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Mosque Attack in Egypt; Flynn to Stop Sharing Information; North Korean Defector; Soldiers Replaced after Escape; Russia Rebukes U.S. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 24, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:03] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go. You're watching CNN here on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
Let's begin with the breaking news here out of Egypt. At least 235 people have been killed and other 100 plus injured in this brazen attack at a mosque. Egyptian state run media is reporting that the coordinated attack happened at a mosque in the country's north Sinai region. We're told at least two explosions drove worshippers out of the mosque, where the gunmen were waiting to ambush them and start shooting. Witnesses say the attackers also fired on ambulances responding to the scene as well.
President Trump reacting, tweeting this a little while ago. Quoting him now. Will be calling the president of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack with so much loss of life. We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before, and we will. He says, need the wall, need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt.
Let's take you to Ian Lee, who's covering this for us today. He spent nine years in Egypt and was in this Sinai region just last year.
Iran, tell me more about how we know this unfolded and has anyone come forward and claimed responsibility for this?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, no one has claimed responsibility for this, Brooke, but it really bears all the hallmarks of an ISIS attack. And when you look at it, it really looks like a coordinate attack. The kind that we've seen in the northern part of Sinai before, where these militants detonated what we're told are two small explosives that drove those people out. The people that remained in the mosque, the militants, went inside and executed them. And like you said, they kept the ambulances at bay so injured people couldn't get medical treatment quickly.
Now, Egypt's president condemned this attack, said he's going to respond in a brutal manner. We're hearing that Egypt's military and air force is combing the area for these militants. But so far we haven't heard if they've been able to get any of them, which just shows, highlights really, how ISIS has been able to operate, if it was in fact ISIS, in the northern part of Sinai where they do carry out these attacks and then melt away.
BALDWIN: We'll wait and see if you are correct, if ISIS is responsible and if they come forward and claim this.
Ian, thank you so much.
Meantime, in the U.K. today, British authorities are investigating this incident in London's Oxford Street in the nearby underground tube station after there were all these reports that shots had been fired. But investigators ended up finding there was no evidence of a shooting whatsoever.
Social media was flooded by footage of what seemed to be chaos as people were running from this busy shopping area. Others sheltering in place. But soon after police alerted the public to say their response was called off.
A major player in the Russia probes may be making a maneuver here to work with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, leading this criminal investigation of any possible Trump campaign ties to Russians. A source says that lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have told the president's legal team that they are no longer going to be sharing information.
As far as why, we still don't know that yet. But one of the last public statements from Flynn's team was about his willingness to cooperate with congressional investigators seeking immunity for his testimony. His attorney back in March issued this statement.
Quote, General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit. No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from council would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.
So, first to Shimon Prokupecz, our CNN crime and justice reporter, on this.
And what does it mean the fact that Flynn's lawyers are no longer going to share any of this with the president's legal team? That doesn't necessarily imply cooperation, correct?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: No, that's exactly right, it doesn't necessarily imply that. You know, there are -- that is one of the two reasons perhaps this is going on. And this -- you know, this all started on Wednesday when Flynn's lawyer called President Trump's lawyer and said basically he could no longer share information with them, signaling perhaps something is going on, whether it's a -- they're negotiating a plea deal with Bob Mueller or, more significantly, that he's interested in cooperating with the special council investigation.
Now, people we've talked to, who have some knowledge of what's going on, weren't ready to make that leap. That leap that Flynn necessarily is cooperating. And they claim that this was sort of expected. The president's lawyer issued a statement to us. Let me read a part of
that for you. And he says that no one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president. This was Jay Sekulow, the president's attorney.
[14:05:13] And one of the things we believe that may be leading to some of this is the pressure now on Michael Flynn's son, who was part of the Mueller probe and could be facing his own charges. And speaking to some of Flynn's friends, I know we've been told that this has been a great concern to him of -- to Michael Flynn that his son could be facing charges.
And, Brooke, you know, one other thing that's important here, let's not forget, you know, the president asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to end the investigation of Michael Flynn, and that is now also a big part of the Mueller probe.
PROKUPECZ: So certainly a significant move by Flynn's lawyer indicating a change in the strategy and something is going on, but it remains to be seen exactly what that is.
BALDWIN: Shimon, thank you.
We're going to get to some analysis of some of your points here in just a second.
