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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sources: New Terrorist Laptop Bombs May Evade Security; Schiff Reviews Controversial Intelligence at White House; Sources: No Indication FBI Will Grant Flynn Immunity. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 31, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin tonight with a CNN exclusive on the intelligence behind the recent ban on laptops and other electronics on the cabins of certain flights into the country. We are learning about a new generation of terrorist bombs and some chilling methods the bombmakers are using, including testing them out on real airport security scanners until the scanners can no longer detect them.
Our Evan Perez and Barbara Starr did the reporting on this. They join us now.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that FBI testing shows can evade some commonly used airport screening machines.
Now, terror bomb makers have come up with a way to hide explosives in the battery compartments, but still have the laptop turn on long enough to get past the screeners. In December, FBI experts reported that tested variants of laptop bombs using different battery and explosive configurations to assess how difficult it would be for airport screeners to detect them. Now, using a TSA rated machines, the testers found that the machines had a far more difficult time detecting these types of new bombs, Anderson.
COOPER: And, Barbara, there's new information about how terrorists are perfecting their skills.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There's a number of things gong on here tonight, Anderson. There is information that these terror groups have been able to gain some access to airport screening equipment. What does that do for them? It allows them to basically test a device that they fabricate and see how far they can go to get it past airport screening.
Now, this was part, part, of what led to the ban of several weeks ago of carrying consumer electronics like laptops or tablets onto passenger compartments in airplanes because of the concern about this kind of capability, but that wasn't all of it. It wasn't just ISIS. There has been monitoring of increased chatter of threats against aviation from ISIS, from al Qaeda in Syria, and in particular also from al Qaeda in Yemen, which has a long, long history of being able to do this. It's raising a lot of questions about where the threat goes from here and how the federal government responds.
Will they need to do more? Anderson?
COOPER: And, Evan, the TSA, they limited the ban to direct flights from specific countries. With this new information, why doesn't the government have a wider laptop ban?
PEREZ: Right. That's a great question, Anderson.
The explanation that was given when the ban was introduced a couple of weeks was that the U.S. and Europeans have layered security that greatly improves the chances of detecting explosives beyond just the screening equipment. Now, the Homeland Security Department sent us a statement that said the U.S. government continually reassesses existing intelligence and collects new intelligence. This allows DHS and the TSA to constantly evaluate our aviation security processes and policies to make enhancements when they are deemed necessary to keep passengers safe.
As always, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of security both seen and unseen. Anderson, the bottom line, they say is that there's a lot we don't know they're doing behind the scenes that keep aircraft safe.
COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, Barbara Starr, appreciate the information.
I want to bring in our panel of security experts: Paul Cruickshank, Juliette Kayyem, Phil Mudd, and CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.
Juliet, what's your reaction to all of this? Because you and I were just talking about the laptop ban a couple of weeks ago on the program, and there were still a lot of unanswered questions then. It's clearly -- I mean, it seems like intelligence was a significant part of why the ban was put in place.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right and quite specific intelligence that not only were terrorist groups trying to manipulate or find the loopholes in a system of review, but they had actually possibly taken equipment to test it. In some ways this shouldn't be a surprise. For every defensive move that the United States makes, the terrorists try to work around it and try new things.
And the challenge as we're seeing and you just saw basically in that TSA statement is that domestically in the United States, 2 million people are flying a year. There's over 100,000 flights a day globally. The size of our aviation network is so huge that the more security you put on it, the slower it will get and essentially stop, you know, a huge commercial activity. And so, the laptop ban, which may have its flaws, it seems in response to this, but it does beg a bigger question, which is if this is a vulnerability, why wouldn't you either prohibit all laptops or have better screening processes?
COOPER: Paul, the idea that al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, ISIS, now have all this capability, what does that tell you? I mean, is it possible they're sharing intelligence. Does it make sense to you that they would all have it?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there is intelligence that al Qaeda in Yemen has been sharing this with other al Qaeda affiliates in Syria, possibly also in Somalia.
