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House Intel Chair Won't Step Aside from Russia Probe; Kushner Meeting with Russian Banker Draws Scrutiny; House Intel Committee Scraps Meetings for This Week. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMEROTA: ... so you're not fear mongering.
FERGUSON: Right. But let's also be clear, part of being a politician is listening to your constituents and listening to their fears and listening to their concerns. And if they are telling you to focus on "X," you need to focus on the issue.
[07:00:18] CUOMO: Take that point, Bill.
CARTER: The reason they have those fears is that they've been ginned up by partisan media. Partisan media is telling them that these things are -- they're not paying attention to the facts. They're attacking by saying, "Oh, crime is up. You should be afraid. Be afraid." Even though there is no evidence for that. And that's part of the reason they have that feeling. It's been created in bipartisan media.
CAMEROTA: To your constituents and their fear and assuaging it, rather than ginning it up. But we leave it there. Ben, Bill, thank you very much.
CUOMO: Ben, always a pleasure. Thank you, pal.
CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes sense for the chairman to recuse himself.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: What I'm raising here is vital to national security.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: His actions look like someone who is protecting the president, and that doesn't work.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The chairman has made very clear what his goal was.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: There's no legitimate reason to have gone to the White House instead of sharing it with his own community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devin Nunes has gone rogue.
CAMEROTA: Jared Kushner is drawing scrutiny over meeting the Russian banker who has ties to Vladimir Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You now have a direct conflict between what the White House said about that meeting and what the bank is saying at that meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, now Jared Kushner, all people who had an unusual number of meetings with Russians.
SPICER: He wants to make sure that he's very clear about the role that he played and who he talked to and that's -- that's it.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
We begin with the cloud of Russia hanging over the Trump presidency. The chairman of the House Intel Committee says he will not recuse himself from his committee's Russian investigation after admitting that he secretly met with a source on White House grounds a day before briefing the president on this topic.
CUOMO: And remember, Nunes went around the Democrats on his own committee to give information to the White House after checking in with Ryan and other Republicans. It really took away the integrity for the Democrats working with the Republicans.
So now we have how will the White House deal with this? They keep dismissing the Russia story as a hoax. And now the president is tweeting that Congress should be focusing on the Clintons.
All this in light of another major development. The president's son- in-law met with a Russian banker with ties to Putin. The Kremlin is now saying they didn't know about that meeting.
We're in day 68 of the Trump administration. Our coverage begins with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live from Capitol Hill. Another big day.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's another big day, Chris, of course. And this caused a growing chorus of people who are now calling for an independent investigation of Trump's ties, his team's ties with Russia.
And this comes as revelations emerge day by day about the behavior of the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. And despite that, at least aides that I've spoken to, House Speaker Paul Ryan says that he has very little appetite to replace him.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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 decision 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.
SCHUMER: 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.
[07:05:12] MALVEAUX: Democrats are now demanding that those White House visitor logs be made public. So far the Trump administration has refused to do so.
And at the same time, we see President Trump hitting hard back via Twitter, tweeting last night, saying that he believes that the whole Russia story is a hoax. Also saying and urging members of Congress they should investigate the Clintons' connection to Russia instead -- Chris.
CUOMO: An artful distraction. Will it work? We'll see. Suzanne, thank you very much.
President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing increased scrutiny for failing to disclose a meeting he had with a notorious Russian banker who has very close ties to Vladimir Putin. Kushner is preparing to face the Senate Intel Committee. CNN's Sara Murray live from the White House with more.
What do we know?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: We know the Trump administration would rather not be talking about this. But they just cannot seem to shed this Russia controversy, and now it's caught up with one of Donald Trump's closest advisers and a member of his own family.
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.
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 that 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: Now Kushner marks the third Trump adviser to set off a firestorm for a previously undisclosed meeting with a Russian official. As for Kushner's meeting with the Russian banking official, the Kremlin is saying today they did not know about the meeting until they heard about it in media reports yesterday.
CUOMO: Sara, what's going on behind you? Are you getting kicked out of there?
CAMEROTA: Who's the loud guy?
MURRAY: The joy of the White House briefing from.
CUOMO: Just needed to check.
MURRAY: A sense of the ambience.
CUOMO: Just needed to check. Didn't want to read through later you had to knock someone out.
CAMEROTA: Sara, thank you very much.
Let's discuss all of these developments including the Russian entanglements or allegations thereof with our panel, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston; CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith," David Gregory; and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip.
Mark, let me start with you, because CNN has some new reporting. Our Manu Raju has learned from two sources that the House Intel Committee -- OK, Devin Nunes's committee, has now officially scrapped all the scheduled meetings they had for this week. That -- where the Intel Committee was going to be interviewing people trying to get to the bottom of what these Russian connections were. They now can't do that because of all the consternation around Devin Nunes.
