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Nunes Says He's "Moving Forward" With Investigation; Dems: Nunes Must Recuse Himself From Russia Probe; Dow Riding An Eight-Day Losing Streak. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But not on this show.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: No, no, no.
CUOMO: I would have told you.
CAMEROTA: Of course, you would have.
CUOMO: I would have pulled it right off.
CAMEROTA: You would have tucked it right out.
CUOMO: And then you would've hit.
CAMEROTA: I know that.
CUOMO: But later, you would've thanked me.
CAMEROTA: All right.
CUOMO: Time now for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. He once had half a banana on the side of his face when he was --
CAMEROTA: There you go.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: By choice, though. That was by choice, though, yes.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm not sitting next to --
CUOMO: That is true. He said he was saving it for later.
HARLOW: I'm not sitting next to a whiner, so there you go.
CUOMO: Oh, yes, you are.
BERMAN: All right, guys. A lot of news, let's get to it.
HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.
This morning, there was a cloud hanging over the committee investigating the cloud hanging over the White House, and it's a storm cloud. New calls from Democrats for chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, to step aside in the investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russia. And new this morning, even some Republicans are starting to question his judgment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think he put his objectivity in question, at the very least. The problem that he's created, is he's gone off on a lark by myself, sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here, trying to find some unmasking information about collection incidental with the Trump campaign and some foreign agent outside of Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Well, the partisan split made all the more stunning as we have learned that the committee itself, the House Intel Committee, cannot even agree to meet. They are now apparently indefinitely on hold.
We can tell you this morning who is meeting right now on Capitol Hill. House Republicans coming together for the first time since their party fragmented in a humiliating health care debacle. GOP unity imploding on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, the signature promise that helped elect the President and many of these Republican lawmakers.
We're covering all the developments this morning. Let's begin this hour with Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, there is a growing chorus, specifically from Democrats, now calling for an independent investigation of the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia. There is a growing sense as well that Republican Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Community -- Committee, rather, cannot go forward in his role, that he must either recuse himself from this investigation or step down from his role entirely.
Now, the aides that I speak with regarding House Speaker Paul Ryan and his position on this, is that he does not have the appetite to replace him at this time, that he still has the confidence of the Speaker as well as the White House. But as you can imagine, the fact that the House Intelligence Committee will not even continue with its own meetings this week shows just how dysfunctional it is. I want you to listen to the back and forth that is now occurring between the Chairman and his Democratic counterpart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: -- when I wasn't sneaking on. It wasn't at night. It was in the middle of the -- you know, the sun was out, and I actually stopped and talked to several people along the way. Many foreign dignitaries were there, some I recognized. I said hello, had conversations with them. So nobody was speaking around. All it was, was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, UNITED STATES HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: We've reached the point after the events of this week where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the Chairman did not recuse himself for matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team, of which he was a member.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now, there are several Republicans who are coming to Nunes' defense. But they are saying that he doesn't need to recuse himself or step down entirely, but he certainly does need to repair some damage.
Senator Lindsey Graham this morning, one of those Republicans, stating that he believes that he needs to go before his Committee to tell them who the source is, who gave that information, and specifically reveal that information to them in a classified setting.
I had a chance as well to talk to Senator Susan Collins this morning, who also agreed that he has some work to be done with that Committee, but still is able to hold the chair. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: That would be helpful. That would have to be done in a classified setting and behind closed doors because the information, apparently, is from classified documents. But I believe that is a good recommendation. That would help put things back on track. In the meantime, however, we're plunging ahead in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold its first hearing. That is going to be on Thursday. Next Thursday, they're talking about meeting with cyber experts to really delve into that. In the meantime, Democrats are asking for those White House visitor logs to be made public. So far the trump administration has refused -- Poppy, John.
BERMAN: Yes. Sean Spicer said we're working on that with no time frame provided. Suzanne Malveaux, great to have you. Thanks so much.
President Trump, he has a full day ahead of him, no doubt, eager to focus on anything besides Russia or health care, for that matter. CNN's Sara Murray, at the White House. And what's in store, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, you're right, this administration does not want to talk about Russia. And you can tell from the President's tweets that he is ready to change the subject. Last week, we may have thought health care was dead, but this week, senior administration official are holding out an inkling that they may revive it.
[09:05:08] Today, the President took to Twitter to play a little bit of the blame game. He tweeted, "The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch the defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years, they were ready for a win." Remember, he was hesitant to blame them last week. Not so much this week.
Trump also referring to the Democrats on Twitter, saying, "The Democrats will make a deal with me on health care as soon as ObamaCare folds. Not long. Do not worry. We are in very good shape." Possibly an indication that this administration does believe the way forward on getting some of their legislative agenda done may be pairing with some Democrats in the House and Senate, rather than relying solely on Republicans, which obviously did not work out great on the health care initiative. Back to you guys.
