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Trump Breaks Silence on Michael Flynn Guilty Plea; Source: Kushner Directed Flynn to Contact Russian Ambassador; Trump: I Had to Fire Flynn Because He Lied to FBI; Tom Hanks Talks Politics Tonight on "The Axe Files"; Official: North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up Upon Reentry. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 2, 2017 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:54] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello, again, everyone, and welcome. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with breaking news. We're now hearing from President Trump as he breaks his silence on the stunning guilty plea by his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Just moments ago, the president tweeting this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

And earlier this morning, the president brushed off any suggestion that Flynn's cooperation with the special counsel could lead to problems for him or his inner circle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not. And what has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There's been absolutely -- there's been absolutely no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in CNN's Kara Scannell and Boris Sanchez.

Boris, the president breaking his silence while on the road. What more can you tell us?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Yes, the president sent out that tweet shortly after departing from a fundraising lunch here in midtown New York. He has two other events today in New York City before heading back to Washington. And this is the most that we've heard from Donald Trump talking about former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, since he left the administration. As you heard earlier today, before he left Washington for New York, the president repeating twice that there was no collusion. White House sources telling CNN that the president is not worried about the potential consequences of Michael Flynn working with the special counsel and cooperating with Robert Mueller. Though the White House has tried and now distanced themselves from Michael Flynn. You heard yesterday a White House official describing Michael Flynn as an Obama administration era official and saying -- making the claim that President Obama authorized the conversations between Michael Flynn and those Russian contacts. Despite that, the president's tweet doesn't answer several questions, including the fact that it's been now widely reported President Obama warned incoming President-Elect Trump at the time about hiring Michael Flynn because of his potential contacts overseas. That also doesn't explain why shortly after the inauguration, when then acting attorney general, Sally Yates, approached the White House with her concerns that Michael Flynn may have been compromised and could have been blackmailed by Russians, why the White House didn't immediately act then. You'll recall there was a gap of time before Michael Flynn was ultimately fired.

All of this overshadowing what the president wants to talk about today, what he did talk about at that fund-raiser here a short while ago, the regulative victory on tax reform. Finally, after months of working on it, this White House is getting points on the board. But there is a cloud over this White House, and it is this Russia investigation, Fred. Not going away any time soon, and the president will likely face more and more questions about this as the days pass -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: That's right.

And, Kara, the president was very quiet about Flynn's guilty plea yesterday, but then today, it's a very different story. How could this impact the special counsel investigation?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, the tweet is very interesting, because the president says that the reason why he fired Michael Flynn was because he had lied to Vice President Pence and the FBI. We had not previously heard that the White House was aware that Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time that he was fired, because Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general at the time, had warned them he had misled Pence. We asked the White House for clarification on this. But if, in fact, the president did know that Flynn lied to FBI, and he knew that before he fired James Comey, who was the FBI director at the time, and whom he asked to lay off Flynn in the investigation, that certainly raises a lot of new questions that we didn't know before. And I'm sure it's something that the Mueller investigation is going to take a hard look at.

[13:04:54] WHITFIELD: All right, Kara Scannell, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much, to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right, how did we get here? There's a lot to keep up with, right? To start, CNN has learned that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in- law, directed Flynn before the inauguration to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. That's according to sources familiar with the matter.

Here's a timeline now of Flynn's contacts with Russia. December 22nd, 2016, according to court documents, General Flynn asks Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to postpone that Security Council vote. December 29th, President Obama announces new sanctions against Russia. And Flynn asked Kislyak not to retaliate. December 30th, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won't retaliate against U.S. sanctions. January 20th, 2017, President Donald Trump is inaugurated. January 24th, Flynn lies to FBI investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. January 26th, then acting attorney general, Sally Yates, warned the Trump White House that Flynn was lying about calls with Kislyak. January 30th, President Trump fires Yates after she refuses to defend his initial travel ban. And then February 13th, Flynn resigns after misleading Vice President Pence about his calls with Kislyak.

