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FBI May Comment on Russia; Deadline to Provide Wiretap Evidence; Trump Tax Return Leaked; Arguments on Travel Ban Today; Fed Expected to Raise Interest Rates; Microwave Remarks Inspire Skits. Aired 9:30-10a
Aired March 15, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And over in the senate, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham says he may seek a joint select committee to investigate if the FBI doesn't meet a request for evidence that he has asked for of these wiretaps. All of it as a Monday deadline for the Justice Department to provide that evidence gets closer. Now, the Justice Department missed a deadline already. On Monday, there are hearings in front of the House Intelligence Committee. One of the members who will be part of those hearings is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois.
Thanks so much for being with us, congressman.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning.
BERMAN: So we've been hearing from Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic senator from Rhode Island, who is in the Senate and sits on the Judiciary Committee, and he says that he thinks he might get a comment himself from the FBI director today about whether there is a criminal investigation into these alleged contacts between Trump associates and the Russians. He thinks he'll get confirmation of that on his side. Do you already know the answer to that in the Intelligence Committee?
QUIGLEY: Well, I think the Intelligence Committee can answer that, but, you know, we've been briefs on that in confidential settings. So I'll leave that to Mr. Comey to decide whether he's going to tell anybody else.
The fact is the American public needs to know. That information needs to come from the director himself.
BERMAN: But just to be clear, so you do - there is an answer and you have it, you just can't tell us, which is OK. I mean we don't want you to reveal classified information.
QUIGLEY: You know, I respect the director's decision on what he's going to brief to this committee. It is very unusual for the director to talk to the public about the subject of investigations or whether there's an investigation at all.
Look, I think the American public deserves to know this. I just respect the confidentiality of our briefings.
BERMAN: Good. Fair point.
Your committee has asked the Justice Department now for evidence of President Trump's claims that he was wiretapped by former President Obama. They missed the deadline already for that. It's, what, it's 9:31 in the east as of right now. Have you yet received the evidence?
QUIGLEY: We haven't received any evidence. I don't expect we'll receive any evidence. I don't think any evidence exists. They have had now until Monday.
What's disturbing here is the director of National Intelligence has refuted this. The FBI director has asked the Justice Department to refute this. I don't know what's more disturbing, the president perhaps lying to the American public, or actually believing anything he says at this point.
BERMAN: So if you don't get -
QUIGLEY: It's dangerous. It's unprecedented.
BERMAN: Look, maybe they have evidence. Sean Spicer, yesterday, said that they are going to turn over evidence - or he is highly confident they will turn over evidence. You don't see as highly confident?
QUIGLEY: Well, look, I've listened to the - Mr. Spicer and Ms. Conway's remarks over the last several days, and they seem to be backtracking. They don't seem to have clear understanding. If they had the evidence, it would have been beyond comprehension, they wouldn't have released it while they made the acquisition or at least the first deadline. We look forward to Monday to see what they're saying.
But at this point in time, it is honestly a load of gibberish. I'm reminded of a Lewis Carroll's poem, the "Jabberwocky," right? And when we read it, we don't understand it. All we know is that something died.
I feel the same way about the rantings in the White House. I don't understand it, but I know something is dying, and that's the understanding that truth matters to the American public.
BERMAN: You've got a public hearing on Monday where you've got a lot of people coming before your committee, including the FBI director, James Comey. Much of this will be public. In public, what is the one question you want answered?
QUIGLEY: Well, I think there's any number of questions. I think the most important question on the top of my head we could ask, are we going to get the full cooperation from the FBI and the intelligence community, and, for that matter, the White House, investigating whether the Russian government was hacking and had cooperation. What did they do? What were their active measures involved with the democratic process here in the United States? Was there collusion? The question is, are we going to get cooperation from the White House? Are we going to get cooperation to follow the facts wherever they go so the American public knows exactly what took place?
BERMAN: Well, are you getting cooperation from the FBI at least?
QUIGLEY: It's at the initial stages of the investigation. I think what the committee is going to need is the resources to investigate this, the cooperation it needs, subpoena power. We're going to need help from the Republicans on the intelligence committees. And, unfortunately, we're going to need help from a White House at a time when it appears more that they're likely to obstruct such an investigation.
BERMAN: So overnight there was an interesting development. A lot of people watched as we got a tiny bit of information about Donald Trump taxes, 2005. He made more than $150 million, apparently paid more than $30 million in taxes. Does this answer some of the questions you and your Democratic colleagues have had about his tax returns and what more do you still want to know?
[09:34:56] QUIGLEY: Look, I think the question here is, when the president was asked about these sort of things in Russian involvement, here's a good question, you didn't invest in Russia, did Russia invest in Trump? That's what the American public deserves to know because if you're looking at an investigation here, and you're asking yourself, why such an incredible close tie to Putin and Russia, why are you talking about lifting sanctions involving Ukraine? What are the possible motivations? The American public deserves to know. If there is a glimmer of possibility that there's a conflict of interest here that you've been compromised, cooperate, let us know what's taken place. The tax returns are the obvious first question.
