tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 10, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
happening now. red flags. the white house tries to downplay revelations that ousted michael flynn was acting as a registered foreign agent while he was advising the trump during the campaign. did flynn expose this information while his security clearance was being vetted. new hints that fbi director james comey may be preparing to publicly counter president trump's claim that he was wiretapped by obama. the white house is refusing to say if president trump will apologize if it's debunked. harrowing details about the u.s. raid in yemen that killed dozens of citizens you and manner navy s.e.a.l. how does it square with the president's claim that the mission was success. job growth, the white house is giving the president for a
drop in the unemployment rate. why do they believe the numbers now when they called them phony in the past. 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." the former national security adviser was fired for apparently lying about his russia contacts now creating more controversy for the trump administration. the white house bombarded with questions about michael flynn. and his work as a registered foreign agent representing turkish's agent even as he was advising then-candidate trump last year. sean spicer confirming that the president was in the dark about this and dismissing allegations that flynn's foreign lobbying work should have raised red flags. also following the investigation of president trump's claim that his phones were wiretapped by
the obama administration. top lawmakers say they have not seen any evidence to support mr. trump's claim even offer the closed door meeting with comey. adam schiff telling cnn that comey is ready to answer questions about the president's allegation and might welcome the opportunity who he testifies before congress this month. on the jobs front, the president says the unemployment numbers he dismissed during the campaign may have been phony then, but real now. the white house passing along mr. trump's take on the new numbers showing the economy add 235,000 jobs in february, his first full month in office. we're covering all that and more, including our panels and a democratic on the judiciary committee. and our correspondents and analysts are standing by. let's go to jeff zeleny. michael flynn coming back to haunt the trump administration
tonight. >> wolf, indeed. it's been about a month since michael flynn was asked to step down from the national security adviser position. the white house praised him as a good man. but tonight there are questions about the judgment in hiring him in the first place. >> reporter: the white house is back on defense over michael flynn. the retired army general forced to resign a month ago as president trump's national security adviser. this time it wasn't his contacts with the russian ambassador, but whether the president knew flynn registered as a foreign agent, representing the government of turkey. >> just to be clear, general flynn fired with the justice department two days ago. >> reporter: white house press secretary sean spicer said it was private and took place before he joined the administration although at the same time he was advising the trump campaign last year.
>> this is not up for the government to determine. there are certain private citizens activities that you conduct and you seek counsel on or professional advice on. that's not up to the government. >> reporter: flynn's contract with the government of turkey ended after the election. spicer dismissed a series of questions about the lobbying disclosure. >> the person who is in line to be the national security adviser may need to register as a foreign agent and that doesn't raise a red flag? >> it's not a question of raising a red flag. it's a question whether they gave the advice they were supposed to. >> reporter: on day 50 of the trump presidency that was the latest distraction at the white house. it's been a full week since president trump leveled the accusation that president obama was sprying on him at trump tower. but today no evidence. >> thank you all very much. we're going to get to work. >> reporter: asked many times, the president wouldn't say if he had proof to bark up his charges. the white house is now trying to
keep its focus on healthcare. >> that's what people now. they want repeal and replace. >> reporter: washington is consumed by russia and the widening investigation into any connection between the trump campaign and russian operatives. the probe includes the claims of wiretapping which no one seems to know about but mr. trump. adam schiff told cnn's manu raju he has seen no evidence but suggests the question will come up when fbi director james comey testifies on capitol hill later this month. >> i haven't seen any evidence whatsoever to substantiate that. and i think when sean spicer isn't even willing to talk about it you know there is a real problem. >> do you know that -- do you think in the hearing comey will be prepared to talk about this issue. >> he's prepared for the question and i don't see why he won't answer and may welcome the
