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Egyptian Mosque Attack; Flynn's Lawyers Not Sharing Information; Trump Talks to Erdogan; London Subway Incident. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:13] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with breaking news out of overseas.

Egypt's president is promising to respond with, quote, brute force, to what appears to be the deadliest terror attack ever on Egyptian soil. We need to warn you, the images you're about to see are very graphic. State media reporting that more than 235 are dead at a mosque in the northern Sinai region. Witnesses say the attack started with an IED going off in a building adjacent to the mosque. When worshipers got out, gunmen opened fire and they kept firing even as ambulances arrived to try to help the injured.

President Trump tweeted his condolences a short time ago. He said in part, horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshippers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism.

Patrick Markey joins us over the phone right now. He is the Reuters bureau chief in Cairo.

So, Patrick, what more do we know about this attack?

PATRICK MARKEY, REUTERS (via telephone): Well, as you said, so far we have 235 people kill, about 109 wounded. As you pointed out, this is the deadliest attack in Egypt's modern history.

Eyewitnesses told us that there were four groups of gunmen who surrounded the mosques, let off an explosive. Enough people came out, they opened fire and set fire to cars to block the road. So there's a lot of chaos. And this is why so many people seem to have been killed.

That's a huge attack for Egypt. Obviously before in the northern Sanai, which is a very kind of remote area, they mostly (INAUDIBLE). Police checkpoints and army patrols and things like that. So this is a kind of shift also to target a mosque and so many civilians (ph).

WHITFIELD: And then, Patrick, you said it's a remote area. Is there anything distinctive about this area or has there been, you know, any, you know, turmoil or, you know, just anything that would have precipitated something like this?

MARKEY: Well, this is a -- this -- the Islamic state affiliate with (INAUDIBLE) in the area. It's one of the few areas that is on an Islamic State-run (INAUDIBLE) has a kind of foothold after the fall of so many cities in Iraq and Syria. But, like I said, they've been mostly contained in an area by the armed forces and continue to attack security forces. They've tried to reach out on to the mainland by attacking Christian churches and pilgrims and things like that. So, obviously, it's a complicated area security-wise and also a very strategic one as well with a border on Gaza and also, you know, nearby into the south of the Saini some tourists -- tourists (INAUDIBLE). So (INAUDIBLE) governments that want to have (ph) been trying to control for a few years now.

WHITFIELD: Patrick Markey in Cairo with Reuters, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

So, Kim, what strikes you as particularly notable here? Patrick mentioning this is a very remote area, but security is one that is very tenuous.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, we have been looking for some sort of migration of ISIS violence. And as Patrick mentioned, there has been a branch -- a local militant branch that switched its allegiance from al Qaeda to ISIS back in 2013. That is the most likely perpetrator of this violence. ISIS did, in the past several months, tweet out video of the execution of Sufi (ph) Muslims from the Sinai area and the mosque that was hit was known to be frequented by Sufi (ph) worshippers. So just looking at that circumstantial evidence and knowing that ISIS has been wanting to send a message that it is still able to wreak havoc as it loses territory in Syria, they're the most likely culprit.

WHITFIELD: And then, Kimberly, you know, clearly it seems like a plan of no escape. The blast itself taking place in the mosque and then gunfire outside as people were trying to escape. And then even ambulances carrying the injured being targeted.

DOZIER: Yes, it shows a migration also, if it does turn out to be ISIS, of their tactics. They had before been focusing on the Coptic Christian community inside Egypt. But they are apparently being hemmed in, into the Sinai area by that Egyptian military crackdown. So I guess they had to pick the targets that were available.

And what this points to is probably a further tightening of the area. You know, journalists haven't been allowed to access it. But the Egyptian military will now be forced to show that it has control and that points to more crackdowns in the region, more raids and that's all happening outside the public's point of view.

[12:05:20] WHITFIELD: How might this potentially threaten government there?

DOZIER: Well, Egypt has been facing the unrest of its own crackdown in the Muslim Brotherhood and the leftover unrest for that. So there is a certain almost public discontent, but also a real feeling within the Egyptian public that they tried with their demonstrations. They're back to having a former general in charge of them. They're back to authoritarian rule.

What it might point to actually is a worsening the situation for ISIS. This Sinai tribes had been working somewhat with the Egyptian military. They know that mountainous region inside and out. Now members of their own have apparently been attacked as part of this mosque attack and they will likely cooperate even more closely with Egyptian authorities.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kimberly Dozier, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

DOZIER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, now to the new details on the Russia investigation. CNN has now confirmed lawyers for fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have stopped talking to President Trump's legal team. One of the big questions now, whether Flynn is trying to cut a deal with investigators.