BERMAN: And we only did get two pages of one year. But I do have to ask you because you raised a lot of questions there and you are on the intelligence committee, have you seen any evidence of those questions you've asked, that his positions on Ukraine aren't just a policy position. People are allowed to have policy positions without being paid off by the Russians if that's the insinuation you're making. I mean do you have any evidence that -
QUIGLEY: I think it's a fair question.
BERMAN: Do you have any evidence that the answer is yes?
QUIGLEY: I think what we're talking about here is, I haven't prejudged one way or another. I'm just saying, that's a key part of the evidence to help us understand what's taken place. This is the very early stages of this investigation. I will tell you, it's unfair for me to prejudge in any way where I think this is going to go. What I'm saying is, if you are taking away a key piece of evidence in that investigation, those questions are going to remain out there, unanswered, for the American public.
BERMAN: Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois with the "Jabberwocky" reference during this interview. I always thank you for bringing up Lewis Carroll. Thanks so much, sir.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, President Trump's travel ban set to take effect tonight, but not without getting hit with a second round of legal battles. Three federal courts hearing arguments today that may decide the order's fate. Could the new ban get blocked again?
[09:41:16] BERMAN: We are hours away from President Trump's travel ban kicking in, but some judges may get to weigh in first. Three federal courts are hearing arguments challenging that executive order. They're hearing those arguments today. One in Maryland just got underway. Two others expected later this afternoon, one in Hawaii, one in Washington state. What's interest here is, that the hearing in Seattle will be heard by the same judge who blocked the first travel ban. The difference between the two orders, at least one of them, now valid visa and green card holders are exempt from the ban.
CNN's Jessica Schneider following it all.
Jessica, what are you learning.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, here we go again. As you mentioned, several hearings today, some on lawsuits brought by the state, some others brought by individuals. So the question looming as we count down to the travel ban taking effect at 12:01 a.m., just past midnight, will any federal judge step in and issue an injunction and halt President Trump's second executive order, or will they let this ban take effect?
Now, the trump administration is fighting very hard to say that this order is very different and, therefore, legal. They point out many facts, including that the ban does not apply to legal residents or green card holders or current visa holders. They also say that there's no indefinite ban on refugees, just that 120-day ban, and already approved refugees actually can enter the country. They also say the order no longer prioritizes religious minorities. And the government says there is a robust waiver provision, which means people can object and be heard.
So Trump's team saying that that is enough to pass constitutional muster, but civil rights groups, of course, round the country saying, wait a minute, this is still intended to ban Muslims, and that's why courts should stop it. So we'll see as the hours tick down what actions these federal judges might take if any.
But, you know, John, it's important to note that we aren't expecting the same kind of chaos we saw last time since visa holders will be allowed in. Last time, of course, there was a lot of confusion among agencies. But this time, we understand, lawyers will be at the ready if there are issues, but we're not expecting mass protests at the airports or a lot of issues like we saw last time.
BERMAN: Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
All right, folks, get ready to pay some more in your monthly bill. Rate hike round two expected today. What it means for your bottom line.
[09:47:59] BERMAN: President Trump heading to Detroit in just a few minutes, where he will announce plans to review, maybe change, new tougher fuel economy standards. The rules were put in place by the EPA just before President Trump took office. A group of 18 automakers asked for the review. They say keeping the rules as they are would push up the cost of new vehicles since the technology needed is so expensive, but critics argue that keeping the tougher standards saves Americans money since more fuel efficient cars save on gas.
All right, in the realm of savings, if you have a credit card, or a savings account, if you're looking to buy a car or a home, and that's millions of you, you want to pay attention to this. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the second time in just three months. They're going to do it in just a couple of hours.
Christine Romans, CNN's chief business correspondent, the star of "Early Start," here to explain what it all means.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
It means that borrowed money that so many people depend on is going to be more expensive. In particular, credit cards. If you have debt, credit card debt, you know that balance you keep on the credit card, it's going to cost more money every month. Interest rates on credit card debt will rise.
Auto loan rates, new auto loans, could be a little more expensive. Mortgage rates are expected to rise. They are tied to the ten-year Treasury note, which is, in turn, tied to what the Fed does with interest rates, at least in the market.
And increased savings rates. This last one is something that's been a big bone of contention for seniors and savers and more conservative mom and pop investors. You know, it used to be you could have a certificate of deposit or money in a bank account and you get a little bit of income from that every year. It hasn't been like that for years now.
BERMAN: Savings accounts have been worthless.
ROMANS: Savings accounts have ben worthless. So you'll see a little bump up in that.
Let me show you mortgage rates in particular because this is, I think, where the big money is for many, many families, one of their biggest investments ever. A 30-year fix rate mortgage today is 4.21 percent, 15-year, 3.42 percent. Let me tell you, these are still very historically low. But you could see those bump up. So if you're talking about locking in a mortgage rate, now is the time to start talking about that.
So what's the Fed looking at? Why is - why is it now OK -
BERMAN: What is the Fed looking at? Why is it now OK to do this?
