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FBI & NSA Chiefs Refute Wiretap Claim; Interview with Sen. John Cornyn; Gorsuch Faces Questioning; Inspiring Hope in Mexico; Trump Credibility Issues; Investigation into Trump Campaign and Russia. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 21, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:18] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro was on NEW DAY just moments ago and he said that he thinks President Trump lied about the wiretapping claims. Some Republican lawmakers say the president should apologize. Here's the White House's response to that.


QUESTION: Is the president prepared to withdraw that accusation, apologize to the president?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, we're -- we started a hearing. It's still ongoing.


CAMEROTA: All right, let's discuss this and so much more with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. He's a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Good morning, senator.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So now that we know from yesterday's hearing that Director Comey says that neither he nor the Department of Justice sees any basis whatsoever, there is no evidence whatsoever to base President Trump's claims of President Obama wiretapping him. What does that mean about President Trump's accusations?

CORNYN: Well, I think we -- we still need to figure out what the president was talking about. When he talked about wiretapping, we know that President Obama personally does not -- would not have done that. Could somebody in his administration have gone to the foreign intelligence surveillance court to get a warrant to listen to the phone calls of the Russian ambassador that incidentally caught up an American citizen, reportedly including Mike Flynn? I think that's -- that's possible. And so I'm not sure exactly whether -- how the president is using the language. But literally the language is -- it cannot be true, but if he's characterizing what we have been -- seen reported in the press about listening to the conversation of members of his campaign, like General Michael Flynn, then that would be more understandable.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I know you just said that his language literally cannot be true. We just said --

CORNYN: Well, the president -- yes, the president of the United States doesn't go to the foreign intelligence surveillance court personally. He does it through his FBI and through the foreign intelligence agencies.

CAMEROTA: Right. But, I mean, as you know, President Trump did accuse President Obama literally of himself wiretapping. I mean I have all of the tweets here. He says, "is it legal for a sitting president to wiretap a race for president prior to the election? Turned down by court earlier. A new low!" So now that you just said that's literally impossible or not true, and Director Comey says there's no basis whatsoever, I mean we just had Joaquim Castro on, a congressman, who said that it's a lie.

CORNYN: Well, I think this needs to be investigated and it is being investigated as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan investigation into Russian activities and the election. It's pretty clear that Russia took active measures or basically a covert propaganda campaign to try to undermine the election, no matter who won, whether it was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

[08:35:16] CAMEROTA: Yes.

CORNYN: What we've heard from the director of the National Intelligence is that there's no evidence of collusion --


CORNYN: Between the Russians and the campaign, but we don't know all the answers yet.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean all of that -- of course, but -- of course we don't, but all of that is separate and apart from accusing a sitting president, President Obama, of illegally wiretapping a political opponent.

CORNYN: Well, we do know there -- there was likely a crime committed by somebody who had access to classified information, that leaked classified information.

CAMEROTA: So the leak --

CORNYN: All of this --

CAMEROTA: Yes, you are talking -- yes.

CORNYN: All of this needs -- all of this needs to be investigated and we'll follow the facts wherever they may lead rather than rushing to judgment. I realize there are limitations on what you can communicate in a 140 characters through a tweet and I'm not justifying that. I'm just saying I think we need to get to all the facts before we reach a conclusion.

CAMEROTA: Yes, sure. I -- and I'm just saying that given that James Comey has said that there's no basis whatsoever, you still are willing to do a congressional hearing on the wiretapping accusation, though no one, no official, no lawmaker even, has ever been able to find a basis for that? I mean, in other words, is this a good use of taxpayer money or is this a wild goose chase?

CORNYN: Well, it's a bad use of taxpayer money to talk about classified information in a public setting. That's why it's so important to have the House and the Senate Intelligence Committee that has access to the intelligence agencies and the classified information to do it behind closed doors and then to reveal as much of it as we possibly can in a public setting. But right now we know that there was, at least according to the Director of National Intelligence, no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. We do know that there were leaks, which is a crime to leak classified information. We don't know who did that, but we know who had access to the information. Trey Gowdy, yesterday, asked the FBI director about that. And so all I'm saying is, let's get to the bottom of this before we reach conclusions.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And just to be clear, James Clapper said that he knew of no collusion before January 20th. He couldn't be certain after January 20th. But I take your point.

Let's move on to Gorsuch and his confirmation hearing that I know you're quite invested in. What did you hear him say yesterday that gave you confidence in him?

