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Is House Intel Committee Investigation Compromised?; U.S. Official: Info Suggests Trump Associates May Have Coordinated with Russians; GOP Struggles to United Before Health Care Vote. Aired 7- 7:30a ET
Aired March 23, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HAM: I did not allege that it was collected illegally. The question is if it's collected legally and it's incidental, it could still be problematic and we can still examine these powers and how the intelligence community deals with the incidental collection of surveillance on American citizens...
[07:00:25] CAMEROTA: OK. Last word, Phil.
HAM: ... who are not under investigation.
CAMEROTA: OK. Last word, Phil.
MUDD: Smoke screen. We have a conversation about the violation of the integrity of American elections by the Russians, an adversary, and what do people who don't want that investigation to proceed say? We've got to discuss leaks that have existed since the beginning of this country. Excuse me, the Russians interfering in elections is the story. The leaks is a federal violation for which somebody should be thrown in jail.
HAM: I agree with both of those things, and it's 7:01 so we can talk about the leaks some more when we get off air.
CAMEROTA: Bingo. Mary Katharine, Phil, thank you very much for the debate and thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump associates and the Russians coordinating the release of information damaging Hillary Clinton's campaign.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They've seen zero evidence of any collusion.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There was incidental collection regarding the president-elect and his team.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: He'll need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation or he is going to ask as a surrogate of the White House.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The process that I see in the House reminds me a lot of what happened with Obamacare.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're adding votes by the day. We're not losing votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a one term president if this passes. We are trying to save him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still a lot of details to work out.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY.
We have breaking news. British police have made eight arrests in connection with yesterday's deadly terror attack in London outside the House of Parliament. British Prime Minister Theresa May just confirming the attacker was once investigated by MI-5 for violent extremism. The attack may be ISIS-inspired.
We're going to have a lot more on this developing story, but first we have new reporting on the FBI's investigation on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. CNN has learned the bureau has information that some of the president's associates may have coordinated with Russian operatives to release damaging information about Hillary Clinton's campaign.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also, there are growing questions about whether the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia is now compromised after its chairman went directly to the president with new surveillance information that he said he had.
All of this as the showdown over health care is in the final hours, with Republicans still at this moment divided.
CUOMO: So much at stake on day 63 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, live in Washington. You've been driving this reporting. What is new?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
U.S. officials tell CNN that the FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. FBI Director James Comey on Monday made this -- this bombshell
announcement before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.
That information is what raised the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that coordination may have actually taken place, though some officials cautioned us that the information is not yet conclusive and the investigation is ongoing.
The FBI would not comment nor would the White House, though Trump officials have long denied that there is any evidence of collusion.
CAMEROTA: So Evan, explain what the connection is between what you've learned now and what Comey said, director off the FBI, when he testified in front of that committee on Monday.
PEREZ: Well, I think what this does is explain a little bit of what Comey was talking about. If you recall, in addition to saying that the investigation includes looking into the connections of these Trump associates, he also explained what it means that this investigation is being done. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R-OH), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Don't you need some action or some information besides just attending a meeting, having been paid to attention a conference, that a picture was taken or that you traveled to a country before you're open to investigation for counterintelligence by the -- the FBI?
COMEY: The standard is, I think there's a couple of different at play. A credibility allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Now, one law enforcement official says that the information in hand suggests, quote, "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared that they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready."
But other U.S. officials who spoke to us say it's premature to draw the inference from that information that's been gathered so far, because it's largely circumstantial. But the FBI cannot yet prove collusion actually took place, but the information they have is now, obviously, the focus of this investigation as to whether or not any collusion actually took place.
[07:05:11] CUOMO: All right, and is this still about the four names that you put out there with other reporters early on? It's just about what the nature of their communication is?
PEREZ: Well, as far as the coordination part, we don't know exactly who is being investigated. But we do know, as you mentioned, that the FBI hasn't already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to U.S. intelligence. All four men have denied improper contacts.
