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Paul Manafort's Ties To Russia; GOP Rep. Walter Jones Calls For Nunes To Recuse Himself; Interview with Sen. James Lankford; House Intel Committee Invites Comey To Testify Again; Trump Reverses Obama Era Environmental Regulations; Top U.S. Commander: "Fair Chance" Airstrikes Killed Civilians. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 28, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:03] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2005, Paul Manafort says he began consulting with Yanukovych, advising him and his party through tumultuous elections that included a divisive campaign, allegations of corruption, voter fraud. Manafort is credited with helping get Yanukovych elected president of Ukraine.

In an interview with CNN last year, Manafort says the ideals he brought to Ukraine were pro-U.S. and his job was focused on bringing Ukraine closer and closer to Europe and away from Russia.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: As far as the Yanukovych administration is concerned, you will see if you do any fact checking that I was the person that negotiated the framework, which is based upon which Ukraine is now part of Europe. That was my role. That's what I did. And when it was completed, I left.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But Yanukovych moved closer and closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yanukovych's policies divided the Ukrainian people. Leading to riots, police killings, dozens were shot to death, including targeted killings of Yanukovych's political opponents.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled his own country to Russia and to the safety of his friend Vladimir Putin on February 22, 2014. All the while, he was continuing to be advised by Paul Manafort.

Then there's this, a ledger identifying $12.7 million in possible surreptitious payments to Manafort from the Ukrainian political party from 2007 to 2012. And a newly released document, allegedly signed by Manafort himself, which a member of the Ukrainian parliament insists, it is proof Paul Manafort was receiving illegal payments while working as a political strategist.

SERHIY LESHCHENKO, UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER: This fake invoice and fake contract signed by Paul Manafort is not about political consultant, it's about selling of computers by Paul Manafort to this Shell Company in Belize. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Manafort's spokesman says the signature does not belong to his client and the ledger allegations against Manafort are false. So how did Manafort just two years after his former boss fled Ukraine for Russia come to the rescue of Donald Trump's campaign for president?

Starting in the 1970s, Paul Manafort worked or consulted for three Republican presidents. He was a lobbyist working with firms who represented repressive or military governments around the world that needed a friend in Washington.

Somalia, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Jonas Savimbi in Angola, they were all clients of his firm. Also on the list, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Donald Trump. In 1989 testimony before Congress on a separate issue, Paul Manafort was blunt about his overall job and his clients.

MANAFORT: The technical term for what we do and what law firms associations and professional groups do is lobbying. The purposes of today, I will admit that in a narrow sense, some people might term it influence peddling.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But in March of 2016, Donald Trump needed a different kind of influence peddling. And his campaign tapped Paul Manafort as just the Republican insider that Donald Trump campaign needed to win over establishment Republicans to clinch the nomination. Paul Manafort was brought in to make the reality T.V. star and real estate developer appear more presidential.

MANAFORT: I've known Donald since the 1980s and we talked about it. He felt I could help him as I felt. And he made the changes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Five months later, Paul Manafort was gone. His troubled past in Ukraine was coming back to haunt him. As CNN first reported, the FBI was looking into possible corruption and money laundering involving Ukrainian politicians, including the work of Manafort's firm.

Current and former U.S. officials tell CNN, high level Trump campaign advisors, including Manafort, regularly communicated with Russians known to U.S. intelligence, though Manafort called that allegation 100 percent not true.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Drew, in addition to all these other connections, Manafort -- he admitted he worked for Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, who is supposedly close to or has ties with Vladimir Putin, yet Manafort says there's nothing nefarious and he has nothing to hide. So, when is he going to answer questions about all of this?

GRIFFIN: And, Anderson, when he answers those questions, will any of them be on the record, sworn testimony before the Senate or House Intelligence Committees that are looking into all this Russian election meddling? We only have a statement from Manafort saying he has instructed his representatives to reach out to committee staff and offered to provide information voluntarily regarding recent allegations about Russian interference in the election.

[21:05:05] That, Anderson, doesn't sound like testimony to me and its still doesn't sound like he's going to appear publicly up on Capitol Hill.

COOPER: And that also may be because -- I mean, he could face much more serious issues in criminal matters, right?

GRIFFIN: Yeah. It's no secret Manafort is wanted for questioning in a Ukraine corruption case. There are also reports the U.S. Treasury Department is looking into some money transfers he has been involved with. So, there may be legal reasons why Paul Manafort just isn't ready to go on record anywhere just yet, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Drew Griffin. Drew, thanks.

Well, there's breaking news tied to the investigation. The first Republican member of the House has called for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to step aside, Walter Jones of North Carolina, saying it is up to the speaker, to Speaker Ryan, but he does think that Nunes should recuse himself.

