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U.K. Concert Terror; Trump Meets with Pope Francis; Trump- Russia Probe; Trump Budget proposal Draws Mixed Reviews. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired May 24, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:16] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isha Sesay. We're following all the latest on the terror attack in Manchester, England, the deadliest attack the country has seen in more than a decade.
Right now Britain's terror threat level is at critical -- that's the highest it goes. At least 22 people were killed including teenagers and an eight-year-old girl when an explosion tore through a crowd of people outside Manchester Arena Monday night. They were leaving an Ariana Grande concert when the blast happened. Dozens more people are wounded.
VAUSE: Police have identified the suicide bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi who was born and raised in the U.K. They raided at least two locations in the city including the bomber's home. He lived there with his family.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack but has offered no proof.
And British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned another attack may be imminent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is now concluded on the basis of today investigations that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And the Prime Minister says investigators cannot dismiss the possibility a wider group of terrorists was involved in Monday's attack.
SESAY: Police and military are increasingly patrols at key sites such as railway stations and airports. CNN's Clarissa Ward reports.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The investigation into Monday night's deadly bombing that targeted children and teens intensified today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you move back down please.
WARD: Police conducted two raids in Manchester and named the suspected suicide bomber for the first time.
IAN HOPKINS, GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE: The man suspected of carrying out last night's atrocity is 22-year-old Salman Abedi.
WARD: This home was stormed by armed law enforcement in connection with the investigation. Police say a 23-year-old man has also been arrested in South Manchester in relation to the terror attack that occurred around 10:30 last night.
The blast was heard inside the Manchester Arena just after an Ariana Grande performance. Many parents waited to pick up their children and crowds were screaming out of the exits. The explosion outside the venue near the box office was so powerful it could be seen and heard on this dash-cam video from a parked car from the detonation point.
MAY: The single terrorist detonated his improvised explosive device near one of the exits of the venue deliberately choosing the time and place to cause maximum carnage.
WARD: ISIS has claimed responsibility but a British counter terror official tells CNN they have seen no links to known terror groups.
President Trump was quick to condemn the attack in his own unique way.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are. They're losers.
WARD: Immediate following the blast, thousands fled the scene leaping over chairs to escape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We managed to get through the doors and how we weren't crushed to death is a miracle.
WARD: This witness described shrapnel injuries reminiscent of previous terrorist bombings.
STEVEN JONES, WITNESS: Obviously when we're seeing children like that (inaudible) to pull nails out of their arms (inaudible).
WARD: Police are frantically examining the bomb remnants for clues while experts say this was more sophisticated than the work of a lone wolf.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: How this bomber learned how to make this, in general it's I think highly unlikely that he just learned about it on the Internet.
WARD: As the United Kingdom reels from its worst attack since 2005, security across the country is stepping up. The Prime Minister vowing terrorists will not prevail.
Clarissa Ward, CNN -- Manchester.
VAUSE: More of our coverage now. CNN's Erin McLaughlin, live from the Manchester Royal Infirmary where many of the victims were taken after the attack.
SESAY: And our Nina dos Santos is outside 10 Downing Street in London.
Nina -- let's start with you. The British government has raised its terror threat level to critical and launched Operation: Temperer. What more can you tell us about the government response?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this is the second time only since 2007 that we've seen the level being quite this severe. A critical threat level, I should remind you, means that another attack may be imminent from here. And this comes after even in the aftermath of the Westminster attack which happened just a couple of months ago just down the road from where I'm broadcasting to you from and they didn't raise it to critical level.
[00:05:04] What they've done here is they decided to do this probably because they just cannot ascertain at the moment, Isha, whether or not this individual acted alone or whether he had help.
And it's a reminder that this whole country, not just the city of Manchester is facing what is probably an unprecedented level of threats here of radicalized individuals like for instance this 22- year-old who decided to perpetrate this attack. They just can't be sure whether or not he was acting alone.
Until they've managed to ascertain whether he was a lone wolf attacker, they're keeping it at this critical level which will also mean that that will mean increased security for people cross this country especially as gatherings, large-scale gatherings for instance the upcoming football, soccer tournament -- the FA Cup is taking place in London this very weekend.
People can expect increased security at doors. They've been told to expect to see the army helping out the police to guard key events. So the idea here is to keep the country moving but also crucially to keep it safe.
And I should point out that on the only other two occasions that we have seen this threat be at critical, it's only stayed for a couple of days. So here's the main test. We're running into a general election, the campaigning has been suspended for now. But when it gets back and running, how will the authorities deal with that?
In the meantime the government is having another of these emergency situation-type meetings that are codenamed Cobra. Theresa May will be chairing that in a few hours from now. So we'll get an update probably on the security situation from there.
