Return to Transcripts main page
Replacement Bill's cost expected to be out this Monday yet Democrats and even some GOP members are skeptical of the Plan and would block it from going to the senate. German Chancellor to meet President Trump this coming Tuesday and reports say he may be asked question in regards to his wiretapping allegation against his predecessor; "Mostly Humans" Explores Love, Sex And Death Through Tech; House Intel Demands To See Wiretapping Evidence Monday; Pope Open To Married Men Becoming Priests. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 12, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right. More freedom, more choices, less cost? That's the sales pitch from Republican leadership promoting their bill to replace ObamaCare today. And tomorrow, we could learn how much it's going to cost. That's when the nonpartisan congressional budget office is expected to release its report on the GOP bill.
Sticker shock is the last thing the president needs to get this bill passed as Republicans are already deeply divided on key parts of the proposed legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PRICE, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through understanding that they will have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARK: I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans. And it wouldn't deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans. So I would say to my friends in the house of representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me now to talk more about all this, CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, he is a Washington correspondent for The New Yorker and CNN contributor Wesley Lowery, he is a political reporter for "The Washington Post". Good to see both of you.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Wesley, you first. Do you think tomorrow's report from the budget office will present a formidable obstacle for Republican leadership?
WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTER: Well, I think it's not going to present much more of an obstacle than they have already seemed. In terms of, you know, people like Senator Tom Cotton, seemingly throwing the Republican leadership under the bus in saying that he would encourage his colleagues not to vote for this piece of legislation.
I mean, I think the political blowback is already reaching a bit of a fever pitch. And I'm not sure that the CBO report no matter what is in and as it speaks to the cost of this legislation is going to be even greater than the opposition they've seen currently. It's not going to help Paul Ryan's argument or the argument for congressional Republicans for this legislation. But I also don't know that this will somehow be the nail in the coffin of this piece of legislation.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And so Ryan, is it a potential setback? You've got Rand Paul who took the airwaves today along with Tom Cotton in opposition or, at least, some real reservations expressed about this GOP plan.
LIZZA: Yes. Because I disagree with Wesley a little bit on this. I think the CBO report is a bomb that could detonate this bill. And Wesley is absolutely right, it's running to a lot of trouble in its first week of the rollout.
But here we're going to have the first nonpartisan assessments of the bill. And the CBO has played this role before. If you go back and look at the history of major healthcare reforms, the nonpartisan analysis is everything.
Lyndon Johnson didn't have a CBO. He basically just made up all the numbers and the estimates and that's one of the reasons it was a lot easier to pass medicare back in the '60s. In the '70s, they changed the budgeting rules. They added the CBO as this nonpartisan institution. And it has bedeviled presidents ever since.
Quick story, Fred, in the ObamaCare debate, I remember one of Obama's senior advisers telling me that Barack Obama was so frustrated with the CBO because it had such a big impact on what he wanted to do. And every time they came out with a report, it sort of shaped the narrative that at one meeting, he banned his aides from using the term CBO and everyone started calling it banana.
So that's what a big deal they are. We're going to have numbers on how many people are going to lose coverage. We're going to have cost numbers for the first time. And you're going to have Democrats who actually have something to hold on to here and say, look, nonpartisan CBO says X, Y and Z.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And these numbers could potentially cement whether one is on board or not.
WHITFIELD: So what are the other arguments against the bill? Is this plan to rollback medicaid expansion? But the Director Mick Mulvaney spoke with Jake Tapper about that earlier today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OMB: Just because you spend less money on something doesn't mean it can't get better. In fact, the private sector does that all the time. The phone you have in front of you is cheaper now that it was before but it's a better quality that it was before. That's one of the things we're trying to drive into medicaid as part of this discussion about replacing ObamaCare. We're trying to make medicaid a lot more efficient.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wesley, is this going to be a tough sell, making it more efficient with less money?
LOWERY: Well, of course. I mean, I think so. There's also an interview this morning with Ohio Governor John Kasich in which he talks about what the bill wants to do to medicaid not being tenable.
Ohio, being a crucial state and a state where 700,000 people have taken advantage of the medicaid expansion, you even -- and my colleague (inaudible) Contreras got a great piece from McDowell County, West Virginia, today in "The Washington Post", I was just there a week or two ago (00:05:00).
