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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sources: FBI Investigation Continues into "Odd" Computer Link Between Russian Bank and Trump Organization; Interview with Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 9, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN WOLF AND THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: Next, breaking news. FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors, briefing top congressional leaders with the highest security clearances, we're going to speak to a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Plus, Donald Trump making a big sell on Obamacare. Did he win over one of the biggest critics in his own party? You'll find out OutFront. I'll talk to Congressman Jim Jordan. And this news, just breaking on CNN, investigators looking at a connection between a Trump organization computer server and a major Russian Bank. Those breaking details OutFront. Let's go.
And good evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett, OutFront we begin with breaking news. Top secret briefing, FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill tonight. Sources tell CNN that Comey held a secret meeting behind closed doors with eight of the nation's top lawmakers, lawmakers who have access to the government's most highly classified information. Now, the meeting comes as the top two members of the House Intelligence Committee say they have not been informed of some key FBI investigation. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes suggested that he was not told of an FBI investigation into Trump and Russia connections.
Also tonight, sources on the Senate Intelligence Committee tell CNN they want all Trump associates who allegedly spoke with Russian officials to testify before the committee under oath. And Senator Diane finds time going even farther this evening telling us she wants Trump's tax return just part of the Russia investigation. Her quote and I do quote her, "The tax returns became a major primary lead into a Russia connection and that would be Russian money in his businesses. Manu Raju begins our coverage on this breaking intelligence story on Capitol Hill. Manu, what do you know about Comey, what he is doing there, what he is briefing top lawmakers on this evening?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL Well, it's all about Russia. The Russia investigation that the FBI is conducting right now about Russia meddling in the United States elections, and also those questions about contacts between Trump associates and Russian government officials that allegedly took place during the election. Now, this investigation has been taking place for several months now into last year and that's what actually caused a lot of tension between members of the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI that the House Intelligence Committee was not informed of that investigation that was happening last year.
So that was an opportunity for James Comey to explain the latest in his inquiry into Russia. Now one other issue that certainly came up in this briefing was the issue of what Donald Trump, the President of the United States, raised over the weekend. That his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped him, spied on him during last year's election. Now James Comey, we have been told separately has been concerned about those allegations.
This is an opportunity for members of congress to push Comey exactly on the issue. We'll see what he had to say behind closed doors. We're still talking to the lawmakers who just exited that briefing. Now Erin, one other point, the senate intelligence committee ramping up its investigation several members of that committee telling me they want those Trump associates who did have those Russian connections to come before the committee. If not, they're prepared to subpoena them to appear. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And look, all of this happening on Capitol Hill at this hour comes as for the second day in a row, the White House says, it was not aware of President Trump himself being the target of an investigation. Jessica Schneider is OutFront.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is my point, is that we're not aware of anything.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House reiterating it knows of no investigation into President Trump, the justice department won't comment. But the New York Times reporting White House officials had not consulted with the DOJ before Spokesman Sean Spicer declared this yesterday.
SPICER: There is no reason that we should -- that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever.
SCHNIEDER: The White House doubling down as the investigation ramps up. Sources now telling CNN the two men who once occupied the center of President Trump's inner circle, Former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn might be called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both stepped down from their posts and made questions about their ties to Russia.
Paul Manafort resign from the campaign this summer after his extensive lobbying on behalf of pro-Russian interest in Ukraine came to light. And Michael Flynn left his White House post in February on the revelations he lied to the Vice President about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Carter Page who served on then- candidate Trump's foreign policy team waffled when asked if he had meetings with the Russian Ambassador.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I may have met him possibly, it might have been in Cleveland. SCHNIEDER: Carter's name also on the list to testify. The
investigation steamrolling forward this week, several lawmakers going directly to CIA Headquarters to dig through classified documents. Many tell CNN they haven't seen any evidence to indicate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but the president's wiretapping claims continue to be cause for concern.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: We're going to air this very publicly and if the president is going to make outlandish claims like this in the future, he needs to know he will be exposed.
SCHNIEDER: And part of this investigation could include a subpoenas for President Trump's tax returns. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein saying it's a possibility, even Republican Senator Susan Collins leaving the door open that he intelligence committee could try to obtain the returns. All of this of course part of the probe to find out if there are any financial ties between President Trump and Russia. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Jessica, thank you very much. And of course in a few moments we do have some breaking news on that front, a possible connections between the largest private bank in Russia and a computer server at the Trump organization. Right now though, we want to talk about the significance of this Comey briefing, top secret briefing. Joining me now, the Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes as well as Gloria Borger.