HARLOW: Indeed. Sara Murray at the White House. Thank you so much for that.
Let's talk to our panel about all of it. Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News. Jackie Kucinich is here, political analyst and Washington bureau chief from "The Daily Beast." And Jason Johnson, political editor at "The Root" and professor at Morgan State University. So nice to have you guys with us.
Errol, let me begin with you. All right. So an indefinite hold for any of these meetings of the House Intel Committee that usually meets twice a week. The FBI Director telling Manu Raju he is not going to even come forward until they can figure out their partisan bickering. Assess the level of disarray.
ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Well, there is a level of disarray. The good news, I guess, for the American people is that you got the Senate Intelligence Committee today moving forward. You have the FBI moving forward --
HARLOW: Which you saw Susan Collins being like, we've got our ducks in a row.
LOUIS: Yes, that's the good news. The bad news, though, is that, you know, we have Representative Nunes and perhaps other likes him who have fallen into the Trump trap, I would call it, you know, where Trump makes this baseless charge and then expects others to clean it up for him, and so he looks around.
Sean Spicer tries to do it from the podium, it doesn't work. They run and try and get the intelligence agencies to sort of back up this baseless charge, they refuse to play ball. The Senate refuses to play ball, the Senate leadership, the head of the Intelligence Committee.
And so Nunes steps forward and actually does this, has harmed his career, has harmed the investigation, has harmed the Committee. And, you know, this is a warning shot, I think, about how this is going to work in Washington these days, where, when the President is looking around for people and his aides can't do it, he'll put anybody in the crosshairs. And you have to think really carefully about whether that's a place you want to be.
BERMAN: Really bad news. This is serious stuff. We're talking about the House Intelligence Committee, and they deal with really important secret information. They have to be very careful about how they do it, and bipartisanship has been the name of the game for this Committee most of the time in the past.
Jackie, you know, you're an old Washington hand.
HARLOW: Old? That's horrible.
BERMAN: Young at heart though. Now, Chairman Nunes, I mean, how long can he sustain this? If you've got every Democrat asking for you to step aside, if you have people like Lindsey Graham not directly calling for it but start questioning his judgment, is he in trouble?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: He's making a very good case for an outside investigation and undermining his own investigation. To your point, Adam Schiff, his ranking member, coming out and saying he should recuse himself, that's a big deal. This isn't like the Oversight Committee, which we talked a lot about where you see the ranking member and the chairman constantly butting heads. It's not a thing in intel.
So Errol's absolutely right. He has damaged this. Not only has he damaged the House investigation, but it's casting a pall on the Senate investigation. And they have to be careful because that could invalidate what the Congress is doing lead and perhaps lead to something from the outside.
HARLOW: So when it comes to Speaker Ryan, he's the only one. As many people who might call for Devin Nunes to step aside, it's really just up to Speaker Ryan. And he, according to his aides, as late as, you know, yesterday evening, said he has full confidence in Devin Nunes. How long do you think Paul Ryan can sustain that because I'm just imagining what words he would be using if this were Democrats?
DR. JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think one of the issues here is Paul Ryan doesn't have that much credibility with anyone right now either.
I mean, he couldn't marshal in his own party to push through legislation, so him backing Congressman Nunes right now, it doesn't inspire faith. It doesn't make people happier. It's like, OK, well, this guy just blew it last week, now he's supporting someone else who made a huge mistake that affects his credibility. None of this people have credibility right now.
And I agree with the other panelists. I think this is moving towards an independent investigation. That's the only way that people who are concerned with American sovereignty and not just partisanship can get to the truth of what the connections are between this administration, if there are any, and Russia.
BERMAN: All right. We did just hear from Devin Nunes seconds ago. We're getting that video turned around. We'll play that for you the minute it comes.
By the way, I should note, there are no House Republicans who called on Nunes to step aside. Jason makes the point that Paul Ryan is damaged political goods right now. Maybe, but he's still leader of the caucus in the House of Representatives, and he has backed up Nunes until this point. And every other Republican in the House has as well.
While we're waiting for that sound from Chairman Nunes, I want to bring up another sort of famous Republican that Democrats seem to love, all of a sudden this morning, because of what he has to say about Russia.
[09:10:01] I want you to listen to former Vice President Dick Cheney. And few Democrats have ever said anything nice about him the last few years, but listen to what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes. In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So the Vice President, Errol, is calling it perhaps an act of war, what Russia did. And most Republicans now are very serious about this investigation on Capitol Hill. But that's very different language than we heard from the President himself, really, up until now. He continues to call Russia a hoax, the whole Russia thing a hoax.
LOUIS: Well, that's right. As early as this morning, right?
