Return to Transcripts main page


Fed Hikes Interest Rates; Trump Wiretap Claims; Comey Hearing Monday; Russian Spies Indicted for Yahoo Hack; GOP Health Care Plan. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary Tom Price. But first, we're waiting for President Trump to come out and speak in Michigan.

"Newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

Full disclosure. You are about to see a wild hour of live events right here. First - am I right? I'm right. A short time from now, President Trump set to make his very first comments since the blistering CBO report on his party's health care bill. And this will be his first set of remarks since this new revelation about his wiretap claims. Much more on that in just a moment.

Also happening here, you have Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is also said to push the FBI to reveal whether it's investigating President Trump's possible ties to Russia. We've got that.

But first, let's go to Cristina Alesci with the breaking news on the Federal Reserve.

Cristina Alesci, what do you have?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, as expected, the Federal Reserve did raise interest rates, its federal fund rates, a quarter of one percentage point, pretty much in line with what all analysts have been expecting. And there's good reason for this, Brooke. If you look at economic data across the board, what the Fed is looking at, its looking at relatively low unemployment, good job growth numbers and rising consumer prices. So you take that all together, the Fed is raising rates because it doesn't want to see the economy overheat.

Now, what does that mean for the average person? Well, they're probably going to earn more in their savings account. They'll have to pay a little bit more when it comes to mortgage rates, credit cards, home loans. And a lot of people are going to be wondering what kind of impact, as you see on the - on the screen there, will this have on the stock market? What kind of impact will it have on their 401(k)s? And the reality is, is let's put this into context. This is the third rate hike in ten years, Brooke. So the Fed is going slow and steady. Over the long term, it probably won't have a material impact on the stock market. What will have a material impact on the stock market is whether or not Donald Trump is going to be able to execute on his very pro-growth policies. He's talking about corporate tax cuts, he's talking about infrastructure spending, and those things are priced into the market right now. If that doesn't happen, then we could see a cooling down in the stock market or a reversal of those gains that we've been getting.

BALDWIN: Cristina, thank you so much.

ALESCI: Of course.

BALDWIN: Let's get back to politics, though. We start with President Trump's wild accusation that his predecessor, then President Barack Obama, ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower. So now you have this top ranking Republican, who has been in the unenviable position of trying to explain and defend the president. He has just made this surprise turnaround. I'm talking about Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, appearing alongside his Democratic counterpart, to say there is just no evidence of the president's claims.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Evidence still remains the same that we don't have any evidence that that took place. And, in fact, I don't believe, just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to, I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: To date, I've seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made, that his predecessor had wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower. Thus far we have seen no basis for that whatsoever.

NUNES: President Obama wouldn't physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower. So now you have to decide, as I mentioned to you last week, are you going to take the tweets literally. And, if you are, then clearly the president was wrong. But if you're not going to take the tweets literally and if there's a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out. I think it's all in the interpretation of what you believe.


BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, I'm coming to you first there at the White House, our senior White House correspondent. And, you know, there was a lot to that joint news conference.


BALDWIN: You know, you tell me what you heard an also just note for the viewer to hear from Chairman Nunes -


BALDWIN: I mean he's been the stalwart supporter of President Trump -

ACOSTA: That's right.

BALDWIN: Especially when it comes to Russia. It's significant that he's speaking out like this.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And don't forget that Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has essentially given the president a deadline, given the Trump administration a deadline. We want to see evidence to back up your claim that President Obama somehow wiretapped you over at Trump Tower by March 20th. And they announced during that news conference that they held earlier today that the FBI director, James Comey, will be testifying on March 20th. So they're essentially giving the president a deadline, saying, you know, basically put up or shut up.

[14:05:02] BALDWIN: Yes.

ACOSTA: And so I think that is very interesting. And keep in mind, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was also asked about all of this earlier today, asked whether or not he had given the president some information to lead him to conclude that he had been wiretapped over at Trump Tower and he said, no, I did not give the president that information. Here's what he had to say.


QUESTION: Attorney General, did you have a chance to brief the president on investigations related to the campaigns, or did you ever give him any reason to believe that he was wiretapped by the previous administration?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Um, look, um, the answer, no.


ACOSTA: So you can see there on the attorney general's face that -

BALDWIN: Two letters.

ACOSTA: This is a difficult question to answer for people inside this administration. And you heard this from the White House press secretary yesterday when I asked, will you produce something?


ACOSTA: And, you know, Sean Spicer said basically, yes, they're going to produce something. What that is we have no idea.

