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No Sign White House Will Offer Wiretap Proof; Stone Admits Contacts With "Guccifer 2.0"; Bharara Booted By Trump; Trump On Jobs: Phony Then, Real Now; Republicans Fight Over Health Care. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, March 13th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east. As much of the White House may want to advance its agenda on health care and other issues, the spotlight returns, for today at least, to President Trump's unfounded wiretapping claims.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked Trump Justice Department to handover any evidence that backs up the president's allegation that President Obama ordered his phone tapped during the campaign.

DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: More than a week after President Trump tweeted out the claim, the White House has still offered no evidence to support it. Ahead of today's deadline, at least, key lawmaker is demanding an explanation. White House correspondent, Athena Jones, has the latest.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. An important deadline looms today, the House Intelligence Committee sent a letter to the Department of Justice last week asking the agency to provide all relevant documents regarding the president's explosive wiretapping allegations against his predecessor, President Obama.

There is no indication that the White House or the Department of Justice is prepared to offer up any such evidence. This is something that members of Congress not just Democrats, but also Republicans very much want to see. Here is what Arizona Senator John McCain had to say about all of this on "STATE OF THE UNION." Listen.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: 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.


JONES: And one thing that is interesting to note here is that it is the Department of Justice being asked to provide these documents. It was only about a week ago that the FBI Director James Comey asked the Department of Justice to publicly refute the president's baseless claims saying that they were simply not true. Well, the Department of Justice has declined to do that. But it is noteworthy this is the agency that's being tasked with providing this evidence. Evidence that several officials say simply doesn't exist -- Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Athena Jones for us this Monday morning at the White House. Thank you.

Long time Trump associate, Roger Stone, not only admits having contact with the notorious hacker, Guccifer 2.0, he is defending that contact. Guccifer is the shadowy online persona claiming to responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Stone says he did have a few innocuous brief exchanges, he calls them, and insists they occurred last August after the DNC had already been hacked. Stone claims the timing proves he did not collude with the Russians to influence this election.

BRIGGS: Growing resentment over the Trump administration's abrupt firing of 46 U.S. attorneys, many of those officials finding out they've been dismissed through media reports. Law enforcement sources telling CNN the firings could not have been handled worse with dozens of sensitive court cases now hanging in the balance.

The case of New York's Preet Bharara, though, U.S. attorney for the district that includes Manhattan, getting the most attention. Bharara refusing to resign instead engaging in a standoff with the president.

Finally told by the administration on Saturday he was fired. Listen to Bharara talking to reporters back in November after meeting with the president being told he could keep his job.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on. I expected I'll be continuing the work at the southern district of New York.


ROMANS: Yes, the administration source tells CNN the president originally offered to keep Bharara on as a favor to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, but the White House now views Schumer as an obstructionist.

Joining us now is CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett. She's here with us in New York. Good morning. It is nice to see you here. Give us context on how unusual it is to have all of these U.S. attorneys replaced.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So I think this weekend's events were nothing short of stunning. It wasn't because President Trump can't do this. He is perfectly within his purview to replace the U.S. attorneys. The issue was Bharara says he was promised that he could stay on. Back in November, we saw he went in front of the cameras and made this very public showing. The issue is what changed in his circumstance and why was he not allowed to stay on?

BRIGGS: But it is also unusual in how he handled it. They usually go quietly. To back drop a little bit, Bush and Clinton, and other presidents have done almost the exact same move in terms of cleaning house, correct?

JARRETT: That is right. We have not seen the same public standoff with someone as high profile as Preet Bharara, who said, well, if you want to do this, you have to fire me.

ROMANS: He said also -- he issued a tweet that got a lot of attention. This tweet where he referenced the Moreland Commission. By the way, I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like. What could he be referencing?

JARRETT: So this raised a lot of eyebrows yesterday. The Moreland Commission was set up to investigate public corruption in 2013. And so when he says now I know what they must have felt like, well, are you talking about a specific piece of public corruption in your case that you were investigating or talking more broadly?

[05:05:12]No one really knows and so we might have to wait and see if he tweets again.

BRIGGS: So there is no sense of what investigations he was already working on?

JARRETT: Well, they don't typically talk about investigations until they are finished. We are certainly looking into seeing what exactly he was referencing here and whether it was a broader statement of the process instead of a particular case.

ROMANS: He sees himself as a watch dog. He is known as the sheriff of Wall Street. He's been very high profile cases. He must have a docket just full of interesting cases right now. Senator Schumer in slamming this move, he says it could interrupt key cases.

JARRETT: Well, so the issue there is there are tons of career prosecutors around the country in all of these different districts. They will take the reins and pick up the slack. It is not like Preet Bharara is there by himself, right?

