Return to Transcripts main page


Russia Responds to CIA Spy Extraction Driven Partly by Concerns over Trump Administration's Handling of Classified Intelligence; Trump Skeptical of Using Foreign Assets; As Deaths Rise, Major Medical Groups Says Stop Vaping; Israel P.M. Netanyahu Announces Plans to Annex Parts of West Bank if Wins Election; Alaska Seeing Unprecedented Effect of Global Warming. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Much more information this morning on CNN's reporting about a CIA spy inside the Russian government and the secret mission to extract the asset in 2017, a move driven, in part, by concerns President Trump and his administration repeatedly handled classified intelligence. Russia is now responding.

And new details about President Trump's skepticism of using foreign assets at all.

CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent, Jim Scuitto, he was the first to break this story. He is here with details.

Jim, this reporting is really fascinating. What are you learning about the president's skepticism here?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR & CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is a part of the bigger picture here. The president has a hesitancy to use intelligence from sources inside foreign governments, foreign countries, including hostile countries, countries hostile to U.S. interests, for a couple of reason.

One -- and by the way, this is based upon people who have been in the room when President Trump has expressed skepticism about such sources.

Based on a couple of things. One, he believes it damages his personal relationship with foreign leaders, including the leaders of hostile countries. Think of Kim Jong-Un. Think of Vladimir Putin. Think of Xi Jinping. He believes it damages U.S. relationships with those countries.

But he also has a personal feeling, I am told, that you shouldn't trust source like this, that these are people who are, quote, "selling themselves, selling their governments out," as one former senior intelligence official described to me.

The problem with this is U.S. intelligence depends on such sources to figure out what countries hostile to the U.S. are doing today and might do to harm the U.S. in the future.

So it's a remarkable thing for a sitting U.S. President to say, I just don't want to go there with those sources.

BOLDUAN: Remarkable, yes. But the president's I guess attitude or position towards the Intelligence Community has long been an issue, writ large, right?

SCIUTTO: No question. It has, and we've seen it come out in public with consequence. This is a president who stood next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and said, I take Putin's word over the word of the U.S. Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He has expressed doubts about U.S. intelligence assessments that North Korea continues to expand its nuclear program in the midst of this long kind of diplomatic effort that he's made, so far without bearing fruit.

He has questioned U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement before he withdrew from that nuclear agreement. That's public testimony. Gina Haskell stood up on Capitol Hill and said Russia (sic) is complying based on what we can see.

You have those disagreement, which are consequential because they affect policies and positions of this government against its adversaries.

Then have you the other one, just the open attacks on the CIA, intel agencies, calling them Nazis or comparing them to Nazis soon after his election, attacks on intelligence official.

This kind of thing, beyond damaging the morale inside these agencies, creates questions and pits a sitting president against agencies, whose job it is to help keep the country safe.


BOLDUAN: This all comes following your really important reporting yesterday about the highly placed CIA asset within the Russian government and the secret mission to extract that asset in 2017. What more are you learning about that?

SCIUTTO: We are learning -- and these are details we initially did not report, although, we knew them. But once the "New York Times" confirmed the extraction after our reporting and put out details how high level this source was --


SCIUTTO: -- once those details were out in public, we are reporting those details.

What we know is a CIA informant or asset or spy, who had served and provided information to the U.S. more than a decade, so developed over the years and providing information over the years, had risen to the highest levels of the national security structure in Russia. They have like an NSC-like body, like we do, a National Security Council- like structure.

And had such access to the Russian president that this person was able to take photographs of presidential documents. It's that kind of information.

Imagine how important that is when you are trying to develop a picture of what Vladimir Putin wants to do.

And we know how important this intel was because it was intelligence drawn, in part, from this source that contributed to the 2017 assessment on Russia's interference in the election, which found specifically that Putin directed that interference. He did so not to just disrupt U.S. politics but he did so to advantage Trump over Clinton.

BOLDUAN: Really amazing reporting.

Thank you, Jim. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me on.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Just into CNN, a sixth person has died from a lung disease that the tied to they believe E-cigarettes. This time in Kansas. That's on top of the previous deaths reported in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon.

This also comes as the American Medical Association is now urging people to not use E-cigarette products at all and also calling on the FDA to speed up regulation on these same products. And that's not all.

CNN senior correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is tracking all of this. She joins me now.

Elizabeth, these are not the only warnings coming out today about vaping products. What else are you learning?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Kate, there have been so many warnings that have come out.

Let's start with what the AMA is saying. It's quite unusual for this group to come out with a warning like this.

The American Medical Association saying that vaping is, quote, "an urgent public health epidemic that needs to be addressed." And the AMA is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban flavors in E-cigarettes.

You probably have heard about these flavors. They're kind of candy and sweet and really attractive to kid. The AMA is saying, look, we shouldn't be using these flavors, nobody should be using them, and E- cigarette companies should not be doing all this child-like marketing. It is clearly directed at children.

So they're hoping this puts a stop to this. The reason for that is there have been 450-some illnesses, the six deaths you mentioned, Kate.

These illnesses, these are not mild illnesses. Some folks end up in the intensive care unit on ventilators because they can't breathe on their own. Before this illness, they were perfectly healthy -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: What is the FDA saying? I know the FDA is putting out a warning against Juul, I believe. What else is the FDA saying about all this?

COHEN: Right, the FDA is saying, just yesterday, they wrote a letter to Juul, which is the big maker of E-cigarettes, saying, hey, you know, you've got to think about this marketing, we think that this could be illegal. We want to see your paperwork. It appears you are marketing this as something that is safer than regular cigarettes, which it's not.

The FDA is doing this on the heels of what the AMA said. The CDC put out warnings.

Senator Dick Durbin urged the FDA to get tougher. Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg said the FDA needs to get tougher and wants to spend a lot of money trying to ban E-cigarettes.

