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State Department Snubbing Ivanka Trump?; Terror Attack in Egypt Kills Hundreds; Has Flynn Flipped on Trump?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A source says that Flynn's lawyer have told the legal team that they can no longer share information.

It's not quite clear yet why Flynn's lawyers made the move, but one of the last public statement's from Flynn' steam was about his willingness to cooperate with congressional investigators, seeking immunity for his testimony.

Let me just jog your memory back to March. This is when his attorney issued this statement -- quote -- "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit."

He goes on: "No reasonable person who has the benefit and advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."

Let's go first here to our CNN White House correspondent who was there, Jeff Zeleny, there traveling with the president in Florida.

Jeff Zeleny, how, if at all yet, has the White House responded to this report?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, there is no question that General Flynn of course is the most -- closest member of the inner circle who is at the heart of this Russia investigation.

But the White House and the president's lawyers specifically are pushing back on jumping to any conclusions about this. Jay Sekulow, one of the president's lawyers, he said this to CNN.

He said: "No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president."

But, of course, Brooke, we do know that as this investigation proceeds and Bob Mueller's special counsel investigation moves towards its next chapter at the very least, we know that General Flynn is certainly at the center of these conversations.

Talking to legal sources, our Shimon Prokupecz and others, you know, are reporting that it is possible and even more than that likely there is some type of some type of cooperation here going on General Flynn. We will only find that out of course when this grand jury completes its work on General Flynn.

But the White House saying don't rush to conclusions on this -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will have analysis on this in just a minute.

But let me ask you about Egypt. We know we have been talking about this terror attack, several hundred people killed and injured in Egypt.


BALDWIN: And the president tweeted about it. And we understand he is either on the phone or about to call the Egyptian president.

ZELENY: We do know that, Brooke.

This hour, President Trump, who is back at Mar-a-Lago now, after playing golf this morning for a few hours, we are expecting him to make a phone call in this hour to the Egyptian President El-Sisi to, you know, condemn the terror attack and reach out in sympathy, of course.

But the president has also seized to further his own immigration agenda. Look at this tweet that the president sent out just a short time ago, Brooke. He says this: "I 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. Need the wall. Need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt."

Now, Brooke, of course, the wall, the southern border wall with Mexico to talk about domestic immigration, and the travel ban does not include Egypt. Egypt is not one of those countries there. The president at the very lest conflating or seizing on this to try and further his own immigration here.

But, Brooke, we do know they will be having a call and once we get a readout of that call, we will let you know what happened.

BALDWIN: Great. We will talk then. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much in Florida.

And, by the way, we will take you to the attack scene there in Egypt and tell you what has happened and if anyone has claimed responsibility here coming up.

But first let's go back to Michael Flynn and why he is such a key figure here in this Russia investigation. Flynn, General Flynn, lasted only 23 days as the president's national security adviser. His first public statement in that role was to put Iran "on notice."


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER U.S. 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 in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.


BALDWIN: You saw the time stamp. That was February 1. Less than two weeks after that, Flynn resigned after he admitted to misleading the vice president about a conversation he had with a Russian ambassador.

Now, Flynn denied he discussed U.S. sanctions with that particular diplomat. But U.S. intelligence showed that that was not the case and that Flynn did in fact discuss those sanctions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a possible violation of law.

And the inconsistency was the reason the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, warned the White House that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.

There are also factors that could impact Flynn's dealings with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. 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 benefited the government of Turkey.


In fact, his firm was lobbying on behalf of this client as Flynn was getting classified intelligence briefings during the presidential 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 that Russia investigation because of General Flynn.

We have not just one, but two great perspectives today to hash out this new development on Michael Flynn.

With me now, Norm Eisen, a former ethics czar during the Obama administration and a former ambassador to the Czech Republic.

So, Mr. Ambassador. welcome back.


BALDWIN: And you got it.

John Dean is with us, who was White House counsel to Richard Nixon during Watergate. And he was implicated and in 1973 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice.

So, John Dean, welcome to you as well.

And I'm going to begin with you, sir, John Dean. You have been there. You turned against President Nixon. You cooperated with federal investigator. When you hear this news that Flynn's lawyers are no longer sharing information with team Trump, what does that tell you?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: My first reaction was to agree with what "The New York Times"' analyst said, that they thought it was an indication of cooperation.

But the more you think about it, it might not be. A few days before, Flynn received word that the Trump people were not going to provide any funding for his defense. And he has a public defense fund. That could be another message they're just sending. It also is possible he's cooperating with state authorities.

We really don't know, Brooke. And I think it's wise how cautiously you presented the fact that he is.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you, just from personal experience. When you were cooperating with federal investigators, what enticed you to talk and comply?

DEAN: I had already broken rank internally. I had tried to convince my colleagues that the cover-up was insane. I had told the president there was a cancer on his presidency.

Fortunately, all that was recorded. And that's really when I had tried to brace them and tried to get them all to do the right thing. And I told them I was going to go to the prosecutors and talk to the prosecutors and find out what they were looking at, and did it very openly.

And they spent a month trying to figure out what to do with me. Those are some of the more interesting tapes.