Tom, let me start with you. So obviously here, the FBI Director right now, it is unclear how many probes are going on and exactly who they involved but clearly the top members here of the house and -- Senate Intelligence Committee, those with top security clearances are demanding answers from the FBI Director.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Right, Erin, but we don't know especially how much detail Director Comey went into during these briefings with the Gang of Eight. So we just don't know how much was provided to them more than what they knew before the meeting I'm sure but, you know, we're still not sure how much has gotten out and we may not know in the short run what was said completely.
BURNETT: You know, when it comes to this, we now of course have the meetings with Sergey Kislyak, the obvious links that we have talked about many meetings between various Trump associates and the Russian Ambassador and the whole wiretap conversation itself. At this point from how this is going along with the FBI Director, do you think that they have more evidence, right? Because some would say well, if they looked at everything and they have determined that is all there is, some meetings with the ambassador, some folks who had spent time with Russians and then business with Russians, if that was all there is, wouldn't they say this is over? They have not said that at all.
FUENTES: No, but an investigation like this gets complicated, especially with the overseas connections. The overseas leads that have to be covered and banking information that has to be subpoenaed and obtained from all over the world. So, it's not uncommon, this investigation could take several more months or several more years depending on how much detail they go into. So I would not have expected it to be completely wrapped up already but, you know, so far we've had indications that nothing much has been found.
And then that came from former director of National Intelligence, Clapper go back in January before the inauguration said he had been tasked the intelligence -- community had been tasked by then-President Obama to look into the claims of the Russian involvement in the election campaign. And the election itself. And relationship with possible Trump associates and that they came up -- they did not find anything at that time, so --
BURNETT: Right. They didn't find any collusion, but Gloria, of course what they did find in that conclusion here I'm just reading it, we assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 in the U.S. President Election, right? They did conclude that definitely, so, the intelligence community, the question is now the links to Donald Trump himself and his associates. What's next? How significant is it that they're now saying on the Senate Intelligence Committee that they're going to subpoena saying Michael Flynn, say Paul Manafort to testify under oath.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very significant. And I think that the optics of it look very terrible. And I think that what they're trying to do is to find out whether in fact, and this would be the issue here, there was any collusion between people who were in Donald Trump's orbit and the Russians who wanted to influence the election in their favor.
BURNETT: That is right.
BORGER: You know, you -- this doesn't mean that Donald Trump did. But what they're trying to find out is were there people around him who had the same goal as the Russians? And worked with them. That would be a problem.
BURNETT: Right. It would be a problem. And Tom, what would be the implication of that, all right? If they do find -- they haven't found it. But if they do what does it mean for Donald Trump himself? If they can't get it all the way to him, he did not order it himself but his campaign manager did. If that's what happens, then what?
FUENTES: Well, you know, it could be very bad for Donald Trump. But at this point, you know, when you're talking about the possible collusion because the Russians had the same aim Donald Trump had, you would expect that. The Russians did not like -- we know of the reason that they were anti-Hillary Clinton. And of course Trump's running against her, so he's going to be against the Clinton campaign. So yes, you do have the possibility that their two goals are the same as far as Trump being elected and Hillary Clinton losing the election. But that's a long way from collusion that they worked together to make that happen.
BORGER: But, you know, this isn't --
FUENTS: And it will be very hard to prove. BORGER: But this isn't like you would be dealing with some outside
political action committee or some groups that didn't like Hillary Clinton. Some business groups or whatever it is. This is a foreign government. And, you know, that's the -- that's the real issue here. This is a foreign government who was allegedly trying to hijack an election. And I think the question is, and I'm not a lawyer so I don't -- you know, the word collusion may be not be the right word.
But I think the question is how far in were the Russians able to infiltrate and we -- you know, we just don't know the answer to that and maybe the answer to that, Tom, is not at all.
BURNETT: So there's another --
FUENTES: Well, that may be true. But don't forget, the Russians, you know, hacking into the democratic national committee's e-mail system and releasing all of these documents about John Podesta and other members of the Clinton campaign, even if they were in collusion, how could Trump's people help in that effort? What could they do? They don't have access to Hillary Clinton's e-mails or John Podesta's e- mails, so what is it they would specially do in behalf of the Russians?
BURNETT: Well, if they ask them to do it in it of itself, right? Isn't that colluding with the foreign power? I mean, I guess that's a --
FUENTES: No. They wouldn't -- they would not need to be asked given the -- given the fact of how much they wanted Hillary Clinton to lose. No one would have to ask them for help.
BORGER: They could say what time would it work for you if we did this? Would it be best to do it in September or October, I mean, you know timing is everything in politics, and as you get closer to election day, you know, they might -- they may want to get some advice.
