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CNN Poll: 60 Percent Say Russia/Trump Probe a Serious Matter; FBI Raid on Manafort Shakes Administration; Source: 3rd Country May be Involved in Cuba Mystery; U.S. Officials Say No Sign of Imminent North Korea Activity. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A brand new CNN survey shows 60 percent of those polled believe the Russian investigation is a serious matter that should be fully investigated. 38 percent say it's an effort to discredit the Trump presidency. Just over 30 percent approve of the way the president is handling the probe. Almost 60 percent disapprove.

What about the president's warning to Special Counsel Robert Mueller to stay away from his finances.

Let me bring in CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, who is breaking down the numbers.

Mark, what are you looking at?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Kate, numbers that continue not to look very good for President Trump, specifically, as you said, when it comes to Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, and should he be allowed to look at the Trump finances. Let's look at that. Seven in 10 Americans believe that Robert Mueller should be able to investigate Trump's finances. We know Trump warned Mueller not to do so. But clearly, a healthy majority of Americans believe so.

Yet, it's not that simple. Let's look at party breakdown. If you look at that, Republicans and Democrats are split by a huge amount right now. Republicans believe that Mueller -- only 41 percent believe Mueller should investigate Trump's finances. 91 percent, Democrats. This is the number there. Independents at 72 percent. That is tracking with what the American people overall are saying. They are breaking along party lines. But still not great numbers for Donald Trump.

Let's continue on to Jeff Sessions. A lot of talk about him. Specifically, Donald Trump saying he should not have recused himself. Well, 67 percent of Americans think Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. This is a number when you look across party lines, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, let's take a quick look, on track. More than six in 10 Republicans believe Jeff Sessions did the right thing. Independents a little higher, 67 percent. And no surprise, more than seven in 10 Democrats believe Sessions did the right thing. Stepped aside, allowed Robert Mueller to become special counsel -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: The numbers lay out why it was so confounding to so many of his fellow Republicans that the president decided to attack Jeff Sessions for doing what they all thought was above board.

Great to see you, Mark. Thanks for being us that. Appreciate it, man.

PRESTON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: On the investigation, if Special Council Robert Mueller was trying to send a message to team Trump, it may have hit the mark. Two sources tell CNN the FBI's predawn raid of Paul Manafort's home shook members of the administration, rattled a few cages, says one source. What does it mean?

Let me bring in legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor, and CNN legal commentator, Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia.

Great to see you.

Michael, first to you.


When does the FBI conduct a predawn raid when the subject is actually cooperating?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: When they think the subject actually is not cooperating. I think that's what we saw here, which was that they didn't believe that Manafort was cooperating as quickly as they wanted to. In order to get a search warrant, you have to convince a judge that a person has probable cause to believe there's a crime and that the evidence of that crime is in the location to be searched. That's a serious, you know, bar to jump over for any prosecutor in normal circumstances. In this case, when the person is reportedly cooperating, it's higher. But they achieve that and went into his house and took what I expect to be a lot of electronic information. I'm not sure there's so much paper there as there is hard drives and cell phones and other matter that is not easily acquired unless there is a search warrant or full cooperation.

BOLDUAN: Ken, as Michael lays out perfectly, to get a search warrant, they have to show there is probable cause a crime was committed, in part. Is that the biggest take away here?

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: No, because, in this particular instance, probably not. Manafort has this long trail of working with pro-Russian Ukrainians where he made over $17 million or his businesses did, and he failed to make legally required disclosures there. He was an easy target to hit the probable cause standard to get in and look at the material. A lot of viewers, Kate, may not know, the federal government can go look at your bank accounts, your phone records without a warrant. They could go back and look through the $17 million worth of cash flow to Manafort. So he's a logical place to start. Not only did he fail in his disclosures, they were related to Russian interest in Ukraine. There's a double tie there that makes him a logical place to start with what we'd call -- it wasn't done necessarily to be public, but to go into somebody's house.

I'd also make one other point. No decent law enforcement investigator ever believes anyone is fully cooperating with them. As a matter of professionalism, you can't assume a witness or target is fully cooperating. They can't rely on that. They have to go do the double check themselves.

[11:35:23] BOLDUAN: Ken, they obviously wanted to gather information.


BOLDUAN: Do you think it was to send a message? If so, to whom?

