Return to Transcripts main page


Question of Collusion; Senate Intel Chiefs Vow Comprehensive Trump-Russia Probe; Interview with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California; House Investigation into Trump & Russia in Shambles Tonight; Remarks Tonight From FBI Director Comey; Ivanka Trump Will Become a Federal Employee; Trump University Settlement in Jeopardy. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Thanks very much for joining us.

We're waiting to hear from FBI director James Comey, who is speaking shortly just outside Washington at a dinner for members of the intelligence community. Now, he's expected to take questions, possibly in the Russian mess and the two congressional intelligence committees that are supposed to be investigating it. So, we'll bring you those answers to questions live when they happen.

Earlier today, the top two members, the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke to reporters in advance of their first public hearing tomorrow and to all things Russia. And while it's obviously too soon to draw any conclusions about the shape of their investigation, the shape that's going to take, it's hard to miss the sharp contrast, between today's rollout, for them, which was straightforward, sober, devoid of drama, seemingly bipartisan, and the rolling train wreck over on the House side.

Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are supposed to investigate Russian meddling in the last election, as well as possible collusion between political campaigns and Moscow. Instead, as you know, the House committee hearings are on hold and the chairman, former Trump transition team member, Devin Nunes, is facing growing allegations of collusion himself -- collusion with the White House, seemingly aimed at giving the president cover on his unfounded claim that President Obama wiretapped him.

Now, tonight, we have new developments on that. You can call it new evidence, or another piece of the puzzle, but it's really a tantalizing piece of information that was reported by CNN contributor Ryan Lizza who first wrote about it for "The New Yorker."

And we want to go into some detail about it tonight off the top of the broadcast because it's potentially important piece of information, that adds to the timeline of what Chairman Nunes did last week that brought the House Intelligence Commission to a halt. And it also adds to the suspicion that Mr. Nunes colluded in some way with the White House, helping make each domino in this story knock over the next.

So, here's what Ryan Lizza wrote in "The New Yorker," what a White House official told him about that hearing, when Director Comey, and the head of the NSA, Mike Rogers, testified last Monday. Quote, "Last Monday morning, shortly before the start of the hearing, a senior White House official told me" -- this is Ryan Lizza speaking, "You'll see the setting the predicate. That's the thing to watch today." He also said, and I quote, "Watch Nunes today."

Again, that's a senior White House official telegraphing a strategy that would become clear in the hearing, telegraphing a punch, if you will. Not only that, this official even described what kind of punch is coming, suggesting that Lizza read a report in "The Hill", which was dated the 11th of March, nine full days before the hearing.

So, here's the lead of that report from "The Hill". It said, quote, "Intelligence agencies could have inadvertently collected and then searched Donald Trump's phone calls under a controversial loophole in surveillance law, experts say, even if it did not involve a wiretapping order from a federal court."

So, that's really interesting when you consider it, because that's a senior White House official, telling Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker," the morning of this hearing, to basically watch for talk about inadvertent collection of Donald Trump, not direct wiretapping, but inadvertent collection.

And to specifically watch Nunes and, you guessed it, here is Chairman Nunes in his opening remarks. Listen.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign subject to any kind of improper surveillance? The intelligence community has extremely strict procedures for handling information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to incidental surveillance, and this committee wants to ensure all surveillance had followed all relevant laws, rules and regulations.

Let me be clear: I've been saying this for several weeks. We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it's still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.


TRUMP: So, he uses the term incidental collection. "The Hill" article referred to it as inadvertent collection. It sure seems like the White House official who spoke to Ryan Lizza either knew or made one heck of a guess about one of the big things that Nunes was going to be focusing on in his initial comments.

Then, you add to the fact that before this hearing, the president himself, President Trump, had said something was coming, and he seemed to make it sound like it was coming from the White House. Listen to what President Trump said in the interview with Tucker

Carlson on the 15th. Now, keep in mind, this is 11 days after his wiretapping claim, four days after that "Hill" article, and five days before the House hearing. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be submitting certain things. And I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. But it's right now before the committee. I think I want to leave it there. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.


COOPER: Well, five days later, the House hearing, Chairman Nunes does what the senior White House official predicted to Ryan Lizza. Then, the very next day, last Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said this.


REPORTER: Can we expect the president to, this week, present evidence that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama?

[20:05:05] Or will he speak about it? Because he didn't mention it last night in his rally.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right. Let's see how the week goes.


COOPER: Well, we now know how the week went. In fact, it was the very next day, those dominos I mentioned really started to fall. Last Wednesday, the day after Sean Spicer said that, last Wednesday began with Chairman Nunes making a statement that sounds oddly enough like his talking point in the hearing. The same talking points that Ryan Lizza's senior White House source boasted about before the fact.