Now Flynn's bombshell guilty plea would seem to have thrown the White House into turmoil. But this morning, the president said he's not worried, no collusion, he said.

So, still unanswered, what was Michael Flynn trying to hide and why did he lie to the FBI?

So, again, the president tweeting this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

And then, just moments after, Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, tweeting this, "Just couldn't resist commenting on Flynn. Are you admitting you knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when you asked Comey to back off Flynn?

Walter Shaub joining me on the phone now.

Walter, we can feel your surprise about why the president would tweet like this.

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS (via telephone): It's just unbelievably mind blowing. Somewhere in Washington his attorneys are banging their heads against the table because their client lacks the discipline to stay off tweeter and stop admitting things publicly like this.

WHITFIELD: How might this assist the Mueller investigation? Because now the president is contradicting earlier tweets, earlier sentiments about the purpose of the firing, about the honesty or lack thereof of Flynn. This potentially changes some dynamic, doesn't it?

SHAUB: I think it may. The president has just damaged his credibility significant because -- and we have to remember, there are two possibilities. One is that he's just lying now. And that him firing Flynn had nothing to do with the criminal office of lying to the FBI. But the other possibility is that he was lying when he announced Flynn was leaving because he had lied to Mike Pence. If that's the case, if he knew back then that Flynn had lied to the FBI and had committed a crime, then he is -- had that in his mind when he talked to Comey on that timeline of yours shortly after all of this, and asked him to back off of Mike Flynn, saying Mike Flynn's a good guy. And of course, Comey testified in Congress that he was very uncomfortable about this conversation and thought the president was suggesting an order as to what he should do. And that really starts to make you wonder if there might actually have been some obstruction of justice here.

WHITFIELD: So what would that mean if you're talking about the president who at the time said he has fired or is being removed from, you know, NSA because he lied to the vice president versus the president knew that Flynn lied to the FBI, sat on that for a while before Flynn were removed from that office or that job?

SHAUB: Right. That raises a couple questions. One is, why wouldn't you fire Flynn the minute that you know that he lied to the FBI, instead of keeping that confidential within the White House and concealing it from the American people? But it also changes the dynamic of his interaction with Comey, because it changes the meaning of his words. It's one thing to say, back off of Flynn, which is inappropriate in itself because the Department of Justice needs to act independently. But it's another thing entirely to do that when you personally, as the president, think that your national security adviser has committed a crime and you're asking the criminal investigators to back off and not look into it. And even a gentle request from the president of the United States is heard by his employees as tantamount to an order.

[13:10:36] WHITFIELD: Wow, this gets even more complicated, doesn't it?

OK. Walter Shaub, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, joining me now to talk more about all of this, and beyond, Democratic Congressman Denny Heck, from Washington. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

So what's your reaction to Donald Trump's latest tweet about being -- Michael Flynn being fired because he was lying to both the vice president and the FBI, contrary to his -- Walter Shaub was underscoring there -- the president before, really implying that he was fired only because he lied to the vice president?

REP. DENNY HECK, (D), WASHINGTON: Well, I find it all a little Orwellian, frankly, Fredricka. At the end of the day -- and I'm not much given to hyperbole. This town drowns in hyperbole. We very well may look back at this plea deal by Michael Flynn as the beginning of the end of the Trump administration. I say that because of the facts here. Here are the facts. We now have four people from the Trump administration or the campaign who have been indicted or pled guilty to felonies. Two of whom are at the very highest levels of the Trump campaign or administration. One, Mr. Manafort, the former chair of the campaign, and now Michael Flynn, who was the national security adviser. Arguably the most sensitive national security post in all of the federal government. The fact is, these are felons now for all practical purposes. This is a serious crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Fact, things that we know, not things that we think. Bob Mueller would have never agreed to this if he did not think that Michael Flynn had a whole lot more to offer. Indeed, it was Michael Flynn's lawyer who said on March 31st that Michael Flynn has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it. He's about to tell it. Fact, we're now a half a step away from the president himself. We're in the White House, in the form of the national security adviser. And, as has been implicated in the plea deal, we're at the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. These are the facts, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now, the Mueller team, presumably, especially after this tweet from the president, now want to be asking, you know, why -- why was the president protecting Flynn if, at the time, you know, the president knew that Flynn lied to the FBI, which is what his latest tweet is inferring. So how can this now direct or redirect the Mueller investigation? Not just asking Flynn, not just potentially asking Jared Kushner, but perhaps even directly asking the president himself what he knew and when did he know it.

