Return to Transcripts main page
Tough Talk And A Show Of Force As Tensions Rise Between The U.S. And North Korea; A 6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Shook Southern Mexico; U.S. Army Reserves Have Deployed 4,000 Reservists To Help With The Relief Effort; People Living Near The Guajataca River Are Fleeing In Eminent Dam Break; Investigation Into Russia's Interference In Last Year's Election Is Digging Deeper Into The White House Now And President Trump's Own Actions In Office. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 23, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Moments ago President Trump threw a fresh punch at the NFL, part of his blistering attack on some of the top names in the sports world in the last 24 hours. But first let's hear what NBA superstar Lebron James has to say about the President's assault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: You look at him kind of asking, you know, the NFL owners to get rid of players off the field because they are, you know, exercising their rights and that's not right. And then, you know, when I wake up I see that, you know, a colleague of mine has been uninvited of something that he said he didn't even want to go to in the first place, you know, to the White House, you know. There's just something I can't stand for, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Now, the whole thing started when the President urged the NFL to fire football players who kneel during the national anthem. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (bleep) off the field right now. He's fired! He's fired!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: President Trump just fired this zinger at the man in charge of pro-football and I quote "Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement tried to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stands."
Earlier the President turned his eye (ph) to the NBA and reigning champion, the Golden State Warriors. Trump disinvited Steph Curry from the traditional White House visit for league winners only after Curry had turned down an invitation.
The President twitting, going to the White House is considered a great honor for championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating therefore invitation is withdrawn.
Let's get right to White House correspondent Athena Jones.
And Athena, what are you now hearing from NFL team owners?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana.
Well, there has been a fierce backlash to the President's remarks last night using that vulgar language that of course not only insults these mostly African-American players who have been taking a knee during the national anthem, it also insults their mothers.
Here is what the most recent statement we have gotten from a team owner. This is the owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York. Here is what he had to say. The callus and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for. Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world. The San Francisco 49ers will continue to work toward bringing communities and those who serve them closer together.
That statement echoes what we heard in part from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier today who called the President's remarks divisive. And also what we heard from the owners of the New York Giants, John Mara and Steve Tisch. Here is what they said in a statement put out a little while ago.
Comments like we heard last night from the President are inappropriate, offensive and divisive. We are proud of our players. The vast majority of whom use their NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society.
So we have gotten a lot of negative reaction to what the President had to say last night. I should note, Ana, for our viewers, the crowd there at that rally in Virginia -- in Alabama last night responded favorably. They seemed to like what the President had to say about these players, about these owners, how they should fire the players. But a lot of other people, not just black athletes or black people, but people across the racial spectrum both on twitter and off twitter have responded negatively. Now we have these comments from NFL owners also responding negatively.
A lot of folks on twitter asking why the President -- why we didn't see the kind of passion we saw from the President last night in response to the protests in Charlottesville last month where there were neo-Nazis and KKK supporters also exercising their free speech right but who were not condemned as strongly by the President. We are also seeing sports analysts predicting they will be more protests not fewer protests in response to those remarks from President Trump -- Ana. CABRERA: We shall see because the Sunday night football games in the
afternoon tomorrow will have some quick responses.
Thank you, Athena Jones.
I want to read the President's earlier tweets attacking NFL players who do not stand during the national anthem.
Here what else he wrote today. If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our great American flag or country and should stand for the national anthem. If not, you are fired. Find something else to do.
Let's talk it over with CNN's Brian Stelter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" and our CNN senior media correspondent. Also with us Keith Reed, former ESPN senior editor and now sports business analyst and CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, former Republican congressman from Georgia.
So Jack, you have long time defended this President for some of his controversial remarks. What does he have to gain by attacking the NFL, America's most powerful sports league and picking fights with people like NBA Steph Curry?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Ana, let me say this. I certainly can see both sides of this and I want to talk about the President's side. This is a culture war. This is about people who are NFL fans who actually do believe in God, country, family and, you know, spend $50 to see somebody punt, pass or kick. And instead they get their political views mixed in to the game. And the people aren't going there to see their political views particularly when they feel those views are unpatriotic.
