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CNN NEWSROOM

Cyber-attacks On Russia; Democratic Candidates In Charleston; Dirt From Other Countries; Outrage over Tainted Water in Flint, Michigan, and Charges Against Government Officials Dropped; NYT: U.S. Ramping Up Cyberattacks on Russia's Power Grid; Notre Dame Holds First Mass Since Devastating Fire. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 15, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

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ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin this hour with breaking news. "The New York Times" reporting that the U.S. is ramping up cyber-attacks against Russia's electrical power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system.

Now, the paper says placing this malware this deeply has never been attempted before and that President Trump hasn't even been told about the operation. According to "The Times," officials are concerned about how Trump will react and they worry he may reverse the operations.

CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, and former FBI supervisory special agent, Josh Campbell, joins us on the phone. Josh, does this read to you as an official response, a counterattack from the U.S. for Russia's election interference?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Well, according to this reporting, Ana, American officials are certainly preparing for the worst case. As our colleagues over at "The New York Times," as David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, are two of the best in the business, when it comes to the cyber beat. They're reporting this, really, blockbuster story that the U.S. is stepping up its digital incurrences into the Russian power grid as they describe it, it demonstrates how the current administration is using new authorities more aggressively.

Now, they spoke to sources who described that American cyber- specialists have implanted computer code inside the Russian powder grid and into other targets. This follows years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russia, itself, has been inserting malware into U.S. power plants, oil and gas pipelines, the water supply and the like.

Now, these new authorities that this was apparently conducted under was granted by -- just last year, by the White House and by Congress. "The New York Times" reports that back to 2012, the U.S. has been probing the Russian system. But it appears that now, they're going so far as to insert malware into the Russian grid. They don't yet know how deep American officials have bored into the network. That would determine whether or not this would actually be setting the stage for a possibly crippling attack if the United States and Russia escalated tensions between the two countries.

But, nevertheless, the fact that we're now learning that the U.S. is taking that step is, obviously, you know, startling, to be sure. The one point that you mentioned, also, which is really giving people pause today is the extent to which, or lack thereof, the president was aware of the actual specifics.

Now, in this "New York Times" report, they indicated that they don't believe that the president knew about the specifics of the malware. Going so far as to talking to some of their sources, they mention that U.S. officials actually didn't want to tell the president because they were hesitant of how he might react. And that he might actually countermand their authorities.

And, also, one thing that was lingering with these officials is whether or not the president might actually discuss it with the foreign officials. There have been instances in the past where he's met with officials, including the Russians, and discussed really highly classified programs which, you know, gave the U.S. intelligence community to pause. So, that's one startling aspect.

And just, you know, finally, I mean, obviously, tensions between these two countries have been high, since the U.S. publicly called out Russia for its interference in the election. I think this latest reporting from "The New York Times" shows that as the diplomatic chill continues out in the open, cyber-teams from both sides are apparently busy preparing for the worst case.

CABRERA: And, that being said, based on recent history, what type of response or escalation should the U.S. expect as a result?

CAMPBELL: It's yet to be seen. And one thing that's interesting about this reporting is that part of it may actually be an ever by American cyber command to send a signal to the Russians. So, anytime you see highly classified information making it out into the ether, you know, that, obviously, gives people cause.

But this may be something that they actually want the Russians to know. That, look, we've been calling out -- putting out reporting from the FBI and the VHS, you know, letting you know we know what you're doing. Now, we want you to know what we're doing as well.

So, again, it's this just escalation back and forth, and, again, putting both sides on notice. And now, putting the Russians on notice that although you may have made your way into our system, we're also into your network.

And, again, when it comes to worst case, if the tensions between the two countries rose to the level that there was actually some type of offensive or hot war, for example, and this would, obviously, be -- this would be a tool that they would use, both sides. Obviously, we hope that it never comes to that. But this appears to be some signally from the U.S. government that they want Russians on notice.

CABRERA: OK, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Josh Campbell, thank you for that insight.

We hear a lot about Iowa and New Hampshire. But 2020 Democrats know South Carolina is just as important, maybe more so, in terms of really going the distance in this White House race. The nation's first southern primary offers the first real test of the candidate's appeal with African-American voters. A block that could be key to winning the nomination.

Multiple 2020 contenders are in South Carolina right now, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke. They are marching in protests. They're meeting with voters and hosting town halls, all with the goal of making inroads with black voters.

