tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 31, 2017 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT
intelligence committee will join jake. that's all for "the lead." i'm john berman in for jake tea party, and i know turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now. breaki news. laptop bombs. a cnn exclusive. the u.s. government is concerned terrorists are designing new laptop bombs that are capable of eve saiding airport security screening and can even be turned on to make them look real. stolen screening gear. new intelligence suggests terrorists may have stolen airport screening eipment and maybe using it to test out new forms of bombs to target airliners. not immune. former national security advisers michael flynn is willing to testify if investigators grant him immunity from prosecution. trump backs that move but so far congress and the fbi are not
interested. and reviewing the intel. the house intelligence committee's top democrat goes to the white house to look at classified material a week and a half after white house officials helped his republican chairman get a sneak peek. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in swoom swoomt. breaking news. cnn has learned that u.s. intelligence and law enforcement agencies now believe isis and other terror groups have found new ways to hide explosives in electronic devices. fbi testing shows they can evade some airport security measures. compounding that concern, u.s. intelligence suggests terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how they can hide explosives in laptops. this new threat is a key factor in the trump administration's move to bar travelers from
carrying laptops on flights departing from t airports in the middle east and africa. also breaking, fired national security advisers michael flynn is willing to testify before congressional investigators looking into russia's election meddling if -- if he's granted immunity for prosecution. president trump says flynn should teach and seek immunity, calling investigation into the trump campaign ties to russia a witch-hunt h.the white house says it's not worried that flynn could implicate the president. the top democrat in the house intelligence committee adam schiff has gone to the white house to review classified material ten days after a pair of white house staffers help provide the secret information to it the republican chairman devin nunes. nunes went public and briefed the president before informing his own committee about the documents which may show tt trump aides were picked up in intelligence collection. i'll talk to republican congressman lei zeldin and our
correspondents, analysts and guests, they are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories. cnn's evan perez and barbara starr joining us now with their exclusive reporting. they reported this story along with jody enda from cnn.com. evan, first of all, what have you learned? >> reporter: well, wolf, cnn has learned that u.s. tell jens and law enforcement agencies belief isis and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosive in electronic devices that fbi testing shows can evade some commonly use airport security screening. the concern is heightened because there's u.s. intelligence suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how it effectively conkreeceals explos in laptops and other devices. terrorists have come up with a way to hide explosives in the battery explosive and still have the laptop turn on long enough to get past screeners n.december fbi experts reported they have
tested variants of the laptop bombs using different battery and explosive configurations to assess how difficult it would be for airport screeners to detect them. using tsa-rated machines, the testers found the machines have a far more difficult time bombs.ing the new types of wolf? >> pretty scary. evan, stand by. you're over at the pentagon. is the this the reason for the ban last week or flights from some middle eastern and african countries to the united states and britain. >> reporter: good evening, wolf. it is a significant part of it, but there is more. officials we are talking to are telling us that the u.s. intelligence community, military intelligence for some time now has been tracking increase and specific information about what various groups are up to and those groups include al qaeda in yemen, al qaeda in syria and isis. all of it perhaps raising new questions tonight about whether this ban on airplanes goes far enough. >> the intelligence comes amid
heightened concerns that isis and al qaeda-affiliated terror groups have perfected their ability to hide bombs in electronic devices. cnn has learned this new intelligence was a significant part of the decision earlier this month to ban laptops, tablets and other electronic devices from the passenger cabins of planes flying directly to the united states from ten middle eastern and north african airports. demanding inste that they be stored in checked luggage. >> elevated intelligence that we're aware of indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation rand aggressive in pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer objects. >> reporter: officials have told cnn there was credible and specific intelligee that isis would try to attack aviation assets and a hint from a top u.s. commander about why the
