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FBI Chief Hours From Testifying On Russia, Wiretap Claims; Lawmakers: No Evidence To Back Up Wiretap Claim; Supreme Court Pick, GOP Health Bill Face Big Tests; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell; Trump Blames Fox for Claims Against British Intel. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 19, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John Berman. Welcome to CNN's special coverage. A moment of truth for this White House, and we mean that literally and seriously. Within the next 12 hours, the FBI director could effectively call the president a liar and testify under oath that former President Obama never ordered wiretaps on candidate Donald Trump's phones or on any phone in Trump Tower, that is what President Trump claimed two weeks ago with no evidence then, or as far as we know now. No evidence.

And if that is what we hear from James Comey tomorrow, no evidence, no wiretaps, he would join a bipartisan Trans-Atlantic all-star team of politicians and intelligence officials who all say that claims made or statements read on this subject from the president and his press secretary are not true. That is extraordinary. And that's just the next 12 hours.

Within 48 hours, we could hear if the president's first Supreme Court nominee will have a clear path to nomination. Within 96, we will know what the health care overhaul supported by the president can overcome opposition within his own party, that is some week. But we start with tomorrow, and what promises to be some hearing. The House Intelligence Committee holds a public hearing on Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The star witness will be the FBI director, who for the first time, might answer questions on whether there is an investigation into alleged connections between Russia and associates of President Trump. CNN's Ryan Nobles on how we got to this point.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The initial hack was soon connected to the Russian government, and wasting little time, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager linked the hack to then-candidate Trump.

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The possessed those e- mails that Russian-state actors were feeding the e-mails to hackers for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.

NOBLES: Then just as the Democratic National Convention was about to start, WikiLeaks unloaded a trove of DNC e-mails. Among them damaging private conversations. It did not take long for Donald Trump to embrace the hack and Russia's potential involvement. DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

NOBLES: As the Clinton campaign worked to contain the political damage, Trump refused to back down from his kind words about Russia and its controversial leader, Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: I've already said he is really very much of a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.

NOBLES: Days before the second presidential debate in October, two major bomb shells, first the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence issued a statement, blaming Russia for the hack, and second, WikiLeaks released another batch of stolen e-mails, unloading the inbox of top Clinton adviser, John Podesta. At that debate, once again, Trump attempted to take the focus off Russia.

TRUMP: She doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.

NOBLES: WikiLeaks wasn't done. More DNC e-mails were released on November 7th. The next night, a new president.

TRUMP: I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.

NOBLES: As he started to build his new administration, Trump still resisted blaming Russia.

TRUMP: It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. I mean, they have no idea.

NOBLES: President Obama ordered a full review of how Russia meddled in the election which concluded it was working to help Trump.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC.

NOBLES: Just 22 days before Trump took office President Obama imposed new sanctions on the Russian government. On that same day, incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn spoke on the phone with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was later revealed he also texted the ambassador and met with him in person at Trump tower, an administration official has told CNN. Trump associates including Vice President Mike Pence called the meetings introductory.

MKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia.

NOBLES: But that turned out not to be true. Flynn specifically spoke about the sanctions. But Flynn wasn't the only one. Some Trump associates also held meetings with the ambassador at the Republican National Convention, but insists they were only introductory gatherings, attendee J.D. Gordon told CNN. Then-Senator Jeff Sessions was one of them. But appearing before a senate hearing on his confirmation, he said this when asked about possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I didn't have - not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it.

[23:04:56] NOBLES: But after taking office, Sessions now Attorney General admitted that he, too, as a senator met with Kislyak twice during the campaign, but he said it was in his capacity as a senator, not a member of the Trump campaign. Sessions decided to recuse himself from any investigation related to the campaign. Amidst to all of these, the president himself took to Twitter, making this shocking claim. "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during this very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy!" The accusation was made without any evidence to back it up, but the led White House to ask Congress to add this wrinkle to their broad investigation into Russia's role in the election. But at this point even republicans contend the evidence just isn't there.

DEVIN NUNES, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.

NOBLES: Monday, congressional leaders will attempt to unpack the many layers of this controversy with the goal of making the situation clear for the American people.

