tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 3, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
there is no comparison between his use of private e-mails when he was governor and hillary clinton's e-mail controversy. tonight pence defense. an allegation of hypocrisy. arnold schwarzenegger squiting the celebrity apprentice. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the "the situation room." president trump is back on the attack after new revelations that even more of his key advisers met with russia's ambassador to the united states, including his son-in-law jared kushner. mr. trump is accusing democrats of a witch-hunt. as they keep the pressure on the attorney general sessions saying his recusal from campaign allegations isn't enough. top democrats are calling for sessions to retestify under oath before the senate after he
failed to disclose his i meetings with the russian ambassador during the confirmation. trump shared old photos of shuk schumer with vladimir putin and house democratic leader nancy pelosi with the russian ambassador calling for investigations of their russia ties. but tonight some republicans as well as democrats are asking serious questions about the trump's team multiple communications with the moscow during the campaign and lack of transparency. i'll talk with republican congressman mark sanford. he's been critical of the president on some key issues. analysts and correspondents standing by. our correspondents have been digging on the trump cam's communications are russia including the meetings with the moscow's ambassador to the united states. let's bring in senior white house correspondent jim
acosta. >> cnn has confirmed that russian ambassador sergey kislyak was at the foreign policy speech here in washington last december. you can see him on screen there, highlighted in oval in the middle of the screen there. the russian ambassador was sitting in the audience as the president laid out his national security priorities which included improving relations with russia. was also present alabama senator and attorney general jeff sessions who just recused himself from the russian investigation after failing to disclose his contacts with the ambassador. here is what the president had to say that day during that speech. >> i believe an easing of tensions, an improved relations with russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. >> now, three months after that speech, former trump foreign policy adviser, j.d. gordon tells cnn he and other national
security advisers for the campaign met with the russian ambassador during the republican convention in cleveland and gordon says yes, he did seek to oppose arming ukraine in the fight against pro russian rebels telling me he was quote doing what the boss wanted. the white house seeking some separation twep the advisers and the president. earlier white house spokesperson sara huckabee told us that he had zero relations with the russian ambassador. >> do we know, though, jim, whether these aides to the president after their meetings with the russian ambassador briefed the president, told the president, did they get encouragement from the president to continue these meetings even if the president himself didn't have any direct contacts with the russian ambassador or other russians? >> we don't have any
confirmation there were any conversation between these advisers and then-candidate trump about these conversations with the russian ambassador. i want to take you back to a couple of interviews that occurred just after the republican convention one with the former campaign chairman manafort who was on meet the press and said no, the trump campaign did not seek those changes in the republican party platform even though j.d. gordon tells us he was doing that on behalf of the campaign trying to reflect the views of then-candidate donald trump. donald trump, wolf, on the same day of that paul manafort interview as on this week with george stephanopoulos and said to george that the change in the platform to be a quote, softening of the language when it comes to russia. so there you have it from the candidate himself calling it a softening of the language. he's aware of the effort, wolf even though he says he was not directly involved. >> are officials there the at the white house, jim, explaining why there were so many denials
of any contacts between any trump advisers and russian officials during the campaign? are they explaining now, you know, how they got it so wrong? because we've learned of these multiple contacts. >> no. as a matter of fact, yesterday i was on air force one, riding back from an event that the president had down in newport news and white house press secretary sean spicer held a brief gaggle with reporters. and we pressed him on this, saying if you didn't know about jeff sessions having these meetings with the russian ambassadors, are you worried about other shoes that may drop? sean spicer said no, there is still no there there when it comes to this investigation. there seems to be a bit of denial on this. wolf, just a slight shift when sara huckabee sanders told reporters that she was emphasizing that thement had quote, zero conversations. they're acknowledging that those associates did have contacts.
