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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
U.K. Raises Terror Threat Level, Another Attack Possibly "Imminent"; Friend Of Fired Director James Comey Speaks; Trump Expected To Retain Attorney For Russia Inquiry; Senate Intel Committee Issues 2 New Subpoenas Related To Flynn. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 23, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That means another attack in the wake of last night's bombing at Ariana Grande concert could be imminent. That's what that level of the warning means.
Meantime, soldiers are out on the streets in key locations. Raids are being carried out. Intelligence agencies certainly working around the clock. We learned more about the suicide bomber who took 22 lives and we're learning more about some of the lives he took.
Well, now, I want to go to CNN's Clarissa Ward. He's on the ground in Manchester for the very latest. So, where does the investigation stand?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's as you said, Anderson. So far we know that police have identified the bomber. We're starting to get a better picture of who he was.
22 years old, born and bred in the U.K., but of Libyan dissent. And he was actually a student at the University of Salford., which is in a Manchester suburb. He was studying business and management. Apparently, had not been attending his lectures this year, which is perhaps unsurprising.
People on campus didn't really seem to know very much about him. He certainly wasn't involved in sort of social university life as such. But one family friend told CNN that he had been sort of a loner as a kid. That he seemed quite reclusive. In recent years he had started to wear Islamic robes, instead of western-style clothing that he had grown, his beard long.
But the main thing that authorities are trying to ascertain at this stage, Anderson, is whether he was acting alone or whether it's possible that there was a larger network at play here.
And I think the fact that explosives were involved, the fact that this wasn't such a crude kind of improvised attack, but appears to have been somewhat more coordinated, potentially sophisticated, that's what has authorities here concerned, Anderson.
COOPER: And what are authorities doing for those concertgoers and family and friends who are still unaccounted for? I mean, we -- there was -- we had this interview at the top of the last hour with two parents who were still trying to find out what has happened to their daughter.
WARD: And I think authorities are cognizant of just how agonizing it is for those parents, for any friends who are not able to find their other friends, their family, their loved ones.
The arena behind me, which of course now it looks like something of a ghost town, it was absolutely jammed packed. This concert was sold out. Thousands and thousands of people were attending this event. And there is still sort of prevailing sense of a little bit of chaos in terms of people not being able to find each other.
Authorities have set up hotlines. They've told people to -- many parents to stay at home so that they can be near their phones, but also to keep in regular contact with authorities. But, of course, there is always the somewhat grim process, Anderson, as authorities and forensic experts try to go through, identify the dead, make sure that they have the right people, the right identification so that the next of kin can be notified, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Clarissa, stay with us.
I want to bring in former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Ali Soufan, author of "Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State."
You know, Ali, U.K. officials are saying that the making of the bomb took planning. And obviously, the, you know, the target of the attack, knowing what time the concert was out, that took a certain amount of research, clearly. This wasn't that the person just kind of wandered there.
How does an attack like this happen without some sort of red flags popping up beforehand? I mean --
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Well, you know, this --
COOPER: The more people who know, the more likely it is that word can leak out.
SOUFAN: Absolutely. And this is probably one of the reasons that they raise the threat level in the U.K. to critical. I mean, we still have crucial information not known at least to us. Why is this individual operating independently? I don't think so. Definitely it appears that he had some kind of help.
I mean, look at the bomb itself. Reportedly, he used an explosive vest, suicide vest. Suicide vest cannot be manufactured by watching a video by ISIS or reading inspired magazine as we've seen with the Boston bombers, for example, or Rahimi here in New York, the Chelsea bombers. So, who helped him built that vest?
However, the vest by itself is not conclusive evidence of other people's involved. I think investigators by now have an idea about the materials and the other components that used in manufacturing that vest. Other --
COOPER: Devices like this, I mean, have a signature. Usually a person who makes --
COOPER: -- like this has a particular way of making it. And if you know that you can kind of --
SOUFAN: Yes. You know, what kind of materials are you using? Are you using military, you know, kind of rated materials? Or are you using crude explosive materials that you build in, you know, in your mother's kitchen as Al-Qaeda and ISIS tell these guys to do? So, there is definitely a more level of sophistication in this attack.
