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Trump Warns Comey, Hints at Secret Recordings; FBI's Russia Investigation Carries On; Hackers Exploit Weakness in Windows Computers; U.S. May Extend Laptop Ban to Flights from Europe; Pope to Canonize Fatima Shepherd Children; A Texas Take on Trump. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 13, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


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HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump tweets a public warning to his fired FBI director in case he leaks to the media.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, a cyber attack called WannaCry hits computers in 99 countries, holding data hostage and demanding a ransom.

JONES (voice-over): And later on in the program, thousands of people greet Pope Francis in Portugal, where the Catholic Church will soon get two new saints.

HOWELL (voice-over): It is 4:00 am on the east coast. We want to welcome all of our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell live at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

JONES (voice-over): And I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live for you in London, where it's just gone 9 o'clock this Saturday morning. Great to have you with us. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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HOWELL: Have you been following the drama?

Three days now since the U.S. president fired his FBI director and still it's not clear why he did it. Instead of settling this matter, Donald Trump tweeted a threat, warning Comey against going public. Here is CNN's Jeff Zeleny to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump adding new fuel to the fire in his escalating fight with the FBI, making a veiled threat on Twitter to James Comey.

The president saying the fired FBI director better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

Stunning words from the commander in chief, directed at the nation's former top law enforcement official, the man who was leading an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives before being fired Tuesday.

The president refused to answer the question he raised himself, in an interview with FOX News.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be and I'm sure he will be, I hope.

ZELENY (voice-over): White House press secretary Sean Spicer also refused to answer whether there's a recording system in the Oval Office or whether the president is taping his conversations there or elsewhere.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: I've talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that.

ZELENY (voice-over): When asked again and again, press secretary Sean Spicer ended the daily White House briefing with the question whether any tapes exist still hanging in the air. Spicer disputed the suggestion the president's warning to Comey was a threat.

SPICER: That's not a threat. He simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I'm moving on.

ZELENY (voice-over): But it's unclear whether the president is moving on. He aimed another missive at Comey today after making his feelings clear in an NBC interview Thursday.

TRUMP: Look, he's a showboat. He's a grandstander.

ZELENY (voice-over): At issue is a dinner the president invited Comey to seven days after taking office. It was there, CNN has learned, that the president asked the FBI director about loyalty.

TRUMP: We had a very nice dinner. And at that time he told me, "You are not under investigation."

ZELENY (voice-over): The president's obsession with the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is what led to Comey's firing. The credibility of the president and his advisers is in question, as the White House becomes increasingly consumed by chaos and a crisis of leadership.

The president is isolated and agitated, associates tell CNN. He finished a full week barely seen at the White House before making this brief afternoon appearance with the first lady.

TRUMP: Hi, everyone, a friendly, beautiful group. ZELENY (voice-over): But his views have been heard in a roaring Twitter storm. He acknowledged conflicting explanations in the timeline of Comey's firing, offering no apology but bluntly conceding, accuracy seems optional.

"As a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracy."

He went on to say, "Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future press briefings and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy."

SPICER: Wow.

[00:10:00]

SPICER: We've got a full house today.

ZELENY (voice-over): The White House press secretary was back at the podium, under siege, after a perilous week for the administration.

SPICER: Time and time again, an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of gotcha.

ZELENY (voice-over): Look to point blame elsewhere, the president is frustrated by his communications team, telling FOX News he might take matters into his own hands.

TRUMP: Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he your press secretary today and tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes, he's -- well, he's doing a good job but he gets beat up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, he's been there from the beginning.

ZELENY (voice-over): For now, Spicer remains in place, apparently just in time to be lampooned again on "Saturday Night Live." Melissa McCarthy, Spicer's impersonator, spotted today in midtown Manhattan, filming this week's episode.

ZELENY: So as this incredibly chaotic week comes to an end, still many questions hanging over this White House, one, of course, of credibility; two, who will the next FBI director be?

