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Chaos At Atlanta Airport After Passenger's Gun Accidentally Fires; Jury's Decision To Acquit Rittenhouse Leaves Kenosha Torn; New Revelations Spark More Scrutiny Of Steele Dossier. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 18:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST (voice over): Panic in Atlanta Airport after a weapon is accidentally fired inside the terminal packed with Holiday travelers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's people all over the outside of the airport. People are just waiting confused trying to log on to the news and figure out what the heck is going on.

BROWN (voice over): Also tonight, global COVID spikes sending European countries into lockdown.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The fourth wave has hit our country with full force.

BROWN (voice over): The C.D.C. quickly approving boosters for all adults as the urgency to get a third shot increases.

Meantime, Kyle Rittenhouse, victim Anthony Huber's father speaking out.

JOHN HUBER, ANTHONY HUBER'S FATHER: We're still in shock that this is the outcome. We still can't believe it. We're going to fight until there's justice.

BROWN (voice over): And stormy weather threatening to cause chaos for millions of Thanksgiving travelers.


BROWN (on camera): I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The sound of a gunshot sparks panic at the busiest airport in the U.S. as Americans kick off their Thanksgiving travel.


BROWN: This was the chaos as crowds scramble at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International. Just minutes ago, we learned three people were injured.

Outside, as crowds evacuated, more alarm and the rush away from the terminal. As it turns out, the firearm was fired accidentally, but of course, there was no way of knowing that at the time. CNN's Nadia Romero is at the airport. Nadia, walk us through what happened.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we're still learning more details as we talk to more passengers who were inside of the airport when this happened and learning more from the T.S.A.

Now, the F.B.I. and A.T.F. investigating this incident. So, the T.S.A. tells us that what we know so far is that there was a passenger who came through the T.S.A. checkpoint line, and they flagged his bag for having a firearm on it or at least they suspected there was a firearm inside. And then we're told that that passenger lunged into his back to grab the gun and then accidentally discharged it.

And then that passenger fled during the chaos that ensued after that shot went off. Listen to CNN anchor, Jim Acosta trying to get some clarity with the airport spokesperson about exactly what happened.


ANDREW GOBEIL, AIRPORT COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR ((via phone)): As the weapon discharged, he took off and was able to make it outside of the airport.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he did take off. Okay, so the --

GOBEIL: That's correct.

ACOSTA: The gun discharged, and he started running.

GOBEIL: That's the report that we have. Yes. And again, the investigation is ongoing right now. We are getting the information as we move forward. So, it's still -- we want to clarify everything. And I really don't want to give too much specific information because I wouldn't want to be incorrect here, Jim.

ACOSTA: No, I totally understand, Andrew, and I appreciate you bearing with me. Do we know where he is right now? Do you know how to track him down if you need to?

GOBEIL: Again, that's going to be a question for the police and they have his information.


ROMERO: So you heard him there saying they have his information because he was going through T.S.A. screening. So we would imagine that at some point, he had to show his ID and his ticket to get up to that point.

So there was this belief that investigators knew who that passenger was and they knew how to track him down, that though is still under investigation, as they try to talk to him further. But many things happened that were not supposed to happen. One, you're not supposed to reach in your bag if it is being checked

at a security checkpoint by a T.S.A. agent, regardless of what's in your bag. You're not allowed to touch anything once they decide to pull you aside and go through it.

The second thing of course, having a gun, and that is a big problem that the T.S.A. is seeing all across the country, not just here in Atlanta. Some 4,650 firearms had been confiscated, found at security checkpoints, all across the country only through the first 10 months of this year, breaking the record that was set back in 2019, more than 4,400 firearms found at that point, 450 firearms found so far here in Atlanta this year, the nation's busiest airport.

Obviously, this threat for an active shooter is what scared so many people, but even an accidental discharge disrupted travel plans for about two hours for many people who have to come through this airport to connect to other places.