[21:05:02] But other crucial evidence that we don't know yet, at least publicly, was he in contact with supporters or members of the Islamic state? What kind of contacts? Did they inspire him? Did they train him? Where did they train him? Was he trained in the U.K.? Was he trained overseas? Was he trained during some of his visits to Libya, for example? A lot of information are not known yet.
And I don't believe this information is even known for the British police and the British intelligence services. And that's why they believe now based on the evidence that they have, based on the forensic evidence of the bomb, based on that complexity that you mentioned of the attack, that there is a wider network and that's why the prime minister raised the threat into a critical level.
COOPER: Clarissa, there had been an arrest earlier in the day of a 23-year-old who authorities said may have had something to do with it. Is there more information about that person?
And then also, British security service says they're increasing the security specifically -- I mean, are they increasing security at specific venues, venues popular with kids and families? Or is it more just kind of across the board a higher profile of police and military?
WARD: Well, the impression that we're getting, Anderson, is that it's not going to look like suddenly you're going to see military heavily armed soldiers kind of flooding the streets. The military presence will be somewhat subdued. They will be acting in concord with the police, essentially just bolstering the security presence on the ground in the capital of London, also in other major cities while the threat is still elevated to this critical level.
And I should hasten to add for our viewers, Anderson, that the critical level has not been raised that high -- sorry, I should say the terror threat has not been raised to critical for nearly a decade, since 2007 when a man tried to ram his flaming car into the doors of Scotland's Glasgow Airport.
So, it is clear that authorities do believe that there is potentially a risk of an imminent attack, as for the 23-year-old who we know was arrested today in southern Manchester, authorities not yet releasing any more information about him. We know that there were at least two different raids, one of them on a house believed to be connected somehow to the bomber.
At that house there was a controlled explosion. But, again, we don't know. Was that just a suspicious something or other? Or was it actually more explosive materials that needed to be detonated in a controlled manner? Authorities keeping it all quite close to their chest for now, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Clarissa Ward, thanks very much, Ali Soufan, as well.
Earlier today, I spoke with Phil Dick. He dropped his daughter and granddaughter off at the concert. He and his wife were waiting to pick them up when the bomb went off. It's strange to call Phil one of the lucky ones given what he saw and what he described to me, which you'll hear now. But his family survived. Here is our conversation.
COOPER: Phil, you had dropped -- you and your wife had dropped off your daughter and granddaughter at the concert and you were waiting to pick them up. Can you tell me what happened then? Where were you when the blast went off?
PHIL DICK, MANCHESTER BOMBING, WITNESS: We were in the foyer of the Manchester Arena. And then the next thing, there's a flash and an enormous bang.
COOPER: How far away were you from that?
DICK: No more than 30 feet, 40 feet, maximum.
COOPER: Wow. So not only you heard it, I mean, you -- did you see the explosion?
DICK: Yeah. We saw the explosion. We felt the explosion. It knocked us to the ground.
COOPER: So the explosion knocked you and your wife to the ground?
COOPER: And then what happened?
DICK: We picked ourselves up. I picked -- I helped my wife up and there was just smoke everywhere. And as the ringing in our ears subsided, it was -- it was then you hear the screaming and the crying. And we looked around this thick acrid smoke. There's some ash falling like black snow. There are a lot of people injured and hurt all around us.
COOPER: You must have been -- I mean terrified. I mean, terrified for -- not only for your wife, but for your daughter and granddaughter. DICK: All we could think about was our daughter and granddaughter. It was right around the time when we were expecting to pick them up. So we didn't know if they were there just coming through the doors. So we moved forward and out of the smoke came this young girl clearly seriously injured, clearly in distress. And my wife just rushed forward.
COOPER: Do you know about how old she was?
DICK: She was 14. And we still -- my wife is screaming, "My babies, my babies, my babies."
[21:10:03] And I said to her, "Just look after this young girl who came. I'll go find them. I'll promise you, I'll go find them." So I went back in to the foyer. And then I didn't find my daughter and granddaughter there. So, I checked every single person to see whether it was our daughter or granddaughter and thankfully, it wasn't.
