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Paris Police Van Rammed; Van Plows into Worshipers in London; Trump's Attorney Talks Investigation; Georgia House Race Tomorrow. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


A very busy hour ahead, including some big, breaking news. Two terror investigations unfolding in the U.K. and in France. More on exactly what we know in just a second.

Plus, the United States and Russia exchange sharp words after an American jet shoots down a Syrian war plane. The Pentagon says the shooting was justified. The Kremlin says it will now consider U.S. war planes targets.

And new developments in the Russia election meddling investigation, including this, one of the president's attorneys says Mr. Trump is not under investigation. Then he says he can't be completely sure.

We begin the hour, though, with breaking news. Two new attacks in Europe that authorities are labeling as terrorism. The most recent, just a few hours ago in Paris, where a suspect rammed his car into a mobile police unit before being taken down by the authorities.

CNN's Melissa Bell is there.

Melissa, what do we know right now?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that anti-terror investigation is now underway and the suspect that you described has now died. That's been confirmed by French authorities.

I would just like to show you the image of the car that just over two hours ago now, John, rammed into that police vehicle. You can see it there. It is the white car that is currently being gone through with a fine-tooth comb, as you can imagine. We now know, according to France's interior ministry, that as it was driven down the road and as it was rammed into that police truck, it contained enough explosives to blow up the car, also high levels -- large numbers of weapons. We don't know more -- we'll know more no doubt soon about the precise nature of those weapons. But both weapons and large quantities of explosives enough to blow up the car. And we're hoping to bring to you fairly soon some fairly dramatic

footage. You can see the smoke emerging from the car just after it rammed that police vehicle. The man who was at the wheel has now died from his injuries. We don't know yet know more about precisely what he was hoping to achieve. But as it was, and it is now an anti-terror investigation that's been opened, authorities here believe that it was deliberate and that it was terrorist in nature.

And this is not the first time. This really comes as part of a long string now of terror-related incidents, attacks that have clearly targeted police forces. That was the case once again today, John.

KING: And, Melissa, because of those attacks, because of the spate of recent attacks, France under a state of emergency. What does this mean in terms of police presence around the capital? And could that be one reason they were targeted here?

BELL: That's right. A state of emergency that has existed now since November 2015. We just heard from France's interior minister, Gerard Collomb, who said that that state of emergency is going to be extended or moved to extend it. It's going to be put before France's parliament as a result of this string of attacks. There have now been five in as many months that's targeted both security forces and tourist areas like the Champs-Elysees. In fact, this is the second in just -- since last -- it was in April the last one here on the Champs-Elysees, the second time that a police van has been attacked on this road that so many tourists know, one of the most iconic, of course, in the world.

KING: And, Melissa, any change in the police posture or the national government's posture since the change in administration, since the new president took office?

BELL: Well, Emmanuel Macron wasted no time in announcing that there would be a review of France's security forces, its intelligence forces as well. One of the big question will be whether this man was being watched by police, whether he was on the government watch list as a suspected terrorist. And, of course, that's something that's come back over and over again. The inability or the difficulty that authorities face to keep an eye, to keep track of all these individuals who are on their terror watch list, who, for some reason or another, have come to their attention.

And in that recent string of attacks, and you have to remember that what's happening here in France is quite different to what we've been seeing in the United Kingdom over the course of the last few weeks. These are not civilians being attacked. You have to go back to last July to go back to a time when civilians were deliberately attacked. These are security forces being attacked, often by a single person acting alone. Very difficult for authorities to keep track of the many thousands of people that are on their watch list, as much as they would need to, to prevent this sort of attack, particularly when a car is involved. As I say, this one also contained weapons and explosives, John.

KING: Melissa Bell tracking the breaking news for us in Paris. Melissa, thank you very much. We'll come back there as authorities give us more information.

Turning to London now where another act of terror has shocked citizens. A white man turned his van into a weapon and plowed through a crowd of Muslim worshippers who had just finished their evening prayers. Right now we know at least one person is dead and the attack sent eight others to the hospital.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in London.

