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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House: "100 Percent False" That Admin Blocked Yates' Testimony; Interview with Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut; Nunes Refuses To Recuse Himself From Russia Probe; Nunes: House Intel Committee Invites Comey To Testify Again; Trump: We'll Make A Deal On Health Care; Paul Manafort's Ties To Russia. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin tonight with breaking news in the drama that has all but seized the building behind me. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, says he invited FBI Director James Comey to testify again before House investigators. It's not the only news Congressman Nunes made today. We'll get to all of that in moment.
But, first, the voices we did not hear today. We did not hear former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. We did not hear former CIA Director John Brennan, or former acting Deputy Attorney Sally Yates. They were supposed to testify at the House Intelligence Committee's second public hearing. But late last week, Chairman Nunes abruptly canceled the hearing, offering no explanation as to why.
Former Attorney General Yates was expected to testify about communications between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Now, today, the White House denied it sought to block Yates from actually testifying. At today's briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pushed back hard on the allegation and at one point the briefing kind of went off the rails when Russia came up. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: How does this administration try to revamp its image, two and a half months in? You got this Yates story today. You've got other things going on. You've got Russia. You've got wiretapping --
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have that. You --
RYAN: -- on Capitol Hill.
SPICER: No, I've said it from the day that I got here until, whatever, that there is no connection. You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. But every single person --
SPICER: No. Well, no, that's -- I appreciate your agenda here but the reality is -- no, no, no, hold on. No, at some point, report the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
All right. So, let's talk about the facts tonight. The facts about this White House and those close to it and ties to Russia, all -- we want to show you a flow chart so everybody can follow along. It's confusing.
There are the facts about former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a key adviser during the Trump campaign. In 2015, he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a black tie gala for Russia's RT propaganda network which the Kremlin paid Flynn more than $33,000 to attend.
There's a fact that during the campaign, Flynn had regular contact with Russian nationals and during the transition, he discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then lied about it to the vice president and others. The fact that it cost him his new job as national security adviser -- that's a fact.
Then, there are the facts about President Trump's son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner. Fact, in December, during the transition, Mr. Kushner met with the ambassador. He also met with a guy named Sergey Gorkov, president of Russia's state-owned bank VEB, in late 2016.
Some facts about former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. He worked for years in Ukraine for pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort also partnered with a Russian oligarch on business deals. And according to the "Associated Press", he worked for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to benefit the Putin government.
Fact: former Trump foreign policy adviser of some sort, Carter Page, worked in Russia for about three years, was involved in deals with state-owned gas giant Gazprom, and traveled to Russia over the summer while he had been named a close advisor to the president. Then, the same month, Carter Page spoke to Ambassador Kislyak on the sidelines of the Republican Convention.
As you might know, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was the first senator to support candidate Trump. Some facts about him, he also met with Ambassador Kislyak twice during the campaign, despite testifying that he never had contact with the Russians during the campaign.
Michael Cohen is President Trump's personal lawyer. Two facts about him: last month, he met with a guy named Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant connected to the mob accordingly. Mr. Trump also founded a grain company in Ukraine. Then, there -- excuse me, Cohen.
Then, there are the facts about long-time Trump associate Roger Stone who communicated with someone known as Guccifer 2.0 through private messages on Twitter. The U.S. intelligence committee says that Guccifer 2.0 persona was actually a front for Russian intelligence and claimed responsibility for hacking the DNC before the election.
So, those are some facts. There are a more of it, but we'll just stop there, because we have a lot to talk about in the next two hours.
The ones we listed, they might be legal. They might be totally legal connections, or nefarious. We don't know in some case. But we do know they exist. Those are the facts.
More now on all the breaking news, Jeff Zeleny joins me with that.
So, Jeff, the White House is denying it tried to block Sally Yates from testifying. What more are you hearing on that?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the White House has vehemently denied that today. They say they did not try to block her from testimony.
But a review of the letters from her lawyers to the Department of Justice and the House Intelligence Committee shows at the very least they tried to discourage her testimony.
Now, let's take a step back and remember who Sally Yates is. She was the acting attorney general for the first ten days or so of this administration. She was fired by the president.
But, importantly, in this case, she was the deputy attorney general in the Obama administration and she was the one who fired some warning flares that there were those communications going on between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
[20:05:04] So, that is why her testimony here is important.
But Sean Spicer today at the White House briefing said, no, no, we're not trying to block her. He explained it like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. Let's be honest. The hearing was never -- was actually never notified. If they choose to move forward -- great. We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: And again, Anderson, that hearing was supposed to be today on Capitol Hill, but we know the White House, of course, did not want another Russian-related hearing to dominate everything. And one of the reasons she was perhaps not testifying was because of executive privilege. The Department of Justice said that, you know, the president owns the executive privilege, not her. Her lawyers argued on Friday that in fact most of this has been in the public domain, so she can testify. But, suddenly, on Friday, that hearing today was canceled. COOPER: So, Chairman Nunes, is the administration offering new
details about who signs him into the White House grounds last week to look at the classified information that he claims he saw?
