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Pompeo and Binney Meeting; Pence Meeting with Texas Survivors; Texas Shooter's Red Flags; Senators Aim to Close Gun Law Loophole; Jury Asks for Definition of a Senator; Democrats Sweep Races. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:41] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, new details on a highly unusual and controversial meeting between the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, and a known conspiracy theorist, William Binney. Sources say this was at the request of President Trump.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, Binney has said many times that he believes the theft and leak of the DNC e-mails last year was actually an inside job, not a Russian operation. You will remember the CIA, which Mike Pompeo runs, says something different.

Michelle Kosinski in Washington with more.

A lot of people asking questions about this, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right, multiple intelligent sources have told CNN that this meeting happened just about two weeks ago, on October 24th. And those sources also tell CNN that many people within the CIA were very uncomfortable with this.

So these sources say that the president wanted his CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to meet with somebody who doesn't believe it was Russia that hacked into the DNC's e-mails and then released them before the election, even though the U.S. intelligence community determined that it was Russia.

So this person is William Binney. He's 74 years old. He worked at the NSA for 30 years, but has since become a critic. Some of the methods at the NSA he thinks are ineffective. Others he thinks are maybe too effective and are essentially spying on Americans.

So his theory is that the DNC hack was an inside job. It was a DNC employee. However, he's basing this theory on questions that were raised over certain things like the speed at which one of the archives was created that was then released by the hacker Guccifer 2.0. But this theory has had many holes poked in it by other analysts.

Binney also is a frequent guest on RT, "Russia Today," which is considered by the U.S. government to be Russian state propaganda.

So in this meeting that lasted about an hour, Binney says that Pompeo told him, the president told me I should talk to you. And that Binney said, the entire intelligence community needs to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Now the CIA has released a statement saying that CIA Director Mike Pompeii sands by and has always stood by the intelligence community's assessment about Russian hacking. However, Binney also told CNN that in this meeting Pompeo wants Binney to meet with other people in the FBI and the NSA.

[09:35:15] So where is this going from here? Why this kind of other investigation, or looking into other theories? The White House, so far, has not responded.

HARLOW: Michelle, thank you for the reporting.

With us now, Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst, retired CIA chief of Russia operations.

All of that reporting is significant. It is pretty shocking. The fact that the meeting began with Pompeo saying, you're hear because the president wanted me to meet with you. Why does this matter so much?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, one thing it does, Poppy, is it really highlights the difficult position that Pompeo is in as director of the CIA. Any director of the CIA has to maintain a very close relationship with the president. He has to maintain the president's ear. If he doesn't, he really loses a lot in terms of just his ability to impact things and his ability to forward the information.

So even if he didn't want to meet with this Binney character, you know, it -- apparently he's got the president saying, no, I would really like you to. And, you know, unless he wants to basically sacrifice his power and -- as director of CIA, his ability to convey good intelligence in the future, he kind of has to do that. That's a very difficult position for any CIA director to be in, frankly.

BERMAN: So what message does it send, though, to those in the intelligence service that Mike Pompeo, the director, is meeting with this guy who says it wasn't the Russians, when all of their analyses, the reports that they have put out says, we do think it's the Russians. So what do the rank and file think?

HALL: I can tell you, having, you know, worked at the CIA for 30 years, the analysts that we have at CIA, and indeed across the intelligence community, but a specific concentration of them at CIA, are incredibly professional. And there's a lot of them who have committed really pretty much their entire careers to doing things like Russia and Russia cyber and so forth.

I don't think those people are particularly threatened by the fact that, you know, that the director of CIA, at the president's request, you know, had to meet with this kind of fringe guy. So I don't think that's a big impact on them.

But just the comparison between those two sources of information. You've got these -- you know, again, an incredible depth of information and intelligence prowess and expertise in our analysts, and then you've got this one fringe guy who says, well, I've got this thing. I think it speaks more of what the president is trying to get through than it does, you know, what the CIA is producing.