The White House continues to insist there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, setting the stage for Monday's hearing where high-ranking officials, such as FBI director James Comey and National Security Agency director Mike Rogers will testify. Ryan Nobles, CNN Washington.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Ryan for that. We have a lot to discuss tonight. With me now, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst, former federal prosecutor, Mark Preston; CNN politics executive editor, David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst and former adviser to four presidents; Alex Burns, CNN Political Analyst and National Political Reporter for the New York Times; Alice Stewart CNN Political commentator and republican strategist; and Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan and a CNN Senior Political Commentator, a democrat on the panel tonight.

David Gergen, I want to start with you, because we are less than 12 hours away from this remarkable House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey very possibly quite likely to testify that something that the President of the United States said is not true, that he was wiretapped by former President Obama. What does this moment mean for the president and the country, David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The president's credibility is directly on the line tomorrow morning. We have not heard from the FBI director, James Comey on this issue, we've heard various supports on what he apparently thinks that there's nothing to it, but this is the first time he'll take the stand and he will be - he'll tell us one way or the other and I think clear the air of whether the president was correct or was lying, when he did something that's unprecedented in our history, the sitting president accused a former president of a high crime while he was in the office and an impeachable offense, and he did so with no apparent evidence.

Tomorrow, we'll learn whether there was any evidence, and that's going to be extremely important to the credibility of the president going forward. He's in all sorts of controversies now, and this may be a good week for him, may get his health care bill through the house this week. He may have other good news this week on Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, but on his credibility, it's on the line on this issue about his tweet accusing President Obama of a high crime.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, James Comey, he's been in the news a little bit, over the last 12 months or so. Remind us of this man, who is James Comey and how do you think he will respond to this moment tomorrow?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he was one of the most distinguished prosecutors of his generation. The U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, in Manhattan, the Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, FBI director named by President Obama, but then, you know, in October of 2016 in violation of all Justice Department policy, he announced that the investigation of Hillary Clinton had been re-opened on the eve of the election, he announced it has closed a couple days before Election Day, something that many people believe costs Hillary Clinton the election.

So, there is tremendous rage at him in democratic quarters, but he is still the head of the FBI, he is conducting investigations as we speak, and one possibility is, that we will not hear a dispositive answer from Comey tomorrow, that he will say this is a pending investigation, I can't comment on everything. So, the expectation or the hope that we're going to have a neat closure of the Trump accusation may not be totally justified.

BERMAN: Alex Burns, you were nodding your head on that, because that is one of the possibilities here that FBI - and there's different grades of this, right? The FBI director could say no, "no evidence of wiretapping" because that story has leaked out from the FBI over time, but he could stop short of talking about any details about the investigation, if there is an investigation into any connection between Trump associates and the Russians, Alex.

[23:09:53] ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, exactly. I think there are short-term questions here and there are long-term questions here. And the short-term questions all have to do with this assertion that the president made apparently as David said without evidence that President Obama were wiretapping at Trump Tower. It seems so far, you know, the senior members of Congress who have reviewed the evidence, the Justice Department has forked over some evidence, and that has led them to come forward and say pretty definitely, there's no indication that this happened. So, if we do get a hard answer on something tomorrow from Comey, that is likely to be it.

BERMAN: And that's a big deal.

BURNS: That a big deal. Potentially, the bigger deal are all of these long-term questions that we're really unlikely to get any resolution on tomorrow are related to, not just whether there's an investigation into, you know, potential ties between Trump and his circle and folks on the Russian side, but, you know, what any investigation might have turned up, what the nature of that investigation is the scope of that investigation, who's involved in that investigation, I think a lot of folks would be pretty surprised actually if Comey went into great detail about any of that.

BERMAN: Governor Granholm, Alex was touching on what one of the big issues is here, is there any proof of collusion between Trump associates and the Russians? Listen to what Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee said about that?


RICHARD QUEST, CNN QUEST MEANS BUSINESS ANCHOR: Have you seen any evidence of any collusion between what I'll call Trump world, associates, campaign officials, Trump world and the Russians to swing the 2016 presidential election?

NUNES: I'll give you a simple answer, no.

QUEST: No evidence of any collusions?


BERMAN: So, Republican Nunes. Governor, is not the only one who says no, no evidence. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says no. He has seen no evidence of collusion. If there is no evidence of collusion, does that answer most of the questions and doesn't this eventually just die out?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER UNITED STATES GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Well, the question is, is there going to be a true legitimate, independent investigation of this. There is so much going on around this Russia question, whether you started the - at the RNC, them putting this pro-Russia language into their - the platform committee. All of these people that surround Donald Trump, who've got ties to Russia, the lies. You know, maybe there's no collusion. Maybe it's just all of the lies that have happened since the election to cover up what they're worried about.

