Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; North Korea Nuclear Fears; New Travel Ban; Trump Creates Firestorm Over Wiretapping Claims; North Korean Threat: 4 Ballistic Missiles Launched into Japanese Waters. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:15]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And President Trump doesn't like it when the media uses anonymous sources.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump tweeting another conspiracy theory, that President Obama tapped his phones. And if we told you that his White House has since produced the evidence to back up that wild claim, well, that would be fake news.

Satellites trained on North Korea after Kim Jong-un fires off four more ballistic missiles. Could another nuclear test be next? How will President Trump respond?

Plus, explicit photos of women Marines, a secret Facebook page exposed, pictures of dozens of female Marines allegedly posted without their permission. How many service members could be caught up in this scandal?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to begin with the politics lead today.

The weather forecast for Saturday called for a tweetstorm from the president. And one sure rolled in, with the president accusing his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of ordering Trump's "wires tapped" in Trump Tower last year.

The president made this claim without any evidence to support it, and, in fact, CNN's Pamela Brown reports this afternoon that when FBI Director James Comey saw the president's tweets, he was -- quote -- "incredulous."

Sources telling Brown and producer Shimon Prokupecz that Comey felt -- quote -- "institutionally, he has to push back on this because of the massive allegation Comey knows to be false."

Comey's staff asked the Justice Department to knock down this claim, sources say. The Justice Department has not done that. White House officials tell me that the president got the information for this false charge from the Web site Breitbart, which was writing up the claims of conservative talk show host Mark Levin.

The White House spent much of Saturday trying to find evidence within the government to back up the president's claim, and Sunday morning they punted, saying Congress should investigate the matter, they will have no further comment.

CNN's Sara Murray is live at the White House.

Sara, normally, when the president unleashes these distracting tweets, he succeeds in changing the subject away from the Russian controversy, but one leads right into it.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course.

There were certainly more questions about Russia as a result of this and more questions about whether, if the president really does believe he was wiretapped, why might a court find it necessary to agree to such a wiretap of a president-elect. Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, was asked about this repeatedly today.

At one point he said, the tweet would speak for itself. But at another point, he said there is no question something happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump leveling a stunning attack at his predecessor, alleging without any evidence that former President Obama spied on him at Trump Tower.

This weekend, Trump tweeted: "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate. Bad or sick guy."

His allegations appear to have been inspired by a Breitbart article that was making its way around the White House. But since venting via Twitter, the president has not been able to back up his claims. Now sources tell CNN the FBI has asked the Justice Department to refute Trump's claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump's phones last year.

The FBI's request came because such a wiretap would be illegal. The president can't just order eavesdropping on a U.S. citizen. A court would have to approve the wiretap request, and that would mean a judge would have to have found sufficient evidence to do so.

Over the weekend, the former director of national intelligence also said he was aware of no such wiretapping during his tenure.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president -- the president- elect at the time, whether as a candidate or against his campaign.

MURRAY: As for Obama, a spokesman for the former president insisted he has never ordered surveillance of any U.S. citizen, saying: "A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice."

Members of Congress cast doubt on Trump's claim as well. Democratic Senator Chris Coons questioned Trump's history of embracing conspiracy theories.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Let's remember the record here, Allison (ph). Donald Trump dedicated years of his life to running around our country claiming that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.

MURRAY: While Republican Senator Marco Rubio told CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" he wasn't sure what the president was referring to.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: If it's true, obviously, we're going to find out very quickly. And, if it isn't, then, obviously, he'll have to explain what he meant by it.

[16:05:02]

MURRAY: The latest claims from the White House come as it's still plagued by questions about ties between Trump and Russia. A new CNN/ORC poll shows 65 percent of Americans believe a special prosecutor is necessary to investigate possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Just 32 percent say Congress should lead the investigation.

The White House is hoping Congress will aim its investigative energy elsewhere, calling on congressional Intelligence Committees to investigate the wiretapping allegations.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, SENIOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: All we are asking is that the same level of attention be put to this and let the House Intelligence Committee investigates this and see if there is any truth to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, the White House is hoping that this will be a very busy and a very productive week for the president. Obviously, today, they unveiled a new version of their travel ban.