And what's interesting here is that one of the obstacles that the FBI now faces in finding this conclusive evidence is that communications between the Trump associates and Russians has ceased in recent months, given all the public focus on Russia's ties to the Trump campaign. And some of the Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, which is making it all that more difficult for the FBI to monitor the situation.
CAMEROTA: Evan, thank you so much for sharing all of your new reporting with us this morning. We obviously will follow it throughout the show.
All right. Now for another top story, the political battle intensifying over the president's spying claims. House intel chairman Devin Nunes revealed that the Trump transition team's private communications may have been intercepted by U.S. intel agencies monitoring foreign officials.
Nunes, though, decided to brief the president before telling his own Democratic colleagues on the committee. So is that Congressional investigation now compromised?
CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What have you learned, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, think about it. You have the federal investigation Evan Perez was just talking about. That's ongoing.
The eyes of the nation focused on how the Republican Congress is handling the investigation on its own. And then the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee essentially doing an end run around established procedures, really raising questions about the ability of this committee to be fair and impartial.
JOHNS (voice-over): House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stunning Washington.
NUNES: I thought it was important for the president to know this.
JOHNS: Rushing to the White House to warn President Trump that communication involving members of his transition team may have been picked up through normal incidental surveillance, apparently all legally conducted.
NUNES: It does appear like he -- his name and people, and others ended up in two intelligence reports.
Most people would say that is surveillance. JOHNS: Nunes himself, a member of the president's transition team,
under fire for going to the media before briefing Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't have a presidential whisperer.
JOHNS: The White House immediately seizing on Nunes's statements.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a lot of questions that I think his statement raises.
JOHNS: The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee angrily responding to the Republican chairman's actions for potentially politicizing their bipartisan investigation into Russia's interference in the last election.
SCHIFF: The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he's going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both.
JOHNS: President Trump responding to the revelations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes coming over there?
TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.
JOHNS: Now Nunes has said and said yesterday, in fact, that none of this lends any credence to the already discredited notion which was promoted by President Trump that President Obama wiretapped him.
By the way, in an interview with "TIME magazine that occurred right after all of these revelations yesterday, the president said this -- and we have a graphic -- talking about wiretapping: "Now remember this, when I said the wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know, today is different than wiretapping. It's just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I'm talking about is surveillance."
So the president once again weighing in on his assertion on Twitter, now discredited, that President Obama wiretapped him. Back to you.
CUOMO: Joe, it remains to be seen how this helped the president. Still, there is no proof that anyone in his administration was targeted by any type of surveillance. Thank you for the reporting. Appreciate it.
So now to the other big story, should have been dominating today, frankly. Health care, the House is expected to hold a cliffhanger vote in just hours on the GOP's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. I say expected because they haven't announced a time yet, and that may be a window into the concern and the deep divisions that are still going on within the party.
[07:10:09] Does Trump have the votes for it to pass? Here's the big board. CNN's whip count has 28 Republicans saying they will vote against it or are still leaning that way. That takes us to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill. What is the state of play?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of play is certainly that the House is preparing for this vote late tonight, but as you mentioned, there really is no deadline and that is intentional, because they don't know how this is going to go.
There are some new issues at play here, namely whether or not health insurance must require things like maternity care, prescriptions, hospitalizations, mental health and these are all concessions to conservatives to get on board.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Down to the final hours. President Trump trying to unite Republicans behind the American Health Care Act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're really optimistic that we can get there. I mean, there's still a lot of details to work out.
MALVEAUX: After vowing to vote no, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus now says he could close the deal with the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say that we've got a deal. That wouldn't be accurate. The president and I came to an agreement in principle.
MALVEAUX: Conservatives like Meadows want to strip the Obamacare provision of essential health benefits, something they say will lower the cost of premiums. But satisfying these conservatives could mean jeopardizing support from more moderate Republicans.
RYAN: We feel like we're getting really, really close.
