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Nunes On White House Grounds Day Before Trump Intel Reveal; Source: Nunes Seen At White House Building Housing Classified Info; Trump's Son-In-Law To Be Questioned Over Russia Ties; Trump "Open" To Working With Dems On Health Care; Trump's Next Move After Health Care Failure; Trump's Rough Start: Where Does He Go After Setbacks? Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 27, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Republican in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, one key committee investigating the Trump campaign's possible ties Russia, is now revealing he was on the White House grounds the day before his big announcement.
You will, of course, recall that Devin Nunes called an impromptu news conference last week. He then dropped this bombshell of possible incidental collection of the Trump transition, and then he rushed over to the White House to brief the president before briefing the Democratic members on his own committee.
For that, he later apologized, but Democrats and Republicans say now that he may have compromised the integrity of that committee's investigation.
Joining me now with much more on this is CNN senior Congressional reporter, Manu Raju. A lot of moving parts already, if there wasn't already, Manu. What more do we know about this meeting on White House grounds? Why is it raising suspicion?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, I can tell you right now we're learning a little bit more. According to Mr. Nunes' own spokesperson, who just issued a statement, saying that Chairman Nunes met with this source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.
Now, the news here is that he met with his source on the White House grounds. We knew right before this, Mr. Nunes actually told our colleague, Jake Tapper, earlier today that he reviewed the information on White House grounds for a secure location, but now saying he met with this source on White House grounds.
We don't know who the source is, where it's from. Last week I asked Chairman Nunes numerous times did this come from the White House itself? He said he will not go near naming the source, has not told members of his committee.
Why this is significant, a few reasons, but one reason is right now this committee is investigating the issue of Russia, Russian meddling and any of those ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and Democrats are concerned that Mr. Nunes went and briefed the president of the United States at the same time as this investigation is happening before they even learned about this information.
Also it came right around the time that President Trump tweeted without any information that he had been the subject of wiretapping under the orders of Barack Obama. Now, there are no evidence right now that we've seen to support that.
The FBI and NSA have both refuted that, but Mr. Nunes by making these comments last week that some of these communications with Trump transition officials may have been incidentally picked up gave the ammunition some political cover after they were getting hit by these that the president was making without any evidence.
So, a lot of questions right now, Kate, but the news today that he met with this source on White House grounds, very significant, certainly advances this narrative and raises more questions as well.
KEILAR: More questions, absolutely. Manu, thank you so much. We're going to talk much more about this right now. Joining me to discuss more about the controversy surrounding Nunes is "Washington Post" reporter, Greg Miller.
Greg, you and your paper, you've had some really good information about this overnight. You guys have been digging deeper into last week's intel news, and it's all we're talking about now, with the chairman of the House Intel Committee.
Your reporting had to do with a phone call, swapped cars, time unaccounted for with the chairman. How does that play into this timeline?
GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, it's unclear how -- I mean, so he's now acknowledging that he met with a source at the White House. I haven't seen the statement, so I can't tell you what time of day that meeting occurred, but we were hearing throughout last week that he had disappeared for a stretch of time on the day before he makes this big dramatic announcement, the big unveil.
And that was in the evening, that he had gone, separated from his own staff, went off on his own for some period of time and comes back, and you know, all of this is set in motion. And all of this is sort of really central to this question now of who is Devin Nunes working for? Is he working on the White House behalf or is he working for the House Intelligence Committee? Because you can't be doing both.
KEILAR: In your report, Greg, you had the aides to the chairman had denied the account that you were offering them. It now seems that they're confirming some of what your account was. I'm confused as to what's changed overnight from your reporting that they're now putting out this statement saying, yes, he did have this meeting.
MILLER: Well, the denial that they gave to us was really strange, OK? So, it was -- they wouldn't discuss the particulars. They wouldn't say, you know -- so, they wouldn't go point by point on the chronology here and say, well, that part's wrong or that part's wrong. They just wanted to say, no, that account is wrong. So, that denial could have just been pertaining to one small detail in the sequence of events, even though the larger story was completely accurate.
KEILAR: And from your reporting, you checked with the DNI, the CIA, you checked with the other agencies where this kind of classified information and a briefing would have been held.
[11:05:08]There's no account of the chairman going there. How unusual in your view in all your reporting is that the chairman would go to the old executive office building on White House grounds to meet a source?
MILLER: It's extraordinary. I mean, no whistleblower that I've ever heard of it setting up a meeting with the head of a Congressional Intelligence Committee at the White House. It just doesn't work that way. I mean, the thing is, he has to be in a secure facility to be able to review these classified documents.
MILLER: Right? So, there's only so many locations in Washington, D.C., where he can do that. And we were just going through sort of process of elimination. Well, he didn't go to the agency, CIA, didn't go to FBI. We were just trying to point readers to the probability that he ended up going to the White House, which it turns out, he did.