HECK: Yes, we're very well going to get to that point. But the truth of the matter is I have a lot of confidence in Director Mueller. This thing has proceeded to pace. I'm frankly quite surprised that only six months into it that he's come as far as he has as fast as he has. Bob Mueller is a pro. He is widely respected across both political parties in all political philosophies for the professional he is, and he's done nothing but demonstrate that thus far.

WHITFIELD: Are you at all concerned because of the track record that the president has, even as, you know, the candidate, how he continues to defend, and the allegiance he would seem to show toward a Michael Flynn? Is it your concern at all that, preemptively, you know, before this investigation were to, you know, end or come anywhere close to it, that this president just might pardon Michael Flynn, even after he has pled guilty for lying to the FBI, but before the investigation could be complete?

HECK: Well, I'm very concerned. I'm very concerned for America, frankly. I think what we're going through right now represents an existential threat to the health of our democracy. But the fact of the matter is, whether or not the president pardons Mr. Flynn and others involved, that does not exempt them from prosecution under state laws, and there are plenty at work here as well. So, no, I don't think that the people who have committed crimes are going to end up being exempt from the accountability that they so richly deserve, frankly.

WHITFIELD: All of this I think most people agree, it's all just so messy. So what's your understanding as to why there would be so many Republicans on Capitol Hill who, given the president's credibility problem thus far, would still be willing, if not eager, to push the president's agenda forward?

[13:15:09] HECK: So there -- I don't think you can paint them all with the same brush. The --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Of those Republicans that are pushing for the president's agenda, and those are the ones I'd be referring to in this question.

HECK: Sure. But it's important to note that's not all of them. There are some Republicans who have spoken out publicly and they should be acknowledge for that.

WHITFIELD: Like Corker, yes. HECK: There are some who will speak about it privately but not yet

publicly but know what's going on here. There are others that won't do so publicly or privately, but probably in their own consciences know better. Then there are others who don't, frankly, get it. In that instance, I think it's clearly an instance where ideology and their point of view about the necessity of some of these policies trumps everything else, pun intended.

WHITFIELD: Funny.

All right, Congressman Denny Heck, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

HECK: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: All right, more on this breaking news after the break. President Trump breaking his silence on Michael Flynn's guilty plea. And in a few different ways just today. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:20:30] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We continue to follow the latest developments in the special counsel investigation after former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty yesterday. Trump, in fact, tweeting this morning, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Well, let's discuss this with my guest. Joining me right now, CNN political analysts, Julian Zelizer and Patrick Healy, and CNN legal analyst, Michael Zeldin.

Good to see all of you.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: So, Michael, you first.

Does it seem like the timeline, the story, is changing from the Trump White House, whereas, the president had said long ago that Michael Flynn had to be fired because he lied to the vice president, but now this tweet after, you know, silence yesterday, this tweet from the president is saying essentially that he knew, if you read into that tweet, that he knew that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI when he was fired. Would that be problematic if that's what the president is saying?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't believe it to be true. I don't believe that the president would have known or could have known that four days after his inauguration, General Flynn had lied to the FBI. Sally Yates didn't tell him that, according to her testimony. And the FBI certainly would not have told the White House about an ongoing criminal investigation. So I'm not sure where that comes from. I think it's more likely made up then true.

