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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Trump Shared Classified Information with Russians; Officials: Israel Was Source of Intel Trump Gave Russia; Kremlin Dismisses Report on Meeting as "Nonsense;" Erdogan at White House for Talks; White House: Trump Will File Personal Financial Disclosure; Yates on Flynn: The Russians Had "Real Leverage"; Iranians Choosing Between Moderate and Conservative; Reports: Chaotic Atmosphere Pervades White House. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired May 16, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN HOST: Tonight, the White House national security adviser steps out to defend his boss for the second time in as many days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: What I will tell you again is that what the president shared was wholly
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Meanwhile, President Trump shrugs off controversy over sharing intelligence with the Russians saying it's his right as commander-in-chief.
And amid the drama, Turkey's president is at the White House -- what he's talking about with Mr. Trump.
Hello, I'm Clarissa Ward standing in for Hala Gorani, live from CNN London. This is "The World Right Now."
We begin with an extraordinary afternoon at the White House. U.S. officials are now telling CNN that Israel was the source of some sensitive
information that President Donald Trump shared with Russian diplomats last week. The White House won't comment on that.
But it is defending President Trump's actions during the oval office meeting. National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, says the president did
Sources say the president shared highly classified intelligence involving an ISIS plot and say exposing it could endanger lives. But McMaster had a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCMASTER: The president was emphasizing, hey, we have some common interests here. We have to work together in some critical areas.
We have an area -- we have an area of cooperation with transnational terrorist organizations, ISIS in particular, and organizations that had
already taken down a Russian airliner and murdered over 200 people in October of 2015. So -- so -- so this was the -- the context of the
conversation in which it was wholly appropriate to share what the threat was as a basis for common action and coordination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: President Trump, himself, briefly addressed the firestorm of controversy during -- during a news conference with the visiting Turkish
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, we had a very, very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia. Our fight is against ISIS. As
General McMaster, I thought he said and I know he feels that we had actually a great meeting with the foreign minister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: The story broke less than 24 hours ago. And the fallout was swift and fierce. The White House scrambled to respond to the news late Monday
afternoon, eventually putting McMaster in front of the cameras.
He gave a carefully worded statement saying that the story as reported was false. President Trump appeared to contradict that on Twitter this
morning. He owned up to passing along the information, although he didn't say whether or not it was classified.
And he said he has the absolute right to share facts with Russia about terrorism and airline safety. McMaster appeared again just before noon
today as we saw, once again defending the president.
He said something very interesting at the end of that briefing. Have a listen and then watch the reaction of reporters, frustrated to be left with
so many questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCMASTER: That the president wasn't even aware, you know, of where this information came from. He wasn't briefed on the source, the method of the
So I'm sorry this has got to be the last question because we do have the -- we do have the president of Turkey coming momentarily. Thank you very
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, General.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contradiction (ph) -- contradiction, General. We have more questions, General.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: You can hear those frustrated journalists there. Sources say the information passed along was so secretive that the U.S. hadn't even shared
it with close allies, much less a country considered to be an adversary. Some lawmakers want to know what Russian diplomats were doing in the White
House in the first place, given Moscow's interference in the U.S. election.
And now, a Senate committee investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia wants to see any transcripts of that meeting. Well, a lot to get
to. Let's bring in CNN Political Producer, Dan Merica.
Also, we're joined by CNN Political Analyst, Josh Rogin.
Dan, I want to start with you. You were just at an off-camera briefing with the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. What is the latest
we're hearing from the president and from the White House on this latest crisis?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: This story has certainly sent the White House scrambling. Less than 24 hours ago, it came out and you had
H.R. McMaster come out and say that, you know, the story is just not true.
And then you had Donald Trump tweet that, well, I was within my rights to do exactly what I did. And that sort of undercut his top aide.
But at this off -- off-camera briefing, you had Sean Spicer basically stand behind what the White House has been saying all day. It is wholly
appropriate for Donald Trump to release whatever information he wants in meetings with the Russians.
You also heard him asked about whether Israel was the source of that -- of that information. CNN has now confirmed that it was.
But Sean Spicer would not confirm that but stood behind a statement from the Israeli ambassador saying that it doesn't change their relationship
with the United States, whether that -- whether or not this information was shared from the Israeli government. What is critical important for the
White House now is to get a hold of this to calm fears on Capitol Hill.
You've heard republicans who have said that they're concerned about what this means for the Trump administration and going forward, what this means
for them getting anything done during -- during Trump's time and Trump's first year in office really. But also, President Trump is embarking on a
eight-day, five-country trip here, his foreign trip -- huge high stakes around this -- around this trip.