ROMERO: Delta is offering a waiver. They are a major hub here at the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, but other people were just trying to make their way.

T.S.A. already told us that this has been the busiest travel season right now since the pandemic began. The busiest last couple of days, because so many people with the vaccine out, with the boosters out, with kids finally being able to get the shot are out trying to connect with their family members the first weekend right before the Thanksgiving holiday and then this happens.

So it is -- penalties that we're looking at, crimes that could have been committed today by that passenger all of that, of course under investigation, but we have to remember the three people, Pamela, who were injured in all of this, non-life threatening injuries, but really it doesn't seem like this needed to happen. That's still under investigation as the airport now starting to get back to a sense of normalcy.

BROWN: That's a good thing that those are non-life-threatening injuries, and Nadia Romero, thanks for that report.

And I want to bring in someone who was in the midst of that terrifying situation as unconfirmed reports of an active shooter swept through the airport. Kevin Helgren joins us now from Atlanta. So Kevin, start from the beginning and walk us through your experience.

KEVIN HELGREN, ATLANTA AIRPORT TRAVELER: Sure, thanks for having me, Pamela.

I was in Atlanta for a wedding this weekend and had just wrapped up. So, I was taking the train from downtown Atlanta south into the airport. I had just gotten off the train and was walking through one of the main entrances in the domestic terminal alongside baggage claim, making my way towards security. And I had gotten all of 20 steps down the hallway before a combination

of other passengers and airport security folks told me that I needed to stop walking. So, I stopped. I turned around and I retraced those 20 or so steps that I had taken.

And then I was sitting at the corner of that hallway for the next maybe three to five minutes, and folks were having conversations about an active shooter, some folks said that they had heard gunshots. But for the most part, it was calm.

And then we saw someone turn the corner and just barrel down that hallway and that was the point at which all chaos kind of broke out. Everyone was dropping their suitcases. Folks were running in any possible direction, away from what we thought was the center of action. People were sliding under rails and jumping over barricades, just trying to get out of what we thought was harm's way.

BROWN: You thought in that moment, when you saw that person barreling down, there was an active shooter situation and my life could be at risk.

HELGREN: Yes, that's exactly right. I don't think any of us had the luxury in that moment of thinking through the accuracy of the information or thinking through different possible explanations. Our fight or flight kicked in and we all flew, we thought very much that our lives were in danger.

BROWN: Were you hearing any instructions to evacuate the airport?

HELGREN: We hadn't heard any instructions during that three to five- minute holding period. But as that person rounded the corner and started running towards us, I think a combination of airport security and just everyday passengers started shouting to run and to evacuate. And that's when folks started bolting in, in every which direction.

So I personally ended up going under the rail and back onto the train platform, got on one of those trains and sat down in a corner figuring that, you know, that was as far away as I could get from what I thought was a very dangerous situation.

BROWN: So how long then before you learned that it was an accidental discharge of the weapon and that this was not an active shooter situation.

HELGREN: I don't think that information came to bear until 15 or 20 minutes later, after the train that I was on had already started its way back into the city. So, I was on a stationary train for probably 10 to 12 minutes, took the train, North, one stop. And at that point, folks were sharing on Twitter including the airport's official Twitter that it was an accidental discharge.

So we were in a bit of a holding pattern for 15 to 20 minutes as best I recall.

BROWN: How prevalent will this experience be in your mind the next time you fly? HELGREN: It's going to be really prevalent, Pamela. I have been lucky

so far in life in that I've never found myself in an active shooter situation. And you know, irrespective of labels, accidental, negligent, what have you, today would have been very dangerous and was dangerous for folks who were injured.


HELGREN: So I think moving forward, I am constantly going to be thinking about how today was scary and fearful and how much perspective it's given me.

BROWN: Totally understandable that you would -- that would be going through your mind next time you travel. Kevin Helgren, I'm sorry, you had to go through that, but thanks for coming on to share this experience.