And, three, does the president actually have a recording device either in the Oval Office or elsewhere, recording -- [04:05:00]

ZELENY: -- these conversations?

The White House of course would not talk about that but, going forward here, this whole issue of firing James Comey has stymied their legislative agenda. He'll be traveling abroad next week, his first foreign trip of his presidency. They're hoping that helps get the president back on track -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jeff Zeleny, thanks for the reporting. A lot to unpackage here.

Let's bring in Leslie Vinjamuri now for context. She teaches international relations at the University of London, live in London with us this hour.

Leslie, let's start with this threat, some say a veiled threat, though clearly a threat to the former FBI director, James Comey, on Twitter by the President of the United States.

First of all, what does this say about Mr. Trump putting this on Twitter?

And, secondly, Leslie, what about the people around him who are supposed to be his advisers?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, I think the president's advisers have continued to struggle to manage and contain the president. It was said recently that this is really their biggest job, is dealing with what's coming out of the president as opposed to what's coming out beyond the White House.

But, clearly, this seems to be a case where the management of all the fallout surrounding the last few days since President Trump fired the FBI director have made things much worse rather than better.

So there's a clear problem of the things that President Trump is saying are leading people to believe that he is potentially obstructing justice, which, of course, is a criminal problem.

The firing itself is deeply problematic but not illegal, as we know. But it's the things that have come out since that are making people very concerned.

Did he actually meet with Comey and pressure him to be loyal?

This would, you know, suggest a grave doubt about the respect that he has for the independence of the FBI, which is crucial to American democracy.

So there are a lot of core norms that form the basis of the United States that Donald Trump is violating right now, that need to be -- his advisers need to really pull him back but they're having difficulty doing that.

HOWELL: You list a few of the concerns there. As you point out, this is within the president's right to fire the FBI director. But certainly the timing of all of this, given that this is the FBI director, who was overseeing an investigation into Trump associates during the campaign and possibly in the administration.

So, in this threat, again, it indicates that there may have been recording devices present during a conversation. Neither the president nor his press secretary would confirm or deny that information.

But what are the implications if there are recording devices, Leslie?

VINJAMURI: Well, Trump does have a history of recording. Recording wouldn't be beyond the law as far as I understand it.

But there is a real question of, will that come out?

He should -- we should -- given the current context, it would be important to share that. He probably will not. But it's a question of what that conversation was.

And, again, has he respected the independence of the FBI, of the FBI's investigation?

Was there undue pressure put on Comey?

What was the nature of that conversation?

And we're hearing many different things. And we're hearing these things from the president, which is the great irony here.

Now the other problem is, what happens going forward?

And what we've seen in the past is that the president actually, in many recent appointments, has actually gone out of his way to choose something who has very -- if you think about the -- when we lost the national security adviser, he then appointed somebody with a great deal of respect amongst his peers.

So who he appoints to be the next FBI director I think will take us a long way toward understanding how this crisis will unfold. If it's somebody who seems to be a very credible, very independent, very serious person, that will help.

And then there's a real question with about whether we're just going to see the current investigation managed by the FBI go forward, whether the House and Senate intelligence investigations will go forward or whether we'll see the appointment of a special counsel or an independent commission. There have been calls for both.

But at the moment, most Republicans are lining up behind the president. So I think the likelihood of getting an independent commission or a special committee, as Senator McCain has called for, is not high at the moment. And it looks like the FBI is likely to simply proceed with the existing investigation. Now the president -- the new FBI director will be critical to how much resource gets put into that investigation and whether it can carry forward in a very serious way or whether it is obstructed through a series of small measures.

HOWELL: Well, that is interesting. Again, we talk about timing. Right before the former FBI director was fired, he was actually ramping up, escalating that investigation, calling on for more resources from the Justice Department.

So look, there's a good cnn.com write that I would certainly invite our viewers around the world to check out about a president isolated and agitated. You heard Jeff Zeleny speak of that in his report.