opportunity. >> reporter: nunez echoed his comment from earlier this week that he had not seen any proof to back up the president's claims. >> i don't have anything to tell you. >> reporter: vice-president mike pence did not answer the question about whether he believes the president's accusations. >> do you think it's possible that president obama ordered the wiretap on president trump. >> i think we'll let the congressional hearing to find out and those will be evaluated. >> reporter: the vice-president, of course, was central to the dismissal of michael flynn a month ago because mr. flynn apparently misled the vice-president over his contacts with russian officials. but, wolf, the president says he did not know about that, at least his press secretary said he did not know. but it was certainly on the mind when he was campaigning. in october he said that he wants to issue a ban on any senior officials in his administration who would lobby foreign
governments. indeed that's exactly what michael flynn did. >> thank you, jeff. the top democratic in the house intelligence committee is seizing on the new michael flynn controversy. adam schiff asking whether he was a foreign agent in his security clearance before he became as national security adviser. let's talk about elise labott. elise, i guess the key question is shouldn't questions about flynn's connections representing turkish interests had been known to this administration going into the administration? >> well, one would think that it definitely would, wolf. not only was he doing these lobbying with foreign companies which certainly would have come out in the questionnaire, but certainly if it was a foreign government, i don't know if that would have disqualified him from the job legally, but president trump did set out this very high bar for his officials in his cabinet and top advisers, saying
he didn't want any lobbyists. if it wasn't disqualifying, you would think that the trump administration would have asked about this in this very extensive questionnaire and that michael flynn everybody knew months before he was appointed that he had these foreign clines. >> when he finally formally registered the other day with the justice department it became clear he was paid $530,000 for a few months of that foreign lobbying work. >> and the last payment came just days before -- days before the election. so -- >> another issue -- you've covered, what, five secretaries of state, democratic secretaries of state and republican secretaries of state. sean spicer was asked to comment on rex tillerson who is going to asia to not take along reporters on the plane. listen to the answer. >> this isn't about blocking
anybody. this is -- they've gone above way and beyond. not every plane can accommodate every member of the claim. >> can they get a bigger plane. >> there is an element of cost saving that the secretary is trying to achieve. but there's been a press component to every stop of the secretary's trip. he's doing everything to support the press that wants to cover them and they are being open to make sure the secretary is available throughout the trip. >> have you ever seen this kind of access on a flight with a secretary of state denied? >> well, wolf, as you said i've covered a lot of secretaries of state. i won't say that the press is on every leg of every trip. there is a precedent of a secretary of state taking a contingent taking a few or a dozen members of the press. and this time he won't be taking
any journalists. it's disappointing that that won't be happening. we hear one will go on a unilateral way. >> is there any truth that they're saving money and there won't be room on the plane for a small pool of reporters. when they travel, the news organization pays the u.s. government for the seats. >> sometimes we even subsidize the seats of the government. fuelwise if you take a small plane it does save u.s. dollars because that fuel costs a lot of money and you're using less fuel. i think it's a situation of secretary tillerson wanting to take a small footprint. not only not taking a lost journalists but not a lot of contingent. this is a man who is the ceo of exxonmobil. who has notoriously operated low key. and now he's a secretary of state and there is a certain
public diplomacy on that. and he wants to do his diplomacy quietly. the journalists are hoping as he gets his sea legs in the job he'll reconsider and let the journalists cover him. this trip to asia obviously the north korea issue very important, i understand that secretary tillerson has a large strategy that he wants to roll out. and that, in fact, is an important story for the trump administration's foreign policy. we're hoping that he'll reconsider the decision. >> he should take a small pool representing the news media so that information will be made available. if you, elise for the report. let's get more on the national security questions. we're joined by democratic congressman, a member of the judiciary committee. thank you for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. >> let's begin with the reporters that the former national security adviser has retroactively registered for
work he has done for the turkish government during the campaign. >> the more that we learn about michael flynn and the fact that he was hired as the nation's top national security individual, the more troubled we should all be. it appears that there was not a significant amount of vetting that was done when a decision was made by donald trump to hire michael flynn. he obviously lied about his contacts with the russian ambassador and misinformed the president and then the american people. it's troubling that he has apparently failed to provide accurate information with respect to him being a foreign agent. >> a lot of this was actually disclosed in this letter, your colleague cummings wrote this letter to vice-president mike pence on november 18, 2016, explaining michael flynn's connections with these turkish
