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Can Countries Trust President Trump With Classified Intelligence?; Trump Expected to Hire Private Attorney to Defend Against Russia Probe; Brother of Manchester Bomber Arrested. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired May 24, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:01] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The brother of the Manchester concert bomber has just been arrested, accused of planning a separate terror attack in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Back in the U.K., five people are now in custody in connection with the bombing, as police there now say that they believe the bomber was part of a wider terror network. The country has raised its terror threat level to imminent attack.
This is the first time it's done so in a decade, and all of this as we get word from U.S. officials that the attacker spent three weeks in Libya, returning to England just days before he walked into that Ariana Grande concert surrounded by children and teenagers as he detonated his suicide bomb.
Joining me now is Barbara Starr, our senior Pentagon correspondent, also Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative.
First, I want to start, though, with Atika Shubert. She's in Manchester with us. She has breaking details on a new police raid.
Atika, what can you tell us?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have been seeing different raids across the city. This is the latest one. You can see that building behind me there.
What residents are telling us is that they heard at least one explosion, possibly two, and they saw heavily armed and masked policemen going in with body armor, also with specialized equipment to jam mobile phones. Now, that is typical for these kinds of police raids and searches.
Basically, it prevents mobile phones from being used as detonation devices. They can basically shut down cell -- mobile phone coverage in a small area.
Now, we don't know exactly yet what is going on in there and how it links to the investigation. But we have been to several of these sites in the last two days. One of them is an apartment in the city center. We were just there earlier today. Again, we saw armed police going in, and, yesterday, two suburban homes, where we understand one of them being the last known address of Salman Abedi.
He, of course, is the attacker, as identified by Manchester police. Now, the investigation seems to be expanding. As we heard from the chief constable today, they don't believe this is the work of just one man now. They believe this is a network and they are trying to trace down every part of it.
KEILAR: All right. Atika, thank you so much.
I want to get to Barbara now.
Tell us, Barbara, about the bomber, Salman Abedi, traveling to Libya before the attack for a few weeks. What have you found out?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, U.S. military officials are actually telling us that the intelligence that the U.S. and Britain have been sharing indicates that the attacker did travel to Libya for three weeks, returning to the U.K. only two or three or a few days before the attack in Manchester.
There is some reporting that other family members may have traveled with him. But what's happening behind the scenes now, Brianna, is the U.S. military, which has contacts in Libya, plus U.S. intelligence and British intelligence, are pinging all those contacts inside Libya, government officials, militia members, looking to see what they can learn about where the attacker may have traveled, who he met with, was he only there on family business, or was he really there for three weeks possibly meeting with other militant groups, possibly getting training and support for some future attack?
There is a lot of reporting out there that he was potentially affiliated with ISIS, but they're also looking at other organizations. He could have potentially also been affiliated or directed by the al Qaeda element there known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. They are very active in North Africa.
So, intelligence services still running down all of these leads, but able to confirm that the latest information is, he traveled to Libya for three weeks, returning to Manchester only a couple of days before the attack.
KEILAR: And, Bob Baer, his brother is under arrest in Libya, we're told for plotting his own attack there.
Some observers are saying this is reminiscent of the Boston bombers, the involvement of brothers. What do you know about this right now and what does it tell you?
ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, the return to Libya for three weeks, I look at this attack as something fairly well- organized, getting the explosives to the site, the optimal place where people are pouring out of the stadium, using shrapnel, making sure the detonator works.
All that suggests it's a wider, bigger network. I thought that right after the attack. And what happens is, once one of these guys are self-recruited, they go back to one of these countries where there's a civil war going on and they actually get additional training, and they make sure that they are actually -- they're going to go through with this.
They're interrogated. They're questioned. They see a senior cleric. The Islamic State is all over Libya. And this is very worrying for the Europeans. This is a refugee, essentially, because he's gone back home, refugees that came across in the '80s, his mother and his father.
And, by the way, Brianna, I used to deal with these people.
KEILAR: He's the son of refugees, right?
BAER: He's the son of refugees. Yes. I'm sorry. He's the son of refugees. It's still important.
I used to live with the Libyans, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the '80s. And this was a very extremist group. At one point, they stole one of our MILAN missiles, fired it through the front door of Parliament.
Why Britain took so many of these people, radicals, I can't say. But it's what you call blowback, and they are very worried now this is a bigger cell, because these bombs are so easy to make. British authorities just don't know how many people are lined up.
KEILAR: Bob, what you said before, that the complexity of this device, that spoke to you of something beyond just a lone wolf attacker.