VAUSE: Nina -- thank you. Erin -- to you, we're learning a little more now about some of the victims here including 15-year-old Olivia Campbell.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We can now show you her photo -- John, her mother Charlotte posted on Facebook. Let me just read you a bit of what she had to say. "RIP my darling, precious, gorgeous girl. Olivia Campbell taken far too soon. Go sing with the angels and keep smiling. Mommy loves you so much."
Now CNN had spoken to Charlotte Campbell shortly after the attack, she had been looking for Olivia, said that Olivia had last called her at 8:30 from the concert telling her what a great time she was having.
Really Manchester coming to terms with the fact that so many of these victims are kids. There was a tremendous outpouring of solidarity yesterday at a vigil held outside town hall.
Let's take a listen to what some of the people there had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
It made me really, really proud the amount of (inaudible) respond there. How the people of (inaudible), like everyone just wants to help and wants to do what they can. It made me so very proud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people can't (inaudible) us. You know, we're proud of what we are and who we are. And they'll never be --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: You know, I was there in the crowd and I really sensed a mixture of emotions of the people that gathered there -- young and old. People of all faiths, people who were outraged -- they were angry but most of all, I would say sad -- sad at this tremendous loss of life. This was one of many vigils to be held across the United Kingdom.
VAUSE: Ok. Erin -- thank you. Erin McLaughlin, live at the hospital.
SESAY: And our Nina dos Santos also.
We heard from Olivia's mom last night. She was obviously distraught looking for her daughter. And now she's dead.
SESAY: Yes. It is the news no parents wants to hear.
VAUSE: There are 22 families out there who are --
VAUSE: And we are receiving some more compelling images from the moment this attack happened.
SESAY: And we're hearing from more of the people who were there when the chaos erupted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh God. What's going on?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on? Oh my God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just sort of leave after the last song, we heard explosion from across the corridors and we just looked behind us and there was chaos. We run and people were screaming around us and pushing down the stairs to go outside and people were falling down.
They're also crying and we saw these women being treated by paramedics. They have open wounds on the legs, no shoes. There was just chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone was screaming and so insane but it could be a bomb. There were people shouting for their kids. There are people shouting for their (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And to the front door, get out of the arena. There were just bodies scattered about everywhere.
[00:10:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a guy who's been there holding like what looked like his wife and she was (inaudible).
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm joined now by Coral Long (ph). Her 10-year-old daughter Robin was at the concert, this Ariana Grande concert. Coral, first of all, how is your daughter doing.
CORAL LONG: In total shock. She's just petrified that whoever did this was going to the house or would go to her school. She's just -- she's devastated. For her to -- at 10 years old just quit or something like that, it's just horrific.
There was children in there as young as five. There was a little girl literally (inaudible). It was that long she had to stand on her seat to watch the concert. And for people to see their idols, for children to see their idols and then have this then impacting the rest of their lives with this (inaudible) these people are cowards. They're just cowards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes, she's absolutely right.
Joining us now CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore and terrorism and political violence expert Jeffrey Simon.
Jeffrey -- first to you, is it possible this concert was specifically targeted because of the performer who was there, it was packed, filled with young girls, young women with their moms -- apparently the bomber was just a few miles away from the venue. JEFFREY SIMON, TERRORISM AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE EXPERT: I don't think it was targeted because of that. I think terrorists, if they can gain entry into whatever venue they want to attack then they will attack it. They get maximum exposure because it was unfortunately is tragic, young -- you know, we have teenagers being killed in this attack. But for terrorists they use the opportunity.
So until we find out more, I don't know if this was targeted specifically because they knew it was going to be young people there.
SESAY: And Steve -- to bring you in, what did you make of the profile of the suspected suicide bomber at this stage? What we know -- a 22- year-old male, British-born who lived in the area.
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Unfortunately it's not surprising anymore. We've seen this in Brussels. We've seen this in Paris. This is what we're dealing with. This is the new reality.
And while they may not have targeted this venue because of -- because there were tens of thousands of young women and girls there, it didn't stop (inaudible) did it.
And I think the thing that really -- this brings back to me after working terrorism for all these years is you just forget what cowards they are.
VAUSE: Yes. Including this -- the blast (ph) makes explosives incredibly powerful.
Listen once more to Steven Jones. He was the man who went to help some of the victims. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: (inaudible) -- anything to help people out with that. But I'm not sure what we're doing and then obviously when we've seen children like that who's (inaudible) to pull nails out of their arms and stuff of this little girl's face.
VAUSE: He pulled nails out of their faces, out of their arms. So Steve -- make a bomb full of nails, what does that say to you first about the bomb and the bomb maker?
MOORE: It tells that it's a pretty standard ISIS down the line bomb. I've been there when we pulled some of these things apart and they do have nails, ball bearings. And the reason is simple -- just to cause the most pain and to maim as much as they can.
Plus this one was kind of powerful. I worked a car bomb where -- that was 400 pounds or 200 kilos. We didn't have more than 13 fatalities. This had to be a very potent explosive.