And it's important for the -- for foreign leaders to know they can share information with the president, and that the president isn't going to go
and share that information with countries that some view as hostile. So there's so much riding on this story.
That is partially the reason we have seen the White House scrambling to figure out how to communicate it in the last 24 hours.
WARD: And I think it's certainly fair to say, as you point to, Dan, that this is a distraction. And it's also an embarrassment.
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes?
WARD: .I want to ask you about, you know, McMaster coming out, reasserting that the president was, quote, "wholly appropriate" to say what he did,
saying that the basic premise of "The Washington Post," which we should add for our viewers, you also work for "The Washington Post," that the basic
premise that "The Washington Post" article was false. How do you read that? How do you respond to that?
ROGIN: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I would say that McMaster's statements today are an evolution at best of the White House's
position last night. Now, they're only disputing the premise that the leak, that the spill of the classified information was damaging rather than
the fact that the spill occurred.
So that shows that they're now forced to sort of adjust to what the president has put out on Twitter. Secondly, he chose that, you know,
McMaster, at once, is -- is defending the release of this information, and almost of the same breath, explaining that the president wasn't even aware
of the sources and methods, meaning that he couldn't have made a calculated decision of whether or not these sources and methods would be jeopardized
because he simply didn't have all the information.
So that's like a reflection of bad staff work or a reflection of real sloppiness on the part of the president that McMaster didn't mean to
convey. But that sort of came out in the course of that briefing.
And lastly, I would just say that, you know, what McMaster's prominence in this affair shows is that the White House is really running out of
credible surrogates they can put in front of the cameras to speak to the international community and the media to defend some of the president's
more controversial actions. And now that McMaster has spent a lot of capital he has had on for years as a top general and with relationships on
both sides of Capitol Hill, you know, that is -- is something that he can probably never get back.
And when the next crisis occurs, which could be any moment now or any day now, the White House will probably have to turn to yet another surrogate to
defend the president's actions. And they're running out of people, frankly.
WARD: I mean, that's a very good point.
And Dan, I mean, the question also becomes here, aside from the issue of sharing classified information and any potential security breaches, the
question becomes how does the White House deal with the quite-serious problem it clearly has with leaks. Where do these -- where does this
information -- how is it getting out?
What more have we learned about that?
MERICA: Well, the White House has been remiss to confirm that there is this investigation into where these leaks are coming from. But it's clear
that there are people inside the intelligence community who -- who want to get this information out, who are concerned by what they're seeing and are
putting this out in -- in "The Washington Post" and other -- and other outlets.
It's also kind of ironic that Donald Trump talks so much about getting a handle on leaks that he, himself, is -- is giving the Russian government
basically the information that they wouldn't have otherwise and it wasn't shared with them. You know, this is -- this is somebody who is not a
politician, was not in public office before, and was known as a, you know, for lack of a better term, a braggart, when he was a businessman in New
York, someone who could land on the front pages of every tabloid in New York, just based on what he was saying.
And it worked out for him to his benefit.
He's now the president of the United States. So the White House is kind of dealing with how do you get a president who likes to talk, who likes to
talk about what he knows under control when he's meeting with these foreign leaders.
It's something they'll have to confront when they're on this foreign trip, because he will be meeting with so many foreign leaders. And I think
that's also kind of -- if you look at Donald Trump's history, that's something that they are also dealing with.
WARD: And Josh, just quickly, last question, do you think that the president can, you know, go forward with this overseas trip without this
being always in the shadow of this? I mean, can he move forward from this now?
ROGIN: He has no choice. You know, quite simply, all foreign leaders, especially for foreign leaders who are preparing to meet with Trump during
this trip, are aware of the chaos that's going on inside his government and inside his White House, are aware of his penchant for letting private
information slip into the public, and are skeptical that they can really engage with the president of the United States in a serious way to make
real progress on real issues. So this is already harming what might have been a more productive trip.
Moving forward, all the Trump team can do is try to execute this trip as a reset on their administration, try to reset the tone and then try not to
have any more blunders. I mean, if -- if past is prologue, this will be a very difficult operation to pull off.
And if they can keep their president under control and keep on (ph) message, they might just get through this.
WARD: No more blunders. Well, we shall see. Josh Rogin, Dan Merica, thank you, both, very much.
ROGIN: Thank you.
MERICA: Thank you.
WARD: The president pretty much has the right to declassify any information he wants to. But doing so without the permission of the allies
who provided it could be seen as a major breach of diplomatic etiquette and it could jeopardize future intelligence sharing.
CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst, Bob Baer, joins me now via Skype. He is a former operative with the CIA.
I mean, Bob, you know, all of this sort of hysteria surrounding this aside, just give us a sober analysis of the security ramifications of this
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: You know, it's much more serious, Clarissa, than people are -- are letting on. What happened
was that apparently, Israel had a very, very sensitive report, sent it to Washington with the promise that it would be limited distribution within
When Israel sends a report in, they ask that there be no foreign dissemination without the permission of Tel Aviv or any -- the same works
for any other country. So if -- if the CIA or the FBI or anybody wants to disseminate this information further, they have to go back to Tel Aviv and
say, can we do this?
And this is how we're going to put it. The Israelis know that Washington leaks. They -- they've paid the price year after year, but there's never
been one this big.
This was code word report. It apparently was confirmed by the National Security Agency. I can't tell you how sensitive this information was.
And for the president to just spill it out with the two Russians, with the Russian ambassador and the foreign minister, is -- is more than a breach of
protocol. It's -- it's -- these capitalists are going to lose trust in the president.
And they have no way of controlling what information is disseminated in Washington. And you know, frankly, if the president can't tell a secret
from open-source information, they'll stop telling Washington things, very crucial details.
And this, well, this is.
WARD: And -- and yet, we're hearing from Sean Spicer, he was saying -- he was referring to the Israeli statement, basically, not making any mention
of this particular breach but talking more generally about the future shared cooperation and intelligence between the U.S. and Israel and saying,
look, basically, Israel is not upset at all.
BAER: Well, first of all, the Israelis don't want to admit they've been sharing (ph) information openly. They don't want to say what it is. They
have to go through the motions of pretending it's unimportant.
But clearly, the people in the oval office that were listening in on the meeting with the Russian foreign minister were concerned enough to call the
National Security Agency and other government agencies to say that the president disclosed very sensitive information.
And that's what concerns me as well, is that the -- the -- the national security establishment has lost trust in the president. And that's what we
should be thinking about because if the national security establishment has, so has the Pentagon and other people in Washington.
I've been getting a lot of e-mails from ex-colleagues, from officers, and the rest of it. We're very, very worried about what the president's going
to say in -- in open forums or -- or adversaries like Russia.
WARD: And do you think the fact that all of this is leaking out to the media speaks to that lack of trust? Is that what we're seeing here?
BAER: Oh, absolutely. Clearly, the White -- I have never seen a conversation between a foreign minister and the president of the United
States ever leaked out.
These things are not disseminated. They're not put on paper. They don't go all over the government where the chances of leak are much higher, so as
people with direct access were worried enough to alert various agencies.
That -- that's also very concerning because they -- they can't control the president. They can't control the message. McMaster can't.
Sean Spicer can't. They don't know what to do with him because the moment they -- they -- they get on message or they make a message, he's off
message the next day. And that's worrying people in the White House clearly.
WARD: OK, a sobering assessment from Bob Baer. Thank you as always.
Former CIA Director and U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta says the president can't just quote, "do or say or speak whatever the hell he
wants." And Panetta told CNN that Mr. Trump's words could do incredible damage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: No, I -- I just think -- I think the biggest risk is that he continues to say things, you know, at will without
thinking about it and that at some point, it creates an international crisis that, you know, can -- can really hurt the security of this
country. I mean, this is really important.
This is not just a -- a movie actor kind of bouncing around the world saying whatever a movie actor wants to say. This is the president of the
And that's why I -- I'm very concerned about the kind of mistakes and miscalculations that can either send the wrong kind of message to a country
abroad, that could suddenly blow up on us in one way or another. I mean, that -- he -- he's been able to kind of walk the silly trail right now.
But those -- those risks are real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Meanwhile, Russia is taking quite a different view, describing the reports as nonsense. Let's go live to Moscow and speak to our Matthew
Matthew, what are you hearing from the Kremlin?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well --well, just that. The Kremlin are clearly very frustrated about this -- this latest
controversy. I mean, in the past, Russian officials have scoffed at the political chaos unfolding in Washington.
There is a sense in which I think they see it as undermining of the U.S. political system, and therefore strengthening the perception of them in the
international community's eyes and in the eyes of their own people. But -- but that has its limits.
And I think those limits have probably been -- been reached now. The -- the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, a Putin spokesman, said to us earlier
that we absolutely do not want to have any relationship with this nonsense.
And he was very irritated when he made that comment. And he didn't want to talk about it any further.
