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Trump Stands by Embattled Attorney General; Calls for Sessions to Step Down Intensify in House & Senate. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 3, 2017 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have recused myself.

[05:58:39] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It would be better for the country if he resigned.

SESSIONS: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: That's not true.

REP. PAUL RYAN (D-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Democrats are lighting their hair on fire to get you to cover this story.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in the attorney general?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Total.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What we've seen so far is scary, very scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kislyak is a well-known world-class diplomat. Stop spreading lies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two more high-level Trump aides revealing they also met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to deny that I talked with him.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: In order for us to do our investigation, we're going to need the FBI to fully cooperate; and at this point, the director is not willing to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 3, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And up first President Trump is back on Twitter and off his unity kick, attacking Democrats and standing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions recusing himself from any investigation involving Russia and the president's campaign. He is facing a firestorm of criticism for failing to disclose that he met with a Russian ambassador twice during the 2016 race.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This as we learn about more Trump campaign aides who met with that very same Russian ambassador. So why does Russia continue to loom over the Trump administration on day 43 of his presidency?

Let's try to get some answers. We begin our coverage with Sara Murray. She is live in Washington -- Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, Jeff Sessions may have recused himself, but the questions about the president's ties to Russia certainly don't end there. We're now learning it wasn't just Jeff Sessions who met with the Russian ambassador. It wasn't just Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn who met with the Russian embassy but also Donald Trump's own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also had a meeting with him in December.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESSIONS: I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.

MURRAY (voice-over): Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign.

SESSIONS: Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.

MURRAY: But defending himself amid revelations that he failed to disclose he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during President Trump's campaign last year.

SESSIONS: I don't believe there's anything wrong with a United States senator meeting with an ambassador from Russia.

MURRAY: Under oath, Sessions had a different answer.

SESSIONS: I didn't -- not have communications with the Russians.

MURRAY: The attorney general admits...

SESSIONS: In retrospect I should have slowed down and said, "But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times."

MURRAY: And now plans to admit a supplement to the record of his congressional testimony.

SESSIONS: My response went to the question as I indicated about the continuing surrogate relationship that I firmly denied and correctly denied.

I did not mention in that time that I had met with the ambassador, and so I will definitely make that a part of the record.

MURRAY: Sessions's first meeting last July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention. CNN obtained copies of then-Senator Sessions' expense report. It appears to reveal Sessions used his own campaign funds, not official Senate funds to travel to the RNC, possibly undercutting his claim he met with Kislyak as a sitting senator, not as an advisor to the Trump campaign.

MURRAY: President Trump staunchly supporting Sessions.

ACOSTA: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in the attorney general?

TRUMP: Total.

MURRAY: After his recusal announcement, the president issuing a statement that reads, in part, "Sessions did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional."

This as a senior administration official confirms another undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador, this time between former national security adviser Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a senior advisor. The three meeting at Trump Tower in December. The official describing the meeting as "introductory" and "an inconsequential hello." This meeting was not included in press secretary Sean Spicer's initial timeline of contacts between the Russian ambassador and Flynn, who was fired last month for misleading the vice president about his discussion with Kislyak about sanctions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: And there is yet another meeting that has come to light with the Russian ambassador on the sidelines of the Republican convention. This one was between foreign policy advisors -- foreign policy advisers to Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the ambassador. And clearly, this is a guy who's becoming something of a man about town. You can see him here on Tuesday at the joint address to Congress. It's unclear at this point who invited him -- Chris.

CUOMO: Man about town. Well put. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Dozens of Democrats in Congress say recusal is not enough. They're calling for resignation. Republicans are praising the attorney general's move, however. They're saying that he should resist even calls for a special prosecutor.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more on Capitol Hill with that part of the story. This is the big question. What happens next?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Chris. And Democrats up here on Capitol Hill making it very clear that they are keeping up the drum beat. They are not satisfied by Jeff Sessions's recusal. They want him to go ahead and resign. And others up here are pushing for more information. Many calls for

Jeff Sessions to return up here on Capitol Hill to explain what they say was misleading testimony under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHUMER: For the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.