interests, its connections with russia, but apparently people didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the letter. your quick reaction to that. >> it's incredibly inconsistent in the terms that michael flynn was working as a foreign agent with donald trump's agenda of putting america first. you've got individuals like michael flynn who may have been more inclined and incentivized baysed on the money he received to put turkey first, you have other individuals who have questionable con ttacts with th kremlin and the russian government making the kremlin agenda great again, not the united states great again. e-elijah cummings is well-respected on both sides of the aisle. i think the trump administration should take attention by anything cummings has to say
from now on. we want to make sure we can protect the integrity of the democracy and let the facts lead us to the truth. >> he's the ranking member of the house oversight reform committee. cummings. you introduced a measure yesterday that might force the house of representatives on whether to seek documents from the trump administration detailing contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials. what specific information do you want to see? >> well, it is a resolution of inquiry, which is a vehicle by which the house can request a set of information from the administration, in this case, both the white house as well as the department of justice, that would detail any contacts that exist between jeff sessions or donald trump, members of the administration, and either russian intelligence officials, the russian ambassador, any individuals working at the
direction of the russian government as part of our effort to try to figure out what exactly has gone on. we know that 17 different intelligence agencies concluded that russia interfered with our election for the purpose of helping donald trump. we also know that at the same time, many high-level trump allies and cronies engaged in community with the russian government during the same time that russian intelligence agencies were hacking into our election. folks like michael flynn. we know the attorney general, jeff sessions. michael cohen, donald trump's personal lawyer. carter page, who was his top foreign policy adviser. paul manafort, who was donald trump's chairman. these are very troubling indications that there may have been something beyond a mere coincidence based on these contacts and we're just seeking
information so we can clarify for the american people what actually occurred. >> some senators have expressed interest in a subpoena to force president trump's tax returns. they want to know in they contain any information about the financial ties between the president and russia. should your committee demand those documents as well? >> absolutely. and, in fact, the judiciary committee does have subpoena power, which is, of course, chairman goodland has failed to exercise at this point. we decided to move forward with the inquiry which will force the entire house vote so we know where we stand in terms of the american people or the judiciary will have to consider the resolution of inquiry and we can have a debate on how to proceed. >> the former director of national intelligence, james clapper, says he hasn't seen any
hard evidence of collusion between the trump administration and russia. have you seen any hard evidence to back that up? >> not as of yet. but there is still a lot of information that hasn't been disclosed to us as members of congress. >> we know there have been closed door meetings between the members of the economy eand other individuals in the investigation of the claims. we as members of the judiciary committee hope to hear from the fbi director and the department of justice as to the investigation. we're getting new information on the push by the president to repeal and replace obamacare. we'll discuss with you when we come back. i mean wish i had time to take care of my portfolio, but.. well, what are you doing tomorrow -10am? staff meeting.
noon? eating. 3:45? uh, compliance training. 6:30? sam's baseball practice. 8:30? tai chi. yeah, so sounds relaxing. alright, 9:53? i usually make their lunches then, and i have a little vegan so wow, you are busy. wouldn't it be great if you had investments that worked as hard as you do? yeah. introducing essential portfolios. the automated investing solution that lets you focus on your life.
why pause a spontaneous moment? cialis for daily use treats ed and the urinary symptoms of bph. tell your doctor about your medicines, and ask if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take cialis if you take nitrates for chest pain, or adempas® for pulmonary hypertension, as this may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. do not drink alcohol in excess. to avoid long-term injury, get medical help right away for an erection lasting more than four hours. if you have a sudden decrease or loss of hearing or vision, or an allergic reaction, stop taking cialis and get medical help right away. ask your doctor about cialis.
