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Source: Trump Shared Highly Classified Intelligence with Russians; Russian Reaction to New Trump/Russia Controversy; Trump to Meet Turkish President; Cyberattack May Be Linked to North Korea; Sources: Trump Shared Classified Intelligence with Russians; Al Qaeda Looking for Comeback with Bin Laden's Son. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired May 16, 2017 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:10] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour --
SESAY: Hello, and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. And this is NEWSROOM L.A.
Well, the White House is on the defensive over a bombshell report that the U.S. president divulged highly classified information to Russia. Two former officials confirmed to CNN that a "Washington Post" report that Mr. Trump shared classified intel with senior Russian officials is accurate. Mr. Trump met with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador at the White House last week. The information reportedly involved an ISIS terror threat that had been provided in confidence by a U.S. ally. The Trump administration is pushing back insisting the "Post" report is false.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way, and have said so. All the record accounts should outweigh those anonymous sources. And I was many the room. It didn't happen.
MCMASTER: Thanks, everybody. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: Well, "Washington Post" journalist, Greg Miller, broke the story, and CNN's Erin Burnett asked him about concerns Russia may be able to figure out who gave intel to the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG MILLER, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that's right. And I think that the White House is playing word games here to that effect to try the blunt the impact of this story. Nor do any of these White House officials who are denouncing the story nor have they offered any explanation of how this is above board, not problematic in any way, why did the National Security Council, coming out of the meeting, feel it was necessary to contact the CIA director of the director of the National Security Agency to give them a heads-up on what Trump had just told the Russians?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: More now on the reaction from Capitol Hill from our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The news that President Trump may have given classified information to Russian officials in the White House coming as a shock to members of Congress, even senior Republican leaders who sit on some key committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, the chairman of that committee, to get briefed on highly sensitive matters. He didn't know about this and he was looking to read more about it. And soon after the story broke, Senator John McCain, I had a chance to talk to about this, who said it's very troublesome if this report is true, but he did not know if it were true. And some Republicans were flat-out frustrated, including Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying to reporters that, quote, "It creates a worrisome environment," that one controversy after another continues to hamper this White House. Republicans want answers. They do not believe this has been good for their party, particularly after this Comey firing, these tweets from President Trump going after James Comey. They want to get back to talking about their agenda, trying to put together a health care reform package, a tax reform package, but these types of things continually distract from their agenda, creating a lot of frustration among Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.
SESAY: Well, joining us now, CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem; Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations; Democratic strategist, Matthew Littman; and CNN political commentator and Trump supporter, John Phillips.
Welcome to all of you.
Juliette, let me start with you.
According to the "New York Times" and "Washington Post" reporting, the president shared code-word information, code-word information, with these senior Russian officials. Give us some perspective on the sensitivity of the information shared here.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So code word would be the highest sort of classification for intelligence. And what it essentially means is this is intelligence operations or the sharing of intelligence not disclosed to a large group. So you can have a group of people working on counter ISIS strategy, but there would be a more insular group working on, let's say, for example, some asset in an ISIS cell giving us information. That information appears to have gotten to the president probably in his presidential daily brief, and that's the information, right, that the president disclosed, which is I know X, Y, Z. We don't know the exact details disclosed to the Russians. That's why you're seeing this response. Not only was it, at best, a carelessness -- I'll just say that -- of President Trump. Carelessness disclosing it, but also you see the reaction by McMaster and others to immediately call back to the CIA and other intelligence agencies and say, look, this just happened. We may have compromised a potential intelligence operation.
[02:05:57] SESAY: Some important perspective to bear in mind.
John Phillips, to you.
"The Washington Post" reporting that this came about as the president was bragging. He was going off script. Again, if these reports are borne out and are correct, that is not only troubling, you heard Juliette say careless, but it does bring to mind the question of his judgment, does it not?
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The key word is "if." We heard from General McMaster who said the report in "The Washington Post" was not true. There were four Americans in the room when that meeting took place, General McMaster, Dina Powell, his assistant, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Donald Trump. They say the report is false and they're not the source. So those four are ruling themselves out, it was either the Russians, the lamp post, or someone who wasn't in the room. So I'm not going to be so quick as to believe "The Washington Post" when they say they have a source that said this. What source and were they there?
SESAY: And we come back to the point Juliette made and was made by "The Washington Post" report that they followed on and made calls to national security agencies to basically give them the heads-up, Matt?
MATHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's been corroborated by more than just "The Washington Post." It's been corroborated by "The New York Times" and Reuters. The problem is, why did Donald Trump do this? He's like a 5-year-old who needs approval and he wants to think that he's the cool guy. He said to them, I get the best intel. This is the president of the United States. So I don't think -- at this point, no one's really going to argue whether it's true. The question is, what are the Republicans going to do about it in Congress? Because this Trump thing is a disaster and, at some point, they're going to have to say to him, you've got to step aside. And Donald Trump should not be president of the United States.
PHILLIPS: First of all, I don't believe the report. I'm not convinced the report is true.
LITTMAN: There have several people who have reported this, John.
PHILLIPS: But, again, we don't know if the source of the story was in the room. There's a lawsuit going on in Los Angeles. Richard Simmons is suing the "National Inquirer" because they
SESAY: -- of fact, but, OK.
PHILLIPS: They published a report saying he was transitioning into a woman. They had a source who was close to him who said that. The source turned out not to have accurate information and now there's a lawsuit going forward.
PHILLIPS: The source wasn't in the know.
KAYYEM: Can we get back to the subject?
KEYYEM: Yeah, so the White House denied one thing, which is that Trump did not disclose sources and methods. They say he disclosed information. So Trump could have easily disclosed, look, there's an asset that has infiltrated ISIS in city A. We're not even going to say the name of the city. "The Washington Post" did not say what the city is. That's information disclosed but it does not disclose sources and methods. So the denial is a denial of a story that that "The Washington Post" -- and to add to this, as is being reported in the last hour, on the president's schedule tomorrow, at 9:30 a.m., he is calling King Abdullah of Jordan. That call was not on the schedule before. So it may be the White House disclosed what actually happened.
SESAY: Let's bring in Gayle.
Gayle, this is highly classified information pertaining to is according to "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." As we've been reporting, this story has been picked up and widely disseminated. What -- ISIS, what is the benefit here? From where they're sitting, what are they thinking? What does it mean for them?
GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I mean, anytime you can sew confusion among the coalition, it's certainly not a bad moment. But if you talk to special operations folks, what they were saying about the people, the ISIS campaign and, more broadly, is this is a critical moment. Turkey is coming this week, and Turkey is already unhappy about what's happening with the counter-ISIS campaign. You have a critical campaign to retake Raqqa, which is waiting in the wings. And so it's all an incredibly unhelpful moment to have intel that has come from allies hit the public domain. That, to me, it's a central question about, it is not, as one source told me earlier today, it's not a national security threat, but decidedly unhelpful.
[02:10:17] SESAY: Juliette, if you're an intelligence-sharing ally with the United States, what are you thinking right now?
KAYYEM: I think -- I don't want to overreact on this. The intricacies of our intelligence sharing are very deep and wide. They're not going to fall apart based on one mistake. It will have implications. I think we'd be delusional not to think other nations are not assessing what they're willing to share with us. Number two, our own intelligence agencies may be assessing what they're willing to tell the White House, which is not a good place to be. And the third category is also nerve-racking for many of our allies. The United States is very good at intelligence gathering. We're sort of the supplier, and other nations that are not as strong, Canada, for example, they're -- they take our -- are intelligence consumers of our stuff. So the weaker we are, the weaker a lot of other nations are. So it's going to have an impact. The sky won't fall immediately, but each of these pieces begins to have an impact on the apparatus. As Gayle was saying, it's so essential for all of these big fights right now.
LITTMAN: Let me just add to that. When Donald Trump came in it, was reported that U.S. intelligence agencies told the Israeli agencies not to share everything with Donald Trump.
But let me just go - I think we're missing something, the trees in the forest, which is Donald Trump may not be competent enough to be president. There are a lot of problems, obviously. It's not like he's fulfilling some big agenda. We're four months in. Could you imagine four years of this? It's impossible for the country to go through this. And I think the Republican Party needs to step in.
SESAY: John, before you respond, let's give our viewers a sense of Republican reaction to this. Senator John McCain spoke once this news broke. Let's play what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: It turns out, according to "The Washington Post," that President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians last week. What's your reaction?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: Well, if it's true, obviously, I think it's disturbing. But I think we have to find out more before I can comment. I just can't comment on every news story. Obviously, if -- it's not a good thing.
RAJU: Will it be part of the investigation going forward?
