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Schiff: Beware When Trump Cries "Fake"; McConnell: No Evidence Trump Was Surveilled; Senate Intel Committee Holding Private Meeting; Senate Dems Blast Gorsuch Nomination. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Devin what is relevant to the Russia investigation, what does the President mean by unmasking. You spent a lot of time in chasing every hallway known subterranean in the Capitol Complex, Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman. Now, he's caused a lot of controversy. Democrat says in the pocket of the President but he went to the White House for a mysterious briefing on documents. Came back the next day and briefed the President on documents shared with him by people who worked for the President which has a lot of people curious.

The President says that's the smoking gun that in his view, we still don't know much about this, but there was some unmasking by Obama administration officials inappropriate handling of intelligence materials. Adam Schiff finally got down to see those documents. He was now on the Jake Tapper yesterday on "State of the Union." He didn't say there's nothing there. He said he doesn't think it's a big deal and he doesn't think it's certainly relevant but he didn't say there's nothing there.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. And it's confusing because a lot of this is classified, so they can't disclose what they choose to disclose or give selective information to the press to shape their own narratives. And I'm talking about both sides of the aisle on this.

Now, what Devin Nunes said initially was that some information was picked up incidentally through legal U.S. surveillance of -- that suggested that perhaps some Trump communications appeared in intelligence reports of Trump team communications and it's not even clear if people were -- the people who are in these reports are actually -- their phone calls are being listened to. We don't know that really at all. Even Nunes has been unclear about that.

But what we do know is that some of these identities were "unmasked." That means the people who the surveillance was made looking at person A, person B, who was a Trump -- maybe a Trump official, perhaps their identities were revealed in these private reports and their identities were revealed to somebody (ph) within the intelligence community and presumably been leaked to the media. And that's probably what we saw happen with Michael Flynn and his discussions with the Russian ambassador that led to Michael Flynn's firing.

So that's one investigation --

KING: I need to stop you for one second. I'm sorry, this is the President again with his larger group of advisers including his national security leader (ph) meeting with the Egyptian president. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... representatives of Egypt and with the president. Right now, we have many things in common. We have a few things that we don't agree on. And I think that is going to be a very productive day and it's a great honor. And a great honor to meet you folks. Thank you very much for coming. Appreciate it very much.

(OFF-MIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

KING: All right. Just a glimpse there. We're still get to know this administration and how it conducts his business. Now a lot of news everyday. You did see the President flanked (ph) by his defense secretary and the secretary of state but we don't see that often specially over the White House in this big meetings. The commerce secretary also at the table, chief strategist Steve Bannon.

This is the U.S. team sitting across the table from an Egyptian delegation, talking national security, talking economic cooperation, talking military cooperation. We'll get more readouts on those meetings.

So let's come back to where we were to the point of this unmasking. There's no question the President is trying to distract us and steer his own voters and supporters away from the substantive investigation, FBI counterintelligence investigation, two committees on Capitol Hill at least looking into, A, what did Russia do and B, were Trump people in somehow coordination or collusion with them.

Here's my point about the President. If there's something to these documents, where they think there was some reckless irresponsible political handling of something that has separate from this investigation, just involve a Trump transition officials. There's one person in the United States of America who has the power to declassify these documents.

If it was real, if it was nefarious, if it was big, couldn't the President of the United States end this today?

RAJU: Yes.

KING: Or do it more responsibly? Call in people from past administrations, take a look at it, redact the sensitive stuff and say, look, yes, there was some mischief going on. If there -- that's my take on this. He could do this in a minute. RAJU: Yes. And I think if he didn't -- would do that, it could lead to a slippery slope. It could be backfire in a lot of ways. But I think that the important thing is that here are two investigations that are happening or one that's including the Russia issue, the Russia collusion and then the separate issue of unmasking. The unmasking part is what the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is pushing on pretty aggressively because he believes there's something alarming. That's what the White House wants everybody to focus on, because they think there's something untoward (ph) there.

But again I just want to emphasize, Nunes said that everything that happened was legal. There was nothing illegal in what he found.