So, that's in line with what we're hearing from British officials, right, that this was a bomber who is known to intel services, and they are saying that he had -- quote -- "proven links to ISIS"?
BAER: Yes. That's -- it's a sophistication.
These detonators are -- I could show you how to make one, but we'd have to go out and practice a lot before you felt comfortable making one. He probably went back or got help in Manchester itself making this device. They don't always go off. And you get one chance in a case like this.
And this is what has the British worried. It's a wider plot. And these things are so hard to defeat. They're so hard to determine whether people are on these sites just interested, fascinated by the Islamic State or when they're ready to pass over to the act.
It's very hard to tell.
KEILAR: What can you say about the British saying that another attack may be imminent? They have increased their threat level higher than we have seen in a decade. The question really, though, is, is this precaution or this based on intelligence that tells them there is something really going on? Is that the case?
Or is it based on the idea that this happened, so there seems to be a likelihood that something else could happen?
BAER: No, it's based on their decision that it wasn't a lone wolf.
Once they identify the suicide bomber, they'd get into his telephones, his landlines, his cell phones, his Internet connections, whether he had an app or he had secure communications. That will all figure into their decision to decide if he's part of a bigger cell.
And these cells traditionally like to make multiple attacks at one, not just a one-off. And so they have very good reason to be worried.
KEILAR: All right, Bob Baer, thank you, Barbara Starr as well. Atika Shubert, thank you to you as well.
I want to turn now to U.S. politics and a major sign that President Trump is gearing up for a long and protracted legal fight. It's expected that he's going to hire a private attorney to help handle the investigation of his campaign's alleged ties to Russian officials, a senior administration official saying that the president is going to bring in Marc Kasowitz, who has been Trump's lawyer for more than 15 years now.
He's handled a number of cases that you may have heard of as well.
Joining me now to talk about this is the anchor of "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION," Jake Tapper. He's also CNN's chief Washington correspondent.
So, when you talk to lawyers, they say, of course he's doing this.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
KEILAR: And then other -- just folks in Washington will say, good, because now it means the White House, this clears the plate, they can focus on the other things that the president should be focusing on, and not just this, but it clears up some space for them.
TAPPER: It's good politics and good policy.
KEILAR: Exactly. But what do we know about this guy?
TAPPER: Well, we know that he's been -- he's a litigation attorney. He's handled all sorts of cases.
As you mentioned, he has represented President Trump both in cases having to do with Trump's divorce records, having to do with the allegations of fraud against Trump University, also just basic real estate transactions. So, he's part of the Trump world. The president trusts him. And, as you note, this will enable Sean Spicer and whoever at the
White House that gets asked about this to say that is not a question for the White House. This is a question for the president's private attorney.
And we should note it's not that odd for a president in a situation like this, where there's a probe. President Clinton used outside counsel during some of his troubles.
KEILAR: Do you think it's odd that he's going with a lawyer, of course, who is loyal to him he's known for years -- but there's a difference between dealing with a case of suing someone because they undervalued, according to Trump, his net worth.
KEILAR: And that's a case he actually lost here -- and then dealing with something like this. These are two very different species.
TAPPER: Well, it really depends on what the probe is.
We have the House and Senate Intelligence Committee probes. Those probes are intelligence probes. And then we have the FBI director, the former FBI director, Robert Mueller, the general counsel, who -- independent counsel who is investigating and heralding what is essentially a criminal probe.
And Kasowitz is somebody through litigation does deal with criminal matters. So, I don't know that it's any other odder than any other attorney that there would be. The president hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing himself personally. So I think this is about getting -- making sure that his house is in order.
KEILAR: And it's someone he trusts.
I want to ask you about this search for the FBI director. We have been hearing this is going to happen quickly. That was freaking out, for lack of a better term, some folks in the FBI and other officials around Washington who said this is something that you should take your time on.
We now know that the Trump administration appears to be slowing down that process.
And, first of all, Joe Lieberman's name has now been taken out of consideration, according to sources close to the process. A lot of people inside -- let's say familiar with the decision-making process said there were concerns because Senator Lieberman, whatever his strengths and background, did not specifically have a background in law enforcement. And so that was a strike against him to a degree.
But, as you note, this is a decision that is not about -- this is not about firing Dee Snider. This is about picking somebody who will be essentially, not including the attorney general, the chief law enforcement figure in the land.
President Obama, when he was alerted by Robert Mueller, then the head of the FBI, that he was going to be retiring, it took President Obama two years to pick James Comey to be the replacement.