ZELENY: In a word, the answer is, no, they're not, Anderson. And Sean Spicer from that White House podium yesterday said, look, I will follow up and let you know more information. He did not take questions on that today. And the White House, in fact, said, look, we're not going to say who swore him in, who cleared him in, who else courted him in.
But talking to former government officials, we do know that even House intelligence chairman, even members of Congress, must be escorted in the same way as everyone else. So, there is a log of him visiting. The White House could easily access it.
But they have chosen not to at this point. They are not releasing their visitor logs as they did during most of the Obama administration -- Anderson.
COOPER: Right. Jeff Zeleny -- Jeff, thanks very much.
The only person who knows for certain why the House intelligence chairman canceled today's public hearing, and then there was the closed hearing that didn't take place, he scheduled it, is Devin Nunes himself.
Manu Raju has been working that angle of the story. He joins me now.
So, what explanation did Nunes give about today about Sally Yates and the canceled hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he said the logical next step for this committee would be to have a private classified briefing with Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and FBI Director James Comey after that public hearing last week. He said a lot of unanswered questions. They wanted this private classified briefing today, so that's why he canceled that hearing today.
But that private classified briefing also was canceled because of all the partisan acrimony on the committee. All meetings, in fact, of the House Intelligence Committee were canceled today as it's showing just how gridlocked this committee is.
Now, he was -- Nunes was asked by both me and other reporters this question: did the White House ask you to prevent Sally Yates from testifying? This is how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Look, you guys are just speculating. I'm sorry. Whenever there's time, we'll do a presser --
RAJU: Did they ask you to cancel the hearing today? NUNES: Come on, guys.
RAJU: Why is that not -- I mean, why did you cancel the hearing?
NUNES: There's no -- nothing has been canceled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So after that, Chairman Nunes' spokesman actually put out a statement suggesting that they either had no discussions with the White House, saying that no one at the White House spoke whatsoever with any members of the committee or Chairman Nunes himself. But his answer earlier today dodging that question, really raising questions about if there are any discussions whatsoever between the chairman and the White House on the hearing itself that did not happen today.
COOPER: Well, I'm confused. He says nothing was canceled. There was supposed to be a public hearing. I mean, I remember last week I had it penciled in on my question. It didn't happen. How that is not cancelling?
RAJU: Yes, and I pushed him on that question. And he said, well, he suggested that perhaps there was no official notice of that hearing that actually went out, even though they announced that publicly, that there would be a hearing today. So, curious explanation from the chairman nonetheless.
COOPER: Because I mean, I'm sure Sally Yates, I'm sure Clapper, I'm sure all those people were preparing for a -- I mean, they had all been told that they were to have a hearing, correct?
RAJU: Yes, they were all being told. There were actually private discussions that were ongoing between staff and those witnesses. They were planning to go forward. Perhaps we'd have learned more from Sally Yates and her investigation into Michael Flynn. And, of course, her suggestion privately that perhaps he could be blackmailed potentially because of his connections with the Russians and perhaps that's one reason why a lot of folks who not want this issue of Russia to be aired publicly not wanting the hearings to go forward.
But Nunes not saying that that the reason, saying that it was more important to have this private briefing with Comey and Rogers, but that hearing also not going forward. So, really, uncertain how this committee can even proceed forward as it investigates those ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Anderson.
[20:10:03] COOPER: So -- OK, so the hearing wasn't canceled but it didn't happen today and it's not scheduled to happen, right?
RAJU: Yes, that's right.
RAJU: And it may not happen yet. They're saying that they still want to hear from Sally Yates, as Devin Nunes is saying tonight, Anderson. The question is, when that will happen? We just don't know yet. COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, what a day. Thank you very much.
Democratic Congressman Jim Himes is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He joins me now.
Was this meeting cancelled?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Of course, it was canceled. It was scheduled. The witnesses were there to testify. A room was reserved. We were all set to go. We had our questions and it didn't happen.
And the idea that it didn't happen because the Comey/Rogers meeting was to have happened, you know, there's more than two hours in a week. Comey and Rogers are on Capitol Hill a lot. So, in my --
COOPER: Theoretically, there could have been a private meeting and a public one as well?
HIMES: Absolutely. I mean, it's no coincidence that private meeting was scheduled precisely for the time that the open hearing was supposed to happen.
COOPER: So, what's -- what is he -- in your opinion what is Nunes trying to do?
HIMES: Well, that's the big question. I mean, we really -- you know, all of his behavior since last Monday's open hearing is bizarre. I mean, that's not a partisan statement, right? I mean, you know, no less than Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham have said what is this guy doing, he's out on a lark.
But since that Monday open hearing --
COOPER: I believe Lindsey Graham referenced Inspector Clouseau.
HIMES: There was that.
HIMES: But, you know, last Monday, we had open hearing, which was a tough hearing for the White House. Director Comey confirms, this is another important fact, forget about what Congress is doing, Director Comey confirms that there is an FBI investigation into his words, links and coordination between the Trump campaign and possible links and coordination between the campaign and Russia.