CUCCINELLI: I don't think that was a purpose. I'm sure they knew it would but that's a side issue from why it was done in the first place. I think I laid out why Manafort was first. But the reality is, there's a lot of people in the Trump White House and in the inner circle that have never dealt with this stuff before and so it's natural for those people to see federal agents showing up at somebody's house and say, whoa, this is serious stuff. What's my wife going to say if they come to our house, right? There's a very human element to the reaction to this. It's to be expected. It is something that, at least in their eyes and their minds, can be a bit of a splash of cold water to wake them up to the seriousness which Mueller is proceeding.

BOLDUAN: The human element is often lost in these conversations. Interesting point.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, it is.

BOLDUAN: Michael, as I look at the scope of where things are at the moment, there's a lot of focus on Paul Manafort, and much less or rarely do we hear about a focus on Michael Flynn anymore. Of course, there's so much that we don't know with regard to exactly where the investigation is. Do you think that indicates something about Flynn cooperating? He faced a subpoena. He faced no FBI rate as far as we know.

ZELDIN: Right. Maybe. You know, some people have speculated that his silence, the going silent by Mike Flynn and his attorneys reflects some sort of deal. We haven't heard about Manafort for a while, and this surfaced. That doesn't reflect a deal, for sure. I'm not so sure.

The only thing in respect to what Ken said, which I don't completely disagree with, is what they were reportedly were after besides perhaps data from phones and hard drives was information related to taxes and finances. That means that the so-called red line that the president has drawn, you are not going to look at my personal finances, you're not going to see whether, in Manafort's case, he filed the requisite money laundering forms, the FBRA form, for foreign bank accounts held overseas. I think this tells you that Trump's red line is meaningless to Mueller. He's going to investigate this case as he sees fit to investigate it. If that means money laundering and finances, so be it.

BOLDUAN: Does it surprise you, Ken, that folks close, sources are saying this raid has rattled the cages of folks near the president as you alluded to?

CUCCINELLI: No, again, as a simple matter of experience, they don't have experience with this. So, they see something this serious and it doesn't surprise me. It would be unusual if people without experience in this area weren't a little bit taken aback by it.

I would just make one comment on the Trump finances, that Manafort is a good example of. It's one thing for Mueller to look at finances related to Russia. And Manafort has a lot of that, as I said earlier. It would be quite another and far afield to look at the Trump family finances outside of that box. That would be inappropriate. The president is trying to draw this absolute line. Mueller is not going to buy that. It is appropriate for Mueller to stay focused on what he was commissioned to do, and that is investigate Russia's role in the election. And that means finances related to Russia. That's a legitimate -- that's a legitimate expectation on the part of the president.

BOLDUAN: Michael, Ken, great to see you both. Thank you.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

[11:39:10] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, stunning details in the bizarre, so-called acoustic attack on American diplomats in Cuba. A government sources is telling CNN a third country may be involved. You have to hear the details of this.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: It sounds like something out of a spy novel, but all too real for U.S. diplomats in Cuba right now. What the FBI is calling an acoustic attack on U.S. embassy employees in Havana. The diplomates suffered a variety of symptoms, including hearing loss, from a covert sonic device. Sources are telling CNN a third country may have been involved in the attack as a form of payback.

CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, has more details.

As I was saying, Elise, when this came up in the State Department briefing yesterday, I couldn't believe it.



BOLDUAN: What are you hearing about that? LABOTT: It's really, as you said, out of a -- it's just a mystery, Kate. Late last year, several U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, and their spouses started having a variety of physical symptoms, hearing problems and mimicking concussions. A lot of them weren't at the same place at the same time. The State Department sent some medical personnel down, and through investigating, it seems there was some kind of sonic device placed in their residence. It's really serious. We don't know why it was. The officials are telling our Patrick Oppmann in Havana, they don't think it was ease dropping. It's was more of a sonic attack, attacking the brain waves. Maybe the people involved didn't know the kind of damage they were causing. But at least one of the people is going to have to use a hearing aid from now on. The Cubans say they don't know what happened, they had nothing to do with it. But the FBI is investigating.

[11:45:25] BOLDUAN: It happened late last year?

LABOTT: It started late last year and went through a period of several months.

BOLDUAN: And they are still investigating --


LABOTT: They are still investigating. In May, they had to bring some of these people back for medical treatment. The State Department said, listen, we have to bring some of our diplomats back. We want two diplomats from the Cuba embassy in Washington to leave until it is resolved to make it more equilibrium. They are treating it very seriously. They are saying it's a violation of the Vienna Convention where countries are supposed to protect the diplomats serving in those countries.

BOLDUAN: And now a third country could be involved. Any word on which country it might be?