BURNETT: I want to get back to Manu here, Manu with another breaking part of the story which is Trump's taxes and this is actually crucial. Diane Feinstein, I mentioned during the opening of the show saying that she wants to subpoena President Trump's tax returns because that would show links to Russia. From what you understand at this point, do you think that she would be successful in getting the returns with that subpoena?
RAJU: Well, it's possible that she could be successful subpoenaing Donald Trump for those tax returns. And I asked her especially are you going to issue subpoenas on the intelligence committee, and she said we're not there yet but, "it's a distinct possibility, yes." And even though the democrats are in the minority in the Senate Intelligence Committee, they actually have the power under the rules of that committee to try to issue subpoenas on their own without republican support. Now doing that could prompt a breakdown on this investigation which was proceeding on a bipartisan manner. So there are some risks in doing that. Plus, there are some legal protections that presumably the White House could invoke to prevent the release of his tax returns. But certainly this is an issue that the democrats are looking at and even Susan Collins of Maine, the republican who sits on that committee told me this week, that's something that she's open to looking at too, but they're just not there yet, Erin.
BURNETT: A lot -- a lot of not there yet. All right. (INAUDIBLE) we're going to be joined by a member of the House Intelligence Committee momentarily. And we're going to take a brief break. Now we have more breaking news coming into CNN. As I mentioned, we are learning at this moment that the FBI is examining what's called an odd computer link. And this link is between the Trump organization and the largest private bank in Russia. We have those breaking details next.
Plus, we're going to talk to two women tonight who have health insurance for the first time in their lives. Thanks to Obamacare. What's their message to President Trump?
And more breaking news, Washington, the state that took down the president's first travel ban is now going after his new travel ban, the man leading the charge for Washington who won the fight last time will be OutFront in this hour.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House pushing republican leadership to make a big change to their healthcare bill in order to bring more conservatives on board. Here is to change, they want to roll back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, more quickly than the healthcare reform currently calls for it. Basically, it says, hey, in 2020 they'll do it, now the White House is saying, oh, no, we'll do it sooner. President Trump is stepping up the pressure on republican lawmakers doing whatever he can to win them over.
The ones who are opposed to the he GOP healthcare bill. Trump meeting with skeptical republican senators and house members for a White House lunch today. One of the lawmakers who was at that lunch with the president is going to be with me in just a moment. First, though, Jeff Zeleny is OutFront at the White House.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump made another forceful sales pitch on healthcare, but again today he did it behind closed doors. The White House says he's all in. But for a president who swept into office with big rallies and soaring crowds, he's yet to roll out the bully pulpit on healthcare. He limited his public comments to this tweet. Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great.
We are talking to many groups and it will end on a beautiful picture. That's a charitable assessment, considering conservative criticism is raging over the republican plan to overhaul the American healthcare system which clear too house committees today. The president's virtual silence on the first legislative fight of his presidency raises questions about how much skin he has in the game. With Vice President Mike Pence already far more visible.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As soon as the legislative process begins, the president and I are proud to lead the charge.
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good morning everybody.
ZELENY: The biggest sales pitch of the day was left to Speaker Paul Ryan who rolled up his sleeves, literally to defend a bill that has sparked a feud inside the GOP.
RYAN: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment. And this is the closest this will ever happen. Good to see you guys.
ZELENY: At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer downplayed any concern among the conservatives.
SPICER: No matter where you are especially on the conservative side, you cannot possibly believe that the current healthcare system is an effective program. It is a monstrosity.
ZELENY: A senior administration official tells CNN, Mr. Trump is trying to win over skeptical republicans in private meetings saying he gets the complexity of this. Today, Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio, two of the bill's biggest critics were invited. A year after they campaign for the president.
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Well, good evening to (INAUDIBLE)
ZELENY: They are ling up against the top item on his agenda.
JORDAN: Our goal is simple, to bring down the cost of insurance for working families and middle-class families across this country. In an effort to do that, we think you have to get rid of Obamacare completely.
ZELENY: So this is one of the items that came up in that meeting with the president tonight, Erin. And I can tell you this is not being met very favorably with a republican leadership on Capitol Hill. I just talked to one top aide who said, look, this could blow up the whole bill in the house and certainly in the senate. Now, it's unclear if this is a bit of a negotiation here from the president. But the language that he especially said about Medicaid certainly, you know, impact this whole bill here.
That's why congressmen like Jim Jordan are so -- Jim Jordan or so important to this. But right now they're trying to get sort of -- assuage some other concerns on the Hill. But it's the reason the house leadership wanted the president to endorse their bill. They didn't want him to change it, Erin. BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. And as Jeff said,
Jim Jordan is going to be with me in just a moment. But as we say, what is so important about this healthcare story is the human side, we had been endeavoring to bring you this story. Night after night because the reality of it is is that some Americans are afraid about what this new plan will mean and it is life and death for many Americans, not just the series of math, of numbers or of discussions with members of congress.