COOPER: So your wife is back with the 14-year-old girl. And you've realized that your daughter and your granddaughter are not there. Were you able to reach them on the phone?
DICK: After about 20 minutes, yes. But up until then -- I checked everybody. I knew that they weren't there. So I went back to my wife and we were comforting and aiding the young girl as best we could. Applying pressure to the most -- the worst wounds that we could see, which were to her shoulder and her face. Her hair was all burned. The bag she had around her shoulder had melted into her hair.
COOPER: The plastic of a bag had actually melted into her?
DICK: Into her hair.
COOPER: I mean, was the girl able to talk to you? Do you -- were you able to try to reach her family?
DICK: Yup. Yeah. We managed to get her name and she managed after a little while to tell me her home phone number. So I was able to call her mom and let her know her daughter was alive.
COOPER: Oh, my God.
DICK: She passed it on to her husband, the little girl's dad, and I was able to speak to him on the phone with the help of the police, both inside and outside the cordoned, eventually got him in and reunited with his daughter. This was quite a while later. It's probably -- it's more than an hour after the blast had occurred.
COOPER: So really, you were tending -- you and your wife were tending to this little girl for as much of as hour?
COOPER: With just the supplies that you had been handed.
DICK: My wife is a heroine. She, you know, I can't say for certain whether she did, but I believe that she possibly saved that young lady's life.
COOPER: Have you have been able to find out about her condition? How she's doing?
DICK: Yeah. She's serious, but I believe she's had a number of visits to the theater and maybe more coming, but she's OK. She's going to be OK.
COOPER: It's just extraordinary that you and your wife had the presence of mind even in the midst of fearing for your own family to care for others.
DICK: Well, you just -- when you're a parent, it just kicks in. You look after -- you just look after people around who need looking after.
COOPER: Phil, thank you so much for talking to us and more importantly for what you and your wife, Kim, did. Just extraordinary and I wish you the best. And I hope that little girl recovers soon.
DICK: I'm sure she will. Thank you.
COOPER: We've got one of the sad new developments that we mentioned at the beginning of the program. It concerns the family of Olivia Campbell who were pleading for information about their daughter. We interviewed them about an hour and 15 minutes ago.
Her mother, Charlotte, has just posted on her Facebook page word of her daughter's passing. The posting reads, "RIP, my darling precious gorgeous girl, Olivia Campbell, taken far, far too soon. Go sing with the angels and keep smiling. Mommy loves you so much.
We'll be right back.
[21:17:25] COOPER: With threat levels and security being tightened in Great Britain and here at home in the wake of Manchester bombing, we want to take a deeper look in what the men and women in charge of keeping us all safe have on their plates right now and the steps they're taking.
Joining us now is someone who once had that responsibility, Richard Clarke, who is the former National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism who famously warned the Bush administration by an Al-Qaeda attack before 9/11. He's the author of a number of incredible books, including, " Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes." Thanks very much for being with us.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR SECURITY AND COUNTER- TERRORISM: Great to be here.
COOPER: When you see this attack, I mean, there was security at this arena. They couldn't get a device in. And yet, as we were discussing before we went on air, outside of any secure environment there's people waiting, cueing to get in or grouping as they come out.
CLARKE: No matter what you do at a big venue where there's going to be a crowd, no matter how secure the access is, there's going to be a crowd outside waiting to get in. That's true at airports where people line up at the counters before they go through TSA, into the secure zone. It's true at sporting events. You can do some things in that perimeter area, but you can never make it as secure as inside a hard target. In short, you can't make security perfect.
COOPER: When you hear -- you know, as the details emerge about who this person was who carries this device to that location, you know, born and bred in a second generation. You know, his parents, I guess came from Libya. He traveled there. We don't know. Did he have contact there? But, I just feel like we hear this time and time again of people, you know, who were born in England, born in Belgium, born in Paris and yet --
CLARKE: That's the pattern. These are -- the people who become terrorists in Europe are not refugees. They're not people who have been born in the Middle East and come here. They are people who are disaffected citizens of their own country, the country of their birth.
In Europe they live in Islamic ghettoes. It's not a homogeneous society and they are discriminated against and they just made excuse what they did. So we have to think about, what are the root causes? What causes a kid to move from being sort of radicalized to being willing to give up his life and kill children? What motivates him? Part of it is this crazy ideology. But part of it is a sense of victimization, too.