As we said, the White House was on the defensive today, somewhat denying that it tried to blocked former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying at a public hearing that was scheduled for today, but then canceled last week without explanation by Congressman Nunes.

Today, Nunes says that he invited FBI's Director James Comey to testify again in a closed door hearing. It's been eight days since Comey testified at the House Intelligence Committee's first hearing and only hearing that's when he asked for first time public -- he said for the first time publicly that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Since then, the questions have certainly been mounting. Jim Acosta tonight has the latest.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Stop shaking your head again.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defiant in the face of questions on Trump campaign contacts with the Russians, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was once again pouring it on.

SPICER: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. At some point, April, you've going to have to take no to for an answer with respect to whether or not there is collusion.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Pressure is mounting on both the White House and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Are you going to recuse yourself?

ACOSTA (voice-over): They would not tell CNN's Manu Raju whether he plans to recuse himself in the Russia investigation.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Investigation continues. We've had an investigation into Russia for many, many years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to recuse yourself in this investigation?

NUNES: Excuse me.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Nunes and the White House still won't answer some big questions, such as who cleared the chairman on to White House grounds last week? One day before revealing new information about the possible incidental collection of communications by Mr. Trump and his associates, and who gave Nunes access to that piece of intelligence. Not only are fellow Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee demanding that Nunes step aside --

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, look, at this point, there's really one thing that needs to happen to rescue this investigation and that is that Chairman Nunes needs to recuse himself.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- even fellow Republicans are calling on Nunes to start providing answers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Well, I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do. That's been around for quite awhile and I've never heard of any such thing. And, obviously, in a committee like an intelligence committee, you've got to have bipartisanship otherwise, the committee loses credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Chairman Nunes reveal his source?

MCCAIN: Well, absolutely. I can't imagine why not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Yet another controversy swirling around the Nunes committee investigation emerged just today, as "The Washington Post" obtained a letter regarding former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who was fired by the president and was scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence panel.

The letter from the Justice Department to Yates' lawyer appeared to advice that Yates would need to consult with the White House before testifying stating, "She needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department of Justice." But the White House insisted it would not stand in the way.

SPICER: I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. There was never -- let's be honest. The hearing was never -- was actually never notified. If they choose to move forward, great. We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple.


COOPER: Jim joins us now. Jim, is it clear when or even if Sally Yates' testimony is going to be rescheduled in Capitol Hill?

ACOSTA: No word yet, Anderson. Sally Yates was scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee along with the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the former CIA Director John Brennan. But that hearing as you know is scrapped by Nunes. And, of course, you heard Democrats speculated that all of this was scrapped because this was not going to present itself very favorably for the president. But, no word yet when that hearing will be rescheduled.

We should also point out, Anderson, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked yesterday. He was asked again today, whether he could provide new information as to how Devin Nunes made his way on to White House grounds last week. Spicer simply did not answer that question today when he was asked the question. He blamed the media once again for its coverage of all of this. And as we've seen for the last several days, Anderson, we're asking these questions. There's just not answering them.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks very much from the White House.

Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee, of course, is also investigating Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections and the connections, if any, between Trump advisers and Russia. There was much or less public drama.

[21:10:02] Senator James Lankford serves on the committee. He joins us now. Senator, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: First of all, does -- I want to talk about the work your committee is doing. Just on the Sally Yates, you know, her attorneys send the letter, Friday, saying she's going to testifying, speaking about subjects related to Michael Flynn and doesn't think executive privilege applies because the conversations have been talked about publicly, then the hearing is canceled. Do you think that is a coincidence?

LANKFORD: Yeah, that I don't know. Obviously, what's happening on the House side of it, they've cleared a bunch of their schedule this week. Obviously, all the controversy swirling around Chairman Nunes right now is a distraction.

COOPER: It seems like they're not -- I mean, we had Congressman Himes, he's on the committee, who said they're not even having regular meetings now. LANKFORD: That's too bad, because you lose -- obviously when you're dealing with intelligence information, that's current, that's active, the intelligence committee meets multiple times a week. We have a lot of issues that we --

COOPER: Right, more than just the Russian investigation.

LANKFORD: That's correct, a lot more than just the Russian investigation that is ongoing both the House and Senate. There are other issues that have to be done. There's a lot of oversight that has to occur.

COOPER: How -- for your committee, I mean, how critical is it that it truly is bipartisan? Because, you know, when you see the questions and the only open hearing the House has had, all the Republicans are asking about leaks, all the Democrats are asking about Russia, it's like its two different hearings and now it's just completely broken down.

LANKFORD: Yeah. Now you're getting into just pure politics in the conversation. It is essential that an investigation like this is nonpartisan, whether it's just bipartisan. But when you deal in the intelligence committee, specifically, no cameras are on, open conversation, and you're talking about very difficult issues that are national security issues, that's not a partisan issue. We all want to be able to protect the nation.

