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No Answers on Nunes White House Visit; Trump Calls Health Care Deal Easy; Spicer on Trump's Iraq Comment; Senate Intel Talks Russia Probe; Putin Critic Testifies on Capitol Hill; Smiles after Heated Exchange; Clinton Calls out Racism, Sexism in Speech. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- live coverage. In the meantime, the news continues right now on CNN.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. How are you? I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for watching CNN as the White House is facing new questions over the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. I can tell you that moments from now the Senate Intelligence Committee will be holding a news conference on its investigation. All of this comes amid the turmoil involving their counterpart over in the House. You know the story, the Republican chairman in charge of the House committee refusing to recuse himself over questionable actions involving the White House. Moments ago, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer commented on questions surrounding Chairman Devin Nunes' secret visit on White House grounds. Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked about on Monday. Monday you said to us from the podium you would look into how Chairman Nunes was cleared here and with whom he met. Can you give us - we tried to ask you that yesterday as you walked out. Do you have any information to live up to the commitment you made here on Monday to provide more details about how that happened in a process you just told us yet again is above board and totally appropriate?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't have anything for you on - on that at this time. But again, I don't -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you looked into it?

SPICER: I have asked some preliminary questions. I have not gotten answers yet. And I think there's a - but - so, no, I don't have any further on that.


BALDWIN: Let's go to someone who oftentimes sits in that briefing. She's Carol Lee with "The Wall Street Journal."

Carol, nice to see you.


BALDWIN: Let's begin with our friend, April Ryan, National Urban Radio White House correspondent, who Sean Spicer did begin with today, after the spar yesterday. You know, she, out of the gate - right, we're talking to her later, by the way. But she asked about Chairman Nunes. Still the same question. How did he get to the White House? Who cleared him? What do you know? What was in what he saw? Still nothing from the White House.

LEE: Nothing. And, you know, I don't think that we're likely to get anything from them, at least publicly on this. They clearly don't want to talk about it. And, you know, one of the things that Sean Spicer also said in answer to April's questions was that he doesn't see any reason for Chairman Nunes to step aside, or, you know, recuse himself, as some Democrats have called for him to do. That he thinks that the White House - from the White House' perspective, the investigation is perfectly going just fine. And that was an interesting take on that as well.

But there are a lot of questions that we still don't have answered, and as that clip showed, the press secretary, a couple of days later, is still not inclined to be answering them.

BALDWIN: We know you'll keep asking.

In the meantime, Sean Spicer was also asked about the president's comment that making a deal on health care is, quote/unquote, "such an easy one." Here's the president, and then here is Sean Spicer's reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I, again, would respectfully ask that you review the tape. He was having a light-hearted moment. It's on tape. Everybody watched it. He was poking fun and making a joke. There have been comments before about how he didn't get it and he was joking about how easy it was, OK. It was a light-hearted moment. It was on tape. I think everybody - and the idea that there is this like trying to make it look like, you know, he's being - was being utterly serious at the time is a little bit of a stretch.


BALDWIN: Carol Lee, you heard the president. Did you - did you - did that sound like the president was being lighthearted?

LEE: Look, a lot of times this is a president who talks in kind of, you know, a little bit of hyperbole I guess is maybe a word that you would use. He just -

BALDWIN: Truth of hyperbole is a piece of his book. We'll go with that. LEE: He - he just, you know, he goes - he speaks in - he tries to turn

the page in, you know, and in ways that aren't necessarily always reflective of what's happened on the page that he's trying to turn. And - but we've heard this argument from the press secretary before when it comes to things the president says, that, you know, he's being taken too seriously, that he didn't really mean it that way and, look, nobody would believe or think after seeing what happened on Friday, with health care and the struggles that this White House has had that this is easy. And the president's also on the record saying before that, who knew it was that hard. So it just seems like, you know, he's - it's another one of those instances where the president is saying something and the press secretary is trying to explain it and none of it exactly makes any sense.

BALDWIN: Maybe - maybe tax reform will be air quotes easier. We'll see.

LEE: Right.