[09:49:54] ROMANS: The Fed is - it's looking at an economy that's doing better, John. What a great question. I'm so glad you asked that.
BERMAN: It's a good question.
ROMANS: The jobless rate is 4.7 percent. This is nearing full employment, many economists say. Jobs growth of 235,000 in February and broad based jobs growth. And look at the final box on your screen. Inflation in February, consumer prices, up 2.7 percent. That is a number we call the CPI. That's the strongest consumer inflation in five years. That means the - that tells us the economy is strong enough that it's generating inflation. The Fed's job is to tap on the brakes a little bit to make sure that inflation doesn't turn into overheating, which turns into a recession.
BERMAN: And we haven't seen a number that high in a long, long time.
ROMANS: We haven't.
BERMAN: And you were telling me just before that Janet Yellen has 2 percent as her target for inflation.
ROMANS: That's her target.
BERMAN: If it's over that, that's more you're going to see the brakes put on.
ROMANS: We'll be looking at Janet Yellen at 2:00 when this result comes out. We want to know if she says anything about the Fed - the president's policies, pro-growth policies, what the president's doing about regulations. Will she make any kind of comment about how that could be detrimental or helpful for the American economy and what kind of risks she sees. I'd like to see her be very clear about timelines for more Fed rate increases. The more clarity, I think the more the markets can handle it.
BERMAN: Janet Yellen, the most powerful - second most powerful woman in the world, after Christine Romans. Thanks so much for being with us.
ROMANS: Oh, why, thank you.
BERMAN: Appreciate it.
All right, President Trump, his associates and alleged ties to Russia. We could learn from the FBI director today whether or not there is any criminal investigation into any of this. One Democratic senator tells us that he will learn that. We will tell you what we know. That's coming up.
[09:55:40] BERMAN: Is your microwave spying on you? If so, you bought the wrong microwave. Nevertheless, Kellyanne Conway opened up a new oven of conspiracy theories with comments this week. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about a hot button issue. Ever since Kellyanne Conway said this about surveillance.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera.
MOOS: Microwaves have been turning into jokes. Pizza, popcorn, espionage? One Twitter post featured a Polaroid microwave. Kellyanne's camera phone on the Oval Office couch was swapped for a microwave cam. And introducing the microwave selfie.
Even when Kellyanne clarified -
CONWAY: Chris, I'm not Inspector Gadget. I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.
MOOS: The tin foil "make America great again" hats and spoofs continued.
STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Microwaves that turn into cameras. How do you think we film this show? Jim, show them camera 3 over there. Show what we've got over there.
MOOS (on camera): With all these memes and jokes, you never know who you're going to find in the microwave.
MOOS (voice-over): Former President Obama, Michelle, Barack, and Hillary, and Colbert, ready for his close-up. Agent Kellyanne Conway's entire body got stuffed in a microwave. The spinmeister (ph) was literally spinning again on a microwave turntable.
It's pretty amazing what can be spun into political mockery. Take that viral video of a Korea expert, interrupted by his kids as he did an interview with the BBC. His wife -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pardon me.
MOOS: Skidded in to drag them out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My apologies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, most of the times he locks the door. Yes.
MOOS: "The Daily Show" called that scene a giant metaphor for the Trump administration and look who plays the kid. And there's Kellyanne.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We - it's not - it's not a question of delaying. It's a question of getting it right.
MOOS: If you can't take the heat, get out of the microwave.
MOOS (on camera): Ow, ow.
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BERMAN: All right, our next big hour starts right now.
Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
Enough - enough already. This morning, some members of Congress, including Republicans, say they're done asking questions. They want answers. This when it comes to the alleged Russian ties to associates of President Trump. Very shortly we will hear from the House Intelligence Committee to learn the latest about what they have or have not been told by the administration about some of the president's claims. So far this has been the "not told" category. Will that change this morning? Stay tuned.
And there could be more soon from the FBI director. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says that FBI Director James Comey led him to believe that he would make things clear by this afternoon, at least to him, about whether there was a criminal investigation into the alleged ties between Trump associates and Russia. And Republican Lindsey Graham says he will subpoena the FBI if he doesn't' get the answers that he's been looking for. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Congress is going to flex its muscles. The president of the United States asked Congress to look into this as to whether or not the Trump campaign was surveilled during the 2016 election by the federal government. I'm going to get to the bottom of it. And if it needs a subpoena to get there, that's what we'll do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Very shortly, President Trump hits the road. He is going to Detroit today to talk about fuel economy standards, but he's carrying some baggage with him on the plane, namely the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He does have a campaign event. We were told tonight he will address this. But how hard will he campaign to save this plan as it seems to be losing support from across a wide spectrum of his own party?
Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now with the very latest.
And, Jim, you've been pressing the White House about whether or not the administration will provide evidence about some of the president's claims about being wiretapped. Has that evidence been produced so far this morning?
[09:59:58] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It did not hit my "in box" this morning, John. No, we don't have that evidence yet. And getting back to the FBI director, there appears to be some confusion up on Capitol Hill.