What does all of this do, though?

Everything that we've talked about, what does it do for his domestic agenda because he's a president who said that he wants to bring jobs about and bring certain changes --

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HOWELL: -- what does all this do for that?

VINJAMURI: It is tremendously distracting. It's distracting for the president. It puts the Republicans in Congress in a very difficult position.

Remember, this all came on the back of, arguably, President Trump's first legislative success, which was getting the health care reform passed through the House. That still has to go to the Senate, where it will face great difficulties.

And now the broader context is that the Congress is caught up once again, not only in this broader investigation of Russia cyber attacks and Trump's relationship to Russia, with respect to that, but now with the -- with the Comey firing.

So it's a tremendous distraction at a time when the president really hasn't accomplished very much at all with respect to his legislative agenda. He wants to push forward tax reform. Remember, in just a few days, he's about to get on an airplane for his first major foreign trip.

So I imagine that that will take Washington's temporary focus away and turn it back to the world. But it's not doing much to help push forward a legislative agenda as we push forward to the 150-day mark of this presidency.

HOWELL: He is carrying a great deal of baggage on that flight. Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you so much for your time.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

JONES: Fascinating discussion there, George. We're going to stay with this story and several U.S. agencies are investigating Moscow's meddling in U.S. elections. And, of course, whether there was, indeed, any collusion with members of the Trump team. CNN's Tom Foreman shows us why the FBI is top of the investigative tree.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you look at all the different agencies investigating the possible Russian connection to the election and maybe to the Trump team, it is a lot of different groups out there, from the Department of Justice and the FBI to congressional committees to the Department of Defense, all the way down to the intelligence community.

Tip of the spear, though, is the FBI over here. They have the ability right now and they are right now collecting evidence, questioning people and analyzing an awful lot of data to see if anything was done wrong out here.

If they find something, yes, they can get together with the Department of Justice there and they can put together an indictment and have criminal charges against somebody.

Is this aimed specifically at Team Trump?

No, it is not. It is aimed at the overall question of Russian involvement in the election, although the outgoing director, who was just fired, said, yes, they have to consider people on the Trump team as part of that investigation.

Beyond that, what about the congressional part of this equation, right here in the middle, all these committees, what can they do?

They can keep summoning witnesses, getting them on TV and on the record and keep the story front and center. They can't really produce criminal charges but they can keep this story very much alive.

And if a bombshell comes out of something that they do out there, well, then that may help keep things going in a lot of different ways and it could produce a special commission or committee. They can name such a thing.

If that happens, then you move into a whole separate phase here because what about the special commissions or committees?

Are they bipartisan?

Can be but usually they will reflect the majority as you see it, so you would see Republicans who control the House and Senate probably control such a committee. It would tend to be seen as a little bit more independent, a little bit more free of political influence and it would be a fact-finding group out there.

And I say it is what it is because each one of these seems to have its own rules about how long it will last and what it will do with its power out there. The bottom line, though, is, if you get to this point and this committee wants to, it can have real teeth in pursuing that investigation and leading toward bigger political steps even as the criminal case is also being pursued.

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HOWELL: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, now to him. He was involved in firing Comey, who recused himself again -- Sessions did -- from any role in the Russia investigation in early March. But now many people are asking whether Sessions should have played a part at all in terminating Comey. Randi Kaye takes a closer look for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: I am now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recusing himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia and its meddling in the presidential election. That was March 2nd, after Sessions failed to disclose his meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his confirmation hearing.

SESSIONS: I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in.

KAYE (voice-over): But more than two months later, right back in the thick of it, despite Sessions officially sidelining himself, many are now questioning if he violated his recusal by advising President Donald Trump on the --

[04:15:00]

KAYE (voice-over): -- decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

The fact is, Sessions promised to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related to the campaign.