BALDWIN: Let - that was part of a back and forth with our correspondent, Jim Acosta, who was sitting in the Briefing Room talking to Sean Spicer. And he also asked, you know, what - what about President Trump's comments, specifically on Iraq. And keep in mind, the comments came on the very day that the U.S. commander in Iraq said it was likely that the U.S.-led, you know, coalition air strike did cause all those civilian deaths in Mosul. Here was that.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What does he mean - what does the president mean when he says they're fighting there like never before? Obviously -


ACOSTA: That doesn't take into consideration what happened during the Bush administration and the Obama administration (INAUDIBLE) house to house.

[14:05:08] SPICER: No, no, no, I appreciate - yes, I think that there's been some progress, particularly in Mosul, the way that they have taken back that city. And I think that for a long time there was very - a lot of concern about Iran moving in and dominating parts of Iraq. And I think with the advice and consent of U.S. military advisers, there's been tremendous progress in moving Iraq forward to an area of civility and to continuing to see the troops there in Iraq stand on their own. And I think that he is very pleased with the action that General Mattis and our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines are taking to do that.


BALDWIN: You know, critics are coming forward. They're saying how insensitive those comments were. That it really is a slap in the face to anyone who's ever served in Iraq. LEE: Yes, this was an interesting moment in the briefing. Look, it's -

I think you might see the White House come out and say something else or maybe phrase things a little bit differently or clarify a little bit on this, on exactly what he meant. This is, obviously, a very sensitive issue and it's something that I think we're going to see come up again, for sure.

BALDWIN: Carol Lee, thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: With "The Wall Street Journal."

Thank you.

By the way, any minute now, just a reminder, we will be hearing from top-ranking members on the Senate side, the Senate Intelligence Committee, about their own investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russians. This as the intel investigation has ground to a halt on the House side. You know, especially as we're talking about no public hearings. They scrapped all their hearings for the week. In general, private testimony, no meetings. Just a complete standstill, as the embattled chairman on the House Intel Committee refuses to step aside despite a growing chorus from both sides of the aisle.

So Manu Raju has been all over this for us. He's our senior congressional correspondent.

And I understand you just talked to Chairman Nunes. What did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. I just caught him right off the House floor. I asked him about how this investigation can move forward. He's saying he's staying on. He's saying that they're trying to figure out the process for interviewing witnesses as part of private testimony they're trying to gather. He says that they're moving forward no matter what. He does not think that Democrats are treating this investigation fairly, in his view. He believes that they're not being serious. And if they're not going to be serious about this investigation, he says, quote, "I'm moving forward."

So, a sign that this partisan stalemate is probably not going to end. Right now the fight is really over process. This after Mr. Nunes cancelled a Tuesday public hearing where several officials from the Obama era were set to testify, including Sally Yates, top Justice Department official, who apparently had some information, believing that the former Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, could have been vulnerable to potential blackmail from the Russians. That testimony we're probably going to hear on Tuesday. It was abruptly canceled because Mr. Nunes said he wanted to hear it in a private setting from other officials, namely James Comey, the FBI director. And that private briefing also did not happen amid these calls from Democrats that Nunes should step aside, should recuse himself.

So, all of this really just shows that there's - this committee has been making virtually no progress this week in real big questions about whether it will make any progress going forward. And that's why focus is starting to shift over to the Senate side, where Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, and Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, are expected to brief reporters this hour about the status of their investigation, as well as looking into any potential Trump ties with Russian officials, and their upcoming interview that they're going to have with Jared Kushner, who's, of course, President Trump's son-in-law, and his contacts with Russian officials, as well. So, we'll expect to hear all of that. A way to show a bit of a contrast from what's happening in the House, which, at the moment, is gridlock, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. We'll take it live. We'll talk again. Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Just a programming note to all of you. House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff will join Wolf tonight in "The Situation Room." So tune in to that.