LOUIS: And I think that was one of this morning's tweets. You know, look, I think there is a danger of sort of going down this track, about sort of ratcheting up the meaning of this meddling. We should understand in advance that there's never going to be a smoking gun. There's never going to be videotape of somebody tampering with the voting machine. It's not the nature of what happened here.
I personally would be a lot happier if, whether it's Dick Cheney or anybody else, there'd be more talk about the human rights abuses. I mean, 60,000 people took to the streets in Russia to complain about corruption. A leading opposition figure who wants to run for president was seized and placed in custody. The same person was arrested the day after he announced a run for mayor of Moscow back in 2013. There are people who are coming up dead on videotape.
LOUIS: This is really serious stuff. I mean, they are making war not so much against the United States but against their own people as well, and it's a much broader discussion that needs to go on about this.
BERMAN: All the more reason that this Committee should get its act together.
HARLOW: Guys, let me know if we have that tape ready to play. But the headline out of what Nunes just said is this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: We should move forward now that Democrats are calling for your recusal.
NUNES: Yes, move forward just like it was before.
RAJU: And you're not going to recuse yourself?
NUNES: The investigation continues. We've had investigation into Russia for many, many years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to recuse yourself in this investigation?
NUNES: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a no?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. There you heard him saying we've been investigating Russia for many, many years. And then you heard the journalist at the end there ask him, are you going to recuse yourself? I could not hear his answer there. I believe the team said it was a no, though.
BERMAN: It was a no.
BERMAN: And he also said this investigation moves forward. But what you do see there, Jackie, clearly, is -- you know, you could see, you know, a man under fire. You've been up on Capitol Hill when members of Congress had been in the spotlight and under fire, and that's what it looks like.
KUCINICH: He's not walking as fast as some of them do, but --
HARLOW: He's not running.
KUCINICH: Yes, he's not --
BERMAN: Well, that's actually a good point. He's not running away from it.
KUCINICH: He's not running away.
KUCINICH: He's not running away. He is answering questions, and that's --
HARLOW: And he's doing interviews. Look, he talked to Wolf last night, right?
KUCINICH: Completely, so he is trying to address this, but he is a bit of a spot here of his own making. And there has been this disconnect between the President and the Congress, including the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee on Russia.
And the President just seems to be still viewing this through a personal prism, looking at this as a question of his legitimacy rather than Russians meddling in the United States election process. This is bigger than him. It always has been. And that's what you hear from the Hill versus what you are hearing from the White House.
HARLOW: Jason Johnson, final thought on what you think happened to Nunes and just this Committee's ability to function for the American people at this point.
JOHNSON: I don't think they're functioning for the American people, Poppy, and that's my big concern. And I think Errol and Jackie are right.
On the one hand, you've got all of these things happening with Russian diplomats dying. It's like the end of "Godfather 2." There seems to be this clearing out going on in Russia. And on the other hand, we have Americans who are denying that these connections are there.
The American people deserve the truth. And if this Congressman Nunes is not capable or not willing to pursue that truth, only an independent commission can provide us with what we need to know, is that whether or not our country is still sovereign or under the influence of an American enemy.
BERMAN: All right, Jason Johnson, Errol Louis, Jackie Kucinich. Thanks so much for being here, guys. Great to have you with us.
This Republican Party, divided or united? They're meeting right now behind closed doors. How much discussion will be about the new issues about Russia and Chairman Nunes? We also know who is not meeting today, the House Intelligence
Committee. We're going to speak to a top House Democrat who tells us something smells with this Committee. You will hear from him next.
HARLOW: Also look at the stock market. Stocks stuck after the White House deals with a series of setbacks. Is the slump going to continue and what does it all mean for you. That's straight ahead.
HARLOW: This morning calls getting louder and louder on Capitol Hill for House Intel Chair Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the committee's investigation of Russia.
BERMAN: This morning we learned that the Intelligence Committee has canceled all meetings for this week altogether. The ranking Democrat on that committee, Adam Schiff, along with the top Democrat on the House, Nancy Pelosi, have called on Chairman Nunes to step aside.
Moments ago we spoke to Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York. He is the chair of the Democratic caucus and we asked him if he agreed with the calls for Chairman Nunes to step aside.
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: I agree. At this point I agree with both the ranking member, Adam Schiff and Leader Pelosi. I do think it is time for Mr. Nunes to step aside for the sake of this investigation and so we could get to the bottom of this without any innuendo or suspension.
I think his actions that he took in terms of how he received the information at the White House and then gave it to the president before going to the proper channels and giving it to both sides of the aisle on the House Intelligence Committee speaks volumes to his needing to step aside.
HARLOW: Let me ask you this about your Democratic colleague, the ranking Democrat on that committee, Adam Schiff. I mean, he also has come forward with, you know, things that would raise eyebrows and suspicion. He talked about evidence that is not just circumstantial and he did not share that with the broader committee yet. Is he also making things more difficult?
