Return to Transcripts main page


CNN: Mueller's Team Met with Russia Dossier Author; Officials: Trump Plans to "Decertify" Iran Deal Next Week; FEMA Defends Replacing Puerto Rico Updates on Website; NRA Backs Regulating "Bump Stocks" After Vegas Attack. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 6, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:20] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have a CNN exclusive. We're leaning that special counsel Robert Mueller's team did meet with the former British spy who put together that controversial dossier about Russia collusion.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz broke the story, along with our Evan Perez and Pamela Brown. Shimon joins us now from Washington.

What's the latest?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Chris. So, the investigators from Bob Mueller's office this summer met with Christopher Steele. You know, as you recall, he's a former MI6 officer who put together what many now call the dossier, which contains a series of memos detailing alleged Russian efforts to aid Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Steele was hired by a Washington firm first paid by anti-Trump Republicans, and eventually, the Democrats also hired him. The special counsel is now working to determine whether any of the series of contacts between the Trump campaign, associates and suspected Russian operatives broke U.S. law.

Now, Chris, we don't know what information Steele provided to Mueller's team. But we know, previously, the FBI has worked with Steele and has used some of this information from the sources that he spoke to in putting this dossier together. And they are now, Mueller's team, is working to verify some of that information.

CUOMO: It was surprising that he came in and spoke. Obviously, he didn't have to. And there have been a lot of questions about what you were just saying right there. How legitimate the info in the dossier is.

What are you hearing about how it's viewed in the intel community?

PROKUPECZ: Well, you know, many in the intelligence community certainly view it as a credible -- it was classified on -- that dossier was classified in the highest levels within the FBI. And, you know, when the intelligence community was putting together this report on Russian meddling, even in the classified version, they refused, they did not want to put any details of the Steele dossier in that report, in that classified report because they were concerned they might have to reveal some of the sources and methods that the U.S. government, that the intelligence community used to verify that dossier.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Shimon, great reporting, breaking the story as always. Thank you so much.

Let's talk about this and the president saying that he will -- officials say he will decertify the Iran deal. A lot to get to with CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger.

So, David, before we get to Iran, there's a lot. But what's your take on the fact that Mueller did sit down with his team with Christopher Steele, with the author of the dossier? Because it's interesting this week, the leaders of the Senate Intel Committee said they haven't been able to talk to him.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Poppy, the problem with the dossier is it has a lot of charges and it doesn't tell you very much about its sources. I had the dossier with many of my colleagues at "The New York Times" a year ago, I guess, September of last year. And we pursued a number of the individual charges in them and some of which were pretty salacious, as you recall, some of which were not. We had a very hard time coming up with any independent verification of some of the biggest charges, some of the smaller ones we could.

And part of the difficulty was that Mr. Steele was himself not in Russia. So, he was relying on a network of people who he had known in his previous time or who were secondary sources whose identities he may or not have fully known. So, it was very hard to go back and say that this fact could have been verified by this or that source.

CUOMO: I mean, there are some things in there the intel community could use, other things dismissed, and others that are in the middle.

All right. Let's talk about Iran. Maybe the best way to do this is kind of engage the dialectic on this, because from the outside, Trump had always been signaling that he wanted to do this. It's a bad deal. It's the worst deal he has ever seen.

They're running all around the Middle East, Iran, and beyond doing the wrong thing. So, they're violating it. I'm going to decertify. It was a bad deal. I win. We'll figure it out going forward.

What's the problem with that strategy?

SANGER: Well, a few problems with it, Chris. First, if you're just within the four corners of the deal itself, which simply deals with their production of nuclear material and basically suspends their ability for 15 years in the signings, which is about a year and a half ago, to produce that material in any large sum, they have fundamentally been in compliance. There have been minor issues on the sides. [06:35:01] The International Atomic Energy Agency says, as soon as

they brought those up with the Iranians, they got corrected. So, the president's problem is that on the facts, he can't simply say that they're in noncompliance. So, instead, they moved to a different approach, which is to say that Iran is not complying with the spirit of the deal because the opening language of the deal says that the effort is to try to move to a better, more productive, more peaceful relationship in which countries are respectful of their neighbors and so forth.

That's not the consumed of language that's usually considered enforceable. But he is basically leaning on that. And then by decertifying, he is going to Congress saying it's up to you to decide whether to re-impose sanctions. We don't think Congress is likely to do that.

HARLOW: By the way, he can sort of decertify in name, punt it back to Congress. Congress can keep the framework and essentially just change legislation so he doesn't have to put his name on it every 90 days, which is something that's clearly hard for him to stomach.

David, what about our allies? I mean, as you said, the State Department said this thing has been followed, this agreement. The International Atomic Energy Agency says, so Britain, France, Germany say so. So, isn't it giving a lot to Iran to pull out and split the alliance if you got Europe on the other side of the U.S. on this thing?