NUNES: I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.


COOPER: There's that phrase, incidental collection. From there, he went to the White House, briefed the president on what he said was troubling evidence to that effect.

Then, he went before the cameras again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Does this describe what the president was talking about? When he was talking about, quote, "wiretapping", which they said was broader surveillance?

NUNES: You -- when you -- what I've read, seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal. But I don't know that it's right. And I don't know that the American people would be comfortable with what I've read. But let's get all the reports.

REPORTER: Chairman, was the president personally involved?

REPORTER: So, the president was correct in what he tweeted?

NUNES: It is -- it is possible.


COOPER: So, bear in mind that Chairman Nunes spoke to the press, the president, and then the press again, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan, but did not speak to the ranking Democrat on his committee or any of the committee members.

And then the president makes a public statement saying that he feels somewhat vindicated, even though the whole idea of incidental collection has nothing to do what President Trump claimed President Obama had done tapping his phones.

As for the evidence, Chairman Nunes says he saw how he got it, why he viewed it at a secure facility, on White House grounds, who cleared him to use that facility? The chairman hasn't told anyone else those details.

The White House is referring questions back to Nunes. And perhaps the most important of all, the work of the House Intelligence Committee seems to have basically ground to a halt.

CNN's Manu Raju is at the capital and joins us now with the latest on all that.

So, you caught up with Chairman Nunes today, pressed him on more details about the investigation. What did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he didn't really want to talk much about that information that you discussed that he reviewed last week, the information he got from the White House source.

That question continuing to linger. How did he get on White House grounds? Who cleared him? And who allowed him to see this information, in addition to who the source is?

Now, I asked him specifically, did anyone at the White House, give you permission, authorize you to review this information? Presumably classified information. He refused to say. He said, "I'm not answering that question anymore." But then, Anderson, I asked him also about whether or not he communicated with the White House before actually talking to Donald Trump last week in that private meeting. If he had communication about the information he reviewed. Also would not answer. Take a listen.


RAJU: The surveillance information that you did see. Did you talk to anyone at the White House before talking to Donald Trump?

NUNES: We have already talked about all of this ad nauseam. And the issues are really, critically important when it relates to American citizens who could have been picked up in incidental collection. And you guys should all take that very seriously, because it's part of our oversight duties.

RAJU: Will the committee see that information you saw, the surveillance information?

NUNES: That's the hope. That's what we're trying to get. That's what we've been trying to get since March 15th.

RAJU: What was the holdup?

NUNES: That was the March 15th letter I gave to all of you.

RAJU: What has been the holdup with the information you saw on White House grounds?

NUNES: Look, it's just trying to get all the agencies to get the information to us in a timely manner.


RAJU: So, Anderson, it's unclear exactly how that information that the intelligence community has requested from the intelligence agencies. On that March 15th letter, they ask for a bunch of information from the intelligence agencies. It's unclear how that equates to what he saw privately from his secret source. But apparently, that's what will answer some questions among -- from committee members.

But we do know that Devin Nunes is willing to have some public hearings after canceling a Tuesday public hearing. But not before the April recess here on Capitol Hill. So, perhaps that will happen later in the month. He needs to get an agreement with the ranking member of Democrats on his committee, something he does not have quite yet, Anderson.

COOPER: So, wait, so he's saying there's not going to be public hearings until after recess sometime in April?

RAJU: That's what he said. We had some point black, when do you expect to have public hearings? Anything before that April Easter recess? He said, "I highly doubt that's going to happen. There's just not enough time." So, expect anything public, would have to wait for a few more weeks at least, Anderson.

COOPER: So, yesterday, Chairman Nunes told reporters that he'd invited FBI Director Comey to testify before House investigators, even though he canceled yesterday's public hearing. That was going to be a behind closed doors hearing. The FBI is pushing back on that, right, though?

RAJU: Yes, right. They're saying actually, there was no agreement for James Comey to come before the committee, and then later, Devin Nunes' office put out a statement saying that they have to actually -- for Comey to come and brief them, they needed an agreement with Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, to agree for Comey to come forward. Otherwise, Comey would not do so without that bipartisan agreement.

Schiff has resisted because he wants to have that public hearing. He wants an agreement for a private briefing, but also that public hearing with Sally Yates, among others who were supposed to testify and talk about any of those Russian connections that may have existed between Trump associates and the Russian officials.

Now, the question is, whether or not there will be agreement going forward tomorrow.

Adam Schiff, Devin Nunes, expected to meet. Adam Schiff telling our own Wolf Blitzer just a couple of hours that that will be the case. So, we'll see what comes out of the private meeting tomorrow, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Manu Raju -- Manu, thanks.