COOPER: Your meetings are behind closed doors.


COOPER: That makes it a lot easier for -- I mean, obviously, the public, the reporters would like to know what's going on. But, for -- as an investigator, you think that's critical?

LANKFORD: You know, we deal with sources and that -- it is not just a smoke filled back room that everything are secret on it. We actually deal with America's secrets. It's no grand secret that we're trying to actually find out what nations or terrorist groups are trying to do to us before they do it to us.

So we are trying to make every means possible to be able to watch what's happening outside the United States before it actually comes here again to avoid something like 9/11. To do that, you deal with very private human intelligence and it was called signals intelligence in trying to intercept some of their communications. Those are very classified issues, but if you're going to talk about those issues, you can't talk about them in public.

COOPER: And, obviously, there's a lot you can't say.


COOPER: Whether you have seen -- I assume you have not seen the information that Congressman Nunes says he has seen. Is that something you would want to see? LANKFORD: Sure. I think -- again, the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees cooperate together a lot. (Inaudible) information and I've not seen what Chairman Nunes has brought out. I think it's -- it would be most responsible to share with his committee first that everyone can see it, with his own committee, that obviously to be able to share with our committee as well.

COOPER: Does it surprise you that he did not share that with his committee or that -- I mean, he seems to be acting kind of unilaterally. He's obviously the chairman. I guess it's his purview to do that. But at a time when people are looking for transparency and nonpartisan committees, how do you think he is doing? Do you think he should step down as --

LANKFORD: Again, I'll leave that up to the House to be able to determine, you know, his destiny (ph) on what happens here, but it is important that you work together on it. For Mark Warner and for Richard Burr, as our chairman and vice chairman in the committee, they work together hand in hand. They share information back and forth. It's a loss of trust if one of them has information that the one doesn't.

We've got to be able to work in a non-partisan way and that's the way our committee is working together, because these issues are hard and they're serious and you don't want to mess up.

COOPER: Senator McCain said Nunes has a lot of explaining to do. Lindsey Graham said that unless he shares what, you know, who he's met with, what he's been told, he lost his ability to lead.

LANKFORD: Yeah, I couldn't disagree with that. Obviously with his own committee they work, but there's no reason that his committee wouldn't be able to see that and obviously be able to share with our committee, including sources for that.

Again, we're used to dealing with the classified information. There's not a source that he's going to bring out than what I used to getting a chance to deal with top secret material.

COOPER: So, I'm sorry, so when you hear them saying that his lost his ability to lead, you think he's still able to lead?

LANKFORD: I think it's up to the House to be able to determine that in his own committee. There's a lot -- quite frankly, I come from a faith background. There's a redemption, you know, chance to go to people and just say, "OK, I messed up. Whatever it may be, clear the air. Cleat it, let's move on." That's entirely likely.

I don't know what all the relationships are right here. But I would tell you, when you make a mistake, you admit it, you go forward and go from there.

COOPER: You know, to -- certainly the Democrats -- I mean, folks who see what's happening in the House side, why should they have confidence in your committee in the investigation, because obviously there's a lot of skepticism. LANKFORD: Sure. There's skepticism. And I hear a lot of people say, "Let's do an independent committee, instead."

COOPER: Right.

LANKFORD: Here's the challenge that we have with that. If we can do our business and do it the right way as we handle information in hard investigations a lot on some very difficult issues we deal with this nation. Our staff is up to speed. We all have clearances. We all have access to the information. We know what we are reading. We know what the code means.

If you set up some independent commission, you're going to have to deal up a new staff, you're going to have to go through the process, everybody is going to have to get up to speed, everybody is going to have to get additional connections, its months in the process.

[21:15:08] Let us finish our work. At the end of the time, finishing our work, we're going to put out a nonpartisan, bipartisan report. All of us will sign on to with all of the staff and all the members. Let everyone take a look at and be able to see.

This is similar to what President Obama did at the end of his time. He went through an investigation of all the Russia. He put it out in December. He came on and said, "This is the investigation we've done. The American people aren't going to be happy with it because there will be some aspects we can't share."

COOPER: Do you have a timeline?

LANKFORD: We don't yet. We're going through all the interviews. We're going through our background information. We're doing the source documents. (Inaudible) essential things in going through it as fast as we can possibly go through it and it's a lot.

COOPER: Senator Lankford, appreciate your time.

LANKFORD: Glad to do it.

COOPER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, Congressman Devin Nunes did not endorse Donald Trump during the campaign. Now, he is seen by many as a devoted defender of the White House. He was involved with the transition. His path from a dairy farmer and rolled to obscurity in Congress to the firestorm he's now center of. We'll take a look at that.