Fred, it is Ramadan. Is there any doubt at all, this attack being right outside a busy mosque, that this was somebody targeting Muslims?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. This doesn't seem as though in the eyes of the authorities there's any sort of doubt, John. And, actually, in the past couple of minutes, while we were on air, the police have come out with a new statement and said that this 47-year-old man has now or is now being investigated for terrorism-related offenses. So this is now officially an investigation for terrorism that is going on here.

[12:05:05] It's interesting because there's actually an address in Wales that's being searched because apparently the car that he used, or the van that he used for all of this, was rented in Wales. And the police are now searching that as well.

Of course, John, this is something that has deeply shaken the Muslim community, but, of course, all of London, after we've seen a spate of terror attacks and that large fire over the past couple of weeks. The mayor, Sadiq Khan, paid tribute to that when he went in front of the press earlier today. Let's listen in to what he had to say.


MAYOR SADIQ KHAN, LONDON: There will be a zero tolerance towards hate crime. These have been a terrible few weeks for London, unprecedented in recent times. We will ensure that we aren't cowed by terrorism and we will not be defeated. We are united today and we're going to carry on being a united city.


PLEITGEN: But he's talking about the city being united and that's certainly something, John, that we're seeing out here on the streets as well. You have members of the Jewish community, for instance, who are coming out and paying their respects. Of course, members of other communities coming out as well. Still, some of the folks that we've been speaking to from the Muslim community say they did see that there has been a rise in what they call islamophobia. And that's also something that Britain's prime minister spoke about today as well. Let's listen in.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years, and that means extremism of any kind, including islamophobia. That is why this government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology, both across society and on the Internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow.


PLEITGEN: At the same time, of course, this investigation is still very much going on. One of the things that the authorities are now looking into is whether or not some sort of wider network might have been involved in all of this, John. The police are saying they believe that the driver was at the wheel of the van and inside that van alone. However, they do want to see whether or not other people might have been involved as well, John.

KING: And, Fred, as we've been on the air, a U.K. officials telling CNN that at least in the initial research this attacker was not known to the authorities, meaning not on a terror watch or a terror suspect list. You know, that's always a big question early in the weak of these investigations. In some ways it makes them relieved that they didn't miss a clue, maybe, or not connect some dots, but in other ways that can often complicate the investigation, can't it?

PLEITGEN: It certainly can. And, of course, this is also something where they now have to look and try and question this man.

Now, what we're hearing so far is that apparently the authorities at least are not done questioning him yet. But, again, that's one of the things that they want to find out. They want to see whether or not someone might have helped in the logistics of all of this.

But, of course, one of the things that the authorities here, especially in London, have been warning about for a very long time is that plots like this one, ones that are very low tech, involving a vehicle instead of high tech weapons or explosives, they're very difficult to detect beforehand, especially if this man was not known to authorities. We do expect them to come out with further information later. But at this point in time, they say there's not any indication of whether or not this man -- or what they say that at this point in time they believe that this man was not known to authorities beforehand. And, as you've noted, that is something that makes it very, very difficult to prevent something like this, John.

KING: Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us in London tracking that breaking news story.

Fred, thanks very much. We'll keep an eye on both of those stories, in London and in Paris, bring you new details as they come into us.

Up next, though, is the president under investigation? Who better to ask than his lawyer? But the answer might confuse you.


[12:13:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel? JUAN CARLOS VARELA, PANAMA PRESIDENT: I would like -- I would like to

thank --

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel?

VARELA: I would like to thank President Trump for -- I would like to thank President Trump and his wife --


KING: That's just moments ago inside the Oval Office. Reporters trying to ask the president of the United States, are you under investigation by the special counsel. The president ignoring those questions. The president of Panama then delivering his remarks.

It seems like a simple question, but often you get a confusing answer. Is President Trump being investigated for possible obstruction of justice?


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": If you're going to spend so much time on this, why don't you pick up the phone and get the answer and then you could actually say, hey, I asked Mueller, he said, no, I'm not. We're not looking at this. Why don't you pick up the phone?