MCCAIN: Let's wait and see what this was all about first. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Senator McCain saying let's wait and see.
Let me read you what Senator Bob Corker was quoted as saying: "They're in a downward spiral right now and have to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening. The chaos that has been created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think creates a worrisome environment."
John Phillips, is this about a lack of discipline?
PHILLIPS: I think what you're seeing expressed in those two --
SESAY: And not just this, but everything.
PHILLIPS: You're seeing the frustration among Republicans. This is the first time the Republicans have had the House, the White House, the Senate in quite some time. They have a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court. There are a lot of things they want to do. And right now, they're being chained to the subjects which they view as a huge distraction and they want to move on with their agenda. So I'm not surprised to see a John McCain lashing out. I'm not surprised to see a Bob Corker lash out.
But I would say this about General McMaster. He is someone who is widely respected across the aisle, Republicans, Democrats, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and his word is out on this subject.
LITTMAN: I don't think John McCain and Bob Corker are lashing out. In fact, they seem fairly reserved. They may lash out later. But where is the White House press team? Where is Sean Spicer hiding right now? I can't even imagine.
LITTMAN: He should just get in the car and drive to California. There is nobody at home in the White House to talk about this.
PHILLIPS: On that note, this is where Trump, being an outsider, affects the policy directly. He's participating in offense here, right? So offensive line and the wide receivers and people can't keep up with what he's doing and because of that sometimes there's some fumbles.
LITTMAN: The problem is he's creating these mistakes himself. That's the problem.
SESAY: Juliette -- let me go back to Gayle.
Gayle, to that point of just the confusion that's around this and this mood music now of this White House creating these missteps, we know that the Turkish president will shortly be meeting with the president. Will this have an impact in that meeting? TZEMACH LEMMON: I think what you see now, Isha, is this -- the free-
wheeling style of the campaign meeting the very carefully worded world of national security, and particularly -- look, you have wars we're talking about, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and particularly the ISIS campaign that is really revving up in Syria. And so these are all very critical moments facing American wars, some that have gone on for more than a decade and some entering critical periods. So I think every visit, particularly the call with Jordan tomorrow, that Juliette was talking about, the visit from Turkey, which they're already a NATO ally deeply unhappy with the U.S. decision to use the local forces on the ground, Syrian Kurds. So I don't think any of this upheaval is helpful for the White House that has a great amount of national security work ahead of it.
[02:15:43] Matt, Alan Dershowitz, a famed lawyer and legal mind, made the point that Democrats are going to seize this moment, but they would be making mistake, he says, to conflating it to the allegations or speculations by Trump campaign having ties to Russia. Do you agree?
LITTMAN: I mean, this is about Trump's personality, what's going on in his mind. Donald Trump -- could you image what they're doing in Moscow right now, at the Kremlin? They're dancing around. It's like Mardi Gras out there. If they come to the White House and Donald Trump gives them classified information. It's unbelievable. What's going through Donald Trump's mind is really the problem here. That's why I say the Republican Party, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, need to step in. It's not like their accomplishing anything. The Republican agenda's not getting accomplished. With Mike Pence, maybe it would. Donald Trump, it's not going to.
SESAY: Juliette, 30 seconds to you, because I want to talk about the foreign policy side of this.
KAYYEM: I don't think Allen Dershowitz is correct in that. I think there's a casualness the president showed in front of Russia that is consistent with all these concerns about why is he so friendly with Russia. The Russians are in the room and he's sharing classified information with them. He's treating them like an ally country. So I think Russia does circulate around these stories in a really inexplicable way, still.
SESAY: A lively conversation.
Let's bring in Diana Magnay and get the perspective from Moscow.
Diana, the Trump administration, once again, at the center of a storm of controversy involving Russia. Any kind of public reaction from Moscow at this latest turn of events.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's extraordinary is that Russia doesn't really have to do anything but be present for this unraveling in the White House to take place. I think we can expect much more response from the Kremlin over the course of the day from official sources here. It is, of course, being widely reported in the state-run media and in the few opposition outlets but the story is being told pretty straight for now. But I expect we will get a lot more over the course of a day and it will probably follow the same lines we've heard earlier in the week in relation to the flurry around those photographs, for example. The Kremlin said this was all mass hysteria of the U.S. mass media, fake news. I think that is probably the response we'll hear again today in relation to this "Washington Post" article -- Isha?