Plus, new details about the Senate Intelligence Committees plans to question Jared Kushner. Will President Trump son-in-law and close adviser be ask to testify under ought? Details on that ahead.


COOPER: Breaking news, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is now taking fire from inside his own party. First, Republican member of the House is calling him to recuse himself in the Russian investigation.

Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina saying it is up to Speaker Ryan, but he should think -- he does thing Nunes should step aside. Recently, Representative Nunes was relatively unknown member Congress, those days are certainly over. Randi Kaye has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said that President Obama tapped his phones. Have you seen anything?

NUNES: No, no, no. That did not happen.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chairman Devin Nunes in a rare moment of disagreement with President Donald Trump. But aside from that, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been a loyal soldier for President Trump. Consider their history.

NUNES: If you have any intelligence questions --

KAYE (voice-over): Nunes didn't endorse a candidate in the campaign, but offered to brief them on national security issues. Trump took him up on it and the two have been in contact ever since.

[21:20:07] Their relationship led to Nunes becoming an adviser on the Trump transition team. After the election, Trump continued to turn to Nunes who takes credit for helping shape the president's national security team, including his CIA director.

(on camera): Before coming to Washington in 2003 as a member of Congress, Devin Nunes was a dairy farmer. He grew up on his family's farm in California. He once said all he wanted to be was a dairy farmer. Well, now, instead of wrangling cattle, he is caught up in some wrangling of a different sort.

(voice-over): Nunes, like Trump, has gone against the intelligence community's assessment of Russia's meddling in the election, calling it preposterous that the Russians would somehow favored the Republicans. He also slammed calls for an independent prosecutor to look into it, calling that a witch-hunt.

NUNES: We can't have McCarthyism back in this place. We can't have the government -- the U.S. government and/or the Congress, legislative branch of government chasing down American citizens, hauling them before the Congress as if there is some secret Russian agents.

KAYE (voice-over): And, now, he appears to be the go to for the Trump White House. He even calling a "Washington Post" reporter at the White House's request to knock down a negative story about Trump and Russia.

NUNES: How is it compromised if I'm trying to be transparent with the press and if the White House asks me to talk to a reporter, which by the way, it was one reporter. KAYE (voice-over): Nunes told a reporter once, "You can't have regrets in this business. You have to learn from your mistakes and go on." If Nunes has made any mistakes in Washington, as his critics have certainly suggested, it seems history will have to be the judge.


COOPER: Randi joins me from here in Washington, D.C. What else have you been able to learn about Chairman Nunes' personal story?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, we've learned that he is Portuguese-American. We know that he's a dad as well. Friends of his have said that he's a pretty normal dad. He is a low key guy. He's pretty soft spoken. He's not one to really crave the spotlight. But he certainly did crave that chairmanship for the intelligence committee and he got it beating out some senior members.

Anderson, clearly, he probably didn't think it was going to be as high profile a position as it is. That's not something that apparently he was looking forward to and now this idea of a low key chairmanship, Anderson, clearly long out of reach.

COOPER: Yeah. Randi Kaye, Randi thanks very much.

Up next tonight, new information about the Senate Intelligence Committee's plans to question the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, about his Russia contacts and whether or not he will actually testify under oath.


[21:26:32] COOPER: We are learning more tonight about Senate's -- Russia investigation as plans to question president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Kushner's testimony is likely be under oath in a private interview and it's likely to focus on his newly disclosed meeting with a Russian banker who has ties with Vladimir Putin. Our Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now with details. What more can you tell us about the meeting and the Russian banker that Kushner met with?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this isn't just any banker. Jared Kushner met in December with Sergey Gorshkov, the chairman of VEB. That's a state owned bank that has deep ties to the Kremlin and to Russia's security service.

Now, Gorshkov was put in the job by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and he's a product of the Russian Academy of the Federal Security Service, which trains Russia's spies.

And, of course, the Obama administration slapped sanctions on VEB after Russia annex Crimea from Ukraine, but Kushner didn't necessarily violate any sanctions by meetings with Gorshkov. But these meetings just add -- this meeting just adds to the questions about what the Russians were up to with all their efforts to reach out to people close to President Trump. COOPER: How is the White House characterizing Kushner's meeting?

PEREZ: Well, they've defend Kushner's meeting with Gorshkov. They say all of this was above board. Now, listen to Sean Spicer describe the meeting.


SPICER: Jared did a job during the transition in the campaign where he was a conduit to leaders and that's until we had a state department of function place for people to go. Remember, we had a delay in some of these things and that was his role. And he wants to make sure he is very clear about the role that he played and who he talked to. And that's it.


PEREZ: But that doesn't quite settle the issue, Anderson. VEB confirmed the meeting with Kushner in a statement to CNN. But they described Kushner doing this meeting in his role as the head of the Kushner Companies, his family's real estate development company.

