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Macron's Campaign Hacked on Eve of Election; WaPo; Trump Transition Team Warned Flynn About Contacts; Former Officer Charged With Murder in Teen's Death; GOP Bill Faces Tough Senate Battle, Emboldens Dems; White House Vetting Process Under Scrutiny; N. Korea: CIA Tried to Assassinate Kim Jong-un. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 6, 2017 - 07:00   ET




[07:00:55] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner of the French election, now confirming what his team is calling a massive coordinated hacking operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senior members have warned Michael Flynn about the risk of his contacts with Russia's ambassador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike a lot of other ambassadors, you actually had a very receptive Trump team when it came to the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This overall effort of the anonymous sources in leaking to go and try to smear the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirteen men are deciding the future of American health care. There is not one woman at the table to represent more than half the population of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This House bill would be devastating for women. Women would be denied coverage because of situations that are unique to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an effort to kill off planned parenthood.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If the bill pass the today, thousands of Americans would die.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate is looking forward to getting it. I think we're going to have some really great health care.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. Happy Saturday to you. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: We want to begin with some major news out of France this morning. The leading French presidential candidate said he's been hacked, this on the eve of their election. Russia denying any involvement here.

The Kremlin spokesman told CNN, quote, "These, like other similar accusations, are based on nothing and are pure slander."

BLACKWELL: But Emmanuel Macron's campaign says the hack is meant to, quote, "undermine democracy like it happened in the U.S." Well, this hour, the French electoral commission is asking the media not to publish details out of concern it would sway Sunday's outcome.

Also this morning, former Trump adviser Carter Page has sharp words for the Senate Intel Committee, telling them to ask the Obama administration for his Russia communications. This comes after promising to cooperate with officials.

PAUL: And a new report from "the Washington Post" says senior members of the Trump transition team warned Michael Flynn about his contact with Russia's Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. We have more on all of that in just a moment.

But we are covering this story from every angle, our reporters and panelists across the globe.

CNN international correspondent Melissa Bell starts things off for us live from Paris.

So, Melissa, help us understand the reaction this morning as you are so close to people going to the polls of these new allegations from the electoral commission.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, confusion this morning here in France, Christi. You just mentioned a moment ago that call on the part of France's electoral commission not to go into the details, to the contents of this massive leak, this massive leak that we first heard about yesterday from Emmanuel Macron's campaign itself, saying they had been the victim of a massive and coordinated leak, they say to try and damage, to try and hamper France's electoral process.

And so, we find ourselves in the situation where we know that these leaked documents, these e-mails, are out there. Emmanuel Macron's team says they are e-mails, campaign e-mails, documents. They say some of them real, others false according to them, to try and confuse the picture further.

And then this warning to media outlets not to look into the details of them, not to publish them. So, a great deal of confusion for French voters. We are now in this blackout period where you have to be very careful what you say, not just media outlets but ordinary citizens even on the Internet have to be careful about seeming to campaign on behalf of one candidate or another. This is meant to be a period of reflection to which this story has

added in what was already a very intense campaign, a huge amount of confusion going into the polls tomorrow morning. The big question, of course, who was involved? Emmanuel Macron's has not this time pointed the finger of blame toward Russia although it had in the past.

For more, we can speak to our correspondent in Moscow, Matthew Chance.


That's right. In the past, allegations have been made by the Macron team that Russian hackers and Ukrainian hackers as well, or Ukrainian- based hackers have interfered with their campaign servers, have tried to release damaging information that would have an impact on the Macron campaign.

[07:05:15] We've spoken to the Kremlin this morning, and they've dismissed any suggestion that they've been involved in the recent release of data relating to the Macron campaign. Here's what they say, "These, like other similar accusations, are based on nothing but pure -- and are pure slander." So, a categorical rejection there by the Kremlin that it is involved in any way in this.

But, obviously, instant comparisons are being drawn between this massive data dump and the allegations in the United States, of course, that Kremlin-backed or Russian-backed hackers interfered with the U.S. presidential campaign and election there and dumped huge amounts of data intended to damage Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and support Donald Trump, her presidential Republican rival, of course.