LABOTT: There's no word of a third country. Experts are saying it's something the Russians have done years ago during the Cold War. Nobody knows who it is. No one knows at what level the Cuban government, if they were involved. Sources are saying the Cubans had to have facilitated in some way. The security services there keep a very tight lid.


BOLDUAN: -- the whole situation.

LABOTT: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Elise. Thank you.

Coming up, more breaking news on the situation out of North Korea. U.S. defense officials say there's no evidence right now of an imminent activity involving any kind of North Korea missile launch. New details on what they are seeing ahead. Plus, the president retweets a sketchy online poll asking, "Who is the

better president?" I'm going to speak to a former member of the Obama administration about that.


[11:51:17] BOLDUAN: More breaking news on the situation out of North Korea. Two U.S. defense officials tell our Barbara Starr there are no signs of any eminent activity involving a potential North Korean launch, as of Thursday morning. This nuclear threat is something U.S. presidents have had to deal with for decades. It's also something President Obama warned Donald Trump about in a private meeting after the election as the number-one problem facing the country.

Joining me now for perspective, Derek Chollet, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration.

Great to see you, Derek.


BOLDUAN: North Korea has long been a problem, but what particularly would President Obama have wanted Trump to understand about that threat in their private conversation way back when?

CHOLLET: A lot of what's unfolded in the last six months, North Korea's testing of missiles, provocative acts against its neighbors are things the Obama administration was very focused on at the end of President Obama's time in office. A lot of that news obscured back here in the United States because of our election and the drama associated with President Trump taking office. But this was a high priority for the Obama administration, which is why President Obama singled this issue out to raise with President Trump during their meeting in the White House last year.

BOLDUAN: We've heard from former official after former Obama administration official that this, the way President Trump is handling it, is not the way to go about it. It's not the right way. Derek, why not try something new? There's 30 years of examples of bipartisan failure relating to North Korea. What do you say about that?

CHOLLET: Absolutely, Republicans, Democrats, presidents of many administrations tried to deal with the North Korean problem. We're not where anyone wants to be. It's a very, very dangerous threat. The concern we have, with some of President Trump's rhetoric, he's making the problem potentially worse, potentially, destabilizing the situation. The Trump administration has had successes in the last several days dealing with the situation diplomatically, particularly last weekend at the U.N. Security Council. My concern is that what the president did the other day, it raises tensions, it raises uncertainty, it raises the risk of miscalculation, and that's the last thing we need right now.

BOLDUAN: With regard to the sanctions, do you think what's happened in the past 48 hours has overshadowed it? Do you think it diminishing the impact of the sanctions?

CHOLLET: It could. What's key is that countries like China enforce those sanctions. What we've seen happen in the last day in response to the president's "fire and fury" remarks is China trying to be the adult in the room and calling on both sides, the United States and North Korea, to calm down. So I don't see how Trump's rhetoric is going to help incentivize China to do what it needs to do and enforce the sanctions it voted for.

BOLDUAN: In the midst of what has become a crisis with North Korea, this is what the president, at least in part, is thinking about this morning. Tweeting about this, "Who's a better president? He or Obama?" Some kind of online poll saying that he wins in that contest. Obviously, no scientific basis for that poll. But regardless, you see that and you say what from your perspective?

CHOLLET: This president has a very unusual obsession with his predecessor and constantly comparing himself to President Obama. Whether it's this tweet or what you discussed earlier this hour about his spat with Mitch McConnell, this is not a president that seems to be focusing on what is genuinely a global security threat in North Korea.

BOLDUAN: With regard to North Korea or even the poll, what do you think President Trump is thinking right now looking at this play out?

CHOLLET: Well, I think he's got to be shaking his head. Clearly, he tried to, in raising this issue with President Trump, singling it out in their meeting in the Oval Office last year, to stress the urgency and the importance and seriousness of this issue. So I have to think that, on the one hand, he can be happy with some of the diplomatic efforts in the U.N. Security Council and elsewhere to try to get at this problem. This rhetoric is not helping the situation. It is not what we have seen, as accustomed by the U.S. president, the kind of rhetoric that we're talking about.

[11:55:38] BOLDUAN: We'll see what happens next.

Derek Chollet, thanks so much. Always good to have you. Appreciate it.

CHOLLET: Absolutely. Thanks, yes.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, the feud escalates between the president of the United States and the Republican leader of the Senate. Why President Trump is once again insulting the man he needs to get anything legislatively done. That's ahead.