One Medicaid recipient who got coverage for the first time, her life under Obamacare, tells our Miguel Marquez today that she is gravely concerned. So Miguel went to see her. He's OutFront from Kentucky where the percentage of those without insurance dropped from 15.3 percent before Obamacare in by more than half to only six percent last year.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, 24-year-old Alondra Toribio enrolling in Medicaid, the healthcare drama in Washington, D.C. playing out right here in Owensboro, Kentucky.
ALONDRA TORIBIO, SIGNED UP FOR MEDICAID: I feel like I wasn't put in a position where it was either accepted or go into debt and I didn't want to be in debt and especially for me and my son.
MARQUEZ: Toribio works for a head start program and has a three-year- old. She could get insurance through her employer but the cost, prohibitive.
TORIBIO: If I was to get that insurance, I would only come home with like $100 a week.
MARQUEZ: Employer-based insurance just too much for this single mother. Today, more than 1.3 million Kentuckians are on Medicaid, if the current republican house bill becomes law, 440,000 of those insured, thanks to the Medicaid expansion would likely see their coverage vanish.
How many people have you signed up in Owensboro?
SUSANNA CRAIG, GREEN RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Thousands.
MARQUEZ: Susanna Craig signs up residents for the Medicaid in several Western Kentucky counties. The population here she says is hardworking but poor.
CRAIG: There are people who will make about $32,000 in household income.
MARQUEZ: Marilu Adams, a nurse practitioner says since Obamacare kicked in, she's seen the health of her community improve, since Obamacare. MARILU ADAMS, GREEN RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPARTMENT: We are seeing
people that didn't come before with chronic diseases that felt like they didn't have access.
MARQUEZ: 63-year-old Paula Murphy never had insurance until Obamacare helped her get Medicaid.
What sort of ailments do you have right now?
PAULA MURPHY, HAS MEDICAID THROUGH MEDICARE: High blood pressure, diabetes, I have a torn rotator cuff and I have a bad knee.
MARQUEZ: 28 years ago she broke her back, it took her a decade to pay off the debt. Her message to Donald Trump, follow through on your promise to make healthcare better.
MURPHY: All I know is that at the moment I'm gravely concerned. If he can do what he says he can do, I might be OK with it.
MARQUEZ: Now, one other thing to keep in mind, the healthcare industry is so big here in Kentucky that the Kentucky Policy Institute did a study that if the ACA itself went to weigh, that would mean 56,00 jobs across Kentucky would go away. That's three percent of the workforce here which is something else to consider with the congress considering Obamacare and its future, Erin?
BURNETT: Miguel, thank you very much. And now, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, the founding member of the House Freedom Caucus which of course largely opposes the GOP House healthcare Plan joins me and I know Congressman you attended a lunch with the president today. I wanted to start though because as I said, we've been trying to show what this means for individual Americans, because that's after all what it's all about.
And you just heard Alondra Toribio's story, she works but she only have $100 a week left over, if she use her employer-based healthcare. So, she's on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and she could lose that coverage under the GOP plan along with nearly half a million people in Kentucky alone. Is that acceptable to you?
JORDAN: No. What we -- what we want to do is -- I don't -- Erin, I don't define success as putting more people on government healthcare. I define success as bringing back affordable insurance, lowering the cost of healthcare so working class families, middle-class families, individuals like you just had the clip on can actually afford to buy a policy that fits their needs. That's what we've lost. That's what happened under Obamacare, middle-class families can no longer afford insurance and if they can afford the premium, they can't afford the deductible. So our focus is on lowering premiums, bringing back some competition, bringing back affordable insurance for the families across this country.
BURNETT: So obviously you have not been a fan, at least thus far of the GOP plan. And I know you had lunch with the president today and he's trying to sell you on it. Look, he said he's the best dealmaker in the world. You had a chance to talk to him today. What did he say to you?
JORDAN: It was a good meeting. And I -- look, we want to -- we want to help the president, do what we told the voters we were going to do. What we all told the voters we were going to do. And we told them we were going to repeal Obamacare. So, this bill that the house leadership was brought forward is not that because it says we're going to repeal Obamacare but we're going to keep Medicaid expansion and we're going to extend it.
It says we're going to repeal Obamacare but keep we're going to keep some of the tax increases, that's not what we told the voters we're going to do. Let's repeal it, let's repeal it all. And the bill I introduced yesterday, Erin was the same legislation that every republican voted on just a little over a year ago that we put on president Obama's desk. Let's pass that. That repeal, let's get rid of Obamacare, which has been a disaster and then let's focus on doing what needs to be done, to lower cost for the very individual you just highlighted in your -- in your earlier in your clip.
