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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Without Proof, White House Stands by Trump Wiretap Claim; Ryan, Senate Intel Committee See No Evidence of Trump Wiretap. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 16, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight, we know the president of the United States has no facts. No facts to back up his startling allegation that the former president of the United States, President Obama, wiretapped him in Trump Tower during the campaign.
"Keeping Them Honest", we know this tonight because bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say they've seen no evidence that President Obama ordered Donald Trump's phones tapped during the campaign. We know this because House Speaker Paul Ryan also says he's seen no evidence.
Now, remember, the president asked Congress to investigate and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have been doing that for the last dozen days. We know the president has no facts to back up his early morning Saturday tweet storm because in today's White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer read a long list of media reports that he seemed to believe back up the president's claims, media reports. Sean Hannity, Judge Napolitano, Heat Street, "The New York Times," the very paper the president of the United States has consistently referred to as failing and fake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sean Hannity went on on Fox to say -- Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement -- on November 11th, 2016, days after election, Heat Street reported -- January 19th, "The New York Times" reported --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we know the president has no facts because he himself was on FOX News last night and finally explained where he got the alleged information that led him to tweet the substantiated allegations against the former president. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been reading about things. I read in -- I think it was January 20th, "The New York Times" article, where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article. I think they used that exact term.
I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening and wiretapping. I said, "Wait a minute, there's a lot of wiretapping being talked about." I've been seeing a lot of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president on FOX last night. He's been seeing a lot of thing, he says. He read a report in "The New York Times." He heard Bret Baier say something. A lot of wiretapping being talked about, he says there. Now we know.
The thing is the report in "The New York Times" the president seems to be talking about, it does not say anything about President Obama ordering a wiretap. We've actually interviewed "The New York Times" reporter who wrote the article and we're going to do it again tonight. In a minute, you can hear him for yourself.
As for Bret Baier, whose work I certainly respect, based on Sean Spicer's comments today, we believe the president is referring to Bret's show on March 3rd, the night before the president tweeted. That show does not cite any evidence of wiretapping, instead, it appears to refer to other unspecified reports, none of which, again, say anything about former President Obama wiretapping President Trump.
Let's remember, before sending those tweets attacking the former president, President Trump could have picked up a phone. He could have called the FBI, the CIA, his director of national intelligence, could have just asked for the information. He didn't.
There was something else the president said in that FOX interview that's similar to something he said before. In the world of television, it's what we call a tease. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's the tease. Basically, it's stay tuned, because there's something very interesting coming up.
Now, the president has done this before, most notably as a citizen when he used to talk about President Obama's citizenship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Right now, I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.
INTERVIEWER: You have people now down there searching -- I mean, in Hawaii?
TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: By the way, the payoff for that tease, that never came. In fact, there has never been any evidence at all that then citizen Trump actually had people down in Hawaii searching for information. The time when he claims he did, we actually did have people down in Hawaii searching for information, interviewing all the people somebody would interview for information and none of those people we interviewed ever reported being approached by anyone working for then-citizen Donald Trump.
Well, it was quite a press conference today at the White House. Our Jim Acosta was in the thick of it. We're going to talk to him about it in just a second.
But, first, here's some of the exchange that Jim had with Sean Spicer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You were just quoting Sean Hannity there. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are quoting --
SPICER: I also quote -- I get you're going to cherry pick --
ACOSTA: -- the FBI director. You're citing Sean Hannity --
SPICER: No, no, no. OK. You also look over -- you also tend to overlook all of the other sources, because I know you want to cherry pick it. But -- no, no --
SPICER: -- but -- but you do. But where was your concern about "The New York Times" report? You didn't seem to have a concern with that.
ACOSTA: We have done -- I've done plenty of reporting on all of this --
SPICER: No, no, but you want to cherry pick one --
ACOSTA: -- these connections between the --
SPICER: -- one commentary -- one piece of commentary.
ACOSTA: -- associates of the president to the Russians. That has all been looked at and --
SPICER: No, wait, how do you know all this? The -- how do you seem to be such an expert on this?
ACOSTA: I'm saying that this has been looked at, Sean --
SPICER: How do you know it's been looked at?
SPICER: Hold on, hold on. Where is -- I'm sorry -- I'm afraid -- to understand -- where -- can you tell me how you know that all of this has, quote, "been looked at"?
ACOSTA: You're asking me whether or not --
[20:05:00] SPICER: You made a statement. You said, quote, "All of this has been looked at."
ACOSTA: Other outlets have reported --
SPICER: No, no. So, OK, so we're -- so when your outlet says it's all been looked at --
ACOSTA: -- to the president and the Russians during the 2016 campaign. It sounds like during the context of that investigation, there might have been some intercepted communications. The House Intelligence Committee chairman did mention that. And we have reported that. Others have reported that, you know, on our air and various publications.
But, Sean, what you are -- what you are refusing to answer -- the question that you are refusing to answer is whether or not the president still believes what he believes --
SPICER: No, I'm not. I just said it to Jonathan. I didn't refuse to answer that.
