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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Doesn't Release All JFK Documents; Democrats Pitch Bills to Block Trump from Preemptive North Korea Strike; Congressional Concerns on Rising ISIS in Africa; Corker & Cardin In Talks on Iran Nuclear Deal; Puerto Rico Governor Threatens Hell to Pay over Power Deal. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired October 27, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Jefferson, why would that have simply cut off there? Why wouldn't the answer be included in this document release?
JEFFERSON MORLEY, EDITOR, JFKFACTS.ORG & AUTHOR: Because the relationship between the CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald was and is, remains to this day, a very sensitive subject that the CIA would prefer not to talk about. And what we saw yesterday, when we were supposed to get all of these records, was a continuation of the secrecy, the unnecessary secrecy around JFK files. You said at the top of the show that hundreds of documents remain secret. By my count, I think it would be more accurate to say thousands of documents remain secret. And so it was really disappointing. I think President Trump had the impulse to release all of these, but the CIA and FBI prevailed on him at the last minute to withhold most of them.
CABRERA: And our sources are telling us that it really was down to the 11th hour, that he was having people come to him saying, we can't release this because of X, Y or Z, there's a national security issue, there's a security issue perhaps with the identities of some of these people who are in the documents, who are part of these investigations.
So, Jefferson, you've done so much research and investigating yourself into how the CIA operates, and specifically this case. Why would the CIA wait until the very last day when they've had 25 years? They've known this deadline was coming all this time.
MORLEY: This is straight out of the CIA playbook, which is to release some trivial information, keep the most sensitive information from the public, and play for time. So what they did was they persuaded President Trump to keep secrecy around these records for six more months. And from their point of view, it was for a good reason. There's very embarrassing material in here about the CIA's role in the JFK story. They're trying to keep that out of public view.
CABRERA: Tom, let me ask you about another interesting finding that we found in these documents as you were going through. Tell us about this apparent death threat called -- that was called in prior to Oswald's murder.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time we've ever had a record that says there was a direct call to the FBI. This was from J. Edgar Hoover, saying, "Last night, we received a call in our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald." Now there were a lot of death threats against Oswald from a lot of people in a lot of places at that time. And Jack Ruby, to be sure, said he was not part of any group out there, but many people have suspected maybe they were involved.
There's another part in the papers where there's somebody out there opining about the idea that Ruby and Oswald were in concert, and Ruby made it possible for Oswald to commit the murder and then killed Oswald to cover his tracks. This is the first time we knew the FBI was speaking to the idea that they were directly called and told that Oswald would likely be killed or could be killed by a group.
CABRERA: Jefferson, how do you read that? Should we take from this that Oswald wasn't adequately protected?
MORELEY: Absolutely. The behavior of the Dallas police was atrocious in bringing that man out at that time. And Ruby penetrated this security perimeter very easily, perhaps with help from Dallas police. So they had a lot to be embarrassed about. And this document just shows that, you know, they were well warned ahead of time.
CABRERA: Tom, there was this back and forth with an alleged Cuban intelligence officer who claimed to have known Oswald?
FOREMAN: Yes. This was an intercepted conversation between two Cuban intelligence officers. One of them said to the other one, that Oswald must have been a good shot, and the other one replied, oh, he was quite good. And asked how he knew this, he says here, "I knew him."
All of this continues to feed into, though, basically this web that has been building for decades and decades of really sort of loose ends and unconnected leads and innuendos and possibilities.
The one thing that has always been missing for those who want to look purely at verifiable facts, is a clear line to explain how this conspiracy worked and who was actually involved, for all these many, many theories that are out there which I'm sure are absolutely growing, based on this information.
CABRERA: On that last little snippet we just pulled out, Jefferson, what do we know about Oswald's connections to the Cuban government?
MORELEY: In September 1963, Oswald went to Mexico City seeking a visa to travel to the Soviet Union and Cuba. And in that time, he had contact with the Soviet and Cuban consulate there, and those are presumed to be intelligence officers. The CIA was surveilling Oswald at the time. They were well aware of those contacts when they happened. The information about Oswald's contacts with the Soviet and Cuban intelligence officers was forwarded to the top of the CIA, to James Angleton, in fact, who I write about in my book. So Oswald's presence in Mexico City was very well known to the top of the CIA six weeks before President Kennedy was killed.