SANGER: Poppy, you're absolutely right. Four 10 years, many American analysts have said who Iran is trying to do in the course of its nuclear program was split the United States from France, Germany, and Britain, China, Russia who are parties to the deal on this issue. Instead, what's happened is that President Trump, if he goes ahead with the decertification, is taking a step that we expect none of the other signatories will follow.

So, the U.S. will have accomplished the deal doing that split. But remember, decertification by itself, as indicated before, does not pull the U.S. out of the deal. It is simply a message from the White House to Congress.

So, only the next step, which would be re-imposing sanctions that the U.S. lifted under the deal in return for Iran shipping its fuel out, only that would violate the deal. And there is a sense what the White House aides are doing here is helping the president get past his allergy to this 90-day certification.

HARLOW: Right.

SANGER: But doing something that wouldn't blow the deal up.

CUOMO: Well, look, it also sends a message potentially to North Korea that if you try --

HARLOW: Totally.

CUOMO: -- to get up to the table to do a deal --

HARLOW: We might recertify.

CUOMO: All right. But also, there's also this intrigue, I mean, we don't have time to play the sound. But we had H.R. McMaster, you were with us that day, David.

SANGER: That's right.

CUOMO: Where he was not ready to go all in and say, yes, look, this deal has got to die. And Mattis just said in a Senate hearing when pushed on it by Senator Angus King that he didn't think we should back away from the deal.

So, what do you make of that? A disconnect between two of the three men Bob Corker is keeping us from chaos and the president on this.

SANGER: Let's add one more of this, Secretary of State Tillerson who had a pretty rough week. When we were all in Beijing this past weekend and met with a small group of reporters, he hinted that he too was very reluctant to see anything happen that would make the deal blow up. In fact, he said, stay tuned to what we may be working toward a solution here, which is what we have just been discussing.

So, you got principal members of the national security team saying in their view, it would not be in the national security interest of the United States to abandon the deal. Now, what they may do is grimace and say, well, decertification, that isn't abandoning the deal. The long-term risk here is the Iran nuclear deal becomes the foreign policy equivalent of health care, which is to say it gradually gets starved to death.

HARLOW: David Sanger, well put. Thank you very much.

SANGER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, FEMA removing statistics from its Website about power outages and access to drinking water in Puerto Rico. Why would they do that? They know what that's going to signal. They know that's going to grab our attention.

We dig deeper, next.


[06:43:35] HARLOW: Vice President Mike Pence visiting hurricane- ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands today. And now, important new questions about why key statistics like power restoration, clean drinking water figures for Puerto Rico were removed from FEMA's Website completely.

Our Leyla Santiago spent a day with FEMA officials in Puerto Rico. She joins us live from San Juan.

We'll get to the day you spent with them in a moment. But let's just go through this. I mean, I was on the Website this morning. A lot of good numbers for FEMA. Nothing about power, nothing about clean drinking water.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I think if you look at it before and after it's very obvious that it was taken out even though some numbers are still there. Let's go ahead and show our viewers directly what FEMA's Website looked like just a few days ago, or rather earlier in the day. It had the number when it comes to power outages, when it comes to the amount of water. And then you look at the after, and those numbers are removed. No longer there.

Now, the Puerto Rican government still reporting the numbers on their Website. When we went to FEMA to ask them why those numbers are no longer on the websites, on the updates, on the recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, I want to read you what they said.

They said the Website is updated daily with different information. In fact, the two points cited have moved in a positive direction since that post, so no reason to, quote, remove it.

[06:45:04] To characterize updating a webpage as removing information is and was misleading by the original story.

And they're speaking there on a story from "The Washington Post" which first pointed out the fact that those numbers were no longer on their Website. So, we're still waiting to see if the numbers from FEMA match the numbers from the Puerto Rican government. The government right now reporting nearly 9 percent of power being restored and more than half of water services being restored right now on the island since Hurricane Maria passed through, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, the flip side of that is you got 91 percent without power. You got half the people with no drinking water, you would think those would be the two most important numbers to put at the top of your federal response part of FEMA's Website.

And even "The Washington Post" headline on it, you know, just put it back up there. That's the question.

All right. Let's talk about your big day yesterday with the FEMA officials. You have been on the ground, Leyla, since before the storm. What did they show you? What are you seeing in terms of the recovery?

SANTIAGO: You know, it was our first time with FEMA. We flew into an area that is pretty remote called Lares.

We noticed there was this sense of urgency that we had not seen before. They were flying in water into an area that when we talked to residents, they said that was the greatest need. They brought in meals ready to eat. And they went back and forth between San Juan and Lares delivering these things and they were on the ground for like 10 minutes. So, it was a very quick effort on their behalf.

HARLOW: Leyla, thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. Appreciate the reporting. Keep it up, Leyla. I know it's not easy. The White House, Congress, and NRA all agree on the need to regulate

devices like bump stocks. But is it just a band-aid? The panel is going to discuss, next.


