Return to Transcripts main page
What Will FBI Director James Comey Say About President Trump's Wiretapping Claims?; Chuck Berry Passed Away Today; U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in China; America's Closest Ally Dragged Into the President's Wiretapping Scandal. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 18, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us on a Saturday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Tonight, President Trump finds himself on the brink of a week that could define his presidency. At stake perhaps his credibility, the legacy he will leave behind on the Supreme Court, and his promise to replace Obamacare with something far better.
The action begins Monday when the director of FBI, James Comey, is expected to tell Congress whether there's any evidence to back up President Trump's repeated claim that President Obama tapped his phones during the campaign. That same day Trump's Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch begins what could be a tough Senate confirmation process. And then on Thursday the health care plan that President Trump says he backs 100 percent goes to a vote. But whether it will actually pass remains very much in question.
Ahead of this crucial week the President is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Let's go live to CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones in nearby West Palm Beach.
And Athena, three huge issues. But the first happens Monday when we hear from James Comey on the wiretapping allegations. Essentially Trump could be vindicated or his credibility could take a hit. How is the White House preparing for this moment?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Ana. Well, the White House seems to be preparing for this big moment on Monday by standing by those explosive and unsubstantiated allegations the President made two weeks ago. In fact, the President stood his ground on that in the press conference he had yesterday with Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel. We have also seen White House press secretary Sean Spicer offer various explanations and also insist that the President is certain he will be vindicated by evidence. And also adding to the allegations by loading on more allegations. The latest one against British intelligence saying that British intelligence had a role in helping the President, the former President to wiretap Trump tower in order to evade detection.
This was Sean Spicer repeating a report on FOX News. That is something that of course the British intelligence have said absolutely did not happen. They have called it nonsense. National security officials here in America have said that it did not happen. And so this is another, you know, piling on, creating an international incident over the President's base -- so far baseless claims. And this is after not only President Obama denied of course wiretapping. Several former intelligence officials have said it didn't happen. And members of Congress who are looking into all of this in the House and the Senate say they have seen no evidence to back up the President's claim.
And so I think that what's interesting here, Ana, is that we are going to most likely hear FBI director Jim Comey asked about this and to answer it directly for the record. So that will be yet one more denial of the President's fact-free claim -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones reporting. Thank you.
Joining me now, Democratic congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He sits on the House intelligence committee.
Now, government sources tell CNN the documents the DOG provided -- the DOJ provided, that is, last night, they do not provide any evidence of President Trump's wiretapping claims. Can you confirm that?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, we got that document late yesterday while most of us were on our planes home. So I can't confirm. I suspect very strongly, though, that what we are going to hear on Monday from director Comey is a denial that there's any evidence about this unsubstantiated claim. I suspect that document will say the same thing. And it will only lead further proof I suspect that the President of the United States probably read something in Breitbart and tweeted about it. And we are facing the consequences of that action.
CABRERA: How are you preparing for Monday's hearing?
QUIGLEY: We have been getting extensive briefings on this. A lot of documents to read. This is going to take some time. We are hoping for a thorough, fair, bipartisan, bicameral Analysis of this, an investigation that will follow the facts wherever they lead because the American public deserves to know exactly what took place.
So at this point in time it's just working on the investigation on a daily basis. The first hearing will be Monday, then the following Tuesday there will be a follow-up meeting with other intelligence officials.
CABRERA: As you mentioned, there are different steps to this. So what exactly are we supposed to know after Comey testifies on Monday that we don't know now? Because so far it seems like there's been a lot of smoke, no fire, just confusion.
QUIGLEY: Yes. Let me at least address some of the expectations here. Director Comey is not going to reveal any national secrets in front of an open hearing. I think what you are going to see Monday is framing the Analysis of where Democrats and Republicans are going to go with this investigation. I think you will see Republicans focusing on the leaks. I think you will see the Democrats focusing on just how far the active measures the Russians took against the Democratic process went and was there collusion or was there agreements or understandings with members of the Trump administration of the campaign at that time.
CABRERA: Now, on the broader Russia investigation, are you concerned about how soon this hearing is happening and that if Comey does not come out and confirm the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, for example, say, we don't have it yet or there are no ties that Republicans might be able to then say that this investigation is simply a political witch hunt?
