Return to Transcripts main page
FBI Asks Justice Department to Refute Trump's Wiretap Claims; Trump Administration Set to Unveil New Travel Ban; CNN Poll: 55% Concerned about Trump Team's Contacts with Russia. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired March 6, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOSH EARNEST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This may come as some surprise to the current occupant of the Oval Office, but the president does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen.
[05:58:52] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's Twitter tirade, accusing President Obama, without any evidence, of wiretapping Trump Tower.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Information that he's saying led him to believe that this is a very real potential.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI asked the Justice Department to refute the president's assertion.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: This is just a distraction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The newly-revised executive order could come as soon as today.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will shortly take new steps to keep those out who will do us harm.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It is Monday, March 6, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we begin with the FBI calling on the Justice Department to publicly deny President Trump's claim that President Obama ordered wiretapping of procedure. Mr. Donald Trump offering no evidence.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats are pushing back hard on this. They actually wrote a letter, accusing the White House counsel of meddling with the DOJ about theses wiretap allegations. They called the president's notions a deflection from reports of his administration's ties to Russia.
The White House is attempting to move forward, expected to announce the president's new travel ban executive order as early as today.
Forty-six days into Donald Trump's presidency, CNN has it all covered for you, starting with Joe Johns at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Questions of credibility and judgement in the Oval Office this morning. A former director of national intelligence, the current director of the FBI, contradicting the sitting president of the United States, who made a claim, without providing evidence, that the last president wiretapped him.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's unfounded claim that former President Obama ordered his phones to be wiretapped in the midst of last year's election coming under fire. Sources say the FBI is now asking the Justice Department to publicly refute the allegations, but so far, the Justice Department has remained silent.
Such wiretapping of a U.S. citizen's phones would be illegal or require a court order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who spearheaded the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, giving a firm "no" to any such claim of wiretapping.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.
JOHNS: Multiple former senior U.S. officials dismissing President Trump's allegation, calling it nonsense. And a spokesman for Mr. Obama says it's "simply false." But without providing any evidence, the White House is doubling down, calling for a congressional investigation to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused.
SANDERS: I think he's made very clear what he believes.
I think the bigger story isn't who reported it but is it true?
JOHNS: White House official say the president's sources on the incendiary claim come from conservative media, not from government sources. In fact, there are zero publicly-known credible reports to back up Mr. Trump's claim.
His allegations coming in a familiar form: a series of furious tweets early Saturday morning from his home in Florida, in which he called former President Obama a "bad or sick guy." His top advisers far away in Washington.
This is not the president's first time repeating unsubstantiated allegations. Just after his own inauguration, Mr. Trump alleged millions of fraudulent votes were cast during the election without proof.
TRUMP: When you look at the people that are registered dead, illegal in two states.
JOHNS: The president called for an investigation, but one has yet to be conducted.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have no -- I'm not sure what it is he is talking about.
JOHNS: This latest allegation of wiretapping leaving some Republicans confused as top Democrats call the Twitter outburst a complete distraction.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The president, you know, is the deflector in chief.
JOHNS: An intentional move to stir focus away from the deepening concerns over connections between a handful of the president's advisers and Russians.
FRANKEN: I think this is just a distraction to distract from this very, very serious interference by a foreign power on our democracy. The question of whether Trump world, his campaign, his business associates, had anything to do with it.
JOHNS: The president arrived back here at the White House last night after spending a long weekend at his home in Florida. Today, he's scheduled to meet with a number of his cabinet members -- Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: Joe, you've given us a lot to discuss.
Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker; CNN political director David Chalian; and CNN political analyst David Gregory.
Jackie, let's just start at the beginning, OK? Let's just go, if we can; let's just retrace our steps to the genesis of what started this. Everyone believes it was this November 9 article from Heat Street, a right-leaning website, that said -- that claimed that there had been a FISA warrant to tap the computers in Trump Tower, because they believed there was suspicious activity with some Russian banks. That was then picked up by other right-wing talk people, and then President Trump talked about it.