we're back with democratic congressman jeffreys. congressman, i want you to stand by for a moment. we're learning about a new endorsement of the republican healthcare bill by a major insurance company, anthem. let's bring in our congressional corresponden correspondent. >> they were pillared from all sides, hospitals, aarp, now anthem, the largest in the obamacare exchanges coming out in support of the bill. it had some constructive changes that it asked for, but its important overall brings big name and support of the republican leaders. i want to say what the ceo said. the time is now. the healthcare act addresses the market and will ensure choices for consumers in the short-term. one of the big issues we've seen
in the last days as these outside groups have come out against this bill is the questions what will they bring to the table, will they spend money to try to defeat it. if they do, the support of groups and companies like anthem extremely important going forward, the coalition supporting this idea will be extremely important if republicans want to get this done, wolf. >> very interesting. phil, cnn is reporting that president trump is open to moving up the movement of medicaid expansion from 2020 to the end of this year. how is that playing out there where you are up on capitol hill? >> it thrills conservatives, wolf. this is one of the issues they've are the bill. they believe the medicare expansion by obamacare should be repealed. that's not how it's set up. when he talk to house leadership they say no changes coming soon. when the leaders and the chairman met with the president today the president touted
what's in the bill. take a listen. >> it eliminates the obamacare mandate that forces americans to buy government approved plans, we all know that. it provides states power how medicare is spent. back to local government. the plan empowers individual americans to buy the health insurance that is right for them, not the plan forced on them by government. >> now, wolf, i'm told when the press left that meeting and it continued behind closed doors, chairman greg walleden, the one responsible for the bill, the language as was drafted was drafted in consultation with all sorts of outside individuals, from government to members of congress to the white house itself. the white house staff actually signed off on that language going forward. the point being, you guys were on board with this, this isn't changing anytime soon at least in the house, we need your support going forward, wolf.
>> phil mattingly on capitol hill. let's get back to congressman jeffreys. you sit on the house budget committee, the final committee to review the healthcare bill before it faces the floor. still unanswered questions, how much will it cost, how many people will it cover. are we any closer to learning those details? >> not at all. this is part of the problem with this rush to try to repeal the affordable care account, which is based on political promises that had been made by donald trump and republicans in both the house and the senate. but they've realized that repeal and replace is really nothing more than a cute slogan but not a solution. once they've gotten down to actually enact a healthcare law that will benefit the american people in a way that donald trump promised during the campaign, they've had tremendous difficulty in trying to get that
accomplished. because simply, you've got fractions of the republican party, some of whom could care less if tens of millions of people were actually robbed of the insurance that they currently have. they could careless if premiums and co-pays go up, which will be the biproduct. >> the republicans did get a boost. anthem endorsing the bill. will that major endorsement help convince some of the skeptics up there that this bill is the right thing to do? >> i don't think so. because what you have is a conflict that exists between the right wing, the far right, and the extreme right within the house republican conference. and the most conservative members have indicated that there is no chance that they're going to support this legislation. so-called freedom caucus and others. and without their support and the outside groups such as
heritage foundation and others encouraging the revolt that is existing right now on the hill, it's not clear that the gop will be able to put together the 218 votes necessary to get it over to the senate. >> i want to quickly switch gears. very dramatically, congressman. take advance of you. last night you paid tribute on the house floor to the hip-hop star biggy smalls who died 20 years ago. i want to play a clip for the viewers. >> it was all a dream. i used to read word up magazine, salt and pepper up in the limousine. hanging pictures on my wall. every saturday mr. magic mally mall. those were the words of the great late notorious b.i.g. biggy smalls, frank white, the king of new york. he died 20 years ago today. in a tragedy that occurred in
los angeles. but his words live on for. i've got the privilege of representing the district where biggy smalls was raised. we know he went from negative to positive. and emerged as one of the world's most important hip-hop stars. his rags to riches life story is the classic embodiment of the american dream. biggy smalls is gone. but he will neveri be forgotten. rest in peace, notorious b.i.g. where brooklyn at? >> very nice words, congressman. what inspired you to go to the house floor with a tribute to the late biggy smalls. >> one of the privileges we have
is to deliver one-minute speeches about prominent people from our communities who have done great things or are gone. given all of the people in the country and indeed throughout the world were marking the 20th anniversary of biggy's untimely passing i thought it was appropriate given that i represent the community that gave biggy smalls to the world, that i at least give him respect as other significant cultural figures have been given in the history of the united states congress. >> congressman hakeem jeffreys, i'm glad you're a congressman, rap artist, i'm not so sure. thanks very much for that tribute. thanks for joining us. >> thank you wolf. next wednesday dan a bash and i will moderate a town hall
on healthcare reform. tom price will be our guest. wednesday night 9:00 p.m. eastern only on cnn. just ahead will there be fall-out for flynn's being registered a foreign agent. you can't predict the market. but through good times and bad... ...at t. rowe price... ...we've helped our investors stay confident for over 75 years. call us or your advisor. t. rowe price. invest with confidence. we kwaxed and shined.to be treated like a trophy. we have seen the glory come, go, and come again. but a cadillac is no trophy. what you see is our future and it will inspire every car that follows.