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: We have a lot of lawyers in this case. I'm just -- look, you're asking me to pick up the phone on an investigation that right now we don't know exists.

CUOMO: No, I'm not. You know -- of course you know it's exists.

SEKULOW: So I'm not -- you know, that's illegal (ph).

CUOMO: You know Mueller's looking at this. Why didn't you just pick up the phone and find out if it matters so much to the president whether or not he's being looked at.

SEKULOW: Well, you -- you know, but you -- you know the difference between -- you know this because you practiced law.

CUOMO: Find out.

SEKULOW: You know there's a difference between investigations, inquiries. I mean there's a whole series of matters you look at before you get to the level of investigation.

CUOMO: But, I'm saying, you could get the answer.

SEKULOW: I don't know what they're doing. I haven't made that call. That's the end of that -- that line of inquiry.


KING: That's the end of that, at least for now. With us to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Calmes

with "The Los Angeles Times," Michael Shear of "The New York Times," CNN's Manu Raju, and Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist."

So just what was Trump attorney Jay Sekulow trying to accomplish there? The question, is the president being investigated, is a product of the president's own Twitter habit. Remember, he vented his displeasure at his own deputy attorney general last week with this, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch Hunt." Let's leave aside for a second that it is yet another tweet that flunks the fact check. Here's another of Attorney Sekulow's explanations.


SEKULOW: That response on social media was in response to "The Washington Post" piece. It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.


[12:15:06] KING: Is it that simple, that the president is not under investigation? One would assume the president's attorneys would know if the special counsel had requested documents, requested information or requested what we expect will happen weeks, if not months and months from now, a conversation with the president of the United States. But at this point, Robert Mueller's under no obligation to tell them anything. By every indication if Jay -- former Director Comey's testimony to Congress, the deputy attorney general's testimony to Congress, that both of them have said publicly they believe the special counsel is looking into the circumstances around the firing of James Comey.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And there are also several interviews that are scheduled with Bob Mueller about people who presumably had conversations -- reportedly had conversations with the president. The president urging those senior officials like Dan Coats, Mike Rogers, Rick Ledgett, who was the former deputy director of the National Security Agency. We know Mueller wants to talk to them, presumably about what the president told them pertaining to the ongoing FBI investigation. And James Comey himself, of course, testifying, saying that, I'm not going to say whether or not obstruction of justice happened because that's something that Bob Mueller is going to -- probably going to look at and turning over those memos as well.

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And, look, it would have made sense for the White House and the president's legal team to push back against the idea that the president is under investigation by saying, look, there's no evidence of that or we haven't been informed of that or nobody knows for sure, but -- but for the fact that the president himself tweeted. And had the president not tweeted that he is under investigation -- and, in fact, it's not just that one tweet. Every time that he calls it a witch hunt, right, he confirms essentially that there is something, you know, kind of nefarious in his view going on aimed at him. So it's hard for the legal team to push back when the president has said exactly the opposite

KING: And if the legal team is going to push back, shouldn't they push back with a consistent message in the sense that a good lawyer would have a practiced answer and say the president is not under investigation, stop. Instead he says, the president's not under investigation. Then, when pressed on Fox News with Chris Wallace, he said, well, I can't read their minds. I don't know what they're doing. And then there with Chris Cuomo, he says there's investigations, inquiries. I mean are we back into the -- from another time, I don't mean to bring you back there, Jackie, but it depends on your definition of "is"?


KING: I mean, what are we having there?

CALMES: Well, you know, and it's such a silly fight because even if the president and his attorneys are correct in insisting he's not under investigation, in this moment, he may be a minute from now. But there's nobody who could have heard James Comey testify and Rod Rosenstein. It's just -- and not think that the president, at some point, is not under investigation. The pattern of behavior that suggests at least looking at obstruction of justice is just too -- too large.

KING: So if it -- a lot of lawyers in town say they can't understand the legal strategy there.


KING: So let's set that aside. Let's set that aside. The legal -- members of the legal team can be part of the political strategy.

HAM: Yes.

KING: But what might they be trying to achieve?

