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Pressure on House Speaker to Replace Intelligence Committee Chair; Kushner Meeting with Russian Banker Draws Scrutiny; Trump Set to Undo Obama's Climate Change Agenda. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: It will be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself.
[05:58:46] REP. DEVIN NUNES (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Nobody was sneaking around. I was concerned about Americans' identities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devin Nunes has told us nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is not an Internet cafe, where you can just walk in.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: He needs to explain a lot of this and, frankly, we need a bipartisan answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared Kushner under fire for an undisclosed meeting with a notorious Russian banker.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition and the campaign where he was the conduit and -- to -- to leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White Housesaid it was just a routine meeting. The Russian bank said they talked to Kushner as head of the Kushner Company.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY, with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, March 28, 6 a.m. here in New York. And, although the White House tries to say there is nothing to any questions about Russia, the questions continue to grow.
Most recently, another major development. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee now admits that he did go to White House grounds the day before making his big acknowledgement that there may have been surveillance that caught up Donald Trump and other members of the White House. He says he will not stand down from the investigation.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But more Democrats are demanding Devin Nunes step aside from that probe. President Trump responding to the firestorm in a series of tweets, dismissing the Russia story as a, quote, "hoax" and railing against the Clintons. All of this as a meeting between the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian banker comes to light.
We are now in day 68 of the Trump administration, so let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live from Capitol Hill. What's the latest, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, there's a growing chorus calling for an independent investigation into the Trump administration's ties with Russia. This as we learn, day by day, more about the behavior of the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Despite that, aides tell me that there is very little appetite for the House speaker, Paul Ryan, to replace him.
SCHIFF: The chairman ought to recuse himself.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Leading Democrats calling for the embattled chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to step down, arguing that Congressman Devin Nunes, a former member of President Trump's transition team, is too close to the administration to conduct an impartial investigation into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia.
SCHIFF: We've reached a 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.
MALVEAUX: The uproar coming after Nunes acknowledged Monday that he made a secret visit to the White House grounds to meet an intelligence source in a secure location.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Nobody was sneaking around. All it was, was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.
MALVEAUX: Nunes denying any wrongdoing and defending his position to brief President Trump and the press about incidental collection of the Trump transition team's communications before informing his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee.
NUNES: I wasn't planning on going to the White House the next day. But after I was able to read what I read, I realized it had nothing to do with Russia but had everything to do with individuals who were -- whose names were included in two intelligence reports. I was very concerned, and I thought that the president of the United States should know; and that's why I went and told him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devin Nunes has gone rogue.
MALVEAUX: A growing chorus of Democrats piling on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actions taken by the chairman has compromised the investigation.
MALVEAUX: Calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to appoint a new chair.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: His actions looked like those of someone who was interested in protecting the president and his party, and that doesn't work.
MALVEAUX: Both Speaker Ryan and the White House standing by the chairman.
SPICER: I think he's been fairly open with the press as far as what he was doing, who he spoke to and why.
MALVEAUX: Amid ongoing questions about who granted Nunes access to White House grounds, who led him to the secure room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and who accessed the computer to view the files.
MALVEAUX: Democrats are now demanding the release of White House visitor logs to the public. So far, the Trump administration has refused to do so.
In the meantime, President Trump tweeting last night, calling the Russia story a hoax and also suggesting to members of Congress that they investigate the Clintons' connection to Russia -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all that.
Meanwhile, President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, is drawing scrutiny over a meeting that he had with a Russian banker who has ties to Vladimir Putin. This was after Mr. Trump was elected. This comes as Kushner offers to talk to the Senate intel committee about his contacts with Russia.
CNN's Sara Murray is live at the White House with more on this angle -- Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
As much as the Trump administration would like to move on, it just cannot shed this controversy over Russia. And now it's caught up Trump's own son-in-law.
MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's son-in-law and one of his closest advisers Jared Kushner under scrutiny for a previously undisclosed meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of a state-run Russian bank with direct ties to the Kremlin. Kushner offering to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence
Committee, both about this interaction and his role in arranging meetings between Trump campaign advisers and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
SPICER: Based on the media frenzy that existed around this, he volunteered to make sure that they -- he said, "Hey, we've made some contacts. I'd be glad to explain them."
MURRAY: The White House insisting Kushner was acting as a liaison from the transition team when he met with Gorkov.
SPICER: Jared did a job during the transition in the campaign, where he was a conduit and to -- to leaders. And that's until we had a State Department function in place for people to go.
MURRAY: The Russian bank offering a conflicting account, describing the sit-down as a business meeting, telling CNN, "During 2016, the bank's management repeatedly met with representatives of the world's leading financial institutions, including the head of Kushner Companies, Jared Kushner."
Gorkov was appointed to his post at the Russian bank by President Vladimir Putin. It's a bank that's been under U.S. sanctions for three years, since Russia took over Crimea.
[06:05:05] Kushner met with Gorkov one month after Trump was elected at the insistence of Ambassador Kislyak, who Kushner met with in Trump Tower earlier that month.
The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirming they want to talk to Kushner, saying in a joint statement, "The timing is still being determined but will only come after the committee determines that it has received any documents or information necessary to ensure the meeting is productive for all sides."
If it happens, Kushner would become the first person currently serving in the Trump White House to speak to a congressional committee investigating Russian ties.
MURRAY: This is now the third time a Trump adviser has caused a firestorm with a previously undisclosed meeting with a Russian official. Remember, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in hot water not too long ago for this, as was Michael Flynn, who was actually ousted from his role as national security adviser for misleading senior administration officials about his contacts with the Russians.
Back to you guys.
CUOMO: All right. Sara Murray, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman; CNN political analyst and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker; and CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich.
Ms. Haberman, you have two big issues when it comes to Kushner, did they tell you everything they needed to tell you about the meetings when first asked? And secondly, this little bone that the Russians threw out there -- yes, we met with Mr. Kushner as the head of Kushner Development, not using his title in the White House. What do you make of those two?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was very striking to me when we got the statement yesterday, you know, that we reported on this, as you know, yesterday morning, you know, that the Senate intel committee wants to speak to Kushner. I understand the White House is saying he offered to speak. Our understanding is they reached out to him. He is appearing voluntarily. As you know well, that just means that he's appearing without a subpoena. It doesn't mean that it's -- that this is an offer, as we understand it.
The banker's statement certainly puts this in a different context than how the White House has. The White House has maintained, even after that statement that, you know, this was still basically in the context of doing his transition role. This was nothing about the Kushner Companies.
But it did come at the same time that Kushner Companies was looking for new financing for a major midtown Manhattan troubled, over- leveraged building. It is one of the jewels in their company. Kushner has said they didn't discuss this, that this is -- the White House said they didn't discuss this. But this is one of, you know, a number of questions swirling around that are not accurate. That it was essentially a quick meeting, and it was in the context of being a liaison to all sorts of people.
There are still a number of unanswered questions about this, and I think this is going to play out over some time.
CAMEROTA: So David, connect the dots for us. If Jared Kushner met with this Russian banker in his capacity as a businessman -- this was before the inauguration, after the election, before the inauguration, what -- where is the "there" there?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think part of the problem is that the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team and the Trump White House doesn't disclose.
I think a lot of these things. No. 1, would look a lot different if they would just voluntarily disclose. And I think part of what I keep trying to figure out is, is it just a lack of being organized and actually knowing what the heck they are doing. Is it a lack of understanding that yes, you've had an extensive business career that's all been legal and aboveboard, let's just say, fine, but now you're in the White House working for the president of the United States and different rules apply?
Or is -- do they have things that they want to hide? And it still, to me, always gets back to the root of the poisonous fruit, which is that the president of the United States coddles Vladimir Putin in a way he won't even coddle our allies. And that casts a cloud over everything that we keep finding out in this drip-drip fashion. And the White House is going to have to get their arms around this, because eventually, the American people are going to get exhaustive by it, especially if there's no legislative work product.