It's just too much for an - a committee like the one in the house to do. It has to be an independent committee for the country, to feel like they have gotten an answer. And let me just say one other thing about Comey's testimony, and I don't know that he'll do this, but I think it would serve a great - it served the country in a great fashion if he would describe even if it's not about specially this investigation, but what the tactics are that the Russians are using to intervene in the United States but globally in other elections. Are we at risk from Russia, and if so, what can we do about it? I think that, even if he doesn't testify about the actual investigation, and I agree with the others that I doubt that he's going to say that, but it would be really helpful, I think, for Congress to know and the people to know what the Russians are doing in the U.S. and other places to intervene in elections.

BERMAN: And I think there is bipartisan support for just that kind of investigation. I think democrats want to see it go further than just that, but I do think there is support for at a minimum that from both sides of the aisle, Alice Stewart, I'm curious how republicans handle this tomorrow going forward? Again, I want to play you some sound at how they've been responding to this specific wiretap claims and evidence-free wiretap plans the president has made, but listen to what they've been saying.


NUNES: Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, but there never was.

ADAM SCHIFF, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: No evidence to support the president's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor.

PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER: We have not seen evidence of any of (INAUDIBLE) like that you've described.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Did you know of any evidence to support that allegation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jake, not that I've seen and not that I'm aware of.


BERMAN: We threw in democratic Adam Schiff there, but there were three (INAUDIBLE) republicans there creating some distance between themselves and the president, but how much distance can republicans afford to place between themselves and the president right now?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: On this specific issue, I think it would be foolhardy to connect yourself too close to this, because as it appears, there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support this. While we don't know the basis for why he came up with this in the first place, he truly believes this. He believes in his mind that Trump Tower was wiretapped and he continues - he and Tom Spicer continue to fallback on news reports that back this up.

But at the end of the day, there doesn't appear to be any information that backs this up. Even across the pond, foreign leaders are saying this is rubbish and ridiculous. Hopefully, Comey will come out and put an end to this, and say there is no factual basis to this, and let's move on. But I think the government pointed out a good point. Aside from this, and whether or not there's coordination with the Trump campaign and Russia, there is the overarching concern for this country about Russia meddling in our election, and that is really what we need to get to the bottom of. If it's not tomorrow, in the days and the weeks to come. BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, you seem to be suggesting it a way that the FBI director would be doing some republicans a favor if he comes out and says "No evidence," then they can just put it on his lap and just move on.

Mark Preston, you know, it's not like President Trump is entering this week in a position of enormous strength. There's a Gallup poll that just came out today showing his approval rate at 37 percent, which is historically low for a president at this point in the administration. You know, and the comparison to past presidents doesn't matter here maybe as much as the trend line here, which is ugly for this president. He had drop precipitously in the last couple of weeks. So what kind of a moment is it critically for him politically now, Mark?

PRESTON: Well, it is critical though that we should point out that 37 percent, though, is certainly tilted because he has, you know, virtually no support amongst democrats, and he started (INAUDIBLE) amongst independents, but he still continues to do well with republicans, you know, with base voters. And even if he wasn't doing well with those voters, I mean, let's assume that the erosion, you know, he's had about 80 percent, perhaps a little bit higher, John. Let's assume that we saw that drop, you know, like an elevator, you know, that had been -- had its cable cut, I don't think that Donald Trump would care. I mean, he has shown throughout his campaign that he's not beholden to anyone but himself, and he certainly has shown in his first couple of months of his presidency right now that he's not beholden to anyone but himself. And he believes that people should take his word for fact, and then move forward.

So it is a critical time for his presidency, as David Gergen said, his credibility is very much on the line, and while it might not be as pronounced and as apparent in the next couple of days, we are already now seeing world leaders who are being skeptical or showing skepticism that whether or not they can trust Donald Trump. And, look, you need these leaders whether it's Germany or the U.K. or what have you, or Australia, when you are trying to fight ISIS and deal with other major global problems such as North Korea.

BERMAN: You're seeing it internationally the question is will it have seepage even into other domestic issues and we could learn this week because it is a huge week. Guys, stick around, a lot going on this week not just the hearings on the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow.