(CROSSTALK) [11:35:22] FOREMAN: What we don't know yet -- I will say, what we don't know yet, though --
CABRERA: Go ahead.
FOREMAN: -- about those contacts, is the content of all of those contacts. Because, honestly, if I called the French embassy today, just call them, that is a contact. Is it a meaningful one? I don't know. That's what we still don't know.
CABRERA: We still have pieces of the puzzle that are missing, and we had hoped to fill it all in with this document dump. Maybe we'll get those answers eventually.
Tom Foreman and Jefferson Morley, thank you both. Such a fascinating conversation.
MORLEY: Thank you.
CABRERA: "Our goal is not war" -- that was the direct quote from Defense Secretary James Mattis, standing a few feet from North Korea this morning. It comes as some Democratic lawmakers are pushing a bill to block the president from launching a preemptive strike against the North. I'll ask one Democratic Senator if he supports this legislation, next.
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We'll be right back.
[11:41:26] CABRERA: New this morning, Defense Secretary James Mattis visiting the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ, an area that separates North Korea and South Korea, and his main message is one of diplomacy, actually saying that is the key to ending a nuclear crisis with North Korea. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our goal is not war, but rather the complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. And we stand shoulder to shoulder with you, with your soldiers, and with your people in confronting the threats posed by the Kim Jong-Un regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Secretary Mattis is in the region now paving the way for President Trump's much anticipated visit to Asia next week. And it comes amid escalating tensions between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, with the North renewing its threat this week to test a nuclear weapon above ground.
Let's discuss, with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, joining me in New York, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So thank you so much, Senator, for being here in person to discuss this.
As we are coming back from break, we talked about the many foreign policy concerns you have personally. First in North Korea, I know there have been a couple Democratic bills that have now been proposed that would essentially prevent the president from launching a preemptive strike on North Korea without congressional approval. I'm talking about the one specifically with Senator Markey and Congressman Conyers in the House. Is that legislation you would support.
SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D), MARYLAND: Ana, first, it's good to be with you. And I'm glad to hear Secretary Mattis to point out our objective is to find a diplomatic answer to the crisis in North Korea. A military option is certainly not what we want to do. It would -- we should be able to find a way to avoid the use of military because it will be catastrophic.
What these bills are attempting to do is make it clear to the president we don't want him to do preemptive military strikes. That would be -- particularly nuclear, that would be unthinkable.
CABRERA: You support this bill?
CARDIN: I support making sure we don't do a nuclear first strike. And I don't want to see any military operations in North Korea unless there's an immediate threat against us.
CABRERA: Is that something Republicans would be on board with as well? Do you think this legislation has teeth?
CARDIN: I think that there is concern among both Democrats and Republicans that we have a policy that looks at what we can do, through diplomacy, to restrict and hopefully one day eliminate North Korea's nuclear ambitions. We need to make progress where we can. We need to figure out ways we can at least freeze what they're doing currently. Working with China, we think we can put the pressure on North Korea to change their way. Again, using military, particularly the United States were to initiate it, could lead to escalation and catastrophic consequences.
CABRERA: We've seen more and more sanctions imposed on North Korea. And, in fact, you guys in both the House and Senate passed those extra sanctions on not just North Korea but on Russia as well which the president signed. This was a couple months ago. I know that this was top of mind this week as we learned that those extra sanctions had not been implemented because they were stuck in the State Department going through its review. Well, yesterday we learned the State Department completed that review after you and Senator McCain sent a letter asking what is going on. Do you think we would have ended up at this point had there not been the extra pressure provided?
CARDIN: I think we moved it along a little faster than otherwise it would have been. They're late in getting us the information. We now have it. We now need to make sure it's implemented properly. There is a review process that is contemplated by statute. And there are ways in which we can make sure that they are effectively implemented, working with our international partners. That's what we expect from the administration. Senator McCain and I will be following this very, very closely.
[11:45:16] CABRERA: I also want to ask you about Niger and really the U.S. role in that part of the world. Because as we're learning more about what happened with these four Americans who lost their lives in that ambush situation in Niger, I know your colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee came out of their briefing yesterday expressing great concern about ISIS getting a foothold in this part of the world. What do you see as the American role moving forward combatting terrorism there?
