Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Trump Defends Claim Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower; Schiff: Did Trump Reveals Classified Information in Interview; Are Ryan, White House Trying to Appease Republican Conservative Faction on Health Care. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 16, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:34:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump defiant, defending his claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. But now he says wiretap does not mean wiretap. Remember, it all started with a series of tweets talking about wiretapping, and tapping his phones more than once, and pointing the finger at President Obama, even calling President Obama a "bad or sick guy." Remember, the White House says the tweets speak for themselves.

Here is the story now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX ANCHOR, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: On March 4th, 6:35 in the morning, you're down in Florida, and you tweet, "the former administration wiretapped me, surveilled me at Trump Tower during the last election." How did you find out? You said, I just found out. How did you learn about that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been reading about things. I think it was January 30th, a "New York Times" article that talked about wiretapping. 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.

Now, for the most part, I'm not going to discuss it because we have it before the committee, and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn't been submitted as of yet. But it's potentially a very serious situation.

[11:35:24] CARLSON: So 51,000 people retweeted that. So a lot of people thought that was plausible. They believed you. You're the president. You're in charge of the agencies. Every intelligence agency reports to you. Why not immediately go to them and gather evidence to support that?

TRUMP: Because I don't want to do anything that's going to violate any strength of an agency. We have enough problems. And by the way, with the CIA, I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during us. That was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now doing a fantastic job.

But we will be submitting certain things. And I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. But it's, right now, before the committee. And I think I want to leave it. I have a lot of confidence in them.

CARLSON: Why not wait to tweet about it until you can prove it?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The "New York Times" wrote about it. Not that I respect "The New York Times." I call it the failing "New York Times." But they did write on January 20th, using the word "wiretap." Other people have come out with --

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But you're the president. You have the ability to gather all the evidence you want.

TRUMP: I do. But frankly, we have a lot right now. I think if you watch -- if you watched the Bret Baier and what he was saying and what he was talking about and how he mentioned the word "wiretap," you would feel very confident you could mention the name. He mentioned it. And other people have mentioned it. But if you take a look at some things written by wiretapping and eavesdropping -- and don't forget, when I say wiretap, those words were in quotes. That really covers -- because wiretapping is pretty old fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes. But that's a very important thing. But 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 VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: All right. That was last night. But also already heard in that interview, the president mentioned the CIA was hacked. Moments ago, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee released a statement and raised the question, "Did the president -- "Did President Trump, if this is proven true, reveal classified information during that interview?"

Let's get over to CNN's senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, with more on this.

Adam Schiff just put out this statement, Manu. What is he getting at?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he thinks he may have actually revealed classified information, if this is true. Now, remember, President Trump said this last night, "I just want people to know the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken, that was during the Obama years." Schiff is saying, in his effort to blame President Obama, President Trump may have revealed classified information that the CIA was hacked. Schiff was careful in his statement about saying whether or not the CIA was actually hacked. But his warning to President Trump is this, "If you want to declassify something, it should be done in a thoughtful manner, not done shooting it off your head and just saying something that could be classified and something that ordinarily would be considered an illegal leak."

Remember, Kate, the president can declassify anything he wants. The question is, if the president wanted to declassify this key piece of information, if it's true, and if it's true, that's something that other people would not be able to discuss because of its classification. So an interesting new wrinkle here as the president appears to have said something that may have gone a lot farther than other people who know this information are willing to go -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Of course, what exactly is the president getting at, what piece of information, what hack as he talking about, not explained in that interview. Clearly. Adam Schiff will be following up.

Manu, thanks for jumping on it. Appreciate it.

Let me bring in Republican Congressman Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania.

Congressman, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks, Kate. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: I hope you were able to hear it, Adam Schiff raising the question of President Trump, if he was discussing classified information in that interview. What's your take on this?

DENT: Well, I don't know what the president actually said, except the president has the ability to declassify anything he would like. I think the larger issue is -- the larger issue for the president is, when he made that charge that former President Obama surveilled him, and President Trump must provide proof or evidence to substantiate that claim.

(CROSSTALK)

DENT: If he cannot, then he should retract it.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you exactly about that. The last time we talked, which seems like eons ago, but was only a few days ago, you said if the president's wiretap claims were proven wrong, if there was no evidence, it would damage his credibility. Now we have the House intel chairman saying the president is wrong on this. You have Paul Ryan, the House speaker, saying this tap didn't exist. So has the president damaged his credibility?

[11:40:17] DENT: Well, look, let me say this, too, Kate. First, the easiest thing to do to verify whether or not there was surveillance is to check the FISA orders. In order for any American citizen to be surveilled, Candidate Trump or anyone else, there would have to have been a warrant and go before the FISA court, and somebody can go check those FISA orders fairly quickly to determine if such an order was ever granted. I suspect there wasn't one. And --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It seems that the House Intel chairman says definitively there wasn't one. Paul Ryan today said the same thing. He says we've cleared this up. So it seems that they are saying that the president was wrong on this one. Do you think this is now -- do you think this damages his credibility?

