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Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Trump's Growing List of Flip-Flops; North Korea Nuclear Fears; U.S. Military Drops Massive Bomb in Afghanistan; ; Sources: UK, European Intel Intercepted Contacts Between Trump Associates & Russia. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is the biggest bomb that the United States military has, without being, you know, the big one.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: The U.S. military drops the largest non-nuclear bomb that it possesses. The Pentagon nicknamed it the Mother of All Bombs. Whom were they trying to annihilate?

Primed and ready. Reports that North Korea is ready for another nuclear test, as President Trump says the U.S. is ready to step in. We're live inside the most mysterious country in the world.

Plus, fresh wounds. The attorney for the United passenger who was violently dragged off that flight says he broke his nose, lost two teeth and now needs surgery. Is United's next destination the courtroom?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin with some breaking news in our world lead today.

Today, for the first time ever, the United States announced that it has used the most powerful non-nuclear bomb from its arsenal, deployed to the battlefield in Afghanistan, targeting, the Pentagon says, ISIS fighters and a network of their tunnels, a 21,600-pound monster known as the MOAB, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or another less technical different name that fits that acronym, the Mother of All Bombs.

Let's go to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for more on this.

And, Barbara, the president was asked about this today and he said he has given the military total authorization. What exactly does that mean? The president has given the Pentagon the ability to do whatever it wants? The president doesn't need to sign off on major military actions?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think the Pentagon can do whatever it wants. What it does mean is the president has decided to trust his commanders, in his view, to do the right thing.

When major missions like this happen, we are told, indeed, the White House is briefed.


STARR (voice-over): For the first time ever, the Mother of All Bombs was used by the U.S. military in combat, the largest non-nuclear bomb used in combat, targeting ISIS fighters in Eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. A U.S. Air Force special operations MC-130 dropped the bomb via parachute.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.

STARR: The MOAB, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, also known as the Mother of All Bombs, is a 21,600-pound bomb that explodes in the air. It's blast is supposed to destroy a target area that can spread over thousands of feet.

On Saturday, a U.S. Army special operations soldier was killed in combat in the same area.

SPICER: The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously, and in order to defeat the group, we must deny them operational space, which we did.

STARR: One reason it was used, the area is so remote, the U.S. believes there were no nearby civilians.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They probably had a very large concentration, and it made perfect sense based on the time of day that they were going to attack that they could have a massive kill in this area, not putting any special operators or any conventional forces at risk.

STARR: Now the challenge, did the bomb work as planned in its first combat mission?

MARKS: It explodes above the ground at a distance, depending upon what type of a shape and a blast you want to have, and as described, it is a concussive blast. So everybody underneath that thing is either obliterated, ears are bleeding or they're completely destroyed.


STARR: One of the key questions now, did it work? The U.S. is going to want to find out, make sure they did not cause civilian casualties in the area. That assessment is ongoing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon, thank you so much. Let's turn to the politics side of this now with our politics lead.

For a president who had pledged to voters that he would disentangle the United States from involvements abroad, President Trump has indeed escalated in various ways U.S. military actions overseas. He has increased the numbers of boots on the ground in both Iraq and Syria.

He launched 60 Tomahawk missiles at Syria one week ago. He has given U.S. commanders more authority in Somalia and in Yemen, which has of course increased the U.S. footprint in those countries. And of course the Pentagon today dropped this enormous bomb today on Afghanistan.

CNN's Athena Jones is live for us at the White House.

And, Athena, to be fair, in addition to pledging to refocus the U.S. on the U.S., President Trump also told voters he would bomb the bleep out ISIS. But today did he say whether or not he specifically ordered this Afghan bombing?



No, he did not answer a direct question -- did not directly answer a question about that, talking instead about having given his commanders authorization. And you're right, Jake. This is a president who talked often on the campaign trail about bombing ISIS.

So, as far as he's concerned, this is another promise kept in a very literal sense. With this latest strike and the strike last week in Syria, the president has shown he's willing to take military action when he deems it necessary, this strike coming as the administration is in the midst of a full strategy review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're very, very proud of our military.

JONES (voice-over): The Trump administration launching another military attack, this time against ISIS in Afghanistan, one week after striking a Syrian air base.

We are so proud of our military, and it was another successful event.

QUESTION: Did you authorize it, sir?

TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened. So -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they have done a job, as usual.

JONES: The move aligns with Trump's tough talk from the campaign trail.

TRUMP: I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.