HELGREN: Yes, of course. Pamela, if I could -- if I could just add one more thing. I think what today speaks to is the very real fear and sadness that sits at the core of America when it comes to things like gun violence.

I think we're wired to interpret loud pops in movie theaters or grocery stores or airports as a threat to our lives. And irrespective of how you know, cleanly the situation unfolded today. That doesn't erase the confusion and the shock that so many folks from this afternoon are still sitting with and processing.

BROWN: All right. Thank you for sharing that. We appreciate it, Kevin Helgren.

HELGREN: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: I want to bring in former T.S.A. administrator and former F.B.I. Special Agent John Pistole. John, thanks for coming on. You just heard Kevin there relaying what happened and just the chaos that unfolded. What is your reaction to the fact that this could happen, you know, when the nation recently marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and you have the reinvention of airport security? How could something like this still happen?

JOHN PISTOLE, FORMER T.S.A. ADMINISTRATOR: Well, it's a good question, Pamela. And several things come to mind.

Of course, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of President George Bush signing the legislation that created T.S.A., which was of course not around when 9/11 happened. But it also brings to mind the tragic shooting, eight years ago now, November 1st of 2013, at LAX when a gunman walked in and senselessly and tragically shot and killed, the T.S.A. officer, Gerardo Hernandez, and then went on and wounded two other T.S.A. officers shooting them, and they recovered, and then wounded another T.S.A. officer and was wounded.

So the sense -- and just total chaos. So the problem is, when there is a gunshot in an airport, which is obviously not -- it should never happen, then people are going to panic. And I just commend the professionalism of the men and women of T.S.A. there at Atlanta Hartsfield for handling the situation professionally, and reacting in a way that they are trained. And, as has been mentioned today, you know, Atlanta has had over 450 handguns seized at this point so far this year, so leading the nation every year.

And so it's just one of those things, that that's why T.S.A. exists to make sure that people whether with bad intent, or just poor planning, try to have handguns go to the airport.

BROWN: As you pointed out, it does lead the nation -- the nation's airports in discovering firearms at checkpoints. I mean, could you ever foresee a time when airport checkpoints are then placed at the entry doors instead, before travelers enter the building?

PISTOLE: Well, there's a number of different models around the world -- in the country and around the world, and what comes to mind most prominently is Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, which does screening both as approaches to the airport, vehicle traffic, and then before you actually walk in. You're interviewed, if you will, by a security officer before you ever get to the checkpoint. So that's one model, and it's a very secure model.

There are other models that work that really comes out of the question, what's the partnership with the airport, the airport police, the airlines, and then what is the U.S. government, Congress, and the administration willing to fund in terms of enhanced roles and layers of security, because I think as your viewers know that T.S.A. employs over 20 different layers of security that they use to make sure that somebody does not get on a plane with a deadly weapon.

And so that's something that is done on a consistent basis. And now that passenger traffic is up nearly 90 percent of where it was in 2019, before the pandemic. And of course, this Holiday week of travel, it just brings to bear a number of issues that people need to be mindful of. Think before you pack. Don't pack when you go to the airport.

BROWN: Exactly. I mean, the fact that this was a loaded gun at the airport, it accidentally fired. It's just sending that this -- go ahead.


PISTOLE: Yes, I was just going to say, yes, it accidentally fired -- accidental discharge is what it's called, but that's because the passenger reached in to his bag and tried to pull it out. He knew it was in there or remembered. And so a finger actually pulled the trigger.

So accidental discharge -- it just didn't go off. His finger accidentally pulled the trigger. And so fortunately, the three injuries that you mentioned were all in the evacuation airports and nobody is wounded, if you will, by that round that was fired. But that's just part of that being aware -- being aware of where you are and what you're carrying. BROWN: Yes. And still, that passenger managed to slip away amid the

chaos of that gun firing. A lot of questions still, and we are awaiting a press conference soon later in the show. We hope to get some more answers. John Pistole, thank you.