>> jim acosta. thank you. let's go to athena jones. she's with the president down at mar-a-lago in florida beach. the russia controversiy clearly following the president. what are you picking up? >> hi, wolf. absolutely. the president wanted today to be about school choice. it's a top priority when if comes to education pol sichlt what -- policy. the questions about his advisers and their contacts with russian officials. >> beautiful class. >> reporter: president trump discussing school choice and having a light hearted moment with students in orlando. >> you're all business and you're going to make a lot of money, right? but don't run for politics after you do. >> reporter: before heading to his mar-a-lago resort for the weekend, leaving behind a firestorm brewing over his aides and their contacts with russian officials during the
presidential campaign. >> i should not be involved in the investigating a campaign i had a role in. >> reporter: jeff sessions admitting to meeting with russian ambassador kislyak and not disclosing it during the confirmation meetings. trump is standing by him. >> do you have confidence? >> total. >> reporter: the president releasing sessions could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not infectional, accusing democrats of a total witch-hunt. and tweeting photos of chuck schumer with russia's president vladimir putin in 2003, calling schumer a total hypocrite and nancy pelosi with the russian ambassador in 2010 demarnding an investigation. schumer responding he would happily talk re my contact with putin and my associates took place in '03 in full press.
would you and your team? some are arguing he should reappear before the judiciary committee to testify under oath. >> i want to know from him why he falsely denied that he had that meeting. >> reporter: meanwhile more trump advisers are under scrutiny for meeting with the russian ambassador. senior aide, jared kushner, the son-in-law, and ousted national security adviser michael flynn sat down with kislyak at trump tower according to a administration official. and several national security advisers meet with kislyak during the convention in july. last night -- >> you're not going to deny you talked to him in cleveland. >> i do not deny that. >> reporter: and j.d. gordon telling cnn his discussion was only about building a better relationship between u.s. and russia not about the campaign. >> i talked to ambassador
kislyak in cleveland but i talked to other dozens of ambassadors in cleveland. >> reporter: pence is facing scrutiny about using personal private e-mail server. >> we commend the fbi for reopening the case following the facts because here in america no one is above the law. >> reporter: a comparison pence dismissed during a visit to wisconsin. >> there is no comparison whatsoever between hillary clinton's practice of having a private server, mishandling classified information, destroying e-mails when requested. >> reporter: the white house is arguing that's an apples to oranges comparison. meanwhile the next hour the president is set to attend a fund-raising dinner for the republican party. we're waiting for the administration's new travel ban. it had been expected this week, but as this week draws to a
close, a spoeks woman for the white house says there is no announcement on this yet, and the quote is we'll let you know when we're ready to roll that out. >> athena jones, down in palm beach, florida. let's get more on that. republican congressman mark sanford is joining us. he's a member of the copy of house freedom causus and the oversight committee. thank you for jioining us. cnn has learned that national security adviser at the time j.d. gordon met with the russian ambassador kislyak during the republican national convention in cleveland back in july and also carter page and another adviser. president trump senior aide jared kushner, son-in-law, and michael flynn met with the russian ambassador in trump tower in december. do these meetings which we're now learning about, do they
concern you because the suggestion is the ties could go deeper? >> of course, they do. because what you see is a pattern here. it's not any one single conversation that i think is throwing up alarm with noefolks home. i was in a town hall meeting just in the last couple of hours, and a lot of people raised this. it's the pattern at the top. then candidate now president trump said very sympathetic things about putin. i don't know what it is about putin saying that. you have trump saying awfully sympathetic things. that alarms people. this guy is a murder. there is a book, "a very expensive poison" talking about the death of ambassador, and the essentially the fingerprints of putin are on the murder and that
this is not a good guy, doesn't want what's best for america and is not sympathetic to the american people and what we stand for. so people see the president being sympathetic and any number of advisers having meetings that weren't disclosed people say what's going on here. >> some of the advisers do say critical thing of the russians of putin during the confirmation hearings. for example, the secretary of state, secretary of defense. the question is why don't we hear from the president himself, why is he silent or saying nice things about putin and the russians? >> questiwe don't know. and that's the value of the whole investigation system that has begun. it's not an epiphany that the russians want to influence thins either. they're flexing their muscles in the balkans, ukraine, syria, and
other elections around the country. it's not surprising they would try to have an impact. the question is was there a collaboration. i think that's what's begun in earnest on the house and senate side. it was yesterday that the agreement was reached between republicans and democrats on the intel committee in terms of size and scope of the investigation. the investigation has begun on the senate side. >> in addition to the investigations in the house and the senate, would you have a problem if there was an independent special prosecutor looking into the trump campaign's interactions with russia? >> we may get to that. but i think that the important thing is to do first thing's first. i don't think that diane feinstein, a senator from california, wants to do any favors for donald trump. but she's one of the six members on the intel side that sign dollaed off as the process. you have classified information and that's more difficult in a
