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British Airways Outage Causes Global Delays; UK Lowers Terror Threat Level to Severe; White House Sets up War Room to Rebut Russian Allegations; FBI Investigates If Portland Attack is a Hate Crime; The Three Men Behind North Korea's Rocket Tests. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2017 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:07] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: British Airways scrambling to get things back to normal on Sunday after grounding all flights from London's major airports Saturday because of a power failure.

Plus after eight days of meeting world leaders in the Middle East and Europe, as soon as he is back in Washington this is what President Trump is confronted with.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, did Jared try to set up a back channel to the Russians?


VANIER: The Russia controversy and the role of the president's son- in-law Jared Kushner.

And British Police believe they know where the Manchester bomber put together his deadly device.

Thank you for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM.

British Airways says it's aiming to operate at a near-normal schedule on Sunday after a major computer outage grounded all the airline's flights at London's two largest airports. You can see all the luggage piling up in the terminal there. You can see the chaos. Thousands of travelers are still stranded after a power supply issue brought down the system at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday. Officials say there's no evidence of a cyber attack.

CNN's Nina dos Santos joins us now. She's live from Heathrow Airport.

Nina, what's the status on those British Airways flights this morning?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Well, the status as of 6:50 a.m. local time, Cyril, I can tell you is that British Airways is aiming to resume normal operations at Gatwick Airport. But when it comes to the larger, busier hub here in Great Britain, Heathrow Airport, they're aiming to return to the majority of services. But of course remember there will be a significant backlog to clear after thousands of passengers were hit by the complete cancelation of the outgoing flights and incoming flights yesterday.

So let me just tell you roughly what we've seen over the last few minutes. We have seen some smaller, shorter flights starting to land from British Airways. A lot of the long-haul flights have been the ones that were first to resume there and they've been continuing apace. But again for consumers and customers who are on to the ticket this is a very busy bank holiday weekend. The message is still do not turn up at these kind of airports unless you're absolutely sure that your flight is confirmed and will be departing from here. Because the halls in Heathrow are extremely packed with people, people who have been there for at least a day, getting rather irritated, having to wait to find out when they're going to be able to head home or indeed some people waiting for their loved ones to find out when they will be able to arrive -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes. Nina, you've begun to answer my next question but you can imagine that viewers who are watching this from home either viewers who are needing to fly out with British Airways or viewers perhaps who are expecting people on incoming British Airways flights, what do they need to know?

DOS SANTOS: What they need to know at the moment is that they must save any kind of receipts for accommodation, travel, food, so on and so forth. Later on British Airways has said please save those, because if you ask for specific complaint or compensation we would need to see that kind of documentation. Those who do not wish to travel, or unable to travel, or able to get a refund, or book on another British Airways flight until November 2017 so they've got a couple of months to do that now.

And in the meantime, if you are one of the stricken passengers who's been stranded here and maybe you live in the UK, and you're headed back towards London or wherever it is you came your airport from, well, some of those people have actually had their luggage already taken off them and processed through the system, but of course because those flights aren't leaving they can't get out of the country. And they've had to basically abandon their luggage. We've seen a lot of stranded luggage here. Heathrow Airport -- I beg your pardon, British Airways have said that Heathrow and Gatwick, if you are facing that situation, well, they will be able to courier the luggage back to you at a time that's convenient and that they will bear the full cost of that. So passengers won't have to pay any extra.

In the meantime, BA again saying that they're desperately sorry for this situation and some IT services have gradually started to resume -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes. Nina dos Santos, thank you very much. We are seeing the pictures as you were describing it of that luggage piling up at the airport. You do not want to get caught up in that mix.

Nina speaking from Heathrow Airport where it's 8:00 a.m. in the morning, thank you very much.

And we stay in the UK. There could be a major breakthrough in the Manchester terror attack case. British police say they may know where the bomb used in the attack was assembled. They say it's a city center flat where bomber Salman Abedi went the night of the blast. Police have also released these security camera images of Abedi that were taken the same night.

Meanwhile the UK's terror threat level has been lowered after being raised in the wake of the attack.

Our Muhammed Lila has more in Manchester.


MUHAMMED LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: British officials have lowered the threat level from critical to severe.

[03:05:03] Now critical was the highest level possible. It meant that officials believed that another terror attack could be imminent. By lowering it to severe, it still calls on the general public to exercise a degree of vigilance. Well, what it means is that they don't believe that another terror attack is around the corner.

This comes as British Police continue to carry out raids both here in Manchester and surrounding areas. They arrested two individuals in connection with this investigation. That brings to 11. The total number of people that are now in custody.

Now while these investigations are still going on and police say they are trying to contain the network that they believed enabled the attacker to carry out his plot, behind me at this memorial, the memorial continues to grow. Thousands of people have come here just in this one day alone to pay their respects. And in one of the most emotional moments that I have seen here in my days covering this tragedy, the family of 18-year-old Georgina Callander came here to pay their respects.