If it's true, it's a bit more problematic because it is the possibility here that the president is somehow intervening in an ongoing investigation. And we know from conversations back and forth, he regrets he can't do that. I think that Sessions would have told him not to do that without some sort of coordination with the Justice Department and the FBI. So I don't really give much credit to this. I think it's the president, you know, sort of at his best or worse on his Twitter feed.

I also think it's not completely true that what Flynn was doing then was completely lawful. We've talked about this earlier today, Fredricka, that there are laws that prevent private citizens from trying to intervene in the foreign affairs of a country, the Logan Act. And so I don't think the president could even reach the conclusion that this was lawful. Because this was not meet-and-greet sorts of conversations between an incoming national security adviser and foreign equivalents as was originally portrayed. But this was an effort to intervene in ongoing matters, the Israeli settlement U.N. resolution and the matter of sanctions that the Obama administration put on and the perspective response by Russia. He's wrong on the back end. I don't believe him on the front end.

WHITFIELD: Might this also be Trump's way of being able to -- by saying his actions were lawful during the transition, would that be Trump's way of being able to say that, you know, as far as I knew, it was lawful because I wasn't the one giving any kind of directives. What he was doing was kind of on his own volition.

ZELDIN: Well, that's not what has been represented by Mueller in the Statement of Offense in the plea by Flynn. They say in that plea that was filed in court that Flynn was back and forth with the national security team in Mar-a-Lago and receiving directions about how to proceed. They named two people, a senior White House transition official and a very senior one. Those have been speculated to be Kushner and McFarland. It's hard to believe we've got six people down in Mar-a-Lago talking about foreign policy, and Flynn is saying, I'm talking with the Russians, and somehow the president is not going to be made aware of that. It doesn't, to me, make any logical sense.

WHITFIELD: Patrick, has the president created a new problem for himself with this tweet?

[13:24:51] PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think he's created a problem with a lot of questions. Fred, we're now going to be focusing I think a lot on what happened February 13th and February 14th earlier this year. On February 13th, Michael Flynn resigns. Presumably, now because of this tweet, because President Trump knew that Flynn had lied both to Mike Pence and the FBI. So on February 13th, apparently, Donald Trump knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. The next day, on February 14th, Trump meets with James Comey, the head of the FBI, and says, according to Comey, lay off Flynn, let this go, let this investigation go. And then, as we know, in May, Donald Trump fires James Comey. There's a timeline here now that Robert Mueller, you know, I think probably, you know, he certainly had laid out for himself. But now he has the president himself on Twitter sort of -- he's sort of filling in blanks here. And while, you know, I think Robert Mueller probably has many questions for Donald Trump, but one is, you know, did you know at the time of the conversation with James Comey on February 14th that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI about this? And how is that -- a lot of people are now throwing around the phrase obstruction of justice. I think these are questions that a lot of people are getting ahead of themselves certainly on Twitter with this analysis. But at the very least, President Trump in his use of Twitter, has now created all of these questions, if not a problem, that are going to have to be reconciled.

Michael may be right. We've seen President Trump, you know, use Twitter to brag, to say that he knew all of these things already. Of course, you know, he knows all the things that are going on, and, you know, that Flynn did this or Flynn did that. But at least it creates all these questions.

WHITFIELD: Julian, it sounds like the president is trying to convey a message that he is so confident, you know, that nothing is going to come back to him. Because, you know, he's talking a lot today. He said, you know, earlier before he left for New York, he says, you know, no collusion. You know, and now he's got this tweet. He even said, you know, during a breakfast that he was really celebrating the U.S. Senate vote. And then now this tweet. While the president is trying to distance himself from the probe, is he really injecting himself further into it?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is. Look, Twitter has been used in two ways on this kind of issue by the president. The first is to discredit the investigation and to discredit stories about the investigation. And the second is to project this air of confidence about what's going on and to distance himself from any wrongdoing. But he creates a paper trail of statements that become problematic. And part of the investigation will involve statements that he has made not behind the scenes, not because we have sources, but he's told the whole country things that are problematic via Twitter. So I think this tweet will be one of many that the investigators are looking at as they piece it together with this information that we have.

