Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Claims Obama Administration Wiretapped Trump Tower during Presidential Campaign; More Trump Administration and Campaign Officials Disclose Meetings with Russian Officials; South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham Holds Town Hall. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 4, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: -- Trump won and the Democrats lost." Lucho, I think as Americans we need to know exactly how he won. That's all I'm advocating.

One more quickly. It says "As a Doylestown resident, thank you for revealing to the world about our local legendary coach. RIP Mike Pettine." Hey, Steve, it was the most pleasant, pleasurable commentary I've ever delivered at CNN. So thank you for watching. See you next week.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Always good to have you on board with us. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge. I'm in for Victor Blackwell. It's 10:00 on the east coast, 7:00 on the west. CNN newsroom begins right now.

PAUL: So good to have you with us, Martin. All right, new accusations from President Trump this morning. In a series of tweets he alleges that former president Barack Obama tapped his phones during the election. Now, President Trump didn't offer any proof of that, but CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is live in Palm Beach where the president is spending the weekend. Athena, what are you hearing from that vantage point?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christi. Well, as you mentioned there have been no evidence offered to back up these very serious allegations that the former president was essentially spying on him. But let's go through this series of tweets that the president put out starting early this morning at about 6:35 a.m. He tweeted "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." A few empties later, 6:49 a.m. the president tweeted "Is it legal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to an election. Turned down by a court earlier, a new low." Then at 6:52, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to the election." And then at 7:02, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate, bad or sick guy."

Now, I want to restate we have reached out. Several reporters including myself have reached out to the Trump White House, the spokespeople to ask for comments on this, for clarification, for any evidence they have to support this. And we've also asked what -- if he believes this happened, is he calling for an investigation? We're still waiting for a response from them.

So far a spokespeople for the former president, President Obama are not yet commenting, though they are aware of this series of tweets. But I can tell you that a former spokesperson, Ben Rhodes, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, did take to Twitter to respond to the president. Among several tweets Ben Rhodes said "No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you." He also responded directly to that tweet from Trump about how he bets a good lawyer can make a case against the president. Ben Rhodes saying "No, they couldn't. Only a liar could do."

And then Rhodes also called on pundits, TV pundits who gave the president a lot of credit on Tuesday night after delivering that speech before a joint session, called him presidential, Ben Rhodes asks "Is it still presidential to call your dignified predecessor a bad or sick guy?"

And I've got to tell you, Christi, it's kind of hard to believe it was only Tuesday night that the president was saying the time for trivial fight is behind us. We are going to be paying a lot of attention and continuing to ask questions about these very, very serious allegations offered with no proof.

PAUL: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much for the update there.

SAVIDGE: This isn't the first time President Trump has accused former President Obama of four play. Just five days ago the president had this to say about Obama when it comes to those recent leaks to the media.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group. But I also understand that's politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that's politics. And it will probably continue.


SAVIDGE: Again, that was five days ago. But last night House Speaker Paul Ryan disagreed.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you concerned on the flipside that the Obama administration may have been surveilling members of the Trump campaign in a pretty detailed investigation during the election?


SAVIDGE: All right, so let's talk about all of this. And joining us now is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein and CNN political analyst and national political reporter for Real Clear Politics Rebecca Berg, and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Thank you all for being with us this morning.

[10:05:00] Ron, let me start with you. First let's get your reaction to Trump's latest Twitter rant.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are two reactions. The first is the one that Athena Jones was alluding to, which was that the idea that there is a kind of controlled, disciplined, steely eyes-on-the-prize President Trump who kind of sticks to the main chance and does not kind of strike out into two directions, sending vituperation in all directions, it's just not going to be. This is who he is. This is someone who has a lot of grievances, who feels wronged often, and essentially has no filter in talking about other public figures.

But I think the other thing that's even more important, which is as Ben Rhodes noted, the president cannot unilaterally order a wiretap. The way a wiretap on a domestic individual would be obtained would be under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which requires the government to go before a judge in a special court and obtain authorization to do this.

