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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Fires Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; Former CIA Director John Brennan Tweets Criticism of President Trump over McCabe Firing; President Trump's Personal Lawyer Calls for End to Mueller Investigation; Reports Indicate Russian Hackers Attempted to Penetrate U.S. Power Grid; Former NFL Quarterback Jim Kelly Diagnosed with Cancer. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 17, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:12] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. So glad to have you with us here. I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning. From you're fired to firing back, this morning we're hearing from former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. He was fired late last night less than 48 hours before he could retire with full benefits.
PAUL: President Trump is cheering the move as a great day for democracy, but McCabe calls it an attack on the FBI and on his credibility.
BLACKWELL: Plus, it's the president versus a porn star now in court. President Trump's personal lawyer claims Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who says that she had an affair with the president, violated her nondisclosure agreement and could owe now more than $20 million.
PAUL: And President Trump starts assembling his team for his 2020 run. Meanwhile, his data firm used by his campaign has been kicked off Facebook for allegedly misusing data.
We're covering all of this from a lot of different angles here. CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House. We want to start with CNN's Sara Sidner, though, with more details on the Stormy Daniels case.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi, this is pretty remarkable because it's really the first time that we have seen the president himself injected into the lawsuit. His attorneys have now filed on behalf of Donald Trump in this lawsuit that Stormy Daniels filed. But what has happened is his attorneys have filed and they are asking for $20 million in damages, saying that she broke the confidentiality agreement, and for each violation they are asking for $1 million. That is what was in the non-disparagement agreement, that was the agreement that she signed saying every time she violates the agreement, it's $1 million. So they're saying she has done that 20 times essentially.
Very remarkable now because for a very, very long time, as you know, the president himself has never spoken about this. His personal attorney Michael Cohen, who created Essential Consultants LLC to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006, he has been the only one who has come out and talked on behalf of the president, saying that he knew nothing about this, that he knew nothing about the deal, that he knew nothing about the money, that he knew nothing about any affair and denied there ever was an affair. And then the White House has at times after being asked said that the president denies there ever was an affair. Now the president's attorneys are fighting back, saying that she owes them $20 million.
We have also heard from the attorney representing her. He has been prolific across all of CNN's properties and many other media agencies talking about this case. And here's what he had to say about this now request to remove the case from the state courts and put it into federal courts and the $20 million that the president's lawyers say that his client owes them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: The reason why they have engaged in this tactic is pretty clear. That is what they ultimately hope to do is to move this case to a private arbitration that's going to take place in an office building somewhere far out of the view of the public, far out of view of any scrutiny because they want to hide the facts from the American people and they don't want the American people to learn the truth about what happened with my client, what happened with the cover-up, what happened with their efforts to intimidate her into remaining silent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Now, this case was filed by the president's attorneys on Friday, and we'll be looking into the details and how this unfolds as the days go by, Christi and Victor.
PAUL: No doubt about it. Sara Sidner, we so appreciate it, thank you.
BLACKWELL: As his lawyers prepare for another legal fight, the president is celebrating the firing of his former FBI deputy director. CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House. The president calls it a great day, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is something that President Trump has wanted to see for quite some time. But it is also drawing controversy because of the timing. The firing of Andrew McCabe just two days before he was set to turn 50 and retire with a pension is drawing questions of whether it was motivated by the president's personal animus toward him.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made that decision very, very late last night, an 11th hour decision to fire McCabe, but he did it in response to an ongoing investigation that had been going on into McCabe's conduct as it relates to the Clinton investigation, investigations that the FBI had been looking into for several months and years.
Now, that investigation, the internal investigation into McCabe's conduct, ended up with a recommendation he be fired. But McCabe had already resigned, so Sessions had to decide whether to go ahead and do that. And he ultimately did.
[10:05:05] Now McCabe says that all of this really leads back to President Trump's desire to get him out of the FBI because of the fact that he might be a witness in the special counsel investigation and also because President Trump has been attacking the FBI and law enforcement. McCabe said this in a statement, "This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel's investigation which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign not only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work," highlights the importance of the special counsel's work, so McCabe there pointing directly to the special counsel.