CNN Political Reporter Rebecca Buck joins us now. Rebecca, what has been the central message today from these candidates?

[17:05:00] REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Ana, the focus today was about expanding economic opportunity for black voters, for minorities in particular. We had a forum with four candidates here in Charleston today, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker. All of them brought their proposals to close the racial wealth gap, to direct money to black and fuel their businesses, essentially hoping to boost their standing among these voters in this key primary state, by explaining how they would boost their economic prospects.

And all of them warmly received, but some very different challenges among these four candidates. Cory Booker, on the one hand, is someone who's made South Carolina central to his presidential strategy. Is someone, as he likes to point out, was the mayor of a majority black city. He can speak to these issues uniquely.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, on the other hand, even as he has risen in the polls, has struggled among African-American voters. His rise has been mostly fueled by support from white voters. And so, we asked him today what he is doing to try to make inroads with African-American voters in these communities of color. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think when you are newer, in terms of national profile, and especially when you're not, yourself, from a community of color, then you do need to work more, in order to demonstrate what you care about and in order to show that you can listen and capture the concerns and the aspirations of different parts of our coalition. Especially the black vote that has felt often used and taken for granted over recent years.

And so, what I've learned in these conversations has been, first of all, the series of issues that are top of mind for black activists and voters. And it includes the ability to build wealth and deal with these persistent gaps in income. But also, in wealth itself, in assets that have compounded over the years. A sense of urgency around dealing with the criminal justice system.

And a sense of a need for awareness that racist systems and policies have penetrated every aspect of our nation's life, from health care to education to access to credit for entrepreneurship. But, also, that we can be intentional about policies to reverse that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCK: Now, Senator Cory Booker tomorrow will attend services here in Charleston at the Mother Emanuel Church where, of course, there was that terrible shooting a few years ago, marking the anniversary this coming week. And next weekend, will be a huge weekend here for the candidates in South Carolina, 22 of them expected to be here for Congressman Clyburn's fish fry -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Rebecca Buck live in Charleston for us. Thank you.

Sometimes subtle, sometimes direct, many of the Democratic candidates are now taking swipes at the man to beat in the polls, Joe Biden. Let's bring in S.E. Cupp, the Host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" which follows us right here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Also with us is Alexandra Rojas, the Executive Director of Justice Democrats.

Alexandra, we're hearing a lot from the other 2020 contenders on the attack after Joe Biden, throwing out things like, he's from the past. Really trying to paint him as somebody who is, really, you know, going backwards, not forwards, for the Democratic Party. But are Democrats too quick to build a strategy of going after one of their own?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: No, I don't think so. I think that Joe Biden stands in complete opposition to the agenda that the vast majority of American people are excited about. And that's, you know, a progressive agenda that talks about big solutions that match the scale and scope and urgency of the problems that we're facing. That's Medicare for all. That's a green new deal. That's making sure that you reject Wallstreet pharmaceutical corporate money of all kinds.

And, for the past 40 years, Joe Biden's record has been being the architect of the 1994 Crime Bill. He's deregulated Wall Street. He has been on the wrong sides of women's reproductive rights, especially in the way of what we're seeing in Alabama and Georgia right now.

So, I don't think it's any surprise that we have, you know, not just Democratic presidential candidates, but our entire grass-roots movement trying to define what we stand for as a Democratic Party. And it is certainly not for the wealthy and powerful. It's for everyday working-class American families that make up this country.

So, I think that people's instincts to go after Joe Biden is because he is standing in opposition to that very agenda. CABRERA: Although he would argue otherwise, S.E. He, though, has said he won't go after fellow Democrats. I wonder how he'll be able to do that when confronted directly during the debates. How does he get off defense?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, this is the existential crisis for the Democratic Party. There's the Joe Biden, to a certain extent, the Beto O'Rourkes, to a certain extent the Pete Buttigiegs who really want to make this primary a message of positivity, optimism, hope, let's all, sort of, rally together. And then, there's the rest of the field. And the rest of the field is representing, sort of, an angry constituency, responding to that anger, that sense of urgency. And I think you could argue, have a politics of punishment.

[17:10:07] You know, Elizabeth Warren is a perfect example. A lot her candidacy is built on punishing people. Punishing Fox News, Facebook, CEOs, banks, Joe Biden, for not being progressive enough. I think there are some progressive voters for whom that really resonates. But I think the majority of the country is not in that far extreme.

