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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

U.S. Airstrike Responsible for Civilian Deaths in Iraq?; Republican House Intel Chief Under Fire. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, are Democrats ready to play ball, or is the partisan divide in Washington just too deep?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, welcome back to THE LEAD.

Lots to discuss in our politics lead.

Want to the jump right in with the panel.

Joining us now, Congressman Rogers, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, why would -- is there any reason why current House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes would have to go to the White House grounds, to the Old Executive Office Building, to find a secure room to be briefed by his source?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not for the secure room.

The material that he needed to review may have been there, and that that person wasn't authorized to take that material off of those grounds. That could very well be.

I mean, I have had sources -- when I was chairman, I mean, you get the whole panoply of kind of folks that throw over things that sound just absolutely not plausible to very plausible and everything in between.

[16:35:11]

And I do think it's the chairman's job to go into all of that. But to go down to the White House to receive a briefing, to come back and go back the next morning, that's just a little strange. My recommendation to the chairman is to stop talking about it.

Where you got your source and how you got your source is probably very irrelevant to the investigation, and that should be done behind closed doors. I think, the more he talks about it, the more questions are going to get asked.

BERMAN: And, just quickly, Mr. Chairman, if the intelligence was there and if the source was there and in the Old Executive Office Building, what kind of person works in the Old Executive Office Building? Someone who works for the administration, yes?

ROGERS: Could be.

You know, again, there's lots of folks in there that are folks who have are -- from agencies that get assigned down there. They are not really political appointees. Could it be a political appointee? Hard to say. That means that that person didn't have access into the White House or at least the West Wing to bring this to the attention of these folks.

I mean, again, why talking about it in the way he did about where he got it just raises so many questions about the origin of that information.

BERMAN: Sure.

ROGERS: I will tell you I have received information when I was chairman that I had to go and I felt was so important, I did make an appointment with the president to go talk with him about it.

It didn't happen in quite this way, and we certainly -- we kept it all classified, and we vetted the source first to make sure that all of that was correct and appropriate. And, again, that's why this is better, I think, kept off of, you know, the front page of the paper, to be candid with you.

BERMAN: Well, it's too late for that, David Drucker, CNN political analyst, CNN congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

You have spoken with the chairman over the last week for your work. He's in the middle of this political storm right now.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BERMAN: And the question he is facing, is he working for the House, for the Intelligence Committee, or is he working on behalf of the White House?

DRUCKER: Right, so, look, let's understand it. You never can get politics out of this stuff. When you're a member of Congress, when your party owns the White House, you're not working actively to undermine your own party.

I talked to the chairman. And there's a couple of things that he explained, which actually, listening to Chairman Rogers, make a little bit more sense.

First of all, the documents that he viewed, that he says gave him the knowledge about the unmasking that he's concerned about, he never actually had documentation. They were things he viewed. He could not, he told me, see them in his SCIF. In other words, at the House Intelligence Committee and Congress where they look at classified information, he couldn't -- those couldn't be pulled up there.

So he needed to go somewhere where they could be pulled up. BERMAN: Or where they were.

DRUCKER: Correct. And that is also possible.

And this is part of -- I think when Chairman Rogers says a lot of this is very difficult to understand, he might be getting himself into more trouble than not, even though he's trying to be transparent. Maybe he should just be quiet.

He's also somebody that over these years -- and the chairman might remember this -- has cultivated his own sources and at times gone around his own leadership when he wanted to learn things and bring things to light. So it's not completely out of character for Chairman Nunes to do things that strike people as funny.

The question here is, can he ultimately explain his actions and keep the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into the Russian meddling and the leaking above-board?

BERMAN: Democrats say no. I mean, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, was on the Senate floor just a few minutes ago, Katrina, saying that, you know, he needs to resign. Paul Ryan needs to push him off the committee. He's not responsible.

The other hand, though, is that Democrats themselves haven't been completely lily-white. The ranking member of that committee, Adam Schiff, has said that he's seen information that a grand jury should see.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE NATION": I think Devin Nunes has shown he's not credible to run this commission.

I think you need an independent committee, and I think that's the only way we're going to have a credible investigation. I do think we need an independent investigation into alleged Russian hacking. I do worry that it's being done in a frenzy, a kind of Cold War frenzy.

And I think that will not get us anywhere either. I also wish, if I might, in a comment on media and media malpractice, that the media wasn't spending as much time on this and more on how to improve the condition of people's lives.

I wish right now, John, we were talking about Medicare for all, where do we go post-Trump/Ryancare debacle? It seems to me a vital discussion for this nation to have. And too much time, it seems to me, is being spent on Trump's tweets, which drove this story from the outset, and frenzy around Russia, which is debilitating our discourse and our political life.

Democrats make a mistake it, seems to me -- I want to be independent- minded -- if they make Russia and the investigation their too touchstone for legislation and appointments. They need to speak, I think, to voters who will find health care the defining issue in 2018 and really craft a powerful economic populist alternative to Trump's pseudo-populism.

[16:40:01]

BERMAN: But you know they smell blood in the water.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL: They smell blood in the water, but that doesn't mean a healthy political debate.