And he's also supported by President Trump's tweet last night in which he said it's a great day for the men and women of the FBI, a great day for democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choir boy, who knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI. The president now directly in the middle of this controversy when it could have been just an internal investigation. McCabe now has to decide how he's going to move forward and whether he's going to seek legal action to retain some of his pension, perhaps using the president's own tweets to bolster his argument.
BLACKWELL: Abby Phillip for us at the White House. Abby, thanks so much.
Joining me now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Congressman, good morning to you.
REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Good to have you. Let me first start with this fiery statement from the former CIA director John Brennan in reaction to this firing of Andrew McCabe. "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you," that apparently directed towards the president of the United States. Your reaction to that?
DENT: Well, here's my reaction to the whole McCabe thing. First, we haven't seen the inspector general report, so I can't speak to whether or not Mr. McCabe was completely truthful or was he evasive in that investigation. I simply don't know. But this firing looks a bit forced, a bit rushed. Candidly, it looks like retribution and a bit vindictive.
And I think it's unfortunate. The man said he was resigning, and on a Friday night before his 50th birthday, he's fired to take away his pension, I don't like the optics of this. I really don't. And I have to tell you, it looks like the attorney general may have been browbeaten into this. He's been publicly humiliated and shamed by the president on multiple occasions. And I just don't think this bodes well.
And one other thing I wanted to say, too. We just had a special election on Tuesday, and all this continuing chaos and drama that we're seeing with the Tillerson firing, McCabe firing, Stormy Daniels, all this stuff, this is having an impact on Republicans down ballot. If people didn't get the message on Tuesday, I hope they get it now.
BLACKWELL: So do you expect to in the context of what you say is residual impact on Republicans down ballot, should we hear from Paul Ryan? Should we hear from leader McConnell on this specifically, and Stormy Daniels, and the firing of Tillerson, and all of these other elements?
DENT: Well, look, I have told my Republican colleagues on multiple occasions we're running into a major storm, a big-time hurricane force wind. And we're going to be defined by all of these issues swirling around us unless we're able to develop our own brand and our own identity in our own districts. This is a five-alarm fire. And we simply just can't dismiss the election on Tuesday to local events. That would be, just to say this was all about the candidates I think would be an overstatement and simply not the case. It's about these larger issues of this toxic political environment we find ourselves in. And that's my message to leadership, that's my message to my colleagues.
BLACKWELL: What do you think the message is to the law enforcement community? The president in his tweet that Abby just shared with us called this a great day for the men and women of the FBI, a great day for democracy. What do you think the message is this sends to that agency?
DENT: Well, it seems that the president, he's been battling with the FBI and certain elements of the intelligence community for some time. Like I said, I don't think it's in the interest of the Republican party, which traditionally has been the party of law enforcement to be engaged in this kind of a battle with the FBI. Again, I always had the sense that the rank and file FBI had pretty high regard for Mr. Comey.
[10:10:01] I don't know what their relationship was with Mr. McCabe. I hadn't heard terrible things, so I guess the point I'm making is Comey and McCabe seem to have some respect within the FBI by the rank and file. So I'm not sure really what the message is that the president is sending there.
BLACKWELL: Deputy Director McCabe was questioned as part of the House Intelligence Russia probe. He will very likely have to speak to Robert Mueller's part of the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling and any potential collusion there with the campaign. The attorney general recused himself from all matters involving Russia. In the context of McCabe's role in these investigations, should he have recused himself from this decision to fire McCabe?
DENT: Well, first, I'll say Attorney General Sessions was absolutely right in recusing himself from the Russian probe. All the documentation and all of the rules that I had read suggested he did the absolute right thing recusing himself. Should he have recused himself in the case of the firing of McCabe? Well, to the extent -- I can't speak to the extent to which Mr. McCabe is involved in the Russia investigation. But it would seem the attorney general is within his rights to fire him in this case. I think that's probably -- whether it's right decision or not is a completely different matter, but I think he was within his rights to terminate him.
