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AT THIS HOUR
Conway: Travel Ban Effective March 16, Excludes Iraqis; Without Proof, Trump Accuses Obama Of Wiretapping Him; FBI Asks Justice Department To Publicly Deny Trump's Claims; White House Doubles Down On Trump's Wiretapping Claim; Sources: Trump Angry With Staff Over Recent Dramas; Trump Adopts Right Wing Host's Incendiary Theory. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 6, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news on two fronts right now, a new travel ban is coming in just minutes. President Trump's revised travel ban is set to be announced. We will bring that to you live, a very big moment for this White House and this country.
Plus the White House is now doubling down on President Trump's claim that President Obama, his predecessor, ordered a wiretap of his phones during the campaign. Sources telling CNN the FBI has asked the Justice Department to publicly refute the president's charge, which he tweeted out of course without providing any proof. A rebuke of a sitting United States president by the nation's top law enforcement official, to say the least, would be historic.
But first, what to expect with the president's revised travel ban, again, expected this hour. For that, let me bring in right now, CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, who has been following all of the twists and turns from the original to the lawsuits to now a revised travel ban. What do we know? What are we going to hear this hour, Laura?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right. The most significant changes we expect to see, Kate, are that green card holders and those with existing visas will be excluded from the travel ban.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway also announced this morning that Iraq is no longer on the list of banned countries. Let's take a listen to what she had to say on this earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: That's right, a new executive order today, Ainsley, that's correct. It has an effective date of March 16th and there are the legal permanent residents who were always excluded from it, but that's made much more clear now.
If you have travel docs, if you are a legal permanent resident, you are not covered under this particular executive action. Also Iraq is no longer on the list based on their enhanced screening and reporting measures. And so, you know, I think people will see six or seven major points about this executive order that do clarify who is covered. Also Syrian refugees are treated the way all refugees are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JARRETT: So a couple of quick takeaways from this, Kate, Conway is confirming what we heard from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last month, remember when he talked about a phase-in period to avoid some of the chaos we saw around the country last time around. That's what she's referring there with the March 16th date. That will be important to remember.
The other thing to note is some might wonder why Iraq in particular was removed from this list. We're learning more this morning that the decision was made after extensive lobbying from the Iraqi government at the highest levels, according to a senior U.S. official. And that country has agreed to provide more detail about how it will screen travelers -- Kate.
KEILAR: All right, Laura, thanks so much. That phased-in approach, a lot of folks will have something to say about that because that seems to run counter to what we originally heard from the administration, that it was an urgent national priority. Regardless, we're going to hear the breaking news and we're going to be following that all throughout the hour.
But I do want to head back over to the White House right now and talk about the president's claim that he was wiretapped. President Trump calls it McCarthyism and a new low worthy of a Congressional investigation and that he can prove he's right.
Critics call it baseless and a deflection from bigger issues like Russia. The Justice Department hasn't said anything at all about it yet and that's what a lot of folks are waiting for at this very moment.
Let's go to White House correspondent, Sara Murray. She's got a lot more on this. So are you hearing at this point, Sara, any clarification this morning from the White House of what the president is talking about?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, if the president can prove that he is correct that President Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones when he was president-elect or when he was a candidate, they are certainly not offering up any evidence to prove that.
We have asked a number of White House officials today what evidence they have that that occurred. So far, they have presented none. The president himself appears to have gotten this notion from a Breitbart article that was circulating that, again, isn't based on any evidence that we've been able to prove.
It's worth noting that former senior intelligence officials have denied the fact that anything like this happened. They pointed out that the president himself, President Obama at the time, would not have had the authority to order something like this.
The former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was on TV over the weekend, saying essentially this didn't happen, I have no knowledge of this.
But over the weekend, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made an appeal, he sent a note out to reporters saying they are asking Congressional Intelligence Committees to look into this, into whether the Obama White House abused their investigative powers.
But Kate, as of right now, no evidence of this sort of grenade that President Trump threw out there, no evidence that that actually happened.
KEILAR: And this does seem to be something that could be knowable, a wiretap would have a paper trail. And the president seems like he would be in the unique position and maybe the only one in power to figure it out before he would even tweet it out, get it from a Breitbart article.
[11:05:12]Sara, a lot more to come on that. Expect we'll talk to you in a bit.