And I think it points to (ph) the frustration, the fact that, you know, despite what they said, the Russians, the Kremlin have held out some hope
that the relationship with the Trump White House was going to be a transformational one, there was going to be an opportunity to do a deal on
the sanctions, to get them lifted. They've -- they've been imposed on Russia for some time now by the United States to cooperate over
international terrorism, which is (ph) what the Kremlin also wants.
And indeed, that was what they were discussing in the oval office when this secret information was allegedly disclosed by President Trump. But there's
also a recognition here in Moscow that with each controversy that -- that emerges at the prospects of a deal with the Trump administration that
recedes even further and -- and that's irritating for them.
WARD: But Matthew, when you look at those photographs inside the oval office, everyone appears to be quite jovial, lots of smiles. Do you think
that realistically, this is hurting the relationship, that it is going to be difficult to -- to -- to make those that reproachma (ph) really happen
CHANCE: Well, and I think that the scrutiny that these meetings are under now is absolutely extraordinary, particularly given the latest controversy
about what Trump did or didn't say to the -- to the Russian foreign minister. And of course, there's going to be an even more high-profile
meeting taking place in a couple of months from now, in July at the -- on the sidelines of the G20 Summit but where Trump and Vladimir Putin are
expected to meet for the first time.
But look, I mean, in this political environment, it's hard to imagine any move by the United States to reach out to the Russians, to coordinate with
them, to ease the sanctions on them, all of things that -- that Donald Trump said he would consider doing when he was the candidate because it
would all be seen in the context of, you know, how close is Trump to the Kremlin. I think it's becoming politically impossible for that to happen.
WARD: OK, Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you.
Still to come tonight, a downward spiral -- that is how one senior Republican is describing the White House as it responds to yet another
controversy over Russia.
WARD: With the White House mired in yet another controversy, Republicans are again trying to work out how to respond. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch
McConnell is asking for a little less drama from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, I read "The Washington Post" story and I read General McMaster's response, which tends to refute the
story, rebut the story. I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: But other senators were much more forthright in their criticism. John McCain said the reports that the president shared sensitive
intelligence with Russian officials are deeply disturbing.
But after H.R. McMaster's press briefing, McCain said he, quote, "took him at his word." Still, Republican Senator Bob Corker had this to say about
the White House.
They are in a downward spiral and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening. Well, let's the latest now from Capitol
I'm joined by CNN's Tom LoBianco.
Tom, Corker, McConnell, McCain -- where does it end?
TOM LOBIANCO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question right now. The day has been entirely dominated by questions and reactions to this
And what's -- how they are going to react to it and what more they want to find out about it, you know, we heard from the Senate Democratic Leader,
Chuck Schumer's on this specifically earlier. I think we have some sound from that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I am calling on the White House to make the transcript of the meeting with the Russian foreign minister and
ambassador available to the congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible. The White House should make the transcript of the meeting
available immediately to the congressional intelligence committees.
And if the president has nothing to hide, he should direct that the transcript of the meeting be made available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOBIANCO: So this is a really important think here. The Democrats are trying to keep up the pressure here.
Meanwhile, what you see is Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell trying to keep these troops in order. They had a meeting here today, their --
their weekly Tuesday meeting.
And according to the Republican senators, very specifically did not talk about Russia. And they're -- and they're instead trying to refocus on
It's a big thing they're trying to do right here. But McConnell is one of the few people who would really have the discipline to pull that off.
WARD: Tom, I guess the question is, though, in response to Chuck Schumer's request to make public the transcript of the meeting in the oval office, if
the president did leak classified information to the Russians during the course of that meeting, surely, you don't want that classified information
then to have even wider public dissemination by releasing it.
LOBIANCO: Right. Well, I think what they're -- what they're angling for here is they really want the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee
to -- to get a hold of the Senate (ph) -- within classified setting. You know, again, that is the push from the democratic side.
You know, you can see that the Republicans want this to go away. But Democrats are trying to keep this in the spotlight right now.
We're expecting there will be some briefings all in (ph) this as well. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, is coming up here to brief the House
This was scheduled before -- before this all came out about the Trump- Russia meeting. However, we do know that members of the House Intelligence Committee will be grilling him on that question.
And we also know that the Senate Intelligence Chairman, Richard Burr, and the Democrat -- Top democrat on there, Mark Warner, have also asked also
for more information from the White House on this. So this is very new right now.
This is still developing. And you can see both sides really trying to figure out exactly how they're going to play this.
WARD: OK, Tom LoBianco on Capitol Hill. Thank you.
LOBIANCO: Thank you.