ACOSTA: You have a Senate and House Intelligence Committee, both leaders from both parties on both of those panels, saying that they don't see any evidence of any wiretapping. So, how can the president go on and continue to --
SPICER: Because that's not -- because you're mischaracterizing what Chairman Nunes said. He said, quote, "I think it's possible" -- he is following up on this. So to suggest that is actually --
SPICER: And you're stating unequivocally that you somehow --
ACOSTA: -- literally, you said if you --
SPICER: Right. And I think that we've already cleared that up. And he said exactly that. But the president has already said clearly, when he referred to wiretapping, he was referring to surveillance. So that's --
SPICER: So that's --
ACOSTA: -- sounds like, though, Sean, that you and the president are saying now, well, we don't need wiretapping anymore, because that's not true anymore --
SPICER: No, no, that's not --
ACOSTA: So now we're going to expand to other forms of surveillance. What's it going to be next?
SPICER: No, no -- Jim, I think that's cute, but at the end of the day, we've talked about this for three or four days. What the president had to, quote, "wiretapping," in quotes, he was referring to broad surveillance. And now, you're basically going back. We talked about this several days ago.
The bottom line is that the investigation by the House and the Senate has not been provided all of the information. And when it does -- but where was the concern --
SPICER: -- hold on. I just --
ACOSTA: -- not evidence --
SPICER: No, no. What I -- I think the president addressed that last night, said there's more to come. These are merely pointing out that I think there's widespread reporting that throughout the 2016 election, there was surveillance that was done on a variety of people. That came up --
ACOSTA: -- investigation going on as to whether there was contact between the president's campaign and the Russians --
SPICER: Jim, I find it interesting that you -- you somehow believe that you --
COSTA: Of course, they're going to be looking at these various --
SPICER: OK. OK. I get it. Somehow, you seem to believe that you have all of this information. You've been read-in on all of these things, which I find very interesting.
ACOSTA: I haven't read in by the FBI --
SPICER: Well, so, you're coming to some serious conclusions for a guy that has zero intelligence --
ACOSTA: Well, give me some credit --
SPICER: I'll give you some --
ACOSTA: -- a little intelligence maybe. But no --
SPICER: Clearance. I wasn't done. Clearance.
ACOSTA: Those two -- those two panels --
SPICER: Maybe both.
ACOSTA: Well, come on.
ACOSTA: Those two panels have spoken with the FBI director and were told --
SPICER: I -- I understand that --
ACOSTA: -- told there's no evidence of this.
SPICER: OK, I -- I think this question's has been asked and answered, Jim.
ACOSTA: -- just have the president say he was wrong.
SPICER: Because it's interesting how you jump to all of these conclusions about what they have, what they don't have and you seem to know all the answers. But at the end of the day, there was clearly a ton of reporting --
ACOSTA: A week from now --
SPICER: Hold on, Jim! Let me answer. I think there's been a vast amount of reporting, which I just detailed about activity that was going on in the 2016 election. There's no question that there was surveillance techniques used throughout this. I think by a variety of outlets that have reported this activity concluded.
So -- and I think when you actually ask those two people, whether or not, and as Chairman Nunes said yesterday, when you take it literally in wiretapping, the president has been very clear that he didn't mean specifically wiretapping, he had it in quotes. I think to fall back on that is a false, is a false premise. That's not what he said. He was very clear about that when he talked about it yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Jim Acosta joins us now.
So, Jim, why did you press Sean Spicer on those sources?
ACOSTA: Well, because before, you know, I asked that question, why are you quoting Sean Hannity, which is a bizarre question to ask during a briefing, by the way. Sean Spicer went through this long list of news articles and I guess posts on websites, obscure websites that would lead them to conclude that the president has some backing for his claim that he was wiretapped by former President Obama.
But by the way, one of those articles, and I think you just mentioned this, that the White House is relying upon, was written by "The New York Times." So, the president has called time and again the failing "New York Times." So, you know, on the face of it, right there, they're leaning on information that they've questioned as not reputable in the past.
Add to that, during that long list of sources, he also cited Sean Hannity and something that was said on his show and something that Judge Andrew Napolitano said, another FOX News contributor. Anderson, as you and I both know, those are not non-biased sources of information. They tend to be sources of information that feed a lot of president's conspiracy theories that we hear about all the time.
COOPER: Right. And we already interviewed "The New York Times" reporter that wrote that article that the White House is referencing and we're about to do it again.
COOPER: And it doesn't say anything about President Obama wiretapping. And also what Judge Napolitano, Andrew Napolitano was talking about, the British intelligence service has now come out and refuted --
ACOSTA: They've knocked that down.
COOPER: -- it directly. They've said it's ridiculous.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: Are you seeing any signs of the White House breaking down at all from the president's original claim? Because I'm trying to remember anytime that President Trump, as a citizen or as president, has admitted he was wrong about anything.
[20:10:00] And I think we've even asked him that question, as a candidate, you know, are there things you have said which are wrong? And I don't think he's ever admitted he's wrong.
ACOSTA: I don't think I've ever heard him admit he's wrong. And, you know, that was one reason why I pressed Sean Spicer on that during the briefing, because they started with these original tweets from the president, that former President Obama wiretapped him. When that claim proved to be baseless and false and proven wrong and said as much by members of his own party up on Capitol Hill, they then expanded the definition of what wiretapping is, and now it means all these different forms of surveillance.
And so, the question becomes -- well, when that doesn't work anymore, because keep in mind, the Senate Intelligence Committee's statement today said, surveillance. It did not say wiretapping. We did not find evidence of surveillance.
