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tv   CNN Tonight With Don Lemon  CNN  February 13, 2017 11:00pm-12:01am PST

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this is cnn breaking news. >> hello. thanks so much for joining us on cnn newsroom. i'm hannah vaughn jones coming to you live from landon. >> and i'm michael holmes. the breaking news this hour. an embarrassing shakeup at the white house, less than a month into donald trump's presidency. michael flynn has resigned. flynn, under fire for his contacts with russia's u.s. ambassador before president trump took office. a number of sources said flynn inappropriatelyties cussed
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sanctions imposed by the obama administration. and the justice department had warned the white house in january, that flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail by russia. >> let's head straight out to washington. cnn's senior white house correspondent, jim acosta, joins us. jim, i suppose his position had been untenable or growing that way. wasn't this sort of accusation of potential blackmail that was the turning point? or was it that he misled mike pence, the vice president? >> i think that revelation that the justice department had warned the trump administration a month ago, michael. that was certainly a turning point in all of this. i think also, this feeling inside the white house, that it just was unacceptable after the national security adviser, michael flynn, the former national security adviser, had misled intentionally or
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unintentionally, the vice president, mike pence, about whether he had contacts with the russian ambassador, that he discussed the russian sanctions that were handed down by the administration. he did not have the conversations about the sanctions. he did have the conversation. the big turning point earlier today, when kellyanne conway, the counselor to the president said, the president had full confidence in michael flynn. and within an hour of that, the press secretary, sean spicer, brought reporters into his office, and said, no, that was not the case. the president was evaluating the situation. evaluating michael flynn's future. i heard later in the evening, just a few hours ago, that really, his status was a, quote, gray area. michael, as you know, from observing what happens in washington, once a top administration official gets to that point, when the president
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cannot express he has full confidence in that individual, it's pretty difficult to walk in a back. and for that person to once again have the confidence of the president. and so, it did become an untenable situation. they're starting to talk about the possible replacement for michael flynn, keith kellogg, the retired general. he had been working in the national security council office. he will be the acting national security adviser. but david petraeus, the retired general, is the front-runner for the job. he was involved in the obama administration. was a top official in the obama administration but resigned from that position because he shared classified secrets with his mistress. and another retired admiral, bob harward is under consideration for the title of national security adviser. it will probably take several
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days. but what we're hearing from the trump white house this evening is that the president has moved on from all of this. that general flynn did not get fired. he resipped, according to senior administration officials. president trump tried to hang in there as long as he could, we're told. but eventually, what you saw tonight, simply became, as you said, an untenable situation. >> i'm wondering how much, now, is going the focus on who knew what and when did they know it? >> it was interesting that the president, just on friday, on air force one, said he hadn't heard the reports about michael flynn. but the justice department warning was last month. starts to make you wonder, how would he not have known? and who knew about the substance of the conversations and when? >> it's very strange. you know, i don't know why the
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president came on air force one and told reporters that on friday, that he had not even heard about the story. we were assured by administration officials over the weekend, that the president did know about all this. meanwhile, all the while, michael, michael flynn was involved with, you know, the dealings of the white house, in terms of national security business. he traveled down to florida, down to mar-a-lago, with president trump, when he was having the diplomatic golf outing, with the japanese prime minister shinzo abe. he was involved on the conversation that spilled on the patio of mar-a-lago, dealing with the north korea missile launch. and today, he was involved in the presidential daily intelligence briefing. he was involved in the meetings with justin trudeau from canada here today. he was involved in all of these normal activities, affairs that
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you would normally associate with a national security adviser, until this afternoon, when things started to unravel. when you had the counselor to the president, kellyanne conway, say he had the full confidence of the president. and after that moment, it seemed it all went downhill. and you had top administration officials telling us, maybe he didn't have the full confidence of the president. and by 11:00 at night, it was all over. >> yeah. it started to unravel. going to be a lively press briefing tomorrow. and if reporters like your good self are allowed to ask questions, should be interesting. jim acosta, great reporting. thanks so much. >> thank you. now, to moscow and matthew chance standing by. russian involved, with this fallout from michael flynn's resignation.
