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CNN NEWSROOM

Comey Confirms FBI Looking at Trump-Russia Links; North Korean Threat; Electronics Banned from Cabin on Some Flights to the U.S.; Fiery French President Debate. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 21, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:09] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI director reveals an investigation into links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and denied any evidence of Trump's wiretapping claim.

VAUSE: New security restrictions on some flights to the U.S. including a ban on most electronic devices in the airplane cabin.

SESAY: And accusations of lying and fear-mongering fly during a fiery debate among France's top presidential candidates.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody -- great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The news from FBI director James Comey confirming his agency is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. But from Donald Trump -- nothing.

VAUSE: At least in the past couple of hours, Mr. Trump has been in pure campaign mode in Louisville, Kentucky mainly pitching health care reform. He made no mention of the FBI director's blunt testimony on Monday, not just about the Russia investigation but also dismissing Trump's campaign -- claim, rather, that his campaign was wiretapped on the order of former President Barack Obama.

Here's what Comey said to the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION DIRECTOR: with respect to the President's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining us here now in Los Angeles talk radio host Mo Kelly and CNN political commentator and Trump supporter John Phillips. Also live in Colorado, CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, also a former CIA operative.

Ok. John -- first to you. Today seemed as though, you know, the wiretapping issue became a bit of a sidebar on all of this. The real headline was the investigation --

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

VAUSE: -- into the Russian meddling and possible connection with the Trump campaign. Looking back at past FBI investigations into previous White Houses, it seems as you go all the way back to Watergate, before you get an investigation which could potentially have similar consequences to this one.

Is that a fair statement?

PHILLIPS: Well, I've been watching the coverage all day and people have been saying this has been the worst day of Trump's administration since taking the oath of office.

I think this is a great day for Donald Trump because the Democrats and the media are going full-on Jonestown with this. They're putting all of their chips on a conspiracy theory and you've seen people in the know, people who have been privy to this information already starting to back off.

Over the weekend, and I want to make sure to get this right, Michael Morell who was the former head of the CIA under the Obama administration was asked about it at a conference in Washington and he said there's no campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark and there's a lot of people looking for it.

James Clapper said the same thing on "Meet the Press" a couple of weeks earlier. He was in government as recently as a few weeks ago. There is nothing there. And they're doubling down and tripling down and I think that Trump is going to walk away from this unscathed.

I just hope that whenever they do their big reveal, Rachel Maddow is the one that makes the final statement considering her audience is already pre-disposed for huge disappointment.

VAUSE: They could take a while, yes.

SESAY: Mo -- I think you actually pulled something on that --

(CROSSTALK)

MO KELLY, RADIO HOST: Yes. With respect -- that was a very generous read because we did have FBI director James Comey acknowledge that there has been an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign/presidency since July.

What does that tell you? The investigation has not been completed. They have not come to any conclusion. So there might be something there. But they're at the point where they can say that there's nothing there.

I think it's pretty -- too soon for the Democrats to celebrate but it's definitely too soon for the Trump administration to dismiss as it being nothing at all.

VAUSE: Well, during his testimony, the FBI director said the Russians didn't really try to hide what they were doing. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Why do you think that they did not mind being loud and being found out?

COMEY: I don't know the answer for sure. I think part, their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation. And so it might be that they wanted us to help them by telling people what they were doing. Their loudness in a way would be counting on us to amplify by telling the American people what we saw and freaking people out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:05:04] VAUSE: Bob, first of all, what does Comey mean when he say, you know, the Russians were being loud and, you know, do you accept that explanation? Do you think that explanation from the FBI director is plausible?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John -- I don't know if it's plausible but he's saying is that the Russians didn't try to hide their hand on this. It's pretty clear. If you look at the metadata, you look at the code and the rest of it, the fact they used Guccifer 2.0

The Russians put us under attack. Now, why they did it -- was it because of our opposition to the Crimea, our interfering in the Ukraine according to their version. It doesn't really matter.

But what concerned about Comey's comments was he says we're going to get attacked again unless we do something about Russia. And I -- you know, we're being diverted by the politics of this. The fact is that we were under attack this last election. And so far we've done nothing about it except argue.