MALVEAUX: House Speaker Paul Ryan huddling with moderate Republicans behind closed doors who are angered by some of the proposed changes. A key figure in the moderate pool, Representative Charlie Dent, delivering a blow, declaring he will oppose the plan, saying in a statement, "I believe this Bill in its current form will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans."
The White House, though, remains optimistic.
SPICER: Member by member, we're seeing tremendous support flow in our correction, and the count keeps getting stronger.
MALVEAUX: And in a final effort to sink the Bill, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch pledging millions of dollars to help reelect Republicans who vote against the Bill.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: And President Trump will be meeting with the Freedom Caucus members today again at 11:30 at the White House to see what he can offer to make sure that they sign up for this Bill.
In the meantime, the House Rules Committee is set to issue an emergency rule which allows changes to the Bill before it goes to the full House floor. If the Republicans don't have the votes to get this through the House, all eyes are going to be on the Republican leadership to see whether or not they will delay this vote tonight, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne.
Let's see if we can get some more answers right now because joining us is Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. He is a member of the Freedom Caucus.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: Good morning. How you doing, Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: I'm doing well.
How will you be voting?
YOHO: As of right now, I'm still a "no."
CAMEROTA: And why are you a "no" after the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus says that the president gave some important concessions to your group?
YOHO: Well, you know, that was last night. I haven't heard the final details. We're still open for negotiations. We look forward to having more discussions today on this health care Bill, and that's why I think you don't see a firm time for the vote.
There is still time, and this is something that we all want. We want to fix health care in this country. The Affordable Care Act right now, as we know, is imploding. It's going to throw people off of insurance. Premiums have gone way up.
The problem with the current Bill that we have in front of us, it doesn't go far enough of getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. And history has a way of repeating itself. And if I look back to Jimmy Carter, who started the Department of Education, Ronald Reagan ran on getting rid of the Department of Education. He missed that mark, and that's where we're at right now. We have this point in time to get rid of this and fix health care for the American people.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, then what was it, do you think, that Mark Meadows likes about it?
YOHO: Again, I haven't talked to Mark since last night. I know we were talking up to 10 p.m. Some of the things that we were looking for is getting rid of the essential health benefits that somebody was talking about just previously. CAMEROTA: It sounds as though that was a concession that the
YOHO: Well, again, I haven't gotten the final report.
CAMEROTA: OK, but is it was -- if the president somehow made that deal and said yes, you can get rid of the essential health benefits, then are you a "yes" vote?
YOHO: If Mark OKs that and we're in agreement, I would be closer to yes, but I can't comment on that until I read what's in the final offer.
CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that in case it happens, OK? If the deal is that you get rid of the essential health benefits, then what do you say to people that say, "But I need mental health care"? That's a loss to, then, perhaps, your constituents or voters who say, "I rely on some of those health benefits."
[07:15:04] YOHO: If you go back to prior to 2009, people had access to that stuff. You know, you have your community health clinics, which is over 13,000 in the country that the government funds that does primary care. They have referral services.
That care is out there, and there's this false narrative that, if we do away with this, people are going to lose coverage. Nobody wants that. Nobody is working to do that. We want to make sure there's access to coverage.
And then, if you look at where the majority of the people went, they went on Medicaid and, historically, if you compare Medicaid, the outcome of service to other parts of the industrialized world, it has some of the worst performing outcomes. In fact, since the Affordable Care came in, there's been over 80,000 more deaths attributed in Medicaid care. And we want people to have access, but more importantly, we want them to have access to quality care.
YOHO: And we want to make sure that we get that.
CAMEROTA: We've been debating this for weeks now. Access versus coverage. As you know, this isn't a false narrative that people would lose coverage. This is what the CBO said. I mean, other groups have looked at this and said that under the current Republican plan, people would lose coverage.