So this, of course, put the FBI and the FBI Director James Comey back in the spotlight. The president's tweet about wiretaps seems to imply, seems to imply a lot of if's, seems and maybe's here that the FBI may have broken the law.
White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about that this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now know that the FBI director has told the Justice Department that President Trump's explosive claims are inaccurate. Does President Trump accept the FBI director's denial?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, I don't think he does, George.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That's basically the latest we have from the White House. Joining me now is "New York Times" White House correspondent, Michael Shear. Michael, it's great to see you. You guys were the first to report that the FBI has pushed for DOJ to reject the president's claim. From your reporting, what bothers the FBI most here?
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Hey, Kate. There's really two things that Comey and the FBI were worried about. One was the thing that you mentioned at the top, which is that it seems to suggest that the FBI might have been complicit in participating in some sort of illegal wiretapping scheme and obviously they want to push back against that.
On the other side, there's also the possibility that if the American public believes there were extensive wiretappings of a presidential candidate and eventually president-elect, it raises the expectations that there is some big explosive story that the FBI is sitting on.
If the FBI and the FBI director know that there are no such wiretaps, then they want to make sure the record is set straight so that the American public doesn't sort of sit here waiting for a big explosive story to come that's just not going to come.
KEILAR: Michael, did you get the sense that the FBI has to say something one way or another if the Justice Department doesn't?
SHEAR: I mean, look, we're in uncharted territory here. I mean, you know, normally --
KEILAR: To say the least.
SHEAR: Every day we're in uncharted territory. But normally the FBI is very sic circumspect and doesn't talk about ongoing investigations, especially ongoing investigations of high profile people like the president or his advisers.
So normally I would say, jeez, this is something we're not going to hear about for a long time. But we're in a place where the FBI director has made it clear through the reports in our paper and others overnight that he wants it out there.
And so the question is, does the Justice Department resist that? If so, what does the White House do? Ultimately, does Comey come out and either go to the Hill and speak to the intelligence committees or does he do something like he did with the Clinton case several months back and actually hold a press conference?
All of those things are possible. I think, you know, all of us here in Washington are waiting to figure out what's actually going to happen today and in the days ahead.
KEILAR: And real quick, Michael, not to get into what can be very complicated when you're talking about FISA warrants and all of that, is this information, what the president is charged, is it knowable? Yes? Shouldn't there be a paper trail?
SHEAR: I mean, absolutely. It's ultimately knowable to the people and institutions that either, you know, approved them, which would in most cases be a court somewhere, or it's the intelligence communities that have the information. And ultimately the president of the United States has the ability to know and if he wants to release that.
KEILAR: Michael Shear, great reporting as always. Michael, thank you.
KEILAR: Joining me now to discuss this further, the former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national security adviser under President Obama, Tony Blinken, and now a CNN global affairs analyst. Tony, thanks for coming on. TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good to be with you, Kate.
KEILAR: So I heard you talking this morning, you said in your former post as national security adviser you would not know whether or not there was a wiretap of Trump Tower. Do you leave open the possibility, Tony, that it could have happened?
BLINKEN: No. It is virtually impossible to believe. Let's be precise what the "it" is. First of all, what could not have happened is President Obama ordering or instructing such a wiretap. That is simply impossible because the president doesn't do that.
Any wiretap would have to come from a request by the Justice Department or the FBI. Getting a warrant from this infamous FISA court, and to get the warrant, you have to show probable cause that either a crime was committed or the target of the wiretap was a foreign agent.
So one of the most puzzling things about this whole incident is why President Trump would want to put a spotlight on this because if there was a wiretap, it had to be for a good reason and the good reason doesn't reflect well on him or his associates.
[11:10:03]If there wasn't a wiretap then he's made an outrageous, unfounded accusation about his predecessor, President Obama.
KEILAR: Can you take me inside, if an allegation had been made like this when you were in the White House, what would the conversation be right now? Again, as I keep hammering home, this all seems -- the truth here seems knowable, and it seems that the president is in a unique position to know how to get a straight answer on this before even going public.
BLINKEN: Well, you know, it's awkward in the sentence that in the normal course of business, and we recognize that we don't seem to be in the normal course of business, the White House stays out of these investigations. The laws put in place after Watergate to prevent a president from abusing his power make it very clear that the White House, the president has no business talking to the Justice Department or the FBI about these ongoing investigations.
