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Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity; Did Trump Administration Help Nunes?; Trump Tackles Foreign Trade Abuse; North Carolina Team Looking for Redemption during Final Four; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Meddling in U.S. elections. A lawyer for former Trump National Security adviser Michael Flynn says his client, quote, "certainly has a story to tell to congressional investigators, but will only tell it if he's granted immunity from prosecution."

Flynn was forced to step down as one of Mr. Trump's closest advisers after it came out that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russia ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: General Flynn's offer certainly raises the stakes in the probe. Three other former aides to the president have already said they'd testify freely without immunity. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former adviser Roger Stone and former foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. And so far this morning, the White House is refusing to comment.

We get the latest now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, General Flynn's lawyers putting the offer out there that he will talk to congressional investigators if he is offered immunity. General Flynn's lawyer putting it in a statement this way, saying, "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he wants to tell it should the circumstances permit," then going on to say, "No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."

But, right here on Capitol Hill a spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee saying that they haven't gotten any requests from General Flynn yet. The Senate Intelligence Committee refusing to comment.

Of course General Flynn resigned shortly after President Trump took office when it was revealed that General Flynn hadn't disclosed his communications to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. So a lot of questions swirling here. Will in fact General Flynn testify? Will he be granted that immunity?

No details on any deal that might be forthcoming. But, you know, it's interesting to note that General Flynn had spoken last year in reference to Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers, some of her staffers actually as secretary of State as well, putting it this way, saying, "When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime." So could those words come back to haunt him? At this point, the White House not commenting on this -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jessica. Thanks so much for that report.

Another bombshell rocking the Trump administration, this according to "The New York Times" it was two White House officials who gave House Intel chairman Devin Nunes those intelligence reports that allegedly backed Trump's claims about being wiretapped. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee opened its first public hearing into Russia's election meddling and Senator Marco Rubio made the surprising revelation that he has been personally targeted by coordinated cyber attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: 24 hours, at 10:45 a.m. yesterday, a second attempt was made, again, against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal information, again, targeted from an IP address from an unknown location in Russia, and that effort was also unsuccessful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: It got a lot of attention yesterday in the intel hearing. Because look, that shows that it's still ongoing and that's what's so critical here and that the Russians are learning from this process and adapting and changing and still meddling.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst Josh Rogin to help us break down the developments. He's a columnist for the "Washington Post."

Let's start here with this. Where to begin?

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Where to begin? Let's start with a little bit of sound from September last year from the then candidate for the White House, the president, about the kind of people who ask for immunity from prosecution. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Her aides took the Fifth Amendment and her ringleaders were given immunity. And if you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. So take that and then, you know, you can put a statement from the attorney for Michael Flynn, you know, saying that he would want assurances against unfair prosecution, which a lot of folks are saying that's legal speak for immunity.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. Basically what Trump and Flynn have said that you only need immunity if you've committed of a crime, it's not true. OK. It was a campaign talking point they were using to attack the Clinton people who were seeing immunity in the e-mail scandal. It's coming around to bite them but it's not the case.

What is true is that the immunity deal only works if you have something to give, if you have something to trade. So when we see Flynn's lawyer saying he's got a story to tell, he's trying to bargain in the public for that immunity deal. According to the reporting the immunity offer has not been taken up yet.

ROMANS: Yes.

ROGIN: No one is biting.

ROMANS: Yes.

ROGIN: Right? So he's got to create this illusion or maybe it's true that Flynn has got something to sell. What that is nobody will know until they actually take the deal. And that's the catch. You don't find out what he's got until you've given him the immunity.

BRIGGS: But to the president's own question, why do you ask for immunity if you're not guilty? You're saying it's not any sort of admission of guilt.

ROGIN: That's right.

BRIGGS: It's truly a smart legal maneuver.

[05:05:02] ROGIN: It looks suspicious.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROGIN: But the bottom line is why wouldn't you ask for immunity, right? If you're going into one of these situations, you don't know what the other side has, you're testifying under oath, why would you give something up unless you're getting something in return? Or if you're compelled to, right? Like Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, these guys are offering to testify without immunity, it's probably because their lawyers aren't as good, right? So it looks bad for Flynn. All right. It's looks very bad, but we can't just assume that he did something wrong because he wants immunity.

What we can assume is that he wants to put himself in the best position and hopefully he has something on these guys. I mean, let's remember that the Trump White House treated him terribly, OK. They threw him under the bus. They ran the bus over him. They backed up the bus. They ran over him again. OK. He's got no love lost for these guys. He sacrificed everything, spent two years of his life, gave us his business. 24 days later he's out. So if he's got something I'm sure he's willing to trade it. But nobody knows if he's got something except for them and him.

ROMANS: OK. Let's talk about Devin Nunes, the congressman. What is going on? I mean, do they (INAUDIBLE) him? ROGIN: Right. Right.

ROMANS: Excuse me, what -- what is going on?

ROGIN: Right. Right. Well, look, when I face these kinds of stories especially in national security world, essentially it comes down to a choice between conspiracy or incompetence and chaos, right? Most of the time it's the latter. OK. We don't really know if you put -- if you read the tea leaves it seems like the White House told him something that he then brought back to the White House. So the White House must have organized it all. But what else do we know about this White House? A lot of stuff goes on that it's just not organized.

