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Schiff, Nunes To Meet Amid Intel Committee Turmoil; Markets Opening As Fears Of Government Shutdown Loom. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a rough life. It's a rough job.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. All right, guys. Have a great day. Welcome to all of you. Let's get right to it.

All right. It's 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow. As you just saw, John Berman is filling in for Chris Cuomo. We have a lot of news to get to.

We are now just one hour away from the start of what could be one of the most important hearings on Capitol Hill. The Senate Intelligence Committee set to go public with its investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and possible ties between the Kremlin and Trump associates.

This morning, Russia's President firing back, not mincing any words, angrily denying any interference with the election. And over the next week, lawmakers will grill members of the President's inner circle, both past and present. All with these questions about any contact with Russian officials.

Well, this morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan repeated the accusations against Moscow. Listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So we all knew this before the election. We all knew Russia was trying to meddle with our election. And we already know, right now, they're trying to do it with other countries.


HARLOW: So this as the Intel Committee tries to break the paralysis of partisan bickering on the House side. Embattled Chair Devin Nunes is set to meet today with the Ranking Democrat on that Committee, Adam Schiff, who has led the call for Nunes to resign from leading that investigation amid bipartisan complaints that the Chairman is too cozy with the very administration that he is in charge of investigating.

Let's begin this hour with Manu Raju. He joins us on Capitol Hill.

What are you hearing at this hour ahead of the Senate side of all of this starting to hold their first big public hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, indeed. Within the next hour, the senators will be sitting right behind me, talking, asking questions to these witnesses, in which the witnesses are mostly academic types in the first panel. There are two panels.

The second panel discussion is going to be most of the people who could testify to the extent of the Russian hacking, the vulnerability of the cyber security infrastructure in this country, as well as the proliferation of fake news sites that occurred during the elections. Much different contrast than we saw in that first House hearing. That House hearing, of course, featured James Comey, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency.

In that, you saw the line of questioning there become a lot more partisan on the House side. Republicans questioning the issue of leaks, leaks that were happening within the intelligence community to, apparently, hurt President Trump. And then on the Democratic side, questions about Russia, Russia's involvement, any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Now, on the Senate side, this is the beginning of a number of private and public hearings that are bound to take place. We're expecting at least five Trump associates to be interviewed by Russia officials -- I'm sorry, by the Senate Intelligence Committee in the coming weeks. Those five officials, including Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, presumably coming before the Committee.

Now, this comes also at the same time as the House Intelligence Committee really trying to restart this investigation after it's been stalled from that controversy from Devin Nunes, all related back to that private briefing he had last week with President Trump, where he talked about surveillance information he privately obtained from a secret source that the Committee has not seen yet.

Now, Poppy, I spoke with Mr. Nunes last night about that surveillance information. I asked him, will the Committee eventually see the information? Here's how he responded.


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

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Yes. We have already talked about all of this ad nauseam. And, you know, the issues are really, 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, you know, part of our oversight duties.

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

NUNES: That's the hope. That's the hope.

RAJU: When do you think that --

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


RAJU: So the question is when Schiff and Nunes meet today, Poppy, will they come to any sort of resolution to restart their own investigation, have public and private hearings, or will we have to just focus on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the prospect that they could reach a bipartisan consensus? That's one of the key developments that we'll be watching for today, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. The Senate side seems to be getting along quite well between Republicans and Democrats, a completely opposite story in the House side. We'll see what develops today. Manu, thank you for the reporting.

And even before this hearing on the Senate side does begin this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighing in, launching a fiery defensive of Russia, calling the meddling claims provocations and lies. Our Paula Newton is live in Moscow this morning. What is Vladimir Putin saying?

[09:05:02] PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy. Well, he had quite a direct message for the Senate Committee and anyone else who wants to investigate this. He was asked a pointed question, did Russia interfere in U.S. elections? He said, read my lips, no.

He went on to call it all fictional, illusionary, provocations and lies. And he went further, Poppy, basically saying that all of this has to be used for the domestic political agenda in the USA. The anti-Russian card, as he called it, is being played to benefit certain political foes within the United States.

So interesting, Poppy. You know, he was speaking at a round table discussion about Arctic issues. He was absolutely ready for this question and looked like he wanted to get this off of his mind. He went as far as to say that, look, when we look at polling in the United States, they don't seem to have anything against Russia. We want relations to kind of get back to normal.

