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Flynn May Have Broken Law on Foreign Payments; Interview with Sen. Chris Murphy; Judge Blocks Trump Cut of Money for Sanctuary Cities; North Korea Marks Anniversary with Huge Artillery Drill; Ivanka Trump Heckled While Praising Father; Cyber Attackers Possibly Linked to Putin Target Candidate. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Violation of the law? Questions are swirling about ousted Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and whether he broke the law by failing to disclose payments from foreign governments. The White House says it doesn't know, and a top congressional Republican says it appears he did. Will the man who led calls to lock up Hillary Clinton himself now face charges?

Russia's tentacles growing. Signs Moscow may now be meddling in the French presidential campaign, spreading fake news and attempting to hack key individuals. At the same time, U.S. congressional investigators are lining up witnesses to testify in the probe into Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election. What will they reveal?

Missile rattling. A U.S. submarine loaded with Tomahawk cruise missiles arrives in South Korea as North Korea marks the anniversary of its army with a huge artillery drill. We have an exclusive live report from inside North Korea this hour as the show of force and the rhetoric escalate.

And off the wall. The White House is facing bipartisan resistance to funding President Trump's border wall, a stalemate that could boil over into a government shutdown later this week. Is the president now backing off one of his key campaign promises?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: We're standing by for the Senate confirmation vote on the deputy eternal [SIC] -- attorney general nominee Rod Rosenstein. Second in command of the Justice Department, Rosenstein will face the daunting task of overseeing investigations into Russian election meddling, now that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has recused himself.

At the same time, the White House now facing questions about whether the fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, broke the law by not revealing a payment he took from Russia. Press secretary Sean Spicer says he doesn't know if Flynn did anything illegal, but the heads of the House Oversight Committee say Flynn appears -- appears -- to have broken the law.

Also breaking this hour, a federal judge in California has just ordered a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the president's latest executive order, threatening to withhold funds from so-called sanctuary cities.

And first daughter Ivanka Trump met with some boos and hisses as she praised what she called her father's advocacy of women. She's taking part in a summit on women's empowerment in Berlin.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the controversy over former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill with the very latest.

Manu, the leaders of the House Oversight Committee say there's no sign Flynn complied with the law requiring him to disclose these payments from Russia and Turkey.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Wolf. In fact, one of those congressmen even suggesting that perhaps Mr. Flynn committed a felony by not disclosing some of the payments on his clearance forms.

Now, what's become clear, Wolf, is that Flynn is now at the center of several investigations on Capitol Hill into Russia and Russian meddling including the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation.

I just spoke with the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, and I asked him would he be willing to give Michael Flynn immunity to testify, something that Flynn's attorney has suggested. Burr's response: no. No immunity for Michael Flynn, but he does want to hear answers for the questions that emerged today.



RAJU (voice-over): New problems for the White House over Russia. Tonight, a top Republican suggesting the president's former national security adviser may have broken the law.

(on camera): From what you've seen so far, do you believe that Michael Flynn broke the law from either not disclosing it, these payments on his security clearance or not getting permission for getting these foreign payments?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT CHAIRMAN: Personally, I see no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law. I see no evidence that he actually did that. RAJU (voice-over): As a former military officer, Michael Flynn was

supposed to get permission from top defense officials for payments that he received from foreign governments. The law required him to list those payments on his security clearance paperwork last year, including more than half a million dollars in Turkish lobbying fees and $45,000 in fees for a 2015 speech in Moscow paid by the Kremlin- backed television network RT. During that same trip, Flynn was pictured next to Putin at a fancy dinner.

Now House lawmakers saying Flynn may have knowingly falsified or concealed information on his forms, a felony.

(on camera): And you think, Congressman, that this could be punishable by up to five years in prison you said?

[17:05:12] CUMMINGS: Yes. I think it -- definitely. That's why I cited the code, but that's going to be left up to others to decide. Just want to know what his exposure is.

RAJU (voice-over): In a statement, Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, said his client briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency extensively, both before and after the trip. But sources tell CNN that Flynn did not disclose that he was paid a fee for the trip, as required.