public setting. it can be held in the standing committees on the house and senate side. >> do you have any explanation why all these meetings with the russian ambassador that we're now learning about were not made public at the time or even at the attorney general sessions' confirmation hearing? why are we learning about them through news media reports? >> well, i think because it's gotten to something of a cumulative breaking point. you saw that with general flynn. you see that now with what would be probably viewed as a normal oversight. these hearings can be long. the senators go through and the confirmation process. you could be seated there for hour upon hour upon hour. and a comment -- i don't think there would have been that much fanfare of a meeting that he didn't think about that involved 50 different ambassadors at the rnc. but because there have been
these different involvements by different people, it's coming out and coming out, that which would be not viewed as a big deal is viewed as a bigser deal. >> would you advise the president and the white house for that matter if there are additional meetings to just release all that information rather than wait for a drip, drip, drip? >> yeah, drips with be very dangerous in the world of politics because it keeps it out there that much longer. if i was advising the president, and i'm not attempting to do so, if there is something out there, it needs to be dealt with. if not, the intoll committee will find it. and if they find it, it's more dangerous and frankly upsetting. >> there is a lot of investigations, fbi, the intelligence committee, the news media. a lot of investigation on the way. congressman, there is more to discuss. i'll ask you to stay with us. we'll take a quick break and be right back.
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we're back with republican congressman mark sanford. there is some breaking news, congressman coming in. a senior department of homeland security official is now telling cnn the agency is considering a proposal that would separate women from their children who cross the border together illegally. i want you to react to this. you believe this is something you could support? >> i don't -- you catch me a bit flat footed. i would want to learn more. it sounds highly unusual, this notion of separating parent and child, and counter to much of what i've seen in terms of immigration policies thus far. >> yeah. >> i'd want to learn more. >> we were totally surprised by
it as well. the department apparently believes this would be an effort to deter undocumented immigration into the united states. but there is already a lot of concern expressed about the reality of this, potentially leading to unsafe situations for young children separated from their mothers. you understand the potential concern? >> i do. i mean, if you were to pick up winds that are blowing in washington, d.c., it would be toward this notion of daca or defer action for young people. what i'm hearing it's the opposite of what i've been hearing the last two weeks in washington. i would want to learn more. >> we're just getting this information. i was anxious to get your reaction. we'll learn more and we'll be a little bit smarter. let's talk about another issue involving the department of homeland security. an intelligence assessment found most of the foreign-born violent
extremists in the united states were actually radicalized years after entering the united states and that it undercuts president trump's overall reasoning for a new travel ban. what's your reaction? >> well, we certainly have seen that. we saw it in san bernardino, we saw it in orlando and we've seen in boston. i think it fits to the reality of what we've seen here in this country. but it still begs the larger question, which is the list that was originally put together was put together under the obama administration and, you know, what they looked at this those countries there in the middle east was the inability to determine whether one was a friend or a foe in coming from that country to ours. we concurrently had with that folks basically saying that they would use the pipeline of refugee status as a way of getting into the united states and bringing harm to us.
so i would have to go back to an earlier report, which is to say we know out of these countries, we have a really problem in terms of clarification on background and that being the case the idea of a 60-day pause is possible. >> you're one ever the two republican congressmen calling on the house and the senate to formally request copies of president trump's tax returns. have you seen a response and why aren't more of your fellow republicans joining the effort? >> i wouldn't presume to speak for other colleagues. i think it's important. i'm a former member ever the house of representatives and as part of that i released my tax returns when i received the governor ship for the governor of south carolina. if you don't do it at the federal level, governs across the country won't be doing it. so i suspect that may be part of the situation.
i think it's important to continuing a situation that's existed for 50 years in this country. this is not ultimately about donald trump's tax returns, it's about continuing the tradition and down-ballot races. >> you're on the oversight government reform committee. jason chaffetz is the chairman. if you want to subpoena the tax returns, he could clearly set the stage. >> yeah. but i'm also about to a month on that committee and the idea of going to my chairman in the first month and saying, why don't you step into this different role, i don't think is wise as a new member. i think i need to become a working member of that committee, for than a four-week member of that committee and i'll have a number of different requests for the chairman. >> i spoke with the chairman jason chaffetz about a month or so ago. he didn't think it would be wise in his words to go on a fishing expedition. that was his explanation.