This is the heart of coal country where many people just gave big support to Donald Trump, one of the first counties that Trump won in terms of the Republican primary. And it's the place where many people don't realize that the medicaid expansion they receive, in fact, came from the Affordable Care Act.
And so, there's definitely a real question about how politically tenable this type of repeal and replace remains especially as it relates to the medicaid expansion as more voters begin to realize the depths of the impact of the Affordable Care Act as it relates to medicaid expansion.
WHITFIELD: Yes, it's a powerful article in the "Post". And so Ryan, I mean, this has been a long fight for the Republicans trying to repeal ObamaCare. And you heard Paul Ryan earlier today, also say that this isn't something that we just came up with overnight. This is a plan we've been working on for a very long time. So why is it such a heavy lift to get so many others in the GOP on board?
LIZZA: Well, a few reasons. One, healthcare is difficult because all the stakeholders have competing interests, obviously. And most of the major stakeholders are not on board with this bill, which is frankly surprising because that was the first thing that Clinton tried to do, the first thing that Barack Obama tried to do, the first thing that George W. Bush tried to do when he worked on medicare part D.
So these guys right now in the house, they don't have the AARP on board. It's the group that represents seniors. They don't have the hospitals on board, all the major stakeholders. It looks like they do -- WHITFIELD: The American Medical Association.
LIZZA: The American Medical Association. So that's the first thing. The second thing is on their right flank, they have a lot of conservatives who want ObamaCare repealed totally and want to start over. And then, they have moderates, as Wesley pointed out, like John Kasich and other Republican governors who have expanded medicaid via ObamaCare and they want to keep that.
At the end of the day, Barack Obama spent a trillion dollars and expanded coverage by 20 million people. Republicans don't want to spend that kind of money on insurance expansion, and I think they're sort of dancing around that issue, right?
At the end of the day, that's their argument, that the government should be less involved in this system. And that means fewer people are going to be insured. And I think at some point, they will just have to grapple with the fact that that's what they're doing here and explaining why they believe that's better.
WHITFIELD: And it's not just about the Republican leadership on the hill, this is a big campaign promise for President Trump and this is a big week for President Trump not only does the wiretapping evidence, is it expected to be handed over to the house intelligence committee by tomorrow. But also there's a joint conference, news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Donald Trump.
And most certainly, gentlemen, the questions will be hurled at the president about his comments on wiretapping, where is the evidence? So Wesley, how do you suppose the president is planning on handling that this week?
LOWERY: Well, I would never even begin to attempt to predict how President Trump is going to handle something. But, I would say that there does seem to be, you know, clearly pressure continuing to build not just to Donald Trump's left but rather the President Trump's right. I mean, Senator John McCain earlier today essentially saying put up or shut up, President Trump. Give us evidence of this.
I mean, we have to remember, it can be hard sometimes because of the pace and the fire hose of developments from this president but he accused his predecessor with a pretty major crime, potentially.
WHITFIELD: They give it (ph) as fact.
LOWERY: Exactly. And so, I think that there's a real question here. I don't know that this allegation, the wiretapping, unlike perhaps the city murder rates allegations, I don't know that this is something that's going away. I think there's going to be a continued political pressure for the president to produce some type of evidence to back up and substantiate his claim.
LIZZA: Yes. Look, you can't make stuff up if you're president of the United States and you especially can't make something up as grave as this. And the Republicans, Democrats and the media are not letting this go. And I think the White House realizes that.
And the end result here is we're going to get the facts. And we're going to know whether he was correct in saying this or not. And hopefully it will affect him in the future when he makes a reckless allegation like this. So far, there's been absolutely no evidence of what he accused Barack Obama of doing.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Let me just bring it back to, just quickly, to as we button this up, about healthcare coverage, the GOP plan, a big concern by so many has been expressed and wondering if the CBO numbers are going to support this, that millions might lose coverage as opposed to enrollment increasing. And this is what Paul Ryan had to say on CBS today in terms of answering the question of who might lose coverage. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DICKERSON, JOURNALIST: How many people are going to lose coverage under this new (00:10:00) --
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I can't answer that question. It's up to people. Here's the premise to your question.