BLACKWELL: Congressman Charlie Dent, always good to have you.
DENT: Thank you. Great to be with you.
PAUL: And coming up after the break, we're talking to a former FBI special agent. We're going to get his thoughts on what Sessions' characterization of lack of candor means in this firing of Andrew McCabe. And also Representative Dent just said it's affecting the Republican party. How does this affect the intel community?
BLACKWELL: And the Department of Homeland Security says that Russian hackers targeted U.S. power plants, factories, even water sources. Should the U.S., should we be worried about that?
[10:16:11] PAUL: I want to talk about the FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's firing with somebody who knows the FBI quite well, CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore, who is also a retired FBI special agent. Mr. Moore thank you so much for being here.
STEVE MOORE, RETIRED SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Any time.
PAUL: We appreciate it. First and foremost, your reaction, and perhaps if you know the reaction of people within the FBI community to what's happened in the last 24 hours.
MOORE: Well, I can tell you that in the last week or so I have spoken to probably a dozen current and former agents about the entire McCabe situation. And there is a crisis of trust right now between the rank and file agents and headquarters. And it's not so much based on political issues. It's based on the fact that headquarters seems to be doing things that traditionally the FBI is not allowed to do, And that's getting involved in politics. Whether it's McCabe's involvement or whether it's Comey speaking publicly or McCabe speaking vicariously through papers, there's some concern about the behavior of the seventh floor at FBI headquarters.
PAUL: So Sessions -- Attorney General Sessions characterized it as a lack of candor, part of the reason for this firing. What exactly does "lack of candor" mean to the FBI?
MOORE: "Lack of candor" or "shortfall of candor" is a term that every single FBI agent knows. They learn that day one at the FBI Academy. They learn that even through the application procedure. The rule is this in the FBI, and it's very simple, that if you lie, if you don't even tell the whole truth during an internal investigation, then you will be terminated. This is a bright line. This isn't a gray area. They fire people for that every single year.
And even if what you are being investigated for would never rise to threaten your job, if you lie in any internal investigation, you're gone. One of the reasons is because that lie and the fact that you were caught lying goes into your file, and then every time you take a case to court and you're about to testify, the defense attorney says, oh, he's already lied to the FBI. Will he tell the truth to the jury?
So it is standard, and the word is always either "lack of candor" or "shortfall of candor" when somebody goes out the door. That makes sense to agents. So if this is proven true, there's not going to be any question about this firing among the agents.
PAUL: OK, I want to read to you something that we just talked about. Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted out, but I want to get your take on this from your perspective, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of industry. You may escape Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you," seeming to direct that to the president of the United States. Do you believe that Andy McCabe was scapegoated here?
MOORE: I have some feelings that the president and the administration were after Andy McCabe. But that does not -- I mean, how big do people want to believe that this conspiracy would be? Because then you would have to get all of the Office of Professional Responsibility, which is kind of the internal affairs at the FBI, everybody in the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Justice. And for this to be a firing that Trump completely manipulated, then it would have to be a huge conspiracy.
[10:20:10] Right now, I think, yes, it's possible that they were after him. It's possible that they wanted his job.
PAUL: But could they bring it to this kind of conclusion where he would lose his job 48 hours before he was supposed to retire?
MOORE: If he lied, he handed himself over to them on a plate. That's the bottom line. They couldn't have predicted that he would lack candor in an interview. So we'll have to see if those charges are true. But that's the deal here.
PAUL: I want to read you something that Andy McCabe put out because we are hearing from him this morning, heard actually quite quickly after this news came down. He released a statement, and part of it reads as this, "This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation which continue to this day." Do you believe that -- do people in the FBI believe that they are at war with this president?