[12:35:02] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And can you imagine if the parties were reversed? Can you imagine if let's say Hillary Clinton or if she were elected or Barack Obama were in the White House and a Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee got a source who we now know is inside the White House to tell him something and then goes back to brief the Democratic President? The Republicans would be going bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why no matter how this comes out, half the country is not going to believe it.

KING: Right, because it's been handled miserably. And back again, when you talk to Trump voters, the President has done a pretty effective job of distracting them. They think that, you know, we in the media are not covering the huge scandal. Present the evidence Mr. President, if you do at the stroke of a pen.

But let's use a Republican voice here. On the bigger questions, has anyone seen any evidence that the former president of the United States did anything illegal or untoward? Don't believe the Democrats. Here's the Senate's leading Republican.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC'S MEET THE PRESS HOST: Have you gotten any intelligence information that indicates the Obama administration -- applied, asked for surveillance of the Trump transition, the Trump team, any Trump associates?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: No.

TODD: Under nothing, not even a hint of this, not anything?

MCCONNELL: Well, not yet. Yes.

TODD: Do you believe that these allegations are worthy of investigation that the President made? Or that they're a sidetrack?

MCCONNELL: I don't know how many times I have to say it. The committee is going to conduct this investigation. You asked me if I knew anything about alleged wiretapping by the previous president. The answer is no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I think the answer is no.

BASH: I wish his answers would be longer.

KING: Yes. But bleeding Republicans are annoyed. They keep getting these questions and I know they keep getting them because the President keeps tweeting stuff.

JENNA JOHNSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Exactly. I mean, there are some core issues here that Republicans and some Democrats are also worried about. When U.S. citizens get caught up in surveillance, are there identities being protected? Is their privacy being protected? (INAUDIBLE) because the President fired off an early morning tweet very authoritatively saying that the previous administration had wiretapped him and setting off this whole charade that we've been watching with the White House trying to kind of reverse engineer explanations for why this might be true and pulling in all of these other investigations that are going on.

People are confused. Even covering this every day, I have to, like, sit down and really think through what we know and what we don't know and just all of these different things that are happening at the same time.

KING: It's good to know I'm not alone. I like that. I want to get quickly one other thing. Michael Flynn, the President's former National Security adviser, has said he wants an immunity deal from the Congressional Committee. So far they have said, no, thank you, sir. We want you to come -- voluntarily come to us.

Listen to this morning. Jason Chaffetz is the Oversight Committee chairman. This is a separate committee of the investigation. Michael Flynn has to answer to the FBI. He wants the House and Senate intelligence committee likely talk to him. And now, Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R), CHAIRMAN OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: I don't think he should get immunity. Immunity for what, first of all. But if there's an active open investigation by the FBI, they shouldn't do that.

Our committee is actually been looking at something that -- we have paper that's due from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department today but we may be doing something later this week related to his payments that he receive from, not only Russia but Turkey as well. You're just not allowed to accept these types of payments as a former military officer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So we're adding chapters, not closing chapters when it comes to Michael Flynn it appears.

RAJU: Yes. And Michael Flynn is going to -- is a big focus on both sides right now. It would be really surprising to see any immunity. The FBI is resisting this. The House and Senate Republicans are resisting this and interesting to see Jason Chaffetz using his committee to look into his role with -- working with Turkey as well.

KING: Yes.

BASH: Call me skeptical. The idea that Republicans don't want Michael Flynn to have immunity is not that surprising given the fact that what it usually means is that they're going to rat other people out and could make it a lot worse for the administration. I'm not saying that he' is not doing his job legitimately. He obviously is being aggressive in other fronts. But --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that's why he's got to have something to offer them. And specifically he's got to have information about a bigger fish than he was.

BASH: Exactly.

KING: Right. We'll see how that one plays out. Michael Flynn, if you don't know those payments the chairman is talking about, he worked as a lobbyist for the Turkey government. He also took money from Russian television which is essentially Putin cronies. We'll see how that one plays.