So, it seems to be knocking down the latest excuse from the White House. And so, instead of trying to find some kind of refuge in the form of an apology or a retraction or withdrawal of that statement, you have the president and his spokesman doubling down, Anderson. And there is no sign that an apology is coming.
But, of course, we know that, because we've been covering Donald Trump for some time now.
COOPER: Yes. Jim, stick around. I want to bring in perhaps the mostly widely mentioned "New York Times" reporter of the night, Matthew Rosenberg.
Matthew, this reminds me of the scene in "Annie Hall" where two people are talking about Marshall McLuhan's work and Woody Allen gets annoyed and says, you know what, I just happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here.
So, we're very glad we have the reporter who wrote the story that is being quoted now by Sean Spicer.
I want to get your reaction to what we just heard. What do you make of the White House citing your article as part of the evidence?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it's -- it's getting bizarre at this point. We've said it very clearly, and I said on your show, that that's not what this story said. Anybody can read the story and see that's not what it said.
And so, this bizarre circular thing happening, where the president cites a theory that he was wiretapped, which developed on this kind of fringe right-wing media. And after his tweet storm, Info Wars then started saying, look, it was "The New York Times" that reported it, citing our story, misreading our story.
And now, a few weeks later, the White House and the president are citing Info Wars. So, they've got one kind of bizarre right-wing fringe theory to defend another bizarre right-wing fringe story, both of which there is no evidence to support.
COOPER: And just to be clear here, there is -- and correct me if I'm wrong, there's absolutely nothing whatsoever in your reporting in "The New York Times" that indicates President Obama wiretapped or ordered wiretapping of then-candidate Trump, correct?
ROSENBERG: Nothing. I mean, if we knew that, that is a fantastic story. That -- we would be rushing -- I would not be siting here with you, I would be at home writing or out reporting it.
We said that there intercepted communications, in subsequent reporting, we've said that these communications of Russians talking to each other about contacts with Trump associates, we know that there were intercepts with, say, the Russian ambassador, who was on the phone with Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. And so, Flynn was picked up because he was talking to the Russian ambassador, who was under surveillance.
But this is all routine work by intelligence agencies and the FBI. This isn't, you know, they especially put the Trump people under surveillance. That's -- we have no evidence that that happened.
COOPER: Right, and in fact, I just want to read the sentence in the article, that you've just talked about, but I just think it's important to actually have the sentence. You wrote, one official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretap communication have said provided to the White House. I know you can't obviously get into your sources for your reporting, but the wiretapping you reference, that's the Russians communicating theoretically with other Russians, but in one case, I guess, with Flynn.
ROSENBERG: Much of it. I need to be a little careful here --
ROSENBERG: -- partly because our visibility is limited. Obviously, I don't have the security clearance. I can't go in and see these things personally.
And, you know, these intelligence reports go to the White House isn't that unusual either, because almost all of them, the names are masked. So, if there's an American named in this, it's always masked. It's only unmasked if necessary for context or, you know, if the president were to ask for that. We have no evidence that happened.
Again, this is, you know, intelligence agencies doing their jobs, frankly, and picking up things that were going on.
COOPER: You're also working for a news organization that the president of the United States has repeatedly referred to as failing or fake news. It's very interesting that "The Times" seem to be one of the main White House sources that they are pointing to, to try to now buoy their defense. If they really believe it's fake news, it's odd that they were now be kind of embracing your reporting, or what they believe your reporting is, which it's not.
ROSENBERG: It's kind of an honor I guess to be cited by the president, but it's a complete misreading. And Trump usually refers to us as failing, usually sees us as -- something is wrong with us. On occasion, he once called us a national treasure. I think there's a bit of a competing viewpoint in his own mind about who is exactly and what exactly we are.
COOPER: We're going to bring in Jim just back in.
Jim, the president is scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A, do you foresee wiretapping coming up? And, B, any idea of how he might respond?
[20:15:03] ACOSTA: Anderson, I think this is going to be a critical moment for President Trump and the early days of this administration. You know, we saw many some of these joint news conferences with other foreign leaders that he preferred to call on conservative news outlets to basically fix the game, in order to not get tough questions during some of these news conferences.
And so, the choice that is set before the president tomorrow is, does he go down that road, does he decide to just stick with conservative news outlets, because he knows they're not going to ask this question about wiretapping or does he call on a CNN or "New York Times" or "Associated Press" or one of the other broadcasts and is he going to get asked this question? And how does he answer? I think that's going to be a critical moment for this question. We'll have to see if he chooses the road less the traveled here, because he is certainly in a very difficult box of his own making.
And I think the only way he can see his way out of it at this point, Anderson, is just to acknowledge the truth, that the wiretapping claim he tweeted about is just false and that he made a mistake -- Anderson.
COOPER: We'll see about that.
Jim Acosta, thank you. Matthew Rosenberg, appreciate you being on again. Thank you.
Coming up next, breaking news on the congressional side, including the head of the House Intelligence Committee responding directly to one of those claims you heard Sean Spicer make.
And at the top of the next hour, Van Jones, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and another CNN "MESSY TRUTH" town hall.
COOPER: Welcome back.