accelerated effort on the ground in syria again the group. >> there's an imperative to get isolation in place around raqqa rnl becau because our intelligence feeds tell that is there's significant external operation attacks planning. >> reporter: al qaeda affiliates in yemen aqap for years has been actively trying to target commercial airliners destined for the u.s. looking for ways that contain bombs that contain little or no metal content to evade airplane security measures including hiding explosives in the bat rivers electronic devices like laptops, and in february 2016 a wake-up call when a laptop bomb, according to somalia authorities, was used to blow a hole in the somali passenger jet. the plane landed safely despite the attack claimed by the al qaeda affiliate al shabaab. cnn has learned the explosives
were hidden in space created by removing parts of the dvd drive. >> and i want to add that cnn has discussed this reporting since yesterday with the cia, the fbi and other u.s. government agencies. so far tonight they have declined to comment. wolf? >> stand by for a moment, evan. the tsa limited the ban, as you know, from the direct flights from the ten specific airports in africa and the middle east, but given this new information, why does the government not have a wider laptop ban? >> well, would have, when the ban was introduced the u.s. and the europeans say that they have, you know, have a layer of security system that greatly improves the chances of defecting explosives beyond the screening equipment. we reached out to shaye to know what they know, knowing especially that we just got a
comment from the security department the u.s. government continually analyzes existing intelligence and new intelligence allowing dhs and tsa to constantly evaluate aviation security processes and policies and make enhancements when they are deemed necessary to keep all passengers safe the message here, wolf, is that there's a lot of things that we don't know that they are doing behind the scenes to protect passengers. >> how concerned are they that you can bring a laptop into the cabin, but what if it's checked in baggage? isn't it possible that it could still explode in the baggage compartment? >> one thing they believe mitt gates that risk is the fact the privity -- the potential terrorist is separated from the bomb so they have -- they have less control of where it is placed. they think that reduce it had and they also think that perhaps you won't be able to detonate the device if you're separated from it.
again, that's something they lieve mitt gates the risk. >> stand by for a moment. barbara stand bit. i want to bring in our correspondents and experts to discuss, and phil mudd, this has been a long goal of these terror groups, whether isis, aqap, al qaeda, the airplanian peninsula, al shabaab to figure out a way to get another bomb on to a plane and blow it up, but it looks like they have got a much more sophisticated capability now. >> that's right. if you look how their opportunities are narrowing over time. years ago when you and i had to through a metal detector and after 9/11 you had to take your shoes off. that was richard reid and after a liquids plot in 2005 in the uk you couldn't bring water bottles on and a month ago as barbara pointed out earlier this month you had intelligence agencies starting to say and the u.s. government starting to say with the brits you can't bring on a laptop. as we looked at that a month ago and we investigated that there's only one reason if you're a u.s. intelligence officer or in homeland security you would say that, and you're picking up
intelligence that the opposite, that is isis and al qaeda, are saying, we don't have that many options left. it's not shoes. it's not liquids. one option, wolf, your laptop, and we've seen that for some time. >> richard quest, the new development here is that some of these terrorist groups have apparently now obtained the airport security equipment systems during which they can test their laptop bombs potentially. that's a very, very concerning development. >> absolutely because, wolf, basically when you're going through security, a lot of the actual procedure is really automatic, and, yes, you may have a person looki at a screen, but it's the sophisticad machine that is doing all the hard work. it is analyzing what it is seeing, and it's sending out red flags when it sees something it doesn't like. it is mat sheen in many cases that's doing the hard work there hand as the report remember tonight has shown when you started to have compromise a various levels so you've now got the lapto itself compromised
and now you've got the machine or the ability of the detection capability because now they can test about it. it's the layer upon layer that's being compromised or alleged to be compromised that is so wore egand we start to now understand why they took the measures that they did in the u.s. and the uk. one airline show said to me when the measures they came in they must know something we don't there. has to be a reason why they are doing this, and now we're getting more information that shows just how serious that is. >> you know, clarissa, you've studied this and reported on this for a long time. we know know that al shabaab detonated a bomb february 2016 on a flight from mogadishu and was successful in bringing the plane down. investigators learned a lot from that, didn't they? >> they did, and, listen, it's just worth emphasizing for all of these extremist groups there is no greater prize than bringing down a commercial airliner.
