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Michael Flynn's Lawyers Stop Talking with Trump's Lawyers; Trump Tweets About NFL, Quick Golf Time and Middle East Mess; State Media: At Least 184 Killed In Egypt Mosque Attack; Flynn's Lawyers Stop Talking With Trump's Lawyers; Senator Al Franken Apologizes Again Amid Groping Allegations. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired November 24, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: John and Poppy have the day off. Happy Friday to you.
We begin with new developments in the Russia investigation and it involved Michael Flynn, the former National Security adviser to the president. Flynn's lawyers have decided to stop sharing information with the president's lawyers on the special counsel probe. And that in itself could be sending a signal. It could mean that Flynn has decided to cooperate or at least to begin negotiating with the special counsel investigating Trump world's connections to Russia and a lot more.
CNN reported weeks ago that Flynn has been concerned not only about potential charges he may be facing but also that of his family.
Shimon Prokupecz is on the story in Washington for us. Shimon, what are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Ana. So we're told that Wednesday, some time Wednesday, Flynn's lawyers called President Trump's lawyers and said he could no longer share information with them. Perhaps signaling that Flynn may be negotiating some sort of plea deal, or perhaps, as the "New York times" says, could be perhaps cooperating. We don't know for sure.
Now people we've talked to weren't ready to draw the conclusion that Flynn is cooperating. And let me read to you part of a statement from President Trump's lawyer, which says, "No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president." Jay Sekulow, the attorney for the president, told us.
Now Flynn, as we know, is the former National Security adviser, is under investigation for his lobbying work on behalf of Turkey and also his contacts with Russia. It was the former general -- Attorney General Sally Yates, who back in January went to the White House alarmed at Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador, which ultimately led to his firing because he lied about it to the vice president.
So, Ana, this is certainly a significant move by Flynn's lawyers, indicating at the very least a change in his defense strategy. CABRERA: And explain to our viewers why Flynn, in particular, would
be a big get for Mueller.
PROKUPECZ: Right. So Flynn, as we know, has been by the president's side for quite some time, since the beginning of the campaign. He was one of his strongest supporters, was out there in force for the president. And he's been in on some very serious meetings, some of the National Security meetings. And as we know, a lot of the members of the foreign policy team, at least early on in the campaign, were contacted by Russia, were speaking to Russian officials.
So he had eyes into the campaign very early on, was very close to the president. What exactly he can bring to Mueller if he is cooperating is unclear. The investigation surrounding him really stems a lot on his lobbying work in Turkey. Some of his contacts with the former ambassador. So it's -- remains to be seen exactly what value he can bring to Mueller.
But no doubt, Ana, a significant development here in the Mueller investigation.
CABRERA: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for that reporting.
Let's bring in Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor, a former special assistant to Special Counsel Robert Mueller at the Justice Department and now a CNN legal analyst.
So Shimon talked about what does this mean, what kind of value would Flynn have to the special counsel. Let's talk about that, Michael. But first, just your take on what this info-sharing halt means.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So when parties like this, multiple parties in an investigation or multiple defendants in a multi-dependent indictment cooperate is because they have mutual interests. And that's the standard that has to be met, essentially, for them to collectively have attorney-client privilege. When one party no longer has that mutual interest with the others, they have to notify those people to say, essentially, I'm out. And that's what he did here. He's saying, I'm out. My interests don't align with your interests any longer. Most of us would --
CABRERA: What do you mean align? What are the reasons for them not aligning?