PISTOLE: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: And be sure to stay with us for continuing coverage. At the bottom of the hour, we'll hear from a passenger stuck aboard a plane during the chaos and the chilling announcement from the cockpit.

Also tonight, this is incredible. Cheating death, a woman in a coma battling COVID for weeks wakes up on the same day she was set to be taken off life support. Her family had even picked out a headstone and planned her funeral. Just a stunning story of survival to share with you tonight.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Now to Kenosha, Wisconsin as Kyle Rittenhouse walks free. There will be no retrial, but there are lingering questions about the Wisconsin gun laws that let a 17-year-old take an AR-15-style gun to a protest rally.

For the families who lost their loved ones last year, the grief is overwhelming.


HUBER: We're still in shock here. You know -- you know that guy gets to run free and he's now -- he is now a hero. And this is my son right here. This is Anthony. You know, we lost our son. And there's no justice right now for our family and there's no closure, and there wasn't going to be justice in that Kenosha court with that Judge.


BROWN: CNN's crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz is in Kenosha.

Shimon, we're more than 24 hours past the verdict. What is the mood like now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Things are really back to normal, Pam. People are back in the stores here, people are back out and about and I mean, really, people kind of have been going on living their lives daily as the trial was going on. And so things are just back to normal.

The courtroom area, the street here, it's back to being open. We're not seeing people out here. So things thankfully are back to normal. Of course, this all comes as we heard from the attorney from Kyle

Rittenhouse, who reacted to the video, the interview that Kyle Rittenhouse did and with FOX News, and also the fact that cameras -- cameras were following him around during the trial. Take a listen to what he said.


MARK RICHARDS, LEAD ATTORNEY FOR KYLE RITTENHOUSE: Kyle said if I had to do it all over again, and had any idea something like this could happen, I wouldn't do it. You know, and that is not -- I want to be clear, that is not regret for what he did that night under those circumstances.

Hindsight is always 20/20 if not better, and he didn't want to kill anybody, and he was left with a terrible choice and he exercised that choice, which was found to be lawful.


PROKUPECZ: And so Pam, also this interview that Kyle Rittenhouse did with FOX News, the cameras were following him throughout the trial. They were even inside the courthouse on the third floor here where Rittenhouse was in a room with his own security. And so obviously, the attorney saying that they had to do this. They were against this, but they had to do this because they needed to fund his defense.

They had to hire experts and jury consultants and of course, they did two mock juries. So all that cost a lot of money, and so the people who were funding it, wanted to do that and so that is why they did it -- Pam.

BROWN: Shimon Prokupecz, thanks for bringing us the latest there from Kenosha.

And up next, tonight, chilling audio from the cockpit of a plane stuck on the tarmac while the chaos at Atlanta's airport played out. Will this all prompt another look of guns allowed in airports? That's next.



BROWN: All clear right now, the nation's busiest airport after a gunshot sent travelers dive into the floor. Moments of panic and terror, and even an evacuation of Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International.

The gunshot -- the gun accidentally discharged as it turns out. A short time ago, we learned that three people were injured. The T.S.A. says an x-ray screening flagged the gun in a bag at the main security checkpoint, and that the owner was told not to touch the bag, but lunged toward it. That's when the gun went off. That person then ran out of the airport according to officials.

The drama even reached an airplane on the tarmac as the Captain explains the unfolding situation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not parking the aircraft at the concourse out of an abundance of caution for your safety. Again, we have an active shooter situation in the airport. We're not parking at the terminal out of an abundance of safety for yourselves.


BROWN: Wow. That claim of an active shooter clearly proved to be an accurate example of the panic assumptions of the moment. And that audio was recorded by CNN's own Isabel Rosales as she sat aboard a flight stranded on the tarmac.

So Isabel joins me now from the airport. Wow, Isabel, you're recording, nothing short of bone chilling. The last thing you think you're going to hear, right, when you're on an airplane. How did you and your fellow passengers react?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NEWSOURCE REPORTER: Pam, good evening to you first of all, but it was an instant moment of did he actually just say that an active shooter? Throughout the airplane, just a stunned silence as people soaked that in, as people soaked in the potential gravity of the situation.