MOORE: The FBI agents in the field believe that FBI executive management and the -- and the White House are at war, yes, I believe they believe that. But the rank and file right now has some concerns about the credibility of people in executive management because they're seeing things. Comey talking to the press about the Hillary Clinton thing, you don't do this. It's just so many things that an agent would never do.
PAUL: Do you believe that there's -- I'm sorry to rush you, I only have a second left, but do you believe there's a real threat to national security because of all of this?
MOORE: I think that any time the president is criticizing an intelligence organization so openly and so viciously, that it could hurt the operations in that agency.
PAUL: OK, Steve Moore, really grateful for your perspective this morning. Thanks for taking time with us.
BLACKWELL: Still to come, the president's attorneys claim that porn star Stormy Daniels violated a nondisclosure agreement and could owe up to $20 million for what she said about her alleged affair with the president and that agreement. Those details are ahead.
PAUL: Also, we've learned Russian hackers have now tried to target power plants, even factories. Is our power grid strong enough or secure enough to stop them?
[10:27:08] PAUL: Welcome back. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.
PAUL: So this morning, President Trump facing some backlash after praising the firing of his own former FBI deputy director.
BLACKWELL: One of those critics is former CIA director John Brennan. He tweeted this. "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you." Strong words from Director Brennan there.
Let's turn now to the Stormy Daniels saga. It's heating up after the presidents attorneys say the porn actress could owe $20 million because she violated confidentiality provisions of a settlement agreement.
PAUL: And also Daniels' attorney claiming she has been physically threatened to stay silent and alleging that some of those accusations she's making against President Trump have occurred since he has been in office.
BLACKWELL: Joining us to talk about all of this is HuffPost columnist and "USA Today contributor Kurt Bardella and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Josh Rogin. Gentlemen, good morning to you.
KURT BARDELLA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
BLACKWELL: We want to get to that element in just a moment, but there was something that was just reported by "The Daily Beast" that I think we need to discuss first. This is in response to the firing of Andy McCabe, an interview via e-mail or a question via e-mail. This was the response from the president's personal lawyer, John Dowd, who said this, "I pray the acting attorney general Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to the alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier." And then Dowd wrote, he also said this. He told "The Daily Beast" that he was speaking on behalf of the president in his capacity as the president's attorney.
So Kurt, let me come to you. My read of this is through his attorney, the president is now hoping that Rosenstein will fire Mueller. What's your read?
BARDELLA: I don't think he's hoping. It sounds more to me like he's ordering Rosenstein to end the Mueller probe, to fire Mueller. And if he doesn't, his fate will be the same as McCabe's. The president will fire him. I don't think you can look at this in any other way than when the president's personal attorney, who goes out of his way to say I'm speaking for the president, and he declared this needs to go away. And we've seen already the president has no problem about firing anybody at any level within this government, from cabinet secretaries to staff in the West Wing over Twitter, and we saw it last night of course with McCabe. If Rosenstein doesn't do what Trump's lawyer tells him to do, he'll be next.
PAUL: Josh, do you get the same feel?
BLACKWELL: And Josh, let me before you answer that, let me throw in here that if the president simply wants to order Rosenstein to fire Mueller, he can do that without going through Dowd and "The Daily Beast," right? The question is will Rosenstein do it or not.
[10:30:05] JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, he can do it at any time. The question is, can he do it politically, and will the blowback be worse than the benefit? And I think that's what they're trying to game out here. I mean, listen, the whole theory of why they fired Andrew McCabe over his failure to be totally honest, that didn't last 12 hours. The cover story didn't even survive the morning news cycle. They're being very open and blatant about their motivations here, and that is to create a political situation where the Mueller investigation is untenable and where the firing of Mueller can be defensible.
They're not there yet, OK. It's clear that the political backlash of firing Mueller would vastly overwhelm any political benefit that the president could have. It would set in stage a cascade of events that could lead to some really drastic things that could be very bad for the president and his team. But they're trying as hard as they can to shift the public's perception of what's going on here, and in doing so fired a 20-year FBI veteran two days before his retirement.