Again, the Russian authorities say they had nothing to do with that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matthew Chance for us there in Moscow -- Matthew, thanks so much.

PAUL: Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy, is joining us now. He's the author of "Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB in America".

Jack, thank you so much for coming back. We appreciate it.


PAUL: So, I want to get your take to what we're hearing this morning. How likely is it, do you think through your pursed lip there, that Russia could be behind this hack?

BARSKY: Likely, very likely. I mean, who else would do that, right? We talked about in the past, about the -- I believe the major goal by the Russians is to create confusion. Now, if they were really trying to influence the election, the timing is a little bit odd, isn't it, because right now, this data can't be used or shouldn't be used. It's against the law in France.

So, it's just -- either they're being really stupid, or their main goal is to just, you know, create confusion and undermine democracy. I think that's probably where it's at.

BLACKWELL: But that goes to a deeper question, I think, because what's the difference between what we're seeing here in France and what we saw in the U.S. with the Podesta hacking was the Podesta hacking happened significant amount of time before the election, and was leaked out sporadically over a longer period of time.

Would you expect for it to be done, you say, stupidly, sloppily here right at the end of the campaign when the French media outlets can't report it? Is this indicative, or is it the fingerprint of the Russians that it would be done so sloppily?

BARSKY: Well, without getting too much into detail, but I understand that the FSB, successor of the KGB, is not quite as capable as the KGB. So, you know, I have some connections in intelligence circles, unofficial. So, this is quite possibly sloppy.

And let's not forget -- this is what I was talking about before -- the Russian hacking, whatever it is, is based on a multi-layered type of organization. And part of that organization, these are independent operators. These are hackers. These are anarchists. They're very hard to control.

So, this is -- you know, if I'm in the FSB right now, I'm scratching my head and saying, what are we doing here? Because ultimately, I think this is going to backfire. I don't think it's going to influence the election, and it will probably make the incoming president more inclined to deal with the Russians more as an adversary rather than as a friend because Europe has been cozying up to Russia for one reason only and that's dependence on energy, right?

So, all of that, it's -- you know, it's really, really confusing. It's typical in the world of intelligence you try to do one thing, and something else happens.

PAUL: But you look at the dynamic of what's happening in France, and you've got Marine Le Pen, who has said -- she's been very open about her fondness for Putin. If the goal is to splinter the allegiance of the Western alliances, let's say, for Russia and if they're successful on some scale to do that, what would you watch -- what would you watch for in terms of Russia to do next if Le Pen wins?

BARSKY: Well, that's a big if, and it's highly unlikely.

Here's the point. Le Pen represents the fringe, the right fringe. Now, part of the electorate that voted for Trump is also right fringe but not half our country is the right fringe. So, yeah, I think that the Russians would love to have somebody like Le Pen be in charge in France because they're outside -- fundamentally, their philosophy is outside what we call democratic values, right?

[07:10:09] So -- but, again, if they're going about this, they're trying to influence the election directly, I think it's going to backfire.

BLACKWELL: Which deterrent works here? We've seen exclusions in global alliances. We've seen the sanctions against Russia.

Do you think there is any deterrent that will discourage Russia from continuing their hacking efforts around the world?

BARSKY: The FBI is already doing some of that. Remember that we arrested a couple of hackers, and I think that Yahoo hack lost -- it got lost in the media. I think that was an important hack because it collected a ton of data on American citizens.

We are now aggressively -- our law enforcement is going aggressively after these, you know, lone wolf hackers, the folks that have unofficial relationships with a government, and they're running scared. That's the right thing to do.

And the other thing is, you know, we're doing our own things and operations. The Russians know about this. So, it's not that we have no weapons in this game.

BLACKWELL: Let me read one more time just to make sure we bookend this with what we're hearing from the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, when asked about allegations of Russian involvement in the Macron email hack, his response was, "These, like other similar accusations, are based on nothing and are pure slander."

I want to make sure we get their perspective out as well.

Jack Barsky, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Jack. Always good to have you here.

So, I want to get to explosive new details in the hacking of our own 2016 election. "Washington Post" reporting now President Trump's transition team knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia well before the inauguration, even trying to warn him about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

This report claims the officials were so concerned that Flynn didn't understand the ambassador's motives. They went to the Obama administration, as you can see there on that timeline, for help, asking for a classified profile on Kislyak. But it's not clear whether Flynn ever read that document.

