Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

George Nader Cooperates with Mueller; Kushner Visits Mexico Despite Losing Security Clearance; Nerve Agent Used to Poison Ex- Russian Spy and Daughter; Parkland Shooter Indicted Today On 34 Counts. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You're back watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. New developments today in the Russian investigation. There is this Middle Eastern power broker now with ties to Donald Trump's inner circle. He is now cooperating with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His name is George Nader. Sources say he attended the secret meetings between representatives of the UAE, United Arab Emirates in Trump associates during the presidential transition.

The FBI actually stopped this had man at Dulles International Airport in Washington back in Januarys were "The New York Times" reports he was actually en route to Mar-A-Lago to celebrate President Trump's first year in office. So that's are jumping off point, Sara Murray is one of the great folks here who helped break this. Our CNN political correspondent and also Daniel Goldman, former federal prosecutor. Sarah, just starting with you and your reporting tell me more about these meetings.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we know that Mueller has been interested in at least two meetings that Nader attended with Emirati officials, one in December of 2016, including the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi as well as a number of top Trump sort of inner circle officials, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, as well as Michael Flynn who was going to be the national security advisor. So that's one of the meetings that George Nader has been sort of providing information about, the other one was in January 2017 that came after. This was in the Seychelles islands, in this one is sort of a very mysterious meeting. We know that Erik Prince who is the founder of this private security firm Blackwater was there, we know that the head of the state run Russian direct investment fund was also there later on. And we know that there were Emirati officials who were there.

So, we know that Moeller has been looking at both of these meetings to sort of try to get a sense of what's going on there.

[15:35:00] And I think the key thing that it tells you that he's looking beyond just Russian influence. He's looking at whether there was any other foreign influence. And not just during the presidential campaign but also during periods after that fact.

BALDWIN: So, all right. Stay with me, Sara. Daniel, let me turn to you. First, I'm just fascinated in how they found him at the airport. Right, as he used apparently on his way to celebrate that the president down in Florida, but most importantly he's in these meetings with these key officials, to Sara's point, this isn't just about Russia. What kind of information do you think they could glean from him, based on these power players in the meetings he was in?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This is a great example of prosecutorial 101. You have Michael Flynn, who is now cooperating with Mueller, he pled guilty December 1st, 2017. About seven weeks later then, the FBI meets Mr. Nader at Dulles Airport, this is not like a hey, Brooke, how are you, meeting?

BALDWIN: This like a hey, buddy --

GOLDMAN: They are armed with a search warrant to get his phones. Remember, in order to get a search, warrant you have to be able to show that there is probable cause to believe that that individual committed a crime and that they also -- he used his phone in furtherance of it, but of course every crime always uses a cell phone. They already have an understanding of serious criminal wrongdoing that this man has done.

This is what they call an approach. And the FBI goes up to him. They say, come with us. We're taking your phones. Basically, you've got a choice right now. You can either cooperate with us right away or you can risk getting charged, going through the whole legal process and potentially going to jail. It sounds like what he did is he recognized OK, I'm cooked. I'm going to cooperate. They gave him a subpoena for two days later. Then he got a lawyer. Likely over the last two months he has been telling them everything he knows.

BALDWIN: How do they know he's telling the truth?

GOLDMAN: Well, that's a very tricky thing and it's hard for us on the outside right now to know. Because all of this goes back to corroboration. Is it what he's telling them corroborated by other information that someone like Michael Flynn has told them? Maybe Rick Gates now that he's cooperating? Or do they see it in the documents? Is it in e-mails, texts? They probably have a lot of classified materials about international contacts that this man has. They're keyed in of course to whatever Flynn I think has told them about them. Because Flynn was in that December 2016 meeting in New York with Kushner and Bannon and it kind of flows from there. And then they pursue Nader and see what he's up to.

BALDWIN: Sara, to you, what does everything we just discussed in this news say about the scope of the investigation from the special counsel that now involves actually questionable behavior with Trump transition team in addition to Russia?