KEILAR: Greg Miller, great reporting and more questions raised now after all this and what's playing out this morning. We really appreciate it, Greg. Thank you.
MILLER: Thank you.
KEILAR: So, on top of all this, we learned this morning that the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to question Donald Trump's son-in- law and close aide, of course, Jared Kushner, as part of its investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Kushner would be the highest level closest to the president so far to be touched by this investigation, or going to be interviewed with regard to this investigation. "The New York Times" first reported that the committee wants to talk to Kushner about his meetings with the Russians, including some with Russian bankers that were previously undisclosed.
Let's bring in right now a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut for much more on this. Congressman, a lot going on this morning, so I want to just get your take on a few of the things we're learning.
So, we heard from Greg Miller right there of "The Washington Post." They had reporting of basically Chairman Nunes going missing and that his aides could not account for where he is. Now we have reporting from Jake Tapper saying that the chairman actually went to the White House -- White House grounds -- the old executive office building on the grounds, the day before coming out with this information because that is where he was meeting the source to view the information. Did the chairman tell you on the committee all of this?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: So, the chairman, Kate, has told us nothing. The chairman has told the Democrats, the Republicans, and the very dedicated staff of the Intelligence Committee, all of whom have been spending an enormous amount of time on this investigation, all of whom are charged with oversight of our intelligence community.
Devin Nunes has told us nothing and in fact has been canceling meetings. Ordinarily, we would go back to Washington on a day like today, as I'll be getting on a train very shortly, and we would have a 5:00 p.m. meeting to talk about events of the week. That meeting has been canceled.
And this is really discouraging, because you don't -- you know, you don't need to advance too far past sort of fourth grade civics to know that if you've got something of concern and you're in the Congress -- and I have no idea what it is, because Devin hasn't shared it with anybody.
But if there's some issue of unmasking of confidential information, Congress is to serve as a check and a balance on the president, on the White House. And yet, Devin, Chairman Nunes has -- whatever it is he's done, it has been at the White House, it appears to have been in the service of the White House, and so, it is very clear that he owes us an explanation.
KEILAR: In your view, Congressman, why do you think it appears to be in the service of the White House? I ask because this new information out any morning I'm really curious on, the fact that the chairman met with the source of this information at the old executive office building on White House grounds. Is that typical for a member of Congress to do?
HIMES: No. No. As a member of Congress of eight-year standing, I've certainly never done that, and no, it's bizarre. It's loopy and jumping in and out of cars. And then whatever else happened -- I mean, it's not inconceivable that for some reason, you might want to meet -- first of all, the idea that the Congress has sources is a little strange.
But then what's particularly odd is that I as a sort of second ranking Democrat behind Adam Schiff and all of his Republican colleagues, we have been kept totally out of the loop. It's just bizarre and --
KEILAR: So, as of Friday, you all did not have any of the documents in your hands? You still as of today, Monday at 11:09, have not seen the information that the chairman's talking about?
HIMES: We have no documents. And as I said before, maybe in some normal and less loopy world, we would get together, as we always do on our first day back, today at 5:00, and the chairman would say this was a big deal, it's why I talked to nobody, it's why I jumped in and out of cars, it's why I went to the White House, here's what I have. Instead, our 5:00 meeting has been canceled.
KEILAR: On another issue, if we can move forward, Jared Kushner, the Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed that Jared -- well, the White House has now confirmed that Jared Kushner has volunteered to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and others, previously undisclosed meetings, some of them.
Your Republican colleague on the House committee, on your committee, Mike Turner, he said this morning that he does not see a need to speak with Jared Kushner right now on the House side, your investigation. Do you agree with Mike Turner?
[11:10:11]HIMES: I think it's pretty important that we speak to everybody. I'm not quite sure where Congressman Turner is coming from, and look, many of these meetings may be innocent. A lot of them probably are, but when you take a big step back --
KEILAR: There's nothing wrong with -- on the surface, there's nothing wrong with Jared Kushner, who had a leading role in the transition, to have meetings with the Russian ambassador and foreign officials. It's the fact that they're previously undisclosed that I think is raising concern in people's eyes.
HIMES: Well, just as importantly, this is hardly an isolated case. Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, now Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, all people very close to the president, all people who had an unusual, not necessarily bad, but an unusual number of meetings with Russians, and all people who have been a little bit less than forthcoming about what the nature of those meetings were or whether they even occurred. Look, that in and of itself is enough for an investigative committee to want to talk to everybody. So you know, we're hoping that it happens.
KEILAR: So, you mentioned some of the other players in this. You now have Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, all saying last week that they would speak to your committee. My question is -- maybe this is simple and perfunctory, but what setting are these interviews going to happen? Are these going to under oath? How is this going to be?