More breaking news on the wiretap story. So far, we've been focusing on the White House side, more accurately, the White House allegation. The people doing the hard work are determining whether there's any evidence to support it are the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. As we've been reporting, they're not finding any, according to them. Additionally, it seems that even some defenders of the administration, they seem to be losing patience with the White House, and the breaking news is all about that.
Reaction to Sean Spicer today, suggesting that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes still backs the White House, despite the chairman's yesterday contradicting the president's wiretap claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: When Devin Nunes came out and said, I think it's very possible, yesterday, there was crickets from you guys. When Devin Nunes came out and said there was no connection that he saw to Russia, crickets. When Tom Cotton said the same -- you don't want to cover this stuff, no, no, hold on --
REPORTER: He said he had no evidence of wiretapping. Now you've had the House Intelligence Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee --
SPICER: No, no, actually, here's his quote, Jonathan. No, here's the direct quote, "I think it's very possible," end quote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, CNN's Manu Raju.
So, I understand you just caught with Congressman Nunes. What did he say?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he's not on the same page with the White House, Anderson. What Sean Spicer was referring to there was comments that Devin Nunes made yesterday at a press conference saying that it was possible, that incidentally during the broader surveillance that was taking place during the Obama years, perhaps some of Donald Trump's communications may have been swept up and that's something they will look into.
Now, when I caught up with Mr. Nunes today, I asked him specifically, does that mean you've seen any evidence? And he said no. And he says he does not believe that President Trump was wiretapped under the orders of Barack Obama. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: You said yesterday, though, I don't believe, that was your words. I don't believe.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, I don't believe that the president ordered a physical wiretap of Trump Tower.
RAJU: And what do you make of the --
NUNES: Talking about a physical wiretap or other surveillance activities, which is the question. RAJU: And today --
NUNES: And we want to make sure that no surveillance activities were used for political purposes.
RAJU: Do you have any evidence to suggest that any incidental collection may have picked up Trump's, Donald Trump's communications at all? Do you have any evidence to suggest that?
NUNES: Other than General Flynn, we don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, that's the first time, Anderson, we are hearing from Devin Nunes, saying that he has -- there is no evidence to suggest any centennial collection of communications from President Trump, really undercutting a key argument that Sean Spicer was making today. Nunes saying that if you take Donald Trump's, quote, "tweets", literally, no, he was not tapped, but perhaps broadly, under this new definition of surveillance, maybe, we'll look into it, but obviously, no evidence that they're seeing or that the Senate Intelligence Committee is seeing at this moment.
COOPER: And what are you learning about the latest response from Director Comey of the FBI?
RAJU: Well, we're expecting him to speak publicly Monday at a very high-profile hearing, that the House Intelligence Committee is having on the issue of Russia -- Russia meddling in any of those campaign contacts that may have occurred during the campaign season with Donald Trump's campaign and any Russian officials.
Now, I am told by Adam Schiff, who's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, that he expects James Comey to publicly rebut Donald Trump's suggestion that he was wiretapped under the orders of Donald Trump. I asked Adam Schiff that directly today and he says, that's what he expects.
And Schiff would be in a position to know. He actually has spoken multiple times with Comey. They had a private briefing, talking, presumably, about this topic, as well. So, we'll see if Comey actually goes forward and goes public on Monday
night. But this is a question that will come up at this high-profile hearing, and we'll see if Comey expresses reservations or goes out and publicly rebuts Donald Trump the way that he's now expect to do so, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. That's going to be on Monday. Manu Raju, thanks.
Joining us now, CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, Trump supporter and contributor of "The Hill", Kayleigh McEnany. Van Jones is busy tonight. He's got a "MESSY TRUTH" town hall getting underway right after 360. Also, former Georgia GOP Congressman Jack Kingston.
Kirsten, I'm not sure where to begin on this, but that press conference today, the White House -- I mean, the White House has gotten in deep on this and doesn't seem to be able to back out.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, they're in a bad situation, because, obviously, they have to -- Sean Spicer has to defend Donald Trump, because he doesn't want to back down from this.
I mean, what really struck me the most today was when he rolled out the evidence, basically, right, you know? And so, Donald Trump tweeted, "I just found out," and then he went on this tweet rampage about how he was wiretapped.
I think most of us, when we hear that, we think, I just found out something. Oh, someone came in and briefed you. Like, if I said to you, Anderson, I just found out something, and I said, and then it turns out I just found out by reading it in the newspaper, you'd be like, well, that's not just finding it out, that's -- everybody knows that.
And it turns out what it was that he just found out was that he was watching FOX News. And so, he found out something from Sean Hannity and he found something from Andrew Napolitano. That's kind of embarrassing for the White House, I think.
You know, I don't think that this is how we think of the president making a kind of accusation like this based on something like that.
COOPER: And, you know, Kayleigh, we've talked about this before -- having believed that, the president could then pick up the telephone and call the director of national intelligence, the FBI, and find out, was there a FISA court warrant, you know, issued? It seems like none of that was done.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, and I mean, the reason Sean Spicer gave us is he says then the media would go crazy, because they're interfering in the intelligence community's activities and there should be a separation. So, that's his reason, whether we like it or not.