Now, if they obtained authorization to do this, that meant they met a legal standard, I believe, and maybe I can be corrected on this, for either one of two things -- commission of a crime or collusion with a foreign government. So if in fact President Trump is confirming that a wiretap was authorized on elements of the Trump organization or Trump campaign, he would be confirming something very important that has been reported but not confirmed to this point.

SAVIDGE: Juliette, would you agree with that, the way that Ron just sort of summarized how this wiretap thing would be done?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. So lawyers from the Justice Department would have to go before the FISA court in a national security case not for law enforcement purposes but for intelligence gathering purposes if it impacts or it may impact a United States citizen. That might not be Trump, but it may be people that Trump is talking to.

What Trump did this morning is essentially did seem to confirm what there had been speculation about, that there were FISA wiretaps. But we actually don't even know if Trump is getting this from online sources or whatever else.

But I will say that it is just -- all it is is a distraction. In other words, this attempt to try to sort of pivot away from the real Russia story, which is not going away. I mean, the idea that it's just about Sessions or it's just about that guy Carter Page, it's not. There are now months of consistent and persistent proof of discussions between Trump affiliates and Trump campaign people and Russians. There are lies about those communications. There are intelligence wiretaps being picked up by Europeans in the United States. There's signaling by Roger Stone about WikiLeaks.

SAVIDGE: I get it. So obviously he's trying to deflect. He's trying to say hey, look at this over here, don't pay attention to the Russia story now.

Rebecca, five days ago President Trump, we heard him brush aside the idea that Obama and his administration was behind the leaks to the media, calling it just politics. He also said this week in Congress, as it's been pointed out, time to put these trivial things, these divides between parties behind us. But then he comes out with this. I mean, what do we make of it?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, clearly he tries and is trying to assign political motives to any of these very important stories that we're seeing coming out. So whether it is the leaks out of the intelligence community, discussing potential ties between Donald Trump and his campaign and Russia during the election, or whether it's these tweets today, he's trying to assign political motives to discredit the underlying story here. And that's very important.

And I think it would maybe wishful thinking on anyone's part to think that Donald Trump, we could take him at his word that these trivial fights would be over, because that hasn't been his standard operating procedure at any point during his political career and during his young presidency. So to think that this is going to be a reset I think was wishful thinking more than anything on the part of a lot of us.

SAVIDGE: That's what Ron Brownstein is pointing out. Ron, I wanted to ask this. Last time we heard Paul Ryan, he was asked directly about the Obama administration surveilling the Trump campaign. Ryan said I don't think that is the case. Trump now with his tweeting, is he offing possible proof of something that maybe Ryan doesn't know?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, sure. And it's possible Speaker Ryan doesn't know.

But I think the more important thing is what are we talking about? We're talking about an investigative technique that the previous administration cannot unilaterally order. It is required to go through a legal process to meet a legal standard of evidence before they can obtain a wiretap if in fact this was done. And as we talked about, there have been a number of reports in both mainstream and kind of conservative outlets that this in fact was done.

It's not clear to me how it benefits President Trump to confirm, if in fact that is what he is doing, that the Obama administration met a legal standard of concern about their contact with Russia sufficient to obtain a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

[10:10:11] I mean, that is itself a major kind of movement forward of this story amid all the swirling reports that this has been done. So again, as Rebecca said, he's trying to portray this as in essence a political witch hunt. In fact, it would be a standard -- I believe a standard investigative step in a counterintelligence investigation. If they met the standard to do that, that's significant.

SAVIDGE: OK, we've got to end it there. I know it's not the last time we're going to talk about this. Juliette Kayyem, Ron Brownstein, and Rebecca Berg, thank you all for joining us this morning.

KAYYEM: Thanks.

PAUL: Still to come, Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing pressure from Democrats to resign. This as President Trump ignites a different Twitter war with Democrats.


[10:15:00] PAUL: Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will amend his testimony on Monday. This of course after he recused himself from any investigation into possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

SAVIDGE: President Trump calls the turmoil surrounding Sessions, quote, "a total witch hunt by the Democrats." Yesterday he tweeted photos of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003, calling Schumer a "total hypocrite." He also tweeted House Minority Leader Pelosi with the Russian ambassador in 2010 demanding an investigation. Schumer responded saying that he would, quote, "happily talk about my contact with Mr. Putin and his associates took place in 03 in full view of press and public under oath. Would you and your team?"