He generally rails against unnamed sources. This was based on two unnamed sources -- that's it. Two unnamed sources who said there was this FISA warrant. President Trump thinks those are dangerous, unless it serves his purposes. JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, exactly. And the thing
that strikes me about this, he has access to so much information from so many different areas and yet, he chooses to trifle in conspiracy theories and to really dig in on something like this.
There are people he could ask about this. And whether he doesn't trust them, I don't know
CAMEROTA: As the president he could get the answer, you're saying?
[06:05:08] KUCINICH: Yes. He could get the answer. Instead, he's chosen to accuse the intelligence community of essentially a crime.
CAMEROTA: And President Obama.
KUCINICH: And President Obama. So it just -- it is -- I'm not sure what his end game is here. Perhaps he's waiting for Congress to solve his problem.
CUOMO: Yes. I mean, I think the best guidance on this story is just stick to what we can prove. Mike Rogers...
CUOMO: ... was one of his advisors. He's obviously a contributor here at CNN. Says that this was a couple of coins into the conspiracy meter. Joe Scarborough, who is an on-and-off friend with him, called the president of the United States crazy, essentially.
So I think that speculation gets us nowhere, David Gregory. Getting into his motives and all that.
James Clapper comes out on "Meet the Press" and says, "I would know if there were any such warrant, not just at the direction of the president, because that's not how it works when Obama was president, but I would know there is no such warrant. Why isn't that the end of this story?
Obviously, Clapper could not be telling the truth. But I'm saying, is there any proof that there's another version of events that warrants any type of discussion?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No proof that we've seen. As a matter of fact, the White House dismissed questions about any proof by calling on Congress to investigate and find the proof to back up the president's assertion.
Look, this is -- this is like, you know, somebody in high school walking down and pulling the fire alarm and getting everybody scurrying, and -- and that's the major story, is that "Fire alarm set at high school."
CUOMO: No, except that in this case in your analogy, it would be the fire chief that pulled, you know, the level. Because, you know, as we're hearing...
CAMEROTA: The principal.
CUOMO: All he has to do is call the FBI and say, "Do you guys have this?"
Now, I know the Democrats are upset at McGahn, the White House counsel. You can't have it both ways. If you want to find out -- that's what McGahn says he was doing. He says he was going to find out from the DOJ if there were any wiretaps here. The Democrats accused him of meddling, but you can know the answer to this. Right? It's not unknowable.
GREGORY: Right. Exactly. You can know the answer, but he has no facts. I mean, again, we're learning about the president's judgment. We know that he's not very cool under fire. When he gets mad about something that comes out at Breitbart or he reads in the papers or he watches the programs on Sunday, doesn't feel like he's being defended well enough.
But, you know, the bottom line is there's a lot of leaking that's coming out about Russia from the intelligence community that makes the president very mad. And I think there's good reason to be mad about that, but he has not been completely truthful about what all these contacts are. He hasn't released his tax returns that allow us to see his business ties.
And the reality is that Russia sought to manipulate our election in 2016...
GREGORY: ... to undermine our democracy. And our president who is at the center of this manipulation has blamed the media, the intelligence community, former President Obama. But what is it that he is actually doing about Russia? Well, he's been silent on that.
CAMEROTA: David Drucker, help me understand something. This is the part that -- this is the part -- there's a lot that confuses me, but this is the crux of the matter. If this is a deflection, as we've seen that President Trump sometimes uses, a red herring, so don't look at what's happening with Jeff Sessions. Look over here.
How is it helpful to have a deflection that actually highlights the fact that three members of your campaign team might have been under investigation by the FBI. And your -- the servers in Trump Tower might have been doing dubious business with Russian banks. That's what this distraction causes us to look at.
DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Right. Look, in theory, the president wanted to take back control of the news cycle. He didn't like the fact that his attorney general recused himself from anything relating to Russia, and so this was his way of fighting back. And we always errs on the side of fighting back
But let's look at where all of this leaves us here. You know, we had a situation during the campaign where the Clinton campaign felt like the president was out to get them. Now we have a situation where the commander in chief feels like his own intelligence community, our intelligence community, is out to get him. It's not good for the system. It's not helpful for the overall goal of fighting crime and fighting terrorism, protecting the American people. And if the president has to make a decision here of how important it is for him to protect his own flank versus how important it is for him and the intelligence community to reach a meeting of the minds and stop fighting with each other.