MURRAY: Right. It raises the question of whether this foreign influence or risk of foreign influence continued after the campaign ended, whether there were other countries involved and how those countries were involved. There was still a Russia tie as we pointed out. These meetings that happened in the Seychelles islands were very mysterious. The first one involved Erik Prince, who is the founder of the Blackwater security firm and Emirati officials. But then after that, he happened to encounter this guy who ran the state-run Russian investment fund.

And according to Erik Prince in front of the intelligence committee they just had a drink, the just had a beer at the bar and Nader was somewhere nearby. It's unclear if you participated in those discussions. But the mystery around these meetings is something that Mueller has been certainly trying to get to the bottom of. Nader really gives him a window perhaps into that meeting with the Russian official but also into these other interactions with Emirati officials and whether there was something that they were trying to get out of the inner circle of Trump's team.

BALDWIN: OK, Sarah and Daniel thank you both so much. The president's son-in-law meeting today with the Mexican President, despite the fact that he lost top security clearance very recently. How effective is Jared Kushner in these discussions? We'll be right back.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just a week after he lost his top-secret security clearance, Jared Kushner, senior advisor, the president's son-in-law, right now leading a White

house delegation to Mexico to talk trade, security, immigration and a whole host of other important issues. This trip comes after Mexico's President canceled his visit to Washington, following this tense phone call with President Trump over who is going to pay for this border wall.

And on the heels of Trump announcing tariffs both on aluminum and steel. Not an easy time to be talking trade even with an ally, even though we did just hear from Sarah Sanders that there will be carve- outs for Mexico and Canada. So, with me now to discuss, retired Admiral John Kirby, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, he also worked as a spokesman and press secretary for both the State Department and the Pentagon. And Elise Labott is here, our global affairs correspondent. Elise, let me turn to you first. How, with NAFTA, with trade, with a lot of sensitive issues on the table, how does Jared Kushner even go and have these conversations given the fact that his security clearance was yanked?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think everyone is focused on the security clearance. Listen, Jared Kushner wouldn't have any kind of security clearance, even lowest level secret clearance that he has if there was a serious, I think, problem. He still has some kind of information that enables him to have these talks. The talks with the President are very broad based. I don't think they'll get into the nitty gritty of security issues. You might need that secret clearance for, but I think --

BALDWIN: What's your big takeaway then?

LABOTT: The big takeaway it that the president's son-in-law is essentially handling so many of these top foreign policies. You have Mexico, you have the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who he is really the point person on, in dealing with a lot of issues in the gulf. He's doing the Middle East peace process, he's been working a lot with the Chinese.

BALDWIN: Who should it be?

LABOTT: I think it should be Secretary of State Tillerson.

[15:45:00] Secretary of State is really the person who is handling these kind of high-level negotiations. If you want to give one kind of issue or one piece of the portfolio to one particular adviser, I just think it's amazing that Jared Kushner has so many of these foreign policy issues. Yes, there is some coordination with the Secretary of State. But I think you really need to see the State Department kind of beef up. We talked a lot about it being depleted and not having officials. A lot of those officials are starting to come on. I think I would like to see the State Department taking the lead a little more.

BALDWIN: Admiral, to you, adding a layer to this, Mexico is one of a handful of countries that actually discussed how to manipulate Jared Kushner and now you have him meeting with the President of the Mexico. Significant?

RETIRED ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It wouldn't have been, had we not known about it. Now it's in the public sphere. So, I think the team surrounding Kushner, I'm guessing, it is going to be very sensitive to that, as should Mr. Kushner. Mexicans now that we know this little piece of intelligence. It's unlikely they're going to try to pull a fast one on him while he's there. He is surrounded by a team not just from the State Department but from the National Security Council. He's landing on a country team down there under Ambassador Jacobson who is just terrific and fantastic.

Nobody knows the region or Mexico better. So, I think he will be insulated enough. This is one of the reasons why, quite frankly, Brooke, why we're not supposed to talk about security clearances in a public realm. In this case, it could insulate him.

BALDWIN: Admiral Kirby, Elise Labott, thank you both so very much.

