Return to Transcripts main page


White House Denies Requests For Flynn Documents; Crowd Boos Ivanka Trump As She Defends Father; House Oversight Leaders On Trump/Russia Probe; Chaffetz: No Indication Flynn Complied With The Law; Trump Speaks At Holocaust Memorial Event. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news, the White House refusing a request from the House Oversight Committee for documents in its investigation into now- fired national security adviser to the president, Michael Flynn.

CNN senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill following all of these fast-moving developments. Manu, there's a lot going on, all of a sudden, with this. What does the committee, lay out for me, Manu, want to see, and why won't the White House give it to them?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, the House Oversight Committee on March 22nd sent a letter to Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, asking for a range of records related to Michael Flynn, specifically about payments that he received from Russian-backed entities, including "RT" television network, which is of course the kremlin-backed television network.

The question, ultimately, whether or not he accurately and legally disclosed some of these payments while requesting security clearances to serve as Donald Trump's national security adviser. Now, in a letter sent to the committee, the White House does not provide that information.

In fact, it rejects the House Oversight Committee's request, saying that the records before January 20th that the committee did want would not -- the White House would, quote, "not be in possession" of those records.

And anything after January 20th, well, the White House says that that is not relevant to the committee's investigation and said that, of course, he may have had contacts with foreign officials, but they say why is that relevant to an investigation regarding payments that he may have received from 2015 and 2016 and whether or not those were legally disclosed, this coming from top White House adviser, Mark Short, to the committee.

Now, the committee right now, Kate, is reviewing documents related to Michael Flynn, classified documents that came from a different agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and we expect to hear momentarily from Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, and the Republican chairman of the committee, Jason Chaffetz.

Expect there probably to be some concerns about the lack of responsiveness from the White House as well as we'll hear whether or not they have learned if Michael Flynn did fail to report any of this information as legally required on these documents, just part of one of several investigations about Russia, Russia meddling, and those Trump campaign ties to Russia that are happening here on Capitol Hill -- Kate.

KEILAR: All right, Manu, thanks so much. We're keeping an eye. The top Republican and top Democrat on that House Oversight Committee, they will be coming to the microphone. We will bring that to you when it happens. Manu's there for us. Thanks so much, Manu.

This is also happening at the very same time, the president's daughter facing a rough reception during her first official overseas trip as a White House adviser. Ivanka Trump was asked about her role and her father's treatment of women during a summit in Germany. She was invited there by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Here is the moment that brought about a reaction from the crowd as Ivanka defended her father.


IVANKA TRUMP: Sadly, the United States is one of the only countries in the world, the only developed country in the world that doesn't have a pay policy for the benefit of families, so that is something I'm very, very proud of my father's advocacy, long before he came to the presidency, the campaign and the primaries. He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive and the new reality of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hear the reaction from the audience.

TRUMP: I certainly heard the criticism from the media, and it has been perpetuated, but I know from personal experience that I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.


BOLDUAN: All right, so I want to bring in right now, CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett, and Atika Shubert, CNN senior international correspondent, both joining me now from Berlin. Guys, thank you so much for being here.

So, Kate, you've been following Ivanka on this trip. How did this all play out? What all went on in that room, in that summit?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So, it was a fairly long panel, and it covered a wide range of topics, mainly focusing on women and the economy, closing the pay gap, entrepreneurship, so all the topics were relevant and what we anticipated.

However, there was a moment, as we just saw, when Ivanka Trump was talking about her father and his policy about families, where the audience did get a little bit riled up a bit, and she had to address that.

But I'll tell you, Kate, right off the bat during this panel, the moderator wanted to know and said that the country, the Germans wanted to know, who is Ivanka Trump and what exactly is her role in her father's administration.


TRUMP: Well, certainly not the latter and I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me. It has been a little under 100 days, but it has just been a remarkable and incredible journey. So, this is very early for me. I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm defining the ways in which I think that I'll be able to have impact.


BENNETT: Now, also, Kate, I will say that afterwards in an off-camera gaggle, Ivanka Trump said it was fine, she handled it, she's used to it. It's just politics. She can continue on and let it roll off her back.

BOLDUAN: All right, so Atika, you've been on the ground ahead of this visit. I mean, are you surprised by the kind of rough reaction from the audience there?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not too surprised. I mean, look, we had heard there might even be protests when she came. Those protests did not appear, but she was speaking to an audience that has been very skeptical, especially seeing the kind of remarks that were made by President Trump when he was campaigning.