I'd also say this, and this is really what I find to be a big waste of time. Let's say that the president is just upset, because he feels like between Mike Flynn and all of this Russia stuff, there have been a bunch of leaks, and nobody is looking into them.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr have both said that the scope of their Russia investigations are going to include how information was revealed, whether or not there were FISA warrants going after Russians that swept up Americans that they weren't supposed to and leaked.
[06:10:07] So it's all, theoretically, going to be looked at by his allies on the Hill. He didn't need to do any of this for that to happen.
CUOMO: Ben Sasse, Republican senator, says we are in the middle of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust. David Chalian, we're seeing an iteration of that. A writer called this V.D., a viral disruption, which may be, you know, an obvious way of a one-upping on fake news.
You have the FBI going to the DOJ. We were just saying before, he could know the answer to this. Just go to the FBI, see how their FISA warrants out there. He's the president. He would probably find out.
They go to the DOJ and say, "Push back on the president of the United States, pushing this wiretap story. Say it's not true."
What do you make of that?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, have you seen the DOJ do that yet, Chris?
CHALIAN: So they're not -- they're not -- they're actually acknowledging or giving the answer to the requests from the FBI that the FBI is looking for.
Which means, you know, all eyes are going to be trained on this confirmation hearing this week for the No. 2 in the Justice Department. You could imagine what the round of questions are going to be, since Jeff Sessions has completely recused himself now from any of these matters. That No. 2 job at the Justice Department just got a lot more important and especially with this request from the FBI on their plate. CAMEROTA: Panel -- hold that thought, David. We have many more
questions for you, but stick around. We have other news to get to right now.
CUOMO: Although my question just seems to be why every day. Why?
In the meantime, the White House -- look, this does have a cost having this V.D., this disruption of a viral nature.
CAMEROTA: You can't use that.
CUOMO: A writer used it, and I've got to tell you, it's catchy. So -- and that's a pun. Hey, it's Monday. I still got it.
All right. So when you're talking about this stuff, you're not talking about things that should arguably matter a lot more to the administration. Like the travel ban. Do you remember the urgency of that? It had to be done right now to keep us safe. We still haven't seen the new version. We are hearing we could see it as early as today. Sources tell CNN that top Trump advisers want one key country now removed from the ban.
So let's get into what the latest thinking is of what we're going to see in this ban. CNN legal reporter Laura Jarrett, live from Washington. What's your best sense from reporting of what will be in there and what won't?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we expect to see some pretty big changes to the new executive order. The most significant will likely be who is covered by the travel ban, as sources tell us that the new executive order will exclude legal permanent residents and those with existing visas at the time the order is signed.
But even with all of these changes immigration orders have signaled to us still safe to expect a flurry of action in the courts after this new order is signed, Chris.
CUOMO: OK. Look, you have these competing legal interests, right? You have broad discretion by the president when it comes to matters of immigration and national security, but then you have the basis, the rationality for those moves.
So in terms of who's going to be left off the ban, we have been hearing that they were taught from insiders that Iraq shouldn't be on, because we helped develop a vetting system within that country during the military efforts. What are you hearing about who's going to be removed, country-wise.
JARRETT: That's exactly right. We've heard that several top members of the president's cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson specifically wanted Iraq removed from the list of previously banned countries for diplomatic reasons, as you say, including Iraq's roles in fighting ISIS, Chris.
CUOMO: What's your best guess? Do you think we're going to see it in the next day or so? Are they ready for this?
JARRETT: Well, we have been fooled before, right? We thought it was last Wednesday, and then it got pushed back for who knows what reason. But it's going to be fascinating to see how this narrative plays out in court, right? Because to the extent that the administration took over a month to rewrite this travel ban, to comply with a court order, no judge is going to blame them for that. They're trying to get it right.
But if, in fact, they delayed this rollout for some political reason that could come back to bite them the minute a government lawyer starts using words like "emergency" in court again, Chris.