You know, the president the other day said we have to drive terrorist out, drive them out, he said three times. Well, you know, it's not that easy. If it were that easy, we would have done it. We have to deal not just with police tactics and intelligence tactics, but we have to get at the root causes.
[21:20:08] COOPER: It does seem like a lot of -- you know, the president referred to this person as a loser earlier today. And often when you look at the pattern of their life, they are petty there. There are criminals who haven't done anything. They dabble in drugs. They, you know --
CLARKE: And were not particularly religious until --
COOPER: Well, of course, right.
CLARKE: -- until just before they do the attack.
CLARKE: They have this conversion to being highly religious or what they think is religious, and then they'll do the attack.
COOPER: It seems like it almost gives their meaningless life some sort of -- they're no longer just some petty criminal, they're a terrorist. They're, you know -- CLARKE: Well, they're a martyr.
COOPER: A martyr, yes.
CLARKE: Yeah. That's exactly what's going on. And so if societies can offer people an alternative pathway, employment perhaps, meaningful life, education, a chance to move up, you're not going to see as much of this. And that's the problem in Germany. It's the problem in France. It's the problem in the United Kingdom. Thankfully, it's not the problem here.
COOPER: The -- as ISIS loses on the battlefield and obviously they still have strongholds in Syria and Raqqa. But is there -- it seems like they are encouraging people not to come anymore, but to stay where they are and do what they can. Grab a car. Grab a knife, do what you can.
CLARKE: For the last two years, that's been their message. Stay at home. It's too dangerous to probably come here. If you're not already here, don't come, but you can get a truck and you can drive into a crowd.
And so you see in the United States, for example, I was at the Boston marathon this year checking at security. All along the route, big, big trucks blocking all the side streets, out of fear that someone would just go and get a truck and drive it into the marathon.
COOPER: Can you compare Al-Qaeda to ISIS?
CLARKE: ISIS is much more effective.
COOPER: ISIS is more effective?
CLARKE: Much more.
COOPER: More effective in getting people and reaching out to people?
CLARKE: First of all, in recruitment. Many, many thousands more people have been in ISIS than ever were in Al-Qaeda. Now, many of them have been killed. A very large number of them have been killed in Iraq and Syria. But they recruited a very large army. They occupied cities in Libya, in Iraq, and in Syria. Al-Qaeda never occupied a city. This is -- if you think of ISIS or Daesh as the others (ph) called them, it's kind of Al-Qaeda 2.0.
COOPER: And their ability to connect with individuals in the United States --
CLARKE: Far more advanced.
COOPER: Far more -- it is far more advanced.
CLARKE: Far more advanced use of the internet to micro target individuals, coach them, bring them along, and then activate them.
COOPER: Richard Clarke, I appreciate it very much. Thank you so much.
CLARKE: Thank you.
COOPER: It is heartbreaking to think about the families tonight whose kids never came home from that concert. More on those who lost their lives ahead.
[21:26:48] COOPER: Well, tonight our hearts are with the parents, the families of those who are in pain in Manchester. Parents whose children went to a concert and have not come home.
A moment ago we reported the stirring fact that Olivia Campbell's parents will have to live with for the rest of their lives the fact of her passing. As we've said, of the 22 known dead, only three have been publicly named by authorities.
John Atkinson who is a college student, who loved to dance, competed with a local dance studio. He was 26 years old. Georgina Callander was 18. (Inaudible) by her Instagram account, she loved Disney, she loved animals. She just started driving. She was studying health and social care. Saffie Rose Roussos was 8 years old, 8 years old. She was at the concert with her mom and her older sister.
In fact, many of Ariana Grande's fans are girls, teenagers and younger. For some it was probably their first time going to a concert or first time going just with their friends. Randi Kaye has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Teenagers and young children desperate to get out alive. Ariana Grande's young fans, mostly girls, suddenly targets of a suicide bomber.
CORAL LONG, TOOK DAUGHTER TO CONCERT: There was certainly (inaudible). There was a little girl literally in front of me who was that small. She had to stand on her seat just to watch the concert.