And, of course, both of them, Comey and Rogers, completely shut down this idea that Barack Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower. Pretty ugly five-hour open hearing for the White House. And I have to look at the fact that the open hearing did not happen today and say, that was not an accident.
COOPER: So, do you think Nunes was trying to basically -- if there had been, in your opinion, a certain momentum after the last hearing, last week, was he basically just trying to shut that down? HIMES: I -- you can draw your own conclusion. An open hearing that
was scheduled today, you can say canceled. You can say it didn't happen. It did not happen. The American public did not get the opportunity to hear from people who would be able to contribute to this investigation.
COOPER: And when -- you know, so, Sally Yates was supposed to be one of the people to testify. I guess her attorneys sent a letter telling the committee that -- telling Nunes that she would testify about conversations relating to Mike Flynn and Russia, and that executive privilege would not apply if they didn't hear back from them by Monday.
That very same day I think, if my timing is correct, it's announced, OK, that hearing is canceled.
HIMES: You can surmise that the deputy attorney general was a particularly painful potential witness. She was apparently at the center of the whole Michael Flynn thing. And of all the characters that we talk about, Stone, Manafort, Carter Page, you know, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn is the one person who lost his job. There was actually some sanction taken against him for something that he did.
And so, I do think that probably her testimony would have been particularly difficult for this White House.
COOPER: Does it surprise you to learn that -- "New York Times" broke the story yesterday, we've been reporting -- Jared Kushner, during the transition, met at the suggestion of the Russian ambassador with this guy from a Russian bank that is under sanctions? And the Russian bank, the White House was saying, oh, no, this was just a perfunctory courtesy meeting. The Russian bank says, no, no, this was a business meeting, meeting with him as part of the Kushner family.
HIMES: Well, and there's other circumstances that make it particularly odd. Of course, the head of this Russian bank is a Russian intelligence officer, trained by Russian intelligence. And the whole thing, it gets to a much larger issue, which is there's nothing necessarily illegal or bad about that, but what is odd here, and I think the reason we're having this conversation, is that there are at least a half dozen people very close to this campaign who had a bizarrely intense set of ties with the Russians.
I've run five campaigns. I'd be surprised if any of the people involved in my campaign had any contact whatsoever with Russia. And those people, certainly the attorney general, certainly Michael Flynn, looks like maybe even Jared Kushner, were not entirely up front to put it nicely about the nature of those contacts.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, you put -- you put that chart up, that's a quick little flow chart. There's a lot more there.
You know, for the White House to come out very aggressively today and say, this is all a media creation, if the president put Russian dressing on his salad, which is a clever line.
But you can't say there aren't interesting connections. I mean, Michael Flynn lost his job.
HIMES: Well, look, the White House will try -- you know, has said all along that there's nothing there.
[20:15:02] And they will try hard to paint this as a partisan thing. Now, I would point out that, you know, a midnight run to the White House that puzzles Republicans and Democrats alike by our chairman, who then does not turn around and give us answers, that's not a Democrat or Republican thing to do.
And most importantly, come back to the fact that there is an active FBI investigation under way. That is not a partisan thing.
COOPER: So, has the work of your committee basically just ground to a halt?
HIMES: Well, and the way you say that, the investigation certainly has ground to a halt. But here's the odd thing. All meetings have been canceled. We ordinarily have a meeting when we come back, that was canceled. We were to have a meeting tomorrow morning -- Thursday morning, I should say, we were to have a meeting. That has been canceled.
And the word in the committee is now that we will not get together as a committee. And remember, we're charged with oversight of some profoundly important and potentially scary things. We're apparently not going to do anything until this closed-door meeting with Comey and Rogers occurs.
COOPER: And any clue when that's going to happen?
HIMES: It's not on the calendar as far as I know.
COOPER: All right. Congressman Himes, we appreciate it.
HIMES: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Much more to talk about ahead. We'll get the panel's take on all this.
Plus, how deep do former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties with Russia really go? The question certainly is not going away.
COOPER: Tonight's breaking news: he White House says it did not try to block former Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee at a public hearing scheduled today, but canceled last week without explanation by the committee's chairman, Devin Nunes. Yates was expected to testify about communications between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador just one piece of a number of connections between Trump campaign associates and Russia. Before the break, we walked you through some of ties -- you see them
on the screen -- the seven Trump advisers have had with Russia. We don't know which if any of these connections or if any of them may be nefarious, they may all be legal and appropriate, but they do exist.
[20:20:02] A lot to discuss. Joining me now is George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker", Ryan Lizza, "New York Times'" Matthew Rosenberg, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, who was a senior advise to the Trump campaign.
Also, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, Jason Miller, former senior communications advisor to the Trump campaign, and CNN political commentator, and Bill Press, talk radio host and CNN political commentator.
