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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Stock Market Rebounds; Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier; More Russia Questions for White House; ; Kushner Will Testify About Russian Banker Meeting. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three main reasons why this happened, John.
One, any time you have downward pressure on the market for a couple of days, you're going to have bargain hunters coming in, looking for value, driving those prices up.
Two, we had positive economic news today. Consumer confidence was actually up. People think they are going to get paid more. And they think business conditions are going to be better.
And, number three, the Trump administration is going to pivot. It's going to turn to tax reform, which is something that Wall Street really wants to see.
Now, if you look at the last nine days, I think we have a chart, obviously, a very positive day today, but you cannot ignore the last eight days. Those were down days. And if it had closed down today, if the Dow had closed down today, that would have been the first time since 1978 that it would have done something like that.
Look, those down days signify a shift in investor mentality. They now are starting to question whether or not Donald Trump can execute on some of the most aggressive policies that he's put forth.
The thinking is, if Donald Trump couldn't make repeal and replacement of Obamacare happen, then why should Wall Street be so confident about tax reform possibly happening?
So, you're going to have those questions. Longer term, going back a bit further, we're up 13 percent since Election Day. A lot of my sources are telling me that is priced for perfection, so you're going to have a lot of volatility from here, and that is the story. We're going to have up and down days here on out.
And that means that Donald Trump will not be able to tell such a clean story when it comes to the stock market -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No, the fact that the market bounced back, though, and you saw this boost, does that signal some kind of investor confidence that tax reform might actually happen? ALESCI: Look, as far as tax reform is concerned, most of my sources,
mostly investors, mostly guys here on the floor, say it's wait and see. We don't know. Right now, this market is going up because of the high consumer confidence, because you're just going to have that kind of reaction after a couple of days of losses.
And in terms of tax reform, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was out there saying it is going to get done by August. Well, you know what, he kind of softened that language just a couple of days ago just last week, so already you see the administration managing expectations on that front.
So I don't think any smart investor believes that it's going to happen this year. They think that it's more likely next year -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Cristina Alesci on the floor of the stock exchange closing up today after eight straight down days.
From investors to investigators, our politics lead now.
Just in to CNN, the embattled chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has invited FBI Director James Comey back to testify before his committee for a second time, this as that chair, Devin Nunes, faces criticism over his handling of the committee's probe and any links between associates of President Trump and Russia.
In fact, the more we dig into any potential links, the more we seem to find, from a December meeting between the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the head of a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions to allegations now that the White House tried to block the former acting attorney general from testifying.
That was supposed to happen just this week.
CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now.
And, Jim, the administration pretty much is brushing off all questions about Russia now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.
And , as you just mentioned the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, he has invited the FBI director, James Comey, back for another round of testimony. No word yet on when that testimony will happen, but, as you said, the White House once again back on the defensive on whether it's interfering with a congressional probe into Trump campaign contacts with Russia.
And aides to the president are either unwilling or unable to share what they know about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' mysterious visit to the White House last week.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Stop shaking your head again. ACOSTA (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're going to have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.
ACOSTA: Pressure is mounting on both the White House and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But are you going to recuse yourself?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Why are you so lame?
ACOSTA: Who would not tell CNN's Manu Raju whether he plans to recuse himself in the Russian investigation.
NUNES: The investigation continues. We have had an investigation into Russia for more, many, many years.
QUESTION: Are you going to recuse yourself from this investigation?
NUNES: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Is that a no?
ACOSTA: Nunes and the White House still won't answer some big questions, such as who cleared the chairman on to the 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), CONNECTICUT: 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: 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. I have been around for quite a while, and I have never heard of any such thing.
And, obviously, in a committee like an Intelligence Committee, you have got to have bipartisanship. Otherwise, the committee loses credibility.
QUESTION: Should Chairman Nunes reveal his source? MCCAIN: Well, absolutely. I can't imagine why not.
ACOSTA: 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 advise that Yates would need to consult with the White House before testifying, stating: "She needs to consult with the White House. Show 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. It 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.
ACOSTA: Now, Yates was scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, along with the former director of national intelligence and former CIA director.
But that hearing was scrapped by Nunes, and there's no word yet as to when Yates will be rescheduled to testify. And we should point out White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether he could provide new information about how Nunes made his way on to the White House grounds last week.