QUIGLEY: You know, I think what you are going to see is evidence -- questions asked from both sides which are going to make the American public more curious. I think if it does anything it's going to add pressure that both sides cooperate and not block this investigation.
We are going to need the power to subpoena. We are going to need resources. We are going to need technical help. We are going to need bicameral, bipartisan cooperation to get to the bottom of this. We already accept the fact that we are not going to get any of those things from the White House. If anything, we are going to get obstruction.
CABRERA: Why do you think that?
QUIGLEY: The remarks that have been made. The bizarre statements that have come out of the White House. At least -- when you first saw this, what did the President say? None of this happened. The Russians weren't involved. Then you see them backtrack. Then you see the distractions about the wiretap, which are absolutely fanciful. So I suspect what we're going to see instead is distractions or bizarre statements alleging that somehow microwaves or vacuum cleaners were involved in the tapping of the White House.
You know, I'm comparing it to the poem "the jabberwocky" which is this extraordinary nonsense poem. And when Alice reads the poem, she says, I don't know what this is all about, but I know something has died. And in my mind what's died is telling the American public the truth. The White House has to begin to take responsibility and cooperate with this so the entire public knows exactly what took place.
CABRERA: I want to talk a little bit about something that maybe it was a little bit buried earlier this week because of so much going on, kind of fast and furious. Your colleague on the House intelligence committee Adam Schiff accused the President of declassifying sensitive intelligence about a potential CIA hack. Now, this happened during an interview this week with FOX. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the CIA I just want people to know. The CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during us. That was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now doing a fantastic job.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: When you heard that, what went through your mind?
QUIGLEY: Well, first of all, unfortunately, given that he is the President of the United States he can say whatever he wants to say. The problem with reacting to it is either way, if I'm acknowledging what he says is correct or incorrect I can't win. Because I would be arguing one way or another whether or not it's true. So as absurd as it sounds, it's hard for me to react to the President's statement because I could be committing the same sin, and that's revealing secrets that we don't want our adversaries to be aware of.
CABRERA: And when you say the President can say whatever he wants, I mean, in essence you are saying he can declassify information that is classified. So if he says the statement, it doesn't necessarily say he did something wrong. Is that what I'm understanding correctly?
QUIGLEY: Yes. He wouldn't be breaking any laws. He would be doing something that's inappropriate, a bad idea, could conceivably reveal state secrets. So I would hope that he would be more careful in the future addressing these issues. Again, taking some responsibility for the fact that we are dealing with these issues, you know.
And the bottom line, when you look at all this, the President's sign on his desk probably now should say the buck stops anywhere from here. Instead of addressing the fact he tweeted something he shouldn't have tweeted, he won't take responsibility. When there's a problem with a raid in Yemen, it's the general's fault. The day after he speaks to Congress he blames his senior staff or it's the Democrats' fault or President Obama or the Republicans. Anyone but himself. And we see the country be embarrassed when he blames Great Britain.
At some point he has to act like the President of the United States. He has to take responsibility. We have to move forward together.
CABRERA: Congressman Mike Quigley, we will be watching that hearing on Monday. Thank you for spending some time with us this weekend. We appreciate it.
[19:10:02] QUIGLEY: Thank you.
CABRERA: Turning to some breaking news now, and it is sad news to report from the music world. Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry passed away today at a home outside St. Louis. He was 90 years old. Often called the father of rock and roll, Berry influenced generations of rock stars and he left his mark with hits like "Johnny B. Good," "Maybelline" and "Sweet Little Sixteen" are a couple of the others.
CNN contributor Nischelle Turner has a look back at his legendary career.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock and roll. His powerful guitar licks fueled hit songs just as "Johnny B. Good," "MAYBELLINE" and "Roll over Beethoven." During the '50s and '60s Berry's music signaled a new era in rock and
roll. The singer's ability to seamlessly blend R&B and rock music made a strong impact on the Beatles and the rolling stones, to name a few.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very difficult for me to talk about Chuck Berry because I lifted every lick he ever played.
TURNER: Berry experienced a career resurgence in the mid '80s and '90s. His music re-entered pop culture in films such as "Back to the Future" and "Pulp Fiction."