And the reaction really came when she said that her father was a champion of women's issues, and that's when we heard the murmuring and hissing. But having said that, for most of the panel, the audience was respectful, and she really held her own with a very intimidating and formidable panel of women.

She was seated next to Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, Angela Merkel was there, arguably the most powerful woman in the world. And you know, she showed she did her homework and that she was passionate about these issues of women's empowerment and entrepreneurship. And I think that's what mattered perhaps most to the audience.

BOLDUAN: Yes, maybe. Kate, who was in the audience, Kate? I mean, I assume this was an invite-only type of event.

BENNETT: Yes, absolutely. The W20 Summit featured many, many business leaders from across the globe, women who are interested in sort of furthering the economic success of women and having a global impact. Afterwards, Ivanka Trump did speak to the private in her little off- camera gaggle, saying that they are going to hopefully establish a fund, but the World Bank will be involved, and again, push these issues forward.

As we've heard from Ivanka since the beginning of her father's administration, these women's issues are really the crux of why she's there, why her father sort of nominated her to be the voice and be his emissary on these issues on a global stage, so she's following through essentially on what she has claimed to be so far her most passionate --

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Guys, I'm going to cut you off and head back to Washington. Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings, the two top members of the House Oversight Committee just looking at documents for the first time regarding Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser. Let's listen.

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: -- the engagement with them. It does not appear to us that that was ever sought, nor did he ever get that permission. We will jointly be doing a letter for a final determination on that. That will need to come from the Department of Army as well as the inspector general at the Department of Defense.

And if that money was received by General Flynn, and we believe that it was, that money needs to be recovered. That final determination, again, will have to come from the Department of the Army as well as the Department of Defense.

But as a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey, or anybody else, and it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate and there are repercussions for the violation of law.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Good morning. I'd just like to read a very short statement. I want to be very careful because we are coming out of a classified briefing.

First, we have just come from this briefing with the Defense Intelligence Agency. The order of documents was to review relating to General Flynn. As you know, General Flynn previously led and also served as a national security adviser until he was fired by President Trump.

Right now, we cannot discuss the contents of the documents that we just saw because they are indeed classified, but we can say this, they are extremely troubling. We have concerns.

[11:10:04]And I believe these documents should be declassified to the fullest extent possible without compromising sources and methods. I want to thank Chairman Chaffetz, who joined our request for these documents, and I believe he feels the same, that the American people should be able to see these documents for themselves.

Second, we've been trying for several months to obtain General Flynn's security clearance information to determine whether he reported payments he received for his trip to Russia in 2015 when he dined with the Russian president.

We have now obtained General Flynn's application to renew his security clearance in January 2016. This form is called SF-86. General Flynn filed his SF-86 about a month after he traveled to Moscow. However, there is no evidence, as the chairman said, anywhere in these documents that reported the funds he received for this trip.

There is also no evidence that he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source. This is a major problem. As the SF-86 explains -- and I quote, "all questions on this form must be answered completely and truthfully."

It also says this -- and let me quote directly, "The United States Criminal Code Title 18 Section 1001 provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony, which may result in fine fines up to five years imprisonment."

Based on these documents, I believe the Oversight Committee should be holding a hearing with General Flynn. I'm seeing the chairman, and we talked briefly about this, and it seems that this is perhaps a purview of the intelligence, and I understand this.

But we need to have the opportunity to ask General Flynn directly why he concealed these foreign payments from the Defense Department. Finally, let me say this.

As part of our investigation, Chairman Chaffetz and I sent a bipartisan request to Mr. Priebus, the White House chief of staff, requesting a wide range of documents, including any and I quote, "referring or relating to Lieutenant General Flynn's contacts with foreign nationals."

Despite all of these very troubling developments, last Wednesday, on April 19th, we received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested.

So, we received no internal documents relating to what General Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser, and we received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador.

In short, the White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan requests, and that's simply unacceptable.

And so, today I'm releasing the White House letter to you, and I hope our committee will impress upon them the need to provide the documents that we are seeking. Thank you very much.

RAJU: Congressman --

CHAFFETZ: Yes? RAJU: From what you've seen so far, do you believe that Michael Flynn broke the law from either not disclosing it, these payments on the security clearance, or not getting permission for getting these foreign payments?