SESAY: Yeah, I mean the question here is two sources are confirming that "Washington Post" story is correct. So if that's how it bore out and this information was passed, this highly sensitive information was passed to Russia, the question here I think foreign policy watchers will be considering is, what are the implications for what is taking place in Syria right now?
MAGNAY: I think, first of all, let's not forget that U.S. and Russia share the same objective in terms of ISIS. They do not want ISIS to become a major player internationally. They want to fight against Islamic terrorism very broadly. That said, in Syria, Russia, who has been engaged in the fight against ISIS but not nearly as much as the international coalition against ISIS led by the U.S., and that's because Russia has effectively been engaged in a fight elsewhere to where ISIS is operating. It has been fighting on behalf of Syria's president, Bashar al Assad, in the corners, the useful Syria, as it's called, where ISIS isn't really operational. And Russia has very different objectives to the U.S. in Syria because it's fighting on behalf of the Syrian president and, therefore, intelligence of this kind that can be compromised by the Russians, if this story is true, is, of course, extremely worrying for the future of that engagement -- Isha?
[02:19:48] SESAY: Certainly is.
Diana Magnay joining us there from Moscow. Diana, always appreciated. Thank you.
Well, it's time for a quick break. And policies in Syria have two NATO allies at odds. A look at whether the first face-to-face meeting between the Turkish and U.S. president will ease the friction.
Plus, new digital clues of why software analysts say North Korea hackers could be linked to the cyberattack that targeted nearly 300,000 computers all around the world.
SESAY: Well, the U.S. president will have his first face-to-face meeting with his Turkish counterpart in a matter of hours. The talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan come at a time when relations between Washington and Ankara are strained over the arming of Syrian Kurdish fighters in Syria and the extradition of a cleric.
Let's bring in Muhammad Lila, joining us from Abu Dhabi with more on Tuesday's meeting.
Muhammad, the Turkish president coming to Washington with pretty major demands. But does he have high expectations that those will be met?
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPODNENT: Well, that's a really interesting question. Those expectations, of course, are that somehow President Erdogan will be able to it convince President Trump to stop supporting Kurdish militant groups on the ground in Syria and also asking for the extradition of an exiled Turkish cleric, named Fethullah Gulen, that Turkey blames for being behind the failed military coup last year. Very high demands. There's no indication that President Trump is willing to be flexible on either of those. The question is, what could the Turkish president do to convince President Trump to concede to those demands and, quite frankly, Turkey doesn't have a lot of leverage. At most, they could bar or stop the United States from using a military base in Turkey that it uses to launch air strikes into Syria and Iraq. But that won't have much affect because the U.S. has other air bases in the region they could use. So this is going to be a key meeting and a lot of people are expecting it to be a contentious meeting as well.
SESAY: Indeed. When it comes to specifically this issue of the United States arming the Syrian Kurds and Turkish opposition to it, should the U.S. hold that position and refuse? You mentioned the base, but does Turkey plan to play a disruptive role when it comes to the play to retake Raqqa, which we believe is imminent?
LILA: Turkey is fighting on multiple fronts inside Syria. Turkey and the U.S. are both fighting ISIS, but Turkey has also identified Kurdish groups as being terrorist groups and they're targeting those groups as well. So Turkey fighting on multiple fronts. Now the question is, if Turkey doesn't get what it wants from the United States, will Turkey soften its stance on ISIS? That's, quite frankly, unlikely because ISIS poses a direct threat to Turkey as well. So how will this effect things on the ground? The reality is it may not affect things much. It may be a case of President Erdogan going to Washington, asking for certain things and not getting anything he's hoping for.
[02:24:49] SESAY: Muhammad Lila, joining us from Abu Dhabi. Muhammad, appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, North Korea could be linked to the massive cyberattack that began targeting computers around the world Friday. The virus locked up computers and demanded ransom to gain control. Now experts say they found similarities between the "WannaCry" ransomware and programs created by hackers linked to North Korea.
Our own Alexandra Field joins us now live from Seoul, South Korea.
