Return to Transcripts main page
AQAP Is Sharing Bombing Techniques; Flynn Seeks Immunity; Modest Expectations for U.S.-Russia Engagement; Protesters Set Fire to Paraguay's Congress; Schiff Reviews Controversial Intel at White House; Top U.S. Officials Meet with NATO Allies; E.U. Releases Guidelines for Brexit; Trump Moves Things; MS State Snaps UConn's Win Streak. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired April 1, 2017 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hiding explosives, U.S. intelligence officials believe terror groups may have improved on their bombmaking skills using everyday electronics to hide bombs. An exclusive report, ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): But now he's asking for immunity. And the lawyer former national security adviser Michael Flynn says his client has a story to tell.
HOWELL (voice-over): Violence on the streets, angry protesters in Paraguay's capital show their frustrations with that country's president.
ALLEN (voice-over): It's all ahead here in CNN NEWSROOM. For our viewers here in the United States and around the world, we're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. From CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: We begin with a CNN exclusive. U.S. intelligence officials believe ISIS and other terrorist groups have found new ways to hide bombs in laptops and other electronics.
HOWELL: They believe terrorists have been testing their abilities using stolen airport screening devices to figure out how to get concealed explosives onto planes without being detected.
CNN has also learned the intelligence on this helped prompt the U.S. recent ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of certain U.S.- bound flights from some airports in the Middle East and Africa.
ALLEN: For more on it, here is our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about the threat against aviation that they are seeing, not just from ISIS, but also al Qaeda in Syria and al Qaeda in Yemen.
(voice-over): U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies believe that ISIS and other terror groups have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that can fool airport security screenings. The concern is heightened because there is U.S. Intelligence suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how well the bombs are concealed.
CNN has learned this new intelligence once a significant part of a decision earlier this month to band laptops, tablets and other electronic devices from the passenger cabin of planes flying directly to the United States from ten Middle Eastern and North African airports. Demanding instead that they be stored in checked luggage.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Elevated intelligence that were aware of indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressive in pursuing innovative message to undertake their attacks to include smuggling of explosive devices with these various consumer objects.
STARR: Officials have told CNN there was credible and specific intelligence 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 is against the group.
LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: There's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa. Because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is a significant external operations attack planning.
STARR: Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen AQAP has for years been actively trying to target commercial airliners destined for the U.S. looking for ways to create bombs that contain little or no metal content to evade airport security measures, including hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic devices like laptops. And in February 2016, a wake-up call. When a laptop bomb, according to Somali authorities, was used to blow a hole in this 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 a space created by removing parts of the DVD drive.
The Transportation Security Administration gave CNN a statement noting that while they will not discuss specific intelligence, they continue to monitor all the threats that they see and that they will change security procedures as they see fit -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
HOWELL: Joining us now to talk more about this is Bob Baer, a CNN intelligence and security analyst.
It's always good to have you with us, Bob.
First of all, given the new information that we have, how significant is the risk?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: We're missing a lot of things in this report but I would say they're closer to being able to get on an airplane with a small amount of explosives or a chemical mix. And with one of these bombs placed in the right position and that would be against the skin of the airplane, against the fuselage, they're closer to being able to knock out an airplane.
HOWELL: This new information suggests that they're able, now, to use some of the screening equipment that's in airports.
Bob, I don't know if our viewers around the world know this but, you know, that was your job to build and test, to understand these bombs back, you know, during your time at the CIA. So explain to us the level of sophistication when using the exact equipment that we see in airports today.
BAER: Well, that's exactly it, George. I mean, they were very with good to begin with. These are engineers. There's a Saudi we know of named al-Siri who has got very well along to make airplane bombs but it's technology that really does go back 40 years.
And I've constructed these things, either with groups that have gotten past American security, TSA security. This is very doable. And we know that they've been testing these things, whether it's in Somalia, where a hole was blown in the fuselage but the plane was low enough that it didn't break up.