PAUL: All this as six aides have now admitted to meetings with Russia's ambassador during the campaign. Randi Kaye walks us through this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of knowledge no person that I deal with does.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was President Donald Trump last month brushing off any connection to Russia. But since he made that statement it's become clear that five of his advisors did indeed have contact with a Russian, this man, the Russian ambassador U.S. intelligence officials consider a top level spy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September and is now having to explain why he didn't share that during his confirmation hearings.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. That would be the ambassador.

KAYE: On the heels of that, more undisclosed meetings, this time at Trump Tower. That's where Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador in December. Also in on that meeting, the former head of the NSA, Michael Flynn, who was fired for misleading the administration about his conversations with the ambassador. A senior administration official tells CNN Kushner's meeting lasted about 10 minutes and characterized it as an introductory meeting, an inconsequential hello.

Why does any of this matter? Because at least some of those meeting with the Russian ambassador occurred while the Trump administration's relationship with Russia was under close scrutiny. And despite pushback from the White House, there are still some questions about whether or not Russia influenced the U.S. presidential election.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that Russia's involvement and activity has been investigated up and down. So the question becomes at some point if there's nothing to further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate?

TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask a question, so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.

KAYE: So what about that growing list of private meetings with the Russian ambassador? Trump campaign national security advisor J.D. Gordon has disclosed that he too met with Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in July. He emphasized there wasn't any inappropriate chatter with the Russians to help the Trump campaign. And there's more. He says two other national security advisors were also part of that meeting, Walid Phares and Carter Page. More meetings and more denials only leads to more questions.

TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.


PAUL: All right, Ron Brownstein, Rebecca Berg back with us. So Ron, we heard Donald Trump there say two weeks ago "I have nothing to do with Russia." Where do we go from here?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, obviously there have been business and connections over the years, the beauty pageant. So the categorical nature of the denial has always been extreme.

Look, the answer is we just don't know. What we have is clear evidence of contacts. We have a tremendous amount of investigative reporting including a "New York times" report that was overshadowed by the revelations about Attorney General Sessions that said that the former administration had obtained reports from other intelligence services in Europe about meetings between Trump associates and Russian assets, and that also that there was intercepts, national security intercepts, in which Russian officials talked about their access to the Trump administration. We simply don't know what that entails, whether that is even correct. And so, you know, you've got these three different investigations

going on. You have the executive branch, FBI investigation. You have an investigation going on in the Senate and the House Intelligence Committee. The problem is each of them have a certain degree of clouds hanging over them in the sense of Attorney General Sessions not revealing his meeting with the Russian ambassador and the fact that the Republican chairs at each of those intelligence committees did join in a White House effort to knockdown some of this earlier reporting, raising questions about their impartiality or whether they've reached a conclusion already.

[10:20:00] So the calls for an independent prosecutor or a special committee from the Democrats are going to get louder. Republicans so far are digging in the line, understanding that is a major escalation of a threat to the Trump administration.

PAUL: So Rebecca, how imperative is it to clear this up for the administration to move forward and actually address policy?

BERG: Well, it's very important, of course, because each time that we see one of these inconsistencies, each time we see a new shoe drop in this case, really it gets worse for the administration. Are they're drawn away from whatever they're trying to do, whatever they're trying to focus on and forced to respond to the latest report.

But the problem for them is that there are all of these investigations ongoing. There's the FBI intelligence community investigation, the Senate intelligence committee, and of course all of these Democrats calling for a special prosecutor to do a separate investigation independent of the administration. And so for as long as these investigations are ongoing we're likely to continue to learn more information. They're through leaks, they're through public disclosure. And it's possible that the Trump administration will need to continue to answer for these new revelations.

So it's going to be difficult to put this behind them, unless they were to come out and say here is all this that we have not told you. But as we saw with Jeff Sessions, as we saw with Mike Flynn, we often don't learn the full truth of what happened until we get these leaks from the intelligence community or other sources and they're reported out in the press.

PAUL: Rebecca Berg, Ron Brownstein, always appreciate the both of you. Thank you.

BERG: Thank you.