ever since 9/11 this has been a constant object of fascination for many different terror groups, from al qaeda in the arabian peninsula who were experimenting as you heard from phil mudd, with liquids and with underwear bombs to isis who managed to bring down a russian plane in the sinai peninsula with explosives placed in a soda can, and now to this more sophisticated apparently laptop threat, which as you mentioned al shabaab appeared to abuse in somalia, and it was very lucky in that case, wolf, that the plane wlags still flying at a low enough altitude that even though that bomb blew open a large hole in the wall of the fuselage, the pilot was still able to land plane. one other thing i would mention is when you look at the will remnants of what we're seeing of isis in mosul and you look at the weapons factories that they have, they are not just building crude rockets anymore, wolf. they are building high-tech
explosives. they are using drones. they are trying to build their own planes. they have been fryitrying to bua self-driving car. all the resources and the brain power that they have is being funneled into efforts to come up with the next most deadly tactic that they can get their hands on. wolfle? >> the airport security systems, there are various degrees, some are pretty good and some are great and some not so good and that's the problem. >> and, okay, you know the achilles' heel in the system is what you need to worry about, the weak link in the chain. it does occur to me, wolf, if we're forcing all the devices into the baggage hold, many of them have the lithium ion batteries which is a huge fire risk and having them in the hold exposes the aircraft to another kind of ring. the other point that evan brought out that would be difficult to detonate is in the hold, pan am flight 103 is what i would offer you as counterpoint of that, december of 1988.
that was a bomb in the hold of a 747 that blew up over lockerbie, scotland and it was on a timing device so you don't have to be beside a bomb to detonate it so i wonder if this is such a great concern the proper security response probably should be don't put them on the plane whatsoever. i can't imagine that happening in this day and age. >> that's not going to happen, completely eliminate ipads or laptops. >> right. >> but there's no doubt, peter bergen, and you've studied this for a long time, they are deeply concerned right now, all the counter-terror experts, that al shabaab and isis and aqap are developing this new technology. >> the chief bomb-maker of al qaeda in yemen has been building these kinds of devices for many years, and the concern amongst counterterrorism officials is his knowledge has been propagated to a lot of other people so it's not simple police isis as clarissa was talking about, al qaeda in yemen and in other places, and -- and,
unfortunately, you know, we've seen with the threat at airports, this is the weakest link. have 100 countries sending flights to the united states. some of them have excellent security and some of them don't. >> and we know, wolf, that there are places on the internet where some of these bomb-makers are trying to share their knowledge. they are trying to export some of that knowledge to other people, to other terrorist groups for next act reason, because they know, for instance, that the device that was used in shabaab -- by shabaab in the cimol somalia aircraft, they removed the dvd drive and put explosives there and they had an airport employee working for shabaab who helped get it through security systems, again, that points to another weakness in the system which is the infiltration of airport personnel, and those another reason why they were particularly concerned about these airports that they -- that they named in the electronics ban. >> the ones in africa and the middle east because they were
afraid that people who work at the airport could smuggle a bomb on a plane, is that what you're saying? >> there is a deep concern that beyond just the sophistications of the devices that they have, some of these are very wealthy countries that have some of the late equipment but there's also a concern about the insider threat at these airports. >> phil mudd, how does the intelligence community, the law enforcement community track these kinds of terror developments? >> there's two ways you track them. one is pretty basic and pete hit the nail on the head. there are very few bomb-makers who can do this. we're not that you can begun an unsophisticated explosive device that you put in the middle of the road to blow up a car. there's very few people that can do this, so there's people in the intelligence community trying to develop the precise intelligence to identify the people so the u.s. military or the intelligence community can kill them. there's a broader question and this is going to go back to a conversation i suspect that will happen in the coming days and that is what the trump administration's policy on eliminating the space in yemen
and syria in which case these people can operate? you've seen the operation talk about bombing campaigns so that you can take out the ability of a group like isis or al qaeda to develop the capability of people to train to do this. one last word. there's a downside to that before you step in and say why don't we bomb a martyr. as soon as you do, and we've done this the past couple of weeks, more women and children die and that's the balance we'll have to face in the coming weeks. >> this has been the goal, peter, for a long time. aqap have had articles on the website on how to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom and presumably if they develop this capability to put a bomb in a laptop and make it looks like a real laptop they can as ball it anywhere, not just in africa or me. flights from europe or asia or anywhere to the united states potentially could have that kind of a bomb. >> yearnings and as we've seen with the metro jet attack, that killed 224 people, you know. the yield, unfortunately, from one of these attacks if that is
successful is very large, much more than attack like in paris which killed 130 people or the attack in orlando so that's why this remains the holy grail of the terrorist groups. it's a volume of potential attacks -- of victims and then, of course, you know, the threat to -- the global aviation system is kind of the life livent global economy. >> and clarissa, you've done a lot of work in this area. there's, unfortunately, no shortage of individuals who will volunteer to go out on a suicide mission like this. they are true believers. in fact, you have a documentary on this that's going to be airing later tonight, but talk a little bit about these individuals that are ready to not just blow up a plane but blow themselves up in the process. >> i think, bomb, traditionally we have thought of these suicide bombers or would-be suicide bombers and -- and recruits to these extremist terrorist groups as being foreign, as being from other countries, and speaking different languages and having different sounding names. those days are over, wolf.