So, if the primary were the election, I think, you know, Joe Biden would -- will have a tough time. But there's a general election.

CABRERA: Right.

CUPP: Where you have to get everyone back on the same page. And pushing the party so far to the left I think is going to have big ramifications.

CABRERA: And we know the data from the midterms shows that a lot of the reason Democrats were able to --

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: -- win big in the House was because some of the Trump voters who were not happy with him, changed their tune and voted for a Democrat which put them in those positions.

ROJAS: Yes.

CABRERA: Alexandra, I also want to remind folks, before you respond to that, of the warning that former President Obama gave his party just a couple months ago about going after each other and eating their own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then, we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because of one of them is straying from purity on the issues. And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Alexandra, are the 2020 Democrats completely ignoring the former president's caution?

ROJAS: Well, look, I think we can all agree that Barack Obama is incredible. He's an amazing human being. But the reality is that 60 percent of Americans right now can't afford an $800 emergency room bill. That, for the past 40 years, we've seen real wages stagnant. American people are hurting. We are not just angry.

My generation isn't just angry for no reason. I think the millions of Americans out there that didn't only disaffect from Donald Trump, but sat at home in 2016. That was young people. That's people of color. And that's union households. They did not turn out in the way that we needed them to in 2016 in order to win the presidency.

And the reality is that it's not just Republican leadership, it's also Democratic leadership that got us into this very moment where we have to fight for our very democracy and stop the Trump administration, because they were able to not only take over the presidency, but we have seen, up and down the ballot, thousands of seats lost.

So, I think that we have to question our leadership and the status quo the way that we have been doing things in politics in a long time. And be bold enough to look in the face of what is in front of us and present solutions that are actually going to address the scale, the scope and the urgency of the crises that we're facing. It's not that we're just angry for no reason. It's not about punishment.

It is about standing up to the wealthy and powerful interests of this country that have been halting progress for far too long. And I think that the American people are showing that is what they are hungry for. You see populist messaging, like Elizabeth Warren, not only being praised on the Democratic side and her surging in the polls, it's also on the same on the Republican side, too.

So, I think, you know, before we just, sort of, throw out, you know, progressives out the window, I think that we really have to take a look at where is public opinion showing around the solutions that they care about. And that is tackling the existential threat to climate change. That's solving the health care crisis by providing universal health care access. And that's making sure our candidates --

CABRERA: OK.

ROJAS: -- run corporate free.

CABRERA: Let me talk -- let me -- let me talk about the polls. And you mentioned Elizabeth Warren --

ROJAS: Sure.

CABRERA: -- starting to surge. There's a new one out of the Nevada this week showing Warren in second place, actually ahead of Bernie Sanders. We heard from Warren who was asked about these numbers today. Let's what much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's way too early to talk about polls. What are we, eight months away from the first caucuses and primary elections?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, S.E., let me ask you. The new reporting today from "The New York Times" is that there's actually some concern from inside the Trump campaign.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: Or actually, excuse me, it's from "Politico." They're concerned about Warren now and they're, kind of, re-strategizing how they go after her, after for so many, you know, weeks after going after Biden. Specifically, who is the bigger threat to Trump, Biden or Warren?

CUPP: It depends if you're talking about short term or long term.

CABRERA: Yes.

CUPP: You know, short term, Elizabeth Warren is a threat. Would they rather face her in a general than Joe Biden? A thousand percent.

So, I think there's going to be a two-pronged strategy, if they're smart, in the Trump campaign. To, sort of, weaken and damage Joe Biden through the primary, but hope that Elizabeth Warren maybe gets through. Ekes it out.

[17:15:02] She's a much weaker general election candidate than Joe Biden is, according to all the polls and head-to-head match-ups. And just according to where the public is in a general election. So, if I'm -- if I'm Trump, I am secretly crossing my fingers, hoping that Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination.

CABRERA: All right, ladies, I've got to leave it there. Thank you both, S.E. Cupp and Alexander Rojas. Nice to have you with us for the first time. And don't miss "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," a look at the intersection of politics and media, live here at CNN at the top of the next hour.

Now, some White House staffers say they're frustrated on the president's comments on dirt from foreign agents. How he would handle that. Why some are blaming outgoing Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, next. You're live in CNN Newsroom.