PAUL: Widespread outrage across the country over repealing and replacing Obamacare. Some are angry over how long it's taking Congress to hammer out this new policy. We're going to go live to a town hall in Clemson, South Carolina, hosted by Senator Lindsey Graham. That's next.


[10:26:14] SAVIDGE: In just a few moments from now, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will host a town hall on a very hot button political issue of Obamacare. His colleagues have faced mounting protest over how long it is taking Republicans in Congress to not only repeal the Affordable Care Act but to replace it as well. Dana Bash pressed Senator Graham on an Obamacare replacement timeline during CNN's town hall. Take a look.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Despite the fact that you've promised for repealing Obamacare for the past now three, four election cycles, you're not -- it doesn't seem like you're even close to getting there.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, we'll get there I hope. If we don't, we'll pay a heavy price. When we passed it, Congress was excluded, right? I said I'm going to be noble and I'm going to live like the average person in South Carolina. So I went into the state program. I got whacked. I'm like 58 years old, short white guy, no kids. My premiums tripled. My deductible went up to $6,250. This is not health care reform, sir. This is just taking money from one group of people and giving health care free to another group of people.


PAUL: Polo Sandoval joining us now. So what are we expecting from Senator Graham to do with this crowd?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this point there is no telling, but I'll tell you what we'll be keeping a very close eye, guys. We'll be keeping an eye on the crowd obviously since things have gotten quite passionate in some of these town halls, and also of course on the senator from South Carolina. You can see the video coming in there from Clemson, South Carolina, right now inside the Brooks Performing Arts Center on Clemson University, packed auditorium right now. Some colleagues there on the ground telling us many of these people waited in the cold outside in long lines to be able to grab a seat inside that auditorium. Obviously a lot of people are going to be anxious to hear what the senator will have to say. This is an individual who has been highly critical of President Donald Trump. In fact just this past Tuesday even declared Donald Trump's budget, quote, "dead on arrival," pointing to some of those cuts that the president, the commander in chief has proposed for the State Department and even complained that Trump didn't call for more significant increases in defense spending.

And then not to mention obviously his position on immigration. Remember that Senator Graham was an original member of the gang of eight, 2013. So this is a senator that has challenged President Trump to help introduce some of this immigration legislation into the Senate as soon as possible. So again, several different elements that we'll be watching very closely. What will the senator say? And also what will the crowd say as he faces his hometown crowd?

SAVIDGE: I'm sure he's wondering the very same thing. Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

PAUL: Thanks, Polo.

So new accusations this morning to tell you about from President Trump as we reset here. There's been a series of tweet where he alleges that former President Obama tapped his phones, President Trump's phones, during the election. Now, we should point out that President Trump didn't offer any proof of this.

SAVIDGE: And this isn't the first time of course the President Trump has accused former President Obama of foul play. Just five days ago the president had this to say about Obama when it comes to those recent leaks to the media.


TRUMP: I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group. But I also understand that's politics and in terms of him being behind things, that's politics. And it will probably continue.


PAUL: Now that was five days ago. Last night, however, House Speaker Paul Ryan had this to say.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you concerned on the flipside that the Obama administration may have been surveilling members of the Trump campaign in a pretty detailed investigation during the election?

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I don't think that's the case.


[10:30:04] PAUL: So President Trump in his first address to Congress said that he was ready to put aside trivial fights and reach across the aisle.


TRUMP: The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that fill our souls, and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.


SAVIDGE: But this morning not even a week later President Obama has fired off a series of tweets. His targets not only former President Obama but reality TV host Arnold Schwarzenegger as well. Trump tweeting, "Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving "The Apprentice." He was fired by his bad, pathetic ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show." To which Arnold fired back with "You should think about hiring a new joke writer and a fact checker." PAUL: All right, at risk under possible EPA budget cuts,

environmental cleanup efforts, scientific research, thousands of jobs. How will the agency respond now? We're talking to someone who may know. Stay close.


[10:35:26] SAVIDGE: We're going to take you real quick to that public hearing by Senate Graham. There he seems to be talking about the wiretapping.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: -- about Trump campaign activity with foreign government. So it's my job as a United States senator to get to the bottom of this. I promise you I will.