Up next, love, strength, and unity or a party trying to eat its own. It depends on which of President Trump's tweets you pay attention to.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:43:54] KING: Welcome back to "Inside Politics." We want to take you straight up to Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, discussing his vote which will be a no against Judge Neil Gorsuch.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Here's what he said, "The president told me several times he's going to name a moderate to fill the vacancy, but I don't believe him. Obama could easily name Merrick Garland who is a fine man. He probably won't do that because his appointment is about the election. So I'm pretty sure he'll name someone the Democratic base wants." As it turns out, in recognition of the forthcoming election and the Republican Senate, President Obama did name a moderate.

Now part of what made Merrick Garland a moderate pick was the fact that he had a reputation for working with his colleagues on the D.C. circuit to identify areas of agreement. Senator Klobuchar mentioned this. "And to craft strong consensus decisions.

[12:45:02] When I met with Chief Judge Garland, I asked him how he does that. He told me that part of how he reaches consensus is by deciding a case on the narrowest grounds possible. By contrast, President Trump's nominee, Judge Gorsuch, doesn't seem quite as interested in reaching consensus or deciding cases narrowly."

Also, Senator Klobuchar talked about this. "Even when Judge Gorsuch agrees with a majority in a case, and joins their decision, he frequently writes his own concurring opinion setting out his own views. Judge Gorsuch has done this 31 times including writing two concurring opinions to majority decisions that he himself wrote." That's not seeking out consensus. That's holding his nose to join a consensus opinion.

And then writing separately to make clear that the decision would have been different, if he could have persuaded his colleagues and sees things his way or perhaps to point the way to broader more sweeping rulings in future cases. That kind of thinking gives me concern.

Particularly in light of what President Trump and his staff have been saying about Judge Gorsuch. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus along with Chief Strategist Steven Bannon interviewed Judge Gorsuch before he was nominated by President Trump. They later appeared before right wing activists at CPAC and told the crowd that a justice Gorsuch would bring about, "A change of potentially 40 years of law." So that's what this is about.

This isn't about finding a consensus nominee who only calls balls and strikes, a nominee like Merrick Garland. This is about confirming a nominee who will guarantee 40 years, 40 more years of 5-4 decisions favoring corporations over workers and consumers, of preventing Americans from getting access to the courts, of favoring big dark money in our election and of giving states a permission slip to target certain people, "with almost surgical precision". In order to make it as difficult as possible for them to vote.

Now, Judge Gorsuch took great pains to paint himself as a mainstream nominee. He said that the Tenth Circuit ruled unanimously 97 percent of the time and that he was in the majority, 99 percent of the time, that's about right. It was actually a little less, but it doesn't matter. But that's not unusual. It doesn't really provide any insight into his approach of being a judge. After all, courts of appeals are required to follow Supreme Court precedent and the vast majority of the cases all over the country in courts of appeals are decided unanimously.

So while some of our colleagues on the other side accuse Democrats of cherry picking when we talked about certain cases where Judge Gorsuch wrote separate concurring opinions where he dissented, those writings offer the clearest window into his judicial philosophy. Those are the cases that show us how Judge Gorsuch really thinks. And I'm afraid that these cases only underscore a disturbing pattern of siding with corporate interests against everyday Americans.

I was particularly struck by Judge Gorsuch's dissent in Trans Am Trucking. Because in that case, he seemed to bend himself into a pretzel in order to side with a trucking company against a truck driver. Now, you've all heard the stories. Senator Feinstein described it again today and what the situation the driver was in.

But I just want to review the two choices that the truck driver was given by the trucking company presented by his boss after he had waited three hours in 14 below temperature in a cab that had no heat. [12:50:01] He fallen asleep at one point only to be woken by a phone call from his cousin, thank god. His cousin reported later that he was sounded woozy and that he wasn't tracking. That his torso hurt. He couldn't feel his feet. He had trouble breathing. All of these are signs of hypothermia according to the Mayo Clinic.