Are you going to stop mandating people buy health insurance? People are going to do what they they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country. So the question is, are we providing a system where people have access to health insurance if they choose to do so? And the answer is.
But are we going to have some nice looking spreadsheet that says we, the government of the United States, are going to make people buy something and therefore, they're all going to buy it. No. That's the fatal conceit of ObamaCare in the first place.
So it's not our job to make people do something that they don't want to do. It is our job to have a system where people can get universal access to affordable coverage if they choose to do so or not. That's what we're going to be accomplishing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Ryan, is that the issue, changing the availability in which healthcare is covered as opposed to mandating that everyone has it, so that there is access for everyone?
LIZZA: Well, this is why that CBO report is going to be so important because it's going to cut through a lot of the fog on this issue and a lot of the platitudes.
At the end of the day, if you are right now just above the poverty line and you don't have the expanded medicare available to you and you don't have enough of the tax credits or subsidies from the government to pay for healthcare, then you don't have access to healthcare. And the CBO report will be useful and that it will spell that out in very clear terms. And essentially fact check what Paul Ryan said right there.
Who is it that is currently able to buy healthcare, whether it's on the exchanges or through the expansion of medicaid, the two big Obama expansions, will they be able to do that after this bill passes? That's what we're going to be looking forward tomorrow. And so that's why that CBO report is going to be so important.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And Wesley?
LOWERY: Of course, I agree with Ryan. I think that there's definitely -- you know, and the CBO report is going to come on the heels of some analysis by Brookings and some other people that have began to show us what we think we will probably see from the CBO report which will be likely in the millions of people who will be losing some level of access to care.
But I think also, when you look at Speaker Ryan's comments, he frames this in kind of an ideological theoretical way, you know, what is the role of the federal government as it relates to providing and the requiring with a mandate individual health insurance and coverage than this idea of an individual mandate requiring coverage verse the theoretical choice that someone might have, I think that's probably a hard sell among many Americans who, what they will see and what they will know is that currently under medicaid expansion, I have access to this type of care. And under a shifting in this, I might not after 2020 or depending on which Republican you listen to, perhaps even after next year.
And so, what I think is interesting is, when you look at the polling, this has always been true, people don't like the idea of ObamaCare but people also largely have not seemed to understand the idea of ObamaCare. And as more specifics are discussed, what we've seen is that ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, has never been more popular and I think 54 percent right now.
And not only is it more popular that it's been but, previously, when you looked at the polling, it was typically a toss-up, 48 percent in favor of it, 47 percent. We've also seen the number of people who say they do not support the Affordable Care Act or they don't like it, completely dropping as well as people begin to have an understanding of, oh, wait, that thing that I'm now taking an advantage of is in part due to the Affordable Care Act.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And reportedly enrollment is up right now. All right.
LIZZA: Fred, one quick final comment. What Ryan just said there, remember, is very different than what Trump said in January. In January, Trump told Wesley's newspaper his plan would've be insurance, "Insurance for everybody."
WHITFIELD: For everyone, yes.
LIZZA: And that changed as this went through congress and Paul Ryan took the reins. That's why this is the more -- WHITFIELD: And it especially underscoring people who are healthy,
shouldn't be paying exorbitantly for those who are not, which that becomes an arguable premise as well.
LIZZA: Well, that's what insurance is. The people that don't use it pay for the people who do whether it's fire insurance, life insurance, you name it.
WHITFIELD: That's it. All right. Ryan Lizza and Wesley Lowery, thank you so much. I appreciate, gentlemen.
LIZZA: Thanks, Fred.
LOWERY: Thanks for having us.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you.
All right. Also, still ahead, he was armed with mace and a letter for President Donald Trump. Now, we've got new details on the man who jumped this fence at the White House.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (00:15:00)
WHITFIELD: All right. The fallout continues today over the controversial firing of the high profile U.S. attorney from New York. Democrats and Republicans are responding to the news about Preet Bharara, a one of several dozen U.S. attorneys asked by the Trump administration to resign. Well, he refused and then got fired.