SERFATY (voice-over): Democrats insisting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions's recusal from any investigation into the Trump campaign doesn't go far enough.

PELOSI: He has proved that he is unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust.

SERFATY: They are now demanding Sessions go before the Senate Judiciary Committee to face more questions about his past testimony on Russia.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), CHAIR, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I do think he should recuse himself.

SERFATY: Republicans stopping sort of calling for Sessions to resign but were initially split on his recusal. Some calling for Sessions to step aside.

[06:05:05] REP. PAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: There's going to be investigations about Russia that he may become a witness, and I don't think he should be leading the investigation.

SERFATY: And applauding him after he did so.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (D), ILLINOIS: The recusal was the right move. It doesn't say that he's necessarily admitting guilt.

SERFATY: House Speaker Paul Ryan defending Sessions.

RYAN: We have seen no evidence from any of these ongoing investigations that anybody in the Trump campaign or the Trump team was involved in any of this.

SERFATY: All of this as a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is blasting FBI Director James Comey for dodging questions about the bureau's investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election last year.

SCHIFF: In order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we're going to need the FBI to fully cooperate. At this point, the director was not willing to do that.

SERFATY: Democratic senators are calling for more transparency as five congressional committees are investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The intelligence community has to cooperate with them committees on the Hill. It's apparent there is a problem. It's up to Mr. Comey to help solve that problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And while all of these congressional committees continue to investigate up here on Capitol Hill, there are many Democrats who still say this is just not good enough. They want the new acting attorney general to go ahead and appoint an independent special prosecutor to look at all of this -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Sunlen, thank you very much.

We have a lot to discuss. Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Alex Burns; CNN political analyst and "New York Times" deputy culture editor Patrick Healy; and CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith?" David Gregory.

Great to see you guys.

David, let me start with you. Session recuses himself from the investigations into any Russia ties. He hands over the investigations of the oversight for them to the acting deputy A.G. Now what?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not clear. You know, this has become political warfare, certainly, for Democrats who would like to see him resign, think that he perjured himself. It's very difficult to prove, and I don't know that that's necessarily going anywhere.

But I think that Democrats are going to push forth, at the very least, some kind of select committee or some kind of 9/11-style commission to investigate this. I don't think anybody is there yet. I don't think that the Republican leadership is there yet.

CAMEROTA: Who makes that decision? Who calls for a special prosecutor?

GREGORY: A special prosecutor would be the A.G. or the deputy in charge of making those decisions if the A.G. is accused. A select committee or some kind of 9/11 commission would be a creation of Congress. So in this case, you'd the have Republican leadership.

CUOMO: And you have -- you know, in truth, I apologize. That is a very unfair question. We have no idea where it goes next, because there's all of this talk about special prosecutor. But Alex, that assumes that the DOJ is involved in an investigation where it is getting to its prosecutorial phase. Right? The FBI does the digging. The DOJ, which is over them, winds up doing the prosecuting.

This is premature in terms of what we understand about where the probes stand right now. So is this the right conversation to be having about will it be a special prosecutor? Will it be an independent council? There's talk from Schumer that he wants to redo that statute, tailor it because of problems in the past. Are we anywhere near that in in terms of what you're hearing from your reporting? ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're having that

conversation, because what Democrats are trying to do now, and I spoke to a couple in D.C. this week. What trying trying to do is just set a really high bar for what counts in a real investigation so that, as this unfolds, they can continue to...

CUOMO: But there are like five right now.

BURNS: Right, and I think if you -- if, you know, the Democrats are out there saying, understandably in some ways, that only under these terms would it really count as independent. Only then would we really get the truth.