[20:05:08] You remember, in the summer of 2014, there was a plot stream from the Khorasan Group. That was electronics, smuggling them onto a plane, and that led to sort of new security requirements that oversees airports, including having to power up your device.
Well, now they're looking to develop devices where you don't need to power up. You can hide in the DVD drive some explosives. We understand that's what happened in that case in February 2016, that Somali airline bomb attempt.
But we're also finding out this evening, this comes from our colleague Robyn Kriel, is that this device was put on an X-ray belt in Mogadishu airport by two airport insiders and actually got through the x-ray machine and then almost blew that plane out of the sky. Well, the investigators actually went back to that x-ray machine. They reviewed the scanned image, and on that review of the saved scanned image, they were able to determine the possibility of explosives.
So, even with an x-ray machine, which is the least effective at detecting these kinds of explosives, that should have been caught in Mogadishu. But with some of this more advanced technology, explosive trace detections, the swab tests at the airport, those, Anderson, are very good indeed at detecting all manner of explosive threats, including explosives concealed in the electronics of a laptop. That technology is in place in Europe, in the United States, and also some other parts of the world, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
If that is used when you go through the gate, you should not be able to get any kind of these explosive devices through. The worry is, there could be some poor training, people maybe sort of being lazy, and it's not used in every case when you go through that gate.
COOPER: Yes. And, Phil, how concerned are you that according to this intelligence, some terrorists have obtained actual airport security equipment to test how effective -- how to conceal these kinds of explosives?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Anderson, in 2009, we saw an attempt over Detroit to have the underwear bomber, someone who had a bomb device designed by a bomb maker to get around security. That same bomb maker is still around. If you're in the counterterrorism business, you can create defensive measures. I'm suspicious of them. You can't train everybody perfectly. You can create defensive measures, but they won't work long term.
There's only two things you can do on the offensive side. Number one -- let me be brutal -- there are very few bomb makers who have the sophistication to do this, in Yemen, in Iraq, and Syria, you've got to kill them. And second, long term, you have to have a solution to eliminate space, to eliminate the geographic space for ISIS and al Qaeda in places like Yemen to have the time and energy over two years, three years, five years to design these kind of devices. You have to kill the people who do this, and you've got to eliminate the space for the terrorist groups to create the expertise to this, otherwise, defense doesn't work long term.
COOPER: Richard, I mean, the idea of, you know, outright banning all laptops from planes, I mean, that seems impossible. I mean, people -- you know, people are traveling for work, even putting it in the cargo hold is one thing, but the idea of not letting any laptops on planes, I mean, that just seems completely impractical.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: So, you have to look at the various ways in which you can me mitigate this risk and what our other guests and contributors have said really shows the enormity literally of the problem. On one hand, how do you keep planes flying safely without gumming up the whole system so that people -- it takes you hours longer to get from A to B?
And it really is multilayered. It's not just the machines, and it's not just the staff. It's the intelligence. It's the whole panoply of security that ensures the security and safety, because otherwise, Anderson, you're right. We're going to head to a situation where liquids and gels won't be allowed on board, where laptops won't be allowed on board.
We saw the chaos that happened years ago when people were not allowed on board with hand baggage at all. Now, we do not want to head bag to those situations. So, it really is identifying those airports where there are security worries. And even then, you've got to go further, Anderson, because remember, the lists of airports are not the same. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha appear on the U.S. list, but not the U.K. list. And none of the airports on either list are, for example, concerned with Paris, Frankfurt, or Rome.
So, you really have got a hodgepodge of rules, understanding, and yes, we are heading towards, frankly, somewhat of a security mess where eventually something's going to get through. That's the worry.
[20:10:01] Because as I always say in these situations, remember what the IRA said during the Brighton bomb, you have to be lucky every time. We only have to be lucky once.
COOPER: Yes. Thank you all. Appreciate it. Concerning news.
Coming up next, breaking news, what and who the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee saw today at the White House and what he's now just saying about it.
Also, what's the one question that made the president shut down the exactly the kind of photo op he normally loves to give. The answer when 360 continues.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight from the White House, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is speaking out about his visit here today, which included a meeting with President Trump and a look at the intelligence that the embattled committee Chairman Devin Nunes says he saw.