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how concerned will the kremlin be with his resignation, the manner he's gone and whatever is likely to replace him in this role? >> it's embarrassing for the kremlin, in the sense they have repeatedly, in the past few minutes, when i've spoken to them, denied there were conversations about the possibility of alleviating sanctions between michael flynn and their ambassador to the united states, survey kislyak. they are not going to comment on that. it's an internal u.s. matter, they say. not prepared to discuss it. it's astonishing, really, they've gone out on a limb, to really follow the white house denials. that any conversations about sanctions took place. those denails appear to be unfounded. and the situations seems very different, which leaves the kremlin with some egg on its face. and i think it underlines to the
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kremlin the concerns they had all along, about the reliability of the trump administration. concerns about what messages they're getting from that administration. how they should play this unusual administration in the united states. obviously this, is a liability. the sympathies towards russia is a liability for the administration. republicans and democrats, are gunning, essentially, for trump over this issue. and for those around him. michael flynn is the first victim of this. but what the concern is in russia, is that, you know, in order to ensure his political survivor, donald trump, who has been pro-russia in his stance, he was presenting building a better relationship. he can do a u-turn and become anti-russian to placate his congress and to ensure his political survival. that's the big concern at the
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moment. and flynn may be the start of this. one tweet from a senior russian lawmaker this morning, says it all. he says, the target is not flynn, but the relationship with russia. so, the concern is that flynn may be the -- michael flynn may be the first victim of this. but the broader battle in the united states, is being fought about on the issue of the nature of the relationship between the united states and russia. >> matthew chance live for us in moscow, with the kremlin's reaction to michael flynn's resignation. >> let's get perspective on this. we're joined by troy slaten, former prosecutor here in los angeles. ben ferguson in dallas. he's the host of "the ben ferguson show." and political commentator.
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do you think the resignation is the end of this? >> it will be partisan in nation. the democrats will come after the republicans on this issue. let's not forget the gop is the party of personal responsibility. michael flynn had a conversation with the russian ambassador. that's his fault. he misled the vice president. that's his fault. it will be difficult to blame all this on politics and not talk about the personal responsibility of michael flynn, who decided to put russia in front of america. hash tag america not first. >> ben ferguson, you're going to say it is going to come down to politics. there's going to be investigations. there's investigations into russia's involvement in the election. michael flynn, one imagines, is going to give up evidence at some point.
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officials leave administrations all the time. >> it's not good to have someone resign this quickly and over something like this. it fits the narrative of what democrats wanted to say about russian involvement in the elections. delegitimizing, as they tried to early on, with the free and fair election of donald trump winning this. this is going to fit that narrative. they're going to use this to their advantage going forward. the politics will help them raise money. it will help many of the candidates coming up with the midterms. they're going to try to drag this on as long as they possibly can because it's god for their business. look at the facts here. you had an individual who made a bad decision. not telling the truth to the vice president of america. the administration made it clear, if you lie you will be gone or be asked to resign. flynn got that message very clearly late this afternoon. and mike pence, obviously, upset with the fact he was misled by
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his national security adviser. from the white house standpoint, i think they're making it clear to their staffers, you better tell the truth and be honest. and if you're not, no one is untouchable. in a included flynn and anyone else beneath him. they have to move on quickly. democrats will do everything they can to make sure they don't. >> you would hope your national security adviser would be honest. troy slaten, let's talk about the legal here. the logan act, for those who don't know about it, would it apply here? it's never been used before. is there any legal ramifications here? or do you think that michael flynn needs a lawyer for one of those hearings? >> it appears that general flynn did violate the logan act. it's an obscure law, put in place in 1799, that basically says that anyone who is not asked to, by the government, that is not an official of the government, that engages in
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negotiations on behalf of the u.s. government, violates the law. it's a felony. like you stated, it's never been prosecuted. and i don't think that's the reason why he resigned here. it wasn't for fear of prosecution. he was an experienced intelligence official. he had to know that ambassador kislyak's communications were being monitored by the nsa. that's why acting attorney general, sally yates, came to the white house counsel's office, at the end of january, and advised the trump white house counsel that general flynn may be compromised. he was subject to blackmail. and i think that it was the cover-up, not the crime, that is the problem. >> and timing is curious about this. donald trump an friday, said he