So why was he in the Oval Office on Monday this week, counseling the president about Comey, who was heading up the Russia investigation?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He asked them for their recommendations, based on the conversation that they had on Monday. He asked them to put that recommendation in writing. But they came to him on his own --

KAYE (voice-over): The White House says the president reviewed those written recommendations and made his decision the following day.

KAYE: Still, let's remember the White House initially said Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal. But we now know that, according to the president himself, that is not accurate.

He says the Russia investigation played a role in his decision to cut Comey loose, which brings us back to Jeff Sessions and his so-called recusal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He violated that public (ph) commitment when he made a recommendation to President Trump to fire Comey. There is strong evidence that the firing of Comey was related to the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign.

KAYE (voice-over): Democratic Senator Al Franken slammed Sessions in a statement, saying he was "deeply troubled." Franken called it "a complete betrayal of his commitment to the public that he wouldn't be involved in the investigation."The

On top of that, we've learned Sessions is also interviewing candidates to replace Comey, meaning Jeff Sessions will have a key role in picking who will be in charge of the Russia investigation, the very investigation he vowed not to be a part of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Based on his commitment from March, Attorney General Sessions needs to recuse from participating in the vetting of those candidates as well. Attorney General Sessions shouldn't be involved in selecting the next director of the FBI.

KAYE (voice-over): The White House sees it very differently.

SANDERS: Look, the FBI is doing a whole lot more than the Russia investigation. So he should absolutely have a role in seeing who runs that agency and that department.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Randi, thanks very much for that reporting.

Stay with us here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Coming up, computers crippled, totally useless, unless you pay up. We'll hear how to protect your own computer from this global cyber attack.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Now to tell you about a worldwide cyber attack. It's hit tens of thousands of computers, showing error messages like the screen here. This was the screen at the U.K.'s National Health Service, demanding ransom to unlock the files. Some hospitals even had to cancel appointments because of it. At

least 99 countries have been targeted and we're learning that the hackers took advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows computers. Earlier, British prime minister Theresa May addressed the security breach. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We're aware that a number of NHS organizations have reported that they have suffered from the ransomware attack. This was not targeted at the NHS. It's an international attack. A number of countries and organizations have been affected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Let's get up to speed with all of this. Our Nina dos Santos is following the impact of the hacking in London. Diana Magnay has the latest in Moscow, Russia, of course, being one of the countries being hit the hardest.

Nina, to you first.

What is this virus?

And given the fact that we know at least 99 countries have been affected, including Britain and our National Health Service, how contagious is it?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: It's obviously very contagious. This is one of the most damaging cyber attacks in the best part of a decade, Hannah. What hackers have done is they've used a cyber weapon called Eternal Blue that was originally by U.S. spies at the National Security Agency to try and power charge, supercharge an existing form of criminal malware, which is similar to a particular virus called the WannaCry virus.

And what they've done here is they've managed to infiltrate many different computers using large-scale computer networks and big organizations, be it the National Health Service here in the U.K. We've had also reports of Telefonica, the mobile phone company out in Spain, power companies to Spain, to Portugal, Taiwan, everywhere around the world, Germany, Tajikistan and even the interior ministry of Russia having been affected.

So essentially what cyber security experts think is that a criminal gang here is trying to make money with what's called ransomware. What happens is when this virus infects your computer, it encrypts all of your data. You get that screen that George was just showing us before, asking you to pay a ransom of about $230 in Bitcoin, which is and online cryptocurrency.

And we do know that some of those Bitcoin accounts have already started filling up, although there's no evidence of exactly which big organizations have paid any of these ransoms.

And here in the U.K., it's doubtful that an organization like the NHS would do so -- Hannah.

JONES: Diana, I want to bring in you in Moscow.

What is Russia, the Russian government saying about all this and the scope of this hack, given that, as Nina was just saying, we now hear that it's not just public data and public computers (INAUDIBLE) but also some personal data, as well, really at the heart of the Russian government.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Russian interior ministry says a thousand of its computers were compromised. But that is only 1 percent and they said that no data had been had stolen. The health ministry says their systems haven't been attacked.