SESAY: John -- to bring in here. You mentioned Democrats and their feelings, you know, running high after Monday's revelations on Capitol Hill. They are also enraged -- they are enraged, I should say rather -- by the revelation that the FBI probed into these possible ties. It began all the way back in July before the election. They did not disclose that, unlike their actions when it came to Hillary Clinton and the e-mail arrangements.

Are they right to see a double standard here?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think that what we've seen is that James Comey is an inherently political figure. And he's someone that can be manipulated by the press. He could be manipulated by politicians. That clearly happened throughout the duration of the campaign.

And my advice to Trump would be to stop fighting with him and just manipulate him like everyone else.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, Republicans for their part during this hearing they didn't want to focus on the meddling but rather they wanted to know who leaked the information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Would you not agree that surveillance programs that are critical, indispensable, vital to our national security some of which are up for reauthorization this fall save American lives and prevent terrorist attacks, also rises to the level of important.

COMEY: I think those programs are vital and leaks of information collected pursuant to court order under those programs are terrible. And as I said in my opening statement should be taken very, very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Mo -- questions about leaks are, of course, important. But you know, to follow up on what Bob said, Republicans are focused on leaks but the Democrats are focused on the politics and the Trump campaign and its links to Russia. And as, you know, Bob pointed out, there is possibly another or I believe that he said the Russians could try this again in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential elections. Did both sides have a swing and a miss?

KELLY: I believe that nobody wanted, including the American people. If we take a step back, I thought America was embarrassed as far as our democracy, how fragile it is, how we are bickering and infighting.

But there's something else which is very important. We made a lot about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. But if the Trump campaign just merely was complicit, knew what was going on and we remember that candidate Trump was asking for Russia to go ahead and hack the DNC for more information.

And to be complicit, I would say, is collusion of another kind because you're not acting in the best interest of America. That's a larger point which we don't hear enough about.

PHILLIPS: Do you see how the goal posts are changing? All we heard about is collusion. And by the way, there have been countless pieces written in left-wing publications like "Rolling Stone", "The Intercept", other places where they're saying the Democrats have over- promised on this and they're playing to the crowd and their base is going to be furious when there's no silver bullet, there's no proof of collusion.

Roger Stone has been saying for weeks and weeks and weeks, he's been accused of being one of the Russian agents. Where's the beef? Put it out there.

I'd also add that none of this testimony could have occurred if the DOJ didn't sign off on it. Jeff Sessions allowed this to happen. Do you think for one minute that Jeff Sessions could have allowed this happen?

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Sessions has recused himself. It was actually the deputy attorney.

PHILLIPS: It was the Department of Justice that allowed this to happen.

VAUSE: Technically irrelevant.

SESAY: Your point being?

PHILLIPS: Going all the way to the White House. I think this benefits Trump. I think having Trump allow this to happen where they doubled down on this conspiracy theory is good for him because it discredits his critics.

SESAY: I find it interesting though that you're in a situation where you're pointing to a lack of evidence being shown and goal posts being moved because we have heard that from the Republicans for weeks on end especially in relation to the wiretapping claim.

PHILLIPS: Well, if there's collusion, where's the evidence?

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: This is ongoing.

SESAY: This is not over.

KELLY: And I would say we could go right back to Hillary Clinton. I mean you say that the Democrats are overplaying their hand. Well I thought the Republicans overplayed their hand in reference to the e- mail gate. The only difference was James Comey came out a couple of weeks before the election even though they were simultaneous, unrelated but simultaneous investigations.

PHILLIPS: You know what? What we're seeing right now from James Clapper, what we're seeing from Morell is huge, big time CYA. And not just typical CYA; it's CYA with Bill Cosby in the elevator.

VAUSE: Covering your --

(CROSSTALK) [00:10:05] SESAY: Please, please.

VAUSE: Ok. Through the hearing, the White House weighed in, you know, with a number of tweets. And they're coming from the official POTUS account including this one. "The NSA and FBI tell congress that Russia did not influence electoral process which Comey then knocked down during the hearing."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: We offer no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it's never something that we looked at.