[06:50:08] CUOMO: Even the NRA sees the ridiculousness of having something like a bump stock be legal. Even Wayne LaPierre is saying you should look at this device and it doesn't make any sense.

Let's discuss what this is a window into in terms of any possibility of real change.

CNN political analyst John Avlon and associate editor of "Real Clear Politics", A.B. Stoddard.

Now, of course, this smacks of hypocrisy. The NRA knows what a bump stock is. They could have said plenty about it. They never have. But it is a very safe position for them given what we just lived through.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And, look, it's fascinating to see, not just the NRA seemed to say, we're open to reviewing it, but senators like John Cornyn. We got a bill put up by Carlos Curbelo, one of the rising young Republicans out of Miami, a bipartisan bill with Seth Moulton. So, there is momentum, a bipartisan momentum potentially around this gun legislation, unlike anything we have seen since that really devastating loss of gun legislation in the wake of Newtown.

People just considered this off-limits politically. But the volume of violent death created by this mechanism, the bump stock, that is something that even Republicans and even the NRA is having to recognize.

HARLOW: Let's listen to Wayne LaPierre, who heads the NRA. Hear his words on it.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & CEO: The Obama administration a couple of years ago approves this device called a bump stock. If you take a look at it -- I mean, any look at it, it takes a semiautomatic firearm and it makes it perform like a fully automatic firearm. And what the NRA has said is, we ought to take a look at that and see if it is in compliance with federal law and it's worthy of additional legislation.


HARLOW: So, a few points of fact here, A.B., he's correct that in 2010, the ATF was asked to look at this thing and should it be regulated as a gun. They said it's a gun part, so no. NRA, though, didn't say at the time, wait, stop. You have to regulate it then. They didn't do that. But the question here is, there's legislation put forward, bipartisan

legislation. But there's also the NRA saying, look, the ATF. Look at the ATF to regulate it. That's very different, that is safer for them.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Oh, yes. Any time something like this goes to the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate, it opens up this huge debate where Democrats will push for stronger gun controls that the NRA will ask its, you know, Republicans that it has endorsed and supported in the Senate and the House to block. This is what happens every time there is a fight over banning firearms to those on the terror watch list that went down this path as well.

And so, the NRA's goal is to sure it never gets a vote for the floor in Congress and something they can try to handle within the administration by handling it within the ATF.

And it's interesting if you listen their language, because it's -- you know, we can further scrutinize this and see if it's up -- passes, you know, muster with existing law or it needs further regulation. Calling not for a ban.

So, this is a way of responding to this tragedy, giving Republicans something to be for. And certainly there is bipartisan support. But it is the fear politically for the NRA is the debate escalates on additional measures.

AVLON: Yes, let's have the revelation of a bipartisan bill on gun report, right? I mean, that's so unlikely, maybe we can get a glimmer of hope out of this --

CUOMO: Even though the rationale, if you seize on the timing, the rationale, which is primarily two things. What we're hearing here is, well, Obama did it. So, it gives a little political cover.

And then the larger rationale, which doesn't seem that strong to me but has proven effective time and again, which is the sensitivity argument. Oh, it just happened. And we care about these people. We don't want to politicize it.

The victims, their families, those are the places that come out -- those are the faces that come out and say do something about this so nobody has to deal with what we're dealing with.

AVLON: Let's just cut through all the spin. That is a tactic of delay for people who don't want to deal with the ramifications of the widespread availability of semiautomatic weapons and things like bump stocks in this nation. It only happens here when people say, that's not the right time. They don't mean, fine, let's talk in 72 hours. They don't mean let's listen to the victims and the families. They mean this is politically difficult for me right now. Let's stall until people forget. The second thing is how in the world could Republicans support

legislation or have any kind of unity if they can't blame it on Obama. I mean, that is transparently hilarious that the NRA is trying to blame this on the Obama administration.

[06:55:03] But right now, that's the only glue holding together Republican coalition, particularly --

CUOMO: It's also catnip for the president. If he can feel that he's doing something that Obama did, there's a chance he may do it.

AVLON: Right.

HARLOW: We're going to watch. A Democrat and Republican on the show later who are putting forward this bipartisan legislation. You will both be back. Thank you very much, A.B. and John.

Ahead for us, did the Las Vegas killer have other targets in mind? There's new evidence this morning that suggests he may have been casing out other venues in other cities. The latest on the investigation next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone by the same name as the shooter rented a hotel room overlooking Chicago's Grant Park in August.

CUOMO: Authorities are analyzing a note the shooter left in the hotel room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day it becomes more confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moment that time is frozen there's no amount of bullets that can take away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a really great guy. A lot of people are never going to get to know him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be nothing. It could be something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he should be calming the storm, he's predicting one.