It's the latest in a series of events since the election that has really raised red flags for the intelligence community. The scathing detail now prompting new questions about Flynn's contacts and what the White House may have known and when they knew it.

Joining me now, Eugene Scott, CNN politics reporter, and Amber Phillips, a political reporter with "The Washington Post" political blog, "The Fix".

Thank you both for being here with us. We appreciate it.

First of all, Eugene, what's your reaction to this latest report in "The Washington Post"? EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It was shocking. I'm at a loss

for words. I think one of the things that I found most interesting when I read the report is that senior Trump officials were so concerned about the Russian ambassador that they actually went to the Obama administration to ask for a CIA profile on him perhaps to present to Michael Flynn. And so, there seemed to be a moment where senior Trump officials were working with senior Obama administration officials to better understand the Russian government's desire to either interfere in the 2016 election or at least to influence people connected to President Donald Trump.

PAUL: Amber, one of the things that may be more alarming in this report as well when you think about it is the fact that, remember, Vice President Pence, he told the country he had no knowledge of anything that was happening with Flynn, with any connections to Russia. "The Washington Post" here suggesting that the Trump team knew about it prior to Flynn making those comments.

So, does that tell you, Amber, that either the vice president was not being forthcoming or that perhaps he was being excluded from some of this information behind the scenes?

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST'S "THE FIX": Yes, it's hard to tell. Clearly, there was some kind of missing communication or conversation either that we don't know about or that Vice President Mike Pence didn't know about behind the scenes. Like I think when we -- when you look back to February and we found out that Flynn was having meetings with the Russian ambassador and not telling the vice president about it, what we know now is kind of the worst case scenario for what could have happened back in February, that he was having these meetings not just out of a desire to form a good U.S. relationship with Russia, but knowing that he could possibly be -- or being warned that he could be spied on by the U.S., that it could cause a lot of political problems for the Trump administration.

Guess what? It absolutely has. I mean, Russia is the 100-day political story for the Trump administration right now.

So, it's unclear how high up this goes, but I feel like there are more questions than answers with each new development about what Michael Flynn actually did in those early days.

[07:15:07] PAUL: Well, the report goes on, Eugene, to say that Flynn's contacts with Russia created, quote, "a divide" in the transition team, creating separate factions vying for power when it comes to national security.

SCOTT: Mm-hmm.

PAUL: Any of those tensions spill into the White House, do you believe? Have you gotten any indication of that?

SCOTT: Absolutely. I think towards the end of the campaign and definitely now in the beginning of the administration, we have seen a diversity of opinions on the role of Russia in the campaign and their desire long-term. I mean, there were certain people affiliated with the Trump transition team on the national security team that were involved in the Bush administration. And then there were other people who were more grassroots-oriented and had different views on Russia and whether or not they were a threat to the Trump administration's agenda and goals.

And so, I think what this has shown is just the division and their inability to be on one accord when it came to national security and Russia.

PAUL: All righty. Eugene Scott, Amber Phillips, we run out of time, but we do have you back a little bit later in the hour. We appreciate you sticking around. Thank you.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. A former Dallas police officer who shot an unarmed 15-year-old boy will now face a murder charge. Next, we'll break down the case against him with a criminal defense attorney. Stay with us.

PAUL: Also, Democrats charting the course to take back the House in 2018 following the GOP's health care bill. This as GOP Senate leaders are rewriting their own version of the bill. We have more on that next.

BLACKWELL: And the White House vetting process under scrutiny after president Trump's second choice for army secretary suddenly bows out over backlash from a controversial past remark.


MARK GREEN (R), TENNESSE STATE SENATOR: You poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you that transgender is a disease.



[07:21:03] PAUL: Well, former Dallas area police officer Roy Oliver is now facing murder charges.

BLACKWELL: Oliver was arrested for shooting and killing an unarmed teenager last weekend. His bond was set at $300,000. He's now out after posting bail.