In 1984 Berry received the Grammy life-time achievement award and a year later he became the rock and roll hall of fame's first inductee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Berry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dino mite. Dino-mite. Thank you.
TURNER: On the heels of his induction the stones' Keith Richards invited a roster of great musicians to celebrate the rock icon's 60th birthday. Then in 1987 Berry was humbled to receive a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
CHUCK BERRY, SINGER: And I cannot describe -- I don't have the voice. I don't have the wind. I don't have the spirit. But believe me, I'll remember it the rest of my life.
TURNER: The married father of four repeatedly had trouble with the law. He was behind bars three times for charges ranging from attempted robbery to tax evasion and convicted of transporting an under-aged girl across state lines. However, Berry's career was not derailed.
BERRY: The margin of glory is not too high. The margin of defeat then is also not too low. So I live right through it without any pain.
TURNER: Berry received the Kennedy center honor award in 2000 and continued to perform well into his 80s. His remarkable contributions to music will forever remain a part of rock and roll history.
CABRERA: Remembering a legend tonight. Nischelle Turner, thank you.
Coming up, bogus claims and broken promises. President Trump says a lot, but when do we take him at his word?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns. Absolutely. And I would love to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Plus, how President Trump's wiretapping accusation became an international incident, angering America's closest ally.
And later, Trump supporters who say they don't know the details of the new health care bill but they have faith the President will do the right thing.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:17:31] CABRERA: Anticipation is mounting for Monday. What will FBI director James Comey say about President Trump's wiretapping claims? Congressman Adam Schiff says expect Comey to publicly debunk the allegations when he goes in front of the house intelligence committee. We have seen a growing chorus of lawmakers, many of them Republican leaders, saying there is no evidence that former President Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump tower. Yet President Trump is not backing down. And that is nothing new.
Here's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fuse on the explosive wiretapping claim was lit by a flurry of tweets.
Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped.
This is Nixon Watergate. A new low.
Yet as skeptical lawmakers have pressed the President for details, he has waffled.
TRUMP: I have been reading about things. I read in -- I think it was January 20th, a "New York Times" article where they were talking about wiretapping. I think you are going find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
FOREMAN: It's a pattern. In the election just weeks before the vote when many polls showed him trailing he said --
TRUMP: The election is rigged. It's rigged like you've never seen before.
FOREMAN: He produced no evidence. Yet when Hillary Clinton took the popular vote, he flung out another unsupported claim. In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.
On his tax returns, for years he promised he would release them. In May 2014 --
TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tack returns. Absolutely. And I would love to do that.
FOREMAN: In February 2016 --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are you going to release your tax returns?
TRUMP: Probably over the next few months. They are being worked on right now.
FOREMAN: And a few months later he said hopefully --
TRUMP: Before the election. I'll release them.
FOREMAN: Now he says he's under audit and can't. An explanation many tax experts find mysterious, questionable, and unsupported by the law. On Barack Obama's citizenship --
TRUMP: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?
FOREMAN: For years Trump implied Obama was hiding something. Then when the birth certificate appeared a new unsubstantiated claim came with it. An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a fraud, he said Muslim crowds in America celebrated on 9/11.
[19:20:00] TRUMP: And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.
FOREMAN: He hinted at scandal in the election, tweeting he would spill the beans on Ted Cruz's wife and tarring Ted Cruz's father too.
TRUMP: All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the "National Enquirer" there was a picture of her -- him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.
CABRERA: That was Tom Foreman reporting. My thanks to him.
I want to bring in my panel now. CNN political commentator and former communications director for the Trump transition team, Jason Miller. And also with us CNN senior media correspondent, host of" "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
Jason, to you first. Why does President Trump seem to throw out these latest allegations with no evidence to back them up?
JASON MILLER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION TERM: Well, thank you again for having me on this evening. One of the things I would point to is the fact that the President has called so many things right whether to be Brexit or whether it be about the concerns with Anthony Weiner, whether it about Secretary Clinton's health and fatigue issues over the campaign trail.
Look. Over the course of the campaign, I think most voters, at least enough to amount to up to 306 electoral votes, saw a very authentic candidate. As they see a very authentic President who has a very unique ability to get his message out and go around or above or even through the media to talk to people. And I think it's his own unique style. So I would say to it keep going with whatever works for you. It might
not make all the people happy all the time, but it's definitely his style and it's worked so far.