It sounds like he is now getting in the way of them doing their job. How long can he last?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. For all the committees you would hope there wouldn't be a politicization of, you know, an investigative committee, this is the one you don't want it to happen. Jackie Speier, who was on -- a Democrat in California, who was on last night here on CNN, said she's lost all confidence in Nunes. Very personal thing to say about one of your fellow committee members.
You know, you can criticize somebody for their politics. When you start getting into personalities, it just goes to show you how raw this is right now between Democrats and, quite frankly, Nunes who they don't think can lead this committee at this point.
[07:10:09] CUOMO: David, what's your take on how partisan this is? I mean, isn't this just a straight-up deception? He went around Democrats on the committee. He went to Ryan. He checked in with some of his Republicans, and then he went to the White House and gave them some type of political cover. I mean, it seems pretty obvious. It doesn't have to be a partisan problem; it's just a problem. Isn't it?
GREGORY: It's just a straight up problem. If you're head of the Intelligence Committee, and you want to run a straight investigation into a very serious matter that's being looked at on the Senate side, as well, you don't do this. Somebody who is on the transition team, any of these committees are subject to politics. There are politicians who are involved there, not the independent actors. And even those can have political overtones, as well.
But this is just a way to undermine any serious work that this committee is doing. He absolutely should know better. He had a different motive in mind here.
And so now if you wanted to give more momentum to the Democrats to have a select committee or an independent committee or council, for that matter, Devin Nunes has just handed that to them on a -- on a platter.
I think what really ends up happening -- and this goes to the Kushner issue as well -- the Senate takes over this investigation. That does not appear to be compromised. I don't think Republicans want to create a select committee or have an independent counsel, but certainly, Nunes did a lot to help the Democrats' cause on this one.
CAMEROTA: Abby, help us understand what Devin Nunes did here. He went to the White House. Said he had to go because there are only certain cases where you can view classified information.
You know, correct me if I'm wrong, but it was George W. Bush who set up the Prism program that captured, that collected this data, these communications with a foreign leader and where somebody might incidentally, an American, be caught up in a phone call or some sort of communications.
But Devin Nunes seems confused about what he was seeing. He still seems confused about what he saw. He wasn't able to sort of categorize what -- he said it had something to do with Russia. But beyond that, he was unclear on what it was he was looking at. Where are we with the substance of this?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, that's a really good point. One of the most puzzling parts about how this was handled was that Devin Nunes decided to hold a press conference and then briefed the president based on incomplete information, information that he himself does not seem to fully understand or be able to contextualize. And that is very confusing and puzzling, and it also doesn't seem to help Trump, if that was even his motive.
I mean, one of the problems with this -- this whole series of events is also what Devin Nunes has said publicly. He talked about -- about the political heat that the president was taking and feeling that that was, in some way, unfair and that he felt that he needed to act.
But as the chairman of an Intelligence Committee, that's not his main motivation, or it shouldn't be, at least. It isn't necessarily to take off the political heat from the person you're investigating.
And so all of these things -- both his actions and his words -- are leading to a sense that he doesn't have a full handle on the situation and that maybe he's trying to help the president or trying to ease the political pressure on the president at a time when he's supposed to be in a watchdog mode doing forward with this investigation, hand in hand with his Democratic colleagues in order to make it as impartial as possible.
CUOMO: Well, we'll see what happens with Nunes. I mean, some are asking for him to recuse himself, a la Jeff Sessions. Others like Jackie Speier saying he should get off all together. But this has still been kind of effective, Mark, I've got to tell you. Because the idea of Russian interference into our election, and any potential connections that are untoward with Trump, has turned into, "Hey, who's unmasking these sources?" And "What's all this toxic leaking that's going on?" That was never even part of the original mandate. And now it is on equal footing with anything else they're looking at and taking away from time spent on the main questions.
PRESTON: Look, I agree with you. I think it's unprecedented that four associates, whether they were former or current or very close in that they're family, are going to be testifying on Capitol Hill.
CUOMO: Not even testifying. Kushner offered to speak to him, not testify. He's not saying, "I'll raise my hand and have my words bonded by an oath."
PRESTON: So a few of them that are testifying. And a couple of them right on Capitol Hill. It's already -- you know, Nunes could have avoided all this if he had just picked up the phone and called Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, and said, "Hey, I got a phone call. I think you need to come down here, and we need to look at this together."
CUOMO: Why would he do that?