PAUL: Investigators say he shot 15-year-old Jordan Edwards as he rode in the passenger seat of a car. The city's police chief first said the car was driving toward officers when one of the officers opened fire. He later said he, quote, "misspoke" after body cam footage showed the car driving away from the officers. The news of the arrest comes as the family of Jordan Edwards is holding his funeral today.

Let's talk about this with criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor, Yodit Tewolde.

Yodit, thank you for being here with us. First of all, I know that you had some real concerns of the fact that

this officer was not -- former officer, I should say, because he's been fired, was not arrested before now. What's your reaction to the arrest now that it's happened?

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm glad that it happened. I'm very proud of Dallas. I'm very proud of the Dallas district attorney's office for acting so swiftly with regards to this case. I'm even proud of the Balch Springs police chief who came out and recanted his story after realizing, watching the evidence on video that the story the officer told them was untrue.

So, I'm extremely happy that an arrest has been made. I'm extremely happy that they're pursuing a murder charge. It should have happened sooner, but you know what? It happened, and now we just need to look forward to him getting indicted for murder and going to trial.

PAUL: The interesting thing is -- so he's charged with murder, but he's out on bond. Is that common?

TEWOLDE: It is. I would hope that they put some conditions of bond because clearly he is a danger to society. He has a rifle. I mean, he shot a rifle and several rounds into a car full of teenagers for no reason.

So, I would hope that there would be some conditions of bond. But, yes, he's entitled to a bond. He made bond. He's out on bond. But I hope they keep a strict eye and a close look on him while this whole thing plays out.

PAUL: Yodit, as a criminal defense attorney, I have to ask you if you had to defend him -- and we saw one story from the police department beforehand -- the other story unfolding in the video. How do you defend him?

TEWOLDE: You know, we don't know all of the evidence. Right now, all we know is that there was a story that he told to his department and to the community at large that was untrue when video surveillance, which actually I think will be coming out next week, and we'll all be able to see. But there's still information we don't know. But from what his parents are saying, he suffers from PTSD.

So, I'm not sure if maybe he thought he saw something happening that really wasn't happening. That's still not a justification. I can't say what I would do in defending him because we don't know all of the facts.

But I think that would be the route I would take and look at what is going on with him mentally. But as far as the police is concerned, they've acted swiftly, transparently. The D.A.'s office created a unit specifically for officer related shootings. So, they're handling this. They have competent prosecutors and I trust they're going to proceed successfully with this.

PAUL: So, let me ask you this. If it is proven that he does have PTSD, how does that change things moving forward when we go into the legal aspects of this?

TEWOLDE: Well, if he has PTSD, we have to see what it is that they are claiming. That's still not justification for shooting a car that is not posing a threat. Was he getting help? That falls back on the police station.

We have to understand that we have to make sure that police officers are mentally OK in order for them to really protect and serve the community. And if they're not, that serves no purpose for the community.

So, again, it has to be proven that he has PTSD. He had some tours in Iraq according to his parents, but how that affected his rationale?

[07:25:02] Was he reasonable in doing what he did? From what we know, there was no justification for this.

PAUL: All right. Yodit, real quickly, do you anticipate a civil lawsuit, or will the department settle in this case?

TEWOLDE: We haven't heard from the Department of Justice with regards to this case. I mean they've had a pretty rough week, I guess, with the Alton Sterling decision coming out. But they haven't said anything about this case.

I do expect a civil rights suit because this officer clearly violated Jordan Edwards' rights under the Constitution from unreasonable searches and seizures and from excessive force. He used excessive force that ended in someone's life being taken so soon.

So, I would expect a civil suit to be appropriate in this matter, yes.

PAUL: All righty. Yodit Tewolde, always appreciate your perspective. Thank you for taking the time to be with us.

TEWOLDE: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: It's important to point out that that report that former officer Oliver had PTSD was from his parents to "The Daily Mail". CNN has not been able to independently confirm that, but we continue to work on that story.

Let's turn now to Congress and the Democrats, who say the future of the Republican party is at risk over the GOP health care bill. This as the bill faces really a tough battle in the Senate.

PAUL: Also, controversy over president Trump's second pick for army secretary forces Mark Green to withdraw his name. Now, concerns about the White House's vetting process.


