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FBI Investigating Computer Connection Between Trump Organization, Russian Bank; GOP Showdown Over ACA Repeal Heats Up. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired March 10, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't had entirely forthcoming answers from the director of the FBI.
[05:58:40] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James Comey meeting with the congressional Gang of Eight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those walls are going to have to come down if we're going to do our job.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confident that the bipartisan congressional committees will arrive at the right conclusion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: FBI investigators continue to examine whether there was a computer connection between with the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to the Trump corporate server some 2,800 times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The current healthcare system is a monstrosity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to get healthcare reform right. We don't have to get it fast.
REP. PAUL RYAN (D-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare.
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. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, March 10, 6 a.m. here in New York.
Up first, FBI Director James Comey meeting behind closed doors with the eight lawmakers who have access to the nation's most sensitive data including that on Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election. What did Comey tell them?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We also have some reporting for you. CNN is learning that federal investigators are continuing to examine this alleged computer server connection between the Trump Organization server and a Russian bank. What exactly is known and what could it mean?
Also, the battle within the GOP over healthcare is real. We have the latest on day 50 of the Trump presidency.
Let's begin with Joe Johns at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Still not a lot of detail from those meetings, between FBI Director James Comey and members of Congress. As they get down to their investigation of Russia and all the related issues, the big questions right now is how much Comey may be willing to share on Capitol Hill and how much members of Congress are going to be able to disclose.
JOHNS (voice-over): FBI Director James Comey heading to Capitol Hill as tension builds between the Justice Department and lawmakers over President Trump's unsubstantiated wiretapping claims.
The Justice Department under pressure to deny or provide evidence of the president's allegation. Comey meeting with the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of lawmakers cleared to receive access to the nation's most highly classified Intelligence Committee.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: As part of the Gang of Eight, we want to be informed on a period basis.
JOHNS: This Intelligence Committee now said to be extended to all 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Prior to the meeting, the House Intelligence Chairman and the committee's top Democrat both taking issue with Comey, saying he hasn't been forthcoming with intelligence regarding Russia's interference in the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, we have some questions about whether or not last year we were read into everything that we should have been read into.
SCHIFF: There's no way that we can discharge our responsibilities if the FBI isn't willing to cooperate with us and tell us about any counterintelligence investigation that is going on.
JOHNS: Congressman Adam Schiff accusing Comey of stonewalling in a briefing last week.
SCHIFF: There were very large areas that were walled off, and those walls are going to have to come down if we're going to do our job.
JOHNS: But the Justice Department continues to decline comment on whether President Trump is or is not the subject of an investigation, once again, leaving his press secretary, Sean Spicer, spinning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Justice Department is saying that they never gave you the assurances that you gave us.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: OK. What the assurance I gave you, Margaret, was that I'm not aware. And that is 100 percent accurate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when you said no reason to believe, it was "I'm not aware"?
SPICER: That's right. I mean, I don't know that they're not interchangeable. I'm not aware; I don't believe. Look it up in a thesaurus, and find some other ways, but I don't know that there's a distinction there.
JOHNS: Journalists may get an opportunity to toss questions to the president for the first time this week. He's got a pair of photo ops on camera. He's also meeting with his homeland security director, as well as the CIA director.
Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: Joe, appreciate it. Have a new weekend. We have new information for you, as well. CNN learning that there could be a possible link between computer servers belonging to a Russian bank and the Trump Organization.
CNN correspondent Pamela Brown and Jose Pagliery broke the story. Let's go first to Pamela, live in Washington, with details. Pamela, what do you know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we've learned that FBI investigators and computer scientists continue 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 this 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 morning, accusing investigators of tapping his phone.
We are told that there was no FISA warrant on this particular server, but 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 the FBI's counterintelligence team, the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election is still examining it.
One official I spoke with said the server relationship is 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's any significance to it so this probe remains open. Now, the FBI declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to our request for comment -- Chris. CUOMO: All right, Pamela, thank you for that piece of it. So now
Jose, come on in on this and make the case about what's odd in these communications. WE know it got very confused. There were all these outside agencies and experts looking at it. What do we see here so far?