We know that several telecom companies were targeted. One of them, MegaFon was compromised. SpareBank also, a very big bank here, was targeted. The minister who is in charge of the Internet was -- he's the adviser on the Internet to President Putin. He --

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MAGNAY: -- has said that he doesn't expect there to be any big economic losses as a result of this, simply that there will be data, possible data breaches. But nothing on a significant scale economically to worry about.

But it is the country that has been hit the hardest and exponentially harder than any other country by these attacks.

Interesting, too, what we're hearing from Edward Snowden's Twitter feed. He, of course, is in Russia and he has been criticizing the NSA for allowing its cyber weaponry to have been hacked and to have been made available online by this hacker group called Shadow Brokers.

They compromised the systems. They somehow got their hands on these cyber tools of the NSA and dumped them online in April. He has said, Edward Snowden, in the past that they were associated with the Russian government but, of course, since cyber criminals can get hold of those weapons and use them to their own effects, ironically in this case, targeting mostly Russian companies -- Hannah.

JONES: Very interesting indeed, especially to hear what Edward Snowden has been saying about it, as you say, Diana.

Nina dos Santos, live for us here in London with me and Diana Magnay in Moscow, thanks very much indeed.

HOWELL: From the U.K. and the United States this is CNN NEWSROOM. And still ahead, the U.S. appears to set a ban on laptops in cabins on flights from Europe. Why some officials, though, say it is a dangerous move. Stay with us.

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JONES (voice-over): Coming up to 9:30 this Saturday morning, the headlines for you.

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Now the fired FBI director James Comey, he's not spoke publicly since he was terminated abruptly earlier this week by the president and now Donald Trump hopes that Comey will remain silent. CNN's Brian Todd has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's threat to his fired FBI director isn't subtle.

Quote, "James Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press," Mr. Trump tweeted.

The White House denies it was a threat.

But were any of the president's conversations with Comey taped?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that.

TODD: President Trump says there were three conversations between him and his FBI director, two phone calls and a one-on-one dinner they had at the White House on January 27th. Press secretary Sean Spicer didn't answer when he was asked if there was capability at the White House to tape those conversations.

Former White House staffers tell us the technical capability exist for the President to tape phone conversations. But that is different from a built-in taping system used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Among Nixon's legendary recordings, a 1972 Oval Office conversation on how to push back on the Watergate investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Play it tough. That's the way they played it and that's the way we are going to play it.

TODD: That White House taping system was shut down in the summer of 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: The American people, the press or the media, they didn't know anything about the taping systems until Alexander Butterfield, a White House aide in July of 1973 told the Senate Watergate committee, told the staff that there was a taping system.

At that point, Richard Nixon had the opportunity to destroy the tapes, he decided not to.

TODD: As for the one-on-one dinner between Trump and Comey at the White House, former staffers tell us they don't know of any built-in systems in the dining room to tape conversations. They say the president could bring in a recording device or have an aid take notes on the conversation but it's unlikely he would.

Could Comey have taped the phone conversations on his end?

We got no comment from the FBI. Former top bureau officials tell us that would only be allowed if the president himself was under investigation, which Trump says he is not, and if the FBI chief got a warrant to tape him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot imagine that happening, the FBI director does not tape conversations with the president or members of the Hill or staff members. I cannot see that happening.

TODD: If there are any tapes of President Trump and James Comey recorded at the White House there is now significant pressure on Mr. Trump and his team to produce them.

This letter we just obtained from top House Democrats, John Conyers and Elijah Cummings, of two key House oversight committees, is calling on the White House turn over copies of any recordings, emails, documents, any communications between President Trump James and Comey on this matter. So far, no comment from the White House on this letter -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Brian Todd reporting there, thank you.