SESAY: Jeffrey -- ISIS claiming responsibility for this attack but they didn't provide any photos or videos of the suspected attacker. What does that say to you? Does this claim of responsibility strike you as credible? SIMON: Well, they always claim responsibility if they could feel the attacker was inspired by their various, you know, propaganda or what they're putting out over the Internet. So it most likely looks like it would be an ISIS-inspired type of attack. Until we find out more information whether he was trained in Libya or in Syria or in --
SESAY: Or videos emerge --
SIMON: Exactly. And basically this is what's happening in terms of ISIS as they are losing ground territory and will eventually be defeated in Iraq and Syria, they're going to morph more into this decentralized global terrorist threat where they'll always be able to use the Internet, always be able to throw out these videos.
And I was looking at like spam e-mail. You send out a million spam e- mails, you just need a very small percent to take the bait and perform a terrorist attack. This is what we're seeing and they use the Internet like no other terrorist group has ever used.
VAUSE: Specifically with regards to the Manchester attack -- Steve. What we're hearing is that the bomb was fairly sophisticated, it's very powerful. What are chances they made more than one?
[00:14:57] MOORE: Well, that I think is why we have the terror alert level going up to critical because when you look at this, the one thing that most investigators are going to see in this is this wasn't a lone wolf. This was a group of people and they had to have created the explosive or almost certainly created the explosive and you make it in batches.
I want to see what's left of the batch. If I haven't found where they made it, there could be more out there. And if I don't have everybody in custody or everybody accounted for that might be part of that cell, here's what I can be sure of. They're on the run and they're thinking, you know I don't have to wait now until the best opportunity, the best chance of success. I've got weaponry that I have to use before I am caught or killed. So now is the most dangerous time.
VAUSE: Steve Moore and Jeffrey Simon -- thank you, guys.
SESAY: We appreciate it.
SIMON: Thank you.
SESAY: Thank you.
VAUSE: And we will take a short break.
When we come back, President Donald Trump is away from Washington right now but the investigation which is threatening to engulf his administration continues on.
SESAY: Plus Mr. Trump meets with one of his most prominent critics -- Pope Francis.
SESAY: Hello everyone.
As many White House staffers feared, President Trump's problems at home are following him abroad in Rome. After a relatively peaceful few days on his five-stop tour. Sources say he's expected to retain a private attorney to deal with the ongoing probe into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia.
VAUSE: Meantime former CIA director John Brennan told U.S. House investigators that Russia's actions during the 2016 election included active contact with members of Mr. Trump's campaign team and it amounted to brazen interference but Brennan stopped short of calling it collusion, a line the White House quickly seized on as indication.
SESAY: Mr. Trump is set to meet with Pope Francis in about two hours from now. They have something of an online spat last year after the Pope criticized Trump (inaudible) for his non-Christian values, desire to build barriers rather than bridges. But both say they are entering this meeting with open minds.
Let's go to Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher. She joins us live now. So Delia -- two of the most recognizable leaders in the world meeting with plenty of points of contention.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- Isha.
And I think, you know, they got off to a rocky start as you mentioned but, of course, this is a new day and they have both said they're interested in a sincere dialogue. The Pope said he wants a sincere dialogue to look for open doors, common ground with the U.S. president.
You know, it's a highly anticipated, somewhat unpredictable meeting given the strong personalities of both of these world leaders and their opposing views on things like immigration and climate change.
[00:19:54] But, you know, observers say the meeting lasts about 20 minutes to a half an hour and it's not really time to get into the details of specific policies. It is time to sort of meet each other, get to know each other, hopefully set the stage for a positive rapport which will result in phone calls and meetings in the future on key issues.
It's likely that the Pope, if he does get into some issues will only get into the most pressing ones, something like scaling back the tensions, nuclear tensions. The Pope has spoken about mediation and the importance of diplomacy in the North Korean crisis, for example. Or climate change -- President Trump will have to decide shortly whether the U.S. is going to pull out of the Paris agreement, something which Pope Francis lobbied very hard for all countries to sign on to last year. But this meeting importantly is private. It is the Pope, the President and a translator in the room. You know, Pope Francis understands English but he often prefers to speak in either Spanish or Italian. So really the key is nobody knows what the two actually are going to say.
The Vatican issues a statement afterwards, usually outlining some of the general themes but that also includes a meeting that the President will have after he meets with the Pope, with the Vatican Secretary of State and foreign minister where they do discuss a little bit more of the issues and policies, some of the joint initiatives that they work. The U.S. and the Vatican have had a long history of working together to combat human trafficking, for example or in humanitarian aid throughout the world.
So a short meeting with the Pope but certainly significant to at least establish the relationship which hopefully will be a positive one in order to work out some of these issues in the future -- Isha.