PAUL: I want to move into the Stormy Daniels territory, because there have been a couple developments this morning, one of which is that President Trump's attorneys and Michael Cohen are now filing suit to have the case brought from California, from the state legislature there, into federal hands. They want to take this on in the federal court, this lawsuit that she's filed.
Does that suggest in any way, Kurt, that the president knew about this NDA, this nondisclosure agreement, that he has said for so long he didn't know anything about and that his attorney said, I paid it from my own money. I took out a home loan so I could pay her off. I mean, how does this bring the president so much more closely into the fold here?
BARDELLA: Well, at times it's almost laughable how flagrantly Donald Trump and those associated and acting on his behalf lie to the media about these things when they become very clear that what they're initially saying, their initial spin on things just isn't true. We have already seen that.
It wasn't necessarily Michael Cohen acting by himself. There were e- mails with the Trump Org on it. There were e-mails with other Trump Organization employees that were a part of this deal. I don't see that there's any way that Donald Trump isn't aware of all of these things going on in real time. Any lawyer is going to consult with their client, if you will, before taking this kind of action. Any lawyer is going to find out, is there any merit to what this other person is saying about you before agreeing to give them a six-figure payoff a week before a presidential election. So it doesn't pass believability that Donald Trump hasn't been intimately involved in every aspect of that, and now they're almost formalizing that and recognizing that through this lawsuit.
BLACKWELL: Josh, let me read again this tweet from former CIA director John Brennan because it is striking. And he speaks to the president here, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you." Now, he has tweeted out some strongly worded statements before, but this one -- this one is unique.
ROGIN: Yes, I think what you're seeing is around Washington, the United States, really around the world, is increasing shock and anger and pushback against what is widely viewed as the president's and the Trump administration's assault on what we understand to be the institutions of not just America but the world order that both parties have held up for decades if not longer.
And the idea here is that most of what makes up America is not really the law, per se. It's the customs and norms by which we agree to interact with each other and have a government that has limits and has morals and has integrity and respects institutions and works in a way that is in the benefit of the American people and the world and not just to the benefit of the presidency.
And this president doesn't seem to think that way. And you know, that attitude is now eroding those institutions in the view of Brennan and many others. And we don't know how it's going to turn out, but that's the fight that's going on right now.
BLACKWELL: Let me, we just got new reporting from CNN's Gloria Borger. This was just a couple minutes ago, actually.
[10:35:00] That statement that I just read that was reported by "The Daily Beast" from John Dowd, that statement still holds. However, this is the reporting from Gloria. He had earlier told "The Daily Beast," which first reported the statement that he was speaking on behalf of the president, but soon corrected that to CNN. Dowd's comment was not authorized by the president. A person close to the president told CNN's Evan Perez Dowd was speaking for himself. So that is the reporting now from CNN's Gloria Borger, that Dowd was not speaking for the president, was not authorized to speak for the president. That's from Evan Perez. Dowd was speaking for himself. Important correction there. Quick break. Thank you, gentlemen.
All right, before we go to break, I think we have Abby Phillip.
PAUL: Kurt, Josh, thank you both so much.
BLACKWELL: What more do you have on this?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really an interesting development this morning. It seems like the president's personal lawyer went off script, delivering a statement, a pretty strident statement suggesting that the president wanted Rod Rosenstein to fire Robert Mueller. And now that is being pulled back by sources -- by Dowd himself and sources close to the president who said Dowd was not at all speaking for the president in that respect.
This is really important because up until this moment, the position of the president and his lawyers were that they wanted this investigation to continue to its conclusion. So the suggestion that Andrew McCabe's firing could be used as a justification for firing Robert Mueller and ending the Russia investigation is one that would be a step farther than Trump's attorneys had been willing to go up until this point.
