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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Flynn To Plead The Fifth Senate May Hold Him Contempt; Washington Post: Trump Asked Intel Chiefs to Dispute FBI on Russia Probe; Interview with Sen. Joe Manchin; U.K. Police: Multiple People Killed & Injured at Ariana Grande Concert. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN will continue to follow this breaking story, as well as all the stories breaking involving the Russia investigation. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. A stunning report alleging President Trump asked two top intelligence officials to deny the existence of any evidence of coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials. I'm going to talk to The Washington Post reporter breaking this story. Trump and Isreal denying something he was never accused of. Did he incriminate himself. And presidential putdown. Did Melania refused to take the president's hand?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, that breaking news. The Washington Post reporting just moments ago that President Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russia, according to current and current and former officials. It is a stunning report as I said, coming out just moments ago, saying that Trump made special and separate appeals to Daniel Coates, director of National Intelligence and admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, the NSA.
Urging both of them to deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the election. This is another bombshell report of course coming on top of a week of startling developments in the Russia meddling story and of course on top of the report that the president told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office that relieving getting rid of Jim Comey relieved pressure on him from the Russia investigation. Adam Entous is one of the Post reporters who broke this story. And Adam, thanks for being with me. Obviously a huge scoop here that you have tonight. What can you tell us?
ADAM ENTOUS, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Well, I think -- I think one really needs to understand the context here, which is that the FBI Director Comey had just testified on March 20th to the House Intelligence Committee in which he laid out what the FBI was investigating, which included looking at possible coordination between the Russians -- Russian government and members of Trump's campaign. And so, you know, the president was upset that Comey had shined the light on that and attracted attention to that.
And so he turned to these two intelligence chiefs, who he regularity talks to and basically asked them to weigh in on this, to try to help him. Basically deflect these charges that were being leveled at him and at his campaign. His former campaign. And so, that's what he did. He basically made this appeal and when the -- when the NSA chief and when the director of National Intelligence thought about it, they decided they could not go there. They concluded this was an inappropriate request on the part of the president.
BURNETT: And so -- and they did, you know, obviously, we've been hearing so much tab Jim Comey's memos, but you are reporting that at least one of them wrote this down, wrote this internal -- in an internal memo that was distributed within the organization, right?
ENTOUS: Right, so, Admiral Rogers, within the NSA, a memo was produced basically documenting the conversation that the admiral had with the president. The admiral was concerned about this request because he thought, you know, there's an ongoing investigation, he can't talk about classified information. It would be inappropriate for him to basically effectively contradict the FBI Director. And so, he decided not to do it, and some of his aides documented the conversation in a memo, which could be turned over to investigators down the road.
BURNETT: So, in these conversations, and I just want to make it clear, from your reporting, this wasn't a meeting with both of them, this was two separate meetings. And in them --
BURNETT: And in them, he was trying to get them to publicly deny any sort of conclusion because -- and I guess what you're saying, timing is everything. Coming right after the director of the FBI had indicated that there might be, at least, it was under investigation.
ENTOUS: Right. The president was frustrated, he was looking to relieve the pressure. So, he turned to these two people, in separate -- in separate meetings or phone calls and basically asked them to do this. And both of them in the end explained -- well, in the case of Rogers, explained to the president as nicely as he could why it would not be appropriate for him to do so.
BURNETT: And one -- I think, one thing that you quote in your story I think which is very crucial here, is that you quote a senior intelligence official of the request to Coates specifically, "the problem wasn't so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements."
ENTOUS: Right. In the context of an investigation, the quote, I think, continues, and I think the point there is that at that particular official who is speaking had visibility into the intelligence and knew that it would be not accurate to say that there wasn't such evidence. Not to say that that evidence is conclusive in any way but just to say that there is -- there is intelligence that has been collected which points to contacts that have been at the center of this FBI investigation.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Adam, thank you very much. Obviously, a stunning and hugely significant report. Reporting that two of the top intelligence chiefs, the president asked them to go out and say there has been no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. Of course, coming on the heels of the fact that we know he told the former FBI Director to stop any investigations into General Michael Flynn. That is just part of the breaking news at this hour.
We also now know the man leading the Russia investigation has been briefed on those secret memos from the fired FBI Director, Jim Comey. Memos in which he says the president asked him to end that investigation into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Shimon Prokupecz is breaking this story. And Shimone, what are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: So, Erin, we're told that sometime last week, the former FBI Director, Bob Mueller, who is now leading the special -- who is now the special counsel, was at the FBI -- was at FBI headquarters here in Washington, D.C., and he met with some of the top investigators on the counterintelligence matter in this case. But he also we're also told was briefed on some of the memos that Comey had written. Some of them are classified and some of them have -- are not classified.
But we're not sure as to which memos he was briefed on, but he was made aware of these memos and we're told that officials expect him, as part of his probe into this case, that he's going to look at possible obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: And so, Shimon, obviously Jim Comey was expected to testify and this was widely awaited by frankly people around the world. How does your breaking news affect that? Will he be on Capitol Hill?
PROKUPECZ: Well, that's -- you know, he wants to testify and he has certainly told people, Comey that is, that he wants to appear on the hill and wants to tell his side of the story and tell, you know, what he knows. But because there's now a special counsel involved in this, it's -- most likely he's going to have to talk to the former FBI Director Bob Mueller about that, about whether or not he can come forward and talk about the memos, whether he can, you know, talk about the investigation.
There's sort of different components now to this investigation which may limit what Comey can come forward and say publicly about the investigation.
BURNETT: All right, Shimon, thank you very much. And Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill tonight, as we have more breaking news on the Russia investigation. Top democrat on the House Oversight Committee saying it appears General Flynn lied, using that word, lied, Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. A big charge from Elijah Cummings tonight who uses the word outright lying to describe what he believes Michael Flynn did during his background check as part of his security clearance. In a letter tonight, he writes, "the House Oversight Committee has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal."