Crucial test for the president's agenda. We're talking about the Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch, he faces the hearing. The health care bill on the line. Plus, I might speak to a key member of the intelligence committee who gets to ask questions tomorrow to the FBI director. And what's view from Russia in this? What do they make of the goings on this week? Stick around.


[23:20:20] BERMAN: It's 11:21 p.m. Eastern Time. You're watching CNN's special coverage on the president's crucial week ahead, that we are here on a Sunday night, 11:21, should tell you something. Hours from now FBI Director James Comey will testify on the Russia investigation and the president's wiretap claim.

The president's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch also on the hot seat for his confirmation hearing, and all of this as house republican leaders scramble to try to lock in support ahead of Thursday's critical vote on its health care overhaul bill. Let's bring back the panel. Jeffrey Toobin, I want to start with you.

You've covered your fair share of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Neil Gorsuch. Politics aside, and by that I mean Merrick Garland, which I'll get to it in a moment, what democrat should do, what republican should do here, that aside, does he face -- are there any question marks legally speaking with Neil Gorsuch?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, in this very tumultuous 10 weeks of the Trump presidency, the smoothest rollout has been the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I mean, he is impeccably qualified, highly respected, very -- you know, there are no ethical questions about him. He has experience, he's been a judge. The only ground on which to oppose him, and it is a ground that certainly many democrats will embrace, which is too conservative. Will not protect abortion rights, will not protect African-American rights, will embrace the death penalty with too much gusto, will lower the barriers between church and state. Those are the grounds that many democrats will use to oppose him, but anything regarding ethics or controversy, none of that.

BERMAN: So, David Gergen, you know, one historical note, Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court one year and three days ago. So there's also that, which democrats will not forget. But can they afford to be sour grapes on that, David?

GERGEN: I don't -- listen, they bring a great deal of justifiable anger to the table after the Garland experience. You know, that was -- the democrats are right, they had, you know, they had -- it was held out too long with too little inaction in order to produce this result, but still, Jeff Toobin is right. This is -- this is one of the best moments of the Trump presidency was nominating Neil Gorsuch. The rollout was, you know, was well done, he's got -- I think a mainstream conservative. And the democrats have to make a fundamental choice. Do they want to oppose Garland -- do they want to oppose Gorsuch simply because he's a conservative, and they just agree with him, which means they are going to oppose everybody or are they better off letting people -- some of the democrats in red states who are up for reelection go ahead and vote for Gorsuch on the basis that this is a mainstream conservative, let's save our firepower for somebody who's really objectionable and goes way too far.


GERGEN: And I think that they would have more credibility with the public if they did that.

BERMAN: Well, we happen to have a very powerful democrat with us, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, former governor, what do you think? I mean, answer to David's question, what do you think democrats should do here? And can democrats afford to upstate their base for the progressive base by not fighting tooth and nail to oppose Judge Gorsuch?

[23:24:35:] GRANHOLM: This is a moment for democrats to be really strong about who they stand for. They stand for average citizens. If they don't use this Neil Gorsuch nomination as an opportunity to say he has consistently sided with big corporations against the average citizens.

Chuck Schumer had a whole series of people who were in the cases that were adjudicated by Judge Gorsuch, who were just regular folks, who had very compelling stories. Shame on democrats if they don't use this as a moment to tell Americans what it would be like to have a democratic president appointing Supreme Court justices, whether it's about choice, whether it's about big money in politics, something that democrats have been railing on, whether it is about the voting rights act. This is a moment to be clear and strong, and regardless of whether you are in a red state or a blue state, I think democrats have to be united.

BERMAN: I think that's a sign of what democrats are facing, some of the pressure democrats are phrasing. Mark Preston, let's shift to health care, if we can. The latest whip count from CNN, 26 republicans have even said they are against the current health care bill or leaning against it 15 flat out Now, of course, this doesn't take into account changes that might happen over the next few days, and we are getting a sense of what those changes might be. Do you think that number 26 is more likely to go up or down at this point?