CABRERA: I mean, but it's beyond not making people happy. I mean, he is making allegations about the President, the former President, President Obama did something illegal.
MILLER: Well, I think it's important also to keep in mind what's coming up soon. The House intelligence chairman, Devon Nunes has requested this incidental collection of material surrounding Americans who are unmasked during surveillance efforts over the past six months. He has not received that yet from the FBI and the CIA and NSA. Clearly he has said that he is very concerned about this. Something that he reiterated just another day.
And so until we have all that information, until they have this hearing, until they really get to the bottom of it I think it's too soon to jump to it. And again, the President's been right on a lot of these things. Even going back to Sean Spicer's press conference on Thursday where he had somewhere between a five and seven-minute rundown of all the different news coverage that's been out there about surveillance. This is worth looking into.
CABRERA: Let's talk about that. The fact that he was pointing to news coverage, Brian. Because it seems to be pretty typical right now of this administration. And what we were just talking about, what Jason was referencing, was one of these reports in which he was reading off at the press conference brought our ally Britain into the conversation in which he cited a FOX News report that specifically said that the United Kingdom's intelligence agency was involved in doing the wiretapping of Trump tower. Again, none of this proven and FOX later came out and said that that was not true as well. They couldn't back that up.
We have seen this defense before, though, don't blame me. I'm just repeating what somebody else said. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There's this doubt. People have doubt. Again, this was not my suggestion. I didn't bring this up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you yourself calling him a racist?
TRUMP: No. He was called that by the Obama campaign. He was called it loud and clear. He was extremely insulted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you put it in your tweet if you don't believe it?
TRUMP: They said it. I didn't say it.
You know, the President's thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away. You hear this one. Somebody said that that's what he's thinking about. I didn't say he's
signing it. And I've heard it from numerous networks. And I have read it in the papers. You know. My source is the papers. So they're pretty good sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So it's interesting that he says at the end they are pretty good sources because normally he is calling us fake news. But what's the problem with this don't shoot the messenger approach here?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: You know, the news outlets like CNN and others have pretty good track records but not the kind of track record that a President can rely on without looking at any of his own intelligence, his own government-provided information. He has got some of the best researchers, fact checkers, and Intel folks in the world working for him. I mean, that's why there's so much surprise when he is relying on FOX News instead of relying on them.
An example from last month, Sweden. Trump said, last night in Sweden, because he saw a segment about Sweden the night before. It was a confusing segment on FOX that made things sound worse than they were. But he saw that segment, brought it up on stage. What we see more recently here, this example involving Britain as an example of Sean Spicer and Trump trying to glom on to some sort of backup for this disproven claim or this unproven claim about wiretapping. So they glom on to that FOX segment.
But FOX News has been clear, there is no support for what Andrew Napolitano was saying on their air. That's a FOX problem, a credibility problem for FOX. But it becomes a problem for the White House when Sean Spicer's trying to pick on these convenient news stories to back up the claims. It's kind of like having -- yes.
[19:30:16] CABRERA: Did you want to jump in on that, Jason?
MILLER: I just had a quick question for Brian because I don't always get the opportunity to chat with you directly here in a sense like this. So when we talk about sources, when we talk about news articles, where though does that line stop? Because with this entire attack against the President over the Russia issue, this fairy tale that somehow Vladimir Putin and the Russians turned secretary Clinton into a terrible candidate and they're the ones who convinced her to never go to Wisconsin and to call millions of Americans a basket of deplorables. Where is it OK, though, for these leaked sources and these confidential sources to go and leak things out? And this seems to me a lot of the criticism that is being directed toward the President is the same type of thing that we are seeing in other news stories all the time. And so, if you can see from my perspective as someone who supports the President it seems like many in the media are trying to have it both way.
STELTER: I think you are taking judge Andrew Napolitano who is a legal talking head on TV, is not a reporter, whose sources may or may not have been vetted by FOX's news division, whose reporting cannot be backed up by anybody in any news division and in big news outlet in America.
You are taking judge Napolitano and saying we can believe that, why can't we believe the "Washington Post" tonight has a new story about trouble in the administration with 18 sources. Those reporters go to their editors and tell their sources ahead of time. And I guess what I'm saying is not all sources or talking heads are created equal. And we have got to have more confidence in those trusted established newsrooms that try really hard to get it right. In this case FOX News is backing away from Napolitano.