But let's take a look back to why Michael Flynn is such a key figure here in this Russia investigation. Think about this, Flynn lasted only 23 days as the president's national security adviser. His first public statement in that role was to put Iran, quote/unquote, on notice. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations as being weak and ineffective. Instead of being thankful to the United States and these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Less than two weeks after that, Flynn resign after he admitted to misleading the vice president about a conversation he'd had with a Russian ambassador. Now Flynn denied that he discussed U.S. sanctions with that particular diplomat, but then U.S. intelligence showed that that was not true and Flynn did in fact discussed those sanctions with that Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, a possible violation of law. And the inconsistency was the reason that the then acting attorney general, Sally Yates, warned the White House that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.
There are also other factors that may impact Flynn's dealings with the special counsel here, Robert Mueller. So, for example, Flynn also failed to initially register as a foreign agent. Flynn's consulting firm received more than $500,000 from a Turkish owned company for work he later admitted benefitted the government of Turkey. In fact, his firm was lobbying on behalf of this client as Flynn was getting classified briefings during the campaign. And then finally Flynn was the reason President Trump pressured the then FBI director, James Comey, according to Comey, himself under oath. Comey told a congressional hearing that the president asked him to drop the investigation of Flynn, which is what Shimon mentioned a second ago.
So let's analyze this here. I've got two great voices. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, a partner for Thompson Coburn, who's now running for Illinois attorney general.
Good to see you again.
And also with us is the author of "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy," Lindsay Moran, a former undercover operative for that agency.
So welcome both. Welcome back really to both of you.
And, Renato, starting with you. I mean we had Shimon go through it. There is not necessarily the implication that just because they're not talking any more to the Trump legal team, that doesn't necessarily mean that he's cooperating, right? So when you heard the news, what does it tell us?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I've got to tell you, it does -- you know, it doesn't necessarily mean that he's cooperating, but I would put a lot of money on that -- on that.
So there's really only two obvious things that this would mean to me, which is either he's cooperating or he's pointing the finger at the president. And I just don't see how the second implication would --
BALDWIN: What do you mean pointing the finger at the president?
MARIOTTI: Well, in other words, or -- in other words, if there are two -- typically defense council want to talk to each other and share information because they get very little information from the government and so everyone wants to make sure that they know what's going on. And the only times you don't do that is if your client is pointing your -- the finger at the other person.
So, for example, you'd say, hey, the reason that my client committed this crime is because he was told to do so by his supervisor, the other guy. But, you know, that's not going to be the case here at all. It's not like Trump was involved in his lobbying efforts or his, you know, it's not like Trump caused him not to register as a foreign agent, for example.
So I just don't see that as a possibility here. I mean the most obvious implication is that he's cooperating.
BALDWIN: Is it possible that this gives them a chance to line up their versions of events, the stories?
MARIOTTI: I mean I would certainly -- defense council talk amongst themselves and try to come up with a common defense. If that happened before, then that happened. But at this point, what I would expect, the fact that they're not talking to each other, would mean that there are some negotiations going on with Mueller's team.
[14:10:04] BALDWIN: OK.
MARIOTTI: And so, you know, that would be the implication.
And I noticed your reporter mentioned, he quoted Jay Sekulow saying that this is not necessarily mean that Flynn is cooperating against the president. And I think those are very carefully chosen words. I don't necessarily think that Flynn's cooperating against the president either. But it means he's cooperating with Mueller as to someone or in some way. It could be that individual that we heard about last week who's also being investigated by Mueller, one of his partners in his lobbying effort. It could be anyone. But it certainly suggests to me that he's at least exploring a cooperation deal with Mueller's team.
BALDWIN: Got it. And also I think really key here, and, Lindsay, and I think we should -- would hit this home is, you know, we're talking about Michael Flynn, right? This is someone who has been loyal as loyal can be to then candidate Trump, and then President Trump. But there was this concern over his son, right? The prosecutors could bring charges against Michael Flynn Junior, who, I checked his Twitter page today and he tweeted some JIFF (ph), you know, you hear Tracey Morgan saying, everybody calm down. I don't know what your take on that is, but I mean I guess I suppose it's most telling if his son suddenly goes silent.
LINDSAY MORAN, FORMER UNDERCOVER CIA OPERATIVE: I feel like we're watching a kind of modern day morality play -- play out here. And I think whatever the bond and loyalty between Flynn and Trump, which has been rather uncharacteristic. Trump has remained loyal and defensive of Flynn, contrary to the way he's acted for other advisers, these fired or who have ran afoul of him.