JONES: But the president is also making headlines for a series of reversals from earlier stances.

TRUMP: Number one, NATO is obsolete. Number two, the countries in NATO are not paying their fair share.

JONES: Changing his views on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the nearly 70-year-old alliance he railed against on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete.

JONES: It was just the latest about-face in a growing list of flip- flops on foreign and economic policy. Trump bashed China for months, promising to label the country a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency.

TRUMP: We have the cards. Our people don't know that. We are going to label China a currency manipulator, which is what they're doing.

JONES: But he told "The Wall Street Journal" -- quote -- "They're not currency manipulators," explaining that he changed his mind on a signature campaign promise because China has not been manipulating its currency for months, and for fear of jeopardizing efforts to push North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing.

JONES: The president also suggested he would be open to keeping Janet Yellen at the head of the Federal Reserve after her term expires next year, even though he said this last September:

TRUMP: And we have a fed That's doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed, the Fed is doing political.

JONES: Then there's perhaps the biggest U-turn of all on Russia. Remember then candidate Trump's warm talk during the campaign?

TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn't that be good? Is that a bad thing?

JONES: Now he's singing a different tune.

TRUMP: Right now, we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia. This has built for a long period of time, but we're going to see what happens.


JONES: So, you heard the president sounding pretty pessimistic about Russia yesterday. He sounded more positive this morning on Twitter, saying: "Things will work out fine between the U.S. and Russia. At the right time, everyone will come to their senses and there will be lasting peace" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones at the White House for us, thank you. Some tough talk just now from the head of the CIA, talking about

WikiLeaks, the same Web site candidate Trump repeatedly said he loved. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have even more breaking news in our politics lead, if you can believe it, a stunning assessment today from the CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Minutes ago, he came out and that said WikiLeaks is a nonstate hostile intelligence service working with Russia.

Yes, that's right, the same WikiLeaks that President Trump, then candidate Trump, repeatedly praised on the campaign trail.

So, Pamela Brown is here with more on the story, quite a turnaround for, if not President Trump, at least the Trump organization.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because, today, you have the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, in his first public remarks, Jake, really going after WikiLeaks, taking direct aim at WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, saying that he wanted to call WikiLeaks what it is, a nonstate hostile intelligence service that encourages its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence that will harm the U.S.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence.

It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a nonstate hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.


BROWN: And he went on to say that Julian Assange is a narcissist who cares more about his own celebrity and making a splash than risking U.S. lives.

And he even cited an example of al Qaeda praising WikiLeaks for providing a means to fight the U.S. But Pompeo said the threat is even bigger than Assange and that the U.S. government needs to do a better job of protecting its cyber-infrastructure.

He also defended his agency and tried to set the record straight that its core mission is to steal secrets from foreign adversaries, not to spy on Americans.

But, as you pointed out earlier, the irony is that he really went after WikiLeaks. And, as you said, during the campaign, WikiLeaks, of course, was putting out the e-mails about John Podesta and about the DNC. And you heard Donald Trump say during the campaign that he loves WikiLeaks. Now we have the CIA director really going after it.

TAPPER: Over and over, he said it.

Pamela Brown, thanks.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, your reaction to CIA Director Pompeo's comments? Is that what the investigation into Russian meddling is finding, that WikiLeaks was actually operating on behalf of Russia?


And I appreciate Director Pompeo saying that. I served with him on the Intelligence Committee. And I'm actually happy to see him in this role stepping up right now.

I would just like to hear the president come out and say that. And, so far, he's been quiet about WikiLeaks and their connection to Russia.

[16:15:01] TAPPER: Does it matter if the president says it, if -- if -- if the CIA director does?

SWALWELL: Well, a lot of people are asking with respect to the intelligence community, you know, whether these people have had their first and last meeting with President Trump. So, you know, what kind of access do they have with the president and are they really relevant?

You know, it's great that Nikki Haley has tough words at the U.N., but so far we have not heard the president talk tough with Russia.

TRUMP: I want to get your reaction, of course, also to the historic bomb that was dropped in Afghanistan, the largest non-nuclear bomb that the Pentagon possesses. What do you make of the decision to use this weapon for the first time?

SWALWELL: Well, I too want to know if the president authorized this because he doesn't have to authorize everything the military does, but he certainly should be involved when we escalate to the weapons used. Now, I'm all for going after ISIS and I want to find out more as to whether any civilians were killed, also whether the Afghans were involved. We can't just bomb our way to national security. Right now, this president wants to dramatically cut foreign aid and we need foreign aid and we need friends in the region if we're going to ever see progress over there.

