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Nunes on White House Grounds Before Intel Announcement; Trump's Campaign Promises Meet Governing Reality; March Madness Final Four Now Set; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:52] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So a critical week ahead for the Russian election meddling investigation and the Trump campaign's possible alleged ties to Russia. The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, we've now learned, will indeed answer questions from the Senate Intel Committee about just that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a critical week. You know, there's big news just in this morning. Jared Kushner's going to have to answer questions at the Senate Intel Committee and we just learned this morning that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, he was on White House grounds, He was in the old executive office building, basically, you know, the extension offices from the White House, the day before he made the announcement that he believed that the president's aides or, you know, at that point, candidate Trump's aides, were picked up in incidental surveillance.

There's a lot to discuss. We're joined by Larry Sabato, the director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia and CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being with us.

Professor, let me start with you. Devin Nunes, he was in the old executive office building, we are told, apparently in one of those secure rooms, one of the so-called skiffs, to look at this intelligence that he was looking at the day before he made the announcement that the president's associates were picked up on incidental communication, the day before he went and told the president that this was the case.

I suppose the question is, you know, why would he have to be in the old executive office building? Why not do it on Capitol Hill? Why not do it at the FBI? Why not do it at any one of the other places? Doing it at the place where you have congressional oversight over, that seems unusual.

LARRY SABATO, director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia: Well, it's very unusual. It provides a little bit of confirmation. We don't have all the background information, but it's a little bit of confirmation that Chairman Nunes was, in fact, simply providing cover to President Trump to justify that outrageous tweet about President Obama spying on him. Nobody with any knowledge of the situation believes that was true, but he needed a lifeline, and Nunes provided it to him. And it looks like, at least it looks like, people connected to the White House may have provided him with the information to provide the lifeline.

HARLOW: Look, just to be clear here, Chairman Nunes vehemently denies any such thing, Larry. I mean --

[10:35:05] BERMAN: Well, he won't answer the question about where he got it from.

HARLOW: He won't answer the question where he got it from but he denies that it's cover.

BERMAN: Right, he denies it's cover.

HARLOW: It provides cover. How do you see it, Lieutenant Rick Francona, when it comes to the importance of these independent committees gathering information in this ongoing investigation? Does it strike you as odd to have Nunes go to the White House grounds to use a secure room when we've learned there are all these secure rooms on the Hill he could have just used?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Exactly. This whole thing is troubling on several levels. But to Larry's point, why would the chairman of the Oversight Committee need to go to the White House or to the executive office building to find out about intelligence? They have all that information available to them. They can get it on Capitol Hill.

What concerns me is why is the chairman of the Oversight Committee telling the president what's going on in the intelligence community? The president has an intelligence service. That's what they do. They're supposed to be providing him information. If anybody's getting information, it should be the White House telling the chairman what's going on, not the other way around. So I tend to agree with Larry's assessment of what's going on.

BERMAN: Yes, you know, and it is interesting. And again, you know, Professor, the House Oversight Committee -- the House Intelligence Committee, I should say, has oversight over the intelligence community. He is the legislative branch overseeing the executive, it's part of checks and balances, which I'm sure you teach at the University of Virginia, Professor. So there's a reason why there is a separation, correct?

SABATO: Well, that's right. The problem in modern times is we have such an extreme partisan polarization that when the president's party is in charge of these oversight committees, it really is like the fox guarding the hen house. Unfortunately, you're not going to get a lot of independent judgment. Often you will get this kind of cover for problems in the White House.

You know, there's an old rule about political scandals. I've studied scandals for decades, political scandals. And the old rule, which still applies, is if you want to keep people from making harsh judgments about you or harsher than they would be otherwise, get all the information out on the table and do it as quickly as possible. Don't hide things. Don't discover things that you forgot because it leads to drip, drip, drip. What's been going on with this entire situation regarding Russia? Drip, drip, drip.

HARLOW: Lieutenant Francona, let's get your take on this other big, breaking story this morning, the fact that the only person in the White House right now and the closest to the president so far to be called in for questioning in this ongoing investigation into potential Russia ties is Jared Kushner. And we've learned about another meeting that one of his aides had with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, and we've learned that he had the sit-down with a major Russian banking executive, a bank that was under sanction. Is there a there there?