I know, Gloria, you've been talking to sources today. What have you learned?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that if Sally Yates had testified, she would have been an embarrassment to the White House. And I think that starts sort of peeling the onion away from why Devin Nunes didn't want her to appear and she may end up appearing, it may all backfire.
But I've been told from multiple sources that she did not go to see the White House counsel just to give him a heads-up about Flynn's communications, as has been said by Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. But, in fact, she went over there to say that she had significant concerns about an issue of compromise and that, in fact, he may have been compromised.
And I think then we have to ask the question about after she went to the White House, why did it take so long for them to finally decide they were going to fire General Flynn, only after "The Washington Post" had revealed in a story about his communications, only after it became public?
COOPER: You know, Matthew, it is interesting to see in real-time a House Intelligence Committee investigation essentially just break down. I mean, just completely -- I mean, you heard it from Congressman Himes, even their regular meetings have stopped.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's amazing. What we've heard, we've heard the same thing. And that --
ROSENBERG: And that Sally was going to get up there. Yes, it's good. Our sources basically seem accurate. Sally was going to get up there and talk about conversations they had in the White House about Flynn being compromised, potentially, about Flynn being a real security risk.
And then the fact it took another two weeks before he was let go. And that it looks a lot like he was let go because it looked bad, not because he was a security risk. And that doesn't violate any security clearance for her to say that.
And from -- by all accounts, Nunes did not want a repeat of Monday, of last Monday, when he had the director of the FBI get up and say, yes, there's an espionage investigation involving the White House. He didn't want that. And this is an attempt to shut it down.
COOPER: I mean, that's -- Ryan, I mean, if that's true, that is startling for those, you know, who want to believe that this is a bipartisan commission with -- you know, who really want to get to the bottom of what's going on.
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, I mean, I think in a week of events, Monday to Monday shows that Nunes allowed himself essentially to become a tool of the White House on several levels. I reported in a piece at newyorker.com, that the morning of the Monday hearing, a White House official told me what essentially was going to be in Nunes' testimony, and predicted that the whole thing would end up being about incidental collection.
So, there was coordination right from the get-go of that hearing. Then, of course, Nunes went to the executive branch, went to the White House grounds, got this information, and then briefed the president. So, the White House, essentially the executive branch, using Nunes as a tool --
COOPER: So, wait a minute, you --
LIZZA: -- to start this conversation about incidental collection, overshadows the Comey testimony.
COOPER: Just to repeat that again, you have a source telling you that the White House, somebody at the White House --
LIZZA: The morning of the Monday testimony, I talked to a senior official at the White House who said, "Watch Nunes' testimony, he's going to lay the predicate here," and directed to an article in "The Hill" about incidental collection. So, very clearly saying, we know what Nunes is going to say. Out of this hearing what we want is a conversation about incidental collection.
Then, of course, Nunes goes to the executive branch, gets these allegedly secret documents, the next day briefs the White House about it. And we have that whole, you know, arguably charade taking the focus away from Comey's testimony that the FBI is investigating Trump's associates and putting on this peripheral issue of incidental collection.
Aside from that, we then have the canceling of today's hearing. And remember, it's not just Yates that was going to be trouble for the White House today. Two other witnesses were essentially going to be hostile toward Donald Trump, Clapper and Brennan. Those were not --
COOPER: But if --
LIZZA: If you combine those, all of that, you basically have the White House and Nunes blowing up this investigation.
COOPER: You also have Sean Spicer from, you know, last week saying, well, wait until the end of the week, see what comes out. The president himself saying --
Trump's comment has been overlooked.
LIZZA: But you have the president saying to FOX News, this -- something's coming out.
COOPER: Not only that, we should pull that tape because when we get -- but I think the wording on it was particularly odd because I think, if memory serves me correct, he was like, he was talking about what the White House was going to be putting -- anyway, I don't want to mischaracterize it.
[20:25:01] But the wording was really kind of stunning in retrospect.
LIZZA: Absolutely, they knew.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Also, having been a committee chairman, I've shut down committee hearings right at the last minute. You can to that, that's your prerogative as the chairman. You don't have to explain it to majority or you minority members or your witnesses, you can do it for whatever reason you want.
I think this decision was a good one. I think this whole thing has become political. I think for the Democrat or Republican committee members to rush out to the press on every little hearing piece, when you're talking about felons who have leaked --
COOPER: Wait a minute. Didn't Nunes run out to the press?
KINGSTON: I'm saying he did. Yes, I'm saying he has.
COOPER: So, that's a good round to the press.
KINGSTON: No, he has done that, but I'm so glad that he has shut down some of this talk this week. I think it's helpful. I really do.
BORGER: What talk?
COOPER: Helpful to whom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's slightly --
KINGSTON: No, I believe that his own committee members are doing a disservice to this so-called investigation, which I don't even -- I question that it is --
COOPER: Professor Turley, as you look at this from a legal standpoint, what do you make of it?
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFFESOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Yates testifying is by no means a common appearance in D.C. The people objecting in the Justice Department were career people, not political people. And I'm sure, I often litigate against some of these people, they're having conniptions.