CORNYN: Well, we know that ten years ago that Neil Gorsuch was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most important courts in the nation. And now, of course, he's being promoted to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's interesting, most of the questions and the comments at the hearing weren't about him and his record, but rather about President Trump, about other issues, about which Judge Gorsuch is not going to be able to prejudge. Obviously, controversial issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and the like. The judge is going to have to do what Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all other judges acting ethically do, which is to not prejudge cases that may come before the court. He's not a politician running on a platform. He's somebody who's running to be a member of the highest court in the country. I think he's enormously well qualified. It's going to be very interesting to see what my Democratic friends do, whether they're going to try to filibuster his nomination or not. My hope is that they decide that that would be the wrong thing to do and the judge is confirmed here in a couple of weeks.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it will be very interesting. Senator John Cornyn, thank you very much for your perspective on all of this.

CORNYN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the Trump White House now has massive credibility problems and a cloud of uncertainty known as an FBI investigation is hanging over its head. Was there a connection between the Trump administration and Russia's interference in our election?

And for all of this, whom is to blame except the president himself? That's "The Bottom Line," ahead.


[08:43:21] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

FBI Director James Comey confirming they are investigating whether the Trump campaign staff colluded with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election. Comey and the NSA chief refuting the president's bogus claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama.

CAMEROTA: Number two, House Republican leaders unveiling changes to their health care bill. They are hoping to flip enough conservative colleagues to pass the bill in the House when they vote on Thursday.

CUOMO: Day two in the Senate hot seat for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Democrats expected to grill him on issues like workers' rights and Roe v. Wade. The confirmation hearing expected to stretch into Thursday.

CAMEROTA: Large electronic devices will be banned from some international flights come into the U.S. from parts of the Middle East and Africa. Aviation officials are citing, quote, a security concern.

CUOMO: So not one but two of Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jerseys were found in Mexico by the FBI. The NFL says they were in possession of a former executive with a Mexican newspaper.

CAMEROTA: I mean he misplaced two of them? Is he just careless, you know? Maybe -- maybe that's who we should (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: That's what -- that's what his lawyer says.

CAMEROTA: Tom Brady.

CUOMO: So, for more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: All right, is the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia, is it reminiscent of Watergate and is it possible that the president brought all of this on himself? We'll get those answers in "The Bottom Line."

CUOMO: But first, in Mexico's Baja region, many working poor families cannot afford to live in structurally safe homes. So there's a charity trying to deal with this, making an impact by building sturdy houses for those who need them.

[08:45:06] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When people get a house, they actually think differently about their own future, and that's the power of Homes of Hope. We build a structure for those that own their own land, but need a little bit of help with their house.

Our primary focus has been in the Americas. In the northern Baja area, which includes Ensenada and Tijuana, we do 16 x 20 and 20 x 20 houses. And they have three windows and a door, electrical, drywall. A very livable house. Every family has to have income. They have to own their own land and they have to have children.

Luis and Susan got four beautiful children. They're living in a 6 foot by 10 foot tarp over some dirt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was difficult to sleep at night, all of us on the same mattress. Now we are more comfortable. Everyone has their own space. And now we can sleep with our arms stretched out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see the joy in their face and the excitement, that's my biggest thing. I'm going to see that image probably for the rest of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is a lot of love coming from people that do not know you, yet they give you a lot of love and so much security.



[08:50:04] CUOMO: All right, so how bad is it for Trump? Is this all just noise because the base is still with him, or are these sagging poll numbers and basically being called a liar by the heads of the FBI and the NSA, and proof now being out there that he is being investigated for potential Russian collusion, is this all creating a shadow that will make it unable for him to lead, that may even affect the term of the presidency?

Let's discuss. We have "The Bottom Line" with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Douglas Brinkley, through the eyes of history, how bad could this get? I saw what you said the other day about, you know, Watergate didn't happen in one day, it happened over the course of a year plus. How do you see this?

DAVID BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that's exactly right. There's going to be a drip, drip, drip affect. I see it in a similar investigation in the sense of the Watergate, or of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, or of Iran Contra, meaning it's just going to drag on for a while and you don't know who's going to be caught up in the net of it. But it's going to be impossible for Donald Trump, I think, to really bolster his numbers that he needs to get to start leading at above 50 percent in the polls when he has this investigation of the FBI hanging over him. Just imagine if J. Edgar Hoover had testified against the sitting president, we'd be talking about it in American history circles forever. That's just what happened yesterday. So I don't think it's the demise of Donald Trump, but it sure has given him a black eye in his first 60 days in office.