But I think there are two really important things that we need to separate. Number one, Devin Nunes has said, Democrats, Republicans alike have said, Obama did not order a direct wiretapping of Trump. [20:25:06] At this point, it doesn't seem like that happened, based on
everything we know from both sides of the aisle. That being said, there is another separate very serious matter that I think is what President Trump's tweet was getting at, which is Mike Flynn's conversations were transcribed in the course of surveilling a foreign diplomat. DNI procedures say, when you come across a American citizen, stop unless you have evidence of a crime or a very strong suspicion.
Why didn't they stop? Why was an American's conversations transcribed in the middle of a heated election, someone who might very well have been in Trump Tower when that was taking place. That incidental wiretapping, those questions aren't answered. And that could very well validate what President Trump was getting at.
COOPER: But isn't it my understanding, and you probably know more in this than I do, in certain circumstances, the name can be unredacted if they believe a crime, perhaps, has been committed?
MCENANY: No, that's certainly true. But at the same time, they still need some sort of evidence before they transcribe and then disseminate around government Mike Flynn's conversation. It was disseminated far and wide. Why weren't the minimization procedures followed from the get-go?
COOPER: OK, but, Van, that is not what President Trump was tweeting about at 6:00-something a.m. on a Saturday morning.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE MESSY TRUTH: Listen, there are all kinds of things in our government that could be improved. Frankly, I was concerned under the Obama administration that, you know, the intelligence community might have superpowers and that kind of stuff and new tools.
There is a way to have that conversation. You could say, listen, I am the president of the United States, I'm concerned about intelligence, I want to have -- tweeting out some completely made-up nonsense two weeks ago is not how you have a conversation about any of these issues.
So, I think when you talk about what's really going on here. Here's what's really going on -- two weeks ago the president gave a speech that was well received by many, including myself, quite famously, and then the next day, rather than him getting his wonderful, you know, high of praise, people started talking about the fact that Jeff Sessions have committed an act of treason. That the top cop had committed a crime, and Donald Trump, by all reports, started going off on people, screaming and yelling.
And guess what? He then tweeted out some nonsense to change the subject. Now, we're not sitting here talking about the fact that the top cop committed an act of perjury, we're talking about total nonsense.
So, Trump is winning again by doing nutty stuff and having us chase the rabbit around the barn. I'm going to tell you right now, there is no way in the world that you can spin or polish what he -- that tweet. You just can't do it.
But, in fact, I don't think Trump is that mad we're not talking about Jeff Sessions.
COOPER: But, Congressman Kingston, does it -- you know, Van is saying this is sort of a Machiavellian way to turn the attention away or gone down that rabbit hole, but you can't ignore what the president of the United States, when he's making allegations against the former president of the United States, allegations which are incredibly serious.
JACK KINGSTON (R-GA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I don't think you can ignore it. And when you listen to what Sean said today, he said, one of the things that bothered the White House is that on his way out the door, President Obama apparently opened up the surveillance or the investigation, the 16 other agencies who had not been involved in it. And thus, spreading the information, continuing surveillance, continuing whatever investigation level there was and improving the likelihood of leaks. And I think that is something the White House is very concerned about.
But one thing I want to mention, if Devin Nunes and other Republicans come out and say there was no evidence of wiretapping, in two weeks or three, or whatever it is, when they come out and say there's no evidence of collusion, I hope that the Democrats equally embrace their statements, at that time, as they had today.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue this conversation.
A lot more to talk about in the hour ahead, including what House Speaker Paul Ryan said about the lack of evidence from President Trump's wiretapping claim. And whether he thinks Mr. Trump should apologize to the American people.
[20:32:43] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: As we've been reporting, the unfounded wiretap allegation took some interesting turns today. Began with bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee saying flat out they've seen no evidence that President Obama ordered Donald Trump's phones tapped during the campaign. Then came out at a press briefing where White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave a long and winding and often contradictory defense and said President Trump stands by the claim.
Speaker Paul Ryan along with other top lawmakers have been briefed on the matter by intelligence and law enforcement officials. Here's what he told Wolf Blitzer short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: We have not seen any evidence that there was a wiretap or a FISA Court order against Trump Tower or somebody in Trump Tower. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So should the president of the United States, do you believe, apologize to former President Obama and apologize to the American people for making such an assertion?
RYAN: I'm going to leave it to him to make his decisions.
BLITZER: You still personally trust President Trump?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And back now with the panel. I was trying to remember an incident where the president has apologized -- or Donald Trump as a citizen really has apologized and I think we talked -- we asked him about that at point or another during the campaign and he couldn't -- if memory serves me correct, he couldn't come up. Kayleigh, do you think he should?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Look, I mean, I think, he should clarify, especially if it's not direct evidence of Obama tapping Trump. And I think I agree with Van, Twitter was not the place to raise this. I fully think that there was something suspicious going on, maybe not orchestrated by President Obama, people within, that's not hard to believe based on the felonious leaks we've seen.
So I do think there was something strange going on. I do think they'll provide some sort of evidence of surveillance, whether it was ordered by the commander in chief, that's very far stretch to make and this is why Twitter doesn't limit itself to making these allegations. So if there's no evidence I think he should clarify just like remember the Democratic senator who tweeted she never met with the Russians and she's like, "Oh, I didn't have room for in my office."
COOPER: Congressman Kingston, the current president of the United States calling the former president of the United States a bad or sick guy, I think was his terminology. Is that something he should apologize?