The Russian bank says that it was part of a series of meetings with big financial institutions here and around the world. The Kremlin said they have no idea about this meeting. So this raises new questions. Was Kushner acting as a Trump transition official in charge of foreign relations as the White House says or was he doing his family's business? Anderson?

COOPER: Evan, thanks.

A lot more to talk about. Joining us this hour is also former White House Communications Director for President Obama, Jen Psaki.

Matt, you broke the story originally for "The New York Times." Have you learned more about this? And -- I mean, this is a story really on two fronts. It's a story about, you know, possible Russian connections. It's also a story about the, you know, the conflicts of interest.

I mean, the White House is saying, you know, he was a key transition figure before -- since (inaudible) in place, but on the other hand, he is still having meetings with Russian banks as part of the Kushner Corporation. And not only that, a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin and intelligence service.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's also under sanction. And so here's the thing. So he supposed to meets with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Fine, he's with the transition. That's appropriate.

Why does somebody doing transition come diplomatic initiatives need to be -- with any Russian banker, you know, from a state owned bank? I done think our state department officials normally meet with Russian bankers just for courtesy calls. And so, what were they talking about? I mean, that's the key question here. Was it just a pleasantry kind of exchange as hope exist (ph) private? Or was it a meeting above business?

And if they're talking about business, why are you talking business with a bank that's under sanction? Those are serious questions and it goes back to what goes on at this White House where we get a little bit information and we're told, "Nothing to look at here. It's all fine."

[21:30:02] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I would also ask another question. Why did he get in to meet with Jared Kushner? And how did he get the access to meet with somebody so close to the president who was going to have a major role inside the White House.

ROSENBERG: Apparently the Russian ambassador said it up, but did nobody Google this?


JASON MILLER, FORMER TOP AIDE TO DONALD TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: They said they didn't discuss any business. I mean, that was the word.

ROSENBERG: We don't know.

COOPER: But that's what they did. That's what the White House, the Russian bank says --

MILLER: I'm not at the White House --


JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: And if they didn't discuss business, where they discuss thing sanctions, I can tell you, I have left (ph) here transition. It is not normal to meeting with the head of a state run bank of a government where we have an adversarial relationship with --

MILLER: But that was the request of the ambassador.

PSAKI: -- where there are sanctions. That is not a normal meeting. So, it was either they were discussing sanctions. And remember what Flynn got into trouble with, or they were discussing business and he is trying to further his own interest. There's a lot of question around here that I think --

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Remember what was going on, and Matt (inaudible) mid-December.

ROSENBERG: Mid-December.

LIZZA: Remember what what's going on in mid-December, right? The Obama administration is trying to figure out what sanctions regime it's going to institute. There's the meeting with Flynn and Kislyak where Flynn is allegedly talking about, perhaps, when the Trump folks come in.

PSAKI: Sanctions. LIZZA: Real sanction. So sanction is in the air in mid-December. It's central to Russian-U.S. relations.

COOPER: Jason, you're saying they didn't discuss business, according to the White House. But didn't Jared Kushner also, while he was on the transition meet with this Chinese company to help set up this deal that actually ended up going through?


COOPER: Which actually worked out very well for the Kushner family, even though Jared Kushner has said that he has separated himself from benefiting financially? But his family has benefited from this Chinese company.

Let say Chinese company, which has ties to the government, which when they bought Waldorf Astoria, President Obama would no longer stay in the Waldorf Astoria out of concerns about being recorded or -- by Chinese intelligence.

ROSENBERG: Yes. You've got that. And let's also keep in what was going on in December. We're having the kind of realization by the intelligence community and in public that there was a Russian campaign to attempt to interfere the election.

At the same time, Kushner is meeting somebody who was once part of -- tied to Russian intelligence, a bank that is intertwined with the Russian power structure, with Vladimir Putin's regime, with this Russian Security Services. And this is all -- you can literally Google this. This is one Google search.

And, did nobody do any due diligence? I mean, if they were coming from the business world, what kind of businesses are you running, you don't check out who you are meeting with.

JACK KINGSTON, (R) FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN: If you -- if it was a courtesy meeting, which is what has been --


KINGSTON: Because the ambassador asked him to.


KINGSTON: And so, then I would say to you so. It's a courtesy meeting at the request of the Russian --


ROSENBERG: They're having meeting with the Russian ambassador, and you're saying, "Dad, you send a minion, a deputy." He sent somebody else to go to the second meeting of Russian national. You blew that off, but you met with the banker. Why didn't you send the minion to go -- meet with the banker?

KINGSTON: Well, you know what, I can ask that question. I've never been president, and so I don't know that I would say, "No, this is who meets with the Russian ambassador." I think you're expecting too much.