SESAY: Yes. Delia Gallagher joining us there from Rome. We appreciate it. We'll be looking closely at the images that that emerge from this meeting.
VAUSE: Everyone will be looking very closely --
SESAY: Everyone will be looking at that --
VAUSE: -- for any sign of friction between the Pontiff --
SESAY: -- body language.
VAUSE: -- and the President.
Ok. Joining us for more on this --
SESAY: Delia -- thank you.
VAUSE: -- thank you -- Delia.
CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas -- all with us now.
Ron -- first to you, a feud between a U.S. president and a Pope not unheard of, but what is unprecedented -- it seems to me this very public criticism that these two men have engaged in before they even met in person.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, President Trump has had a history of, you know, collisions with all sorts of world leaders during the campaign and during his period as a private citizen. He has toned down some of that obviously. You saw that on the trip to what he described as the Middle East last week, you know, tone about Islam for example was different.
But these are two leaders with very wide differences in their world view, particularly issues like climate and immigration. And I think the amount of papering over those is made possible given that underlying gulf is limited.
SESAY: John -- to you, does this meeting come with any -- the meeting between President Trump and the Pope -- does it come with any political or diplomatic consequences for the U.S. president?
JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, I think the question I'm going to be watching is can the President move beyond the election, be a bigger man and change the tone of his rhetoric. Like Ron said, we've already seen it with his relationship with the Muslim world.
I suspect that the President can put it behind him. He did it with most of his political foes on the Republican side in the Republican primary. I think he can do it with the Pope. I suspect the Pope can also --
VAUSE: Can the Pope put it behind him as well?
VAUSE: We shall see.
Ok. Before this meeting in Rome, the President made his first remarks about the terrorist attack in Manchester. Let's listen to Mr. Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won't call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that's a great name. I will call them, from now on, "losers" because that's what they are. They're losers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Dave -- there's been, you know, a lot of criticism of the President essentially using a school yard taunt in a situation like this. It seems to sort of diminish the gravity and the seriousness of what happened.
DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, typically I think in almost every case when we talk about Donald Trump, I disagree with him. But I actually do like the terminology here. I think the fact that, you know, in the past others have said that these individuals are monsters, I think they like that term.
And so I think loser -- there's no way around it; like it is a bad term. You can't like flip it on its head and say something like a monster is powerful, robust. And so I think, you know, honestly at this point this is like one of first times that I will actually endorse something that the President said.
THOMAS: He should have called them murderers. And losers -- I think if you consider who the President is, the most damning thing you can be is a loser because that means you're not a winner. SESAY: Yes.
VAUSE: In Trump's book --
[00:25:01] THOMAS: And so for Trump this was as strong of a term as he could possibly use.
SESAY: Ron -- to you, the President maybe overseas but his troubles at home continue unabated. On Tuesday, former CIA director John Brennan testified on Capitol Hill and had this to say about Trump campaign contacts with Russia. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I saw interaction and aware of interaction that again raised questions in my mind about what was the true nature of it. But I don't know. I don't have sufficient information to make a determination whether or not such cooperation or complicity or collusion was taking place. But I know that there was a basis to have individuals pull those threads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Ron -- very pointed words there from John Brennan. In what way do his comments alter the picture for all those involved in the Russia probes -- the numerous Russia probes?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I think like many people I was struck that this was a more substantive appearance than I expected, listening to it. I mean he actually put down some markers and the most important one of which was the bite you just played where he said there was sufficient information about contacts that he felt there was a basis to go forward on an investigation and a reason for concern.
And that obviously is a big rock in the road for the President who wants to portray the entire exercise as a witch hunt that it has no basis at all. In fact, Director Brennan, former director Brennan was very careful to say he doesn't know what the end of the road is but there was enough of a pathway there, enough of a runway there that he felt that it needed to be explored which is exactly what the former FBI director had said as well.
So these are now two big points of refutation I think to the President who simply is arguing that this is, you know, various phrases, a made- up story for Democrats to console themselves after losing the election. You now have some pretty powerful voices on the other side saying we don't know what the end point is but we know there's enough here to investigate.
VAUSE: And John -- to you, how do they spin this one.
THOMAS: Well, I would just say that there -- he didn't say in fact there was collusion --
VAUSE: But the President's denied any contact.
THOMAS: No, I know. Look, Mike Flynn is a bad actor. They should have gotten rid of him a long time ago and hopefully it just stops there. I mean I'd always been of the mindset that you've got to do -- this was the right thing to do, to do an investigation because you've got to get to the bottom of it if in fact Trump didn't -- but do it quickly. It's the drip, drip, drip that is worse I think than probably what actually even occurred.
SESAY: Yes. Anyway you're saying that the special counsel is going to take months and months --
THOMAS: And the Democrats love it. Don't they -- Dave.