So, no mincing of words there. And the two new areas here that Cummings highlights in this letter is that he alleges that Flynn told background investigators that it was "U.S. companies who funded that 2015 trip to Russia where he was paid $45,000 for that speaking engagement, rather than the Russians." And number two, Cummins says that Flynn told background investigators that he had no substantial contacts with foreign governments while he was there. Well, of course, we've all seen that picture of Flynn sitting right next to Vladimir Putin during a dinner while he was there.
BURNETT: Yes, Sunlen. And now General Flynn also saying he's pleading the fifth, right? Not going to turn over the documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee?
SERFATY: That's right. And that's not sitting well with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Tonight, we heard from the chairman and the ranking member who came out with a statement, saying that while they respect his decision to use that right, to invoke the fifth amendment, that they're certainly disappointed by them -- that and Chairman Burr telling CNN's Manu Raju, he said, look, it's no good having someone to plead the fifth, we're trying to get information here.
And he importantly says that one thing that he knows as far as the next steps is that immunity will be off the table for Michael Flynn. We all know he has asked for that and as they go forward, they say they're looking at a range of options, potentially bringing Flynn in front of the committee anyway to have to plead the fifth in person and mark warner who is the ranking member of that committee tonight, he even left open the door for the potential to find Flynn in contempt of congress. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sunlen Serfaty.
And OUTFRONT now, I want to go to a member of the Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Senator, thank you for your time. I want to begin with the breaking news. We have so much of it this hour. First, though, this, from The Washington Post, reporting the president asked two of the top intelligence officials in this country, the director of national intelligence and the director of the NSA to publicly say there was no collusion between his campaign and that of the Russians.
The Washington Post reports the problem wasn't so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements. They refused to do so. What is your reaction?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, yes, I'm as shocked as anybody else, but it keeps coming. And first of all, it's good to be with you. But this is coming pretty fast paced right now. And we're going to have to take it, the intelligence community takes everything extremely serious. And we'll be looking into all of this. It was just a couple of weeks ago in open hearing that we had both Mr. Rogers and Mr. Coates, our former colleague and -- BURNETT: Yes.
MANCHIN: -- I'm not sure, as I recall, that question was even asked in the open hearing. So, it might be -- it might be good to get them back.
BURNETT: I would imagine you do want to have them back. I mean, when you take what we're learning tonight, right? That they were asked by the president of the United States, directly and personally in separate conversations, to go out and say something, that they did not want to do, because they didn't know it to be true, when you take that and then you combine it with what we know the president told the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office when he said, "I just fired the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job. I face great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." You now have these three incidents. I mean, do you think, Senator, this is obstruction of justice at this point or not yet?
MANCHIN: Well, I want to see all the evidence right now. And that's why I was so disappointed that Mike Flynn wasn't turning over his documents, if you will. You know, I knew Mike Flynn. We were on the Armed Services Committee and we have all the brass coming before. Mike Flynn seemed like was a good person, was upstanding but always talk, never was shy about giving his opinion and talking in different subject matter and now all of a sudden, for this to happen, it's not the Mike Flynn that I knew when he used to come before the Armed Services Committee.
MANCHIN: And he could really shed a lot of light on this and I would love for Mike Flynn to tell his story.
BURNETT: So --
MANCHIN: So we can get this cleared up and get it behind this.
BURNETT: So, I want to ask you about that, because we have a letter now from the House Oversight Committee, from Elijah Cummings saying they have -- and I quote him, documents which appear to indicate General Flynn lied to investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of a security clearance renewal. Lied is the word used. And they're saying he lied when they interviewed him about where he got money. He said it was from American companies, it wasn't true, it was from Russia companies.
MANCHIN: Well, that's --
BURNETT: What is your reaction?
MANCHIN: It doesn't get any more serious than that. And that's why it's important for us to go through the process we're going through, find out if this country has been compromised in any way, shape, or form. We all take the same oath. Uphold the constitution. We all take that same oath. I take it extremely serious. Every member of the senate I serve with takes it extremely serious. And you want your top officials to take it just as serious.
If someone has misled any of these committees, there's going to be serious consequences to pay but, you know, we are still a country where the rule of law makes us completely different than any other place in the world. Everyone's innocent until proven guilty. If they make us go through longer processes to find out, the facts will come out eventually.
BURNETT: Do you -- Senator, I was going to ask you, do you think in light of this reporting tonight about the president, now telling three of the top law enforcement officials in this country, trying to get them to either say there was nothing going on with Russia or to back off the investigations, do you think that our president respects the rule of law?
MANCHIN: Well, that's, you know, what you're saying and what we're accusing right now, I want the facts to come out. I'm on the intelligence committee. This is the first year I've been on it. Completely different than any committee I've served on. The rule of law basically doesn't protect the president, doesn't protect a homeless person. All should be treated the same. If this president does not -- and I would not understand why he doesn't, and you're saying does not understand the rule of law, the rule of law basically, you know, you must be forthcoming.
If not, we're going to get the facts. Everybody involved -- I want to make sure that our country is safe and secure, especially from all of our leaders from the top all the way down. That's what we're looking for. If they want to obstruct from the standpoint of not giving us information, we will get it. One way or another, Erin, we're going to get the information we need to make decisions.
BURNETT: How are you going to get it from General Flynn, right, pleading the fifth? He's not givinf you documents, he's saying he's not going to testify unless you give him immunity which I believe, right? You personally are in line with your chairman, you're not going to give him.
MANCHIN: On the post immunity right now, I don't think there's any reason for us to go down that avenue. We still have contempt to be used if need be. That, we'll all have to concur. Our committee has to concur that we have done everything we can, except immunity. If they believe, overwhelming believe immunity is necessary, that discussion will be have. We don't have that right now. I don't know if anyone agrees with contempt. We can try to offer another letter and reach out to them one more time. If that doesn't happen and we only have another angle to go on, that's contempt.