But also keep in mind, Nunes and Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on that committee, they were also asked about whether they'd gotten any evidence or whether or not they're ruling out whether there's an investigation into ties between the Russian and the Trump campaign. Devin Nunes says he hasn't seen any evidence of that. Adam Schiff was not willing to go that far. So there was some separation between those two on that subject. And then you have over in the Senate, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, saying he was going to hear from the FBI director today to tell him whether or not there is some kind of investigation into - into the wiretapping allegation. And you have Lindsey Graham on the Republican side saying, well, I'm not so sure we're going to hear back from the FBI director on all of this today.

One thing we should keep an eye on, Brooke, as we head into the evening, is that the president is traveling with some friendly media, some conservative media with him for presumably some interviews. And so the president may get asked about this before the end of this business day. And so we may get an answer from the president on all of this because he's been silent on this question since he made this very outlandish and baseless claim.

BALDWIN: We'll see him before that in a couple of minutes there in Detroit. Obviously he's there to talk to automakers and to talk to -

ACOSTA: Well, that's true, yes, but I -

BALDWIN: No, I hear you loud and clear, you're exactly right -

ACOSTA: Very doubtful that he will - yes, doubtful that he'll bring that up during the speech.

BALDWIN: Maybe - maybe I'm being optimistic. Maybe he brings it up, you know. We -

ACOSTA: Using my spidy sense there, but, yes.

BALDWIN: Your spidy sense is finely tuned, Jim Acosta, and I listen to it. Thank you, Jim, so much, at the White House.

ACOSTA: All right. You bet.

BALDWIN: To discuss the president's wiretapping claims here, let's bring in Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst, David Chalian, CNN political director, James Gagliano, former FBI special assistant, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

David Chalian, I trust your spidy sense here as well. And just - if we can back up five steps. You know, speaking about this today, just on the face of this, what a pickle President Trump has put his entire administration in over one tweet early on a Saturday morning.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That they've been scrambling to figure out how to co-exist with totally unsubstantiated, untrue tweet, twisting themselves into pretzels. And, really, when you listen to Chairman Nunes today, it's hard not to say, you know, this is a problem for the credibility, not just of Donald Trump, of the office of the president of the United States. That's why I think we take the tweet so seriously and not figuratively because it's not just the man making the charge, it's this office that he represents making this charge on his predecessor of tapping his phone, which would be outrageous if true. And clearly even his own supporter in Devin Nunes now saying clearly that this is just not true and the president got it wrong and now he's got to work to rehabilitate that credibility.

BALDWIN: So to what I was asking or was alluding to with Jim, and, Gloria, let me just ask you this, you know, before, of course, the president is in Nashville and will be talking health care, he will be speaking shortly in Tennessee and I mean he's been uncharacteristically silent on this. When there have been, you know, pool sprays and questions shouted, nada (ph). Do you think he touches this when he could rif (ph).

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know the answer to that -


BORGER: Because the president is unpredictable. I would probably think that his lawyers have told him to not say -


BORGER: Not say anything about it.


BORGER: And - but you never know if Donald Trump is going to listen.

But what he's done is he's taken the focus off of something that he needs to get passed through the Congress by doing this. I mean they're - they're trying to get health care reform done. They're trying to repeal Obamacare.


BORGER: And they've got a lot of problems on that front that they have to deal with. And now you've got congressional committees scrambling, calling the FBI director up there, trying to get answers to these questions so they can then say that the president was not telling the truth.

[14:10:01] BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: I mean this is a - this is awkward is a nice way to put it -


BORGER: For somebody like Nunes, and Republicans, who are on intelligence, because they're going to have to come out at some point and say this was wrong.

BALDWIN: So - yes. Yes. And that's a whole other, you know, bag of issues -

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: If, in fact, there is no evidence.

BORGER: Yes. BALDWIN: But, Jeff Toobin, let me just - let me just come to you because, you know, to Jim Acosta's point, the deadline, I sort of see this - see this as, you know, this public hearing with Jim Comey, the FBI chief is Monday, right? This is his public hearing. This is when the public could finally hear if there's any there there, right? This could be put to an end - I use air quotes - end Monday, am I right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think anything ends -

BALDWIN: As far as evidence is presented.

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, look, there has been no evidence. You know, the idea that Jim Comey would come along on Monday and say, oh, by the way, it's all true, just seems so improbable. But, sure, I mean, you know, it will be his first opportunity to make a public statement about this.

There were certainly leaks from the FBI, as there are always leaks from the FBI, which said that Comey found Trump's tweet - he was incredulous about it. It's also true that come Monday, Director Comey may say, well, I can't comment on pending investigations.