Spicer at the briefing yesterday, John, indicated that perhaps he might have that information today, but no such luck today -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Nothing yet. Jim Acosta still trying. Thanks so much, Jim.
My next guest says she just doesn't want House Intel Chair Devin Nunes recuse himself from the Russia investigation. She wants him to step down from his chairmanship altogether.
BERMAN: Welcome back.
Today, the House Intelligence Committee was supposed to hear new testimony on any possible links between Russia and associates or staff of President Trump. That hearing was canceled.
In fact, the House Intelligence Committee, as far as we know, is not meeting at all this week because of infighting. But we just learned that the House Intelligence chair, Devin Nunes, has invited FBI Director James Comey to testify again before the committee.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, sits on the House Intelligence Committee. She joins me now.
Thanks so much for being on.
Now, this is confusing, Congresswoman, because the FBI director had been invited back, we had been told, to testify in private. Now, that was scrapped because of apparently, again, the infighting inside the committee.
Now we just learned that the FBI director has been invited back again to testify. Can you tell us anything about this?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I really can't. As you can imagine, John, things are happening here without the benefit of communication between the Democrats and the Republicans on the committee.
It's unprecedented. This committee has always been bipartisan. It's always worked together. This whole set of circumstances occurred because, last Monday, when we did have the hearing, Director Comey released a bombshell, and the bombshell was not only was he investigating the Russian intervention in our election; he was also investigating whether or not Trump campaign personnel were engaged with the Russians in the intervention.
Once that happened, I think the Republicans on the committee, and they are the majority, decided to pull way back. And that's why, all of a sudden, the hearing that was scheduled for today was canceled, while there's been a call back for a closed hearing with Mr. Comey and Mr. Rogers.
And I think that, right now, we're at a standstill, because, normally, these only happen when it's done in conjunction with the Democrats and the Republicans and...
BERMAN: Would you...
SPEIER: Go ahead.
BERMAN: Would you agree to the FBI director coming back and testifying in private?
SPEIER: I would agree to that, but I want to make sure that the hearing that was scheduled that both the Democrats and the Republicans agreed to have with Sally Yates and with Directors Brennan and Clapper, that needs to be rescheduled.
Once that's rescheduled, I'm happy to have a closed hearing with Director Comey.
BERMAN: Let's talk about Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general, former acting attorney general.
"The Washington Post" reported that the White House tried to block, had originally tried to block her from coming to testify before your committee. Now, the White House flat-out denies this, 100 percent denies. It says it did not stand in the way of Sally Yates testifying.
Have you seen any evidence that the White House got involved?
SPEIER: Well, it depends on whether you call the Department of Justice part of the White House. I believe the Department of Justice was trying to silence her.
BERMAN: They wrote a letter saying that you need to check with the White House, essentially, to see if the White House is going to invoke executive privilege.
The White House didn't do that. So, as far as I can tell by reading the letters, I'm not sure that anyone tried to actively stop it.
SPEIER: Well, I believe that there probably was an effort that is not reflected in the letters. I don't know that for a fact, but I believe that there probably was an effort to discourage her from participating.
But you have got to the remember, this was an agreement made by both the Republicans and Democrats of the committee to have these three parties come before us today. So, it was a cooperative effort. And it only changed, I believe, after the hearing that took place last Monday.
BERMAN: So, your chair, Devin Nunes, informed the White House about new information he says he received, and that -- he informed them before he briefed the committee last week.
He said he would make that information available to you.
[16:15:00] Have you seen it yet?
SPEIER: No, we have not, and, again, this is supposed to be a collaborative, cooperative group of people, Republicans and Democrats. He has not divulged who was his source, he's not divulged the documents, and, you know, he has frankly been on all sides of it. It's either masked or it's unmasked, it's not about Russia, he has to go tell the president, and yet the president had access to this information, and presumably he didn't take a document with him to meet with the president.
So, the whole set of circumstances over the last few days is very regrettable and really casts a huge cloud over the chairman and frankly the committee.
BERMAN: The chairman today said he's not going to recuse himself from this investigation and he essentially said, why would I? What's your response to that? Do you still think he should?
SPEIER: You know, he's created this mess. He's the one who did not coordinate with ranking member on the committee about the fact that he was going to look at this document. Normally, they would look at it the together. He goes and holds a press conference, doesn't tell the ranking member and has the press conference as he's on his way to the White House. I mean, the whole process has been very uncollaborative.