So the idea that this was going to be done quickly, that was a deadline of its own creation. There really was no need for it.
KEILAR: Can you imagine giving two years' notice? Can you imagine that?
TAPPER: Two years' notice. He must have been pretty tired.
KEILAR: All right, Jake Tapper, thank you so much. We will be tuning in shortly at 4:00 p.m. Eastern to watch your show.
And, again, be sure to join Jake next hour, because he has an exclusive interview with Caroline Kennedy honoring the 100th anniversary of her father's birth.
And staying with the Russia investigation, if Trump aides colluded, is it possible that they didn't know they were doing it? The question is being asked after the former CIA Director John Brennan said this before the Senate Intelligence Committee:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Frequently, individuals who go along a treasonous path do not even realize they are along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.
And that's why, again, my radar goes up early when I see certain things that I know what the Russians are trying to do, and I don't know whether or not the target of their efforts are as mindful of the Russian intentions as they need to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I'm going to turn now to someone who worked for the CIA for 30 years specializing in Russia. He's now a spy novelist an and an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University, Gene Coyle joining us now.
So, Gene, how would this work? When you hear John Brennan talking about this idea that someone may not necessarily know that they are doing something treasonous, how would that work? Have you seen something like that?
GENE COYLE, FORMER CIA FIELD OPERATIONS OFFICER: No one doesn't know that they are committing treason.
And I have to say this. I have such a low opinion of John Brennan, he having been known as the greatest sycophant in the history of the CIA and a supporter of Hillary Clinton before the election. I find it hard to put any real credence in anything that the man says.
But to your question specifically, no one doesn't realize they are not giving away classified information. Everyone I ever recruited, including people from that part of the world, they knew exactly what was going on and what they were doing.
KEILAR: Can I ask you about that? Because, as we hear John Brennan's testimony from yesterday, it's obviously very important to have the former CIA director talking about this. We have people on this show who were saying that he's someone who is a straight shooter.
He has a long career. He worked in the administration at a high level of intelligence for the George H.W. Bush administration, but that's not -- that's not how you see this. You see this as someone who is -- maybe has a partisan bent?
COYLE: I do.
Several weeks before the election last fall, Director Brennan made some public statements making it very clear that he was supportive of the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming the president. That is considered a real no-no. Every director of the CIA has allegedly stayed above and out of politics. One man's opinion.
KEILAR: OK. Your opinion, he hasn't been -- you feel he has not been apolitical as you would like to have seen him to be.
KEILAR: I want to ask you now about the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, is going to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. He's done many interviews through this investigation. What do you expect from him as he goes forward in this setting?
COYLE: I could pretend to give you a really good answer, but I have paid little attention to Carter Page, so I won't try and fake it.
KEILAR: OK. You're not going to fake it. All right, fair enough.
COYLE: So, move on to another question and I can probably you give a more intelligent answer.
KEILAR: All right, fair enough.
COYLE: Could I tell you something about Vladimir Putin?
KEILAR: Go ahead. Go ahead.
COYLE: He is portrayed as being this ultimate, manipulative master spy with the background in the KGB.
I had talked to a former KGB officer a couple years into his first tour of office in Russia commenting on how he's done well for himself. And the fellow pointed out that he had only been given one assignment abroad, and that was to East Germany. And the fellow added that they didn't send their biased and brightest to anywhere but East Germany.
KEILAR: I hear what you're saying.
COYLE: ... let us not attribute Mr. Putin as being this 10-foot-tall manipulative guy.
KEILAR: Can I ask you one question? Can I ask you one...
KEILAR: But, obviously, there's a whole Russian intelligence apparatus there.
And I want to ask you this one question about that before I let you go here, because we're running out of time.
KEILAR: This idea, though, that some people with contacts in Russia may not have known that they were intel officials, that this is something that there could have been a slippery slope on, you just outright dismiss this as a possibility?
COYLE: Russian diplomats have the task, as do every country, to meet people, to try and influence them.
How you know whether someone is truly a Russian diplomat, how do they know that they are an intel officer undercover?
COYLE: It's hard to know until the fellow really got down to perhaps offering you money.
KEILAR: OK, all right, or maybe influence. That might the question here.
All right, Gene Coyle, thank you so much.
Next, more on our breaking news, police raids under way in England, neighbors telling CNN they hear explosions. That's what we're hearing right now. The Manchester bombing investigation is intensifying. We're monitoring this as we get new details.
Also this, the brother of the Manchester bomber arrested while plotting an attack of his own -- what officials say he's admitting under interrogation.