They're also hoping to unveil their plans to repeal and replace later on this week. But it's moments like this that really can irk Republican allies on the Hill, who say it causes distraction at a time when they're actually trying to move forward on some of these big- ticket agenda items -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Murray at the White House for us, thank you so much.

The big question, of course, where did the president get this latest conspiracy theory from? As we reported, White House officials say the president's sources were various conservative outlets, most prominently, perhaps, radio host Mark Levin, who seemed to take three basic chunks of information and combine them into one conspiracy theory of what he calls a silent coup going on by the intelligence community and former Obama administration officials. Here are the three chunks. One, leaks from the Intelligence Committee calling out Trump administration officials for giving out inaccurate information about their contacts with the Russians and other stories.

Two, news reports that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians. And, three, unconfirmed reports in the British press that the FBI may have sought FISA warrants to monitor Trump campaign communications.

Now, those reports say nothing about President Obama being personally involved, nor do they say wiretapping was ever approved on Mr. Trump himself.

Now, here's a rather amazing detail. It actually does not appear that any of these conservative outlets reported as fact what President Trump is now claiming that -- quote -- "Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory."

Levin has asked the question as to whether the president is behind the leaks and the surveillance , but when he was directly asked by FOX News if former President Obama was directly involved in any of this, Levin said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: I am not Nostradamus here. I just think that we ought to find out.

But I will tell you this. He is more involved than he says.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, it would be bad enough if the president valued the conjecture and accusations of these sources more than the facts that he has access to, more than any other person in the world.

But it's actually worse than that. President Trump took what Levin and others were saying and made it even less tethered to fact. With conjecture and venom, they alleged a conspiracy. He took it one step further and said it happened and President Obama was behind it.

And as we have reported, the FBI director is incredulous at this charge and says it is completely false. Now, are there legitimate reasons to question why all these leaks and what are the motivations for them? Absolutely.

But that's now a separate issue. This is about whether President Obama wiretapped President Trump. And the FBI director says it's false. Now, keep in mind, one not irrelevant detail here for anyone out there trying to make sense of this all, we have been here before. This is not a land with much sense or respect for facts.

This is place of conspiracy theories, untethered to facts. And these theories are voiced by President Trump.

It's Barack Obama faked his birth certificate because he was born in Africa. False. Thousands of New Jersey Muslims were on TV celebrating 9/11. False. Ted Cruz's father had something to do with Lee Harvey Oswald. False. Vaccines cause autism. False. There was something fishy about the deaths of Justice Scalia or Vince Foster. False, false. Inaugural crowd sizes. Three to five million illegal votes.

It goes on and on. None of it is true.

And the people around President Trump who are enabling this nonsense, the ones who know better, you have to ask yourselves this question. Are you really serving the president? Are you really serving the American people?

President Trump's administration introduced his updated travel ban today, after pausing to consult Congress and his own Cabinet on the rewrite, in hopes that the implementation of this new order would be smoother.

CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live for us at the State Department.

Michelle, the president once said, if a judge delayed implementing the ban, any deaths as a result of terrorism would be on the judge's hands. But that sense of urgency seems to have given way to a more deliberate process.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Administration officials were asked that question many times. We did finally get a response from the White House press secretary, who said that the element of surprise against those who would want to do this country harm was eliminated after the rollout and then putting on hold of the first travel ban anyway, so it's not really something that they needed to deal with this time around.

[16:10:10]

But keep in mind, this is still a travel ban based on national origin. It was rolled out as kind of a kinder, gentler travel ban. But there is still going to be those questions, serious questions that linger over whether this is even urgent or necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The Trump administration's travel ban do-over today presented by the attorney general, Department of Homeland Security and secretary of state.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: To our allies and partners around the world, please understand this order is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for disruptive ends.

KOSINSKI: The signing taking place in private away from reporters, only an official photo released, quite the difference between the big ceremony for the first botched rollout in January in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.