BURNETT: But do you actually think that that legislation would just be ready to go out the door? Because I mean, look, it's easy to go ahead and pass something when you know that it's not going to pass, right? You knew it was president Obama, you knew it wasn't going to go anywhere, so, you didn't have to be perfect, you didn't have to have every T crossed or I dotted, right? Now it's the real deal. You guys can actually pass it. It's a lot harder to do that, to have a piece of legislation that's ready.
JORDAN: Erin, that's exactly what the voters hate, they hate politicians who say one thing at election time, vote one way, and then when it's time to actually get the job done, say, oh no, we can't do it now, it's all different now. Look, if we can improve it and make it better and for that, but let's -- if we can agree on that, let's at least do what we told the voters we're going to do, what we all voted on before, what they expect us to do, that's our -- that's our plan.
So let's at least do that. Not play this game that politicians always play, saying one thing at election time and then when it comes time to actually produce results and keep promises, oh, we got to do something different now because the circumstances are slightly different. That's not what they expect us, not what they sent us here to do.
BURNETT: But are you the one saying that, right? Because Paul Ryan is saying, this is the only chance you guys have to repeal Obamacare. So if you and your co-workers and the freedom caucus are the ones who are going to vote against it, are you the one to actually going to have to prevent your party from keeping its promise --
JORDAN: That's a compete false choice. That's like saying, oh, if we don't get to eat at the five-star restaurant tonight, our kids are going to starve. No, that's not -- that's a false choice, let's actually do the right thing, not the thing that's just put in front of us, not the -- not the bill that we just saw for the first time about 50 hours ago, let's do the right thing, let's put -- let's put together the right kind of legislation that accomplishes what we all told the voters we were going to do. That's what we're focus on doing, that's what we're pushing for.
BURNETT: So the bottom line is, you had a good meeting with the president but you're not voting for this bill it is now, he did not win you over, you are not voting for it right now. It's pretty loud and clear, right?
JORDAN: But you've also heard loud and clearly from the White House. This thing, we're going to start the negotiations, there's amendments, there's going to be amendments on the floor where there's amendments that they said, we're tried to be offered in the -- in the committees but I think those in the -- some of those amendments will be on the floor and hopefully some others that we will bring forward that will improve this legislation.
That's what the voters in 4th District of Ohio expect for me to offer amendments to make something better, that's what I'm focused on doing. So right now, yes, there's big concerns and I don't think there's a vote for this legislation but that's why we have the process, this great American process we have where every single member gets to weigh in, offer their amendment, offer -- that's what we need to have unfold here and then we'll make this legislation consistent with what we told the voters we are going to do.
BURNETT: All right, Congressman Jordan, I appreciate your time. Thank yuo.
JORDAN: You bet. Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news, sources say the FBI investigating an odd computer link between the largest private bank in Russia and the Trump Organization. Those breaking details next.
And Washington State now challenging Trump's new travel ban. The breaking news this hour, the man leading the charge comes OutFront.
[19:32:18] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: New information tonight about communications this past summer between the Trump organization and servers owned by a Russian bank.
CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown and investigative reporter Jose Pagliery join me now.
And, Pamela, what have you learned about this investigation tonight?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we've learned FBI investigators and computer scientists continued to examine whether there was a computer connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank called Alfa Bank. This is according to several sources familiar with the investigation.
Now, this is the same server mentioned in a Breitbart article that a White House official said sparked President Trump's series of tweets last Saturday, accusing investigators of tapping his phone. CNN is told that there was no FISA warrant on this server.
Questions about the connection between the server and the Russian bank were widely dismissed four months ago as an attempt by Alfa Bank to block spam. But we have learned, Erin, that the FBI's counter- intelligence team, that's the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference of the 2016 election, is still examining it. One official I spoke with said the server relationship is somewhat perplexing, somewhat odd and investigators are not ignoring it.
But the FBI still has a lot more work to do to determine what was behind the unusual activity and whether there was any significance to it. The FBI declined to comment and the White House did not respond to our request for comment -- Erin.
BURNETT: So with that development, Pam, let me ask you, Jose, what was so odd or unusual about these communications?
JOSE PAGLIERY, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Now, Erin, what was so weird about his communications was that the Russian bank repeatedly looked up the unique Internet address of the particular computer server in the United States being used by the Trump Organization. In the computer world, that's the equivalent of repeatedly looking up someone's phone number, doing it over and over again. And while there isn't necessarily a phone call, it usually indicates an intention to communicate, that's according to several computer scientists we spoke to.
Now, a particular group of computer scientists who obtained these leaked internet records, records that were never supposed to be made public, they were puzzled as to why a computer at a Russian bank was doing this. Was it trying to send an e-mail to the Trump administration? These scientists just couldn't tell.