Russia is reacting with ridicule to the Comey firing. Kremlin officials and state media have mocked the former FBI director and allegations that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has more now on their response from Moscow.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump fires his FBI chief, James Comey, provoking renewed allegations of a Russia cover-up. Then he holds a first meeting with the Russian foreign minister in Washington and he even allows himself to be photographed --

[04:35:00]

CHANCE (voice-over): -- smiling and greeting the Russian ambassador at the center of the allegations of Trump officials colluding with the Kremlin.

I actually think the Russians don't know whether they should laugh or cry at the messaging chaos in the United States right now. They have been doing some of both, starting with the Russian foreign minister himself, who joked about the Comey dismissal, sarcastically claiming he had no idea what had happened. Perhaps it was an ill-judged attempt to lighten the mood. But it also revealed the extent to which Russian officials are almost

reveling in their rival's mess. Because, after all, undermining the credibility of the credibility of the United States political system is what Russians want to do.

Kremlin-controlled media has also been having a field day, scoffing at how Comey continuously made up stories about the Ruskies, they say, but never find anything.

The Russians foreign ministry spokeswoman has lampooned the fuss about the photographs, joking that if they had not been released, they would have been presented as secret evidence of collusion with Russia.

Behind all the mocking, though, the Kremlin is concerned about what Trump's unexpected move to fire Comey means for them. Russian President Vladimir Putin was pictured playing ice hockey when asked about the rage in Washington. He told one reporter the issue had nothing to do with him.

But the episode has underscored for Russians just how unpredictable the Trump administration can be. They may laugh at it, but they don't like it -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: The view from Russia. Matthew, thank you.

The U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rolled back a major part of his predecessor's Smart on Crime initiative. Under the Obama administration, federal prosecutors were told to avoid harsh mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

They said it would cut down on punishing minor offenses, which disproportionately affected minority communities while targeting the major drivers of the illegal drug trade.

But Sessions has withdrawn those directives, casting a much wider net for prosecutable cases. He says his plan will keep America safe, one of the pillars of the Trump campaign that he advised.

JONES: The airline industry is bracing now for a major change. The U.S. is set to expand its laptop ban to flights coming from Europe. But officials there say these new restrictions might actually pose a safety risk themselves. Here is Rene Marsh with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the U.S. moves toward expanding its ban on all electronics larger than a cellphone from the main cabin of U.S.-bound aircraft, airlines are in preparation mode. The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to announce it will expand its electronics ban to Europe.

Right now, the ban is in place for flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim majority countries. An expanded ban, though, could impact more than 350 flights a day. The Europe-to-U.S. track is the world's busiest international corridor.

Delta, United as well as American Airlines are the U.S. carriers that would be impacted the most. They have the most flights on this route.

Right now, airlines are trying to figures out new protocols and policy for how to check passengers for compliance. They are also working with international airports to reconfigure the setup to isolate passengers and flights bound for the U.S.

DHS says that the ban was put into place because intelligence suggests that terrorists have perfected their ability to hide explosives in the battery components of these electronics.

Now, European officials, they are voicing safety concerns that there will be a large number of electronic devices with lithium-ion batteries in the cargo holds.

But, the FAA says, the dangers associated with these batteries are reduced because they are spread out in bags, in pieces of luggage, and they are not stored together and on top of each other -- Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Rene Marsh, thank you for the report.

Still ahead, Pope Francis is visiting a holy site of the Catholic faith. These live images in Portugal. More ceremonies are planned there. The story ahead as NEWSROOM continues.

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JONES: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones in London.

Pope Francis is set to celebrate mass very soon at a significant site in the Catholic faith. These are live pictures from Portugal at the moment, where thousands of Catholics are making a pilgrimage to a place called Fatima in Portugal every single year. Many of them are gathering around Pope Francis, the pontiff now. They are awaiting the pope's mass.

Catholics themselves believe that three shepherd children saw the Virgin Mary in this town 100 years ago. It's said the children claimed that Mary came to them and predicted future events, which later came true.