The move has stirred up controversy because President Trump reportedly assured Bharara his job was secure. Senator John McCain was asked about that today on "State Of The Union".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: Well, I don't know what his promise was to Mr. Bharara but I do know that other administrations have done the same thing perhaps not in as abrupt to fashion but elections have consequences. And so, for people who are complain about it, they're ignoring the history of new presidencies. And I think the president had every right to ask for their resignations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's bring in CNN's Sara Ganim for more details on all of this. So Sara, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also reacting to the news. Bharara was his chief council at one time.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. And Schumer is the reason Bharara got this job eight years ago. And now it appears, he may be the reason that he lost the job, too.
A source telling CNN that President Trump fired Bharara in reaction to Senator Schumer's aggressive opposition to the president's agenda as the senate minority leader. Schumer would not address those allegations today but said that he was surprised by how all of this went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), U.S. SENATE MINORITY LEADER: He will be sorely missed (00:20:00). Preet took on Wall Street and corruption among public officials better than anyone else. I believe the president's decision that change his mind and fire Preet says far more about the president than it does about Preet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANIM: Now, Senator Schumer says that back in November, President Trump asked him about keeping Preet Bharara. Of course, Schumer was supportive because Bharara had been Schumer's chief counsel. And eight years ago, he recommended to President Obama that he hire Bharara to lead the Southern District of New York.
A source told CNN that Trump had wanted to keep Bharara back in November as a gesture to Schumer who -- he's supportive for years but since November, Schumer has really launched a fierce opposition to Trump and his agenda.
Now, of course, Schumer would not address the allegations of the president's motive or wouldn't say if this was some sort of retaliation against Senator Schumer, it certainly was a shock to many since President Trump made such a public show of telling Bharara that he'd keep him on last year. And after asking him and 46 other U.S. attorneys to resign last week, the president tried to call Preet Bharara but Bharara refused to answer the phone because of this Chinese wall that's supposed to exist to protect investigations from political influence.
Now, Schumer is not the only one reacting to all of this today. Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "Preet Bharara had authority over Trump Tower. Donald Trump calling him directly breaching protocol. Twenty-four hours later, he was asked to resign.
And in a statement, senate judiciary member Patrick Leahy said that the abrupt firing of all 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by President Obama, he said, the abrupt Friday night firing is another reminder that the independence of the justice department is at risk under this administration. Adding that the senate will now have to carefully evaluate all of the president's selected replacements for these jobs. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Sara Ganim, bring us any more reporting when you get it, thank you so much.
All right. Meantime, the man accused of jumping a fence and getting close to the south entrance of the White House while President Trump was inside will face a federal judge tomorrow. The secret service says 26-year-old Jonathan Tran of California had two cans of mace and a letter for the president in his backpack. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more from Washington.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, the suspect in this case, 26-year-old Jonathan T. Tran, is currently in custody awaiting a Monday arraignment hearing in federal court.
He's facing a serious charge after being caught near the south portico entrance of the White House just 200 feet from President Trump's bedroom window with a backpack. If convicted, Tran faces up to ten years in federal prison. His brother tells CNN that before the incident, Tran was in a low place, having just been laid off from a job at an electrical engineering firm and he was living out of his car.
His attempt to get into the White House, while ultimately unsuccessful, was still an enormous security breach. He gained access to the grounds by hopping a fence by the treasury department on the east side of the White House. And according to a former secret service agents, he would've had to hop multiple fences to end up at that famous south portico entrance.
Tran was carrying two cans of mace, a backpack, a laptop, one of Donald Trump's books and a letter to the president. He told the secret service officer that arrested him that he was a friend of the president and had an appointment. The president was at the White House at the time but was never in danger. He later called Tran troubled but commended the work of the secret service.
Tran's mental health will likely become an important part of his legal battle. He told the officer that arrested him that he'd been called schizophrenic. This will no doubt tough, once again, raise questions about the security in and around the White House as this was the most significant attempt to illegally enter the president's home since 2014, when a man hopped the fence and actually made it all the way through the north portico door before being stopped. Fred?
WHITFIELD: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.
All right. Still ahead, former Vice President Joe Biden and his moonshot to end cancer. He's speaking this afternoon in Austin, Texas, by the south by Southwest Conference. We will take you there live, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (00:25:00)
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Former Vice President Joe Biden is taking his fight against cancer to Texas today, speaking at the south by Southwest Tech Conference in Austin. And that's where we find CNN senior tech correspondent Laurie Segall. Hey, Laurie.
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there.