GRAHAM: All right, questions? Volume? OK. You want me to talk louder? OK. I can do that. I can barely hear the video too. That was a good video I thought.


GRAHAM: There you go. All right, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Andrea Harvin (ph) from Westminster.

GRAHAM: Stand up if you're here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to push for a Russian investigation and not just support one? Everyone's involvement in Russia needs to be investigated.

GRAHAM: All right.


GRAHAM: I'm not only going to push for a Russian investigation. I'm going to punish Russia for trying to interfere in our election.


GRAHAM: So I better do sanctions to punish the Putin regime beyond what they've done in the Crimea. These are bipartisan sanctions that would hit Putin hard for interfering in our election 2016.

Here's what I think happened. How about just letting me finish my question? How about this? I believe with all my heart and soul that the Russians did interfere in our election. It wasn't a 400-pound man sitting on a bench somewhere. It was Russian intelligence services hacked into Podesta's e-mails, the DNC. They through a third party, in my view, gave that information to WikiLeaks, and it was leaked out during the course of the campaign. That to me needs to be punished. Any Republicans here? We should be as upset --


GRAHAM: we should be as upset about this as any Democrat because an attack on one party by foreign power is an attack on all parties.


GRAHAM: As for the outcome, I'm not suggesting it changed the outcome. I'm suggesting they interfered and they need to be punished.

As to Trump campaign, I met with the FBI yesterday. We'll be holding a hearing in Judiciary Committee where I'm the chairman of the crime and terrorism subcommittee. My ranking member is Senator Whitehouse, and we're going to explain to you what Russia does to democracies all over the world, their tool box and how they use it.

So we're going to do two things. We're going to explain to the world what Russia does to try to break the backbone of democracy, including ours. We're going to make a case why they should be sanctioned.

As to Trump-Russia campaign ties, I have no evidence personally that there are in any, but I will insist that the FBI be given full opportunity to look into this without political interference.


GRAHAM: OK, next question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Emily Chandler and she's from Honea Path, South Carolina. Would you stand up?

GRAHAM: Did you need anything else?


GRAHAM: She's good. All right, who's this person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emily Chandler. Emily Chandler.

GRAHAM: Emily. Where you at, Emily?


GRAHAM: Hey, Emily. All right, read the question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her question is given the 2016 South Carolina presidential election results, what are your plans to ensure all Donald Trump's policies and agendas are implemented?

GRAHAM: OK, here's what I'm going to try to do. I'm going to try to help our president, Donald Trump, be successful as possible because, number one, I agree with him mostly. And I'd like to get this country moving again.


[10:40:00] GRAHAM: So for those that voted against -- I want to repeal and replace Obamacare because I think it's broken.


GRAHAM: I want to put Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court because I think he's qualified.


GRAHAM: I want to cut your taxes because we need to. I want to rebuild our -- I want to rebuild our military because it's broken. I want to build the Keystone pipeline to get oil to Canada so you don't have to buy it.


GRAHAM: So what have you learned? That I'm a conservative, damn proud of it. And I'm going to help Trump where I can. The rest of you who voted for Clinton, you should want him to succeed too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Pauline Roberts from Westminster.


GRAHAM: Sit down. This guy -- all right. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Pauline Roberts from Westminster. Pauline, would you please stand up.

We need affordable health care. What will you do to make sure middle class people can afford health care?


GRAHAM: That's the key question. Who asked the question? All right, OK. How many of you are on Medicare? Whoa. All of you are on Medicare? All right, how many of you like it? All right, let's keep it. How about it? All right.

How many of you are below 65? Below 65. You can't raise your hand twice. How many of you have insurance through your company? How many of you like it? All right. How many of you have problems getting insurance? All right.

So here's the deal. There's three ways to get insurance -- from the government, Medicare and Medicaid, V.A., through your employer, or as an individual. Right, exactly.

So what will I like to see happen? I'd like to see Medicare saved because it's going broke. I'd like to make sure that employers can continue to offer your health care so it doesn't get so expensive they have to drop it.

Here's my problem with Obamacare. We're down to one exchange, one health care company in South Carolina. Why? Why?