CABRERA: This conversation --
STELTER: But I agree it makes the world more confusing.
CABRERA: -- the reliability of news organizations. This is about the President of the United States saying his sources are news organizations as opposed to going directly to the source, which he does have contact with. I mean, he is the President of the United States. He could get the evidence at his fingertips by calling the director of national intelligence, by talking with the NSA.
MILLER: And I think they are doing it the right way and they are having the house intelligence committee have this hearing and go and put it forth. And so, like I said, Chairman Nunes has requested info from the FBI and CIA and NSA. And I think that they are doing it the right way --
CABRERA: No. It seems to me, Jason -- apologies for jumping in there. But it does sound like it's shoot -- first, ask questions last. I mean, he threw this out there and then said maybe we should investigate it. But he didn't --
MILLER: There's --
CABRERA: He didn't send it out there as if it were something that need to be investigated. He basically -- he made the allegation as if it were fact.
MILLER: Well, I mean, we know for a fact that there was surveillance, there was picking up -- that there was incidental collection of a number of Americans' conversations --
CABRERA: We know there was surveillance of people connected to Russia.
MILLER: Well, again, when this -- the issue of unmasking. When our law enforcement official are up on a foreign national and they are collecting information, if there are Americans who are picked up in that they are supposed to refer to them as American citizen one or American citizen two. That's supposed to be completely different to make sure there's not back door surveillance that's then pick up Americans. And so that's why Chairman Nunes said he wants to find out the name of every single American who was unmasked over the past six months. This is a very serious deal.
But I think as we look ahead to Monday I think they are doing it the right way. I think they will come forward. And quite frankly, I hope the other thing we can finally, finally put to rest on Monday is the fact that there's no collusion or no coordination between the campaign and foreign officials. Just every time I hear that as a Trump supporter --
CABRERA: We'll see. That's part of the investigation that the committees are doing.
MILLER: That's completely nuts.
STELTER: This news environment I think that's the broader issue. And the President gets trapped up by it too. When you have this two zero news environment where the President can read a Breitbart story and run with it apparently by tweeting about wiretapping allegations and then we are sitting behind this desk thinking, well, you know, has CNN confirmed it, has "The New York Times" confirmed it, "Washington Post," "ABC" confirmed it, looking for the most reliable sources possible. I think there's this tension when we see the President or his aides looking for the most convenient source that seems to back them up even if that source is not really established.
CABRERA: Brian Stelter, Jason Miller, we have got to leave it there. Our thanks to you both.
MILLER: Thanks guys. Have a great night.
CABRERA: Still ahead, secretary of state Rex Tillerson says the U.S. has run out of patience with North Korea but can he get China on board with his plans? We go live to Beijing where a high-stakes meeting is about to take place.
[19:34:03] CABRERA: U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson is in China right now. It's his first time in Beijing in a new role as the top American diplomat. Rising tensions between the United States and North Korea are dominating talks between Tillerson and a Chinese foreign minister.
Joining us to discuss, CNN international correspondent Matt Rivers in Beijing and our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott in Washington.
Matt, North Korea has been the top of the agenda for Tillerson's entire Asia tour it seems. So what did he say today?
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, privately in his meetings with two of China's top diplomats we were told that he was going to be talking about a tougher stance from the Trump administration on China and the way China deals with North Korea. It is the Trump administration's belief that China as North Korea's only major ally on the world stage should and could be doing more to pressure Pyongyang to curb and stop its nuclear weapons development program.
But publicly, in a very short press briefing given Friday afternoon here in Beijing the secretary of state was much more friendly, much more diplomatic and in agreement with China that things are quite tense now on the Korean peninsula.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:35:15] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we have committed ourselves to do everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: But beyond being a little tougher on China we really haven't gotten a lot more specifics from the Trump administration as to how they are going it deal with North Korea. They say they want to take a different track, a different approach in dealing with North Korea. But how they are going to be different than, let's say, the past 20 years or so of American administrations, both Republican and Democrat, who have largely failed to solve this issue, we are not sure yet.