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CABRERA: President Trump formally relaunches a new reelection bid on Tuesday. But first, he is trying to control the damage after his astonishing comments on taking campaign dirt from other countries and whether he'd call the FBI.

Sarah Westwood joins us now from the White House. Sarah, his latest comments don't seem to be calming many in the administration. SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana.

His evolving answer on this has done little to tamp down the outrage that was sparked by his comments to ABC News that he would accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign source. Now, in the span of just a few days, he's gone from saying, in that case, he wouldn't even contact the FBI. He said he didn't think he'd ever contacted the FBI in his life.

[17:19:05] And he suggested that his own FBI director was wrong for saying that any candidates of any party that were put in that situation should go straight to the Justice Department. To saying, just a few days later, that of course he would contact the FBI or the Attorney General if he was approached by a foreigner with dirt. But keep in mind that he is still saying he would accept that dirt. He has just changed his tune on whether or not he'd go to the FBI.

The cleanup attempt came yesterday in an interview with "Fox & Friends." Take a listen. Oh, it looks like we don't have that sound. But, basically, what the president did was compare that situation to the diplomatic conversations that he's had with foreign leaders. That's not the context in which his original comments came.

But sources say that those clips have been tough to watch over the past few days. Sources tell CNN that some within the White House were even questioning why the president decided to give that interview in the first place. Why he was put in the position to face those kinds of tough questions -- Ana.

CABRERA: And, Sarah, following the president's interview, we had the surprising news of Sarah Sanders, who is stepping down as White House Press Secretary. Any connection there?

WESTWOOD: Well, Ana, a source did tell CNN that Sarah Sanders selected her departure date well in advance of this ABC News interview. But, again, there have been some questioning the fact that the president was permitted to do that interview in the first place. Of course, as the press secretary, Sanders would, presumably, have some kind of role in deciding whether that interview took place.

And there has been some questioning of the White House response in the wake of that interview. The president's cleanup attempt on "Fox & Friends" has done that Sarah Sanders would have some role in the decision to have that interview. The cleanup on "Fox & Friends" has done very little to lessen the fallout from the initial ABC News interview.

And, of course, there is some anxiety in the White House about this is playing out, giving 2020 hopefuls an opening to attack the president, again, on an issue where he's vulnerable. And that was Russian interference in the 2016 election -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Sarah Westwood live at the White House for us. Thank you.

The U.S. is leaving no doubt about who it thinks attacked a pair of tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran says it was not behind the attacks. So, will the situation in the Gulf get worse before it gets better? You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

[17:22:20]

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CABRERA: There are still more questions than answers on the attack of two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Now, in the latest twist, the U.S. now says Iran tried to shoot down a U.S. drone shortly before the tankers were hit. An official says the drone was tracking Iranian boats that were closing in on the tankers when it was almost struck by a service to air missile. Iran denies any involvement, and CNN has not seen footage from that drone.

But the Pentagon did release this video. The military says it shows Iranian forces removing a mine from the hull of one of the ships. The crew on board that vessel, though, says they don't believe the ship was hit by a mine, adding to the confusion.

I want to bring in a U.S. CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. He is a former State Department spokesman and Pentagon press Secretary. So, Admiral Kirby, why would Iran want to stage an attack of this sort on a civilian ship

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (Ret), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, I think, essentially, it's to show a very strong signal that they can, in fact, affect the flow of oil in and out of the Straight of Hormuz. And to send a shot across the Trump administration's bow about the increasing economic and political pressure that the administration is placing on them. I think it's very much meant to send a message that they can disrupt that oil flow.

They can affect the American economy and the economy, frankly, of the whole world, because a third of the oil goes through that straight. It's a very -- it's a very significant choke point for the flow of oil.

CABRERA: The Pentagon released that video. It says it proves Iran is behind these attacks. What do you see in that video? Is it a smoking gun?

KIRBY: Yes. I have sailed those waters myself, Ana. You have to understand, we're only see a small bit of that video. I am sure that the air craft that was -- that was filming that got a lot of other footage as well of that boat leaving its port and returning.

So, I'm confident that they know this is, in fact, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval vessel. They pride themselves on their small, fast boats and their ability to do these, sort of, clandestine operations in the maritime environment. So, I have felt, from the very beginning, that there was no question that this was the IRGC Navy. And this video, I think, is very much proof of that.