All right. So it's possible that one part of the White House is leaking to Devin Nunes, he's misrepresenting that to the press but taking it over to the other part of the White House. Now only Devin Nunes and the White House know the answer to that. But I could believe either one. I could believe that it was a conspiracy or I could believe that it's just chaos over there.

ROMANS: Let's show the timeline. Let's show the timeline there because it's been a remarkable two weeks.

ROGIN: Yes.

ROMANS: I mean, we have -- we've made a full screen of the timeline. You know, first, Trump suggests that the wiretap evidence might come up over the next two weeks, that was an interview with FOX, right? And then -- I mean, look, and then Nunes, this is the White House complex. And he briefs Trump on intel. He gives this remarkable press conference where we're all like, what? Basically all we know is that he saw something he doesn't like and he didn't have to do with Russia.

And then, you know, we've been getting kind of weird clues from Sean Spicer, the press conferences, about two or maybe three people. They don't know where it came from, they can't say who -- the White House, you know, who checked him in. I mean, it's been a remarkable couple of weeks.

BRIGGS: It has. But neither of those scenarios look good for Devin Nunes.

ROGIN: Of course.

BRIGGS: And what's interesting is Sean Spicer yesterday pushed back on hey, you guys are looking at the wrong thing. Look at the substance, not the process.

ROGIN: Right.

BRIGGS: But how important is the process that they followed in this case?

ROGIN: Right. No, no. It's incredibly important because it speaks to the credibility of the White House press secretary, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, and both of those people have much lower credibility now that we found out that the things that they said about the source of this information are turning out not to be true, OK, so -- OK, so the White House press secretary, that's one thing. Put that to one side. But if the House Intelligence Committee chairman is telling reporters for over a week that it's a whistleblower or it's an intelligence source, which is technically true but misleading, and then it comes out that it's the White House feeding him information that he's bringing back to the White House, it calls into question the entire viability of his investigation, which at this point I think everyone can sort of see is not salvageable.

ROMANS: But to your point about the White House saying, you know, look at the information is important not the -- you know, how we got the information.

BRIGGS: Shining object. Look over here.

ROMANS: I don't know what the information is.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: I don't know what the information is.

ROGIN: Right.

BRIGGS: Yes. Yes. We haven't been presented with that information.

ROGIN: Yes. And that's the core of the whole problem is that the White House has intentionally conflated that this information with the president's tweets about wiretapping, and even Devin Nunes says they're not necessarily related because it has nothing to do with Russia, and it's not exactly wiretapping. So in their attempt to sort of muddy the waters, now they're accusing us of not being able to see clearly when that's the soup that they're in of their own recipe.

BRIGGS: And we haven't even gotten to the civil war brewing within the Republican Party. We will do that at 5:30.

ROMANS: Yes, come back.

ROGIN: OK.

BRIGGS: Because the House Freedom Caucus is fighting back.

ROGIN: I guess I'll have to come back for it.

BRIGGS: This morning against President Trump. Don't go anywhere.

ROMANS: The soup that they're in is of their own recipe. You have a way with words. You should write for a living. That would be good.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROGIN: I'm -- anybody who wants to hire me to do that, I'm ready.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll see in just a bit. But first some breaking news coming into CNN right now. At least 22 people killed and 57 injured in a bomb blast along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. A local health official says the bomb went off in a city -- at a Shia mosque in the city central bazaar. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack in a statement sent via text to the media.

Pakistan's prime minister condemning the attack and vowing to eliminate the threat of terrorism in the country.

ROMANS: All right. America has a major issue almost no one in Washington is talking about. But a new report may change that. U.S. debt -- America's debt is likely to double over the next 30 years.

[05:10:03] This is according to the Congressional Budget Office. Right now the debt amounts to 77 percent of GDP. Already the highest level since World War II. If the current law remains in effect, it will jump to 150 percent by the year 2047. Three drivers, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the interest on the debt which will more than quadruple over the next 30 years due to rising interest rates and the growing pile of borrowed money.

The problem is that while both spending and revenue are projected to grow, spending will far outpace revenue. And President Trump's push for big tax cuts and his promise not to touch entitlements could speed up the increase. One thing that could help is if the president achieves his goal of 4 percent economic growth. The CBO projects an average GDP rate of just under 2 percent over the next 30 years. The president has promised 4 percent, which some economists say could be difficult reach.

We just got the latest numbers on the fourth quarter, Dave, they were about 2.1 percent. So there you go. The debt.

BRIGGS: Long way from those projections.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, it just shows you -- I mean, when we're talking about a continuing resolution or maybe another government shutdown, I mean, we're always, like, solving the crisis right now and never looking to the long term.

BRIGGS: The long game. It's -- yes.

ROMANS: It's interesting when we're talking about China, the president -- China thinks in 100 year, you know, hundred-year increments.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Americans thinking in election cycles. And it's just ridiculous.

BRIGGS: Too much focus on the short game.