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didn't know about the flames against michael kelly. but the department of justice last month, brought this issue, and the fear that blackmail could be used against general flynn. how did the president not know? who knew what and did general kelly act alone? did he tell anyone he was going have the conversations? >> those are sensible questions. those are reasonable questions. but this president doesn't put a lot of stock and time and time in intelligence briefings. it is plausible deniability here. it goes into questions against our own intelligence community. what goes around has seemingly come back around. and the intelligence community has taken a bite out of the trump administration and taken out one cabinet official. >> ben, your thoughts on that. and also, the general concern
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that persists that donald trump is tough on some of his alies but not on russia. >> you're seeing early on, donald trump made a strategic decision not to make a war of words with vladimir putin for russia. i don't think there's anything wrong with a president coming in and see if they can get along or maybe have a better relationship with a country. i don't think you should come in having a strained relationship with russia. it's okay to have a conversation. this situation is not going to make that situation any better. i think it's pretty clear the white house is going to -- it's probably going to be a little tougher with russia on the issue. but let's go back to something else that was said a moment ago. there's no indication that flynn did anything but lie to someone in his own administration, the united states of america. if people try to stretch here, and make it bigger than it is,
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that an individual did not tell the truth to the vice president that cost him his job, and put the vice president in a bad situation, as well, they will get themselves in some trouble here, as well. if you make this bigger than it actually is. three weeks in, a big deal that someone resigned. he didn't tell the truth. and that should cost your job in this administration. it appears he had a conversation with the russian ambassador before the trump administration was in the white house, about sanctions. it was the day before the obama administration kicked out 30 russian diplomats. and the russians, uncharacteristically did nothing to retaliate. don't you think it's about more than just not telling mike pence the truth? >> it cost him his job, the fact he wasn't honest about it. if he would say, hey, look, i was trying to have conversations with countries all over the world, which is normal in this situation, with diplomats around
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the world. that's normal for a smooth transition, especially with national security advisers. when this part of the conversation came up, which it did, he should have disclosed that to the president and vice president of the united states of america. he should have realized him having a problem. and he's trying to cover a rear-end with a job he wanted. his legacy is going to be this moment in time. he will not be remembered for the positive things he's done. he resigned in three weeks, it made the trump administration look bad. made the vice president look bad. it ruined his career, you can make the argument. outside after that, to imply there's a bigger issue or a bigger story, i don't see that. >> no, do you think it's a bigger story here? or is it about general kelly telling a lie to the vice president? >> ben said it all. he ran down the litany of issues of why this is a big deal. you're talking about the nsa,
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the national security adviser having to resign within three weeks because he lied to his administration about communications with an adversarial government. all this is very important. it is a big deal. >> quickly, troy, what other legal ramifications are in play here? >> well, there are going to be investigations, as to who knew what and when. and did this go all the way up to donald trump, the president of the united states? >> all right, troy. thanks so much. troy slaten. ben ferguson. political xhen kacommentatocomm. thanks. discussions will come on, throughout the morning. live in london. just coming up to 20 past 7:00. turmoil at the white house.
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national security adviser michael flynn resigns after less than a month on the job. still ahead, we ask a cnn military analyst for his take. plus, president trump criticized for his take on the north korea missile launch. we'll the right back. severe plaque psoriasis isn't it time to let the real you shine through? introducing otezla, apremilast. otezla is not an injection, or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. some people who took otezla saw 75% clearer skin after 4 months. and otezla's prescribing information has no requirement for routine lab monitoring. don't take otezla if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. otezla may increase the risk of depression. tell your doctor if you have a history of depression or suicidal thoughts, or if these feelings develop. some people taking otezla reported weight loss.