I also would add, Ana, to the viewers out there that the Navy, I'm sure, has other mosaic pieces of the intel that demonstrate Iran's culpability here. There's only one country that has the stake in doing this. There's only one outfit that has the capability of doing this 30 miles off their coast. It's got to be the IRGC Navy.

CABRERA: All right, Rear Admiral John Kirby, I appreciate your expertise. Thank you for being here with us.

Prosecutors in Michigan are going back to the drawing board. They are throwing out pending cases related to the city of Flint's water crisis. We'll explain why. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

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[17:32:26] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Frustration and outrage in Flint, Michigan. More than four years into the ongoing water crisis, prosecutors have dropped all pending criminal charges.

But they say they have good reason. Michigan's new attorney general, who came onboard in January, said she has grave concerns about how the investigation was run under her predecessor. That includes allegations of mishandled evidence and claims that private law firms were allowed to decide what information they would turn over to law enforcement. Now new investigations must begin even as the clock ticks on statutes of limitations.

Meantime, the residents of Flint have had it.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is there.

Polo, people have been angry for so long, for years, but you say there's a new level to their anger?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Ana. Their main concern is they believe this case should have been restructured, perhaps renewed, but not dismissed entirely, especially when you consider the millions of dollars and the years that have gone by in this investigation. This what I have heard on the streets.

I can personally tell you I had a conversation with one individual, Mr. Paul McIntosh, who has lived here for 52 years already. He feels this is perhaps more not justice delayed, but simply that they will never actually get it.

Keep in mind, this community has been searching for that justice for a very long time, Ana. So as you can imagine, for many here, not just the regular citizens but even some elected officials, this is just another layer of outrage that they have experienced here. Not only have they not seen a full accountability, they also are still unable to safely drink their water.

As you're about to hear from state Senator Jim Ananich, there's still concern that the folks still can't drink their water safely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE SEN. JIM ANANICH (D-MI): Well, you know, we're tough. We're Flint tough. We're going to come out this stronger.

But, you know, we're getting tired of having to keep having adversity, after adversity, after adversity, when we didn't do anything wrong.

Yes, we will come out of it. We'll turn the page at some point in time. We're getting closer to doing that every day.

Until every pipe is replaced, until our medical community in our town, not out-of-state people telling us, or the EPA -- we don't trust anybody like that, unfortunately. Until our medical community tells us we can drink the water, I think a lot of folks in our community will never trust it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: The state Senator bringing up something I have heard from some residents, which is that all of the money spent for legal fees already for this investigation was basically taken off the table for that amount, some of the piping here in town, Ana, could have been replaced.

[17:35:14] So again, there are multiple layers of frustration here. This announcement coming from prosecutors is really just fueling it.

CABRERA: Polo, you told me earlier that millions of documents were not reviewed in that previous investigation. Why not? Is it that no one took time to read them? Were they not turned over to right officials? That's a stunning amount of documentation to go unseen.

SANDOVAL: It's a massive amount of information that, according to investigators, just was not reviewed. The way the prosecutors laid it out here, coming from the attorney general, that all available evidence was simply not pursued.

We should keep in mind, this was a changing of the guard, so to speak, a new administration. So the new guard is looking at the investigation, saying this case could perhaps not stand. And that's why this difficult decision was made. She's calling this a preemptive strike before they would further prosecute.

We should also mention, Ana, that this latest move by prosecutors does not directly affect some plea deals that were worked out by seven separate defendants that already entered those guilty pleas. Those will stand.

The question is now, what about the eight others that go all the way up the chain, all the way to the head of the state's health department, which faced very serious allegations here, involuntary manslaughter.

By the way, Nicholas Lyon, who holds that role, who was a defendant as part of these cases that were essentially cleared, he says that he feels vindicated and that he actually welcomes the continuation of this investigation.

We'll have to see where this new round of investigations goes and if it maintains a spotlight on some of those people being looked at during this last round.

CABRERA: OK, Polo Sandoval, in Flint, Michigan, thank you.

We are working on breaking news right now. The "New York Times" says the U.S. is ramping up cyberattacks on Russia's power grid. What's being done specifically? That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[17:41:10] CABRERA: We are following breaking news. This afternoon, the "New York Times" is reporting that the U.S. is ramping up cyberattacks against Russia's electrical power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside Russia's system.