So I think it is a cultural war that the President is talking about. And I think he is on safe ground because so many people are saying, you know, Colin Kaepernick for example, I think made $14 million last year, which is more than 99 percent of any American is going to make in his or her entire lifetime and yet, the country is so bad that the quarterback can't put his hand over his heart and think about the men and women who made that moment possible, not just for his team but for all of the country to enjoy.
So I think mixing the politics against the demographic of the NFL is probably not a good idea. So I think the President politically speaking, Ana, there are a lot of facets to this, but politically speaking, I think he is on safe ground.
CABRERA: Those men and women who fight for this country are fighting for a democracy. And I just want to put up a tweet that congressman Ted Lieu put out just a few minutes ago. And he writes, America is a confident democracy. He agrees with you. That's why we let folks take a knee. We don't force people to stand during the anthem or bow to dear leader, Jack?
KINGSTON: Well, it is still - you know, when I go out to NFL, and if I'm going, I want to see people catch, punt, pass or kick. I don't want to hear about their political views. I'm paying them to do something else entirely different. Now I can't go to the coach --
CABRERA: But you are not paying them. But you are not paying them. That's the thing. You are not paying these players, Jack. I guess you are paying the league if you're going to those games. But bigger picture here, it's not about the money that they are making. I mean, the people are angry, people are criticizing the President's remarks are saying, you know, why are white men marching with KKK flags in the name of white supremacist verified people while people of color kneeling before the American flag in the name of equality as elite.
KINGSTON: Well, I don't think that's what he said --
CABRERA: That is what he said. They are sobs.
KINGSTON: His statement - I actually heard it. His statement was wouldn't you love to see one of the owners say fire the SOB. And, by the way, it is interesting that the San Francisco owner Mr. York is a pontificate on this, why doesn't he rehire Colin Kaepernick. If he feels so strongly about it, that would be one quick way he could get back and wave his thumb at the President, you know. I'm going to rehire him just to rub it in your face. They don't want to do it.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Where a climate where the President of the United States is demonizing Colin Kaepernick would make it harder for a team to go and hire him. It make it even harder for a team to hire him.
Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett, they want to be heard. President Trump is saying, shut the hell up. Do not speak out. Do not talk about equality. How is that aligned with our first amendment values?
KEITH REED, FORMER ESPN SENIOR EDITOR: I think --
KINGSTON: Well, think about it for a minute. And you too. When with I listen to YouTube and I hear their music, it's fine. I can enjoy it or not. But Bono doesn't mix that in his song. He does use his celebrity to capitalize on his political views which are all left wing and anti-Trump. But he divides the two. And so he does it on his own nickel. He doesn't do it when --
CABRERA: OK. We are going down -- let me.
STELTER: Why doesn't the President stick to politics?
KINGSTON: I think -- what culture wars are all about.
CABRERA: My question is, Keith, is this President trying to drive a wedge between NFL executives and players?
REED: I think this President is trying to drive a wedge between NFL fans and NFL players. I think the country is -- I think the President is trying to use sports as a wedge issue in a way that it's never been used before. Sports in this country as I have said many ties today is traditionally
been a unifying issue and it has been. This is not unusual for players in the NFL or in many other leagues, you can look back to Jackie Robinson, you can look back to Mohammed Ali, you can look back to Karim Abdul Jabar and see athletes in particular, African-American athletes leading on the social and political front in terms of conversations around justice. So to turn around and say that because professional athletes make more money, then the average citizen they shouldn't have a voice is not only anti-first amendment but it's also against unethical (ph) to what we know about the history of professional athletes and their ability to uses wishes (ph).
I'm also glad that one of my colleagues on the panel here brought up the issue of professional sports owners, because pro-sports owners have not been silent in terms of their political views. We know that there are many owners in the NFL, many owners across sports who give -- who make political contributions and who contribute to packs. We don't ask them to stand down and not have a voice. We don't ask them to lower the volume on their political --
[19:11:05] KINGSTON: They are doing tonight playing field. This is -- I got to say. I understand what you are saying --
REED: So the distinction that you are making is that --
KINGSTON: The culture war is that you have a lot of one percenters paraded out for example in the Emmy's last week that are lecturing middle class Americans on what they should be doing and people are kind of sick of that.
KINGSTON: $14 million a year and Colin Kaepernick can't stand for the pledge of allegiance.