BURNETT: So, Senator, I want to ask you, because here's part of the question. It's not just whether Flynn broke the law, right? The question is whether anyone else on Trump's team knew about any of his activities, right? Right? So, whether they knew he got money from the Russians, whether they knew any of it. Today, the former head of Trump's transition team actually spoke out and said he warned Trump to stay away from Flynn. Here's governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I didn't think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration. And I made that very clear to Candidate Trump and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Again, just so everyone's aware, Chris Christie, for a brief time, was the head of the transition committee. A very close adviser to the president of United States. He said he told him personally. Does this sound to you like the president himself was aware of issue issues with Flynn before he went ahead and hired him as National Security Adviser?
MANCHIN: Well, that was a -- that was a bad direction for him to go. If someone comes to me and lays out the facts of why someone is not trustworthy and why he shouldn't be at the highest level, because we know actually it hasn't been accurate what he's been saying that's reason enough right there to get rid of that person. I can't give you why the president or why he went apart in that direction, why he took those actions, why he took those actions.
Why he still basically didn't want to believe the facts that we're giving to him or the people who were giving it to him. You've got to put your team around you. Once you put that team around you, that has to be the team that understands that we trust each other implicitly, that we're not going to mislead or cover for anybody. This, Erin the --well, my main concern is and I've said this all along, has this country, the United States of America, the greatest country on earth, have we been compromised at all?
Were there people involved basically for their own self-service and not public service? And we're going to get those facts out. Those people will pay the price. If we've been damaged, if this country has been damaged, if our intelligence has been breached, things of that sort that we know extremely serious, I believe the intelligence community, we have the best in the world. I believe our allies who work with us to keep us safe. And I would assume that everyone at the top does. If they don't, they should. If they don't know them, they should get to learn who they are and have that same trust. That's where I think there's a deficiency.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Senator Manchin. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
MANCHIN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
BURNETT: All right. And breaking news right now. Chaos, an explosion at a concert in England. And details are just coming in. This is very much breaking right now. You can see this, an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. This was going on, literally than explosions. This is video of what happened. There then you can see screams, people start running for the exits in the middle of this concert. We can confirm to you right now that there are fatalities. There are multiple fatalities at this time. Emergency crews are on the scene. As I said, this is very much a breaking story at this second. I want to go to Phil Black, live in London. And Phil, what can you tell us about this right now?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, as you can see from the pictures, something truly terrifying and something deadly has taken place, in one of Britain's biggest music venue, the Manchester Arena in City of Manchester where as you're saying tonight the venue for Ariana Grande, the huge pop super star. That venue holds around 20,000 people. And something has happened, which has triggered panic and terror in that crowd and what you see, those huge numbers of people desperately trying to get out of that venue.
Now, unfortunately, we don't know what has caused this stampede-like situation. The police say they are responding to reports of explosions, and that's what witnesses there are talking about, as well. Some sort of loud bang which triggered all of this. And as a result, police have said there are fatalities and a number of injured. We don't know the confirmed number just yet. Unfortunately, we don't know the cause of what hurt those people, whether the explosions that have been reported, or simply those panicked scenes afterwards, the crush that followed, as huge numbers of people and clearly, they are young teenagers mostly, desperately trying to escape that venue. Erin?
BURNETT: And Phil, just to be clear here, we understand, sounds like explosions. But what you were saying is at this moment, we don't know how many and we don't know what the cause was.
BLACK: That's correct. The police at this moment are using fairly careful language to say they're responding to reports of explosions (INAUDIBLE) people have confirmed that there was some sort of a loud bang, possibly more than one. Possibly two. But something has happened which has triggered that extraordinary scene of fear and panic and what you see there, and you can imagine what it's like to be in one of those huge music arena venues , this one as I say, one of the country's biggest, around 20,000 people, mostly, you can be sure, they would have been teenagers attending an Ariana Grande concert.
Just trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. So in that sort of environment. You can imagine the crush, the desperate panic, people could have very easily have been hurt or worse as they were trying to escape.
BURNETT: All right, Phil Black, thank you very much. As you get more, we're going to go to you. We do have someone who is there. Ivo Delgado on the phone, he was inside the arena when the blast occurred. Ivo, you were there. We now are just desperately trying to figure out what happened. What did you see?
IVO DELGADO, CONCERT GOER: Well, basically, the concert finished and when they pop on the lights, they switch on the lights, everyone was going to leave and when we were waiting in the cue to leave the arena, still inside the main stage on the arena, we heard a massive explosion. It sounded like a big bang. I only heard it once. So, then, after that, everyone run in the opposite direction of the arena obviously and after a moment of confusion, the staff members were helping us to evacuate the area, on the main corridor there was a lot of smoke and there was still -- there was people on the floor clearly injured.
And then we left the area. Like it was a lot of people screaming. There were a lot of little girls, obviously, because all the audience of Ariana Grande's. A lot of the fans running out of the stage. I helped a disabled woman that obviously went on the stairs, not knowing that there was stairs at the end of the way, and everyone was trying to help each other, but obviously a lot of little girls crying and a lot of (INAUDIBLE) shouting and screaming.
BURNETT: Ivo, we're looking at some of the video that I know you took from inside the arena, as you were getting ready to leave. So you're saying you heard one bang and then you saw a lot of smoke and you also saw some people on the floor who were injured. Do you have any sense of how close you were to whatever this explosion may have been? What was their condition?
DELGADO: Well, it was -- it was clearly -- it was right, if you look at the stage, it was on the bottom left of the -- of the stage and it was next to my exit, so, yes, we were, at that moment, it's a panic moment that you really don't know what's happening. And after nothing more happened, we thought that it might be a confusion, it might be people overreacting or something fell off and obviously in a bigger space like arena, it makes a massive noise.