Think how much we learned in the last month with actually no public investigation whatsoever, right? Or only the most sort of reserved and sort of plodding of congressional investigations. But look, as David said, the whole ball game here for the Democrats is trying to split a couple of Republicans on the Hill away from the administration and make it so uncomfortable for them, make it so inconvenient for the whole rest of the party to have to deal with this day-to-day that at some point maybe they say, "Yes, we need to set up a special panel."

GREGORY: That's what's really important about what drove yesterday is that Republicans split and said, "This doesn't sound right. He needs to clarify what he said." You know, Jason Chaffetz from Utah, who's, you know...

CUOMO: Some of them were calling for him to recuse himself also. You know what I mean? The Republicans saying...

GREGORY: You had an issue with Kevin McCarthy saying that, as well. So that really moved the ball on this and got the White House -- got the White House pushing now for more of whatever evidence there is, more meetings, more ties. They're trying to get that out.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But I mean, this -- to your point, this is still -- this is political talk; it's not legal talk. I mean, we're still in sort of the political realm of Democrats who weren't able to stop any of President Trump's nominations, you know, for cabinet secretaries themselves, with votes, who are now, you know, sort of after the fact very much wanting to create a lot of political fire around these guys.

[06:10:09] And they're seeing -- I think they're not making it up. Sort of a drip, drip, drip of real names, real people who are around President Trump, then-candidate Trump, who are meeting with all of these Russians. I mean, that is a reality. Why are all of these people through June, July, August having these sort of meetings and conversations? And what did they say and what were they saying it, and how did, you know, Mr. Trump were they saying it and what did Mr. Trump know about it.

CAMEROTA: Let's illustrate that for people. Let's put up the time line as we now know it, because every day, there's new information. It was more than just Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn who met with this ambassador. In April of 2016, candidate Trump met with the Russian ambassador. In July of 2016, it was Sessions plus other top advisors: Carter Page, J.D. Gordon met with the ambassador. That was at the RNC. September, Jeff Sessions meets with him one-on-one in his office, the ambassador. December 2016, Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn meet with the ambassador.

GREGORY: Right. And so I just think we need to pull back for a second and say, OK, what's on the table here? John McCain says there was an act of war committed against the United States by Russia meddling in our election in 2016. The White House says, in response to a story that there were all of these contacts and meetings with the Russians during this very volatile time in our relationship with Russia, the White House says, "No story there. It's all ridiculous."

Now contradicting that, we have all of these meetings. We're still left with big questions. So what? What were they talking about? There's nothing untoward about meeting with an ambassador when you're setting up a new relationship. There's no evidence to suggest that they were colluding on hacking the DNC.

CAMEROTA: But is it typical to meet with the Russian ambassador? I mean, would any campaign...

HEALY: It goes to the fundamental strangeness, though, of the candidacy. Didn't have a candidate and then a nominee who had a 20- year track record of relationships, who had votes in the Senate, who -- basically, who voters knew where he or she stood on Russian policies. This is someone who had done these sort of business deals, who had people like Paul Manafort, you know, the head...

GREGORY: Yes, who'd worked for the head of Ukraine.

HEALY: ... in the Ukraine. You know, connections that went to sort of the shadowy side, where they were opaque.

GREGORY: Right.

HEALY: But to Alex's point, came out as a result of hard reporting, as opposed to...

GREGORY: And by the way, this is at a time when it would have been appropriate to be keeping Russia at arm's length, at the very least. Not just because of Crimea and Ukraine, but because of their interference in the election.

BURNS: Well, and this is -- and I think it's important for us to remember why we have gone from just listing meetings or finding out that meetings happened to, you know, the phase where even Republicans are saying, "OK, we do need to look into this." And that's Michael Flynn, right? That's because, you know, the Trump folks have given a series of answers intended to say, "There's nothing to see here. Move on." Either there were no conversations, or the conversations weren't about politics, weren't about sanctions. It turns out a lot of that wasn't true.

CUOMO: The answer to Alisyn's question, though, is, yes, they do meet with ambassadors, you know. BURNS: The Democrats...