You'll remember Georgina Callander was one of the first victims that was identified. She had posted a picture of herself smiling next to Ariana Grande. Well, in a symbolic gesture, her relatives brought yellow balloons and as a way to say goodbye to their loved one, they released those yellow balloons up into the sky. And the moment they did that the crowd around them began applauding as a way to pay their respects and to honor Georgina and the other victims who lost their lives as a result of this tragedy.


VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump is back at the White House after an eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. And he's getting confirmation that while he was away, the political firestorm over Russian meddling in the 2016 election grew even bigger. In the middle of the latest controversy is Mr. Trump's close adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

We get the latest now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump is back in Washington after his lengthy trip abroad and even though his team feels confident the trip was successful, he returns to plenty of controversy including a number of issues involving his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Kushner has yet to respond to reports that he attempted to set up a secret back channel line of communication with the Russian government during the transition. Kushner's connections to the Kremlin through a variety of means continue to be a specific line of inquiry by investigators looking to Russia's attempt to intervene in the U.S. election.

Despite these issues, a White House official says, Kushner isn't going anywhere. He plans to just keep his head down and keep focused on his wide portfolio of responsibilities in the West Wing. Meanwhile, the White House is shaking things up, creating a war room designed to quickly rebut the attacks that pour out as a result of the ongoing Russian investigation and the president's children are getting involved as well. Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, his wife Lara, spending the last few days in Washington, meeting with Trump aligned groups in and outside of the White House, including the teams of the RNC and the PAC American Priorities which supports the Trump administration.

The goal of these meetings was to get all of these teams on the same page ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the president's own reelection bid in 2020.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: And top advisers to President Trump are brushing aside questions about Kushner and Russia. Here's how Mr. Trump's director of the National Economic Council and his National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, responded to reporters on Saturday.


GARY COHN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: We're not going to comment on Jared. We're just not going to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Generally speaking, General, would you be concerned if somebody on the National Security Council or in this administration were to seek a back channel communication system with the Russian embassy and with the Kremlin? Would that generally concern you not to even addressing Kushner especially but in general terms?

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No. I mean, we have back channel communications in a number of -- with a number of countries. So generally speaking, about back channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner, so it doesn't predispose you to any sort of content of that conversation or anything, so, no, I would not be concerned about it.


VANIER: Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu has tweeted that Kushner's security clearance should be suspended and that Kushner should be prosecuted if he didn't disclose all of his Russia contacts on his security clearance forms.

Here's what he said to CNN's Ana Cabrera.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: The issue is not having a back channel communication with another country. The issue is that Jared Kushner wanted this done with Russian equipment at a Russian embassy. The only reason you would want to do that is to hide those communications from U.S. intelligence. It makes you wonder whose side is he on and what is he hiding?


VANIER: Larry Sabato joins us now. He's the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, the White House wouldn't comment directly about Jared Kushner but the National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, we just heard him, did say this.

[03:10:09] "I wouldn't be concerned about a Russia back channel if there was one," because his argument was it allows you to speak discreetly to foreign countries and the White House has back channels he was explaining with a number of countries.

What do you make of that reply, which is all that we have from the White House so far?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's an odd answer. And of course I think McMaster, as well as others in the White House, are concerned and frustrated that there has been so much talk of the Russia scandal during the nine-day foreign trip that president trump has just ended. But of course that's their own fault in a way. They were unable to capture the attention of both the citizenry and the press for every stage of that trip. And the president refused to have a press conference. He might have been able to move the Russia-gate concerns to the side and talk more about what was happening on the trip. But that didn't happen.

VANIER: But consider this, the argument that was being put forward by a friend of the president cited in "The Washington Post" who says essentially the reason the White House has always appeared a step behind in handling these almost daily Russia revelations is that the president has always believed that there's nothing there. So in a sense there's nothing to defend or nothing to justify because there was nothing nefarious.

SABATO: Well, he may believe that. But we've already seen revelations that would cause almost any fair-minded person to raise questions about what many of these Trump advisers were doing hanging around the Russians with such great frequency during the campaign and the transition? Despite what General McMaster said, it is not normal to have these kinds of back channel communications, particularly with the Russians. And if the report is suggesting that Kushner and others wanted a back channel that maybe was out of the Russian embassy or some Russian communications center, this is just extraordinary. And it's bonkers.

VANIER: And what about potentially setting up a war room, a small team of advisers dedicated to sort of hitting back and handling this story? If you look back to Bill Clinton, he had a similar team of people during his troubles and that helped him.