And today a new question, whether Flynn told the White House about these payments as he was vetted to become Trump's national security adviser. The White House's director of legislative affairs, Mark Short, said in a letter that it would not provide some documents about Flynn, because they were outside the scope of the committee's inquiry; but the White House won't say if Flynn broke the law.

SPICER: I don't know what he filled out and what he did or did not do.

RAJU: The top Democrat in the Senate declined to rule out pushing for a subpoena to force Flynn to testify.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: These are extremely, extremely troubling allegations today.

RAJU (on camera): Will it be necessary to issue a subpoena?

SCHUMER: Well, we'll see.

RAJU (voice-over): And the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the panel wants to question Flynn.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-SC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Mike Flynn is of interest to the committee.

RAJU: Flynn's role also expected to be highlighted next month when a Senate panel hears testimony from former Obama justice official Sally Yates, who privately warned Trump officials that Flynn could be susceptible to Russian blackmail.

(on camera): What about Sally Yates and her allegedly saying that Michael Flynn could have been susceptible to Russian blackmail?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We will ask her all questions about Russia, what she knew about Trump ties. Was there any administration effort to unmask people for political purposes? We're going to get to all things Russia in terms of what the administration did and what Russia did.


RAJU: Now, despite all these congressional inquiries, Wolf, most Americans actually want an independent investigation into Russia's role in the elections. Nearly three-quarters of voters in a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll say that they actually do want an independent investigation.

And one person who may make that decision, Rod Rosenstein, who's going to be the No. 2 at the Justice Department and is going to actually oversee that Russia probe once he's confirmed by the Senate this hour, Wolf. And he can make that decision about whether or not to install an independent investigator. And he told Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat, he would do that if it seems like it is necessary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Now another legal blow for President Trump and his threat to cut off money for so-called sanctuary cities throughout the United States. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us with the very latest on this major development.

Jim, we've just gotten word of a new legal decision, a federal decision in California.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It was another setback for this White House. One of the president's key initiative from his first 100 days, an executive order withholding grant money from so-called sanctuary cities that don't cooperate with immigration authorities. That has been blocked by a federal judge. The judge has now frozen that executive order, saying those cities would have been harmed by the president's decision.

President Trump, on another immigration front, now he's insisting that he's not backing away from a position on the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but the White House and Republicans up on Capitol Hill are signaling that's exactly what he's doing at this point in order to avoid a government shutdown. A source close to the process tells us the current GOP spending bill that's designed to avoid that government shutdown includes border security money, not funds for a wall.


ACOSTA: There are cracks in White House demands. The congressional leaders include funding for a new wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and a spending bill that would keep the government from shutting down at the end of the week. But don't tell President Trump, who tweeted, "Don't let the fake media tell you that I've changed my position on the wall." DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wall gets

built, 100 percent.

ACOSTA (on camera): When will the wall get built?

TRUMP: Soon. Soon. We're already preparing. We're doing plans.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But top advisers are saying both publicly and privately that the president will accept a delay in that wall funding until the next round of spending negotiations later this year, well after a shutdown is averted.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Building that wall and having it funded remains an important priority to him, but we also know that that can happen later this year and into next year.

ACOSTA: Democrats are all but declaring victory.

SCHUMER: It's really good news that the president seems to be taking the wall off the table in the negotiations we're having on an appropriations bill this week. It would remove the prospect of a needless fight over a poison pill proposal that members of both parties don't support.

ACOSTA: But the White House could have a new fight on its hands over its tax reform proposal. One day after floating the idea of dramatically cutting the corporate tax rate, even some Republicans are balking, insisting it will blow up the deficit.

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), New Jersey: I think 15 percent may be aspirational. I'm not sure we can go down to 15 percent. I certainly want to see corporate taxes decreased.

TRUMP: Treat us fairly.

ACOSTA: Eager to show some accomplishments in its first 100 days, the Trump administration is also taking aim at what it considers to be unfair trade practices, targeting -- of all countries -- Canada, a close ally, over its dairy and lumber industries.

(on camera): What would you say to the layman out there who says why is President Trump messing with the Canadians now?

WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: It's not a question of President Trump messing with the Canadians. We believe the Canadians violated legitimate practice and to the degree we're correcting that, it should be corrected. Just like steel dumping from China.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is aggressively touting its 100- day record, claiming in an e-mail that President Trump has accomplished more in his first hundred days than any other president since Franklin Roosevelt, echoing the president's own comments.

TRUMP: No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.

ACOSTA: But that's a tough comparison to make. FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only

thing we have to fear is fear itself.

ACOSTA: Roosevelt was grappling with the Great Depression, not to mention other presidential achievements. Barack Obama signed a stimulus bill. bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Ronald Reagan welcomed American hostages from Iran, all in their first 100 days.


ACOSTA: The White House is still busy making its mark before the president hits that 100-day threshold. Tomorrow the president will unveil his tax reform plan. White House officials are predicting the president will propose the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan. That is a tough comparison to make, Wolf.

As you know Reagan was able to sign his plan into law in his first year in office. That is an accomplishment this president may not be able to match -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what he does propose tomorrow. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Sure, thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to the breaking news this hour. A federal judge now blocking part of President Trump's most recent executive order to make away funds from sanctuary cities across the United States. Your reaction?

MURPHY: Well, it's not surprising. I mean, it's yet another executive action that the president has taken that has not held up in courts of law to some extent. The checks and balances built into the Constitution on executive power are working.

The fact of the matter is, you know, the president really shouldn't be telling local law enforcement what their priorities should be. If a city decides that their priority is to go after violent criminals and not deputize their street officers as immigration enforcement officials, that's their decision. You have to give some discretion to local officials to decide how to keep their communities safe, and I don't think it's surprising that some of this executive order hasn't held up.

BLITZER: Yes. First a federal judge has blocked the travel bans, version one and version two, and now we see a federal judge blocking this sanctuary city, taking away the money, federal money from sanctuary cities, at least for now. We'll see what happens now in the courts. The other breaking news we're following, Senator, involves the former

national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Do you believe he broke the law, and if he did, what do you think should happen?

MURPHY: Well, the reason that we need the information about the conditions of his firing is to understand whether or not he broke the law and what laws he broke.

It certainly appears that he did not follow the law in accepting the speaking engagements without prior authorization from the Department of Defense; and he didn't disclose those connections to the White House, apparently, before taking this important and sensitive job.

Listen, this is a -- this is a really important question, because you had somebody, even for a short period of time, who was inside the White House, who had access to the most classified information that exists, that had a financial arrangement, a relationship with at least two foreign governments, the Russian government and the Turkish government.

Now, I hope that Michael Flynn didn't transfer any of the information that he had back to those former clients, but that's the reason that you're supposed to tell your employer, the White House about it ahead of time, so that they perhaps don't give you the information that you could potentially compromise.

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered here, and, you know, it's unfortunate the White House isn't giving Congress the information that we need in order to try to understand what the scope of these conflicts of interest were.

BLITZER: Your Democratic leader, the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, he says that the Flynn news, in his words, may be just the tip of the iceberg. Do you agree, and what could that mean?

MURPHY: Well, listen, I think when you look at how this investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government unfolds, you do have to think about whether there are Trump campaign officials who violated the law, who will eventually cooperate with law enforcement in order to deal with their potential legal liability, so you now have the potential for a major legal violation by Michael Flynn.

[17:15:17] The question is does he talk about some of the connections that he and the campaign had with the Russian government, cooperating in exchange for some leniency or some preferential treatment on potential charges that are filed against him. You know, listen, I'm not in these law-enforcement agencies. I'm only speculating.

But I think the significance of this is that, ultimately, it may open up some avenues to understand what the relationship was between the Trump campaign and the Russians, who were trying to manipulate the election in favor of the Donald Trump.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, stand by. There's more that we need to discuss, especially the latest developments involving North Korea. We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're back with senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. We're following the very tense situation on the Korean Peninsula right now.

Senator, stand by for a moment. We're getting word about this nuclear-powered U.S. submarine loaded with Tomahawk cruise missiles that has just arrived in South Korea. Officials tell CNN its presence is designed to send a message to North Korea amid threats by the Kim Jong-un regime of nuclear war.