And the president can't control the investigators. And that's what's problematic. This is not simply a political battle anymore. We see from yesterday's news that Mueller is digging deeper and deeper, getting closer to the inner circle of the White House. And now expanded into many issues, from obstruction to policy involving Russia and back to the original question of collusion in the campaign. So it's going to be difficult to tweet this out. And those tweets might actually become more of a problem than help.

WHITFIELD: Michael?

ZELDIN: If I could just add one thing. The timeline that was put forth of February 13th, February 14th, I think is exactly right. I would add to that something which I've been thinking about for a while, which is the firing of Sally Yates. It was said that Sally Yates was fired for failure to enforce the immigration ban. I thought for a long time whether that was actually not the real reason she was fired.

(AUDIO PROBLEM) WHITFIELD: So sorry, Michael, we're losing your audio there. But I

think we got part of what you were saying. You believe Sally Yates' firing came more so because of the way she had warned the White House about Michael Flynn, less so about, you know, her not enforcing the travel ban.

We're going to try to re-establish the connection.

I don't want to put words in your mouth. I'm feeling like that's the message we got thus far before your signal broke up there.

So we're going to try to reconnect with Michael as soon as we can.

For now, we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So we're going to try to reconnect with Michael as soon as we can.

For now, we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:34:43] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Michael Flynn's plea deal seems to suggest that Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is intensifying. And now President Trump breaking his silence on this issue again, last hour tweeting this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his transactions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Joining me to talk about the legal aspects of all of this, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, in Cleveland.

Good to see you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi.

WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, criminal defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Las Vegas.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Fred.

Richard, you first.

What do you think this tweet means from the president, that he would say, you know, he had to fire Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI?

HERMAN: He had to fire Flynn because the "Washington Post" published the article and humiliated the White House because they kept him in there for almost a month after being advised by Sally Yates that he lied and that he was compromised. So the "Washington Post" is what did it, Fred. This is a bombshell. And this general, Michael Flynn, who was involved in the campaign, the transition, and then for about 18 days in the administration, was very, very close to Donald Trump. And in order to get the deal that he got, Fred, because he got a sweetheart deal here, I believe that he's given up Trump. Because that's who they want. And I believe he's the one that would know. He spent a lot of time with him. I think he has delivered Trump on a silver platter to Mueller.

WHITFIELD: Are you saying you think the bombshell is the guilty plea or the bombshell is the president's latest tweet --

HERMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- which says he fired Flynn for both lying to the vice president and, you know, to the FBI. And now we're talking about maybe there was just a day in between the firing of Flynn and then the president talking with, last February 14th, you know, with Comey --

HERMAN: Comey, right.

WHITFIELD: -- and saying, lay off of, you know, Flynn, which would -- the president is saying, I know he lied to the FBI but I'm now asking the FBI director to back off and make this allowance that it would be OK, Richard.

HERMAN: Yes, Fred, listen, he's trapped. Why would he go to such lengths to stop the investigation against Flynn if Flynn didn't have the goods on him, if Flynn couldn't hurt him? Why would he do that? Why would he go to Republican Senators and say, can you guys stop this investigation, just end it, end it. He's doing this because he's in panic mode, Fred. If it walks like a duck, flies like a duck, it quakes, it's a duck. Flynn has the goods on the president, and he knows it.