WARD: Well, it was a point of contention throughout last year's presidential campaign. Now, we may soon learn a bit more about Donald
Trump's personal finances.
The White House says Mr. Trump will file personal financial disclosure form for 2016. His last one was released during the campaign and revealed $1.4
billion in assets.
Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush released the same form during their first year in office. But Mr. Trump still refuses to release his tax
He is the first president in 40 years not to do so. You are watching "The World Right Now. Still to come, the White House is offering a spirited
defense, but very few details about the sharing of intelligence with Russia.
We'll have the very latest on our breaking news just ahead. Also, trying to focus on foreign policy, Donald Trump hosts the Turkish president at the
White House ahead of his first overseas trip.
WARD: Welcome back. Let's get straight back to our breaking news. U.S. officials tell CNN that Israel was the source of some sensitive information
that President Donald Trump shared with Russian diplomats last week.
The White House is not commenting. Sources say President Trump passed along highly classified intelligence about an ISIS plot, potentially
jeopardizing the lives of agents as well as future intelligence-sharing operations.
National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster defended Mr. Trump again today and revealed that the president wasn't even aware of a key detail. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There are no sensitivities in terms of me or anybody who has been with the
President in many of these engagements. He share information away that is wholly appropriate. I should just make maybe the statement here that the
President wasn't even aware, you know, of where this information came from. He wasn't briefed on the source and method of the information either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Well, let's dig a little deeper on this. We know the President has the right to declassify all most any information he wants to, but doing so
without the permission of the ally who provided it could be seen as a major breach of diplomatic etiquette. What kind of historical precedence is
there for this?
Well, to answer that question, we're joined now by Larry Sabato, the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He
joins me now via Skype.
Larry, help us parse through this. Is there any precedent for this? Have we seen something like this before?
DR. LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: As with so many other aspects of Donald Trump and his
administration, to our knowledge, there is no precedent for this. Most presidents take great care with classified information, and they simply
wouldn't do something like this. It's a measure of recklessness and incompetence.
WARD: I want you to listen to some sound that came from the former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden. He had some pretty strong words to say about
whether this is an issue of declassified information that was leaked or whether this is an issue simply of competency, of whether President Trump
is up to the job. Take a listen, and then I'd like you to weigh in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: It's not the power of the presidency. He's got the power to do these kinds of things.
We give him a lot of space when he's meeting with foreign leaders to do what he thinks are in the strategic interest of the United States.
This is more about the person and the performance of the President. And here's a president who does not seem to prepare in detail, is a bit
disdainful, even contemptuous, of the normal processes of government, the institutions of government, in order to get him ready. He kind of flies by
the seat of his pants, is spontaneous in these conversations.
And that's just an approach that's triggered to create the kind of events that we saw last week. It doesn't require anyone to be malevolent. It's
just a byproduct of the approach that the President seems to have to these kinds of meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: It's a pretty strong critique, Larry. Do you think it's fair?
SABATO: I think it's very fair. In fact, it's more fair than some that are suggesting there was an arrangement with Russia. Look, this is an
individual who trusts his gut feelings, who does not believe much in expertise, who thinks he can quickly learn more than any expert can, and
often doesn't believe expert opinion, is disdainful of them. And as we all know, and as anyone who works with him will tell you, Donald Trump has a
very short attention span. You put all of this together? That is how you come up with this major faux pas, and that is putting it mildly.
WARD: So the question becomes, is he up to the job, and historically, looking back over U.S. presidents, have you seen another president who
maybe got off to a similarly rocky start but perhaps developed into the role?
SABATO: Well, I wasn't around for Wade and Henry Harrison and Franklin Pierce and some of the others, so I'm not going to speak to them. But in
the modern era, Franklin Roosevelt on, there has never been a president like Donald Trump. He is really out of the American mainstream in so many
ways. And I think it's causing everyone heartburn, domestically and internationally.
The real question is, is his learning curve flat, or will he actually learn from the problems that have developed over his first 115, 116 days? And I
think it's an open question. I don't know that he is learning very much, and that's the real problem.
WARD: There is, of course, the defense that the White House continues to offer, which is that the leaks are out of control, that the leaks are
jeopardizing security, that they are making it impossible for them to do their jobs well. The leaks do appear to have gotten out of control. And
what if anything can be done to rein them in? Is there anything that can be done to stop them, or is this a complete crisis of confidence?
[15:34:59] SABATO: It is a crisis of confidence. What can be done to rein in the leaks? Have President Trump perform better.
