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Paul Manafort Volunteers to Testify to House Intel Committee; Health Care Bill Vote Today. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired March 24, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:32:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. House Intelligence chair Devin Nunes holding a news conference right now. I believe we have a camera there. The shot is a little bit iffy. Can we put it up if we have it?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There we go.
BERMAN: All right. Let's listen to what he says.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It is possible that if we receive documents today from the NSA as we requested. The original deadline was on March 15th. But I want to caution that I don't expect the entirety of everything that we need today. So I would hope that by early next week we'll have a better accounting of what the NSA is able to provide us. So I'm telling you that just so you know that you're not going to -- we're not going to have any more information on those today.
Lastly, and fourthly, yesterday the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client. We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering, and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview the committee. And so those are the four things I wanted to alert you of this morning. And so stay tuned for more. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, Congressman, does Paul Manafort's name appear --
NUNES: Alert you this morning, and so stay tuned for more. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, Congressman, does Paul Manafort's name appear in the new file that you have received?
NUNES: No. No. The ones that I -- the documents that I viewed this week, no.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK, follow up, are you recalling Director Comey because you think he was not forthcoming in his earlier testimony based on the new documents?
NUNES: It's not -- it has nothing to do with the documents that I've seen. I will say that I think there are just questions that we have for Director Comey and Admiral Rogers probably that they just couldn't answer in a public setting. But it's necessary to get both of them back down here before we can move on to other interviews.
NUNES: Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Wait. I want to be clear on this.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You are recalling them not on the basis of the new documents?
NUNES: That is correct. Not on the basis of the documents that I have seen and -- that I'm hoping to get today or over the weekend or first part of next week from NSA and other agencies.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Again Manafort, (INAUDIBLE)
NUNES: We don't know that but he voluntarily offered to come to the committee. We will work it out. Our lawyers, Republicans and Democrats, will work with his lawyers to see what exactly he wants to do. If he wants to come out in public and have a public hearing, he's more than welcome to do that. If he wants to do it in a closed setting, that's also fine with me.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last night on Sean Hannity you said that one reason why you briefed the president was because he's been taking a lot of heat in the news media. What did you mean by that?
NUNES: I'm stating the obvious. Maybe you can follow me around, and ask me more questions today. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the documents that you reviewed, how many names were unmasked?
[10:35:07] NUNES: I don't know that yet. So I'm aware of -- just so I can be perfectly clear, so there was additional unmasking that was done in the documents that I read the other day. I don't know who asked for -- I don't know who asked for them to be unmasked. I just know that there are more. Now, just so you know, I was aware of the unmasking before I read the documents.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Schiff has suggested it might just be one or that the unmasking might have been done for appropriate reasons.
NUNES: Everybody's -- I mean, look, I think I'm the only one that's seen the documents as far as I know and I can tell you that we have -- I knew about the unmasking before I read the documents. I'll just leave it at that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And when you reviewed the document, does it square with what you knew about the unmasking before you saw the documents?
NUNES: I did. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Chairman, as far as the (INAUDIBLE) documents, was it a whistleblower on the NSA?
NUNES: Yes, we don't -- as you know, and I've said this several times, we don't talk about sources at this committee. We want more people to come forward. The good thing is, is that we have continued to have people come forward voluntarily to this committee and we want to continue that. And I will tell you that that will not happen if we tell you who our sources are and people who come to the committee.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But I mean, like, I mean, like, as far as the situation in terms of a whistleblower or is this someone who wants to be hidden for --
NUNES: Yes, I'm not going to get into that. We want people to come forward. And we will protect the identity of those people at all costs.
NUNES: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to brief Adam Schiff on the full extent of what you've seen? You've made it sound like reason for testimony.
NUNES: Yes, we were hoping -- I was hoping to get the documents today, it doesn't sound like we'll get a full accounting of those. But hopefully they come either today or over the weekend or earlier in the week.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The ones on the letter?
NUNES: The ones from the letter that Mr. Schiff and I sent that were due on March 15th.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The ones that your source gave you.