JACK KINGSTON, (R) FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESMAN: You know, I think his words may have gotten ahead of himself in terms of wiretapping versus surveillance. And maybe we will know something as he said last night to Tucker Carlson in the next couple of weeks, there will be more stuff coming out.
[20:34:58] COOPER: You know, that is sort of his poker tell. I mean that's -- you know, he often uses that phraseology of, you know, something big is coming or just wait or, you know, I'm finding out some amazing things.
KINGSTON: You know, he's a Hollywood guy and there's that teaser element to him. It seems to always be out there.
KINGSTON: But I'm going to quote Paul Ryan, I'm going to let him make his decisions on terms of apologizing or taking it back. But I do think if we listen today, part of what Sean was saying is the surveillance, wiretapping, almost synonymous in the usage that they had it, that would not be acceptable to many people. But I do remember, you know, you asked about him apologizing, during the campaign early August right after Kellyanne Conway took over the campaign, he did apologize in sort to the Kahn family and other people for offending --
COOPER: I think his phraseology was not actually an apology, it was more like if I said something or -- I regret -- yeah. I mean, frankly it's unlikely there's going to be like sort of --
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: It's unlikely but I think the answer is yes, he should apologize. I don't think there's any question. And how -- I don't know how you guys can even say that. I mean obviously if he accused President Obama of doing something that he didn't to and called him sick, he should apologize. I don't even understand how this is even a debate.
MCENANY: I think --
KINGSTON: Well, there might be some who say they're waiting for Lois Lerner to apologize holding up their tax returns or the police officers --
POWERS: That's not really the standard how the president -- that's not how -- that's like --
VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is the problem that we have is that --
JONES: -- there should be a standard and if anybody should meet that standard it should be the president of the United States and he shouldn't meet the standard if, you know, Joe meets his and then -- if Skippy meets hers. That's a conversation I have with my kids. Like I'm not going to do it until he does it.
Part of I think what's going on here, the damage is not visible yet. It's like termites, OK. All of these old things are like termites, termites undermining basic trust and credibility.
Guess what, tomorrow always comes. There will be a moment where this man has to stand in front of the country and say we have to go to war or we have a serious threat. And you're going to have a lot of people going, "Should I take this literally or seriously?" People will start -- will be debating whether or not the president of the United States is serious when he's talking about something that could be of life and death.
So right now this is all fun and games, we can all joke around, but termites are eating through the fundamental structure of our country and it's very dangerous.
COOPER: It's interesting that the president is constantly staying, and I think, you know, as Jon Stewart pointed to this out and many others, but like the president is constantly saying believe me, believe me. At a certain point the president of the United States shouldn't need to say that phrase, like you should just believe what he's saying --
MCENANY: He did ask for two weeks and he said that DOJ personally asked him for one more week. I mean if he does come up with something because there was a suspicious headline, wiretap data used in investigation of Trump associates, that was a "New York Times" headline on January 19th. If in two weeks, he survives --
COOPER: But we've had that report on multiple times who keeps pointing out that's not -- the article was not talking about President Obama wiretapping, it was about Russian surveillance.
MCENANY: Right, but in the course where they might have picked up on an American citizen. So I think that there could be something that comes out in two weeks and if there is we're having in different conversation and a lot of us, Jack included --
JONES: But if there's not --
MCENANY: -- doesn't trust the Obama administration because of the IRS bullying, Tea Party --
COOPER: Again, that's not what the president tweeted and alleged and now that's a change. I mean if you're the president of the United States, you make one allegation and then it starts to like fall apart and then you start to move the goal post, I mean, that's, you know, Lucy with the football. I mean that's not --
MCENANY: And then his flawed specificity if that's the case. If something nefarious comes out, he wasn't specific enough and he should come out --
POWERS: But -- Kayleigh, I don't even understand your argument. But -- I mean I've been trying to follow it but because there were leaks that somehow we're supposed to think that something happened? I mean the people leaked all through the Obama -- people leaked all through the Obama administration.
JONES: And the Bush administration.
POWERS: I mean that doesn't -- whether you think it's right or wrong, it's not something that specifically happened to him and a lot of the leaks were happening frankly I think because the intelligence community is so concerned about what they believe is going on. And so I think that -- I just -- I can't quite follow the logic of it.
MCENANY: What is wrong is spying and snooping on an American citizen without a reason.
POWERS: But who was spied and snooped on?
MCENANY: Mike Flynn.
POWERS: No, he was not.
MCENANY: I want to know why his conversation was transcribed.
POWERS: "The New York Times" reporter has been on here saying that this was not -- this was collective --
MCENANY: What crime was Mike Flynn committing when they --
POWERS: He was talking to somebody else.
MCENANY: But what was the crime?
COOPER: No, I mean, they were -- it seems like from the reporting that they were surveilling the Russian ambassador.
MCENANY: When you stumble upon an American citizen conversation in the course of legitimate surveillance you stop unless there's evidence of a crime.
MCENANY: What crime?
POWERS: We don't know.
KINGSTON: The only crime we know of that has taking place that we can be absolutely sure was is the felons who have leaked information. That is a felony. So we know crimes have been committed.
COOPER: But we actually know that the Russians hacked into the election which is --
KINGSTON: But no evidence of collusion. I'm sure that's one of the things that Comey is going to say next and that's one of the things Sean Spicer talked about today.