PRESTON: I mean, at this point, I think it's more likely to go up even though we've seen a successful lobbying effort on behalf of the president, and certainly, Speaker Ryan being open to making changes to the bill after initially being reluctant to do so, but even if it does pass the House of Representatives, John, we all know it's going to go to the senate and it's dead on arrival in many ways because democrats will stand united against the bill when it comes over there

And you're going to see a lot of centrist republicans who are going to say, "We can't go for this either because of the cuts that we see in the Medicaid program. So -- among other things as well." So as much as we saw -- President Trump, just a few hours ago, he spoke to some reporters on Air Force One coming back from Florida. He said things were going very well, you know, and things were going great, as he often does say, and things aren't necessarily going great with the -- with the health care negotiations at this point.

BERMAN: Alex Burns, do you suggest that some conservative members in the house are being asked to stick their neck outs for something that won't ultimately pass?

BURNS: That's absolutely right. You know, Mark sort of eluded to this, but one of the biggest political obstacles, even setting aside the substantive objections that folks to the right of the party and on --- at the center of the party have about this bill. There's just as broad suspicion in the house that they're being asked to take a tough vote, especially for members in those marginal districts that are going to be really competitive in 2018. They're being asked to take a tough vote to vote for, you know, reducing certain kinds of access to health care, certain kinds of benefits that people get under Obamacare. Then the bill will go to the senate, where Susan Collins, and Dean Heller, and those moderates that Mark was eluding to, will just rip the guts out of the thing and replace it with something completely different. And then, the bill will go back to the House and you'll just have to take it or leave it.

So, these are moderates, these are -- some conservative members who are in more vulnerable districts, who are sort of looking down the barrel of 2018, and thinking, "Am I going to have this vote on my record and nothing really to show for it in terms of substance?"

BERMAN: So, Alice, but can they afford? Can they afford this week not to get this through?

STEWART: They have to pass something, not just something, but they have to cut something that has lower premiums and rolls back Medicaid. Period. End of story.

BERMAN: That's the conservative side. They have to do you think what the conservatives want.

STEWART: Absolutely. The House Freedom Caucus, they are tremendous block in the House, and they -- that's what they want. And without their support, this is not going to pass. What we have on the table right now is not what we are going to see on Thursday. There will be changes. There's been a lot of behind the scenes meetings. I do know (INAUDIBLE) Ted Cruz and Mark Meadows, Mike Lee, met at Mar-a-Lago this weekend with Trump administration officials. They understand the significance of it. Republicans in the House and Senate, campaign and won on this issue. And there will be some major changes, we're talking about immediate rolls back on Medicaid expansion, lower premiums, and also working -- requiring work for those who get Medicaid, and these are some big changes that have to be done.

BERMAN: Alex, we only have time for a yes or no, will that make Susan Collins, Dean Heller, the world happy?

BURNS: It will make them deeply unhappy

BERMAN: That was not a yes or no but it answered the question.

Jeffrey Toobin, Mark Preston, David Gergen, Alex Burns, Alice Stewart, Governor Jennifer Granholm, thank you all for being with us here on this pretty remarkable Sunday night. Appreciate it.

So, democrats on the intelligence committee, they are gearing up for this hearing tomorrow, face-to-face with FBI Director James Comey. They will get to ask him questions on the Russia investigation. And we will speak to one of the democrats on the committee, coming up next. What is the one thing he wants to know? Stick around.


[23:30:05] BERMAN: Must-see T.V. on Capitol Hill where just a few hours, the House Intelligence Committee opens the first congressional hearing into whether Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election. Among the witnesses, FBI Director, James Comey, who as part of his testimony, might very well say publicly that there is no evidence that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower despite the current president's claims -- continued claims without evidence to the contrary.

Joining me now, Democrat Congressman, Eric Swalwell, of California, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who will take the redeye from California to Washington to be part of those hearings tomorrow morning.

Congressman, thank you so much for getting us...


BERMAN: ...on the way to the airport. There's been a lot of focus on the FBI director and whether he will say -- will he say that the president's claims about being wiretapped were false. Beyond that, what do you want to hear from him?

SWALWELL: And beyond that is what is most important because the claims by the president are merely smoke bombs to obstruct the investigation where the dots continue to connect this president, his team and Russia. And the question that we all have is are all these deep, personal and political and financial ties to Russia just coincidences or is it a convergence?

BERMAN: So you want him to basically answer the question tomorrow was there a collusion between Trump associates and Russia?

SWALWELL: Well, whether they were working -- whether anyone on Trump's team were working with Russia as they were attacking us. And now, the FBI director may say that this is an open investigation and we certainly would not want to compromise any -- any work that they're doing right now.