NUNES: The letter should cover -- we should get -- the letter actually should encompass everything that I've seen. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was President Trump surveilled directly and do you believe that what you have uncovered is validation of the tweets he released a couple of weeks ago?
NUNES: No, I think I've been very clear, there was no -- as a matter of fact I've been very clear on this for many, many weeks now, there was no wiretapping of Trump Tower. That didn't happen. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he surveilled? Was he indirectly surveilled?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Members of Congress have suggested on the record that your Wednesday press conference might have been orchestrated by the White House. Can you say -- categorically can you deny that?
NUNES: Yes, I can, because it was exactly as I told you. Were you here on Wednesday?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I was.
NUNES: OK. So I came out here and I told you all that I was going to -- I was going to go to the White House. I had talked to the White House. My staff had talked to the White House earlier that day to request a meeting with the president. And I had not talked to the president before that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the White House source?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) weren't monitored or (INAUDIBLE)?
NUNES: We don't know until -- we won't know that until we actually receive all of the documentation. It's hard to know where the information came from until you get the reports and have time to go through them and see all the sourcing of the documents. I'm not going to speculate until we get them all because it was dozens of reports.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Since does not -- the information you saw does not involve Russia, are you going to start a separate investigation or are you going to break this away from the Russian investigation (INAUDIBLE) in some way?
NUNES: I don't know about that yet. I mean, it's all -- you know, it's all in the scope of what we're looking at in terms of unmasking of names, leaks. It's all in that same body. If we have to section it off and look at it a different way, we will. But we haven't got to that point yet.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are there legislate reasons for intelligence agencies to unmask names of Trump transition officials? For example, incidental collection could refer to chatter between FISA targets, presumably intelligence agencies want to know what is being discussed. Are there legitimate reasons to unmask some of these names? Some of the evidence we've seen suggested they're legitimate.
NUNES: Yes. So there are reasons to unmask names. I can tell you without question, at least some of what I've seen, I don't know what that reason would be. Maybe someone has a good reason for it. But not from what I've been able to read. A couple of more questions. I know we're going to have votes on.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Schiff thinks it's baffling that you did not brief him.
RAJU: And also he also said it's baffling that he could not rule out that the White House was the source behind the documents. Can you just categorically say that the White House --
NUNES: Yes. You've asked this question many, many times. And I will continue to say the same thing. You can ask me every single name that exists on the planet and I'm still not going to tell you who our sources are.
[10:40:08] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, is there any suspicion decision that there perhaps were reverse surveillance going on looking to surveil a Trump associate but doing so through --
NUNES: No. No. As I said the other day, it appears like this was all legal, OK? It looks like it was all legal surveillance, from what I can tell, but until we get the documents, I won't know for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who would have the authority to pull the trigger on the creation of these intelligence reports?
NUNES: They look like -- I mean, for the most part I think these reports that I read for the most part are valuable intelligence. However, I think there are just questions in those reports that I wonder does reach that threshold of foreign intelligence. And then you have to ask why were names unmasked.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just a follow up, OK, so if this does not seem out of the ordinary to you, is what's striking the fact that it was so widely disseminated?
NUNES: No, I think there's two issues here. There's some information in those documents that concern me in the reports that I read that I don't think belong there. It would make me uncomfortable. And that's why I wanted to inform the president of it. That's one issue. Secondly, there is the issue of unmasking, additional unmasking. And that's I think of most concern to me.
NUNES: Victor, sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's been a very big week for the committee, the hearing on Monday, and the reports, and your trip to the White House. Can you summarize what you think the committee accomplished this week and your role in it? NUNES: Yes, this is -- look, as you know, this is not an easy
process. Because there's politics on both sides of this and I'm trying to navigate as best as I can. I would say that what we've been very successful at is, we have people that continue to come forward to provide us information. And we want that to continue. And the only way we can do that, as long as we provide an avenue that the public or others can come to the committee that want to offer information on this investigation. So we would still encourage whistleblowers to come forward, people who have information about this, whether it's top secret or not, or anyone who has read their name in any press article, they're welcome to come forward and be interviewed. As -- like I said, we heard from Mr. Manafort yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you evaluate the job that you've done as chairman?
