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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Health Care Bill Showdown; Four People Killed in London Terror Attack; Trump Ex-Campaign Chief Under Scrutiny For Russia Ties; WH: Manafort Was Brought In To "Count Delegates"; Manafort Denies Representing Russian Political Interests; Intel Chair: Trump Communications Possibly Collected; Police: 3 Killed, 20 Hurt In London; Attacker Dead. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired March 22, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: So, we're looking out for that. We haven't seen it yet, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Clarissa, this comes at a time when the head of MI6 said that the scale of the terrorism threat to the U.K. is unprecedented.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Britain has been waiting, unfortunately, for this moment for quite some time. It really has been the last major, major terrorist attack that we saw in Great Britain was back in 2005, when there were attacks on buses and on the underground.
We did also see an attack on a off-duty soldier in Southeast London, Lee Rigby. Again, car rammed into him. He was then stabbed in a very brutal fashion by a sort of deranged follower of a hate preacher known as Anjem Choudary who is currently in prison.
At this stage, they still don't know who is responsible for this attack or what the motivation is for this attack, but I do think it is worth mentioning to our viewers that the lockdown situation is still in effect, and that means that at this stage it appears that counterterrorism officials, that the Metropolitan Police, that Scotland Yard have not yet determined, they do not yet feel 100 percent confident they have fully been able to clear that area.
You have hundreds of lawmakers currently hunkered down in Westminster Abbey, OK? They have been evacuated now from the houses of Parliament. They did finally successfully evacuate the tourists who had been stranded in the London Eye, which is a large ferris wheel tourist attraction after some hours. Clearly, they're taking...
TAPPER: Did you say they were on the ferris wheel for hours?
WARD: They were on the ferris wheel for hours watching this lockdown unfold beneath them, unable to be evacuated because the situation was so fluid. I am told now they have been evacuated. But clearly police are taking
this very seriously, and they are thwarting attacks all the time, all the time. We don't hear about them. We don't report them. In this case, however, it appears that they were unlucky.
TAPPER: And, Congressman, why is the threat matrix so high right now, so bad in Europe, especially the U.K.?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we have seen this threat stream into Europe for years now.
And when al-Baghdadi decided to issue orders around the country that, wherever you are, you take the fight to the infidels in the United States, in Europe, they even walked through series of how to do it, how to use a car, how to use a knife.
I disagree a little bit with Phil. This is what their profile has been over the last three to four years, is to try to get these small- time attacks, because they knew they would get the same media value out of it. You don't have to have a 9/11-style of attack anymore to have an impact in terrorism just like this.
So, I think you're going to see more of this. This has been the concern for intelligence, as I said, for the last two to three years, because even al Qaeda came out and said, OK with the big attacks. We want you to fight wherever you are, however you can. Use what you have. Use a car, use a knife, use a blunt instrument.
Those are all terms that they use to try to encourage and aspire people and inspire people to actually conduct attacks just like this.
WARD: And just to be clear, the goal, Jake, is not always mass casualties. They are happy to have, you know, as many people as they can kill, great. But the goal here is to create a wedge within British and Western society to create this idea that there is some kind of a clash of civilizations going on, to create this idea that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot coexist peacefully.
They are literally trying to tear apart the fabric of Western liberal democratic society.
TAPPER: I believe the mayor of London is Muslim.
WARD: He is indeed.
TAPPER: They are failing at that.
Thanks, one and all, for being here. Appreciate it.
We will continue to follow the breaking news in London as we learn more details about the terrorist attack.
But let's turn to our other top story. The clock is ticking for Republican leadership to turn more no votes into yes votes on health care. That story is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Our politics lead now, we are one day away from a congressional vote on health care that could determine how effectively President Trump is going to be able to deliver on a host of his campaign promises.
The president, his team, House Republican leaders are, to mix metaphors, patting backs and twisting arms and greasing skids and turning up the heat to find all the Republican votes they need to pass their bill.
Counting the yeas and nays, CNN figures that the Republicans still need to flip a handful of Republican holdouts before tomorrow night.
CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill for us with a breakdown of the latest in the vote tally.
Sunlen, can Speaker Ryan get this done?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point, Jake, it is still very much up in the air, which not only speaks to how fluid the situation is right now, but really the pressure, the intense amount of pressure that's on Republican leaders and the White House now as this bill barrels towards a vote in the House tomorrow.
As you know, they still do need to wrangle votes and win over a handful of yes votes, making the next 24 hours absolutely critical.
SERFATY (voice-over): It's the final stretch, House Republicans in a frenzied scramble for winning votes. Precious few hours left on the clock, House Republican leaders and the White House are making the final push.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Thursday is the big day.
SERFATY: Before their bill faces the ultimate high-stakes moment, a vote in the House tomorrow.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really is a crucial vote for the Republican Party and for the people of our country.
SERFATY: House leaders locking in at least one new vote today, Congressman Barletta, who was leaning against the bill, declaring he is now a yes vote.
RYAN: We're adding votes by the day. We're not losing votes. We're adding votes. And we feel like we're getting really, really close.
SERFATY: But the bill is still in serious jeopardy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still haven't seen the movement we want.
SERFATY: According to CNN's latest vote count, at least 22 House Republicans have said they will vote against the bill. Four more have indicated they will likely oppose it. Speaker Ryan can't lose more than 21 votes or the bill fails, which means they have absolutely no margin for error.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is no plan B. There is plan A and plan A. We're going to get this done.
SERFATY: This reality setting off an aggressive minute offensive to make deals and change minds before the vote, in public.
RYAN: This is called legislating. And so there are people who want to get various provisions in the bill. But what is important for us is, we have to broker compromises to make sure that we draft legislation that can actually pass.
SERFATY: And behind closed doors today, President Trump ramping up his personal pleas to some of the holdouts, summoning members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to the White House today. Sources tell CNN the president is telling skeptical members "I will have your back" if they sign on.
TRUMP: Obamacare is making their lives so much more difficult, as we all know.
SERFATY: But that presidential arm-twisting for some isn't enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the votes are there today.
SERFATY: After the White House meeting today, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus is still a no.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We believe that the best approach is to actually start over and do something that actually lowers premiums. We need changes to the underlying bill before we vote on it in the House.
SERFATY: Today, the House Rules Committee taking the last key step before bringing the bill to the floor, marking up minor tweaks to the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This legislation answers the president's call to action in a thoughtful, deliberate way.
SERFATY: Democrats today countering with their own celebrity to celebrate the seven-year anniversary of Obamacare, even as it potentially faces its last gasps.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It will be, as our former vice president once said, a BFD.
JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to tell Governor Brown, be careful what he whispers to me. (LAUGHTER)
SERFATY: And at some point today, we do expect still the Congressional Budget Office to give their updated score on this bill. That would account for the changes and the tweaks that have been made to this bill since the last time they came up with their analysis, really bringing some new estimates on cost and coverage numbers, where the bill stands right now.
A lot of members, Jake, wanted this before voting. The wheels now in motion for that to happen at some point tomorrow.
TAPPER: All right, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.
Thanks to a new report, President Trump's former campaign manager could be heading to the Hill to answer questions about Russia and Vladimir Putin -- that story next.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Let's stick with politics now. Lawmakers investigating Russia's interference in the election are hoping to speak with President Trump's former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. CNN has learned that Manafort earned millions of dollars dating back more than a decade for his work with a prominent Russian businessman to advance Vladimir Putin's interests. This information was first reported by the Associated Press. Earlier this week the White House tried to downplay Manafort's role in the Trump campaign misrepresenting the former Campaign Chairman's role as limited in scope and duration. That was not true and the White House corrected itself today. But suggested Manafort being paid millions to help Putin in 2005 was as old and irrelevant as who Manafort played with in the sand box. CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now. Tom, Manafort is steadfastly pushing back on any allegations of wrongdoing.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he absolutely is, Jake. Just as the White House is as you noted there. And yet it does look like he may be heading for the hot seat in front of Congress where he will face a simple but dangerous question. Did he or anyone else connected to Donald Trump help the Russians in their attempt to influence the last election?