JACOBSON: Yes. Fanning the flames for us -- you know. But look, I think ultimately it begs the question like who else in the Trump world, the Trump universe where there's Trump associates or folks affiliated with the campaign that were, you know, any contact with the Russians and I think this is only going to sort of exacerbate these investigations and I think it adds credence to the fact that not only do we need these four congressional investigations and this outside investigation through the Justice Department. But we also need this outside independent bipartisan investigation outside of Congress.
VAUSE: Ok. So while all this is going on, the business of governing is going on. Now the government's first full budget was delivered to Congress, proposed cuts of a trillion dollars to social services. Listen to Mike Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Budget and Management.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT: We're no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs but by the number of people we helped get off of those programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So Ron at the end of the day, those budget cuts are just great big act of compassion.
BROWNSTEIN: Well look, this is an extraordinary budget in two respects. First it is as clear a statement of generational warfare as you can imagine in a budget. You know, you have a president, majority of his votes came from whites over 45 saying that he will not touch at all functionally social security, the core of social security and Medicare, programs that benefit a senior population that is today 80 percent white but will impose large cuts on the discretionary domestic spending programs that are the ways that we invest in the productivity of future generations from scientific research to education, and also make significant cutbacks in programs that affect working age and younger adults like the SNAP program, formerly food stamps. Additional cuts in Medicaid beyond those in the Affordable Care Act repeal in the House as well as a reductions in other programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program.
The paradox here is that even though they want to protect seniors those cuts are deep enough that they do affect this increasingly blue collar, lower middle income, white constituency of the Republican Party. If you look as I've published today -- if you look at the states that tipped the election -- Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania. In all of those states a significant majority of those receiving SNAP benefits, for example are non-college whites or the absolutely core of the Trump coalition.
[00:30:00] So this, I think, budget will be an interesting test of how Republicans manage or align their traditional small government ideology with the material needs of their evolving electoral coalition.
VAUSE: And with that we are out of time. We shall leave it there.
SESAY: We are indeed.
VAUSE: We didn't get to the two trillion-dollar accounting error in this proposed budget. But the night is still young.
Ron, Dave and John, thank you so much.
SESAY: Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it.
Let's take a quick break now and we'll get back to our coverage of the Manchester attack, as Britain raises its terror threat level to critical. What we're learning about the bombing suspect next on NEWSROOM L.A.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.
British soldiers are taking of a guard duty at key sites around Manchester so police can focus on other terror threats. The city is mourning the 22 people killed and dozens more wounded in the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert.
VAUSE: Prime Minister Theresa May says another attack may be imminent and has raised the country's terror threat level to its highest for the first time in a decade. And authorities are still uncertain if the suicide bomber acted alone.
SESAY: That's right. The 22-year-old suspect Salman Abedi was born in the UK and is believed to be of Libyan descent.
Our own Brian Todd has the very latest now on the investigation.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN the bombing outside the Manchester arena looks like an ISIS attack but says U.S. intelligence officials are working with their British counterparts to learn more.
ISIS has claimed responsibility. But a British counterterrorism officials says so far authorities there have discovered no evidence of a link between suspected attacker Salman Abedi and an established terror group. British police are working furiously to see if there is a connection.
IAN HOPKINS, CHIEF CONSTABLE, GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE: Our policy, along with the police counter terrorist network, and our security partners, is to continue to establish whether he was acting alone or working with a wider network.
TODD: Police blew in a door and raided a house associated with the suspect and forensics teams were spotted as well. The suspect, Abedi, was of Libyan descent, according to members of the Libyan community in Manchester. He was enrolled in business classes at the University of Salford near Manchester, but didn't live on campus. School officials say they also have no evidence he was active in college life.
A witness who helped some victims described the kind of injuries he saw which could help police determine the type of bomb used.
[00:35:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, like a nail bomb. Yes. It was them type of nails sort of thing. Things like that and bits of glasses. You know, all stuck in them and plastic and stuff like that. That come from the explosion. But these nails, we did have one that were about that long.
TODD: The explosion triggered a dangerous stampede inside the arena.
CAROL LONG, MOTHER OF CONCERTGOER: Everyone just went crazy and was running and screaming and trying to get out. And jumping over seats. We managed to get through the doors and how we wasn't crushed to death is a miracle.
TODD: A key question now, how important was this target to the terrorist? The attacker selected one of Europe's largest arenas. And a concert were hugely popular American singer Ariana Grande was performing.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think it was a coincidence that an American singer was singing at this concert. After all an ISIS attack in Paris in 2015 at the Bataclan Theater, it was an American rock group that was playing.
TODD: Like the bombing outside the Stade de France that night and the Brussels airport bombing last year, this terrorist may not have attempted to enter the main venue, instead waiting just outside the security perimeter for his moment.
Now U.S. officials are reviewing their own security measures for these events.