So on one level, you wouldn't be able to find out, you shouldn't be able to find out. But what we do need to know is, what is the basis for the president making this accusation? And as far as we can tell, it seems to be things that he read in, shall we say, not the mainstream media.
And this is what's really troubling to me. We've gotten to the point where it seems that the president has become the leading consumer and purveyor of fake news or conspiracy theories. The president is the one who is supposed to be setting the standard in our country, not diminishing it.
KEILAR: If there's something to know, the president is in a unique position, again, to have this knowledge and to disseminate the knowledge. Everything you're hearing from anyone speaking on his behalf right now is all couched with a lot of ifs and possibilities. If it exists, I don't think there needs to be an investigation. But regardless, what do you make of the silence coming from the Justice Department so far?
BLINKEN: Again, I think the Justice Department is caught in a very awkward place because it's not the normal practice to comment on any investigation. If there is one, it can't really comment on it or shouldn't at any event. And, you know, if there isn't one, well, maybe that's something they can clarify and we'll see if they do in the days ahead.
KEILAR: Do you think that the FBI director or the attorney general has to say something?
BLINKEN: Again, it comes back to, in an ordinary time, if there's an investigation of any kind that's ongoing, they really shouldn't. But if there isn't, maybe they can clarify it that way. Again, this is no ordinary time.
And what's also very, very troubling about this, Kate, is that it really goes to the president's credibility. We now have over the years the president accusing President Obama of not being born in the United States, and we know what he spent five years doing with that.
Not so long ago he accused him of being the founder of the Islamic State. Now he's accusing him of ordering a wiretap that he couldn't have possibly ordered and never would have. That undermines the credibility of the person for whom credibility is the most important currency.
Starting with the American people but also with our partners, allies, and for that matter, adversaries around the world. This is really dangerous territory. And I hope that the White House, the president, can clarify where they got this information that was the basis for this charge.
KEILAR: It seems that pressure, at least on the clarification front, the pressure is mounting by the minute. Tony Blinken, thank you so much.
BLINKEN: Thanks for having me, Kate.
KEILAR: Of course. So frustration, anger, and a whole lot of expletives. Sources saying they've never seen President Trump that upset. New details about turmoil inside the White House, what's behind it and what happens now?
And just minutes from now, President Trump's revised travel ban, the big announcement is happening this hour. We'll bring it to you live. That's ahead.
KEILAR: The week has started on a high note with a well-reviewed prime address and ended with a whole lot of expletives coming from the president. President Trump, according to sources, lashed out at his senior staff after the afterglow was overshadowed by more Russia news and the recusal of Jeff Sessions.
Sources tell CNN the president complained that his staff were getting in their own way, allowing missteps to stop the momentum after his speech to Congress. Staffers are clearly feeling the pressure with some sources saying the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is taking the brunt of the president's anger right now.
Joining me is CNN's chief national correspondent and host of "INSIDE POLITICS" John King, for more on this. John, all this reporting that he's just furious over how last week played out. What are you hearing that's happening inside the White House right now?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this reporting also gives us a glimpse of his state of mind. You were just talking about the state of play of this stunning allegation that his predecessor wiretapped him. Well you need to consider the president's state of mind as he makes these allegations against the former president of the United States.
He believes, we are told, and you're right, he lashed out Friday at his staff in an oval office meeting in the White House. When he got to Florida, he lashed out some more. He routinely at night picks up the phone and calls old friends outside of government. He has talked to them saying he thinks his staff is getting in their own way.
He does believe that all these leaks are part of a calculated effort by the intelligence community and the broader federal bureaucracy to undermine his presidency. Some friends say he seems to be a little paranoid, other friends say there are leaks to support this.
He's in this mood and at a key moment in his presidency. There are key votes coming up in Obamacare, key debates on tax reform, and he's consumed by this, partly at his staff, partly at the leaks, and partly by the sense, he believes, Kate, I'm told by several people who have spoken to him.
And Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax went on the record over the weekend, he saw President Trump in Florida and he said, he's as mad as I've ever seen him. He used the word that I won't repeat on daytime television about Trump's mood right now.
This affects the conduct of the administration, in the sense that the president's senior staff is all looking over their shoulder because they know the boss is really mad.