REP. JIM HIMES, (D), CONNECTICUT: Ok. So it's not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right.

COMEY: It wasn't -- it certainly wasn't our intention to say that today because we don't have any information on that subject.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Bob to you -- what's the reality from the intelligence community as far as, you know, Russian motives here and what they're trying to do and the effect, the outcome?

BAER: Well, I think -- I mean it's clear. I mean all 17 intelligence agencies agree that the Russians interfered in the elections. Now whether it was to get Trump elected, whether it was to undermine our confidence in Democracy, I don't think we'll ever know that.

But I think we should go back to the -- you know, the fact is we have to go back to Flynn's call to the Russian ambassador. There was collusion. The man was on the Russian payroll, RT is an arm of the Kremlin. Russian intelligence runs it. And he called up the Russian ambassador and said don't pay any attention to expelling these Russian diplomats. We're going to take care of this.

And whoever leaked that -- and this was a crime, leaking that -- he put his name on it on the top secret document -- no doubt about it. And it's a leak that should be looked into. But wanting to prove that there was some sort of collusion, it doesn't mean Trump was behind at all, or the Trump campaign.

But Flynn made a very big mistake and whoever -- again I say this with bare (ph) confidence -- wanted it out there. And here's part of the evidence.

The question is, are there more intercepts like that. Are there more witnesses? What are people saying to the FBI? We simply don't know at this point. And this is going to be a drip, drip. It's going to go on for a long time. And anybody who says this should not be investigated is, you know, is bordering on treason.

The fact is we were attacked by Russia and we need to investigate it right to the end.

PHILLIPS: That's just not true. It's not true that there is collusion between Michael Flynn and the Russians. You do not know that to be true. That is the exact opposite of what James Clapper said --

BAER: No, come on. Who takes Russian intelligence money -- come on? Be serious. That is

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: He worked for Russia Television. So did Larry King. Does that mean that Larry King is working for the Kremlin, too?

(CROSSTALK)

BAER: Larry King was not a general -- come on. Come on.

PHILLIPS: Oh, please. What you're saying is directly opposed to what James Clapper said.

(CROSSTALK)

BAER: I had intelligence clearance for years --

PHILLIPS: Do you know more than James Clapper? James Clapper was the guy who was in charge up until several weeks ago. Do you think that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

BAER: He took Russian money, end of story. End of story -- he took Russian money.

PHILLIPS: No, no, no, no, no.

BAER: You don't do that as a general.

PHILLIPS: You have just -- you have just issued a charge that is a very specific legal charge. And you said that people who stay at the opposite side have committed some sort of act of treason.

That's appalling.

KELLY: But he did say at the minimum it needed to be investigated. If you take the money, whether you have good intentions or not, that is worthy of further investigation.

SESAY: -- which is what they're doing now.

VAUSE: Very quickly. Just to remind you the tweet from Kellyanne Conway from last October. "Most honest people I know are not under FBI investigation, let alone two."

With that -- we'll leave it.

SESAY: Gentlemen -- appreciate it.

VAUSE: Mo and John and Bob Baer -- thanks for being with us.

SESAY: All right. Now shifting gears.

North Korea appears to be advancing its capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The U.N.'s top nuclear inspector tells the "Wall Street Journal", the North has doubled the size of the facility it apparently uses to enrich uranium.

VAUSE: He says the regime is also making progress in the production of plutonium and a diplomatic solution seemed unlikely.

SESAY: Our own Will Ripley joins us now from Beijing with more on all of this.

Will -- what does the intelligence community's sense of the rate of progress North Korea is making when it comes to its nuclear program?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're very alarmed.

You mentioned the fact that North Korea is expanding its ability to produce the components of nuclear weapons -- plutonium and uranium. Their Yongbyon nuclear reactor -- their nuclear enrichment facility had doubled in size according to some satellite imagery that is out.

Additionally they tested that new rocket engine over the weekend that CNN has learned from the State Department. Analysts believe it could be placed in an ICBM -- an intercontinental ballistic missile. And of course, North Korea has already claimed that they can miniaturize a nuclear warhead placed on one of those ICBMs and then launch it towards the mainland United States. There could be an ICBM test imminent so a very volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula.

