Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Had CIA Director Look into DNC Hack Conspiracy Theory; U.S. Condemns Iran-Backed Missile Attack on Saudi Arabia; Family Members Remember Loved One Lost in Texas Church Shooting. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:42] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following stunning new developments involving the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Intelligence sources say Pompeo met with a conspiracy theorist some two weeks ago at the request of President Trump. The sources say the president asked Pompeo to meet with William Binney. Binney is a National Security Agency employee who circulated a conspiracy theory about the leaked Democratic Party e-mails last year. Binney believes the leak was an inside job, not a cyberattack by Russian hackers, even though the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia did interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Joining us to discuss, the journalist who broke the story in "The Intercept," James Risen, is with us. And CNN's chief security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has been working the story as well.

Jim, let me start with you. A James and a Jim.

This is a significant development. Tell us why.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Because this is the head of the central intelligence agency whose agency along with others who looked into Russian interference in the election concluded with confidence that it was Russia who engineered and orchestrated this interference in the election. So you have that. But he took the time to sit down at the urging more significantly you might say of the president with someone who many in the intelligence community view as a conspiracy theorist on this who proffers this idea the DNC hack was an inside job. I'm told a lot of people inside the agency were very uncomfortable with had meeting. I'm also told frankly Director Pompeo doesn't take his theory very seriously.


SCIUTTO: This Binney's theory this was an inside job. He doesn't take it seriously. And yet, he took the meeting after I'm told weeks of pressure from the president specifically. Raises questions as to why he did and also what that says to other members of the intelligence community who took part in this assessment that Russia was behind it.

BLITZER: You wrote a very important article and broke the story in "The Intercept," James. Let me remind viewers -- and have you it in your article -- in January, the CIA, FBI, NSA, intelligence community concluded, and I'll read a sentence or two, "Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered and influenced campaign in 2016 APD at the U.S. presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear presence for President-elect Trump."

Binney -- and you report extensively -- believes this was an inside job, someone at the DNC leaked all those hacked e-mails.

[13:35:26] JAMES RISEN, JOURNALIST, THE INTERCEPT: Right. Yes, his belief is based on what a lot of people think is a flawed assessment and analysis of information that was put online by some bloggers and also the infamous Guccifer 2. If you followed this story at all, you know that there's this mysterious online personality, called Guccifer 2.0, who most people now believe is just a front for Russian intelligence. He put out the hack. He put a lot of information online about how the hack was supposedly done, which the information is not necessarily credible, but Binney and a few other people have looked at that data and said that means it had to be an inside job because it is couldn't have been hacked remotely. That's their theory. And it is very conveniently goes, aligns with Trump's view that he didn't collude with the Russians, the Russians didn't try to attack the American election system and that this is all fake news. And so Binney has been on FOX News about 10 times, including before this meeting talking about his views. And Trump you know, apparently, told Pompeo you've got to meet with this guy. And in late October, you know, Pompeo met with him. And while he may try -- you know, their spin today may be, well, this wasn't -- he doesn't believe it. He met with him for more than an hour and then he told him at the end of the meeting, I want you to meet with NSA and FBI officials and help them work on this analysis.

And so either Pompeo was making a gesture to placate Trump or he is willing to really go down the road of supporting Trump and opposing the intelligence community.

BLITZER: There's no indication anyone else in the NSA or CIA or director of National Intelligence is meeting with Binney?

RISEN: Not yet.

SCIUTTO: I spoke with Binney, yesterday. He said he has not heard from the FBI or NSA yet. He said, first of all, that Pompeo started the meeting by saying, the president told me I should speak with you. And ended the meeting by saying, would you be interested in meeting with the NSA or FBI.

BLITZER: Very quickly, have you spoken to anyone -- you're well plugged in and reporting on this intelligence area for a long time, James. Have you spoken to anyone with credibility currently inside the U.S. intelligence community who disputes this January assessment?

RISEN: No. I think it's widely considered the truth. The problem that comes from having this meeting between the director of the CIA and Binney is that it shows the potential for the politicization of the intelligence process where information is coming from right-wing sources to the president. He's then forcing the intelligence, the leaders of the intelligence community to meet with him and then have this go from right-wing media to the White House into the blood stream of the intelligence community.

BLITZER: The president clearly does not want to believe that the Russians interfered in the election. He sees that simply as an excuse that the Democrats concocted why Hillary Clinton lost the election. He's been consistent through the campaign and since becoming president.

SCIUTTO: He's raised those same doubts since he's become president as recently as interviews this summer.

[13:39:00] BLITZER: Guys, good work. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, James Risen. Appreciate it very much.

Just ahead, explosive new accusations against Kevin Spacey from a former TV news anchor. What she says the actor did to her son.

Plus, as the U.S. stands up for Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration, very close with the Saudis right now, may be running the risk of pushing the Arab kingdom into a war with Iran. A closer look at the tensions currently escalating between the Saudis and Iranians when we come back.


BLITZER: The U.S. standing with Saudi Arabia right now, condemning missile attacks on the kingdom by Yemen's Houthi militia. SAUDI ARABIA shot down a missile fired from Yemen over the weekend. While Iran has denied it was behind the launch, the White House issued this statement: "Houthi missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, enabled by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, threaten region security and undermine U.N. efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict. The United States will the continue working with like-minded partners to respond to these attacks."