But the question is, you know, the U.S. attorney has a lot of say in the tone and direction. To the extent, somebody else comes in here and they can take the office on a new road.

BRIGGS: So what is the process in filling all of these vacancies? Is there any reports who may replace Bharara?

JARRETT: We are looking into who is going to replaces him. There are 46 U.S. attorneys across the country that President Trump will pick who he wants. Remember, these are Senate confirmed positions. This could be a fight especially given now how Senator Schumer feels Preet Bharara was treated.

ROMANS: The other big story here, the travel ban version 2 goes live on Thursday. So far, it has been quiet. They have a challenge from Hawaii that they need to deal with. What can we expect going forward?

JARRETT: So they have a slew of challenges in the queue right now. There's been somewhat of a race to the court house I like to say in all of these different cases. So we will finally going to hear for the first time from the Justice Department today about what their position is on the new travel ban.

But we are also going to see cases in Maryland and Hawaii on Wednesday. Just hours before this new travel ban is set to go into effect. So we'll have to wait and see what the Justice --

BRIGGS: Any indication of this one being more able to pass legal muster?

JARRETT: Well, they certainly cut back on the categories of people, right, who are --

BRIGGS: Religious exemption taken out.

JARRETT: Exactly, green cardholders and visa holders, and those were sticking points in the last cases. So we'll see if the judges agree with the Justice Department now.

ROMANS: Laura Jarrett, nice to see you in the house. I hope you brought your snow boots. Thanks. Nice to see you.

All right, after months of calling the government's jobs data fake, phony and a hoax, the first monthly reading under President Trump comes in strong. The Trump administration officials and the president himself offered a somewhat confusing analysis of the data.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him clearly. They may have been phony in the past, but it is very real now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The economy is doing very, very well and generally speaking, we're doing very well. We really had a mess. We had a mess. Believe me. It is getting straightened out. It's getting straightened out fast.

MICK MULVANEY, OMB DIRECTOR: We thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers in terms of the number of people in the work force to make the unemployment rate, that percentage rate look smaller than it actually was.


ROMANS: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney went on to say that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not changed its methodology since Trump has taken office. In fact, the agency has used the same method for calculating the unemployment rate since 1940.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers lots of different ways to calculate the unemployment rate. It is not just one employment rate. There's no evidence the Bureau of Labor Statistics fudges its unemployment data.

There is plenty of evidence that Trump is in the White House and he is the president, he will believe the numbers as long as they are going in his direction.

BRIGGS: He's not saying much about it, perhaps he has learned.

ROMANS: Maybe, we'll see.

BRIGGS: All right, the speaker of the House setting the stage for rough news from the Congressional Budget Office. How will the so- called score affect the Republican strategy?



BRIGGS: All eyes this morning on the Congressional Budget Office and the upcoming score on the Republican health plan. Let's bring in CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott. Good morning to you, my friend.

We are excited for a CBO score. We are nerds. Listen to what Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, kind of undermining ahead of their ruling. Here's what he said.


MULVANEY: If the CBO was right about Obamacare to begin with, there would be 8 million more people on Obamacare today than there actually are. So I love the people at CBO. They work really hard, but sometimes we asked them do stuff they are not capable of doing. Estimating the impact of a bill of this size is not best use of their time.


BRIGGS: Republicans have in the past talked up the CBO score. They did in 2009. Are they not capable of providing an estimate with something this grand?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, they are supposed to provide an estimate. No one said it was exact. I think what Republicans perhaps should do is respond with clear information showing that what they believe will actually happen with the current plan won't happen.

So there are some real concerns in terms of whether or not people who don't have a lot of money will lose health care. I think what Republicans who have a problem with the estimate need to do is show actually these are the numbers that we have that push back on what you presented. ROMANS: With or without a score, you are already seeing some of the big groups lobbying against this. The AARP has this #agetax. I have been watching Trump supporters sharing on Facebook the age tax videos that AARP has been doing. It is interesting to me how this could affect really this choice about changing how you deliver health care could affect Trump supporters first and foremost.

[05:15:01]Let's listen to what Paul Ryan says about this choice, this lack of a mandate, and how that is what Republicans want.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say not as many people will get coverage. You know why? Because this is not a government mandate. This is not the government makes you buy what we say you should buy and therefore the government thinks you will all buy it. So there is no way you can compete with on paper, a government mandate with coverage.


ROMANS: So these are the two world views we are talking about here, right. I mean, this is the Republican world view.

SCOTT: Yes, it is about choice. We've heard repeatedly many Republicans say that people need to make the right choice. We have groups like AARP saying and insurers saying and even some conservatives saying that people from certain demographics like older Americans and low income Americans won't be able to make choices that benefit them most and in fact will end up -- this plan could hurt them.