It was discussed whether or not he would be meeting with President Trump in the future. He said, look, we're ready to meet, but we do want to see a demonstration of goodwill from the other side. They discussed, even, locations, perhaps a northern summit in either Iceland or Finland. But Vladimir Putin making it very clear that he believes all of these investigations are politically motivated and that no one will find a shred of evidence that Russia directly interfered in the U.S. elections.

HARLOW: All right. Paula Newton, with that in Moscow. Thank you very much. Meantime, FBI Director James Comey is also pushing back against

criticism of his own agency, of the FBI and their investigation into all of these. The cries of political motivation may sound familiar. He heard them from Hillary Clinton supporters throughout the campaign over their investigation of her e-mails. Comey says the political backlash from both parties is a badge of honor. Listen.


JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I have never been prouder of the FBI. What makes it easy is we're not on anybody's side ever. We're not considering whose ox will be gored by this action or that action, whose fortunes will be helped by this and that. We don't just care and we can't care.

We only ask, so what are the facts? What's the law? What's the right thing to do here?


HARLOW: Let's discuss all of that and more. David Swerdlick is here, CNN political commentator and assistant editor at "The Washington Post." Jackie Kucinich, our political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast." And Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR.

It is nice to have you all here. Tamara, let me begin with you. It's nice to have you on the program. I don't think you've joined me before.


HARLOW: Comey often doesn't say a lot, right, so it's rare to hear from him in this public forum. . What do you make of when he said wearing this sort of bipartisan criticism as a badge of honor?

KEITH: That is absolutely consistent with James Comey. That is who he is, that is who he's been, and that is sort of the image of himself that he has wanted to project ever since he became FBI Director. That's, in part, probably why he was chosen to be FBI Director.

Of course, sort of taking that position has made people who support Hillary Clinton very mad at him, and they still are. And, of course, now coming out in that hearing last week and saying that the FBI is investigating Donald Trump had Trump allies against him, which he, of course, takes as a badge of honor.

HARLOW: Sort of how I feel about this job. If you've made people on both sides mad at the end of the show, I guess you're doing your job.

David, to you, talking about the Senate hearing that kicks off. This is the first real high profile public hearing after the January 10th one. The Senate side seems to be all kumbaya. They've got this together, Mark Warner, Richard Burr. Just listen to some of the exchanges that are Manu Raju had with both of them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: From what you have seen so far, can you definitively rule out that there was no coordination whatsoever between Trump officials and Russian officials during the election?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Manu, 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.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: When we started this, when we saw the scope and what was involved, I said it was the most important thing I had ever taken on in my public life. I believe that more firmly now than even when we started. We're going to get it right.


HARLOW: David, two-fold question, (a) what do you make of the fact that they are, you know, of different parties and completely getting along in this amid the disarray from the House, and just (b) how significant is it that Senator Richard Burr would not rule out this alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia given that he's very close to the President? I mean, h even sat during the campaign on the President's national security advisory council.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. Well, Senator Burr is sort of a Republican's Republican, but he has demonstrated, at times, that he's willing to go against the grain of the party line. I think you see two senators working together here in part because they see the example of what has happened in the House and how it has sort of devolved into this amateur hour over the last week and a half, and so they see a template for what not to do.

[09:10:10] As Manu reported at the top of your hour, Poppy, it seems like what they're going to hint at is first going to the investigation of whether or not Russia meddled, how they meddled if they meddled, and then move forward into this question about whether or not there was collusion between Russians and members of Trump's inner circle during the campaign and transition period.

But it was clear from those comments that they want to present and presumably proceed as if they're not going to let the conclusions get ahead of the facts, which I think is probably a welcome change for people on both sides of the aisle.

HARLOW: Jackie, we know that Nunes and Schiff are going to meet today, try to sort things out so they can get this Committee back up and running on the House side. But Schiff, yesterday, said you'd have to go back to Watergate to find something truly this analogous. Are comments like that from Schiff sort of equally to blame when it comes to, is this a partisan fight or not?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. So they've got some trust falls or something to work out during this meeting, particularly because the rhetoric has been ratcheted up on both sides, and they're both very frustrated. Schiff's side of the Committee has been completely closed out of this whole saga that Nunes, excuse me, has created. So the fact that he's using rhetoric like that surely makes this meeting today more awkward.