your reaction. >> i don't think tax returns represent a fishing expedition. i think that they represent a 50-year tradition that has served our country very well and giving each voter out there another data point in making their own determination and their own conclusions in deciding who they want to represent them as president of the united states. and i think that more information is better than less, and i think we need to be careful as parties often types we protect our own, but to be equal in this. if hillary were the president of the united states i can bet that most republicans out there would be pushing for her to release her returns had she not do done so. i think that's something awfully important. >> do you think your fellow republicans are resisting? a lot of the democrats, of course, want to see the tax returns. do you think your republicans who are resisting are acting inappropriately? >> no.
everybody has to walk their own walk in the world of politics. i've had a unique experience in the fact that i had to release mine. i think that gives me a pretty strong viewpoint, given my own personal experience and i speak up as i do accordingly. >> on another important issue, the future of the obamacare, the affordable care act, you said you can't support the republican repeal plan as it stands now. you say in your words, in its present form. why is there no consensus yet? it's been under consideration for repeal and replace as you know for a long time. >> well, there may be a little bit of mixing of words. i said i support the idea of repeal but not without a replace. i think that distinction is important. i do support a repeal. i just think you've got to couple it with something. and i say that because, again, an example of a town hall meeting i was in over the last
couple of hours, people are passionate about their healthcare. there is nothing more personal and vital as someone's healthcare. and the idea of repealing without telling people what comes next, it opens up problems with regard to people's healthcare and i think that it's vital that you couple the two. >> the debt ceiling will have to be raised within the next few -- they could have some maneuvers, but march 14, that's formally when the u.s. reaches the debt ceiling. >> are you going to vote to change the nation's debt ceiling? >> my knee-jerk reaction would be no. usually it's coupled with something else. the last couple of have been raised or -- excuse me, to a date, not an amount, or a number. i think one of the reforms that
ought to take place is going back to a number. if i gave you a credit card and i say it's good until august versus it's good until you spend $10,000. those will come with different numbers. i will say what's coupled to it. my knee-jerk reaction will be no. >> the debt ceiling goes over march 15, but the department can delay it. you guys will have a big problem down the road. representative s representative sanford thank you. coming up trump administration's contacts with russia. timeline of events. second bee t with protective netting. or like a balm? you know? or a cooling ointment for the skin. how about a motorcycle? or some bee repellant.
tonight president trump is accusing democrats of a witch-hunt amid revelations that even more of his key advisers met with russian ambassador to the united states, something the president and his team have been denying for months. brian todd, the contacts go back almost a year. >> that's right, wolf, they go back at least as far as last april. tonight we've investigated the timeline of the contacts between the trump team and the russian officials. when you put them together, the pattern and the consistency of the contacts with extraordinary. for months the denials have been emphatic and definitive.
>> can you say 100% confidence that mr. trump or anybody in the campaign with no conversation was russian during the campaign? >> no, i'm just telling you it's all phony bologna garbage. >> did anybody have any contact with the rugsz who are trying to meddle with the russians. >> of course, not. >> can you say whether you are aware that anybody who advised you had any contacts with the russian government. >> i have no contact with russian. >> reporter: appears those denials were at best deflections. cnn has confirmed a growing list of people affiliated with the president's campaign who had contact with the russian ambassador to the u.s., kislyak as far back as last spring. in april 2016 he was in the audience in the same room as attorney general sessions as then-candidate trump gave a speech about the u.s. ease up on
russia. he was on july 20th, on the sidelines of the republican convention, cnn learned at least three trump campaign national security advisers met with the russian ambassador. one of them tells cnn nothing inappropriate was said, there was no collusion with the russians to aid the trump campaign. but was trump's russia policy affected by those petings. they allegedly pushed to changing the platform language to offer less help to the ukraine in their fight. days later trump told this. >> he's not going to ukraine. you can under. you can mark it down, put it down. >> he's already there. >> reporter: attorney general sessions denied any communications. >> i did not communication with the russians. >> reporter: on thursday sessions admitted he met with the russian ambassador in cleveland. >> in retrospect, i should have slowed down and ed is, but i did