CUOMO: Absolutely. Especially in light of these two reports that we heard coming out talking about whether or not there's an imminent threat, talking about whether these are the types of people to keep out of the country for security purposes.
Thank you very much, Ms. Jarrett. Appreciate it -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Chris, CNN has some new approval ratings just out this hour.
CUOMO: How are he we doing?
CAMEROTA: Well, it's not for us; it's for President Trump. How concerned are Americans about his alleged ties to Russia? We'll bring you the brand-new CNN poll, next.
[06:18:37] CAMEROTA: There's a new CNN/ORC poll that is out just this hour. And it shows that a majority of Americans are very concerned or at least somewhat concerned about the possibility that members of the Trump campaign had contact with Russian operatives.
Also, people believe that Congress should not handle the investigation.
What does all that mean? Here to break down the poll numbers is CNN political director David Chalian. Give us the headlines, David.
CHALIAN: Good morning, Alisyn.
You are right. A majority of the country, 55 percent, if you add "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned," are concerned about these reports about alleged ties between Russia and Trump campaign, Trump associates. But remember, partisanship is driving a lot of this. This "not at all" number, among Republicans, a majority of Republicans are not at all concerned. So Democrats and independents are driving this but a majority of the country very or somewhat concerned.
You mentioned who should look into this. Special prosecutor is what the country clearly wants. Nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, of those polled say an independent outside special prosecutor should look into this. Only a third said Congress. I've got to tell you: this number is going to give Republicans in Congress some heartache. This is going to be the most startling number to them in the poll, as they begin their own investigations, led by Republicans, in the House and Senate intel committee.
We also took a look at -- this is the wrong one. We also want you to look at Trump's overall approval rating. That is at 45 percent right now, Alisyn. His overall approval numbers, if you can get there, is 45 percent. That is holding steady from what we saw a month ago, which was only 44 percent.
[06:20:12] I've got to tell you: he's got a pretty good floor going on right now. Obviously, compared in history, not a great approval number for this stage of a presidency. But 45 percent Trump approval. He is indeed -- there you go -- holding steady. All these headlines about Russia have not hurt him yet.
And if you look about his policies, which way the country believes he's taking us, in the right direction or the wrong direction, we've got a pretty evenly divided country. Forty-nine percent say his policies are going in the right direction. Fifty percent say they're going in the wrong direction -- Alisyn.
CUOMO: You could see that as a good basis or rationale for the president to ignore his distractors and move on with his own agenda, but he isn't.
So let's continue the discussion. Let's bring back our panel. You've got Jackie Kucinich, David Drucker and David Gregory. We'll give Chalian a break there, after what he just had to take us through, with his ever-expanding picture of who's involved with the Russia contacts. Notice that graphic keeps getting -- they keep adding. All the heads are getting smaller, because you have to keep adding people who had contact with the Russians.
All right. So David Gregory, again, our frame of analysis on his show is always what's the fact? The problem with this particular story coming from the president is he knows the answer to, this if he wants to. Whether or not the FBI or the DOJ or any of the intel agencies are looking into him, that's a phone call away of information. So what does that tell us about what's motivating this?
GREGORY: Well, that he's -- he's so apparently thin-skinned and perhaps unwilling to get to the bottom of whatever interference in the election his associates may have had some role in or, if they did not, to what extent the Russians were trying to manipulate the election to help him. And instead of seeing that as a way to delegitimize him, if it could be seen more in the context of an attack on America and a potential interference in the creation of turbulence, as the reporting on "The New Yorker" recently talked about Putin's aims in Europe, European elections coming up in France and other places and understanding that threat, he might be a lot better off.
This has just become partisan warfare. I mean, I do think it's instructive that all these Republicans on Capitol Hill who want to slow-walk this and who, again, want to rightfully talk about all the intelligence leaks, let's just imagine that we're Hillary Clinton in the middle of this and see if we'd have the same reaction. You know, would former attorney general Mukasey be going on and on in such a way if this were about Hillary Clinton in his defense of the people involved here. I don't think so. I think this has become partisan warfare.