I want to go live to Sunlen Serfaty who's standing by.
Sunlen, what are you -- what are you reporting on?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Adam Schiff tonight, Anderson, spent about three hours on the White House complex reviewing these documents that the White House offered up. And afterwards, he did confirm that indeed the documents he saw today, the information he reviewed today, were the same information that Devin Nunes reviewed himself over a week ago.
Now, he would not speak about the contents of that information, but in a statement afterwards, he really blasted the White House, saying in part, quote, "Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review produces. And these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees. The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with, but one member of either committee only for their contents to be briefed back at the White House."
So, Schiff, there making it perfectly clear that he's unhappy with the way the White House has handled this, unhappy with the way this has all gone down, the fact that Nunes saw these documents a week ago and saying that the White House really should have shared the information with the full committee in the first place.
[20:15:06] COOPER: And how is House Intelligence Committee Nunes responding today? Did he respond to this?
SERFATY: Well, he and his staff continue to push back on these reports. Of course, first reported yesterday in "The New York Times" and confirmed today by CNN that two White House staffers were indeed involved in some way in these intelligence disclosures. His staff today issuing a very curt paper statement saying, quote, "Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his sources' identity and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources."
And later tonight, this evening, he was asked in an affiliate interview when he was out in California, his home state, about these reports and he called them in his words mostly wrong. But notably, Anderson, he did not offer any specifics or any details as to why it's wrong -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty -- Sunlen, thanks very much.
Next to the White House, quite a day there as well. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us. So, what more does Sean Spicer have to say today about Flynn?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he basically said the president believes that the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn should go ahead and testify. As you saw with the president's tweet earlier today, that he believes Michael Flynn should have immunity. He described the Russian investigation as a witch hunt.
But it was interesting to listen to the back and forth during the White House press briefing today, Anderson, because as reporters were pressing Sean Spicer on Michael Flynn and what he might have to say, I asked at one point, you know, is the White House concerned that Michael Flynn might have damaging information about the president to which Sean Spicer said no.
But what Sean Spicer was trying to argue throughout this briefing is that what is more important than these questions about Trump campaign contacts with the Russians during the election is the president's claim in those tweets that he was wiretapped by former President Obama, a claim that they've now broadened to mean overall surveillance.
And here's more of what Sean Spicer had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you more concerned about that or Russian interference in the presidential election?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think that there -- as an American citizen, I'm very concerned about the fact that people potentially were sharing information about other Americans for political purposes and using classified information to do so and leaking it. That should be concerning to everybody.
REPORTER: When the president says Mike Flynn should get immunity, is he suggesting to Congress to grant immunity?
SPICER: I think Mike Flynn and his legal counsel should do what's appropriate for Mike Flynn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, here's the problem with this request for immunity from Michael Flynn and his attorney. The FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee, Anderson, they appear to be saying at this point according to our sources that thanks, but no thanks. They're not really interested in granting immunity at this point.
COOPER: You pressed Spicer on the president's allegations in regards to the timing of this completely unsubstantiated wiretap. What was his response?
ACOSTA: Yes, it's interesting, Anderson, because at first started off as these tweets that talked about, well, I was wiretapped over at Trump Tower by President Obama. Oh my goodness, this is just like Watergate. But one detail in those tweets that really haven't focused on very much is that the president says in those tweets that these wiretapping occurred before the election. Well, during the press briefing today, Sean Spicer kept talking about surveillance that occurred perhaps during the transition period, which would have been after the election.
And so, they seem to be expanding what the president meant when he issued those tweets several weeks ago.
Here's more of that exchange between me and Sean Spicer on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The president's tweets time and again talked about "tapping my phones in October just prior to the election. Just found out Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory."
I want to get something clear about the time frame. Does the White House have any information, is it providing any information to these intelligence committees that would draw these members to the conclusion that there was some kind of surveillance going on before the election as the president originally alleged?