REED: How much money did Jed York make in the last year that he paid Colin Kaepernick to be his quarterback? And how much money is he making and how much money --
KINGSTON: Do you want to hire Colin Kaepernick again?
CABRERA: Well, my understanding is Colin Kaepernick didn't want to --
CABRERA: Let me just throw this out there to you, Brian, because I had a viewer who said I agree with the President. Of course, they can protest you, right, but they should not go to work and go protest instead? And what if a TV anchor wants to protest on the air, Is it different?
STELTER: Certainly. You have the right to protest. You don't have the right to protest and never have any consequences as a result and Kaepernick san example of this. He chose to speak out and there were consequences apparently teams don't want to hire him. That was one of the consequences. So he is paying a very steep price. But that gets into a debate about whether his first amendment rights are being effected.
They are not because the first amendment effects the government and whether the government is impeding you from speaking. If you are a private team owner that decides whether to hire someone that has nothing to do with the first amendment.
When the President, though, invokes the subject and says that someone should be fire from protesting, the President is not speaking with first amendment values encouraging freedom of expression. That's what has a lot of folks reacting critically today. That's why we are hearing from a lot of players who are criticizing the President. And I'm really curious how this spills over into tomorrow. As you said, how many people might take a knee at these games tomorrow. It's a story that's going to continue in the days to come because of that. And I think it's a good problem for the owners.
CABRERA: The comments the President made last night about the constitution, you heard him at that rally doubling down and touting the importance of the second amendment, the right to bear arms in that crowd. Why doesn't he express the same kind of sentiments about the first amendment, the freedom of speech?
KINGSTON: You know, I think he is OK with the first amendment, freedom of speech. This is a guy who twitters as we know very, very abundantly --
STELTER: He likes his own speech.
KINGSTON: The behavior of the NFL. Think about this a minute. Deangelo Williams one of the stars of the Steelers was not allowed to wear pink in honor of I believe it was his mother who died of breast cancer. He could wear it during October but he would not -- he was not allowed to wear it outside of October. So the NFL does not give their players freedom of speech. They do not have the first amendment rights. They are even dictated what kind of uniforms they have to wear to the height of their socks. So let's don't pretend like the NFL's is incubator of free speech. It absolutely is not.
And it is absolutely correct that other athletes have pushed the envelope in terms of expressing causes and many of them had been fined for it in other capacities, in other leagues, so it's not unusual to have this kind of tension. But again I want to get back to the culture --
STELTER: It's unusual because the President --
KINGSTON: Who will never make the kind of money that they --
CABRERA: Let me -- let me get -- let me give Keith the final thought here, guys. REED: I got to jump in. I'm glad you brought up Deangelo Williams.
I'm literally sitting in a studio that's spitting distance from high and spill here in Pittsburg. I would be curious to know whether or not you thought the NFL made the right decision by telling the Deangelo Williams he could not wear pink in support of his mom who died of breast cancer.
My mother died of breast cancer right here in this city. I know that there are many people here in this city and many people around the country who did not feel it was a good decision that the NFL made to support players who wanted to speak out about that issue.
So what we are really talking about is not discomfort with player who are speaking out about social or political issues, we are talking about discomfort with players who are speaking out about specific issues. Because if we are talking about breast cancer, people had a lot of quams about the NFL telling players what they can or cannot say. But if we are talking about police abuse, then we are in another issue. If we are talking about the American flag, then we are in another space.
And we're getting very, very selective -- let me finish my point - we are getting very selective about where we want to apply our strict construction where the first amendment applies so it's OK to support a player in talking about a particular cause but it's not OK to support a player in talking about another cause. If a player talks about a cause that you don't like or doesn't suit your needs in terms of your political views then that player should be fired and should be able to go back to work.
STELTER: That's what a President would normally say.
CABRERA: All right, guys. Got to leave it there. Brian Stelter, Keith Reed and Jack Kingston, I appreciate the conversation. Thanks for being here.
Well, this might just be some strange timing but we have also just learned that another championship team that might have had a White House trip in its future will not be going either. The University of North Carolina men's basketball team won the NCAA tournament back in April and the school's athletic department now issued a statement saying quote "we are not going to the White House this year. The team was fine with going. But we could not find a date that worked for both the basketball team and the White House."
Coming up. Name calling and nukes. President Trump fires back at the North Korean dictator after Kim Jong-un calls him mentally deranged. And now new threats that an attack on the U.S. is even more inevitable.