I think we need an independent investigation into alleged Russian hacking, meddling in our election. But on so many levels, Trump, if I might, is a homegrown demagogue. And I think that gets lost in the Democrats' obsession with Russia.

BERMAN: And, David, I want to do 30 seconds, if I can, because I want to question the chairman, too. His approval rating, the president's approval rating is at 36 percent, which is a low for him this term.

DRUCKER: To say the least.

BERMAN: To say the least. Look, it's a low compared to a lot of other presidents, too.

It's all tied up under the same thing. Can he turn that around?

DRUCKER: Well, I think we have to understand where he's low and where he's high.

And so what I'm looking for is, do his numbers ever get low in strong Republican districts and Republican states? Because that will tell you everything you need to know about 2018. His low numbers are driven by unusually low numbers among Democrats and independents who lean left. That's different than we have seen with past presidents.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the Democrats can take back those districts which Trump won -- I mean, sorry -- which Hillary won.

BERMAN: Twenty-three districts.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Twenty-three districts.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL: And I think we saw that this -- what happened with the debacle of health care was not simply the Freedom Caucus. It was progressives and Democrats and people at rallies saying health care is a fundamental right, and the Democrats need to advance that through Medicare for all and midlife Medicare, as Jeff Merkley, the senator from Oregon, is talking about.

BERMAN: Chairman Rogers, let me ask you a question, as a former Republican member of Congress, not as an intelligence expert here.

Do you buy that President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are getting along great right now, have had two days of fantastic conversations can, or do you think there's this new level of tension between them? ROGERS: One of things you learn in politics in Washington, D.C., is

that tomorrow is another day and there are -- is another set of issues to come at you.

So I think they are going figure out pretty quickly they need to work these things out. I don't think the health care issue is dead. There is real districts that are collapsing. There's the market for these exchanges is collapsing. People's rates are going up. Their insurance premiums are going up and their deductibles are skyrocketing.

And their choices are getting less and less. And that's why you're going to watch these things start to happen around the country. I'm going to predict by the end of the year everybody is going to be back at the table. It's dead for now. It's not dead for the end of the year. I think people understand how important it is.

There's no other issue that impacts people in the same way across every demographic the way this one does, and trust me, they are going to be back at this, you know, again. This is -- pointing fingers didn't help. I thought the weekend of Republican-on-Republican violence and Democrat-on-Republican violence, I thought none of that was helpful.

We have got some big issues. They will get back together. They are in the learning process of what this whole thing called legislation means. And it is big and it's difficult and it's time-consuming. Don't rush these big ones. Take your time and get them right.

BERMAN: A brave man making a prediction in this political environment.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes.

BERMAN: Chairman Rogers, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, David Drucker, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.

DRUCKER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, in just minutes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- we were talking about him -- Devin Nunes, he will answer questions live about his meetings on White House grounds. He will be in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Were at least 100 civilians killed in a U.S.-led airstrike in Iraq? That's least according to the Iraqi military. Now an investigation is under way to find out what went wrong.

Then, foreigners in their own country, we're going to speak with people who have been deported to Mexico, their native country, after spending years living in the United States. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:45:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: We're back with the "WORLD LEAD". The Attorney General today repeated a threat to so-called "sanctuary cities". Jeff Sessions is threatening to withhold Justice Department funds and said the failure to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions quote "puts whole communities as risks". Now, this is just one reason for heightened fears among some undocumented immigrants that they could be next joining thousands of people deported to Mexico just this year. CNN's Polo Sandoval followed one of those deportees, a young man who was suddenly adjusting to a new life in the country he hardly knows.

JORGE MATADAMAS, DEPORTED IMMIGRANT: I grew up in Phoenix from a very young age so that's all I kind of captured.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jorge Matadamas feels out of place on the streets of Mexico City.

MATADAMAS: This is my country, but I've never actually been here.

SANDOVAL: The 23-year-old was only four when his parents took him to the United States illegally.

MATADAMAS: These little things, it's the little things that make me miss back home.

SANDOVAL: Last august Matadamas was charged with drunk driving and evading arrest. While in jail, he lost his DACA status, that's a deferred action for childhood arrivals program which gave him a chance to live and work in the U.S. After seven months in detention he was deported.

MATADAMAS: Back home I was doing business management and so that's kind of what I want to focus on here. Maybe I could start my own business or -

SANDOVAL: Matadamas says, he's trying to stay positive.

MATADAMAS: Things happen for a reason. I just have to - I just have to be strong and keep my head up and keep going.

SANDOVAL: Unlike many, Americanized Mexicans in this country, Matadamas has family to turn to. Daniel Velasco is among them. He's helping his cousin learn proper Spanish and more about Mexican culture. Matadamas says he finds the experience overwhelming and he's not alone.

GABRIELA GARCIA, SOMOS MEXICANOS HEAD (through translator): They are foreigners in their own country.

SANDOVAL: Gabriela Garcia heads Somos Mexicanos. The government program helps repatriate Mexicans supported by the U.S. nearly 32,000 this year. She's seen thousands of them struggle to assimilate in their native country.

GARCIA (through translator): They understand they were born in Mexico but don't know much else. SANDOVAL: So where is home right now?