ZELDIN: Because he's cooperating, or he's seeking a plea, or he's going to provide information that's relevant to his standing and perhaps their legal exposure. That's when it's no longer of mutual interest. So, for example, as Shimon said, he was at the epicenter of a lot of what was going on in the campaign as it relates potentially to coordination with Russians, Russian agents, WikiLeaks. And so if he starts to say, yes, we had a coordinated effort here, the president was in on it, Don Jr. was in on it -- this is, of course, hypothetical. If those were the cases, those interests would not be in the best
interests of the president and Don Jr. but they would be in Flynn's best interest as a cooperating witness. Similarly, Flynn may well know something about the firing of Comey and Comey's allegation that the president asked Comey to back off the Flynn investigation. [09:05:04] Perhaps the president, again, hypothetically, said to
Flynn, look, I'm going to talk to Comey, going to try to get this thing done. You know, I want to make sure that you're not prosecuted by him or investigated by him. All of those things are relevant to what Flynn theoretically could say, and which do not align with the legal interests of the president or anybody else. So that's why --
CABRERA: Now Jay Sekulow, who is -- I'm sorry, Michael. I didn't mean to cut you off there. But, you know, to play devil's advocate and what we're hearing from the Trump team is that this isn't entirely unexpected and in fact it may not be seen or shouldn't be seen as an indication of cooperation. So if it doesn't indicate he's cooperating, what else could it mean?
ZELDIN: Well, you made two points. The first one I agree with that it is not unexpected. We've been talking about this, Ana, for a week or two about the likelihood of Flynn cooperating, not only to protect his legal interests, but to protect the interests of his son. Second, what we -- what I disagree with Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow on that it is not an indication of likelihood of cooperation, or at least exploring the possibility of some plea agreement. It makes no sense otherwise to me.
CABRERA: How concerning is this for the White House?
ZELDIN: Well, as Shimon said, Flynn was there from the beginning. He knows if there is anything to know, he should be in a position to have known it. With respect especially to coordination with Russians and also with WikiLeaks. He may know something about Cambridge Analytica and its outreach to Julian Assange. So he may theoretically have a lot to say.
Remember early on he said I have a story to tell and if you immunize me, I'll tell it. So now he's not going to get immunized but he may get a plea agreement and we'll see, with respect to his story, what does he know, about whom does he know it, and how legally important is it to the Mueller investigation. Those are the things that Mueller, I think, has to explore with Flynn because Flynn has a lot of exposure. He's got all the Manafort exposure.
ZELDIN: You know, the failure to file foreign bank accounts and the failure to register as a foreign agent. He also has --
CABRERA: Not to mention what Papadopoulos has already pleaded guilty for, which we know Mueller has gone after somebody on, which is lying, right? And we know that Flynn changed his story regarding the conversation he had with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, during the transition with the administration, and he, in fact, did talk about sanctions when initially he said he didn't. Michael Zeldin, there is so much more we could talk about on this but
we'll have you back to discuss more later. Thank you for that analysis. We appreciate it.
This morning, the president not commenting on the Russia report, but he is taking on the NFL, and his predecessors, tweeting that he inherited a mess in the Middle East.
CNN's Joe Johns is live in West Palm Beach, Florida, near the president's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Joe, fill us in.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Ana, a bit of news from the president on Twitter. Indicating to the people who are following him, millions of people, in fact, as well as the world, that he's not just relaxing down here, he's working, as well.
Here's the first tweet or the second one. "We'll be speaking to President Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the Middle East that I inherited -- mess in the Middle East that I inherited. I will get it all done. But what a mistake in lives and dollars, $6 trillion to be there in the first place."
We know Mr. Trump has complained before, especially on the campaign trail about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Also have to point out that the leaders of Iran, as well as Russia, met just a couple of days ago to talk about the situation in Syria. But there are a lot of pitfalls there, including, of course, Bashar al-Assad.
Now here's the second tweet. "After Turkey call, I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter to play golf quickly," he writes, "with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, and back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA."
These two very famous golfers, Tiger Woods, as well as Dustin Johnson, both have actually owned property in the Jupiter area, though there were reports a couple of years ago that Johnson sold his and moved away.
The Jupiter Club, not as well-known, of course, as Mar-a-Lago. It's another Trump property. Probably about 25 miles up the road. And that's where the president apparently is playing golf today. Already set out for it.
Back to you, Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Joe Johns, thank you.
Let's discuss with our political panel, CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg, and CNN political commentator Errol Lewis. Also political anchor for Spectrum News.
