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Calls Mount for House Intelligence Chairman to Recuse Himself; Questions Raised over Meeting Between Jared Kushner and Head of Russian Bank; Interview with Congresswoman Steve King of Iowa; Interview with Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:04] NORM EISEN, FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: At some points these millions of dollars that the United States are spending for President Trump to advertise his properties, he's so blatant about it, Chris, that runs afoul of that constitutional provision. It's called the domestic emoluments clause.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Sticky question. We know you have the law suit and we're always waiting for advances on that. Let us know. Last question to you, Dave, is that Jared Kushner, he said he'll go and he'll talk to lawmakers about this. He did not say he would testify. The difference is being under oath and a very different level of accountability for what you say to those lawmakers. But what do you make of nondisclosure of the meetings with the Russian banker, the Russians saying they didn't know about this meeting, the Russians referring to Kushner as the head of his development company, not in his White House capacity in describing the point of the meeting?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. It is a very unusual meeting, a meeting with this development bank, the Russian development bank, that has been seen by many as a front for Putin's interests. The guy who he met with graduated from the FSB, the security service academy before he became a banker. There's a lot of questions there. And this is the downside of putting basically all your eggs in Jared Kushner's basket. As he's serving as the secretary of state, basically, if he's going to do that kind of thing, he needs to think about how these things appear when he's acting in his private capacity.
CUOMO: David Fahrenthold, Norm Eisen, thank you very much. Appreciate the perspective.
There is a lot of news and a lot of developments. What do you say? Let's get after it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be very different to maintain a credible investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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. He needs to explain a lot of this. And frankly, we need a bipartisan answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's son-in-law met with a Russian banker with ties to Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared did a job during the transition in the campaign where he was a conduit to leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House said it was just a routine meeting with a Russian bank. They said they met with Kushner as head of the Kushner companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
announcer: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first these questions about Russia and connections to the Trump presidency only grow in scope and scale. Now the House Intel chairman says he's not going to recuse himself from the committee's Russia investigation even though he admits he met with a source on White House grounds the day before briefing the president and incidentally providing them with political cover.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So there is a growing list of Democrats now demanding Devin Nunes step down as chairman. President Trump responding to this firestorm in a series of tweets dismissing the Russia story as a, quote, "hoax." All of this as the meeting between the president's son-in-law and a Russian banker with ties to Putin is raising more questions this morning. It's day 68 of the Trump administration. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill. Hi Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn. There is a growing chorus of Democrats who are calling for an independent investigation into the Trump administration ties to Russia. There are some Republican allies of Nunes who are saying that he should essentially talk about and tell his committee members who gave him that classified information, what that information is. Potentially that could make it right. In the meantime, the House Speaker Paul Ryan, associates telling me that he has no appetite to replace the chair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The chairman ought to recuse himself.
MALVEAUX: 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 have reached the point this week where it would be very
difficult to maintain a credible 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), CALIFORNIA: 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 into 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.
[08:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actions taken by the chairman have compromised the investigation.
MALVEAUX: Calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to appoint a new chair.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: His actions look 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.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 questioning 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 for the White House to release the visitor logs to the public. So far the Trump administration refuses to do. In the meantime, President Trump really calling attention to other matters via Twitter, saying that he believes that the Russia story is a hoax and also encouraging members of Congress to pay attention to look this way to investigate the Clinton's ties with Russia instead. And, Chris, you should also note as well the House Intelligence Committee now has canceled all of its meetings, its remaining meetings for this week, so we will see where this investigation goes.
CUOMO: Somewhat of a quick answer, there, Suzanne, to can this committee continue to function. They just canceled all their meetings for the rest of the week. Thank you for the reporting.
So there is growing scrutiny of a meeting between the president's son- in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian banker with ties to Putin. This as Kushner says he is willing to talk if not testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Remember, the difference is raising your hand, taking an oath, and being held accountable. CNN's Sara Murray live at the White House with more. Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. This is yet another story that the administration hopes will just go away, but they cannot seem to shed this Russia controversy, and it's a controversy that now extends to include Donald Trump's own family members.
MURRAY: President Trump's son-in-law and one of his closest advisors, 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 Communication both about this interaction and his role in arranging meetings between Trump campaign advisors and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Based on the media frenzy that existed around this, he volunteered to make sure that -- he said, hey, we have made some contacts. I would be glad to explain them.
MURRAY: The White House insisting Kushner was acting as a liaison for the transition team when he met with Gorkov.