HARLOW: But, Steve, let me ask you this, I mean it's not -- our reporting is not that Pompeo just said, well, thank you for your time, you know, see you soon or never. He actually ended the meeting by saying, I think you should meet with the FBI and the NSA as well. I mean doesn't that counter?

HALL: Yes. I think that -- I think that gets back to that first tension that I was referring to, where you've got the -- you know, you've got Mike Pompeo, first of all, you know, politically, he's, you know, more in Trump's camp, he's a Republican, so you can't -- you can't just blow the president off. And I think he's also, you know, perhaps inclined to say, OK, let's -- you know, let's give this a little bit further, but -- a little further thinking on it.

But it really is sort of like by way of analogy. You know, if you have some horrible disease, you know, you don't want to check with your next door neighbor or the guy down the block who says he knows something about this disease. And, you know, what do you think, just so that you can get all sides. No, you're going to go to a major clinic, you're going to go to a big hospital that has expertise, years and years of it in this type of thing. And really to do anything else is somewhat of a distraction and I think there's other reasons for why -- for why the director is -- you know, would say, yes, let's go talk to other parts of the intelligence community with this, frankly, fringed theory.

BERMAN: Steve Hall, very interesting. Thanks so much.

HALL: Sure.

BERMAN: All right, a roadblock now in the investigation into the Texas shooter. His cell phone is locked. What investigators are hoping to get from it, as we learn that the killer once escaped from a mental health facility.


[09:43:35] BERMAN: All right, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, will go to Texas today to meet with the survivors of the deadly church attack there.

HARLOW: And his trip comes as we've learned new details about the shooter, including his escape from a mental health facility in 2012 and previous allegations of assault.

Let's go to our Dianne Gallagher. She is live in Southerland Springs, Texas.

A lot of red flags have emerged about this man who would go on to be a mass murderer. DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, and, Poppy, it's

sort of the series of red flags now that seems to indicate that for a long time Devin Kelley has been a threat not only to those around him but it seems at some point to himself as well. And the question we're wondering at this point, many here in this community, is why nobody connected the dots. Nothing ever prevented him from getting a firearm.

There was that 2012 escape from a behavioral health clinic, a mental health facility in New Mexico. He was there right after those assault charges, and when he was in the Air Force, on his then-wife and his stepson, and he was being held thereafter, according to a police report from El Paso, he had made threats against his commanding officers and also tried to sneak weapons on to the Air Force base.

Now, as it turns out, local police found him as a Greyhound station. They said that once they got to him, he didn't make any sort of threats against himself or against others, but they were warmed that he may be able to harm himself or harm others in that situation. That he was, quote, suffering from mental disorder.

So this on top of those assault charges, we know about animal cruelty violations in the past, and there are others issues that are now starting to emerge that sort of paint this picture. And they're -- as they figure out the motive, they've talked about the fact that he had some sort of ongoing dispute with his in-laws. Local police here have indicated they do believe that may be why he chose the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs because his mother-in-law attended here. He stent a threatening text message to her that morning.

[09:45:25] But at this point, according to the FBI, they haven't been able to get into his phone right now. They actually started off by saying, this is something we've dealt with before in high profile situations. Because of encryption technology, we cannot get into his phone. They would like to see that because from what investigators are telling us, his online profile, that social media footprint, already shows that he was showing some kind of obsession with mass shootings and violence.

Now, sort of turning the corner, Vice President Mike Pence is coming here this afternoon. He's going to visit survivors in the hospital, talk to law enforcement and he's going to speak at a vigil at a local high school later tonight.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: It's good that he will be there to honor the fallen.

Thank you very, very much, Dianne.

In the wake of the Texas massacre, a bipartisan effort has emerged on Capitol Hill to try to make it mandatory for the military to report all domestic violence charges to that database that's used for background checks before people can buy guns.

BERMAN: Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill for the very latest on this. Suzanne.