But I also think it's important that the American people understand just how significant the interference campaign was that Russia ran against the United States, and how important it is that we do something about it because they're sharpening the knives right now and ready to come back at us as well as our allies in France and Germany who have elections coming up in pretty short order.

BERMAN: Now (ph), you bring up a good point. The FBI director and Admiral Rogers, they may very well say that there are investigations.

We don't comment on active investigations. Will you be satisfied with those answers?

SWALWELL: Yes, what we want are assurances that they are pursuing all leads and following the evidence. Right now, we have no reason to believe that they aren't doing that.


And so if an investigation is closed, I also think it would benefit the president and the American people to say, these were all merely coincidence. But if they are not just coincidences, I think we want to pursue all of them because if does seem quite unusual that so many people on the president's team had prior ties to Russia.

And we're going over to Russia as Russia was attacking as.

BERMAN: And you keep mentioning (ph) what you call coincidences or dots that you want to see if they're connected. But again, Devin Nunes, the chair of the committee says he's seen no evidence that there was collusion between Russia and Trump associates.

Former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper says he has seen no such evidence. You are on the Intelligence Committee.

You are privy to things that we are not. Have you viewed (ph) those comments that there is no evidence that they have seen that there is collusion?

SWALWELL: Well, I would say this is the first inning of the investigation. And so it's very early for us.

And so that's why we're asking the FBI director to tell us what he can and make assurances that all leads will be pursued. But also, this is about looking forward.

And I know Americans, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, we want to know that when we go to the ballot box, these fights belong to us, and that no foreign adversary ever again will interfere in the way that Russia did.

BERMAN: Roger Stone, political consultant, someone who has been close on and off with Donald Trump -- President Trump over the years, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked him to preserve records. He has admitted that he had contacts with Guccifer 2.0.

Guccifer is a hacker who hacked into the DNC claims. He hacked into the DNC. He had contact with him after the hacks, Roger Stone says.

Again, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked him to preserve records. Is Roger Stone someone you would like to see come testify before your committee, the House Intelligence Committee?

He says he would like to testify before Congress if it's public.

SWALWELL: Yes, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Flynn I think are all very important witnesses. You know, and if you look at this in the best light toward the Trump team, it's just bad judgment that you would have so many connections as Russia is attacking us.

But if you look at it in a more, I think, common-sense-like, it seems like as Russia's attacking us, these individuals are going over to Moscow or in communications with Moscow. That seems a lot more like they are working with Russia during our election.

BERMAN: OK, Roger Stone did not work directly for the campaign. He is a Trump associate. He didn't... SWALWELL: He worked -- he was an adviser.

BERMAN: He did not work for the campaign -- not in the summer, not when these meetings are said to have taken place. And the meetings with the other Russians, with Ambassador Kislyak (ph), you know, there are meetings between politicians and ambassadors, correct?

SWALWELL: Right. Well, Roger Stone's not a politician. Carter Page is not a politician. And Jeff Sessions, who had met with the ambassador two times after it was revealed that Russia was attacking us, again, in -- in the best light, that's bad judgment.

But why would he deny under oath in front of a Senate panel that he had met with them? As a -- as a former prosecutor, when we would present that type of evidence to a jury, you would say that's a consciousness of guilt.

You are covering up that for a reason.

BERMAN: Well, his honesty before the Senate is a separate issue. He seemed to be less than forthcoming.

That's sure (ph). But it doesn't necessarily get to the meetings themselves. These are questions, Congressman, you will get to ask tomorrow. We will be watching.

SWALWELL: Yes, coincidences or a convergence. Right (ph).

BERMAN: We will be watching coincidences, convergence, questions -- you have a redeye to catch. We will let you go. Congressman Eric Swalwell...

SWALWELL: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: ...of California, thanks a lot for being with us. Appreciate it.

All right, we alluded to it right there. Exactly what, if anything, is the FBI investigating right now?

One of our reporters who has been digging joins us with the very latest, next.




BERMAN: It is nearing midnight in Washington and the East Coast. And while the FBI Director, James Comey, may be resting up for his appearance at a key hearing tomorrow, we are not resting.

It's just hours the FBI director will testify before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia's involvement in the U.S. election and President Trump's claims, without evidence, of being wiretapped. I'm joined now by CNN's Shimon Prokupecz.

He has been digging for months into just this issue.