GRAHAM: Has anybody here lost their coverage from an employer? See, here's what I think is going to happen if we don't fix it. If we don't fix it, those of you who raised your hand to get you your coverage through your company, they're going to drop it because it would be easier to pay the fine than it will be to cover you, because the cost just went up 27 percent.


GRAHAM: So how many of you would like to keep your company health care? All right, that's a good question. How many of you want single health care coverage?


GRAHAM: You don't vote for me because I think that's a lousy idea.


GRAHAM: So here's what we're going to do. Here's why we're going to replace Obamacare. Employers -- affordable health care. Employers are eventually going to drop coverage and everybody that works for a company is going to go into a state exchange. We're down to one company. You'll have no choice. I'll tell you what. You're going to get kicked out in about 30 seconds if you don't shut up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm telling the truth.

GRAHAM: No, because you're rude. Because you're rude. How many want to kick this guy out? All right, so get him out of here. Get him out of here. So here we go. All right, so how many of you want competition when it comes to health care? How many of you are upset with the V.A. taking too long?


GRAHAM: No problems in health care. Here's my view. I don't want the whole country -- I don't want the whole country to be in a V.A. system where you have to wait forever to get what the government gets you when they decide they want to. That's not what I'm voting for.


[10:45:02] GRAHAM: So we're going to replace Obamacare with more private sector health care. You're going to be able to buy health care all over the country, just not in South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question is from Shelly Stewart from Greenville, South Carolina. She asked what are you doing about law enforcement targeting of African-Americans?

(APPLAUSE) GRAHAM: Where is she at? Have you been targeted by the FBI? Do you know anybody who has because they're black? Give me their names. Give me their names.


GRAHAM: I met with the FBI director yesterday. I have never had anybody -- I have never had anybody come up to me in South Carolina who's African-American to tell me they've been targeted by the FBI because of their color.


GRAHAM: So I don't see that as a problem. If you've got any --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Jason.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from James. Would you please stand up? As a South Carolinian --


GRAHAM: All right, I'm sorry. Have you been targeted by the FBI because you're African-American? I want to hear what he's got to say. I want to hear what he's got to say. Wait a minute. Get your microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

GRAHAM: How many of you would be upset if the FBI were targeting people?


GRAHAM: Me too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, my name is Duane Thomas. I'm from Greenville, South Carolina. Thank you for coming. I believe the question was about the police, not the FBI.

GRAHAM: Oh, the police. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're targeted by the FBI, how do we know that? So the questions about African-Americans being targeted by the police like I have in the past.


GRAHAM: All right. OK.


GRAHAM: The question is racial profiling. Anybody know Tim Scott?


GRAHAM: I didn't ask you if you liked him. I asked if you know him. He's an African-American senator. He says he's been stopped eight or ten times by the Capitol Hill police. I've been up there 20 years and I've never been stopped by the Capitol Hill police. I think that's your point, isn't it? Yes.

So here's the deal with policing. It's got to be tough on a good day. We need to be sensitive to the fact that communities feel under siege by the cops. We need to be sensitive to the idea that the cops feel under siege, and find some orderly process to enforce the law. But I've never been stopped.


GRAHAM: Just listen to the end of the question. I've never been stopped because I'm a short white guy. The cops seem not to be stopping me but they do seem to be stopping Tim. So let's talk about the cops for a minute. I've been a prosecutor most of my life. I've dealt with cops, and there's nothing worse than a bad cop.


GRAHAM: You know why a bad cop is a bad deal? Because they have got a badge in a gun. There's nothing better than a good cop.


GRAHAM: So the bottom line is I hope we will take a harder look at this. I'm sorry, I thought you said about the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do?

GRAHAM: Well, go around to the police chiefs in South Carolina and try to do more community policing, better training, better training for our police officers, spend a little bit of money making sure that because you've got a young black guy walking around in your neighborhood in the middle of the night doesn't mean they're a criminal. There you go, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from James and Lindsey Sable (ph). As a South Carolinian I was heartened to hear you speak against Trump's Russian ties, voters claims, and attacks on the press, but your voting record fails to reflect that. When can we count on you to start putting these words into action?