won't replace the full value of your totaled new car. the guy says you picked the wrong insurance plan. no, i picked the wrong insurance company. with liberty mutual new car replacement™, you won't have to worry about replacing your car because you'll get the full value back including depreciation. and if you have more than one liberty mutual policy, you qualify for a multi-policy discount, saving you money on your car and home coverage. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance.
we're following the breaking news there is anger over the firing of 46 u.s. attorneys, a law enforcement source telling cnn and i'm questing now, this could not have been handled any worse because there was little warning. our pamela brown reporting that some of these u.s. attorneys were simply told to clean out their desk the same day effective midnight tonight. there are people she is reporting traveling on official business and they were just told they're fired. the deputy attorney general ben tee was in the beginning stages. she is in the process of calling these u.s. attorneys individually to tell them they had to resign. but several of them didn't get the word. they learned about their dismissal in the media. let's discuss with the panel. jim acosta, new presidents get rid of u.s. attorneys when they take office. >> sure.
>> there is a process that goes forward, president obama did it with u.s. attorneys previously appointed. but it's unusual in a way that they learn about their dismissal in the news media. >> that's right. over at the white house there is a sense of urgency in this administration to bring their own people in. they're off to a very slow start in terms of filling a whole slew of positions up and down the government. so it's not surprising that they would do it in this fashion. however, when you're dealing with u.s. attorneys, these are law enforcement roles one would think they would have handled it better. >> diane feinstein said she was told that it would be done in an orderly fashion, and she's apparently very concerned about the way it was done. >> right. this is not the first time we've seen messy rollouts or messy firings. this is the same issue that is affecting this administration that affected it in the travel
ban coordination. this is a lack of respect for prior precedent and protocol and the way done in past administrations and throwing out the playbook and preferring to do what they want to do. >> a lot of investigations. susan hennessy used to be an attorney at the national security agency, it took ronald reagan two years to get rid of people he wanted to. president obama did it faster. >> it's about the process and not the substance. it's not unusual for a president to dismiss political appointees to ensure continuity. they do important work so anytime chaos is inserted into that process it can have serious consequences for the everyday functioning. >> george w. bush did dismiss about 90 u.s. attorneys but he did it in mid-march. there is a whole issue right now unfolding. will it hurt the ongoing
criminal investigations that are under way right now with the dismissile of these 40-plus u.s. attorneys. >> it's relatively unlikely they have highly competent careers. staff of the justice department will move into the acting roles. of course, like anytime a principal leaves especially without sufficient process to prepare for it, that can compromise ongoing investigations. it makes the job more difficult. and it's already a hard job. >> yeah, and the issue is u.s. attorney has said, you know what, it's over, clean out your desk by midnight tonight. move on. i guess that's -- >> to do it in one day is very strange. >> yeah, let's move on and talk a little bit about another irritant for this administration. the adam schiff, the ranking democratic on the house intelligence committee he met -- he was among the group of eight that met with james comey, the fbi director and said he still has not seen any evidence to
back up president trump's assertion that president obama was wiretapping trump tower, wiretapping him. if there is no evidence what does this new president do? >> i think it cuts to the credibility of donald trump. if it turns out there was no basis for him to make the allegation. i spoke with a senior white house official moments ago and saying that the president has not spoken with the fbi director all week. i think it's fascinating that comey went up to capitol hill and president trump met with the cia director. there seems to be the barrier between the president and the fbi director at least for the moment. they're not talking to each other and haven't spoken despite the fact that the president said that he could pick up the phone ask call him and say i need prove of this. >> jeremy, you covered the white house for us. why didn't the president call