KEILAR: It also impacts Republicans in general, and Republicans that are having to answer questions and face questions about this latest tweet and this highly charged allegation against his predecessor.
[11:20:05]I mean, you have Republican after Republican answering to this, none saying that they've seen the evidence, some of them leaving open the possibility that it should be investigated by the intelligence committees. What kind of a bind does this all put Republicans in?
KING: There's an interesting dynamic in Washington. Most Republicans you talk to, they say they try to avoid all this drama around the president. They want to focus on the nuts and bolts of repealing and replacing Obamacare --
KEILAR: How can you?
KING: -- exactly. The very difficult internal Republican feuds on tax reform. They want to ignore all this. But most Republican senators and people around town have specifically assigned aides to tell them, I need to know what the president has tweeted, I need to know when I walk outside what I'm going to be asked.
I was at a social event this weekend and when you approach Republican senators they put their hand up, "No, please," they don't want to talk about it. It's part of the dynamic in Washington. They hope it goes down. You hear a lot of talk that they wish the president would, A, get over his Twitter habit.
They know that's not going to happen. They keep wishing it. They wished it in the campaign. They wished it now. What they say is, keep our heads down, do our work, and hopefully as he gets into the job, this is day 46, the president will recalibrate himself. But most of them have given up the hope, they think the drama will be constant and they need to figure out how to do their jobs.
KEILAR: Well, also happening, the drama or big news at least continuing, at this hour, we'll hear about this revised travel ban. Will that help the president get back to where he wants to be as he starts this week?
KING: It's interesting if you look at the polling. The president's approval rating, he did not get a bounce in our brand new poll out of his big speech Tuesday night, that's a disappointment, to a White House, you want a big bounce out of that speech. However, some of his policies do remain more popular than the president himself.
If the president can be focused on policy. The travel ban is quite controversial, it will end up back in court. But still, when he's focusing on policy he's on safer ground, certainly his base is with him on some issues like the economy, he has a bigger base than on other issues like the travel ban.
The most interesting thing, Kate, you're about to see right now, this travel ban is a signature issue from the Trump campaign. Because of the state of play in town at the moment, the president of the United States will not be at the event. That speaks volumes.
KEILAR: That says quite a bit. Great to see you, John. Thanks so much.
Joining me now to continue the conversation is CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, as well as co- chair of Women Vote Trump, Amy Kremer. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much for coming in. So Amy, on the president's allegation against President Obama, that he ordered a wiretap against Trump leading up to the election. At this point, the only people, if you're really looking at this, the only people backing up the president wholeheartedly are his White House staff.
And even they, if you listen to their statements, they couch every statement with ifs, maybe, it could be, it's possible. Does that trouble you that no one else has seen the evidence yet?
AMY KREMER, CO-CHAIR, WOMEN VOTE TRUMP: No, it doesn't trouble me, Kate. I don't think the president would have made that allegation if he didn't have some information indicating that. I think back to the IRS targeting Tea Party and conservatives.
And when the president said there's not a smidgen of corruption going on there, and to this day no one's been held accountable. I think we need to wait and hear what they pull the forward, the evidence. I'm sure we will find out.
There were two FISA warrants that they went to court in June and then again in October, according to several publications, and in June, it was to investigate four Trump staffers and they were told to narrow --
KEILAR: Directly relating -- you have the reporting about these FISA applications?
KREMER: This is according to "The Guardian" and "New York Times" reported this as well. And so they went back in October and they were granted the permission to do it.
KEILAR: That has to do with looking at into questionable banking transactions between --
KREMER: It doesn't matter. The thing is, whether it's phone, it could be voice over IP. I don't know whether it's computers, phone, whatever it is. They were granted access in October. And the FISA warrants can be made public, and I encourage them, they should be put out there for the public to see.
And I think that Congress should review all the daily briefings. But the point is that I don't think, and I think most people, I was at an event last night with 300 people, most people are not focused on this out here in the country. They want the president to do what he was elected to do and that is repealing and replacing Obamacare, tax reform --
KEILAR: Amy, I would think people would want the president to focus on his work, not making some would say wild accusations of his predecessor wiretapping him. That has nothing to do with his agenda right now. Paul, come in and comment.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, Amy makes the point, makes the argument that the president wouldn't say this if it wasn't based in some fact or truth. [11:25:08]I would like to believe that. But this is a guy who told us that Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz's father, the senator from Texas, who himself is a Christian minister, was somehow complicit in the Kennedy assassination. This is a guy who told us President Obama wasn't born in America that he was born in Kenya or something.