Let's get the late reaction now from the White House. CNN's Jim Acosta is there.

So, Jim, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer again today pressed as to who exactly let Congressman Nunes onto the White House grounds. Did he finally have an answer, because for days now, he said he would be looking into it, I guess?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The short answer is no, Anderson. This is a daily ritual over at the White House press briefing where reporters ask White House officials, namely Sean Spicer, the press secretary, for any new information on the how the House Intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes, made his way on to the grounds of the White House during that mysterious visit last week. And we're just simply not getting any direct answers.

And as you just mentioned, Spicer earlier this week said that he would look into all this and try to provide some answers to reporters later on this week. That simply did not happen today. And I will tell you, Anderson, I did press Sean Spicer specifically on the question of whether he knew who the source of this information was that was involved with Devin Nunes and provided him with this bombshell information and Sean had one word answer to that was no, he did not know who this mysterious source is. And so, we're going to continue to ask for those answers. It's not

altogether clear we're going to get those answers. Keep in mind, earlier today, Sean Spicer, while he was sounding somewhat willing to get to the bottom of this earlier this week, he was criticizing reporters earlier at the briefing today, saying that reporters were simply fascinated with the process of all this.

COOPER: Well, I mean, it's not difficult to find out who signed in the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. I mean, if the White House wanted to give out that information, you know -- I mean, it's on White House grounds. I'm sure there's a book or a computer they just look at.

ACOSTA: Yes. That's right. There is such a thing as the White House visitor logs. It does track the comings and goings of people who make their way on the grounds of the White House. I wipe my badge here every day. Presumably, the U.S. Secret Service has me coming into the White House at whatever time that was early today. Members of Congress, dignitaries, people who have announcements inside the White House, with various officials. They have to go through the Secret Service.

Now, we should point out the White House visitor logs, Anderson, while they are maintained by the Secret Service, it is the White House that keeps the keeps basically the keys to the castle here. They are the ones who can decide whether or not this information is going to be made public. As we've been saying all week, the Obama administration made that information public, made those visitor log public.

You wouldn't be able to search in real-time. But you had a sense of going back and looking at the information later on. The Trump administration is not doing that at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate the update on that.

Much more now on today's joint appearance by the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and how sharply different it appeared everyone surrounding that House committee.

For that, let's go back to the Hill and CNN's Jessica Schneider.

What details did the senators lay out about their investigation, because their meetings are going to be behind closed doors?


You know, the Senate Intelligence Committee, though, moving full steam ahead on this. Chairman Burr saying he has a seven-member staff already knee-deep in these documents. They're working hand in hand with the intelligence community. And, of course, Senators Burr and Warner, they also say that they have 20 witnesses they want to interview. They've already set up interviews with five of them.

And that brings us to some of the major players that we might be hearing from down the road here. We know that former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, he has agreed to talk to the committee. And Jared Kushner has offered the same. And, of course, those mounting questions that been coming over for the past week or so after the disclosure that he met with the chairman of that state-run Russian bank back in December, at the height of the transition. So, he will be talking with senators about that. The senators saying they are pleased that Jared Kushner has made that offer.

And there's the issue of General Michael Flynn.

[20:15:01] It was talked about a little bit today at the press conference. However, I did talk to General Flynn's lawyers. They tell me that they themselves -- the lawyers have talked to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Michael Flynn has not spoken to the committee.

So, of course, all of the plans moving full steam ahead. But at the same time, Senators Warner and Burr, they say that they will be working hand in hand on really a bipartisan basis.


REPORTER: The circumstance with which you wouldn't share with Mr. Warner one of your sources of intelligence on this investigation?


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: And let me assure you, I've also got his cell phone, which is hears from me more than he likes.


SCHNEIDER: So, really, there is a big change in tone, Anderson, from a bit of the partisan finger-pointing we've seen on the House side of things. These two senators coming out today and saying they want to work together on this and not get into petty differences.

COOPER: Yes. Hopefully, that will hold up.

They were asked if there was any involvement between the Trump campaign and Russia. What did they say?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, the senators say they have already been digging into all of these details. But the thing is, they will not be revealing any of them. They're telling the public not to expect any detailed information. They say they're going to keep things under wraps for now.

Take a listen.


RAJU: From what you have seen so far, can you definitively rule out there was no coordination whatsoever between Trump officials and Russian officials during the election? BURR: We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are

in the investigation. I think Mark and I have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions. And I would hope that's what you would like us to do.

Let us get deeper into this before you ask us to write the conclusions. That's clearly something we intend to do down the road.

WARNER: We, together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this. And that's -- you get nothing else from today, take that statement to the bank.