The paper says placing malware this deep has never been attempted before. It's also interesting that President Trump has reportedly not been told about this operation. According to "The Times," officials are concerned about how Trump will react and worry he may reverse the operations.

Let's talk about this with CNN's chief national security correspondent and anchor, Jim Scuitto, and CNN military analyst, General Mark Hertling. He's the former U.S. Army commander general of Europe and the 7th Army.

And, Jim, you literally wrote the book on Russia and cyberattacks. This sounds straight our "The Shadow War."

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It is. It shows you there's a level of conflict already underway in cyberspace, but also on a number of other fronts between the U.S. and Russia that the American public just isn't aware of.

We have known for years that Russia has attempted as to, and with some successes -- and China too, I should note -- to penetrate critical infrastructure here in the U.S, power grid, water treatment plants and, of course, the election in 2016 and other elections.

This shows the U.S. responding, not necessary turning those weapons on, but planting weapons, malware within the Russian power grid that, in the event of a conflict, one, or, two, just to send a message, a warning to Russia, saying, hey, you mess with us, we're going to mess back with you.

That shows where we are and how serious this conflict is but also how quickly it could escalate. Not only could they turn the lights off in New York, we could turn the lights off in Moscow.

As you mentioned, the other element to this is how this fits the president's approach to Russia. It sounds like the Defense Department didn't believe the president would go along with this. In his many comments, he's refused to call Russia a threat. He's often sided with Putin against his own intelligence agencies. It's an interesting dynamic in this.

CABRERA: General, is it unusual for the president not to be looped in on something like this? LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It depends, Ana. Jim

has it exactly right. His book is very good on this.

These kinds of what are called limited stealth operations in the cyberworld have been going on over a decade. It gained a lot of strength in Europe after the hacking into the Estonia elections. And some of the effects on some of their infrastructure beyond the election capability.

So NATO has developed some plans, some contingencies to conduct operations. The United States has many, many plans, which the president probably doesn't know the excruciating details of in terms of contingencies.

So, yes, we have been doing these kinds of stealth operations. You not only have to defend against a cyberattack, there has to be the potential to conduct counter-offensive when those attacks occur.

I think that's what "The Times" article describes. I draw a little bit of angst when "The Times" using the word we are conducting "attacks." We are not. We are preparing for potential attacks. But in order to do that, you have to get inside the system.

And both governments know that each other are trying to do exactly that.

CABRERA: We know the president is supposed to meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit at the end of the month. Is it dangerous for Trump to go into some of summit meetings unaware of such a major operation? Would it come up during that meeting potentially?

HERTLING: It might come up. And that's the more interesting part of this "New York Times" article, that there were some in the Defense Department or cybercommand that were concerned about explicit details to the president for fear that he might give the secrets away, in terms of what we're doing.

[17:45:14] He's been known to do that in the past with the Russian foreign minister and the Israeli prime minister, and others. It's never a good sign when you can't really trust some of your other people within the organization, within the administration to keep secrets that are critically important.

The president tends to speak more and listen less. That's not a good thing to have when you're talking about understanding the vulnerabilities of other nations, you own vulnerabilities, and the capability to conduct operations.

CABRERA: Jim, General Hertling just said this move may have been a proactive move versus reactive, but if it were reactive, what would you think they would be responding to?

SCIUTTO: Well, first of all, I think General Hertling is smart to note, you shouldn't call them attacks. They are the equivalent of deploying forces right. So, say we deployed cyber forces in the -- you know, on the front lines of this cyber battle with the Russians that could be activated in the event of a conflict or in retaliation for a Russian attack. That is important here.

The idea of the president going to meet with Putin with this in the background, what we know is a concern in the Intelligence Community, is the president has revealed classified information to Russians before in such private meetings.

In the spring of 2017, it happened. There's been a lot of wide reporting about this, where he revealed highly classified information about an ISIS threat, and a source that Israelis intelligence, it was reported, had inside ISIS to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador, which scared the begeezes out of the intelligence services, because they say they're willing to share - if he's willing to share that with the Russians, what else is he sharing.

Of course, soon after that, you had a private meeting between Trump and Putin, in which he took the notes away, even the translator's notes away.