So you don't really know until you actually walk through the door and you see that there's a lot of smoke and there's people on the floor and that's when the immediate reaction is, try to know that all your group is safe. And we even went to the staff and said if they -- if we could help with anything and they just said to evacuate the place. It was the best help we could do at that moment. Outside the arena, there was constantly like a lot of noises from policeman, a lot of noises from all the hospital, fireman.
So, that's basically now, the noise that we have on the streets of Manchester as well as helicopters flying around on the area. So, that's when you really realize what can be going on.
BURNETT: All right, Well, Ivo, we very much appreciate your time and coming on and talking to us. Thank you very much. We're glad you are safe.
DELGADO: Thank you very much.
BURNETT: As we continue to report this story and try to understand what happened, as I said, very much breaking, we don't yet know the number of fatalities. We do know there are multiple fatalities. We also don't yet know what was the cause of the explosion. And what exactly this was. As we get this more information this hour, we're going to bring it to you live. We're going to take one brief break and coming back, we'll have more breaking news about immunity for Michael Flynn.
And also, President Trump going off-script in Israel, denying an allegation no one ever made, but in so doing, confirming something very big.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Melania Trump in Israel. Did she give her husband a very public brushoff?
BURNETT: Breaking news. The Washington Post reporting at this hour that President Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russia. It's a stunning report. It says he asked Daniel Coates, the director of National Intelligence and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
OUTFRONT now, national security correspondent for The New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg, former congressman Jack Kingston, who was senior adviser to the Trump campaign, John Avalon of The Daily Beast, and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. John, It is a stunning report from The Washington Post at this hour.
JOHN AVLON, THE DAILY BEAST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: It is a huge bombshell, because it seems to show a pattern of the president trying to tamp down, using his influence, to tamp down an ongoing investigation, direct request to the DNI and the head of National Security Agency. Terrible news for the White House, again breaking late, but it's part of a pattern. And that pattern is deeply problematic and the problem is rooted in the president.
BURNETT: And we are also learning tonight, Paul, that as part of the investigation, that Bob Mueller, special counsel is looking into part of it will focus on obstruction of justice. OK? That is what a source is telling CNN. We now know as of tonight on Washington Post, two separate appeals, the director of National Intelligence, the director of the National Security Agency publicly deny the existence of a collusion. Something that they chose not to do because they felt it was inappropriate.
We of course already know the president asked Jim Comey to pull back on the investigation of Michael Flynn and he told the Russians that by getting rid of Comey, he put that -- took away the Russia pressure away from himself. Does all that add up to obstruction of justice?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you can certainly make that very, very strong argument. But I'll tell you what the reverse Trump spin is going to be on this, and it's going to be that Trump -- this indicates that Trump actually thought there was nothing to the Russian investigation and he was asking other members of his administration to go forward and say that. As opposed to, was he telling them to lie -- BURNETT: So, he's just clueless about -- that the fact that an
ongoing investigation would deem that to be completely inappropriate?
CALLAN: I guarantee -- I guarantee you that's the way the Trump administration is going to view this. That these -- that the president thought they would be helpful, he wasn't telling them to lie.
BURNETT: All right. So I'm going to get that.
CALLAN: That's what they're going to say.
BURNETT: I'm going to get that from Jack Kingston in one second. But let me just ask you, first of all, could this be obstruction of justice?
CALLAN: Oh, it definitely could be.
BURNETT: Because you're now adding thing on top of -- you know, everyone said -- well, Blumenthal said on the show last week, it's a mosaic. You got to fill in the parts.
CALLAN: Frankly, Erin, before we even found out about this, just what we know, the statement that was made to the Russian ambassador, the statement that was made to Comey, all of those make out a prime or fascia case of obstruction of justice. If this is true, this could simply add to the level of evidence available.
BURNETT: So, congressman, go ahead, and make your case that I think Paul started to do.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Number one, Paul is a brilliant man, but I will say, another brilliant man, Alan Dershowitz, has said, listen, this is not -- at the time, it was not a criminal investigation and there was no grand jury, there's no witness tampering, there's no destruction of evidence, so, it could not have been obstruction.
[19:30:00] Also, when the FBI --
AVLON: Congressman --
KINGSTON: -- is investigating something, it is not a judicial investigation. It is an investigative tool that could be used by the Justice Department, but it doesn't rise to the obstruction.
BURNETT: He may have made that argument somewhere, I know on this show, his argument was simply that regarding Jim Comey, because the president was within his legal rights to fire the FBI director. He couldn't be obstructing justice by telling the FBI director not to do something. That was sort of his argument.
KINGSTON: Well, actually, Erin, I've seen him on a number of shows say, address this from a lot of different angles. But, you know, every time we turn around, there's a new, quote, bombshell, by the left, and I don't -- AVLON: No, Congressman, this is not a bombshell from the left. This
is a bombshell in real reporting on internal documents by the media. I'm sorry the free press is an inconvenience to you, sir. But the reality is, this is not political. This is real reporting from the intelligence community.
KINGSTON: No, it's certainly not political.
AVLON: And you're making a lot of assumptions about the timing of this statement, as well, whether Comey already said there was an ongoing investigation.
KINGSTON: Well, you know, let's talk about Comey. Here's a guy that said there was obstruction, February 14th, but he sat on it, didn't tell anybody, and then, on the 5th of May, had the opportunity to answer a question, very closely related to it, in front of the U.S. Congress, and he did not. The question was something like, has there been any movement to try to stifle this investigation?
That would have been the great opportunity, but instead, the minute he gets fired, suddenly he has memos. We haven't seen those memos as related to Benghazi, no memos --
AVLON: Got to bring it back to Benghazi, OK.
KINGSTON: What about Lynch and Clinton meeting on the tarmac.
AVLON: How about talking about something relevant to this investigation?
AVLON: How about something relevant to this investigation? You got nothing, so, you reach into the past. Look. Your guy's got real problems right now in the legal process and you got to deal with that. You just can't deflect and spending all day long --
KINGSTON: There's no deflection.
AVLON: Yes, there is.