As Americans just by nature, we know how south things can go and how quickly they can go when you involve guns and an active shooter, especially in the nation's world's busiest airport here in Atlanta.


So it was a moment of just people soaking that in and going, god, what is going to happen here. The pilot at that moment mentioned to these individuals, hey, you can log on to your phones there or try to check in with the media. You might get details out a lot quicker that way.

Immediately, we saw everybody clicking on the screens in front of them on their seats, on their phones, trying to just, just desperate for information to figure out what was going on. A scary, terrifying situation.

BROWN: Oh, understandably. You're there at the airport now. So when you're off the plane in the crowd of displaced passengers, what was your understanding of the situation then?

ROSALES: Yes. When we were finally led off the plane, we quickly understood for CNN and other media sources that this was, thank God, not an active shooter, a gun that accidentally went off. So the panic level started to go down a little bit, but once we managed to get into the airport, there was a different problem of chaos, confusion, people and crowds just elbowing at each other, not knowing where to go.

A bottleneck situation where they were not allowed into Concourse T. They weren't allowed to move forward into their flights, so they were brought by the crowd. It's kind of like a concert without any knowledge, without knowing what to do next and eventually, we were herded out of the airport and told that you actually have to leave and go right through security again, because they weren't sure if everyone was accurately screened.

And in the moment that we went through security, no TSA, no TSA pre- check, no clear. So everyone, as you can see right here, Pam, stuck in these massive lines, forced to go barefoot and just waited out. Just an extremely long process to get through security and the backdrop of all this is just the busy holiday season, Thanksgiving travel.

So definitely folks out here having to be patient, because this is going to take a long time, Pam.

BROWN: Just incredible to think of the ripple effect from this as passenger bringing a loaded gun, which wasn't supposed to happen. Then grabbing the bag, which it wasn't supposed to do, then it discharges. And just to see the ripple effect from that, it's just incredible. Isabel, thank you so much for letting us know what your personal experience was through this.

ROSALES: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: I want to bring in Page Pate, a constitutional lawyer and a criminal defense attorney. So Page, what are the legalities involved with bringing a loaded firearm into an airport?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Pamela, you cannot take a loaded firearm or an unloaded firearm through the security checkpoint at any airport in the country. But there's no real punishment, if you do. If you do it under federal regulations, there's a fine that's usually imposed and it can be several thousand dollars, but you're not going to jail.

It can also be referred for criminal prosecution to the state where the airport is. But in Georgia, if you have a carry permit, the security staff just needs to notify you that you've left a gun in your bag and then you just take it out of the airport. So you're rarely prosecuted for doing something like this, especially in Georgia, which has very pro gun right type legislation on the books.

BROWN: But the fact that this person then ran away, what will that mean?

PATE: Not much. I mean, the only way I could see a prosecution here is if by reaching for the gun, he injured someone when the gun went off. But even that would just be reckless conduct under Georgia Law, which is a misdemeanor. So believe it or not, this type of activity, there's just not a lot of punishment so there's not a lot of deterrence.

So when we hear about all these guns confiscated at Hartsfield-Jackson airport, it's because if you do it, you get a slap on the wrist. There's no real fear of being criminally prosecuted for it.

BROWN: Right, because this airport leaves the country far and away with the most firearms seized at TSA security checkpoints.

PATE: That's right.

BROWN: So I mean that just raises all kinds of questions. I mean, of course, today was a rare, happy ending when it comes to panic reports of an active shooter. Are the existing gun lawns for airports adequate? Do you think that this will prompt a review?

PATE: Well, I think it should, because, again, when you're thinking about federal law, I mean, most people assume it's against federal law to bring a gun through TSA security. And it is, but it's just a regulation, so you get a civil penalty, you're not prosecuted. So then it depends on the state.