SCHNEIDER: So, again, this could be quite a different scene from what we've seen at the House Intelligence Committee where we've seen that drip, drip, drip of information, and at times, Anderson, those competing partisan press conferences.

COOPER: Jessica, just at the end of the Senate intelligence investigation, is it clear what they will make public? I mean, obviously, all of their meetings are behind closed doors, so that they can ask, you know, information about things that are classified. But what do they actually end up making public? Or do they not?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, it's interesting, Anderson. Tomorrow is the first day of some of those open hearings. So, the public will be privy to all of that tomorrow. The experts will be in cybersecurity and Russia. But it really is at this point unclear what they might reveal to the public, especially in some of the closed door sessions.

We're still unsure as to how Jared Kushner will actually present himself to the intelligence committee. We understand that it might be in private. That it might also be under oath. So, unclear at this point but the first hearing does start tomorrow -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Coming up next, the Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee joins us. Does he think his chairman is actually sabotaging the investigation? I'll talk to him about that.

And later, FBI Director Comey, we're waiting for his remarks tonight. He says apparently going to will be answering questions. We want to know, of course, will he touch on the Russian investigation? We could find out momentarily.

Stay with us.


[20:21:32] COOPER: Breaking news tonight, Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says he will meet tomorrow with the committee chairman, Devin Nunes. It comes with the committee seemingly melting down over with what is either the chairman's collusion with the White House or a growing string of increasingly unlikely coincidences.

Joining us now, a Democratic committee member, Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

The fact that a source in the White House, a senior White House official, was described as by Ryan Lizza, gave Ryan Lizza a heads-up as to what Chairman Nunes would talk about or focused in his introductory remarks at last Monday's hearing, is there any way that could have happened without direct coordination between the White House and Chairman Nunes? Or is it possible it's a coincidence?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Chairman Nunes at this point has shown that he's too close to the White House for us to have an independent, credible investigation that makes progress. That's why, Anderson, I think it's time for him to step away. Our country was attacked by Russia this last election and this investigation is bigger than any single person.

And so, for that reason, as well as going over to the White House the day after our open hearing, I'm very concerned that the public is losing their trust in our ability to conduct this investigation.

COOPER: Do you trust, Chairman Nunes, I mean, that he's not colluding with the White House?

SWALWELL: Well, I like Chairman Nunes. And he and I have worked together and the committee has worked with him in the past in a bipartisan way and for him to keep the credibility he needs to lead our committee on other non-Russian issues, I think he should step aside. So, you know, I don't know what's going on here. I think that this White House, its behavior, is consistent with trying to cover-up something that happened.

And I'm talking about Michael Flynn lying to the vice president. I'm talking about Jeff Sessions misleading the Senate panel about his prior contacts with Russia. The president making a deceitful claim about wiretapping and now, having Chairman Nunes come to the White House grounds to receive classified information.

Anderson, it would be easier for someone on the White House grounds to take what Chairman Nunes saw to the president, than to bring the chairman from the House over there to receive it. So, it just isn't adding up.

COOPER: You know, what is the status, though, of your investigation? Because, I mean, from the outside perspective, at least, it certainly seems like it's at a standstill.

SWALWELL: It looked like the press conference that you saw today with Senators Burr and Warner. That's what an investigative road looks like when you have Republicans and Democrats going down it together.

Unfortunately, last week, it was stalled when the chairman went over to the White House. We can get back to that moment. But I think the only way to have independence, dependability and progress is for a new leader on their side.

COOPER: But, I mean, right now, is it fair to say that there is an investigation that is ongoing? I mean, are people investigating from your committee? Or are things just stalled?

SWALWELL: It's stalled. We are still receiving information and able to review documents. But, right now, as far as the public is concerned, there's no public hearing. Our hearing yesterday, for no given reason, was canceled. There's no future public hearing.

And we still want to hear from Acting Attorney General Yates and former Directors Clapper and Brennan, because I think they could illuminate a lot about what Russian was doing and individuals who may have been communicating with them.

COOPER: You clearly either don't believe or don't want to say whether or not you believe that Chairman Nunes is actively trying to sabotage the investigation?

[20:25:05] SWALWELL: I can only point out, Anderson, what he has actually done.


SWALWELL: And the fact that he canceled a hearing for no reason, the fact that he went over to the White House, two days, you know, on Tuesday and Wednesday, both days after the public hearing -- to me, it just looks like there's a conflict of interest. And whether he thinks there's one or not, the perception of a conflict of interest undermines our duty to have a real investigation.

COOPER: I'm just wondering, personally, when you saw, you know, two ranking members on the Senate Intelligence Committee, giving the press conference today, do you watch that thinking, man, I wish I was on that committee? Or I mean, that's the way it should be?