CNN's Will Ripley is in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on his 12th visit to the country right now. He has an exclusive report for us.

Will, North Korea, what, they conducted another massive artillery drill today to mark a military anniversary. Update our viewers.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Wolf. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, was noticeably absent at the official celebrations of Army Day here in Pyongyang. We believe that's because he was presiding over this long-range artillery exercise involving hundreds of North Korean soldiers.

Of course, this long-range artillery is the kind of conventional weapon that is very dangerous for people in South Korea, because there's a whole lot of it pointed right across the DMZ toward the Seoul metropolitan area, home to tens of millions of people.

Meanwhile, we were on the ground here in the North Korean capital, where the mood, celebratory, despite rising tensions.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Army Day in North Korea. The 85th anniversary of the Korean People's Army. More than 1 million active duty soldiers, more than 6 million if you count reserves and paramilitary. One of the largest standing armies in the world.

We almost never see this side of North Korea's men and women in uniform.

(on camera): This is a public holiday here in North Korea, which means citizens are enjoying a rare day off, and as you often see on days like this, lots of dancing in the streets.

(voice-over): Carefully choreographed display of national pride. North Korea calls it single-hearted unity. Outsiders say these men and women have no other choice.

As Pyongyang residents dance, a very different kind of demonstration on North Korea's east coast. The nation's supreme leader, Kim Jong- un, showing force with what South Korea calls a large-scale artillery drill, less than two weeks after this massive military parade and a failed missile launch. Analysts say these new North Korean missiles could someday carry nuclear warheads to the mainland U.S.

TRUMP: Our nation faces serious...

RIPLEY: A growing arsenal President Trump called a grave threat to the world. He's pushing the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for developing weapons of mass destruction that violate U.N. resolutions.

In its own show of force, the U.S. deployed a nuclear submarine to South Korea as the U.S., South Korea and Japan conducted joint naval drills Monday. All this as the USS Carl Vinson moves closer to the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

The approaching U.S. warships conjure memories for this North Korean veteran. Senior lieutenant colonel Un Yong-il speaks to me in front of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy spy ship North Korea captured in 1968.

"The Pueblo reminds me of another boat traveling very near the Korean waters," he says, "the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. We are not afraid. Just like we captured the Pueblo, we can sink that aircraft carrier."

It's a threat made by North Korean state media, prompting the Pentagon to warn North Korea to stop provoking the U.S.

(on camera): Are North Koreans worried that you may be headed towards war with the United States?

"It's a grave situation," he says, "but we're ready to counter the American threat with an all-out war and nuclear attack."

In this militarized nation, even civilians are told they may someday have to pick up arms, even on days of celebration. Citizens say war with the U.S. is always looming on the horizon.


RIPLEY: Just moments ago, I received this. It's a statement from North Korea's permanent mission to the United Nations, basically a lot of criticism of the Trump administration. More provocative rhetoric including this line, Wolf.

"There's a saying that those who are fond of playing with fire are destined to perish in the flames. The same can be said of the U.S."

So clearly, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un not backing down, despite this mounting international pressure to dial back the provocative actions and rhetoric. We know that all 100 U.S. senators will be meeting in the coming day to discuss this very urgent pressing national security situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They've been invited to the White House for this extraordinary meeting on North Korea tomorrow. CNN's Will Ripley in Pyongyang, North Korea, for us. Will, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Senator Chris Murphy, member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

First of all, the president says he's not so sure, Senator, that Kim Jong-un is so strong like he says he is. Those are the words of the president. Do you think he could underestimate Kim Jong-un right now?

[17:25:11] MURPHY: Well, I don't think his escalation of rhetoric is helpful, and you know, we shouldn't underestimate a leader who clearly has designs on obtaining a nuclear weapon put onto an ICBM that can reach the United States.

And we also need to understand how we are going to understand this threat. It is not, frankly, going to be through a U.S.-led invasion of North Korea. It is going to be through a diplomatic effort led by the United States and perhaps China that applies tough sanctions on North Korea, ultimately resulting in a diplomatic agreement whereby they renounce their path to a nuclear weapon that can hit the United States.