FRANK CILLUFFO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: You know, major events. I think you are going to see new approaches of security. Historically, the intent is to keep people from getting it. Now obviously you are seeing an increased number of attacks outside particular targets.
TODD (on camera): Frank Cilluffo says in the future we may see security cameras like that one, not just at the base of arenas like this but installed several blocks in each direction and resources like vapor wake dog teams specifically trained to sniff out suicide bombers. Also things like geo-fencing that can detect computer activated bombs. But he says some of these resources may only be deployed for big events and not necessarily at individual concerts simply for lack of resources.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
SESAY: Well, let's get more now on how the British government is responding to the attack. Our own Nina dos Santos is outside 10 Downing Street in London.
Nina, the terror threat level has been raised to critical. Is that out of the abundance of caution or based on any specific information, intelligence that has been gathered up in these investigations so far?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Isha, that's a very good question. Well, it's only the second time that we've seen the terror threat level go to this crucial reading of critical which gives you an idea of how serious the situation is. That means that an attack from here could be imminent. And what's different about the previous times where we've seen this raised to critical is that that came in response to specific plots that the authority has managed to thwart. This is actually a reactive measure here in response to what happened in Manchester last year because authorities just cannot ascertain for sure whether or not this individual was acting alone, or whether he had help.
Until they're able to try and piece together whether he was part of a bigger network, they have decided to put this threat level on critical. They're also trying to avoid any potential copycat attacks.
So I should point out that when we have seen the security level at critical, Isha, it has only lasted a couple of days. So the big question is, as we head into a general election here, which of course will be another tense time security wise for this country, will this critical level stay in place for a bit longer or will they find specific information that means that he was acting alone and then they'll bring it back down to the level that it's been at for some time which is severe the second time.
And I also want to point out that we're going to see increased security presence right across this country. The fact that the British prime minister took to the steps of 10 Downing Street late yesterday evening to raise this level also means that this is a reminder that the whole country here is on high alert so expect troops to be guarding key events, anything from football matches to concerts over the next few days to try and help free up the police officer so that they can look into any potential investigative links and also police the streets as well.
We're going to see more armed police as well, and people are being told, when it comes to security from airports to ports across the country, be ready for more checks, more sniffer dogs to detect explosives, be patient. The objective of authorities here is to try and keep the country moving but also keep it alert and protect the people from further attacks like this -- Isha.
SESAY: Certainly a very tense time.
Nina dos Santos joining us there from 10 Downing Street. Nina, always appreciate it. Thank you.
VAUSE: And joining us now from Tucson, Arizona, former CIA agent Bryan Dean Wright.
So, Bryan, part of this all to raise this threat level in Britain to critical mean military soldiers on the streets. We heard that from Nina just moments ago. How effective is that in a short term in essentially stopping these kinds of attacks and how long can that continue? What's the long term situation here?
[00:40:04] BRYAN DEAN WRIGHT, FORMER CIA AGENT: Well, in the short term it is a very smart approach because what -- a lot of folks who have done these what they will do is a case of different locations, and if that location changes, if the threats of exposure increases, they'll call it off oftentimes. So that immediate response is smart and it's good.
In terms of medium to long-term, you know how long can you maintain this heightened state of alert and it's very difficult, very resource intensive, and so what they'll be doing is looking through not only this particular terrorist's information that is his signals intelligence, right, his phone number, his social media account and so forth. They'll also be looking at what is called chatter, right. What are they hearing in places like Libya, Syria, Iraq? Was this disorganized externally? And then of course the British officials will be looking very closely at their relationships with individuals within various mosques, and so forth, to figure out did he have help?
SESAY: And, Bryan, to that point, to whether or not he had help, I mean, how do you see just on the surface of what we know now and what we know of the explosive device and its sophistication. Do you believe he was working with others? And if he was, well, does it mean others there in his community, those there in Manchester, in the vicinity?
WRIGHT: Here's what's frightening about technology these days. It really is no longer limited to small armies or, you know, individuals with great resources. You can do these things on the cheap. As we get further details we'll see how sophisticated it was and that will tell us the degree to which is likely that he had outside support. But I have to tell you, as we have seen, you know, throughout the United States, throughout Europe, it doesn't take a lot to create this kind of horrific outcomes. So I wouldn't be surprised frankly, either way. He could have done this lone wolf. The kinds of resources that he would need to do this are not difficult.
VAUSE: There are reports, Bryan, that the bomber recently traveled from the UK to Libya. There are family ties in Libya. His father was from there. If this is true, is that a place where he could receive training in something like this? Because we have Syria all the time and Iraq, for example, but what about Libya? And would it mean sort of more ISIS linked training or al Qaeda? Which group is more prevalent?
WRIGHT: ISIS, absolutely it could have happened there. And let me tell you, Libya is effectively a failed state, much like Somali. So depending on where he went, the degree to which the Libyan services can actually track people going into the country and where they go is very minimal. So even if we know that he traveled to Libya the degree to which the Libyan services or the British, the American intelligence services are able to really piece together his travel I think is going to be very limited.