And in Georgia, there's a specific law that allows people to take their guns to the airport, they just can't take them in through security. And if they get caught, then it's either a misdemeanor or basically they just say go home, take your gun back to the car, lock it up, come back through security again. So without punishment, there's not going to be any real deterrence.

BROWN: All right. Page Pate, thank you.

PATE: Thank you, Pam.


BROWN: Critics called it the dodgy dossier.

Up next, new revelations about the stunning document that reported to tie Donald Trump to Russia with some salacious allegations.



BROWN: Fresh scrutiny tonight of a controversial document known as the Steele dossier, nearly five years after it first made headlines. Now, we know more about who was behind it.




DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It didn't happen and it was gotten by opponents of ours.


BROWN (voice over): Nearly five years since the Steele dossier first emerged publicly, federal prosecutors have laid out a clear picture of the role well-connected Democratic insiders played in the narratives surrounding Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Two Special Counsel investigations, numerous congressional inquiries and an internal review by the Justice Department, given weight to suspicions that the so called Steel dossier was used by some Democrats as a political weapon against Trump.


TRUMP: It was a group of opponents who got together, sick people, and they put that draft together.


BROWN (voice over): An ongoing probe by Special Counsel John Durham investigating the FBI's 2016 Russia probe is pulling back the curtain on some flimsy and potentially biased sourcing in the dossier that was put together by former British spy Christopher Steele. Steele has defended his work, telling ABC News in a recent tell-all interview, it was raw intelligence that needed further vetting, but that his sources were solid.


CHRISTOPHER STEELE, BRITISH FORMER INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: There wasn't one key source, I would say. There was, perhaps, one key collector.


BROWN (voice over): But Durham now says that collector was not a deep seated Kremlin source, but instead a Russian citizen living in Virginia, Igor Danchenko. He now faces charges for lying to the FBI in interviews about where he got information that ended up in the dossier. Prosecutors say some of the information Danchenko fed to Steele came directly from longtime Democratic operative, Charles Dolan, identified as PR Executive-1.

An attorney for Dolan acknowledged that his client is the person referenced in the Danchenko indictment. Dolan has expertise in Russian affairs and a longtime relationship with the Clintons, serving as an adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. State chairman for both of Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns and named to a State Department advisory post by the former president.


CHARLES DOLAN: Four things that this commission has been arguing for over the last eight years that I've been on it ...


BROWN (voice over): Dolan, who was not accused of any crimes is indirectly tied to multiple allegations in the dossier according to the court filing. One claim was about infighting within the Trump campaign when Paul Manafort resigned. According to prosecutors, Dolan lied to Danchenko about where he got the information appearing in the dossier as coming from a GOP friend who was allegedly a close associate of Trump.

Durham says Dolan was indirectly linked to multiple claims of the dossier surrounding Putin and officials in the Russian government, including information about Putin firing an advisor for insisting Russia would receive no blowback for its role in meddling in the U.S. election.

Durham also indirectly connects Dolan to a separate unverified claim that a Russian diplomat in the U.S. was recalled to avoid exposure over election interference.


TRUMP: When I leave our country, I'm a very high-profile person, would you say? I am extremely careful.


BROWN (voice over): Danchenko's indictment indirectly associates Dolan to one of the dossiers most salacious accusations, the infamous pee tape of Trump and prostitutes inside a Russian hotel. The indictment suggests that in June 2016, Danchenko use basic information learned by Dolan about Trump staying in the hotel suite.

Dolan tour (ph) the same suite but allegedly wasn't told the fantastical details which have never been proven true. And it's still not clear where those salacious details originated.


TRUMP: Does anyone really believe that story? I'm also very much of a germaphobe by the way. Believe me.


BROWN (voice over): And in one case, prosecutor say Danchenko made up a conversation with a source, falsely claiming he was in communication with a Belarusian-American businessman Sergei Millian. A court filing say Danchenko attributed two of the dossier's most explosive claims to Millian, that there was a conspiracy of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and that the Russians had confirmed that (ph) on Donald Trump.