Errol, I'll start with you since you're alongside me. What stood out in that last little portion of the report from Joe was Trump slipped in quickly, he's going to play golf quickly with these people, and then all the work.
[09:10:08] I mean, golf isn't exactly known to be a fast game. Why do you think he needed to put that in?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he came under a little bit of notice, I guess negative attention, on Twitter yesterday, apparently, as he was beginning his vacation the day before yesterday. The president told the press it was going to be a working day. And within minutes, he was playing golf. He was playing an 18-round -- 18-hole round of golf.
CABRERA: Isn't it OK for the president to enjoy a little holiday time?
LOUIS: Sure. I guess there was a little confusion, though, and it kind of blew back on the White House when they had told the White House Press Corps he's going to be working, you're going to be working. And then they immediately take pictures of him going to the golf course. A lot of people sort of said, look, this seems to be a bit of a contradiction. So there's -- there's some of that.
There's also I guess the desire to promote yet another one of his clubs. I guess we -- you know, we have now found out that he's got yet another club that he is using the presidency to help promote. And that's been a theme, of course, throughout the Trump administration.
CABRERA: Rebecca, this other tweet from this morning, back to hitting the NFL, as he writes. "Can you believe that the disrespect for our country, our flag, our anthem, continues, without penalty to the players, the commissioner has lost control of the hemorrhaging league. Players are the boss." That's his quote.
So maybe we shouldn't be surprised, you know, but he couldn't even wait until 7:00 a.m., the day after Thanksgiving, to return to some sort of public fighting. What does that say, Rebecca?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, perhaps the president was watching some football on Thanksgiving, as many Americans were. But President Trump, as we have seen before during his presidency, even when he takes a vacation, even though he and his administration don't like to refer to his trips to Mar-a-Lago and his property in Bedminster as vacations, they stress that he is working at the same time.
Even while he's on these trips away from the White House, however, he doesn't necessarily take a vacation from tweeting. And, in fact, oftentimes when he is at his properties in Bedminster and in Palm Beach, Florida, he actually accelerates some of his tweeting. And this is where we've seen some of the most controversial tweets of his administration.
So clearly on the day after Thanksgiving, he's not thinking of the holiday. He's not thinking of some other things like our troops serving overseas. But thinking of this beef he has with the NFL. And this is politically territory that the president seems to think is favorable to him or else he wouldn't keep bringing this up and keeps stoking these flames.
CABRERA: I want to ask you about the other tweet here, Errol, where he says, "Will be speaking to President Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done. But what a mistake in lives and dollars, $6 trillion, to be there in the first place."
A lot in that tweet. But first, I think he focuses on the mess, he says, he inherited by blaming the past administration. Is he in effect giving cover for himself if he doesn't get it all done?
LOUIS: No, I don't think it's even that complicated. He has said all presidents before him essentially were on the wrong path. He alone can fix it. You remember that line from the convention. He has embarked on what many people consider a radical departure from several decades of American policy. Democratic and Republican. Where he's now saying, why are we doing anything in the Middle East whatsoever? Now --
CABRERA: Because he says the Middle East in a kind of blanket space. Why are we there?
LOUIS: Yes, it's just a mess. Why are we there? Sounding for all the world like somebody who is sitting at the end of a bar, you know, with a surface-level understanding of the immense danger that is presented by that tinder box that's always been there.
If you want to let the Islamic State and you want to let all of the other radical forces that are out there kind of run amok, the sectarian violence to continue, the position of Israel to be compromised or endangered, the way to do it is just to pull back and sort of say, hey, what are we doing here in the first place?
There's always been a strain of American foreign policy, where folks don't want to be involved. We can't be the world's policeman. But what happens when you're not the policeman? That's a very dangerous proposition. And I guess he's going to test that and we'll find out what happens when the United States pulls out, if we ceased to be the indispensable nation.
CABRERA: Is he sending a warning to Erdogan, in effect, before this meeting he's going to have with the Turkish leader today, Rebecca?