They also are understanding how to get accountable mixes on airplanes, which are very hard to detect. Even TSA equipment can't detect it because they don't admit nitrates.
And that's how they usually -- this airport equipment, they detect bombs, they pick up traces of nitrates when you go through a scanner. But I think this is a genuine threat and I think that they've imposed this ban on computers and iPads and the rest of it for very good reason.
And, frankly, this doesn't surprise me, you know, they're getting better at this and they're more determined, as well.
HOWELL: CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, thank you so much for your insight.
BAER: Thank you.
HOWELL: And there is a new twist in the investigations into Russia's alleged role in the 2016 U.S. election. A lawyer for the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, says he now wants immunity. He'll agree to testify provided that he's got a guarantee that he won't be prosecuted.
ALLEN: And in a tweet, the U.S. president, Donald Trump, appeared to encourage a Flynn immunity deal. But he later walked out of the room when a reporter pressed him on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. You're going to see some very, very strong results very, very quickly. Thank you very much.
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS HOST: Mr. President, with your tweet, were you trying to tell the Justice Department to grant immunity to Michael Flynn?
Is that your intention, Mr. President, sir?
Mr. President, was that your intention?
Was that your intention, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Flynn's conditional offer to testify doesn't appear to have any takers. Law enforcement sources tell CNN there's no indication the FBI wants to talk to him again or give him any kind of immunity. For more on this story, CNN's Jim Acosta reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any comment on Michael Flynn, Mr. President?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump biting 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."
ACOSTA: Is the White House concerned that General Flynn has damaging information about the president, his aides and associates, about what occurred during the campaign with respect to Russia?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: No. ACOSTA (voice-over): White House secretary Sean 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 the real story is the president's allegation that Mr. Trump and his team were unlawfully surveilled. But Spicer didn't offer any hard evidence.
ACOSTA: It sounds like you are, just as the president is alleging, that the Obama administration conducted unlawful surveillance on the Trump campaign and Trump transition team.
SPICER: As I said in the statement, I believe that we -- that what has been provided and will be provided to members of the Both committees, I think should further their investigation.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who was invited to review materials at the White House today, insisted Flynn's proposal is significant, saying, "We should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former national security advisor to the President of the United States --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- to ask for immunity from prosecution."
The president is backing Flynn's request for immunity, saying in a tweet, "This is a witch hunt, excuse for a big election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion."
But lawmakers from both parties are balking at providing immunity to Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R), UTAH, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No, I don't think it's a witch hunt. I'd like -- it's very mysterious to me, though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): The concern echoed time and again an immunity request could interfere with an FBI investigation.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIF., INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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.
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Lock her up.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Then there's the question of hypocrisy.
During the campaign, when legal questions were aimed at Hillary Clinton, both Flynn...
FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- and then Candidate Trump mocked the idea of immunity from prosecution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Joining now to talk more about this, CNN is going to go now to political reporter Silvia Borrelli in London.
It's good to have you with us.
Let's first start by talking about Flynn seeking immunity. We just heard a couple of these sound bites a moment ago in Jim Acosta's piece. The president appeared to encourage Flynn's immunity deal, the same president who, on the campaign trail, suggested that anyone seeking immunity must be guilty of a crime.
And I believe that Michael Flynn said the same thing as well.
How would you characterize the optics here?
Is this potentially harmful to this administration?
SILVIA BORRELLI, POLITICO: Well, it is definitely harmful. We're once again in a situation where we have more questions than answers, a president going about an ongoing investigation in a very unorthodox way, just tweeting away, saying he should be granted that immunity and testify and, you know, tell everyone what he knows about the alleged meddling of the Russians in the campaign.
But as you said and as we heard moments ago, they were the saying people, Flynn and Trump, saying if you ask for immunity, you're probably guilty of something.
So the question here is aside from the hypocrisy is why is Flynn's lawyer putting out such a public statement and asking for immunity for his client instead of going to the DOJ and perhaps sharing the information they have and agreeing to something a bit more privately to take this investigation forward?