WHITFIELD: Avery, how will the president's words, perhaps in this tweet or in some other fashion, now be used against the president or the White House that its best defense is there's no problem here, we don't know anything?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, what's so interesting, in the battle over the travel ban, one of the things that the courts have been struggling with is, can we use tweets coming from the president. And the conclusion has been, interestingly enough, yes, you may. So the tweet today is probably giving the legal team conniptions because there should be no comment from the White House, none. The fact is that these facts, now that they've come out, certainly since the conviction yesterday, identified Flynn and it's in the indictment, in the information, as a surrogate. Well, a surrogate to whom? Is he a surrogate to the president? Yes. Is he a surrogate to the advisers? Yes. And the bottom line on this is Michael Flynn could not have, on his own, Fredricka, come up with the idea of, hey, you know what, maybe I'll call the Russian ambassador and talk to him about holding up a U.N. resolution and, while I'm at it, maybe I can talk him into telling them to relax, that we're not going to pursue the sanctions that the Obama administration has executed on.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: So Mueller's team wants to know who gave him the directive.

FRIEDMAN: There you go. And that's the issue. There's a reference in the information, in the indictment, about senior people in the White House, and we don't know at this point if it goes all the way to the president.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Well, Richard --

FRIEDMAN: That's the fascinating thing about it.

WHITFIELD: Back to tweets, the president also tweeted today, and it was a different matter, it was about the U.S. Secretary of state, but also saying, you know, I call the shots. So is that applicable if that manner of work is applicable to, you know, the president, whether it be as candidate or whether it be as the sitting president calling the shots as it pertains to any relations with Russia?

HERMAN: It is moronic, Fred. He admitted in his interview with Lester Holt to obstruction. He just kills himself. I mean, I couldn't have a client like that. I'd threaten to amputate his hands if he tweeted during this period of time. They can't control him. He's out of control and he's hurting himself bad. Every time he puts something out there, it's going to come back and bite him. He's out of control --

(CROSSTALK)

[13:40:20] FRIEDMAN: And others too --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Quickly, Avery, does this tweet, does this add to the potential obstruction of justice probe by Mueller's team?

FRIEDMAN: You know what, I always thought the obstruction issue seemed to be more powerful than collusion. I think it's fallen right into place. That tweet fits into part of the evidence. Again, we're only seeing the beginning of what we know. Let's see what happens when Flynn goes forward, identifies the others, the other information. Believe me, the tweets are going along for the ride as part of the evidence.

WHITFIELD: All right, Richard --

HERMAN: One last thing, Fred. Everyone's commenting, you know, it's been a year and we don't have any collusion and it's a waste and they should stop. We don't know how far along they are. We don't know the information the Mueller team has --

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: That's true, that's exactly right.

(CROSSTALK) HERMAN: -- what they want to release. And it's very, very dangerous, Fred. Sessions, Kushner, Trump Jr, they're lined up next. I think it's going to come down -- I think Jared Kushner's going to get indicted next. We'll see if that loyalty --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: We'll see.

All right, we're going to leave it there.

HERMAN: -- and we'll see what happens.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Richard and Avery.

HERMAN: Take care.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. Always good to see you.

So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM after this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL CRANE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Psychology has always played a big part in our kitchen. But as companies introduce A.I. into our appliances, how we cook in the future may look a lot different. But can all of the tech in the world make us a better cook?

(on camera): Technology is trying to idiot proof cooking. This is taking us to the next level.

(voice-over): It looks like a microwave but that's actually a $400 Wi-Fi-connected over. You can program it to cook what you want or use its meal-delivery service. Each meal comes with a bar code. Scan it and the microwave downloads the correct cooking time.

(on camera): To me, I know with a convection oven and the whole thing, but it kind of eels like a microwave. I can't image this is going to be really that good.

Moment of truth, guys.

This is not bad. It doesn't have the consistency of like any TV dinner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're kind of moving into this world in which machines are no longer just going to be collecting information. They'll be able to take action on our behalf.

As these things get embedded with more sophisticated intelligence, what will really transform potentially our experience at the kitchen is when these different devices start to become connected to each other. A blender that downloads recipes and then communicates to your fridge and the fridge can check what kinds of foods are in the fridge and then reorder what's needed so that you can make that smoothie the next morning.