SWALWELL: I watched it with envy. And it looked familiar because we've seen Chairman Nunes and ranking member Schiff work together in the past. But there was a sense of betrayal last week when our chairman went over to the White House and didn't share it with us.

And you know, Anderson, what's so concerning was he said that he had this information long before the president's wiretapping claim. And to me, that means there was deliberation and thought. And it was intentional that he went over there. That he had the opportunity to read us in. He chose not to.

And right now, it looks like he's wearing a uniform that has the White House's name on it, not the uniform of an independent committee.

COOPER: It's interesting to use the word betrayal. That's what it feels like for you, like a betrayal, for you, of the committee itself?

SWALWELL: This committee has worked so well in the past, and maybe part of that is because we work often in secret. Three floors below the Capitol. There's no cameras, there's no reporting of what we have to do, but we know that national security is on the line.

And right now, it feels like all of that work is in jeopardy because we have a chairman who seems more loyal to the White House right now than the investigation we're charged with doing.

COOPER: Congressman Swalwell, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead, we're going to get the panel's take on all of this.

Plus, we bring FBI Director James Comey live when he takes questions at a dinner where he's speaking at this moment.

We'll be right back.


[20:31:05] COOPER: On a busy night, there's more breaking news, FBI Director James Comey is expected to speak shortly at a dinner in Alexandria, Virginia. He's been talking to members of the Intelligence Community. He's then expected to take questions after his speech.

We're going to get a lot to him live when that happens, see if he talks about Russia or anything else, depending on what he is asked.

As we said, we are getting conflicting version of whether House Intelligence Community Chairman Devin Nunes formally invited Director Comey to answer more questions before his committee.

Nunes says he did. The FBI says he didn't, but anyway the hearing was canceled a short time ago. Congressman Adam Schiff, that's been his ranking Democrat said, he will meet tomorrow with Chairman Nunes.

I'm joined now by our panel, Gloria Borger, Carl Bernstein, Jeffrey Lord, and Paul Begala.

Gloria, I mean, you see the face-off between Nunes and Schiff on the committee, as we wait to hear from Director Comey, what do you make of these key players, whether it's the director himself or Sally Yates for example have become kind of chess pieces for the House Intelligence Committee?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They have, and it's become completely partisan, it's almost as if you can see that Devin Nunes didn't want public testimony by people that he thought could potentially be damaging to the administration. I mean, we know that, Sally Yates, for example, who went to the White House council about her concerns about the National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, saying that he may well have been compromised in his conversations with the Russians. We know that having her public testimony would have been really damaging. We know that Comey's testimony publicly was already really damaging to the White House when he said, there is an ongoing investigation publicly.

So I think what you see in Devin Nunes is somebody who wants to try and push this perhaps to close hearings and you see Adam Schiff saying, you know, all of this ought to be out in the open and they seem to be playing off of, you know, very, very different pages here.

COOPER: Jeffrey, I mean when Congressman Schiff points out that Sean Spicer said, he wants Sally Yates to testify, you know, Spicer said that from the White House podium. Don't Democrats have Chairman Nunes kind of backed into a corner on that one?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I don't know that they have him backed into a corner. You know, one of the things that's not being observed here, all of this inference that Chairman Nunes is somehow colluding with the White House.

Let's remember here, the American political system, the minority leader of the House is the leader of the political party that is the minority, that's in this case Nancy Pelosi. The question is if we're going start going down to this road, is Adam Schiff colluding with Nancy Pelosi? They're putting out statements on the same day on the same subject. What are the members of the Intelligence Committee are doing this who are Democrats?

I mean, if you want to go down this road, not you but I mean just in general, if we're going to go down to this road then we need to go down the road and, you know, in full. And I just think we should get all of this out, every last bit of this out, what the member's responsibilities were.

COOPER: But Jeffrey, the committee is --


LORD: -- testifying.

COOPER: Right, but Jeffrey that committee is not investigating Nancy Pelosi. They are investigating people who were associated with --

LORD: Maybe they should.

COOPER: -- the Trump campaign. And so the idea --

LORD: Maybe they should, she said she never met with the Russian ambassador, and then there was a picture of her meeting with the Russian ambassador.

COOPER: OK. But the idea that the White House seem -- or at least a senior official from the White House, told Ryan Lizza, oh, here's what Nunes is going to focus on today, or watch for this and Nunes actually does that, and then you have this other series of events and the President himself has telegraphed something is going to come out. It doesn't seem at all --


LORD: I'm with Adam?

COOPER: I mean, you can kind of --

LORD: I'm just saying, Anderson -- then if we're going to go down that road, you got to be playing fair play here with each side.