But of course now Flynn is sort of alone although the White House and Sean Spicer yesterday said they're still behind him and they still think Flynn should get the story out there. But really, he's been fired, he's alone and he probably has some grievances. So this could take some very interesting twists. HOWELL: And you're right to point that out. It's important to point out the context there, that the press secretary, Sean Spicer, said when it comes to immunity, this is different, basically saying that this would be whatever he has to do to get that story out.
Let's talk about what is happening abroad on the other side of the pond. The president's secretaries of Defense and State are abroad; they're walking back many of the words that the president used to describe NATO and his description of improved relations with Russia, his hopes for that.
Is the tension between the West and Russia, now worse or better than it was with the previous administration, in your point of view?
BORRELLI: Well, I think it's definitely becoming (INAUDIBLE) because Russia and Vladimir Putin are hoping that (INAUDIBLE) selection things would have improved, especially considering Trump's statements on NATO being obsolete, on possibly recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea.
But now you've got both Tillerson and Mattis coming over here to Europe and saying they support NATO and basically U-turning from the president's earlier statements.
Plus, you have all this interest in the investigation going on in the U.S. about the meddling of the Russians in the campaign. So you've got the U.S. distancing itself from Russia and on the other hand coming back to Europe and saying we believe in NATO. We have to take this forward. It's not obsolete. Everyone has to contribute their military spending up to 2 percent to NATO and the alliance is still strong.
So definitely Russia is being pushed further away and probably this is not what Putin was hoping for when Trump got elected.
HOWELL: The other big stories we're following, obviously the many questions surrounding Chairman Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee, is there a sense that this investigation can be done fairly and thoroughly, given all the questions that are coming from this committee?
BORRELLI: You know, that's a very good question and I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that because it is very confusing. Nunes apparently got his information from the White House, then he went --
BORRELLI: -- to brief the press about it, then he went back to the White House to brief the president on what he actually had learned from the White House.
But he also said he never received that information from the White House. So it's completely confused.
And probably Democrats don't trust Nunes of being in a position to be impartial about this. And now apparently Adam Schiff has learned and has had access to the same documents Nunes reviewed at White House. But right now, it's still too early to tell but probably he is a little compromised right there.
HOWELL: Silvia Borrelli, live for us in London, thank you so much for your insight.
Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, protesters were outraged in Paraguay. They set the congress on fire there. We'll explain why they're so upset.
ALLEN: Also ahead here with, severe storms sweep across Virginia Beach on the U.S. East Coast, causing significant damage. We'll have pictures for you when we come back.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.
In the capital of Paraguay, protesters are angry. They set the country's congressional building on fire on Friday night.
ALLEN: This outrage is directed at the ruling party for trying to pass a law that would allow the current president to run for another term. Our Rafael Romo reports.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: The demonstrators stormed the congressional building and set it on fire. There were also clashes with police on streets surrounding the building. The violence stems from a decision by the ruling Colorado Party to create an alternative senate with the purpose of passing a law that would allow current president Horacio Cartes to seek re-election, which is forbidden under the current constitution.
A group of 25 senators started holding sessions Tuesday for that purpose. The 45-member senate requires a simple majority of 23 votes to pass legislation, meaning the rogue senators have two more votes than required.
Meanwhile, protesters indicated they will stop the violent demonstrations once they get a commitment from President Cartes that he will stop seeking re-election. In a statement issued late Friday, President Cartes said democracy is not attained through violence.
Paraguay lived under a dictatorship for 35 years, ending in 1989. Alfredo Stroessner, a Paraguayan military officer, took power after an armed coup in 1954 and ruled the country for the next 3.5 --
ROMO: -- decades -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: For more on this story, let's bring in journalist and historian, Laurence Blair, on the phone with us, live from Asuncion.
Laurence, good to have you again with us this hour. So one of your most recent tweets said that it looks like a war zone. You told us just last hour things have calmed down a bit. But you were concerned that protests could pick up again.