And Shimon, just so we fully understand right now, at this point, as we sit here tonight, do we know exactly what the FBI is investigating?

Shimon Prokupecz, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have some idea. I -- I think what we've been told at least is that they are looking at Russian influence.

It's very general. What does that mean? We don't know specifics whether it involves collusion, some of the fake news, other aspects of what Russia did.

But we do know that they are specifically looking at Russian influence and what role that played in the election, what they did, what was going on. But specifically, as to who they're targeting in the investigation, if anyone is even being targeted, that we don't know.

BERMAN: I think we do know that tomorrow's hearings will be dramatic. Anytime you have FBI Director, James Comey, say anything in public these days, it's dramatic...


BERMAN: know, period, full stop. However, how revealing do you think they will really be, Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: I don't think it's going to be that revealing. I think we will get one answer for sure that we all expect to hear tomorrow.

And that is regarding the wiretap. Outside of that, it's really up in the air. I think he is going to sort of hide behind the, you know, this is all under investigation.

He's going to be careful. And I think his answers are going to be structured in a way as to not give anything up, to not show any bias.

Things are still progressing at the FBI. This is still a very long- term investigation. And they still have a lot more work to do before they know exactly what happened here and who was involved.

And they also don't want to, you know, let folks know what they know and some of the methods that they're using to know, to kind of find out the information that they're gathering in their investigation.

BERMAN: Sure. If he does testify that there is no evidence or that President Trump or candidate Trump was not wiretapped and that's all we get, that actually, in and of itself, would be significant. David Gergen (ph) was talking about the fact that it gets to the issue of presidential credibility.

But I think you're right, Shimon. More than that, we'll have to wait and see. Great to have you with us, Shimon Prokupecz.

PROKUPECZ: Thanks, thanks.

BERMAN: Go back to digging all night as usual.

Of course, the Russian government has denied meddling in the U.S. election. A Kremlin spokesman says Russia is being demonized by these allegations.

So how is the House Intelligence Committee hearing likely to play in Moscow? CNN Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh there, getting reaction.

Good morning to you where you are, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, right behind me, as you can see. But yes, the Kremlin have been absolutely clear.

They won't even be watching as the hearings get under way tomorrow saying they're, quote, "too busy" in referring to the constant allegations they were meddling in the 2016 election as quote, "a broken record with futuristic songs." You've got to bear in mind here that I'm sure the Kremlin relished to some degree the suggestion that they were somehow the puppet master behind the scenes, controlling the electoral process, even though they deny that.

It makes them look good on the global stage, you know, Putin very keen to reestablish Soviet era grand (ph). But at the same time, too, they've got to be realizing the kind of scrutiny now on Trump-Russian relations makes it pretty hard for the White House occupants now if he even wanted to generate policies that are slightly closer to what Putin may actually want to see in terms of cooperation or more pliant U.S. administration.

It's going to be very difficult for him to do that because of the sheer volume of domestic criticism he's going to get and scrutiny, if anything, remotely they do seems to benefit Russia.


BERMAN: So -- no Nick, on the streets there, do Russians care or are they paying attention?

WALSH: I think to some degree, state T.V. plays to this as well. But I mean, you know, to -- you've got to bear in mind what Donald Trump said just a matter of hours ago about Vladimir Putin, calling him a tough cookie.

Now, that is obviously a statement of the obvious, frankly, if you compared Donald Trump, a man, you know, born with a large amount of money in his family and Vladimir Putin who grew up in the tough post- war street of St. Petersburg and then rose through the ranks of the KGB to lead it, then become prime minister, then become president over decades.

They're, of course, very different men in terms of their background. But calling him a tough cookie is exactly what the Kremlin wants him to be seen as frankly. You look around this city, there are T-shirts with pictures of

Vladimir Putin in aviators trying to look as tough as possible. You know, frankly, I think to some degree, comments like that suggest that again, Donald Trump is very keen to not be seen to be critical of the Kremlin head.

And all this frankly plays in to the broader notion that I think the Kremlin are trying to aggrandize Putin on the world stage. Some say that's a distraction from problems in the economy here caused by sanctions, caused by the Russian intervention in Ukraine.

But frankly, at this point, this is looking like a drama that to most degree plays in Russia's favor.


BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh for us in Moscow, we will talk to you tomorrow as this is going on. Thanks so much, Nick.