CRANE: Our tools are getting a lot smarter. And soon, they'll be designed to act more like assistants than just appliances. They can make us better cooks or possibly just do the cooking for us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:45:45] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're following breaking news. President Trump weighing in again today on Michael Flynn's guilty plea of lying to the FBI. First, today, on camera, he said no collusion. And just last hour, the president tweeted this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

I want to bring in CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod.

So, David, what's your thought on what the president has said? Has it changed the timeline at all?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think there are a lot of questions that arise from his comments. I'm sure his lawyers would have preferred he not comment at all. I mean, there are -- one of them is that he was informed by the acting attorney general I think on January 24th or 25th --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

AXELROD: -- thereabouts, maybe the 26th, that -- that General Flynn had lied to the FBI, and it took 18 days for him to fire General Flynn. It only happened after "The Washington Post" revealed that conversation between the acting attorney general and the president's counsel. So why was there this delay? How could he keep someone there for two weeks knowing he had lied to the FBI? So that's one big question.

And he raises the other that I think will be the subject of investigation. Why exactly did General Flynn lie? He -- General Flynn knows the answer. General Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel. And presumably that answer will come forth. So there are many more questions to be answered. And I don't think the president can tweet them away.

WHITFIELD: It's interesting because the president, you know, would say, you know, that he was lawful, his actions were lawful during the transition. You know, but then there's an admission to lying to the FBI. So it just doesn't make sense why the president would feel like, you know, saying that would clear the air.

AXELROD: Now, there is a -- there is a kind of arcane violation of law that would come into play based on what we know about what General Flynn did, which is a violation of this law, the Logan Act, very rarely applied, when private citizens are negotiating for the United States of America. We have a tradition in this country that presidents are presidents until the moment that they leave office. And there's only one voice for American foreign policy. That was violated here. But one suspects that there's more to this than that. And only General Flynn really has the answer.

WHITFIELD: And the White House said yesterday by way of Trump's attorney, Ty Cobb, that it was the Obama administration that authorized Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and so, you know, it's the Obama administration's fault, in part, that Flynn was in the position he was in.

AXELROD: Yes, I think that has been vehemently denied. Those facts will sort themselves out as well. They've also pointed out that General Flynn, whose career military, did get a promotion to an intelligence post under the Obama administration. He was also fired from that post under the administration. President Obama cautioned --

WHITFIELD: Warned him --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: -- the President-Elect Trump not to hire General Flynn as the national security adviser. That was the advice that he didn't take and perhaps should have.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk about your new episode, you know, "The Axe Files" premiering tonight. You sit down with actor, Tom Hanks. Here's a quick peek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD: We're criticized by some back at the beginning of the administration. I think I shared your view when you said, I'm not rooting for the president to fail.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Yes.

AXELROD: And I, you know, I thought back to the beginning of the Obama administration, when I was in the administration, Rush Limbaugh said, I'm rooting for the president to fail, and I thought particularly at a time of national emergency, that was a terrible thing to say. I felt you owed the next president that same presumption. We're now 10 months in. Where do you think, how would you evaluate him?

[13:50:03] HANKS: Well, when we were at -- back in the golden months of last October, before the election, you know, people stick microphones in your face, do you think Donald Trump is going to get elected? I said - I said, no way. You don't elect a guy like that president of the United States. And I thought that all the way up. I said something, you know, like if that's going to happen, aliens are going to land on my front lawn and dinosaurs are going to wear capes. It was a silly answer for something that was impossible.

(CROSSTALK)

HANKS: Well, if I had said, instead, if that happens, Neo-Nazis are going to hold torchlight parades in Charlottesville, and Pocahontas jokes will be said in front of the Navajo code talkers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: That would have been just as hellacious in imagination, I think, as what we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: What more did he say about reality versus his hope on the political horizon?