KINGSTON: Here's what I don't understand. As erudite as you media people are, can't you come up with another word besides bombshell? Can we just say, hey, another knots in our bell?
KINGSTON: But there's -- how about finding a crime? There has not been any crime whatsoever --
BURNETT: OK, let's just be clear. Let's just be clear. Let's just be clear. We know from senators of both parties briefed by the deputy attorney general last week that they say this is not just a counterterror investigation. It is now criminal. That was a briefing to the entire Senate, the entire House.
KINGSTON: Criminal, but no allegation that there was collusion. Criminal that if General Flynn did, in fact, lie, then, yes, but no crime aside from that.
BURNETT: OK. Let me get Matthew in here.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I want to jump in here for a second. Let's put the criminal thing aside for a second. There is also an issue here where we now have three senior leaders of the intelligence community, the FBI, the director of national intelligence and the NSA saying the president called us up and told us to go out and do a political task, basically, to carry his water.
These are apolitical jobs and this raises real questions about, and we've seen this in a lot of areas. The White House understands that there's a place where politics are supposed to end, where these jobs are supposed to be somewhat above them. There's a difference between serving at the pleasure of the president and working for the president.
They're very different things. You work for the United States. And I'm not sure that's clear anymore. And I think this is further evidence that it might not be.
KINGSTON: Well, let me say this. One of the great irritations of Comey and some of these high visible hearings, and I hear this directly from members, that he says something behind closed doors that he does not say publicly, and most members have indicated to me, there still has been no evidence.
And, Matthew, you have the best connections of any journalist in America right now, don't you think --
KINGSTON: Well, don't you think after eight months of investigations, somebody would have leaked to you evidence of collusion? I mean, it's just common sense would have said, the people were all over this, the enemies of Trump. If there was something out there, why haven't we heard in eight months? It's actually is, what, ten months?
ROSENBERG: Yes, what are we talking about collusion? We've produced a tremendous amount of reporting, us, our colleagues at "The Post", a number of organizations about contacts going unexplained. We've got Jared Kushner meeting with Russian bankers tied to Russian intelligence. We've got -- it seems like half the Trump administration meeting with Russians at various times. But these are serious issues --
KINGSTON: If you guys were the jury, you would hang somebody for a speeding ticket.
ROSENBERG: I'm not saying he's guilty of anything. I'm saying that these are things that were initially denied and then suddenly revealed in the media. Yes, we did it, what's the big deal? Is that there is something there that, you know, people usually -- there's a reason to ask questions, why were these hidden? Why were they not just forthrightly told?
There's nothing wrong with meeting the Russian ambassador. It's suspicious to meet with him and lie about it or try to cover it up and when you are exposed --
[19:35:00] KINGSTON: You mean like Senator McCaskill who says she never meat with the Russian ambassador until a tweet was found that she bragged about meeting with him? I mean, people --
AVLON: You got to feel a little empty inside when you spin that way, man. It's not about Claire McCaskill. And we know going back to Watergate, it's not necessarily the time, it's the cover up, but the cover up usually indicates a crime, if not a serious problem.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, congressman, you started out by giving me a compliment. So, I appreciate that --
KINGSTON: And I do not take it back.
CALLAN: What you're looking at here is a growing pile of circumstantial evidence that seems to clearly be pointing in the direction of an obstruction of justice. Now, it hasn't all been tied together, and I think Mueller, as he completes his investigation, he may or may not be able to tie it together. But any sensible person looking at this has to say, you know, it looks suspicious.
KINGSTON: Well, what would you say about McCabe's testimony, right after the firing, has there been any -- and it was a great cross examination by Trey Gowdy -- no, excuse me, Trey Gowdy and James Lankford in the Senate that said, has there been any effort to intimidate you, to reduce the investigation, to change the investigation, and he said, no, no, no.
CALLAN: Well, of course, he didn't know, though, that his boss, Comey, was about to be fired. And that the president --
KINGSTON: Actually, the Lankford testimony was after it.
CALLAN: -- the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister that the pressure was off in the Russia probe.
BURNETT: Let me ask you --
KINGSTON: The Lankford testimony was after Comey was fired.
BURNETT: Yes, there was one after, but Matthew, let me ask you about that, because what could the reason for that be, that McCabe would have said there was no impeding the investigation at all? I mean, is it possible he didn't know anything about the Comey memos, which would raise its own set of questions, right? But why would he have answered the question in that way so definitively as --
ROSENBERG: I honestly don't know, and to answer, I would have to speculate about what he was thinking and why he answered that. I know we've got his answer, we've got these memos from Jim Comey. Now, we have two other officials.
KINGSTON: Well, we don't have the memos from Jim Comey. We heard about them.
ROSENBERG: We heard about them.
KINGSTON: So, let's just keep --
ROSENBERG: Fair enough. We heard about them.
We now have two other officials saying, look, the president came in and said, you know, reports of this, saying that we want you to go out there and publicly tamp this down. We know at other times, he tried to get the chairman, the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Nunes, to do the same thing, and Richard Burr, who's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
We know there's this elaborate theater in March, where Devin Nunes went to the White House and got intel that he ran back to the White House to show to Trump like he got a leak from somebody else. I mean, there's just a lot of theatrics going on there and a lot of things that, I mean, they're worth asking questions about and worth further explanation, which is what we're doing in the media, which is what the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are doing, which is what the FBI is doing.
BURNETT: All right. So, I want to just -- on this note, but I think this goes to the heart of something important here. The White House has come out with a statement in response to "The Washington Post" report. Again, "The Washington Post" report is that the president asked two of the top national security officials in this community to deny collusion between his campaign and Russia, something they refused to do, because they deemed it inappropriate.
Here is the response from the White House. Quote: The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from unanimous individuals. The president will continue to focus on his agenda. That he was elected to pursue by the American people.
Matthew, let me go back to you on this. This is -- this is the line of reasoning that they have taken all the way through, which is that this is illegal leaks and that those people should be prosecuted. Those people should be punished. Your response, as someone who speaks to these anonymous sources?