So, you know, the idea that somehow this will be tied up with a bow on Monday and we will have an absolutely clear answer, I wouldn't get your hopes up for that.

BALDWIN: So then when it's not - so then I - you know, I had - I wanted to ask you one question sort of hyperbolically, but, I mean, let's say that there is no bow on Monday and this thing continues and continues. I mean what then?

TOOBIN: What then is people have to make up their mind about whether Donald Trump lied about Barack Obama. I mean, you know, he accused Barack Obama of committing a major crime, certainly an impeachable offensive if he did this, if Obama did while he was president. Since that tweet a couple of weeks ago, there's been absolutely no evidence that it's true and a great deal of evidence that it's false. That appears to be the status quo, the state of play, about what the facts are and I anticipate that will be the state of play for quite some time and people can make up their minds about whether Donald Trump lied or not about this.

BALDWIN: James Gagliano, you're our intel guy here.

BORGER: Lucky you.

BALDWIN: Deep breath. You listened to all of this. You know FBI. You know how this works.


BALDWIN: You know about commenting and not commenting. What say you?

GAGLIANO: Well, I can tell you that the FBI director is going about his business today, because there was some discussion, mostly out of Senator Whitehouse's office -

BALDWIN: Correct.

GAGLIANO: That he was going to make a statement today. I can report to you that the FBI director is down at the FBI academy doing his FBI business with the - with the new FBI academy trainees down there. So he's not even in D.C.

Going forward to Monday, you want to talk about high political theater. First of all, he's not - he's not going to be testifying solo. He's going to be on a panel, I understand, with Sally Yates, the - the recent attorney general - the deputy attorney general who was the acting attorney general that President Trump fired after the whole travel ban deal. She's going to be on that panel as well. You're going to have Democrats that are going to want him to come out and say, hey, those impulsive tweets, they were wrong and that didn't happen. I think he's going to have to thread a very, very fine needle.

BALDWIN: But won't he be straight up asked, you know -


BALDWIN: Director Comey, is there an investigation? And doesn't he have to say yes or no?

GAGLIANO: He doesn't. Now they can subpoena -

BALDWIN: He does or does not?

GAGLIANO: He does not because if there's an ongoing investigation, the FBI director has the privilege of saying, we can't confirm it or deny it. It's the worst kept secret in Washington that there is an investigation and CNN has reported there is a counter intelligence squad at FBI headquarters looking into the matter. I would be surprised, in an open hearing like this - this is not behind closed doors, it's an open hearing - I'd be shocked if he admits that there is one and discusses it in any detail.

BORGER: What if they go into executive session, you know?

GAGLIANO: That's different, Gloria, good point. That's different. But I don't think you're going to see the hearing on CNN and have him discuss that in an open forum.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me ask all of you to stand by. I'm not finished with any of you, please, because we also have breaking news here, Russian spies have been indicted today for this massive hacking of Yahoo! e- mail accounts. We have those details next.

Also ahead, the Republican health care bill in serious trouble right now as Republicans are backing off and the White House makes a big admission.

Also, as we've been talking about, moments from now, the president's first public remarks since the CBO report, since these wiretap developments today. Live pictures there in Michigan. We'll be right back.


[14:18:55] BALDWIN: More breaking news here on CNN. Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let me tell you about this story. These two Russian spies have been indicted in connection to a massive hack of Yahoo accounts. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls it one of the largest data breaches in history. At least 500 million accounts were compromised.

These hackers stole e-mail addresses, and names, and passwords, but not financial information. I can tell you that accounts hacked included U.S. government officials, Russian government officials, Russian journalists and private sector employees.

So, Jim Sciutto, let me ask you about this, our CNN chief national security correspondent. Who in particular were these two Russian men and how did they pull this off?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So these guys were both with the FSB. This is the successor to the KGB, the prime Russian intelligence agency. And this is classic statecraft in terms of cyber warfare for Russia in that you have this collaboration between these two men who were with the FSB, but then with civilian hackers - and this is how Russia operates on these information - information-gathering operations, it's the same way they operated, for instance, on the DNC hack where they - you had the involvement of some Russian officials, official intelligence agencies, but then cooperating with people in that kind of dark corner of the web who trade in this kind of stolen information and they work for state actors, such as Russia. They work for private, criminal gangs, getting credit card information, et cetera. But just the scale of this and the fact that it was international. It certainly targeted U.S. users, but it targeted Russian officials, Russian journalists as well. I mean just 500 million people. It's more than the population of the entire U.S. It's an enormous amount of information.