What's the situation there right now?
LAURENCE BLAIR, JOURNALIST: Yes. I think it's still quite early to say what's going to happen today. I think that -- I say, we, you know, right now, the time here is 5:20. I think as Paraguayans wake up this morning and take on board what happened last night, we could see a lot more anger.
I mentioned to you just now the death of a young -- of a member of the opposition party in the party headquarters. Seems it was at the hands of police a few hours ago. And I think that in particular will really put fuel on the fire of public outrage right now.
And I think a lot will depend upon how the opposition parties in particular the Liberal Party choose to manage this situation. I think if there's a degree of coordination, if the Liberal Party calls up its supporters and tries to create a sort of cohesive collective movement, then I think we could be seeing a very large protest today.
Of course, it's the weekend, which means a fair few more people are going to be available to actually come and join those protests, which I think we might see today. But just in the past two hours or so from downtown, things are fairly quiet right now and no signs as yet that protesters are beginning to pick up in this area again.
HOWELL: For our viewers in the U.S. and around the world who may want to follow your reporting, the Twitter handle is lablair1492. I've been reviewing the things that you've been reporting.
And you have this one quote that says, "Paraguayan politics, like life, comes at you fast."
Talk to me about the fact that there have been so many people who have been injured; the number of casualties still unknown. Help our viewers explain the sense of anger that people have with this young democracy, given this very delicate issue of re-election.
BLAIR: Yes. I mean, that tweet was referring to the fact that just 15-18 hours or so ago, the president was tweeting about a large investor conference which is happening this weekend in Asuncion, various presidents of central banks, investors, business types have come to Asuncion to really talk up the country and talk about how well in many ways it's doing.
And I think that's been the focus of the government. It's been really sort of trying to improve Paraguay's image to the rest of the world and it's done that very successfully. But I think the problem is that the government hasn't really explained and really gone out to try and convince the public that the amendment in favor of re-election is necessary.
There's been very little communication in the parts of the presidency in the past week. He's really been hunkered down in the presidential palace without actually coming out and saying, well, this is why we're trying to change the constitution. And there are arguments in favor of re-election.
And there are -- there's a degree of consensus that perhaps it might be a good thing to change the constitution to allow a re-election but if done through a more gradual, deliberate constitutional reform, rather than this quite quick amendment, which many Paraguayans appear to be trying to make a quick change without consulting anyone.
HOWELL: Again, so many protesters frustrated by that quick change, again, lighting the congressional building on fire.
Laurence Blair, with us on the phone from Asuncion, that nation's capital.
Laurence, thank you for your reporting. We'll stay in touch with you as we continue to monitor the situation there.
ALLEN: We turn now to Venezuela. Both the president and the country's national defense council are asking the Supreme Court to review a ruling that critics say amounts to a government coup d'etat.
The ruling would strip the opposition-led national assembly of its powers. But Nicolas Maduro vowed to step in after the attorney general slammed that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): As the head of state, invested with authority and constitutional power, this impasse will be resolved in the quickest and best way possible.
We will hand over to our people another constitutional victory through dialogue, through the heights of politics, through the heights of the state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Some are wondering whether --
ALLEN: -- Venezuela is moving to a dictatorship. This ruling has sparked violent clashes in the capital. As you know, they're having a lot of economic problems already in Venezuela and now this. But Mr. Maduro is calling for dialogue with the opposition.
HOWELL: Thank you very much. NEWSROOM will be right back after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:30:00]
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It is 5:31 on the U.S. East Coast in Atlanta, Georgia. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. It's good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories this hour.
HOWELL: On Friday, the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee was given access to the same documents that were shown earlier to the committee chairman, Devin Nunes. That, you'll remember, sparked a new controversy for the Trump administration.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty explains for us.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff shuttling to the White House today to review --
-- classified information offered up by the White House, an invitation extended by the White House sent in this letter to the intelligence committees Thursday.