SPICER: Jared did a job during the transition and the campaign where he was a conduit 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 Ambassador Kislyak whom 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 will become the first person currently serving in the Trump White House to speak to a Congressional committee investigating Russian ties.
MURRAY: This will be the third Trump advisors to have set off a firestorm about a previously undisclosed meeting with Russian officials. Now, as to that meeting between Jared Kushner and the Russian bank, today the Kremlin is saying they had no knowledge of it. Back to you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Sara, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Joining us now is Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa. He's a member of the House judiciary committee. Good morning, congressman.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you. Do you think that House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes can continue to do his job?
KING: Absolutely. I have great confidence in Devin Nunes, and the reason for this is I recall he came into this Congress with me. We were in the same class. I'm certain of that. I believe he was 28- years-old. I watched him grow. I have watched the moves he has made. I have watched his judicious nature of Devin Nunes. He's careful with what he says. He never shoots from the hip. He shoots accurately. And I think that you can count on his integrity. And he'll come before the press if he makes a mistake and say I should have done something different. But now I think he will deliver this to the select committee on Intel and you will have a bipartisan knowledge base to look into those things that he had exclusive knowledge to last week.
[08:10:00] CAMEROTA: But Congressman, hasn't he already played his hand in that he did go to the White House before he went to his colleges, his Democrats colleagues on the committee? In other words, he's revealed that his allegiance lies with the president and alerting the president to some sort of sensitive information rather than investigating the people around the president and that sensitive information.
KING: Well, that sounds like a significantly bigger assumption to me than it does to you, Alisyn, because we don't know what this information is. And it may very well be very classified information, which is why he had to go to the executive office building to access that information.
CAMEROTA: But he also went to the White House. We know this to be true, he went to the White House and talked to President Trump. Why did he do that?
KING: But I do not expect that he brought any classified information with him, and we don't know that he divulged any classified information to the president. But if he did, the president is the person who has the highest security clearance. So we don't know whether this is a high level of national security or a high level of urgency. We just don't know those things. And I think the select committee will learn that.
CAMEROTA: I agree with you. But either way, we do know that he went to the president before he went to his colleagues on the Intel committee. What does that tell you about his allegiance?
KING: I think this. It does not confirm anything about his allegiance until we would know what that information was and what the rationale was. We may never be able to find that out. It may stay classified.
But what we do know is that Adam Schiff and many others have stood up and taken a partisan position. Democrats haven't cooperating on anything in this Congress. And so the more partisan they get the more difficult it is to work in a bipartisan fashion. That is part of our problem here. And Schumer sitting over in the Senate is hurling grenades over to the House side. He's hurled many more grenades over here. People on the Democrat side are calling for people to step down.
CAMEROTA: To be clear, it is not just the Democrats, congressman. Just a few moments ago Senator Lindsey Graham was on a different morning show. He also called for the chairman to step aside. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If he's not willing to tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he's lost his ability to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What do you say to that?
KING: Well, as I hear that, it's let find out who he met with and what he was told if it's not classified. But the first thing is to deliver this information to the select committee on Intel. And I'll say again, Devin Nunes never shoots from the hip. Lindsey Graham occasionally does. I like Lindsey personally, I think he's got a great sense of humor, but I could tell you he occasionally shoots from the hip. So I put my confidence in Devin Nunes. I know him well. I understand his integrity, his patriotism. I want him to stay as the chairman of the select committee on Intel because that's how we get to the bottom of many things, including the Clinton dealings with Russia themselves.
CAMEROTA: You are referring to what the president tweeted about this morning. Some people say that was a deflection. Do you think that President Trump ever shoots from the hip?
KING: Occasionally he does, but some of these we have to let them pay out and see how accurate that shot from the hip actually was, Alisyn. CAMEROTA: OK, Jared Kushner. Why would Jared Kushner be meeting with
a Russian banker with ties to Vladimir Putin a couple of weeks before the president assumes his role in the White House?
KING: I can't guess as to why that is because I am not familiar with any business ties that Jared Kushner might have through Russian banks or with Russians. But in international business we shouldn't be surprised that some of those ties do exist. I understand that he's volunteered to speak to a Senate committee. Let them dig into this. If it gets to be the foundation of evidence they would like to go into it further in a more formal way and ask him to come forward under oath, I think that's appropriate. And I think Americans are going to want to see that. But I think the Democrats should be careful because if they want to dig into these things, then we have an obligation to dig much deeper back into why did Bill Clinton meet with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac while his wife was investigation by the FBI.
CAMEROTA: Explain that to, Congressman. Why would you have an obligation to deep much deeper into a previous administration than you do to the current sitting president?