SABATO: It's perfectly reasonable for a White House to do that. But you can't delegate everything to a group of advisers. This involves not just the president but some of his key advisers, past and present. So they're going to have to deal with it as well. And again, the facts matter. The truth matters. This isn't just about contacts with Russia anymore. It's about whether the president committed any sort of obstruction of justice in his handling of the Comey firing and some other things.

VANIER: But when I look at those names, and we just put them up on the screen, of people who might be in that war room, it's Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, even Corey Lewandowski, bringing him back on board. It doesn't seem to me like it's a new beginning. I mean, it's the same familiar faces that we've seen for the most part.

SABATO: And if they're so effective, why is this presidency so controversial and why are President Trump's ratings consistently the lowest ever recorded by far for a new president?

VANIER: So look, what can the White House do? Reportedly the White House wants allies to pitch in. Whether it's Mr. Trump's family, they've begun to do that. The Republican Party, even donors to come in and publicly defend the president.

SABATO: Well, again, that's fine. All presidents in trouble have done something similar. And yes, it shores up the base. But we already know Trump's base will believe virtually anything he says. And they're not going to contradict him and they're not going to abandon him, for the most part. He has lost a piece of his base already. But for the broader public, certainly for those who don't like Trump but even the tiny number who are in between and haven't made up their minds, I don't think having members of his family or close associates defend him publicly is going to have any real impact.

VANIER: Can Jared Kushner stay in this White House without further explaining himself publicly?

SABATO: He's going to have to explain himself at some point. One would hope that this would be included in the special counsel's report. One would hope it would be released. Some are concerned that we'll never actually see the report. I think that would be a giant mistake. But sooner or later, we're going to have to hear from Jared Kushner, whether it's directly or indirectly, through the special counsel's report or through a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House Intelligence Committee or some other group.

VANIER: All right, Larry Sabato, thank you very much. We'll see how all this plays out. Thanks.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: And the U.S. city of Portland is remembering two men many are calling heroes. They were stabbed on board a commuter train Friday evening. Witnesses say a suspect started shouting slurs at two Muslim women.

[03:15:02] Police say the two men killed were trying to calm the man down. A professor of one of the victims described him as a wonderful human being who always asked intelligent questions in class.

Our Dan Lieberman has more on the attack.


DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Portland, Oregon, police are now identifying the suspect in a brutal stabbing. Thirty-five year old Jeremy Joseph Christian was booked on murder charges and is being held without bail after allegedly stabbing three people on a crowded commuter train during rush hour yesterday. Two of those victims died.

SGT. PETE SIMPSON, SPOKESMAN, PORTLAND POLICE: It's horrific. And there's no other words to describe what happened.

LIEBERMAN: Videos show Christian at a rally, shouting racist slurs and making Nazi salutes just weeks ago. Witnesses say that's what he was doing on Friday, shouting anti-Muslim and other hateful slurs, like --

EVELIN HERNANDEZ, WITNESS: Get out of the country. Plus, you don't pay taxes in here. And he doesn't like Muslim because they're like -- they are criminals.

LIEBERMAN: Authorities believe the comments were directed towards two female passengers, one wearing a hijab. Other passengers intervened and that's when the violence broke out.

CHASE ROBINSON, WITNESS: I go to reach out to start pulling people apart, and then I see that there's just blood everywhere. Again it happened so fast but it looked like every punch that I saw was actually a stab.

LIEBERMAN: Two men were killed and police say the suspect fled the train. He was later arrested at a nearby neighborhood.

ARSENIA BRITELLE, WITNESS: When he got off the train, I saw he was holding a knife and then he says, "Don't follow me."

LIEBERMAN: First responders tried to save one victim's life, but he died on the scene. The other victim died at the hospital. The other passenger who was stabbed is expected to survive. Two others were also injured.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley responded on Twitter saying, quote, "Terrible tragedy on Portland's MAX train. Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil."

Dan Lieberman, CNN, New York.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, world leaders press Donald Trump to reaffirm his commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. Now he's revealing when he will announce his decision.

Plus, and smoke clears from the last missile test. Who gets the hugs from Kim Jong-un? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. We'll explain after a break.


VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump is back in Washington after wrapping up his overseas trip with a final stop in Italy. He addressed hundreds of U.S. troops and their families at a naval air station in Sicily. He didn't mention the growing controversy at home over alleged contacts between his campaign and Russia. Instead, he touted what he called the successes of his trip and said he had hit a homerun.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was here in Sicily to attend very important summit meetings. The meeting of the G-7.

[03:20:03] It was a tremendously productive meeting where I strengthened American bonds. We have great bonds with other countries. And with some of our closest allies we concluded a truly historic week for our country.

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.


VANIER: Is the U.S. going to pull out of the global climate deal? We should find out in the coming days. President Trump tweeted Saturday that he will make a decision about that next week.