So I think what we're seeing here is Flynn embroiled in a legal predicament that's probably far more complex than he ever imagined and that paternal filial bond being stronger than whatever bond or loyalty he feels to the president.
BALDWIN: And his stature, his significance here in this potential probe. And when we've talked about charges against former, you know, Trump associates, Papadopoulos, Manafort, Gates, but, you know, Michael Flynn here, this could be a different, much bigger deal, Lindsay.
MORAN: I agree. And I think it's important to look at the seeming multiple transgression and potential violations of the law that -- that former General Flynn committed. I mean we're not -- we're talking about a retired three star. So lying to the FBI about your contacts with Russian officials, which do make your susceptible to blackmail, I mean it is not like failing to reporting a trip to Cancun or your clearance form or, you know, even an undocumented nanny. This is something that General Flynn obviously should have known would have caused substantial legal and ethical and potential implications of espionage.
BALDWIN: If he is cooperating, Renato, how do you know that a cooperating witness is revealing everything he or she knows?
MARIOTTI: Wow, that's a very good question, Brooke. And what you do as a federal prosecutor out here, this is a little inside baseball, what you usually do is let the person talk first and not reveal if you're -- if you're the prosecutor, you don't reveal what you know.
MARIOTTI: You let the person talk and you then try to match up what they say to the evidence you do have. And if you catch them on even something small that is inconsistent with other evidence, you call them on it and then you admonish them that they need to tell the truth. And you always keep them guessing as to what -- what you know versus what they know. And that's why, by the way, these agreements amongst defense attorneys to exchange information are so important to them because typically the government knows way more than people on the other side.
BALDWIN: How do you get him to keep talking is the implication from the attorneys when you are questioning him sort of like the nebulous nature of what they know and he knows that they know but they don't know what he knows. You know what I'm saying?
BALDWIN: Like how do they get him to keep revealing information?
MARIOTTI: Well, you know, what -- usually people in Mr. Flynn's position are highly motivated to speak to the government because -- to put it in layman's terms, they're screwed. I mean there's a lot of evidence. They are facing prison time.
I will tell you, Brooke, the reason that this news was so surprising to me is because I actually expect -- expected team Flynn to think that they were going to get a pardon. I mean what we saw from Paul Manafort's team was defiance, attacking Mueller, which told me that they thought that they were going to get a pardon, because otherwise that's not -- doesn't make a lot of sense as a legal strategy.
So it's interesting that Flynn, who James Comey said the president asked him to let it go, let the investigation go, I figured Flynn was somebody who the team figured they would get a pardon at the end of the day. So the fact that there's any sort of discussion or interest in talking to Mueller or lack of cooperation with Trump's team tells me that he's behaving like somebody who's ordinarily in that situation. And when you're ordinarily in that situation, when you're under investigation and you're looking at years in prison -- BALDWIN: Yes.
MARIOTTI: You are -- like, you know, to answer your question, very highly motivated to do whatever you can to help the government.
BALDWIN: It's a significant development and piece in this whole puzzle.
Renato and Lindsay, thank you so much.
[14:15:02] MARIOTTI: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Happy day after Thanksgiving to both of you.
Meantime, North Korea making a dramatic move along its border and against its own soldiers after one of them escapes in this daring run for his life. We have more on that for you.
Also, if lawmakers are being investigated of accusations of sexual assault, should the president? A new call for just that.
And the White House rarely admits when the president goes golfing, but today it's a different story. The admission came from President Trump himself involving Tiger Woods.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Back in a moment.
[14:20:06] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
North Korea is fortifying its border after this soldier's dramatic defection. You've seen the pictures and the video here. Now we have this new photo. This is from a U.S. government official showing North Korean troops digging a trench and planting trees. This is near the spot where that soldier escaped. The soldier was seen driving a Jeep toward the border before getting stuck in a ditch and then making this dash across the demarcation line into South Korea. He made it, but not before being shot up five times by North Korean soldiers themselves.
So CNN's Anna Coren is in South Korea with more on his condition and also what North Korea is doing to stop another potential defection.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, following last week's dramatic defection of a North Korean soldier who used an army Jeep to cross the DMZ, it now seems that North Korea is trying to fortify its border.