WHITFIELD: So tell me, what's on tap for the vice president or former vice president?
SEGALL: Yes. Well, I will tell you, there are lines out the door because a lot of people are so excited to see the vice president come here to speak. And it's also very reminiscing of last year when President Barack Obama came to speak and Barack Obama then kind of went out to entrepreneurs and said we need you to solve some of these really challenging problems that are facing the nation.
Now fast-forward a year later and you have Vice President Biden or former Vice President Biden doing the exact same thing. But this time, he's focusing on cancer. This is obviously, as many of us know, something that's very near and dear to him. Before he left office, he announced a cancer moonshot initiative.
And so today, he's going to actually call on all these entrepreneurs and say we need you to come up with some creative solutions to take on this really challenging problem that touches so many people's lives. And this is a really good audience for that because you had a lot of creative minds, a lot of smart people who are lining up right now as we speak to see him, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow, that incredible. All right, meantime, you also have a new tech series coming out. Let's take a look at a preview of "Mostly Humans."
WHITFIELD: So Laurie, tell us more about this because it's not like the Jetson's robot. This is something else.
SEGALL: Not quite, but we might -- I will say we might shock you. I did go to a robot engagement party in my reporting for this. So there's never a dull moment with this series. The idea behind it is to look at all the implications of technology and look at these fringe stories that might say something more about our relationship with tech.
I ended up going to a sex robot doll factory. I think we have images of that where they're building the real life "her." They're putting artificial intelligence in these life-like robots and hoping that people will form connections with them.
So there's all these weird ethical questions people are beginning to ask. One of our episodes goes into this idea of who is in control after the algorithms, how much is data impacting us, and we don't even know.
And by the way, a lot of folks, I think even here at South by Southwest are starting to ask some of these larger questions about technology and the implications. That's something we're seeing here as well -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: So what is the impetus of this? I mean, where's this come from? There's been talk about artificial intelligence for a very long time. The Jetsons, Rosie The Robot, but Rosie is doing domestic things at home. But this is about a relationship with your robot almost like a replacement for what other humans would be to humans, right?
SEGALL: Yes. I mean, what was unbelievable, when I went into this factory, and it's so easy to discount this and say what on earth is happening, this is so weird. When I talked to the guy who created these robots, and he said that he has all different types of clients, people who are lonely, people who might not have a normal relationship.
I said, don't you think human connection is needed for happiness. And he looked at me and he said straight up, absolutely not. I don't think it is. Now our technology is getting smarter and even more human. With that comes a lot of complicated questions.
I think that's what we try to touch on even with these stories that might seem outlandish and seem so different than something you would relate to. You try to find the human aspect in them and we go all across the world not just Silicon Valley to actually come out and find that. You'll be interested, shocked and surprised what you see with the show. It's streaming today so I hope you'll go watch it.
WHITFIELD: I can't wait to see it. Laurie, thank you so much for opening our minds, right? And the premiere of "Mostly Human" with Laurie Segall starts streaming today on CNN Go so be sure to watch.
Tomorrow, it's the deadline. The House Intelligence Committee wants to see evidence of Donald Trump's unsubstantiated wiretap claim. Coming up, will that deadline be met?
WHITFIELD: The clock is ticking, but a senior White House official, quote, "doesn't know" if the administration will be able to present to lawmakers tomorrow proof of President Donald Trump's claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones before the election.
The House Intel Committee wants all relevant documents about alleged wiretaps turned over by Monday. President Trump leveled the explosive accusation eight days ago in a series of tweets and has yet to provide any evidence.
And this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," Republican Senator John McCain told CNN's Jake Tapper, the president needs to back up his wiretap claims or retract his allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: President Trump has to provide the American people not just the Intelligence Committee, but the American people with evidence that his predecessor, former president of the United States, was guilty of breaking the law because our director of National Intelligence General Clapper testified that there was absolutely no truth to that allegation.
So I think the president has one of two choices. Either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here, to say the least.
I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute. All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of National Intelligence and say, OK, what happened? Because they certainly should know whether the former president of the United States was wiretapping Trump Towers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so let's discuss this with CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, who is also a former Secret Service agent, CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall, who is a retired CIA chief of Russian operations, and CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, who also worked as a CIA operative. Good to see all of you.