BALDWIN: I'm sure we could talk on that for quite a while.

Mr. Ambassador, to you. You're such a fascinating voice on this because you negotiated a cooperation deal with Robert Mueller's office once as a U.S. attorney. Will you indulge me? Tell me that story.

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I, in my career as a white- collar defender, had the occasion frequently to represent individuals who were under investigation, including an individual who was being investigated by Bob Mueller's U.S. attorney's office.

We had a protracted negotiation. We were in a joint defense agreement. We exited the joint defense agreement, and ultimately we arranged a cooperation deal.

I'm a little less cautious than my friend John Dean in reading the tea leaves here. I don't think that the cooperation has been signed and sealed yet necessarily, but I think that's the most likely interpretation of what's going on here.

BALDWIN: You do think?


And if that's correct, then it's very bad news for President Trump and those around him.

BALDWIN: OK. And it's also my understanding that you say Mueller may not give a deal to Flynn unless he implicates someone up the ladder. Is that correct?

EISEN: It's correct.

I had the opportunity years later, when I was in the government, of working with Bob on an investigation. So, I know how he rolls. He is not going to hand out these cooperation deals like Christmas candy.

On the contrary -- and it's standard operating procedure in our profession, Brooke. You have got to roll over on somebody up the ladder. And in the same way John, who is a great American hero for what he did during Watergate, cooperated against those above him and ultimately led to the resignation of the president, I think that Mueller is going to want something from Flynn on Kushner, Don Jr. or Trump himself.


So, taking that and, John Dean, back over to you, if that is the case, if he has got to roll on someone higher up the ladder, if he in fact going to cooperate, how do you know that a cooperating witness is telling you everything he or she actually knows?

DEAN: Well, there are typically proffer agreements and proffer conversations, where the prosecutor has a very good idea of the nature of the witness' testimony.


Then there's often a written agreement that they will reach that will formalize that. So, it's very hard to back down. And the prosecutor has a good idea of exactly what they are getting when they give that exchange.

So that really isn't a mystery at all. That will be pretty well nailed. How effective he or she might be as a witness will be somewhat tested, but not fully tested, unless the matter goes to trial.

BALDWIN: What about the Mike Flynn Jr. factor Mr. Ambassador?

This is apparently a piece, because we know General Flynn has been loyal, loyal, loyal to candidate and now President Trump, right? But he's expressed some concern recently over his son, that prosecutors might bring charges against his son, who had a reaction today on Twitter, essentially this GIF saying, everyone, calm on.

How might his son be a factor as he and his legal team move forward?

EISEN: Brooke, it's another classic prosecution tactic. In order get your desired cooperator to flip, you go after the family members.

I worked the Enron case. I defended somebody in that case. And, famously, the prosecutors, which includes some of the ones working for Bob Mueller here, charged the wife of one of the principal targets in that case.

So you apply the pressure to family members. It encourages the desired cooperator to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think that could very well be going on here.

BALDWIN: So that's a potential.

Isn't it also just, John Dean, so significant? We have talked about charges previously with Gates, Manafort, and Papadopoulos, all former Trump associates, but this is a retired three-star general. This is someone who has been loyal for so long, one of the first, and what he could potentially offer is much bigger than all three of the others.

DEAN: I think that's probably true.

And his time with Trump is fairly extensive. He is there early in the campaign and then goes right into the White House with him. So, yes, he is probably the strongest witness and it looks like the one that Mueller is most interested in. He has already indicted Manafort, and there was probably some talk about cooperation before that was handed down.

And it didn't make him pause to withhold any indictment there. So I think, yes, this is a good witness. And, as Norm says, if indeed this has happened, it is going to change the dynamics of the case very radically.

BALDWIN: All right, gentlemen, thank you both so much for the conversation. Have a wonderful, hopefully quiet, peaceful holiday weekend. Appreciate you both.

EISEN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Also happening here, a major global summit will be held in India next week. But the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is not sending a high-level team and several officials say it is for one reason and one reason alone, because the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is leading this U.S. delegation.

Let's go to Michelle Kosinski. She's our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent who broke this story.

And so, Michelle, your sources are saying no doubt this is a snub, a major snub to Ivanka Trump.


There have been obvious and sometimes jarring differences that we have seen between the State Department and White House. And the question is always, well, have those tensions been smoothed out, how are things going now for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?

But now multiple sources inside the State Department and a source close to the White House say those tensions are still there and now they are being felt in this trip that first daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump is about to leave for this week for India.

This is called the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. It is put on by the State Department. And the theme this year is women entrepreneurs, which she has been heavily involved in.

In fact, she was invited on this trip by India's Prime Minister Modi himself. But these sources say that Secretary Tillerson and his inner circle aren't sending anyone senior, and that they have put out this rule that nobody above a deputy assistant secretary level is allowed to go and that the acting assistant secretary for this region was slated to go on this trip, but Tillerson and his team pulled her off of it.

And these sources say the reason is because they don't love the fact that Ivanka Trump is the one headlining this trip and leading the delegation, and that they don't want to bolster this.

So, when you look at this trip in the past, President Obama has gone multiple times. Secretary Kerry has gone more than once. Last year, it was Kerry, an undersecretary of state, two assistant secretaries.

