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Soon: House Intel Leaders Speak On Trump/Russia Probe; GOP Source: White House Admits Current Bill Can't Pass Senate; Senate: FBI Chief May Reveal If Trump/Russia Probe Exists; Sessions: Never Gave Trump Any Info Over Wiretaps; GOP Leader: No Indication Trump Tower Wiretapped. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 15, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, thank you so much. Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. A big hour of breaking news and some major events, the first coming moments from now. Both leaders of the House Intelligence Committee will be talking about their investigation into President Trump's possible ties to Russia. We'll bring that to you live.
This as we wait for FBI Director James Comey to confirm or deny his office is also investigating any Trump ties to Russia. Also this, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned if Comey doesn't come forward, he'll send him a subpoena to get to the bottom of all of this.
The backdrop all today, President Trump making his first public remarks since the blistering CBO came out earlier this week on his party's health care bill. He's scheduled to depart Joint Base Andrews any moment. We'll be following his movements throughout this hour as well.
First let's get to CNN Congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. She's on Capitol Hill. So Sunlen, on this big press availability, we're waiting for it to start right now. What are we expecting if anything to hear from the House Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Kate, most likely what we'll hear from both of them today is in essence trying to hit the reset button on all of this investigation, trying to refocus in advance of the big day that their committee has on Monday.
That's the House Intelligence Committee, who will hold the first public hearing on Russia. They have invited FBI Director James Comey to testify and a whole slate of others.
So I think today will be pulling everything together, as you know, this is a very fast-moving story. I think it's interesting today we will see the ranking member, Adam Schiff, the Democrat on the committee, and Devin Nunes, who is the Republican chairman, appear together today, potentially trying to show a united force in advance of Monday's hearing. These are two men, though, who have appeared side by side in the past and contradicted each other completely at times over what evidence they believe they have, what conclusions they already made based on that evidence. So that will be interesting to watch.
Now on the other side of Capitol Hill, a lot of other investigations going on. And some confusion this morning, when you have some senators like Senator WhiteHouse who today said -- last night he said that Director Comey had told him and Senator Graham that they would know by today whether an investigation exists at the FBI between looking into the Trump administration, the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia.
That's something that Senator WhiteHouse said very clearly that he expects to hear back today from FBI Comey on. But that's something that Senator Graham said he doesn't agree with. Here is what he said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You will subpoena the FBI, is that what you're saying?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will subpoena the information requested in the letter with the support of my chairman, Senator Grassley, who has been terrific, the ranking Democrat is Senator Feinstein. They have helped Senator WhiteHouse and myself write the letter and we're going follow up.
Congress is going to flex its muscles. The president of the United States asked Congress to look into this as to whether or not the Trump campaign was surveilled during the 2016 election by the federal government. I'm going to get to the bottom of it and if it needs a subpoena to get there, that's what we'll do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: So you're seeing big threats being made there by Senator Graham. But a lot of mixed messages coming out, what exactly they anticipate to hear from FBI Director James Comey. But it's still not clear at this point exactly what, since both of them are seeing different things -- Kate.
KEILAR: Yes. I think it's kind of a sign of the times when it comes to so many investigations going on, on Capitol Hill. When I spoke with Lindsey Graham this morning, he said he has no idea if he's going to hear back from James Comey.
He just knows that this was a day that they set to hear because they need to know if there is a criminal investigation going on into Russia ties as he's about to launch with WhiteHouse this similar investigations on the Congressional side.
He says he doesn't want to step on the FBI's toes. Waiting for that. I know you are as well, Sunlen. Thank you so much. But now to the other burning story on Capitol Hill at this very moment. The effort to repeal and replace Obamacare and the growing divide within the Republican Party over their plans.
New this morning, according to a Senate adviser, the White House is now acknowledging that the House bill as it stands can't get through the Senate.
Let's get to the White House where we find CNN's Sara Murray. She's joining us now. So Sara, what more are you hearing about where the White House stands on this? Because I'm not clear at this moment, Sara, if the Senate is on the same page as the House, and who is on what page with the White House?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. We can forgive your confusion on that because I think they are seeing a lot of this support that they hope would be coming for them, really crumbling beneath them.
We know the president met with a number of lawmakers at the White House yesterday including a number of senators who are very skeptical of this health care bill that they're looking over right now in the House.
One White House adviser in this meeting acknowledged to one of the senators that look, we know that this legislation in its current form cannot make it through the Senate. We know we don't have the votes to make it through the Senate. We expect that there would be some significant changes.
[11:05:05]Now that potentially could make it even harder for them to get this through the House. The leadership in the House has made it clear they do not want to see significant changes there, they would rather see those changes in the Senate.