Alexandra, tell more. Give us more perspective on why experts are pointing the finger of suspicion at North Korea.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, it will take quite some time to get a definitive answer on who's behind this hack. But certainly, governments around the world want to know the answer to that question. It's a hack that's created 100,000 cases, more than 150 countries. So the job of determining who did this falls on security firms and researchers. And what you have are researchers looking at the code used for this malware and they try to do that to samples used by other known hackers. A researcher from Google seems to have discover a similarity between code used in this case and code created by a North Korea hacking group called the Lazarus group. Two major security firms have backed up those findings saying they discovered the same similarities. But a word of caution, it is too soon to point directly to North Korea. The security firms say they need to find stronger links, stronger connections. CNN also spoke to another security firm, which says the connection here is not unique enough. The link is not unique enough at this point to point to a common operator. Again, this is work that takes time to do, but this is the security industry which looks at known hackers. The Lazarus group is known the world offer. They are the group that was linked to the Sony Pictures attack in 2014 and have been linked to cyberattacks on banks around the world -- Isha?
SESAY: They certainly have been. This was an attack that had implications for South Korea. Are we getting any kind of reaction from South Korean official now that the finger of suspicion is being pointed at Pyongyang?
FIELD: Yeah, you know, governments have been reacting to this because it affected so many people. The bulk of the attacks have been in places like Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine. But this has affected a range of corporations, people, global corporations, Chinese universities, hospitals in the U.K., even movie theaters right here in South Korea. South Korean officials say they are not ready at this point to try to point to who is behind this attack. They are not pointing to North Korea at this point. They say that more investigation needs to be done. But this has affected at least 10 different corporations in South Korea. That's why the government says they have raised their preparedness for cyberattacks from a level 4 to a level 3. The South Korean government has always carefully tried to look at North Korea's capability and capacity when it comes to cyberattacks. Again, they're not implicating North Korea in this cyberattack but they have pointed out, in the past, in previous defense reports, they have pointed to North Korea as being behind about a dozen different cyber plots in the last decade or so. They also estimate North Korea has a group of people that now amounts to 6800 that is dedicated to trying to pull off cyberattacks, Isha. So certainly, there are always certainly watching North Korea, trying to understand what kind of capacity and capability North Korea could have at this point -- Isha?
SESAY: And a lot more work to be done before this can be confirmed.
Alexandra Field joining us from Seoul, South Korea. Alexandra, thank you.
Quick break here. Al Qaeda's trying to make a comeback with another bin Laden. We'll look at the group's latest message and the possibility of a terror alliance.
[02:30:35] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
The headlines this hour --
SESAY: Well, for more on reports that President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials, I'm joined by CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger.
David, thank you so much for being with us.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be with you, Isha.
SESAY: Now, first of all, what do you make of these reports in "The Washington Post," and also by your paper, "The New York Times," that the president shared this highly classified intelligence with two senior Russian officials?
SANGER: Well, on the one hand, the president has the authority to declassify anything he wants, and he's perfectly within his legal right. He's really the only one in the U.S. government who can really do that, but he's got that power. That said, there's a question of whether it was wise to do because, in this particular case, the intelligence came from a very sensitive source, through a partner intelligence service that's made it clear to the United States that if the information leaked out, how they were getting this and so forth, that that could dry up future cooperation with the U.S. And while it was legal, it was certainly unwise. We've heard from the White House that the president didn't discuss sources and methods, but it appears he discussed enough details, including the city in which they had heard the information from, that the Russians could figure this out pretty fast.
SESAY: And to that point, they sent out H.R. McMaster, the president's national security advisor. He was the man to face the cameras. Take a listen to what he had had to say?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Good evening, everybody. I just have a brief statement for the record. There's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way, and have said so. The on-the-record accounts should outweigh those anonymous sources. And I was many the room. It didn't happen.
MCMASTER: Thanks, everybody. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: David Sanger, is that the definition of the nondenial, denial?
SANGER: Well, it's pretty close. The critical words were "as reported." And I think he added in some thoughts that I didn't see in the original "Post" piece or in "The New York Times" piece, and so forth. So "The Post" never alleged, and "The Times" has not, that the sources and methods were discussed. The question is all, really, in how he presented this data and whether he presented it in a way that would have been enabled them to get -- to figure out the source and method pretty quickly. Usually, there are at least careful notes if not a recording of these conversations. In this case, probably, there were note takers there, so it should be a knowable fact. It looks like those notes are being pretty closely held right now, so whether or not we'll need to get at those facts is hard to say.
[02:34:56] SESAY: What is this going to do? I mean, if this reporting is borne out, if -- from "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," and this is, indeed, how it played out, what will this do to, first, the relationship between the U.S. and the ally who provided the information, and other allies the U.S. shares information with? What's the fallout here?