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breaking news out of washington this hour. u.s. president donald trump is looking for a new security adviser. michael flynn resigned on monday. flynn says he inadvertently briefed the vice president, mike pence, and others, with incomplete information about his conversations with russia's u.s. ambassador. sources say that flynn inappropriately discussed u.s. sanctions on moscow. to dealings with other foreign nations. and mr. trump has not said how he will deal with north korea's missile launch since he became president. security council more condemnations that have done little to stop the leader, kim
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jong-un. and u.s. officials believe the north has improved its missile technology, requiring less time to refuel, which makes it harder to detect any possible launch upcoming. our matt rivers joins us from seoul, south korea, just south of the peninsula, from pyongyang. let's talk about donald trump and how he responded. some criticizing that it was a slow reaction and showing some early signs of his inexperience in these affairs. >> yeah. people are giving that argument, especially that night, when this first came out. people are saying when he gave that very, very short statement with prime minister abe of japan, he should have mentioned north korea. maybethen, it was during his press conference, with canadian prime minister, justin trudeau, he brought it up and said he would deal with it strongly but gave no specifics. people are saying he should have
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a more specific outlined plan here. the fact of the matter is, this administration is very new. they're probably formulating the north korea strategy the and others would argue that his response was measured. this is only an intermediate-range missile. this is something that north korea has done many times before. each time there was a missile test, there was 24 in 2016, you didn't see president obama making a statement every time. two sides of the coin here, when it comes to how president trump should have responded. >> briefly. north korea, claiming this missile test was a success. can we quantify that success in any way, and find out what progress pyongyang has made? >> the success here is in the progress they made. you mentioned it off the top. they have changed other their fuel, from liquid fuel to solid fuel. that allows the missile to be launched much faster. and this missile is mobile. it's on the back of a track. you can side that truck and when
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you want to launch it, you drive it out, find a spot and up the missile goes. between those things, the solid fuel and the mobility this rocket appears to have. u.s. defense officials say, no matter how far it traveled, the north koreas appear to be making progress in their weapons program. >> matt rivers live for us in seoul. stay with us on "cnn newsroom. it's coming up to half past 7:00. more on the resignation of donald trump's national security adviser. why it can be bad news for russia's relationship with the new u.s. president. ♪ ♪ only at&t offers you all your live channels and dvr on your devices. data-free.
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welcome back. let's get you up to speed on the breaking news out of washington. u.s. national security adviser, michael flynn, has stepped down. he has resigned less than a month into the job. a number of intelligence officials say flynn inappropriately discussed u.s. sanctions on russia before president trump took to the oval office. he denied the reports. and then, later, he said he couldn't recall what he had
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said. >> joining us now, rick francona. thanks for being with us again, sir. this job, national security adviser, give people a sense of how important this job is. >> this is the man what runs the national intelligence meetings. all of the meetings between the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, they're chaired by the national security adviser. he is a real -- he's the gate keeper to the president. anything important that goes to the president has anything to do with national security, goes through the national security adviser. it's a key position. it's one of the president's most trusted and closest confidants. >> given the role that michael flynn played and given his past experience, in the intelligence
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field, are you surprised that he would have a conversation with a russian ambassador that included sensitive information? would he not have thought that it might be taped? >> two questions there. i'm not surprised he had a conversation with the russian ambassador. i would expect that as the incoming national security adviser for a new administration. during that transition period, makes perfect sense he would contact various ambassadors, various officials in the embassies. it's what was the substance of the conversations? if he went into detail about the sanctions, if he made any kind of commitment whatsoever, that once president trump took office, that we would relook the sanctions, possibly looking to lift them, that's grossly inappropriate. and that would be grounds for dismissal. >> did you find it odd that president obama kicked out 30
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diplomats. russia uncharacteristically, did not respond in kind. and president trump said very smart move by vladimir putin. were you surprised how that unfolded? >> i was. you could make a cause and effect if you have a conspiracy theory. we don't know what was in that conversation. but throwing out 30, 35 diplomats, seemed like an overreaction. and for the russians not doing that, it looked like vladimir putin was taking the high road. he is not known for taking the high road. what was the substance of that conversation? hopefully we'll find out in the investigations what was said. and did flynn cross that line? >> just, finally, replacements, who leaps to your mind? general petraeus has been
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mentioned. kellogg, acting in that role now. >> petraeus, probably has the inside track. but he brings his own baggage. we're going to throw stones at general flynn for these indiscretions. yet, general petraeus pleaded guilty for a misdemeanor. the fallout, when talk about mrs. clinton's server that might have been hacked. he brings his own baggage with that. i don't know who he is going the pick. but mr. trump has chosen military officers. i would look in the military ranks for a successor. >> probably a safe bet. mick francona, thanks. russia has long denied any inappropriate discussion of sanctions with michael flynn, when he was imposed.