CUOMO: Interesting, you know, Donald Trump, president of the United States, no tweets about those protests in Russia. The State Department put out a statement but nothing from Trump. Point of clarification for you to make here.
Maggie is right: Jared Kushner made an offer. Not to testify, though. He made an offer to come in and talk. He did not say what Manafort said, or some of the others, "I'll come in; I'll raise my hand..."
CAMEROTA: Meaning not under oath.
CUOMO: "...Let's get after it." Yes. And look, that could be -- I don't want to make more of this than it deserves or it could be I want to insulate myself. But the point of clarification I want is, if he met after the inauguration, after the election with a business person at a Russian bank while also working for the White House you have an immediate problem on your hands. That's not OK.
[06:10:04] JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That is not OK. But also, I would argue I don't think you can separate the two even going in, meaning legally, it's different. But I don't know that there is a difference even going into the White House because of the proximity of power. Because you can't really -- paper covers rock. He's going into the White House. He has that -- that is -- that was going to happen.
So would he be -- would they have been meeting with him, had they not known that he was going into the White House and had that proximity of power? We don't know the answer to that question.
CAMEROTA: So Maggie, the man trying to get some of these answers, ostensibly, is Devin Nunes. Devin Nunes, the House intel committee, who we now know was on the White House grounds, reading some sort of sensitive or classified information. Where are we with that? Is he -- there are so -- there are now a growing demand of Democrats asking him to step aside. But he thus far is not willing to.
HABERMAN: Democrats don't have much leverage here. Remember, Congress is controlled by Republicans. Democrats are afraid that, if they step away, then essentially, they will be losing access to a lot of the information that's available and any real hand in this.
All they can do is hope that they can apply public pressure with a daily drumbeat of focus on this. They are doing that now, though, and as that has -- as that has gone on over several days, and more facts have come out about what Chairman Nunes learned and how he learned it, the optics are not great for the White House.
You had Sean Spicer yesterday in the briefing room say that he's been very -- Nunes has been very open about who he met with and how and where, and none of that is true. This has come out through people sourcing. I think Jake Tapper broke it yesterday. And he still has not said who he met with or how he accessed these documents or how he got whisked onto the White House grounds.
Anybody, as any new reporter covering the White House like myself can tell you, you can't just, you know, hop onto the White House grounds. It's actually a process to get in; and you have to be cleared, and somebody has to know you are there.
CUOMO: He said he didn't want to give information about that. You know, they are doing their best to make this a nothing burger, right? Nunes talked to Wolf yesterday. Here's how he explained how not sneaky this was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: I wasn't sneaking on. It wasn't at night. What -- it was in the middle of the -- 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 sneaking around. All it was, was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right, so David Drucker, let's put the issue of could he have looked at this stuff in a place that wasn't as incriminating as going to the actual White House, to decide on the fact that he didn't have a mask on. You know, which is seemingly what he's trying to paint a picture of: this is fine, the sun was out.
DRUCKER: "Hi, I'm Adam Schiff. I'm here to look at some documents."
CUOMO: None of this is helpful in terms of showing that this is credible investigation. I use that word because Ryan used it. He said, "I have every confidence that he's doing a" -- how? How can you have every confidence that he is doing a credible job when he went around his own committee with information that he either misdelivered or didn't have in the first place to be putting out that way? And now we find out that he was on the grounds; he was kind of missing, according to Jake's reporting. How can you call that credible?
DRUCKER: Look, I think the upshot here is that Nunes is either going to have to deliver work product or he's not. And then he's going to have something to answer to.
As he has told me -- and I spoke to him again last night -- he viewed documents that he did not possess. He tried to get these documents into the skiff at the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill. He said he couldn't. He needed another skiff in which to view the documents. That's why he ended up at OEOB.
But ultimately, with all of this, it's really all about, OK, will the NSA actually deliver documents to you, as you have said they -- that you expect them to, and then will -- will the Democrats on the committee be able to look at these documents? And if they can, this is still going to be a partisan issue with the House of Representatives. It's not quite like the Senate where you're going to get more of a modicum of independence from your party.