Why are these people leaking? First of all, many of them are in the intelligence community within government service, and they are very unhappy
with the dismissive way that Trump has treated them. Others are deeply concerned that the policies being pursued by Trump, if not the people
around him, are harmful to the interests of the United States.
Look, all administrations suffer from leaks. You can condemn them if you want. In this particular case, personally, I say, bring on the leaks. It
may be saving us.
WARD: OK. Larry Sabato, thank you, as always, for your analysis.
SABATO: Thank you, Clarissa.
WARD: Well, as questions swirl in Washington, President Trump himself is trying to put the focus back on foreign policy. He hosted Turkish
President Erdogan at the White House. Both leaders vowed to work together to defeat the threat of terrorism, but they didn't exactly agree on what
that means. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups, like ISIS and the PKK, and
ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups. We also appreciate Turkey's leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region.
Taking YPG and PYD into consideration in the region will never be accepted, and it is going to be against our global agreement that we have reached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Well, let's cross now to New York. We're joined by CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.
Nick, we'll get to the Kurdish question in a second, but I want to start by asking you. Obviously, you live in Beirut. You spent an enormous amount
of time in the region. Based on what you're hearing and seeing, how are U.S. allies in the region likely to be responding to this latest drama or
crisis over the dissemination of this classified information to the Russians by President Trump?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Clarissa, obviously, there is some degree of shock, certainly. If you can
imagine, you are Israel, and you have assisted the United States with this incredibly sensitive piece of information, and they appear to have sort of
possibly boastfully passed it across to the country, Russia, that is their clear main geopolitical enemy. So, yes, that's a fairly obvious statement
to make in terms of how, I'm sure, those in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will be reacting to that piece of information.
We got to also bear in mind, too, Clarissa, how, frankly, remote the chance initially seeing that the Israelis will be able to get that kind of
intelligence from what seems to be the very heart of ISIS. You, yourself, know how hard it is to get information out of that kind of black box of the
And the idea that the Israelis, who are very much outliers in the Middle Eastern region and unpopular because of their treatment of the Palestinians
by many Arab nations, would be able to insert some sort of mole at that level, be it electronic or possibly even human, is by itself remarkable.
And yet more remarkable still, for that sensitive information passed on to potentially save U.S. and other western lives would then be casually leaked
to the Russian Foreign Minister, if indeed that was the case and to the extent in which our reporting had seemed to have suggested. So shock, I
think, to some degree.
But then also, too, this is a region which is beginning to, I think, understand the erratic nature at times of the new Commander-in-Chief of
America's enormous military. They saw the strike against the Syrian regime in response to chemical weapons attacks -- and that is something that, I
think, many in the region had hoped for some time Barack Obama might have done in 2013 -- but there hasn't been a consistent follow through.
And I think, too, coming to our next question, they're also struggling to work out how the end game of the fight against ISIS actually plays out,
WARD: Well, and that is the question. And as we saw today in the remarks from President Trump and President Erdogan, there appears to be one major
point of contention or a difference of opinion between the two leaders when it comes to the specific issue of the role of the Kurds. Is there any
potential for reconciliation between the U.S. and the Turkish line on this?
PATON WALSH: Pretty difficult, frankly. And the key question, I'm sure, that President Erdogan imposed to Donald Trump was, will you go along with
my plan to liberate Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS' self-declared caliphate, or are you going to continue with the one that your military has
been putting in place now for over 18 months?
Let's back up a little bit and just explain what is going on here. Raqqa, almost encircled now by Syrian rebels and Syrian-Kurdish fighters and a lot
of American special forces. They've been giving a huge amount of support to those different groups in the fight against ISIS.
[15:39:54] They've been successful pushing ISIS back towards their self- declared capital, but this is extremely unpopular in Ankara because they consider those Syrian-Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, to basically be
interchangeable with Turkish-Kurdish fighters, called the PKK, who Turkey - - and also United States, I should point out as well -- consider to be terrorists.
So Ankara wants that whole plan torn up and wants the force that they're putting together to the northwest of Raqqa. They're still pretty much in
like gothic stages to be involved in that operation. That's probably the sell that President Erdogan made to Donald Trump. Whether he had any
headway in that, we don't know.
We got a glimmer of a gift to President Erdogan in the way in which Donald Trump mentioned ISIS and the PKK. That's the Turkish-Kurdish group who
Turkey considers to be terrorists and allied to the Syrian-Kurds that the U.S. is supporting fighting ISIS when he referred to ISIS and the PKK in
the same sentence as terrorists. That would have made President Erdogan certainly smile inside.