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i spoke with the moscow bureau chief, jill dougherty. and i asked how embarrassing this is for russia. >> in general terms, it is bad for them. their expectations that they would have a better relationship with donald trump, are relaxes for their eyes. and nobody here in the united states, let alone in moscow, knows where this is all going. and then, it also continues to raise, and raises it higher than ever. this issue of why the special relationship between donald trump and russia, vladimir putin, what is that relationship? and that would be bad for the relationship between russia and the united states. there would be more acrimony. congressional involvement in congress, which is unpredictable where that could go. it could be very rocky. i have to say, that the
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russians, in recent days, have been a bit more critical. a little more of a sense they were questioning exactly what he was doing. i believe they are looking at a certain level of incompetence, honestly, in this administration, that surprises them. when president putin and donald trump were talking about nuclear weapons, the arms control agreement, new start, it was clear in that conversation, according to media reports, that donald trump did not quite get it. he didn't understand what the agreement was about. and when president putin said, according to reports, we should extend it, because it is going to expire next year, trump said, it's a bad deal for the united states. it's a good deal for russia. in other words, we got a bad deal. that's not a good way to start off the relationship with a country that thought it was
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going to have a lot clearer sailing than it did with the obama administration. this is really, i think, bad news and very unpredictable bad news for russia. more bad news. "the washington post" report that michael flynn may be vulnerable to blackmail by russia. this is one of the main reasons why his position became untenable. how is the blackmail allegation going to play out in moscow. it casts more shade on russian dealings. >> it does. what would they black mail him on? you can blackmail him in the sense that he knew, that he was misleading the vice president. that doesn't seem very strong. i don't think that the russians would like to use that as a bargaining point. could there be something else? nobody at this point knows. we do know that general flynn
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did speak in moscow. and was at that r.t., russian broadcasting dinner, and has had relationships with the kremlin. we don't know all the e details. but there could be more. these are the things that, perhaps, you know, in the intelligence service of the united states, had more clarity on that. they could say there was compromising data that could be used for blackmailing general flynn. >> that was jill dougherty speaking to me in the last hour. steven mnuchin is the new treasury secretary. democrats organizing that
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welcome back. you're watching breaking news on cnn. we're less than a month, just three weeks, into donald trump's presidency. and already, a member of the white house inner circle has resigned. u.s. national security adviser, michael flynn, stepped down late on monday. he has been under fire for allegedly discussing u.s. sanctions, with russia, before
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president trump took office. the u.s. department of defense says it is ready to assist in operations of california's oroville dam, after damage to the spillways forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate as a precaution. engineers are optimistic they can contain the potential flooding. but more rain is on the way. meteorologist pedram javaheri has more on the situation. we were talking a little while ago about california's drought. now, they have all of the water and more to come. >> it's incredible. i always say, too much of a good thing quickly becomes a bad thing. that's what's happening in parts of california. from the south, 100% of normal in precipitation in the past 30 days to 300% of normal. that's how much rainfall and snow melt we've had in california. it's the highest dam in the united states. the second-largest reservoir.
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hundreds of billions of gallons of water. and has one-third of the water supply for the state's population. we know the damage across the main spillway. and why 200,000 people have been evacuated, if this damage continues, and they're trying to fix the situation, and water has to be brought down from the emergency spillway, and a significant amount, that will be an uncontrolled amount of water, that can be just as bad, if the emergency spillway fails. that would be just as bad if the dam were to fail. about 100 feet of water could come towards the town of oroville for one hour. that's why the town has been evacuated. they're trying to aleleviate th situation. showing the timing of the event. that could bring the water down. officials saying the threat for this is being minimized because
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they're allowing a lot of water to be expelled out of the main spillway and reducing the levels. there's a storm system on the horizon. a second storm comes in friday, through much of the weekend. and that could bring in not only heavy rainfall, high-elevation snowfall. you put this together, the water level is poised to rise again. that's why officials are trying to quickly bring the levels back down to a manageable state across this region. >> pedram, thanks very much. you are watching cnn newsroom. coming up to 8:00 on this tuesday morning. >> i'm michael holmes in los angeles, where it is nearly midnight. more news straight ahead, rite after the break. ♪
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this is cnn breaking news. >> welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm rosemary church in atlanta. >> i'm michael holmes in los angeles. thanks for your company. we're following the breaking news this hour, the resignation of national security adviser michael flynn. he stepped down on monday after allegations that he inappropriately discussed u.s. sanctions on moscow with russia's ambassador. and just monday, cnn learning


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