Flynn came under fire earlier this year after he gave conflicting information to investigators over his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Trump, for now, keeping quiet on Flynn and instead turning his efforts today toward Middle East peace. Playing golf also with Tiger Woods and also targeting, going after the NFL.

We're covering all of this with our team of reporters.

Let's begin now with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz.

So, Shimon, what do we know about this decision by Flynn's team to cutoff Trump's lawyers and is there any indication as to why this move was made?


So there are two -- there are seemingly two reasons why the president's lawyers were cutoff. It was on Wednesday that Flynn's lawyer called President Trump's lawyers and said he could no longer share information with them, signaling Flynn may be negotiating a plea deal, or more significantly that he's interested in cooperating with the special counsel investigation.

Now, people we've talked to weren't ready to make that leap. And they say this was expect. One of the things we believe that may be leading to some of this is the pressure now on Michael Flynn's son, who has become part of the special counsel probe and could be facing his own charges. And speaking to friends of Flynn, they have said he was greatly concerned that Michael Flynn Senior was greatly concerned the special counsel was going to bring charges against his son.

And one other thing. Let's not forget, the president asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to end the investigation of Michael Flynn, which is now part of an obstruction investigation.

So certainly a significant move here by Flynn's lawyers indicating something has happened that has caused them to change their strategy. WHITFIELD: And any word now from the president's legal team?

PROKUPECZ: Right. Yes, so the president's lawyer issued a statement. Let me read some of that to you. And he said that, no one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president. You know, that was Jay Sekulow, who's the president's attorney. And basically, Fred, you know, an important point to make here is how odd this is for the president' attorney to be confirming this, knowing full well the significance in the change and the conclusions that can be drawn from it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.

All right, the president has not said a single word about Flynn on Twitter. Today, instead, he has been tweeting about his call with the Turkish president, getting in a round of golf and he's been talking about the NFL as well.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in West Palm Beach traveling with the president.

So, Jeff, let's start with this call with President Erdogan in Turkey. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, we are still awaiting a read out from the White House on the specifics of that call that happened several hours ago here before the president went to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. But we do know that he talked for about a half an hour or so with the president of Turkey. And the president of the U.S. sort of outlined the conversation in a tweet this morning. Let's take a look at that. He said that after the Turkey call, I will be heading over to the Trump National Golf Club. But he said he will be speaking with the president of Turkey, quote, about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake in lives and dollars to be there in the first place.

[12:10:07] But, Fredricka, what we are hearing from the Turkish foreign minister is that the president did agree to not give arms and fund arms to Kurdish fighters. That is the read out we're getting from the Turkey foreign minister here. But, of course, this is the latest in a series of conversations this president has been having about Syria. We spoke he spoke a couple days ago here with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well all about Syria. So it certainly is one of the matters that is occupying the president's time before he hit the golf course today, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

All right, well, here to talk to me about all of this, CNN political analyst Alex Burns, CNN political reporter Rebecca Berg.

Let's talk a little bit further about this.

So, Alex, Corey Lewandowski has spoken out on this, about his reaction to Flynn and the White House attorneys severing ties. This is what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't think this goes anywhere other than to Michael Flynn and potentially his son. But what we've seen is that people who haven't followed the rules, people like Paul Manafort, you know, Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, if they have done something wrong, they should be held accountable. But that's where it ends because there is no culpability or liability to the president because he didn't collude, cooperate, or coordinate with Russia in any way, shape, or form.


WHITFIELD: OK. So what's your reaction to this? Does this reflect a real concern from the White House?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's important to unpack a couple of different things that Corey said there. On the one hand there is this sense -- and from my conversations with Republicans and folks close to the White House it's a general sense that, you know, Michael Flynn made his own bed here. That he has serious legal problems that are probably unique to him related to his foreign lobbying, his foreign consulting activities and whether he was honest about that with federal investigators and required disclosure forms.

The second bucket of assertions that Corey made there, and you've heard from other folks in the White House, is that this is as far as it goes and the folks I talked to are not at all certain of that. That, yes, the issues related specifically to Michael Flynn's activities as a foreign agent probably are specific to Michael Flynn. They probably don't draw in the president in terms of Michael Flynn's connection with Turkey and matters of that nature.

WHITFIELD: The big coincidentally, the president and Erdogan were talking today.