[07:30:48] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour on this early Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: So, the GOP health care bill to repeal and replace Obamacare passed the House, now has to pass the Senate. And that's a task some say is already dead on arrival.

Senate Republicans poised to make changes to the House's provisions have created the group you see here. This group that is starting to craft the Senate's version of the plan. Notice not a female in sight there.

BLACKWELL: Yes. This group's lack of diversity is catching heat from the left. Democrats are using that and the fallout behind the bill as a strategy to win back the House or to make some advantages in 2018.

Virginia's gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello put out this attack ad. Watch.


TOM PERRIELLO (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Republican leaders are trying to do this to affordable health care. I'm Tom Perriello, and in Congress, I voted for Obamacare because it was wrong that a million Virginians weren't covered while insurance companies held all the power. We'll make sure this never happens in Virginia.


BLACKWELL: The bill's fate is uncertain at this point, but the question remains will the Democrats' message resonate with voters and change the GOP's future?

Let's continue the conversation, bringing back CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott and political reporter for "The Washington Post" political blog, "The Fix", Amber Phillips.

As we admire Mr. Perriello's ability to get that in one take because you have one ambulance, let's talk about the message here, Eugene. Democrats believe that this will be in part the ticket to taking some advantages at least in 2018 in Congress.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: They do. I was reading the Cook Political Report, and 20 Republican lawmakers are currently in districts that they believe now could go to the Democrats in 2018. Democrats are on a high because of this vote and really believe that things look well in their favor in addition to the fact that Obamacare is now enjoying high favorability ratings.

However, one thing that they would be wise to pay attention to is that people on both sides of the aisle have said that there are quite a few issues with the Affordable Care Act, and they could use this opportunity perhaps not to just coast on these approval ratings and the Republican lawmakers' vote, but actually to pay attention to some of these criticisms and try to make the bill better.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to the Senate. Amber, let me pull up a tweeted out statement from Senator Lamar

Alexander who is going to be heading up this 13-member working group. We've shown the photographs here, but let's look at the tweet.

He says, "The Senate will finish work on our bill, but" -- not and -- "but will take the time to get it right." Seems like a backhand at the House.

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST'S POLITICAL BLOG, "THE FIX": Yes. The Senate wants absolutely nothing to do with this House bill. They think it is absolutely toxic.

Listen, Paul Ryan -- and you can understand why when you look at the political dynamics with the House. To get this House bill through, Paul Ryan needed to shift it to the right. He needed this group of 30 or 40 conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who want government like completely out of people's health care, to get on board. Managed to do that.

The Senate is an entirely different beast. You have more moderate Republicans who are in states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. Those states would be on the hook financially, hundreds of thousands. In some of the bigger states, millions of people could lose their health care.

These senators cannot face voting for that kind of legislation whereas in a House district, it's much smaller. You have people who might cheer on, you know, this kind of conservative hands off my health care legislation. The Senate does not want to touch the House legislation, and clearly they're not going to.

BLACKWELL: I mean, there is no gerrymandered state, right? So these districts can be kind of fitted to suit someone with some of the more conservative rhetoric that we've seen from some House members.

Eugene, back to you. And we've shown the 13-member working group tweet out from Democratic Senator Patty Murray where she says and points out there are no women on this panel. "It matters to have women at the table, and it matters when they aren't."

[07:35:05] I mean to have no women as part of this group, especially after that what could become iconic photo from the Rose Garden this week with members of the House celebrating passage of that bill would appear to be dozens of white men exclusively behind the president, the decision not to put a woman on this panel, this working group.

SCOTT: Indeed. This is also another move after, if you recall, some of the earliest discussions about this bill actually in the White House also featured a photo that had no women on the table during a specific meeting about how this bill could affect women. I think what we will have to see Senate Republicans try to do is make the case that they are listening to the voices of women and how they will be impacted by this legislation if it gets passed, and that they truly are concerned about making health care more affordable not just for people who look like them, but people who have different needs, different pre-existing conditions than themselves that are unique to women.