But if Democrats can look at this, they can -- and Nunes is right, then they can spin it. He's going to have a lot more to go on. Keep in mind that he did brief House Speaker Paul Ryan before he went to the White House. He kept him in the loop. So...
CAMEROTA: But not all his fellow committee members.
DRUCKER: Some of the Republicans on the committee, not the Democrats. Again, it's all about delivering work product. And that's -- he's either going to have it or he's not. And then it's either going to be a problem or it's not.
KUCINICH: Rejecting partisanship in this particular committee is unusual. This is one of these committees. This isn't normally a partisan committee. You don't normally having ranking member saying that the chairman should recuse himself...
DRUCKER: Very true.
KUCINICH: ... from an investigation. That is extraordinary for House Intelligence Committee and the fact it's bleeding over into the Senate investigation. Chairman Burr cannot be happy about that. They're actually trying to keep it on the straight and narrow as far as what they're doing. So -- yes.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you. On that note, stick around. We have many more questions for you.
CUOMO: So all of this is creating a frustration in the White House to get their agenda under way. Right? You've got President Trump trying to get back to business. He's going to sign an executive order today. The question is, will it do more good or bad? Is he really thinking of throwing a bone to climate change deniers? What environmentalists are calling a hot mess in the making. Yes, that's a double entendre.
CAMEROTA: A few hours from now President Trump is expected to sign a sweeping new executive order that will undo President Obama's climate change agenda. The White House says this is aimed at protecting American jobs.
Let's bring back our panel. We have Maggie Haberman, David Drucker and Jackie Kucinich. So Maggie, this will -- what President Trump wants to do is rescind the moratorium on coal mining on U.S. federal lands. This will be music to the ears of people in coal country, but will it crank up the coal industry again by doing this?
[06:20:02] HABERMAN: This is the open question. It's certainly the president fulfilling a campaign promise. And I think right now, for a White House that feels fairly battered after last week and what we saw with the negotiations going on between the White House and Congress, I think that they would like a win. And I think that they would like to show they're delivering. The coal industry promises have always been somewhat more complicated
than what the president has said. It is also not as sweeping an industry in terms of the number of jobs that it provides or can provide, even with more august production and rolled-back regulations. This is going to add to more controversy over questions about a commitment to climate change. There are a lot of people within the administration who would like to see, for instance, the Paris accord disappeared with. There are others urging to keep it. So I think this is going to kick off another week of debate.
CUOMO: Well, Jackie, it goes a lot farther than that, because you have the -- you can coal mine on federal lands. They want to do a whole review of the clean power plant initiative, which was seen as key to keeping the United States from looking like Shanghai, you know, in terms of just blowing all kinds of black smoke into the air.
And then federal agencies are going to identify obstacles to energy independence, which is another way of saying, "Let's get rid of more environmental restrictions so we can do more oil work the way we want to."
KUCINICH: Part of this has to do with Republican orthodoxy. I mean, part of this is elections have consequences, because I don't know that the -- the -- it would have been a lot different if, say, Mitt Romney had won. Because he had talked about bringing back -- not to the same extent.
CUOMO: He was a lot more progressive about climate change.
KUCINICH: He was.
CUOMO: He didn't say that the Chinese made it up.
KUCINICH: Which Mitt Romney?
CUOMO: That's true. Always a fair point.
KUCINICH: No, but you're right. He didn't say that climate change was a hoax. But in terms of...
CUOMO: Neither did Trump, by the way, when he was applying relief for one of his golf courses from the effects of global warming.
CUOMO: Come on now.
DRUCKER: The truth.
CUOMO: Such a thorn in the side. Stop.
KUCINICH: But so -- I mean, I don't know that it would have been this -- going this far, but it's not like Republicans generally were -- have been embracing climate change, to be fair.