It is unusual that there is something that's taking place here on Capitol Hill that they're actually moving forward. But, yes, there is bipartisan legislation that they're -- being introduced now. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican, outspoken Trump critic, along with his counterpart, Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich. The idea behind the legislation is to require the military to report misdemeanor domestic violence convictions to that federal database that is used to determine a background check, whether or not a person can actually own or purchase a firearm.

In this case, the Texas shooter, who had been convicted of domestic violence for the assault against his wife and his child, the Air Force failed -- and has acknowledged they failed to pass, relay that information on to that critical database. That is the loophole that he was able to use to purchase that deadly weapon.

Now, this is just a small step but the senators believe that it could be a significant one.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We're looking at specifically something that had it been followed, this person would not have been able to obtain a firearm. And so we are fixing the problem here.

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO: This is clearly a loophole that is a problem and we wanted to move forward and send a message that folks on both sides of the aisle can come to some agreement on some common sense measures that would make a material difference.


MALVEAUX: And there are some other senators as well who are looking at common sense measures. They believe that perhaps they can get some small things done. Senator John Cornyn, the Republican whip, is looking at two different pieces of legislation that will incentivize the states and other entities to provide more information into that background database.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: Suzanne, thank you very much for the reporting. We will, of course, follow that.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez inside a New Jersey courtroom this morning as a jury of 12 decide his fate in a hugely important bribery and corruption case. We're live outside the courthouse, next.


[09:52:48] BERMAN: All right, this morning, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez back in a federal courtroom. HARLOW: Jurors are deliberating, their third day of deliberations in

his corruption bribery trial. We're learning the jury has come back to the judge with a question, which is pretty fascinating.

Let's go to our Laura Jarrett, who's live outside the courthouse in Newark.

And, Laura, this question is about what exactly the role of a senator is. Why is that germane here?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN REPORTER: Yes, it was somewhat of a curious request from the jury after roughly seven hours of deliberations. Yesterday afternoon, they came back and thy said they wanted to see the portion of the closing arguments from defense lawyer Abbe Lowell, where he specifically discussed the definition of a senator.

Now, Lowell didn't actually define what it means to be a senator in his closings, but he did discuss what a senator can and cannot do and he did specifically say that Menendez, Senator Menendez, never pushed through any legislation on behalf of his co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, who's he's accused of taking bribes from. And Abbe Lowell also said, look, you know, this is a situation where the senator often did favors on behalf of people who were not his constituents here in New Jersey.

Now, the judge ultimately declined to give the jury the closing arguments, telling them closings are not evidence in the case and they should use their collective memories about what exactly Lowell said. But it does show how closely the jury is tracking the evidence and the arguments of counsel. And based off of everything they have to sift through in this case, I wouldn't be surprised if they come back with another question before the verdict is in.

John. Poppy.

BERMAN: A whole lot of people watching this very, very closely. It does or could have national implications.


BERMAN: Laura Jarrett, thank you very, very much.

Other Democrats -- other Democrats besides Bob Menendez --

HARLOW: They're thinking about something else this morning.

BERMAN: Riding high this morning on the blue wave. Election victories across the country at every level. We're following all the latest developments, next.


[09:59:08] HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Unblanking believable. That is how one Republican strategist described

the scope of Republican defeats around the country yesterday. But he didn't say blanking. What he did say was that the size of the Democratic victory and the breadth really at every single level should be a message about the political risks of this president.

HARLOW: The marquise race in Virginia where the Democratic lieutenant governor crushed the Republican nominee, former party chair Ed Gillespie. The president, though, says it is not his fault, writing, Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. But a Republican congressman from Virginia says, not so fast.


REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I think that last night was a referendum. I don't think there's any way that you could look at it in a different way, to be honest with you, and be intellectually consistent.


[10:00:00] HARLOW: Our Ryan Nobles is in Richmond, Virginia, with more. It was not only at the top, it was all the way on down through Virginia.