We're back in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:20:35]
KEILAR: Can the president be trusted with classified intelligence?
This is a question that is gaining some international concern after President Trump reportedly shared confidential information with Russia's foreign minister two weeks ago.
Sources tell CNN that that intelligence was from Israel and possibly endangered the life of an Israeli agent. The Israeli defense minister says they have made a -- quote -- "pointed correction" to bolster intelligence cooperation.
And in the investigation into the Manchester bombing, the U.K.'s home secretary says she's irritated -- that is a quote -- with the U.S. after U.S. officials leaked the identity of the Manchester bomber hours before British police.
I want to talk more about this now with former U.S. Ambassador and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
OK, so, some pointed out, look, these are apples and oranges, the idea that he would relay information to the Russians that really was not the U.S.' to share, and then just the information gets leaked out in the source -- or in the process of an investigation.
Some people have said, don't confuse those as exactly the same thing. But to this point of Donald Trump revealing information certainly to the Russians, do you worry that he has hurt national security, or is it more just an issue of, he needs to be more careful?
JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: So I think it's the latter. I think he does need to be more careful, and loose lips can sink ships, as they say.
KEILAR: Why hasn't there been damage, in your estimation?
NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I think in the case of what was said to the Russians in the Oval Office, you would have to demonstrate that he jeopardized sources and methods in some way or the other.
And it's not clear to me that that happened. I don't have any information to suggest to me that that did happen. So, if he was just talking about what he knew, as opposed to how he got it and by what means and who the source was, I think we're OK. But you have got to be careful talking about intelligence, just as a general proposition.
KEILAR: And we have this reporting that an Israeli agent could have been endangered by this.
NEGROPONTE: It's conceivable, but I think that may be a stretch.
I think that somebody is choosing to react to the situation. I heard a deputy minister of diplomacy from Israel saying the other day that the intelligence-sharing relationship is excellent and that he was not complaining about any potential damage. KEILAR: President Trump also mentioned to the Philippines about
nuclear subs near North Korea.
How is this going to change the information that is shared with the U.S.? I mean, this is currency to the U.S. intel community, right?
NEGROPONTE: Right. But an element of our diplomacy, also, is to reassure allies by telling them that help is nearby.
So, in that particular case, he had a diplomatic message he was sending to the Filipinos, but at the same time, he wasn't giving away the coordinates of the particular submarine, and they are not that easy to find.
KEILAR: They are not. That's kind of the point, right?
So, when Israel is talking about this course correction on how it deals with intel sharing, do you see that more as a warning shot, or do you see that as something that could actually negatively affect how the U.S. fights ISIS?
NEGROPONTE: I think it's a bit of a warning shot and a slight rap on the knuckles.
Let's not forget, Israel is one of the countries with whom we have the best possible intelligence sharing cooperation. I personally was able to witness that during the time that I was in government. And I'm sure that's going to continue.
We need each other. They certainly need our intelligence capabilities in support of their defense.
KEILAR: You were the former DNI.
KEILAR: So, I'm sure with a point of view that very few people could had, you have observed this report that the current DNI was approached by Donald Trump, as were -- was another intelligence leader, with a request: Can you say that there is no collusion?
When you heard that report and from what you have heard about that, what was your reaction to that?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I'm not absolutely certain that that is what took place. It's, I think, hearsay.
But, in any case, I did sort of -- it raised my eyebrows. I would have hoped that I would never -- I was never asked to do something like that.
KEILAR: Nothing like that ever happened?
NEGROPONTE: No. Well, we didn't...
KEILAR: And why? Because there's protocols in place or just there's lines you don't cross?
NEGROPONTE: Well, there are, and there is sort of a distance, I think, that is kept between your law enforcement intelligence agencies on the one hand and the political leadership of the country on the other.
You have got to try to maintain that line to the greatest extent possible. You want professional, objective advice and information from your intelligence and your law enforcement services.
KEILAR: So, in your -- as you're looking at this, knowing what you can, though, from your position, does it just seem to you that President Trump, he doesn't know where that line is that you're describing?
NEGROPONTE: Well, if that was done, I think he may have pushed it a bit too hard. And, as you have seen, people are already reminiscing about what Mr. Nixon did during his time when he was under some kind of political duress.
So, yes, I think he's got to find where the lines are.
KEILAR: Ambassador, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being with us with a very unique perspective.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you for having me.
KEILAR: And next, we are live from Manchester with breaking details about the suspect in the concert bombing -- what we know about his travel to Libya and also today's arrest of his brother.