meet with one russian official, that would be the ambassador. >> reporter: the meeting e-mails from the national committee were released embarrassing democrats during their convention. the trump convention denied any connection. >> are there any ties between you and the putin regime. >> it's absurd and there is no basis for it. >> reporter: president trump was in front of the cameras. >> russia, i hope you're listen. i hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. >> reporter: u.s. officials say they were engaged in a concerted effort to get trump elected through hacks and fake news. jeff sessions met with the russian ambassador a second time, this time in sessions' office. cnn has learned about contacts
between them continued in december. the ambassador met briefly at trump tower with trump's son-in-law jared kushner and his appointed national security adviser general michael flynn. despite news cameras rolling in the trump tower lobby, kislyak was never seen by reporters entering or leaving the buildingment later that month, michael flynn had a flurry of phone calls and tekxts with the ambassador. it was then that president trump expelled more than 40 russian diplomats. vladimir putin said he wouldn't respond in kind. trump praised putin's move in a tweet. two months later after "the washington post" detailed the meeting, flynn was forced to resign. the next day sean spicer was still trying to answer questions about the trump's campaign
meetings with the russians before the election. >> there is nothing that would change during that time period. >> reporter: the president trump was asked and again denied that anyone on his campaign team had meetings with russia during the election. >> nobody that i'm aware of. >> you're not aware of -- >> how many times do i have to answer the question? >> reporter: it seems the president and his team will have to continue answering these questions as congressional investigations are looming. it's important to note it's not unusual for members of the president-elect's team to meet with foreign dignitaries after the election. none of these contacts appear to have been illegal and the trump administration saying they did nothing wrong. >> thank you, laura coates, you're our legal analyst, former prosecutor. when you look at the meetings, and the denials, what does it tell you? >> it tells me where you have secrecy it will breed suspicion. that's what happens now. the reason people turned their attention not because we have
the ultimate conclusion. we're in the initial phase of the investigation, what was the influence of russia, if any, what was the involvement of key campaign staffers and surrogates? when you have people who have a little mischievous and misleading it raises an eyebrow. when you have a question and they have amnesia and they can't recall. and then you say you have an oath, perjury has a consequence. then they have a great memory. that leads to further suspicion. we need to make sure that the investigation that's currently under way if it's happening, led by somebody who is objective and could monitor appropriately. >> phil mudd, how typical do these meetings seem to be to you or atypical? >> i don't view these as particularly significant. let me tell you why. let's say the trump team comes into office after inauguration
and somebody says what do you think about nato, and iran and the deal with iran, and the trump team says we're uncomfortable meeting with the russians and the russian ambassador so we've got to start from ground zero. i as a voter would not be comfortable with that story. we're missing a key piece, and i hope that brian todd asks the question. put this in perspective for me. two ways, the trump team met with the russians, the chinese, the saudis, the indians, the pakistanis, the germans. i would stand back and say jeff sessions, a couple of meetings with the us ares, no big deal. that's what the campaign did. let's ask the prospective question and somebody says, wow, the only people they met consistently with, they were the russians. depending on the context, wolf,
how significant this is takes on different colors. i'm waiting for more answers. >> why deny those meetings over and over again if there are typical meetings that people have with foreign leaders and ambassadors. why deny it? >> let me take you inside washsh wa. -- washington. it wasn't people necessarily lying. it's people not having experience. and they started realizing that -- they answered the questions tactically. they didn't review the journals and think seriously about what happened at the convention last summer and they suffered a death by a thousand cuts when "the washington post" cnn and others started to reveal information. they never got behind the story because their inexperience in washington didn't get ahead of this and say, wow, before we answer another question, we ought to sit down and not let this go out piecemeal. i don't think this is lies.