the fbi director before he started tweeting last saturday? >> absolutely. if they want to find out if there is a fisa ruling, the president could find out and declassify the information and put it out there for the american people to find out. while sean spicer the white house press secretary has called every single day this week and said congress will investigate this and we want to move past the initial tweet. what they want to find out could be found out within hours, if that. he can go to the justice department and ask for the fisa warrant and declassify that. it's easy. >> it's important to note that president trump's tweets accuse the fbi of criminal conduct. he said he was wiretapped improperly or illegally. this is a serious accusation. this is the fbi that serves the president, the head of the branch. it's for him to show the proof
why he made serious allegations against his own government. >> let me talk to you about something else, and you guys cover the white house, and i want to make sure that we fully understand this whole deep state conspiracy notion out there, that there are obama officials still lurking inside the government, working to promote president obama's agenda and undermine president trump's agenda. i want you to listen to what sean spicer, the press secretary said. >> i think that there is no question, when you have eight years of one party in office, that there are people who stay in government, affiliated with, you know, joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration. so i don't think it should come to any surprise that there are people that burrowed in the government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. i don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone.
>> i want to get susan. your reaction. you worked in the top secret national security agency. when he says there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration. >> all right. so there is no deep state. and the term itself is incredibly problematic. it's used to describe something that happens in authoritarian regimes not democracy. it's a smear of public service people who do an incredible mission of national security. what trump appears to be describing here is just the ordinary national security bureaucracy, people who show up and do the workday and day out. they do it in a nonpolitical order. >> who is behind it, the deep state conspiracy notion? >> it's hard to say. steve bannon has talked about the deconstruction of the
government. but he goes into the power that the intelligence agencies have in the or the power he perceived them to have. the notion is not a political issue, it goes into a deeper fury that there are intelligence officials in the u.s. that have broader power than they should and over the happenings in congress. >> when you're complaining about deep state i think you're in deep something else. had there been obama holdovers leaking information sinls the early days of the administration, probably so. maybe there are people who didn't like what president trump is doing coming into office. jeremy knows this, a lot of the leaks coming from the administration are coming from the rival factions inside the white house and sometimes those leaks are embarrassing to the president, embarrassing to certain people at certain times in this administration, but to blame it on some deep state it sounds like a tom clancy novel
that never got published. >> you worked as a lawyer at the nsa, why the administration would want to irritate career service agents, in the law enforcement agency, intelligence community, in the judiciary, so-called judge. what's the point? you only anger these folks and it could backfire. >> i don't think that he's at risk of sort of the intelligence community taking its revenge, they'll serve the president no matter what. i think the issue is donald trump has again and again besmirched the work and the expertise of the intelligence community. the question is these are people who serve him and have valuable expertise, helping him be the commander in chief, making decisions on behalf of the country. it raises the question why he is so committed to this frnkly bizarre line of attacks and why he's so concerned about
undercutting the integrity and legitimacy of those institutions. >> on repealing and replacing obamacare, deal or no deal? >> it's difficult to say. the president is conducting what i term a charm offensive i think where he's meeting with a lot of conservative groups. i was told by several senior administration officials that the president is and the white house is lining up privately behind conservative proposals and one is to sunset the medication r -- medicaid expansion sooner than 2020. he said that the president is still open to making changes to that and while they've ruled out making major changes to the tax credit portions of this bill they haven't made changes to the medicaid. >> the president is less interested. he wants to say we repealed and
replaced obamacare. >> he wants to cut a deal. this is going to go to the heart of what happens in 2018. the republican control of congress may rise and fall on whether he can follow on repealing and replacing obamacare, building a wall on the mexico border. when i talked to a senior republican source who certified what jeremy was reporting about the president being open to all the changes and the person said once you start moving these pieces around you invite more chaos into the process, it's going to be that much tougher. >> it will be a tough, tough se se sell. a top commander speaking about the attack that left one u.s. navy s.e.a.l. dead. bertol.