BLACKWELL: And hen you consider, Amber, that two of the voices or two of the votes they're likely going to need are from two of the more moderate members of the caucus, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, two more moderate female senators who could have filled one of these seats that were occupied by two of the more moderate men. You've got Gartner of Colorado. You've got Portman of Ohio, Toomey of Pennsylvania.

That could have been an easy fix -- important voices in this conversation.

PHILLIPS: Yes, exactly. This comes across as tone deaf from Senate Republicans. I don't think they were trying to exclude women or anything, but there is an optics problem here, right? And then a politics problem as you get to exactly with the fact that the Senate can only lose two votes. This is assuming all Democrats oppose this bill, which is a very safe assumption.

The Senate can only lose two votes to have some kind of legislation, whatever they come up with, pass. And right here you are excluding two moderates, two very important, powerful moderates who carry a lot of weight in the Senate from even crafting the legislation. And the fact that they happen to be women also gets to this optics problem Republicans have right now.

BLACKWELL: Eugene, we saw that the House bill went through without the CBO score being completed. We know that will come out over the next ten days to two weeks.

Are we expecting that this Senate bill will go through regular rules, that there will be public hearings, that there will be some of these voices that were not included in the House legislation, some of the outside third-party advocacy groups will be consulted with?

SCOTT: Well, when they say they plan to take more time with the bill, that is the implication, I believe, to be true. But time will tell. It will certainly do Republican lawmakers a service to listen to some of the voices that believe they were not -- believe went unheard during the first steps when the House voted on the bill.

BLACKWELL: All right. Eugene Scott, Amber Phillips, thank you both.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

SCOTT: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, new doubts this morning about the Trump administration's vetting process after the latest pick for army secretary suddenly withdraws his name.

BLACKWELL: Plus, North Korea accuses the U.S. of planning a detailed attack to assassinate its leader. Those accusations and the U.S. response are ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:40:33] PAUL: Mortgage rates crawled up this week. Here's your look.


BLACKWELL: For the second time, President Trump's choice for army secretary has withdrawn the nomination. Mark Green blamed what he called false and misleading attacks against him.

PAUL: This follows backlash from controversial statements on LGBT issues, Islam, and evolution. Green is just the latest in a run of controversial picks raising questions about the Trump administration's vetting process.

Here's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark Green is a victim of his own words.

MARK GREEN, TENNESSEE STATE SENATOR: If you poll the psychiatrists and they're going to tell you that transgender is a disease.

SCHNEIDER: Green has also made critical comments about Muslims and is a self-identified creationist who once delivered a speech arguing against the Theory of Evolution. Now, the West Point grad, who is President Trump's second choice for army secretary, is taking his name out of consideration. The first pick withdrew citing financial entanglements.

Green is just the latest problematic pick for President Trump, drawing doubts about the administration's vetting process.

Questions are also now being raised about 28-year-old Steven Munoz. He was hired for a top job in the office of protocol at the State Department on January 25th. But police records first reported by "ProPublica" and obtained by CNN show multiple people accused Munoz of sexual assault while he was a student at Citadel Military College. The alleged victims came forward to college officials and police between 2010 and 2012.

Munoz was never charged with a crime, but an investigation by the Citadel revealed that "based upon a preponderance of evidence, the college concluded that certain assaults likely occurred." Munoz's lawyer maintains, "The allegations were unfounded, it was a total overreaction by the Citadel to even investigate and ultimately no charges or lawsuits were brought against him."

The State Department is standing by Munoz and its vetting procedure. A simple search would have revealed the allegations. The White House and State Department did not comment on whether they considered or knew about the allegations.

Perhaps the most serious case of questionable vetting -- the appointment and subsequent resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

[07:45:01] The retired general accepted $45,000 in speaking fees from Russian state TV in 2015, despite being warned by the Pentagon not to accept money from foreign governments. And Flynn initially failed to register as a foreign agent for work he did for a Turkish-owned company.

President Trump deflected responsibility, pinning Flynn's approval on former President Obama.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was approved by the Obama administration at the highest level. And when they say we didn't vet -- well, Obama, I guess, didn't vet, because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration.


PAUL: And thank you to CNN's Jessica Schneider there reporting.