AXELROD: He had quite a bit to say on one subject, which was the role of the press. Tom Hanks is kind of a lay historian. In fact, he's going to appear in a movie coming out later this month about "The Washington Post," called "The Post," and this episode in the paper's history where the Pentagon Papers were published, secret paper that disclosed the internal debate about the Vietnam War. It was very controversial at the time. And there were threats against "The Post," legal threats against "The Post" by the government. And Tom Hanks was very passionate about what the role of a free press is in our politics, in our national life, and was very, very tough on the president for trying to sully that role, for trying to cloud that role, and undermine the workings of a free press. So he's a very thoughtful, interesting guy. Had a lot to say. Obviously talked about his career, talked about Hollywood and some of the scandals that we've seen. He had interesting comment on Harvey Weinstein. I had to ask him. You've heard these "Tom Hanks for president" rumors or suggestions, and I did ask him about that. And I won't give you a spoiler kind of thing here.

WHITFIELD: This is a tease.

AXELROD: You're just going to have to watch and see what he has to say.

WHITFIELD: Of course. We will be watching.

All right, David Axelrod, thanks so much.

"The Axe Files," tonight, 7:00 p.m. eastern, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:55:44] WHITFIELD: We've got breaking news now on North Korea. A U.S. official says the North Korean missile launched on Tuesday most likely broke up on reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following the story. Barbara, this would seem to be a good sign Pyongyang is still facing

problems with the weapons problems.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly right. What this tells us is that the North Koreans still have a ways to go on their missile program. Is it a threat? Is it a concern? You bet. Absolutely. The missile that they fired would have the theoretical capability if it worked of attacking the United States. That is a very big deal.

But a U.S. official is now telling us that the initial technical analysis is the missile test, the missile broke up on reentry. That means it was too hot. It couldn't withstand the pressure of coming back into the earth's atmosphere, which is so crucial to the guidance of a missile to a target. We know they still have problems and a long way to go. We also know they are still very much working on it, and that's a big concern to the U.S. Because this missile, according to analysts now, was, in fact, significantly larger than previous missiles they have fired, the first stage, second stage. What does that mean? It means it can in fact fly higher, fly longer, and carry a bigger warhead, a bigger pay load.

Finally, what the analysts are beginning to learn about this missile test, it was at least partially liquid fueled, and that gave U.S. satellites seeing it being readied for launch in the hours before it launched. So it wasn't a bolt out of the blue. The U.S. was able to see some of that last-minute activity inside North Korea through various intelligence means and know this missile was coming. So it just altogether gives the U.S. a better picture of the threat and how concerning it is even with the North Koreans still having a ways to go.

Coming to you here from president Reagan's library, in Southern California, we're here for a full day of their national security forum. And later today, it should get pretty interesting. H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, will be here, as well as Mike Pompeo, the CIA director. And with all the political chatter back in Washington, both may have some interesting things to say -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: What about the political chatter amongst those who are guests and their reactions to the former NSA Michael Flynn pleading guilty and the president trying still to come to his defense by saying -- the president tweeting even, that nothing unlawful happened during the transition?

STARR: There are a number of military people here and a number of former senior military people, as well as current DOD people. It's kind of a smaller town when you get to the higher levels of the U.S. military. So people who do know Michael Flynn -- and I think they see it the same way so many Americans do -- kind of puzzling how a three- star general got himself into this situation of having to, you know, admit to the FBI and to prosecutors that he lied to them. I think there's a lot of, you know, scratching of heads about how all of that happened.

I will say that I've talked to some senior former officials here. They're watching very carefully this cabinet shuffle that may happen. A lot of folks watching to see if, in fact, Rex Tillerson does move out of the State Department, and Mike Pompeo moves over from CIA, in fact, to become the new secretary of state. I think there's going to be a lot of interest when Mike Pompeo takes the stage here later this afternoon.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Lots of things to talk about and listen to while you're there.

Barbara Starr, at the Ronald Reagan Library, thank you.

The next hour CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

WHITFIELD: All right, hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this very busy Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A puzzling and potentially damning tweet for the --