[00:15:00] And you can tell that it's on President Trump's mind. He tweeted about it. He spoke about it on Air Force One and he even mentioned it at a rally on Monday in Louisville, Kentucky. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea -- North Korea. I'll tell you what. What's happening there is disgraceful and not smart, not smart at all. So many different problems --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIPLEY: But Isha -- what we still don't have from the Trump administration are specifics about how they're going to address this issue.

SESAY: We did hear Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State say during his tour of Asia that, you know, at least the idea of a preemptive strike on North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program.

How feasible would that be, first of all? And of course, the question would naturally follow what kind of fallout we'd be looking at?

RIPLEY: Well, a preemptive strike would lead to an incredibly destabilizing situation on the Korean Peninsula because North Korea would consider that an act of war. And we know that they have, not only missiles on the ready, solid fuel missiles that could be rolled out and fired on short notice. But they also have a significant amount of artillery a very short distance from Seoul with more than 20 million people in the metropolitan area.

That seems unlikely. Also unlikely though is a diplomatic solution in which North Korea would voluntarily give up its nuclear program. I visited the country ten times. I was there just about a month ago and I have been told repeatedly by officials there they absolutely will not walk away from their nuclear program.

They believe it is their key to survival as a society; certainly the key for the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's regime to survive. They feel they will not be invaded if they're in possession of these weapons which leads you to the possibility that nobody is really talking about.

And what North Korea wants is to be acknowledged as a nuclear weapon state to have a more open economic relationship with the rest of the world so that they're not encouraged to sell this technology, these missiles and nuclear warheads to other rogue states. And we know that that continues to be a significant source of revenue for the North Koreans.

But what we're hearing out of Washington is that they're considering even more sanctions to further economically isolate the North Koreans. But we've seen Isha -- sanctions haven't slowed down their progress.

SESAY: No it certainly has not.

Our Will Ripley joining us there from Beijing. Will -- appreciate it. Thank you.

VAUSE: Ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-Hye is being questioned over the corruption scandal which led to her impeachment. She apologized as she entered the prosecutor's office adding that she will fully cooperate.

Park could actually face charges. Even though she has denied any wrongdoing, this is the first time she has met with prosecutors since losing the presidency and her immunity. An election to find a replacement is scheduled for May 9.

SESAY: Time for a quick break now.

Coming up, the top five contenders in France's presidential election go head to head in their first televised debate. And they do not hold back.

[00:18:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, the top five contenders for the French presidency faced- off in their first televised debate on Monday. And it was a long debate. They sparred over trade, immigration and France's future in the European Union. Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen has called for dropping the Euro.

SESAY: Well, her rivals say that will result in economic catastrophe. Opinion polls show former economy minister Emmanuel Macron and Le Pen increasing their leads. Macron wants tax and spending cuts. He says it's time for a new vision for France.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): The project that I have in mind is a project of deep democratic change with new faces, new practices. It's a project which has faith in its country, in its energy. It's a fair project, an efficient project, a hopeful project.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Dominic Thomas is with us now. He chairs the department of French and Francophone studies at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Dominic -- welcome back.

SESAY: Dominic -- good to have you with us.

VAUSE: Good to have you with us here.

SESAY: Thank you for the biscuits.

VAUSE: Ok. You're going to eat them all.

The general consensus seems to be after this debate that Macron, the Independent centrist -- he has the most to lose going into the debate and maybe he's the one that came out looking the best afterwards. Is that how it seemed?

DOMINIC THOMAS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES: Well, the thing about the debate is so incredible. It's not just the first time these candidates got together. It's the first time in the history of France that there has been a televised debate bringing together the leading candidates in the first round.

The fact that this took place and the fact that Marine Le Pen was there sitting t the table, it's also extraordinary because since they've started doing these in 1974, her father was the only one to make it through to the second round in 2002. And then President Jacques Chirac, that was the candidate, refused to debate with him.