ROSENBERG: What about that leak is illegal? I mean, there's not -- that doesn't seem to be anything classified there nor should it be classified. As I understand it, the rules of classification don't permit the government to classify something because they're embarrassing. There's no sensitive information in that. That's government communications.
So, the illegal leaks, I'm not clear why. If you want to blame leakers, fine. But I know the people we talk to, and these aren't partisan hacks, not Obama administration holdovers looking to do in Trump. A lot of these people are people who serve in the government for both Republicans and Democrats. They are political appointees, as well.
And what they're seeing are things that they think are wrong. And they also think that the internal mechanisms to fix these problems are not working, so they're coming to the press. They're going public with it.
And they do it anonymously because they can go to prison for it, simply put. In this case, maybe they won't go to prison, but they'll lose their jobs.
So, for the White House, which has the power of the executive branch behind it, to demand everybody else speak publicly, when we've seen people who speak publicly and speak at the White House and defy the White House are treated, I think, you know, it's a pretty big dodge right there.
BURNETT: And, of course, one person's leaker is another's whistleblower. I think it's important to say it very much depends.
AVLON: Journalism isn't the problem here. The problem is incompetence and unethical behavior potentially at the highest levels and potentially something more serious.
[19:40:04] BURNETT: All right, we're going to --
KINGSTON: You're talking about the felons, the leakers then? I agree.
AVLON: Yes, buddy.
BURNETT: We're going to hit pause for one moment on this conversation, one moment on this conversation, because I want to keep updating on our other breaking news story, which, of course, is in the U.K. Police confirming multiple fatalities. We understand there was a blast at an Ariana Grande concert at one of the biggest arenas in the U.K., up to 20,000 people.
This is video from inside that arena. You can see people running for the exits. You hear the screams. Many teenagers there, teenagers with their parents. Witnesses telling CNN there were multiple on the ground injured.
We just spoke with a witness who said they saw several on the ground injured. And police, of course, telling people now to stay away from that arena. Phil Black is covering the breaking news live in London.
Phil, obviously, every moment here, police trying to figure out what happened. We're trying to understand the motive here, if that's the right word to use. And, of course, to understand what happened here with fatalities. What are you able to tell us?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we still, crucially, Erin, do not know precisely triggered the stampede-like scene as we've seen in the video that was recorded by terrified people, as they were trying to escape Manchester Arena.
Something has triggered that crush, that desperate need and terror to escape that venue en masse. And so, as a result, well, you can hear it, you can see it. We're talking about around 20,000 people who were trapped in this, almost certainly vastly young people, teenagers, Ariana Grande fans. Something has happened that triggered that sort of fear and panic.
Reports from the scene, witnesses are talking about some sort of loud blast, possibly a series of blasts. But so far, the police are not confirming that. They're talking about reports of an explosion. Their priority now is getting help to the people who need it so desperately.
It is very likely, from those scenes that we are seeing, that, well, we know people have been killed because the police have confirmed fatalities, but we don't know the numbers. But you can imagine, from that crush-like scenario within that huge venue, everyone fearful in trying to exit there at once. It is very likely that people have been hurt.
And, crucially, we don't know how the fatalities have taken place, whether it is as a result of these reported explosions, or the crush, the stampede that followed. We're expecting more updates from the police shortly, but they've already given us the worst. This was a terrifying, deadly event. There have been fatalities. We're just waiting to hear how bad this was -- Erin.
BURNETT: And let me just ask you, Phil, at this time, what -- they're trying to just figure out the forensics here of what the explosion might have been, but we don't even know at this point what that was, right? I mean, obviously the first people think of, you think of Paris, you think of something like this, people think of terror. Obviously we have in no way, shape or form at this moment any way to know if that's the case.
BLACK: That's absolutely correct. I think it's very likely from the witness accounts that there was a blast of some kind, possibly two, as in a loud bang, a loud noise, something that triggered the fear. But we don't know the point of origin of that noise.
And, of course, these sorts of venues, these sorts of events, the security is incredibly tight. They are usually incredibly well- organized, but police and private security are used to manage crowds like this, coming and going, of course, bag searches take place. It's not a soft target in that sense, if we're talking about the potential for some sort of terror-like event to have taken place here.
So, it's important to remember, we don't know what caused this. But we know the result. The result is around 20,000 people desperately scrambling to escape this venue en masse. It is a terrifying, fearful stampede-like scenario and almost certainly, they were all young people and children.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Black, thank you very much.
As police there are trying to get answers, I want to go to Kiera Dawber. She was inside that arena. Saw the explosion.
Kiera, what did you see?
KIERA DAWBER, CONCERT GOER (via telephone): Yes, they had just started letting everyone out. The music had just gone off. There was a massive, massive explosion, there was a bang.
There was smoke coming up from it. There was smoke coming up through the stairs and everyone was just screaming, saying that it could be a bomb. There were people shouting to their kids, there were people shouting, trying to find people and as we went out onto the concourse to get out of the arena, there were bodies scattered about everywhere and people were on the floor.
All the traffic was at a standstill and we just ran into the road. It was -- it was just chaos.
BURNETT: Kiera, I'm so sorry. I know that you haven't even had a moment to process this and you're coming on to share this.
[19:45:00] I appreciate that so much.
When you walked through those tunnels, you are saying you saw a lot of people lying down?
DAWBER: Yes, there were at least 20, 30 people on the floor. That you could see, straight off, were just dead. You could just see that they were just passed away. There were some people with injured. There were a few, like -- there was a guy holding, like, what looked like his wife and she wasn't in a good state.
BURNETT: And from where you are, Kiera, those people, could you tell sort of -- did it look like it had happened sort of in the stampede or was this near where the explosion may have happened? Were you even able to tell as you went by?
DAWBER: There was blood everywhere. It wasn't in the stampede, because there wasn't that many people out at that minute. It was just as we opened the door to get out of the arena, they were letting people out.