But let's also step back for a moment and understand the importance of foreign policy in all this, because Libya used to be a failed state. It was not until the Europeans and until the United States went in and killed Gadhafi. Certainly there was a civil war going on but we made it worse. So I think that that might be a point of reflection for governments, frankly all around the world, but definitely in Europe and in the United States. We can make things a lot worse for ourselves.
VAUSE: Yes. There are a lot of politics regarding that decision at the time, though. There was Gadhafi's military that surrounded Benghazi, I think it was, or one of the cities, in which it carried out a massacre of tens and thousands of innocent men, women and children.
So very good point, Bryan. And so with that, though, thank you very much. We appreciate your insight.
SESAY: Thank you, Bryan.
VAUSE: And a good point, too. Thank you, Bryan.
WRIGHT: You're welcome.
VAUSE: OK. The Manchester attacker, he targeted young girls, teenagers, ultimately killing 22 people. Among the dead, an 8-year- old girl.
SESAY: And now the city of Manchester is in mourning but is trying to grow stronger together. Our own Muhammad Lila has more.
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They came with prayers in their hands and wearing emotions on their hearts. CHERYL GARNETT, MANCHESTER RESIDENT: The young girls there. You just
think it's probably some of their friends maybe that were at the concert. Just -- it's just devastating, isn't it?
LILA: For Cheryl Garnett, the tragedy hit closer to home than most.
GARNETT: You just want to help, don't you? I live half a mile from the main arena. So you just -- you want to go and help. You just -- I don't know. Just awful.
LILA (on camera): This is the makeshift memorial that people have left behind, take a look. You can see candles and flowers, and teddy bears. And the message here is loud and clear. Manchester stands together.
ALICE THOMPSON, MANCHESTER RESIDENT: I wanted to come to show the children that there was nothing to be scared of and that love always wins over hate.
LILA (voice-over): Alice Thompson's son is the same age as one of the victims, 8- year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos. Another victim, John Atkinson, was a competitive dancer. And 18-year-old Georgina Callander two years ago hugging Ariana Grande. Little did she know she'd lose her life after seeing her idol perform.
[00:45:04] THOMPSON: It just really hits home on how horrible. But they won't win. They won't win. We won't let them.
LILA: And as night falls that message of defiance and strength comes to life and to light, each candle a defiant stand against those who'd seek to divide this city, telling them its people won't be divided.
Muhammad Lila, CNN, Manchester.
VAUSE: So far four victims killed in this attack have been identified. The youngest, 8-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos, a primary school student at Lancashire, described as simply a beautiful little girl with a creative flare. Her school says she was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly.
SESAY: 18-year-old Georgina Callander was also killed. She met Ariana Grande at a concert in 2015, posting this photo on her Instagram account. Georgina was a student at Runshaw College in Lancashire. And John Atkinson was a former student at Barry College, described as a happy, gentle person.
VAUSE: And the latest victim to be identified, 15-year-old Olivia Campbell. Her mother Charlotte spoke to CNN shortly after the attack. She was trying to find her daughter. Charlotte last spoke with Olivia on the phone before Ariana Grande took the stage. She said she was having a great time. She said she loved her mom.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: For months there has been a consistent denial from the U.S. president. Allegations his campaign colluded with Russia during last year's election are completely false. Fake news. Never happened.
But on Tuesday, former CIA director John Brennan testified before lawmakers under oath there was active contact between team Trump and Russian operatives. He stopped short of saying if it amounted to collision. But he'd said that Trump people may not have even known they were actually dealing with spies. And then he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR: I've studied Russian intelligence activities over the years and have seen it again manifested in many different of our counterintelligence cases and how they have been able to get people including inside of CIA to become treasonous and frequently individuals who go along that treasonous path do not even realize they're along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Brennan wasn't accusing the president or anyone else for that matter of treason, but he raised the question if the Trump campaign was unknowingly cooperating with the Kremlin. Could have been careless, not criminal.
Well, for more, legal analyst and constitutional lawyer Page Pate joins us now from Atlanta.
Page, good to see you. What was your takeaway from that statement from John Brennan about the path to treason?
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's absolutely right. And obviously he's been in a position to see it happened time and time again but you have to assume that someone like General Flynn and the other top level people that were in the Trump campaign at the time should have known what they were doing.
[00:50:02] I mean these folks are well versed in intelligence matters. They are not rookies off the street. These are people who have been around both the intelligence community, the military community, and you have to believe that if they are initiating contact with the Russians or at least they were receiving information from the Russians and having some sort of dialogue with them, they must have known that it was improper and perhaps illegal.