But it's not clear if Schiff will be looking at the same classified documents shown to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Schiff before his visit sending a letter of his own back to the White House, expressing profound concern with the way these materials are being made available to the committee.
Meantime, Chairman Devin Nunes faces continued fallout, with new revelations about what he knows and how exactly he learned that information. First reported in "The New York Times," a U.S. official now confirms to CNN White House staffers, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, are believed to be two individuals involved.
But still unknown is whether the two White House staffers were involved directly in showing Nunes the documents when he was on White House grounds last week, as he looked at the intelligence materials that he claims showed Trump aides campaign conversations with picked up in intelligence collection.
Nunes today remaining adamant, a spokesman saying, "Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source's identity and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources."
The White House staffers' involvement fueling even more questions about the independence of Nunes' investigation from the White House.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIF., INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm firmly convinced that the president and his aides concocted this and drew Devin Nunes into it and he became, you know, an advocate and abetter to what I believe is an absolute fabrication.
SERFATY: And even more criticism of the credibility of Nunes' claim that the information was brought to him by a whistleblower.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF., RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: To me, this looks like -- nothing like a whistleblower case and -- and, again, I think the White House needs to answer is this instead a case where they wish to effectively --
SCHIFF: -- launder information through our committee to avoid the true source of the information.
SERFATY: The White House today...
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We all found out, you, me, everyone else, that is coming down here after he held a press conference with your colleagues to say he was coming down here based on stuff that he had found that didn't have to do with Russia, that had a whistleblower source had given him.
SERFATY: -- attempting to swat down the criticism.
SPICER: What he did, what he saw and who he met with was 100 percent proper.
SERFATY: Meantime, as the firestorm continues to grow around Nunes, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is facing increasing questions if he still stands by the chairman. A spokeswoman saying today the speaker doesn't know the source of the disclosure to Chairman Nunes. The chairman has the speaker's full confidence.
HOWELL: At least one person, one Trump official, seems to take Russia's election meddling very seriously. It's the U.S. Defense secretary James Mattis. He met with his British counterpart in London on Friday and said that the Kremlin was, quote, "mucking around in other people's elections."
This as the U.S. secretary of state there, Rex Tillerson, met with top NATO diplomats in Russia. He also criticized Russia but said NATO allies had to do more. Here is Nic Robertson with that report.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: His first visit to NATO HQ as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson came to deliver a clear message. Allies must pay their way to meet the 2 percent GDP defense spending threshold. REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have three important areas we want to talk about. First is ensuring that NATO has all of the resources financial and otherwise.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A few hundred miles away, James Mattis on his first trip to London as U.S. Secretary of Defense, also offering a corrective to President Trump's assertion NATO is obsolete.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The point I would make is that NATO stands united, the transatlantic bond is united.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In London, the joined-up message received loud and clear. The U.K. one of only four NATO allies meeting that 2 percent threshold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mattis and I have agreed that others must now raise their game. And those failing to meet the 2 percent commitment, so far, should at least agree to year-on-year real terms increases.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The Mattis-Tillerson coordination belies what many see as the chaos of Trump's administration so far. On Russia, both secretaries also joining forces to contradict Trump's early warmth toward Putin and ready NATO for more Russian aggression.
MATTIS: Excuse me. Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record.
TILLERSON: We want to, obviously, have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly Eastern Europe in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In two months, President Trump will be here for a NATO leaders' summit. Secretary Tillerson has been stressing allies need to make their financial commitments clear before then.
So he said Trump's visit can be, quote, "a success." He didn't say what the alternative would be -- Nic Robertson, CNN, NATO Headquarters, Belgium.
ALLEN: We're going to find out what Russia thinks of all of this.
First of all, many Russians are bristling at the treatment they're getting from the American government or public. Listen to this voicemail and think about the date today, which the Russian ministry of foreign affairs put together to punch back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have reached the Russian embassy. Your call is very important to us. To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponents, press one. To use the services of Russian hackers, press two. To request election interference, press three and wait until the next
election campaign. Please note that all calls are recorded for quality improvement and training purposes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Is that actually the message you get when you call up the government?