CABRERA: Elise, while Rex Tillerson is there in Beijing promoting his common view with China about North Korea, the President is making tweets like this. Let's read it.
North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help.
Isn't the U.S. sending a mixed message?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think actually the message, actually, Ana, is quite consistent. I mean, it might not be as diplomatic the way -- as secretary Tillerson will deliver it. President Trump isn't exactly known for being very diplomatic. But Rex Tillerson, as Matt said, was going to give a very tough message to China. And in fact not only urge them to do more but warn Chinese leaders that if you don't start using your leverage, if you don't start really implementing those sanctions against North Korea, because there are a lot of holes that the U.S. and others believe the Chinese are getting through with these sanctions, if you don't start really getting tough you are going to face sanctions of Chinese companies that are doing business with the Korean regime and funding their proliferation program, you are also going to see a much more rigorous U.S. defense posture in the region that you have already seen that the defense system which the U.S. is just deploying in Seoul which the Chinese are not thrilled with at all. And he is going to -- he is supposed to say that message to China, if you don't get tough you are going to see a whole lot more of that.
So I think that actually the message between President Trump and secretary Tillerson, especially as he was going into Beijing, is very consistent. But secretary Tillerson is also looking to kind of set the table for the first ever summit between President Xi Jinping and President Trump next month in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. And you know, he will be meeting with the Chinese President very shortly. So I think that, you know, it is a very tough message but he also
wants to try and lay out an agenda that is not only finding common ground but deepening the U.S.-China cooperation even if there is a lot of tension between these two countries.
CABRERA: All right Elise Labott and Matt Rivers, our thanks to both of you.
Coming up, America's closest ally dragged into the President's wiretapping scandal. The comments sparking an international incident.
Plus, it became an uncomfortable moment with Germany's leader. What had the President bringing up the infamous Edward Snowden leak?
[19:42:30] CABRERA: No regrets and no apology. That's the official word from the White House after an accusation that angered our closest ally.
Press secretary Sean Spicer reciting a claim from a FOX News Analyst that former President Obama got British intelligence to spy on then candidate Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On FOX News on March 14th, judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement. Quote "three intelligence sources have informed FOX News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA. He didn't use the CIA. He didn't use the FBI. And he didn't use the department of justice. He used GCHQ. What is that? It's the initials for the British intelligence spying agency. This was so simply by having two people say to them President needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump's conversations involving President-elect Trump he's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So first of all, GCHQ, that's Britain's equivalent of the NSA, super-secret eavesdropping agency. But the British agency dismissed this accusation as utterly ridiculous saying it should be ignored.
Joining me now, CNN intelligence and security Analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer.
Bob, good to see you. You say if accusations like this continue Sean Spicer is going to get people killed. That's a quote. What did you mean by that? That's some strong language.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I actually believe it, Ana. What happens in Britain, GCHQ is their national security agency. At that level, the director can decide what intelligence to pass to the United States. If GCHQ decides that that information will be misused, politically or otherwise, they may start to throttle off intelligence collection they share with the United States. This happens over and over and over again. We have seen a lot of foreign intelligence services decide they can't trust another country. And they withhold information.
And I'm not saying that Britain in any way would, you know, condone an attack on the United States but simply we depend so much on Britain getting a free flow of intelligence that you know, we just need this stuff. I can't tell you how good GCHQ is. I mean, we deploy our troops, make raids according to their information. And I would hate to see a division between the national security agency of the United States and Britain on this and go different ways, which is always possible. I don't know that it's going to happen. But it's happened in the past.
[19:45:02] CABRERA: Well, let me read you what the number two official at the NSA, Richard Ledgett (ph), told the BBC. He said that this idea that GCHQ would have carried out such surveillance demonstrated a quote "a complete lack of understanding of how the relationship works between intel community agencies. Of course, they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid. Sounds like you agree.
BAER: Well, it's more than epically stupid. I mean, it's a violation of American law. If President Obama tapped -- or asked the British to trap Trump's phones, that's a felony. That's -- you go to jail for that. Just like anybody in a service provider, AT&T or the FBI. It's illegal. We are talking about 20 or 30 years in jail.