COOPER: Again, Nancy Pelosi is not the one being investigated, the White House is.

[20:35:01] LORD: Yes, but she's the investigator and if she's not impartial, then there's a problem, right?

COOPER: But she's not on the committee.

LORD: She is the -- well, if you got the head of -- the ranking member of her committee communicating with her and taking signals from her, and putting out statements in sync with her, then she is effectively on the committee.

COOPER: All right, Paul?

BORGER: So is Devin Nunes talking to Paul Ryan?

LORD: Well, I'm sure he is.


LORD: Well, I'm sure he is.

BORGER: Yes. So there you go.

LORD: I mean --


COOPER: And Democrats certainly have plenty of P.R. --

LORD: This between the House and the White House, this is pretty normal stuff, folks


COOPER: Paul, Democrats certainly have plenty of P.R. leverage against Chairman Nunes and especially giving this evolving timeline of the Intelligence he saw on the White House grounds and Ryan Lizza's reporting and what coordination they're may have been with White House ahead of that opening hearing last week. I mean Democrats, though, that being said have very little procedural leverage to use against Nunes, as long as speaker Ryan is behind him, you can do whatever he wants.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, right. That's exactly right. But they have moral suasion and they have political argument, and they have you, the media, they have the chance to make their case to the public.

Look, let me say this again, as a Democrat, we haven't seen any information in public, any evidence at all of collusion --

COOPER: Right.

BEGALA: -- between Trump and his campaign and the Russians. I have to say that from my own integrity, right? But they are sure acting like it. If there is no collusion, then the thing that the President needs most is a credible, bipartisan investigation to clear his good name.

Nunes's conduct has now taken that away from him. Nunes is no longer credible nor seen as bipartisan at all. He has destroyed his own credibility for the good of the Trump White House, Nunes has to go, and they have to have a credible bipartisan investigation. And with some help from the Senate, I mean, we may get to that later, but right now, poor Devin Nunes has destroyed the one avenue to which Trump could clear his allegedly good name.

COOPER: Carl, what do you make of the development we have seen just over the last few days?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, we are so deep in a fishing expedition for red herrings here that we've forgotten what this is really about. As the congressman suggested a moment ago, there is a cover-up going on, the FBI knows and I say this as a reporter that a cover-up is going on, the intelligence community, both of the Obama presidency and the Trump presidency understands there is a cover-up going on.

People on Capitol Hill understand that there is a cover-up going on. Does that mean there is an active obstruction of justice, laws have been broken by this person, that one and another one? We don't know yet. But all of these deflective actions by the White House, by a shell in the form of White House, in the form of Chairman Nunes, are about a betting cover-up and trying to keep the American people from understanding what the connections are, or might not be between Donald Trump and the Russians, between his campaign and the Russians, between his -- let me finish, please, Jeffrey, between his campaign and the Russians and between his associates and the Russians.

We are seeing impediments thrown out by the White House and by Republicans on Capitol Hill, almost every day now, particularly in the House, to keep the truth from being known wherever it goes. This is an extraordinary situation, and the important thing is that the leaders of the counter intelligence investigation by the FBI and the intelligence investigations by the other government agencies understand there's a cover-up going on.

COOPER: We got to take a quick. We're going to continue this discussion. We're also monitoring what Director Comey says tonight in case he makes news. We'll talk about that and more when "360" continues.


[20:42:32] COOPER: Back now with the panel. Gloria, I understand you have some new reporting on Jared Kushner? BORGER: Yes, I do. As you know, Jared Kushner has said he would voluntarily testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, we don't know when they're going to call him up. And I've been told by somebody who is familiar with what transpired, Jared Kushner is going to say that all he was doing in his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak and Sergei Gorkov was to try and establish a back channel way to get to Vladimir Putin and establish some sort of a relationship.

COOPER: We just explain -- hold on Gloria, we should just explain Kislyak obviously is the ambassador, who many times I met with. Gorkov is the head of this Russian bank who's got a background --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- with the intelligence services in Russia and it was reveal originally reporting by the "New York Times," and CNN also matched that, that Kislyak asked Kushner to meet with this guy.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: And there are conflicts and reports about why he meet, the White House said, oh it was just Jared Kushner's role as the liaison, the person who met with --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, many diplomats. The Russian bank actually said, oh, he was meeting with him as a member of the Kushner family.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- and the Kushner corporation.

BORGER: That's right. And this source says that it was in Jared Kushner's role as trying to sort of establish his back channel to Putin that sanctions weren't discuss that it was not about business.