KAYE (voice-over): For so many young fans, this was likely their first concert without their parents. So imagine the chaos as the bomber detonated his explosives just as kids made their way towards the exit. Outside parent who dropped their children off for the show, now waiting in fear. Some like 15-year-old Olivia Campbell never showed up. She had called her mom earlier from the arena.
CHARLOTTE CAMPBELL, MOTHER OF OLIVIA CAMPBELL: She was waiting for Ariana to come out and she was so happy. And she thanked me and said she loved me. And that was the last I heard from her.
KAYE (voice-over): Charlotte Campbell's daughter had taken the metro to the show, a 20-minute train ride. Parents like hers never imagined they might not see their child again.
CAMPBELL: I love her so much. And I want her home. I need her home. She's my baby and I miss her so much. KAYE (voice-over): As concertgoers spilled on to the streets, this homeless man stepped in to help the children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were children (inaudible) and there were a lot of children with blood all over them and everything I saw crying and screaming.
KAYE (voice-over): Terror is not something the pop star's young admirers were prepared for and neither were their parents. First, there was fear after learning of the bombing then guilt for letting their children go to the show, the scariest night of their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was just -- that moment where we said to each other, we thought like we're going to die because you're just running for your life.
KAREN FORD, WITNESS IN MANCHESTER (via telephone): There were children crying, trying to get in contact with their parents. There were parents on their phones who obviously were upset. They were crying trying to get in contact with their kids. It was just an awful, awful thing to witness.
KAYE (voice-over): An awful thing to witness, in some cases for mothers and daughters alike. Out for what had promised to be a memorable night together. For sure now they'll never forget it.
[21:30:06] LONG (via telephone): She's just been crying. She's just saying why do these things happen to people? Why do they keep doing this to people?
KAYE (voice-over): Some too young, too innocent to likely even understand this new reality their parents know all too well.
KATIE WALTON, WENT TO CONCERT: I feel sad that concerts has to be ruined by people that are so mean. And Ariana Grande can't do a concert.
KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, our National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem is the author of "Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home". She says this concert was the ultimate soft target and reaches into the core fear of any parent. She joins us now.
So in your piece for cnn.com, you say that this attack feels different than other terror attacks. I can't imagine what you must make of this obviously as a parent and obviously for a lot of parents has really hits home.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. I mean it's -- I think it's every parent's worst nightmare and also because it's so familiar that phenomenon of letting your kid go to their first concert, either going with them or as you saw in some of the pictures they sort of, you know, "You stay here mom, please." You know, on other side if all the kids go in and have fun. And I think that that is what's terrifying.
So that -- well, the last hour and a half, you've been reported on sort of what's familiar about this terrorist attack, a lone wolf, a radicalized, you know, a soft target. There's something sort of more depraved about this one that I think is -- was what the terrorists wanted, clearly, but also will impact I think a lot -- the way people feel about parenting and where they want their children to go. So this one just is different.
COOPER: Well, I mean, it seems like an upping of the ante, just as we've seen in those horrific ISIS videos that they put out. You know, they put out one where they behead somebody and then the next one they have to figure out something even more horrific to do and then they're burning people alive or drowning them. You know, it's sort of --
COOPER: -- it's this battle to terrorize.
KAYYEM: Yes, and it's the terror not just of, you know, of picking those targets, because as a parent you kind of want to believe, oh, well, we screwed everything up, but maybe things will be better for them, right? That we're going to protect them, even though we know that the world that we live in is anything but peaceful.
And so that not only was it a sort of a target in terms of ratcheting up, but the -- after the attack, these are -- these children, these tween girls, I mean this is -- I know -- you know, I have teenagers. I know Ariana Grande. We know her stunts. These are tween girls. That their capacity to deal, to address, to get out of the way, their sort of resiliency that you and I have built over decades of time is just not formulated. So that it becomes in some ways a second attack that is going to permeate their lives forever. And that is the tragedy here as a parent and people thinking about this.
You know, I said to you many times and I heard Phil in the previous -- I think in a previous segment say, "You know, look, we're not going to have a perfectly safe world, but we cannot talk about this with our kids at this stage."