HAM: Well, I think the problem is, is there often isn't a strategy. And this is the tension that you see between a principal, the president, who is a very unorthodox actor, and somebody like Jay Sekulow, who's trying to do the normal thing you would do in this situation, I think would have preferred to just say, look, we don't have the evidence of that type at this point. We don't know. We have not been informed of these things. And, further, here are the things that we do know about this investigation, about no evidence of collusion, what have you, whatever the positives they want to put out about this.

CALMES: Right.

HAM: And that would be the message, if not for the fact that Trump had tweeted.

I do think there's a way he could have just said, look, the president often gets things wrong in tweets and in this case he feels under fire but he's not technically under investigation. If he feels under fire, he's going to say that sometimes.

KING: Right. And so what you get when the president puts out this tweet, then his lawyer goes out and tries to clean it up, and you can debate at home whether you think he did or he didn't. That will probably be shaped by your political views. Is the president -- he has another visiting dignitary, the president of Panama, and I'm sure he gets annoyed by it, we've seen past presidents -- every time he walks to the helicopter or sits down next to somebody else, the media's within speaking distance or shouting distance, are you under investigation? Are you going to fire the special counsel? Are you going to fire your deputy attorney general? All of that when, we'll get to in a minute, health care, tax reform. There's an election in Georgia tomorrow.

But this is a big week in the Russian meddling investigation. We're going to learn some things. Number one, the White House promises an answer, was there a recording system in the White House or some recordings of the James Comey conversation. There will be some big hearings in Congress, including testimony from the Obama administration's Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Trump has hired -- a lot of the criticism has been he had a New York attorney or Jay Sekulow, someone who's been more involved in political cases, has hired a big white collar D.C. attorney. And Jared Kushner, we're told, is looking around potentially for a new attorney. He has a former colleague of Bob Mueller at a law firm, someone who worked in the Clinton administration, and there's been a lot of -- she's had pushback, Jamie Gorelick has, for working for him, which is partisan politics, but the idea that maybe Jared Kushner needs better counsel.

So, this is Monday. Where are we going to be on Friday?

CALMES: Right. Well, and the amazing thing is, is all -- your whole list there and everything we're talking about, none of it is health care, infrastructure or anything else and there's some major budget bills that they've got to get through. And the president is just, sure, you could say, oh, Congress can do that, you know, two things at once, whatever, they can just ignore the president. But the fact is, they can't ignore the president and --

[12:20:18] RAJU: And, John, I'll be interested to also hear -- you mentioned Jeh Johnson's testimony before the house Intelligence Committee. He has already privately met with the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee. When he goes out and speaks publicly, it will be interesting to hear his perspective because he was one of the signatories to that assessment in October in which the intelligence community believed that there was Russian meddling occurring in the election. At that point they hadn't reached a conclusion about whether or not Putin was involved. But this -- him going public will once again put the spotlight on the White House, put them probably in an uncomfortable position about some of these issues about coordination.

SHEAR: And I think one thing to -- to your question about what will we know by the end of the week, one of the things that seems to be sinking in at the White House and frustrating the president to no end is that this isn't going to be over soon, right?

KING: Right.

SHEAR: These things -- I mean, you know, there are -- there's been some chatter about, well, Bob Mueller may be -- may be moving more quickly than some thought that he might, hiring attorneys really quickly. But, still, regardless, this is going to take weeks, months, you know, potentially years. And -- and that's frustrating for the president because he wants it to be over.

HAM: And I think, ironically, his team is always talking about it, I think they're right, the power of his social media to drive things, to drive stories, to reach out to his base. It also has every single media figure in Washington following that Twitter feed. If he tweeted relentlessly about infrastructure for a while, yes, it would not be the same amount of coverage, but people would know more about that. And I think he discard -- he sort of overlooks his own power in that way to drive things in a more positive way.

KING: Or they could have told the Sunday shows, we're not putting our lawyers out, we're putting out the transportation secretary or our health and human services secretary or our treasury secretary and then if the show said no, which they sometimes do, if the show said no, then they make an issue of that, that the media won't -- the media won't let me promote my agenda. You can make an issue of that.