through its incredibly strong propaganda campaign, through this kind of shift of the caliphate from a physical territory in syria and iraq to kind of a virtual digital caliphate online, groups like isis and damage in syria, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula are now able to recruit actively here in the west, and the ideology is soy is du seductivee young minds that it creates a scenario whereby some people, and i say some, because not all recruits go through with it, are very much willing not just to murder many other people but to kill themselves. this is no longer some foreign distant external threat. the problem now exists within our own societies, wolf. >> richard quest, you've traveled all over the world and have studied airport security all over the world. is it fair to say security at u.s. airports, airports here in north america and europe are
better able to deal with this threat than airports in the middle east or africa or asia? >> yes, i think that is a fair generallizati generalization and i've been at airports in southeast asia as well which have very high levels. it's not just the machine at the airport or the man or woman behind the counter. it is as all the speakers here tonight, all my colleagues, it's multi-layered intelligence, so you've got an idea of who is going through the airport, who is boarding the plane, who is doing the security checks, what machines are being use and have the machines been tampered and what's the airline security itself like, and when you do start talking about european airports at u.s. airports, north american in some parts of asia and australia you are talking about a higher level of integrated intelligence and security and that's what is skrushl here. i mean, you've talked about the
significance of getting a bomb on a plane and as one of us was saying, pan am flight 103 all those years ago and then you move to 9/11 and you move to somalia and you move to metrojet, you see that this is -- you know, it's an awful way to put it, but for those who wish us ill this is the big prize because the level of damage, destruction and carnage is so huge as a result. and i say this without any -- without any, you know, pleasure or whatever because i'm tomorrow morning getting on a plane flying from the uk to the u.s., so every one of us has this vested interest. and how do you balance, wolf, how do you balance the need to have effective, efficient security at the same time as to ensure that you don't bring the global aviation market to an absolute halt and that's the ch challenge. >> miles o'brien, you've studied
airport security for a long time. >> the back door of the airport is something to look at. while we're surrendering water bottles and taking off our shoes the back door is not as secure. there's people working around the planes, with access to the planes, we've seen drug-running operations out of hartsfield-jackson airport, it's a vulnerability that needs to be address. >> how are the jihadi and terrorist circles reacting? there's been developments over the past year or two expressing fear about this, but now it looks like it's getting to a critically dangerous new level. >> agreed. i want to pick up on what miles said. we've had in the united states people who are self-recruited to isis working at minneapolis airport. we've had people working at los angeles international airport who are part of a self-described al qaeda cell, so this is a real issue, and, of course, it's an issue in lots of other places around the world.