That can't happen right now in an administration that is making more enemies than friends around the world and with a State Department that is, you know, almost totally unmanned with the exception of the secretary of state.

So I just think we have to be realistic about how we're actually going to actually get to a resolution here, and it's, frankly, not likely going to be through the U.S. military.

BLITZER: But are you concerned, Senator, there could be a miscalculation with all of this ratcheting up the pressure, the military moves that are going on in the Korean Peninsula, the movement of a nuclear-powered submarine, an aircraft carrier strike force on the way. There could be a miscalculation that could lead to a disaster.

MURPHY: Well, so that's exactly right. Remember, this is a very fragile border. I was there just last summer on the DMZ, and it's fragile on both sides, right? The South Koreans remember very well a few years ago when a ship was sunk off their coast, and they are -- you know, they look at North Korea, you know, as a daily and hourly threat.

So the worry is that this rhetoric, this overheated rhetoric from Donald Trump, this inconsistent rhetoric from his administration, is ultimately sets off a series of provocations along that border, which then draws the United States into a conflict, because we have a treaty responsibility to defend South Korea.

So it's not really a worry right now about North Korea in the short term launching a nuclear missile. It's about rhetoric that ultimately is often a comment on the border that then obligates the United States to step in, and that would ultimately be a disaster for the United States.

BLITZER: Senator Murphy, thanks very much for joining us.

MURPHY: All right, thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Coming up, hacking attempts and fake news. New signs that

Russia may be trying to interfere in the French presidential election. We have new information.


BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the probe of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

[17:32:16] The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, won't say whether the president thinks his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, broke the law, even though the leaders of the House Oversight Committee say Flynn did not report money he made for a speech in Russia, as well as income for lobbying on behalf of Turkey.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I see no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law, and that is he was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage in that activity. I see no evidence that he actually did that.

As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else, and it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for the violation of law.


BLITZER: That was the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz. He's a Republican.

Let's get some insights from our experts. And David Axelrod, what's your reaction to hearing this about a man who used to lead those chants at Donald Trump rallies, involving Hillary Clinton, "Lock her up, lock her up."


BLITZER: He used to say that. What's your reaction?

AXELROD: Well, I think, Wolf, if you looked up the word "irony" in the dictionary today, you might find General Flynn's picture next to it.

Clearly, when you think about those scenes at the Republican convention last summer and where he is today, he's -- we've come a long way.

But it does help explain one thing, which is why his lawyers reached out to the Intelligence Committees and reportedly made an offer to testify in exchange for immunity and hinted very inferentially that he had a story to tell and he wanted to tell it. So they apparently understand that they have a problem, and they were looking for a way to cut their losses.

BLITZER: There's no indication any of the congressional committees are ready to grant him any immunity.

Nia, let's talk about -- a little bit more about this. If General Flynn did break the law by not reporting those earnings from Russia and Turkey, that doesn't necessarily prove collusion with Russia to influence the presidential election.

So what sort of impact will these developments have on the investigation and on the current Trump administration?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, in terms of the investigations, and there are four at this point going on, the FBI, the two out of the Senate and the House in terms of the Intelligence Committees and then the Oversight Committee, as well, you almost have to look at this as a big puzzle, right? And it's going to take months and months and months to put this puzzle together. We don't know what the final picture will be, whether or not that's collusion or whether it's something different, but so this I think is just another piece of that.

In terms of the White House, I think what it means is, again, we are talking about Russia. We're talking about Flynn, as well, so that is never good for this White House. I mean, we've seen this sort of steady drip, particularly when it comes to Flynn, in the news.

Of course, he resigned back in February, but he keeps popping up in the news, and when Flynn is in the news, that means Russia is in the news, and that means the specter of collusion between this White House and campaign aides is once again in the news. And it comes as this is a White House that's really trying to focus on the first 100 days and really give a picture of a White House that has accomplished a lot, but, again, we're talking about Russia which just, again, is not good for this White House.