You know, I have parents say to me, "Oh, isn't it horrible? We have to talk about active shooters? It's so bad the world is like this." Yes, that is true. But to empower them with the tools of what to do in active shooter cases, a family unification needs, you know, communication, those are all essential. You're going to arm them, so to speak, with the tools that will make them stronger and more resilient in a world that simply, you know, you and I and no one else can guarantee is going to be safe for them.
COOPER: Yeah. Juliette Kayyem, Juliette, thank you very much.
A friend of former FBI Director James Comey describes the back story of this pretty awkward handshake in the Oval Office. Benjamin Wittes has decided to go public about some of the things that Director Comey told him about his contact with President Trump. I asked him about his decision to speak out, his answer coming up.
[21:37:47] COOPER: There's also breaking news tonight in the investigation that is rocking Washington and the White House. CNN has learned that President Trump is expected to hire his long time attorney, Marc Kasowitz, to represent him on matters related to the Russia investigation now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee is turning up the heat on former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, issuing two new subpoenas seeking documents from businesses he owns. Mr. Flynn has pleaded the Fifth in response to an earlier subpoena seeking his testimony and documents. Here's what attorney's chair, Senator Richard Burr, said just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BURR, (R) SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We've taken the actions that we feel are appropriate right now. If, in fact, there's not a response, we will seek additional counsel and advice on how to proceed forward. At the end of that option is a contempt charge. And I've said that everything is on the table. That's not our preference today. We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said, "I've got a story to tell."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, you heard that everything is on the table he said. Joining me now is Alan Dershowitz, Laura Coates and Gloria Borger.
Professor Dershowitz, I mean you had said I think last week that the president should lawyer up, should get an attorney, outside counsel. He's expected to hire his long time attorney to represent him on matters related to Russia. How significant is that?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well I think every person who is possibly under investigation also have their own independent counsel. And he's picked a good lawyer. I know the firm. I'm actually working with the firm now on another matter, an unrelated matter. And they're an excellent, excellent law firm.
There are two kinds of lawyers you need for the individual cases. You need your own personal lawyer and then the White House counsel can provide aid and assistance on matters relating to the government and the White House.
Now, Flynn particularly needs a lawyer because, of course, his documents have been subpoenaed. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. But the government can get around the Fifth Amendment by giving him what's called production immunity. Let me just explain that.
DERSHOWITZ: Let's assume that I have a little notebook here in which I have written down all the people that I have cheated or murdered or whatever. That's not covered by the privilege against self- incrimination. The government has a right to get that document. It wasn't always the case.
[21:40:02] In the early part of our constitutional history, the government couldn't get that. It was covered by the Fifth Amendment. But now the courts have said that the document itself isn't covered.
But the fact that I have it is privileged, and therefore, I don't have to turn it over unless the government assures me that they will never use the fact that I turned it over and they can give me immunity and then compel Flynn to turn over the material. So the government -- the committees will eventually get that material.
COOPER: Laura, I mean, we should point out you worked as a litigation associate at Kasowitz's Law Firm in 2007, never worked on the cases involving Donald Trump. Wise move that he hired -- that he's hiring an attorney?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean -- and Alan is absolutely right about having to lawyer up. This is a very serious matter and the implications are very far reaching. Remember, White House counsel is not the president's lawyer. It is the lawyer of the actual office itself. You have to have personal protection.
What also is important point to make here is the idea this immunity that's being given or being thrown around for Flynn. This is not a guarantee for Michael Flynn. And the reason it's not a guarantee is because they have no interest at this point in time of immunizing somebody before they have a full investigation as to what his role would have been.
And remember, one of the reasons that Flynn is saying that he does not want to turn over documents is because in his mind they -- the actual act of production is testimonial in nature. Meaning, you asked me very broad questions about what I may have over a period of an 18- month window.
So you're asking me essentially to have a very generic dragnet that I give you information about. And looking to have a very specific document request from the government before they'll turn it over to avoid having them say, "Listen, me having to go in my mind and tell you what I have would be giving you the noose to hang me with."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, but the committee has narrowed that request as a result of his attorney's letter.