NUNES: That's not for me to do.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You cannot tell whether the communications directly involved a Trump associate? Or was it two foreigners communicating?
NUNES: No. I won't get into the specifics of what I saw other than it was Mr. Trump and his -- and the transition team.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said yesterday you heard from Mr. Manafort. Will you call them to testify publicly such as Paul Manafort, Roger stone, and Michael Caputo. Will the American people hear from them publicly?
NUNES: Yes, if they want to. I don't know that yet. I would have to -- we have to work that out really with Mr. Manafort's legal counsel. You know, we will allow people to come forward in whatever manner that they want to come forward, we will work for them as long as they're willing to come in, especially if they're willing to come in freely. As for the other names, I don't have -- you know, there's many names that have been mentioned by several members of Congress and all of you.
As I've said before, we're not going to get into a neo-McCarthyism era here where we just start bringing in Americans because they were mentioned in a press story. And I'm highly concerned about that. Now If people want to come in freely, we will do that. As for additional witnesses, I will work with Mr. Schiff. I'm sure that I will have witnesses that I will want to bring in. Mr. Schiff will have witnesses. I know that our staffs and lawyers are trying to talk to -- yesterday and today as to how we move into phase two of this investigation. And once the lawyers agree on it, Mr. Schiff and I will sign off on it.
I can -- I just to take one more --
NUNES: I have to get back up to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
NUNES: We are -- we are asking Mr. Comey and Mr. Rogers to come back in. And until we can get them in in a closed session, it's not going to worth it to have the open session. So -- that time slot, we're hopeful that Mr. Rogers and Mr. Comey will be able to come in next Tuesday. And that time slot, so all the members have a chance to interview them and hold a hearing in closed session.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's not because the last hearing may not have gone so well?
NUNES: No, it's exactly for what I said.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). What's your response to that?
NUNES: That's nice.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On Wednesday, Mr. Schiff said there was actually only one unmasked name, and it had nothing to do with the Trump team. Is he wrong in saying that?
[10:45:06] NUNES: I'm not going to get into the specifics of that. But I can tell you --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The response team, were they or weren't they? So (INAUDIBLE)?
NUNES: We'll find out. We'll find out when we get the information. I am quite sure that I'm very uncomfortable with it and I'll leave it at that. But --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Brennan, Mr. Clapper, Miss Yates, still committed to --
NUNES: Yes. That's not -- it has nothing to do with them. As far as I know they are still going to come forward and we encourage others to come forward freely. All right. I have to -- I have to run up and vote. Thank you.
HARLOW: All right. There you have it. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, taking -- let's keep listening.
NUNES: I just wanted to inform all of you that Mr. Manafort agreed to come in voluntarily. Thank you. HARLOW: All right. Take two. A lot of headlines out of the House
Intel chair, Devin Nunes, there. Four major headlines for you. He said that they have asked, the committee, the intel committee, in a closed session, for the head of the FBI, Director Comey, and NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers, to come back and to speak with them next Tuesday, they're hoping, to answer some questions. Such important questions, they say, to be answered before they can move on with other folks.
The second headline of this is that Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump's campaign, his lawyer reached out to the committee yesterday, has offered for his client, Paul Manafort, to come in and testify. This allows him, as Mark Preston just pointed out to us, to avoid a subpoena. We don't know if he will testify in public or private.
BERMAN: We'll get to the other headlines in a moment. We're waiting on President Trump, who just spoke on the Keystone pipeline which he has authorized construction of, and also this health care debate that's going on.
Mark Preston, in 10 seconds or less, Paul Manafort coming to be interviewed by the House Intel Committee, big development.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Big development. I'm not a lawyer, it's strategically smart. A subpoena, he would have been forced to come up and testify. Perhaps he can do it in public -- excuse me, in private now, but he's given the opportunity to do it in private.