YOHO: Well, the CBO also said there's going to be 20-some million people covered, and we know that's not true. In fact, a lot of the people that have coverage are the ones that lost coverage under the old plan. I was one that lost my health care when the Affordable Care Act went in, so I went into a different program.
I think this comes down to a basic, fundamental believe that we all have. This is about freedom. Freedom of choice of the type of health care you want. One that I can craft with my insurance agent or insurance company...
YOHO: ... that meets the needs of my family. And that's where I think we've missed the mark on this, and that's what we're trying to get back to.
CAMEROTA: OK. Let's move on for a moment to there's so much news this morning and there are so many. There's another top story that I want...
YOHO: There's a lot of news.
CAMEROTA: There is. And I want to ask you about this. It's about Russia.
CAMEROTA: Because CNN has learned that the FBI has information that some of the president's campaign associates may have coordinated with Russian operatives to release the damaging information about Hillary Clinton's campaign. OK? What is your reaction to the implications of this?
YOHO: My reaction is this. As you said, they have information. All right? So we'll take that as information. That may have -- that's kind of a conjecture, so I'm going to wait until they do their investigation.
What I can -- I feel comfortable and confident about is that the investigation will happen. This will lead somewhere, and then that will take us down a path that we'll have to explore. And I've always said that, you know, if there's wrongdoing, we need to hold those that have created that wrongdoing accountable.
CAMEROTA: Yes But let's talk about that investigation, because as you know, this morning there is some suggestion that the congressional investigation may be compromised, because the chairman of the committee doing some of the investigating, Devin Nunes, went to the president with information that he had on surveillance, and the press, before his own committee colleagues. And now people like John McCain are saying that makes that whole investigation tainted.
YOHO: Alisyn, I haven't read that report, and I don't really want to weigh in on that, because I don't feel like I am, you know, informed enough to give you a response on that.
CAMEROTA: I appreciate that. I appreciate that.
YOHO: ... those that are on those committees follow this up the way it should be so that we get clarity.
CAMEROTA: I understand. Do you have any problem with Devin Nunes having alerted the president to information that he had? YOHO: Again, I haven't read what he has said and what he hasn't.
CAMEROTA: But you know that he did that. Right? I mean, he gave a press conference. You know that he went...
YOHO: Saw that, yes.
CAMEROTA: So are you comfortable with that protocol that people say he broke that he went to the president with information when he's supposed to be investigating associates of the president?
YOHO: Again, I do know Devin, and Devin is a man of character and of high integrity. And I haven't had the chance to talk to him. I have a lot of trust and faith in Devin, so he did whatever he did. I'm sure he did it for the right reasons, and you know, if we're going to go down that road, look at what Bill Clinton did with Loretta Lynch, getting on the plane...
CAMEROTA: I mean, how far back do you want to go, Congressman? I mean, I think that...
YOHO: That's right. We keep going back and forth.
CAMEROTA: So let's leave it there.
Congressman Ted Yoho...
YOHO: Health care we have to fix -- we have a nation to save, and that's what I want to focus on.
CAMEROTA: Please come back when you know exactly how you are voting later today. Congressman Yoho, thank you.
YOHO: OK. Thank you, ma'am.
CUOMO: Of course, the point is right. It would be easier to fix health care if the American people could believe what's coming out of the new government. Up next, growing calls for an independent investigation on Russia ties. Democrats, the House intel chair is compromised. That's what they say. Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us next.
[07:23:53] CUOMO: House Republicans are deeply divided over their party's plan to overhaul health care ahead of tonight's big vote, the expected vote. There hasn't been a time set yet, which is a window into the uncertainty. CNN's whip count has 28 Republicans saying they're going to vote against it or at least leaning that way.
So how did the Democrats feel, specifically about what has been done in the last few hours? Literally, the last day to make the bill more attractive to conservatives? Let's discuss with Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings. He serves on the House Oversight Committee. We're going to talk about Flynn. We're going to talk about the Russia allegations.
