.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And the floodwaters are still rising and there's an urgent appeal from the Sri Lankan ministry of foreign affairs to the United Nations to ask for assistance and aid for the recovery effort here.

Check out some of the video coming out of this area. So you can see exactly what people are dealing with; 110 people currently missing because of these annual events. It seems as if every year we're talking about the flooding that happens here.

The waters there are trapping people in their houses, surrounding their homesteads; 20,000 people impacted by this. Military boats and helicopters sent to help rescue operations that are currently underway.



ALLEN: Well, he's not exactly one of the boys in the band but he's cool. Former U.S. President George W. Bush is a big fan of Bono, did you know.

HOWELL: That's right. The 43rd U.S. president -- take a look at this Instagram picture, with U2's lead singer, Bono, calling him "the real deal" there in Crawford, Texas. The rock star was hanging out with the former president at his ranch there during a concert tour to mark the 30th anniversary of U2's landmark album, "The Joshua Tree."

It is a great album. A spokesman for Mr. Bush says the pair talked about their shared commitment to saving lives in Africa.

ALLEN: They're pals. That's kind of cool.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

ALLEN: That's our first hour of CNN NEWSROOM. We have a lot more ahead here. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues right after the break.