Also very shortly, someone quite significant will be testifying on Capitol Hill. This is someone who spent years in Russia speaking up and out against Vladimir Putin, exposing corruption, even challenging him politically. But Vladimir Kara-Murza says he was poisoned twice, most recently last month, for speaking out against the Kremlin. He suffered organ failure, spent time in a coma. Doctors gave him less than a 5 percent chance to live a year ago. We have this video that was actually posted on Instagram by a close ally of Putin's. It shows Kara-Murza with another prominent Kremlin critic literally through the crosshairs of a gun. But Vladimir Kara-Murza is very much alive and he is good enough to take a moment with me here live from Capitol Hill where he's going to be testifying before a Senate panel later this hour.

[14:10:12] Mr. Kara-Murza, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: I should also point out, as we talk about your health, you're still recovering. You're getting treatment there in Washington, D.C. How are you doing, first of all?

KARA-MURZA: Well, much better than seven weeks ago, I can tell you that. I'm doing some rehabilitation, some physical therapy and some medical tests, but mostly the main thing is I'm alive, of course. It was the same medical team, the same team of doctors in Moscow who saved my life twice now in 2015 and last month. And I'm, of course, very, very grateful to them for that. But it's - I think it's another reminder that it is a dangerous location to be in opposition to Mr. Putin's regime. And we're certainly very much aware of all the risks that that involves, but we will also continue doing our work because we think our work is important and because we think that Mr. Putin's regime, frankly, is robbing Russia, especially the young generation in Russia, of its prospects and of its future. And we will continue work.

BALDWIN: Let me - let me - let me ask you about that. So you're alive and grateful, but you have a lot to say. You have this message. You're about to testify there on The Hill. Can you just give me a preview? What are you about to tell lawmakers about Vladimir Putin and his - what you perceive as his end game?

KARA-MURZA: Well, this is, of course, part of a large series of hearings, as you know, on Capitol Hill, related to Russia. And this particular hearing that I'll be testifying at in about 15 minutes is about the domestic situation in Russia because, of course, long before people began talking about possible intrusion of the Russian government into U.S. elections and other actions outside of Russian borders, we've had to deal with Mr. Putin's repressions inside our own borders, in our own country. We've had to deal with the suppression of independent media, with the rigging of election after election after election, with repressions against independent journalists and political activities and human rights campaigners. And with time, as we've said many times before, with time this internal repression will inevitably transform itself into external aggression. And this is what we've been seeing in the last few years.

So this hearing is about the domestic situation. But I'm not going to talk just about the crackdowns and repressions. I'm also going to talk about the other side of the story, which is also very important for people to - to hear and to see. And, of course, we've seen this on full display just this past Sunday when tens of thousands of people, mostly young people, people in their 20s, early 30s, a lot of people in their teens, went out to the streets across Russia in 82 different towns and cities, from (INAUDIBLE) to (INAUDIBLE), protesting against the government corruption under Mr. Putin, against impunity for this corruption, against the lack of accountability, against the arrogance, frankly, of the people, the same group of people that has been in power for 17 years now. This is the Putin generation protesting. This is the people raised certainly and in many cases born under Vladimir Putin and they're fed up with him. They're increasingly realizing that this regime is robbing the young generation of Russians of their future.


KARA-MURZA: They want to see a normal, modern country based on democracy and the rules of law.

BALDWIN: So, you know, it's the cries from the young people. You talk specifically about repression and you talk about, you know, rigging of domestic elections as far as, you know, the Kremlin, a spokesperson for Putin, is rejecting your allegations, telling CNN, quote, "it's pure nonsense to make any connection of this unfortunate case with President Putin."

Mr. Kara-Mirza, do you still fear for your life?

KARA-MURZA: Well, I'm - I mean, of course, I'm a human being. Somebody tries to kill me twice in two years, that heavily makes you think. And I mean I do try to take precautions as much as I can. For instance, my wife and children are outside of Russia, for obvious reasons. But I do want to go back, once I'm physically able to. I do want to restart my work because I think it's important and I think we have, frankly, a responsibility, before all those people, before all those young people who are coming out across the country to say no to this regime and who are choosing a Democratic future for Russia. And I think we have to continue our work for their sake, for our sake and for our country's sake. And we will continue doing it.