CUOMO: And him, too. He meets with a lot of people, and there's a whole separate discussion that we'll have about who this man is and why he's still in the country. We have a congressman on who's been calling for months that he should have been thrown out of the country, this ambassador.

But the Democrats blew this a little bit yesterday. Claire McCaskill came out and said, "I'm on the same committee. I never met with this guy." And it turns out she did, in a group, not individually in her office, but still, it took some of the winds out of that sail.

Because what the Democrats want this to be is unusual.

GREGORY: Right, right.

CUOMO: That's what they're saying. They're saying that this is more than just drip, drip, drip. This is more than just "We're upset about the nominations." It's, hey, the e-mail scandal with Hillary Clinton was all about potential things that could have happened but didn't; and this actually did happen. We were actually hacked. The Russians have their fingers into the system.

GREGORY: Right.

CUOMO: And they all keep seeming to reach towards Trump. This is real. More real than that. Can they really empower that notion?

HEALY: I mean, they need, probably, a special prosecutor or select committee that is, you know, issuing subpoenas and getting e-mail traces to -- to find out that level of information, but I think -- I think that you're right. There are -- plenty of meetings happen all the time, all right, and the campaign is having...

But to Alisyn's point, the key thing with Michael Flynn is that Michael Flynn had a meeting, and then he told, apparently, Vice President Pence something different than the truth, or at least not the full information.

CUOMO: That's what the White House says happened.

HEALY: But that's the thing. If Jeff -- if Jeff Sessions had simply said, "Well, I had a meeting, you know, with the ambassador, and it was sort of a get to know, that in and of itself may be fairly benign unless, essentially, they're able to catch Jeff Sessions.

GREGORY: Well, you know, even the president says he should have stated things more accurately.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: Imagine Hillary Clinton in this position. Benghazi, anyone? I mean, this -- they would have been all over her and any of her people. CUOMO: That's hurting them, too. This idea of "Let's be patient.

Let's see it for what it is. Don't jump to anything," it's hard for them to have that posture on the right after what they did.

[06:15:10] GREGORY: But to Alisyn's point -- but to Alisyn's point about why these meetings are unusual or inappropriate, look, you remember -- remember the -- DNC, right, when Trump comes out and says, "Oh, yes, Russia, I wish you would release all the rest of her, you know, e-mails," they never -- it never occurred to them that they could be getting manipulated or played by the Russians.

I've talked to FBI agents who work these things, who say these guys, Putin and his company, they play for keeps. And Trump and his team did not appear to recognize the seriousness of that -- seriousness of that then or now or in the future. That's why this is a big deal.

CAMEROTA: All right. Stick around, panel. We have much more to talk about with all of this stuff and diving into who exactly this ambassador is.

CUOMO: Brother Gregory gave us a good segue there, because you have the politics, but then you have the substance of these Russia revelations. How significant is it that you have apparent connections between Russia, this man on your screen, and the campaign? What we don't know and what we do know, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:20:17] CAMEROTA: Here we are.

CUOMO: We were talking about very serious allegations...

CAMEROTA: Very.

CUOMO: ... of who threw whom under the bus with that Oscars situation. It still remains unresolved.

But we've been distracted from that by whether or not Russia has completely undone our democracy. All this new information about contact between Trump's campaign advisers and the Russian ambassador considered to be a top spy, which in and of itself is this bizarre story that the U.S. constantly talks openly about who this top spy is.

Let's discuss what we know and what we don't. We have Alex Burns, Patrick Healy and David Gregory.

All right. What we've done is we've prepared our baseball cards on each of the people who are involved from the administration and some who -- there are others that we'll have to get to. We don't have cards yet.

But let's start with Paul Manafort. OK, you'll remember him. Former chairman of the campaign. He came into the situation with baggage. He was investigated by Ukraine for financial ties to pro-Russian ruling party and certain oligarchs. He engaged in numerous contacts with Russian nationals, according to sources. The intrigue and some shifts within the campaign led him to resign, but he wound up starting, and I think to this day, David, he is the most pure example within the campaign of something that needs to be explained.