DENT: It certainly doesn't help. Sure, it's important. I always say, when you're president of the United States, your words are policy. So any time you make an utterance, that's the policy. So I think it's very important that the president, you know, measure his words very carefully, because in this case, it's clear that there was no surveillance, based on all the evidence that I've heard so far. So it does damage. And so when you are president of the United States, you only have so much political capital and moral authority. So any time, you know, your statements can be proved inaccurate or incorrect, it just does damage to your credibility.

BOLDUAN: Devin Nunes kind of raised the question if we should take the president too literally. But as you're saying, Congressman, you take the president literally, right?

DENT: I do. Like I said, when you are president of the United States, your words are policy. And so I think it's very important that all of us be measured and temperate in our words, because those words -- and by the way, they can be interpreted in different parts of the world in different ways. That's why I think politicians get a bad rap sometimes for being very careful and measured in their language, because we know that what we say can have consequences. And I think that's particularly the case if you're the president.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about health care, the big issue facing you all on Capitol Hill right now. Since the CBO report came out on Monday, it sure looks like the indications are that the White House and the speaker are leaning more toward appeasing the conservative faction right now in the Republican -- in the House Republicans, not moderates like yourself. Is that your sense right now, Congressman?

DENT: I believe this process is continuing to evolve. I was in a meeting yesterday with Vice President Pence, a very constructive meeting where he largely listened. The point I want to make I want to make, I shared with him concerns that we have. There is discussion about moving the Medicaid window back from 2020 to 2018. I believe that would be a huge, significant problem. In my view, that's a nonstarter. That would probably cost them more votes than gain. The tax credit issue, in my view --

BOLDUAN: You think that would cost them more votes than it would gain them?

DENT: Yes. Yes, it would cost a significant amount of votes.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You know, at the end of the day, it's going to have to come down to a calculation. It might be close. And are they going to gain more, if they move back that window, appease conservatives in the House freedom caucus, can they get it over the line with that. You're saying I don't think so.

DENT: Like I said, I think there are plenty of members with whom I have spoken who said that moving that Medicaid window from 2020 back to 2018 or even 2019 is a nonstarter. They couldn't support it. And in fact, it's difficult enough at 2020. There's still challenges with the Medicaid piece. You know, forget about that timing for a moment, in terms of per capita, the per capita cap allotments, there are issues there that have to be resolved. The tax credits, many of the members I've talked to are concerned that the tax credits will not be sufficient, particularly for that age group between 50 and 64 years of age, people who are currently on the exchanges and being subsidized. That is a very big issue, not to be underemphasized. That is a very big issue for many of our members.

Also, there is an issue for the Senate. Many of the members in the House don't like the idea of having to vote on a bill that may go absolutely nowhere in the Senate in its current form. We know the Senate is going to change it. That's a political dynamic on top of the policy issues I've just identified.

BOLDUAN: When the House speaker said just earlier this hour, when he says, "We're very pleased with where we are, we're on track and on time," do you think he's being a little too glass half-full on this one?

DENT: I've felt all along there's been too much of a focus on arbitrary timelines and deadlines, all to affect the baseline for tax reform. I believe we have to focus on health care, and focus on the people who are going to be impacted by our decisions. I am a lot less concerned about the timing of this. I think it has to be done right. I'm of the opinion that we're moving very quickly. These are very big, complex policy issues. There is a lot of nuance here. I think we've got to get this right.

But at the end of the day, we know that parts of this law need to be repealed, parts need to be replaced, parts need to be repaired, reformed and overhauled, and parts will be retained. We understand that. We have to get the policy right to reflect what I just said about the law itself.

[11:45:31] BOLDUAN: Congressman Dent, always great to have you. Thank you, Congressman.

DENT: Thanks for having me. Great to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up, any moment now, President Trump will arrive on Capitol Hill as his party struggles to get on the same page on their plans to pull together an Obamacare replacement, as we heard from Congressman Dent. We'll hear from the president live when he heads to the capitol. We'll bring that to you.

Plus, why did Senator John McCain accuse Senator Rand Paul of working for Vladimir Putin? Those are his words. You can be sure Senator Paul had something to say in return. Budding bromance? I think not. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:50:25] REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff answered that question pretty clearly. I got the same briefing as them on that as well. But after we heard about this, we did see a number of press reports that made this suggestion. So, yes, those press reports did exist. Frankly, I didn't know about it. I think Bret Baier asked me about it. So this is something I was unaware of until we did see a few press reports on this. But the point is the Intelligence Committees, in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigation of all things Russia, got to the bottom, at least so far, with respect to our intelligence community that no such wiretapping existed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this hour saying no such wiretap existed. He said later, we've cleared that up. That's interesting we hear that today, because now there's more to this story. President Trump now saying that he wasn't talking about wiretaps or wiretaps, per se, and he's promising to prove it.