And it's very important, by the way, that the outside world stops equating Russia with just the Putin regime. Vladimir Putin wants you to think that Russia is just about him and about his regime. But what you saw last Sunday, what the whole world saw last Sunday, was this other Russia on display, the new generation of Russia, the faces of a future post-Putin Russia. And it's very important to listen and to hear that Russia as well because if we're thinking about long-term interests and long-term goals and long-term cooperation, for example, between the United States and Russia -


KARA-MURZA: It's very important to hear to different voices in Russian society, not just the voice of Vladimir Putin.

BALDWIN: Sure. I'll let you go. You're minutes away from testifying there. Vladimir Kara-Murza, thank you so much. Best of luck to you, sir.

KARA-MURZA: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: And as he goes off and does that, we're also watching and waiting for a highly anticipated news conference from the Senate Intelligence Committee on its own investigation into Trump's ties with Russia. We'll take that live.

[14:14:51] Also ahead, Bill O'Reilly makes fun of a congresswoman's hair and Sean Spicer dresses down a White House reporter. And now they are reacting in both moments, inspiring Hillary Clinton to speak out in her most political speech since the election. We'll discuss all of that coming up next here on CNN.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

It appears tempers have cooled inside the White House press briefing room, this after quite a heated exchange between Press Secretary Sean Spicer and April Ryan, the veteran White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks. Here's what happened just about 24 hours ago.


APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: You've got Russia. You've got - you've got wiretapping. You've got -

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, we don't have that. You - you - I know.

RYAN: (INAUDIBLE) allegations on Capitol Hill - SPICER: No, no, I get it, but you keep - I've said it from the day that I got here until whatever, that there is no connection. You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. But every single person -


SPICER: No, I - well, no, that's - I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is -


SPICER: No, no, no, hold on.


SPICER: No, at some point report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion, Republican, Democrat. So I'm sure that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head. I appreciate it. But - but -

RYAN: (INAUDIBLE) listening and I'm trying to (INAUDIBLE) -

[14:20:06] SPICER: OK, but understand this, that at some point the facts are what they are. It seems like you're hell bent on trying to make sure that whatever imagine you want to tell about this White House stays. Because, at the end of the day, let me answer -



RYAN: (INAUDIBLE) I am just reporting what -

SPICER: OK. But, you know what, you're asking me a question and I'm going to answer it, which is, the president - I'm sorry, please stop shaking your head again.


BALDWIN: Spicer's demeanor there angered a lot of people. A number accused him of being sexist and racist. Hillary Clinton, for one, weighed in, in her most political speech since her loss in November. But today, let's talk about the mood between Sean Spicer and April Ryan. You be the judge.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: With that, I'd be glad to take your questions.



SPICER: How are you today?

RYAN: I'm fine. And how are you?

SPICER: Fantastic.


BALDWIN: April Ryan is back with us today. Also with us, Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's senior political reporter.

Deep breath, April. My goodness what a difference, I guess, a 24 hours makes.


BALDWIN: What - did you know you were getting the first question?


BALDWIN: Do you feel like everything was cooler now?

RYAN: Brooke -- Brooke, let me tell you, I walked - Brooke, you know what happened yesterday. And I just - I took it in. It was what it was. And I went home. I didn't get home until very late last night. And then somehow had to tell me that Hillary Clinton, secretary - former Secretary Hillary Clinton had spoken about me. And I was in shock. And then I - I just couldn't believe it. And then this morning happened. You know, I talked about it. And I didn't know - I had not talked to Sean. Sean had not talked to me. And I just said, I'm going to work. And I'm going to do what I do.

And I was on a couple of shows and, you know, one person asked me, Joe Madison, the Black Eagle, asked me, he said, what if he doesn't call on you? And I said, you know, I thought about that. And I was actually under the impression that he may not - I didn't know what was going to happen today.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

RYAN: But I was prepared either way. But I'm glad that there's been a reset. There needs to be a reset because we're here - we both have a job to do. Yes.

BALDWIN: What about the fact, though, April, apparently Spicer praised you in some interview, you know, calling you tough, that he treats all reporters the same and any suggestion of any iota of sexism is actually just an insult to you. Would you agree with that?