i think it's bad management at the white house. >> i think there is an element of bad management here. i think a lot of the people involved have a lost experience in washington. jeff sessions, who is a long time senator and an attorney who understands what it means to answer a question or to overanswer a question as he did in his senate hearing. people like sean spicer in the white house, reince priebus, they understand how this works. they may have overlooked at it in an effort to tap down the questions but the real solution here would have been to come clean at the very beginning. because as phil said, these meetings are not in and of themselves suspicion or in any way wrong necessarily. but not disclosing them is part of a part and over the past couple of days we've seen several meetings suddenly disclosed between the ambassador. that shouldn't be happening. they should have disclosed them early on to dispel any
suspicion. >> what should the white house be doing? >> focusing on whether there will be a criminal investigation of press perjury of sessions. that's a separate issue, it may be investigated and may ultimately come to pass. the issue right now you have several people who are key people in the administration, flynn, and now sessions, who are making false statements. the person who runs the department of justice is keenly aware of the responsibility of testifying under oath. don't give him a pass as maybe he misunderstood the context of the question of franken. he got right the question of leahy. the recusal perhaps is the most prudent course, but what they have to focus on now, is listen get your ducks in a row because the russian problem is not going
anywhere. >> phil, what do you think the white house needs to do right now? >> look, this is pretty basic. i agree with this, they cannot allow the media to own the story, drip by drip every day and sharks as the american people rip a hole in them. they need to get out front, we hired somebody, robert mulberry, over the next 30 days he'll interview the people, review their diaries and phone records and, the white house doesn't let drops of blood go in the water, they drop a tub load in the water and we'll give you the answer. they're way behind the curve. >> the president responded by tweeting about nancy pelosi and chuck schumer making fun of them and the meetings they had with the russian ambassador and with putin on the part of schumer himself. >> yeah, it seems to be helping to muddy the waters around this.
but also illustrates an important thing, which is that nancy pelosi didn't remember that she had that meeting or didn't think it was appropriate in that context, which sort of helps that argument that maybe there is a reasonable expectation that sessions could have been trying to do the right thing but just simply made a mistake. stick around. just ahead an arrest in connection with a wave of anti-semitism against jewish sites. with al qaeda why the u.s. stepping up the air war? your insurance company
there has been an arrest in connection with a series of threats against jewish institutions across the united states. cnn's gbrinn gingras has the latest. >> reporter: according to thoughters, juan thompson is believed to be behind eight bomb threats against jewish institutions. he doesn't appear to be the main person behind the threats that targeted centers across the nation, rather jumping on the acts and doing it to harass his ex-lover. if one example, authorities believe he e-mailed the anti-defamation league headquarters and used his ex-girlfriend's name. he told the center she is behind the bomb threat against jews. the fbi says he continued with this pattern continuing to use his ex-girlfriend's names in
four states and tried to make it seem like his ex was framing him. he had been targeting, her, harassing her since july. we also know that he is a former reporter. he actually worked for the intercept last year and the publication sent us a statement. they said these actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. thompson worked for the intercept from november 2014 to january 2016 when he was fired after we discovered he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles. thompson previously has denied that reason for the firing to cnn. we should also mention, wolf, today's arrest comes on the same day fbi director chris cuoom jat with religious leaders to ensure the agency has their back. they'll continue investigating
the threats. >> he's being charged with eight of more the more than 100 phone calls, bomb threats, desecration of jewish cemeteries, swastikas painted. clearly they're looking for more suspects. >> reporter: absolutely. and law enforcement officials have said they do believe that the majority of these threats are coming from either a person or a group of people from overseas and it's possible there is another copycat case out there. but like i said, the fbi today saying this is a top priority, which is something these religious institutions wanted to hear. >> thank you. meanwhile, other important news, fear of a terror plot in the works has the united states stepping up air strikes against al qaeda in yemen. let's go to-- barbara starr, working the story for us, picking up more information. >> reporter: it is increasingly clear donald trump's pentagon
has opened a new campaign in the war on terror. a dramatic escalation against al qaeda in yemen. u.s. warplanes conducted over 30 air strikes in two days, a campaign approved by donald trump and delegated to the pentagon to carry out. a former obama administration official says attacking the terror organization is the right news. >> it would be good news if the trump administration continues to go after this group. >> reporter: urgency elevated by fear. al qaeda in yemen may be planning direct attacks against the u.s. according to a defense official. the group considered one of the top threats to the u.s. homeland, asking strength during the turmoil of the ongoing civil war. >> make no mistake, aqap, while we talk a lot about isis, aqap is the organization that has more american blood on its hands. >> reporter: the terror group's record of inspiring attacks is