Well, this image tweeted by a high ranking official at the U.S. embassy who has since visited the DMZ shows North Korean soldiers digging a deep trench close to where the 24-year-old made his daring escape under a hail of bullets from his comrades. Well, the soldier was hit up to five times, mainly in the abdomen, chest and arms before collapsing against a wall 15 meters inside South Korea. And the U.S. and South Korean soldiers who rescued him, some 40
minutes after he crossed the demarcation line, were awarded army commendation medals for their efforts in saving his life.
Well, this soldier lost more than 50 percent of his blood and was almost dead by the time he was medevaced to hospital. He underwent several life-saving surgeries. And when doctors opened him up, they discovered dozens of parasitic worms, some up to a foot long, which they say is the result of poor hygiene and malnutrition.
Now, this soldier, he's off life support. He is conscious, talking. And today his doctors moved him from ICU into a general ward, which just goes to show how well he is actually doing. But his head surgeon believes that it will be some time, perhaps up to a month, before he is psychologically ready to talk about his defection, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK, Anna Coren in Seoul, thank you so much.
Let's talk about the North Korean response here.
I have Gayle Tzemach Lemmon with me, a CNN national security analyst and senior fellow for the Council of Foreign Relations.
And, Gayle, you know, first and foremost, when we hear that North Korea is replacing almost all of the soldiers regarding the border at the time, I mean this is North Korea. So my first question is, what does a replacement look like?
GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, and this is the thing, right, for -- this is a public relations disaster for a regime that is very focused on controlling its image, right? That does not let a lot out.
And, in fact, there's so little information that is actually known about what's going on in North Korea that everybody knows that this soldier is really a treasure-trove of information, certainly not just for the United States, but certainly for Korea and Japan and all of the other allies in the region who are really worried about the North Korean threat.
BALDWIN: So when we say that North Koreans are replacing this soldier, we hope that they are just relocating them?
LEMMON: I mean if you look at anything that has come out, I mean it is unlikely to have a happy ending for any of the soldiers who have involved in guarding that.
BALDWIN: That's what I was worried about.
LEMMON: Yes, I mean, I lived in Berlin. And if you go to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum you see lots of stories about these daring escapes. And that video is incredibly compelling, right? If you see the lengths to which this soldier was willing to go, was shot at five times, right, as he tried to escape, had three U.S. soldiers, three South Korean soldiers received the commendation medals for a pretty daring rescue to bring him to the South Korean side. BALDWIN: What about -- we showed the picture of this whole trench
strategy on behalf of the North Koreans right there. Will that even work?
LEMMON: I think it is one and done as far as Kim Jong-un is concerned, right? He does not want to see a repeat of this. It is a public relations nightmare for his regime at a time when he's really trying to bring some folks over to his side, that it's the U.S. and its allies who are really fearmongering about his threats. Now we have a North Korean soldier who can talk about just what it is that they're facing. And if you look at his physical condition, right, Hepatitis B, worms, for soldiers. I mean you can imagine what it's like for regular citizens inside this regime.
BALDWIN: This is the same thought I have had as these were supposed to be, quote, the best of the best and the strongest right there stationed along the DMZ.
BALDWIN: What about Russia, Gayle? Russia's attacking the U.S. this week, right, for labeling North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, saying that this only escalates things. And my question is, how odd is it that Russia is the one, at least publicly, trying to tame the tensions?
LEMMON: You and I shared this view because it was incredibly rich that the Russian leadership was the one saying that this was a PR move by the United States that was only going to amp up tensions. And actually the Russian foreign minister was with the Japanese foreign minister just recently saying, listen, you know, this is a move by the U.S. to move further into southeast Asia with its, you know, missile defense system. And Japan said, listen, we stand with the United States.
[14:25:16] So I think what you see now is Russia using this as a wedge to express its concerns about other United States moves within the region and thus far South Korea and Japan have very much stood alongside the United States and underneath this umbrella of deterrence in the region that if they feel they stand under with the United States really providing security and safety in the event of North Korea aggression.
BALDWIN: We will see if this soldier's move entices others to dare try the same or not.
Gayle, thank you so much. Good to see you.
LEMMON: Great to see you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up next here, actress Uma Thurman breaking her silence on the disgraced movie producer, Harvey Weinstein. Her revealing Instagram post on Thanksgiving and why she's telling fans, when it comes to Weinstein, quote, stay tuned.