CUOMO: If he wants to do is give cover to the White House with this clumsy hollow claim that President Obama committed a felony and wiretapped him. Why would he do that? He's trying to give them political cover. He did exactly that and only that.
PRESTON: Well, but I do think you're being kind by saying it was clumsy. Because there are probably worse terms you could use to adequately explain what he did.
CUOMO: I'm known for my discretion.
CAMEROTA: And his word wizardry.
David, how significant is this Jared development that he met or a representative met with Russian officials, a banker three times?
GREGORY: Well, we don't know. And that's what the Intelligence Committee has to find out.
But there's a couple of things that are striking about this. Why is this just coming out now? You know, the White House, when it got caught up in all this earlier, made some show about reporting out all the contacts that they had, except for this one. And it shows that when the president thinks this is all a joke, he treats it like a joke. He tweets about it like it's a hoax, that he doesn't take the manipulation of the election seriously, because he thinks it's a way to undermine him, because he's allowing his ego to get in the way rather than protecting the office.
Then why should anybody comply with the demands of this investigation? And so the White House has been sloppy at the very least about all of this, which is not to say that these are necessarily inappropriate.
However, you cannot just say, as Sean Spicer routinely does, "Oh, well, Jared Kushner met with lots of people. He was a liaison on the campaign." Russia is different. I don't care whether Trump says it's not. It's different.
They demonstrably tried to manipulate the United States election. They will do so in other elections. They've been up to no good for a long time. So this is not business as usual, then. And any incoming administration should have treated Russia as such. This one did not. And now we've got a kind of drip, drip, drip.
And again, whatever your political leadings, you ought to be able to get to the bottom of whatever they tried to do. Not because it influenced the outcome, not because it determined the outcome, but because the Russians tried. And whether you're a populist who supports Trump or a Democrat, you want to get to the bottom of this.
CUOMO: Tried? I would argue they succeeded. If what they wanted was to disrupt the democratic process, look what has ensued in our government.
GREGORY: Right, I'm just saying that they didn't -- didn't necessarily determine the outcome, but certainly, the manipulation succeeded.
CUOMO: True. Fair point.
Abby, Dick Cheney called it an act of war, what Russia did, in terms of its level of import it should be getting from all in the political sphere. The latest turnabout in play here is that, while our White House is being very soft with Russia, Russia came out and said, "We didn't know about any meeting between a banker and Jared Kushner." Oh, and by the way, when they did acknowledge the meeting coming out of the Kremlin, the banker referred to Kushner as the head of Kushner Development, not as a White House, which was, again, another jab that this was somehow a conflict.
PHILLIPS: Yes. And the Russians have been playing this game, I think, a little bit more and a little bit more of a sophisticated way than the White House. They understand that -- that they have long- term goals here, which include just creating a sense of chaos and undermining the political system, undermining the trust in our government. And that's -- that's where they're going with this.
I mean, the difference between Russia and some other country isn't just that it's Russia. It isn't just the human rights complaints. It isn't just the sort of treatment of political dissidents. It's also that they were at the time either about to or under -- under sanctions.
And the White House, you know, the Trump transition was not handling Russia in a way that was consistent with someone who was being sanctioned by the United States. And that could be one of the cruxes of the potential problems going forward for them.
CAMEROTA: All right. Abby, David, Mark, thank you very much for all of those insights. Well, the woman we were just talking about who wants Congressman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the House Intel Committee's Russia investigation, we are going to have Congresswoman Speier on. She wants him to step down from the committee. And she says he can no longer do his job. Congresswoman Jackie Speier joins us next.
[07:22:59] CUOMO: CNN's Manu Raju has learned that the House Intel Committee has scrapped all meetings this week. Why? Because they're in partisan disarray, that's why. Because the chair of the committee, Devin Nunes, does not have the confidence of many of the Democrats on that committee. So all its work has stalled.
Some Democrats are calling for the committee chair to recuse himself at least from the panel's investigation. Others are saying he has to step down from the committee entirely.
One such lawmaker is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of the Intel Committee.
Thank you for joining us. My understanding is that last night you thought you were going to get to see some of the "there" there, some of these documents that Nunes is talking about, but you didn't. What happened?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we have not received any of the documents, and it may be weeks before we do.
Now, the interesting thing, Chris, is that if he, in fact, looked at these documents on a computer in the executive office building, there are computers in the skiff that we could have looked at the same documentation. They clearly don't want us to know who was the leak. And it's -- it's someone in the administration, no doubt about it and...
CUOMO: Well, you've got to have some doubt, because we don't know yet. But, you're right, there's a lot being withheld from Nunes in terms of the procedure here: who let him into the White House, who helped him get into a computer if it was -- I mean, there's a lot of process here that could reveal where it was coming from. He has not wanted to be forthcoming. And that is what leads to the main point of Democrat distress, it seems.