the heathrow airport, a number of al qaeda sympathizers being arrested, so to me this is the key which is the insider threat is not something that -- you've got hundreds of thousands of people working in airports around the world. vetting these people is not that easy, the volume. >> i want to bring in republican congressman lei zeldin of new york, a member of the northern affairs committee and iraq war veteran, also introduced the counterterrorism screening and assistant act of 2016. first of all, react to this new threat. how troubling is it, congressman, that isis and other terrorist organizations, aqap, al shabaab are thought to have increasingly a sophisticated bomb-making capability that could evade airport security? >> deep lip troubling. it is clear that they have this technology as it exists right now, so here in the united states where we are used to seeing cameras, the lasers
multi-laser, explosive detection technology and preventing access of personnel to cargo where it should unauthorized, on so many different levels you've discussed we're so far ahead in both the united states and europe, but what happens in other parts of the world is that you have a lower standard for boarders screens and the flights where it's the last departure before coming to the united states and it happens to be regions of the world where we have the greatest threat to us. as we saw with al shabaab, the advance ibrahim al asiri, aqap, going to other terrorist groups, it's an advancement that's real. we have northern airports where their boarder screening, screening coming into the airport is nothing like what we're used to here. the threat is absolutely real now, and we have leverage that the counterterrorism screening assistance act which passed the
house, just reintroduced into the house and about to be introduced in the senate, will increase the boarder security standards all across the world but also at airports. we have supplies that are in surplus that we should be use. shouldn't in a warehouse, provide them to our countries and leverage our foireign aid. we're looking at completely different standards from one, almost subjectively from our own security analysis and we should have one standard from one country to the next so we can identify high risk and medium and low risk security countries. >> what else needs to be done? is the security system capable of dealing with this new terror threat? >> here in the united states we
can continue to have the latest advancements to be able to deal with this. unfortunately, what we're seeing in the other countries, you know, i talked about the latest multi-vision x-rays, that was an advancement from a single vision and now you're able to look at the laptop from multiple levels. you're able to detect that human who is looking at the machine and the machine itself here in the united states and in europe and in some other countries has the ability to look at that laptop a little bit deeper and to detect the threat, but it is multi-level. it is the latest ability to have explosive trace detection. it's the latest -- you know, it's having the bomb detection dogs but having the best training for the personnel and the best cameras and having the best intel, so, unfortunately, where the risk is coming, from the highest risk of the terror groups in the middle east and africa, unfortunately, are the same exact countries where you have the biggest vulnerabilities. >> and what happens if the laptop is in checked luggage and is down in the cargo hold? how much of a problem potentially is that?
>> well, it's -- it is a problem. as one of our guests just noted, you know, with the al shabaab attack just over a year ago the individual who is detonating the explosive device, they picked a very specific location on the plane to -- to detonate. additionally, timing was a factor. one of the reasons why the plane was able to land was that the plane hadn't yet reached cruising altitude, so if you have a checked explosive device, you don't know where that explosive device is going to be placed on the plane, and you also have a lot less control on when it's going to detonate, so it is a very valid point that it is an enhanced security feature to ensure that an individual is not able to take a device on to the plane with them where they have the ability to place it on the plane where they want and detonate when they want to detonate. >> congressman, stand by. we'll have much more on the breaking news. we're also following multiple breaking stories of the russian
interference in the u.s. presidential election and the trump campaign claims of improper surveillance. president trump calls on his fired national security adviser to skiingmmunity and tell investigators what he knows and also breaking today, the top democrat of the house intelligence committee goes to the white house to review classified information that may have an impact on this investigation. the following ad for your viewing convenience. so i just switched to geico. what took you so long? i know, i saved a ton of money on car insurance. that's what i'm talking about! geico also gives you 24/7 access to licensed agents! booooyah. good game, you really crushed it. no son, geico crushed it. ♪ ♪
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also breaking tonight, a stunning request for immunity for prosecution by fired national security adviser michael flynn, a move back now by the president. let's go live to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. this is all playing out as a top democrat gets a look at some classified material over at the