We have asked the White House for comment on this, and we received nothing yet, but we have heard that on the McCabe situation, the White House does not intend to give any more statements beyond the president's tweet last night. This is clearly a situation that can quickly spiral out of control for this administration as they try to keep these issues narrowly focused on where they are, McCabe separate from the Mueller investigation. Remember, McCabe said in his statement that he believed that his firing was all about the Mueller investigation. So that's where we are at the moment. We're still waiting for the White House's official comment on these statements from the personal lawyer, John Dowd.
PAUL: All right, Abby Phillip from the White House, we appreciate it so much. Stay close. We're back in a moment.
[10:41:57] PAUL: We've learned this morning that U.K. officials will meet next week to plan their response to Russia after learning the Kremlin is expelling 23 British diplomats.
BLACKWELL: Russia is responding to the U.K. expelling 23 Russian diplomats a few weeks ago and giving them a week to leave. It's because of the nerve agent attack on British soil earlier this month. But the Kremlin is taking it a step further, matching actions by the U.K. and closing a U.K.-controlled consulate and a cultural center. The statement from the U.K. says Russia's response will not change the fact of the matter.
PAUL: And as part of the sanctions against Russia announced this week, the Department of Homeland Security accused Russian hackers of targeting the U.S. power grid.
BLACKWELL: While we're learning more details about the cyberattacks, we have known Russians have been targeting utilities for months. Our next guest wrote about the threat last September. Joining us now is Andy Greenberg, senior writer for "WIRED." Andy, good morning to you.
ANDY GREENBERG, SENIOR WRITER, "WIRED": Good morning.
BLACKWELL: So the U.S. power grid is probably too complex to cut power across the country all at once. So how big, how broad is the threat of these cyber attacks?
GREENBERG: Well, it's certainly serious. Believe it or not, hackers have been penetrating the U.S. grid and other country's grids for decades. But six months ago the security firm Symantec warned us about something really unusual, which was that state sponsored sophisticated hackers had gained deep enough access to the U.S. grid that in a handful of utilities they had actual hands-on controls. They had direct operational access. They could have started flipping switches.
Now, the news this week is that the White House has pinned those attacks on the Russian government. And that's especially serious because the Russian government is simply so brazen. They have done things on the Internet no one else has done, attacking our election, and they actually have turned off the power using cyberattacks in the past, and no other country in the world has done that.
PAUL: So how vulnerable is the U.S. to attacks like this?
GREENBERG: Speaking to security analysts, I have heard that it would be possible with persistent sophisticated attacks to take down power to a city for an extended period, to take down power to a region for a shorter period. Taking down power to the entire country would be, of course, very practically impossible. Any power shutdown, any blackout that hackers could cause would of course be temporary, especially with the techniques that we have seen. But Russia has developed and used in Ukraine in late 2016 a piece of
malware called crash override or some people call it Industroyer. And this was an automated grid attack. Imagine if Russia were to plant that infection on perhaps a dozen power utilities at once and then trigger them simultaneously, that could be an unprecedented kind of regional or at least multiple city blackout, which would be a huge geopolitical event.
[10:45:00] BLACKWELL: So what are the defenses? And are these power companies, is the U.S. keeping up with trying to eliminate the threat?
GREENBERG: Well, we're clearly not keeping up because hackers are getting operational access to American power utilities. Now, after these blackout attacks in Ukraine, which happened in 2015 and 2016, American regulators did go on a kind of road show warning American power utilities, which are private companies, that they need to do a better job of patching their vulnerabilities, of separating their operational controls from the internet.
And that's the real key here is that there should be an air gap, there should be no Internet connection at all. But nonetheless this keeps happening. Utilities seem to create these kinds of sneaky connections. Sometimes they're not even aware themselves of all of the connections between their operational controls and the Internet. And those need to be cut. That air gap needs to be concrete.
PAUL: So Andy, we were talking about Russia, but what about Iran and North Korea? There are reports they're trying to improve their cyberattack capabilities. How advanced are they?