ROMANS: Those choices will cost more.

BRIGGS: It is not just choice, they are saying access. You will have universal access to care, a very different world view. They are saying everyone will have access to this. Obviously not everyone is on board, including Senator Tom Cotton. Here is what he said in a push back against this bill for this week.


SENATOR TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: 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. I'm afraid if they vote for the bill, they will put the House majority at risk next year.


BRIGGS: So his -- at the heart of his criticism is actually that premiums are skyrocketing. Tom Cotton says there is nothing in this bill that will prevent premiums from continuing to skyrocket. So what is the biggest Republican obstacle that this Trump-Ryan-Price group has? SCOTT: Well, I think the biggest obstacle that they have is communicating to their supporters that this actually is significantly different from many of the problems that they say exist in Obamacare. There are many conservatives who say this doesn't go far enough to actually repeal it and it will just end up being some of the same problems that many people campaigned against in this Republican primary. So if they don't present an alternative, what has really changed?

ROMANS: We also need the conviction of lowering premiums and cost of delivering health care. As you point out, this is a fifth of the economy. We just re-did this seven years ago. You can't keep redoing this every four years with the costs going up as much as they are in health care. Does this plan lower costs or stop the cost of inflation? I don't see that.

SCOTT: Yes, and I don't think the Republicans have made it clear to the American people yet how it will do that for so many people as they would hope. I was actually reading a piece we have on CNN Money that this actually going to provide taxes according to an analysis for people who make $1 million or more.

ROMANS: Tax cuts.

SCOTT: And other high income earners. How will this improve the lives of regular every day Americans? They have not clarified.

ROMANS: I will tweet out that story. It is a fascinating story. Two taxes on the rich to pay for subsidies under Obamacare.

BRIGGS: I want to ask you about President Trump's role in all of this, settling it in a meeting he's having, come back in about 20 minutes.

Time to fill out your brackets. It is bracket Monday. The field for the NCAA tournament all set. Who are your top seeds? Which team is this year's Cinderella? Our friend, Coy Wire, has this morning's "Bleacher Report" next. Good morning, Coy.



BRIGGS: Bosses beware. Don't expect much work to be done today or this week. Everybody filling out brackets and watching hoops.

ROMANS: That's right. I think it adds to productivity. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Great perspective. I like that. You actually feel good. Do better at work. I'm with you. Listen, estimated by one consultant firm over $1 billion of company money will be wasted each hour of the workday building brackets and watching games.

The first time in the tournament's 78 year history, Northwestern is finally going dancing. They were the last major conference school to never have made it to the field of 68. Congrats to the Wildcats.

Let's get to your top number one seeds here, Villanova in the east, overall number one seed, and Kansas in the Midwest, North Carolina in the south and Gonzaga in the west region. Who does Vegas have winning it all? A number two seed Duke Blue Devils. They are a favorite by Vegas.

President Trump respectfully declined ESPN's request to fill out a bracket on TV. Our Andy Scholes got reactions from our friends over at Turner Sports. Check it out.


CHARLES BARKLEY, TURNER SPORTS BASKETBALL ANALYST: I would have liked to see him fill out a bracket. When you look at the president taking time to do that, it makes him look more human.

ERNIE JOHNSON, TURNER SPORTS BASKETBALL HOST: It humanizes the office of the president. I'm not forcing anybody to be a basketball fan. If the president is not a basketball fan, but do you really want to watch him fill out his bracket?


WIRE: All right, guys, tournament action starts tomorrow night on Tru TV. Now St. Mary's playing New Orleans at 6:40 Eastern and then Kansas State versus Wake Forest at 9:10. On Wednesday, you have North Carolina Central and UC Davis followed by Providence playing USC.

[05:25:01]Finally, Martin Truex Jr. won yesterday's NASCAR race in Vegas, but what we have to show you is the real action that took place after the checkered flag. Kyle Busch spins out after trading paint with Joey Logano and Busch wasn't happy.

Check this out. Going after Logano, he would throw a bunch and get into a scuffle. Crew members trying to pull the guys apart. Check out Busch. Bloodied up in the WWE match up. You have to say as a former football player, I like seeing this from the NASCAR track.

BRIGGS: You say WWE. His nickname is Rowdy Kyle Busch. He is back.

ROMANS: It looked like a hockey game for a second.

BRIGGS: Joey Logano looked unscathed, though. I don't think he landed, right.

WIRE: Yes. He chuckled when he was asked if any punches were landed. He said not on me. We will see heat from these two this season.

ROMANS: All right, Coy, thank you. Nice to see you this morning.

President Trump ready to make a big push for the Republican health care bill. Could today's congressional deadline for information on his wiretapping claims derail that agenda?