The new 90-day ban includes six majority Muslim countries, not seven. Iraq is off the list, this after intense lobbying by the Iraqi government, the U.S.' crucial partner against Iraq. The Trump administration says Iraq is working with the U.S. to implement new security measures, though at this point CNN says nothing has changed in procedure, just better communication of what measures are already in place.

Among other tweaks to the original travel ban, it now spells out clearly that if you have a green card or visa you can travel to the U.S. Officials can allow others in too on a case-by-case basis. For refugees, Syrians are no longer banned indefinitely.

And the new order removes language that seem to allow preferential treatment to Christians. The refugee program will still be on hold for 120 days and the total number of refugees for this fiscal year is capped at 50,000, instead of the 110,000 the Obama administration had raised it to.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This executive order responsibly provides a needed pause, so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern.

KOSINSKI: This time, though, the administration is making an attempt to back up the need for this order, saying 300 refugees admitted to the U.S. are currently under investigation by the FBI for potential terrorist activity.

But officials refuse to say what countries those refugees are from or even if any are from the six named. And the recent Homeland Security assessment showed that most foreign-born extremists in the U.S. were radicalized here and years after they arrived.

DAVID STERMAN, NEW AMERICA: This new executive order suffers from the same problem as the previous one, which there is no real evidence that there is a security threat from people from these countries who have entered the U.S.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: It is remarkable to go back after the first rollout of that initial travel ban and look what President Trump had said and tweeted.

I mean, he said that he wanted to wait before that rushed rollout, but his advisers were telling him they couldn't even wait a week because all of these -- quote -- "bad dudes" would rush into America. And to your point, Jake, now the administration seems less concerned, far less concerned, about that.

This ban now doesn't go into effect for 10 days. And this is weeks after the initial ban was halted in the courts -- Jake.

TAPPER: And also they have the interagency process, and they briefed members of Congress, et cetera.

Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.

President Trump's latest explosive charge is roiling Capitol Hill.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California joins me now to talk more about it. He is the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining me, as always.

I want to get to the travel ban in a second, but, first, about the explosive and evidence-free charge that President Trump has put forward. You are on the Intelligence Committee. Do you know of any wiretaps or surveillance of President Trump or of anyone around President Trump during the campaign?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I have no idea, Jake, what he is talking about. I can't go into particulars of the investigation, but the whole idea that President Obama ordered him to be wiretapped illegally is just preposterous.

There are only two possibilities here. One is that there was a FISA warrant against Trump and his associates. And Jim Clapper said that is just not true, it never happened. The other is that there was a criminal wiretap authorized by the Department of Justice.

And if the reports are correct, Director Comey says that's not true. There are really only two people you would need to ask to rebut this. One of them has already answered publicly and the other is being reported to have answered privately.

So, I think this is complete nonsense and it just again further undermines the credibility of the president of the United States and I think subjects us to ridicule around the world, at a time when the idea of liberal democracy is already under attack.

[16:15:01] TAPPER: But just to be clear, you know of no -- I'll make it specific to President Trump. You know of no wiretaps on President Trump.

SCHIFF: No, I don't.

TAPPER: OK. Today, you tweeted this, quote, "We must accept possibility that POTUS does not know fact from fiction, right from wrong. The wild claims are not strategic but worse."

What do you mean? Do you actually think that there is something wrong with his capacity? He can't tell what's true and what's not true?

SCHIFF: Well, I think we have to admit the possibility now that this is not just, you know, as, you know, scholars would say, you know, one of two possibilities in terms of an actual wiretap. I think neither of those possibilities is likely to be true. Then you have the idea that many have put forward that he is very cleverly, strategically trying to distract us. That's possible.

But it's also possible that he can't tell the difference between a Breitbart story and reality. That's, I think, the most frightening prospect of all.

But at this point, you have to ask, is it possible he really believes millions of people who came here undocumented voted in the election? Does he really believe that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? If he does, then we have a much more serious problem than we have yet acknowledged.

But I do think it's quite plain that, from a constitutional perspective, in terms of what a president should and should not do, he doesn't know right from wrong.