So the President and Sean Spicer have accused President Obama of a crime. And the same goes for GCHQ. I mean, you would have to go to GCHQ and say listen, we can't get a warrant on the candidate Trump but would you guys do it? And I just don't see the British prime minister, GCHQ, ever agreeing to that. They never have. And when they say this is ridiculous, they would even consider it, I believe them. I know GCHQ. They would never do it.
CABRERA: Well, I want to ask you now about an awkward moment we saw yesterday at the President's press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel and the President's wiretapping claim came up. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as wiretapping, I guess by you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: You heard laughter there. But that was not laughter coming from Angela Merkel. He was referring to of course Edward Snowden's revelation that the U.S. had been monitoring Merkel's cell phone under the Obama administration. So did it surprise you that he would bring that up?
BAER: It surprised me. It's not a joke that she would take lightly. And she would take it as a joke. I mean, she didn't think it was funny at the time. And she would rather forget it. It's a political hot potato in Germany. And having the President make light of it is not the way to go. I mean, he is not a diplomat. He doesn't understand intelligence neither does Sean Spicer. Whatever their intentions are here, they just don't know how the world works. They weren't prepared to enter the White House. It's as simple as that.
CABRERA: Very, very quickly, are you concerned at all about the credibility of the U.S. government in the eyes of the rest of the world?
BAER: Absolutely. I mean, you know, look. Here's the problem. Europe doesn't know what we are going to do next. They don't know what to take seriously with Trump or Spicer, the rest of the administration. I mean, they haven't done anything, you know, entirely crazy at this point abroad, but they simply don't know who this man is and that's where we stand now. And let's hope it gets better.
CABRERA: All right. Bob Baer, thank you very much.
Coming up, texting the dead. CNN's Laurie Segall on how one woman created a digital afterlife for her late best friend.
[19:52:25] CABRERA: For the next few minutes, I want you to suspend your notion of what's real, what's possible and just consider this. What if you could create a digital version of yourself that can tweet with your friends and your family even after you die? Would you do it? Would your tweets from the grave be a welcome reminder or haunt your loved ones? And before you answer, watch this latest edition of the CNN series "Mostly Human" hosted by my colleague, Laurie Segall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN HOST, MOSTLY HUMAN: So right now I'm talking with Roman. That's him. We don't know each other well. But even texting with him for a little bit, he's the kind of guy I would love to meet. How are you feeling? He says, I'm good. I say, that's good. Will we ever meet? He says, hopefully. When? Next week. Just kidding. So that joke actually has a lot of dark humor if you know the truth. I will never be able to meet him because he's dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: Hey, Ana. We talk about a cliffhanger. Spoiler alert, I was not texting with a dead person, I was actually texting with a Chatbot, based on someone who had passed away. So the back story there is I interviewed an entrepreneur whose best friend died. And what she did was she took all their text messages, and they had over 30,000 together messages. She took their Facebook, their Facebook interactions, twitter interactions. And she used artificial intelligence to almost recreate a digital version of her best friend. This roman bot, I have to tell you, I spoke with it for 30 minutes and I felt like I knew Roman. I knew some of his deepest fears, his taste in music. And it was this really eye-opening experience. It's like, this is what you can do with technology.
One other thing she did and maybe I'm a little bit of masochist for doing this, but I gave her some of my personal texts messages with my best friend for the last four years. He is my - all that information out there on me, my Facebook post, my twitter post, and she actually created a Laurie bot.
Be careful what you wish for. My Laurie bot has some very interesting things to say based off of what I might have said or based of what I perceived as my personality. And I got to say, it was one of the most fascinating experiences I had as a tech reporter.
And it brings up also, Ana, this a question, which is, if, you know, when we die, do we want some digital persona vest to be around? I think that's one of the questions we ask as part of the series because this idea of saying, the tech is available, we have been spending all our lives putting out all this data, and using AI, we can create or recreate a personality online. The question is should we? And that's something we look at and we tackle with "MOSTLY HUMAN." - Ana.
[19:55:29] CABRERA: It is amazing. Who would have thought?
Laurie Segall, thank you.
And a reminder, you can catch the whole series, "MOSTLY HUMAN," exclusively on CNN GO anytime.
We will be right back.
[19:59:56] CABRERA: Hello. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
President Trump has a few more hours to soak up the sun in Florida before he had back to Washington for a week. That would be testing his presidency in brand new way.