DRUCKER: First of all, it's so refreshing to talk policy for a minute. I mean, look, this is -- this is a big test for Trump in one way, and Maggie touched on this. Can he deliver the goods to his voters? You know, he's promised a lot of voters he's going to bring back manufacturing; he's going to bring back energy industry jobs. And there's a lot of people that want that to happen.
And so can he put into place policies that we're going to see job growth in these sectors, in these parts of the country that really have a lot of faith in Trump that voted for him? Aside from that -- and Jackie is right on this -- any other Republican that was elected president from the field that we saw, what have been doing a lot of what Trump is doing in that regard.
Republicans don't think they're climate deniers. They don't look at it that way. They have a different view about environmental policy, the effects of fossil fuels on the economy. And when they look at the tradeoffs, to them it's a very easy answer: the economy trumps the environment.
CAMEROTA: Maggie, let's talk about something else that President Trump campaigned on, and that was building the wall on the Mexican border. So now they have made a request for money to begin this wall. And the request is $999 million. We're going to round that up to $1 billion.
CUOMO: No, it's like every other sale price, $99.99.
CAMEROTA: Get it while it's hot.
DRUCKER: While supplies last.
CAMEROTA: While supplies last, because this actually only covers 62 miles of wall. I think the promise was for like something like 2,000 miles. So that is a pretty penny.
HABERMAN: Well, it's also less likely to give you sticker shock, I guess, at $999, so you can look at it that way. Look, the next major challenge in addition to getting a Supreme Court nominee approved for the White House is the next resolution to keep the budget going and to keep funding the government. That's going to be a major fight. And so this, as I understand it, is supposed to be part of that.
Democrats have already said pretty clearly this is something of a poison pill for you, if you attach this to the next continuing resolution for funding the government. I think that this is going to be very challenging for the White House to push this through.
Right now, again, elections have consequences, but so does how you spend your early capital. And the White House, which really wasn't going to have a honeymoon to begin with, has spent the first two months in very, very controversial negotiations and discussions and lawsuits, and you are now potentially seeing the results of that.
CUOMO: Well, is this just -- David, is this just a naked attempt to do what he said he would do? Because this isn't just bad for Democrat negotiations; it's bad for a lot of Republican negotiations, too. Because you're asking me as a Republican lawmaker to eat a billion dollars for 62 miles of wall when that -- no really rational thinking person believes that the wall is the difference between perfect immigration policy and imperfect immigration policy.
[06:25:06] DRUCKER: Well, yes, but I would say, look, I've talked to Republicans about immigration policy for years, even Republicans who believe in a guest worker program and do not share Trump's view on immigration broadly. And a lot of these Republicans are in favor of building a wall across the southern border.
CAMEROTA: But did they expect it to be this much money?
DRUCKER: Yes, they do. But they think that it's worth spending...
CAMEROTA: Mexico's going to pay for it?
DRUCKER: No, they don't think that. They think that's the biggest joke of all time.
And so I think the issue is, especially, after the health care divide. Can you get Republicans to agree on spending money? Because there's actually nothing that should lead any of us to believe that the Freedom Caucus, together with the moderates and leadership and the White House, are going to agree to spend a ton of money without doing something to tackle the debt.
CUOMO: I just don't get how you want to see yourself in that debate when they say -- somebody is going to hold up a big graph, and it's going to show that illegal entry has been going down. OK?
And then you're going to ask for this big chunk of money for a wall which would be addressing that issue, which is already going down, when your real concern is the people who are already here, and how you deal with them, and who you kick out and who you don't, and who your quotas are for who you let in. I don't see a lot of Republican lawmakers wanting to be defending a billion dollars for a wall when they have all these other concerns.
KUCINICH: They don't have an answer to the other problem. That is -- there is no good answer. And no one has been able to come up with a good answer to deport millions and millions of people who are already here. This other thing is an easy fix. I mean, frankly, it's an easier thing to sell than going in and ripping people out of their homes that they have been in for 25 years.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. We have another top story that we need to give you a development on. That carnage and bloodshed in Mosul where more than 100 civilians were killed by a U.S.-led airstrike against ISIS. CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Mosul on the front lines with the latest.