[19:21:29] CABRERA: Tough talk and a show of force as tensions rise between the U.S. and North Korea. Now at the United Nations general assembly this afternoon, North Korea's foreign minister slammed President Trump calling him mentally deranged and full of megalomania. The speech comes the same day at U.S. air force bombers and fighter jet flew just off North Korea coast over international waters flying further north of the demilitarized zone than any U.S. military plane this century. Add to this mysterious seismic activity today near North Korea's nuclear testing site. Analysts tell CNN it may be just aftershocks as a result of the nuclear test earlier this month.
Joining us now, CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
So Elise, a lot has been said this week to say the least. A lot of talk, now there is a show of force by the U.S. military. Where is this all headed?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think it's just going to continue to be a war of words. But when you have this show of force by the United States and what was it? It was a warning to Kim Jong-un not to launch any military strikes against the U.S., any rockets against U.S. territory, its allies or the U.S. response will be swift and overwhelming. It's really a suicide mission.
The problem is you wonder if Kim Jong-un doesn't think that the U.S. is bluffing and tries to press his hand. And then you get to this kind of escalation or retaliation that nobody wants. But certainly this has becoming a very personal between the two leaders. You have the statement this week by Kim Jong-un unprecedented in his own name speaking out against President Trump himself.
Now, Kim Jong-un who is always been one of the world's leaders in brinksmanship. But you know, it seems like he's met his match in Donald Trump. Donald Trump really getting into his head. And it just -- we have to see what Donald Trump now is going to do to respond to the foreign minister's speech. I mean, I think they are both backing each other into a corner and not really leaving that much room for, you know, diplomatic initiatives.
CABRERA: Which we all hope that there is a diplomatic answer.
Meantime, I want to ask you about your new reporting about these sonic attacks in Cuba affecting U.S. diplomats. It sounds like it's a lot bigger than we all first thought.
LABOTT: Well, I mean, the U.S. thought they had stopped in the spring. There were two more incidents in August and now the U.S. officials are telling myself and CNN's Havana bureau chief Patrick Oppmann there have been nearly 50 attacks, OK, 21 diplomats, some of them and their families, some of them have been effected several times, some of them were in hotels where the diplomats were staying and it is very concerting. And now we're being told that the U.S., the state department is considering bringing some of its diplomats home, keeping a smaller contingent there because they don't know who is involved, they don't know what is happening. The Cubans have denied any involvement. Officials tell us they don't think there's any way that the Cubans either it's a rogue element or, you know, Raul Castro himself has denied any capability. And they are cooperating.
But they say, look. Unless these beams are coming from outer space, it's really impossible to believe that the Cubans aren't involved in some way considering their control on the islands. So it is really concerning. State department wants to protect its people and they are looking into what they can do next. Don't have any evidence so far of a third country. They thought maybe they were looking at Russian, Iran, Venezuela but so far all signs are pointing to Cuba.
CABRERA: And 50 attacks. That is a lot.
Elise Labott, thank you so much.
Coming up, beneath the rubble, the desperate search for survivors as we take you to Mexico City. Live pictures right now. Remember when they hold up the fist, that's a sign to be quiet. They are telling people around to be quiet. They believe they may be trying to reach a survivor and we are live on the grounds with the very latest when we come back.
[19:29:46] CABRERA: Breaking news out of Mexico today. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake shook southern Mexico this morning less than a week after a more powerful quake struck Mexico City. Now today's quake set off sirens there. I want you to watch this.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
[19:30:16] CABRERA: So you hear that siren and then people moving quickly to get off the wreckage of that building. Search and recovery crews actually had to halt their searches to try to get to survivors that they believe perhaps were trapped under that rubble in order to get to solid ground. Today's quake was centered in Oaxaca State. That's about 275 miles southeast of Mexico City. That place is the epicenter roughly between the 7.1 magnitude quake on Tuesday and the 8.1 magnitude quake that struck September 8th. That was off the southern pacific coast.
Ivan Watson is there and has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A community in morning. Crosses on the streets to honor victims of the deadly earthquake that shook the village of (INAUDIBLE) on Tuesday. It was not supposed to be this way. That morning locals gathered at this church in the center of the village to attend the baptism of a 3- month-old girl.