BURNS: Well, I'm not going to read into that. But whether Michael Flynn was party to other activity that the president or members of his family or other members of his brain trust may have been involved in, he's clearly somebody who, you know, as much as anyone frankly outside the Trump family is probably in a position to give an authoritative account of what was going on in that campaign to prosecutors.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Also joining in this conversation, CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey.

But, Rebecca, let me ask you, I want you to also hear about this other thing they Corey Lewandowski had to say.


LEWANDOWSKI: Look, Mike's not a bad guy. He served his country with distinction for a long time. But if he didn't fill out the paperwork properly and he didn't disclose that information and he wasn't honest with the FBI, like anybody else, he should be held accountable. But that's where it stops. And there has never been any indication that the president of the United States, or anyone else within that circle of the president of the United States, has done anything wrong. And so if Mike Flynn did something wrong, he should be held accountable.


WHITFIELD: All right. I'm going to have to return to our conversation about Corey Lewandowski and Russia because we do have some breaking news. So, hold that thought, Rebecca, as I asked you that question.

Breaking news out of London now.

Police say they are responding to an incident at a subway station in central London.

CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen is on the phone with us.

So, Peter, what do you know about this investigation, this customer incident at Oxford Circus?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, right now what we know is that it's an incident. And clearly with five terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, including most of them in London in the past year, you know, people are understandably on edge. I don't think its -- it's not clear if this is a terrorist incident right now, but (INAUDIBLE) there is reports of gunfire at this subway station in central London.

WHITFIELD: OK. And this clearly is a very popular location. It's a major transit area for Londoners. It's also a real tourist attraction, the Oxford Circus area. And we understand, as you were looking at some of the pictures where you saw a lot of foot traffic there, people who were walking rather briskly there, we understand, according to some of the information we're received here, that people are being asked to seek shelter inside the buildings there as investigators, London police respond to an incident. That's all they are calling it for now.

We do have some CNN staffer who have been at the scene who were eyewitness to police telling people to get inside any building you can. This is just a precaution at this stage. Please get inside any building you can find.

[12:15:02] And, Peter, clearly people in London have had many reasons to be on edge there. There have been a number of incidents, whether it be vehicles, you know, plowing into pedestrians. Of course there was the concert a few months ago where people were injured and attacked outside those soft targets. Give me an idea, if you will, when an occurrence like this, all that's being said is an incident, talk to me about the readiness of authorities there.

BERGEN: (INAUDIBLE) high. I mean when you -- when we've seen these incidents, whether they were at the Westminster Bridge or the London Bridge, I mean the metropolitan police are responding very, very quickly to these incidents. But there have been so many and, you know, they typically take place

where there's a large number of people and victims to -- if indeed this is a terrorist incident, it would sort of fit the pattern of attacking. We've seen other attacks in subway stations and also places where there's large crowds of people in the past year in London and also in Manchester.

These attacks have also included, interestingly, you know, not just jihadist terrorist attacks, but also a right wing terrorist attack. You may recall during the entering Ramadan, somebody rammed a car into a group of Muslims who were celebrating the break -- breaking of the fast during Ramadan. So we've seen five significant terrorist incidents in the U.K. in the past year. And, you know, the police are pretty careful not to say it is terrorism until they know for a fact, but usually they know pretty quickly.

WHITFIELD: Also with us now, correspondent Phil Black in London, as well as tech correspondent Samuel Burke in London.

Phil, to you first. What are you learning and about where are you?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So where I'm standing, Fredricka, is on Great Melbourne (ph) Street in central London. So I'm on the west end, just near where it meets Carnaby (ph) Street. The vary famous shopping pedestrianized street here. This is close to Regent (ph) Street, Oxford Street, the Oxford Circus underground station. Only a short time ago this entire area was teaming with people on this very busy Friday evening.

Now, where I am standing, the police have (INAUDIBLE) very strict lines, evacuating a wide area here. And as I speak, I am surrounded by police that are still trying to direct people away from this area.

I know you've been talking about this. They've been advising people to simply get away or to seek shelter in nearby buildings. And what we've seen on a couple of occasions, myself and colleagues in the surrounding area, have been brief moments of panic where there's been some sort of noise and crowds of people have then run en masse to get a -- to try and get away. From what, we don't know.

All I can say is that we've heard on occasion some sort of noise in the near distance. I really don't know what it is. I don't want to speculate what it is. But it is clearly a significant incident that police are dealing with here today. And, at the moment, their main emphasis is clearly on crowd control.

I can't emphasize how crowded this area was only a short time ago. It was literally a sea of people, particularly down that Carnaby (ph) Street area. That's what we were seeing.