[14:20:39] BALDWIN: So you say it's similar to the DNC hack. Are the two at all connected?

SCIUTTO: They're not connected in the sense that they were part of the same plan, but they are connected in that they're part of a broader Russian strategy to gather as much information as possible on as many people as possible, in as many categories as possible, from officials of the Democratic Party, as we saw in the DNC, to officials here, U.S. government officials, but also Russian government officials -


SCIUTTO: Dissidents, journalists, et cetera. They sneak in. They steal information. They know what you and I and others are saying to each other. And it's information that they can either use against your or use to monitor what you're doing. I mean it's pretty remarkable. And the scale that is possible in the age of cyber warfare is just remarkable.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. I mean just to look at the numbers and how many people were affected, it's frightening.

Jeff Sciutto, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: It's a huge, huge win for the U.S., though, in grabbing them.

My panel is back.

And, Jeff Toobin, just first to you. I mean, big picture, this is one of the biggest indictments, you know, from the Trump administration as far as Russia or Russians are concerned. How significant is this?

TOOBIN: Well, it's very significant in and of itself because, as you point out, this is an enormous hack.


TOOBIN: But, you know, certainly one of the main efforts of the United States Department of Justice, over the past several years, has been all sorts of cybercrime. And what makes it so difficult to prosecute and to investigate is that so much of it takes place outside the United States. Here it's Russia, but we also know about, you know, lots of the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, a lot of this stuff is going on.

And, you know, it is - these people are very sophisticated. They're very hard to track. They cover their - they cover their tracks. And, you know, my friends in the U.S. attorneys' offices say they are spending a tremendous amount of time on that, but the cases so far have been pretty few and far between. This is a big one, but you know there are a lot more out there and, of course, many of them, at least lately, have political significance as well.

BALDWIN: I mean huge win, James, to your, you know, former comrade at the FBI, to pull this off. I know this one guy was one of the most wanted in cybercrime in Russia. How complicated , how difficult would this have been for them.

GAGLIANO: Sure. Clearly, Brooke, this was an investigation that didn't start with the Trump administration. It's been going on for years.


GAGLIANO: I thought it was interesting, about a week ago, the FBI director appeared in - at Boston College at a cybersecurity conference and he gave a speech and he talked about the threats to the U.S. and he described the threats to the U.S. like a layered cake. And he said the top layer is bad nation state actors. And obviously he named Russia, Iran, China and North Korea. And then on the heels of that, you have this -

BALDWIN: He knew what was up. GAGLIANO: You have this indictment today.

BALDWIN: He knew what was up.

OK, thank you all so much on that. Stick around, everyone, please, because coming up next, the Republican - the new Republican health care bill is in peril right now. A lot of Republicans now turning on it. And sources are telling us here at CNN that even the White House is acknowledging this bill in its current state will not be passing the Senate. So what's the president's next move?

And, speaking of, we are moments away from hearing from President Trump. His first public remarks since the CBO score and since these new wiretap developments, right, into his massive allegations that he was wiretapped by President Obama at Trump Tower. We're waiting to hear from the president any moment now.


[14:28:22] BALDWIN: As President Trump himself is staying noticeably quiet on the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, more and more members of his own party are speaking out against it. They are rattled by the Congressional Budget Office's report saying 24 million more people would be without insurance by the year 2026. In fact, a Senate aide tells us that the White House acknowledged the bill, now winding its way through the House, will not pass the Senate. That is a starkly different message than the one the White House touted just 24 hours ago.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The only vehicle that seeks to achieve what people on our side of the aisle have been talking about since 2010. This is it. If we don't get this through, the goal of repealing Obamacare and instituting a system that will be patient centered is going to be unbelievably difficult. This is the vehicle to do that


BALDWIN: This is the vehicle to do that, right? So that was this time yesterday.

Gloria and David are back with me. But I defer all things health care to national politics reporter MJ Lee, who's now sitting to my right.

So, MJ, let me just begin with you. You know, Sean Spicer, we heard him yesterday saying this is the vehicle, but you're talking to insiders on Capitol Hill and they're telling you what?

[14:29:37] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I mean, this is what's becoming clear. If the House Republican Obamacare bill gets through the House in its current form, there's no chance that it is going to get through the Senate without any big changes. As you know, the senators - a couple of senators met with folks at the White House yesterday and one source tells me that the senators pretty much got an acknowledgment from the White House that changes are going to have to be made.