The indictment notes Millian asserts he never met or communicated with Danchenko. Contacted by CNN, Millian said in a statement, "This fraud destroyed my health, life, businesses and turned my American dream into a nightmare."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you working for Russia?


BROWN (voice over): Dandencko has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to the FBI and his attorney says the case is pushing a 'false narrative' designed to humiliate and slander a renowned expert in business intelligence for political gain. Separately, Durham also charged Attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly not revealing to the FBI he was working for the Clinton campaign when he provided the FBI with information about strange cyber activity between a Russian bank and The Trump Organization. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN (on camera): Sussmann work for the same law firm that helped arrange the dossier, Perkins Coie. The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie who then hired research company Fusion GPS who then hired Steele.


Steele's firm received $168,000 to find what it could on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election and any ties to Donald Trump and his campaign.


BROWN (voice over): President Trump's then-Attorney General William Barr tap Durham to lead the investigation into the FBI's Russia probe, known as Crossfire Hurricane.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some of the facts that I've learned don't hang together with the official explanations of what happened.


BROWN (voice over): Trump did show an openness as a candidate and businessman to receive favor and business from Russia. And there have been dozens of proven contacts revealed between Trump campaign associates and Russian nationals. Still, none of it added up to the collusion suggested in the Steele memos. And his probe looking for exactly that, Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: We focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign who's taking part in a criminal conspiracy and it was not.

BROWN (on camera): Though few of the underlying assertions proved true, Steele's big picture takeaways about Russian meddling were similar to the eventual findings by the U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia did interfere in the 2016 presidential election with an aim to elect Donald Trump.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The goals of this campaign were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. Putin and the Russian government also developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.


BROWN (voice over): Steele declined to comment to CNN, but told ABC that while some of the specific details were off, several of the main pieces were not.


STEELE: And highlighted the threat that authoritarian regimes pose to democracy and it still is a great threat to democracy and to our way of life.

TRUMP: I think it's very sad what they've done with this fake dossier.


BROWN(voice over): While Donald Trump bitterly complained about the dossier, others were swept up in it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dodgy dossier began with the false allegations about May.


BROWN (voice over): The FBI use references in the dossier to monitor Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser as part of their application to get a wiretap on him in October 2016.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials tell CNN that last year the FBI used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to get approval to secretly monitor Trump associate Carter Page.


BROWN (voice over): As part of his inspector general review, Michael Horowitz determined the FBI couldn't confirm any serious claims from the dossier about Page. Just last year, the DOJ declared two of the FISA warrants against him to be invalid.


MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I think the activities we found here don't vindicate anybody who touched this.


BROWN (voice over): And one of the dossier's most notorious, unproven claims, a potential smoking gun for collusion, allegations of a secret trip to Prague by Trump's then-personal attorney Michael Cohen were not true, according to the Inspector General.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): Have you ever been to Prague?


NORMAN: Never have?

COHEN: I've never been to the Czech Republic.


BROWN (voice over): Speaking with ABC Steele remarkably still stands behind it.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Since he's going to prison, since he's turned on President Trump, he's told every single story. Why wouldn't he admit to this?

STEELE: Because I think it's so incriminating and demeaning. And the other reason is he might be scared of the consequences.


BROWN (voice over): The FBI had prior trust in Steele's reputation from working with him in a high profile corruption case.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It was raw intelligence, so a series of reports from a credible person, with a reliable track record and a known experienced and sourced network in Russia. And so it was something to be taken seriously.


BROWN (voice over): But his work on the dossier did not hold up to official scrutiny. FBI intelligence analysts work to verify all of the dossier's allegations, creating a spreadsheet, identifying each statement that appeared in the Steele election reports in order to have a record of what the FBI learned.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We should be clear that CNN has not confirmed the content of the calls.