And now, as I say, this evacuated area where police have forced people back and on occasion we've seen people moving away together as one. And clearly something of a panicked way. Panicked by what, we just can't say.

Now, I should say that in this area through the day we have seen a very strong police and security presence. Because just around the corner from here, in the very heart of this area that has been evacuated, is the Poladium (ph) Theater. And tonight it is hosting the royal variety performance, an annual comedy and musical event that is usually attended by one or more senior members of the royal family.

So this was already a very secure area through the course of the day, or I should say an area that was very much a focus of a pretty strict security operation. In addition to that, it was packed with tourists, shoppers, people out on a Friday evening spilling out of pubs and restaurants, these sorts of things, as you would normally see I think on a Friday night here. But I would say, just observationally, even more busy than normal.

So a particularly busy neighborhood tonight and then something has happened which has caused the police to drive people away and on occasion, as I say, we have seen people run away with a sense of panic. But from what, I do not know.

As I speak right now, we are seeing still ongoing orderly evacuation from this area because a lot of people sought shelter in nearby buildings. What the police are now doing is going from some of -- going from building to building and guiding some of these people out onto the street and then to the nearest police line in the neighborhood. The police are simply telling us that they just need to clear this area in order to best deal with this incident. They are not telling us yet what they believe this incident is.


[12:20:04] WHITFIELD: And, you know, Phil, it's interesting because the vantage point that we have right now of this camera, we are seeing people that are moving briskly, you know, and also paired up with a number of authorities who were standing, you know, at intersections there.

I know you described earlier there was a sound. Unclear what that is. It is being described by police as an incident. And you were eyewitness to people who were running. People are moving briskly as they walked and they are all walking in one direction.

I wish I knew what this intersection was to give you a better handle of about where this is in relation to perhaps where you are. I know you said you're about at Regent (ph) Street, Canaby (ph) Street area, which is a very -- a thriving area. It is just around rush hour there. Typically it would be very crowded. But, Phil, what was described to you initially as to what may have brought concern to authorities that now they will -- only be willing to call it a customer incident?

BLACK: So far the police here on the ground, and to my knowledge officially through statements or otherwise, have not gone into any further detail about precisely what the nature of this incident may be. What it was that has sparked this level of concern. And you can only say it must be significant.

Now, I know you've been talking about how this is a city that has experienced terrorism. It's experienced it recently. So there's always a very high degree of security alert. Their tolerance for risk here is very low. But for them to evacuate such a wide area, such a significant, busy area in London's west end like this, we can only -- we can only gather from that that this is potentially an incident of some concern.

Now, they're not going to take any risk, obviously, but this is the sort of area where it is not uncommon for bags to be left unattended, to cause minor security incidents. For Oxford Circus Station itself to be closed at a time while they deal with those sorts of suspicious packages often, in fact always, they pretty much turn out to be nothing.

This is of a different nature entirely. At least in terms of what we're seeing for the police response here on the ground. Certainly in the way that they are driving people from this area. They're simply not taking any risks whatsoever.

And I do make the point again, we've seen a lot of police and security on the streets in this particular area through the day as preparations have been going on in the Paladium (ph) Theater for tonight's annual royal performance that goes on at that theater. And, as I say, is normally attended by one or more senior members of the royal family.

As I speak to you right now, what we can still see are people moving out of the area, being directed by police. A lot of them, some of them, are in black tie, indicating they were supposed to be guests at this -- at this performance at the theater tonight, I think.


BLACK: But there's no sense of panic now. What we're seeing is, I think, a very orderly ongoing evacuation of the area. And those brief moments where we did witness some panic, well, they haven't been repeated here. And as I said, they were very brief. Something possibly could have triggered that degree of fear. We're not sure what it was. But, at the moment, the police are still very focused on clearing this area.


BLACK: And I have to say, it's ongoing, it's happening, it's pretty calm and so far they're not giving us any details here on the ground about precisely what it was.

WHITFIELD: All right, Phil, thank you so much. It is typically a very thriving area with the theater nearby, as you mentioned. It is a thriving shopping area. Lots of banks there as well. Lots of business.

There was a statement that did come out from the British Transport Police, if I can read that now -- give that to me back on the screen, saying -- tweeting out, officers are on the scene alongside metropolitan police U.K. at Oxford Circus. Please continue to avoid the area. Oxford Circus and Bond (ph) Street Station are closed.