Now, last summer, during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server, some 2,800 times. That's more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source. The only other entity doing so many Internet lookup for Trump server was Spectrum Health, a medical facility chained that's led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos, who was later appointed by the president sad U.S. education secretary.
Those two entities alone made up 99 percent of the lookups. Now, computer scientists we spoke to found that just plain weird. All the corporations involved said they never communicated by e-mail with the Trump Organization.
[19:35:00] And they have different explanations for the server activity. But they have not provided any proof and they don't agree on what the reasons was.
For example, the Russian bank thinks that it was receiving Trump Hotel e-mail marketing last summer, but it hasn't provided CNN with a single e-mail to back up that claim. Meanwhile, the American marketing company that would have been sending those Trump e-mails said it was not doing at the time last summer. Alfa Bank for its part stressed that none of its top executives have
had any affiliation at all with President Trump or the Trump administration. In a statement, they said, "Neither Alfa Bank nor its principals, including Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have or have had any contact with Mr. Trump or his organizations."
So essentially, the link simply remains a mystery.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
Obviously, significant information here, the largest private bank in Russia and an oligarch involved here. A lot of questions tonight.
Thanks to both.
PAGLIERY: Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. On this breaking news now, I want to bring Tom Fuentes, as we said, further assistant director to the FBI back. And with me also, David Swerdlick of "The Washington Post".
You know, Tom, this is obviously more of the drip, drip, but this is very new in one respect. Right? This is 99 percent of the lookups, for this server coming from Alfa Bank in Russia, the largest private bank in all of Russia and a company led by Betsy DeVos, the education secretary's husband.
You heard the experts tell CNN that's, quote/unquote, "plain weird". That's odd. It is, isn't it?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, I really don't know, Erin. I think -- you know, it does sound weird. It sounds unusual, but there could be a plausible explanation that none of us are aware of. We just don't have the facts of all these lookups and all the transactions and how the servers are communicating, especially if we don't have actual human beings talking to each other or engaged in some kind of a conspiracy.
So, I think that we have a lot of questions and they raise more questions. But unfortunately, not enough answers for me to be able to make, you know, any kind of a judgment as to what's going on in this situation.
BURNETT: I mean, David, this is the big question here, right, because as we said, this is part of the drip-drip. But yet this is not just another meeting with the Russian ambassador, right? This is a Trump organization server. So, it is yet another chain of possible contact here between the Trump administration and those in Trump's orbit and Russia.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, Erin, I agree with Tom. Based on this new information and new reporting alone, there is not that much that you can make of it. But if you think about the folks who are investigating this now, both
the FBI counterterror intelligence and the members of Congress, who are getting ready to have hearings March 20th, about all these stories related to potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, this is one more sort of data point that they now feel like they probably have to look into very carefully. Because the heat is on, right?
This has been -- they're already investigating it and this has now been thrown to them by the president himself, when President Trump through his administration said essentially that the administration wanted Congress to get to the bottom of all of this, and that, you know, he sort of demurred on just simply picking up the phone and calling his intelligence services and getting answers himself.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much.
And now, I want to go straight to the Democratic congressman from Indiana, Andre Carson, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman, thank you very much for your time.
I just want to get your reaction to this breaking news, and I know you were just getting to our cameras, but we are reporting at this hour that 80 percent of the lookups for a Trump administration server came from the largest private bank in Russia, Alfa Bank, 99 percent of those lookups from Alfa Bank and a company led by the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' husband. Experts are telling us this is, quote/unquote, "plain weird".
What's your reaction?
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Well, this is more calls for us to have a joint intelligence hearing on this matter to unearth necessary truths. And I think it goes along the lines of the kinds of maneuvering that we're seeing from the Trump administration, the kinds of unfortunate gamesmanship and untruths that were seen. So, as we dig more deeper into this matter, I think we'll see a lot that may shock the American people.
BURNETT: And so, when you say a lot that may shock the American people, may I ask what happened today. What do you know about the meetings -- the other breaking news, of course, a this hour, was that the FBI Director Comey came and briefed the members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
You're on the House Intelligence Committee. Can you tell us anything about what he said?
CARSON: I'm not at liberty to think about that matter at this point, but I look forward to the public hearing on the 20th.
BURNETT: All right. So, you think there is more -- when you say things that shock the American people, are you saying that sort of as guesswork? Or are you saying that because at this time, you are aware of information that is not in the public domain that would shock the American people?
[19:40:00] CARSON: Well, I'm saying it in terms of Mr. Trump's denials that he did not have contact with the Russian ambassador. His blaming President Obama for essentially creating -- (INAUDIBLE) criminal or directing a criminal act, against himself and the American people.
