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At Least 22 Killed, Dozens Wounded in Manchester Arena Blast; Sources: Trump Asked DNI, NSA to Deny Russia Evidence; Gen. Flynn Expected to Invoke 5th Amendment to Senate Committee. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 23, 2017 - 06:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Where this took place, the nature of the response, what were your thoughts on those aspects?

[06:30:03] JOEL GOODMAN, EYEWITNESS, PHOTOGRAPHER: I know the location well. I work a lot in Manchester. I photograph sometimes in southern Manchester arena as well.

So, you know, it's a place that anyone who has enjoyed a bit of comedy or music over the years would have been on at least one occasion. So, it's, you know, the last thing you want is this to be your home city. This is the shocking event. Obviously, there's a lot of people still unaccounted for. And so, it's very difficult to sort of still formulate at this early stage, if that makes sense.

CUOMO: It never makes sense, after something like this, other than just finding a way to carry on as Theresa May advised the country.

Well, Joel, thank you for your insights and your photos.

Andy, thank God you're safe and your little brother, too. He's going to have a lot of questions but he's got a good big brother to help him through an ugly situation like this.

Hopefully, he'll remember the first part of the night more than the second. Be well -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, Chris, we'll have much more on the terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert.

First, sources tell CNN that President Trump tried to convince intel leaders to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. What does this mean for the investigation? We explore that next.


[06:35:19] CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news for you.

A terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Twenty-two people is the number now killed. That number might change. Dozens more have been injured. There was an explosion after the pop star left the stage at the Manchester arena and police believe the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, who detonated an improvised explosive device. We just heard British Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the Manchester carnage.

CUOMO: President Trump talking about renewing the fight for Mideast peace with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But he can't escape intensifying collusion questions at home involving Russia. Current and former U.S. official tell CNN that the president of the United States ask top intel chiefs to publicly deny evidence of collusion, as former national security adviser Michael Flynn risks being held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about Russia. Can they do that in Congress?

CNN's Laura Jarrett live in Washington -- Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Chris, the president has fiercely denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election, even slamming the investigation as a witch hunt. But it now appears he privately made a pitch to members of his own national security team in the hopes that they would publicly come to his defense and help push back against the FBI's investigation.


JARRETT (voice-over): President Trump's first international trip overshadowed by ongoing controversy back home, including stunning new revelations from U.S. officials that the president personally asked two top intelligence officials to publicly deny any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Sources telling CNN the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers were uncomfortable with the president's request, and refused to comply.

President Trump reaching out after then FBI Director James Comey publicly disclosed the bureau's investigation in March.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

JARRETT: The Trump administration responding to this latest bombshell, saying the White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. According to the "Washington Post," Rogers documented the president's request in a memo written by a senior NSA official, which will be available to the special counsel now overseeing the Justice Department's investigation, Robert Mueller.

According to sources, Mueller has already reviewed Comey's handwritten memos detailing the president's early request for the FBI to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I didn't think he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration. I made that very clear to candidate Trump, I wouldn't let General Flynn in the White House, let alone give him a job.

JARRETT: Flynn's attorneys now saying that their client will invoke the Fifth Amendment refusing to comply with Senate intelligence subpoena for a list of contact he had with Russian officials.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have to find out whether we have the ability to either hold General Flynn in contempt or -- I've got to get the legal answer to that at first.

JARRETT: President Trump's past criticism of Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal when her IT chief took the fifth now coming back to haunt his administration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

JARRETT: All this as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee says Flynn appears to have lied to investigators about who funded his foreign trips, including a 2015 trip to Moscow.


JARRETT: Now, Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence panel after Memorial Day. But we've also learned that he wants to speak with special counsel Mueller before he goes public. Former CIA Director John Brennan will testify before the House Intel Committee later today -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Laura, thank you very much for all that.

Let's bring back to the panel to discuss. We have CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith?", David Gregory, CNN political analyst and "Washington Examiner's" senior congressional correspondent, David Drucker, and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" White House reporter Abby Phillip.

Great to have all of you.

David Gregory, so now we know it wasn't just President Trump pressing Comey to make some public declaration at the moment. He had seen no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also went to these other intel heads.

How big of a deal?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a really big deal. We have a pattern of interference from the president, reflective of an obsession with this FBI investigation of potential collusion and was so interested in making it public that wasn't being investigated, which he's claimed without substantiation.

And now, evidence based on this reporting that he wanted to slow down the FBI investigation. So, it's a really big deal. We've been saying throughout the morning, we don't know if this is obstruction of justice, the president seems to be in the course of hiring outside private counsel for all of this. But we have this huge spectacle that's coming down the pike here, right?