The question that I asked was, why would Jared Kushner meet with somebody affiliated with a bank at a high level who was -- that was sanctioned by the United States? Why would anybody in a Trump transition do that? I mean it's a Google click away to try and figure out who this person was. And I was told by this source that -- and this is a quote, "In a more organized transition, there would have been someone to vet people before there were meetings and that wasn't done," that it was completely disorganized and that perhaps Kushner himself should have done it before he met with this guy, but he did not do it.

So it's clear, Kushner is going to stick to the story, this was about a back channel to Vladimir Putin, nothing more. And by the way, when Rex Tillerson came on board and clearly had such a close relationship with Vladimir Putin, Jared Kushner no longer needed to establish that back channel.

COOPER: So they're saying that Jared Kushner didn't have like an assistant, who -- I mean, if I'm, you know -- [20:45:00] BORGER: Right. Well --

COOPER: ... if I'm meeting with someone who I don't know, usually an assistant would do a quick Google search on somebody and give you a one sheet and say here's some background information on this person you're meeting on. Jared Kushner just found himself in a meeting with a Russian banker --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: A guy who heads a bank that's under sanctions and also has connection to Vladimir Putin and Russian Intelligence.

BORGER: Right, whom the Russian ambassador suggested he meet with, so yes, that was -- I was just as surprised as you are and asked that very question, saying, oh, come on, you can Google this person, the answer was no, that it was completely disorganized and that should have occurred, as it does in most transitions and -- but it did not occur in this one.

COOPER: OK, so let's bring in the panel on this. I mean, Jeffrey, again, could be a completely innocuous meeting, nothing, you know, nefarious there at all, but why was this information not made public by the White House long ago? I mean, why -- it's this drip, drip, drip of stuff that just keeps coming out and even when, you know, Matthew Rosenberg from the "The New York Times," was asking about Kushner's meeting with Kislyak, they didn't say, oh, yes, well, there was this other meeting as well. It's all just stuff that sort of gets pulled out.

LORD: Yes. Well, obviously maybe they should have done that, there's no question. But just, you know, the thing I want to -- I do want to address what Carl was saying here, in terms of a cover-up. That the three people that have been prominently mentioned here in this investigation, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page, and I have heard from Carter Page personally on this with the letter he sent to the committee, they're all dying to testify to this committee.

I mean, they want to get out there and get their story known in public. So I mean that's sort of not conspiratorial in nature, they want to get out there very much. So I think we need to make that clear.

Mr. Flynn --

COOPER: Well, I guess the question just --

BERNSTEIN: There are others as well, Jeffrey.

COOPER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: There's a whole constellation of people.

COOPER: The other question is does the White House --

BERNSTEIN: -- the whole constellation. COOPER: Because the White House want these meetings to continue, and Chairman Nunes I mean for reasons that are unexplained, canceled, you know, the public hearing that was to take place on Tuesday is now telling Manu Raju, well, maybe after recess some point in April, there will be more meetings. I mean, that doesn't seem like there's huge a --

LORD: I mean, I just -- I'm one of believers that, sunlight is the best disinfectant.


LORD: And as you know, Anderson, I believe not only should the folks on this side testify, but folks on the other side who were dealing with classified information that leaked, Evelyn Farkas, who was a Former Defense Department Official in the Reagan -- I'm sorry in the Obama administration, who went on television on another network earlier in the month and said in essence that she was helping to leak this information, she should be called, White House officials in the Obama-era, President Obama himself. Let's put it off --

COOPER: Right, but right now, they did not calling anybody in any public hearing. So, we're going to have more with the panel just ahead. We have more breaking news, first daughter Ivanka Trump taking on a new official role in the White House to go with her office in the West Wing. She'll be non-paid advisor to her father, a federal employee. We'll be right back.


[20:51:05] COOPER: Well, for the breaking news tonight. First daughter Ivanka Trump has taken an official job in the White House as an unpaid adviser to her father as a government employee shall be bound by federal ethics standard since Trump already has a office in the West Wing as you know, her husband Jared Kushner is also an unpaid adviser for President Trump and widely seen as one of the most powerful people in the President's inner circle.

Jim Acosta joins me again. So what are the details, Jim of this official position?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson it shouldn't surprise people at home that running the country, running the White House is becoming a family business for Donald Trump. The White House did confirm earlier today that President's daughter Ivanka Trump will be serving as unpaid employee here with the title of assistant to the President. Ivanka Trump for her part released a statement saying she decided to take on this government role to avoid any questions about conflicts of interest because they were certainly being raised.

We can put that quote up on screen. It says, "I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House, subject to all the same rules as other federal employees. Throughout this process I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role." Certainly is unprecedented.