FRANCONA: Well, that's what the committee's going to find out. They need to look at the timeline. When did these take place? In what -- under what authority was Mr. Kushner operating? I believe at that time he had no real official position in the White House, so under whose authority was he operating?


HARLOW: He was on the transition. He was on the transition.


HARLOW: And the president had told him to take these meetings that he saw fit.

FRANCONA: Mm-hmm. And -- but at that time, he had not, I don't think has the authority to do that. Now we don't want to get into this, you know, like where we were with General Flynn. Should he have been talking to the ambassador or not. I think that's understood that the transition team was going to talk to these people. It's at what level and what commitments were made and what commitments was he authorized to make. And I believe the committee will want to examine that.

HARLOW: All right, Larry Sabato, thank you. Colonel Rick Francona, thank you.

BERMAN: All right, still to come for us, political promises. President Trump, he promised he would repeal and replace Obamacare. He said he would do it immediately. Well, it didn't quite happen that way, so where does this rank among promises broken?



[10:43:29] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never said repeal and replace Obamacare. You've all heard my speeches. I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days. On my first day, I'm going to ask Congress to immediately send me a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare. Immediately repealing and replacing Obamacare. We will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare.


BERMAN: So that didn't happen.

HARLOW: That didn't happen. It's not the only thing, though. I mean, the president told his supporters they would win so much, they'd get tired of winning, but now, 67 days into his presidency, he's hit road block after road block.

Repeal and replace Obamacare? No dice on that one. The travel ban, twice blocked by federal courts. The promise that the Iran deal would be gone on day one, no change on that front. And that wall between the U.S. and Mexico? Doesn't look like Mexico's going to pay for it at this point.

Julian Zelizer is with us. He's a historian and a professor at Princeton. He's also the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now."

So a lot of road blocks. However, you have a warning for Democrats, and that is history shows us presidents can get past major hurdles like this.

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. There are other presidents who've had a rough 100 days. Ronald Reagan early in his first 100 days was having trouble with his budget, he was having trouble trying to move his tax cut, and things turned around for him.

[10:45:02] It happened after the assassination attempt on his life, but then he comes back and he gets his tax bill through Congress. Bill Clinton has a very rough time with his nominations, with his budget. So there are examples where presidents can rebound from tough times, but certainly, President Trump is in one of those bad moments historically.

BERMAN: I guess part of the question is, is how closely is the promise that is broken tied to the fundamental nature of the candidate, right? George H. W. Bush, you know, former President Bush said, "Read my lips, no new taxes," and then that was a problem for him down the line when taxes were raised. He ended up getting primaried by Pat Buchanan, which certainly didn't help him. So I suppose the question for President Trump is, how closely is the health care pledge tied to him directly? Is that fundamental to his support, Professor?

ZELIZER: I think it was. I think it wasn't just fundamental to his support, it was fundamental to the Republican Party since 2010, since this bill was put into law. So this is a lot like that no new taxes, where the candidate says, I am going to deliver on this major issue. Tax cuts were the same, and opposing tax increases was the same back in the 1980s, and I didn't deliver.

And that's what just happened to President Trump. So there's a kind of clarity that I think could anger his supporters in the same way many conservatives were angry with President Bush when he ran for re- election in 1992. HARLOW: What do you make of the argument that some have been putting

out there, especially over the weekend in the wake of the health care bill failure on Friday that maybe, maybe, and Matt Lewis said it earlier on the show, this is a good thing for President Trump, because maybe, maybe this bill wasn't the best bill, and Republicans wouldn't have wanted to have to live with it, especially if they couldn't get parts two and three through because they would have needed the Democrats on board for that? What do you make of that argument?

ZELIZER: It might be true in the long run. That's why a lot of Senate Republicans were skittish about this bill all along. They didn't want a lot of this to happen. That said, I think in -- certainly in the next year or two, this is damaging, because this looks like a defeat. It is a defeat. It undercuts his promise, not simply to repeal the program, but that he can deliver in ways that other presidents can't deliver. And most important, it emboldened his opponents. So Democrats and Freedom Caucus Republicans are going to go into the next battle with the knowledge they can defeat President Trump. So I think maybe there's some truth to that. But in the short term, this is a loss, and I think the White House understands that.