During the G-7 summit in Sicily, world leaders pressed him on this issue. Mr. Trump however left the summit without directly reaffirming his commitment to the Paris Accord in the official dispatch from the G-7, unlike the six other world leaders there, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (Through Translator): The entire discussion about climate was very difficult if not to say very dissatisfying. We have a situation where six or if you also include the EU seven are against one. We didn't beat about the bush, but rather made it very clear that we six of the G-7 member states, plus the EU, continue to support the targets.

This Paris climate agreement is not just any old agreement, but rather a central agreement for the course of globalization.


VANIER: Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted by devastating flooding in Sri Lanka.

Derek Van Dam joins us from the CNN International Weather Center. You started following this story yesterday. What's the news now?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. 270,000 people in 14 of the 25 districts in Sri Lanka have been impacted by this flooding. By the way, population of Sri Lanka around 20 million people. So it gives you a perspective of just how many people actually live there.

There's the visuals coming out of devastating flooding. Unfortunately the death toll continues to rise. Currently stands at 113 with 91 people still missing. Appeals for international assistance are being met. So that's the good news here. In fact I've got an image behind me which you'll see. Some of the supplies starting to arrive in the Colombo, Sri Lanka region. So relief is on its way but it is going to be days if not months before the cleanup is completely completed, I should say.


VAN DAM: Let's take you to the outer space because NASA's Juno mission actually made some incredible discoveries on the largest planet in our solar system, that's Jupiter. Let's take a look at some of these graphics and visuals here because you'll be able to understand what's so important and what's going on here. NASA actually solved some of the gas giant's mysteries. Our solar system's biggest planet. The bright ovals at Jupiter's poles are actually cyclones. Gigantic cyclones, as in ones that we have here on earth but let's say about 1,000 times larger and more destructive.

Also what's interesting that they found out is that Jupiter's magnetic field is about 10 times that of Earth's. So some interesting discoveries. They're actually going to make another fly-by here on Jupiter on July 11th. Hoping to solve more mysteries.

VANIER: As I listen to you, I'm thinking like gigantic cyclones, you must love this stuff.

VAN DAM: Yes. Absolutely. I'm going to call my fellow weather friends and tell them about that.

(LAUGHTER) VANIER: Derek Van Dam from the CNN International Weather Center, thank you so much.

VAN DAM: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: Now in North Korea, there are three men who like to have a smoke with the boss. And CNN has learned that unlike many, these three feel safe with Kim Jong-un.

[03:25:02] They are the minds behind North Korea's missile program.

Brian Todd takes us inside Kim's circle of trust.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a successful missile launch, they're always in the picture, sharing hugs, smiles, and cigarettes with their vicious boss. Three officials, whose body language and behavior toward Kim Jong-un are different from the other North Korean elites nearby, who genuflect in fear.

MICHAEL MADDEN, ANALYST: Kim Jong-un has guaranteed their job security, and that is what their body language is indicative of. They can feel comfortable enough with Kim Jong-un to deliver bad news.

TODD: CNN is told rival intelligence agencies are watching these three men carefully. Kim Jong Sik, Ri Pyong Chol and Jang Chang Ha are supernovas in Kim's inner circle, the men behind the missile tests.

MADDEN: At some point, they are going to put together North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile.

TODD: A missile that will eventually have the range to carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

AHN CHAN-IL, WORLD INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREA STUDIES (Through Translator): Kim Jong-un is keeping these technocrats right by his side so that he can be in direct contact with them and urge them to move fast. It reflects his urgency about missile development.

TODD: Of the three men, experts say Ri Pyong Chol, a former air force general, has the most important role.

MADDEN: He's the one that provides Kim Jong-un with the situational awareness. He's the eyes and ears for Kim Jong-un in the development and research of nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.

TODD: Analyst Michael Madden is consulted by intelligence agencies on North Korean leaders. He says Kim Jong Sik is an accomplished rocket scientist.

It's believed these three men are held in such high esteem, they get to rub elbows with the supreme leader like no one else.

MADDEN: They do get to travel at Jong-un's jet. They do get to travel in his cars, which is something -- a privilege that's not been extended to other core leaders. In terms of their lives in Pyongyang, they live in an exclusive apartment housing.

TODD: Analysts say it's possible rival intelligence agencies could target the three men for assassination, similar to how four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated a few years ago.

LT. COL. TONY SHAFFER, FORMER U.S. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, AUTHOR: They could be targeted through a drone strike. The other option essentially is finding someone within the North Korean government who does not like Un, who is disenfranchised and still has access to the activities, that is to say that they have access to the leadership activities who could be an assassin.

TODD (on camera): Could Kim Jong-un purge any of these men himself if they fail to advance North Korea's weapons program? Analysts say it's possible but not likely. Their scientific and logistical knowledge is simply too valuable to Kim and too tough to replace.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: Absolutely fascinating, a deep dive inside Kim Jong-un's inner circle.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm back with the headlines in just a moment.