COATES: Yes, because that --
BORGER: They have narrowed that request. So now, they're expecting the documents or you heard what Senator Burr said, which is otherwise, we could hold you in contempt.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Gloria, in terms of the new subpoenas for documents related to General Flynn's businesses, Burr is saying everything is on the table. If Flynn doesn't comply, which was echoed by Senate Intelligence Committee member Marco Rubio earlier today as well, it seems the committee is willing to take serious action.
BORGER: Yeah. I mean, I think it is. And, look, I think they're playing a little hard ball here. And I think Flynn is playing a little hard to get because he wants immunity. And so this is a game that goes back and forth. But I think the committee is perfectly serious about the information it wants out of Flynn.
And so they open -- they tried to open one door and it was closed on them when he pleaded the Fifth, so they're trying to open another door here as you would expect. And I think that there's going to be an awful lot of negotiation, obviously, that goes on.
BORGER: But I think that these documents are completely within the realm of what they can actually get.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, if the committee gives him immunity, I mean doesn't that potentially then interfere with any investigation with -- by Mueller?
DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely. And that's why it's a three dimensional chess game.
COOPER: I mean, just what Oliver North -- what happened with Oliver North, right?
DERSHOWITZ: Of course. He ended up getting his conviction reversed because the committee gave him immunity. I don't think that the committee is going to give him immunity without the approval of Mueller because it will look very suspicious.
But they can give him this production immunity without endangering the case at all, because all that does is preclude the government from saying where they got the documents from, which is utterly unimportant. The documents speak for themselves. They're either in his hand writing or they could be demonstrated that he had them independently without him having to produce them as testimonial evidence.
So, I think Flynn is in serious trouble. And I wonder why his lawyer sought immunity in such a public way. That's just not the way it's done. If you want immunity, you go to the committee or you go to the prosecutor, you make what's called a proffer. You tell them what you have and what you can give them. And then the government, either the committee or the prosecutor, decides whether your evidence is worth immunizing you from either prosecution or from the use of your evidence against you. And I don't know whether that's happened, but it should never happen in public. It should be done in private.
COOPER: Laura, do General Flynn's businesses have Fifth Amendment protections?
COATES: Well, that's a great question because, of course, normally they do not. It's normally reserved for the individual, protects individual liberties, not kind of this body of organizations that just are representing a group of people. But, the case law is kind of shifting and the Supreme Court may have to wrestle with this issue.
Because, remember, you have the hobby lobby case that says, religious liberty belongs to corporations. And you have Citizens United, so they actually have political speech for these corporations. So, they may tend towards a period of time where it tends that a corporation now has Fifth Amendment rights. But as of right now, they do not and Flynn remains in trouble.
[21:45:07] COOPER: Laura Coates, Professor Dershowitz, Gloria Borger, thank you all. Appreciate it.
Coming up, my conversation with Benjamin Wittes, friend of Director James Comey who says the former FBI director was troubled by his interactions with the president to the point that Director Comey tried to blend in with the drapes at the White House. We'll show you the video. The explanation of what happened is incredible. Why he's going public about that and more next.
COOPER: Somewhat lost in the breaking news out of Manchester, England, our reporting that the president asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. That's according to multiple current and former U.S. officials.
One of those officials, NSA Director Mike Rogers, was not asked about it in congressional hearings today. The other official, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, declined to confirm or deny it. As you know, fired FBI Director James Comey is embroiled right now in something similar.
Tonight, my conversation with Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Director Comey. Wittes was interviewed by "The New York Times" and then wrote an account in "Law Affair" in which he is editor-in-chief. Yesterday, I spoke with him about the encounters with the president that Director Comey said he was troubled by and why he's going public.
[21:50:02] COOPER: Why did you decide to speak out?
BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF JAMES COMEY: So I decided to speak out about it because -- and I thought about it very hard. I read "The New York Times" story that Jim had been asked to give what effectively amounts to a loyalty oath to the president and I was very shocked.
And it suddenly crystallized in my mind what a whole lot of these interactions that I have had with him meant and why he had reacted to them the way he had reacted. I suddenly understood them in a different and frankly in a more menacing and upsetting light than I had at the time that we had had this conversation.