CARDIN: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have a hearing on Monday with Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson, so we'll have an opportunity to at least ask questions in this area. I'm very concerned about what military operations we're doing, particularly where Congress has not authorized the use of our military. There are legitimate questions as to what our military goal is all about. We want to eliminate ISIS anywhere they may be anywhere in the world. That's a threat against the United States. That's a threat against global security. But we want to make sure we don't use that as justification to have military presence where it's not helpful.
Then there should be congressional authorization. The authorization the administration is using is outdated and they should come to Congress and the American people and be specific as to how our military needs to be used.
CABRERA: You're talking about the authorization to use military force, shorthand, AUMF. Will we see a new bill?
CARDIN: I think it's a little early to tell, but I think Congress has a responsibility --
CABRERA: Do you want to see a bill?
CARDIN: Oh, yes. I don't believe the current authorization that's being used by this administration, and the previous administration, covers circumstances like Niger, circumstances like what we're doing in Syria. We should have a specific authorization from Congress as to what force is permissible in fighting ISIS.
CABRERA: Do you support more boots on the ground there?
CARDIN: No, I do not. I don't think we win the war against ISIS with boots on the ground. What we do is support the local military because you don't want this to be a campaign against the United States. This is to liberate countries and they need to do that with their own resources with the help of the United States.
CABRERA: I also want to ask quickly about the Iran deal, because I know you and Senator Corker, my understanding have been at least in discussions about how to move forward, perhaps in a bipartisan way, now the ball is in your court to take another look at the Iran nuclear deal. You were not a fan of it when it was passed initially when it came to fruition. Where do those negotiations stand?
CARDIN: I think we have a general understanding that Congress will not take any steps that would put the United States on the path to violate the nuclear agreement. As long as Iran is complying with it we want to make sure we rigorously enforce the agreement, go after Iran on the nonnuclear violations Congress has passed, enhance sanctions, see the administration rigorously work with our allies to impose sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile violations, support of terrorism, human rights violations.
CABRERA: Is there any way to do that without blowing up the original deal?
CARDIN: Absolutely. The original deal deals only with the nuclear requirements, does not deal with the nonnuclear. It is perfectly acceptable. And we can work with our European partners, that's what we want to do, to make it clear to Iran if they continue to support terrorism we will continue to impose sanctions.
CABRERA: You're thinking of doing something outside that original deal, keeping that intact but doing an add-on?
CARDIN: We've done that. We've actually already passed additional sanctions.
CARDIN: That I think is a little bit easier situation for us to deal with, with our European allies. There are gaps in the nuclear agreement that relate to what happens after the termination dates. That's going to be up to the parties to negotiate. Congress can't negotiate that.
CABRERA: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you very much for providing some clarity and some instruction for us. Thank you very much.
CARDIN: Thank you.
[11:49:09] CABRERA: The governor of Puerto Rico is now threatening there will be hell to pay there as two new investigations begin into that big money government deal to restore power which landed in the lap of a company with just two people on the payroll. Stay with us. We'll discuss.
CABRERA: Right now, President Trump is meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the White House. This, as Congress and the Department of Homeland Security reveal a deal with a power company from his hometown awarded a $300 million contract to restore power in parts of Puerto Rico.
Here's Puerto Rico's governor just this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR: Certain questions have arisen from this contract, so it is my job as governor to make sure there was clarity and all of the process was executed appropriately.
If there is wrong-doing, you know, in this process or any process, there will be hell to pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Martin Savidge is in San Juan.
Martin, tell us about the two new inquiries involving the power company, White Fish, and how they got the contract.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a couple of them. A lot of people are looking at this contract. White Fish has become white hot in Puerto Rico for obvious reasons. How did a tiny company get such a big contract and was there some undue influence in the process of them winning that bid?
So the governor is feeling the heat as well. He put in a request to the Department of Homeland Security, the parent company of FEMA, to review the contract. That's under way. And he hopes to get an answer by next week. He also asked his Office of Management and Budget to look into that and he wants to hear an answer by the end of the day. We were just told they expect to get some review by the end of the day today. There will be a news conference when they do. It's a big deal.
[11:55:28] CABRERA: Martin Savidge, we know you will be following it. We will be checking back in. Thank you.
CABRERA: President Trump's latest controversial move in the Russia investigation. The White House says he used the proper channel. One Democrats say it's a troubling pattern.