BURNETT: And there was blood?
DAWBER: Yes, there was blood. And people's shoes and handbags and bits of food and phones and -- it was just mad. It was just crazy. BURNETT: And, Kiera, the people you were with, are they all safe?
DAWBER: Yes, we're all safe. It's just a bit shook up. I don't think I'll ever get rid of the images.
BURNETT: Kiera, thank you so very much. Again, I'm sorry. I know this is so hard. I am so glad for you that you are OK, but I know that that, at this moment, is a mixed blessing, as you think about what you have seen. Thank you so much for telling us about it.
DAWBER: You're welcome. I'm just hoping that everyone's fine, who they were with and everyone -- I just feel so sorry for the fatalities and the families of those affected.
BURNETT: All right. Kiera, thank you again so very much.
I want to bring in now retired Army Major General Spider Marks. I'm going to bring the rest of the panel in a moment on the other breaking news.
But, Spider, first, if I could get your reaction to what we're learning here is happening in Manchester. You just heard Kiera there, who very briefly came on and spoke about what she saw, saying something that adds quite a bit to this very much developing story.
She says she saw 20 or 30 bodies on the floor of people that she believes were dead. She says that there was blood everywhere, all of their belongings, didn't appear to her, that this had happened in a stampede. But it's unclear at this time what this explosion might have been. When you listen to what she has to say, what is your takeaway over what is happening right now in the U.K.?
MAJ. GEN. SPIDER MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): Well, clearly, Erin, the immediate feed that we're all getting from CNN and other media outlets is clearly a scene of incredible destruction. I think all of the evidence will come out. The forensics will be extremely well done.
But you have to start with the going in proposition and assume the very worst with this. You have to assume that there's some degree of inspiration for this type of an event. Let's assume, let's discount, although, that will happen through forensics, that this was an accident, this was gas that was released. This was a spontaneous combustion of some sort.
Let's assume that this was planned, that there were events leading up to this. And, again, law enforcement will uncover all of this and will figure out where this goes. There has to be a very objective, as there is in circumstances like this, there will be a very objective view of what took place. In the totality of what has happened in Great Britain over the course of the last month and a half, going back to the incident that occurred right outside parliament, this is a concern that obviously this government wants to get its arms around, which then will lead to where we are with the vote that's coming up for Teresa May and her party, what does Brexit look like.
So, you take the totality of all of this, this is an incident, it's horrible, we'll get to the bottom of it. Then you look at the different discourses that will be coming forward in terms of where we are, in terms of security, in Great Britain specifically and in Europe and then all of this radical terrorism that we see.
BURNETT: All right. Well, obviously, it is the middle of the night in the U.K. That does not stop the news here from breaking. We're going to continue to bring witnesses to you. We're going to continue to bring you more of the breaking news.
But you just heard Kiera Dawber who was there tell us as she was leaving the concert, she saw 20 or 30 bodies on the floor and she said to her they were all clearly dead. There was blood everywhere.
Calvin Welsford joins me now, he was in the front row of the concert.
Calvin, thank you for coming on and doing this.
[19:50:03] I know it's incredibly difficult. But you are the ones who are enabling us to understand what just happened here. What did you see?
CALVIN WELSFORD, CONCERT GOER (via telephone): So, I was front row at the concert. And I heard a big bang. I didn't know what it was, but I think it was a bomb or a gun of some sort, and I turned around to see all of the crowds completely run in towards the stage, and I was on the front row, and as I was there, I panicked (INAUDIBLE) and I saw her (IANDUIBLE) and her best friend ran backstage and a few other people just ran backstage because that was the exit, that was (INAUDIBLE). So, I ran because I thought if I'm not in any cover, I won't be safer.
I was taken in by one of her security people. (INAUDIBLE). I wasn't really aware of what was happening, I am -- I heard a sound which was like a bomb and everyone was wondering what it was. And they took my arm and took me (INAUDIBLE) and gave me to other security people who took me out of the thing and then I ran.
BURNETT: And, Calvin, we were just speaking to someone else who was there and who said she had seen 20 to 30 bodies on the floor. Did you see anything like that?
WELSFORD: I cannot remember. In my head, I was like I need to get as far away as I can. And I can't remember anything after getting out of that arena.
BURNETT: All right, Calvin, thank you very much, again. Thank you for coming on. I know you're in shock as so many others are.
We continue our coverage here of the story. Dan Senor also joins us, spent time in Iraq, of course, and advising Mitt Romney as well.
Dan, you know, when you look at something like this happening in the U.K., there is a lot we don't know, these are eyewitness accounts that we are putting together from people who are very much in shock, but you just heard that woman say 20 or 30 bodies, she saw a lot of blood. We just don't know at this point, but what we're hearing is horrific. DAN SENOR,FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, GOV. ROMNEY'S PRES.
CAMPAIGNS: Right. So, if it -- I mean, a human controversy, what we're seeing images of. It's hard to analyze these things. We hope it was not a terrorism attack.
SENOR: We hope something exploded and people panicked, God forbid. But it tells you a lot about the climate which we are in today, with something like this happens in Europe. Ten, 15, 20 years ago, we wouldn't -- our minds wouldn't have automatically gone to a terrorist attack. These terrorist attacks have been going on around the region, and this constant focus in political environments, over the last several years, on the two-plus million refugees that have come into Europe via Germany and now many of whom have spread throughout Europe. And, you know, established or inserted themselves into communities that create infrastructure for terror. Whether that is it or not, that is where people's minds go.
And as Spider said earlier, you now, Teresa May has got an election coming up in a couple of week. She was the home secretary under Prime Minister Cameron. She was the equivalent of the secretary of homeland security. She's regarded in the U.K. as having strong homeland security credentials. Immediately, these sorts of issues and various political leaders' credibility on them become a major factor.