GREGORY: Right, right. What were the contacts initially, you know, at a time when you have someone certainly new to politics in Donald Trump, who very cavalierly talks about having a better relationship with Russia, expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin as a leader. Remember Vice President Pence said during the campaign that he was the stronger leader, Putin was, than Barack Obama.

So this admiration for someone who is a tyrant, who, you know, has been linked to killing his opposition or jailing political dissent, the people who are offering political dissent in the country.

So you have these kind of initial ties that go so far beyond even what, you know, the Bush administration, Obama administration wanting to have some kind of a reset in the relationship. And I think that caused an initial red flag.

CAMEROTA: But it turns out that was just the beginning. Obviously, more recently, we have Michael Flynn. Just as a reminder, he was the national security adviser. Then he had phone calls with the Russian ambassador on the very same day that U.S. sanctions were being leveled against Moscow. And then he, we believe, misled the vice president; and he resigned.

So again, you know, much like Manafort, Michael Flynn, if the administration is saying, "Nothing to see here..."

GREGORY: Right.

CAMEROTA: ... two of their top guys resign over it.

BURNS: Right. And you know, look, we were talking before the break about how unusual is any of this anyway. This stuff is unusual to have senior advisers to a presidential campaign who are deeply financially enmeshed in Russia, including with entities connected to -- apparently connected to the Russian government; and people who have actually given political advice to allies of Vladimir Putin. That is not something that we saw for any of the Republican presidential candidates four years ago and none of the Democrats this time around.

GREGORY: Flynn was also feted -- feted at a big celebration for RT Television, which is basically state Russian news. They would, I suppose, argue with that and those who work for them, at a party with Vladimir Putin, where he was being hosted. So that was something that was not on the card.

HEALY: One thing about these guys, I mean, Flynn and Manafort. The key thing is they lost the confidence of Donald Trump. And Donald Trump tends to want -- he likes people around him, certainly, who are loyal but also people who kind of, like, reinforce his sense of himself. And they both did that, you know, in spades.

And yet, still, it wasn't that there was some kind of, like, Russian connection that, as we know, deeply troubled Donald Trump ethically or politically, that either he sort of felt, like, fundamentally misled, or Mike Pence was misled, you know, by Michael Flynn. And Paul Manafort, there were many problems going on in that campaign over the summer, where Donald Trump lost faith. I mean, Trump didn't like the fact that Manafort would leave New York on Friday afternoon and go out to the Hamptons. I mean, he had a lot of problems.

But you know, the broader issue though is why, when this campaign was being built and why, when there was starting to be evidence that -- that the Russians may have been basically behind different hacks of e- mails, was Donald Trump deciding to make himself -- align himself sort of so closely with these forces and even, to David's point in the last segment, call on the Russians to release all of these illegally obtained e-mails?

CUOMO: Patrick makes a good point. We've never heard the president say anything was inappropriate. Nothing that came out about Manafort. Even Flynn, I still don't understand that situation. They had every bit of political cover they needed to save Michael Flynn.

[06:25:07] The FBI said, "We're not charging him. We heard his story," which is the same story he says he told Pence and the White House. "We don't think he's misleading."

That was all the cover the White House needed.

GREGORY: You can't do that. They say you can't do that to the vice president, though. And I'm sure Pence said, "Hey, man, I'm with you. I'm doing all this work. You can't -- you can't put me out there like that. It just kills my credibility."

CUOMO: And -- but you're right, if that all actually happened. And I still think you have to keep a little window of doubt open for Michael Flynn that he was just thrown under the bus.

GREGORY: But can I raise another point? Which is, if you are President Trump, if you're his top people, you are angry that you have an intelligence community and a prior administration that is leaking this information to suggest that there was something really inappropriate about the contact and maybe collusion with, you know -- with meddling and manipulating in the election.