BERG: You know, his relationship with Erdogan has actually been one of the really interesting features of this presidency. Because Erdogan is in many ways a strong man leader. He's been cracking down on some key freedoms in Turkey over the past few months. And so this is the type of leader that we have seen Donald Trump actually have a very productive, friendly relationship with.
You can also point to the president of China. Even Vladimir Putin to an extent. And so I'm not sure that this would be a warning shot, as much as, you know, promoting his relationship with Erdogan ahead of this conversation essentially.
CABRERA: It sounds a little like his America first agenda, though, is taking front and center in that tweet. Rebecca Berg, Errol Louis, thank you both for your analysis. We appreciate it.
We have some breaking news overseas right now, at least 184 killed in Egypt after a terror attack at a crowded mosque. Another 125 have been injured. This happened in the Sinai Peninsula as worshippers were attending midday prayers.
And CNN's Ian Lee, who has spent nine years in Egypt is joining us live with the latest details -- Ian.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, that death toll continues to rise. This is quickly becoming the deadliest attack to happen in Sinai, this attack against the civilians. It happened around midday when worshippers were going to the mosque to pray, according to state media at least two explosions occurred.
People ran outside. Militants opened fire on them. We don't know where the militants went or what happened to them and no one has claimed responsibility. But Ana, this bears the hallmarks of an ISIS attack.
We're hearing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has convened an emergency session of his security council to discuss this latest attack and to talk about what they're going to do.
But we know also that the injured, they have been taken to area hospitals, and to Cairo. But this just underscores how volatile the Northern Sinai is with ISIS operating in there, especially as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria.
CABRERA: All right. Ian Lee, stay on top of that. Keep us posted, as you're learning more about who is behind this. Thank you for that report.
Senator Franken, meantime, says he crossed the line, but does an Ethics Committee investigation go far enough? We ask a former chairman.
And new this morning, North Korea digs a trench after a dramatic guard defection. Up next, we go inside the mind of a man who escaped the regime four years ago. His reaction to this latest defection.
Plus, the pressure is on, retailers facing a make or break holiday season as a record number of stores shut their doors.
CABRERA: It could be a major development in the Russia investigation. Lawyers for former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, are no longer sharing information with the president's lawyers. And this could mean Flynn could be cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, or even planning to plead guilty.
Here now, Republican Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Congressman, thanks for being here. REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks, Ana. Great to be with you.
CABRERA: A belated Thanksgiving and happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I want to get right to this new reporting on Michael Flynn. It could be an indication, we're learning, that he is cooperating with prosecutors or even negotiating some kind of deal. What's your reaction?
DENT: Well, it's pretty clear to me that Director Mueller is really not tipping his hand too much to any of us. We're all simply speculating. I think as a member of Congress what I've been most concerned with this whole Russia situation is that President Trump has been far too conciliatory towards Vladimir Putin, who has been a very bad actor, his behavior is bad, he's trying to break up NATO, unraveled the European Union, meddling in our elections and the elections of other nations. And we're trying to understand why. Nobody seems to understand this --
CABRERA: Why do you think he's doing that?
DENT: Well, I think that's a big part of what the Mueller investigation is all about. It just seems that this administration, at least should say the president, has an untraditional or less conventional view toward Russia, even though many people within his administration do have a more conventional view.
Secretary Mattis or McMaster or Tillerson, and I think this is -- again, there is speculation and that's -- this is what I suspect Director Mueller is investigating. You know, whether or not there was actually any collusion between the campaign and the Russians. We don't know that, if that is, in fact, the case.
DENT: But it's mystifying and bewildering to many of us who have this traditional view of Russia, and we all want good relations with Russia, by the way. We would like to see a good relationship with Russia, but Russian behavior must change in order for our policy to change.
CABRERA: OK. So, Flynn obviously was a member of the administration. No more. Do you worry about the fallout if he pleads guilty to some sort of crime?
DENT: I'll tell you what. I would be concerned if I were perhaps in the White House, yes. I would be concerned and it's clear that when members of your family -- the president has, you know, one of his own family members I know who has been subject to much of this discussion, his son.