And frankly, it's going to be very hard for the House to get back on track after these words were thrown out and particularly because Senator Burr and Senator Warner have made a big show about how connected they are during this process. So we'll have to see what comes out of that. But it's hard to see this going back to the nonpartisan status quo that we've seen in the past with the House Intelligence Committee.

HARLOW: Tamara, an interesting note coming out of our Gloria Borger's great reporting, we know that Jared Kushner, the President's son-in- law, will be called before the Senate to answer a lot of tough questions. Her reporting is that he is going to answer it by saying that his meetings with, you know, the Russian ambassador, with the big Russian banker, that those are all were in effort to look for the right person to engage with in Russia.


HARLOW: And there was nothing there. There's no "there" there. What's your take?

KEITH: And that has been the White House line. It seems as though Jared Kushner is but one of something like 20 people that this Committee is planning to meet with and possibly not even the most important. We don't know who some of these other 20 people are, but what is significant about Kushner is just how close he is to the President.

And the Committee has said that they will bring him in and have a conversation with him and staff, most likely behind closed doors. But they're saying that they're waiting until the time is right, which might be that they're waiting until the investigation has progressed further because he is so close to President Trump.

HARLOW: All right, guys. Thank you very much. David Swerdlick, Jackie Kucinich, Tamara Keith, we appreciate it.

Still to come, a lot for us, including a new tweet from the President just now throwing fire at the Freedom Caucus. We'll jump in on that.

Also, the Senate Intel Committee getting to work and the House just trying to get along. Where does it go from here?

Also, Speaker Ryan could not get members of his own party to back the health care bill. Think he'll try to reach across the aisle and come up with a new plan? Not a chance, he says. He shouldn't be talking to Democrats.

Also, North Carolina lawmakers striking a deal overnight to repeal the state's controversial bathroom deal. The first vote gets underway shortly. It could be very close. Straight ahead.


[09:18:06] HARLOW: Welcome back. As the Senate pushes ahead into its probe into Russia's meddling in the election, the House is just pretty much left spinning its wheels creolized by infighting and mistrust. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff are expected to meet privately today, but Schiff is standing by his calls for Nunes to step aside in this entire investigation.

I'm joined by former House Intelligence Committee chairman, a man who knows the job incredibly well, the former congressman from the great state of Michigan, Pete Hoekstra. Nice to have you here.

PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI), FORMER HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It's great to be with you. Thank you. Good morning.

HARLOW: Good morning. Let me get your take on some news, the new tweets from the president just moments ago, "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team and fast. We must fight them and Dems in 2018." Wow, those are fighting words. We must fight our own party, what do you make of it?

HOEKSTRA: Well, the president recognizes that he needs to get the 218 votes and if he's going to do that with Republicans, he needs to have the Freedom Caucus to be part of that coalition. I think his experience was that he couldn't get the Freedom Caucus to yes to get to 218 votes on the health care bill.

And so I think he's just sending a shot across their bows that says, I'm going to get 218. I'm going to pass my agenda. I'd rather do it with you, but if I can't do it with you, I'm going to do it without you, which means what? He's going to moderate Democrats and that would be a very different kind of bill that would be pass the House.

HARLOW: His words is not exactly that measured, but OK, I take your point. All right, look, let's get to the meat of this. You had this job. I mean, you had Devin Nunes' job. You ran this committee in a very partisan way with Jay Harmond (ph) on the other side, have you ever seen a divide like this, disarray like this?

HOEKSTRA: Not to this extent, no, I mean, you know, Jay and I had a very special relationship. You know, we respected each other. We knew each other and we really focused on the issues that needed to get done and so, you know, we had our tough spots.

[09:20:09]We would (inaudible) at that, but we are always able to go by that and I hope that's what happens today with the chairman and with the ranking member. Clearly the well has been poisoned, but hopefully they will move beyond that and get down to work.

HARLOW: I know you think that Adam Schiff is wrong to call for Nunes to recuse himself from leading this investigation, why do you think he's wrong on that, though, given that Nunes has shared information with the White House that he hasn't even shared with his own committee?

HOEKSTRA: Well, number one, Devin doesn't have the information in his hands so he can't lay it out for either his Republican or Democratic members of the committee. What Devin did is he received some very classified information, some highly secretive information that he thought was very important.

Number one, you know, he's been criticized for going to the speaker of the House. I'm sorry. He works for the speaker of the House. He is the speaker's designee to lead that committee, which makes that a very different responsibility.