BLITZER: Good point. Jackie Kucinich, the U.S. Senate just confirmed Rod Rosenstein as the next deputy attorney general of the United States. Since the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from taking part at all in this Russia investigation, what signs do we have about how Rosenstein will influence the direction of this probe?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So one of the things he said during his confirmation hearings is he wouldn't commit to appointing a special prosecutor for the Russia investigation, saying that it could be held -- that the Department of Justice could handle it just fine on their own, and he used an example. He was part of the Whitewater investigation into the Clintons.

And he said that, because of that, he's not afraid to question presidents; he's not afraid to question A.G.s. He's not -- he will see where the truth takes -- where the facts take him.

So it seems like he would be inclined to keep it right there in the Department of Justice and keep it inhouse.

BLITZER: We'll see what he does.

David, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, he said at that news conference with Jason Chaffetz at his side that the White House has refused to provide any documents in response to their repeated requests for documents. The White House says it doesn't have any relevant documents.

Is the White House, as some suspect, obstructing this House Oversight Committee investigation?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think the committee wants to know what it is that General Flynn told the White House and before they were in the White House, told the transition about his dealings in Russia and Turkey as a foreign agent, and -- and -- and they -- the argument that I think Sean Spicer was making today, if I understand it, is we don't have documentation before -- from before January 20. And after January 20 it wasn't relevant, because he was a government official.

But it adds to this notion -- this sense of opaqueness that we see time and time again when these issues come up and a lack of cooperation. Every time Russia comes up, there's this sort of virtual iron curtain that comes down at White House, and there's no information available.

And that just adds to the suspicion that there's something that they're trying to hide And as Nia said, it is -- it is untimely for them in a week when they're trying to close out their books in the first 100 days, finish their incompletes and get a good grade. That is a complete distraction.

BLITZER: Certainly is. There are other distractions, as well. All right, guys, everybody stand by. I want all of our viewers to see what happened to Ivanka Trump today in Berlin, Germany. You're going to hear the surprising reaction when she praises her father as a champion for families.


[17:43:13] BLITZER: Ivanka Trump is brushing off today's hostile reception by an audience that heckled her during a visit to Germany. CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett shows us what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First daughter and adviser to the U.S. president.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sharing a stage in Berlin with some of the most powerful women in the world, Ivanka Trump faced pointed questions.

MIRIAM MECKEL, EDITOR, WIRTSHAFTSWOCHE MAGAZINE: Whom are you representing, your father as the president of the United States, the American people or your business?

IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, certainly not the latter, and I am rather unfamiliar with this role, as well, as it is quite new to me.

BENNETT: Boasting about her father's support for paid family leave, the president's daughter and top adviser received hisses and some boos from a skeptical crowd.

I. TRUMP: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and -- and enabling them to thrive in the new reality of...

BENNETT: You hear the reaction from the audience, so I need to address one more point and some attitudes towards women your father has publicly displayed in former times, might leave one questioning whether he's such an empowerer for women.

I. TRUMP: I've certainly heard the criticism from media, and that's been perpetuated. And I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women.

BENNETT: She later brushed it off, telling reporters, quote, "Politics is politics. I'm used to it. It's fine."

She also downplayed her brother Eric Trump's suggestion that she was the one who convinced the president to launch the strike against Syria. That would be a flawed interpretation, she said, adding that the decision was incredibly well-informed and advised at every level.

[17:45:06] Her visit at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes just weeks after a rather chilly first meeting between Merkel and President Trump at the White House. The invitation may be an attempt to warm relations. German media has deemed Ivanka, quote, "the first whisperer to President Trump."

I. TRUMP: Thank you for having me here.

BENNETT: The international spotlight followed as Ivanka played the role of chief diplomat touring a technological school.

I. TRUMP: Maybe we'll have you try it first.


BENNETT: Ivanka who converted to Judaism before she married her husband, Jared Kushner, then toured the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Her visit coinciding with President Trump's remarks at a Holocaust remembrance back in Washington.


BENNETT: President Trump spoke with Chancellor Merkel on the eve of his daughter's trip, and she will cap her day by dining with the German leader, an opportunity to make an impression on her father's behalf just as he gears up to visit Europe next month.

Kate Bennett, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, cyber attackers possibly linked to the Russian leader Vladimir Putin appear to be at it again. We have new information about the hack attempt and the intended target.