JOSE PAGLIERY, CNN INVESTIGATOR CORRESPONDENT: So this will get highly technical very quickly, but I'll take it slow.
What's odd about these communications is that the Russian bank repeatedly looked up the very unique Internet address that the particular computer server used here in the U.S. by the Trump Organization.
In the computer world, this is the equivalent of looking up someone's phone number over and over again. Now necessarily, while there isn't a phone call it usually indicates an intention to communicate. That's what several told us.
Now, one particular group of computer scientists who obtained these leaked Internet records, records that frankly, were never supposed to be made public. They were puzzled as to why a Russian bank would be doing this particular thing. Was it trying to send an e-mail to the Trump Organization? They just couldn't tell.
[06:05:06] Now last summer, during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server some 2,800 times. To put that in perspective, that's more look-ups than the Trump server received from any other source. The only other entity doing Internet look-ups as often as this was Spectrum Health. That is a medical facility chain, led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos.
And if that name sounds familiar, it's because Betsy DeVos was later appointed as U.S. education secretary by President Trump.
Now these two entities alone made up 99 percent of the look-ups. Computer scientists we spoke to just found that plain weird. All the corporations involved, though, say they never communicated by e-mail with the Trump Organization, and they each have different explanations for the server activity. But they haven't provided proof, and they don't agree.
For example, the Russian bank thinks it was receiving Trump Hotel e- mail marketing last summer. But it hasn't provided CNN with a single e-mail to back that up. Meanwhile the American marketing company that would have been sending those e-mails on Trump's behalf said it wasn't doing so at the time. Alfa Bank, for its part, said not a single executive had any affiliation at all with President Trump or the Trump Organization.
So in essence, this potential computer link remains a mystery.
CUOMO: All right. So you're right. This does get complex quickly. So Alfa Bank saying, "We stayed at some of the Trump hotels. Maybe this was spam," and some of our malware detection, our defense system requires our computers to go look at who sent us this spam as a way to defeat that spam. That's why they were contacting this server.
The benefit of doubt on that one is that this Trump server was supposedly doing that type of work, marketing work. Does that wash?
PAGLIERY: The explanations line-up. But when people ask for proof, show us an e-mail that shows that it was delivering marketing during the summertime, when these 2,800 look-ups happened. Everyone is throwing their hands up: "We don't have e-mail. Sorry, they're not around."
CAMEROTA: Jose, Pamela, stay with us if you would. We're going to need some help. We want to bring in our panel right now. We have CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis; CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; and CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith?", David Gregory.
Errol, it is complicated. It's also complicated, Errol, because Sean Spicer has had a very tough time when reporters have asked him whether or not the Trump Organization or Mr. Trump or someone connected to it is under investigation by the FBI. He has done all sorts of verbal gymnastics, trying to explain what's going on.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. If you were to ask him about sort of the next step in the logical chain, which is what kind of business was the Trump Organization doing with Russian financiers? And we know that they have done quite a lot in the past, maybe not necessarily Alfa Bank, maybe not necessarily in the time frame that we're looking at.
Sean Spicer will say, "Look, I'm not going to talk about that from the podium. I'm the president's spokesman. I'm not a spokesman for the Trump Organization. And so here we have the whole conflict laid out for us that everybody warned against. Many people complained about and that Donald Trump sort of idly dismissed all throughout the campaign.
CUOMO: All right. So two things. Jose, as you've been looking at this during the campaign. There's no mention of a FISA warrant in the original "New York Times" reporting about this.
You didn't have anybody in your reporting say, yes, that was a FISA warrant. That was part of that. So that still doesn't explain why he would be so curious to finger President Obama as personally coming after him.
PAGLIERY: Sure. And we probed this. We're looking for a FISA warrant. We're looking to find any information that would show that maybe this server was tapped. We haven't found that. All we know is that the counterintelligence team at the FBI is looking at this issue. That's it.
CAMEROTA: David Gregory, your thoughts?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, what you have here is a lot of clues that point to something, and we're not exactly sure what it was. The idea that there's contact between Trump officials and the Russian government at a time when Russia is up to no good and trying to manipulate the U.S. election.