[09:20:01]CROWLEY: I don't think so. I think what he was doing was sending maybe a message to everyone that this is a much more complicated and in depth issue that needs to be fully vetted and fully looked into. I think the difference here is that one of the people who is maybe subject to the investigation, the president himself, was being given confidential information.
It was how that information was given and how that information was disseminated to the White House, which I think -- which is what I think has complicated and made Mr. Nunes's life incredibly difficult right now.
BERMAN: Your gripe is with his second trip to the White House. You don't have a problem with him going to the old executive office building the day before he briefed the president to get whatever source information he got.
CROWLEY: Well, there is a skip at the White House, but why he would have to go to the White House is look at that is a question. There is a skiff here at the capital. This is where they are doing their work. There is where he could receive that information and share that with the ranking member and with the other members of the committee before going to the White House again where he received the information.
Possibly, we don't know, from a White House staffer. We don't know where the information came from and then giving that information to the president. And this is what we don't know I think about this, more than we do know about it.
HARLOW: So Chairman Nunes is within his rights to share this information with the president, which he said has nothing to do with Russia. But I hear that you take issue with the multiple trips he took to the White House. He could have looked at it at a secure location on Capitol Hill rather than going to the White House.
But if the information, Congressman, is legitimate, why do you care so much where it came from or how he got it? You might not like how it smells, but isn't the essence of the question is this important legitimate information?
CROWLEY: I do think it is important for the chairman to conduct himself properly for the sake of confidence in the overall process. Once you step out of that protocol, you are leaving yourself suspect. I think it is the appearance that's been created now. It may not necessarily be the information itself.
It is the appearance that has been created and not working with the confines and the structure of the committee itself. It is supposed to work in a bipartisan why. It's not like I get information, I keep it to myself and I don't tell anyone else. To have a true and open hearing, you need to share that information.
BERMAN: So the Intelligence Committee is usually a committee where you see much more comity. That the chair and the ranking member often get along. Things are a mess right now frankly. You have, you know, the ranking member, Adam Schiff, calling on the chair to step aside.
We learned this morning that all hearings and meetings have been canceled this week altogether because they can't even get on the same page. FBI Director James Comey won't go and talk to the committee because he feels it needs to get its act together. Isn't that on both, the chair and the ranking member?
CROWLEY: Well, Adam has said that they have had a good working relationship up until now. I think you have to also keep in mind, Mr. Nunes was a member of President Trump's transition team. He's very close to all the individuals that are being investigated. And much the same whether that Mr. Sessions has stepped aside because he was part of the transition team. What was the second part of your question? I'm sorry.
BERMAN: The question is, is this on the ranking member, Adam Schiff, given that they can't get on the same page. Working together is such a key part of this committee.
CROWLEY: Well, listen, I think that Adam has worked hand and glove with him up until this point and I think they were looking and delving into these issues. By the way, it was Mr. Nunes who canceled the week's hearing because of the three people that were going to testify from the former administration, including Mr. Clapper, including Mr. Brennan and the former assistant attorney general that were going to testify.
And I think it was what they were going to testify to is what made him, and I think the White House very uncomfortable. At least that's the appearance that's being create now.
HARLOW: This committee is so important both on the House side and the Senate side that it works together in a bipartisan fashion considering all of the classified material that it sees and how critical it is to protecting this country. Why is it, do you think, there is such disarray within the House Intel Committee and seemingly nothing of the sort on the Senate side in the intel committee?
CROWLEY: Well, I think there are a couple of things. One is that I think we have seen John McCain and Lindsey Graham and others take more leadership roles in terms of questioning the conduct of the White House as it pertains to Russia. We have seen less of that and quite frankly, Mr. Nunes was more interested in investigating the leaks, which I think is a legitimate issue.
More so than the link between Russia, the administration and the campaign to Putin and to the kremlin. So what I have always been concerned about, it wasn't about the, you know, Sessions and he recusing himself or resigning or in this case Nunes recusing himself or resigning from the committee.
It is really more about how deep are the talons of the kremlin into the White House and in the president's campaign. That's the real issue for the American people. That's what we have to get down to.
[09:25:04]And that's why -- listen, I said before, I think they have been working fairly well up to this point and I think Mr. Nunes has compromised himself.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Joe Crowley from New York, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.
CROWLEY: Thank you both.
HARLOW: All right, still to come for us, Wall Street's losing streak has investors on edge. We are there for the opening bell.
HARLOW: The Dow on an eight-day losing streak as the opening bell rings on Wall Street. Could it reverse that retreat today?
BERMAN: All right, let's go right to Christine Romans, CNN chief money correspondent and also star of "EARLY START." Romans, what are we seeing?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are seeing a little softness at the opening bell here, down just a little bit. It's been eight days lower.