BERMAN: All right. We'll listen to the president.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. I'm sure the bill is going to be -- Peter is a fantastic governor, he's done a great job, I'll call him today. So thank you all very much, we appreciate it. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What will you do if your health care bill fails? Mr. President, what will you do if your health care bill fails?
TRUMP: We'll have to see.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it's going to pass?
TRUMP: We'll see what happens.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you rush it, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
TRUMP: We'll see what happens.
(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should Paul Ryan stay speaker if it fails, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. There is the president. He was talking about approving the Keystone pipeline but more importantly, at least for today, talking about the health care bill, did you rush it, no, he said, will it pass, we'll have to wait and see. Do you think Paul Ryan should continue as speaker, he says yes.
Now that was all on top of the news we just got from Devin Nunes who just told us that Paul Manafort has agreed to testify or be interviewed. I don't even know if the word is testify, I assume it's under oath before the --
HARLOW: On a voluntary basis.
BERMAN: On a voluntary basis for the House Intelligence Committee.
Van Jones, if you are still with us, you, sir, I know, are a lawyer. The significance of Paul Manafort agreeing to come and speak to this committee.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's like him agreeing to the sun coming up. He was going to have to come to speak to this committee. So it's fine for him to volunteer to do that, that train had already left the station.
Listen, I think the bigger picture here I think for most Americans is that you have a situation in which confidence is beginning to sink in the ability of this chairperson to do a fair job. It seems to a lot of people that you've got somebody who got information, maybe it was disturbing, maybe it wasn't, but rather than dealing with it inside of that committee he decides to take it upon himself to run over to President Trump, who is under investigation by the FBI, and spill the beans.
That creates a crisis of confidence. And part of the problem you have right now, we aren't even done with the first 100 days, but the termites are all over American confidence. You have so many things that are going on where confidence is going down, down, down, in the basic competence of Washington, D.C., and the Trump administration, to get things done and tell the truth.
And at some point when you have this much chaos, when a real crisis comes, will the country be able to rally around, will it even recognize a real threat? So listen, Paul Manafort, he's going to be there next week, it's going to be big, big news, but this guy was going to have to come anyway. He's basically agreed that the sun will come up on Tuesday.
HARLOW: Alice Stewart, your thoughts on this. I mean, obviously those are two of the big headlines. There are still -- there were a lot of questions that Nunes faced about unmasking and how many people were unmasked in that -- in the documents that he read that have not been more broadly shared yet, as we understand, with the committee. Your take?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I hope he got sign-off from his Democratic colleagues in the Intel Committee before having that press conference because that's an unnecessary headache for him when he does this.
Look, I agree with Van, there are serious concerns that are coming out of all of this.
[10:50:04] And what's gotten lost is this all originated with concerns over Russian influence in the election and whether or not it impacted the outcome of the election. And then we come to the next step, whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But I do think, as we peel back the layers, there appears to be more and more serious concerns for the American people.
The issue of leaks and the information coming from the intelligence community that should be classified information. And as Nunes has pointed out repeatedly, and his biggest concern, it appears, with this latest revelation of information, is the fact of unmasking of American names, when people are identified in some collection of intelligence, that their names should be -- not disclosed and the fact that they're being unmasked is a big concern.
So I think we're getting a lot caught up in whether or not Nunes talked to the president first or the press or the Democrats. And I think the big picture here is certainly the influence of Russia and leaks as well as what's happening with the unmasking of classified information and identities.
BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around for one moment. I want to go to the White House now, our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is there.
And Jeff, we just heard President Trump at the end of his statement about the Keystone Pipeline, he was asked flat out about House Speaker Paul Ryan, whether or not he should stay on. And this has to do with, you know, have they been working well together or not on the health care plan, his response?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He says yes, he should stay on. And of course this comes on, you know, a morning where there is a lot of uncertainty here in Washington at the White House, certainly on Capitol Hill, from the surveillance issue, but certainly the health care bill as well. But you know, there are a lot of undercurrents of blame happening here. A lot of whispering that it's Paul Ryan's fault or that it's the president's fault. The reality is they locked arms and they locked hands on this so
everyone will share some of the blame. But you did hear the president right there say in the Oval Office that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, should stay on.