But this has been, I'm sure, a fraught meeting, one that President Erdogan has said might have been a historic opportunity to improve Turkish and
American relations. We don't what know the outcome of it is. We know the clock is ticking for the fight against Raqqa. And we know the current
American military plan on the ground doesn't appear to have changed, and it is deeply unpopular with Turkey, the NATO ally just across the border from
where that fight for Raqqa should be happening, Clarissa.
WARD: OK. Nick Paton Walsh in New York. Thank you.
Well, now, to an interview you will only see on CNN. Sally Yates was the Acting U.S. Attorney General when she was fired by President Donald Trump
back in January. Now, Yates is speaking about her concerns over former national security adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia. Here is
part of conversation with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The underlying conduct itself was potentially a fireable offense?
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I can't speak to a fireable offense. It was up to the President to make that decision about
what he was going to do, but we certainly felt like they needed to act.
COOPER: Don McGahn actually asked you at that first meeting whether or not you thought the national security adviser should be fire. What did you
YATES: I told him it wasn't our call.
COOPER: Was the underlying conduct illegal? Was illegality involved?
YATES: There's certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.
COOPER: You wanted the White House the act?
YATES: Absolutely, yes.
COOPER: To do something?
YATES: We expected the White House to act.
COOPER: Did you expect them to act quickly?
COOPER: There was urgency to the information?
COOPER: You're in government one week, you get fired and now you are out, and you're watching day after day after day go by, and nothing seems to
have happened to the national security adviser that you have informed the White House about. Just as a private citizen at that point, did it concern
YATES: Well, sure, I was concerned about it. But I didn't know if perhaps something else had been done that maybe I just wasn't aware of. But --
COOPER: Maybe that they were keeping him away for a certain classified information while they were investigating, something like that?
YATES: Maybe. I just didn't have any way of knowing what was going on at that point.
COOPER: Were you aware, even from the media reports, that he sat in on a phone call with Russia's President, between the President and Russia's
YATES: Just from media.
COOPER: Did you find that surprising?
YATES: Well, sure, absolutely. That was surprising.
COOPER: Sean Spicer said on the day after Michael Flynn resigned that it was a trust issue that led to his resignation, not a legal issue. Do you
agree there was no legal issue with Flynn's underlying behavior?
YATES: I don't know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue. It certainly wasn't from my discussion with them.
COOPER: Do you think Michael Flynn should have been fired?
YATES: I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage. He also had lied to the Vice President of the
United States. You know, whether he's fired or not is a decision for the President of the United States to make, but it doesn't seem like that's the
person who should be sitting in the national security adviser position.
COOPER: Michael Flynn was let go after "The Washington Post" reported a story. Some Republicans have accused you of leaking it. Did you leak to
"The Washington Post"?
YATES: Absolutely not.
COOPER: Did you authorize somebody to leak to "The Washington Post"?
YATES: Absolutely not. I did not and I would not leak classified information.
COOPER: Have you ever leaked to the --
COOPER: The President seems to suggest that you were behind this "Washington Post" article. The morning before you testified, he tweeted,
"Ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into newspapers soon after she explained that to White House Counsel." He
seems to believe that you're the leaker.
YATES: There have been a number of tweets that have given pause.
COOPER: You want to elaborate on that?
WARD: Anderson Cooper's conversation with Sally Yates is the first television interview that she's given since President Trump fired her. You
can catch the full exclusive interview on "Anderson Cooper 360." That is on this evening at 8:00 p.m. in New York, 1:00 a.m. here in London. Only
here on CNN.
This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Coming up, what experts have to say about who may be responsible for the WannaCry malware that hijacked computers across
[15:45:08] And later, we go to Iran where voters could decide the future of Iran's relations with the West. Stay with us.
WARD: Welcome back. Let's take a look at some other stories that are making news across the world.
The Syrian government is denouncing U.S. allegations that it is using a crematorium to hide mass murder taking place in one of its prisons. Syrian
state media released an official statement calling the accusations of atrocities in Saydnaya Prison, quote, "completely unfounded." The United
States is calling on Russia to use its influence to rein in the Syrian regime.
Security experts are finding clues that may link North Korea to the cyber attack that crippled computers across the world last weekend. Researchers
see similarities between the WannaCry malware code and others that had been used by a hacking group affiliated with North Korea. But they caution, it
is still too early to be sure who is responsible.