Well, Matthew Chance is here. I guess we should say LOL, Russia, on that one.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Natalie. It's an attempt to sort of laugh off the very serious allegations, of course, that Russia has been facing for the past several months regarding its actions and its alleged interference in the U.S. political process and its attempts allegedly to manipulate the outcome of that presidential process; of course, allegations they categorically denied, now turning to humor as a way of sidestepping it unless, of course, it's April Fools' Day and this is an attempt to contribute to that.
People, though, won't be laughing in the United States, of course, where there is a very serious investigation under way, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate to look at the collusion allegedly between U.S. --
CHANCE: -- officials and the Russians in the run-up to those presidential elections and that's something that is, as I say, deeply serious and is of great concern and a matter of great frustration to people, to officials here in Russia.
They also see it just as Trump does, as a witch hunt, as something that the media has perpetrated and pushed forward and as they call it fake news. It's something that they have categorically denied. Yet it is something that continues to have traction in U.S. politics -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Absolutely, and much more attraction this week. And then we heard the Defense secretary traveling abroad say Russia is mucking around in the -- or has mucked around in the U.S. election. We've also heard from Vladimir Putin directly on what he thinks.
CHANCE: Yes, no, Putin has been relatively tight-lipped when it comes to answering these allegations of interference in the U.S. presidential election. He broke that silence for the first time since the inauguration of Trump, really, just a few days ago, when he said, "Read my lips, no;" we did not interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
That's the message we've been getting repeatedly from Kremlin officials, his spokesperson, other people in the Russian government as well. I think we have to remember that Russians are frustrated because they
believed that the Trump administration was going to be a positive for the relationship between Washington and Moscow. Donald Trump as candidate talked about the potential of recognizing Crimea as being a legitimate part of Russia. Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014.
He spoke about cooperating with Russia in the field of international terrorism, particularly in the war in Syria. He criticized NATO for being obsolete. All of this was music to the Kremlin's ears. Finally, they thought, there was a U.S. president that saw the world from the same position, the same point of view as they had.
But none of that, of course, has come to pass. In fact, if anything, the relationship between Russia and the United States, Moscow and Washington, has become much worse than it was before.
ALLEN: They would like to get on with it. But this thing looks like it's kind of entrenched as the investigation continues here and takes lots of left turns and right turns and accusations.
And you were saying to us, Matthew, also that Russia kind of likes how messy this issue looks for this new administration in Washington.
CHANCE: Well, I think there's an element of the Russian attitude towards this, which certainly does see it that way. There is that frustration; it is very real, the frustration I was just describing.
But there is a part of the Russian establishment as well and Russian people that, look at this circus that is playing out, it's unfolding in the United States, this political circus.
And it makes them think well, maybe the Russian system isn't so bad. Maybe it is more stable. Maybe it is less prone to this kind of chaotic politics.
And, indeed, that may have been the intention of the Russian authorities when they backed -- at least morally backed Donald Trump in his campaign for the presidency. They like to see the Western institutions in a state of flux because it weakens their strategic rival.
But also it makes them look, in comparison, somewhat more stable, somewhat more preferable to the alternative.
ALLEN: Their perspective, interesting on that one. Matthew Chance, live for us in Moscow. We thank you. And no April fooling around here from our side.
HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, E.U. leaders warn of difficult talks ahead over Britain's plans to leave the bloc. But they're also offering the U.K. an olive branch. We'll explain when NEWSROOM continues.
(MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ALLEN: And welcome back.
The European Union is warning Britain it will firmly stand by its principles as it laid out its negotiating position for Brexit negotiations.
HOWELL: The European Council's president says talks on Britain quitting the E.U. will be difficult, complex and even confrontational. Erin McLaughlin has more for us.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: E.U. leaders are saying that they're not going to be punitive about the Brexit process, that it's punishing enough.