[17:50:49] BLITZER: New polling tonight in the French presidential race shows the centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the right wing candidate Marine Le Pen by a margin of roughly 60 percent to 40 percent. However, hackers who may be linked to Vladimir Putin appear to be targeting Macron. CNN's Brian Todd has new details for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we've got new details from investigators on exactly how Vladimir Putin's hackers allegedly targeted Emmanuel Macron's campaign. We've spoken with the researchers who uncovered the hacking operation. Tonight they've given us a roadmap that appears to lead directly to the Kremlin.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new details of how Vladimir Putin's elite hackers may have gone after the campaign of a man who could be a close American ally, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Researchers with the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, tell CNN the hackers they exposed likely had to be working at least to pursue the goals of the Russian President.

RIK FERGUSON, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: The interests and aims of the group align very closely with the interests and aims of the Russian state, and taken as a whole, really don't align that closely with anybody else.

TODD (voice-over): Trend Micro says it can't definitively linked the cyberattacks against Macron's campaign to Putin. But the firms says the hackers who targeted Macron's campaign, a group they call "Pawn Storm," had the fingerprints as hackers nicknamed "Fancy Bear." That's the group, which U.S. intelligence officials say targeted the Democratic Party and is believed to be commanded by GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.

FERGUSON: Whether they're called "Fancy Bear," whether they're called "Pawn Storm," we're talking the same, organized group and the attacks bear all the same hallmarks.

TODD (voice-over): Officials from Macron's campaign tell CNN the hackers tried to trick staffers with fake e-mails and other familiar attacks. It wasn't just attacking the website, right?

BENJAMIN HADDAD, SPOKESPERSON FOR EMMANUEL MACRON: No, absolutely. Russia clearly wanted to go after Emmanuel Macron to support the other candidates who are in favor of his stronger relation with Russia, who are pro-Putin, fascinated with Putin. So, you know, we see fake news being disseminated on social media by artsy and Sputnik, which are Russian-owned outlets.

BLITZER: But Macron campaign officials tell us no sensitive data was stolen from them. Analysts say Putin wants to work against Macron to tilt the election towards his favorite candidate, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen, who wants to bring France out of NATO and the E.U.

Tonight, key questions about Putin's real involvement with his hacking teams. Is he directing the hackers' moves? Experts say likely not but the President is not out of the loop either.

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE": No major foreign policy intervention, either a cyberattack into a foreign election or a military expedition into a neighboring country would happen without Putin's knowledge, permission, and say-so.


TODD: Vladimir Putin denies trying to disrupt the French elections, and his aides say it is nonsense the Kremlin-backed hackers targeted the Macron campaign. But analysts at Trend Micro tell us say there are indications they've gotten that these same hackers also went after other entities that work against the Kremlin's interests, entities like NATO and like a think tank associated with Chancellor Angela Merkel's campaign in Germany, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Brian, are the French government, the French intelligence agencies, helping the Macron campaign fight off these hacks?

TODD: We're told, Wolf, by French officials and Macron campaign officials that the government and campaign are working together to combat these cyberattacks. A French official tells us French intelligence agencies are advising the campaign on encryption and other steps they can take. Tonight, though, Wolf, this appears to be a battle in cyber space between Putin's hackers and French officials for the influence of French voters.

BLITZER: Very familiar indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, he led chants calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed. "Lock her up, lock her up," he used to chant that. Now, President Trump's fired national security adviser could face charges himself for failing to reveal money he took from Russia.

[17:54:54] Plus, another breaking story we're following. The latest legal blow for President Trump and his threat to cut off money for so- called sanctuary cities across the country.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Judge blocks Trump. Another major legal setback for the President's immigration policy tonight. His order to cut funding to sanctuary cities now is on hold along with his travel ban. What does this mean for the President's agenda as his 100th day in office nears?

Federal laws broken? A key Republican in Congress says former national security advisor Michael Flynn failed to disclose payments from foreign governments before his stint at the White House. Is the Trump administration cooperating with the investigation?

[18:00:04] Public testimony. Some eagerly awaited witnesses now have a date to appear before Congress including Obama Justice Department official Sally Yates. She raised early concerns about --