This is a video of the 277-year-old Santiago Apostol church filmed in happier times. It was the beating heart of this community. But that all changed in an instant when the earth began to shake on Tuesday.
Sergio Montiel Tello a church employee, was assisting with the baptismal ceremony when the earthquake struck.
SERGIO MONTIEL TELLO, CHURCH ASSISTANT (through translator): It was almost instantaneous. When it started shaking pieces of the ceiling started to fall. Everything went dark. I shut my eyes. When I opened them, everything was covered with dust. I saw a little girl about four years old whimpering and fortunately she was under the debris.
WATSON: Tello survived but 12 other people were far less fortunate. A day after the baptism, the village of (INAUDIBLE) held a funeral.
This is what is so tragic and incomprehensible about a natural disaster. What should have been the celebration of a new life instead resulted in the death of an innocent family.
Among those who perished in the church, most of Graciano Villanueva- Perez family. He lists the victims. His wife, two daughters, his son-in-law and two grandchildren. Also killed at the church the three-month-old baby, (INAUDIBLE), her older sister and their mother. Deep in mourning Perez turns philosophical to explain the loss.
GRACIANO VILLANUEVA-PEREZ, LOST SIX RELATIVES IN EARTHQUAKE (through translator): God, he can take everything away. For example, when it rains hard, the road floods and the water sweeps everything down the river.
WATSON: Like the flood, most of Perez family has suddenly been swept away leaving him one daughter to hold on to.
CABRERA: Again, Ivan Watson reporting. Our thanks to him.
Coming up, a breach is eminent in Puerto Rico facing a new emergency as residents near this dam are told to get out now. We will take you there live next.
[19:37:32] CABRERA: We are following breaking news out of Puerto Rico tonight. Fresh on the heels of the devastation caused by hurricane Maria, the U.S. army reserves have deployed 4,000 reservists to help with the relief effort there. Now the move comes as people living near the Guajataca River are fleeing in eminent dam break. The dam and the river are located in the northwest portion of the U.S. territory and flooding we know is widespread all over the island. Residents are trying to pick up the pieces from this storm and we've learned at least ten people are now reported dead.
CNN's Nick Valencia is joining us live with from San Juan, Puerto Rico with the very latest.
Nick, how are those evacuations being carried out in the midst of all this destruction?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An extremely dangerous situation, Ana, no doubt in the northwest part of Puerto Rico. This island has not been due enough already. Now they have to deal with the potential of a dam breach. Seventy thousand people between two townships are being evacuated by bus. Those that can't get out themselves. It was earlier that I spoke with Ricardo Rossellio who is the governor of Puerto Rico and I asked him about the recovery efforts and the damage to the island.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: What's it been like watching all of this from the sky doing the tour around your island?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLIO, PUERTO RICO: Well, it's been tough, you know. The devastation is vast. We are going to have to rebuild but our people are resilient. And I'm banking on their spirit, on their will to recognize that these are tough times. That we are in an emergency but that we are going to stabilize it, rebuild and come back stronger than ever.
VALENCIA: Any message for those trying to get in touch with family members? We know communication has just been so desperate.
ROSSELLIO: Yes. Well, my message is I understand the urgency. I understand the anxiety. I myself, I couldn't reach my parents for two days, but this was something that we had anticipated a category five hurricane. There's no slouch. It essentially wiped out all of the telecommunications. We are trying to reestablish them. We are trying to use alternative means so that you can communicate with your love ones. And we won't rest until all the loved ones n (INAUDIBLE) are already were in Puerto Rico can find a way to communicate with those over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: This is a difficult and complicated situation for everyone here on this island who is desperately trying to get in touch with their loved ones. What the local officials are trying to do here is bring in generators to try to power up some of those cell phone towers in order for people to communicate. They are passing out satellite phones in some of these municipalities and giving central communication areas so that people can try to get in touch with family members that are on the U.S. mainland.
It's going to be a long time, Ana, before this infrastructure is rebuilt. It was just devastated by this category four hurricane that made landfall here coming to category five on the outward islands. The infrastructure here is just in miserable conditions -- Ana.
[19:40:17] CABRERA: And most people showing resilience like we have seen in so many other tragedies as lately and these natural disasters.
Nick Valencia, thank you for that report.