I think it's just -- it fits into this conspiracy that the left has just won't let go of that everybody -- as Sean Spicer said, if he uses Russian salad dressing, there's a direct link to Russia.


COOPER: So why didn't White House just months ago lay all of this out say, you know what, oh, yeah --

KINGSTON: But, remember, he has voluntarily agreeing to testify.

ROSENBERG: He was asked and he said you go on, probably.

COOPER: He broke the story. This just happened. Why months ago didn't they just say, "Oh, yeah, the ambassador asked. We had this meeting. We had that meeting."

KINGSTON: Well, I don't want to speculate that they have a sense that there are some unfriendly people, sharks, infesting the water of Washington, D.C.


BORGER: Well, let me ask you, do you think it was the wise decision for him to do this?

KINGSTON: I think. I can tell you this. There are a lot of things that you do in public life, "Yeah. OK, I'll meet with him."

COOPER: Yeah, I'll meet with the former intelligence agent from a bank that's now under U.S. sanctions at a time when Russia has hacked the election. Yeah, sure, why not?


COOPER: He is not a foreign leader. He is a Russian banker with ties to intelligence.


COOPER: Yeah, but who cares about --


LIZZA: Why is the Russian ambassador, the guy, who should be telling Jared Kushner who go to go meet with? I mean the list of possible explanations. Look, I agree with Jack. There are some conspiracy theories about Russia and we have to be very careful.

KINGSTON: Absolutely.

LIZZA: But what are the rules (ph) of explanations? Jared Kushner has no experience in foreign policy and he's just completely naive and so did he this? That's not great. It was actually related to his business interests, not as government service? That's not great. Well, it was actually to talk about sanctions in the middle of the Obama administration reviewing that issue.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Also, let's just remember what we were told initially about the meeting, that it was just some sort of courtesy call. It wasn't -- and then we find out because of your reporting that actually through the other side that now he was doing it -- he wasn't doing it as a conduit for the transition team. He was doing it in his job as head of Kushner industries.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: I mean --

LIZZA: What's best case? What's the -- guys, what is the best case scenario here?

[21:35:02] BORGER: That there's a conflict that --


KINGSTON: Their thought was Kislyak.

LIZZA: Yeah.

KINGSTON: Never met him, but he's a kind of a man about town, right? I mean, even before all this, he was going out --

LIZZA: If you met him you would forget about it, because everyone who meets him apparently forgets about it.

BORGER: Not a memorable guy.

KINGSTON: I don't think I met him.

LIZZA: I met him, but I don't remember meeting him.

BORGER: He's the hardest working guy in Washington.

KINGSTON: He is. Apparently, keeps lots of meeting. But, he probably had a whole list of people in the Clinton camp, probably even had people in the Jill Stein camp, just in case they got elected. And so he throws himself with reckless abandon or great abandon to meet everybody he can, you know.


BORGER: He is doing his job.

MILLER: -- speech he is going to get for $500,000 to sell, you know, one-fifth of the U.S. uranium supply. I mean, this was -- Jared met with dozens --

COOPER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.


COOPER: I was supposed to ask you to go to a charity run by some Russian exile. I did a Google search and found out this person has an incredibly shady background. I was like, no, there's no way I'm going to go, even though it's a charity event. Not that I was going to be even paid or anything. I would just -- no, I don't want to be in the same room with some shady person. Why is Jared Kushner --

BORGER: Or you know who he was and you took a meeting with him.

ROSENBERG: Apparently there are conscious types of ethics rules. I mean, it's amazing. Look, I don't want to take (inaudible) because we don't know what happened in that meeting.

BORGER: Right.

ROSENBERG: But that's been an issue throughout the last few months. Where we kind of find out a little bit of thing, we're told, no, it's not a big deal. And then it turns out it is. It's more than we were told. And that's what I don't get here. If you just announce it and say we have this meeting, this is what happened, it goes away.

COOPER: For all the talk during the election about, you know, ties to bankers, who knew that -- like ties to Russian bankers are OK? I mean, like ties to "Wall Street," that's a problem. But like, ties to Russian bankers --

MILLER: (Inaudible) committee talked to them. I don't think there's anything that he has to hide. I think it will be -- just be another box we can check off --

COOPER: Right. But, wouldn't it be better to avoid the drip, drip, drip of all? I mean, all of this is just been -- like one thing after another one. Why not just -- once you go, just come out and lay it all out?

KINGSTON: Persecuted Republican Party member. I would just say, sometimes you just feel --


KINGSTON: There is a theory among my people that you just -- why even try, because the critics on the left will just move the goalpost. And you just can't play that game.

Today, President Trump did an executive order that may end up in something like 800,000 new jobs. Now, the Sierra Club did not like it, but, you know, he took on the clean power.