His boss after three hours gives him two choices. He can wait there with the trailer and his cab, the trailer has his load and his brakes are frozen, literally frozen. He can wait there, maybe freeze to death, or he can go on the interstate at 2:00 in the morning with frozen brakes. The fastest you can go then is maybe 15 miles per hour. This is 2:00 in the morning. It's dark. It's icy. People are traveling on an interstate 80, 85 miles an hour this time of night. You go 85 miles up a hill, you come over the hill, and suddenly you're coming down on a semi that's going 10, 15 miles an hour. That's like going 70 miles an hour into a semi that is stopped.

KING: Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Democratic explaining why he will vote against Neil Gorsuch, nominee of the Supreme Court. Senator Franken there revisiting a case that he repeatedly asked the judge about that during the judge's confirmation hearing.

Let me bring back in the panel here. A lot of this is theater in the sense that we know how most of the senators are going to vote. Just next to Senator Franken is Senator him is Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who has not told us yet. He is one of the four outstanding votes, especially in the first procedural vote. But Senator Franken was one of the lead Democrats going after, prosecuting if you will Judge Gorsuch's record, trying to say his procure operations process.

This is a -- this part is theater for the most part. There are a couple votes in the committee. By at the end of the day, each member gets a chance to speak. By at the end of the day Judge Gorsuch will be pushed out of the committee and we have no doubt about that.

While we were discussing of the subjects, most of these senators are taking a full amount of time. The chairman check (INAUDIBLE) so they could take their time wind up for 30 minutes he said this morning. Some of being quite brief. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska (INAUDIBLE) statement which he said the one thing he has learned crystal clear from this proceeding is that the Senate is not a healthy institution.

BASH: He just learned that now?

(OFF-MIC)

BASH: I'm surprised he didn't learn that that before he was sworn in.

KING: I think he knew it. I think he prepare (ph) to the center. I think he has said that before. Yes, this is the explanation point underscore. Yes.

BASH: Yes. I mean, that's right. I will say since we were able to listen to Senator Franken, I think what that underscored is that it's not just opposition among Democrats because they feel that they had a -- that this is a stolen seat because Merrick Garland was not given a hearing and so on and so forth. That there is genuine concern about Judge Gorsuch's record as a judge. And that that's sort of the key illustration, that particular case about the truck driver.

Having said that, you know, that's one thing. The Democrats can vote against him all they want. The issue on the table is the process, the filibuster, and the fact that the way that Democrats have decided to go about this will make it, I will say it again, even though I'm getting, you know, mean tweets on my Twitter. You know, I thought I'm standing by this. I actually feel passionately about this because like you -- and both of you guys covering the Congress for so long, it is yet another example, and there's blame to go around.

KING: Right.

BASH: The another example of the -- not evolution, the devolution of the U.S. Senate and then the fact that is it become so part of --

KING: The Senate used to be a special place.

BASH: Yes.

KING: When I first came to Washington, you'll be covering issue x and they'll be debating issue, why? You just stopped and you listen sometimes because (INAUDIBLE).

But let me try to not get too nostalgic. But in the sense of what does this tell us, though? The President says, you know, maybe I'll work with Democrats on health care or maybe I'll work with Democrats on this.

Sometimes you have a fight about this and you set it aside when you move on to that. But this town is pretty toxic right now. Is there any reason to believe as this fight goes on through the end of the week that bipartisan ship can spring up out of the ground after what we've seen in the first 74 days of the administration?

[12:55:03] JOHNSON: Well, the President certainly thinks so. He's always had this mentality of I can go after someone in business and then the next day work with them on a project. On the campaign trail we saw him say just such cruel terrible things about a lot of his opponents and now they're working in his administration. So he has this operating way of, you know, bringing the enemy in.

Washington usually doesn't work like that. And with him going after not just Democrats, but also members of his own party, it's hard to foresee everyone getting along.

RAJU: It's going to be so much more complicated as we get closer to midterms too, especially Democrats thinking they have to cut a deal with the President. That's not going to happen. They're going to end up catering to their base.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the fact that there are at least two big things on his agenda that he needs the Democrats.

KING: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Infrastructure and tax reform.

KING: Right. And keeping the government open at the end of the month too, we will see. A busy day here. Thanks for sharing some time of us. Sorry for the rock and roll. "Inside Politics", we'll be back this time tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)