[20:40:02] It was so frustrating to him, whenever somebody says there's no evidence of collusion, crickets, to quote --
POWERS: That's a fair point.
COOPER: You know, Clapper said, look, when he left, he saw no evidence of collusion. I think that's an important point. And I think Democrats are out on a very thin, you know, shaky limb and we'll see what happens, you know, when the evidence comes in, in a way that they apologize or they actually --
JONES: I will say this. I'm old enough to remember when conservatives were actually really, really patriotic and concerned about foreign governments attacking us in different ways and that would have been an outrage to them.
And it's interesting to me to hear such little concern from the Republicans about the fact that our election was attacked by a foreign power. I want them to get back to their job of defending the country because it's weird how little you guys you care about that.
COOPER: Coming up, the White House is promising to appeal soon after two federal judges blocked the latest version of the president's travel ban. What the White House is saying about that, next.
And stay tuned, Van's heading downstairs getting ready for his town hall just moments from now.
[20:44:59] COOPER: President Trump's travel ban was set to be in effect by now but it's been blocked by rulings from two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland. Last night at his rally in Nashville, the president called the Hawaii ruling judicial overreached. And today Sean Spicer said the Justice Department is exploring all options, defend the executive order and appeal the "flawed rulings." Joining us now is CNN's Jessica Schneider.
So, Jessica, the Trump administration took great pains to rewrite this executive order, both judges who halted it are saying it's the president's own campaign statements in part that gave them pause.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, majority of both of these opinions, they did, they went into painstaking detail about all the comments President Trump and his team made specifically referring to their plans for a Muslim ban.
Both of these judges, they cited then candidate Trump's interview right here on CNN with you, Anderson, where he said I think Islam hates us. They also referred to a press release from the Trump campaign team calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.
The court said that those kinds of statements coupled with White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller's T.V. appearance when they were rewriting this order, it was when he said that the new order would have the same basic policies as the old. Well, all of that made it clear that the intent all along the judges said was to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
And, Anderson, an interesting note. The Maryland judge actually used a great quote in this saying, "The world is not made brand-new every morning and reasonable observers have reasonable memories." So simply put, the administration can try to rewrite this, but even on their second try people would remember their words. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Jessica Schneider. Jessica, thanks very much. You know, Jessica, I understand there was something new about ruling in Washington also.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, you know, just in the past minute or two, Anderson, I just got an alert actually. The judge out in Seattle, it was the same judge that initially put a halt to President Trump's first executive order, well there's a lot of legal wranglings out in Washington still, but there was a minor ruling that the Trump administration might be able to claim some victory about.
The judge out there has just refused to grant the state of Washington to request to enforce that preliminary injunction that extended to the first travel ban. The judge there refused to extend that preliminary injunction to this current travel ban. So they still have more legal fight out there in Washington. This was just one part of it. So it's a little bit of a victory for the Trump administration, but who knows how else this judge will rule. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much.
With me now is the Washington State attorney general, Bob Ferguson who successfully challenged the first version of the travel ban, also, the Maryland attorney general, Brian Frosh and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Attorney General Ferguson, first of all, what do you make of what Jessica Schneider just reported about what the judge -- preliminary ruling from the judge in Washington?
BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: You bet. That was a decision that Judge Robart made yesterday -- in oral ruling he made yesterday. So if I'm understanding here correctly, he simply put that in writing. What that goes to is we had two arguments, Anderson.
Our first argument was that the original injunction that Judge Robart here in Seattle applied to the first executive order should still apply to the second executive order. He denied that. We still have our main argument essentially that of course like Hawaii, like Maryland that the new executive order should also be under an injunction and will be continuing our process with that claim.
COOPER: And Attorney General Frosh, in both rulings last night, including one from your state of Maryland, cited the president's statements from the campaign trail about a Muslim ban, one of the interviews that I did with him early on at Mar-a-Lago. But campaign statements are often very different from subsequent policy. Why is it prudent to apply what the president said last year to this executive order? Why isn't the executive order judged on its own?
BRIAN FROSH, MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, no judge as the judge in Maryland said is born yesterday. I mean you look at it in context. President Trump promised a travel ban, a Muslim ban, while he was campaigning. He said he was going to implement it after he was elected. Rudy Giuliani said President Trump came to him, said I want to do a Muslim ban, make it legal for me.
The judges understand that. They're supposed to take it in context. And they did. It's a Muslim ban, it's a violation of the First Amendment, prefers one religion and disfavors another. It's a classic constitutional violation. COOPER: Attorney General Ferguson, to that point, the executive order does not have any language in it that refers to trying to ban Muslims or keep Muslims out of the country. I know obviously the six countries that there is a temporary ban are Muslim majority countries. How on paper though is that a Muslim ban?
FERGUSON: Yes. So a document, that's a piece of legislation or in this case an executive order, can buy on its face, on the words of a document, seemed to be benign. But when you look behind the motivation for that legislation, for that executive order, courts are allowed to look behind it, to look at the motivation because it could have an anti-constitutional effect in the motivation behind it. That's what we're getting to here. The statements behind it are what's causing concern from federal judge after a federal judge. Now, I think six have looked at this and reached the identical conclusion and continued to reject the administration's arguments.