At the same time, guidelines that they released on Friday make it very clear that they intend to be in the driver's seat, especially when it comes to the organization, the order of the Brexit negotiations.
Now the U.K. has made it clear that it wants to negotiate its future relationship with the E.U. in parallel to the actual withdrawal.
Today, president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, saying simply that won't happen, that the withdrawal will be negotiated first, which includes such thorny issues as budgetary issues, as well as the fate of citizens living both in the U.K. and in the E.U.
Once the European Council has determined that they've made sufficient progress in those areas, that's when they'll move on to discuss a framework for the future relationship.
And, keep in mind, the clock is ticking. Two years is not a lot of time to get all of this done. And while E.U. leaders are saying that they want a deal, that that is what they are working towards, at the same time, they're preparing for the possibility of no deal -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Malta.
ALLEN: Well, as you likely know, Scottish voters largely rejected Brexit. Now its first minister has told the British prime minister her country will hold a second independence referendum, whether Theresa May likes it or not.
Nicola Sturgeon says there's no reason for the U.K. to block a new vote. She wrote a letter to Ms. May, saying the people of Scotland must have the right to choose their own future. London has already said it will decline the request. HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, President Donald Trump may be under a great deal of scrutiny but some people are noticing a bizarre habit. We'll explain.
That's coming up.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.
Donald Trump has a habit that some people are noticing.
ALLEN: He moves things around.
HOWELL: Yes, I kind of like that.
ALLEN: Kind of like that. You'll see, of course, his fidgets are being parodied and psychoanalyzed by the public and Jeanne Moos checked it out.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's your move, Mr. President.
Whether it's a glass or a coaster, President Trump has a habit of moving things. A few inches here, a few inches there. A viewer alerted Jimmy Kimmel to the President's quirk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's more of a mover than a shaker.
MOOS: Moving individual items and even an entire place setting, apparently seeking the sweet spot.
A shorter compilation circulated online leading to comments like "This is desktop manspreading. He's marking his territory and trying to intimidate others with the space he takes up."
The President's moves inspired Web gags and armchair psychology.
"He thinks he's the master of everything."
"This is mine to touch."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I have to say is I hope the new health care plan covers OCD, because --
MOOS (on-camera): OK. So everyone has an opinion, but what does a professional think, professor of psychology?
MOOS (voice-over): While declining to diagnose, Professor Kevin Volkan weighed in on what may be behind this type of behavior.
KEVIN VOLKAN, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY: They're feeling some anxiety about something and so they control things. They move things around. They make lists.
MOOS: Or more likely, the professor says, in someone with a narcissistic profile --
VOLKAN: They're just really bored. They get bored really easily especially when the conversation --
VOLKAN: -- is not about them.
MOOS: Internet posters likewise couldn't resist moving things, like the president's head replacing it with a cartoon called "Business Cat" and adding a soundtrack.
MOOS (voice-over): Funny, President Trump doesn't seem like the type to be a paper pusher -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
HOWELL: So is he a mover or a shaker?
ALLEN: That's what he said, more of a mover, according to Jimmy Kimmel. But we'll wait and see if he continues to shuffle things around.
ALLEN: He is, for sure.
Well, it is an upset for the ages. The UConn women's basketball team finally lost a game for the first time since November 2014. Here is how it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to get off a shot. William on the drive. Pull up, pull up. She got it! She got it! She got it! One of the great upsets in history, Mississippi State in overtime at the buzzer. Morgan William, Mississippi State has ended the streak at 111 consecutive games. It's over.
HOWELL: Happy people, excited people.
ALLEN: The coach loves his players. She's only 5'5", too, by the way.
HOWELL: Wow. That loss snaps the longest win streak in college basketball history. Mississippi State now moves on to the national championship, where they will face South Carolina for a shot at the title.
Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. For viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" starts; for everyone else, "AMANPOUR" starts in just a moment. You're watching CNN.