(CROSSTALK)

HEALY: Isn't that a compromise, though, on the leak argument? I mean, this is a guy, President Trump, who in many ways, I don't think it's because he got elected -- he not only leaks but he also celebrated leaks throughout the entire general election. I mean, the leaks of the Hillary Clinton's e-mail and campaign was so outrageous and so kind of unprecedented.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: And he was happy -- he was happy to use WikiLeaks against her.

Nevertheless, when you do have... CUOMO: You have to fight your way in, Alex. Too polite.

BURNS: I'm a gentleman, Chris. I'm a gentleman. What can I say?

CUOMO: No place for that.

BURNS: I didn't grow up on the mean streets like David.

GREGORY: Mean streets of L.A., brother. Tough out there.

BURNS: Look, this -- what we're talking about right now is why the White House, if they ever got to the point of being OK with an independent probe, this is why they would get there. Right? You know, they're trying to pass a health care bill. They're trying to do tax reform. They're trying to do infrastructure. And this is all we're talking about right now, after he just had his biggest speech of the week.

So historically, and when you talk to Republicans now, the reason why a president goes there is so that every day going forward, he can say, "This is not my problem." Right? "Go talk to the lawyer, because I'm trying pass an infrastructure bill." Trump is clearly nowhere near that point yet, but you know, this background noise is no longer background noise.

CAMEROTA: Can we talk about this Russian ambassador for a second? Because I am somewhat fascinated by him, Kislyak. He is, according to U.S. intel officials, sort of widely regarded as a top spy. Yet he is in the country and meeting with various politicians, including as we've said, the top advisers to the Trump campaign.

We had Mike Rogers on yesterday, former chair of the House intel?

GREGORY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: House intel committee, who said that he was summoned to the Russian residence of the ambassador. And he went into this big ornate ballroom. It was massive, and that's where he was going to be meeting with the ambassador. And there was one small corner table that he was asked to sit at...

CUOMO: In the middle.

CAMEROTA: ... with the Russian ambassador.

CUOMO: In the middle of the whole huge ballroom.

CAMEROTA: Middle of the ballroom.

CUOMO: Right out of central casting.

CAMEROTA: Completely. That, you know, I was like, "Did you have to speak into the lamp," you know?

HEALY: The ficus plant.

CAMEROTA: Right. That was kept moving. So anyway, what do we know about this Russian ambassador/top spy?

BURNS: Well, not much.

CUOMO: And this silence tells the story of how this man has wormed his way into all these corridors.

HEALY: Ambassadors from different countries, I mean, have traditionally played many different roles, and oftentimes they're intermediaries. They're people who see, you know, a great deal of intelligence. I mean, I don't know a great deal about what he does on a day-to-day basis. But ambassadors are generally people who are expressions of the president who appoints them, and Vladimir Putin, as we know. I mean, he is essentially Russia's top spy, right, and he is -- he's funneling that information.

GREGORY: But he's reportedly not very close to Putin, per se. But by reputation is someone who shows up a lot, who works, you know, all of his diplomatic channels in Washington. And even in the context of these stories, was out at various events where he would run into potential movers and shakers in the Trump administration and made sure that there was -- you know, that he was having discussion. I thought it was interesting in the press conference yesterday, Sessions said, "Well, you know these guys tend to be very gossipy about politics," but he doesn't remember the extent to which the election came up, but they had kind of testy exchanges about...

CUOMO: Ukraine.

GREGORY: Ukraine and other things. Yes.

CUOMO: But it's just so bizarre that this man is held as a spy, and everyone knows it.

GREGORY: Yes.

CUOMO: It just seems to be very paradoxical.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Great to talk to all of you.

All right. So the battle to replace Obamacare has taken an unusual twist. One GOP senator accusing House leaders of playing, quote, "hide and seek" with their replacement bill. We'll show you the scavenger hunt that went on on Capitol Hill yesterday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)