Let's talk about this right now. Kayleigh McEnany is back with us, CNN political commentator. Also with us, Ned Price, former special assistant to President Obama, former spokesman for the National Security Council, and also a former CIA official.

Great to see both of you.

Ned, since it did just happen, I want to ask you about this, leaning on your NSC and CIA chops. President Trump in the interview we're talking about with FOX News, he said in part of the interview the CIA was hacked. Here is what -- here's the direct quote. "I want people to know the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years."

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on House intel is raising the question, did the president just release classified information, if that is proven accurate. What do you make of this? Can you shed some light here?

NED PRICE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTNT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA & FOMRER SPOKESMAN, NATIONALS ECURITY COUNCIL & FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Obviously, it was a very wide-ranging and newsy interview the president gave last night to Tucker Carlson. But this element struck me as the most interesting and newsy because it's not something I was familiar with. And I tweeted about this last night. Previously, we'd seen these reports that perhaps there had been a contractor, or someone with access to these files on the outside had provided them to WikiLeaks. But never before had we seen this theory of a hack. And if anyone is in a position to know it would seem to be the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. And again, we hear over and over, again, Kayleigh, the president is uniquely positioned. He can declassify anything he wants. What Adam Schiff is raising is he is reckless in how he's doing it.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's reckless. If he wants to share that and doesn't think it's a threat to national security, he can declassify that information. Time will tell. I don't think he'd baselessly suggest the CIA was hacked. If he says it, it happened. And if he wants to declassify that, that's his prerogative as commander-in-chief.

BOLDUAN: One thing fellow Republicans have said are baseless now are, Kayleigh, are his comments that he was wiretapped by President Obama. But what we are hearing now from President Trump is that he wasn't talking about wiretapping. He's talking about general surveillance, and he's got proof and stuff, and they'll be providing that within two weeks. Do you acknowledge, though, that this is moving the goal post now?

MCENANY: Sort of. It depends how you interpreted his tweet. If you interpret it literally as Obama tapped Trump, that did not happen.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Those in charge of conducting the investigation in Congress, Senator Burr says his job is to take him literally.

MCENANY: Right. Look, that's why these conversations are best left off Twitter. President Trump has a right to be suspicious of what happened. We had that "New York Times" headline about wiretapped information. What's very troubling to me is that a Trump associate, Mike Flynn, in the course of monitoring a foreign agent, his conversation, an American citizen's conversation, was transcribed. That's not supposed to happen unless there's evidence of a crime. I think Trump is on firm footing to say something nefarious was going on here. He might produce evidence in two weeks.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But we don't know. We don't know what President Trump is talking about here, though he says he's got evidence and they're going to provide it in two weeks.

Ned, I want to get your take on this. Richard Burr was asked about this by Manu Raju, should you take the president literally or is he moving the goal post. And Senator Burr said I take seriously anything the president says. If I didn't, then we wouldn't have searched and talked to every federal agency about whether there were any warrants for a federal wiretap that existed.

Were they led on a wild goose chase here?

PRICE: This is the president of the United States, the individual with the nuclear codes and commander-in-chief. We have an obligation to take him literally and seriously. The news last night is President Trump is the last man standing in the indefensible effort to defend his tweet. We've seen advisers, staff members run for the hills over the past days and weeks. Sean Spicer danced around this issue of air quotes. We've seen Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions. Devin Nunes yesterday, and I thought what was a remarkable statement, said he had seen no evidence of -- to back up the president's wiretapping claim. This is a close associate of President Trump, someone who was part of his transition. And he went on to say we shouldn't take the man literally. This man possesses the nuclear codes and can start a war if he so chooses.

[11:55:30] BOLDUAN: But when the president now says -- and again, I will say, as Charlie Dent told me earlier this hour, this speaks to credibility then when the president now says there's evidence and he'll provide it within two weeks.

What do you make of that, Ned? What evidence could that be and regarding what? From your experience, at the NSC and being an assistant to the president, what's the possibility here?

PRICE: Last night, the so-called evidence the president provided was what he has previously decried as fake news, the so-called failing "New York Times," the very "New York Times" article that his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus, previously dismissed and said was false. So if more evidence is to come from the White House in the coming weeks, I suspect it will be "Breitbart" articles or other articles that somehow mention wiretapping.

But there's a very important point here, in that any law enforcement information should not be coming from the White House.

BOLDUAN: Well --

(CROSSTALK)

PRICE: In the Obama White House, there was a firm wall between the Department of Justice and the White House. And as a cardinal rule, White House officials did not interfere in DOJ investigations. So that --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: The onus now is definitely on the president in producing that evidence and what it is. It's yet to be seen if it goes further than many would say. It should go further than any "Breitbart" information that should come out.

Ned, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

Kayleigh, thank you, as always.

MCENANY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Any moment now, President Trump will speak live on Capitol Hill as Republicans are battling over health care. What will he say and where does that bill stand? Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:05] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for spending part of your day with us.

And it's a busy one. House Speaker Paul Ryan vowing to salvage the Republican health care plan, insisting all is fine, even as he is forced --