And that is FBI Director Comey, former director now, preparing to testify publicly on Capitol Hill about his disputes with the president, intimidation, conversations they had, all the threats back and forth. But with Mueller there as special counsel, will that actually happen or will that be pushed aside for this special council's investigation to move forward. Regardless, this is really the centerpiece, which was why was the president working so hard to get this piece of the investigation shut down.

CUOMO: David Drucker, the facts laid out by these sources which the White House is dismissing as illegal leaks from anonymous sources. One, do you think that's a winning argument?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, at least not at this point. I think at the beginning of the argument, when it was just about Flynn and just about the unmasking of conversations that should have been kept classified, I think back in January you could make that argument. I think we saw Republicans try and do that. Good, we'll investigate Russian meddling and why this classified information is leaking.

I think at this point with so much information out there about the president's personal involvement in trying to quash this thing, even just because of a sense, if that what it turns out to be because of unfairness, not because he did anything wrong in terms of the underlying issue, I just don't think it flies anymore politically with the American public.

CUOMO: Is the best argument right now if Comey was so worried, why didn't he say anything? If Coats and Rogers were so worried, why didn't they say anything? They were just in Senate Intel Committee. Last week, they could have said whatever they wanted.

DRUCKER: So, not a bad argument to make, but not when you're driving news events to your detriment. I mean, look, this gets back to a pattern the president has whether through Twitter, or whether in a news conference, or even we saw in Israel yesterday, where he volunteered to members of the media because he was being pressed there -- hey, I never mentioned Israel in that meeting with the Russians when, you know, we know that he disclosed inappropriately classified intelligence to the Russians.

Nobody ever reported he disclosed the source of the intelligence was Israel. So, he has a way of driving events to his own detriment and that's why I don't think these other things while good questions are going to end up mattering politically if this continues the way it is.

CAMEROTA: Abby, speaking of that, I mean, this is the tale of two presidencies playing out on the screen, split screen, basically. He's having his first foreign trip. He's getting lots of praise overseas, a lot at home as well. He's going to these historic sites at the same time that all of this is happening back here in this rapid-fire news cycle of what seems like new nuggets of the investigation.

And so, it's hard to know when he returns where his presidency will be in terms of the public's view of it. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think the White House

thought this foreign trip would be an opportunity to change the topic, to put out a lot of sort of glossy images of the president being a world leader. But in the meantime, there's a constant drip from these ongoing investigations in part because Trump worked so hard to make enemies out of his own government, out of the intelligence officials and law enforcement within the FBI.

That's part of what we're seeing here is so much of this information is coming up because of concerns within the government by U.S. officials who are looking at all of this and saying that some of this needs to be publicized in part because they viewed it as an attempt from the White House to quash, squash this investigation over time.

You know, to your earlier question, Chris, about why -- you know, why the DNI and the NSA didn't come forward, why did James Comey not come forward, I think one of the questions we still have is how big of a part of the investigation are these attempts to influence the investigation.

That's part of the overall looked into at this point in time is all of this that went on over the last four months, internal memos by James Comey by codes and by others. So, there's a lot of potential documentation that is out there, evidence that is out there, that we are just learning about that could very well be part of a very broad investigation that federal officials have tried not to say too much publicly about because it's extraordinarily sensitive.

[06:45:12] CUOMO: The best indication will be -- we've got to go to the Manchester bombing developments but, David. We'll check back with you in a little bit.

Panel, thank you very much on this.

We have more on Manchester bombing and the Russia collusion investigation. We'll get to both ahead.

Senate intelligence leaders are now increasing pressure on Trump's ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. This is the latest threat. They say, hey, we may hold him in contempt of Congress because he didn't want to hand over documents. Can they do that? If so, under what circumstances? We actually have the answers ahead.


CUOMO: All right. We've been getting new information all morning about this terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert, actually just after it ended in Manchester, England.

But back home, we're also covering latest developments in the Russia probe. Michael Flynn's attorney has indicated that the former national security adviser is not going to turn over any documents.

[06:50:01] Instead, he's going to take the Fifth in lieu of testifying or cooperating with the Senate Intel Committee. Let's talk to Robert Ray, former independent counsel of Whitewater

scandal that investigated the real estate controversy involving Clintons and grew from there to much different things and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Good to have you both with us this morning.

If he doesn't want to turn over documents and he doesn't plead the Fifth, then could Congress hold him in contempt, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, yes, but he's taking the fifth.

CUOMO: But if he takes the Fifth, can they hold him in contempt now?


CUOMO: So, this is an empty threat from a politician?