white house. >> that's right, wolf. we should point out the ranking democrat on the intelligence committee adam schiff has been visiting the white house to review materials offered up by the trump administration to back up the president's claims that he was wiretapped by former president obama and we should point out in the last hour we've seen adam schiff go back and fourth from theines hour executive building into the west wedge and into the eeob and then back into the west wing and the white house has an eye on the former member of the administration, the ousted national security adviser michael flynn who, as you said, wants immunity before telling what he knows. >> any comment on michael flynn, in president? >> reporter: president trump bight his tongue on former national security adviser michael flynn's request for immunity before testifying on questions about campaign contacts with the russians. flynn's attorney explained his client's position in a statement. general flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it should the
circumstances permit. is the white house concerned that general flynn has damaging information about the president, his aides, his associates about what occurred during the campaign with respect to russia? >> nope. >> reporter: white house press secretary zane spicer said the president is encouraging flynn to testify, even though the retired general once misled the administration about his contacts with the russian ambassador. spicer tried to make the case is the real story is the president's allegations, that mr. trump and his team were unlawfully surveilled. >> it sounds like you are just is like the president is alleging that the obama administration conducted unlawful surveillance on the trump campaign and trump transition team. >>ation said in the statement, i believe what has been provided and will be provided to members of both committees i think should further their investigation. >> reporter: but the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee adam schiff who was invited to review materials at the white house said insisted flynn's
appropriate value is significant saying we should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous ste it is for a former national security adviser to the president of the united states to ask for immunity from prosecution. the president is backing flynn's ask for immunity saying in a tweet this is a witch-hunt, excuse for big election loss by media an der media and dems of historic proportion. >> i don't think it's a witch-hunt but it's obvious to me why general flynn is out there now wanting to say he wants immunity. >> reporter: the immunity request could interfere with an fbi investigation. >> there's no way that immunity is going to be granted and it would be granted by the department of justice if and only if it provided a bigger fish. >> lock her up! >> reporter: then there's the question of hypocrisy. during the campaign when legal questions were aimed at hillary clinton. >> when you are given immunity
that probably means you've committed a crime. >> reporter: and then trump moktd idea of immunity from prosecution. >> if you're not guilt of a crime what do you need immunity for, right? >> reporter: now the fbi and the senate intelligence committee both appear to be rejecting the idea providing immunity to michael flynn. the white house would not weigh in hon whether flynn should testify even if his request for immunity is not granted. white house press secretary today sean spicer said that's between flynn and his lawyer. >> jim acosta at the white house, thank you. the top democrat at the white house intelligence committee, he's over to review after a pair of white house officials helped the republican chairman of the committee get an advanced look at secret information. let's bring in cnn's jessica schneider. what's the latest. >> reporter: congressman adam schiff says he's reserving judgment on all these documents and issued a length statement saying it isn't possible to fully understand what he's reviewing because he doesn't have the appropriate agency represent tips with him. congressman schiff now wants the
full committees to review the information and wants to see if these are the same documents provided to committee chairman devin nunes. >> reporter: as the ranking member arrived at the white house to examine documents the trump administration pushed back against concerns it coordinated with the house intelligence committee. >> it's not in our interest to talk about the process. what occurred between chairman nunes and coming here was both routine and proper >> reporter: administration continues to deflect questions about whether it provided the documents devin nunes said revealed the incidental collection of communications by president trump and his staff? >> the unmasking and leaks is what we should a be concerned about. it affects all americans, our liberties, our freedom, our civil liberties. >> reporter: but ranking member adam schiff questioned the timing of this letter from the white house inviting the committee to view documents the national security council discovered in the ordinary course of business. the letter was sent on the same
day the "new york times" identified white house officials who allegedly provided nunes with intelligence reports during his secret visit to the white house grounds. >> the timing certainly looks fortuitous, and -- and probably more than fortuitous. >> reporter: it is unclear if the information now available to schiff was the same nunes saw. nunes has repeatedly declared it was a whistleblower who provided the documents. >> we invite whistleblowers to come forward. in fact, we've had many people come forward to the committee in recent weeks. >> by holding the meeting on the white house grounds, it makes it appear that someone in the administration was coordinating the release of this information to you. is that not the case? >> no, that's not the case. in fact, i'm quite sure that people in the west wing had no idea that i was there. >> reporter: schiff is taking issue with nunes' characterization of his source. >> to me this looks like -- nothing like had a whistleblower case, and -- and, again, i think the white house needs to answer is instead this a case where