SPICER: So, again, I don't want to specifically get into it, but if we're splitting hairs about what day of the calendar it was, that's a pretty interesting development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So, and that exchange, Anderson, went on for about another 30 or 45 seconds, Sean Spicer and I going back and forth over Sean Spicer's belief that we're now splitting hairs because that we're trying to hold the president to the claim in his original tweets that the wiretapping occurred before the election. So, not only now, Anderson, we have a situation where the White House is saying, well, the president didn't mean wiretapping. He meant surveillance overall. Now they're saying, Anderson, that, well, we're not talking about wiretapping that occurred before election. Now we're talking about basically anytime.
So, as the days and weeks go on, Anderson, the White House keeps expanding the definition of what the president was talking about in those tweets.
COOPER: And not only that, that also by saying President Obama, you know, is the one who did this, now they're saying -- well, it doesn't mean it was President Obama, that the president didn't mean to say President Obama.
[20:20:02] He was talking about general surveillance.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: They do keep kind of expanding and moving the goalpost and switching it all around. ACOSTA: And not providing any proof.
COOPER: Right. And also -- I mean, how much time had they spent -- I mean, after the president sent out these tweets, it just seems like they have spent the weeks since then scurrying around, trying to come up with ways to explain what the president meant.
I mean, it seems like a lot of resources have been devoted to explaining three early morning tweets. I'm not including the fourth one about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
ACOSTA: Right. That's right. Not only is the White House counsel's office involved, the White House press office is involved, the national security office is involved, because obviously when Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made that mysterious trip here last week, he was aided by, from what we understand from talking to a U.S. official, a couple of national security officials.
And so, you have a very large part of the staff over here at the White House trying to unscrew essentially what was screwed up in those original tweets, which alleged wiretapping before the election. All of those things we don't have any proof for at this point even though this has been going on for sometime now.
COOPER: It's incredible. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Just ahead, we're going to get reaction to the breaking news and the all rest from our panel. A busy day in Washington. Stay tuned.
[20:25:17] COOPER: The breaking news tonight: the ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, speaking about his visit to the White House late this afternoon where he met with President Trump and saw the same documents that were shown to the committee's chairman, Devin Nunes. Congressman Schiff says nothing he saw, quote, "warranted a departure from the normal review procedure." Now, he's urging that the materials be provided to all members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Lots to discuss. Joining me is Peter Seidenberg (ph), Ryan Lizza, Kayleigh McEnany, Alice Stewart and Steve Israel.
Ryan, how significant is it that Schiff has now not only seen whatever Nunes saw, but also met with President Trump face to face?
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, loved to have been a fly on the wall of that meeting. You know, I don't think we have a whole lot of information tonight. Schiff in a statement, he obviously, as you pointed out, Anderson, he said he saw the same materials or at least they were represented to him as being the same materials. He made an argument about the process that the intelligence committee and the White House used this kind of, you know, wild process of getting this stuff out. But he didn't -- I think the most important thing is he did not make any comment whatsoever on the content of these materials. And you had some extremely serious accusations from the podium at the White House today from Sean Spicer about what these documents allegedly show. Frankly, Sean Spicer went further than even Nunes has gone, and you now have Nunes, the White House, making some pretty serious allegations about Obama officials, unmasking American citizens for political purposes, and, frankly, we still don't have any proof of that.
Even though Schiff has looked at these, he hasn't commented one way or the other about those allegations.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Congressman Israel, you saw the statement from Schiff saying nothing he saw today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures. Is there any explanation you can come up with why Chairman Nunes was shown these materials by himself last week other than what Ryan has reported that the White House and Nunes appear to be colluding on a political predicate to benefit the president?
STEVE ISRAEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that would be the explanation. You know, I spoke briefly with Congressman Schiff. He told me he's not going beyond the statement he put out, which is quite straightforward.
But if you read his statement carefully, you know, there are two important items in it. Number one, he makes it clear that it was represented to him that the materials that he was reading were the same materials that were shared with Chairman Nunes. And, number two, he asks the question, the very important question. Since this material didn't appear to be out of the ordinary, why in fact was it shared -- why did it require that Devin Nunes get in an Uber, divert to the White House, meet with two senior White House staffers, take a look at the information, then brief the president of the United States on what the staff briefed Nunes on?