Now, Anderson, this may raise questions and this has before of whether Ivanka Trump will be violating federal nepotism rules as her father of course as the President, her husband as you mentioned Jared Kushner is also a White House adviser. But the President's lawyers Anderson, we've heard from the White House Counsel Office, we've heard from all sorts of lawyers working for Donald Trump they maintain that the law gives him broad discretion to name his own team of advisors. Anderson, if this question comes up again, that will be the answer we get, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta. Jim thanks very much. A lot to discuss.

Joining me is Norman Eisen Former Ambassador to Czech Republic and CNN Contributor Jeffrey Lord and Gloria Borger are also back with us as well.

Gloria you've been talking to source out of this. What have you been learning? What's she actually going to do?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTER: I'm going to listen right now?

BORGER: Well, I think that in the Ivanka camp, they were troubled by a letter that Norm Eisen along with Fred Wertheimer formerly of Common Cause to the counsel in the White House Don McGahn, which suggested in a way -- and Norm, you can talk about this which suggested that perhaps Ivanka was doing this as a way to get around ethics rules.

And I was told they were kind of trouble by it, they listen to it. I am sure they talked to McGahn about it and as a result, she now has to file her own form 278, as it's called. And so she is legally bound now by the ethics rules in the White House.

COOPER: Right. So Ambassador Eisen, I mean as Gloria just said, the letter you sent to the White House influenced this decision reportedly. Are you satisfied with the steps they have taken here? And what does that mean that she'll have to follow all the rules of a federal employee? Is she still going to be involved with her company? I mean, do we know the details on this?

EISEN: Thanks for having me, Anderson. We do know that she will like her father, maintain ownership interest in her company, although she is a stepped away from day to day management.

Anderson, I do appreciate that Ms. Trump has responded to the letter by admitting that no American is above the law. Not even the daughter of our president. So you shouldn't have to litigate that issue in order to have a concession that the law applies to you. We're a government of laws, not of people. That's the fundamental idea of the United States. What disappoints me is that this step is -- leaves so much else undone in this White House. There is an ethics crisis in the White House. And it starts at the top with the President who claims that the law does not apply to him, even the constitution, which prohibits many of the foreign government benefits he is getting, for example.

[20:55:07] So until the President gets it right, the White House is not going to get it right. And we do have despite this positive step, a White House in ethics crisis. No wonder they're under investigation for the Russia affair.

COOPER: Ambassador Eisen, I mean you're a former White House ethics czar. So in terms of the nepotism statute, does is not apply here in your opinion because the White House clearly seems to think it doesn't?

EISEN: Well, the question of whether or not Ivanka was an employee was a clear one, Anderson. She was and I'm glad they've conceded it. My view and it's a bipartisan view a Professor Painter, the Bush Ethics Czar agrees with me. Is that nepotism statute does apply in both the Bush and Obama administration for decades -- Justice Department held, yes, the nepotism statute does apply to the White House Office.

Now, it's a murky area, reasonable minds can disagree. President Trump got an opinion from the Justice Department that the nepotism statute doesn't apply this White House.


EISEN: We disagree with that opinion, but we recognize that reasonable minds can disagree.

COOPER: Jeff, obviously, I mean, you know, there's a lot of ways to look at this. One, the President should have the people around him who he wants to have, who he feels comfortable getting advice from. Do you have any concerns though that, you know, you now have two of the most powerful positions in the White House are now filled with relatives of the President, people who have a direct line to him in a way that maybe other people in the White House don't? I mean, would you want to work in that office environment?

LORD: Yes. Anderson, not and I will tell you why. I've checked on these, 10 presidents of the United States have had family members as senior aides, cabinet members or they position them as senior aides to other members of the administration. In that includes John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, I mean, Franklin Roosevelt, you can go on here. It began with John Adams.

COOPER: But in modern times --

LORD: This has been going on for a very long time --

BORGER: With security clearance?

EISEN: Anderson, none since the anti-nepotism was passed after RFK.

COOPER: Right.

EISEN: And it was called that Bobby Kennedy statute because there was such profound concern in this situation does (CROSSTALK)

EISEN: -- this situation raises those same concerns. When we have the most critical questions of domestic and international security, do we really want people whose first loyalty is to -- Donald Trump as a father or a father-in-law or do we want ones whose first loyalty is to the country?

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. I'm sorry, we got to take a quick --

LORD: People, related or not, have been in every single White House.

COOPER: All right, just ahead, the latest on the Trump Russia investigation and the meltdown of one of the committees carrying it out. Also a $25 million settlement in Trump University class action lawsuits is hanging in the balance. One of the plaintiffs is holding out. She just might torpedo the deal. Details ahead.


[21:00:08] COOPER: Welcome back. Call at the tale of two committees tomorrow, the Senate Intelligence Committee wants this hearing on all matter Trump and Russia.