So going to Speaker Ryan was the right thing to do. I haven't seen the information, so, you know, I can't make the judgment whether it was appropriate for him to go directly to the president, but, you know, he is the chairman --

HARLOW: I hear you.

HOEKSTRA: -- he has that responsibility to make that call.

HARLOW: Here's what he could have done and we know from what Paul Ryan said on CBS this morning. He didn't fill Paul Ryan the information. Paul Ryan actually told him take it to your committee. He did not say take it to the White House, but here is what Nunes could have done. He could have said to Adam Schiff, hey, someone wants me to look at some important intel. Come with me. Meet me. We are going to hop in a cab and look at this together. Isn't that what you would have done?

HOEKSTRA: I'm not sure. I think, you know, number one, you got to -- you got to take a look and you say I'm going to go see this information and it may be legitimate. It may not be legitimate and who knows. The whistle blower may have said, Mr. Chairman, I want you to come and I want you to come by yourself. I just want to share this with you at which point in time, again, Devin has to made --

HARLOW: It's not political then?

HOEKSTRA: No, it's not political because ultimately this information is going to -- if it had any value, you as chairman know that you can't do anything with this until it gets to everyone on your committee. They can all see it because you can't go to the media. You can't go anywhere and just say, well, I saw it, but nobody else has seen it.

He could have gone and it may happen on occasion you'll get information and you'll say, you know what, this is worthless. It is not true. It is a hoax and I'm not going to do anything with it. He felt differently about this information.

HARLOW: Before we wrap up, can this committee, can the House committee get it together and get things back on track?

HOEKSTRA: They can if the chairman and the ranking member decide that's the outcome that they want.

HARLOW: We will be watching. They are having this meeting today. Nice to have you on, Congressman. Thank you. HOEKSTRA: Great, thank you.

HARLOW: This morning, President Trump takes another swing at the conservative House Freedom Caucus as you just heard tweeting that members need to get on the team fast to fight the Democrats. Must be music to Paul Ryan's ears who worries that the president will reach across the aisle on health care. A new sound from Paul Ryan is straight ahead.



HARLOW: A race against the clock to avoid another government shutdown. Remember the last one, yes, that was fun. Current funding is set to expire by the end of April. Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here, joining us before the bell. So is it going to happen again?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That is not the "f" word I would use to describe the last government shutdown, but this would be the next big crisis, the money crisis fight on Capitol Hill. There are four issues popping that could trigger a government shutdown.

First, funding for the border wall, Republicans included Democrats are going to oppose the bill. Two, the proposed boost to defense spending funded by cutting other programs. They are tinkering with the smallest parts of the federal budget.

Taking away "Meals on Wheels," for example or social programs to pay for more bombs. There is going to be a fight there among progressives, no question.

And third, Planned Parenthood, the health care bill would have stripped funding but that failed. If Republicans reintroduce that idea, it could be a non-starter for Democrats.

And finally, number four, I would say the Gorsuch confirmation. If Republicans try to change the rules to push him through, it is a leading indicator for a government shutdown.

I think those are the four big sticking points. It is interesting to me because Donald trump comes into office draining the swamp, as the deal maker, the disrupter, but these are the same old problems again. We have to see what new skills he bring to the table.

HARLOW: These are the confines that he has to operate in. He has no choice, which he saw with the failed health care bill. I mean, how much of a sticking point could Senator John McCain be. I mean, he basically said yesterday over my dead body will we have a continuing resolution.

ROMANS: He has signed them before but he said no way is he going to sign one. He wants more military spending. He's not going to sign a continuing resolution to keep spending going as we have. So he's already put his name out there. That will be his fight.

So there are all these four big areas that could be problem. It is interesting, too, because it comes just as the president will be rolling into his 100th day in office.

The 28th is the day they have to have a continuing resolution bill or the lights go off. We saw it happen in 2013. We saw it happen in 1995. Both times it was disruptive and stupid.

HARLOW: As we look at the opening bell ringing on Wall Street, markets are not going to like it if the government can't get its act together on the budget.

ROMANS: What I'm hearing is that there are a lot of raw nerves and hurt feelings still, as there always are in Washington, over the health care crisis, and they are bringing that now into the tax reform debate.


ROMANS: So there is a lot of that still going on, but we have to see, again, this is Donald Trump's test as a deal maker to get a deal.

HARLOW: Christine, thank you.