So, putting that aside, I think he has really placed a huge question mark in the minds of the Americans as to his objectivity, and this is supposed to be an independent, underscored, independent investigation by the Intelligence Committee on this issue of Russian engagement in our election and whether or not Trump surrogates in the campaign worked with the Russians in trying to sabotage the election.
BERMAN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
SPEIER: Thank you.
BERMAN: So, as Democrats push for Chairman Nunes to step aside, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the house, is standing by him. So, how will that affect the Russia investigation?
And the Senate Intelligence Committee is ready to grill one of President Trump's closest advisers, his son-in-law. The question Jared Kushner could face about his meeting with the Russian banker.
[16:21:36] BERMAN: Welcome back.
More on our politics lead. As we learn more about a meeting between President Trump's son-in-law and a key Russian figure after the election. Jared Kushner will testify about his December meeting with Sergey Gorkov, a top Russian banker with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. Now, at the time of the meeting, his bank was still under Obama-era sanctions imposed after Russia's invasion of Crimea.
CNN's Jessica Schneider joins me now from Washington.
Jessica, what do you know about this meeting?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, this meeting happened at the height of President Trump's transition, but it was also a time when Jared Kushner was still serving as CEO of his real estate development firm, Kushner Companies. Kushner took the meeting with the chair of a state-run Russian bank in a move that will certainly be scrutinized by congressional investigators probing those possible links between Trump associates and Russia.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jared Kushner met with this Russian banker during the transition. Sergey Gorkov is the chairman of VEB Bank and has deep tied to the Russian government. Gorkov was appointed to his job by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House disclosed this week that Jared Kushner met with Gorkov at the request of Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December 2016. But the White House insists this was all part of Kushner's transition duties. "Jared attended the meeting in his capacity as a transition official. Nothing of substance was discussed and there was no follow- up."
But the bank says its executives met with Kushner as part of a road show of business meetings in 2016, disclosing that Gorkov met with a number of representatives from the largest banks and business circles in the United States, including the head of Kushner Companies, Jared Kushner.
So which was it, a transition official's meeting or meeting to discuss private business?
The White House not answering a request to clarify, instead insisting all inquiries about the administration's ties to Russia are just another distraction.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.
SCHNEIDER: But ethics experts say there is cause for concern. VEB Bank was under U.S. sanctions for three years, generally simply meeting with an entity under sanctions isn't necessarily a problem but doing business with it might be. When Kushner met with Gorkov, he was still CEO of Kushner companies. At the time, the company was trying to attract financing for a building project in Manhattan.
DAVE LEVINTHAL, SR. POLITICAL REPORTER, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Jared Kushner's position within the Trump transition and administration was well known to the people who he was doing some sort of business with. So, that's where you get the issue of gray area and lines blurring between what somebody does in his or her private capacity as a business person and what somebody is doing in their public capacity as an official or as an adviser to the most powerful man in the world.
SCHNEIDER: VEB's bank strategy posted to its website highlights its tight relationship with the Russian government, stating, "Together with the government, we will select the most promising growth areas in the economy."
A Kremlin spokesman says the Russian government was not aware of this meeting between Kushner and Gorkov. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee tells CNN that Jared Kushner will likely testify under oath but privately to senators.
Senator Susan Collins says the committee needs to clarify who Kushner was representing but suspects the Russian bank might just be trying to drum up more confusion by insisting Kushner was acting as a businessman during the meeting.
[16:25:00] SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This has been a long-standing practice of the Russians to spread the disinformation. So I was not surprised when they contradicted Mr. Kushner's explanation of why he had these meetings.
SCHNEIDER: The Senate Intelligence Committee begins its open hearings Thursday, the first day featuring Russian and cyber security experts, but no word yet on when Jared Kushner might appear before that committee -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
A showdown looming on Capitol Hill hover the Supreme Court nominee. Democrats warning Republicans against changing the rules to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed. Will Republicans regret this move if they do it?
BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Turning to politics and a looming showdown over President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Republicans need at least eight Democrats to vote in favor of Judge Neil Gorsuch next week to overcome a filibuster. But most Democrats we've heard from, they're openly opposing the nomination.