We've already heard from some members on the House side saying why would I cast a vote for this bill if it's not going to look anything like this bill when it emerges from the Senate? You can see the factions they're trying to keep on board as they try to shepherd this legislation through -- Kate.
KEILAR: Yes. It looks like they're no closer to shepherding it through at the moment because the factions are sticking firm. Sara, thank you so much. We're going to be waiting for the president to leave. He is going to be hitting the road, heading to Detroit first and then Tennessee, for a campaign event. We'll be following that.
Let's discuss everything that's going on today. Joining me now is Democratic senator from West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin. Senator, thanks so much for coming in.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Kate. Appreciate it.
KEILAR: Thank you. I do want to get to health care in just a second. But the breaking news and all the moving parts this hour on the congressional investigations into Trump's wiretap claims, you said, of course, on the Senate Intelligence Committee that held a closed door meeting yesterday. Senator, have you seen any evidence so far to back up President Trump's claim?
MANCHIN: I have not. We haven't seen any evidence, but we have at 1:30 another meeting today. So we'll have what you call a "come to Jesus" meeting, making sure that everything that we are supposed to receive is coming towards us, from whether it be the CIA, NSA, FBI, we want to make sure all that information is coming in. And I think the public needs to know also.
I mean, I appreciate Senator Graham doing what he's doing, pushing the envelope hard, Adam Schiff, and everybody. I think, you know, this country has to get on with doing the business that we are responsible for and moving this country forward and you've got to get this crazy accusations behind us.
KEILAR: When you talk about a "come to Jesus" moment or "come to Jesus" meeting, if you will, who is it with? Is there a problem within the committee between Democrats and Republicans?
KEILAR: Between Democrats and the Republican chair or is it with the FBI director or the Justice Department? I ask because I do get a real sense that there is frustration with the lack of openness and cooperation from the FBI so far.
MANCHIN: Well, let's just put it this way. There's not a bit of problem within the committee itself. This is a great committee, both Democrats and Republicans working as Americans, really. That's the way this whole Congress should work, unfortunately, it doesn't.
But in this committee, I can assure you that the men and women on that committee, that sit on that committee, will vote for their country before they will any person, any human being, any agency. That's so refreshing. So I want to assure you of that.
We're concerned about basically getting the information, as the FBI, NSA, CIA, and all of our other intelligence gathering agencies working together, coming to the conclusion that this is accurate, this is not accurate, this is false, this is just hearsay.
That's what we're concerned about. You might hear from one, but then you have to wait to hear from the other. We want to get it all under one roof, and that's what we're working on today.
KEILAR: Is there one agency that's holding up this investigation? Because whether there were wiretap warrants or not seems to be a pretty easy answer to get.
MANCHIN: It should be an easy answer. You can't just blame it on one, but you know, Senator Graham showed his frustrations. I think going through that meeting with FBI Director Comey, to finding out is there any validation to what the accusations made by the president or the White House, if there is, tell us and show us what it is, and if there's not, then say so and let's move on.
KEILAR: Senator Warner, the Democratic ranking member, of course, he said that he expects that there will be a hearing later this month in the committee on the broader Russian investigation. Senator, can you give us a sense of who will be testifying?
MANCHIN: Well, we don't have -- we sure have a request list for so many people that you've all mentioned so many times on your show. You're fairly accurate on what you're asking for because you know who all the players are. Those will be interviewed, we'll find out which ones are credible, have information and knowledge, and will be able to come before the committee. The staff we have is a very seasoned staff, very expert in what they do.
KEILAR: You're talking about those Trump advisers, seeing if they'll come before the committee, Paul Manafort?
MANCHIN: Well, if those people were concerned, whether it be manafort, whether it be General Flynn and all the other people you've identified, absolutely. We need to know and get to the bottom of it. I think basically the country deserves that. We need to move on. We need to get this behind us. We need to get it cleared up. I've said this, the intelligence that we received from our agencies, the intelligence should take us to where they're accurate or not accurate.
MANCHIN: That should tell us what the truth is and the truth should allow us to make the decisions we have to make to protect not only this institution but democracy as we know it. That's what we're fighting for.
KEILAR: From your perch and post right now, what you can tell me, Senator, do you think that the FBI is even investigating ties between Trump associates and Russia?
[11:10:07]MANCHIN: I honestly cannot say yes or no to that because I don't know. I want to know, but I can't tell you. And if it's at the classified level, I couldn't speak about it. But I can honestly tell you I don't know. That's what we're going to find out.