KING: Because there's indication of significant crimes having been committed, and we have a previous attorney general who has recused herself.
CAMEROTA: Which significant crimes?
KING: Let's just say the Clinton administration and the dealings that took place with the donations that came into the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton family foundation timed with handing over 20 percent access to the uranium over to the Russians. That's significant, and that's a deal with the Russians.
CAMEROTA: Hold on a second, Congressman. That had to be vetted by the State Department.
[08:15:02] That already happened. That was -- I mean, that wasn't just something that was sort of done under the cloak of darkness. There were people who approved that through the State Department. Maybe even Congress.
But why are you rewinding the tape rather than looking at whatever dealings the Trump family is having with Russia?
KING: Well, Alisyn, it sounds like there is a shift here in the public dialogue that says we should scrutinize everything we might be able to accuse any Trump or any affiliate of Trump to the maximum and not let them get off the ground with their administration, but give absolution to the sins of the Clinton administration and Obama administration. And I don't think you get that absolution. There is not a statute of limitations that takes place that says the sins of the previous administration are now absolved.
So, I think --
CAMEROTA: Yes, no, those things -- I mean, I think what many people on the other side would say is those have been litigated. People are pretty familiar with all, whatever historically happened. But now, current day, present time, there are ties that some see as troubling with the current administration and that's why it's so important to keep the integrity of this investigation.
KING: Well, so, let's do this. Let's talk into these things in the Trump administration carefully without leaping to conclusions. Let's look at the real evidence and follow that train and listen to the explanations that support the evidence with an objective mind.
But let's got give that absolution to Hillary Clinton or to Barack Obama because there is not a statute of limitations on this because of the inauguration. That's what I'd like to see. Let's do the truth, but let's do it with a presumption that somebody is guilty. Let's do innocent until proven guilty, at least for the Trump administration.
CAMEROTA: OK, actually, the Trump administration, and everyone should get innocent until proven guilty, you are right.
Let's talk about something that Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentioned yesterday, they would like to withhold funding to so-called sanctuary cities. Withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities to punish them, basically, for not turning over undocumented immigrants to ICE officials. What mayors of those cities say is that will hurt those cities, particularly to fight against terrorism, that if you withhold federal funding, they won't be able to do their jobs as effectively.
KING: I think they're trying to populate their cities with a bunch of future Democratic voters myself. And I cannot -- I could never connect with this thing that they say is logical. That we have -- their population illegals, we want to grow our population of illegals, but we have to have them trust our local law enforcement, so we're not going to enforce immigration law in our cities.
I mean, that's like the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang holding up in the canyon and they're safe in there as long as they don't let any law enforcement come through the gap. It's -- and when -- this has been also, for the foundation of this, is in the Obama administration for policy perspective, even though he didn't talk about it very much, but this is Donald Trump promise, this is consistent with one or more amendments that I've succeeded in passing off the floor of the House, to strip out federal funding going to these sanctuary jurisdictions.
If we don't do that, America becomes more and more lawless, and the more and more lawlessness that we have, the more people are victims of rape, and violent crimes and murder and thief.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean --
KING: That's all that matters.
CAMEROTA: But let me just stop the leap of logic that you are making there. You know there are all sorts of studies that show immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans. So, your idea --
KING: Alisyn --
CAMEROTA: -- the countries becoming more and more lawless is just not supported by facts.
KING: I just don't accept it that undocumented immigrants, if we use that term, and they are illegal aliens, commit less crimes than the broader part of the population. I will say that legal immigrants who are here on a green card and under probation, do commit less crimes than the broader part of the population. And that's because they know they will be deported if they cross the law and get convicted of a crime.
But the criminal aliens that are here have already committed a crime. Everyone who crossed the border illegally committed the crime of lawful entry.
CAMEROTA: Yes, not a violent crime. Understood, but not a violent crime that you are talking about, the rape and murders.
KING: But it goes into the data. You know, it goes into the data. And furthermore, 28 percent of the inmates in our penitentiaries are criminal aliens. That's a much higher percentage of the prison population than it is the population at large.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Steve King, thank you very much for your perspective on NEW DAY this morning.
KING: Thank you, Alisyn.
CUOMO: The president's son-in-law and top advisor, Jared Kushner, set to meet with Senate Intelligence Committee members next week. What are they hoping to learn? And why isn't it under oath?
Susan Collins sits on that committee. She joins us next.
[08:23:26] CUOMO: President Trump's son-in-law, Jared under scrutiny for meeting with a Russian banker with ties to Vladimir Putin before Trump took office but after he won the election. It comes as Kushner has offered to meet with Senate Intelligence Committee members to talk about these meetings.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is a member of that committee. She joins us now.