TOOBIN: I mean, there is no doubt that why we have a Fifth Amendment to allow people to not cooperate with investigations. And based on modern law, that includes not testifying and not producing documents.

CUOMO: Robert Ray, when you tell a client we should take the Fifth here, is that because they are always guilty of something and therefore want to hide as our president speculated once in a podium?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: No. I mean, with regard to documents, that's a narrow exception and there's a line of cases that refer to that process as act of production, which is to say there's a testimonial component to documents that General Flynn may have in his possession that cannot be used against him unless, you know, immunity is granted. And that has a separate, you know, string of consequences.

I suspect the next act, though, rather than contempt might be an attempt to try to enforce the subpoena before a court to test the limits whether or not he has act of production coverage under the Fifth Amendment. That's a more complicated question, but that would precede I think any -- as Jeffrey correctly points out, that would precede any attempt by the committee to try to hold him in contempt.

CUOMO: Next issue, the idea that the president of the United States went to Coats and Rogers, the head of DNI and the head of the NSA, and said, can you please go in trouble and say there's no proof of collusion. They didn't like the idea, so they didn't do it. What's its relevance to you legally?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, it's all part of the same group of facts, which is, was Donald Trump trying to impede the FBI investigation of the Russia connection. You know, whether this is a separate act of orb instruction of justice or an obstruction at all, I don't know. That's certainly what Mueller is going to investigate. But when you look at the full pattern of activities, you know, culminating with the firing of James Comey as FBI director, I mean, it certainly lays out facts worthy of investigating whether the president obstructed justice. And this statement -- these intelligence officials is just another piece of that evidence.

CUOMO : What if the president said I didn't know that was obstruction of justice, I thought I was just asking my guys if they could do me a solid on this because I don't think there's anything to it?

RAY: Well, a couple of things. One is, the first point is that ignorance of the law is no defense. So, that's sort of the basic principle. But I mean, more importantly than that, he may actually be right. If there was, in fact, no evidence, and there was no collusion, having your people go out and say something to that effect, there's nothing wrong with that. And even if they're ultimately shown to be some evidence of collusion, if he's managing, you know, a news story, I don't -- a big stretch to say that's obstruction of justice.

TOOBIN: Well, I think there's a distinction here between telling your press secretary to go out and say there's no evidence of collusion here, there's certainly nothing inappropriate about that. That's what press secretaries do. If you do go to an intelligence official to say that based on all the evidence you are instructing him to say there's no evidence of collusion, that gets, I think, a little more squirrely, because that's someone who should be investigating that, not just a mouthpiece for you.

CUOMO: What would impress you in terms of potential of obvious abuse of power, overreach or obstruction?

RAY: Well, we go back to the Comey memos, and I think people have too easily left to the conclusion that was an attempt to obstruct justice. What the president's hopes were, intimations about what director Comey would or would not investigate and how far he would take this. Again, seems to me you can argue maybe that's on the edge but certainly not over the line in terms of a provable case involving obstruction.

And, frankly also, I don't think how people understand statutes are written relatively straightforwardly in the obstruction area. It's actually surprisingly complicated to prove an obstruction of justice case, particularly at an early stage when, for example, at a time when Comey memos were created, it's not even clear to me that there was a pending grand jury investigation. I don't know when that -- we don't really know when --

CUOMO: What he's trying to obstruct --


RAY: And if he was trying -- I mean, arguably, if he was trying to obstruct the FBI investigation, that's also difficult to prove under the obstruction of justice statutes.

[06:55:05] I mean, generally speaking, you have to have a pending proceeding. An FBI investigation is not a pending proceeding. It's got to be a jury investigation. It can come during the course of an FBI investigation, but you have to show a nexus with some pending judicial proceeding. A grand jury investigation would qualify but it wasn't clear to me at the time this occurred there was a grand jury investigation yet. TOOBIN: Well, I think when you have an FBI director investigating the

president of the United States broadly defined and the president fires that FBI director because of that investigation, you certainly have something to go on to investigate. And I think that's certainly what Robert Mueller's charge is. Whether he finds an actual crime or an impeachable offense is a very different question. But this is not a frivolous investigation.

CUOMO: It could be wrong but not illegal, that's why they are looking at it.

Mr. Ray, good to have you on the show. Appreciate it.

RAY: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: Jeffrey, as always.


CAMEROTA: Chris, we do have breaking information about the deadly Manchester terror attack. An arrest has been made in this investigation. We have all the details for you at the top of the hour.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We begin with breaking news.

A bombing in England. At least 22 killed including kids, dozens more injured just after an Ariana Grande concert. The explosion creating chaos just as the concert let out Monday night.