[20:50:04] COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I mean why is the court give more way to previous statements made by President Trump and the language of the actual executive order? I mean I know clearly what he said on the campaign trail but is that going to standout?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know. I mean have to say, you know, I spent the day with these two rulings, oddly, they are both exactly 43 pages long and they focus so heavily on what Donald Trump said in the campaign.
In all of American legal history, as far as I can tell, there has never been a court ruling that declared an action of a president unconstitutional based on something he said during the campaign. It's just never happened before because that's not how courts usually deal with questions like this and I just think as this moves through the appeal process, the attorneys general are going to have a hard time persuading judges that, you know, we have to look at what candidates say in their debates and, you know, and their fundraisers and, you know, thousands and thousands of words that they say.
TOOBIN: I just -- it seems very puzzling to me.
COOPER: Jeff, I know you got some questions for the attorneys general.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean I just -- I mean, am I wrong about that? Has this ever happened before that a judge has said because of a campaign promise, an action by a president is unconstitutional?
COOPER: Attorney General Ferguson?
FERGUSON: Sure. So it may be an unusual situation but that's due in part, Jeff and Anderson, because what the president has said and his advisors have said as my colleague Brian pointed out have been breathtaking and they are what's unprecedented is the president of the United States as a candidate saying, I'm going to create a Muslim ban." So the courts are absolutely allowed to look at the motivation behind a document and keep in mind, what the courts have done is just that this cannot go into effect while we proceed on the merits of our claims to say this is unconstitutional. We're proceeding with that in Washington State. We'll be asking for additional documents and taking more depositions but the courts have just look at the harm done to people in my state and Brian's state of Maryland and others that the harm is so great, that they're not going to allow it to go forward while we proceed on the merits.
TOOBIN: But why is a statement by Stephen Miller, who is like this 31-year-old punk in the White House, why is that more important constitutionally than what the attorney general says, what the secretary of Homeland Security says, what the secretary of state says? All of whom have endorsed this and said this is a valuable tool for national security.
FROSH: Well, actually there's very little evidence that it does impact national security. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security said that it doesn't. And as Bob said a minute ago, it's not just rare, it's unprecedented. You have a president of the United States saying before, during and after a campaign when he's got to do something that's illegal and unconstitutional and that's what happened here. So I don't see how the courts can possibly ignore it.
TOOBIN: But you -- your opinion about what's in the interest of national security and some judge sitting in a room with four law clerks is of more value of national security than the attorney general, secretary of Homeland Security? They say it helps national security. Why are they wrong and you're right?
FROSH: The Department of Homeland Security says the opposite. They say it doesn't help national security in the government in Bob's case in Washington came in with three examples of instances in which somebody from one of the countries had done something wrong in the United States, two of them were from Iraq, not one of the banned countries and the other was somebody who came here as a toddler.
COOPER: Yes. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Brian Frosh, we have to end it there. Appreciate your time. Jeff Toobin as well.
Coming up, it isn't just unfounded claims that then President Obama wiretapped now President Trump. Now, Sean Spicer says Mr. Obama got a British intelligence agency to do the dirty work for him but tell you who he's citing for that and that British agency they're actually doing something they rarely ever do. They're publicly responding to the White House has said. That's coming up next.
[20:57:28] COOPER: There's more breaking news in our lead story tonight, British intelligence is responding to an acquisition that one of its agencies spied on President Trump on behalf of President Obama. It's an accusation that's coming from the White House. Press Secretary release was filtered through him as he read out multiple reports from the podium today. The accusation initially came from a Fox News legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano. Here's Sean Spicer today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Last on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, "Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command, he didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ." What is that? It's the initials for the British intelligence spying agency.
So simply by having two people saying to them, president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump's conversations involving President-elect Trump, he's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that British intelligence agency he's just responded. Jim Sciutto joins me with that.
So what are they saying?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I got to tell you. I speak to the British intelligence fairly often. They are very loathe to make public comments but in this case they were very happy to go public and these are the words they used. They said that this report is nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored, that coming from the GCHQ, which is basically Great Britain's equivalent of the NSA.
And it was pretty remarkable moment, Anderson, because you have the FBI director, you have the attorney general, you have the leaders of the Senate intelligence committees, you have the House speaker, many of them Republicans rejecting the president's narrative. Sean Spicer there resorting to news reports, somewhat incredibly of that particular one that the British knocking down immediately.
COOPER: And, Jim, what are you hearing from the intelligence community here? I mean how are they reacting to the president sticking to his wiretapping claims?
SCIUTTO: I think the word is mesmerized, confused. There's no evidence of it. They can't say that. Many of them can't say that in public but that's OK because you're hearing it in public from many politicians and others. Some of them are appointed by President Trump, many of them Republicans who have been briefed on the intelligence to say there is no evidence.
So behind closed doors, the people producing the intelligence behind those statements, they just don't know what the president is trying to accomplish with this. And it does raise hard questions again because it's another case of the president to some degree undermining the intelligence community because in public, he's saying that what they're saying isn't true.
COOPER: And Monday we expect Comey to testify from the FBI and to talk publicly about this now.
[21:00:00] SCIUTTO: That's right. We do. And listen, Comey is very tight lipped as you know but on this issue, there is expectation that will make some public comments saying there is no evidence of these wiretap claims by the president.
COOPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
"The Messy Truth with Van Jones" starts now.