BROWN (voice over): In February 2017, CNN reported that investigators were able to confirm the time place and people involved in some of the conversations between foreign nationals. Two years later, the IG review found certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with what the FBI investigation gathered and the bits that were corroborated are based largely on publicly available information, like titles, dates and locations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BROWN (on camera): Despite Trump and his allies claiming otherwise,

the Inspector General's main conclusion was that even though the FBI misused the dossier to renew FISA warrants against Carter Page, it was justified in its investigation of the Trump campaign.


BROWN (voice over): And concluded the dossier had nothing to do with the FBI's investigation.


MICHAEL HAROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: We found that Crossfire Hurricane was opened for an authorized investigative purpose and with sufficient factual predication.



BROWN (voice over): When special counsel Robert Mueller took over, the dossier was essentially ignored in the final report.


REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): Did Russians really tell that to Christopher Steele or did he just make it all up and was he lying to the FBI?

MUELLER: Let me back up a second if I could say as I said earlier with regard to Steele, that's beyond my purview.



BROWN (on camera): Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence declined CNN's repeated requests for an interview. And my colleague Marshall Cohen is here to share more of his reporting on the main investigating - the man rather investigating the FBI's Russia probe, John Durham, and what his next move might be given these indictments. We'll be right back.


BROWN: As one of the primary sources behind the infamous Steele dossier faces criminal indictment for lying to the FBI, the investigation into how the government probed then-candidate Donald Trump's ties to Russia continues. CNN Marshall Cohen joins me now with more. So Marshall, what makes this probe different from the Mueller investigation?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, we all remember Mueller. He investigated for two years, didn't say a word. We're all curious what's he looking at, what's going through his mind, what are his final conclusion is going to be.


John Durham has done a slightly different approach. You may remember two years ago back when the Justice Department watchdog did that huge review of the Russia probe and came out with a big conclusion that it was okay. It was okay to investigate Trump and his campaign in 2016.

John Durham took a really unprecedented step. Released a public statement saying he didn't agree. He blasted the IG. It was very unorthodox thing to do and it kind of gave us a clue of where he thinks he's going with this. And a lot of people, Pam, said that he may have come to some conclusions early, before even doing the investigation.

BROWN: Right. Because when he released that statement, that was very early in the investigation, where presumably he didn't know you know, he didn't have all the facts.

COHEN: It's two years ago.

BROWN: Yeah. It was two years ago, so that certainly raised questions. I remember as a justice reporter in my past thinking that was really stunning that the prosecutor would release a statement like that so early. What is Durham trying to show with these indictments?

COHEN: It seems like he's telling a story of what looks like some sort of Democratic or Democratic-backed conspiracy to sort of pin Trump to Russia during the 2016 campaign. These two indictments that he's brought in the last two months sort of touch on that and it kind of would seem to vindicate some of what Trump was saying.

But I want to be clear, the indictments are very, very narrow. He's not charging anyone with conspiracy or actually doing that. He's charged people with lying to the FBI, but using his indictments to tell a really broad story. And Pam, some of the people that are charging those indictments, they think that Durham went too far with those documents and just putting all kinds of stuff in there that he doesn't even have to prove.

BROWN: Right, have to prove the lying charges. So he is not done, where is he going with this?

COHEN: It's not clear 100 percent where he's going to end up. As we said, we kind of know where he started at least philosophically. New subpoenas went out earlier this month and last month, so the investigation is continuing. There's a grand jury here in D.C. He will be writing a report when his investigation is done just like Mueller. And a few weeks ago, Attorney General Merrick Garland said whenever that report is ready, he will try to release as much as possible.

So we, all of us, should be able to see the final conclusions of this investigation, whatever they are and then we can all make up our minds for ourselves.

BROWN: Exactly. Marshall Cohen, thank you so much.

And we are standing by for an update from officials on today's chaos at the airport in Atlanta. Three people injured after a passenger's gun accidentally discharged. An all clear issued but big questions on how this happened remain tonight. The latest on what we know up next. Stay with us.