COOPER: We're going to talk about that next.

KINGSTON: And so the point is, he is governing. And I think that that's where he needs to be.

BORGER: Can I just say -- I mean, Jen, you would know this because you've run a communications office. Can you figure out why they wouldn't just put everything out there? Is it disorganization? Is it trying to hold it? You've been in situations like this.


PSAKI: -- heat off of my communications brethren. My bet is they didn't know a lot of these details. And that a lot of these details about who met with who is not something that Sean Spicer and all of them knew.

COOPER: Right. We're going to take a quick break. Up next, President Trump rolling back the Obama administrations legacy, combating climate change, ending the so-called "war on coal." But will he really put miners back to work? We'll take a look at that, ahead.


[12:41:58] COOPER: Well, the Trump administration took a major step today toward changing the U.S. approach to fighting climate change. The president signed a new executive order that rules back Obama-era environmental regulations ending a moratorium on coal mining on federal land, issues restrictions on coal fired powered plants. Our Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty tonight has details.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: --true on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump taking major steps to strip down Obama-era regulations to combat climate change.

TRUMP: I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job killing regulations.

SERFATY (voice-over): Signing an executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency that undoes the Clean Power Plan. The initiative to curb carbon emissions at coal fired power plants, but that 2015 effort by the Obama administration has been tangled up in legal challenges and hasn't even gone into full affect yet.

President Trump's order also allows for new coal mines on federal lands by lifting the three-year moratorium and rescinds at least six Obama executive orders aimed at curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions, including one that says climate change poses a growing threat to national security and another instructing the federal government to prepare for the impact of climate change.

MIKE BRUNE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB: The actions that President Trump has taken today represent the largest attack on climate action in our country's history.

SERFATY (voice-over): And still TBD and all of this, the Paris Climate Change Accord, which this doesn't touch. But these new changes will make it harder to meet the benchmarks of the agreement. TRUMP: We're going to bring the coal industry back folks.

SERFATY (voice-over): Climate change is an issue where Trump has been all over the map. In 2012 saying in a tweet, "Global warming is a concept created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." More recently after the election in an interview with "The New York Times," he admitted there's some connectivity between humans and climate change.

Also, telling Trump's choice of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, a long time skeptic of climate change who sued the EPA repeatedly when he was Oklahoma Attorney General and continues to cast out on the role of carbon dioxide.

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: No, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

SERFATY (voice-over): The White House touting today's move as a campaign promise kept with the goal of job creation that they claim the mining industry is embracing.

SPICER: The miners and the owners are very, very bullish on this.

SERFATY (voice-over): But Democrats and environmentalists see little economic benefits and a lot of potential environmental harm.

BRUNE: The coal industry has been losing jobs for year after year after year. The coal jobs are not going to be coming back in any kind of large quantities, whatsoever.

SERFATY (voice-over): Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: And back now with the panel. I mean, Jack, this is certainly what President Trump campaigned on.

[12:45:03] I mean, nobody should be really surprised by this. It's exactly what he talked about in the campaign trail.

KINGSTON: Yes. And part of his national security is energy independence and it's all of the above energy idea that we need to have it from all these sources. But, the economic impact of cheap, abundant energy is something like 800,000 new jobs over the next decade. So, I think it's very good.

And, remember, all of these would have been passed by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress if they were popular. President Obama did it by executive order because he could not get it through his own party.

COOPER: Kristen?

POWERS: So -- yes. The president saw this as energy independence and talked a lot about the coal industry. Of course, we don't import coal. So we don't need energy independence to help the coal industry. That's not the -- the coal industry is losing jobs -- KINGSTON: But we can use coal for --

POWERS: -- for reasons to completely unrelated to the issues that he's raised.

COOPER: Kirsten, how much he can actually bring back --

KINGSTON: Coals are form of energy.

POWERS: Right.

KINGSTON: If you don't buy overseas oil because you got coal --

POWERS: But people are moving towards clean energy. That's what's happening. We're moving away from this. We're moving away from the idea that we need to pollute our environment to get energy. And so, the whole rationale for this actually doesn't make any sense. And then by the way, it's not going to bring back jobs, because it's not why they're losing jobs. They're not losing jobs because of --

COOPER: Jason, is the president out on a limb? I mean, promising the coal industry is going to come back, promising all those coal miners?

MILLER: No, not at all. I think finally after eight years it's good to have a president back who doesn't see a direct conflict between creating jobs and more energy avenues for creating energy and clean air and clean water.

I don't think that they have to be in opposition to each other. I think it's -- you look at some of the specific regulations allowing for leasing on federal lands and things like this. And this is a no - brainer for continued coal production.

And, again, like you said, it's something he promised on the campaign trail. And, you know, this is another example of the president making good on his promises.