The idea you could have someone involved in an early investigation in the middle of the investigation, go and talk about any part of the investigation, who held the role of a prosecutor, raises ethical questions. I think that she's right, there's a waiver issue here that might get around presidential privilege. I tell you, her description, her letter, is laden with deliberative privilege problems.
COOPER: Wait, wait. We've got to take a break.
When we come back, I want to pursue that a little bit more because I think there's a lot of folks don't know exactly what some of those things mean. So, let's -- we'll put a pin on that.
We're going to take a quick break. Much more to talk about.
We'll also take a look at the House Intelligence chairman's refusal to recuse himself from the Russian investigation and new questions about his ability to lead, even coming from it now from fellow Republicans.
[20:31:04] COOPER: A major story we're following tonight, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes rejecting calls for him to step aside from his committees Russia investigation.
Now two top Republican senators are adding their voices to the chorus of lawmakers on the Democratic side questioning whether House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes is fit for his job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he's not willing to tell the Democrats and the Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he's lost his ability to lead. As to whether or not he should step down -- that lead that to the House leadership.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think, Nunes, should be a lot of explaining to do. I have been around for quite a while, and I have never heard of any such of thing, there's so much out there that needs to be explained by the chairman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm back now with our panel.
Ryan Lizza, we're talking before about an interview that Pres. Trump had given March 15th. We have it now. We just want to play it for our viewers because he talks about something coming down the pike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, just explain the curious nature of that.
LIZZA: Look, you seem to have the president saying something's going to come out that -- about his claim on the famous tweet about Trump Tower being bugged by Pres. Obama.
And then you have the White House, at least to me and I assume other journalists the morning of the hearing saying this is now going to a place about incidental collection, and then you Nunes and most of the Republicans on that Monday hearing last week making the hearing about incidental collection, and then Nunes is going to the White House and say, aha, I've got some secret information that Trump's associates were incidentally collected on.
And the entire conversation shifted from the big news of that hearing which was FBI investigation of Trump associates to this, frankly, peripheral issue of incidental collection.
PRESS: I want to connect some dots here, because I think -- I got the briefings, White House briefings. So when Chairman Nunes came up and told the press that he found this incidental surveillance, he said I'm going to go down and brief the White House. So we have a briefing with Sean Spicer, Sean Spicer says we have no clue as to what he's talking about because we have no idea where he got these documents, we have no idea what he's going to say.
I think that turns out to be a big lie, because we find out now, he was at the White House the day before, that's where he got the documents, at least that's where he looked at them.
So I think that those documents may have been what Pres. Trump may have been -- what Pres. Trump was telegraphing to Tucker Carlson, they thought they had the goods, they go to Nunes, he comes up makes a big deal of it and now it turns out there's nothing.
COOPER: You're saying you have a different take than Congressman Kingston that it's good that this has been stopped?
MILLER: Well, so, the issue of incidental collection and America is being unmasked, a very serious issue. And that's what we should be talking about. But the problem --
COOPER: More so than Russia's hacking of the election --
MILLER: Well, absolutely.
MILLER: Yes. Absolutely, I mean, there's no evidence or anything that there was collusion between the candidate --
COOPER: No, no, no. I'm talking about Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. I mean Russia's attempt --
MILLER: There's absolutely no evidence of that, but this issue --
COOPER: There's no evidence that Russia was involving themselves in the U.S. election?
MILLER: That they were colluding with the Trump campaign.
COOPER: I didn't say that, but they clearly were involved in the U.S. election, no?
MILLER: Well, clearly, there were some efforts that were being made, but --
COOPER: Pretty successful efforts, no?
MILLER: Well, what -- I mean, what we do know, as a matter of fact, that there was this incidental collection. There was the unmasking.
COOPER: Actually, we know a lot more than that, I mean we know Russia was involved, we know that Russia hacked, we know there are e-mails were released, we know --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- said they were.
COOPER: Someone said that's going to even be described as an act of war.
MILLER: -- it was a different point, to go back to that for a moment, is that the substance coming out of the House Intel Committee has really overshadowed everything, or the lack of substance coming out.
And so what we have really is this, you know, running back and forth between the capitol and up to the White House, with this back and forth and everyone's, you know, why is he going here at this time, why is he going at that time?
And, the fact of the matter he can no longer get his message out. What he's failed to do is there's a basic PR tenant called preaching to your own choir, where you got to tell your people, here's why you're doing it, here's essentially the back story. You don't see people from the House after supporting the chairman.
[20:35:11] The speaker's comments today, I think were really modeled at best. I don't know how the chairman is really going to push ahead with this.
COOPER: So you think, what, he should recuse himself?
MILLER: He needs to do one or two things, either come out and very much lay out the case, here's the people you met with, here's the evidence, or he needs to step back and have Speaker Ryan put in someone else to do this. Because the fact, what this is doing is stepping on the president's message when we have this drip, drip, drip everyday of new information coming out. I don't think that's all.