CHAFFETZ: Personally, I see no information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law, and that is, he was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage in that activity. I see no evidence that he actually did that.

RAJU: And you think, Congressman, that this could be punishable with up to five years in prison, you said.

CUMMINGS: Yes, I think it, definitely. That's why I cited the code, but that's going to be left up to others to decide. We just wanted to know what his exposure is, but clearly, I agree with the chairman. I mean, he was supposed to get permission and he was supposed to report it, and he didn't, period. I mean, there's no evidence of it.

CHAFFETZ: We're not here to make the final determination.


CHAFFETZ: What we're going to do jointly is send the letter to the Department of the Army, the comptroller specifically, as well as the inspector general there at the Department of Defense.

[11:15:11]At some point, they need to make that final determination. One of the remedies is to recover the money that was paid. Above and beyond that, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any evidence in the files that General Flynn's contacts went beyond Russia?

CHAFFETZ: It's really not something we specifically looked at today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, do you think that the White House is obstructing your investigation into these payments by not responding to the letter?

CHAFFETZ: No, no. This is something General Flynn, before he ever joined the Trump administration, this is something General Flynn was supposed to do as a former officer. I don't know -- in fact, I'm fairly curious, as to how widespread this is. No former military officer is allowed to accept payments from a foreign government, and my guess is, that's probably not the first time this has happened, and it does concern me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question for Mr. Cummings. Second question to you --

CUMMINGS: What was that question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the White House is obstructing your investigation?

CUMMINGS: Well, we haven't gotten -- as I said at the end of my statement, we haven't gotten certain information that we've asked for. I can't call -- I wouldn't call it obstruction. These things happen and as far as those documents are concerned, hopefully, we'll get them.

By the way, one emoluments, it's interesting. A lot of people are totally unfamiliar with the emoluments clause of the constitution, but it's something that I talked about a long time ago and said we should be able to avoid some of the problems that we've had.

Now, it wouldn't have been avoidable here because this is done long before President Trump came into office, but that is a clause that is very significant and does not only apply to people like General Flynn, but of course, to the president and his folks, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, can you clarify --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about how many cases you looked at today, the scope of documents?

CHAFFETZ: No, I can't get into those details.

CUMMINGS: You know better than that.

CHAFFETZ: A lot of it was a verbal briefing, too, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you clarify, are you ruling out calling General Flynn? Are you referring to the intelligence committee?

CHAFFETZ: Look, the lead in investigative body is the Select Committee on Intelligence. We have been pursuing this portion of it, the payments that happened prior to the inauguration of President Trump, but the lead on this general investigation is the Select Committee on Intelligence, and I'll support what the select committee needs. We can play a role in certain parts, but it's more of a supportive role than anything else.


CHAFFETZ: I highly doubt it.

RAJU: Will you issue any subpoenas to get these records that you're looking for?

CHAFFETZ: We haven't had to issue a subpoena so far. I mean, they've been cooperative at the Department of Defense and the State Department and the White House, but in this particular case, the law requires him to seek permission from the secretary of state and from the Department of Defense, and those are the entities of which we've been seeking information and have received information. The response we're getting is there is no information, and that we believe is the potential violation.

CUMMINGS: Thank you all very much. CHAFFETZ: Thank you! Thanks very much.

CUMMINGS: Bye now.

BOLDUAN: All right. You're hearing there from the top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee as they were just leaving a briefing, seeing classified documents for the first time about Michael Flynn, the now-fired national security adviser to the president.

And as Elijah Cummings put it, what they learned is extremely troubling. He said he has concerns, and what he's seeing may be a major problem. They just left that briefing.

Let's talk to another person who just left that briefing, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois who sits on that very same committee. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: So we just heard from the chairman and the ranking Democrat. I want to get your take. You just walked out of that same meeting to view those documents related to payments that Flynn may or may not have received from foreign contacts. What did you learn?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know, basically, what I learned is that there are more questions now than answers at this point. I'm just -- I've got to say, first of all, thank you to Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings for arranging this briefing, this bipartisan approach to uncovering the facts here.

But what I learned, I mean, just simply raises too many questions at this point, and it's all the more reason why we have to continue with the investigation to get to the bottom of this.

BOLDUAN: From what you saw and what you've been investigating so far, do you think Michael Flynn broke the law?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I can't say. You know, I think that what we see is there's a lot of smoke here.