they wish to effectively launder information through our committee to avoid the true source of the information? that question the white house really needs to answer. >> reporter: nunes has gone back to california and his spokesman reiterated today as he sted many times chairman nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source's identity. nancy pelosi is calling nunes' actions bizarre and no doubt that the white house set nunes up for political purposes. >> of course, he was duped. that's the most innocent, most benign characterization that he what is duped, but he should have known better. i mean, you're the chairman of the commity. >> despite repeated calls for recusal speaker paul ryan is still standing by chairman nunes. >> i want the house committee to have a full and thorough and bipartisan investigation, get everything out there and follow facts wherever they go and get to the truth. that's going to take some time,
and i'm confident that they are going to do that >> reporter: house intelligence committee is now looking to get back on track. chairman nunes and congressman schiff met face to face, and now they are working on compiling witness lists and setting up a closed hearing with fbi director james comey and nsa director mike rogers, and congressman schiff says he's waiting to find out when they can reschedule that open hearing featuring former acting attorney general sally yates. >> jessica schneider reporting for us. let's bring in our political exports. gloria, let me play you the two little clips, president then the candidate and michael flynn talking about immunity. >> if you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for, right? >> when you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime. >> but now he's seeking immunity in order to testify before congress or meet with the fbi. >> what a difference six months makes, wolf. look, i -- i think that it's
standard for anyone who is a potential target of an investigation to seek immunity, period. having said that, the question has to be raised about why general flynn is doing this and why his attorney would say we have a story to tell. it's clear they are trying to sort of tantalize the committees as well as the fbi, but as we reported today the fbi doesn't seem interested at this point and neither -- and neither do the committees because normally you would do this if -- if flynn could lead you to a bigger fish, and so i think he's trying to protect himself. that is not shocking. the question is what else he'd be able to offer to them, and we don't know, and iteems to me that the committees don't think much. >> and you've been doing reporting on this, rebecca, as well. the expectation is he's not about to get immunity. >> right, and it is in part
because he might be the big fish. he might be the one that they want to catch with this investigation, the fbi investigation or the senate intelligence committee. but it's also very early in the process, especially when you look at the congressial side of this equation. they are just beginning to interview witnesses and compile documents so they don't necessarily know where this is going and offering flynn at this stage would be a little bit presumptuous and limit their options later on. >> i want to get david axelrod into this. you worked at the white house and understand the procedures that go on in any white house. when the housing intelligence committee chairman devin nunes said to me earlier in the week he didn't meet with the president or with white house officials. his visit there was not coordinated with anyone in the west wing. now we know that two white house officials, at least two white house officials did coordinate that visit there, what -- what's your reaction when you hear that? >> well, first of all, when -- when sean spicer said in the -- in jessica's piece that it's not in our interest to talk about
the process, truer words were never spoken because the process obviously implicates chairman nunes, but i wasn't terribly surprised by the revelation because once it was learned that he was on the white house grounds the day before he made his breathless announcement on the white house lawn it seemed prelt apparent that folks at the white house may have been his source. what is kind of stunning to me is that the speaker reports that nunes told him that he was contacted by a whistleblower. it sounds more like he was whistled down to the white house and given a political chore by the administration. this creates huge problems in terms of credibility moving forward, and it's going to be pretty hard to repair his credibility as chairman of this committee. >> well, let me get phil mudd into this. you didn't only work at the krairks you worked at the fbi. at one point you were detailed over to the white house national
security council staff. when you hear that the former national security advisers, and he was only there for a few weeks, michael flynn is now seeking immunity from prosecution, what does that say to you? >> i think it's laughable. look, the question the american people should have is are we eventually going to learn the truth about what happened in our elections and whether there's any involvement about people involved in the republican campaign? the right avenue to learn that right now is the fbi. they have the right to not only investigate people, but unlike the senate investigation, they can walk across the street to the department of justice and say we've got to the prosecute someone. why would they give up that right on michael flynn right now? let's say they decide in two months they don't want to prosecute. they can then go to the senate committee and say we don't care anymore. you can give him i mufnlt i thi -- give him immunity. i think this is a claim to claim he's a victim of the media when in fact he had to quit because heied to his boss about his