KINGSTON: I think that's why cancelling the hearing was a good thing to the degree that you got to huddle with your team sometime, your team both parties.
COOPER: But he's not huddling with any team, he's stone walling his own team.
KINGSTON: But I think he will in time. I think Ryan --
COOPER: -- there's 24 hours in a day.
KINGSTON: -- frankly, I think they have a cooling off period. Because, remember, the investigation is going on with that --
COOPER: They're not children who need a time out are they?
KINGSTON: The committee hearings should not be confused with investigating. Investigating is going on on some --
COOPER: It's not.
KINGSTON: -- the FBI has cancelled it. The FBI --
COOPER: We just had the conversation from the committee saying --
KINGSTON: -- oversight of it.
BORGER: What investigation are you talking about? Because Devin Nunes seems to want to be investigating the unmasking and the incidental collection, and other people are say, we're not saying that's not important, because of course that has to be looked at. But what they want to investigate is Russia and the Russian hacking of the election, and the potential ties and people of --
KINGSTON: Well, remember.
BORGER: -- the Trump campaign to Russia. That is what they are investigating.
COOPER: Kirsten as it seemed to you that the House Intelligence Committee is doing -- I mean, it seems like Congressman is saying they're not doing anything now.
POWESR: Yeah, that's actually what it seems like. And I think the integrity of this entire investigation is being called into question.
I don't think people feel like they can trust what's going on and even if you say that he just prerogative to cancel the hearing, OK, fine, but why did he cancel the hearing?
KINGSTON: He cancel --
POWERS: Wait hold on.
KINGSTON: I can explain.
POWERS: We know from "The Washington Post" that they reported that Sally Yates was going to show up and probably John Brennan as well and say things that were embarrassing to the White House. And we're going to say things that contradicted what the White House has said.
So, if he's doing it to protect the White House from an investigation that's actually not OK.
COOPER: Which, by the way, what he said on Fox. He said that the president was getting a lot of heat from the --
KINGSTON: -- Bill said connect the dots, at least connect squares, the steppingstones. Number one, I heard immediately after the Comey testimony last week that Comey did not say in public the things he was saying in private. The members were very frustrated about that, Comey is a very clever guy, and he kind of selectively answered questions, which OK, he's a savvy testimony guy. That's number one.
KINGSTON: Number one --
LIZZA: What did he say in private that he didn't say in public?
KINGSTON: Well, obviously I don't know, but that's what they were saying.
COOPER: Who was saying --
KINGSTON: -- things to members in private --
COOPER: What you're saying --
COOPER: What you're just saying is -- I heard from a guy who said this, I don't know what he was talking about, but I heard this.
KINGSTON: How come everybody in press land can say I heart from a source?
KINGSTON: This is -- I heard it from committee members themselves, not staffers, not senators --
LIZZA: I think what happened -- what you're talking about is, Nunes and Schiff did get a private meeting by Comey about the precise nature of the FBI investigation. After the Schiff testimony, Nunes was clearly not happy with some of the answers about whether the Trump White House and Trump himself were under investigation.
And just reading between the lines the way I interpreted what Schiff and Nunes knew privately, versus what Comey was willing to say privately, was how close to the White House the investigation was. And this was the reason that Nunes said that there's a cloud over the White House now that he thinks is --
KINGSTON: -- yes, somewhat, yes. Now getting back to Kirsten's questions about Clapper, (inaudible) would come in, what they want to do is have Comey come back in a private close door session first, but Comey would not do that until he got a letter of request signed by the minority member, the ranking member Mr. Schiff. Mr. Schiff did not sign that letter, so Comey would not come. And those are things that I believe, you know, can be --
COOPER: All right. We got to take another quick break. We're going to have more ahead and lot's to cover. We'll be right back.
[20:42:32] COOPER: A major story we're following tonight, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes rejecting calls for him to step aside from his committee Russian investigation as breaking news. In that front, the first Republican member of the House has called for Nunes to step aside, Walter Johnson of North Carolina, saying it is up to Speaker Ryan, but he does thing Nunes should recuse himself. Back now with the panel.
We moved off of Sally Yates' testimony. Professor you were talking about concern that some in the legal community and Department of Justice had about her testify --
TURLEY: Well, first of all, for the White House to say, look, we're cool just go and testify. You should understand that is very uncommon. The Obama administration, the Bush administration, going back to the Clinton administration, they hold these privileges jealously.
COOPER: -- executive privileges for people who don't follow this as closely, it's communications conversations that are taking place in the White House, the president has to be able to feel that conversations he's been having with people.
TURLEY: Ever since George Washington with the Jay Treaty, the president has said we need to have some confidentiality. And then 1974, the Nixon case, the Supreme Court really recognized that in a substantive way, and say, yes, there's this executive privilege not in the constitution, it warns protection.
There's a lot of ambiguity there. One of the privileges that comes up is delivered privileges which goes to precisely a type of thing that Yates was doing, it is building cases, investigating.