Always a pleasure, Senator. Good to have you on the show.
Kushner says he will talk. He did not say he would testify. Is that a meaningful distinction to you?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: At this stage of the investigation, it's much more common for us to do interviews. That way, we don't have to deal with lawyers on either side setting the rules and we can often get information. If later on it becomes evidence that we need a formal deposition under oath, then I'm sure that will be done.
CUOMO: Senator, the White House says this is much ado about nothing. This was his role, to meet with foreign actors. That's what he was doing. There was no real disclosure here or intention to deceive.
What do you want to know?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, I give Mr. Kushner credit for voluntarily coming in and talking to the committee so that we can ask those kinds of questions. It's interesting that the Russians yesterday seemed to contradict what Jared Kushner said when he said that he was acting as a liaison between the campaign and foreign governments, a role that is not unusual in any presidential campaign.
[08:25:06] But then the Russians said that it had to do with his business dealings. So I'm sure that that will be an issue that we'll try to clarify.
CUOMO: Do you think --
COLLINS: And I --
CUOMO: -- the Russians are trying to further disrupt. The word of the Kremlin was they identified him as the head of Kushner development, as opposed to his title with the White House. They might just be trying to make trouble here, right?
COLLINS: Absolutely. If there is anything that we have learned over the past few months, it is that the Russians are not our friends. They cannot be trusted. They in some ways have succeeded in sowing doubt and the seeds of confusion about what happened last fall.
And that's what they do with all Western democracies. And this has been a long-standing practice of the Russians, to spread disinformation. So, I was not surprised when they contradicted Mr. Kushner's explanation of why he had these meetings.
CUOMO: When we're talking about the probes into Russia, got to talk about what's happening on the House side. Have you ever heard of a move like what Devin Nunes did, going around the Democrats in the committee as a Republican obviously that he is, going to Ryan, going to the White House, giving what was practically political cover in the midst of a probe?
COLLINS: Following the House investigation is like following a mystery novel. You never know what is going to happen next.
But I will say this, that although this has been a crazy year, the one thing that has remained constant is that the House never takes kindly to the Senate telling it how to operate or conduct its investigations. I have a great deal of confidence in the Senate investigation because it is bipartisan. The chairman and the vice chairman, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, are working hand in glove and given the membership of our committee, I am convinced that we will do a thorough, credible investigation and follow the evidence wherever it leads us.
CUOMO: I understand that. I appreciate you saying it. But you have to understand how there is doubt being cast because of what's happening. People don't distinguish between the House and the Senate the way y'all do down there. Between Sean Spicer saying how many times do you need to hear, there is nothing there. So, there's the word from the White House. And Devin Nunes running around the Democrats to give them political cover, it makes it seem like politicians cannot investigate each other and do it fairly.
COLLINS: I know that we can do it fairly. And I have been involved in many investigations over 20 years in the Senate, and I have seen it done fairly. I have done it myself in a bipartisan way with Carl Levin, with Joe Lieberman, with Claire McCaskill, with past and present Democratic senators, and I know that we can do the job.
I believe that our Senate investigation has far more credibility than the house investigation has at this point due to the controversies that you have just mentioned.
CUOMO: It is a pretty low bar you are setting for yourselves if you can't get over that one, Senator, I don't know what you can get over.
Let me ask you something, Judge Gorsuch is probably going to come up for at least a committee vote next week. Do you believe that this will go to the nuclear option, to end a filibuster by the Democrats, you will need to blow up that 60-vote measure. Do you think that's going to happen?
COLLINS: I certainly hope not. If you look at our history, there has only been one case in modern times where a filibuster has been used to rail a Supreme Court nominee, and that was way back in 1968. So, the tradition has been to have a straight up and down vote on every Supreme Court nominee. I believe that's what Judge Gorsuch deserves and I was heartened yesterday when one of the most senior Democrats, Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior Democrat, said that that is what should occur.
CUOMO: Senator Collins, thank you very much for your insight. We hope that you can get some bipartisan confirmation of what is fact in this Russian probe because, you're right, the House committee right now is like an investigation into who ate the last cookie in my kitchen and I'm asking the kids to give me the answer.
Senator, thank you very much. Appreciate it as always.
COLLINS: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Well, we all know the answer was you.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Meanwhile, the White House is threatening to cut off federal funding
grants for so-called sanctuary cities. The nation's first formerly undocumented immigrant serving in Congress joins us next.