TAPPER: In the text of the president's new travel ban, the White House claims that according to the attorney general, the FBI is conducting counter-terrorism investigations into 300 refugees, more than 300 refugees, currently in the United States. Is that true?

SCHIFF: I don't know what the exact number would be, but a couple of things leapt out at me about that section. The first is, the only examples they gave I think were two Iraqis who must have been the two involved in the non-existent Bowling Green massacre and one who came as a child. And is he suggesting that extreme vetting will be able to tell when a child years some later becomes radicalized in the United States?

The reality is, as Director Comey has testified in open session, there are counter-terrorism investigations in every state and I could tell you there are multiple, multiple investigations in every state. My understanding is most of those involve people born in the United States. There is a smaller subset that were born overseas and probably an evener smaller subset who came as refugees.

But if you're going to target where the risk comes from predominantly you would have to say it's come from people born here. And there is nothing in extreme vetting that protects us from that. And I think, to the degree that the president is singling out one faith here, he is likely to exacerbate the chance that we have more radicalization in the U.S., not less.

TAPPER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

North Korea launching four successful missiles in what NATO is calling a, quote, "especially provocative move." This time, the missiles came dangerously close to land. Now, a U.S. official is warning a nuclear test by North Korea could be next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our world leader today, a terrifying sign that North Korea's missile program may be growing. Just hours ago, Kim Jong-un regime fired a new round of ballistic missiles, three of them landed alarmingly close to the coast of Japan, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The latest missile test came less than a month after North Korea tested what appears to be a newly developed and more advanced and harder to detect missile.

Let's bring in CNN's international correspondent Paula Hancocks. She joins us from Seoul, South Korea.

And, Paula, just weeks into the Trump presidency, North Korea is ramping up the frequency of these missile launches.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Yes. We know that the preliminary assessment is that these were five extended-range Scud missiles. So, the missiles themselves may not be as sophisticated as some of the ones that they have, but what we believe they're doing is evolving their missile program according to experts in the way that they're testing the units that are firing them. You have five in a row. Granted, one of them failed.

But this is a good way of trying to evade new and existing missile defense systems. Now, we're months away from the U.S. and South Korea deploying five missile defense systems here inside South Korea much to the anger of many of the neighbors, for example, China and North Korea. But this is a way of trying to evade that.

And it also shows there is a healthy stockpile of missiles that North Korea has if it is able to carry on in this way. Now, we have seen relative restraint in the early weeks of the Trump presidency. Clearly, we are now back to business as usual -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Paula, there are a number of troubling signs that there could be more missile tests to come in the future?

HANCOCKS: Yes. We're hearing from some U.S. officials that U.S. intelligence is actually watching the North Korean underground nuclear testing site very carefully amid signs that North Korea could actually be preparing for another test. They carried out two nuclear tests last year, bringing the total to five. Never in North Korea's history have we seen this kind of intense testing. Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, clearly in a rush to get to where he wants to be.

We know that they are also watching the testing sites of future launches very closely, saying there is activity in that area as well.

[16:25:01] We are expecting more launches. Just last week, the U.S./South Korea joint military year started every single year that annoys North Korea. They believe that it's the U.S. preparing to invade. The U.S. says it's defensive in nature. It's routine. It happens every year. But we can expect more ballistic missiles in the near future. These drills go on for the next two months, Jake.

TAPPER: Horrible news. Paula Hancocks, thank you so much.

Explicit photos of women shared online without their consent, along with crude comments, some about sexual violence. So, what happens now to the U.S. marines involved?

But, first, President Trump's advisers says President Trump has intelligence the rest of us don't. So, is the president going to declassify this information? Our panel will weigh in if I can tear them away from their phones, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's stick with politics and dive right in with my panel. Guys, thanks so much for being here.

Take a listen to Kellyanne Conway this morning trying to explain where President Trump might have gotten the claim from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He is the president of the United States. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not. And that's the way it should be for presidents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Well, the FBI director has now let it be known he was incredulous at the president's tweets and that the claim is false.