Coming up, turning to Trump. The special counsel seeks new documents dealing with the President's actions in office including a now infamous meeting with Russians.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:45:05] CABRERA: The investigation into Russia's interference in last year's election is digging deeper into the White House now and President Trump's own actions in office.
CNN has learned that special counsel be Robert Mueller has asked for documents and information from the White House relating to the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey.
Now investigators have also asked for documents pertaining to this oval office meeting with Russian diplomats back in May. This is the meeting in which President Trump reportedly called Comey a quote "real nut job" and said that firing him had taken off great pressure.
Meanwhile, President Trump is still denying not only possible collusion with Russia but also the idea that Russia interfered in the election at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me. I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Now that was the President just last night during a rally in Alabama. Hours earlier the department of homeland security had formally notified election officials in 21 states that hackers had targeted their systems before the election.
With me to discuss these developments, legal analyst Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor who has work closely with special counsel Robert Mueller. And also with us CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, a former prosecutor here in New York.
So Michael, what do you make of Mueller's latest requests for these White House documents relating to the firing of Michael Flynn, James Comey and that oval office meeting with the Russians?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So there are couple of things that this indicates. First, with respect to Flynn, remember Flynn gets fired for lying about his meeting with ambassador Kislyak of Russia where they discuss the recently imposed sanctions the Obama administration put on Russia because of meddling. He said he never discussed that. There was an FBI or NSA tap of that conversation and it was a lie and he got fired for it.
So they want to talk about that as it relates to the possibility of collusion as well the FBI interviewed Flynn about those conversations. They want to see those interview notes to see whether Flynn made false statements to the FBI. So Flynn has got lying and collusion and then his sf 86 the background investigation report and possible lies on that and failure to register as a foreign agent.
Comey, the issue as it relates to Comey, really is the obstruction of justice issue as much as anything else. Remember, Comey is asked to back off Flynn and to, you know, essentially back down on the Russia investigation. He refuses to do that. He doesn't pledge his loyalty to the President as Comey testified and he gets fired. And then the President tells Lester Holt in the NBC interview that he fired him because of Russia and then he tells Kislyak and Lavrov in the oval office the same thing. It took pressure off him because they want to see that as it relates to obstruction of justice. So those two guys sit there on a hot seat in Mueller's crosshairs.
CABRERA: So Paul, I mean, is it possible then that this request for information really has nothing to do with the President's own actions, it's more perhaps an investigation still as they are digging into some of the other players in this investigation like Flynn?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's always a possibility. The special prosecutor has a charge and that is to investigate whether there was Russian influence in the election and whether Americans connected to the Presidential campaigns were involved. So you have to say that this is all deeply relevant to that subject. However, you can't rule out the fact that Mueller eventually could be looking at the President because if he finds out that the President had issued orders resulting in contact with the Russians and in cooperation with the Russians, then it pulls the President directly in.
And the thing that Michael just mentioned obstruction of justice, of course, is critical. The President fires Comey and then the next day tells the Russians the pressure is off indicating he feels. What pressure is off? The pressure that Comey might have found out about cooperation with the Russians. That's one interference you could draw from that conversation.
So this could deeply involve the President when the investigation is concluded but we won't know until it's concluded. But we won't know until it is concluded.
CABRERA: Does it strike you that it seems the only person in this administration that is denying the Russians involvement in the election is the President himself. The person whose campaign is under investigation for possible collusion with the Russians?
CALLAN: Well, he very forcefully said that again in Alabama last night. And I was really kind of surprised that he spent so much time talking about it because it's clear that the Russians interfered with the election. We had an announcement from Facebook about all of the ads that were placed by the Russians to influence the election.
The only issue is to what extent was it successful? That hasn't been studied statistically but certainly the President is incorrect in saying that they didn't influence the election or have some in that.
[19:50:06] CABRERA: Yes.
Michael, Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant apparently for information on at least 3,000 Russian-linked ads that ran on Facebook during the election. Facebook, we now know, has turned over profits of those ads and detailed information about who bought those ads who the ads targeted to the special counsel and is now going to do the same for the congressional investigators, but how significant might that evidence be?
ZELDIN: Well, surely it's significant as it relates to allegations of Russian interference with the U.S. elections. The fact that they bought Facebook ads, that they set up false twitter accounts, that they promoted false stories and then when they saw who was interested in those stories, they followed up with targeted advertisements, if you will, against the Clinton campaign directed at those prospective voters in key geographies.