And this year, I asked a spokesperson for the State Department who exactly is going. And the list hasn't been made public yet. It may not be finalized yet. But they did send me a short list of the top government officials who were supporting Ivanka on this trip,, and none of them were in the State Department, except, of course, for the U.S. ambassador, who is already in India.


So, you could say, well, this is an Obama era creation. The State Department is trying to cut back on its budget. We all know that. And there's no permanent assistant secretary for the region who has yet been confirmed.

But the responses that we get from these sources are well, OK, if you are going to send a small delegation, then send your highest-level person that you can and then cut back in other ways. And a source close to the White House says this is Rex Tillerson just not loving this idea and not supporting Ivanka Trump at this.

I should add too that the State Department won't go on regard on this subject. And neither will Ivanka Trump's spokesperson, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, maybe budget-cutting, maybe just a big old snub from the state -- the secretary of state himself.

Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

KOSINSKI: Sure. BALDWIN: Coming up next, terrorists detonating bombs inside this mosque in Egypt and then someone start opening fire on ambulances who are responding -- details on who may have been behind this gruesome attack that has now killed and injured hundreds.

Also ahead, North Korea punishes the soldiers who were unable to stop that one defector from getting across the border into South Korea. What is happening to them and how the North is beefing up border security.



BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news here out of Egypt.

President Obama is set to call Egypt's president as we speak. The two world leaders expected to talk about this attack on a mosque that killed at least 235 people and injured more than a hundred.

The coordinated attack happened at a mosque in the country's North Sinai region. At least two explosions drove worshipers out of the mosque, where gunmen were waiting and started shooting. Witnesses also said that the attackers shot at ambulances responding to the scene.

So, with me now, Ian Lee, who spent nine years in Egypt and was just in the Sinai region last year.

Ian, has anyone claimed responsibility for this?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, Brooke, no one has claimed responsibility.

But when we look at how this attack was carried out, who was targeted, and the area this attack took place, we look at it and it bears all the hallmarks of an ISIS-style attack. In the northern part of Sinai, ISIS has been operating there for quite some time.

And this mosque in particular, they were targeting Sufi Muslims, which ISIS views as essentially infidels. And they have been targeting them in Egypt in the past.

And so we're talking at that. And that's where we believe it is ISIS, although they haven't claimed responsibility. In the meantime, Egypt's president has said they are combing the desert, the military, the air force, looking for the culprits responsible for this attack.

They said that there's going to be a state of emergency at the highest level possible in the northern part of Sinai, as they try to find the people who carried this out.

BALDWIN: We know that both Trump and El-Sisi are supposed to be on the phone discussing this right at this very moment.

What do you know about the relationship between those two leaders? LEE: Simply, it's very close.

The relations between the United States and Egypt strained under former President Barack Obama and El-Sisi. Didn't really see eye to eye. But President Trump and President Sisi seem to be speaking a lot of the same language when it comes to combating terrorism and they have grown relatively close.

So, expect the U.S. to offer help to whatever Egypt needs. We saw that in the president's tweets. But Egypt is going to, as they say, use brutal force to crack down on this militancy.

But I need to point out, Brooke, that following different attacks, as we have, over the past years, after a deadly attack like this, Egypt always comes out and says they are going to go stronger, they are going to go tougher.

But it just doesn't seem to be stopping the militancy in the northern port of Sinai. And Egyptian officials are worried, as ISIS is being defeated in Iraq and Syria, that those militants might try to find other places, and one of those places might be Egypt -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ian Lee, thank you so much. We will stay on it out of Sinai in Egypt.

Meantime, next here on CNN, after this daring soldier defection -- you have seen this video this week -- now we have new photos showing North Korean troops digging a deep trench right there at the DMZ.

We have details on what else has happened since that former soldier escaped.



BALDWIN: North Korea is fortifying its border after the soldier's dramatic defection.

We have this new photo today. Check this out. This is from a U.S. government official showing North Korean troops digging a trench and planting trees near the spot where their North Korean soldier escaped.

You have seen the video. That soldier was seen driving this jeep careening toward the border before getting stuck in this ditch and making a run for it across the demarcation line into South Korea.

The good news for him, he made it, but not before being shot up at least five times.

David Sanger is back with us today, our CNN politics and national security analyst and also he's a national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

David Sanger, first and foremost, when you hear today out of North Korea that they are replacing all or almost all of the soldiers who were guarding the border at the time, what does replacing soldiers in North Korea mean?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, what it means is that they are worried about the loyalty of the people who presumably they have vetted more strongly than they have vetted almost anyone else.

These are the few North Koreans who are in a position to actually defect fairly easily into the South and, therefore, the ones who are most tested for their own loyalty. And, clearly, by digging this trench, they are trying to make this a lot harder for anybody who might get inspired in the future.

It does tell you something about the society, that not only are they having trouble keeping their people in -- they have always had people who have found a way out -- but they are having a hard time keeping their border guards in.

BALDWIN: I mean, a trench and planting trees?

How do you -- this has to, I imagine, entice other soldiers, if any of them get word that this happened. Do you think we will see others trying to defect as well?