So what does this all mean for the U.S. in terms of national security, the respect of U.S. intelligence agencies' stature in the world? A former CIA officer joins us next.





DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: As far as wiretapping, I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.



BERMAN: President Trump makes a joke about wiretapping while he's standing beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference. But is the global impact for the president's accusations -- is it a laughing matter?

I want to bring in CNN National Security Analyst, Steve Hall. He's a retired CIA Chief of Russia operations.

And Steve, the question is, you know, if you're in Russia right now, if you're in the Kremlin, if you're in the FSB (ph), their intelligence service and you see the president of the United States making a joke about being wiretapped while he's standing next to the German chancellor, what's your reaction?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The Russians have to be extremely pleased at their return on investment on this whole thing. I mean, remember, this all started last year with what the American intelligence community has indicated as was indeed an influence operation authored by the Russian intelligence services to try to increase the likelihood that Donald Trump would be elected.

So that worked out really well for them because that indeed happened. Now, you've got this sort of chaos where you've got a president who's essentially at war with, well, any number of folks. He is at war with the press.

He is at war with his predecessor, Barack Obama, by saying, you know, things like, you, you know, you wiretapped me, which -- which was a crime. He's at war with his own intelligence community, you know, calling them Nazis and calling -- calling into question their -- their professional, you know, their -- their professional work.

So, you know, this has worked out really, really well for the Russians. And -- and I don't think we can forget the Russian's goal at the end of the day, whether they're talking -- whether we're talking about Germany or whether we're talking about the United States or any of the other U.S. allies like Great Britain, is basically to undermine Western liberal democracy.

That's -- that's what they're really going for here. And they're off to a good start here at least in the United States, I think.

BERMAN: You brought up the British. And of course, President Trump, Sean Spicer -- Sean Spicer read from a -- a Fox News analyst claiming that the British were involved in the spying again. You know, Fox News won't even own that report.

And this is what the president had to say about it at the same press conference with Angela Merkel.


TRUMP: We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.

I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me.

You should be talking to Fox.


BERMAN: Well, he might not have an opinion on it. But the British have an opinion on it. They don't like it one bit.

So if you're in British intelligence right now working for them, how upset are you and why?

HALL: Well, obviously, GCHQ, the British version of the National Security Agency, NSA, here in the United States, you know, they -- they reacted very. very strongly and very uncharacteristically. They don't like to speak publicly.

But clearly, they felt strongly enough about this particular incident to -- to push back on it. Look, our relationship with -- with long- time intelligence allies and strategic allies like the British is not going to be destroyed by something like this.

But it does put unnecessary strains on it. And...

BERMAN: Right.

HALL: ...really when you're in the business of collecting intelligence and -- and working with your allies to, for example, try to thwart terrorists attacks abroad, you don't want any of that extra stress. You want it to be a smooth, you know, normal relationship.

And this kind of thing doesn't help.

BERMAN: So Steve, we've got about a minute left here. I want to know what you are you looking to hear from -- from these House intelligence hearings tomorrow.

HALL: The -- the first thing that I would really be interested in doing is -- is hoping -- I mean, my great hope is that there will be focus on the real issue here, which is was there any contact, cooperation or collusion with the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign before the elections.


That -- everything else is -- is just sort of chafe up in the air in terms of, you know, wiretapping GCHQ. All of that sort of thing is -- is, I believe, a distraction away from that critical question. I think we just have to meet -- just have to go down the list of folks that we know had been named and associated with these, you know, these things, guys like Manafort, guys like, you know, Stone, guys like Cohen (ph) and --and above all, Flynn.

We need to ask those folks what exactly was going on? What is the nature of your contact with the Russians?

Explain that to us under oath. And only then can we actually, I think, begin a really in-depth investigation, which, in my view, actually has to be an independent one eventually. I don't think we can just rely on the intelligence oversight committees to do it.

BERMAN: Steve Hall, great to have you with us. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.

HALL: My pleasure.




BERMAN: Our special coverage of the House Intelligence hearing begins tomorrow morning at 9:00 Eastern. Our coverage will be anchored by Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper.

FBI Director, James Comey -- he is the headliner. He will be testifying at 10 a.m. Again, the key question -- will he testify about whether President Trump was wiretapped by President Obama -- a claim for which there is no evidence. What will he say?

We'll find out. I'm John Berman. Good night.