Were going to move onto this grand jury having now indicted the Parkland school shooter. We have new details this afternoon about what he has been doing behind bars as he has been sitting in jail. Also, starting revelation from police in England, confirming that a former Russian spy and his daughter were likely poisoned with a nerve agent. We are live in London with details on what's now being called attempted murder.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Pieces of a spy mystery starting to come together after a nerve agent may have been used on this attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter over the weekend. Scotland Yard is also saying Sergei Skripal and his daughter were deliberately targeted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK ROWLEY, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: In summary, this is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of nerve agents. As you know, these two people remain critically ill in hospital. Sadly, in addition, a police officer who was one of the first to attend the scene and respond to the incident is now also in a serious condition in hospital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: let's go to our CNN senior International correspondent there, Nick Paton Walsh in London. What was the most critical takeaway from Scotland Yard?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They clearly say they know what this nerve agent is, but they aren't saying and that significantly I presume narrows their investigation. It is a limited number of countries that make nerve agents like potentially VX or sarin that could have been used in something like this and it leaves a very clear trail or fingerprint.

To recap about, 4:00 Sunday afternoon, Sergei Skripal was seen losing consciousness looking very ill on the bench in a quiet rural city called Salisbury.

One of them is airlifted, one is driven to hospital. It takes a couple days for the major counter terrorism police to start leading the investigation. An Italian restaurant, a bar nearby closed after the scene.

And it was just that they said, and they believed, an extraordinary phrase, attempted murder using a nerve agent. Now of course, the hunt is on and they won't say how it's going for whoever administered this particular agent. It's not something you can leave lying around in the hope that your target will walk into it. These two people were specifically targeted. The police said they're looking at closed circuit television cameras between 1 o'clock and 4 o'clock that Sunday afternoon, and of course

with anybody else, apart from that policeman who is seriously ill, and first on the scene there, if anybody else was sick too. They possibly may have been involved in administering it, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, what does Britain do next?

WALSH: This is the enormous question. This is not the first time it's happened. I remember covering 12 years ago, Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian spy seeking asylum here, he was killed using polonium. A radioactive substance left in a teapot with an extraordinarily clear fingerprint pointing back to Moscow in that case.

There have been a number of other incidents of Russians who have fallen foul of Moscow meeting dubious ends here in the U.K.

The U.K. Foreign Secretary, their equivalent of the Secretary of State has said they will make robust counter measures if it is proven that Russia is to blame here. This is a huge geopolitical crisis frankly literally 11 days before the Russian presidential elections. It appears, and there's no direct finger being pointed, but the suggestion seems to be that somehow Moscow, or its allies may be involved in the administering of the nerve agent and that could mean an enormous crisis. Certainly, between Britain and Russia, possibly between Britain and its European allies and Russia. And we haven't heard from the White House how they feel about this. A staggering frankly brazen act here. I should point out there's no direct finger being pointed toward Russia but that's where the smart money is thinking this trail may eventually lead back to, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nick. Thank you. We'll stay on the investigation appreciate that out of London for us.

[15:55:00] Back here in the U.S., Parkland, Florida, students went back for their very first full day of class. At the same time, a Florida grand jury was handing down an indictment against the gunman who opened fire at the high school a couple weeks ago. New details about how the young man has been acting behind bars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Today students in Parkland, Florida, went back to school for their first full day since 17 of their classmates and coaches and faculty were killed. At the same time a grand jury was handing go down a 34-count indictment against the gunman.

[16:00:00] 17 for premeditated murder. The other 17 for attempted murder. The couple who took the shooter several months ago was also in court today. Their attorney said they plan to cooperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM LEWIS, ATTORNEY: They tried to do the right thing. They tried to provide a home to this young man who had lost his mother and didn't have a home. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody could predict this. And my clients, the gun owners, they're safe gun owners. We don't have any absolute knowledge as to how it is that he managed to get into that safe or get that ammunition and do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN has also learned that the shooter's brother has visited him twice in the county jail. Deputies say the 19-year-old gunman quote, follows commands, doesn't sleep much and talks very little. They also he's been seen laughing and giggling at times. The gunman's attorney cautions against reading too much into the deputy's observations. That's it for me here in New York. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for watching. We'll send to it Washington with Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.