bargainomics. that's our business model. and our business model is... delicious. ♪ grocery outlet bargain market ♪ new tonight, disturbing details of a deadly u.s. raid in yemen that cost the life of a navy s.e.a.l. barbara starr has been working the story for us. a top u.s. commander speaking out. >> reporter: speaking out and offering new details, wolf, but there are still very conflicting views about what happened that night. >> translator: i am responsible for this mission. >> reporter: general joseph otell, the top u.s. commander for middle east operations offering the first details publicly of the january navy s.e.a.l. raid in yemen that remains a military controversy. >> we lost a lot on this operation. we lost a valued operator.
we had people wounded. we caused civilian casualties. >> navy s.e.a.l. william ryan owens and as many as a dozen civilians were killed during a firefight as the s.e.a.l.s raided a compound looking for intelligence on al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. a journalist collected eyewitness accounts from villagers. >> i spoke to a 5-year-old boy who described running from that helicopter gun ship fire as he was shot at from behind as he ran with his mother and his mother was subsequently killed. >> officials with direct knowledge of the mission offering new details. the s.e.a.l.s don't think they were compromised because they were in the village for some time before the firefight broke out. but once seen, many villagers quickly armed themselves and fired along with al qaeda. the u.s. thinks villagers likely thought they were under attack from rival tribal factions. fire came from all directions and multiple buildings. two officials say once
surrounded the s.e.a.l.s had to call in air strikes. they ip cyst the u.s. only fired at legitimate targets, civilians were caught in the middle. >> we had u.s. service members who were pinned down and needed help to get out. had that not happened, we likely would have had greater tragedies on the american side. >> reporter: villagers spoke of withering fire from the air. >> there were more than a dozen buildings that i walked into that had been hit or destroyed by those helicopters and air strikes. >> reporter: votell offering new details on an after-action review he says satisfied him. snif presided over that. i am looking for information gaps where we can't explain a situation or we have conflicting information between members of the organization. i'm looking for indicators of incompetence or poor decisionmaking or bad judgment throughout all of this.
>> reporter: u.s. officials still insist they got valuable information about al qaeda in doing that raid and contrary to reports they were not looking for any top leadership of al qaeda there that they really were going in looking for intelligence. wolf? >> all right, barbara. thank you. just ahead, more on the new revelation that fired national security adviser michael flynn worked as a registered foreign lobbyist while advising the trump campaign. why was the president kept in the dark? plus, the life of america's most unexpected first lady. a cnn special report on melania trump. - everything we stock at grocery outlet
she was a fashion model, an immigrant, now america's most unexpected first lady. tonight, a cnn special report looks at the life of melania trump. >> reporter: in september 1998, at 28, two years after the future first lady arrived in new york city came a chance meeting that would change her life forever. >> we met at a fashion party. it was a big fashion party that my friend organized. fashion week and he invited me. that's how we met donald. >> reporter: donald. as in donald j. trump. she met fer future husband and the man who would become the nation's 45th president in manhattan at the famous kit cat club. >> i was actually supposed to be to meet someone else. there was a great supermodel sitting next to melania.
i said forget about her, who's the one on the left? and it was melania. >> be sure to watch our special report "melania trump: the making of a first lady" tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. i'm reynolds wolf. "erin burnett out front" starts right now. breaking news. the trump administration abruptly firing nearly 50 u.s. attorneys. tonight one source saying this couldn't have been handled any worse and there is one stunning person within this list. we'll tell you about it. inside the top secret fbi unit investigating russia's med wlg the u.s. election, exclusive new details this hour about this elite team. that's on lock koundown. and a former u.s. defense secretary warning of a nuclear catastrophe saying the chances are greater than ever before. let's go "out front." >> attorney general jeff sessions tonight asking for the