This was a complete departure from the process of the committee. It raises even more questions tonight than there were yesterday, and it clearly suggests that we need an independent commission.
COOPER: Kayleigh --
COOPER: Go ahead, Ryan.
LIZZA: I was just going to say, look, we've had two weeks of charade and a PR offensive about talking about incidental collection and allegations that these documents show something earth-shattering. Nunes has now seen them. Schiff has now seen. The White House has now seen.
So, we're finally sort of getting to the bottom of whether there's any there there, but after basically two weeks of PR stunts. So, maybe by the end of next week, we'll have some actual information about this. COOPER: Kayleigh, I want to turn to General Flynn's request for
immunity. According to the president's own statements, immunity reeks of suspension when it was part of the investigation into the Clinton State Department and Flynn in fact said people usually don't ask for immunity unless they've committed a crime. That's absolutely not the case. He was wrong about that then.
He's now saying it's fine for -- the president is now saying fine for General Flynn to ask for it. How do you reconcile those things?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, when General Flynn said that, as you accurately point out, he was incorrect. Immunity is not given if you, yourself, have committed a crime. It's customary to ask for that.
But when the president referred to immunity, and almost every instance when he referred to it on the campaign trail, he made notice of the fact that multiple people within the Hillary Clinton orbit were given immunity. I think there was only one time in the clips that you played that he referred to immunity in itself. Most of the time, he was making the point, why is everyone around forgiven this?
So, in this case, we see General Flynn asking for immunity. But what you do not see is Jared Kushner asking for it and Carter Page. You don't see this huge number of people in the Trump orbit asking for it, which, to me, says if Mike Flynn is asking for it, I think it is something with respect to him either the fact that he didn't register as a foreign agent or that he violated the law and that potentially it might be exclusive to him. And I think the fact that it's just him asking, suggests that.
COOPER: Peter from a legal perspective, what incentives or disincentives would the FBI have for accepting a request for immunity from General Flynn and how do you expect this to play out?
PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, I don't think the FBI has a big incentive right now to give him immunity, the incentive would be on the part of the intel committee. They're the ones who want to find out what happened. You know, the prosecution side, the DOJ, the FBI side, they have slightly different goals than the intelligence side, the committee side.
Their goal is to the prosecutors, want to prosecute a case, they want to get a conviction, they want to find out where this leads, and make a case, the committee on the other hand, is trying to make, just find out the facts and make them available. So they're overlapping, but they're not identical. And --
COOPER: So they all don't have to be on the same page?
ZEIDENBERG: No, and they're often not. And in the past, the committee's decision, the Congress's decision to grant immunity, has made prosecution ultimately impossible, that's what --
COOPER: Right, the Oliver North Case.
ZEIDENBERG: Exactly. So, you know, there are different interests here and, you know, my guess is that perhaps sooner rather than later they'll make a decision about this and frankly, I'm hoping that they explore this immunity opportunity, you know, it's -- from my perspective, seeing general Flynn prosecuted for whatever he's done is not the highest priority. The highest priority from my perspective is to find out what's going on and to find out what the degree and extent is if any of the Russian involvement in the election.
COOPER: Peter, just from our experience, I mean, when somebody is asking for immunity, is it usually the case that it's given because that person can point them to an even bigger fish or to somebody else who has actually done something wrong? I mean if General Flynn, if the story in the words of his attorney has a story to tell, the story he told is nothing inappropriate happened, nothing illegal happened, everything I do is above board. Would there be any reason to grant him immunity, or is it usual that person, General Flynn in this case can direct them to somebody else who may have done something wrong or in fact does have a story of some sort of wrong doing to tell?
ZEIDENBERG: Yes, that's correct. So the way it would usually happen, the way it almost always happens is there will be what's called an attorney proffer. And the counsel for the person who's seeking immunity in this case General Flynn will go to the government or to the committee and say look, if you grant my client immunity, this is what he'll tell you. And he'll lay it out in great detail. And it will be a back and back and forth and then a decision will be made and by whomever is going to be granting the immunity and saying, look, this is information that's extremely valuable, this is where it could lead. And this is something that's worth doing.