He's subscribed to every batty conspiracy theory. I'm trying to clean up my language for daytime TV. Every batty conspiracy theory. I still remain hopeful that there's a strategy here, that perhaps the president is trying to throw us off the scent of, you know, Jeff Sessions certainly misled the Senate.
I don't really want to jump to conclusions that it was perjury, but he misled the Senate, he made a big mistake. Then he had to recuse himself. Now the American people and full two-thirds of them say we need a special prosecutor, independent counsel in the Russia case.
I think this time, we're not talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. But he's throwing us on to the scent because his tweet wasn't about attacking the cast of "Hamilton" or Meryl Streep, which he often does to distract us. It was about this Russia case.
The president can declassify anything he wants. If in fact there were FISA warrants, he could declassify them. He could show us that President Obama was trying to wiretap him. He has not done that. It's because it's not there.
But what we need is a credible, independent special prosecutor. Two- thirds of the American people want to get to the bottom of how Russia helped elect Donald Trump. That's the real story.
KEILAR: When you get to the issue of credibility, Amy, some of what Paul is talking about was years ago, pre-election. But just post- election, you have the president who has offered up bold claims without evidence or with evidence that directly comes out that directly contradicts him.
Three million to 5 million illegal votes in the election, the biggest electoral vote since Reagan, don't even get me started about crowd size at the inauguration and of course, then he claimed that he never criticized the intelligence community but look no further than his Twitter feed for the truth on that.
When it comes -- that is just since he was elected. So Amy, why should Americans believe him on this one?
KREMER: Kate, no offense to you guys, but you know what, the American people are with the president. The ones that elected him are with him and --
KEILAR: I don't question that at all.
KREMER: -- all this negativity that day in and day out, it's always something negative, there's always a story. Eric Erickson --
KEILAR: Amy, he brought this up. He brought this up. He raised this on Saturday. And if we didn't talk about it, you would be wondering why we weren't talking about it.
KREMER: But the thing is why won't we talk about the IRS targeting conservatives like this? No one went after the administration about this.
KEILAR: Please, let's talk about this tweet on Saturday.
KREMER: I am telling you this, that the American people have faith in him and trust him, and they want him to do what he said he was going to do. The media didn't elect Donald Trump. The people across the country did.
What is being talked about in the D.C./New York bubble is completely different than what soccer moms and baseball parents are talking about in the country. They care about able to feed their families and having health insurance for their families.
That's what they care about. If there was a wiretap, I'm sure we will get to the bottom of it. I think it will be put out there that we will get some clarification on it. And the real problem is that the media is demanding it right now.
One thing we've seen is Donald Trump operates on Donald Trump time, and he doesn't necessarily go to the media, he'll go around the media through Twitter or whatever. I'm sure when he's ready to put that out there, we will hear from it.
KEILAR: You're sure that you're going to see evidence of it? Amy, I don't disagree with what you said, that the American people deserve for the president to be focused on their pocketbooks, the economy, regulation, all of the things you're talking about, tax reform. We could nauseam, but we should be talking about this, right?
KREMER: I didn't want to believe that the IRS was targeting conservatives either. I did not want to believe that that they did.
KEILAR: Amy, I'm not questioning that. I'm talking about this one. I'm talking about today. I'm talking about a very serious charge coming from President Trump against his predecessor. If I ignored this story today, you should be lighting your hair on fire that I was ignoring the story today. I would think you would want to talk about this today.
KREMER: Kate, there were six agencies, I believe, that were part of this investigation with the FISA warrant. I think the information will come out, but I think it's going to be --
KEILAR: But our reporting is that the FBI wants the Justice Department to refute the president's claim because the FBI says it's false.
KREMER: Well, it's interesting because wasn't it about two weeks ago that the FBI and CIA, the intelligence world, didn't get into refuting or you know, propping up stories that that's what happened when Reince come out, when he made that statement as they didn't want to get involved with it, but now everybody is calling on him to do it. It just -- I mean, there is a double standard --