Look, laws have been created since President Nixon to prevent any president from issuing these types of directives. And so, I think that Mr. Trump's remarks against President Obama were very unfortunate. And for me, who proudly represents Indiana's seventh congressional district and sits on the Intelligence Committee, who comes from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and counterterrorism, as a former police officer, I'm deeply disappointed that Mr. Trump is fanning the flames of disillusionment not only with the American's trust in the media, but the American people's trust in the I.C., the intelligence community.
BURNETT: So, on this issue of wiretapping, when you're talking about what President Trump has alleged that President Obama did, right? He said he wiretapped him. The former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the FBI Director Jim Comey, as you are well aware, both said that they have no knowledge of any such wiretap. Can you definitively say from your briefings that it did not happen?
CARSON: Well, what I will say as Andre Carson is that I think we can trust President Obama's words. I think we can trust Director Clapper's word in this regard. As well as Director Comey's word in this regard.
Look, I think that this is right out of Vladimir Putin's playbook I think to sow dissensions within our intelligence community, within our law enforcement community and within the trust that the American people have in our government and electoral process. And so, President Trump is playing into the hands of the Russian government by constantly making these disparaging remarks against not only the media but the intelligence community.
BURNETT: So, here is what we know so far, Congressman, and I just want to -- you know, as people are trying to be -- people are justifiably confused, right? There's -- who knows how many investigations are going on and who knows whose actually pursuing them and who knows what, right?
Here is what we know. We know multiple Trump associates met with the Russian ambassador in brief meetings. We know that Trump's former campaign manager had long professional ties to Russia, as another example. We now, of course, about this server, possible communication because we don't know the server was actually talked (ph). You know, we know there was attempted communication.
So far there is no smoking gun pointing to Donald Trump, or to collusion with the Russians. How long will you keep searching? Are you confident that there is a smoking gun here?
CARSON: I'm confident in the political process, I am confident with the ranking members and chairs of the committees of jurisdiction, especially the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee and that we are working in a bipartisan way to get to the bottom of this.
BURNETT: So, when it comes to the tax returns, I don't know if you heard but the Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said that President Trump's tax returns could be subpoenaed as part of this investigation. And she said, her quote was, "The tax returns became a primary lead into a Russia connection -- and that would be Russian money and his businesses. He's visited Russian six times by his own voice on television. Who knows what the situation is?"
Do you agree with her when it comes to a subpoena for the tax returns?
CARSON: I am in absolute agreement with the senator.
BURNETT: In absolute agreement.
And right now, are you aware of an investigation into Donald Trump himself? I don't know if you know, but the press secretary, Sean Spicer, now for two days in a row when we the media have asked him questions about this, has said that there is no reason to think that Donald Trump himself is under investigation.
Do you think otherwise, or have any reason to think otherwise?
CARSON: At this point, we're looking into all matters from sources and the information that we get. And no matter how long it takes, if it takes days, if it takes weeks, if takes months, we hope to get to the bottom of this.
You know, the Founding Fathers, as complicated as they were, were very wise in establishing three separate branches of government to act as a check and balance, and also with the press, with the media acting as the fourth estate to hold everyone accountable. And so, I think we have to hold onto these entities and not allow this administration to distract us from the mess that is happening right before our eyes.
BURNETT: Congressman Carson, thank you for your time tonight.
CARSON: What a pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, Washington state fought and won the battle against the original Trump travel ban. And tonight, they're going at it again, fighting the new one -- well, the man in charge, the man behind it is OUTFRONT next.
And fake tan lovers rejoice. The indoor tanning tax maybe headed into the sunset as part of the GOP health care bill. Jeanne Moos on what that means for them, and someone who appears to be a real lover of those sorts of products, President Trump.
[19:48:51] BURNETT: Breaking news, Washington state asking a federal judge to block President Trump's new travel ban, the man who successfully argued in court against the first ban, the man who forced the president to go back to the drawing board, tonight says the new order also discriminates against Muslims. Washington state joining with Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon to challenge the new ban.
OUTFRONT now, Washington state solicitor general, Noah Purcell, leading the charge.
Noah, good to see you again.
NOAH PURCELL, WASHINGTON STATE SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thank you.
BURNETT: You have had time to look at this new order. As you know there are changes in it, right? Iraq is no longer on the risk. It no longer has an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.
What is it about this new order that you say does not fly?
PURCELL: Well, our first point in the filing today is that substantial parts of the new executive order are materially identical to the parts that Judge Robart already enjoined. In particular, the suspension of the U.S. refugee program and the list of banned countries, although it now excludes Iraq. It's otherwise the same.