We have no evidence of collusion of anything that's been done wrong in terms of that contact. But we do have concealment.
You know, people like Michael Flynn, even the attorney general, who are now disclosing everything that they've done in terms of contacting the Russians at a time when the Russians were up to no good.
So that's the difficulty here. And of course, the president has made this so much worse by either revealing something that is potentially incriminating about an investigation about him or simply making things up. And in either scenario, it's not so good. So he's putting his press secretary in a very difficult position.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of leaks that are going on about this investigation that have the administration rightfully frustrated by all of this, and Congress trying to advance the idea of a coherent investigation. I don't know that we're going to get there. So I think this is still going to be very piecemeal about what the potential contact was and perhaps more mystery than we have solid clues that point to anything that would suggest that any Trump official or the Trump campaign was actually colluding with Russia to manipulate the U.S. election.
[06:10:23] CUOMO: Well, look, Pamela, let's get a little frame of reference here for timing. Timing is indicative with the FBI about how seriously they take something. You know, they never tell you that they're closing a case unless it's very politically sensitive.
But the longer they're looking at something usually indicates an intensity of purpose. And what do we know about looking at this server connection, for instance, and how long they've been doing this?
BROWN: Well, I can tell you in this case, it's not as though there's any renewed efforts or the ramping up efforts, looking at this. But I can also tell you that they haven't discarded it. They've been looking at this potential connection since during the campaign when it was first brought to investigators' attention.
The FBI cyber-division looked at this, and one theory was that there could be an innocuous explanation for it. It was handed over to the FBI's counterintelligence team, as I mentioned, the same team that's looking into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election.
So this is one potential piece of the overall puzzle, but essentially, I'm told that they have this uncorroborated information; and investigators are still trying to corroborate it, still trying to figure out what this all means. As I said, one of the people I spoke with said, "Look, this -- this is odd. This is perplexing. There could be an innocuous explanation, or there could be some other explanation. We just don't know, and we still need to figure that out.
CAMEROTA: So Jackie, as we try to piece this puzzle together, so too, do lawmakers. Congressman Adam Schiff had said that he felt that James Comey was stonewalling. So yesterday, Comey is summoned to Capitol Hill to meet with -- we have the names of these -- the Gang of Eight members. And you can see here, these are the -- these are the people who had access to the nation's most sensitive intel.
So what do we think happened? I mean, did James Comey sort of open the kimono and explain what was -- what's really going on with the FBI, or would he not do that?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We just don't know yet. Lawmakers were not talking about the details of the meeting. It is classified, of course, but what we do know is there is a hearing on March 20, and lawmakers are trying to get prepared for this and have all the information before they begin this -- this public look.
But, you know, you had them, both Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, complaining about how the FBI has been treating Congress. And they don't really agree on much these days.
So Comey sort of had to go up there and get right before -- as this -- as this information comes out. Congress also doesn't like surprises. So when the president was tweeting on Saturday morning about these alleged wiretaps, you had a lot of questions coming from some of the most powerful and well informed and these members of Congress with security clearances, and that's really good for the FBI.
CUOMO: So supposedly, they will get the committee, the full committee is going to get the information that the FBI has that they believe is relevant on this.
But Errol, final point on this. There is a lot of clues, as David said, but clues as to what? I mean, doesn't the Trump team still have high ground in saying, "You have not shown one shred of proof that anybody related to the president, let alone the president himself, has had anything to do with Russia that was wrong." Fair statement?
LOUIS: Yes, but, and the big "but" is it's damaging to have all of the speculation and you start to wonder...
CUOMO: But that's why he puts it on us, and he puts it on the Democrats and he says, "You guys keep asking the questions. There are no good answers, but you're doing it anyway, because you want to hurt me."
LOUIS: Well, yes. See, I think that's where it falls apart. Because look, most of the public, when they hear these things, they realize that, hey, this is not something that you can just kind of ignore. Say, well, "We don't have any proof." So let's pretend that, you know, evidence of cyber-attacks in our democracy don't matter.