With us, our national security analyst, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, Heather Conley.

Gayle, this is an exploding situation right now because if the Saudi government, the foreign minister is accusing Iran of an act of war because of this missile attack, who knows where it's going to lead.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIOAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is the question. You have the Trump administration's very public mistrust of Iran converging with Saudi Arabia's real mistrust of Iran and this moment where you're talking about both cracking down on corruption from the Saudi side and consolidating power from Saudi Arabia's new leaders. The question is where does it end and how much support will this have in the region.


You're seeing external activism. You have to keep in mind Yemen, you have of course, the blockade the boycott of Qatar, Lebanon, and now it's internal challenges. We don't really have a good picture internally what's happening but an act of war this robust language put aside also Syrian, the Syrian conflict which has a very strong Iranian ground element to it, it's incredibly volatile.

BLITZER: The Saudis fighting the rebels in Yemen. The Saudis see the Houthi rebels as an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The same thing with Hezbollah in Lebanon. And all of a sudden, over the past few years, Prime Minister Hariri steps down saying he's afraid of assassination.

TZEMACH LEMMON: Right. This comes as an announcement inside Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: He made the announcement in Saudi Arabia.

TZEMACH LEMMON: Exactly who is in charge, there were all kinds of press questions is this a Saudi leadership and they're saying no it's not. What's fascinating from the United States side is throughout the conflict, the U.S. Military has been very worried about Hezbollah and rising Iranian influence in the region. Now this is coinciding with regional politics.

BLITZER: It looks like it's the work of the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration issued a statement last night supporting the king, supporting the crown prince. Total support for the Saudis right now. How is that playing?

CONLEY: Right. President Trump is very, very supportive of this young crown prince, who really wants to transform Saudi Arabia. His Vision for 2030, very robust action against Iran's regional policy, something that the president has been very focused on, as well. The question, is it working with our overall policy. The boycott of Qatar, you had Secretary Tillerson still trying to patch that together. We have 11,000 U.S. forces in Qatar, a major base that helps with fighting ISIS. You have all of these competing interests. Who is putting this whole policy together? And how is the United States shaping it? It's very unclear.

BLITZER: How worried should we be about actual conflict, military conflict between the Saudis and Iranians.

TZEMACH LEMMON: We should be concerned. There is as interest in stability on all sides. But the rhetoric does have an ability to lead to miscalculations. I think that is where a lot of people are saying cooler heads should prevail. U.S. diplomacy should get involved. But who speaks for the administration? I do think that is part of the question that regional powers are eking to answer. The Saudi leadership has the entirely full-throated support from the United States administration. It's very hard to see how there had be any check on what Saudi Arabia wants to do right now.

BLITZER: Clearly, the president speaks for the administration and he's speaking through his tweets and his official statements total support for the Saudis right now.

CONLEY: The other question is where our allies are. We had foreign secretary, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, on the Hill talking about making sure that the Iran nuclear agreement stays intact. Where are our other allies in these questions? They will be directly impacted by this. We need a concerted effort. I hope someone's coordinating this.

BLITZER: Heather, Gayle, guys, thanks very much for coming in for coming in.


BLITZER: We'll continue to follow the story.

Meanwhile, the Vice President Mike Pence is on his way to Texas right now to visit survivors and victims of Sunday's mass shooting. This, as we're learning new details on those who lost their lives. Their stories when we come back.


[13:53:01] BLITZER: Vice President Mike Pence is heading to Texas this hour to meet with victims of Sunday's mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

One family lost three generations in matter of seconds, and that's one of the many very emotional accounts as family members take time to reflect on their loved ones.


BLITZER (voice-over): Twenty-six lives ended Sunday, ages 77 to just 17 months old. Sixteen-year-old Haley Krueger was among those killed. Described as vibrant 16-year-old who loved life. She wanted to be a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was amazing, and we'll miss her. We'll never be the same.

BLITZER: Then there was 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy, daughter of the pastor. She loved participating in church events.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that they were surrounded yesterday for her church family that she loved fiercely.

BLITZER: The church's visiting pastor, Brian Holcombe, was killed alongside his wife, Carla, and son, Danny, and granddaughter, Noah. The youngest victim, 17 months old. The couple's son, John, was also shot and remains in the hospital. But wife, Crystal, was killed. She was two months pregnant. Three of her five children, Emily, Megan, and Greg, were also killed. In all, they lost eight members of their family. Three generations gunned down that terrible morning.

Also, among the victims, Terra McNulty, a close family friend of the Holcombes, and the gunman's own grandmother-in-law, Lula White, and frequent volunteer at the church.

Robert and Shani Corrigan were high school sweet hearts married over 30 years. They served on the praise team at the church.


[13:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know my son and my daughter-in-law are in the arms of Jesus. I know that.

BLITZER: JoAnne Ward was killed as she tried to shield her four young children, pushing one under a pew and covering the others with her body. Two of her daughters, age 5 and 7, did not survive.

Robert and Karen Marshall had recently moved to Texas from Pennsylvania. They were visiting the church, thinking about joining.

At 77, Dennis Johnson was oldest victim of Sunday's shooting. A church elder. His wife, Sara, also died in the shooting. The couple recently celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary.

And Richard and Teresa Rodriguez attended services every Sunday. The couple had been married for 11 years. And adored their family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is breaking. You were the last person I had, and now he's gone.