TRUMP: There are a lot of hawks out there praising President Trump today, talking about how he takes the fight to ISIS and to other terrorist groups in a stronger way than President Obama ever did. Take a listen to President Trump earlier today talking about that very



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing. And, frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately. If you look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to what -- really to what's happened over the last eight years, you'll see there's a tremendous difference, tremendous difference.


TAPPER: What do you think, sir?

SWALWELL: We have more threats right now, Jake, than ever before. North Korea is threatening to launch a nuclear attack against the United States. Syria is gassing its own people. ISIS is spreading its network across the world.

So, we need a strategy. So, we need the president to come to the American people. He needs to go to Congress and get authorization as far as the scope, the time and any troops, as to whether they're going to be committed into battle. Right now, we don't have that. The American people, I think, deserve to know.

TAPPER: In Syria, Syrian President Bashar al Assad called the claims by the Pentagon and the White House that he used deadly sarin gas on his own people a, quote, "100 percent fabrication" and then he accused the United States of working to help terrorists to carry out the attacks. Your thoughts?

SWALWELL: Well, Bashar al Assad has to go, and we need to make sure that Russia is a part of that, whether it's leaving Syria but also we need to call on our NATO friends to put pressure in the region so that there's a political transformation in Syria, and that we all can align and fight the other enemy in the region, which is ISIS.

But he's wrong. The intelligence clearly shows that he used chemical weapons on his own people, and we also need to know whether Russia was complicit.

TAPPER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, from the House Intelligence Committee and the great state of California -- thank you so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

TAPPER: New information about how U.S. intelligence found out about communications between people close to the Trump campaign and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. That's next.

Then, is North Korea preparing for a major celebration by getting its nuclear site ready? CNN goes inside the communist nation, and was just taken to a super secretive event with none other than Kim Jong- un.

Stay with us.


[16:22:33] TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're back with breaking news on politics lead now. It turns out it was not just U.S. intelligence. CNN is learning that British and other European intelligence agencies also picked up communications between associates of then-candidate Donald Trump and Russians who were known to U.S. intelligence.

CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me now.

And, Jim, what are your sources telling me about how this happened and the type of information that these European intelligence agencies gathered?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Principally, phone conversations. As you'll remember, CNN was first to report that U.S. intelligence intercepted repeated communications between Trump associates and Russian officials, other Russians known to U.S. intelligence during the campaign. We have now learned that British and other European intelligence agencies also intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials, other Russian nationals, and passed those communications on to their U.S. counterparts, U.S. law enforcement, congressional sources, as well as U.S. and European intelligence sources tell CNN.

Now, these communications were captured, I should note, during routine surveillance of the Russians. To be clear, British and European intelligence agencies, including GCHQ were not proactively targeting members of the Trump team but rather picked up these communications during what's known as incidental collection, these sources tell us. As with U.S. intelligence, European intelligence detected multiple communications over several months between the Trump associates and Russian individuals. The U.S. and Britain are part of the so-called Five Eyes agreement, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and that calls for open sharing among the member nations of a broad range of intelligence.

I should note this because, of course, you have congressional and FBI investigations going on in this, a source close to the congressional investigations of Russian involvement in U.S. elections -- in the U.S. presidential election tells me foreign intelligence agencies share information with U.S. intelligence and it's relevant to the investigation, then, of course, the intelligence committee will look at it.

So, as you have the House and Senate, of course, the FBI, this is more information into that pot showing communications. The question is, what happened during those communications, specifically was there any collusion?

TAPPER: Just one more piece in this very large puzzle. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

President Trump not typically known for shying away from the camera, but earlier today, he signed a bill in private, one that could have a big impact on women's healthcare across the country. Stick around.


[16:29:13] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our health lead now: President Trump signed a law today giving states the option to block funding to any organizations that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood. It rolls back an Obama administration regulation. During the campaign, you might remember, the Republican candidate praised the services that Planned Parenthood provides except for abortion.


TRUMP: But millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood, but we're not going to allow and we're not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood.


TAPPER: So, let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.

And to be clear, it has been illegal for years for any federal spending to go to fund abortion in anyway. So, what might this law mean for, say, a woman who uses Medicaid, which is a federal program, and wants to go to Planned Parenthood to get contraception or a pap smear?