CAMEROTA: But, Douglas, before I turn to Jeffrey, very quickly, I mean do you think that this could be his undoing? Because in our 6:00 hour when we talked to you, you said that you wouldn't be banking on take -- on being in --

CUOMO: In the photo-op --

CAMEROTA: The photo-op like four years from now or three years from now. So is it his undoing?

BRINKLEY: Well, we'll see, but I'm -- what I was suggest is Republicans right now are going to start getting a little bit suspicious of Donald Trump. Yes, they want to desperately get Gorsuch confirmed, yes, they want to get the repeal and replace of health care, but the idea of being the trumpen, that I'm hanging out at Mar- a-Lago with Donald Trump and I'm schmoozing with him, then I'm golfing with him, some politicians that want longevity in their lives may be taking a step back for they -- they don't want to be a Paul Manafort or General Flynn figure. They're starting to be a feel that if you're in Trump's inner circle, you start getting scorched and booted. And so I think that he is a bit of a damaged product this early out of his presidency. It doesn't mean he can't find ways to rebuild himself. The economy, after all, is doing pretty well and that's always the main thing.

CUOMO: Jeffrey, you know the old expression, every time you point a finger at somebody, you have four pointing back at you? Is that in play here right now? But for -- you know, you point -- you know --

CAMEROTA: Careful with that.

CUOMO: You know what I'm saying?


CUOMO: All right, well, now, look, you learn something -- you learn something every day on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: Here's my question. This is the -- this is the point I was trying to make, which is, but for Trump's tweets about the wiretapping and about what is going on with Russia and what's fake and what isn't. Do you think that we would have had this FBI probe that is now shown that there's an investigation into him and given a whole new context to whether or not he is a liar about President Obama and the wiretaps?

TOOBIN: I mean certainly you wouldn't have had the drama surrounding this investigation -- this announcement that you would have because, remember, as you were pointing out, they brought Comey in largely on the issue of whether Barack Obama wiretapped. I mean this investigation of Russia was going to go on anyway, but certainly you wouldn't have had this hearing. But in a broader sense, every controversy so far that the Trump presidency has been involved in has been self-generated. You know, why did they issue these executive orders, especially the first one on immigration, without, you know, doing the usual background investigation -- research. Why didn't --

CUOMO: Due diligence. Due diligence.

TOOBIN: Yes. Why didn't they -- you know, why did he make a big fuss about how many people were at the inauguration? It's all self- generated. And the thing to think about is what happens when there's a crisis that isn't self-generated, when there's terrorism, when there's a military matter, and Donald Trump goes on television and says x, y, and z, how many people are going to believe him? I mean that's a big issue.

CAMEROTA: Douglas, obviously you study presidential history. When you look at these first 60 days, I mean, you cited all of these other controversies. There are some, Watergate, that was the end of a presidency. There were some, Lewinsky scandal, that were not. So in these first 60 days, what do you see compared to history?

[08:55:02] BRINKLEY: Normally you do get a bit of a honeymoon, that you do get a bit of a bounce. And we started seeing that when Donald Trump gave a well-received speech to Congress just a few weeks back. But as Jeffrey was saying, he constantly becomes his own worst enemy. And the fact of the matter, when you start charging Barack Obama of a felony that's unprovable and the head of the FBI and everybody else has to say it's a lie, that's telling you there's something not right with the person uttering it. That, you know, it's part and parcel to the birther idea that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, and you lose all sense of credibility.

And it's not just here in the United States where we're having a food fight between Democrats and Republicans. Look at the world looking at Donald Trump right now, watching and seeing that he's being investigated by the FBI for nefarious activities, perhaps. That his own, you know, Justice Department is basically saying he's made -- made up a fake felony. So I think it's -- it's has been difficult few first weeks for Trump, worse than any other president.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey --

TOOBIN: Just --

CAMEROTA: Very quickly.

TOOBIN: I mean the one point is, look how Barack -- look how Donald Trump was punished for raising those false things about Barack Obama's birthplace? He was punished by being elected president of the United States.

CUOMO: That will show him.

TOOBIN: So, you know --

CAMEROTA: That will learn him.

TOOBIN: What lesson do you learn from that, you know?

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey Toobin, Douglas Brinkley --

BRINKLEY: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Thank you both for "The Bottom Line."

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman begins after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.