BERMAN: You know, Freedom Caucus member, David Brat, we just had, he didn't blame the president. He said the president did a great job. He didn't even blame the president for criticizing the Freedom Caucus. He blamed us for that.

HARLOW: It's all John Berman's fault this morning.

BERMAN: So maybe, maybe there just won't be that problem, he'll skate through this.

All right. Professor Julian Zelizer, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. There was some basketball.

HARLOW: A little bit.

BERMAN: This weekend, you might have seen. My son literally pulled my hair out at -- this is a true story. They're watching the game and when North Carolina hit the last shot, he pulled my hair because it was so exciting and so dramatic.

HARLOW: My daughter pulls my hair because she's 11 months.

BERMAN: All right, we'll get to the final four in just a moment.


[10:52:06] HARLOW: The final four is set. Did you know that?

BERMAN: I did.

HARLOW: Did you know that? BERMAN: I saw it all happen.


HARLOW: We have some new faces along with a perennial powerhouse.

Andy Scholes has more with the "Bleacher Report." Did you hear how Berman's son, like, literally pulled his hair out?

BERMAN: Yanked my hair.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: We all were, Poppy. Anyone who was watching, especially the North Carolina-Kentucky game yesterday was going crazy in those final seconds. But, you know, not many picked this final four to be standing at the end. Gonzaga and South Carolina never been this far in the tournament before this year. Oregon has only played in the final four once. But on the other hand, North Carolina, not new for them. This is going to be their 20th trip to the final four. And the Tar Heels and Wildcats, like we just said, playing an epic finish yesterday.

Under 20 seconds left Malik Monk is going to hit this three for Kentucky to tie the game. Now Roy Williams keeps his cool, doesn't call a time-out, ends up being a great decision. They come down the floor and Luke Maye hits this shot with 0.3 seconds on the clock. Tar Heels win an absolutely thrill at 75-73. They're heading back to the final four for the second straight year.

And you got to check out the locker room celebration. The players showering Coach Williams with water. Definitely having a good time in there. Meanwhile, in the Kentucky locker room, the players were understandably devastated with the loss.


DE'AARON FOX, KENTUCKY POWER GUARD: This is a locker room that looks like -- I love my brothers, man. Shot just playing back and forth in my head is going to be difficult to get over.


SCHOLES: All right, South Carolina will be playing in the final four for the first time in their history next weekend. Beating Florida 77- 70. And before this year, the gamecocks had not even won a tournament game since 1973, and their coach, Frank Martin, one of the most intense coaches into the big game. He actually used to be a bouncer at a Miami nightclub back in the early '90s. Makes sense, considering how intimidating he can look on the sidelines.

But his players are not intimidated by him. Check out the coordinated water attack in the locker room when he came in after the game. No one expected South Carolina to get this far and Coach Martin called it a dream come true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANK MARTIN, SOUTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: Anyone that's in sports dreams of moments like this. It's not something that you start dreaming it the year you win 25 games. You dream it every single day.


SCHOLES: On Saturday, it's going to be South Carolina taking on Gonzaga. Then we'll have Oregon going up against North Carolina.

And John, I know you are the trivia king, so you probably already know this, but Poppy, did you know Oregon won the very first NCAA tournament way back in 1939, and it hadn't been back to the final four until this year.


BERMAN: That was the last time I won the pool, by the way, back in '39.

SCHOLES: You were doing really bad, John. I didn't want to mention it but I saw your bracket. Wow. That's impressive.

HARLOW: Not as bad as I did. Not as bad as I did.

BERMAN: Actually you beat. I think -- yes.

HARLOW: You picked Minnesota to win, too?

[10:55:03] BERMAN: I think I probably did. I might as well have.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, do you have any of the final four members left?

SCHOLES: I have two of them. I actually have Oregon and North Carolina, but I had Arizona winning it all. So I'm not --

BERMAN: See, this is a set up, right? Andy Scholes just wants to brag, two of the four final four. All right, pal, Andy Scholes, thank you very, very much.

All right, it's an extremely busy day going on right now.


BERMAN: We've got a lot of breaking news. We're planning to hear from the president of the United States very soon for the first time since we learned that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will face questions from the Senate about meetings he had with Russian officials. Stay with us.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are beginning with breaking news this hour about a mysterious night, something of a secret rendezvous that led to the controversial announcement that President Trump's communications may have been intercepted.