Let's pretend that the obvious financial relationships that Trump and the Trump Organization have with Russian oligarchs, Russian banks, Russian financiers, Russian government figures is something where we're just going to pretend didn't exist. That's not really how it works. I mean, the way oversight works, and I think this is where the problem is going to begin, once Congress gets involved, whether it's the Gang of Eight, full committee or anybody else, is that, you know, they have a duty, and some people take their duty seriously to be able to explain what happened.
And the burden really doesn't lie on the media, and it doesn't lie on Congress. And it doesn't lie on people who have some questions about the stuff to try and explain, or we all just go away. And Sean Spicer, I think, is learning that day by day. There's a hungry pack of press people who are going to say, "Look, no, the burden is on you to explain why Michael Flynn didn't disclose his ties to Turkey and everything else. The burden is on you to explain why you never vetted this."
[06:15:09] The burden is on the Trump people to explain what happened with Paul Manafort and what was going on inside of Trump Tower, where he owns an apartment, at the same time as he was also separating himself from the campaign. These are not questions that are going to go away.
CAMEROTA: Jose, Pamela, thank you for sharing all of your reporting with us. Pam, thank you. And panel, stick around, please. We have many more questions.
So the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare is heating up on Capitol Hill. Is the Trump administration privately bending to conservatives? And could that somehow kill the entire bill? We take a closer look at what's happening next.
CAMEROTA: So the healthcare showdown continues to heat up as the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare gets closer to the House floor. Sources tell CNN the White House is now backing an earlier rollback of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, and that could spell trouble for the bill once it hits the Senate. It's complicated, so let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live from Capitol Hill.
What's the latest, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
It is complicated, but this healthcare plan has gotten through two hurdles closer to getting to the House floor, going through two committees. The main issue here, however, the amount of federal dollars that goes to states for Medicaid.
[06:20:17] This is an issue that threatens to divide and tear apart the moderate and conservative Republicans.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): The White House undermining Republican leaders with mixed messages on their party's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president publicly giving solid support to the American Healthcare Act.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a plan that's going to be, I think, fantastic.
MALVEAUX: But privately, telling hardline conservatives he is open to negotiations centered on Obamacare's Medicare expansion, potentially changing the bill to phase out the Medicaid expansion years sooner than currently called for. A speedy rollback would win over some conservative critics.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: It says we're going to repeal Obamacare, but we're going to keep Medicare expansion and we're going to extend it. That's not what we told the voters we were going to do.
MALVEAUX: But it could doom the bill in the Senate. Several moderate Republicans backing the current bill say that could change their vote.
SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), WEST VIRGINIA: The expansion of Medicaid is tremendously important to 184,000 West Virginians.
MALVEAUX: Rolling back the expansion would also likely infuriate Republican governors whose states get federal Medicaid funding through the expansion.
REP. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: There are some very conservative Republicans in the House who are going to say, "Just get rid of the whole thing." And, you know, that's not acceptable.
MALVEAUX: Cutting the expansion, which covers 11 million Americans, could also anger voters after then-candidate Trump made promises like this one during the 2015 presidential announcement.
TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.
MALVEAUX: But Republican House speaker Paul Ryan continues to roll up his sleeves to pitch to the GOP that it's now or never.
RYAN: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here. The time is now.
MALVEAUX: And Speaker Ryan really sees this as a sense of urgency, because it comes on the heels of the campaign promise that both Republicans and the president made to repeal and replace Obamacare.
At the same time, senior administration officials say that the president has a renewed interest in pushing this through, as well. He sees it as a real test to his skills, his ability as a deal maker, and later today he's going to be meeting with key House members -- Chris, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much.
Let's bring back the panel. We have Errol Louis, Jackie Kucinich, David Gregory.
David Gregory, let's pick up on the state of play politically here. We're seeing the speaker of the House redouble efforts to let people know that "Time is now. This is not a beginning. This is the end. We must act."
It doesn't seem to be working with the Steve Kings and the Meadows and the -- well, let's leave it at those two for right now. You know, that wing. I don't want to put everybody in that same group. You know, Portman has different feelings about it. But that urgency doesn't seem to be connecting.
GREGORY: No, because there are those concerns like about Medicaid, which come back to -- that are causing lawmakers so say slow this down a little bit.