HIMES: Well, people make a big deal about under oath, you know, but remember, under oath is sort of theater. I mean, it is a very serious federal crime to lie to the Congress. So, whether or not somebody raises their right hand and takes an oath, it's sort of beside the point.
When they testify, if it's not truthful, it will be a jailable offense. Now, you know, most of this should be able to happen in the light of day, and I think that's very important for the American people. In theory, people like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone should not have access to classified information, and therefore, there should be no need for us to do these meetings behind closed doors.
Current administration officials, and Jared Kushner is involved in seven or eight different things for this administration, they might be in a slightly different position, but the bulk of these discussions should be able to happen in the open.
KEILAR: And real quick, those meetings aren't yet scheduled, right?
HIMES: They're not yet scheduled.
KEILAR: Not yet, OK.
HIMES: We're working on developing witness lists, but they're not yet scheduled.
KEILAR: Real quick, and we're out of time, as always, Congressman, but on health care, the House Republicans are back to square one after Friday's dramatic end. The White House over the weekend saying they're now looking to maybe work with some moderate Democrats to try to get this ball rolling once again when it comes to health care. The president's chief of staff saying as much on Fox News. What would it take for you to get on board to agree to work with Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare?
HIMES: Well, not surprisingly, it would take that the president abide by the promises that he made, that he would make this thing better, that more people would have coverage, that costs would go down, that pharmaceutical costs would go down. I'll tell you, we'll work with him on that basis. Of course, the bill that went down last --
KEILAR: You will work with him on a bill that says repeal Obamacare?
HIMES: Well, of course not. Now, does that mean that Obamacare is perfect? No, it is not. The Affordable Care Act can use some amendment, can use some change. Costs can come down, you know, coverage can be expanded. On those issues, we will work with anybody. If it's about improving, rather than taking away health care from people, we will be there to be part of the conversation.
KEILAR: The labels are holding you all up. It's just the labels, not the details.
HIMES: No, it is not the labels.
KEILAR: I'm kidding. Congressman, great to see you. Thank you so much.
KEILAR: Also this morning, reset time, as we're just discussing, for President Trump after his failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president and his advisers are heading back to the drawing board, desperate to map out a win on their next big issue, tax reform.
But with the infighting among Republican lawmakers that we saw play out in dramatic fashion, how daunting does this make the next step? That infighting has one lawmaker heading for the exits, Texas Congressman Ted Poe resigned from the Freedom Caucus, that group of conservatives, this weekend because of its opposition to the Republican health care bill. Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE TED POE (R), TEXAS: Well, there's some members, I think, that wanted some really stronger parts of the repeal in the bill, but it would move too far to the right, where you wouldn't get any other Republicans to support it. So, it's a compromise. And I think that there is nothing that could be added to the bill that the Freedom Caucus would ever vote yes on. And so, I got the opinion that there's some members of the Freedom Caucus, they'd vote no against the ten commandments if it came up for a vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining me from Capitol Hill. Phil, Ted Poe's point well taken there. Where do things go from here, Phil?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a great question and here's what people are trying to figure out on Capitol Hill this morning, whether or not the failure of Obamacare repeal, this thing they've campaigned on year after year, cycle after cycle, was really kind of the biggest failure on something so many campaigned on for decades, at least, has chastened the Freedom Caucus, has chastened these members who weren't willing to come aboard, or whether it's emboldened them.
[11:15:11]And I can tell you, you listen to Congressman Poe, kind of lays out the dynamics perfectly here as we move forward. Tax reform is not easy. If you want to move anything that's ambitious forward, you are going to need to try and thread the needle they were trying to thread during health reform -- try to bring enough conservatives on while not losing moderates as well.
And I can tell you, there are no great answers to this right now. As you look forward, though, Kate, I think the big issue is, clearly on the agenda they want to move on to tax reform, but one minor issue they need to figure out first -- funding the government.
And if they don't figure out how to get a spending bill through by April 28th, they are looking square in the eye of another government shutdown, one that Democrats have made clear, we're not going to help you out of this divot that you've wandered yourselves into.
So, when you look at the dynamics of the conference right now, of the Republican conference, this same push and pull that we saw in health care reform is clearly going to exist on the spending bill as well. If they figure out a way to get by that, Kate, and look, leadership officials have made clear, they don't want a government shutdown.
Then you move on to tax reform, and it's tax reform that while the administration says it's going to be much easier, we'll have a bill by August, it is not true. It's not an accurate assessment that this is an easy process.
Perhaps ideologically when it comes to tax cuts, the Republican Party is more aligned, but you're dealing with lobbyists and other interests that come from the districts of a lot of members that makes it a difficult pull.