And that's what's so damaging right now, is that there is no way to really get to the bottom of this without some cooler heads prevailing, saying, "Why don't we get all the facts on the table here and see where they take us, instead of even using the special prosecutor as a political cudgel"?
CAMEROTA: Look you see the partisanship, Jackie, writ large in those poll numbers.
CAMEROTA: So it's just down to partisan divide, whether or not you approve of the direction he's taking the country or whether or not you don't. Forty-five percent is his approval rating, and that's been pretty steady. Now, I think, unless David Chalian corrects me, obviously, this was all asked before this weekend.
CAMEROTA: So their responses don't count the consternation that we saw coming out of the White House this weekend. The president was reportedly quite angry and annoyed with his staff on Friday because of the Sessions recusal. And in fact, the pool camera shot through the window of the Oval Office -- and maybe we have this -- and captured that -- these angry outbursts. It looks like Bannon is speaking quite animatedly and sort of just gesticulating and the president is marching around.
And so I guess we can conclude that when he's in this state, Katie bar the door. And then he goes after President Obama and says that President Obama is the person who ordered this, which would be illegal.
KUCINICH: So David was talking about how partisan this is as review, and I think that's very true. But one thing this weekend that you noticed, no Republicans are really running out to defend him on this. They were all very careful. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio saying, "I'm not really sure what he's talking about."
No one is -- I feel like, in some partisan environments, there is a move to protect the throne, protect the White House. And you're not seeing that. They're all being very, very careful. And that, in and of itself, I think, is very revealing.
CUOMO: I think we know why. Let -- do we have the James Clapper sound from "Meet the Press"? This -- there is no chance that Clapper wouldn't know the answer to this question. You can judge the veracity. You can judge whether or not you want to believe them. But just listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
[06:25:05] CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: If the FBI, for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes.
TODD: You would be told this?
CLAPPER: I would know that.
TODD: If there was a FISA court order...
TODD: ... on something like this.
CLAPPER: Something like this absolutely.
TODD: And at this point, you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?
CLAPPER: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order?
CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.
TODD: Anything at Trump Tower?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. Now, all I'm saying is this, David Drucker. Not all things that come out of people in power are equal, OK? There is no reason to believe what the president of the United States is saying right now about this issue. This is just like, and maybe worse than the three to five million illegal voters. Because people do vote illegally. There is voter fraud. It's very small.
You just had the man who would know if there was such a warrant say, "I don't know of any such warrant. I don't think that there is one."
CAMEROTA: He said, "I can deny it." I mean, it was actually even stronger than that.
CUOMO: There is zero proof of this. And the president would have every reason to know that there is zero proof of this. Where is the other side?
DRUCKER: Well, look, some argue that James Clapper doesn't have credibility, because... CUOMO: Sure.
DRUCKER: ... he has admitted misleading Congress. And...
CUOMO: But the FBI has come forward and said, "Push back on the DOJ. Don't let them talk about the wiretapping story. It's untrue." The FBI would have been integral in the process of getting such a warrant.
DRUCKER: Right. So none of this really makes sense until you take the president of the United States's claim and decide that it's true without any proof.
I think the issue here is, No. 1, that the president, we have to understand, you get in office what you see on the campaign trail. All right?
DRUCKER: The president was the primary guy -- the primary guy that pushed birther conspiracy against President Obama. He tried to tell us that Ted Cruz's father assassinated John F. Kennedy or was a part of the plot, and a whole bunch of things that he never had any proof for. This is how he functions. This is how he knows how to fight.
I think the opportunity that he's missing is that, if you look at the CNN polling, his policies are more popular than he is.
DRUCKER: The country actually likes a lot of what he's offering up. And if he stuck to the script, as we saw in his speech last week and during the week, until this whole blow-up. That's why I thought his performance in that speech was politically important, not because, oh, he finally had a good day. Because if he can put together more popularity with his popular policies, he can actually get somewhere.
CAMEROTA: We're getting the hard wrap. Thank you very, very much for all of your insights.
Meanwhile, more news. North Korea's provocation is triggering a warning for the United States. Japan's prime minister calling their launch of ballistic missiles, quote, "extremely dangerous." We have the breaking details ahead.