[11:20:04]And you know, we have to get to the bottom of this, because, quite frankly, now it's public knowledge that he's had extensive contacts with foreign agents, foreign governments, and you know, there may be a potential violation of the emoluments clause. That is the illegal receipt of payments from foreign governments. We have to get to the bottom of this, ASAP.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that this, from what you've seen, do you think this reaches to the White House, or do you think this was Michael Flynn acting on his own, if he was acting on his own, inappropriately? Do you think the president knew anything about it?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We don't know, Kate. What I do know is that the classified documents that we saw today, you know, basically raise further questions about all of these issues. And again, we need to take the next steps and continue the investigation.

You know, Kate, we have to do this in a bipartisan, independent manner, and I'm, again, heartened that we started that process this morning on the Oversight Committee when Chairman Chaffetz and ranking members convened this highly classified meeting.

BOLDUAN: Chairman Chaffetz said this, when asked about what he saw and he's seen so far -- he sees no data to support that Michael Flynn complied with the law, a bit of a convoluted way of saying I'm not going to read into his words, but do you agree with that statement coming from Chairman Chaffetz?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I concur with Chairman Chaffetz on that particular point. It's extremely disturbing what we saw this morning. And yes, I concur. I didn't see any evidence that Mr. Flynn took steps to comply with the law.

BOLDUAN: What then do you make of the White House sending over a letter saying that they were denying a request for documents that they have regarding Flynn and his security clearance application? What's your response to that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I hope that they revisit this question. If not, we are going to have to revisit this question ourselves, with other agencies more directly --

BOLDUAN: What does that mean, Congressman? Do you think the committee will try to use its subpoena power to get those documents from the White House?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It may. I mean, this is something that this has to be discussed with the committee. Obviously, it requires Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and the majority of the committee to request this.

But in my humble opinion, we have to get to the facts, uncover all the facts related to this particular issue. What I saw this morning with regard to classified materials was very disturbing, and it just further raises the issue that we need an independent investigation, ASAP.

BOLDUAN: You don't think that your committee can investigate your part of this on a bipartisan fashion?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I've called for an investigation in the past, but you know, at this point, we've got to make sure that there are no politics involved with this particular investigation. So --

BOLDUAN: Do you think there is with Congressman Chaffetz and Congressman Cummings?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Not so -- I mean, this morning was really a good step in the right direction, Kate. In the past, you know, maybe not so much, but today we made some steps forward. But overall, Kate, I mean, right now we need an independent -- I call for a 9/11-style commission. And the facts this morning that I saw in those documents, those classified documents, point to an ever growing need for this.

BOLDUAN: No signs yet that you are anywhere close to getting that independent 9/11-style commission, but we do understand your request for it. Congressman, thank you very much for your time.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot coming out of there. Thank you. Appreciate it. A lot more to come.

We'll continue to follow this, but also we have another event we need to go to very soon. Moments from now, President Trump will be speaking live on Capitol Hill to commemorate the holocaust. The Days of Remembrance Ceremony getting under way as we speak. We're going to bring you that very important moment live.



BOLDUAN: Moments from now, President Trump will be speaking at a holocaust memorial event in Washington. We will bring you his remarks live as soon as they begin. We're watching the program getting under way as we speak.

Other big news happening on Capitol Hill at the very same time -- is the president showing his cards on two key issues right now? President Trump suggesting that he can wait a little longer for the border wall money that he wants so badly, but yet again, there are mixed messages coming out of the White House there.

So, what does that mean for the looming government shutdown at the end of the week? Stand by for that one. Add this into the mix now, a whole new fight could be brewing. CNN learning that President Trump's tax plan, which they are going to unveil tomorrow, includes, could include, likely to include a big cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.

The question there, is that going to blow up the deficit, and is that idea going to simply blow up on Capitol Hill? Let's talk about this right now and much more.

Joining me now, CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston is here, and politics reporter for "The Daily Beast," Betsy Woodruff. Mark, stand by. I'm going to go back to Capitol Hill. As we're speaking, President Trump speaking at a holocaust memorial event starting right now.



Friends, members of Congress, ambassadors, veterans and most especially to the survivors here with us today, it's an honor to join you on this very, very solemn occasion. I'm deeply moved to stand before those who survived history's darkest hour. Your cherished presence transforms this place into a sacred gathering.

Thank you, Tom Bernstein, Allan Holt, Sara Bloomfield and everyone at the Holocaust Memorial Council and Museum for your vital work and tireless contributions.