What we do know, there's an awful lot of smoke, a little bit of smoke everywhere. With that being said, we need to clear the smoke up and see if there's a fire. If there's not a fire, what caused the smoke, and if we can prevent that from happening again, let's clear the air and move on.
But if there is, we're going to find out and we are going to get to the bottom of it. We know the Russians have worked harder this last election process, this last election cycle, to be involved in our election whether it was to be involved to change it.
We also know that basically their involvement did not change the outcome one iota, no votes were altered or messed with as we know. With that being said, what was their intent? And where they able to make inroads to the point where they could be much more involved and they could have basically an impact on the outcome of our elections? What are they doing in Germany? What are they doing in France? What are they doing in Mogadishu?
What are they doing trying to disrupt our NATO allies and all the democratic governments we have around the world? That's very concerning. They want us to help them. If we can't clear up our own mess, how are they going to expect that we're going to be able to help them in the most sincere way?
KEILAR: Let me turn to health care real quick, Senator, you've come out against the House bill as it stands. You say, the way you put it is, it adds insult to injury. Do you think the Republican House bill has any chance of passing the Senate?
MANCHIN: Not what I hear. I don't know. I know from the Democrats because the Democrats are united, and it doesn't matter from the right to the left, we have a pretty big tent. As you know we have Bernie at one end and me on the other, and we all agree that this --
KEILAR: You guys are singing from the same song book, Democrats are united. When Mitch McConnell says there will be changes to the bill, if the Medicaid provision changes, could you get on board?
MANCHIN: Well, the expansion, you're saying basically the expansion. Let me tell you one thing, common sense would tell you, we've given 20 million people something very valuable, health care, which is something we all desire and all need and all should have, we've been able to give that to 20 million people.
Never gave them one iota of instructions how to use it. Don't you think there are savings there that we can help people be more healthier, save a lot of money in the system? We're not even making any attempt to do that.
But in order to do it, Kate, on this, when I said insult to injury, someone's got to have a moral compass. How can you, with all good conscious, say my seniors are going to have to pay a lot more, to get the help that they need? These are older people, poor people will have to pay more, we know 24 million of them will leave the system.
The Republicans say no, they won't leave, it will be more affordable. Whatever it is, if it was affordable, they could buy it. They haven't bought it. So let's say they're going to leave. And then on top of that, in my state, you have poor people, elderly being hurt.
And then we have an opioid epidemic in my state that basically they're going to cut out the services that a lot of people get treated for addiction.
KEILAR: Real quick, that's what's kind of confounding in this bill. Your state voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Many of the provisions in this bill, as you're pointing out, hurt the people who voted for him. You've talked about Donald Trump quite a bit. You say you talk to him more than you talked to Barack Obama. What does he say to this?
MANCHIN: I've talked to him three or four weeks ago when all of this was unfolding. I said, Mr. President, be very careful they're not leading you down a primrose path. I know it's a political promise. I know everyone has talked about it and they've been saying for six years or more, repeal, repeal, and never had a viable repair or replacement.
All of a sudden now to say, because we had the budget reconciliation and we can finally get rid of it because we have control with 51 votes on the Republican side, I said I thought the Democrats were wrong in 2009 not to have any buy-in from the Republicans to make it bipartisan.
KEILAR: Senator -- I'm so sorry, Senator.
MANCHIN: But the Republicans are going to be worse. I said, Mr. President, I can assure you the people that voted for you, over 70 percent of the people in West Virginia probably benefit from Obamacare or Affordable Care Act, they don't know how they got it. But Mr. President, they're going to know how they lost it and who took it away. Don't get caught in that trap.
KEILAR: Sorry to keep cutting you off, Senator, I'm just getting breaking news on my phone, and I wanted to ask you about it, it has to do with these wiretaps.
This is coming from CNN. It says that Attorney General Sessions said today, "Look, the answer is no," when he was asked by a reporter if he ever had a chance to brief the president on investigations into the campaign or if he ever gave any reason to believe he was wiretapped by the previous administration. If the attorney general says no, what does that tell you?
[11:15:07]MANCHIN: It tells you I don't know where else the president is getting his information that something has happened such as that accusation that was made. I have no clue. I would say be very careful on that.
If you have the attorney general that you've appointed and basically the head of our Justice Department saying there's absolutely nothing to this, there's no wiretapping, there's no one who has been given that authority to do that, I would take that as the truth.
So I don't know. You're telling me something brand new. If Jeff Sessions has said that, and Jeff Sessions would have no reason to sugarcoat this thing up or to make it any more damaging than it already is, so he'll be another person I'm sure would you like you would want to talk to.