Well, President Trump, just hours before he signs two executive orders today aimed at reducing America's trade deficit. He's turning his sights on China, tweeting that next week's meeting with the Chinese president will be a, quote, "difficult one." We'll find out why it's so difficult next. Live in Beijing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:15:48] BRIGGS: President Trump plans to sign two executive orders today to help combat foreign trade abuses. The goal, reducing America's half-trillion dollar trade deficit. The signings come just one week before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the U.S.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of hurting the American economy with unfair trade practices. Take a look at his latest tweet. Quote, "The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can longer have massive trade deficits and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives."

CNN's Will Ripley live from Beijing this morning with the latest reaction from China.

Good morning to you, Will. President Trump says his meeting next week will in that tweet be a difficult one. Is that how the Chinese see it?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he Chinese are hoping for business-like discussions but they are preparing themselves for the worst-case scenario, which is some really difficult conversations because President Trump has accused China of everything from currency manipulation, to really abusing the U.S.' lenient enforcements of this anti-dumping laws that allow Chinese companies to flood the market with goods that are far cheaper, unfairly cheap when compared to American products.

They're worried about a trade war obviously. They're worried about the U.S. putting higher tariffs on Chinese imports and then China could respond by cutting exports to the U.S. which would raise prices for American consumers, even targeting Chinese companies that do business here. And so both sides have their arguments ready. China says look, it's market condition. That's the reason that the trade surplus is so high because Chinese goods are just a lot cheaper to manufacture here which is why Americans buy them.

BRIGGS: So if the common thread there between that and what's happening in North Korea, does the United States have any leverage in either situation and how much will this come up?

RIPLEY: Well, the big question is what North Korea is going to do during this very important meeting between President Xi and President Trump because we know from satellite imagery, analysts say that North Korea could push the button on a nuclear test at any time. If that were to happen during this very important meeting, that would be a huge sign that China doesn't have the kind of leverage that the U.S. thinks they have when it comes to influencing what North Korea does because their six nuclear tests would obviously be a very provocative act. North Korea will be on the agenda as well as trade in this meeting next week -- Dave.

BRIGGS: A pivotal meeting and then add to it the backdrop of Mar-a- Lago on a Thursday. We could talk about this for hours. Thank you, Will.

Christine, it is interesting that it's at Mar-a-Lago, not on a weekend. President Xi hates golf.

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: Closed hundreds of courses. They call it a war on golf in China.

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: This is just not the guy who doesn't feel like playing golf.

ROMANS: Psychological right there.

BRIGGS: Certainly it looks like it.

ROMANS: There you go. Negotiating strategy from the negotiator-in- chief.

All right. Final Four actually just a day away. Will the Tar Heels take home another title or we'll we have a first-time champion? Andy Scholes with a preview of this morning's "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:15] BRIGGS: Tomorrow night the Final Four teams, Florida and Arizona, last year it was heartbreak for UNC, losing made it all the way back to try to avenge that loss.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys. You know, I was there last year in Houston when North Carolina lost at the buzzer. And as exciting as it was for Villanova, it was even more devastating for the Tar Heels. The North Carolina head coach Roy Williams says, you know, that moment was definitely tough to get over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: In the locker room was the most inadequate feeling I've ever had in my life. And it's hard. It's hard to think about. It's hard to talk about it. What I did was try to tell them to focus on using this feeling as fuel, as motivation to work extremely hard in the off-season and that's really what I used it for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Whatever motivation Williams has used, it seems like it's worked. He has his team in the Final Four for the eighth time in the past 12 years. Tar Heels will take on Oregon tomorrow night in the late game. South Carolina and Gonzaga going to get things started a little after 6:00 Eastern. Be sure to join us here on CNN 2:30 tomorrow for "ALL ACCESS AT THE

FINAL FOUR." CNN Bleacher Report special will be getting ready for all the action.

In the NBA LeBron James passing Shaq for seven place in the all-time scoring race last night. King James with 26 points. And the Cavs lost to the floor. The Cavs are now trailing to Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference with just a little over two weeks left in the season.

You've got to check out Shaq's reaction when he found out LeBron has passed him on the all-time scoring list. Great acting job by Shaq because I really doubt he was that mad about it.

All right. Finally this is part awesome, part terrifying.

[05:25:02] A giant swarm of bees made a surprise entrance during the ninth inning of the Padres Rockies spring training game in Arizona. Check it out. Everyone had to hit the deck. It looked like it was a bank robbery taking place right there on the field. Eventually, guys, the bees gathered on the radio mic and the game was able to end peacefully.

But have you ever seen that before? Everyone just hitting the deck, lying on the ground, waiting for a giant swarm of bees to pass by so they can continue the game.

BRIGGS: Is that what you do? Stop, drop and -- drop?

ROMANS: I don't know.

SCHOLES: I guess.

BRIGGS: I would be running around doing this. The Rockies, not a good look.

ROMANS: You know, we needed that today. Thank you so much, Andy.

BRIGGS: Thank you. We did. We did. Thanks.

SCHOLES: Have a good weekend.

BRIGGS: The Final Four.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn seeking immunity before he testifies in any Russia probe. Flynn's attorney saying he has a story to tell. More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)