COOPER: Have you spoken to Director Comey since he was fired?
WITTES: Yes. COOPER: Can you say how he is? What -- how he's doing?
WITTES: I don't want to talk about our conversations. I will say he's going to be fine. You know, he's not somebody who spends time feeling sorry for himself. I thought it was interesting and very telling that he declined an opportunity to tell his story in private. He clearly wants to do it in a public setting, and I interpret --
COOPER: Right. He was asked to testify in private and he said no and so now it's going to be public.
WITTES: Right. And I think that's a reflection of the fact that this is a guy with a story to tell. I think if I were Donald Trump that would scare me a lot.
COOPER: So, there were a number of -- I mean, a fascinating things that you have talked about. One, Director Comey's actions at the meeting which was all videotaped where President Trump called him out, brought him forward and it was a meeting of law enforcement personnel in the wake of the inauguration. Can you explain what happened?
WITTES: What he told me was he really wanted to just blend in and not, you know, not have an individual interaction with the president. And so if you look at the video, he's wearing a blue suit and he stands in the part of the room that is physically as far from the president as it's possible to be in front of blue drapes, and, you know.
COOPER: That was intentional.
WITTES: Yes, it was intentional. And he was trying to, you know, camouflage himself a little bit. And then the president right at the end sees him and says -- I forget the exact quote, but, you know, "Oh, there's Jim. He's even more famous than I am." And Jim really saw that as a kind of particular effort to compromise him in the eyes of people who were suspicious of the role that he had played.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Oh, and there's Jim. He's become more famous than me.
COOPER: So in the video, you actually see Director Comey extending his hands.
WITTES: So what he told me is he was determined that there was not going to be a hug. And so he kind of preemptively reaches out his hand to shake the president's hand and to kind of get it over with. And the president leans in and gives him a hug, but it's an entirely one-sided hug.
COOPER: You said in your blog that former Director Comey saw it as his job to protect the FBI from "improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable." So he did not regard the people in the Trump White House as honorable?
WITTES: That's correct.
COOPER: He said that? That's your recollection that he had said that or felt that?
WITTES: I have no doubt that he regarded the group of people around the president as dishonorable.
COOPER: What about them is dishonorable?
WITTES: The incidents that I describe are all incidents in which Jim felt that the independence of the agency and the ability to do its job in an apolitical fashion were not being respected and that he -- you know, his central preoccupation over the period of time he was in office under Trump was to create that space and to -- the terms he used were to train the White House that there were things that they couldn't do. And that was --
COOPER: Train them?
WITTES: To train them.
COOPER: It's an amazing detail that you reveal that the director thought that the President of the United States was attempting to compromise him publicly in multiple ways. I mean, to have -- I mean that, you know, that him hiding in the drapes meeting, it's funny on the one hand.
On the other hand, it's - when you kind of step back and realize we're talking about the head of the FBI and the President of the United States and the head of the FBI believes or feels that the President of the United States is sort of trying to -- I mean, compromise him.
WITTES: And I believe like it wasn't -- not all of those incidents were in public. Jim is a confident guy and he did feel like there were these numerous incidents where the president was kind of probing the edges of his defenses and all in the service of making him, you know, seeing whether you could make a loyalist out of him.
[21:55:19] COOPER: I guess one could look at it as -- that there might be a more benign explanation, which is as the president's people said he's a kind of a transactional person, that he's -- you know, in business he's schmoozing back slapping and that it's just an attempt to kind of make the relationship more personal or friendly.
WITTES: So I think it's perfectly possible to read it that way. And I'm not even going to say that's the wrong way to read it. It's not the way Comey read it.
COOPER: In the letter that the president released -- that sent to Comey and released when he was fired, it said, "You know, that three times you have told me I'm not the subject of this investigation." Does that make sense to you that Director Comey would have told the President of United States that he is not the subject of an investigation?
WITTES: I have no firsthand knowledge of that. I've never talked to him about it. I would bet every dollar that I had that no such communication ever took place. It's simply inconceivable to me that Comey would tell the president that. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Benjamin Wittes. We'll be right back.
[22:00:09] COOPER: Time now to hand it over to Don Lemon and "CNN TONIGHT".