There's no question with that as it relates to inference so that we can make better use of that information in protecting our - the integrity of our election system in 2018. There is no question that these are highly relevant documents and the whole process by which ads, political ads, are taken out on social media has to be examined by Congress because the media buys through Facebook and other social media platforms are not governed with the same level of sort of scrutiny that media buys on television are.
There's no obligation to say this is coordinated with the candidate. The candidate doesn't have to say that they approve to say. All of the stuff that we are accustomed to seeing on television isn't present on social media. So it's very relevant to that. But then as we are on some serious more criminal matter is, was the Russia Facebook targeted Russia effort in any way informed by the Trump campaign or vice versa. And that's the collusion allegations. There is no proof of that, but that's what the collusion allegation will relate to.
CABRERA: I mean, it seems, I'm not a technological expert by any means, Paul, but it seems like there would be some real definitive, I don't know, digital fingerprints in all of that with the Facebook information.
CALLAN: But you know, it's hard to say. You know, I think that because we have heard Paul Manafort's name come up a lot. He is very closely connected to the Ukrainians and the Russians. We know that the Flynn investigation has to do with a lie by Flynn to the Russian ambassador. So there are connections.
Now, how could those connections lead to collusion? The one thing would be if the Russians have reached out to the Trump campaign and said are there particular states that we should target with Facebook ads to help your campaign and the Trump campaign sent information back to them suggesting certain targets, well that would be pretty clear evidence of collusion in influencing the election. We don't have any evidence to that but I have no doubt that Mueller in the scope of this investigation is going to look to see if there is such a connection and ultimately will be looking to him to see what his conclusion is.
CABRERA: Paul Callan and Michael Zeldin - sure, real quick, Michael. Go for it.
ZELDIN: Remember, the last thing I want to make was that Kushner had a digital campaign that he stood up late in the campaign which he thought was critical to their success. That digital campaign in some respects mirrors the type of campaign that the Russians indicated. So they are going to want to look at whether there was any relation between that Kushner campaign and the Russian Facebook, Twitter effort just to Paul's exact point.
CABRERA: All right, gentlemen, thank you as always for your thoughts. Really appreciate that legal expertise.
Now President Trump has a team of attorneys around. Their one job is to protect the president. But lately, they have been making headlines of their own and not the positive one. The most recent, getting caught in a D.C. steakhouse, talking loudly in public about the Russian investigation and the inner workings at the White House.
Here is CNN Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chatting about a sensitive case in a crowded restaurant might be risky for any lawyers. But when you represent the President and a "New York Times" reporter is close enough to listen and snap pictures, well, it's just another example of how President Trump's legal dream team is sometimes hijacking headlines and not in a good way. The team is made up of big name players assembled to manage, among other things, the congressional and special counsel probes into alleged Russian meddling in the elections or what the President calls --
TRUMP: Fake news.
FOREMAN: But there is been stumbles. Attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly denying, for example, that the president helped craft a statement from his son about a meeting with the Russians.
JAY SEKULOW, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No. That was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure with him consultation with those lawyer.
[19:55:02] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because the "New York Times" has reporting that the President OK'ed the statement.
SEKULOW: Well, they are incorrect.
FOREMAN: The White House, however, later contradicted Sekulow saying, yes, the President did weigh in.
Attorney John Dowd according to "The New York Times" forwarded a message defending the President's statements about the violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.
FOREMAN: The message said in part the Black Lives Matter movements has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.
Attorney Ty Cobb's par with the reporter from "Business Insider" who released an email in which he asked if she was on drugs.
Attorney Mark Kasowitz is now left the Trump team but this summer, Pro-Public, a published email from a man who urge Kasowitz to resign and got this response. FU. How dare you send me an email like that? Watch your back, B. Kasowitz later apologized.
So perhaps that overheard meeting in the restaurant is not so surprising. But the former attorney general for Virginia says --
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA: This is really, really below the standards for any lawyer. This should never have happened. And it is something we are talked to about and taught about as budding lawyers all the way back in law school.
FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: Coming up live in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, we will have the latest reaction to the President's fights with some of the biggest name in sports. Don't go away.