And the concern you have when a prosecutor, which to effect, if she was, talks about an ongoing investigation, is it raises a question about fairness. For criminal defense attorneys like myself, we tend to crawl in the fetal position when you see prosecutors go out in the middle of an investigation, because no one has been indictment here.
COOPER: Even if she's not revealing classified information or just talking about things which have -- are already in the public record?
TURLEY: That's what's going to be tough. If you read her letter, if she can thread that needle, then she's a very, very good lawyer, but she's going to walk -- this is -- it's got to be a very careful performance. If you read the letter about what she's not going to talk about, this could be mono syllabic testimony.
BORGER: -- in front of me. And I've spoke with multiple sources about this, her claim is that privilege ought to be waved because there have been multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing these communications in January of 2017.
And, I believe that she wrote to the Justice Department, she asked for, you know, permission, the new Justice Department, asked for permission, the Justice Department sort of said the buck stops at the White House. So her attorney sent a letter to the chief counsel at the White House, and then said, the letter from her attorney said, if I do not receive a response by Monday March 27th at 10:00 a.m., which is when she was supposed to testify. I will conclude that I can testify and then --
[20:45:30] COOPER: The hearing skips on the same day.
BORGER: That's right.
TURLEY: But the point is, you know, she has to -- she still has ethical obligations, it's not just the privilege, she's a former prosecutor who has access to information going to embarrass an unindicted person.
COOPER: Jason --
MILLER: We're burying the obvious here. I mean, the point that has been made which is Sally Yates is an Obama appointee, so let's go ahead and bring her in. Let's hear what the opposition party has to say on this one. Whether it's Schiff, or Schumer, Pelosi, I mean, Sally Yates was appointed by Pres. Obama. I think it's --
COOPER: Did she have like a -- I mean she had an extensive career at the Department of Justice under many different administration.
KINGSTON: -- let me say, she is being recruited right now by the Democrat Party in Georgia to run for governor. So, I mean, it's not like she's just a casual person who Obama selected simply because of her intellect --
PRESS: She's not Switzerland.
KINGSTON: She's obviously a partisan.
KINGSTON: She gets considered running for governor of the side of Georgia. But, the thing -- I think is important, as you're saying her testimony, I don't see how she can walk that line and do justice for it.
TURLEY: I also -- I'm not sure why you would want this, because there are going to be Republicans to ask new questions. Her departure led to serious ethical questions on whether she acted correctly. There are those who wonder whether she was acting for her own aspirations, --
COOPER: -- the executive order --
TURLEY: Yes. She told to entire Federal Department to stand down and not assist the sitting president. I happen to think that was a grossly wrong decision. She can resign, the way it worked out in the Nixon administration, but many people have questioned that.
COOPER: Though, I'm going to go.
PRESS: I just want to say, look, I'm just a talk show host, OK? But all this talk, about Sally Yates, did she -- what she going to say? Whatever she going to say misses the point. The point is, I mean, the military have a phrase, fubar, right? That's what this investigation is all about. It will never be put back together again this House Intelligence Committee, with Devin Nunes as a chair, because screwed up time and time again. And then the White House has lost all credibility on this issue as well. They're doing everything they can to try to make this Russian connection go away. Guess what? It's not going to go away. COOPER: All right, up next, we have more breaking news about an hour ago, Pres. Trump telling a group of senators something about health care that was not expected, and that's an understatement. We'll tell you what he said when we comeback.
[20:50:22] COOPER: Welcome back. More breaking news, moments ago during a reception at the White House Pres. Trump made a surprising comment about health care reform. Listen to what he told a group of senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT: I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. So I have no doubt that's going to happen very quickly. I think it will actually. I think it's going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, so, this is obviously a short contrast from leading up to Friday's failed vote on health care reform when the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer what he said they had no plan b.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How confident are you the bill will pass? If it doesn't pass, is there a plan b?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, there's no plan "B." I mean this is -- there's plan "A" and plan "A." We're going to get this done. I'm not looking -- as I mentioned, we don't -- we're not looking at a plan "B." We have plan "A." It's going to pass. I'm going to go from there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said there's no -- there's only plan "A."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, is there an acknowledgement that perhaps there does need to be a plan "B" at this point whatever happens next?
SPICER: No. Plan "A." The president's plan is to pass the bill tonight, get it on to the Senate and sign a bill once it go conference. That's the president's plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any sort of plan if the bill does not pass tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the plan?
SPICER: It's going to pass. So that's it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now the president is saying, I know we're going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. Joining us talk about it, Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, he's now a professor at UC Berkley and author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few ". Also with us, CNN Senior Economic Analyst Steven Moore who is with the Heritage Foundation, he's a former senior economic adviser to Trump campaign.
Secretary Reich, I mean, what do you make the president now saying this? Because it also seems to stand at odds with what he said previously that nobody knew how difficult health care was.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: I don't think Donald Trump has any credibility left on this issue of health care. I mean, he said he only had plan "A." There was no plan "B." And then all of a sudden just a couple of days later, he has plan "B." And presumably has plan "C" and "D" and "F" and "G" and every time he takes a stand, it looks like there is really no stand there.