Our Samuel Burke is also there in London. And, Sam, the bureau generally is not very far from this location being, you know, described now the centerpiece of this incident. What are you hearing and is there a way in which to describe how authorities are responding to this? Are they, you know, treating this as if it were a potential, you know, terror attack?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you're seeing right now on your street, that's about 30 seconds away from the CNN offices. So that's Regent Street. Regent and Oxford Street, where this incident took place, are basically the two busiest streets in London. This tube stop is if not one of the busiest, the busiest tube station in London.

About an hour ago, all of a sudden there was some type of chaos and people started running. What you would see from the right side to your screen to the left side of the screen. Of course, right now, it's slowed down and they're walking.

But I want to just give you a little more context about that tweet that you just put up from the British Transport Authority saying that they were responding to gunshots. Now, if that is true, and I say if because these are, of course, report that the police say that they were responding to, that would be highly unusual for the United Kingdom. This is a country that has very strict gun laws. You don't hear about this type of incident very often. So if it were some type of gun incident, that would be highly irregular.

[12:25:20] Now, at this point, British Transport Police say they were responding to some type of customer incident as well. So if that started with a customer and then somebody became enraged, well, that's only an assumption at this point.

But I cannot emphasize to you enough how busy this intersection is. This is one of the most crowded parts of London. It would be like something happening in Times Square in New York.

And, of course, we really weren't that used to seeing guards with guns before. But after the large amount of terrorist attacks that we have had in this country over 2017, you have seen more and more police presence and become accustomed to seeing guards in these tube stations with guns. So hopefully, if something happened here that was serious, the guards could have responded quickly.

And, again, this is also where the biggest shopping area is in the U.K. You and I were actually talking earlier about Black Friday, how we have this now here in the U.K. So this area would have been even busier than usual because this is where all the shops were. You see people walking across the screens there with their bags. So an incredibly busy shopping area.

And I want to just tell you what happened after this panic. Office buildings, like our own, were locked down because people were so panic and unclear about what was happening. So people not being allowed in -- out of their offices and, of course, making sure to keep anybody out of their offices in case there could be somebody on the loose.

So an incredibly tense situation, but the people that you see in green there are the London police. So clearly it's being dealt with but incredibly concerning at this point. Not something that we see often on the tubes of London. And certainly not gunshots if indeed that is what happened as the police report that they were responding to those reports.

WHITFIELD: OK. Sam, thanks so much. Again, our CNN studio not very far from this location, which, in large part, might explain why one of our eyewitness that we have with us right now is a CNN international digital intern, Hannah Richie.

So, Hannah -- and we also want to welcome our international viewers now joining us here.

Hannah, this is Fredricka Whitfield talking with you now.

What did you eyewitness? What -- where were you exactly?

HANNAH RITCHIE, EYEWITNESS: So, I was just coming out of work for the day heading towards Oxford Circus tube station. And there was probably about three to four times the volume of people that they usually are. And it's an incredibly busy area.

And as I walked towards the area, there was an increased volume of police. There was sirens, lots of police cars going in and out. One even up on the pavement. And then, very quickly, people started to scream. And obviously with that amount of people, it turned into a huge rush. And I was kind of caught up in it and ended up in one of the shops nearby, which was a Nike store.

From there we were told that the doors were going to be barricaded and we were asked to stay inside the store. I went up to the second floor to try and get a look out the window, at which time I saw that their -- police had successfully cleared the area and seems to be walking around with fairly large guns. And we were all just being given directions to stay by the building, wait until it kind of calms down.

Eventually we were evacuated out the back of the building, at which point we kind of went on to one of the back streets just behind the main stropping strip. And within five or six minutes of leaving, more screams erupted. People were just clearly on edge. And, again, it was kind of a stampede of people trying to get out of the area.

WHITFIELD: So, Hannah, you must have been extremely frightened, especially going out that backdoor into that back street not knowing what it is that you all were running from or alarmed by.

RITCHIE: I was definitely more frightened going into the store because at first, you know, obviously it's rush hour there. You're always trying to get out of that area and wonder how you're going to get home. But as soon as I heard people screaming and then suddenly everyone was pushing against you and you just realized that you were not going to be, you know, going anywhere. And then when we got pushed into the shop, I had no idea what was going on and I was just -- my legs were shaking because I was -- I was so uncertain as to why we were in there. I didn't know if someone was going to come in there after us. And then seeing them barricade the doors, obviously I knew it was more serious than I'd thought.

[12:29:55] WHITFIELD: Well, we're glad you're safe. Hannah Ritchie, thank you so much, a CNN international digital intern. Thanks for being with us. We'll check back with you.

Meantime, our Phil Black now, we understand, is on the scene. Again, our CNN bureau not very far away from this location where police are describing an incident.