So the fact that Le Pen was at the table is an incredibly important moment because it really sort of heralds the sort of the introduction of her party as an official party --

VAUSE: Mainstreaming --

THOMAS: Right. It's the mainstreaming of the party at a time when the mainstream parties of the right and the left look like they were also for the first in the fifth republic make it through to the second round.

So right. In this particular debate, you've got these five candidates going of. And the interesting thing is that four of them believe that Marine Le Pen will be in the second round and four of them believe they can beat her in the second round.

So sort of the interaction between these candidates are sort of focused on beating up on her and her particular policies but there's also all kinds of infighting going on between these particular candidates.

SESAY: And to that point, let's talk a little bit about the optics as you talk about the engagement between them. Much has been made in the reviews of this debate of Marine Le Pen's composure and the way she conducted herself. On the question of what is presidential, how much does that kind of stuff -- the optic -- how much does it matter in France?

THOMAS: Yes. Well, it's televised so it does. Since 1974 they've been doing these kinds of debates in the second round, the optics are also very important. The interesting thing about this is that candidate who is the most subdued Francois Fillon who is trying to be the most presidential. And yet of the five, he's probably with Melenchon of the far left the least likely to now make it through because his sort of presentation and so on is probably the least appealing.

What you have here is Le Pen and of course, around her sort of policies and brashness and the way in which she attacks candidates is a little bit off-putting. But it's really Macron, the young candidate here, you know, under 40 years old, running in this sort of central position that I think is defining the kind of the energy around that particular question, particularly since the left candidate Hamon really underperformed on the stage.

VAUSE: Ok. At one point Marine Le Pen was talking about not just cracking down on illegal immigration but also stopping legal immigration as well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I want to put an end to immigration, that's clear. And I completely stand by what I'm saying. I want to put an end to legal and illegal immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Macron turned and he then accused Le Pen of trying to divide France.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MACRON: The trap into which you are falling Madame Le Pen by your provocations is to divide society. Meaning that more than four million French women and French men whose religion is Islam and are not through a divided society but to live in our republic. You're making them an enemy of the republic. Well, I say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: There's also talk about, you know, banning religious symbols as well but, you know, to the issue of immigration and religion, is that sort of what is essentially at the heart of this election right now.

[00:25:04] THOMAS: Look, these are really important issues. When Marine Le Pen is talking about this same-old, same-old -- everybody knows as they did with Wilders in the Dutch elections and so on that Islam and immigration are her points (ph). It appeals to her base. But her base isn't interested in just those issues. But it does mean when she talks about these particular issues that the other candidates have to respond.

So the question of immigration, national identity, the terror attacks are, of course, shaping this debate. And they are key issues, you know, in this particular engagement.

But there are other issues that have come up of course. You know, around sort of taxation, corruption and so on. The interesting thing really about it is that this sort of void has been created between Fillon on the right who's embroiled in these corruption scandals and the left that has to remain accountable for the Hollande presidency has therefore left this huge gap which only Macron so far has been able to fill.

SESAY: Yes. So much to discuss again in the next hour because I really want to get to the question of what does he stand for. There's some question as to what exactly Macron is all about. But we'll keep it on our go-around.

THOMAS: Right. Ok. I look forward to that.

VAUSE: Dominic -- good to see you. Thank you very much.

And we'll take another short break. When we come back we'll head off to Moscow for the reaction there after America's FBI chief confirmed an investigation into allegations that the Kremlin interfered in U.S. politics and maybe colluded with the Trump campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: And welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

[00:29:58] FBI director James Comey says he has no information for Donald Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower.

Comey also revealed for the first time the FBI is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. VAUSE: The top five candidates in France's presidential election faced off in the third televised debate. They started an immigration trade in France's future in the European Union.

Also, a former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is pretty much likely to survive the election's first round in April.

SESAY: British Prime Minister Theresa May will clearly begin the Brexit process in March 29th. Nine months after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. It could take up to six weeks for the EU to hammer up its negotiating position before any talks begin.

VAUSE: At least 72 people had been killed by severe flooding and mud slides in Peru. Over half a million people around the capital Lima had been affected. The country's rainy season has been one of the worst in decade that would lasts three more weeks.