GRAHAM: I've introduced legislation. I am the chief author of legislation to punish the Russians for interfering in our election. And my chief co-sponsor is Ben Cardin from the state of Maryland. That bill needs to be voted on this year.

I just got back from France and Germany, and Russia's all over their elections. What are they trying to do? They're trying to break the backbone of democracy.

[10:50:06] Vladimir Putin is a thug and people who object to him -- people object to him, they don't come to town halls because they'll get shot. The people who disagree with him wound up getting plutonium poisoning. I've never had a friend of mine die from plutonium poisoning. The Duma, which is their equivalent to Congress, is a complete joke. He's destroyed the independent media. And he has broken the back of the independent judiciary.

I was in the Baltics about two months ago with Senator McCain. Lithuania, Estonia, and the other Baltic nation that I can't remember right now, Georgia and the Ukraine are all under siege by Putin. Here's what the Russians are trying to do. They're trying to break the back of NATO, the European Union. They're trying to get La Pen elected in France who wants to withdraw from NATO and the EU. This five-star party in Italy is being very, I think, supported by the Russians.

So I've introduced legislation to punish the Russians. And here's what I predict will happen, that the Congress in a bipartisan fashion will pass my bill to punish the Russians for interfering in our election and trying to break the backs of democracies all over the world. And if we forgive and forget Putin, then he will keep doing it all over the world. And if you don't stop him Iran and terror are next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Janie Shipley (ph) from Seneca. This question is from Janie Shipley (ph) from Seneca. Please discuss you position on allowing pharmaceutical companies to claim a drug that is safe and effective for use that has not been approved by the FDA. These off label uses contribute to more than 50 percent increase in side effects compared to on label use.

GRAHAM: That's a good question. I don't know if I understand the answer to it. I don't want to take drugs not approved by the FDA. I'd like the FDA to be more efficient when it gets drugs to the market. The more generic the better, right? Generics lower the costs. So who answered that -- who asked that question? What's her name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Janie Shipley (ph) from Seneca.

GRAHAM: Can I do something that you don't hear much of? I really don't know if I gave you a good answer. Let me get started and get back with you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This question is from Nick Dale (ph) from Seneca. How does your bill to defund the U.N. help the people of South Carolina?

GRAHAM: Well, good question. I'm an internationalist. I do believe that America leads from the front, not from behind. I don't mind being part of the U.N. I'd like a place to go where we can resolve our differences without killing each other.

The problem with the U.N. and Israel is getting out of hand. Here's my belief about the state of Israel. It is the only democracy in the Mideast. It is not without fault, but it is our ally and we should jealously guard the relationship with Israel because the people that want to destroy her want to destroy you.

There have been 20 resolutions passed by the United Nations condemning the state of Israel for their settlement policies and six against the world at large. I think that is nuts. That is disproportionate. And I'm not going to take any more of your taxpayer dollar and give it to the U.N. who I think is getting more anti-Semitic. So it helps South Carolina not to invest in a body that is anti-Semitic.


SAVIDGE: That is Senator Lindsey Graham in a town hall. You can tell it's quite a contentious town hall. They began by talking about allegations that President Trump has made against the former administration. These are allegations of wiretapping. It appears that Lindsey Graham is very much for finding out more about that. He began the entire meeting talking on that subject and then moved on to other issues such as Obamacare.

PAUL: Obamacare, police and racial profiling, Russia, people are asking about, now the U.N. We're going to continue to follow that and bring you the latest.

But do stay close. We're going to sign off from here. Martin, so good to have you here. I'll be back with you tomorrow morning. We'll pass you off to Fred here who will be taking through the rest of the afternoon. Do stay close and make some great memories today.


[10:59:09] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, welcome this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. I'm glad you could be with us.

We begin with President Trump's serious and baseless accusation amid one of his administration's most chaotic controversies. The president tweeting this morning, quote, "Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wiretapped -- wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism," end quote. The president is offering zero proof to support this allegation.

This as we're learning about more meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russian diplomats. But Trump's attorney general is cooperating with Congress. Jeff Sessions will revive his testimony about his contact with Russia on Monday.

Let's start with these new accusations from the sitting president of the United States about his predecessor. CNN's Athena Jones is live in West Palm Beach.