But I want to get you on record on these recent changes to the health care bill. They say we're going to not make it mandatory to cover mental health, to cover prenatal care, because not everybody needs it, so why price up the plans? Are you OK with that?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: No, I'm not OK with it. As a matter of fact, they are actually making the bill even worse than it was before. Mental health is very important. Opioid treatment very important. And so, you know, the way insurance works, of course, is that you have the provisions, and if you need them, you need them. Other people may need them; you may not need them, so...
[07:25:09] CUOMO: And people say, "I don't want to pay for it."
CUOMO: They say, "I don't want to pay for it. I don't need it. I should only pay for it if I need it. That will keep my costs down." What's your answer?
CUMMINGS: Well, I don't -- I don't agree with that. I don't think that's -- that's accurate. They know it's not accurate. They know it's hocus pocus. As most of -- a lot of things that they're doing with regard to this bill.
But let me -- let me just tell you this, Cuomo. It boils down to people being thrown off of their insurance. That's major. You know, I listened to the arguments this morning, and they talk about everything but the 14 million people that will lose their insurance next year. And the 24 million that will lose their insurance over the next 10 years.
You know, it seems like we have come in this country -- that is some of my colleagues -- to accept something that I call collateral damage. In other words, it's OK for people not to have insurance. And not to be able to be covered. And it seems to me that's a moral issue.
In some kind of way, this bill that they're putting forth, one where premiums will end up being higher, deductibles higher, poor people will suffer, Medicaid loses a phenomenal amount of money, people thrown off Medicaid, won't be able to get it. You know, a senior still having to pay more money. And then tax breaks, of course, to people who really don't need them. And then at the same time not guaranteeing what the president said, and that was that we would have lower cost insurance, more quality insurance. It doesn't seem like any of that is coming forward. It seems like the Republicans simply want a bill.
But I asked them -- I ask my colleagues right now to look at the moral issues here. And I do not think that -- I do not think that history will smile upon us if we throw 24 million people off of their insurance. CUOMO: Let's see what happen with the vote. Appreciate getting you
on the record on that one.
All right, so Devin Nunes. Have you ever heard of the chair of an independent committee doing what Nunes just did? Getting some information that wasn't necessarily new but was certainly helpful to the White House going around the committee, going to the press, and going to the White House.
CUMMINGS: No. As you know, I was ranking member of the Benghazi Committee. We would have never allowed that to happen. The Intelligence Committee is a very special committee. They are privy to information that most of the members of Congress may never see. And so you expect them to be extremely confidential.
What he did was basically to go to the president, who's being investigated by the FBI and others, and by the Intelligence Committee, to give them information. Give them information. Basically, what he has done is he has scuttled and put a cloud over his own investigation. And he has become the subject basically -- he should be -- of an investigation. It's a real problem.
I don't -- I'm sure that Adam Schiff, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for; he and I served on the Benghazi Committee together. If he -- if Nunes wants to know how to conduct himself, he needs to look at Adam Schiff.
CUOMO: Now, you want to bring Michael Flynn, General Flynn, in for questioning. Why?
CUMMINGS: Well, Flynn has lied over and over again. I want to see -- what we have done, Chairman Chaffetz and I, we are now asking for the Department of Defense, the FBI and others, to give us his security clearance documents and any kind of communications that he's had with the Russian government, with Russians, the Turks, and others, because he has lied to us over and over again.
And we want to see exactly what his relationship was. We want to know what the president knew when he appointed him as security adviser. And we want to know if he did -- if Flynn did not reveal the information on his documents to the Department of Defense and others, why he didn't. Because if he failed to do it, it's a criminal offense.
So we're just following where the evidence goes. We expect to hopefully to have some information very soon.
CUOMO: Well, look forward to hearing that information. That would be a big development.
Congressman Cummings, always a pleasure, sir.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
CUOMO: Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK, Chris. Now to another top story: terror in the heart
of London. London police making arrests. The attacker was known to authorities for possible extremism. We have a live report on all of those developments coming up.