KEILAR: Exactly. Add it to the growing list, Senator. Thank you very much. I really appreciate the time, Senator. Thank you.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Kate. Always --
KEILAR: All right, let's go to the other side of the Capitol right now where you the chair and the ranking member of the House intelligence committee talking to the press about their Russia investigation. Let's listen in.
REPRESENTATIVE DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: -- on Monday, March 20th, we have confirmed that Admiral Rodgers from the NSA will be here along with Director Comey will be here. That will be a public hearing. The other witnesses, we have given them the date of March 28th to be here. Some of couldn't make the March 20th date.
It does sound like that most of them will be able to make the March 28th date. We don't know the location of that hearing yet, but I think the time will be 10:00 a.m.
Secondly, I want to say, as I told you last week about the issue with the president talking about tapping Trump Tower, that evidence still remains the same, that we don't have any evidence that that took place, in fact I don't believe just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to, I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.
However, as I expressed last week, and I remain even more concerned about this, which are twofold, one, the incidental collection of Americans that were possibly tied to the Trump campaign that could have been leaked, similar to General Flynn, and secondly, the unmasking of Americans' names potentially for political purposes, which we're continuing to ask more about that.
Mr. Schiff and I are sending a letter today to Director Comey, Pompeo, and Admiral Rodgers, asking for the total number of names that were unmasked over the course the last six months. And that letter, I think we'll pass that letter out to all of you so that you'll have it.
Lastly, the third issue that I have to bring to you today is, we are a little uncomfortable with the ODNI, and whether or not they're going to let us have the proper computer technology that we need to go through the evidence that exists out at the CIA, out at Langley. And we are trying to work through that.
But I can tell you that it has become a bit of a stumbling block for our investigators to actually be able to compile and cull through the information. So those are the three issues that I have for you today. And I would like to ask Mr. Schiff if he would like to say a couple of comments.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Chairman. I want to join in saying that to date I've seen no evidence that supports the claim that president Trump made that his predecessor had wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower. Thus far we have seen no basis for that whatsoever.
We still want the Justice Department to respond to our letter. We've given them until March 20th. We're both willing to use compulsory process if that's necessary, although neither of us believe that will be necessary.
Certainly at the open hearing that we have on March 20th, we'll be asking the director if he has seen any evidence that substantiates the president's claim. It deeply concerns me that the president would make such an accusation without basis.
We think it's in the public interest that this be addressed very openly by the director, and we certainly expect that he will. It's my understanding that the three witnesses who have had conflicts or other issues with the March 20th hearing are all available, and I believe committed to the March 28th hearing.
So the following week we'll get the remaining testimony from those witnesses, and we'll have as much time as necessary at the hearing for our members to ask their questions. Obviously there's an essential amount they may not be able to answer in open session.
But we want to conduct as much of this investigation in the open so the public is informed of the progress that we're making. Our members are going to the agency to review the documents.
[11:20:12]Our full committee now has access to the "Gang of Eight" materials that underlie the assessment that the intelligence community put out. I spent a few hours there yesterday and would encourage all the members to spend time out at the agency reviewing those documents.
And finally, you know, I think we are continuing to make progress and the chairman and I are doing everything that we can to keep this investigation bipartisan or nonpartisan, to make sure that we follow the evidence wherever it leads. And that is certainly our hope. And it will continue to be our effort to do so. We're happy to respond to any questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What information about Trump associates gathered through incidental collection are you satisfied that this information was used lawfully?
NUNES: We know for a fact, because it's out there in public, incidental collection on General Flynn was picked up. What I remain concerned about is whether or not there is additional incidental collection that we are not aware of.
And then if any of that information was put into any types of intelligence reports and then, you know, whether or not additional names were unmasked. If additional names were unmasked, we're going to have to understand where the proper procedures followed, and did additional names get leaked to the media or were people using that information for other purposes that wouldn't have had intelligence value.
And that's what I remain concerned about. That's why the letter that you see today, we're asking for all of those names by Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that also your (inaudible) --
SCHIFF: I think it's certainly an appropriate part of our oversight to make sure that the agencies are following the correct procedures when it comes to unmasking any names of Americans that may be gathered through incidental collection. But I do want to underscore that this is a separate matter from whether the president's allegations have any truth. We're talking about both these issues, but the two are not related in the sense that there's no evidence that there was a wiretap of Trump and his associates at Trump Tower.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You said it pretty clearly that you do not think Trump Tower was tapped. What gives you that confidence to say that --
NUNES: I actually said that last week. I think the challenge here is that President Obama wouldn't physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower. So now you have to decide, as I mentioned to you last week, are you going to take the tweets literally, and if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.