And then of course they also want to vet that information to see how it fits in with the other information that's been accumulated. So that's why you couldn't be giving immunity to a witness/target like General Flynn this early in the process, you would want to find out what all the other witnesses say, look at the documents and see if this proffer that he's telling you sounds like it come ports with the other information you've already gotten.
COOPER: Yes, Alice, I want to ask you something that Ryan was pointing out today on Twitter, that General Flynn's attorney was a starter member of the Never Trump Movement, it kind of disparaging about candidate Trump went after the president on of all things alleged ties to Russia, do you think that's just a coincidence?
ALICE STEWART, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Look, I think when you're in a campaign mode, it's a completely different situation than when you're actually in governing mode and I think people are going to say and do things much differently in a campaign than they do in the situation.
I do think there is some caused for concern when you have someone that is fired from the administration, now all of a suddenly want to come forward with some information, I think from the Trump administration, there should be some calls for concern. But with regard to his request for immunity, I think the key here -- to Kayleigh's point, I don't think it so much what he has to say to the -- about the administration, I think that's to protect himself.
[20:35:01] I think clearly there are some concerns with -- whether or not you filed the proper financial disclosures to his security clearance. I think he's doing to protect himself.
STEWART: But unless he's got some information that's going to really shine the light on someone much higher than him, I don't see him getting immunity and I don't see him being able to tell his story.
COOPER: I want to thank everybody. Coming up, I'll speak with another member of the House Intelligence Committee that will Congressman Schiff saw today the same documents that were shown to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes.
COOPER: The story of Russia's meddling in the election has more and more subplots every day. One of the latest fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn wants immunity we talked about his exchange for his testimony. Another President Trump's own aides assisted the top Republican in the House Intelligence Committee in obtaining classified information and effort to bulls with the president claims that he was wiretapped.
Today that committee's top Democrat was at the White House to review documents and Representative Schiff said in a statement, "Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees." The White House is set to explain why senior White House staff have not only shared this materials with both one member of either committee only for their contents to be brief back to the White House.
[20:40:03] Joining me is another member of the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Jim Himes.
Congressman, so you have Michael Flynn offering a talked to your committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI, if he's granted immunity, the Senate has already said they -- excuse me won't do that right now, do you think the House Committee should give him immunity?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'm skeptical, look, I think you need to know two things before you grant immunity whether you're law enforcement or Congress, which of course does have the power to grant immunity against any prosecution, in those two things are, one, we need to know what that information is, you know, is it valuable? Is it in the public interest are interested to know it.
And, you know, without knowing that, it's hard to say. And the other thing we need to know of course is that that Congress granting immunity wouldn't scotch a potential law enforcement investigation. I mean I don't want to over speculate here, but one approach would be if Michael Flynn felt he was in any form of legal jeopardy for any of the activities he's undertaken in the last couple of months, he might say, hey I'll tell my whole story to the Congress, but I want them to give me immunity, because that way I know FBI or law enforcement is going to have to drop whatever case they might have.
COOPER: Right, which what happened to Oliver North. I know in the past that Flynn himself had said that anyone who have been given immunity probably committed a crime. But I mean innocent people who are speaking to federal authorities, their attorney's request immunity all the time, out of fear they say something that may be used against them. It not uncommon, right?
HIMES: Yes -- no that's right. That's one of this misconception that is out there, it's like if you played the theft and he must have something to hide and you're guilty. That's not necessarily true of course, that's a long line of things that Trump campaign and Michael Flynn said that was not true. But no just saying that he's looking for immunity is not a clear admission of guilt of any kind.
COOPER: Does, you know, now that Adam Schiff from your committee has seen the same documents as Devin Nunes, I mean does that whole bizarre experience, does it make anymore sense to you now? I mean, now that there's been some time on it, you know, does it seem -- is there any other conclusion then the White House and Representative Nunes, Chairman Nunes were colluding to try to give the president cover?