Flynn's son has some exposure, as I understand it. So, when families are involved, you know, people are going to do what they have to do to protect themselves and their families. And so, I don't know that anybody should feel particularly comfortable right now. I would not be very relaxed. Any time there is an FBI investigation of a -- or serious investigation of an individual, you better be very nervous, better be very worried, and you better be very careful. And it becomes very time-consuming. It's emotionally exhausting and these things tend not to end well.
CABRERA: I want to ask some questions closer to Capitol Hill about Senator Al Franken apologizing again after another allegation. A woman came forward saying he grabbed her rear end during a photo op in 2010. Obviously, he was already a senator then. He says he feels terrible that he has made some women feel badly. You used to head the House Ethics Committee. Do you think this apology is enough?
[09:25:03] DENT: Well, as I understand it, the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating, and we'll see what they find. I'll tell you what. One thing I learned as chair of the House Ethics Committee is this.
I often look at cases where there was a hostile work environment was there harassment, discrimination, or some type of other misconduct, compelling staff to do things that, you know, were not appropriate.
Those are the kinds of things I often looked at and, you know, in the case of Senator Franken, I don't know that -- at least what I've read so far, what I've seen in the news so far, any of these actions occurred in his official office.
Some of these actions, or these allegations have occurred while he was a senator, but didn't seem to be occurring in his office. So, I suspect all these things to be taken into account. And there is one provision in the House rules, anyway, that's always a fallback.
That any member that brings discredit upon the House can be sanctioned and by the way, there are only four sanctions, Ana, that the House can impose, expulsion, censure, reprimand and a letter of reproval, and that's it.
And in the history of the House, by the way, there have only been five expulsions. Three during the Civil War, one during Ab scam and James --
CABRERA: So how seldom that is used, is there enough accountability in the Ethics investigations. I mean, is this all for naught?
DENT: Sure. I've been involved with investigations. You may remember the Charlie Wrangle case from several years ago. He was censured. I was on the committee at the time, and no good deed goes unpunished. He sued me and five other members. He went all the way to the Supreme Court on that.
I remember we reprimanded a member from California for her -- compelling her staff to do things they weren't supposed to do. And I remember I laid out the allegations on the House floor, and the sanctions and the facts and for that I was called a liar.
And so, the point is, we do take action from time to time. You know, expulsion is for the most extreme cases. But when John Boehner was speaker, by the way, one thing he did, he had a pretty low tolerance, for very low tolerance for member misbehavior or misconduct. And oftentimes, members on their own resigned or sometimes it was forced.
CABRERA: So should Senator Franken or Representative Conyers resign?
DENT: Well, that's up to those members. I think in both cases there should be an investigation. You know, I leave it up to the members to make that decision for themselves.
But I will tell you that I've been involved with cases over the years. We had a member who had used cocaine a few years ago and he resigned, and we had a resignation in the House a little over a month ago.
We've had other members resign, one who had taken his shirt off inappropriately, photographed himself, and there may have been other issues. He resigned. You may remember a member who is involved --
CABRERA: That sounds a little bit like Barton sending nude photos. So, let me ask you about him. Your thoughts on that situation. Should he be held accountable in some way?
DENT: Well, again, that situation struck me as a communication between -- looked like two consenting adults. That's how I understand it. It was certainly very bad judgment. Again, this -- the House rules do have this provision that talk about bringing discredit upon the House.
I would just simply say that I suspect that the committee could end up reviewing that situation, as well. I -- again, I think that if I were in that position, I certainly wouldn't be wanting to come back to Congress as -- at least to seek re-election.
But, again, I think at that point, when you get into these types of discussions as to whether or not a member should resign, that often occurs at the speaker level.
DENT: To see the best way to sort that out. Until then, we have to let the -- let members make their cases in the committee and we'll see where it goes.
CABRERA: And we will continue to follow along. Republican Representative Charlie Dent, thank you so much for your time.
DENT: Thank you, Ana.
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