There are a lot of people jumping on the band wagon. It's not just the AMA, or the CDC or politicians. It's a chorus of people saying enough is enough.

BOLDUAN: Bloomberg is putting his money where his mouth is. He is saying he will spend something like $160 million to try to ban these flavored E-cigarettes. He's really taking this on like we have seen him take on other philanthropic causes.

This is really interesting. It's a really interesting moment when it comes to this.

Another, again, most importantly, a sixth death just reported in Kansas related to all of this.

Elizabeth, thank you. I appreciate it.


Coming up for us, there is breaking news out of Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing plans to annex parts of the West Bank if he wins re-election. That's next.


BOLDUAN: Breaking news out of Israel. Just moments ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to claim sovereignty over part of the West Bank. All of this banking, of course, on him getting reelected. That election is next week.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem. He has more on this.

Oren, what are you hearing?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is a promise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made before, but never quite like this.

[11:50:02] In what he billed a dramatic announcement, he laid out a map, which is something he's never done before, and showed specific areas that he wants to annex.

Even earlier this month, he promised to pursue annexation but talked about it quite vaguely.

Here was a map saying, if he wins the election, if he gets a clear mandate from the public, he would pursue annexation of not only on the settlement blocks in the West Bank considered occupied territory under international law and by the international community, but also the Jordan valley.

The other part that made this incredibly new from Netanyahu's concept is it appears this was in coordination with President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu said Trump's peace plan is coming out in the next few days, perhaps even right after the election.

And then he turned this into a political speech, saying, who is it do you want to lead these negotiations with Trump, do you want Netanyahu or do you want his rivals, hammering home this idea that only Netanyahu can handle Trump.

Of course, we're waiting to see a reaction from Trump. Let's remember, back in April, it was Trump who recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in what was a major political gift for Netanyahu in the last election.

If Trump were to endorse what Netanyahu said, he promised to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, that would be another major political gift for Netanyahu right before this election with one week to go -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's tough to see what impact that has on that election, one week to go, one week out.

Great to see you, Oren. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: The House is set to vote this week to block offshore drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, something that was blocked by the Obama administration and rolled back then by the Trump administration.

This comes as Alaska is already seeing some dramatic environmental changes there, shattering record-high temperatures over the summer.

CNN chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, traveled there to find out why that is raising so many red flags for scientists.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a trip across Alaska this summer, from the iceless north to the smoky south, and you will see that when it comes to alarming changes, the last frontier feels like the first in line.


WEIR: Fire season used to end on August 1st, like rainy clockwork. But it is so hot and dry the Swan Lake Fire has been burning for three months.

And the most populous part of the state is swallowing more smoke than ever before.

BRIAN BRETTSCHNEIDER, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA: If you look at the (INAUDIBLE) observations, we've had more than twice as many smoky hours in 2019 than any other season and, in fact, almost as many as all other years combined.

WEIR: And when Anchorage is hotter than Key West on the 4th of July, it could form a steady drip of a glacier into something much more dramatic.

That was a calving event last Month at the Spencer Glacier, just one of dozens of melting red flags.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: This whole lake was -- there was no lake in the early 1950s.

WEIR (on camera): Really?


WEIR: I saw the ice went all the way down to the --

BRETTSCHNEIDER: The end of the lake.

WEIR: -- the end of the lake down there.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: Right. WEIR (voice-over): A recent study finds that, since the '60s, melting Alaskan glaciers have contributed more to sea level rise than Greenland, Antarctica or any other part of the world.

(on camera): Since every one of these molecules goes into the ocean, it goes everywhere, this is not just a changing Alaskan landscape story. This is a Miami story. This is a Charleston and San Francisco Bay story.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: You know, once this water melts off and goes into the ocean, you know, as long as we have all this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it's not coming back here.

WEIR (voice-over): Health scientists like Mica Hahn (ph) are equally worried about changes harder to see, like a new kind of ticks, bringing new kinds of diseases north.

And when Doctor Jeffrey Demain studied insect bite trends since the '90s, he found that way up in the Arctic Circle stings from yellow jacket wasps jumped over 600 percent in five years.

DR. JEFFREY DEMAIN, CLINICAL PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: So the queens are now under snowpack without a severe weather, and they're surviving. So more queens, the more colonies, the more colonies, the more yellow jackets.

WEIR: And then there are the fish, so vital to this economy. While Bristol Bay saw another epic salmon run, more and more streams are just too hot for the fish to spawn.

SUE MAUGER, SCIENCE DIRECTOR, COOK INLETKEEPERS: And the temperatures we saw this summer were what we expected for 2069.

WEIR (on camera): Really?

MAUGER: We are 50 years ahead of where we thought we would be for stream temperature. So that is very alarming.

WEIR (voice-over): Meanwhile out at sea, this research team from NOAA is spending a summer measuring all kinds of Arctic change, including those at the bottom of the food chain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are looking at harmful algae blooms so --

WEIR (on camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they're taking samples for toxins in the water, from harmful algae.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warmer air coming up further north.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And sooner maybe. Yes, so that is a big concern for the communities because that's food safety.

WEIR (on camera): This state is such a gorgeous reminder of how earth's Goldilocks climate held so many forms of life together in harmony. But in a too hot future, with more fire than ice, what comes next is anyone's guess.


WEIR: September is blessedly bringing more moisture, much to the relief of fire crews up there. But that one Swan Lake Fire less than 50 percent contained.


WEIR: You know, the -- it's not as dense, the population, as California, obviously, so they can let those areas burn, but it is freaking people out.

[12:00:03] BOLDUAN: As it should be. The video you brought is amazing.

Thanks so much, Bill.

WEIR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue covering it because you are spearheading it.

Thank you so much for joining me.