BURNETT: So, these are -- I just want to everyone, we're getting some new images here. These are the first images I'm going to show you right now coming in, these are still photos of some of the injured as you can see.
And, General Marks, let me ask you from what we're hearing from our witness, when she says 20 or 30 people, again, she says they were all clearly dead from what she could see, we have absolutely no idea at this point of the number of fatalities, although we do know there are fatalities.
When she says there was blood everywhere, in your mind, does that make you think one thing versus another, is that something that could easily have happened in a stampede that would have occurred for another reason?
MARKS: No, I think what this leads to at least initially, the reports that we're getting out of the two eyewitnesses that you were able to bring on, is that it leads us to the at least to an immediate thought that this was a single incident that occurred. There was an explosion of some sort. As Dan indicated, we don't know exactly what that is.
MARKS: But that explosion then caused some immediate panic and immediate deaths, a bunch of destruction within a controlled area, and then you get the exits that are now being overwhelmed by humanity, trying to get out of there.
I think what you're looking at is too early to tell whether it was an act of terrorism, but it was some explosion that occurred, we'll figure out what that looks like, but I don't think this occurred in multiple locations. It wasn't synchronized where you had multiple attacks in multiple locations within that very enclosed arena.
[19:55:00] BURNETT: No, it doesn't. At this point, you know, there have been some reports, it's all eyewitnesses at this point, because we don't yet know, but multiple explosions but our eyewitnesses have only each spoken of one. So, for what that's worth.
John, though, when you talk about this, this is one of the largest arenas in the U.K., 20,000 people, can sit 20,000, but a lot of people who were there tonight, kids, teenagers, and particularly teenagers girls who were here for this concert.
AVLON: And that's what makes this especially horrific, the fact that we find out what the details are, the fact that so many teenagers and families that were caught up in this that makes it so especially horrific. You know, Manchester is a music Mecca in England, it is a city with a great music culture. And, obviously, the U.K. has dealt with terrorism going back to the days of the IRA. But as we get more information, the first thing is just the prayers we must all give out to the families and the teenagers and the children who may have been affected and caught up in this horrific event tonight.
BURNETT: And, Dan, I think what you're raising here is whatever the cause may have been, is it now the first assumption is that something like this happened? And that's part of the reason people would have reacted the way they did. Someone who was on the show earlier who was there said, well, when I first heard, there's a lot of big bangs at something like this, I may not have thought something of it. But then I did because of what has happened.
SENOR: Just look at the coverage last week in New York City, when the driver drove into Times Square, and immediately, what does everybody go to? Terrorist attack, because actually in several parts of the world, including in Israel, this is a common terror attack now.
SENOR: Driving into a crowd of people.
BURNETT: We're seeing that across Europe as an example.
SENOR: Right. So, you don't need a sophisticated bomb making capability anymore. It could be something quite simple, as driving into Times Square. Who knows if this was actually a terror attack and what sparked this? But this is sort of where we in the West go immediately when there's an incident like this. And these are extremely turbulent times.
AVLON: And, you know, one of the mantras of Homeland Security in the United States and I think around the world is, you hope for the best and you prepare for the worst. And I think that applies to the next one.
BURNETT: And, General Marks, how quickly do you think we're going to know what happened here? Obviously, we're now in just about not even one hour since we first heard of this, just about one hour. It doesn't matter what time it is in the U.K. They're working every second that they can.
How quickly do you think we'll know what this was, will it was terror or just some poor accident that caused stampedes?
MARKS: Within six hours, I think we'll know more, the priorities of work right now will be to care for the wounded, keep those alive, isolate the dead. Let's be objective about this. Isolated the area so you can make this forensic, make this as antiseptic as you can and you start diving into it.
So, you'll have multiple teams that have rehearsed over multiple times, unfortunately. That will be doing their tasks to ensure that within a short order of time, you at least have a sense of where you need to go to figure out how this occurred.
SENOR: And if it wasn't terror attack, they also have to keep an eye on whatever public venues are potential targets and are vulnerable.
MARKS: All of the above, yes.
SENOR: I mean, God forbid, if this is a sophisticated coordinated attack where you can hit multiple locations, immediately keeping an eye on public transportation, any areas and venues that are highly concentrated with people, whenever these attacks occur, if it is an attack, that's where law enforcement, homeland security or the home office, in the case of U.K. go.
BURNETT: Yes. And I think, John, it's worth remembering, but I remember that afternoon, I think so many do, when the Paris attacks. Obviously, it was evening there, it was afternoon here, it did take a little while, probably just about the time we have had now, maybe a little bit less, if I recall. But it was very quickly that they knew that something horrible had happened. Obviously the details took quite some time over the next few days to come out. But they knew it was terror.
AVLON: Of course, and in that case, we had interconnected incidents as Dan is expressing. You know, one of the telltale signs is, is if there are multiple detonations at different exits for example where multiple incidents across the city. There does not seem to be that in this case at Manchester. That's important. But that was certainly one of the telltale signs that made a definitive in Paris.
BURNETT: And, General Marks, that is I think very important at this hour, again, there could be more we don't know, but from what we're hearing from people who were there, is that there was one very large explosion, but the operative word at least from what these area witnesses are saying is just one.
MARKS: Exactly. And what John just indicated is that we have in this particular case, an adaptive threat. In Bataclan, what you had was folks with weapon, you had multiple explosions et cetera. What you have here is obviously someone who learned from that and achieved an equal amount of destruction and the terror that that individual wanted to put in place.
MARKS: Again, we must assume that this is an act of terrorism and we'll take it from there because of the amount of resources available that go after something like this. We can back off if we find out that it's not, it's an accident. I doubt that.
BURNETT: All right. And as we get ready to hand it off, we have another eyewitness here just telling our show that he was there and heard five or six bangs. So, as I said, very much piecing this together, it is very uncertain at this hour, what it could have been, but this one's saying five or six bangs.
Let's hand it off now for the continuing breaking news coverage with "AC360".