HAM: And he'd like that.

RAJU: And then --

KING: But instead they decided to do what they did.

I just want to bring into the conversation here, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who just wrote a book about Trump. Listen to him here. He thinks that all of this Russia stuff is overblown, but he also thinks the president maybe should slow down when it comes to the tweets.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Trump has a compulsion to counter attack. And he's very pugnacious. I don't think it serves him well. I don't think that tweet helped him. But it's almost like -- it's who he's been his whole life. I mean he's been a fighter his whole life. He is infuriated and legitimately, in my judgment, by this whole Russian baloney.


KING: But how -- but --

SHEAR: Newt Gingrich cautioning people against being pugnacious. OK.

CALMES: I was thinking something about pots and kettles calling each other black.

SHEAR: I know, right.

KING: There's gambling in the casino.

RAJU: Here's the one solution for the president. Of course, anything that he says, we're going to listen to, we're going to pay attention to and we're going to talk about it. How about answering some questions from the press? I mean he has not had a news conference, an actual full-fledged news conference, in months, other than having a couple of -- some bilateral news conferences where he may take two or four questions. That would be one way. I mean he may, of course, step on his message there, but at least don't look like you are hiding from something.

HAM: Well, in the last one --

RAJU: And when he tweet --

HAM: Was a work of performance art that lasted several days in the news cycle.

RAJU: Right. But, you know, he tweets, and his tweets carry more prominence when he's not speaking himself publicly.

KING: That's a very good point.

Everybody sit tight.

Up next, Georgia's sixth congressional district once represented by Newt Gingrich. Most recently, by President Trump's health secretary. So, color it red today, but Democrats hope to turn it blue tomorrow. And if they do, that would send a giant message.


[12:27:42] KING: The most expensive House race in American history is down to the wire. The former Georgia secretary of state, Karen Handel, is the Republican. Political newcomer Jon Ossoff, the Democrat. The special election is tomorrow. The battleground, a suburban Atlanta district held by Republicans since the Carter administration. The stakes, huge, to borrow a favorite term of the president, who is very much the issue in this race regardless of whether the candidates like that.


JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: If you look at what's going on in Washington right now, the gridlock, the dysfunction, the atmosphere of scandal and the uncertainty. I think the last thing that we need to do is send another career politician to Washington. We need some fresh leaders and I offer humbly that kind of fresh leadership for this community.

KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: He talks about reaching across the aisle and being able to persuade those who might disagree to come along with your proposals. I did it.


KING: Karen Handel there saying as secretary of state, also as the Fulton County commissioner, she says she has the experience, Jon Ossoff doesn't. They've tried to make this about fresh blood in Washington. They've tried to -- they've had a health care debate as part of this race. The undercurrent, though, is the unpopularity of the president of the United States, and particularly the Democrats putting to test, can we win over in a suburban district that has a lot of Republicans, can we get a lot of Republicans to send a message to the president by voting Democratic. Want to make a bet?

HAM: I think it is entirely possible that this is the special election where they do pull it over the line by just a couple of points, maybe very close, and the resistance gets its win at long last. We've seen them creeping ever closer and saying, well, look, the margins are closing, which does not count as a "w," you know, as you know in politics.

KING: Right.

HAM: In this case, look, Handel seems to be down a bit. Ossoff has raised an insane amount of money in the past couple of months. I'm sure liberals will get back to decrying that right after they take the seat. But I think you've seen also in the Virginia primary this week, you saw 50 percent more Democrats request ballots than Republicans in that primary and I think it just -- a lot of this has been clearly nationalized and it shows sort of a move in that direction.

KING: Right. I just want to show you the demographics before you jump in, because you mentioned the Democrats are zero for two and their base is despondent because they lost special elections in Kansas, they lost special elections in Montana. Those were pretty solid Republican seats. But the Democrats were fired up and they thought their party should do more. They thought somehow we should have been able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

[12:30:01] Look at the residents with college degrees, nearly 60 percent in this Georgia district, lower numbers in those other districts. Those are the voters, if you go back to the Election Day 2016, that's why democrats think they have a chance here.