Well, on Friday, Iranians will vote in a presidential election that could keep a moderate leader in place or possibly pull them away from warmer
relations with the West. Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran to tell us what's at stake for the country.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Election buzz, Iranian-style. Supporters for incumbent President Hassan
Rouhani drumming up enthusiasm for what they feel will be a close vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's actually made my country so much better in his first voting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Rouhani has a balanced approach to foreign relations. I think he will continue this policy, so I'll vote
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Rouhani is a moderate. He wants to build on his biggest achievement, the nuclear agreement reached two years ago between
Iran and several world powers that curbs Iran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.
But these folks are in a tough political fight against him Rouhani. Iran's conservatives have unified behind this man, the ideological hardliner
The conservatives want Iran to get tougher on America. They say the nuclear agreement hasn't brought the economic benefits Rouhani promised.
EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Our youth are ready to work and get married, but the framework is not right for
them to get jobs. Does this situation really need to continue, and should we continue to look to foreign powers to solve our problems?
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Campaigning has become vicious by Iranian standards. Almost all candidates accused each of being corrupt in a recent
T.V. debate. Rouhani even saying conservatives tried to undermine his efforts to negotiate the nuclear agreement.
[15:50:10] PLEITGEN (on camera): Many analysts and pollsters here in Iran say the race is simply too close to call just days before the election.
That's also because around 15 percent of voters remain undecided.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): And so both sides continue to mobilize their supporters, hoping to gain an edge in an election they believe will be key
in determining their country's economic and political future. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.
WARD: Coming up, the White House scrambles to manage the fallout from its latest crisis. We'll look at the effort ahead.
WARD: Let's get back to our breaking news. The report that President Donald Trump revealed classified intelligence to the Russian Foreign
Minister and Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. It's just the latest crisis to hit the White House which is still reeling over the firing of the FBI
Director, and the President's communications team is scrambling to get the narrative back on course. But so far, the messages coming from senior
staff have been contradictory, and reports suggest an atmosphere of total chaos has descended on the White House.
Dylan Byers reports on media and politics for CNN. He joins me now from Los Angeles.
Dylan, just walk us through the initial moments yesterday when the story broke. I've been hearing reports of near pandemonium in the White House.
Give us a sense of what it was like.
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: That's absolutely right. There was near pandemonium. There are a lot of people in Trump's
inner circle, even and certainly on his communications team, who did not have a full picture of what was going on. A lot of people on the inside
who found out about all of this from television, from news reports.
And then audible from the briefing room, something reporters could hear, was screaming from some of -- you know, screaming and shouting from some --
BYERS: -- of Trump's top aides, so much so that the communications team decided to turn up the televisions in the briefing room to try and drown
out some of that noise.
I mean, the situation you have right now in the White House, Clarissa, is really one of chaos. It's really a situation in which there is not a
streamlined message. People are not on the same page in any way, shape, or form.
And, you know, Trump who is becoming increasingly irate with his communications team would like to blame that on other people. The truth
is, much of this is coming from him. Much of this is coming from his inexperience, his sort of ineptitude when it comes to keeping people on the
same page, letting people know what his thinking is.
[15:54:53] We saw a very similar situation just last week when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey. Similar situation where you have this
communications people and top surrogates going out on to the White House lawn to address the media, try and give an explanation for how things
happened, why they happened, only to have the President come out and contradict many of the statements that they had made.
We saw the same thing happen this week with his NSA adviser, McMaster, who basically tried to refute this "Washington Post" report and reporting by
others, including CNN, only to have Trump come out and say he had every right to do what "The Washington Post" said he had done.
WARD: And that's got to be awkward for McMaster. You know, there have been many reports that Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law, is not
happy with the way the communications team has been functioning. Do you think that's coming right from the top levels?
BYERS: That, it is. It's absolutely coming right from the top level. I mean, there is an extraordinary frustration here at the inability to have a
sort of coherent message, and I think there's a lack of self-reflection on the part of the President and maybe some of his closest advisers, including
Kushner, as to why that is.
Let me frame this to you and to our viewers as a question. You know, the next time someone needs to go out and defend something that Donald Trump
has done or said, who do you send out to the podium? Because the credibility gap with this administration is enormous, and it extends to
everyone because Trump's closest advisers have either shown that they are willing to go out and make misleading statements or spin on behalf of the
President, or some of the more well-intentioned advisers have gone out and found that their statements have been undercut by the President, himself.
So who is a reliable, authoritative, credible spokesperson for this administration? I'm not sure there is one anymore. And by the way, a
staff shake-up that somehow gets rid of some spokespeople and brings in new ones, that's not necessarily going to change anything if the President,
himself, isn't taking more accountability for what's going on here.
WARD: OK. Dylan Byers on the dysfunction. Thank you so much.
WARD: You have been watching THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thank you so much for tuning in. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up.