PSAKI: It's just a dishonest promise to the coal miners and people who are in these towns, because coal jobs are going away because of competition, because of automation, because there's a lack of demand by the steel industry in China. It's not going away because of the federal leasing on lands.

In fact, that CEOs of coal companies who are going to benefit financially from that, so we'll see in a year or two when coal miners' jobs don't come back and that's when we we'll know. But it's a shame that, you know, it's a promise made that just not going to be delivered.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, Sean Spicer say kind of dodged the question on whether President Trump still believes climate change is a hoax.

BORGER: Right, he did.

COOPER: I mean, does -- this is sort of in line with that. BORGER: And also, I would add that the president has not yet decided whether he's going to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement. We haven't seen that yet. I mean, what he's done is he rolled back the policies that would need to meet that agreement in effect.

But, you know, Donald Trump has not yet come out and said he's going to withdraw from it, so that's my question. Is he going to? Or is he just going to leave the United States to taking a back seat?

LIZZA: Inflict (ph) the White House over that, too, and that will be a showdown with Kushner on one side and some more of the conservatives on the other. But look, Jack -- one thing Jack is right about here is that Obama couldn't pass this legislatively.

He couldn't pass a plan to deal with climate change through -- mostly through the Senate. He got it through the House and he had to resort to the regulatory system that was available at the EPA.

And, you know, this is a classic elections have consequences where one of the only industrialized countries in the world where our two parties actually disagree about climate science.

Every other democracy -- this isn't a debate. The science is settled, but we have a Democratic and Republican Party where this is a fundamental divide. And I don't think -- it's not surprising that Trump is keeping this promise.

KINGSTON: Think what a competitive advantage it would give America over European competitors if we got out of the Paris Accord. I know that environmentalist don't want hear that, but just think about that for a minute, because China and India, they haven't followed (inaudible) and so forth. They've had a competitive advantage over our domestic manufacturers.

PSAKI: Well, when you talk about national security issues though, I mean, the reason that China and India committed to the Paris Accord where the big -- world's biggest submitters, the three of us, is because of us. So, we're being irresponsible globally.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody on the panel.

A top U.S. commander tells reporters, "There's a fair chance that the U.S.-led coalition was responsible for an airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Iraq." CNN's Arwa Damon is there on the ground. What she found out when we continue?


[12:53:03] COOPER: There are new developments in the fight for Iraq. A top U.S. commander revealing today, there is a fair chance, his words, civilians were killed in a U.S. led coalition airstrike in Western Mosul 11 days ago.

An Iraqi official says 112 bodies were pulled from the rubble. Many of the victims could not escape the city because it's believed ISIS was using them as human shields. Coalition forces have been trying to regain control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city since October.

Arwa Damon is in Western Mosul. Take a look at of what she's discovered.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The destruction here in Western Mosul appears to be significantly more vast and widespread than it was in the eastern side. And you also see that there are a lot of these really narrow alleyways that winded deeper into the neighborhoods. And this is one of the main challenges that the security forces are facing.

You barely see any civilians, but you do see the traces of the life that was, of how bustling these particular areas would have normally been. And part of the challenge when it comes to trying to protect the civilian population is that even though the Iraqi government did, yes, encouraged people to stay foot in their homes, even if they wanted to leave, they wouldn't have been able to, because ISIS would not allow them to leave these neighborhoods. ISIS was holding everyone that lived across this entire city as human shields.

He's saying that ISIS as the forces were coming through really began to decrease its presence, so at least this family felt that they could stay. That's the other reason why they couldn't go obviously, because it's very difficult for them to try to flee.

The day before this area was liberated ISIS took her husband away. They had no food left and he went out to buy food, to try to get some food and ISIS took him away.

[12:55:04] She's still here because she's waiting for her husband, who's the little girl's uncle to come back. And now she's just hoping that somehow he's going to return home.

The people here are trying to get information as to which route may or may not be safe and where there are possible sniper positions. The sounds of battle are still all around. And just being in this one small part of Western Mosul, one -- again, a little bit of appreciation for the intensity of the battle, just how terrifying it must have been for those civilians that were stuck here amidst all of this. And just how phenomenally massive the task of eventually rebuilding this city is going to be.


DAMON: Anderson, the situation is just growing even more difficult and as the U.S. and Iraqi military search for answers and for ways to try to decrease civilian casualties, we have also just heard from the high commissioner for human rights for the United Nations who says that within the time frame of 17 March to the 22nd, at least 200 civilians have been killed in Western Mosul alone, Anderson.

COOPER: Arwa Damon, appreciate the reporting. Stay safe. We'll be right back.


[22:00:01] COOPER: Well, that's all the time we have. Thanks for watching. It is time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now. See you tomorrow.