Well, James Comey is warning lawmakers its investigation of possible ties between Russia and President Trump's campaign could take months.

SESAY: Well, the FBI chief told the House Intelligence Committee, his agency has been investigating since July. He insists that Vladimir Putin did not just want Hillary Clinton to lose the election, Russia's president wanted Mr. Trump to win.

VAUSE: Clare Sebastian joins us now, live, from Moscow with more on this.

So, Clare, you know, Comey basically didn't just say that this investigation was going to take months, but also that the Russians actually could try again, maybe in the 2018 midterms or the 2020 presidential election as there being any reaction there from Moscow.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, he's interestingly reached out to the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov while the hearing was going on to see if he had any reaction at least to the fact that the FBI now with this investigation was going on.

He said, quote, "We don't see any reason to comment."

Not surprising perhaps from the outside but this is very much in keeping with what we've seen in recent days and weeks from the Kremlin. They are staying as far away from this as possible.

They even said before the hearing that they won't going to watch it. That they have far too much of their own. And they have called this repeatedly anti-Russian hysteria that's being fed up in Washington. Now the question is why are they saying so little now.

There's a couple of reasons. One is that, you know, it's perhaps, politically, expedient for them to paint this as a sign of American weakness, of chaos in Washington while Russia remains calm and collected by comparison. But also there's a realization here in Moscow that the whole topic of Russia is becoming politically toxic for Trump. And also, it's worth saying as little as possible so as not to inflame that even further. So that is the sense that we're getting from the Kremlin, John, right now.

John, denial, dismissal of them, saying really as little as they possibly can.

VAUSE: Nothing to see here. Move on, I guess.

Clare, thank you.

Clare Sebastian, live for us in Moscow.

SESAY: Well, joining us here in L.A. is Rod Beckstrom. He is a former director of the National Cyber Security Center for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a former senior adviser to the U.S. director of national intelligence.

Rod, it is so good to have you here with us. Welcome.

Rod Beckstrom, thank you.

SESAY: We heard that Director Comey say this investigation could take months, all the while, a big dark cloud hangs over the White House.

Talk to us about the difficulty of getting to the bottom of a probe like this when we're talking foreign intelligence and dealing with Russia.

ROD BECKSTROM, FORMER CEO, ICANN: There's a lot of investigation that's got to happen here. Both at the human level. We called human intelligence and also reviewing signals intelligence and what might, what might have been gathered by DNSA or other parties around the world.

That takes time. It's tedious. It's meticulous work. It's got to be done extremely carefully given the magnitude of this issue here which is a presidential campaign that is under review.

VAUSE: The economy was pretty clear about the motives for the Russian with the election. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: They wanted to hurt our democracy. Hurt her. Help him. Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference to the person running against he hated so much.

As the summer went on and polls appeared to show that Secretary Clinton was going to win, the Russians sort of gave up and simply focus on trying to undermine her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, I guess at least in this point you'd say mission accomplish for Vladimir Putin. You know, is he now sort of a real player on the world state now because of this.

BECKSTROM: One thing I would say is, first, I think Americans are the biggest winners today. Even though it's a very hot, you know, controversial battle. The reality is the constitution is being respected and a legislative branch is putting checks and balances on the executive branch and even within the executive branch, you've got checks and balances going on.

With people who report down underneath the president, actually doing their jobs and respecting the constitution.

BECKSTROM: So I think America is the biggest winner but I think Russia is the second biggest winner, because for Vladimir Putin, he's the middle of the dialogue discussion no matter which way this goes.

And I think, you know, Russia is still grieving the lost of their empire or the Soviet Union. And so they want to be seen on the world stage, because the economies of U.S. and China are charging forward. And I think in many ways, there's a psychic loss in Russia. So I think they are probably enjoying being part of this debate no matter where it goes.

[00:35:00] SESAY: Where does it go next from Russia. I've got to ask you that, because I mean, obviously from Russia's point of view, their long hope for rapprochement with the U.S., that seems far off the distance now especially with this probe.

So what's Putin's next move?