VAUSE: Well, the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, is the main issue now the nature of those interactions between the Trump folks and the Russians, and could the answer to that question, could that determine the fate of the Trump presidency?
PAGE: I think it absolutely could, John. I mean, contact between the Russians and individuals in the Trump campaign is not necessarily itself illegal, with the possible exception of Michael Flynn because he denied having significant contact with the Russians when he reapplied for his security clearance. So he has a separate issue that he has to deal with, but I think we're going to have to know more about the specifics of the nature and the substance of the contact because we now know it exists between any people in the Trump campaign and anyone working with or for the Russian government.
VAUSE: It seems that Brennan is also making the point here that the Trump campaign people, they never stopped to ask just who they were dealing with here on the Russian side. They never asked, you know, why, for example, Moscow was so interested in the presidential election.
PAGE: Right, but that maybe giving them a little too much benefit of the doubt. Again I think these folks are intelligent, very experienced, well-versed in intelligence matters. It is impossible for me to believe that they did not know who they were dealing with when they had these high-level contacts with members or representatives of the Russian government, so they may now want to say look, we didn't know how. We were just talking to folks who may be interested in the campaign. I just find that hard to believe, and I think ultimately someone as diligent as Robert Mueller is going to find it hard to believe.
VAUSE: In terms of possible legal jeopardy here, does it make any difference if they were maybe unaware that they were in fact dealing with Russian operatives as opposed to just ordinary Russians who had no direct links to the Kremlin?
PAGE: That's a good point, and I think Brennan's comment earlier today kind of speaks to that. To be guilty of a crime in a situation like this you don't have to do anything yourself that's illegal. What you have to do is be aware of an unlawful agreement and kind of joined in that, support it. Give them an opportunity to do whatever illegal acts the Russians were going to do. So yes, it is important if you're going to be the subject of a criminal investigation for the special prosecutor to show that you knew what was going on at the time that you had unlawful or bad intent because if you didn't know what you were doing and you were simply communicating things about the election or about the campaign, that itself is not a crime. Collusion itself is not a crime. There has to be an unlawful conspiracy. And so when we talk about collusion a special prosecutor is going to look for more than that. That prosecutor is going to look for an unlawful agreement, some sort of tacit understanding that they want to do something that the law prohibits.
VAUSE: OK, finally, so where does this now leave the president after his repeated denials of no contact with the Russians during the campaign?
PAGE: Well, he's obviously wrong but I think what we heard him say last time is he can only speak for himself. I think he made it clear he was distancing himself from other people in his campaign at the time, so perhaps he is now recognizing that there may have been people within his campaign even at the highest levels who did have contact with the Russians but he is at least from the president's standpoint does not want to put himself into the mix yet so now he is kind of in self-preservation mode and I think pointing to other individuals but not to himself.
VAUSE: Some interesting days still to come to so many interesting days already.
Page, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
PAGE: Thank you, John.
SESAY: Great conversation there.
VAUSE: Yes. Page knows his stuff.
SESAY: He really does.
Well, coming up, at a time when it's difficult to find words, one poet in Manchester offers his.
[00:55:57] SESAY: Hello, everyone. Returning now to the latest on the Manchester attack. The UK has raised its terrorism threat level to the highest critical category. Prime Minister Theresa May warned another attack could be imminent.
VAUSE: Police say 22-year-old Salman Abedi is the suicide attacker. The bombing at the arena killed 22 people, wounded 59 others, some critically. And after an agonizing wait to learn what happened to her daughter, the mother of Olivia Campbell confirmed on Facebook the 15- year-old is dead.
SESAY: Such a tragedy.
Well, there's an air of defiance in Manchester in the face on this senseless violence.
VAUSE: Poet Tony Walsh wrote "This is the Place" four years ago on Tuesday. It took on a deeper meaning as he read it on the steps of Manchester City Hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY WALSH, POET: This is the place in the northwest of England, it's ace, it's the best in the songs that we sing, from the stands from our bands set the whole planet shake. Our inventions are legends. There is naught we can't make. And so we make brilliant music, we make brilliant bands. We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands.
And we make things from steel, we make things from cotton, we make people laugh, mix them up rotten. And we make you at home, we make you feel welcome. We make some happy. We can't seem to help it. And if you are looking for history, then yes, we have a wealth. But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Great words.
SESAY: We needed that this time.
VAUSE: You know, obviously very pertinent.
SESAY: Very, very pertinent.
Well, the Manchester bombing is caught in a cloud of football's Europa League Final set for Wednesday in Sweden and Manchester United will take on Ajax.
VAUSE: The Dutch club arrived at Friends Stadium outside Stockholm on Tuesday expressing sympathy for bombing victims and their families. Opening ceremonies were scaled back and a moment of silence will be held before kickoff.
SESAY: Well, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I am Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Becky Anderson will join us from Manchester next hour as we continue our breaking news coverage of the concert terror attack.
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