You know, I think Paul Ryan recognizes, as he said, that this is the opportunity. He wants to get it done. He wants to get it through. If they get mired in healthcare and can't agree, they can't move on to tax reform. And he's got to deal with so many different forces within his own caucus who want certain things.
I think the big test here is twofold. For a president who's going to get into the weeds on legislation and who's going to really get a deal done here, it's a big test for him on a policy area. And it's a gateway to some other really big things.
The other big test is, when you take away an entitlement that's been given, you're headed for trouble, politically. That's what's hard. And in terms of Medicaid, it is the most vulnerable in our country who have been given a certain lifeline by the expansion of Medicaid by more federal dollars. Conservatives are ideologically opposed to that, but they have to deal with the blowback when people are left without. How many millions of people will be left without healthcare as a result of repealing Obamacare? That's the political fallout, and that's really, I think, what's -- what's driving this debate in part.
CAMEROTA: And Jackie, I think it goes even a little further than what David is just saying, because it was a campaign promise of Donald Trump's, that he was going to preserve Medicaid as is.
Let's remind people what he said in the first hours of his presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud, get rid of the waste and abuse but save it. People have been paying in for years, and now many of these candidates want to cut it. You save it by making the United States, by making us rich again. By taking back all of the money that's being lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[06:25:06] CAMEROTA: So Jackie, now it sounds like he might be changing his tune, if you believe the people that he most recently met with.
KUCINICH: Well, I mean, if you talk about waste, fraud and abuse, you can get rid of all of that. And it still isn't going to have the same fiscal result as cutting Medicaid. And this comes down to dollars and cents, which is is why you hear some conservatives on the right kind of perplexed -- Senator Cassidy comes to mind -- as to why they're doing all of this without a score from the Congressional Budget Office.
That is going -- that could set them all the way back to square one, if they get something from the budget office that shows this is going to cost more money and cover less people. So that could -- so the fact that they're pushing forward without that score is causing some lawmakers to scratch their heads.
CUOMO: Now, I have an article on my Twitter thread about what the CBO got wrong with Obamacare. So there is some basis for criticism on what the CBO did on this issue before.
CUOMO: But they're pretty good at nailing numbers. Last point on this Errol. Is it fair to say that the Republicans, campaigning so hard on complete real repeal, overshot the mark a little bit on this?
Because let's say Trump had 60 million people vote for him, OK? Only a small slice of them, impossible for all of them to be on Obamacare. You're not dealing with a -- with a program that covers 80, 90 percent of the American people; but they've made it seem as though this is existential, that if we don't get rid of this, we all lose. Did they overshoot a little bit?
LOUIS: Well, they certainly described it that way. And there were people who were criticizing that all along. They've been saying for seven or eight years that everything wrong with the economy is the fault of Obamacare. That, you know, slow growth and productivity problems all goes back to Obamacare. Most people who understand the stuff know that wasn't true, but that's what they said. That's the bed that they made. Now they have to lie in it.
I think more to the point, though, Paul Ryan has got a 23-, 24-seat majority in the House. He's got to deliver to make sure that he keeps that majority. So they're going to walk down this path even if the bill, as currently being discussed, is in fact, dead on arrival and there are -- there are Republican senators who have said exactly that. Dead on arrival.
On the other hand, he's got to just move the ball and sort of handle his part, and then the fact that there are Republican senators, Republican governors who -- frankly, a Republican president who have all said, "We need the Medicaid expansion. That's not a problem for us." He'll leave that problem for another day for somebody else to fix.
CAMEROTA: All right. There will be developments, no doubt, this morning. We will cover them. Panel, thank you very much for walking us through all of this.
Up next, we do have some breaking news from South Korea. Deadly protests erupting in the streets, following the removal of the country's president. This is the highest level of emergency declared in Seoul. We are there live when NEW DAY continues.
CUOMO: All right. We have breaking news out of South Korea. Protestors have taken to the streets, following a constitutional court's ruling that upholds the impeachment of the president there over a corruption scandal. This is the first time South Korea has gone through this. We know that at least two protestors have died.