And Judge Robart already held that the government cannot enforce those provisions. And so, in our view, it's up to the federal government to move for relief from that, to argue to Judge Robart that they are no longer subject to that injunction before they can implement those provisions.
[19:50:10] So, that's our main point in at this point in the case.
BURNETT: So, you fundamentally still believe that this order discriminates against Muslims?
PURCELL: Well, the same intent that motivated the original order carries through to this one. And you can -- I mean, the statements that the president has made, that his advisers have made, they don't just go away. And in fact, his advisers since the first order have emphasized that this revised order -- I think the words they used -- it's the same basic policy. They said things like the goals are the same, that sort of thing.
So, yes, we don't think that this cures the problems from the first order. It does -- it is an improvement in some respects. And it certainly is a step in the right direction. But -- but the president can't just unilaterally decide to implement these provisions that are the same as what the court already stopped from being in effect.
BURNETT: So, the last order as you know, of course, came out and took place pretty much at that instant and caused confusion. This order isn't scheduled to take effect until a week from today. Do you expect the judge to rule before then?
PURCELL: Well, that will be up to the judge. We certainly hope so, but that will be up to the judge. BURNETT: In terms of a couple of things that changed, now you're
allowed to petition, right? If you're on the list, you're allowed to petition if there's something wrong. And as I said, it took an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. It took away prioritization for religious minorities, which was something that also had added to concerns about the Muslim ban. Those things added together --
BURNETT: -- are you concerned that those are going to weaken your case?
PURCELL: Well, the filing that we're making today does not attack those points because as you said, those have been addressed. But -- I mean, at the most basic level if the court says to a defendant, you can't do ABC and D, the defendant can't just turn around and say, well, OK, I'll do A and part of B, and I'm not going to do C and D anymore. I mean, the court already said, you can't do several of these things that that the president is now trying to do again.
And so, yes, it's true that he's abandoned some of the problematic aspects of the order, but that doesn't mean he can go ahead and just implement the parts that are the same.
BURNETT: All right. Noah, thank you very much. We appreciate your time. And as we said, that order is scheduled to take place -- effect a week from today. We'll see when the judge rules on the case.
And tonight, President Trump promising to bring an American hostage home. Former FBI agent Bob Levinson was last seen in Iran and as of tonight, he has been held hostage for 10 years, the longest held hostage in American history.
Here is Press Secretary Sean Spicer today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Trump administration remains unwavering in our commitment to locate Mr. Levinson and bring him home. The Levinson family has suffered far too long and we will not rest until his case is resolved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I spoke to Levinson's daughter, Sarah, this afternoon and she told me she hopes Trump will take action to secure her father's return. And she said in part, "For 10 years, over and over again, two U.S. presidents abandoned my father, a lifelong public servant. Ten years is beyond enough. How much more agony can he withstand? To Bob, Dad, and Grandpa Bob, stay strong. We will never, ever give up looking for you."
Well, our thoughts are with the Levinson family and their long, long pain that they have gone through tonight.
OUTFRONT next, the tanning salon tax could be axed by the health care bill. Is Trump basking in that glow? Jeanne Moos wants to know.
[19:57:52] BURNETT: Cue the Trump jokes, the indoor tanning tax may be history.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remember the days when instead of a tan line, a tan that crossed the line became news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been tanning my whole life.
BILL MAHER, TV HOST: And you get to be the same color as a 500-year- old ice man mummy? Stop.
MOOS: We eventually put the tan mom story to bed, but the tanning bed is back in the news. Where more precisely repealing the tanning tax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paid for on the backs of so many females.
MOOS: As part of Obamacare, tanning customers have been paying a 10 percent tax. The idea was to deter people from risking skin cancer, and also to bring in revenue.
President Obama joked about it at the time.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Following individuals shall be excluded from the indoor tanning tax within this bill. Snooki, JWoww, and The Situation, and House Minority Leader John Boehner.
MOOS: In those days, Boehner was the most famous orange guy. But he's been replaced by the man comedians loved to paint with a broad brush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Agent Orange.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That orange --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An old piece of luggage covered in Cheez Whiz.
MOOS: The new Republican health care bill will repeal the tax on tanning, prompting tweets like "the Cheeto in chief probably doesn't like the tanning tax."
Of course, we don't know for sure if the president uses a tanning bed or maybe tanning spray. Some makeup artists think he is using the wrong shade of makeup on top of a spray tan.
The industry says the tax has forced half of the tanning salons in the country to close, while critics argue that fear of cancer is what's driving away customers.
Missouri Republican Jason Smith said that the sun is what causes most cancer, facetiously suggesting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why have they not proposed a tax on the sun?
MOOS: It used to be orange is the new tax, but now, it's the new president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cream sickle --
MOOS: Better a cream sickle than?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is burned up!
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" starts right now.