FOREMAN: The White House is fast putting distance between the President and his Campaign Chairman from last summer. But Paul Manafort may have a harder time slipping some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who want to grill him.
MARK WARNER, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA: We know what Russia has done to interfere in the electoral process. Now we have to see what kind of combination or conversations took place between folks affiliated with the Trump campaign and the Russians.
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP'S FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There will be no floor fight.
FOREMAN: A new report from the Associated Press claims Manafort secretly worked a decade ago for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to promote Kremlin interest. Deripaska says the money was for business consulting. Manafort says the work did not involve representing Russian political interests. The White House -
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I take Paul at his word that he was working on business interests for Oleg and it wasn't tied to the Russian government.
FOREMAN: However, there is more. A lawmaker in Ukraine says, he's found a document in an office used by Manafort when he worked for the former pro-Russian President of Ukraine. That lawmaker says the paper suggest Manafort was paid $750,000 for computer parts, but -
SERGII LESHCHENKO, UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER: I think it's not all money for him. It's more like for his activities as well, for his campaign activity for some technical issues of his activity as a spin doctor.
FOREMAN: CNN cannot verify the paper's authenticity. Manafort's team says he doesn't recognize it. And an associate from Manafort's time in Ukraine says not once was it ever raised or discussed how our work could benefit Russia or Putin. But there is still the black ledger, a longer list revealed last fall which purports to show almost 13 million in payments from Ukrainian interest alongside Manafort's name. Manafort has always denied all implications of a Russian political link.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Why is it so farfetched to blame the Russians and say that the motive was to help you?
MANAFORT: It's just absurd. I don't even know what you're talking about. It's crazy.
FOREMAN: And the administration says intelligence officers, law enforcement and members of congress have all studied the matter and -
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Seen zero evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And that's not going to be changed by a former business dealings of a - of a campaign staffer from a decade ago.
FOREMAN: Still, there are lawmakers here who clearly want to see Manafort and others in front of them so they can question them directly and see if there is something, something at all really to these claims of a tie between the Trump organization and the Russians. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Let's bring in our political panel now to discuss it all. Amanda Carpenter, I saw you giggle when Sean Spicer referred to Paul Manafort who ran the Trump campaign as a campaign staffer.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It's like give me a staffer that got him the nomination by Tuesday, delegate are (INAUDIBLE). I just have to say, it's so surreal to watch Manafort deny any ties with Russia knowing now that he received up to $10 million from the Russians. It's just stunning to see.
TAPPER: And, of course, you and I are old folks and we recognize the name Manafort because, of course, the firm Black, Manafort, Stone.
Black, Manafort, Stone.
TAPPER: They were republican and democrats do this, too, but republican group, consulting group that pretty much represented every dictator in the world.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. But also had big political roles. Charlie Black was involved with Mitt Romney for several times and Roger Stone was also in the Dole campaign in 1996 until his photograph ran in a Swingers Magazine soliciting sex. One of the many reasons I'd love writing about Roger Stone. But the problem for Manafort is that - you know, there is never a clear answer. He issued a statement yesterday and he said, I've never had contact with anyone from the Russian government.
[16:50:29] TAPPER: Right.
TOOBIN: But the whole point of all this is dealing with oligarchs, not the government. So, you know, what Manafort was doing and who he was doing it for remains mysterious.
TAPPER: Right. It is this - it is this oligarch who hired him in 2005 to help Putin and to help Russia.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you know, Adam Schiff I thought in his opening statement at the hearings the other day - you know, really laid out this question. This may all be an endless series of coincidences, but what at least it has done is provide an endless series of questions that simply have to be answered in greater detail. And without predicting anything, I will only say that in the previous political scandals of my lifetime, where they have really accelerated is when an investigation which is appointed any individual faces legal jeopardy. You know, any individual in the chain faces legal jeopardy, that is often whether it was Watergate, whether it was Iran-Contra, that is where things start to move in a - in a different way.
TOOBIN: And it's also when people start taking the fifth.