Do you trust Nunes?
SPEIER: Well, he has violated the first principle of doing an investigation. It has to be independent. If you become a White House whisperer, you are not being independent. And anything he told the president, frankly, and not telling the ranking member, it violates one of the first precepts of a committee that's supposed to be bipartisan, supposed to be working together in an investigation of the White House.
[07:25:06] This all started to explode last week after Director Comey said not only was he doing an investigation, but he was doing an investigation of the Russian connections with the Trump campaign. That was the first time that had come out. And that was very explosive. Originally, it was just looking at the Russians meddling in our election process.
SPEIER: So the whole tenor of the committee changed dramatically after we had that hearing. Then all of a sudden there was a cancellation of our hearing today, a hearing that should be something the American people have an opportunity to hear about the Russians' plans and intentions, how they operate, how they are able to pull all this off.
CUOMO: Right. How they did it. What we can learn from it. How can we avoid it? That's all been distracted by what we're seeing now in terms of unmasking of leaks and all this Nunes drama. But my question, again, given everything you've just said, do you trust Nunes?
SPEIER: I don't trust him. I mean, I think he's a very nice man. I think he is, frankly, over his head. I think he used very poor judgment. And I think he has tainted the committee.
I actually think that there is an effort underway to shut this committee down by the president. He does not want this committee's investigation to move forward. And if he can knock us off, then he's only got to find a way to knock off the Senate investigation.
CUOMO: Right. Well, I mean, look, that's obvious, right? I mean, he's been tweeting, the president of the United States, really what you should be looking at, Jackie Speier, is the Clintons and their Russia associations. He's directing people to watch a different morning show this morning to hear about the Clintons and money and John Podesta.
So his intentions are clear. He doesn't want the spotlight on him. That shouldn't be a main interest of yours if you want to get to the truth, but what do you do now? Should Nunes step down? Should he just recuse himself? What are you asking for?
SPEIER: I'm asking for him to step down in the interests of what we all care about, which is the integrity of our intelligence community and the integrity of our electoral process. And I don't think that he can just recuse himself and still chair the committee.
We operate in very close quarters. He is the chair. So if he says something to one of his staffers, well, how is this going, or what's happening here, they're going to be very loathe to not respond to him.
So I think the writing's on the wall. This might make a good spy novel. It doesn't make a good investigation.
CUOMO: You know, what do you think of this, that you should leave this to the FBI, the questions of any type of inappropriate contacts or points of combination between Trump staff or officials and Russia vis-a-vis any interference. It's going to be partisan. You'll never escape it.
There is too much invested in the current president now. He will fight it. Lawmakers do not have the jurisdiction. They do not have the same powers that the FBI and the DOJ do. Leave it to them. You should take a look at questions that you can handle without partisan stain about what to do because of this. Maybe something about leak protocols and just stick to that.
SPEIER: Well, in truth, they have a different role within the FBI and the Department of Justice. They're looking to determine whether or not there are criminal acts that have taken place by U.S. persons, and we're looking more from a perspective of to what extent our intelligence is being challenged, to what extent our electoral system is being challenged, that needs legislative remedy.
There's a whole question afoot as to whether or not we have an electoral process that is safe, that we can count on it. Do we have to go back to hand counting of ballots? Do we need paper trails? Many of these electronic systems don't have paper trails.
So all of that is part and parcel of this investigation that we're charged to do.
CUOMO: But it's shut down right now...
SPEIER: That's right.
CUOMO: Because of what has happened with Nunes. So what is the way forward?
SPEIER: Well, the way forward, in my view, if, in fact, the majority of Republicans in the House want to have a fair and objective process moving forward, they need to replace Devin Nunes and then...
CUOMO: Ryan just said he has complete confidence and faith in Nunes, that he's doing a fair and credible job. They're not going to replace Nunes.
SPEIER: That's always -- that's always the first statement that suggests that they're about to -- to change. That's always a big problem.
CUOMO: Is that how it works? So if they say something nice about the guy, he's done? That's how you see it?
SPEIER: Well, I mean, that's oftentimes the case, let me just say that.
CUOMO: Well, listen, we're all very interested in this, because there are fundamental questions about the security of our democracy; and we'll be watching on this.
Jackie Speier, let us know if you're able to see anything that the American people should know about, as well. Appreciate you being on NEW DAY.
SPEIER: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right, Chris, is this partisan split on the House Intel Committee compromising their investigation into Russia? Up next, we have two former members of that committee to share their insights on what should happen next.