GREENBERG: Well, there have certainly been reports that North Korea is probing the U.S. power grid as well. There are some hints that Iran is developing destructive and infrastructure disrupting cyberattacks, too. So this is not just about Russia. We don't know in what situation Russia might actually pull the trigger on one of these attacks, but we have to think about the fact more broadly that there are these rogue states out there. Our infrastructure is vulnerable and we can't really predict what the consequences of that will be.
BLACKWELL: Andy Greenberg from "WIRED." Andy, thank you so much.
GREENBERG: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Quick break. We're back in a moment.
[10:51:18] BLACKWELL: Hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly is fighting cancer again.
PAUL: Coy Wire is here to show us what he's doing to kind of help -- he's helping other people through it as he's going through it.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Strength through struggles, right. This "Difference Makers" is presented by the new 2018 Ford F- 150. Jim Kelly is tough. Concussions, torn ligaments, four straight Super Bowl losses. But the real pain, he lost his only son Hunter when Hunter was just eight years old. Jim persevered through cancer twice and chemo, a prosthetic jaw, eight fake teeth, and an unbearable pain in his face because of it. But the pain in his life has made him even tougher. Perhaps the toughest challenge for Jim Kelly has just begun. The cancer is back, and for a third time he'll attempt to conquer it.
WIRE: Take me back to when you first heard your doctor use the word "cancer."
JIM KELLY, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: Well, I think most people when they hear that word think about other people. I have been through so much in my life, and I couldn't imagine the word "cancer" coming into my life. I was worried about my wife, my two daughters. That I had already been through hell and back with seeing what my son went through with his genetic disease. And he fought for every day of his life. If he can do it, man, I know I can do it, because I have two beautiful daughters and I had a wife that sacrificed so much to spend time with me and to make sure that I was all right, that I was going to do it for everybody in our family.
I'll not stop until we beat this thing. And I know there's so many people on my bandwagon. Keep jumping on. Keep jumping on because we can make it a long, long way. And I'm passionate about it. No matter what I get into it, I'm passionate about it because I know through you, through everybody else, through social media, we can make a difference.
WIRE: As you can imagine, this journey has been tough for Jim's family and his friends. His wife Jill posted a photo on Instagram saying this, that while they were praying, getting ready to go up to New York City for more tests, she said that while she was praying for healing and a miracle, she's looked at the friends and realized that having friends praying for him is the miracle. You can go to Yourcancergameplan.com if you want to help Jim who is inspiring others who may be struggling with cancer as well.
PAUL: Pretty incredible. Thanks, Coy, so much.
So earlier this week, we have been talking about what's happening today with this breaking news update as we have been watching all of these things unfolding over the week. Just minutes ago, President Trump's lawyer released a statement saying this regarding McCabe, since McCabe was just fired. He said he prays acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein will continue the investigation, or will --
BLACKWELL: Follow the brilliant and courageous example --
PAUL: Go ahead.
BLACKWELL: -- of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to the alleged Russian collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier. Dowd says he was speaking for himself, not on behalf of the president.
Now, earlier in an interview with "The Daily Beast," he said he was speaking on behalf of the president. He quickly corrected that with CNN's Gloria Borger, and our Evan Perez found out through sources at the White House that the president did not authorize that comment from Dowd.
PAUL: Dowd saying it was straight from him. Thank you so much for being with us. Fredricka Whitfield is going to take you through the next few hours. Stay close.
[10:59:21] BLACKWELL: So this weekend, we start another year of introducing you to everyday people changing the world, people we call CNN Heroes.
PAUL: After Carol Rosenstein's husband was diagnosed with dementia, she began to feel him slipping away. She started to lose hope. And then one day, he sat down at the piano.
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CAROL ROSENSTEIN, CNN HERO: I was seeing something magical happening before my eyes. The doctor told me that we were watching the power of music changing brain chemistry. Playing a musical instrument is like a full-body workout for the brain. The music actually resurrected him.
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BLACKWELL: To watch Carol and Irwin's full story go to CNNHeroes.com. You can also nominate someone you think should be a 2018 CNN Hero.