connections to russians. do you agree, david? >> yeah, i think it's posturing, and i think the president's tweet is the posturing. the strategy of the swhous to cast this whole probe as a politically motivated exercise, and flynn's lawyer has picked up on this theme here, but clearly they have concerns about his -- his status relative to the investigation that the fbi is conducting, and that's what motivated the proffer. >> in that tweet today, gloria, the president called it a witch-hunt. that's smearing the fbi investigation and the house and senate investigations. >> it's not a witch-hunt. >> and the white house called on all these individuals go ahead, testify. >> it's a serious investigation and whether our elections were influenced by the russians, and today what was stunning to me about sean spicer's briefing, he was asked a question, which is more important, finding about whether the russians hacked into our elections or talking about
the leak issue, and he kind of equated them and said sure, sure, it's more -- sure, it's northern, you know, to find out about the russians but it's also real important to find out about these leaks. it is important to find out about these lyrics but would i argue that finding out about whether the russians were hacking in to our elections is a very, very large issue for this country. dick cheney said if it's true, it's an act of war. that's dick cheney. >> yeah, and there's no doubt that they can do all this. all the u.s. intelligence agencies already agreement the question is -- >> collusion. >> what are the lessons learned from this and whether there was any collusion. you're absolutely right. everybody stick with us. an important note to all of our viewers. be sure to tune into cnn tomorrow night for the television premiere of "the axe files" with david axelrod. his special guest, senator john mccain. you can see it saturday night 9:00 p.m. eastern right here hon cnn. coming up, much more on this
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at a new cnn documentary, international correspondent clarissa ward takes a unique look at isis, speaking from a young man from belgium who joined the terror group and then returned home. watch this. >> reporter: were you aware of the behavior of some of your other sharia for belgium colleagues who were bragging to their friends at home about shooting people in the face and cutting people's heads off? >> they are young people. >> meaning? >> who wouldn't. >> who wouldn't brag about cutting someone's head off? >> yeah. it is not the right thing to do, of course. but if you're doing something like that or you are executing somebody or killing someone on the battlefield, keep it for yourself and you afor allah because you are doing it for him. >> reporter: what were they doing cutting people's heads off in the first place? or shooting people in the face? >> you have to ask them. i am not responsible for what
they do. >> joining us now, clarissa, tell us a bit more about this special tonight. >> well, wolf, what is remarkable about this story and about spending time with this young man is that he really provides viewers with an unfiltered sort of glimpse of the mentality of a young western isis jihadi and perhaps some of our viewers don't know this but thousands and thousands of europeans have traveled to syria and iraq to join isis. and the problem that authorities are facing is what do you do with them when you come back home? who do you know who poisees a genuine threat and who has sn the error of their ways aeb wants to get on with their lives. have you this unique situation with people like eunice who say, listen, i never killed anybody and i never would and i don't consider myself to be a violent
person. but i still support isis. i still support their violent ideology, after the paris attacks, my prayers are with the attackers and be with the victims. what do you do with someone like that, wolf? you can't criminalize and ideology. you can't put someone in prison for having offensive beliefs. how do authorities know who is simply a radical extremist type and who might be the next ticking time bomb? >> we have heard the stories over and over again. young men going to fight with isis, then coming back to hire home countries. are europe and u.s. making the necessity for recruitment? >> i think they are are making progress. i think the u.s. was ahead of the curve from europe and i think that europe particularly countries like belgium have kind of been scrambling in the aftermath of some of these brutal takes that we have seen from isis returnees.
they are now scrambling to staunch the believeding so to speak. there was an attitude when a lot of extremists left in france and european countries that maybe it is better to get rid of them but now when they come back it is real, because suddenly the penny the dropping and people are understanding they are possibly coming back toil cuss, wolf. >> cla ras yais ward thanks so much. once again, can you watch the cnn special report isis behind the mask airs later tonight, 10:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. coming up, breaking news, cnn exclusive. the u.s. government now concerned terrorists are designing new laptop bombs that are capable of evading airport security screening and can even be turned on to make them look real. what if we could bring you better value
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happening now. breaking news. new terror threat. laptop bombs being developed to get through airport security without detection to terrorists. finding new ways it make these explosives seem like everyday electronic devices. explosive testing, terrorists could be testing their new bombs on screening devices that may have stolen from airports. how should the u.s. and its allies now respond? a story to tell. when michael flynn implicate the president if he testifies about the trump camp's