On top of that, they needed the Obamacare to take away $1 trillion to reset the base line. That's now gone as well. So, at best, you're looking at a paired-back tax reform. At the worst, you're looking at another really, really complex, complicated effort coming over the horizon -- Kate.
KEILAR: And as they look into the future, I'm already having flashbacks to government shutdowns. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you so much.
President Trump says it is time for Democrats to reach out. Democrats say, no, it's your move first. How realistic is any bipartisan effort moving forward? Let's be honest.
Plus, mystery at Mar-a-Lago, Democrats demanding the visitor logs of guests that go into the president's Florida resort to meet with him. Do they have a case?
And is the U.S. to blame for the deaths of dozens of civilians in Iraq, including women and children? Serious questions and I'll speak live with the U.S.-led coalition there.
KEILAR: It's from "The Art of the Deal" that wasn't now into where do they go from here? From the White House to Capitol Hill, the president still dealing with that embarrassing defeat of the president's health care bill. Where do they go now?
Let me bring in CNN political director, David Chalian for more on this. So David, it's the blame game, but we're moving past that because the White House says we're moving on. Where does the president turn now if he's looking for a winning coalition on anything from here on out?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, right, because you've got to look at this both from a policy lens and a political lens, and the president himself on Friday, as you were discussing with Phil indicated, tax reform is next up in terms of the big legislative push.
Tax reform is not going to be any easier here, Kate, necessarily, despite the overall, yes, it's more politically popular to lower people's taxes than it is to reform the health care system.
But it is still going to be tricky because it's a Republican House divided, on tax reform as well as you know, the border adjustment tax that is part of Speaker Ryan's push -- it's a sort of pet project of his, his baby -- something Donald Trump was opposed to, then said he was warming up to, but that the retailers in this country will sort of freak out about.
So, it's not going to get any easier, because you're still going to be unable, if you're Donald Trump, to find a unified Republican Party.
KEILAR: And so, that has -- as I was talking about with Phil, that has the president and some of his deputies now floating the idea of working with Democrats going forward. I asked Jim Himes that of Connecticut, and he said, sure! We're happy to work with them! Then I asked on anything with the word repeal? And he's like, of course not. So, do you really see that happening?
CHALIAN: Well, this has sort of been the internal Democratic Party conversation since the election, right? They want to figure out if as a party, they want to follow Mitch McConnell's lead in the Obama era and just be the party of no to everything, or do they want to find some places -- infrastructure seems like the big, juiciest target for them -- where they really might be ideologically aligned with Donald Trump in a way that they can reach across the aisle.
Here's the problem, since the election when that conversation started, that conversation is all renewed again now because they just saw Donald Trump suffer a political defeat with the health care repeal, and so, they smell blood in the water. The Democratic base does not want Democratic politicians in Washington working with Donald Trump at all.
They want to say no to everything with Trump. And Democrats now just saw that saying no, not coming and talking to them at all about health care, worked for if your goal is to defeat Donald Trump politically, worked for bruising Donald Trump politically. So, what's the incentive right now for Democrats to sort of reach out to the president, say, yes, let's form some new coalition here?
KEILAR: Unfortunately, it sounds like it's going to have to be seeing regular old taxpayers being hurt by their inaction seems to be the only thing that will push them into action. But this also, David, this episode over health care has raised a lot of questions about the relationship between the president and the House speaker, a crucial one to getting anything done. They talked over the weekend a couple times, according to both sides. They both say everything is great. Do you believe it?
CHALIAN: Does it look great to you? Does everything look great to you?
CHALIAN: Listen, it's a forced marriage, right? So, it's an arranged marriage that neither one of them would sort of have set up for themselves if they were plotting their own paths. And so, it is a relationship, one, that they both need right now.
So, I do believe in that sense there's no reason to sort of turn their back on each other. But these are not people that are -- Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, Kate, are not ideologically simpatico in a lot of ways.
And so I don't know that we'll always see them working beautifully together. There will be divides. I think the two men understand that they need each other. That's what the aides are saying.
[11:25:05]KEILAR: And that will keep them charging forward, no matter what. David, it's great to see you.
CHALIAN: Thanks, Kate.
KEILAR: Thank you.
Just ahead for us, the president has spent nearly one out of every three days this presidency so far at a Trump property. Who foots the bill? Who profits? Does it matter?
Plus, a witness says he heard people screaming for help, pleading for someone to save them. A U.S.-led air strike being blamed for the deaths of dozens of civilians now. It's now under investigation. A coalition spokesman is joining me live next.
KEILAR: The U.S. military is investigating claims that more than 100 civilians have been killed in recent coalition airstrikes in Mosul, Iraq. If confirmed the airstrike would mark the most civilian casualties since the U.S. began fighting ISIS back in 2014.