The pontiff will be formally canonizing two of those children while the third child is now on the path to sainthood. These live pictures for this mass is due to begin.

CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is following Pope Francis on his travels and joins me live now from Fatima.

Obviously, a huge crowd around him at the moment, Delia. But just explain the significance of this place.

Why is it that Catholics flock to Fatima every other day of the year, not least when the pontiff is in town?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hannah. You really cannot overestimate the importance of this place for Catholics all around the world. The Virgin of Fatima, Our Lady of Fatima, is said to be Mary of miracles and prophesies.

When she appeared to those three shepherd children in 1917, the story is that she gave them visions and messages. Those messages are known as the Secrets of Fatima.

In those messages, some say she predicted the wars and the sufferings to come in the 20th century. So that has been a source of mystery and debate in the Catholic Church since 1917.

And one of the main reasons why there is such interest in this place and why there are about more than 600,000 people who have come to be here today.

The other reason is John Paul II. You remember that John Paul II was shot in St. Peter's Square in 1981 and he was shot on May 13th. That is the feast day, today, of Our Lady of Fatima. And he credited her with saving his life.

And he brought the bullet which was lodged in his body here to Fatima and placed it in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and kind of increased the interest in this place and --

[04:45:00]

GALLAGHER: -- in the figure of the Virgin Mary and her apparitions here -- Hannah.

JONES: Interesting that the mass itself is happening on a Saturday, Delia.

How long is the Pope Francis in town?

And presumably he has quite a significant security detail around him whilst he's on this visit.

GALLAGHER: That's right. Now this is a very quick trip. This is a religious trip. So, you know, let's say two weeks ago we were in Egypt. There was very high security, a lot of security concern for that trip.

When you're on a religious pilgrimage, the security is downplayed. That doesn't mean that it's not here. Portugal has reinstated its border controls. They have closed the airspace above us, obviously. They've put cement barriers all around this area to avoid the possibility of any attacks with vehicles. So security is obviously very tight. But the difference on this trip

is these are pilgrims, these are people that have come here to pray and the pope has come here to pray with them -- Hannah.

JONES: And we know, Delia, that the pope will be canonizing, making saints out of two of the children who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary 100 years ago.

How important is canonization for the spread of the Catholic Church?

And how often does it happen?

GALLAGHER: It happens fairly regularly. There's a whole backlist of people to be canonized. It takes years, the canonization process, because they have to attribute miracles to these people, they have to look into their lives, if they were lives of holiness.

Obviously the whole point of having saints in the Catholic Church is that these are people you can pray to. They're supposed to be the people that can help you with whatever your special prayers for God and for Mary.

So the pope canonizing these two young children who died shortly after those apparitions is very significant and another point in favor, if you want, of this place of Fatima and of the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. So it's a way to encourage, obviously, Catholics in their prayer life to these figures -- Hannah.

JONES: And Delia, we're going to hear the beautiful music behind you as this mass is about to get underway. The thousands of pilgrims who are there, are they able to actually attend the mass itself and receive the mass from the pontiff?

Or will they just be on the outsides of the area behind you?

GALLAGHER: Oh, they are right here, Hannah. They are all packed in. They've even been here last night. There was a beautiful candlelit vigil. They have been praying the rosary all night.

This is a big moment for them and, as I say, for Catholics all around the world. What happens in these masses is the pope says mass at the altar, not far from where I'm standing. At the time of communion, they send out hundreds of priests out into the crowd so they can all participate.

So it's a regular mass, if we can say that, in such a special place -- Hannah.

JONES: It's quite a feat, though, for the security officials there in this -- what is presumably quite a small town, though, to suddenly be inundated with thousands and thousands of pilgrims from around the world, not least because they'll be hoping to receive communion but also because they need to get in and around the town as well whilst they're there.