So Bob, let me begin with you. Senator McCain calling on the president to turn over proof, but that senior White House official telling CNN that it is unsure if the administration will hand over any evidence to the intel committee tomorrow. If that's the case, what do you make of that?
[14:40:03]ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, I think he got from an alt-right publication and radio station. He didn't pay any attention. He could have called up the Justice Department and asked if there was a warrant on his phone. He would have been told immediately within minutes. The CIA does not tap phones in New York City, does not tap Trump.
WHITFIELD: Then what has to be response tomorrow, though? I mean, how does the White House either acquiesce or respond to this deadline. The House Intel Committee says deliver up all the stuff right now today.
BAER: They can't because his phones weren't tapped. I hate making up my mind in advance of all the evidence, but in this case I have. He made a misstatement and this addresses his credibility because he could be making the same sort of statement regarding whether we're going to go to war or not and can we believe him? I agree with McCain, this is a huge issue that the president is in charge of national security and can we trust him.
WHITFIELD: So Jonathan, what if the White House just goes silent tomorrow, doesn't provide this evidence and just hopes it goes away? Will it, could it?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think the really the onus is on the president and the White House to come up with some sort of proof or a different type of understanding of what the president was talking about in his tweets. Unfortunately, you know, for the last eight days there's just been this ambiguity around wiretapping and the accusations that were made.
I think it's important to understand, you know, what perspective the president was talking about when he was talking about wiretapping. Is he talking about interception of telephone conversations and e-mail or is he talking about something where there was a device potentially placed, a covert listening or audio or video device in Trump Tower? Really we need to figure out exactly what his tweets mean.
WHITFIELD: Right. He needs to explain. So Speaker Paul Ryan, you know, was asked about this whole thing today about the wiretapping accusations. He was asked on CBS this morning and this is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This whole thing about Russia, I think he's frustrated with selective leaks coming from parts of government that malign his campaign. The reason why we think the intelligence communities are the ones that should do this is the last thing we want to do is compromise the sources and methods of our intelligence gathering so that we get to the bottom of all of this. But yes, there's been a lot of selective leaking, I think in many ways meant to malign the presidency, meant to get him off to a bad start, and he's expressing that frustration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard in the so-called "Gang of Eight," the top leaders who get this information. Have you seen anything to suggest there are wiretaps?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you clear up this question --
RYAN: Well, again, I don't want to get ahead of the intelligence committees. I don't want to get ahead of the intelligence committees and their thorough investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so Steve, a couple of things, he says no, hasn't seen any evidence, but to explain what the potential motivation could be that frustration may have come from these tweets from the president of the United States, is that enough or in your view should there be repercussions if indeed it turns out the White House has nothing, delivers nothing, and, indeed, it was just frustration that made him do this?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I agree with John McCain, which is, yes, he's got to either come up with something or he's got to, you know, say I apologize. I said something I ought not to have said. I don't know what the chances of that happening or happening are.
Another insidious part to this, Fred. It has to do with throwing all of this over into the Intelligence Oversight Committees whose primary job vis-a-vis Trump and Russia right now should be examining whether or not there is any collusion or cooperation before the election. And this is a very canny thing because now this gets put on to that agenda as well.
WHITFIELD: They lump up together.
HALL: Yes, it gets lumped together. So it distracts them but also kind of forces I think the American public to say, oh, there must be something to this because maybe the intelligence communities, oversight communities are now looking at it. It's very -- it's kind of smart on the White House's part to throw this over into that investigation.
WHITFIELD: So Bob, is it your concern that it becomes a distraction in that overall investigation involving Russia or members of the House Intel Committee and those in the intelligence community collectively are able to keep the eye on the ball still focus on what kind of relations, you know, with Russia there may have been, what kind of influence there may have been in the U.S. election and at the same time address this?
BAER: I agree with Steve. It's a distraction. I think Trump is worried about what sort of evidence is out there, what sort of evidence the intelligence community has about money going into the Trump Organization from Russia ultimately about potential collusion. We have one of Trump's advisors was in touch with the hacker in the DNC, which is beyond me why they would be communicating. There are so many questions out there.
WHITFIELD: Called (inaudible) 2.0.
BAER: Yes, and I go back to Darrell Issa last week. Let's get a special prosecutor. I don't see any way around it.