BECKSTROM: Yes. My sense is that a chilling period for Russia to pull back and watch, being arcane that they are part of the discussion. But they can't really take a movement, either direction. They can't either work too closely with the administration, nor pull away and obviously this investigation has got lies of its own and they've got to watch that with curiosity or possibly some fear depending upon what activities took place.

SESAY: More hacking?

BECKSTROM: The hacking goes on every single day. So definitely more hacking.

VAUSE: To your point about, you know, the constitution and the United States is the winner in all of this. The FBI director was pretty clear not just about the law but also about the limitations on the power of the president when it comes to wiretapping.

BECKSTROM: Yes.

VAUSE: Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone. It has to go through an application process, ask a judge, the judge can then make the order. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So President Obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone.

COMEY: No president could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So on the positive side of the ledger, at least there now seems to be at least more of an understanding, or at least more publicity on how the entire process works, right?

BECKSTROM: Yes, absolutely. In fact, one of the interesting things today was the unmasking of the mask. Unmasking process itself. So we heard the NSA director Admiral Rogers speaking at length about the 20 people that have to approve the linking of the names.

VAUSE: This is where Michael Flynn, who was caught up in surveillance of a foreign national, in this case the Russian ambassador. Normally, they would be protected.

BECKSTROM: Exactly.

VAUSE: So the discussions a day have unveiled more and more of the internal operations of the FBI and the NSA, which is a big change for American politics. I think good for the long term, overall for the country, also puts a lot of pressure in the short term upon these individuals trying to make these decisions on what to share and not to share on what have been largely classified activities.

SESAY: Yes. We also heard on Monday the confirmation and he already come a few days earlier that Obama administration did not use the British intelligence to spy, to eavesdrop on President Obama. Again, going forward, you've got to wonder about the ramifications for the relation as well.

BECKSTROM: Yes, and that's a sensitive one there I tell you, because certainly it's not legally allowed, but I mean, come on, the working relationship between certain intelligence organization is so close that you can't rely in all possibility. You know, it's not legal.

I also want to mention, Comey is right. No American person can order that wiretapping but what did Richard Nixon did? Richard Nixon did exactly that and he was prosecuted, or rather he ended up resigning.

VAUSE: Was he put it in place after Nixon.

BECKSTROM: I'm not the legal expert on exactly when these things got develop. But I -- certainly, he did not have the authorization to wiretap into an opponent's campaign --

SESAY: Your point of being, it's not about legality. If things --

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

OK. Rod, thanks so much.

SESAY: Thank you so much.

BECKSTROM: Thank you.

SESAY: All right. Time for a quick break. Nearly all personal electronic device is banned on direct flights from more than a dozen airlines. Just ahead, the security concern behind this alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, a new U.S. government ban will keep laptops, iPads and most other electronic devices out of the cabin on some non-stop flights.

SESAY: CNN's Rene Marsh tells us about the possible threat that has officials concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (on- camera): A U.S. official tells me the Trump administration is getting ready to announce new security restrictions for passengers on direct flights to the United States from specific countries. This is all due to security concerns. Almost all electronic devices will be banned in the cabins on board flights from certain overseas airports including those in the Middle East and Africa. Passengers will now have to put electronics in check luggage.

My colleague Barbara Starr is also reporting another U.S. official saying that the ban on some of these electronics is believed to be related to al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. The intelligence community has been tracking this threat for some time but the officials said some of the information from a recent U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen contributed to the ongoing concern.

AQAP as you know has had an active effort to build bombs with little or not metal content, targeting commercial aircraft. We should point out Royal Jordanian Airlines based them on Jordan tweeted on Monday that it will ban most electronics from the cabins on its flight, to and from its North American destinations starting on Tuesday. That's where we first heard the news. That particular airline services New York's JFK, Chicago's O'Hare airport as well as Montreal and Detroit.

Now U.S. official does tell me this. In fact, roughly a dozen or so international airlines with direct flights to the United States, U.S. carriers, though, are not impacted. The Department of Homeland Security only put out a statement so far saying that they have no comment on potential security precautions.

Reporting from Washington, Rene Marsh, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next and then we'll be back at the top of the hour with a lot more news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.

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(WORLD SPORT)