long and bloody, including 2009, the underwear bomber on an airliner landing in detroit, attempting the first potential attack on u.s. soil since 9/11. 2010, bombs hidden in printer cartridges were mailed from yemen, set to go off on cargo planes over the u.s., intercepted in the uk and dubai. 2013, the tsarnaev brothers at the boston marathon said to be inspired by aqap's online magazine. 2015, the attacks against the "charlie hebdo" cartoonist offices in paris. more u.s. military action is planned in addition to the three missions already conducted. on march 3rd, ten air strikes were carried out in three al qaeda strongholds. on march 1st, more than 30 air strikes in the same regions. on january 29th, that controversial raid that killed
knave s.e.a.l. william ryan cohens and several civilians and did result in vital intelligence, u.s. officials insist. >> there are often times a lot of value in getting access to al qaeda's own internal information. it gives you a lot of insight into how they're thinking strategically, operationally, and tactically. >> reporter: u.s. special forces continue to quietly move in and out of yemen at times conducting small classified missions on the ground. one of the key things we do not know, wolf, is the full price being paid by civilians on the ground who may be caught in the crosshairs of these attacks. wolf? >> barbara, thank you very much. barbara starr at the pentagon. this season in a new season of "finding jesus," historians explore lots of significant developments that we've learned. cnn's david gregory has a preview. david? >> wolf, the series premiere focuses on a central figure in the death of jesus, the roman
governor at the time, pontius pilate. who was he? and is there now evidence about his life that helps to confirm the account about him in the gospels? we went to the holy land to explore. >> reporter: on the shore of the mediterranean sea there is an ancient secret as old as the birth of christianity. here in sathe majestic roman po, a fatal determination changed history. the roman governor based here, pontius pilate, was called on to decide the fate of jesus of nazareth. he would be a harsh judge. >> he was brutal. we hear massacres and bloodsheds that were connected to the time that he had the rule over judea. he was not a nice person. >> reporter: we have come to the amphitheater here with dr. shimon gibson, an
archaeologist who has spent more than 20 years conducting excavations in the holy land. here in 1961, archaeologists discovered proof of pilate's existence. >> you wouldn't really sort of think that at this spot, under this wooden stand, this inscription was found. latin inscription mentioning pontius pilate. but this was one of those pivotal moments that changes everything, because suddenly, pontius pilate comes out of this written ensubscription. it's not just this figure in the gospels. >> reporter: the israel museum here in jerusalem is a treasure house of artifacts from the 1st century. to visit here as a religious pilgrim or historian is to discover crucial evidence of the end of jesus' life. the left side of the pilate stone was chiseled away to fit into the theater, but the
ensubscription is clear -- a stone thought to commemorate a lighthouse dedicated to the emperor tiberius. >> this is the only physical object from time of pilate which has his name. >> reporter: the gospel of luke tells the story. pilate was called to jerusalem amid the uproar over the ministry of jesus. considered a rebel leading a messianic movement. are you the king of the jews, pilate asks in the scripture? and he answered them, you have said so. >> he probably thought of jesus as a minor rebel of the kind of which he saw many in his governorship. >> reporter: the ornate place next to the pilate stone is thought to belong to the jewish high priest and a pivotal figure in the trial of jesus. dr. gibson's excavations next to the tower of david museum have uncovered further evidence of pilate's time in jerusalem.
based on the gospels and writings from the period, the archaeologist imagines pilate's judgment. >> he decides to make an example of jesus and to have him crucified. i don't think he would have had a sleepless night about it. >> reporter: there are no records of pilate's last days or his burial place. history records that he was called back to rome to account for the brutality of his rule. pilate may have ended the life of jesus, but for the faithful, this crucial em sopisode marks the beginning. pilate's portrayal in the gospels is controversial. was he le re luck tant to condemn jesus to death or was that simply an attempt by the writers of the gospels to shift the blame to jewish authorities? historians from the period cast pilate as part of brutal roman rule. the mysteries about all this persist, but so does the interest, given evidence of pila pilate's rule and the evidence of the final week of jesus'
life. wolf? >> david gregory reporting. thank you. the new season of "finding jesus" begins this sunday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific only here on cnn. that's it for me. thanks for watching. "erin burnett out front" starts right now. up next, breaking news. did jeff sessions lie to congress? and trump fires back, tweeting pictures of top democrats meeting with russian officials, calling one a hypocrite, the other a liar. is it the democrats on a witch-hunt? and cnn learning the trump administration considering that mothers be separated from their children when they cross the border illegally. let's go "out front." good evening. i'm erin burnett. "out front," breaking news, liar, liar, senate democrats