TAPPER: Right. But also - but we haven't seen any evidence of anybody doing anything illegal at all.
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER: We're still in the stage of we have lots and lots of smoke. I think Ryan with this said, we have a cover up, we have no crime at this point. We may be getting there. We don't know. There are a lot of facts still to uncover I think here.
TAPPER: And what do you make of the activities today of Chairman Nunes and what he discovered, what he was upset about? A lot of democrats are attacking him saying he is trying to help the Trump White House come up with something to justify this claim that the FBI Director said is false.
CARPENTER: OK. Here's the gap that I see. Donald Trump tweeted that President Obama wiretapped him implying something terribly nefarious, maybe even criminal happened. Chairman Nunes went before the cameras and talked to you today saying, "I guess some surveillance happened but I don't know if there is anything really wrong with that. I'm just uncomfortable." So, some unmasking happened. It's not clear whether it was a crime or not made Nunes uncomfortable. Donald Trump said it was nefarious, terrible, sad, et cetera, et cetera. What was it? That's the gap. Maybe nothing happened at all, but the fact that Donald Trump represented it in such a terrible way, that's how we keep getting into these problems.
TAPPER: I'm guessing this is going to hurt the idea of the House Intelligence Committee conducting this investigation.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, it is shocking to see politics taking place in the House of Representatives, I know. But, you know, he is a politician and he's running this investigation and he is a Trump loyalist. And he's acting that way, which certainly compromises his role as the nominally independent leader of a -
TAPPER: Well, he says he's not acting that way. That he was one of the first republicans that come out and say there was no truth to the allegation that Obama had wiretapped Trump at Trump tower. And he repeated that again today.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, certainly the hearing itself left you with the impression that not only the Chairman, but all the Republicans on the Committee were more focused on kind of a defense attorney role than kind of a fact finding role. So, I think - you know, there is that - and there's - I think there is a broader question on this, depending on what this - on what basis this FISA information was recorded, was he - was he in effect notifying the White House about an investigation that could ultimately affect the White House? I mean, there are so many - there are so many strange aspects of this. And by the way, in the statement that the ranking member Schiff put out today, he had a very different characterization of the underlying information than you heard from Chairman Nunes.
TAPPER: Quickly if you could, what do you make of it all?
BACON: Just so odd that he went to the White House first instead of talking with his -
TAPPER: Partner. Yes.
BACON: - Co-Chair on the Committee or the ranking member. It was so striking, not how investigations are normally ran on the hill and not a great way to sound independent at all.
TAPPER: Yes. Usually they're much more partnerships. The Intelligence Committee have the same number of democrats and republicans. They're not like other committees. Thanks one and all for being here. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. The ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democratic of California. We were just talking about him and joins Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" next. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, terror attack. Three people are dead and 20 injured after an attacker plows through pedestrians right in the center of London and crashes his vehicle into a fence outside the parliament building. The assailant shot dead after fatally stabbing a police officer on the parliament grounds.
Trump overheard, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee goes public saying normal incidental intelligence collection may have picked up communications related to President Trump, but the committee's top democrat is very angry and is about to go public himself. We're standing by.
Ties to Russia, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort confirms he worked for a Russian billionaire tied to President Putin, but did he - did he represent Russian political interests?
And down to the wire, the President has been shaking hands, twisting arms, counting heads, trying to lineup enough House Republicans to pass the ObamaCare replacement bill, but it's still too close to call and the White House says there's no plan B.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Breaking news. We're covering two major fast-moving stories tonight. A bloody attack right in the heart of London in the shadow of Big Ben, puts Parliament on lockdown, closes the gates of Buckingham Palace, and triggers a full-scale terror investigation. At least three people were killed and 20 were hurt. It began when an attacker rammed a car into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge the river Thames, then crashed into a gate outside the Parliament, got out and fatally stabbed the police officer on the Parliament grounds. The assailant was shot dead. Some of the injuries are described as catastrophic. One woman was pulled alive from the river. Also breaking at this moment, we're standing by to hear directly from the top democrat at the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. He's furious over actions by the Committee's Chairman who -