WACKROW: You know I think that, again, we don't know the totality of the circumstances here, you know, that we don't know what the intelligence communities are working on. We don't know where the president was coming from in his original tweets. Again, there's a lot of gray area here in this topic in general and the president really needs to come forward with the White House to just explain what he meant and lay out his argument.
WHITFIELD: All right, Gentlemen, thanks to all of you. Jonathan Wackrow, Steve Hall, Bob Baer, appreciate it. Talk to you again soon.
All right, meantime, there's a shortage of priests in the Catholic Church and the pope has a possible solution. Let married men be ordained. The pope saying the church needs to be fearless in the face of change, but is this the answer? We'll discuss, next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The Catholic Church is struggling with a shortage of priests. Now the pope might have a solution, accepting married men into the clergy. It's still just an idea, but one that is triggering a lot of debate within the Catholic community.
Let's talk now with CNN religion commentator, Father Edward Beck. Good to see you, Father. In an interview with the German newspaper Pope Francis said that he'd be open to the idea of allowing married men become priests but he makes one caveat. These men already must be married before being ordained. Explain what's behind this concession. FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, Fred, first of all, nothing theologically would need to change. Right now, we have priests who came from Protestant traditions, who came into Roman Catholicism with their wives and kids and function as Roman Catholic priests.
For the first thousand years of the church priests were married. So we know it can exist. It changed as a discipline with Canon Law. You had monks and nuns who were celibate. They didn't have the responsibilities of family. It seemed more virtuous, so they put a celibate priesthood on Roman Catholicism.
So history says it can change. There's nothing in scripture that says it can't change, and this pope says it can change. It's interesting to me, though, that he's saying, well, just for remote areas or maybe or only if you happen to be married already, if you're already a priest, you can't be married.
Those distinctions don't really make sense. Either you can have married priests or you can't. I'm not sure that maybe opening the door is a little is a point.
WHITFIELD: I see so it's an idea he's perhaps even waiting for feedback because there can't be an expectation that there are a whole lot more Protestant married, you know, priests who have happened to have converted to Catholicism, but the idea that there may be others of other faiths that would provide the pool in which this pope may pluck from?
BECK: That or maybe now he begins a conversation, he throws out these bombs, and then the conversation begins and maybe sets up a commission and we say, well, what about if someone is married or even a former priest and married, maybe they can come back and minister as priests. Maybe we can take that next step.
So he keeps pushing the ball a little bit more down the road and he's hoping, he said let's at least talk about it. Don't be afraid to talk about it. So I think he's opening the door for it.
WHITFIELD: So why is this happening? Because according to some sources cited there's something like 2,500 Catholics per priest compared to 851 per priest, you know, in recent years. There's just a large shortage, I guess, you know, within the Catholic community. I mean, why is that?
BECK: Well, vocations are certainly down in the United States, in Western Europe. I think there are cultural influences. I don't think parents really encourage vocations for their kids anymore. I don't think the sex scandal helped. I think there are other options now for people who want to minister in the church.
You see lay ministers and they say, well, why don't I just do it as a lay minister? Why do I have to be ordained? So there's a lot of factors. However in Asia, Africa, there are vocations where the church is growing. Interestingly they're sending missionaries to us to minister because we have the shortage. It's kind of very cyclical in some ways. The pope is saying maybe married clergy is the answer to the shortage and we should look at it especially in remote areas where clergy can't even get to people to say mass.
WHITFIELD: All right, now let's talk about this series "Finding Jesus" which airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time here on CNN. Here's a short clip.
WHITFIELD: So Father Beck, what can you tell us about the evidence supporting the existence of Lazarus?
BECK: Well, certainly we know in some way that the story is told to say that Jesus was human, it's someone whom Jesus loved, we're told, a friend, he weeps when he dies. Yet the divine part is he brings him back to life. So it's in the scripture. It's John 11, the story of Lazarus. And there's a tradition then that he went to Cyprus and was buried there.
And so what the series does really well, explore well, is that tradition true and how do we know today if that's actually the sarcophagus of Lazarus?
WHITFIELD: Father Edward Beck, always good to see you, thank you very much.
BECK: You too, Fred. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Take care. All right, "Finding Jesus" airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN. The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM begins after a short break.