BLACKWELL: Well, you know the tensions are already high between the U.S. and North Korea. Now, accusations that the U.S. tried to kill the regime's leader with a biochemical weapon. More on the alleged plot live from South Korea, next.

PAUL: Also, more protests planned in Venezuela today. Look what they're dealing with here. There are calls for the president to resign, and those calls are getting louder after days of violence like you're seeing here. We'll take you there.

Stick with us.


[07:50:26] PAUL: So glad to have you with us this morning.

You know, the United States and South Korea are flat-out denying allegations made by North Korea that they plotted to kill Kim Jong-un.

BLACKWELL: Now, the regime claims that they teamed up to try and kill the leader with a biochemical weapon.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is in Seoul, South Korea.

Ivan, let's be candid. North Korea has a history of offering wild and baseless claims, right? So, where do we believe that this one originated and why this is coming up now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this came from state media, basically, the propaganda mouthpiece for North Korea. They are dramatic, unsubstantiated claims. And we have to be careful about North Korean state media hasn't offered any hard evidence to back them up. CNN can't independently corroborate any of these claims and U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources have refused to comment or dismissed the claims. But, basically, North Korea is alleging that a CIA and South Korean intelligence plot recruited a North Korean timber worker in far eastern Russia, paid him more than a half million dollars and provided a satellite tracker via a Chinese border city to gather intelligence to try to assassinate North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, either at a military parade or at the palace where the tombs of his father and grandfather are held.

And the North Koreans claim they busted up this spy ring and they're declaring that they're going to mount an anti-terror campaign in their country. Now, North Korean state media, just to give you some context, on the same day just a couple weeks ago published two wildly outrageous reports, one from a North Korean youth group vowing that it would use five million nuclear bombs to wipe out North Korea's enemies, another dispatch vowing that North Korea would kill all U.S. forces so that there wouldn't be a single man left to sign a surrender letter.

Just a little bit of context to help understand how outrageous the past comments have been that have come from North Korean propaganda sources -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ivan Watson, thank you so much for the update.


BLACKWELL: Thirty-six people now dead, dozens injured after violent protests continue to rock Venezuela. Thousands of anti-government protestors have filled the streets for days, calling for the president to step down. They threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at police. And we have to warn you that some of what you're watching is difficult to see.

PAUL: Yes, one of those explosives hit a national guard truck which drove into the crowd there, ran over one man who was seriously injured but did survive. Multiple marches are planned against the government today, but those are just some of the images we're getting out of Venezuela. That video (INAUDIBLE) Wow.

All right. France's leading presidential campaign says it's been hacked. Now, it's not clear who is responsible. Russia denies that it is involved. We have some new details for you next hour.

BLACKWELL: He watched as hundreds -- 2,500 in fact, were given homes. Now, the Labrador retriever from Michigan finally has a place to call his own. We've got his story next.


[07:58:20] PAUL: Hey, you're not supposed to feel stressed or exhausted. However if you do, because we know it happens, media mogul Arianna Huffington sharing how she gets her Z's and achieves that work/life balance we look for. It's in this week's "Staying Well".


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST FOUNDER: Being exhausted has become the new normal.

I was in my office I hit my head on my desk and broke my cheek bone. I went from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was wrong with me. The diagnosis really was burnout.

I had bought into the collective delusion that in order to succeed, in order to achieve, you have to burn out. You have to sacrifice your health, sacrifice your sleep. It's just not true.

When we are sleep-deprived, when we're exhausted we make bad decisions. The vast majority of us need seven to nine hours and it simply requires us prioritizing it.

Setting boundaries is key. Not sleeping with our phones by our bed, having a period of a digital detox, remembering to be grateful makes it easier for us to deal with challenges.

When I put my own oxygen mask first as they say on airplanes and prioritize my health and well-being, I'm a better leader and I make better decisions.


BLACKWELL: All right. Here's the good one. Our thanks to Arianna Huffington for that.

But let's turn to a great story for a special needs dog that was left at the shelter. The last one there.

PAUL: The last one there. Back in December, a 70-pound Labrador, his name is Eastwood was found abandoned on the side of the road in Michigan taken to a no-kill shelter. There were 2,500 dogs in that same shelter.