I don't think we should underestimate it. There are genuine questions how this president, this sitting U.S. president is approaching a real and present danger from one of the America's most sophisticated and dangerous adversaries in Russia. And --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Jim?

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Jim, we have about 30 seconds. I wonder, did the Obama administration every try anything like that?

SCIUTTO: Well, we know the Obama administration hesitated to take a step that the "New York Times" referring to here, which is enabling cybercommand to take these offensive measures. His concern was, you can quickly get into an escalation battle.

Now, there's a strong argument for ratcheting up U.S. responses here, so that was a step that the Obama administration did not take.

Interesting, is it being driven more by folks in the Defense Department that are concerned about this than the president? "The Times" story seems to indicate that. That's an interesting dynamic to have.

CABRERA: All right, Jim Sciutto, General Mark Hertling, thank you, gentlemen.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Jim Sciutto's book, "The Shadow War," is available right now.

We have an update on an incredible "CNN Hero." Magnus MacFarlane- Barrow, he feeds the children in 18 countries throughout the work with his nonprofit, Mary's Meals. He met actor, Gerard Butler, at the 2010 "CNN Heroes" ceremony. The two men became friends. They recently traveled to Haiti together to see how Mary's Meals feeds more than a million schoolchildren there every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGNUS MACFARLANE-BARROW, CNN HERO: The greatest privilege to do this work and meeting those children who are eating these meals. The numbers become just mindboggling after a while, but the real beauty is watching the children become the people they're meant to be.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: I remember we went right before lunch. They were tired. Then they had lunch and oh, my god, it was like different people.

(CROSSTALK)

MACFARLANE-BARROW: And then you realize the simple value of this program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To nominate your "CNN Hero," logon to CNNheroes.com.

Hardhats in church? They were required today for the first mass in Notre Dame since the Cathedral was nearly destroyed by fire. We'll show you more, next.

[17:49:27] You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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CABRERA: In this week's new episode of "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT," Van Jones meets with the family of a man who was shot while trying to prevent a robbery. That night has haunted them and raised questions about what exactly happened that night. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": You turned around and there's a guy there and he did not have a gun, what would you have done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Told him to get down on the ground. My intention was not to kill nobody.

JONES: Do you think that Dominique would have shot at your dad if your dad hadn't had the gun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This story is not about the gun. The story is about somebody who was willing to get out of his car to put their life in danger to save their friend.

JONES: On the news, they're saying he's a hero, he's a good Samaritan. How does that land with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds like he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. (INAUDIBLE)

I was scared for my on life. When you see a gun pointed at you, your first reaction is to shoot back. In that situation, could be me or him. You don't know who is going to shoot first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that if dad of not carrying a gun that night, the outcome would have been the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: A new episode of "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" airs tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

For the first time since the devastating fired destroyed parts of Notre Dame Cathedral in April, today, the church once again opened its doors for Saturday night mass. A small group of worshippers who donned hardhats gathered for service.

CNN's Jim Bittermann reports from Paris.

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JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In many ways, it was an ordinary mass and an extraordinary mass at the same time. Ordinary in the sense that it just followed the regular mass, 45 minutes long, nothing really special about that.

But what was extraordinary was it was celebrated two months to the day after the devastating fire at Notre Dame in a part of the church that was not damaged, a part of the cathedral that was not damaged by the fire, a chapel on this end of the cathedral.

[17:55:13] It was all celebrated by the cardinal archbishop of Paris, who said in his message he wanted to celebrate mass there as a sign of hope. And he said later on in his message, "We hope that we can regain the spirit of those who built the cathedral in the first place."

And it will take a lot of spirit because you could see during the mass, broadcast by Catholic television, that, in fact, there are giant holes in the ceiling, big piles of debris in the middle of the church, structures around some of the treasures of the church just to protect them from the reconstruction that's about to begin.

At the moment, none of that reconstruction has happened. At the moment, it's still in very fragile condition.

The church wanted, for example, to have a vesper service out in front that all the public could attend, not just the 30 people that attended the mass. And the local authorities said, in fact, it was still too fragile underground in the vault area, that they did not want to take a chance of having a large crowd in front of that church.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: All right, Jim Bittermann, our thanks to you for that report.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a goal of rebuilding the damaged cathedral in just five years, though many experts have said they consider that timeline unrealistic.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being here. I'll see you two hours from now.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break. Don't go anywhere.

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