But if you're not going to take the tweets literally and if there's a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out. It's all in the interpretation of what you believe.
RAJU: Is there anything you've seen in the evidence so far that suggests that there were any conversations between people affiliated with the Trump campaign and Russian officials who are not the ambassador to Russia, whether anyone tied to the kremlin had ties to the Trump campaign? Do you have any evidence of that?
NUNES: Not that I'm aware of.
SCHIFF: I wouldn't answer that question as categorically as my colleague. We're not privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation, but, you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this. And I just don't think we can answer that, answer categorically, and not in this forum.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, the White House has said they are extremely confident that the president will ultimately be vindicated in his claim. You're obviously pressing DOJ to release any evidence that they may have. What about the White House? Are you also pressing them and encouraging them to reveal what the president knew, his grounds for making this claim?
NUNES: Yes, we're going to continue to follow the facts. We're not going to make any assumptions. But as I've said before, for a long time here, I've been very clear about my concern about, number one, the incidental collection on General Flynn, how that was put into a product, how it was unmasked, how it was leaked to the public. Several crimes have been committed here. And I want to make sure that -- I don't want to get into -- Mr. Schiff, I don't know if you want to respond to that also.
SCHIFF: I would just say, I do think it's incumbent, if we get to March 20th and we have the testimony, I think we all expect from the director that there was no substance to the accusation that Barack Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower. [11:25:10]That the president explain himself. I think you can't level an accusation of that type without either retracting it or explaining just why it was done. And I think that there are, from a national security perspective, great concerns if the president is willing to state things like that without any basis.
Because the country needs to be able to rely on him, particularly if we have a crisis that is an external crisis, as every president does within their term of office. So I think it is a serious matter. I appreciate the chairman's willingness to have an open hearing on this. I think the testimony will be very important.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any reason to believe that the president himself or anyone working for him in the White House would be one of these names that may have been swept up in something that could then have ultimately been leaked, like what happened with Michael Flynn?
NUNES: Well, I think it's very possible. But like I said, we should know that by Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think the president himself might be one of those people that was swept up?
NUNES: It's possible. You know, look, we know -- we think we understand how General Flynn was picked up in incidental collection. Perhaps there's additional incidental collection or there was unmasking that occurred. This is why we're sending a letter, get it all out in the open so that we understand.
Like I've said many times, I'm concerned about unmasking of Americans' names. As you'll see in the letter, as they relate to either the Trump campaign and his folks or Hillary Clinton's campaign and her folks, we would like to know if any names were unmasked. I think that would help answer these questions.
SCHIFF: Let me, if I can, also respond on that in a couple of ways. First, Mr. Spicer has represented that he is not aware of any investigation that was targeting the president, and presumably no court-ordered surveillance of the president.
He has also said that he is confident that the president was speaking accurately when he said he was wiretapped by his predecessor. Those two things cannot both be true unless he is suggesting that the FBI was engaged in a rogue operation, unsupervised by a court, to wiretap Trump Tower.
There is absolutely no evidence of that and no suggestion of any evidence of that. I think to even put that forth was irresponsible of the president and his spokesman.
And I also, in terms of our oversight responsibility, want to make one other point, and that is, while I think it perfectly appropriate that we oversee the FISA process and the unmasking of any names, if any of that is implicated in any way. I have seen no evidence of illegality in terms of any electronic surveillance pertaining to your question. So I don't want anything to be surmised that we're suggesting otherwise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't get those names by Friday, will you subpoena that information as well?
NUNES: Most likely, yes, if they don't have a good reason for not giving us that. FISA is a critical tool that our intelligence agencies use. We want to make sure that it's done lawfully and legally. And part of that is going to be, even if it has to be at the gang of eight level, just Mr. Schiff and myself that would be fine. We do need to have a good understanding of how that process worked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, are you driving at here that you think that Trump associates were reverse targeted without a proper warrant, but they were tapped to basically look at anything that was incidentally collected and that was disseminated? Is that what you're looking for?
NUNES: Look, let's wait until Friday for them to come out with the information and we'll have the open hearing on Monday before we start to speculate. But clearly, I just want to make sure the FISA processes were properly followed and that the unmasking the names did not occur improperly.
SCHIFF: And I just want to add that I certainly have seen no evidence of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you elaborate a little on the concern you mentioned earlier about ODNI not giving you the technological setup to review some of the intelligence underlying the conclusions?
NUNES: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is overseeing how we have access to these documents, one of the simple things that I think should be everyone should understand this is that we should be able to get --