SANGER: Well, it will certainly strain the relations with them. It's not the first ally who has discussed intelligence information that has been revealed. When Edward Snowden walked off with the documents four years ago out of the NSA, many of the documents belonged to GCHQ, the NSA's equivalent in Britain. They were pretty frosted over that. It happens at other time. But every time it does happen, it's a bit damaging to American intelligence relationships. And it may be a little bit damaging to the president's relationship with his own intelligence briefers, who may worry that things that they tell him will get repeated to foreign visitors or adversary visitors. And certainly, in this case, it was an adversary, the Russians, who showed up in the Oval Office, and in bad timing, they showed up the morning after he had fired Jim Comey.
SESAY: I mean, there is -- one is forced to pause for a second when you realize that this is a president who built his campaign around the -- the central idea, well, one of the central ideas is that Hillary Clinton mishandled sensitive information, classified information with her e-mail server, and repeatedly said she was unfit to be president of because of that. And put out this tweet, which I want to read for you, you may remember this: "Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. Not fit." And here we are. I mean, someone say, again, this is just highly ironic.
SANGER: So remember, what that quote is about. That was a quote, I believe, from Jim Comey, the man he ultimately fired, but there, was endorsing his words describing Hillary Clinton's handling of the e- mails that went through her private server last July. By comparison, we haven't seen a whole lot or heard of a whole lot that was in those e-mails that was as sensitive as what he appeared to have been discussing with the Russians.
SESAY: Well, this is going to run and run, I'm sure. Let's see how the next couple of hours unfold.
David Sanger, I look forward to speaking to you in the hours ahead.
SANGER: Thank you very much.
SESAY: Still to come, how al Qaeda is trying to refresh its image with a new generation of bin Laden family.
[02:39:56] SESAY: Well, al Qaida appears to be making a comeback with help with one of Osama bin Laden's children.
CNN's Brian Todd reports
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRSPONDENT (VO: From al Qaeda, a new threat from a young terrorist with a familiar name. Hamza bin Laden, son of al Qaeda's founder, believed to be in his mid to late 20s, puts his voice to a new video, departing from his father's playbook and calling for lone-wolf attacks on America and its allies with any weapon a jihadist can find.
HAMZA BIN LADEN, SON OF OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translation): If you are able to pick up a firearm, well and good. If not, the options are many.
TODD: In the video, issued by al Qaeda's media arm, Hamza bin Laden calls for attacks on America, on Jewish interests, NATO and Russia.
(on camera): Does it appear now that Hamza wants to avenge his father's death?
PETER BERGEN, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. I mean, I think avenge his father's death, show a new face of al Qaeda.
TODD (voice-over): Analysts say al Qaeda is seeking to reshape its image, moving away from the low-production videos issued by the current leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, and is now targeting ISIS' younger fighters. Hamza bin Laden is crucial to that effort.
A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN al Qaeda could be grooming Hamza for future roles, leveraging the family name.
Former FBI agent, Ali Soufan, has analyzed the cashe of documents seized in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He says Hamza is a natural.
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI AGENT: When he was a kid, he had a lot of charisma, and you can see that in the propaganda videos of al Qaeda. He told his father in one of the letters that, "I am forged of steel and I'm ready, I'm ready to march with the armies of Mujahidin."
TODD: A U.S. counterterrorism official says Hamza bin Laden was at his father's side right before and after 9/11 and then went on the run and wasn't with Osama bin Laden when he was killed.
Hamza could soon be at the top ranks of an al Qaeda that has made a major comeback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The strikingly resilient and capable organization, that worries me and should worry all of you as well.
SOUFAN: You have affiliates now in places like Iraq and Syria, in places like Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Mali, and those affiliates are very strong and each one is way stronger than what bin Laden had.
TODD: With ominous signs for the future, Iraq's vice president recently said al Qaeda and ISIS are discussing a possible alliance. U.S. intelligence officials won't comment.
BERGEN: As ISIS gets smaller, it might be a good idea to ally with al Qaeda, which is a bigger organization in Syria, and that would be a pretty lethal combination.
TODD (on camera): Analysts say if al Qaeda and ISIS form a new alliance, there could be some dispute over who leads the group, between Hamza bin Laden, ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and current al Qaeda leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, or someone else. Either way, they say, that new alliance would likely present a significantly increased security threat to the Middle East, Europe and the U.S. homeland.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [03:00:09] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. President Donald Trump accused of revealing highly classified information to Russian officials --