Now of course that's not the president's decision. He doesn't get a vote in this. A speaker is voted by his fellow Republicans. But it is far too early to say what the health of Speaker Ryan here is. I mean, the reality here is, yes, this is his plan. But everyone sort of owns it. But also interestingly, the president at the very end of that, as his aides were trying to get reporters out of the Oval Office, the pool reporters were asking questions about health care. And the president says, we'll see what happens if this fails. But he also, interestingly, was asked if this was rushed too much, and he said no, it was not.
HARLOW: Jeff, stand by, we're going to go back into the White House. Let's listen to the president. He's announcing some new measures with this XL Keystone Pipeline. Let's listen in to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's thousands of people that are just, you know, ready and itching to get to work. We have a lot of work to do in the field. But as you pointed out, this is the safest and most reliable way to move our products to market. We're going to use the best technology. It will create thousands of jobs. And tax -- important tax revenues in local communities that something often that's overlooked in projects like this.
Local communities benefit greatly from these projects. It gives them tax revenues, in which they can, you know, invest in schools, hospitals, roads, teachers, nurses, all of those things to build the fabric of these communities.
BERMAN: All right. So this was a tape we just showed you a moment ago. It was at the end of this tape that President Trump was asked about the health care vote today and he basically said we'll see what happens. He was also asked about Speaker Ryan, whether or not he should stay on, and the answer was yes.
And we have Jeff Zeleny back with us, senior White House correspondent. And Jeff, we've been talking about the back and forth today on will this bill pass. And by the way, it might still. I mean, there's still a few hours to go.
BERMAN: And if this bill passes in the next few hours, people aren't going to be talking about who is to blame.
ZELENY: Exactly. I mean, they will -- and I can promise you that the president will -- if there is victory today will accept that, no question.
ZELENY: And these votes, it is far too early to say if it is going to fail or not. But interestingly, you do not want to be the last person to either say yes or no to this. You want to sort of get on before the end of that. We learned that -- we saw that in the first Obamacare debate some eight years ago. Ben Nelson, a Democratic senator from Nebraska, my home state I should say, was one of the last Democrats to sign onto it. That ended up sinking his election the next time. So these votes have consequences. You're going to see a flurry of people making up their minds if they haven't already.
But on Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, our House reporter, is reporting this morning we should also look along regional lines, look to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and New York, to see some specifics coming out of that. So this is not just a party-specific. Yes, it's all in the Republican Party. But look to where some of these Republicans are going to vote there. Leonard Lance, a moderate from New Jersey, says he is still a no because he believes some of these essential health benefits we've been talking about all morning simply go too far here.
So at the end of the day, no one is loving this bill here. The question is, will they all sort of go forward and give the president a moderate victory here -- Poppy.
[10:55:05] HARLOW: Yes. We have 30 seconds left in the show, but we do want your take on the breaking news that Paul Manafort has volunteered to come testify in front of the committee. It could be as soon as next week. This is as the White House, Sean Spicer, has been distancing themselves as much as they can from the guy who ran the campaign for five months. How do you see it?
ZELENY: Right. He was the limited volunteer on the campaign.
ZELENY: Sean Spicer did correct that and say look, he was the campaign manager. But this quite simply just assures -- ensures this is going to continue to be a story. If he testifies in open committee or answers questions behind closed doors, this continues, that this Russian investigation in the House, the Senate, and indeed the FBI, is still going to continue here. This Paul Manafort has been not with the campaign, with the Trump Organization, officially for months but his shadow still hangs over this White House in every way -- John and Poppy.
HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny, something tells me you're not going to sleep much this Friday.
HARLOW: You'll be on top of it all from the White House, thank you for the great reporting as always.
Just hours to go, can the GOP -- can the party get the votes it needs to get this president his first legislative win? You can bet we're going to be on top of this all day.
BERMAN: Yes. Just stick with us because I got to tell you the way news is breaking today, you don't want to miss it during the break. Don't go anywhere.