HIMES: Well, you know, what happened today with Congressman Schiff being able to review the materials is I think the first step to getting to the bottom of this just crazy escapade that has so consumed the committee and quite frankly the country for the last week and a half. Now, I haven't had a chance to talk to Congressman Schiff, I wasn't present in the meetings, I do suspect that if there had been something extraordinary, I mean something in those intelligence intercepts that would warrant the kind of unusual behavior that the chairman showed, I suspect that the Congressman Schiff's statement would have been different.
You know, I believed all along and I don't want to speculate just to add on things like cover-ups, I mean there's an awful a lot of question, there's an awful lot of suspicion to go around here. But, you know, my own suspicion is that these are intercepts that picked up references to the president's people. And that's -- that and of itself is nothing weird. I mean as you know, our intelligence services monitor people, drug dealers, potential terrorists all over the world and it's hardly shocking to imagine that somebody -- and by the way we have -- you know, foreign government officials, we monitor them too.
And it's hardly weird to imagine that anyone of that group of people might have been speculating or talking about one of the president's people. And ordinarily that of course would be masked and there's lever procedures to keep that information from becoming public and -- but that's the ordinary course of business and I sure didn't see anything in Adam statement that suggested that there was something so extraordinary in this material as to weren't, you know, this crazy midnight run and not telling anybody else on the committee and everything we've been talking about.
COOPER: So -- I mean where the things stand right now with your committee. I mean is there are things still stalled, I know Schiff and Nunes met I think it was yesterday to try to figure out a schedule and witness list. Is -- I mean is your committee going to continue the investigation?
HIMES: We are. I certainly hope we are. You know the Democrats all back together and one of the weird things about last week was that the committee didn't have any of its regular meetings, they were all canceled. But on Friday, we all got together and said, hey we got to -- I should say Thursday we all got together and we all agreed unanimously that we want this investigation to continue, we'd like to get back doing the oversight that is so important for us to do and of course the way we get there is by just all of Democrats and Republicans alike getting an explanation for what happened.
And I think Congressman Schiff reviewing the material today and hopefully as you said, the rest of the committee saying this material and then hearing from our chairman why he chose to do what he did. That -- those things will, I think, put us on track to be a functioning committee again and hopefully get the investigation restarted.
COOPER: All right Congressman Himes, appreciated your time. Thank you very much.
[20:44:59] Just ahead, more breaking news tonight, the "New York Times" reporting just posting a story a new White House ethics filing shows that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner are still benefiting from a sprawling business empire worth as much as $741 million. The Kushner family while holding official jobs at the White House. And this ethics problem? Details ahead.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. $741 million worth, that is the value of the business empire that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner still the beneficiaries of despite their new White House responsibilities and that is the bottom line the mass of Friday night document for the White House. On Kushner, the first daughter nearly 200 others.
The story broke the "New York Times" just a short time ago. One key take away although Kushner is no longer in any managerial capacity in his own family's business, he is still benefitting from it. Another revelation that don't miss, that Ivanka Trump will retain a stake in the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House.
Joining us now is Trump biographer Tim O'Brien and on the phone Jesse Drucker from "The Times" who was one of the people wrote the story, as well as Richard Painter who served as White House ethics and attorney in the George W. Bush administration So Jesse what have you been able to find out about the finances of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner that they're still benefiting from?
[20:50:01] JESSE DERUNKER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think the thing that is of most interest is that for the most part nothing has really changed as far as the economics of the Kushner business for Jared Kushner other words he has given up his role as a manager and CEO of Kushner companies, but economically he has still benefiting from the profits or anybody's companies as if he was a couple of months ago before he joined the White House.
COOPER: So he has not divorced himself from making money from his companies just as President Trump has not divorced himself from making money from the Trump Organization?
DERUNKER: Correct, he invested some stakes in some companies for instance he invested states that he own Venture Capital with his brother. And some real estate stakes including any involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue, which is the Kushner company headquarters which has been some controversial because of conversations they were had with a big Chinese company on bank for what was looking like a significant multi-billion dollar bailout. But for the most part, Jared Kushner's economic position based of the -- his real estate company is basically the same as it was before he joined the White House.