You know, a lot of Republicans called his bluff over this health care. And, he, it turns out, was -- that there's no ability -- he had no ability to stand his ground.
So I don't know what he's talking about, unless he is talking about maybe a back channel with what, the Democrats. Maybe Donald Trump -- I mean the chance that Donald Trump is actually going to be making a deal with Democrats and have enough votes with a few Republicans to come up with some changes that are strengthening the Affordable Care Act, well, I'll eat my hat, but it will be great if he did that.
COOPER: Steve, do you know what the president means? I mean, because -- if it was such an easy thing to make a deal, I mean, we wouldn't be here. There probably be a deal last Friday.
STEVEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I'll tell you, by the way, Bob you're not going to have to eat your hat, because the negotiations that are going on right now -- and I've been in touch with a lot of the House members today, Anderson, is that they are very getting very close.
And by this way, this is standard negotiating tactics. When you have plan "A" on the table, you don't tell the people you are negotiating with, -- oh by the way, there's a plan "B." But there is a plan "B." And they're getting close, I think, to getting this thing sewn up. I don't know if it will be in next three weeks or three months. But as I said on your show the other night, Anderson, they are going to get this done. They're going to get it through the House and they're going to it through the Senate.
Here is the argument, by the way, that's been I think very persuasive for these people, these Republicans who've been on the fence. A lot of them said, look, we can't vote for this because, you know, any negative ramifications of this bill are going to affect us when we run for re-election. And one of the points I told them is, look, Obamacare is falling apart. The premiums are going to go up and up and up. And Barack Obama isn't going to get blamed for that. It's going to be Republicans. You better fix this now or you're going to have a tough re-election in November of 2018.
REICH: Steve, I agree with you that they better fix it. That it is not Barack Obama's problem anymore. It is Republicans' problem.
On the other hand, unless they -- how are they going to fix it? I mean, they want it repealed. The taxes that actually keep it going. They also want to get rid of the individual mandate that requires healthy people to have insurance. If you get rid of both of those, you don't have any funds left to actually provide the subsidies that are needed to enable these to function.
MOORE: You are wrong my friend, because I was just looking at the bill, Anderson, that passed -- the House you may recall two years ago when they repealed Obamacare. And the congressional budget office, thought, said that that bill saves $500 billion over 10 years by repealing Obamacare.
So here's the plan. You use some of that $500 billion to cover people now. As I said the other night on your show Anderson, you basically say, it's repealed on January 1, 2019. And for the next two years, you provide coverage for people so nobody loses theirs coverage and then you come up with a plan that is market driven. I mean this is ideologically --
[20:55:03] COOPER: So you're saying it's not repeal and replace. It's repeal down the -- for down the road and then that pressure forces people to come up with a plan?
REICH: Steven --
REICH: That sounds not only unfeasible politically but also stupid.
REICH: Because these people are still going to be -- they're still going to be up for re-election next year. And if the congressional budget office had said that 14 million people are going to lose their health coverage. And you're saying --
MOORE: -- you hold people harmless under this bill you say, if you got coverage now, we'll continue to fund your coverage. And then you come up with, you know, the kinds of solutions like we talked about last night, Bob. You could do interstate competition, medical malpractice reform things like that, that do save money or reduce --
REICH: What I don't understand is we had all of this, why didn't they come up -- why wasn't this plan "A"? Why go --
MOORE: That's a good question.
REICH: -- plan "A" and --
MORRE: I wish it happened.
COOPER: All right. We have to leave it there. Steven Moore, we'll continue to watch this, Robert Reich as well. Thanks very much.
Still to come, he says he has nothing to do with the alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. election with any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. (Inaudible) Paul Manafort, the questions will not go away. So we're going to take a look who is he, how deep do his ties to Russia go. Drew Griffin tonight investigates when we continue.
COOPER: Earlier we laid out some of the connections between some of Pres. Trump's key advisers and Russia in the past. Just the facts. The FBI and two congressional committees are investigating the ties between Trump associates and Russia, Russia's meddling in the election. Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is offered to meet with the House Intelligence Committee. He has been facing raft of allegations about work he has done in Ukraine and Russia. No doubt we'll be hear a lot more about him as the weeks go on. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin tonight has more details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to talk to Mr. Manafort.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIO INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It is a name heard more and more on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talking about Paul Manafort?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking about Mr. Manafort.
GRIFFIN: This Paul Manafort. Donald Trump's former campaign chief. Who is denying he has had anything to do with the Russian government, with Vladimir Putin and with alleged Russian hacking of a U.S. election and with any coordination between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
But the Russian connection issue will not go away largely because of this man, Viktor Yanukovych, a politician who eventually became president of Ukraine.
In 2005, Paul Manafort says he began consulting with Yanukovych, advising him and his party through tumultuous elections that included a divisive campaign.