RYAN: Well, thank - I thank him for saying I'm tough, but I still bleed and I hurt, too, at the same time. But, you know, the last couple of days are very interesting. And he came out today in the briefing talking about how this administration has really worked with women and women's issues. But, you know, what happened to me was an incident, but there was also another story about a female reporter who was called an idiot from Politico. So it's two women, yes, in the last couple of days. And I think there was a reset moment to sift it out. And, you know, we all are in there together, in this mosh pit trying to ask questions but you have to remember, this is a male-dominated town and -

BALDWIN: Well, keep those elbows - keep those elbows sharp. And let me add one more to your list of whatever happened yesterday between these women. Then you can add Congresswoman Maxine Waters to this and the Bill O'Reilly firestorm. Nia, I want to talk to you about this on the other side. But in case you missed it, roll it.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We're saying to those who say they're patriotic, but they turn a blind eye to the destruction that he's about to cause this country. You're not nearly as patriotic as we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what does that mean, Bill? We've been listening all morning and we can't -

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: I didn't hear a word she said. I was - I was looking at the James Brown wig.


O'REILLY: If we have a picture of James - it's the same -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the same one.

O'REILLY: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's not using it any more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, OK! I've got to defend her on that.

O'REILLY: It's just - you're all - you're all wrong about this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to defend her on that. She's a - you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.

O'REILLY: I didn't say she wasn't attractive. I love James Brown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her hair's pretty.



HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question. One of your own California congresswomen, Maxine Waters, was taunted with a racist joke about her hair. Now, too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride. But why should we have to? And any woman who thinks this couldn't be directed at her is living in a dream world.


[14:25:18] BALDWIN: And, Nia, I'm not even going to touch the first piece of that sound bite, because I think we're all on the same page on the hair thing as women, so let's just move on to Hillary Clinton and how that - I mean how she came out and how she spoke. The most political speech we have seen since early November.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, you know, and she assured, right, that she was right in the news by talking about Maxine Waters, talking about what happened to her and the comments made by Bill O'Reilly and talking about April Ryan. So she was right in the Twitter sphere because that was what twitters - the twitterverse was going after all day and singling out - talking about black women, talking about the trials and tribulations that some black women face. There was this hashtag, #blackwomenatwork that was trending all day. So I thought it was really clever.

I think, right now, we began the speculation about Hillary Clinton's future, right? It's speculation that she obviously faced before she ran this last time. I think it's going to be speculation again about whether or not she is looking at 2020. We've seen speculation about whether or not she wants to run locally. The mayor's race, maybe in New York. But the idea that she could make a comeback in 2020 and run again, I don't think there's ever been anyone who - a serious contender who has run for president three times. Of course Nixon ran and lost against Kennedy and then ran again. So, you know, I think that sort of chattering and speculation begins after that very full- throated political speech that really was in line with what she was talking about throughout her candidacy, about women, about women of color. That obviously didn't work for her and led to her losing in many ways. But, yes, I think all of the conversations about 2020 begin right now.

BALDWIN: Maybe she just wanted to stand up and make a statement on, you know, the congresswoman and April.

Just the last 15 seconds, April, I mean you were part of this Twitter hashtag. How's that been for you?

RYAN: Well, my Twitter has blown up, Brooke. My Twitter handle. I mean I think I have about - I got to about 50,000 more people since this all happened.


RYAN: It's amazing. But these are real issues that women have to face.


RYAN: And we have to look at this administration as a leader in how to change the dynamic. So we'll see if they will pick up the chorus and lead or if they'll just let it sit there. We'll see.

BALDWIN: I respect you both so much. RYAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: April Ryan and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you, ladies.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Brooke.

RYAN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Coming up here, with the House investigation at a standstill, House of Representatives there, moments from now we are going to hear from the top leaders of the Senate Intel Committee. What do they have to say about this investigation involving potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia? We will find out moments from now. Keep it on CNN.


[14:29:51] SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And let me just say that we can't say enough with the mission of the Senate committee is, which is to look at all activities that Russia might have taken to alter or influence the 2016 elections in the United States. In addition to that, the mission of the committee is to look at any campaign --