GALLAGHER: That's right, of course. This is a town, remember, that has been famous for the last 100 years. So actually, as we were coming in, I noticed that they're very well equipped.

There are hotels all around. The roads are very well paved and easy to get in and out of. They are used to big crowds, actually. Remember that John Paul II was here, Pope Paul VI was here before him; Benedict XVI was here. So they are used to some about big crowds.

Obviously, a lot of people come out for Francis today but this is something that's been going on now for quite some time here in Fatima -- Hannah.

Some huge crowds there. It's wonderful to be there and see these live pictures of the pope, Pope Francis, celebrating mass with thousands of Catholic pilgrims. Delia Gallagher, live for us there in Fatima in Portugal, thank you.

HOWELL: Back to U.S. politics, following a no-nonsense crowd in the U.S. state of Texas, ahead, you'll meet some Trump supporters from Texas, who share their advice for the 45th president. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: In the U.S. state of Texas, Van Zandt County is reliably Republican. And many folks there are reacting to the never-ending drama surrounding the Trump administration.

Ed Lavandera spent some time with local business owners there to get their take on how President Trump is doing.

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ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pick up trucks sell well.

HENRY LEWIS, BUSINESS OWNER: Pick up trucks, this is Texas country.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): For more than 50 years, Henry Lewis has sold Chevy cars and trucks in Canton, Texas.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You wrote this book for --

LEWIS: For the grandkids.

LAVANDERA: It's full of life lessons, right?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But in his spare time, he wrote a book with short life lessons for his granddaughter and he says page 10 can help explain a lot these days, especially Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.

TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander.

LAVANDERA (on camera): If your presentation is on a 6th grade level, it will be understood, read, listened to and appreciated. That's kind of fitting.

You think Donald Trump has mastered that?

LEWIS: I think Donald Trump would agree with that?

You know, we may mail him a book.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Lewis still strongly supports Trump. He's not bothered by the president's tweet seeming to threaten Comey. But Lewis acknowledges some of Trump's antics are starting to wear thin.

LEWIS: It bothers me a little bit.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Yes?

LEWIS: I think he would be better served if he'd more presidential, if he'd take the high road and more presidential.

LAVANDERA (on camera): But your faith in him is -- still solid?

LEWIS: Yes, that's great. He's a businessman and that's what the country needs and I voted for him and I'd vote for him began.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Canton, Texas, sits in the heart of Van Zandt County, the antique shopping capital of the world, where Donald Trump won 85 percent of the vote. As we wandered around town, we found support still runs strong.

Carol Sossaman --

[04:55:00]

LAVANDERA (voice-over): -- runs her own antique shop and this exchange with her offered unique insight to why Trump's most ardent supporters haven't lost faith.

LAVANDERA (on camera): With all the crazy headlines we've seen here over the last few months, if you replaced the name Trump and you put in Hillary or Obama, do you think his supporters would have the same reaction?

Kind of dismissing things like the Russia investigation?

CAROL SOSSAMAN, BUSINESS OWNER: No.

LAVANDERA: Questions about taxes?

SOSSAMAN: No. No. No. Because -- there's so much hope with Trump being in office. I think that's what drives people to believe in him because he's a businessman. He gets stuff done. That's a proven fact. LAVANDERA (voice-over): Sossaman voted for President Obama in 2008, didn't vote in 2012 and then voted for Trump. She says the clock is ticking. And that Trump supporters can handle the drama as long as work gets done on issues like health care. Is that a sign there's a crack in Trump's armor?

SOSSAMAN: But after a couple of years, if nothing gets done and it's drama all the time, I don't think he'll have many supporters left.

LAVANDERA: Donald Trump's act might not seem presidential to even some of his supporters, but in the antique shops of this East Texas town, the act hasn't gotten old -- yet. -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Van Zandt County, Texas.

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HOWELL: That wraps this first hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell, live in Atlanta.

And I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London. Don't go away. We'll be right back with more news from around the world right after the break.

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