COOPER: Richard, I mean you have been sounding the alarm about President Trump, his family, the massive potential for business conflicts since the day after the election. Do we know more through these filings about the business holdings of the president's daughter and son-in-law?
RICHARD PAINTER, WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, we know -- I think what we've known all along, which is they have substantial stake in real estate, particularly Jared Kushner does, and that means that both of them have a conflict of interest on any government matter that would affect the real estate business, including the regulation of real estate lenders, because a lot of what goes on in real estate and on the regulation of banks and whether banks are willing to provide the cheap money to real estate developers, and we also know that that booms in the real estate sector tend to come hand in hand with booms in the financial sector, and that often those both end up and bought (ph).
So we need to keep them both away from Dodd-Frank appeal, anything have to do with financial services that would be so closely tied to the real estate business. And of course, anything happen to do with that hotel. They should not get involved in any government matters that have to do with the Trump International Hotel if Ivanka Trump is going to maintain to have an interest in that. But otherwise there's a conflict that is probably manageable, but they better be very, very careful.
COOPER: Tim, the White House has made a big deal about the steps that both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump took with their business holdings to ensure that they wouldn't have potential business conflicts, essentially saying they have gone above and beyond. Ddo you think they really have?
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR: No, no Anderson, I don't think it's not even a matter of them going above and beyond, they haven't even gone to adequate and acceptable. We're now at yet another revelation about how little distance there is between the Trump family and the Kushner family's private dealings as business people and their policy-making as public servants.
And it the largest question it begs is what's motivating them? Are they here to use the offices they inhabit to make money, or are they here to inhabit the offices they have to serve the public? And there's been all of these uncomfortable collisions, 666 Fifth Avenue, the skyscraper that Jared Kushner owns is troubled, it needs money, its clear last fall he was talking to both Chinese and Russian financiers.
And certainly in the Chinese case about getting fresh lending to rescue that building. In the case of the hotel in Washington even before these disclosures tonight we knew from the general services administration over a week ago they disclosed that Ivanka Trump was still an owner in that hotel. And they thought it was proper for the Trumps to own it, even though the hotel itself has become a nexus for lobbyists, politicians, members of the White House staff and local competitors in Washington field --
O'BRIEN: -- the hotel beggars them, because of its proximity to the president.
COOPER: And Jesse, your actually learning that the finances from both Jared and Ivanka through the financial disclosures, but how much is really known about who is loaning money to the Kushner corporation? Who they're in business with and what foreign entities? Is that all clear?
DERUNKER: Well, no, that's an excellent question, it's not clear at all. I mean that's kind of the biggest issue here right, which is Kushner companies is highly reliant on outside investors, many of whom are from overseas, and big lenders, and there is no disclosure of that even in these filings. We know about mortgages from public filings, none of which are referred to here. But we don't know anything about who the other equity investors are of the various projects or who potentially the non-bank and non-mortgage lenders are to his businesses. That is not addressed at all these filings
[20:55:11] You know, for instance, we know that separately that they have the Kushner company has four significant loans from bank Hapoalim the biggest bank in Israel. Well Bank Hapoalim is the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and to whether the Americans of the taxes with undeclared offshore bank accounts, and Jared Kushner is tasked with doing peace in the Middle East.
So it seems like a very clear potential for a conflict of interest to have a White House official doing negotiations in the Middle East and in Israel when the business that is benefiting him has very clear and significant financial relationships with the biggest financial institution or the biggest bank in that country, which at the same time is the subject of a very serious investigation about the Department of Justice, and none of this, you would not know any of this from the forms that were disclosed tonight.
COOPER: We're going to have more in this in our next hour as well, Jesse Derunker thank you. Richard Painter, Timothy O'Brien, much more ahead of "360", including the breaking news about a new generation of terrorist bombs and intelligence sources say may be able to evade some commonly use airport security screening methods hidden in computer laptops. We'll be right back.